Archive for November, 2010

All Aboard! The Polar Express 4-D Experience at the Bronx Zoo

We’re members of New York’s Wildlife Conservation Society, which means free entrance to city Zoos and the Aquarium. And we visit them all often, but usually when it’s warm out. Thanks to Carol Cain (NYCityMama), though, who blogs for Babble New York, we found reason to zip up to the Bronx Zoo last weekend. Carol’s recent Babble post on things to do in New York over the holidays mentioned a very important happening — the Zoo is screening The Polar Express 4-D Experience now through January 2. (That’s the trailer above, though you won’t be able to enjoy the “4-D Experience” part anywhere but at the Zoo.)

This is big news for us.

Jasper is a train fanatic, so anything railway-related is of extreme interest. But there’s big love for The Polar Express — both book and movie. It brings together many things that make him happy — trains, Santa, snow, presents. Seeing it all up on the big screen, with super-cool added effects, was too good to pass up. Plus, of course, the fun of visiting all the animals and just being able to run wild and free at the Zoo. (Have I mentioned before that I am the mom whose kids *never* stop moving? Outdoor settings are good for us.)

The movie was pretty impressive, so I’d definitely recommend putting this on your list of holiday activities, even if you don’t have a train-obsessed kid. But first, a few things you should know:

You won’t be sitting through the entire film (which, to my mind, is a good thing. Tom Hanks yells a lot and I find the animation a little freaky, although children seem unfazed by this.) Running time for this 4-D shorty — featuring favorite scenes from the full-length version — is 13 minutes.

It’s not included with entrance to the Zoo. If you’re a member, don’t forget to take one of your “special attraction” passes along with you. If not, it’s $5 a ticket, or $7 for a double feature of The Polar Express and Dora & Diego’s 4-D Adventure (also surprisingly worthwhile — we saw it over the summer.)

Wondering what the hell 4-D means? You wear 3-D glasses, so you do get the bizarro effect of things flying at you — Santa in his sleigh, for example — but you also get extreme sounds, motion, smells, and cool extras like wet, chilly snowflakes. You smell the hot chocolate, you feel the rumble of the train.

Younger kids might find it scary. It’s LOUD. And while the effects are fun, they can also be startling. Magnolia sat through it even though I gave her the option of leaving, but she’s not a fan of LOUD and she spent most of the time with her hands over her ears. Still, she said after that she loved it and answered without hesitation that her “favorite part” was when Santa Claus holds up the silver sleigh bell and booms out, “The first gift of Christmas!”

Other cold-weather Zoo highlights:

No crowds! The kids could run ahead without getting lost in the hordes and there were no lines at popular spots like the Bug Carousel.

Also on through the holiday season (weekends only), are Carriage Rides with the Zoo’s beautiful Clydesdale Horses. Jesse and Monty were the two draft horses doing the honors the day we were there — kids get to pet them and say hi after the ride.

The peacocks were feeling social! As you know if you’ve been to the Bronx Zoo, the peafowl get to roam freely, but they often seem shy. The cool weather and thinner crowds seemed to suit them.

New baby tigers! There are six new cubs at Tiger Mountain and they’re super cute.

See all of the winter happenings at the Bronx Zoo.


And get more ideas for things to do in New York in the cold weather:

Moomah Cafe + Art Space in Tribeca

Children’s Museum of the Arts

Brooklyn’s BounceU

I Love My…Paperless Holiday E-Cards from Cartolina iPhone App

I’m really more of a paper person when it comes to holiday cards. At least I thought I was until I found this gorgeous app from Cartolina. For just $1.99, you can have your choice of nine holiday cards (that you can use over and over) to personalize and send to your friends with iPhones or iPod Touch.

Now these are emails I’d love to get:

Cute, huh? It’s available in the app store NOW! (And don’t miss the too-cute-for-school everyday card iPhone app as well).

Related Posts:

Shiny Brite Guide to the Best Christmas Cards Online

Weekly Menu, November 28-December 4

Well, Thanksgiving is over (I’m thankful for so much this year), and it feels as if everything is on fast-forward to Christmas.

The cards arrived in the mail yesterday, and the tree is arriving this week. That’s right, the tree is shipped to us via UPS from the folks at White Flower Farm. Why? We realized when we had toddlers that two moms who can’t make a decision quickly were at a disadvantage when it came to picking out…well, anything, in a hurry. Trees were a problem because here in Brooklyn they are sold on the street. One kid would be running around, hiding in the trees while the traffic zoomed by, and the other would be in the stroller wailing, and picking out the perfect tree was suddenly so un-fun. So for now we have the non-traditional, but extremely convenient, tree delivery service.

On to the menu for the week:

Sunday: Béatrice Peltre over at La Tartine Gourmande often inspires me. This week I’m taken by her beautiful Gratin Dauphinois. We’re going to try it, with some Sunday Roast Chicken and Salad tonight. A mini-trip to France!

Monday: Warding off the cold with a taste of summer: Pasta & Pesto with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Corn

Tuesday: Shrimp Stir-Fry with Basil and Veggies

Wednesday: Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas, courtesy of Homesick Texan

Thursday: I had this on the menu a few weeks ago and didn’t quite get to it. This week, I hope to: Porcini Mushroom Soup with a Winter Salad

Friday: Not sure if we are entertaining or eating out. More to come.

Saturday: Pizza night!

Happy Thanksgiving!

pumpkin pie

(Flickr photo by Cameron Nordholm)

Hope there’s pie — lots of pie! — in your future this weekend. Just one more thing in a long list of things to be thankful for, isn’t it?

Happy Turkey Day! Catch you after thirds on everything.

(Cameron Nordholm)

Made in Brooklyn: P&H Soda

P&H Soda

This is the first in an occasional series of posts on interesting people making cool things in Brooklyn. We have an amazing amount of fabulousness happening in our home borough — here’s a little taste of it.

Last weekend, we took the kids to the Sweets Fair at the Maker’s Market (more on that in an upcoming post). We tasted all sorts of locally-made goodies — macarons, Latin pastries, shortbread, pumpkin squares, fancy toffee, and…. an amazing cream soda. In fact, I wish I were drinking one right now!

The biz behind the delicious fizzy drink is Brooklyn-based P&H Soda, owned by Anton Nocito who, according to grub street, is a NYC chef, but dreams of owning a soda shop of his own. He currently makes his syrups — flavors like quince, lime, hibiscus, ginger, and the aforementioned cream — in a commercial bakery in Sunset Park. But he’d like to expand, and that means he needs his own space.

In order to help get the funds for it, he’s set up a page on IndieGoGo to let fans of the idea donate. Contribute $10 or more and you get perks like a free soda or syrup, a tote bag, or even an invitation to a soda-making class. Hurry! The challenge to raise money only runs until the end of the month, so there are just seven days left to go.

Sounds like an excellent local cause to me.

In the meantime, you can sample P&H Sodas at Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain on Henry Street, which is excellent news for me. I’ve been wanting to take the kids there anyway — now I have another reason to visit.

Cutest Non-Traditional Christmas Tree Skirts

**Please note: this post has been updated for 2011 here

We need a Christmas tree skirt. Chrissy found a cute one last year but we didn’t buy it on the spot and now that particular Etsy artisan is nowhere to be found. Damn!

Anyway, we need one. But, yikes — Christmas really brings out the ugly in home decor. A brief search on Etsy and farther afield provided surprisingly limited options — shouldn’t somebody be all over making Christmas decor modern? — but I did find a few possible contenders.

My rules: no plaid, no patchwork, no reindeer, no red.

Here’s what I found:

ruffled linen tree skirt

Ruffled linen tree skirt from ruffledlinens on Etsy, $45.

I like this one because it’s simple. It comes in white, cream, or flax and wouldn’t compete with all of the wild Christmas wrapping paper. From ruffledlinens on Etsy.

burlap tree skirt

Tailored burlap tree skirt from SouthHouseBoutique on Etsy, $79.

Also simple, but a little tailored, too. This skirt is made of burlap (natural jute) and is almost like a heavy linen. I like the trim and curving wrap — both trim and button covers can be customized. From SouthHouseBoutique on Etsy.

eco-felt tree skirt

Eco felt tree skirt from clearlytangled on Etsy, $30.

Color! We have lots of bright colors in our house and if we didn’t decide to go with a super-subdued option, this could be fun. It’s an eco-friendly choice, made of recycled plastic bottles (don’t ask me how), and is supposed to resemble a ballgown (Magnolia would LOVE it.) If blue doesn’t say “Christmas” to you, it comes in other colors, too. From clearlytangled on Etsy.

faux fur tree skirt

Faux-fur tree skirt from West Elm, $69.

Ahhh, soft, warm, plush, faux fur. Suitable for any occasion, right? It’s fun, reminiscent of snow, and you’re not committing to any color palette or pattern. From West Elm.

boxing day tree skirt

Boxing Day tree skirt from Anthropologie, $168.

Enter Anthro for the expensive but oh-so-lovely option. This Boxing Day tree skirt features traditional motifs of birds, stars, poinsettias, dragonflies, and English roses. Unusual, pretty, and possibly just right.

This last idea isn’t really for a tree skirt — it’s a twirly-girly, holiday skirt for girls. But it was too cute not to include! Love the idea of Magnolia skipping a fancy Christmas dress and instead wearing this adorable skirt paired with a red turtleneck and her red Justin Ropers like the picture here. From noahandlilah on Etsy.

holiday skirt

Girl's Holiday Twirl Skirt from noahandlilah on Etsy, $21.

Here we go — let the holiday shopping begin!

Weekly Menu, November 21-27

The weekly menu is going ad hoc, given that it’s Thanksgiving week. We’re going to piece together some dinners as you’ll see below.

First, I have to share my current obsession with the antipasto at Franny’s restaurant in our own Brooklyn. Melisa and I had a “date night” on Friday (thanks, Scott!) there. We probably hadn’t been since Jasper was a bambino. We had two amazing dishes: Wood-Roasted Cauliflower with Pickles, Olives and Anchovies and Beets with Hot Peppers and Almonds. Wow. I’ve been searching online for the recipes for these two, which tasted so fresh, and so different from ANYTHING we have regularly, but alas, have had no luck. I see that Franny’s cookbook is coming in 2012 from Artisan. In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with the recipes included in The New Brooklyn Cookbook.

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving. The food bloggers have been giving good recipe for weeks. If for some reason you have NOT decided on your menu, check out Dinner: A Love Story for suggestions for the whole meal, 101Cookbooks for a vegetarian Thanksgiving (or just to supplement your veggie dishes), and of course, Mark Bittman’s list for soup to nuts ideas.

The (Abbreviated) Weekly Menu:

Photo via Atle Brunvoll on Flickr

Sunday: Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Turkey Sausage

Monday: Grilled Skirt Steak with Rice & Beans, Tomato & Avocado (sounds good even if a bit summery)

Tuesday: Sautéed Shrimp “Alla Buonavia” – this is a shrimp dish from Lidia Bastianich with lemon juice and chives, served over slices of Italian bread. It was a Sarah find and it’s terrific and quick. Serve with a Salad. Nice light dinner before the feast.

Wednesday: Pizza Any Way and Salad

Thursday: Thanksgiving! And the inaugural pre-feast Gillespie Turkey Trot (full disclosure: some turkeys may be strolling instead)

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving

November 20 – 21: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas

Macaron Parlour

Goodies from Macaron Parlour, who'll be at The (Makers) Market on Sunday.

Holy crap, I cannot *believe* we are staring down the end of November. Thanksgiving next week, and then it’s just a sleigh ride into Christmas. Bur one thing at a time. First, we’ve got to get through the weekend….

Jasper’s been asking me why I don’t have any fun games on my iPhone like other parents do and when I’m going to get some. Now I can! And without any research on my part, thanks to the list of Reader Favorites: 38 iPhone Apps for Kids, from A Child Grows in Brooklyn. Should be valuable in killing the torturous time in between the kids’ swim classes at the Y.

Have you ever stopped by Hula Seventy? Andrea, the woman behind the blog, is a freelance photographer and writer living in Portland, Oregon, and I find her words and images inspiring. Recently, a little post on something Anna Quindlen wrote caught my eye. Although they’re words I’ve read before, they feel so relevant right now as we rush, rush, rush through the daily routine of life with a 6- and 4-year-old: “I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.” Breathe. Try to remember.

This Sunday, I’m hoping to take the kids by The (Makers) Market in the Old American Can Factory, where a “sugar-themed” fair will be going on from 11 am – 5 pm. Look for artisinal treats from P&H Soda Company, Macaron Parlour (pictured above), Petit Paris Patisserie, and more. According to Brooklyn Based, many of the bakers will be taking holiday orders for Thanksgiving, too.

Speaking of, Dinner, A Love Story has been whipping up a yummy Thanksgiving Roll-Out. Of note: DALS’ rules for perfect mashed potatoes and Confetti Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.

I’m not quite ready to go there mentally yet, but when I am (and it will have to be soon), I am totally consulting NYCityMama‘s list of Fun Things to Do for the Holidays All Around New York on Babble. The Bronx Zoo is featuring a “Polar Express” 4-D experience, and I konw one 6-year-old who’d be all over that.

If you missed it, take a look at our Guide to the Best Christmas Cards Online — you could skip searching yourself, and just go with one of our cute picks!

And for kid-gift inspiration — I know I need someone to tell me which toys are hot ’cause I have NO IDEA — check out the Holiday Gift Guide from MOMfinds (Magnolia would love the Mix Pups, weird little accessorizable dogs, a la My Little Pony.)

Happy weekend!

Family Travel: Ciao Bambino on Paris with Kids

Luxembourg Gardens

Amie's son (and a French co-enthusiast) admire toy boats in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Can we all just agree that a long weekend in Paris sounds amazing? But it’s a sophisticated city — would you do it with kids? It may not be as welcoming as, say, Italy, but if you think creatively — and resign yourself to skipping the fancy, romantic restaurants you’d do if it were an adults-only trip — it’s definitely do-able. There are carousels, crepes, croissants, parks to romp in, and of course the impressive Eiffel Tower.

Today, Amie O’Shaughnessy, Founder & Editor of Ciao Bambino, a family travel resource with tips, advice, and comprehensive reviews of the best places to stay with kids of all ages, talks family travel — and shares some of her tips on taking the kids to Paris.

Continue reading ‘Family Travel: Ciao Bambino on Paris with Kids’

I Love You Kids, but Please Leave Me Alone

mother and children

Flickr photo by i t z h a r

I had a conversation this summer with a mom friend about the challenges of working at home with the kids around. How difficult it is to concentrate. How hard to actually complete a task, let alone a thought or a sentence on the phone. She said ultimately, though, that despite all of that, the bottom line for her is that she just doesn’t want to be without her kids. She’d rather have them with her, even though it makes getting work done tough, than with a sitter or off in camp.

I am so not that mom.

And I feel kind of guilty about that. I often wish I could access more of a bottomless well of love, patience, and compassion for my children, and that my longing to be with them trumped other things. But the truth is, I LOVE time away from my kids. I need it. Time to get something done. Time to have a quiet thought. And physical space to myself, too, where no one is right on top of me, pulling on me, or yelling for me. I love my children — adore and am delighted by them — but I love my own physical and mental space, too. A lot.

Chrissy and I spent some time talking about that us/them, push/pull this weekend, when I think we were both feeling a little overwhelmed by the demands of family togetherness (thankfully, we had a sitter on Saturday night and got some time to ourselves to help balance things out.)

All of this was on my mind Sunday night when I received a note from my friend Maggie (a relatively new mom herself) about a recent piece she’d read by Erica Jong in the Wall Street Journal on parenting. The piece was called “Mother Madness” and, in it, Jong asserts that, given the expectations society and we have placed on ourselves, motherhood has essentially become a “prison for modern women.”

She points a persuasive finger of blame at William and Martha Sears, proponents of “attachment parenting,” where the baby’s needs become paramount, and at the idea that it does not take a village to raise a child — it takes only the parents, who should be able to complete all child-rearing tasks happily and easily. Other caregivers? Unnecessary and undesirable.

Furthering her case, Jong cites a recent bestselling book in France, soon to be published elsewhere, called “The Conflict: Woman and Mother,” by Elisabeth Badinter. Badinter questions attachment parenting and the suggestion that a woman must surrender herself to the demands of her baby, saying that such “supposedly benign” expectations victimize women and that, when combined with the pressure to be environmentally correct, too (use cloth diapers! make your own baby food!), “it’s a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women’s freedom as the right-to-life movement.”

Whoa. Extreme, and yet, I get it.

Read the article for yourself, mama. Jong has lots more to say than I will detail here — on “helicopter parenting,” how the demand for perfect children falls on the mother, and how our “obsession with parenting” is really just a way for us to attempt to control the uncontrollable. All extremely interesting.

And, as is probably pretty clear, I agree. I think some of the rules and expectations about mothering and how you have to “do it right” or risk screwing it up — it’s on you if something goes wrong! — are harmful and confining. Not to mention damaging to stress and guilt levels.

But what struck me the most about the article was the last couple of lines. Jong says: “We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules.”



All Joy and No Fun: New York Magazine on Why Parents Hate Parenting

(Photo by: i t z h a r)

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