Friday, November 30, 2012

Top 15 Gifts for the GUY who lights up all your days

I never know what to get my husband for the holidays, especially when he never drops any hints and it seems like nothing is special enough! Here are a few ideas:

1. Personalized Collar Stays for him to wear your secret message every day


2.  Ipad Mini to keep him tech savvy and in touch

3. The Perfect Fair Isle Sweater to wear on cozy days with a cup of eggnog

4. Brass Bull for bullish days in the stock market and at the office

5. Personalized iPhone case so he's always ready for a little show & tell

 6. Mad Men Boxed DVD set so you both can catch up on snowy nights...

7. Beautiful scarf for every day

8. Texting gloves so he can stay warm while he texts you on his way home

9. Art of Shaving set for a smooth, sandalwood scented shave

10. Knicks tickets for you to enjoy together

11. Fifa13 if he is a playstation nut like my hubby

12. A coffee table book about Whiskey and bonus points for his favorite bottle along with it... 

13. A charcoal bbq grill for the foodie & chef 

14. Working Man's Hygeine kit because he won't admit how much he enjoys nice bath products

15. a perfect pullover to get him psyched for ski season & a snowy winter...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Top 15 Gifts for the TODDLER who's been a little naughty, but mostly nice

Little J's First Christmas

As the holidays approach, gift-giving is on everyone's mind. If little J could tell me what she wanted, I bet these would be on her wish list.

1. Aquadoodle this has got to be every toddler's dream come true
2. Uglyanywherechair a cost-efficient alternative to Pottery Barn's classic child chair
3. Band in a Box we already have this and it's a big hit around our house
4. Play Clay! fun for crafty mamas too
5. DVDs to make holiday travel bearable, and so they can learn please & thank you just in time for grandma
6. Smart Trike 3-in-1 perfect because it grows with them... comes in many colors too!
7. LeapFrog Animal Sounds Guitar I can't wait to see little J jamming with this
8. Fridge Phonics Magnetic Alphabet to keep them busy while you bake in the kitchen
9. Food face plate can't wait to try this one out
10. Sparkly Ugg Boots for your favorite fashionista
11. Personalized Picture Puzzle like this home-made one!
12. Hello Kitty Hat & Mittens to match her baby style... a cute one for boys here
13. Babylit to get them started on the right track!
14. Warm & fancy jacket for all those holiday soirees (cute boy version too!)
15. Recordable Story Book so you can read them a story even when you're at work :)

Hope this is helpful as you shop this season!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mozzarella & Pesto Tomatoes and Pearled Couscous with Veggies

I made this dinner in under half hour, and it was so satisfying and savory. Another easy weeknight delight...

Mozzarella & Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes
Baby Tomatoes
Pesto Sauce
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Seasoning to taste

Scoop out your tomatoes by creating a lid and then carefully spooning out the inside (set aside for the couscous)
Stuff the tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and pesto sauce
Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with your favorite seasoning
Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbly and the tomatoes are just soft

Pearled Couscous with Veggies
Pearled couscous
Baby Zucchini
Portabello mushrooms
Soft tofu
Chopped red onions

Boil your couscous until soft, drain and set aside
Heat olive oil in a deep skillet on medium flame
Sautee veggies and tofu together, adding seasoning and salt to taste
Once the veggies start getting soft, add the scooped tomato insides, cover and let simmer
After 3-4 minutes, add the couscous and stir well

* this can easily be made with a different protein than tofu! just substitute with your favorite


We enjoyed this with a chilled glass of grapefruit seltzer.... yum.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trauma Stewardship

While I really love my job and feel so lucky to have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of families through my career, sometimes the days are heavy with sadness. Every day, I meet new people that have unique difficult circumstances, but I see the same overarching problems associated with poverty. I am often overwhelmed to see the struggles and pain of my clients and their children, and the impact of poverty on so many families. Some days, I come home drained and exhausted... from carrying grief that is not my own. While many days are filled with reward and gratitude, other days - it's harder to cope. I was never able to articulate how I felt at the end of the day, until I read this book last week.

It can be called "secondary trauma," "emotional toll" or "caregiver stress" - but whatever you want to call it, it certainly exists and needs to be addressed. I liked this definition of secondary trauma: "the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person" or the "cumulative transformative effect of working with survivors of traumatic life events." Have you experienced this in your job?

A few weeks ago, my office had a training for our staff that focused on the very real needs of caregivers like attorneys and social workers that are working with families in crisis. How do we manage our stress? How can we alleviate the emotional toll our job takes on us? Is it even fair to consider our own stress in comparison to our clients'? How can we experience trauma at work and then go home to our partners and children? Does all the suffering we see at work infiltrate our personal lives? We had a great discussion that day that ranged from stress relieving tips to how we separate our work lives from our personal lives. In the end, the goal is to help ourselves so that we can help others.

I was moved to see how my colleagues are genuinely invested in the work that we do, and how some of us have really struggled to come to terms with harsh realities we see everyday. We feel other people's pain, and sometimes it's a challenge to deal with our own feelings of guilt, anxiety, distress, injustice and hopelessness. It's hard to balance the desire to help with the feeling like we can never do enough. That's where this extremely well written, systematic and organized book comes in. It verbalized thoughts I didn't even know I was having, and gave me perspective to keep from burning out.

It turns out that the only way to take care of others is to take care of yourself first (this applies for being a parent, too). I'm sure other readers in similar high-stress jobs can understand... how can we efficiently help others if we are not able to manage our own stress? Our clients will benefit from our own stability. I think it's important to recognize this secondary trauma and deal with it properly - so we can continue to do our jobs, but also so we can continue to live our lives.

I honestly did not know I needed to read this book until I finally read it... and it was eye-opening. It is a well articulated, hopeful discussion about humanity and deserves to be on every bookshelf.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Mini Vacation in Puerto Rico

Over Thanksgiving break, we got to spend a few days relaxing in the hot Puerto Rican sun, enjoying each other's company and playing in the pool. Little J is such a water baby, she spent hours and hours in the water every day. She woke up saying "swimming! swimming! swimming!" every morning and could not get enough of the beach and pool. When she first saw the huge main pool, she kept screaming in her tiny adorable voice, "OOOH! GOOD! OOOH, GOOD!" It was wonderful to watch her so enthralled by her surroundings and so happy to splash aroundl. We were really grateful to have this quiet family time over the holiday.

We stayed at the El Conquistador, which was a little outside San Juan -- and it's a beautiful hotel, but was a little too large for our taste. It's pretty much a whole city, with thousands of activities like scuba & kayaking, but also sports like tennis, golf, and an amazing kids club (for ages 4 and up). We had an incredible suite that was basically the size of our apartment! It had a kitchen which is so convenient with a baby, but I was disappointed with the crib which was too small for little J to be comfortable. Luckily, the hotel was extremely family friendly and mostly accommodating. It's situated on a high cliff, and the views are to die for. I would recommend it to families with older kids for sure.

We spent some time on the beach - collecting pretty shells, piling up sand and squealing with delight at the ocean waves. It's these simple things that I enjoy so much more when I can see them through the eyes of a toddler. The world is such a beautiful, exciting place. Sometimes it takes a little one to remind you of that.

Little J did great on the short flight which made the travel very easy. Although I'm not sure we could have done it without our Elmo and Barney DVDs! It was such a nice family getaway... I can't wait for the next!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Getaway

It's been getting harder and harder to get away from our jobs and our busy lives for a vacation, so we decided to do something unusual this Thanksgiving, and go away to a warm, sunny spot. It's a quiet time in both of our industries and an ideal few days to slip away. We'll be missing out on Thanksgiving foods and family fun, but we're looking forward to recharging on the beach and spending time with little J. We chose Puerto Rico for our getaway because it's a quick, direct flight, and a fun place filled with things to do. I can't wait for some sun and fun!

What are you doing this Thanksgiving? Whether you are near or far, I know many of us have much to be thankful for. As I count my blessings this year, my family is at the top of the list.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. See you next week!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Recipe: Pumpkin & Chocolate Chip Pancakes!

One of the best things about a fall Saturday is having a leisurely morning. If you are a parent, you know that 'sleeping in' is a thing of the past, but luckily, an extra couple of hours in the morning can mean a yummy breakfast. Last weekend, hubby, Little J and I enjoyed a sunny morning in our kitchen making pumpkin pancakes with a side of yogurt parfait. It was easy and delicious... you must try it next weekend!

Pumpkin & Chocolate Chips Pancakes
1 cup Organic Pumpkin Puree
1.5 cups All Purpose Flour
1.25 cups 2% Milk
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tbsp of Sugar
1 Tsp Salt
3 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
Whipped Cream (I didn't have any but would be delicious with the pancakes)
Good quality maple syrup - I love the one we got at a cider mill in VT last year
Powdered Sugar for topping (because, admit it -- powdered sugar goes with everything)

Mix the above ingredients together to make your batter
Spray Pam on your favorite pancake pan, get a oiled spatula ready
Pour batter into your pan -- I used my silver dollar pan (also perfect for mini omelets and other creations!)
Wait till the batter begins to sizzle and shrink, use tongs or spatula to flip quickly
Use a tightly knit sieve to adorn your breakfast with powdered sugar!

Yogurt Parfait for Two
In a deep glass (like a wine glass), layer in the following order:

Plain Yogurt (we use 2%)
A dash of wheatgerm (I try to sneak this in wherever possible!)
Berries (we had blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
Dribble of honey

I got these spoons last year on a whim, and they are perfect to scoop up this deliciousness! Enjoy...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Restaurant Review: Colicchio & Sons

Hope all of you had great weekends! Mine was filled with family time, more Diwali celebrations, and a date night. There is something especially fun about eating at a celebrity chef's spot, and that was part of the reason I was so excited to try Colicchio & Sons. I was hoping to get a glimpse of Tom Colicchio himself, but we weren't so lucky. The space is grand and lofty, but the tables are close together and add to the neighborhood feel. When we walked in, we were greeted by exquisitely tall stems in thick glass vases, and a smell of wood smoke in the air. Perfect on a cool New York night. The food felt like a blend of Italian dishes with French flair, and even hints of Indian spices shone through.

The staff was friendly and quickly accommodating to my vegetarian needs, and while there were not too many veggie options on the menu (this was formerly a steakhouse, after all), I was very satisfied with the options. I started with the Wild Mushroom Salad which was served with the most savory shaved parmesan cheese I've ever had. For my entree, I tried the seasonal Squash Ravioli that was recommended by our waiter, and it melted in my mouth.  The restaurant offers an extensive beer list (hubby was thrilled), but I chose a Cahors from Southwest France which was ideal with my meal. It was a great romantic spot, but would also be fun with a big group. Next time I would definitely try the Pea Cake and the Mushroom Risotto.

Definitely worth a trip to the meatpacking district, even if means dishing out a few extra bucks.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Being Mommy: Fun Gift for a Toddler!

Little J has been talking a lot these days, and she loves to say words and name names. She especially loves listing all the family members she knows... ones that live near and far, and ones she's only met a few times! Sometimes she really amazes me with her memory...

Anyway, that got me thinking of a good way for her to see everyone everyday and remember those that are nearest and dearest to all of us. Combined with her love of books and reading (just like her momma!), I wanted to make her a personalized family book. It was her Diwali present and our family enjoys it as much as she does!

I made this through IPhoto in Mac, and I'm so happy with how it came out. It's hardcover, with thick, glossy and large (11x9) pages. Each page has a picture of little J with a different family member, with the name/title of that family member at the bottom. I used the last 8-10 pages to make a collage of lots of pictures of our close family and friends, mostly ones that include little J. She really gets a kick out of looking at these pictures and naming everyone she can recognize! She squealed with delight when we first showed her the book... and proceeded to correctly name almost everyone in the book! I'm such a proud momma.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Recipe: Fall Harvest! Stuffed Gourds & Mushroom Soup

Even though we are getting closer to the end of fall, I made my favorite fall dish this week. It's always a crowd-pleaser, mostly because it's so beautiful to look at! It's also delicious, nutritious and perfect for company. It does require some effort and planning, so you need to make sure you have the right ingredients on hand. You also have to bake the gourds for a little over an hour, so plan accordingly! This is also great for vegetarian entertaining since its so filling. Your non-vegetarian guests won't even miss the carne.

Mushroom Soup - I used this recipe via Smitten Kitchen, making minor changes (a little spicier, less creamy, and with cilantro)

Stuffed Gourds/Pumpkins
Farm fresh pumpkins, squash, gourds (good shape for stuffing)
Black rice
1 Zucchini, diced finely and chopped tiny
1 Red onion, also diced and chopped tiny
1 Tomato, also diced and chopped tiny
Dash of garlic
Homemade veg broth, or something like this which is what I used
your favorite seasonings... I swear by this blend
Chillies to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
Allow your gourds to soak in vegetable broth for 15 minutes to flavor them
Take them out and gently coat your gourds in olive oil and seasoning (save the vegetable broth)
Let them back for 15 minutes while you prepare the stuffing below

Using a rice cooker or any other method of making rice, cook your black rice to perfection (black rice will stay a little firm to the taste)
In a skillet, bring olive oil to a sizzle, then add garlic and onions
Add your veggies, chillies, and a dash of the leftover veg broth
Sauté for 8-10 minutes until they are soft
Add your seasoning to taste
Add the boiled and strained black rice to this veggie mixture, and you are set with your stuffing!

Stuff your gourds, and bake for at least an hour... serve in a plain platter so the dish can show off it's own colors!

Served with a Yogurt Chutney (I forgot to photograph mine, but see recipe below!)
Plain 2% or skim yogurt
Salt, Paprika, Lemon Juice

Blend all the ingredients in a vita-mix or food processor, until fully blended but the consistency is thick like sauce...

My hubby especially loved the stuffed gourds with this chutney poured over them... he thought it was a nice spicy touch to a sweet butternut squash and savory stuffing!! This was a great meal to cuddle up with on a cool night. We opened this lovely red to go with the meal... it was perfect to the last drop. Cheers to fall (or the end of it, anyway)...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mommy & Me Style

When I was pregnant with little J, I was convinced I was having a little boy.... but I was psyched when I found out it was going to be a baby girl. Immediately, I started dreaming of pretty dresses, ballet lessons and lots of hair accessories. Having a baby girl has been all that and much more, but one of the fun things I've discovered is coordinating outfits. The first time we matched, last year, was by accident...

And since then, I've been hooked on Mommy & Me outfits. I found a few brands that routinely create matching ensembles for Moms and daughters, but others have just worked out to coordinate well.

Our dresses are both from Gap, Little J's hat is by Zutano and mine by Kate Spade

This is a Lily Pulitzer Mommy & Baby ensemble

Both our tanks & hats here are by DVF for Gap Kids! Being Petite is nice sometimes...

Both of these bathing suits are by Old Navy

Little J was the flower girl at my brother's wedding this past summer, and she wore an outfit that coordinated with mine, made by the same designer who made my wedding dress! I like how hers is simpler and easier for a toddler to move around in.

What do you guys think of the matching styles? Would you want to match with your baby? I especially like when the styles coordinate, but are not exact, like many of those by Milly & Milly Mini.