gail

As a trained chef, Special Projects Director of Food & Wine Magazine, a judge on Top Chef (and Top Chef Masters and Top Chef Duels), host of the new show The Feed, overseer of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, board member of City Harvest and Hot Bread Kitchen, published author (if you haven’t read Talking With My Mouth Full you should) – Gail Simmons has a lot on her plate.

Add to the roster: mom to five month-old Dahlia Rae. But don’t tell her that “it’s going to get better” because she already loves every minute of it: “It’s such a special, cozy, crazy, amazing time. Of course I am exhausted, but I don’t feel like I am trying to just get through to the next stage.”

The new mom leaves her Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, neighborhood – where they moved a week before she gave birth – for Boston soon to shoot season 12 of Top Chef with Dahlia Rae in tow.

We caught up with her (in between pumping and meetings) about the challenges of nursing and one of her most embarrassing moments (yes, it involves breastmilk).

What’s In A Name?

Dahlia is my favorite flower – it symbolizes sunshine and comes in so many amazing colors. It was our wedding flower and it was on our invitation. Rae is to honor my husband’s Aunt Rena, who passed away two years ago. She was so encouraging and supportive in our lives, and we love and miss her so much.

 Lifesaving Products

We opened the Fisher-Price bouncy chair when she was a month old, and we couldn’t believe we hadn’t opened it sooner. It allowed us to eat dinner, for me to pump and go to the bathroom when I was home alone with her. Once she hit three months, she graduated to the Mamaroo, which we call the hovercraft. She’s really into it now.

 Part Of The Club

On Top Chef, I was the only one who didn’t have kids, so they’ve been a wealth of knowledge and help. Michelle Bernstein made me realize it’s okay to be back at work and to lose the guilt associated with it because it’s the quality of the time you spend with your kids, not the quantity.

 Deep Thoughts From Gail

How will she sleep comfortably unswaddled? How can I leave the house without 14 bags? How do I pump when I’m running around all day? These are questions I don’t know the answers to.

 #Momfail

I was taping in front of a live studio audience and forgot to put nipple pads in my bra. They leaked right there. It was horrifying. You think you’re at least keeping it together on the outside. Of course I was wearing a beautiful silk dress. And in case you didn’t know, yes, milk stains. It was a low point.

Get In My Belly

After giving birth, you feel like you don’t know anything, including how to keep yourself fed. I have mastered the efficient grocery shop. Fresh Direct is tough for me because I like to physically walk the aisles and see my options. I went to Union Market and created a basic order with them. Sometimes I go and pick everything out and have them deliver it, others I just call and ask for my basics. I embrace anyone who delivers these days.

Flower Child

I love Honest diapers. Dahlia wears dahlias on her bottom – how cute is that?! Angela and Ethan Stowell [chef] gave me this amazing RoSK blanket that’s waterproof on one side, soft and fluffy on the other and it ties onto the stroller. It’s great for the park because you can put the waterproof side on the ground.

Neighborhood Nosh

We moved to Cobble Hill a week before I gave birth, so we’ve been getting to know the restaurants with baby in tow. We love Buttermilk Channel, Court Street Grocers, Nightingale 9, Red Gravy, Iris Cafe – they’re all so accommodating and kid-friendly. I spent a month in LA shooting and we frequented Cafe Gratitude, Alfred Coffee & Kitchen and lunch at Fred Segal.

Just Stop, Already

Everyone keeps saying, oh it’s going to get better, but we are actually loving the early days. She’s only four and a half months, and we are already reminiscing about things she “used to do”. It’s such a special, cozy, crazy, amazing time. Of course I am exhausted, but I don’t feel like I am trying to just get through to the next stage.

Give Yourself A Break

I think new moms feel out of control so they obsess about routine and schedules, but the truth is they are babies, and you have to give yourself a break. They are going to be fine if you can’t feed them every three hours to the minute. Babies are adaptable and every child is different – you can’t prescribe one schedule for all. It’s all going to be okay as long as they are fed, dry and loved.

First Foods

I hope to make Dahlia Rae’s food myself in the beginning. I can’t wait for her to try avocado, banana, mango, sweet potato, peaches, corn. There would be great irony if I spawned a very picky eater.

Three Hours Alone On A Saturday

Will that ever happen again? I’m getting a mani, pedi and a massage anywhere that will take me at a moment’s notice.

Mom Brain

Now I know why my mom sometimes can’t remember my name. Because she had three children. I barely know my own name some days, and I only have one. Sleep deprivation is rough.

 

Photo Credit: Melanie Dunea

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On Our Radar: January 30, 2015

onradar

Buggy Buttons
WHO: Parents who don’t want to wake a sleeping baby but must transport them to the car seat.
WHAT: Clamps attach to either side of the car seat to hold the straps out of the way, so when you place a sleeping little in it, you don’t wake them by fidgeting with straps underneath their tooshie. Doubles as a toy!
WHEN: If you haul the babe in the car a lot, immediately.
WHERE: squishandasqueeze.com

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Rylee + Cru
WHO: Parents with a California boho sense of style.
WHAT: New line of baby and toddler basics made in LA is made of super-soft slub jersey cotton and comes in sweet vintage-inspired prints (think swans and bunnies) in muted hues.
WHEN: Right about now.
WHERE: ryleeandcru.com

Biobu Kids Dinnerware
WHO: Parents of toddlers who are seriously anti-plastic.
WHAT: Chic dish sets for kids are made of biodegradable bamboo fiber with a 100% food-grade melamine binder, and are BPA-, PVC- and Phthalate-free. (And no, they’re not microwave-safe but you should put plastic in the microwave anyway!)
WHEN: Before dinner.
WHERE: unisonhome.com

Storq Body
WHO: Pregnant and nursing women who want safe but effective beauty products.
WHAT: Storq’s done the research, you just stay fresh and clean – knowing the shampoo/conditioner, belly balm, soap, and deodorant is EWG-approved.
WHEN: Like now.
WHERE: storq.com

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katia_beauchamp

We knew we were in for an honest heart-to-heart when Katia Beauchamp announced she had to pump during our interview. She’s the co-founder of the brillz beauty business Birchbox, which delights its subscribers every month with a delivery of trial-size beauty products tailored to their needs. It’s a win for brands (that exposure!) and you, since you’ll discover your new fav product without having to buy a full-size bottle.

The West Texas native (clear eyes, full hearts, y’all!) has been doing quite a lot of discovery herself recently: She gave birth to twin boys, Alec and Guy 8 months ago.

Katia’s finding her way in the working mom world, but she has a bone to pick with some other moms, “Everybody tries to make pregnancy and motherhood seem so easy. But it’s hard. And just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome and amazing. I wish more women would be honest about that.”

Read on for straight talk including, yes, beauty must-haves, as well as life-saving baby products, and much more.

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Truth About Multiples

Having twins is such a blessing, but it’s so important to find other moms with them – otherwise you feel like an alien! Nursing two is a whole different ballgame. Same goes for sleep training. I found my people through the Manhattan Twins Club. It’s such an active community: you put questions up there and people respond with great advice.

Life Savers

I’m obsessed with Wubanubs [the pacifier with a small “lovey” attached]. Initially I didn’t realize how helpful it is to have those stuffed animals on them – it helps them grab it themselves and find it in the middle of the night. I call it their wub instead of their paci.

I’m still using the Zipadee-Zip, a Shark Tank product that’s similar to a swaddle but still safe for babies to wear once they can roll over.

Obsessed

As a brand, I have been really impressed with Babybjörn. We use the bouncer, travel crib, and high chair, and I’m blown away by the design. I am so brand loyal because they are so thoughtful about how they make their products. My boys sit in that bouncer forever. The high chair is so sleek and easy to use but doesn’t take up space. And the playard is totally lightweight and easy to transport and they LOVE it.

How She Does It

I have an amazingly helpful husband who was born to be a father. We divide our responsibilities, besides nursing of course. We have an incredible nanny who quickly became part of our family. She started as our baby nurse, and I begged her to become our nanny. She loves the boys so much and cares for them so thoughtfully. It allows me to go to work and disconnect from home with complete peace of mind.

Great Nanny Tip

Our nanny stays over 2 nights a week – it allows us to have a date night, and we can each have a work commitment. It’s also 2 mornings that I don’t have to get up, so I get a really solid night’s sleep. Game changer.

Beauty 180

I have never been obsessive about ingredients, but I started paying a lot more attention when I got pregnant and changed everything. There aren’t a lot of truly organic, natural make-up brands out there, but W3ll People is such a fun brand. They are beautiful and such great products. For skincare I am so passionate about Tata Harper – I could see a difference in a week. I am so fastidious about skincare and am a diehard believer in her products.

Top 3 Beauty Products

1. Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask (You can sleep in it.)
2. W3ll People Multi-Use Color Stick (I love this.)
3. Oribe Apres Beach Spray (I just cut my hair off, and it’s been amazing for styling it.)

Baby Beauty

I’m so minimalistic about what I put on the boys. Sometimes I just use warm water so their natural oils can do their thing. Honest’s products are really nice, and I use Aquaphor as a diaper cream.

Morning Routine

I wake up, nurse the babies, and play with them for 30 minutes – they are so happy in the morning! It’s our special time. Then I take a shower when the nanny arrives. I run around in various states of being dressed and play with them again and again. Then I say bye 10 times before I finally leave. It’s so hard!

Just STOP

Pregnancy and motherhood is a whole shift in your life, and whatever you were doing before kids is still important to you, and balancing that is really challenging. I wish more women would be open to a conversation that we are going through this together as mothers.

Unwind

I have not been great at doing things for myself since the boys were born. I haven’t exercised much, and I did before them – I don’t have the energy or even want to right now. Cooking brings me joy, and I don’t have time to really cook, but I love preparing a meal from Plated while having a glass of wine. That works for now!

Brilliant Post-Baby Fashion Tip

We’re going to the Grand Caymans with the babies soon, and I needed a bathing suit that covers the dark line below my belly button that hasn’t faded yet. I found high-waisted on-trend bathing suits at Urban Outfitters that cover the line and are so cute!

Perfect Moments

Every morning, the 4 of us snuggle, laugh, and sing in our bed after I have fed the babies. It’s dark in our room and totally blissful!

3 Hours Alone, No Work, No Family

How many things can I do in 3 hours? I’d definitely go to a Soul Cycle class, then go on a meandering walk, stumble into a cafe for lunch with a friend, followed up by an afternoon cocktail. That sounds so delightful!

Secret Talent

I make amazing homemade salsa. I’m from Texas, and my mom’s Mexican, so I have that in my blood! The key is to roast the jalapeno on an open flame on the stove and everything else has to be super fresh fresh. People come over, eat it, and think you are a goddess.

The Name Game

Guy is a family name on my husband’s side. I wanted a name from my side of the family – my dad is Greek and I wanted a greek name, but Alecos sounds weird with our last name, so we went with Alec. His middle name is Austin, where I was born.

#Momfail

I was in my business partner’s wedding 2 months after the boys were born. First of all, we were driving upstate and realized one ZipCar was not enough to haul all our stuff and had to get a second. We get to the rehearsal dinner (they kindly included the boys), so we put them in white linen overalls from Paris, which were SO cute, and wouldn’t ya know it – diarrhea explosion! And yes, my husband got poop on his clothes too.

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Gift Guide

Before kids, Valentine’s Day was sort of a downer: You were either single and at home watching bad TV alone (man, that sounds like heaven), or you’re out with your S.O. having a cheesy prix-fixe meal – and slightly humiliated by it (gee, thanks hunny).

But once you have littles, it becomes a favorite holiday – there’s nothing better than explaining “love” to a toddler. Plus it’s a perfect excuse to buy heart-themed prezzies.

These are the ones we want. Mwah!

Bouquet

$35

Urban Stems

Heart Sunglasses

$16

Urban Outfitters

Jonathan Adler Heart Pillow

$165

Diapers

Scattered Hearts Scarf

$148

Cricket’s Circle

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Ruby Heart Ring

$3,000

Sarah Hendler

Angel Skin Heart & Arrow Studs

$595

Finn Jewelry

Stripe & Heart Sweater

$198

Amber Hagen

Gold Heart Eternity Band

$220

Cricket’s Circle

John Derian Shooting Arrow Tray

$110

John Derian

Heart Spatulas

$11

Huset

Hearts Back-Up Charger

$30

Ban.do

Spa Collection

$72

Herbivore Botanicals

Dyptique Rosafolia Candle

$65

Cricket’s Circle

Kiss, Kiss Postcard Set

$7

Cricket’s Circle

Edie Parker Heart Clutch

$1,295

Cricket’s Circle

Heart Wall Stickers

$21

Design Public

I Heart Color Doll

$25

Sophie & Lili

Kiss Hair Clips

$12

Hello Shiso

Conversation Heart Rings

$3

Shop Sweet Lulu

Milk & Heart Cookies Kit

$23

Acme

Pink Acoustic Guitar

$44

Cricket’s Circle

Wood Stacking Hearts

$46

Romp

Love Notes Mailbox

$20

PB Kids

Hearts & Arrows Card Kit

$13

Shop Sweet Lulu

Personalized Heart Apron

$19

PB Kids

Selima Heart Sunglasses

$55

Cricket’s Circle

Heart Elbow Sweater

$68

Cricket’s Circle

Llama Llama I Love You Book

$5

Cricket’s Circle

Lips Sweatshirt

$39

Atsuyo Et Akiko

Love Burnout Tee

$44

Darling Clementine

Kiwi Crate Card Kit

$15

Kiwi Crate

Radio Flyer Spin N Saucer

$25

Cricket’s Circle

Playforever Racecar

$40

My Sweet Muffin

Maroon Bow Tie

$22

Little Skye

Oeuf VW Bug

$68

Alex & Alexa

Stella McCartney Heart Tee

$25

Alex & Alexa

Love Notes Mailbox

$20

PB Kids

Heart Scarf

$20

Cricket’s Circle

Elmo’s Valentine Book

$4

Cricket’s Circle

Heart Teether

$12

Little Sapling Toys

Sweet Hearts Grasping Toy

$15

Romp

Heartbreaker Onesie

$20

Cricket’s Circle

Heart Hat & Mittens

$25

Cricket’s Circle

Heart Tights

$5

Cricket’s Circle

I’m So Glad You’re Here Giant Book

$100

Cricket’s Circle

Heart Diaper Cover

$17

PB Kids

Love Blanket

$40

PB Kids

Heart Onesie

$23

Cricket’s Circle

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