This was the email of October 13, 2008 that started this whole thing…thought I’d include it so the recommendations are all in one place:

Some of you have been asking me to start a blog with all of my recommendations, suggestions, etc, for a while now. I’m not quite ready to start an official blog, but I thought I’d start with an email and see how it goes from here. This is an excellent diversion — right now, anything that takes my mind off of those toxic “mavericks” McCain-Palin is a good thing. The idea behind this is simple: these are things that are piquing my interest at the moment, things that I think are worth the money to purchase, things that might make life a little better or more fun. At the end of the day this represents my opinion only, so I’d love to make this interactive and get feedback, ideas and suggestions from all of you. I’ll include pertinent thoughts in the next email…I’m thinking I’ll try for one a season. And of course, if you find this less than useful and you never want to be emailed again, just send me back an email and I’ll make a note. And yes, it probably is a tad NYC-centric – so sue me!

Approximate prices and where to purchase is included where possible. Also, I tried to keep it a reasonable length, so if there are specific things that you’d like me to cover, let me know.

Let’s start with beauty
Best Face Forward: Even though I have about 1,000 different skincare products in my bathroom closet, my actual routine is pretty pared down. While for years I have gone to Bliss for my facials, I wanted to try somewhere new at the beginning of the summer. I had read a lot about The Face Place (425 West 14th Street, 3rd Floor) so I decided to try a facial with Tom. (Afterwards I was meeting my friend Suzanne for a drink and she was a little delayed so I ended up wandering next door and buying a fabulous summer bag at Stella McCartney, but that is another story.) The space is spare and white in a converted warehouse, and their whole approach is that everything they do is for the good of the skin. This includes lying with your legs elevated so that the blood rushes to your face. They also put this Hannibal Lector-ish mask with an electrocurrent on your face. And when I was leaving, he didn’t try to push a million products. He recommended Skinceuticals’ Serum 15 AOX+ ($90 – I know, not cheap but it’s better than funding a drug habit) which they didn’t carry – and coincidentally, I actually already owned it as one of the 1,000 products in the closet I had never used.

The reason I’m telling this story is that I liked the facial, I used the product, and then I started using DermaDoctor Ain’t Misbehavin’ Acne Control Serum ($45, I get it at Sephora in Times Square), which my dermatologist recommended not so much for acne but to turn the cells over faster – kind of like slow exfoliation while you sleep. Since using these products, 2 different people told me I was glowing and one friend I hadn’t seen in a while asked me if I had botoxed (?!?!?). Classic. Anyway I’m not sure what has caused the “glow” but I think I’ll keep using both products.

And speaking of dermatologists, if you don’t have a good one, I really can’t recommend it enough. Mine (Dr. Grace Pak on Fifth Avenue at 12th Street) has a very low-key approach and when I’ve asked her for product recommendations she has given me good tips and really believes less is more. Plus I get a skin check annually which for anyone who has ever spent time in the sun is a must (and you know who you are, with your baby oil and reflector). Plus my dermatologist originally clued me in to the nursery school where Austin now goes – yet another bonus. (I can’t guarantee yours will be that helpful but hey, you never know!)

Going Organic: Those of you who know me know that I am not exactly a tree hugger, but over the last few years I have been reading more and more about the toxic gunk the beauty industry has been putting in all of the products we use. I am particularly concerned with parabens, which mimic estrogen and have been shown to cause problems in lab rats. Once I started becoming more aware and checking labels, the things are EVERYWHERE. Methylparabens, ethylparabens…and price is no hindrance. Bliss products, Malin and Goetz, Bigelow…on and on. It’s almost impossible to avoid them. So I am trying, slowly but surely, to cut down where I can. There are a lot of great organic lines out there. Right now I’m obsessed with Alba’s Coconut Milk Facial Wash ($12, I get at Target, Ulta and Whole Body), Dr. Hauschka’s Cleansing Cream ($24. Whole Body), and Kiss My Face Early to Rise shower gel ($11 Target and Whole Body). Sometimes the organic stuff is not so hot, particularly shampoos and conditioners, so it’s trial and error. But these have become favorites. AND know that claims like “100% vegan” don’t mean anything – read the fine print.

Quickies: Paul and Joe lipsticks are hard to find but worth the hunt. The colors rock, the texture is good, and, most importantly, the packaging is gorgeous. I bought one at the Sephora in the Short Hills Mall but apparently Bergdorf’s carries them now…Ever since Kiehl’s was bought by L’Oreal it hasn’t been the same, but I still think their lip balm #1 is the best out there, especially to wear at night ($6.50, at Saks, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, etc)…My hair has been longer for a while now and this summer I was into putting it up. Goodie makes these stayput elastics that really do just that – no catching, no ripping your hair out. And cheap! ($4 for a bunch, I got them at Target)…Usually I am a big fan of Target and their lines with different designers, but I have to say I think their new makeup lines – Jemma Kidd and Pixi – are off the mark. The products seem fine, but the price points — $18/$20 for a lipstick – seem better for a department store, not Target. For that price I can get…well, Paul and Joe!

Feed Me!
New? Not so much: The truth is, we haven’t tried anywhere new lately that I would rave about. Although the other night my friend Kitty was in from San Francisco and we tried Gottino (52 Greenwich Ave.), a winebar I have been wanting to check out. The wine selection was excellent and we ordered crostini with goat cheese, peppers, capers and olive oil that were outstanding. I’ll definitely go back, even though my husband has an aversion to anywhere whose specialty is “small plates.”

Ken recently took me to Chanterelle for my birthday, which was just as good as the last time we had been. For a special occasion I’d say there, Jean Georges, Country and Bouley get my vote. Speaking of Jean Georges, (1 Central Park West), Nougatine, their café, does a $29.95 prix fixe lunch year-round that is an excellent deal. We went in August and each of the 3 courses was tasty – and we saw Jean Georges himself in the kitchen. And I noticed they have it on Saturdays, as well. Worth checking out.

Some other tried and true: Otto (1 Fifth Avenue) has become one of our kids’ favorite restaurants (and Austin is very discerning). It’s a modern pizzeria done Mario Batali-style. There are tasty pizzas, pastas and antipasti. You can order a regular cheese pizza off menu for the kids. And the gelato is some of the best I’ve ever had. Last time we were there we ordered mint chocolate chip as one of our scoops and the waiter told us the woman who makes the gelato brought the mint in from her garden. Delicioso, as Dora the Explorer would say. The best part: they now take reservations for parties of all sizes.

The Smith (55 Third Ave.), not to be confused with Smith (also very good), has become a weekend favorite. It’s a menu with all of your favorites on it, including the sundae lineup for dessert. Austin is partial to the Pink Pussy Cat, which is red velvet cake, strawberries, strawberry ice cream and whipped cream. I like the mussels (not necessarily for dessert).

And what is up with Bubby’s (120 Hudson Street)? That used to be one of our favorites for dinner, especially with the kids. The food isn’t as tasty, the prices went up and the service, while never great, has been downright surly. Boo!

Happy Trails: I was recently in LA on business and checked out Katsuya (there are a few, we went to the one on San Vicente in Brentwood). The interior, designed by Phillippe Starck, feels a little dated, but I think that about most of his designs. The food, however, was very good, particularly a tuna sashimi with frizzled onions and a roll that my friend Julie ordered as “that really yummy crab roll.” So good luck with that. The watermelon mojitos were good, too. (Speaking of Julie, she has begun designing some beautiful jewelry. If she gets her web site up and running, I will put a link in here. Until then, if you’re in LA and want to check out her stuff, let me know and I’ll hook you up.)

Trader Say it Ain’t So Joe’s: I really like Trader Joe’s. They have frozen things that make it so much easier to work and actually go home and prepare a decent meal. But the Trader Joe’s on 14th Street is hell. No matter what time of day or night, the lines are insane, and it’s so crowded you can’t even shop down some of the aisles. Plus, last time I was there waiting in a godforsaken line, my son had to go to the bathroom and there are NO restrooms. So I will never go back to that one, but I love the one in Edgewater  NJ (715 River Road). You can park, the carts fit easily down the aisles, you can browse and I have never been more than one person back in a line. Plus if your kids find the hidden stuffed parrot, they get a prize. So if you have a car, do yourself a favor and go through the Lincoln Tunnel for some sanity.

Veggie-licious: Let’s face it, kids aren’t the only ones who have a hard time eating their veggies. So I’ll include a tasty vegetable recipe in every email – if you have one, send it along and share! This one is for Cauliflower Popcorn (I saw it on one of the Sunday morning shows and made it). Take a head of cauliflower (or two – there is shrinkage!) and cut the florets into bite-sized pieces. Spread it on a baking sheet, spray with olive oil (use a Misto or one of those type things) and douse with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 at least 30 minutes – you want it crispy and starting to carmelize. Depending on how well done you like things, you could keep it in for up to an hour total (but don’t let it burn). When it’s done, serve with a meal or in a bowl as a snack. You can also try it with broccoli. It’s a hit in my house!

The Clothes off my Back
True Economy: If you’re like me, the recent economic mess has made shopping that much less appealing. It feels wasteful, really. So take it as a time to assess your closet and revisit any pieces that have been pushed to the back and forgotten about. Or just get rid of those things you haven’t worn in a long, long time and streamline your life. Those neon pink tights? Even if they do come back, you shouldn’t be wearing them.

Cinch it with a belt!: If you feel like your wardrobe needs a further jolt, pick a piece that works for you and concentrate on finding “the perfect one.” Right now I’m into belted jackets. You can wear them with jeans or pants and quickly look “put together,” as they say. I recently found a good one by Michael Kors – black, a little stretch, ties around the waist, mid-weight, three-quarter sleeves. I like it!

Get out and go!
A Love Seat Made of Shoes: No, Ken did not raid my closet. The brand spankin’ new Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle is worth checking out for the views, the building itself and the collection, which has never looked better. The current exhibit, “Second Live—Remixing the Ordinary” has some really interesting pieces that make you stop and think, including a ball gown made out of rubber gloves, a chandelier constructed from syringes, and a huge picture of a garment worker made out of clothing labels. And yes, there’s a love seat made out of ladies shoes. Full disclosure: I am Co-Chair of the Young Collectors’ Committee for the Museum, but I really do think it is worth seeing. It’s nice when a major arts institution opens, so support it!

Are you a patriot?: Do something really American and visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The security is bananas (full body scan to walk into the statue) but Liberty Island is really beautiful with its views and it’s so nice to remember that France gave us so much more than croissants. (You can get tix online – and you catch the boat down in Battery Park.)

Old School at Penneys: I know everyone gets all fancy hiring photographers to shoot their family portrait, but recently I took the kids to the JC Penney at the mall near my parents. The store itself was slightly depressing, but the woman took really nice photos of the kids, all different shots, and with the coupons I had ripped out of a magazine I got a slew of great pictures for under $50. The fit Austin pitched when he was asked to leave the seamless so we could get some shots of Addison alone, well, that was free!

Looking forward to: The Calder exhibit opening at the Whitney on October 16th…Going to see “Spring Awakening” on Broadway this weekend (Note: I thought I would send this out earlier this week – so we actually went to see the show. It was excellent – the staging felt fresh, the choreography was clever and the songs were catchy – in fact we’re downloading some tonight. If you liked “Rent” you’ll enjoy.)…The Phillies in the World Series!! (fingers crossed)…Traveling to Switzerland and renting a chalet through an outfit that I’ll recommend next time if all goes well…Gift cards! People say they’re impersonal but I’m always psyched when I get one to a store I really love…Getting back to Takashimaya (693 Fifth Avenue). I always forget about it. It seems intimidating but it’s truly a jewel of a department store in mid-town. The merchandise is definitely not cookie-cutter and the salespeople are super helpful (imagine that). Plus the packaging is really nice…The Chanel Mobile Art Exhibit in Central Park – Karl Lagerfeld teamed up with Zaha Hadid to design a traveling art exhibit celebrating the classic quilted bag. Runs October 20 – November 9….More “Gossip Girl” and “Mad Men”!! If you haven’t been watching either you’re truly missing out. Mad Men is like a great movie every week – do yourself a favor and get the dvd of the first season before you watch the current one, which is on demand. The writing and acting are excellent, it’s shot beautifully and it’s hard to believe how sexist, racist, and just how damn much everyone smoked not that long ago. I recently flew back from LA with the actor who plays Don Draper, the main character, and I just wanted to shout from business to first class, “Dude, your show is awesome.” While I’m not sure Gossip Girl is on the same level creatively, it’s just plain crazy fun. If you find yourself screaming, “Oh no she didn’t!” at the screen, or signing all your emails “xoxo”, don’t say I didn’t tell you so…

Anyway, so hating rude people…hope this finds you all well and it took your mind off of the mayhem that is this world for at least a little while. Get out there and do what you can to make the planet a better place – and by that I mean vote for Obama on November 4th.

Enjoy life, and tap me back with any thoughts, tips, questions or recommendations.

Feel free to share with anyone who you think would find it useful. Thanks for reading!!


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