Best of the Upper West Side with Kids: The Tulips at the West Side Community Garden

The West Side Community Garden is one of my favorite hidden gems of the city. Every Novemeber volunteers plant over 10,000 tulips in what once was a trash-strewn 89,000 square foot vacant lot. Since the 1976, volunteer gardeners have been transforming the land into the gorgeous gathering place it is today.

I was shocked the first time I stumbled upon it. I had lived here around 6 months and was still trying to find my way around the neighborhood. I must have made a wrong turn. As I looked at all the varieties of tulips, I had a moment when I fell in love with the city. It's packed with surprises and unexpected wonders. To this day, I'm still am discovering new things. I suspect that's a big reason why I love it here. When I walk through this garden, I will always remember my first spring in NYC. It should not be missed. 
More pictures after the jump. Maybe it's because I'm lazy, but I didn't edit any of the pictures. Straight out of my camera . . . 


Mother's Day Gift Idea: Cool Sunglasses from Lookmatic

This post is sponsored by LookmaticI've been pining for a new pair of sunglasses ever since I went to Philly, remember? When Lookmatic contacted me to write about their glasses, I jumped at the chance. I adore their frames. Wouldn't it be the perfect Mother's Day gift?
The weather was perfect and the location couldn't have been more beautiful from my impromptu Lookmatic photo shoot. With Rob as my photographer, I did all the modeling poses I learned from the cruise, only to discover my genuine efforts were hilarious to my kids. They tried everything to put my ego back in check. Ella couldn't stop giggling at me and giving me bunny ears. The boys kept making funny noises and sneaking their heads into the pictures. I finally gave up and just played with them. Even if my kids weren't letting me have the sophisticated fashion shoot I was hoping for, I still adore the pictures. My sunglasses gave me the cool factor, while my kids gave me the wow factor. Love those knuckle heads.
I love the picture above. It's the exact moment I gave up my modeling career. 
love this picture of me, but not so much of ella. haha look who's laughing now.
I chose the Marlowe frame because of it's unusual shape. I've never worn such a round frame--I was thinking it would be a bold statement piece, but the glasses ended up looking classic on my face. I was pleasantly surprised. I think if I wanted to go wild, I would have chosen the amazing Kitty frame. But then there's also the classic Wayfarer frame that tempts me, too. 
What is your favorite sunglass shape for your face? Have you ever deviated from it?
This Mother's Day, I recommend asking for a new pair of sunglasses in a new shape from Lookmatic.   


Mint Chocolate Vegan Protein Shake (and the photo that inspired it)

tastes bettet than it looks. 
This is the protein shake I've been making for awhile now. I missed it so much when I was on the cruise that I made one for breakfast and lunch yesterday. I love it because I always have the ingredients on hand, it's packed with nutrients, and I feel full after drinking it. Sometimes I add avocado (it makes it so creamy), but mostly I'm frustrated with that fruit. Either it's too hard or over ripe, so I've been leaving it out. Tip: I always make sure to add plenty of mint extract to mask the earthy/grassy flavor of the hemp protein. It's intense man.

Mint Chocolate Vegan Protein Shake

6-8 oz of chocolate almond milk
3 TBS hemp protein
1 TBS chia seeds
1 tsp virgin coconut oil
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
3 ice cubes
1/2 frozen large banana (or 1 small banana)

Mix all ingredients in blender until smooth.

Last June I wrote, "I have months when I don't care about what I eat, then I get a picture back of myself that shocks me into eating healthy again." Here's my current one (it's so much better than last years) . . .


Say Yes to Cruises: How to Get the Most Out of a Cruise

I went on a cruise 10 years ago. In that time, I’ve formed an attitude that cruises aren’t for me with all the Vegas-like decor, over indulgent food options, and cheesy entertainment. My sisters recognized these same things, but refused to take it too seriously. They helped me realize there’s no other venue has the things found on a cruise. It’s a country and culture within itself, and the best way to experience it is to say yes to everything, especially the photographers.

To my surprise, cruises are filled with staff photographers ready to take glamour shots of every passenger. Anytime one of the photographers asked to take our photo, we said yes. In fact, my sisters and I took it a step further and acted flattered when they asked (as if it’s not their job). Us? Really! Why of course, oh my. That is so nice of you to ask! Where should we stand? Like this?

Every night we were delighted to see photo booths set up throughout the ship. I haven’t seen setups like these since my high school prom. The backdrops ranged from solid colors, to the streets of Paris, to a firework display, to a Roman cathedral. Some backgrounds definitely had us scratching our heads on how it related to our cruise, but we approached each one with vigor regardless.

Sometimes we followed exactly how the photographers wanted us to pose, "Ok, now place one finger on your cheek, turn towards me a little, yes, Perfect!" Other times, we took it upon ourselves to come up with our own poses. By the third day, all the passengers started catching onto the wonders of the photo booth and we had to start waiting in lines. As a group of spring breakers in bathing suits passed by, they couldn't help but join one of our last photo sessions. Bikini girl took a little convincing, but she eventually joined us.

The next day, we were like 14-year-old girls giggling as we saw our prints display in the center of the ship to purchase. It was hard narrowing it down to one photo, but here’s the one we couldn’t resist.

All kidding aside, I have never felt more confident in front of the camera my entire life. From here on out, whenever someone takes my picture I’m channeling my cruise confidence. Say cheese is right.


My Lunch Date

It’s Rob. I’ll be here for a few days while Sharon's off on a cruise. The pressure of not working all day while the kids are in school full-time was getting to her so she deserved a break. In the meantime, I’ll be recording a few of my observations about our family in her absence.
November 14th, 2009
A few weeks ago Sharon sent me this text: Some of the parents are showing up at school today to have lunch with their kids. I was about to write back have fun!! when I received another text that said: I can’t make it but Ella really wants you to come. I had a pretty light morning so I said I could go. . .


Flashback Thursday: Skits

It’s Rob. I’ll be here for a few days while Sharon's off on a cruise. The pressure of not working all day while the kids are in school full-time was getting to her so she deserved a break. In the meantime, I’ll be recording a few of my observations about our family in her absence. 
cheers to the ice cream man. February 22, 2010
Last Sunday morning the kids decided to put on a circus show for Sharon and me. There are tons of things I can’t stand about being a parent, but among the worst is . . .


Things I Adore: Louise Plummer

Ever since my mother died when I was 18 years old, I find myself clinging to women that give me the same sense of hope, joy, and humor she had for life. I can spot them out in a crowd with their wide smiles and loud laughs. I knew the first day I walked into class, Professor Louise Plummer would be the one of these women in my life . . .


NYC Facts: Birding in Central Park and other NYC Parks (free)

oscar's looking for birds. might be better if he was in central park. 
The other day Rob was in the kid's bedroom shouting, "Hey, there's a toy that won't shut up in here. I can't figure it out." As soon as I walked in, I listened for a minute and went straight to the window. "It's just a pigeon cooing on the window sill." "Oh, right. Whoops." And then he pounded on the window so the bird would fly away and stop annoying him with it's sounds. I can't blame Rob, pigeons are the worst birds ever. They are always in the way on the sidewalks. Mmmove! And besides Canada Geese (grosser?), they are the only birds I've noticed in the city until I watched HBO's documentary Birders: The Central Park Effect . . .


NYC Activity with Kids: Luck of the Draw

he's mocking me, isn't he? he can be so cheeky.
Last summer we let luck determine the events of the day. Each kid picked a subway line and a number out of a hat. Whatever they picked would decide what train we would take and for how many stops. Read how it was a wild success.

Last Saturday we did a modified version of the activity. . .


Building a Strong Mother Daughter Relationship

mother and daughter authors sil reynolds and eliza reynolds 

Lately I've been thinking of ways I can connect with my daughter Ella. Simple stuff like be on my phone less, ask her more questions, and read her favorite books with her. Yesterday I promised I wouldn't go on my iPhone or computer after she came home from school. This made Ella beyond ecstatic. It wasn't too hard for me. Truth is, I really like her. Mothering her is pretty easy right now. And while I don't think her teen years will come without conflict, I hope we continue to develop a strong relationship regardless.

I wouldn't mind a few pointers to keep us on track though. I got some help last Thursday as ABC Home hosted the authors of the book, Mothering and Daughtering: Keeping Your Bond Strong Through the Teen Years. As mother and teenage daughter duo Sil Reynolds and Eliza Reynolds read portions from their book, I was so happy for them. I loved that they worked together on a major project during what I suspect is the hardest period of mothering and "daughtering". It was so inspiring see the way they looked at each other as they read. Such pride and admiration.

I totally want to copy them when Ella's a teenager. Even if it's not working on a book, committing to doing something together would build such a strong relationship. I don't care what it could be--eat at every restaurant in the city, visit all the art galleries, or perhaps review every luxury hotel in the city ;) We could think of something. The authors stressed that the moms and daughters should be determined to connect--even for only a quality 15 minutes. They encouraged us to do things out of the ordinary and fight for that time. The book goes into more details, but hearing them talk was enough to get me thinking about my budding relationship with Ella. It's is one of my highest priorities in my life. And even though Ella's far from being a teenager, I'm excited to use some of the things I learned now.

And to think I initially came to the book launch for the amazing food from ABC Kitchen and the entertainment of my idol Natalie Merchant. I got so much more out of the night than I expected. I wish I brought Ella!
pictures of natalie merchant's performance after the jump. . .


NYC Fact: Daffodil Project

The first sign of spring for me has been all the daffodils in bloom. If you see any around the city, they are most likely part of the Daffodil Project, founded in response to the attacks of September 11 as a living memorial. Volunteers plant bulbs all over the city each fall. When spring finally comes, communities celebrate their blooming as visible symbols of perseverance and restoration. There's no particular site, all parks and community gardens are welcome to join. Over 5 million daffodil bulbs have been planted since the project’s inception on October 20, 2001. Isn't it incredible? We found bunch at 135th and St. Nicholas Park in Harlem over the weekend. I think daffodils are the perfect flower to raise every one's spirits. Nicely done NYC.
Yellow daffodils, the color of remembrance.
More pictures after the jump. . .


5 Easy Steps to Throw a Ball: Teach Your Kid to Pitch a Baseball

As you can see, Owen's totally bored of always being assigned the catcher position. He is ready to pitch damn it. Luckily his gym teacher deconstructed the process of throwing a baseball and gave him  5 easy steps to become a pitcher. I had to share it. As soon as the weather warmed up, we headed to our favorite field and grabbed a few high-bounce balls to put it to the test . . .


Mother Daughter Weekend: The Carlyle Hotel

I cried for joy when I found out I was having a girl. I was 23 years old and naive enough to think that our days would be filled with manicures, eating cupcakes, and dancing to our favorite music. It took years, but I'm happy to say painting nails, cupcakes, and dance parties are in effect. We made sure to do it all when the Carlyle Hotel asked me to review their Sophie & the City Package. Click through to read more . . .


This Week's Mom Uniform

Now that I'm not going into an office everyday, I plan on wearing the same thing over and over and over. It's going to be awesome. As long as I don't see the same people twice, I'm good. And even if I do, who cares. This is my mom uniform I've been wearing all week. On Monday, I wore it while I rowed a boat in Central Park. On Tuesday, I picked my kids up from school in it. I'll be wearing it to a Ron Sexsmith concert tonight, a book launch tomorrow, and articles club with girlfriends later this week. While the pieces aren't totally cheap, I always get my money's worth. I'll wear everything until they disintegrate into a fine white dust. 
Denim Shirt: After trying on a zillion denim shirts, I finally found the one at Banana Republic. I snatched it up quickly while BR was having a 40% of one full-priced item sale. It's still going on. Type in BRTAKE40 at checkout. 
Mom Jeans: I wore these all winter and will continue to wear them until they get holes in the knees and crotch. 
Headband: I cut my own bangs after I watched a youtube instructional video. Now I have to wear a headband to keep everything in place or my cowlick takes over. I haven't actually bought a headband yet, but I plan on getting one just like this. 
Leather Bag: American Apparel sent me a generous gift card before Christmas (and matching red sweatshirts for the entire family haha), so I bought this bag. At first I was disappointed because it looked so flimsy and ordinary, but months later I have fallen in love with it. Leather ages so nicely and I love stuffing everything into it without bothering with a zipper.
Gold Oxfords: I was going to get brown, but the salesgirl had gold. How could I even consider brown after knowing gold was an option? 


Get out of NYC: Easter Weekend 2013

Presenting the only picture I took on Easter Sunday. Yesterday's family picture was actually taken on Saturday in Philadelphia. This is a picture I took to remember our locker number from Six Flags Adventure Park. Minutes later, I threw my bulky camera inside locker #3722 and forgot to take pictures with my iPhone for the rest of the day. I'm regretting that now after seeing all the Easter recaps. Six flags isn't exactly picturesque, but at least it's a break from suspenders (guilty) and bow ties (guilty). Instead of buying new dress clothes for my family, we blew our budget on roller coasters and milk shakes and ponchos. We have enough clothes anyway. My kids can squeeze into their Christmas clothes for a few more months.

Six Flags was basically empty beside us, a few Jewish families, and some teenagers cashing in their season passes from the great E.B. By the time the rain set in at 4pm, just about everyone left. We stayed. Sometimes we went on roller coasters twice in a row to experience the ride from both the front and the back. I was shocked at the legit rides my kids were tall enough to enter. As long as we rode with them, they could go on the super tall swings and substantial roller coasters. On some, I screamed the whole time and held onto their tiny hands for dear life. We went on the Skyway Cable Cars across the park three times yelling things like, "Stay Sweet! What's up dude? Party Rockin' in the house tonight." Because no one was there, within a few hours we experienced most of the park. Drenched.

While Sunday wasn't spent being all warm and fuzzy, it was spent together as a family. And besides that one tantrum from Owen ("I will not share my MILKSHAKE WITH ANYONE!"), the freezing rain, and the tacky theme park aesthetic, it was a good time with my favorite people. I guess that's what the day is all about. Well, sort of. I'm rounding up here.


Easter Weekend 2013: Obligatory Family Picture

As soon as I saw this picture I thought:
1. omg I look just look like my dad.
2. I love my family. I really do. But this could be the worst worst family picture ever.
3. I need bangs. Oscar style. He's always had great hair. 
4.  Sunglasses. asap.
After the jump, some of the best of my Instagrams so far this year.
Follow me @sharonbeesley for shits and giggles.

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