Archive for the 'life with kids' Category

Time to Hit Pause

most-beautiful-beaches-in-the-world-Maldives

Time to hit pause here at Shiny Brite — I hope (think!) it will be a short one, but I’ll have to see how things shake out here in the next little bit.

Mmm, hmmm.

We had an awesome month of December, so thanks for finding us and for reading! It makes me feel better to know you’re there.

Here’s a little something for you today: The Best Beaches for Families, via Parents.com

More to come. Just don’t know when.

Keep an eye out!

XO

— Melisa

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Metropolis: A New York City Timelapse

New York City, day and night, night and day. By Will Boisture, via MUGuide.

Your kids will love. So will you.

The Hot List: Finding Monday’s Bliss

Shiny Brite is all about what makes our lives better as moms. Sometimes it’s got to do with parenting tips on how to make things easier or a fun, kid-centric outing; sometimes it’s all about what keeps the moms happy and sane (essential to home peace.)

Today, people, in these rough fall times — have we mentioned how much we hated leaving summer behind? Oh, right, we have — the focus is on finding little pockets of joy where we can. Here’s my Monday list:

* OPI’s “Mrs. O’Leary’s BBQ” — a deep, dark red — on my newly-polished toes. A warm fall hue for sure.

Mrs. O'Leary's BBQ from OPI

* The leek and gruyere frittata I just took out of the oven — how good it smells!

* A couple of potentially fun freelance opps I have brewing.

* How happy my kids were to see me at “Bagel Bits” (where parents get to come to kids’ classrooms and see what they’re up to) this morning at school. And I was so happy to see their math skills taking off — parental pride + heart melting cranked right on up to “high.”

* The bag of Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies I have close at hand. Crunch.

tate's chocolate chip cookies

Everybody needs a little somethin’-somethin’ to get through Monday. What’s giving you your little high today?

3 Days in Austin: Fun Things to See and Do

mexican martinis

Cheers to old friends!

Last weekend I spent some long-overdue kid-free time in Austin with my BFF (thanks, Chrissy, for letting me jet off!) and, oh, but it was nice…. Can I get a repeat? In addition to long, uninterrupted chats with someone who’s known me for 20+ years, here’s the short version of what was on the agenda — I hope it inspires you to plan a little “me” time, too:

* Mexican martinis at Dos Salsas in Georgetown (mmm, see above. And here’s a recipe — I’d tweak the Sprite to a splash.)

* Patricia Clarkson on 7 Minutes in Heaven with Mike O’Brien. Do yourself a favor and watch this. It is highly enjoyable not only because Clarkson is super-appealing and slightly tipsy during the in-the-closet interview, but also because it introduced me to new lipstick shade Cherries in the Snow (which now resides in my handbag.)

* Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow — an excellent pick-me-up in the face of crappy fall weather.

cherries in the snow

Kiss me! I'm wearing lipstick.

* !It Jeans from Adelante — they hug, they’re snug, and they won’t set you back $200. (You’re welcome.) I snagged the My New Boy style, pictured below.

iT_Jeans_My_New_Boy

If fall has to come, at least I can be wearing these.

* New METALSGirl jewelry from Parts + Labour.

metalsgirl giant 4 color necklace

Giant 4 color necklace. Yes, please.

* Weird La Lucha Libre wrestling guys for the kids from Tesoros.

La Lucha Libre wrestling guys

Viva, Mexico!

* Chipotle and toasted almond guacamole at La Condesa. Heck, yeah.

La Condesa

Darn good guac. Drinks, tacos, and chile rellenos, too.

* Retro-cool at The HighBall.

Vintage bowling lanes, transported to Austin from New Orleans.

* Big-time cheesy fun at Austin Karaoke. Thanks to my friend Debra, I no longer have to wonder what my karaoke songs would be — let’s just say Sheryl Crow, Journey, and the fine ladies of Heart were all paid tribute to. Surprisingly cathartic. They had to pry the mike out of my hands.

Austin Karaoke

Hello, fun.

* Breakfast nirvana at Monument Cafe and Kerbey Lane.

Kerbey Lane Cafe

Serving breakfast 24-7.

* A book called Love Life — and lots of pretty fresh flowers, too — at La Fleur Vintage.

Love Life

Colette: "You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."

Thanks, Debra! xo

Related:

Currently Obsessed with…. Moving to Austin

 

Via Parenting.com + Mom Congress: What I’ll Be Doing for You This School Year, Kids

First day of school

Second grade and Kindergarten -- bring it!

Jasper and Magnolia are back in school! Full days! Five days a week! Yippeeee! Not only does this mean — most importantly, of course — that after an exciting summer break, they can resume in earnest the exhilarating learning process. It also means I have some time to myself. Yippeeee X 2!

Sort of. Time to myself means time to think, and that’s a tricky thing these days. With all this parenting stuff, and the day-to-day weight of it, I’ve lost myself a bit. Or a lot. Maybe even a big, huge, gaping expanse of a lot.

I have to reinvent. Redefine. Let go of some things and embrace others. Get back in touch with who I am. Yesterday, something made me think of Anne Lamott, who I’ve read in the past and enjoyed, but it’s been years since Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions, and Traveling Mercies.

Anyway, I Googled her and found two interesting things: 1) a video of an interview she did with Stephen Colbert for Grace (Eventually). They are both Sunday School teachers and he gets her “God” thing and it is very funny. If you like her at all, watch it! 2) a piece she did for The Oprah magazine on Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be.

Ding, ding! A sign!

OK, it turned out to be a little up and down for me, but I found two good takeaways:

“You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.”

And….

In all of this figuring out yourself, your true self, your spiritual self if you want to call it that (I don’t, but), you’re looking for “The self that is revealed in divine feminine energy, your own, Bette Midler’s, Hillary Clinton’s, Tina Fey’s, Michelle Obama’s, Mary Oliver’s. I mean, you can see that they are divine, right? Well, you are, too.”

Um,… OK! Divine me, divine mom. I’m…. working on it.

One thing I know for sure is that a new school year has begun, and I have to take an active part in making it a good one for my kids. Last year, I kicked ass (if I do say so myself) by planning Touch-a-Truck Brooklyn — we raised a ton of money for the school and, I hope, elevated the elementary school’s profile in the borough. I’m proud of that, and I have a million ideas for how to grow and improve the event this year. I can’t take on being the lead organizer again, but I can be an important consultant. I can say yes to taking on a few, manageable, key things, and I can make some good stuff happen.

What else can I do for you, Dear Jasper and Magnolia, to make sure that you get the best education possible this year?

I can communicate with your teachers to make sure you’re participating and getting the most out of your classroom experience. I can help make sure your teachers — hardworking and impressive as they are — have the resources they need to do their jobs well.

I can read to you and let you read to me. I can ask you about your day and show you that I care about every single little detail of if (because, in ways that you are too young to understand now, I really, truly do.)

I can send you off in the morning with a sense of security — a feeling of certainty that you are loved, supported, seen and heard. That I have confidence that you will succeed in learning — and, just as important — make me, yourselves, and each other laugh in the process.

I can remind you that I’m on your team. That we’re in this school thing together, and that learning is fun!

Let’s dive in! I’ll be holding your hand — and helping you through your homework — the whole way.

***

To read other open letters from moms to their kids about education, hop over to Mom Congress on Parenting.com. And, YO, listen up — you can also submit a short essay and photo or video to enter your kid’s school for a chance to win $20,000! A pretty awesome contest, all in the name of better education. Go, Parenting.com.

Spread the word!

***

Related:

Tips for Helping Your Child Learn to Read

Tips from a Kindergarten Teacher

Public vs. Private School

Would You Home-School Your Kids?

A Fun, Creative School Fundraiser

Home Shortlist: The Things We Can’t Live Without

More Gwyneth Paltrow inspiration!

(And as an aside, I’ve been trying lots of recipes from her cookbook, My Father’s Daughter, and they’ve all been easy and delicious. Hits with us *and* the kids. Sorry to disappoint all you detractors out there….)

Anyway, Gwyn‘s in Elle Decor this month sharing the things in her home and home life she can’t live without — a bathtub in her bedroom, Coro tumblers, seasonal flowers, Charles Edwards star lanterns, and more. There’s a lot we love — and get a little daily lift from — in our home, too. (We could do endless other lists about more personal items as well — must-have perfume, lipstick, handbag, etc. — but one thing at a time.)

Here’s what made our shortlist for things we love/can’t live without at home:

Framed French dinner menus — they hang above our kitchen sink, all vintage-y, sweet, and oh-so-pretty. We framed the menu from our wedding, too — personal and memory-evoking every time we look at it.

French dinner menu

Alora Fragrance Diffuser — when buying something new for the living room or rearranging the furniture on a whim isn’t realistic, flipping these sticks upside down to release a burst of your favorite, fresh scent makes you feel like the room just got a mini-makeover.

Alora Diffuser

Dark-stained wood floors. They’re dramatic, they’ve worn well, and they covered a ton of imperfections in our floors when we renovated, which made replacing them all with new boards unnecessary.

dark-stained wood floors

Patterned window films. We have these on our bottom windows in the bathroom and we love them! They disguise what you don’t want to see — the siding on our neighbor’s house comes to mind — and still let in all the sunlight.

patterned window films

Double-basin farmhouse sink. It’s big, it’s pretty, it’s functional, it’s from another old Brooklyn house, so it’s local goods. It is actually my favorite thing in the entire house, hands down.

farmhouse sink

Different paint colors in every room. When our contractor was ready to paint after our remodel, he asked just to make sure: You want all white everywhere, right? Uh, no. Sorry! But color adds so much warmth to a space! Try it. You’ll like it.

paint colors

A daily baguette. This is a holdover from our trip to France in July and, I have to say, fresh bread adds a lot to the day. The kids love it, too — and they seem to know instinctively that it’s way better than the sliced stuff that comes out of a plastic bag from the grocery store.

baguettes

Zyliss garlic press. Feel like you spend half your life chopping garlic? Us, too. But this handy little gadget speeds up the process by a lot — you don’t even have to peel the garlic! Seriously. Just pop a clove in, press it, and out come the minced pieces — with the papery bits left behind in the press. (Thanks for turning us on to this one, Kim!)

Zyliss garlic press

Tell us — what’s on your shortlist? What are the home essentials you can’t live without?

The Glorious South, Part Deux (And Off to Paris)

Well, we’re headed back to Paris. On the high-speed train. Vineyards, sunflower fields flying by.

We’ve spent the last week in the South of France. We had planned to make some field trips to neighboring towns and cities—Uzès, where we’ve stayed before, for the market and the Pont du Gard; St. Remy de Provence, a beautiful little town for walking and exploring; Marseille for some deeper discovery of the harbor and winding streets, plus we had hoped to visit some new spots: Anduze, Toulouse, Carcassone. In the end, we stayed Chez Mousseron, enjoying the company and the pool, the local markets, shopping, and the beach.

As Melisa noted, the beach was a highlight. This time around we rented beach chaises at a private club. At last, my own cabana boy! Bringing me salade Niçoise! Rosé! A mojito! San Pellegrino! The kids playing in the Med in front of us. An umbrella thoughtfully put up for Melisa. A lovely and convenient bathroom, shower, and parking.

Folks, this is the way to hang at the beach. And I could have done it EVERY DAY.

The kids loved the beach, too. Even more, though, they loved Pirates Paradise, a restaurant we tried for lunch. Located in a huge outdoor shopping complex in Montpellier, Pirates Paradise is a theme park and eatery in one. There’s an entire pirate fight on the hour. A kids play area. Waitresses dressed up like pirate wenches, and waiters like pirates. You can eat in a galleon. Eat over the water. Eat in a pirate jail. It was entertaining, and the food wasn’t bad either.

Meanwhile, Melisa would have rather been exploring all those new cities I listed at the top. She gets a little high off of the new (whereas I get my high from il dolce far niente). One of the great things about being gone a month is that there is time to get a healthy dose of everyone’s individual interests and find some common ground.

This month marks the longest continuous period I’ve spent with my kids (and my wife for that matter) since they were born. I admit I was a little worried about how it would go. Thirty-three days is extreme togetherness, and as mentioned in previous posts, there have been the typical bumps in the road you might imagine on any trip.

At the market in Sommières

We’ve had FUN. We love road trips. We love ice cream, swimming, a gorgeous view. Exploring. Finding secret places. The promise of great food.

I’ve learned new things about my kids. I’m proud of what good travelers they’ve been. Both of them weathered the overnight flight here like pros, and walked off their jet lag in Paris. They’ve made friends in France and Italy. They’ve tried sausages, cured tomatoes, new fruits, fish, local specialties like tielles (seafood pies from Sète) and mussels, paella, olives, cheeses, meats. They’ve tried to speak French and Italian for niceties (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, excuse me). Gamely carried their own backpacks and pulled their suitcases through airports and train stations, up to taxis, cars and apartments.

And they have tried blend in with the locals on occasion.

So it’s with a heavy heart that we leave the South, knowing our days here are numbered. Yesterday, I cleared out the Mireva and drove it back to the rental company. We said our goodbyes to our generous hosts, who have fed us and entertained us (no small feat) for a week. Kim drove us to the train station and walked us to our couch to bid us bon voyage.

I’m not usually the one who is upset on departure; that’s Melisa’s department. But as soon as Kim was out of sight, I surprised myself by bursting into tears and crying on Melisa’s shoulder.

It’s all gone by so fast. Didn’t we just step off the plane, a whole month of friends and travel ahead of us?

A day and a half more in Paris, and then back on a plane to New York.

What a whirlwind.

Our plan is to make the most of the City of Light in the next 36 hours. After all, there is the gelato v. glace smackdown that needs to be solved, the Tuileries and the great pyramid at the Louvre still to see. There’s still some time to squeeze more of la belle vie out of this trip!


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