Archive for September, 2010

Someday My Prince Will Come: The Princess Movie Smackdown

Oh, the princess movie.

Or as my mother said after watching “Cinderella” with us one rainy afternoon: “no wonder a generation of women were so messed up.”


Full disclosure: we pretty much consider most of the Disney animated classics (new and old) with a woman at the center, as princess movies. And our kids love them; Magnolia AND Jasper. “Cinderella”  is a particular favorite, and “Mulan” is climbing the charts.

I’ve been a little uneasy with our capitulation to the crown, and so I enlisted some trusted moms to tell me what they thought of them, good and bad. And, as usual, I got back thoughtful responses.  Some felt that the power of example in their daughter’s lives was far more influential than any movie could ever be.

Far more damaging to my daughter’s future sense of self, in my opinion, are the people who meet her and only comment on her looks:  “You are such a pretty child!”  I always follow up comments like that with “… And she’s good at math and science.”

Other mothers thought the princess movies were pure evil.

I tend to side with the first mom and think that a little magic isn’t a bad thing.

So here, without further philosophizing, is the list of our favorite princess movies:

The Best of the Lot:

Mulan: I think it took us a while to come around to this one because the princess doesn’t wear a traditional ball gown. In the end, J & M were lured in by the story, heart, and adventure of this off-beat, cross-dressing princess. Plus side: A view of another culture and country little kids haven’t seen before, a girls-can-do-it message (save your family/country/ride a horse/use a sword/compete with boys/etc).  Negative side: Ignoring the directions of your elders doesn’t sit well with me. Though I suppose some might see that as a plus.

Cinderella: Pure magic for the 3-5 set, and the adults who watch with them. Cinderella is incredibly good-tempered (even the bratty cat gets her good grace), and there’s a bippity boppity boo Fairy Godmother to whip things into shape. The whole transformation process — Cinderella to Cinderwowza-super-princess and back again — is enchanting and fun fantasy. Plus side: Cinderella exudes optimism, practices good manners, sticks by her friends, and follows her curfew. Negative side: No one wants their kids to think that a prince will save them from their dreary (read: everyday) existence.

Barbie and the Three Musketeers: The Barbie movies were recommended to us by a couple of people (always with the comment “I was surprised, but…”), so we checked them out. And you know what? They are okay. This one is a favorite in the house because of the sword-fighting (a crowd-pleaser for kids, and the lack of singing (a crowd-pleaser for adults). Plus side: The ladies are either avid readers, musician, or into sports (or all of these), and value friendship (“all for one”) over “getting the guy.” There’s a healthy dose of adventure, the usual Lesson of Life that seems to come with children’s movies, and Jasper doesn’t mind watching it — at least, so far. Negative side: The singing, though as mentioned earlier, there is not as much in this one as there is in some other Barbie productions (beware The Diamond Castle).

Here’s to happily ever after.


Get There, New York Mamas: Mario Batali’s Eataly

gelato at Eataly

As you’ve probably noticed, two things that make our lives as moms better are shopping and food. No surprise, then, that shopping FOR food ranks high on our list of favorite activities.

One day this week, we stole a little time, sans kids, to head to Eataly, Mario Batali’s new Italian-themed mega-eatery and food emporium in the Flatiron District. Lunch! Browsing! Beautiful food everywhere you turn! Fun.

(And if you’re wondering about taking the kids, make your way to the end of this post. I have thoughts, people.)

But, first stop, lunch. Pappa al Pomodoro on a rainy fall day.

pappa al pomodoro at Eataly

You’ll find restaurants and food stands by type at Eataly — pizza and pasta, panini, seasonal vegetarian fare, fish, gelato, pastries, and espresso. You can also shop — for fresh pasta, fish to take home, bread, meat, cheese, salumi, and tons of specialty food items from Italy. At the fresh pasta counter, we happened to catch an employee as she was putting out a platter of just-cooked, buttery raviolis to sample. Mmmm.

fresh pasta at Eataly

After you have something to eat, marvel at the staggering array of housewares and specialty foods — jam, pesto, canned tomatoes, spices, olive oils, fancy balsamic vinegars, cookies, crackers, candies. And honey. Beautiful jars of every kind of honey imaginable.

honey at Eataly

Before you leave, sample a chocolate truffle, pastry, or some gelato — and chase it with an espresso.

espresso at Eataly

Take something home! We took a rotisserie chicken, which, I admit, isn’t particularly exciting or Italian. But it is one of our easy, no-cook dinners for a busy cool-weather day. And it was exceptionally delicious and juicy. Pair it with some veggies for the kids and dinner is DONE.

Now back to the question of going to Eataly with your kids. I have to say, I did not see a single child there. Not one. But I’m chalking that up to the fact that it was a rainy Monday, and crowds were down in general. When we go back — and we will — I would most definitely take the kids. Here’s why:

It’s big (40,000+ square feet!), bustling, and loud. Your kid making noise or getting fussy is likely to go unnoticed.

There’s lots to see — food being cooked, cool displays, a friendly guy at the fish counter making the mako shark “talk” and “eat” another fish (and that was just for the grown-ups!)

The food is kid-friendly. No, with the kids you probably won’t be dining at the fish restaurant, but there’s pizza and gelato. You’re set, mama.

One note: leave the stroller at home if you possibly can. It’s a big space, yes, but it’s jam-packed with stuff, and I think navigating a stroller on a more crowded day would be pretty un-fun.

For more Eataly deets, read New York mag‘s Q&A with Mario Batali.

Eataly is located at 200 5th Ave. at 23rd Street.

Weekly Menu, September 26-October 2

I had a great idea today. I thought it would be fun to make every Sunday night an international night where we would “travel” to another country. I thought that this would both expand the kids’ palates and also prepare them for next year when I hope we’ll be taking an exciting trip abroad (more on that later).

Let’s just say tonight’s dinner was, to my mind, a disaster. I don’t know if I should chalk it up to trying something too big too late in the day, or just a general miss, but our “trip” to Italy was a dud.

Photo by Woodleywonderworks

I saw somewhere online last week that someone was making an eggplant parmesan. We have eggplant. We have parm. We have breadcrumbs, egg, flour. Breaded eggplant might be a way to get the kids to eat it! And I thought something simple, like pasta with a good tomato sauce, would be a shoo-in for clean plates. I was wrong on both counts. Jasper liked the pasta, but Magnolia wouldn’t touch it with the sauce on. Jasper tried the eggplant, but declared immediately he didn’t like it. Magnolia didn’t give it the time of day. The salad we made, of brand new, gorgeous red-leaf CSA lettuce, was still gritty, despite careful washing. The sauce, from the Gastrokid Cookbook, was delicious. But we hadn’t made enough pasta.

Cosmic forces were against me.

Not sure if we’re going traveling next week.

On to the menu:

Sunday: Enough said.

Monday: Vegetarian Stir-fry

Tuesday: Roasted or Grilled Chicken Breasts (depends on the weather) with Potatoes & Leeks

Wednesday: Dinner out for me (work), Burrito night for everyone else

Thursday: Pasta with Pancetta and Roast Tomatoes and GRIT-FREE!! Red-Leaf Salad

Friday: Grilled Flank Steak with Arugula Salad and CSA Tomato

Saturday: Pizza Night! Maybe with pancetta and fresh tomato

Hope your trip this week is filled with blue skies and good food…

Singing the Lunch Box Blues: Tips & Inspiration

PB&J (her) and hummus or avocado sandwiches (him) are working overtime in our little corner of Brooklyn. I’m DYING for some inspiration or lunch box tips.

And, as is often the case, if you can steal an hour (broken up into five minute bits across two weeks) and look around online, inspiration is bountiful.

So to share:

Over at, a nice post that features lunch box items divided into helpful lists — carbs/tummy fillers, veggies, fruits, proteins, dairy — culled from the author’s own fall-backs, and reader suggestions. Pick one item from each list and voila! Lunch box is filled. The concept is a good one; it  reminded me of an old piece in Cookie magazine (RIP) for mix and match dinners that I always thought was kind of cool (can’t find a link online to share with you, but maybe it’s in their new cookbook Time for Dinner?).

Jan Scott at FamilyBites had a similar idea of mix and match and came up with a “30-day lunch plan” that you can download, print out, and post to your fridge for daily inspiration.

P.S.: Looking over these lists, I’m noticing that the cool moms are sending their kids to school with soup. Who knew?

My favorite inspiration so far, though, has been from a wonderful blog called Wendolonia. Perusing it is like a mini-trip to Etsy; by that I mean that every time I visit Etsy, I’m blown away by how creative people are. And this blogger, a mom to two young boys out in San Francisco, does some AMAZING creative things with Bento Boxes. I’m particularly loving her feature called “This Week in Bentos” where she shows you, in photos, what she packed for school lunches that week, and best of all, what came back home.

So cute! Photo by Gamene @ Flickr

Guess who went out at lunch yesterday and bought some silicone cupcake cups for her Bento Boxes? Me! And if I can find the Totoro (as in “My Neighbor Totoro,” must-see kid film) Bento, or the Police Car Bento in Chinatown, watch out!

Williams-Sonoma, $6.95

Definitely feeling like I have a few more tools in my lunch box arsenal, hope you feel the same.

September 24 – 26: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas

donuts on the High Line

photo by rosy outlook on flickr

The High Line, already one of our favorite places to take the kids, gets even more appealing for fallColicchio & Sons just opened up a temporary donut stand there! Now through October 13th, order cider or pumpkin spice (with a side of cream cheese frosting) donuts and Stumptown coffee. Then let the kids roam and enjoy the plants, old train tracks, and views. My kind of outing. (Thanks to Katherine for the tip!) — the strong buzz

Lots of new deal sites for NYC moms seem to be popping up: Last week, I wrote about Plum District, and Cool Mom Picks just wrote about Gaggle of Chicks. Here’s one I can vouch for first-hand: doodledeals My friend Maureen turned me on to it and, though I just signed up last week, so far so good. Today’s deal? 50+% off at Moomah Creative Arts Cafe, which we’ve visited, written about, and love. And last week: half-off a pedi at our fave nail spot, Sweet Lily in Tribeca. (Snapped that one up in a hurry.) I feel like the deals I’m seeing pop up in my in-box are pretty tempting — so sign up and take advantage! — doodledeals

ad hoc MOM MADE interview with Ada Calhoun, former Editor-in-Chief of and author of Instinctive Parenting. — ad hoc MOM

Fall festival round-up: the first-ever NYC World Maker Faire (sounds fun and impressive!), DUMBO Arts Festival, the Atlantic Antic, and more. — A Child Grows in Brooklyn

I’ll see you at… none of them! A fairy godmother has, for the second weekend in a row, magically made a quiet little house outside the city appear for us. The kids can run around barefoot. The sound of the beach is *right there.* We’d be fools to say no, so we didn’t.

Happy weekend!

(rosy outlook)

Pretty Ways to Repurpose: Bonne Maman Jars

Bonne Maman jars

photo by saganaga on flickr

I love my Bonne Maman jam jars. I rinse them out lovingly and save them (the label slips right off if you let the jar sit in a small bowl of warm water for a few minutes). I occasionally get it together to put things in them — granola, rice, nuts, small candies for the kids — and store them in the pantry. And one sits in permanent residence in the fridge, holding one of our favorite ingredients: chipotle chiles in adobo.

Turns our I am far from alone in my love of the French jam jars — there’s even a flickr group called Bonne Maman Love. Pretty, pretty!

Bonne Maman jars

photo by heart rashida... on flickr

And lots of people are into repurposing them, too — get inspired by wide open spaces, The Little House in the City, and i heart linen. I was.

Other ways to reuse: as a home for spices or dried beans, a candle-holder, a small vase, juice glasses.

Doesn’t your pantry deserve to look pretty?

Bonne Maman jars

photo by Elle-ah-euh on flickr

Bonne Maman jars

photo by wide open spaces


(heart rashida…)


(wide open spaces)

Tips for Helping Your Child Learn to Read

Green Eggs and Ham

Reading: The Cat in the Hat knows a lot about that!

First grade is ON for Jasper, which means we are in the thick of learning how to read. In kindergarten, it was all about letters and sounds and connecting the two — now we’re down to the serious business of putting it all together and learning to read a book.

And, I have to say, just over one full week into school, he (finally!) seems ready for it. He brought home a book from school yesterday and reported happily that he was going to read it to us that night. And when it was time for stories, he climbed into bed and said with a big smile on his face that he got to sit in the middle (the moms and Magnolia on either side) because he was the reader. We read “Worm Smells” by Kathy Caple. It was awesome.

He had to have help with some of the words — he couldn’t do it all by himself — but he did pretty well. And he WANTED to read it which, after some resistance over the summer (“YOU read it, mommy!”), was great.

I’ve been looking around for tips on how to reinforce what he’s learning at school and how best to encourage and support him. Here are some highlights from learning to read tips I’ve found at Scholastic and PBS Parents — I’ve chosen the ones that, as we’re trying to teach Jasper, feel most relevant.

Continue reading ‘Tips for Helping Your Child Learn to Read’

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