Scary Santa (or Being Jewish on Christmas)

There are many aspects of Christmas that I envy as a Jewish girl.  Tree trimming,(and the fabulous ornament shopping and collecting), baking, decorating, just one morning of gifts instead of eight nights of pressure, and the amazing holiday songs (the best of which were written by Jews)

But Santa was never a source of envy for me.

A strange man manages to break into your home, even though your parents have assured you that could never happen. He eats your cookies and tries to win your favor by leaving toys.  (Don’t take toys from strangers, right?)

But weirdest of all is that your mom will stick you on the strange man’s lap and expect you to be happy about it.  If you’re Jewish it is especially strange to partake in this tradition.  Or, as you can see from this photo of me, and my screaming sister, terrifying.

scary santa

And don’t get me started on the Easter Bunny.

Martha Stewart proves that no one can talk sh*t about bloggers – except other bloggers

Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012  photo credit: BlogHer

Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012
photo credit: BlogHer

Yesterday a Bloomberg News video with Martha Stewart made the rounds on Facebook and ignited a frenzy of indignation from the women’s blogging world.   In the interview, Martha disparages bloggers by saying they are “not experts,” that they don’t fully test recipes, that many just repost other people’s work.  Here’s a sample of the conversation that exploded on Facebook yesterday. (Shown with permission from an expert in many things, Amy Oztan)

So, here’s the deal.

Martha is totally right.

And she didn’t say anything that bloggers haven’t said amongst ourselves every time we get together.  I had this conversation over and over again at BlogHer this year.

Are there amazing bloggers who are absolutely experts in their fields?  YES.

Are there bloggers that are full of it, steal other people’s work, put up anything any PR person sends them, are completely based on smoke and mirrors and everyone wonders why any brands work with them?  HELL YES.

Now aside from the fact that you can tell the Martha Stewart interview was edited down to just these perfect controversial sound bites – I’d love to see the context of Martha’s discussion of bloggers – there also has to be a reality check in the blogging world.  Not everything is cause for outrage.   And sometimes the very media outlet that puts out the video and calls it

Martha Stewart Speaks Out: Bloggers Are Not Experts

needs to be called out for playing this game in the first place.  This is 30 seconds out of who knows how many minutes of footage.  I’m guessing at least a half an hour.  And they got exactly the reaction they wanted – all of the bloggers making this video go viral.

Martha Stewart should know better than to ever say what she said, even just from a savvy PR point of view.  But, she is someone who truly knows the media landscape.  She knows that blogging and the content machine have changed the way people get and want their information.  As Cecily Kellogg points out over at Babble, Martha Stewart’s company has taken a major hit, as have all large publishing companies, as they try to evolve in the changing digital media world. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong about how many bloggers operate – or large online platforms – Babble, Baby Center and even the New York Times have certainly had their share of plagiarism scandals.

So let’s take a step back and get real.  Martha Stewart certainly doesn’t need me to defend her, but we also don’t need to be piling on one of the most successful female entrepreneurs – someone who elevated the crafting, food, and style niches to begin with, and proved there was a business model there – just to make bloggers feel justified about what they do.

If you’re an expert, prove it by turning out great, original content, and hopefully you will be able to make a living doing what you love.  And I bet if Martha asked you to contribute to her Pinterest Boards you’d do it in a heartbeat – because nothing proves you’re an expert more than the seal of approval from an indisputable expert in your field.

Star Wars is for Girls

I saw Star Wars about 22 times the summer it came out when I was 5.  I wore my hair like Princess Leia before there was anything called Cosplay.   I’ve written about all of this before.  But last weekend I went with a young KidzVuz reporter (and her mom!) to New York Comic Con where she interviewed Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe.

Ashley is best known in the Sci-Fi world as the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series.   But she is also an awesome fangirl promoter and supporter who saw the need for girl fan merchandise and so she built Her Universe.

I first met Ashley at Disney Social Media Moms Conference – and immediately loved everything she was about.

I will let her tell you why she started Her Universe, and you can see some of the cool merchandise yourself!  But, if you have a fangirl in your life (or if you are one, since she’s got loads of grown up merch too) be sure to head over to HerUniverse.com and pick up something great.  Don’t be afraid to let that geek flag fly.

Bake it Happen for Breast Cancer Research

bananas for boobies logo

I recently had a discussion with my daughters about friendship.  It’s hard to explain to an 11 year-old that friendships ebb and flow, and more importantly, that if you keep your heart open you will continue to make new friends throughout your life.

Some of your friends will stick.  Some won’t.  And that’s okay.  It doesn’t diminish the power of the friendship you had in that time of your life.

If you’re lucky you will have one or two great friends.  If you’re really lucky you will continue to stumble upon those rare people with whom you immediately click – the ones that maybe make you believe in past lives – in all phases of your life.  The ones that feel like family.

I have been that lucky, and I know how special and rare it is.

When my daughters were born I was the only one of my friends to have a baby (babies!).  My cousin, with whom I am extremely close, also had a baby, just a few week before me, but she lived in Michigan.  So aside from talking on the phone all the time, I didn’t have “mom” friends.  And, because I had twins, the thought of schlepping to baby groups between pumping, and feeding, and changing, and wrapping them up to take naps – while also being social in some carpeted basement of the Y, was really more than I could bear.

So, I was nervous when my girls finally started preschool and there were all of these other MOMs.  And, most of the time, it was just me and the nannies.  I seemed to be the only stay at home mom on the Upper West Side – but really it was just the blur of drop off and separation that made it seem so.  Eventually, I met the other moms – at the school auction, at the endless school parties, at playdates.  And I don’t know how it happened, but I met some of the best women I will ever know.  I am still amazed that we were all randomly put into this 2 morning a week class together.

One of these women was Shari Brooks.  And while there are a lot of things I could list about Shari that make her, well, her – there is one that tops the list – Shari is a Do-er, not because she wants recognition, and not because she’s keeping a mental tab in her mind of what someone now owes her, but because she really, really has a heart and mind that just go there.  She is continually thinking about what is the right thing to do, the best way to do it, and then just doing it.  It’s not Type A, it’s Type A to Z.  She’s got it covered.

Knowing Shari like I do, it was not surprising to me that she turned her energy towards creating something positive out of the loss of her mom Judy from metastatic breast cancer five years ago.  I feel incredibly lucky that Shari entered my life at a time when I could get to know her mom, even though her mom was sick from almost the moment I met her.  I have never wondered where Shari gets her energy and love of life from because I saw it firsthand in her mom.  Even at her frailest, after years of ongoing chemo and radiation, Judy would come up on the train from Baltimore – by herself! – to spend time with her grandkids, just be with her family and share more experiences.

A while after Judy passed, Shari started an amazing blog called My Judy the Foodie, where she has kept her mom’s memory alive through her mom’s recipes and special meals.  When I met Shari she literally couldn’t boil water.  I once watched her throw pasta into a pot of cold water and then turn it on.  No joke.  So to watch Shari teach herself to cook through doing, and then through sharing, all the while keeping her mom’s memory alive for her kids, and really everyone, has been a real revelation.

Now Shari has teamed up with her equally awesome sister to create another endeavor that will honor Judy and advance the cause of breast cancer research, Bake it Happen (aka Bananas for Boobies, which if you know Shari makes perfect sense, but Facebook doesn’t know Shari that well so they didn’t like it).

This is no 26 mile marathon where you must exhaust yourself to prove you care.  This is not pinkwashing to make companies look like they care.  This is a very basic way to share purpose and care.

  1. Bake a loaf, or two or three, of Judy’s amazing banana chocolate chip loaf.
  2. Take a pic of your fabulous creation.
  3. Then share it on Facebook or email it to bananasforboobies@gmail.com
  4. Then share a loaf in real life.   Take a pic of that too!
  5. You could win an iPad!

Every time a photo is shared a dollar is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Here’s how we baked it happen last weekend:

See?  Simple, delicious, and meaningful.   Just like good friends.

Head on over now to Bananas For Boobies and Bake it Happen!!!

The New Drug Talk You Need to Have With Your Child

SMA_Label_Logo

Disclosure:  I received compensation for my participation in the Stop Medicine Abuse awareness month program.  However, the opinions in this post are my own, as always!

We all know that we’re supposed to talk to our kids about sex, about drugs, and about personal safety (and tech, of course.)  One thing I’ve realized about these “talks” is that they are rarely a sit-down-in-a-quiet-room-and-discuss-things kind of situation .  Questions come up all time.  While one broad discussion might be a good way to lay a foundation, you really have to be on your game and ready to answer more complex questions or confront more complicated situations as they come up.

And, you can’t have “the talk” just once.  The relevance and depth of these issues change as your kid get older.  The first sex talk is more about the birds and bees, and your body being your own, as they get older it becomes about about boundaries, safe sex, emotional and physical realities, and even internet porn.

The same is true for a talk about drugs.

When I think about drugs I think about pot and alcohol.  I know those are the two substances my kids are most likely to encounter.  Ecstasy, probably.   Cocaine, maybe.  Heroin, I doubt, but it’s possible. So, I would cover those bases, and try to be honest with my kids about my own experiences, within reason.

But what I never really thought about was abuse of over the counter medication, other than my kids accidentally getting into them when they were little.  But it turns out that OTC cough syrup is a major source of drug abuse because it contains Dextromethorphan (DXM), which basically makes you high in high enough dosages.  It’s relatively cheap, it’s legal and it’s easy to obtain – 3 things that make it an easy target for abuse.  And, teens take up to TWENTY-FIVE times the recommended dose to get high.

Stop Medicine Abuse Infographic

Since October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has launched the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign to alert parents and community members of the dangers of teens abusing OTC cough medicines.

But, as a parent you can be proactive!  Studies show that what parents say does matter. In fact, teens who learn about the risk of drugs from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs. 

So have that talk!  Have many talks!

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Talk with your teen about the dangers of OTC cough medicine abuse and monitor your medicine cabinets.
  • Listen to the language your kids use. DXM is often referred to as skittling, tussin, robo-tripping, CCC, triple Cs, and dexing. Check out the Stop Med Abuse site for a list of slang terms and conversation starters for parents.

Look out for these warning signs identified by Stop Medicine Abuse:

  • Empty cough medicine bottles/boxes in the trash of your child’s room, backpack, or school locker
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities
  • Changes in friends, physical appearance, sleeping, or eating patterns
  • Declining grades
  • The first step in preventing this abuse is to EDUCATE yourself and your family. For more information and useful resources for parents, log onto www.stopmedicineabuse.org

And you can follow @StopMedAbuse on Twitter and use #NotMyTeen for tips and advice on how to empower yourself and your teen.

 

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!