September 24, 2012

Book Review: One Shot Away

One Shot Away Review
Remember how one really bad week in high school felt like an eternity that would impact the rest of your life?  Those heavy feelings of teen angst and determination to overcome the odds came rushing back to me as I read T. Glen Coughlin's latest novel, One Shot Away. The tagline for this teen novel is "A Wrestling Story", but it is much more than a tale of competition amongst a high school wrestling team.

Though their hardships are especially dismal - Diggy is struggling to make weight while dealing with a father who acts more like an abusive and monomaniacal coach than support figure; Jimmy, the star athlete, could face jail time and lose his posh girlfriend for doing his dad a shady favor; Trevor has to balance the death of his father and perceived betrayal of his mother all while fending off a jealous teammate who will go to great lengths to make sure he doesn't control their weight class - the three main characters are sympathetic and their circumstances paint a hyperbolic picture of universal senior year struggles, thus making the book appeal to an audience far wider than high school wrestlers and fans.

The book gave me an exciting glimpse into the lives of people I didn't know in high school. I knew my school had a wrestling team, but I didn't know anyone on it, nor did I realize what a commitment the sport was -- counting every calorie, working out obsessively, competition amongst your teammates as well as your competitors. It's intriguing. And the prose read like a fast-paced movie and kept me hooked -- my heartbeat accelerated right on cue as I held my breath during the climax of the novel when you're not sure if one of the characters will live or die during a cold-weather drowning incident. Coughlin's prose is fast-paced, articulate, smart and exciting! (A refreshing departure from the dumbed down, repetitive, dialogue-heavy prose of popular teen novels like *cough cough* the Twilight series.)

For someone like me, more than a decade beyond high school problems, Coughlin makes it easy to reflect on the time in your life when you realize your parents are flawed and are responsible for your flaws, when the activities you do after school define who you are to the point where you can't imagine life any other way, when a prank can leave devastating effects, and when graduation looms, that feeling of melancholy that resides in you when you realize you don't have to look back on HS life if you don't want to.

One Shot Away is recommended for teen boys, and I think this is a great book for parents to read with their sons.  Parent/child relationships are in the background of each character's struggle and could be used as a jumping off point for discussing your own relationships. I know it's difficult to get high school aged kids to read for fun. I think this book could remind them that quality literature can be cool - this book is gritty, honest, even a bit sexy (there is mention of "hooking up" and one minor character happens to be a motel prostitute but its all a very tame PG/PG-13). Definitely check it out!

One Shot Away will be released on October 2nd and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Read an excerpt here.

Disclosure: I was provided an advanced copy from Harper Collins' Teen for review purposes. The author is a family member but we never discussed the book's themes and all opinions expressed are my own.

July 25, 2012

Girlie Milestones ~ Wordless Wednesday

1st Haircut and 1st Nail Polish:
My girlie girl is becoming a little lady.

After putting it off and putting it off, I decided to trim her hair myself for her first haircut. Super easy.

She loved the blow dryer!

A few days later, time for toes.

I used Sally Hansen Quick Dry polish. Dried SO fast. Toddler proof, for sure!

The tears came because Savvy wanted to paint Daddy's toenails too, but he refused.

July 11, 2012

Popsicles then and now ~ Wordless Wednesday

What a difference a year makes!

Inaugural popsicle of 2012 - a wonderfully creamy honeydew flavor

First Popsicle EVER in 2011 - Not quite getting the hang of it...

I was doing great when mommy held it. What happened?


July 8, 2012

Sunken Meadow Park, the Yorkville of Long Island beaches

If Jones Beach, with its overcrowding, drunken revelry, loud music, sky-writing advertisements, loud club promoters and frozen fruit bar salesmen, is the Times Square of Long Island beaches, then the beach at Sunken Meadow Park is the family-friendly, quiet, slow-paced, safe Yorkville.  It is the perfect location for a beach day with kids!

View Larger Map

Being on the North Shore facing the Long Island Sound, there are no waves or strong rip currents. So as parents, we can worry a teensy bit less* about our toddlers' safety and give them a bit more autonomy thanks to the lack of crowds.

Rob, Savvy and I met up with our bffs Stephanie and her daughter at Sunken Meadow Park last week to soak up the sun, convince the girls that going in the water is fun, collect seashells and throw rocks, and eat ice cream.

We stayed a few hours, but you could easily spend the entire day here as a family, as there is a sizable playground, nature trails, picnic areas and a cafe, and an expanse of beach for playing in the water or taking a long walk along the picturesque coastline.  The North Shore of Long Island is notoriously rocky, so definitely bring water shoes for the kiddos and shoes you don't mind getting wet. After heading from our blankets to the water and back a dozen times, my feet couldn't handle the rocks and shells any longer so I started wearing my flip flops in the water.

Such a fun, beautiful, pristine Long Island staycation adventure:

Looking West. Next time we'll walk to the bluff!

The LI Sound according to Savvy:
"Not pool! Not bathtub!"

Our friends collecting shells.

Both kids in the same shot! Success!

My husband is allergic to the sun and HATES the beach.
He loved Sunken Meadow Park though!

Looking East. 

Love her face.

Obligatory family self portrait

The lady in the yellow hat. This woman knows how to relax.

Posted this pic on Instagram and my husband complained
that he looked too skinny...

There's a glimpse of the guns he's been building up with his trainer :-P
(Happy Rob? Now the Internets know you have muscles.)

Now THAT'S a watersport I could handle.

Must punctuate the day with ice cream :)

Kissing cuties :-*

Savvy's still reeling from the kiss!
What a fun day!

*Of course you still have to watch your kids the whole time! 

July 2, 2012

Around the World in Philadelphia: 12 Hours in Rittenhouse Square

Do you know what Philadelphia is the land of? Yes, it's the land of colonial American History, crazed sports fans and greasy cheesesteaks. But I recently learned that it's also the mecca of well-executed theme restaurants and bars that enable you to travel the world in no time at all.

I didn't think I'd go there and feel transported to Italy, the Prohibition era, London and Paris. But during a recent girls' weekend to visit a friend that lives in Rittenhouse Square, in the span of 12 hours, we traveled through time and traversed the globe.  Here's our itinerary and the places we stopped into thanks to the planning skillz of my Philly-dwelling friend Mellie.

2pm: Capogiro Gelato

This place is THE REAL DEAL, unlike the crappy gelato I've had in NYC's Little Italy and elsewhere. This gelato rivals authentic Italian gelato eaten whilst in Italy. I'm certainly not an expert, but during a 10 day visit to Italy, I ate gelato twice a day, often more than one scoop at a time. That's a LOT of ice cream! This was many years ago, but nothing has compared to the concentrated flavors and soft, creamy texture until going to Capogiro. I combined Banana Rum and Baccio (chocolate hazelnut) and it was honestly divine. Go there. Immediately. The only American gelato I've had that comes close is from Sucre in New Orleans.

2:30pm: Buffalo Exchange

We impulse purchased dresses at this second hand shop, then continued window shopping along Chestnut Street where they have weird eco-friendly trash cans that act as mini trash compactors and are only picked up by the garbage trucks when full to save on fuel or something.

3:30pm: Tria Cafe

This is the kind of place that makes me question why I live in such an expensive city. The cuisine and wine was so good. And SO reasonably priced. Artisan bruschetta for $4. Cured meats for $6. The quality was high but there was no pretense here. It was bright, with no in-your-face decor. Just a sleek vibe and an amazing menu. Not sure how it came up, but we ended up talking with the bartender about encapsulating placentas, so yeah, it's not stuffy!

4:45pm: The Dandelion Restaurant

Welcome to London! This gastropub transports you to the London of an old-world era. They nail it here, from the decor to the cocktails. I debated between a can of Strongbow or a fancy cocktail and the cocktail won. Muddled to perfection.

5:30pm: Home for Skinny Girl White Peach Margaritas

Took some time to relax on Mellie's the shady patio, observe some scary hornets congregating by the fence, and make ourselves look cute before dinner.

8:30pm: Parc

This sprawling French
brasserie on Rittenhouse Square is the perfect dinner spot for a Saturday night. It's so huge that you're pretty much guaranteed a reservation, you can dress to impress or go casual without anyone batting an eye, the staff is professional and above-and-beyond attentive, and there's something on the menu for every budget.  This place nails the Paris feel, with an "everything is bigger in America" execution.

10pm: The Farmers' Cabinet


From the waiter with the curled mustache, to the menu that includes heavily spiked champagne punch, and the legit house jazz band and cocktail menu that reads like a mixology encyclopedia, The Farmers' Cabinet transports you to the 1920s. The only thing separating The Farmers' Cabinet from a place with a true speakeasy vibe is that it isn't hidden. The muted trumpet of the house jazz band can be heard from across the street, there isn't a tough entry policy, and the large sign outside and wide windows are inviting.

After Midnight: Karaoke in Chinatown


My expired driver's license got us denied entry at a supposedly awesome karaoke spot in Philly's Chinatown despite my friends and I proclaiming that I'm a 30 year old MOM. Lame! So we walked Sarah to the train station and holed up in a pub with the post-college crowd until close to last call.

This trip marked my first night away from Savannah! She had such a fun weekend with her father and only asked for me once. I'm glad I waited as long as I did before leaving her and this was the perfect way to rejoin the world of wining and dining with great friends.

The ladies in blue. We also met up with Sarah of Made in USA Challenge
but didn't get a group shot! She wore navy. T'was a blue Saturday apparently.

June 27, 2012

Great Grandma's Russian Nesting Dolls ~ Wordless Wednesday

My grandmother says that her Russian nesting dolls are "not a toy" so I had to sneak them for Savvy to play with during a recent visit. I pinned a great article on "7 ways to Use Russian Dolls to Teach" but didn't use any of the ideas yet. I just let her have at it. I need to buy her a nesting doll set but I can't decide! Perhaps next time we go to Brighton Beach I'll find a shop that sells them... 

Yitta baby (Little baby)

Too many babies!

June 24, 2012

Michaels Passport to Imagination - Craft your way from Madagascar to the North Pole!

Visit 18 countries with your children this summer thanks to craft store Michaels Passport to Imagination event series. Taking place at every Michaels location, children explore different countries via flag-making, animal discovery and other arts & crafts at hands-on creative sessions now through July 28th.

This week, travel to China, Madagascar, and Canada. Make a fortune cookie, a rain stick, a "Moose Crossing" frame and more. The complete around-the-world itinerary including event dates and times is available here and pictured below.  Featured locales include the North Pole, Australia, India, and Brazil--every corner of the globe!

Savannah has been working with crayons, markers, paint, glue, glitter and stickers since she's been 14 months old. So far, all of her interactions with these materials have been 95% self directed. I believe in the power of self-directed creative play but I'm also very curious to see if she's mature enough to follow directions to make a craft. 

I will definitely make a trip to our Michaels on the Upper West Side this summer. Find your closest Michael's store here. Let me know which passport stamps you get!

June 19, 2012

Miraclesuit Swimwear GIVEAWAY and Bathing Beauties Bus Tour

Plan your beach staycations and vacations now: Thursday is officially the start of summer!

To kick off the season, Miraclesuit Swimwear is working with Momtrends to host a fun double decker bus tour of Manhattan filled with swimsuit-clad bloggers (including moi). They're giving away 100 bathing suits and other prizes to people we meet on the street! It's a modern "Miracle on 34th Street". Trust me, when you see these suits suck in and streamline your midsection, making you look "10 pounds lighter in 10 seconds" you will believe in miracles too!

WIN A MIRACLESUIT - 3 ways to win!

1. One lucky Staycation Mama reader will win a slimming bathing suit (avg retail price approx $150) -- enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

2. Twitter contest on the 1st day of summer. Entry rules: Must follow @miraclesuitswim and must tweet to @miraclesuitswim and @momtrends during the hours of 11am-1pm EST on Thursday, June 21st. 

3. If you're in NYC, come find the bus! Momtrends posted the bus schedule here.

Don't want to wait? Buy a Miraclesuit on June 21st and get free shipping all day. 

I visited the Miraclesuit showroom earlier this week to be fitted for the suit I'll be wearing to the Today Show and Summer in the City bus tour. I chose the Sonatina in a muted but funky charcoal print. Here are my other favorites:

The Isabella 
The Jena
Enter to win your favorite swimsuit today! Embrace the sexiness of a slimming one piece. Seriously, even if you have a bikini ready body, these classic suits exude a tasteful yet sultry sexiness and deserve a spot in your summer wardrobe.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to follow our journey by following hast tag #miraclesuitcelebratessummer. And who knows, maybe you'll see me on the Today Show or on the roof of a bus during your lunch break!

{Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I will will be compensated for my participation in the Miraclesuit Summer in the City event on June 21st. All opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect the opinions of Miraclesuit.}

June 18, 2012

Daddy Teaches Savvy the Essentials ;)

My favorite, favorite people; Father's Day 2012

In honor of Father's Day, I want to highlight TEN awesomely hilarious things my husband taught our daughter in the last couple of weeks:

  1. To say "Old Milk!" instead of "Oh Shit!" when something goes unexpectedly wrong.  (Now she combines the two...."Oh shit. Old milk!" When we stop laughing every time she says shit, she might stop saying it...)
  2. To dance the babushka with arms crossed while saying "Russia Russia Russia Russia".
  3. To dance the Robot.
  4. To say "mommy's butt" when asked where wind comes from.
  5. An improvised song with hand movements about how to make scrambled eggs that has now been sung about 50 times this weekend. 
  6. A secret handshake - they started this a few months ago but I smile extra big when I see them do it.
  7. How to suck the inside of a french fry up through a straw. (Savvy blew through the straw instead at the Mansion diner -- spitball potatoes anyone? Thankfully, she didn't hit anyone.)
  8. The art of thumb wrestling.
  9. Beginner bowling principles using an improvised lane of squishy blocks, wooden shapes and a big ball.
  10. How to balance a spoon on her nose - a bit more practice and she'll have this essential life skill down pat:



Today was a good day! Lots of smiles, lots of taking care of daddy, lots of fun, and the beautiful sound of a little girl saying "Happy Father's Day" ("happy fodo dae") for the first time just before bedtime.

She's so much braver with her father. Even went down the big spiral slide!

Both gesturing "c'mon mom".

Showing daddy her climbing skillz.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...