Monday, March 30, 2009

I bet you think this song is about you

Long locks and shiny white dress. Formidable bangs and even white hose. What's not to emulate? Goodness. Sometimes a picture should not be worth a thousand words. And let's be candid, I assure you there was a time when I was proud of this picture, what with all of its close parallels to high fashion. Do you see me slouching? Oh no. I am head up, shoulders back. And that elbow so daintily laid on that banister. Very 80's chic. And do you know why I was proud? Because I was vain. I admit it. I probably loved this little photo for a brief time in history. Vanity, one of the seven deadly sins...
But I don't infer its over the top vanity like putting a mirror up at my desk so I can gaze into my own eyes ( I knew someone who did this...and no I am not lying) nor am I talking about the religious slant on vanity in which you believe you come before all others. Not a peacock, nor a narcissist; my vanity is mainly contained in one compartment: Le Photos.

Who has not wanted to look good in a photo? Who has not wanted to banish all unflattering photos to the deepest concaves of the closet? Who has not taken that one fabulous picture and used it for all personal publicity needs? I raise my hand to all three. Oh, come on, this is ringing a bell (or two).

While I admit to a speck or two of vanity in my time, who hasn't been afflicted? Back in the day, instant visibility to photos was not an option. You had to have that roll of film properly processed. With the dawn of the digital age came the instant fix.
Haven't you noticed the minute you snap that photo now on your digital camara, if there are actual bodies in that pic, you can't even say cheese before your comrades are huddled around wanting to review. And really, are they looking for group harmony? How the backdrop turned out? Fun embodied on a tiny screen? No. They are looking at themselves to determine whether or not it is a good picture. And deciding if you have their approval to keep it. I have a friend who must look at the photo taken immediately AND if said photo does not pass the litany of criteria, same friend will request (demand) the photo is deleted. Regardless if every other person looks like they just shot the cover of Vogue.

And I love all the Frowners who resist and buckle under the simple request to get in a photo. Don't think for a second they are free from the allure of reviewing the very same photo they put up such a fight about taking in the first place. We all know one. The particular Frowner I have in mind is also the first one to ask me for copies of my photos.

Don't think you are vain? Not even a touch? Bravo. You are the only one who isn't. Ever looked at yourself in the mirror? Multiple times a day? Checked that lip gloss, not just to ensure you remained inside the lines but also to see if your pucker is as glossy as it possibly can be? Ever looked at your caboose in those new Seven Jeans? Watched yourself workout? Put your little photo up on Facebook? Hid a picture you thought was ugly?

See my momentum?

And we shouldn't be vain. But we are. It doesn't hurt us to want to look our best, especially in photos that will be passed and shared. And can be billboarded at our showers, weddings, or suprise birthday parties. However, if you have a photo of yourself, alone, as your screensaver, you need to tone it down. (Seen it.) If you have a vanity plate (period) but especially one that reads "2Cute4U" , stop it. (Seen it.) And if you trip over free weights on the gym floor because you are busy looking at yourself in the mirror, you are a jack ass. (Seen it and I think he was making puckerlips at his reflection. Egads.)

And if you have a large painting of yourself over a fireplace in your home, wearing some kind of long flowing nightgown, circa Falcon Crest, like some throwback chanteuse, I thank you because you just made me feel 1000 times better about my shiny white dress and pumps picture.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My morning commute

Ahhh, spring has sprung in Atlanta so the air is still clean and we have yet to be blanketed with the heinous pollen that turns our cars and road yellowish green. These mornings, I have the sun roof open, and music accompanies my morning commute. On this particular day, I am driving the munchkin to school. We are laughing and signing songs as we drive along. And then another morning commuter pulls in front of us so I am required to LOCK THEM UP as they say. I don't want to lay on brakes so heavily that locking them up is the only passageway out of an accident. And I certainly do not want to do that with my two year old in the car. And I certainly do not want to lock them up, with two year old in the car, when I can not express my displeasure through profanities because I have my two year old in the car. So I try to say, as under my breath as possible, "areyoukiddingme?".

To which, my son, with razorsharp hearing, says "are you kidding me Mommy!"

So my first objective: flip the switch on the PR machine and work on some spin. I said to our son, "Actually, do you know what we should say when we honk the horn? We should say, 'Hi Friend!'
Let's practice."

So for the next ten miles plus, whenever I could inconspicuously honk the horn (we were on side roads) I did and we practiced saying "Hi Friend!".

When I discussed above incident with JohnnyMac, I witnessed only the mildest alarm pass his face, but he did retort that he was relieved because it could have been so much worse. Interesting tactic JohnnyMac. I asked him if he thought it sounded nice to hear those words out of our son's mouth who was only eighteen months at the time. JohnnyMac held strong to the "could have been worse" response but he did agree, such words, from a baby, not so nice.

Now, I tried with all my might to say "Hi Friend" when I had a true opportunity to do so but I failed. I wanted to give my self a standing ovation for only saying "Are you kidding me" when one of my preferred phrases is these situations is "Are you (!*&^*!&% kidding me?!?!?!?!?") So, we are all culpable. I did however, quickly revert back to my "HI FRIEND" motto and we practiced that several times as we drove along. Mentally, reminding myself that I have to continue to work on patience and my wicked retorts.

And then, we pulled up to a light and my son asked me "What's that man doing?" So I looked in the direction he was pointing only to see a man, pale as bread flour sitting in the car next to us at the light. How do I know he was so pale? Because he was shirtless. And our windows were down. And his windows were down. So he looked over, and we looked back. And I didn't have a thing to say! So I told my son that man was enjoying his morning commute. My son asked "Where his shirt go?" Good question, buddy. So let's just wave and say "Hi Friend!"

Oh Humor, thank you for popping up on my morning commute. I know you are never far and I will continue to look for you everyday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Music to my ears

When I was pregnant, I put headphones on my growing tummy and played music for my tiny tenant. Daily. I played a musical arc from violin to classic rock. The only songs off limits were the few Ludacris and DMX songs that made it onto my iPod back when I was a Solid Gold Dancer. Babies reportedly can sense rhythm and beat as early as three months. Even after he was born, I would play music while he was sleeping and sing to him constantly.

When our son was about sixteen or seventeen months, we drove down to the beach in Florida. Its a long haul for a little one who no longer sleeps 20 hours per day. He did nap, but then he woke up and all my singing wasn't entertaining him in the least. So, on a whim, JohnnyMac put our Jimmy Buffett Live In Anguilla DVD in. Our son was mesmerized. For hours.

We aren't a "TV as babysitter" type family and admittedly, I was following the AAP's recommendation kids under two have a sans television life. But, Jimmy Buffett on a beach in Anguilla captured all of his attention. And when we tried to turn it off, he asked for more. So we decided to let him watch it, and tell him who it was, what he was seeing, and sing along with the songs.

And an amazing thing happened that day. Our son became highly interested in music.

It initially started only when he would get in Daddy's car. He started to ask for Jimmy Buffett. By name. And then he started to ask for "fins to the left, fins to the right" and "treat her like a lady". This list grew as he knew more and more songs. We were astounded because he only watched the DVD in the car on his 20 minute ride to school or back home. One day he was sick and as I laid in our bed with him and he looked at me with those big eyes and croaked "Jimmy please."

I, in a moment of foresight, suggested we work some other DVDs into the mix as we had a vacation involving a long drive coming up AND who knows what would happen if the Jimmy DVD got misplaced. I started with Billy Joel's Millennium concert DVD. And our son was hooked. He knew Billy Joel so well within a month or two that I uploaded all of the songs onto my iPod because he wanted to hear them anytime he was in the car. And I love hearing him try to sing along. Don't think I don't love driving down the road singing "My Life" with my two year singing "not on myyyyy tiiiiiiiiime."

He knows every song by name and don't think you don't get called out if you play the wrong one. Once, I didn't have the iPod plugged in, and in my attempt to be tricky as Billy was being requested from the back seat...over and over again, I played Jackson Browne and told our son it was Billy Joel. He said " I don't like this song. That's not Billy!" I had it coming.

Don't get me wrong, I have been singing the Alphabet song, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Thumbkin, Twinkle Twinkle etc for two years. But I will gladly take Coldplay over one more rendition of Tootie Ta. (If you don't know Tootie Ta, it's because you do not have kids or work in a kid-related environment. Clap your hands for yourself that you have never heard it. After the 100th time, its about as fun as changing diapers. )

I have since introduced other musical greats into the repertoire. Some introductions were successful and some were not. He did let me declare every Thursday is "New Music Thursday. " We listen to new songs before he demands I play his other favorites. Even for me, Billy has a limitation. While Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen received a lukewarm reception ( I will work on this), our son loves the Beatles and the Beach Boys. He also likes "Fergalicious" so poor JohnnyMac had to put it on his iPod too.

But our son's interest in music is a beautiful beautiful thing. Uncle Donnie got him his first guitar and he carried it around with him for months. Do you know the attention span of wee people? Months translates to decades at that age. Our son graduated to a 9 piece drum pad, a real keyboard with microphone, and a real acoustic guitar for Christmas. And if Billy is on, he will play his guitar or his keyboard and try to imitate. His parents LOVE music and I hope my son embraces this interest for life.

And don't think for a minute Dance Party is left out. There will always be time for Dance Party.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Whistle while Wii work

Last year, reading Time's list of best new gadgets, I mentioned to JohnnyMac that I was highly interested in the Wii Fit. And when my birthday came, a lovely Wii Fit was beribboned and waiting for all of my attention. And I was quickly enamored with it. I put my little white balance board down and donated the time. What a fascinating toy! It measures BMI, weight, balance, and gives options for yoga, aerobics, balance games, and strength exercises. It charts your time, your effort, your score, your center of gravity. A virtual trainer all in the front room, and displayed perfectly on our big screen.

And then I took a break from Wii Fit because Guitar Hero came along, and then Wii tennis, bowling, music, and the Beach Sports package. Oh the choices! Plus, the weather in Atlanta is often on the sunny side so I go outdoors for my exercise in the spring, summer and fall.

Well. I spied the lonely Wii Fit several days ago and literally had to give it some kisses from the swiffer duster. Once I booted it up, I was welcomed back by my little Mii character. And then it announced how many days it had been since my last visit. UGH. I would have guessed its been a spell, but Wii Fit is all about precision. So 250+ days? Wow, little Wii, I have ignored you much longer than I had planned. So I had 30 minutes to spare on a rare day when I was home alone in the house and I dialed up the Wii Fit and started with the hula hoop challenge. I was inspired...look at me go! As I was whipping those hips around I smirked that I could ignore the Wii Fit for so long and then reappear back in its life and master such exercises with ease. Then I did some about 200 crunches and some yoga and was pleased I had worked up a sweat AND had racked enough time to "unlock" other exercises.

And then Wii Fit said bye bye to me with its pleasant little bell tones. And when I went to bed I should have listened because Wii Fit was laughing behind my back. The next morning my stomach muscles were paralyzed. Damn hula hoop! Damn crunches. Goodness. I liken myself an athlete and maybe should have known Wii Fit, while monitoring my heart rate, effort, and time was also capturing that smirk of mine as well. Wii Fit had the last laugh. And Wii Fit is all about accuracy so when you are asked to give your all, Wii Fit allows for no corner cutting. And that isnt the point right? You are only cheating yourself.

HOWEVER never before have I had a magic circle on the screen measuring my center of gravity and posting it for me at the end. And while doing a plank pose, the Wii loudly let me know "your core is a little shaky. Visit me everyday so we can work on your balance." Thanks Wii Fit, the visual chart was not enough so your verbal update helps me really focus.

So now I show Wii Fit the respect it deserves and am so glad we are back together. And now, let me get back to mastering that hula hoop.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Beware of the Phog

This is not a typical post, but I must pay my respect. Matters not if you are a basketball fan, March marks the sweet arrival of March Madness. If you are a University of Kansas alumni, often, NCAA men's basketball holds a special place in your heart, and holds your attention span from November to April. From the launch of Late Night ( a tradition kicking off the season) to the hopeful prayers your team can go the Big Dance, baskeball fans across the country treasure this time of year. And since today is the first game for the beloved Hawks, today is the day I pay public tribute.

Since the first season in 1898, Kansas Jayhawk fans stand in rapt attention as the season unfolds. With 37 Final Four tournament appearances, and 42 conference championships (including seven of the past ten years), when it comes to hope, we look to find a reason to believe.

Perhaps we feel we have a leg up on our competitors, since, after all, the inventor of the game of basketball was the very first men's basketball coach at KU. Or because we have had college legends both as players and as coaches. Or later when one of Naismith's players, Phog Allen, became coach, he would also be considered the architect of the modern NCAA tournament. Oh Kansas Basketball, its all in the bloodline baby.

The games we attended in school were incredible. Believe the hype. Although I never had to camp out or any of that required tradition for the underclassmen, I don't regret it. Love of the game or not, Id rather not spend the night in a hallway in a sleeping bag. But the games...they were incredible. And the seniors farewell game every year? Bring your kleenex. Watching giant men who are really young men say goodbye to a beloved sport in a town that holds them as heroes, was a moving part of the end of the season. The year Jacque Vaughn told 17,000 fans that if he became one tenth of the man Coach Roy Williams is then he will feel he truly succeeded was one of my all-time favorite sports moments.

Athletics teach people, especially kids, a number of important fundamentals of life like discipline, teamwork, and how to be a gracious winner and loser. What better place to learn it than Allen Fieldhouse.

Now let me tell you a fun story. One one of my mom's plethora of visits to see me during my tenure at the University of Kansas, she sat next to a nice gentleman on her trip from Seattle to the airport in Kansas City. All the while bragging on and on (and on and on) about her beloved daughter, and all my clever emails (can you blame her) and wonderful accomplishments. He said he too had a wonderful family and loved the University of Kansas. He also shared that he had deep lineage at KU and was particularly fond of the basketball program. When I asked her who he was, she couldn't quite recall. Then a lightbulb went off and she said, "oh, I think there is a building on campus named after his family, maybe his grandfather. Foghorn something..."
Yes, I chastised her for referring to Phog Allen as FOGHORN and was astounded that my love of sports clearly was clearly a patriarchal influence. The man on the plane? It was Phog Allen's grandson. Oh, I am quite positive the grandson of legendary Phog Allen for whom Allen Fieldhouse is named after was truly tickled by the nonstop monologue my mom shared with him of my precious little activities. That is like telling Al Gore's grandson you write a blog, when you know, Al Gore created the internet.

But I digress. Back to my love of the game. Now, I get a big thrill each year by participating in "the brackets" a fun-filled way to bet on the 64 teams who enter the NCAA tournament. Typically, someone I work with executes the pool and manages the process. All I have to do was pick my teams, and collect my winnings. I brag not, but I have participated in the tournament brackets for years, and I have won, multiple times. And one year I entered a pool at a friend's office and when I won, they wanted to revoke my cash money because A) I was not an employee B) I was the only non-engineer C) I was the only woman in the tournament pool.
Don't cry for me, Argentina.
They allowed me to win in title, but I dont believe I ever collected my handsome reward. And I will answer the same question now that I did the first several times I won, NO, my boyfriend did not pick my teams for me. And now, no, JohnnyMac does not pick my teams for me. Although, on a side note, he brought the heat down on me last year and advanced far beyond what I was able to accomplish, so never say never.

Teddy Roosevelt once said after hearing the haunting refrain of the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant, that it was the greatest college chant he had ever heard. You better believe it.
Rockkkkkkkk Chalkkkkkkk Jayhawkkkkkkkkkk. Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.
And our alma mater: Far above the golden valley, glorious to view, stands our noble alma mater, towering toward the blue. Hail to thee KU.

So here is to the best of luck for my favorite team, and I am hoping my success in the brackets pays dividends. ROCK CHALK!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

First friends

Do you remember your first friends? I do. We all had them so don't be shy. That little furry pal or fuzzy blanket you kept with you daily or nightly until you were in, oh, third grade? Maybe sixth grade or even junior high for some of you. I had a little monkey I can clearly remember carrying daily to and from daycare. I also had a Talking Smokey the Bear who told me "We don't play with matches" when I pulled his string. Yes, it was lightyears preceding the technological age we live in now. Our animals talked when you pulled a string. And among numerous other toys, I also had a stuffed Winnie the Pooh.

Your first friends went through it all with you and were often loved right down to the bare threads. In addition to my monkey, and bears, I also had a tiny t-shirt I wore in the hospital that came home with me, was tucked into bed with me nightly, AND was tucked under my pillow long into my adolescence. Admittedly, I made sure it was taken care of after I moved away.

My older brother had a bear he called Roger. Roger definitely made a few visits to our Mom's Office of First Aid with his sewn on button eyes and restitched sides. My brother can still tell you to this day Roger's whereabouts. Roger has lived a long and very observant life and I am sure we are all glad Roger can not speak up. My little brother loved CareBears and Pandas and had plenty. Recalling his sentimental attachment to those bears, I thought it would be fun to get him a Care Bear holiday ornament this year. Oh, the laughter never ends at our house.

When I was pregnant, my mom brought down a box from the attic of all sorts of first friends I had not seen in ages. There was monkey, Smokey, and Winnie. I had the grand idea that my little monkey would be a treasured gift to share with our child. Aware of the critters in the attic that may have spent time with monkey too, I put him in the washer. Little did I know they used mulch or sawdust to stuff toys back in the day and we could NOT get that monkey to dry out.

My husband feigned disappointment that our child would go without this toy. This once daily comrade of mine was, in his eyes, a now clean albeit soggy stuffed monkey that had been a sponge of my kid slobber for years and years and then put in a dusty box in the attic for two decades plus. Monkey never had a name, and might have been my only first friend without one.

He is fully dried out now (although I do believe it took about six months) and is resting on my nightstand of my room in my mom's house. When my Mom offered my old Winnie the Pooh to our son, knowing we couldnt get that thing clean either, we collectively declined. All the toys now feel as soft as freshly spun silk courtesy of the mulberry silkworm. Our toys as you remember were not quite so delicate.

Our man has his own first friends, although he seems to have exponentially more than I remember toting around. He knows them all by name including "big Elmo", "little Elmo" and "Elmo basket". However, only three made the Varsity team to sleep in his bed every night and of those three, he has his favorite. We had read many times how kids have favorite toys or "loveys" and we waited to see who he would choose. Cotton is his stuffed lamb and "B" is his teddy bear. And our little man treats them like real little people.

One morning after we got up, I asked our son if he was ready for breakfast, he said, "Wait Mommy, let me get my friends." And he reaches down to pick up B. and Cotton. B. rides to school with us, reads our books, tastes Lukes cereal (not my favorite) and goes on every overnight trip too.
And now I find myself doing Mommy First Aid for the first time on B.

B. has seen so much activity he has developed a tiny tear. It just happens to be on the seam right on his little bear tush. So our little asked me one day what happened to B. and I told him B. had a boo boo. Of course, you know what happened next. Our son handed B. to me and said "Kiss B.'s boo boo Mommy." So I have now had the opportunity to kiss a furry bear tush about 100 times. No more, that little tear got all doctored up today.
And when MiniMac decides he does not want to go downstairs and brush his teeth, I have learned all I need to say is "B is going to brush his teeth with your toothbrush, is that ok?" MiniMac races to join the fun. How long will this work? Well, let's just stretch it as long as we can. That is the power of first friends.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Weekend Wanderlust: New York City

Jenny Mac: Sweet bite of the Big Apple

NYC is one of my favorite cities. To visit. I did kid myself for about eight minutes once that I could live there. Oh, that cold weather is mean but as a mere visitor, there need be no long term commit to frigid winters. And, do I love to visit. I went once as a wee lass with my Dad and older brother. I was a freshman in high school and while I didnt quite get to explore the city how I wanted (read, Dad kept me within an inch of him or the brother the entire time). But I started a love affair that has only blossomed and bloomed. Living in the south, I was frequently asked if I was from NY. At a party once, someone asked if I was from NY and if I was Italian (my favorite). A companion with us at the time, hailing from rural West Virginia with a sour face said to me "That's not a compliment you know. " Oh, but it is! One of my favorite moments was being asked by a tourist where to find St. Patty's cathedral. Oh, you know I got a big smile out of it. Another highlight was sitting in a sushi restaurant on Madison Ave across from the Dolce and Gabbana flagship that was hosting a huge party for Fashion Week. We walked out of the restaurant and right into that party. I was enjoying my first martini within three minutes in a sea of incredibly beautiful clothes.

My joy of visiting NYC only increased upon my first trip with a native New Yorker. Oh, the secret restaurants tucked away. I was already smitten with the landscape from watching Sex and the City but anyone can find 5th Avenue, but its a completely different story with a native guide. I have gone the tourist route for sure: boat to see Liberty, Times Square, and even Tiffany (which incidentally was the first place we ever looked at wedding rings). I will even admit a quick brunch at Tavern on the Green just for fun. (A one time only venture). I look foward to seeing Rockefeller Center (especially the tree at holiday time) but highlights for me are the gems tucked away.

Here are my Five Favorite Things to Do in NYC:

1. Go to Century 21. Its down in the Financial District across from Ground Zero. You can cab from midtown or certainly take the subway (take it, its easy). Century 21 is a bit of a goldmine in which you will find Versace, Pucci, Armani and beyond at deep deep discount. The shoe department is worth skipping, and so is the Men's department (PS: Dont take your husband, its not nice to make him shop with you. Plus, does he really want to know every little dollar you spent?)

2. Go to Zabar's Deli and get a spread of tasty bites (great cheeses, great flatbread, great bread, etc) and have a picnic in Central Park. On a beautiful day, it is so picture-perfect and full of life. We may or may not have brought some vino in with us as well and enjoyed that on a balmy afternoon. If you go in the summer, you can get the schedule ahead of time of all the concerts in Central Park. They get some incredible performers.

3. See a show. I have seen a wide variety, one of my favorites "Movin Out" based on Billy Joel's music. For me, seeing a show on Broadway is an even better anecdote and experience than seeing something at the Fox Theater. Predictable, I know but there is such a gamut to choose from. Everyone can find something they like.

4. Spice Market. This is a delicious restaurant by High Chief of Cuisine Jean George Vonchericthen. Located in the MeatPacking District, you can make a reservation 30 days out. Great atmosphere and a scrumptious sake martini. Any other Spice Market can not hold a candle to this one. For a little pre-dinner perfectness, go to Hotel Gansevoort across the street for cocktails on the top floor lounge. The view is lovely and so is the vibe.

5. Eat in Little Italy. You can pass right by Chinatown and its sea of bedazzled crap and fake purses and find an incredible and authentic Italian restaurant. Me, who likens herself an Italian, and loves it when others make that mistake, finds this spot to be worthy of even the most critical foodie. There are so many to choose from but Angelo's is one of my favorites. I was there one year during Taste of Little Italy. Are you kidding me? If you love Italian food, what a fete! It was crazy packed but fun to be a part of at least once.

Other honorable mentions include the Hudson (part of the Morgans Hotel Group). This is an uber swank and hip boutique with a great bar that becomes a late night hot spot. They have a great outdoor terrace, great food, and great staff. If you dont mind the fact your room could be literally as big as 150 square feet. Look into it. A friend of mine who knows NYC better than the Mayor always recommends Soho House New York. It requires a membership but its on my list. Listen, you can go to all the little clubs you want. 10June, etc etc. You are on your own since I don't necessarily want to go to a club the Olsen twins frequent AND the club du jour of the juenesse doiree changes to frequently for me to keep up with.

There are all kinds of guides and info online to help you plan your trip. But being the good friend I am, I have some inside info for you. Back in college I had the great opportunity to meet a true gem of a guy. We worked together one summer and I have some very fun and very funny memories of Jamie C. He is a big-city dweller and after his long tenure in the Windy City, he is now stationed in the Apple. He is also a sassy and prolific writer. Check out his wit and wisdom at And wear your seatbelt honey, he tells it like it is and I love it. I asked him to share some favorites and he produced.

Jamie Cutburth Goes Inside the Apple: Savvy info from a real New Yorker

1. Watch people on the hidden balcony at Grand CentralOn the upper east side of Grand Central Terminal hides Metrazur. This Charlie Palmer restaurant and bar gives you a bird’s eye view of the now infamous opal-faced clock tower, valued at more than ten million dollars by Sotherby’s. Grab a table by the balcony to gaze at the tower and get a great view of the bustling crowds on their commute. Now that you’re settled in, enjoy their sizable wine list, including the Argentinean Malbec or Chalone Vineyard’s Chardonnay. Both are delicious. Let the people watching begin.

45 Grand Central TerminalManhattan, NY 10017(212) 687-4600

2. Snack on the biggest little secret in townNew York is known for cupcakes, lots and lots of cupcakes. Magnolia Bakery is where it all began. Located in Greenwich Village, we all fell in love with their frosted treats watching Carrie Bradshaw devour them in Sex and the City. They stick to the simple flavors, and do it well. Head north to Crumbs on the Upper West Side for the big moist treats waiting for you. If they’re in stock, try the Baba Booey, a peanut butter and chocolate treat you won’t soon forget. If you’re not done yet, make your way to Buttercup Bakeshop. They have East and West side locations, so it’s easy to find them. Make sure you give the red velvet or lemon a try.

3. Take a break from the city. Bryant Park is a hidden gem in the center of Midtown Manhattan. Located at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, behind the public library, this perfect patch of green plays host to movies all Summer and The Pond, Manhattan’s premiere ice rink in the winter. No matter when you visit, you’ll be able to stay in touch with free wi-fi. Enjoy a perfect picnic when you grab a sandwich at ‘Wichcraft' the sandwich shop owned by Tom Colicchio (yes, the head chef on Top Chef) and head over to the lawn. If the kids are in tow, make sure you head to Le Carrousel for a ride on the horses.

4. Get the best postcard picture you’ve ever seen. Ready for breathtaking views of the city? You can’t see the skyline from Manhattan, so you’ll need to sneak over to Long Island City’s best kept secret, Water Taxi Beach. It’s just a quick boat ride across the Easat River. Once you’re there, enjoy great music, local micro-brews, and some of the best hand-made burgers anywhere. If you want to keep seeing the rest of the city, grab an all-day pass and take a lap around the south tip of the city and on over to the west side. It opens each year in May and stays open through September.

5. Impress your friends with your newfound knowledge. Who wants to go to school when you’re on vacation? If you’re a cheese-lover you will. Make your way to Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker for their Cheese 101 class. $50 will get you a three-hour tour through five cheeses and an unlimited supply of wine, champagne or cava and bottled water. The teachers, technically known as cheese mongers, really know their stuff. Each works at the shop for years before heading to the front of the class.

Try these tips, and tell me you didn't have a great time. Ciao.

Monday, March 9, 2009


On March 4, 1993, Jim Valvano was awarded the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first annual ESPY Awards. Following is his acceptance speech. Just like the first time I heard it, this speech moves me. Sometimes it is enlightening, if not necessary, to be moved by other people's words.

Thank you, Thank you very much. Thank you. That's the lowest I've ever seen Dick Vitale since the owner of the Detroit Pistons called him in and told him he should go into broadcasting.

I can't tell you what an honor it is, to even be mentioned in the same breath with Arthur Ashe. This is something I certainly will treasure forever. But, as it was said on the tape, and I also don't have one of those things going with the cue cards, so I'm going to speak longer than anybody else has spoken tonight. That's the way it goes. Time is very precious to me. I don't know how much I have left and I have some things that I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I will have said something that will be important to other people too.

But, I can't help it. Now I'm fighting cancer, everybody knows that. People ask me all the time about how you go through your life and how's your day, and nothing is changed for me. As Dick said, I'm a very emotional and passionate man. I can't help it. That's being the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love. When people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it's the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.

I rode on the plane up today with Mike Krzyzewski, my good friend and wonderful coach. People don't realize he's ten times a better person than he is a coach, and we know he's a great coach. He's meant a lot to me in these last five or six months with my battle. But when I look at Mike, I think, we competed against each other as players. I coached against him for fifteen years, and I always have to think about what's important in life to me are these three things. Where you started, where you are and where you're going to be. Those are the three things that I try to do every day. When I think about getting up and giving a speech, I can't help it. I have to remember the first speech I ever gave.

I was coaching at Rutgers University, that was my first job, oh that's wonderful (reaction to applause), and I was the freshman coach. That's when freshmen played on freshman teams, and I was so fired up about my first job. I see Lou Holtz here. Coach Holtz, who doesn't like the very first job you had? The very first time you stood in the locker room to give a pep talk. That's a special place, the locker room, for a coach to give a talk. So my idol as a coach was Vince Lombardi, and I read this book called "Commitment To Excellence" by Vince Lombardi. And in the book, Lombardi talked about the fist time he spoke before his Green Bay Packers team in the locker room, and they were perennial losers. I'm reading this and Lombardi said he was thinking should it be a long talk, or a short talk? But he wanted it to be emotional, so it would be brief. So here's what I did. Normally you get in the locker room, I don't know, twenty-five minutes, a half hour before the team takes the field, you do your little x and o's, and then you give the great Knute Rockne talk. We all do. Speech number eight-four. You pull them right out, you get ready. You get your squad ready. Well, this is the first one I ever gave and I read this thing.

Lombardi, what he said was he didn't go in, he waited. His team wondering, where is he? Where is this great coach? He's not there. Ten minutes he's still not there. Three minutes before they could take the field Lombardi comes in, bangs the door open, and I think you all remember what great presence he had, great presence. He walked in and he walked back and forth, like this, just walked, staring at the players. He said, "All eyes on me." I'm reading this in this book. I'm getting this picture of Lombardi before his first game and he said "Gentlemen, we will be successful this year, if you can focus on three things, and three things only. Your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers." They knocked the walls down and the rest was history. I said, that's beautiful. I'm going to do that. Your family, your religion and Rutgers basketball. That's it. I had it.

Listen, I'm twenty-one years old. The kids I'm coaching are nineteen, and I'm going to be the greatest coach in the world, the next Lombardi. I'm practicing outside of the locker room and the managers tell me you got to go in. Not yet, not yet, family, religion, Rutgers Basketball. All eyes on me. I got it, I got it. Then finally he said, three minutes, I said fine. True story. I go to knock the doors open just like Lombardi. Boom! They don't open. I almost broke my arm. Now I was down, the players were looking. Help the coach out, help him out.

Now I did like Lombardi, I walked back and forth, and I was going like that with my arm getting the feeling back in it. Finally I said, "Gentlemen, all eyes on me." These kids wanted to play, they're nineteen. "Let's go," I said. "Gentlemen, we'll be successful this year if you can focus on three things, and three things only. Your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers," I told them. I did that. I remember that. I remember where I came from.

It's so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. You have to be willing to work for it.

I talked about my family, my family's so important. People think I have courage. The courage in my family are my wife Pam, my three daughters, here, Nicole, Jamie, LeeAnn, my mom, who's right here too. That screen is flashing up there thirty seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got tumors all over my body. I'm worried about some guy in the back going thirty seconds? You got a lot, hey va fa napoli, buddy. You got a lot.

I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you're emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm," to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.
Now I look at where I am now and I know what I want to do. What I would like to be able to do is spend whatever time I have left and to give, and maybe, some hope to others. Arthur Ashe Foundation is a wonderful thing, and AIDS, the amount of money pouring in for AIDS is not enough, but is significant.

But if I told you it's ten times the amount that goes in for cancer research. I also told you that five hundred thousand people will die this year of cancer. I also tell you that one in every four will be afflicted with this disease, and yet somehow, we seem to have put it in a little bit of the background. I want to bring it back on the front table. We need your help. I need your help. We need money for research. It may not save my life. It may save my children's lives. It may save someone you love. And ESPN has been so kind to support me in this endeavor and allow me to announce tonight, that with ESPN's support, which means what? Their money and their dollars and they're helping me-we are starting the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. And it's motto is "Don't give up, don't ever give up." That's what I'm going to try to do every minute that I have left. I will thank God for the day and the moment I have. If you see me, smile and give me a hug. That's important to me too. But try if you can to support, whether it's AIDS or the cancer foundation, so that someone else might survive, might prosper and might actually be cured of this dreaded disease. I can't thank ESPN enough for allowing this to happen. I'm going to work as hard as I can for cancer research and hopefully, maybe, we'll have some cures and some breakthroughs. I'd like to think, I'm going to fight my brains out to be back here again next year for the Arthur Ashe recipient. I want to give it next year!

I know, I gotta go, I gotta go, and I got one last thing and I said it before, and I want to say it again. Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.

I thank you and God bless you all.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Grazie, Hvala, Merci

I realize the importance of manners not simply from being a grown up raised right by my mama but because I face a young boy everday and can only encourage him to learn the lessons we describe if I am actively demonstrating those same lessons. Whoever told you tiny children are a sponges (which is everyone we know with children) was slightly misrepresenting the situation. They are more than sponges because a sponge does not repeat verbatim. Little children do.

This is an important distinction for two reasons:

1. Watch your mouth. If you have clever colloquialisms to share, consider how precious those statements will be when later chimed from the mouth of a two year old.

2. The "do as I say, not as I do" mantra for living should have become extinct when children were no longer making their own shoes. It may have worked when Father's answer for everything was "whipping" the children but it most likely won't work today.

Therefore, it is more like "Do What I Do" and whether you like it or not, it is happening in the world of little bitties. But in reality, its a great lesson for living.

Lesson: Please and Thank you.

The important lessons we have been successful in teaching our little man have been saying 'please' and 'thank you'. We have even had great success the last month with "May I have___" preceding his requests. Does this always work? Of course it does not, but we are averaging at least 50% of the time without prompting. While a certain portion of a little one's life is memorization at this age, we do think he understands the practical application of these simple phrases.

You know who does not understand them? About a thousand other people. I say please and thank you. All the time. And not in a Texas Pageant Girl kind of way either like Thank you oh thankyousomuch, no thank you, oh thank you for thanking me.

I think it is important for me to say please and thank you, even and especially, in my own home. I have gotten this drill from my own upbringing for as long as I can remember. And the handwritten thank you note? Another blog all together. (And yes, I think this lost art is still oh so important.)

Most of the people I know practice this inital modicum of decency. No one owes you a door being held open for you while you lollygag to the entrance so when you get it, show a little thankfulness. Oh, I know, I know, we should not extend niceness simply to turn around and then demand or expect recognition. (But, be honest, sometimes we do.) And, I am just saying, a little gratitude goes a long way.

So lady who left her important documents and iPhone on the bathroom counter at the office building I was in last week: Same lady I spent fifteen minutes trying to find so you didn't leave beforementioned office complex without your phone (by the way, scrub that thing, do you know what lurkes on a public bathroom counter? I YI YI). When I found you and gave you your valued belongings back, do you know what you said? Nothing. Hmmm. I tried not to be salty while I was doing my random act of kindness, but there was a touch of frown on my face when we departed one anothers company.

I have been helped thousands of times from complete strangers so I can and will help whenever I can. But when I helped unknown woman haul chairs into her office building, in my heels and suit, I noticed that you didnt take that momentary pause to say "thank you for helping me carry chairs into my building, oh person I have never seen before when my office mates clearly saw me and would not come to my rescue."

But let me not live in a glass house and scatter pebbles around:

When my mom has to call or text me to ask if I got the package of gifts she sent, that is just not nice of me. When someone sends you a gift in the mail, do you need me or Emily Post to remind you that you should acknowledge? Of course you don't. And no one should have to ping me and confirm I received that gift in the mail....that I actually got a week ago.

It requires equal lengths of time to place a call, send a text or email communicating "What a surprise, thank you!" that it requires for the gift sender to wonder and subsequently follow up to ask. People are required to say thank you for every engagement, wedding, or baby gift but these gift categories are not the Last Gift Standing Trifecta. All gifts should get a polite nod. (although if you ever did get one of these Majors and didnt say thanks...ohhhh you got some 'splainin to do. Shamity shame shame shame on you.)

Having a munchkin, we have already started to help him understand that when we receive gifts, or acts of kindness, we should be grateful. It is absolutely sweet hearing him say:

"Thank you berry berry MUCH!"

Now, since we know the real deal of parenting is actually 'Do as I Do', I have quite a bit to think about don't I?

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Our son loves the ladies. I know this because he flirts with them virtually everywhere we go and they fall for his long lashes and olive skin readily. He gets crayons and cookies from the ladies at the grocery, and baby doughnuts from the bakery. I think these ladies are generous and kind hearted to all the little ones but I think he works it. And good for him.

Most of our friends have little girls so we joke about his multiple options. The Daddies of all these little girls assert otherwise as they assure us their daughters won't be dating boys until college. haha. Famous statement made by (incorrect) Daddies all over the map.

But I believe our son has his first crush.

In my March issue of Vogue, is Dolce
and Gabbana's ad campaign with Scarlett Johansson.
Now, let me give you the scene. I subscribe to about oh, ten, magazines. ( I presume to one day have excess free time to lounge in bath and casually read said magazines.) My point is there are many to choose from ranging from Time to Bon Appetite. In addition, he also has a stack of his own age-appropriate books on the same bench. So there are ample selections to view. Vogue is one of the many but apparently, the only one of my magazines to capture our son's attention. Those of you with any exposure to two year olds realizes attention is a priceless commodity at this age. Let me go on.

One day, our son opens the magazine and sees the picture of Scarlett Johansson. I told him as we do anytime he asks "Who is that?" (And by the way, that questions comes no less than ten times per day.) He actually gazed at the picture so long I was able to grab my digiCam and snap a photo. I thought how cute he was and this photo would be added to the stockpile of photos he will later be amused, or embarrassed by when I proffer them to his future paramours.

And then, I noticed he was gravitating toward same magazine fairly often. Once, I put it on the kitchen table curious if he would notice. Soon enough he asked me "Where did Scarlett Johannson go?"

Now, I am touched by his curiosity and how carefully he turns the page to find his blond muse.

And this activity has occurred frequently enough for me to capture several photos. Please note in each of these photos, he is actually wearing something different so he is spending a good bit of free time on this recent discovery.

And yesterday, he marched right over saying "I find Scarlett Johannson" and once he found her, he actually kissed her picture. He kisses us often and all of his favorite bears but this was actually a first. I had crushes too, but I can't say they began as young as two. And from a mom's perspective, good for him. We will see how long this first crush lasts.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Look up "tattletale" in the dictionary and it is defined as one who tattles (really?) or better yet, an "informer". Word on the street is that tattletale is the little narc who tells the principal you and all your girlfriends skipped class. But since I am long past the days of skipping class (who me?) and Narc sounds like a Quentin Tarantino movie, I will opt for informer if I have to pick.

Let's talk about this. Long before I had a munchkin, my mantra was "Why be a busybody". Listen, we know a woman nicknamed Mrs. Roper because, well there are many similarities, but primarily because she is a highly active busybody. Matters not if she saw it or heard of it tenth hand, she is the local town crier. And that? Well, thats just not nice.

Now that I do have a little bitty, might I look at certain things in a new light? Of course. Here's how it goes down.

I come up with what I think is a smashing idea for an early Saturday morning. I am so persuasive, I convince JohnnyMac it is a good idea too. We have a energetic munchkin, rain, and a deep need to expend energy. Why not go to a super fun inflatable playground to let him run wild. You may know these places. Some are called Jumpin Jamboree, Jump Planet, JumpZone, 321 Bounce, or Monkey Joes. Since the goal of my storytelling is not to write disparagingly of any specific entity by name, let's call the place we actually visit "Funky Flo's".

Funky Flo's was a dream come true the first time we went. Our turkey gets up e-a-r-l-y so we found ourselves at Funky Flo's as the doors opened one Saturday morn. Not a soul in sight. He was too little for some of the "bounce houses" but there was a special one specifically for rascals under two. He wasn't quite sure what to make of it but believe me, he got over his stage fright, fast. Visit one turned into numerous other visits and we thought we struck gold. Until the day we went and it was "birthday party day" filled with endless kids, not being watched by their parents, and truly running amok. That's fine, we told ourselves, we will just keep an eye on him. Most of the kids just want to have fun.

And then we took an ugly turn. I realized birthday party day was great unless your child is two, and you want them to survive. I know our man is going to get some bumps along the way but when I saw our guy take a tumble, and another boy was holding him down with his foot, while his mother stood there yapping about scrapbooking to her friend, I can't say I liked that too well. We also know he is going to get some bruises. I just prefer them not at the hands of eight year olds. A few times I have heard a parent remind their child to be careful of the littlest kids, and I was grateful to hear it. It is rare...oh is it rare.

This particular Saturday was a school type outing and we felt like we walked into the vortex of a cyclone. I didn't even know the poor 20 something's gainfully employed at Funky Flo's had whistles to blow in case things get out of hand. We knew that day when we heard that whistle, no less than ten times in an HOUR. Boys were fighting, girls were screaming, and Johnny Mac and I were looking for the exit. But you know who loved it? Our little man. So we braved the chaos and cursed under our breath. We realize Funky Flo's is a inflatable babysitter for many guests. Good to know.

And then two boys, about ten years old, got in a fight amidst all the whistle blowing, and our little bird got marginally in the fray. UGH. What to do?

Since there was not a parent in sight who would either claim offspring OR attend to flying fists, an urge came over me. I admit it. I quelled it but it whispered louder and louder Rat Them Out. Ohhhh, the desire to "inform"! But I resisted. JennyMac the Informer has more of a clang to it than a ring.

We have been told by veteran parents you are never to scold another person's child directly. And I see the value in it less I cause a "little league beating riot" like covered all too frequently in the newspapers. So I did the next best thing, I said "no fighting boys" in my most pleasant high pitch falsetto as I whisked my young one out the quagmire. Then I wrangled one of those 20 something employees and whispered "Can you please do something about this?" And he laughed and said "this is mild." Good grief. He was experienced which made it all the easier to pass the buck.

I was surprised I didn't tell him about the boys spraying water all over the wall by holding down the spigot to the drinking fountain. Or the dozen kids without socks on. Yuck. (Why the bare feet bother me more than the sneezing and lord knows what germs being passed hand to hand, who knows). Again, I hesitated to "inform". I am sure there will be plenty of time in the future where I will not hesistate a bit. I am sure our son will be only marginally mortified so I will keep it at bay as long as possible.

Let me tell you what some morning at Funky Flo's look like: Disproportionate number of Dads, most of them sitting in chairs watching television while their kids expend energy. Perfect. I am sure Mom was glad to have the break. However, when your teenage boy, sans socks, is running over my son, perhaps you would like to intervene. Listen, I'm no Prissy Pants. I played sports my entire life and have the scars to prove it. When my son is ready for tackle football, I will be driving him to practice. But he is TWO. Two year olds get a parental referee.

However, while Funky Flo's remains one of our child's favorite things to do (he asks....multiple times a week to go) we can only hope he forgets all about it. When he gets a bit sturdier, maybe we will be clamoring for a place to take him where we don't have to be engaged, but I doubt it. And the idea he will forget about it soon? Highly unlikely. If we even drive down the road that leads to the road it is on, he knows.

We will continue to go, you know we will. Listening to him giggle repeatedly as he bounces down the back of an inflatable alligator is priceless. I also know that since I don't work there, I don't get a whistle, and I can't be at the counter each visit tattling on children, can I?

No. So, JohnnyMac and I will continue to laugh and say in disbelieving tones "are you kidding me" and know, as all of our more veteran friends know, this is ONLY the beginning.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Sensible Shoe

The idea of a "sensible shoe" has always made me laugh. Why? Besides the fact the statement takes me back to Ye Olde decades, it makes me laugh primarily because I don't need a sensible shoe. The shoe is not my accountant or my babysitter so sensible is not the word I want to use to define my footwear.

Now, on that note, I am not the girl who wears a steep heel and midway through the night is complaining about barking dogs (Do you know this expression by the way? How Archie Bunker is this? "OH my dogs are barking!" ) I have never once ended an eve barefoot with heels in hand because I made a poor shoe choice. And I love the heels (need I remind I was wearing heels the day I went into labor). Now, I go for the good stuff and ensure they fit well before I wear. Also, I learned a great trick especially for summer: When feeling the tightness from the summer heat: Vaseline that foot anywhere you feel the burn. PRESTO: magic. Not a blister to be had.

Now, even the heel aficionado I am, I know when to say when. Pregnancy aside, you wouldn't see my spending the day in heels when it is either inappropriate (gym, playing at the park) or downright silly (gym, playing at park, walking around Chicago or NYC).

The tiny problem has always been: I have lacked the perfect "walk around" shoe that embodied all I wanted: functionality, comfort, and a heel. I am not a tennis shoe wearer unless I am working out or running so tennis shoe is not a good choice. And don't get me wrong, I havent wasted precious time on this, I just accepted I would not have the perfect option which is a perfect walk around shoe for any attire. Oh, okay, I am a little atypical in that I will not wear flats. I have not liked them since about 9th grade and just cant patch up that relationship. All those pretty ballet flats are great, just not for me.

So while a good bit of ladies have added darling flats to their repetoire, I have gone without. Until one addition last year and another this past summer. And now, I have hit the Motherload.

Let me share. First: The FitFlop.

Do you know this shoe? Let me give you their marketing pitch:

Developed by biomechanists at the Center for Human Performance at London’s Southbank University, FitFlops have been scientifically proven in independent studies to boost overall leg and calf muscle activity as you walk while reducing strain on your feet, knees and back. The secret is the varying density of EVA foam in the midsole that generates a “micro-wobbleboard™” effect to significantly increase muscular tension. The result: your legs work harder than they do in standard sneakers or shoes and you burn more calories.

Here is my take: If you are asserting I will burn more calories as I walk on your foamy cushion of delight, that my feet will never tire, never waver, never blister, well you had me at "biomechanists". My mom made this discovery and when she first tried to buy them for me, there was a rumored waiting list. Really. The Birkin Bag of Shoes? Well, she prevailed and let me tell you, I would have waited. Regular flip flops do not support the foot, which is critical since the foot supports your entire being. This is a great shoe in multiple colors and I wore them today and I scuttled little man to and from school. 'Nary an eyebrow raised at this fabulous choice. And they make a men's version too.

Now, moving along to my most recent summer fling that turned into a full blown committment.

Oh Crocs Cyprus, where have you been all my life? Now before you peek, lets talk about the Crocs. Do you remember when this gardening clog became a national phenomenon? Listen, I don't know how it happened either. I realize the Croc never wanted to be the Prom Queen Shoe but there is unattractive, and then there is this gardening clog. And while they are purported to be comfortable on the feet, they are uncomfortable on the eye. Very. They are a misshapen plastic potato with ventilation and a strap. Boo. Now mind you, my adorable son has a pair because he wanted some just like "Grandpa" and on him, precious. But the gardening clog should have certain restrictive uses. Grandpa uses his around the house and their large garden. So unless you are two, or at least under the age of twelve, OR actually have a garden...I think you know where I am going. However, Crocs as a company has evolved and now has more options than a Rubiks Cube.

And Crocs Cyprus? Well, you can just show me the way home honey. This is a shoe that lacks the ugly duckling face of its elder. I have been waiting for you for a long, long time. Comfort is the most important ingredient in this shoe and I have worn it everywhere. Its a sleek and upscale version of what I needed from the FitFlop. Thank you! And I have worn them under a ball gown not because I tried to hide them in shame, but because that was a long dress, and well, I know when to be wise. This is the shoe that will not only never make your dogs bark, it will likely have your dogs shakin' that moneymaker late into the evening asking for another round of champagne. Try them, your feet will bless you. And should we ever really need to use the phrase "sensibile shoe" then let's just give it a little upgrade shall we?