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    The Blue Manatee Literacy Project is sparking a joy for learning one book at a time. For our annual kid's issue, we chat with the new owner of this longtime local bookstore that recently rebranded. Learn about its "buy a book, give a book" mission encouraging literacy among our community’s most at-risk population.

     

    “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

    The Blue Manatee Literacy Project is on a mission to light a spark inside children. “The Blue Manatee has always been more than just a bookstore,” says owner Amanda Kranias. “It creates a love of books and reading from an early age.”

    Amanda Kranias

    Blue Manatee wants to take the spark they light inside of children and give them the opportunity to experience the joy of reading. Not only is this the place to buy books, but it’s also a space that children will feel welcome for story time, to meet authors, and to buy gifts. 

    The inspiration for Blue Manatee came from the desire to revive Independehtly-owned bookstores and create something for families to experience a world of ideas. “It is our goal to evolve and endure, and to grow stronger as we go,” she adds.

     

    The community team of educators, reading, early childhood experts, start-up veterans, physicians, and non-profit leaders behind Blue Manatee want to enhance childhood literacy among Cincinnati’s at-risk student population. “Through a reinvention of Oakley’s treasured Blue Manatee Bookstore as the front door to the mission we call ‘Curated Literacy,’ books and experiential learning will be purposely connected,” Kranias explains. “For decades, the Blue Manatee’s incredible sense of place has fostered young readers’ enthusiasm for literature, imagination, and expressive arts and formed familial bonds and routines that forever impact its patrons. Far too few children have the gift of this experience, and that’s why we aim to change that.” 

    There are thousands of books at Blue Manatee, including books for expectant mothers, babies, teenagers, and everyone in between. There are also books for adults, as the bookstore prides itself on the board non-fiction section, foreign language titles, graphic novels, ecologically-themed books, folktales, and so much more. 

    Also important to Blue Manatee is the experience that its customers have when they visit. “We strive to provide engaging events tailored to our local audience,” says Kranias. “We develop affordable, innovative programs hosted by passionate people, and continually improve them.” 

    The goal at Blue Manatee is to be a fun destination for families, an active participant in the community, and a fun place to work. “We want to be a unique, inspiring place where kids will take their own children someday,” she adds.

    Blue Manatee does good for the community as well. For every book that is purchased with them, a book is donated to a child in need. “Through every purchase, you are directly investing into literacy programs for communities all around the Cincinnati area,” adds Kranias. 

    Currently, Blue Manatee is only open for curbside pickup. You can find more information on their opening and other service options at https://www.bluemanatee.org. You can stay socially connected — and check out their virtual story times and online events — on Facebook and Instagram

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    It's a beautiful home with all the upgrades, nestled in a magical setting with breathtaking city views! Click for a sneak peek inside this week's Listing of the Week!

    Condo alternative*Rare 1-floor/no-steps/flat-lot Ranch*2BR/3BA*Great Rm, Study & Fam Rm*Carl Strauss design recently/entirely/superbly remodeled by DIGS*Summer poolside Shangri-La*Winter city views+dazzling sunsets*Magical private lane of multimillion-$ estates w/river views & prevalent breezes*Nothing to do but move in & pinch yourself*Agent owner


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    Learn about a Kenwood bakery spreading happiness across the Tri-State with DIY cupcake and cookie kits, gluten friendly options and lots of seasonal new flavors that kids and kids-at-heart will love.

    A local bakery is spreading joy during these trying times one tasty treat at a time. Gigi’s Cupcakes is a full-service dessert bakery in Kenwood. The bakery is named after Gigi Butler, who was the founder of the bakery. “Gigi’s began in Nashville in 2008,” Amy Jones, Owner of Gigi’s Cupcakes in Kenwood, says. “My husband and I had visited a bakery nearby and knew we needed to bring this bakery to Cincinnati.” Now, the bakery has been open in Kenwood for 7 ½ years.

    Gigi’s Cupcakes offers many options for customers to choose from, including cupcakes, cheesecakes, stuffed cookies, brownies and cakes.There are seasonal creations that include: Hummingbird, Pineapple Right-Side Up Cake, Orange Dreamsicle and Margarita. 

    “We use the finest ingredients and all are made in our kitchen with much love and care. We also offer delivery,” Jones says. The business is unique because “our cupcakes are topped with a special swirl of delectable frosting and we have made over 200 flavors in our years of baking.”

    They also sell DIY kits for families to make signature Gigi’s Cupcake creations at home. The kit comes with cookies or cupcakes, frosting and sprinkles. These kits allow kids to create their own sweet creations. “We’ve been doing this for a few years now at a parent’s request,” she says. “However, with the pandemic, many are looking for activities at home or during a virtual meeting so we wanted to assist.”

    Along with the kits for kids, there are also gluten friendly options. “We make three flavors daily. Currently, we are making wedding cake, triple chocolate torte and orange dreamsicle,” Jones says. “Many people have gluten allergies and/or choosing to remove gluten from their diet. They deserve a treat like everyone else and we enjoy making it taste as good as it looks.”

    Jones’ favorite part of running the bakery is celebrating with customers. “Whether it’s a graduation, wedding or birthday, it’s always fun helping someone plan for their special day,” she says. 

    Jones defines success by “seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they walk in our door, hearing people say how good it smells and how they love coming to visit,” she says. “We bring joy to those who visit or receive our special green box filled with goodies.”

    Gigi’s Cupcakes is located at 7940 Hosbrook Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45243. Follow them on FacebookInstagram and their website.

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    We chat with the founder of a local pediatric therapy network to learn what sets them apart and how they get results for children with special needs. 

     
    Children progress faster through play. That’s the idea behind ABC Pediatric Therapy.  
     
    “We work with a range of children — those who just need a little extra help to medically fragile children, all diagnosis or no known diagnoses,” says CEO and founder, Diane L Crecelius, PT. “ I created ABC because I believe our special children are typical children stuck inside bodies that have not yet learned how to work. I believe every child has a voice. We must figure out how to hear it. I believe all our special children can be mobile, and we are challenged to give them wings. I believe every child can be confidently independent. We have to believe enough in them to let them have successes and failures.” 
     
    Crecelius says there are four main features that make ABC Pediatric Therapy unique:
     
    1. Multidisciplinary approach – all therapists work coherently to accomplish the greatest level of achievement for each child. Whether the child is receiving one discipline or all disciplines, our experience across therapies will promote overall improvements in the gross motor, fine motor, and communication areas. 
     
    2. Home programming – therapists assist parents/care-givers in developing successful strategies and exercises that are useful and meaningful in each child’s everyday environment to encourage greater independence and participation in all areas of functioning. 
     
    3. Innovative treatment approach – therapists integrate positive components of traditional therapeutic methods with innovative and creative treatment techniques and equipment. 
     
    4. Five convenient locations: 
    West Chester
    7591 Tylers Place Blvd
    West Chester, OH 45069
    Phone: (513) 755-6600
    Fax: (513) 755-3762
     
    Red Bank Road
    4325 Red Bank Rd.
    Cincinnati, OH 45227
    Phone: (513) 271-2419
    Fax: (513) 271-2425
     
    Western Hills
    2039 Anderson Ferry Rd.
    Cincinnati, OH 45238
    Phone: (513) 922-5437
    Fax: (513) 922-1530
     
    Miamisburg
    3449 Newmark Drive 
    Miamisburg, OH 45342
    Phone: (937) 281-1286
    Fax: (937) 281-1298
     
    Beavercreek
    3817 Colonel Glenn Hwy
    Beavercreek, OH 45431
    Phone: (937) 427-9200
    Fax: (937) 427-9203
     
    For a free interactive screening tool to track and identify areas of improvement early in your child, click here to access ABC Pediatric Therapy’s online checklist: https://checklist.abcpediatrictherapy.com/. To learn more about ABC Pediatric Therapy, visit abcpediatrictherapy.com. 

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    Give your kids a well-rounded education all year long with STEAM programs from this local learning center.

    In today’s technology-driven world, the importance of STEAM programs has never been more pertinent. Snapology is here to help your children with a well-rounded education year-round.

    “Snapology is the premier partner for STEAM programs, offering year-round programs in schools, community facilities, homes, and in our community,” explains Co-Founder Lisa Coe. “At Snapology, we understand that children are meant to learn through play. When children are actively engaged in hands-on, interactive learning activities, their creativity flourishes and they show a greater interest in school.”

    As parents, and formerly school-aged children, we know that it can be hard to keep your children educationally engaged throughout the summer months. That’s why Snapology wants to help create a thirst for knowledge in children. 

    Snapology is made for children ages 2-14 and uses LEGO bricks, K’Nex, and technology. “While the kids are having fun, we sneak in the educational concepts,” explains Snapology’s second Co-Founder Laura Coe. “In most cases, kids don’t realize how much they are learning.”

    Because children are more interested in learning when it’s fun, Snapology wants to provide STEAM enrichment programs that are just as fun as they are educational.

    The Coe sisters say they were inspired to launch Snapology after observing the love that their children had for creative play using building blocks and other materials that snap together. “The idea of offering enrichment classes and camps to teach science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and art and literacy concepts excited us, given both our backgrounds in mathematics and science,” says Laura. 

    There are thousands of hours of curriculum available through Snapology that allows for a wide variety of STEAM and Theme programs. “We offer classes, workshops, camps, birthday parties, field trips, and special events like helping Girl or Boy Scouts earn STEAM and/or Engineering badges,” says Lisa. “Our programs are designed to enhance childrens’ learning of STEAM concepts in a way that makes learning fun. Additionally, creativity, teamwork, and presentation skills through sharing, are incorporated in all of our classes, workshops, and camps.”

    The classes from Snapology range from 1-1.5 hours and are often offered in a series via an after-school program for 6-12 weeks. Through these programs students are taught about different science learning concepts each week and last for 3 hours and include additional activities.

    Since the onset of COVID-19, Snapology has been in a position to offer virtual classes. “This has been very successful and allowed us to bring our programs to some kids that may not have been able to participate in our in-person programs,” says Laura.

    Snapology has also provided free daily and/or weekly building challenges for littles since March, which are posted to the Facebook page and allows children to post pictures of their builds. 

    “We also began offering virtual LEGO build classes, birthday parties, and playdates for a fun, interactive learning experience for kiddos that have their own LEGO bricks,“ says Lisa. “And we are currently also offering virtual 3-hour LEGO build camps.”

    Come July, however, Snapology will resume in-person programming and kick off in-person summer camps at The EDGE Teen Center in Liberty Township.

    “Our in-person programs have been restructured to ensure the safety of our students and teachers,” says Laura. “Students will be socially distanced and have their own work space and supplies. Teachers will wear masks and students are encouraged to wear masks. Frequent cleaning of contact surfaces, frequent hand sanitation and washing, and fresh air ventilation of the camp space, a 45-60 minute drop off/pick up window, and contactless check-in are among the safety protocols we’ll be implementing.”

    The Coe sisters say that Snapology is always looking to add new programming content. “And down the road we will be looking to bring an Activity Center where kiddos can come and do hands-on STEAM activities that include building with LEGO bricks, virtual reality, play games, and many other fun and enriching activities,” says Lisa.

    To learn more or to receive updates, visit westchestertwp.snapology.com and follow along on Facebook. For 2020 Summer Camp info, readers can visit www.bit.ly/snapcamps. Those interested in bringing Snapology to their school, dayare, homeschool, preschool, elementary school, or middle school can send an email to westchestertwp@snapology.com

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    Make your little princess feel like a queen with these specialized, glitzy spa parties.

    Theresa Gordon is on a mission to provide a positive effect on the community through the empowerment of local youth. 

    Gordon is the founder of Sugar & Spice Spa, nestled in the heart of Liberty Center, a business that wants to help your little girl feel like the princess she is. 

    “From the moment you walk in the door at Sugar & Spice Spa, you are treated like royalty,” says Gordon. “Sugar & Spice Spa’s magical environment will sweep your daughter away as she is pampered and celebrated.” 

    Creating a powerful self-image for young children is important to Gordon, and she strives to do that with every little one who walks through the door at Sugar & Spice Spa. “By helping them feel confident and gain social skills, girls and boys are empowered and celebrated for who they are,” she says. “Sugar & Spice Spa will not only create memorable experiences, but also build self-esteem, confidence, and awareness that will remain with our children for a lifetime.” 

    Gordon knows that parents want their children to be happy, and she hopes to offer that through Sugar & Spice Spa. “You celebrate their birthday just as much as they do, but throwing the party is a lot of work that some of us don’t have time for,” says Gordon. “That’s where Sugar & Spice Spa comes in.”

    Gordon prides herself on being the best at throwing a child’s birthday party, to help parents avoid the planning, the mess, and the stress. “Both mothers and daughters alike will enjoy our clean, quality spa services, including specialized salon services, spa birthday parties, private parties, events, and individual appointments,” she says.

    Options for parties range from glitzy mini manicures and pedicures to private, luxurious spa parties. “No headaches planning a party here,” she adds. “Sugar & Spice Spa takes care of the party decor for you.”

    In addition to the spa potion of Sugar & Spice Spa, there is also an event center that can hold up to 70 guests. It offers a unique, full or partial wedding ceremony and reception package as well as the option to add from the gallery of on-site services. “Whether you are planning a wedding, social soiree, or a corporate event, Sugar & Spice Spa is one of the best locations for your celebration,” says Gordon.

    To learn more about Sugar & Spice Spa, visit https://www.sugarspicespa.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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    One local fashionista launched a business to build confidence of our youngest generation through cute outfits that help kiddos look and feel their best.

    A passion for fashion, glam, and everything beauty is in Aleese Alexandra’s veins. Since she was a young girl she’s loved all things fashion, so it only made sense for her to take a leap and open up her own boutique as an adult. 

    Today she is the founder of Kiddy Kouture, a children’s clothing brand based out of the Queen City that offers everything fashion-forward for your littles. 

    “We aspire for our minis to be just as fashionable as we are,” says Alexandra. “We offer replica, adult-like clothing, but in a friendly, kid style. You can also find a few mommy and me looks as well, because we know how much little girls aspire to be and look just like mommy.”

    Kiddy Kouture launched six years ago, when Alexandra felt that there weren’t very many places to shop for unique, stylish kids clothing, aside from typical department stores. So she wanted to give those in the Cincinnati area the opportunity to shop local. 

    In the boutique, you’ll find a variety of looks from chic styles to street wear, fun accessories, and so much more. “We have our house brand clothing styles and you can find a vast majority of other brands, and even some local designers that are featured in our showroom as well,” adds Alexandra.

    Alexandra prides herself on the quality of products that she offers in her store. “A lot of looks that you see at our shop you will not be able to find anywhere else,” she says. “We make kids feel good in our clothing and accessories and they only want to shop at Kiddy Kouture.”

    The items that are curated for the store are chosen carefully and Alexandra works closely with designers to implement the perfect look. “Not only are we just a boutique for kids, but we’ve handled a number of fashion shows for kids all across the globe,” she adds. 

    In addition to being a children’s boutique, Kiddy Kouture is a styling service and modeling agency. 

    Alexandra is looking forward to the future for Kiddy Kouture. “We are actually working closely with another company by the name of ‘Pink Roses,’ kids modeling agency, where they are greasing up to film reality TV,” she says. “Kiddy Kouture will be the lead wardrobe stylist for the models on the show. We have also been back and forth from Los Angeles, New York City, and Columbus for filming and cultivating different looks for all the models. It’s fun, fun, and more fun! We are so stoked for this opportunity so stay tuned!”

    Kiddy Kouture is located in East Walnut Hills at 2337 Victory Parkway. You can also shop online anytime at kiddykoutureboutique.com. Kiddy Kouture is also on Facebook and Instagram.

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    From tutoring and subscription boxes to birthday parties and Parents Night Out events, see how one local company is providing unique, hands-on resources for a lifetime of learning.

    The idea behind Strive Academy, LLC. sparked from a simple conversation between two middle school teachers. Today, it has impacted nearly 500 local children, and families worldwide have taken part in hands-on learning for life-long learners. 

    Strive Academy, LLC.encompasses STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) based learning and activities to engage learners of all levels. “Using STEAM, students will be able to increase their creativity, ask questions, and be innovative,” says Strive Academy founders Amber Hawk and Emily Hunt. “As certified teachers, we know how important it is for students to increase their problem-solving skills through hands-on learning. These skills will help our next generation change the world for the better.”

    Strive Academy, LLC. offers parent’s nights out events, birthday parties, tutoring, after-school programming, summer camps, and just recently released, STEAM box subscriptions. “We have been established in the Cincinnati area since the summer of 2018,” says Hawk and Hunt. “Each year, we have expanded our offerings based on family interests and needs.”

    Since inception, children and families in the Cincinnati area have been engaging in its Strive Academy’s STEAM learning through a multitude of services, such as:  

    • Parent’s Night Out: 3-hour activity time for kids on select Friday nights for hands-on STEAM games, challenges and activities. 
    • Birthday Parties: 8 fun themes available with the option to host in home or on location at Strive Academy, LLC. 
    • Tutoring: In-person and virtual tutoring for a variety of ages and subjects. 
    • STEAM Subscription Box: 4 hands-on STEAM activities, shipped right to your door each month. Materials and video instructions included.

    Strive Academy LLC offers many more services and activities for all ages, visit https://www.striveacademy.org/our-services for a complete list. At Strive Academy LLC., STEAM learning is encouraged outside of the classroom and welcomed into homes, with over 40 free activities on their site, brand-new subscription box model, math bundles, and the option to custom design a program that is best fit your group to match its needs. 

    “Some of our favorite activities are lava lamps, volcanoes, paper airplane challenges, squishy circuits, chromatography, and solar ovens,” says Hawk and Hunt. “We love watching children have fun when we give them the freedom to be creative and imaginative. In most aspects of life, they have so many constraints, so it is incredible to see what they can do when given the opportunity.” 

    The best way for families to become involved is to visit https://www.striveacademy.org/ and stay up to date by registering for the latest programming by joining the email list. You can also follow along on Twitter and Facebook, visit their website or email them at info@striveacademy.org.

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    Big kids can have fun, too! Click here to read more about a local puzzle-fueled bar crawl that you can now do from home, too!

    Cincy Chic: What is The Puzzle Crawl?
    John Bromels, Supreme Galactic Overlord at Puzzle Crawl, Ltd.:The Puzzle Crawl is a one-of-a-kind bar crawl with pencil puzzles (like crosswords, wordfinds, and mazes) that occurs every month in Cincinnati. Players visit the first bar on the route and solve a themed puzzle that reveals the location of the next bar. They visit 4-5 bars over the course of the evening, solving a puzzle at each one. Players can also embark on “side quests” along the crawl route for extra points. At the final bar, we tally the scores and award a prize package, usually valued at $200 – $400, to the winning team, and a few mystery prizes to other lucky players. The theme changes each month. Past themes have included movies, pirates, and comic book superheroes. We also offer private Crawls and puzzling experiences for birthday parties, corporate retreats, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and more! Puzzle Crawl received a “Best of the City” award from Cincinnati Magazine in 2018.

    Cincy Chic: What’s the inspiration behind it?
    Bromels: Solving puzzles and mysteries has gotten popular in recent years, with escape rooms and mystery-in-a-box delivery companies popping up across the country.

    We enjoy escape rooms a lot, but one drawback is that because of the time limit, everyone has to spend all their time focused on escaping the room: there’s no time to socialize and just hang out with your friends because you’re “on the clock.” Some of our friends who aren’t hardcore puzzle solvers have confessed to us that they just stand around feeling like a fifth wheel in an escape room because they don’t know what to do. Plus, there are no drinks!

    So, we wanted to create a puzzling experience that would be fun for puzzlers and non-puzzlers alike, and that allows people time to enjoy each other’s company and have a few drinks while also playing an entertaining game. We often say that the Puzzle Crawl is “for nerds who like to drink and drunks who like to think.”

    Cincy Chic: Who’s behind it?
    Bromels: The Puzzle Crawl’s two masterminds are Supreme Galactic Overlord John Bromels and Puzzler-in-Chief Jeremy Dubin. We met while both working at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (CSC) in 2005, but we’ve been puzzle enthusiasts for much longer. We should have seen this coming: when John got married in 2007, he created an original crossword puzzle for his wedding…and Jeremy was the only one who solved it! Our creativity doesn’t just extend to the Puzzle Crawl: Jeremy is the Director of Creative Education at CSC, while John was the winner of the 2020 Red Bull Mind Gamers Creativity Challenge. John’s were also the brains behind Professor Lorenzo’s Carnival of Mysteries at the People’s Liberty Globe Gallery at Findlay Market in Spring 2019, for which Jeremy provided numerous puzzles.

    Because great minds think alike, John and Jeremy each had the idea for a progressive puzzling experience independently of one another in early 2017. When they happened to mention their ideas to one another, the Puzzle Crawl was born! We did our first public Crawl in September of 2017, and we’ve offered a monthly Crawl almost every month since, until COVID-19 put a stop to our shenanigans.

    Cincy Chic: How are you doing Puzzle Crawls now due to COVID-19?
    Bromels: Unfortunately, our usual format – bar crawls – doesn’t work so well without the bars. We tried asking folks to just crawl along the pavement while solving a wordfind, but surprisingly got no takers. So instead, we’re working on providing online content. We launched our first “Virtual Bar Crawl” on our website, puzzlecrawl.com, in May, and expect to have more online “Crawls” available soon.

    Cincy Chic: Do you know when you’ll resume in-person events?
    Bromels: We take the health and safety of our players seriously, so we’re not going to start up again until we can be confident it’s safe to do so. With conditions constantly changing, we have no idea when that will be.

    Cincy Chic: What makes this a fun event for “big kids?” 
    Bromels: The biggest thing that makes it fun is that the competitive aspect is only a part of the evening’s activities. Teams’ scores are only based on the time they spend solving puzzles (which have a par time of 10-15 minutes each). When you’re not solving puzzles, you’re off the clock: you can sit and enjoy time with your friends instead of feeling like you have to guzzle down your drink and race out the door. Plus, the evening always includes a storyline and additional “off the clock” material, so even if you don’t solve a single puzzle, you should still be able to have a fun time.

    A lot of players have told us they like having the opportunity to sample bars they otherwise wouldn’t have visited. We vary the bars and neighborhoods we use so it’s a different experience each time. And for those “big kids” who are just here for the drinks, many of the bars create specialty themed cocktails for our players, offering another chance to try something new.

    Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more, sign up, and follow along?
    Bromels: Readers can visit our website at puzzlecrawl.com to find out about upcoming events and to play our online puzzles, including our Virtual Bar Crawl. You can also find us on Facebook. We’re also on Instagram. Trust us, we were as surprised as you are to find out that domain name wasn’t taken!

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    From amazing new listings, design ideas and neighborhood spotlights, check out this recap of what's new on our Cincy Home Chic Home site!

    Here’s a recap of what you can find on our new site, Cincy Home Chic Home, this month!:

    Life Milestones
    Introducing Real Estate Podcasts from Build Collective

    Building in Madeira? Trust the Experts!

    Building a Custom Home in Cincinnati

    Listing of the Week
    9822 Orchard Trail Drive

    Party Hosting

    Yard Art Girls

    Decor

    Favorite Home Exterior – Vote For Your Favorite!

    Paint the Ceiling?

    An Entertaining Dining Room

    Stylish Ways to Add Storage, Seating

    Four Ways Light Makes a Room

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