February 27, 2012

Long Island Ikea - Barely a Swedish Staycation

Perspective. Savannah explored the Ikea warehouse.
It's been my mission to buy Savvy a table for arts & crafts, puzzle play, and dining in miniature so I've been scouring Pinterest and blogs for weeks. There are a million options but my extreme cheapness kept me from biting the bullet on a cute table from Land of Nod when I knew there were tables at Ikea near our family on Long Island. Since Ikea doesn't offer online shopping, we waited until a trip to visit family before checking out kid stuff at the Hicksville store.

Land of Nod Activity Table - LOVE it but it's $449 and big. Maybe our next apartment.
During the visit, my father-in-law, who works in the furniture business, offered to buy Savannah a custom designed table from a school supplier that he knows of, but I was too impatient to wait even longer, and since we were just a few minutes away from the Hicksville Ikea, we bought an interim option that we can eventually repurpose when we get a better table.

We compared dimensions and decided to get one of their ridiculously cheap coffee/side tables in red along with white kid-size chairs.

This Lack table cost only $12.99

And so we could check Sweden off our Staycation list, we made sure to load up on Swedish treats at the Ikea cafe after picking up some toys for Savannah. We shared a plate of meatballs and sampled the "Ikea Food" juices.

Elderflower drink. YUM.

Lingonberry drink. I sip skeptically. Tastes like cranberry juice.

The best tasting meatballs are the hardest to reach.

February 24, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays Never Get Me Down

Today is one of those days I used to dread. Rainy and chilly. The perfect recipe for an annoying commute to work complete with inevitable lunch at my desk and a gray mood to match the gray skies.

Since changing careers (har har) to being a mom, these rainy days can be magical. This is the first drizzly day I can recall in many weeks. In anticipation of wet springtime days, I bought Savannah adorable red rain boots on clearance at Target for $6.99 and an iPlay rain coat with pictures of umbrellas on it. She squeals with delight every time she sees an umbrella (who knows why), so I thought that was the best print for her until she has an umbrella of her own to hold.

When we woke to a rainy day, I was so excited for Savvy to walk through puddles wearing her first pair of rain boots. I hurried her through breakfast and kept her in her fleece pajamas in fear that the rain would stop.

Once dressed, we headed to Carl Schurz Park. Poor kiddo thought we were going to the swings ("WEEEEng") but I told her the playground was too wet - we were just going walking instead.  We had the whole place to ourselves. Even the dogs stayed away.

It was a magical stroll with my best friend, even though (as you can see from the photos below) she basically tried to get as far away from me as possible.

Cold nose. Time to go.

Pause to look at beautiful berries adorned with a drop of water each.

Hurried morning breakfast = hearty brunch at 10:45a. Savvy and I enjoyed a lingering mommy/daughter meal at the Mansion diner where Savvy dazzled the staff with her manners and friendliness and received a lesson in Spanish.

Tomorrow my companion, my joy, my motivation, my love turns a year and a half old. This beautiful time is so fleeting. Must soak it all in and never wring it out.

February 22, 2012

Unabashedly American at Eataly

Eataly is the world's largest artisinal Italian food and wine marketplace, located in Manhattan's Flatiron District. It was an afternoon snack spot for Savannah, our friend Alexis and I thanks to its proximity to the Barney's Warehouse Sale and the playground at Madison Square Park.

Because we had Savannah with us, we didn't leisurely explore the entire 50,000 square foot space -- which is part market, part food hall, part cafe/restaurant -- reading all the menus, perusing the cheeses and salumi, lingering over a few glasses of vino. No. Our mission was, secure a table with chairs (most tables are at standing height which wouldn't comfortably accommodate our toddler dining companion) and get food. We were hungry.

I realize now that our time there is probably the perfect antithesis of how our European counterparts would have handled the situation. And that's totally fine. We had a blast!

Here's how to be unabashedly American at Eataly with tot in tow. And by "American", I mean just a touch gauche:

1. Secure a Table FIRST

Upon entering, the first thing we noticed was the lack of seating. All the tables at the front were taken and further exploration showed that the rest were standing only. Bubble chairs caught our eye and there was a small grouping of three tables near the fish counter in no man's land that were available. We couldn't risk losing this prime real estate, so like teenagers snagging a table at a mall food court, we staked our claim before getting any food or bev.

I bet every real Italian or foodie that visits this place would make a beeline for the espresso bar then slowly meander through each food stand, grabbing bits to make a full meal, leaving it to chance whether they get a seat or not.

2. Shop Quickly, Stick With What You Know

Alexis and Savannah hung out at the table while I went in search of food. The original plan was for me to pick up some stuff while Alexis watched Savvy (and the table), and then we'd swap. There was so much to choose from that in my first minute away from them, I got overwhelmed by selection and also wanted to get back fast in case Savvy started getting annoyed--she was def hungry! I saw a case of pre-sliced salami, bresaola and soppressata and thought that would be an easy choice along with a chunk of cheese. We could share with Alexis and enjoy our food right away. I went for my old standby -- sweet soppressata -- and picked up a creamy cow's milk cheese without even reading the description. I hastily threw away the wrapper before even reading the name of the cheese, which I regret since it was soooooo good. I also grabbed procuitto on a baguette. I briefly looked at olives, but didn't spot pitted ones right away (always thinking of Savannah) so in my "I'm not being fast enough" frenzy, I settled on the 3 major food groups -- cured meat, cheese, bread.

4. Play With Your Food and Surroundings

This would probably NOT fly with prim and proper European parents. Whatevs.

Savvy loves it when I roll up salami into cigars for her. "Roll it, roll it, roll it," I announce as I demonstrate this fine art for her. So while she alternated between shoving entire pieces in her mouth, she also made several failed attempts to roll it up herself while Alexis procured us some juices to share.

Too much soppressata, mama, help!

Upon returning with two bottles of juice blends, 3 cups and 3 straws, we began a fun juice drinking game of passing around cups to let Savvy sample the different flavors, eventually giggling at her as she licked some errant orange pulp out of one of the lids like a lollipop. Times like this, I absolutely love being a fun American mom who is willing to let my child enjoy being a kid without forcing her to adhere to strict table manners at every meal.

Savvy's favorite part of the whole experience was definitely her bubble chair, which we spun her around in to keep her smile beaming from ear to ear, while we chatted Lex and I about shoes and wedding planning.

5. Blend Fancy & Trashy

Neither Alexis nor I could locate any disposable napkins or silverware, so Alexis did what any unabashed New Yorker would do - swiped two real sets from the nearby cafe tables so we could add a touch of fine dining utility to our snack time. We may have used the plastic salami package as a catch-all plate for our meal AND fallen crumbs and garbage, but, damn it, we will use white linen napkins and a real knife to cut our cheese and baguette!

Next time...Next time I will indulge in the full Eataly experience and make an afternoon out of sampling the handcarved sandwiches, coal fired pizzas, authentic gelato, and slowly sip a cappuccino or glass of Montepulciano. I'll peruse the market for unique pasta shapes and other Italian goodies to stock up my pantry with some Euro decadence. I suppose that means I'll need to leave my one year old at home...

February 21, 2012

Signs of Spring in Carl Schurz Park

Savvy running around "our tree"

Daffodil leaves pushed through the soil throughout the city weeks ago thanks to such a mild winter, but today is the first time we've noticed true signs of early spring. The flowering trees in our "secret spot" in Carl Schurz Park have their buds ready to blossom. I wonder how long it will be now until all the magnolias and cherry blossoms show their colors. I can't wait!

Couldn't get my iPhone camera to focus on these tiny buds for the life of me.

Our tree is sporting hundreds of buds. Wheee!

We even spotted roses blooming and dozens of rose buds soaking up the sun, getting ready to make their appearance.

I just looked through old photos from last year, an especially long, cold winter. The first time we came across flowering magnolias was March 25th. I bet we'll find some a month earlier this year. We'll be on the hunt over the next 4 days for the first buds to open up.

February 15, 2012

Denmark in Central Park

We've been fairly lazy on the "international staycation adventure seeking" front this winter, but I did have an experiential inspiration from a friend's Christmas gift to Savvy.

My wanderlusty girlfriend Melinda went to Scandinavia during the summer of 2011 and gifted Savannah an amazing collection of Has Christian Andersen fairy tales purchased at his home in Denmark. Savvy is still too young to pay attention to his lengthy stories, but we've looked through the pictures numerous times and I've thought a lot about which were my favorite stories as a child.

"The Red Shoes", a film based on Andersen's fairy tale, was one of my favorite movies to watch as a young child. I used to borrow the VHS from the library all the time just so I could watch the ballerina dance in her red slippers. I was so young at the time, I don't think I cared much for the plot (I recall it being a frightening story and would only look at the screen during the ballerina dancing scenes) but my love of red shoes was born and lingers to this day. I always have a pair in rotation and passed along my style belief that red shoes go with everything to Savannah. She loves her red Mooshu Trainers and picks them out of her shoe pile often.

Sorry for the annoying gif from the film. This is an homage to my husband who is gif-crazy these days. Image via.

Earlier this month on a rare 55 degree day, Savvy and I took a long stroll through Central Park to visit the Hans Christian Andersen statue. She wore her red shoes and looked adorable so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take a photo with this blog post in mind to fulfill our arbitrary Denmark requirement.

After waiting for a few other children to pose for their pictures, it was Savvy's turn. She was not at all interested in standing near the gigantic statue by herself. This is about as close as she was willing to get on her own:

I didn't want to torture her, but I did want a shot so I snapped one pic:

I guess the statue is a wee bit scary. We'll have to visit again this summer for story time. The Hans Christian Andersen Story Telling Center hosts stories at the statue each Saturday at 11am from June-September, which will certainly make the visit a lot more fun.

Here are some more photos from our springlike winter walk through the park:

No ice this year!

Savvy quacked at the ducks. Click here for video of her remarkable quacking abilities ;)

The sun was low in the sky. Savvy chased and yelled at her shadow, getting lots of laughs from tourists.

Lucky for me, she took a break from talking to strangers to give her mama a smile:

Visiting the Alice in Wonderland statue, however, was a more tolerable experience :)
I'd choose Wonderland over Denmark too, kiddo.

February 13, 2012

Lingerie, LivingSocial & Looking Back

I wouldn't call myself "a model" but I did some modeling in my early 20s. I realized that you didn't need a perfect body and face or an agent to work as a model. You just needed a sense of adventure and fearlessness, Craigslist ads, and a free online portfolio. So for a year after college I lived out my life-long modeling fantasies while tapping into my inner stylist and art director.

I worked for free sometimes. I got paid sometimes. I was a muse. Seriously. I collaborated with photographers in NYC and DC and dabbled in some art direction. I styled most of my own shoots or I went with whatever (often) crazy ensembles the photographers picked out: I wore chain mail; I wore a curly, black wig (?!?!?!).

I posed in the ocean at Long Beach--and I never go in the ocean. I posed nude for an anti-chemicals series for a comedy writer turned activist photographer. I worked for a conceptual artist that took polaroid "reflections" of my image in a white wall, where I was literally paid to stand there and NOT BE IN THE PICTURES.

I did a shoot in an abandoned ballet studio filled with antique furniture. I was photographed sitting on a couch, watching a movie. Security guards once stopped us from shooting in the PS1 Contemporary Art Center. I was asked by a photographer if he could videotape our shoot to show his "Japanese benefactors" who might want to book me for video work --- UHHH NOOOoooo thanks. I did boring "just sit there" work for a photographer who wanted a test model for his studio set-up.

So random.

I loved connecting with the camera. I loved challenging my vulnerability -- either by showing an uncomfortable amount of skin, or conjuring up an emotion, or meeting a photographer for the first time and hoping all intentions were professional while planning an exit strategy. I loved feeling way prettier than I actually was. I loved the moment where I got to see all the photos for the first time.

At the time, I thought I was doing it for the pictures. To capture my last moments of youth and preserve it somehow. But really, most of those pictures live on my old hard drive somewhere or tucked away in boxes in the back of my closet. I don't look at them, but I do think of the experiences often because they were all so bizarre.

Last year, I stumbled across a LivingSocial deal for a boudoir photography photo shoot for a really good price. I impulse purchased it. I thought it would be fun to do a lingerie shoot for my husband. Well, let's be honest, I thought it would be fun to do for me -- to mark turning 30, to have sexy photos of myself after having a baby.

It was fun. And it was nice to hear the photographer ask, "Wow, have you done this before?" "Well, actually, yeah. A million years ago." I kinda have the bug again - the desire to be creative, to collaborate with artists, to have that "putting on a show" feeling, to strut in a way I do not do in my everyday life. [Will pose for free :) Tell your photog friends.]

I figure I'll share a few of the photos. It was a pretty prudish shoot for a lingerie shoot - went classy instead of racy - but I'm feeling a smidge embarrassed so I'll just post a few of the portraits. These are unedited photos by Jerry Zalez:

A bit like an hour long vacation into my former life, eh?

February 2, 2012

Nunley's: 1st Carousel Ride, A Cautionary Tale

"There's a place for kids near The Cradle of Aviation. I always see a ton of children there. Let's see what it is," my grandfather suggested during an early autumn visit with Savannah. Turned out he was referring to the Long Island Children's Museum. We only had time for a short visit because Savvy and I needed to be home in time for her other Grandpa to pick us up, so it wasn't worth the $20/person fee to visit the museum for just 30 minutes.

LUCKILY, the same museum complex houses Nunley's Carousel, which is a famous Long Island landmark that has been operating since 1912. Score! We had just enough time to take a ride and I was SOOOO excited to have Savvy experience her very first carousel ride. It had been probably 20 years since I'd been on one and I worried I'd be nauseous from spinning around and around while listening to ridiculously loud carnival music, but my mind was occupied by keeping Savvy safe.

I thought there were two options for ways to ride the carousel. Horse or bench. Apparently there are THREE options and I wish I knew this ahead of time.

1. Horse that goes up and down--your standard merry-go-round horsie
2. Boring bench seat
3. Stationary horse

They have stationary horses on carousels??!?!?! If only there was a sign!!! How did that smart dad of a 1 year old in front of us know to choose the safest horse option? Savvy could've ridden on a toddler-friendly non-galloping horsie and I could've been spared the experience of clutching onto my slip sliding kid so she didn't fall to her death off of this horse as it went up and down from my waist height to up past my shoulders. She was too young at 13 months to understand holding onto the pole.

She was none the wiser and seemed to enjoy the ride--she didn't try to reach for my arms or even look for any sort of reassurance from me once we started moving.

Notice how I'm clutching the pole for dear life.

But really. This carousel is awesome!! I will definitely take her again! Just, if you have a child that can't hold onto the pole themselves, take my advice and find a stationary horsie.

February 1, 2012

Looking Back: Long Island, a Great Grandpa and the Road to Fond Memories

After giving birth to Savannah, I was lucky to avoid clinical postpartum depression or extreme postpartum anxiety. That said, my emotions were definitely in a major upheaval for many months as I adjusted to new motherhood and my hormones stabilized. While on the one hand I marveled at how easy breastfeeding, diapering and caring for my newborn was, I nervously crossed every street worrying that we'd both get run over and killed; I clutched the handle of her stroller in public worrying that if I let go someone would snatch her. While I thanked my lucky stars for being blessed with a newborn who slept 6 hour stretches at night from day 1, I sometimes cried in the kitchen during the 5am wake-ups out of jealous rage that my husband slept peacefully through Savannah's cries. While I finally understood how much I myself was loved by my family now that I experienced motherly love for Savannah, instead of reliving happy memories from my youth, my mind would fill with all the moments that caused me pain.

Every family argument, deep dark secret, embarrassment came rushing back. I made a mental catalogue of all the things I would NEVER do or say to Savannah. I had this weird mother hen instinct to shield Savannah from my family even though my overall childhood experience was happy--I wasn't abused or impoverished or left to go hungry.

My family is on Long Island, close enough to New York City for occasional visits. The first few visits were tense, especially when Savvy went through her bouts with stranger anxiety and cried anytime her grandma or great grandparents held her. Her cries made my physical response (elevated heart rate, "flight" response--I just wanted to rush her back home) almost unbearable and left me exhausted. I couldn't leave her for a minute because she would protest my departure as young as 3 months!- it was so much tougher to parent her when staying in my childhood home surrounded by loving family that wanted to help, than alone in my apartment. So I tried to avoid visits even though I also really wanted to show her off.

Eventually my unease disappeared as did all my other symptoms of "baby blues" or whatever you want to call it.

Last September, Savvy and I enjoyed a 4 day visit at my mom and grandparents' house. It was such a fun time and brought me right back to all the happy times I had as a child! Savvy was nearly 13 months old and a true walking, sorta-talking toddler at this point. She was finally warmed up to her grandma and great-grandparents, babbling with them, smiling constantly, giving kisses, etc.

My 88 year old grandfather, the one who inspired my love of travel and adventure by taking me on yearly road trips all across the US, planned daily activities for us to make sure Savannah had a great time. It was just what I needed to release all of my worries and really enjoy this crucial family bonding time.

Thanks to the adventures Gramps planned for us, Savannah rode a Carousel for the first time, threw rocks into a stream, and saw the type of plane he piloted, B-24, during WWII. She also learned to say Apple "aaaah-POOO", still one of her favorite words, thanks to the enthusiastic repetition of her great grandfather at the breakfast table.

I'll write short posts about the places we went in upcoming posts for those of you looking for things to do with children in Nassau County, LI, but for now, here are a few photos of Savvy and her loving family from that trip:

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