Could It Be Magic?

February 27, 2009

eraser_productThere are many things people warned me about before I had children, the main one being how I would never get enough sleep, and they were right! But one thing they neglected to mention is the full toll the pint-sized wonders would take on my house. Meaning marks. Everywhere. Fingerprints on the coffee table, errant crayon scribbles on the desk, and assorted scuffs and scrapes on the walls. All the walls. One ally I’ve found in the war against the graffiti is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. It looks like a sponge, but when you wet it and scrub it takes black marks off of walls much better than a regular old sponge, and with less elbow grease. According to the label, it has “water-activated micro-scrubbers that reach into the grooves of the surface to lift and remove dirt.” Sounds good to me!

One caveat I’ve found is that the erasers work best on white walls and in fact will take some of the paint off darker ones (our front hall is tricycle red, so I know from experience). I don’t do it all the time but every once in a while when I can’t take looking at another line on the wall, I pull out a Magic Eraser and walk around making the marks vanish. Pretty nifty. Works on baseboards and doors as well. (Package of four runs around $7.50; you can find them in supermarkets or I buy them at Target.)

Get Happy

It’s Thursday night…so that means it’s time for the “Single of the Week.” Here’s Ken:

Mates of State is a husband-wife tandem. He plays drums, she plays the organ. It’s a combination that exudes quirkiness with some good-natured exuberance. If you’ve been looking for a Peaches and Herb for the 21st century, you’ve found them. The video for “Get Better” clearly shows that between touring and their two young kids, their delirium has caught up to them.

Thanks Ken. Kinda makes you want to put on a bunny mask and go out for a bike ride. Kinda.

I Feel Pretty

westside_btns_150x150I went to see West Side Story on Broadway last night. It’s in previews — it actually opens mid-March — but the theater was packed and in fact tickets for the entire run are selling briskly, which is good. The actress who plays Maria, Josefina Scaglione, is fantastic — she was discovered in Argentina where she was appearing as Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray. The actress who plays Anita, Karen Olivo, is also excellent. Her version of “America” is one of the highlights of the show. The rest of the cast is also very good — really the only one I had an issue with (and others agreed) is Tony, played by Matt Cavenaugh. He’s just too pretty, he has this odd NYC accent that comes in and out, and while he has a great singing voice, it’s not the voice you expect from Tony. But the songs are familiar and wonderful, the Jerome Robbins choreography is amazing and there is one particular set — under the bridge for the rumble — that gets its own applause from the audience. So overall I say thumbs up — it was a nice, cozy evening out, which may be just what we all need in times like these.

In Closing

We’re celebrating my dad’s birthday this weekend, so Austin and I are going to make a cake together. There are fancier cakes to be had, for sure, but a good old Betty Crocker Super Moist vanilla cake with vanilla frosting is always a crowd pleaser. It’s, easy, cheap and tasty — really, what more could you want?! And the kids can decorate it however they see fit, because there’s no way they can “ruin” it, really.

Finally, a note to Republicans — it’s ok to disagree with the stimulus package and what the Obama administration is doing to get us out of this mess. But don’t just be haters — we’re in dire straits, and we need ideas and solutions, not just complaints. Step up!

Here’s hoping you all can step out and have some fun. Have a great weekend everyone!

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To Whom It May Concern

February 25, 2009

Dear Sir or Madame...

Dear Sir or Madame...

You know how something happens and you feel somehow wronged and you say to your friend/significant other, “That’s bs. I’m going to write a letter.” And then you never do? Well I’m that person that actually does. And you should, too.

Recently I ordered for the first time from Bloomingdales.com. (For the purposes of this blog I am simplifying this story – trust me when I say it was even more convoluted, ridiculous and time-sucking.) I placed the order online, it went smoothly, was confirmed, and everything was fine. Until a few days later when I got a message at work that they weren’t shipping a sweater I had purchased. I thought that was odd, so I called that night to get more details. In fact it wasn’t the sweater they weren’t sending, it was a handbag I had bought. A handbag I had had my eye on for a while. A handbag I really, really wanted. They had no explanation other than that the inventory sometimes isn’t updated frequently enough. Seems like a pretty big glitch for an online site. I hung up and tried to let it go, but I was ticked. So I called the next day to see if I could get an explanation. Again, not really. I asked if they could search their stores for the item, but they said the stores were a separate entity. So I took it upon myself to track down one of the bags in their flagship store, but the price was higher than what I had paid online. But because I am sometimes bag-crazy, I got it anyway.

I shlepped up to 59th Street to purchase it. And though I felt victorious in that I owned the bag, I was annoyed I had to pay more to get what they had confirmed I purchased online. So I decided to write a very pointed letter complete with names, dates of calls, copies of receipts and a request to refund the difference between what I would’ve paid online and what I ended up paying in the store because of their system’s screw up. I stressed that I was a longtime Bloomingdale’s customer (which could be verified by them looking at my charge account records) and when I sent it I addressed it to the head of Customer Service and I cc’d the CEO. I figured if I were running a store in times like these, I would want to know how my employees were treating loyal customers.

For a while, I heard nothing. Then I got an email from someone in customer service that was so obviously a form letter – it had nothing to do with my issue and merely served to tick me off further. I was becoming disappointed in Bloomie’s. Then I got a letter from someone in the Executive Office saying she was looking into the matter, and to hold tight. Then, two weeks ago, almost two months after I wrote the letter (things move slowly in retail land, I guess) I got an email saying they had refunded the price difference to my credit card. Victory! And then, yesterday, I received a gift card to the store as further “compensation” for my aggravation and time wasted. Yay, Bloomingdale’s! It really does make you have faith in the brand when they make good on their mistakes.

So a few tips if there’s a letter you’ve been meaning to write:

Pick your battles: I don’t waste my time writing letters about every little thing. I pick my moments when I both feel that the slight was egregious and there’s something tangible the company can do to fix it.

Stick to the facts: I think it’s best to write a simple letter where you clearly state what happened, why it was wrong and what they can do to make it right. Resist the temptation to be nasty, to rant or to go off on tangents. My theory is that they’re more likely to respond to reasonable and rational people.

Send it to the right person, or call: Find out who the head of Customer Service is, and copy a higher up if you think it would help. You can often find this information online. And sometimes you don’t need to write at all – with many food products or drug items, there’s a number on the package to call with questions or complaints. They’ll often take the problem over the phone and mail refunds or coupons to rectify the situation.

Clearly state what you want them to do to rectify the situation: If you don’t explain what you’re looking for, you can’t expect them to guess, no matter how obvious it may seem. Whether you’re looking for a free night’s stay or a refund of the purchase price, let them know so they can try and meet your expectation. And be reasonable — the punishment needs to fit the crime, so to speak.

Finally, make sure you include how to contact you by phone and/or mail, and I always like to use the sign off, “Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.” Spending a few minutes on a letter will at the very least give you peace of mind, and at the most might put some cash back into your pocket. Good luck!

Charred delight

Last night I had to work later than anticipated so I called home and asked Ken to boil some pasta to get dinner started. I get home and it smelled like something was burning on the stove. “What happened?” He scorched the spaghetti!?!? Who does that? The tips were blackened. He’s lucky he married into better culinary fortunes.

Went to see West Side Story on Broadway tonight…deets tomorrow. Later!

Notes from a Traveler

February 25, 2009

I’m back!

We had a great — and very busy — trip to the sunshine of Arizona. 80 degrees meant swimming, hiking and just generally basking outdoors. Then we walked out of Newark Airport to 24 degrees and wind…welcome home!

So useful!

So useful!

I realized on my travels that one of the most indispensible items you can pack in your suitcase is a plastic bag. Whether for dirty laundry, wet bathing suits, sealing up something that may leak in your suitcase or even a stinky diaper, given their weightlessness, throw two or three into your luggage before you go so you’re always prepared for whatever the road throws at you.

Oscar Tales

We really were so busy on our trip I barely had time for anything but making it to the next scheduled gathering, so I only managed to see the Oscars toward the end. I was actually interested in watching them from a production standpoint, because I had heard they were trying to change things in up in an effort to stem the ratings drop that had been happening from year to year.

Nominees, this is your life...

Nominees, this is your life...

I liked having the five previous acting winners speak about the nominees — I know some people didn’t, but I thought it gave it some context and a personal spin that was more interesting than just reading the names. Of course, it would have been better if the presenters were a little more authentic. Shirley MacLaine’s tribute to Anne Hathaway was lovely and heartfelt but poor Adrien Brody pretty much admitted he had no idea who Richard Jenkins was until he googled him. (Ouch!) So let’s say in theory I liked the idea.

I don’t know why but I wanted Mickey Rourke to win (although I didn’t see The Wrestler or Milk so I can’t say I’m qualified to judge — but in that respect you could say I’m like most Oscar voters). And I have never been a Brad Pitt fan, he seems a little low rent and dim wattage for me (there I said it!) and the Angelina Jolie affair did nothing to up my opinion. But when he didn’t stand along with everyone else for Kate Winslet who was sitting two seats away, and Jolie, not known for her decorum, had to nudge him to get up, that pretty much cemented my negative feelings. What an overpaid baby, no Benjamin Button pun intended.

And kudos to Millburn High graduate Anne Hathaway, who was one of the few who seemed genuinely happy just to be nominated. Don’t go and get jaded on us.

Rant!

I read that stylist Rachel Zoe is trademarking her apparent catchphrase “bananas.” Now, as anyone who has known me at all can attest, I have been saying “bananas” FOREVER and I never felt the need to go and trademark the word. Lame.

I am SO over friend whores on Facebook. Just because you met someone once doesn’t mean they are your friend, real or cyber. You do not need to accumulate hundreds (or thousands) of FB friends to validate your worth. Everyone doesn’t need to know you are eating a steak or deciding what sweater to wear or helping your kid with his homework. Stop making a mockery of the word and keep it to your real friends who care. Please.

I feel so much better now!

As much as we love to travel, it’s always good to come home. I’m back to the regular posting schedule (Sunday – Thursday nights), so keep on coming back for fresh ideas and thoughts. Thanks for all of the support and kind words — even in Phoenix I heard from people how much they and others like the blog. So here’s to all of you! Hope you’re all well…

Just 3 Things

February 19, 2009

Sometimes life can seem overwhelming, with day to day responsibilities from work, life and kids filling every nook and cranny of waking hours (and even some of the sleeping ones, too). So from time to time I’ll do a new feature, “Just 3 Things.” These will be simple tips and ideas for slowing down, having fun and generally finding ways to enhance life. Here we go:

1. Meet someone for tea. Pick an afternoon, call a friend and treat yourself to mini sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and tiny pastries. If you’re near a major city, many fancier hotels offer it, or sometimes some Brits set up shop (Tea and Sympathy in the Village is a good one in NYC). Or go to the bakery, buy something delicious, put the kettle on and invite someone over. Great conversation, tasty treats and relaxing for an hour — what could be bad?

2. Clean out a closet. Or a drawer. Sometimes organization can just clear out your head. So just pick one closet or even a drawer and start putting stuff into piles: to keep, to donate and to pass on to someone. You’ll feel somehow more streamlined.

3. Call an old friend. In this day of email and Facebook and Linked In and every other cool (and by that I mean cold and impersonal) technology, actually talking to someone is a novel concept. But we all have that person that we love to gab and laugh with. So pick up the phone — in 30 minutes you’ll feel infinitely more connected to the world.

Air Force Two

We arrived in Phoenix just about the same time as President Obama…our little cousins went to take pictures of themselves with his plane.

Whoever’s in town, we’re just glad it’s WARM!

No Soup For You!

February 18, 2009

images-2The other day I was eating lunch with a bunch of coworkers at the Café Edison, which if you haven’t been is one of the best old time coffee shops left in the city. (It’s often referred to as the Polish Tea Room.) They have one of the most authentic bowls of matzo ball soup you can get – it’s a meal in itself. Definitely good bang for the buck in midtown. Anyway, talk at lunch turned to the Soup Nazi, where some of us used to go before Seinfeld turned him into a household name. We were reminiscing about how good the soup was and how he really would blacklist you if you weren’t quick enough in ordering. One guy sufficiently ticked him off that he never got bread, even if he asked. Classic. (Café Edison is in the Hotel Edison on 47th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Cash only.)

Yes Soup for You!

Beth from Boston writes in with a tasty, kid-friendly soup recipe, which I haven’t made yet but from the list of ingredients seems like something our family would enjoy.

TORTELLINI SOUP

4 cups of chicken broth

1 9 oz package of fresh tortellini (any flavor)

1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes with Italian Seasonings (do not drain)

1 15 oz can cannelloni beans (I drain and rinse)

1/2 cup of shredded fresh basil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

* I usually add zucchini and summer squash

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Add tortellini and squash (optional) and cook for 4 minutes. Stir in beans and tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in basil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve. Can easily be doubled. Delicious with Texas toast or crispy multi grain bread.

Thanks Beth! I’m going to have to try it when we get back from Arizona.

Fly With Me

February 17, 2009

images-1We are headed out West tomorrow and it got me thinking about traveling with kids.

Since Austin was a couple of months old, we’ve been traveling around the world with our kids. (On his first trip we actually had to evacuate Turks and Caicos a day early due to Hurricane Francis, but that saga is for another time…) Whether the flights are long or short, here are some tips for making flying with the kidets a little more pleasant:

It’s all about the snacks: Cheerios, fruit leather, granola bars, raisins, goldfish, crackers, applesauce cups – pack whatever your little one likes to nosh on and dole it out whenever things start to get hairy.

Clear the ears: Littler ones don’t understand the concept of swallowing when the pressure in their ears builds up, so on take off and landing it helps to give them something to drink, either in a cup or bottle or through breastfeeding if you’re doing that. Most planes do have milk on board but you can call beforehand and ask the airline.

Activate the activities: One mistake I often see parents make on planes is that they think they can get on, sit down and relax. Think again, suckah. Leaving land doesn’t mean your parental responsibilities suddenly go out the window. In fact, given that you and your child are confined to a space smaller than most bathrooms means you’ve got to work that much harder to keep things interesting. Read a book together, color, do a puzzle, play with trains – whatever keeps them occupied and not kicking the seat in front of them. We bought Austin his own little Thomas the Train suitcase to let him tote all of his toys onboard, and he loves it.

Break out the portable DVD player: Austin doesn’t watch more than 30 minutes of TV a day, but on planes we bring a slew of DVDs for him to choose from, from Toy Story to Curious George. We try to break it up a little – watch a movie, read a book, play some games, color and then maybe watch something else, depending on how long the flight is. And we made sure to buy head phones that sit outside the ear, not the ones that go inside and can potentially damage little ear drums.

Finally, mentally prepare: Before I get on the plane, I go into the mindset of preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. Once, when Austin was about 18 months old, we were headed to Lisbon. A few days before we left he came down with his first stomach virus. It was non-stop vile action, and I wasn’t sure how we could get on the plane to go. But we talked to the doctor and we decided to go; I was sure it was going to be the biggest nightmare of a plane ride ever. We boarded, it was a packed flight, and I looked at Ken, shook my head and said, “Buckle up!” And that little ill munchkin proceeded to fall asleep on takeoff and didn’t wake up until we made our descent into Portugal. But then again, on a recent flight from Zurich to London, Addison lost her mind and screamed the entire way. So I find the worst/best mindset helps me get through.

Whatever you do, GO! There’s so much to see in the world and right here in the US. It’s such a great learning experience for the kids and really teaches them about flexibility and trying new things. And as a family, there’s no better bonding time. So don’t be intimidated, start small…and enjoy!

Vacation! All I Ever Wanted…

I feel like I have been packing all day. We are excited for warmer temps — I will be posting but my schedule might be a little different for the week. Stay tuned!

No More Nyquil Hallucinations

February 16, 2009

ayr_12906_2I have never been a fan of cold medicine. It always makes me feel loopy and tired and generally worse than just suffering the symptoms of a cold. Once I tried Nyquil and had the most psychotic dreams ever. I scared myself and swore off the stuff. Then thanks to those crazy meth addicts you had to start meeting a guy in a back alley for Dimetapp and then studies came out showing kids under 7 could die from taking certain cold medicine ingredients and that was right about the time that I decided we would all just suck it up and blow our noses.

But there is one thing that I have found that does help somewhat, and it’s medication-free. About ten years ago I had to have sinus surgery and my doctor taught me about nasal irrigation. Basically you shoot salt water up your nose and clean it out. I find that it helps as a preventative measure during allergy season to clean pollen and other irritants out, and it helps relieve sinus pressure during a cold. Kids can use it too, given that it’s drug-free.

You can buy the nasal saline at the drug store. Ayr makes a good one, and stores like Target and Duane Reade make their own generic versions that are good, too. Or, you can make your own, using bottled water and salt, and you can put a little baking soda in to buffer it if you need it. Put in as much salt as you can tolerate. You can buy a baby aspirator to shoot it up into your nose.

Pair it with some vitamin C and Zicam nasal swabs and hopefully you can make it through any inevitable colds you’ll catch a little more comfortably. Or take Nyquil at your own risk. But don’t say I didn’t tell you so…

Recession Tip

Someone wrote in with an anonymous cost-savings tip: If you’re standing at the store and you can’t figure out which size of something is more cost-effective, don’t forget your cell phone has a handy calculator to help with the math. I always find it interesting that at Target with things like detergent, the larger size isn’t always the cheapest. (And with the saline spray, sometimes the name brand is less expensive than the generic.) So it does pay to figure it out before you commit it to your cart.

Celebrate the Luv

We had a bunch of plans to celebrate Valentine’s Day — brunch with our close friends at 202 in Chelsea Market (I’m a fan of the tuna burger, Austin likes the granola with fruit and Greek yogurt). At night we had a little soiree at home where we made Valentine’s hats, had lots of yummy finger foods and finished it off with Oreo cupcakes that Austin picked out at the bakery. Then Ken and I decided to watch a movie because it’s something we never have time to do and we watched the most unromantic movie ever: Will Smith’s I Am Legend. If you’re not familiar with the plot, basically everyone on earth gets infected with some sort of rabies-like virus and Smith is the last person left in NYC. So we got to see what our neighborhood would look like if a neutron bomb hit. Very uplifting! Let’s just say that it didn’t exactly put us in a Valentine-mood.

Today we took the kids out to lunch and Cowgirl had an awesome 80s soundtrack going on. Our kids were entertaining the restaurant with their crazy dancing to Sheila E’s “Love Bizarre.” Somewhere they learned this dance where they point their index fingers in the air and swivel their hips. Hilarious.

Delicioso

Delicioso!

Tonight their favorite nighttime babysitter came and Ken and I went out to Scarpetta (355 West 14th Street, at 9th Avenue). I had wanted to try it for a while but we could never get a reservation at the time I needed, so I was going in with a critical eye to see what all the fuss was about, especially in this economy. It’s excellent. The room itself is modern without being too cool, the service is attentive without being overbearing, and the food is delicious. I had a scallop ceviche as an appetizer and black pasta with seafood and sea urchin for my entree. Ken had braised short ribs to start and then cavatelli with rabbit. I recommend the pastas — the chef is known for them and they are all homemade and very tasty. For dessert we had a chocolate cake and a vanilla and chocolate parfait. The portions are hearty (which made Ken happy) but I definitely only had room for a few bites of dessert. The wine list is well thought through, too. Definitely a thumbs up!

Hope you all had a good one!

Rosemary Road Trip

February 13, 2009

When your friends decide to explore their hidden talents, it goes without saying that you support them wholeheartedly. That caberet/open mic/stand up comedy/showcase/dance recital might not be that great if someone you didn’t know was performing, but that guy/gal held your head when you were puking the morning after a bender in college, so man, was he/she brilliant up there! When your friends reveal their talents and they’re actually, truly, objectively good, well, it’s a double bonus!

logo1So when one of my best friends from college, Julie,  told me on the phone one day she had started making jewelry and she was starting to sell some pieces, I was like, “great!” Then she filled me in on how she was trolling flea markets to find beautiful vintage lockets to mix with new beads to remake them into entirely new pieces, and I thought, “intriguing!” Then she started emailing me photos of celebrities on the red carpet wearing her jewelry, and one month Lucky magazine featured one of her sparkly bracelets. And I was in LA around my birthday and she had made me several incredible pieces, both for everyday and black tie, and I was truly hooked on Rosemary Road.

_4634e511She takes vintage brooches and puts them on ribbon to create stunning necklaces, she mixes vintage glass beads with modern turquoise ones, she makes flowers out of beads and puts them on antique chains to create one of a kind masterpieces that you truly_a235ca3c haven’t seen somewhere else. And she really does make every single piece herself. My taste usually runs toward more delicate jewelry but I have worked these in and have found that they’ve truly freshened up my wardrobe. You can check out the line for yourself here: Rosemary Road. Most things run around $200. And for you, loyal readers, if you enter the code “Welcome” when you check out during the month of February, you can treat yourself to a 20% discount off anything on the site. Maybe it’s time for a little Valentine’s treat for yourself?

Oh Love

Thursday means…SINGLE OF THE WEEK! Here’s Ken:

As Valentine’s Day approaches, winter’s still toying with us. What better time to let in a little heat, and what better way than with The Bird and the Bee’s “My Love.” It’s a little loungey and spacey, but warm and welcoming at the same time. It’s kind of like the stripper in the club who’s simultaneously exotic yet approachable. (Hey, Ken, did you really just make some sort of contrived, half-baked stripper reference? You betcha!) Turn it on, get close to your loved one and deliver your own personal stimulus package, if you know what I’m sayin’. (Greg Kurstin, one of the two people who make up this band also produced Lily Allen’s latest album and the single that was featured back in week one.)

Hearts and Kisses

Mark Bittman was on the Today show yesterday making chocolate soufflés. (I’m not sure if it fits in with his whole plant-based ethos, but I guess technically chocolate is a plant.) Anyway he was mocking himself for dusting powdered sugar in the shape of a heart on top and I decided I like him. He’s kind of shleppy, which is endearing with all of these Martha-wannabes around.

It was a crazy windy day here in New York and apparently one of the windows in our building blew out this evening and hit someone walking on the street below. I don’t have more details yet but I hope the person is ok. Scary.

Hope you all have fun plans for the long weekend. We are having a Valentine’s party with the kids on Saturday and then Sunday night Ken and I are going out, trying a new restaurant that’s supposed to be excellent but I’ll let you know.

XOXO!!

imagesThe economic downturn. Recession. Deflation. The economic crisis. Mortgage Meltdown. Depression. Slump. Whatever you want to call it, times are certainly tough and I don’t think there’s anyone out there who hasn’t in some way been touched by it. Virtually every company has done layoffs or is thinking about it, has frozen salaries or asked employees to take pay cuts or reduce hours. If you have money invested you keep getting statements about how much less you have. If you own property, chances are it’s worth less. It’s not exactly this country’s finest hour. The heads of the banks are parading before Congress. Washington can’t figure out how to stimulate us. It’s enough to make your head spin.

But rather than get upset or depressed, I think we should look at it as an opportunity to truly take note of how much it costs us to live. Instead of mindlessly forking over a $5 bill every morning at Starbucks, think about what you could do with that money if it accumulated over a week or a month or a year. Assuming Monday through Friday mornings at $5/per, that’s $1,300 annually. Maybe the office coffee pot doesn’t look so bad. Instead of buying yet another black shirt, pick a Saturday to go through your closets and find all of those things you didn’t remember you had. Come Monday, wear them. Maybe you even want to do a swap with some friends. The point isn’t necessarily that you’re going to spend less or need less, although chances are that will be a byproduct. You might decide you can’t part with your barista every morning, and that’s ok. The point is really to work toward more conscious spending. Maybe you actually do put together a budget and see where your money goes every month. Maybe you put a cap on how much you eat out. Maybe you finally get around to canceling that movie channel you never watch. If the worst of times get people to start saving a little more and living within their means, the best of times will be that much better.

Book it

nickelanddimedpbAlong these lines, I recommend a book that came out a few years ago but still resonates: Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. (You can get it in paperback or save more money and go to the library!) For those of you not familiar with it, the author decided to see first hand in different cities what it was like to work for and survive on minimum wage in America. It is definitely eye opening. Chances are you’ll never walk into a Wal Mart or a restaurant or a motel and see things the same way. And you’ll look at your own prosperity, whatever form that comes in, differently too.

V-Day

This weekend is one of the biggest money sucking events of the year: Valentine’s Day. I am all about showing the love, but you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to do it. I went to buy my kids Valentine’s Day cards and as I was walking to the register, I realized for a few dollars more I could get them some super cute Valentine’s-themed books that they would enjoy a lot more than a card. And with a piece of construction paper and some crayons I can make them personalized cards. Austin loves when we sit and actually draw him something for a change. So make a card, bake a cupcake, pack a picnic, do whatever suits you – but don’t think you need to spend a lot to prove your love. On this Hallmark holiday, it truly is the thought that counts…(Unless of course, and boys I’m talkin’ to you now, you’ve done something wrong lately. Then you better put away the crayons and break out the Am Ex…I’m just sayin’.)

Addison performed a heart-warming medley of “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “ABCD” this morning, complete with hand gestures, so I think the stomach virus has finally left the building. Good riddance! Hope you’re all managing to avoid it.

The Royale Treatment

February 11, 2009

1royalecafepastryWhenever a storefront closes in our neighborhood, we always cross our fingers that something better will open up. Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s a Sleepy’s or yet another bank. (I am not that old and I remember when the West Village had a single cash machine. One.) But on the corner of 11th Street and 6th Avenue, in a little sliver of a storefront whose previous highlight was serving bubble tea at the height of the tapioca ball phase (yeah, if you blinked you probably missed it), there’s been a definite improvement to the ‘hood. Spot the pink wall and there it is: Royale Café + Pastry. And the best part is, our fabulous friends Fred and Nikki are responsible for the transformation. 3royalecafepastryThey joined with another family from the nearby PS 41 to open Royale, which features Gimme! coffee from Ithaca, GuS soda, and cupcakes and other sweet treats from Baked in Red Hook, among other tasty offerings. Although the space is small, you can linger with your latte in the window seat and watch all the passers by, or in the warmer weather there are benches outside. I’m partial to the iced coffee, Austin likes the mini scones and our friend Rob raves about this peanut butter/chocolate crispy thingy that I have yet to try. It’s stroller friendly (there’s a ramp) and a definite neighborhood place with a relaxed vibe, exactly the kind of business we should all be supporting in this economy. So stop in and say hi if you’re nearby. And tell them you’re glad it’s not another freakin’ bank!

Dog-gone Delicious

bluelogo2I had to go to Philadelphia today and I had lunch at the still wonderful White Dog Café, at 3420 Sansom Street, on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. The butternut squash soup was delicious and the salmon burger was served with a Chinese mustard and a simply prepared salad finished off with a light lemon vinaigrette. Judy Wicks, the founder of the restaurant, really was so ahead of her time. For over 20 years she has been committed to sustainable agriculture, local farms and organic produce. She hosts different politically-minded speakers at breakfast and truly has shown one can do well while doing good – it’s commerce with a heart. Lunch was so tasty today that my coworker Tori bought their cookbook to bring home. Worth the trip from wherever you are in Philadelphia.

Etc.

I don’t want to jinx anything but it looks like we may actually make it through today without anyone throwing up in our house. Please!

I’ve had a few people ask if I ever have guest bloggers and the answer is “yes!” – if you’ve got a topic in mind let me know and we will figure out a day for you to post your thoughts.

I think the warmer weather is thawing out everyone’s icy demeanor around town…plus did you notice it’s getting dark later already? We’ve all got to band together and make it through the February blahs…be strong!