A quickie art exhibit for kids in NYC

CANstruction NYC on carpoolcandy.com

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.

CANstruction NYC on carpoolcandy.com

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.

CANstruction NYC on carpoolcandy.com

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.

CANstruction NYC on carpoolcandy.com

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.

Highline NYC on carpoolcandy.com

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.

Highline NYC on carpoolcandy.com

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.

Highline NYC on carpoolcandy.com

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.

the-andy-cohen-diaries-a-deep-look-at-a-shallow-year cover on carpoolcandy.com

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.

andy warhol diaries cover on carpoolcandy.com

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?

small victories by anne lamott jacket on carpoolcandy.com

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 Match.com 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 carpoolcandy.com

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.


My Halloween scrooges

I used to get excited about Halloween.

We’d go to the pumpkin patch in search of the best gourds to carve, then toast pumpkin seeds and ghost the neighbors with fun treats and spooky poems.

Now it’s just about the candy.

Lame Halloween costumes on carpoolcandy.com

In 2007, the sports trend began with Jacob.

When my boys were little we’d study the costume catalogs and pick some classics… or try to come up with clever, original outfits for them.

Lame Halloween costumes on carpoolcandy.com

Jacob got creative in 2008.

That lasted a few years, but about 5 years ago, my older two– Jacob and Aden– started to turn on me.

They were so over Halloween and didn’t want to dress up.

Lame Halloween costumes on Carpoolcandy.com

Aden’s debut as a Giant in 2008

Aden was so stubborn one year, he refused to bring a costume to school for the annual parade and preferred to sit in the library with the abstaining religious kids instead of holiday marching.

Lame Halloween costumes on carpoolcandy.com

The downward spiral of lame begins. Orange hair as costume.

They do the absolute minimum to dress up, because I made it clear they may not trick-or-treat without a costume. No dressy, no Hershey!

For the last few years, at least one of them has been a superhero (store-bought)…

Lame Halloween costumes on Carpoolcandy.com

Eli as the caped crusader in 2008.

….or a sports player– hardly a stretch as they wear football jerseys and sweatpants to school every day anyway. They put on a helmet and feel candy-ready.

Lame Halloween costumes on carpoolcandy.com

Aden in 2009. Very original.

Other years, they’ve dressed as a robber: all black clothes and a black ski hat. Lame Halloween costumes on carpoolcandy.com

Surprise! Robber, superhero and sports player in 2010.

Lame Halloween costumes on Carpoolcandy.com

Aden’s friend Mac had the gumption to dress as a girl. But Aden stayed safe in 2011.

I would not call this sperm-like costume inventive, just creepy.

Great Halloween costume on carpool candy.com

J and pals’ not exactly inspired costume in 2011.

One year, when he wasn’t a superhero or ninja, Eli indulged me as Justin Bieber. He was perfect and I was thrilled!!

Great Halloween costume on carpool candy.com

The Biebs in 2011

I’d have to coast on that because the following year was Superstorm Sandy. Halloween was all messed up and somehow I have no photos of it. I’m sure my kids used the storm as an excuse not to dress up and I was so wiped out from freezing my tush off with no heat and wandering around looking for a recharge with no power that I let them trick-or-treat in street clothes. Heathens!

Last year, Eli went as a ninja….

Lame Halloween costumes on carpoolcandy.com

Aden went rogue…. as the Giants coach.

Lame Halloween costumes on carpoolcandy.com

This week, I’ve been impressed and incredibly jealous of friends posting pics of their kids in homemade, creative costumes.

Halloween costume Hershey kiss on carpoolcandy.com

How adorable is this homemade Hershey kiss? Great job Carly!

I try to suggest some original costumes every year and get shut down faster than Aden can gobble a Reeses peanut butter cup.

Cool Halloween costume on Carpoolcandy.com

Jared’s bloody zombie is killer

My friend, Amy’s kids love to be pop culture personalities. This year her son’s dressing up as Pharrell. And how cool is this?

Amazing kid Halloween costumes on carpoolcandy.com

Amy’s kids in 2011: Barry Gibb and Ellen Degeneres.

This year Aden is dressing as a robber and Eli will be soccer star Cristian Ronaldo. As of now, Jacob has no costume.

(Heavy sigh)

Sometimes in parenthood, you just have to lower expectations. At least this year Halloween falls on a Friday, so I’ll be nursing my disappointment with a glass of wine and several Baby Ruth minis.

Post your favorite costume pix in the comments. Happy Halloween!

You’ll find FOUND an original theater experience

Wilson and I recently saw an off-Broadway play at the Atlantic Theater Company called, Found, which we found fresh, original and innovative. It made us laugh… and think.

found musical poster on carpoolcandy.com

It’s a musical and tough to explain, but stay with me. For those of you who cringe when you hear the overture of a razzmatazz show (Annie, Pippen, Chicago)  or a dramatic score (Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked) this is a musical that will speak to you. (For the record I love most musicals with the exception of Cats.)

Because it’s not traditional lyrics and music. The star of the story is notes written by real people, cleverly pieced together to create a narrative about a 20-something dude searching for purpose and finding it in the powerful and random words of strangers.

Found’s website describes the show this way:

Found was created from scores of surprising and eccentric discarded notes and letters that have been “found” in the real world by every-day people. Inspired by actual events, the show follows Davy who, along with his two best friends, is lost and broke. When he finds a strangely revealing note on his windshield meant for someone else, it sparks an outlandish idea that finds him and his compatriots on a wild, comedic journey. This raucous and insightful new musical tells a story of ambition, betrayal and loyalty while celebrating the weirdness in all of us.

It’s a true story about a guy who started collecting random notes he and others found on the street or anywhere public. His collection turned into a career as he started the magazine “Found” to showcase the wacky, tragic, angry, and often hilarious things people say to each other.

The set is covered in reproductions of actual notes found all over the world, sent to Davy for the magazine. When a character is speaking (or sometimes singing) the words of a specific note, it’s projected onto the set to emphasize the message.

found musical set on carpoolcandy.com

You can’t believe the things people say to each other.

We laughed a lot. Like deep belly laughs that extend into giggles. As you may know, people are freakin’ nuts. But seeing their words play out in front of you, weaved into stories with catchy tunes, is a unique theater experience.

found musical set on carpoolcandy.com

I loved it, but don’t just listen to me. The Times gave it a great review and the NY Post called it “the best date-night show of the season.”

It’s playing for a few more weeks, unless it gets a shot at moving to Broadway. I hope it does, as the show– and the words of the people– deserve a larger audience.


Out of the Mouths of Babes

I’m starting a new recurring post called “Out of the Mouths of Babes,” to document the funny, wise, wacky, and– in today’s case– completely misguided and infuriating things that my kids say. They will be quick ones, with the goal of starting a conversation.

This installment is about Eli. Last night after dinner, I promised the boys if they showered quickly we could watch an episode of our favorite comedy, The Goldbergs before bed.

Things kids say on carpoolcandy

Eli– who’s usually in turtle mode when it comes to showering and getting ready for bed– miraculously was TV ready within 12 minutes. I was still cleaning up from dinner and keeping Wilson company while he ate.

With dripping wet hair and mismatched pajamas, Eli began to nag:

Eli: “MOM! You said we could watch after I showered!”

Me (slaving over dirty pots and dishes in the sink):  “You’re right but I never dreamed you would be so fast and I still have to finish cleaning up.”

Eli: “Please mom, c’mon! Let’s GO!!! I wanna waaaaaaatch!”

Me (dripping with unnecessary sarcasm): “It must be nice to have dinner made for you and all you have to do is eat and then relax and do what you want. I have to shop for food, cook dinner and then clean up. I don’t get to relax until I finish.”

Eli: “I know. That’s why I’m so glad I’m not…..”

What do you think he’s going to say next? I thought “an adult” would finish that smug sentence. But it was much worse.

Eli (sincere): “That’s why I’m so glad I’m not…..a girl.”

Oh my. What have I done wrong here?!!

Time chore wars cover on carpoolcandy.com

I was so flabbergasted I started sputtering.

Me: “A GIRL?! A girl?! Have I taught you nothing?? Do you think girls are the only ones who cook and clean while men work and then sit and relax?? I made daddy dinner tonight because I got home first but there are plenty of nights Daddy makes dinner and cleans up!”

Wilson (looking terrified at me, and darting his eyes at Eli while telepathically saying “dude what are you thinking?”): “I clean up lots of nights…. and I do laundry. And I barbecue– that’s cooking!”

Me (still sputtering and in shock): “Yeah! Daddy barbecues!!!”

Eli: Oh. OK.

Me (calmer now but trying to choose words carefully): If I teach you boys one thing it’s that men and women are equal. Girls can do anything boys can do and not all mommies stay home and cook and clean and not all daddies go to work in an office.

Wilson (defending himself on behalf of all men): We share the jobs in this house!

The poor kid just wanted to watch The Goldbergs.  But he got a lesson in the dangers of gender stereotypes…and messing with mom.

What did a kid say to you lately that got you all riled up? Tell me in the comments.




New Fall TV: where romance and identity issues reign

When I was growing up, TV was my thing. I watched too much, but that was when no one cared. It would take at least 4 episodes of The Brady Bunch and two more Family Ties shows taped on the VCR before my mom would venture into the family room to suggest that maybe I do some homework.

My poor boys watch one episode of Dog with a Blog and I’m all “YOUR MIND IS TURNING TO MUSH!”

New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com

My love affair with the black box has never waned. But the nature of being a TV devotee has changed dramatically. There’s no way you can keep up with the best shows. There are just too many.

It’s a good problem to have, but now it’s tough to be an expert– the person friends come to for advice on what’s the best use of TV time.  Over the summer, Wilson and I finally finished Breaking Bad (amazing) and we’re half-way through season 2 of Orange is the New Black (original, fascinating, funny!)

I’m not going to pretend I’ve seen all the new fall shows and can recommend the best of the best. I can tell you what I’ve had time to watch, when not keeping up with my other show commitments (Daily Show, New Girl, Brooklyn 99, Parenthood, Masters of Sex, Boardwalk Empire, Modern Family and of course, my favorite, The Goldbergs.)

I’m not into sci-fi, fantasy or zombies, so luckily that eliminates a bunch of suggested new shows (Z-Nation, Constantine, Gotham, The Flash.) I’m a drama and comedy girl. Here’s what I’ve tried out so far…..

New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com


Black-ish– ABC comedy about a rich black family trying to maintain their roots and identity in ritzy, suburban L.A. It moves quickly and has some laughs but we were watching with Jacob (who’s 14) and were slightly mortified when the second episode focused on the 13-year-old son getting caught “enjoying alone time” and then asking Dad a lot of intimate sex questions like “What’s oral?” Authentic storyline or network TV trying to push the envelope to keep up with cable? I do like the concept of a show dealing with stereotypes and cultural differences through comedy. It has potential and the kid actors are adorable so I’m sticking with it for now.

New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com


Marry Me:  Please don’t let this cheesy poster affect your first impression of what could be a hit show. A 30-something couple living in Manhattan get engaged in the pilot episode, in a very unexpected way. It’s funny and the writing is strong– think Modern Family and New Girl, quick banter that actually had me rewinding a few times to catch the diss I missed. The leads– Casey Wilson (from Happy Endings and SNL) and Ken Marino have great chemistry and handle the complicated dialog with ease. I’ll definitely tune in again.

New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com


A to Z:  This NBC comedy is probably good enough to stand on its own merits, for smart writing and talented actors, but because it stars Cristin Milioti– also the long-awaited “mother” of How I Met Your Mother, and an actor (Ben Feldman, the crazy writer from Mad Men) who looks a little like Ted and has the same dreamy infatuation with romance and fate, fans of that show will undoubtedly be living vicariously through this plot. Both lead actors are very attractive and clearly have chemistry but the supporting players– meant to be quirky and hilarious– weren’t memorable or funny. The story was cute but not sure it will be enough to save up space on the DVR. Time will tell.

The Affair New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com


The Affair– This show got all the buzz and the trailers intrigued me. Brooklyn teacher (Dominic West) with lovely wife (Maura Tierney) and 4 kids spends summer at in-laws’ gorgeous Hamptons beach house and can’t resist a sexy, complicated diner waitress (Ruth Wilson). They start an affair and something rotten happens, because they’re spilling their story to a police detective in the pilot episode. The characters so far don’t seem particularly interesting and the family dialog does not ring true to me. But half of the first episode is told from his point of view, and the other is told from hers which is refreshing and compelling.  Press on the show says it deals with the complicated motivation behind infidelity. Wilson — who cheered when a drug dealer’s face was blown off by an IED and didn’t flinch when Al Capone smashed heads and shot up a gang of traitors– didn’t enjoy some of the depressing content of this story. But it sucked us both in enough to keep watching.

Transparent New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com


Transparent– This show was a leap for us old school viewers because it’s an Amazon original show we can only watch on my laptop. It’s been a critical darling, because of its daring subject matter and authentic portrayal of a privileged LA family dealing with a major adjustment. Jeffrey Tambor (from Arrested Development)  plays a divorced retired professor transitioning from male to female. The pilot has him trying to tell his three grown children but struggling because of his own discomfort, and his new perception of them as too self-involved to see him for who he wants to be. Despite the small screen, the show is shot beautifully and feels like an indie movie. The dialog is sharp and almost painfully real. The characters are complex and mysterious. I loved it. My favorite new show by a mile. Wilson had no interest based on the elevator pitch, but the pilot drew him in and he’s on board. That’s my guy!

I still want to try:

Madam Secretary– It got rave reviews and I’ve always liked politics and Tea Leoni.

The Chair– Wilson and I loved Project Greenlight back in the day and this promises to be a better version of the reality show. Aspiring directors compete to make the best movie on a tight budget in tough Hollywood. But if this doesn’t cut it, Affleck and Damon are bringing Project Greenlight back with new episodes on HBO soon.

What are you watching? I’d love to know which shows have you hooked and which you’re booting off the DVR. Tell me in the comments.

And if you want more info on all the new shows, check out these stories: