Oktoberfest and Nature!

September 27, 2011

Hessian Lake

Our guest blogger Tori decided to take us on a ride as she headed out past the city limits for some bears, beer and bratwurst…a perfect idea for a sitcom if I ever did hear one.

This past Saturday, the mister and I decided to get the heck out of the city. So we took a trip by boat to Bear Mountain Park to attend the Oktoberfest celebration that happens every weekend through the end of October. If you’re in NYC – or anywhere nearby – I highly recommend that you go. It was awesome.

We left bright and early from the Circle Line pier (43rd street on the west side) and took a truly beautiful 2.5 hour cruise up the Hudson. If you wish, you can purchase food and beverages on the boat – a few of the passengers made a booze cruise out of it, but it was truly a mixed crowd – couples, families and groups of friends alike.

After the leisurely trip up the river, the boat goes around a little bend and into what feels almost like a small harbor just south of the Bear Mountain Bridge. It’s a gorgeous, calm spot in the bend, surrounded by wooded mountains. Once you leave the boat, you walk up a paved trail up the mountainside. But don’t worry, it’s not that strenuous – it took us about 8 minutes to scale, and an old guy with a rolling walker behind us was also able to do it, albeit much more slowly.

At the summit, all of a sudden BLAM! Oktoberfest! There are craft vendors (nothing too fabulous, except for the pickle guy who sells AWESOME new and sour pickles for $5 a quart). And of course there is beer and German food galore. My husband and I figured out that you can skip the massive food line by visiting the smaller beer, brat and knockwurst truck that’s just outside the pavilion. I recommend the Spaten Oktoberfest beer and knockwurst with sauerkraut. Enjoy them next to the ridiculously placid and breathtaking Hessian Lake (see photo).

Next, head inside the tent. The lines will have likely thinned out and you can get delicious pierogies and other delicacies (we don’t recommend the potato pancakes though – too dense). We also had the pleasure of petting several puppies. (Bonus!) Have another beer or two and you might just find yourself doing a waltz or a yelling “sicket socket!” next to a couple of stine-swilling octogenarians in full Oktoberfest regalia. We did, and it was excellent.

At the end of the three-hours allotted for the ‘fest, head back down the trail with your fellow revelers and get back on the boat for a ride back. We found that the mood on the way back to NYC was a lot more celebratory than the lazy, dreamy ride up – the crew even changed the music from the Sinatra that we’d heard up the river to disco hits.

All in all, you’re away from the city from around 9am to 6pm. You still have a few weeks to check out Oktoberfest. After than, Bear Mountain still has a lot to offer: an ice rink in the winter, the grand re-opening of the Bear Mountain Inn in November, a section of the Appalachian trail, a museum and zoo and what looks like the most amazing pool, nestled in a valley between the trees, in the summer. It’s pretty much my new favorite place.

Tickets for the boat run around $50, although we got them for $25 apiece through LivingSocial.com, so be on the lookout for deals.

Oktoberfest info: http://www.palisadesparksconservancy.org/parks/5/

Circle Line (don’t bother with the $14 picnic lunch): http://www.circleline42.com/new-york-cruises/browse.aspx?type=&productid=218

 

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I haven’t managed to get it together and switch the kids’ summer clothes over to some fall/winter staples, so in my mind it is still summertime. And since I was at my son’s school this morning for curriculum morning and felt how humid and stuffy that place is, he may be wearing shorts for a few more months! Jeesh. Anyway, guest blogger Michelle stops by with some tips for warm weather hygiene. And who couldn’t use a little more hygiene, are you with me people?!?!?

I love the summer as much as anyone, but along with picture-perfect moments and memories, there are some less-than-glamorous elements that need to be addressed.  As we step into autumn, this may be my least elegant blog submission ever, but I hope you find it helpful.
Chlorine – Necessary, but Evil
My family and I are lucky enough to belong to a pool down the street.  While it’s great fun and exercise, it is very harsh on the hair.  The chlorine makes our hair stiff and yucky.  I tried Ultraswim and Aubrey’s Swimmer’s Normalizing Shampoo and Conditioner.  Both brands are expensive and don’t really work.    Finally, I found and love Suave Professionals Humectant Moisture Shampoo and  Conditioner for dry hair.  It works great to get the chlorine smell and crunchiness out of your hair. It’s relatively inexpensive too.
Stinky
I hate when my workout clothes still stink after washing them.  If you too have this problem, I might have a solution for you.  First, try putting plain old white vinegar in a spray bottle.  Before putting your workout clothes in the laundry basket, spray the affected areas.  For me,  it’s just the arm pits.  If that doesn’t work for you, try Earth Friendly’s Everyday Stink & Odor Remover. It works every time for me.
Drier and Happy
I just started buying and using special underwear for workouts.  Moving Comfort bikinis are my favorite.  They’re really light and comfortable.
Get in shape, be comfortable and smell good!
Single of the Week
Oh, Ken, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind. Go Ken!
Das Racist is a Brooklyn trio of indeterminate (at least to me) racial politics. Like half-drunk bleacher creatures, the band is in the business of targeting anyone with epithet-laden critiques, sticking it to The Man and furtively seeking approval. It’s highly unlikely that they are people who would collaborate well as part of a team drafting a PowerPoint on operational effectiveness, but the fact is that they have their own style and notions of what a good presentation is.
The Letter G
I leave you with something you and your kids can enjoy together: nobody does a Glee parody like Sesame Street!

Shiny and New

September 20, 2011

I recently treated myself to some new pots and pans. I had gotten some Stainless Steel All Clad pots for my wedding almost 10 years ago, and they have held up great so I counted my pennies and bought some more. (Stainless All Clad is not cheap! But worth it since it lasts.) Because I am trying to wean myself off of using non-stick cookware, I’ve been using the stainless frying pans to make all sorts of sauteed delights. And you know what? The brand new pans look like crap! No amount of soaking and scrubbing (with anything that’s not too abrasive) was working.

Enter Bar Keepers Friend. I don’t know how it works, but it really does take all of the black residue off of the pans, leaving them almost like new. And this weekend I used it on my stainless steel sink, and that sink has never looked shinier! Little rust spots, gone. Water spots, gone. I sprinkled it on, added a bit of water to make a paste, took a paper towel and went to town with a bit ‘o elbow grease. Brilliant!

The best part? It costs $1.99. Yes, you can pay a lot for more expensive cleaners, but this works. I wouldn’t recommend it for stainless things like a refrigerator or microwave, as I wouldn’t want to risk scratching it, but for anything that you need a bit of grit to work up a gentle scrub, this is your stuff.

They have it at Target an Bed Bath and Beyond, in the cleaning department. I noticed they make a smaller jar that is labeled specifically for pots and they charge $3.99 for it. I checked it out and it seems like it is exactly the same stuff, just in a different package and with an upcharge. No need to pay it.

Etc.

If you are in NYC this week, do not take a cab anywhere! It is mayhem. I had to go to a work event at The Pierre on 61st and 5th Avenue, and traffic was literally stopped for over 30 minutes near the Plaza, to make way for President Obama. I ended up ditching the cab and walking the last few blocks, $22 cab ride later. Maddening!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Kids Night Out

September 16, 2011

In my house, our latest form of entertainment to take to restaurants to occupy the kids before the food comes is Uno. We get into some fierce Uno showdowns, and the best part is that our 4 year old has begun to grasp it and is kicking everyone’s you-know-what! Today, our guest blogger Liz checks in with some thoughts on taking kids out to restaurants.

People without kids often question why people with kids bring them out to a restaurant.

With busy lives, the social environment and service that a restaurant offers can be an uplifting experience for a family.  Restaurants make us feel that we’re part of a community – often we’ll get to know the restaurant owner or staff and see people that we know from the neighborhood.  After a long day, once and a while, it is nice not have to cook and clean. It is nice to mix up the routine and sit down with the family in a different setting to share a meal together.  Frankly, sometimes it is just good to get out of the house to get a little air and a new setting.

In today’s day and age, everyone eats out in restaurants, unlike my in childhood, and that means kids, too.

Just as adults have different temperaments, so do children.  My three kids are all very different.  My oldest is well behaved in any restaurant, while my middle child can’t sit still for two minutes and the baby looks to be somewhere in the middle.

Here are some things to consider when taking your kids out to restaurants:

(I know that these things seem basic, but if we remind ourselves of them occasionally, it will be a better experience for everyone!)

1.     Is the restaurant appropriate for families?

2.     Is your child hungry or tired?

3.     Is the service good at the restaurant that you’ve selected?

4.     What things can you bring that will keep your child occupied (crayons don’t work for every child) until some food comes?

5.     Do you have a plan for what happens if your child starts to melt down?

Finally, it would be great to hear from those of you out there with kids about your experiences at restaurants.  Do you have any special tips or advice about things that you do at restaurants with your kids to make restaurant experiences work well for both your family and those around you?

Single de la Semana

Oh Ken, where have you been??

The music gods are playing nice this week. Great new releases from St. Vincent, Primus, Mates of State, Girls, Dream Theater and (someone fired up the time machine!) Anthrax make this the perfect weekend to focus on that tinnitus. Here’s a pick from The Kooks that I selected for my wife, on the occasion of her 42nd birthday. (Editor’s Note: Thanks! :))


Back to Cool

September 13, 2011

What is it about Back to School that fills the air with a certain anticipation and…dread?!?!? I don’t even go to school and yet you never stop getting that feeling right after Labor Day. (It certainly doesn’t help that 9/11 comes so soon after, which brings its own somber tone to the times.)

But here’s something to cheer you up: Missoni for Target, debuting September 13th! I have to say, it is one of their better collaborations (think: Liberty) and covers everything from clothing to housewares to lingerie to kids shoes to luggage, all in that unmistakable Missoni colorful way, which can’t help but brighten your world.

Back in the day, when the lira was weak and the dollar was very, very mighty, I used to buy myself a Missoni scarf in the Milan airport as a consolation prize for having to leave Italy. Ten years later they still look fantastic and are the perfect pick me up for a solid color coat. Think: accent. I’m not a fan of head to toe Missoni color, but as an accent to your clothes or your dishes (dessert plates? fabulous!) or for someone in the under 5 set, totally awesome.

I’ve seen pictures of the collection (you can check out some here) but last week for Fashion’s Night Out I tried to go over to the pop-up shop for a preview. The line was INSANE, but I did get a chance to peek into some bags of those who got in, and the quality of what I saw was good. (Now, let’s not get carried away. It’s not going to be full-on Missoni quality, complete with the $1,000 price tag. It’s Target.) I think it’s a good one, and if you’re smart you’ll check it out early before it all goes bye-bye. (target.com)

Coffee Bean Arrives

It’s true, Times Square has gotten a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I went the other night and I have to say I think it is a block or 2 too far downtown (note to corporations looking for Times Square locations: I think 40th Street is as low as we Times Square worker bees will go for a coffee fix. Lower than that feels like…Herald Square.) Anyway the iced blendeds are as tasty as ever, just pricier than ever (a regular size tops $5). Rumor has it they are scouting locations on the Upper West Side, so maybe by this time next year there will be one on every corner.

Etc.

I didn’t turn the TV on once yesterday, to keep myself from re-living such an awful day. I have such vivid memories of that day, what a beautiful, blue sky there was, and how it all unraveled so quickly. I was on the phone with my friend from LA and looking out the window at the World Trade Center with smoke coming out of it, when I saw the second plane hit and a huge fire ball shoot out. From there it was about accounting for family and friends, wondering if we were going to have to evacuate, seeing army guys in fatigues with machine guns doing check points in my neighborhood, hearing fighter jets constantly circling over head and then looking out the window to see klieg lights on 7th Avenue, and a slew of empty stretchers, doctors and nurses waiting all night for survivors who never came.

My kids, who weren’t alive then, have started asking about it. It’s a fine line between being honest and not wanting to scare them about something so awful that happened in almost quite literally their backyard.

I purposely didn’t take photos when it was all happening, because I didn’t want to remember it too clearly. It was too painful. Ten years later, even without my own personal documentation, I still remember it remarkably clearly, and my hope is that none of us ever has to go through anything like it again.