Tuesday, January 28, 2014

NYC favorites

As thousands descend upon NYC this weekend, with their newly emptied pockets and puffy coats, I can't mock their willingness. Sometimes, it's just worth it. 
NY was the coldest city in America the weekend we were engaged, 11 years ago this week. Warmed by our flaming hot romance and fueled by our first visit together, I ran him all over we ran around my favorite city.
Luckily for us, because of the bitter cold temps, we had the bridge to ourselves for the fateful moment he asked me to marry him. It's nice to relive the moment every time this place pops up in films and photos, The Plaza Hotel, where we stayed, in the background.
Isn't new love grand? Now, he'd never walk around, freezing and I'd never agree to spend as much on a hotel room.

While I appreciate the iconic NY moments to be had atop the Empire State Building and standing in the incomparable, Times Square, I generally avoid touristy spots in favor of a more "local" experience when I visit. I love that every day things feel extraordinary when done in NYC and I enjoy being amidst locals, treating public spaces as an extension of their living rooms.
Sometimes a line out the door means more than just "this place is on screen"; it's simply, the best. Conversely, there's so much to uncover, every visit feels like a search for hidden gems.

Here are some of my favorite ways to experience NYC.
A NY bagel (no toasting, that's insulting. perfectly crisp on the outside & chewy inside):
Arguably, one of the best is, Ess A Bagel, 831 3rd Ave Midtown
I order whole wheat everything with scallion cream cheese
ess a bagel | photo: detailgalblog.com

If ice skating tops your list, consider Trump's rink in Central Park, since it's typically less crowded than Rockefeller center & about half the price-CASH ONLY.

Avoid the wait for frozen hot chocolate at Seredipity3, and warm up with Hot Chocolate at City Bakery:
City Bakery Hot Chocolate | Photo: gothamist.com

Dodge the cronut & cupcake cults, for a chocolate chip walnut cookie at Levain Bakery . If you fell for NYC while watching Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks fall in love, than nothing feels more "NY" than a walk in the UWS, along Columbus or Amsterdam, and shopping at Zabars on Broadway.
Levain Bakery chocolate chip walnut cookie | Photo: foodspotting.com
I like to stay outside of Midtown, just a few stops on the Metro away. This way I can enjoy the touristy excitement in Midtown, but leave it all in favor of a more neighborhood-y experience. Chelsea is great in the warm months for walking to the Market and the High Line (more on this area here), and it's an easy Metro ride up to Times Square or down to the village. Recently, we stayed in the Murray Hill neighborhood, at The Roger, with a rooftop terrace & a view of the Empire State Building.
the roger hotel nyc | photo: detailgalblog.com
The lobby is chic, the rooms are tiny but well-designed, with everything you need for sleep & a shower (just bring your own ____ , because they charge extra for pretty much everything but the bed & faucet. Thumbs way down for that, folks.) Since we drive in from upstate, staying outside of Midtown on weekends means we can find street parking, for FREE! Woot! Woot!

In this neighborhood, you can take your morning jog in Madison Square Park.

Head left from the front doors of the hotel for good coffee at Perk Kafe, 162 E 37th just before you hit Madison Square Park.
perk kafe murray hill | photo: detailgalblog.com
If you head up Madison, you won't be able to resist a walk through the doors at Olde Good Things on Madison & 32nd.
olde good things: ogtstore.com
Also in Murray Hill:
Try Penelope for comforting brunch.
And Dry Bar before your big night out. Seriously, no matter where you're staying, get on your smartphone & book yourself a blowout at Dry Bar, whichever location is available. It's simply the most feminine experience; I'm hooked!

More NYC favorites: 

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Friday, January 24, 2014

to be a grown up when she grows up

We have a family tradition of interviewing the kids on New Years Eve. A video is my favorite, but a written form is a great way to document their handwriting & [mis]spellings at certain ages.
Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Lilah: A teenager
She's been intrigued by all things grown-up as soon as she discerned a difference in privileges. God, I remember being that way. The late night snacks & grown-up movies, the drive wherever, buy whatever, never-miss-a-thing-with-no-bedtime bliss that was adulthood from my young girl's perspective. Then there's marriage: an eternal sleepover with your best friend; he calls you beautiful and you make him cookies, signing your names on RSVPs as long as you both shall live. I couldn't get to grown-up status soon enough as a child and my girl seems to be following in those longings. It's a wonder to see these things that spring up naturally, and seem passed genetically, isn't it?! One of my favorite parts of being a parent.

She frequently asks me how old she has to be to:
have her own iPhone, drive, drink coffee, have her own computer, and be a teenager. Whatever I'm doing, even if it's cleaning, organizing, laundry, or the like, she wants to do it too. (Except, of course, when daddy's home and I become practically invisible.) Her competence surprises me-so proactive-putting away the groceries, finishing tasks for me without my asking.
While the baby is napping, we do something we wouldn't do with her around. Today she requested the grown up meal of runny eggs and toast, "like you eat, mama."

She was in her feeling grown-up glory. We made up a song for the meal:
Yummy, yummy
Eggs on toast.
Runny yolk 
's what I like most.
Although 3 is pretty dang cute to watch in videos, 5 is miles more enjoyable.

As I shared earlier this month, I'm getting a bonus time with my 5 year old this Spring semester because she's in PreK just a couple days a week. From the outset, I hoped for it to be treasured and not dreaded-by either of us-and so far, so good.
~
With both girls in "school", for the first time in years, I have six hours weekly to do all the things grown ups can't do with children.
Leave lit candles at arm's reach. Eat my whole breakfast by myself, while it's hot. Read labels at the grocery store. Coffee and live conversation with friends. Lunch dates with my handsome husband, which are the highlight of 2014.
I think I'm going to like this year.

A time for everything...for everything, a season..(Eccl 3) Pin It

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shopping "Clean" (& Cheap) at ALDI


*updated January 2016

You likely know you can shop cheap, but did you know you can shop pretty "clean" at ALDI too?
For example: Grass-fed beef ($6.99/lb), uncured, nitrate-free bacon, hormone-free chicken ($2.99/lb), hormone-free milk & eggs.

Let me back up:
For the couple years that I lived in Virginia, I was nearly only shopping at Trader Joes and I got hooked on the limited, wholesome selection and the small store appeal. As a teenager, my mom brought me to ALDI and I turned my nose up at the lowliness of it all-I mean, I was far to fancy to bag my own groceries! (I still don't love doing that, but my kids do!)
Mom recently informed me that ALDI and Trader Joes were connected-basically brothers formed each, then ALDI acquired TJs (read the back story here) So when a new ALDI popped up across from the beloved, local-favorite, Wegmans, I figured I'd give it a try.

About the same time our family began following a Real Food Diet, meaning reducing the processing & additives in the ingredients of the foods we eat. This can be a very pricey way to eat and we are on a budget. Now, I regularly go to ALDI for 2 main brands: Simply Nature (made without adding over 125 artificial ingredients) & Never Any! (no hormones, no antibiotics, no animal byproducts, no nitrates & minimally processed)
These are the staples I buy regularly:



  • Milk (hormone-free)
  • Eggs (hormone-free)
  • Organic Soymilk, non GMO, unsweetened, vanilla
  • Organic Diced tomatoes ($1.49)
  • Grass-fed beef *NEW* (6.99/lb)
  • Organic, free-range, low sodium Chicken broth, (32oz box $1.79)
  • Organic, uncured, nitrate-free bacon ($5.49)
  • Organic Coconut Oil
  • Organic Spring Mix & Spinach (5oz box $2.49)
  • Simply Nature, Organic Quinoa
  • Hormone-free chicken
  • Turkey sausage (Giannelli, local source)
  • Simply Nature lunch meat (turkey & ham) 
  • Simply Nature frozen berries
  • Pure Maple Syrup, Grade A ($3.99)
  • Steel Cut Oats, Regular & Quick Cook (100% Whole Grain Oats)
  • Nuts! Lowest prices, all varieties 
  • La Croix, carbonated water (*seasonal & quick-to-go) 
  • Bolthouse Fruit & Vegetable smoothies
  • Simply Nature, unsweetened applesauce & applesauce pouches 
  • Fair Trade Coffee K Cups (12 ct $4.99)



  • Produce varies from week to week and store to store.
    We most often buy avocados, Organic bananas & baby carrots and multi-colored bell peppers.
    ALDI has a great selection of tasty goods at a great price. Some of our favorites are:


  • Dried spices
  • Goat cheese
  • Brie cheese
  • Parmesean cheese on the rind
  • Clancy's Pita Chips
  • Little Salad bar hummus (a few additives, but very tasty)
  • Clancy's tortilla chips
  • SavorRitz buttery round crackers (ritz equivalent, not "clean", just yum!)
  • Greek yogurt
  • half & half 
  • whole wheat pasta
  • dark chocolate bars
  • They have an aisle with non-Grocery/seasonal items that's fun to browse for good finds too.

    If you're a first-timer, you need to come prepared in 2 ways that you don't at other grocers.
    1. BYOQuarter if you want to use a cart. You'll get it back at the end, when you return the cart.
    2. BYOBags. & you'll be bagging yourself. Or use one of the boxes you may find around the store, free to use. Bags can be bought there, if you forget. I'm glad I gave it a try. I love that I can get in & out quickly. I appreciate that I can maintain a healthy lifestyle on a budget shopping at ALDI. Give it a try! Are you already a fan? Did I miss a favorite of yours?? Pin It

    Saturday, January 11, 2014

    Packing for Disney | save time & money

    If prepping for a Disney trip is part of the fun for you & saving time & money is your thing, this post is for you! I prefer to do our saving money in the real world before our trip. We pay for the luxury of on-site resort & dining plan and hardly spend much extra while we are in the Disney World.
    This is a list of extras that we bring, but it's not necessary as most everything you need is available for purchase on site. (Except for gum; no gum for purchase at Disney World!)

    Save cash for park-exclusive experiences and items by buying essentials before you leave.
    Chances are you've read about how dollar stores can be a great resource for ponchos and pop-up laundry hampers. This week the $1 spot at Target was screaming: pack it for Disney!
    under $5 grabs for your Disney trip:
    Glow sticks: nightly parades
    Healthy snacks: The Dining Plan offers plenty, but I like to pack nutrient-rich bars like Larabar & Kind bars along with crackers & fruit pouches for the kids.
    Refillable water bottles: water is free in the parks (resorts give you a refillable mug for refills at resorts only & they aren't spill-proof enough for park days)
    Dish soap: washing refillable mugs at the resort
    Stain wipes (& laundry soap, if you're the type)
    Facial wipes
    Baby wipes: small pouches make the load light each day
    First aid: pain reliever, band aids, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment
    Moleskin (for blisters) pre-cut it or pack a small Swiss Army knife in your checked luggage.
    BodyGlide anti-chafing balm
    Ponchos: 1 per person, per park day is safest (at $1 each, toss after use).
    Handheld fan: nice option on hot days or for kid entertainment
    Pop-up hamper: nice option in the tight quarters that are resort rooms
    Retractable Sharpie markers for autographs (many characters have big paws or gloves so the thicker pens are easier to grip)
    Hand Sanitizer
    Sanitizing wipes. Wipe at least the phone & remote in your room. The last thing you want is sickness on vacation.
    *If you're bringing a toddler/baby

    Take-alongs:
    You may want to grab a few things for entertainment during travel.
    Glow wands & disposable cameras are big hits in the parks & cost a pretty penny if you buy them there. Check Target's $1 spot & end cap with under $5 grabs, Dollar Tree & $1 spot at Toys R Us for coloring & activity books, & other small toys with Disney theme (Star Wars & Marvel count for the big boys!). Now don't go nutty on trinkets, just a couple to occupy en route or waiting for shows & rides is enough.



    Disney Apparel:
    It won't take long before your family is wrapped up in Disney spirit & there is no short supply of apparel to buy anywhere you go in the World. It is common for little princesses to wear a costume-to character meals, especially. Collect apparel ahead of time & let your kids show their spirit while not adding to your suitcase or your bill by buying it in the park.
    (Tip: Pack glittery garments in ziptop bags to contain the sparkle.)
    The Disney Store sells quality pjs & swimwear from my experience. JCPenney has a mini-Disney store inside with similar apparel, including costumes (better quality than Target & WalMart).


    costume, nightdress, tee: JCPenney | swimsuit & sunglasses: Disney Store
    all: Disney Store
    Trading Pins are a fun way to interact with castmembers (required to trade) & even other guests. We've purchased a sampling ahead of time online: try Amazon & eBay, but be sure to read reviews & verify they are official pins.
     
    *Don't forget:
    • Bring each person 2 pair of shoes to avoid hotspots. (moleskin or liquid bandage help too)
    • Use Prime Now to have items delivered to bell services at your resort or a local grocery delivery service like Garden Grocer. WDW resorts will accept shipped packages (Prime, UPS, USPS, etc.) but they now charge $5/package. 
    • CASH for TIPS your Magic Express driver ($1 per bag he handles) & Mousekeeping ($1 per person in your room) & ROUND UP, people. Also tips aren't included in the Dining Plan, but can be charged to your room or another card, if preferred. 
    • Autograph books can be purchased at Disney Store ahead of time
    • SUNSCREEN! Sunglasses & sun hat  
    • Space enough for souvenirs either in your luggage or a packable duffle like this one.
    • Bring a cross-body bag (or small backpack) for keeping valuables with you on rides/etc. 

      Check out my complete guide for Disney World with a Baby/Toddler
      (including a packing list, and many tips & tricks)


      MORE IN THE DISNEY WORLD SERIES:




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      Wednesday, January 8, 2014

      Kindergarten or PreK for your 4.9 y/o


      I've run into enough parents that have struggled with this decision and are surprised to learn of the "option" we've taken, so I want to share with you:
      Our Kindergartner has gone back to preschool.
      You may recall from this post, like many parents of 4.9 year-olds, in September, we vacillated between sending her this year or next. We could make a good argument for both sides. Initially our plan was preschool, and last minute it became Kindergarten.
      Kindergarten is not what it was when I went in the 80s at 4. Personally, I had no trouble: went on to AP and Honors courses in high school and my girl is quite a bit like me. We studied the curriculum beforehand and were quite sure she'd reach the benchmarks, even if extra effort was required outside of school. And we were right. Our girl is nothing if not competent and a go-getter. While she'd rather be distributing supplies than working on her own project, her teachers were pleased with her achievements and certain she'd meet the year end standards.

      However, a few red flags were raised as she compared herself to the children that are nearly a year older than she is in her classroom. Her young age on the spectrum seemed to be under-serving her in a few ways that were enough for us to take action.After respectful discussions with her teacher and principal, we made arrangements to pull her from Kindergarten and send her back to preschool for the remainder of the year. Primarily, this decision was made because we are thinking long-term: how her experience will be in advanced years of her education. Which, was our initial reason for not registering her. (insert: sunken shoulders and should've trusted our gut slaps)

      Marvelously, any anxiety we felt regarding how she'd perceive this move was squelched when with no prompting, she asked us if she could go back to preschool. You can imagine our relief! She knows that she's got a special situation being 5, but when she's 6 she'll no longer be able to make a change.

      In case you find yourself in this predicament:
      You may have options. Respectfully, discuss this matter with your child's teacher and principal. In our case, we needed district approval. It was a first for our principal.
      If your gut is telling you that you made the wrong decision, figure out a way to serve your child best. You don't know unless you ask.
      Because our district prohibits retention, that was not an option for us, but it is for many. I, personally know a Kindergartener, who met the benchmarks but struggled significantly enough as a 4.9 year old last year and is now repeating with great success!
      If it is not an option for your family to keep your child in preschool for an additional year, do not fret. Many schools, including ours, have resources available to meet your child's learning needs.
      This decision is a tricky one, with lasting impact. I'm learning to trust my gut, when I can argue both sides.

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      Saturday, January 4, 2014

      Playlist to keep you moving

      So, did you get new sneaks? Renew a commitment to your gym membership? Making green smoothies all week?
      This week, I'm pretty sure the bigger accomplishment was getting 3 kids in winter gear, each with a change of shoes loaded into the van and making the snowy trek to the gym but you can be sure after such effort, I made it worth it on the treadmill.
      You may want to read my post "How NOT TO QUIT Running" which I feel qualified to write because nearly every 1st mile I come up with a reason to quit so I've learned to SET MYSELF UP to KEEP MOVING!
      A new playlist goes a long way.
      I re-created mine in Spotify so that you can give it a try.
      This playlist is organized from warm up to cool down. Between the first couple & last few they've all got a beat for running.
      I included a song for weights, a song for abs, and for stretching too (end of playlist).

      Songs for Warm up:
      Best Day Of My Life (American Authors)
      Hey Brother (Avicii)
      Song to Bump up your speed:  
      Counting Stars (One Republic)
      Song for when you feel like you're going to quit:  
      Roar (Katy Perry)
      Songs for slowing down/walk:  
      Story of My Life (One Direction)
      Unconditionally (Katy Perry)
      Cool down: Just Give Me A Reason (Pink)
      *Weights: 
      Electric Feel (Preston Pohl, The Voice performance-*not on Spotify)
      Abs:  
      Mirrors (Justin Timberlake)
      *Stretching:
      A Case of You (James Wolpert, The Voice performance-*not on Spotify)


      While you're moving: (in case you can't listen via Spotify)
      Wake Me Up (Avicii)
      Gone, Gone, Gone (Phillip Phillips)
      Can't Hold Us (Macklemore)
      LITO (Press Play)
      NY2LA (Press Play)
      One Top of the World (Imagine Dragons)
      Best Song Ever (One Direction)
      Cups (Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick)
      Happy (Pharrell Williams, from Despicable Me)
      Am I missing one that keeps you moving? 
      Please share
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      Wednesday, January 1, 2014

      Best of 2013

      Welcome 2014, our calendar is virtually and literally marked with expectations.
      Our biggest undertaking yet, perhaps, could come this year which may be why I regressed on my nail-biting habit, once kicked and an endoscopy discovered 2 ulcers this year. Today, I'm happy to report, the ulcers are healed and each nail has a good amount of white at the tip again.

      In the mean time let's take a look at the favorite posts of 2013:

      Most PINTERESTing:






      For the LOVE:



      For the FAMILY:



      For the SOUL:


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