A “Secret” Meditation


Everyone know that mom = tight schedule, distractions, stress, little “me” time, and always questionable kid-stuff on your hair or clothes. I’m proudly part this  mom-sanity-seeking populous bunch of women, enjoying motherhood and surviving it at the same time. For years now, I have found easy-to-access “me” time involves a late night generous glass of my favorite wine (Cass Cabernet)and working on a 1000-pc Ravensburger puzzle.

Here are some of my recent completions:

puzzle 1000 landscape 

  puzzle 1000 candy with wine

Recently, a friend sent me this link from The New York Times

I immediately wanted to try my artistic hand as revealing beautiful garden pictures full of trees, leaves, flowers and birds. I ordered a small quantity for the toy shop, because many of my customers, mostly moms, are parched for ways to unwind.

I was immediately hooked as soon as the coloring books arrived. I love everything – the beautiful illustrations, bringing flowers and butterflies to colorful life, and the sound of the marker scratching on the parchment in the silent night, while my family is sleeping. Coloring is my new meditative state.

Listen to that sound:

I’m no Liudmila Kondakova, but I am quite proud of my artistic work. My kids ask almost daily if I have completed something new. Here are a couple of completed pages from my personal copy of The Secret Garden.

secret garden 1  secret garden 2

The moms in my community have reaffirmed my presumption that moms NEED this. Building Blocks has gone from ordering 30 books to hundreds, including new titles Enchanted Forest and Ocean Life (fall).

I have also been obsessing over the craft supplies that are perfect for these books. For advanced colorists I recommend Staedtler fineliner and fibertip markers–Johanna Basford uses these! We import from Italy the Carioca brand or art supplies. I recommend those for all levels of artistic coloring from beginners to advanced. The fine nib markers come in 36 colors that produce bold colors but have a watercolor effect. They are also superwashable with just water so if you have little ones around you don’t have to worry if they get into the markers (nontoxid too, of course). The brilliant color pencils are very smooth to use and the colors are vibrant. We offer all these fun supplies at Building Blocks. We also have a selection of metallic pencils and markers, brush-tip (also my favorite!) markers, glitter markers, watercolor pencils, and many other supplies that I love to have for variety and added fun during color time.

9/2 update. Here are my recommendations for art supplies.

Have you tried this new form of relaxing? How do you de-stress?

Share with me in comments.

Peace-out 🙂


Is GoogleExpress going to make (mom) life easier?


Last night I attended a launch event for GoogleExpress. It was very well hosted by Alison Ray of SoChicLife and her guest list included some bloggers I met for the first time IRL but have “known” very well on IG or FB, like @stylemeetlife aka Jessica Mefford and @definingtabitha aka Tabitha Green. And it’s always the a treat to connect with my gal pals who I never seem to be able to catch up with if it weren’t for at these types of gatherings. Coiffed and styling, we exchange mom-crazed stories over cocktails and compliments.

The night started with handcrafted libations and hors d’ oeuvres on the rooftop. Here I am with my friend MJ Tam of Chicagonista:

googleexpress me and mj

Here’s a peek at the dinner menu:

googleexpress dinner

I dined with these beautiful moms: https://instagram.com/p/5u4qwVMYJO/

As a busy entrepreneur/mom/wife, I’m thrilled to see another option to help me get things done so that I have time to focus on important things…..or play (!). When comes to “task” shopping (groceries, supplies, etc), I don’t quite enjoy it as I do when I hit Hazel for my summer wardrobe. GoogleExpress provides same-day or overnight delivery from local stores like Costco (love!!), Walgreens, Ulta Beauty, etc. It’s kind of like Instacart or Peapod but with more shopping options.

If you would like to find out more information, go here: https://www.google.com/express/

If you would like to try it out, here’s a $25 off code for your first purchase: EXPRESSCHICAGO

But it’s only for the first 2,500 shoppers, so treat yourself NOW!

If you try it out, let me know your experience (comment on this blog) as I am also new to the GoogleExpress service. They gave me a sweet little credit for trying it out too. I’m eager to find out if this is going to be a solution for busy moms!

Cheers to the “easy button”,

Katherine McHenry







Spreading the love, one bear hug at a time…


It is a truly exciting time to be in the toy industry as a specialty toy retailer. Even up to 10 years ago, making a difference in our product offerings meant offering toys that are Made in the USA. The goal was to find as many toys that our customers would want that were made in America. To this day some of our bestselling lines are Uncle Goose Blocks and Maple Landmark Trains, which we have offered since the day we opened. However it seemed that there should be more room to “grow a conscience in the toy industry”.

And grow we did. Founded in 2007, Green Toys products are not only made in the USA, but made out of recycled plastic milk jugs. Plan Toys makes all their kid products from reclaimed wood (discarded rubber wood trees no longer producing sap). More women-owned toy companies entered the market. Some of my favorite women-owned companies to support include Peaceable Kingdom, Baby Paper, and Kaskey Kids. Crazy Aaron’s Puttyworld sources “sheltered workshops” which employ folks with intellectual disabilities. Plan Toys got their employees out of usury-type debts and formed a credit union for them. Just like me, these companies are asking: “How can we make a difference in the world with our toy business?”. This year, Building Blocks switched to processing credit cards with Merchant Giving Project, which donates a portion of our fees to Reading in Motion. These days it’s almost a requirement for us to make a difference where we can, if we know we can.

Now the exciting part…

bears for humanity

Recently my independent sales rep, Mary, came to visit my store so we could talk about new toys, place orders, and catch up on what’s happening in the toy world. She put a teddy bear on my desk and I immediately thought it was such a beautiful classic teddy bear. The entire Building Blocks team swarmed to steal some bear hugs. Then she told us it is made out of it is made out of 100% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton……ooooh! Then she said the bear is assembled in  California……aaaah!…..by workers in a welfare program (Calworks)…..what?! And just when she had gotten me so eager to order these for our shop, she adds: “and for every bear your customer buys, one exactly like that (EXACTLY LIKE THAT) will be donated to a local charity of our choice.

bears for humanity eva

What local organization do you think the bears should be gifted to? Please tell your favorite charity to fill out this form for consideration: http://goo.gl/forms/26np9AXpff

We will select, with your help, a worthy organization to receive the bears. In the meantime, buy Bears for Humanity!

Thanks for reading,

Katherine Mchenry


My “Bucket List” of Summer Toys


Summer is finally here and this is what we survived the Polar Vortex for. Don’t let sun and warm weather slip past you without making a “bucket list” to ensure your family has a fun-filled summer. Whether that list includes hitting our many Chicago beaches, backyard barbecues, or visiting one of the many water-slashing Chicago Parks,  I’ve got my “bucket list” of toys that will make it an unforgettable summer!

Zorbz Self Sealing Water Balloons

Just pinch for a second after filling it and you’re ready to fire!


Bow & Arrow Set

A Hunger games summer. May the weather be ever in our favor!

bow arrow

Unicorn Pogo Jumper

It’s way more fun when you’re jumping around with your own unicorn.

unicorn pogo jumper


The winner of the foam sabers duel snags the first hot dog from the grill.

mashoonga kids


Bubble Robot

No words needed to tell you how cool this toy is. Just watch this video:

Have a great summer friends!


Katherine, toyshopkeeper

P.S. Would you like to win a set of these cool toys? Tell me what should be on this list by submitting your entry HERE and you could be the lucky random winner!


Candy your kids WANT in their basket!


We know that candy is bad for kids…well, for most adults too. But let’s be honest about why we don’t really want to fill  our Easter baskets with marshmallows, chocolate, jelly beans, and the nougats, caramel and whatever the mystery creme is inside a Cadbury egg. THE SUGAR HIGH. Whoever said it was a myth sure didn’t come to my house when we left the Halloween loot unsupervised for half an hour.

Here’s some fun, non cavity-causing, sweet treats for your kid’s basket:

1. Japanese erasers. Brought to you by the masters of “cute”

japanese erasers

2. Scented stickers. Sniffing won’t give you empty calories.

scented stickers


3. Chocolate Fix. It’s Brain Candy.

chocolate fix

4. Candyland. It’s a very tasty place.

candland retro

5. Gummy bear swim goggles. Need I say more?


What are your favorite non-candy basket stuffers?

Building Blocks Toy Store launches a new informational blog for parents!


Katherine, McHenry, play ambassador and owner of Building Blocks Toy Store in Chicago, Illinois, launches a new blog today. The blog, “Word on the Block”, will feature a variety of entertaining and useful stories for parents, grandparents, and children. 

Katherine introduced Building Blocks Toy Store to Chicago in 1996. She started her first retail business at age nine, buying candy by bulk and setting up “Kandie’s Candies” out of a Tupperware box in her Queens, New York, apartment. Other retail businesses (men’s clothing, electronics, gifts) were to follow through college, mainly as a means to earn spending money. After working as a public accountant in the corporate world, Katherine quickly realized that retail was her passion and way to express herself. Growing up, she loved to play schoolteacher, tutor and play with kids. It was clear that serving families with educational, developmental and play-based products was her real mission in life.

Fourteen years after Building Blocks was created, Katherine and her husband, Todd, started their own family. Their son, Tai, was born in 2010 and daughter, Linh, was born in 2012. These two kids certainly don’t mind that mom brings work home … a lot!

Building Blocks Toy Store provides Chicago parents with two great locations: The Lakeview store is located just a mile west of Wrigley Field, home of Chicago’s beloved Cubs. The CTA Brown Line stop at Paulina takes you within mere steps of our magical world of fun. Other local treasures in the neighborhood include Wishbone & Frasca (family-friendly restaurants), Dinkel’s Bakery (around for more than 80 years), Chicago Music Exchange, Whole Foods, YMCA Lakeview, Little Gym & Gymboree. In 2008, our second Building Blocks Toys location was introduced in Wicker Park. This neighborhood is bustling with bars, restaurants, hair salons and clothing stores, and has a lively, artistic pulse. Our favorite local stops are Letizia’s Bakery, Enoteca Roma, Juko Nail, Paper Doll, Joe’s Wine Cellar, Circle Salon & Fifty/50. Our Wicker Park shop is just a short cab ride from the touristy area of Michigan Avenue and downtown, and a short walk from the CTA Blue Line stop at Division.

Why shop at Building Blocks?

  1. We have the best selection of all the greatest educational and developmental toys in Chicago
  2. Our toy experts truly love what they do and are happy to provide personal guidance
  3. FREE gift wrapping
  4. We make a difference for our community
  5. Shop hassle-free. Returns and exchanges have NO time limit
  6. Shop by phone service
  7. Easy online shopping from your desktop, tablet or cell phone

Specialty Toys Network is proud to partner with Building Blocks Toys in the creation of the new blog site.

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