The Slog, The Catastrophe, Is Life

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I didn’t come up with the title to this blog; I borrowed it from the last line of the New York Time’s March 13th review of Catastrophe’s final season (binge it on Amazon now). It felt particularly poignant this week. Life is filled with many small catastrophes, and all we can do is to keep moving forward, hopefully taking lessons with us through the slog. The picture above was from the New York Time’s Talk I was lucky to attend Monday night. I’m a huge fan of the show, and I’m sad that it ended. If you haven’t indulged, there are only 4 short seasons, and I highly, highly recommend them.

One of my new doctors is on Canal Street, which gave me an excellent reason to check out Canal Street Market. Among noisy street hawkers and NYC souvenirs, you’ll find this oasis of calm. Half the space is small vendors selling everything from sake to luxuries, and the other half is food – all with an Asian slant. I was so thrilled to find Joe’s Steam Rice Roll as it has been on my “to eat” list for a while. I ordered Joe’s signature with the works and drizzled hot sauce on top.

Wednesday I took a tour of the Richard Avedon Foundation, a place I could easily have walked by and never knew was there. But thanks to the Ex-Expat group in NYC I spent two hours learning more about the prolific photographer who shot everyone who was anyone, and lots of everyday people in between. When asked of the director of the foundation if Dick was nice, he answered, “Dick was engaged. I wouldn’t say he was nice.”


There are many reasons to visit Bushwick, Brooklyn; one is the the Bushwick Collective, and another is Roberta’s Pizza. The Bushwick Collective event is in June, but you need not wait to see incredible street art. The entire neighborhood is an outdoor art gallery and changes often. I went on a walking tour with Ronnit, who I thought was an excellent guide. Half of the tour was spent in small galleries with up and coming artists, and the other half was outside. I’d been to Bushwick on another tour and didn’t enjoy the guide as much as I enjoyed Ronnit. She gives you just the right amount of insight but leaves you to explore and inquire on your own. And with Roberta’s, unlike at night, you can walk right in and sit down for lunch.

Friday night Tom and I attended the first night of previews for Burn This with Adam Driver and Keri Russell. I was so excited for this show and wanted it to be good, as I am a huge fan of both actors and thought the chemistry between them could be really intense. Driver has already been on Broadway, but this was Russell’s debut. Before giving my honest opinion (and what do I know anyway), I will remind you that it was the FIRST night of previews, and I’m sure some of the nerves and the kinks will get worked out before it opens officially on April 16th.

The show seems dated, and all the “chemistry” takes place off-stage, so it’s difficult to imagine them together. The play starts slow, and Driver doesn’t appear for quite some time, but when he does there is electricity. He is a man on fire, and you can’t wait to see what he will say or do next. For that reason alone, I say buy a ticket. And I have high hopes that Keri picks up her Broadway ball and starts running.

We sat a few rows behind Keri’s partner, Matthew Rhys, who was a doll. He spoke to everyone around him before the show, and at intermission, and posed for lots of fan photos. He looks a lot more relaxed than his days on The Americans.

 

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If you are interested, I wrote an article I posted on Linkedin about how I think the scales of college admissions can be un-tipped. Working in the field has given me a birds-eye view into its inherent inequities, and I have a few ideas about how to fix them.

Saturday was such a spring tease. I am more than ready for the real thing.

Have fun. Be bold.

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A Refugee Camp Grows in Brooklyn

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Tom and I went to see The Jungle Friday night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo. This original play, hot off the stages of London, is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.        St. Ann’s is known for physically transforming the theater to meet the needs of each play, as well as their ability to make the audience a part of the experience. For this play, a replica of an Afghan Cafe inside an actual refugee camp in Calais, France comes to life. You’ll sit side by side with the residents of the camp, and learn about their journey from war-torn countries to the promised land of the white cliffs of Dover. It is a play that everyone, everywhere should see. But, fair warning, it is not a pretty experience, and you aren’t going to have “fun.”

Before the show we ate at Gran Electrica, a mexican restaurant with a healthy slant. Of course, we chose the most unhealthy of dishes, pork belly tacos, and they were very good. They make a nice spicy marg, and the walk to St. Ann’s is about 4 minutes long, which is ideal when it’s 20 degrees outside.

Do you like pho? I am a huge fan. I love it because it’s a big bowl of noodles, and yet it eats healthier than ramen. This past week I had lunch at Sai gon dep a new restaurant that just opened by the chef of Hanoi House. I went during the soft opening when the menu was limited, but I thoroughly enjoyed their chicken-based pho and spring rolls. I look forward to returning and trying the rest of the menu. It is the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day and might rival a bowl of chicken soup if you are suffering from a cold.

 

My youngest daughter is days away from returning to college for her second semester of sophomore year, and so we have made it a point to do as much as possible together before she leaves. We had a great afternoon wandering around the meatpacking district, shopping at Story, a retail store that “takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store.” They completely reinvent themselves from design to merchandise every four to eight weeks, highlighting new trends. I dare anyone to leave without purchasing something. We had a late lunch at Restoration Hardware in their rooftop restaurant. I’ve written about this spot before, and I said it was meh, however, if you go with a Generation Z young adult, it looks more impressive through their eyes. I took her to the new Camp on 5th avenue, because even though she’s 19, and Camp is really for humans under the age of 10, I knew she would love it. It’s hard to describe, but if you have a young child in your life, you need to go and make sure you try the edible bubbles.

We also passed by the new Starbucks Roastery Reserve, which is unlike any other Starbucks. It is on my short list to return. We found this gorgeous creature in the window as we walked by.

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Saturday night we returned to Brooklyn (yes, twice in one weekend) to meet friends for dinner at Frankies Spuntino. The last time I was there, it was a tiny hall of a restaurant with a fabulous garden. The tiny spot still exists (for walk-ins), but the reservations are now seated down the block in the old Prime Meats location. It’s a beautiful space, and the menu is the same as I remember. We enjoyed our meal, despite the significant flooding in the kitchen. They kept calm and carried on.

From there we went to “the” spot to sing karaoke in Brooklyn, The Old Carriage Inn in Park Slope. Judging by the talent in the crowd, and the wait to sing a song (2 hours) I’d say it is definitely the place to go. Just make sure you get there early if you want to sing. We stayed for a few beers and sang along with the ringers.

On Tuesday, when Annie leaves for school, our apartment will return to empty nest status…at least for a month or two – having her home this past month has been a gift.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

You Can’t Go Home Again…

because you might find they sold it off and made it into condos.

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This was Open House NYC Weekend a three-day event “providing broad audiences with unparalleled access to the extraordinary architecture of New York.” Sites ranged from the UN to the Woolworth Building to the Montauk Club where Tom and I were married in 1990. We were living in Park Slope at the time and walked by the building twice a day to and from the subway. One day we knocked on the door and asked if we could come in. What we found was a little bit of magic. The club was originally built as a private men’s club in 1891, and pretty much nothing had changed since then. We fell in love with it on the spot. But we’d never been back. Until today.

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The front door knocker at the Montauk Club

As I stood in line with the other visitors, I took out the small framed photo I brought with me to confirm which balcony was the scene of our famous wedding kiss. I was very excited to recreate it. It was pretty strange going inside; the room where we took the wedding pictures in front of the fireplace remained intact –

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and yet the room where we had the cocktail hour was cut in half by renovations in the mid-90’s when they moved rooms around after selling most of the club to a developer to make into condos. The main staircase still goes up to the floor where we had the reception, but if you continue up to the third floor, you hit a wall and a faux rail. It was sad to see what the membership agreed to do to save a small part of the original club. Tom and I tried hard to retrace our steps and find the brownstone we lived in – to no avail. It was in 1989, and we only lived in Park Slope for one year and never returned.

Friday night we took the NYC Ferry from East 34th street over to DUMBO during sunset

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to see Oklahoma at St. Ann’s Warehouse one of my favorite theaters to see an Off-Broadway show. They had completely changed the theater to look like a farm circa 1900 – the first row was picnic tables – and they served chili and cornbread at the intermission. If you see a show here, come early and sit in the lobby and have a drink or a snack at Bar Jolie (provided by Vinegar Hill House). The show was jam-packed with celebs including James Franco (check out Tom’s selfie – two rows back in the mustache), Katie Couric and every veteran of Law and Order SVU.

Saturday night we went out for dinner with friends in the West Village. I love Chinese food, but I don’t usually go on the weekend nights because of the fluorescent lights and the fast service. However, that’s not the case at Hao Noodle and Tea. They have excellent, authentic food, a full bar, and a nice atmosphere.

Have I mentioned I’m so excited that fall is here? Busy week ahead!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

EmptynestNYC Fall Preview!

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What are you watching? Where are you eating? What Broadway show do I have to get tickets to? What about fun fall festivals? 

Do you have any of these questions? If so, I’ve got answers! I love a good fall preview so I thought I’d share all the things I’m so excited about BEFORE I actually do them!

Let’s start with TV…fire up the DVR!

Season premiere dates of my regular favorites that need no explanation:

Grey’s 9/27

Poldark 9/30 

Will and Grace 10/4

The Man in the High Castle 10/5

Madam Secretary 10/7

House of Cards 11/2

               New Shows I’m interested in:

The Romanoffs 10/12 – Stories of people around the world who believe they are descendants of the Russian royal family.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 10/26 – Supernatural television series based on the comic book series of the same name. Starring Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men.

Maniac  09/21 – Mini-series starring Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, Justin Theroux and Sally Field

A Million Little Things 09/26 – A group of friends from Boston who bonded under unexpected circumstances. Some have achieved success, others are struggling in their careers and relationships, but all of them feel stuck in life.

Single Parents 9/26 – Single parents as they lean on each other to help raise their 7-year-old kids and maintain some kind of personal lives outside of parenthood.

And Now the Big Screen

#1 A Star is Born – I don’t care if it’s the 5th remake. Bring on Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa

Green Book (Viggo Mortensen)

Bohemian Rhapsody (Rami Malek)

The Old Man and the Gun (the last film with Robert Redford)

Beautiful Boy (Timothee Chalamet)

First Man (Ryan Gosling)

I see a theme emerging…

Books I Want On My Kindle

Becoming (Michelle Obama)

Transcription (Kate Atkinson)

Melmoth (Sarah Perry)

Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarity)

Lake Success (Gary Shteyngart)

 

Broadway Bound

Tickets I’ve secured: 

The Cher Show

Be More Chill (off Broadway and on Broadway)

The Lehman Trilogy

The Lifespan of a Fact

To Kill A Mockingbird

Ticket’s I’ve yet to buy, but are on my To Do List:

True West with Ethan Hawke

Burn This (Adam Driver and Keri Russell)

I’m Hungry…Where I’ll Be Eating This Fall

Misi (New place in Domino Park by owners of Lilia – already impossible to get in)

Pisellino – Same owners of Via Carota, I Sodi and Buvette

Zauo – Fish for your dinner from a wooden boat in a moat below. You can grill it, tempura fry it or sushi it. I’ve been in Japan. You literally can’t get fresher fish.

Leonti – Famed Philadelphia Chef Adam Leonti’s first NYC spot – Pasta and homemade breads

La Rossa in Soho – Roman style pizza sold by slice and weight

Japan Village (Eataly but for Japanese Food in Industry City)

It’s A Gorgeous Fall Day – What Should I Do?

Why not go to a festival?

San Gennaro in Little Italy until September 23rd. One of the best festivals in town.

Atlantic Antic 9/23 in Brooklyn 

Tribeca TV Festival 9/20-23

Food Film Festival 10/19-22 (all proceeds from Ticket Sales go to the Bronx Academy of Letters in Anthony Bourdain’s name)

Other Fun Fall Activities

The Color Factory 9/13 – 9/30 

Pink: The History of Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color at FIT Museum (until Jan 5th) 

NYC Ballet Fall Season 9/18-10/14 (I’m going on 9/28)

The Vendy Awards on Governor’s Island 9/22 (street vendor awards)

Halloween parade in the West Village 10/31

Open House New York, 10/12–14 that marks your chance to see the inner workings of structures sometimes off-limits. Unusual places like La Guardia’s Marine Air Terminal and the super-futuristic looking Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant have been part of past programs.

Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again at the Whitney Museum

Exhibition covering the origins, music and influence of the Velvet Underground, due in the West Village in October

Would love to hear what you’re up to! What am I missing?

Have fun. Be bold.

Don’t Believe The Hype

Okay, I take that back. Don’t always believe the hype. Some things of course hold up, like the beautiful landscapes of the south fork of Long Island (see above), or the satisfaction of making salted watermelon juice fresh from the farm stand (see below). IMG_0936

But, this weekend, thanks to Resy Select, I was able to score two reservations to restaurants I’ve been trying to get into for months; Don Angie and Frenchette. Regarding hype, Don Angie hits the mark. However, I found it a challenge to dine at Don Angie with only two people, as I wanted to order everything on the menu. We started with the stuffed garlic flatbread, which was exceptional, as well as the cantaloupe, prosciutto, mint, tamarind, hazelnut, and feta cheese salad. It was summer on a plate; a recipe I will steal and make at home. For the main course, we shared the garganelli with broken meatball ragu (OMG) and the charred shell steak with preserved lemons, and a side of eggplant with pine nut brittle. Nothing on the dessert list tempted us, so we saved our calories for Twizzlers at the movies. The only thing we found a bit odd, was that there were several open tables. Knowing how hard it is to get a reservation, I couldn’t figure out how they were managing the room. Maybe they save tables for walk-ins? If so, I highly suggest you do that.

On the other hand, I know my experience at Frenchette is going against everything I’ve read, but I thought it was just okay, and expensive. The room had a great buzz, and unlike Don Angie was packed, with tables turning constantly. My first issue is that their wine list consists only of petnat wines, which are very trendy right now. I tried to like them, I really did. But I’m not a fan of wines with a tingly mouthfeel. When I drink champagne, I like bubbles. But when I drink wine, I don’t want anything buzzing on my tongue. We had several of the menu highlights, like the raw oysters served with sausages, the brouillade (softly scrambled eggs with escargot), and the duck frite. I think I would have enjoyed the brouillade more at brunch with toast. Speaking of toast, I was disapointed by their bread as well. The duck was overcooked and lacked taste. We also ordered the bistro cut steak and the clafoutis with cherries for dessert. The steak and frite were good, the dessert, not so much.

The highlight of the weekend was knocking off another item on my Summer To Do List – Coney Island. The weather was perfect – 75 degrees, overcast, and breezy. We took the Q train to the last stop and found ourselves in crazy town.

We had a blast riding go-karts, eating Nathan’s hotdogs, White Castle hamburgers, soft serve and Italian ices. The boardwalk is one of the best places for people watching. Grab a bench, and get a front row seat to a fascinating world.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

 

One Perfect Day

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Perfect days don’t just happen; at least they don’t to me. I’ve tried to be spontaneous, I really have. And there are times when the stars have aligned, and magic happens, but usually, for me, spontaneity ends up in a bunch of near misses. The fabulous art fair that I walked two blocks east of, or the old friend in town for one night that I found out about a week later. Or god forbid, the meal I wanted to eat, in the place I wanted to eat it, that because I didn’t book ahead was full. At my age, I can afford to take the time to plan, and with great plans, your odds improve for that One Perfect Day.

A few posts ago, I wrote about my Summer To Do List, and since we were on the August side of July 4th, I felt the desire to knock one or two off my list. Tom took off work July 3-6th, and we only had plans on the actual 4th. I wanted to make the best of our NYC staycation, so I scanned the weather forecast looking for the perfect weather conditions for our adventure. By the way, people always ask me if Tom is up for all the activities I plan, and I can say wholeheartedly YES. He never says no, not ever. I asked him recently if he wanted to add any items to my summer to do list, and he said, “No. I’m good with your list.” Yes, I know how lucky I am. I could be attending a boat show at MSG, or fishing off some random pier.

 

Saturday called for low humidity, sunny skies, and a temperature around 75 degrees. Absolute perfection for a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, brunch along the river, and a walk around the brand new Domino Park. I’ve put a link in that describes how to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but it’s really simple. Take the #6 subway to Brooklyn Bridge, get out, and look for the crowds walking on the bridge. It’s that easy. What I was surprised by was the shopping opportunities at the base of the bridge that continued for quite a bit. It reminded me of the Great Wall of China. I forget that I am not a tourist, but the walk is one of the things that many tourists do when in NYC.

The trek across took about 30 minutes, not because of the length of the bridge, but the abundance of walkers. Everyone was in a fabulous mood, which made the slow stroll feel like something we were doing together. At one point we were walking behind a group of twenty-something kids from Italy, and one of the young girls yelled out “Theeese is amazing! I leeeeve here! I leeeeve here.” You couldn’t help but smile. It was amazing, and we are so lucky that we live here. This is what New York is all about; people coming from other countries, excited by the possibilities that New York has to offer. I was excited for her new adventure.

Making a left off the end of the bridge, and you’ll find yourself in DUMBO (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), which puts you on a movie set; literally. Once Upon a Time in America, The French Connection, Vanilla Sky, CSI, The Sopranos, Just Friends, and so many other films and TV shows have been filmed using this amazing background. It’s a shot that’s used to let the viewer know that the action has moved from NYC to Brooklyn. Due to the beautiful weather, there were a LOT of people taking pictures. I’ll have to return in the fall, on a gray day when I’ll have the street to myself. The first picture in this blog is me doing the quintessential jump on Washington and Water Street.

Continuing with the theme of this post, I had pre-booked at Cecconi’s a waterfront restaurant with spectacular views of the Manhattan Bridge. Brunch starts at 11am and you’ll have better luck requesting a table outside if you book closer to 11. Our reservation was at 11:45, and when we left, there was a long wait for a table outside. Cecconi’s serves a very decent brunch. It has everything you want on a brunch menu, and the hash brown balls are ridiculous.

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After brunch, we walked around, stopping in shops that looked interesting including Shibui a Japanese antiques and furniture shop. Tom and I are collectors of Japanese “junk” and love to peruse any spot where we might add to our collection. However, this place was totemo takai!!! That means ridiculously expensive. I already owned many of the items for sale, and if those prices were real, I told Tom we didn’t have to worry about our retirement; I had it covered with all of my shrine sale finds! They had a pair of Samurai stirrups that were selling for $4500! Alas, I don’t own a pair, only a single, but now I appreciate it more than ever. This is a picture of fishing floats, which is something I collect, but in my two bedroom apartment, I couldn’t justify purchasing any more.

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I tried to get Tom to buy a pair of shoes at John Fluevog for our niece’s wedding next weekend to no avail.

Domino Park was too far to walk, so we purchased tickets on our  NYC Ferry App (I highly recommend this, as the line to purchase tickets was long). It’s a bargain at $2.75 for a one-way pass. You can use the same pass in the same direction if you hop back on within 90 minutes of purchase. We took the ferry one stop to South Williamsburg, where we walked on Kent Avenue to 5th street (about a ten-minute walk). You’ll see the old Domino Sugar Factory and smokestack before you arrive at the park.

 

This park is a home run for people who live nearby. 50 million dollars was spent on this park, and you can tell. There are bocce courts, a sand volleyball court, a fabulous water park, turf fields, playgrounds, their version of the Highline, and a Danny Meyer taco joint, all with magnificent views of NYC. If I had young kids, and lived in the city it would be on my weekend short list. However, having gone once, I can now check it off my list.

We walked a bit further north to the North Williamsburg ferry stop and hopped back on (within the 90 minutes) for our ride back to the city. It’s the best $2.75 you can spend in NYC. As we exited the boat, we saw a sign advertising a ferry to Nantucket. We both looked at each other and agreed it would be on next summer’s to do list.

We walked home from 34th and the FDR, picking up bagels for Sunday morning at our favorite hand-rolled spot Gramercy Bagel. We were heading home for a nap before our return to Brooklyn for an 8:15 reservation at Lilia – a reservation we got that morning at the last minute (I love July 4th in NYC)!!!

And as we were walking from the subway to the restaurant later that night, we walked right by a sweet little Italian street fair, carousel rides and all. So, there was a little spontaneous magic after all.

Have fun. Be bold.

My Summer To Do List

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When my daughter was going into junior year, I found a handwritten list in colored magic markers in her bedroom that said “Summer To Do List.” Of course, I swiped it and put it in my box of treasures for safe keeping, but I remember it had some really adorable things on it, like going to an outdoor concert, getting a tan, and having a summer fling. I think about that list every year right about now.

In fact, it was the inspiration for my own

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1. Get tickets for Shakespeare in the Park  and get them the old-fashioned way by arriving with a cup of coffee and waiting in line at 7:45 in the morning.

2. Go to Tipsy Scoop and eat ice cream infused with alcohol. 

3. Read Conveniece Store Woman because the subject completely fascinates me. 

4. Eat at the Queens Night Market on a Saturday night.

5. Swing and drink rose with girlfriends at The Rose Mansion

6. Take the Ferry to the new Domino Park  and have a picnic and run through the fountains.

7. Go to The Little One and eat kakegori (Japanese shaved ice). 

8. Much to Tom’s dismay, go hang out on the boardwalk at Coney Island.

9. Walk across the The Brooklyn Bridge  (I admit, I’ve NEVER done it).

10. Spend a night glamping on Governor’s Island Collective Resorts.

Like my daughter’s Summer To Do List, I know there are some items I just won’t cross off this summer, but it’s nice to have goals, and it’s so fun when you accomplish them!

Happy first day of summer!

Have fun. Be bold. Wear Sunscreen.