Archive for April, 2011

April 30 – May 1, Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas: Cherry Blossoms, a Guy Named Bob, and What Your Drink Says About You

cherry blossom festival

Time for the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden! It’s fun, it’s pretty, it’s a slice of Brooklyn life — but it’s also a mob scene. Here are a few tips to get more out of it:

* You can buy tix in advance online, and your entry will be expedited.

* Entry’s free — and faster — if you’re a member, so maybe now’s the time to pony up for a family membership to the BBG.

* Go early, like first thing, which is 10am. You know you’ll have been up for hours anyway.

* For an awesome FREE kid’s craft project station, be sure to seek out Curious Jane Camp, who’ll be hosting a weekend workshop at the festival. (And read my interview with camp founder Samantha Razook Murphy here.)

For a printable schedule of events, advance ticket + membership info, and more, head to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden‘s web site.

If the crowds at the garden sound overwhelming and you’d rather stay home downloading new music and making cocktails while the kids zone out with a movie — appealing, no? — then make this tune by Austin musician Bob Schneider the first thing you buy.

Here’s “Honeypot,” from his addictive new CD, A Perfect Day. The song is deeply awesome and the video completely enjoyable. As always, I must advise that you listen to it VERY LOUD. And note the babe-ish blond on guitar in the background. Mmm-hmm.

For new cocktail inspiration, and humorous commentary on what your choice of drink says about you, check out this fun post from one half of the parental team (the dad) over at Dinner: A Love Story.

Clink — cheers!

Gwyneth Paltrow: I Love Her, I Love Her Hair, I Don’t Care What You Think

Gwyneth Paltrow

Oh, the Gwyneth Paltrow hatred. It burns bright. So many moms — it’s always the moms — seem to relish taking her down for everything she does. It’s a real sideline hobby, hating on Gwyneth.

The ad hoc MOMs — ladies I love — think she’s delusional and pompous (although Carrie seems potentially on the fence, maybe I can bring her over to my side?). The Suniverse has serious GP issues. And The Stir thinks Gwyneth is a “non-self-aware freak of nature” who makes it impossible for anyone to like her.

Not true! I like her.

I’m not offended that she lives a life of privilege and can afford $800 Jimmy Choo UGGs — and believes, for some, they may even be a winter wardrobe essential. I’m not at all disturbed by the fact that her working mom tips are a tad unrelateable — um, I’m not a movie star, and my friends aren’t high-powered working moms like Stella McCartney or venture capitalist Juliet de Baubigny. I’m not looking for them to be “real life.”

I’m losing no sleep over her quotes in the press on parenting and family life.

I think she puts herself out there in a personal way with Goop and in the media — despite the disdain — and I kind of like that. More important, I think she has excellent hair. I think she’s married to an adorable Brit. I thought she was fabulous — and funny — on “Glee.” I think she has a kick-ass sense of personal style. I think her recipe for Rotisserie-Style Chicken from the new cookbook sounds pretty good.

I can’t say I really love her kids’ names — Apple and Moses not my thing — but that’s about the worst I’ve got for Gwynnie.

I read the May cover story on her in Self, where I learned that — shocker — yes, she does maintain that amazing body by exercising a lot with personal trainer Tracy Anderson. And I still like her.

I didn’t see Country Strong, but I’d totally watch it on DVR if we didn’t have any “The Good Wife,” “Property Virgins,” or “Selling New York” episodes recorded. And I really liked Sliding Doors — more great hair! — even if it was ages ago.

There. Public love, in print. So sue me.

Mavericks. In the Words of Prince: They Rule My World.

Oh, Charleston/Isle of Palms. Gorgeous; sunny, warm and beautiful. I baked the cold winter right out of my bones, and was on my way to well-done when the vacation ended.

I hated to leave. The ocean is a bit like my own oracle of Delphi. I ask, it answers. Sometimes it tells me what I want to know, sometimes it gives me tough love, sometimes the answers are inscrutable or annoying.

Last sunrise

The big revelation at the shrine was about mavericks. I had my own duh moment (not really an a-ha when it’s so obvious): not only have I been falling for mavericks my whole life—and I mean friends AND lovers—I’m raising two.

Merriam-Webster defines mavericks as:

1: an unbranded range animal; especially : a motherless calf KEEP READING, THIS IS NOT THE DEFINITION WE ARE CONCERNED WITH

Moo

2: an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party

Not joiners, these people I adore. And as someone who does not like conflict all that much, I wonder, why do I love these people?

Here’s a (abbreviated) rogues gallery of the accused:

Best friend from childhood: Outspoken on many issues, memorably including the ridiculousness and oppression of makeup on women (huh?). Even my parents were a little scared of crossing her. Traditionally liberal, she is now married to a Navy fighter pilot, calls me a pinko, is raising hell among PTA mothers while spearheading the school garden movement in her state.

First Love: Surfer and slacker and yet, straight A student. Memorable moments are mostly not for prime-time (ahem, my parents read this). Trust me: this guy beat to his own drum.

Wife: Happiest throwing life into chaos (moving, travel). Never afraid to pin people to the wall who she feels are shirking responsibility, despite having to face them every day thereafter. Has no problem letting people know how she feels, even if she’s the only one in the room with the opinion.

And then there are the ones I didn’t pick (and they didn’t pick me either). We’re stuck with each other.

Jasper: Favorite character in Star Wars: Darth Vader. Protests vehemently against having to attend college (bank error in my favor?).

Magnolia: Would prefer to speak in symbols she makes up (difficult to follow since they change daily). Two thumbs up not enough; invents “five thumbs up,” which includes both thumbs, tongue out, and holding up fists of hair in both hands.

Five Thumbs Up!

You may wonder why this is important. Or  you stopped reading a paragraph ago. The thing is, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t love conflict. So it’s a revelation to me that for the most part (excluding my children for aforementioned reasons), I seek out these rabble rousers.

The mavericks in my life want to stand up for things that will make people roll their eyes and ask to be moved to a different table. They challenge any accepted boundary, and complicate simple relationships; they can be embarrassing, and infuriating. They tend to say or type whatever comes into their head without thinking of their audience. Ninety percent of the time they turn right when I was so hoping they’d go left. And ay, they always think they are right (a problem since I know I’M RIGHT).

Even now, I’m writing this like they make me crazy, but part of me is thinking awwww. Their conviction and passion is admirable. Their lack of interest in the norm can be addictive. The highs with them are starry.

This is the part of the post where I should come to some sort of conclusion about why I love them. Listen, I have no idea why; the oracle wasn’t that specific and I’d need another week looking out at the ocean to decipher this one. Preferably with a margarita in hand (helps me think). Clearly I’m crazy or they are. Or both?

So here’s to you, my sweet mavericks. Whatever you’re doing is apparently working for me. XO

Popular Baby Names We Narrowly Escaped

Beyond Ava & Aiden

For baby-naming advice, grab this book via Amazon or head over to nameberrry.com.

We’re back from vacation with — as is usually the case — mixed feelings. We missed our little house and garden, and it’s always nice to say hello again to New York, but life down in Charleston was pretty good. We spent long, sunny days at the beach and pool with the kids and it was relaxing and FUN to be focused solely on them. The pool in particular was great — Jasper can actually swim now, which is huge, and Magnolia is well on her way. Wearing floaties, she’s good to go.

And they loved it. LOVED it. Hours were spent happily bobbing around on kick boards and noodles. And while we were there — with lots of other happy families — I took some mental notes on who we were in the pool with. Just as we were frequently yelling out names followed by directives — insert Jasper or Magnolia with: no pushing! don’t run! watch where you’re jumping! move away from the stairs! please don’t splash mommy in the face, she doesn’t like it! — so were other parents.

I felt, over the days we were there, that we were being exposed to a little microcosm of the most popular baby names from all around the country. (The resort where we stayed really does draw people from all over.) I started keeping a loose mental list of the names I was hearing.

And, let me just say before I launch into the list, that I absolutely believe the right baby name for your baby is the one that makes you smile when you think about it. It’s the one you love, whether it’s popular or not. For us, we wanted names that were unusual but not unheard of. But some parents want classic and familiar.

Truth be told, the names I heard at the pool weren’t really ones we almost picked…. We shied away from the “most popular” lists in a pretty self-conscious way. And I didn’t mind at all that there were no other Jaspers or Magnolias frolicking in the water. But, still — it was fun to note the names we might have gone with if we’d had different baby-naming priorities.

So…. Here are a few of the kids that were in the pool with ours:

* Jackson (more than one)

* Ava (more than one)

* Eva

* Josh

* Grayson (This one we did actually consider as a middle name for Jasper — we went with Luc instead. This Grayson was a girl, though, not a boy.)

* Sofia

* Connor

* Aiden

* Nora

* Olivia

* Emily

* Jaden

* Mason (for a girl)

And a couple of renegade choices:

* Paige

* Drew

What was important to you in picking a baby name? Did you want unusual or familiar, strong or sweet, quirky or classic?

More on baby names:

Summer Baby Names

Top 50 Baby Names of Style-Conscious Parents

100 Stylish Baby Names You Won’t Find in the Top 1,000 via nameberry on HuffPo

Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby, on Amazon


Weekly Menu, April 17-23 Southern Style

Why not come South with us? At least for the menu. This week, try:

Shrimp and Grits, perfect for breakfast or dinner!

Harder to do at home, but I’m craving MORE OYSTERS. Why not take shrimp, add an oyster, wrap in bacon, slide onto a skewer and GRILL? You won’t be sorry you did.

Comfort food: The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken & Dumplings

Edna Lewis’s Hoppin’ John – a dish that originated in Charleston

Hoppin John

Sautéed Collard Greens – a quick & easy version

With a few Tall and Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits? Yes, please.

And how about some Coconut Cake for dessert? Mmmmmm….

  • Easy cake-in-a-box recipe here
  • Or for you show-offs, a from-scratch winner from Ina Garten, here

Happy!

Enjoy, ya’ll.

Spring Break, Here We Come!

First, in case you were wondering, here’s what went down yesterday afternoon at the pool party on the Upper West Side….

I was looking and feeling pretty good, if I do say so myself — I bought a new last-minute swimsuit, got a pedicure, whipped out the curling iron, shaved my legs, found something cute to wear, and made use of my new makeup. By the time I’d yanked the kids out of school early and schlepped into Manhattan, I was READY to meet the famous mom. Psyched, even.

But she was a no-show! Just as we arrived, she texted our friend that she was stuck in a meeting. So she sent the kids (who are polite and look just like her, by the way) on to the party with their nanny. Rats! If the meeting ends up happening another time, I’ll no doubt go through the same neurotic thoughts, but hopefully I’ll be able pull my sh*t together again. Who knows? We’ll see. (And thanks for the sweet comments yesterday! They helped.)

NOW. Moving on.

SeeWee Restaurant

Southern-fried goodness at SeeWee restaurant in Awendaw, South Carolina. (photo: Boston.com)

coconut cake

A reliable source (Grammie) tells us there is good coconut cake to be had at SeeWee, too. (photo: CakeChannel.com)

Spring Break! You’re looking at what we’ll be doing. We’re headed to Charleston, South Carolina, which means GOOD SOUTHERN FOOD is in store. Beyond that, our plans are humble, and we’ve given them zero advance thought. We’re looking forward to getting in some pool time, some beach time, and some serious doing nothing time. We’re all still TAT-weary, and we need this vacation.

Even if we were in NYC for the break, we’d be looking to escape, at least for a day or two. And I’d consult Mommy Poppins‘ list, 30 New York City Family-Friendly Day Trips, on where to go.

Wherever you are, may there be coconut cake in your future.

Off to pack!

I Have to Meet Someone Famous While Wearing a Swimsuit. I Am Officially Scared for My Thighs.

J Crew swimsuit

I might feel a little better about myself if I were wearing this cute Cape-stripe tank suit from J Crew, but I won't be.

I was going to write a post on cute summer sandals, but I got sidetracked by fear of something I have to do later today, so I decided to get real and post on that instead.

One of the fun, flukey things about living in New York is that you occasionally find yourself in social situations with a celebrity. And it turns out that some new friends of ours are friends with someone famous. Really famous. Like, Oscar-winning famous. Fun and “six degrees of separation” on one hand and on the other…. Eeks.

(I’d tell you who — I’m dying to tell you who — but out of consideration for our friends, I’m going to refrain.)

We’ve known about this celebrity connection for a while now and knew that, if we continued to get to know these new people, eventually we’d have to meet this certain someone. The time has come. She’s a celeb mom and, along with some other parents, we’ve all been invited to a birthday party for our friend’s son this afternoon.

And here’s the real kicker: it’s a POOL party. While I’ve been assured there’s no pressure to go in, I’ve also been told that this mom loves pool parties with the kids and she’ll definitely be getting in. Awesome! Not only do I have to meet someone hugely famous — and beautiful — for the first time, but I have to do it in a bathing suit?! Cruel and unusual.

She’ll be skinny, that’s a given. But she won’t be the only one. All of the other Manhattan moms will be, too. I’ve met some of this group before, and they’re all REALLY nice, but they’re also all a size 2. They run, they work out, they have personal trainers — they LIKE to exercise.

Not only do I NOT have a great body, I do not have a new or especially cute swimsuit to wear and I do not have nicely-polished toenails. (I should have done some advance personal prep, but I’ve been in denial about this party, hoping maybe the famous mom would have to jet off to film a movie or something at the last minute. Does she really show up for kids’ birthday parties? Apparently, she does.)

I did buy a new lipstick yesterday at Bloomingdale’s, but that’s all I’ve got going for me and that will be very little help in the pool.

So, I can stand around in my clothes and feel a little more comfortable about myself but completely un-fun, or I can say what the hell and just go for it and get in. I guess I have to go with the latter, right? Advice welcome, ’cause I’m stressing my dilemma.

(If you are one of the few people reading who *knows* who the famous mom is, quiet, please! Nothing in print.)

Weekly Menu, April 10-16 (or not)

Love this. Maybe for my tombstone.

Wow, well we had an AMAZING day Saturday at Touch-a-Truck. The weather was in the 60’s and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Over 5,000 parents and kids descended on our little corner of the world to climb on great trucks and eat spectacular food. Best of all, as this was a fundraiser for our public school, we raised terrific capital that will go direct to our arts programs. Couldn’t be more pleased, and officially crossed off the “blow out Touch-a-Truck” line on my to-do list.

In fact, I was able to cross off two things yesterday, because Melisa and I also got to Egg in Williamsburg for breakfast on Friday. Run, don’t walk; the breakfast there is amazing and completely worth the travel if you’re not already in the nabe. I’m still thinking about the blueberry and rhubarb jam (and looking forward to my own rhubarb supplier coming through soon). Seriously: the best breakfast in the borough and open early.

Now to the menu. Here’s the thing, gang, the weekly menu is on hiatus.

We’re in a post Touch-a-Truck haze, and getting ready to go on vacation. So it’s all ad hoc from here. And that’s fun, no? Letting a little uncertainty into life? Like driving 13 hours in a 15 year old car? Okay, I’m taking the car in for a tune-up tomorrow just to be sure, because truthfully, I’m not ALL THAT COMFORTABLE with a lot of uncertainty: I like to have a plan (exhibit A: weekly menu).

Anyhoo, enjoy your menus this week, whatever they may be! I’m dreaming of shrimp and grits, fried chicken, and coconut cake; of breakfast at The Hominy Grill, dinner at FIG, sunsets at The Boathouse, and many, many other eats and treats in Charleston. Not to mention the beach.

By Sunday, it will all be a reality.

Ta! And sweet dreams.

Saturday, April 9: Touch-a-Truck Brooklyn, It’s ON!

Touch a Truck Brooklyn

There are other things happening in New York City this weekend — and I often provide an opinionated list of my faves for families with young kids at the end of the week. But this weekend, for Shiny Brite, it’s all about Touch-a-Truck. You know it, and so do we.

Here’s a little behind-the-scenes TAT drama, just to get you revved up…. On our minds this week:

Would the NYC Department of Sanitation come through with a garbage truck? — The poor parent volunteer who’d taken on the task of getting them to say yes felt like she was in a dysfunctional relationship — leaving pleading messages and then sitting by the phone, waiting for the local DOS Chief to call her back, holding out hope even when things weren’t looking good. But in the 11th hour, they came through! An official NYC I Stink! — “I’m totally dual op, no A/C, not me!” — will be at TAT! J. and M. are psyched!

Would Melisa survive the emotional trauma of dealing with the DOT and the nightmare of oversize vehicle permits for weeks on end? — I did, but barely.

How many cool vintage cars will the Brooklyn Antique Automobile Association bring? – This one’s still a mystery. All will be revealed on Saturday.

What trucks are J. and M. most excited about seeing?J.: The BioBus, M.: Truck Farm (the guy bringing it says there’s arugula and some cute little chives popping up on the back of the truck!)

We’ve been in TimeOut New York Kids and New York Mag, but would we make it into the New York Times? We did! (Thanks, Lainie!)

We’ll be there waaaaaay before the event gets going at 11am, but come say hi when you show up! After months of planning and endless to-do lists, Touch-a-Truck is ON!

Cool trucks + awesome food + tons of kids = FUN!

See you tomorrow!

Currently Obsessed with…. Porch Crawler Cocktail from Frankies Spuntino

Porch Crawler

You may have noticed we’re spring-obsessed here at Shiny Brite — ready for sun, bare ankles, and a carefree life post-TAT. (You are coming, aren’t you? Seriously, it’s gonna be kick-ass and we want EVERY KID IN BROOKLYN there.)

Anyway, just discovered this drink — a Porch Crawler — in the April ish of Food & Wine and cannot wait to make it. It’s a blissful-sounding, muddled combination of fresh cherries, mint, hot chiles, white rum, lemon, simple syrup, and club soda — SPRING IN A GLASS. And it makes me happy that it was Brooklyn-grown, crafted by the two Frankies (Falcinelli and Castronovo) behind Frankies Spuntino right here in our home borough.

Here’s the recipe.

Maybe I’ll have one — or ten — when Touch a Truck is over.

Here’s to spring!


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