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Dress: Unknown origin — potentially Chinatown
Shoes: From Grandma, hypothesis – Target
Headband, leggings and backpack: Children’s Place

Despite a new back-to-school wardrobe, Madeline made the calculated decision to dress down on her first day in Room 2B to be appear more approachable to the other students. Her sparkle Hello Kitty dress and princess water shoes served as great conversation starters with her new colleagues. Backpack was worn in the stroller and throughout the day.

Note to self: Hire Annie Leibovitz next year.

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Grandma. She’s been there and done that.

And let’s face it, we all need to hear things from our mother that we don’t necessarily want to hear – especially when it comes to raising our kids.  From how did you go into labor to will my life ever be the same again, she has something to say, and sometimes you put on your listening ears.

I introduce you to our newest feature “Ask Grandma” — wise words from a seasoned wife, mom and grandma.

We asked Grandma about finding the right man.

Grandma says…

As I have told my daughter and other females, it is relatively simple.

#1- Does he make your sandwich first?  Pretend you are going to the beach and preparing lunch to take with you.  Your potential mate says he will assemble the sandwiches.  Does he make your ham, cheese, turkey, lettuce, tomato and pickle sandwich first?  If so, he is a keeper and will think for your needs before his own.  If he doesn’t, run for the hills for you will be hungry for love and attention your entire life.

 #2-  Does he reach for and hold your hand while crossing the street?  All of us know we can cross busy streets, but when a man is willing to protect you when crossing the street, he will protect you in other situations.  Modern women should embrace this and let men be the chivalrous and macho beings they are by nature.  By letting a man take on this role, he will feel honored, needed and loved.

Thanks, Grandma. Now, let’s all run to the deli counter!

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Top: Baby Gap
Skirt: H&M
Sandals: Tip Top

Dear Rachel Zoe, Kate Young, Leslie Fremar, Petra Flannery, Elizabeth Stewart, Christina Ehrlich, L’Wren Scott, and Brad Goreski,

As some of the most powerful stylists in Hollywood, I’m in desperate need of your help.

Scene:

It’s 7:15am. You’re a single mom and you need to get yourself ready for work,  wash and clothe your 36-month-year-old daughter, pack a healthy lunch, make some sense of your apartment, drink 12 cups of coffee, walk a mile to daycare, execute a meaningful and heartfelt goodbye and be at a meeting by 8:45am.

You get everything done almost flawlessly until it’s your toddler’s turn to get dressed.

You choose a couple of outfits and ask her to make a binary choice. She politely says, “I do not want to wear that” and then declares that she will pull her own choices. She raids her dresser and closet to select the most over-the-top princess-inspired outfit possible (borderline sandbox appropriate) while throwing all rejected items on the floor.  It’s outfit trauma – toddler style.

Question:

My daughter is fashion savvy and I can barely keep up. I ask you, what are some best practices for dealing with a difficult client?

While I await your words of wisdom, my dear Madeline has asked me to chronicle her outfit selections (and where our loyal followers can buy them) in a recurring feature entitled “Everyday Dress Up” on this blog.

Please note: If you are not one of the 25 most powerful stylists in Hollywood and have some advice on this topic, I would be most appreciative.

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It’s zucchini week.

Zucchini “french fries” have already been rejected. “Mommy, these are too spicy for me.” (Note to self – do not use thai red chili flakes on toddler zucchini “french fries”)

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And wow, I’m so glad that I bought this 8-ball zucchini at the farmer’s market on Sunday. You know, because when you are a full-time working single mom, you have so much time to artfully prepare a stuffed 8 ball zucchini squash between 6:00pm – 6:15pm on Tuesday evening.

But you know what, if Tinker Bell can craft aerodynamic pom-poms for her shoes then I can make a magnificent Tuesday night feast – that will probably not be eaten because it is not mac and cheese.

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There is a mound of toys in the living room of my 900 square foot Manhattan apartment.  It grows. It shrinks. Sometimes it remains untouched. There are 67 episodes of Little Einsteins downloaded on my Apple TV. (Please Disney, please bring this show back.)  We have been to the Children’s Museum,  Natural History Museum, MOMA, The Met, Children’s Museum of the Art, the Carousel in Central Park and a show featuring the real-life Angelina Ballerina and her friends.

And yet, despite all of the time and money I spend trying to keep Madeline stimulated – I learned last week that all I really needed was a 5 lb bag of fresh peas from the GreenMarket.

She had come back from a weekend with her dad. We set about preparing our dinner with the vegetable of the week – fresh peas. We had a lot of shelling to do. I grabbed her stool and brought it into the kitchen. She can see above the counter now. We organized our workspace and started shelling. I held her little hand and showed her how to open a pea pod, how to take the fresh peas out and where to throw away the pod.  We talked. We examined the sizes and shapes of peas. We counted how many peas were in each pod. We laughed at the baby ones. We were amazed at the big ones.  We both ate raw peas and talked about how they tasted. We both wished we had more peas when the bag was empty.

In two words: we reconnected.

My dear Maddie, this is a moment I will never forget. No matter how many days you are away, I will always be your mom . You will always be my daughter. We will always find a way to smile and a reason to hug each other.

I will also never forget that ridiculously amazing fresh linguine carbonara we made with those fresh peas and fava beans. Damn, that was good bacon.

So, to all those moms and dads out there (especially the NYC ones), here are just a couple of Madeline and my tips to finding your pea pod moment:

  • Have a special Sunday dinner – Slow down on Sunday and plan a fantastic simple meal. Think of something that you can make together and identify small tasks that your child can do that aren’t too messy and that will hold their attention such as cracking and whisking eggs, snapping green beans, shucking corn or stirring some red wine vinaigrette.
  • Throw some pennies in a fountain – Find a beautiful foundation and stop by once a week to make a wish. Tell each other what you wished for. Try to count all the wishes in the bottom of the fountain.
  • Smell the roses, literally – Stop by some flower beds. Look at all the different colors. Inhale.
  • Hang out on a bench – And talk to each other. Look around and make observations. Find something silly and laugh about it. Sing some songs.
  • Just sit on the floor – Turn off the TV. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Sit and play with each other until it dings. Play pretend. Build a block tower and knock it down. Or just giggle.

We are off to find this week’s fruit or veggie today. Hopefully, we’ll find some QT along the way.

Happy shelling.

I thought for sure that strawberries would be well-received, consumed and enjoyed. We made this strawberry shortcake together, including whip cream from scratch. We read Strawberry Shortcake for two straight days.

I swear I will not give up. Only 47 weeks left.

Here’s the link in case the video isn’t working for you: http://youtu.be/H-qZD85uG18

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Delicious dinner courtesy of the GrowNYC GreenMarket – Young Onions or Spring Onion from Kernen Farms in Bridgeton, New Jersey, one bunch of spinach from 5lbs of Dirt, and wonderful bath of Shitake mushrooms from John Madura Farm in Pine Island, NY and some ridiculously delicious pork from Grazin Acres– all stir-fried together in a toddler-friendly way that made Madeline say “Mmmm”… or did she?Was it just my imagination?

I know that food was ingested, I know that she ate the pork and spinach, but I’m unsure about the Spring Onion. Given that it’s Spring Onion week, I’m going to say – yes, yes – indeed – she ate it and liked it.

I must say that I’m beginning to enjoy this little experiment. What’s my favorite part?

Definitely not watching my beautifully prepared dinners rejected with a look of malice and disdain (see asparagus and radishes).

It’s going to the Green Market every weekend. I love feeling like Miss America walking home with my bunch of seasonal and local Rhubarb. I’ve always cooked based on what I wanted to eat and making it happen. Now, I’m deciding what to prepare based on what looks good at the market.

Although it’s early on in the year, I wanted to share some quick things I’ve learned about my weekly shopping trips:

  • Do a once over – It’s like perusing the buffet when you are on a diet – don’t just jump at the first thing that looks good. Walk through the entire market first to see what looks good, and then start buying.
  • Decide on one meal – Buy food for one meal, not the week (unless you have some sort of plan)
  • Get ready to Google – As you start selecting items, start googling to figure out how you can put them together.
  • Set a budget – You can drop some serious coin at the market so have a number in mind and stick to it.
  • Eat raw stuff – Taste the fresh produce.
  • Bring a bag – This will make you look cool.
  • Enjoy it – Yes, this is so much more fun than battling the crowds at the grocery store – especially if you in NYC.

Happy shopping.

(Photo from Evan Sung for The New York Times)

Young toddler meets young onions.

Tonight’s dinner. Pray for me.

The T.V. needs to go to sleep. The babies need your binky. The sandbox is closed. Mommy is allergic to dogs.

Yes, that’s ketchup.  Special “rhubarbian” ketchup courtesy of Jean-Jorge Vongerichten.  And you just smeared it all over your sweet potato fries.  And ate them all with a smile on your face.

No, I didn’t take it personally when you ate a total 3 of my tiny homemade radish chips Saturday morning. It only took me over an hour artfully slicing farmer’s market radishes on a dangerous faux-mandolin from a kitchen discount store.  And I only almost sliced off my entire right palm a couple of times.  Guess what? It only took about 75 radishes to make a half a cup of chips — but who’s counting?  Who would have thought that radishes would dehydrate to the size of M&M’s like shrinky-dinks in the oven anyway?

So when we decided at the Upper West Side farmer’s market that Sunday would be the Imagestart of “rhubarb” week, maybe I did harbor a little ill will.  Chalk it up to post-traumatic radish-induced stress disorder.

And maybe I was a little afraid when I saw that the stalks of rhubarb were half the size of me and thought there was no way on God’s green earth that it would fit in your mouth, let alone that you would put it in your mouth.  So when I saw Vongerichten’s Rhubarb Ketchup recipe, I passively accepted the fact that I would just have to smear the truth to get you to try it.

So I mixed that rhubarb with an almost inconceivable amount of sugar…and you ate it.  And you liked it.  And now you like rhubarb.  You like it a lot.  And that’s how it’s going to be.

Here’s to rhubarb week!

Stay honest.

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Ok, being a single mom in New York City means a totally new financial reality for me.  I’m on a shoestring budget. First thing to go, unnecessary overpriced beauty products. I had to break up with them.

Here’s how:

1. Do not make eye contact with Sephora: Do not look at the store front. Do not touch the door handle. Do not browse or go in to put on some quick makeup on before you go out. You will not pass go. You will spend $70 (on things you only use for about a week).

2. Detox your body – Go to hot yoga. Become vegan for a couple of weeks (this may sound extreme). Drink gallons of water and fresh juices. Last night, I completed my 95th Bikram Yoga class (that’s 145 hours of yoga) and my skin has never looked better in my life. Even my mild sun damage is slowly disappearing. I don’t know how the hell it’s happening, but it is.

3. Watch this movieChemerical – Yes, there are some awkward moments where husband and wife talk about pheromones after they give up deodorant that are kind of awkward and nauseating, but overall it will freak you out enough to make you stop using scary chemicals in your house and on your body. (Personal note – I cannot give up deodorant – thank you Dove – I hold my pose with confidence).

4. Stop dying your hair – Really, why do we do this? I was a big fan of the $250 highlights and $100 gloss (what does the gloss do anyway?). I forgot what my hair actually looked like. I single processed to bring back my natural color and now that all the years of dye has grown out, my hair looks the best it ever has. It matches my skin tone. (note- if I start going gray, this step will be re-evaluated).

5. Buy a bar of nice organic soap – Are we really so lazy that we have to squirt soap out of a bottle instead of rub it on our skin? Think about the material waste. We are destroying our planet.  It’s kind of crazy. I started using this awesome organic soap from Zen Medica and I feel really clean. Like there isn’t a layer of chemicals on my skin. With all this detoxing, I actually get a headache if I put on my old perfumed lotion.

6. Only buy something new when your old product is almost gone – Gone are the days of browsing the aisles and just picking something up. Find the necessary products. For me, it’s concealer, mascara, gloss, and some basic eye shadowesque creme stuff. I’m done with experimentation. Do you really need to try out self-tanner?

7. Go to the dermatologist  – Instead of trying to cure your own skin with products offering false promises, head to the doctor, find out what’s really wrong with you and have them prescribe something that will get rid of the problem. Your health insurance might even cover it. (Note – do not fall into dermatologist trap of shooting your face with a laser – more on that in a subsequent post).

8. Feel beautiful on the inside – (Oprah moment) There’s a reason why you’re buying all this needless stuff. Figure out what it’s giving you and how you can get it through action. A face peel is never going to make you feel as good as a french kiss and good snuggle.

Like any break up, this will not be easy. Take it step-by-step and remember what you are doing is going to make you a better person from the inside out. And you’ll have more money to spend on hot yoga membership fees.

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