Thursday, May 31, 2012

Our Epic Memorial Day Adventure Across All Five Boroughs

I'm quite delayed in recapping our holiday weekend as we got back Tuesday night from picking Nia up in Maryland where she was with my parents and we're preparing for Boston this weekend (it's my 10 year Wellesley College reunion). 

First, the BIG news: Nia's weaned! 

Thank you to my wonderful parents for their instrumental help in making this happen. I have a separate post with details on how it happened. 

Thursday I was en route to my parents home when I saw this tweet in response to Zip Car's Memorial Day Weekend contest I entered on a whim:

I had been wanting to go strawberry picking with Nia as I just saw an article about places to go in New Jersey so I put that as my answer as to what I'd do with my Zip Car. Alas, Lil Love Bird was with her grandparents, but we are planning on going next weekend. We ended up using the car to go to every borough in NYC. Yep, that's right! Every single borough. Here's how it went down . . . 



Friday

I met Mr. Love Bird after work and we picked up the Zip Car in Manhattan. Traffic was a BEAST and it took us an hour just to get to and through the Holland Tunnel. We were in traffic so long I even saw a newly married couple we know walking down the sidewalk in Soho - they appeared to being moving faster on foot than we were!  

Saturday

We went up to the Bronx to see our good friends April, JJ and their son Aiden. They prepared brunch for us, and it was wonderful to see them as we're quite a distance away. {Not having to worry about gas was great!} I showed Nia the pictures of us after I picked her up from Maryland, and I think she was a little confused about why she was missing, but we're looking forward to another play date soon!


After we went to Queens to visit Mr. Love Birds' family. His brother James was in town from Maryland, and we had a belated birthday dinner for my sister-in-law Nnenna at Pio Pio, a Peruvian restaurant. I LOVE that place (especially the green sauce), and it was a definite hit with the family. I had been telling Mr. Love Bird about it before, and I'm so glad we were finally able to go.  

A bit of a DSLR pet peeve: manual was coming out orange so I did Custom Auto so the waiter could get this shot - if anyone has tips how to de-orange please let me know!
Yes, I had to include a picture of the succulent chicken! I get hungry just looking at this!

There are so many large, colorful murals at the Queens' Pio Pio - it's definitely my favorite one I've been to!

Sunday

We got his/hers mani/pedis then went to our friends' Veronica and Tudor's wedding in Staten Island. It's crazy how close Staten Island is to us and since we've learned about some other places we should visit there (beaches and the children's museum, especially). 



The wedding reception was in Brooklyn, and 2 minutes from where Mr. Love Bird grew up so we drove by his childhood haunts afterwards. It was fun hearing him reminisce and he was blown away by the gentrification that's taken place there. 

Monday

The car was due back in the morning so we dropped it off and headed to Penelope a Manhattan brunch spot we hadn't been to but saw received rave reviews. I was begging to go to Clinton Street Baking Company (my all time favorite brunch place), but Mr. Love Bird insisted we try something new, and I'm glad we did. I enjoyed my Nutella stuffed French toast (but my stuffed French toast is better!) and Mr. Love Bird had an omelet. Their $15 prix fixe brunch isn't bad and includes a mimosa or coffee and juice.  


After we walked through Eataly, another place I frequent, but Mr. Love Bird hasn't. It's an Italian bizarre owned by Lydia Bastianich and Mario Batali and they have imported ingredients from Italy so you can create just about any authentic meal you crave or enjoy it sit-down style at one of their many restaurants.  

Next we walked part of the High Line - an elevated train track that was turned into a park. I've been with Nia a few times but again not with Mr. Love Bird. It's SO hot up there when the sun is directly overhead, there's not much shade and it's mostly very narrow so Mr. Love Bird was not impressed. {You can see Nia's first visit to the High Line here.} 

A mural above the High Line
It was time for me to head to Maryland to get our Lil Love Bird by then so we walked up to Port Authority so I could catch my bus. 

A big thank you to Zip Car for making our Memorial Day Weekend so awesome! We're huge fans of them already so this was just icing on the cake! 

I'll come back with more about my reunion with Nia and weaning, but overall, it was so refreshing to have a quiet apartment and just spend some quality time with Mr. Love Bird! The next time we'll have a little break is when we go to Las Vegas the week after my birthday for Blogalicious. Can't wait!

Now off to Boston . . .

How was your Memorial Day weekend? Try anything new or have an epic adventure?



P.S. Check out last year's Memorial Day recap here!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Back to Black: The Two Best NYC Salons I've EVER Been To

I figured it was time for a hair update since my new haircut in January and to divulge the two awesome salons I've been going to here in NYC.

This cut below that I mentioned briefly here (and on Twitter) was courtesy of The Hair Lounge and has received the most positive feedback out of any cut/style I've ever had! I came across the salon after considering going to Phyto Universe which I had bookmarked in 2009 when I was looking for a pre-wedding deep condition. At the time I ended up not going there, but as I was frustrated with my hair from the shedding and thinning this past fall/winter I re-visited my Yelp bookmarks and The Hair Lounge popped up when I looked at Phyto's bookmark at the beginning of this year. While The Hair Lounge only had a few reviews they were solid and sounded like exactly what I was looking for. 

Please excuse my un-groomed eyebrows!
Being the Type A person that I am, I took a different approach to my first appointment and created a PowerPoint of my hair history (yes, you read that right, a PowerPoint!). I decided after all the trouble I had finding a quality salon here in NYC that actually cared for my hair it would be best if the stylist could see what my hair has gone through and understand my challenges and hair goals (which I disclosed I would love to return to being natural someday).

I had my first appointment with Reggie, the owner, in January and this was the inspiration for my cut:

{Image Credit}
Reggie was very realistic with setting expectations and extremely personable yet professional. He really listened to me in regards to my challenges maintaining a style as a mom to a toddler and my health issues with lupus and hair loss. One of the best aspects of The Hair Lounge is that they are appointment only and have only 2 chairs so you are getting undivided attention while there - no fitting in between several other clients nor double/triple booking, an awful habit I found at many other salons that cater to black clients. 

My time was honored and I had fabulous results. Reggie didn't pull or tug on my hair with excessive heat as I had experienced at Dominican salons, and he didn't leave my relaxer on to burn my scalp either. I also appreciate that Reggie gave me advice on at-home maintenance and didn't try to "upsell" me on products or services but told me in response to my questions what other treatments would help my hair. My experience at the Hair Lounge was comfortable and pleasant and the calm environment was a welcome bonus!

I mentioned that there are two chairs at The Hair Lounge and I went again in February and then again in March, when Reggie was unavailable for my touch-up, but Sidney, the second stylist gave me a fabulous trim and style, helping me to maintain my cut as it grows out. You will be in good hands with either Reggie or Sidney and I highly recommend them. Here's how Sidney styled my hair:


Getting to Manhattan can be a challenge coming from we are in Jersey City (we're off the light rail, not the Path so it's a commute!). With schedule challenges, while I love, love, love The Hair Lounge, I needed to find a close option for me to go to and a fellow Jersey City mom recommended Image is Everything to me.

There are three stylists at Image is Everything and I booked my appointment with Romel. He started off with a consultation, which I appreciated instead of just jumping in and applying relaxer to my hair. He wanted to know my hair goals and while I didn't go in with a full blown PowerPoint (!) I did share my hair experience with him. He was also sensitive to my concerns with lupus and the recent hair loss I've been experiencing. Romel told me everything he was doing along the way and why he chose to do things the way he did. I also appreciate that he took notes on what he was doing to put in my file. While I usually wait 8 weeks between relaxers (I used to be a 6 week woman, but learned the importance of stretching), I went back to 6 weeks just this once since I was headed to south for our NC/SC trip and didn't want poofing.

Romel also did something else that I took to be a great mark of professionalism: he complimented the care that my hair had been given already at The Hair Lounge. So often when moving between one salon and another I've noticed some stylists like to bash whoever else is caring for my hair. Instead Romel complimented the cut and care I had received. He flat ironed my hair quickly, careful not to leave the flat iron on too long and dusted my ends, understanding that I'm growing out my hair and the last thing I want is a scissor-happy stylist. I was pleased with the results, but was used to a tad bit more volume (which I'll share in my 2nd visit pic below); I do have to caveat it was a humid night as it had rained earlier so some of the deflation was from that:


On to my 2nd visit at Image is Everything . . .

I've had gray hair since childhood (thanks Dad!) and one question I always ask a new stylist is their take on coloring relaxed hair. Some give rinses the same day, others say wait two weeks and will not do permanent color on relaxed hair while others do. I went back to Romel two weeks after my relaxer for a jet black glaze. He asked how I had liked my first results after living with it for two weeks (I washed it after a week for Mother's Day, which you can see self-styled here), and I let him know I wanted more body this time around and he delivered. Most importantly my grays are covered and ultimately, I'm very happy with my choice to continue with jet black:


I loved the results and so did Mr. Love Bird! AND I'm extra excited because Image is Everything has a loyalty program.

So after 5 years of living in NYC I'm excited that I finally have two go-to salons that I highly recommend and trust not just for great styling, but for actual hair care: The Hair Lounge and Image is Everything

If you go please tell them I sent you! 
 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Basketball Sundays

This past Sunday Mr. Love Bird finished his corporate basketball league that would play occasionally on Sunday afternoons. It's important to me for Lil Love Bird to see her daddy play basketball since that was his former career, and she'll grow up hearing about it and seeing the mementos around our home. Here are a few highlights . . .

A carton of strawberries, at her majesty's request, kept her occupied









How do you spend your Sundays?
 


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lil Love Bird's Silly Cape

A while back I won a s'mores kit from NY City Mama and the following transpired after opening up the box which contained red tissue paper; this was Mr. Love Bird's silly idea and Lil Love Bird was all for it, especially since it was well past her bedtime:


She had a crazed look in her eyes! And her freshly unbraided hair added to the effect.


Mr. Love Bird was egging her on saying, "Fly. Nia! Fly!"



Just another evening at the Love Birds'!




Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grandmothers Just Know!

I was bummed on Easter when I couldn't find the dress my mom shared with me via text from her Target in Baltimore. The dresses were all picked over here by the time I went to get them. I know Easter's not just about dresses, but growing up we had a tradition of getting dressed up and I know Nia would look so cute in that yellow dress.

Well after Easter my mom said to expect a package and when the doorbell rang while Nia was taking a nap it startled her and she was not happy. I got the package and let her open it . . .



She is my little drama queen but already has been able to wear the dress twice to my sister Lauren's graduation and on Mother's Day. Nia spins around in it and says, "I'm a princess!" (I think Mr. Love Bird taught her that!).

Seeing Nia in her yellow dress makes me so happy and she'll get plenty of wear out of it this summer. 

Grandmas know how to make their children (and grandchildren!) smile!

Oh and the best part is the dress was half off - only $10!



Monday, May 21, 2012

The Secret to My Sanity (Well, At Least For Now!)

Since Nia's stopped nursing at night (apart from our minor setback while in NC/SC), it's freed me up to go out more at night. Back when I had my mini-meltdown in March it was right on the cusp of some fun things that were coming up on my schedule and I believe these outings made all the difference so I wanted to share what I was up to at the time.

My friend Kim's bridal shower - after the epic trip to Foxwoods to see Toni Braxton and Babyface I went straight to PA for Kim's bridal shower; we weren't able to make her recent wedding in Costa Rica, but I was glad to participate in the stateside festivities:



These desserts at the shower were so good - I could've eaten all of them!

Kim's bachelorette - while I couldn't join the entire evening's festivities I did make it to pre-dinner at Rosa Mexicano (it was delicious especially the bbq lime ribs, and I love the decor!)



My friend April's birthday party - we celebrated my friend April's birthday in Queens (mom to Aiden - Nia's first kiss!), hosted by her friend Lacy. It turned out to be a pink affair (I promise we didn't wear pink on purpose!). We first had manicures or pedicures then returned to Lacy's for brunch.

With the birthday girl, April in the scarf {Photo credit}

Lacy, pictured, was a wonderful hostess and her baking skills are amazing - we enjoyed scones, bagels, egg casserole and raspberry chocolate cupcakes
On a side note, my manicure chipped after a couple days (another reason why I now hardly ever get manicures as a mom to a toddler), and I salvaged it by painting the chipped nails metallic purple lilac which I had on hand - the same two nails on each hand chipped so it was symmetrical

Chipped

Salvaged!

A clothing swap - Lacy, who hosted April's birthday party above, had a clothing swap soon after. My sister and I attended and picked up some great pieces! I've done a couple clothing swaps in the past and this inspired me to do one again at the end of the summer.

Lacy is a woman after my own heart with her organization!

I scored these sexy heels at the swap - I was in dire need of a neutral heel!
Thank you to Mr. Love Bird for chillin' with Nia while I got to enjoy myself! It really has helped me feel better about this period of my life and I can only imagine it's going to get better as Nia gets older but lurking in the back of my mind is how I'm going to have to start over from scratch if/when Baby #2 comes along (someday far, far away from now). For now, I'm not going to think about that but live in the moment!

How do you keep your sanity?



Friday, May 18, 2012

The Ultimate Brunch: Homemade Stuffed French Toast

Just in time for the weekend I wanted to make good on my promise to share my stuffed French toast recipe. I first had it in Boston, and while it was delicious I knew it could be better so when I came across America's Test Kitchen's recipe for it I combined what I liked about the version in Boston (jam) with the "science" of ATK (adding flour to the batter to give it the perfect coating). 

What resulted was mine and Mr. Love Bird's favorite brunch item {You can click above to get the full recipe so I'm just going to explain with mostly pics} . . .

I use Texas toast and bake per the directions to dry it out

This cinnamon/nutmeg cream cheese is the (addictive) key to the stuffed French toast

Even Lil Mogwai approved of the cream cheese mixture - she was sad it had to go in the fridge to set up

My tweak is adding strawberry preserves to the sandwich
The flour in the batter helps it grill up nicely


If not going to be eaten immediately they can go in the oven to stay warm but make sure you put on a raised rack so they don't get soggy!
Perfection!




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