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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City Guide: Columbus, Ohio

IMG_2340I went to visit my sister in Columbus, Ohio over Labor Day weekend. Columbus is the 15th largest city in the United States. Who knew? Well, a lot of people probably do but I didn’t. They have a crazy popular College football team at Ohio State but I won’t pretend to know anything about the team, their schedule, popularity or rank.  I will however share with you some delightful discoveries in Ohio’s capital city. Keep in mind there were no small children in tow.

DAY 1:

I arrived Friday afternoon and we headed straight to lunch at Northstar cafe. It’s cafeteria style so nice and casual and the atmosphere is inviting and attractive. I had the Northstar veggie burger no bun, hold the cheese with side salad. A very good side salad tossed with a particularly delicious vinaigrette. The burger itself is made with organic brown rice, black beans and beets, topped with white cheddar, kale, tomato, pickle and onion. I was hoping for a good veggie burger but it totally exceeded my expectations. It was super fresh, flavorful and unique.  It’s their signature item which apparently many people have tried to re-create. I found a recipe on The Kitchn blog which I’m going to attempt. All in all Northstar is a tasty, easy, affordable lunch spot. Done.

After lunch we did a little shopping around Easton, a fancy built-from-the-ground-up outdoor shopping district with all the chain stores you can imagine from Claire’s boutique to Nordstrom and most recently Wholefoods. Since I’m spoiled with no sales tax in Minnesota and I’m trying to shop at small boutiques vs. chain stores I didn’t buy anything.

IMG_2258Friday evening we dined at a relatively new restaurant in Worthington called The Whitney House.  It was fabulous from start to finish.   The atmosphere, decor and service were impressive and the food? Outstanding.  The Skewered lamb appetizer was succulent and flavorful. We shared it though I could have eaten the whole thing myself. I ordered the Bells Farm trout with purple potato hash, bacon, wilted greens, Tabasco butter sauce. Yes, it was as tasty as it sounds. I was skittish when they brought the dessert menus because I haven’t eaten cane sugar in months and was fearful of derailing the hard work I have done to stay fit over the past several months. I opted for the fresh berries with vanilla infused Ohio honey and lemon Mascarpone crème. We also ordered the Peanut butter pie to share and let me tell you, I was derailed. I have no regrets but as soon as I tasted that sugary goodness I knew there was going to be more trouble as the weekend progressed. The thought of those desserts is currently making my mouth water if that’s any indication of how scrumptious they were. We opted to head home for an early and relaxing night post dinner. The gregarious Maitre’d who had taken such good care of us from our arrival throughout the meal was rendered speechless after he excitedly asked “so, what’s next for this Friday night?” and we replied “bed” half jokingly.  If there are dance clubs and after hours bars in Columbus I am not the person who knows about them but if you want to know more about Farmers markets, restaurants and coffee shops read on!


Day 2

IMG_2247 After an early Saturday morning spin class, my first ever, we headed back to Worthington to check out the farmers market. It was extensive and bustling. I got honey sticks for my girls and lavender infused honey for moi from Honeyrun Farm. I saw purple potatoes that I had tasted for the first time at Whitney House and discovered the existence of fairy tale eggplants.

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IMG_2245They was a bread man selling loaves, bagels, scones and much more. With all the free samples he was offering his table was packed. Since he seemed to be doing so well I broke my no gluten rule and tried a bagel sample. It was worth it. He boils before baking, New York Style, to achieve the crispy outside and soft chewy outside. It’s a texture and taste that is hard to perfect but he managed to make some crispy, chewy, delicious bagels. We also passed by the Doll museum but did not go in because, well, it’s a doll museum. The poster alone was enough to creep me out.

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IMG_2272We headed back to the house for some downtime but it wasn’t long before we were ready to grab some coffee so off we went to Fox in The Snow. If you’re wondering where all the hipsters in Columbus hang out, it’s at this place.  It is a really cool spot. The interior is simple, clean and modern but more importantly the coffee was perfect. I could imagine hanging here with my laptop or a good book for hours if I was that person. All food is prepared in-house but since we had just eaten lunch at the house we didn’t indulge (unless you count the banana chocolate muffin we split. What?) I was instructed to order their egg sandwich so I’ll be sure to save my appetite next time around.

IMG_2275 IMG_2273Driving home we passed by a cool looking brewery called Seventh Son where a food truck had set up shop in the parking lot. If we hadn’t just had coffee and didn’t have dinner reservations a few hours later we might have stopped for a beer and a bite but really there is only so much enjoyable eating that can be done in one day.  They have a rotating food truck schedule. How cool is that?

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IMG_2312We read, chatted and hung out before we heading to the Short North Arts District for the monthly Gallery Hop that happens on the first Saturday of every month. We had dinner at The Guild House. The food was outstanding not to mention the decor. Forty foot ceilings and a design scheme that blended modern elements with vintage accents to create a cool yet welcoming environment. The mix and match English china side plates provided a unique sense of balance to the rustic wood tables.  IMG_2300 IMG_2301The contrast of Murano glass chandeliers,  over-sized Persian carpets, ivory leather tufted banquettes, large and likely hand-carved wood tables paired with white Eiffel chairs created a vibe of European elegance meets rustic lodge with a nod to mid-century design. I liked the look and the food was delicious and approachable. This is what we ordered and shared.

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  • Oysters tabasco granita, apple cider mignonette, honeycrisp apple (I did not partake)
  • Tomato and watermelon salad feta cheese, basil, golden balsamic vinaigrette (see above)
  • Smoked trout avocado, caper vinaigrette, toast
  • Eye of the ribeye, potato purée, mushrooms, buttered leeks, fois gras paté, sherry reduction
  • Salmon romanesco, raisins, capers, cauliflower caviar cream
  • Pork duroc blade steak, sour apple cabbage, poached apricots, brown butter (my favorite dish)
  • Carrot cake, cream cheese icing, carrot anglaise, candied almonds, raisins (see below)
  • Flourless chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse, vanilla tuilleIMG_2308After dinner we strolled into some galleries and shops. Toy shops, plant shops, gift shops, clothing shops you name it and very few chain stores. In fact, Anthropologie is the only one I can think of.  There was an energy in the streets of people soaking up the last days of summer as they shopped, ate and watched street performers.  The Gallery Hop is likely a different scene in the midst of winter.

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And then it was Sunday.

Day 3

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IMG_2328We woke up and headed to German Village which is a quaint, mostly residential neighborhood with a couple of must visit places. The first is Pistacia Vera where we went for coffee and breakfast. I had the Muesli and Greek yogurt with orange preserves and a coffee. Some macaroons might have been purchased. The space is pretty and the baked goods buttery and plentiful. Stop in before of after a visit to The Book Loft, A book store like no other. That is not their tagline by the way. This is the kind of bookstore you could get lost in for hours. Literally. There are tiny winding rows of books on multiple levels. Little nooks and paths going this way and that. They have a huge assortment of books but aside for the layout what makes it special is the editions they carry. It’s not full of the latest releases with pictures of the movie promo on the cover. Particularly in the children’s section I was excited to find beautifully illustrated editions of well known titles in addition to some rare children’s book and re-issues of series like Nancy Drew in hardcover.

IMG_2330After The book loft we strolled around German village admiring the beautiful brick houses and the Fortress which was at one time the neighborhood school. It has been converted in to a home by some baron or business man of some sort who has tastefully preserved the original structure while adding what appears to be a beautifully landscaped “yard”. Apparently the foundation was dug up (don’t ask me how) to build an underground garage so all his hedge fund, celebrity and royal guests have a place to park because apparently parking in the neighborhood is a…rhymes with witch.

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IMG_2337 IMG_2335 IMG_2333After two nights of dining out we decided to order from Natalie’s coal fired pizza and pick up some Jeni’s ice cream. Jeni is a hometown hero of sorts and her ice cream is pretty darn good. There are multiple locations throughout Columbus. If you’re in town go ahead and treat yourself. I rarely eat dairy anymore but unique and delicious specialty ice cream is where I take liberty. Hmm, I should do a post on specialty ice cream.

IMG_2360Anyway, Natalie’s pizza was great but I also recommend Harvest Pizza which is where we ordered from last time I visited. Both are delicious. For dine in I prefer the vibe at Harvest. They have two locations but the one in German village has a great little attached bar called Curio.  The bar is set up like an apothecary. They make fantastic cocktails, the decor is super cool and they are quite possibly the only bar in town with out televisions broadcasting Ohio State games. I don’t know about you but I prefer to drink and dine without the distraction of TV.


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Day 4

Departure day. Before heading to the airport we had brunch at Katalina’s Cafe. A tiny, order at the counter place serving lots of local goodness with a line out the door. They have a festive patio to accommodate the crowds in warmer months. We had breakfast tacos and tried the pancake balls which are their claim to fame. They are salty delicious pancake dough balls filled with Nutella.  Did I mention being derailed from my usual diet on this trip? Well the pancake balls were the last hurrah. This is a great spot. Check it out.

So that’s it!  It was a fun sister weekend and I hope to have many more all over the country maybe even the world to share my finds.  Happy travels!


Thankful for: The ability to travel.

Wanting: A trip to Europe. It’s been almost ten years since my last trip. I am just yearning to go back but not quite ready to make the trip with the kids.

I’ve learned: Good things come to those who wait. Or is it now or never?  I’ve learned that mantras depends on the day and circumstances.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Lille Nord Magazine: A Celebration Of Nordic Culture and Design For The Modern Family

 

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Lille Nord Issue #1. Cover Illustration by Lisa Grue.

Lille Nord began as a website dedicated to Nordic culture, lifestyle, travel and design for the modern family. The Spring/Summer 2014 issue is the premier print edition of the magazine and I am super excited to currently be the exclusive retailer of Lille Nord in the United States! Lille Nord is a perfect fit for Fiona Finds, the shop, and totally in keeping with our concept of discovering small and independent brands and unique items from around the world to enhance the lives of the modern, design savvy family.

I met the Editor-in-Chief, Monica Bach, at Playtime, a children’s wear trade show in New York back in March. It was really exciting to discover Lille Nord.  I have always been a magazine junkie but it’s refreshing to find small and independently published magazines that have an interesting and unique point of view. Of course photography, styling and layout are all incredibly important factors to any publication of this kind and Lille Nord does not disappoint. I enjoyed the magazine so much upon looking through it that I’ve arranged with Monica to offer it for sale here in the United States, for you! No worries, the text is in English though the photos alone are worth the purchase. The magazine is geared towards design conscious modern parents and serves as a great reference guide for travel, food, DIY projects and of course, kids clothing and decor. It is published bi-annually.

The Spring/Summer issue features three delicious recipes for popsicles including one for elderflower and pear…yum! Fun to make and refreshing to eat on a hot summer day.  The issue also highlights some fantastic shops, cafes and points of interest throughout Scandinavia and includes an awesome family friendly day trip itinerary to Copenhagen. Enjoy interviews with Danish families and designers, browse shopping guides to learn about children’s fashion trends and get inspiration for your own life and environment.  Scandinavia may be small geographically but it’s big and influential in style! Enjoy a peek inside Lille Nord and purchase a copy here.

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements in the weeks and months to come and an onslaught of goods mid-summer!

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181 pages of goodness!

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Elderflower and Pear Popsicles!

Thankful for: Having a platform to share discoveries

Wanting: Warm weather already!!!(so I can eat popsicles outside;)

I’ve learned: There are so many people  in this world doing amazing, creative and positive things!

 

 

Fiona Finds: A little shopping trip around the world.

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Playtime NYC concept space featuring vendors from the show.

Instagram has played a huge part in my discovering emerging and growing brands all over the world. There are so many creative, artistic and intriguing people out there doing and making amazing things.  It’s been a great resource, in addition to trade magazines and tradeshows for learning about many of the brands that I will be carrying in the shop. Not surprisingly these brands hail from all over the world. I will have a healthy selection of goodies designed and manufactured in America and for that I am proud, but I am also really excited to introduce some great brands from around the globe. Amazing and beautiful things are coming from Denmark, Australia, Korea, Spain, and more! I take care to select brands I believe in that are not only aesthetically pleasing but have a story to tell. The people behind them have a purpose and vision that they want to share with world and I want to provide them a venue to do that. I’m also going to show how to mix and match brands because outfitting is the way you and your kids give these beautiful items some personal flair! Here’s some of the brands I visited with in New York and images of items coming to the store from far and wide. Great people make great things!

A peek at what’s coming…

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Jess brown Dolls made in California

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Hand knit merino vests from Argentina.

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Lavender filled wool triangle hand made my a Brooklyn stylist.

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Functioning mini harmonica necklaces!

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One of my favorites! This beautiful folk fabric refashioned into skirts, tops and scarfs. So fun and colorful.

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Playtime NYC concept space featuring different vendors from the show.

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Munster kids. A rad brand from Australia. Awesome graphics and cool boys clothes.

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One of my favorites. 100% merino wool poncho outfit from Spain.

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Fabelab Origami blanket from Denmark. I’ll be an exclusive retailer in the States!

Dreaming is Free.

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Not me for the record. Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post

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Also not me;)

It’s been seven years since I’ve been to Europe. By far the longest stretch since my birth. What’s happened to prevent me from hopping on a plane and spending weeks on end in the south of France, Edinburgh, Berlin, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Portugal and any number of other places I’m longing to go?  Not time off, not money, not fear…two children. Specifically mine. I see pictures and hear stories about people traveling around the world with their children and I admire them. They clearly have patience, stamina and either complete selflessness or selfishness. Nothing stands in their way.  I, on the other hand adhere to strict bedtimes, won’t leave my children with strangers, want to be on my own schedule and make decisions on a whim when I travel. My rules and desires combined make for disappoint all around. For me, the kids and you know the other parent…my husband. Don’t misinterpret my longing for complaining. I know full well that if I wanted to do it I could, but I would rather wait until my girls are older or frankly until I can go by myself. That’s my decision and I can live with it. In the meantime, I will dream about a day, just one day, when I can wake up in a sun-filled room over looking a cobblestone street, put on a lovely outfit, have a coffee then head out the door with my bag, a camera and my determination to spend the whole day eating, drinking and shopping my way through this magical place where ever it may be.

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Stockholm is calling to me.

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Paris will always work.

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This may be a little too secluded but could I could just hop on the train to Edinburgh.

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I’ve heard only lovely things about Croatia.

Thankful for: My two happy and healthy girls.

Wanting: See above

I’ve learned: I stand in my own way sometimes.