Archive for February, 2011

Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em? Leggings for Moms

black leggings

photo via

I’ve been thinking about age a lot recently, and I blame Nora Ephron. While we were visiting the grandparents over the holidays, I made the mistake of picking up I Feel Bad About My Neck, her book of essays on aging. In the title piece, she shares what a plastic surgeon once told her: It’s a medical certainty that a woman’s neck begins to go at age 43. That’s when the sagging starts. Unavoidable.

Want to guess how old I am? Jasper keeps forgetting, but Magnolia has it down pat and will tell you and anyone else who will listen — “Mommy is 43!” (At least this mommy is; I’ve got a couple years on Chrissy.)

Anyway, I’m over 40, and now my neck is going….

Other things I’ve been thinking about when it comes to age and what’s “appropriate”: Hair length, hem length, and LEGGINGS. I do not look like any of the women above when I wear them, but I have some and I LOVE them. And if I looked like Katie Holmes in them, I would wear them with a cute pair of ballet flats ALL THE TIME. (Yes, Katie is a freak for being married to Tom, but I generally like her tailored look.)

katie holmes in leggings

photo via INFdaily

So, here are my thoughts on hair and hems:

hair — I’m growing it out! After thoughtful discussion with my hairdresser, we decided I’m not too ancient for long hair. Yippeeee! I’m practicing with my new curling iron (there are tricks to getting it right, people!) and trying to channel Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love.

hemlines — No shorter than just above the knee, thank you, for ME. If you’re over 40 and can rock the mid-thigh look, good for you. But, personally, I kind of think you have to look like Sienna Miller to pull that one off.

The jury’s out on leggings, though…. I wear them, but with a cloudy conscience. I love the comfort and clean look, but I don’t weigh 110 pounds. I have THIGHS. And that is apparent.

What do you think? Are leggings OK for over-40 moms or should most of us regular-looking gals “just say no?”

Leggings — love ’em or leave ’em?

Recipe of the Week: Spicy Veggie Burritos

black beans

cheddar cheese


shiitake mushrooms

As you may have noticed, veggie burritos are in heavy rotation on the Weekly Menu. They’re a long-time, mostly vegetarian fave, and we can crank them out on auto pilot. But as commenter Melissa from Michigan recently pointed out, northerners and various others not raised on Tex-Mex might need a little help with ideas and inspiration!

So, here’s a rough take on how we throw them together each week — add in more or less of each ingredient based on what you like and want to taste more of. (Note: While the kids will eat plain cheese quesadillas, our burritos are a tougher sell. We like them full of spinach and mushrooms and turned up high on the heat — not really their thing. Also, picky little Miss M. is anti-beans AND -avocado — can she really be mine? — so it’s generally a moms-only dinner. But we’re working on it.)

Spicy Veggie Burritos, a Shiny Brite Kitchen Fave

Saute chopped garlic and chopped chipotle chiles in adobo (go easy on the latter until you figure out what suits your taste, maybe a quarter to half of one pepper plus a little of the smoky sauce) in olive oil for a minute or two.

Toss in some chopped red bell pepper and saute until tender; add in the chopped mushrooms of your choice (we use shiitake or cremini) and saute those, too.

Add one can (or most of it) rinsed black beans; we use Goya. Stir to combine everything. (If you have leftover grilled steak or chicken on hand, and are feeling in need of extra protein, you can add a little of that in, too.)

Add washed spinach and cook, stirring, until slightly wilted. Remove the pan from heat.

To assemble: Nuke flour tortillas wrapped in paper towels for a few secs to make them soft (we use Mission Whole Wheat Medium/Soft Taco size — there’s a little veggie overflow, but the Burrito size is HUGE. Trying to save a few carb calories where we can, but it’s a personal choice. If you want the burrito to fold up all nice and neat with no spill-age, you’ll need the big boys.)

Put a tortilla on each plate and spoon in the veggies; add grated cheddar or pepper jack cheese to taste. Fold in the ends first and then roll closed. Nuke again until cheese is completely melted; about a minute.

Top with a mix of any or all of the following: chopped tomatoes, diced fresh jalapeno, cilantro, avocado, scallions, salsa, sour cream spiked with a little of the adobo sauce from the chipotle chiles, and, of course, a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce.

Yum, yum.

And for two twists on the above, both of which we’ve tried and liked, try these, from Dinner: A Love Story and Smitten Kitchen:

Black Bean Burritos with Pickled Onions

Crisp Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Slaw

Weekly Menu, February 27 – March 5: Oscar 2011 Edition

We’re back! Our week-long break in Texas was a treat, including Austin moms-only shopping sprees (see: Adelante again) and visiting (Karen! Debra! Bailey!), the annual Grandpa Parkinson Seafood Fry and Nightly Margarita Hour, movie marathons with Grandma (the Force is now with us, always), plus the Great Sweeny Pilgrimage to see Great Pa-Pa (97!!) and Great-Grandma (a young 92). (Not pictured: nightly comb-outs in the back yard).

We re-emerged in our home city of New York nit-free and almost done with louse care (only 2 more comb-outs to go!), probably 5 lbs heavier, but evangelical; people: we’ve seen the future and it is WARM. Yes, we have spent a week wearing short sleeves and turning on car A.C. Can tulips and spring dresses be far behind?

And now it’s Oscar night. So here’s the thing: like most moms of young kids, we haven’t seen much. Our personal movie awards would go something like this:

Best Actress in the Fabulous Hair Category: Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. No the movie isn’t great. But Julia Robert’s HAIR!! Amazing, in every scene, whether it’s up in Italy or wavy in Bali. (And if you’re not into her, or great hair, hold out for Javier Bardem at the end).

Calling my stylist RIGHT NOW

Best Actress in the Fabulous Clothes Category: Melisa calls this one for Sarah Jessica Parker in her J’Adore Dior outfit in Sex & the City 2. Chrissy calls this for SJP in the great white Halston Heritage dress from the opening scene of the same movie.


Melisa's pick

Chrissy's pick

2011 Movie that Made us Want to Move to California: The Kids Are All Right. Obviously, we were interested in this one for other reasons (that could be a whole other post) but on the lighter side: California is so distracting. The cute bungalows! The great weather! We ♥ the left coast!

5 bedrooms, 2 baths in Los Feliz...

Movie We Didn’t See, Don’t Want to See, But Thanks for Filling Us In, Friends: Black Swan. Those crazy red eyes on Natalie Portman, and all that nutty picking feathers out of her back: we’re sure it’s interesting but no, thanks.

Best Comeback in a Corset: Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech. We actually haven’t seen this one, but it’s just nice to see Helena again the way we fondly remember her from A Room with a View.

Remember this?

Movie Chrissy is Beginning to See the Point of: 127 Hours. A few hours in front of the Independent Spirit Awards — the movie was promoted continuously between the commercials for it and the show itself — and I’m starting to buy this as possibly uplifting (instead of thinking “what an idiot.”)

And seriously: we loved and are rooting for The Social Network and Annette Bening.

On to the menu:

Weekly Menu (which is VERY LOW KEY this week due to re-entry):

Sunday: We’ve got too much to do to cook, and since we discovered Fornino would deliver to us, why bother? Pizza and salad all around.

Monday: Rotisserie Chicken & Roast Broccoli (again, still recovering)

Tuesday: Burrito Night

Wednesday: Forecast says 53 degrees and sunny! Time to break out the grill. Flank Steak, Salad, and Pilaf.

Thursday: Continuing my “if you build it, it will come” approach to spring, spring-like dish: Spaghetti with Lemon & Olive Oil from Smitten Kitchen. I also love her recipe for Green Bean Salad with Fried Almonds and Pickled Red Onions to go with…may be too work intensive for a Thursday. We’ll see.

Friday: Roast Salmon, Sautéed Spinach, and Quinoa

Saturday: Pizza Night! Veggie style.

Have a great week!

Happy Winter Break!

margaritas at Fonda San Miguel

flckr photo / Kristi Sauer

Adios! Off to Tejas.

(Kristi Sauer)


Time for Queso: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas

chile con queso

photo: Muy Bueno Cookbook

You may have noticed we had a rough week. Thankfully, escape is just around the corner — we’re Texas-bound for winter break. I’m hoping Grandpa Jack‘s margaritas and unlimited access to Tex-Mex will help dim the painful memory of the last few days.

Given our destination, I’ve got chile con queso — that fabulous, cheesy Tex-Mex fave — on my mind, and I think you should, too. Gooey cheese heals, people. I’m not saying it’s healthy, I’m saying it heals. I hope you find time to work this into your weekend or next week.

Here are some recipes to get you going:

This one is the chile con queso of my youth — the basic recipe made with Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes.

Homesick Texan — love her — makes a very appealing-looking, Velveeta-free more natural chile con queso. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m going to.

The Pioneer Woman has a revved up version, with sausage (!) and fresh jalapenos. I like the way she thinks.

And last, queso aside….

If you’re stuck in NYC for the break and searching for things to do, consider an outing to the New York Hall of Science — when was the last time you took the kids there? Admission is FREE on Sunday mornings and, once in, you can stay as long as you like. Good news on a cold or rainy day. (via TimeOut New York Kids)

(photo, and one more queso recipe: Muy Beuno Cookbook)

The Winter of Our Discontent

Amanda Plummer Pulp Fiction

No time to blog this week, and my morning shopping list reveals why:



paper towels


Medium-Thick Pantene Conditioner

biggest GD magnifying glass I can find

an extra nit pick

Yeah, we’ve been busy de-lousing over here at Shiny Brite — we’ve got lice. This is the first time we’ve ever had to deal with it and, yes, it is just as icky as you think it is. Useless to point a louse-y finger of blame at anyone, although we do think we know where to point: Now it’s here and we’ve just got to get through it.

We were totally freaked to the max when we made the discovery on Tuesday (poor M. was the first to go down), so we called and made an appointment with the professionals at Lice Enders. Several hundred dollars and hours of misery later, we’d been combed through, armed with products, and given a detailed list of what to do for the next two weeks (yes, two weeks).

Interestingly, I had noticed earlier in the week that Mommy Poppins posted on head lice removal services in New York, so we got a grim peek at what to expect before heading out to our treatment. How fortuitous!

You know, you do so many things with a partner and children that take you to new, never-before-imagined levels of intimacy through gross-ness, and yet nit-picking takes you to a whole other place. One tiny bit of good news: Even if you think you suck half the time at this parenting thing, it’s reassuring to find that your instincts really do kick in when your kids are scared or uncomfortable.

It’s war: the moms vs. the bugs.

And those shitty little nits are going down: I’m gonna execute every motherfucking last one of ya.

(Note to concerned grandparents & Helen — I am not on the verge of checking myself into Bellevue. Do not be alarmed by the tone of this post.)

Weekly Menu: February 13 – 19

Photo by lovestruck via flickr

First things first: we tried a bunch of new recipes last week. The Roast Chicken with Dijon Sauce from Smitten Kitchen was a twist on our usual Sunday roast chicken: the cut-up bird is browned on the stove and finished in the oven (same pan!) rather than roasted whole. The dijon sauce was simple to prepare, and knocked the dish out of the park. All-in-all, an easy recipe to pull off for company or a Sunday supper. Next time I will cook the sauce longer to thicken it up; the flavor is delicious, but I’d like it to stick to the chicken a bit more.

Cooking Light’s Curry Spiced Noodles had good flavors, and we threw in some leftover chicken instead of the cashews. As far as stir-fry goes, this one was not at the top of my list. It either needs some serious heat (spice); what doesn’t? Or you could just make Pioneer Woman’s Monday Night Stir Fry.

Finally, the Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca is a meal you can count on having on the table in 30 minutes. We served it with roast leeks and rice pilaf. It’s a crowd-pleaser that also presents well. Good for weekday eating or company.

We didn’t get to the Thai-ish Salmon from Dinner A Love Story but will soon.

On to the weekly menu:

Sunday: We’ve had a CRAZY weekend again! So, Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Brussels Sprouts are on for Sunday supper.

Monday: Valentine’s Day = Date night for mommies! What’s it going to be? Movies? Dinner? Delicious cocktails? Cute shoes? All of the above? Don’t know but something fun is in the plan. Kids are eating (Love) Burgers and Fries.

Tuesday: Sizzled Shrimp Provençal, an old fave, served with salad and rice pilaf

Wednesday: More Shiitake Burritos (last week’s were a hit, and did you know Shiitake’s help lower cholesterol? Not that we’re worried, but FYI)

Photo by Libraryman from Flickr

Thursday: CRAVING THIS: Sopa de Lima (Mexican Lime Soup) via Homesick Texan. This is a Lime-y Chicken Soup served with Tortilla Chips crumbled on top. Sounds good, no?

Friday: Lasagne and salad

Saturday: Pizza night rides again!

Hope you have a week filled with love and small candy hearts.

February 12 – 13: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas, the Rainbow Connection Edition

rainbow house on Clipper Street

flickr photo / jordanpattern

Like many 4-year-old girls, Magnolia is rainbow-obsessed. She loves her Rainbow in My Room, a cool toy that projects a colorful prism across the wall or ceiling. She wants to dye her hair rainbow; she wants to paint our house rainbow; she wants a rainbow birthday cake.

So, little bug — this one’s for you! And all the others under its spell: the lovers, the dreamers, and M.


The house above may be on Clipper Street in San Francisco — and if a rainbow house belongs anywhere, it’s in SF — but it looks a lot like our little frame house. Wonder how much a house painter would charge for that job?

rainbow headboard

photo / holamurray

When I saw this on Swiss Miss last week, I knew M. would flip for it — and she did. Could someone really have that for their bed? Really??? I could see the longing in her eyes. (I spotted it on Swiss Miss, but she saw it on Pinterest and looks like it originally appeared on holamurray.)

rainbow hair

photo / forever jann

I told M. she has to be a little older before she can rock this look. She asked if I’d dye my hair rainbow now so she could see in person what it looks like. Um, sorry, honey. No.

rainbow cake

photo / omnomicon

rainbow cake

photo / omnomicon

M. came up with the idea that she wants a rainbow cake for her birthday on her own — she’s certainly never seen one, until now. We’re baking a birthday cake for our friend Helen this weekend — maybe she’ll be the lucky recipient of a rainbow variety?

This one looks fun and kid-friendly — and mixes up all the colors. Martha Stewart (via Whisk Kid) has a fancier version (below) with lemony Swiss meringue buttercream, and a how-to video is included in the post.

Martha Stewart rainbow cake

Last, Kermit the Frog + Debbie Harry singing “The Rainbow Connection” = a little bit of awesome.

Have a bright and happy weekend!

Family-Friendly Apartments to Rent in Paris

appartement blanc paris

photo: appartement blanc paris

Where should the four of us stay in Paris when we visit this summer? My favorite kind of problem to solve.

Chrissy is fortunate to have a month-long sabbatical from work coming up. We’ve been debating where we should spend it but, in the end, France and Italy won out. We’ll spend most of our time in the South of France (can’t wait, Kim!) and Italy, but since we’re flying in and out of Paris, we decided to do a few days there with the kids each way.

Where should we stay — hotel or apartment? I can tell you, I spent A LOT of time looking at the family-friendly options. Here’s what I learned and what I found.


Hotels don’t have a minimum stay and you don’t have to deal with potential apartment-y problems like a key that doesn’t work or trouble with the heating. But you pay for that, too — for a family of four, where you are often looking at renting two rooms or a junior suite, hotels are pricier than renting an apartment. And the more affordable hotel options — the ones we had to consider — are glaringly charm-free.


By far, the vast majority have a one-week minimum. So if you are staying a week or longer, your options open up substantially. Still, if you look, you can find a handful of places that will rent to you nightly or that have only a 3- or 4-night minimum. There’s typically an up-charge the fewer nights you stay, but generally only a few Euros per person.

Most affordable apartments that say they sleep 3 to 4 people are studios or one bedrooms with a pull-out couch in the living room — so be forewarned. There may be more togetherness than you’re used to at home. You’ll get charm to spare, though — and you’ll shop the markets, cook at home, and get to pretend you live there.

I looked high and low, people, and here are the best kid-friendly Paris apartments I found. (In addition to affordability and being suitable for kids, the places had to be cute — even if the price was right, I dismissed quite a few flats because I wasn’t digging the aesthetic.)

If you’re planning a trip, I hope this helps! If not, I hope this inspires you! And if you have helpful suggestions for other Paris vacation rentals, please share them below in the comments.

appartement blanc paris

photo: appartement blanc paris

Appartement Blanc Paris

This is the place we booked — 2 bedrooms in a great quartier between Oberkampf and the Marais. (That second bedroom may not be essential, but it’s so, so nice to have it.) Chic, but simple, un-fussy, and kid-friendly. The rental contact was pleasant to deal with and quick to reply.

Canal Apartment Paris

photo: canal apartment paris

The Canal Apartment Paris

Adorable, right? This 1 bedroom was our runner-up. It was a little more expensive and the place wasn’t free for our dates both coming and going. We considered it seriously anyway, though, for one end of the trip because it was so cute. Again, the rental contact was responsive and friendly — and, even though the decor is sophisticated, kids are cool (I double-checked.) A great location on the Canal Saint Martin.

reuilly 1 bedroom

photo: reuilly 1 bedroom / paris flats

Reuilly 1 Bedroom (via Paris Flats)

A 4-night minimum stay, but extremely affordable. Basic and comfy.

Paris 10th loft / VRBO

photo: paris 10th loft / VRBO

Bright, Cozy and Quiet Loft in the 10th Arrondissement (via VRBO)

I liked this place for the light and space — it feels big and open — and the ground-floor entrance. No stairs! So much simpler with bags and jet-lagged children.

Paris Oasis

photo: lucie loft / paris oasis

Lucie Loft at Paris Oasis

TripAdvisor reviews note that this guest house in Montmartre is family-friendly, and guests seem to love it — it’s rated #1 in their list of Specialty Lodging in Paris. Open, modern — AND they have a pool.

(Note: I found a couple of these options via a blog I’ve recently discovered and am really enjoying — Pret a Voyager. Lots of interesting Paris-related stuff there, so check it out.)

If you decide you’re more down with the hotel idea, see:

Paris: The Best Hotels for Kids and Families

TripAdvisor: Citadines Bastille Marais


Ciao Bambino on Paris with Kids

A Mom Amok on Rome with Kids

And more fun fantasy real estate stuff: Currently Obsessed with…. Moving to Austin

Recipe of the Week: Salmon with Sweet Chili Glaze

salmon with sweet chili glaze

Salmon: It's what's for dinner.

You know how you get obsessed with certain recipes for a while and want to make them all the time? Well this salmon is a recent fave of mine. It’s made an appearance on the Weekly Menu a few times, but I thought I’d elevate it to Recipe of the Week status and feature it.

The kids wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole — too hot — but since salmon is one of the few things we’ll all eat, we can feed them a simple skillet-roasted fish with olive oil, S & P, then shuffle them off to bed and have our own dinner in peace.

I love this recipe for two reasons:

1. It’s super-flavorful, with a real punch of sweet and hot. (Sometimes I kick up the heat a bit more by adding chili pepper flakes, too.)

2. It’s no-brainer easy. It’s fun to try new recipes, but sometimes you just want a dish you have to give almost no thought to. This one you can prep, let sit for 30 minutes while you have a glass of wine and uninterrupted conversation with your spouse, then cook in a flash.

We first tried the recipe last spring, and the original (as you’ll see when you hop to the link) calls for fresh spring sugar snap peas and pea tendrils. It was yummy and we’ll try that version again this spring, I’m sure. But for now, we’ve been serving the fish with sauteed greens or a salad, usually with a little rice of some sort on the side.

The recipe says to whisk together your ingredients and then spoon the sauce over the salmon to let it sit; I whisk everything in a square glass dish and then place the fish flesh side down in the sauce to marinate, which I think gives it more intense flavor.

Got an amazingly easy and flavorful dish that you’re currently making again and again? Tell us! Maybe we’ll add it to our Weekly Menu.

Salmon with Sweet Chili Glaze (from Bon Appetit)

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