Scotland here we come!

Watch out,  tickets have been purchased and it’s happening.   Summer 2017 the four of us are venturing on our first transatlantic trip to the homeland!  Well, one of two I suppose.  Our India trip is in the works for 2018 so stay tuned for homeland 2.0.

Having spend the majority of my childhood summers with my mom (Scotland), dad (India) and sisters visiting my grandparents in Scotland I am beyond excited to take my girls to experience all that I did and more.  I have been waiting for the right time and the right frame of mind to do it and finally realized that waiting is like thinking too much. Both prevent me from doing!  My new mantra is “think and wait less, live and do more”. I can no longer assume that our world order will continue to encourage or allow world citizens to move freely around the globe.  It may sound grim, but sadly, the thought crosses my mind.  Anyways, onto brighter things. Scotland, which rivals Seattle for that of rainiest climate!

But the castles. Just as our New York trips could be spent entirely on public transportation much to the delight of my girls, I foretell that we could visit nothing but castles in Scotland and they would be satisfied.  Little do they know the boundless beauty and adventure that awaits.

I’ve just started planning but I’m already faced with the realization that there is so much more to see and do than the things I did as a child. We’ve all had that moment when we realize that what we thought was the greatest thing in the world as a kid turns out to be just one of a thousand possibilities.

We will be there for a total of 14 days. Enough time to feel settled and not pressured to do a million things each day. Restful moments at our home base will be key to a successful trip. We can sleep in, cook breakfast and take walks in the neighborhood before loading into the car for outings. Without a doubt, we will spend at least a day in Edinburgh. I mean, come on, the castle alone will take half a day and then there’s Princes street, The Royal Mile Scottish Parliament and the Double-decker tour bus we’ll be convinced to ride by the expert negotiators we’ll be traveling with. Our daughters, I’m talking about our daughters, who will wear us down or make false promises until we’re sitting in the top front row of that bus.   Glasgow will be our second city stop. After all, we are city mice.  Still debating whether or not to venture to the islands.  I’ve never been and I am a little weary of any or all of us getting seasick. That would be a major downer but perhaps worth the risk. There is still time to decide as I’m still in the abstract planning phase so, plenty of time to make changes. I welcome your suggestions!  Our other planned stops based on sentimentality, people to visit or points of interest are St. Andrews. Dunfermline, Oban, Ft. William, Inverness, Stirling, Kincardine, Cowdenbeath, and Perth.

I think I’m most excited about experiencing this familiar trip as a parent. It will inevitably open my eyes to all sorts of new opportunities and perspectives.  Now, back to planning. I would love to hear from you. Any restaurants we must try?  Non-guide book essentials to check out? A particular shopping district that a mother might want to steal away to for a couple of hours toute seule? Tell me all your Scotland secrets.

I’ve learned: Traveling to a familiar place is a different experience each time.

Wanting: To check two places off my travel wish list each year. Literally, where to begin?!

Thankful for: The chance to take trips with my family. It can at times be stressful, mama’s not gonna lie, but we always look back on our trips with fondness and laughter.

 

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Girls Bedroom: Before and After.

We went from this from this….DSC_2435

To this…

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I was hesitant to title this post and reveal  “after” pictures because it implies that I’m finished.  Overall, the girls bedroom has the bright, vintage/modern feel that I was striving for and the main design elements have come together. They are fortunate to have a separate playroom for playing, entertaining friends and crafting so it’s lovely that they have a separate, tranquil place to sleep. The girls have given it their seal of approval which is the most important thing since the client always comes first! As much as I love decorating, it is their space and I want them to delight in it. You can see from the pictures that I’ve moved elements around to illustrate how small and subtle changes can create freshness. It’s not a museum after all.

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Closet interior.

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The room is indeed small. However there is a good sized hallway where I have placed an additional dresser and a much-needed bookcase. It also provides extra space for the plethora of tchotchkes and art we have acquired. Here are some shots looking down the hall towards the girls bedroom. How about that knotty pine door?  It’s a closet!  This home has an abundance of storage space. Note the built in drawers. I know. This hallway would have been characterized as a bedroom by NYC real estate standards.IMG_6498(1) IMG_6499

Based on my Pinterest inspiration pictures these are elements that I utilized.

  • Polka dots. I love the way pattern adds depth. This is a wall decal sticker set from Target. I used the dots in the colors and sizes I wanted and saved the rest for another project. Similar set here.
  • Vintage floral print wallpaper just wasn’t an option so I carried the theme over to bedding. The pink set I already had.  I found the other set at wait for it…Target! You guessed it. I think they complement each other quite well. Shop the sheets here.
  • Bright white walls. I want to paint all of my walls white!!! It is so fresh and sets the perfect blank canvas for any design scheme.
  • A mix of vintage and modern pieces. The white dresser, iron bed, sconces, floral bedding and vintage yellow chair contrast with modern lines of the Pink Ikea Malm dresser, the white bed with drawers and pieces like the eyelash pillow and artwork.
  • Rag rug. I actually scored this at World Market for like $20. It was serendipitous to walk in during their global rug Bazaar and see a pile of colorful limited supply rugs. After untying and laying out each one (they love me there) I decided on this one. I really think it works well. It doesn’t detract from the white floors and it is a nice colorful and unique accent. Similar, but pricier here.
  • Wood or organic element. The window bench functions more like a side table for the girls to share. It was on clearance at Target and I bought it like 100 years ago just waiting for the right spot to use it. Now if I could just find a spot for all the other bargains and special pieces I’ve collected that are gathering dust in storage. Similar, larger bench here.
  • Books, baskets, dolls and such. The girls chose the dolls that they wanted on their beds with them. We then arranged other dolls on shelves and the remainder traveled to the land of misfit toys. We organized the books on the bookcase in the hall with the exception of a few large and colorful ones that we stacked under the bench to conceal the trash bin and extension cords. I used a large white basket for laundry in the closet and placed jewelry, trinkets, belts and so on in decorative baskets from the Goodwill, which is a great place to get unique storage on the cheap by the way.
  • A little chair. We found this busted up mini Klismos chair in the trash when we were newly married and living in Brooklyn. I love the shape of the chair so much. We assumed that we would have kids “one day” so we carried it home, stored it for years and it eventually made the journey with us to the mini apple when we bid adieu to the big one. We had it restored and painted bright yellow for the girls.
  • Pink. Most girls I know like pink, as do I, but I prefer shades that are not in-your-face Pinky Pie all day and all night. In this case I painted the closet interior a bright but bearable pink that provides a vivid pop of color every time one reaches for a new ensemble.

And there we have it. Next up, guest room.

Thankful for: Old homes with character

Wanting: An unlimited decorating budget.

I’ve learned: If I don’t buy artwork when I first see it, it’s gone when I go back. So frustrating:(

The Playroom Grows Up: Part 1

My latest project involves a total room transformation.  What was once a playroom is now slated to become a home office and creative work space rolled into one. One of the first questions I ask myself when decorating is “what is the primary function of this space?”  In some rooms it is more obvious than others but nowadays, many rooms are multi-purpose.  The dining room, typically a place to sit down and enjoy a meal, can also function as a communal work area. The living room can be a place to read, entertain or watch television. The point is, many activities can take place within a given room. However, when it comes to changing the primary function of a room from a play area to a work space a complete overhaul is in order.

This was an awesome playroom and served two children very well for almost six years. The pink soft tile floor, the striped walls, the yellow ceiling, the (over) abundance of toys produced a whimsical and inviting yet perhaps mildly overwhelming environment to the younger crowd.  We re-thought our approach to what a child’s surroundings should look and feel like and so designed a Montessori inspired space for the growing siblings in the basement (more on that to come). It was quite therapeutic for parents and children alike to take a more thoughtful view of what we have and why we have it. Many things were donated or passed along to other friends when we transferred the playroom down to the basement.

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Imagine, if you can, the floor covered in these.

IMG_4038 IMG_4035 Even with most of the contents moved out it was far from feeling like a grown-up work environment. Painting was a necessity. We wanted to create a simple backdrop so opted for white walls and a white ceiling.

Below are some “in the middle pictures” because I’m often so eager to get a project started that I neglect to take “before” pictures. The pink floor-to-floor soft tiles have been pulled up at this point and the games, instruments, costumes etc. have been moved to the basement. Little bits and pieces remain upstairs during this phase while we strategize regarding final placement of chore charts, assorted beads, box o’ random play things and cheap party favors that certain people have become attached to.  At this point we just needed space to set up a paint station so we could get rolling, literally.IMG_4301

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Here we see the fan blades removed, first paint coat, inspiration board and low bookshelf constructed.  I decided to keep the black chalkboard wall for the time being. I like the contrast and depth it gives to the space and who knows, it might just come in handy during a brainstorming session. The next (final?) phase will include the newly installed light fixture, area rug, shelves, wall decor and perhaps additional seating.

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The goal is to forge a fresh and bright, sparse but inviting work space to inspire and enliven creativity and foster productivity. White walls serve as the perfect blank canvas for artwork, vision boards, a backdrop for photos, shelving and decorative objects. The floors, which were re-finished a couple of years ago, have finally come out from hiding from under the pink play mats. The time has come to replace the (visually offensive) ceiling fan-light. No tears will be shed when this monstrosity gets escorted to the trash. Make way for new light source. I am a sucker for a good ceiling medallion so we’re going to slap one up to impose a sense of architectural history. I also love the combination of modern design and classic details so my dream ceiling lamp will have clean lines and juxtapose nicely with the decorative medallion.

For lighting, I’m considering a George Nelson Bubble lamp or something in that style. I also have a weakness for the black Mantis Serge Mouille ceiling fixture, though I have concerns that it would overwhelm the space. After all, we aren’t working in a prewar apartment with 13′ ceilings. A girl can dream.  I am scouring Ebay, Etsy, Craigslist and various other resources for the perfect vintage Turkish, Persian or tribal rug. I will know it when I see it but believe me the search has been exhausting. Finding the right size, with the right colors and pattern at the right price is my perpetual challenge when it comes to rugs

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Vintage Lilihan Area Rug

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I’m excited to get the space finished a share the big reveal!

Thankful for: Work spaces that inspire a love for work.

Wanting:  The perfect rug. Really, is it too much to ask for?

I’ve learned: There is no such thing as perfect and waiting for it only delays progress. Wah-wah.

 

 

New York City Family Guide: Midtown East and West

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Midtown is a bustling part of town with lots of shops, offices, landmarks and tourist attractions.  The boundaries are 34th street to 59th Street from the East River to 5th Avenue on the East side and Central Park West to the Hudson River on the West.  It’s not the part of town where I take pleasant and contemplative strolls. It is busy. Especially during the work day when people are walking with fury and purpose to lunch dates, meetings, appointments or to hop on hop off tourist bus loading stops. The Empire State Building, Macy’s Herald Square, The United Nations, Bryant Park, and Grand Central Station plus countless shops and restaurants all rest in Midtown. There are many great places to visit with the kids but it is not, as I said, an area to quietly and freely explore like you would want to in West Village for example. A neighborhood where you can wander up, down, through and around cobble stone streets discovering somewhere new every time you go. Oh, I love the west village.

But, back to midtown. There are places you should know about. Let’s start on the East side.

One of my favorite combo activities as of this trip is riding the Roosevelt Island Tram and getting frogurt at Bloomingdales.  I have not ridden the tram in years, like since I was a kid.  I had a fear of heights and panic attack issues in my twenties so the tram was not my go-to hang out.  Now that I can experience joy and excitement though my childrens’ eyes it’s much easier to dangle in a box 250ft over the East river.   The newly built Four Freedoms park at the tip of the island has become a venue for out-door yoga classes, social gatherings and major events like Hilary Clinton’s Rally this past June. In contrast to the new park grounds the ruins, yes ruins, of Renwick hospital, a building dedicated to treating smallpox patients in the mid 1800’s rest here and were declared a NYC landmark in 1975. Read more about the history here.

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Depending on how much time you have,  you could either ride the tram, disembark then pay the return fare and immediately head back to Manhattan or you could pack a snack, check out the cute souvenir shop, and take a stroll along the promenade to the edge of the island before returning to Manhattan. You’ll get unique views of the city and it’s quiet and calm.  A good place for a pleasant, contemplative stroll me thinks. The park and ruins are worth a visit if you have the time. Did I mention that you can do this with two swipes of your Metrocard? That’s right. Since the tram is part of the city transit system you can use your Metrocard. Awesome. Anything that is cool and cheap makes my list.

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Frogurt!

When you get off the tram on the Manhattan side you are 2 blocks from Bloomingdales. Forty Carrots, the 7th floor cafe that serves their exclusive frozen yogurt aptly called Frogurt is Da bomb as the kids say. People either love (like me) or hate (like my husband) this stuff. Turns out the kids like it so we indulge. Majority rules!  We get the plain flavor which is so perfectly tart and unlike any other frozen yogurt I’ve had.  Actually, I don’t eat frozen yogurt other than frogurt but I assert because of its cult following that it’s special. We are able to get in and out of Bloomingdales quickly because I don’t even attempt to shop in a department store when with the family.  You may not be as lucky if it’s during sale season.

If you’re so inclined on the way out, Magnolia Bakery, made famous from the HBO series Sex and The City, opened an outpost on the ground floor of Bloomies that is always packed.  Personally, I don’t get the hype. The cupcakes are fine but I just don’t get what the fuss is about. To me it’s a tourist trap.  If you want really great cupcakes head to the Cupcake Cafe in Hell’s Kitchen. but more about that later.

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Views from the promenade at Roosevelt Island.

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Renwick Hospital ruins.

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Dedication wall at Four Freedoms Park.

Let’s move south and west to Grand Central Station.  Grand Central is one of my favorite buildings in the city. It is simply put, gorgeous. I used to take a Metro North train from the city up to White Plains when I was working there after college.  The 125th street stop was closer to my apartment but the experience of taking the train from Grand Central was not lost on me.  So I took the longer way. I’m still fascinated by how people rush through everyday to get to work or to catch their train home and wonder if they have ever stopped to just look up.  When you are a New Yorker you don’t give as much thought to the things and places that attract people from all over the world. Grand Central is my exception. The light fixtures, the floors, the constellation on the ceiling, the shops, the people, the trains, the energy. It is a place to behold. In recent years they have tried to made it more of a destination outside of its practical purpose as a transportation hub by adding an extensive “food court” downstairs for neighborhood workers, an amazing market where the most discerning cooks shop for provisions and some cool and unique retail shops.  Kidding Around is a great toy shop and Cursive is my favorite for unique gifts. There is also an Apple store rather discreetly tucked into the upper mezzanine on the east side if you need to stop in for the lastest tech gadget.The NYC transit store is the perfect spot for souvenirs and around the holidays they set up their amazing model train set which all kids love to watch. Seeing the actual trains chug in and out of the station is pretty mesmerizing for the children as well. The conductors and ticket collectors on the platform are happy to take pictures with enthusiastic kids despite their often surly looking faces. In fact in our experience it makes them light up with pride and purpose. Don’t forget to check out the whispering wall outside of the Oyster bar. Talk into one corner and your kids can hear your whisper in the opposite corner.

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My favorite light fixtures at Grand Central and the whispering wall.

The New York City Public Library Flagship branch is an exemplary Beaux Arts style building adjacent to Bryant Park. The Library is the perfect place to take shelter from the elements no matter the time of year.  There is a great children’s area to explore, story time and events year round. Bryant Park is pretty amazing too. The website is comprehensive, up to date and has a detailed schedule of activities and events throughout the year. It’s the perfect destination to combine with a trip to the library. There is a carousel, arts and crafts and drawing classes for children 9 and up through Art Cart, putting greens, and an ice skating rink during the winter months. They also show movies in the park. I’ll leave you to determine age and time appropriateness. It can get hot and crowded in the Summer when everybody wants to dine al fresco. Pack a lunch or grab something at Shack Shack and head to a quieter park on 43rd Street between 8th-9th Avenues. There is a playground, picnic tables and a sprinkler so the kidlets can eat and burn off some steam. While we’re on the subject of sprinklers I usually carry kids swimsuits a hand towel and change of clothes. You never know when you’re going to happen upon a park with a sprinkler and when it’s 90 degrees and humid it’s hard for the kids to pass up.

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Bryant Park behind the NY Public Library.

Between 34th-59th streets on Fifth Ave you will encounter a plethora of stores. From tourist trinket and souvenirs shops to the iconic Saks Fifth Avenue and everything in between. Seriously. H&M, Zara, Abercrombie and Fitch, Prada, Bendels, Gucci, Sephora,The NBA store, Uniqlo, and many other retailers have flagship locations along this stretch. Across from Saks is Rockerfeller Center. I have never taken a tour here or gone to the Top Of The Rock but you can if you want to.  The ice skating rink is actually pretty cool to visit in the winter months and I’m a sucker for going to see the tree once it’s set up during the holidays.  Oh, and Lego has an insane store there which most kids go nuts over.

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Last day at the Bjork Retrospective at MOMA. She may be gone but Starry Night and Water Lilies aren’t going anywhere.

You’ll be happy to know that The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is just a hop skip and jump from many of the aforementioned shops. I don’t know about you but taking my kids to museums in about 1000 times easier and more enjoyable than dragging them into stores. If you’re able, tag team with another adult in your group. Take the kids to MOMA and see some incredible world renown art, wander the sculpture garden, check out the gift shop for souvenirs then split up and take turns shopping while the other take the kids for a snack or to the amazing play space for children at the museum. I encourage you to check out the family resources on their website (see link below). There are so many activities and opportunities for children of all ages to explore. A Play area, workshops, tours geared towards children, films and more.

In a nutshell. These are my picks.

Thankful for: Libraries and Museums for the countless hours of enjoyment they can provide.

Wanting: Time to freely explore more dining options in this area.

I’ve learned: No matter what you already know and love there is always more to know and love.

 

 

 

Pretty Foods Follow Up: Raw Blondies and Other Foods I Never Thought I Would Eat. #yum

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Raw blondie ingredients and My New Roots cookbook.

I made raw blondies yesterday. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am anymore. Do you remember the Well Bread Loaf Blondies and Brownies? You could buy them at Delis, Bodegas and places like E.A.T.  throughout NYC in the 80’s and 90’s.  I don’t even know if they sold them outside of New York since they were a local brand. The point is, I loved them.  They paired particularly well with Cool Ranch Doritos around my menstrual cycle but that is way more info than you want to know. Forgive me. Though my palate has matured since then I still crave the feelings those snacks from my youth gave me minus the salt, sugar and unhealthy side effects. I want to bite into something and think yum, this taste so good and it is not actively bad for my health.

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You may remember a while back I wrote a post about Eating Pretty, a term coined by the book I was reading at the time titled Eat Pretty. In a healthy, raw nutshell I was writing about my genius discovery that eating well makes you feel “pretty” from the inside out. I was learning about the health and beauty benefits of specific foods and the ill effects of many others. Well, my journey continues. Since starting my “pretty foods” diet which is essentially a diet free of gluten, dairy, alcohol, refined sugar and what was the last thing? Oh, right Caffeine but scratch that one since I haven’t give it up. Sorry my my relationship with coffee runs deep. Anywho, I’ve shed 18 pound in the last six months, which is still hard for me to believe, and I just feel much better, inside and out. You are what you eat people! Now I know. Besides radically changing the way I eat I have continued to exercise 3-4 times a week alternating weight training, cardio and some, but actually very little yoga. I feel energized, toned and simply put, good.

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Picture courtesy of A Beautiful Mess.

I don’t consider my changed eating habits as a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. As soon as I started losing weight, feeling more energized and my skin improved I was hooked. Every meal was like a reward.  Whether prompted by health, beauty or weight issues I’m here to tell you that you can do this 85-90% of the time. That’s what I do. I love food too much to vow off anything entirely and forever. I am just much more thoughtful about what I eat and when. If I am on vacation or dining out I choose what sounds appealing even if it contains gluten or dairy. I also enjoy a glass of wine now and again (organic, of course) and it’s OK. Nothing should be forbidden. That’s a fast track to failure. Again, it goes back to making informed choices.  When I first started making changes in my diet I thought, ” This is going to be so hard. Why does being healthy and losing weight have to be such torture?!”  Guess what. It doesn’t have to be. In fact it can be beautiful! My plates look so much more colorful and appealing that I actually started texting pictures of my lunches to my sister. Here are some of those pictures and meal suggestions. If you are trying to make improvements in your diet I would encourage you to check out these two books, The Beauty Detox Foods and Eat Pretty. Try some of the recipes and lunch ideas listed below. Many can be made ahead of time and packed easily for work or a picnic. Don’t view it as a challenge where you must deprive yourself of all of the foods that you love. Use it as an experiment to discover some new foods and get excited about it. You will fall into what feels good, natural and practical for you. I am not a doctor, lawyer, nutritionist or anything like that so if this post inspires you talk to one of those people (except the lawyer) to get advice before making radical changes. Maybe I should be a lawyer since I love disclaimers so much! Enjoy the beauty.

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The Glowing Green Smoothie is a game changer. Recipe in The Beauty Detox Foods . I drink one EVERY morning after a cup of hot water with fresh lemon.

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Raw brussels sprouts salad: millet chia toast with fresh avocado and sprouted hemp seeds: roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes: organic blackberries and blueberries.

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Millet chia toast with avocado and broccoli sprouts: organic egg: wilted spinach with mushrooms sprinkled with Maldon sea salt flakes.

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Millet chia toast with slice of turkey and fresh pepper: Farro with carrots & parsnips, spinach with fermented cabbage, ramps and nettles.

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Spinach with roasted beets and fermented cabbage, broccoli sprouts, roasted cauliflower and garlic.

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Roasted beets and butternut squash,wellness blend greens with organic chickpeas, homemade coleslaw made with veganaise.

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Millet chia toast with smushed super ripe banana, over almond butter sprinkled with cinnamon. SO good.

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Italian Tuna in Olive oil mixed with red pepper, chickpeas, boiled egg and olives wrapped up in romaine leaves.

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Arugula and raw brussels sprouts salad, roasted cauliflower with capers and carrots, boiled egg avocado and gluten free chips.

What about the kids you ask?  Well, I’m still working on this. I am the mom who routinely prepares different meals for different people. Right or wrong it’s reality. My husband encourages my efforts and has been very supportive but that man still wants his meat, gluten, sugar and alcohol.  I’m also not going radically change my children’s diet and not let them eat things that kids like to eat.  We make good choices most of the time but they can make independent choices about the way they eat when they are older. I provide them with as many different kinds of foods as I can whether I eat them or not. So there.

Now, about those recipes…

I don’t want to reprint without permission so check out:

  1. Beauty Detox Foods for raw brussels sprouts salad recipe and glowing green smoothie.
  2. It’s All Good for roasted cauliflower with chickpeas and avocado toast.
  3. Smitten Kitchen for zucchini ribbons with almond pesto salad (not pictured), farro with parsnips and carrots (minus the feta).
  4. My New Roots for raw blondies

Thankful for: Discovering the joy of eating in a whole new way.

I’ve learned: It’s not only possible, it’s a joy to do things that have a direct positive impact on your body and your mind.

Wanting: New sneakers!  I’ve actually worn my old ones down.

 

New York City Family Guide : Upper East Side

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Amusing chalkboard outside an Upper East Side coffee shop. We did not put them to the test.

Growing up in NYC was awesome. Returning to NYC for extended visits with my young children has historically been peppered with not so awesome moments. Delightedly, our 2015 annual summer trip back home was the best by far. Oh, the places we went. My 7 and almost 4 year old are in sync both schedule-wise and in terms of interests which made just about everything more enjoyable. My 3 year old no longer naps. This, of course, is a major shift from last summer.  Additionally, heightened stamina made day-long outings and unplanned activities not only feasible but fun.

We all LOVE New York City and the traditions that we are establishing as our own family. The places we like to eat, the parks we like to play at, the people we visit with and even the subway lines they prefer to ride (nothing compares to the Q between Canal St. and Dekalb Ave. BTW). I’m tickled pink that the place I grew up and love more than anywhere else in the world already has a special place in their hearts.


 

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The MET post plaza renovations. My girls know this museum well. No matter how many times I’ve been, I’m mesmerized every time.

We accomplished more that I could have imagined during our three week stay thanks to some advance planning and a more laid back parental attitude of letting things evolve naturally. It was quickly apparent that by not trying to manage each moment and emotion for the group everyone was more chilled out. Needless to say there was a lot of personal growth!  The entire trip was an exercise in letting go and putting my trust in the universe. One stumbles upon the best discoveries by accident don’t ya know?

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Seriously, the girls would be happy to just ride the subway all day everyday.

Our adventures ran the gamut. We took a Metro north train ride to the NY botanical gardens, trekked all over Manhattan exploring things new and old, hit a multitude of museums, did our Brooklyn thing, ate plenty of great food, and just hung with my parents, sister, niece and friends. We even took a three day trip up to the Catskills and spent a day on the beach in Avon at the Jersey shore.

I have so much to share it would be ridiculous to do it all in one post. Ridiculous I tell you. So as not to overwhelm, I’ll be writing multiple posts focusing on a neighborhood or two at a time starting with the upper east side. Scroll to the bottom for my recommendations if you’re not into the pictures and can’t wait to check out the list. Though in doing so you will miss out on my clever captions and perhaps life changing information.

Lastly… it would be impossible to include every single point of interest, if you don’t see one of your favorite spots feel free to comment and share with the group!

Here goes..

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Inside the MET. Consulting the family map and guide to locate her favorite pieces.  Turn around. It’s behind you!

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Play date with friends at the Cloisters. So serene and definitely worth the trek.

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I spent a couple of hours walking down Fifth Avenue on the evening of the Museum Mile Festival and was actually able to get into the Cooper Hewitt despite the massive crowds. I snapped lots of inspiration pictures for future,unknown projects.

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Bubble man!! We love this guy. He always has a captive audience at his spot in Central Park at 85th st.

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Goofing around at the park. One must make time for playgrounds and sprinklers. They are abundant.

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Cafe Sault Ste Marie serving Blue Bottle coffee and baked goods.

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Watching Metro North trains travel to and from Grand Central Station. If you wave, they toot the(very loud) horn…beware.

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Guess where we are…

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Remember if you wave they honk!

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The store owner gave this bubble wand to T when he saw how happy it made her.  He smiled and said, “Look how happy she is. I have daughters too, just take it.” He even chased us down with an extra bottle of bubbles after we left. This would have gone all over town with us had it not been the second to last day of our trip.

UPPER EAST SIDE

Disclaimer:  These personal recommendations are places we went or have been as a family and here-to-fore I consider family friendly.  Any places I went without the children I’ll make note of. It is not necessarily because the venue wasn’t kids friendly, but we all need time to ourselves so when I could take the time, I did.

EATS:

  • Cafe Sault Ste Marie // Blue Bottle lattes and Dough loco donuts.
  • Enthaice // Solid Thai with good lunch special.
  • Shake Shack  // Burgers, shakes and fries. All good. There are other locations throughout the city
  • Moustache // Oh goodness do I love this place. Technically, it is in East Harlem but whatever. The food is authentic and delicious. Now, if they would just get air conditioning!
  • Famiglia Pizza // on 97th and Madison Ave. They make a pretty consistent New York Slice and my kids like it. There may be better but this has been our go to pizza parlour since our old favorite (Zesty’s) closed.
  • Le Pain Quotidien // This is a chain but it’s a good one and I will likely mention it again. It is a great breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack spot for coffee, baked goods, sandwiches, soups, salads etc. Multiple upper east side locations. Madison Ave btwn. 84th and 85th is a good one to hit before or after a visit to the MET.
  • Fairway // This is a grocery market chain and the perfect place for picking up picnic stuff, imported and prepared foods.
  • Dean and Deluca is another albeit more expensive and upscale place to pack for a picnic. You’re on vacation. Go ahead treat yourself.
  • Earl’s beer and cheese // The Taco and The Kale salad. Eat them both. Great beer too. We went without the kids

PLACES TO GO:

  • Central Park  // There are many playgrounds and points of interest throughout the upper east side portion of the Park. The Central Park Zoo, The Dairy, Carousel, the Boathouse, Belvedere Castle, The Bandshell , Bethesda Fountain, the Alice in Wonderland statue and the Conservatory Gardens are a few places worth checking out. Pack swimsuits and a towel for the sprinklers!
  • Watching trains from the 97th street bridge between Park and Madison. Busiest on weekdays at rush hours. It’s right down the street from Cafe Sault Ste Marie so grab a latte and some doughnuts and watch away.
  • Museums, museums, museums. There are so many packed into this neighborhood. Some of the best in the world I might add. See below for specifics.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts toddler story time in the Nolen library everyday at 10:30. It is free but get there early to secure a spot since space is limited. Outside of story time its a great place to visit with little ones for quiet time and am amazing selection of unique children’s books. The museum itself is must see. Pick up a family guide when you arrive but do a little advance research to plan what you want to see. I have been there hundreds of times and still haven’t seen everything. The museum had recommended admission posted but it is suggested donation. Meaning you can pay what you want. I like to support the museum but paying the full suggested admission for a family is quite expensive and let’s face it you might only last an hour or two. You can be frugal and support the museum at the same time. I have no issue giving $10-20 for the whole family. It’s your call. You can sign up for news regarding kids events here. The Temple of Dendur is a must.
  • The Guggenheim Museum. // Many visit to see the building alone. The museum is quite impressive but also expensive. Check your local museums for reciprocal benefits. We are members of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and our membership gets us free or discounted admission to some amazing and pricey museums all over the country including the Guggenheim. Woot woot! When it’s “free” there is less pressure to appreciate every single piece to get your money’s worth but maybe that’s just my issue.
  • The Museum of the City of New York  // I went on field trips to this museum as a kid. It was fine but never left a lasting impression. Well, let me tell you, they have really spruced this place up and it’s a cool place to visit. They have a really good gift shop, cafe and impressive rotating exhibits highlighting New York history.  It’s right across from the Conservatory Gardens and a nice walk down 5th Ave to some of the other museums highlighted. Check out summer family programs here.
  • The Jewish Museum, The Cooper Hewitt, The National Academy and The Neue Gallerie are all extraordinary and worth a visit but are perhaps best suited for adults only. The Neue Gallerie doesn’t allow children under 12. Conversely the Jewish Museum does offer family programs.
  • Bubbleman // Go see him. Just inside the park at 5h Ave and 85th street.
  • Ancient Playground // Right next to the MET on 5th Ave. I have mixed feelings about this place. It’s a cool playground but I recommend it for older children. It gets extremely crowded and there are hidden passageways. Not a good combo in my world. It makes me nervous but I’m a little bit of a spaz. I prefer the playground at 96th and 5th Ave. There is a sprinkler and things for both small and big kids. It’s also enclosed.
  • Carl Shurz Park Conservatory // This is a great park adjacent to a boardwalk along the East river. It’s a lovely place to go for a walk. There is a good playground and it’s walking distance to Gracie Mansion which you can learn about here.

So that’s all for now. Please ask questions if you have them and remember this is just a fraction of the possibilities in this neighborhood!

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Until next time.

Thankful for: A place to stay and people to visit in NYC!

Wanting: The ability and resources to travel to NYC every couple of months.

I’ve learned: I’m torn between my two “homes”. Leaving NYC is always bittersweet.

 

 

 

 

Extreme Play-Home Makeover.

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Simple Scandinavian. So clean and modern, and not ours.

We bought a play house for the backyard off of Craigslist two summers ago.  It has been a source of great entertainment for the girls and their friends during the summer months but I have never found it particularly attractive, cute as it is. Then, last week, when we had a taste of summer sun and warm weather a little light bulb went off in my head.  I started Google image searching (one of my favorite past times) for ‘painted outdoor playhouse’ and discovered the handiwork of many like-minded parents and designers who had stepped up their playhouse game. Seeing these beauties made me want to start from scratch and build or buy a wood cottage.  What we already have happens to be plastic. Boo hiss. The project is to improve upon what we already have not to spend money on newer and “better”. Working with what you’ve got is often more rewarding than getting something new. Did I really just say that?  Besides, I need to save some money for the rest of the backyard which needs some landscaping love. For now I’m off to the hardware store for some paint samples so I can extreme home makeover our little shanty. Take a gander at these lovely mini homes and stay tuned for the reveal.


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I like the black roof and the white detailing.

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Someone takes play cottage building to the nest level for reals.

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I love the black, of course, and the bi-level tree house effect. Don’t they just look so happy!

This reminds me of Hansel and Gretel.

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I like the built out porch and the hanging basket.

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Similar in color to our existing play house and very cozy.

And last…and least is the our storybook play cottage before the redo…

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Thankful for: A backyard! It’s nice to have a space to landscape, set up play houses and fairy gardens and just hang out.

I’ve learned: There are lots of people out there with great experience to inspire and aid in DIY project development. Yes, I mean other parents who have fabricated things for their children.

Wanting: The playhouse to be done my next weekend. Eeek!!

Girls Room Redo: Analyzing Elements and Ideas of Interest.

The girls’ bedroom is an ongoing work in progress. So, as to not leave you hanging, I’ll share my process and remind you of the look I’m striving for. I hope that in “the end” the aesthetic vibe from these pictures will be represented but in a unique and personal way. After all that’s what really makes a space feel special.

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I love the wallpaper, gray furry rug and the bamboo bassinet. There is a great juxtaposition of vintage and modern  design at play in this room. Very whimsical.

After gathering a virtual look book of rooms that I love, I analyze the photos for the specific element(s) that I was drawn to. I often love an assortment of ideas, schemes, colors etc. but combining all of them without editing is a recipe for an overwhelming mess. After noting each visual element I get to work figuring out a way to translate them for a particular project. Here are a selection of pictures, many of which you have likely already seen,  each with a descriptive caption of the desired component, idea, color or product I want to incorporate into the girl’s bedroom.

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Mix and match bedding with a vintage feel.

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Floral bedding. Deep pink pillows. Warm wood.

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White floors. Black dots. Colorful Rug. Iron bed.

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Circular rag rug.

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Garland. Woven Basket. Old fashioned iron bed. Picture cluster.

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Garland. Shelves. Iron bed. Circular multicolored rug.

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White modern storage bed. White shelves. Dots. Vintage decorative accents.

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Wall baskets for decoration. Iron bed.

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Little chair. Little shoes. Iron bed.

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Garland. Vintage art. Birdcage. Little shoes.

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Furry rug. Wall dots. Little chair.

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Hearts. Furry rug. Little chair. Faux bamboo wall hook.

Do you see some themes? Here’s my list of desired ingredients.

  • Dots
  • Vintage floral pattern
  • Petite chair
  • Fur or colorful rug
  • Iron bed or modern storage bed…or one of each?!?
  • A cluster of wall art
  • Garland of some sort
  • Basket(s)
  • A cute assortment of pillows, blankets, dolls and stuffed animals. (I think I have this one covered.)
  • A medium toned wood, bamboo or rattan piece.
  • Wallpaper
  • Pink
  • Display and book shelves

Next I’ll set out to find products, gather pieces in the space and test things out. Sometimes, many times in fact, what looks great in a photograph does not work practically in a space. So there will be tweaking, exchanging and surprises along the way.  I hope you’re enjoying the process and much as I am!


Thankful for: Second hand shops, yard sales, Craigslist and the countless other resources for scoring unique and affordable pieces to decorate with.

Wanting: To round up some nifty, unique and functional pieces.

I’ve learned: As previously mentioned, what looks good in a picture doesn’t always work in reality.

 

Rugs and More Rugs.

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Hello there. I’m back to present some rugs I’m considering for the girls room. In skimming my KIDS and RUGS Pinterest boards you may notice that there are several different styles of rugs that I like. A vast array spanning from animal hide to vintage Persian, stripes to solids, single hue to rainbow extraordinaire and everything in between.

I’ve had a long, complicated relationship with rugs. Inevitably, the rugs I fall in love with are antique, hand-made and cost a small fortune. For many reasons, number one being budget, number two being practicality, I have never invested more than $1000 in a rug. Mind you, I have gotten some beyond amazing deals on ridiculously expensive rugs in days gone by from the ABC carpet outlet in Brooklyn which no longer exists. Insert sad face. Moving on…

I love vintage Azilal and Boucherouite rugs. They are colorful, handmade, unique and the kids like them as much as I do. The issue is they are quite expensive and there are so many out there (all one of a kind) that I could spend weeks deliberating over which has the best pattern, color combination, size and so on. I would undoubtedly purchase “the one” then not be able to return “the one” because it was not all I had hoped it would be. Call me a pessimist but I find great comfort in a good return policy. Seeing a picture of something is no match for the feel and look of the real thing. A downfall of shopping online. Additionally, I like to test things out.  To collect components and play around with them until I find just the right combination of pieces. This playtime cannot be enjoyed with non-returnable items. It’s the price I have to pay for my approach to decorating. The point is, though there are many great resources for beautiful, one of a kind rugs, I want one that has the look of a vintage handmade work of art without the cost and risk. Is that too much to ask? Here are several good looking and budget friendly options, keeping in mind that either 3′ x 5 ‘ or 4′ x 6’ is the size I’m shopping for. What do you think?

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Over-dyed Dhurrie from Urban Outfitters!

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A VEGAN animal hide. I don’t think I could do a real hide but this? Maybe.

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This one definitely had a vintage Moroccan vibe. Little burst of color could be just right for the space.

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I like the idea of a Kilim but this may be too muted. I want stronger contrast and more color with this type of rug.

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Another fun alternative to an animal hide. This whimsical wool rug is reasonable at $299 from Land of Nod.

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I think this might be the one. It has color, texture, contrast and is a good interpretation of a traditional Azilal rug from Morocco but it’s from West Elm so it’s less expensive and returnable.

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Another West Elmer. Love the color and pattern. Not sure if it’s right for the space so It might turn up in our dining room.

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This rug mimics the rattan look that I like. Maybe I’ll throw this by the dresser to incorporate a textural element.

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On sale for $129! Great looking rug with minimal financial investment.

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This Chindi loop rug provides Texture and color.

Thankful for: The internet! Seriously, How else could I find each of these rugs in only a few days and from the comfort of my own home?

Wanting: One of these rugs.  Hmm…which one will it be?

I’ve learned: Spending less money doesn’t equate sacrificing good design.

The Girl’s Room: Before And Getting There.

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I snapped these before shots for personal reference and never did get back to styling them to be Pinterest worthy. Hey, It’s real life.

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You know you want that air purifier.


You’ve seen the inspiration pictures. The virtual vision board in all its beauty. Now, lets turn our attention the actual room in flux. The photos above are admittedly not the greatest. OK, they are terrible but you get the idea.  Though the footprint is a decent size, approximately 9′ x 11′, there are slanted ceilings,  paneled walls and an abnormally large radiator which have each created significant design challenges. You’ll note in the pictures that there is a crib and a twin bed. We now have both girls in twin beds, and have for a while. There is not enough head room to accommodate bunk beds but truthfully I prefer the symmetry of a bed on either side of the window. I’ve grown tired of the vintage fabric that I used for the head-boards, the green shaggy carpet that gave the room some texture and the pink accent wall, much as I love pink. Even the geometric patterned roman shade (see below) that I had custom-made five years ago seems dated. It all feels too prissy and preppy.  I’m going for a modern, bright and whimsical bedroom as inspired by the plethora of  images I have put before you. Pinterest, you are a blessing and a curse.


 

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Roman shade

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Detailed shot of vintage fabric on headboard. I loved you, Goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Beneath the carpet are gorgeous white floors that I had installed (by my husband) when we moved in five years ago. I knew way back then that the room needed as much help as possible in the light department. I have to dig up a picture of this room from when we bought the house. Oh Lord. Green plastic tile floors, turquoise walls and wood paneling.  It’s painful to remember.  Hey, we wanted to make this house our own. We got what we bargained for. Any who, The light bounces off of the white floor and just illuminates the room. It’s bright, sophisticated, modern and simple. The new white walls have the same effect.

Much as I love before and after pictures we at not at the after stage yet. Below are some middle pictures. The work in progress. Old finishes have been removed The pink wall is now painted white (Glidden white on white from Home Depot) and I lay down a temporary fuzzy rug and made the beds with plain white sheets from Target. The blank canvas is ready!


 

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Wallpaper sample.

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Oh the Mess! The Pink Ikea dresser will work in here once it’s cleared off. There is the air purifier you love so much, and a humidifier for good luck.

 

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Dresser trying to hide the enormous radiator. This will be cleaned off I assure you.

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Wall waiting for more art.


 

Let’s break it down. We have the floors, we have the paint, we have the beds and dressers. What we need is:

  • New bedding
  • Fabric for head-boards if I re-upholster. Still undecided on this front.
  • Area rug
  • Window treatments
  • New placement of decorative items and art.

My plan and process.

  1. Compile inspiration pictures. Check.
  2. Write down the individual elements that I am drawn to.
  3. Pull together some items that represent the elements I want to use.
  4. Trial and error. Lay out the various bedding, window treatments, rugs and decorative elements that I acquire and figure out the possible combinations. This is the fun part.
  5. EDIT!!!! Always the hardest part for me. It really is a skill to design, write, speak, parent, pretty much anything, with restraint. When there are lots of great options it’s hard to choose a course and stay with it. I find other areas to use the items edited out, save them for my next project or just straight up return them and get my precious money back.
  6. Take after pictures and share them with you.

Thankful for: Pinterest!!!

Wanting: To take more risks in design and life.

I’ve learned: I can take inspiration and apply it to my life in simple, meaningful ways.

‘Til next time…