Single of the Week

October 30, 2009

Here’s Ken:

When your kid becomes a disaffected, morose teen, she’ll be listening to the kind of emo/punk/alt-pop stuff that Paramore churns out. It’s some serious power chords coupled with the emotional turbulence of teen life. In this way, Tennessee-born lead singer Hayley Williams is the perfect encapsulation of the band and its music – she’s got the punk pink cut, but also has the disarming smile. See what you’ll soon be up against here.

Etc.

Short post today — we had the potluck for Austin’s class, and met a lot of the parents. I brought dessert — brownies and cream cheese bars that Austin and I made. I was psyched because two different people were raving about my cream cheese bars! I’ll have to put the recipe up next week.

Have a great weekend. Happy Halloween — and don’t forget to turn your clocks back!!

Lippy Kai – Ay

October 23, 2009

I feel like my posts have been especially chock full this week…I do and do for you people!! ha ha

I am usually very pro-labor, but I have to say the rudeness of the Transit Workers who work the booth in my subway station is really tough to take. Remember, you can be replaced by a machine. And the machine is way more customer friendly. Ridiculous.

Today, let’s discuss lipstick, a.k.a. lippy for all of my British friends. I am not usually a fan of drugstore makeup. Not because I’m a snob (much), but because my experience has been that it really does feel cheap. The smell is perfume-y, the consistency is off, and lipsticks typically don’t last very long and/or have colors that are somehow off. But recently I bought L’Oreal’s Color of Hope, #531, a gorgeous dusky pink that really would be flattering on just about everyone. For $9, it’s a bit of a bargain, but the best part is $1 of each lipstick sold goes to fight Ovarian Cancer. I’d say that’s a win-win. (Available in drugstores. It’s limited availability, but drugstore.com has the Color of Hope range still available.)

Here’s Ken with the Single of the Week

Apart from Kanye, Timbaland and, maybe, just maybe, NERD and Garbage, whenever an Oz-like producer steps from behind the curtain onto the stage, expectations are never quite met. That’s what makes Miike Snow such a pleasant surprise. NY bandleader/producer Andrew Wyatt teamed up with two public-option loving, natural light deprived Swedes, who have produced albums from Britney, J. Lo, Kylie and Madonna. Together, they’ve put together some great tunes like “Black and Blue,” where they’ve given up pop princess for an avuncular, atmospheric indie groove. Have a taste:

Etc.

The Phillies did their part…come on Yankees! Right now they are losing 4-0 in the 7th…put something together, boys, and make my dream come true.

Today was the little potty trainee Addison’s first day without any accidents. Yay! She had Tinkerbell underwear on and apparently my nanny kept telling her, “You don’t want to make Tinkerbell dirty.” It seems to have done the trick. I would so love not to give any more of our hard earned money to Pampers!

I will be on a business trip for part of next week so Family Favs will be on a short hiatus…but stay tuned for even more great recommendations and tips. Sign up for email delivery and you won’t miss a post without having to remember to log on!

Have a wonderful weekend! Spend time with your loved ones and live in the moment…enjoy!

Eating Tour

October 22, 2009

I mentioned briefly that last week I went on a walking/eating tour of Greenwich Village and SoHo. I’m happy to report that it was fantastic. It’s funny, because normally only tourists go on these tours, but it’s really great for locals, because we can actually go back and patronize these discoveries.

Mmmm...Raffetto's

Mmmm...Raffetto's

Many of these places I have walked by 1,000 times but never knew what lay inside. Some of the standouts were Monte’s, a family-owned Italian trattoria on MacDougal Street and Raffetto’s on Houston Street, another family owned biz that offers homemade pasta at incredible prices. Apparently the patriarch of the family bought the building in the early 1900s, allowing them to see 50 huge stuffed raviolis for less than $5.50. Really. And they are the suppliers to places like Dean & DeLuca who turn around and charge over three times the price. The Italian cheesecake we sampled at Bellavitae on Minetta Lane was some of the best we’d ever had (Ken and I had been to the restaurant before, even spending one New Year’s Eve there.) Highly recommended. Joe’s Dairy on Sullivan Street is a teeny place with some of the best smoked mozzarella on the planet. They make it the old fashioned way and dip their scarred hands into scalding hot water, all for your tasting pleasure. The food at Cuba on Thompson Street was good, the mojitos may have been better. They offer happy hour downstairs every night where food and drinks are $5. If you’re in need of a dinner party gift, the

Once Upon A Tart

Once Upon A Tart

wares at Once Upon a Tart on Sullivan are beautiful and delicious, and they wrap them to enhance the eye candy. We sampled the caramel walnut. And finally, the Indian street food at Aamchi Pao on Bleecker is vegetarian heaven. They even have Indian ketchup which provides a sweet/salty topping for whatever you get and definitely beats Heinz.

Try one or try them all — and if you want to take the tour, check out Foods of New York Tours here. They also offer one of Chinatown which is probably great. Our guide was a true foodie and gave us background on the dishes and the owners of the establishments, and also a nice history overview of the area. I had no idea that the Washington Square arch was originally across the street!

Fashion blip

Buckle your seat belts, Jean Paul Gaultier is confirmed to do a line for Target, debuting in stores in March. Given his past collaborations with Madonna, cone bras for the heartland! Love it.

Etc.

I have been dealing with a knot in my left shoulder and neck for almost a week. Not fun! I really have no time to do anything about it for two more weeks. (Sigh.)

I got my flu shot today. My arm feels a little sore but other than that I just hope it protects me from all evil. (Fat chance, I know.)

I had one of those chatty cab drivers tonight. I must say being able to charge a cab ride is quite convenient. When they first introduced it a few months ago, I kind of dismissed it, but now I like it, particularly when going from the Upper West Side downtown and you have a $15 fare! (I remember when the same ride was $7 — and that wasn’t that long ago…)

The weather has been pretty wonderful — I think it will be in the 70s tomorrow, and then the streak is broken with a cold and rainy day on Friday. We’ll take what we can get!

Enjoy it…

Frenching

October 21, 2009

I realized (actually someone reminded me) that I never did a proper post on Provence. So if you’re thinking about going, keep this post in mind!

The view from our window at Le Pigonnet

The view from our window at Le Pigonnet

We stayed at Le Pigonnet in Aix en Provence, which I’d recommend. The place itself was beautiful, like you were staying in someone’s chateau, with incredible gardens. (Cezanne used to go there to paint.) And I liked Aix a lot — it had a hipper, more laid back vibe than say, Paris, and it was only about a 40 minute drive from the Marseilles airport. We rented a car (Hertz) which made it easy to do day trips just about every day, and everything was no more than an hour from Aix, making it very manageable. The cities were a little more hectic to navigate, but the highways and country roads were easy to figure out, and the tourist offices in every city were incredibly helpful in terms of directing us to the best places to park, as well as the sites to see. They’re very generous with free maps.

And the food! We went to so many great restaurants. Some standouts were:

El Jardin Basilique in Gordes, a lovely spot in back of a souvenir shop. Definitely eat in the garden, and order something with the fresh basil the chef grows herself.

Numero 75 in Avignon, a huge garden outside of the home which was formerly owned by the heir to the Pernod fortune. The menu changes daily and there aren’t many choices but it is all amazing, so you really can’t go wrong.

L’Amphitryon in Aix, featuring nouveau cuisine that really makes a statement. The ingredients were so fresh and the tastes so varied that it was a true experience in three courses.

Chez Fon Fon in Marseilles, the birthplace of bouillabaisse, with a view of the boats and the fisherman who probably caught your meal. The family owners are very friendly, and the bathrooms are incredibly clean!

Our table at Maison Bru - note the perfume-like olive oil bottle

Our table at Maison Bru - note the perfume-like olive oil bottle

And finally, the granddaddy of them all (with the price tag to match) Maison Bru outside of Eygalieres, an eight course extravaganza (and this was lunch) that was the best meal I have ever had. And that’s saying something! There were several standout courses, one being the chef’s take on a tuna club: mini toast points, seared ahi tuna, slices of foie gras and a dollop of green apple sorbet on top, all with some sort of delectable reduction. Amazing! We should have taken a picture of the cheese cart. Save up your euros and make it a reality.

The sights are something, too. The walled town of Avignon, the beauty of St. Remy de Provence (complete with the mental hospital where Van Gogh was sentenced), the history of Gordes, the legacy of artists like Vaserely and Picasso in Aix,  the beaches and boats in Cassis and the Roman ruins in Arles all add to the ambiance that is Provence.

As for fashion, all the gals are carrying totes from Vanessa Bruno — think LL Bean but in better colors with sequins where the colored stripes are on the Bean ones. I have one from several years ago that I got at Barneys and used to use as a diaper bag sometimes. I’ll have to break it out again. I was tempted to get the kids striped French sailor shirts — very Jean Paul Gaultier! — but I resisted the urge. I did get Bensimon sneakers for Ken, Addison and myself. Why is no one selling their wares here? The clothes are fab, and the bags and colored canvas shoes would be all the rage if you could get them. I was also all over Savon de Marseilles and its Lavender and Incense line — I schlepped back huge containers of the hand soap and lotion. And I must say when I have worn the scent I’ve gotten beaucoup des compliments. And of course we brought back Kindereggs for the kids. They’re little law suits waiting to happen with all of the small pieces, but the prizes in the middle are amazing — puts Cracker Jacks to shame.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the rose wine — perfect for an al fresco meal, and all the better because it’s made right there in the Cotes de Rhone.

I highly recommend the trip — it’s the kind of place where you’re always busy yet tremendously relaxed. It’s a great way to reconnect with the art, beauty and taste in your life. What’s bad about that?!

Household Needs

I was looking for a certain stainless steel cleaner the other day and while I couldn’t find it anywhere else, Gracious Home had it. I find it a much more pleasant shopping experience than Bed, Bath and Beyond. The prices might be higher but the selection is better quality and they carry things no one else has — including BB&B. I also picked us up a new shower curtain, which I liked not only for the design but because it was eco-friendly — none of those deadly plastic fumes when you open the package. They used to only be on the Upper East Side, but they’ve recently opened a downtown location at 26th Street and 6th Avenue.

Etc.

I’m really into the baseball playoffs this year — I guess  because both my teams are still in it. A friend of mine went to the Yankees game in California yesterday, and he said the stadium is so disorganized that he arrived in his car at the gates of the stadium at 12:15pm, but he didn’t make it to his seat til 2:15, 45 minutes after the game started. Let’s see what happens tonight — right now they’re up 4 – 1.

I’ve been working late a lot and I have a meeting tomorrow night — I am missing my kids!


Best Roasted Chicken Ever

October 20, 2009

OK, perhaps that’s a little hyperbole, but this recipe is really, really good. And pretty simple, which is always a major plus in my book. I modified it from one that was in Food and Wine.

What you’ll need:

4 pound chicken

1 lemon

garlic

oregano

basil

olive oil

salt and pepper

Buy a whole chicken, around 4 pounds, and have the butcher clean it. Discard the giblets inside in the little packet. Spray a rectangular glass pan with non-stick cooking spray and place the bird in it. Stuff the inside cavity with several sprigs of oregano, a large handful of fresh basil leaves, 3 cloves of garlic, halved, and the lemon, sliced. Rub the outside generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven at 350 degrees. After 20 minutes, baste the chicken with a little more olive oil. Continue roasting for another 30 minutes, and baste it again, this time with its own juices from the bottom of the pan. Make sure to coat all over for supreme juiciness. Roast for a final 30 minutes. Let sit for ten minutes outside of the oven, before you carve it. Internal temperature should be about 180 degrees (use a meat thermometer).

Tender and tasty — my kids both loved it. To maximize your roasting efficiency, you might want to make it with roasted potatoes or a roasted vegetable since you already have the oven on. I sliced some potatoes and put them over sliced garlic and sprigs of oregano and covered everything in olive oil, then baked with the chicken for about an hour. Enjoy!

One funny aside: When I was making the chicken, Austin looked at it raw, lying in the pan, and said, “One day are they going to kill us all and eat us?”

Discounted, If Only for the Moment

Several department stores have started these midday dashes online, where things are offered at a deep discount, but only for an hour or two. The idea, I guess, is that you can shop during your lunch hour, at your desk.

Lord and Taylor recently started it. They usually focus on one item, and I haven’t found it to be so great.

Neiman Marcus does offer real “bargains” (everything is relative) from brands like Narciso Rodriguez, Marc Jacobs, Kooba, Burberry and Michael Kors. Things are 50% off, often with free shipping. The only catch I’ve found is that if you don’t log on right away, highly desirable items are often sold out. Because they’re usually midday, I’m at work and either don’t have time or forget, but sometimes Neiman’s does it at night, as they did  last night.

And it really is for two hours only. Then, much like Cinderella, things return to normal old prices. (If you’re interested, go to that department store’s website and sign up for email updates, so you’ll be included in the next discount dash.)

Speaking of Discounts

Head on over to Lordandtaylor.com — enter the code “FRIENDS” when you check out and you’ll get 25% off just about everything with their Friends and Family discount. Hot diggity!

Etc.

I have wanted a Phillies vs. Yankees World Series since I was a little kid…we’ll see if this is the year! I must say that A-Rod has been pretty clutch this post-season — I guess dating Kate Hudson agrees with him. None of that Jessica jinx!

Hope your Monday was bearable!

I have had a literal pain in my neck all weekend and it has not been pleasant…but somehow I muddle through.

Anyhoo, this weekend I did a very unofficial yet totally enlightening comparison of three ubiquitous discount stores. Austin had a birthday party at lunchtime on Saturday and afterward we decided to go to Hill Country for a barbecue dinner. So on the way we decided to check out some stores and see if we could find any bargains.

First I stopped in at Loehmann’s. I only had about 20 minutes, but I checked out the lower end designers and some of the higher end in the “back room.” They have great brands — DKNY, Michael Kors, BCBG, Theory — really, you name it they probably have something by that designer. I found a wool purplish pink top by Marc by Marc Jacobs that I really liked, and a fab black cardigan sweater by Vince, but here was the catch: the top was $99.99 and the sweater was $159.99. Not such a bargain! I felt like I could have done better in Bloomingdale’s at the end of season sale. So I passed. (But I have been thinking about the Vince sweater…)

Next, because Ken swore to me they have good stuff, we went to Filene’s Basement. Wrong! I had never even heard of some of the clothing brands they were trying to pass off as “designer.” The only thing I was interested in were Absorba feety blanket pajamas for my kids, because we had no heat Friday night (it returned, thank goodness, on Saturday) and I had warm pjs on the brain. We ran into one of our neighbors and he said he often finds nice jackets there. The stuff in the store was arranged pretty neatly and paying was easy. But I wasn’t so impressed.

Then we went upstairs to TJ Maxx. (On Sixth Avenue at 18th Street Filene’s Basement, TJ Maxx and Bed, Bath and Beyond are in the same building.) Oh my. The place was packed, the merchandise was strewn all over, the order of sizes on the racks made no sense. There was an air of desperation, like, “we’ll make you think this is great but it’s really all crap.” Ken deemed it “depressing.” I would agree. But here’s the thing: the prices are much better than Filene’s Basement. I found the same Absorba pajamas I had just bought Addison for $5 cheaper. And I did find her a cute little gray embroidered cardigan for $12.99. The line to check out was obscene — Ken wanted me to just leave but I was determined to save the $5 on the pajamas, so he returned the ones to Filene’s while I bought the others at TJ Maxx with the kids. Not the most pleasant experience. They inexplicably charged me tax on the pjs, and when I pointed out the error, the woman just shrugged. For 71 cents I didn’t feel like making a scene.

Verdict? I really think you can do just as well if not better at a sale at one of the department stores, especially with one of the extra discount cards they often have, offering an extra 15 – 25% off sale prices. Lord and Taylor and Bloomingdale’s often have them. Check online to print one out before you go. And it’s a MUCH nicer shopping experience. Otherwise, Loehmann’s is probably the best bet for designer fare. The other stores are very hit or miss. And prepare yourself for battle.

Etc.

Didn’t that boy in the balloon story seem fishy from the beginning? Ridiculous.

We had a busy weekend — even if I did sleep til 10:30am on Saturday! (That’s right — 10 freakin’ 30.) Somehow I managed to block out my kids fighting and my husband coming in, demanding to know where the underwear we bought Addison was. Cuz he decided at 8am that he had to start potty training her NOW. (So in addition to everything else we were doing this weekend, we were dealing with a potty-training toddler.)

wizardworld_2077_84220842We took the kids to Big Apple Comic Con this morning. A friend of a friend was nice enough to give us free passes, so we went early to try and beat the crowds. Austin wore a Star Wars shirt and Addison a Wonder Woman one, so they fit right in. They had a great time at their first trade show: played some Wii Boxing, got lots of free stuff, saw the Batmobile, Lou Ferrigno, Eddie Furlong and Linda Hamilton from the Terminator, Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees, Taylor Dayne, Adam West, John Schneider from the Dukes of Hazzard,…and lots more hilarious has-beens. It’s really kind of sad. Pictures with Kathy Najiminy cost $10, but with Lou F. (the Hulk!) cost $30. I guess it’s a great way for them to make money. It was interesting from a professional viewpoint to see the level of interest in all of this stuff. There were tons of action figures and comic books and other fun stuff, lots of people dressed up, some raffles. Our friend was nice enough to give the kids some free toys — Transformers for Austin and Little Pet Shop for Addison. So good times were had by all.

Then we headed over to NYU Hospital for a party organized by the NICU. Addison was a preemie and so our whole family was invited back for a reunion. It was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon — lunch, lots of activities for the kids — Austin made a cool spider web with spiders that I hung on the front door. They painted pumpkins and made picture frames; got faces painted and tattoos. Really such a nice thing for the hospital to do.

I cooked dinner and the kids ended the night rocking out to Beyonce’s All the Single Ladies. (When Austin asked, “Why does she slap her butt?”) Always a crowd pleaser.

It feels good to spend time as a family. Highly recommended!

Oh, Miranda…

October 16, 2009

If it’s Thursday, Ken must be here with the Single (make that SINGLES) of the Week:

The world is turning Miranda.

First, we have Miranda Lambert, who’s written such irony-free gems as Gunpowder & Lead, Me and Your Cigarettes, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Kerosene. She’s Texan. Probably likes the Cowboys, denim and dry rub beef ribs. She’s got a stare that’ll burn you like acid. And she’s probably never said the Four Questions. Her new single, White Liar, tells you how it is:

Click here to listen.

Then, we have Miranda Cosgrove, star of Nickelodeon’s iCarly and burgeoning teeny bopper pop star. She’s the Foreman to Hannah Montana’s Ali. She’s born and bred for the screen and has indefatigable pep. She’s probably never watched online porn, and truly enjoys Halloween. Her latest single from the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is Raining Sunshine, which pretty much says it all. See what’s giving Roman Polanski heart palpitations:

Rude much?

It’s a simple rule, people: when getting onto a subway, or an elevator, or anything, really, LET THE PEOPLE OFF FIRST! Is it really that hard? It’s stunning to me how many people barrel forward and make the whole process that much more difficult. Geez Louise, as they say.

Etc.

What is up with the boy in the helium balloon? And then he wasn’t in the helium balloon? And maybe you should check your attic before you call the major media outlets? And why are you building a helium balloon in your backyard, anyway? Many burning questions, few answers…

Tomorrow I am going on a walking/eating tour of the West Village and SoHo. Rain or shine! Should be fun…and then let the weekend begin!!

Quench My Thirst

October 15, 2009

free-crystal-light-on-the-goI am constantly trying to remember to hydrate during the day. I work in a building where the windows don’t open and the air is constantly recycled, and at the end of the day when I haven’t had a chance to drink much I inevitably have a nasty headache. I mostly stick to good ‘ol H2O, but sometimes I want something more, and though I love me a diet Coke, oftentimes I don’t want any carbonation.

Hellloooo Crystal Light! More specifically, Crystal Light On the Go, which comes in a box of small one-serving packets and is perfect to keep in your desk drawer for just those  moments. You can empty one packet into a bottle of water, or add the water to a glass with the packet, and you instantly feel refreshed. The natural pink lemonade and iced tea flavors are delish, and you just add it to a 16.9 ounce bottle of water and you’re good to sip, with only 5 calories. They’ve come out with ones that supposedly give energy or boost your immune system. I don’t know that I’m buying that, but I do think they’re a great alternative when you don’t want soda or water. (Available at grocery stores. About $5 for 10 packets.)

Already?

It’s officially winter…Rockefeller Center is up and running again. Skaters unite!

Flavor of the Month

Pumpkin! Everyone is all about “pumpkin” or “pumpkin spice”…Red Mango has switched out its green tea flavor for it, the Shake Shack features it every Saturday this month, Dairy Queens have a Pumpkin Pie Blizzard. So go ahead, indulge while you can! You know you want to…

Etc.

I was out at the Paper Ball this evening at the Museum of Arts and Design. It’s so hard to be a mom, work, and try and be pretty. (ha ha) It was a great crowd — Bryan Batt, the actor who plays Sal on Mad Men, was there, as was Rose McGowan (who I didn’t think looked very good). The dj was kickin’ it late 80s/early 90s and I was loving it!

Austin is till sick and I am praying he is better and can get back to school tomorrow. I had to bring in snack this week so Ken had to schlep it all there for the week even though Austin was absent. I have no nanny tomorrow so I am hoping it all goes well…

We made it through Wednesday! Two more days and the weekend is here…you can make it!

Whine Flu

October 14, 2009

Believe me, I’m not mocking the swine flu, but I think people are a little bananas about the vaccine. Instead of throwing around their non-expert opinions about whether it’s safe or not and whether people should get it or not, I really think they should consult with their doctor who actually has medical training and thus some basis for an opinion one way or another.

I’ve done a bunch of research and the H1N1 vaccine was developed the exact same way the seasonal flu shot is every year. So if you get that, this is really no different. In fact, if they would have known about this strain of flu earlier, they would have put it in this year’s seasonal vaccine. There are two versions of the vaccine: a nose spray, which contains a live virus, and a shot, which is a deadened one. If you feel like you’re more susceptible to getting sick, like have asthma or some other underlying condition, the shot is recommended over the spray. (I am going to insist on this for Addison, for example, given her lung issues.) It is also not recommended to get the seasonal flu shot as a nose spray and the H1N1 as a spray at the same time; two live viruses apparently don’t react well together.

It is true that most of the cases of H1N1 viruses have been mild, but there are many exceptions of healthy people getting seriously ill and, in some cases, dying. It seems to me the peace of mind as well as the actual protection from the disease is worth the trouble of getting the shot. Kids in particular have a higher death rate with H1N1 so it is worth discussing it with your pediatrician.

Whatever you decide for you or your family, make sure you’re basing it on sound medical advice and not something your friend’s friend heard about somewhere. This article in the Times answers a lot of questions — click here to read it.

And Another Thing…

I think I’m cranky tonight…maybe because I watched a Gossip Girl from last week and Tyra Banks is the worst actress…but what is up with the haters who can’t let the whole Nobel thing go? First of all, I think anyone would kill to wake up and find out that he or she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Jealous much? Prez Obama was spurned by the Olympic Committee, and I’d say this is one helluva consolation prize. Let it spur all of us on to great things, let him give the prize money to charity and let’s all get on with our lives.

Fall Into The…

Oh baby...Gap, by Stella McCartney

Oh baby...Gap, by Stella McCartney

If you were craving anything from The Gap’s fall line, check out the sale section online at gap.com — most things are now 60% off…In other Gap news, Stella McCartney is designing a line of kids clothes for them, set to debut in November. (Just in time for holiday shopping!) Items will range from $14 (for wool tights) to $128 (for jackets). It’s a one-time collaboration, borne out of the mom of three under five’s frustration with cheap kids clothes and really expensive ones, and the lack of anything in-between. I’ve had that frustration too — I find that my daughter is either in baby Gap or Little Marc Jacobs — I haven’t really found much in that middle ground. So this could be an exciting development, and I think a smart move for the retailer. Now if they could do something about their adult clothes, which have really been quite dreadful the last few months. (And I had high hopes for head designer Patrick Robinson!)

Etc.

I am totally rocking some black toe polish — I think it’s going to be my winter thing. Although last winter to save money and time I skipped the pedicures until spring came around. Maybe I’ll do that again…

I decided to have one last hurrah today wearing cropped jeans and flats — not wearing socks really lets the chill come up through your bones! Oh, summer…see ya next year.

Hope your week is going swimmingly!