Turning Trash Into Art

February 19, 2011

OK, this week was a little crazy, so I’m a day late with the post…but isn’t anytime a good time for Family Favs??

Here comes guest blogger Bret with his latest obsession:

For years, I’ve walked around my neighborhood on the upper upper east side (my downtown friends consider it Canada) and noticed amazing chalk-written inspirational notes.  The most common one was “Become Your Dream” accompanied by a simple drawing of a goldfish seemingly jumping out of its bowl.  They were so witty and thoughtful, often leaving me thinking all day, but the messages were fleeting.  Chalk drawings would appear and then get washed away by rain.  I would see a whole bunch in a week and then nothing for months.  I once recall a note (in chalk on the sidewalk, of course) about an exhibit and wanted to go, but laziness overcame curiosity.  Well, it had been a while  . . . until the recent snowstorms.  Hidden among the piles of trash frozen in place surrounded by snow, the notes appeared all over my neighborhood again drawn on discarded mattresses, cardboard and other junk.  One was even outside my building (see above).  I couldn’t take it any longer and finally did a little research.  Turns out that these are the work of a real Spanish Harlem artist – James De La Vega.  He had a museum on St. Mark’s Place, a fan page on Facebook and was relatively well known.  De La Vega.  Unfortunately, I’m too late and his museum closed in the fall.  See De La Vega St. Marks closes.  But you’ll see — he’ll be back and bigger than ever.  Don’t take my word for it, take his:  Recent interview.  Next time I’ll follow my dream and go check him out.

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken — running this one against my better judgement:

I hate to take a review of a really great song and make it all ass-centric, but have you taken a look at Alicia Key’s U.S.S. Ticonderoga-class booty? Enlist me to be the rear admiral on that vessel! My flag is already standing at…ok, you get the idea. If L. Ron Hubbard creates a religion centered around that rump roast, count me in!

Check it out here.


Heading to warmer pastures, so next week Family Favs will be on hiatus…back soon!


I Got the Music in Me

February 15, 2011

Bruno Mars works it out

I think Lady Gaga may have jumped the shark — or should I say egg — last night at the Grammys. It was all too Madonna…and by that I mean contrived. Express Yourself did it better…22 years ago! (Isn’t that scary? I just looked it up — it was released in 1989.)

Highlights were kind of few and far between. The show just felt long, even forwarding through the endless commercial breaks. I love me some Cee-Lo, and the Muppets and Gwyneth Paltrow kept it fun. Although Gwynnie needs to practice standing on a piano in her Louboutins. (Check out that performance here.) The Bruno Mars/B.o.B./Janelle Monae segment had a nice energy. And Mick Jagger is really, really famous! You know when famous people get excited to see the person there’s something special going on.

Anyway, if you missed all of the fun, Grammy.com has lots of pics for you.

Fashion Fun

The latest spring line from Prada is what fashion should be: fun! I love all the colors and stripes — Hailee Steinfeld, the young girl (and Oscar nominee) from True Grit, wore a dress from the line to the SAG awards, and she looked adorable and age-appropriate; not always easy to do on the red carpet. The line has been featured in dribs and drabs — Anna Wintour was spotted at a Knicks game in a banana skirt (which I didn’t love, but it’s Anna). Anyway, it’s now in stores. Check it out at Neiman Marcus. And don’t worry about the price — I’m sure knockoffs will be coming to stores near you any minute.


My husband sent me an article about where most Americans are searching to go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day, and it was just more proof of the abyss between me in NYC and those in middle America. Top restaurants for Valentine’s Day over the last few years? Olive Garden. Followed closely by Red Lobster, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, Chili’s and Macaroni Grill. Cheesecake Factory makes an appearance in the teens.

It’s not even that I’m a chain snob (although I can be). We don’t even have most of these restaurants if I wanted to go there. For Valentine’s Day.


Well, the thermometer went over 50 degrees today and people were breaking out their bathing suits. But keep the parkas handy because tomorrow will be back near freezing…only to go above 60 on Friday. So everyone will get sick, just in time for vacation!! Ugh.

Did you all have a great Valentine’s Day? The best tip for Valentine’s Day is not to go out on Valentine’s Day — leave that to new lovers trying to impress one another. For the rest of us, pick another night nearby when the prices aren’t jacked up.

I gave my husband the best gift I could give for a working father with two little kids who heads to the gym every day at 5:40am: a nap!

Enjoy — big hugs and kisses to all!

Pint Size Travel

February 11, 2011

Our guest blogger Liz just got back from a 3 week trip to New Zealand in an RV with 3 kids and a husband in tow…so she’s uniquely qualified to pass on her tips for traveling with little ones:

In order to enjoy and get the most out of traveling with kids, a little extra planning and a different approach will be well worth the effort.

Here are my Top 10 Tips for Traveling with Kids:

1. Get to the airport an hour earlier than you normally would

Let’s face it, kids have little patience. Waiting in an airport line, be it check in, security or customs, can be easier for some than for others. Waiting in a line, with a child that can’t sit still and worrying that you are not going to make the flight can put a parent over the edge. Not a great way to start your trip. If you get there early, you’ll find that the child that can’t sit still in line will bother you far less.

2. Travel to smaller airports

We’ve found that traveling to smaller airports is often easier and less chaotic, helping to make sure the trip goes along more smoothly. For example, we try to avoid LAX flying to and from Australia in favor of SFO – even though this means an extra stop in Sydney from Melbourne. There are no terminal changes and SFO is much less of a zoo.

3. Travel at off times

Even if this means taking your little one out of pre-school, school or day care a day or two early or returning a day or two late. You’ll find the airplanes to be less full and the roads to be less crowded.

4. Travel with the right gear on the airplane for the kids

Every child is different and understanding what will help settle your child on an airplane is the key to a pleasant ride or an unpleasant ride. There are so many variables when flying – like boarding the airplane only to get stuck on the runway for hours. Here are three things that work for my kids:

— A charged portable DVD player: Find one that has a 5 or 6 hour charge. If you are sitting on a runway, there is generally no entertainment until you are up in the air. To be safe, bring your own.

— Snacks and plenty of them: I find that a variety of textures work best. I recommend fruit, gummy snacks, crunchy salty things, gum and candy that they can suck on. Many of the airlines don’t offer food anymore and the food that they do offer costs an arm and a leg.

— Ipod touch or other electronic device: They are small and offer a variety of things to keep the kids older than six entertained. I used to travel with coloring books, cars, play dough, sticker books and I was schlepping far too much. The less you can travel with, the better.

5. Stay in places with other kids

If your kids stay in places with other kids (be it a holiday park, resort with a kids camp or crap motel with a pool), they are bound to become engaged, relaxed and have fun. When they are having fun, you are having fun.

6. Go to places where you can cook your own meals

Going out to restaurants with kids can become a huge effort. You’ve got to make sure that the kids have activities and that they are well behaved so that they don’t disrupt the whole restaurant. You are always hoping that the restaurant has good service so that the kids don’t completely melt down before the food arrives. If you stay in a place where you can cook your own meals, you’ll find that going to the occasional restaurant while on vacation will be a pleasure rather than a chore.

7. Incorporate a healthy blend of kid and adult activities

If a holiday is focused too much in one direction, it will become a difficult trip for everyone. We find that when we do a kid focused activity like mini-golf, the kids are much more receptive to a three hour hike or visiting a museum.

8. Be aware of when your kids are getting tired

There is nothing worse than trying to do too much and having your child melt down. Plan each day with ample time to relax.

9. Keep your schedule flexible

Allow room for spontaneity, sometimes it is the best part of the trip.

10. Have your kids keep a travel journal

Get a special travel journal and collect things a long the way from maps to ticket stubs.  If your child has an ipod touch or other device, they can take their own pictures to share with their friends and use in the journal.  It will be something they will be sure to treasure in years to come.

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken:

Dancehall reggae hits have predictable life cycles. Born in or around Kingston, they make they way to NYC, get beamed out and boosted by the Hot 97, creep slowly down the Jersey shore, slowly ooze into the middle states and then take a sudden turn and flood Fairfield, Connecticut, a hotbed of Caribbean music DJs and reggae vibes. Such is the route of Gyptian’s “Hold You.” About the song: the toy piano loop is infectious. A YouTube commenter really says it best: “Makes you want to sing along, but you CANT [sic].”


Egypt gets weirder every day. He’s in. He’s out. No, he’s in. But kind of out.If the CIA is out of the loop, the rest of us have no hope.

The weekend is almost here, and that is something to celebrate!! Seriously. And it’s going into the 40s…woot! Have a good one…


Leave Christina Aguilera alone! You can’t expect someone to be booked to sing the national anthem in front of the largest TV audience in the world and expect them to REMEMBER THE WORDS!!??!! Really, expectations are far too high these days…

Well, if those Groupon ads from the Superbowl left you feeling a little…unseemly…let’s talk today about getting your face clean. Really clean. In fact, I defy you to find anything that gets more dirt off of your face.

That said, I must add a caveat: this will dry your skin, particularly with over use. I like to think of it for emergency use only. But if you use it well, it’s a real find: Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion.

Start small. Buy the 4.2 ounce size ($11 at Kiehl’s stores or finer department stores). When your face is feeling slick, take a white cotton pad, put some astringent on it, wipe your face and then marvel at all of the dirt on the cotton pad. Ewww! I know, you can’t imagine that you were leaving your face so dirty.

Now don’t get addicted! Like I said, it is drying. Make sure to moisturize afterward and you’ll be good to go. Whenever you feel a breakout coming on, do a swipe. As an added bonus, if you ever get a cut and need something to clean it out, this works!

So long but not goodbye

Mark Bittman is a frequent guest on the Today show and has written a recipe column in the New York Times for many years. He recently signed off to go to the editorial page where he is writing a column about food and food-related issues. For one of his final recipe columns, he picked his favorites from over the years. There are some good ones…check it out here.

What I’ve always liked about Bittman is that his recipes are actually doable, he seems to acknowledge that people have busy lives and fresh, home cooked meals need to fit into those lives, and he often showed himself cooking in his miniscule (i.e. real) NYC kitchen — his message being that if he could do it there, his readers could do it anywhere.

I’ll miss his recipes but I look forward to reading his column!


You know those times where you just feel blah? Today was one of those days for me. I’m about to cut it short and curl up in bed with the new New York magazine with a truly unflattering picture of Cathie Black. Why in the world she wanted the Schools Chancellor job instead of her cushy one at Hearst, most of us will never understand.

It’s only Monday, so here’s hoping tomorrow has a whole new spin. We’re headed to the Waverly for dinner with some friends so maybe we’ll see someone uber famous do something embarrassing…that would be fun!! 🙂

Grand Old Time

February 4, 2011

Our own guest blogger Denielle takes one for the team and reports for Grand Jury service:

I got it. The dreaded card in the mail ordering me to report to Grand Jury service in Elizabeth, NJ on Jan 4. No deferrals.  No “call-the-night-before-to-see-if-we-need-you.” Show up and serve.

Once I reported on that fateful Wednesday, there was a random sorting.  The judge was kind of like Dumbledore calling people to move from one side of the courtroom to another. My name was called. Or rather, half my name was called. Apparently, my name is so long it doesn’t fit on government documents. But that’s no reason to be excused.  In fact, that judge wasn’t excusing ANYONE…even the older woman whose house had been robbed 20 years before and said she could not be fair and impartial. Nope. She was in. It took a claim of claustrophobia and a stair-induced breathing attack for her to finally be let go; moral of the story: you can get out of jury duty if it’s on the 6th floor of the courthouse and you are out of shape. Unfair is ok; unfit is not.

Even though I barely get to the gym more than twice a week, I am not out of shape enough to be set free.  In fact, I was appointed to be the foreperson of the Grand Jury (I don’t think that means I’m the most in-shape, though I will take it as an honor).

So every Tuesday and Thursday until March, I report to the Union County courthouse in Elizabeth, NJ to do my civic duty. Yes, that’s the same courthouse from SyFy’s GHOST HUNTERS.

We hear up to 20 cases a day. We only hear the state’s side and it’s or job to determine if there’s enough evidence for the case to go to trial. We are just a small stepping stone on the path to justice.

I’m told that what happens in Grand Jury stays in Grand Jury. I will, however, share some general tidbits and observations with my Family Favs friends:

  1. grown men on bikes at 10pm are up to no good.
  2. cocaine dealers can be savvy marketers, having mastered localized branding and distribution techniques. They are not, however, savvy copywriters and most have ridiculous nicknames.
  3. fake guns that look like handguns can get a person in just as much trouble as the real deal.
  4. don’t hit officers of the law. They are better trained than you, have more tools than you and always have back-up close behind.
  5. if you are involved in a car chase, you can disable the vehicle chasing you by slamming on your brakes and making that car-in-pursuit hit you. Air bags will deploy and their engine will shut down.  Alternatively, if you are chasing someone at high speeds, be prepared to NOT rear end them when they slam on their brakes.

After 9 weeks of this I figure I should know enough to get a future gig as a writer on Law & Order. Or, at the very least, will understand how to integrate the term “prima fascia” into my everyday vernacular.

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken:

Tahrir Square is on the brink. Passive soldiers and impassioned protesters have given way to clubs, stones, knives and bats. (Bats? Do they play baseball in Egypt?) Anger will soon give way to hate, and then there will truly be no going back. In the meantime, on his custom fur-lined Eames chair, Hosni Mubarak sips a Zima and reads back issues of Domino magazine. The buttery softness of his cashmere slippers from Barneys reminds him of his trip to the Four Seasons in the Maldives and sifting through the embracing warmth of the sand with his feet. He hopes he has time today to take a nap in his hyperbaric chamber and then start watching season 3 of The Wire. His new interior minister Mahmoud Wagdi can’t stop talking about season 4. As the room’s air conditioning washes over him, he listens to the single of the week and its soothing 50s pop groove. It’s been a tough week. He deserves this.

Click here to watch.


Anderson Cooper is broadcasting from some sort of undisclosed bunker, and I’m thinking it’s time to get the heck out of there. When “thugs” are smashing your cameras and beating everyone in sight silly, it might be good to go to Plan B. If you were planning a trip to Cairo anytime soon, you might want to see where else Jet Blue flies!

In all seriousness, good luck to everyone over there. It seems like a situation that is about to get even hairier.

I went to the dentist this morning and the woman cleaning my teeth really went to town. Really hurt. And then she has the nerve to say to me, “Do you do any sort of care of your teeth?” I wasn’t sure how to respond! You mean like, brushing?!?!? Seriously annoying.

Is the weekend here yet???

May The Best Barker Win

February 1, 2011

This weekend all eyes will be on the Superbowl…or at least the commercials. But guest blogger Tori has an alternative that few can resist:

There are few things in this world that are so spectacular they are counted not in mundane Arabic Numerals but in more epic and indecipherable Roman Numerals. Things like World Wars. And of course, Puppy Bowls. Fortunately for us, we stopped counting World Wars at II, but thank your lucky stars, Family Fav-ers, that we will count our VIIth Puppy Bowl on Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 3PM!

The Puppy Bowl, as you might know, is Animal Planet’s answer to The Super Bowl (LXV, in case you were wondering. Also on the 6th, but at 6PM.) But instead of giant freaks of nature giving each other concussions, the Puppy Bowl is two hours of cute puppies playing together on an adorable puppy-sized football field. The pups go head-to-head in contests like tug-of-war, barking, chasing and some occasional unsportsmanlike humping (someone call the ref!). Whistles are blown if there’s unnecessary “ruff”ness, there’s a “water bowl cam” and an MVP is named. Last year it was a pug mix named Jack who, since taking the coveted title, went on to master the arts of sitting and staying. He’s really going places.

In addition to the cut-throat canine competition, viewers are treated to a stupendous halftime show…staged by kittens and set to cheesy music. But wait, there’s more! This year, the show is adding chicken cheerleaders! That’s right. CHICKEN. CHEERLEADERS.

The whole affair is, quite honestly, totally stupid. I can admit that. But it’s also really great – just good old fashioned silly fun. And the best part – besides the almost unbearable cuteness – is that every puppy represents a different adoption agency or shelter and both the show and the website promote the joys of adopting a rescue pet. I’d get one in a second if I had a backyard. Hopefully someday soon I’ll be able to contribute a blog post about it.

SO ARE YOUR READY FOR SOME WOOFBALL? (Sorry.) I know I am. You can check out the starting line-up at http://animal.discovery.com/tv/puppy-bowl/starting-lineup/starting-lineup.html and figure out who to place your bets on. I imagine that there are some weasly bookies – literal weasels, I mean – who can hook you up.

Old School

My cousin Josh sent me this Philadelphia 76ers video — kickin’ it old school with Dr. J!


Was in Philly today. Had lunch at White Dog, which several people had told me had gone downhill, but we still thought it was good!

More snow is in the forecast. Guess I missed the memo that said I moved to the freakin’ North Pole.