Cuteness

March 29, 2011

Lord knows our kids don’t need more crap. But my children — particularly my son — has gotten really into Kid Robot, a store in SoHo that sells plastic figurines designed by all different kinds of artists. Sometimes they are based on pop culture icons (there was a Simpsons and a Yo Gabba Gabba line), and sometimes they’ve just sprung from someone’s fertile imagination, but they are always cool, for kids and adults.

A new line just came out — BFFs — and they are these cute duos. New York magazine has deemed them “adorbs…” I would agree. We went to check them out yesterday.

Part of the fun is that you pick a line you like, and then get a box from that line. Exactly which figurine you get is a mystery until you open the box at home. Addison got a little bomb and his friend the smiling match, and Austin got a super cute ice cream cone with his buddy the sun, which fits nicely in its side.

I’m mildly obsessed with the breakfast key chains. We have a grapefruit, orange, pancakes, crying toast and this weekend I got the highly coveted cinnamon bun. I think the only one we wanted more is the cup of coffee, which one of our babysitters has.

Last time we were in there, we saw Reese Witherspoon checking things out. Forget the Oscar, Kid Robot rules the mantelpiece!

Long Road

This weekend we decided to watch Revolutionary Road, which I had DVR’d. I knew it was going to be depressing, but frankly it just wasn’t that good. Kate Winslet’s accent really bugged me — it was like you could feel her labored effort to speak American English coming through the screen. And the script was kind of all over. After it ended Ken joked, “Why didn’t we watch it on Valentine’s Day?” because we have a habit of watching downer movies on V-day. (I Am Legend was one year’s feature.)

I say skip this Road. I heard the book was better.

Etc.

I heard from my pilates teacher who is stuck in Japan that the situation is pretty deplorable there. I guess what most people don’t realize is that the nuclear plant may be in Fukushima, but it supplies power to Tokyo, so Tokyo has had to endure daily 3 – 6 hour blackouts to conserve power. I feel so bad for those people. And how scary is it that they are starting to pick up radiation from it in Nevada and Massachusetts?

Yet another moment to be grateful for what we have, and live each day to the fullest. Carpe diem, as they say!

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Penny Pincher

March 25, 2011

Another week, another celebrity freak out. This time it’s Chris Brown, over-reacting to some very innocuous questions from Robin Roberts about Rihanna. You can have three #1 hits off of your new album but you cannot hide from the restraining order! Crazy. He apparently hurled a chair through a window at Good Morning America. The best response I saw was from Jimmy Kimmel, who said, “Apparently, not a morning person.”

Guest blogger Bret is freaking out about another issue altogether: companies sticking it to loyal customers. I’m down with that:

One of my pet peeves is when new customers or subscribers of magazines, cable TV or other goods/services are offered a lower rate than existing customers.  Why should I be penalized for being a loyal customer?  Should the newbies get a better deal?  I understand the logic – companies offer a special introductory rate to attract new business and can’t afford to keep the price that low forever.  I don’t care.

When it’s time to renew a subscription or they raise the fee, I call customer service and ask for the lower rate.  If that doesn’t work, I ask for a supervisor.   If that doesn’t work, I threaten to drop them or ask for the “retention” department (which usually has special authority to offer deals to “at-risk” customers).  I know it’s petty and the amount of time I spend haggling is probably better spent a thousand other ways, but it’s the principle.  And guess what?  It usually works — except for People magazine, which apparently knows that I’m not that cool and doesn’t care if I unsubscribe.

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken being oh so Ken:

I am a Tiger Dad. I make Austin lift weights an hour each day, withhold food if he can’t recite the second act of Les Miserables and demand that he write daily posts in his pro-Palestinian blog. And Addison? I force her to dance to this:

Check it out!!

Etc.

I really find the news extra depressing lately. I definitely recommend tuning it out after limited exposure. It can start to seep inside your brain.

I met an old friend for a drink tonight. I totally recommend it. He picked the 21 Club which I had never been to in all my years. The best part was that he knew just about everyone working there. It was easy and funny and warm, and he kept telling introducing me as his friend for 24 years. The hallmark of a true old friend is that when you get together, it’s like no time has intervened. So call or email an old friend right now! We all could use a little togetherness.


Rain, Rain

March 22, 2011

Could be worse — could be “Snow, Snow”…but all of the rain today brings me to the topic of umbrellas. So many of them are crap — they reverse at the slightest hint of wind, or they’re a struggle to collapse. We had gotten a bunch of umbrellas free over the years as promotional items — mostly from The Weather Channel, appropriately enough — and I hadn’t had the occasion to shell out for one. But recently just about every last umbrella in our possession went kaflooey. Or was left at the gym by my husband. So I was on the hunt.

From MoMA

I’ve found that the really teeny ones are great for keeping in your bag or stashed in the car as a “just in case” hedge against the forecast, but if it’s really raining, you need something more substantial. And like most things, you get what you pay for.

The Museum of Modern Art has some good ones. I like the sky umbrella, a classic designed by the legendary Tibor Kalman. Spring for the $48 full size version and when you look up, you’ll instantly feel better…blue skies are ahead! (MoMA members get a 10% discount.)

London Fog's take

For something a little more collapsible, I got this London Fog auto open/close version, in a cute red plaid. It’s easy to use and is larger than a typical collapsible version. And at one pound, it’s easy to tote around. I paid around $30 at Mxyplyzyk in the West Village, but you can find it online in the mid $20s…I like brighter colors than plain old boring black, because everyone could use the extra kick on a blah rainy day.

I also think a nice umbrella makes a good gift — it’s something that most people don’t think to spring on for themselves, and it’s endlessly useful.

Etc.

Why is Gossip Girl on hiatus for over a month? It’s kind of ridiculous — you get in a rhythm with these shows and then they’re ripped from the schedule. Over it! By the time it comes back you can’t remember what was going on…and probably don’t care.

Spring has sprung people! Even with the rain, you can smell it in the air…the anticipation of something fantastic. Enjoy it!

What’s for Dinner?

March 18, 2011

Tonight my three year old daughter asked me if I wanted to see “the highest jump in the whole uniform!” But of course! Uniform/universe…it’s all good.

Anyway, first up is Liz from Down Under with some tasty family-friendly recipes:

Before I had kids, cooking and dinner used to be a pleasure. Now, it seems more of a constant battle. One week my son Jesse loves pasta, the next week – no, not really a pasta lover at all. As a mother, I am constantly concerned about getting my kids to eat balanced, healthy and pleasurable food.  Who has time for all of this nonsense?!

Here are a few quick recipe ideas that seem to have repeat success with my entire family:

Udon Noodle Soup

1 package udon noodles (pre-cooked)

1 carton chicken broth

1/2 rotisserie chicken cut up into bite sized pieces

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

2 teaspoons chopped ginger

1-2 tablespoons white vinegar

Asian hot sauce – to taste

Greens – cilantro, scallions, mint or greens of your choice

Heat up chicken broth and add garlic, ginger and scallions. Pour boiling water over pre-cooked udon noodles in a bowl. Once chicken broth heats up add vinegar and hot sauce to taste. Add chicken to broth. Put noodles in a bowl, pour broth with chicken chunks over noodles and put cilantro on top.

Spiral Pasta with Vinaigrette

1/2 bag of spiral pasta of your choice

1/2 carton grape tomatoes

1 bunch basil or basil sprouts

Olive oil to taste

Red wine vinegar to taste

1/4-1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Additional items:

Chicken, asparagus, brocollini

Cook the pasta as per directions on package. Cut grape tomatoes in half and place in serving bowl. Once pasta is cooked and strained, put pasta in bowl over tomatoes. Sprinkle pasta and tomatoes with olive oil and red wine vinegar to taste. Add parmesan cheese and basil and toss to combine.

This can be served hot, at room temperature or cold. This is also nice the next day in your child’s lunch box.

You can add any additional ingredients that you like (the chicken, asparagus or brocollini works well) depending on your taste.

Enjoy!

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken:

My bedroom is where the magic happens, if you happen to define “magic” as “bleeding out the nose in the middle of the night thanks to a dry winter.” After the magic part, it’s always good to cuddle with the person whose pillow you’ve bled on and listen to a sweet, simple tune. Here’s a great one courtesy of an Israeli-born alt-country performer, a ukelele and Journey.

Click here to watch!

Etc.

Last night we had dinner next to Sandra Day O’Connor at the Met before the opera. She looked great, and seemed to be enjoying herself. Truly an icon!

This week has truly wiped me out…TGIF, baby!


 

Mountain Dreams

March 14, 2011

I’m back after a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles for 36 hours…the redeye coupled with Daylight Savings is a very dangerous combination!!

Anyway, while I catch my breath, here’s guest blogger Rebecca to recommend a skiing adventure, before the snow disappears…

This past winter was a busy one, which left me with no time for a ski weekend at our favorite Vermont ski mountain, Stratton.  Intrawest is the company that owns Stratton as well as the Vail ski resort in Colorado.  Therefore it makes for a pretty ritzy ski area, only a 3 and ½ hour drive from home.

I recently received a phone call from my bff in Boston, which is how I’ve come to this topic.  When I was visiting her on the cape this summer I was telling her where to go in Vermont with her 3 young sons for Christmas vacation.  As she started to tell me about her great ski vacation, I had completely forgotten that I was the one who told her to go there.  I had recommended all the hot spots, i.e. where to stay, eat and play. So here are some of my recommendations:

My favorite place to stay is the Long Trail House.  It’s so great to stay there for so many reasons.  There is a communal locker area to store your skis.  When you want to kick back and relax, there is a beautiful main “hang out” room with a grand floor to ceiling stone fireplace.  The room looks out onto the large heated outdoor pool and two generous sized hot tubs.  The accommodations range from studios to two bedrooms.  All rooms are equipped with kitchens. The rooms are typically owned by individuals and Stratton Mountain rents them out for the owners.

It’s an easy 2 – 3 minute walk through a cobblestone street in Stratton Village where you pass stores and restaurants till you get to the base of the mountain.  There is a popular bar and grill restaurant, Mulligan’s, that’s a great place to bring the kids.   The Waffle House happens to be one of my favorite food stops over by the gondola lift.  Ski right off the slope and into a hot, freshly made waffle with toppings.  On a sunny day you can sit outside of the lodge and soak in the rays while enjoying your tasty treat.

The ski school at Stratton is top notch.  The majority of the instructors are college age students from Argentina.  It’s summer where they from, so it’s the perfect time for them to be ski instructors.  You can drop the kids off by 8:30 – 9:00 and pick them up at 4pm.  I think the youngest they take is 3 or 4 years olds.  There are lots of hot chocolate breaks and they serve the kids lunch.  The mountain also has a great daycare program for babies and Stratton offers every parent’s dream, a long list of babysitters.

Vermont in the winter is never the same without a trip to an inn for dinner.  A must “eat at” is The Three Clock Inn in Londonderry.  It is about a 20 minute ride from Stratton.  It’s so authentically Vermont with the big fireplace in the main dining room and the dark wood walls.  My comment on the food is that everything is delish.

For you warm weather folks, Stratton has a great golf program during the non-winter months.  Manchester is about 30 minutes away and boasts excellent outlet shopping. Also, located in Manchester is the Equinox Hotel and Spa.  This is great if you don’t only want to ski while visiting the Green Mountain state.

So Fresh and So Clean

March 8, 2011

Once my kids got out of the baby phase, I was semi-puzzled about what to use to clean them in the bath. I like the ease of a liquid, and I wanted to use something organic/all natural, to keep all of the nasty additives off of their skin every night. A lot of the cleansers designed for kids were crazy colors or had awful synthetic smells like bubble gum. Many of the more organic kids products charged a hefty price for a small amount of soap. And two kids uses up a lot of soap.

So I headed to Whole Body and found what I think is a good solution: Alba Botanica Honey Mango Bath and Shower Gel. It’s all natural with no added junk, and it smells divine — not in a cloying kid way nor in an over-perfumed adult way, but just yummy. We do’t share a bathroom with the kids, but if we did, we definitely could all use it and be happy. It comes in a 32 ounce size pump — which lasts a while and is easy for everyone to get to. Just put the washcloth underneath and you’re good to go with one hand. It was about $16 for the large bottle, but it seems, like everything, you can find it online cheaper.

Really the only problem is that my kids say it smells so good they want to eat it.

Single of the Week

I was delinquent and forgot to post Ken’s Single of the Week last week, so here it is for your enjoyment:

These days, my iPod knows no other song than this week’s single. Yes, I’ve slid down the wormhole and landed in the land of 80s hair metal and positive Christian messages. Messages like “someone’s always looking out for you,” “don’t be stupid, werewolves are real”
and “that sandwich can definitely use a little more mayo.” But don’t be put off by Stryper’s whole Christian thing. The song rocks, and they’re dressed like bumblebees for God’s sake.
Check it out here.

Etc.

The weekends go SO FAST, and then before you know it, you’re back to the grind. Even rain on the weekend doesn’t get me down! And we got caught in a doozy of a downpour yesterday afternoon. We all had to strip off our soaked clothes. But at least it was rain and not snow (unlike Syracuse, where they just added another foot of snow to their tally).

Anyway…hope your week is off to a promising start!

Toothiness

March 4, 2011

Here comes guest blogger Denielle to tell us the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth…(sorry, couldn’t resist!):

In honor of Dental Health Month last month, here’s a little something on teeth.

I opened up my email on January 28 to find this note from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, Just wanted to give you a heads-up that during Art today Cecelia was trying to pull apart her glue stick, let go, and punched herself in the mouth, which knocked her front loose tooth out…”

Yep. My 6 year old punched her own tooth out of her mouth! The trauma of losing her first tooth in this violent manner has stayed with her, which is the reason she has let her other front loose tooth hang by the thinnest of fibers for the last 3 weeks. We call it her snaggle tooth and it’s really unpleasant to look at. I am not a fan of teeth issues to begin with and fortunately have not had to endure much more than routine cleanings at the dentist during my lifetime.

My girls, on the other hand, all have chipped front teeth (some worse than others), one has a fused baby tooth and all will be spending some serious time with an orthodontist in the not-too-distant future. In other words, I’ve had to get used to dealing with teeth issues.

So I thought I would share some wisdom about managing dental traumas (small and large), and reveal some insights from the tooth fairy:

Overall Dental Hygiene:

— Kids (or parents) should start brushing kids’ teeth as soon as they sprout up and children should visit a  dentist starting around age 3 (your pediatrician may have a different recommendation).

— Obviously good dental hygiene is important for many reasons.

— Kids should use kid-sized soft toothbrushes and non-fluoride toothpaste until they are adept at spitting out the toothpaste (Orajel is a fan favorite here).

— Brushing at least twice a day is recommended. I’m personally a fan of the anti-cavity rinses but I cannot make any claims about their true cavity-preventing abilities.

— My dentist gave us mini egg timers that my kids like to use to count down 2 minutes — the recommended amount of time for brushing. You’d be shocked how long two minutes takes sometimes!

Tooth Traumas:

— Sterile Gauze should be used to hold on bleeding gums for approximately 10 minutes if a tooth is accidentally knocked out. I now carry some sealed gauze squares in my bag in case we have any other tooth traumas on the road.

— Warm salt water is a good, soothing rinse after a tooth injury. It can even help cure canker sores.

— If you break or lose a permanent tooth, you want to get to a dentist. ASAP. And they recommend keeping the tooth in milk, water or saliva if possible.

Tooth Fairy Insights:

— Get a special tooth fairy pillow or box at a store or from your dentist as early as possible and keep it on hand. You never know when you’ll need it!  My daughter was thrilled to have a tooth box (which she got at school) and found it very exciting to find “empty” in the morning after the tooth fairy visited.

— It is a good idea to have some crisp bills ($2 bills are available at the bank) or fun $1 coins on hand to lend the Tooth Fairy in case a child loses a tooth unexpectedly and the Tooth Fairy hadn’t budgeted properly for that night’s rounds.

General:

— Remember, smiling uses fewer muscles than frowning, so brush well and smile big!

ABC, Easy As…Yum!

March 3, 2011

Well, it’s your lucky week, isn’t it? A bonus post from Family Favs. I feel like I had to given all the craziness — Charlie Sheen, John Galliano, Charlie Sheen, Christina Aguilera, Charlie Sheen…scary. And don’t you get the feeling it’s just all not going to end well? Yikes.

Ken took me out for Valentine’s Day this past weekend. (2 weeks late, but who’s counting??) Well, it was truly better late than never as he took me to ABC Kitchen, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s take on a sustainable kitchen. Produce is locally sourced, plates were made by a local potter, waiters wear the plaid shirt of their choice…but really, it all comes down to the food. And it’s VERY GOOD! I think it’s my favorite new restaurant so far. We had the peekytoe crab toast, squash toast, hamachi sashimi (which was more like ceviche), I had the arctic char with carrot sauce, Ken had the sea bass with herbs and potatoes, and we split the sundae with salty caramel ice cream, chocolate sauce and caramel popcorn. Delish! (A ginger margarita washed it all down well.)

Goodness doesn’t come cheap (figure on $175 with tip for two — with minimal drinking), but for a lovely night out or a special occasion, I give it a big thumbs up.

It’s Not Just for Soap

Our guest blogger Michelle is here with her recommendations to make life a little easier, with a new site and a tasty frozen meal:

I  shopped  at Soap.com twice and had a great experience both times.  The prices are good and the service is great.  Your order will come within 1 to 2 days with no shipping fees if you spend at least $25.  You can buy any household product you can imagine and most drugstore items.  I was out of dish detergent and was able to get it delivered directly to my house the next day!  I also ordered 12 rolls of Bounty paper towels.  It was very convenient to have this big package delivered to my front door.

If you decide to try Soap.com, first check out retailmenot.com for some coupon codes.  There’s a code on the site right now for 15% off your first order.  Even without the discounts, I think it’s a good value. Check it out here at soap.com.

Dr. Praeger’s Tex Mex Veggie Burgers

For a quick lunch, I love to heat up a Praeger Tex Mex burger.  I serve it in a toasted tortilla with melted mozzarella cheese.  I fold the tortilla in half, fill it with cheese, spray the outside with Pam and toast it in the toaster oven.  It’s quick, delicious and nutritious.  One burger has 110 calories, 6 grams of protein and 14% of your daily iron needs.  The sodium content of 250 mg is not too outrageous given it is a frozen pre-made item.  I also like Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie burger.  There is also an appetizer and snack line and a whole kids line I look forward to trying. Look for them at Trader Joe’s, Costco or Whole Foods.

 


Pretty much, anyway…after the winter we’ve had on the East Coast, I’ll take 70 degrees and sunny every day. We spent our time outdoors, as you can imagine.

Continental flies direct from Newark to Phoenix, and unless you have an insane headwind (like we did), it’s generally a 5 or so hour trip there. (We had another hour added. But on the way back, that same wind got us home in 3 hours and 37 minutes…suck it!)

Once there, there are all kinds of things to do, and I would make heading out to the desert or seeing the red rocks of Sedona a priority. Given that we have friends and family there and have been over 15 times (seriously, I think it may be over 20 for me), we don’t feel the pressure to rush anywhere. That in itself is a luxury, on vacation or not.

This time, we took the kids to the Phoenix Zoo. It’s a nice zoo, and I hadn’t been in years, since my sister threw up given the extreme heat when our parents took us there in the summer. (If I have one tip for Arizona, NEVER go in the summer.) In February the only bad reaction we got was my daughter holding her nose from the stench of the animals’ poop.

You know who loaned John Lennon's piano to the MIM? That's right: George Michael himself. Thanks George!

We also went to the brand new Musical Instrument Museum, which is in a beautiful building and was very cleverly put together. It’s broken up into continents, and then there are displays of instruments from each country. And then, this is the best part, you wear headphones and as you approach any exhibit, you automatically hear the music being played with those instruments. It really makes the exhibits come alive. Plus there’s a hands on room where you and your kids can play everything from a harp to a gong. Very fun!

Cracker Jax has 3 different miniature golf courses, go karts, batting cages, bungee jumping domes, paddle boats and a whole host of video games. You can pay for a 4 hour pass or just buy tickets as you go — you decide your threshold.

The Cactus League’s spring training is always a good time, if only to see the crazy rabid fans. The stadiums are smaller so there really isn’t a bad seat, and you can get up close to the dugout and feel a part of the action. We went to see the Diamondbacks play the World Champion San Francisco Giants on a lovely day. My only recommendation would be to eat before you go — the food options are pretty poor. (Lots of beer and cotton candy!)

My husband and son went to a Phoenix Suns game one night. If you’re a basketball fan I recommend this because they sat in seats that cost over $200 in Madison Square Garden, but were only $18 in Arizona. You could almost fly there, take in a game and fly home with change left to spare.

In the mood to shop? Of course! I like Biltmore Fashion Park. The shops are just ok (MAC, Apple, Saks, Macy’s, Cole Haan, etc.) but it’s a lovely outdoor mall with nice courtyards that you can just chill in. There’s a Cheesecake Factory and a California Pizza Kitchen that both have good outdoor seating for a nice al fresco lunch.

I scored some great deals on Vince sweaters at Neiman Marcus in Scottsdale Fashion Square. Since no one in Arizona seems to need sweaters, their loss was my gain! If you head there at the end of the winter season, definitely worth checking out. Ken once got an insane deal on a really thick cashmere sweater that no Arizonan wanted.

My friend Ilene had us over for a lovely evening barbecue, and she got the kids a pinata to bust open, which was a highlight of the trip for them. She got it at Ranch Market on 16th and Roosevelt, and we went to check the place out for ourselves. It’s a Mexican market with shelves of Mexican baked goods, produce piled high, tortilla making machines running a mile a minute, and Mexican products that can be hard to find like Salsa Verde Doritos and Jarritos Lite soda. There was a whole restaurant section that looked tasty, but unfortunately the timing didn’t work for us to grab lunch.

Next time!!

Etc.

I am desperately trying to hang on to my vacation high. I think my kids are too — Austin wondered why it always goes so fast. Just wait — it gets worse!

Hope you survived the February blahs…get ready for March!