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triathalonArtist, yes. Successful businessman, sure. Snarky comment maker, indeed. But here are words I’d never thought I’d utter: I’d like to introduce you to my husband, Brett, the triathlete. When Brett and I met in 1996, he was merely a summertime tennis player, and, when I was not chain-smoking, I occasionally attended a step-aerobics class. In Central Park, we went to Sheep’s Meadow to hang out instead of going for a run around the reservoir. I though we were perfectly matched in every way.

When we moved in together in Brooklyn a few years later, we joined a gym and attended spin and yoga classes side by side. Skip ahead 12 years, and you will find that spin and yoga is where I still remain. Brett, however, has moved on. Way on.

My husband now goes to the gym. A lot. He has a trainer. He does something called box jumps. He wears something called a weight vest. When I said I’d marry him in sickness and in health, I didn’t know quite how healthy he meant.

I think it all began a decade ago with a Memorial Day mile road race near my aunt’s home in Norfolk, Connecticut. Norfolk, known as “the ice box of Connecticut,” because of its lovely winters, is not what you’d call a competitive, cut-throat place. With its pretty little town of rolling green, Norfolk serves as home to the Yale Summer School of Music and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and has a strong reputation for attracting artists and craftsmen of all types to its quaint little corner of the Litchfield Hills.

But this setting is deceptive, because it has turned my art-schooled husband into a road warrior.

At last year’s race, he had to “beat his time” from the previous years. It was all he talked about. And then he did it! Yay, Dad! My kids cheered. We were all so excited! But the thrill of victory was quickly tainted by the agony of defeat, which in this case, was placing fourth in a race with only three award winners. Sure, Brett ran 5 consecutive 7 1/2 minute miles, some of them uphill, but he missed out on receiving a plaque from the Norfolk Fire Department in the male 30-39 year-old category, and that just wasn’t good enough. So, this year, he had to beat his time as well as everyone else’s. At the very least, he had to be the third fastest man in his age group and win a plaque.

Brett was faster than ever. He beat his previous year’s time by 40 seconds. He was so fast that he was shaking at the end, unable to talk. Memorial Day was hotter than heck this year, and I was concerned that he had pushed himself too far.

Lacking a bit in competitive spiritedness, I felt a mixture of pride in Brett and worry for him. What was he trying to prove? I wondered. Wasn’t it good enough to be able to participate in events like this? Why did he have to win?

The Norfolk Firemen posted a list of finishing times to a nearby evergreen. I hesitantly checked the stats. Brett was fourth again.

“It’s okay, bud,” Brett said to our 10-year-old son, Andrew, who was concerned that Dad was disappointed in himself. “All you can do in life is try really hard and still place fourth.”

You see, I married him for his humor.

On the walk to the car, we rationalized that, next year, Brett will be the youngest in the 40-49 year old age group and will therefore kick the old guys’ butts. Our spirits were lifted.

This 5-mile road race was like the gateway drug for Brett. Apparently, it’s not enough to try to outrun people. Now he has to run, bike, and swim his way to healthy. Next month, Brett will compete in a “sprint,” which I understand to be a practice for a full-length triathlon. His first Olympic-distance triathlon is in September.

I am of course proud of my husband for wanting to accomplish something of this magnitude. Training for an event like a trialthlon takes real discipline, both of the mental and physical variety. It also means spending lots of quality time away from his family in order to train. There are the daily runs, the 20-mile bike rides, the weekly “Super Human” class at Equinox, and the Sunday swim club followed by a tennis league…just for fun.

It’s hard to stand by your man when he’s constantly moving in the other direction.

I know golf widows. I don’t feel bad for them, because they belong to some posh country club in order to indulge their husband in his choice of sport, and thus, reap the collateral benefits of this by sitting by the manicured pool, flirting with the tennis pro, or golfing with the other ladies. But there is no home-away-from-home for the triathlete widow. No group support country club. No built-in tennis pro just waiting to fill my time while the kids are in mini-golf camp and daddy is training. Women who lose their husbands to golf might feel like their husband is having one affair. Triathlete spouses have lost their mates three times over. And there is no one I can turn to and sigh and say, “Mine’s mountain biking today. Where’s yours?”

(In all fairness, I also know several women who train and have competed in triathletes, so I understand that the feeling of being left behind by your uber-fit spouse is not gender specific.)

I was feeling a bit jealous of people who have couch-potato spouses until the other day, when I heard about a guy who makes my husband seem lazy. Meet Josh Zitomer. He is a personal trainer who personally trains himself by preparing for and competing in one of the sickest, craziest events I have ever heard of, the Spartan Death Race. Like Tough Mudder, the Spartan Death Race (visit youmaydie.com) mixes insane outdoor challenges with the spirit of mortal danger rarely seen outside of true combat. The creators of this race actually seem to want you to die. It’s counter-intuitive that anyone would pay a $900 entry fee for this right, when eventually, everyone gets to die for free anyway, but I digress.

According to Josh (who is a friend of a friend of mine), the race director begins by saying that “we don’t want any of you to finish…we will encourage you to quit.” Less than 10% of the starting group makes it to the finish line. Now, right there, hearing that, I’d give up. But Josh says that being pushed to the limit like this and being told he might not live makes the challenge even more exciting. But then again, he has competed in many double and TRIPLE ironman competitions. I can’t even do the math on that.

This isn’t a guy who could sit through a three-hour Verdi opera like Brett can, I’m guessing. Everyone has their skills.

Yes, Josh has a family that he runs away from too. In order to train, he gets up at 4 am so as not to upset his wife who does not like to sweat at all (I instantly love her) and who, I can imagine, feels like a Spartan Death widow, which is way worse than a golf widow or triathlon widow, because she might actually end up…a widow.

A typical workout for Josh might include flipping a tractor tire up a 1-mile hill. Or an hour-long run with a 40lb weight vest. One session was simply 3,000 burpees. Another was a mile of walking lunges with a 70lb log. Once a week he’ll test his strength, speed and endurance with a timed climb up the side of a mountain…while carrying a 5-gallon bucket filled with rocks.

Suddenly, a swim, followed by a bike ride and a run doesn’t seem so bad.

Did I introduce you to my husband, Brett? He’s a triathlete. And, I am so proud of him and I love him just the way he is and I really hope he’ll find the strength to stop right there, because being a healthy, well-balanced husband, father, businessesman, artist, and triathlete is more than enough. Even without a weight vest. Even in fourth place.

Especially in fourth place.

gerstenblattColumnist and blogger Julie Gerstenblatt writes with humor and candor about her life in Scarsdale, her friends and family, and the particular demands of motherhood and wifedom in modern-day suburbia.

 

 

juicecleanseAs a journalista, I often have to go where the hard-hitting story is. I make sacrifices, sure, in order to deliver the news about shoe trends and hot new books, but it’s all worth it in the end when I see the effects my reporting has on the public.

Which is why I tried a 3-day juice cleanse at Andy’s Pure Food.

I did it for you.

Well, I did it for you and me. I’ve always been curious about what a juice cleanse entails – will it make me sick? Will it make me skinny? Will it make me healthy? All of the above? And when Onur Ozkoc, the general manager of Andy’s in The Golden Horseshoe in Scarsdale offered to let me try it for free, I decided now was the perfect time.

Andy’s (also located in Rye and Larchmont) offers two types of 3-day cleanses, a synergy cleanse, which includes a salad and a soup in the middle of the day for beginners, and a pure juice cleanse, for those of you who can handle 72 chewless hours. Each costs $150. Onur took one look at me and decided I was a beginner. Yay, me! I got to eat soup!

Onur explained the benefits of a juice cleanse before I started, noting that all cleanses could be customized to the needs, likes, or dislikes of the participant. He said that if you eat a lot of foods that are hard to digest, like bread and steak, your body struggles through a long digestive process and uses up its energy.

All I eat are bread and steak, I thought. My body must be exhausted.

He said that, after the juice cleanse, I would feel really fantastic. He said that I would see the difference and love the feeling. Benefits include better sleep habits, more energy upon waking, glowing skin with renewed cells, weight loss, reduced allergic reactions, and, hopefully, improved eating habits moving forward. Onur explained that the cleanse makes people really conscious of what they put into their bodies.

“Coffee?” I asked. “Just one teensy, weensy cup in the morning?”

Onur shook his head sadly at me, the beginner. No toxins. No caffeine. Only water as a supplement. He looked extremely serious.

“But won’t I get a headache if I don’t drink my coffee?”

Yes!” he said. “You will!”

But I don’t like getting headaches, I thought with my headache-free head. How would I write? How would I exercise? How on earth would I drive to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, teach first graders about paintings for the Learning to Look program at our elementary school, and drive back home again…without caffeine?

Since coffee is a part of my personal brand, I decided to ignore this rule. My decision was based on a few things. I wasn’t going into this juice cleanse experiment to try and kick caffeine, for one. I only drink 2 cups a day, which is a marked improvement over the days when I drank 3-4 cups a day and smoked a pack of cigarettes to wash the coffee down. Compared to the me of 1995, I am already really healthy. Secondly, why struggle through 3 days without coffee knowing full well that I was definitely going to return to it right after the experiment was through?

I did not tell Onur about the coffee. But, knowing that I had to draw the line somewhere to really try and do my best within reason, I did give up wine for a week without a problem.

Which is why, the night before the cleanse began, I drank a lot of wine.

“Aren’t you starting that cleanse tomorrow?” My husband, Brett asked, giving me a sideways glance as I refilled my sauvignon blanc.

“Yes, which is why I thought it only fair to give my body some toxins to get rid of.”

DAY 1

Upon waking, I was supposed to drink the water out of a coconut. I imagined that Brett would materialize by my coconutjuiceside like a nurse-maid, puncture the top of the coconut with a straw, and hand it to me before I had even sat up in bed. This did not occur. Instead, I walked around the house in my pajamas with a giant coconut in my hands, making beds, picking out the kids’ clothes for them, and packing snacks and lunches. The coconut does not fit into the cup holder in my SUV and that is why one must have it first thing, before leaving the house. I know this because I tried to drink from a coconut while driving my car. See picture.

Thumbs up on the coconut water. It is muy delicious. If I had put a paper umbrella in it and closed my eyes, I could have almost believed it was a tropical cocktail and that I could wear a bikini, which I haven’t done since 1989.

By the time I got to spin class at 10:30, I had already ingested the water from the coconut, a cup of coffee, and an entire green juice. I had to pee so badly during the last 5 minutes of spin class that my mind was hurting from the sheer force of mind-over-body control.

At 1:00, I ate my soup. Yummy. At 3:00, I ate my salad. Fine. And then I looked at the schedule and realized that all I had left for the rest of the day was one bottle of nut milk, to be ingested between 6-8 pm. THAT’S IT?! I thought. It was the hardest part of the day. I recalled that Onur had mentioned adding an extra, optional “meal” of steamed veggies and quinoa between 5-7, but I did not end up with that option. If you do this cleanse, ask for that, at least for the first day or two. It will help with the depression that sets in when everyone else is eating dinner and you are not.

As I made dinner for the kids and cleaned up afterwards, I realized that, many times, I was about to put something in my mouth. I became conscious of how much snacking/nibbling/grazing I do, and how those calories probably add up without me even considering that part of my food intake.

DAY 2

Thought I might wake up very skinny. Did not.

Put the straw in the coconut and repeated.

Headed with friends into NYC to chaperone and teach first grade class trip. Sipped juice on the way there and the way back. My friend who did not have time to eat anything but a banana had a headache by the time we got back at 2:00. I felt fine.

“It’s the electrolytes in my 10:30 lemonade!” I said. She went home to use her Vitamix to make healthy and yummy juices and soups from raw fruits and veggies.

By the end of day 2, I recognized a shift in my mindset. I realized that I usually eat for pleasure. In the case of the juice cleanse, I was eating for sustenance. Instead of a person, I felt like a car getting gassed up to drive. Food had shifted into fuel that my body needed to survive. This realization felt simultaneously liberating and sad.

Why sad? Because I like food. Okay, I LOVE food. Food is fun. Food is social. Food tastes great. Juices are fine for once in a while, but they are not a lifestyle. I like the thought of being healthier, and I did feel much less bloated and lighter as the days went on. BUT.

But even if my body felt lighter, my mind felt heavy. There is a burden that comes with thinking about and controlling everything that enters one’s body. Is it okay to eat this carb? Is it a toxin? Will this salty food make me bloated? Should I eliminate dairy completely? I understand that many people probably live this way, but I don’t want to. I like the idea of being more mindful of my choices and decisions throughout the day, but I don’t want to lose the joy that I find to be an integral part of eating. And I don’t ever want to think, “Oh, when I eat this, I’m being bad.” I don’t want my children to see me starve myself, either.

DAY 3

I know that the Andy’s focus is on improved habits and a cleaner, pure-food lifestyle, and I think that’s great. All in all, I enjoyed the experience and did not ever feel sick or have a headache (hmm…caffeine, anyone?). By day 3, I needed to eat for social reasons again, and so I skipped the salad given to me by Andy’s in favor of having lunch with some friends after taking an exercise class together. I ate a salad with lots of veggies on it, and I enjoyed it very much because I was laughing and chatting and chewing.

To conclude: I have since been off the cleanse for about 5 days, and have lost 3 pounds total. I have really cut down on dairy, have not eaten bread, and selected salmon instead of steak at a restaurant on Saturday night…with a glass of sauvignon blanc, naturally.

Want to get juiced?

Andy’s Pure Foods1096 Wilmot Rd, Scarsdale
46 Purchase Street, Rye
130 Chatsworth Ave, Larchmont

Whole Foods
110 Bloomingdale Rd, White Plains
BluePrint Cleanse

gerstenblatt

Columnist and blogger Julie Gerstenblatt writes with humor and candor about her life in Scarsdale, her friends and family, and the particular demands of motherhood and wifedom in modern-day suburbia.

 

bouquetMy friend and I were walking around Pamela Robbins the other day after lunch, wandering aimlessly, touching pretty things, chatting with the sales help and the other customers. Amy was interested in a ring from the jewelry case and I, not surprisingly, had found another scarf I liked in the window.

Amy tried on the ring. “What do you think?” she asked, extending her arm to arm’s length and moving her head back and forth. A group huddled around her hand and decided that the ring was fab. We immediately agreed that she must have it. Now.

(“We” might be enablers of sorts, but that’s not for today’s article.)

“Do you think I can buy it and then have my husband give it to me for Mother’s Day?” Amy asked.

Of course, we all agreed. Doing that takes the pressure off him and it guarantees that you’ll get a nice little something that you’ll truly enjoy…since you picked it out yourself!

There are people who would disagree with me about this. In fact, at one time in my life – like, 5 years ago – I would have even disagreed with me about this. The old romantic in me used to think, presents are gifts from the heart. They are meant to be surprises. Whatever I get will be wonderful, because my husband chose it with care, and he knows me so well. And then Brett got me a bracelet that I really didn’t like. Should I wear it and pretend? Should I smile and put it on and just suck it up and be gracious? I was nervous to approach him and not sure what to say that wouldn’t make me sound spoiled.

So I kept it and wore it occasionally. But now, a few years later, that bracelet is in the back of a drawer and I don’t wear it at all. It’s not comfortable in a heavy/dangly sort of way and it’s just not “me.” And so I have decided, that in a lifetime of marriage, it’s okay to tell your husband that while you love the gesture and the thought, it would be more fun to go together next time to pick out something that fits both your style and your wrist.

I know that Mother’s Day is about spending time with family, and it is not about getting stuff. On Mother’s Day, I enjoy eating brunch with my family and spending some time relaxing and connecting with everyone. Maybe you like to take a family bike ride on the Bronx River Parkway or plant impatiens around the border of your lawn. Whatever it is you chose to do, I hope you find meaningful experiences that help shape a special 2012 Mother’s Day.

That being said, a little “stuff” on a Hallmark holiday is not unheard of.

My mom and I exchange presents, but the thing I like best is that we always get tickets to a Broadway show and have a fun day in the city together, two moms treating each other to a shared memory in honor of Mother’s Day.

Maybe this is the year to embrace tradition, and maybe it’s time to break out of that mold. And, to help you (or your husband or family) do that, I’ve come up with a list of fun ideas.

For the sporty-fit-healthy mom:

Gift her 5 classes at the new Scarsdale Yoga or Soul Cycle, a Free City Hoodie (sold at Neiman Marcus and Scoop), and/or a yogamassage at Bliss.

Take a mother/daughter yoga class at Yoga Station on Mother’s Day and bring your mom for free! There is a slow and steady hatha class from 8:00-9:30 am and a sweaty vinyasa from 5:00-6:30. Althleta is offering a free mom and kids yoga class as well, from 10-11 am, suitable for kids 8 and up.

Treat her to a mountain bike and then take a ride together through some trails. (Don’t ask me where these trails might be and don’t get me this gift, Brett.)

A Vitamix mixer – great for making soups, juices, frozen dessert treats, and more! (I just watched the infomercial – can you tell? Now I really want one!) https://secure.vitamix.com

For the mom who loves to decorate:

Greenlight a small project that she’s been itching to do around the house, like get custom window treatments for her home office where she spends all day writing and looking out the window (hint, hint, Brett).

Tell her you think it’s time for some new bedding/pillows/chachkies in your bedroom/family room/living room and you’d love to spend a day with her at ABC Carpet and Home before having a nice meal at ABC Kitchen.

Buy a piece of art together.

For the socially-conscious/environmentally-aware/politically-involved/continuing education mom:

Make a donation in her name to her favorite charity.

Help her plan an event in your home to benefit a group that she cares about.

Plant a garden together in front of a children’s hospital, a shelter, or a school in need.

Give her a dog or cat from a rescues shelter. (Note: this really should be planned ahead of time, so that the mom doesn’t say, “I have to take care of all of you and now I also have to take care of this sad-looking dog?!” That’s not the reaction you’re going for.)

Give her an e-card to the Scarsdale Adult School to use towards the purchase of an interesting class of her choice.

For the mom who says, “All I want is time with my family:”

Purchase a session with a family photographer, like local mom Sarah Silverton, to capture special images of this exact moment in time. Gift certificates available. http://sarahjanesilvertonphotography.com/

Buy her a Wallpaper guide to any city (Brett and I love the New York one) and have her pick a hotel, restaurant, and some attractions and then plan a weekend trip for the family.

charmbraceletBuy her jewelry from Jewels by Joanne with her birthstone and/or your children’s birthstones that she can wear whenever she goes out with her family (or even just when she goes out with pictures of them on her iPhone). Or build a charm bracelet filled with meaningful charms, adding a new one each year.

For the 50 Shades of Gray mom:

To help her connect with her “inner goddess,” buy her some pole dancing lessons at NY Pole in White Plains.

Try lingerie and a Kindle Fire.

Toys in Babeland (babeland.com) sells all the items used in EL James’ novels, even creating a 50 Shades product page to help you find the perfect accessories. (No, I’m not being serious. Just get her a gift certificate to any store in town and some beautiful flowers from the Scarsdale Flower Shop and she’ll be really happy.)

Forget the gift. For me, Mother’s Day is really about kissing my kids and smothering them with motherly love, since they’ll still let me do that for a little while longer. It’s also about torturing them slightly by making them dress up a bit for brunch somewhere way overpriced. Which is why last year, we had a barbeque at home. We ate off my melamine plates and sat in the sunny backyard for hours. It was the best Mother’s Day yet.

How will you spend your Mother’s Day this year? Share ideas for unique experiences and fun gifts below.

gerstenblatt

Columnist and blogger Julie Gerstenblatt writes with humor and candor about her life in Scarsdale, her friends and family, and the particular demands of motherhood and wifedom in modern-day suburbia.

eljamesWhen I heard that the author of 50 Shades of Gray was going to be speaking at Willow Ridge Country Club in Harrison, NY, I immediately emailed my friend, writer Annabel Monaghan. “You’ve got to come with me to hear E.L. James,” I begged.

Annabel and I met in a novel writing workshop at Sarah Lawrence College about a year and a half ago. On the first day of class, we went around the table and introduced ourselves. It was instant kinship. In the oft-recycled words from the film Jerry Maguire, she had me at “I wrote a YA novel about a math genius that falls in love with the CIA operative hired to protect her from terrorists,” and I had her at “my main character is a teacher and mom who lies to her family and her employer and takes off for a much-needed vacation.”

Who else to sit next to at a 50 Shades luncheon than one another?

“I’m going to have to think about it,” she wrote back. “On the one hand I want to attend, and on the other, I fear it 50ShadesofGreymight suck out my soul.”

Understood. The phenomenon created by the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy here in the suburbs – and, now, nationwide – is a bit overwhelming, especially to writers like Annabel and me who scratch our heads at a success story like James who, by her own admission, has no formal training as a writer. But, then again, we did read the books and we are suburban moms who fit the E.L. James demographic quite exactly. So, while I waited for Annabel to struggle with the moral, social, and political implications of her decision, I went ahead and bought us tickets at $85 apiece.

I knew I had to be there, and I knew, eventually, Annabel would agree to accompany me. Which, of course, she did.

“85 dollars?” Another friend chafed. “Is it a fundraiser?”

Yes, I said. A fundraiser for E.L. James.

This may surprise you, but I was not really going to see E.L. It was the other women in attendance at this luncheon that had my interest piqued. Who were they? What were their stories?

The event was hosted by Lyss Stern, whose company, Divalysscious Moms, “is New York City’s premier socializing network for fabulous moms…think Sex and the City meets Mommy and Me.” The company has been hosting parties of all sorts since 2003, but recently started sponsoring book club events.

Lyss had me at “Divalysscious.”

According to Urban Dictionary, the adjective “divalicious” describes “the epitome of a diva, in a positive manner. A female that is independent, confident, worldly, stylish, and all around fabulous.” One look at Lyss in a neon and lace dress, with superhigh heels and hair and make-up done, being followed around by a photographer and flanked by her two event planners, and I knew that adjective had her name written all over it.

“She really is the hostess with the mostest,” one of the women at our table said, looking around the ballroom with awe. This woman was plus-sized and big-breasted, wearing a full-on diva outfit of a low-cut, body-clinging satin dress. Her hair was short and spiky. Her friend, sitting beside her, owns a romance publishing company and suggested that Annabel and I write for her.

These two were kind of the stand-outs in the crowd. We were lucky to have sat with them.

Who else…came? There were skinny moms and average moms, moms with hair straightened by keratin and moms with curls. There were even moms with their 20-something year-old daughters by their side, both boasting about their love for the books. “I was reading my Kindle while driving to work!” the mom of the duo at our table said. “I haven’t read a book in years and yet I read this trilogy in two weeks!”

All while driving, I wondered?

“I miss it,” she sighed.

Another woman at our table had arranged for her husband to watch their two-year-old so she could attend, while another declared to E.L. over a microphone that, “this is the best Mother’s Day gift I’ve ever gotten!”

“Unlike our heroine, Ana, these women like to eat!” Annabel said as we snaked our way down the lunch buffet line, watching as women piled up their plates with decadent salads.

And that’s why I brought Annabel.

While we were chowing down, Lyss raffled off some items, including a painting, a diet book (won by a very thin woman, natch) and a vibrator. I won a 5-pack of fancy, chocolate-covered pretzels. I ate one on the ride home and it was pretzelicious.

Next came Lyss’s enjoyable introduction to E.L. James. She recounted how the 50 Shades trilogy “tied women together…and you, the women, were the rope.” She described our “evolution from the sandbox to the red room of pain,” and said that E.L. James’ writing was “putting women everywhere into a breathless, orgasmic coma.” She told us that these books had let us realize that “it’s okay to admit that we want our needs satisfied.” Ultimately, she thanked James for “writing a book that was a community service to women…and men!”

That may have been the soul-sucking part. Because, as Annabel said after (and texted to me during), “I don’t want to offend this group, but it was funny how they were billing it as the new women’s movement, like this book had not only converted the illiterate but had also given women this long dormant ability to communicate with each other. It’s like E.L. James is Gloria Steinem walking around in Super Nanny’s body.”

That’s also why I brought Annabel.

E.L. James spoke next. She is not a very dynamic speaker, to put it kindly. This is probably why she isn’t doing much public speaking. E.L. shied away from questions about the books’ sexual content, saying only that she did have one “inappropriate relationship” when she was young, although she would not elaborate on the nature of the impropriety. Was he much older than she? Married? Kinkalicious? We’ll never know.

What struck a chord with me and other attendees at the luncheon was that Brit E.L. did not boast and did not seem to take her fame too…oh, what’s the word…Americanly. She was “stunned” by the reaction of American women to both her and the books, although “it’s beginning to sink in a bit.”

Secondly, we noticed that the emphasis of these books for her is about the power of reading. James said several times during the Q & A portion of the talk that her goal was to write books that people would read and enjoy, “because that’s all I set out to do – write a hopefully entertaining love story.” In particular, getting emails and letters from women who haven’t read in years and who thanked her for her books has been “gobsmackingly amazing.”

In short, while Lyss Stern and many others are more than happy to discuss the sexual and social implications of her books, James is not comfortable doing so. After all, the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy has sparked tremendous controversy, ranging from comments made by Dr. Drew Pinsky on the Today Show to recent banning of the books in a public library in Florida. Under such criticism, James would be insane to open her mouth about anything other than the fact that she is pleased that women are reading the book and talking about sex more than they used to. But, c’mon…is the book counter-productive to the women’s movement, or does its popularity somehow embody the evolution of a new phase of women’s sexual liberation? Do women’s fantasies of domination translate into anything other than fantasies?

Perhaps the answer isn’t black or white, but rather filled with at least 50 shades of gray.

So, here’s my takeaway from the event last week: I liked 50 Shades of Gray. It made me randy for a while and spiced up my sex life with my husband of 13 years. I thought it was awfully written and yet I couldn’t put it down. I had fun at the Divalyssious event, even if, afterward, I felt like describing everything with an “icious.” But I don’t want E.L. James to be the poster child for my personal understanding of sexuality or for woman’s sexual empowerment in a general sense.

And the good news is, neither does E.L. James.

Laters, baby.
gerstenblattColumnist and blogger Julie Gerstenblatt writes with humor and candor about her life in Scarsdale, her friends and family, and the particular demands of motherhood and wifedom in modern-day suburbia.

PlasticWishWhen I was growing up, my parents did a lot of summer entertaining, before they divorced and ruined all the fun. Our house in Edgemont had a pretty backyard with a pool. Since my birthday is on July 3rd, we often hosted outdoor birthday parties, end-of-the-year school class parties, and elaborate Independence weekend fetes back-to-back for the first part of the summer season.

In fact, I recall the time between Memorial Day and July 4th as one big party.

My now long-deceased Bichon Frise, Ellie, would agree, having spent much of that time sipping margaritas from the half-filled cups left next to people’s lounge chairs and then falling asleep in the shade.

Of note, there was the bat mitzvah outdoor brunch with an omelet station, the Sweet Sixteen party to which I wore a rockin’ white, Oscar de la Renta bathing suit, and a Club Med party, during which my father burned his exposed stomach by grilling without a shirt.

For my mother, these parties were all about setting the table. Both she and my aunt had huge collections of Hellerware, that brightly-colored, stackable, midcentury mod plastic dinnerware originally designed by Massimo Vignelli. Remember Hellerware? You can still find it in museum collections, on Etsy and Ebay, as well as in my aunt’s kitchen. She now hosts us every Memorial Day, using the same iconic, blue and white Heller as always.

plastichellerware
Mid-Century Hellerware
(She’s divorced, too, but got to keep all 48 pieces of Hellerware in the split.)

Over the years, melamine resin – or, high quality plastic – has become as integral a part of my summer as apple pie, SPF 60, and broken homes.

Plastic is fantastic!

Now that I have a home and a family of my own (intact), I, too, like to entertain outdoors. It’s summertime, after all, where the living is easy. My husband, Brett, mans the grill and I woman the cocktails.

Which brings me to outdoor table setting. This isn’t the 1970’s anymore, Farrah. There are now so many different, stylish innovations with melamine that it’s not necessary to pick just one pattern and stick with it for 40 years. What I like most about melamine is that it invites me to be more daring with my color and pattern choices than when picking a china pattern, since I can embrace the fun and not think, won’t this rainbow-striped platter look weird with a turkey carved on it? No, it won’t, because the only food going on this melamine tray is grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, and a marinated flank steak with my name on it. Because melamine is relatively inexpensive, as compared with real, breakable dinnerware, the fear of commitment is also low. In a few years, I can always replace that $2.99 green plastic wine goblet from Crate and Barrel. The Bacarrat crystal? Not so much. (Especially since I don’t own any Baccarat. That makes it truly irreplaceable.)

Whether you favor clean, modern design or French Country chic, there is plastic with your name on it. In fact, there may even be some with your

melamineam
Stylish Melamine at A&MTable on Weaver Street
mother’s name on it. A few years ago, when trying to find the perfect Mother’s Day gift for my outdoor-entertaining, French-Country-loving mom, I stumbled upon beautiful, Le Cadeaux plastic dishes sold at La Dentelliere and The Paper Tree and went a little nuts with the credit card. Last year, my mom returned the favor and bought me Le Cadeaux dinner plates, salad plates, and bowls for eight. I like them so much I make my kids eat off them year round.

 

pastictarget
Melamine at Target
If you favor contemporary designs, try A&M Table at 1495 Weaver Street. They carry Jonathan Adler melamine as well as other stylish plastic and acrylic pieces, great for indoors or out. I never walk out of that store without buying myself (or my mom) a little (or medium-sized) something.

For a fun, mix-and-match color palate, head to Wish at 3 Purdy Avenue in Rye. Their windows currently show off delicious, candy-colored designs by French Bull, which are all dishwasher safe and range in price from $10-36.

And, because I can’t help but flaunt my high-low recessionista side, there’s always Target. My kids had to drag me away from “Tarshay’s” plastic dinnerware section a few weeks ago. “Mom!” They said. “We’ve got to get food and paper towels and toilet paper and snacks for school!” To which I replied, “But, kids, plastic is so fantastic! Let me just snap a few pictures.” And an idea for an article was born.

Cheers to dining al fresco!

(pictured at top: Melamine from Wish in Rye)

gerstenblatt
Columnist and blogger Julie Gerstenblatt writes with humor and candor about her life in Scarsdale, her friends and family, and the particular demands of motherhood and wifedom in modern-day suburbia.

 

 

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