Archive for December, 2010

Getting Personal: A Christmas Photo Recap

A rather idyllic day here on 19th Street, still not plowed, and thus very quiet. The wind continues to whip up the snow drifts, and the cold air is blowing so hard that it’s not very pleasant for even the kids to play outside. Instead, we’re enjoying an idyll indoors, systematically working through many of the gifts of Christmas.

Jasper is learning strategy while learning Checkers. Old Maid & Connect Four have both enjoyed some love. Every puzzle received has been tried. The princesses and ponies are tangled up in the glow-in-the-dark spaghetti. Spiderman has climbed the windows and popped wheelies all over the kitchen.

Melisa and I are still wondering when we’ll be let off the hook to shower, but otherwise enjoying ourselves.

Meanwhile, in a moment of silence (I write as Magnolia yells over to Jasper: “I’m eating the biggest cookie!!), I’m reminiscing about Christmas.

We had Jay here from L.A. — the first time I’ve seen him in over a year. He kept us entertained with stories from L.A., including one that included a mechanical bull. Enough said.

Mom and dad whipped up some great meals, including Spaghetti & Meatballs and Boeuf Bourguignon (separate meals of course), both a la the Barefoot Contessa. Plus, many delicious breakfasts including homemade cinnamon rolls.

Katie was also in the house for the longest she’s been around in years so there was a girl-fest happening.

Favorite moment: playing soccer on Christmas day with (almost) the whole family.

A great way to begin to wind down the year.

Here’s a few homespun pix from the weekend:

Jasper’s Christmas list: Ear Muffs, Orange Slippers, Red Markers. Listen, this stuff was harder to find than you might think.

Trimming the tree.

Jasper passing along the list in person.

Santa was very impressive at ABC.

Christmas Eve! The kids left a note for Santa with the cookies and milk.

Stockings hung by the chimney. Almost bed time!

The kids (of all ages).

Magnolia channeling Chrissie Hynde on Christmas Day.

Hope your Christmas was warm and wonderful.

Weekly Menu, New Year’s Recipes, and SNOW

The view outside our living room window. Can Spidey help with the shoveling?

Whew, well Christmas is over, and we’ve got the credit card bills to prove it! And now 2010 is going out in a roar; there’s probably two feet of snow on the ground outside. The streets aren’t plowed and there are snow drifts all over the place, climbing walls and covering cars. The kids are beside-themselves excited. I’m remembering I don’t have good gloves for shoveling. And grateful that we’re snug in our little house, with heat and food.

Perfect time to think of the menu and peruse the cookbooks we got for Christmas.

The cast of characters.

For me: The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drummond’s cookbook (you might recall it was on my Christmas list). I’m looking forward to making some of her down-home recipes (egg in the hole this morning or migas? I need some protein to get me ready for shoveling). The cookbook reads like her website: like you’re talking to a good friend, albeit one who lives on a working ranch and has more time to cook. Spicy pulled pork, here I come.

For Melisa: Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Now this is how a cookbook should look: gorgeous. I want to make everything. There’s tons of white space on the pages, making the recipes easy to read, and the photography is outstanding. Not to mention the recipes, which look amazing. Even the fancy stuff sounds simple to pull together and perfectly elegant (Crab & Grapefruit Salad, Salmon & Tomatoes en Papillote, Mediterranean Swordfish with Frilly Herb Salad). I see trying Dorie’s “Go-to Beef Daube” (a type of beef stew) or Roast Chicken for Les Paresseaux (for “lazy people”) in the next few weeks for sure.


I could look and dream all day. Alas, the kids are restless to get out in the snow and breakfast needs to hit the table. So off to the weekly menu, which is a bit abbreviated this week due to holiday visiting with friends:

Sunday: Black Bean Burritos. We needed a break from the rich Christmas meals and this was just the thing.

Monday: Looking forward to the Tortilla Soup Melisa made yesterday for lunch. For dinner: Salmon fillets (pre-marinated from Omaha Steaks –– thank you, Aunt Angel & Uncle David!) with Sautéed Green Beans & Pilaf.

Tuesday: Ellen & Kyre’s baby shower is in Williamsburg, and assuming we get a sitter, we’ll be over in the hip neighborhood for the dinner hour. The kids will dine on Pasta & Veggies.

Wednesday & Thursday: We’ll be with company both evenings and should cook together. Let’s just say I’m bringing my new cookbooks. Personally, I want King Ranch Casserole one of those nights. Not sure if the kids will like it –has anyone tried it with their kids? Chicken Pot Pie is also up there as a possibility.

Friday: New Year’s Eve will be Melisa and me celebrating with the kids. It may be all about Ina Garten’s Pasta with Truffle Butter chased by her festive Chocolate Cake.

Saturday: Pizza night for certain.

Barefoot Contessa’s Chocolate Ganache Cake: An Easy, Festive New Year’s Eve Dessert

Barefoot Contessa's chocolate ganache cake

Barefoot Contessa's Chocolate Ganache Cake -- Happy New Year!

We’re not sure yet what we’re doing for New Year’s Eve, but we usually stay in and cook a fancy, moms-only dinner. And we’ve made this cake from Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) more than once for the occasion. It’s a foolproof single-layer cake that looks impressive and tastes super-fudgy. Make it in advance and glaze it day-of. Dress it up with candied flowers or edible gold leaf and you’re all set.

Here’s the recipe for the Barefoot Contessa’s Chocolate Ganache Cake.

Happy New Year!

Homemade Gifts: Repurposing the Bonne Maman Jars

Remember how we were talking about repurposing the Bonne Maman jars? A while back? No? Well, check it out here.

Anyhoo, we had about eight Bonne Maman jam jars that we deemed too pretty to recycle this year. And over the months, we’ve used them to store leftovers, or to hold a little homemade something that we are passing along.

So this year, in addition to contributing to the teacher’s gift money that the class parents collected, we decided to make some of the famously addictive peanut clusters, and some of the fabulous Union Square Cafe Bar Nut Mix, and pass them along to the women who work so hard with our kids in school.

This picture does not do the cuteness justice, but to give you the idea:

Lining up the jars!

I slapped a little handwritten label on them and tied a bow around the jars, and put them in gift bags.

We had a few people more to give to than we had jars available. They got these cute little gift bags (and some scored Rich Roll Cookies — see your copy of The Joy of Cooking for the recipe):

And off we traipsed to school!

6 Things to Do with the Kids in New York City During Christmas Break

Christmas break = fun, presents, and holiday food, but it also means no school. You’ll be staring down long cold-weather days with the kids, and I bet you’re starting to sweat it (all the new toys can only take you so far). I’m giving the sitch some advance thought so I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Here’s my list of things to do — let me hear what’s on yours, too!

Moomah craft

Let your kids create a winter log cabin at Moomah in Tribeca.

Make a cool craft at Moomah

We do a lot of easy, homespun crafts, so I decided to take a look around for a cute one to do over the holidays. A real project, rather than the usual I-make-it-up-as-I-go BS. I looked. And I looked some more. But, I have to say, I was freaking intimidated by most of what I saw out there. I just cannot see myself doing all of the necessary prep — buying tons of special materials, measuring and cutting, even sewing for God’s sake. So screw it. Let’s go to Cafe Moomah instead, where I can pay for a genius, way-creative project that someone else has come up with! (Check out the cool winter log cabin above — impressive, huh? ) All of the materials are there for you. And there’s staff on hand to help direct the kids. And there’s good coffee.

Take the kids to see MOMENTUM at the New Victory Theater

Live music, dance moves, cool visual effects — sounds awesome! It runs through January 2 and is suitable for the whole fam. Buy tix here.

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes (photo: Kevin @ Closet Cooking)

Make dinner with the kids

On the menu: Sloppy Joes from Dinner: A Love Story. At dinnertime, I am usually shooing the kids out of the kitchen so I can focus and get food on the table ASAP. But during the holidays, when we don’t have to stick to such a strict dinner-bath-book-bed sked, maybe I can loosen up a little. I know they’d love to help make a dinner from A to Z, and this looks like an easy recipe to try the “cooking with kids” thing out with.

Hit a museum during free museum hours

NewYorkology has a great, updated list of museums and cultural institutions that have free or pay-what-you-wish days and times during the winter.

Big Apple Circus

Go see the Big Apple Circus

I’ve heard for ages how great the Big Apple Circus is; now may be the time to try it out. Mommy Poppins says this season’s show is fun and “fast-paced… with one surprise after another.” Also, that it’s small and intimate. I think the kids would love it.

Blue Bell ice cream

(flickr photo: jonny.hunter)

Head to Hill Country Barbecue

In case you missed it, I’m from Texas. And I can tell you Hill Country Barbecue is the real deal — the dry-rub brisket and sausage from legendary Kreuz Market in Lockhart never disappoint. Lots of sides, a huge open space, and Blue Bell Ice Cream for dessert (yep, it’s made in Texas) make it a super-easy lunch spot with kids. Weather permitting, you can let them romp for a few minutes before or after in the not-too-far-away playground in Madison Square Park.

Have fun!

Other ideas for cold-weather fun:

Children’s Museum of the Arts

Brooklyn’s BounceU

The Polar Express 4-D Experience at The Bronx Zoo

(Sloppy Joes photo, Closet Cooking)

The Weekly (Christmas) Menu, December 19-25

Woo-hoo, Christmas is less than a week away! I’m almost done with shopping, but nowhere near done with wrapping. Amazed at the sales and contests out there!

Did you know that if you join Amazon Mom – and you don’t have to be a mom, just a parent or caregiver (details on the link)- you can get a free Amazon Prime membership for a year? Don’t know what Amazon Prime is? It’s a service Amazon offers that includes free two-day shipping. So if you are out there and haven’t finished your shopping yet, this could be just the thing! Not to mention all your other year-long obligations and needs.

Weekly Menu:

Sunday: Last week’s salmon was so good that we’re reprising it: Salmon with Sweet Chili Glaze and Roasted Green Beans. And fyi for those of you in NYC: the Eataly fish counter rocks. Best salmon I’ve had in a dog’s age.

Making the cover recipe!

Monday: Reprising an old favorite from the Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast cookbook: Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives & Cilantro

Tuesday: Grilled Skirt Steak (marinated in Tony’s) with Spicy Oven-Roasted Vegetables

Wednesday: Burrito night– or maybe we’ll go for the Black Bean Tacos with Feta Slaw from Smitten Kitchen

Photo by Kan Kanbayashi for Real Simple

Thursday: Orecciette with Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts

Friday & Saturday: Christmas festivities! Cookies for Santa. General merriment and loud conversation. Late night wrapping. Can’t wait.

I’m obsessed with this Christmas Rum Cake on the home page of The Pioneer Woman. Someone in the next week and 1/2 is going to get lucky when I make it.


December 18 – 19: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas

Anthropologie sale

Ho, ho, ho!

I’m not done with my Christmas shopping, and I bet you aren’t, either. (If you are, I don’t want to hear about it.) So buying presents is on my weekend agenda. Jasper has a very modest wish list — ear muffs, orange slippers, red markers. Magnolia, on the other hand, has requested a magic wand that WORKS REAL MAGIC. If you have any ideas about how to make that happen, then I definitely DO want to hear from you….

Now on to the weekend….

Robot Kit

Robot Kit, Garnet Hill, $4 today

Things to buy:

Stocking stuffers for the kids — Garnet Hill has a cute list of ideas, including this Robot Kit, which is the sale of the day. Regularly $15, today $4.

Fabulous French stuff from Basic French — love them. Basic French will be at the Brooklyn Flea through December, 22, so you’ll have the chance to buy from this online shop in person. Expect gorgeous housewares, adult and children’s clothing, luxe soaps, cute shoes, and random vintage finds. All from France, of course.

Some little something from Anthro — as noted above, you can take an additional 25% off SALE clothing, shoes, jewelry, and accessories through Sunday, online or in-stores.

PNP video message from Santa

via A Child Grows in Brooklyn

Things to do:

Get a personalized video message from Santa — seriously, you have to do this for your kid! It’s free, easy, and totally cool. Jasper and Magnolia were both mightily impressed, and with good reason. If your kid’s name is fairly common, Santa actually speaks it — he said Jasper, but Magnolia wasn’t in his database of names…. Still, their names were in “Santa’s book” and they got to see pictures of themselves and Santa mentioned specific individual details, including a gift they each want. You may have seen this elsewhere this week — I saw it on A Child Grows and Chrissy spotted it on Cool Mom Picks — definitely take the time to do it. It’s PNP, the Portable North Pole, that makes the magic happen.

Stop by the 3rd Annual Lyceum Holiday Marketplace, via Mommy Poppins. Don’t know that I’ll get any shopping done there — depends on how cool vs. just crafty the goods are — but the kids can see a live version of A Charlie Brown Christmas. $10

Good luck out there with those gifts — happy weekend!


Melisa’s Christmas list

Chrissy’s Christmas list

Great Gifts for Kids

Great Hostess Gifts

All I Want for Christmas Is…. Good Gift Ideas for Moms (OK, Me.)

le massage, scene de hammam

le massage, scene de hammam (dalbera on Flickr)

I read a list this week I’ve been loving on Apartment Therapy: 5 Affordable Basics to Invest in for the New Year. I must be really simpatico with the author, Laure Joliet, because I feel like I could have written it myself. The basics that spoke to me, too?

Good linens.

A cast iron skillet.

Something that smells good.

The second one I’ve got (and I love.) The first I need more of. And the last I can never get enough of.

So, with that in mind…. Here are a few things on my Christmas wish list. You can bet that if I want them, other moms do, too.

Note photo above: Le Massage, Scene de Hammam, from the Musee des Augustins in Toulouse.

A massage — Almost more than anything else, stressed moms want to relax. And of course get more sleep. You may not be able to help with the sleep, but the gift of a massage will most definitely be appreciated. Bonus: it takes up zero space and doesn’t need to be put away after enjoying it. In Brooklyn, d’mai urban spa is a good bet for a pampering massage or facial.

kai perfume oil

kai perfume oil, $45

kai perfume oil — I discovered this addictive white-flower scent at By George in Austin years ago and have been wearing it ever since. Buy it locally at Diana Kane or Kiwi in Park Slope. P.S. — I get compliments on it all the time.

Sunbird sheet set

Sunbird sheet set, Anthropologie, $148 for a queen set

Pretty cotton sheets — I toyed with the idea of combing Overstock, Target, or Macy’s for the perfect new sheets, as the Apartment Therapy article suggests (they also link to some super luxe options). But in the end, all roads lead back to Anthropologie. This Sunbird sheet set is cheery and would look nice with the dusky lavender on the bedroom walls.

viva zapata! bags

4-pocket carryall tote from Viva Zapata! bags, $128

A bright, stylish bag — As previously noted, the search for the perfect urban mommy bag is never-ending. One of the styles from Viva Zapata! could be this year’s serious contender (and there’s a local Brooklyn connection, too, which I like.)

velour lounge pants

velour lounge pants, Gap Body, $30

Lounge pants — At the end of the day, I like to lose what I’ve been wearing and slip into something more comfortable. (Don’t we all?) My current lounge pants are, well, falling apart. Time for an update!

Free babysitting — This one won’t cost you a dime, but it’ll be priceless to the mom recipient. Seems like a minor thing — just an offer to come stay with the kids for a couple of hours so parents can have a date night or a hardworking mom can run out for a haircut — and really, it’s huge. Here’s the news, people: almost no one volunteers to do it. If you do, the gratitude will be big-time. And most sincere.

diptyque mini trio

diptyque mini-candle trio, $84 (yes, I said $84)

diptyque candles — Splurge-y, but worth it. The famed French candle-maker seems to be into colored versions this year, and I prefer the plain clear glass — so I’m opting for this trio of mini-candles in different scents.

velvet dress

Larina Crochet Dress, velvet, $120

A dress I could spend all summer in — When I first moved to New York, about a bazillion years ago, I loved having distinct seasons. That is long over. I hate winter. Haaaate it! I’m already fantasizing about next summer, which means I’m thinking about what I might be wearing. I like being able to reach for something I know I’ll like without even having to think about it — I could see this velvet brand dress paired with long earrings and red sandals, and me appreciating it as a cool, loose, no-brainer option on warm days.

For more great gift ideas for NYC mamas, read Chrissy’s Christmas list.

What’s on your list? Maybe I’d like to add it to mine….

(top photo by dalbera on flickr)

Shiny Brite Great Gifts for Mom

Okay, this is really my personal Christmas list, but I think many moms would like what I want. Santa Baby, bring it!

The New York Times, delivered at home. Seriously, I miss it. We canceled our subscription as part of our cost-cutting measures of the great recession of 2008. I’ve tried to read online. I really, really have. Here’s the thing: there’s nothing like actually holding the paper and reading it. Oh, what a luxury. And, yes, it’s true that I ignore the op-eds and read the news section last but what of it? I want my NYT! I want my food section, arts section, home section, style section, endless weekend, real estate, etc etc etc.

A full body day of beauty a la The Wizard of Oz: facial, massage, nails, hair. Have you watched WOZ lately? The part where the whole gang gets spiffed up before meeting the Wizard? (Hop over to YouTube above for a little WOZ interlude.) I think that’s what I need.

Pants. That fit. I lost about 25 pounds in the last year and I mean I HAVE NO PANTS THAT FIT. None. Except two pairs of jeans that I can’t wear to work. Help!

A haircut. What I wouldn’t do to meet Sally Hershberger.

These boots for everyday (thanks Ree Drummond for the inspiration — these look amazing).

Frye "Jane" Boots, $297 at

Come to think of it, I’d love Ree’s cookbook:

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, $27.50

Rain boots. A girl needs rain boots and these would be perfect — love the heel! (tho for the life of me, I don’t know why Kate’s team decided to call these boots “Randi”):

Kate Spade "Randi" boots, $125 (if you can find 'em cheaper, call me!)

A full slip to wear under dresses. Romantic AND practical.

Farr West Slip, $75 from

I’m a beauty product junkie, and Lucky Magazine’s 10 Best Beauty Products of the Past Decade had me at hello. I’d love the Fresh Umbrian Clay Face Treatment, the Ojon Restorative hair treatment, or almost anything on the page (except the Instant Spray Shampoo and anything where the color is “greige”).

$48 @

Purse-size perfume. Like a lipstick, this could be just the thing to perk up your day. I’m completely coveting a friend’s perfume. Can’t get that — too weird — so the next best thing would be Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien.

Help us, indeed

A St. Monica charm for my bracelet. St. Monica is the patron saint of patience. Enough said.

Another find from the December issue of Lucky is a taste of Paris: a candle from Ladurée, the wonderful Parisian tea room:

Mimosa candle, $68 at

Oh, really, there’s such a list (I held back the iPad, the Anthropologie gift certificate, gloves & hat combo etc, etc).

I’ve been good almost all year…

For more NYC mama gift ideas, read Melisa’s Christmas list.

Related Posts:

Birthday Ideas for Mom(mies)!

Currently Obsessed with…. Viva Zapata! Bags

Viva Zapata! bags

You know, the trouble with holiday shopping is you find so many things you want FOR YOURSELF. Yesterday, I was out gift-scouting in some of my favorite shops on Park Slope’s 5th Avenue, and I found these adorable bags in Flirt. I covet.

Viva Zapata! bags

They’re Viva Zapata! (one of the designers is Brooklyn-based), and they’re made of vintage naugahyde from the seats of the colorful city buses in Buenos Aires. How cool is that?

While I still love my Franco Sarto Crossbody from last Christmas, the search for the perfect urban mommy bag just never ends. One of these could really help a girl out. (Hint, hint.)

Viva Zapata! bags

Find them at Flirt, Lily, the holiday markets at Grand Central or Union Square, or at other stores listed on their site in NYC and points beyond. Price: about $70 – $130, depending on size and style.

Also obsessed with:

Baked Fontina

Rings by DanaMade

Dresses and More from Wanderlust

Who I Am

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