review: www.blurb.com - part 1

The kind folks at Blurb have given me the opportunity to create a book of my choosing, and in turn, tell you all about it. I'm pretty excited about their offer (thanks in advance, Blurb!) yet slightly overwhelmed... I know I want to make a book of photos, but which should I choose and what should be the theme? Perhaps one of our recent trip to Nantucket? Or just a general book of Baby S pictures (to delight and excite her legion of fans that happen to pass by our coffee table)? It's a tough -- but fun -- decision. We've always made our photo books using Apple iPhoto, so I am curious to compare & contrast the two.

I should mention that creating a photo collection is just 1 of the many kinds of books you can make using Blurb's software. Other options: professional portfolios, blog entry books (hmm...), children's literature, cookbooks, yearbooks -- to name a few.

After much thought, I've finally decided on my "theme" and have begun the process of putting my book together. Okay, I've downloaded the software (super easy, even for this technophobe) and popped in a few photos... which I expect to change about a dozen times before I send this baby to print. BUT -- I'm excited.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Blurb review, and in the meantime, check out their website for ideas. We ALL have something worth documenting in our lives!

in memory

My mother is the youngest of 4 sisters.  Last week, her oldest sister, Irene, passed away after enduring a long battle with cancer.  To sum up a life well lived is difficult, but to let it go without saying anything at all? 

Impossible.

My aunt was a strong southern woman; the very definition of a steel magnolia.  Legally blind, Irene endured difficulties that a lesser person would have crumbled underneath.  Born premature in 1928, she began her life fighting against the odds.  Inner strength & perseverance was inside her from the very beginning.

She was many things in addition to wife & mother & grandmother:  devoted friend. teacher. volunteer. writer. poet. singer. lover of the arts & literature.  Her faith was so unfailingly steady, I wouldn't be surprised if God had her on speed dial.  She loved a scarf, made delicious broccoli & cheese casserole and had a zest for life that inspired everyone around her, particularly in her later years.

I always felt that we were kindred spirits, in a way. I have been jotting down little stories and the like for years, and every time we spoke, Aunt Irene would ask me about my writing.  In recent years, when all I wrote were To Do lists, I found Irene's work to be motivating.  It's yet another reason why I am so thankful for this blog -- because it has me writing again.

A member of the South Carolina Poetry Society & several local writing groups, we will always treasure her books of poetry.  An Anglophile like myself, I often think we would have been much happier in the days of Jane Austin, wandering around the English countryside with journal in hand.

For her 80th birthday last year, my mom & aunts gave her a trip to NYC.  My mom brought her up for the long weekend, and it is a time I'll always remember.  Amongst touring the city, we saw the Thornton Wilder play, Our Town.  In its final act, Emily asks, "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -- every, every minute?"

I know Irene did.  And her life will not be forgotten.  It will live on within her enormous circle of friends, her family that loved her, and her beautiful poetry.

Last Lines
by Irene N. Lofton

If I had one wish,
that would be
to live each moment
to its fullest joy
to savor all the daily things
that make life's years.

And at the end
let there be few tears
for I would have held
life's fullest cup
and tasted every drop
that filled it up.

daddy dearest

Husband:

Thank you for making those noises when you change a messy diaper.

Thank you for considering the purchase of a weapon to shine when our daughter's dates come by to pick her up one day.

Thank you for channeling your inner-child to make our baby giggle at the drop of a hat.

Thank you for stepping in whenever needed and telling me to take a deep breath daily when necessary.

Thank you for that look in your eye when you look at her, because it's priceless.

Thank you for exceeding my expectations.  I could not do this whole parenthood thing without you (and my hat is OFF to all the single mums & dads out there).

Thank you for loving every minute of this journey we're on.

Happy first Father's Day!

play me, i'm yours

Sufficed to say, I was no Mozart back in my pigtail-wearing, piano-playing days. I could handle "Chopsticks" pretty well, but "Fur Elise?" I never made it past the first few measures. It's a shame, really, as I would love to be more musically-inclined. When I think of all the times my mother said, "You'll wish you practiced more one day!" Well, she was right. Regret is a terrible thing, isn't it? Not to mention acknowledging once more that your mother was, indeed, correct about so many things.

Being musically "challenged" does not mean, however, that I don't appreciate music, in most of its forms (I'll leave the heavy metal to those still sporting acid wash jeans and frizzy hair). Living in NYC, we have access to some of the most notable music venues in the world... for a price, of course. Not to be outdone, however, there is free entertainment to be had - summer concerts in NYC area parks draw thousands every year. Personally, I enjoy hearing the many street performers playing on sidewalks and subway platforms all over town. Granted, a merry band of Mariachi players in your ear + splitting headache = a few choice words I can't repeat here.

This morning, I read about Play Me, I'm Yours. Beginning this weekend through July 5th, 60 upright pianos will be distributed throughout the 5 boroughs. Anyone can walk up and play. Made possible by the non-profit organization, Sing for Hope (with help from the mayor's office), the pianos have been painted ahead of time by artists and community groups, and will be donated to local schools and hospitals after the impromptu concerts are over. The brainchild of artist Luke Jerram, the project was designed to bring people together - to provoke conversation and encourage "ownership of their urban landscape." Play Me, I'm Yours has taken place all over the world, from London to Sydney.

Click on the link above for a map of piano locations. I notice 2 of the pianos will be situated in my neighborhood, so I hope to check it out soon. Perhaps I'll give Baby S her first piano lesson. Or maybe we'll just listen...


*word on the street is that Alicia Keys is helping promote the project and may be offering up a song at some point. Tune in to her Twitter and Facebook pages during the event time frame for more info.

i'd like to thank the academy...

So there's an award floating around the blogosphere, and somehow it's landed on my doorstep. Hurrah! Thanks to Alexia over at Los Angeles Mamma, who graciously passed the "Honest Scrap" award on to me after receiving it herself. Hmm... I would not describe myself as "scrappy," but then again, ten years of living in NYC has toughened me up a little bit.

Sidebar: Now that I have "scrappy" on the brain, I can't help but think of little orphan Annie. It also means I can't help but sing a few bars of "Tomorrow" for all the world to hear under my breath. EEK.

According to Alexia, in accepting this award, I must reveal 10 honest things about myself (double EEK) in addition to passing the award on to 10 of my favorite bloggers (infinitely easier). So with that said...

Ten (hopefully) Mildly Entertaining Things About Moi:
1- I always wanted to live in NYC. I mean, my Barbie townhouse* was in Manhattan, for crying out loud.
*Vision of NYC was a bit different at age five. Namely, I do not live in anything remotely like a townhouse. Kudos to my vibrant imagination, however.

2- I wanted to be a fashion designer* when I was little.
*If you could see my closet now you would understand how comical this is.

3- I was one of 23 people in my high school* graduating class.
*I was also thrilled to get the h*ll out of there.

4- I went to Salem College, the oldest's women's college* in the US.
*Spent the majority of 4 years in sweatpants. This will come as a surprise, but men were not lining up at my doorstep.

5- My first job in NYC was as a Page at CBS News*. I went on to work at 48 Hours for 3 years.
*I met a lot of my closest NYC friends at CBS, and a certain person who would eventually own the title of Husband.

6- Wedding planning* was not nearly as much fun as I thought it would be.
*Thankfully the end result was more than worthwhile.

7- Husband and I honeymooned on safari* in Tanzania, then spent a few days on the beach in Zanzibar. Trip. of. a. lifetime.
*Favorite animals: lions & giraffes. And the baby elephant we saw with his momma. Awww....

8- My grandmother* lived to be 103.
*She was pretty awesome. Husband interviewed her for a documentary he made about her life, and it's a treasure for our family.

9- I'm going to be an auntie*!
*Super excited that Baby S is going to have a friend to play with when we go home for Christmas.

10- Baby S* came along and now I can't fathom life without her.
*LOVE. 'Nuff said.

Here are 10 Bloggers that I could read all day long:

1- My Mom Shops
2- Momma's Gone City
3- The TomKat Studio
4- Los Angeles Mamma Blog
5- Boots & Totty
6- Design Mom
7- Ivy League Insecurities
8- The Wannabe WAHM
9- Making it Lovely
10- How About Orange


Happy Friday!

home again, home again, jiggity jig

We are back in NYC after a great trip away. Currently suffering from a bit of "real world" shock, but will be back in the game soon(ish)... I hope. How is it that being home less than 24 hours, our time away already seems like eons ago? That's a question I suspect I'll be grappling with all next week when I'm back to sitting behind a desk all day.

We spent our first official family vacation in Nantucket, a place I deduced would be baby-friendly and relaxing, which was the name of the game on this trip. Husband and I have taken some pretty amazing vacations in our day, thanks to (I'll just say it) my obsessive detailed trip planning skills. I should have been a travel agent. I think I have just as much fun planning what we'll do and anticipating the trip as much as being on it. Hmm... that's a problem we'll diagnose another day. Now that Baby S has made us a trio, planning 85 activities a day is not really realistic. Try maybe 1 or 2 if you're lucky. And that's okay. It just meant I had to adjust my thinking and find a destination that would meld a bit of new adventure for us while being mellow at the same time.

Nantucket fit the bill. Aside from lugging a big arse suitcase, taking the subway to JFK for our Jetblue flight was a breeze (Husband had Baby S in a Kelty carrier, so we were good to go). The flight is only 45 minutes, which is my kind of flying. Not my kind of flying? When the captain can't find the runway because the fog is so thick. Thankfully, he found the air strip on his second try. I would have hugged him on the way off the plane if I hadn't still been hyperventilating.

We rented a house at Nashaquisset, a sweet neighborhood just outside of "Town," filled with the prettiest little houses you've ever seen, immaculate yards and white picket fences. So perfect I thought I'd walked onto the set of "The Truman Show." I quickly got past that, however. Our house, despite being decorated by a little ol' lady with a keen eye for plaid, was really pretty perfect. It took a full day for Husband and I to get used to all our space, not to mention the king size bed (if you put a king size in our room in NYC, our floor would disappear). The rental office was good enough to lend us a pack-n-play for Baby S, and we rented a few other particulars for her (exersaucer, stroller, baby pool) from Petite Travelers, which worked our very well.

What can I say... Nantucket is beautiful. There is a raw beauty in its natural landscape, and Nantucket Town, filled with cobblestone streets, historic homes and pretty fantastic shopping, is about as quaint and cute as it gets.

Here are my quick recs/highlights:
Black Eyed Susan's (we ate breakfast there twice... delish)
The Downy Flake (homemade donuts, friendly "local" restaurant)
Nantucket Pharmacy (old fashioned lunch counter on Main St... we stopped in for milkshakes)
The Whaling Museum (I admit I missed most of this museum as Baby S was being cranky, but I did enjoy the gift shop :)
Children's Beach (the perfect spot for Baby S' first time in the sand)
Cisco Brewery (my pick: the Grey Lady)
'Sconset & Madaket "towns" (worth checking out for the gorgeous homes and the famed sunset on Madaket, which we unfortunately didn't get to see because of crummy evening weather on the day we rented a car... next time?)

We had access to a pool at Nashaquisset, so spent a couple days there as well. Actually, being that we were on the island right before the "high" season, we felt almost like we had the place to ourselves. I think it would have been a different experience if we'd had to fight crowds walking down Main Street, instead of taking it at a leisurely pace. Black Eyed Susan's might not have been quite as good if we'd had to wait in line to get in.

Nevertheless, Nantucket is a special place, there's no question about it. There were lots of 'firsts' for Baby S: first dip in the Atlantic and splash in a swimming pool, first museum visit & seeing bubbles blown. We'll always remember it (we have the first-time parent photos & videos to prove it, of course). While I wouldn't say we came home especially relaxed (having a baby does change a few things), being together - all day, every day - as a family was really pretty special. Having breakfast on our porch and sipping Prosecco in the afternoon wasn't bad, either.

Ahh, vacation. How I love thee. Now, must resist the urge to wear seersucker and Vineyard Vines when I go back to work on Tuesday...

about

I always wanted to live in New York City. When I was 5, Barbie's townhouse (complete with elevator) was located in Manhattan. Where the adoration first began, I'm not sure. Perhaps it was a love of old musicals -- most set under the twinkly lights of NYC -- that I shared with my father or my aversion to playing outside and breaking a sweat. Either way, I was NYC-bound from the get go. Raised on a small, rural island just outside of Charleston, SC, I really just moved from one island to another... except they couldn't be more different!

Ten + years later, with various jobs & experiences under my belt, I'm still living my dream of Small Town Girl in The Big Apple. I will say that in the dream my apartment was a lot bigger. Ultimately, though, that's neither here nor there. I may wince at trash on the street or mutter about lack of kitchen space, but I continue to have *I love New York* moments on an almost daily basis, and for that I'm immensely grateful.

Joining me in this urban adventure are Husband -- a lucky man, let me tell you -- and our two little gals, Toddler S and Baby Sister, who are sweet and adorable and perfect, even when they're crying (well, maybe not quite in that particular moment...) But like any parent will tell you, we honestly don't remember what life was like before they came along. I began blogging about a month before my first daughter was born (October 2009), and I am thankful for the creative outlet this little piece of the Internet provides. I write about navigating this city with children in tow (still learning!), NYC kid-related happenings, store/restaurant/product reviews & general musings on Motherhood (you'll all agree it deserves a capital "M", no?)

Check out Big Apple Books and you'll find me reviewing children's literature based in NYC. The goal is to review every book (the famous & the undiscovered) that's set within the 5 boroughs. If you have a suggestion of a book you'd like featured, please send me a note.

You can also find me contributing to TimeOut KidsMommybites and offering my 2 cents as a panelist on Momversation.


A few of my favorite posts:

A Blog Prologue
Daddy Day Care
Reflections


Welcome!
Ellen

the 3 day

I love the three day holiday weekend in NYC. In most cases, the city empties out, leaving the streets clear, the stores easy to navigate and restaurants more than willing to accomodate your party. While the Hamptons or Catskills might be fun for a long weekend, we're perfectly happy to stay put and enjoy the city. Gaining back a bit of your personal space (and being able to stretch your arms in a restaurant without fear of knocking over your neighbor's drink), if only for 3 days, is kind of refreshing.

On Saturday, we trekked up to Central Park for a birthday party. Kasper, Baby S' little friend & future prom date, turned a year old, so we celebrated with his parents & friends at a picnic by Turtle Pond. What originally looked murky turned out to be a gorgeous day. We got a chance to try out our "new" Kelty carrier (given to us by a friend) - and of course by "we," I mean Husband. It will be a great way to carry Baby S during all that hiking we do every year... ummm.... And back in the real world, we plan to use it on vacation, in addition to longer subway rides where hauling a stroller up & down stairs is less than appealing. Is it ever?

Sunday we had brunch with friends at French Roast in the village. A quick shout out to the wait staff there... they were so cute to Baby S, stopping by often to wave & smile at her. We easily got in with her stroller and, due to the absentee Memorial Day crowd, there was quite a bit of arm-stretching going on.

Afterwards, we headed over to Buy Buy Baby, where, even on a holiday weekend, it is always crowded. ALWAYS. We'd been discussing buying Baby S an umbrella stroller, and after reading countless reviews, I'd narrowed it down to the Maclaren Triumph and Baby Jogger City Mini. Since you're practically given a Maclaren along with parenthood in this town, I figured it would be a good choice. But I have to admit, with the recall last year, it's now the first thing I think of when I see one coming at me on the sidewalk. Maclaren now includes hinge covers with all their strollers, so clearly it's just my issue. Nevertheless, we settled on an orange & gray City Mini and are enjoying using it so far. It's fairly lightweight, reclines with ease, collapses with one hand and takes potholes pretty smoothly (not Bugaboo-smooth, but then again, the City Mini is considerably cheaper). So far, so good.

All in all, our 3 day was pretty near perfect. It was a time to walk the city and remember what it is that keeps us here. And lest I forget, a time to reflect on those brave men & women serving in the armed forces, and those that have given their lives for the freedom we so often take for granted.

review: the flexibath

Hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! We had a great one; details to come on that (please try and contain your excitement...)

Baby S has grown overnight and we've tearfully said goodbye to her very first baby "lounge chair" bath seat and fold-up tub. Thus, it was time to step up our game in the bath tub arena. I first wrote about the Flexibath here and I have been waiting with baited breath patiently for it to arrive in US stores ever since (it's manufactured in Denmark). The collapsible bath tub animation on their website drew me in, and I have to say I've watched it oh, at least a dozen times since first reading this review. For starters (and the main reason for purchase), it's a major space saver. Once folded, the tub fits easily into our "hall" closet. Vestibule? Anyway, like most New Yorkers, space-saving items are key in our current apartment.

Having actually used the tub now, here are my initial thoughts: it's super easy to fold in & out, looks uniform & modern (nothing against those giant blue whale-replica tubs, but good grief) and the best thing about it- Baby S loves it! Girlfriend also loves soaking mummy with water, but this comes with the territory.

** One major thing to note: I really wish they had put treads on the bottom of the tub. It would have been easy to do. Baby S has the tendency to scoot around pretty easily as she is splashing me with water and chewing on Sophie. I've found that if I don't fill the water as high, this is less likely to happen. So obviously this goes without saying, but for all tubs of every make, color, nationality & creed- keep a hold of your Little One while he/she is in there splashing away. All in all, though, definitely happy with the purchase, and not just for the strangely mesmerizing animation on their website.

If you are interested in purchasing, I found the Flexibath at Brooklyn's own My Strollers. From Denmark to Brooklyn. Go figure.

a mother's day rookie

I chose not to post on Mother's Day, precisely because I wanted to limit my computer time and spend it with the people who, well, made me a mother in the first place. Deserving of that praise is, of course, the one-and-only Husband and pretty darn cute Baby S. I can say that, right? My first Mother's Day was a pretty relaxing and near-perfect one, with flowers and chocolate croissants making an appearance, zero poopy diapers changed (Husband took over on that one), and the music of my choice played in the background. We talked to our own mothers and wished them a happy day, a bit more in earnest this year, now that we've joined them in the ranks of Parenthood.

We strolled over for a yummy brunch at Moran's, and, well thought out on their part, they put us in a room with all the other families with young children. Thus, we didn't bat an eye when spoons went flying off tables (new Baby S game... picking up anything within reach and flinging it as far as her little arm can swing) or with the sound of glass breaking behind us. We only cringed and felt relief that it wasn't our kid who'd just dumped over a perfectly good bloody mary.

Later in the day, there was a replaying of Baby S delivery videos (taken with our handy dandy Flip Mino camera - you're welcome for the free publicity, Flip!). Quite frankly, I don't look at them as adoringly as Husband does. I feel sort of guilty about this. Unfortunately, when I think of Baby S' appearance into the world, all that comes to mind is PAIN. PAIN. PAIN. PAIN. Intense PAIN. I would love to be one of those mothers who talks about what a beautiful experience childbirth is... but I'm just not there yet. Ask me again in a year when Childbearing Amnesia has set in and I begin to consider Baby S 2.0.

Until then, as we periodically tune in to the arrival of one pretty darn cute Baby S, I will enjoy watching Husband tear up as he sees her grab his finger for the first time. And I will know, every time I look at her, what it's like to be the mom celebrated on Mother's Day.
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