Field Trips Take 3

Every time I go on a field trip, I come back with renewed appreciation for my kid's teachers. Oh my, their job is demanding. I know field trips are more stressful and crazy than a normal classroom day, but still. Taking care of a huge group of students isn't easy even on the most mellow of days. It's a daily production!

Just the kid's untied shoe laces would be enough set me over the top. One time before we got on the bus, I looked down and found around 5 kids with shoe laces flapping in the wind. Down the line I went fixing every one's shoes. It's the small stuff that I'm amazed the teachers have the patience to keep up with.  I don't even want to get into actually teaching a kid how to read! Yikes. 

While I was on Owen's class trip to the Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Exhibit last week, I took some pictures. Much like this post, it in noway captures the essence of the field trip. But who cares. Look at their beautiful wings. It's so peaceful and lovely. Try not to imagine 35+ preschoolers and their crazy shenanigans happening in the background . . . 

And other field trips (with a positive spin!) here and here. 


Ella: The Dress That Makes Her Do A Giant Spin!

pic taken in chelsea market
A few weekends ago I met Joanna Goddard's twin sister Lucy and the subject of clothes/fashion came up.  She mentioned Joanna once said that everything you wear should make you want to do a little dance. I just searched the phrase "a little dance" on Joanna's blog and sure enough I found her post about it from two years ago. Still--it was fresh content to me! I love this idea and plan on using it from here out.

The thing is, with out realizing it, this phrase has been the reason why I keep buying Ella this dress by American Apparel. Every time she puts it on, she spins! Perhaps for young girls the word "little dance" should be replaced with "giant spin"! 

Beyond the spinning factor, it's totally practical. I love that when she sits down, it's long enough to cover her knees. It's super easy to clean and has an organic cotton option for the same price.  It's a complete outfit--no need to find all the pieces. It's so comfortable. It can be dressed up (add a shiny belt) or down (wear it plain). It's it's it's perfect. I wish I could buy it in my size. I need a spinning dress, too!
So for all those who asked where I got Ella's green dress in the recent photo shoot, now you know. And don't forget to enter the huge giveaway! Ends Monday. :)


Giveaway: Keith Pitts Photography

Last Friday, I introduced you to Keith Pitts and wrote about my experience as he took amazing photos of my kids in our apartment. Today, I'll show you the photos he took of our neighborhood and I've got great news:

Keith Pitts is giving away one family portrait session, a custom slideshow, an online gallery of up to 30 images hosted for 3 months, and 10 hi-res digital files! 
Total Giveaway Value: $3250!!

The only caveat is that the winner needs to be able to travel to one of his upcoming travel locations or be available to come to Phoenix at any time.

Keith Pitts Summer 2012 Travel Dates:
San Francisco, CA 
June 9 & 10

Laguna Beach, CA
June 23 & 24th

Paris, France
July 2012

San Diego
August 18 & 19

New York City
September 13 & 14

To enter, leave a comment on this post!
If you don't have a profile, please write your email in your comment so I can contact you :)
Winner will be drawn at random next Monday, June 4th. 
Good luck! 
More pictures after the jump, including our favorite climbing tree and the only melt down of the shoot. Can you guess who it was? It was short lived thank goodness! Read more about my experience too. :)


Ella Helps Make a Meal: Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

This is a sponsored post by Kraft Singles. 
Last night I asked Ella to help make dinner.  She was so excited! Her enthusiasm reminded me of what it was like when I was six-years-old.  

I remember helping my mom pull out the clothes out of the dryer. Reading! Picking out my own outfit for the day.  Putting on my seat belt.  These, albeit small tasks to adults, took all my concentration and effort as a kid.  Now that I have a six-year-old of my own, I see her finding ways to help and feel independent, too.  Ella beams as she preforms and learns new tasks. Last night was no exception.

I involved her in the entire process, starting at the grocery store. She picked out the best apples, tomatoes, bread, soup, and chips to go along with our sandwiches. I tried to persuade her to pick tomato soup, but she insisted on chicken noodle. I went with it even though I knew she was going against the perfect grilled cheese combo. Next time I'll put my foot down.  
Yes, I admit it. I took pictures in the grocery store for this post. Shameless! haha. 
When we got home, the process of making a grilled cheese sandwich was exciting and fresh to her. From counting the amount of bread per person, to buttering the bread with a brush, to unwrapping the Kraft Singles--she did every thing with such care and thoughtfulness. 
The most nostalgic part of the night for me was teaching her how to unwrap the cheese. I can remember trying to get the Kraft Singles out of the packaging as a kid. Don't you? It takes a certain amount of resistance, yet ease to get the cheese out of the wrapper. 
Practice makes perfect!
She was so excited when she finally figured it out, she wanted me to record her. Here's her video:

I've eaten tons of grilled cheese sandwiches in my life, but none have been better than the one assembled by Ella. She was so proud of her meal and so was I!

I decided to keep the recipe simple and classic for her first time. . .

2 Slices of White bread
2 tbsp Olive Oil

Set oven to Broil Setting. Brush two slices of bread with olive oil on one side. Place cheese on dry side of bread. Assemble sandwich with oil side out. Put in broiler for 30 seconds, flip, repeat. Done! 

Serve with TOMATO SOUP or chicken noodle. :)

You can also share your Kraft Singles story on Facebook. Put your story on the map and join the conversation about Kraft SinglesAs part of the DailyBuzz Moms Featured Publisher Community, I received a coupon for free Kraft Singles and a stipend. 


Keith Pitts Photography: Part One, In Our Apartment

Picture Day!
When Keith Pitts contacted me a few months ago to take my kids photographs, I jumped at the chance. As I browsed his website and blog, I knew he was going to capture my kid's life perfectly. He refers to his style as improvisational portraiture. He writes, "The best photography is like jazz, and must be played collaboratively and spontaneously, inventing a totally unique experience, every time." Perfectly said, right? I couldn't wait for picture day!  

When planning the shoot, Keith's assistant Melissa (she's so wonderful to work with!) told me he likes to start in the home and then work his way outside. This gives him a chance to bond with the kids and learn who they are. It was not mandatory to start in the home, just a suggestion. I love this idea. Starting in the home requires a day of cleaning and scrubbing and hiding and stuffing clutter, but it's totally worth it. 

When the boys were newborns, a photographer suggested starting our house too, but I declined. At the time, I didn't think my house was worth capturing. I thought it wasn't up to par as far as styling and size and lighting. Also, since we were renting, I thought it was pointless to capture a house that was temporary. But that's absurd! I didn't want to make the same mistake this time. 

Sure I don't have matching comforters on my kid's bunk beds. My walls have hand prints and scribbles all over them. My lamp shades are permanently lopsided and cracked. My kitchen needs updating. Our lack of bookshelves and books is embarrassing. But I tried to suppress all these insecurities and let Keith capture my kids in their home. It was the best decision I made. 

My kids greeted Keith at the door and immediately felt comfortable. They tried to impress him with all the facts they knew about black widows and poisonous snakes.  He joined in on the conversation and told them that despite fact that black widows were dangerous, they are actually quite beautiful. This amazed the kids and made their curiosity run wild. Dangerous yet beautiful. How can that be?!

The kids asked Keith about the two cameras he was holding, his bag, and his lenses. He told them about his equipment as they sat on the couch and he snapped pictures of them. The shoot was going smoothly until he asked the kids, "So what do you like to do for fun?" They immediately responded, "Play dress up!" Ahhh! Not dress up, I thought. This could get ugly!

I knew exactly the costumes they were going to put on: Owen was going to put on his ratty old Mater costume (from the movie Cars), and Oscar would pick his dirty batman cape. And Ella? I had no idea what she would pick. They live in costumes, but it's not exactly the look I go for in a photo shoot. Let's just say our costumes don't fit into that cool and editorial style I always try to portray my life to be.

I started to slightly panic and run down the hallway and say, "Uhh, kids. I don't think he really wants you to put the costumes on! Ehh, haha yeah. Um. Wow, the Mater costume! And the hat? Awesome. . ."

That's when Keith smiled and reassured me it would be fine. And I went with it because I knew he was right. But still, deep down, I felt like I would never show anyone these pictures. Ha! Tacky as the costumes were, this again, brought out the best in my kids, which resulted in amazing candid photos. I'm in love with these pictures now that I see them. I'm so glad I didn't intervene and make my kids take off their favorite costumes.

I realized 30 minutes into the shoot, that Keith's ability to capture my kids life was unlike any photographer I've ever worked with. There's nothing worse to me then over stylized (phony) family picture with props that don't seem natural. He wasn't going to lead this photo shoot in that direction. He snapped the most pictures when my kids showed them things that were important to their life. Even if that meant a large plastic Mater truck.

I must confess I replaced the Mater truck (below) shortly after this picture was taken with a wooden pull toy. I can't help myself! But look at this amazing shot of Owen. It's great, not because the toy is a cool vintage find (it's not!), but because Kieth captured a moment with Owen's favorite toy. I can't wait to frame this photo! The pictures of the wooden pull toy? Didn't even make the cut. Ha!
Then my kids asked for cookies. This time I didn't hesitate. Even if they got their new clothes a little dirty, it would be ok. 95% of my kid's childhood is spent with cookie crumbs on their shirt anyway. Might as well capture it on camera! Keith and I ate some too. :)
Keith taught me so much about capturing kids in the first half of the photo shoot. Next week I'll show you the rest of the pictures as we ventured outside to their favorite locations in our neighborhood. 
Also on Monday, I'll give you details about the HUGE Keith Pitt's Giveaway! Yay! 
In the mean time, check out his schedule to see if he'll be in your neck of woods this summer.

Have a good weekend! 
After the jump: 
The slide show he created for me of all the pictures (sneak peak into next week's outdoor shoot!) 
AND the rest of the photo shoot in our apartment. :) 


Staten Island Zoo

Last Tuesday I went to the Staten Island Zoo with Oscar's pre-k class. I'm not really a fan of zoos in general, but this one wasn't so bad. It's tiny, yet has plenty of farm animals, reptiles and fish to make me happy.  The pony ride was the highlight for Oscar. He went twice!


10 Favorite Folk Children's Albums: Must-Have Children's Albums

Are you guilty of a few slightly ridiculous motherhood philosophies? Like only buying classic books with beautiful hardcovers? Or only dressing your kids in clothing without cartoon characters? Or only buying organic, even if it's a packaging nightmare?  And do you follow these philosophies because you believe somehow your children's life will be more rich/beautiful/healthy? I'm guilty. Here's another one of mine:

I used to think it was my motherly duty to teach my kids all the classic children's folk songs. I took it sooo seriously. As if their childhood would be lost if they didn't learn all the words to Oh My Darling Clementine. Simply put, I thought it was sweet to hear them sing classic folk songs. But in a larger sense, I thought those songs were giving my kids a solid start to music. This, of course, was without doing a single shred of research. Just my gut feelings. These music lessons started in my minivan years ago in San Francisco. It was my favorite part about owning a car. 

Since moving to the city and getting rid of my car, my music lessons have stopped and my kids brains have slowly began to rot. That is, until we saw the Imagination Movers last week thanks to The Moms. While Imagination Movers songs aren't exactly folksy, they did a good job at getting the kids to dance, sing, and enjoy live music. The event made me want to bring back some of my old favorite albums and reintroduce them to my family. I'm sure my kid's eyes are rolling even as I type this. 

I've written my top 10 favorite children's albums before, but I'm including it again today. This time in a simple list format. After the jump. Also, some more pictures of the concert.


The Time I Tried to Make an Internet Cliche: Ombre Cakes

I know somewhere deep down in my soul that birthday parties can be done without themes or ombre cakes or picturesque paper straws. Especially parties for grown men.

That said, I totally made an ombre cake for my husband's birthday! ha! ha! Isn't there in old saying that goes: It's ok to copy, as long as you do it better? Well, not only have I copied an idea that's an internet cliche, but I've done it worse!

I would love to be the person to reinvent the ombre cake into something new and fresh, but I simple don't care about cakes that much. God bless the person who does. I'll be sure pin their pictures onto my Pinterest board and eventually try to make it myself two years later.

don't laugh. . .your ombre cake has a 95% chance of looking like this too. :) 
My attempt at an ombre cake turned out like blueberry pancakes because I only used one box of Funfetti cake mix. Each layer was soo thin. Also making things worse, I only own one cake pan. I had to cook the one layer, wait for it to cool, then cook the next. After one round of this nonsense, I asked a neighbor for an extra pan. That helped. While I was returning the pan, my kids squeezed past her door and weaseled themselves in for a surprise playdate.  She didn't seem to mind. I was happy to have her watch my kids so I could ice the cake in silence. I needed all the help I could get.

So that's that. I did it. Ombre cake can be checked off my internet cliche list. Now all I have to do is create fairies in a jar and make ice cream for breakfast and I'll feel all caught up. 
he didn't give a hoot about the blue layers although he was very eager to eat it. 
What's the internet cliche you've put off, but are secretly dieing to try? 

PS Owen wanted another slice of cake, we said no, so he clawed a piece for himself. This is what we're left with. So pretty! After the jump. Also, some more pictures from the party.


Quick Thought about NYC

I'm feeling overly romantic about New York City after last weekend. Front row seats to War Horse (only $30!), meeting up with friends at South Seaport, a birthday party for Toby in Battery Park, the perfect weather.

Thank you Rob for dragging me out of San Francisco. You were right, I do love it. And Happy Birthday to you. I'm so glad to celebrate it with you in NYC, the best backdrop a birthday could have!

I've shown this clip before here (love that post). It's one of my favorite clips to watch when I'm in one of these NYC lovey dovey moods. Enjoy. Again!

thanks for the photo joanna :)


Yay for the Weekend and Birthday Parties

crazy elbow
I have 7 minutes to publish this post! Yikes. It's usually takes me a whopping 3 hours to get my thoughts organized into written form, pictures taken/edited, and links up before I can hit publish. And I somehow still end up with with a gazillion typos and grammar mistakes.  How long does it take you to write a post?  

I'm looking forward to the weekend. It's my husband's birthday and I vow to do better than last year! Speaking of which, I need to pick up a Snickers bar and Coke. His new favorite combo. I've been paying attention to these things since last year.  I also booked a babysitter and bought tickets for us to see War Horse through LincTix. Check out their awesome deals for anyone between the ages for 20-35! 

I haven't book a restaurant yet. Anyone have any recommendations for restaurants around Lincoln Center? If I've learned one about going to Chinatown, is that I trust word of mouth recommendations from friends way more the my Michelin guide or even Yelp. 

Hope you have a fun weekend!!! Thanks again to everyone who donated to Fred's Team! 


How to Impress Your Friends (or Mother-In-Law): Tea Towels

Last year when my mother-in-law came to visit, I cleaned out my frig, organized my kids toys, and bought new tea towels and wash clothes. Those three things, I thought, would convince her that her grandchildren were being well taken care of. Since then, my frig has been neglected, the toys are thrown into random bins, and I'm back to using paper towels for every kitchen need.

Then two days ago, I stumbled upon this beautiful video from Studio Patro. It inspired me to dust off my tea towels and put them to the test yesterday at the park.

I usually bring a huge spread of food to the park because a.) we usually stay through dinner time and b.) I'm such a show off.  I lay out all the food so my kids (or whoever) can pick at in-between swinging on the monkey bars and chasing birds away. Last week I bought a glass jar of olives that ended up braking on the way home because I carelessly dropped my lunchbag on the sidewalk. Instead of trying to salvage everything, I threw the bag, broken glass, and olives in the trash. But not this week!

I wrapped the olives in a tea towel for protection, then used the tea towel as a place mat, then when everyone was done eating, I used the tea towel to wipe my kids faces. I'm sold!

Now I want more. Classic with a Red Stripe? Or Modern Bold Graphic? I'll take the classic. And this time it will be for me instead of to impress my mother-in-law!

Do you have an item that has multiple uses that your adore? Share! I love tips. 
Here's the spread I took to the park yesterday that inspired this post:

PS Thanks to Jill Vaughn, Erin Gianni, and Anonymous for donating to Fred's Team!


My Secret To a Clean (looking) House

all photos today by lesley.
Owen had a surprise playdate show up at my apartment last week. His mom dropped him off in the lobby luckily. I didn't want her to see the disastrous state my house was in. As soon as everyone got into the house, I ran to my bedroom started stuffing clothes and junk under my bed to make it look presentable. Then I moved to the kids room and started the process again. The little boy walked in and asked what I was doing. I told him I was organizing. He looked utterly confused. It was at that moment that I realized he must have a way cleaner mother than me.

I mean, haven't you resorted to stuffing closets and under beds in a pinch? I can't be the only adult to using this cleaning method regularly. It's fabulous I must say! I clean out from under my bed just so I can restuff it a week later.

I warned his mom that he might start squeezing all his toys under his bed and claim, "But that's how Owen's mom cleans her room!"

My kids are so lucky to have a mom that shows them how to get a clean house in 16 minutes or less. What's your secret/cheating tactic to getting you house to at least look clean?

I found the yellow dress (pictured above and below) under my bed the other day with a huge orange marker stain on it. I had to throw it out. You'd think I would have learned my lesson. Nope!

PPS I'm running in the 2012 NYC Marathon, but I need sponsors! Please click here to find out how to donate.  We're up to $552! Thanks Stein Family for you recent donation!


My Hollywood Obsession/Girl Crush: Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham in Tiny Furniture (It's a shame about his fedora isn't it?)
Such a relief to see an actress/writer/directer like Lena Dunham. I'm suddenly obsessed with her. Seeing her name on everything as the credits scroll down on the end of her movie Tiny Furniture and her HBO show Girls is great. Love that she does it all.

Not only that, but if she's where the standard of beauty is headed, I'm in luck! Move over all you Zooey Deschanel look-a-likes, and make room for all of us Lena Durham's!

You can see why I took it personal when my husband Rob said, "Yeah, she's great and all, but I find her hard to look at." ha! I've since forgiven him. You should have heard him back pedaling out of that plunder.

When casting for her HBO show Girls Lena said: "I don't look like everybody that you usually see on television. I wanted to make sure to cast actresses who were beautiful, but beautiful the way that your sexiest friend is beautiful not beautiful the way that someone who is on a CW show is beautiful." Bravo. More directors like Lena please! 

Also, I wanted to say thanks to everyone that helped on the first day of fundraising.
Abbey Nova (and Alex!) 
Alex Williams 
Amanda Preston 
Daniela Mikusova 
Hillary Hansen 
Joanna Goddard 
Katrina Wilson 
Melissa Graveline 
Ms. Jodie Arnaudov 
Toby Goddard-Williams 
Yesterday we raised $452! Yay!

I'm raising funds to run in the 2012 ING New York City Marathon with Fred's Team! 
The goal: Raise $3,500 for breast cancer research by race day November 4th. 
Please help me by donating to my run.


NYC Taught Me Fundraiser: Let's Do This Together (Again!)

celebrating my third birthday with my mom.
I did it! On Sunday, I committed to run in the NYC Marathon through a charity that supports cancer research called Fred's Team. Ahhhhh! It felt like the perfect way to celebrate Mother's Day. I'll be running the 26.2 miles in honor of my mother, Cindy. She died of breast cancer on July 3, 2000 in a hospital in southwest Florida. I was 18 years old.

I'm so excited (and a little nervous) to do another charity event on my blog, but why not? You all completely overwhelmed me with your generosity during our first project. Remember when we raised $660 in one weekend? Let's do it again--only this time let's raise a whopping $3,500 by November 4th!

Here's my short term goal: Raise $500 by the end of today. We're almost there, only $78 more to go! Please click here to donate any amount you want. :)
My backyard the night my mom died. 
So why Fred's Team? Why am I running a marathon for a charity? Many reasons. One of them goes back to the night my mother died.

I'll never forget the moment I left the hospital for the last time. The sun was setting as I walked out of the building and onto the hospital parking lot to drive home. The sky stopped me in my tracks. It was bursting with yellows, pinks, and reds. I wanted to believe that she was seeing the same sunset and experiencing the clouds, the sky, and light in a way she was never able to on earth. This made me happy for her. She always told me Florida had the best clouds and tonight, I imagined, they were all hers to enjoy.

I eventually got into my car and started it. REM's album Automatic For The People began to play as it had for the past six months. I had given myself permission to listen to this overly depressing album as many times as I wanted ever since my mom got sick.  Today was no different. I sang and hummed along to the songs as I drove home, eager to find lines I could identify with. See you heaven if you make the list. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. (Of course she made the list!:) I couldn't stop looking at the sky as I drove, the colors kept changing and became more vibrant as the sun finally set.

This drive home gave me a minute to process everything and reflect on my life with my mom. When I finally arrived at my house, I saw my dad and sister in the backyard admiring the sunset too. I joined them and together we talked. It was nice to be with them and feel their love. I took a few pictures of the sunset so I would always remember it.

That night I learned in order to get through this challenging time of my life, I needed to find the perfect balance of solitude and companionship. I needed time to reflect alone, but I also needed my community of friends and family for support.  This lesson has stayed with me ever since and eventually led me to sign up for Fred's Team.

Fred's Team offers that perfect balance I always seek. 
I'll have moments to reflect on my own as I train for this race. Running is, after all, one of my favorite escapes! But I won't be able to do this alone. I need help from family, friends, the running community and YOU!  If you would like to help, please donate!

Thought you should know:

One hundred percent of the funds raised by Fred's Team go to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the nation's preeminent center for research and treatment devoted exclusively to cancer, and at least 80 percent of the total supports pioneering research. I was excited to have the option to specifically choose to raise money for breast cancer. 

When you make an online gift, you will receive an e-mail confirmation and tax acknowledgment as soon as your transaction is complete. For all offline gifts, you will receive a written tax acknowledgment in the mail. 

More FAQ's here. Like who's this Fred guy?!  

PS I found this quote. Love it.

“But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people--first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy.” ― Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions


Mother's Day Memories

squinty eyes and ice cream cones
The last Mother's Day with my mom before she passed away was in 2000. I was a senior in high school in Florida. My first mother's day as a mother was in 2006. I was in my mid-twenties living in California. Sadly, I don't remember exactly what I did during those special milestones in my life. I forgot to write down what we ate for breakfast. The kind words that were spoken. My thoughts and feelings of the day. I'm sure there were pictures taken, but who knows where they are? 

Sometimes it's the biggest events that I forget to write down. It's hard to write about amount major moments with restraint. It's so easy to get overly sentimental and suddenly the words lose their strength. The small details like the the color of the flowers on the kitchen table, the way I wore my hair, and the exact cloud formations in the sky get lost under all the emotions.   

This year, even though it's just an ordinary Mother's Day (my 6th!), I hope to take a minute to write down the details of the day in a journal. Perhaps, it will be fun for me to look back years from now and have a glimpse into my life in 2012, 30-years-old, 3 young kids, 1 great husband.  It would be a shame to have another Mother's Day go by and fade away in my memory. I've already let that happen too many times. I would give anything to relive Mother's Day in 2000 or 2006. I could got back in time (sort of) if only I had one small journal entry. It would have been so easy for me! I won't let that happen again. 

How will you remember this Mother's Day? Do you keep a record of major events in your life? Or do you think it's better to just enjoy the moment and move on? No matter how you decide to do it, I wish you the best Mother's Day! 

PS Some of my favorite posts about motherhood:
Mother's Day 2011 I forgot I wrote about it! Yay! Makes me wonder if I sift through some old journals, I might be able to find 2000 and 2006 after all :)


Chinatown: NYC Local Favorites Part 2

*cont' from yesterday:

After having a huge lunch a J & B Seafood Restaurant, we strolled the streets. Ella really wanted an Asian paper umbrella. This confused our friend and tour guide Meggie.

"What are you going to do with that?" she said, "I'll show you where I used to go shopping when I was a kid. You'll love it."

She directed us down the escalators in The Elizabeth Center Gift Shops. The upstairs of this shopping center features doctor's office and cosmetic stores, but the downstairs is filled with small stores filled with oddities and trinkets. Meggie said this is where students of all ages hang out after school. Her parents used to give her a few dollars and she would roam in and out of the shops, searching the bins for small hair bows, notebooks, pens, and (my favorite) erasers. It took me a few minutes to get a grasp of the stores.

At first glimpse everything looked straight out of the dollar store. But watching Ella jump from bin to bin, digging her hands in the baskets, trying on bows, I could see how a kid would find these stores magical. Everything cost around $1-$3. We spent around $10 and had a bag full of pencils, erasers and bows to bring home. It delighted Ella to no end.
Go to the Elizabeth Center Gift Shops to experience an everyday joy for a kid growing up in Chinatown. Next up, one of my joys: Ice Cream!
Meggie disapproved of most touristy places like Dim Sum Go Go and Nom Wah Tea Parlor, but she adores Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. In fact, she had no idea it was in every tourist book. I did of course!

Her one rule was that we were NOT allowed to get typical ice cream flavors like chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. We had to get flavors unique to Chinatown. She limited us to five options: Black Sesame, Red Bean, Taro, Lychee, and Green Tea. I didn't see Avocado, Wasabi, Zen Butter or Ginger flavored ice cream when we were there, but I'm sure she would approve of those flavors too if I asked. Check out the complete menu here.

I got two scoops! Black Sesame and Red Bean. How those flavors made for a perfect ice cream combo is beyond my understanding, but it was delicious! Ella got Taro and Lychee. She loved it too.  Imagine ordering Oreo Cookie or Mint Chip at a place like this? I very well might have if it weren't for Meggie pushing me to try new things.

As if we hadn't eaten enough, after we finished our ice cream, Meggie disappear for a second on the corner of Mott and Canal St. She came back with a small white bag filled with tiny warm cakes. I popped one in my mouth and enjoyed it's slight sweetness. She said the woman's recipe is a guarded secret. Meggie told me about another food cart that made even better cakes down the block. The line for cakes would be endless. Then one day, the woman disappeared. No one has heard from her since and the recipe is gone forever! I wonder what happened?! Spooky.
I'm putting a pic of the cart for reference :)
Then we continued to walk around and see the different open markets. My favorite was a bucket of frogs and a shelf of snails. I asked her if anyone ever takes them home for pets. She looked at me like I was insane and laughed, "No, never." Good to know.

Probably one of my favorite things we did was go to a typical grocery store called New York Mart. I loved seeing all the everyday items. Not a single jar of spaghetti sauce or box of mac and cheese in the whole store. I really felt like I had traveled to China. Meggie started filling my basket up with her favorite foods (treats she had growing up, her favorite frozen meals and sauces). She helped Ella pick out chopsticks. Meggie pointed out the things that even looked disgusting and bizarre to her.

Walking around the grocery store was the most untouristy part of the day. If you really want an authentic experience in Chinatown, go shopping in New York Mart. Before I went in, a woman wished me luck and warned me not to go in. I can't understand why, because it was a great experience! A little packed, but fine.

Next we took a minute to experience Columbus Park. It's worth checking out for sure!
We were able to get a glimpse of how the older generation spent their days. They were mostly playing card games or making music or sitting quietly. I felt really awkward taking pictures in this park. Almost like an intruder making a spectacle out of it. So I pretended I was taking pictures of Ella. I wish I was bold enough to take more. I asked Meggie if any of the people ever venture out to Central Park. She told me that they know it exists, but they never go. They are happy here.

And finally--as if we really hadn't already eaten enough, she took us to get some pork buns at Hop Shing Restaurant. Oh my. GO HERE! It will be your reward for reading this long post! Order roasted pork buns from the counter and eat them immediately. So good, so cheap. I brought a bunch home to the boys. The buns were just as good the next day. I have to go back for more.

Meggie told me Chinatown is all about the food and to truly experience Chinatown, be ready to eat! I couldn't agree with her more. As proof, I was holding a million red plastic bags filled with yummy food. Have you ever noticed all the red bags in Chinatown? Meggie told me she thinks the bags are red for good luck. Before leaving, I grabbed this dragon fruit and gained one more red plastic bag. I was feeling really lucky at this point.

Lucky to have met Meggie. Lucky to exsperience all the food. Lucky to live in such a wonderful city!

Now you know all of Meggie's favorite places to visit in Chinatown. What's yours?

After the jump: My least favorite food I ate in Chinatown. At least I tried it! The name alone gives me shivers.

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