Grab Some Popcorn

July 30, 2010

Went to see a great movie tonight: The Kids Are All Right. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a lesbian couple who used a sperm donor and have 2 now teenage kids together. When their daughter turns 18, she finds and meets up with the sperm donor, played by Mark Ruffalo, and then the fun begins. It’s very well written, cast and acted. And it’s beautifully shot — there’s something very sensual about the movie with the wine, fresh produce and sex. And Mark Ruffalo.

I also appreciated seeing Annette Bening’s real, aging face onscreen. In a world where everyone is lifted, airbrushed and botoxed within an inch of their lives, it’s so refreshing to see what 50 really looks like.

There aren’t too many flicks that get me to want to fork over $13, but this was well done. Tori and I saw it together and we both gave it a thumbs up — even though we had some crazy guy sitting behind us in the theater who snorted every five minutes. Seriously.

And did I mention Mark Ruffalo?

I Got the Music In Me

Here’s Ken with the Single of the Week:

I caught a whiff of this week’s groove-a-licious single – Breakbot’s “Baby I’m Yours” – from a couple of sources (one being a tweet from Friend of Family Favs Mia). The dude is French and looks like Jesus, so technically, I shouldn’t like him. But he does do a nice single that loosens the hips and lightens the feet. It’s like Jamiroquai come back from the dead.

Give it a listen here.

What ever happened to Jamiroquai? He’s made a nice living for himself peddling Cup of Noodle in Japan:

Etc.

You probably thought that last part was a joke, but no, he’s shilling for Cup of Noodles!! Everyone’s got to make a buck, people. Except apparently Ellen DeGeneres, who apparently has let American Idol after one season. I don’t really watch that show anymore, but there is so much turmoil going on with it. Fox better hope none of it kills their golden goose.

We are off to the mountains with some friends this weekend. Clean air, lots of wine, good friends and food…all we need is Mark Ruffalo and we’ll be all set! 🙂

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She’s Packing

July 29, 2010

Oh, the joys of packing. When it’s times any multiplier more than 1, it’s even more fun. I am actually a pretty efficient packer (I can do a week in Europe on a small carry on — fancy dinner outfits included!), but ever since I had kids, every trip I always forget one thing. Sometimes it’s small, and sometimes Addison has no underwear. (Luckily on this last trip I packed extra for her brother — so she spent her days in too big Superman briefs.) Guest blogger Denielle breaks it down for us on the eve of her trip to the beach:

I have this issue when it comes to packing. Even if I am only traveling 3 hours by car, I pack like I am going to a remote corner of the earth, stripped of modern conveniences! And packing with kids multiplies my insanity ten-fold!

In reality, I am going with my family to a house on the Jersey Shore next week. Said house has a washer/dryer and internet access. My local grocery store has a location there, so even my “frequent shopper” card will work. Yet why do I feel like a total maniac and dread the idea of packing so intensely?

I even have a list on my computer entitled PACKING LIST. Because, let’s be honest, the only things that vary when you travel is (1) amount of clothes depending on how long the vacation is, and (2) weight of clothes – e.g. you don’t bring tank tops on a ski vacation. My list is comprehensive, with options for both. It includes toiletries, medicines and chargers for electronics. If I check everything on the list, I should be fine. But in the back of my mind, there’s always some bizarre scenario I need to prepare for!

And with kids, there’s always some toy or feeding product I will inevitably forget and desperately need!

The other thing that bugs me about packing is luggage. My husband and I were the last 2 humans on earth to invest in luggage with wheels, and even now that we have roll-y bags, they are never the perfect size.  I always revert back to the free duffel bag I got at Andrew’s college reunion in 2005.

Hopefully at the end of the day, we will survive with some bathing suits, sunscreen, shovels and pails….And hats, and sunglasses, and a camera…oh, and some good après sun body lotion and Motrin and Tylenol and Benedryl and Zyrtec and band-aids…UGHHHHHHHH!

Dog Days

July 28, 2010

It’s almost August, which means only about a month to go to get your summer lovin’ on…so here are some random tips for getting the most out of the rest:

Less is More. When the thermometer is pushing 100, the last thing you want is your face sliding off. Lighten your load! Stick to a bare minimum of moisturizer with sunscreen, concealer, a little powder and then a nice lip gloss. Your skin will breathe, and you can feel free to shvitz without a whole lotta color coming off.

Comfort is King. Wear comfortable, light clothing, preferably in natural fibers like cotton that can breathe. Jeans are way too heavy and hot. Khakis will keep you cooler, especially you men out there. And women, this is the time to break out those cute sleeveless shifts you never wear.

Hydrate like a Pro. Drink water, of course, but there are so many other ways to make sure you stay hydrated. All kinds of fruits are in season, so pack one as a snack wherever you go. Right now peaches and plums are ripe and ready! And keep a water bottle with you if you’re out about. Chances are you’ll need a sip and to buy a little bottle of water is a rip off.

Keep Your Mouth Shut

When it gets really hot, I don’t want to to turn on the oven or to cook anything complicated. Look for recipes that feature loads of vegetables or fruits, and pair them with simple stovetop main courses. Pasta salads, cold soups and fancy sandwiches all work well.

Take it Inside

The sun is shining and you feel pressured to get out and do something. Don’t! If it’s really that hot, you’ll be safer staying in until it cools down a bit. Use the day to get things done you’ve had on your list forever.

Just about nobody looks good in a maxi dress. Remember that, Jessica Simpson!

RIP/HELLO

The economy continues to take a toll on some truly tasty restaurants. Goodbye Bellavitae. But hello to the Artichoke pizza empire, who’s opening a separate shop on 17th and 10th Avenue.

Etc.

Addison continues to rise earlier and earlier — and no matter what time it is (5:45am!), she insists it’s 7am on the clock in her room.

Which means I’m tired! Hope you’re having a great week.

Hair Apparent

July 27, 2010

Even Down Under, they’ve got hair issues. Guest blogger Liz tackles some of them here:

Having great hair, or hair that you are happy with, can make or break your day.  When my haircut is just not right, it does affect how I feel.  When I am thrilled with my hair, I have an extra bounce in my step and I don’t worry about my outfit and make-up as much.  When my hair is off, everything else must be perfect and suddenly, it is adding stress to my day.

So, it is critical to find an amazing stylist, the right tools and hair products.  Moving to Australia, of course, forced me to find a new stylist.  I got a recommendation for a stylist with a good reputation – stylist to the “stars” as he was billed.  He wasn’t New York expensive, so I figured I’d give it a whirl.  I generally like to have a new person give it a go with their own ideas in hopes of being transformed into a goddess.

The first cut was a bit of a departure for me – a younger, longer sexier and more care-free look.  Not sure that it was me, I decided to try it for a while. It is kind of like dating – you’ve been set up with the perfect person and are trying to make it work, but you just can’t.  I really wanted bangs (or fringe as they call it here). He blatantly ignored me and I realized that I am just not fond of my aging forehead and not being listened to.

My care-free, younger, sexier look turned out not to be care-free at all – I was spending way too much time on my hair every day, trying new products all of the time, constantly using the mirror to see how the back of my head looked.  It was downright exhausting!

Finally, I made the commitment to find someone else.  Why is it that you feel some kind of strange loyalty to a hairstylist when you are having aggravation every single day?

I found someone with similar hair and a drop dead gorgeous cut and went to her stylist immediately.  I’ve had two brilliant cuts and feel great about my hair and myself everyday.

Through this journey, I’ve realized that I don’t like using a hair dryer.  I’ve got thick hair and frankly, my arms get tired, but I’ve made two important discoveries along the way:

L’Occitaine Shine Mask with 5 Essential Oils – Repairing

This product is like a miracle for my hair.  Will make your hair soft and give it brilliant shine.  Definitely worth the $29.00 and will last for a year or two.

Flat Iron

Buy the best one that you can.  I’ve got the Corioliss Pro Fix that has ceramic swivel plates and heats up to a certain temperature.

If you are feeling so-so about your haircut, I recommend ditching your stylist and starting the search for someone new. You won’t regret it!

It seems all anyone wants to talk about is the heat, so I won’t even mention it!!

Chances are, you’ve got an abundance of summer squash if you subscribe to a CSA, or you can pick it up for next to nothing at the farmer’s market. Apparently it grows well in heat and this year has been…don’t even speak of it. Today I made 2 delicious recipes featuring zucchini. I thought I’d share this yogurt zucchini bread with walnuts, because it’s tasty and freezeable. I modified it a little from Food and Wine. So even if you don’t want it now, you can make it and freeze it for enjoyment at a later date. Like when you actually might want to have hot coffee again. My son gave it his thumbs up when he pronounced, “You can’t even taste the zucchini!”

Another tip I read is that you can grate zucchini and freeze it for use later. I had no idea. I would just save it in batches of 1 cup so you can easily defrost the amount you need when you go to use it. I did know you can chop and freeze peppers, which I’ve been doing.

Yogurt-Zucchini Bread with Walnuts

Ingredients:

1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup and 2 tbsp sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup plain fat free Greek yogurt

1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 medium-sized zucchini)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the walnut halves in a pan and toast in the oven for about 8 minutes. (You’ll know they’re done when they start to smell toasted.) Grease a 9 x 4 and 1/2 inch loaf pan. When the walnuts are done, put on a cutting board and coarsely chop them.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, vegetable oil and fat free yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Free Theater

Each summer, Theatreworks USA comes to the Lucille Lortel Theater in the Village and puts on free theater for kids. There aren’t many things that are actually free, but this is really, truly, absolutely free and thoroughly enjoyable. Last year they put on Click Clack Moo, this year they tackle the U.S. government with We The People: America Rocks. It’s like School House Rock, with songs about and by the Founding Fathers, all through the frame of a 14 year old girl running for student council president. They say the show is for 8 and up. That’s probably true to understand all of the references, but Austin at 6 enjoyed it and there were other younger kids there. It’s an hour show, and they start giving out tickets an hour before showtime. We got there about 15 minutes before they started giving out tix and we got 2, no problem. For free, you can’t beat it! For showtimes and more info, click here.

Beauty Tip

I went to see my eyebrow guru Janna at Sothys a week or so ago, and she informed me that thicker eyebrows are in. So stop plucking now! It’s really more about shaping than thinning them out. Which means less maintenance. Hooray!

Etc.

Fun weekend — just so happy everyone was healthy. The kids had a scavenger hunt at the Museum of Modern Art, which we all enjoyed. We beat the heat at the mall and Target. My friend Austie was here from San Fran and we had a blast catching up. Nothing better than old friends!

Today I slept til 10:30 (!) and had a lovely afternoon with Austin at the theater and a nice diner lunch. I’m not sure why but they’ve been giving out free treats from trucks in front of the Coach store on Bleecker all weekend long. Friday I had a scoop of mint chocolate chip Van Leeuwen ice cream. It was like some sort of mirage in the crazy heat. Today the kids got flower and heart cookies with sprinkles on them. Thanks Coach! Almost makes me want to buy another bag.

Hopefully this rain is cooling everything off a bit — I’m actually cooking to celebrate.

Have a great week!

Maddeningly Genius

July 23, 2010

Do I live in Singapore or NYC??? I’m always hot, I’m always shvitzing, and I really have had enough of the heat and humidity…and it’s not even August! Last year we apparently didn’t have a single day over 90 in June and July. This year, we’re already in the double digits on them. Enough is enough.

Even Barbie had gone MAD...

Well, this weekend my favorite show on television returns: Mad Men on AMC. I know I have made fans of many of you, so for you, this is a reminder that Sunday night the new season begins. For those of you who have been holding out, get it together and get on this bandwagon. Seriously. It’s so well scripted, acted, filmed, staged…top, top-notch.

If you’re in New York City on Sunday night, dress up in your 60s finest and head on over to Times Square at 7pm for trivia and a costume contest AND the world premiere of the first episode of season 4 at 9pm, a full hour before the rest of the world will see it on TV. Rumor has it Betty Draper (January Jones) and Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) will be there in person to hang with the throngs.

No matter where you are Sunday night, make time to kick back and enjoy the pure artistry that goes into making such a brilliant show.

Quite Possibly the Worst Single of the Week Ever

Here’s Ken:

This could have been the 5-page write-up. I could have spoken to the song’s lyrics as an advertorial for Ayn Rand’s principals of objectivism. I could have explained the multiple time shifts, with the verse starting off in 6/4, 8/4, 6/4/, 7/4. But there will be many romantic restaurants with many willing ladies with whom I can share the merits of Rush’s “Freewill.” For this week’s single, I will spare you the multilayered thesis. I will cut out the strident sing-song of Geddy Lee (son of Holocaust survivors!). And I will tell you to go to 3:00 of the video clip, where the Canadian trio really f*ing break it down. Previous to this section, the three instruments play in unison, and the simple song structure reinforces the message of the simple individual resigned to being fate’s victim. The 3:00 point starts a solo layered on top of a solo on top of another solo – supreme intricacy, which culminates into the denouement, where Geddy – at his shrillest – sings about the complexity of the human condition. I’m pretty certain I’ve listened to this song more times than I’ve told my children that I’ve loved them. I cannot be a good father, and a good Rush fan. Whom will I chose?

Etc.

It’s supposed to be 96 and humid on Saturday. So you know what that means? I’m going to put my kids in the car, drive across the Hudson and shop in the over-air-conditioned splendor that is Target for about 6 hours. Ha ha. I will ply them with popcorn and icees to keep them happy.

Whatever the temperature, so glad the weekend is here. Nice to just chill. Enjoy!

Get Carded

July 22, 2010

When I read our guest blogger Tori’s latest post, I had to laugh because the most prolific library users in our house are the kids! Addison recently put a hold on Goldilicious and pried it out of some poor little girl’s disappointed hands, and Austin joined the summer reading program and just picked out a dinosaur for his early efforts. So they give Tori’s blog post a thumbs-up, kid-approval:

After nearly eight and half years in NYC, I did something that I’d been thinking about, talking about and promising myself I’d do since the very beginning. Nope, I didn’t get a “BRKLYN GRL 4EVAZZ” tramp stamp… I got a library card.

The excuse I most often pulled out when rationalizing why I still didn’t have a card was the classic, “but it’s always closed!” But last Friday I had a half day at work, and as I walked down 4th Avenue in Brooklyn at around 3pm, I noticed that the Pacific branch was, in fact, open.

I can’t speak for other branches, but the Pacific branch is, honestly, pretty rundown. But despite what it lacked in glamor, it had that
familiar smell unique to all libraries everywhere, and it immediately brought back memories of poking around in my hometown biblioteca as a book-obsessed child. Nerd alert!

Anyway, back to present day. I was a little unsure of how the whole thing worked — I hadn’t been in a library since something like 2001. But the staff couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful (and stylish, I might add — the reference desk girl was super hip.) They helped me navigate signing up for a card and showed me how to use the online card catalog (which is great, by the way), so the process was quick and painless. I was concerned I’d have to show 19 pieces of ID, but in the end all I needed was my license and proof of address — and then BLAM! I was an official member of the Brooklyn Public Library.

And it’s awesome! I kept waiting for the circ dude to tell me I had to pay a sign-up fee or something, but nope! That’s part of the beauty of the library! It’s still free — you know, it just might be the last free thing around. And while my branch is really small and has a pretty slim selection, I was immediately able to put a book on order for delivery. (Mary Karr’s “Cherry.” I just finished her latest memoir, “Lit” and read her first one, “The Liars’ Club,” a few years ago. They’re gritty, no-holds-barred accounts of her rough childhood in Texas (Liars’ Club), and her later years as a rock-bottom drunk (Lit), and they’re astoundingly good. Pick them up AT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY!!) I am told that I’ll receive an e-mail when it arrives, or I can check by logging into my library account. So cool!

In addition to being a peerless source for books, movies and who knows what else (I’m still getting to know what’s available), I was also
really happy to see a lot of community members — adults and children — using the computers, reading and chatting (quietly, of course) with their neighbors.

So, after all this time, I am ecstatic to finally be a card-carrying member of the library, and I’m really looking forward to finding out
what more it has to offer. If you’re not a member of your library, don’t be a jerk like me — join today!

Dear Old Navy: No one wants a shirt that says “Old Navy.”

I don’t understand why they continue to make these things, and then mark them down to $4. Perhaps they are on a quest to fill landfills with unwanted clothing. But what do I know…

We can't believe the selection either...

One thing I do know: the new Trader Joe’s on Sixth Avenue is FANTASTIC. Seriously. 16,000 square feet. Wide aisles. Lots and lots of stock, all divided into intuitive areas where you can actually browse, friendly and helpful sales staff, and, most importantly, 25 checkout lines!! Brilliant, really.

And it is cheaper. I did a casual peruse of my bill and informed Ken that I had saved almost $30 on a $112 bill from what I would have spent at Whole Foods. $30 per week is real money! In a few months I’ll have enough to buy…some other Marc by Marc Jacobs bag I have my eye on…

But I digress.

If you are in the city, check it out. (Or don’t and keep it blissfully uncrowded.) But even if you can’t check out this one, I thought it was a good opportunity to discuss some of my favorite things from Trader Joe’s:

Spices: They have all sorts of spices, and I like that they come with their own disposable grinders. Every turn provides fresh lemon pepper (or whatever you choose) and keeps it a few steps above any other store bought spice.

Cheese and Peanut Butter Crackers: My kids love these, and I like that they don’t have any of the junk (like hydrogenated oils) that some other brands have. I go back and forth, but right now I am partial to the cheese crackers!

Frozen Mini Chicken Tacos: Another kid favorite. In fact, last week my daughter told her nanny that she loved tacos. And my nanny said, “Oh, I can make you tacos. I take some garlic…” and proceeded to tell Addison how she makes tacos from scratch. Without missing a beat, my 3 year old said, “My mom doesn’t make them like that. She sprays the pan and puts the tacos on and cooks them in the oven. And they’re really good!”

Frozen Dumplings: We’re partial to the chicken or shrimp. Tasty Asian wontons that my son likes to take for lunch. And I sometimes like them for lunch too! They cook quick in the microwave, taste fresh and with a little dot of soy sauce…delish!

White Bean Hummos: I’m not sure why this is so good, but it is. Great with mini whole wheat pitas or baby carrots. I guess it’s the white bean, but something takes it above and beyond regular hummos. When I was checking out, the woman was like, “This stuff is SO good.” when she rang up the hummos. So we all agree!

I could go on but that gives you a good start. Believe me, once you get started there, you’ll find your own deliciousness. I have had some bummer items (Light Pink Lemonade? Blecch.) and I have put down things because they contain shady ingredients. So read the labels — it’s not like Whole Foods where things have been pre-screened for hydrogenated oils, etc. I guess their mantra is Foods of the World, hence Trader Jose’s and Trader Giotto’s. I find it to be great for frozen prepared foods that actually taste good and can get a busy mom and family through the week in a fully-fed, semi-healthy way. Maybe that should be their new tagline!!

The new Trader Joe’s in Chelsea is open 8am – 10pm daily.

Etc.

You may have noticed there was no posting Sunday night. That was because I was bedridden with one of the nastiest stomach bugs I have had in my life. I will spare you the details but it went through my house and left its mark on all of us in some horrific way. I used my Lamaze breathing from childbirth to get me through the stomach pains. AWFUL!

Yesterday I was still weak and woozy, but now I seem to be back.

Hope you’re well!

Summer gives lots of good dining options, particularly if you have a grill. (I should take this moment to point out that Bret scooped the Times by a year on his beer can chicken right in these very pages. Check out the Times article here. And then read Bret’s post here.) Anyway, everyone knows that tasty meat on the grill means one thing: marinade. Here our own guest blogger Michelle lets us in on 2 different marinade options. Yum!:

I love making my own marinades, but sometimes I just don’t have the extra 5 minutes.  If you do buy, I recommend reading the ingredients.  If the first ingredients are water, or high fructose corn syrup, or salt, I wouldn’t buy it.

I recently found a yummy Korean Soy Ginger Marinade at Stew Leonard’s for $5.99.  If you can’t get to Stew’s, you can buy it online here.  I chose this one in honor of my Korean nephews.  It’s made with real ingredients and is very delicious.  I marinaded boneless skinless chicken thighs all day.  I grilled them on a low heat (350 degrees) for 11 minutes on each side.  They melted in your mouth and the kids loved them too!

If you do have the extra time, below is my favorite London Broil marinade from Bon Appetit magazine.  I’m sure it would work well on any steak.  One of the great things about this recipe is that I have all of the ingredients on hand.

  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup olive oil

Combine the above ingredients for a 2 – 2 ½ pound London Broil.  Put London broil in a large resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over it.  Seal bag, pressing out excess air, and set in a shallow dish.  Marinate meat, chilled, turning bag once or twice, overnight.

Grill meat, marinade discarded, on an oiled rack set about 4 inches over glowing coals, turning each once, 9 to 10 minutes on each side, or until it registers 135°F. to 140°F. on a meat thermometer for medium-rare meat. (Alternatively, meat may be broiled.) Transfer meat to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes. Cut meat diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Happy cooking and eating!

It’s the end of the week already…yippee!!

To finish us off, first here’s Ken with the Single of the Week:

Listening to this week’s single is a bit like meeting me. At first, you may think it’s a little weird, then it becomes somewhat interesting. Yet, taken as a whole, it’s something that most people will tend to stay away from. I, however, think it’s pretty freaking cool.

Watch it here.

Note that in this week’s issue of New York magazine, they pick 4 bands not to miss at the Governors Island Hard NYC festival. Two of them – Sleigh Bells and Die Antwoord – are former singles of the week. Check it out here.

And, we have guest blogger Rebecca with an update on her summer so far…

My summer is off to a great start. I just signed another listing and I am waiting to hear if I am getting another one tomorrow.  I worked with this particular couple in 2007.  You know you’re doing well when a client remembers working with you and comes back again. My plan for this past week had been to be in the Hamptons.  I was all set to write about the latest celeb sighting, or how I had drinks at the new hotspot, The Surf, in Montauk.  But none of that happened.  The closest I got was my husband overhearing someone at the beach say they spotted SJP’s babysitter with one of her kids.  Sooooo close!  I think I spent the better part of my week on the LIE in traffic running from signing listings to the beach to cool off.

My son starts at a sports camp this week.  I am counting the minutes till drop off.  My girls are at sleep-away, so I only have one kid to cater to.  I was telling my son, how great camp is going to be and he’ll be there with his latest best friend, Lucas.  He said, “Mom I don’t want to go to camp with him.”  “Why?” I asked. His reply cracked me up and made me realize how something so small can be so major when you’re six. “The last time I saw him, he said, ‘what the heck’, to me.”  I felt bad for him, and told him he would find a new best friend at camp and there were no new best friends to be found playing Legos in your room, by yourself. I haven’t heard any complaints from him since.

On Sundays one of my favorite TV shows is on.  It’s CBS Sunday Morning.  They have great reporting on some weekly current events, as well as in depth interviews on various topics.  Whether it’s a celebrity profile or how push-pin art came to be, they make it so interesting.  On Sundays when I wake up I can’t decide if I should read the Times first or watch Sunday Morning.  It’s a real a problem.