Saturday, January 12, 2013

Starbucks Parking Situation

Why is the parking situation in all the Starbucks here such a nightmare? Either people are like animals trying to negotiate a spot, inches away from a fender bender, or there are absolutely no spots to be had. The Westport location off exit 18 is awful even with the spots along the adjacent road. Let's not even discuss the Fairfield Post Rd location. Often people are sitting in their parked cars on their phones.

I was listening to the radio the other day and they were talking about not being able to get a seat at Starbucks metro locations because many people take advantage of the WiFi and set up their home offices in there for hours. Others just chatting with friends or knitting. But there comes a point when it's time to say to yourself, my coffee is finished and I should probably let someone else have a seat.

Not getting a seat when you want to meet a friend is frustrating, but at least you get the option to get a drink and leave. In the burbs, you are completely stuck if there is no parking spot. No option but to go somewhere else.

I used to have a regular coffee date with a friend after the gym and we would see the same characters. A woman who was knitting and apparently talking to herself; one male Giants fan reading the paper; a mom and her daughter enjoying a hot cocoa. The problem is I would sometimes go for a second cup later in the day at pick-up from school and the knitter would still be there. I mean I know Starbucks wants people to stay and be comfortable - why else put in leather seats and comfy couches with WiFi and relaxing music. But don't you feel on the inside when it's time to share a seat with someone else? Am I wrong?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Heart Paper

I have a definite love for all paper goods. I know, not exactly environmentally conscious, but I can't help it and I use it all. I am not a cheesy scrap-booker type (I know what you are thinking), but I love to make cards, collect stationary, art projects, gift wrap and shadow boxes a la Darcy Miller. Well, she is my inspiration!

Naturally I did a little happy dance in my seat when I saw Paper Source was coming to Westport. It's one of those stores I could literally spend hours in (if I had hours to spend) and it would be like a mini vacation for me. It's not open just yet, but likely this month.

While coming back from school drop-off the other day, I noticed a new store in the Blue Lemon lot. It's called Cursive NYC and based on the lovely window display I knew I would like it instantly. Unfortunately there were no parking spots when I had a chance to go last weekend, but I finally got to sneak some free time the other day during school.

It's a lovely store stocked with everything from gifts, jewelry and candles, to hand made greeting cards from Rifle Paper, among other brands. There was a gorgeous white ceramic fawn lamp in the window I was coveting. Loads of sweetly displayed unique washi tape, fragrant candles and other high-end gifts for someone special (or you!). Stop in when you get a moment.

Kids Art Studios

What's better than making a mess with paint somewhere else? Nothing! Well, maybe. 

But anyway, I really hate doing paint at home because I swear by the time I set it up, everyone has decided they would rather do something else.

There are so many options for instructor-led art classes for children these days, it's hard to pick! Granted we have only tried a handful, like The Studio Fairfield, Hands On Pottery, Green Moon and Joy2Crafts, we still have yet to try JAM in SONO and SplatterBox in Westport, which I am sure are super fun too! Let me know ...

A lot of folks out there are crafty and probably say oh I can do this myself, which I can understand. With the large array of wonderful mom blogs featuring sensory boxes and Pinterest posts galore on kids art projects, you might opt to stay home and play. But sometimes it's just nice to go somewhere else and make a mess and just bring home the finished product. 

Some studios offer drop-off and some have Mommy/Daddy & Me classes. I like both options because studios usually offer the option to book studio time for a special group, like a school class or mom group. This way the kids are entertained and the moms can socialize a bit. I feel like it's hard to have a conversation during a play date because you have to start and stop every two minutes. 

It's also nice not to have to collect all the materials, which can be costly. Most importantly, even though these are kiddy art projects, the instructors at these studios are experts and come up with imaginative applications for your traditional crayons, glue and paint. Here's my two cents:

Joy2Crafts (263 Riverside Avenue, Westport) is a small art studio located on the Saugatuck river near downtown Westport. The owner, Joyce Battone, is incredibly creative, sweet and great with children of all ages. The studio offers ongoing classes, various workshop sessions around the holidays, as well as birthday parties, adult classes and the opportunity to reserve the studio for a small group. The projects are tailored to age groups and it's a fun environment. There is always beautiful sunlight pouring into the studio and music playing. Joyce buzzes around helping the children with projects and offering guidance without interfering with the creative minds at work. One of the great things is that she uses a lot of recycled materials for her projects, so you'll find new uses for toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, plastic bottles and other every day items. Check out the class schedule or book a studio time. Birthdays, camps and adult classes available too.

Green Moon has great studios in Greenwich and Rowayton, although I believe the Greenwich location is soon to close. Veronica Ponce is one of the founders and she is wonderful with children. We have been going there for two years and always enjoy the projects she has set out. Classes usually center around a specific holiday theme or just general weekly classes and camp sessions. The camps offer art, music, play and a bit of Spanish! One of my children attended a Daddy & Me session there and my husband had the best time participating. We've also decorated holiday cookies, Valentines and more at Green Moon. Wish they had a Fairfield location (wink, wink!). 

The Studio Fairfield is located in the ever-so-popular Fairfield Sportsplex off exit 21. We participated in a trial class and made a lovely growth chart. The experience was different from the afore mentioned studios in that it was more focused on technique, rather than several stations set up for toddlers to move about from project to project. I don't know if one method is better than the other, but it was nice for the children to learn to wash your brush in between and how to mix colors. It seems to have become a popular local option and we definitely want to take another class. The owners also discussed adult classes, for example if you wanted to focus on a certain medium over several weeks, such as silk screening. Very cool! Camps, birthdays, classes and descriptions are available on the Web site.

Hands On Pottery is located in the Heritage Shopping Center in Fairfield. There is also a Darien location, although I have never been. I remember first moving to Fairfield and thinking how much fun it would be to go there when my children were old enough. We tried it around Halloween this year and had a great time, but it's definitely for the older crowd because you need the attention span to sit and paint. The way it works is that you pay for studio time and the pottery piece you pick to paint. There are so many options it's hard to choose, but we went with pumpkins. The children get a little tray and can pick a few colors. Then you sit down to paint with your family or group. There is also a table in the back that can be reserved for a group of children (or adults!). Definitely had a good time (maybe more me) and can't wait to go back in a few months. Check it out, but my guess is you have probably already been there! Walk-ins are welcome too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Moving from the city to Fairfield County I was skeptical about finding reliable sushi. When I first met my husband his family religiously went to a restaurant called East. It was in a very unassuming shopping mall - the one with Michael's Craft Store - but had amazing sushi. Top-quality fish, sophisticated dishes that would rival top sushi chefs in Manhattan. Unfortunately, East changed ownership and we no longer go there (quality went down the tubes).

One of the owners from East went on to open an amazing restaurant in New Haven called Miso. It was the best of East plus more. Omakase at the sushi bar with Jason, the owner, is the way to go. You can tweak the dishes by telling him what you like or don't do sushi-wise. But, New Haven is a trek so we don't get there very often. But let me tell you my friends, this is 110% worth the drive. I could eat there every day and not get sick of it. 

This week, Pink Sumo Sushi & Saki Bar opened in Westport behind Patagonia. I admit I went twice - once with a girl friend and once with my husband. Both times I thought the food was delicious and inventive. 

The decor is cute, kind of upscale I guess for a sushi place, but casual with sports on the TVs at the bar. The chef urged us to try the lobster sashimi special, but it's not one of my favorite textures. I am sure it's good though. The Web site says the chef at Pink Sumo was formerly of Nobu, but doesn't say in what capacity. Still, the fish was super fresh and yummy.

The middle dish was my favorite. I couldn't find their menu online to link to, but I remember it was fluke wrapped around avocado and greens. So yummy. The last photo is the Sumo Cup. There are four and each have a different fish on top. Mmmm. We can also vouch for the calamari salad, rock shrimp appetizer, bollywood roll and mango tango roll. So good!

Only slight disappointment was the toro appetizer special. It was a tartare but it was a little too cold. I am guessing they pre-formed the tartar and kept it cold before dinner service. I told my hubby I would rather have cold sushi than warm sushi! It was definitely delicious though and high quality toro.

Still, if I had to choose my last meal before the apocalypse, it would be omakase at Sushi of Gari. Nothing better. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

I have been missing out ...

When Ole Mole Southport disappeared, our family went into mourning. That place was delicious, affordable and convenient. If in a pinch we needed take out, there was something for everyone.

I was skeptical of the not-so-new-anymore restaurant that took its place in the strip mall, but after the girls at Blow Dry Bar turned me onto Tabbouleh Grill, Ole Mole seems like a distant memory.

We have been missing out for sure. The food here is delicious! So far we can only vouch for the hummus, chicken kebab, Israeli salad and pita bread. They also make their own baklava, which is time intensive to make but yields a super sweet dessert of flaky pastry, nuts and honey.

The place was packed on Saturday for lunch and when we got take out tonight the phone was ringing off the hook. The menu says delivery, but that is only for their other location.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Don't Sit There ...

Rallied to meet up with my girlies last night for a drink. We tried Paci, but there must have been a holiday party because it was packed and usually that place is a ghost town. No parking spots. I had to make my own. So we trooped over 30 seconds to Artisan at the Delamar

Had never been and it's really a nice place. Free valet parking, just don't forget to save cash for a top. They have a pretty inside courtyard that must be delightful in the warmer months (pretty please get some space heaters for outside!). Inside is cute with a lounge area up front by the bar. Then there is a back dining room as well. 

The lounge is totally the coveted spot to sit with cozy little seating areas and a fireplace. It was hard to get a seat at the bar when my friend and I arrived early. We asked to sit in the lobby and the hostess said they don't usually allow it but that it would be ok. We promised not to dance on the table. 

We are about to sit down and the guy in the lobby tells us we cannot drink in the lobby. Totally fine, but why listen to our conversation, let us sit down, only to tell us we can't. Silly, but totally understandable. Anyway, the decor is gorgeous. Loved it. 

The only problem is that it was like 100 freaking degrees inside. No joke. I thought I was going to pass out and had to go outside multiple times to cool down. We finally got a spot by the fireplace and couldn't even stay because it was so hot. Everyone else was saying the same thing. We ended up standing in the covered entryway. The kind restaurants erect in the winter so people inside don't get blasted with cold air every time someone opens the door.

The bar tender was nice, but told us a weird joke that wasn't funny. I guess he thought we would have liked it. The crowd was mixed. We saw families with kids, some asleep on shoulders, as well as young to middle-aged couples. 

My friend commented that the food is usually delicious but her meal the previous night was so-so. I would love to give it a try. Everything looked yummy. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Been Here Yet?

I love healthy food. I usually hit up Catch A Healthy Habit (mmm, super yummy try the Spring Fling smoothie or Tara juice or Spring Rolls) or The Stand (Almond Pate Collard Wrap or Sweet Potato Soup - it's all good) in Fairfield for juices and vegan fare and now just fell in love with Embody in Westport. The food at these places costs more because of the ingredients and process. I got a juicer and it is such a pain to clean out that I would gladly pay the price. Maybe I am just lazy.

Anyway, Embody is right by Bridge Street next to the Dunkin Donuts (which, btw, charges a full dollar more for an iced coffee than exit 19 D&D). The nice part is that it offers a ton of protein options, including salmon and chicken, which is great if you are not strictly vegetarian or vegan.

You can eat in or take out. They have fresh juices, smoothies, salads and salad wraps. Everything I've had is delish, even the cayenne pepper drink I ordered by accident.

Recommendations include: The All Green w/ginger and lemon, GT Surge, The Jolt, Embody House Mix, Tuna Salad and the Cali Love. But I don't think you can go wrong.