a mighty wind

Note to self: if there's one thing you can't control, it's the weather.  Our decision to have an outdoor birthday party for Baby S had more to do with lack of apartment space than my love for the great outdoors (this is kind of funny coming from someone who also had an outdoor wedding.... but I digress).  Husband & I picked out a new local park for the location -- complete with carousel! -- and hoped for the best.  And we did get lucky on several fronts... the day was sunny & bright.  It was October brisk, but not too chilly to be outdoors.  And, it did not rain (a small victory in itself).  

One little thing I didn't take into consideration: wind.  I'm talking the kind of wind that blew in Mary Poppins and blew away all those other nannies.  The kind of blustery madness that sends anything not nailed down by a cute little mini-pumpkin flying into the great blue yonder.  So, while our AMAZING group of friends showed up to celebrate the first year of Baby S, I couldn't help being a bit bummed that the weather was less than perfect.  This might indeed come from my "disease-to-please" impulse, but there you have it.

I must share a few birthday shout outs... to Livi Stitches, who created Baby S' birthday outfit.  Jennifer, the designer behind this Etsy shop, was just amazing.  I love the outfit I chose (it's actually the main one featured on her website in a long-sleeved version, worn by little Olivia in the photo).  The best thing about it?  Baby S will be able to wear the pants for a while, as the cuff is adjustable.  I was super happy about the way it turned out.

... to my friend Suzanne, who shipped me orange & pink (my theme colors) M&Ms from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as I had no time beforehand to visit Dylan's or (God forbid) the M&M store in Times Square.  She is also the person that sent me the apple "crack" dip I'll be sharing at the end of this post.

... to Cassandra, the fab stationery goddess, at PixieChicago, who sent me sample birthday thank you notes in sync with my Paperless Post invitation.  How she whipped them up so fast, I'll never know.  She has an adorable array of notecards and invitations on her website, and as result of our electronic "meet cute" on Twitter, she's giving my readers $5 OFF (coupon code: ENVY5OFF) on a PixieChicago purchase before December 1st.  Hellooo holiday cards!  Although being a NYC gal, I'm sort of in love with this notepad set.  For the kiddies in the house, this building block personalized card set is beyond adorable.  Love this site!

NOTE: Despite braving the elements, a good time was still had by all, and we were so happy to get to celebrate with friends.  Baby S was pretty psyched to be the center of attention, too.  Also wind = tousled/model-like hair.

Apple "crack" dip served at par-tay:
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 bar of softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar

Mix with beater until smooth.  Before serving add bag Heath bar toffee bits (I couldn't find these anywhere... bought Werther's Originals instead, unwrapped and put in plastic bag then smashed into bits with meat tenderizer -- a good way to get out any pent up frustration, I might add).

Serve with apple slices and/ or strawberries.

And speaking of sugar overdose, Happy Halloween weekend!!  A report on my little bunny's first legit Halloween coming next week...

fruits & veggies for kids of all ages

I am excited to feature a guest post today by the lovely Carolyn Lenske of Girl with Spoon, whose blog began as a way to record her experiments in the kitchen. Her combination of simple, seasonal recipes and cooking technique quickly struck a cord with food-lovers who yearn for healthy meals that are easy enough for a weeknight dinner and delicious enough for a special occasion.

Getting kids to eat veggies can be a challenge. Children have sensitive palates, and I remember how some foods that I now love, like green peppers and Brussels spouts, tasted completely inedible when I was small. That being said, vegetables are inarguably good for us, and encouraging children to eat them and try new foods is a big challenge for a lot of parents. The following are five recipes for easy veggie (and a fruit) dishes that are mild and flavorful, and may just become your next favorite family sides. Enjoy!

BREAKFAST CARROTS
These carrots will change your mind about cooked carrots, which I never liked as a kid. They’re sweet, nutty, and firm in texture, and they taste like Sunday morning waffles. You can use carrot sticks or circular slices cut from whole carrots, or you can buy packaged baby carrots.

For each child-sized serving, you will need:
- 1 six inch long carrot, peeled and cut in half length-wise, and then in half again, until you have sticks that are about 1/2 inch wide.
- 1-2 teaspoons of butter (or olive oil, if you are dairy-free)
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/2-1 teaspoon maple syrup (or brown sugar, agave nectar, honey, or whatever you have on hand)
- Kosher salt

Directions:
In a sauté pan with a lid (can be non-stick or regular), heat the butter, 2 tablespoons of water, and carrots over medium high heat. When you hear the butter start to sizzle (within a minute) shake the pan to gently move the carrots and distribute the butter. Reduce heat to medium low and put the lid on. Cook for 5 minutes or until you get a rich, golden brown color on one side. Flip the carrots (to get even color on both sides) and add another tablespoon of water. Cook for another 2 minutes or so, then add the maple syrup. Shake the pan to mix the butter and syrup together and sprinkle with a small pinch of kosher salt. When serving, pour the pan juices over the carrots.

PURPLE MASHED POTATOES
Mashed potatoes are easy, comforting, and go with everything. You can use this recipe for regular white or red potatoes as well, but the bright ultraviolet color of these little purple spuds (available at most farmers markets I’ve been to recently, and also a lot of grocery stores) makes them really fun. They are much higher in antioxidants than lighter-fleshed potatoes, though their flavor is the same. They take very well to steaming, which, unlike boiling, preserves the nutrients, and their skins are thin and delicate enough to leave on when you mash (again, more vitamins).

For each child, you will need:
- 4 or 5 2-3” long potatoes per hungry child, which makes about a cup of mash
- 2 tablespoons milk, cream, or milk substitute of your choice
- 1 teaspoon butter, olive oil, or other fat
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:
Scrub your potatoes under running water with a soft vegetable brush. Place a steamer basket in a large sauce or sauté pan with a lid. Fill the pan with water up to the bottom of the steamer basket. Place the potatoes in the basket, place over high heat, and put the lid on. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are soft all the way through and give easily when pierced with a sharp knife.

In a mixing bowl, crush the potatoes by hand with a potato masher (or fork) until they are the texture of cooked oatmeal. Add the butter, cream, and salt, and mash until smooth. If you cook the potatoes through, they will be light and fluffy, without a lump in sight.

Extra: You can also turn these whole, steamed baby potatoes into mini “baked” potatoes. Simply split them open and add your favorite toppings. I like cheddar cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Plain yogurt, ranch dressing, and warm chili are delicious, too.

FROZEN PEAS
There is nothing simpler than pouring a handful of frozen peas into a small dish for a quick, healthy snack. It may sound strange, but they are sweet, cold, and crunchy, like little drops of ice cream. My mom used to give them to my brother and me when we whined about being hungry and dinner wasn’t quite ready.

BROCCOLI ALFREDO
Who doesn’t love alfredo sauce? Besides tasting heavenly, it’s gluten-free, and a small drizzle can take a simple steamed vegetable to another realm. Note that you can use any kind of melting cheese here. The classic is a hard Italian-style cheese like parmesan, but if you think your child would prefer a mild cheddar or Swiss, use that instead. You can mix the Broccoli Alfredo with pasta for a complete meal.

For 2-3 servings, you will need:
- 1 small head of broccoli
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan, cheddar, or Swiss
- Black pepper
- Nutmeg, optional (Great if using parmesan or Swiss cheese. If using cheddar, try a pinch of paprika or chili powder.)
- 1 clove of garlic, optional, left whole and crushed slightly with the side of a large knife or the bottom of a drinking glass, optional.

Directions:
Trim your head of broccoli into large florets (trees!). Peel the stalk with a vegetable peeler, trim off the end, and cut into 3/4-inch circles.  Place a steamer basket in a large sauce or sauté pan with a lid. Fill the pan with water up to the bottom of the steamer basket, place the pan over high heat, and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, place the broccoli in the basket, put the lid on, and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the stalks are tender when pierced with a knife, but the florets are still vividly green. Immediately remove the lid and take the pan off the heat. (If you won’t be using it right away, run the broccoli under cool water in a colander to stop the cooking and preserve the color. Then reheat in the microwave or in frying pan when you’re ready to serve.) I like my broccoli fully cooked, rather than al dente, but if you prefer crunchier “trees,” test with a knife after 3-4 minutes of steaming.

While the broccoli is steaming, heat the cream, butter, nutmeg, pepper, and garlic, in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until it starts to simmer, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the cheese until it is fully melted into the cream mixture. Simmer for another minute for about 1/2 cup of cream sauce. (The longer you simmer the sauce, the more it will reduce. As it becomes thicker and creamier, it loses volume. How thick you want your sauce is completely up to you.) Remove the clove of garlic. Pour the sauce over the broccoli and serve immediately.

APPLE CIDER APPLES
Though I don’t yet have kids of my own, I have babysat for many children over the last ten years, and not one apple-loving kid has ever refused my apple slices with cinnamon and honey. You don’t need a lot of honey (or if you prefer, a low glycemic syrup like agave nectar). There’s just something about the way the syrup coats the apples that brings out the richness of their flavor. Coupled with a light sprinkle of cinnamon, it’s like apple cider on a plate. Also, these apple slices don’t seen to oxidize as quickly, which makes them a great lunch bag treat.

You will need:
- Crisp apples, cut into slices with core removed
- Honey or agave nectar
- Cinnamon

Directions:
Arrange apple slices on a serving plate. Drizzle with honey and very lightly sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon from between your fingers.


Hop on over to Girl with Spoon and check out more of Carolyn's amazing recipes!

big apple books

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Baby S received the sequel to this book (Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity) and a Knuffle Bunny stuffed animal from a friend of ours when she was born.  Now that she's older, Baby S has become more interested in her stuffed animal, and I've become more intrigued by the now famous bunny from Brooklyn.  

The illustrations truly set this book apart.  Sepia tone photographs of classic Brooklyn brownstones and parks provide the backdrop while in color animated characters grab your attention.  The characters in question are Daddy, toddler Trixie and, of course, her sidekick stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny.  On the way back from the laundromat, Trixie discovers she's lost someone very important along the way.  Unfortunately, her non-verbal status makes figuring that out quite difficult for Daddy, until they get home and Mommy immediately knows what's wrong (We moms are an intuitive breed).  After Daddy runs back to the laundromat to retrieve said missing important object, Trixie excitedly speaks her very first words: Knuffle Bunny!

As we continue to try and translate the official language of Baby S (it goes something like this: "akwagadooleeguwaaa" means "feed me more carrots"), I can fully appreciate Daddy's frustration at not understanding Trixie.  I can also understand the elation of doing something that makes Baby S smile and clap her hands.  Combine that with the local setting of Brooklyn and you have a children's book series that's here to stay.

"family day" at tribeca gallery

Baby S turned One this week and I am, quite frankly, still suffering from the shock.  We're hosting a little party for her tomorrow at a neighborhood park and keeping our fingers crossed that the weather cooperates (read between the lines: 20+ adults, strollers & kids in our apartment would not be a pretty sight).  While I continue to grapple with the enormity that is my sweet baby girl at 12 months -- next step, college! -- I wanted to let my NYC readers in on a cool event happening at a friend's gallery tomorrow.

R 20th Century is hosting their first ever "Family Day" to celebrate "Renate Müller: Toys + Design."  The extraordinary German designer was a pioneer in the design of toys for therapeutic play. The details that distinguish her therapeutic toys make them ideal for any child: they are made entirely with natural materials whose different textures engage children in sensory-motor integration; the simple forms encourage imaginative play; the handles, child-sized scale and sturdiness promote balance and coordination.

As Müller wrote, “playing with high-quality toys is a wonderful way of encouraging children to explore and discover the world, to gain confidence in themselves and in their abilities and to develop their social skills.”

The exhibition will run through January 4th, 2011.  We'll unfortunately miss Family Day tomorrow due to the Baby S Birthday Bonanza, but I'm looking forward to checking out the exhibit this fall/winter season.  Perhaps combined with a brunch at family-friendly Bubby's?

R 20th Century
RENATE MULLER: TOYS+DESIGN
October 13, 2010 – January 4, 2011

82 Franklin St.
212.343.7979

review: gloga at moomah

On a bright Saturday morning a few weekends ago, Baby S & I headed down to Tribeca for gloga at MoomahWhatsthatyousay?  Sure, I was a little hazy as the class began at 8:45am, but yes, you did read that correctly.  Gloga = glow in the dark yoga.  And Moomah is the carefree & creative arts cafe for kids, otherwise known as Best Playspace by New York Magazine.

Quick sidebar: the accolades don't stop there.  The NY Times also declared it has some of the best coffee in Manhattan & Brooklyn.  You can read more about that here.  And believe me when I say caffeine is essential for early morning yoga.

Moomah has a relaxing & comfortable vibe, thanks to the space's cool color palette (no primary colors in sight- hurrah!) and vintage aesthetic.  In fact, if Moomah's founder, Tracey Stewart (married to The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, incidentally) would like to come and re-decorate my apartment with the same feel of Moomah, I'd be more than happy to oblige.  Maybe it was the fact that the place wasn't overrun by kids that early in the morning, but it appears to be the perfect spot to enjoy some breakfast (or lunch) while your kiddo completes an artistic masterpiece.  Projects available for purchase range from "design your own tote (bag)" to creating fabric jewelry, placemats and shadow boxes.  Moomah's classes also run the gamut, from a focus on "arts & nature" to the "Everyone Gets a Song" workshop, which I hear is a popular one.  I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it appears to be a one stop shop for tapping in to your child's creative self.

As Baby S isn't doing a whole lot of arts & crafts these days (we're still working on that whole walking thing) this is primarily a look at Moomah's Gloga class.  I joined two other moms & their babies (all within a couple months of Baby S) in the "Funky Forest" at the back of Moomah.  Taught by the lovely and limber Juliana Secches from Karma Kids, we turned the lights down low and let the babies crawl around while we practiced a few positions.  Baby S was pretty amazed at how her shirt lit up in the dark (wearing white is encouraged) as well as the various toys around her.  I was somewhat amazed that she seemed so comfortable in the dark, too.  We also did a few different exercises that incorporated the babies, and I can tell you that thanks to my little chunk, I am well on my way to Michelle Obama arms (for example: a "Ring Around The Rosy" game that incorporated lunges while walking around in a circle).  Glow in the dark bubbles were a fun way to cap off the hour.

Side note: If you are new to yoga, this might actually be a good way to begin.  The class isn't intense, but more a chance to get in some good stretching and have some baby bonding at the same time.

Second side note: If you can call a bathroom "rather lovely," that would be Moomah's.  The changing table is plush and they offer complimentary wipes and diapers.  

Moomah Mommy & Baby Gloga (6 weeks to new walkers)
Price:
$375/semester, $30/drop-in
Schedule
Thursdays: 11:45am – 12:45pm
Saturdays: 8:45am – 9:45am

fall, how i love thee

My favorite season is upon us. Finally, after the humidity-filled and sticky days of summer, fall is here. With crisp weather comes a chance to wipe the dust off my favorite leather boots. To wear layers that cover up (cough!) certain areas that (cough!) desperately need covering up. To see my hair actually lay flat and cooperate. To order a caramel apple cider from Starbucks... and I don't even like Starbucks. To order the yummy goodness that is the chicken pot pie at The Half King. To watch the tree across the street from us change slowly into colors of yellow and burnt orange. I could go on. And on. There is something romantic and so very classic about New York City this time of year.

Now to kill the warm fuzzy. Colder temperatures also mean the arrival of runny noses, fevers, an ever-present humidifer and a generally cranky Baby S. And don't even attempt to wipe the snot off her face. Such is the case for the last couple weeks, anyway. There is honestly nothing worse than seeing your child miserable and realizing there really isn't much you can do for her. I may do a cartwheel on the day she learns to blow her nose... but in the immediate future, I hope she is over the first cold of the season before her FIRST birthday on Wednesday. If she cries as she eats cake for the first time, I may start crying, too.

With that said, yes, I will continue to invest in tissues and Boogie Wipes this autumn/winter season. I will keep the humidier running and the nasal aspirator within sight. But in the spirit of keeping all things in perspective, I will also take delight in seeing Baby S play with leaves for the first time, in dressing her up for Halloween, in hugging her extra tight to keep her warm. And at Thanksgiving, I will be thankful that despite a season of colds, I have an otherwise happy and healthy child.

Have a great weekend!

review: freckleface strawberry

Last week, I attended a preview show of the new off-Broadway musical Freckleface Strawberry, based on the New York Times Best Selling children's book by actress Julianne Moore. I had never been to a show at the New World Stages, and was pretty impressed by the performance space on its own ($4 sangria for parents before the show, I'm just sayin').

While the musical is obviously geared towards children, I have to say I really enjoyed myself. In a nutshell, "Strawberry," played with gusto by Hayley Podschun, is covered in freckles and not at all happy about it. In fact, she's constantly teased (albeit affectionately) by her friends as a result. She longs to look like "Ballet Girl," seemingly perfect with fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes. In perhaps my favorite scene of the show, the group of friends sing about how, unbeknownst to each other, they'd all like to be like someone else. You know how it goes... the jock wants to be like the smart guy, the shy girl dreams about being Miss Popular, the cheerleader secretly hopes to be class treasurer.

The running theme of Freckleface Strawberry is a simple yet important one: being comfortable in your own skin (freckled or not). Loving yourself. Embracing what it is that makes you, uniquely... YOU. In the middle of a crowded theater, I found myself thinking of my own middle and high school experience, of the numerous "cool" kids that I wished at the time I could have been like (sufficed to say, I was not Ballet Girl or Miss Popular). Our "tween" and teenage years are so very important in forming who we become as adults, that it's a shame I wasted any length of time being envious of anyone, really. Who knew a show for kids would make me so reflective?

Freckleface delivers the message of being true to oneself in a fun and lighthearted fashion, one that I hope every child in the audience will bring home with them. On top of which, the songs are catchy, the actors are energetic and engaging and the stage design was bright and cheerful. I truly enjoyed myself and I think this would be a great activity for families with school-age children. Enjoy!

Performance schedule:
Beginning October 6
Wed at 2pm & 7pm; Thu & Fri at 7pm;
Sat at 11am, 2pm, & 4:30pm; Sun at noon and 3pm
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