April 30, 2012

Where Love Resides

The illustration on the last page of Savvy's favorite book is of a house with its front door closed. "Ope". She wants the door to open. She often pretends to open the door and says the word key over and over. I always say I wish we had the key to open that door so we could see what's inside.

Today, she left the couch saying "key", presumably to get my keys from my purse. Exasperated because I didn't want her grabbing everything from my bag, I said "No honey, mommy's keys won't work. Come back. Let's read the book again."

She eagerly climbed back onto my lap. Then I got a bit sappy as I explained a mini life lesson to her. "The only key you have is the key to my heart." I explained that love resides in the heart, channeling the wedding quilt theme from How to Make an American Quilt*.  I touched my chest to show her where the heart was.

She said "head" and patted the top of her head.  "Love resides in the head?" Astute observation, kiddo. Who's teaching who?  I said, "Love resides in the heart and the head."

And with that, from her position perched on my lap, facing me, she reached her hands up and placed them on top of my head, smoothing down my hair then caressing my cheeks. She grinned, looking into my eyes as she touched my head, the place that her concept of love resides.

It is something amazing to be touched like that by your one year old daughter. So purely loving. This little person that grew inside me is capable of showing me such honest affection and gentleness. I consciously closed my eyes to savor the fleeting moment when I felt love reside everywhere.

*Best movie ever!

April 26, 2012

$2 Birth Kits Save Lives

I just learned the shocking statistic that the lifetime maternal mortality rate in Papua New Guinea is 1 in 7. 1 in 7 mothers die during or because of childbirth!  This is mind blowing.

Image via - from Mathias Heng

I also learned, thanks to Melissa at Dear Baby that many of these deaths can be prevented with a few simple supplies like soap, plastic gloves, gauze, a razor blade, string, and a plastic sheet.

They are included in birth kits that Bloggers for Birth Kits are putting together and sending to the developing world.

Imagine only knowing your baby during pregnancy and never having the experience of introducing that child to the world. It's something I can't bear to think about. I feel as though I've been given a second life as a mother. No mother should live just one life. There are many things wrong with the birthing industry in our country, but at least I can say that I don't know any mothers who didn't survive their child's birth. Not a friend, not an acquaintance, not a friend-of-a friend. NONE. We all survived and can do our part to help mother's around the world this Mother's Day with a small donation or simply sharing this post with our networks to spread the word.

Please visit The Mommyhood Memos to learn more about donating ($10 creates 5 kits!) or how to put your own birth kits.

Not sure what to get your own mother this Mother's Day? Make a donation on her behalf and they will send you a printed letter to include in her card.

Please spread the word! Thank you!

Dinner Date, Rain, Jaeger Schnitzel, and a Magic Sweater

I thought this post would be short and sweet since it details a short and sweet date with my husband - 1.5 hours alone together to be exact. But my wordsmith skills aren't in tip top shape at the moment and I can't decide on a unified theme.  There are 3 themes here - it's driving the former lit major in me crazy - but I'm just gonna go with it.

Theme 1: Trapped in 1999

My husband is my high school sweetheart. When we're together, we can be our 17 year old selves again. We can be silly in the middle of the sidewalk in a rainstorm as I force him to take photos of me for this post. We can eat at a German restaurant and talk about our time studying abroad in Europe like it was yesterday.
Alone with my handsome hubby for first time in ages.

But it can also be a crutch to avoid embracing new styles as times change since we're not trying to attract a mate and basically have carte blanche to not give a crap. My husband has had the same haircut our entire relationship, though thankfully he ditched the frosted tips once we rang in the new millenium. I still dress like a kid sometimes - mismatched clothes, flagrant disregard to fashion rules I judge others based on, not caring about chipped nail polish, etc. Would this be the case if we didn't have each other? Probably not.
If it was really 1999, we *might've* stolen this stein.

That brings us to...

Theme 2: My "date night" outfit

This was an impromptu date thanks to a late afternoon visit from Savvy's Grandpa and Nonna, where we trudged through the heavy rain to a senior-citizen-esque 5:30pm dinner at Heidelberg (2nd Ave between 85th & 86th).

I went super casual: Leggings, soft top and the best sweater ever with mismatched accessories out of convenience, thus removing all smartness from the outfit. That's okay.

Sweater - Piperlime \\ Shirt - Banana Republic \\ Leggings - Express \\  Boots - Target \\ Bag - Francesca's Collections
These boots are a conscious act of fashion rebellion. I will not conform to the Manhattanite Hunter Boot rainy day uniform.  Well, maybe I will when this pair starts to leak...
This sweater is the best because it covers just enough butt to camouflage the leggings-as-pants faux pas. I don't own enough tunics, so I often wear short shirts with leggings and this magic sweater makes it okay.

Theme 3: German Staycation-y Goodness

The gray, damp, dreary weather gave me a hankering for gravy and meat. German comfort food at nearby Heidelberg restaurant was just what we needed.  I identify with my German heritage more than my Italian and English ancestry probably because my Grandfather fed me a healthy diet of braised meat and savory sauces my whole life. This restaurant reminds me of every German grandparent's living room - dark, comfy-casual, and filled with knickknacks, a broken clock and old holiday decor. (Or maybe that's just MY grandparents...)

I always feel like there's a sadness surrounding everything German because of the country's mistakes (gross understatement) throughout history. And my time in Munich, while a transformative experience as it was my first time traveling alone, was also a bit lonely, exacerbated by dark, dreary December weather and a general sense of melancholy while discovering first hand the sordid history of the land of my roots.  The rainy evening plus rustic ambience of the restaurant brought me right back in time. But man is the food good. Puts meat on your bones and makes you need a nap, good.

Jaeger Schnitzel at Heidelberg - creamy, wonderful, omg MEAT
Sauerbraten at Heidelberg - fork tender and tangy

Heidelberg is one last remnants of Yorkville's "Germantown" history. The food is excellent. The lunch specials are a bargain. If you haven't been, go for the sausages or the generously sauced entrees. And the beer, which takes 7 minutes to pour just like in Germany.

April 24, 2012

A Patriotic Staycation: Grant's Tomb, Riverside Park, and Seinfeld's Diner

Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?

Nobody. Just two caskets (Ulysses S Grant and his wife) in the center of a large, domed monument in Manhattan's Riverside Park at 122nd St. Now that that's out of the way, let's revisit our ultra patriotic American staycation:

My friend Melinda is a National Park buff and loves to fill up her park passport book with stamps. The Ulysses S Grant Memorial was on her list so she suggested Savvy and I join her.

I prepped Savvy the day before, telling her that we were going to take the bus to see statues. Savannah has a funny fascination with "datchoos" since I'm always pointing them out to her so this journey was very exciting to her.

In fact, the actual journey itself was exciting thanks to our toddler entertainment act: From the way she carried her purse with fist raised high in the air, squealed "HIII" to the bus driver, to how she intertwines her fingers and folds her hands in her lap on the subway (the "choo choo"); The juggling of all our gear (Savvy in and out of the Ergo, Starbucks coffees and breakfast, purses, Savvy's bag of snacks) was also a bit comical in its challenge -- but I was lucky to have a competent travel partner in Melinda :)

Luckily the 1 Train didn't stop short during this photo opp ;)

After taking the M86 to Broadway, we took the 1 train up to 125th Street and walked west to Riverside Drive. From there it was just a 2 block walk to the monument.

Melinda and Savvy

The back side of the monument houses a series of mosaic benches, "The Rolling Bench", that reminded us of Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona:

The front of the mausoleum is a beautiful sight, especially adorned with flags as it was the day of our visit. We had no idea what to expect before our arrival - the size of the monument was shockingly large.

The tomb is open every other hour during the day. During alternate hours, the nearby visitor's center opens. We arrived a little after 9am and had nearly an hour to spare before being able to enter, so we went to a nearby park and playground, ate breakfast, ogled a statue, and pushed Savvy on the swings next to an UWS bilingual cutie. After talking with us, the father remarked "A trip to the Upper West Side side is a vacation for East Siders just like a trip to the East Side is for us." Simple, yet astute observation.

When we made it into the tomb, we were the only people there at first. It was predominantly a wide open space, so Savvy had free reign to explore. It wasn't a museum with valuable items off limits to grubby toddler hands. All of the artifacts were either behind glass or out of her reach. I tried to convince Savvy to touch this guy's nose but to no avail, haha:

We climbed the stairs, counted statues, touched the cold marble walls and marveled at the giant caskets. We had way too much fun in a place that houses human remains...We prrrrrobably didn't do much to honor the dead, but Melinda got her National Park Stamp and one for Savvy, so our mission was accomplished.

Beautiful domed ceiling - Grant's Tomb

Savannah admiring her name.

This trip was Savvy's first true patriotic experience. Melinda sang "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and I recited the "Pledge of Allegiance" for full effect.

Young Savvy. Old flag.
After walking in circles counting statues (see video below) we decided to leave. We hit up a nearby playground where Savvy played in the sand, taught Savvy about columns, and chased a stray black cat.

"Mom, I'm touching the column like you said, but can we stop staring at the sun please???"

Shade. That's better!

By 11:45 we were ready for lunch. I suggested Tom's Restaurant on Broadway and 112th Street to round out our morning history experience. The facade of Tom's is famous from being shown in just about every episode of Seinfeld. It's just an average diner, but I felt more of a patriotic reverence here than at Grant's Tomb. Definitely a place that every Seinfeld fan needs to visit once.

Tom's Restaurant Seinfeld

Interested in visiting Grant's Tomb? Every year on Ulysses S. Grant's birthday, April 27th, there is a special ceremony on the monument's plaza. That's this weekend! Learn more here: http://www.nps.gov/gegr/planyourvisit/event-details.htm?eventID=264403-232573

April 23, 2012

Simple Messy Hairdo, Toddler Style

Lately, Savannah's favorite thing to do at home is play in the bathroom sink. She likes to serve me "hot coffee" in plastic Easter egg halves, fill up and dump out my used Starbucks cups, brush her teeth, wash her doll's feet and hands, lick water off her fingers, etc. I often use this time where she's perched on her foot stool to brush [oatmeal out of] her hair.

Today, the Paper Mama's most simple hairstyle ever tutorial came to mind and I thought it would be fun to put the look on Savvy. Next stop, Toddlers and Tiaras (JUST KIDDING).

So to the soundtrack of Savvy's laughter and squeals when ice cold water splashed on her (which she called "too hot"), I grabbed 3 bobby pins and put 3 twisty bun doodads in Savvy's hair. It took all of 30 seconds.

Business in the front

Party in the back! - 3 simple twists secured with one bobby pin each

I'd do this again. Only fell a little bit at the playground, but I love messy hair so was perfect for the warm afternoon.

Spinning water wheel is mesmerizing

Doesn't need to stand on her tippy toes anymore :-O

Yay, the first time I left her unattended at the sink to grab camera and she didn't fall and crack her head open on the toilet or shower. WIN.
Have you ever come across the world of hair tutorials across the blogosphere? When I first joined Pinterest, they were some of my favorite pins to search for. Which are your favs? I love Keiko Lynn's.

April 18, 2012

Free Books: From Dolly Parton & Your Local Synagogue. Yes, Really!

Savvy receives two books in the mail per month at no cost to us thanks to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and The PJ Library, Jewish Bedtime Stories & Songs.

I'm fairly certain she believes these books are gifts from our doormen, since they don't fit in our mailbox and are handed to her directly from the package room. She handed me one of the books today, saying "Nyon", her pronunciation of John the doorman.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library aims to ensure children, ages 0-5, have a library of books to call their own to enhance their imagination. I want to shout this from the rooftops, because I hope hope hope that disadvantaged families that can't afford to buy new books for their children learn about this!

Every NYC kid can get 12 free books a year!!!  

[The Imagination Library is available in the US and Canada. They've sent 40,000,000 books so far! See if your city or town is sponsored to receive free books by clicking on on "Register My Child" from the homepage.]

After signing up for the PJ Library several months ago since Savvy is half Jewish, we finally received the first book! After John the doorman gave her the package and we examined it in the elevator, I exclaimed, "Savvy! It's your first Jewish book!" "Jew book jew book jew book." Oy. Her mimicking skills are hilarious.

This month's book was Good Night Israel, part of the Good Night Our World series.

I read up to the Dead Sea page before she got bored and left the room. We'll see if she takes an interest in it another time.

If you're Jewish and would like your child to receive books and music, click on the PJ Library Community page to see if your community has been sponsored.  If you know of a similar organization that shares books about Christianity or any other topics for that matter, please let me know in the comments!

Please spread the word about these great organizations and consider making a donation.

April 16, 2012

Overheard in NYC: Spring Break Edition

Last week, the public school kids were on spring break. Loved overhearing this conversation at our local Starbucks one morning:

Kid starts getting antsy. Mother explains that they're leaving soon and will grab a taxi.

"Mom, why are we going to the top of the Empire State Building?"

"I don't know. It'll be fun. It's something to do."

What she really should have said is:  "So you don't sound like a douche bag when you tell your college roommate you've never been there despite growing up in NYC."

image via wikipedia

Serena With a Baby?

After drinking tequila sunrises and chatting about life-changing decisions last Thursday night with my friend Karen, the conversation shifted to blogging. She's working on launching a complete overhaul of her website, Happelstance. She has big dreams for her writing career with the talent, tenacity and PR and designer team to back them up. 

Taking my own blog to the next level - developing my marketing strategy, building community, acquiring sponsors, posting more frequently - is on my must-do list. Karen's assessment might be just the kick in the ass that I needed. She has built an enviable career casting for reality television shows like Biggest Loser and Hells Kitchen. "From a casting point of view, you and Savannah have such a great online persona. You're like Serena with a baby! You're living a dream life in Manhattan." Now, certainly, I could write using the "Serena with a baby" archetype as my filter. (That's a Gossip Girl reference.) Savannah does enjoy using the steps of the Met as stair-climbing practice, but our day-to-day life is not fancy. We just happen to live in the place that everyone watches on TV. 

Today Rob, Savvy and I spent the day in Central Park with a picnic beneath a giant flowering tree, followed by a walk through the Conservatory Garden. As Savvy pointed out the double decker tourist buses driving down Fifth Avenue, I felt consciously lucky to live in the place that people clammer to visit from all over the world. But that's where the "Serena with a baby" comparison ends. Our picnic included deli sandwiches and a shared water, not charcuterie and champagne; in my scramble to get out of the house, I didn't put any makeup on and cursed myself for going another weekend without dying my hair, but it was a perfect Sunday afternoon in my version of Manhattan paradise. 

Our magical family moments of the day included climbing rocks, throwing fallen petals, using tree roots like a balance beam, smelling lilacs, and sharing an ice cream cone. Take a look...

Lilacs, Central Park Conservatory Garden

central park conservatory garden manicured lawn

What about you? How conscious are you of your online brand and persona when it comes to your blog? Do you consciously portray yourself as a "type"?

For those of you visiting from Glamamom's Monday Mingle, my Sunday picnic outfit is: Top from Williamsburg boutique, Citizens of Humanity Jeans, Blowfish flats, and a target cross-body bag.

April 13, 2012

Cascabel Taqueria & the Great Hot Sauce Incident of 2010

Cascabel - 1542 2nd Ave NYC - image via
Oh Cascabel. Your upscale yet affordable Mexican cuisine is fantastic. You're in my neighborhood. Your decor is fun and welcoming. But your service is usually lacking. *Understatement* But the menu and its mouthwatering execution keeps me coming back despite the Great Hot Sauce Incident of 2010. And I finally had a wonderful experience all around during our last visit.

What's the Great Hot Sauce Incident of 2010, you ask? 

Well, it started with a fun Mexican brunch with my husband, my 2 month old baby, my Mellie, and her boyfriend. We ordered plates of food and margaritas. The plates could barely fit on the table, we ordered so much food!

Our meal quickly went downhill because someone on staff didn't do their side work. The hot sauce bottles were clogged and their nozzles gooky. In order to get any of the thick homemade sauces out of their containers, you really needed to squeeze them as hard as you could resulting in a massive spray of sauce.

Mellie attempted to spice up her huevos with some spicy red sauce and after some aggressive finagling, a GEYSER OF SAUCE ricocheted off her chilaquiles into her eyes and hair and all over Savvy and I, staining our clothes, crusting our hair, dotting our stroller with red sauce, smearing my makeup. At the time it was both funny and horrifying, and a huge spectacle at the crowded brunch spot. Thank GOD I was holding Savvy with her head resting over my shoulder. If the hot sauce had splattered on her face instead of her hair there would have been true hell to pay from this mama. I'm still bitter that they didn't comp our meal. They gave us a wet rag and free hot chocolate, but seriously, we were not in the mood to linger.

Cascabel NYC Hot Sauce

One of our first family portraits
But I don't hold a grudge. I've been back several times since then, most recently for "Fiesta Time" with my bff Carrie and Savvy after an afternoon at London Candy Company and Central Park.

This visit was perfect. We arrived at 4:30pm so Cascabel wasn't very crowded, and much to our surprise their amazing margaritas were on special for $6 and several of their best dishes were offered in appetizer-sized portions for $4 each.  

And what a difference a year and a half makes. The salsa bottles were pristinely maintained and Savvy was old enough to serve herself the mild tomatillo sauce. How far we've come!

Cascabel Taqueria Tamale
She obviously wasn't traumatized for life by the Great Hot Sauce Incident of 2010

My little lump of a snuggly newborn has grown into such a huge toddler personality. While Carrie and I sipped cucumber and watermelon margaritas, she entertained us by dancing, showing off the yoga poses she learned in class, taking pictures of her feet and the floor, "reading" the menus ("dah dah DAH dah DAH DAH DAH") and saying "dog poop" over and over like she learned from her Aunt Carrie, all while giggling and bursting with smiles.

Cascabel Fiesta Time $4 Tamale
Cascabel Tamale - $4 during Fiesta Time, 4-7pm

Carrie enjoys a cucumber margarita

Bursting with smiles

Savvy walks around like she owns the place

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