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.

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.