Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Are You Smarter Than A NYC Kindergardener?

July 9, 2014

Happy schoolboy in front of mathematics on whiteboard

Admissions into a good New York City kindergarden is more than just living in the right zip code. While New York does have it’s share of acceptable public elementary schools, just living in that school district does not always guarantee  admission. Overflow often leads to a less desirable school, driving many parents to elite private schools, and the city’s Talented and Gifted Programs (TAG), which require an admission process that rivals the rigor of the curriculum.

When our daughter, now 14, was testing and interviewing for school, the ERBs were the gold standard. At the time, it was almost impossible to help your child practice for the test, the content of which was elusive.

Girl in front of whiteboard with alphabet

Now, many schools are looking to disregard the ERB, as most of the children taking it ( at age 4 mind you) have been coached. The latest test on the scene is the AABL, or the Admissions Assessment for Beginning Learners, which is deemed to be more difficult, and “academic” than the previous one. Since it is taken on an iPad instead of being administered by a tester, it has a  lower cost: $65 vs. $568 for the old ERBs, which is leading experts to believe that even more parents will be inclined to pay to have their toddlers professionally prepped.

For those of you wondering how you might fare against a group of over-educated 4 year olds, you are in luck.

A sample test is available for the taking right here! CLICK TO TAKE THE TEST

Let us know how you do in the comments!


What We’re Buzzing About This Week

February 6, 2014

Boots in Snow

It’s been a full week,and people across America are buzzing about the turn of events.

First up,the newly crowned winner of this season’s Biggest Loser dropped 155 pounds in just 14 weeks, triggering an outcry that she may have gone too far. At 5′ 4″, Rachel Frederickson weighs 105 pounds, just shy of a healthy BMI. While most professionals consider 1 to 2 pounds per week healthy and sustainable weight loss, Frederickson shed 1.5 pounds per day! Did she go too far?

Discussing the weather has moved from banal small talk to a hot topic. We have been bombarded by snow, extremely low temperatures and tornadoes, with no sign of it letting up. Is Mother Nature mad at us, or is all the buzz about global climate change really not just a political issue? Discuss.

Facebook is celebrating it’s 10th birthday by offering it’s loyal followers a personalized memory video. The cheesy retrospective, set to muzak, is based on your photos, most liked posts and profile pictures generated during your time on the social network.  It could move you to tears, make you cringe and at the very least lead you to re-evaluate what you share with the world.

Sports journalists are arriving in Sochi, Russia, in anticipation of the upcoming Olympics. What they are finding is accommodations that are well below sub-standard. Broken toilets, group toilets, and brown water are among the highlights of the hotel rooms they are staying in. One reporter found a large insect preserved for eternity in the packet of honey he opened at breakfast. Between the squalor and the terror threats, this is going to be an interesting Olympics. Let the games begin!

New York Fashion Week gets underway today, so again,  let the games begin!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

One More One Day Sale

December 25, 2013

Screen shot 2013-12-25 at 3.40.38 PMIt’s Christmas Day, and we are relaxing at home. Gifts have been opened, and wrapping paper remains have beeb packed away for recycling. I stopped to check my email, and  I am shocked to see that I am STILL being inundated with messages from retailers, hoping upon hope that I still have some shopping left in me to help them push their numbers into the positive zone. I’d like to send them back a message:
Dear Retailer,

Get a grip dudes, it’s over. Move on. You’re starting to look pathetic.

Merry Christmas to you too!

The sales began before Thanksgiving, and those”special one day only” Black Friday specials lingered throughout the month. Customers were bombarded with emails, and anything and everything they could do to buy our business was shamelessly done. Christmas has become a giant end of the year sale, which looks like it will extend into the New Year.

I cringe when I see the seasonal Facebook postings where people are offended that the term “Merry Christmas” has been replaced by the more politically correct “Happy Holidays!” Clearly, the whole Christmas spirit has gone awry in more ways than one. Call it what you will, but what began as a religious celebration for Christians, has evolved into a bargain basement shopping frenzy for all cultures.

So, if you will excuse me, I am going to step off my soap box and go off with my family to celebrate the day as Jews worldwide have done for decades: We’re off to the movies followed by Chinese food!

I  hope you all have a Happy Holiday, a Merry Christmas, and if it suits you, Jolly Bargain Hunting on the internet!

photo: Glasshouse Images

Join The Battle

December 4, 2013

First it was Black Friday, and then it was Cyber Monday, two days designated to spend money on material things for yourself and others.

But you wouldn’t you give up everything, just to see a loved one regain their health, or come back to life after losing their battle with a debilitating disease? Today, on Giving Tuesday, we humbly request that you help us in our quest to cure rare cancers.


I am part of a wonderful charity called Cycle for Survival, founded by a friend and former colleague, Jennifer Goodman Linn and her husband Dave.

Although Jen lost her personal fight with a rare form of cancer almost 2 years ago, her legacy lives on in the foundation she started to find a cure. Each year, my team and I ride to raise money to support that fight. So far, our efforts have helped fund over 85 clinical trials, helping to increase the lifespan, and quality of life for many cancer sufferers. We have pledged to ride until we no longer have to; a time when no family has to see a loved one suffer from this horrible disease again.

Won’t you join our battle?
Click on the link to Donate.

Please click on the link to see a short video about the event.

Cycle for Survival

We, and all of the people who benefit from this research, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

The Morning After

November 29, 2013


Whew, it’s over! Whether you spent the last day ( or two ) cooking or just hanging with family and eating like there is no tomorrow, lo and behold, that tomorrow is here. What to do now?
Take that turkey carcass, toss it in a big pot with carrots, celery, onion, and water, and cook it into submission, until you have a rich, flavorful stock.

Eat a light, but healthy breakfast, like some fresh fruit, or a smoothie. Tempting as it may be, pumpkin pie is not the breakfast of champions. (Yes, I am talking to you!)

Get active! Go to the gym, go for a run, play football with the fam, or at the very least, shop the Black Friday sales until you go anaerobic from the sheer frenzy of it all. Turn all those excess carbs into fuel, and burn them off, any way you can. You will feel much better afterwards.

If you hosted the dinner, put your house back into some semblance of order. You will be able to relax and enjoy it, if it is neat and all signs of chaos are eliminated.

Assess the leftovers. Do you want to eat them as is, make sandwiches, or turn them into something else? Leftover turkey can be used to create a variety of dishes from turkey salad, to turkey crepes and turkey tacos, just to name a few. Get creative, and turn those leftovers into something new that everyone will want to eat.

Monday is the absolute last day to eat those leftovers safely. Stretching that turkey and dressing through next week could result in your stomach rebelling. Eat them, freeze them or donate them, but do it within the first 3 days or so.

As the week progresses, and the stress of work and school set in, don’t forget to reflect on all of the things you are thankful for. Stretch those positive thoughts out to keep you grounded and grateful for weeks to come.

photo: Glasshouse Images

We would be very thankful if you would:

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Thanksgiving Game Plan

November 14, 2013


Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and if you are hosting dinner, it’s time to get cooking; in a figurative sense. Unless you prepare a massive feast for a crowd on a regular basis, planning ahead is everything.

Here are a few of our favorite tips to ensure a successful meal:

Nail down the guest list:

Our Thanksgiving guest list ebbs and flows each year, with regulars often asking to bring friends at the last minute.  While there is always room for one more, a few more, or a few less can wreck havoc. Try to get a head count so you can plan more efficiently.

Order the turkey:

If you have ever had a fresh, free range or organic turkey, vs. a frozen conventional turkey, you will know this step is critical. I order mine from Dipaola Turkeys at the Union Square Greenmarket, and you really can taste the difference.

Create a menu:

With the wide variety of traditional dishes served for Thanksgiving, a plan is necessary. Everyone seems to have a favorite side dish that they look forward to, and with all of the food issues floating around, it is important to serve items that fit into your guests’ dietary restrictions. Check to see if you have any vegetarians, vegans or gluten free diners. You can work around those issues in some dishes to make sure that everyone has an enjoyable meal. Copy your recipes, and place them in a folder so that they are all in one place when you need them. 

Make shopping lists:

The grocery stores get crazy the day before Thanksgiving. Other than the impeding nervous breakdown one might experience when food shopping the evening before the holiday, the most popular items are often sold out. You can’t make pumpkin pie without pumpkin, or cranberry sauce without cranberries. Dividing the list into non- perishables, which can be purchased far in advance, semi-perishables, which can be purchased a few days in advance, last minute items, and specialty store items, will allow you to be a stealth shopper, with a minimum amount of stress. 

Have a game plan:

Take that menu you just created, and figure out the best way to execute it. Several dishes can be made the day before and finished off right before dinner, and others can be prepped to minimize the muss and fuss. Cleaning and chopping vegetables, and making piecrusts are good items to get out of the way in advance.

Setting the table:

If you have room, go ahead and set the table the day before and cover it with a sheet.At the very least, inventory dishes, tableware, linens and serving pieces a week in advance. Polish the silver, wipe the dishes, iron the linens and make sure you have everything you need. When you discover you don’t have a serving piece, or a place setting on Thanksgiving Day, there is little to nothing you can do about it.


Taking the time to plan ahead will be one of the many things to be thankful for, come Thanksgiving Day.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Monkey Business

October 14, 2013

It was a very special little boy’s first birthday, and of course cupcakes were in order. He loves monkeys, so I set out to find a way to make monkey cakes. Pinterest was rife with ideas, and these little monkeys were easy to execute and almost as cute as the recipient!


To make the monkey faces:

Prepare cupcakes and ice them with light brown icing. I used unsweetened cocoa powder to color mine. Slightly imperfect icing gives the illusion of fur.

(and it was 10:30 on a Friday night!)

Place a vanilla wafer cookie in the center of the cupcake, and draw a mouth and 2 nostrils on it with icing.  There are colored icing tubes available at most supermarkets and specialty cake shops, which makes this quick and easy. Mix up the expressions for fun!

Using a serrated knife, gently cut a vanilla wafer in half, using a sawing motion. This prevents them from breaking.

Press the cookie halves into the sides of the cupcakes, to form ears.

Add candy eyes, and enjoy!

By the way, a few pandas wandered in to join the fun.


Happy Birthday to our favorite little monkey, Landon!


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The Kitchen is Cured!

October 9, 2013
Sparkling in the moonlight

Sparkling in the moonlight

It is 8pm Sunday night, and I have to say the kitchen is absolutely GLEAMING! Every surface, every cupboard, every appliance, has been scrubbed into submission. I even went to the store and purchased some food to put into my sparkling refrigerator and lemon oiled cupboards.

Look at that oven shine!

Look at that oven shine!



Everything in it's place

Everything in it’s place

It's not just a pretty ( and clean!) face

It’s not just a pretty ( and clean!) face

I don’t know what the Kitchn people have planned for next week, but I say “bring it!”

Note to family: Please do not even think about messing this up! There will be consequences…serious consequences…

Follow the #kitchncure here, or on their site.

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The Kitchen Cure: Go Deep

October 8, 2013

Days 2 and 3 of the kitchen cure were a bit easier for me. They involved taking everything out of the appliance and dish cupboards one day, and the food pantry another. This turned out to be Sunday evening’s chore.

The drill was basically the same: purge, scrub and reorganize. I have done done this fairly recently, and my appliances and cooking tools are well organized. It’s always good to wipe everything down and neaten them up, but this part was  a lot of work, but thankfully uneventful.

Day 4  of the kitchen cure, involved giving the rest of the kitchen a “deep cleaning”. I would say on a weekly basis I am pretty thorough. I take the burners off the stove and run them through the dishwasher. I climb up on the counter to clean the glass hood on the exhaust fan. I wipe down every surface. Seems pretty deep, right? Well today, I went deep.

II thought it was pretty clean until I sprayed the oven cleaner. Gross!

I thought it was pretty clean until I sprayed on the oven cleaner. Gross!

I started with the oven. It wasn’t too bad, (so I thought) since I had given it a baking soda and vinegar wipe down a short while ago. Today, I went in with the big guns and sprayed it down with oven cleaner before I started the refrigerator project.
A few hours later, I was ready to take it on. As soon as I sprayed the cleaner into the oven, everything bubbled up to the surface, and all the “not so visible” grease became a mass of sizzling brown goo.
Armed with opera length rubber gloves, a scrub brush, sponge and a bucket of water, I gingerly opened the oven door.
They call it Easy Off for a reason. I used the brush to scrub the surface, and then gave it a wipe down with the sponge. I had to change the water a couple of times, but the grime came right off! Pleasantly surprised by the ease of my accomplishment, I moved onto the next chore. I tossed the oven racks into the bathtub with about ½ of a bottle of Pine Sol to soak. (Put a towel on the bottom of the tub so the racks don’t scratch it.) The good news: the grease and any caked on food floated right off. The bad news: they still look speckled and discolored. I used Soft Scrub and my handy dandy scrub brush to really get in there, but alas; I dried them and put them back in the oven speckles and all. They are clean, but they aren’t shiny. Sigh.

They call it "Easy Off" for a reason! Gross no more.

They call it “Easy Off” for a reason! Gross no more.

Next, I tackled the stove. I have commercial appliances, and they are not the easiest to clean. Even boiling water leaves spots on the surface, so that gets wiped down almost daily. I took the knobs, burners, burner rims, and center gas flame covers and let them soak while I scrubbed the rest. I generally do this part weekly, but I don’t actually take the entire stove top off, and scrub around the inside with a toothbrush like I did today. I used baking soda and vinegar for this and it worked wonders. I have a large stainless steel pan under the stove that pulls out for cleaning. I gave that a good scrubbing and reassembled everything.

Gleaming, right?

Gleaming, right? Although I do see a streak or two…

I got up on the counter and wiped down the hood.

I took everything out of the drawers and cabinets all around the island and wiped them down. I used an antiseptic wipe to clean each bottle in the spice drawers. I used lemon oil to renew all of the wood surfaces. We’re talking deep!

I organized the cleaning supplies under the sink. (Spencer actually cleaned under there because I thought I saw a mouse. It was just a steel wool pad in the corner, but I was convinced it had a tail. I don’t do tails.)

I cleaned the countertops, backsplash and even the paper towel holder.

I used stainless steel cleaner and a toothbrush to scrub the sink and the teakettle.

It is 9:00 at night, and I have been at this since about 11 am. Since the kitchen and dining room are contiguous, the floors will have to wait until tomorrow and get done all at once, after I finish everything else.

Dinner, you might be asking? Not in my sparkling clean kitchen! Chinese take out, coming right up!

Follow along with us, or go the the kitchn to take the challenge!

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Kitchen Cure

October 4, 2013


This week, I signed up for the Kitchn Cure, sponsored by the fabulous food website The Kitchn. Each day for 2 weeks, I am emailed the task of the day, which should culminate in completely cleaning, organizing and tweaking your kitchen into the cooking haven it is meant to be.

This week’s tasks included cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer; getting it purged, organized, and scrubbed to a squeaky clean.

The next challenge tackled the pantry, followed by the drawers and other cupboards, including appliances. Today they had us cleaning and scrubbing where the sun don’t shine. I don’t know  what could possibly be left for next week, but I am sure they have something major in mind.

Although I keep my kitchen pretty clean and user friendly, there is always work to be done. Truth be told, when I signed up for this, my schedule was fairly light. Of course now that it is here, I am working everyday,and can’t face doing this at 9 pm. Today is Friday, and I haven’t done any of the projects required yet. I plan to make up for it this weekend with a massive catch up plan to do all the required work for the week all at once.  And I plan to share the entire ordeal process with all of you.

Stay tuned as we scrub, purge, organize and beautify our kitchen. If you would like to participate, or see how others are faring, look for the hashtag

#kitchn cure, or check out the site for details.

See you with before and after photos of week one’ s challenges soon!

photo: glasshouse images

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