Spring Break staycation? What to do with kids in NYC

Jacob made the high school baseball team: yeah! Now we can’t go anywhere for spring break: boo!!

I thought maybe we’d get a 2-day reprieve and head to D.C. or Philly but looks like we’re stuck in Jersey, tethered to a baseball diamond. But I’m not going to complain because we’ll always have Manhattan.

Manhattan skyline on carpoolcandy.com

For those of you staying in the tri-state area for spring break– or if you’re traveling to New York in the next few weeks or even this summer– I’ve compiled a “best of” post of my favorite family activities– and accompanying food of course– in New York City. Enjoy!

Museum of Moving Image on carpoolcandy.com

Museum of the Moving Image–  We discovered this little gem tucked into a residential neighborhood in Astoria, Queens last year. Totally worth the extra 15 minutes on the subway from the city. The building is super modern and all white– like you’re on the set of a space movie…

Museum of Moving Image on carpoolcandy.com

The museum lobby & cafe

…and has an amazing permanent collection of cool modern art and sculptures, and old TV, radio and film equipment. You see the evolution of still and video cameras, microphones, and sound systems.

Costume collection at Museum of Moving Image on carpoolcandy.com

Yup, that’s Mork from Ork’s space suit, Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills cop getup, and snazzy costumes from the movie Chicago.

Other galleries include old TV’s of every size (like walking through a time warp,) pop culture toys, special effect artifacts (Freddy Krueger’s giant sweater  and the Exorcist‘s motorized mannequin of Linda Blair whose head spins around,) and make up, costumes, and actual scripts from recognizable movies and TV shows like Taxi Driver and Seinfeld.

Animation stations at Museum of Moving Image on carpoolcandy.com

Several interactive exhibits kept my kids busy, like making 3-5 second videos that can be turned into a flip book, computer animation programs, and changing music, sound effects, or dialogue from famous TV shows and movies in real sound booths. My kids were fascinated by the playable, old school video games like Tetris, Genesis, or Frogger, and I got nostalgic playing Atari tennis.

I highly recommend you pair your visit with a meal at nearby Bare Burger for delicious organic burgers, fries, shakes, and even salads. For more info on the museum click here.

kids walking in central park nyc on carpoolcandy.com

You can never go wrong in Central Park. You’ve got carriage rides, the zoo, the carousel and plenty of space to run around.  Click here for info on walking tours that look pretty cool.

new york historical society museum for kids

In the shadow of the Natural History Museum on the Upper West Side is the New York Historical Society Museum. Don’t miss the short film about the history of New York in the lobby theater, and then briefly check out the eclectic exhibits– from art (paintings, photography and sculpture) to culture (Tiffany lamps to vintage trains and toys.)

At the Children’s History Museum on the lower level of the building, kids can explore the history of New York through the eyes of children of the past. My boys were completely engaged in the interactive exhibits on voting history, kids’ role in the media, and how children lived at the turn of the century.

The kids museum offers great free programs so check the calendar before you go. There are also two scavenger hunt lists kids can fill out as you walk through the building, which keeps them involved.

Jacob creates his own 1930's headline

Jacob creates his own 1930’s headline

After the museum, the kids will deserve a burger at Shake Shack a block away… or take a short walk to Sugar and Plumm– a bistro with Parisian flair– on 79th and Amsterdam, which features gourmet delights like buckwheat savory crepes and chicken and waffles. Or just skip right to dessert: sundaes, fresh-baked cookies and cakes, chocolate, and gelato. Jacob and I split a banana/Nutella crepe and cappuccino macarons that were sublime…

Sugar and Plumm NYC with kids

….but Eli and Aden went for the fancy candy. For more info on the museum and eats click here.

Sugar and Plumm NYC with kids
If your family is less culture and history, and more outdoorsy, check out the newer part of the High Line near Tribeca. The scenery is pretty and the people watching irresistible.

Highline NYC on carpoolcandy.com

Free High Line walking tours and programs– including poetry readings and wildlife talks– begin in April. Strolling makes me hungry, so put your name in at Bubby’s High Line– home of delicious pancakes and burgers– and then walk up an appetite.

Of course, there’s always lunch and a show. Last spring break, I took the kids for sushi at Haru in Times Square and then to see Wicked, which we all liked, despite Jacob’s expression in this photo.

Kids at Wicked NYC spring break on carpoolcandy.com

I get that Broadway is not Jacob’s thang, so this year I’m giving him a pass and taking Aden and Eli to see Matilda. Eli and I read the book recently and have been listening to the CD in the car to prepare. Very excited!

nyc chinatown file
One activity we haven’t tried yet is exploring Chinatown. My kids are obsessed with Asian food (it’s always about the food) and loved walking around Chinatown on a road trip to Toronto a few summers ago, so it seems crazy not to check it out in our own back yard.

Please let me know in the comments if you recommend any specific sights or restaurants great for kids in Chinatown, or anywhere else in Manhattan.

Happy Spring!

Top 7 signs I live with a teenager

There are certain known phenomenons in parenting that are unavoidable and  practically cliché. You know when you have an infant, you’ll be exhausted from the pure shock of having another helpless being depend on you, combined with intense lack of sleep. You know when they start walking you have to baby-proof the house and prevent them from swallowing dirt.

Everyone knows when you get to the teen years, your child will go through puberty, pull away, and generally think you’re an idiot. It’s a rite of passage.

But knowing it and living it are two different things.

I recently described my 15-year-old to a friend– with haughtiness, humor, and a twinge of guilt–  as “unbearable.” It’s somewhat true, but more of a plea for sympathy from a parent who has not yet experienced the unbridled joy that comes with raising a teenager.

teen taller than grandma on carpoolcandy.com

Jake is very happy to be taller than grandma (and me) now.

Jacob’s always been precocious and mature, but those traits have only intensified, creating a pompous, condescending pubescent who views me as nothing more than a sub par Uber driver, and our home as a bed and breakfast, with very annoying proprietors and guests.

Here’s how I know he’s hit the teen years with full gusto: 

– In his mind, every word that exits my mouth is the most annoying thought on the face of the planet. In fact, anything anyone in the family says gnaws at him like an itch on a broken arm under a cast. The other day he complained that Aden’s voice was too high. “How can you stand to listen to him!” he hissed at me in the car. It took all my strength and patience to muster up a courteous tone as I reminded him that his own voice had the same tenor just 4 months ago.

— He’s rarely around. He’s like a big star who makes cameo appearances now and then. Oh look, there he is curling his lip at me as he grabs a banana before he leaves for school. There he is again barreling through the back door, heading straight for his room to do homework with the door closed and expletive-laced music blaring. Was that him I saw running in to change clothes between a sleepover and a football game in the park? Can’t be sure, that guy has grown so tall in the last few months!

— He eats like an NFL linebacker. He takes 2 or 3 helpings of dinner, and snacks constantly. I spend hundreds of dollars at the grocery store each week and in 4 days, the cupboard is bare. I fill up literally every inch of the shopping cart at Trader Joe’s and the clerk often asks me if I’m having a party. (“Nope, just Tuesday!” I say sheepishly)

classic teen behavior on carpoolcandy.com

He didn’t even want a cake for his birthday this year. Too cool for cake?! I was having none of it.

— All my skin products have been disappearing. He’s always been fixated on his hair but now that puberty has kicked in, he’s focused on zapping pimples as soon as they appear. He’s also brushing his teeth more than ever before. Must be for the ladies, because he’s never shown such an acute interest in personal hygiene.

— He’s sleeping late and occasionally putting himself to bed early. This is one habit I don’t mind. He’s actually more aware of his need for sleep and treasures it.

— He talks only in absolutes. As in: “Everyone has an iPhone and gets to stay out until midnight!” and “No one wears jeans mom!”

— He’s become secretive. He used to tell me friend gossip, girls he liked, and share his favorite music and TV shows, but now he’s a vault. I’m a journalist and naturally curious person… and his mother! It’s killing me.

I know this too shall pass. That’s why every time he does something age-appropriate I try to take a deep breath and smile. It aint easy.

I know someday– sooner than I’d like to admit– he’ll be away at school and I’ll miss being taken for granted. That will truly be unbearable.

 

It actually was a fairytale wedding

My brother-in-law’s wedding last Saturday was a beautiful, love-soaked gathering…I only wish we could start the weekend over again because after months of planning and preparing, it flew by.

Wedding post on carpoolcandy.com

Destination weddings are always fun because everyone escapes real life for a few days and is extra-committed to being together. This one was in New Haven, CT, near where my new sister-in-law grew up. We stayed at a great hotel called The Study at Yale, which was sleek, accommodating and put up with all our shenanigans.

Wilson and I packed up the kids and several heavy hanging bags filled with dresses, suits, belts, handbags, and 15 pairs of shoes and headed north.

The rehearsal dinner was on Friday night at the Union League Club: yummy food, stiff drinks, and a room filled with shiny, happy people ready to celebrate.

Eli and Uncle Jon getting pumped for the rehearsal dinner

Eli and Uncle Jon getting pumped for the rehearsal dinner

My kids had never been to a rehearsal dinner and loved all the toasts. Wilson’s dad made a lovely, moving speech, the bride’s mom belted out a clever song about Beth to the tune of “You’re the Top” from Anything Goes, and several bridesmaids spoke about Beth being a great friend who always makes us laugh.

But the highlights had to be Wilson’s cousins, Jeremy and Keith, who wrote an epic, hilarious poem about Jon that made me laugh so hard, my stomach hurt. They were the only ones to roast him good– but they managed to do it with charm and underlying affection.

Beth’s brother Matt produced an amazing photo montage, including video from all the nieces and nephews that made everyone say “awwwwww!”

You may remember that I set up this happy couple. Beth is the sister of our friends, David and Allison, whom I also set up many years ago. So since we were practically sitting on the Yale campus, Dave put on his professor hat to make a power-point presentation of a  course about the Lefferts and Ansel family dynasties– complete with family trees, diagrams, and a pop quiz on how well you know the players.

Wedding post on carpoolcandy.comIt was genius!

Beth is a detail gal and there were so many personal touches throughout the weekend, like this welcome note in the snack-filled hotel goody bags. It was created by a family friend who’s an artist and known Beth since she was little.

IMG_4644

On Saturday we explored New Haven and looked at the Yale campus.

Boys at Yale campus n carpoolcandy.com

But soon it was time to get dressed for family photos. The process of getting my boys tuxedos and all the necessary accessories and tailoring was torture. They complained every time they had to try them on (itchy! stiff! annoying!) but it was all worth it.

Wedding post on carpoolcandy.com

Dapper boys!

There were lots of snacks and drinks flowing during our wedding party/family photo session, cause that’s how we roll.

Wedding post on carpoolcndy.com

The wedding party was huge, but it made it more fun.

It was such a festive scene with everyone adjusting dresses, hair, makeup, and ties and all the adorable kids running around like they were out of a Ralph Lauren ad.

Wedding post on carpoolcndy.com

Flower girls with attitude

We kept the little ones busy with electronics.

Wedding post on carpoolcndy.com

Cousins take a break from gaming

You’ve waited long enough to see the bride.

Beth wanted an ethereal, fairytale mood and she succeeded. Her dress was a silk J Mendel, and with a tiara and light veil streaming only down the back, she looked like Greek goddess meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Gorgeous!

Wedding post on carpoolcandy.com

Her wild flower bouquet included rare anemones, ranunculus and sweet pea

The mood followed through to the earthy chuppah– with giant roses in the greens– and candles everywhere. Beth and Jon had a rabbi do blessings, but it was David who got ordained online and actually married them. The ceremony was personal, and sweet.

Wedding post on carpoolcandy.com

The chuppah looked like an enchanted garden

Even the cake had a rustic feel with fresh flowers…..

wedding post on carpoolcandy.com

The venue was an old club with great wood and checkered floors, high ceilings and art deco light fixtures. The food was delicious and abundant….Shrimp, clams, oysters…seafood galore (and that was just the cocktail hour!)

Wedding post on carpoolcandy.com

Quite a raw bar!

The band was great and we danced our tootsies off.

wedding post on carpoolcandy.com

First dance

It was especially fun for my family because all the grandparents were there, plus the Ansels, who have been like family to us since I moved to New York more than 20 years ago.

It was a lovely affair, but what made it special was Jon and Beth so clearly in love and right for each other. Even the crankiest curmudgeon couldn’t deny that warm feeling watching them laugh and dance and take it all in.

wedding post on carpoolcandy.com

And now they’re off to the Caribbean for two weeks, those lucky bastards.

I won’t nag, but I’ll be secretly wishing for a baby soon….and maybe a house in Jersey!

A bridesmaid can dream…..

 

TBT indulgence: Wilson and my big day 1998

As you may have read in this space, Wilson’s brother is getting married to a terrific gal this weekend. So basically our family can talk about nothing else and the preparations have taken over our lives. Dress alterations and a special bra (don’t ask!), tuxedo shoes rented and ties borrowed (Thanks Lisa!) speeches written and rewritten, family airport pickups and hotel room changes,… you get the picture.

But it’s all for the best reason, and I know once the roller coaster launches Friday night, it will be three days of joy and laughter (and maybe a little complaining from my boys about wearing a tuxedo.)

The impending nuptials inspired me to dust off Wilson and my wedding album from May 1998. We got married at the Union League Club in Chicago and it was a magical night. We even had a horse-drawn carriage drive us home. Too bad the photographer had already left and it was pre-smartphone days so we have no pictures of the romantic gesture that sent us off on our path to married life.

But I did find these photos that I thought you’d enjoy. You may have noticed I never use photos of Wilson on the blog. I’m making a small exception here but still trying to keep the mystery. Truth is, he looks better now than he did then– that stud– so you almost wouldn’t recognize him!!

The requisite bride turn back photo....

The requisite bride turn back photo….

I didn’t want an off-the-shoulder dress because I thought it would limit my dance moves. (No joke, I really thought that) but my mother talked me into this one. My favorite part was the long streamers off the bow on the back and the matching border on my veil. It’s the little things!

My maids....

My maids….

Can’t believe I made them buy matching navy dresses they’ll never wear again. Ah youth….

Groomsmen

Groomsmen

Can you guess which one is Wilson?

wedding chuppah

My brother walked me down the aisle.

wedding aisle

I love this photo. The room was so pretty and old in a classic way. The chuppah was made out of birch trees and my great-grandmother’s table-cloth from Russia.

Party girls

Party girls

My dress didn’t stop me from dancing all night.

Some things never change

Some things never change

I love this picture of Wilson’s Michigan crew because it could have been taken last month at one of our kids’ bar mitzvahs. They still know how to party!

wedding cake kiss

Mazel tov to Jon and Beth! May you be as happy and lucky as we are!

Oscars 2015: the posh and political

It was a night of platform heels and platform speeches at the Oscars.

Hollywood insider film “Birdman” swept the 87th Academy Awards (winning best picture, director, and original screenplay)  and many of the night’s winners used their acceptance speech time to stump for causes close to their hearts. Here’s the lowdown on a very long night….

birdman promo

 THE HOST:

First-time host Neil Patrick Harris breathed new life into an old show as Oscar producers took a more positive tack that paid off. Less snark and more sugar, the show intended to celebrate our love of movies, not just the celebrities who make them.

neil-patrick-harris-oscars promo

I won’t pretend I’m not a huge NPH fan from his How I Met Your Mother days and I expected him to be lengen (wait for it) dary. (sorry, how could I resist?!)

The opening musical number was well-rehearsed, clever, funny and a love letter to movies, instead of the standard teasing/humiliating stars routine. I loved seeing NPH inserted into movie classics and the Anna Kendrick and Jack Black cameos.

With no less than five costume changes, including three different colored tuxes, he was a compelling and affable steward throughout the show. I loved the bit where he spoofed Birdman and Whiplash and wound up on stage in tight-whiteys.

NOW FOR THE GLAM:

May fav looks of the night….(for pix click here) 

Once again, five-time nominee Julianne Moore wins in a white beaded strapless Chanel with black accents with an impeccable fit that complimented her alabaster skin. Her makeup, up-do and diamond earrings were also perfection.  Glad she looked so good the night she finally won!

Many of the best dresses were white, including Lupita N’yongo’s Calvin Klein white beaded sheath with a sexy halter of pearls. She looked like an oyster goddess.

— I wasn’t sure about Reese Witherspoon’s strapless white Tom Ford gown with two black lines, but it grew on me as the night progressed.  It was her typical simple, elegant, modern fare. Not imaginative or risky, but solid, and she gets extra points for being one of the few who let her hair down, despite the rain.

–I was soooo disappointed with Jennifer Aniston’s Globes dress last month but she completely redeemed herself in a gorgeous nude sparkly Versace dress that hugged her body like a Band-Aid. The sleek design had subtle cutouts that showed off her phenomenal body.  Her loose shiny hair completes any outfit.

–Although black is never as exciting as color, if you’re Cate Blanchett you find a deep velvet sheath with rough, frayed edges and a sexy keyhole back, and pair it with a giant turquoise necklace that matches your eyes perfectly… and you pop right off the screen.

–Another exception to “black is boring” was Sienna Miller, who can do no wrong. Her Oscar de la Renta short-sleeved dress with flared peekaboo skirt and velvet bows was sweet and ethereal and different.

–Although I’m not impressed with Dakota Johnson in interviews or for starring in 50 Shades, I was impressed by her YSL one shoulder red dress and diamond jewels. Perfect Oscar fashion: classic and timeless with a nod to old Hollywood but sexy and fresh, with a sassy ponytail.

Felicity Jones, nominated for best actress for Theory of Everything owned the moment with a gorgeous grey Alexander McQueen ball gown with a hand-sewn beaded bodice and giant satin skirt with classy updo. Channeling Audrey Hepburn, the look was flattering, elegant, regal.

Zoe Saldana looked amazing in a blush pink Versace dress with stiff, artful lines. She paired the dress with loose curly hair pulled up.

Guys who know how to wear a tux, the tighter, the better: Eddie Redmayne in navy, John Legend in Gucci… and Adam Levine in Armani. Whiplash’s Miles Teller is my new boy crush. Handsome, confident, talented, he spoke intelligently on the carpet like an old pro.

Scarlett Johanssen popped off the red carpet in an extremely tight-fitting emerald-green Jessica Rabbit hourglass dress by Versace, and funky green beaded necklace.

But there were some couture catastrophes….

Lady Gaga made quite an entrance in a white beaded Alaia ball gown with red leather spacegirl gloves. The look was very Jane Jetson meets Grace Kelly. Odd.

–Much like how I feel about Gwyneth herself, I couldn’t decide if I loved or hated Paltrow’s pale pink, one-shouldered sheath. It was sexy and flattered her sick Tracy Anderson bod but why oh why did she add the giant organza flower on the shoulder? Too much or avant garde like a Carrie Bradshaw accessory?

—Not sure what the usually best-dressed Nicole Kidman was thinking. She looked like a slimy Rainbow Fish in an iridescent strapless gown with an unexplained red belt.

--Kerry Washington looked more mother of the bride than belle of the ball in a strapless white dress with dowdy beading.

–Loved David Oyelowo in Selma but he looked like he was missing his pals from the barbershop quartet in is tight red tux.

CELEBS I’M WORRIED ABOUT:

–I was disturbed by the lack of movement in Melanie Griffith’s face. She couldn’t express her pride and amusement over daughter Dakota Johnson’s new success because she’s spent too much time at the plastic surgeon’s.

Faith Hill you’re so pretty but your hair’s too short and you and Tim McGraw need to eat a few IN and Out burgers– he looks old and manorexic!

 BEST SPEECHES:

Paramount Pictures

–By far, the best speech was given by John Legend and Common when they won best song for Selma and Common talked about the famous bridge where MLK’s march took place  “This bridge is a symbol for change. Its spirit is built on hope, welded with compassion, sealed by love for all human beings. Selma is now. The struggle for justice is right now. Our voting rights are being compromised,  and our struggle for freedom and justice is happening now.”

–I wanted to stand up and cheer like Meryl Streep and JLo when best supporting actress winner Patricia Arquette used the end of her speech to forcefully demand wage equality and equal rights for women.

–Graham Moore won for best adapted screenplay for The Imitation Game and used part of his moving speech to speak to gay teens who feel hopeless and alone: “When I was 16, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird, different, like I didn’t belong. And now I’m standing here. I’d like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or different. Stay weird. stay different and then when it’s your turn and you’re standing on this stage, pass that message to the next person who comes along.”

– In her classy acceptance speech for best actress for Still Alice, Julianne Moore said she’s glad the movie has drawn attention to Alzheimer’s Disease, which still has no cure.

Alejandro G. Inarritu, who wrote and directed Birdman used his best picture acceptance speech to ask for respect for his fellow Mexicans and all immigrants.

–J.K. Simmons made his wife the highlight of his acceptance speech forWhiplash (amazing must-see performance in a disturbing but compelling movie) and told us to call our moms– not text or email– call! Thanks dude.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS:

Most of the musical numbers were sleepy, except best song winner “Glory,” performed by John Legend and Common with a powerful reenactment of the Selma march on stage that had the whole crowd on their feet– many in tears–  by the end.

Lady Gaga beautifully sang a medley of songs from The Sound of Music to commemorate the film’s 50th anniversary.  I admit I sang along and wept nostalgic tears when Julie Andrews came out afterwards to thank her and introduce the nominees for best score.

Idena Menzel and John Travolta acknowledged their unusual connection (he famously butchered her name at the last Oscars) and gave out an award together. But instead of making up for last year’s gaffe, he continued his weird streak by pulling her face too close to his very pulled, rubbery face, and spoke to her in a creepy voice that gave me shivers. Ick.

WHO GOT ROBBED:

Richard Linklater in the Best Director category. I loved Birdman but best picture and screenplay should have been enough. Linklater came up with the concept and executed shooting a beautiful, relatable film about an American family experience over a 12 year period. He should have been recognized.

boyhood poster on carpoolcandy.com

Michael Keaton as best actor for Birdman. Eddie Redmayne was wonderful playing ALS-affected genius Stephen Hawking in Theory of Everything, but he’s young and has a long career ahead. Keaton’s an old timer who was great in this movie and may not get another shot at gold.

What were your favorite moments and looks of the night? Tell me in the comments.

Y’all jonesing for a jello shot? Bachelorette party in Austin!

Austin bachelorette party La Condessa on carpoolcandy.com

The bachelorettes after a margarita-soaked dinner

You may remember that Wilson’s brother got engaged  (in an uber romantic way you can read about here) last summer, and we’re all looking forward to the nuptials in March.

The whole family will play a part: Wilson is serving as best man (his speech is going to kill) I’m a bridesmaid, Jacob and Aden are groomsmen, and Eli is a ring bearer.  I had almost forgotten all the hoopla surrounding a wedding, and in the zillion years since we got married, customs have become more high brow.

Apparently dinner at Sparks and a lap dance on 42nd Street is no longer sufficient to celebrate the end of bachelorhood. Wilson had to travel to Puerto Rico for the bachelor party. I didn’t get all the details (probably best,) but it sounded like a lot of standing around the swim up hotel bar drinking Medalia beers.

Austin bachelorette party on carpoolcandy.com

At my bachelorette party, we got drunk at Coyote Ugly in the East Village, flashed our bras and danced on the bar before falling asleep in the cab home. Nowadays all the hip gals hop on a plane for fine dining and shopping in a funky city like Austin.

I’d never been to Austin, and we all loved the vibe in the Lone Star state’s capital city. My only complaint is that we were there for too short a time.

We arrived Friday night and dug into some famous BBQ at Ironworks.

Austin bachelorette party on carpoolcandy.com

It’s not the place to keep good habits from your nutritional cleanse.

Wiping sauce from our chins, we took an Uber (no ride was more than $5!) to an area downtown with lots of bars and restaurants and walked around.

Live music at Austin bachelorette party on carpoolcandy.com

Live music is everywhere– the city feels young and hums with great energy.

Austin bachelorette party on carpoolcandy.com

I ordered an amazing cowboy hat for our bachelorette, decorated with sequins around the brim and light up letters spelling”BRIDE.” (Shout out to the peops at Red Sky Trader who got me the hat on time!)

As I walked into each bar I was slapped with nostalgia. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a place with that familiar stale humidity, coupled with the smell of beer, whiskey, and sweat. It’s the smell of possibility and abandon. I had missed it.

6th Street Austin bachelorette party on carpoolcandy.com

6th Street was packed

We stopped into a few places before finding our way to the famous 6th Street. It’s party-central in kind of the worst way. Lots of drunken frat boys, tourists, and crowd wranglers making deals better than Monty Hall to get you into their place to spend cash.

But we are New York City girls, too smart for such traps. We surveyed the scene and settled in at Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar which was just our speed.

Austin bachelorette party at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar on carpoolcandy.com

A bunch of talented musicians took turns on two pianos and a drum set singing oldies and popular songs by request.

Austin bachelorette party at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar on carpoolcandy.com  We quickly realized we weren’t the only bachelorettes there and had to compete against at least 3 other groups before we could get our bride onstage to be serenaded.

Austin bachelorette party at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar on carpoolcandy.com

We chugged our cocktails, did a couple jello shots, and belted out the words to favorite songs.

Austin bachelorette party at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar on carpoolcandy.com

Good times!

The next day we walked around the South Congress area, an artsy, retro neighborhood with cool cafes and antique and used clothing stores. Iconic neon signs, bright southwestern colors and the occasional bearded guitar player on the corner felt authentic and cozy.

Austin bachelorette party at South Congress Cafe on carpoolcandy.com

We ate at the South Congress Cafe where the carrot cake french toast with cream cheese-pecan syrup is out of this world, especially washed down with their award-winning Bloody Marys. Great way to start a Saturday.

Austin bachelorette party on carpoolcandy.com

We stayed at the minimalistic, chic boutique Hotel San Jose. Saturday night we gathered in a hotel suite to sip chardonnay from penis straws while the bachelorette opened gifts of lingerie and answered relationship quiz questions that made us giggle.

Austin bachelorette party at La Condessa on carpoolcandy.com

Next we headed out to La Condessa for some upscale Tex-Mex fare and buckets of margaritas.

After dinner we hailed a couple pedi cabs to take us to Rainey Street.

Austin bachelorette party on carpoolcandy.com

Maybe it was the tequila, maybe it was the freedom of the girls weekend, maybe it was the open air, or the 80’s hip hop music blasting from a boom box– I’m not quite sure. All I know is I haven’t laughed that hard in a long while.

Austin bachelorette party on carpoolcandy.com

Deep, rolling belly laughs that couldn’t be stifled. All of us were like a pack of hyenas howling at the moon as the pedi cabs rolled on. It was hilarious.

Austin bachelorette party on carpoolcandy.com

We danced and laughed at a few bars on Rainey and then headed back to the hotel to squeeze out the last moments of a super fun weekend.

I’ll admit I thought traveling to Austin for a bachelorette party seemed excessive at first, but all the girls were great and it was really a bonding experience that will make celebrating the wedding together even more sweet.

When I travel with my crew, I’m always trying to find things to do to satisfy everyone. If we had gone to Austin as a family we would have visited the zoo, walked around UT to check out the football stadium, and probably tried to catch a game. We would have stayed in a conventional hotel with an indoor pool for the kids.

Austin bachelorette party La Condessa on carpoolcandy.com

It was so refreshing to spend the weekend with people who wanted to do what I wanted to do: walk around, eat, shop, and stay up late talking. I didn’t realize how much I needed it!

Warning to you Wilson: I’m going to make sure I take girl weekends more often.

Who’s in?

We all want our kids to be “The Opposite of Spoiled”

I reviewed an eye-opening and useful book by New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber this week that I’m recommending to all my fellow parents. The Opposite of Spoiled argues that if we don’t get real with our kids when it comes to money, we’re setting them up for financial confusion down the road.

opposite of spoiled cover on carpoolcandy.com

What I liked most about the book is it’s not wonkish at all– it’s filled with lots of helpful advice and concrete suggestions for guiding kids to manage money responsibly. Lieber has been using his column, guests stints on the NYT‘s  Motherlode column, and his Facebook page to find real stories from families all over the country trying to keep kids grounded in our materialistic culture.

Lieber’s research led to this clinical definition of a spoiled child: He/she has few chores or responsibilities, few enforced behavior and schedule rules, and is lavished with time, assistance and material possessions by parents.

Sound a bit familiar? Yikes!

We’re all a little guilty of spoiling our kids and Lieber goes into all the reasons we do it– from childhood wounds to a need for acceptance from kids and peers. But we’re doing them a disservice by keeping them in the dark about finances and not requiring them to take on more regular responsibilities.

Shutterfly dry erase chore chart on carpoolcandy.com

Here’s an excerpt:

Some of the book’s unconventional recommendations may surprise parents, like answering salary questions honestly and not tying household chores to allowance. Parents who fear that talking with kids about money leads to spoiled children may be denying them a map to navigate important decisions later on.

 Lieber says it’s “lunacy” to expect a teenager who’s probably never bought anything more expensive than a bike to make one of the biggest financial decisions of his life when choosing a college, if financial aid is involved. The book’s goal is to lay a framework for kids to start dealing with the dough when they’re younger so they develop good habits before finances get more complex with student loans, retirement plans and insurance policies in their 20s and beyond.

 When explaining money decisions, Lieber suggests distinguishing “wants” and “needs.” If kids understand the difference, it becomes easier and more rewarding to save for coveted things. Guiding kids to separate money into spend, save and give away piles isn’t new, but Lieber delves deeper into how to help kids appreciate those choices, which often require patience and restraint and build character.

It’s rare to find a book about finance with so much heart, but Lieber’s bottom line is to invest in our kids’ futures by being honest and aware of our relationship with money: “There’s no shame in having more or less, as long as you’re grateful for what you have, share it generously with others, and spend it wisely on the things that make you happiest.”

You can read the rest here.

Would you be willing to discuss your household income with your kids? Tell me in the comments.