One Year in New York

Back in December, I wrote about how I was feeling five months into our move to Brooklyn. And as of last month, we have officially lived here a year. It's the stereotypical experience of I can't believe it's been a year, but it also kind of feels longer. So, in response to the most common question I get asked about our move here, what do I think about Brooklyn (in particular our neighborhood of Park Slope)? One year in - I still love it. Sorry to our Texas friends and families who occasionally ask when we're moving back, sometimes I almost wish I missed Austin, because I miss all of you so much. But unfortunately, I really, really don't miss Austin or our east side house one single bit.

So, what do I love most about our home of one year? Walking. Everywhere. When we were in Europe last spring, I always told Keith that I would fall in love with each new place we went by just walking around. It's the best way to see new things, try the local cuisine (mmm street food!), and hear the language. In Brooklyn, walking everywhere also sometimes means inhaling car fumes and lots of cigarette smoke, holding your breath on trash day, and being startled every time someone honks their horn at another car that didn't accelerate through the light quickly enough. Keith and I both kind of thought after a year, I might be the one to get homesick for Texas. Thankfully, after one year we're both having a difficult time imagining living anywhere else. 

At the Brooklyn Art Museum, about five months pregnant summer 2015

Even summertime here feels different than growing up in Texas. Yes it's hot here and really humid, but I don't have the option of an air conditioned car and an air conditioned office. So I push through and look for the shade. It's never such an oppressive heat that the shade doesn't provide some relief, and most days, it all still feels like such an adventure that I don't mind it as much. There are days that I miss the southern hospitality, and sometimes grocery shopping leaves me almost in tears (people really hate when you bring your stroller into some of these smaller stores), but the majority of the time I walk around beaming at everyone and am probably often mistaken for a tourist, because I'm just so dang happy to be here.

NYC Public Library, Christmas 2015

One year in, I'm still writing love letters to Brooklyn, and in particular Park Slope, in my head while I push Adeline in the stroller and nod to anyone that actually makes eye contact. I'm already craving fall and trying not to let on how truly sad I am to miss winter here as we head to L.A. in October (I know - I know, any New Yorkers reading this think I'm nuts). I love our tiny apartment and how much less stuff we have, though we've of course managed to fill every shelf and storage nook. I love that we have restaurants and bodegas and bars and wine shops and a pet food store around every corner and less than two minutes away, and if I forgot to buy eggs at the co-op, I can literally run downstairs and out the door to the corner grocer, and be back in five minutes.

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, February 2016

I seriously love living here so very much, and feel so blessed and fortunate every single day that this is our life, and that we chose to take this huge adventure with our little family at the exact right time in our lives. Thank you Keith for taking this huge leap with me and not telling me I was completely insane two summers ago when I proposed the idea. And thank you to our family and friends who have visited and have told us how truly happy we seem and reaffirmed that we totally made the right decision. Here's to many, many more years New York!

On the Road Again

There have been an exhausting amount of conversations and details discussed over the past two weeks. Keith is currently wrapping up a documentary he's been working on for the past (almost) year and two weeks ago was approached by another film project. After several phone conversations, Skype calls, and emails, we decided it was a great opportunity and Keith gladly accepted the new editing job. He wraps up the first film in October and then near the end of the month, we head west. That's right - the Fraases are moving to Los Angeles (for 4 months)! 

We'll be near Santa Monica, hopefully in a house, and plan to drive our car filled with clothes, baby stuff, and our pup cross-country. We're subletting our apartment in New York and we definitely plan to be back by March, and though everyone will think I'm nuts for saying this, we're both a little sad to miss out on our second New York winter. I was kind of excited about watching snow fall outside while Adeline and I snuggled inside with hot chocolate and Christmas movies playing in the background. But, this is a really great opportunity and I can't wait to share on social media further details once the film has a release date. Now for an even more positive spin, here are some of the things we're most looking forward to during our four-month stay in LA.

#1. Catching up with friends. Thankfully Keith has lots of film connections in LA and most have become friends over the years, so I'm looking forward to spending more time with all of them. And I have several old friends that I am excited to have some ladies nights out with (and play dates now that some of them have kids too)! Which segways perfectly into #2. :-) 

#2. Tacos. I miss good Mexican food! People keep claiming there are good tacos and margaritas here in New York, but I have yet to have one as good as anything we'd find in Austin. And while I don't miss Austin (except all my favorite people!), I do miss some of our favorite restaurants at times. I am hoping to find a place near our LA rental with great breakfast tacos, a family-friendly place to introduce Adeline to her first chips and guacamole, and refreshing, delicious margaritas for some of those aforementioned ladies nights! 

Image from Unorthodox Epicure

Image from Unorthodox Epicure

#3. Beaches. I don't care that much about swimming, but sitting on a cool beach with a book in hand while Adeline plays in the sand sounds absolutely lovely. And just maybe, being able to hang out on the beach in November will make up for missing out on the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights. 

Santa Monica by Elisaho Wordpress

Santa Monica by Elisaho Wordpress

#4. Parks. I love Prospect Park and am so glad we live so close to such an awesome park, but I also am looking forward to spending more time in Griffith Park, taking Adeline for hikes (once she can go in the carrier on our backs), and working out with the Stroller Strides group in the park near our new temporary home. 

Griffith Park by Everywhere Once

Griffith Park by Everywhere Once

#5. San Francisco. Unfortunately all this timing messed up a family trip we had planned for early October to San Francisco, and I was looking forward to Keih getting to see it for the first time. But now that we'll be in LA for 4 months, we're both thinking we might take a drive up Highway 1 and visit San Francisco and Big Sur at the end of the job. I did this with friends a few years ago and I'd love to make the drive again with Keith and Adeline! 

Image by Monterey Brokers

Image by Monterey Brokers

image from San Francisco Travel

image from San Francisco Travel

#6. Trader Joe's. There are Trader Joe's here as well, but we are currently members of the Park Slope Food Co-op, so that's where we do 99% of our shopping. I could share all sorts of derogatory, ridiculous stories about what it's like shopping and working there, but I'm honestly afraid they'd revoke our membership. So instead I'll just say I am totally looking forward to shopping in a larger grocery store, navigating wider aisles, and polite store employees that are actually happy to help you find something. 

#7. Driving. Okay this is actually me attempting to put a positive spin on knowing that I'll have to drive more frequently in LA. I actually love that the most I drive here is when I double-park the car each week to avoid getting a ticket. I drove to the co-op on a rainy day this week to grocery shop and it was like a special treat. I really love not driving regularly, but the tough part is that we so rarely drive that Adeline hates being in her car seat. So that's what I'm actually looking forward to about having to drive more frequently. It would be nice for Adeline to get a little more used to being in the car, so when we want to take weekend trips here, she doesn't start freaking out after 30 minutes. 

I can't wait to share more on our brief relocation over the next few months, prepping for the move, and making a short-term rental feel homey. In the meantime, please send all your LA tips my way - especially where to go for your favorite tacos! 

 

Summer Road Trips from NYC

It's almost officially summertime, though the summer weather has definitely hit us in NYC, and in anticipation, Keith and I have been brainstorming weekend road trips for the past month. Our first is this upcoming weekend, in celebration of five years of marriage (woo!) and Keith's 1st Father's Day (double woo!). We're driving to the Catskills for a few days and staying in a tiny cabin in Woodstock, NY with our five-month old daughter and eight-year old pup.

Image from Flickr

I have been researching things to see and do in the area, and apparently it's an artist's mecca and big foodie spot. Sounds like our kind of place! I can't wait to explore art galleries, try all the local cuisine, check out a Tibetan Monastery, and take Adeline on her first hike to Kaaterskill Falls.

Image from Panoramio

In July and August, we'd love to spend some time at nearby beaches. I really want to ride some of the coasters at Coney Island, since I was pregnant during our last visit and couldn't. Keith wants to go back to the Rockaways, and maybe even rent bikes this fall once Adeline is big enough for a bike seat. We'd also love to explore Fire Island on Long Island, and perhaps, if we can find anything within our price range, spend a few nights in The Hamptons. Mostly, I want to put on a bathing suit, lay in a beach chair with a good book, let Adeline splash her feet in the cold water, and enjoy a few glasses of a sweet white wine.

Coney Island Beach by Fan Pop

Fire Island by Wikimedia

The Hamptons Beach from Tastes of the Hamptons

For longer weekend trips, I've always wanted to see Maine and just a 5-hour drive up the coast from us, Portland is supposed to be another foodie and brewery lover destination with a cute historic downtown and waterfront, nice beaches, and lots of hiking options. Two other potential destinations even closer to us are Newport, RI (3 1/2 hour drive) and Philadelphia, PA (just under 2-hours). Country Living listed Newport as one of the 20 places people should see before they die, and even though I've driven through before, I've never stayed and explored the historic downtown or toured any of the massive mansions from the 19th Century. We've never been to Philadelphia, but we've heard from several New Yorkers that it's a fun weekend getaway, best spent vintage shopping, exploring historical landmarks, enjoying local craft beers, and spending plenty of time in the museums (Rodin? Yes please!).

Portland, found on Pinterest (original owner not linked)

Portland by Captain Kimo

Newport by Venture Galleries

Philadelphia by CN Traveler

This summer, we also plan to pack a picnic and spend an entire day lounging in Central Park, check out all the Olympic-sized pools in Brooklyn, take the free Staten Island Ferry (just for the heck of it), check out the Beer Garden on Randalls/Wards Islands, and go to a Mets game. But first, please cross your fingers for us that this first weekend getaway with a baby and pup goes well, so we'll want to do all the other ones still!

Product Review: Babo Botanicals

A few weeks ago, I was reading about some product recalls and lawsuits against a very large company that carries baby products (just google it), and I totally started to fall down the parental freak-out rabbit hole. I have actually been the far less worrisome parent in this household (sorry to throw you under the bus, hubby!), but I started  to overthink everything that comes in contact with our daughter's skin. I guess before I was just blissfully unaware. Once the harm that some of these products can cause was laid out right before me, I couldn't continue using them. I recycled all the bottles of baby wash, lotion, and sunscreen that I had stocked up on (I couldn't even put them on the curb for someone else!) and started to research what better options were out there. 

In my online research, I wound up stumbling upon a blog called Gimme the Good Stuff and became heavily obsessed with it for days. Thankfully Adeline's mattress got great reviews on that site. Unfortunately, a lot of our other products (deodorant and wipes) did not fair quite as well. They weren't viewed as poorly as the body wash and sunscreen I had been using though. Once those products were out of our house, I began reading her reviews on various products, checking prices on Amazon, and compared her reviews to those on Amazon as well. I got really excited when I found that she, and Amazon consumers, were both big fans of a New York based company called Babo Botanicals. I honestly am not being paid to review their products or say any of this, but I have been so happy with my purchases so far, that I had to share in case any other readers out there have similar concerns about products they use on their babies skin. Side note: no judgement if you don't overthink it, we use disposable diapers, so we're certainly not as eco-conscious as we would like to be. 

I wound up ordering the Moisturizing Baby Shampoo and Wash, Smoothing Conditioner, Calming Baby Lotion, and Clear Zinc Sunscreen. I bought them all through Amazon using my Prime account, but I've linked to the company's website for the full rundown of benefits and ingredients. Aside from trying to be more aware of the ingredients in the body products I now use, I also try to buy products not tested on animals and this company is cruelty free! You can find this information on Peta's website. I love that the company is US based (bonus points for being in NY), I can actually pronounce all the ingredients, the scents are not overpowering, and their products are tear-free without adding some of the chemicals other companies use to actually mask the stinging sensation in body washes. 

I am absolutely in love with all the Babo Botanicals products that I purchased! I have really sensitive legs, and have actually been shaving with baby wash for years (in place of razor gels or creams), so I actually use the baby shampoo as my own shampoo, body wash, shaving "cream", and shampoo for Adeline. I like it's subtle scent, it leaves mine and Adeline's hair smooth, and my legs feel and look great too! I also like the conditioner (rose scent without being too perfumy) and sunscreen (Adeline has had 0 reactions to it), but my favorite by-far product is the calming body lotion. I actually use it for myself as part of my own bedtime routine, I don't use lotion on Adeline's skin yet. And yes, I have a bedtime routine. I'm kind of obsessed with lavender (I even put lavender oil drops on my pillow before bed), so the scent may not be for everyone, but I find it far less oily than previous lotions I had used and it leaves my skin feeling smooth (and doesn't irritate my legs right after a shave).

I have been so impressed with the products, I definitely plan to continue using them, and may even switch to their daily sunscreen lotion once I run out of the product I currently use. Based on Gimme the Good Stuff reviews, I also switched to new dish and hand soap plus an all-in-one cleaning spray, so once I've had a chance to use those a few more times, I may share another post on that company with my reviews. If you decide to check out any of Babo Botanicals products, please let me know. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have! 

A Healthy-ish Twist on Potato Soup

On Wednesday night, I decided to make a broccoli cheese and potato soup recipe I found on Pinterest, but with my own healthy twist. it made a ton of soup and we had it for lunch every day this week! Yesterday was our final lunch of it, and I'm still so obsessed, I'm already thinking about when to make it again. It's not even soup weather anymore and I still want this soup. Seriously, not to toot my own horn (as I did not entirely create this recipe on my own), but it's that good. If you're looking for a big dose of veggies, and don't mind a bit of cheese, I highly recommend!

Healthy-ish Veggie Cheese Soup (Makes 6 - 8 hearty servings)
(Tweaked this original recipe by Lil' Luna)

Ingredients

  • 2 - 14.5 oz. cans low-sodium veggie broth
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed into small pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 small heads broccoli, washed and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cleaned and chopped into small cubes
  • 6-8 large cremini mushrooms, washed and diced
  • 4 kale leaves, washed and shredded
  • 1/2 bag of frozen corn
  • 3 tbsp of soy-free Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 4½ cups unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 3 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Instructions

  1. In a large pot combine broth, 4 cups of water, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and frozen corn.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add broccoli, bell pepper, mushrooms, and kale. Cover and simmer for an additional 10 - 15 minutes.
  4. While simmering, melt Earth Balance in a large sauce pan. Whisk in the flour and cook for another minute (or until golden brown). Whisk in milk and cook for an additional 5 minutes until the sauce thickens.
  5. Add cheese and stir until it is all melted. Add sea salt, garlic powder and pepper to taste.
  6. Pour cheese sauce into the large pot and stir until well combined.
  7. Add more milk for a thinner consistency and add any additional salt and pepper needed.
  8. Serve warm.

Enjoy!