I SPY: Checking Out

Jun 26, 2015

Are you ready for summer?  Today is the last day of school for my kids, even though it's felt like we already checked out last week.  P-A-R-T-Y time!  We can officially kick the schedule out the window, wake up late, no more packing lunch bags, no rushing, no sports activities, sleep late and just ENJOY.  Believe me I'm just as excited to celebrate summer as much as the kids are!

Summer is our only time to really travel.  We LOVE it, and we take advantage of it.  Our line up for this summer is 3 totally different places, cultures and vibes.  None we've ever been to before.  So-o-o freakin excited!!!

BRAZIL

Photo Credit: www.10best.com


CANADA

Photo Credit: www.dwell.com


MARFA, TX

Photo Credit: www.elcosmico.com


Been to any of these places?  Any tips?  Please do share, as the plan is still rough and I'm still debating which cities and towns we want to visit in Brazil and Canada.  All we know is that in Brazil we fly in and out of Rio, and Canada we fly in and out of Montreal.  The rest is up in the air and leaves room for plenty of adventure.

Since we will be on the road and out of the country for most of summer the blog has to go on the back burner.  Sorry to break that to you…but I need a break!  I will not be posting on the blog daily as your use to, till we return in September.  I may do periodic posts to check in with you.  But I will be posting on INSTAGRAM daily.  If you wish to keep track of us and follow our journey and summer fun, please come follow me on Instagram: @ispycandyblog  I hope to keep in touch with you there.  Otherwise for sure when I return to normal routine in September I will be giving a detailed account on all our trips.  PROMISE.

Stay tuned...Happy Summer Lovers! xox

I SPY: Hanging With Royalty

Jun 25, 2015

Wondering where my post is about my trip to London?  HERE…didn't forget!  Sorry, got caught up with my kids school activities and the hectic grind of life the past few days.  So let's rewind back to last week when I was in London for 4 days.  Short trip, but solely for the purpose of attending Royal Ascot with my family.  Our 1st time to attend, and it was FUN.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this event, it is a 5 day horse racing event, held at the Royal race course.  Dates back to 1807 when it became a tradition and a large part of British culture.  Many of the locals come to the event to celebrate, or else have private parties in lieu of the races.

The Ascot Racecourse is a little over one hour drive from central London.  However with traffic, it took us at least 2 hours to arrive at the race course.  The last 45 minutes was spent sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on a one way street leading up to the venue.  Not joking!  I had time to get out of the car, grab drinks at a pub along the street and make a potty stop, then walk 10 minutes up the street to still find the car sitting in traffic.  Obviously didn't move much!



But it's all worth it and part of the excitement!  As you pull up closer to the venue and have to walk up from the car park you can see the mass crowds gathering and walking in.  It kind of looked like a block party!  Food stalls, people with their booze, picnic baskets, men in suits, and ladies in their hats and semi formal attire that was either hit or miss!  Some lovely, some not, and one girl caught wearing flip flops…too shocked to be able to take a photo in time!  HA.  But the men generally looked good in their suits which is a standard uniform and less room for creativity and error.  But yeah many of the ladies looked rather cheap, and I could write a whole different post if I wanted to be nasty!  HA.  But I'll be nice and won't go there! So here is a group of ladies well dressed. *wink*




We on the other hand were POSH sitting in the Royal enclosure area and had strict instructions to adhere to, unlike the regular Joe Blows out on the lawn.  Prior to the event my Sister sent me a 3 page document of the dress requirements.  It was mind boggling to read, but I was told to take it seriously, from the width of your straps to the size of your hats, or else the Fashion Police would catch you!  Had to be prim and proper.  This is what I ended up wearing.  A Halston Heritage dress and a hat from Suzanne Millinery.




Men also had requirements to follow for their morning suits and top hat.  They looked very smart and dapper in their Penguin suits!

Photo Credit: IG @sexytoalluring


The day typically begins with a Royal procession around 1pm - The Queen and Royal party make a grand entrance arriving in horse drawn carriages that parade along the race track.  Everyday the Queen wears a different color suit.  People place a bet on the color they think The Queen will show up in.  YELLOW - my Sister won!



After the procession the races begin, and ran till 5pm.  We stayed the whole duration, had a champagne lunch, cheered on horses, bet, walked the grounds, stalked the Queen (even though we never actually saw any Royal members in close proximity!), catched up with family and friends, and soaked it all in.  A long day that went by really fast though.



Such a treat to be there.  It's one of those once in a lifetime experiences I can now cross off my bucket list.  Or maybe not.  I wouldn't mind going back one more time to run into Kate, the Princess!  Was initially more there to meet her then the Queen but found out Kate was still on maternity leave.  BOO.  So maybe if I ever get invited again, Kate and I can have a nice chat on the very picturesque lawn.  Whatcha think?  HA.



I SPY: Feeling Crabby

Jun 24, 2015

Feeling crabby?  It's summer, cheer up!  If a crab boil is on your summer check list of things to do then grab friends, and head to Back Forty where it's all you can eat for 2 hours, at newspaper covered communal tables.  You make a mess and they clean up.  NICE.

Back forty has been doing annual crab boils through out summers for years now, and they're so known for this event that they tend to sell out.  You know those city people don't have back yards so consider this a treat!  Crab boils are only Tuesday evenings from 6pm to 8:30pm.  Tickets go on sale online the Wednesday before at 10am.  So click here in advance to reserve a spot.

First up they serve you with warm corn bread.  YUM.



Then they throw a bucket of crab onto your table, together with butter loaded boiled new potatoes and string beans.  We had 3 rounds!!!  Coz yeah we hated it!  NOT.



Dessert was Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler, which I'm sorry I didn't take a photo of.  But I'm not a fan of cobbler so was not into it.  However, I was told it was good!  My dessert was licking my fingers!  Evidence of getting down and dirty.  HA.



P.S.  You will make a mess, no matter how hard you try not to.  Guts and sauce will splash on you, so wear something that can easily be thrown in the wash, because they didn't provide bibs.  Or maybe they do but you have to ask?  But who wants to do that and look like a LOOSER.  Wash cloths are provided at end to clean your hands…but I needed more then a wash cloth!  A sink by the table would've been nice.  ENJOY.

Back Forty
70 Prince Street
New York
T: 212. 219.8570
website

I SPY: Just Shoot Me

Jun 23, 2015

Are you a US citizen?  For all of us who are, chances are we've never had to hassle with getting a tourist visa.  There are only a handful of countries in this world we need to obtain a visa for prior to travel, and BRAZIL is one of them.  Yes I was shocked when I found out, so if you plan to make a visit to Brazil keep that in mind that you need to plan ahead to get your visa and can't just jet off on the spur of the moment.

It's been a tedious process.  At times I was like just shoot me!  It's felt like I've spent the last 2 weeks running around trying to get the long list of required documentation organized to support our application before our scheduled visa appointment at the Consulate of Brazil today.  From xeroxing birth certificates, utility bills, printing forms, airline e-tickets, notarizing signatures, preparing money orders and getting passport photos... I'm finally DONE.



For those of you whom are use to having to get a visa for almost every country you visit I must be sounding like a brat!  Forgive me - but this process and all the paperwork involved is foreign to me, and does stress me out. Hopefully I'm not missing any thing.  Fingers crossed all goes well today, and we can rest easy and be on our way to Brazil this summer!

I SPY: Wake Up Call

Jun 22, 2015

Are you ready to start off a new week?  I'm never ready for weekends to be over!  Especially today since it's my 1st borns 5th grade graduation ceremony.  BITTERSWEET.  It's a wake up call that he's no longer a baby.  How did time fly by so fast?  I need to find the pause button!  HA.

Everyone said it would fly by when he was born, and you don't believe it till it happens.  Looking back at all his photos brings back so many memories, and honestly feels like it was just yesterday when he started Kindergarten.  Then fast forward 5 years and see the difference.

Kindergarten - 2010


5th Grade - 2015
Doesn't even look like the same kid, does it?  YIKES.  Taking a trip down memory lane makes me turn all sorts of colors.  Imagine what it's going to be like when he graduates from high school, or even worst college?  Oh em gee, lets not go there!

Ahh...Today is a good reminder of how these kids grow up way too fast, and we need to savor the moments and learn to slow down to enjoy it all.  WORD.

I SPY: Daddy's Day

Jun 19, 2015

What you doing for Father's Day?  I'm in London celebrating with my Dad at Ascot horse racing today!  FANCY I know.  I'll touch more on this spectacular event when I return home.  PROMISE.

I've shown up with the cheesiest gift ever.  But my Dad is the hardest man to shop for!  He has everything money can buy…except no trophy for Worlds Greatest Father.  So there you go, I'm presenting him with his 1st Oscar!  If you remember I also gave one to my Mom for Mother's Day, so I'm sure he's jealous and waiting for his! HA.



And do you see what my card says?  From yours truly his lovely conceited daughter!  *wink*

Cheers to my Dad…the #1 man in my life, an amazing Dad and Grandfather who loves to preach and is 99% always right.  I'm his 1% wrong!  HA.  At least I own up to being a pain in the a**!

What did you get your Dad?  I need ideas for next year!

Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful Dad's out there.  ENJOY.  With love from London xox

I SPY: Balloon Art

Jun 18, 2015

When you think of balloons your thinking decoration for a party right?  WRONG.  Look at this artist who has created art from balloons.

Photo Credit: http://www.float-janiceleekelly.com

Photo Credit: http://www.float-janiceleekelly.com

Photo Credit: http://www.float-janiceleekelly.com

Photo Credit: http://www.float-janiceleekelly.com

Photo Credit: http://www.float-janiceleekelly.com

Photo Credit: http://www.float-janiceleekelly.com


Aren't these floating sculptures amazing?  They're designed by JANICE LEE KELLY.  Thanks to my Aunt for posting about this spectacular art and opening my eyes to a whole new way of using balloons.

I would DIE to see these works in real life.  Reminds me of the works of Chihuly the famous glass artist.  Coincidence Janice Lee Kelly went to school with Chihuly?  Great minds think a like!  Just in different mediums.

I SPY: It's Official

Jun 17, 2015

Remember my post when I told you we ordered Eddy a service dog ID?  It's official guys!  It's arrived.  Check it out.



Oh - Em - Gee…HA. HA. HA.  We were all dying of laughter when we opened the envelope!  It's hilarious.  But it's not funny that I've just taught my kids how to beat the system!  Hmm.  Bad Mama?  Ahh...I call it survival skills!



I SPY: Hot Potato

Jun 16, 2015

Ever had a sty?  My lil' guy has had one for the last 3 weeks.  STUBBORN bugger, just like it's owner!  HA.  Well because he always seems to catch the weirdest things that Dr's are never sure of, he was sent to an eye specialist last week to get a second opinion.  Thankfully with the help of steroid eye drops and hot compress his sty is finally disappearing.  Barely there anymore!  PHEW.

When you think of hot compress what comes to mind?  A hot potato and towel?  I thought the Dr was nuts when her orders were to do hot compress on his eye daily with a hot potato.  She wasn't kidding!  Neither am I…nook the raw potato in the microwave for 1 minute then wrap it in a towel and apply to the area as necessary.



Easy right?  Works better then a wet hot towel that goes cold after a few minutes.  The hot potato stays warm well over a half hour.  GENIUS home remedy.



Surprisingly he was able to watch a whole cartoon show with just one eye!

I SPY: Food Coma

Jun 15, 2015

Ugh, weekends are never long enough are they?  Despite rain forecasts, we had beautiful weather this weekend in NYC and I happened to stumble upon a bubble party in Union Square that left me covered in suds!  It was an organized event with a huge crowd of big kids a.k.a ADULTS with bubble guns, wands, and a gazillion bubbles in the air.  Weird for NYC, yet very cool.  I hope they do it again next year so I can bring the kids and come prepared for battle.



But my main highlight, was you know, EATING at the Big Apple Barbecue.  OINK.  Had the usual ribs and brisket sandwich.  Salt Lick Bar-B-Que is still my #1 for brisket.  As their slogan says…Like No Other!  It's all about the sauce.  Which by the way you can buy from their website.



But tried something new this time.  Jim'N Nicks Bar-B-Que was serving up sausage with pimento cheese and jalapeños on saltines.  LOVE.  I might just have to try and replicate that at home.  Easy enough I think!



Tired of looking at food?  That's pretty much how I felt after.  I once again out did myself and stuffed myself silly.  HA.  Mega food coma after sent me into zzzz mode and I had to take a long nap to recover!  Ahh…a perfect weekend.  If only we had an extra day off!

I SPY: Hog Heaven

Jun 12, 2015

You know what this girl loves to eat?  Bar - B - Que.  Reminds me of Texas.  I was born there. Didn't grow up there, but spent all my childhood summers there and still go back often to visit family.  It is my 2nd home.  So there is a lil' cowgirl in me and sometimes I miss it.  Especially the food.  Well... they're coming to visit us!

Photo Credit: www.philpasquini.com


This weekend in NYC is the 13th annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party happening at Madison Square Park along Madison Avenue between 23rd & 27th Street.  I've been going annually for the past four years, and it's a big hit.  It's literally hog heaven!  HA.  A real treat for us New Yorkers to have the best pit masters from all over the nation in our town serving up the best of 'cue.



Y'all ready for this?  That line up looks AWESOME and I'm so excited.  The 1st stall I have to hit is Salt Lick Bar - B - Que.  Their beef brisket and sausage is the BEST.  When in Texas we often make that a standard trip to visit them because that's how good they are!  They're sauce…YUM.  I can't describe.  You've just got to try it to believe it.  

SOLD?  See you at the park!

I SPY: Organic Pharmer

Jun 11, 2015

Remember that I did my detox back in January? Well I'm feeling like it's time to do it again.  This time with Organic Pharmer.  It's this healthy grab and go juice bar place in my hood set up by Dr Susan Blum.

Quinoa Sushi, Chickpea Tartine, Hummus & Pharmers Bread + Veggies, Mung Bean Kale Pesto Fettucine, Oat Raspberry Square, Staminator juice


Looks delish?  It is actually tasty, and it's all vegan, gluten free, egg free, soy free, dairy free and corn free.  Can it get any healthier?  My aim is to do their juice + food cleanse, and eat clean for 2 weeks straight.

Good news is that it isn't available just to us locals.  They do deliveries to NYC.  So for all my city friends your in luck and should try them out.  It's the perfect clean binge!

I SPY: Farm To Table

Jun 10, 2015

Is this restaurant week?  NAH, thats next month.  But on this blog it is!  Folks I have a phone full of FOOD snaps that I must share and purge immediately to free space.  So-o-o here we go with another food posting…your going to LOVE this one!

Lets talk about farm to table.  No better way to eat then that.  ORGANIC is all the rage, and besides the huge difference in the quality and healthy aspects of the food your stuffing in your mouth - TASTE.  I was lucky to have dinner at NARCISSA recently and to enjoy this porn.  It's a farm to table restaurant in the Standard East Village Hotel, that serves their produce grown locally at the owner Andre Balazs' Hudson Valley farm, Locusts on Hudson.

We sat in the open kitchen room, that had good floors.  You know that's an automatic like to feed my tile obsession!  The bigger plus was that two tables down from us was Spock from Star Trek, Zachary Quinto.  WOO HOO. Celebrity sighting.  You know I'm a groupie!  HA.  But I must admit that I had no clue who he was at first until pointed out to me.




First up the BREAD.  Nothing like fresh warm bread. Then the butter…mmm.  We had to put a stop to  them bringing another basket!



Moving on to the appetizers - the scallops were bite size, sweet and sour cauliflower was a complimenting side, the beet salad greens were so crisp fresh, and the carrot fries - Now I don't even like carrots…but these didn't even taste like carrots!

SEARED SCALLOPS: Pastrami spices, buttermilk, radish salad

MANCHURIAN CAULIFLOWER

ROTISSERIE CRISPED BEETS: Bulgur salad, apples, creamed horse radish
CARROT FRIES: Jalapeño tofu dip

The main course - the steamed bass was delicate and not overly sauced, and that rib eye steak was cooked to perfection and just melted in your mouth.  I can honestly say it is one of the best steaks I've had.  The meat quality was TOP.

STEAMED BASS: French curry broth, lentils, toasted almonds 

24 OZ BONE IN RIBEYE: Slow roasted, with little gem salad, sea-salt potatoes

Dessert was a compromise between the chocolate tart or the maple ice cream sundae.  Our waiter convinced us that the chocolate dish was the winner.  It was interesting, but had a lot going on in taste between the chocolate, the roasted bananas, and the espresso ice cream.  I think he saw that we weren't loving his recommendation as much as he thought we would.  Was I making faces?  HA.  But before we knew it he brought out the sundae for us to try on the house!  SWEET.  The sundae did hit my spot.  Just simple, not overly flavored and the waffle served on top was a nice touch.

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE TART: Curry roasted bananas, espresso ice cream


MAPLE HARVEST ICE CREAM SUNDAE: Maple ice cream, green strawberry sorbet, black walnuts 
Narcissa for sure lived up to it's hype.  Another trip back is a MUST though to try their short rib beef hamburger that made Grub Streets list of the 50 most important burgers in New York.  Do I dare make that list a mission?  I do.  HA.

Narcissa
25 Cooper Square
(5th St & Bowery)
T: 212. 228.3344
website

I SPY: Guilt Free Nom

Jun 9, 2015

More food?  Sure, why not!  It's been brought to my attention that I talk way too much about food.  But I can't help it!  Eating is my favorite hobby, I live to eat, it's cheaper then shopping, and brings me much pleasure.  Hope your on the same page!  HA.

I got to admit that after the weekend I've been feeling kinda guilty about doing a disservice to my body.  So yesterday was a acai bowl day.  Feeling so LA - ish right now!

Acai, Almond Butter, Banana, Coconut flakes, & Granola


Ever made them?  Super EASY.  I buy these frozen packs at Wholefoods.  You can put them in the blender if you want to get fancy and blend with almond milk, or super veggies such as Kale or Spinach.



Otherwise if lazy like me just run the acai pack under warm water to melt it, then add whatever fruit or healthy toppings you have in your pantry, and DONE, you got yourself a super healthy breakfast or snack.  Nice alternative to my usual green smoothies, and plenty of acai recipes on the internet if you need inspiration.

NOM, NOM…guilt free!

I SPY: Bronx-ing It

Jun 8, 2015

What do you do when you go to the Bronx?  Watch a Yankees game or go to the zoo?  Usually yes!  That would've been nice…however NOPE we were there for my big guys soccer game yesterday.

They lost 4 - 7.  BOO.  However, my dude made 3 goals in the last 20 minutes.  It was quite an epic MVP (Most Valuable Player) moment for him!  WOOHOO, he's the man.

After the game instead of sitting in Sunday traffic on the way home we decided to eat dinner in the hood.  Found this Anthony Bourdain recommended Puerto Rican / Dominican hole in the wall joint CUCHIFRITOS. A packed, old school, counter top style place with an extensive menu all in Spanish.  You know it's authentic when you can't read the menu!




Ordered the basics you can't go wrong with: rice, beans, sweet plantains, mofongo, BBQ chicken, beef stew, & chicharron.  Saw many people eating some soup dish that must be popular.  But embarrassed to order more because the lady kept telling me when I was ordering 'Mami too much!!!'  HA.



We loved it, and they loved watching me and the boys pig out.  They kept asking 'You like?'  Hell yeah!  Especially that chicharron is a MUST.



Got to go back with a Spanish person to try the more authentic dishes.  The real deal!

Cuchifritos
158 E. 188th Street
Bronx, NY
T: 718. 367.4500
i * SPY CANDY. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.