I SPY: Nourishing Smiles

Nov 30, 2015

How was your Thanksgiving?  We were in Mexico for the holidays and spent our Thanksgiving with the locals nourishing smiles.  Remember I told you we were going to do this in an old post?  Well we did it, and I'm so glad we did!  We volunteered at Huellas de Pan.  A small community kitchen in Cancun currently nourishing sixty children from age 4 to 16 and some elderly too.

Besides feeding the children a meal a day, the organization also provides monthly health check ups for their kids, self improvement classes for mothers and have many different incentives to keep the children motivated to stay in school and do well.  One of the incentives I was drawn to was the free trip to Mexico City!  Every year the top 5 kids with the best grades are rewarded with a free trip paid by sponsors to travel to Mexico City.  This is a a great privilege for these children, because it's their first time to fly on an airplane, stay in a hotel, visit museums, Six Flags, etc.  It gives them an opportunity to feel what it's like to be upgraded in life, which in turn will hopefully keep them wanting to graduate from school and do better in life.  Nice right?

Upon our arrival at Huellas de Pan we were asked to follow the boss Jorge to three different hotels along the Cancun strip to pick up untouched left over hotel buffet food from that morning.  Huellas de Pan picks up daily from various hotels in Cancun from Monday to Friday.  On average they collect about 15 boxes of food daily weighing 5kg each.

When we got back to the kitchen we crashed a birthday party.  Not really!  It happened to be two of the kids birthdays and we were invited to join the celebration.  A super hero cake was served and a soccer ball was given to each boy by Huellas de Pan.  Plus many variations of 'Happy Birthday' were sung in Spanish.  It felt like they were singing forever, song after song, as the candles were melting down to nothing!  Nontheless our first Mexican fiesta was fun.  Simple, but pure, honoring the gift of life.

We then served the children food (chicken stew, beans and tortillas) and cake and had a chance to sit down and eat together with them.  Very few words were exchanged due to our language barrier.  However at that moment you realize how the smallest gestures and acts of human kindness are universal, such as a smile can warm any heart.

We had a great experience meeting the 'real' Mexican people, learning about their culture first hand and putting a smile on their face.  It was a treat for us to do our annual public service volunteering outside of our homeland.  Something new and eye opening.  We should try to do this more often when we travel, because honestly it's personal growth beyond what any book can teach.

I highly urge you to check out Give A Day Global website.  They're the organizers who put us in touch with Huellas de Pan and helped arrange our visit.  They're based in the USA, very well organized with hubs all over the world.  Find out where their volunteer locations are and if your traveling to one of their destinations I urge you to try to make a difference.  It will not only benefit the local people, but will make your life richer too.  As the saying goes…Give a little; Gain a lot.  PREACH.                              

I SPY: Jell-O My Mellow

Nov 24, 2015

Did you hear that Wholefoods is now selling Jell-O shots?  Edible alcoholic treats!  But for now, only in select locations in California.  Does us North Easters no good.  Not fair!

I did some research since I was bummed to find out we were loosing out over here.  Time to share! Love this twist on desserts.   Inspiration just in time for Thanksgiving and the holidays.  Click on the names to get the recipes.

Cranberry Jello Shots  

Peppermint Candy Cane Shots

Champagne Shots

Did you look at the recipes?  Really simple to make, and easy enough to make a batch for the adults and a separate sans alcohol batch for the kids.  You can find a zillion more recipes for jello shots on Pinterest.  Lets get festive!

Will definitely be trying these recipes out when I return from doing a different kind of jell-O my mellow kind a shot…1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila, 4!  HA.  Folks, I'm off to Mexico today.  Will be thinking of you from under a palm tree for the next week!  Follow me on Instagram @ispycandyblog to stay up to date.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone...Get tanked, and gobble till you wobble!  xox

P.S. I will be happily accepting Turkey Dinner left overs when I return!!! HA.

I SPY: Mind Over Matter

Nov 23, 2015

Do you think I resemble Chrissy Teigen?  Quite a few people have said she is my doppelgänger.  Maybe it's the high cheekbones and puffy cheeks we both have?  Well I should take it as a compliment!    Besides her beauty and adorable husband John Legend, she is a woman who has a great sense of humor, loves to eat and is releasing her 1st cookbook in February 2016.  I can't wait!

On Chrissy's blog she posts a lot of recipes.  One I saw a couple of weeks ago was this Vegetable Pasta recipe, which has been kept on the back burner but never got around to it.  I was partially thrown off by the prep work involved in making the vegetable noodles.  Looked like that required too much patience!  Well, Wholefoods has once again come to my rescue.  HOORAY.  Over the weekend I saw that they have started selling vegetable noodles - zucchini and squash already peeled into noodle strips.  Grabbed a box in the fresh produce section, and made it for dinner last night.  Ta - Da!

It was so simple to make, less then half an hour to prep, cook and serve.  The garlic, chili flakes, and cheese made it yummy.  I put loads!  Probably killed the healthy part of the dish with the cheese, but hey at least I'm still sticking to my no meat and no sugar diet till Thanksgiving!

For the kids I did allow them to have a little spaghetti.  But whole wheat!  However they only found their little surprise of spaghetti noodles at the bottom after they ate all the veggie noodles on top, so it was a win win situation.  They ate the healthy stuff, and now I know they eat veggie noodles.  Will definitely be doing this more often.  You should try it to, if you haven't already.  Mind over matter!

P.S.  Veggie noodles, just like regular spaghetti noodles can also be slurped!  That is the real reason why we love to eat spaghetti right?  HA.

I SPY: Fishy Friday

Nov 20, 2015

Been eating a lot of junk lately?  Since my sons birthday last week, the hockey game, and no time to cook, I've been downing lots of crap meat and sugar.  The body is feeling it.  I need a break from it all!

I'm going on a fish & veggie diet for the next week, till Thanksgiving.  Not totally clean the way I do it, but it's a start!  HA.  Yesterday was the kick off at Lure Fishbar.  A nice light lunch, that didn't make me feel guilty after.  Not often I can say that!

Ever been?  It's located in Soho and the decor feels as if your sitting in a ship.  The wood floors, porthole windows, brass fixtures and booth seating all give off that nautical vibe.  I went years ago when they first opened, pre-babies, so at least a decade ago.  Geez time flies!  If you need reassurance for the restaurant holding it's name trust me it's just as good, if not better.  Known to be a power lunch spot, but also a good date night place.  So night or day, get on deck!

For starts I had the Hamachi Crudo.  It was sashimi prepared thinly sliced Hamachi, topped with marinated tomatoes, avocado and crispy plantains, drizzled in a citrus dressing.  Perfect tang, and fusion of East meets West type of dish.

Up next the Uni Crispy Sushi Rice topped with a jalapeño slice.  HEAVEN.  Anything on crispy rice is yum.  I had to control myself from ordering another plate!

What's on my menu today?  A fishy Friday at ZZ's Clam Bar.  I sea - food all weekend!  Just no meat, which I can easily do.  The no sugar part is the real killer though.  1st world problems!  HA.  Have a great weekend everyone…what's on your menu?

I SPY: Building On Memories

Nov 19, 2015

What are some of your best childhood memories?  Mine are experiences.  Last week as you know was my lil' guys birthday.  My boys have understood since day 1 that I don't give toys for their birthday.  They get plenty from friends and family and I don't need to add to the clutter.  However, my present to them is their birthday party.  Not a toy, but an experience.  Also in the last few years I've started adding on another special event, so we can celebrate privately as a family.  Last year we went to Medieval Times.  This year we did a basketball game for my older son, and a hockey game for my lil' guy.

This was my kids first hockey game!  EXCITING; especially for the birthday boy.  New York Rangers vs. St Louis Blues.  It was fun, even though my lil' guy wanted to see more fights!  HA.

However, one of the most memorable things of the night that the kids won't forget is this super drunk dude on our right!  A week later we are still talking about this.  HA.

Funny right?  We've all been there!  A life lesson learned at the ice rink.  Know your limits boys!  Huh?  They don't understand now because they're too young.  But one day when the boozing starts I think it will all come back to them, and we will laugh again about this poor dude who went over the top.

This is what I call building on memories.  It's experiences such as these I feel are more important to spend on then material things because memories last forever.  Agree?  Something to think about with the holidays around the corner.  Gift an experience, and build memories.

I SPY: Underground Candy

Nov 18, 2015

Have you been in a NYC subway station?  If you have I bet you didn't find it pretty.  If anything the opposite, right?  I agree!  Our subway stations are not our best bragging rights in NYC.  Only the rats enjoy it!  HA.

I recently had to make a rare trip downtown to Lower Manhattan on the 6 train, and got off at Fulton Center.  I wasn't expecting to stumble upon any candy when I exited the train.  Needless to say I was totally caught off guard when walking up to street level.  These are the best kind of surprises!

The natural light shining through the skylight dome catches everyone's attention.  Simply beautiful.

But the passageways also reminded me of Chicago O'Hare Airports rainbow tunnel I featured in my post last month.

Step outside Fulton Street station and your in the heart of the Financial district a block away from the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial.  A beautiful sight, on my mile long list to bring my kids to visit one day!

Fulton Center is only a year old, and you can tell it!  I haven't seen any subway station in NYC that's this modern, clean and architecturally photogenic.  If you haven't already, make a visit to the newly opened Freedom Tower and take the subway over.  Then you can can believe I'm not crazy for finding underground candy!

I SPY: The Hybrid

Nov 17, 2015

Are you a s'mores fan?  I'm not a big marshmallow fan in general.  However I might be a semi convert since I tried the famous Frozen S'more at Dominique Ansel Bakery.  I heard about the hybrid when I went to his dessert tasting last month.  The chef was saying that when they opened their bakery in Japan the Frozen S'mores were flying out the store like hot cakes in the first two hours of opening.  So of course I had to see what the hype was all about and had to try one when I was down in Soho yesterday!

It's made to order, so takes about 5 minutes to make, and you can watch them roast it with a torch at the counter.  Then you have to eat it immediately, since it's filled with vanilla ice cream, that's wrapped in chocolate wafers and then enveloped in marshmallows.

Yum?  Definitely should be tried!  But I couldn't finish it.  It's quite a large chunk, very sweet, and since I'm not a fan of that gooey texture there was only so much I could eat of it.  I'll be back, but to share it with someone next time.  Then I will also have room to get their other famous hybrid…The Cronut.  Another hot seller on the menu!

P.S. If your hosting for Thanksgiving and want one dish to skip, or if your a guest and want to impress the host…Dominique Ansel is now taking orders for pies.  Never tried them, but I can bet they're worth the money!  I'm convinced that anything that comes out of that kitchen is TOP.

I SPY: A Day To Remember

Nov 16, 2015

Was last Friday, November 13, 2015 the darkest day in the history of world news?  In my life time I think it was.  Definitely a day to remember, just as well as I remember 9/11 in NYC.  Too many horrific events that happened in a span of 24 hours last Friday, where we lost 115,200 heartbeats globally, with numbers still on the rise.  How?  Baghdad funeral bombed, Beirut suicide bombing, Japan earthquake, Mexico earthquake, and Paris terrorist attacks.  Also Brazil's deadly dam burst happening that same week.  SHOCKING.

Doesn't this just break your heart?  It leaves me especially speechless to know that there is no humanity.  Mother nature is beyond our control to a certain degree.  But what was done by an act of a human on another human is disgusting behavior.  This has to STOP.  We've got to hug it out, and learn to love each other.  Pray for humanity.  Pray for the world.  We are all hurting, EVERYWHERE, even if not directly hit; and now fearing who is next.

I know praying is not enough though.  We will remember this week, and next, but there after what happens?  We  need to make a conscious decision to continue to make physical efforts year round to help out globally, connect with other humans, race, religion and bring world peace.  I think this year for our 12 Days of Christmas theme I want my kids and I to donate to a different organization for each day to help the victims who have suffered in the tragic events that have happened over the course of the year.  I'm going to research it, let the kids pick what interests them or what they can relate to, and share on a later post.  Till then...Have a safe day everyone.

I SPY: Going Peanuts

Nov 13, 2015

Have you seen the new Peanuts Movie that was released last weekend?  We finally went, as part of my lil' guys line up of one of the many special treats he got for his birthday week celebrations.  Bonus was we saw it at a movie theatre where they have lazy boy recliner chairs.  The only way I want to watch a movie in a theater now!

We've been patiently waiting since summer to see it.  Every time we've gone to the movies in the last few months we kept seeing the poster boards, and my lil' guy would want to take silly photos with the Peanuts gang.  You know he's a born poser!

It's been a heavily advertised movie, with a lot of hype all over.  Seems like the media was going peanuts with the theme, because thats all you heard about the month before the release date.  InStyle magazine wrote an article titled Peanuts-a-Porter, a swing off Net-a-Porter?  It was about the fashion the leading ladies would be wearing to the big premiere.  Of course it had to match the personality of the character they played!  The fashion analysis was cute.

My nail salon Bling Spa where I did my nail art last time, had mock up samples of Peanuts designs.  Cute, right?  No I did not get that done, in case your wondering.  But I have a friend who's been a long time Snoopy fan and I know will be all over this.  Watch her!  HA.

So we had to join the hype, and went to the movies Tuesday night.  I enjoyed it because I grew up with Snoopy and the gang, so it was nostalgic for me.  However my kids weren't overly impressed, sorry to say!  Kids these days are use to high action movies, with special effects and animation up the wazoo.  The Peanuts Movie in comparison was basic for them.  Besides that, there was a lot of dialogue for my lil' guy to handle, and the message was quite philosophical and deep.  But we sat through it, even though you could see he was getting antsy towards the end as he was fighting to not fall asleep.  We can cross it off the list now, however I wouldn't say it's a must see at the movies.  No rush!  Save your money.  You can wait for it to be released on Netflix.

I SPY: Breakfast Of Champions

Nov 12, 2015

Who got a mega sugar rush yesterday?  My lil' guy turned 7.  Not so little anymore.  But in my eyes always the baby.  My Veteran's Day baby!

It's tradition in our house for my birthday boys to wake up to a decorated table with gifts and a breakfast of champions.  Cake for brekkie!  This was our unconventional cake.

Heard about these Jars by Dani that I bought at Dylan's Candy Bar?  It's delicious mystery in a jar!  There's a handful of flavors.  We tried cookies n' cream, original fudge and white chocolate.

Each jar is filled in layers of chocolate, cream, sprinkles, chocolate chips and other things I can't quite identify!  Only the white chocolate flavor had actual cake inside.  The other two had brownies as the base.  My favorite was the original fudge flavor.

Anyone with a sweet tooth will LOVE these.  It's a genius concept.  Packaging is old school and cute.  I'm itching to go back and try the other flavors now.  My memory recalls seeing a Reese's peanut butter something flavor that I can't stop thinking about!  But I didn't get it for home since my lil' guy is allergic to peanuts.  But I could go secretly to Dylan's Candy Bar and have that treat on my own one day, couldn't I?  HA.  Unfortunately not available online YET, but soon to come says Jars by Dani.  Be patient you folks who don't live near a Dylan's Candy Bar.  It's maybe a good thing it's not so accessible!

I SPY: Hotline Bling

Nov 11, 2015

You know who my #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) is?  Sincerely Jules.  Look her up on Instagram.  Out of the 100 people I follow, she's the only one I must see on my Instagram feed daily.  She never disappoints!  I love her style, face, lifestyle, business model…EVERYTHING.  Yes I'm obsessed!  She's got amazing style, mixing cheap with designer, boho to chic.  I'm quite picky and nobody can really pin point my style.  But Sincerely Jules ahhh…she could pack for my next trip, and I'd be sure I would be happy wearing anything she put in my suitcase.  That's trust!

Well yesterday she posted these $200 Frends headphones on Instagram.

I just bought very similar headphones on Monday.  But mine are cheap from H&M for $30!

Coincidence?  Great minds think a like!  I must admit her headphone shape is more special with that sphere point.  But I was going more for the color.  Rose Gold & White is hot.  Same look just for a helluva lot cheaper from H&M.  My new prize!  Ear muffs to keep my ears toasty this winter while I listen to Drake and his Hotline Bling.  Honestly so over that song!  HA.  Get bling'd out, or gift them.  The holidays are coming up peeps!

I SPY: Serving H&M

Nov 10, 2015

You heard the French design house Balmain did a collaboration with H&M?  It launched last Thursday, November 5.  People began lining up in the wee hours of the morning.  To add to the craze, I saw some footage when the doors opened, of the crowd running through the store ripping things off the rack, collecting as much as their arms could carry.  HA.  Absolutely nuts!

Was that one of you?  I was not there.  If I was ten years younger you can bet I would've been there, and slept outside store!  I use to live for this stuff.  It is a hype.  A really dumb one.  A lot of people rolling their eyes at me now.  I can feel it!  STOP.  But hear me out.  More then going to shop and to get the latest and greatest, I go for the experience.

Just like I remember standing in line for the first iPhone back in 2007, with my baby, now eleven years old.  Bless his heart, because he cooperated and took a 3 hour nap in his stroller, I read a book, made some new friends in line, and drank free Starbucks coffee they were serving.  It was a party!  Sad life I lead, but in those days beat hanging out at the sandbox.  HA.  It was an experience, and a memory I will never forget.

Anyways, the night before the Balmaination release I decided that instead of wasting my precious time being a fashion victim, I could shop through the convenience of eBay for a little mark up in price the next day.  But I got swamped with life and totally forgot to check eBay over the weekend.  Then yesterday I went to the H&M store on Lexington & 58th Street to make a return.  Zero intentions of asking about the Balmain collection, because in my mind it was long gone.  But low and behold, when I'm at the register making my return my eyes wander for a split second…and brace yourself people…there is a rack of Balmaination behind the counter!  You feel my excitement?  HA.  I'm telling you, if it's meant to be, it's meant to be!

I scored one piece.  This dress.  Feeling like I raided my Mom's closet.  Very Dynasty, eighties, Joan Collins looking, with the shoulder pads, leg of mutton sleeve, gold buttons, ruched skirt, in a jacquard silk print.  MINE.  That plunging neckline and open back is beyond sexy!  Cheap thrills.  Well not that cheap for H&M…$200.

Point is?  I'm a huge fan of H&M.  Always been.  Everybody wants to be boasting they're wearing Balmain.  But I'm happy to be advertising that I'm proud to be serving H&M.  Truth.  I love finding a steal!  It's not what you wear; it's how you wear it.  The trick to being classy is accessorizing well, with tasteful bling and a kick ass pair of heels and a clutch.  Cheap can be cool if done right!  Now can someone please invite me to a holiday party so I can wear my new special find?  Merci Beaucoup!

P.S.  I must warn you that the sizing is totally off, and I went two sizes larger then my usual.  If you purchase a Balmain X H&M piece online, be sure you check the measurements and compare against something of similar style in your closet to be confident it will fit.  I doubt anybody re-selling these items will be accepting returns.  So be cautious.
i * SPY CANDY. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.