Shopping for Good

October 29, 2010

If this rumor is true, this is kind of incredible. Apparently, next fall Nordstrom is planning on opening an 11,100 square foot store on the first 2 floors of 350 West Broadway in Chelsea. Coming on the heels of them opening opening a Nordstrom Rack in Union Square (which I have yet to check out), this would be news. But here’s where the story really gets interesting: all earnings from this new store would go to non-profits.

Wow! I mean, would it even be a contest if you were buying, say, a Vince sweater and part of your money spent was going to help someone vs. going to Bloomingdale’s bottom line? This would apparently be the first venture of this kind for the company and there’s no info on what kind of apparel it will sell. But color me intrigued!!

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken:

The New York Times had a multimedia piece recently about centenarians and what it’s like to live to 100. And what do people over 100 typically die off? You guessed it – knife fights! A little get-together in an assisted living facility turns into a couple of drinks, some painkillers and the single of the week on the stereo. Good times can go bad real quick for the silver-maned set. Check out what they typically groove to during their last few minutes of life:

Etc.

Oh, here comes Halloween. Are you ready? I feel like this holiday has become such a bigger deal — by the time the actual day comes around, I am tapped out. But I will rally!!

Have a good one — lots of candy to all!

Soup for You

October 28, 2010

Our guest blogger Liz brings us some hearty Fall recipes…

Although I am writing to you from Melbourne, Australia, and the seasons are reversed, I did want to share one of my all time favorite fall/winter recipes with you. The recipe is simple, healthy, delicious and comforting.  This is something you can learn easily and then you won’t have to rely on a recipe.

Chickpea and Leek Soup – serves 4 (Cooking Time – 10 minutes active, 40 minutes total)

1 rotisserie chicken – shred half of it

1 can chickpeas

3-4 leeks

1 tall carton of your favorite chicken stock – low sodium

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

water

salt and pepper to taste

butter and olive oil

Cut leeks lengthwise into 5 strips, still attached to root, rinse, then cut crosswise. The size will result in small chopped pieces. Sauté in olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan until soft and translucent – five to ten minutes. Rinse and drain chickpeas.

Add half the stock (should cover leeks and chickpeas) and all of the chickpeas, simmer for 20 minutes. Using a hand blender, puree 1/2 the mixture, leave the other half chunky. Add shredded chicken, add more stock, bring back to a simmer.

Consistency should be somewhat brothy and chunky, not too thick. Add stock or water to get desired consistency. Incorporate 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Then add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in bowls with crusty bread on the side with another spoonful of parmesan on top of the soup.

I have fallen in love with this dish and my kids and husband are crazy for it as well.  Make enough for leftovers, it is great the next day!

Apple Sauce

Organic applesauce is expensive, but it is so easy to make. Kids love it with dinner and in their lunch.

Simply cut up apples, peeled or not peeled and sauté in a little water until soft, add a squeeze of lemon juice.  Add cinnamon if you like.  Allow to cool, then store in refrigerator and freezer, if making a large batch.

They say that much of the apple’s nutrition is in the skin, so I say, try a batch with the skin on and see how you like it!

D-lightful

October 27, 2010

If you’re at all like me, you’re pretty much always tired, and you’ve always thought that unless you’re some kind of hermit, you get enough vitamin D from regular exposure to the sun.

Well, it seems like just as everyone suddenly had reflux a few years ago, now we come to find that everyone is vitamin D deficient. Check out this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer here. Apparently in the 1920s when they started to fortify children’s cereal with vitamin D, rickets disappeared. They go on to say:

“Over the last few decades, scientists have discovered that Vitamin D – technically not a nutrient at all but a hormone – regulates about 2,000 genes in different ways.

It plays a role in cell growth and death, and so has been linked to numerous cancers. It affects blood vessels, connecting it to high blood pressure and heart attacks. Its involvement with inflammation and the immune system brings an association with allergies and asthma, infections such as influenza and tuberculosis, and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.”

My sister happened to mention to her doctor recently that she felt tired. She tested her for vitamin D, and it turns out she’s deficient. So she’s taking supplements and says she feels less tired.

All of this together piques my interest. To the point where I am definitely going to get my vitamin D levels checked the next time I am at my doctor. Because anything that can make me feel less tired is a must in my book.

Celebrating Halloween My Way

I am not a huge Halloween fan — I think it’s great for kids but I think it’s an excuse for grown-ups to act like even bigger idiots than most already are. With masks on. But last week I had a pedicure and I went with black polish for the holiday — and I have to say, I love it. My kids love it too. Everytime I look down at my toes it’s like my own private Halloween celebration. Try it!!

Etc.

Austin lost another tooth at 6:20 this morning (remember I said I was tired?)…the kid has no teeth left in his mouth to chew! It really is crazy. I hope something grows in soon.

I have had a lingering cough for weeks. I may break down and go to the doctor.

The weather is really bananas — wore open-toed shoes today. The better to show off my black pedicure!!

Do It Yourself Halloween

October 26, 2010

My kids love to decorate for Halloween. We have one rule: everything has to be homemade, not store bought. This gives the kids incentive to take on some craft projects and, frankly, I think it gives the apartment a warmer, cozier feel. This year Austin took it upon himself to draw a huge skeleton, a graveyard (somehow he knew the tombstones should say “RIP”), and a ghost saying “boo.” We hung them on our front door for all passersby to see.

One other thing he made was a super cute bat, which you can easily make with your kids. You’ll need black construction paper, scissors, glue, googly eyes and lots of Halloween stickers. Cut out a bat shape from the black paper. If you need to, sketch it beforehand and then cut out. Have your child glue on the eyes. Then let them go to town decorating it with the stickers. That’s it! Before you know it, you have a super cute bat to hang up and admire. You can also glue it onto a popsicle stick to create a puppet if you want.

You can easily take some white paper and do the same to make a ghost.

And remember, what do ghosts like to eat for dinner? Spook-etti!!

Happy Halloween!!

New Restaurant Alert

This weekend Ken and I checked out Bistro de la Gare on Hudson Street. It was a cute little place with pretty typical French fare. Definitely cozy, and it was packed. The roast chicken was tasty and Ken gave a thumbs up to the bread and butter pudding.

We also went to Flex Mussels on 13th Street, which has the worst name but tasty food. (Ken’s only complaint was they charge extra for the fries. It’s moules frites, people!) The mussels are the stand out although they have other things too — for dessert the freshly made donuts are pretty spectacular. But make sure and order as a group as it’s a pretty large sampling. I really like the floor and the backlit artwork.

Etc.

Is everyone sick of all the political ads? The whole thing is like a bad dream I just want to be over. Rip the band aid off already.

It’s unseasonably warm. Not sure what to wear tomorrow…by the way I did not get into bed before 11 last night. Damn you, list of things to do!!

Chi Town

October 25, 2010

I hadn’t been to Chicago in quite a while, but I had to head back there for work last week. The city looked good, and the bitter wind hasn’t kicked in yet, so that made it even nicer. The shopping on Michigan Avenue really can’t be beat. I had no time to partake, and I really wanted to go to the Gap, because they test market in Chicago, being that it’s a big city but in middle America. Years ago I got some Gap body stuff there before it was available anyplace else. Oh well. If I had more time I also would have hit up Ikram, which is a well stocked boutique where Michelle Obama gets a lot of her finery.

I stayed at the Ritz Carlton/Four Seasons. Unclear why it’s both, but with both of them behind the property, really, how could you go wrong? The lobby on the 12th floor of Water Tower is kind of a drag, with all of the different elevators. But the fountain in the lobby with the floor to ceiling windows truly is spectacular — at the very least have a drink there. It does give you easy access to Water Tower, which features a bevy of stores including Cusp, Neiman Marcus’ answer to Barneys Coop. Food Life downstairs offers excellent sandwiches, and I highly recommend the oatmeal for breakfast. It comes with dried cranberries, sliced almonds, raisins and I asked for brown sugar and milk on the side. It keeps you fueled on the go.

For dinner we hit up Hugo’s Frog Bar and Fish House, which is the gang who owns Gibson’s Steak House’s answer to fish and seafood lovers. We sat right next to three of the Backstreet Boys. I don’t know if that means a reunion is in the works, but the Boys do like to chow down. My coworker Julia and I sampled a little bit of a few different things — I got the stuffed lobster, she got crab cakes. We had crawfish mac and cheese and double stuffed baked potatoes. Then we split a Muddy Mud Pie for dessert, which could have fed 12 comfortably. A little ridiculous, but all of the food was super tasty, the place was packed and we had a great time. Definitely recommend.

Before I knew it it was time to fly home. O’Hare has a few more food options than the culinary hell that is LaGuardia. I recommend buying something and carrying it on for lunch or dinner — no matter what you choose, it’s guaranteed to be way better than whatever they’re selling on board.

You’re my kind of town, Chicago! I’ll have to come back sometime soon.

Etc.

Why do the weekends always go so fast? Austin told me tonight he loves Saturdays and Sundays because he gets to spend time with me. How nice is that?

I am attempting to go to bed before 11pm to start my week off right. I am always tired and I have eternal dark circles. I am going to try and get it together!

‘Tis The Season

October 21, 2010

Oh, pumpkin. I tried the Pumpkin Spiced Latte last week at Starbucks — it was tasty! (But the over $5 price tag was a bit of a downer…) Guest blogger Denielle kindly shares her tips for a spectacular carved pumpkin this year:

 

The beautiful Cecelia stands with one her mom's creations.

 

I had never carved a pumpkin in my life until 2 years ago. My daughter saw a kit at Target and was enticed by one of the images on the cover of the stencil book. The attention-grabber was an intricate scene of 3 Disney princesses lit to full glory in a pumpkin.

I decided that although there was no way that Belle, Cinderella and Aurora were going to light the way for my local trick-or-treaters, I would buy the kit and try out one of the easier images (delineated by “one pumpkin” on a four-pumpkin scale of difficulty).

Not being a particularly crafty person – or that skilled with a double-edged knife  — I carved my very first pumpkin, and damn, if it didn’t come out REALLY well!!!!!

Now in my third year of carving, I thought I would share some tips from a non-crafty, somewhat klutzy pumpkin carver to you, loyal readers of FamilyFavs.  Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can!

PREP:

  1. Invest in a legit pumpkin carving kit. Don’t try and do this with your kitchen knives. And also invest in a solid pumpkin scoop. The slightly serrated edges help get out all the gross veins and seeds very easily
  2. Wear short sleeves and expect to get slimy!
  3. Buy a stencil book, or search online and print one out. Start simple.

CARVING:

1. Sit your pumpkin on the floor as it will sit on Halloween night and tape the 8 and 1/2 x 11 print out on the front.

— Tip: Make sure your pumpkin is big enough to sport your design….you don’t want to be carving too low or too high.

2. Using the largest carving knife, cut a circle around the pumpkin stem at the top, pull it off and set it aside.

— Extra Tip: Make sure the hole is big enough for a wide candle to fit in!

— Extra Extra Tip: Cut a small bit out of the top in a little “V” to allow candle smoke to exit!

— Most Important Tip: Make sure you angle the saw inwards so your lid sits on top of the pumpkin and doesn’t fall straight through!

3. Using your hands and your legit scooping tool, scoop out the seeds and strings inside the pumpkin. If you are planning to toast the seeds, be sure to separate them from the pumpkin flesh and strings.

4. Also be sure that the bottom is flat for the candle to rest on.

5. Tape the stencil on the front of your pumpkin, using tape on each of the 4 corners.

6. Using your pumpkin poker, carefully follow the lines on your stencil and make holes approximate 1/8” apart.

— You can move your pumpkin to a table for this part!

7. Once all the outlines have been made, remove the stencil and begin carving with the thin, delicate knives.

— Tip: start in the center of the design.

— Tip: to better see your holes, lightly dust flour over your pumpkin!

— Tip: Cut at an angle – opposite to the angle on the top — making the opening on the inside, wider than the outside. This allows for maximum light to show through your design!

Note: Traveling this week, so no post tomorrow — Family Favs will be back next week with more exciting tips and recommendations!

Hail to the Cheese

October 20, 2010

I just watched the season finale of Mad Men. I won’t ruin anything but I will say it is such a great show and I am so mad it won’t be on til next summer!! I guess it will give me more free time every week.

No one can resist Euphoria

Today, we’re talking cheese. Who can resist a good one? I have always been a fan of goat’s milk cheese — many of them have this yummy, slightly butterscotch taste. There’s a sweet Gjetost from Norway that I’ve always liked, which has almost a caramel taste. Recently I discovered Euphoria Sheep Milk Gouda, which has a nutty butterscotch taste. I discovered it at Murray’s, which is one of the best cheese shops ever! It used to be a tiny spot in the West Village, but several years ago it moved to bigger digs on Bleecker and it is still a gem. Take a number and when it’s your turn they will lead you down a path of tastings that will inevitably end up with some of the yummiest cheese you’ve ever sliced into.

But back to Euphoria. Apparently it was created for the American market, given its slight sweetness. They suggest to have it with drinks like Sherry or Port. I say just cut into it and enjoy. Definitely enlivens any cheese plate. Ask your local cheese shop if they carry it. My 3 year old is a fan too! ($16.99 a pound on sale in store at Murray’s, 254 Bleecker Street, or check it out online here.)

Etc.

I’m so flipped out by the political theater playing out across the country that I can’t really comment. It’s like a weird movie that you just wish would stop. The gubernatorial debate last night in New York was so crazy that it ended with the Republican candidate walking offstage during the closing statements because he had to go to the bathroom. Seriously. You’d think there weren’t any problems to be dealt with.

In my openings/closings report earlier this week, I forgot to mention that REI has reportedly signed for space in the Puck Building. That could be cool. I do like a lot of their stuff.

This week is another doozy. Chin up!

Disturbia

October 19, 2010

This story from guest blogger Rebecca goes against 2 rules I have: Never borrow money, and never get involved with crazy people. Rules to live by, I tell you!

I woke up this morning to what I thought was a regular school day.  My usual morning routine is rushing at the fastest speed possible (which is super slow and really difficult considering I AM NOT a morning person).  I then managed to get the kids off to school.  The first kid will be getting on the 7:10 bus, the next kid at 7:20 and the third kid at 9:00.   As I was getting ready to catch the 9am bus, the phone rings.  That’s funny, no one calls on my house phone.  “Hello,” I say.  I noticed on the caller ID, it was the class mom in my daughter’s class.  “Hi,” the mom says.  You know that saying “you’ve been blind sided,” well, welcome to my day.

(Set up) Last week was back to school night for parents.  At the end of evening it was time to give class dues.  I did not have any cash with me, so I told the class mom I would drop off money at her house.  She said something like, “don’t be silly, I’ll lay out the money and you can send it in to school tomorrow with your daughter.  Just put my kid’s name on the envelope.”  Okay, I thought to myself, that’s awfully nice of her and unnecessary, as we have a whole year before these dues will be used.  This mom and I had met years ago. We had actually been at her kid’s birthday party way back when.  Oh yeah, we had also gone to dinner a few times with her and her husband around 7 years ago.  That was cool with me if she wanted to lay out the funds (all of $15 bucks).

To know me, is to love me.  After we exchanged phone greetings, the class mom launched into the following rant: “How dare you not have sent the money into school.” She said.  “I laid out that money for you and this is so rude that you have not paid me back yet,” etc.  I was shocked! This was her idea, how did this turn around and become my fault?  Since she was so confrontational and angry, I was a little uncomfortable and made a joke and said, “You would make a great real estate agent.”  Well, that really set her off.  “This is not a joke,” she said. “You owe me money and don’t make light of this situation.”  I assured her the money would be at school that day and hung up the phone.  I thought I had just had the wind knocked out of me.  Such major anger and turmoil all before 9am!  As I hung up the phone, I thought to myself, her life must really suck, if she’s calling me (close to a perfect stranger) and taking all her stuff out on me.  Talk about being blind sided.

I learned my lesson. Stay away from crazy people!

Soft and Cuddly

October 18, 2010

The Gap may have tried to switch to a craptastic new logo, but they have one item that year after year delivers as promised in a big way: their soft pajamas. I love them! They change the color palette annually, but other than that they stick with super soft cotton in a flattering but comfy fit. And they’re not sheer so you can wear them with company over and no worries. They wash well — I bought my first pair 3 years ago and they are still going strong.

I believe the technical term for the top is Modal long-sleeved V-neck T ($29.50), and the pants are Modal pants ($34.50). They’re on sale at the moment but check in stores as online has a terrible selection on the pants. I just got a nice eggplant colored pair at the store on 42nd street in Times Square and they had a nice selection in the Gap Body department.

I’m actually headed to Chicago later this week and Gap uses it as a test market so I will have to check it out and see if they have anything good in the pipeline. Years ago I was there and it was the first time I had ever seen any of the Gap Body line. Michigan Avenue, here I come!

Openings & Closings

Lots of openings going on, which I guess is great considering the economy: Westport, you’re getting a Shake Shack! Look for it in the latter part of 2011 (and Boston you are rumored to be next)…Nars will open its first ever freestanding store on Bleecker Street in the West Village…And some closings too — the Gracious Home downtown is saying bye bye. Given that Bed Bath and Beyond and the Container Store are nearby, it’s understandable…

Etc.

I went to a conference Friday and Saturday and one of the topics I heard someone lecture on was on industrial design for women, and how most companies will just make something smaller and pink and try to market it to women. It’s so true! I hate that. If it’s pink I pretty much think it’s crappy.

I got a new Blackberry recently and it has a smaller keyboard and I think it’s giving me carpal tunnel in my right forearm. It sucks!! Iphone, please go on Verizon already…

Hope you had a great weekend!

I told you so

October 15, 2010

Have you ever had something happen where you go against your own established rules only to be burned time and again? I hate when that happens! And it has happened again.

I have potentially written in this blog about not spending money on tank tops, particularly white ones. They get stained, they get holes, and since you usually wear them under things, there’s really no need to splurge. It’s not like the fancy design of one tank top will set it apart. So I usually buy them at Old Navy, maybe The Gap, and when they look a bit worn, I throw them out.

Well, for some reason I convinced myself to get some Vince tanks. Why, I do not know. I think they were $55 a piece. Big mistake. I think I’ve worn it about 5 times, and I went to wear it today, and sure enough it is starting to yellow, and there are small holes in front, around where my jeans’ buttons hit.

In other words, it wears no differently from the $10 one.

Lesson learned. Again.

Single of the Week

Ken is getting weird. Again.

In 10 years, I see myself firmly placed in the 72% marginal tax bracket. With the national debt and taxes at near-historic highs, we will abscond to the woods in Pennsylvania’s rust belt, leaving behind the “culture” and “diversity” of urban living. Cheryl will begrudgingly adopt flannel as evening wear, and I will immediately register as a Republican. After cashing in the kids’ 529 plans to buy salted bacon, 2 ATVs and a diamond leopard pendant for Cheryl’s 50th birthday, I’ll start a Republican media consulting group dedicated to debunking the myths of the Democrat agenda. Every spot I produce attacking the misguided policies of the radical left will have this week’s Belle & Sebastian single as its track – it’s toe-tappingly contagious while being effete, smugly self-assured and representative of old European socialism.

Etc.

There’s supposed to be a wind storm here tomorrow. Just in time for the weekend. With all the crazy weather patterns it really does feel like Armageddon is upon us. I’m just sayin’…

Very exciting that the weekend is almost here. Have fun!