Can’t Stop the Music

January 30, 2009

I’d like to start today by saying that no matter what your size, age, or sex, tucking your shirt into your sweatpants is not a good look. Ever.

Anyway it’s that time again, boys and girls: SINGLE OF THE WEEK! And for that we turn to Ken, who from this post seems a little angry, but let’s just focus on the song, shall we?

This song by the Black Kids has been floating around in the musical ether since last summer, and is, I think, good enough not to have left our collective conscious just yet. You may not have heard it, since you were probably busy planning your kid’s party at some bouncy gym or forcing friends to sign up for your stupid Super Bowl squares. So here it is: I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend. Click on it and turn it up.

I’d like to point out that a few weeks back our first single of the week was The Fear from Lily Allen. A week later Entertainment Weekly put it on their hot list. Coincidence? Scoop!!

Another One Falls

ma_09feb_cover1The number of layoffs continues to mount, and this week saw the closing of Domino magazine at Conde Nast. I wasn’t a subscriber but I did pick it up from time to time. As someone who reads tons of mags on a weekly and monthly basis, I’m always sad when one bites the dust. Unfortunately we may see this happening more and more with the way things are going.

But on to happier things…it’s the end of the week (yes!), which means waffles, smoothies, tickling, coloring and in general just hanging out with the kids. My good friend Smish is coming by with her super cute daughter for a play date and of course it’s the Super Bowl…and I really don’t care who wins since my boys the Eagles aren’t going to be there on the field. Ken and I are also headed out for one last restaurant week dinner. So it should be good – hope you all have some fun stuff planned. Drop me a line and tell me your fav things to do on the weekend. I’ll include them in a future post. Take care!`

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Just Do It

January 29, 2009

Go for the burn and stick with it.

Go for the burn and stick with it.

As I was trudging to the gym through the snow this morning, early enough that no one had been out to shovel yet, carrying my sneakers in a plastic bag, sniffling due to a cold that is on the verge of being full blown, I wondered why I hadn’t just stayed home. But I couldn’t – for over a year now, Monday through Friday, I feel compelled to go the 2 blocks to the gym and break a sweat. And since it’s that time of year when New Year’s resolutions start to fall by the wayside, I thought it would be a good time to share some tips about how I found a way to fit regular exercise into my schedule.

Morning Glory: Mornings are the only time I can control – by the time after work comes around, I’m exhausted and just want to see my kids for a little while before they have to hit the hay. And frankly, with kids, I’m up early anyway, it was just a question of getting myself out of the house. So we have a routine where Ken is off to the gym first and when he returns I go. I know people express reluctance to waking up early, but if you commit yourself for two weeks, your body will acclimate. Getting it done in the morning means it’s out of the way and by 9am you’ve already accomplished something great for yourself.

No Pressure: I used to feel like I had to go all out with my workout and run several miles and do this many push-ups and on and on and on – and the effect it had was that it felt too daunting to go every day so I’d make it two, maybe three days. But after I had Addison and knew I was done procreating, I wanted to commit to exercise on a regular basis. So I made a new rule: I could do any machine I wanted, I just needed to burn at least 300 calories and go at least 2 miles. This allowed me to break a sweat and it was achievable. So sometimes I do the treadmill, sometimes the elliptical, sometimes a combination with the bike, but I always stick to this rule and without any pressure on myself, I usually blow past those numbers.

Timing is Everything: Although I make time in the morning to go, I don’t have a lot of time. My regular workout is usually 35 minutes of cardio, some push-ups, crunches and stretching, which gets me in and out in under an hour. Some days I have a little more time so I do more cardio, some days I have less time due to an early meeting or appointment, so there are rare days when I can only get cardio in for 20 minutes, but I figure some is better than none. If you make the time commitment easy on yourself, you’re more likely to fit it in.

These are some things that worked for me; I hope they can work for you too. And that way you won’t become a February casualty. You know, the ones that crowd the gym in January, all gung ho, and then leave a month later, unable to live up to their unrealistic expectations. You can do it!
Etc.

I’m bummed Gossip Girl was a repeat this week.

I forgot to acknowledge the Chinese New Year earlier this week. It’s the year of the ox – hope it’s a good one!

Look Into My Eyes

January 28, 2009

I had a request to add more restaurant reviews into the blog rotation. defaultToday I thought I’d cover some of my favorite special occasion spots, just in time to make Valentine’s reservations. And my first tip is to NOT go out on Valentine’s Day. Restaurants tend to jack up their prices on that night, and while it’s lovely to mark the occasion, it can be just as romantic on February 13th or 15th, when regular menus are in effect.

Country – the room is fancy without being stuffy, the service is attentive without being overbearing, and the food is special without being too precious. Plus I like the finishing touch: after the very last petit fours, they give you delicious coffee cake to bring home for breakfast the next morning.

Picholine – The restaurant recently got a makeover, but what didn’t change is chef Terrance Brennan’s delicious French-Mediterranean food, including Max McCalman’s unrivaled cheese cart. (This guy wrote the book on cheese, literally.) If you ask nicely, they’ll give you a tour of the cheese cave. (Upper West Side)

Jean Georges – The food is quite tasty and the room somehow oozes New York power – it always feels like the place to be. Maybe it’s because every time we’ve been we’ve sat next to someone boldfaced, included Matt Lauer, Al Pacino and Oliver Stone. We’ve been to many of his restaurants, and I think this is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s best. (Columbus Circle)

Chanterelle – Downtown warmth courtesy of the husband and wife team of David and Karen Waltuck. She mans the door and welcomes everyone coming in. He helms the kitchen and ensures every table leaves sated and satisfied. (Tribeca)

Gramercy Tavern – I am a Danny Meyer fan but I had gone to this restaurant when it first opened several years ago and wasn’t so impressed. Recently we decided to try it again and we had an excellent night. Delicious food and an amazing wine list. (Chelsea)

Bouley – Another downtown spot where the service enhances the carefully prepared French plates coming out of the kitchen. And when the chocolates come at the end and you can’t eat another bite, they’ll happily box them for you to take home and savor the next night, after your Chinese take out. (Tribeca)

While it’s true none of these restaurants are cheap, it is nice to mark an occasion with a special meal. And with these restaurants, it’s about the food, service, and ambience, so if you figure it’s a whole night of entertainment, it’s slightly easier to justify. (But if you’re looking for an easier on the wallet solution, Nougatine at Jean Georges has a lovely three course prix fixe lunch for $24. Because really, love knows no time of day, right? Afternoon delight!)

The Price is Right
Speaking of easier on the wallet, there are still a few days left for restaurant week in New York City and Philadelphia. In New York, for 3 courses, lunch runs $24.07, and some restaurants do dinner for $35. It’s a great way to try somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, or to go back to an old favorite. In Philadelphia, Center City Restaurant Week offers a similar deal, and the world famous Le Bec-Fin has joined in on the fun. (A few silver linings come out of a bad economy.)

Tonight we had a lovely evening out at Brasserie with some good friends — we had the prix fixe for restaurant week and it was quite satisfying: peekytoe crab appetizer, porcini mushroom and butternut squash risotto entree and chocolate torte for dessert. The portions are smaller, but with 3 courses it’s plenty of food. (Although Ken may disagree.)

Hope you’re all keepin’ it real…

What Kales You?

January 27, 2009

Not just another pretty vegetable.

Not just another pretty vegetable.

Many of my friends who do CSAs or other vegetable deliveries direct from local farms complain that when it comes to the fall/winter, they wind up with a lot of kale. I often see the voluptuous bundles of kale sitting on the refrigerated shelf at Whole Foods, with seemingly few takers. Lately, I have read many articles that talk about the many benefits of this vegetable: vitamins A, C, E and K, powerful anti-oxidants, and, like broccoli, it contains high levels of sulforaphane, a chemical believed to fight against cancer. All fantastic, but how does it taste?

Well have I got a kale recipe for you! Even my kids liked this one, and it’s as easy to make as it gets. Take the kale, rinse it, and then chop it roughly, discarding the bottom stems. Take a baking sheet (line it with foil if you want really easy clean up), and spray it with Pam. Put the kale on in a single layer. Spray it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Put it in the middle of the oven at 375 degrees. It cooks fast, so check it every 5 minutes to make sure it’s not burning, but basically in about 10 minutes or so you’ll get crispy kale, almost like potato chips. Makes a tasty and healthy side dish with turkey burgers, meatloaf – really anywhere you could use a hearty green.

It’s Broadway, Baby

As I mentioned, last night I went to the opening of Hedda Gabler (thanks Vinny!). I can’t say I’m a huge Ibsen fan but I was entertained, and I thought Mary-Louise Parker was good. Liza with a Z and Joan Rivers were both there, and that demographic seemed to enjoy it, for what that’s worth. There’s a certain spark to live theater and I always enjoy going, if only to see how the creative minds behind it put it all together.

Get it Together

Is it just me or did everyone collectively groan when they saw on the front page today that the Republicans are going to block the stimulus plan? Democrat, Republican, I really don’t care; I just want them to get together and get something done that works. And by “works,” I mean for every citizen, not just for the corporations that got us into this mess. Get it together, Washington! These are people’s lives we’re talking about.

I think I am getting a cold and Duane Reade was picked bare of Zicam swabs. Help! Until tomorrow…

Where does the weekend go?! Let’s get to it.

Marketers believe that by the time a person has graduated college, her brand preferences are pretty much set. That is why a 30 second ad on a show like Gossip Girl goes for much more money than a show like Murder, She Wrote (were it still on the air – I couldn’t think of a show that a lot of old people watch besides the evening news). The coveted 18 – 24 demo is where they think they can make their mark.

Now this is progress...

Now this is progress...

I used to think it was all bs but then I realized I’d been using the same laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, condiments, rice – really, the list goes on and on – since I was old enough to make my own purchases. My anti-perspirant/deodorant was no exception – Secret Solid all the way. The scent might change (although I was partial to powder fresh), but I always went to the drugstore for that curved light blue bottle. I flirted with others (Tom’s of Maine? Does not work. Degree? Does not work.) but I was always disappointed and so I returned like a homing pigeon. But recently I strayed – not from Secret, but from the solid version. I’m not sure why it caught my eye, but I decided to try Secret Flawless Touch with Olay conditioners ($5.49). Not only does it work as well as the solid, but it conditions to keep underarms dry from sweat but moisturized. Plus the way you apply it, you only need a little bit. This weekend I was away and I used my old solid that was in my travel bag. It seemed so…20th century.

Yes, I am a convert! So I have switched, but not really, because they have kept me in the Secret family…so smart, those marketers.

On the Go

I successfully roadtripped with my 18 month old daughter alone with me in the car this weekend…and now I’m off to opening night of Hedda Gabler on Broadway, starring Mary-Louise Parker. I’m already tired!! Hope you had a good weekend.

Fresh Flan

January 23, 2009

It’s Thursday night so it must be time for the (drumroll please) SINGLE OF THE WEEK. This week you get two to choose from (you’re welcome). Here’s Ken:

I think I’d like to have some flan with Julieta Venegas. She can even bring her accordion, which, like her songs, she plays with abundant, effortless charm. “Me Voy” the song showcases her latest pop sensibilities, with a touch of norteño. “Me Voy” the video unfortunately plays out like an over-imagined film school thesis. (Editor’s note: I like the MTV Unplugged version of this song better.)

Click here to hear “Me Voy.”

And from the understated, let’s go to the overstated. Don’t laugh. Once you get over the source (Britney) and the title’s sophomoric wordplay, you’ll be hooked.

Snub Oscar

I don’t know if it’s that there’s so much other stuff going on in the world or that the crop of movies this year aren’t so exciting but the Oscar nods this morning truly lacked any drama. Truth be told, I, like many others, haven’t seen many of the movies so I can’t legitimately comment on whether or not they deserve the nominations. But I did see Dark Night on a plane and I thought Heath Ledger was excellent as the Joker. Anne Hathaway was very good in Rachel Getting Married. But my money is on the little movie that could: Go Slumdog!

Mi Blog es Su Blog

Some of you have asked about contributing recipes or other tips and thoughts to Family Favs. Of course! Send them my way. You can either email me off-blog or post them through the comments section at the end of each post. As I stated at launch, I want this to be a conversation and to include as many ideas and viewpoints as possible. So I’d love to hear from you!

Hope you all had a bearable week. Keep on truckin’!!

Fashion, Fashion Everywhere

January 22, 2009

With all of this talk about what Michelle Obama and the first kids wore, I thought I’d write about fashion today.  (For the record, although I wasn’t a fan of her daywear, I did like the First Lady’s Jason Wu evening gown. It was very flattering on her.) And right in line with the week’s Inaugural theme, today we’ll talk about American fashion.

If you shop in department stores, you probably know that most designers have what are called “diffusion lines.” While one floor might carry the higher priced Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs labels (the ones you see on the runway) other floors carry the more affordably priced Lauren, DKNY and Marc by Marc Jacobs. These are offshoots of the designers’ main lines that carry on the general ethos of the designer, and for many, these are the true money-makers of the business since they sell a bigger volume. I find these lower-priced lines can be a treasure trove some seasons, and not as fruitful the next. In the last few months or so I stumbled on a line from Donna Karan I had never seen before: DKNYC.

Simple and chic.

Simple and chic.

Apparently it launched this past summer as a reworking of the company’s DKNY City line, which was shuttered in 2005. Not quite DKNY and not quite DKNY Jeans, DKNYC’s price point seems to fall somewhere between the two, with an average dress going for about $179 and tops around $89. Not dirt cheap, but certainly doable for most, especially with a sale. From what I’ve seen, the line sticks to a simple palette of black, white, gray and cream and then throws in splashes of color, depending on the season. Right now they’ve got a bright pink going on. The prints are interesting without being overpowering, the looks can go to the office without being too corporate, and because the colors are kept simple, you can easily work the pieces in with your existing wardrobe. Recently I bought a black and white print short-sleeved dress with a black obi belt, and a black silk short-sleeved blouse with an interesting grommet pattern on the front. I like them because they don’t look cookie-cutter but they’re not too out there. Plus they didn’t break the bank.

Interesting but not overpowering.

Interesting but not overpowering.

DKNYC is available at most department stores, including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Lord and Taylor, as well as online at macys.com and bloomingdales.com.(Although I really think bloomingdales.com is terrible, but I’ll save that for another post.) The pieces seem to run true to size if not a little big. And, particularly now, all of the stores are constantly having sales so make sure to check online for any coupons and you may be able to save an extra 15 – 25%.

Work it
Also, if you’re in the need for some office wear, Banana Republic is taking 30% off during its “Modern Workwear” event, running now through 1/28 both in stores and online. I find their offerings very hit or miss, but since you probably have one nearby, you might want to check it out.

Tomorrow it’s finally supposed to warm up a little, which is good because I think we’re all sick of this below freezing stuff…finished Omnivore’s Dilemma and I feel like I’m in more of a quandary than ever about what to buy at Whole Foods. Conventional? Organic? Free range? Grass fed? These organic farms are such huge conglomerates that you can’t even be sure what you’re getting. (Sigh.) I’m telling myself that moderation is the key, and as long as we’re all getting some fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic, we’re doing okay.

Hope you’re all doing well! Just a reminder for those of you who have asked about getting a daily update, you can subscribe to family favs by clicking just that to the right. Join the party! Until tomorrow…

Hope is on the Way

January 21, 2009

Good night, and good luck.

Good night, and good luck.

On such a historic day, I feel like I need to go beyond the typical recommendation post. (Come back tomorrow for that!) As I reflect on this moment in time, given Obama’s message of hope, here are a few things I’m hoping for with this new administration:

A return to decisions based on science, fact and reason: I didn’t really give it much thought until this weekend, but after the election in 2000 broke my trust in the electoral system, things quickly went downhill from there. The “evidence” leading up to the Iraq war, the denial of global warming, the repeated ignoring of the truth if it contradicted with the goals of big business…the list goes on and on. It’s a terrible feeling to never believe what the government is telling you. I don’t think I’m alone.

Universal healthcare: It’s not going to be easy. It won’t ever be perfect. But having one’s health insurance tied to a job is incredibly antiquated when people rarely stay in the same job for decades at a time and corporations are forced by Wall Street to make a choice whether to care more about their bottom line or their employees’ well-being. Think about how it would change every American’s life if health insurance was no longer a stress but a guarantee.

America regaining its stature in the world: I remember backpacking through Europe and when my friends and I would say we were from America, people would hug us and call their friends. That wasn’t that long ago! Now when I’m abroad I almost want to say I’m Canadian, America gets such a chilly response.

And perhaps most importantly, an end to this economic abyss: It’s really depressing to know that the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars and the average American has felt none of it. The banks may be getting handouts, but people are still losing their jobs, families are being forced out of their homes and citizens everywhere are feeling the chokehold of uncertainty. The tide can’t turn soon enough.

Just plain wrong.

Voice: great. Hat: just plain wrong.

Final Thoughts
Maybe Chief Justice Roberts shouldn’t have gone without notes on the oath of office…And I’m giving a thumbs down to Mrs. Obama’s Isabel Toledo dress. It wasn’t the color, which I know many people had an issue with; for me it was more the rhinestone extravaganza going on at the neck. For 12:00 noon, it was a bit much. But it was all fantastic in comparison with Aretha Franklin’s hat. Wow.

Kids=adorable

Kids=adorable

But the girls looked adorable in their little ribbon-belted wool coats.

I thought one of the best lines of the ceremony was from Rev. Joseph E. Lowry, who delivered the benediction, when he said that President Obama “has come to this high office at a low moment.” I’m hoping the only way is up.

Good luck to President Obama, and to all of us.

Change Starts with You

January 20, 2009

He can't do it alone.

He can't do it alone.

On the eve of Barack Obama’s historic inauguration, on a day where he asked the country to volunteer, I thought I’d cover the organizations where I am committed – both with dollars and time.

While there are certainly many, many great charities and non-profits out there with very noble missions, I found once I had kids that it was more realistic for me to streamline my volunteering, to maximize my efforts and really see it making a difference. I always suggest to people who want to begin lending a hand to start small, because if it’s too much of a time or financial commitment, you won’t stick with it. And the best relationships build and grow over time. You can also look for ways to help that don’t take much effort – for example, when Ken converted, in lieu of gifts we asked people to make donations to Sloan-Kettering in memory of his mom. Or we’ve signed up to do different things at our kids’ school, which lets us do good while spending time with them. And recently the Y by us was collecting canned goods for local shelters, so I filled the cart at the market with some extra food and took it along the next time Austin had a swimming lesson.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Cancer, unfortunately, is pervasive in our world and has taken members of our own families. Sloan-Kettering is a leader in the research and treatment of the disease and in fact our good friend was recently successfully treated there for breast cancer. If you donate, you can specify where your money goes, whether it be into research for a specific kind of cancer  or for different patient services. (For more info, visit mskcc.org.)

The Anti-Defamation League: Their mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people…to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” While it was started primarily to combat anti-semitism, the ADL works to end hate and prejudice against every race and religion. They monitor hate groups and provide different educational materials to teach kids about how to have inclusive environments at school and in their communities. (For more info, visit adl.org.)

Kelly Writers House: I loved going to the University of Pennsylvania, but until the Writers House launched in 1995, after graduation I didn’t have a specific area that I could funnel my money and time into. But the Writers House, led by the dynamic professor Al Filreis, offers all students on campus a haven for whatever artsy itch they need to scratch. Poetry slams, fiction readings, talks by amazing authors like David Sedaris and Joan Didion (followed by brunch!), art exhibitions, jazz ensembles – it’s really amazing all of the different opportunities the House offers students. I’m on their advisory board and I sponsor an annual fiction event. And I’m jealous I missed the House by a few years! (Check out more about the House at writing.upenn.edu.)

The Museum of Arts and Design: Formerly the American Craft Museum, MAD recently moved to a spectacular new space in Columbus Circle that allows the museum to showcase more of its permanent collection as well as offer classroom space and studios for artists to work in as museum-goers pass through. I highly recommend their current exhibition, “Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary,” which runs til April 19th. I serve as co-chair of their 360 Young Collectors group, and we have different events throughout the year to give people access to design and art they might not otherwise see, as well as raise funds for the museum. (You can learn more at madmuseum.org.)

Some of those might interest you, or maybe they’ll spur you to forge relationships with whatever organizations you care about.

Bowling, anyone?
We joined some other families from Austin’s class today for bowling at Chelsea Piers. (Thanks for organizing, Jodi!) I had only bowled once before and Austin had never bowled, but we had a great time and I’d definitely recommend it for a cold or rainy day. Unlike other activities which bill themselves as fun for the whole family but are actually hellacious for the adults, this really is something kids and parents can do together. And the lanes at Chelsea Piers are very clean and the staff was very nice. Austin scored 104!

It’s Just Not OK
You know what? It’s not okay to eat on the subway. It’s not okay to cut your nails, shave or masturbate on the subway either, all of which I have seen at some point (thankfully not all at once). Just thought I’d point that out after watching one guy devour a super-sized McDonald’s meal and another wolf down a hot dog on the trains today, with mustard dripping down his arms. Gross.

Hope you’re all planning to tune in to watch Obama take the oath tomorrow. No matter how you voted, we all have a stake in his success. Good luck, Mr. President!

Simple and Good

January 19, 2009

I started to read Omnivore’s Dilemma this weekend and even though I am only about a quarter of the way through, I am already so disgusted by the wrecked state of affairs that is our farming – or should I say “farming” – system, particularly around processed foods and high fructose corn syrup, that I thought I would start the week off with a recipe. I’ve said this before (and it’s not such a newsflash) but I really believe there are a few simple tricks for making it easier to cook, serve and eat healthy, complete meals. Because let’s be honest, whether you work or stay at home, whether you have kids or not, no one ever has extra time. And given the number of pre-packaged foods, restaurants and take out options, meals are easily the place to make shortcuts.

One pot is the goal.

One pot is the goal.

But pick a night and make that a night you consistently cook, every week. For me it’s usually Sunday. I find it’s easier to find the time to get the ingredients together and do the cooking on a day I’m not at the office. And because it’s earlier in the week, I always make extra that I can put in the fridge and we have it for dinner one or two nights later. And finally, it’s great to try new recipes, but I’ve found if you learn to make three or four things really well, you can easily put a meal together even in a time crunch without breaking a sweat. (Bonus points for figuring out how to limit your pot usage to one, maybe two tops!) Strive for simple preparation that tastes good.

Here’s one of my go-tos: Prepare a package of whole wheat spaghetti. At the same time, brown a pound of ground turkey in a frying pan. (If you want to stick to one pot, wait until you’ve cooked the pasta and then brown the turkey in that pot with a little olive oil and set aside.) Drain the pasta. If I have a little time, I chop up a small onion and a clove or two of garlic, maybe even a green pepper and toss them into the pot I cooked the pasta in with a little olive oil. (If there’s no time, I skip to the next step.) Once they’re cooked through, I add some frozen chopped spinach. It cooks down so add more than you’d think – I use almost half a bag. Once that’s thawed out, add the cooked turkey and mix it all together over medium heat. Add a jar of whatever spaghetti sauce you like. We like it spicy so I add in some red pepper flakes. Once it’s warmed up, add the spaghetti into the pot and stir it to fully coat it with the sauce. Cook it about five minutes to seal the flavors in together. Serve it with some parmesan cheese on top and enjoy!

My kids really like this recipe, so sometimes I make it with whole wheat rotini or penne to make it easier for little hands to handle.

Oh, and my final suggestion for making cooking in easier is that if you are doing the cooking, someone else needs to do the cleaning.  Fair is fair!

Get Out and Go

Hope you’re having a great long weekend – it’s nice to have a Monday off. Why not get out and do something you’ve been meaning to do? Go to a museum, see a movie, exercise, meet a friend for lunch – whatever makes you happy. I guarantee you’ll feel better than just sitting inside all day.

I’m very upset about the Eagles’ loss today. I guess on the upside I have little to no interest in the Superbowl so that’s more found time!

Hasta luego on this snowy night…