an afternoon on the lower east side

The girls and I headed downtown the other day to check out the new street art installation by Kelsey Montague, a lovely gal I happen to know thanks to social media and this here blog. Amongst her many talents, she and her sister also run a pretty cool ethical fashion website called Nikita and Vesper. Kelsey's wings (and the hashtag #whatliftsyou) have caused quite the stir online, thanks to poses from Taylor Swift and an interview on Mashable. Kelsey hopes to raise awareness for social justice and organizations like the Coalition for the Homeless in addition to furthering her artistic pursuits. If you'd like to be an angel or fairy for a moment, check out the wings on the corner of Kenmare and Mott in Nolita!

Next, we headed to Morgenstern's Ice Cream on Rivington Street. Like every other toddler on the planet, the girls are obsessed with ice cream, and Morgenstern's didn't disappoint. It's such a pretty little space, too. I love that the servers wear old fashioned hats, and the decor is bright and cheery. It was such a hot day, we could have stayed all afternoon! While the girls munched on cones (reasonably priced at $3.50) I had the most refreshing mango cooler with pomegranate soda. DELISH.

Such a fun summer afternoon!

mulan comes to the east village (and a giveaway!)

The Red Poppy Ladies, a world-renowned percussion group from China, is performing MULAN THE MUSICAL here in NYC, now through September 13th at La Mama Theatre in the East Village. Millie and I had a chance to check out a performance this past weekend, and we really enjoyed it!

Truthfully, I wasn't sure what to expect -- I knew they were a drumming group, but I wasn't sure how they would be able to translate their sound into a story, much less the one of Mulan, the young girl who disguises herself as a man and selflessly goes to war so her ailing father is able to stay home. Well, all I can say is WOW. The drumming was amazing; I couldn't believe how well the ladies synchronized throughout the performance, and not just on the drums... the "fan dance" was one of my favorite parts.

With the assistance of a screen in the background, the moving story of Mulan's bravery is shared with the audience. That was helpful as it allowed me to give Millie a "Cliff Notes" version of what was going on as the story progressed. We left the performance thoroughly entertained, and the only down side was Millie asked me for a drum set on the way home. Meanwhile, I was reminded once again of one of the major positives to living in a major city -- the access to performances like this one. I would highly recommend this show (and I'd say it's appropriate for age 4 and above).

I'm VERY EXCITED to be giving away 4 tickets to a performance of MULAN THE MUSICAL. Check out the easy entries on Rafflecopter, and I'll announce a winner next Thursday, July 31st. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

big apple books: nana in the city

Nana in the City
by Lauren Castillo

In Lauren Castillo's new book, Nana in the City, a young boy goes to visit his grandmother in the city. He's not exactly looking forward to the visit, however, as it's hard for him to understand why anyone would want to live in such a loud and busy place. With the help of a beautiful cape that Nana sews for him, the grandson soon discovers that city living can be quite magical -- busy, yes, but equally alive and exciting. In the end, he comes to understand why his nana would want to live in such a bustling place.

I just adore this book. The illustrations are quite lovely (see more of Castillo's work here), and I can relate to the story in more ways than one. Though I have lived in NYC for nearly 14 years, people still ask why I would want to live here, let alone raise children in such a place. While the city is not without its aggravations (and who knows, maybe we will move one day), I just love how this book captures the excitement and liveliness of this place we call home.

I'm kind of thinking I'll be a nana in the city one day.

a road trip to coastal maine

They say when you become a parent, the word "vacation" no longer applies. Travel with children is called a "trip." And there is something to be said for that. For the most part, our "trip" last week was not what I would call relaxing. But despite bouts of whiney behavior, motion sickness in the car (and car trouble, by the way), a sea of children's menus and a lot of late-to-bed nights, we managed to make the most of our time together. I really welcomed the change of scenery, and coastal Maine, which was our ultimate destination, took my breath away with its raw and unencumbered beauty.

Not to mention the lobster.

Our first two nights were spent at Point Lookout Resort in Northport. Point Lookout operates as a conference center primarily but is also open to individuals and families. We discovered the resort through Preferred Family, which is an excellent resource when researching vacations, as they have properties all over the world that cater to families (and thanks to their handy travel planner located on the home page, I'm already thinking about our next getaway...

Our two-bedroom cabin was comfortable and roomy, and the property itself has a number of activities available. We took advantage of their soccer field and hiking trails -- there's even a bowling alley! The Copper Pine, Point Lookout's on-site restaurant, benefits from the property's own organic farm, which we had a chance to visit. Doesn't get anymore "local" than that. 

We also loved the fire pit that was dropped off at our cabin... perfect for s'mores (turns out our girly girls thought they were too "sticky," which of course meant more for us). A private beach available to guests is located across the street and the quaint village of Camden is only a 10 minute drive away. All in all, Point Lookout was the perfect location to kick off our trip. 

The next night we spent camping in Searsport, Maine, right on the ocean. As campgrounds go, this one was clean, well-managed, and you truly couldn't beat the view. Great playground, too! And for the record, one night of camping is my limit until I can invest in a more comfortable pad or cot. My poor back... 

Our last two nights were spent in Ogunquit, located in southern Maine. While the town and harbor are quite beautiful and there is plenty to do there (we took a lobster boat ride and walked along the stunning Marginal Way), it was a bit of a shock as it's much more touristy than the mid-coast. The girls did enjoy the Ogunquit Trolley (parking is a bit of a nightmare in the main part of town) and Footbridge Beach, which we visited on our last day, was just the relaxing afternoon we needed. We stayed on the inlet side, and the water was calm and cool and the sand felt great between our toes.

So yeah, even though this was a "trip," I still wish I was on it. Here's hoping your family travel this summer is whine/motion sickness/drama-free. We can dream, can't we?

Disclaimer: For the purposes of a review, our stay at Point Lookout Resort was complimentary. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

getting back in the swing of things w/ seventh generation

I've had such a blast working with Seventh Generation this year, helping to spread the word about their Toxin Freedom Fighters campaign and general goodness. And I could never have guessed how it would have come to my rescue in the last few days. Let me digress... 

So here's the thing about being sick when you're a mom: IT SUCKS. I'm sorry, but there's just no other word for it. To think I actually look back fondly on the days of being sick pre-kids... curling up under a blanket with a box of tissues while watching bad TV for hours... or stopping to take a nap because you desperately need the rest, and because you can. 

Yep. That doesn't happen anymore. Now when I'm hit with a viral infection (which left me miserable for 10 days), I'm staggering around while taking care of my children, who don't really get the "Mommy's sick" concept. Couple this with the last week of school, a pounding head for a week and a working-late-most-nights Husband and you have an admittedly unpleasant person. Pity party for one! I really do hate to be a complainer... but it was not a fun couple of weeks.

Now that I'm getting back in the swing of things, I'm addressing the disarray around me and trying to de-fumigate the house as best I can from my illness. The apartment completely fell to shambles while I was sick. Laundry and dishes piled sky-high, stepping on toys in every room... you get the picture. And no, there is no photographic evidence because really, who wants to see that? 

I'm slowly getting things back in to shape with the help of some of my favorite Seventh Generation products. Here they are, in random order:

1) Lavender Floral and Mint dish soap: Is there anything not to love about this scent? I adore the way it smells, which almost makes the fact that we don't have a dishwasher almost bearable. The non-toxic, no dyes part is an obvious no-brainer.

2) Chlorine Free Bleach: I realize bleach is a random thing to love, but let me just say that historically bleach makes me nervous. I have this irrational fear that I'll spill it all over myself and accidentally swallow some (remember I said irrational!). That said, I like that I can use the Seventh Gen bleach and not worry about a bleach-y smell and harmful chemicals. Though it's still doubtful I'd drink it. 

3) Facial Cleansing Cloths: Here I go with the lavender scent again, but this is a great product for someone who wants a refreshing face cleanse... and the smell is lovely. I used these often while I was sick and too exhausted to take a shower. TMI?

4) All Purpose Natural Cleaner: So I've been using this all over the house in the last few days. What a relief to not feel worried about what strange chemicals I've just used on my countertops and window sills, or my children's toys and art table. 

5) Glass and Surface Natural Cleaner Concentrate: Here's the cool thing about Seventh Generation's concentrates... you just add them to water and you're golden! The small size still packs a punch and is just as effective as its full-size version. 

I don't get sick very often, but when I do... wow, it really makes me appreciate my otherwise good health. I am so thankful to be back in the land of the living... and getting my home back in shape again. Whew!

Disclaimer: As mentioned, I am working with Seventh Generation this year promoting their products. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

one wild weekend in wildwood, nj

I have to admit one of the reasons I love living in NYC is there are so many places to escape to in the surrounding area, should the need arise. And if you live here with kids, the call to flee your small apartment in search of well, anywhere with more space, is a strong one. Especially once warm weather arrives. Thankfully, there are many beach options nearby, the most obvious of which is the Jersey Shore.

My family and I spent Father's Day weekend as guests of Morey's Piers in Wildwood, Jersey, and the three hour commute from the city was the perfect distance to feel like we'd really "gotten away," yet close enough for a weekend jaunt. We checked in at the StarLux Hotel which has a retro '60s vibe, straight down to the lava lamp in our bedroom. Loved the kitsch factor, and our room was comfortable for a family of four.

Located across the street from the beach, boardwalk and famous "Wildwoods" sign, the StarLux is situated in a ideal location for everything you need in town. The girls also LOVED the pool and quite honestly could have stayed there the entire weekend if we'd let them! But, there was too much fun to be had on the boardwalk.

We spent Saturday taking it all in... from the water park to the rides... to chowing down on Curley's Fries... to more rides... to games... to ice cream... to the "people train" (as Millie calls it) ride on the way back to the hotel. I'm not sure we've had that much of an action-packed day in quite some time, but the girls had a blast, and so did we. Here are a few pics, in case you aren't convinced:

I don't have photos of the water park as we didn't want to get our own camera wet, but we did buy an underwater camera they had for sale at a kiosk. A great idea, but unfortunately we haven't gotten the photos developed yet! There are two different water parks at Morey's Piers, Ocean Oasis Beach Club and Raging Waters Beachfront -- we opted for the first one for no particular reason and were very pleased with all the offerings for kids. The Lazy River was a huge hit as was their "Bonsai Beach" area for kids.

If you are looking for enough activities to keep your child entertained and excited -- a classic, old-fashioned time filled with rides, games, water parks and yummy food -- then Morey's Piers in Wildwood is a great option for a weekend getaway from the city this summer. I have to say there is something about the boardwalk experience that is as American as apple pie, and I kind of love that.

And if this video of us on the Tea Cup ride doesn't get you excited for some fun this summer, I don't know what will. Have a great summer!


Disclaimer: Our weekend in Wildwood, NJ and day passes to Morey's Piers were complimentary. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

baby meets city meets the blue man group

Husband and I saw -- or rather, experienced -- Blue Man Group on one of our first dates. One of the original Blue Men is actually a friend of his, a fact he made sure to mention pre-date, no doubt trying to impress me (it worked). What can I say... I loved this crazy show then, and I loved it even more the second time around with kids in tow.

If you've seen Blue Man Group perform, you know it's nearly impossible to describe. But if a harried mother of two toddlers attempted to in stream of consciousness writing, it might go something like this:
Could not resist the photo op

Well, let's see. Three guys covered in blue (who don't talk, by the way) shoot marshmallows into each others mouths (all I can think is please don't choke!) and what about that paint, surely it's non-toxic? They play drums while painting and giving away art to audience members (what an awesome souvenir!) but beware of streaming toilet paper (think toddlers and their love for TP); And oh yeah, those giant iPhones... what was that about? Oh I do hope they use a good cleaning service.

Um, yeah. Instead of trying that route, simply tell whomever asked to simply GO. Just go. The Blue Men, despite being hard to describe, are simply unforgettable.

Now, as for bringing kids to the show... that's a no-brainer! Judging from our recent experience, I think 4 and up is the way to go. That being said, take into account if there are any issues with your child and loud noises as the music is rockin' all the way through. If not, you and your kiddo are in for a wild ride! Is it possible to be mesmerized and laughing hysterically at the same time? Because that was Millie. We loved getting to share this experience with her.

Side note, at our afternoon performance, there appeared to be a 10th birthday party in attendance, which I think would be a lot of fun. Blue Man offers birthday party packages and special group pricing. Double side note, as with a lot of theaters, the air conditioner is going full blast. Bring a sweater.

To experience the Blue Men on your own is one thing; to go back with your kids, quite another. I highly recommend it! Just go.

Disclaimer: My family and I were given complimentary tickets to see the Blue Man Group perform. All opinions expressed herein are my own.
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