Custom Search


We Love the Wii

Through a fortunate series of circumstances, we received today the Nintendo Wii.  And Wii love it.  After solving a mishap in which pop tart goo ended up on the Wii Sports disk - we are live and playing actively right in our own little living room - and it is little - we live in Manhattan!  But the kids are managing to be physical without jumping all over the furniture or twisting in endless dizzying circles until I take them out to the park.  But here's the big, amazing, awesome thing about the Wii.  He'll hate me saying this but it's gotten my husband off the couch, too.  Not that he's a complete couch potato - but once the kids are in bed, he settles in front of the Yankees and pretty much stays there for the duration.  Granted, he's watching the game on Tivo so he can fast forward but then comes a dvr-ed Jon Stewart or he'll sit with his laptop working.  He might get up for a glass of wine and a snack but mostly he's sitting on the couch.  And then we got the Wii.  Tonight he played golf first.  The physicality of the golf game was subtle but he was standing up, swinging his arm.  Then, he tired of golf and switched to boxing.  It was hilarious!  My couch comfy husband up, punching, ducking, juking and generally going for the knock down.  I think he broke a sweat.  We joked about it - you know - how I got in shape - Wii Boxing!  I think it could happen! 


Skin So Soft

My next door neighbor used to be an Avon lady--back when the only way you could get your hands on Avon products was in person.  I'm sure she was a patient and gentle sales-person but for me there was a certain amount of peer pressure, given that she was my best friend's older sister and all of our transactions took place in her teenagery room surrounded by her teenagery things.  So I'm extra grateful for since I can buy bucketfuls of Skin So Soft without having to go through any makeovers or get talked into thinking I'm the kind of person who should smell powdery fresh all the time. It's the only Deet-free thing that's ever kept mosquitoes from eating me alive.  Apparently it was created to be a bath oil, and somewhere down the line someone discovered that it repels mosquitoes.  PERFECTLY.  No icky strong citronella scent, no toxic spray to get in your mouth and eyes, just lots and lots of free-flowing pine-smelling (but pine, in a good way) oil.  I can't imagine trying to get through a summer without it.  Go to and search for Skin So Soft, but don't get distracted by all the various's the Original Scent Bath Oil that works.



Schleich Animals

I was an enormous stuffed animal fan when I was young, I gave them out generously as gifts (with matching board books!--how clever!) at baby showers, and grew up to become the 'stuffed animal specialist' at FAO Schwarz in my early twenties.  Now that I'm a mom, I can't stand them.  Whereas my sister and I would throw birthday parties for our favorites, which would require making 300 paper hats for all the others, and we'd just weep Corduroy-style at the thought of a less-than-perfect creature being left to collect dust on a store shelf (hence the enormous collection at home), my own children haven't gravitated towards them.  They have some cute ones, but mostly, they're decorative. They look nice sitting on a shelf, in a fantasy child's bedroom kind of way, but really they just collect a lot of dust and take up valuable square footage.  The mere fact that no consignment shop will accept stuffed animals kinda makes me appreciate the cringe-factor of all that old fur.  Which brings me to the Schleich creatures.  Fantastically detailed, little hard rubber creatures--both real, and imaginary.  There's something for everyone.  Unicorns, woolly mammoths, lion cubs (for the newly Lion King obsessed), hyenas, fairies, farm animals, jungle animals, marine life.  I've enjoyed weeding out all of our old yucky bath toys and have found these Schleich creatures popping up in the shower.  This morning an old bear greeted me enthusiastically from the soap dish.  They're durable and satisfying, play well with action figures, and fit well in block and lego building.  I suspect my children will grow out of them at some point, but am in no hurry for that day to come.



Eat, Pray, Love

I took the plunge so many women before me have taken into the marvelous "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Often I resist the thing that everyone is talking about, call me a contrarian but I'm just not a big joiner. Still when the crowds are right, they are right. "Eat, Pray, Love" is a book to be savored. It is the story of Gilbert's journey, after the difficult dissolution of her marriage, through the pleasures of Italy, the spiritual devotion of India and finally seeking balance in Bali. Gilbert's language is sensual yet approachable. She's funny and touching and there are times I feel like she's put words to the emotions I find myself running through in the chaos that life can be as a woman with so many choices and so many different messages about what we are supposed to want. I'm still in Italy but I have no doubt the rest of Gilbert's journey will be just as vicariously soul-satisfying for me.


Olympus Digital Voice Recorder VN-4100

I've recently started a little bit of a freelance writing career for myself and what a lifesaver this little baby has been for me. Most of my work has involved interviewing people over the phone. And this recorder, with an assist from a Radio Shack recording controller, can hook right up to my phone. I'm not much of a note taker - I sort of jot down salient and sometimes not so salient words when I'm on the phone to remind myself of some point in the conversation. But generally I get so caught up in the discussion with whomever I'm interviewing I forget about notes, then I panic that I won't remember what the person has said and definitely won't have direct quotes. Then I remember my trusty little Olympus recorder and I breathe a sigh of relief. I can imagine a myriad of uses for the kids - if I were to let them get their hands on it - everything from SpyKids recreations to evidence of a sibling's transgression. And I could see it being useful if say you were in dispute with someone - like our downstairs neighbor at the old apartment who used to call and harass us with the most awful, judgmental and a little bit frightening comments. Sounds a little Big Brother but if I'd had this recorder, there might have been an outcome to the whole three year drama that was far less satisfying to her than us moving out.




I know I know, there are entire websites devoted to hating on these shoes, and I don't know anyone who loves them who thinks they're wearing gorgeous shoes, but I'll only consider ending my affair with Crocs when someone else can figure out a way to prevent my feet from stinking the way Crocs have.  A good friend turned me onto Crocs a few years ago, and fully six months before they really hit the big time.  I remember doing mini sales-pitches all over the country as friends and families would ask me about them.  They're the closest thing you can get to being barefoot, they slip on and off with ease.  And they're very very comfy. I've gone through no fewer than seven pairs of Crocs in the last four years.  My current favorite is a pair of black Mary Jane style Crocs that I actually wore to the Sex and the City premiere at Radio City.  It was pouring pouring rain and I had to wait in a long line that kept having these crazy pauses where we'd all have to stand on those little sidewalk grates for minutes on end and all the fancy ladies around me were getting their Jimmy Choos stuck.  I may not have won any fashion awards for the evening but if there'd been a common sense award it would have been mine.  Crocs have added some great-looking new styles, but sadly my favorite one is in a Mens shoe only and doesn't run as small as my foot would require.  Recently I decided to take a break from Crocs as a day to day show and switched to a kind of high tech hikey/sandaly kind of shoe.  It's a gorgeous pair of shoes and cost as much as three pairs of Crocs.  But after I spent a few days in them I had that Robby Benson moment from the end of Ice Castles--remember "We forgot about the flowers?"--there in the middle of the rink after his blind girlfriend had fooled everyone into thinking she could see until they started throwing the long stemmed roses onto the ice and then her handicap was revealed?  Well that was me.  I forgot about the foot odor!  I thought I'd take a little aesthetic break from Crocs and I walked all over town fooling myself and what slammed me back down to earth was that old familiar funky foot smell that infected pair after pair of Birkenstocks for decades and is now threatening to destroy my high-tech hikey/sandaly shoes.  And honestly?  I haven't even smelled that smell for four years now, so effective have Crocs been in eliminating it.  So, these new expensive walking shoes will have to be demoted to an occasional walking shoe, and I'm off to buy another pair of Crocs.  Sometimes I wonder if they'd consider making a little Crocky insole--a non-stick slip of Croc-rubber that could transform any shoe into an odorless paradise.  And I do wish they'd make some of their new Mens styles--that really look like regular shoes on the outside--for women.  Not quite sure why they keep thinking women want to show toe-cleavage all the time.  But of course beggars (smellers) can't be choosers so you won't get any complaints from me.



Nisska Comb

You only need to have your family of five be infested with lice once to recognize the beauty of the Nisska comb. Technically it took me two infestations to realize that owning one wasn't enough, I have to make sure I bring it with me wherever I go as well. Two winters ago I managed to ignore every single family member's complaints of itchy heads until it was wayyy too late. We were all completely full of lice by the time I put two and two (two thousand and two thousand?) together. I whisked us off in the dead of night to the famous lice lady in Boro Park, and she combed us all out using a Nisska comb (which we were then forced to buy from her as part of the package deal) and gobs and gobs of Pantene conditioner. A few months later a few bugs reappeared when we were at my parents' house. I had neglected to travel with the Nisska comb, and ran from drugstore to drugstore looking for an adequate substitute. I found some ridiculous red-plastic comb with teeth that were so short I could barely reach down to anyone's scalp. I used it and a few other different types of combs and freed us of the bugs and nits that way. But I learned my lesson and my Nisska comb, in it's beautiful green pouch, is never far away from me. If any one of my kids claims itchiness we do a just-in-case comb-out. We haven't had any bugs in eighteen months, despite swarms of them swirling through school community scalps again and again. Keep one close by. If you ever need to do a combout (no chemicals necessary, there's nothing like cleaning the head completely) just pour gobs of Pantene conditioner onto dry hair and start to comb through with the Nisska comb. Swipe every pass of conditioner across a white tissue, check the result. The bugs and nits stand out beautifully against the opaque white goop. Comb, swipe, repeat. Comb, swipe, repeat. It's really not that bad.


**We were just contacted by a company in Brooklyn (Exit15) that sells the Nisska comb. They've offered free shipping to our readers. Follow this link and use the code Nisska15 at check out. Feb. 10, 2009


Morning Joe

I don't drink coffee, never have, but I have to start every day with Morning Joe--the morning show on MSNBC.  First of all, I really think the name is cute, love the coffee ring graphics, etc. But most importantly, I just love to wake up with these people.  Joe Scarborough, who I rarely agree with, is the main host, and Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist make it utterly watchable (I must have gone to college with a dozen Willie Geists).  I don't even mind Pat Buchanan on this show--he's jovial, can take a hit, and demonstrates an ability to consider arguments rationally. The hosts talk politics for several hours, and make being up at 6am completely palatable.  Hell, sometimes I even get up at 5:45 so I can be done showering etc. and be fully present for the opening moments.  They're funny and clever and what sets them apart is the way they banter with each other on air.  Forgive me, but this is why I loved Howard Stern for so many years.  I was unable to stomach much of the freak-show/hooker stuff but could have listened to Howard and the gang rib each other for hours on end.  It's like comfort food for me, reminding me of all those hours sitting in dorm rooms with good friends, feeling witty and daring and safe all at the same time.  I also really appreciate that Morning Joe is pretty solidly PG.  Children are being ripped away from their moms at polygamist compounds on the Today Show, and some creepy guy has locked his daughter in a dungeon on Good Morning America, but Morning Joe serves up presidential politics only. Primaries, policies, speeches, gaffes.  That's about it.  So when my children wander downstairs and slump next to me on the couch to gather their strength for the day, they aren't hearing anything earth-shattering.  I imagine they're hearing 'blah blah blah Obama, blah blah blah McCain,' but even if they are really tuning in to what's being said, it's mostly just interesting political machinations and theories, and I like where their questions lead us.  The music that leads in and out of breaks always brings me back (Squeeze--Black Coffee in Bed?, Steve Miller Band, Come on and Dance?)--proving yet again that people MY AGE are running things--and believe it or not, there's something about that that makes me feel safe too.  



Mod Podge

There's nothing like Mod Podge.  Just the sight of the funky 70s font on the label makes me swoon.  I'm an art teacher and a mom of a seven year old girl who could make 'projects' out of all the cardboard in our recycling bin til the cows come home...and there's just nothing like Mod Podge.  It's a glue.  It's a glaze.  It's one of the only art supplies you need.  I've heard they make an 'outdoor Mod Podge' now and I'm salivating at the thought of collaging things to our fence, to our mailbox, to our Adirondack chairs.  Paper Mache, newspaper collage, tissue paper collage (I'm partial to the 'non-bleeding' type of tissue paper for really crisp designs), turning an old cigar box into a jewelry box, turning a 99c store picture frame into something great.  Add extra fabric, buttons, and some crisp Sharpie outlines to a painted box and you've got a robot.  I could go on and on.  I used to prefer the glossy variety (pictured above) since it was kind of magical to see shiny construction paper, but now I'm partial to the matte version.  It's non-toxic but very strong-smelling so it has to be used in a well-ventilated area.  Warning:  when you do your final topcoat, you'll think you've ruined your piece since it's a very thick opaque white, but it really does always dry perfectly clear, and gives most surfaces a really durable almost waterproof finish.  Also, wash your brushes thoroughly after using it, since it'll turn everything to plastic if it hardens in the bristles.  Take it from an art-teacher/mom-of-a-found-object-fiend, this stuff rocks.



Skuut Bike--Wooden Balance Bike

What a difference a balance bike makes! Last fall my three year old daughter pedaled to school every day, on a hand-me-down bike with streamers and training wheels. All of her friends still slumped down lazily in strollers (don't get me started...)--but not my girl...she was determined, energetic, and justifiably proud. Fast forward six months or so. Now everyone was four, the weather was nice again, their little legs had gotten stronger (or their younger siblings had aged out of bjorns and needed the strollers themselves)--and all of these pals showed up at school on these little wooden balance bikes. It just didn't seem fair. She was still doing that terrible uphill pedal move necessary with training wheels--my open hand was never far from the small of her back, so I could give her the little jolts necessary to heave her over sidewalk cracks, curb cuts, patches of weeds--and all these little former slugs were on these lightning quick bikes, flashing by, coasting, having a ball. I'm ashamed to admit that pick-up became a very emotional time for both of us. She'd pedal, hunched over her handlebars, crying, while teems of children swooped circles around her, saying 'helpful' things like just tell your mom to get you one of these !, or 'tactful' things like my mom told me not to make fun of you for having those things (indicating the training wheels. or maybe even the pedals). Egad. And it spoke to all sorts of feelings of inadequacy and poorness for me. I have two older kids and honestly, this was the first time I felt peer-pressure about some must-have item. I started to pick her up at off-times, we'd find new blocks to walk/wheel down. Anything to avoid the horror. I had priced the bikes out and, while not extraordinarily expensive ($89.99), it wasn't cheap enough to justify buying for our youngest (I know, that's terrible, but it's our reality). There'd be no other siblings to use it and if she followed in her older siblings' footsteps, she'd be on a 'real' bike within the year. It just didn't make good fiscal sense. So I called my pal who owns a consignment shop and asked that she be on the lookout for one of these babies, and--glory be--it turns out her own middle child was 'finished' with his, and her baby wouldn't be needing it anytime soon. So we got ourselves a Skuut bike, on loan. And it's changed everything. It makes so much sense, it's hard to believe anyone ever thought training wheels on a bike with pedals made sense for young kids. No one really needs to learn to pedal, EVERYONE needs to learn to balance. Why not tackle the balance first, then add in the pedals? My daughter zips around the neighborhood now, lightning fast, thrilled beyond belief. If I'd known how transforming it would be I would have plunked the money down. I can't recommend it enough. I should say here that we did try to 'make' a balance bike by having the cranks removed from our tiniest bike, but the seat was still too high. This thing's brilliant; the smoothest, most graceful ride around. It's one of the few 'new-and-improved' contraptions for kids these days that is an absolute improvement. I can't recommend it enough.



House Concerts & Marion LoGuidice

Last night I went to a house concert. Maybe you've heard of these, attended one or even hosted one. It is what it sounds like - someone opens their home - in this case a beautiful open loft in SoHo-for people to come listen to a singer. The singer stands there just in front of you with her guitarist. She's belting out these beautiful songs and you are sitting, drinking wine, nibbling on cheese and being carried away by the amazing intimacy of it all. And, in this particular case, we were even able to bring our boy (dear daughter was on a sleep over) and there were plenty of kids - who all played nicely in the next room while the grown-ups had a baby sitter-free night out. So - the house concert thing - totally cool.
But my real recommendation is for this amazing singer: Marion LoGuidice. She's a forty-something mom who sings with a vision and a connection to all things motherhood and woman-centric. The first time I saw her - at Joe's Pub three years ago I was blown away. I felt like she was speaking to me, all the things I was going through as a mom - the guilt - the anxiety - the challenge of trying to be the perfect person to raise my angels and still, somewhere in there, find myself. It was a really moving experience for me. Of course, we bought the CD - Motherwheel - and even my husband loves her - but he's a fan of Dido and Sarah MacLachlan, too, so weigh your hubby's taste first. Nonetheless, Marion's amazing. She has two CDs, now and she's on iTunes. Check out "Mr. Brown" - a heartbreaker and "Every Woman Alive". When you're feeling lost and misunderstood, put Marion on - she'll make you feel like at least someone gets you.



Eton FR150 Microlink, Solar, Hand Crank Radio, Flashlight, etc. etc. etc.

In many ways we are living the life that the Jetsons predicted back in the 60s.  We're not zipping around in flying cars but we can 'Skype' each other, order new groceries from our kitchens, and pluck music out of thin air for only 99 cents a song. Wow.  So many amazing things...but for the life of me I cannot deal with all of the cords in my house.  Yes I have an iPod, no I don't know where the charger is.  Yes I have a cell-phone, no I don't always remember to bring the charger when I go out of town.  Yes I have a digital camera, but recharging the battery (do I wait til it's empty?  what if it's half full but I can't afford to wait til it's empty before recharging it because I need to take it on a day-long adventure right away?) just makes me nuts.  That's why the Eton Hand-Crank Solar Radio, Flashlight (and apparently, cell phone charger? but I might have to remember the cord for that part) is such a brilliant, no-strings-attached, addition to our collection of exciting portable stuff.  Our first outing with it was to the playground.  My nine year old son and his pal were reluctant to go because a Mets game was about to begin, but my four year old deserved ice cream from the ice cream truck and so I had to get her there.  While she frolicked in the sprinklers and played on the swing, the two older boys sat on a park bench and listened to a Mets game (like old men).  The kids enjoyed it in the back of the minivan once the batteries had run out of their iPods and Gameboys and Leapsters when we drove up to the Berkshires last weekend, and happily handed it up to me so I could use the flashlight to read the map when we got lost--lending an extra romantic touch to getting lost on back-country roads--something that doesn't happen to us anymore in this age of Mapquest, but which did happen the other night because I didn't trust my print-out and attempted to forge my own route.  It's definitely my new favorite thing (mine's red). 



Stockmar Crayons

Long before I became an art teacher I fell in love with Stockmar crayons.  I bought some at a Waldorf-school retreat...along with some odd things like bits of colored wool and 'blocks' made from a cut up branch.  Back before I had children I was fascinated with kid stuff; a fact that made everyone think I'd be the best mom.  Too bad for my own kids that that fascination wore off before I brought them into the world.  Good thing these incredible crayons didn't wear away.  I've had the same tin now for almost twenty years.  Stockmar crayons are creamy and rich and so so sturdy.  I haven't tried their beeswax chunks yet, but imagine they'd be pretty spectacular as well.  I don't understand why Crayola hasn't caught on to the idea of the 8 or 16-stick tin yet. We bring our tin everywhere, and love these crayons so much that, get this, we don't even hoard the freebies we get in restaurants anymore.  Invest in some nice watercolor pads or heavyweight construction paper and encourage your child to press as hard as he or she wants to.  These babies are beautiful.



Dinner Party Savior

This won't be politically correct, I'm sure, but I love the Nintendo DS.  Not so much directly for myself - but for what the DS can do when we - the parents - want to stay late at a dinner party. There's one family of friends, in particular, with whom we love to hang out and stay too late and drink a lot of wine.  They have one daughter - we have a daughter and a son.  Inevitably, the kids start to get tired and cranky.  The girls exclude the boy - arguments and tears ensue.  It can really put a damper on grown-up fun.  Until the day we received a Nintendo DS.  Now, when the hour gets late, but the grown-ups are reluctant to leave, out comes the DS.  Their daughter has one, too.  And the kids take turns "interfacing" with each other on Mario Kart and lo and behold - we can stay another hour.  It has saved the dinner party.  And, saved on babysitters, too! 



Malber Washer/Dryer Combo

Everyone who saw my Malber Washer/Dryer combo when we got it in 1998 said that it would only be good for people who do a lot of small loads.  Exactly!  It's exactly what we needed when the kids were babies, and it's exactly what we need now that we have three.  You put the clothes in at night, set the machine to wash and dry (the drying part is optional) and when you wake up in the morning everything is clean and dry.  Perfect.  It doesn't need to be vented --it converts the steam to water and flushes it all away, only needs a hot water hook up, a cold water hook up, and a waste pipe. Same as any sink.  I've heard of people hooking theirs up to their bathtub and letting it drain in there, rather than giving it a permanent hookup like we did.  We bought the biggest warranty we were offered, which cost almost as much as the machine itself...but it's been going strong now for ten years and the warranty has more than paid for itself since the repairman has had to visit about once a year to work out some inevitable kinks (something about it being tricky to combine electricity and water).  Of course we take large-ticket items like quilts and comforters to the laundromat on the corner, but we don't wash those as often.  Is that a bad thing to admit?  It just makes so much sense to me, that as long as a machine can spin to wash, it should be able to spin to dry.  I love it when machines make sense.