Holiday!

November 19, 2010

If we took a holiday, took some time to celebrate…I am one day from vacation, and it cannot come soon enough. Like everyone else, I have been staring at Ryan Reynolds’ Sexiest Man Alive cover to distract myself from my real problems.  I think given how crazy my fall has been, I am putting off all real thought til next year. Seriously. You say denial, I say coping mechanism…

Given all my travel, I haven’t had many Thursday posts. So I am sure you have all been missing the singles of the week. Miss no more!

Here’s Ken with the SOTW

My exposure to Swedes has been minimal. As a child, it was mainly Borg, Edberg and Wilander – men with big looping forehands who were covered in delicate patinas of sweat. In college it was the Swede, that piece of Philip Roth that wanted to escape the self-consciousness of being a Jew. And today, it’s Robyn, the pixie princess of electro pop. She’s two parts blonde, four parts pulsating dance tunes and zero parts Auto-tune. To what does she owe her success? My guess: an all-encompassing Swedish social welfare net that provides lifetime healthcare coverage, 15 years of maternity leave and mandatory retirement at 23. Check out the Nordic awesomeness of “Indestructible” here:

Etc.

We are off to the boot tomorrow — that’s Italy for all of you cartography challenged readers…I am putting off packing as long as I can. Now I just pray everyone stays healthy.

Family Favs will be eating pasta next week, but we’ll be back at the end of the month. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving!


Advertisements

Digital Wonder

November 18, 2010

Guest blogger Liz leaves the PC world and joins the legions of Mac fans:

Although I’ve been a Windows user for years and had not made the switch to a Mac, or an iPhone for that matter, our family recently came into an iPad. Attracted by the incredible sleekness of the design, I was finally excited to try an Apple product.

It is a technical wonder – its sheer thinness, how light it is, the touch screen — a beautiful color screen, I might add. It is an interesting device, but for me, does not replace a PC. It is wonderful, though, when thought about and used differently than the more traditional computer that we use and rely on everyday.

The touch screen is a bit of a love/hate relationship. When using my email or surfing the Internet, I find it incredibly frustrating. I am used to moving rapid fire and if I’ve got to touch a screen two or three times, it slows me down. However, when I am reading a book on the iPad and I can just flip the pages and it feels just like flipping the pages of an actual book, I’m amazed.

Although I have not used any of the other readers like Kindle or Nook, I find the book application on the iPad very intriguing. The iPad application comes with a visual bookshelf, so you can see your very own collection and it strangely gives a kind of satisfaction that an actual bookshelf gives. On the bookshelf, there are graphics of the books, instead of just titles. For a generation of people growing up more environmentally conscious or for those of us with smaller living spaces, this just makes sense.

Aside from the iPad book application, I think the potentially most interesting uses of it will be the designers who dream up applications that take advantage of the unique properties of the iPad and its amazing screen. Those that will be most the most fun to use will interweave written content, video and imagery brilliantly.

One such application is Lonely Planet’s “1000 Ultimate Experiences” (yes, my husband works for Lonely Planet, but I am blown away by this application and find myself going back to it again and again). The designers imagined the “1000 Ultimate Experiences” as a deck of cards to flip through. Each experience is on a card that contains stunning photography on top, interesting written content on back when the card is flipped over (very cool, it feels like you are flipping over a card) and some are embedded with rich video content.

It is very early on in the application side of the iPad and I’ve seen magazines that offer up iPad subscriptions, but they just look like the same two dimensional versions of what they are already offering. Yawn.

I think we have much to get excited about with the iPad and the whole new experience it offers with books, applications, video, and, heck, the sheer compactness of it. Perhaps the future generations of the iPad will even offer solar power.

So Cool?

November 17, 2010

Have I mentioned how much I am dreading the teenage years? Guest blogger Rebecca is there. So there:

All the rage in town two weekends ago was not over Halloween, but over which high school party your kid was going to.  The choices were the “freshman only” or “senior only” parties.  A tough situation for sophmores and juniors.

This brings me to the two schools of thought on kids, parties and alcohol. Having a 10th grade daughter I unwillingly was propelled into the world of underage drinking as my daughter contemplated her weekend plans.  I asked myself, “Is the drinking age not 21 anymore?”   Let’s be real.  When I was 15 (and looked 10) my friends and I would go to the bars on Central Avenue, even though the drinking age was 18.  I can still do some high school math and that leaves me with three years of lying about my age.  Not today’s standard of six years.

One side of this dilemma is the parents who promote this behavior by hosting and chaperoning an open house party. The other is those parents who will not hear of any sort of party in their house.  Whatever happened to the days when your parents went away for the weekend and trusted that you wouldn’t have an open house party?  Today’s parents would never leave their kids alone on the weekend with the hope that there wouldn’t be a party.  Instead they host it themselves! But wait a minute; some of the parent hosts actually do it so that they can keep an eye on their kids.  If they are going to drink or “whatever,” they might as well not have to drive home…But it’s okay if other kids drive home?!  Some do it to be the COOL parent with the popular kids, which is altogether wrong.

I’m told that once the kids decide which party to attend, many typically show up already drunk (my husband says they call this “Pre-Game”).  Take the “freshman only” party this past weekend.  The host parents were apparently kicking out sophomores ( I guess because they thought keeping the party to freshmen would mean only young innocent kids would show up to have punch and cookies).  Were the sophomores going to be drinking more than the 70 freshmen she allowed to stay for the party?  Did the host parents not realize the freshmen were buying alcohol from two freshmen boys who were stationed in the woods, behind the house?  I assume the parents were not aware that a liquor store had set up operation in the woods, but parents really need to be aware of what could (and likely will) happen if they host a kid party.  At this point, the party is in full swing, everyone should be allowed to stay and drink!

There was also a “senior only” party where the host parents had to tend to a drunken kid, who got sick at their party.  Clearly this happens all the time since the parents of the drunk child could not be bothered to pick her up until they completed their Saturday night plans, so the kid just lay on the floor in the host’s house until someone finally came.  Are the host parents trying to make their kid a “cool kid???” Huh? What?  I know I am missing the link.  What link?  The link that these host parents made when they said to their child, sure honey we’ll host a weekend party for you, so you’ll be the most popular kid in school. Is it cool for your friends to pass out in your living room?  Are the parents not afraid of a run-in with the law?

Ok, I am afraid.  So there will be no parties at my house and my kids will have to be trusted.  When you run into me in two years, ask me how I’ve done.  Hopefully, I’ll still be afraid of a run-in with the law and vomit stains on my rug.

How was your Halloween?

Spa-tastic

November 16, 2010

I am so aggravated by the 60 Minutes I just watched, in which they explained how then-VP Dick Cheney inserted a “Halliburton loophole” into this natural gas bill that exempted Halliburton (and others) from revealing what deadly chemicals are used in fracking for natural gas. So now it is killing animals and potentially people and the EPA has to subpoena them because they won’t let anyone know what is doing the killing. Is there no end to the stories of corruption? Seriously.

So let’s talk about something relaxing, like an eco-spa not far from the San Francisco city limits: Cavallo Point, the Lodge at the Golden Gate. Nestled under the bridge, within the national park, this is a great escape within the city, and not far from Marin and Sausalito. They’ve redone the officers’ barracks from Fort Baker and made lovely little cottages to rent, you can get all sorts of treatments in the LEED-certified spa, or you can have drinks or dine overlooking the bridge and the boats.

We had lunch out on the porch at the Murray Circle restaurant. The food was excellent and the view is lovely. Try the crab BLT…There was a wedding nearby — it really is a perfect spot. Highly recommended on a visit to San Francisco, or for you natives who are looking for a retreat. Check it out here.

Oprah Alert

Oprah is pulling out all the stops for her final season — tomorrow Babs is on, and why I really want to tune in is Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford are reuniting! The Way We Were?!! Love. “She’s a lovely girl, Hubble.”

Then, on Friday, set your DVR: it’s her annual “Favorite Things” episode, where she gives lots of crap away to an unsuspecting audience. Most of the fun is in watching the audience’s reaction to everything they’re going home with. Given that this is her last one, I have to believe she will go over the top. And I am thinking someone’s head might explode with happiness.

Mailbag

Denielle wrote in that she tried Liz’s leek and chickpea soup recipe to great acclaim. She sent in this photo, deemed it “awesome” and said:

“Besides the fact that I’ve never bought or cooked with leeks before so
I didn’t know how much of the green to cut, and the result looked like
something that may have been served in orphanages circa 1892, it
tasted great! I didn’t put cheese in it – just on top – and I didn’t
have crusty bread but this is definitely a do-again recipe.”

Love that! People really do eat with Family Favs!!

Etc.

Well, I’m very glad to be back home. You probably noticed my posting schedule was a little off over the last couple of months, given that I have been traveling like crazy. In the last week and a half, I crossed the country four times. We are going on vacation next week, but that is pure pleasure.

Hope you are all well!

I Love Lucy!

November 11, 2010

Austin used to ask us regularly for a dog. When he realized he was getting nowhere on that, he downsized his ask to a hermit crab. When that didn’t happen, he went and got himself a Zhu Zhu pet at Toys R Us. Our guest blogger Michelle is a much more adventurous parent, and she lets us in on the newest member of her household:

My husband and I finally gave in to our three kids begging for a dog.

When our daughter was three she asked for a dog and we said, “When you’re seven – old enough to be responsible to take care of the dog yourself.”  At age eight now she’s forgotten a lot of things throughout life, but she never forgot that conversation at three and held us to it – we were able to squeak out another year by saying we had to wait until her twin brothers were seven as well, but they teamed up with her to hold us to that promise.

In other words, we have an eight year old daughter and twin seven year old boys, and nowhere to hide.

Truth is, we had to make sure that I was ready for a new dog, because as the Mom, the dog would really be my responsibility.  It seems not long ago that the kids were “having accidents” on the furniture, and we’re now enjoying the dry furniture.  The thought of trading that in for furniture covered in fur and mine fields in the lawn, just as the kids are actually keeping the house relatively nice, was a bit foreboding.

But, alas, a deal is a deal, and my husband and I both had dogs growing up and truly value the relationship dogs and children have together.

First, we tried looking in local shelters but there was not much to choose from; we then looked at petfinder.com, but after submitting a couple of inquiries for different dogs at various shelters/foster homes, we found that we rarely got a response.  It all became a bit frustrating.

Then three weeks ago we took a trip to North Shore Animal League (NSAL) out on Long Island.  North Shore Animal League America is the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization.

Needless to say, they had lots of nice dogs.  Unless you were really picky, I couldn’t see someone leaving without a dog.  All we wanted was a nice medium-sized mutt — and that’s what we got!  Her name given at the shelter was Lucy.  We thought it fit her well so we kept it.  We believe she is a one year old Australian Shepard mix.  She is very sweet with lots of love and attention to give.  There’s a bit of a saying that “the dog adopts you” – and that’s what happened.  She was the first and only dog we visited with, and we just fit together without a doubt.  The NSAL checked our references on the spot, and we had a new family member on the ride home.

We knew in advance that getting a dog would be expensive, but we didn’t really have a sense for things.  The actual adoption was relatively inexpensive ($100) which is amazing because North Shore takes such good care of the animals.  Lucy was spayed and she received all of her shots.  We decided to get an Invisible Fence to keep her safe and in the yard – with training, that came out to about $1,200.  We also built a little fenced in area off our screen room – mostly so we don’t have to walk her in the cold and rain (selfish, but until you’ve done it…) – although we recycled existing fencing, that was another $1,000.  Her first vet visit cost $350, which included a flu shot (I haven’t even gotten mine yet!) and a year’s supply of heartworm meds and anti flea and tick medicine.  The next day we got a call from the vet; it seems that Lucy has worms so we bought de-worming medication for $50.  We will get her stool retested in two weeks.  I’m afraid to get that bill!

I have to say, she is definitely worth it.  She makes a nice addition to our family.  The kids are rising to the occasion in terms of accepting responsibility in caring for her and she keeps me company while the kids are at school.

And, at the end of the day, she’s brought a lot of love to an already-loving family and as they say at MasterCard, that’s priceless.

San Francisco Treat

November 10, 2010

There is no shortage of good restaurants in San Francisco — here are three:

Bar Bambino: On a sketchy stretch in the Mission (okay maybe that’s redundant), Bar Bambino is a lovely packed oasis of deliciousness. It’s a small place and the dining room gets crowded and loud, but the back porch is enclosed and has heaters so you can sit out there in (relative) comfort. Make sure and try some of the nibbly bits and a cheese plate with a bottle of wine. The entrees are all a little odd but tasty — I went with the local cod. You really can’t go wrong. (2931 16th Street)

Slanted Door: Everyone I talked to said this was the place to go, and it didn’t disappoint. Set inside the Ferry Building (which is worth a stroll in itself), the decor is sleek and the menu offers all kinds of Asian goodness. The spring rolls were tasty, as was the cellophane noodles with crab. (I happened to meet the chef and she was very nice and considerate — she wouldn’t shake my hand because she had duck all over hers.) And order coffee — it was some of the best tasting joe I’ve ever sipped. Turned out it’s Four Barrel coffee, which you can find on Valencia in the Mission. (1 Ferry Building)

COI: My friend pronounced it “Coy,” I thought it was “C-O-I,” and it turns out we were both wrong. It’s tres French: “Cwah.” Duh. This menu is a locavore’s dream. It’s pretty pricey in the main dining room — $135 for a bunch of courses — but in the lounge, where we were, you can order a la carte and pick and choose what you’d like. I definitely recommend that. The room is just as nice and it’s a little more casual, which I like. The abalone was quite good, as was the charred broccoli. The goat cheese cake was light and tasty. Service is good — they’re really nice about calling a cab for you, too. (373 Broadway)

The last thing I will say about all of these restaurants is that their bathrooms are all very, very clean. That’s a high compliment, San Francisco!

Etc.

Things are looking up — I wasn’t quite barfing up a lung today. Maybe half of one…progress is progress! I was in a meeting and somehow the scab on my leg came off and I started massively bleeding (“Um, do you have a tissue?”). Good times.

Hope you’re enjoying your week!

Sick

November 9, 2010

This is the symbol for my day.

I got back from San Francisco late last night with a full on, raging cold. Runny nose, cough, the whole nine yards. Not fun. I am coughing so much that I am getting a pain like a pinched nerve in between my two shoulder blades in my back.

I was supposed to chaperone a class trip for Austin but as soon as we walked outside to go, it started to hail. So that got called off. Probably better for my cold, but a bummer for Austin who had been asking me to come on a trip since the beginning of the year. Oh, the plight of a working mother!!

Random

Apparently Giorgio Armani just showed up at Armani Exchange in SoHo and was helping people shop, critiquing what they were trying on and looking at. Can you imagine? Just my luck he would tell me how horrible I looked and never to wear his clothes again. That would be bad!

Burberry reportedly offered Robert Pattinson $1 million to appear in its next ad campaign and he turned them down. Dude, you’re in a vampire movie. Every other film you have done has flopped. DO THE AD CAMPAIGN. Your children will need to eat one day, and you may not want to sell your autograph at Comic Con forever.

JT in Midtown?

Apparently Southern Hospitality, that BBQ place on the Upper East Side where Justin Timberlake is an investor, is opening in midtown, at 45th and 9th Avenue. We went there once because I had gotten a gift certificate in an auction. It was okay — a little frat boyish, but maybe that was the location. That stretch of 9th Avenue has a lot of culinary offerings and is definitely worth checking out if you have theater tickets, pre- or post. Marseilles and 5 Napkin Burger are just 2 good places…

Etc.

Hoping my cold goes away because I am on another plane on Thursday!!

I spent the evening doing a class project with Addison. Why do they give 3 year olds homework? I need to go make the money to send her to the school — I have enough homework!!

Pork Loading and Hydration

November 4, 2010

I can honestly say I never thought a post on my blog would have this title, but what guest blogger Bret wants…

With less than a week before the New York City Marathon, my mind has been turning to food and the traditional carbo-loading that runners enjoy (or endure, depending on your point of view) in the days before the big run.  While there will be plenty of time for bread, pasta and the traditional pre-race foods near the end of this week, last week I grabbed lunch with my friend Rand at Porchetta, 110 E 7th Street.  I had been promised an awesome pork sandwich, but when I walked into the hole-in-the-wall “restaurant” I figured I was going to be disappointed.  Man, was I wrong.  It was one of the most delicious and moist pork sandwiches I’ve ever had.  Even more incredibly, it seemingly had no sauce but when I bit into the sandwich . . . let’s just say it was like butter (and was probably cooked in something not so healthy) on an amazing roll.  Luckily, I could eat without guilt knowing I would be running the marathon soon.

And speaking of that, one must have plenty of fluids when running or eating a tasty sandwich.  Since Porchetta is tiny, with seating for very few, we carried our sandwiches a few blocks to Ten Degrees, 121 St. Marks Place, where they were serving 2-for-1 drinks.  Great beers and cocktails at a great price with excellent tunes playing on the stereo .  And they didn’t even mind that we brought our Porchetta meal and dined inside their place.

Now I feel ready to run.

Election Night 2010

November 3, 2010

Well, the Republicans have taken the House. OK, wow us with your genius ideas on getting us out of this mess. Or should I say messes. Good luck!

Denielle sent in something to get us out of our doldrums:

“Given that the temperature just plummeted in NYC and fit’s the season of giving [germs], I thought I’d share a link to some free samples of Emergen-C. Good stuff for preventing colds!!!!”
http://www.emergenc.com/free-samples

Thanks Den — I agree, it is good for preventing colds and for providing relief if you get one. My son likes it too.

And here’s some other advice: if you have any sort of sickness that lingers, go to the doctor. I have a cough that has not gone away for almost six weeks. I finally broke down and went to the doctor this morning. Long story short, I have a version of bronchitis and needed a Z pack…I took the first day’s dose this morning and already feel better. See, people: this is why we need universal healthcare for all!! 🙂

More

Lots of mail this week — reader Jeannie wrote in to tell me she employed my suggestion for having her kids trade in their candy for a toy of their choice. “The kids just picked their items and loved the idea. Thank you!” You’re welcome! Isn’t it great when you can find a solution that’s win-win for all?

Even Steven

I feel like more and more places are closing. On Sunday Austin and I tried to go to Johnny Rockets for lunch, and it closed! Then I read that Cafe Spice, a reliable favorite of ours, closed. But, rather than a Sleepy’s mattress store moving in, Jackson Diner, a great Indian restaurant from Queens, is moving into the space on University and 11th. So that’s good news.

As they say, when a door shuts, a window opens…or something like that.

Etc.

CNN has way too many pundits shooting their mouths off.

We have new voting machines here, scanners, and I just think they are rife with potential problems. the type on the ballot is small, everyone I know (including my husband) forgot or didn’t realize there were initiatives to vote on on the back of the ballot, and there isn’t much privacy. It’s almost 2011. Can’t anyone figure out a better way?

Oy.

Entertain Me

November 2, 2010

You know how every once in a while you just need a good, funny movie to watch? I recommend Get Him to the Greek. This movie was on my radar when it came out — it got solid reviews and it struck me as something that I might like. Not enough to hire a babysitter and get my butt to a theater, but definitely if it came on HBO. Then last week I happened to watch a Letterman I had DVR’d with Puffy as a guest, and out of the blue Ken and I both said, “We should watch Get Him to the Greek” this weekend.

This is no heavy lift, people. But Jonah Hill is very good as the music company lackey who has to bring Alduous Snow (very capably and believably played by Russell Brand) from London to Los Angeles to play a gig. P. Diddy is the jerk of a record label president and actually is good in the role. The only actor I didn’t think was well cast was Elizabeth Moss as Jonah Hill’s character’s girlfriend. But Judd Apatow is involved, and any women are secondary to the blokes in all of his films, anyway.

There are some funny lines, the storyline keeps your attention, and it is definitely worth the on-demand pricetag.  Stay through the closing credits and you’ll get a funny treat at the end.

Etc.

Well, it’s winter. I’m headed to California later this week and next and I am looking forward to warmer weather — two days of chill and I can’t even take it.

Tomorrow is election day. Get out and vote, of course. And let’s all hope the right people win in every election. I’m not sure who that should be in many of these races, but I literally mean I hope the right people win, for all of our sakes. And cheers to the almost 300,000 people who showed up for the Rally to Restore Sanity. It really made me think that maybe, just maybe, there are a lot of people out there who are sane.

Cheers!