Paleo dining in downtown Manhattan?

March 30, 2014

I wrote a dining guide to help you find great paleo / grain-free options around downtown Manhattan!  Enjoy!


How can I learn Mandarin?

August 29, 2013

Another blog post in my back-to-school special!  If you’re trying to learn Mandarin, try McGraw Hill’s Chinese Pronunciation with CD-ROM.  In my experience as a non-native speaker of Mandarin, the hardest thing is the different tones.  Chinese is a tonal language, so it’s really important to get the tones right, and this book is wonderful for that.

I’ve also found The First 100 Chinese Characters by Alison Laurence Matthews (and the follow up The Second 100 Chinese Characters) to be extremely helpful in learning to write Chinese characters.  These books are great, because they are indexed well (in Chinese and in English), and they show stroke order stroke by stroke with directional arrows (instead of just a character with numbers next to it, which I’m not that crazy about).  There is one character per page, and several common words made from each one.  I love these books, and I refer to them ALL THE TIME.  I love them.  Seriously.

100 Chinese Character Books

I love these books for learning characters


This is how the first book deals with the polite form of “you,” which has 4 more strokes than the common form.

You can’t beat actually using the language in terms of trying to learn it.  I am shameless in my attempts to speak Mandarin (as bad as my accent is, and as limited as my vocabulary and understanding is).  Just talking to people is great, as is checking out youtube videos of people who speak Mandarin wonderfully, as well as people who are just learning.  Also, most Chinese television (that I’ve seen, anyway) is subtitled, and I love to watch it to see if I can pick out characters and actually match them with speech (quite challenging!).

Another great book to get more of a broad overview of the language from the personal anecdotes of a non-native learner is Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows.  It’s a short little book that I found very quick and easy (and enjoyable) to read.

Lastly, a great way to learn any language is to actually take a class and/or visit a country that uses it, but you didn’t expect me to start out with something that obvious, right?


Alert: Great travel site that lets you choose by price

February 26, 2013

Skyscanner will list destinations (cheapest first) if you to put in your outbound airport, dates and person count (just leave the To: field blank).  It’s great for figuring out where you can afford to go!  Thanks to my wonderful friend Erika for telling me about this site!

Sample Skyscanner

I put in NYC (for any NYC airport) and listed some dates and number of people and BOOM – cheap(er) destination ideas!

For another great travel site, see my recent micro-post on SeatGuru!

Alert: Helpful travel planning site!

February 1, 2013

Have you people seen Seat Guru?  You can find almost any aircraft’s seat map!  LOVE!

What are people from Monaco called?

January 14, 2013

My son asked me this today.  Citizens of Monaco are called Monégasques.  Also, I knew Monaco was small, but it’s less than one square mile!  Wow.

What sunscreen should I use?

April 30, 2012

The best sunscreen is shade, a shirt and a wide-brimmed hat.  I know this is not what you’re asking for however.  I’ll give you what you’re asking for, right after you indulge me for one minute to prattle on about the importance of getting enough vitamin D.

There are many things you can do to cut your risk of colds, flus, cancer, dementia, high cholesterol, depression, multiple sclerosis and many other negative health outcomes, and one of them is getting enough Vitamin D.  The best way to get it is through proper exposure [3-4x / wk, 10-15 min each side, on as much skin as possible (not your face) – never getting burned] to natural sunlight at the right time of the year for your latitude and not taking a shower for as long as possible after your exposure since the oils in your skin help the vitamin D get absorbed.

But there will be a time when your husband may sign the family up for a two hour jetski tour in painfully choppy waters in the Gulf of Mexico, and well, for that, you need the actual sunscreen, and a lot of it.

I have used all of these sunscreens, and I recommend them.

I have used all of these sunscreens, and I recommend them.

I like the following sunscreens which do not contain the toxic typical sunscreen chemicals you should avoid:

  • Kidsport Spray by All Terrain.  This is my pick for a child’s sunscreen.  It’s effective, lightweight and rubs in easily.  It’s slightly oily, but not offensively so.  Active ingredient: 19% zinc oxide (non-nano). Note: says it retains SPF after 80 minutes of activity in water.  I found this at Willner Chemist, but I think they have it at Whole Foods as well.  I like that it is sprayable, but not the kind of fine spray that comes from a can (by the way I hate those types of sunscreens that spray like an aerosol because they usually loaded with toxic chemicals and the spray is so fine that it gets into your – and more importantly, your kid’s – lungs).
  • Dr. Mercola Natural Sunscreen and Natural Sunscreen Face Stick.  It is very effective.  I used this very sunscreen, in huge amounts, during my two hour jetski tour of the painfully choppy waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and it worked.  I really like the smell, believe it or not, as well as the ingredients, but this stuff is heavy duty – takes a long time to rub in, gives you a little bit of a deathly pallor (granted, I have a head start on this!), and doesn’t come off easily, even with some scrubbing in the shower.  Also, you’ve got to shake this stuff like a madman.  Seriously.  Make sure you get it all blended up well.  Active ingredient: Titanium dioxide (6%) and Zinc Oxide (6%) – non-nano.
  • Badger SPF 30+ Unscented Sunscreen.  It’s very similar to Mercola’s, only a little harder to rub in, but easier to get off.  It will give you the white pallor and stay on, but it’s unscented (which is nice for me, because I don’t like perfumes, but the smell of this unscented sunscreen is not pleasant for most kids.  The smell does wear off quickly.  It’s just kind of like a plain, shea butter-y type of smell.).  Whereas Mercola’s is more liquidy like a lotion, this one is thicker.  Active ingredient: non-nano, uncoated zinc oxide 18.75%.  I found this at Whole Foods.

Oh, and I know you didn’t ask, but this is the best child’s sunhat I’ve found.  I ordered a large for my 8 year old (when he was 7), and he finds it very comfortable, and I love that you can go in the pool with it.  I wear it sometimes, and it’s just great.  No sunscreen on his face or neck with this one!

Enjoy the sun, and GET SOME VITAMIN D!

Great food in Atlanta?

June 8, 2011

My family and I were so pleased to find a great farm-to-table restaurant / brew house in Atlanta called Five Seasons.  We went to the Alpharetta location and loved our meals.  We went with a big group and some of the dishes we had were the pretzel, beets, iceberg wedge, asparagus and mushroom pizza (w/grilled steak addition and gluten-free crust), beef burgers, regular fries, sweet potato fries and kid’s chicken fingers (which were impressively made from chicken breast, not miscellaneous processed chicken pulp!!!).  Also, those of us who tried the beer (which is made in house) loved it!

I loved everything about this place – the service was fantastic (I think our server’s name was Johnny), the place was not the least bit pretentious and very comfortable, the food was amazing (with a good variety on the menu, everything is prepared fresh, and they know what gluten-free means!) and everything was local and organic and reasonably priced (it was not cheap, but it was good quality food, so I felt it was worth it).  And, oh my gosh, we just happened to go on a Sunday and KIDS ATE FREE!

Also, during our trip to Atlanta, I discovered Georgia-based American Gra-Frutti Coconut Drops and Arden’s Garden Very Very Berry Squares, both of which are absolutely amazing!  The next time I go to Atlanta, I have to be sure to stop into an Arden’s Garden (I found the berry squares at a Whole Foods), because it looks like a great juice and raw food place!

Your favorite spots in Iceland?

April 5, 2011

Lake Myvatn area, Iceland, January 2000

Lake Myvatn area, January 2000

Hotels I liked:

Looking at Dyrhólaey from the beach in front of H Isanefshellir, July 2007

Looking at Dyrhólaey from the beach in front of H Isanefshellir, July 2007

Restaurants I liked:

  • Vox – at the Hotel Nordica, high end, over-the-top Sunday brunch
  • Silfur – in the Hotel Borg – high end
  • Primavera – near the Hotel Borg
  • Icelandic Fish and Chips – By far, the best fish and chips I’ve ever had, very casual (seriously, you must eat here!)
Skogafoss, Iceland, August 2001

Skogafoss, August 2001

Reykjavik Activities:

  • Laugardalslaug – the big public pool in Reykjavik
  • Arbaejarlaug – the public pool which is more in the suburbs, but smaller and better for kids – we took the bus there, which was convenient.
  • Nautholsvik – Geothermally heated beach
  • Reykjavik Zoo and Family Park – Allocate at least one full day here if you have children.
Iceland, near Landmannalaugar, August 2001 - wild cotton?

near Landmannalaugar, August 2001 – wild cotton?

Outside Reykjavik:

  • Blue Lagoon – I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s great
  • Alafoss Yarn Outlet in Mosfellsbaer – I have gone to other locations of Alafoss “outlets” but none compare to this one.  If you’re a knitter, make this a priority.
  • Landmannalaugar – where hot and cold springs meet, beautiful.  It’s in the interior and it seemed very remote.  Apparently, there are buses there, but we were taken there by Kiddi from Iceland Mountain Cruiser, who I couldn’t recommend highly enough!  He is WONDERFUL.
  • Dyrhólaey and Skogar– This whole area is beautiful, especially Skogafoss (foss means waterfall) and H Isanefshellir (hellir means cave), the basalt cave on a black sand beach where my husband and I got married.  It’s just off the ring road when you’re traveling between Reykjavik and Vik.  Most of our honeymoon was spent in the Icelandic interior, but we did spend 2 nights at the Hotel Skogar, a tiny, peaceful little hotel, where we had a wonderful dinner.  They were so kind to us, even managing to make us our own little sugarless wedding cake!  What lovely people!
  • Lake Myvatn (pronounced Mee-Va) – was beautiful in the winter, I have no idea how it is in the summer, but I have heard there are a lot of mosquitoes, but that may have been an isolated incident.  I don’t know.  Near here is Dimmu Borgir, which has some very interesting and spooky lava formations and is the subject of fascinating folklore.  There is also a band named Dimmu Borgir, which you’ll find pretty interesting if you’re into Norwegian Black Metal.
  • Snaefellsjokull Glacier – Coming back from Stikkisholmur in the western part of Iceland, we stopped by Snaefellsjokull (jokull means glacier).  It was summer time and the glacier looked like a desert to me, which was odd, because the other glaciers I had seen in the summer were snowy.  But, it was still beautiful.  We also stopped at a lovely area called Hellnar, which had gorgeous sea cliffs and rock formations and a lava field in which we got lost.  In hindsight, the lava field adventure was great fun (though while I was in it, I was wondering if I would ever get out).
A Landsvirkjun Power Plant, Iceland, August 2001

A Landsvirkjun Power Plant, August 2001

I love Iceland.  I’ve been there in the winter and summer and they are both spectacular.  The natural beauty of Iceland is breathtaking, even the power plant I visited was beautiful (how do they do that?).  No one can possibly explain to you how beautiful Iceland can be (but this Flickr Photostream by “letstryiceland” is close —  I went from this point forward.).  The landscape changes quickly mile to mile, so there is always something new to see, and the weather is equally dynamic, so make sure you have a a good waterproof rain jacket, rain pants and waterproof, comfortable hiking/trail shoes/boots.  It will rain, but not for long.

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