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

SHOP: Gail’s Registry Must-Haves

Uppababy Vista

bassinet

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Sleep Sheep

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Born Free Bottles

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Bethany

Bethenny Frankel started our phone conversation by announcing that she’d just smacked her head on the cabinet. Ah, celebrities, they’re just like us! But then it turned out she’d done it out of excitement from learning her new book, I Suck At Relationships So You Don’t Have To, hit the NYT Best Sellers’ list (her 5th book to make the list). Okay, so, not exactly like us.

That’s Bethenny’s specialty — well, that, and making us LOL with her #nofilter one-liners — she’s relatable in a way that few Housewives (or any sort of media figures, really) could ever be. And she’s managed to spin that wish-she-was-your-BFF charm into an unapologetically hustle-powered empire: multiple TV shows (including a current star turn on RHONY), the SkinnyGirl product line (everything from booze to hummus to blenders), 8 (!!) books, and a very active blog.

What has us most in awe of Bethenny, though, is how she’s wearing the pants and taking the high road while going through a very public – and extremely ugly – divorce. It’s all because she’s focused on her number one priority: 5-year-old daughter Bryn. She spoke to us about finding balance, what hurts her feelings, and why she took a month off from exercise.

The one and only Bethenny Frankel.

Writing Her Latest Book Taught Her…

I learned things that I already knew intellectually but not emotionally. Ultimately the biggest lesson in the book is that, as women, we have great intuition, but we don’t always use it. Ellen DeGeneres said it best: “If you don’t learn your lesson you’ll keep making the same mistakes.”

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On The Possibility Of A Parenting Book

I don’t think so — a business book, maybe, a break-up book, sure, but I think motherhood is hard enough without people giving unsolicited advice about how to be a mother.

What Hurts

Hurting somebody else hurts my feelings. It’s important to take responsibility for people around you.

Her Work Ethic

If you’re going to do something, do it right, otherwise don’t do it! I’ve always had that mentality, and I don’t really know where I got it because I never had anyone tell me I had to finish anything or do anything. When I was young, I quit gymnastics – I didn’t have a lot of discipline. My father was a horse trainer and had an incredible work ethic, so maybe it’s genetic? I don’t know.

Here, Here

I love being a mom, it’s a beautiful adventure and the greatest thing ever. Everyone wants to prioritize and motherhood is a prioritizer. You know where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to be doing, which is great. It takes out all the guess work in our lives. Your job is to do what you want to do – if you have a kid, that’s number one.

Juggling It All

People don’t think I do, but I have a work life balance. When I’m working, I’m really working. And if I can’t be with my child then I’ll work, exercise, or do charity work. But when I’m with Bryn, we’re having fun or doing an activity – I’m not sitting on my phone. That’s my balance: being exactly where I’m supposed to be at all times. There are moms who are with their kids every single day, but they’re on their phones or online shopping, not present. I make it a point that our time together is quality time.

Prioritization In Action

I was on a book tour for a month, and I was home in between events, but I didn’t exercise for that month because I chose motherhood — and sleep, though there wasn’t a lot of that!

Speaking Of Exercise…

I do yoga DVDs – I have my own or I go to Yogaworks. People say I don’t have time to work out or I can’t get to the gym, and workout DVDs don’t occur to them. They are great because if you get interrupted in the middle, you can just hit pause, and get back to it when you’re ready.

Getting Past The Hard Stuff

Don’t focus on the minutia and remember, this too shall pass. It is absolutely brutal, but it is all about perspective. I try to make it into something positive – I write things down so I get to tell other women about the experience. You have to find your “yes” in it. If you can’t be with your children all the time, then when you’re with them, you’re with them alone — you make it into something good. It’s hard, but I know that when you get through something difficult, it feels good, better than just coasting. And you have to know that later on, you’re going to find out why it happened and you’ll be able to make sense of it.

Staying Positive

I’m not into whining about whatever my situation is. I just do the best that I can.

What Makes Her LOL

The housewives make me laugh a lot – that’s part of the reason I went back. I’m really enjoying this. I mean, you can’t write this stuff. It’s hysterical, the things that happen! These girls are really funny, and they don’t even know how funny they are.

On Being A Housewife As A Mom

My priorities are different – I can’t go to all the things I used to. It’s part of the storyline this season. It annoys people, but I have to make my choice. I’m a mom now, that’s my number one, and it is what it is. You can’t do what you can’t do.

Dream Casting Opportunity

Empire, Real Housewives of Atlanta, or Modern Family.

On That Whole Wearing Her Daughter’s PJ’s Photo

It was just some dumb thing that happened. Honestly, it was much ado about nothing. There are certain things that are very polarizing – topics like weight just get people incensed.

The Great Uniter

There’s one thing that every mom agrees on: It all goes so quickly!

cleaning

Kids are cute. But man, are they messy. Industriously messy, really. Who else would think to use yogurt as a hair mask? (And face mask. And floor mask. Thanks, guys.) To clean it all up, 7 of the most effective, safest (as in high scores from the Environmental Working Group) products for your most common ew-situations.

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Ring Around the Bathtub

The culprit: A grimy residue that’s one part baby shampoo and two parts dried remnants from today’s lunch.
The fix: Seventh Generation Natural Tub & Tile Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir Cleaner
Cricket’s tip: Spray the tub right after each use and then rinse out – that way you won’t ever get to bath time and think “ugh”.
Environmental Working Group
Rating:
A

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Clean Hands, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

The culprit: We’re not afraid of germs: Science has shown exposure to the buggers is actually healthy. We’re talking about drippy popsicle hands, melty chocolate fingers, and some digging in the dirt.
The fix: CleanWell All Natural Hand Sanitizing Wipes
Cricket’s tip: They also come in individual to-go packs – perfect for stashing in our diaper bag for on-the-go messes.
EWG Rating: 1

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Urine Luck

The culprit: Pee happens. Most of the time you’re hoping it happens in a diaper or a toilet. But you know where else it happens? In bed.
The fix: OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover
Cricket’s tip: It’s not billed as a fix for soaked mattresses, but we’ve found that an aggressive attack of OxiClean and blotting really works. (Note: do not use on wool.)
EWG Rating: B

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Stain Alive

The culprit: Mealtime, enough said.
The fix: Babyganics Stain Eraser
Cricket’s tip: Try to apply to the offending mark as soon as possible – which is why we keep a 2 oz. travel size in our diaper bag.
EWG rating: A

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Players Gonna Play

The culprit: For some reason, toddlers deem gumming their toys to be a necessary part of the playtime ritual.
The fix: Lysol Power and Free Multi-Purpose Wipes
Cricket’s tip: Use this in a 2-step process: Lysol wipe then rinse with water, so all of the not-so-good-stuff is washed away before the kiddos gnaw on the items again.
EWG rating: B

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If These Walls Could Talk

The culprit: There’s just something about nice, clean walls begging for littles to muck them up – with their dirty fingerprints, crayons, ramming trucks into them.
The fix: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Duo
Cricket’s tip: Go easy – it sometimes takes the sheen off of paint, but it really is magical in its ability to rid unwanted scuffs and marks.
EWG rating: B

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We’re Floored

The culprit: Shoes. Shoes. Shoes.
The fix: Babyganics Floor Cleaner Concentrate, Fragrance Free
Cricket’s tip: Since having kids, we’ve become those people, enforcing a “no shoes” policy.
EWG rating: A

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Fit to Print

The culprit: Curious little hands leave fingerprints everywhere.
The fix: Attitude Window & Mirror Cleaner
Cricket’s tip: You can either run around with a spray bottle and cloth all day long or in the immortal words of Elsa, Queen of Arendelle, “Let it go.” Or at least try to let it go.
EWG rating: A

17 Real Moms On Inducing Labor

You’ve heard about sex to induce labor, but what about twerking that baby out or attending a community acupuncture session? Or, um, peanut butter cups? (Not like you’re eating them anyway, right?) We polled our inner circle of moms for the most memorable and EFFECTIVE (like, within-the-hour) ways they hurried things along. And remember: No matter how much it feels like it, you will not be pregnant forever.

“I started eating spicy food at 36 weeks. Like really, really spicy. Around 38 weeks, I started doing 50 squats every time I brushed my teeth. At 41 weeks, with a looming induction on the calendar, I sucked it up and had as aerobic sex as I could (considering I felt like a whale at Sea World and moved like one, too). Guess what? It did the trick. I was in labor within the hour.”

-Sarah

At 40 weeks and 5 days with a looming induction, I hit the interweb and read that putting pressure in the pelvic area could get things going. I cranked up the Juicy J and started twerking (thankfully in the privacy of my own home – it could have scarred small children). My womb was on fire and that baby was born 12 hours later.

-Eve

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“My husband made a famous labor-inducing eggplant parmigiana from a restaurant in Atlanta (they even have an eggplant baby gallery on their website). I was one day past due, not dilated at all, and my OB told me to prepare for another week. I ate the eggplant (delicious, by the way) at 8pm and woke up in labor at 2am.”

-Brooke

“A cervical sweep and Indian food is a magical combo. The cervical sweep is not pleasant and makes you feel like a violated pregnant farm animal, but it is very effective.”

-Vanessa

“I read somewhere that nipple stimulation would do the trick. After my husband tired of playing with them (about the closest he got to my giant boobs all pregnancy), I broke out the breast pump – yes, it was incredibly awkward, but 2 hours later, we were headed to the hospital!”

-Jane

“I walked for miles and miles, listening to hippie-dippie hypnobirthing visualization tapes. I also rubbed primrose oil on my nether regions, sat in a crowded room under a garbage bag-esque blanket for community acupuncture, and did strange hip contortions/yoga poses every night. Did any of it work? Who knows. Will I repeat the crazy next time just in case? You bet.”

-Jasmine

“I wasn’t trying to induce labor – in fact, I was one month early – but my husband and I had sex, and RIGHT afterward I started having contractions.”

-Irene

“I used it as an excuse to eat the best spicy cuisine in my neighborhood. There was a spicy eggplant (win-win!) thing at Pok Pok, and I made my husband wait in line in the baking sun while I rested in the shade until it was our turn multiple times.”

-Sophie

“I made super-fun plans for 4 days before my due date. I knew if I scheduled a party, the baby would arrive early and I’d have to cancel. Worked like a charm.”

-Meredith

“I was induced but the first three pills they gave me to ripen my cervix didn’t work. After 20 hours, the nurse came in and said the next option was to inflate a balloon into my uterus (!!), which could stay in for… 24 hours. 24 HOURS!! My body said no way, and I went from 1 to 8 centimeters in 10 minutes.”

-Charlotte

“I was 38 weeks pregnant in August in Miami and danced my face off at a Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z concert in 93 degree-heat, then walked a mile back to the car (not by choice). I was in labor a mere 5 hours later. “

-Chelsea

“Red raspberry leaf tea, acupuncture, and sex. The acupuncture for real. I went to a guy feeling nothing at all, had a session… and by the time he took the pins out I was in active labor and NINE MOTHERF*&KING CENTIMETERS dilated within three hours.”

-Kora

“I wish I’d had time to induce labor. I’d hardly finished moving apartments before my baby popped out a week early. I guess the excitement of trying to haul couches through doors which were clearly too small and madly running around the neighborhood picking up anything and everything I could find on a listserve (who ever used a bottle warmer anyway?!) probably did the trick subconsciously.”

-Venetia

“I googled it and found some random source that said Reese’s peanut butter cups would induce labor. Did it work? Well, the baby was eventually born. I’d advise against it unless you’re looking to gain another couple pounds of, um, ‘baby’ weight.”

-Amy

“A dark chocolate brownie the size of my face and a prenatal massage on my due date all combined to send me into labor – I started feeling the contractions while naked and humming on the massage table, so if you can arrange that for yourself, I highly recommend it.”

-Ester

“My baby was breech until 37 weeks when I had to have a doctor MANUALLY flip him over. Before that I tried everything to encourage him to flip: moxabustion (Chinese medicine therapy), strange poses with my butt in the air, only letting my husband talk to him through my vagina… oh and I even emailed my medium in Bali to ask her to communicate with him and ask him to pleeeeeeease turn over.”

-Jen

“Reflexology. Stupid. I thought I was getting a massage, but ended up paying a fortune for this lady to press on my left foot (yup, just my left foot) for an hour, telling me all the while how she believes that flower petals can cure all ailments. I kept waiting for the real massage to begin – like on my aching back and tired shoulders – but I was too timid to ask. It was really awkward and disappointing. And unless foot reflexology has a two-week effectiveness lag time, it did NOT work.”

-Emily