yelp #1In this day and age, it seems as if we live and breathe the advice of others.  From suggestions on where to eat, cool places to hang out or even vacations to take, we all head right to those Reviews to help point us in the right direction.  As a small business owner, I do appreciate reviews, positive or negative, as it’s the honest feedback that makes better.    But here’s the truth, the good, the bad and the ugly,  on those sites we all have seem to become accustomed to living by.   The Good:  Review sites are definitely helpful in introducing us to new places–especially if we’re new to a neighborhood or looking for a specific food type, review sites can be a great starting point to help find us what we’re looking for.  The Bad: Very often unscrupulous business owners pay other companies to write  positive reviews on their sites and post bogus, negative reviews on their competitors sites.  Not very good for karma.    The Ugly:  Unless a business is paying for advertising, these seemingly honest sites will often hide their positive reviews.   And then, as part of their sales pitch, offer to remove unfavorable reviews in exchange for paid advertising.  Kind of ruins the whole point of this review concept, right?    My advice…let’s stop using review sites all-together and explore our world organically.  Try a new restaurant, stumble into that local bar, take a vacation to an unknown place and let’s be the judge for ourself.   If we don’t experience the good with the bad, then how can we truly ever learn to appreciate all the things we enjoy?

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Pigs in the yardSince the arrival of spring, my family and I have been happily working in our yard– planting new flowers, trimming the hedges and basically doing all the primping that makes lounging outdoors so beautiful.   We have however, come upon a major bump in the road…how to maintain our newly planted grass.  Which brings me to the question…should we fertilize or not?  I’m sure you would agree when I say there’s nothing like a luscious green lawn.  But at what price?  Fertilizers are widely known to be responsible for many adverse human health effects, including leukemia and many types of cancer.  And let’s not forget  to mention that they pollute our surface and ground water, deplete the land of its vital nutrients and cause harm to animals and pets.  All this havoc is mainly caused by the long list of unsafe metals that exist in fertilizers including arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, uranium and boron just to name a few.  So what’s a eco-conscious mom to do?  I’ve begun my search to find an alternative, but have only been able to come up with fertilizers that are good for small gardens or companies that claim to use organic only to discover their claims are not all true.  I promise to keep you in the loop on my findings, as I’m determined to find a better solution.  In the meantime, we’re going au naturale… I’ll take a healthy family over green grass any day!

Spring FlowersFor two years I lived in Miami, Florida and no disrespect to my fellow Floridians, but I really missed the change of seasons.  Each one has its special attributes, but Spring happens to be one of my favorites.  It’s all about change, new beginnings and rebirth.  There is so much to look forward to in these coming months –the blooming of beautiful flowers,  the arrival of endless days of sunshine and the return of pretty open toed shoes!  With such hectic schedules, it’s sometimes easy to let this season quickly pass by.  I try my best to make time for quiet moments to really take in the sights and sounds of this special season–sometimes it’s as simple as taking a slow walk in a park or stopping to watch the formation of a flock of birds returning from the South.  But most importantly,I take these brief moments to remind myself of what’s really important in life and to reconnect and “reboot” in the way that nature had intended.   Happy Spring!

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Next week begins National Fire Prevention and Awareness Week (Oct 7 – 13th).   I cannot stress enough how important it is to become of aware of this issue.  My personal eye opener happened a few years back when my family suffered a house fire.  Fortunately no one was hurt, but in a matter of minutes the entire house was gone. In big cities we are lucky to have buildings equip with life saving sprinkler systems coupled with fire departments that respond quickly.  In suburban areas, however, fire departments are mostly volunteer.  Which means it takes some time for them to get the call, mobilize and get to your home.  It’s for that reason that families need to have a very well thought out home escape plan and if you are doing any renovations or building a new home, you should consider putting in a residential sprinkler system.  We did and believe it or not, it costs less than a new driveway or your kitchen appliances.  The peace of mind, however, is priceless.  For more info on how to protect yourself from a home fire, proper escape plans and how to properly maintain your smoke detectors, visit this website.  www.nfpa.org

Summer in NYC always poses a problem for us moms.  School’s ended, it’s hot and friends are on vacation so playdates are few and far between.  What’s a mom to do!?  Over the last few years, I’ve conjured up some creative outtings to pass the time and keep it interesting for my little guy too.

Gavin & Mommy’s Day of Fun….Top 5 Picks

#1 Turtle Back Zoo:  if you haven’t been to TBZ in West Orange NJ, then rent a Zip Car and get over there!  It’s a great escape from the city heat and it’s perfect for smaller kids.  Animals range from monkeys and bears but the main attraction is the train that circles a large reservoir, the Tarzan-like playground and the merry-go-round.

#2 Ikea Red Hook:  get some shopping done, have a cheap lunch with great views and take a free ride around the NY Harbour.  Spend $10 or more and your receipt is proof to ride the Water Taxi for free.  Cruise from the South Street Seaport and back again for a 20 minute view of Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty.

#3 Picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park:  The newly renovated Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO is a weekday favorite.  Find a spot on the grass and watch the ferries and tankers roll by with the Statue of Liberty & Brooklyn Bridge as the backdrop.  Bring a frisbee or a kite and enjoy the open air and lack of crowds.   And don’t miss Jacques Torres’ Ice Cream Shop on Water Street (open only in summer) for some deluxe cones and take a ride on Janes Carousel.

#4 Metropolitan Museum of Art:  my 4 year old loves and surprisingly grasps the idea of the art at the MET.  It’s a great way to introduce them to classics like van Gogh, Monet and even Jackson Pollock.  Make sure to pick up some books designed for kids in the gift shop to continue the learning at home.  And the cafeteria has an affordable kids menu and serves it up in a NYC Taxi box…did someone say free souvenir?

#5 Big Toot:  who needs the Circle Line when you can ride a vintage US Navy Launch boat instead.  Every weekend Big Toot departs from the World Financial Center and circumnavigates the Statue or Liberty and Ellis Island on a 1 hour tour oriented for kids.  $10 for adults  / kids ride free… and they provide the kiddie life vests too.  Just hold on tight…because it can get bumpy when the big guys roll through and make waves.

As you can tell, we like boats, the NY Harbour and some iconic landmarks.  But really who doesn’t?  Tourists travel from all over the world to see what we can  in an afternoon!

From no-chip gels, to crackle and magnetic polish… nail companies are always trying to re-invent the traditional mani / pedi for us.   This summer, we’re happily seeing a shift back to basics…but that doesn’t mean you need to forgo on the fun.  How to?  It’s all in the color….bold teals, banana yellows and pumpkin oranges.   Don’t be afraid to take a chance and pair one with a classic, floral sundress or a simple pair of khaki’s and tank top.  Let your vibrant nails be your fashion accessory this summer…and save that pricey purse for autumn! 

Here are some of my Zoya Favorites…

  • Wednesday:  Creamy Teal
  • Pippa:  Acid yellow
  • Heidi: Electric orange
  • Whitney:  Vibrant Pink
  • Charisma:  Poppy Purple

For the last year or so, my husband and I have been involved in building our dream house at the beach.  In the process, we’ve been mindful to select eco-friendly building materials and products conscious of low VOC’s.  Too often we only care about our organic food and all-natural beauty products, but forget about the importance of our indoor air quality, especially when it comes to our children.  If you just put a little extra leg work into your home renovation, you can definately find reasonably priced replacements to unhealthy MDF and Formaldehyde based building products.  Here are just a few I thought I would share….

It’s never a perfect world…but every little bit helps!

Have you ever had a sandwich that looks good but tastes terrible?  Or a cookie that sounds delicious but doesn’t quite satisfy your cravings?  What is that missing ingredient!?  Simple,  it’s L.O.V.E.  Our wonderful neighbors across the street, at what is now cutely named Cafe Clementine (formerly Columbine), seem to procure all their delicacies with much care and affection.  It’s the special attention that the sole-owner Barbara and her staff give when selecting their breads, anti-biotic free chicken and rich chocolates that keeps us coming back for more.  This is very apparent as we watch devotees line up along West Broadway on damp, rainy days just to get some of their home-cooked soup.  If you haven’t tried Cafe Clementine’s food, it’s a TriBeCa must!  And the next time you’re out and about, take the time to seek out small, privately owned cafes and specialty shops…Trust me, you’ll taste the difference!

Last week my family and I vacationed at Disney World and stayed at the beautiful Waldorf Astoria in Orlando.    After days of running after my 4 year old, my nails were trashed!  So I decided to stop into the hotels Spa by Guerlain to get a quick mani before we headed to South Florida to visit the hubbys family.  Beforehand I checked out the nail area to see if their tools were properly disinfected and they explained that they employ a liquid, medical grade sterilization process.  Great!   After I sat down, the technician opened her sterilization pouch and proceeded to give me a very nice manicure…except for one thing…she used two types of buffers on my nails that were not included in the pouch.  I could see that they had been used before on god knows how many people!   This is a common flaw with many salons procedures.  Don’t assume that because your file, nippers and pushers are sterile that you can’t catch a fungus from an old buffer.   If you see the tech pull out something that’s been used before, ask them to skip that step or request a new tool.  It may not turn out to be the perfect mani or pedi, but at least you’ll go home fungus-free!

It never fails…No matter how much I try to relax during the month of December, work, parties, shopping…it all seems to stress me out!   The one little trick I’ve found helpful is to decompress each night at bedtime with a dab of organic Lavender Oil on my temples and my ever faithful neck cozy from Do Not Disturb.  I just pop it in the microwave for a minute, place it around my neck and let the warmth melt away the stress and tension of the day.  The neck cozy is filled with rice and calming lavender buds and its effects relax me to the point that it takes about 15 seconds and I’m fast asleep…seriously!   I love it so much, it was a must for the Boutique!