Muji – Great for gifts and killing time

My rating: ♥♥♥♥♥/ 5

The other day, Pookie had woken up a bit early from his nap and turned into a cranky mess by 4pm. I needed to find a way to survive the next few hours before bedtime. I also needed to get a birthday gift for “Igor,” so we (I) decided to hit up Muji.

I managed to get Pookie’s jacket and shoes on and stuff him into his 7am Enfant Blanket 212 Evolution and, because the new Muji store opened up two blocks from our apartment, we arrived in no time! The walk over there chilled him out a bit, and by the time we entered, Pookie was a new baby.

I LOVE Muji! And so does Pookie! So, what is it? The name Muji is short for Mujirushi Ryōhin, which means no-brand quality goods in Japanese. They carry everything from skincare products, clothing and snacks to furniture, dishes and stationery. They set themselves apart with their excellent, but simple designs, high quality and reasonable prices.

Did I mention that they carry stationery?? Woah. Among so many other cute and useful office supplies, they have notebooks of all sizes, materials and varieties and pens in all colors of course, but also every tip size you can imagine so that you can find the best one for your handwriting. And you can test them all out on scratch paper, which means you can easily spend all day there!

Pookie and I had only been there for five minutes when “Ellie,” a friend of ours, walked in with her three-year-old. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who had decided to spend the witching hour there. Her kiddo (obviously) loves the stationery section and had a blast testing out pens and markers.

I knew I would find Igor the perfect gift in the stationery section. Not only is she one of the most organized people I know, but she also appreciates cute crap as much as I do, so I thought she would enjoy a selection of Muji office supplies. First I picked out a couple pens (one in black and one in sky blue). Then I had to get her a clear tip double ended highlighter in pink because seriously I’ve never seen such a cool highlighter tip. I also chose some fun cat sticky notes, some to-do list sticky notes in two different sizes, and a pad of weekly schedule sticky notes.

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Then Ellie gave me the best tip ever. She pointed out that you can purchase a notebook and decorate it at their stamping station. I obviously had to personalize a notebook for Igor.

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So, I’m not completely happy with the finished result. I got a little nervous because the pressure was on to not mess it up, and meanwhile cranky mess had returned. Pookie wanted to keep ALL of the stamps, which made the process a bit frustrating. At least he never figured out how to open the stamps! Even if it’s not perfect, I think Igor will appreciate the effort!

This place gets 5 hearts for so many reasons: their beautiful and clever products, their use of little or no packaging, their low prices, their stamping station (!!) and their kid-friendliness. Pookie enjoyed the hour spent at Muji, and I feel that in a year or so he will enjoy it even more.

Suffolk Arms – It’s all right

My rating: ♥♥♥/ 5

When you and your husband only get to have date night once every 2-3 weeks, the pressure is on to make it the best night ever! I mean, when you’re paying the babysitter $20/ hr, it’d better be worth it! Am I right, or am I right? Well, RR and I had our bi-weekly date night on Friday, and, I must say, it didn’t quite live up to my (RR was cool with it) expectations.

RR had a prior engagement in the city (in Manhattan), so he had suggested we pick a place in the Lower East Side. In Manhattan? Whut? We normally NEVER go out in Manhattan, but LES is for sure one of the cooler neighborhoods in Manhattan, and it’s close to Williamsburg, where we live. So, I thought why not!

While on a previous date night, we had gone the fancy route at Leuca in the William Vale, on this night, I thought we’d go the bar-hopping fun route. And by bar-hopping, I mean, dinner in one place and then one more drink at another place. I know – we’re wild.

I’m so out of the loop though and thus had no idea where to go. Of course, I turned to Yelp and somehow landed on Suffolk Arms. According to the website, it’s a “cocktail pub,” and I think that sums it up perfectly. It has an extensive cocktail list and a short menu of mostly greasy bar food.

Since being pregnant, having Pookie and then breast-feeding for 13 months, I basically have lost interest in cocktails, so I got (woah Nelly!) a glass of prosecco, but RR went with a cocktail. He chose “Ready Fire Aim,” and they were not kidding about the “Fire” part. At first, it tasted delicious, but then after a couple sips, he decided he couldn’t drink it. I thought he was just being a wuss, so I said I’d drink it, but then after a couple sips, my lips were burning and actually really hurting, so we had to admit to the server that we couldn’t handle it. If you love spicy drinks, go for it because it tasted so good, but maybe ask the bartender to chill out on the hot sauce.

 

The food menu consists of burgers and the like, but also a few New York-themed items, which we enjoyed. I’m not a fan of matzo ball soup, but RR loves it so we got a bowl of that. Unfortunately, it was beyond bland, and even RR didn’t like it. We also got tater tots and the chopped cheese, which were both amazing. But, what is a chopped cheese, you might ask.

 

The chopped cheese is an iconic sandwich of Harlem and the Bronx that you could historically only find in bodegas (that’s an NYC convenience/ food store). It’s made of ground beef, onions and bell peppers that are grilled with melted cheese and dressed on a hero roll. The fact that RR and I had it in a restaurant in the LES probably has at least something to do with the recent “discovery” of the sandwich by white foodies. For example, you can see Anthony Bourdain chowing down on one in an episode of “Parts Unknown” and Sarah offering her thoughts on the sandwich in an INSIDER food video. But if you really want to understand the chopped cheese, watch writer and YouTuber Jeffrey Almonte’s hilarious video in which he slams INSIDER food for having “Columbus Syndrome” and claiming to “discover” this sandwich that “nobody knows about.” You could also check out First We Feast’s excellent documentary about it.

While I do feel bad that we have now (unwittingly) supported the “Columbusing” of the chopped cheese, we did find out that the chef at Suffolk Arms features the chopped cheese on the menu because he actually hails from the Bronx. He even stays true to the sandwich by not inflating the price. You can get it there for $5, and it tastes quite delicious.

So, Suffolk Arms lost a heart because of the horrible matzo ball soup and another one because of the atmosphere. We had expected warm and cozy pub, and instead got loud, bad music-playing, bright light-shining, cold-air-coming-through-the-taped-up-windows, whatever bar. This would work for guys night out perhaps, but not for date night.

For afterwards, I had made a reservation at “speakeasy” Garfunkel’s for a drink, but after 10 minutes of waiting while the bouncer spoke into his headset, we felt so damn old and annoyed that we said never mind and went home.

Hopefully next date night doesn’t suck ass as much as this one did. Or perhaps I need to lower my expectations and stop hyping date night so much? I’ll work on that, but we will for sure stay in Brooklyn from now on. What were we thinking?!

 

Norman – This Place Wins in All Categories!

My rating: ♥♥♥♥/5

On this holiday Monday, (It’s MLK day!) we had planned to go to a museum, but they were all closed! So we decided to follow a neighbor’s advice and hit up Norman, a Scandinavian restaurant and all-day café in Greenpoint. She had suggested it not only as a great place for food or just a coffee, but also as a huge indoor space for a toddler to run around in on a frigid winter’s day.

I know I say in the title that “this place wins in all categories,” but we haven’t exactly eaten there yet. We plan to do so though, and when we do, I will most certainly update my review. So, for now, this review only speaks to Norman’s coffee and kid friendliness.

We survived the 10-minute walk from our apartment and arrived at Norman. When you live in an 813 square foot (even that is a lie! I swear they count the spaces behind the walls!) apartment with a toddler, a place like this is a breath of fresh air. It is HUGE! And yet just about every seat contained a hipster glued to a Macbook. But that was ok since we were only there to hang out, have a coffee and let Pookie run wild.

The second we arrived and unbundled Pookie, we noticed this funny round bench with a huge cone-like structure in the middle of it. Three little girls were having a blast on this thing, and Pookie said to himself, “I wanna do that too!” So we let him attempt to climb the cone, and while we had mini heart attacks out of fear that he would roll right off of it, he had a great time. He attempted to make friends with the little girls, but they were like, “Go away, Baby!” Poor Pookie!

I stood in line to order coffees for myself and RR and contemplated getting a pastry, which they make in-house. They have your standard croissants and pains au chocolat as well as some fun Scandinavian (I’m assuming) delights such as the Kanelsnurre and the Spandauer with preserves and smoked cream cheese. I ended up just getting RR a latte and myself a mocha. RR loved his latte, which looked lovely in its grey ceramic mug, and while my mocha looked similarly lovely, it wasn’t the best. But I’m a sweet drink-loving snob/ dork, so maybe someone else would have loved it.

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Then we let Pookie explore the place. We took out his Vtech walker (it goes wherever we go these days), and he was off! Let me tell you the hipsters loved that. I love that reluctant smile hipsters give you when they see your (adorable) baby struggle to push his “B-I-N-G-O”-playing walker over their Macbook charging cable.

Despite the so-so mocha and the annoyed hipsters, an extremely fun time was had by all. We can’t wait to go back to try the delicious and beautiful-looking food with or without Pookie. Speaking of which, when I learned that they not only have high chairs, but also a changing table in one of the restrooms, I was sold on this place being as kid-friendly as you can get!

I only subtracted a heart for the mocha, but I’m pretty sure that once we try the food, it will overwhelmingly compensate (it looks SO good!) for the less-than-perfect coffee, and I’ll likely give Norman a perfect score.