Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving in the City



 



I love the holidays.  Living in the city has made me love the holidays even more though.  There is just something magical about holiday time in New York City.   Something that we started a few years ago was going to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  As you know I have 4 kids who range in age from 16 to 2 so anything that involves large crowds is an adventure in itself.  A few weeks before Thanksgiving I start to strategize, watching the weather, planning my menu and deciding which items I will prep the day before, what the children will wear, how early we should leave home and where we will watch the parade.  All this is really wishful thinking because with us nothing ever goes as planned.  For the last year and a half we having been dealing with an issue with a close family member that has taken a serious toll on our family.  Because the situation is ongoing it often sneaks right in

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Activision Family Summt

 
A few weeks ago I was invited to attend Activision's Family Game Summit.  Being a game loving mama you can imagine how excited I was to get the invitation.  Since it was taking place on a weekday I couldn't have all the kids tag along.  I decided that I would take my 2 yr old since free
childcare was being provided.  I also took my 10 yr old because not only is she a huge gamer but she is great at helping to wrangle her little sister.

 
The day of the event came and it was raining so I wasn't quite sure if I was even going to go.  At the very last minute I decided to go.  So I dressed baby and myself and we headed downtown to pick up my 10 yr old.  Picking up her up from school is never as simple going to the office and signing her out and getting her from class.  Nope, never that simple.  There is the scavenger hunt to find her because they're not in class they're at recess.  So back down the 4 flights of stairs with the baby in my arms.   And of course when I do find her she has to go back up to get her books.  Then she comes back down and gives a person goodbye to all 20 of her classmates as if this is her farewell tour.   Finally we are in a cab and are headed to Chelsea.  The ride from the Lower East Side took forever.  When we did finally make it we were late and my 2 yr old decided that she wanted to keep her hat and coat on.  So I checked them into Lucky Lil Darlings grabbed a bottle of water and took a seat.


 
 
 
The panel included Soleil Moon Frye who I remember as Punky Brewster.  She spoke about the role that video gaming plays in her household.  Nicole Armstrong Activision's Marketing Director who gave us all the info on the new games that Activision has for this holiday season.  Patricia Vance who is the President of the ESRB told us about the new rating systems for games and what we can do to keep our kids safe when they are gaming.  I gained some very useful knowledge about the benefits of gaming.  Overall it actually made me want to play more games with my children as a family.  We got a great swag bag filled with some of activision's newest games, a target gift card, Soleil Moon Frye's book Happy Chaos, and lots of other goodies that my kids relished over. 




 





Saturday, November 10, 2012

Halloween Too



 
Superstorm Sandy unleashed a brutal attack on New York City and the surrounding areas on October 29th, leaving parts of the city flooded and in darkness.  By Halloween with no bus and train service and most of the places that had lost power still in the dark it was pretty much a given that Halloween was cancelled for most of New York.   

The Lower East Side of Manhattan was one of those places under water and in the dark on Halloween after Sandy passed through.  There was no trick or treating for the kids, no annual Village Parade.  My 10 year old happens to go to school on the Lower East Side, and her school has an annual Halloween parade around the neighborhood, it was also cancelled. 

 

 
 
So a week or so later the kids got a do over.  More than 40 merchants on the Lower East Side were on board to offer treats to eager trick or treaters.  Participating merchants had signs in the windows although that didn't matter much to my six year old son.  If your shop looked interesting he was going in.  And it seemed to work for him.  We went from Houston to 9th St and back up to Delancey.  The kids had a great time.  Of course because there is never a shortage of drama and laughs with my kids it was quite a night. 

 
The kids found some of the shops so interesting that it was hard to tear them away.  My son was fascinated by Downtown Yarns and J Antonio on Avenue A.  My daughters were enchanted by Enchantments on E. 9th St.  They were treated to delicious vegan ice cream, croissants, and smoothies.  They came away with lots of candy and it was really great to see all of the shops and restaurants open again after the storm. 
 


Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Favorite Fall Sneakers






I have been dying for a pair of wedge sneakers for quite some time now. The coveted wedge sneakers that all the celebrities were wearing happened to be sold out right around my birthday so I had to find something else that would be just as cute and trendy.  I came across the Marc by Marc Jacobs International Wedge Sneakers and I loved them.  So I began to drop hints about them and pin pictures of  them on Pinterest.  So out went the Mr with the girls right before my birthday to look for them.  This particular shoe happened to be sold out almost everywhere in the city except the one pair they had at the Marc Jacobs store on Prince St in the village.  What luck for them because they were my size and the color (emerald green) approved (I'm very picky).  

 
 
 
  
 
  
Although in the back of my mind I was thinking, these are really cute shoes.  I was really thinking about how comfortable these shoes would be. I love shoes and there was a time when I didn't mind the pain of wearing a shoe that I thought I loved.  Being a mom running around the city with my children,  I look for a shoe I can love with comfort.   Well after finally wearing them on several different occasions and most of those times with my kids in tow they are very comfortable shoes.  They are great paired with leggings, skinny jeans, and  jeggings.  They also look great paired with a high-low maxi dress or skirt.   





Now the reason why this particular sneaker is what I consider a "fall" sneaker is because this particular color as well as black and tan come in a suede that has the warm earthy feel of fall.   The heel of the shoe is three inches but you don't even feel the height of the shoe because it's just that comfortable. This is a really great shoe.
 

 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

In Search of a Good Donut



On Saturday my kids and I went to a screening of the movie Funsize.  If you haven't heard of it, it's  a teen comedy that stars Victoria Justice of Nickelodeon's Victorious and Suburgatory's Jane Levy.  The screening took place on 34th St where there happens to be a Krispy Kreme donut.  Now donuts weren't initially a part of  the days' activities.  I happened to see a guy headed to the train with a box of Krispy Kremes and suddenly I had an epiphany.  I have to admit that thought of Krispy Kreme donuts made my mouth water right there on the street. 

 
 
So I told the kids about the donuts and of course they were excited thinking this was a treat for them when it was actually a treat for me.  I called home to see if the Mr knew exactly where the ONLY Krispy Kreme in New York City was.  He had no clue.  It wasn't very far from where we were and yet somehow we had the hardest time finding it.  I googled it and it seemed that since we were on the corner of 34th St and 8th Ave it was right there.   Up 33rd Street we went and then back down 33rd we went.  We dipped into the alley where the Kmart was and it wasn't there.   Then we dipped into another alley behind Garretts Popcorn and it wasn't there either.  We asked a couple of workmen if they knew where 2 Penn Plaza was and they didn't know either. How can you be doing construction and not know anything about the area was my thought.  I guess that's not a requirement to get work done.  So after a several 2yr old tantrums and several arguments with my 10yr old I was just about to give up on the donuts all together.  I decided to google it again and this time I used the phone number for that location to call and ask exactly where they were.  A nice young lady named Ursala informed me that they were inside Penn Station on the Amtrak level.  You mean the level we were just on and left because my 2 yr old was biting her 16 yr old sister in the chest and face as she was carrying her, I thought to myself.  So we decided to give it one more shot and we all agreed if we didn't find it right away we were headed home. I knew they had to be tired if they were giving up on donuts.  Well we found it!  My kids were literally laying on the glass.  1 dozen  glazed Krispy Kreme donuts.  Of course I had to give the 2 yr old one before we even got on the train. 


 
 
Now I know what you're thinking, really all that for some donuts.  Yep.  If you've never had Krispy Kreme, seen that hot donut sign on and tasted the warm deliciousness before, well you just wouldn't understand.  I grew up on Krispy Kreme donuts.  It was the stuff  good church fundraisers was made of.  That was in the south though.  New York City has plenty of Dunkin Donuts and they are definitely not bad at all.  In outer boroughs there are Twin Donuts that I would pretty much pass on all together.  And if you are in the mood for a fancy donut the Chelsea has Donut Planet they are great but expensive.  To me nothing beats a Krispy Kreme Donut and that is just my opinion. They are light and fluffy with a thin layer of sweet glaze. Yum.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jambalaya


 
 
I am always reminiscing about different dishes that remind me of growing up in Louisiana, and trying to make them into my own .  Seafood is a major staple in the gulf but the Mr. is allergic to shellfish so I can't always make dishes just as I remember them, so I usually put my own spin on them.
 
Jambalaya is a creole dish.  It has a mix of both French and Spanish origins.  It's a dish that originated in the French Quarter, and was actually an attempt to make the Spanish dish paella.  Since they didn't have saffron they used tomatoes instead. 
 
Jambalaya is usually made in three parts which are the vegetables, the famous holy trinity,  the meats, the stock and rice.  There are many different variations, there is a Cajun version which doesn't not have and tomatoes.  It's more of a brown Jambalaya. 
 
What I chose to make for my family was a simple chicken jambalaya.  It was very easy to make and it didn't include anything my picky eaters would object to.
 
 
 
Jambalaya
 
serves: 8
prep time: 20mins
cook: 55mins
 
  • 12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast cubed
  • green bell pepper diced
  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • onion diced
  • 2 tbl minced garlic
  • 1/2 tbl oregano
  • 1/2 tbl salt
  • 1 tbl basil
  • 1 can chicken stock
  • 1 can whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 can of tomato paste
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 4 cups of cooked brown rice

 
Preheat over to 350.
Heat oil in a large dutch oven .  Brown chicken on both sides.  Set aside in a plate.  Add onion, celery, bell peppers, garlic, oregano, salt and tomatoes paste to the pot.  Cook for about five minutes until onions are tender. 
 
Add tomatoes and chicken stock, bring mixture to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add chicken to mixture cover and bake for 40 minutes at 350.  Remove from oven and serve over rice.   
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 


 
 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chicken Parmesan Mac and Cheese


I don't think that I've ever met anyone who didn't love macaroni and cheese.  In my house it is definately a hit.  I wanted to see if there was a way that I could take a classic and make it even better. I ran across this recipe from family circle for Chicken Parm Mac that I couldn't wait to try.


Chicken Parmesan Mac and Cheese
makes 8 servings
prep: 25 mins
cook time 17 mins

Rotini noodles
3 T butter
1 t minced garlic
3 T all purpose flour
2 C 2% milk
1 pkg italian cheese blend
1/2 C shredded parmesan
1 can diced tomatoes
1 C marinara
3/4 C seasoned breadcrumbs
4  chicken breast
1 egg


Preheat oven to 425

Cut chicken breasts into bite sizw peices.  Whisk together 1/2 cup of milk and the egg.  Dip chicken into mixture then into breadcrumbs.  Place coated breadcrumbs on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.  Turn them once.  Remove and set aside.

While chicken is in the oven boil pasta as per directions on the box.  Drain.

Set oven to boil.  Melt butter, add garlic and let cook for a minute.  Add milk, whisk well.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes.  Remove and whisk in 1 1/4 cups of the italian blend cheese and 1/4 cup of the parmeasan cheese. 

Mix cheese sauce and tomatoes with pasta.  Add chicken.  Put in a boiler safe dish.  Put marinara and the rest of cheese on top.  Put in broiler for 3 mins.  Cheese will be lightly browned.


 
 

 


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Meatless Monday: Bean and Cheese Burrito Casserole

 
 
Meatless Mondays are always a challenge for me.  Being a southern girl I'm all about meat and potatoes.  Being a New Yorker means that there is always a new food trend everyone is trying.  Meatless Mondays aren't a new thing but it's something that my kids actually like to do.  Some of their friends and classmates are vegans or vegetarians so they try it.  Other than chicken and turkey bacon my two year old doesn't meat.  So Meatless Mondays is something that I do for them and it's a great way to take a break from meat. 
 
 
Beef & Cheese Burrito Casserole
 
makes 6 servings
 
4  c brown rice (cooked)
1  16 oz jar salsa
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 16oz can refried beans
1 10 oz package frozen corn
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1 1/2 c taco cheese
1 1/4 c frozen spinach
 
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
 
Combine rice, oregano, and salsa in a large bowl.  In another bowl mix refried beans, corn, cumin, and chili powder.
 
Spray casserole dish with non stick spray.  Cover the bottom of the dish with half of the rice.  Follow with a layer of refried beans.  Cover with half of the cheese.  Sprinkle with half of the spinach.  Repeat steps.  Top with cheese. 
 
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Serve.
 
 
 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sausage and Chicken Gumbo





I often get nostalgic and miss the very essence of the things I grew up with.  Living in New York City so far away from where I grew up I need to have a little bit of home from time to time.  I also like to give my kids some sense of what my childhood was like.  One of the ways that I'm able to do this is to have a taste of home right in my own kitchen is to make some of the recipes that I grew up enjoying. 

Louisiana is where I was born and spent most of my childhood.  It's where both my parents were born and raised. It's where their parents were born and raised.  So I have a very rich family history there.  I grew up attending huge family gatherings and eating an array of different types of food.

Because of it's menagerie of cultures Louisiana in my opinion has some of the best food in the country.  Fall is a time for one of my favorite dishes that grew up on, Gumbo.  Gumbo is a stew that's made with  a vegetable trio of celery, onions, and bell pepper that is often referred to as the holy trinity. 





Some gumbo may also have okra.  This is used to give the dish a rich thick texture.  I have picky eaters that don't eat okra, and to be honest I don't know how much I like it myself.  So I used a roux to get the same texture.  I also added file powder because I think it gives the gumbo a little something tasty. A traditional Creole gumbo can have ham or sausage, shellfish such as crab, and shrimp.  Since the Mr is allergic to shellfish I decided to go with a Cajun version with chicken and sausage. 



Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
makes 12 servings
  • 2/3 c vegatable oil
  • 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1    diced onion
  • 1    diced bell pepper
  • 3    diced celery ribs
  • 2     lbs chicken boneless breasts and thighs cubed
  • 1     lb  sausage sliced
  • 1/2  tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1     tsp paprika
  • 1     tsp black pepper
  • 1     tsp thyme
  • 2     tbl minced garlic
  • 2     tsp file powder
  • 4     cups rice cooked
Put  chicken in a pot and cover with water.  Boil for about 15 minutes.  Remove chicken and reserve liquid.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet for 5 minutes.  Whisk in flours and cook, stirring constantly until it is
medium brown.  Lower the heat to avoid burning. 




Add onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic.  Cook on low for 10 minutes.



Add 2 cups of the chicken stock that was reserved.  Add sausage, chicken, all of the seasonings except the file powder and the rest of the stock.

Bring to a boil then let it simmer uncovered for one hour.

Removed and add file.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Serve over rice.
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to School: First Days

I remember before my kids actually started school seeing a video on Good Morning America of a mom doing a very happy dance on her kids' first day of school.  I said to myself this is so funny I am going to have a party right in front of the building on the first day of school.  I was gonna let balloons go and throw confetti, dad was even going to cut the confetti.   Well we didn't go that extreme after all.  

Although I had pretty much prepared all summer for my kids to go back to school. When you have more than one kid nothing really ever goes as planned. This has been the story of my life for years now. Even if I do everything the night before and get up extra early you always have to be prepared for the unexpected.  With my kids the unexpected can be literally anything. 

So I got up early on the first day of school because I promised my kids fresh baked cinnamon rolls.  I found this shortcut recipe and with my dry ingredients already prepped the night before I mixed them up and popped them in the oven.  I began the task of waking everyone up one by one so that they could all have their personal time in the bathroom.  Getting up and getting ready went well.  They ate, I took pictures and soon everyone was ready to head out. 
 
 
So my oldest daughter headed out to take the train.  I was headed downstairs with my ten year old and six year old to wait for their school bus and walk the dog.  Well as luck would have it my two year old woke up just as I was walking out the door.  So down the hall she comes with only her slip on diaper, t-shirt and a pair of socks.  Dilemma..... I really hadn't planned on having to deal with her until they left.  They only had five minutes until a bus was due to be in front of our building.  So since the dog was already ready for his walk I sent him downstairs with my ten year old.  I told her to just give him a quick walk and I would come and get him.                                                                                                                                                  
 
As soon as she walked the dog her bus was came, my son ran up to bring the dog and well I hoped that his bus would be right behind hers.  Nope.  So since the bus route notice that I had received just a few days prior to the first day of school didn't have an exact time for pick up, I tried calling the bus company with no luck the number stayed busy for quite a while.  So for a while I stood in the hallway on our floor waiting for his bus to come.  Then after about five minutes I packed up the baby and the dog and we went downstairs to wait for his bus with him.                                                                    
My son paced while asking where his bus was the entire time. My S/O had run out for a  quick moment, but since it looked like his bus either wasn't gonna come or they were gonna come so late that they were hoping he wouldn't still be waiting anyway.  Someone had to take him to school.
 
So we went back upstairs and I continued to call the bus company because by now I wanted to give someone a talking to.  I ended up calling the school to let them know that the bus never came, which didn't surprise them because the were getting lots of calls that sounded a lot like mine. I let them know that he would of course be late and that dad was bringing him to school. 
 When my son's bus dropped him off that day Dad asked the bus driver what time she would be there to pick him up the next day.  She told him seven am or shortly after.  She said that if they were late to just wait they would be there.  Well wouldn't you know they weren't there at seven or even shortly after.  After I sat with my son for about forty five minutes I left  him downstairs for a few minutes to run upstairs and get the number for the bus company.  He must have been really nervous because shortly after I walked in the house my doorbell was ringing.  It was a neighbor bringing him up, saying that he was pacing and wondering where his bus was.                                                              
As soon as I finally got the bus company on the line dad calls to say that the bus driver called him to say she would be there in a few minutes. So my son ran out of the house and down to the bus, only to have her sit in front of the building and say that I have to come down.  Which I did not, I was right there in the stairwell window watching from my floor.  I mean the bus did come only an hour and fifteen minutes after it was supposed to come.                                                                                 
 
The first two days of school were fine otherwise, although I did get a text from my ten year old saying that she hated her teacher because she punished her for something she didn't do.   But by the  beginning of the first full week back I think that we've gotten it all together. 

Back to School: The Snacks They Love

What kid doesn't love snacks?  With fall on the way we're back to school and it's time for fall sports.  From time to time when I am in the mood I will make delicious snacks for my kids.  But right now is a pretty hectic time it's still hot outside and there is not always time to make really elaborate snacks.  So here are some of the snacks we love and reason's why we love them. 



My son is allergic to tree nuts so this is a wonderful treat for him.  He can feel like he is having a pb&j sandwich too.  He likes to dip his apples, pretzels, and pretty much anything that you can dip.
 
 
I discovered Happy Baby products when my toddler was still a baby and we have been loving them ever since.   The yogurt apple bites are just the right size for little fingers and they keep her busy while she watching her favorite show or while we are taking a stroll.
 
.
 
 
My kids are big cheese heads.  Although not all of them can have dairy.
 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to School : Shopping


Since I have four kids and three of them go to school I try to get an early start on my school shopping every year.  I start looking for deals as soon as school gets out for the summer.  I watch the Sunday ads every week and I buy all of the staple items that I am sure they will need before I even get the supply lists in the mail.  If only I could get those supply lists on the last day of school.  This year the list I usually have the most issues with didn't come.  My ten year old Luv Bug goes to an amazing progressive school.  As amazing as they are some how this year they used an address that we haven't lived at since she was six. I was so caught up with my other two kids' list back in July that I realized only a few days ago that I didn't have my fifth grader's list.  Her school being as amazing as they are I was able to email the principle and within the hour her new teachers were emailing me letters and the coveted three page list. 


So since we had to go out to get and pick up some last minute things I decided to make a day out of it and get in a little quality time with the family.  We started out with a late breakfast at Ihop.  I guess people are shocked to see such a big family out because two ladies who were in the booth next to us entertained us with their lovely conversation the entire time that we were there. 


 
 
  
 
After breakfast we headed to my favorite shopping plaza.  We went to Old Navy where I tried to keep it all together.  My two and six year olds were more interested in playing with the mannequins.  My ten year old decided that she needed a break that from her meds so she was just kinda all over the place.  I did end up picking up a few great finds despite all the chaos that was going on around me.              
                                                                                                                      
 
 
 
The next stop was my favorite shopping place Target.  I put the little ones in a cart which they hated and they proceeded to bitch and moan to dad, while begging to be let out.  My sixteen year old was completely focused on picking up the nick knacks she needed.  My ten year old, well we lost her somewhere in the school supply section even though she was the one who needed them the most.  The next time we saw her was about twenty minutes later.  I was just about to give her the business when I noticed that she had found a cute little potty doll for her baby sister to help with our potty training efforts.  That was a good save for her.  Dad was done and expressed his unhappiness with the kids behavior several times during the shopping trip.  I guess I'm just the type of person that loves to see a train wreck because on the way home I promised them that we would do it all again the next day.                                                                                                                                                       
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The next shopping day ended up with more tears, more arguments, and more fights.  I don't think that I will be doing that again for a while.  Maybe I should just go it alone from now on and only take the kids along when I need one or two items.