Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Preparedness

  • Bottled water. Check.
  • Milk. Check.
  • Diapers. Check
  • Working flashlights. Check.
  • Limes, dark rum, and passion fruit syrup to make a Hurricane, the cocktail made famous by Pat O’Brien’s, a bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Check, check, check. 
Sipping my cocktail and waiting for Hurricane Irene...

Hurricane Cocktail*

-1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
-4 ounces dark rum
-4 ounces passion fruit syrup
-1 lime slice
-1 Maraschino cherry

In a cocktail shaker, add lime juice, rum, passion fruit syrup, and ice; shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes and then strain into a tall glass. Garnish with lime slice and a maraschino cherry. Makes 1 serving.

*There are many different versions of the Hurricane cocktail and I believe that the original Pat O’Brien’s boasts about five different kinds of alcohol, but I had to make the call between carting home all of those liquor bottles and stocking up on more milk while pushing a stroller and holding a four-year-old’s hand.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This: Madison Square Park and Shake Shack

When things don't go quite as planned

Lest you think that all of my Camp Mom outings go neatly and according to plan, let’s consider a recent trek to Madison Square Park with Vivi and Jack. I had really just engineered this field trip as an excuse to have lunch at Shake Shack. Sure, we have a Shake Shack on the Upper West Side, but somehow, an actual subway ride to Madison Square Park to see a kiddie concert, followed by lunch at Shake Shack, sounded much more legitimate. Downright blog-worthy even. 

Here’s where my fetish for Shack Burgers got me: The new adorable and what I thought were practical sandals I had bought online for Vivi managed to fall off of her feet roughly 18 times before we’d even reached the subway station a block and a half away from our apartment to get to Madison Square Park. This led to many, many tears (Vivi) and many, many admonishments between clenched teeth (me) until we finally managed to get to the park—only to find out that the lawn where they usually have their concerts was closed, but that we were welcome to park ourselves on a postage-stamp-sized, extremely crowded, concrete area. Hooray!

The @#*! shoes

Then it started to rain. (Would it be redundant to interject with another “Hooray!” here?) We bailed on the concert and made our way to Shake Shack, where the burgers, fries, and shakes didn’t disappoint. As soon as we found a table, though, it started to rain harder, as in raining-cats-and-dogs harder. And did I mention the wood chipper whirring nearby that obliterated any possibility of a conversation? (although with a 4 1/2 year old who rarely stops talking about the most random assortment of topics, I might have to reallocate that to the advantage bucket). Jack then proceeded to fall out of his chair and Vivi spilled most of her milkshake (more tears and more admonishments between clenched teeth).

Shake Shack attack!

But then somehow, the day simply righted itself (“Hooray!” she exclaimed without a trace of irony this time). Jack stopped crying long enough for me to shove some French fries into his mouth. Vivi slurped down most of the rest of Jack’s shake, but he blessedly didn’t notice. Pulling on our raincoats and fortified by our Shake Shack repast, we headed over to the Madison Square playground, which was blissfully empty because, well, who really wants to be on the playground when it’s pouring down rain? (Us, that’s who!)

Shoes...who needs 'em?

Vivi kicked off those blasted shoes and she and Jack had a ball in the sprinklers. And we made it through the remainder of our day with no more tears and no more admonishments between clenched teeth.

The water wheel saves the day
Madison Square Park, Broadway & East 23rd Street, New York, New York 10010;; Free kids’ concerts are held in the summer months every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 AM.

Shake Shack, Southeast corner of Madison Square Park, near Madison Avenue and East 23rd Street; Hours: 11 AM to 11 PM; (212) 889-660;

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Best Things In Life Are Free: Staten Island Ferry

The Statue of Liberty is an amazing sight, albeit one that is rather difficult and time-consuming to get to. In keeping with the “being a tourist in our own city” theme, I had tentatively planned an all-day pilgrimage with Charlie to see the Lovely Lady this summer, only to find out that on the day we were scheduled to go, all tour boats to Liberty Island were completely booked. So we ended up doing what I don’t think is only the next best thing, but may just be the best thing: we rode the Staten Island Ferry for free (let me repeat that: for free) and then followed a Time Out Kids itinerary for the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island.

I’ll be honest with you: St. George is no great shakes. You could probably skip it altogether, although I’ll fill you in on what we did anyway in case you’re jonesing to break out of your Manhattan malaise and visit another borough. Exotic it ain’t. But it is another borough. Just manage your expectations accordingly—which, come to think of it, may just be my best piece of advice when attempting any type of activity or outing with young children. That, and always arrive armed to the teeth with snacks.

What you absolutely, positively should do on a regular basis, however, is ride the Staten Island Ferry if for no reason other than that it’s free (did I mention that already?), it’s easy, and it offers an unparalleled view of the Statue of Liberty. If I had to do it all over again, I would just ride the ferry over and back and not leave the ferry terminal. In fact, the Staten Island Ferry may be my new favorite go-to stop for out-of-town guests.

Now for some of the other stops on our day’s journey, courtesy of Time Out Kids:

Staten Island Ferry, Getting there: Take the 1 Train to South Ferry and head to the Whitehall/Staten Island Ferry Terminal,; Hours: During rush hour, the ferry runs about every 15 minutes; during non-rush hour, it runs about every ½ hour; Free.

Rispoli Pastry Shop, 29 Hyatt Street, Staten Island, NY 10302-1801, (718) 273-5224: Most of the time, the key to my children’s happiness seems to be simply keeping them well-fed. To that end, this was our first stop immediately off the ferry to stock up on Italian cookies.

Lt. Lia Playground, Wall Street between Belmont and St. Marks Place, Staten Island, NY: With few exceptions, a playground is a playground is a playground and this one was no different. Its one benefit worth noting was that it was encircled by a shady pergola with benches.

Everything Goes Book Café & Neighborhood Stage, 208 Bay Street (near Victory Boulevard), Staten Island, NY 10301-1904,  Directions: turn left when leaving the terminal and either walk along Bay Street until you run into it on your right or take the #51 or #76 bus to Victory Blvd,, (718) 447-8256: A hippie dippie bookstore and café that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back into a friend’s rec room circa 1979. Their shelves were well-stocked with vintage Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and comic books and they had lots of records for sale, which led to an interesting discussion with Charlie as to what, exactly, a record is.

Gourmet Dog, 40 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301-1904, (718) 727-1234: Try their world-famous crunchy dog, a split, grilled hot dog layered with their secret sauce and potato chips. Be prepared for friendly, but very slow, service.

-Riding the Ferry with Captain Cruz by Alice Flanagan

Monday, July 18, 2011

Anybody Seen Snooki?: Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

We may be dyed-in-the-wool urbanites, but that doesn’t mean that, come summer, we don’t crave cooling ocean breezes and sand between our toes as much as the next person. New York City boasts a plethora of sandy shores all suitable for daytrips by car or train. We chose Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, mostly because it afforded me the opportunity to crack jokes about the Jersey Shore.

Charlie and I hit the road bright and early, arriving in Point Pleasant around 10:30 AM to find plenty of empty parking spaces in lots ranging from $2.25 to $10.00 a day depending on beach proximity. The air temperature barely hit 70 degrees and the ocean was freezing and rough the day we were there, but that didn’t deter my six-year-old cold-blooded water baby from dashing pell-mell into the arctic surf, shouting and whooping in delight as the cold water lapped at the hem of his bathing suit.

We didn’t catch a glimpse of Snooki or any of her fellow Guidos or Guidettes (they actually rose to fame 11 miles down the road in Seaside Heights), but we did find a delightfully uncrowded expanse of beach, a mile-long boardwalk with an old-timey, retro, not-too-cheesy vibe, buff lifeguards cruising the beach on those groovy lifeguard dune buggy things (what are those called anyway?), candy apples, and miniature golf.

Not bad for an hour and a half drive from the city on a random Monday in the summer.

Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, Public beach access at the southern end of town; two bath houses with bathrooms and changing rooms can be found at the end of Broadway Avenue and at the end of Parkway Avenue and open at 9:00 AM,
Jenkinson’s Beach Boardwalk,, Most rides open between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Calling All Non-Crafty Bookworms: Scribble Press

My kids didn't write this book. But I wish they had.

I have always been kind of a nerdish bookworm, so Scribble Press, a make-your-own-bookstore on the Upper West Side (there’s another location on the Upper East Side and for those of you on the left coast, one in Los Angeles as well), is the kind of place I would have adored as a child.

An open studio of sorts, Scribble Press has a variety of projects from which to choose. Books are really their signature item, but for less bookish types, there are also calendars, notecards, bookmarks, and placemats just crying out to be created and personalized. Once you’ve decided on your project, pick out your art supplies and start writing and illustrating your masterpiece.

No fighting over markers at Scribble Press

While you’re waiting for your book to be printed and bound, head down the street and grab lunch at Artie’s, a retro 1930’s New York Jewish delicatessen. 

Pull up a barstool and place your order at Artie's

By the time you’ve sufficiently stuffed yourself full of corned beef, potato pancakes, and cheese blintzes, your book should be ready for pick-up.

Tada! Pirates, Princesses, and airplanes

For those enterprising and crafty readers who might argue that they could produce equally impressive books at home for a fraction of Scribble Press’s cost, I say break out the Magic Markers and get on with your bad selves. When I practice parenting, however, my cost analysis goes something like this:
  • The cost of making a book at Scribble Press: $28 and up
  • Getting out of apartment and not having to plan and execute a book-making project and being able to not feel bad about my own lack of arts and crafts inclination and prowess? Priceless

There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s plastic.

Scribble Press, 217 West 84th Street (@ Broadway), New York, New York 10024, (212) 362-2555,; Open Monday to Thursday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Friday and Saturday 10 AM to 7:00 PM, Sunday 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM; Costs: There is no studio fee and products start at $15.
Artie’s, 2290 Broadway (@ 83rd Street), New York, New York 10024, (212) 579-5959,

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to be a Tourist in Your Own City

Don't forget your "I Heart NY" T-shirt to really convince folks you're from out of town

One of the best things about summer is not having to set the alarm clock. It was with this in mind that Charlie and I decided not to lock ourselves into a set time to see the Empire State Building by purchasing advance tickets online. Instead, we savored the extra minutes of sleep in the morning and just got there when we got there. Charlie prepared for the worst, stuffing his backpack with crucial items (M&Ms, The Adventures of Tintin, his binoculars) to survive in lines known to snake around the building.

Charlie’s advance preparations turned out to be for naught (although one can always put M&Ms, Tintin, and binoculars to good use) as the Empire State Building, although not completely deserted, was happily uncrowded. We whizzed through a short ticket line and allowed ourselves an upsell to a combination ticket to both the 86th Floor and the 102nd Floor Observatories. When you go, skip the latter. It’s not worth the $15 extra per ticket, it’s enclosed and crowded, and--take my word for it—the view isn’t any different or more spectacular sixteen additional floors up.

Wait until your kids are old enough to be stroller-free or leave the stroller at home, as negotiating either of the observatories with one would have been a huge headache.

Books And Movies For Your Visit


  • The Empire State Building by Lisa Bullard
  • Men at Work by Lewis W. Hine
  • Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome
  • The Top Job by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
  • Empire State Building: When New York Reached for the Skies by Elizabeth Mann
  • Sector 7 by David Wiesner


  • An Affair to Remember (1957)
  • King Kong (1933, 1976/PG, and 2005/PG-13 versions)
  • Sleepless in Seattle (1993) (PG)

*I didn’t actually watch any of these movies with Charlie and haven’t seen any of them recently, so can’t speak to how age-appropriate they are for a six-year-old.

The Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Avenue (between 33rd and 34th Streets), New York, New York 10118, (212) 736-3100,; Hours: Open daily (8 AM to 2 AM); Admission: Adults: $22; Children 6-12: $16; Children 5 & younger: Free.

Where to Eat

Heartland Brewery, 350 Fifth Avenue (@ 34th Street), New York, New York 10118, (212) 563-3433,; American-style brewpub with beer-friendly fare and a children’s menu.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Less is Still More: Land of Make Believe, Hope, NJ

Steve channeling his inner princess

You may recall that at the end of last summer, I thought about making a pilgrimage to the almighty Sesame Place in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania for, oh, about seven minutes before abandoning the idea in favor of an easier, cheaper, and closer-to-home destination (See “Less is More: Bergen County Zoological Park” post of 8/29/10).

It was déjà vu all over again this summer when the idea of Sesame Place was kicked around, but passed over for the easier, cheaper, and less-is-more option of the Land of Make Believe, an old-fashioned family amusement park with a retro feel located 60 miles outside of New York City in Hope, New Jersey.

I'm never one to pass up a thrill ride

The park featured traditional kiddie rides like a Ferris wheel, “Thriller” roller coaster, Tilt-A-Whirl, and turn-of-the-century carousel. It also boasted a petting zoo, hayride, Civil War locomotive, and—our personal favorite, because we never pass up an opportunity to get as dirty as we can in as short a time as possible--Land of Make Believe mining company, where kids could dig for gems and fossils and then match up their loot to a card bearing all of the rocks’ correct names and characteristics.

Sifting for treasure at the Mining Co.

A major draw of the Land of Make Believe is a pirate-themed water park, replete with water slides, pirate forts and ships, and wading pools appropriate for even the youngest child, which we decided to save for a less chilly and overcast day.

There were some misses at the park, The standard greasy amusement park fare of pizza, chicken nuggets, and French fries was particularly ho-hum, although there were numerous designated picnic areas. Santa’s Enchanted Christmas Village reeked disconcertingly of mothballs and the abutting Candy Cane Forest which beckoned invitingly and was perfect for photo ops, was off-limits for climbing.

Don't forget to bring cash or your Discover card

The plusses of the park, however, greatly outweighed its minuses. With the exception of food and games, the price of admission was all-inclusive. Parking was free. The property itself was small and manageable with multiple children in tow, as well as shady and blissfully uncrowded. You also know that I am getting old and the mother of three young children when I feel that it’s worth mentioning that the men’s bathroom had a changing table and the woman’s bathroom, in addition to being clean with lots of hand sanitizer and soap available, had two—which is more than I can say for many places we’ve visited. Nothing kills a great day like a nasty bathroom.

Land of Make Believe, 354 Great Meadows Road – Rt. 611, Hope, New Jersey 07844, (908) 459-9000,; Hours: Open daily from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM beginning on the third Saturday in June through Labor Day; General admission (includes all rides, shows, attractions, family picnic grove, and Pirate’s Cove Water Park: Adults: 22.508; Children (2-8): 24.50; Children under 24 months are free, but are limited to certain rides only; Cash or Discover ONLY.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Summer of 2011 Bucket List

Between the planning and execution stages of Camp Mom, I am having a hard time translating our experiences into something remotely blog-worthy this summer and thought that a revisit to my original summer bucket list—with some minor updates for 2011--might provide the jump start I need and remind me why I once again opted not to send the rug rats to camp this year:


  • Prepare a draft schedule of age-appropriate activities and adventures in and around New York City for my kids (ages six, four, and two) 3-4 days a week, every week, for June and August, subject to weather, changes in attitude, or any number of other unforeseen circumstances. A working schedule is key to the success of my venture and without it, I am likely to crumble within the first week or two of summer vacation
  • Tie in relevant books and movies to our regular expeditions
  • Record our adventures electronically in a blog, my lack of technological savviness notwithstanding


  • Broadway and other live shows and performances
  • Gardens
  • Museums
  • Neighborhoods and walking tours
  • Playgrounds/parks
  • Zoos
  • Other (this includes things like bowling, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, and FAO Schwartz)
  • Out-of-town daytrips


  • City Walks With Kids: New York 50 Adventures on Foot by Elissa Stein
  • Fodor’s Around New York City With Kids, 4th Edition
  • Storied City: A Children’s Book Walking Tour Guide of New York City by Leonard S. Marcus
  • Time Out New York Kids: monthly magazine and website (
  • New York Family: monthly magazine and website (

Monday, June 6, 2011

Charlie and Vivi's Summertime Lemonade Stand

“We were girls in the days before the Web, cell phones, or even voicemail. Telephones had cords and were dialed by, well, actually dialing. We listened to records and cassette tapes—we were practically grown-ups before CDs came to pass—and more often than not, we did daring things like walk to school by ourselves. Ride our banana-seat bikes to the local store. Babysit when we were still young enough to be babysat ourselves. Spent hours on our own, playing hopscotch or tetherball, building a fort in our rooms, or turning our suburban neighborhood into the perfect setting for covert ops, impromptu ball games, and imaginary medieval kingdoms.”

-The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz

For me, there is nothing that smacks more of a good, old-fashioned 1970’s and 80’s childhood than setting up one’s very own lemonade stand. Here’s what you’ll need to set up shop:

  • Lemonade (preferably homemade, but if you’re like us and would rather be honing your entrepreneurial skills than making a sticky mess in the kitchen, store-bought works just fine. We gave our brew a homey touch by throwing in some cut-up lemons and ‘fessed up when asked if we had made it ourselves)
  • A pitcher(s)
  • Ice
  • Cups
  • Something in which to collect your money
  • A small table
  • Chairs or stools
  • A big sign

For more ideas that will make you nostalgic and get you through the long, hot summer, check out The Daring Book for Girls (quoted above) and its predecessor, The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Blog is Back: Summer Kick-Off 2011 in Chestertown, MD

To every thing, there is a season (or not) and apparently, fall, winter, and spring, although my seasons for moaning about torrential downpours and record-setting snowfalls and the tyranny of the dailies, are not my seasons for blogging. I’m the migrant worker of bloggers: I disappear for most of the year, but come summer, I am back and ready to work.

Summer kicked off for our clan this weekend in Chestertown, a tiny hamlet on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that my husband and I have dubbed “Mayberry” and which is home to Washington College, the Chestertown Tea Party of May 1774 (the country’s lesser-known cousin to Boston’s showier and infinitely more well-known version), and last but not least, my parents. It is an excellent choice for those in search of a laid-back and wholesome family weekend getaway.

Almost continuously since 1968, Chestertown has been hosting its annual Tea Party Festival every Memorial Day weekend. Since attending festivals of any sort with three children ages six and under always sounds better in theory than in actual practice, our attendance was abbreviated, but highlights included: picking up squirmy baby turtles at the Sultana Center, an educational space featuring a variety of hand-on exhibits run by Sultana Projects in the heart of downtown; getting faces painted to support the Humane Society of Kent County; partaking in the local cuisine of clam strips, crab cake sandwiches, and curly fries for lunch; and laughing at the kids’ level of hilarity usually solely reserved for old episodes of “Tom and Jerry” while watching the refreshingly politically incorrect “Punch and Judy” puppet show on the Courthouse Green.

Chestertown Colonial Tea Party Festival,