Saturday, September 19, 2015

POSITIVELY GLOWING? And Pregnant? Go get these three things RIGHT NOW...


As a kid I saw "the pregnant" through grainy-like filters: Aunties and family friends in billowy frocks and sweetly bobbed hair hands stiffly at their sides as if there wasn’t a bowling ball emerging below their bustline. As an adult, who can escape today’s ‘cult of the bump’? And, the media frenzy that follows size 0 celebs that sport baby bumps like the latest pair of Pradas? Where does the everyday mama-to-be shop? And, how on earth with nine months of eating and dressing for two, do we dare dress our best if we don’t relish the trapeze frock or want to live in yoga pants?

Dressing for baby-to-be is a no-brainer with these basics and they’ll last your entire pregnancy (and then some!)…

1. A Bella Band. Although it might seem silly at first, this giant external waistband that you pull over your paint waist is the one thing between you and throwing down $300 plus for a pair of designer maternity skinny jeans. Do. not. do. it. Especially if you already have a pair (or several) of designer skinnies, you'll probably be able to get a few more months out of them by using the Bellaband (or something similar). As long as you follow the sizing chart carefully, the belly band will fit right over smooth your waistband while giving your growing belly the right amount of hug. I bought the bands in three colors and when layered they look like any tanktop/cami layered beneath your shirt or sweater. Every woman carries and grows their belly a little differently, but I could wear my regular pants all the way to the beginning of my first trimester with these bands. After the baba hoopla and your holding that precious infant in your arms, use the bands to ease back into your skinny jeans (or any button-front bottoms) comfortably. The extra support feels good. Trust me.

2. Cotton Camisoles, stretchy with a built-in shelf bra, one or two sizes up from your regular size. Upon hearing that I was with child my sister sent me a giant box of "the best loved" bra camis from Express. These are essentially cotton-spandex, machine washable tanktops with a built in bra. Super comfortable. As I tunneled through the neatly packed box noting that she'd sent every color of the rainbow--some plain with scooped necks, others with v-necks and trimmed with 'glitter' lace--and all in size Large. NOTE: When you are pregnant you will not look like the size 0 models on the Express website where you can order these camis--at least not from the bust down. You will be be a life-size photoshop job with your boobs enhanced and your belly busting into new dimensions. You will go up one or a few sizes, and these camis--with their cozy cotton, adjustable straps and extra support in the bust--will be there every step of the way. I wore these all through prenatal and postnatal yoga, all kinds of layering in every season and they are perfection for breastfeeders. Attention: A and B cup ladies: Yes, you can wear this cami without a bra! Comes in approximately a million different colors.

3. Nordstrom Bra Extenders. These are the last stop on the train before your cross the border into... nursing bras (insert violent screeching here). Don’t get me wrong, there are some good nursing bras out there (love Cake brand) but a nursing bra will never be your very favorite go to bra. Just like your designer denim, it's more efficient to adapt your existing wardrobe before investing into pricey maternity gear and a good bra can be a small fortune. I maximized my regular bras pre- and post-natally with a handy set of extenders that hook onto your existing bra closure adding an extra inch or two for your growing girls and/or your expanding ribcage (yes, your ribcage may very well expand). Also, I hate to be the one to say it but not everyone will snap back into place once they recover from the delivery. It's all just a part of the beauty of giving life, and these extenders can help the life after giving that life much more comfortable. The Nordstrom brand is a variety pack with options. I was happily surprised that there was even an extender for my three-hook-super-support runner's bra. 

BONUS: It's a bit of an investment, but if you want to treat yourself a Bailey 44 banded stretch-dress is worth every penny for those last nights of freedom. Despite the thrill of being with child, shopping for upscale maternity wear was hardly exciting. Who wants to pay for something that they only have a few months to wear? Especially when today's cuts and styles can certainly accommodate baby bumps and rumps and more. I didn't need to walk the catwalk with my bump, but I didn't want to be in the frump zone. At some point, the Bailey 44 dress with it's four-way stretch and banded construction, became the go-to dress to flatter nearly every bodyshape--including a pregnant one. At once body conscious, shaping yet comfy the design reminds us of the Herve Leger bandaid dress but with more breathing room and more gently priced for the hard-working mama. I rocked mine to a John Legend concert in my third trimester and despite my giant, obvious bump and wedding band, a guy beside me at the bar bought me my drinks. (Two bottled waters, Big Spender!) 


ONE LAST TIP: Don't forget to buy your partner something, too. With the long road to the delivery and the even longer road through the first 12 weeks of sleepless nights and zombie parenthood, a nice cozy hoodie should infuse at least a little bit of comfort and care that your partner will be missing when the little one arrives. Think warm, fleecy, easy, grab-n-go. Under Armor makes some nice hoodies. Or, Slate magazine calls these the best hoodies around.

Real, live new dad slightly annoyed and eating baked goods at odd hours.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What Every (New) Parent Needs to Know about Bringing Baby to San Francisco... Part 3.

Natural Resources (1367 Valencia between 24th and 25th) sounds like a spring water brand, but it’s really a not-so-random place in San Francisco’s hip-trendy Mission District where you can nurse your baby in a coven-like circle of comfy rocking chairs, drop in for diaper changing, find out his/her current weight, test-drive all kinds of baby-carrying equipment and so much more!

The semi-cheerful staff is there to help you, and I’ve even been offered a (free) beverage while nursing. When I tested baby-carriers they ended up double-checking my baby-carrying technique in the Ergo, and gave me pointers so that it was much more comfortable for me and baba. Come to think of it, I’ve always been impressed by their product knowledge and product inventory. They carry earth-and-or-mama-friendly (and pricey) brands; everything from Aden and Anais bamboo sleepsacks to Medela bottle and breast pump accessories (often sold by the piece for your convenience!) I have sent many visiting moms to Natural Resources for emergency pump parts! Looking for a bottle brush? Need a refill on gripe water? Find it on their wall. Of course there are plenty of cute organic cotton clothes and wooden toys sprinkled throughout the store, too. Plus, this is the city’s mecca for fenugreek potions, i.e. homeopathic stuff to help you produce more breast milk. Take a look at their tea, bars and tinctures. We’ve all been there.

Since the baby-changing stations (yes, there’s more than one) are in the store rather than in a bathroom, be prepared to manage the poo with an audience. However, the changing stations are a bit more decked out than the usual and have a lot of creature comforts. They’re always stocked with unbleached cotton diaper cloths for beneath your loved one’s bum and lots and lots of wipes. They don’t provide diapers or hand-sanitizer. There’s also a small bathroom on sight for parents to clean up afterwards.

HOT FOODIE TIP: Parents don’t have to starve! So… Don’t even get me started on the number of delicious eateries walking distance from Natural Resources like Pi Bar (pizza and craft beer), Beretta (upscale Italian and hipster cocktails), Papalote (burritos) and Arizmendi (bakery coop) to name a few. Not to be missed!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

What Every Parent Needs to Know about Bringing Baby to San Francisco - Part 2!

ATTENTION MOMS: It’s okay to get out of the house. Nordstrom at Westfield San Francisco Centre is here to help. I don’t know how many times I’ve beelined straight into SF Centre and into Nordstrom’s gold elevators like a woman on a mission since I've become a mom. On the third floor between Savvy and Top Shop departments (past all of that high-end denim I can’t afford since having my little monster) lies the baby diapering beacon known as Nordstrom's Women’s Lounge. 

Oh, peace on Earth, good will to men (especially lazy husbands) that places like these exist for the style-minded. Just behind the discreet doorway are the essentials for baby changing ease. There's a private room with leatherette booths and built-in changing tables (and mirrors to keep baba amused with him or herself). There's also a full-size armchair that can easily be used for nursing. Right outside is the all-purpose lounge area, rows of sinks, and the humanely designed bathroom stalls. The lounge has comfy couches, muted lighting and soothing muzak. In other words feel free to nurse on a couch or park your stroller while you charge your cellphone and baba naps. The bathrooms have wooden doors (that hit the floor) and the whole bathroom area is regularly cleaned. 

The only drawback is that the bathroom stalls. If mama has to "go" they're are a bit too small to fit a stroller  (the handicap one can probably fit a Volo-like umbrella stroller) . But, you can hack it to do your business by putting your stroller (my jogging stroller is gigantic) in front of the wooden stall door--just remember to face your baby out!

Anniversary Sale! Half-Yearly! End-of-Summer Sale! You. Can. Still. Go! Grab that last pair of Como Corso pumps, Mama! Get those Nordie Bucks Triple Points! When your mini-you makes the poo face in Women's Shoes simply call over one of Nordstrom’s super-friendly staff to hold your purchase and pop one flight up on the golden elevator. You’ll be wiping your favorite little bum clean in seconds flat.  Unless you're buddies with a bathroom valet at the Westin St. Francis, this is the GO TO baby bathroom in Union Square area.

HOT TIP: There’s another fully equipped lounge on Nordstrom level 2 between Studio 121 and Men’s Suits. By the way, in case you're wondering, Macy's Union Square cannot touch this.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What Every Parent Needs to Know about Bringing Baby to San Francisco... Part 1.

In my 20's I used to run around San Francisco free and easy drinking in the bars, dancing in the clubs and when I had the funds having a chic meal with my friends. I took one very important thing for granted: The bathroom, i.e. "the ladies," "powder room," "facilities" where I would pee out my four, five beers, reapply lipgloss and gossip with my girlfriend about my hot date...

Fast forward to now, and I'm just another San Francisco mom who somehow skipped the 'burbs and finds herself toting around a little person who cannot go to the bathroom by himself! Life's challenges! I quickly learned the value of a baby-friendly (even marginally so) bathroom. So, when nature calls your little pal here's one San Francisco baba-bathroom hotspot: (More to come!)

1. Should the name Delfina Pizzeria Mission and the phrase baby bathroom be used in the same sentence? Why yes! Especially, if you are a particularly foodie-inclined parent. For my birthday, my Big Man and my Little Man took me to Delfina Pizzeria (18th St location) for their delicious artisan pies, arancini, meticulous salads and incredible wine list. As we dined al fresco in the soothing summer heat it felt just like the good ole pre-baby days until... my Little Man threw his handcrafted Tuscan breadsticks across the table at me and began howling at the waiters.
These are the signs of possible diaper issues. At this point, my hubs and I usually draw straws for bathroom reconnaissance: Is there a fold-down changing table, or any relatively sanitary surface to handle Little Man's business? Lazily, I asked the waiter and he informed us, No. No changing table. BUT, when I went to the ladies to "make do" I discovered he was wrong. SO wrong! I actually whistled as I changed that diaper on a very sleek, Euro-style changing table. The changer's inside wall even has bubble baby graphics to instruct how to safely and efficiently lay baby down—A stranger could change your baby's diaper at Delfina Pizzeria!

BONUS TIPS: If you're nowhere near a proper baby bathroom here are a few things I've learned about diaper-changing on the fly...

- Recline your stroller as far as it will go, put up the hood, stroll to a quiet corner and change your baby's diaper  in the stroller. This is totally acceptable (as long as it's acceptable to you!). You might think twice if you're in a restaurant, and in general steer away from people eating when going for this MacGyver move.

- San Francisco's well-groomed parks and hyper-sanitary playgrounds are your child's public changing station. Although many of the city's parks and playgrounds have public bathrooms equipped with changing tables they may not always be open, convenient or clean. I know more than a few parents that are more comfortable changing their baby in the great outdoors than a park bathroom. Enter the very baby-changing friendly parks and playgrounds. Find a discreet corner with a clean flat surface, whip out your handy washable blanket (that you always keep in your diaper bag), lay Baba down and change away. If your baby bag came with a portable changing pad or you're rocking your designer diaper "clutch"--even better!

- If you're traveling into San Francisco keep a short list of local playgrounds with bathrooms. You never know when you're going to need an emergency pit-stop before meeting your peeps at some trendy spot without kid-friendly facilities. Especially in the first year crazy poo blowouts can have absolutely no rhyme or reason. Just when you've stepped off the BART or stuck in traffic on 280, the poo can happen. Upper Noe Valley Recreation Center  (Day Street) has awesome baby bathrooms that are open all day and just a short drive from 280 and 101 exits. Mission Pool and Playground (enter on Valencia or Linda Streets) also has great facilities just a few blocks from 16th and 24th street BARTs.

My bowels seem to move shortly after I eat and there's no bathroom in sight... Luckily, mama carries a muslin baby blanket everywhere we go, and the grass is so soft here on the West Bluffs!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Add Kimchee. Eat. Repeat.

After Giant Sous Chef and I hit Kogi BBQ in L.A., my quest for Asian fusion began. The Korean galbi beef tacos with Kogi's aioli sauce rocked, but the kimchee quesadilla was... too intense-- Even for Spicy! Kimchee, root vegetables like daikon and Napa cabbage pickled and fermented with acid, spices and sugar, overwhelmed the classic melty jack cheese quesadilla. So what would Spicy do? How 'bout carnitas!? Everything's better with carnitas!! The vinegary kimchee cuts straight through the meaty, rich slow-braised pork and brings bright flavor. 

In the Mission District, San fran's taqueria mecca, La Taqueria deals in dangerously addictive carnitas. But, my weeknight craving became inspired the moment I added Granny Choe's napa cabbage kimchee to their carnitas quesadilla. Who doesn't love pork 'n pickled stuff?

Two-step Asian fusion... Buy Carnitas Quesadilla. Add Kimchee.
(Eat. Repeat.)

P.S. Spicy loves Asian fusion because she's Pinay and Filipino food is all about fusion like Malay and Spanish influences, Chinese cooking technique, hot dogs, spaghetti and American cheese.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Cozy cooking with Spicy. Brunch with claws.

We can still get inspired by something we know, a dish that is so familiar that, laying in bed with your eyes closed, you can hear it cooking. Spanish onions and a little garlic frying in a big wok, the knock, knock, knocking wooden spatula, crab and shrimp madly kissing heat, then whispering steam. The smells surround you, you rub your eyes, walk blearily down the hall to the kitchen and savory, spicy, sticky seafood and rice slow sizzling in brown butter is your beacon.

This is Triple Asian Fusion: Dungeness Salt and Pepper Crab Goan Shrimp Curry Fried Rice concocted from the spoils of last night's dinner--takeout whole crab and spicy shrimp curry-- transformed into a morning after wok-n-rice fĂȘte. There are two four secrets here:

- Make your own cilantro basmati rice. Cook it my way with caramelized shallots, add cilantro, deglaze with chicken stock and reduce a tiny bit. Then fold into fresh, steamed rice.

- Know your leftovers. PPQ Dungeness Island's Crab does not disappoint! I picked the crabs absolutely clean and scraped every bit of garlicky rub (that smothers each order of crab) into the wok. 

- You can make organic Indian food at home--with packets! Arora Creations has the cutest story about cooking with "secret dust" as a U of M undergrad. I'd accidentally overcooked the shrimp, and I needed a way to salvage all that briny spicy goodness. Solution? Chop small and stir fry...

- Add just enough spice with the perfectly vinegary Crystal Lousiana Hot Sauce to rice while it cooks. Put the Rooster Sriracha down, people!

Your fusion is complete. Fried Rice is the ideal template--take Chinese, add Filipino, Vietnamese and South Asian tradition--and mix it up.

Don't forget to invite Spicy!

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Spicy at Play: Gimme some of that Onolicious!

My kind of R&R: Plate lunch Chili Pepper Chicken at The Village Bakery in Hanalei, Kauai, Hi. Wish you were here...
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