Grocery Shopping for an Empty Nest

My girls left for 7 weeks of sleep away camp yesterday.  It’s their 5th summer at camp so you’d think I’d be used to the strange quiet of that first Saturday morning without them, and that feeling of being a little unmoored.  

But, I’m not.  

For the first few days I have this nagging sense that I forgot something. Not having to be responsible for being home at a certain time, not making sure dinner is on the table (or at least being summoned in some way), not hustling in the morning to get everyone out the door – these are weird sensations, and it takes a while to find a new way of being present.  

One of the things I tell people when they ask, “What’s it like to not have your kids around for 7 weeks?” is that it’s those little things that are the most unsettling. And then I always tell them about the first time I went grocery shopping after my girls left for camp for the first time, 5 years ago.  

I walked into a grocery store and just froze. I had no idea what I ate. What my husband ate. What WE ate. It’s not that my kids are picky eaters; it’s just that the items I am used to restocking week after week are the things that fill lunch boxes, create quick breakfasts, and produce dinner for four. Milk? Never drink it. Cereal? Haven’t had it in years. Pretzels, chips, cheese crackers? Have no use for them. Giant bunches of bananas or grapes? We’ll never get through them before they go bad. Suddenly I was at a total loss. I turned and walked out.

So, after 5 of summers like this I’ve figured it out. I get my basics online – nuts, tea, bread, paper goods – and then fill in during the week, when I know we will actually cook, with fish, veggies, fruit, etc. 

Like most New Yorkers I have tried every grocery delivery service. Some I’ve found really expensive, some I’ve found unreliable, and some have just been really yucky quality-wise. Peapod reached out to me when they launched their new NYC service and I thought I’d give it a try, most of all because they work through Stop n Shop and given how expensive my Manhattan neighborhood grocery stores are, I thought it would interesting to price compare. If I can get some suburban pricing delivered to my city door I’m all for it.

I ordered my child-free basics, and was happy to see tons of store brand options as well as a lot of incredibly well priced organic offerings for everything from almond milk to cashews to strawberries. The site is fairly simple to use, though the interface isn’t exactly beautiful.

Peapod by Stop and Shop  Online Grocery Shopping

But once you build a list you can keep reordering from that so you don’t have to go through the navigation hunt every time. There were an incredible amount of delivery times available, and big discounts on different days of the week and times. Most of all, it truly felt like shopping in a big suburban grocery store in the best way – lots and lots of options, specials, and both name and store brands. And you can sign up for a Stop & Shop loyalty card so you get those rewards points, just like a physical grocery store.

I’m all for more options in the grocery delivery business. It’s really the only way to know I will be able to cook healthy meals during the week after work. But, right now I’m happy that I didn’t have to have my yearly existential grocery store moment!

I was given a promotional code to shop at and try it out. All opinions are my own, as always.

Does Google Know You Better Than You Know Yourself?

Does Google Know You Better Than You Know Yourself?

When you’re a mom you’re bound to have a pretty wide variety of personalized recommendations displayed for you when you log into Amazon, or Google, or Facebook.

Chances are you don’t just shop for yourself online, you shop for the whole family, you buy gifts for friends and family, you also probably do your fair share of internet research for family too. And while you’re clicking away from site to site that information is being tracked, stored, sold and parsed a million different ways through ad networks, cookies, and other data collection services. I know the first time I looked at a dress on and then clicked away to Facebook only to see that same dress pop up in the ad feed I was completely freaked out. Now, for better or worse, I just expect it.

But, what does it mean? And what have we given up in return for that “personalized” ad experience?

I spend a lot of time talking to my kids and to other parents about online privacy, but these invisible mechanisms of data collection, those terms of service we never read and just impatiently scroll through in order to get to the “accept” button, they mean something. I was inspired by, the provider of the personal URLs that end in .ME (like to think more about the true cost of personalization and “free” services.

Facebook is not free. Google is not free.  They are making money off of our data, but most of us don’t want to really think about what that means. Or maybe we’d rather have ads that are targeted to us, or recommendations that show us products that make our shopping and simpler. However, you don’t have to sacrifice all of your privacy in exchange for personalization.

Google has some simple tools for keeping more of your data private across their properties, including YouTube, Gmail and Chrome. And if you’re spending the bulk of your time and sharing on Facebook – especially if you’re sharing pictures of your kids – you should definitely get to know the various privacy settings for your account, check them often, and make sure that you understand how your data is being used on Facebook.

Finally, there’s a simple way to keep sharing your data across websites – don’t use your social network credentials as your log in credentials. Once you connect third party sites and apps to your social networks they can pull all sorts of data about you and your friends. Create unique sign on passwords for those sites and keep those accounts separate. At the very least you should check your social network settings to see which apps you have given permission to and disconnect those that you no longer use or don’t use regularly.

Using the web shouldn’t mean giving up your privacy and your data. Taking a few precautions and doing a regular audit of your accounts should help you control your data. It’s your data and you should have a say in how it’s used and what it’s used for.  And be sure to teach your kids how to protect their data too!

This post is sponsored by Domain.ME.  All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always.

Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

7th Jazz Brunch Birthday

Once upon a time my girls were happy, crooked smile, super cute, very confident little girls.  As my daughters approach their teen years the questions and conversations around their bodies, female celebrities’ bodies, models’ bodies in magazines and ads, has picked up considerably.  Middle school is a grand experiment in social dynamics and insecurity as 100s of kids enter (or don’t) puberty.

How could you not have bodies on the brain when change is happening all around you every day?

I have thought a lot about how to talk to my girls about their bodies, and how to answer their questions. The one thing I know for sure is that like most of parenting it’s about modeling the behavior you hope to see in your kid.  What that means is that I eat healthy in front of my kids, and have the occasional treat too.  I don’t talk about regretting something I ate, and I cook – a lot.  We talk about balance rather than labeling foods as off limits, and in the end, just try not to make such a big deal about it in the first place.

And I never, ever use the word diet.


And then there is reality.  No matter what, tweenage angst is inevitable.  Frizzy hair?  Breakouts?  Crooked teeth?  Yup.  And we’re dealing with all of that too.  And wow, have products gotten better for all of those things since I was a tween!  Where was no-frizz cream when I was 13?

I also talk a lot about the value of a smile.  It really can light up your face, make you more approachable, and even change your mood – not an easy thing for a moody tween to believe.  And of course, if you’re self-conscious about your teeth a smile is the last thing you want to show off.

I never had braces.  The orthodontist said it was “optional,” which my 12 year old self heard as “not necessary at all.”  My parents heard it that way too.  But, I’ve never liked my teeth. They always seemed too big, and not quite straight, and, guess what?  My teeth have completely moved as I’ve gotten older, and not for the better! As I’ve watched my daughters teeth become perfectly straight and aligned over the last 2 years I have to admit I’d like to to follow their lead.

Every time I walk into the orthodontist’s office with my girls I have the same conversation with her – basically picking her brain about Invisalign since she’s a preferred provider.  I’m more than a little obsessed.

I’ve also now had two friends go through the process and I can’t quite believe how well it worked.  But it really did – without the metal mouth that there is no way I would endure at my age.

You can take the Invisalign Smile Assessment to see if you would be a good candidate for Invisalign – and to see the Invisalign results.  Plus it’s really cool to play around with the Smile Assessment tool and get an idea of what your teeth could look like!  I had a little too much fun trying it out.

I know there are a lot of moms out there who would love to be able to give this to themselves.  Or to their teen.  Who needs to have another thing to make the teen years awkward?  And who wants to be 40 with a mouth full of braces?  No one.

So, I’m really excited about this Invisalign Countdown to Confidence Sweepstakes.  They are awarding one winner $100 each day for 60 days plus a chance to win the grand prize: free Invisalign treatment and $1,000! 


You can enter every day at:  But hurry because the sweepstakes ends November 13th!

And for more info you should follow Invisalign on Social Media:

Invisalign on Twitter

Invisalign on Facebook

Invisalign on Pinterest

I have a feeling that when my daughters finish their orthodontic treatment in the next few months I will be taking their place in the orthodontist’s chair!

This post was sponsored by Invisalign.  I was compensated for my writing, but as always the opinions and words are very much my own.

Hurricane Season Starts June 1st: NYC Know Your Zone!

Hurricane Season Starts June 1st: NYC Know Your Zone!



We New Yorkers have been through our share of emergency situations over the last 12 years.  I watched the Twin Towers collapse from my apartment window.  I made it through the blackout with twin baby girls who basically slept through the whole thing.  And in 2012, when Superstorm Sandy struck, we were fortunate enough to live uptown, and came to love the huge inclines of the Upper West Side streets that I cursed when I had to push a double stroller up them day after day.  It turns out being perched high up on a concrete paved hill is probably the best place to be in all of Manhattan.  But, it’s also just luck since the power outages could have happened anywhere – and who wants to rely on luck when your family’s safety is on the line?

Know your zone, and know how to be prepared!

  • Use NYC’s Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder or call 311 to find out whether your home or business is located in a hurricane evacuation zone.
  • Understand hurricane hazards and the steps you can take to prepare.
  • Sign up for Notify NYC.
  • Get the latest emergency information via text, phone, email, fax, Twitter (@NotifyNYC), BlackBerry Messenger, and instant messenger.
  • Get the Ready New York Hurricane Guide: The guide contains instructions on how to develop a hurricane disaster plan and secure your home before a storm as well as a map of New York City hurricane evacuation zones.
  • You can check out the SnapGuide too.

And make some thunder of your own!  Participate in the Know Your Zone Thunderclap campaign!  It’s super simple and a great way to let everyone know it’s important to know your zone!


NYC Department of Education Releases a Social Media Guide for Students That Says…Nothing?

A lot of local media press is swirling around the new social media guide put out by the NYC Department of Education this week.  At first glance that sounds great.  Administration is stepping in to help kids navigate social media, provide tips and guidance and empower kids to make smarter choices online – or so you’d think.

But in fact if you read it, it is not a guide – it is a set of cliché ridden guidelines.  Complete with links to multiple Chancellor’s Regulations – because there’s nothing kids won’t enjoy more than reading the A-831 regulation to understand peer sexual harassment.

This guide contains such gems as this advice if you are cyber-bullied and would like to report it to the adult in charge at your school,”If you are not sure who your school’s Respect for All Liaison is, please look for their name on the RFA posters.”

And this warning about crossing the personal-school life boundary, “Sometimes, personal social media use, including off-hours use, may result in disruption at school and the school may need to get involved. This could include disciplinary action such as a parent conference or suspension.”

In other words, this is NOT a social media guide, it is a set of regulatory guidelines, and we shouldn’t be giving the NYC Department of Ed a big hurrah for publishing them.  They are not curriculum or actual teaching tools.

The good news is that there is a media literacy bill right now in the New York Legislature that would mandates the Department of Ed will develop standards and provide resources for incorporating media and social media literacy in K-12 curriculum.  And, it will make teacher training available for media literacy as well.

THIS is worth your time in sharing and talking about so we can actually create media savvy kids.

Add Some Hamptonality to Your Holiday – Plus Win a Free Night at Hampton Hotels

exterior When you live in New York City everyone wants to visit you.  With the theater, museums, great restaurants, and all of the fantastic landmarks and sites – and amazing shopping of course – NYC is a fabulous place like no other.  Add in the holiday lights, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the Rockettes and all of the magic that makes NYC especially glittery at holiday time, and it’s easy to see why friends and family want to come and stay.  However, there is one other reality about living in NYC, the lack of space.  Stepping over aerobeds and no privacy aren’t exactly the makings of a great visit. I love the idea of putting up family at a reasonably priced hotel instead.  Hampton Hotels has launched a wonderful new Hampton Holiday Program where the central theme is making guests feel taken care of and providing a clean, warm place to call their own.  All of the 1,900 Hampton locations feature:

  • Free, hot breakfast with fresh-baked waffles. (This is ESSENTIAL when traveling with kids!)
  • Free wired or wireless high-speed internet access in all guest rooms, so you can post about your holiday travels while visiting family in other towns.
  • The clean and fresh Hampton bed® – so you can rest up for your big holiday weekends.

GuestRoom_HR[1] I always enjoy staying at the Hampton Inn in Maine when we visit our girls for camp visiting day.  We’ve always been impressed with the service, the breakfast and the clean rooms.  Plus, the free wifi is a must for me!  Now I know all of those little things add up to “Hamptonality.”  Also, I love earning Hilton Honors points! Here in NYC it’s nice to know that even if we can’t squeeze people into our apartment there are ways we can personalize their stay in a hotel.  Hampton has partnered with entertaining expert, Jenny Steffens Hobick, to provide simple tips for making out-of-towners feel at home – especially when they’re staying in a nearby hotel. I love these tips especially:

  • Plan a welcome bag with treats, water, (and my tip in NYC – a metrocard and a list of great NYC apps to download!)
  • Hire a babysitter one night and host the kids at your place so the grown-ups can have a kid-free night out together.
  • Make time for resting.  This is so important especially in NYC!  Set a time where everyone just meets to relax, have a hot drink and snacks and regroup.

Here in NYC the Hampton Inn Times Square North is ideally situated for walking to the theater, Central Park and midtown shopping.  Plus it’s close to every subway imaginable. Everyone could use some time away, whether it’s a quick trip or a longer vacation.  And it’s so nice when everyone has their own space too. So, I’m giving away a one night stay to use at any of the 1,900 US Hampton locations!

How to Enter the Hampton Be My Guest Giveaway:

Follow @beccasara on Twitter and tweet your “Hamptonality” tip.  What’s the thing you do to make your guests feel special?   Be sure to include @beccasara and #HamptonHoliday.  Then leave a comment below with a link to your tweet! You can also follow Hampton throughout the year for great travel ideas and promotions:

One winner will be chosen at random using on December 31st  at 12:00pm Eastern.  Hampton Hotels will mail the winner a “Be My Guest” card, which entitles the bearer to (1) free night stay at a Hampton location.  Winner will be notified via twitter and must respond within 48 hours to claim the prize.  Open to U.S. Residents 18+ only. This is a sponsored post.  Compensation was provided by Hampton Hotel via MomTrends.  The opinions expressed herein are mine and are not indicative of the opinions of Hampton or Momtrends


Marcus Samuelsson and Uncle Ben’s (Beginners) Get Kids Cooking!

at red roosterLast month I had the pleasure of dining at one of the best restaurants in NYC: Red Rooster Harlem.  Yes, the food is wonderful, but really it’s not just about the food – it’s about the incredible sense of community and care that fills the space that makes it so special.  After meeting Marcus Samuelsson, and having him give us a tour where he pointed out all of the thoughtful features that went into building Red Rooster it was easy to see why the restaurant exudes warmth and an authentic identity.  From the art that features local customers, to the books that reflect the history of Harlem, food, music and culture, to the artists they feature in the space – you know that there are conscious, purposeful choices put into the restaurant.

That thoughtfulness extends to the food and work of Marcus Samuelsson, who has teamed up with Uncle Ben’s Rice to get kids and families cooking together.

The campaign, Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest asks families to create a cooking video together and show how cooking can bring you together – and teach kids better food habits.  You could win $15,000 for your family – and $30,000 for a cafeteria makeover for your school!

When you talk to chefs they usually point to a family member as the reason they got into cooking – a grandmother, an uncle or aunt, their mom.  Cooking in the home is one of the most fundamental experiences we can share with our kids – it doesn’t have to be a big deal – it’s actually better if it isn’t.  Unfortunately, I think we spend more time watching impossibly hard cooking shows that have nothing to do with real life cooking – and less time actually chopping, peeling, and turning on a stove to make a simple dinner with our kids.

Marcus spent a lot of time with my daughters and niece at the lunch – asking them all about their school lunch program, what they’d like to see in school lunch, what the kids actually eat – and about the conditions of the lunch room and the experience of lunch time at school (hot, rushed, and overcrowded – all while being yelled at by cafeteria aides).

Marcus Samuelson

It was really interesting to me that he partnered with Uncle Ben’s, but I totally understood it when you looked at this program that was trying to get families to not just cook together, but celebrate it too.  And if using quick rice can make it easier to create that dinner, and get it on the table faster, then I’m all for it.

At Red Rooster they started with the brown Uncle Ben’s Rice, added lobster stock, herbs and spices and created their dirty rice:

It was delish.  Along with the rest of the meal of shrimp, jerk chicken, kale salad and cornbread.  Plus they made Shirley Temples for my girls.  They felt very swanky.

If you’re in NYC be sure to go to Red Rooster for a really special meal.  (We also picked up cupcakes for our Rosh Hashanah dinner that night.  And they were amazing)

So, grab your kids, and get cooking together today.  You can shoot the video on your smartphone – nothing fancy.  Just like you can make some simple pasta, nothing fancy, but at least you’re doing it together, and showing your kids that cooking is not a big deal – it’s something you do to take care of yourself and the people you love, in the most basic way.  And then enter the Uncle Ben’s Beginners Contest – you could even end up on Rachel Ray!  But hurry!  The contest ends October 6th!