It’s A Stretch

March 26, 2010

This is how you do it!

From time to time my left knee gets a pain in it, and I have been convinced it’s because my hamstrings get too tight. But this week in pilates my instructor insisted that from the cardio I do at the gym — mainly the elliptical and the treadmill — my quads are tight, which in turn pulls my knee cap out of alignment. And presto: there’s the knee pain. Apparently, it’s pretty common.

The fix? Stretching out your quads every darn day. (As she put it, “Humans are not meant to run. They need to stretch. Dogs? Horses? They don’t need to stretch. But people? You need to stretch.”)

So I’ve been sure to stretch my quads after my cardio sessions this week. No knee pain!

You stand next to something you can hold, pull your other leg, bent, up and grab onto your foot. Pull until you have a nice stretch in your thigh muscle. Hold for five to ten seconds and repeat on the other side.

Whether you have knee pain or not, it’s a good stretch to incorporate.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The farmers market in Union Square is one of the treasures in the city: amazing produce, herbs, meats, baked goods, jams, plants, flowers and more all direct from the farm. We love having it down our street.

And now comes word that Pier 40 on the Hudson in Greenwich Village is being turned into a farmers market which will rival Union Square within 3 years. That’s pretty awesome.

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken:

I’ve always harbored an intense desire to do three things in life: watch Cornell play in the final four, play weak-side linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys and meet a Swedish gal who’s into robots. On the first, the Big Red are only two games away from a date in Indianapolis. I’m currently pursuing the second by sending sports agents video of me totally destroying Austin in the 40 yard dash and opening up new jars of pickles. The final goal is also within reach with Swedish indie-electro-pop star Robyn and her single “Fembots,” which follows the android-themed hits “Robotboy,” “Bionic Woman” and “The Girl and the Robot.” I’ve emailed her a few dozen times, asking her to meet me for lunch, preferably somewhere that has a lunch special. As of this writing, she has not replied. Live my dream and check out this pretty cool tune on her official site.

Click here and scroll down to take a listen.

Etc.

I cannot believe that Discovery is reportedly paying Sarah Palin a million bucks an episode for a travel show about Alaska.

We are on vacation next week and so Family Favs will go on holiday as well. Happy Passover, Happy Easter, and a wonderful start to spring to you all!!

Keep on truckin’.

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Wash Away Your Troubles

March 25, 2010

Clean it up!

If you’re like me, you don’t want to feed your child fruits and vegetables that have pesticides and other dirt and residue from being shipped from who knows where, but in your haste the best you can do is buy organic, rinse it off and hope for the best. Sure, they sell produce wash, but it seems like an unnecessary expense and a way for someone to make money off our (potentially unfounded) fears about what our habits are doing to our kids.

Well, here’s a low cost way you can make a produce wash, and feel proactive about cleaning up the environment. Your environment.

Produce Wash 1
– 20 drops grapefruit seed extract, available at health food stores
– 1 Tablespoon baking soda
– 1 cup white vinegar
– 1 cup water
– New spray bottle

Produce Wash 2
– 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
– 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
– 1 cup water
– New spray bottle

Spray produce. Let sit 5-10 minutes and rinse thoroughly to wash away residue.

NOTE: The baking soda and vinegar will foam when mixed together. Make sure you use a deep pitcher and pour slowly.

Both seem doable but produce wash 2 seems incredibly easy, with things you probably have around the house. This may become part of my routine. And maybe my kids (or their kids) won’t sprout a third ear one day.

Sickly Strategy

It’s interesting to me that now that the public is beginning to understand what is in this new healthcare law, they like it. The polling trend is definitely upward, with just about half of the population seeing it as a good thing. My hope is that the Republican’s obstructionist strategy will completely backfire in the long run. I thought this piece by David Frum was interesting http://www.frumforum.com/waterloo.

Etc.

I spoke on a career panel at NYU tonight. It’s always scary how the students seem younger and younger. They’re all (understandably) trepidatious about finding jobs. I always enjoy doing these kinds of things because it helps me to crystallize my experience, and realize how much info I have to pass on and hopefully help. Plus I always meet some interesting people. I highly recommend it!

My kids woke me up at 4am this morning because Austin wanted some water, and then I couldn’t fall back asleep. I am feeling it tonight. Especially because I had a couple of glasses of red wine last night, and no dinner.

But the weekend is in sight!

Like Magic

March 24, 2010

Today we hear from Denielle, who you might remember from her post on what not to say to a pregnant woman. She begins her stint as a regular guest blogger today, and I should preface this post by saying that she had a lot to clean up recently when her basement flooded during the monsoon that hit the northeast. Oy.

I am a cleaning fiend. As such, there are several products I feel have revolutionized my cleaning world and I don’t know what I would do without them: the Swiffer, the Dyson Animal Vacuum, Method’s The Daily Granite and the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

I  ♥ the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

I really don’t understand what it is, but I have found its uses to be limitless. My mom gave one to me several years ago (yes – she regularly gives cleaning products as stocking stuffers!) and I tried it as a tool to remove crayon off of the wall. Let’s be honest, I have 3 children under the age of 6. I find crayon marks on surfaces I didn’t think crayons-in-little-hands could reach!

I wet the Styrofoam-ish looking thing as per the directions, rang it out, wiped my wall with little to no elbow grease required, and presto! Crayon gone! (Note to self and others: too much elbow grease will actually remove your paint, so scrub with caution!)

I have since spent an entire evening scrubbing the grout on my tiled kitchen floor with a Magic Eraser, wearing through an actual pair of yellow rubber gloves, and disintegrating more than 4 said erasers. But my grout looked great! Never mind that scrubbing grout on your hands-and-knees – even with a magical tool like the Magic Eraser – is downright insane. I will not be doing that again.

Glass shower doors, plastic bins, window sills, pink leather cowboy boots, sneakers, outdoor furniture – they’ve all benefited from a little MCME love.

I don’t think I want to know what the thing is made of.  It is almost eerie how it disappears along with the stain. But it does a really great job on things that are typically hard to clean.

The following description appears on the MCME website:

“Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Original will help your walls, baseboards, floors, switch plates, blinds and more look like new again by easily removing scuff marks and dirt……The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Original is so powerful that each swipe removes more grime than the leading all-purpose spray cleaner, and it has no harsh chemicals.”

I say, “Thanks, Mr. Clean. You are my hero.”

No Whey

March 23, 2010

I went on my screed against fruit-flavored yogurts as something healthy for kids a couple of weeks ago, but today I want to recommend a yogurt that tastes good and is good for you — it’s a recommendation for you, not necessarily for the kids. Especially because it’s a higher price point than you might typically spend for yogurt.

Oikos is Stonyfield’s organic version of Greek yogurt. (If you’re a Total Greek yogurt fan, this is a bit less thick.) I really like the vanilla flavored version — it’s just sweet enough without going over the line, there aren’t any artificial sweeteners yet the grams of sugar aren’t terrible and it’s fat free. It’s 110 calories per serving, which links up with other fat free yogurts that are loaded with aspartame and the like.

They claim it’s so good because they skim off the whey, which is typically left in regular yogurt. I don’t know what it is, but it is tasty. I buy it at Whole Foods, where they sell individual little containers (5.3 ounce) for $2.19 and a larger 16 ounce for $5.99. They did have $1 off coupons til the end of the month if you can find one of their in-store flyers.

Healthcare Issues

Some of you who have been longtime Family Favs readers know that I had a lot to say when the healthcare debate began. I’ve even had a few people comment about why I’ve been relatively quiet on it lately. The truth is that I find the environment and the tenor in Washington so toxic, on both sides of the aisle, that it has really turned me off to the entire political process. If you think about the basic things that are in this bill (coverage for pre-exisitng conditions, enabling children to stay on their parents’ plans while they’re in college and looking for a job, extending a safety net to those who have no insurance, etc.) it really is crazy to me that not a single Republican could step up and work to make this happen. Instead they stood outside of the Capital and fomented the protesters with more dis-information. When you’ve got people saying they don’t want the government involved in healthcare while carrying a “Don’t Touch My Medicare” placard, something tells me we’ve got an information and education problem here, not necessarily a healthcare one.

Etc.

The rain is back, just when we had a taste of the good life with 70 degrees and sunny. Oh well…

This is one of those weeks that is super crazy for us, so I am taking it one day at a time. Work functions, school functions, volunteer functions all coming together to make a hurricane of commitments. But it’s all good so we just have to find a way to make it okay. Thank goodness our nanny seems to feeling better.

Hope your week got off to a great start!

March Madness Indeed

March 22, 2010

It has a been a crazy  month, and I’m not just talking about basketball. Although anytime a sports channel can get a sitting president to fill out his NCAA brackets in the middle of a hard-fought healthcare battle, you gotta wonder…and speaking of basketball, our house is full of excitement for Cornell, Ken’s alma mater, who defeated Wisconsin today in round 2 and has reached the sweet 16. Austin is very excited since he attends the Cornell – Columbia basketball game annually.

Anyway, lately I have been reading a ton about vitamin D, and how we don’t get enough of it. Seems like everyone from Dr. Oz to the New York Times magazine is spreading the good word about it. They’ve got studies now linking it to improving on just about everything in your body. (There are even some researchers who recommend vitamin D supplements for kids with autism.) Thing is, too much sun exposure without sunscreen and you’re at risk for melanoma at worst and wrinkles at best. Even the proponents of sun exposure say you should get it on your arms and legs, and always wear sunscreen on your face. There are supplements you can take, because vitamin D doesn’t naturally occur in many foods. (Although it is fortified into some pre-packaged edibles.)

The moral of the story on this one is to keep reading about it, and discuss with your primary care doctor. It sounds promising…

Oscar Curse

Poor Sandra Bullock! Who knows what is true, but any way you slice it, it’s a sucky pie. It is crazy how there is some sort of Oscar hex on all of the winners, particularly the Best Actress winners. All of the recent Best Actress winners who were serious with someone (mainly married) when they won, split with their partners within 18 months of winning: Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet, Hillary Swank and now Sandra Bullock. It’s kind of depressing and yet another reminder that you can’t have it all, no matter how many stylists you have.

Etc.

I am falling asleep at the keyboard — we roadtripped to Pennsylvania this weekend for my nephew’s first birthday party.

The weather was stupendous this weekend. There is nowhere better than NYC in the springtime — it really reminds you of all that’s good in the world.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Book ‘Em

March 19, 2010

Today on Family Favs, Liz Goldberg writes to you via the Antipodes:

Although I consider myself an avid reader, the truth is, with two small kids, I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like.  However, I have recently read two books that were worth the fight late into the night.

The first is “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.  From the rice fields of China to what month a person is born in and what the Beatles did before attaining great success, Gladwell throws conventional wisdom on its head to take a look at what qualities make a person successful.

He delivers his ideas in bite-sized chunks (great for the late night reader) and while I don’t agree with all of them, it will get you to think about why a person becomes successful in a whole new light.

For those of you with kids out there under the age of ten, have you ever felt frustrated that you still have to ask them to say “please” and “thank you” and that you still have to remind them of how to be polite when greeting adults?  Have you had enough of their picky eating habits, which seem to change with every meal?  Are you amazed at their incredible negotiating skills at the tender age of four?  Do you ever feel overwhelmed with having small children in a consumer society, where the expectation to accumulate things never ends?

The second book I read recently is called “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee:  Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children”, by Wendy Mogel (applicable to parents of all religions).  Mogel was a clinical child psychologist for many years in Los Angeles.  After reaching a point of frustration with psychology and what she could do for her clients, she took a year off to study Judaism, and this book combines her background in psychology with Jewish teachings.

I recommend this book to anyone with children under the age of ten.  Often, I can get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of child rearing and sometimes feel frustrated and lose sight of the bigger picture.  Mogel’s keen insight reminds us that our kid’s behavior is normal and gives sensible strategies on how to handle these behaviors while presenting ideas on how to cherish the moments and create a foundation for a happy and grounded family.

I’ll be writing to you next month from the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.  Until then, have a good one!

(Note: Ken and the Single of the Week will return next week.)

Star Turn for Haiti

March 18, 2010

Today, here’s Rebecca:

All media, all the time. That is my slogan for this week’s blog and my life in general. Let me know if you agree.  For those who know me, you’ll just chuckle.

I have spent the last several weeks working with a group of moms to plan a very important event called Race 4 Relief, geared at raising money for the Clinton/Bush Haiti Fund. This event has come together very quickly, as a result of our committee being made up of mostly Type-A former and current power business women.  Myself (of course) entertainment industry event producer, TV producers, private equity and real estate mogul types. Then there are the women who just love working on charitable events. (Need I say more?)

The event is being held at a very cool place called Gran Prix in Mount Kisco, Westchester. Grand Prix is a great event space that can hold up to 1,500 people. It has two go-kart tracks, bar, kids areas, etc. The ticket proceeds go directly to the Clinton/Bush Haiti fund.  It’s one of those hip new event spaces that have the warehouse-ish thing going for it.  There will be a dj, motivational dancers, photos and Ray Rice, an NFL  football player who will be making an appearance and signing autographs. The celebrity factor is at an all time high with a video that former President Clinton has made specifically for this event. How cool is that?  This is a great example of moms coming together in my community to make a great thing happen (besides spreading the word about the latest sale at Bloomies).

One of the moms wrote a great press release on the event and sent it out to all kinds of media outlets. The mom whose brainstorm created this event was looking for someone to promote it on a radio show. Of course my hand shot up in a spastic reaction as if I had no control over it, because I love any opportunity to perform.  Case in point, yes, that was me being interviewed on a Today show panel talking about too much homework in kindergarten. And yes, that was me being interviewed by a local news show about the real estate market. You name the topic and I’ll be there to talk!

So myself and another mom show up that night for the radio show with our kids.  (I forgot to add that a great aspect of this event is the kids raising money for Haiti.  They are running bake sales, making posters, working at the event doing face painting and selling raffle tickets.)

I rushed all of my kids with me into the car to drive to the radio show. I pulled them out of evening activities, like dinner, against their will, just so I could be interviewed on a talk radio show that I’m not sure anyone listens to (but did I care?).  Turns out the time we were told to be there was wrong, so one of my kids had to go back to school to attend a senior fashion show at school.  I had to make a 30 minute roundtrip drive in 20 so I could be there for air time. It was craziness.  The other mom handed me a script with key facts about the event and I was set.  Little did I know I was going to be interviewed off of our press release and need to talk off the cuff and be personable on the topic.  The other mom said I was a natural and I have to get into the profession. That was all I needed to hear, and saw myself  becoming the next host on The View! Wish you all could have heard my performance, but it happened so fast I couldn’t tell anyone to listen in.  Not that it mattered…I’m not even sure what the station is called.

In addition to the radio show we will also be featured on the Pix morning news for a live remote from Grand Prix.  We’re scheduled to be there on Thursday from 6am – 9am.  Our kids are going to be interviewed about the event and shown car racing.  I hope I can make this early call time.  Stay tuned!

The event will be held this Friday, March 19th from 6pm – 10pm.  Go to www.race4relief.eventbrite.com to buy tickets and register.

On Giving Back

March 17, 2010

Today we turn Family Favs over to Tori, who tells us about her worthy adventures in giving back:

Well, hello there. My first official guest post! Oh, I’ve been here before – you may remember my “Single of the Week” contributions about Scarlett Johanssen’s and Zooey Deschanel’s forays into music – but this is the big time! A whole post! Very exciting.

I thought I’d take advantage of this platform to talk a little about something that’s become important to me – mentoring. To be frank, up until recently I thought the whole idea of mentoring was a little corny. The term “mentor” brought to mind some self-important weirdo passing along half-baked advice to impressionable youths. And perhaps that’s true – I’m sure there are all kinds of kooks “mentoring” people all over the place. But I have been lucky to find the exact opposite among an amazing community of mentors with a group called Girls Write Now.

Girls Write Now’s slogan is “Mentoring the next generation of women writers,” and that is exactly what they do. The organization pairs professional NYC-area women writers with NYC high school girls who have shown an interest and aptitude for writing. Over the course of the entire school year, the pairs meet on a weekly basis to work on writing, whether it’s for a school project, for one of GWN’s readings or anthologies, college essays or pieces that are strictly for the sake of personal creative expression. The entire group of mentors and mentees (I believe there are around 50 pairs) meets monthly for workshops that cover a range of genres, including fiction, poetry, playwriting, journalism and even graphic novel and songwriting. Beyond helping the girls with their writing, the pairs focus on college prep, empowerment, independence, confidence and making healthy choices in school, career and life. It’s pretty awesome.

I got involved as a mentor last August. Working with my mentee, who is a 16-year-old junior, has been unbelievably amazing and rewarding. I have had the privilege of doing my best to help her grow as a writer and as a confident young woman, and I have also been inspired and challenged by her. And, as an added bonus, the group has connected me to so many amazing women writers in all different fields and disciplines. It’s been a great experience in every way.

Which at long last, brings me to where I’m going with this post. I came to Girls Write Now because I was looking for a way to volunteer and, for lack of a better term, give back. It took me a while and a lot of research to pinpoint the right organization for me, but I am glad that I took the time to find the right fit. And that is what I encourage you to do – find your right fit. Think about what you care about and what you’re good at; combining them is the best, most powerful way to make an impact. For me, I knew that I wanted to help troubled or underserved teenage girls, and that I cared about – and was skilled at – writing. With GWN, I have been lucky enough to find the perfect match. Of course there are still (a lot) of times when I don’t have the answers, and feel like the kook I mentioned before – but I do know a thing or two about being an awkward teenage girl and using writing to get through the insanity of high school. And I am so glad that I’ve found a way to put that knowledge to good use.

There are a lot of great resources out there to help you find your volunteering or mentoring match. Web sites like www.serve.gov or volunteermatch.org can help connect you with the right organization. You can also check out your local community message boards for opportunities. Also, most cities have their own Craigslist.com, and each has a volunteering section – it can be hit or miss, but sometimes there’s a gem. In addition, lots of companies, especially big ones, are committed to social action. Talk to your public responsibility office or HR to see if there are ways to get involved. Finally, just try doing an internet search. You never know when or where the right volunteer or mentoring situation might pop up.

One last thing I’d like to mention…Girls Write Now will soon be accepting applications for new mentors and mentees. Find out more about getting involved and other ways you can support this amazing organization at girlswritenow.org.

Mildew Be Gone

March 16, 2010

Nothing like a day when your nanny calls in sick with the flu to remind you how close your life is teetering on the brink of catastrophe. Ahhh!

I wish I now could go into a recommendation of some great stress reliever, but I have yet to find one. So instead we’ll talk about Tilex. Why Tilex? Because there are many other bathroom cleaners out there. In fact, I use many of them on a regular basis. (Ok, full disclosure, my cleaning lady uses many of them on a regular basis. But still…) They do a fine job of keeping things clean. Until they don’t. And you start to see a little mildew starting to form on the caulk around the bathtub. Scrubbing Bubbles, Soft Soap — all a no go when it gets to this point. But Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover and a little bit of elbow grease takes it off in a few minutes flat. They say it removes 99.9% of household mold and mildew. That’s good enough for me! (And leaves one wondering what the heck that other .01% is. Ew.)

Yes, Green Team, there’s nothing eco-friendly about it. But open the window for some air and spray it on. Because I think it’s worth it for a clean bathroom, without black mildew creeping ever larger. That’s one member of the environment I can do without.

Yogurt: The Big Lie

We are constantly walking the fine line in our house between steering the kids toward good food choices and not wanting them to feel so deprived that they rebel by mainlining white sugar. One of those compromises is fruit-flavored yogurt, which Ken tends to buy them when they go to the supermarket together. (And yes, it’s organic.) Last night they were both sucking down cherry-flavored yogurt, and I remarked that I’d rather they have frozen yogurt, it probably has the same amount of sugar. To which Ken expressed his doubts. So I borrowed Austin’s yogurt cup to read the label, and I pulled some Ben and Jerry’s frozen yogurt out of the freezer, and lo and behold, the frozen yogurt has less grams of sugar than the fruit-flavored yogurt. I rest my case!

Seriously, it is something to think about if you monitor sugar intake at all. The best thing is to buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit to it. Otherwise, just know it should fall into the treat category.

Etc.

As I mentioned, our nanny is sick with the flu. Such a drag! This happens to be a busy week for us. My parents are coming to help us tomorrow, but after that, I don’t know what’s going to happen…pray for us.

We took Addison to the doctor this morning to have her cast removed. We schlep all the way over there, only to find out that the doctor is stuck in New Orleans. Really? Have you ever heard of the invention known as the phone? It would be great to use to call patients before they come to the office…so frustrating. Hopefully it will come off tomorrow, and all will be fine..

Hope the start of your week was less eventful!

Starbucks if you must…

March 15, 2010

I am not one to recommend Starbucks — I think it’s the root of a lot of financial evil for people who have a daily habit and spend way too much of their hard-earned money on coffee — but once in a while it’s a nice pick me up when you’re out and about. The other issue with the drinks there is that there are a lot of hidden calories in some of the treats, and before you know it you’ve consumed the equivalent of a small meal.

This morning we were headed out on a little road trip and I had a grande skinny vanilla latte. (I forgot to get it decaf and I don’t drink caffeine anymore, but that was my mistake, not theirs.) At 130 calories, it’s certainly reasonable, and the added vanilla means you don’t have to add any additional sweetener; it has just enough. (If you do the smaller tall it’s only 90 calories.) Yes, it’s just shy of $5, which is ridiculous, but as a once in a while reward in your day, I recommend it. Skip all the baked goods and take the skinny latte to go. Enjoy!

Lunch Bunch

We had a fun trip to Summit, New Jersey today, to see some friends. Den made a lovely lunch and I thought it was a great idea: make your own salads. She put out a bowl of basic salad ingredients (lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes), and then had smaller bowls of all kinds of things guests could put on top: mandarin oranges, grilled chicken (which she made fresh on the grill), pasta salad, pine nuts and feta cheese. Then there were different dressings to choose from, as well as cut up bread to enjoy along with it. Everyone got a big bowl and went to town. It was simple and delicious, which is always a good goal when entertaining.

Etc.

The rain has been really unbelievable. They said yesterday that in one day we got more rain than we usually get in a whole month. We were out with some friends and the walk between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the restaurant where we had lunch was like braving a monsoon. It was crazy!

I watched Gossip Girl, which hadn’t been on in months, and it was pretty bad, I must say. Ever since they left high school it has been a little lackluster. I’ll give it a couple more eppys and then I may have to hit delete from the DVR. Such a bummer — it was only a year or so ago that it was excellent.

Hope you had a good weekend!