Fall Fling

September 30, 2009

This morning on my way to pilates a woman stopped me to ask where the justice of the peace was. Huh?

Anyway, given that the air is starting to feel a little crisper and we’ve all tucked summer into the recesses of our brains, it’s time to turn to a fall state of mind. And here are some things I’m looking forward to in the pop culture arena, in no particular order:

Curb Your Enthusiasm: When I first started watching this show, I found Larry David so grating that I wasn’t sure I could stomach it. But then I succumbed and realized the uncomfortableness (no that’s not a word) was so hilarious that I had to keep watching. This season seems promising, with Larry figuring out how to break up with his girlfriend who has just been diagnosed with cancer, his friend sleeping with a mental patient and the upcoming plotline where he reunites the Seinfeld cast. (David was one of the creators of Seinfeld.) It sounds crazy, and it is, but it is also laugh out loud entertainment. (HBO)

This Is It: Michael Jackson prepping for his blow-out concert series is the last performance footage we’ll ever have. Love him or hate him, he was an excellent performer, and I’m interested in seeing the final curtain come down on so many great songs. (Opens 10/28 for 2 weeks only)

Up in the Air: Yes, I make no secret of my love for George Clooney and his self-deprecating humor. This new movie of his is getting great buzz, as they say. He plays a corporate ax man (timely!) who travels around the country firing people, and somehow finds love. Some smell Oscar, I sniff a flick worth my $12.50. (Opens 11/13)

Go Yanks!: Though I miss Joe Torre, it’s time for the boys in blue pinstripes to return to the World Series and bring another ring home. This year seems like it could be the one. And while we’re on sports, I can’t wait for the Eagles to kick the Cowboys’ asses. Yeah!

Robbie Williams: I heard the first single and it kind of sucked, but I’m still holding out hope that Robbie’s new album, Reality Killed the Video Star, will recapture some of that old magic. Anything to get that freakin’ Black Eyed Peas song out of my head! (Drops 11/9)

Etc.

Back to work today — vacation is officially OVER! Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Doesn’t it feel like it gets dark so early already? It’s depressing how quickly things change. I forgot to wear a jacket and I left work late and it was definitely dark and chilly.

I’m still between time zones with my jet lag, and given that Addison has me up by 6:15am every day, I must get myself to sleep. Until tomorrow!

Advertisements

We Came, We Saw, We Ate

September 29, 2009

Well, we got back on Saturday evening from our 9 day no-kids sojourn to Provence and I must say, it was pretty fantastic. While we missed the kids, to be able to truly relax, drink great wine, eat long, amazing meals and to just hang out together was just what the doctor ordered. I woke up on my own! Uninterrupted sleep! That was just about the greatest birthday gift I could get.

We stayed in Aix en Provence, and that was an excellent home base. Our hotel Le Pigonnet, was lovely. It felt like we were guests at someone’s really beautiful chateau. The room itself was nice and not overly opulent, but the gardens in back were something special. (No wonder Cezanne used to go there to paint them.) Amazingly sculptured  with small fountains, with a main corridor that had leafy trees lining the way and fragrant flowers dotting the scenery. It was a terrific view from our window and a comfortable place to hang out late afternoon or evening. Aix was a great city — very vibrant, with lots of people out for drinks and dinner. It felt very alive and yet more laid back and younger than Paris. I mean, Paris is Paris, don’t get me wrong, but there was something more comfortable here.

We did day trips, hitting Arles, Marseille, Cassis, St. Remy de Provence, Avignon, a bunch of mountain towns, Gordes — we really covered the area in our week. The signage in the cities was horrendous but on the highways, once I figured out the system, it was easily navigated. We did one blow-yer-mind meal a day. I had cut out an article from Travel and Leisure and those recommendations became the basis for our days. One place specialized in basil, another was where bouillabaisse was invented. The creme de la creme, as they say, was a 9 course lunch at Maison Bru.

Maison Bru; patio.

Maison Bru; patio.

One plate after another of adventurous cuisine that made you wonder why anyone ever ate at McDonald’s. There was a “tuna club” that had seared ahi between two mini toasts with slices of foie gras and green apple sorbet — delicious. The patio in the garden with vineyards all around made it a definitely stop if an itinerary takes you down there on the Jean Malin, between Eygalieres and Orgon. I guess 2 Michelin stars do mean something.

The towns are charming with the painted shutters and the history is so much more intriguing and just plain old! We did a lot of walking and saw the big Picasso/Cezanne exhibit in Aix. We were always on the go, but in a good way, if that makes sense. Lots to do but at the same time nothing, which was perfect. The dollar is weak but I managed to do a little damage. Lots of fragrant soaps and perfume from Savon de Marseilles and items from Bensimon. I know you can find it online but they should really open a store here. Wearable but unusual colors in super soft sweaters cut like hooded sweatshirts and brightly colored canvas sneakers that every French woman seemed to own.

Once back home, while sad the trip was over, it was nice to see the little munchkins again. Addison asked if I was going to put her to bed the night we got home. “Of course!” I told her. “That’s gonna be awesome,” she said. And I had to agree.

Glee-full

To all of you out there who have recommended Fox’s Glee to me: I know! I know it’s probably great, I know I would probably love it, but between work, kids, home, marriage (oh, that), magazines, blog, friends, travel, working out, etc…I can’t add another show to my rotation!! So I don’t want to start watching because I am sure I will get sucked in. But for those of you looking for another great show, it has been well reviewed, people whose recommendations I trust love it, and it looks like it would be a fun and different program to add to the dvr…if only! (Airs on Wednesdays at 9pm.)

Etc.

Hope everyone had an easy fast, for those of you that observe. We were invited over some friends’ for break fast and at about 5:15 I was like, “OK, very hungry now, please take the plastic off the lox.”

Now that I’m back, Family Favs will resume its regular schedule. Enjoy!

Single of the Week

September 18, 2009

Ken is back with this week’s single…and everyone sing “Happy Birthday” to Ken after watching it!:

Remember that oddball kid in high school who stood on the fringe of the schoolyard lost in the music pumping through his headphones, perfectly happy to disregard his peers? Well, John O’Regan, aka Diamond Rings, was that guy, and he always went home along to write his own songs and sing them in front of a video camera. “All Yr Songs” is one of those concoctions – it’s low-fi with standard casio keyboard beats, but it has a certain charm and it works.

Etc.

Well, it’s my birthday (Ken and I are a day apart), and as part of my fantastic celebration, my husband is taking me to Provence. (Sans kids!) I have to pack and do about a million other things so I will keep tonight’s post short. There will be no new Family Favs postings next week…but I’ll be back with lots more recommendations, comments and maybe even some news from the French…ciao for now!!

Steel Yourself

September 17, 2009

test_3When we re-did our kitchen a couple of years ago, I knew I wanted all stainless steel appliances. I like the look…what I didn’t realize was how many fingerprints would show up on them, particularly the fridge, and how difficult it would be to find a cleaner that really works. Though I generally love Method’s products, their stainless steel cleaner stinks. It left huge streaks and was generally way too greasy and too hard to clean off, which is the last thing you need. But my cleaning lady turned me on to Weiman’s Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish, a spray that truly cleans the appliances but doesn’t leave unsightly streaks or go on so heavy that it’s impossible to wipe off. It also helps to cut down on fingerprints, and it gives the kitchen a nice shine.

My only complaint is that it isn’t easy to find. I actually had to put my principles aside and venture into a Wal Mart to get it, but apparently the Shop-Rite by my parents’ house has it. So check out wherever you find cleaning supplies, or you can find it on Amazon. It runs about $6 for 12 ounces.

The company also makes a good cleaner for leather in its Leather Wipes. These come in a canister and are so easy to use, especially if you have any leather furniture. Just pull one out and rub. They clean and shine them up nicely, plus they condition the leather. These are easier to find — I get them at Target. Runs about $6 for 30 wipes.

New Midtown Spot

Crazy week — had lunch at the new Aureole on 42nd and 6th Avenue in the Bank of America building today. It had its grand opening. I was a fan of the old townhouse space on the Upper East Side, and Charlie Palmer does not disappoint at the new location either. Soft shell crab BLTs, tagliatelle with fava beans, and red snapper with an avocado cream are just a few of the delicious creations. There’s a three course, $34 prix fixe lunch that is well worth it. The service is excellent as well.

Etc.

I am about to hit the 10,000th reader of my blog. Incredible! Thanks to all of you who take the time to check it out. It’s you that keeps me going! Hope you’re enjoying it and getting some good tips.

So much to do as we’re going away at the end of the week…see ya!

Start Your Day Right

September 16, 2009

imagesAny study you read on nutrition or dieting — really anything about eating well — tells you that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. It starts you off right. Yet if you talk to a lot of people — especially ones who are dieting — they’ll tell you either that they skip it or it consists of a cup of coffee. Not exactly the smartest approach.

Because my mornings are always jam-packed, my thing about breakfast is that it has to be fast. I can’t spend a lot of time measuring and cooking and cleaning up. So here are some recommendations for some ways to start your day that are both easy (i.e. quick) and healthy (i.e. not a lot of calories). No more excuses!

Cereal: Cereal is great because it’s simple, and often loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Plus when you add the milk, you’ve got some much-needed calcium. The key is to choose the right cereal, because there are a lot of wrong ones. If “sugar” is in the title or there’s an illustration of some sort of tiger, chances are you want to skip it. Look at the ingredients; if the first ingredient listed is something other than a phrase with the word “whole” in it, put it aside. You want whole, complex grains, not rice or corn. The higher the dietary fiber listed, the better. Some that are good: Kashi’s Autumn Wheat, Wheat Chex, Grape Nuts. If you’re looking for lower calorie, Wheaties or Kashi’s Hearts and O’s are excellent choices. Pair it with a cup of skim milk and you’re good to go.

Fruit: The morning is a great time to get a serving or two of fruit in. But fruit alone can be boring. I like to take some berries (straw, rasp, blue or black all work), add in some plain non-fat yogurt and sprinkle some granola on top. (Not too much, as granola can be caloric. You’re just looking for a little crunch). Delicious and good for you!

Eggs: This has some clean up of the pan involved, so I often leave the eggs til the weekend, but if you’re so inclined, take 3 eggs out. Put one egg and two egg whites in a bowl. Add a little skim milk and whisk til fluffy. Start to cook a handful of spinach in a frying pan (frozen is fine). Add the eggs and cook til done. (You can add some cheese just before it’s done if you’d like.) Serve with salsa on top and some whole wheat toast on the side. Tasty, and the protein will keep you filled up longer. (Plus you’ve already gotten a serving of veggies!)

See, it’s easy to start your day right. What happens from there I can’t help you with!

Etc.

I was in meetings all day so I feel like I’m out of touch with what’s going on in the world. I’m trying to find out how my neighbor is doing in the city council race. (I hope losing…long story.)

Did Obama really call Kanye a “jackass” for his VMA outburst? That is hilarious.

Anyway, hope you had a great day. Keep on keepin’ on!

Tweet, Tweet, Tweetly Deet

September 15, 2009

No, today’s post is not about Twitter. We’re kickin’ it old school…last night at the MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna talked about how her sons are now obsessed with Michael Jackson. And I had to laugh, because a by-product of his death has been that not only have I re-discovered all of the great songs of the Jackson 5 and Michael himself, but my kids have become huge fans as well. “The monster song” (Thriller), “the rat song” (Ben) and “that back song” (I Want You Back) are all big hits, but by far the one that they request over and over is “the birdie song,” aka Rockin’ Robin. They’ve learned the words, they sing it as they’re going about their daily lives. At MoMA on Saturday, Addison was singing, “tweet tweet” and a man working there asked if she was singing Rockin’ Robin. She stopped in her tracks and couldn’t believe he knew the song too. He then proceeded to sing it with her as she danced down the hall.

I’ve mentioned before that Ken and I aren’t huge fans of typical “kid” songs. So it’s great when the tots love the same songs we do. Whether you have kids or not, Rockin’ Robin is a great one to add to your playlist; pop at its best. And if you watch this video of young Michael performing it with his brothers, in all of its 70s glory, you can see why that kid was a superstar. Charisma in spades. RIP.

Guys Listen Up

I’ve noticed that when guys go out they either gravitate toward a black t-shirt or some sort of printed button down. Which is fine, but if you want to mix it up, there are a lot of nice, rich colors out there — I like jewel tones for the fall/winter. (Right now every guy’s eyes just glazed over as they try to fathom what the heck jewel tones are.) We’re talking a deep green, a nice navy blue, maybe even a rich maroon, depending on your coloring. Leave the pastels to the spring and summer. Break out of your rut and try something new — chances are people will notice (for the better)!

Etc.

I’m still functioning on my sleep deficit. I think I need to get used to the fact that I may be in this state til Addison goes to college. It’s a wonder some days that both of my shoes match. (Sigh).

OMG! Gossip Girl is back tonight. Can’t wait to see what the kids were up to over the summer. Something tells me Chuck and Blair won’t be living happily ever after…but we’ll have to tune in and find out.

I just saw that Patrick Swayze died. Pancreatic cancer is no joke. No one I have ever heard about getting it — my own grandmother included — beats it. We’ll always have Baby in the corner…

Until tomorrow…

Ya Gotta Have ‘Em

September 14, 2009

As you go through life, it’s very easy to become insulated and lose touch with the people who helped to make you who you are: your friends. I am lucky in that I have kept in touch with people from throughout my life, and many of them were in town this weekend, which served as a reminder that as stressful as life can get, it’s your support system that will carry you through the day.

So today, stop what you’re doing, and think about one of your friends. If they live nearby, make a plan with them to get together in the next week. Even if it’s just for a cup of coffee. If they’re far away, pick up the phone. Set aside enough time for the call to be able to catch up on all that’s important. Commit to reconnecting. Maybe you can visit them, or vice versa. Plan a vacation near their city and get together one afternoon.

Is it easier to go through life, focusing on your family, getting through the day and smiling from time to time when the memory of one of your friends pops into your head? Perhaps. But the reward for making the effort to connect with someone who knows just what makes you laugh, or who had the same crazy pre-calculus teacher, or who held your hair back after a night of partying a little too hard, is too valuable to miss.

So don’t connect on Facebook, or tweet a shout out. Aim to make it truly interpersonal. Give it time. Have a real conversation. And make it a regular occurrence. It’s no wonder that a recent study on happiness said that one of the biggest factors in someone’s scale of happiness is how many and the quality of their friendships. Make the effort and commit to connect!

Frozen Burritos Tonight?

Here’s a tip for any of you who make frozen burritos in the microwave: wrap it in a paper towel. I don’t know why, but it makes them turn out better — a little crispier. The paper seems to absorb the moisture that inevitably escapes, leaving less liquid to make it soggy. Just don’t wrap it too tight or it may stick. Try it!

Etc.

Do you ever notice that your kids have some sort of sick sixth sense when it comes to letting you get as little sleep as possible? Last night I was out til 2am, didn’t really get to sleep til around 3am, and then Miss Addison decided to wake me up at 5:50am. Good times.

We had a jam packed weekend. Headed over to the members preview at MoMA of the new Monet’s Water Lilies exhibit. It’s not very large, but they have the huge triptych back on display, which is so beautiful. Worth checking out if you’re in the hood.

Austin had a birthday party on the Upper West Side yesterday, so I dropped him off and ran into a place to have a manicure done. The woman I was randomly assigned to was sniffling like crazy and then shoved cotton up her nose to catch the snot before it dripped out. I was like, “She is going to get me sick!” and yet I did nothing. All I could think about was washing my hands. In hindsight, not sure what I should have done…but now I think I’ll go take more vitamin C.

Another weekend goes by way too quickly…

Guest blogger Tori is back with another actress-turned-single of the week! Take it away, Tori:

As self-appointed celebs-who-also-make-music Family Favs guest blogger, I thought I’d follow up last week’s Scar-Jo post with a shout out to another it-girl who sings, Ms. Zooey Deschanel. Perhaps you’ve noticed that no matter what movie she’s in – Elf, Yes Man, 500 Days of Summer – not only does she have a wicked cute wardrobe, she (or her director) finds a way to get her singing on film. Well, there’s a reason. She’s got a totally cool, albeit a little weird, voice, and is the “She” half of indie duo She & Him. Singer/songwriter M. Ward is the ying to her kind of sickeningly adorable yang. They put out an album last year –  entitled Volume One – full of vintagey, swingin’ sixties-y, sometimes slightly countrified loveliness.  Here’s one of the songs, which I believe was the first single. Check out Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? if ya ain’t already heard it.

(For some reason it will not let me embed the clip tonight so please click here if you want to watch!)

The Prez

As I was watching part of Obama’s health care speech, one thing struck me: why do the wives always have to go to these things? All of Congress’ spouses don’t show up. When I’ve given speeches my husband doesn’t show up. It’s odd that we make the First and Second ladies so important and yet so…not important.

And as for the heckler, well I was glad to learn this morning that the Republican “You liar!” shouter’s opponent in his House race in South Carolina took in 3,000 new grass roots donations overnight, totaling almost $100K. I think people have had enough name calling.

Etc.

So glad the weekend is almost here! Lots of friends coming into town. My kids have about 7 birthday parties in the next two weeks so I need to get on the present bandwagon…

Hope you have a lot of fun things planned! Enjoy it.

A Chile in the Air

September 10, 2009

Do you have those dishes that you like to order in restaurants but you never try to make them at home because you think they’re too difficult? I do! But recently I attempted to make one of them with stunning success: Chile Rellenos. Mesa Grill makes a mean one, but I merged a couple of recipes and came up with this. Enjoy!

Chile Rellenos Made Easy

4 large Ancho (or Poblano) Peppers (these are the long, darker green peppers that have a little kick to them)

1 egg

Some flour

Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about a cup or so, depending on how cheesy you like it)

If you have a gas stove, roast the peppers over an open flame. Hold the pepper with tongs, like you’re roasting a marshmallow, turning frequently. You want them to burn a little. Then put them in a paper bag to cool. When they’re cool, peel off the outer skin carefully. (If you don’t have a gas stovetop, you can broil them until they start to blister.)

Once peeled, slice them down the side and carefully fill them with your desired amount of cheese. Once full, dip in egg and roll in flour. Then fry in a frying pan with some oil, turning with tongs until each side is browned. Cheese will melt inside.

Serve right away with a little salsa. One makes a nice appetizer, two or three is a tasty and ample main course with some Spanish rice. Ole!

He’s the President of the United States

When things like the “outrage” over Prez Obama’s speech to schoolchildren happens, I feel like I can never leave New York City, and certainly not the Northeast. The guy on NY 1, the local news channel, announced it this way: “President Obama spoke to schoolchildren today. Some parents wouldn’t allow their kids to watch, saying it promoted socialism. Which is true if your definition of socialism is staying in school and working hard.” The whole thing really boggles the mind.

Watch This

If you’re confused about the health care debate, let Robert Reich explain it to you.

At the end of the day, I think the country has to decide what it values most. Not everything worth doing is cheap or easy.

This is what the first day of school is like in NYC

Lines to get in the front door going down and around the block.

Candidates for Mayor and Assemblywoman campaigning and shaking hands with every parent in line.

Teachers not allowed to speak to the parents because they are paid to pay attention to the children.

Handles on shopping bags breaking due to being overloaded with so many required supplies.

Designer Cynthia Rowley dropping off her kids in 5 inch platform shoes.

My child being so paranoid about using hand sanitizer that as soon as we got into the classroom, before he would say hi to the teacher, he pulled it out of his backpack to use.

Good times!

Fashion’s Night Out

Part of me wants to partake in Fashion’s Night Out tomorrow night, September 10th, but part of me is just too freakin’ busy. There are a lot of fun things going on in stores across the city from 6pm to 11pm. Tiffanys has a DJ and hors d’oeurves. Tracey Reece has free manicures. Bigelow is giving away free lip shines. Tory Burch is giving away a free camo tote with any purchase. Sigerson Morrison and Belle have champagne and giveaways. And the department stores have something going on on every floor. (Vogue Anna Wintour will be at the Macy’s in – gulp – Queens!) If you feel like getting out and about it’s worth checking out what’s going on here! (Across the country other stores are joining in so check your local listings, as they say!)

Etc.

So Ellen is the new judge on Idol? I think she’ll be funny but isn’t it supposed to be about music? We’ll have to see…

Hope you’re having a great week!

Day Trippin’

September 9, 2009

toursLiving in the city, it’s nice to find day trips that are a reasonable drive away but don’t involve the words “theme” and “park.” Sunday we took the kids and drove about 75 miles to Grounds for Sculpture, in Hamilton, New Jersey. On what used to be the New Jersey state fairgrounds and then a racetrack, J. Seward Johnson, a sculptor and heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune, wanted to make contemporary sculpture accessible to people from all kinds of backgrounds. Work began at the site in 1989 and it first opened to the public in 1992. Their collection now includes over 240 works, some commissioned specifically for the open air museum. Just as impressive as the art is the landscaping, which really helps to set off the works in unique ways and creates areas of shade and sun to help enjoy the space. Whereas Storm King, a similar idea in upstate New York, is all about the big and the bold vistas, Grounds for Sculpture is more about creating nooks and secret passageways which open into surprise flower-covered hills or hammocks alongside smaller works of art.

Our kids really liked it and it is a tot-friendly place. One of the sculptures is actually built for them to bang it and make music. There are also live peacocks roaming the grounds, as well as ducks and bunnies. And they were enthralled with the statues made to look like real people. “They’re not real, right?” they asked as they touched them. The museum puts a green sign if you can touch the sculpture and a red sign if you can’t. (This led Austin to run around announcing whether each piece had a “Red sign!” or a “Green sign everyone!”

We happened to go on an almost perfect day weather-wise. I would definitely recommend going early because it got crowded later in the afternoon. They have a fancier restaurant, Rat’s, that has a nice setting on a little man-made lake with a cool giant silver head sculpture. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the food or the service, but if you can score an outside table, the setting is lovely. They have a children’s menu but only one high chair for the whole place, so if it’s in use you’re out of luck. Otherwise there’s the Peacock Cafe which also has some outdoor seating and is more casual.

It’s a great way to spend the day outside and take in a little culture. And it’s nice to support an arts organization that strives to make contemporary art accessible to all kinds of people. (The entry fee is $10 for adults and $6 for children 6 – 12; students (13 and up) and seniors are $8; children 5 and under are free. The museum is open 10 – 6 Tuesday through Sunday. For more info and directions, visit their website here.)

Health care?

Yesterday I saw former Senator Bob Kerrey in my gym and I wanted to ask him if he keeps in touch with any of his old cronies from the senate and did they think health care reform is going to get anywhere. But given that it was 8am on Labor Day and I was sweating on the elliptical, I refrained. If I had to guess, and I know only what I read in the NY Times, there will be reform, but it won’t include the public plan. Which is a real shame. Where is Ted Kennedy when we need him? I didn’t realize until he passed away that he was responsible for there even being any COBRA. Before that, you were SOL if you lost your job, when it came to health benefits. I am crossing my fingers that this whole mess can come to a satisfactory conclusion. Prez Obama took the words right out of my mouth the other day when he spoke about the fact that these critics who distort the truth on what’s in the proposals interestingly offer up no alternatives. So is their proposal to do nothing? Because I think we all know what direction that is headed. Oy, people!!

Etc.

Addison is sick and had me up every 20 minutes to fix her blanket starting at 2:40 am. Ken got up at 4:45 am to go to the gym before he had to leave for the airport at 6:30 am. Austin came in at 7 am to tell me he was hungry. Which basically means that I am tired! Oh well, what can you do.

I can’t believe that Austin is starting kindergarten tomorrow! A whole new adventure begins…