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A Tourist’s Guide to New York: The Family Edition

2014 October 23
by WWGD

CentralPark-WhatWouldGwynethDo

New York passed the test.

We wanted to bring our kids there for the first time and went into it with equal parts excitement and hesitation. They have lived their short lives in a very sheltered southern California suburb and taxis honking, crowds walking, and garbage trucks barreling down the streets in the middle of the night are all completely foreign concepts that only exist in the pages of their picture books. We knew it would be tiring for them. We knew it would involve a lot of patience. We knew that Kai – at almost 4 years old – probably wouldn’t even remember this trip in the years to come. But we knew he would experience it in the moment. We knew they would be wide-eyed with excitement. We knew they would come home with so many stories and memories and NYPD police car toys…that we had to go.

And it was perfect.

They embraced every inch of that city. Every honk, every crowd, every garbage truck (though admittedly, not all the smells that came with them). We went into it without many agendas, no sense of schedule. We had a few things we knew we wanted to show them, but we had plenty of time to do it and allowed ample hours each day for nothing but roaming the streets and exploring. We didn’t panic about bed times or routines or missing anything. We gave them rest stops and snacks and water and continued on our way when everyone was ready. We ran and played and stopped every police man we saw, because that’s what 4-year-olds do on their first trip to New York. My daughter became a pro at hailing taxis and my son is a subway-rider extraordinaire now…a far cry from his cozy little car seat in our suburban SUV.

And we loved it all.

Here is where we ate, drank, stayed and played:

STAY

Conrad New York – this spacious, all-suite hotel in the Financial District is our new go-to for family stays in the city. The rooms are huge by New York standards, the quiet location by the waterfront was picturesque and serene (complete with playground right across the street) and the service was fantastic. We also had a really lovely dinner in Atrio, their restaurant downstairs, and appreciated the in-room Nespresso machine and super modern amenities.

EAT/DRINK

Bar Pitti – this has become a regular stop for us on the New York train. Love the al fresco eating in the heart of the West Village.

Big Gay Ice Cream – this new cult-favorite ice cream emporium is colorful and cool and the signature Salty Pimp cone is not to be missed.

Le Pain Quotidien – another easy favorite in the city and conveniently located right across the street from our hotel which made it easy to grab breakfast before we started our day.

Eataly – always on our list and the rooftop Birreria was surprisingly kid-friendly for an early Friday night dinner. The Lego store is right next door so I recommend you pick up a few little things in there to keep your kids busy while you soak up the views, the charcuterie and the wine. Don’t forget to stop by the gelato bar on your way out. Hazelnut is the way to go.

Isabella’s – we stumbled upon this Upper West Side locals spot for brunch when we saw – and gasped – at the line at Shake Shack across the street. It was a much better fit for us – complete with mimosas, eggs benedict and a loud, bustling environment that was perfect for my loud, bustling kids.

Cantine Parisienne – we found this café when we went to check out its neighbor, Egg Shop, and again balked at the wait. This cool, airy French bistro ended up being a very pleasant surprise with (more!) mimosas and a Croque Monsieur that rivaled the ones I’ve had in Paris.

Bubby’s – my husband’s colleague from work recommended this down-home hotspot in Tribeca and it did not disappoint. The fried chicken and waffles made up for all the walking we did that day and the promise of the brightly-lit, rotating pie display kept my kids on their best behavior throughout the meal.

The Standard Grill – this hipster haven ended up being surprisingly comfortable and cool. Good food (the mussels were perfection), good wine and a lively lunchtime atmosphere that was the perfect final outing before we hit the airport.

Jacques Torres – we picked up some chocolate chip cookies from this Grand Central chocolate haven for the plane ride home…and they were worth the hype.

PLAY

The Strand – we popped into this world-famous book shop on Friday evening to find it jammed with literary lovers of all ages. The perfect spot for Little D. She loved roaming its aisles and picking out books and signature Strand trinkets.

Pace Gallery – I have my sister to thank for this stop. I don’t typically associate art galleries with kids but she insisted we pop into the David Hockney exhibition at Pace and it ended up being a great little visit. A quick one, but a good one.

The Highline – walking this busy park in the sky with two excited littles wasn’t exactly stress-free but it was lovely, nonetheless. If you were one of the people trying to enjoy a quiet Friday afternoon in the sun with your book and my kids were jumping and dancing and yelling on the bench next to you, my apologies.

Statue of Liberty – this was at the top of my kids’ must-see list and my mom suggested that we do a boat tour around Lady Liberty instead of battling the crowds to see her up-close. It was the right move. We did a one-hour Circle Line tour that gave us plenty of up-close time (she is even more beautiful than I remember…am sure my kids will feel the same way in 20 years) as well as a fun, educational tour of Manhattan’s west side and downtown.

Central Park – always my favorite spot in the city. We went on a glorious Saturday morning and just wandered through the park, stopping here and there. Not rushing to anywhere and taking in the amazing fall foliage and wide open spaces.

Museum of Natural History – I don’t think you’re allowed to go to New York with your kids without visiting the Museum. It was fun for an afternoon (I wouldn’t plan to be there all day) and the dinosaurs were definitely the highlight for my littles. Oh, and the gift shop, of course.

Freedom Tower – the Freedom Tower and World Trade Center Memorial was only blocks away from our hotel and if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a beautiful tribute to 9/11 that shouldn’t be missed. For the kids as well. We had to be sensitive with our words as we explained the entire thing to Little D (Kai only cared about the police men who were monitoring the area, obviously) but I am so glad we did so that this incredible chapter of the city’s history won’t be lost on her.

Battery Park – walking down to Battery Park from the Freedom Tower gives you a fun glimpse into the cobble-stoned streets of Wall Street and leads you to a perfect waterfront park where your kids can let off some steam and see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

New York Public Library – my kids had to see the lions so we braved the mid-town crowds at lunchtime to take a peek and a picture. I would have loved to take them inside but we were pressed for time at this point…which obviously means we will just have to go back.

Thank you for a memorable weekend, New York. We (all of us!) will be back soon! xx

Five Things You Should Add to Your Muffins Right Now

2014 October 22
by WWGD

Pumpkinmuffins-WhatWouldGwynethDo

If you have been reading for a while, you know that I love a good homemade muffin.

There is something about the warmth and comfort of muffins in the morning (and maybe for an afternoon snack here or there) that make me so happy and fulfilled. I absolutely love making them for my family and will often whip them up two or three times per week, on a whim.

Sometimes at ten o’clock at night.

I’ve been experimenting for a while and have shared some of my favorite recipes here, here, here and here, but wanted to share the five extra little ingredients I always add to make our muffins truly memorable:

1) Chia seeds – I love to put chia seeds into the batter for an extra burst of goodness for my kids. 1-2 teaspoons is plenty and will stir in nicely right before you scoop the batter into your tin.

2) Fresh zucchini – muffins are the perfect hiding place for this oh so healthy veggie. I grate a fresh zucchini – skin and all – and toss it into the batter and watch contentedly while my kids munch away. They like to say there is “grass growing” in their muffins…whatever it takes, kids. Whatever it takes.

3) Greek yogurt – this adds a nice creaminess and a dose of protein to homemade muffins, regardless of the recipe or flavors. 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup will do, just keep an eye on the texture as you go. You don’t want your batter to be too thin.

4) Extra vanilla – if the recipe calls for a teaspoon, you’re getting two in my house. A little extra vanilla extract always goes a long way in the flavor department.

5) Brown butter glaze - this is for those mornings that need a little extra warmth and love. A light, sweet brown butter glaze is the perfect topping for any homemade muffin. Almost as decadent as a cupcake, but not quite. I like this recipe for it.

Above is an image of the pumpkin muffins I made last night. I was in a baking mood but not totally up to the task of starting from scratch, so I used a box mix from Cherryvale Farms. These guys are great because they make easy, convenient box mixes without all the nasty additives found in most. We used the pumpkin bread and simply had to add water, oil and a can of pumpkin purée. Then we amped it up with some of the above and topped with Trader Joe’s pumpkin cream cheese in the morning.

So delicious, practically homemade and filled with warmth, goodness and lots of love.

The perfect recipe for ten o’clock at night.

Catch Me If You Can

2014 October 21
by WWGD

WhatWouldGwynethDo

Hello strangers!

We are back from an amazing, inspiring, delightful weekend in New York with our kids. It was their first time there and we soaked up everything the city had to offer, all through their eyes. Magical. I will be sharing all our favorite finds in the coming days, but in the meantime, wanted to share a few fun interviews I did last week. I am so honored when fellow bloggers and writers reach out to connect and invite me to share a little bit of my life with their readers and thought you might enjoy it as well.

I spoke with Lindsey from A Design So Vast about balance and working motherhood and daily routine and the messes and miracles that come along with it all.

And I shared some insight from my 20s and the halfway point of my 30s with Kate from 365 ‘Til 30, because frankly, I wish someone had shared even half of that stuff with me.

Hope you enjoy!

*image above via my talented friend Fawn Christiansen. My babies are so not that young anymore…sniff sniff.

 

Saturday Reads

2014 October 18
by WWGD

NYC-WhatWouldGwynethDo

Saturday Reads: the “I’m in New York so it’s the best Saturday ever” edition.

Here are some of my favorite finds from the week:

The 20 Most Incredible Houses from the Movies. I love a good movie house, don’t you? The farmhouse from Marley & Me is one of my absolute faves…

A Cure for Hyper-Parenting. I adored Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé and in this most recent piece for the New York Times, she dishes out another dose of totally logical (imagine that!) parenting advice.

Ina Garten’s favorite foods. Because if this blog wasn’t called What Would Gwyneth Do, it would be called What Would Ina Do.

How to Improve Posture. Because I am slouching while I am typing this. And you are slouching while you are reading it.

Scarier Than Ebola. See the note about logical parenting above. This is a good reminder.

Have a great weekend! We certainly plan to. Follow me on Instagram to see what we’re up to! xx

*image above via here

A Hyena Evolved

2014 October 15
by WWGD

LittleD-WhatWouldGwynethDo

So hopefully you remember Little D’s experience with the school play last year.

She did a great job playing a hyena and mustered up so much energy for the part that she was even chosen to sit in the front-row of the chorus, proud as could be, chanting “Hakuna Matata!” with a smile a mile wide.

Well, it’s a new year, friends. And with it comes a new production.

This time, it’s Shrek.

No hyenas to be found in Shrek, as far as I know.

So she went into it with an open mind and a very open heart. It was her second school production after all and she had given her first so much dedication and effort, this one was going to be her big moment. She just knew it.

Until she got cast as a “citizen.”

A glorified extra, if you will. A part with absolutely no speaking parts, no solo singing, not much of anything. Not a hyena, but not much more.

A citizen.

Do you remember the citizens in Shrek? Exactly.

She was bummed from the get-go and again we did the enthusiastic parents thing and reminded her that her best friend is also a citizen and that she is only in second grade and that the bigger roles are probably going to older kids again…

Well, it turns out Fiona is being played by…a second grader.

So my little hyena is not a happy citizen. Again.

But this time, I learned from experience. This time I knew that I couldn’t rush to fix it, that I couldn’t demand a casting review. That I had to let my little citizen find a glimmer of shine in the spotlight…no matter how small it may be.

Turns out, Little D learned something too.

Last week, I went to pick her up at play practice and while all the kids came pouring out of the auditorium, I waited patiently but saw no sign of her. I peeked inside and there she was, talking animatedly to her director. You have to know my daughter to love this moment because she was wearing a headband that day that was very reminiscent of Luke Wilson’s look in “The Royal Tenenbaums” and rocking it in ways you can’t even imagine. Style icon in the making, I am telling you. But I digress. I saw her chattering away to her director, full of passion and prose. He started to nod in agreement, slowly at first and then more excitedly. Gave her a high five and saw her on her way. She started to come my way, headband firmly in place, backpack loaded up high on her little frame.

“Hey D,” I said, nonchalantly. “What were you talking to your director about?”

“Well, I told him I need another role in the play,” she said, with equal nonchalance, more focused on her shoelace than the conversation at hand. “I don’t want to just be a citizen, so I told him I want to be an animal instead. A dog.”

“Ok…” I said, cautiously. “And that means you won’t be a citizen at all anymore? You will have a new role?”

“No, mommy,” she sighed, a slight roll in her eyes. “I am still going to be a citizen but I want to be a special citizen. One who is a dog. He said I can’t bark but I can crawl on all fours like a dog and wear dog ears and be an animal citizen.”

And just like that, her little role became a very big deal to her.

This dog-loving former hyena may not be Fiona, but she will be a citizen to remember. A dog citizen. The dog citizen, if you will. And more importantly, she fixed it all on her own. She is the one who demanded a casting review, without telling me a thing. She didn’t need her mom to make things better for her, she did it by herself. She went out and found some extra shine to add to her spotlight.

For one very important moment, she became the director of her own little seven-year-old life. And I was just a spectator. 

And, as with her esteemed role as a hyena, I know she will be the best dog animal whatever citizen Shrek has ever seen. And next year? Maybe she will have a line or two. Maybe a small solo in the choir. Maybe even a role like Fiona.

But if not, that’s ok too. Because this girl is clearly a little superstar already. And I am her biggest fan.

*image above is a beautiful hand drawing of Little D when she was even littler, done by a close – and very talented –  friend of ours.

Shopbop Sale!

2014 October 14
by WWGD

ShopbopSale-WhatWouldGwynethDo

The Shopbop Friends & Family sale is officially on through Thursday at midnight PST!

You can get 25% off some of the best names in fashion and accessories, which is pretty great. The overwhelming selection, however, can be pretty daunting.

So here are my favorite picks from some of my go-to brands, in case you need a little direction:

Penfield Parka. I love a classic army parka for cool fall days.

Joie Mathisa Sweater. Joie’s knits are super soft and heavenly.

Hatch Collection’s Perfect Tee. Lots of GREAT maternity finds in the sale!

Helmut Lang’s Smoking Tux Blazer. I have this in white and have practically worn it through completely. No one makes blazers like Helmut Lang. An investment, but I promise it’s worth every penny.

Rag & Bone Classic V Tee. Because every girl needs a little Rag & Bone hanging in her closet.

Shop the whole sale online here and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you get those shipping benefits on the Shopbop site, too. Who knew!

Enjoy!

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Now Reading

2014 October 14
by WWGD

NowReading-WhatWouldGwynethDo

Before I get to the book I just finished, let’s talk about the one I read before it: The Goldfinch.

Ah, The Goldfinch.

I resisted it for so long. Too much hype. Too much talk. Some of it good, some of it bad. But all of it, simply too much.

There was no possible way this book could live up to my – or anyone’s  – expectations with all the anticipation that came along with it.

And it didn’t. At least for me, it didn’t.

With the writer’s previous book, The Secret History, which I chose to read first just to be an “against the mold” kind of gal, I felt like I invested time and energy and lots of “what the…?” moments but was given a gift in the end. The gift of an intriguing, well-written story that captivated me – and lost me a few times along the way – with its narrative, its writing and its conclusion.

With The Goldfinch, I felt like I invested a lot of time and energy and “what the…?” moments and in the end, I felt like I didn’t get much from it at all. Maybe it took me too long to burrow through it. Maybe it was all the talk, though I tried to ignore most of it going in. Maybe The Secret History was that much better.

And hey, maybe you will think – or did think – the opposite. Because a lot of people did.

Which brings me to the next read I checked off my list: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. This story became an “instant New York Times best-seller” largely in part to its origins: the young, esteemed writer passed away suddenly in a car crash in her early 20s and her family, mentors and writing teachers pulled together a collection of her fictional and non-fictional short stories into this posthumous collection.

Some of them are good, some of them are great. Some of them are just so-so. Of course you feel terrible saying that when you know the tragic ending behind the stories, but the reality is that some of them are good, some are great and some are so-so.

Do I suspect Ms. Keegan would have grown to have an incredible career as a writer? Absolutely. Was she a better writer than I will probably ever be? Yes. Should you run out and pick up this book? Maybe.

It won’t change your life, necessarily, but it changed hers and her loved ones’ lives with considerable measure, I am sure.

So perhaps that’s the best ending anyone could ask for?

Next up: Brain on Fire. I have had this one on my list for a long time and I am really hoping for a read that is going to rock my world. Hoping this is it. Will report back.

As always, please leave your favorite reads of the moment in the comments so I can add them to my list. And you can always see the ones I have on my radar on my Pinterest “books to read” board here

*disclosure: this post contains affiliate links

Must-Have: Scarves with Style

2014 October 13
by WWGD

ScarfStyle-WhatWouldGwynethDoScarves are my sartorial security blanket. I always have one with me, tucked away in my bag, for an instant dose of warmth and easy style. It’s probably thanks to the 20+ years I spent braving those long, cold Montreal winters. A big scarf with your hair loosely tucked in and just enough extra fabric to pull up over your cheeks and nose when a crisp wind blows by is my idea of fall fashion done right. Here are my favorites for the season:

Faux-fur from Anthropologie. I got a faux fur scarf last year for Christmas and I love how it adds instant glam to any old look, day or night.

Two-tone leopard from Casana Designs. Two-tone is a big trend in scarves this season, it gives some much-needed new dimension to some of your favorite prints.

Tory Burch mini dot infinity scarf. A stylish infinity scarf that lets you take on the trend with ease, even if you have little layering skills.

Meda black scarf from Accompany. Fabric is key in a good scarf – opt for silk or cotton in warmer climates and cashmere or this beautiful alpaca for cold ones. Cheaper fabrics will leave you with a clingy, static-y feeling that is anything but cozy.

Buffalo plaid. You got the memo, right? You need some Buffalo plaid in your wardrobe this season and this scarf is a perfect option. Comes in the classic red/black pattern as well.

And for you DIYers out there, a thick, chunky perfect scarf…that you can knit on your own with this pattern right here. Feel free to send an extra one my way ;)

My Menu Plan

2014 October 12
by WWGD

ViaHowSweetEats

 

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I hosted a little dinner party last night and it was pretty great, if I do say so myself. Here’s what I served:

Baked ricotta with lemon and herbs – this rich appetizer was deceivingly easy to make and so delicious. I had to bake it much longer than the recommended time to get the golden, bubbly effect (add an extra 10-15 minutes, some of it on broil) and I added in a little extra lemon zest and herbs to amp up the flavors a bit, but otherwise it was simple and perfect. Serve with grilled bread that has been brushed with olive oil and salt.

Salmon with melting cherry tomatoes – one of my go-to recipes from Ina Garten. I was going to try a new recipe for a main dish, but that’s never a good idea for a dinner party so I went back to this easy favorite. I served it with this grilled corn salad, which was really good. I’ve never cooked with a chile like this – the idea always intimidated me for some reason – but it was definitely worth experimenting.

For dessert, I bought a cheesecake at Trader Joe’s and topped it with fresh fruit. And told them I made it from scratch, of course ;)

Here’s what’s on our menu for this week – it’s a short one because of our trip to New York – but I have a feeling we will find plenty of great things to eat while we’re there so I don’t feel too terrible about it:

Sunday - homemade burgers with homemade sweet potato fries.

Monday – roast chicken with arugula and roasted potatoes. Here is my favorite recipe. And four other great chicken recipes, if you need some ideas.

Tuesday – pork tenderloin with honey mustard sauce. An easy favorite.

Wednesday – takeout. Because we have an early flight the next morning. And this lady knows her limits.

Sweet treat of the week – I am going to whip up some of these whole wheat banana spice muffins this morning for a Sunday treat. Because it’s Sunday and that’s reason enough.

If you have any favorite NYC spots that are kid-friendly – this trip is all about them! – would love to hear about them in the comments!

Have a great Sunday. xx

*image above via How Sweet Eats

Fall Days

2014 October 11
by WWGD

Whitepumpkins-WhatWouldGwynethDo copy

Fall is slowly starting to creep in around these parts.

The mornings have been foggy and cool, such a welcome respite from endless months of sun and heat. By mid-day, it’s warm again, but those first few hours of the day help ease the mind into the new season, if even only temporarily.

A few white pumpkins are sprinkled here and there around the house and the kids keep begging for Halloween decor (mommy is a Christmas gal, so it’s a struggle of sorts…ah, motherhood) and today may finally be the day.

We went to the pumpkin patch last night with Kai’s school and the kids jumped in bouncy houses, rode crickety old carnival rides that looked like they were on their last legs with their faded flashing lights and old-school safety belts. They ran around from attraction to attraction, hand-in-hand with friends. We would lose them for a minute in the crowd and our minds would panic. Then our eyes would find them and relax once again and we would continue the conversation we had paused mid-sentence in the way that only parents can. Without any excuse. We picked out the perfect pumpkin for the family. And then smaller ones for each kid and more white ones for mommy. And then they collapsed into their beds, far past their usual bedtime, exhausted yet begging for more.

This week we are going to New York with them for the first time. To show them the Statue of Liberty. To show them Central Park. To show them FAO Schwarz. To (hopefully) show them the splendor of autumn’s changing leaves and crisp air. Half of me is excited and half of me is a little nervous. New York is a busy, intimidating place to many adults I know and I am not sure how their little minds will absorb it all. With excitement, I hope. With a little exhaustion, I am sure. But undoubtedly with memories – like the ones from the pumpkin patch last night – that will stay with them forever.

And that alone makes it worth it.

Have a great Saturday. xx

 

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