PRUNE: the wonder...

I'm going to try to be moderate in my "gushing" but you gotta know the background story I have leading up to my first visit to this place.

I'm a big fan of Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin AND Anthony Bourdain (mostly for his writing, perspective on food, world travels, and utter New York-iness).  So there I was, tired after a long day of child-rearing when I plopped on our couch to catch a rerun of Bourdain's show No Reservations. This particular episode was New York City!! I chalked that up to Divine Providence and got comfy to see his "behind the touristy scenes" insight of the city I love so dearly.

One segment he, Ripert, and Scott Bryan (another 3 star chef - but I don't know much about him/his food) went to this place downtown called "Prune". True to the nature of the show, you get Tony's raw narrative of what a place is really like and this restaurant caught me. He said it was a place that chefs could go to after their shifts for REALLY good and unpretentious food. It's run by the fabulous Gabrielle Hamilton (whose nickname was "Prune" when she was little girl). She was committed to not getting lost in the glamor that is the NYC food scene, but cooking simple (read: BRILLIANT) dishes that she, herself, loved. I was hopeless.  I NEEDED to eat there. I didn't know when that would possibly happen.

::fast forward to quite a few months later::
For my birthday a dear WONDERFUL incredible friend of mine named Cathy told me she was taking me out for dinner but didn't tell me where we were going.  Imagine my reaction when we walked on 1st and 1st and she turned me towards a very simple store front and said "Ta Da!! Surprise!" 

I saw it.  PRUNE!!! I could NOT believe she even remembered my whining about needing to eat least 4-5 months earlier?!

I was giddy.

We sat at our little table in the small dining space. Minimally decorated, you could tell the details were deliberate. Antique-looking mirrors, metalic painted light bulbs coming out of the walls and about 3 staff members serving the whole dining area. OPEN kitchen! yes - you could peek right over the "breakfast bar" looking thing and watch them make your meal if you wanted to. Not that there'd be much space to do that, though.

We slobbered over the menu and decided to pick whatever we liked and share every thing.
Here are the very poor pictures from my sad little camera phone. But hey, it's something. :-)

See those innocent looking Garbanzo beans to the left? Oh, don't be fooled. They're bad. Very very bad.

I still dream about these roasted marrow bones with big crystals of sea salt and sharp parsley/shallot salad. (and they really CAN'T be good for you.) Cathy got the sweet breads in lemon, caper and bacon sauce. Well, we both ate both. yum

This was a whole baked fish stuff with lemons, fennel and garlic. I don't even remember what kind of fish it was. Let's call it "Magic Fish". In the middle is a white bean and wildmushroom creamy goodness.  Cathy got the seared duck breast on micro-greens.

The wonder that was dessert. This is ricotta ice cream (SOOO rich and creamy) with salted caramel croutons and freshly made caramel. (like the the real-deal, runny caramel, not the thick processed gooey stuff. Which, for the record, I don't scorn when served in my home - but it would have RUINED this work of art.)

Now, I hear people gush about this place for its brunches. But that makes me REALLY skeptical. It's New York City - the most amazing Brunch Capital of the World.  I think where Prune shines is it's "normal" food. The food we ordered.

Executed brilliantly, muted plating, ridiculous simplicity and REALLY great taste.  And 5 extra points from me for being a place that I can walk into in a t-shirt and jeans and still eat sweet breads made by a master. (and it won't break the bank either!!)

If you are in NYC. Go there.


...what are you waiting for?  :-)

Bits of My Weekend - Volume 8: LOTS of happenings!!

I wanted to include Friday AND Monday in this weekend...but decided I'd leave what we're doing today for another post...I'm sure it'll generate quite a few great stories. (I'll let the suspense marinate you...ha ha :-) )

But my weekend DID start on Friday when I woke up to Adam saying he was surprising me by working from home was my 30th birthday - yeah!!!  And with that intro - here's a look into my weekend. (apologies for the blurry pics - ALL of them were with my phone)

Adam's work of art on our wall when I woke up

beautiful birthday flowers

Although he told me not to look - I looked into our kitchen where he had been trying to surprise me by making my a birthday cake instead of buying one.  ...somehow 2 "George Forman" grills and a large toaster oven were necessary in this cake making process. Oh and  a potato masher.... ha ha!

The proud baker. I told him it was BEAUTIFUL. :-)

God's birthday card to me. A sign I passed on my way from the gym Friday.

My birthday dinner was at my FAVORITE Thai restaurant in all of Manhattan, Pongsri. Some of the wait staff and the general manager have known us for 5 years and have watched our kids grow. It's like eating with family there. (the one on w. 48th, I don't know about the other one downtown)

After dinner, and with our dilapidated beautiful homemade birthday cake, Adam said we should go to a coffee shop in the Upper Westside. Skeptical, I went along with it.  Once we got to the famous Joe's cafe I was shocked by a surprise coffee and dessert PRIVATE party!!!

decorations, streamer, balloons and the WHOLE place to ourselves!

all my favorite fruit and chocolates!! Our own personal artist/barista - Josh - to make us ANYTHING from the menu...unlimited coffee/tea!!

Such a very very Happy Birthday!
Random - here's one of my favorite gifts received at this little surprise party. Ha ha - don't knock it 'til you've tried it!

Mo's Bacon Chocolate Bar.

Leadership meeting in the morning

The we shuffled downtown to Adam's coworker's wedding. Sorry no pics of the ceremony. I was entirely consumed with keeping 2 toddlers quiet and from destroying everything.  But afterwards and before the reception, there was a BEAUTIFUL cocktail hour at the glass rooftop bar of Hotel Indigo
Elasia sipping her pineapple juice

one of the beautiful views

so...maybe I was trying to show how nicely these Goldman Sachs employees clean up. Or....maybe this is a really bad attempt at getting a picture of the lady in the foregrounds fabulous shoes.

Dinner Saturday Night will receive its own post (look for it Tuesday!!!) I will tell you we went here:

Foodies that are reading this: you can go get a drink of water and fan yourself - it's okay - I understand. It was...a supernatural meal. For all the perfect reasons.  (Come back on Tuesday to see what we got!!!)

Sunday: a pretty regular "Sunday"

Qara running to the school where All Souls Christian Church meets

afterwards, a "bring and share" picnic by the river at w. 73rd-ish

I love these people.

That was my weekend - how was yours?  Don't forget to stop by Michelle's blog to peek into other's weekends too -

Love from Hamilton Heights!

It's been swell 20's....

30 years ago today my mother was still pregnant with me. Little did she know that in less than 24 hours she would give birth to a spunky little girl in the back seat of a station wagon on the Staten Island Ferry right by the Statue of Liberty.

30 years ago.

Today is the last day I'll have in my 20's.

This decade of my life started out in a world that I will always label as "pre-9/11". My life was full of so many ridiculous experiences for someone so young...traveled the world, seen so much of the U.S., lead a small part of a larger non-profit organization and was determined to move to the Middle East to do humanitarian work.

September 11, 2001 changed so much for millions of people. Myself included.

If my teens were like a highway lined with youth, zeal and passion - I think my 20's have been the off-road bumpy transition into adulthood. I married the man of my dreams, had 2 precious children, and instead of moving to Egypt or Jordan found myself navigating the streets of New York with a double stroller. I've felt older than my age and yet so juvenile in my overall ability.

I guess my 20's were typical for the following reasons:

  • I transitioned from KNOWING I was right about everything to realizing how little I know about anything
  • I realized how incredible my parents actually are
  • I finally understood it takes more than me to "change the world" - phew...
  • I suddenly learned the value of sleep
  • I saw that I actually had to take care of my body because it was  ::gasp::  going to AGE!!
  • I learned (am still learning) that "love" isn't the ooey-gooeys I have for someone, but rather the constant beautiful commitment to selflessly give for the other person's benefit. 
I'm looking forward to this next decade. I still feel like such a kid. But I've never had a more clear picture of what is truly important in life. I've never felt so grounded and yet so full of boundless potential.

And, aw, come on - I live in New York City!! 30 really IS the new 20. :-)

Twenties: You've been great, but it's time to move on. I'll have a moment of silence to reflect on lessons learned and wonderful memories had, but there won't be any tears shed with this good bye.

Three cheers for the 30's!!!

Bits of My Weekend: Volume 7

What an excellent weekend celebrating the incredible father my husband is/is becoming! June is a busy month for us - our anniversary, Father's Day, and my birthday. We both love summer as well - so it's fair to assume that most of my BoMWs this month will involve ice cream, sunshine and celebrating of some sort.
Saturday morning - the girls ate their weight in watermelon waiting for me to make breakfast.

Blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes on the menu - yum.

Qara decided it was a royal affair and put her princess dress on.

Daddy dogpile after a big breakfast.

Then off to the gym to work it all off!

While Elasia was in ballet we decided we deserved a little treat.

The adorable little recital to "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. The cute factor was lethal.

Then after a fabulous tea time with some great ladies, I was on a top secret mission (across town, mind you!) to get a Father's Day present.
Yes, we have Home Depot stores here in NYC. They just don't sell all the same things the ones "back home" sold. Very Manhattan.

After a long, full day - I sat on the couch with my "to do" list, papers, pens and laptop. About 10 minutes later...this was the last thing I saw right before I passed out - asleep - on the couch. ha ha.


After a fabulous time at All Souls Christian Church we took Adam to an Irish Pub to eat some wings and watch some soccer.  Then - OF COURSE - Ice cream! (we got some delicious stuff at the UWS Emack & Bolios - yum)

Happy Father's Day - incredible man!!

(Adam - You're an incredible father. I know you're not perfect, but that's precisely why I respect you. You are humble - which makes us feel safe. You are incredibly courageous, which makes us feel secure. And you are wise beyond your experience, which makes us look forward to the days ahead.)

That was my weekend - how was yours? Don't forget to take a peek at others' happenings here on Michelle's blog!

I love New York with kids...on most days.

I love that my girls are growing up in the Big Apple.

(sorry it's blurry - phone camera, I was moving and it was a crowded subway)

I love that Elasia knows what to do after I swipe my metro card (which is duck under the turnstile and come hold my hand). I love how "into" people watching she is. And I love that she looks like a natural reading her AM New York on the 1 train.  (Qara...well she's another story. I'm still trying to teach her that she shouldn't pet the sleeping homeless person covered in newspapers...and that strangers don't appreciate having their butts grabbed in the middle of a rush-hour-packed subway car.)

Yes, it's hard on a lot of days to have small kids here. But there are those times when I look around at all they get to experience...all they get to define as "normal" - that's still so novel to me - and I truly appreciate where we live.

MMs: on a Tuesday.... ha ha

Due to technical difficulties I was unable to post yesterday. But that's just like being a mom, eh?

Well I came across Kate Davis the other day.  I know she's no one new to so many people - but I think we'd be best friends.  I love to laugh. I love to look at the bright side of almost any situations.

But my weakest muscle where humor is concerned is when I'm frustrated at my life as a mother.  I could learn so many great lessons from Kate.

This video is an overview/buffet of tips and funny solutions, and gives you a feel for why I think she's great.

And here's a link to her website if you want to check out more about her.

Enjoy fellow mommys.  You ARE incredible.

Let's laugh a lot with our kids this week - even when we feel like they make us want to rip our hair out!!

Bits of my weekend - Volume 6

My weekend definitely started on Friday.

It was our 5th wedding anniversary!! I'm still blown away at how rich and deep and everyday and HOT and solid and funny our love is.  ::SIGH::

We had a FANTASTIC date. My incredible mother-in-law was in town (they live in Maine) to love on us so wonderfully, make great memories with the gran-kids and to do lots and LOTS of laundry.  Oh THANK YOU, MOM!
roses from that guy I married 5 years ago. And we had a giggling, intense, dreamy date out on "the town".

our wedding rings and the end of our date - cheesecake, coffee and french fries at a diner at 2 AM.  It's amazing how refreshing it is to laugh, dream and reflect with my best friend.

Saturday morning:
We're still a bit obsessed with flowers so I had to catch a picture of Elasia's pollen covered nose after taking a big whiff of blooming lillies on our way to ballet this Saturday.

Little sisters play while the big sisters dance ballet.

AMAZING DISCOVERY!! Is it a new Thai place in my 'hood? Or just a tricky "bait and switch" laundromat?!  I'm hopeful...

After a wonderful time with the family at All Souls Christian Church and a meeting afterwards for good measure - we celebrated our friend Tracy's graduation with her Master's in International Relations.  This pic is from the walk over to her apartment.  

It says so much.  :-)

and of course, Sunday night is currently being spent watching the Tony's.

I just love 'em.

That's my weekend - how was yours?  Don't forget to stop by Michelle's blog to check out other's weekends!

Much love from Hamilton Heights


The new dessert bites offered at one of my FAVORITE local eateries.

I may devote a whole longer entry to the wonder that is Marrakich (a small Moroccan restaurant that opened recently in my 'hood). This is a pistachio, honey...something-or-other aka "YUM"

The downside: Service is soooooo SOOOO slow compared to New York standards. Seriously, even if you call in ahead of time - just sit down and get comfy, 'cause it's going to take awhile. 
The upside: EVERYTHING else. If you've been to Morocco - this will take you back. And the vibe is just like a small shop there. You feel like Grandma is in the back cooking. (You know? That could be the case - which would explain why everything takes so long.)

Definitely worth the time it takes to eat here.  We order all around the menu and, so far, nothing has disappointed. Thinking about it is making me salivate and I'm not even hungry!

Motherhood Mondays: Facing my biggest fear.

(If you stick with me on this longer Motherhood Mondays post - I'll let you into a very tender, vulnerable place in my heart - in hopes that you can feel the cyber-hug when your days are even remotely similar.)
Nothing new: A lot comes to the surface when you feel just a tiny bit over-extended and you're operating on less than ideal amounts of sleep.

Something new: I had a melt-down a week ago.

Here's the lead up story....:

Once upon a time, a loooong time ago (if feels like it, but it was about 14 days ago), two toddlers conspired not to nap. Now, whether or not they slept was irrelevant to their mother - but the short break that the nap represented was critical.

It would not happen.

There was crashing coming from their room, things breaking, feathers being pulled out of pillows, and an entire sock drawer contents dumped on the floor.  Every 15 minutes their mom found herself having to go in, discipline, redirect, (insert various good parenting technique here) blah blah blah. It was grating.

Finally the momma gave up. She brought the two precious/over-tired girls out of their room and the three of them just sat on the couch - mutually exhausted from the war that had ended in a stalemate. She was fighting off guilt as she replayed every visit she paid to their room trying to enforce the nap. She declared herself selfish.

The more "emotionally aware" older toddler hugged her mommy and apologized for not sleeping which only made the mother feel more despicable. The oblivious younger toddler decided to use her mother as a jungle gym until she regained consciousness.

The rest of the evening involved a husband calling to say he was leaving work later than he thought, a botched dinner menu and a failed attempt at a bath (unless you could call getting some of their body sort of wet - then it was a success) and the realization that she had TOTALLY forgotten to do 3 things on her looming "to do" that would make those items "late". As the mother shut the toddlers' door at bedtime and felt like she was crawling emotionally out to the kitchen to clean up the mess - something sinister was happening.  Her broken heart began to harden.

She felt cold on the inside. Her husband walked through the door and could probably tell something had shut off. After a good handful of other things to do, finally lying in bed next to each other - at around...1:00 AM - he opened Pandora's Box.

Adam: Babe, are you okay?
Me: (Silence. Then a muffled noise.)
Adam: Huh?
Me: I said that I'm fine. Just a long day.
Adam: Oh.
Me: (sniffling.)
Adam: Hmmm. Is there anything I could do tomorrow that didn't get done today?
Me: No. I'm fine. It'll be fine. (more sniffling)
Adam: Okay. Good night, I love you. (rolling over)
Me: (trying desperately to stay silent while crying pretty intensely now.) I just....(sobbing)
Adam: (rolling back over and putting his hand on my face) ....yeah?
Me: I'm just terrified.....I'm just so scared of being really THIS important....(sobbing into the pillow)
Adam: (holding me) (silence)

Now, the rest of that conversation went well into the wee hours of the morning and while important in-and-of-itself, it's this little part of my melt-down I wanted to focus on.

Ever since Elasia was born (4 years ago) and my "Sweet chubby cherub blissfully sleeping in her crib" picture was shattered with the reality of a reflux-colicky-underweight-passionate little screamer - I've had this looming...."something" that I've been running away from.

I labelled it "insecurity" and would tell myself over and over that I AM a good mom. Friends would tell me that I'm doing a great job. My mother is proud of me. Even more note-worthy, my mother-IN-LAW is very proud of me. I have an incredible husband who most days whispers in my ear, "You're doing an amazing job, babe." 

What is my DEAL?!

It was this melt down that got me to say it.  I just had to spit it out - be it with tears, snot, and sobs.  I am TERRIFIED!! 

Instead of facing my biggest, most fattest, scariest fear - I was used to ignoring it, leaving it unidentified, and moving on.  Every time it would creep up on me I would shrug it off and assure myself that "I can do this, damn it. I'm a worldchanger!!" (of course, I would NEVER say "damn" out loud - I'm not a NY potty mouth!)

I've had a parasite eat a hole through my intestines in Morocco, a worm make its home in my calf from swimming in a river in Bolivia. I've bungee-jumped and I LOVE roller coasters. I've always wanted to go to the hardest most needy area of the world and "make a difference".  But here I was holding this tiny helpless bundle of pure potential - and I was SCARED OUT OF MY MIND.

Not addressing this directly had really just hurt the situation. Two kids later and a few years into this adventure and my fuse had grown shorter, my capacity seeming to shrink by the day, and the list I was keeping in my head of failures could wallpaper the Empire State Building.

Having a Christian world-view, I knew the right answer was "God is in control", but my jittery heart couldn't digest that. Which only made me feel worse.

That night, crying and talking through things with my husband I watched (with the eyes of my heart) a big, fat, scary, Bully named Fear shrink before my eyes.

BECAUSE I FACED IT.  I just said it. And now - I don't feel alone. Now, I know my enemy.
There's something so liberating about turning the light on in the dark-scary-room to see what it is you were so scared of in the first place.

Running away from problems never solved them. Pretending they don't exist doesn't either.

So, somehow - on the other end of all those tears I have a deeper assurance that things are going to be alright.  As I kiss those chubby cheeks and laugh at their silly antics and firmly discipline their bad choices...and yes, lose it all together sometimes - I'm finding a new/deeper resolve. It will be okay. I love these children with all of my heart. I am loved with an Everlasting Love. And He loves my children more desperately than I do.  And the Punk throwing the sucker punches? Oh, his name is Fear - and I've got a good right-hook myself - thankyouverymuch.

In the words of the wise G.I. Joe, "Knowing is half the battle!"

Let's do this thing called "motherhood".
Bring it.

Bits of my weekend - Volume 5

Our weekend started Friday night.  Here's a little background:

Because neither of our families live near us (Adam's in Maine and mine in Florida), and yet they are so GREAT - we receive care packages from them every-so-often.  There's always a Christmas-like vibe when we receive them too! Usually they are full of special gifts, toys/surprises for the girls, sweets etc. Inevitably, there is something random that makes us all laugh and think, "Huh?"  (i.e. a pack of dish sponges, self-adhesive hooks, old magazines....the list could go on and on.)   This week my parents sent a package of mostly baby wipes for the girls and candy. Buried in the box were two glow-in-the-dark balls (some assembly required.)  Go figure.

So Friday night, we did what every family should do when they receive two glow-in-the-dark balls.  We had a mini-rave.

And Saturday morning, because we're creatures of habit.
Like the Modern Interpretation of The Pancake on top? Thanks.

(sorry camera phones aren't so great with motion...) Early morning stretches and an example of why her nickname is "Monkey"

As always, we walked down to ballet in "the castle" and I couldn't pass up the op for a picture with the sunlight coming through the high windows. It is such a beautiful building!

One of the main highlights of our weekend was going to the P.S. 87 street fair. There were SO many great things for the kids to do and see, like crafts -

and bubbles -

but the girls' favorite part: The Sno-Cones!!

Sure, I had a blast too. But it was hot. And there was A LOT of walking involved. And a good dose of "Oh no - where are my kids?!?!?!" freak-out moments. So when we got home (and put the girls down for naptime) I spent some quality time with:

Don't be fooled by this poor-quality picture of a seemingly harmless couch.  This is a sneaky creature. What started off as a comfy place to read became the place for a coma-like 2 hour nap.

It. was. wonderful.

This is how my girls shop. They do performances with the merchandise and decide what we should buy based on "diva-factor". :-)  Actually, Adam took the girls to the store while I got dinner ready and snapped this shot.

And Sunday. 

Ah Sundays.

 Well there are still about 20 more minutes of it left and I can honestly say it was a bit of a blur. I know it was full of hilariously adorable children, beautiful people, 2 meetings, a new GREAT place to get a quick bite to eat in the UWS 

Oh, and this precious little boy.  This is JJ. He and his beautiful momma hung out with us for the afternoon/evening. And apparently my girls wore him out.  Sweet boy.

That was my weekend. Trying to clear Monday's plate so I can take a breather before the week runs me over.

How was yours?  Check out other great weekend highlights at Michelle's blog.

Much love from Hamilton Heights!