Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eye Candy In NYC: Outdoor Graffiti Gallery in Bushwick is Worth a Visit

Photo credit:  Brother Jimmy

When I read about a section of Bushwick, Brooklyn, that's become an organized graffiti zone, I wanted to check it out.  This New York Times article said that "more than 50 multicolored murals have transformed a swath of nearby buildings into a vast outdoor gallery called the Bushwick Collective, anchored at the intersection of Troutman Street and St. Nicholas Avenue."

Photo credit:  Brother Jimmy

To get there, take the L train to Jefferson stop in Brooklyn.  You just sort of wander around that area and you'll run into the murals.

We ended up doing a family photo shoot and I took some pictures of my brother and his fiancée as sort of informal engagement shots.  There are so many huge murals that they made for really fun photo backdrops.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Add Some Charm To Your Planters With DIY Dirt Sticks

I always wanted to have an herb garden, but I didn't have outdoor space as an adult until we moved into this apartment last June.  Picking herbs from it for meals is really satisfying.  It's fun and it takes you out of the city for a moment.

The first day of our first herb garden ever
We made our own planter sticks for our two little window boxes.  Not because we will forget what the plants are, but to add a little charm to the space.

Here's how you can make your own!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Let's Go Cyclones! Two Foam Thumbs Up for This NYC Baseball Experience for Kids

A great first baseball game for toddlers!  Brooklyn Cyclones in Coney Island!
If you haven't been to a Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game yet, I recommend it.  I'm not that into baseball, but I like the baseball game environment, the hot dogs, the cheers, the music, being outside and all that fun stuff.  America!

We wanted to take Greyson to his first baseball game and enjoy the beautiful weather this past weekend.  I had heard that the Cyclones games are great for families.  Since they're a minor league team, the stadium is small and manageable.  You don't feel dwarfed by the size of the place.  And if you're in Park Slope, like we are, the stadium is very easy to get to.  The F train took us 30 minutes, waiting time included, which is half the time it would have taken us to go to the Yankees or Mets stadiums. 

We didn't pre-buy tickets.  We just went up to the ticket window about 10 minutes before the game started and we got bleacher seats ($10 per person, kids under 3 are free), so that Greyson wouldn't be confined to a seat.

I don't know how crowded Cyclones games usually get, but the season just started this weekend and there were plenty of seats (regular and bleachers), which meant more breathing room for us in the bleacher seats.

Here's what you need to know if you are thinking of going to a Cyclones game with your family.

Eat The Mexican Flag On Your Next Taco Night

I love a theme.  And I appreciate photogenicity.  When my friend who's a photographer and designer put me in charge of bringing a dessert to her Mexican dinner, I wanted it to look good first (and yeah, taste good, too).

After some dessert brainstorming, I came up with jello in Mexican flag colors (served alongside coordinating watermelon with mint, lime and salt).  There are plenty of recipes for layered jello desserts in every color combination online, but I had never made one myself. 

The dessert takes a bit of time because you have to wait for each layer to firm up before you add the next layer, but there's not much actual work involved besides boiling water.  It's definitely an easy dessert, a crowd pleaser and a visual treat.

Here's what you do!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Let Your Inner Panini Genie Out!

Panini are 200 times better than regular cold sandwiches, but only take 2 minutes more effort to make.  I made some quick panini today.  (Did you know panino is singular and panini is the plural?  We all say paninis, though.) 

So, here's an easy panini recipe!

  • Grilled zucchini and eggplant package from Trader Joe's (I prefer to roast my eggplant because it tastes so much better when you do it yourself, but this frozen stuff is pretty good).  One package will make four large panini.
  • Mozzarella or goat cheese.
  • Pesto (I had some that I had made, but the packaged fresh stuff is ok)
  • Salt/pepper
  • Baguette, sliced into sandwich sizes and sliced in half

Layer all the ingredients onto the baguette halves and top with the other baguette half.  Load the sandwiches onto your pre-heated pan.  You don't have to have a panini pan for this.  You can weight the sandwiches down with a heavy pot lid or even a dutch oven.  Let the panini stay on the heat for about two minutes on each side. 

Slice and enjoy!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

An Easy, Elegant, Tasty Summer Salad: Thanks, Ottolenghi!

I purged my cookbook collection when we moved three times in a year and a half.  After each move, there were more cookbooks that I realized I hadn't touched in years.  They were pretty to look at, but they just took up space and were too heavy to move.  My standards for buying cookbooks these days are very high, especially since you can get so many of the recipes for free online.

That said, I love the cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Tonight I made the zucchini and hazelnut salad and it was a great summer dish.  Simple and elegant.  It went well with a grilled chicken and pasta salad.  And like a lot of Ottolenghi's dishes, it's also beautiful.

Read on for the recipe, shortcuts and more photos.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Perfect Shirt

I'm a fan of what my husband calls "uniforms," pieces of clothing that I love so much that I wear them all the time.  In the winter, I have a few cashmere sweater uniforms.  Each summer, I like to get a white dress that becomes a uniform.  Now, I have a shirt uniform.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Me Arms Are Tired: A Gallon of Milk Weighs 8.6 Pounds, So Now I Decant

I've bought more milk in the past year than I've ever bought in my life.  Greyson was weened off breast milk at 14 months (he's 23 months now), so I've been buying tons of milk ever since.  Now, he only drinks 18 ounces of milk a day, at most, but that still means I'm lugging a gallon of milk up two flights of stairs each week and pouring from an 8.6 lb. bottle.

I started decanting the milk into a smaller bottle recently.  I like the old-fashioned glass bottles from Trickling Springs and Ronnybrook (I like their milk, too, but I've never seen gallon sizes).  Not only is the decanted milk easier on my arms, it looks nicer.  Real purty!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Who In the World Came Up With The Idea of Push Gifts?

I don't know who came up with the idea of push gifts but I am not complaining.  When Rob learned that commemorating the birth of a child with a special gift to the mother is a thing for some people, he liked the idea.  Whether it was the genius idea of jewelry marketers didn't matter. 

When Greyson was born, Rob got a ring for me.  It is beautiful and I think about Greyson when I look at it.  I meant to get the ring engraved with Greyson's birthday a long time, like two years ago when he was born, but I put it off.  You could say I procrastinated a little bit.

We were at Tiffany to get a wedding present a couple weekends ago, so I finally placed the engraving order.  The ring will have Greyson's initials and his birthday.  The woman at Tiffany said the ring would be ready on July 1, which happens to be Greyson's actual birthday.  No one will see the engraving, but I'm excited that the ring will have Greyson's birthday in it.  It'll be part of the ring's history. 

If you're into the idea of push gifts, consider getting something you can get engraved.  It makes the gift that much more memorable.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Never Wonder Where The Bus is Again: MTA Bus Time is The Right Time

Oh, yes.  I never have to wonder if the bus near my apartment is going to come at all, if I just missed a bus by a minute or if I'd be better of taking the subway.

When I was going from Park Slope to the Brooklyn Bridge Park the other day, I wondered if the bus was on its regular schedule.  Last weekend, there had been a street fair near us. I don't know how people know how bus routes are re-reouted in those situations.  That's what I was thinking about when I had been waiting a while for a bus.  I decided to google the B63 bus status and that's when I learned about Bus Time, a web-based bus tracker.  It's something that New York should have had ages ago, but it looks like they just started it because only a few routes are on the program.  (The available routes are here.)

Bus Time allows you to track certain bus routes and see where the buses are.  This is an exciting development in a land where you never really know when or if the bus/train is coming.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

It's Almost July, The Perfect Time for Buying Winter Wool Essentials on Sale

Our second baby is due to be born on September 21, so I've started thinking about cold weather wear even as my pregnant thighs stick together with sweat.

Since Greyson was born on July 1, we don't have any small winter hand-me downs for our future daughter.  I've talked about wool in several posts on this blog.  I have serious issues with the fact that we live in a cold city, yet wool for children is very hard to find.  I challenge you to find cute wool socks for babies and toddlers (and Smartwool doesn't count because they're not cute, but I buy them because there are so few other choices).  That's my wool June!

Things I love include wool, stripes, quality and sales, so when I got one of those take an extra "20% off sale stuff!" from Polarn O. Pyret, I filled up my shopping cart for stuff for Greyson and his little sister.   Polarn O. Pyret is stripe-central, so if you're not a fan of stripes, do not enter.  A lot of the items I bought are wool, which is why the stuff is on sale now, in the middle of summer.
Sleep sack, wool onesie, wool long johns, sweater romper.  Good thing I like red and stripes.

Read on to see the rest of the Polarn O. Pyret loot, for toddlers, men and women.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Father's Day Gift Ideas: Fresh Summer Threads for Dad

When we were in Paris last month, I wondered if there was a Paris version of J. Crew, an accessible store that's only in France that's mostly stocked with stylish yet classic pieces for both men and women.  I didn't find that kind of brand or store, but I think if I were visiting the States that I'd love to discover J. Crew since it's only in the U.S. and Canada (although, I saw that they might be opening stores in Paris and London.)

Rob has lots of basics from J. Crew, and today we picked up some summery patterns and colors, just in time for Father's Day.  The pieces in the above pictures are from the J. Crew Liquor Store men's shop.

Broken-in Chinos in Urban Slim Fit

Socks in cute patterns

Striped boxer briefs

Read on for another great Father's Day/summer wardrobe idea.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stick Your Baby in a Bucket: How To Cool Off NYC Style

Check it out.  I'm in a bucket!

We have a small balcony.  It measures just 4' x 12', but we love it.  We tried to maximize the space by by using storage benches that we can use as tables and chairs and put stuff in, instead of just having a little table and chairs.  Also, we put our window boxes on the outside of the railings, so the herbs don't eat into the balcony space.  We even have room for a tiny grill out there and it still doesn't feel crowded.

One thing we didn't think we had room for was a kiddie pool.  But, that didn't stop us from coming up with our own NYC-sized kiddie pool.

Read on to learn more about giant buckets (aka tiny kiddie pools) and where you can buy them.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New York City Showdown: Top of the Rock vs. Empire State Building

We're on the top of the world!  I mean, Rock!

If you google Top of the Rock vs. Empire State Building, you'll see there's a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of visiting both.  Some people have strong opinions about one being better over the other, others think that it's a really tough call, others think you should go to both at different times of day.

I fall into the strong opinion camp.

I have been to the top of the Empire State Building three or four times and I just went to the Top of the Rock for the first time yesterday.  The observation deck at 30 Rockefeller Center opened eight years ago and I'm not sure what took me so long to check it out.  I remember seeing gasp-inducing photos all over Flickr when it first opened.  But then I just sort of forgot about it.  A visit from a family member who lives in Seoul reminded me about Top of the Rock again.

Read on to hear about my experience and my vote.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Play That Funky Music on a Public Piano: A Community Art Project To Love

Old Stone House Sing for Hope Piano
Me and my buddy playing a Sing for Hope piano in Park Slope, Brooklyn  (Photo credits: Shawn Hoke for Sing for Hope)

Until June 16, 2013, there are 88 Sing for Hope pianos around New York City for the public's Chopsticks playing pleasure.  One of the pianos is at our playground, the very playground that Beyonce and her daughter Blue Ivy were spotted at a few days ago.  (How awesome would it have been if Beyonce started playing this piano and belting out Halo?  I would have accompanied her and we'd be best friends now.)

I don't know if this is an annual project, but I've seen it off an on over the years.  It's a very cute idea.

Sing for Hope Piano at Old Stone House, Brooklyn
My pregnant booty looking like a watermelon is now immortalized online in horizontal stripes.  Every girl's dream.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Microwave Brownies in a Mug Are a Pregnant Woman's Best Friend

Microwave brownies in a mug are a thing, and a very good thing if you're pregnant and craving brownies at 9 pm

It was 9 pm and I needed cake or brownies.  I ate some dark chocolate to see if that would work, and it didn't.

The thought of making regular brownies crossed my mind, but I didn't want to wait that long and it was too late in the evening.  I googled fastest brownies recipe or something like that and found recipes for microwave brownies in a mug.

That was it!

I had seen recipes for brownies in mugs before, but it never sounded interesting to me.  When you're 25 weeks pregnant and you want some brownies NOW, the idea suddenly sounds enticing and miraculous.

Read on for the recipe I used and a delicious-sounding healthy version my cousin-in-law sent me.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Teach Your Toddler the Alphabet with Customized Flashcards

Greyson, who's 23 months, has been learning a lot of letters just from certain things he sees often, sometimes every day around where we live in Brooklyn.  For instance, we go to the YMCA, we ride the F and G subway lines, he takes DHA vitamins and sees the UPS truck all the time. 

I thought it'd be fun for Greyson to have flash cards of those signs he sees, so he can continue to learn his letters.  We don't have the whole alphabet covered yet, but it's amazing how many letters he has picked up just from the constant reinforcement.

If you want to make your own cards, here are the easy steps.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Holey-Moly! A Pegboard Design and Organization Solution You Can Make In a Day

The pegboard that's now in our office/guest room was inspired by a similar display we saw in an Agnes B. store in Paris

Isn't it so satisfying to have an idea and then actually execute it?  Like most people, Rob and I have many ideas that have been put on a list of things we'll do one day!

When we were in Paris, we loved how an Agnes B. store in Paris used a pegboard and colorful mini bungee cords as part of their store display.  We said, "That's cool, we should do that" and two weeks later, we have the finished product on our wall.  It was a fairly simple project (easy for me to say since Rob did 95% of the work), and it feels really good to have a fun and practical design solution that's also a souvenir from Paris.

Here are pictures of the pegboards that were in the Agnes B. store.  We liked how the fun bungee cords stood out against the black backdrop.

The process of making our own pegboards first involved transporting an 8' x 4' (huge) piece of pegboard home from the hardware store...using our stroller.  Ha!  Read on if you want to learn more about this simple DIY design project and see pictures from every step of the way.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Six Pieces You Need for Your Maternity Wardrobe and Nothing's Over $30

I don't like to pay money for maternity clothes, so these shorts and top are from Old Navy

When I was pregnant the first time, I felt overwhelmed by maternity clothes shopping.  I thought I'd need a whole new wardrobe.  My first maternity shopping experience was at Destination Maternity and I was shocked at how expensive stuff was in general for crappy quality, cuts and colors.  I don't hesitate for a moment to spend money on clothing that I'm really in love with, but not for maternity clothes that I'm going to wear for a year max. 

Here are my six maternity clothing essentials for someone who's going to be big mostly during warmer months.  I don't think I've ever paid over $30 for anything that was specifically maternity.
Gotta love the sexy maternity panels

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Skincare, Haircare, Babycare...French Pharmacies Do It So Right!

Dear City Pharma:  Please open in New York

When I went to Paris in 2004, I emailed Ladurée asking if they could open a store in New York.  They responded, saying they had no plans to open here.  Well, guess what.  It's 2013 and there's a Ladurée in New York now.  I'm not saying it's because of me, but I did make a request.  After having gone to Paris's CityPharma for the first time last month, I think I should email them, too!

I discovered CityPharma, the discounted pharmacy, online before my recent trip to Paris.  I knew of some things I wanted to buy from French pharmacies, which are famous for having amazing skincare and haircare products and remedies, but I wanted to see what other people had on their must-buy lists.  During my search, I learned that CityPharma had all the goodies as most other pharmacies, but at a 20%+ discount compared to other pharmacies in Paris, which meant 50%+ discount off American prices for the same products. 

I pay USD $14.50 for a 10 oz. bottle of this stuff in New York. At CityPharma, you get almost 34 ounces for USD $11.26

I collected a list of French pharmacy products that included Gwyneth Paltrow's list of French pharmacy finds, makeup artist Lisa Eldridge's list, and many others.  I had used and loved many of the items they mentioned before (such as Anthelios sunscreen, Bioderma's Crealine makeup remover and Embryolisse cream), but there were other items I wouldn't have been tempted to try at American prices, but very willing to try at CityPharma prices.  For instance, I love a great lip balm, but I don't want to pay $20 for it.  That's about what Nuxe's Rêve de Miel costs in the U.S. Meanwhile, it costs 6.90 euros ($9.10 USD) at City Pharma.  During my trip, I noticed that the same lip balm costed around 11 euros at other pharmacies in Paris.

The deals at CityPharma were great.  And I feel like there are so many other blog posts about the best things to buy at French pharmacies, that I don't need to add my list (although some of my loot is pictured).  But, here's my big tip, which I didn't see online anywhere!