Sleeping Beauty

September 30, 2010

On the day that Hurricane Earl was supposed to hit, we headed for Target. The storm turned out to be a big bust, but I did see that Target has a whole new line of Paul Frank stuff. It’s funny because I was wondering if it was all a one-time deal or if it was an ongoing line, and it seems as though it’s a long-term deal.

Like anything, you’ve got to check out the quality before you make the purchase. For example, we bought Addison an umbrella and it broke after one use. But the t-shirts are cute and I just bought her a backpack that seems just as sturdy as all of the other ones they sell. But the real star, I think, are the pajamas for women. They’re a thicker, soft cotton that gets better with each wash, the designs are cute (if you like Julius), and, best of all, the tops aren’t flimsy and see-through, so you can pack the pjs for a weekend at someone’s house and not worry that you’re providing free peep shows. Seems funny but honestly, it’s hard to find in a pajama!

I got the ones pictured here but they have a bevy of cute designs. In stores they sell separately; online you can get a set for $24.99. If you’re dorm-bound. There’s a cute pajama set that comes with a matching laundry bag, too. Check out the sleepwear line here.

Not Gleeking Out…Yet

Well, after being nagged forever by some of you out there that I must give Glee a go, I finally relented and DVRed the first episode of the season. The thing that tipped it, frankly, was that my son loved the opening of the Emmys and the Glee parody. So I figured he might like the show. He liked it, although at 6 I think most of it went over his head. I was very on the fence. Maybe I need to give it an episode or two more. I haven’t seen the Britney one they did this week yet. So the jury’s out on this one!

Etc.

There’s supposed to be a monsoon here tomorrow and I am not looking forward to it. I also have to travel for work, and I am hoping my train won’t be effected.

Since I am traveling, Family Favs will see you back here next week with more goodies!

Rock on…


Take the Plastic Promise

September 29, 2010

Guest Blogger Denielle inspires all of us to do a little something for our pal, Mother Earth. And given that Los Angeles is reaching 113 degrees in September and tornados are touching down in Brooklyn, something tells me we had better listen.

I am a straw person. I buy them in large boxes and use them in any drink I pour with ice. I find I am less slurpy that way.

However after a friend started a website called PlasticPromise.org with the aim of securing 1 million individual promises by December 31 to reduce plastic consumption in one’s everyday lives, I knew my straws had to go.

Or rather, I realize I need to start washing and reusing my straws because when I throw them away, they just end up in a large pile. They don’t decompose for a VERY long time and when they do, God knows what is going back into our soil and water supply.

Now, my friend is no “tree-hugger” in the uber-green definition of the phrase. He’s just a regular guy who was inspired to help make a difference.

So that’s what I’m asking readers of FamilyFavs to do too: Log on to PlasticPromise.org and make the promise.

Then bring a canvas bag to the store today. Put your afternoon snacking pretzels (or pretzel m&m’s) in a Tupperware that you already own instead of a Ziploc baggie. Put a piece of paper towel over your lunch in the microwave instead of plastic wrap. Bring a mug to the office for coffee instead of using/throwing away cups with plastic lids.

Make the PlasticPromise. Don’t feel guilty if you forget your stainless steel water canteen today. Bring it tomorrow and the next day. Do what you can and your small steps will add up to something big.

I promise.

In Praise of: The DVR

September 28, 2010

Believe me when I say I don’t want to pay another dime every month to my cable company. But one piece of technology that I think is totally worth the extra cash is our DVR.

For those of you not familiar the premise is this: you can choose all your favorite shows, set it to record first-run episodes only, and before you can say Mad Men you’ll have every episode at your fingertips, with the ability to forward through commercial breaks. Some people say it makes them watch more TV, since you end up with so much you want to watch. I actually find it quite efficient — I record only the precise things I want to make time for, and I slot them in precisely when I have time for them. It’s so civilized!

Plus I keep episodes of The Cat in the Hat, Dora and Curious George on my list, so that when the urge strikes my kids, there’s always something good available for them to watch. Movies from HBO wait their turn until we have some night that we actually have time to sit and watch. The DVR lets you be your own personal television programmer.

Our children will never know what it was like, rushing home to see the Brady Bunch at 5pm, or The Monkees at 5:30. Or that if your mom made you go to bed early and you missed an episode of Diff’rent Strokes, you really missed it! There were no takesies backsies, no DVDs, no On Demand, no iTunes, and definitely no DVR. It was, frankly, the Dark Age of Media.

The DVR is enightenment. It changes the way you watch television, and in my case lessens the dependency. Once it enters your life, there’s no turning back. And for all of that and more, that is why I write In Praise of: The DVR.

Etc.

I read this weekend all about the terrible drought that is wreaking havoc with the farms in upstate New York, and then today the heavens seem to have parted and unloaded inches upon inches of nonstop rain. Depressing! But I guess it’s helping to solve the drought we’ve been in. But it really starts to make people morose and cranky. And it’s supposed to be rainy again tomorrow…

I didn’t sleep well all weekend and then of course when I have to get up on a Monday I could’ve slept in fine.

Oh well!

This weekend capped off my 10 week Couch to 5k running program. By way of explanation, you have to take into account with this whole thing that I have been extremely busy at work, sometimes working well into the wee hours of the morning, we were on vacation where I really wanted to just veg and decompress, and with back to school and everything else it really has been quite bananas this month, especially. But I was so committed to this goal I had set and this program I was on that I never missed a day of running, through all of it. (I did have one week early on — I think it was the second week — where I got a nasty, nasty stomach virus and couldn’t get out of bed, so that did push me back one week. Other than that, it was ON.)

I should also say that I HATE RUNNING. I really do. I can make it interesting if I do a run/walk, high incline/low combo, but just to keep on running on the treadmill pretty much sucks. Give me the elliptical or the recumbent bike any day.

My trainer asked me if I stayed on the program because I was addicted to the running and I think I shocked him with my answer: it wasn’t the running at all. It was that I had set a goal and I was determined to meet it, and if I didn’t run it would set me back. So I stuck to it and kept going…and today was “race day”!

My husband was away this weekend but my gym has free childcare (!) that I had never used. I signed my kids up and brought them along, so determined was I to do this. I got them settled and managed to secure one of my more favorite treadmills. I brought my ipod, which made me a little nervous because I typically watch TV in the morning, but I thought music might be good. It ended up being all George Michael for the whole run…Freedom!

My time wasn’t great, but I did it. And not that I didn’t know this before, but it reminded me how much of a goal-oriented person I am. Seriously. And I suggest that to all of you, particularly for an exercise program. I went to the gym five days a week every single week before I started this program. But I never sweated more than when I was pushing myself to run farther each time. I like that I had a known end point and knew what I had to do to get there. It feels good to achieve!

So now what? I think I’m going to stick with the running. Though I don’t like it, my body is much stronger and my endurance is great. And my goal now is that I’ll run another 5k in 5 weeks or so, and see if I can best my time.

Etc.

My great friend Suzanne took me out for my birthday this weekend, which was so nice, and I celebrated both my birthday and my run with a hot fudge sundae for dessert. Sweeeeet! I was thinking I should take myself for a foot massage.

My allergies have been horrific this fall. it’s really bizarre. I never remember taking any sort of allergy medication in the fall, only spring, and this year I’m miserable without it.

A new week is almost here…Hope you all had a great weekend!

Lady TNT

September 24, 2010

Bisou bisou! (That was for all you Gossip Girl fans…)

Here’s Ken with the Single of the Week:

Lady Dynamite was a hot Brit Award-winning commodity a handful years ago. Then she became Ms. Dynamite. What resulted in this self-imposed demotion? Nothing more than an unpopular second album, a virtual disappearance from the mainstream music scene, popularity in eastern Europe (Belarus loves Dynamite!) and some possible soul-searching based on the tenets of some paperback best-seller. At least, as an English citizen, she remained outside of the grasp of the Alternative Minimum Tax. Fortunately for all of you suburban lovers of the UK garage/grime scene, Dynamite’s been spitting out some bangin’ singles over the past few years. Take a whiff of a couple winners here:

Etc.

I can’t believe how bad my allergies are! I don’t ever remember being so bothered in the fall. I guess fall is the new spring!

Have a great weekend — it’s my big 5k “race” and the end of my running program…wish me luck!!

The Great Facebook Debate

September 23, 2010

Forget the Facebook movie that’s coming out — our guest blogger Rebecca is having some drama of her own about the social networking site that seems to have everyone around the world in its grasp. For the record, I am an occasional user and definitely have a love/hate relationship with fb…let’s here what Rebecca has to say:

Facebook has taken over the way we communicate.  So that makes chatting on the old fashioned telephone, well, just plain old fashioned.  I like to categorize people into two groups, those who love fb and can’t live with out it, and those who use it occasionally and would probably be fine had it never entered their lives.

I’m an example of the occasional user.  I like it, but I have to be in the mood.  I can get into being tagged in the grade school pictures circa 1973-1974 from my elementary school in White Plains, NY.  It’s always fun to reminisce by looking at old pictures about your life.  Not so cool…receiving a request from a random friend that I had in 8th grade, whose name I can barely remember.  Am I obligated to respond?  Why am I on this thing?  Do I really need to connect with my 3rd grade classmates?  Or the au pair who lived with my family when I was 13 and my brother and sister were newborns?  Life was so much easier when people couldn’t find me.   Once they find me, I am compelled to get into a conversation with them (like I have time!), when I had been just fine forgetting that they had existed.

Then there are the people who can’t live without Facebook.  Age doesn’t matter in this category as they can be 12 or 45.  You know the type, you’re out to dinner with them and while they are talking to you they are wildly texting their fb friends.  What could they possibly be talking about all day???  These addicted Facebookers have 400 – 500 friends.  I love when my kids tell me they have that many friends.  When I ask them if they have met all 500 people they say, “Mom, you don’t have to meet them to have them as a friend, you’re so WEIRD.”

And how about those annoying people who feel compelled to alert you as to every move they make throughout the day?  Hey, I just got on the train and there is a guy picking his nose across the aisle…..Hey, don’t eat the roast beef at so-and-so restaurant, I just bit into a big vein….Hey, I just developed a giant zit on my forehead, anyone have a good remedy?  Come on, give me a break. Get a life!

Are the fb holdouts old fashioned?  Have we no choice in the end, but to conform to the age of new technology and leave our old habits of leaving messages for people on their voicemail behind?  What will become of the dinosaurs?  After all, even Betty White is on Facebook.  Family Favs readers, please give me your wise opinions on this most important topic.  I’m venturing a guess that most of you are in the avid Facebooker category.  Please let me know your most annoying Facebook experience.  It would be fun to hear your comments.

Remember, if you friend me, don’t be surprised if it takes me a couple of weeks to accept your friend request.  You would probably sooner get a phone call back from me then the acceptance on fb.

Got to go…I have to open a Twitter account.

Lettuce by Any Other Name

September 22, 2010

Arugula.

For a long time I never contemplated the difference between arugula and the rest of the lettuce family. Arugula, radicchio, endive…it was all the same to me.

But then I became enlightened. And now arugula has emerged as the clear favorite green in my house. Tastier than iceberg, fancier and more special than romaine, we keep a huge container in the fridge and whenever the urge for salad strike, bam! We toss a handful in a bowl with some Newman’s Own Parmesan Dressing and instantly have some delicious ruffage. It really takes all excuses out of “I’m too tired to make a salad tonight.”

And half a cup has all of two calories.

If I’m feeling really ambitious, I mix it with some halved cherry tomatoes and shaved parmesan cheese.

As with anything, the fresher the better. So arugula in a bag isn’t great. But Whole Foods sells a big container from the farm, or you can scoop it yourself from a bin. I’ve also gotten it at farmer’s markets straight from the farmer, and that is best of all.

Communication 101

Former President Bill Clinton was on Letterman last night and once again he reminds us how poorly our current leaders communicate with the American people. He made the case for why we should be investing in clean energy in about 3 minutes, and I have yet to hear anyone currently in office coherently explain the need. Seriously. He really has a gift to distill complicated topics into explanations that the average American can comprehend and get behind. Somebody give this guy a consulting gig. My fav part was that after Clinton gave this incredibly persuasive, well thought out, impassioned argument, Letterman goes, “Come back when you’ve given all of this a little thought.”

Etc.

Having two kids in school now has already confused me. There was a permission trip for a field trip on the front hall table and I thought it was for my daughter, but it was for my son. Same with the Scholastic book order form. I guess we need a better system. I did make my spankin’ new chart for the kitchen of the kids’ schedule with all of their after school activities!

The weather has been spectacular. I love this sleeping weather. Tomorrow is supposed to get hot again, which is kind of a bummer. But we’ll enjoy wearing our summer clothes for a little while longer…

Blue Ribbon Chili

September 21, 2010

Our guest blogger Michelle tastes the sweet smell of success:

I can’t believe I won my first cooking contest!

I am officially the first Chili Cook-Off Champion at our pool and tennis club – I have a trophy and name on a plaque in the clubhouse to prove it. 😉

I won fair and square…kind of…

There were three judges – the club’s head chef, a chef from Mexico City, and a board member of the club who also happens to be a very good friend of mine.  He is a foodie, so I may have implied that if he voted for me he would come home one day to find a fine slab of prosciutto on his back steps.  I was also the only contestant to serve my award-winning chili with a bottle of cold Corona beer.   And finally, I feel the need to confess that there were only four other contestants, all of whom (like me) are primarily Irish (as a “people,” we aren’t exactly known for culinary talents).

Honestly, I thought all of the chilis served were delicious and very different, which is one of the wonderful things about chili.  One was a vegetarian chili, which normally wouldn’t be my first choice, but this one was very tasty and had a nice texture.  Another was made from meat smoked for 3 days.  I thought it was very good, but I heard a lot of people mention that they didn’t like the smoky taste.

Chili is never the same twice.  In fact, I’ve never made the same recipe twice.  I’ll tweak a recipe based on a guest’s preferences, what is in my pantry, or which meat is on sale at the grocery store.  As well, each chili will taste different depending on how long it’s been cooked.

When I have the time, I use my slow-cooker — below is the recipe I made for last Sunday’s Championship, and which is now, officially, “award winning.”

Award-Winning Chili

A little Olive Oil

½ Vidalia onion, chopped

1 medium sized carrot, grated

2 jalapeños, seeds removed and chopped

4 garlic cloves chopped

2 ½ – 3 pounds of ground turkey thigh meat

3 tablespoons of chili powder

3 teaspoons of cumin

14.5 oz can of organic diced tomatoes, no salt

14.5 oz can of Muir Glen organic fire roasted diced tomatoes with chipotle peppers

15 oz can of low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed well

½ of a can of low sodium Red Kidney beans, drained and rinsed well

1 ½ cups of Trader Joes frozen roasted corn, microwaved according to the package directions

Heat olive oil in large fry pan that has a top.  (Mine is 12 inches by 3 inches high.)  Add onion, carrots, jalapenos and garlic.  Cook for a minute or two.  Add ground turkey, a little kosher salt, and black pepper.  Cook until browned.  Mix in chili powder and cumin.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add both cans of tomatoes, a can of water, beans and corn.  Cover and simmer on low heat for at least 1 hour.  Add more water if it gets dry.  You can serve the chili at this point in time.

For the contest, I made the chili on a Friday and reheated it in a slow-cooker on warm for about three hours.  It’s best when made at least one day in advance.  The longer you cook it the better it tastes.  Serve with grated cheddar cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, and tortilla chips.  Oh yea, and plenty of Mexican beer.

Enjoy!

Ouch

September 20, 2010

The only thing more annoying than getting blisters from some new shoes is getting blisters from shoes you have had forever. It’s like an old friend screwing you over.

Used to be that I would throw a band-aid on and grin and bear the inevitable pain that would happen for another week or so, no matter what other shoes I put on. But then the geniuses at Band-Aid’s labs came up with these Advanced Healing Blister cushions. Better than a band-aid, they cushion the area and take the pressure off, allowing the wound to heal and relieving any friction-based pain. They really are essential to have in the house in case you end up tearing your heel up. They are a bit pricey (I paid $5.99 for 6 at Duane Reade; most places outside of NYC sell them for $4.99), but I find they’re the only things that actually work.

Two things to note: they say they last 7x longer than regular band-aids. I do not find this to be true — I get a day out of them. I have also tried the store brand of these blister adhesives and did not find them to be comparable.

They make them in two sizes: for your heel and for your fingers and toes. I tend to only get blisters on my heels so those are the ones I keep stocked.

We All Need Some Sanity Sometimes

I just had to laugh when I saw that Jon Stewart was having a “Rally to Restore Sanity” on the Mall in Washington, DC on October 30th. The Million Moderate March is, as Stewart put it, “intended to spread the timeless message, ‘Take it down a notch for America.'” Finally, a rally for people who don’t have time to go to rallies!! You can get what little details there are so far here. Once again I applaud the genius of The Daily Show for shining a light on the craziness that is our political news cycle. And let’s not forget Stephen Colbert’s competing rally the same day, the rally to “Keep Fear Alive.” Hilarious.

Etc.

A stunning weekend, weather-wise, here in NYC, and an equally fantabulous birthday weekend full of treats large and small. One of my favorite gifts I received was that after two years of having an ipod sit unused, my husband ripped every single CD I own and set the whole thing up for me. That is love, I tell you. And I am psyched to have it locked and loaded with all my tunes. He even made a “My Super Favorite Wife” playlist.

Hope you all had a great weekend!!

So What’s New?

September 17, 2010

Maybe it’s the back to school in me, but Fall always means “new” in my head. New clothes, new experiences, new fun…so I thought I’d take a post and highlight some of the “new” I’m looking forward to…

Hill Country does chicken

Boardwalk Empire on HBO. I haven’t decided if I’m committing, but I’ve heard great things. With Martin Scorsese and Steve Buscemi involved, it can’t be bad, really…Hill Country Chicken! The geniuses behind Hill Country Barbecue have gone and launched Hill Country Chicken, done up to look like a 50s country kitchen and serving up fried chicken and pie. They even went and did a skinless version of the fried chicken with cracker crumb crust. So healthy! (Broadway and 25th Street)…the boys behind The Smith are heading north to midtown for an as yet unnamed venture, which I will definitely check out because I hit The Smith with some friends last night and it is definitely a good spot to chill — good food, varied menu, great beers on draft and reasonable prices (55 Third Avenue)…What’s that you say? You’re psyched for Robbie Williams‘ greatest hits to come out in October? Me too! In and Out of Consciousness (so cheeky that Robbie!) features a new single that’s a duet with his former Take That bandmate Gary Barlow. The song, Shame, is pretty good, but it’s more fascinating to watch two sworn enemies sing and make up. (Check out the video evidence here.) Robbie’s 39 track masterpiece hits

So loving Tom Binns

stores October 11th…Tom Binns jewelry is expensive. Yes, that’s true. But it is also v. cool, and their store is down the street from my old apartment on Perry Street. So I will be checking out their latest collection before MObama does (41 Perry)…My fav sweater spot is Vince. You can get them at Bloomingdale’s but I like their freestanding store in the Meatpacking district. There’s something chic and downtown about it, and the sales help is actually helpful. Last time I was there they helped me find the perfect off the shoulder cashmere sweater, knit on the bias to make it a little off and cooler than your average top. I can’t wait for the weather to get a little cooler so I can wear it! As an added bonus, after you shop you can hit the Standard Grill across the street for an al fresco pick me up…

That should get you started! Stay tuned for part 2 sometime soon…

Single of the Week

My very favorite super sexy wonderful husband has a birthday tomorrow…but tonight he’s here with some music for us all:

This latest effort from Kanye West was supposed to be the All-Star Laff-A-Lympics of rap, bringing a hip-hop braintrust together all in one place, plus falsetto folk singer Bon Iver (whose contribution is some oddball Auto-Tuned droning). The great beat is made even better with Family Fav fave Nicki Minaj, whose verse is frenzied, freaky and up from the deep depths of her big-time booty.

Download a free mp3 of this rap quintet here.

Etc.

The freakiest storm hit NYC today. I was in a conference room at work overlooking the Hudson and some serious dark clouds enveloped the island. It shut down the Long Island Railroad as well as some subway service. The evening commute was a mess. Tornadoes hit Brooklyn. It was bizarre — like Armageddon. The whole thing was like 15 minutes but you can’t imagine the damage around town. And now it’s calm, like nothing happened.

Hope the weekend features calmer skies…