Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dreaming of the perfect nursery

One of the best and worst parts of pregnancy are the overwhelming urges to nest. Nesting is the desire to clean the house and prepare the nursery as you eagerly await the little bundle's arrival. I can't stop looking at pictures of beautiful baby girl nurseries...

I'm in love with this feminine footstool, and the beautiful mirror in the back right!

Wow... look at those lucious colors and the beautiful ceiling!

Gorgeous wall decalls really set the stage for lovely dreams...

 I love the subtle pinks, and the use of wallpaper and frame here... so creative

Perfect blend of colors for this vibrant space!

I love the colorful but traditional looks... and flipping through these makes me so excited about the prospect of cuddling, nursing, and holding a little one. There's something so calming and peaceful about newborns, and I love when that is reflected by beautiful colors in the room. Decorating with special pieces that are cherished memories or beautiful gifts... those add to the splendor of bringing her home.

This is what little J's nursery looked like when she came home. We are largely keeping it the same for our new baby, with minor changes (a new lavender rug, and an off-white daybed instead of a full bed, and obviously new letters for a new name!). After J was born, we changed the curtains to neutral blackout drapes from the Shade Store...a little less beautiful, but much more practical!

Her furniture is from Pottery Barn Kids, Bedding is Glenna Jean, Decals & Letters are from Land of Nod, and Chandelier is from Metropolitan Lighting

Which nursery is your favorite??

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Stout

I got hooked on Stout's writing after reading her Pulitzer prize winning Olive Kitteridge. I went on to read Amy and Isabelle and Abide with Me, both of which I loved as well... but none of these are a match to The Burgess Boys, which is her finest written novel yet. The novel follows the lives of two brothers, both lawyers, who have left their hometown of Shirley Falls, and of their sister and her son, who are still living in the small town. All of their lives are somewhat broken, somewhat damaged by their father's death and their longing to be a part of, but also get away from, Shirley Falls.

It's not until Susan's troubled, quiet, loner teenage son Zach throws a pig's head through the front door of a mosque in the middle of Ramadan, do these siblings come together in a messy struggle to unite and defend Zach. The plot thickens with the storyline of these offended, scared Somalian refugees who are struggling to blend in and adapt to life in Maine. The brothers, Bob and Jim, are the title's "Burgess Boys" - both lawyers, though Bob defends low-income criminals through Legal Aid, and Jim defends celebrities at a big law firm. The story is told mostly from Bob's perspective, whose perceived role in his father's death has made him passive, weary and able to be controlled by Jim's more dominant, arrogant and bold personality. The story goes on to take some twists and turns that are surprising, and provoke the reader to think about how we've each built our own characters and personalities based on life events.

There are many sections of this novel that focus on family dynamics, and the subtle elements that bond these three siblings together. Those are the parts that are beautifully written and will resonate with every reader. At one point, while she is going over her life and thinking of the changes she'd like to make, Susan remarks that it "was too late. No one wants to believe something is too late, but it is always becoming too late, and then it is." In many ways, Stout shows us that this is true...it may be too late for change, but its not too late for something new... the imperfections in life is what makes it perfect. Zach's hate crime, which is not so much a hate crime as it is the random act of a bored, lost teenager, brings these siblings together and brings to light challenges in their own lives.

Stout's prose is beautiful, it flows easily and keeps us engaged with the suspense of an ongoing trial (Zach is accused of a hate crime). It also moves fluidly between issues of family drama, and larger and current issues like hate crime and assimilation, and I am amazed how she is always able to present the mundane and the exciting in the same paragraph without it being forced. The story, like the characters, is messy... riddled with mistakes and delusions, but also forgiving and vigorous.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Daddy's Letter to His Little Girl

This letter from a Dad to his daughter is so sweet it filled me up with tears.

Baby girls are so sweet and precious and I am thrilled to be having another one in August!! Hubby jokes that he is a lucky man to be surrounded by beautiful women, and we are so excited that Little J will be blessed with a sister and a built-in best friend for life :) What could be better than that?

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mother's Day Gift Guide

Mother's day is just a couple of weeks away!! I hope you have planned something special for your mom, mom-in-law, or the mom figure in your life...she deserves to be celebrated.

Here's a gift guide for mother's day, but remember, a hug and kiss is all she really wants ;-)

1. For the mamma who's in great shape, a Personalized Yoga Bag & Mat would be so chic

2. This is the perfect gift for a new mom! Nothing is better than something that celebrates her new motherhood

3. An Upcycled Sari Bag that supports a great cause... and stands out, just like her :)

4. This gorgeous jewelry tree is practical & beautiful

5. Cute book for a mom who can use a good laugh...

6. The perfect splurge for a working mom... this is so elegant and trendy at the same time!

7. I need this! And so does the tech savvy chef in your life

8. How about a beautiful scent to suit her style? Bond No. 9 has incredible variety, celebrating all the NY neighborhoods
9. A beautiful watch... so classy & sweet

10. This tunic is so feminine and summery... great for any mom

11. She loves having her family around a table for cozy meals, so treat her to a top of the line pasta machine - the whole family will enjoy it

12. Lastly, she'll appreciate a break from housekeeping - book a deep cleaning of her home, via Wizard of Homes... she'll thank you long after Mother's Day is over :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Recipe: Shirataki Tofu Noodles

I've recently become hooked on Tofu Noodles... have you heard of them? They are nicknamed the pasta lover's dream... and they really are! (kind of) They are low carb, low calorie, gluten free and generally very healthy - high in protein, low in sugar, and dairy-free.

I used this recipe, with slight alterations.

Have you tried these noodles? Anyone want to share a recipe?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pregnancy Style for Spring!

I've been having such a hard time finding flattering, work appropriate clothes that fit my growing belly. But recently, I stumbled upon these great finds... can't wait until they arrive in the mail!

This adorable dress that I'm planning to dress up with a navy cotton blazer for the office, and with gold heels for the weekends :)

How sweet is this tea dress, paired with a black blazer for court, and flats for happy hour (not-so-happy when you're pregnant!)

I LOVE this maxi dress that can be casual or dressy, from Loft (40% off for friends and family until Sunday!)

Lastly, a must-have for every preggo's wardrobe... black skinny jeans and a fun top

I'm officially ready for spring! What are other pregnant women's go-to maternity brands? I'd love to hear.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Being Mommy: Weekday Activities for Young Tots

My daughter is at an age where she needs constant activity and stimulation, but is not quite a pre-schooler yet. She is going to a Two's program this fall (what a crazy application process in NYC!), but until then, I've been working hard to fill her days with age appropriate learning and fun.

Currently, little J is enrolled in 3 different Mommy n Me classes (in our case, they are mostly Nanny n Me), covering different activities like gym, art, and music. She attends a class at my favorite early childhood learning center called Moonsoup, where they mix creative, innovative play with music, art and snack time :)  They even have a separation period in this class where parents and caregivers step outside and the children begin to build some independence. Litte J also attends an art class at Gymboree where she comes back with beautiful and adorable creations that are seasonally appropriate, and sometimes celebrate current holidays like easter or christmas. Both Gymboree and Moonsoup offer their enrolled members free access to open play at their gyms several times a week... a great perk, especially in the winter or on a rainy day. She's also done some drop in classes at 74th St Magic, Broadway Babies, and Little Maestro's.

Little J's favorite class is at Mygym, where the friendly, energetic staff sets up all sorts of different activities like a trampoline, swing, gondola or boat for the kids to enjoy. Mygym's class is less structured than the others, but thats what little J loves the most!

A few months ago, a friend told me about a hidden treasure in our neighborhood that is run by the NYC Parks Department. This community recreation center offers all sorts of programs for children and adults, even has a gym, pool, access to ping pong and basketball, etc. Their hours are limited, but you can't beat the price (free for kids, less than $100 annually for adults). Little J has a blast at their tot time, where they set up fun games and toys for children under 5 in their humungous indoor space. The best part is that it's completely free... something thats hard to find in NY!

We also take advantage of having tons of families in the area so little J has playdates every afternoon, often visits our building's playroom, and when the weather is nice - she goes to the local parks for swings, slides and sprinkler fun!

Other fun area activities are FAO Schwartz's story time (free! and daily at 11am and 3pm), and since we are not far from central park, we often take advantage of our membership and visit the zoo. Little J especially loves the Petting Zoo, where she has befriended many goats and sheep.

When her days are busy and full with fun and activities, I know that little J is being challenged and stimulated, and she usually sleeps and eats better after her little mind and body is tired from curiosity and play. It makes it easier for me to leave her in the morning when I know that she has so many fun adventures ahead of her that day, and that she won't miss her mommy and daddy too much while we're at work. I love watching little J learn a new rhyme or grasp a new concept... it is really the most amazing part of being a parent. To see how much she has changed, grown, how she is becoming the person she's going to be -- it's a daily joy. These activities and classes greatly help her to learn social skills like sharing and co-playing, and emphasize things that are important to parents, like good manners. They provide a safe, diverse, wonderful environment that is well guided and somewhat structured so our little people can learn to be citizens of this world. I often catch her singing  a song to herself that she picked up at Monsoop, or talking about her new friend at Mygym, and it makes me light up with happiness.

What kinds of activities do you do with your two year olds? I'd love to hear some ideas and suggestions!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Recipe: Fettucine Alfredo & Olive Foccacia Bread

We were in the mood for a decadent, creamy meal so I ventured to try my hand at fettucine alfredo with portabella mushrooms, peas, and zucchini. I decided to skip the heavy cream and opted to use greek yogurt for a healthier, protein-rich sauce. Using this recipe, I added some chillies and lemon juice for the perfect flavor. I was surprised at how good it tasted!!

We felt the dish was the right amount of creamy and lemony (without the same calorie count of alfredo sauce!), and the veggies were so satisfying. I served it with freshly grated parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper and coarse black pepper. Since it was a Friday night dinner, I decided to make home-made bread (which I rarely do!). It was a heartwarming treat. This recipe was amazing, I would highly recommend it! I paired it with a spicy greek yogurt dip described below.

I used my favorite bread platter we got in Lisbon, Portugal, and an ivory spreader from our trip to Tanzania!
Greek Yogurt Dip
1 cup greek yogurt (I use fage 2% plain)
1/2 cup diced jalepenos
1/2 cup diced red bell peppers
1 clove garlic
1 table spoon lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Method: After sautéing the jalepenos and bell peppers very slightly until softened, puree all ingredients in your food processor until creamy, add salt and pepper to taste! I used my mini prep food processor which I love for quick dips and gravies. You can enjoy this as a dip or spread!

I made hubby a great sandwich using this same bread and dip (as a spread) for lunch on Saturday. YUM.

Hope you all had a great spring weekend!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Home-made Juices and Smoothies

With spring rapidly approaching (finally!!), it seems easier to stay on track healthwise. There are so many incentives... bathing suit season, longer daylight hours, and the happy pep in your step. I am on a mission to make interesting, flavorful juices that are delicious and healthy. I've been experimenting a lot, and here are my favorite 7 juices and smoothies. All of these can be made in your juicer and/or blender, and most are kid-friendly too. Enjoy!

Carrot-Apple-Beet and Ginger juice
3 carrots (peeled)
2cm of fresh ginger root (peeled)
1/2 an apple (I use Gala)
1/4 of a large beet (washed and peeled)

Great for: Skin, Immune System, Memory

Pomegranate and Mint juice
1 Pomegranate (peeled and seeded)
1/2 Mango (peeled)
2 Mint stalks
Ice-cubes (optional)

Great for: Heart - high in Vitamin C, Beta Carotene and Folic Acid

Super Green juice
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 cup kale leaves
1 stalk celery
1 medium orange (peeld, seeaded)

Great for: Antioxidants, Calcium, Fiber, Folic Acid

Spinach-Banana-Almond Milk Smoothie
1 cup washed spinach leaves
1/2 banana (tastes best with a frozen banana)
1/2 cup almond milk

Great for: Potassium, Protein, Vitamins & Minerals

Strawberry-Blueberry-Vanilla Smoothie
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup cucumber slices
1/2 cup almond milk
1 fresh vanilla bean

Great for: Antioxidants

Avocado-Mango-Coconut Milk
1 avocado
1 cup chopped mango
1 cup raspberries or strawberries
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp lime

Great for: Skin, Anti-aging

Peanut Butter-Banana-Cocoa Smoothie
1 ripe banana
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbps peanut butter
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup ice

Great for: Protein, Potassium, Meal replacement

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one of the most thought-provoking, exciting and captivating books I've read in a long time. Not only is this an incredible page turner, it is a great social commentary on modern-day issues like social media, reality tv, and humanity in general. We are shown a preview of life in 2044, where there is a fine line between real and virtual worlds, and much of humanity is escaping reality by living in a video game.

Wade Watts spends most of his waking time logged into the OASIS, a video game created by a rich, self-absorbed, quirky genius who dies with no heirs. James Halliday's massive inheritance is to be passed on to the winner of a game he created within the OASIS. Wade Watts and millions of other people around the world dedicate their lives to finding the hidden puzzles to unlock several "gates" that will lead them to fame, fortune and ultimate power.

The book is well written enough, the story is fascinating, and you will find yourself rooting for the little guy, Wade Watts, until the very end. Cline is a striking change from many contemporary authors, and I give him credit for bringing us to this new, virtual but not so unrealistic world that may be just thirty years away. Is it so far from the truth that humans spend more time online than in the real world? Is it completely unrealistic to imagine a world that is so harsh and horrible that a virtual reality would be a serene oasis?

This book is loaded with pop-culture/80's references so if you grew up in the 80's, it will be a trip down memory lane. To me, this book felt like a mix of Hunger Games/Harry Potter/Facebook with a futuristic spin that left me hooked. You will not be able to put this book down. It's even more addictive than facebook!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Family Vacation in Riviera Maya

Last week, we took a long awaited, much needed family vacation to Riviera Maya, Mexico. We went with my parents as well as my brother & sister in law, and had such a great time relaxing on the beach. The weather was just perfect (mid-80s), the food was incredible and the resort was stunning & accommodating. I would highly recommend Banyan Tree Mayakoba. Little J had such a blast playing in the sand and in the water, and we loved spending time with her and each other.


A phenomenal breakfast buffet, including made to order eggs, fresh juices, and mexican breakfast, was included with our rate, and it was certainly one of the highlights of our stay. We camped out at a gorgeous large table in the sun, enjoyed the exotic fruits and the fresh ocean breezes as we indulged every morning.

We stayed in a 3-bedroom villa which was beautifully decorated, had 2 patios and its own plunge pool. It was also fully equipped with a kitchen, large dining table and even a high chair! It was so family friendly. Our villa was on a pond, where little J could feed ducks every morning. We had bikes throughout our stay, and there was even a kid's club and a kid's pool ideal for toddlers. They stocked our villa with fresh fruits and tons of mineral water every day. We couldn't get enough of the mangoes... they tasted just like Indian ones. YUM.

Travel with tots is not easy, but luckily, a beach vacation makes everyone happy most of the time. Little J was so tired by the end of the day that she slept extremely well, even in the small(ish) crib the hotel provided, and we got to enjoy some adult time and nice dinners.

It was such a fun getaway. I can't wait for the next! Do you have any other suggestions for multi-generation, toddler friendly vacation destinations?