What are your holiday traditions?

My friend and fellow blogger, Dina, talks about the origin of the tradition of Christmas trees in her newsletter, which got me thinking about the holiday traditions our family looks forward to each year, and how they have changed depending on demographics like the country we are living in and the age of the kids. We spent six Christmas holidays in Japan, and although the Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas, they have come up with some of the most interesting ways to put a Japanese spin on the festivities. The tradition I found the most hilarious is the eating of KFC on Christmas, and the need to place your order months in advance.

In the Jardine family, a tradition is simply something you do more than once, so we have a lot of them. Our oldest holiday pastime is the newspaper barrier my husband creates that blocks the kids from opening presents Christmas morning. When they were young, it made more sense. When two of your kids are 6’3″ and they can see above the few taped pages of newsprint, it doesn’t hold the same significance, however, we still do it every year. For the past five years, we all wear matching Christmas PJs on the 24th while we watch Love Actually and the Polar Express and drink hot chocolate. This year, we are reducing our carbon footprint, and we’ll wear matching fluffy socks. From our years living in Japan, we’ve incorporated the New Year Daruma wish. I buy the tiny ones at  Pearl River Mart. We color in the left eye of the Daruma, and we write our wish for the coming year on the bottom. We place them on a small altar in our apartment (aka book shelf), and then wait for them to come true! They almost never do, but this year we have two wish winners – Annie and Tom (Tom had two of his past year’s wishes come true this year). We will throw those in the fire at New Year’s to acknowledge their accomplishments. The rest sit on the altar waiting for their time to get thrown into the flames.

 

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And each December 23rd, we dress up and eat a massive amount of Chinese food at Mr. Chow, the place I celebrated special occasions with my family as a young girl, made even more special by the fact that Tom asked me to marry him after eating a meal there. We order exactly the same thing every year, never veering from our favorites, and we like it that way.

One of my most practical traditions started about five years ago when I realized that one day my kids are going to want to take their ornaments with them when they get married and have their own trees. So each year they receive an ornament representative of something big or small that happened to them that year. Here are a few examples:

I’m a lover of holiday traditions, so if your family celebrates in a fun or unusual way, please let me know. I’m always looking for new opportunities to have fun, make memories and bring meaning to celebrations.

Wednesday I planned a holiday lunch at Union Square Cafe. It’s the perfect place to celebrate with good friends as the food never disappoints, the service is on point, and the chance of a celebrity sighting is high (I see you Zach Braff and David Schwimmer). It also happens to be across the street from Union Square (natch), and it makes for an easy transition to the holiday market for shopping.

I started the weekend at a two hour breakfast at Buvette another one of my go-to spots. It is one of the original all-day dining restos that are now so popular, opening at 7 am and closing at 2 am. They don’t take reservations, but it’s worth the wait. To me, it’s the cheapest and fastest way to transport myself to Paris. The espresso steamed scrambled eggs with prosciutto and shaved parm is perfection.

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I’ve wanted to have brunch at Sadelle’s since it opened but I refuse to spend a large amount of my weekend standing in line, and it’s not easy to get a reservation during the prime brunch hours. Since it was the first Saturday in months without college football, I planned to seize the day and start very early. We had a table reserved for two at 8:45, and although it wasn’t brunch, it was still oh so awesome.

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We had enough time after breakfast to walk the semi-empty streets of Soho, window shopping and laughing at all of the ridiculous items for sale. For the person who has literally everything…

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A 10:20 am showing of Mary Queen of Scots at The Angelika Film Center, my favorite place to see a movie since it opened circa 1989, made the start to the day that much more enjoyable. I thought the movie was very entertaining as I am a huge fan of the early royal days and like nothing more than reading or watching anything to do with this historical fiction genre. I am team Saiorse since I first saw her in How I Live Now – the movie version of one of my favorite dystopian Young Adult books (same title).

Today, I spent the morning at the The Whitney Museum.

Thanks to my friend Lotte (who was the idea behind the emptynestnyc.blog btw) we had the good fortune of going “All Andy” with the supreme Whitney docent Debbie. I learned that Debbie has many talents and is the co-founder of an intimate art salon, EdelHaus Art Salon  If you are interested in attending one of her private events, please send me a note and I will connect you. My fascination with Andy began while a student at NYU in the early 80’s when Andy was still alive, and I had the good fortune of spying him at Area – one of my go-to clubs while in college. I was totally obsessed with him and his Factory crew after reading Edie: An American Biography. The show at the Whitney is fabulous, and I will go back as it requires more than the hour I spent this morning.

Tomorrow I am off to Napa to celebrate the holidays with my West Coast Tokyo ladies. The annual gift exchange started in Tokyo and continues each year in California. I cannot wait to arrive. Look for a fun post when I return – maybe even a co-blog post with one of my all-time favorite Tokyo transplanted friends and fellow blogger: Napanista!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

A Fabulous Fall Week Before the Week Before Thanksgiving

 

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This weekend was homecoming at UPenn where my youngest child Annie is studying to be a nurse (she’s on the left). My middle daughter Sophie attends FIT in NYC and studies Fashion Business Management. A lot of thought, preparation, sweat, worry, and MONEY went into helping them find their way to college. Which had me thinking about the college essay night I hosted on Thursday at Bronx Academy of Letters. Each year we gather friends and colleagues to work with the high school seniors on their common application essay. Our school is public, located in the 15th congressional district (the poorest in the United States), and almost all our students are first gen kids without a parent at home that can show them the college process ropes. Imagine that? Imagine if your children had only themselves and an overburdened college counselor to rely on to get them into college? It’s one of the most unequal playing fields in the US, and yet getting a college education can make the most significant difference in whether or not a kid can break the cycle of poverty.  It is vital that the stories these kids tell be heard by someone other than a college admissions officer.

It was a great fall week in NYC, unseasonably warm which gave me an added sense of carpe diem because I know that WINTER IS COMING. I had lunch at a great new spot in the LES called Hunan Slurp. I love the name as well as everything I slurped. The owner was a painter for twenty-five years, and his food is an extension of his art as is the space -it’s gorgeous.

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Tom and I went to The Big Apple Circus in Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park after work last week. It was a gorgeous night, and it seemed like a fun last minute thing to do (thank you Play By Play Seat Filler) We weren’t sure if the circus holds up without kids, but it definitely does. We were shocked and amazed by the dazzling feats of craziness. We also enjoyed the Big Top Bar margaritas (the bar is conveniently located next to the face painting.) That’s Tom on the right, trying his hardest to scare little kids – it didn’t work, strangely only the adults noticed.

I would be remiss without mentioning the dinner I had after essay night at Jacobs Pickles on the UWS. It’s not new, I’ve been several times, but not recently. The food hasn’t changed (it is still fantastic with ridiculously large portions) however the music and the sound level is now deafening. I don’t think I can go back at night again. I don’t enjoy screaming at my friends while eating. I’m not a great iPhone photog, but I had to post a picture of the meatloaf smothered in fried onions with mashed potatoes and a biscuit. Hayden (second son) ate it all.

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I apologize that this post is entirely out of order, but I promise it all happened (no fake news here). Friday I arrived early in Philly and met up with my number one child (in birth order only of course). He lives in SF, and I couldn’t remember the last day we spent together alone. I had him all to myself, and it was incredibly fun. We started with lunch at Butcher Bar and then braved the downpour to visit the Constitution Center, which was fabulous. There is a hi-tech theater in the round with an interactive show that lasts about 30 minutes which brings back everything you learned and then sort of forgot, but maybe you didn’t, about the beginning of our country. After the show, you walk in a circle around the building starting with the first section of the constitution until you get to the last, with all the amendments and a repeal (thank God for the 21st – I’ll drink to that) laid out in order with explanations. The big reveal at the end of the visit is a replica of the signing room with the founding fathers, life-size in brass.

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From there we went WAY out of our way to visit the oldest confectioner’s shop in the United States. Ye Olde Candy shop aka Shane’s Candies. I was in search of these, which I wanted to buy for Christmas, but I was too early in the season. So instead I left with a lot of these. They make everything on site and offer once a week tours on Friday at 6:30 pm and it sells out. Next time.

It’s time to put together my Thanksgiving To Do List. Ina Gartner said it’s the secret to a stress-free Thanksgiving. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… Ina has no kids.

Have fun. Be bold.

53 Free in NYC

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If you had an entire weekend to yourself in NYC what would you do? Would you camp out on your couch, become very intimately involved with Seamless or Caviar and go through the new and noteworthy on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu? Would you go to as many movies as you could squeeze into three days? Would you pick an area of the city you were unfamiliar with and get to know it like a local? This past weekend, I was alone in the city and all of my family members who live here were a plane ride away having their own fabulous time – so even better – it was a guilt-free weekend alone.

At first I didn’t want to plan anything – I just wanted to see where the weekend would take me. And then a friend said I MUST see What The Constitution Means To Me. I went online and bought the last ticket for sale for Friday night – first row, middle seat for less than $100. It started at 8, so I had plenty of time to pre-game with a movie. I saw First Man, and despite starring two of my favorite actors, it was BORING. I should have listened to my friend Linda. It was also unbelievable. The simultaneous global broadcast of the tin can spaceship landing on the moon? Come on, I barely get cell service in the subway in 2018. There was time before the show to eat dinner and I chose Frank a tiny red sauce Italian on Second Avenue between 5th and 6th. I grabbed the last seat at the bar and enjoyed a hearty bowl of rigatoni ragu with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a glass of cabernet.

The play – oh the play. I loved every minute. It’s basically a one-woman show written by the star about her time as a 15-year-old Constitutional debater as she travelled around the country to win prize money to go to college. I know, right? Sounds like a snooze fest. But it is NOT. Go before it closes, which is soon.  This was my most excellent seat:

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A few days before the weekend my step-father Marc texted me and told me to go see a play written by an old friend of his that was going to be a part of the Fringe Festival  I had never been to the festival before, and the name sort of made me uneasy (I’m not a fan of interactive theater), but Marc said to go and I didn’t have a good reason not to attend. And the tickets were $22. The show was held in a garage with four rows of plastic backyard seats. It was called The Church of St. Luke in the Fields I enjoyed it as it was about two dysfunctional generation Z kids being dysfunctional – a subject I am familiar with, but is luckily in my past, so it’s fun to watch!

 

The festival was held on Hudson and Charles close to the West Side highway and the next movie I wanted to see was on Second Avenue. It was the perfect temperature so I walked across town, taking pictures of anything that looked interesting so I can return at a later time. I love discovering new places in unknown areas.

I went to see Colette with Keira Knightley. I loved the movie and all its surprises! If you watch Poldark you won’t believe what Demelza gets up to! Leaving the theater, I stopped at Mimi Cheng’s for some of the best dumplings I’ve had in the city. It’s a small spot, you order at the counter and sit down. They have 1 type of beer and 1 type of wine, but you don’t come here to drink.

It was Saturday night at 7:30 and I was headed….home! I had a long night ahead of me to fulfill my binge watching. I sat on the couch with a bag of goldfish and a nice bottle of Chardonnay and watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor (loved), The Romanoffs (different, yet entertaining), The Cable Girls (you want to turn it off, but you can’t), and the most recent episode of A Million Little Things (I haven’t made up my mind about this one yet).

Sunday was pretty cold in the city, so I went to Nordstrom’s Rack on 14th and stocked up on gloves and hats. Last year I waited too long, and there was nothing left. Then I went to Whole Foods and bought ingredients to make homemade pea soup. I made enough to feed a large family, so thankfully NYC daughter returned from Florida in time to join me.

On another note, something HUGE happened this weekend – one of my dearest friends in the world became a Grandma! That’s the next step after becoming an empty nester – the next generation arrives. She couldn’t be sweeter! I can’t wait to visit and see her for myself. I so look forward to this next phase – but not yet kids!

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I also got to catch up on my NY Times – I had a pile since Tuesday. I unearthed some great nuggets (as always in the NYTimes) including the return of Tefaf the European Fine Art Fair to the Park Avenue Armory. I went to the spring event and it is the best art festival I’ve ever attended. The quality of art is unparalleled and diverse, there is a champagne bar cart, they serve oysters and sushi, and everyone is very dressed up. The tickets are on the expensive side for general admission $55, however it is so worth it.

I also read about a new website called Locality.city where you put in your address, and it tells you so much about your apartment, your building and the neighborhood you live in.

And a few extras… last week I went to check out Corso Como a new department store from Italy in the newly refurbished Seaport area. I swear I don’t know who is shopping there – when I went it was empty, but the prices are crazy high, and the products are just crazy. Check out this couch for sale:

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I also went for drinks and apps at the new-ish Restoration Hardware Rooftop. It’s beautiful, but look closely, and all the greenery (and there are tons of trees and hedges around each table) are fake. It reminded me that I was eating in a furniture store. The prices are very high and the food is decent. Maybe I might enjoy it more in the middle of winter when I need to pretend that everything is green.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The City Never Sleeps Better Slip You An Ambien

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I didn’t get a ton of sleep this week, but I can’t blame it on NYC. I often wonder why mother nature thought that when women become a certain age, they no longer need sleep. Why she felt we need to roll around in bed at 2 am worrying about problems that are unsolvable, making to-do lists, or writing novels we can’t remember in the morning escapes me. Now, when I pass by my tightly made bed during the day, I stare it down like it’s an enemy I’ll have to battle later on.

Sleepless nights didn’t find me lounging around on the couch. It was week 9 in the job search, and so far I’ve applied to ten jobs, had two interviews, and have heard nothing since. Last night I had dinner with a millennial, and after explaining my thoughts on age bias in the workforce, her advice was to lop off anything on my resume that had a 1 in front of it, as in 1988.  Week 10 will find my job applications with a newly improved resume – nothing before 2000. I’ll keep you posted on my little bias experiment.

It was a delicious week. I had a fantastic lunch at Mamman which isn’t new to NYC, but new to my neighborhood. I envision many re-writes of my novel taking place at one of their communal farmhouse tables. I am addicted to the stuffed pita at Miznon. I asked the adorable Israeli cashier which pita was her favorite and she said without hesitation it was the folded cheeseburger. She was not wrong. They serve their pitas with the most giant shishito pepper I’ve ever eaten. I’m going back soon for the roast beef, her number two pick.

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I went to a super fun birthday dinner at Macao. The perfect place to celebrate with a big group. Great plates for sharing, an intimate, yet warm and friendly room, and if you’re lucky, a jazzy band that’s just the right amount of entertainment.

I’ve mentioned Play by Play before – it’s my seat filler club. This week I was fortunate to get an orchestra center seat to see The Parisian Woman for $4.50.

Tom and I got a reservation at Pasquale Jones the super hot pizza spot in Nolita, and we loved it. Welcoming space, friendly staff, and a great pie.

Dinner, Saturday night at Houseman, wasn’t boring. We were showered with broken glass on three different occasions. I found this almost statistically impossible, but it happened. We were picking glass out of our laps, clearing it from our table and once we had to get up from our seats so the busboy could wipe them down. I think they need to invest in stronger glassware and should also consider the concept of comping. In the end, they sent us dessert wine that no one wanted. I hate it when restaurants don’t understand hospitality. I wanted to love the place, the food was super yummy and creative, and I walked away thinking, meh. Not to mention, the bartender was cranky. I’m not a fan of cranky bartenders.

When I moved into my neighborhood eight months ago, I noticed a karaoke bar on 17th street. I tucked its existence away for future reference, and the future was last night. I’m terrible at karaoke, but I’m married to someone who kills it, and some of my best Tokyo nights were spent at Fiesta in Roppongi.  Karaoke One7 is the perfect combination of karaoke and bar. They have private rooms in the back, and every once in a while, the front door opens, and a small van pulls up with a group that would snake through the bar to their private cave. But the bar is for those who want to sing among strangers. For $2 a song (or $20 to cut to the front of the line), you can lead the disparate crew to the tune of your choice. It’s fascinating how music and booze can make the fastest of friends.

So excited for the Oscars tonight!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

New Year. More Fun.

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The instagram pic above was where Tom and I started 2018. We put on some sparkle and velvet and went head first into the new year. It was our very first New Year’s as NYC residents; there was no way we were staying home. A few months ago, I read about a new spot in the West Village Air’s Champagne Parlor that was serving amazing bubbles at great prices, and as a bonus, there was a cool Japanese Izakaya in the basement: Tokyo Record Bar. I got an email from Air’s in the beginning of December about their New Year’s Eve party. I made a reservation, and we went. We were the oldest by far, but after a few glasses and a heaping plate of potato chips with creme fraiche and caviar, we were well on our way to making new (millennial) friends. Tom learned how to Champbong and earned his first hangover in decades. I will definitely return to Air’s and look forward to one day getting a reservation on resy for Tokyo Record Bar.

The week before Christmas was a busy one for #emptynestnyc and I found myself saying YES to anyone who wanted to eat, drink and get into the holiday spirit. There was a divine lunch at Indian Accent which has got to be the best Indian food in NYC. Like me, you might need an explanation of every dish, but it is well worth it. Go at lunch as the prix fixe is a deal. I enjoyed a fabulous dinner with friends from Tokyo at Maialino, Danny Meyer’s delicious Italian restaurant in Gramercy Park, and holiday cocktails with Tom’s friends from work at Dear Irving. We sat in the 19th-century Parisian room (look closely at the wallpaper if you happen to visit). I want to go back and have a drink in all the different rooms. I love the button next to your table that you push when you need another drink. It’s the best kind of magic!

My annual holiday “Office Party” (the quotes are because I really don’t have an office, it’s just another excuse for my friends and me to celebrate another year of friendship) was at Del Posto in the Meatpacking District. It is over the top in every way, and I enjoyed everything I ate. And the holiday season would not be complete without family brunch! We double-brunched it Christmas weekend starting with Lafayette in Nolita on Saturday and Upland on Sunday. And lastly, there was our annual family tradition of eating at Mr. Chow on December 23rd. My obsession with fried seaweed continues.

This year, #emptynestnyc is going to look for a JOB so I can help pay for all my adventures. Stay tuned for what I imagine will be comical anecdotes.

Here’s to a new year of fun seeking in the best city in the world.

Have fun. Be Bold.