I’m Still Standing

When you wake up on Tuesday with a substantial hangover, you know it’s going to be a long week. But when friends from California arrive for spring break, you don’t stay home just because it’s a Monday. We started the night with cocktails at the George Washington bar at the Freehand Hotel where they were staying. They make a lovely French 75.

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A few drinks later, we dashed down to the village for a bottle of bubbles at Air’s Champagne Parlor before going downstairs for an 8:30 seating at Tokyo Record Bar. It’s always nice in a big city like NY, to feel welcomed and included and the folks at these two locales always make us feel that way. We are so excited to try their latest food and wine experience at the newly opened Niche Niche billed as a “dinner party with friends.” We have reservations on the 29th!

Wednesday night was the Bronx Letters Foundation annual chef tasting event. It was an incredible night. If you weren’t able to attend this year, please consider joining us next year! It was so great to be surrounded by so many friends!

Thursday morning was a little rough going, and it made it all the more challenging by a promise I made to my friend Hilary to go to the Peloton Studio to take my first ride. n.b. I don’t enjoy working out, and the last thing I thought I would ever do is try and attempt to work out while pedaling a bike. I was overjoyed when it was over, and I’ll admit I didn’t hate it. The workout was led by Ally Love who magically appeared in the Sunday New York Times yesterday. Now I know what she’s doing when she’s not sweating on a bike. I did enjoy the post-workout treat at Chanson. The thing about NYC is that there are so many fabulous places you can easily walk by them without knowing what’s inside. Such was the case with Chanson until I saw pictures of their magical Black Sesame Kouign Amann on Instagram. I wish I kept on walking; they are that good. Now I’ll have to avoid that part of 23rd street.

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The peloton workout was the beginning of our “day of wellness.” After showers, we had an incredible lunch at abcV which is as beautiful as it is delicious. From there we went to my favorite stretch’d and finished up with a face massage at facelove. A face massage is just what it sounds like and is all the best parts of a body massage without having to get undressed. Just don’t make plans afterward because your hair will look like you’ve been rolling around in bed all afternoon.

Friday night, Tom and I went to see Elton at Barclay’s. He sang for 2 1/2 hours and took me down the yellow brick road of my life. I first saw Elton as a 15-year-old at his free concert in Central Park. I was young, wild and free and I’ll never forget what it felt like to dance in Sheeps Meadow surrounded by my best friends and hundreds of thousands of others. The next time I saw Elton was in 1998 at MSG. Tom and I took Thomas (age 8) and Hayden (age 4). So to return as an emtpy nester was both beautiful and bittersweet.

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Elton in Central Park in 1980 in the now famous duck suit created by Bob Mackie.

We ate a quick pre-show dinner at the new Gupshup in Gramercy. Fans of high-end Indian and craft cocktails will enjoy this new addition to the neighborhood. The food was good, and so was my drink, but it’s expensive, and only a ten minute walk from Little India…

Tom and I went for a long walk Saturday up the Highline to see the progress at Hudson Yards. We have tickets to climb the Vessel on opening day (March 23rd). The tickets are free, and you can reserve them here. We were hungry and had no plans for brunch, so we took advantage of our way west location and stopped in at the Chelsea branch of Sullivan Street Bakery. This bakery, originally located in Soho, has been around for almost 20 years and there are several reasons why – including these insane Bomboloni (aka donuts).

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Saturday night I spent with two of my kids waiting at our apartment for my youngest Annie to land from spring break. We had plans to go for a late night early birthday dinner downstairs at Gramercy Tavern, but unfortunately, due to severe flight delays, she didn’t arrive until after they stopped serving at midnight. Our Saturday night dinner turned into Sunday brunch. Gramercy Tavern is a great place to celebrate anything. It just feels special when you walk in, and the service is very attentive. I loved the little coconut cake they brought for Annie’s birthday. It wasn’t something I pre-ordered, I just let them know we were celebrating when we arrived, and they asked for her name. Now that’s excellent service.

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I am looking forward to this coming Friday and our tickets to see Burn This. With Adam Driver and Russell in the lead roles, it is going to be a HOT ticket!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

We Were Stuck In A Blender And Now We’re Saving Lives?

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An old friend and reader of my blog sent this to me this week saying it reminded her of me. I love that.

Wednesday morning while playing bridge my wrist buzzed with an incoming text. It said, “Do you have time for a quick trip to Paris? K has an apartment with an extra bedroom.” As much as I’d like to think I get texts like this all the time, I don’t. It made sitting at the Bridge table, defending against a 3 No Trump tricky. All I could think about was how I could say yes. As an empty nester, these are the opportunities you talk about having the ability to take. “When the kids are gone, I’ll be able to travel on a moment’s notice…” But the reality of life, at least for me, doesn’t work that way. There are always obligations and bills to pay. But this time, with the OK from Tom, I said yes. “We were playing bridge, and now we’re booking last minute tickets to Paris?”

Speaking of last-minute tickets, I knew that to justify this trip to myself and my husband, it had to make sense financially. I’m the type of person that if I collect enough frequent flyer miles or points, I book a trip immediately, so I didn’t have any in the “bank.” I did have two amazing tickets to The Ferryman on Broadway that I knew I could sell in a minute, which I did. I tasked myself with finding a flight that my new found wealth would cover, and it came very, very close. I found a non-stop, round-trip ticket to Orly from Newark on Level Airlines. Level Airlines a new-ish long-haul, low-cost airline that started in 2017. The planes are brand-new, and my round-trip flight cost $370! The ticket originally cost $270, but I draw the frugal line when it comes to a week in Paris in winter with only a carry-on. I leave Monday night. C’est tres tres bien.

I’m writing this blog entry while sitting in front of my new Nature Bright Sun Touch Plus.  My sister-in-law, who happens to be a font of wisdom and knowledge, said it is doing wonders for her January blues. It was only $39.99. I bought two; one for me and one as a gift. Thirty minutes every morning, while reading the paper or answering emails or making To Do lists is something I can easily work into my daily routine. I’ll keep you posted on results!

I’ve written in the past about my excitement when there are new additions to my neighborhood, and this week there were two. On the corner of 20th and Broadway, a massive space that has been vacant for a long time, is now a collaboration between BlueStone Lane Coffee and WeWork only this WeWork is a little different. Instead of having a membership, you can rent space by the MINUTE. And, they sell goods produced by their members. It’s an interesting concept. I don’t see myself ever paying to sit there, but now I have three choices for excellent coffee on my block.

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On Thursday, Ole and Steen, a bakery/cafe from Sweden opened their doors to hordes of bread lovers. The concept is similar in scope to Maison Kayser, but without table service. It’s all-day dining, with bread as the main ingredient. I’m not complaining. I’m a fan of good bread. Tom and I went for lunch on Saturday, and the counter service was frenetic, but the food was very good, and they have a nice amount of space to linger, both on the main floor and in the basement. I’ve read that they are baking on premise, so the freshness factor is high. I know that once they get the kinks out, it will be a go-to option for me during the day, where I won’t have to pay to sit and take my time.

Friday was the kick-off to restaurant week(s) in NYC. Last year I tried two spots, and neither were any good. Friday night I made a reservation at a place around the block I’d passed and never tried. I wanted to like it, I really did. Unfortunately, no. I’m officially giving up on restaurant week. I think it’s a misnomer. It should be called Restaurant Fail Week. If you feel differently, PLEASE tell me where you ate and what you loved.

Last night Tom and I went to see The Invisibles at The Landmark 57 Theater (one of my favorite theaters in the city). It was a docu-drama about four of the 7000 German Jews who tried to escape deportation to the camps by living in full view of the Nazis. The four stories were of teenagers, and of course, it made me think about what if that happened here, now, would our “soft” kids be able to have the prowess to hide in plain sight? I’m not sure. The bonus of seeing the movie in this theater was the free Q&A afterward with the director and one of the “stars” of the movie! One of the four survivors, Hanni, took questions from the audience. She was incredible. It was an emotional viewing in a packed audience. Thankfully the bar in the theater stays open late and their happy hour starts at 9 pm.

I’m so excited to invite my readers to the annual Bronx Letters Foundation “Food For Thought” benefit! This year our host is the food God Eric Ripert, one of the greatest chefs in the world today. We will be honoring the life of our school’s patron saint, Anthony Bourdain. Tickets are on sale now, and you can buy them here!

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Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

Cake and Ice Cream

IMG_0361It was my 53rd birthday last week, and more than any birthday in the past 25 years, I feel uncertain of what the future holds. It’s been exactly one year since we moved into the city as empty nesters and what an incredible year it’s been. But I can’t help thinking; what’s next? I spent the last few months trying to gain meaningful employment as well as find an agent for my middle-grade book. Both to no avail. I have re-learned how rejection feels, and it’s not great. However, I realize that no one is going to come and find me in my apartment. So if accomplishing my goals means additional rejection, then I’m sure there is more of that to come this year. The good thing is that I have so many friends in the same situation; looking for answers to what they want to do now that their kids are grown, and that helps.

As I said, it was my birthday, and there were lots of opportunities for celebration. A fun dinner at Eleven Madison Park (EMP) Summer House with old friends included cocktails on swings, and make your own sundaes (pictured above). IMG_0353

We used to have a home in Amagansett, and the town still holds a special place in my heart. But last weekend, I noticed that two of my favorite spots (the old Amagansett Market and Mary’s Marvelous) have been replaced with expensive gluten-free vegan health food. Sad!

On my actual birthday, Tom took the day off from work, and we had a lazy romantic lunch at Le Coucou my favorite restaurant in the city. We sipped pink champagne, and there was zero concern for calories.

Lunch was followed several hours later with a family dinner at Palma.

I’ve passed by this sweet little Italian restaurant many times while wandering in the West Village and it’s always packed. I booked a table in the back garden, and it was a perfect evening. Everything we ordered (and we ordered a lot) was wonderful. It would be an excellent place for a romantic date night.

Tuesday, Marybeth treated me to a great birthday by visiting The Met Cloisters to see the second part of the Costume Institute’s Heavenly Bodies. It was the perfect summer day, 75 degrees with no humidity. We couldn’t have timed it better!

Wednesday I scheduled a 90-minute birthday massage. My therapist came recommended, and when I arrived, I found out that he was visually impaired. This is something I was used to in Asia, as many of the best massage therapists are blind. And the first 45 minutes of the massage was great. And then he fell asleep. Yes, he did. I kept trying to wake him up by coughing or sniffing, and sometimes someone in the hall would drop something, and he would come back to life. It was a very odd 45-minute finish.

One of the best things about living in the city is that we get to see our Tokyo friends who are now scattered to various latitudes and longitudes around the globe. At some point, everyone makes their way to NYC. We met up with good friends who now live in Australia on the roof of Eataly at Serra by Birreria, which looks better than it eats. The bar is jammed after work with millennials drinking frose and aperol spritzes, and the food is just ok. But if you want to feel like you’ve been instantly transported to a terraced garden, it’s a good spot.

Friday night, I got an early reservation at Davelle a tiny Japanese restaurant on the Lower East Side that just received a great write up in the NY Times, and a high rating on The Infatuation. It has three small tables and a few seats at the bar, and that’s it. There was a line outside, and almost every seat was filled with Asians including a friend of our son’s from the American School in Japan. Having lived in Japan for many years, I am familiar with Oden, a main dish on the menu at Davelle, because it’s what they sell at every 7-11 counter in Japan. Small bowls of dashi broth with various ingredients like daikon radish, fried tofu, vegetables, etc… We ordered an assortment, as well as the best potato salad, and a delicious Japanese curry rice with shabu-shabu beef on top, and a crave-worthy spicy cod caviar spaghetti dish. Tom and I enjoyed the meal, but I wouldn’t suggest the place to the uninitiated. You need to really enjoy Japanese food to appreciate Davelle. It’s that authentic.

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6 pm dinner reservations scream for after dinner cocktails. We walked down Delancy to Sel Rrose one of our favorite cocktail bars (they also have the best truffle fries). The cocktails are divine, the bartenders are model-gorgeous, and it’s just a really fun place to people watch.

Late night, there was pie. And not just any pie – the best pie in NYC at Petee’s Pie . If you haven’t been, go – they are open until 1 am!!! Tom and I shared the strawberry rhubarb and bought a coconut custard to bring to friends tomorrow.

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Off to sweat it out at the Yankee/Red Sox game!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Chomping At The Bit

IMG_8957My love of crusty french baguettes (like this ham and fromage with salty butter from Arcade Bakery that will instantly transport you to a bench in the Tuileries Gardens) is in direct correlation to the state of my constant TMJ.  But, after years of suffering, I’ve found the solution, and I want to share it with you.  Dr. Elizabeth Hale injects my jaw with botox every five months and my hard as rocks muscles melt away. Book now, and you might get in before September. She’s very popular.

This week began with a night filled with tasty bites and creative sips surrounded by great friends for my favorite cause; raising money for the students of the Bronx Academy of Letters  It was our annual Chef Tasting where some of New York City’s best chefs and mixologists donate their time and food to support our school. This is a picture of me and one of my absolute favorite chefs, Christian Petroni, who always volunteers at our benefit. His lasagne this year was amazing! IMG_8932

Many delish meals were gobbled, and cocktails quaffed this week. My doctor has suggested that I refrain from drinking two days a week so I don’t get osteoporosis – who knew? But living in NYC makes that a challenge! We hit both Dante and Dante at Genuine–  I returned to Dante for the almond milk pancake – OMG, and a Friday night dinner with old friends at Genuine including Aperol Spritz on tap! There was a millennial dinner with all four of my kids and their friends at Indochine, jalapeno basil margaritas at ABC Cucina, and curry in a hurry at IndiKitch.

We went to a total bust of a festival on the The Highline, but it was a gorgeous spring day so the time spent wasn’t a waste. I just bought tickets for next weekend’s Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Sitting on a picnic blanket eating onigiri, drinking Sapporo and celebrating hanami is one of my favorite things to do.

Just got this summer’s lineup for Summer Stage – free music in public parks all over the five boroughs. Looking forward to listening to opera, packing a picnic and spending a summer evening in Central Park on June 11th.

All my kids were in town for a night we’ve all had on the calendar since Christmas. Our absolute favorite comedian, Sebastian Manuscalco was in town at Radio City, and we had tickets to the last show Saturday night at 10. We had an absolute blast. If you aren’t familiar with his comedy, you can watch two of his shows on Netflix. Be prepared to laugh out loud. IMG_9085

AND I AM SO PSYCHED FOR SPRING! It’s my first one living in NYC since I was 21. I’m going to take full advantage of everything. Look out for me in every outdoor cafe, floating bar, and rooftop lounge!!!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Snowboots and Sunscreen: Spring in NYC

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The week started with lunch on Monday at La Mercerie a retail restaurant in Soho created by the team behind Le Coucou (my favorite restaurant in NYC). I went with two friends who are home stagers, who love all things design related. It was packed with fashionable diners, the food was good (but don’t come hungry as the portions are small), but the star was the bottle of rose we drank. It was delicious and very reasonable. The home store selections were fabulous, but the prices were so high they were almost laughable. I’m not sure who will shop here, but it’s fun to walk around after you eat.

On our walk back up town, we stopped in Canadian clothing store, Oak and Fort. The clothes are fashion-forward, reasonably priced and age appropriate for empty nesters. That night, Tom and I went to the Nets game at the Barclays Center – our tickets, purchased from our seat filler club Play by Play were $4.50.

On Tuesday, I went on a yummy walking tour in Astoria with Angelis from In Food We Trust. I’d been on another one of his tours at the MET, and this one was just as good.  His tour begins at 2 pm and includes a ridiculous amount of food. If you go, make sure you skip lunch first.

And then Wednesday, the first day of spring, we got pounded with snow, again. Walking the empty snow-filled streets, I was amazed to see many stores closed due to the snow. Thankfully, Breads Bakery was open, and it was my luck they’d just introduced their matzoh ball soup, special for Passover. It was the perfect thing to eat on a snowy day. IMG_8478

I had a hilarious late Friday lunch at Marta with my friend Kim Berns the stand-up comedian. The restaurant is located in the Redbury Hotel and was jammed. It’s a great place to meet up with friends when you are looking for a casual place in midtown. The location is officially in NoMad, but it’s a quick walk from Grand Central.

Saturday I participated in my first march ever together with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. I’m not a fan of crowds and stay away from packed concerts and festivals, but I felt spurred to action. Marching with Tokyo friends and our daughters, I was so happy to be there, and my intrinsic fear melted away.

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From the march, we went to The Affordable Art Fair. If I had more empty walls, I would have had a big shopping day. The creativity was off the charts. The stormtrooper/Buddha was for sale, as were virtual bookshelves and chairs made from the metal tops on champagne bottles.

After all our walking, we were thirsty and stopped in to Beechers Handmade Cheese for happy hour (which is a daily event at Beechers). Wine and a cheese plate were exactly what was needed. Each piece of cheese was paired with a different add-on, from dark chocolate to candied walnuts.

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Saturday night we took our two NYC kids to Pinch Chinese in Soho. We had four seats at the bar, and we ate our way through the menu from the fabulous soup dumplings to the ribs. pork belly, whole sea bass, ma po tofu, string beans with pork, and wagyu fried rice (two orders). The food was so good. I was happy to find a new spot in Soho, as I feel the restaurant selection has been limited lately.  IMG_8527

 

After dinner, there were drinks at Reservoir Bar, a great place to watch the Elite 8. And then late night, on the walk home, we ducked into the AMC theater on 19th street and walked into the last showing of Love, Simon (using our Movie Pass tickets of course!)

Being an empty nester in NYC allows for spontaneity – something that hasn’t been a part of our lives for a very long time. It feels good!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

Paris Unplanned

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I’m laughing as I type in the title to this post because anyone who knows me knows I would never go to Paris without planning. However, I kept the scheduled activities to a minimum. Tom and I had an entire week to ourselves in Paris, and I wanted it to be as spontaneous as possible. We’d been to Paris before, both on our own, and together, which meant this time around our trip would be less about checking things off and more about going with the flow.

What was great about the trip was sleeping late, without worrying about where we had to be, as any plans I’d made always started with a lunch reservation. Some of the gastronomic highlights included the crepe complete at Breizh Cafe, the onion soup at Le Philosophes the pistachio and chocolate escargot at Du Pain et des Idees  the steak frite at Le Severo the beef bourguignon at Le 6 Paul Bert the absolute beauty of Le Grand Coeur, the carrot veloute at The Clown Bar (the pigeon pictured below, not so much), the poached egg with shaved truffles at Bistrot Belhara and the warm fuzzy feeling we had at Gaspard de la Nuit.

Of course, besides eating, shopping and drinking champagne (there was a lot of the latter), we filled our days with long walks to nowhere, which ended up including Montmartre, Luxembourg Garden, St. Germain des Pres, La Tour Eiffel, The Louis Vuitton Foundation, The Musee Rodin, Saint Chapelle, Le Marais (many times), Canal St. Martin, the Musee D’Orsay, and Conciergerie. We even had drinks at Hotel Costes with our friend Saniya, who was in town for work. I love being an ex-expat, as I find my chances of finding friends wherever I go increases ten-fold.

*One of our best nights ended with the late show of Le Crazy Horse. I loved it, but not as much as Tom. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it.

About shopping, it felt like the entire city of Paris was on sale. Every store window had a “Soldes” display. If you want to come to Paris to shop, come in January/February. In addition to returning to Tom’s favorite spot to buy his funky shirts, he’s become “famous” for at Coton Doux I discovered City Pharma (aka the French Fountain of Youth). I think I am the last person on earth to learn of its treasures as it was by FAR the most crowded of any establishment Tom and I entered all week! I left with a bag full of goodies.

I truly enjoyed our unintentional week away, but…if I had to do it all again, with a little more organization (sorry, I just can’t help myself), I would create lists by arrondissement of places of interest, so that when we went to the far reaches of Paris for dinner or lunch (which we often did), I would have an idea of what I could see or do while there. In my experience, many of the new hot places to eat are not necessarily located in the most central of locations.

One of the things I like most about traveling is the research I do leading up to a trip. Of course, I ask friends who’ve been many times which is a great resource, but I also love me some boots on the ground. For that, I go to my favorite bloggers. For Paris, I’ll always ask my friend Dina for food advice. This time around, she recommended Le 6 Paul Bert and also was a big help in making a few hard to get reservations. You can follow her at www.worldfooddina.com She’s a fellow Tokyo expat, who lived in Paris before moving to New York a few years ago. She also has excellent tips for eating in NYC and Tokyo. I also love Lindsey Tramuta who blogs at www.lostincheeseland.com and is the author of the new book The New Paris a fantastic source for all things Paris. And lastly, I love reading Sara Leiberman’s newsletter Overthinking It.

Here are some snaps of our winter week in Paris. I’m sure people questioned our decision to go in winter, but Paris is beautiful any time of year, and there is nowhere more romantic to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Merci beaucoup to D’anna for making the week possible.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

First Snow.

IMG_7142You just never know what you’re going to see in NYC. It’s the most random, spontaneous, mind boggling city to live in, which is exactly the reason I love it. Walk anywhere and you’ll find an instagrammable moment – shameless plug: (#emptynestnyc).

When I first moved here, I couldn’t quite get the hang of doing errands. I refused to push one of those old lady carts around, so it made hunting and gathering a challenge. Several months later I realize I was looking at it from the wrong perspective. When I lived in the suburbs, I would try and do most of my errands in one day. Of course, having a car made that possible. Now, I spread the “to do” list out across the week and make sure to include a little fun in every trip. It takes a bit more time and organization, but it keeps me from looking like a bag lady, and my daily steps are off the charts. However, I was in Home Depot the other day, and this might be in my purchasing future due to inclement weather ahead.

I went to the Louis Vuitton exhibit on Friday. I thought it would be all about handbags and fashion, and of course, it was about both of those, but what was surprising was that it was a look back in time at the history of luxury travel – my all time favorite thing to do! Who knew the founder of LV started a movement? Check it out, it runs until January 7th, it’s free, and they give you a gift when you leave. You can make a reservation, but when I went (late afternoon), we walked right in. They also have a fantastic gift shop where I picked up an LV Tour Guide – Tokyo Edition for my cocktail table.

I walked from my apartment to the exhibit in the name of exercise and restaurant scouting. I was happy to become reacquainted with a treasured spot I totally forgot about! That can easily happen in NYC as there is a new place opening every day. This gem is called Tiny’s and in addition to being tiny and cozy it has a wood burning fireplace in the little back room. I’ll be there this winter for sure.

On my walk, I also made sure to stop at the Etsy Holiday Pop Up Shop in Nolita. I found a hand knit skinny scarf – very hygge that I will wear all winter and a few special handmade ornaments I’ll be gifting to friends this year. Walking down lower Broadway, I was reminded of one of my favorite places to buy gifts all year round: Artists & Fleas.

I walked past the Nike store on Broadway and found a major arts and crafts session going on. Buy a pair of AF-1 kicks and you get to hand dye and bedazzle them. It looked like Santa’s workshop from the window.

In anticipation of the first night of Chanukah on Tuesday, I stopped into my all time favorite guilty pleasure, Breads Bakery to taste test their sufganiyot (Hebrew for the best donut you ever ate). They have lemon, strawberry and chocolate. My taste test started with the lightest and I worked my way up to the darkest and could have kept going. I will be purchasing these all week and eating them with wild holiday abandon. And in case you were wondering what they are preparing for Christmas, I caught a glimpse of their chocolate babka Christmas tree – it’s a thing.

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Oh and the first snow reference in the title of this blog post…it was magic.

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Thanks for reading. It’s Sunday brunch time and there’s a big world outside waiting.

Have Fun. Be Bold.