Archive for June, 2011

8 Things I’m Excited to Do with the Kids in Paris

eiffeltower by esharkdesign

photo via esharkdesign


No time to post, really, but here’s a quickie…. As you might have noticed, we’re GOING AWAY. To France and Italy. To see good friends, to explore on our own, to enjoy good food and wine, to relax big-time en famille.

We’re kicking things off this weekend in ParisMagnolia keeps saying she’s so excited because we’re going to Pareeee! (she insists on saying it in French, which makes me happier than I can actually convey in this post.) Jasper is excited, too — here’s what I’m looking forward to doing with them in the City of Light.

Jumping on trampolines in the Tuileries Garden — This seems like an excellent post-flight kid activity for the afternoon of our arrival, doesn’t it? The kids will have been cooped up on the plane for hours and will be jet-lagged out of their minds — so go bounce your brains out! May it exhaust you even more completely.

Riding the rides — you can take a steam train from Porte Maillot to get there! — and seeing the animals at Le Jardin d’Acclimatation.

Letting them run wild in the Gardens at The Champs de Mars, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Fingers crossed for good photo opps.

Visiting the play area and carousel — and ponies! and boats in the fountains! — in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Eating ice cream at Berthillon and gobbling up Nutella crepes on the street.

Taking the Metro — Jasper will be in heaven! And so will I. All of the many, many times I hopped on and off the Metro in Paris when I lived there in my 20s (my 20s!), and later when I visited the city but still before kids, I never could have imagined I’d one day be getting on and off with my happily train-obsessed son.

Seeing the Eiffel Tower at night. Because seeing the Eiffel Tower at night is one of those things that makes you happy to be ALIVE.

If there’s time, the playground at the Parc de la Villette, not far from where I used to live.

That ought to keep us busy for the couple of days we’ll be there. Then, we’re heading south!

Paris-with-kids ideas and inspiration via Ciao Bambino, Pret a Voyager, and our friend Kim (a bientot!)


Family-Friendly Apartments to Rent in Paris

T Is for Travel: 16 Family Travel Tips


NYC Public Pools Open for the 2011 Season Tomorrow, June 29!

Red Hook swimming pool

One more reason to love Red Hook: the biggest damn swimming pool you've ever seen.

Everybody in the pool!

Today was the last day of NYC public school — which means Pre-K and First Grade are officially history at our house. (Sniff, sniff. Those moving-up ceremonies are some serious kind of emotional business, aren’t they?)

The next few days will be a wild flail of packing for a month for four people, ad hoc meal prep, last-minute errand-running, and, oh yeah — dealing with the kids, who are no longer conveniently deposited at P.S. 295 from the hours of 8:30 am – 3:15 pm. Which means….

There’s a good chance you can spot us at the Red Hook or Douglass and DeGraw pools before we head out of town — NYC public pools open for the season tomorrow, Wednesday, June 29.

Here’s more on the best swimming pools in New York City, public and otherwise — plus the lowdown on the rules (don’t forget your lock for the locker room, etc.) FYI, outdoor pool hours are 11 am – 7pm, with a break for cleaning from 3 to 4 pm.

And, besides pools, here are 15 of the best places for kids to get wet in NYC. On the list: Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6.

No more school — keep it real and stay cool, peeps! Happy summer!


Weekly Menu, June 26-June 30th: Countdown is On!

Happy Pride, everyone! I’m celebrating by booking a hotel on the Italian Riviera. Oh yeah. On the beach. You know what the weather looks like in Italy? SUNNY. HOT. PERFECT!

Pretty perfect looking in Provence, too.

Only five more days here in the states before we head off on the vacation to end all previous vacations! This week is all about: packing, pulling everything together, and getting ready to go.

Where? Paris, the South of France to stay chez Mousseron,

Don't the Mousserons look like fun? They are.

Tuscany, and then back again the way we came. The apartment in Paris is booked, the TGV tickets to the South bought, the car reserved, the house in Tuscany rented. Now, the countdown.

Mom & I in Paris, September 1988

Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn, things are pretty great! The Gods smiled and brought back gorgeous warm (not too warm!) weather AND our elected officials in Albany gave us legalized gay marriage in New York! Our last CSA pick-up yesterday yielded amazing greens (arugula, leafy lettuce, broccoli rabe), broccoli, beets, and of course, EGGS. Have to work our way through it all.

Weekly Menu:

Sunday night: We’re being entertained! Too early for SUMMER PUDDING? Hoping not.

Monday: Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto and Garlic-Scape Pesto (which we had on our pizza last night- delicious!) with Arugula Salad

Tuesday: Carne Asada Tacos with Grilled Vegetables

Wednesday: Fontina, Broccoli Rabe and Mushroom Omelets with Leafy Green Salad

Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken, Kale Salad with Avocado and Parmesan

And we’re off!

Paella from one of our last visits to France. YUM

Here’s to adventure!

June 25 – 26: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas


The closer we get to saying goodbye to Brooklyn and taking off for the month of July — !!! — the more my brain is all over the map: Jasper‘s last report card ever for first grade comes home today, should we buy a new digital camera?, must marinate the steak for dinner, need to reserve TGV and top-of-the-Eiffel Tower tix, are those new sandals of Magnolia‘s still too big?, I should start taking a yoga class, can’t forget to pay the balance of summer camp before we leave, crap! we’re almost out of wine.

Yeah. Anyway.

Here’s more of what’s on my mind this week:

* gorgeous bedding.

* rainbow cakes.

* pretty peonies.

* the perfect tartine.

* Gwynnie’s fried rice with kale and scallions.

Happy weekend!

Destination Doughnuts: Dough in Clinton Hill


(photo: justcooknyc)

As anyone who knows me knows, I will happily travel out of my way for something good to eat. And doughnuts from Dough in Clinton Hill have been on my list since I sampled a delicious bite of one with friends at the Brooklyn Flea a few weeks ago. A trek over to the ‘hood had to happen, and it did last weekend.

The kids were with me instantly of course — who wants doughnuts for breakfast?! — and Chrissy wasn’t hard to convince.

Flavors tasted: dulce de leche with toasted almonds, chocolate with cacao nibs, chai cream-filled, and plain glazed — dulce de leche was the hands-down star, although the kids were pretty happy with the still-warm plain glazed. Sadly, the Earl Grey chocolate eluded me — some lucky girl in line ahead of me ordered the last one.

Dough was brought to Brooklyn by the same people behind popular cafe/takeout spot Choice Market, just down the street, and also worth a special trip. Just more reason to love the cool, evolving world of Clinton Hill.



305 Franklin Avenue (at Lafayette)




Top photo via justcooknyc on flickr


Words a Mom from Texas Always Wants to Hear

chili con queso

I may not be raising my kids in Texas, but one tiny bit of evidence from my daughter that I’m raising them right: “mom, when are you going to make us chili con queso again?”

Warms my heart, honey.


say "queso!"

chili con queso photo via Homesick Texan


Friday Blog Crush: Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom

Design Mom

gabrielle blair

photo via: Gabrielle Blair / Design Mom -- Isn't she cute?

Loving Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom this week and wanted to introduce you to her on the off-chance that you’re not already a reader.

Here’s why I’m crushing:

* Who she is as a blogger is perfectly clear, and I find that inspiring. She says of herself that she is a designer and mother of six, and she posts on “where design and motherhood intersect.” Brilliant.

* She’s a mother of six — !!!!!! (That’s six exclamation points, one for each kid.) Wow. Talk about “I don’t know how she does it.”

* Her site introduces me to new and beautiful things and ideas all the time. Like these tiny, adorable owl-shaped crayons.

* She has an awesome, accessible voice — I feel like we’re having a friendly conversation when I’m reading.

* Last — and this one is a biggie — she and her family have moved to France for a year! I’m experiencing big-time envy. They were featured on House Hunters International (which I love), and we happened to catch the episode this week. Fun! They had three amazing homes to choose from — here’s the fabulous house that they settled on, in Normandy:

La Cressonniere

La Cressonniere, photo via Design Mom

Feeling like you might want to make a move abroad, too? I know I am. Here’s more on the house the Blair family is living in, as well as some great links to sites where you can find furnished, long-term rentals.

And here’s a great post Gabrielle wrote on financing a move abroad.

Check out Design Mom! See the 10 posts to get you started on her home page — including this cute porch makeover that she did on her own home before moving to France. (We have the same, exact red mailbox hanging in front of our house!)


And now, for some unrelated weekend goodness:

Take the kids to the NEW part of the Highline — it’s open! And it features Rainbow City, an inflatable sculpture garden that kids can explore, via Mommy Poppins.

Bought one of Diana Kane’s open circle pendant necklaces for myself this week (thanks, mom!) and am loving it, too. Maybe it’s time for you to drop in and see what catches your eye for the summer?

Last…. Mother’s Day is a bit of a stress and a flail in our house — who takes care of mom? — but the pressure’s off for Father’s Day! Happy Dad’s Day, though, if you’ve got one to fete in your house.

Have fun celebrating family!

Portrait Press Fundraising: A Fun, Creative School Fundraiser

Portrait Press Fundraising

A cute tea towel with kids' original artwork? Yes!

As you know, we’re fond of creative school fundraising ideas around here. Remember that little event we planned back in April called Touch a Truck Brooklyn? Yeah, I thought so. We maybe mentioned it once or twice…. It was a big success, which was wonderful — we were so thrilled that everyone’s hard work paid off, that the kids had a great time, and that we made a nice amount of money to support the arts at our school! — but it was a LOT of work and required months of intense planning.

With the continued threat of major budget cuts these days, NYC parents with kids in public school are constantly on the lookout for creative, new ways to raise money, and you want to get the work-to-payoff ratio right. So I was thrilled to discover this year that fellow Brooklyn mom and P.S. 295 parent Monica Thurnauer had started a new business to do just that — help families fundraise in a more meaningful way. With that mission, Portrait Press Fundraising was born. We tried her concept at our school this year with fabulous, parent-pleasing results (see the photo above). You should, too!

Meet Monica — and Portrait Press!

Monica with kids

So, tell me how Portrait Press came to be.

When my daughter Frances, now in second grade, started school, I had no idea how much fundraising the PTA was expected to do. Being an enthusiastic new parent, I wanted to do my part, so I ordered a lot of school T-shirts for our family and various relatives. But after a couple of years, the T-shirts just started piling up in the closet—like I’m sure they do in a lot of other closets, too. That’s when I remembered a fundraiser from my own childhood that I absolutely loved. My mother, a principal in the UK, used to give it to me each year for Christmas: a portrait tea towel, or dish towel, as you’d call it here [a dish towel with kids’ original artwork on it]. It was useful and practical, but it was also quite creative and celebrated the community more than the usual school merchandise.

I decided to do the same thing for Frances’s class as a memento for the end of her first grade year. It turned out really cute, and the kids and parents seemed to get a kick out of it. When friends at other schools liked it and wanted to do something similar, I thought why not put up a website so that other PTAs could have their own Portrait Press Fundraisers. I still call them “tea towels”—it sounds a little nicer than dish towel!—and I’ve also added pillow cases and tote bags, too.

How does is work?

We worked hard to make the process as easy as possible. Basically, the parent who’s acting as coordinator for the project signs up on our website to receive the free kit in the mail. Once that arrives, they visit the classrooms and have the kids draw little self-portraits on small pieces of paper. When these are done, the parent coordinator sticks them onto the template included in the kit and mails it back to us. We email back a proof of the finished design; once this has been approved, we print it on the product of their choice (tea towel, pillow case, tote bag) in the quantity of their choice.

Just to make the process super-clear, I’m currently working on a video to post on our website to show how it works from start to finish. It won’t be in 3D or anything, but it should make it pretty foolproof.

How much time and effort is involved on the part of the parents organizing a Portrait Press fundraiser for their school?

It doesn’t take much time at all. Once you get the kit, the creative part in the classroom takes about 15 minutes for each class that’s involved. To arrange the drawings on the template takes another 10 – 15 minutes, and from there all you have to do is pop it in the mail back to us.

It’s very easy, and the students have a good time making their drawings, but most of all it’s a lot of fun to have an excuse to go into the classroom and interact with the kids. I really enjoyed that part of making the products for our school.

About how much does it cost the school (for production, etc.), and how much can a school expect to earn?

I’m very committed to setting the pricing so schools can at least double their investment. When I researched other fundraising products, I was surprised to see fundraisers where schools only stood to gain 25 – 33% profit from their efforts. Let’s say you want to do a pillow case with 150 portraits on it. The unit cost for 150 pillow cases—one per child—is $7.50 each, so the school can sell it for $15.

That being said, I’ve been surprised to see that some schools are choosing to make one of our products just to celebrate the graduation of a year and not as a fundraiser, in which case they can cover their costs while offering the products at a really low price.

I’m so impressed that you’ve launched a business to support our schools and children! Is this undertaking your new full-time job, and is it hard to fit in around family life?

I’ve been working the whole time I’ve had kids, which makes doing things around family life a challenge, as I’m sure any working parent can relate to! Launching Portrait Press Fundraising is my main professional focus now, and my hope is that this will help me maintain a good family/work balance. The idea is that it will revolve around the school year, so summers will be slow and I’ll be free to be with the kids. Of course, in reality I’m sure there will always be things to do, but it still beats spending the summer in an office missing my babies.

Another important part of the business for me was that it have a social agenda. I wanted to show my own kids that we should work to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. When I hit on the idea of using profits to establish grants for the arts in schools and for overseas organizations that support education, I started really getting excited about developing the business [a portion of the proceeds from each Portrait Press Fundraiser will go towards a grant to support an arts education project] . That was the missing link for me, to tie in the company with the community for which it was designed and even beyond. Hopefully, as the business develops, it’ll be possible to communicate the values I want to promote more strongly to the kids that make the products, and there can be some really great creative collaborations happening.

The tea towels and bags that the kids made at our school were so adorable! Obviously, it’s a great idea and I hope other NYC schools will use Portrait Press, too, as a fundraiser — but it’s a fab project for any school! How are you getting the word out to parents nationally about Portrait Press?

Before having kids I worked in PR, back when PR just meant TV, radio and print. Now, marketing this project, I can’t believe how the channels for getting a story out there are pretty near infinite with the Internet. Wonderful blogs like yours are going to be really key. There is a ton of value in having real moms vet your product and give it their seal of approval, so I will be reaching out to like-minded, green, socially conscious blogging moms.

But there are also more conventional trade shows specifically for school fundraising. I took the show on the road in May and showed Portrait Press at a couple of these—it was my first experience of putting the product out there. Luckily, there were a lot of PTAs that loved and really “got” the concept. It was very cool for me to have moms tell me they loved it because of the creativity and the community angle, and also because the profits would go toward a grant, which really made it meaningful for them. Hearing my values echoed back at me from my customers was very gratifying! It’s going to be quite an adventure, and I’m thrilled for it to be underway.

Thanks, Monica! Amazing, inspiring, creative, smart — love Portrait Press, love that it was founded by a Brooklyn mom, and hope PTAs near and far will be jumping on board to fundraise with PP at their school!

Learn more on having a Portrait Press Fundraiser at your kid’s school.

Portrait Press Fundraising


A No-Time-to-Post Post: Bakeri in Williamsburg


photo via Bakeri


I need TIME TO THINK in order to write a post and, for various reasons — many related to half-days and no-school days via the NYC DOE — there’s been damn little of it over the last week. But I have managed to eke out about three minutes to bring you news of an adorable little bakery we discovered in Williamsburg recently — called, simply, Bakeri! Thanks to Smorgasburg and mom-and-kid yoga at Kula, we’ve been spending more time in the nabe the last few weeks.

We sampled Spanish tortilla, mini-croissants, a white chocolate and dried cherry cookie, and a salted peanut caramel brownie. Yeah, you read that last one right. Um, YUM. And the place was bustling and super-cute. Good vibes. GO.

More again as soon as I can….

Weekly Menu, June 12-18

First week of the CSA, and the pickings are all GREEN. Arugula, bok choy, mesclun, garlic scapes and yes, kale, but now we are not so intimidated by it, hooray! Plus radishes, which means radishes with salted butter. Mmm.

Last week’s Sticky Balsamic Ribs were a hit. A bit work intensive for the week (unless you are at home or have someone at home to bake the ribs prior to grilling). So was the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie via Smitten Kitchen I made with the rhubarb a colleague brought to me from his country garden.  Made a great early summer meal!

Mine looked ALMOST this good. Photo by tvol

Weekly Menu:

Sunday: Sunday Gravy and CSA Green Salad. Yum

Monday: Dinner out with Grandma Parkinson

Tuesday: Grilled Lemon Chicken Breasts with Arugula and Quinoa

Wednesday: Last week’s experiment with the Roasted Tomatoes with Anchovy Oreganata made us interested in trying this recipe for Spaghetti with Anchovy Carbonara via Food & Wine

photo by Tina Rupp for Food & Wine

Thursday: Grilled Flank Steak and Kale Salad. We’re going to try a kale salad inspired by one we saw at Cubana Social over in Williamsburg with avocado, tossed with lime, pickled onion and jalepeno.

Friday: Grilled Pizza with Dorie Greenspan’s Garlic Scape Pesto

Saturday: Dinner Chez Gillespie

Enjoy the week!

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