Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Life lately

I'm taking a break from my regularly scheduled content to bring you: real life. Ha!

Lately I have been feeling...off...wistful maybe...

Nostalgic for a less complicated time; one with less concern and gossip over other people's lives and personal decisions; a slower-paced, more thoughtful life, when we had all the time to have real conversations. Basically, nostalgic for the summers of my own childhood.

Does that exist in today's world? Or even more curious, did that actually exist in the 1980s, or is that just what we call childhood (and conversely, this is what we call "adulting")?

Now, I consider myself a spiritual person who believes in fate, karma, and other supernatural powers, but I wasn't sure where I stood on the manifestation of thoughts and feelings. Until this weekend.

I was craving a slower life, and boy did the universe hand it to me. Unfortunately, it was in the form of the stomach flu, taking down each family member one-by-one until the only one left standing was a very energetic and unsympathetic one-year-old. If the universe can have a sense of humor, so can I. And I'm going to use that humor and newfound power of manifestation to find a slower pace, laugh often, and squeeze out every last minute of this glorious summer.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The importance of family vacations

“We are a collection of experiences, not things.”

Part of those experiences include taking family vacations. It only takes one great family trip to realize the importance that break is to a healthy mind. Exploring a new place brings a freshness to your relationships, spending time with family in the absence of day-to-day responsibilities reminds you how cool and fun your people are, and trying new things expands your horizons and your mind.

So I’m curious, do you have an annual budget for a family vacations? (We don’t). Do you plan months ahead or are you a spontaneous traveler? (I’m a planner, but unfortunately not far enough to get any vacation deals, but I should do more to capitalize on pre-trip happiness). How do you find new vacation spots – a friend, travel agent, websites? (I rely on websites, but am so curious about using a travel agent). What has been your favorite family vacation? (Ours was Charleston or this one).

I would love to read about your best family vacations in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sakara: An honest review

Two weeks ago, after indulging in all the food on this trip, I decided to try a ready-to-eat meal delivery service. Sakara is a plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free meal service created by two New York City-based nutritionists.

I ordered the three-day plan and tried to eat clean(er) the days leading up to its arrival. Tuesday afternoon, the Sakara box arrived on my doorstep, complete with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, beauty water, detox water, tea, and a few extras.

Upon opening the box, I had immediate regrets about not contacting them with my food allergies. I have a few weird allergies, one of them being dates, so I noticed I wouldn’t be able to eat the protein bars or one of the breakfasts.

I was sure my biggest challenge would be portion sizes, but the opposite was true. I couldn’t finish all the meals (the salads are huge!) and I never felt hungry or deprived. That being said, there were a few things I just didn’t like, the kaffir coconut mylk for one, and I couldn't get past the feeling I was chugging perfume when I drank the beauty water. And by the dinner on second day, I wasn’t too thrilled to see arugula again.

I promised you an honest review, so in my opinion, it’s a great one-time service if you're in a food rut. I really got so many good meal ideas out of it, but I can recreate many of these at home for much less (and with fresh ingredients). I guess I don't quite understand all the hype, but I suspect most of those raving reviewers are paid?

That being said, if Sakara ever decides to bottle and sell any of their dressings or sauces, I’ll be the first in line to order. Every single one was so delicious.

Have you tried a meal delivery service?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Why is vulnerability important?

Perhaps it's the endless news stories on sexual harassment, but I've found myself thinking a lot about vulnerability lately. Only recently have so many women felt safe to reveal their nightmares. And although I can't speak personally to this subject, I imagine it takes an enormous amount of courage in the face of vulnerability to do this.

Because in sharing your truth, no matter the circumstance, there is the perceived weakness and judgement that comes with being truly seen.

After years of working to distance myself from my own family secret, I made the decision that it was a part of my story worth telling. I realized the disjointedness I was feeling was a direct result of my unwillingness to share my whole truth in an effort to fit in (it feels silly even typing that). I was a mess the day I hit publish on this post (vulnerability is uncomfortable!), and publicly aired something so personal, however, I no longer wanted to carry it alone.

In the days that followed, I received such sweet words of support that something shifted in me.

My upbringing taught me vulnerability is a weakness, and being tough in the face of tragedy or hurt is a necessary strength. The problem is most often those feelings go unresolved, and are buried deep. And shame grows in those quiet, unseen places. Shame can be fatal.

Only through sharing fears, insecurities, and differences, can we break those perceptions wide open, eliminating all power over our lives.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, it leads to deeper connections with others, and with oneself. And it empowers others to stand in the light of truth.

How has vulnerability affected you in your life?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

On reading habits

Sometime in the last year I transitioned from binge-watching TV late into the night to binge-reading (that being said, I did quickly plow through all three seasons of this show - it's so good). It's safe to say I've experienced all of these symptoms lately.

When I pick up a good, enthralling book, I'm counting down the minutes until I can crawl back into bed to pick it back up again.

I finished this quick read for book club a couple weeks ago (and also this one, which I highly recommend), then this exciting book. I'm almost through this easy, captivating beach read, I have this one on my nightstand, and I've been warned I'll need a lighthearted, fun book like this one after that.

For someone who used to only read the occasional magazine, this has been a huge shift. For many years, I was forcing myself to read (and always finish) the wrong books. I no longer care about what's made the bestseller lists, if I can't get into it in the first 50 pages, I move on (my tip: download the sample on iBooks and if you like the first 30 or so pages, order the book!).

What binge-worthy books have you read? Please share below.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

New York City family travel guide

There’s no shortage of NYC-based bloggers, so no doubt my expertise pales in comparison, but I’ve traveled enough times to know how to explore the city with a young family. New York may not be your first choice for a vacation with kids, but don’t be surprised if it ends up being a favorite. The keys to any successful family travel are fun activities, frequent food stops, and incorporating necessary downtime.

I’ve also found that paying up for a good, comfortable location is worth every penny when traveling with little ones. Over the years, I’ve stayed in various New York City neighborhoods, but the Upper West Side has our hearts. Midtown certainly is convenient for a shorter stay, but the UWS is quiet and family-friendly; and my favorite way to vacation is to live like a local. There are some great rentals (we loved staying here, but were also comfortable here) and boutique hotels. Midtown has all the usual big name hotels (we stayed here recently), but I would avoid Times Square at all costs. We’ve never taken the kids there.

I could write a lengthy post on restaurants alone, but I'll save that for another day. Instead, these are our favorite city sights, partnered with some quick bites:

The Empire State Building is a definite must-see for all. I would always choose this over the Top of the Rock (I've been to both). This is one of the only things that opens at 8:00 a.m. in the city, so go early to avoid lines if you can. Pro tip: Purchase the VIP express tickets. It will be worth it when you’re walking past the lines at the ticket counter and the lines to enter and the lines at security and the lines at the elevator. Come to think of it, there are lines everywhere in this place! Remind the staff at each transition that you have express tickets because they don’t check at each point. Afterwards, walk six blocks to Sweetgreen at 1384 W. Broadway or eight blocks to the 6th Avenue location. Then head to Grand Central Terminal (a sight in and of itself!) before heading home for afternoon naps.

The Museum of Natural History’s dinosaur (fourth floor) and biodiversity and ocean life exhibits (main floor) are favorites. Follow the fork and knife signs backwards to the discovery room for the hands-on children’s exhibit. The museum is pay-what-you-choose, but an entrance fee is suggested ($72 for our family). Pro tip: Outside food or drink is not allowed anywhere in the museum so eat a snack before entering (the cafeteria is gross). Order Shake Shack at Columbus Avenue via the app (don’t make the mistake of thinking you can walk in and order quickly) and pick it up before heading to the Arthur Ross Terrace and splash pad for a picnic on the north side of the museum. The splash pad is free and you can do this in conjunction with a museum trip or independently.

The New York Historical Society is the city’s hidden gem, and if you’re short on time I would choose this over all other museum options. At $6 for children and $21 for adults, it's less expensive and the downstairs children’s exhibit is amazing. Be sure to check the event schedule. This summer they have a magic show on Sundays and a story and craft on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. The children’s exhibit is interative and so, so interesting (for adults too). I had to drag my kids out of here after two and a half hours.

We will definitely be back to do Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the future, but at this stage, standing in lines for an entire day is out of the question. The best (and free!) way to see these sights is to take the Staten Island Ferry. The subway to 1 Bay Street/South Ferry couldn’t be easier. Grab some banana chocolate chip or sour cream bread from Levain Bakery on the UWS before taking the red line 20 minutes to the last stop. When you exit the subway, Whitehail Terminal is directly in front of you. The ferry leaves every 30 minutes and is 25 minutes long. The 9:30 or 10:00 ferry is a great time to go – after rush hour but before the mobs of tourists. Enter on the right side of the ferry for views of the Statue of Liberty. After passing the Statue of Liberty, begin heading toward the exit ramp (opposite the entrance). If you aren’t planning to stay on Staten Island, you have five minutes to get on the ferry headed back to Manhattan. You will exit the boat, go through the terminal to walk onto the departing ferry.

The ferry is easily paired with the World Trade Center Memorial. Head back into the subway and take the yellow line NRW uptown to Courtland Street. It’s a short walk to Memorial Plaza. Stop in Starbucks for an iced coffee and a snack before hoping on the blue line AC at Chambers Street Station home.

Another highlight of our recent trip was our walk through Central Park to Victoria Gardens (at Wollman Rinks, which is also high on my list of suggestions in winter). I suggest buying the $24 unlimited rides and park admission for the kids. There’s only a dozen rides and a few games (which aren’t included in the unlimited rides package), but it’s perfect for ages 1-12. Afterwards you can walk to Dylan’s Candy Bar (admittedly a tourist trap, but I’m never above a bribe) and then walk across the street for some shopping at Bloomingdales while the kid’s are momentarily entertained with their candy selections.

If you find yourself with a little time while everyone is napping, enjoy a mama’s afternoon out. Grab a fresh pressed juice at Joe & The Juice and do some shopping. And no matter where you stay, there is no shortage of shopping! A Tempo and Liana are cute, UWS boutiques. Across from the Museum of Natural History is Book Culture (children's story times on Tuesdays and Saturdays) and an adorable kid’s shoe and clothing store next door. As you head south there’s Joie, Theory, Sandro, Intermix, and some of the usual staples. Stop at Magnolia Bakery on the way back to pick up cupcakes for dessert.

For older kids, I also highly, highly recommend the MoMA. Buy tickets ahead and get there at 10:00 a.m. to avoid lines. Don’t miss the MoMA store behind the museum on 53rd. Afterwards, girls will love Alice’s Tea Cup (chapter 2) for lunch, but if the walk is too much, Burger Joint, inside the Le Parker Meridian, is also a family favorite.

After naps at home, order Patsy’s Pizza or pick up a greek salad and some picnic fixings at the New York institution that is Zabar's and walk over to the Great Lawn at Central Park for dinner. Belvedere Castle is fun to explore (although currently close for renovation).

We also spent a morning in Brooklyn on our most recent trip. I would skip this if you’re short on time or if you have a little one that takes two naps (it’s a little difficult to get to and from). At $2 per ride, the kids rode Jane's Carousel several times. Check out Juliana’s Pizza for lunch and don’t miss Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (cash only). I really wanted to schedule a trapeze class in Brooklyn, but our kids are a little too young.

We also loved the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular, seeing the real Santa Claus at ABC Home, the New York Public Library's reading room, and the tree lights and window displays around the holidays.

What are your New York City favorites?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Worthy Reads: July edition

I’m over here nursing what can only be described as a pretty intense vacation hangover. You know it's bad when you find yourself googling "advice for post-vacation sadness." So while I'm working through these tips, I hope you enjoy this month's internet favorites.

I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I bought a ridiculously expensive hairbrush and I can't stop talking about it. Since having babies, my hair has changed (dry, but oily...who knew that could be a thing?) and this has been a game-changer.

I received a sample of this shampoo and quickly ordered a full-size bottle. It's so refreshing, but not at all drying.

Margaritas are my official drink of summer, so you better believe I’ll be trying this recipe.

But before I do that, I’m hitting a diet reset because vacation was a little indulgent to say that least. Stay tuned for my review in the coming weeks.

I’ve been feeling “the ache” so much lately. Do you get this? Does it ever really go away?

The only podcast I've listened to more than once.

Finally, this article is an important and real-life look at the lingering effects of the border crisis. 
© Lake House Effect. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.