Category Archives: Places to Go!

Tel Aviv: Now & Then

 

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My love affair with Tel Aviv began back 2005, when I was a student at the university on a study abroad program for six glorious months.  Late morning classes and a bike ride to the beach were followed by evenings smoking hookah on the balcony and parties at boites all over town.  I interned at Time Out Tel Aviv and quickly became familiar with the incredible offerings of the metropolis by the sea. But exploring my beloved city on our family vacation last month, I couldn’t help but muse upon how much we both had changed since I last visited. Crumbling buildings have been replaced with gleaming modern construction. The Jaffa flea market, a former dump of mid-century household goods and cheap souvenirs, is now home to boutiques with artful displays and chic shop girls. And, much to my delight, it seems that everyone in town has a new baby.

Yet, many things remain just the same as I remember. All across the city, beautiful, bronzed Israelis spilled out of bustling cafes on to the sidewalks ; the men behind the shwarma counters beckoned with friendly smiles while Levantine playlists blared overhead.  Young chassidic crews in white skullcaps and wispy sideburns danced to techno blaring out of their van at the city’s main intersection where freshly squeezed pomegranate juice is as easy to come by as American Apparel.  Basking in the Mediterranean light, sounds, and flavors was the most perfect way to celebrate my 30th birthday.  It was thrilling to be back in town.

On this trip, as we dined at new restaurants and ordered my favorites at old hangouts, I mused on the Tel Avivian aptitude for creating ambiance. In each little corner of the city, one can discover the most inviting, groovy, I-want-to-come-here-every-night vibe that reminds me why, despite the limitations of parenthood, I still love going out to see how creative folks can transform a space into an experience.  I could go on forever about the way this tiny town stacks up against bigger urban destinations like Barcelona, Copenhagen and even New York. The street art, the boutiques, the bars, the crowd, the food––oh, the delectable, gorgeous food!––leaves no doubt that Tel Aviv holds its own.

The last time I visited, in 2010, the Mr. was fresh out of law school, and we were not yet engaged.  We spent a few debaucherous days in Tel Aviv, went road tripping through the beaches and ruins of Israel, and followed it all up with a week in Egypt visiting a grad school friend born and raised Cairo.  It was an incredible, spontaneous and carefree adventure that brought us closer in a way that only traveling together can.

This trip provided a whole new opportunity for reflecting on travels of my past and reveling in the present adventure. Overall, I came away with a glimpse of my future hopes for my family.   Feeling confident after two successful flights and a great family weekend spent exploring Rome on our layover, we landed in Tel Aviv brandishing 3 passports at customs. Perched in her new nautical themed stroller and loving every new flavor and playground stop, my little jetsetter didn’t stop my grand plans to visit all my old haunts.  Instead, she slowed us down just enough to enjoy the stunning rhythm of life in Tel Aviv.

 

 

 

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Food Tourism (The Time We Ate Our Way Through Winter)

To combat the soul crushing polar vortex we experienced this winter,  we’ve been taking a lot of car rides around the borough of Brooklyn.  We’ve discovered some hidden culinary gems in overlooked neighborhoods like Ditmas Park and BedStuy and one great date night go-to option in the West Village.  Here are some of our winter 2014 favorites.

Scratch Bread:   We braved the elements on two separate Sundays to get nourished at Scratch Bread in BedStuy. The Mr. calls it a fly trap because the line, even in the January freeze was 25 people deep!  This window-only establishment serves up a delectable cup filled with a soft boiled, runny egg,  grits and a topping of your choice which include mouthwatering options like pesto, smoked almond romesco, or jalepeno sauce.  Its the perfect to-go breakfast food for days when you want something a little more special than your standard homemade eggs, but don’t want to drop the cash on a champagne brunch.  On both trips to Scratch, we shared our food with the little miss in the back seat of our car. Well be back this spring to try the pizzas, the hot sticky mess (custard soaked sticky buns!) and hopefully bring some baked goods to a park nearby.

Mimi’s Humus:  Aside for the authentic Middle Eastern food, my favorite aspect of this Ditmas Park gem is the design of the dining room. Perforated wood lined walls and white penny tiled floors with pops of sage  and persimmon on the walls,   the modern design influence highlights the simplicity of the delicious, creamy and authentic humus dishes and brunch-y shakshukas (poached eggs in sauce). Garlic and cumin aromas will awaken your taste buds upon entering this cozy cafe. The large windows and relaxed ambiance at Mimi’s are a good alternative for when you’re thinking of Marrakesh or Tel Aviv but are stuck in Brooklyn.

Chez Sardine – We’ve spent two date nights at this restaurant, named after one of my favorite canned foods, and would still return for the well -edited Japanese small plates menu. Creative sushi rolls, our favorite features crushed pretzels, pickled onions and salmon, evoking an incredible Sunday bagel, are served up in an tiny yet airy dining room on a  charming West Village corner.  Add cool beats, hipster waiters and a nice bathroom and you’ve got what New York Times’ Pete Wells calls “Asian Stoner Food.”

L&B Spumoni – When we visited this Midwood stronghold with our friends who recently moved to Park Slope from Venice Beach, CA we reveled in the mobster history of the pizza.   We shared two of L&B’s classic Sicilian style saucy pies inside and played nicely with the corner slices. Spumoni ice cream, a traditional mixture of lemon, pistachio and chocolate was our desert, which we ordered behind a women who advised the scooper to ‘pack it in.” L&B’s  massive front yard was empty but come summer, fuggetabout getting a seat.

Cafe La Mejor – This tiny Bushwick coffee shop has great vibes.   In the darkness of winter, the florescent candy colors of this cafeteria perfectly convey the tropical, retro sensibility of Havana, the gorgeous city we visited just before the Mr. and I got engaged.  The little miss made a friend outside the bright shop and sat still long enough for her parents to drink a Cafe Con Leche which is prepared with a dallop of whipped butter and salt. mm.  We’ll definitely be back to celebrate our love for Cuba and support this local gem.

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reality check

beach baby

beach baby

My mother in law always says that the Mr. and I “roll easily” and its one of the compliments I am most proud of, especially as a new mom.  We love to explore uncharted territory on a whim and don’t let much get in the way of our spontaneous style.   Last weekend, we were fortunate to book a last minute getaway to Florida to visit  Mami Claudette in sunny Boca Raton.  We couldn’t wait to get out of the polar vortex here in NY and save our daughter from her indoors-only routine.

We pushed our sleeping princess’ stroller up to the first security check where the guard demanded to see the baby.   I pulled the sun shade up and jokingly referred to her as my phantom baby with real eyelashes.  The young TSA agent took a quick look at her and admitted, “You’d be surprised by what I see at this airport. People have brought fake babies filled with drugs through here, and sometimes women go through carrying a bundle of blankets with no baby inside.”

Queens, NY means business!

We approached the metal detector and I was instructed to wake up the baby and carry her through. Are you f’ing kidding me, I thought.  She woke up with a mild scowl and looked around in the harsh glare of the florescent lighting, getting a little excited to be in the center of all the action.

“Let him do all the work” the metal detector operator barked as he ushered us girls through while the Mr. struggled to place our over-sized stroller(so over it), car seat and assorted metal odds and ends onto the belt. Our boisterous little lady ruined our plans of getting a drink but we passed our time at the gate uneventfully and joined a few other families during pre-boarding when the fun began.

A middle aged lady approached our aisle, “Looks like I’m sitting with your family on this flight,” she said with a smirk.  I gave her a fake smile and tried to get comfortable with  25 lbs of pudge in my lap on Spirit’s tiny airplane seats. My poor baby was overtired and restless.  The constant loudspeaker announcements and bright light were quite disruptive and it was almost midnight. (Note to travel industry: ambient lighting) The crew promised to dim the cabin after “service” — which is what they call making you pay for a $3 coke on an airplane these days.  Our row mate yapped loudly about her Kindle reading list with her pal across the aisle and I wanted to slap her.  Finally after some unbearable screaming, the baby passed out on my chest. I tried to stay as still as possible which isn’t easy for a woman like me sans tailbone in a hard, unyielding airplane seat.

We finally landed at 1 am in a torrential rain storm and picked up our soaking wet car seat from the gate. I gently placed my sleeping baby inside feeling like a horrible mother and we maneuvered our tired selves to baggage claim.  Joe whose father works at my grandma’s building picked us up in his four door that reeked so badly of of stale cigarette smoke, I thought I would choke. My husband climbed into the front seat and proceeded to chat football to keep him from dozing off in the downpour. The car shook and I felt the water slushing on the highway beneath my feet while I held onto my precious cargo. “I’m doing all I can to keep the car moving straight in this lane” said our burnt out driver.

Thirty minutes later, we finally arrived and the baby woke up for what was the 4th time that evening, wailing. We hastily unpacked her travel crib and tried to place her inside.  She screamed, choked and for the first time ever, vomited milk all over us, the carpet and her pajamas. Mami Claudette, (my grandma) woke up, super disoriented  and excited to see us and insisted that all the baby needed was some warm water.  Our princess was really having a hard time settling down. My grandma was trying all her wonderful grandmotherly tricks but nothing  was working because it was 2:30am and the baby was distraught! Finally, the Mr. pulled out his stern, i-mean- business voice and asked my grandma to get back to bed.

The little miss sipped some of that warm water and crawled into bed next to me.  She was in quite the chatty mood and I started to feel like I was at a bad sleepover party with a friend who wouldn’t stop whispering about her crush. She chatted away and crawled over me, precipitously close to the narrow edge of the bed. After many of my sleepy attempts to wrangle her in, shush, sing, pacify and spoon her, she fell asleep.

We all woke up at 8am in a sunny, humid room. We had made it to our final destination safe and sound. Rolling easily sure is a lot more difficult as a mom, but I like to remind myself that a little schedule mishap is not the end of the world. The baby got lots of fresh ocean air and napped soundly in her crib all weekend with Mami C keeping a close eye while me and the Mr. lounged in the warm sand.

TrÈs Brooklyn

Lately there’s been some discussion about abandoning our beloved Brooklyn for greener pastures. I never thought we’d consider a move to the burbs so soon, but more, less expensive space sounds like a great idea on days when our meager toy pile covers our 8×10 living room shag and the constant din of the subway overhead ruins my catch up talk with grandma. Weekend after weekend, we join a crowd of young families, empty nesters, and expats in refurbished lobbies around Brooklyn, vying for a chance to fulfill the American dream of home ownership in the best borough of Manhattan. I will save my musings on the real estate open house circuit for another post and tell you that this weekend, the Mr. and I resolved to forsake the hunt for square footage for some real adventuring to help us remember why we love living in Brooklyn!

PJG2

First stop, the Brooklyn Art Museum where we imagined one day giving away our daughter’s hand in marriage! Eastern Parkway where the museum is located is a regal tree lined avenue designed by Frederick Olmstead in the late 1800s as Brooklyn’s answer to the Champs Elysee. The architecturally delightful  entrance to the museum and its regal domed ceilings alone are worth a visit. But, hurry up and go see the fabulous exhibit we checked out this weekend: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk which runs until February 24th.  JPG as I’ll call him,  a Parisian born master of fashion, designed many of the trends we find ourselves turning to time and time again, without ever forgoing his ability to provoke and shock us. The large exhibit is a celebration of both couture and ready to wear featuring iconic striped tops or La Mariniére (my favorite new term), punk inspired structured plaid looks and feminist approved dominatrix ensembles worn by the likes of Madonna and Beyonce.

You can buy a“Très Brooklyn” t-shirts in the gift store, but a more authentic manifestation of the expression is the floor length leather trench and mink brimmed fedora in the exhibit, a nod to the nearby Hassidic enclave in Crown Heights. In a true testament to his genius, Jean Paul Gaultier nailed the Rabbi Chic look in 1993, long before anyone compared the sartorial sensibilities of Brooklyn’s native hipsters and hassids.

Georgia on my Mind

Back in June, the Mr. and I headed to Savannah with our 3 month old in tow to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. It was the first time we flew as a family and although we had some reservations, we had the perfect weekend. We checked the super light, highly recommended bjorn baby travel crib and our brand new, enormous wheely suitcase containing the familial wardrobe,  breast pump and formula supply and off we went.   I was born and raised 30 minutes from Manhattan and often find that I am way too NYC centric. What a nice surprise it was to discover the charming city of Savannah with its hipster art students, and picturesque town squares.  I experienced my first dose of southern hospitality in a celebratory weekend  filled with long walks with the stroller, southern comfort food, and perfectly garnished Bloody Marys!  Here are some of our favorite spots…be sure to check out the NYT’s 36 Hours in Savannah before you go too!

Sleep

Pulling a classic move, the Mr. promptly checked out of the 4 Points Sheraton,  minutes after entering ourdingy room that overlooked a scary parking lot (the sweet bellhops were dumbfounded).   Starwood points be damned, we took a 2 minute cab ride to the Bohemian (102 W Bay St) where the concierge warmly welcomed our “lil miss” and showed us through an art filled hallway to our well appointed room. I was so happy to see a spotless marble bathroom, a crushed velvet (!) tufted headboard, and a British campaign style desk,  the perfect makeshift spot for mixing bottles! Traveling with a baby meant hanging out in our room more often than we used to, so the money was well spent. The room was clean and cozy and the hotel bar was the perfect spot to hang.  Our lil miss is a fancy hotel kind of gal, she slept through the whole night for the first time at the Bohemian!

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baby in the bed!

Shop

 Don’t miss Savannah College of Arts & Design shop, ShopSCAD (340 Bull St‎). Its filled with clever stationary, clothing and home designs by students and alum. We picked up a colorful, waterproof, graphic rug for our kitchen which is a great souvenir from our family weekend.  The jewelery selection had me drooling as did the effortless gypsy style and bold lips of the shop girls manning the counter.

graphic mat

Eat

Peak your head in to Gryphon Tea Room (across the street from the ShopSCAD or stop for lunch or tea.  I adored the colorful bookshelves, mid century chairs and leopard print carpet.

photo via wisdomholiesttreasures.com

Upon the recommendation of the hotel clerk, we hit up local joint, J. Christopher’s (122 E Liberty St) for our first brunch. We grabbed a seat outside next to graduating SCAD students and their proud parents and indulged in our southern brunch fantasies: skillets full of eggs, meats and potatoes and my favorite, pecan pie french toast.  We also loved the restaurant at our hotel, Rocks on the River/on the Roof where we could kick back and take in the views.   Had to go back twice for the fried green tomatoes smothered in goat cheese and jalapeno buttermilk dressing. Each time I washed this excellent dish down with a southern style Bloody Mary topped with shrimp and pickled okra.

There’s no shortage of great food in Savannah, in addition to buttery desserts and ice cream everywhere you go, particularly in the historic district.  At Byrd’s Famous Cookies, we sampled jalapeno, chedder, and vidalia onion biscuits .  I fell in love with the shop’s old timey feel and wanted to buy a dozen tins to take home.

via Byrd’s Famous Cookies

Nearby, we laughed every time we passed the line outside of Paul Deen’s The Lady and Son’s restaurant, which reminded us of this SNL skit. Hot butter and oil!

On the eve of our anniversary, we set off for the The Olde Pink House, (Reynolds Square 23 Abercorn Street) with our lil miss. I’m a sucker for ‘olde’ mansions and this one was just perfect, right down to the bubble gum pink facade.  Each room had a little bit of a different vibe to it but the common denominator was gorgeous wide plank wood floors, fireplaces and crystal chandeliers! We sat a bright And contemporary room at a table with plenty of room for the car seat, and I was very tempted by the adjacent empty balcony and the dark candlelight tables I spotted en route to the ladies room.  Cornbread in the bread basket made up for the lack of romantic lighting as did mac and cheese poppers, fried fish, green tomatoes and collard greens.

Do

Savannah is the perfect walking city which made it ideal for our new family.  Downtown Savannah was designed in 1733 by James Oglethorpe and retains much of its original town planning.  Gorgeous candy colored mansions, lush secret gardens and historic squares shaded by sweeping branches are the perfect setting for ambling along after one too many Bloody Marys! We fed the lil miss on a bottle on many a square bench as she stared up at the  Oaks, Magnolias, Crepe Myrtles and Palms trees in wonder!  While the riverfront was quaint but a bit too touristy, we adored the vast Forsyth Park with its statues, fountains and tree lined walkways.  We passed many a hearst carrying ghost tours through town and debated doing a paranormal mansion experience but in the end opted to take the tour at the Owens Thomas House for a peak into the beautiful English style garden and  ‘one of the earliest intact urban slave quarters in the South.’

Check out Savannah, ya’ll! You won’t be disappointed.

Target + Neiman Marcus

I was on the verge of frustration last night as the post Thanksgiving crowds made it impossible to make my way down 5th avenue after work when something wonderful happened!  As I cursed the tourists for slowing me down, I noticed a formerly vacant storefront decked out in Target’s signature red, its windows featuring black and white portraits of some of today’s best young designer talent. Could it be? A pop up shop on my very own block! The gentlemen wielding the clipboard told me to come back tomorrow at 9am and you better believe I woke up this morning ready to shop!

Typically these affairs are unfortunate, crowded and over hyped displays of consumerism at a low point. The Missoni for Target pop up shop during fashion week almost gave me a heart attack and I walked out with nary a signature zig zag.  This morning at 8:50 however, after a brief 10 minute wait on line and some free hot chocolate dispensed by a friendly Target rep, I entered Target + Neiman Marcus Holiday Collection pop up shop and was VERY pleasantly surprised.

I have long been a fan of Target’s designer collaborations, if not for the hype, than for the innovation and imagination it can take for designers  accustomed to couture to adapt to the confines of mass market.  While fabric quality is usually an issue, sometimes certain pieces make the cut.    Proenza Schouler, Rodarte and Tracy Feith for Target all have a place in my closet!  These items are fun collectibles and a way to score a piece from designers you admire for the price of a dinner out.

This morning’s experience made my day!  First stop inside, free warm ginger bread cookies shaped like sunglasses made with the Band of Outsiders cookie cutters (29) definitely the way to a pregnant girl’s heart.

free cookies!

Then, we were given a 5 limit coupon, a quick ride up the escalator and a beautifully appointed,  spacious shopping experience filled with great gifts designed by the likes of Jason Wu, Caroline Herrera, Tory Burch, Joseph Altuzarra, Rag & Bone, Brian Atwood, Diane von Furstenberg, and more!

I scored some adorable presents, including a cozy gray Rag & Bone sweater for the Mr.  which is beautifully made in a cotton and wool blend.  The lack of synthetic fabric here is making me SO happy and I think it warrants the $70 price tag. For my flower girl Sofie, a super retro blue and green geometric print Tory Burch lunchbox($20) the matching thermos ($24) I couldn’t resist and I’ll be using it to carry hot tea to go on the subway.  The tiny Jason Wu dress($60) I picked up in red taffeta for baby Charlie to wear over the holiday season is making me wish for a girl, as did the baby Marchesa gowns, though I think the designer’s signature ruffles might overwhelm a tiny frame.

What else? Bright dessert plates by Tracy Reese,  dreamy, space inspired Christmas ornaments and wrapping paper designed by Rodarte, pet gear by Oscar de la Renta  and limited edition watercolor Proenza Schuler ipad cases and sweatshirts! For the most part I found the quality to be pretty good, with the exception of the chintzy Judith Leiber compact mirrors and Eddie Borgo trinket box.  Borgo’s letter opener however was beautifully designed and heavy, a great gift for a stylish desk.   The purple watercolor print dress in a 50’s silhouette by Lela Rose was quite pretty while a Thom Browne nautical/Americana inspired blazer ($179) and Marc Jacobs glittery pouch ($69) were cute but overpriced.  The Altuzarra cocktail shaker and glasses were memorable although I’d spring for a vintage set instead which are ubiquitous at antique stores and of better quality.  They paired perfectly with a chic black snakeskin tray with brass detailing ($80) but I could barely lift it off the shelf, it was so heavy.  For a large credenza, bar or entry way table, this piece would fit,  but forget about carrying drinks on it.

I would post pictures here but the format on target.com make them hard to lift so go see for yourself! I’ll admit, I went back for another round of 5 items (and gingerbread cookies). Surprisingly at 9:30am, there was no one online! If you happen to be in Midtown, stay out of my way, but definitely check out the pop up shop on 44th street and 5th avenue. If you can’t make it, the 50+ piece collection drops online on December 1st.!

The Midcentury Modern List

 

Arne Jacobson Swan Chair

 

Back in my glory days I lived in an adorable studio apartment on 5th avenue in Greenwich Village.  Around the time I moved in, a friend introduced me to the wonderful world of Mid-century modern design.  We scoured flea markets, Craigslist, and even contemporary purveyors of the genre for studio sized furniture that was functional and fun. Even though mid-century modern design has become quite trendy and ubiquitous in recent years, I don’t think I will ever tire of the clean lines, beautiful material and smart design of the originals.  I convinced my husband that we absolutely needed a vintage credenza when we moved in together and my persistence must have struck a cord.  He took me to Copenhagen on our honeymoon, where I had the opportunity to visit the Design Museum and learn more about the origins of the the Danish design movement which emphasizes craftsmanship, materials and form and paved the way for mid-century style of the 1950s and 60s.

Now, I’m on the hunt for the perfect sized low mid-century inspired dresser to use as a changing table/dresser for my nursery, so I thought I’d put together this list for my own reference and yours. While there are many expensive dealers of mid century antiques around, (Baxter Liebchen I’m looking at YOU), if you browse Craigslist, eBay, and the independent purveyors (mainly located in Brooklyn, NJ and the Tri-state area) below, you are sure to find a reasonably priced, one of a kind piece to complete your Mad Men fantasy.  Feel free to add any helpful recommendations in the comments!

 

Circa 60

http://www.circa60.blogspot.com/

Repop

This shop formerly located by the Brooklyn Navy Yard is run by scruffy in-the -know hipsters. I bought a great coffee table for my studio, glass top on a base of a tree stump in the original location! The new Williamsburg location is double or triple the size and filled with great furniture and accessories. The prices are pretty reasonable too!

http://www.repopny.com

Modernista

http://modernistera.blogspot.com

Baxter Liebchen

Luckily, I have the nicest in-laws who gifted us with an original Arne Jacobson dining table from this spot. Be sure to check out this emporium for inspiration, but beware of sky high prices for original, refurbished antiques.

http://www.baxterliebchen.com/

Found Mod

I bought the credenza our TV sits on from this super sweet husband and wife team. They delivered the piece without me ever having seen it in person. Their descriptions, prices and customer service were spot on. Highly recommended!

http://www.foundmod.com/ (Lambertsville, NJ)
Furnish Green

I love this sustainable furniture showroom based right in the unlikeliest of places, an office building in Herald Square. I can browse at my desk and visit on my lunch hour. They have a great selection of antiques and many mid century pieces.  Some of the items can be a bit beat up, but the prices are right and the owners are very helpful.

www.furnishgreen.com

 

Mike’s MCM

http://www.mikesmcm.com/

Fish Witch

While this blog has been suffering from a lack of attention, the real domestic stuff has been going well. So well in fact, that several weeks after the spontaneous trip to Spain, I learned that I was expecting my first baby! The rest of the summer inched by uneventfully marked only by frequent bathroom trips at 2am, 4am and 6am and the one time I got caught fast asleep at my desk. Making organs is exhausting and oftentimes I would find my eyelids so heavy that I had no choice but to walk over to the Roosevelt Hotel near my office and pass out in a leather chair during my lunch break. Suitcases banging my legs and dysfunctional family conversations in Dutch and German punctuated by 2 English phrases: Times Square and Empire State, did little to rouse me from my stupor.  I really had no shame sleeping in public.  Once, on a glorious day in early August, I walked over to Bryant Park intent on napping on the vast grass lawn, only to find them closed. I parked myself on a shady and woke up to a New York City Police officer asking if I was OK and informing me that lying down on park benches is prohibited.

I did not find myself with the usual morning sickness everyone complains of in the first trimester. It was more of an all day malaise, my appetite whetted only by large bags of funions, sour patch kids and cranberry cocktail. I craved beer, burgers and fries and something– anything that would take away the persistent nausea. Perhaps a stimulant or two to keep me awake during the workday since the one cup of coffee I was allowed did nothing to dull my endless drowsiness. Even retail therapy could not quell my fatigue; the body hugging silhouettes I gravitate to cut off my circulation, mumus were no longer in season and winter’s oversized sweaters hadn’t yet arrived in stores.

As I rounded the corner into my 4th month, the disgust and sleepiness went away just as quickly as it appeared. Rather than think about all the things I was missing out on (Michaladas, spicy tuna rolls and Brie), I found myself gleefully downing virgin Bloody Marys and avocado rolls. Preparing and eating platefuls of rainbow colored organic, CSA veggies like kale, beets, and chard never felt so virtuous! When the nice prenatal yoga DAD instructor demonstrated easier modifications for poses during the 2nd trimester, I was thrilled that I had a legitimate excuse for a less intensive workout.

People react to pregnancy in strange ways such as wondering aloud about whether it was planned, telling me how it feels “so soon”, touching (sans permission) my barely showing abdomen or asking me about my cravings.  To those of you who have committed the first 3 offenses, I beg you on behalf of pregnant ladies everywhere to please end your rude behavior.  To the others who are curious about what I’ve been eating, you should know about this one out of the way spot I frequent for THIS:

Lake Trout’s cheese fish sandwich.Photo: Danny Kim/New York Magazine

Thanks NYMag for informing me about Lake Trout, this lovely sandwich and for the close up. This fishwich is devoured far too quickly to be captured on film by me.   The  oozing cheese, crunchy lettuce, fried, tarter sauce goodness is so satiating that the Mr. has figured out that bringing me here, even in my crankiest pregnant state, has an immediate subduing effect.

I especially love that this $6.50 sandwich is served up in a retro room that reminds me the 70’s style rec room I never had.  Having a bun in the oven makes me think about my own childhood and Lake Trout’s wood paneled walls hung with Baltimore Oriole’s baseball cards, orange chairs and space age lamps, creates the perfect after school hangout. While the cheese fish sandwich is by far my favorite, there are lots of other Baltimore style seafood offerings on the menu of this joint, and the battered fries are epic!

Lake Trout

If fish isn’t your thing, there is an affordable boutique next door to Lake Trout that has great oversized sweaters, chunky necklaces and adorable dresses. South Williamsburg is full of shops and restaurants to check out and Havemeyer Sreet in particular is on the brink of total gentrification; a conflicting site but a cool experience. I adore the name of the shop next door to Lake Trout which really sums up my mood after a fishwich: La Di Da Dee!

Lake Trout: 160 Havemeyer St., nr. S. 2nd St., Williamsburg; no phone yet
La Di Da Dee: also 160 Havemeyer, no website.

p.s.  check out the times review on Lake Trout! Looks like I beat them to it!

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Palacia De Villapanes

Our trip to Spain was filled with many memorable accomodations.  Our first stop from the Madrid airport was the Atocha train station where we boarded a comfortable, high speed train to Seville.  We arrived in Seville two hours later and went straight to the beautiful  Alma Hotel Sevilla.  Originally built as a private mansion for the Marques of Villapanes in the 18th century,  the property has been restored into a modern boutique hotel with 50 guest rooms. 

A tropical garden in the middle of Madrid’s Atocha train station.

The cab dropped us off in front of the hotel’s majestic entrance and I could hardly believe that a mere 8 hours prior, we were hailing a cab to JFK over the roar of the subway in Dumbo!

The archways led into a beautiful open air courtyard with black and white marble floors (check out the awesome chevron pattern on the top floor) , a soothing fountain and lush greenery.

The hotel had some very unique and beautiful floral arrangements scattered around the front desk that I photographed as I would love to replicate them back home. I think some of Brooklyn’s finest florists would appreciate the color and texture combinations.

The Andalusian flavor of Seville was apparent in the many Moorish and Moroccan style design elements featured throughout the hotel which made me feel quite at home! Off the side of the lobby was a pretty sitting room with an enormous wooden door with grommets leading to a small garden. I love the old terra cotta moroccan style floring  juxtaposed with the huge black and white printed rice paper lanterns.

  

The hotel’s restaurant had an eclectic and unexpected asthetic. Black walls, Wrought iron chairs, brocade upholstered banquets and simple white cloth place settings adorned with colorful bud vase arrangements reminded me of some of the quaint hipster haunts back home!

Beyond the restaurant was a cozy library featuring backlit Moroccan style tiles and modern seating. The warm blue shelves  brings out the gorgeous wood floors.

And finally, although only a limited shot (see the website for more) our room!  The crisp white duvets (his and hers so no fighting over covers!)  and moody purple velvet wingback bed was exactly what I needed after a long day of traveling and the Spanish heat.  The deep purple and gray color scheme was both rich and soothing, and the clean, dark furniture was a great contrast to the gossimar curtains where sunlight streamed through until 11pm!  

The stunning bathroom, sadly not pictured, featured an incredible 360 degree shower, adjacent bathtub, and moroccan  mosaic in deep jewel tones. Bath products by Malin and Goetz so you know I requested extra cilantro conditioner to take home!  One of the most delightful parts of our room was the mini bar, stocked with FREE delicious, mini Spanish juices!   I had my fair share of tomato, pineapple and apple each day of our stay.

Don’t laugh, I am a sucker for free stuff, particularly when you are at a luxury hotel and paying top dollar. Why not throw in a few gratis perks? It will make even the classiest of guests so happy. Needless to say, after a fabulous shower and my first official Spanish siesta, I awoke feeling like a new woman who desperately needed some tapas!  More on this coming soon…

Bed, Bath & Beyond!

Its been too long since I last posted but I will try to make it up to you, dear readers with a few back to back posts! Today, I extoll the virtues of airbnb.com, a fabulous site that allows users to rent a room, apartment or an entire home from the site’s community members.  At first, I was a bit skeptical about the idea. A couch surfer I am not and I tend to be a bit OCD about cleanliness when I sleep in a bed that isn’t my own.  However, given the grime factor in even the nicest of hotels–my first action upon entering any hotel room is to move the decorative bedspread and throw pillows as far away as possible– I decided to have a peak around the site to see what I came across.

But let me back up.  About a month ago, on the verge of accepting a new position, my husband decided we absolutely needed to  take a vacation during his one week hiatus between positions as we would not have the chance to travel much during his next several months on the job.  Well that was just fine by me! He spent several late nights researching destinations that could welcome us for a week. Nicaragua was too remote, Big Sur was too close, Brazil did not leave us with enough time to get required travel visas. And so I found myself waking up one morning and learning I had 48 hours to go before departing to Spain! There is nothing like a bit of spontaneity to get your blood flowing and as we debated the merits of planning ahead and having months to look forward to a trip versus booking a last minute flight and jetting off, we both agreed that while the buildup is lovely, its so not necessary!

I fell in love with my husband in Barcelona back when we were just friends.  It was his mastery of the Spanish language and tour guide prowess that led me to believe he could take charge in any adventure.  This time, our travels led us to the south of Spain: Seville, Madrid (where he had studied abroad) and Cadiz (where he spent a summer in high school). As he planned and coordinated the entire itinerary of our trip in less than 48 hours, I took it upon myself to browse Airbnb.com which I stumbled across via Hollister Hovey’s Blog. Her experience of staying at a Catskill’s cabin designed by a Danish Modern style furniture designer had me swooning! So, when the Mr. mentioned that there weren’t really any decent hotels in his old home-stay haunts, I typed Cadiz into the Airbnb search and something wonderful caught my eye! A few emails back and forth with the proprietor and we booked what looked like a gorgeous, modern apartment at a great price, hoping it would work out.

After a memorable stay in a beautiful hotel in Seville (stay tuned for my next post), we drove for an hour down a perfectly paved Spanish highway, overgrown with fuchsia bougainvillea and an endless view of sky and entered the ancient gates of Cadiz, the oldest standing city in Western Europe.

We pulled up to our accommodations right inside the walled city and were met by a friendly local who gave us the keys to our new residence. Upon entering the plant filled, open air courtyard (Moorish architecture is superb!)  I was in apartment heaven! I could have walked up the two flights of black and white checkered stairs forever to live in this apartment, it was the most perfect blend of old and new.

The Courtyard

The Front Door

We wasted no time, getting ourselves acquainted with the two bedroom apartment as if we were its proud new owners. We dropped our luggage off in the glass walled, zen master bedroom and marveled at the low Japanese style bed and gorgeous wood beams that surrounded us. There was a large, very old wooden door opening into the kitchen, 30 foot high ceilings everywhere, ancient archways leading from the hallway to the living room and wrought iron windows that allowed you to peak into the 2nd bedroom (see all details I’m talking about on the airbnb post here). Smooth ebony wood flooring, funky shelving, ikea chaise lounges,  Flotaki rugs, and a built in loft for TV watching transformed the old bones of this residence  into a modern, ultra relaxing pad.

taken from living room (master bedroom in the left of the frame)

We opened the big doors to the balcony and felt the cool bay breeze.

view from the balcony

sunset from the balcony

But after snooping around a bit and coming across many whimsical, spiritual and otherworldly touches,  we decided to get out of the house and do what we came to do!

mushrooms & gnomes on the shelf

the living room

The top of the frame is the built in loft for TV watching!

Wander the  streets of Cadiz and hit up the beach!

our new neighborhood

Cadiz Cathedral

Old City Beach

I am so happy I tried Airbnb and very grateful for our wonderful hostess Christina, who left the most thoughtful welcome basket of sweet and savory snacks and provided the best possible base from which to experience Cadiz.  It was really special to have the Mr. show me around a town where he gained his first taste of independence! Unlike other European beach towns, Cadiz is super low key (no naked Germans on these beaches!).  Dining on tapas in front of the ocean and strolling the cobblestone streets covered in salt and sand made for the most relaxing vacation. We’re already planning our next trip and we know the perfect place to stay!