Calling all Raleigh, NC families! This event is a must. Come capture your costumed cutie and benefit the search for a cure for Coats Disease! This rare disease is something all parents and photographers should be aware of, but most are not! Please click the link below to learn more and spread the word. Thanks!
Archive for the ‘stuff to do’ Category
Got a birthday coming up? Just love cake? Well this one is for you! I adore this little monkey cake and I think it is the cutest thing since Curious George himself! I love love love banana bread around here and I think its such a great thing to bake with kids I just had to pass this one along from Smitten Kitchen. Click here for the recipe and directions! Let me know if you make it!
As most of you know, I, Chiara founder of Chi Chi Bean, primarily sustain myself from chocolate. Its keeps me going at all times, it is my essential fuel. Its been a lifelong affair for me. I remember as a kid reading the book “Chocolate Fever” and being genuinely scared that like the hero of the book I could end up with chocolate freckles all over my body due to my consumption of all things chocolate. Well, I am happy to report that at the ripe age of 33 it has not, yet, happened. My darling daughter has the “gene” too and I swear “chockit” was her 2nd word!
But alas, there has come a time for me to test my love and will power. This year for the time of Lent I will be forgoing all things chocolate. Yikes. In preparation for such a feat I have of course been craving the luscious concoction even more than usual. Last week while visitng one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, she posted about the best cocoa brownies! Ugh, D E V I N E! So I thought it appropriate to pay homage by sharing this lovely recipe in honor of love, it is afterall almost St. Valentines Day! I encourage you all to bake these and savor them…..ahhh chocolate. Enjoy.
Here is the recipe but do check out Smitten Kitchen for more photos and her funny post as well…
Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies (the size you see pictured yielded 25)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, as I used)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added. [Note, many people who have tried this recipe have found that this step works just fine in the microwave. Couldn't test this because we don't have one, but it sounds like it would work.]
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at least 10 minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack. (I go further and throw mine in the fridge or freezer for a while; it’s the only way I can get them to cut with clean lines.)
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
Everyone wants to give the “cool” gift. Every kid wants to receive something fun. And every parent of a child dreads heaps of toys that go unused or worse yet, run out of batteries and end up in the heap of “that’s not fun anymore”. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. The Little Experience is here. Back in stock actually. That’s right after blowing through our nearly every thing we had, our new shipment has arrived just in time for all those summer soiree’s.
Now you can give a gift that is big on fun, requires only the internal “everlasting” battery inside of every child and best of all you won’t irk the birthday kid’s parents. And oh yes, they are all eco friendly! The Little Experience craft kits entertain kids for hours as they create their own toys! Yes, that’s right their own toys. Think rockets, boats, puppets, ballerinas, oh my!
Now is the time to throw a few in your cart and stock up for the soirees and rainy days ahead. And at just $7.50 they are oh so easy on your wallet too!
Who do you think is more insane, the man that opens a pizzeria in the suburbs during a recession or a mom who has been cooped up with kids for 20 straight days of rain? I am willing to bet its the mom because last week I tested out the newly opened Frankie & Fanucci’s Pizzeria in Hartsdale. I heard about Frankie & Fanucci’s from my friend Erika, who in all honesty should be writing this post! She is a total foodie and always has great recommendations. So last Friday night I joined Erika with another friend for a delicious Neopolitan style pizza, some nice chianti and great conversation. I made Erika do the ordering because well, as a single mom-preneur, I make way too many decisions all day long and gladly appreciate when someone else takes the reins. My taste buds were oh so appreciative of this submission!
Here’s what we had: Pear & Gorgonzola salad, Fresca salad, a large Di Parma pizza and for dessert, the homemade Tiramisu and two perfect cappuccinos. We also ordered a side of meatballs with the best marinara sauce I have had in probably five years. The owner, Brad Nagy, later revealed after we closed down the place, that the sauce is made in the oven. Delicioso! A few glasses of wine and our total bill was about $86 for the three of us. Well worth it!
Although I went with other adults this is completely the kind of place you could bring your kids. The atmosphere is easy going, the service is attentive and best of all the food is really tasty. So when you can’t stand to be inside your four walls anymore, want to please your taste buds and can’t stomach breaking the bank, head on over to Frankie & Fanuccis located at 202 E. Hartsdale Ave, Hartsdale NY 10530. Need a take out order? Give them a call at 914-725-8400.
Its a fact, we are now working on our 18th day of rain out of 21 days in the month of June. Oy. Does anyone else feel their sanity slipping away? The sunlight deprivation is getting to me. Having grown up in Vermont where the winter months seem to all blend together with deepening shades of grey, I am no stranger to “seasonal effect disorder”. This is fancy code for “I need some natural sun before I lose it”. Normally, the sun shines a bit more here in NY but, this is not a normal year by any means. Who would have thought that in June so many of us could be feeling the same sluggishness that is common in February? Of course, I should have known when this year the first day of spring brought us a blanket of morning snow. I think this was a hint of foreshadowing by mother nature.
So who knows when we will be able to play at the beach this summer. Until then, the “new normal” is not just a trendy term to talk about our country’s economic health but the overall everyday abnormalities that ,well, have become normal. Ahem, 18 days of rain!
Thankfully, yesterday there was a brief reprieve of rain and we dashed over to the Bronxville Farmers Market. Its a small, weekly market that is quaint and charming. Each week during the spring and summer we look forward to our favorite scones and cookies come from Rock Hill Bake House. And the best free range eggs come from Veritas Farms. Here’s the best part about these eggs — they come in all different colors, naturally. Blue eggs are natural? Yep, different chickens lay different eggs. Pink, yellow, brown and blue, now those are some happy chicks! Be sure to say hello to farmer Paul when you stop by! Look at these lovely chickens from the farm. You can visit Veritas on Saturdays if you are in the New Paltz area.
This little weekly ritual of finding our market basket and seeing what each booth holds is not only good for our local economy but is delightful fun for children alike and frankly helps to fight these gloomy days. We will survive for sure, but the sunny days, the dog days of summer can’t come soon enough…
Ahh, the first day of summer break….cloudy skies and forecast for rain. That means at 11 am we were already in line for the movies, Disney’s Up! Alas, the 11:30 screening was in 3D, darling daughter was going to have to NOT freak out about wearing the glasses….oh boy. (FYI it was $24 for an adult and one child for Monday morning movie, good lord)
Okay, so we sit down and there is but one other mom in the ENTIRE theatre. Good thing for theatres admission prices are up but you think they might take note that they are out of control and out of reach for way too many. Can’t imagine what its like for a family trip to the movies including snacks! First, there was the preview for the next Harry Potter flick, which is so scary Ava nearly jumped into my lap and repeatedly kept asking “mama, is this the movie?”. Poor kid was terrified that I was taking her to some fright show. Next, a preview for Toy Story 3! Thanks goodness for Toy Story, that had her (and me, I love Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head!) laughing out loud. Okay, Pixar redeemed. Now, onto the short animated film the preceded the main event. It was some cloud depiction with storks and babies, cute enough but then there was the villain cloud. Again, child in lap clamoring, “mama, is this the movie?”. Phew, it ends.
Alright, main event, here we come. The movie begins with two goofy kids, adventure seekers, who grow up and fall in love, forever. This tear inducing sequence culminates when the main character Carl and his wife Ellie are in their golden years. Beautifully executed to the point that my darling daughter exclaimed, “I want to go home. I miss gramma Suzen”. Stunning animation and a thoughtful presentation with virtually no dialogue. Well done. Next comes the reality that Carl is alone, cranky, and surrounded by looming urban developments. Eventually he snaps and whacks a construction worker, injuring by means of violence – enter blood, police and an ambulance. Not good, especially when trying to instill in a young child that yelling and hitting are wrong. Ugh, now she is scared and angry. And this is only just the beginning. Enter, packs of violent barking dogs, a mean villain who is trying to take a mother bird away from her babies, and cranky old man being cold to a young boy. As an adult, I love Carl and Ellie. I can empathize with their plight and really love that the story comes full circle back to their adventure book (which, actually does make for a great activity with your kids this summer, see the template here). I believe in them as characters and so forth but I am 32, clearly not the target audience. Disney, I must ask, are you suffering from a personality disorder? Wildly swinging from something so good to something going down so quickly. Perhaps maybe and perhaps they just can’t seem to make a movie for children under 5 that won’t scare the crap out of them that doesn’t involve the sexual stereotyping of princesses. Thank goodness we have Toy Story 3 to look forward too. Bad news is we have to wait an entire year.
I recommend dodging out of work on a Monday afternoon and hitting the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut. Today, I fetched the wee one from school and drove up to the aquarium to see the African Penguin exhibit. It was nothing short of a fabulous afternoon. For starters, the museum was almost all to ourselves with the exception of about two school class trips, so we were able to see all the exhibits and never feel overrun by tweens. I can’t say enough good things about the Maritime Aquarium – it’s managable in size, has great interactive exhibits (imagine petting stingrays!) and it’s charming Norwalk. It did not not take much convincing for my darling daughter to agree to walk over to Chocopologie. Think fabulous French chocolate shop as in the movie “chocolat”, watch them make the delicacies as you sit at a rustic old farm table. Oh so chic and simply delish. We had the chocolate gelato, which was so decadent it felt like eating velvety chocolate fudge. No complaints!
This year Saint Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday. Whether you are a singleton or a smug married or somewhere in between with the work week out of the way, this year try this with the little kiddos: a scavenger hunt! Nothing says I love you like a near guaranteed nap from your little ones or at least some well-deserved quiet time and by entertaining them with this little hunt they are sure to give you some down time.
- Place clues around the house and/or yard leading them to the end prize, such as my personal favorite, CHOCOLATE! But use any reward your little hunter will like — coloring books, popcorn, etc.
- A general rule of thumb is one clue per age of child. Ex. 3 years of age it takes 3 clues to get the treasure.
- If you have more than one child, send them each on their own hunt and they have to track down several clues before they get to their prize.
- Write the clue, plus have a clip art picture to help them solve the clue. (The pictures are especially helpful for those just learning to read.) They love the hunt and the reward!
Have fun on the hunt and send us your comments on your own tradition. We would love to hear from you!