And the perfect thing to bring along with you if you’re visiting friends or relatives this summer (I brought one for Francesca’s mother when we went to their place for Memorial Day): it’s portable, chic, and goes with pretty much any decor style (that sea urchin-inspired dish is much more substantial than you’d imagine, and the soap smells like…well, the beach. Which is lovely).
When to bring a hostess gift? A bottle of wine is just fine if you’re heading over to someone’s place for a single meal, but if you’re staying beyond that it’s always nice to bring a small something (and if you’re staying for the weekend, definitely go for a gift).
I mean…Dove. Dove! Beyond the fact that their products have been a staple for me and my family for as long as I can remember, I’ve been struck for years (decades?) now by the company’s approach to real beauty and their commitment to building self-esteem in women of all ages. I remember seeing those ads featuring a lineup of real women years ago (I think it was right around the time I graduated from college) and thinking to myself how beautiful they were, and how cool it would be to appear in one. So to have the opportunity to work this closely with a company that I have such admiration for - it’s a dream come true.
So what does this brand ambassadorship mean? All sorts of awesome stuff: I’ll be testing out products and styles for you, providing my very best hair tricks and tips in posts and videos, working as a “real world” counterpoint to celebrity stylist Mark Townsend, and attending Dove events to provide on-the-go coverage (I’ve got one coming up in the Hamptons that I’m pretty psyched about), among other things.
Another exciting thing about being the Dove Hair Brand Ambassador is that I now have access to all sorts of fantastic Dove products…which means that you now have access to all sorts of fantastic Dove products. So to kick off the program, I’d like to give fifty readers (yes, fifty) the opportunity to try out two products that I’m completely obsessed with at the moment: the Nourishing Oil Care Detangler (I use this every single time I brush out my wet hair, and think it’s an absolute beach bag essential) and the Style+Care Frizz-Free Shine Cream-Serum, which is a lightweight frizz-fighter that you smooth onto your ends to break them up a bit and give them some lovely, healthy shine.
To win your very own full-sized version of both products, just comment below - anything goes, really, but I’d love to hear your very first Dove memory (everyone has one, right?). I’ll pick 50 winners at random one week from today. (Contest open to U.S. readers only.)
Tell me that doesn’t look like the best thing on the planet. That’s the brunch pizza at Gina La Fornarina, which I write about…oh, all the time…and it’s what I ate for my birthday brunch on Saturday, post-playground excursion. (If you go, the brunch pizza is no longer on the menu, but they’ll still make it for you if you ask nicely.)
Following an afternoon nap, we stopped over at my parents’ place for some wine before heading out to dinner at another one of my favorite spots, Trattoria Casa di Isacco (full review here).
What makes dinner at this place so fun is mostly the owner, Isacco, who runs between tables depositing little plates of delicious things (like this wild boar, which is UNBELIEVABLE rolled in soft bread with a little manchego).
For Memorial Day, we headed to the Jersey Shore to visit Francesca and her family.
This is some good beach food, right here. (Lightly toasted pita filled with avocado, tomato, hard cheddar, and salt.)
I needed a day like this one. Good for the soul and all. (Or it was good for mine, anyway: Indy was a little dubious about the whole sand-and-sea thing, as you can see in this picture. He’s also sort of petrified of grass. We’re working on it.)
Perfect summer dinner: grilled skirt steak sliced over arugula salad…
Scallops With White Wine & Garlic / Mango, Avocado & Butter Lettuce Salad
I’m very much a creature of habit when it comes to weeknight meals: I have a stable of standards that I rotate through on pretty much a weekly basis, but very rarely have the time and/or inclination to come up with something totally new to try out, mostly because that requires the employment of brain cells and energy that seem to have flown the coop in recent weeks.
And I feel kind of bad about that.
Because while I think that my staple meals are pretty good and don’t personally require a ton of variety in my diet (I’m one of those people who will eat the same breakfast cereal every day for a year)…I know that Kendrick likes it when I try something different. It’s so fun to present him with a brand-new creation: he totally lights up (because he knows it makes me happy) and always declares that it’s his New! Favorite! Dish! (also, I suspect, because he knows it makes me happy).
And so here’s what I do when I want to try something new but don’t want to spend forever getting all imaginative and/or rifling through cookbooks, putting together a menu, shopping for tons of ingredients that aren’t already in my cupboards, and figuring out how to cook something I’ve never even touched upon before:
I play the “What’s About To Go Bad In My Refrigerator Game.”
And then I take those three or four ingredients, do a minute of free associating to come up with how they might work together with the addition of one or two more items…and then type those key words into Google to see if anything strikes my fancy.
When I checked out my refrigerator around 5:30 last night, I discovered that the following items were in attendance and looked quite delicious, but were most certainly on the downhill slope and wouldn’t be any good within a day or two: 1 mango, 1 avocado, 1 head of butter lettuce, 1 box fresh spinach linguine
A little what-would-be-good-with-this free-association led me to: Scallops!
And a little Googling showed me that (as I’d already suspected) a white wine and garlic sauce would be the way to go. Google wanted me to add scallions. But I forgot to get those when I went to the supermarket.
Anyway: one quick trip to the supermarket for parsley and scallops, a stop at the wine store for a bottle of white, and dinner was ready twenty minutes after I stepped through the door.
1 head of butter lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 ripe mango, diced
1 avocado, diced
Fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper
What you do:
Just toss everything together in a large bowl. Maybe throw in a little goat cheese, if you have it.
SEA SCALLOPS WITH WHITE WINE & GARLIC OVER SPINACH LINGUINE (serves 2)
What you need:
1 box fresh linguine
1/2 lb sea scallops
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
About 1/2 cup white wine
Fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper
3 tbsp butter
1 handful parsley, chopped
What you do:
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
2. Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saute pan, add the garlic, and cook for a minute or two. Add the white wine and a splash of lemon juice, and allow to reduce slightly.
3. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions (fresh pasta should only take a couple of minutes).
4. Add the scallops to the saute pan and cook for about a minute, then turn and cook for a couple of minutes on the other side, until just cooked through (be careful not to overcook them, or they’ll be tough). (Note: you could also sear them first for that pretty caramelized color, but I’m a newbie to scallop-cooking, and totally forgot. Still good!)
5. Drain the pasta, leaving a bit of pasta water in there to loosen it up, and toss in the scallops with white wine and garlic sauce, butter, and parsley. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Those are Steven by Steve Madden, and I cannot find them anywhere online (although they’re similar to these), but trust me: I will hunt these pretties down (and of course post the info here for you once I find it).
The other day, we were driving into town from my aunt’s place out in the country and stopped at a gas station/convenience store-type place to pick up some wine for dinner. I stayed in the car with the baby, and when my aunt and Mom returned they proudly announced that they had picked up a bunch of freshly-picked fiddlehead ferns. Which, given that neither of them is particularly into experimental cooking, edible plantlife, or delicacies that can be purchased in ziploc bags at gas stations, was kind of weird.
As it turns out, they were excited because apparently fiddlehead ferns are super rare, only popping up in rural areas for two to three weeks a year, and they thought (correctly) that I would be really into giving the things a whirl.
So, much to the rest of my family’s dismay (my other aunt, my cousin, and her husband all declared that they were horrible and/or bitter, and only very reluctantly allowed me to include them on the evening’s menu), decided to make them as my contribution to that night’s dinner.
I thought about dousing them in cheese or something else that would let them look pretty but mask their taste a bit…but then I did a little research, and discovered that people online were raving about the flavor. It seems that the horrible/bitter thing happens when you either over or under-cook the things. And besides, whenever you’re trying something new and weird, it makes sense to me to actually…you know…try it. The way it’s meant to be tried.
And so my plan of attack was to do a very basic preparation, but to concentrate on cooking them for the exact right amount of time.
FIDDLEHEAD FERNS, STRAIGHT-UP
1. Wash the fiddlehead ferns several times, until the water runs clear. Drain.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the ferns for 4-5 minutes. In the meantime, prepare a bowl of ice water for blanching.
3. After 4-5 minutes, remove the ferns from the heat and immediately strain them and dunk them into the ice bath. (This will help them keep their lovely deep-green color.)
4. Put several large pats of butter in a frying pan (I used a really enormous lot of butter, as I tend to do with vegetables) and saute the ferns for another 4-5 minutes, until tender (taste them to make sure they’re to your liking). Serve with sea salt and a squeeze of lemon.
They taste sorta like a cross between spinach and corn on the cob. They are delicious.
(Oh, and every single member of my family? Had seconds.)
We are going to the American Heart Association’s “Have A Heart” gala next month, and I’m wearing this VS dress. What color shoes, accessories, etc, would you recommend?
A. Your dress is great! (FYI for the rest of you: it’s not the one pictured above, but is very similar; you can check out the VS version here.) When it comes to black-tie…you know, you can always do the standards: pearls, chandelier earrings, black heels, et cetera et cetera…but why not take this opportunity (how many black-tie galas does one get to go to, really?) to have a little more fun?
What I’d do: add a little glamorous ’30s style with pops of coral, jade green, and gold. I put together the above “dream board” (“dream board” rather than “reality board” because that’s a Reiss clutch and Gucci shoes; click here for product info) for you to show you the kind of look that I’m talking about, but below are some more affordable clutch and shoe alternatives.
See, here in the city houseflies aren’t exactly a major problem. They exist, sure (I used to have a pet frog named Sammy, like every other creepy-ish pet I had from the ages of four to nine - really: I had a snake, a snail, a crawfish, a mealworm, and a turtle, all named Sammy - and my method for feeding Sammy The Frog was a not-so-efficient process of melting a Firecracker popsicle over the garbage can in our neighborhood playground and then trying to use paper cups and a very small and questionably dextrous hand to catch the flies that arrived for dinner), but NYC pest problems are a little more burly.
But if houseflies are your problem, lucky you! Because the all-natural solution for keeping them out of your home happens to be easy, pretty, lovely-smelling…and delicious on a tomato-and-mozzarella salad.
Ta da! Place a few basil plants in your window (try this pretty method for displaying them), and the scent of the basil oil should send them off in search of less-green pastures.
What I’m going to do for my talent is remove stains.
Oh, I’m serious.
See the picture above? That’s the carpet at my aunt’s house, and about ten minutes before that photo was taken my darling child sent an entire glass of red wine careening onto that very spot.
And did I panic?
I did not!
Because one of the things in life that I truly excel at is stain removal. That may sound like a not-so-exciting talent to have, but next time you’re at a party and some drunk dude pours a bottle of wine down your front, you are going to wish I was there to rip your shirt off and return it to you sparkling and new.
Getting a stain out of a carpet is obviously a little different from getting a stain out of a shirt, but the basic elements remain the same: Saturate with water, spray soap on generously (I used Resolve to handle this baby, but the kind that you use matters much less than the speed with which you get it on there), and immediately rub a big wad of damp, decently thick paper towels (or a rag) against the stained area. Repeat with soap, water, and towels until the stain is gone.
Call a procession line into action if necessary, ferrying wet handfuls of paper towels back and forth.
Yell at people.
Do what you gotta do, because the very most important thing is that all of this has to happen immediately if you’re going to get the stain out.
(Click here to learn how to be a speed demon and a renegade with those stained shirts of yours.)
I bought this dress at Banana recently: it’s strapless and floor-length which makes it feel formal, but lightweight and floral which makes it feel informal. I’m wearing it to a July wedding and am considering hemming it to the knee to get more use out of it afterwards…but I feel like part of why it’s so pretty is because it’s long.
A. Oh, leave it long! Short it’s just your ordinary strapless floral dress…long, it’s spectacular. After the wedding, you can totally wear it out to dinner at night with loose waves, a sheer navy blouse tied at the waist (buttoned or not; sleeves rolled up) and/or a denim jacket if it’s chilly, and some casual jewelry.
When we travel to Canada we usually stay right in Moncton (New Brunswick), but this time we stayed with my aunt in Riverside, which is only about an hour outside of town but feels like just about the middle of nowhere.
It’s also one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
New cousins getting to meet for the very first time.
My cousin’s daughter is excellent at sharing, as evidenced by the fact that she deposited every single toy in the house directly into my son’s lap within five minutes of his arrival.
It was all very exciting…and apparently more than a little exhausting.
Thrift stores are a treasure trove of very awesome, sorta retro, incredibly inexpensive toys - that thing above plays “rock ‘n’ roll” and “classical” versions of Old MacDonald (in quotations because…well…they’re fairly loose interpretations of those particular genres) and is my son’s New Favorite Thing. (Just remember to clean thrifted toys well before taking them home and double-triple check that there are no small and/or broken parts that could prove dangerous.)
Watermelon salad is one of my favorite dishes to make all summer long. Mix cubed watermelon with basil, mint, tomatoes, mozzarella, feta, goat cheese…it’s all good. Just do me a favor and remember to add that sprinkling of salt at the end - it may sound weird to add salt to melon, but it really brightens up the flavor a lot.
AUNT JO’S WATERMELON SALAD (sorry for the sorta lame photo - I had a baby in one hand and an autofocus camera in the other.)
In a large bowl, toss together cubed fresh watermelon, halved Bocconcini mozzarella (little mozzarella balls; get the good-quality stuff that comes packed in water), a handful of chiffonaded mint (click here to learn how to chiffonade), and a sprinkling of good-quality sea salt.
I mean, it wasn’t my favorite thing I’ve ever done.
But it wasn’t nearly as stressful as I had feared, mostly because the tips from you guys helped enormously. More on that in a second.
The biggest glitch: we actually got detained by border patrol because I didn’t bring a letter of consent from Kendrick giving me permission to travel internationally with the baby: I figured that since I had needed this letter to get Indy’s passport in the first place I didn’t need to bring it with me on the trip as well…but you most certainly do (you also need to bring a copy of the birth certificate if you’re traveling domestically).
This resulted in Kendrick getting a phone call that started: “Hello, sir, I’m Officer X of the Border Police calling about your wife and child. Do you know where they are?” Which I understand is protocol, but which I also can imagine was not so much fun for him until he figured out what the call was about.
But back to the tips that you guys gave me - because they were great.
The Best of the Best:
1. Don’t freak out. The baby will pick up on your anxiety if you get all worked up, and get worked up in turn.
2. The flight attendants have experienced crying babies on planes before, and a) feel bad for you and b) will do what they can to help (and will let you hang out in the aisle to bounce, which is what I did for part…ok, most…of the flight). The other passengers…well, they might be annoyed, but for the most part they’ll understand that it’s beyond your control.
3. Snacks and snacks and more snacks.
4. Carry the baby through security in an Ergo or Bjorn - they won’t make you take it off. They may, however, decide that you need to be randomly screened, which is what happened to me (of course).
5. Let your traveling partner board first and get your things situated, but wait to board with the baby until the last possible second: the less time available to go stir-crazy, the better.
6. Provide a bottle during takeoff and landing to help with the ear-popping thing.
7. Bring along a couple of inexpensive, brand-new toys as “surprises.”
8. Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible (put baby in PJs at bedtime, bring the stuffed animal he’s used to sleeping with, etc), but don’t panic if things don’t go smoothly; a tired baby may not be a happy baby, but there are worse things that can happen.
But the problem with picnics is that once you’re on one, you’re sort of…stuck. You’re all set up with a big blanket and lots and lots of stuff, you’re theoretically in the middle of a large expanse of grass or sand or some other convenience store-free locale…and if you forgot anything…
Below, my best tips on how to make your next picnic delicious, guava-flavored-wine-soaked, and generally a blast.
Dogs, first and foremost.
- A bigger-than-you-think-you’ll-need blanket (the more room you have to spread out, the better). Bonus points if your blanket is bright and adorable, like this one from Target.
- Lots of bottled water
- Extra cups, plates and napkins
- Plastic utensils, if you’re serving anything that can’t be eaten with your hands
- Trash bags
- Moist towelettes or wipes (especially if dogs and/or children are involved)
- Cooler with ice packs
- Something to read or do in the downtime (I think picnics are a perfect moment for a) frisbee and b) US Weekly)
1. Layer Brie (shoot for the best quality you can afford and load it on) and thinly sliced green apple on a baguette. You can also add a few slices of turkey, if you like.
2. Drizzle with a little honey or honey mustard.
WATERMELON, TOMATO & BASIL SALAD (Remember to bring plastic utensils)
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups watermelon chunks, 2 sliced tomatoes (1 red, 1 yellow is pretty), 1/3 cup crumbled feta, and a big handful of roughly chopped basil. Toss with olive oil and sea salt.
CHIPS (Pack them in air-filled resealable bags to prevent crushing)
SOMETHING CHOCOLATE THAT WILL NOT MELT (I like banana-chocolate bread pudding from a store, but cookies work, too)
In a large pitcher, combine 1 bottle relatively cheap, preferably vaguely sparkly white wine (I use Vinho Verde, about $6.99 and even cheaper at Trader Joe’s), 3/4 cup guava juice, 3/4 cup orange juice, 1 thinly sliced lemon, 1 thinly sliced lime, 1 tsp lemon zest, and 1/2 tsp lime zest, and let sit overnight in refrigerator.
Just before serving, add a bunch of sliced strawberries and a splash of club soda (if desired) to each serving. Garnish with a lemon wheel or halved strawberry.
A few things to remember…
- If all the ice in the cooler has melted when you get home, the leftovers probably aren’t safe to save and re-serve
- Use multipurpose utensils (sporks!) to save space
- Extra munchies are always welcome: throw some fun additions like mixed nuts, olives, brownies, or mixed veggies with dip into your picnic basket
Yo Gabba Gabba, for those of you without small people running around your homes, is basically a kids’ show for hipsters. But it’s all much less obnoxious than that sounds.
It is amazing.
The host - DJ Lance Rock - is someone who I imagine would be totally fun to get a beer with (say that about Barney), the “lessons” are actually quite fantastic (don’t bite your friends), there are little nods to classic ’80s video games and dance breaks aplenty (love those)…and the whole thing is quite obviously intended to appeal nearly as much to parents as to their kids.
Oh, and Anthony Bourdain once made an appearance on the show.
And yes, part of the point of the junk drawer is that it’s one place in your home where you get to be unabashedly messy…
but really, we all know that what a junk drawer is is a black hole into which all sorts of things you definitely don’t need but can’t bring yourself to throw out disappear, never to be seen again.
There is a way to do junk drawers better.
Pictured above: the junk drawer of none other than Martha Stewart herself. She recommends using pretty little bowls to organize and separate all those tiny little things (pills, screws, batteries) that would otherwise be lost in the depths.
Or, if you happen to be like me and own way too many teacups despite the fact that you don’t really drink tea…
You do as I do. (The other two little containers are salt dishes, and I use an old silverware tray to semi-organize things like screwdrivers, glue sticks, and pens.)
And while we’re talking soft hanging things, how gorgeous is this Southwestern-style tapestry from Urban Outfitters? (They have lots of great tapestries that would work either as wall hangings or draped over a duvet.)
Anyway, I post this because to me, this illustrates how fast things change with a baby. Just a few weeks ago, only a couple of those crazy play stations were in rotation; yesterday morning, we cycled through every single one within about forty-five minutes. A week ago, I couldn’t get my son to eat much solid food before lunchtime; now he happily takes down an enormous breakfast right after his morning nap.
All these changes make establishing a solid routine challenging, but we’ve managed to get a sort-of schedule going that involves waking up at 6:30, napping at 8, and 2-3 varying-length naps over the course of the rest of the day. It’s not an exact science, but it gives some shape to the day, and I’ve come to rely on it enormously; I know when I can get some good work done, when I might be able to grab something to eat for myself, and when I need to go to bed by if I want to be a functional human being the next day.
This weekend, I’m taking Indy on a plane for the very first time (my mom and I are headed to Canada to visit my relatives).
It’s a tiny little plane (yeek) and a short flight - but we almost always end up sitting on the runway for awhile before takeoff (that photo above is of the last time we took this flight, when I was ten million months pregnant and had to sit on the runway for two hours in an airplane with no air conditioning before taking off in the middle of an electrical storm).
So that tentative little schedule we’ve worked out? Not happening so much - not when we start traveling at his bedtime and arrive at our destination somewhere around 1AM Friday morning.
I am in need of travel-with-a-baby tips to ease my nervous mind.
Just discovered this gorgeous space over on Smile And Wave (click here to check out more images of the room) and am totally inspired. I love how they blended clean midcentury lines with vintage light fixtures and splashes of country-cozy, and then threw in a few weather-beaten signs just to make the whole thing exactly up my alley.
This is what I’m talking about when I refer to a space that’s “collected” rather than “decorated”…and as you can see, “mismatched” doesn’t have to mean “messy”.
Of course the best way to achieve this look is by putting on your thrifting pants and hitting an excellent patch of luck, but if you’re not into scouring your local flea markets, below are some purchase-able ways to get your own retro blend.
Some of the above pieces are affordable; others, not so much. My advice for decorating in this style? Thrift as much as you can, and purchase only those key elements that you simply can’t live without. Because the real key to this look is loving what’s around you and making it your own.
Thank you to CafeMom for including me in their blogger series in honor of Mother’s Day. Click through to read about why we made the decision to move, and why it feel right for us.
P.S. One thing I’d like to clarify: the title of this article (the original title is “This Kind Of Life”) sounds sort of like I’m saying that city living is nice and all, but not good enough once you have children…which is really not what I think. I love the city; I was raised in the city; I think that growing up as a resident of New York City is a wonderful thing - or at least there are many wonderful things about it. It’s simply that when we thought about the specific things that we wanted for our family and our future, we came to the conclusion that a move was the right thing to do. For us. That’s all.