Blog Rant: Airplanes!

June 28, 2011

As someone who has searched out somewhat healthy food at most of the major metropolitan areas in this country and come up pretty much empty-handed, and as someone whose flights have been canceled several times, allowing me to watch the inefficiency that the airlines call their “business model” to unfold before me in real time, I completely empathize with today’s post from guest blogger Denielle. Take it away:

I used to travel a lot for work. Then I had kids and the logistical drama caused by my brief absences led me to boycott work-travel altogether. So, as I fly to/from LA / NY in less than 24 hours, some questions have arisen that I hope someone can shed some light on.

1. Do I keep getting bigger, or do airplane seats keep getting smaller? Wait, don’t answer that!

I am sitting on a plane as I type.  My laptop is sitting on my actual lap because only 50% of it fits on the tray table in front of me, even at its full extended position, given that the seat in front of me is reclined! Don’t ask me to reach for the gum in my bag on the floor! It would be a physical impossibility.

2. Why is in-flight entertainment so *$% expensive????

I remember when Continental used to charge for headphones. It was a one time fee, as you could bring your Continental set to any future Continental flight (hats off to anyone who actually remembered to do that). There was one movie you could barely see or hear over the din of the engines, but everyone was in it together. Now everyone gets a personal TV on the back of the seat. Seems like an improvement, right?

Not so fast!

I’ve been on recent flights where you bring your headset and watch TV/movies of your choice on said personal TV.  On this Continental flight, they are charging $7.99 for DirecTV access.  No discounts for current DirecTV customers. If I know my TV commercials, I know that the average monthly price for a full DirecTV subscription is not much more than the price I would pay for TV access on this one round trip! There’s nothing on anyway.

3.  Why do airlines not want you to bring bags when you travel?

Call me crazy, but it seems that the price of bringing my luggage on a trip should be factored into the price of the overall flight. I get it if the bag weighs 200lbs, but $25 to check a small backpack? Really?

4.  Why do airlines want me to eat gummy bears for dinner?

If a flight departs city X at 3:30pm and is due to arrive at city Y by 11:45pm, would it not seem hospitable to offer, say, a small bag of pretzels?  Fortunately, 9oz bags of gummy bears are sold at a stand by the gate for $4.50 and suffice as dinner-in-a-pinch. My close friend, and frequent air traveler, confirms that anything consumed in an airport or on an airplane may not be measured for caloric or nutritional value. It just doesn’t count.

5. If you know we are coming into your airport, why do you not have anyone to let us in??

Once I’m comfy on a flight – one that gets in at say, 1am – there’s no need to rush me off the plane. I’m fine if we all just keep hanging out together for an hour or so.  The view from the runway is stunning and I’m always happy to make new friends.

I understand that when you are re-routed because of weather, and land at an airport that has already closed, it is unreasonable to expect that someone will be there to refuel you for 3.5 to 4 hours.  That someone is at home, watching his already-paid for DirecTV. But when we are expected, and there’s even a gate for us, PLEASE open the door.

All ranting aside, I will sit with my knees under my chin, listen to my stomach growl above the din of the plane, chewing gummy bears one by one for a smooth, safe flight.

Safe Travels!

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Delish

June 21, 2011

Is there anything better than finding a recipe that tastes good and is good for you?! Here’s one I recently added into my repertoire after we made it during a teambuilding offsite for work. The secret really is 2 tablespoons of water — it helps to steam and bake the spears at the same time, so they come out crispy and tender. My kids literally eat these off my plate. Perfect with roasted chicken or to accompany anything on the bbq this summer!!

Roasted Asparagus with Parmigiano

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches asparagus (about 40 spears), hard ends trimmed

2 tablespoons water

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

To make:

Preheat the oven to 375 (preferably set on convection bake).

Line a baking sheet with foil. Grease lightly with some olive oil. Arrange the asparagus on the baking sheet in a single layer, with the tips facing in the same direction. Pour the water onto the baking sheet.

Drizzle the asparagus with the olive oil, and season with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano.

Roast the asparagus for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden on top and still slightly crisp. Serve hot.

Cluck Cluck

We hit up Hill Country Chicken this weekend. We are fans of Hill Country Barbecue, so we were curious if this was going to be on par. If you don’t like fried chicken, there really isn’t much else to tempt you. But they do have a “Mama Els” version that is skinless, so that’s a little more healthy for you. There are kids meals and combos that can help a family of four eat a decent dinner for under $60, and there’s unlimited refills on the Boylan’s sodas on tap. The biscuits were good and the side dishes seemed like admirable additions (I tried the corn salad). For dessert there are all sorts of mini pies. The kids went for banana cream, Ken had pecan and I tried the fresh fruit. Nothing to quibble about there.

There’s lots of room downstairs for kids to hang out, complete with Lite Brites and video games. I wouldn’t go out of my way, but if you’re in the ‘hood (25th and Broadway), give it a try!

Etc.

Did everyone have a nice Father’s Day? The weather here was fantastic so that made it even nicer day.

My son isn’t done with school yet so it doesn’t feel like summer is here yet…but almost!

Vantage Point

June 17, 2011

Rainbow City visits the High Line

A few weeks ago our guest blogger Bret talked about the High Line and an art piece that someone had created. Today I have another push for it, since section number 2 has opened and you can wander all the way up to 30th Street for lots of fun in the sun, high above the rest of the city.

It really is odd how being up on the elevated tracks gives you a whole new perspective on the city. Most days there is a cool breeze coming off the Hudson, and every time I walk along the High Line I notice architecture I’ve never seen before, even though some of those blocks I’ve walked a thousand times. It’s amazing how the new park comes so close to existing apartments — I can’t imagine living and having the world seemingly able to peer in. It must be a rude awakening for many of those residents who have been there for years.

There are lots of places to stop and sit, chat with your friends or just gaze off in one direction or another. There are different small food carts intermittently dotting the Line — frankly not enough considering the looooooooooong lines that form at most of them on the weekends.

Right now if you go check out the new section, mosey on up to 30th Street and venture down below. AOL is sponsoring a balloon art exhibition from these artists FriendsWithYou from Miami. There are cool balloons to push and tug, and some of them have jumpy houses inside for kids to expend some energy.

Nearby is a down and dirty beer garden, run by Colicchio & Sons (The Lot on Tap) and some food trucks, including the super tasty Taim (try the date-lime-banana smoothie). The mix of people is fantastic: kids, frat boys, couples, tourists, hipsters and senior citizens all hangin’ out, under the High Line.

If nothing else, the High Line is fascinating as a piece of urban renewal. The tracks sat unused and overgrown for years and years, with repeated calls to tear them down. But as is often the case, through the foresight and vision of a few, it is now one of the top destinations in the city, adding so much to the fabric of the west side. The city’s initial investment of $115 million (the rest came from private donations) has given way to an attraction that generates billions of dollars of revenue and investment on and around it and  close to 20,000 jobs.

So grab a friend or a book and head on over to the High Line — now with more to love!

Music Man

Here’s Ken and the single of the week, and some serious fiction:

As Fathers’ Day approaches, the exercise of remembering life lessons passed down through my dad seems cliche at the very least – and a little empty at the very most. Isn’t parenting a long slog where you grasp to piece together advice and wisdom, knowing most everything will be forgotten by your child? Well let me tell you this – there’s one thing that my father believed in that I still hold on to today: there was no Civil War. No Emancipation Proclamation, no Fort Sumter, no Appomattox Court House (it was, however, the country’s first 99-cent store, which in those times held fairly high-ticket items) and Ambrose Burnside wasn’t a general, but rather a private investigator specializing in lost chickens. Indeed, my father was the world’s sole Civil War denier, and staunchly maintained that the “war” was a ruse Lincoln perpetrated to deflect the country’s attention from a sagging GDP. He and his cabinet traveled through the South lighting smoke bombs and dressing dogs up in army uniforms. And Ulysses S. Grant? There’s a growing body of evidence that he was the one who originally developed the idea behind “Celebrity Apprentice” and is also considered a pioneer of dubstep. So while most wallow in misinformation and credit the solidarity of the Union to General Grant, those of us in the know can give him props for influencing this week’s single, which really kicks some serious alien booty:

Etc.

On Monday I thought I had strep throat so I headed to the doctor. Today I found out that I don’t have it. Yet still, my throat hurts!! (Sigh.) Let’s hope I rally for the weekend…have a good one!!

Sum, Sum, Summertime!

June 14, 2011

Judy Moody can have her bummer summer…there’s a reason there are so many songs about kickin’ back and enjoying these hot months. Because it’s awesome!! Here’s guest blogger Tori to tell you how she gives her summer lots of lovin’:

Is it safe to say it’s summer yet? It’s going to be 100 degrees tomorrow, so I’m going to go ahead and say YES! Here are several things I am looking forward to and that I whole-heartedly recommend now that the weather’s warming up.

1. LOBSTER ROLLS!!!!
Good lawd I love a lobster roll. Last weekend I was in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for a wedding. The night before the big event, my friends and I went to Henlopen City Oyster House and I had what I am fairly certain was the best lobster roll I ever had. Huge, full of big chunks of everyone’s favorite prison ship food, just a little mayo, some chives..perfection. I am tempted to drive the 4 hours back there for another one. But here in NYC, there are lots of great options too. I’m partial to Luke’s but I know the topic is a hotly debated one. Whatever your favorite lobster monger is, go get one!

2. Sneaking Champagne into the Park
Is there anything better than spreading out a blanket in the grass (Prospect Park, I love you!), hanging around with some pals and enjoying the sunshine? I say yes! Add champagne! (And I should add: the views of Family Favs are not necessarily the views of its guest bloggers, and Family Favs would never, ever advocate breaking the law, got it?)

3. Dresses from Anthropologie
Anthropologie is like a magical playground for me. It’s like Willy Wonka’s crazy candy room. “Come with me and you’ll see you’re in a world of pure OMG I WANT THAT.” And, since it’s summer, they have so many amazing dresses right now — if I won the lottery, I would buy them all. This is a favorite: http://bit.ly/kpraj5. If anyone wants to send me one, feel free.

4. Outdoor Concerts
Living in NYC, I’m lucky that there are so, so many fabulous free concerts in the summer. And I am really looking forward to going to the Newport Folk Festival at the end of July. Wherever you are, I am sure that your city or town has some great, possibly free, outdoor music in the next few months — go get some.

5. Summer Reading
In the cooler months, you’ll find me discussing the finer points of “Gravity’s Rainbow” or breezing through “Ulysses.” But in the summer, I dial it back a bit. I just finished Suzanne Collins’ much-talked-about young adult novel “The Hunger Games” and I will tell you what: it was great. I was so into it that I actually missed my subway stop one day Engrossing, compelling, emotional, funny, terrifying — I loved it so much that the minute I finished it, I downloaded the second book in the series. Now, I’ve never read the “Twilight” books. It would take a magic spell to get me to read the Harry Potter novels. But for some reason, this series grabbed me. I can’t wait for the movie, which will star Jennifer Lawrence who was so amazing in “Winter’s Bone.” My point? Find yourself an easy-readin’ book and get lost in the sunshine.
I could go on til September but I think instead I’ll go do another thing I love when it gets this hot out: crank up the AC and go to sleep in a refrigerator-like room. Keep cool out there!

Etc.

Hey, Mr. Academy Awards producer, did you see the Tonys last night? They were what an awards show should be: entertaining! Let’s see if you can bring some of that to the Oscars next year. And hats off to Neil Patrick Harris and the rest of the team for last night’s show. Well done.

Movie Madness

June 10, 2011

On Fridays through July 29th, if you want to go to the movies and you have a Visa Signature card, you’re in luck: if you follow this link to Fandango, you can buy one ticket and get the second one for free.

There are a few caveats (like only one per month per cardholder and you have to purchase and use the tix on the same Friday), but in general this feels like a great way to beat the heat at a discount!

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken:

Austin has a new favorite song. Like many things that affect him, I don’t know if it’s good or bad, or if it will be anything meaningful within the long continuum of his life. Nevertheless, I give it and its corresponding artwork my enthusiastic support.

Etc.

Did you catch Google’s mini tribute to Les Paul? Just go to google.com and strum on the logo. You can even record a little song and send it to your friends.

It was amazing to watch the front come in to try and relieve us of this 100 degree heat. All seems calmer now…thank goodness!!

Fashion as Art

June 7, 2011

Before we get to today’s Favs I think we all need to reflect for a moment on how stupid these male politicos are: dude, do not tweet photos of yourself to women you don’t know! It’s kind of unbelievable. And once again we can all take away the lesson that LYING ONLY MAKES IT WORSE! Seriously. All I can say is, his poor wife. Hopefully she’s somewhere far, far away having a drink with her boss, Hillary Clinton. Irony never sleeps.

Anyway…last week I took a day off to check out the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I can honestly say it is one of the best exhibits I have ever seen. Yes, ever.

For those of you not familiar, Alexander McQueen was a bad boy British fashion designer who worked making custom suits on Savile Row and then helmed Givenchy, before getting his own line. He was always known for his outsized vision and was always pushing the boundaries (Lady Gaga was a client), but his clothes were always impeccably cut (Michelle Obama wore him too). Unfortunately he killed himself last year at 40 years old, cutting short of life of true genius.

Do not think of this as a fashion exhibit — it is art, through and through, that just happens to be wearable. As a creative person, seeing how he built a complete vision for each collection, from the clothes (an Elizabethan coat made out of hand-painted gold feathers!) to the accessories (a hat that’s a bird made from twigs) to the music (an African drumbeat where a coyote howls every two and a half minutes), really showcases the inner workings of his mind.

Beyond the actual clothes, which are gorgeous, the way they exhibit the pieces works well — some outfits are on revolving platforms so you get a 360 degree view, and moments from his different fashion shows are recreated, whether it be the box that was a mirror and a stage for the audience, Kate Moss’ hologram or slashed floorboards from “Highland Rape.” His use of organic materials like feathers, mussel shells and fresh flowers adds to the beauty and fragility.

This is one not to miss — they just extended it til August 7th and if you pay $50, you can even get in to check it out when the rest of the museum is closed. When you go, I recommend going very early or very late. LOTS of people go so there are lines and once inside, it just gets too crowded to see anything.

Click here for more info. I did the audio guide which was helpful in adding some background info and interesting to hear from people who knew him, but it isn’t essential and if it’s really crowded, I could see it being really annoying.

Etc.

I’ve truly been enjoying this spring-like weather and am sad to see that the mid-90s are coming back.  It’s early June! Give it rest til August.

Hope your week is fab!

Our guest blogger Denielle gets ready to see her oldest child leave kindergarten and pre-school behind, with some lessons we can all take away:

My oldest daughter’s first year of kindergarten is coming to a close on June 9. There’s nothing that makes me feel older than realizing my kids are now an age I remember being myself!!! I recall collecting worms in first grade for science, being Sandy (yes, the dog) in our rendition of ANNIE and playing dogs on the playground at recess (perhaps inspired by my stage debut).

It has been said (in graduation speeches and humor columns mostly) that everything we need to know in life we learned in kindergarten. If that’s true, then I’m soaking up some major life lessons when Cecelia shares her daily adventures.

Some of the things I’ve re-learned this year include (in no particular order):

  1. Monkey bars are hard. They can be mastered by determination and practice.
  2. A common phonetic spelling of “pizza” is “peze” (just in case you are reading any important works by 6 year olds).
  3. Before speaking, we should ask ourselves if it is kind, true or necessary. Technically speaking this is part of her school’s anti-bullying code and is an old Quaker adage but I sure wish more people knew about it!
  4. In the digraphs “QU,” Q is always faithful to U, but not vice versa (Damn U).
  5. Female spiders eat their mates after mating. Ewwww!
  6. Chocolate milk for lunch every day gets old around April 3. Variety may very well be the spice of life.
  7. We can be many colors, shades, sizes and shapes on the outside, but we’re all pretty much the same on the inside.

Next week her sharing topic is “best kindergarten memory.” I hope she remembers the above listed lessons and so many more of the accomplishments I have witnessed.

First grade, here we come!

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken:

Unless you ride the NY subway, attend Polish weddings or vacation at a gypsy camp, you probably don’t come into much contact with accordion players. Los Tigres Del Norte, a norteño group from Mexico has got the squeezebox thing down, and they did it live with Paulina Rubio:


Who’s Paulina Rubio? She’s an international superstar, but all I know is that she did this video, which was clearly funded by the IMF.

Etc.

If you’re in need of anything at The Gap, they’re taking an extra 40% off most things, in-store only. Worth checking out — I got some nice summer pajamas and a light windbreaker, perfect for rainy summer days.

Nothing like a 77 degrees and sunny day to lift your spirits! Let’s hope it continues…