Life Swap

 

With Tom starting a new job this past fall, a big Christmas vacation was not in the cards for us this holiday season, but that didn’t stop us from getting away for a few days. Our solution: a family life swap! My brother Scott and his young family live on the inter-coastal in Boca Raton, and we live in a 1650 square foot loft in Gramercy. It was the perfect exchange. The pictures above show Scott entering our apartment building, and Tom sticking his head through the front door peephole of Scott’s Spanish Colonial home.

While we were doing things like going to Delray Beach, walking the Atlantic Avenue strip, eating at 50 Ocean  and Taverna Opa renting a lux pontoon boat at Waterstone Resort watching the Orange Bowl (live at Hard Rock Stadium ), and playing golf at The Club at Ibis,

 

they were doing things like eating at The Corner Bistro Chip Sushi Seki Minetta Tavern Il Mulino   Joe’s Pizza  Do  Black Tap  Mr. Chow  Sugarfish  Cozy Soup and Burger  Prince Street Pizza  and going to see the Rangers play at the Garden and Mean Girls on Broadway, buying hard to get Paul George PlayStation sneakers at The Fight Club  visiting the 911 Museum, and shopping at The Oculus.

Most of the things I write about are “empty nester” focused, but Scott has a 13 -year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. Before they arrived, I created a list of fun places in my neighborhood and further afield in the city. They took the list and ran with it, adding new ones of their own.

 

We crossed paths in NYC for 10 minutes after we arrived home, and before they left. I have to say the kids looked completely wiped!!! Scott and Danielle made the most of 4 nights in NYC – even I was impressed! I’m sure they needed a vacation from their vacation. It was a really interesting experience because unlike Airbnb we both left our homes intact – food in the refrigerator, clothes in the closets, cars in the driveway, and holiday gifts waiting in the kitchen! It was fabulous. I highly recommend it.

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I’m very excited to say that the best gift I received this Christmas was an upgrade to my blog! There are so many changes I’ve wanted to make, but the technology was above my pay grade. My oldest son, who works at Apple gave me the gift of his time creating specifications, and the hiring of a WordPress expert on Fiverr He is going to manage the process for me so stay tuned for a new “look and feel” for 2019!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

The Perfect Holiday Cocktail

IMG_3718I was in Napa last week for the annual Tokyo Tomodachi gift exchange. Each year, a group of friends who met in Tokyo many years ago re-enact a holiday tradition that was started by a group of expats in Tokyo circa early 2000s where great friends dress up, eat a decadent meal, drink many cocktails and fight over an expensive trinket. I look forward to this exchange every year, and it really has nothing to do with the gift. I don’t see these women often, but our connection to one another was formed in the perfect kind of petri dish – we had no extended family, we lived in a very foreign land, earthquakes were a regular occurrence, and we all shared an adventurous and curious spirit. Our time together last week was a whirlwind of fun, and the best gift I could have given myself for Christmas. We cheer each other on and give big hugs when needed. We learn from each other, and I always return home with a list of things I need to read, see, buy or eat. I think a part of the magic is that we are not in each other’s daily lives and so we never take one another for granted. We appreciate every minute together.

Okay, getting back to the title of this post… the perfect holiday cocktail (besides the mix of old friends, great food and bottles of Napa wine), it’s called a Paperplane, and I’m a huge fan. Hilary, the Napanista made it for me last week. Equal parts Bourbon, Aperol, Nonino Amaro, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Shake over ice. Many of these will be quaffed on Christmas Eve at my apartment.

Before I get to the “all things good in Napa” part of this post, I need to tell you about a new play that just opened at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Sunday. It’s called The Jungle, and the reviews are fabulous. I have tickets in January, and I can’t wait. You should go too. Also, Oklahoma (from the same St. Ann’s Warehouse) is coming to Broadway, and the tickets went on pre-sale today. The show was so fun, and I know it will be a big deal. Get tickets for this too!

Napa:

Sleeping in a home surrounded by grapevines is divine. These were the views I had with my morning coffee.

 

We had two full days in Napa and did some serious wine tasting. First up: Okapi Wines. Kim is awesome. You need to meet her and drink her wine.

 

 

Next up: Kenzo Estate a very special place for our Tokyo group. The wine is mostly distributed in Japan, so it’s hard to experience unless you visit the estate. The attention to detail in everything they do is very Japanese, right down to the etching of the names of each wine on the glasses.

 

 

Dinner that night was at Miminashi – are you sensing a Japanese theme? The food was divine – Japanese but with a twist. I loved everything, but I’ll be thinking about that macaroni salad they serve as an amuse bouche. I need the recipe. Put this place on your Napa list. The dessert is just as good as the meal so leave room.

On the second day, our crew became a peloton (I recently learned the definition, and I’m excited to use it in my first sentence) on our rented ebikes. We started in Napa and powered our way to Yountville along the highway next to the train tracks – the views were breathtaking, but we were going so fast it would have been dangerous to take pictures. Thankfully this ride took place BEFORE the wine.

 

 

Lunch was at the new Restoration Hardware restaurant in Yountville. I’ve been to the one in NYC, and I thought it was nice. The one in Yountville will blow you away. The food is better, and the experience is more authentic. I also learned that antique wheat threshers can be art. Now I want one.

 

We dropped off the bikes and ubered to Robert Sinskey Vineyards where there was a table waiting for us in a cave surrounded by library wines, and more food. Somehow we powered through it. Their wine tasting pamphlet “Gluttons Only” was aptly named.

 

Guess what was next? More wine! Our last stop was at The Prisoner Wine Company, which gets a lot of play on Instagram and is very popular with millennials. I was sort of obsessed with their sexy rose and shipped some home. The question will be whether I wait until summer returns to drink it – not likely.

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Our final meal together that night was at Angele in Napa in a small private room. We dressed up…heels, fur, jewels, the works and kicked off the night with the giving of omiyage. The Japanese love bringing small gifts to friends when traveling and we do the same when we see each other.

 

The evening ended back at Hilary’s house where gifts were exchanged and fought over, all in good fun, of course.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

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.

 

 

 

I Feel It In My Fingers, I Feel It In My Toes (Christmas Is All Around Us…)

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I really love Christmas. It’s not my holiday, but I’ve adopted it by marriage. Converts, in general, are always the worst when it comes to going overboard and I am guilty as charged. So if you love Christmas too, stay tuned to my blog this month, because in addition to fun NYC things to do, see, eat and imbibe, there will be a lot of pics of stuffed animals coming out of store windows, and other assorted holiday regalia.

Last week started on a total high. I am a BA (Bon Appetite) insider, which just means I signed up to be one, and I was able to snag two tickets to their second only live taping of the BA podcast at The Bell House. I’m obsessed with the podcast (who else can wax poetic about vinegar for 30 minutes like Carla Lalli Music? ). My cousin Wendy and I got there early, scarfed down the insane ham sandwich (oh the baguette, the thinly sliced ham by Brad Leone, the ethereal spread of butter, and sprinkle of sea salt) and snagged the second row. We were glued to our seats for two hours.

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Next up was a visit to The Velvet Underground Experience, the pop-up on lower Broadway. When I was a student at NYU, I was obsessed with Andy Warhol and all things “Factory” after reading Edie: American Girl. There is something for everyone in this exhibit, and it’s right around the corner from Indochine, which makes for the perfect, spot to eat afterward. We felt like we had time traveled to 1983.

Katherine, one of my all-time favorite humans, landed in NYC (from Tokyo where she lives and where our journey together began) this past weekend, and it was one non-stop party (and gab-fest). It started with a fabulous brunch at Legacy Records, one of the hardest reservations to get, but I did watch a few people walk in off the street and get seated. I might try that next time. My obsession with the soft scramble continues, and this time it had black truffles mixed in. O-M-G.

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It was a gray and rainy day, so we decided it would be a great opportunity to wander the seven floors of merch at Dover Street Market. The only thing I could afford was the Matcha Cappucino (barely, at $7.50), but I got quite the kick out of what’s on offer and how much of your paycheck you need to use to get it. As I asked myself, “Who shops here?” A wave of hip young Asian girls swooped in and almost ran us over.

Sunday night Tokyo Tomodachis (friends) from far and wide came together at Prune to celebrate friendship and eat fried pistachio nuts. Prune is one of my all-time favorite classic NYC restaurants. It holds about 20 people – reservations are a must. They created a special prix-fixe dinner and made a cute menu just for us. They also serve chunks of melted dark chocolate on buttered crusty bread for dessert (and this comes with the check…) The night ended with cocktails at the Raines Law Room and then just one Kelly Clarkson karaoke song, My Life Would Suck Without You.

Monday morning Katherine and I hit Midtown hard. We took pictures in front of all the decorations including the tree. We waited on line and shopped at the new FAO Schwarz – thankfully the line went fast. It’s worth the wait to see the Rolls Royce toy cars, the kiddie supermarket, and the teddy bear chairs. I snapped a few cute pics…

I found the windows at Saks strangely similar to the red trees Melania put up at the White House…

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Famished from all the selfies, we stopped into a new-ish spot in Midtown called Handies by Bou. It’s a six-seat handroll counter in the lobby of a small boutique hotel, The Sanctuary. The fish was fresh and simple and not expensive. It’s a great place if you need a little pick me up near Rockefeller Center.

Laden with bags, we returned to downtown to drop our bags. However, we first had to stop and see the chocolate waterfalls at Venchi the new gelato spot in Flatiron. And then, of course, we had to have some – silly Katherine chose a thimble full of coffee with her chocolate, but my cone was insane; Hazelnut gelato that had a thick layer of fudge on top. Worth every calorie.

After dropping off our bags, we ran over for a quick stretch at my favorite spot Stretch’d before going to celebrate Chanukah at Airs Champagne Parlor. Is there anything better than champagne, potato latkes, and caviar? NO. I love Air’s because we have a lot in common. We both like good champagne, and we agree that you don’t have to spend a fortune to drink it. Last year Tom and I spent New Year’s chambonging with the gang at Air’s, and I am happy to say we will return this year. Can’t wait!

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Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

Baby it’s cold outside.

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I wasn’t expecting the arctic blast that settled in the city this week. Somehow, in my mind, I thought it was going to be sunny and 40 until April. But winter is here, and one can no longer walk outside without accoutrement. I will be looking to up my hat and glove game in the days to come.

I kicked off the week with a favorite thing that I rarely get to do. While living in Japan, I became a fan of all things spa related including the Korean scrub. When I moved back to the US, I found that very few of my American friends wanted to go. It’s not that American’s don’t like spa treatments, most of my friends do. It’s that you have to be naked in front of one another for an extended period, and at our emptynest age, most friends would rather not. Luckily, I found a few that were up for the adventure, and we went to Juvenex Spa a very authentic scrub spot in Korea town. Our package consisted of sauna, steam, onsen, cold plunge, an intense full-body scrub and a 1/2 hour massage all for an amount less than a regular massage at a high-end spa would cost. You walk outside two hours later rubbing your skin because you can’t believe how soft you are. No Korean scrub experience would be complete without beer and bbq, so we walked down the block to Kang Ho Dong Kaekjeong my all-time favorite place to grill meat and wrap it in lettuce. The veggie side dishes are so extraordinary; I can even bring vegetarians.

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Tuesday was the first night of Chanukah, and instead of cooking we went out to Russ and Daughters Cafe Many readers may be familiar with their amazing fish store, but this is the cafe. It was a bit challenging for my non-Jewish husband to find something to eat for dinner as most of the menu tends towards “breakfast for dinner,” but in the end, he found a delicious brisket sandwich. The potato latkes were on point, as were the blintzes and noodle kugel.

As I’ve mentioned before, the move to NYC required finding new “people” from doctors to cobblers, and today I’d like to give a shout out to Preston at Bloom Beauty Lounge. I often tell my husband that if I don’t get my hair dyed every four weeks, he’ll be sleeping with grandma, so it was important for me to find someone who was really good at what they did and the salon was reasonably priced. I’m thrilled with my new hair, and the fact that it’s within walking distance is a bonus for my steps!

I’m a huge Broadway fan and have been since I can remember. A few years ago, I started buying four tickets to shows I thought would be hot. My thought was to sell two tickets at a high price to pay for my tickets and dinner. I’ve almost always made money, and usually (Hamilton) a lot of money. Besides the Harry Potter tickets, I’ve already purchased, two shows that will open this spring that might be interesting to movie fans are Mean Girls and Pretty Woman. It’s still early days and tickets are available directly from the links above at face value pricing.

A highlight of the week was a cozy lunch at Margaux in the Marlton Hotel. The hotel is steps from Washington Square Park and has a very old world feel. When you walk through the hotel doors, you find a lovely lounge with a wood burning fireplace conveniently located next to the bar. I have plans to return to sit and write with a glass of cabernet.

The weekend ended outside of the city, back in Westchester surrounded by friends and family to celebrate the holiday season. Even though I absolutely enjoy my new life in the city, I’ll always be connected to the people I love in the suburbs, and will hop on the Metro-North any time I’m invited.

Time to pour a glass of wine and order from seamless.

Have fun. Be Bold.