Decorating a Gingerbread House

I've never been able to get it together enough to bake and construct a gingerbread house at home so I love any opportunity to turn up and decorate a pre-constructed house.  There are a few places nearby that offer this option and Chef Central is one that comes to mind.  When we were in Brooklyn, we discovered the Gingerbread Decorating workshop at the Church Street School in Tribeca (it is a fundraiser for the school) and went for several years until we moved out to NJ.  We decided to give it a try again this year and everyone was so glad we did.  You start out with a large house and a pot of icing for each child:

The candy shown on the plate is just the tip of the candyberg.  Elves come out constantly offering up more candy:  M&M's, Skittles, gummy rings, gummy penguins, marshmallows (big and small) and the list goes on and on.  Be prepared as more than a few pieces wind up in mouths rather than on the house!

If the kids are a little older like ours, you can sit back, hum along to the live piano player playing holiday tunes and enjoy a coffee.  Smaller kids will obviously need more hands-on help but even then the whole event is very low-key and a refreshing break from the holiday chaos.  

Once the house is completed and all the requisite pictures have been taken, they wrap it up nicely for you to transport home.  We spent about 1 1/2 hours here and then headed off for lunch and our yearly picture with Santa at ABC.

Pictures from our first time:

Percy Jackson at the Met

Jack recently read all of the Percy Jackson series and was enthralled with Greek mythology.  For those who are unaware, Percy Jackson is a tween living in Manhattan who learns that he is half-god, as his father is Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, and various adventures ensue.  Since the series begins at the Met, I thought it would be a good chance to sneak in some art under the guise of walking in Percy's steps.  Upon further investigation, I found that the Met was one step ahead of me and had an art adventure designed around Percy Jackson.  (For those who are not into Percy Jackson, there are many more art adventures available including Arms and Armor, Shall We Dance, and Young in America.)  All adventures can be downloaded before you leave home or you can get a copy at the information desk in the main foyer once you arrive.  As part of the adventure there are 8 cards which highlight with quotes from the book why the piece has been selected to be part of the tour.  There are also questions that make you look at each piece a little closer and a little longer to find things that you might have missed at first glance.  The tour takes about 1-2 hours but once we were there we lingered to look at more of the amazing Greek and Roman Art collection on display (as I had hoped we would).

We have found these types of museum trips to be perfect for our family as we can enjoy a little of the museum while still keeping the kids entertained and not overwhelming them.  Two to three hours (for a non-kid-centric museum) seem to be about the maximum we can do at this point so this works really well.  The Met's website is very helpful when planning a visit with kids offering the aforementioned art adventures, suggested itineraries and lots of guided family activities and tours.

The cafes at the Met are generally very good and offer a wide variety of choices but we wanted to head out and grab a bite nearby.  We always have a great meal at Le Pain Quotidien.  They have great lunch and light dinner options and the best Belgian waffle I have ever tasted.  Luke's Lobster is only a short walk from the museum although there isn't a lot of family-friendly seating available.  If the weather is nice you could always picnic in the park and there is a fantastic playground located conveniently right across the street from the museum, the Ancient Playground.  

Photo by Central Park NYC

Photo by Central Park NYC

Just for Girls in NYC

Over the summer Jack was away for the weekend so we decided to treat Ava to a day out in New York, hitting up all the sights her brother would have rolled his eyes at in boyish disgust.  At the top of her list was the American Girl store in Midtown.  We got an early start with her doll Saige in tow and a long list of what she wanted to see and do at the store.  If you've never visited an American Girl store, you are in for quite a treat.  You can do everything from have a meal with your doll (make reservations very far in advance for this) to getting a picture taken in their professional studio.  

Ava chose to have Saige's hair done in the doll hair salon.  There are several different hair styles to choose from and once you have made your decision, you are given an appointment time (usually a 30-60 minute wait).  Upon your return, the doll is put into her chair and the stylists work their magic.


After selecting a few new outfits and a pair of glasses for Saige, we walked over to the Plaza.  If you are celebrating a special occasion, I would make a reservation to have afternoon tea in the Palm Court.  We opted to head downstairs and eat at the Food Hall (after a quick photo op with Eloise).

In the Food Hall, you can find everything from Luke's Lobster to No. 7 Sub to Todd English.  On this day we chose Tartinery.  Their menu is mostly soups, salads and tartines, which are basically open-faced sandwiches made with an array of toppings.  Their tartines are big enough to easily feed two kids and there are enough choices that they should be able to find one they can agree on.  

Photo by the Plaza Food Hall

Photo by the Plaza Food Hall

For dessert you can grab a cupcake at Billy's Bakery, a piece of chocolate from La Maison du Chocolat or (our personal favorite) a macaron at Francois Payard.  Then it is over to the Eloise store located on the side of the food hall.  

The store is great with a mix of Eloise-themed toys and books along with clothing from Olive Juice, rain slickers from Hatley, and backpacks and lunchboxes from Beatrix New York.  You can also have a meal here in the adjacent party room.

If you are still up for more, you could head across the street to Central Park or over to FAO Schwarz for some more shopping.  As for us, we were done and headed home with a very happy little girl in the backseat who was already planning what we would do the next time Jack was away.