Carpool Candy 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids

Here’s the third and final installment of gift guides! Hope you found something good in the gift guides for ladies and gentlemen. Holiday goodies continue with kids stuff!

While putting this list together, I planned to separate boys and girls for easier shopping, but realized I didn’t want to perpetuate gender stereotypes. I bet there are boys who’d love a cooking kit and girls who’d want a basketball mug, so I mixed it up. There’s also something for all ages– from 4 year olds to fussy teens.

Click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors. (Hopefully they’ll be cool with me swiping their photos and we’ll call it even.)

These suggestions are my gift to you, loyal readers. If you want to throw some good will my way, share the link to this list on social media. The price is right, and no wrapping!

Happy shopping!

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Knitting starter kit — If your gal is crafty, this kit could inspire a new passion, or add to her yarn collection. It includes enough soft Merino wool to knit a scarf, plus birch needles and an instruction book. ($62)

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Construction plate & utensils– For the kid who loves trucks and/or needs a push to clean his/her plate. ($18)

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For older kids (and maybe some adults!) how fun is Mr. Food Face? There’s a Mrs. Food Face to accessorize too. ($12)

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LuLu Lemon bag– Lulu Lemon has became a coveted brand for young girls. This nylon cross-body bag is a great size, has an adjustable strap, and features special pockets for her cell phone and sunglasses. ($68)

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Crazy leggings– I don’t have girls but the hippest little gals I know are wearing funky leggings from designer Zara Terez. Some look like blown-up photographs of candy and cereal, others are cartoonish, vintage, or psychedelic. They seem to know no age limit! ($48)

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Selfie wand-- Selfies aren’t going away. Kids– especially teens– love capturing their every move. This magic wand makes it easier to get cool backdrops and more people involved. ($25)

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Pedi-socks — If you have a girl who likes to pamper herself, pamper her further with these adorable socks that keep your tootsies warm while preserving your pedicure. Available in many patterns and colors, they may also appeal to girls who like to wear flip-flops all year long. ($12)

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iPhone recharger stickers — If your house is like mine, there’s a lot of fighting over who took the recharger. These clever sticker sets make identifying chargers a cinch. ($13 for 4)

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Faux fur slippers– This furry footwear evokes fireside at the ski lodge. They’re a bit more sophisticated than UGGs at a much cozier price. ($19)

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New License kit– Older teens are hard to buy for but this kit is a nod to their new maturity and responsibility, and who wouldn’t love fuzzy dice? ($25)

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Talking Olaf– If your kids’ Frozen obsession hash’t cooled off, this Olaf doll can be pulled apart and put back together AND will sleigh you with jokes. ($23)

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Gold star glitter pillows– Show her she shines bright in your eyes with these fun pillows for a chair or bed. She’ll probably think the sparkly cat is also adorbs. ($36)

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If she’s more preppie than glitzy, try these monogrammed pillows. ($22-30)

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Cooking kits-- Foodies can choose from baking yummy treats, or cooking sweet breakfasts or gourmet tacos. The taco kit comes with 3 Mexican recipes, fun food facts, menu suggestions, cooking tools, and all the ingredients.  ($25 for single kit or $60 for 3 months)

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Voice changer – Answer the phone like a robot or record a voicemail like a spaceman. Kids will love the 9 different voice-disguising effects. You’ll like the big fun for a small price. ($12)

hoop mug on carpoolcandy.comHoop mug–Ceramic mug is perfect for shooting marshmallows into hot chocolate or crackers into soup. ($24)

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Football receiver gloves — My sports-obsessed boys don’t play on a football team but love to toss the pigskin around in the park or backyard. They say these gloves are the coolest new thing because when you put your hands together to receive the ball, they create a design or spell out a logo. ($35)
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Wooden robot — How’s this for a mix of old and new? A puzzle and toy, this beautifully carved wooden robot turns into a cube. ($20)

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Zipline kit — We want the kids to back away from the screens and play outside more, yes? Here’s a great motivator. This kit will help you (or your handyman) set up a zipline in your backyard. And check out the light-up version for night zipping. ($120)

uncommon goods smartphone projector on carpoolcandy.comSmart phone projector– Kids can see their favorite YouTube videos and Instagram pix blown up on any wall with this simple box. Great for parties too. ($27)

grommet bracelet maker on carpoolcandy.comFriendship bracelet tool– — Maybe she’s graduated from the Rainbow Loom but still needs to get her craft on. This handy gadget was invented by a mom who saw her daughter struggling to make more intricate bracelet styles. The tool spins, and you create colorful designs, loops, zigzags and more. ($35)

thirty-one bags on carpoolcandy.comMonogrammed tote bag — Thirty-one makes sturdy, fun bags of virtually any size and shape– from lunch bags to totes to cinch-sacks– in tons of patterns.

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The cinch sack can be monogrammed  for a personal touch. Perfect for sleepovers and the price is nice. ($20)

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Portable road tape– I love this idea for little kids, especially when traveling or visiting relatives. Keep some Matchbox cars in a bag, put the tape down on any floor or table and you have an instant playground that stimulates imagination. The tape won’t damage surfaces or leave a sticky residue. You can even use it for decorating. ($13)

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Marbling paint kit– For the kid into art, this kit teaches Japanese marbling technique. ($16)

Hammacher Darth Vader toaster on carpoolcandy.comKitschy toasters-- If your kids are into certain pop culture icons, this may help you get them out of the bed in the morning. The Star Wars logo as Darth Vader transforms innocent slices of bread into sinister breakfast tokens of evil. ($50)

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If Hello Kitty is more your style, she comes on toast too.

If you don’t find everything you need on these lists, check out the 2012 gift guides for kids here and 2013’s here.

Carpool Candy 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Men

Hope you found something good in the gift guide for ladies. Now onto my list for gentlemen.

Click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors. (Hopefully they’ll be cool with me swiping their photos and we’ll call it even.)

These suggestions are my gift to you, loyal readers. If you want to throw some good will my way, share the link to this list on social media. The price is right, and no wrapping!

Happy shopping!

polaroid camra on carpoolcandy.comRetro Polaroid instant camera.– Remember this guy? This old school camera in bright, fun colors produces instant color photos the size of a business card. Great for camera buffs and fans of instant gratification. ($99)

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Festive ties-- I know, I know, ties are traditionally as exciting as a lump of coal, but Vineyard Vines has taken tie style to new levels with crazy cravats featuring everything from his favorite dog, to sports team, cocktail, and college. Click on the photos to see designs close-up. ($85)small-whiskey-rocks on

Whiskey stones– Reusable soapstone cubes keep liquor perfectly chilled without diluting the flavor. Also can be heated to keep drinks warm. Hot toddy anyone? ($20)

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Golf ball stamp– This handy gadget allows your pro to label his golf balls to keep track of the ones that got away. ($30)

grommet vewdo balance board on carpoolcandy.comBalance board– If you’re man likes to stay in shape, he’ll love this balance board for indoors and outdoors, that works muscles whether he boards on snow or water. You rock it like a see-saw, which engages the core and increases balance– good skills for any sport. ($135)

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Cashmere hoodie –The eco-friendly company Everlane is completely transparent about how they make and sell their high-quality products, so their prices are reasonable and you can feel good about buying. This hoodie comes in several colors of thick cashmere ($140) but there’s also a cotton cashmere version ($75.)

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Keyboard protector– Much cooler and more efficient than a pocket protector, this light silicone cover keeps your keyboard pristine and hugs the keys perfectly so you won’t miss a letter. ($24)

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Sports photo books– Beautiful photos and history for sports buffs in these hardcover books. Perfect for planning a bucket list. ($15)

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If baseball aint his thang,  this one on best golf courses in the world..

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Weekender bag — If he decides to take that dream trip to a famous ballpark or golf course, will he have a nice bag to pack in? I know Wilson could use a grown up bag for weekend getaways that doesn’t look like a worn out knapsack.  This cotton twill and leather one is a good size and looks smart.  ($95)

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Men’s grooming basics:  For the man who likes to pamper himself, or perhaps needs to up his hygiene game a bit. These products aren’t frufru– they contain natural ingredients and vitamins, and don’t smell girly, just clean. Cleansing gel, pre-shave conditioner, shaving cream, face scrub and shaving lotion included. ($63)

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Taste of the month– For food connoisseurs, Oregon’s Olympic Provisions crafts 12 different salamis from northwest pork using “old-world technique,” whatever that is.  ($145) If cured meat isn’t his craving, how about testing his manhood with a hot sauce of the month, with names like Arrogant Bastard Ale Jalapeño Hot Sauce, to measure his mettle. ($40 for gift pack, $118 for 12 months)

gameofthrones_tshirt on carpoolcandy.comPop culture t-shirts– If your guy is into TV and movies, there are tons of sites offering different styles from show logos to famous movie or TV lines, to more subtle ones like this family crest from Game of Thrones. ($19)

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If you don’t find what you need on this site, go to the shop section of network sites or Amazon where I found this subtle but cool shirt from Walter White’s drug lord’s restaurant from Breaking Bad. ($17)

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Driftwood charging dock– I love how this idea is simple and ridiculous all at once. Artisans in Maine find actual driftwood made soft and shiny by nature, and craft it to fit the contours of your cord and smart phone. Modern technology snuggled into a timeless gift from the good earth,  like a piece of functional art. ($72)

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A night with Larry David– I love to give an experience, rather than stuff. If you know a fan of the curmudgeon, he’ll probably love tickets to David’s Broadway debut, A Fish in the Dark. He wrote and stars in the comedy, and it’s only playing for a few weeks, starting in February. This link should get you discount tickets if you act fast. (ticket prices start at $66 and go up to $187)

If you don’t find everything you need on these lists, check out the 2012 gift guide for men here and 2013’s here.

I still haven’t decided on a gift for Wilson. What are you getting the men in your life? Tell me in the comments.

Carpool Candy 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Ladies

Like your own personal elf, I’ve been gathering gift ideas all year to make you the best damn giver of the season!

I LOVE a reason to shop, and relish the challenge of finding original, fitting gifts for even the pickiest pals.

Click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors. (Hopefully they’ll be cool with me swiping their photos and we’ll call it even.)

These suggestions are my gift to you, loyal readers. If you want to throw some good will my way, share the link to this list on social media.  The price is right, and no wrapping!

Happy shopping!

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Earrings — Delicate yet sleek, these earrings are handmade from a mold cast from real quills found in nature, but they’re set in brass so the price is nice. ($110)

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Specialty journals– If the kitchen is her domain, she’ll love organizing her recipes and cooking secrets, while checking measurements, conversions and food facts in this cooking journal. If she’s more of a style maven, she can keep track of outfits, convert international sizes, and collect style sheets for wish lists. There are also journals for wedding planning, gardening, music, and even chocolate. ($20)

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Initial soaps– Sometimes the perfect gift is something luxurious that you wouldn’t buy for yourself. These soaps fancy up a guest bathroom and smell great. ($29 for 3)

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Charm necklace– While in LA last month, I discovered Canadian jewelry company Pyhhra, which creates original designs I haven’t seen coming and going. I bought a Talisman necklace, handcrafted to exactly replicate an 19th century wax seal of a lion. They have scores of designs and each has a different inspiring meaning. The lion I chose represents wisdom and courage. In reclaimed silver, gold, and bronze. ($140+)

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Clutch bag– Can a lady ever have too many bags? Most certainly not! This fold-over leather clutch from designer Clare V. comes in scores of colors and textures. Great shape, great quality and will never go out of style. Click around the website and you’ll find several different sizes, including iPad cases and makeup bags. ($220)

little-pig-fruit-basket from shed the eclectic home on carpoolcandy.comFruit basket– I love a statement piece and this pig fruit basket will definitely grab attention. Also comes in rabbit and hen versions. ($145)

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Macaron of the month:
For the woman who has everything, including a sweet tooth. Who wouldn’t love a new box of delectable cookies arriving every month? True bakery connoisseurs will appreciate classic French macarons in flavors like pecan pie, berry cobbler, cookie dough, and peanut butter and jelly. If monthly sweets are too pricey for you, a box of assorted is equally yummy. ($90 for three months)

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Decorative trays —  These classic acrylic trays can house coffee table books or candles in a living room, or jewelry on a dresser. ($34-44)

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If you like more pizzazz, I also like these colorful monogrammed guys.   ($44)

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Bookends– If she still likes the feel of a book in her hand, splurge on a few hardcovers from Amazon and complete the thought with these bookends.  I love these whimsical jacks ($95) but also check out these gold pig ones for only $30.

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Personalized tumbler– We should all be drinking more water. These insulated travel cups can hold 16-24 oz of hot or cold drinks, with a variety of sizes and tops, and you can personalize them with initials in fun colors. (I’m partial to purple sequins!) ($11)

Henri Bendel ponytail holder on carpoolcandy.comHair accessories– If she likes a pony-tail, she’ll love a little tinsel on her tresses. These fancy hair ties are a decadent indulgence that will always fit. Try one in gold ($28) or  tortoiseshell. ($16)

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Personalized wine bottles– Bring these unique wine bottles to holiday parties, give them as hostess gifts, or buy one for your favorite wino. You can etch initials, a full personal message, or choose from holiday and occasion designs. After the spirits are gone, the bottle is a keepsake. ($70) If etching is too pricey, try these personalized stickers. ($1-2 each)

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Log cutting board– How about some cheese to go with that wine? I liked this au natural wood slice so much, I now own one. Serve cheese or cut veggies and bread. (Lumberjack shirt not included) ($33)

jonathan adler phone docking station on carpoolcandy.comSmartphone docking station– I love Jonathan Adler home accessories and this docking station is a fun gift for a gal who likes old school classics with a modern twist. Comes in both black and white. ($30)

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Tennis raquet holder– If you’re buying for a Sporty Spice, how about this monogrammed racquet bag to impress the gals at the club? ($89)

For those who prefer less material possessions, here are two suggestions:

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Animal sponsorship– Check out Heifer International to purchase an animal for a foreign family, which can change their lives. A sheep ($120) can provide wool for clothing and extra income, and manure to improve farmland. Honeybees, a hive, and beekeeping training ($30) can help a community harvest honey and beeswax, creating new income and independence in countries like Uganda and Haiti.

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Closet organizing– Another green option is treating a gal to two hours with a closet organizer. She gets an orderly closet and a new wardrobe without spending a dime!  In NJ, Betsy Ames of Mindful Style will come to your house and go through every article in your closet to determine what stays and what goes. Then she’ll help you recycle your out pile, put together outfits with keepers, and suggest classic pieces to supplement. For those outside the tri-state, Google “closet organizers” for a closet fairy near you. ($150 for 2 hours)

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out the 2012 gift guide here and 2013’s picks here. Some of those are still my favs.

And keep an eye out for the gift guides for guys and kids coming soon!

Thanksgiving California style


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Eli and me at the top of Runyon Canyon

I’ve been traveling to southern California to spend Thanksgiving with Wilson’s family for 16 years. My brother, cousin, and two close friends live in LA, so Eli and I went a few days ahead of Wilson, who stayed behind with Jacob and Aden so they wouldn’t miss too much school.

The weather was stellar– 78 and sunny every day– so we took advantage, taking a swim and soaking in the rooftop pool view at the Sixty Hotel in Beverly Hills.

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Not too shabby.

I also managed to do some retail damage at Fred Segal  in West Hollywood with mom (sweatshirt for Eli, silk top and boots for me)…..

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…. and hike Runyon Canyon with my bro and our friends, Cindy and Jett.

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Jett and Eli had a strong connection. Look at these two cuties….

We had lunch with my friend Julie at favorite eatery Jones on Third and if the curry chicken salad and homemade lemonade were not enough, we had a celebrity sighting: Will Arnett, with some hot young thing.

I had to pretend to take a pic of my bro and Eli to get this silly shot:

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Then we packed it up and headed down south to Orange County to meet up with Wilson’s family. We stay at Wilson’s Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Ron’s house, which manages to sleep 14 people and a minimum of four dogs. We’re a close family, but there’s something to be said for personal space and this week, that was in demand.

There’s also really only one TV available so since the family is overrun with testosterone, football is on 24/7 for the entirety of our stay. By end-week, I was Jonesing for a visit with the Bravermans, the Pritchetts, or the Goldbergs.

We’ve developed certain reliable OC traditions: spending a day in Disneyland, eating baked ziti and sausages the night before the holiday, running to the grocery story no less than 8 times in two days, and staying up Thanksgiving night drinking lots of wine, gossiping and belly laughing til the wee hours.

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Eli and cousins about to down Splash Mountain

Disneyland was definitely a highlight of the trip this year. It was gorgeous weather and Wilson’s brother got us all free park hopper tickets, so we could do Disneyland and California Adventure. We arrived at the park around 10am and stayed until 8pm, crushing all our favorite rides. We had fast passes from last year so we never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride.

Thunder Mountain at Disneyland

Right before the drop on Thunder Mountain

Wilson’s brother recently got engaged, and his fiancé (whom I’ll call BB for blushing bride) had not experienced our family Disneyland routine. We like the roller coasters, and we don’t take no for an answer without a doctor’s note.

It was fun witnessing her indoctrination, especially since she doesn’t particularly care for roller coasters. But she got sprayed on Splash Mountain.

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BB before getting soaked on Splash Mountain

Toughed out the drops on Thunder Mountain…

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And avoided snakes and a giant careening boulder on Indiana Jones’ Adventure. We screamed and laughed, while white-knuckling the safety bars all the way down.

I don’t particularly care for Space Mountain as it gives me vertigo and nausea, but I knew if I opted out, BB wouldn’t go. So I took one for the team. While I hated the ride, I loved hearing BB screaming invective behind me, while the cousins laughed with glee.

“Make it STOP!” When’s it gonna be over?!!” “I DON’T like it!!”

Good times. Reminded me of my Space Mountain initiation several years ago. It’s a rite of passage.

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We took it down a few notches and headed over to Small World. Every night at 5:15pm when the sun sets, the park turns on all the lights on the Small World castle and even the least sentimental in our crowd oohed and ahhhed.

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We finished the day off at California Adventure Park with the Cars ride (based on the movie) which quickly became a favorite.

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You slowly tour a realistic looking desert in a swanky convertible, before the ride revs up to a car race through a bumpy canyon. Really fun.

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Aunt Ruthie makes an outstanding Thanksgiving feast, including two turkeys (one roasted, one deep-fried) three kinds of potatoes and many sides and sinful desserts. My pants were bursting but I couldn’t stop. I only get creamed corn once a year!

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After dinner, we sat outside on the patio drinking wine and playing Heads Up.  To say we laughed really doesn’t do it justice. Belly-aching, snort-inducing guffaws. Uncle Ron counted 17 empty bottles of wine for 16 adults.

‘Nuff said.

After one last glorious day of sunshine, running, leftovers, more football and laughing, we headed home Friday night.

Reentry is always tough after this trip. No family is perfect, but we manage to have fun no matter the circumstances. I’m thankful for that!

What are your holiday traditions?  Tell me in the comments.

A quickie art exhibit for kids in NYC

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I like to take (or really drag) my kids to Manhattan at least once every six to eight weeks. As I’ve probably said before, I grew up in downtown Chicago and want them to be savvy, unafraid, and as metropolitan as three sports-loving, sweatpants-wearing, TV-watching,videogame-playing suburban boys can be.

It’s a challenge.

Sometimes we go in because we have plans with family or friends, other times because I want them to get some culture. Those trips are a tough sell so I usually need to couple the experience with an enticing meal.

Recently, we had a free Sunday and some cousins in town from South Carolina so it was a great excuse to go into the city. I headed straight for the TimeOutNYKids website, which always has fun and enriching activities. They feature special events, but also have a calendar which tells you exactly what’s happening the day you want to go.

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Apple core was my favorite– symbolizing NYC and healthy food– but the cowboy hat was neat too.

That’s where I discovered the CANstruction exhibit at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan, near the Freedom Tower. It’s an international charity competition where architects, engineers, contractors and students compete to design and build giant structures made entirely from full cans of food.

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The teams create amazing sculptures out of food cans and at the end of the contest, all the food is donated to City Harvest, which rescues food to feed to the hungry in New York.

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Aden tries to imitate “The Thinker”

NYC was one of 100 cities across North America and other countries such as Australia and New Zealand that held Canstruction competitions and then donated the food. The sculptures are not only impressive aesthetically, they have a theme, and some even teach a lesson about hunger and helping others.

The best part was it was only a few works so we were in and out in about 20 minutes.

Next we headed to Tribeca and put our name in at Bubby’s– home of delicious pancakes and burgers– and then walked the Highline while we waited.

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Cousins bond walking the Highline

The boys grumbled as we walked to the exhibit– as they do every time I ask them to step outside their comfort/ESPN zone. But they couldn’t deny the sculptures were cool.

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They always admit in the car home that the experience wasn’t as bad as they expected. That’s as close to a high-five as I’m going to get, but I’ll take it.

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Highline selfie

A little culture, little social awareness, little fresh air, and then a little nosh. It was all good.

Unfortunately, the exhibit is closing this week but you can check out more about it –and see if it’s in a city near you — on the Canstruction Facebook page here.

I’d love to hear about any of your quickie cultural experiences for kids in NYC. Tell me in the comments.



Mazel of the week goes to “The Andy Cohen Diaries”

If you wanna know what it’s really like to hang in the celebrity crowd– from the Vanity Fair Oscar party to weekends with the Seinfelds and Fallons in the Hamptons– late night Bravo host Andy Cohen’s new book, “The Andy Cohen Diaries,” will be your new guilty pleasure.

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The book is a take off of “The Andy Warhol Diaries,” a gigantic tome of the artist’s daily activities and bitchy impressions of all the celebrities he encountered partying nightly in Manhattan in the late 80’s.

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Cohen was fascinated by Warhol’s commentary and thought it would be fun to detail a year in his life at the epicenter of pop culture in New York today.

It is fun.

The book’s subtitle,” A Deep Look at a Shallow Year,” suggests Cohen knows that some of the minutia– daily weigh-ins and workouts, two-hour massages, selfies galore– is frivolous.

But it’s all real, and if you want to know if stars are really like us, this is your book.

Andy Cohen and Kim Kardashian selfie from Instagram

A pop culture moment: selfie with Kim Kardashian’s ass on the set of his show,   “Watch What Happens Live” (Instagram)

In many ways, Cohen is still a fan and gets excited and even nervous to interview and hang with his childhood idols like Cher and Madonna, but he’s also an insider who finds himself in some crazy situations that bear sharing. He’s chatting at a party with Malala Yousafzai and Lady Gaga, he’s pigging out at Sasha Seinfeld’s bat mitzvah, he’s hitting the beach with Sarah Jessica.

Here’s an excerpt from my review:

Cohen — host of a late-night talk show on the Bravo network and executive producer of “The Real Housewives” series franchise — worked hard to get where he is, but he makes it look easy. A typical day in his downtown Manhattan playground includes a workout with his personal trainer, a romp at the dog park, lunch with friends, a meeting or conference call, a nap, hosting his show and drinking with pals until the wee hours.

His writing style is conversational and tight, infused with snarky and self-deprecating humor. He sticks to a diary format, which includes everything from activities to weigh-ins, to random thoughts and dream analysis. But he often uses only first names, and no explainers, so an index or family tree of his Algonquin round table of pals would be helpful.

An engaging storyteller, he creates a narrative with reappearing characters, including his hilarious, bossy mother, Evelyn. Other players range from the famous — talk-show host Kelly Ripa, actress Sarah Jessica Parker and musician John Mayer — to the amusing — his loyal doorman Surfin, an overly chatty flight attendant and his butt-kicking personal trainer, affectionately called “the Ninj.”

Cohen addresses the obvious risk in recording his every move and mood in the book’s subtitle, and in the introduction. He owns the name-dropping and navel-gazing, but has the honesty, wit and confidence to pull it off, striking a balance between being self-involved and self-aware. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and isn’t afraid to point out behavior gaffes and personality flaws.

You can read the rest here.

Andy Cohen's dog, Wacha, new book on Instagram

Andy fell in love with a rescue dog this year he named Wacha, after a player on his
beloved St Louis Cardinals (Instagram)

Cohen’s been promoting the book all over. Here’s a funny interview he did with Stephen Colbert this week.

I loved the book. Not only is it a gossip fest and a peek into the lives of the rich and famous,  it also captures a moment in pop culture and in New York, like Warhol did. Maybe Cohen’s book will inspire some young kid watching Bravo tonight to dream big. I’ll look for his diaries in 2039.


Anne Lamott cracks wise in “Small Victories”

When I saw author Anne Lamott’s new book, “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace” on my review list I grabbed it right away because her words are good for the soul. Who couldn’t use a little of that?

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It’s a collection of essays– some heartbreaking, some hilarious– about paying attention to the moments in your life that make you feel something deeply. It could be anger and resentment– Lamott has felt plenty of that growing up in a dysfunctional family of alcoholics and raising a son on her own. Or you could just be feeling frustrated and annoyed, like when she was trapped on a plane during a flight delay with a bunch of random strangers.

Lamott examines these moments and uses all the wisdom she’s gained in her 60 years to help us see them in a new, more positive light. She also seems to find the funny in common experiences. Her essay on giving a whirl made me giggle.

I first discovered Lamott when I was pregnant with Jacob and read her touching book, “Operation Instructions,” about the first year of her son’s life. She was struggling to keep it together after getting off drugs and booze and deciding to have the baby on her own. Her words about motherhood– both loving and terrifying– made me feel like I could handle taking care of the baby in my belly, despite the uncertainty.

She also wrote an excellent book about writing called “Bird by Bird “that gave  me advice and the courage to try.

And here I am.

author anne lamott, author small victories on

Photo by Sam Lamott, the author’s son

Here’s an excerpt from my review:

Her tone is intimate and the pace slow, allowing readers to linger over each essay, like a great meal with friends you never want to end. She boils complicated matters down to basics, and stretches the limits of emotional depth in simple stories with larger lessons.

In separate essays about her father and mother, Lamott shares intimate details of growing up in a family that suffered from “spiritual anorexia.” Her vulnerability is tangible, even years later. Forgiveness is a recurring theme as Lamott strives to let go of anger and resentment and concentrate on the present.

“You sacrifice the need to be right, because you have been wronged, and you put down the abacus that helped you keep track of things,” she writes.

Lamott acknowledges many character flaws that ring true for anyone. In one story, she decides a fellow mom at school is her “Enemy Lite.” She’s certain this hateful woman — who’s either exercising or baking cupcakes — is judging her, and perpetually trying to show her up.

But as the relationship evolves, she realizes she was projecting all her fears of failure and maternal insecurities onto this woman. Once she sees the situation clearly, she’s able to accept the woman’s kindness and forgive herself for not being perfect. “I was trying to get her to carry all this for me because it hurt too much to carry it myself,” Lamott writes.

You can read the rest here.

The book is beautifully written and so funny. Lamott is one of those authors with whom I’d enjoy  a long talk over a cup of tea. I just love the way she thinks.

Let me know if you’re a fan or would give the book a try in the comments.