One More Thing!

December 25, 2009

I have to do one last post because I forgot to include Ken’s Single of the Week yesterday. And it’s seasonal, so we all should enjoy it now:

Every year when December comes around, it invariably becomes time for the George Michael “Last Christmas” money-making machine to be turned on and run nonstop until New Year’s Day. Sure, the “Last Christmas” single was a big enough hit for Wham, but little did Jorge Rico know that it would replicate, mutate and sustain itself like musical H1N1. The royalties must be astounding. We’re not talking mansion-type money. It’s more like TARP-like money, financed by the likes of Ashley Tisdale, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, Hillary Duff, Cascada, Atomic Kitten, the cast of “Glee,” Metro Station and countless Euro-Pop bands. How about a psuedo-hip-hop remix by a trio of Japanese cuties? You got it:

Etc.

Many imitations, no duplications, is what I have to say. Wham still did it best.

Happy Christmas!

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Return It!

December 24, 2009

As the Christmas holiday is upon us, my tip for all of you is to take the time to return anything you don’t like. Save the gift receipts! Don’t be sentimental or feel bad about it. I am sure the person giving the gift wants you to be satisfied. Gift receipts usually end up with store credit (once in a while they’ll give cash — Restoration hardware and Sephora have been known to do it). No receipt? Most places will take it back, they’ll just give you the price that the item is currently selling for, which after Christmas is probably a lot less than what someone actually paid for it. Target will take back things without a receipt up to a certain amount per year. They’ll also search by credit card to try and find the purchase price.

And if you’re the giver, by the way, make sure you include gift receipts! Give people an easy out.

I hope you all get everything you want. And if not, I hope you can exchange for it!

Christmas Miracles

Can it really be that a healthcare bill will be passed by Congress on Christmas Eve? Yes, Virginia, there is a Democratic majority…It’s not perfect, people, but let’s take what we can get. Over thirty million Americans are about to get health insurance who didn’t already have it. That’s a holiday gift I’ll take any time. Just a shame that not a single Republican could stand up to the party line. And shame on those Democrats who held the bill hostage to wring every last bit of pork out of it. Oink!

Another One Bites the Dust

I am so sad to hear that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have split up after 23 years together. They live around the corner from us and we see them quite often in the neighborhood. I’ve always liked them because they seem so normal. Ken even found her cell phone once and got it back to her — she was very nice. And when the two of them were out together they were always holding hands and generally seemed happy and in love with each other. Which just goes to show you that you never know…Hope they’re doing well, and their two sons too.

Etc.

Well, this is my last post of the year. We are off to California with the kids to hang with friends and family. We’re all excited! We want some sunshine and warmth and quality time together.

Cause that’s what it’s really all about, no?

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all good things to all of you. Thanks so much for reading — Family Favs will be back next year with more recommendations to make your life just a little bit brighter. Until then, peace!!

Carpe Diem, Baby

December 23, 2009

I have to give credit where credit is due and applaud NYC for their snow removal prowess. It’s only a couple of days out from the blizzard and streets and sidewalks are plowed, shoveled and clear. Even at most corners!

I didn’t do any shoveling, but I am one tired cookie…my pilates teacher wouldn’t even let me get on the reformer this morning for fear something would snap, everything was so tight. We did an hour of the cadillac, trying to get my shoulders, hamstrings and lower back to release. We had some success — I left there walking a little taller!

Which brings me to the topic of the day: rest. Yes, you say, I love it. But I don’t get enough of it.

In there could lie all the problems. Study after study shows that sleep is essential to our mental and physical health. Consider this: Staying awake for 17 hours straight leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood-alcohol level of .05%. (This makes sense, because when I get no sleep, I feel hungover!) The Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to human errors in which sleep deprivation played a role. I don’t know that I’ve caused anything of that magnitude, but when I’m sleep deprived I’m definitely crabby and irritable.

Why would I bring this up now? Because for most people, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is quieter than normal. Workloads are lighter; the phones ring a little less. Grab the opportunity while you can and rest. Read a book. Crash on the couch and watch some bad TV. Snuggle with someone you love and just stare out the window. Play a board game. Make some hot chocolate and see how many marshmallows you can stuff in your mouth. Take a nap. Go to bed early. Sleep late!

Whatever you can fit into your lifestyle, whatever makes you happy and relaxed, do it now. Carpe diem, as my friend Caesar used to say. Seize the day and then let it go by, slowly.

Because 2010 is right around the corner. And chances are, it’s going to kick your ass.

Still shopping?

There’s just about two shopping days left before the big day. Still need gifts? A lot of places have gift certificates that you can print out online. (Bliss Spa is one of them.) You can always make a gift certificate yourself and follow up with the real one after. Or give someone a card good for dinner and a movie. Or a night of free babysitting. (Okay, that last one is something I want…ha ha.) Seriously, don’t limit yourself to what you can find in a store. They say that it’s experiences and not things that make people happy — so sometimes the best gift of all is something fun you can do together. And if that fails, Neiman Marcus is having free overnight shipping, and many of their gifts are now 25% off. (Use the code QUICK.)

Etc.

I think myself and everyone I work with is slightly bitter because while everything seems to be winding down for most people, workwise, we are really busy. So everyone wants to coast into the new year, but it isn’t possible! Oh well. After seeing the report on Wilmington, Ohio on 60 Minutes, I’m just glad we have jobs.

Hope you’re all having a great week. See you tomorrow!

What Becomes a Legend?

December 22, 2009

One of my favorite specials of the year is the Kennedy Center Honors. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Honors are bestowed on a handful of artists each year who have truly dedicated their lives and made a difference in the performing arts. Past honorees have included everyone from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Martin Scorsese, Stevie Wonder and Dolly Parton to Robert Redford, Neil Simon, Jack Lemmon and Bill Cosby.(If you want to check out the full list of past honorees, as well as bios for all, click here.)

There is an awards ceremony and a gala that the President and First Lady always attend, as well as other Washington  luminaries. (One of my favorite years was when Elton John was honored, and he sat next to the conservative George W. Bush and his wife Laura. I also enjoyed seeing members of the cabinet get down to Crocodile Rock.)

The ceremony itself is interesting because you get to learn in-depth about the honorees, and then other artists perform to pay tribute.  This year’s honorees are Robert DeNiro, Dave Brubeck, Mel Brooks, Grace Bumbry and Bruce Springsteen. A fine list, and though they try to keep it secret, rumor has it Ben Stiller and Jack Black showed up to pay homage. The 2009 Kennedy Center Honors air on December 29th on CBS at 9pm. Set your dvrs! It’s definitely worth watching — my whole family enjoys the show. Last year, Austin loved the Twyla Tharp dance number set to Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night. What a great introduction to two legends!

On the Hunt

I had a whole boot emergency after discovering last night that my boots had spilt down the foot. So I was at Lord and Taylor bright and early this morning before work to see if I could get my hands on some Hunter boots in black. They are pretty much sold out everywhere, online and in store. But I also saw that they tended to run large, so I wasn’t sure what size I would order online. l got there, the store was fairly empty so early and yet still I couldn’t get someone helpful to help me out. Finally a woman came over, lectured me on how she’s not allowed in the stockroom, and I ended up buying the model on the floor. Black, mid-calf height, in one size lower than what I normally wear. So it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I think it will end up being better that what I wanted — not sure why I would need the knee-length. Of course now I just jinxed it and we’ll get 3 feet of snow. So for those of you playing at home, my son, daughter and I now all have different color Hunter boots. They’re handmade and guaranteed for a year, so hopefully all will be well in boot land for a while.

Etc.

We took the kids to see the tree and some of the decorations in Rockefeller Center over the weekend. It would be great if there weren’t so many people! The kids enjoyed it — especially the ice skaters, who included Santa. And Sixth Avenue has a lot of nice decorations. Afterward we had lunch at Virgil’s. It’s remarkably kid-friendly, with kids menus, coloring books and crayons, plastic cups with lids and high chairs. Plus we were there with friends and they were very accommodating for a large party. Good to keep in mind, since they take reservations as well.

I’m so glad it’s a short week. My kids are getting very excited for vacation.

See you tomorrow!

Well, the weathermen can rest assured that they didn’t freak us all out for nothing. The snow did indeed come. It was a funny storm — it hit the south and west really hard (like two feet hard) before a flake fell in NYC. We ended up getting a foot, and though we were supposed to go to a party in New Jersey on Saturday night right at the time the flakes fell hardest and the wind picked up, negating our ability to drive, it really didn’t damper anything else we had on tap. (Although tonight we were walking back from another party and I stepped in an inevitable pool of slush at the corner and — whoops! — discovered my boot had cracked up the side and water was leaking in. Ah!) The other funny moment was trying to flag down the bus where no one had cleared a path, and the plowed snow combines with the fallen snow had created a drift of about 3 feet that we had to scale and then jump down — poor Austin planted face first in his rush to get the bus. The driver was laughing at us, but she did wait!

Anyway, all in good fun. I really have no segway to my recommendation for today, which is a salad dressing: Bolthouse Farms Creamy Yogurt Dressing in Blue Cheese. I have a funny relationship with salad dressing — most of the time I don’t even use it. If I have a salad with goat cheese or kidney beans or chicken, I skip it altogether. I find most dressings either too heavy, so they mask the taste of the salad, or too light and bland, like an oil and vinegar. But I tried this Bolthouse Farms dressing for the first time over Thanksgiving, and I liked the taste. It’s blue cheese-y without being too overpowering, and it enhances the taste of the salad. Plus, since it’s made with yogurt, you get a lot less fat and calories. Whereas regular blue cheese dressing has 19.5 grams of fat in a two ounce serving, Bolthouse has 6.5 grams. Yet it doesn’t taste “light.” And there’s no trans fat, preservatives, added sugar, artificial colors or flavors, or high fructose corn syrup. How refreshing! There are other flavors too (Honey Mustard and Ranch among them), but I’ve had success with the Blue Cheese.

It’s a refrigerated dressing — you should find it in the supermarket, near the produce, where other refrigerated dressings are sold. I found it at Shop Rite. Runs about $3 for 14 ounces.

Etc.

We had a late afternoon party, which was fun (lots of kids!) and then we decided to hit Johnny Rockets for dinner. We hadn’t been there in a long time. Clearly they must have changed their menu to compete with Red Robin — now everything comes with bottomless fries (yet another reason why we need universal healthcare). And in my opinion, the food has gone downhill. I used to think they had the best veggie burgers.

We went up on our roof last night in the blizzard, and though it was windy, there really is no better place to be in a snowstorm! The lights of NYC were shining through the snow, Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford were home (they live across the street), and the snow threw a blanket of silence over everything. Heavenly!

Hope you all had a great weekend, and you didn’t have to do too much shoveling (all you East coasters!)…Holla!

Balm-y Nights

December 18, 2009

What’s it all about, Alfie?

I’ve found that my mouth and nasal passages are so dry now that the heat has kicked up full force. I’m all about drinking lots of water and lip balm! My favorite lip balm of all time, hands down, is Kiehl’s #1. (In the jar, not the tube. Trust me, there’s a major difference.) I recommend putting it on before you go to bed every night. When you awake, you’ll have soft, supple lips that can take you through the day. You just have to be really religious about it. There are plenty of lip balms out there that look good or feel good, this is the only one that I think actually makes a difference in preventing chapped lips. And it’s definitely a unisex venture — chapped lips do not discriminate! Ken and I both swear by this product. ($9.50; available in department stores like Bloomingdales’s or Neiman Marcus; or in Kiehl’s stores.)

Hijacking Health Care

You might recall that yesterday I asked why Joe Lieberman sucks so bad. Gail Collins takes a shot at answering just that in today’s NY Times. Check it out here. An outrage, really.

Shacking Up

The lines at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park just might get a little shorter. Apparently Danny Meyer (of Union Square Cafe fame) has big expansion plans — next year new Shacks will open on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Nolita and one in midtown at 44th and 8th Avenue. These burger and custard places are big business — apparently each one rakes in $4 million a year. That’s a lotta dough, as they say. He’s looking at other cities too, including Miami and Boston, where apparently they call shakes “frappes.” Frappe Shack just doesn’t have the same ring to it. If you go, I am partial to the mushroom burger. It’s a mushroom lightly griddled up and stuffed with oozing cheese, all on a soft delicious bun with lettuce and tomato. It’s just a perfect handheld bunch of yumminess. They’ll do Arnold Palmers too (half lemonade, half iced tea) which is somewhat special for the east coast. Tasty!

Single of the Week — In the House!

Here’s Ken:

The other week, I went to a birthday party at a bouncy gym. Between the puppet show and the cake, I thought about what it’d be like to be at home, mellowed out on Vicodin with a giant bag of Doritos. I’d be on the couch, watching the entire second season of “Supernanny” (I would never relinquish my responsibility as a parent) on mute while listening to this two-chord groove by Samuel & the Dragon.

Etc.

Yesterday I posted a Stephen Colbert clip that got yanked from You Tube — so if you couldn’t watch it, it’s so hilarious I had to give you a second chance here.

I  can’t believe Chanukah is coming to an end. And next week is Christmas and then the end of 2009. Craziness! But let’s not wish it away just yet and enjoy these last 2 weeks.

I’ll be back next week for a few posts and some final thoughts on this year. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Get Off the Junk

December 17, 2009

If you’ve ever tried to get yourself to stop drinking sugary sodas, the NYC health department has created a spot that just might do the trick. There’s no commentary necessary — you just need to watch the clip. And then go eat a salad.

Fekkai Goes Mainstream

Celebrity Coiffure Frederic Fekkai, whose high end hair products are available in Neiman Marcus and other fine stores, is going downmarket. Apparently he’s about to launch his line at Walgreens and Target, with the same price point of $20 – $30. In response, Sephora has said it will dump the line from its stores. I think this would be a great idea if the price point were dropping. I just don’t think Target shoppers, in this economy, want to pay $26 for shampoo. I guess Frederic will find out soon enough…

Stephen Colbert’s in a New York State of Mind

Apparently Jay-Z was busy, so check out this video from the Colbert Report this week, when Alicia Keys came on to sing her hit (a former Family Favs Single of the Week, I should add), and Stephen Colbert filled in for the rapper. He raps about moving out of the city when he had kids, but still owning NYC from 41st Street to 47th — keepin’ it real with the appetizers at the Hard Rock. Hilarious. Check it out here.

Boo You

I stopped shopping at American Apparel several months ago when it came to light that the owner either didn’t hire people to work there who he deemed unattractive, or, if he did hire them and then changed his mind, they were banished to a stockroom. Now comes word that he has sent a memo telling all employees how they have to have their eyebrows. Yes, eyebrows. Apparently he wants them all to use Brooke Shields as a template. The moral of this story is don’t work for American Apparel. And don’t shop there, either.

Etc.

I had a very unsatisfying lunch today consisting of all side dishes, none of them great, because they were out of the specialty sandwich I wanted in our cafeteria. Threw my whole day off! Oh well — there’s always tomorrow.

How much does Joe Lieberman suck?

See you!

Beauty with a Bonus

December 16, 2009

All this with your $25 purchase

They say beauty’s where you find it (or maybe that was just Madonna), and you can find it now at the Clinique counter at Lord and Taylor. I’m not a loyal Clinique user, but everytime I do go back to it, I remember how much I like that the makeup has no smell, the packaging is modern and the price point is reasonable. I’m also not a fan of beauty bonuses, because they usually make you spend way more than you wanted to get something that you’ll probably never use. But right now the Clinique bonus at Lord and Taylor comes in a makeup bag you’ll probably actually use (and you can pick if you want purple or pink), and products inside like brushes and lipstick that are useful and wearable. All you have to do is spend $25 or more and it’s yours, free.

A couple of things I recommend: their Touch Base for Eyes in canvas, which is essentially cream eye shadow in a very neutral beige with just a hint of shimmer ($14). You can use it as a base for whatever other eye makeup you want to use, or alone for a polished natural look. Their Butter Shine Lipsticks are sheer while still providing coverage. I like Apple Brandy, which a reddish/brownish sheer lipstick gloss ($15).

There are so many different brands out there — it’s nice to know that Clinique is a good, reliable department store standby. With a bonus!

Check it out online here.

The Golden Globes Overlooked Me…Again!

But they did recognize George Clooney, who was nominated for best actor. In fact Up in the Air led the nominations this morning with six. There weren’t too many shockers — Julia Roberts for Duplicity, which no one saw but I really liked. Both Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock were doubly nominated — Streep is actually going against herself in the best actress in a comedy category. I always love the Golden Globes because it’s both TV and movies. If you want to check out all the nominations, click here. I want to watch the show even more this year because Ricky Gervais is hosting, and he is hilarious on these awards shows. I’m hoping his tune will be pitch perfect on January 17th (8pm on NBC), and a room full of drunk celebrities will take his bait and turn it into a night to remember!

Did You Say Discount?

Well, I did. From now through midnight on December 16th, you can get 25% off your total purchase at gap.com. Just enter “HOORAH” at checkout. There’s a little holiday cheer for ya.

Etc.

We went to a fun Hannukah party at some friends’ place tonight. Lots of kids and fun people — even a cute little dog that Addison loved. The kids played dreidel and ate lots of treats. (Austin had fruit punch, Yoo Hoo and several cookies. I think the kid went into sugar shock.) Addison was coughing, ate a tortilla chip and proceeded to puke in front of everyone. I’ll spare you the details. All in a day’s work as a mother, I guess. She came back with a vengeance right after, though. She kept trying to sneak some jordan almonds. When I told her she couldn’t have them, she told me she just wanted to smell them. Sure thing kid.

Is it only Tuesday? Wow.

Everything’s Up In The Air

December 15, 2009

George in front of some airport somewhere

One of the problems of being a well-crafted movie that comes out this time of year — and I’m using “problems” loosely given the many real and insurmountable problems facing the world today — is that Oscar hopes get pinned on you early and often. And the hype builds. And then people go to see the movie and there’s almost no way it could ever be as good as it has been built up to be. And so it goes with Up In The Air, George Clooney’s latest. Some of you may recall I talked about this a few months ago as being the movie I couldn’t wait to see — the head of Paramount was spewing about how great the film was in early September. And don’t get me wrong — it’s very good, and well worth seeing. I highly recommend it, but with one caveat: do not go in expecting the greatest movie of all time.

Clooney plays a hatchet man, wracking up hundreds of thousands of frequent flier miles as he traverses the country, doing the dirty work for corporations everywhere. He has made an art out of firing people, and that ingrained detachment carries over into his personal life. I don’t want to spoil anything, but he meets up with another frequent flier (played by Vera Farmiga) and well, the sparks fly between the home baseless souls. Hilton Hotels and American Airlines both figure prominently in the film, and I thought for sure it was paid product placement. But in fact I read an article today that not a dime changed hands — both companies provided locations for shooting in return for the exposure.

The movie’s plot is so right for these economic times, and it’s incredibly well acted and written. My husband said to me afterward that Clooney looked old in the film. I told him I think that was by design — that lifestyle of never having a “home” takes its toll, year in, year out.

And since Oscar loves actors who leave their vanity at the door (think Charlize Theron in Monster — and no I’m not saying George looks that bad), Mr. Movie Star Clooney should be getting another place on his mantle ready.

Serve It Up on Sundays

The last couple of weeks I have made two big meals early in the week, and then we have them for lunches or dinners throughout the work week. It works really well — I find the initial labor truly pays off. Last week I made chicken and biscuits with a family pack of chicken breasts, and a big pot of pasta with meat sauce. This week I made turkey chili with rice and a turkey meatloaf. With all of the holiday parties and other after-work commitments, those two big culinary endeavors will get us through the week without any ordering in. I recommend it — if you do it on Sunday when you have the time, you can rest a little easier throughout the week. Just be sure you pick dishes that everyone likes and will want to have a couple of times!

Etc.

Irritating is my word for today. I’ll just leave it at that.

Ever since I got the H1N1 vaccine I’ve had a semi-stuffy nose. Not really a full on cold, but it’s leaving my mouth so dry from breathing through it more than usual. It’s weird because I always get the regular flu shot and I never have any symptoms, so it could be a total coincidence, but it’s highly annoying.

Halfway through Hannukah — hope your wishes are coming true! 🙂

Everyone Likes Pudding!

December 14, 2009

We’re going into a new week — the last full one before the blessed holidays give everyone a much-needed break of some length or another. So let’s start the week with something sweet! Jell-O Sugar Free Pudding is the perfect adult version of a dessert that everyone enjoys. It’s low in calories but high in treat satiation. And remember when pudding took a long time to make and involved constantly stirring it over a hot stove, and then letting it set in the fridge for hours? No more. You just add the packet to two cups of (skim) milk, whisk for two minutes, pour it into some bowls, put it into the refrigerator and in less than ten minutes you can insert your spoon and enjoy. (To really make it easy, I put the two cups of milk into a large measuring cup, add the pudding powder and whisk it right in the glass measuring cup. Less to clean up!)

Each packet costs around $1.00, and there are four servings, or if you’re feeling sweet-deprived, there’s a very generous bowl full for two of you. If you really want to go all out, try a little whipped cream or Cool Whip on top. I was partial to the chocolate but I had the vanilla last week and that was very good, as well. I keep a box or two in the cupboard for whenever I feel like a little sweet treat — guilt free!

Holiday Gifting

I was out today in the pouring rain to finish my holiday shopping. So bananas. My tip is to shop at places that make it easy, especially by providing nice free gift wrapping. If you have a lot of women on your list, Sephora is a great bet. They offer so many different brands at many different price points, and they’ll wrap them all up nicely. They carry a lot of different gift sets, and they also package their gift cards with a mini makeup mirror. I noticed they now have “Special Bargains” by the register that really are just that, so you can get yourself a treat, too! I got myself 2 full sized Benefit cream eyeshadows for $10 — a $28 savings! Kiehl’s stores are another great option. You can pick whatever your recipient would like, and they’ll wrap it really nicely with dried flowers and ribbons. Then when you check out they’ll give you a few free samples to try something at home. I find that men really like Kiehl’s stuff, and wouldn’t necessarily buy it for themselves. Wherever you go to shop, good luck!

Etc.

Poor little Addison is sick again. She cannot catch a break. Cold and fever — she swings from being out of sorts to being fine. I just want to give her a hug and make her feel all better! She was particularly out of sorts after her nap, crabby, staring into space, didn’t want to eat dinner, crying that she didn’t want to take her medicine. So I get half of her medicine down, she starts to throw up in my hand, Ken runs over with a plate from the dinner dishes, it starts to look like it’s going to overflow so Austin grabs a large bowl and runs over, and poor Addison is just a mess. Suddenly she stops throwing up and says, “I wanna watch Taylor  Swift.” In the middle of it all she could not deny her love of Swift performing in the subway for her Video Music Awards number, which we have on our DVR. Hilarious.

Between the cold and the rain, it has been some weekend! Plus, I find that I spend so much time making sure everyone else has hats, gloves, etc., that I end up rushing and leaving the house horribly underdressed for the elements.

Friday I was excited all day to go my favorite tapas restaurant (Boqueria on 19th street between 5th and 6th Avenues) and then they were out of my favorite dish! They’re these green peppers (pimientos) that they lightly fry — so delicious. Oh well, we had lots of other delicious stuff, like dates stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon. We also indulged in some sangria. Ken had the pear, I had traditional red. A great way to end the week!

We had a fun Hannukah party with all of our family here. The kids really enjoyed seeing everyone and of course all of the grandparents and aunts and uncles really enjoyed seeing them. I had part of it catered and made some stuff, which really did help.

Austin had a birthday party and one of the “games” was eating bugs. No kidding. They ordered grasshoppers off of the internet that were bacon-flavored. Austin wasn’t into eating them. I always knew that kid had a good head on his shoulders…

Hope you had a good one!