August 13, 2014

10 Reasons to Visit the Lower East Side

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{ } Café Katja – Their Emmentaler Sausage dish is accompanied by savoy cabbage and quark dumplings.  I felt certain I wouldn’t have room for dessert.  To my surprise, it was not only the lightest cheese sausage I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming but I had the stamina to finish dessert too! 

{ } Vanessa’s Dumplings – The space here is probably 4x the size of the average dumpling hole-in-the-wall.  And, it’s packed on a daily basis.  Favorites on my list include the cabbage & pork boiled dumplings, noodles with meat & bean sauce and a side of Shanghai bok choy. 

{ } Ivan Ramen – The much talked about ramen house infiltrates the quiet indie street of Clinton, which is also the home of soon-to-shutter, WD-50.  Hands down, I had the best ramen here with its thick, tasty bowls of dashi, a broth made of seaweed and dried bonito.  You will be tempted to order your bowl “Fully Loaded” giving you an egg, extra pork chashu and two roasted tomatoes.  Do it! 

{ } Malt & Mold – A sweet, tiny tailored shop sits on the quiet end of East Broadway specializing in artisanal beers and well-curated cheeses.  You’ll also find all the accoutrements to complete this nosh-fest, such as pickles, chocolates, cured meats and crackers.  I see fare for the perfect picnic emerging, don’t you? 

{ } The Sweet Life – If you’re looking for a candy shop less nostalgic than Economy Candy and less PR-powered than Dylan’s Candy, head to The Sweet Life.  You’ll find sweets that are organic, treats from 10 European countries, and baking ingredients to make your own recipes at home. 

{ } Spitzer’s Corner – Sit communal-style at long tables and benches at this popular American gastropub. During the summer, the windows open, and it’s some of the most relaxing people-watching you can get on the Lower East Side.  Choose from 40+ beers that go splendidly with their Truffle Mac & Cheese or Kobe Sliders. 

{ } Top Hat – You’ll have fun perusing this tiny trinkets and home goods boutique, if you like trinkets with a modern, global edge.  Scope out the shop’s eclectic collection of textiles, quirky calendars and Japanese washi tape.  They don’t have a website but you can find them at 245 Broome Street, 212-677-4240.

{ } The Tenement Museum – New York’s story of immigration is a fascinating one, and you can begin at this museum to learn about life on the Lower East Side in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Check the schedule for neighborhood walks, tenement building tours and free discussions and screenings at the museum. 

{ } Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream – Pastry extraordinaire, Nick Morgenstern opens his first ice cream shop.  He uses a European ice cream machine to whip up his egg-free {yes egg-free} ice cream.  Burnt Honey Vanilla, Vietnamese Coffee, Black Ass Licorice {not a typo} and Green Tea Pistachio are just some of the flavors that will turn you into that very indecisive person yet. 

{ } Russ & Daughters Café – The fourth generation Russ cousins open up an offshoot of the family business serving up kippered salmon, white sturgeon and matjes herring.  The bar serves up wine, old-fashioned egg creams, Bloody Marys and cucumber soda, which pair well with the artisanal rye bread and potato and onion knishes also on the menu. 

{Photo by Alan Gastelum}

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August 11, 2014

Try This! Flower Potluck

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I recently came across a most beautiful idea that took place last year.  It was the brainchild of Kinfolk Magazine, which celebrates the simplicity of good food and good company seen through gorgeous photography.  The idea was a Flower Potluck, an event they hosted in 22 cities and towns.  A simple meal was provided, while the guests each came bearing bounties of florals, leaves, foliage and flowering branches: freshly picked, store-bought, flower crowns and floral bowties!   At the end, everyone took home a mixture of what everyone had brought.  Imagine going to a party, and being surrounded by beautiful blooms and nature?  I can’t help to think this is such a thoughtful, elegant and sincere way to host a social gathering with family and friends!  Here’s a guide on how to start your own.

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{Photo credits: Brooklyn by Nicole Franzen; Lisbon by Rodrigo Cardosa; Athens, GA by Chrissy Reed & Kristen Bach; Charlotte by Anna Naphtali; Portland, OR by Laura Dart & Parker Fitzgerald; Fukuoka, Japan by Ayaka Noguchi; Istanbul by Dugme Film; Madrid by Monica Bedmar; Bridgewater, VA by Chelsea Diane Photography}

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July 25, 2014

Hello Friday...Bits 'n Bobs

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There was a time when the mention of New York City inspired fear in the hearts of many. And if not fear, then at least caution, where every New Yorker wore their street-smarts like a badge of pride.  Fast forward to now, we've gotten soft!  Can someone explain how Lyft and AirBnB can exist in New York?  Ok, danger lurks in any city or village, and maybe my identity as a 'street-smart New Yorker' is experiencing a bruised ego but would you really get into a car that doesn't comply with the TLC?  

Lyft is a peer-to-peer app, where if you own a car, you can become a Lyft driver and start driving people around.  This makes me feel like I'm hitchiking, as in, getting into any Tom, Dick or Harry's car.  I've seen Criminal Minds, no thanks.  I do not feel safe with anyone who drives around a car with a pink mustache on their car hood as identification.  Proper i.d. on the vehicle all over a TLC taxi at least allows me to text a loved one the taxi hack number should he be driving me to another state against my wishes.  The clincher is the pricing: you pay what you think the ride was worth.  What?!  And what happens if the driver feels short-changed?  He can give the customer a bad rating on the Lyft app who will have a harder time getting pick-ups from Lyft in the future.  Oh yeah? Or the driver can start harassing you in ways you just wished you took the subway instead.

AirBnB isn't any better.  You're either inviting complete strangers into your home or you're walking into an unknown.  I'm not confident I could sleep at night.  Literally.  Even B&Bs are part of an association.  This has been a public safety announcement.  Now, back to your weekend, and bits 'n bobs.  

{ } The best breakfast joints in the South

{ } What a woman’s beauty looks like from 30 different countries.

{ } Socialite Olivia Palermo’s non-wedding dress: sweater, shorts and a tulle skirt.  Fabulous! 

{ } I will keep this for the future. For parents whose kids say they’re bored

{ } A new smoothie for my roster: frozen figs and almond butter! 

{Photo: Sweet music at Italian wine bar, Il Posto Accanto in the East Village}

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July 21, 2014

Kids: 7 very cool rooms

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You rock that head scarf, baby!  Don’t try to climb out of your crib yet.  I’d stay in there, and enjoy that awesome bohemian vibe.  Eschewing bunny posters for vintage art and a seemingly dismantled pendant lamp, I love the cool ease. 

{Photo via thewiegands}

Deco-crush

The dusty rose shaggy pillows give an edge to this otherwise girly room but so do those awesome silver trunks.  Bedside tables are the most interesting, when they’re an unexpected medium that also function and provide a surface. 

{Photo via decocrush}

Handmade-charlotte

A Vermeer painting was the first thing I thought when I saw this room.  The contrast of a dark wall, honey-colored wood and Marimekko’s bright oversized pattern gives it a gorgeous painterly quality.

{Photo via handmadecharlotte}

Hankies

Children’s wall art doesn’t need to be expensive.  A variety of colorful hankies does the trick.  Did you see the display case wardrobe closet?  Beautiful!

{Photo via sfgirlbybay}

Lovely-life

I’ll be taking a cue from this room for Zoe.  It’s never been my habit to lay out clothes for the next day.  I love the idea of having a designated hook in the middle of the wall, and hanging tomorrow’s clothes on it.  What a time saver, not to mention it looks very artistic.

{Photo via lovelylife}

Mokkasin

I love a bold, extrovert wallpaper pattern.  You can get away with it if you keep it to one wall.  The different yet matching bed sets are creative and functional, since they seem to be able to extend as the child grows.

{Photo via mokkasin}

SFGirl

This French Directoire-style bed really says nothing kid-like.  Yet once you festoon it with plush toys and pillows, it immediately becomes approachable.  The entire room has an adult sensibility, and soft touches like the wire wall hanging and flokati rug will make her an envy with all her friends.

{Photo via sfgirlbybay}

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July 9, 2014

#RawBeautyTalks

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Here I am.  No make-up, no filters and no Photoshop.  I’m participating in #rawbeautytalks.  The message: change the beauty conversation and love the raw you.  

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There are a handful of beauty memories that have stuck with me throughout my life.  Years ago, in my 30s, I wasn’t wearing much make-up, and I happened to be in Los Angeles visiting a cousin.  She asked me why I didn’t wear more make-up.  She said, “You live in New York.  How can you not wear make-up?”  In my mind, I thought, she has a point, I need to represent and package myself in a competitive, fast-paced city like NY.  While I had never allowed that statement to sway me, I still do hear her in my head from time to time when I walk out the door fresh-faced. 

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The second memory took place on a hot summer day, and I spotted the hostess in the restaurant I was dining in.  She was tall, model-thin with a gorgeous afro and wasn’t wearing a lick of make-up.  She was very small-chested, braless wearing a colored tank top.  She was a vision of raw, natural beauty.  She owned every ounce of it.  It was a form of sexy confidence I had never seen before, and one I never forgot.  

Do I cover my grays?  Every three weeks.  Do I think the eyelashes on my right eye that I just curled look better than the straight lashes on the left?  Absolutely.  Do I wish I didn’t have chronic eczema?  No, I wish I didn't.  I have no problem walking out of the house with only moisturizer on my skin but there are moments I feel vulnerable and exposed.   

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My husband tells me I look better without make-up.  He’s a sweetheart, and never makes me feel like he’s looking at the wrinkles, uneven skin tone and red splotches that I know I have in spades.  The other person who looks into my eyes without judgement?  My two year old.  It should be said, it should be shouted, Accept meLove me!  I love myself. 

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June 30, 2014

Family day in Dumbo

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Dumbo is one of our favorite destinations in Brooklyn.  We spent the day with another family whose daughter is the same age as Zoe.  With two toddlers, things can unravel very quickly if a plan isn’t in place.  This was our itinerary:

{ } Met at 2pm (after naps)

{ } Took the train to York Avenue

{ } Walked to Front Street where we had 3pm lunch reservations in the outdoor garden of Gran Electrica.  This was key to the success of our excursion.  Have you ever strolled aimlessly looking for a restaurant with a toddler??

{ } Walked to Jane’s Carousel for a ride on the historic spin.

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{ } Headed to Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.  You can wait on line to buy your scoop inside their landmark fireboat house or stand on a shorter line and get your flavors from their outdoor ice cream cart.  We opted for the ice cream cart. 

{ } As you wait in line, there’s a fabulous open-air, covered area that serves beer and wine.  Sit at bistro table and chairs, and enjoy the view of downtown Manhattan and the East River.

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{ } The kids kicked around a ball in the plaza, ran among the dozen bride and grooms taking photos, and played with the locks left on river fences by the married couples.  The dads drank beer and watched the World Cup on the television set up in the outdoor seating area.  

{ } We packed up and headed home at 6pm.  Happy parents, happy toddlers: it was a perfect day.

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June 28, 2014

Fun Goth Portraits

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Nineteenth century portraits, we’ve all seen them: black and white, nobody ever smiling, upright postures and clothes you could analyze for hours.  I found the whimsical, Tim Burton-esque, children’s version at the Hester Street Fair.  So colorful, they avoid being cutesy with their gothic and quirky characteristics, which I love.  Buttons make google-y eyes on original paintings.  Some come in vintage oval frames, others are paintings on wooden plaques.  Both are equally wonderful in starting a wall gallery.  Check out Naughty and Nice on Etsy.

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June 27, 2014

Hello Friday...Bits 'n Bobs

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Happy Friday!  When I was pregnant with Zoe, I began noticing parents congregating and socializing in our grassy courtyard.  They would have large picnic spreads, adults chatting, kids cavorting and having fun.  I felt a little intimidated.  Did I have to make new friends all over again so that Zoe had kids to play with?  I had heard stories of mommy cliques and mommy drama, and I felt like I was entering high school all over again.  I didn’t want to be friends with people I didn’t care for but I also didn’t want Zoe to be friendless.  I was feeling the once familiar pre-pubescent angst.   

This was before I understood that the parents had kids the same ages and they all grew up together.  Now they were a social unit; family and kids moving together in unison through the grades.  I’m happy to report that I’ve met a handful of great moms.  I feel very fortunate.  They’re generous and kind.  It turns out that I have a good rapport with the ones I socialize with and Zoe has made a few first friends.  I realize now that kids or no kids, people gravitate towards other birds of the same feather and of similar comportment.  Note to new moms: Seeing other kids the same age as yours also helps the conversation to start.  I didn’t have to force a square into a circle.  That was a relief. 

I’ve had my share of moms who didn’t want to be my friend though.   We shared a handful of meals with one particular family.  One day, she and her husband were walking towards us in the neighborhood; she splintered off and sent her husband to greet us.  I guess I wasn’t a bird with feathers like hers.  My feelings weren’t hurt!  Off-put but not hurt.  It’s so great not being 14 anymore because I would have been in pieces.  How liberating it is to be older and wiser, and with a to-do list that keeps you so busy that you brush off the people who aren’t friendly to you, and you appreciate the people who are.  And on that note, some bits 'n bobs!

{ } One dad discovers the difference between being a baby in the 1970s versus today.

{ } I learned how to fold a fitted sheet from Martha Stewart. Here’s another helpful video

{ } 30 commonly mispronounced food names.

{ } Jamie Oliver’s 3 tricks for poached eggs.

{ } Overcome shyness, and turn strangers into connections.

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June 24, 2014

The Best Little Flea Market Guide

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Hand to heart, I found the best little book in the world.  I promise!  Do you love flea markets?  And when you travel, do you research whether there are any antique malls nearby?  {Hello, friend!}  Then you must pick up Pamela Keech’s The Best Flea, Antique, Vintage, and New-Style Markets in America.  She hand-picks the best of the must-see markets spanning from the East Coast to the West.  

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If you’ve ever done a keyword search such as, “antique malls XXState/City/TownXX,” then you know the hodge-podge of information you need to sort through, and that forming an itinerary is painstaking.  Pamela not only gives you an essential organized list of 20 locales across the country but provides advice on what time to arrive, where to park, where to eat and strategies on how to tackle certain overwhelming markets. 

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Here are a few highlights: 

{ } Pamela breaks down how to cover Brimfield (Massachusetts) in a day-by-day itinerary.

{ } In Philadelphia, there's a market which leapfrogs around town intertwining itself with bake sales, neighborhood BBQs and art openings.

{ } There’s an 824-mile yard sale on the oldest highway in America stretching from Maryland to Missouri.

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She goes on to cover other states including North Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, California and Washington.  Even if you never hit any of these spots in person, a great armchair adventure is to be had!  One other characteristic about her book is that it’s heavy in content, and small in stature.  This tiny little tome is a charming guide with an insider's feel throughout.  It is definitely worthy of your bookshelf.

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{Photo credits: all photos by Pamela Keech; book cover photo by Annie Schlechter}

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June 20, 2014

Hello Friday...Bits 'n Bobs

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Happy Friday!  Here’s a quote I read today, “Fashion is what you buy.  Style is what you do with it.” I’ve believed this ever since I was old enough to earn my own money at 14, and something I still feel to the core.  I’m not being a drama queen.  Materialism is a black hole in our society, and you can suffocate in it every single day.  Name brand does not automactically equal style.  However, I’m a girl, and it doesn’t mean I’m not fond of seeing what Stella McCartney or Chloé have done lately.  For the record, this is what I admit to owning:  a Marc Jacobs wallet from 10 years ago that I still use everyday; and a purple Prada wallet from an outlet mall that I’ve never used, probably because its so pretty and clean, and I want to keep it that way.

Fashion tells you what you should wear but style is editing that notion, which says, “This is how I will wear your fashion!”  Remember Sharon Stone when she wore Gap {twice!} paired with a designer piece to the Oscars?  It was the shot heard around the world.  I LOVE watching the pre-Oscar shows on the red carpet.  The gowns are beautiful, but it’s less about their great taste, and more about the talent of the designer for drape and silhouette.  

In my book, style outweighs fashion any day.  If you can mix low, mid, high-priced items all over your body, straight out of your closet at one time, then you have an impeccable eye for style.  Kate Moss and the Olsen twins are three, who mix vintage and highbrow, and do it so effortlessly. 

I think it's high-time I pull out the Prada wallet, and pair it with baggy boyfriend jeans from Levis and a vintage cropped leather jacket.  Some bits ‘n bobs for you!

{ } Seriously, how can Cindy Crawford’s daughter look EXACTLY like her?  By the way, her son has awesome flair!

{ } The perfect picnic sandwich with a twist.

{ } 10 decorating mistakes that you can avoid.

{ } Interesting glimpse into Charles Dickens’ personal life, and the mistress he abandoned his family for.

{ } Hurray!  The 2-year-old ate this whole spinach burger.

{photo: a cookie for Zoe’s 2-year-old birthday party by Nikkiikkin}

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