Friday, July 29, 2011

Serendipity's Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.

Serendipity 3 is a popular restaurant in the Upper East Side of Manhattan founded in the 1950s. While the restaurant is known particularly for its trademark "Frrrozen Hot chocolate", it also offers a full menu.

The restaurant has constantly been ranked as a favorite among Manhattanites, tourists, and celebrities. Strangely, however, I have yet to make a pilgrimage to this fine establishment. 

I've tried.

But I'm inevitably distracted by the likes of Bendel's and Barney's and Bloomingdales. Not to mention the hours spent at Herm├Ęs hoping to score an elusive Birkin bag. Or the afternoons spent sipping prosecco at Cipriani's.

But I digress, this is not an "Amy loves NYC" post {though she does indeed}.

This is instead a post devoted to bringing you a cool afternoon treat.

Or dessert.

Or crazy yummy late-night indulgence.

Depending on how you look at it.

From my perspective it is fairly divine!

May I introduce . . .

Serendipity's Frrrozen Hot Chocolate
(recipe via epicurious.com)

image credit
Ingredients:
6 half-ounce pieces of a variety of your favorite chocolates
2 teaspoons store bought hot chocolate mix
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups ice
Whipped cream
Chocolate shavings

Preparation:
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place it in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Add the cocoa and sugar, stirring constantly until thoroughly blended. Remove from heat and slowly add 1/2 cup of the milk and stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In a blender place the remaining cup of milk, the room temperature chocolate mixture, and the ice. Blend on high speed until smooth and the consistency of a frozen daiquiri. Pour into a giant goblet and top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Enjoy with a spoon or a straw . . . or both!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

50 most beautiful English words.

A few weeks ago I ran across a list, which I shared with you, of 33 Ways to Stay Creative. One suggestion was to read a page in the dictionary. That one stuck with me. It made me pause and think:  When was the last time I even looked up a word in a real {not online} dictionary? 

A very long time ago is the answer to that query. 

I certainly do not fancy myself a wordsmith {an expert in the use of words}, but I am interested by words, especially unused or underused words. So I did peruse a dictionary for an hour or so one day. 

Where were the kids you ask? 

I have no idea. I'm certain I told them I was "working" and to run along and play. Amazing I was able to compile such a list, right? 

So today I bring you a few of my favorite words. Some are new to me, some are just those I think are beautiful and should be used more often. 

Becoming - attractive.
Beleaguer - to exhaust with attacks.
Bucolic - in a lovely rural setting.
Conflate - to blend together.
Dalliance - a brief love affair {actually, I hope not to use this one again, but it is lovely}.
Demure - shy and reserved.
Denouement - the resolution of a mystery.
Diaphanous - filmy.
Dulcet - sweet, sugary.
Ebullience - bubbling with enthusiasm.
Effervescent - bubbly.
Efflorescence - flowering, blooming.
Elixir - a good potion.
Eloquence - beauty and persuasion in speech.
Embrocation - rubbing on a lotion.
Ephemeral - short-lived.
Epiphany - a sudden revelation.
Erstwhile - at one time, for a time.
Evanescent - vanishing quickly, lasting a very short time.
Evocative - suggestive.
Felicity - pleasantness.
Fugacious - fleeting.
Gambol - to skip or leap about joyfully.
Gossamer - the finest piece of thread, a spider's silk.
Halcyon - happy, sunny, care-free.
Imbrication - overlapping and forming a regular pattern.
Imbroglio - an altercation or complicated situation.
Imbue - to infuse, instill.
Ineffable - unutterable, inexpressible.
Insouciance - blithe nonchalance.
Languor - listless, inactivity.
Lissome - slender and graceful.
Mellifluous - sweet sounding.
Moiety - on of two equal parts.
Nemesis - an unconquerable archenemy.
Onomatopoeia - a words that sounds like it's meaning.
Opulent - lush, luxuriant.
Panacea - a solution for all problems.
Panoply - a complete set.
Penumbra - a half shadow.
Pyrrhic - successful with heavy losses.
Quintessential - most essential.
Redolent - fragrant.
Scintilla - a spark or very small thing.
Sempiternal - eternal.
Serendipity - finding something nice while looking for something else.
Sumptuous - lush, luxurious.
Talisman - a good luck charm.
Untoward - unseemly, inappropriate.
Woebegone - sorrowful, downcast.

I'm off to gambol around with my children as we enjoy the halcyon days of summer! But first, I must go make a sumptuous guest bed for some friends visiting from Oxford {yes, England}. I hope I can locate a panoply of sheets! If not I'll rely on my normal panacea: shopping!

Cheers!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Keeping kids on The Safe Side.

Recently in our community there have been a few reported cases of children escaping from a child predator in very child-friendly, otherwise safe environments. The type of places I generally let my children run free.

The most recent event  took place at a history and science museum. My kids think they own that  place we visit so often. And I've never once felt unsafe. The second recent event occurred in a boys' restroom of a bookstore. Which makes my stomach hurt. I cannot accompany my son into the boys' restroom and he is certainly too old to come with me into the woman's. 

It creates a conundrum for me: I simply cannot be with or have my eyes on my children every second of every day. So what can I do to keep them safe. 

That is, short of bubble wrapping them and locking them in the house. 

Which I have clearly considered.
So much is out of my control, but what I can do is educate them.

Years ago I purchased The Safe Side DVD created by John Walsh (missing children advocate) and Julie Clark (Baby Einstein creator).  

It  sets super bright lines that kids can clearly understand. It is quite funny and goofy and immediately engages them. We used to watch it often -- at their request. But I realized yesterday we haven't watched it in years. I've dusted off our copy and will put it in this afternoon. 

Just for a refresher.  

Because if there is one thing I want for my kids -- it's living on the safe side!!

If you've never seen the DVD check out this clip or  visit their website The Safe Side. If you don't own the DVD, buy it now. It will be the one video you will gladly let them watch over and over and over again!



What steps do you take / rules do you have for keeping your children safe from all the creeps in the world?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wrap me up!

Jump on the wrap bracelet bandwagon with super this easy wrap bracelet DIY from Honestly . . . WTF

Truly, after spending 30 hours making a friendship bracelet for Little Miss Thang, {similar to the one pictured below} this will be a snap. 

Obviously, though, you'll need to make a few. You can't wear just one. In fact, you can't wear just 3. But this is a great tutorial and an excellent alternative to the ultra-popular, but also ultra-pricey, Chan Luu wrap bracelets. 


images via Honestly . . . WTF. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Memories of Dad.



Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.
_____________________________________________________________

 August 2001 at Palmilla
My dad passed away a little more than seven years ago {holy smokes, how could it be that long?! }. He was is by far the most influential person in my life. His patience and graciousness were surpassed only by his compassion and empathy. 

He was everything I want to be as a parent. 

Loving. 

Patient. 

Kind. 

Encouraging. 

Not a single day goes by that I don't think about him. Not a day without missing him. Without wishing he was by my side at Little Miss Thang's first violin recital. Or that I could call him when I'm angry or scared or need a shoulder to cry on. Not a single day. But it is no longer a painful thought every day. Just a longing. Sometimes a feeling. Or occasionally a look on Boy Genius' face that reminds me. And makes me smile. 

A few months ago I was cleaning out my email files when I ran across a folder called "Random Archive." Random, indeed. But it was an absolute treasure trove. 

Inside that file was possibly a hundred emails my dad sent to me years and years ago. It was such a joy to read them all again. 

I laughed. 

I cried. 

But mostly, I was thankful. Thankful for emails. Thankful that little bits and pieces of him, of his constant support, are still with me for whenever I need them. 

Most were encouraging quotes. I can remember what an impact his words had when I received the emails years ago. When I was dealing with the problem or disappointment du jour. Some were ten years old. Some from only months before his death. Each one memorable and filled with his idiosyncratic wit:
Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks ahead.
There are very few people who don’t become more interesting when they stop talking.
Before you can win you have to believe you are worthy.
Never fear shadows; they simply mean there is a light shining somewhere nearby.
I feel as though I’m diagonally parked in  a parallel universe.
You can’t expect a person to see eye to eye with you when you are looking down at them.
The best thing to do behind a persons back: pat it. 
A narrow mind and a wide mouth usually go together.
Personality has the power to open doors, but it takes character to keep them open.
Opportunity doesn’t knock, it whispers.
Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.
And the one that took my breath away:
They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but an entire life to forget them. 
Love, Daddy
Yes it does.

Of course, I never want to forget.

And I won't.

_____________________________________________________________
Go check out what Yahoo! Mail is doing to make email evolve right along with you.



Monday, July 18, 2011

Amy's Top Five: Household Products

Yes, I realize this is not a sexy post. 

And most of you could care less about household products. 

I know all this. 

But, friends, my daughter broke her arm. So I'm spending an inordinate amount of time inside my house. I don't know exactly why, but it makes me clean. And it makes me realize the value of having the right tools for the job. 

Or in this case, the right cleansers. 

Also, I've become much more aware of the chemicals all around us. I now wash scrub my produce with soap {all natural, of course). I don't want to ingest or inhale any chemicals I could otherwise avoid. Especially in my own home. So, yes, I have made a concerted effort to switch to all natural cleaning products {we even use all natural bath soap}. And surprisingly, I have been more than pleased with their cleaning power! 

So without further adieu, I bring you my top five household products: 

1.  Bon Ami's powerful powder cleanser is made from biodegradable and renewable cleaning agents such as corn, coconut and palm oils combined with time trusted natural abrasives, feldspar and calcium carbonate.  It is both incredibly effective and eco-friendly. Simple, sustainable and efficient -- the perfect abrasive cleanser. And truly, I'm a sucker for charming packaging. *chirp, chirp*
My sinks get a douse of this every couple few nights. 

2.  Ok, this may be new to you. It certainly was to me a few months ago when I stumbled upon it while searching for natural laundry options. Truly, go look at the list of ingredients in your laundry detergent. Yuck! 
Charlie's Laundry Powder is hypoallergenic, non-toxic and completely biodegradable. It is safe and effective on every fabric which goes through my machine -- including silk, wool, linen, cotton and microfiber athletic gear. The small canister does 80 full-size wash loads for just pennies per load. It rinses completely leaving no residue on your clothes or in your washer {no washer stink}. There are no perfumes, fragrances or chemical brighteners {which also makes it perfect for babies}. Clean, fresh clothing - winning! 



3.  Concentrated Simple Green is truly one of the most versatile cleansers in my arsenal {yes, I just said I have a cleansing arsenal - intervention may be required}.  It is non-toxic and biodegradable {albeit not 100% natural}. I buy it by the gallon and dilute it for various purposes. I keep a spray bottle for each of the kitchen and bathrooms. And a squirt bottle for mopping the hardwood floors {note: I never said I actually mop the floors, just that I provide a nice, non-toxic product for such purpose}. It even degreases the greasy mess that accumulates around my cooktop. Truly, a one-stop shop.  


4.  No list would be complete without my go-to problem solver: vinegar {remember the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding - I believe in vinegar like he does Windex}. Truly, it naturally cleans anything and everything, removes odors, residue, rust, stains, grease and more. And it's cheap, cheap, cheap! Another big gallon jug under the kitchen sink.  Always. 



5.  Our family dinner table is an old French country house wood table. It is worn and old and patched and battered and absolutely perfect for my house {and unruly family}. I feel like it is virtually indestructible. Which is probably a false sense of security, but suffice to say, an additional knick or water mark only adds to the character. When I want to eradicate said additional knicks and water marks, though, I use Mylands Wax. It combines the finest natural waxes available including beeswax, carnauba and shellac wax in a toluene-free carrier. I use the pigmented wax on all my old pieces and love it. I also consider the process of waxing on and waxing off exercise {hey, it worked for the karate kid}. 

There you have it, friends. My five favorite household products.

Do you have a favorite product or are you laughing out loud that I stayed up late to complete this post?  Be honest.  I can take it. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Virtual home page.

Flavors.me offers a supremely easy, intuitive and free way to design and launch your very own home page. 

To get started, type in an e-mail address, a user name, and a password. Your home page appears right away. And then the fun really begins: You can upload images; select backgrounds, layouts, colors, and fonts; connect up to four feeds; and link to various social-media outlets. 

For a small fee ($20 a year) you get more fonts and layout options to play with, lets you connect any number of feeds, and provides you with your own URL. For me, the freebie version works just fine. 

After playing around for five minutes I had this: 


You can check it out at flavors.me/amyeatlivelaugh. It's already changed a bit since this screen shot! 

My own virtual home page. I'll, of course, tweak it a bit when I decide how exactly I'm going to utilize it. But from this landing page you can link to my Twitter stream, my blog, my personal Facebook {if we're friends, that is} and my blog Facebook page {all welcome}. I think it is an excellent way to aggregate all social media outlets in one visually-pleasing location! 

The options are limitless (if you are willing to pay the $20/year fee). If you want to enjoy the free version, you can only link to five feeds. A bit limiting for many of you social media mavens, I realize. 

How else can you see using this as a personal or business landing page of sorts? 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Heretofore: Boy Genius

A few days ago the following conversation ensued while we were in the pool:
My Little Guy:  "Mom, is 50 divided by 2, divided by 2 equal 12.5?
{long pause while I think struggle to do simple math in my head}
Me:  "Yes." {said with a quizzical expression}
My Little Guy:  "That's what I told Little Miss Thang but she said I was wrong."
Me:  Speechless.
My Little Guy has barely learned multiplication. We have not begun division. And I know this is not the most complicated of problems, but work with me here -- he even figured out that when you divide 2 into an odd number you get a half number. That is not second grade work, folks. 

And I've been struggling with referring to him as My Little Guy given that he is no longer "little" by most standards {we nearly have the same size foot}!

So, My Little Guy shall heretofore be known as Boy Genius. 

Little Miss Thang, however, continues to demonstrate that her alias fits like a glove! A cashmere glove no less. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Disappointment.

One moment and everything changes.

One simple mistake.

One misstep.

The sky once blue is now grey.

The summer sun was scorching but now my skin is cool and moist.

The world must have stood still.

Everyone must have felt it, because it rocked me to the core:

My little girl's pain, fear and disappointment.

The weight of it.

The gravity of it.

The fact that she asks if her broken arm is going to cost us too much money.

Sweet girl.

She didn't cry from the pain.

But from the disappointment.

For summer plans ruined.

Hopes dashed.

Expectations crushed.

My heart breaks with hers.

I cry for her.

For the loss she feels.

For the worries she shouldn't have.

For the disappointment of it all.

But I wipe away the tears and turn to her with a smile.

Explain everything happens for a reason.

There is a blessing hidden in this disappointment.

Time to search for the silver lining.

To encourage, not wallow.

To demonstrate just exactly how, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

So, anyone have any advice on how to occupy / distract my daughter during the next month while her bone mends and she misses the sleep-away camp we've been hyping for over a year?

Anyone?

Suggestions?

Please.

And yes, I have the perspective to realize things could be worse. Much, much worse. But I'm really not ready to burden her little world with the perspective I've gained through my own trials and disappointments. Shouldn't she be able to experience the simple disappointments of childhood without being told: "It could be so much worse!"? 

It could, indeed, always be worse. 

But for her, she can't imagine how.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rockin' the babies!

Last month I shared my baby bump. This month I share the results of said bump. 

Literally, 30 minutes after the bump photo I saw this: 


Of course they were quickly whisked away to the NICU because they were bitty babies. 

 My Little Guy was 5lb. even.  

Little Miss Thang was 4lbs. 8 oz.

Both of them: absolute baby perfection. 


And yes, as everyone with twins will admit: It was a little hairy at first. 

But isn't it like that for every new mom?!

And besides, for me having two babies was an amazing blessing.

You see when you don't make babies the old fashioned 
way, you get a bit anxious {to say the least}.  

You want a baby.  

You need a baby. 

To feel whole again. 

To feel like your body can do what it was created to do.

I needed a baby the same way I need my right arm. 

It was critical. 

Vital.

And to get two-for-one!

Well, that was a blessing of ginormous proportions.

I absolutely fell to my knees and thanked God the 
moment I heard the news: you are expecting twins. 

Finding out they were boy-girl twins was just the icing on the cake.  


Of course, shortly thereafter they turned into the baby mafia. 

I'm convinced that they understood at a very young age 
the importance of strength in numbers. 

And I was clearly outnumbered. 


Making me chase them up the stairs with messy faces. 


Climbing on unstable old swings.


Hiding from me at the playground. 

But really, when you have two little faces as cute as this . . . 


Well, as you can imagine I've been positively smitten since day one.



Thanks, Shell, for hosting another great excuse to pour over some old pics!

Monday, July 11, 2011

33 ways to stay creative

I was out looking for a little creative inspiration.

And I think I found it here.


I'm off to try 4 and 22, then a little 9, 11 and 31.

I'll let you know what develops!

How do you recharge and reboot?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Picture = 1,000 + Words

Google's new search function
Wow!  Who knew?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Emailing our way to happily ever after.



Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.
_____________________________________________________________

The year was 2000. Y2K was safely behind us and surprisingly the sky did not fall. Computers were becoming more and more entrenched in every day life. I did own a mobile phone, but I imagine my calling plan allowed only 200 minutes / month which was more than sufficient. I certainly did not text. If that was even an option. But I did email. 

I emailed a lot in summer of 2000. 

Quite a lot. 

You see, my now hubs {but then colleague} worked for the same law firm in Houston. The firm occupied 12 floors of a downtown building. So while we, in theory, worked at the same office, we rarely saw each other. During the summer of 2000 a romance was brewing and the distance of a few floors was certainly not going to stop us! Nor would the anti-nepotism policy or our nosy secretaries as it turns out. 

But we couldn't just sit and flirt on the phone all day. We were private. And discreet. Or so we thought. So instead of face-to-face flirtations or long phone dalliances, we emailed. 

A lot. 

It went something like this:

{him} I'm thinking about heading over to the Four Season's {just across the street}, laying by the pool and ordering a pitcher of margaritas. 

{me} are you telling or asking?

{him} just telling, but if you're thirsty . . .

{me} well, a pitcher sounds like an awful lot for you to drink all by yourself.

{him} who said I'd be alone?!

{me} you will be now.

{him} just kidding. please join me. 

{me} but I have to work. 

{him} boo.

{me} and I don't exactly have a swimsuit in my briefcase.

{him} even better. 

The little *bing* notifying me of an incoming email would make my heart flutter each and every time. The anticipation. The unabashed joy of seeing his name in my preview pane. It still makes me giggle. 

By the summer of 2001 we were married. Our little email romance blossomed and turned into our very own happily ever after! Of course, we still email each other quite a bit during the day. We probably still email each other more than we text each other. Maybe because we started that way. Or maybe we both spend too much time in front of our computers. 

Regardless, now it goes something like this:

{me} the kids are driving me crazy today. when will you be home?!?

{him} I'm swamped. I'll call you when I can take a break. 

{me} that did not answer the question: when are you coming home??

{him} running into a meeting.

{me} you are avoiding me. and your children.

{him} can't hear you now. in a meeting. 

{me} liar.  

Or like this:

{me} please stop at the store and pick up tampons and bananas. 

{him} seriously?!?

{me} yes, we do indeed need both. 

{him} ummm, I think I'll work late tonight. 

Of course, now he also receives emails from the kids and pictures from us on the go. Email has evolved right along with our relationship . . . it just keeps getting better and better!


Go check out what Yahoo! Mail is doing to make email evolve right along with you.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Get the picture?


Love the ingenuity of this. And the vintage / modern juxtaposition of the resulting image. I would love to try this with one of our old "first day of school" photos taken on the front porch of our old family home.

See more at Dear Photograph.

dear photograph


dear photograph



dear photograph



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