Archive for August, 2010

Habana Outpost: An Easy Outing with the Kids

I have neighborhood envy. Park Slope is okay…. We like our ‘hood. But I’m crushing on Fort Greene. The vibe is different, a little more freewheeling. It feels spread out and open — full of possibility and things to discover. And, oh, the big, beautiful buildings! Gorgeous.

Habana Outpost

Habana Outpost on Fulton Street in Fort Greene.

I’m reminded of it whenever I walk over to see my friend Maggie (though, technically, she’s more of a Clinton Hill girl), or we take the kids over on a pretty afternoon to Habana Outpost for lunch. We did that yesterday, and if you haven’t taken your kids there for a family meal, then get your behind on over before the season ends (they’re open from roughly mid-April to the end of October.)

Here are the deets:

Habana Outpost

It’s the little sis’ of Soho‘s Cafe Habana, plopped down on hopping Fulton Street (at South Portland Ave) in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. There are several big draws for families — a kid-friendly menu, an arts-and-crafts Kids’ Corner, and a big, festive outdoor space. A DJ spins tunes, which keeps the feel fun and funky AND tones down any kid noise.

The Kids’ Corner proved awesome for us — it’s staffed with a friendly young person who led our kids in an easy and engaging mask-making session (while the moms had a few moments to talk uninterrupted.)

There was strawberry lemonade on a sunny day — yum. (There are also margaritas, mojitos, and sangria if you’re in the mood.)

Go early — the single-and-child-free crowd descends for lunch later in the afternoon, so I recommend an early lunch or dinner.

Drop by for their third annual Back to School Bash (with free school supplies, face painting, arts and crafts, clowns, and more!) on Monday, September 6th, from noon to 5pm.

And while you’re in the ‘hood, check out:

Greenlight Bookstore — A beautiful new book shop on Fulton, right across the street. Scan the great children’s section for new bedtime reading material.

Greene Grape Provisions — A specialty foods shop with all sorts of pricey-but-delicious-looking goodies. You need *something* from this place, I guarantee it. We picked up some pesto for an end of summer pasta meal.

Mask-making at the Kids' Corner.

Mask-making at the Kids' Corner.

Habana Outpost

The end result, with a side of strawberry lemonade. Summer, we hate to say goodbye!

Weekly Menu, August 29-September 2

Photo by Soapylovedeb on Flickr

Big week! A whole lot of reasons to celebrate. First, Grandma arrives tonight, woo-hoo! We are so excited to have her here from Texas. Then, the September birthdays; good reasons to indulge our chocolate cake cravings at last. And this is the last full week the kids are out of school.

Yesterday’s CSA harvest was a fun mix of summer and fall. Three lbs of tomatoes, 2 ½ lbs of squash on one hand, and apples and pears from the fruit share on the other! Not to mention KALE (kale chips on the docket), some gorgeous celery and carrots (we’ll use for pre-dinner snacking), chives, mizuna, garlic.

Weekly Menu:

Sunday:  Pasta with Pesto, Corn and CSA Tomatoes-A-Go-Go. Mizuna salad on the side? Possibly.

Oyster Po Boys - photo by MarxFoods.com on Flickr

Monday: Been obsessed with this lightened up Oyster Po-Boy (the oysters are baked rather than fried, among other tweaks) recipe I saw in the July issue of Martha Stewart Living. Maybe tonight is the night.

Tuesday: Grilled Steak with Greek Salad and Baguette. Greek salad seems the perfect way to use ripe tomatoes!

Wednesday: That ole stand-by Spice-Rubbed Chicken & Vegetable Tacos with Special Slaw.

Thursday: Salmon with Lemon Caper Butter with a Simple Salad and Quinoa

Yum. Photo by Sassyradish on Flickr

Friday: Birthday dinner. Not sure what it will be but it will involve cake! I have two cakes in my head: one, a delicious two-layer cake with chocolate frosting, maybe like this, and two, this peanut butter chocolate cake (see above) that is way over the top. In case anyone is looking for ideas.

Saturday: Grandma’s Choice. Alma’s? Toby’s? We’ll see.

Happy eating!

August 28 – 29: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas

Lehigh Valley barge in Red Hook

Get a peek inside this weekend!

What a week. Turns out post-vacation re-entry was kind of a bitch. Have I mentioned recently that we have two kids? Like, twice as many as one? And one of them has been in a very difficult mood for the last eight or ten months. On vacation, there were TWO MOMS to deal with the kid chaos. Now we’re back to business as usual. Chrissy‘s off to work and it’s just me minding the shop. And it’s hard.

Without going into too much detail about the events of Thursday afternoon, let’s just say all of these things and more occurred:

A child barfed at McDonald’s while grossed-out on-lookers attempted to EAT THEIR LUNCH. (Don’t ask why we were there — it was not the original plan.)

I cleaned up a lot of barf.

I removed a charred “Princess” paper plate carrying a charred Amy’s frozen burrito (my lunch!) from the microwave after the tin foil trim on the plate — oops, didn’t notice that — did whatever tin foil does in the microwave.

I cleaned up the charred inside of our microwave.

After reminding our daughter calmly approximately 78 times that we do not hit, kick, push or, generally, hurt others, I YELLED at her for hitting her brother.

I said a silent prayer no neighbors were walking by at the time.

I cried.

Thank God Grandma’s coming to town this weekend.

Now, onto some linky love — and FUN.

Tug & Barge Week at Brooklyn Bridge Park: Tour a barge! Take a trip on a tug! (But you must email to reserve a spot for a trip, and Saturday is already full. Email now for Sunday!) — Mommy Poppins

Bows are back! With twirly skirts. Cute! — Cool Mom Picks

Fort Greene gets a new preschool. — A Child Grows in Brooklyn

A gentle reminder: Take care of yourself first. Yourself, first. Period. (I could have used this reminder yesterday….) — Mom Delicious

Spoke to Brigitte, owner of Lulu’s Cuts & Toys recently. Now her new resale shop — Lulu’s Then & Now — is set to open next week, on August 31st. Yay! — Brownstoner

Happy weekend!

8 Questions for Karen Connell of A Child Grows in Brooklyn

Karen Connell

Karen and fam outside their Brooklyn home. Photo by Sue Barr (www.suebarr.com)

One of the fun things about having a blog is getting to know other bloggers. We’ve loved reading and getting to know Karen Connell, the mom who founded A Child Grows in Brooklyn as a resource for local parents, in 2006. We’ve gotten countless great tips and bits of info from her!

As mistress of ACGIB, I consider Karen a super-savvy mama on all things kid-related in our home borough and beyond. So I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions — about blogs she loves, Brooklyn, and where she likes to hang with her family.

(Photo: Sue Barr)

Continue reading ‘8 Questions for Karen Connell of A Child Grows in Brooklyn’

I Love My…. METALSGirl Jewelry!

MetalsGirl necklace

Square sterling silver necklace, 2 colors, resins and herbs - $45

This particular love affair began before I had kids. Actually, it began when we were trying to conceive. My friend Debra introduced me to METALSGirl jewelry — Chrissy and I both loved the colors and the look, and when we heard that, Laura, the designer, used herbs with enhancing properties (poppy seeds for fertility!), in her creations, we thought, hey, it can’t hurt. We had Laura design a ring for Chrissy. She wore it. She got pregnant.

A year later, it was my turn. I wore the ring. And a METALSGirl necklace. I got pregnant. We’ve since passed the lucky ring around to other friends trying to conceive — and it’s worked for them, too. Am I saying the ring is magic? No. But I am saying it has a damn good track record. It’s sort of become like Sisterhood of the Traveling Fertility Ring (if you’re interested in borrowing it, give us a shout.)

MetalsGirls ring

2 color round sterling and resin ring -- $60

Anyway, my love goes beyond that first ring. I have several METALSGirl necklaces and another ring, too. It’s very much in keeping with our Shiny Brite philosophy — Life with Kids, Made Better. I love the jewelry. I love to look at it and consider my next purchase every year when we go home to Texas. It makes me happy.

Happiness through consumerism and bold use of color. Sign me up. Always.

(Laura ships her designs, too, so go crazy browsing and ordering online. Say Chrissy and Melisa sent you.)

MetalsGirl charms

Holding Kids Back in School: Right or Wrong?

Photo by Avolore

I just read yet another article on holding kids back a year in school. While this is not an option for us in New York City, where the cut-off date for public schools is a strict December 31st, reading pieces like this still leaves me wondering if we are doing the right thing by sending our just-turned-six-year-old to first grade this fall.

Our son is bright, but on the younger side of the classroom. Many of his classmates will be turning seven mid-year, and already have stronger reading and writing skills. Jasper has struggled a bit with fine-motor skills, like holding his pen correctly for writing. He has trouble sitting still, and this year, in first grade, there will be even less time for boisterous activity like the playground or gym class to help work the energy out. Will he be able to keep up, and flourish? Or will he be frustrated by the pace of the classroom and left behind?

We’ve discussed all these issues with his teachers and our school administrators; they feel our son is ready for first grade. And yet still, the doubt. It’s not just academics. As Pamela Paul, the author of The New York Times piece, writes, “A 6-year-old wielding a light saber can be awfully intimidating to a boy who still sleeps with his teddy.”

One mother quoted echoed our concerns: ““There will be boys in his class who are a year or more older than him. They’ll be bored in class and then the bar will be set higher, and the kids who are the right age will find that they can’t keep up.”

Are we good parents working within the system to make sure he is taken care of? Or do we find a way to pay for private school and try to hold him back?

Where is your guardian angel when you need her?

photo by Kevin Dooley

Related posts:

8 Questions for a Kindergarten Teacher

Differences Between Public and Private School

Last Taste of Vacation: Chilmark Chocolates

We had to leave Martha’s Vineyard, but we took a taste of the island with us: Treats from Chilmark Chocolates, a hopping little business beloved both for its confections and its commitment to local youth — the owners employ young people with a range of disabilities (some are mentally retarded, deaf, blind, or have cerebral palsy) to make and sell their candies. I wait in a long line every year — while Chrissy carts the kids off to the library or playground — for my turn to squeeze into the tiny shop and make my selections.

Sweet.

Chilmark Chocolates

Chilmark Chocolates

Weekly Menu – Getting Back to Basics

Well, we’re back. So it’s back to work, back to planning things like the weekly menu. You all got the correct impression that all we were eating was French toast, fried oysters and pie, right? Uh-huh. Well, let’s just say I’m not stepping on the scale this week.

The Bite, Menemsha

No more fried food, alas.

Weekly Menu:

Sunday: That ole chestnut Shrimp and Soba noodles for the moms (good for resetting your balance), and Salmon, Roast Potatoes & Green Beans for the kiddos (or what we call the “eat like a bear” meal).

Monday: Grilled Chicken, Corn and Arugula Salad with Tomato

Tuesday: Simple: Pasta with Parmesan & Pepper

Wednesday: Burritos (veggie, of course)!

Thursday: our new favorite Halibut with Zucchini & Carrot and Juniper Berries (maybe we’ll try it on the grill in a foil pouch) with a Cucumber-Tomato Salad as a side.

Friday: Grilled Skirt Steak with Corn and Vegetables. We are grooving on skirt steak these days (taking a break from flank steak). Love how quick it cooks and how tender it is.

Saturday: Pizza Night. Back out on the grill. We had a great pizza in MV at the Flatbread Pizza Company. It was a white pizza (no sauce) with fresh tomato, kalamata olives, goat cheese, garlic olive oil and grated parm. I’m going to recreate it, and throw in some fresh basil for good measure.

And then, we’re ready for Grandma from Texas to swing in for a week.

Moshup Beach, Aquinnah

Hanging on to the vestiges of vacation.

French Toast Smackdown: The Best Places to Have Breakfast on Martha’s Vineyard

Okay, the smackdown is really for Jasper. We all love French toast (really, who doesn’t)? Jasper is the only one who orders it, though.

Artcliff Diner, Martha's Vineyard

French toast at the ArtCliff Diner.

Breakfast is a great meal to have out with kids. It’s generally louder and more boisterous, i.e. casual, and the food is the easiest to serve up to children. So it’s the one meal we eat out on a fairly regular basis (sigh, as we fondly remember when we were regulars at many restaurants for DINNER). That and the fact that, even on vacation, we are up most days before 7am. Sigh again.

In our “research,” we’ve found great breakfast options for families all over Martha’s Vineyard – and all worth traveling for – including:

THE RIGHT FORK DINER, Edgartown – We know, you are all sick of us talking about it. But the coffee is really, really good. No it is. Like Peet’s Coffee, seriously. And for those of you just tuning in, the place has the added value of being located on an active airfield, with great-looking biplanes taking off and landing right next door PLUS a big yard for kids to run around in.

Right Fork Diner, Edgartown

View of the outdoor dining area and backyard at The Right Fork Diner.

Now, about the food: as satisfying as the coffee. Not the cheapest on the island, but since it’s breakfast with benefits, we can’t complain. All your basics are here, but done to perfection: pancakes, French toast, egg sandwiches (basic or more sophisticated), breakfast burritos, yogurt/fruit/granola combo, not to mention the humble two-eggs, any way. Go. Go now. French toast rating (on scale of 1 to 10): 8 (Jasper) 10 (moms).

LINDA JEAN’S, Oak Bluffs – We love this place! Cheery decor (without being too cutesy), great service, and good, basic food fast. More like a fancy diner than anything else: the portions are tremendous, and for kids there are crayons and a coloring page, plus a special cup (with straw!) and a children’s menu with kid-sized portions. Booths make child seating easy (and there are high chairs galore). This is a bustling place where, if you go early (before 9:00 am), you probably won’t have to wait a minute (be warned that if you go much later, there will be a wait — use the time to explore the main drag in Oak Bluffs). French toast rating: not available at time of publication.

THE BLACK DOG, Vineyard Haven — Obviously, a classic Martha’s Vineyard choice. And since it’s so famous, you can expect a wait. But they’ve got it down to a science over there and they keep things moving.

Black Dog Tavern, Vineyard Haven

Woof!

The food is good, the menu is extensive (lots of creative options beyond your generic eggs, ‘cakes, and French toast), and we’ve found the service friendly and efficient. Bonus: Plenty to look at while you wait (the Black Dog gear stores, the ferries coming and going, a walk out onto the dock, watching the black dogs play on the beach, pretty water views). French toast rating: 10 (Jasper) 7 (moms).

ArtCliff Diner, Vineyard Haven

A wait, even at 7:15 am.

THE ARTCLIFF DINER, Vineyard Haven, – This funky little place screams “we’ve got a great breakfast” — it’s like you’re in someone’s big home kitchen. It’s homey, there are TONS of menu options (including some great specials), and it’s bustling, so kids are not a problem. Also, they have breakfast tacos. This is always a plus. But in the end…..everything was just fine. Friendly service. The food: fresh, good — but our high expectations exceeded the culinary results. The biggest issue here, though, is the perpetual wait, with nothing to do but kick gravel while doing it (we showed up at 7:15 am and waited at least 20 minutes) — a drag with kids. Jasper on the French toast: Not into it. Brioche, and too much of it. Giant, too-crispy crusts. Rating a 2. From the moms: a 7.

ArtCliff Diner, Vineyard Haven

ArtCliff Diner breakfast tacos with salsa and chorizo.

THE STATE ROAD RESTAURANT, West Tisbury – Dinner entrees will run you $30 – $40 each at State Road, so it’s all about breakfast and lunch. The morning atmosphere is casual (no tablecloths) to stay, and easy if you want to order baked goods from the counter to take out. Does mommy need a hot cappuccino? Step right up, and pick up a blueberry basil muffin while you’re at it. The focus here is on organic, fresh and local, with much of the produce served grown right at the restaurant (fun for kids to pick out the berries, apples, tomatoes, etc. growing on the grounds). Awesome breakfast burritos — sophisticated, fresh, delish. And don’t miss the Bacon Cheddar Jalapeño Grits with two eggs, wilted spinach and roast shallots. For the kids: get a side of scrambled eggs and a banana-chocolate chip muffin from the counter. French toast rating: no French toast served!

State Road Restaurant, West Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard

What a treat! Cheddar-y grits at The State Road.

Last….

A breakfast ordering TIP: A friendly waitress at The Black Dog suggested this to us…. Ask if half-orders are available for pancakes, French toast, etc. They are at The Black Dog, and it cuts down on the bill. Even if there aren’t technically half-orders, once we started asking, we found that places were willing to provide smaller portions of pancakes and more. Never hurts to ask.

As for the French toast smackdown: according to Jasper, The Black Dog was the hands-down winner (and he’s been asking for it every day since). The moms have to weigh in for Right Fork (love the brioche).

Wherever you dine, enjoy! You deserve a great cup of coffee and a yummy breakfast, too, mamas and papas, that SOMEONE ELSE prepared.

breakfast tacos at ArtCliff

Dang, that was good.

Martha’s Vineyard Vacation with the Kids: A Few More of My Favorite Things

Ahhh

Not to make everyone envious, but boy life is good here on Martha’s Vineyard. I am seriously relaxed. The house we are in is perfect; like the three bears I’m finding it not too big, not too small, JUST RIGHT. It’s comfortable, efficient, and in a great location. And it has a good bed that is not too soft. I don’t know about you, but a “taco bed” (Wenzlers will recognize the cottage lingo) is the worst (Def: Taco Bed: (noun) A bed that curls up around you like a taco shell).

Anyhoo, ugh, how has it already been a week? Now is when I start tweaking a bit and counting down the days (only 6 more days to go to the beach/eat Pie Lady pie/get up “late”/etc!!!).

Hands over ears: “I’m not LISTENING!!!”

Sorry, back to the post.

Some of our favorite things so far:

1) Breakfast at the Right Fork Diner. This was a discovery this year. Wow, how great for kids AND adults! It’s right on the Katama Airfield in Edgartown, so the kids can watch the biplanes take off and land. The food and service are great, and the coffee is DIVINE!

The Right Fork Diner, Edgartown

Waiting for breakfast at The Right Fork Diner

2) The new playground at the just-built Town Hall in West Tisbury. When the kids were little, we could drag them through a farmer’s market (or fill in the blank) with relative calm. Now they’ll be hiding around the busy stalls and generally making us crazy. The addition of a playground at Town Hall (next to the Grange Hall where the Farmer’s Market is held) means that one of us can stay with the kids while the other one wanders at leisure buying, tasting, and admiring. This is where we found the inspiration for our wedding flowers (dahlias! see header for the photos of inspiration).

West Tisbury Farmer's market

Our favorite flower stand

It’s seriously pretty. Don’t miss the Egg Roll Lady and the pesto from Pam’s.

3) Secret spots from the locals. We’re not iVillage so I feel I can share. Today it was a bit windy for our favorite beach, Squibnocket, and some very kind locals let us in on a new spot to try that was more secluded and calm called Great Rock Bight, right off the North Road in Chilmark and owned by the MV Land Bank. A moderately demanding (by our scale: gym-averse with two small kids) trail led us down to a gorgeous beach that was quiet  and not anything we’d read about/heard about in the years we’d been here before. The water was calm, and dominated by a very big rock off shore that the teens were swimming out to to sun themselves.

4) Menemsha again. The touch tank in front of the harbor master’s “office,” the low-tide crab-catching spots for juniors along the jetty (all you need is a net from the gas station), watching the fishing boats come in with their haul, the Bite (fried oysters twice already and Jasper has proclaimed them “seriously good”), ice cream from The Galley (my fave: a peanut butter chocolate dipped cone.

The Bite, Menemsha

The kids and Melisa prefer the black & white “frappe” aka a milkshake), Larsen’s fish market, and a calm (if rocky) swimming beach all make for a great stop for kids. And if you are an adult sans children: there are some cute antique and clothes shops to explore, not to mention the famed Home Port restaurant raw bar.

Round 1, Rotary Club Pancake Breakfast, Edgartown

5. Opportunistic eventing. Yep, when we’re here, we’re joiners. The Rotary Club pancake breakfast? Check. Tuesday night lobster roll dinners from the Community Church? Yes. Family movie night at the Chilmark Community Center? Pizza Night at the Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah? Storytime at the library? Snorkeling in Chappy? Customer Appreciation Day at The Black Dog? Pony Rides off the North Road? Yes, yes, yes and again yes yes yes. You name it, we’re game. We comb the Vineyard Gazette and MV Times for new places to explore. And MVTweets tells us everything that is going on as it is happening. Back-Door Donut night in Oak Bluffs has so far eluded us, but I’m hopeful. And the Wednesday family 80’s music night at live music venue Nectar’s is also on deck for some fun.

Pony Ride, West Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard

Watching Jasper take his turn around the ring.

6. Boogie boarding! So fun to get the kids up on boogie boards. And both of them are such champs: each was “womped” by a wave (Jasper went head over heels) and got up for more (in their water wings of course). Next stop: skim boarding. Love watching the little (and big kids) skimming around.

Squibnocket Beach, Chilmark

Assessing the surf at Squiby

7. Salt-water swimming! The water is warm and wonderful and we all LOVE IT.

8. Outdoor showers. Enough said.

9. The views. Bright green and sharp blue; my favorite summer colors, everywhere. The low stone walls, the gray-shingled houses, the hills, the cliffs….

Checking out Vineyard Haven

10. Sleeping until 7 am. Okay, it’s not everyday (Melisa very bitter here), but it’s happened. Sounds small, but it’s so right.


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