Up Your Spontaneity Quotient

In this Sunday’s NY Times (aka my activity bible), I read an article in the travel section entitled How To Up The Spontaneity Quotient On Your Next Trip. This spoke to me because truth be told I am a planner and have been guilty of overplanning. But I am always looking for the middle ground, the happy medium between not missing out on the “must do, eat, see” things, and finding that hidden local place that you’ll think about for years to come. Reading the article also made me think about my everyday life in NYC. I subscribe to oodles of websites and receive emails all day every day informing me of the “next best everything,” and these emails inform my decisions. But I also spend time wandering unknown neighborhoods snapping pictures of places I want to return to the next time I’m nearby. I am going to make it a goal of mine to consciously practice deliberate spontaneity by going on more “missions” and talking to more people I don’t know.

Monday I had lunch at Pastaio di Eataly, the new restaurant addition to the flagship Eataly on 23rd Street. I’m a fan of eating at the bar, and this is one long bar that curves around a butcher block where fresh pasta is made. It’s like watching art. Everything was fabulous.

Have you been to the Museum of the City of New York? I’d never been, but after my visit last week I will return. I went to see an exhibit called Rebel Women. It was fascinating! Turns out there were female badasses all the way back to the early 1800’s. The museum has a fabulous gift shop that changes 1/3 of their offerings with every exhibit. I spent just as much time in the shop as in the museum, and I managed to cross off a few Christmas gifts on my list. Walking from the museum on 5th Avenue and 103rd, I found the end of Park Avenue at 96th street. It stopped me in my tracks.

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I love my book club. It was started about a year ago when I moved back to the city, and a friend and I decided to start one. I’ve always found community when sitting with a glass of wine in my hand and a book as the basis of discussion. Our book club is a day time event, and the host changes every month. If you host, you pick the book and you serve what you like. This month, the book was a controversial choice, Undone. The host chose it because she is good friends with the author, John Colapinto and he agreed to join us (hence the change to evening) for a glass of wine and a spirited discussion. John is a well-known established non-fiction writer, and this book was a diversion from his typical subject matter. I felt a little sorry for him as we discussed the book for an hour before he arrived – it was almost like he was thrown to the wine-soaked wolves. Without turning this blog into a book review, I’ll say that John’s a great writer and I kept turning the pages. You might want to read for your self…

I just want to say again how I, along with every other NYC resident and transit employee was NOT READY for this.

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I know there are a million poke spots in NYC, but I will walk way out of my way to eat here. If you find yourself in Chelsea, check out Wisefish Poke.

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Saturday night we booked a table with friends at the Cafe Carlyle a classic NYC institution. The last time Tom and I had been, Bobby Short was alive and tickling the ivories. Bemelman’s Bar was packed, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. There was a ton of glam, vat-sized martinis, and the show was great.

I’m typing this blog as I wait for Amazon Fresh to deliver all my Thanksgiving needs (they are now officially 3 hours and 20 minutes past the deadline and say they won’t deliver) but my refrigerator is spotless and mostly empty, waiting for the arrival. My kids fly and train into the coop tonight, but I have reserved a very fun double bunk room for the four of them at the Freehand Hotel (a five-minute walk from the apartment), so there will be no dirty towels left on the floor of my guest bathroom. I think they are pretty excited to bunk up together too.

I wish you all a very festive feast, and hopefully, there won’t be too much discussion around your table about politics and climate change, because those will only ruin your appetite. Take a break from the negativity for a bit and enjoy all the good things that bring you and the people you share your meal with together.

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.

 

 

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.

Old School

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Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” but that doesn’t apply to people from Rhode Island. Tom and I went back to Providence this weekend for his 30th reunion from Brown. Tom was not only a student at Brown, but he was a townie too, having grown up in Providence, which added another dimension to our walk down memory lane. What was so striking, was how much has remained the same in the capital of the smallest state in the union. From Antonelli’s poultry shop where Tom plucked feathers from chickens as a part-time job – at the age of 10, to the thick crust Caserta pizza, and the thin crust Al Forno’s, to the incredible Italian specialities on Federal Hill, and Andreas’ Greek restaurant on Thayer Street, nothing had changed.

Brown reunions are celebrated along with graduation, turning the entire city of Providence (which isn’t that large to begin with) Brown. They throw an incredible party, called Campus Dance, turning the green into a ballroom, a tradition started in the 1860’s! The event draws crowds up to 15,000 with attire ranging from shorts and t-shirts to tuxedos and top hats. They always have a big jazz band, and the entire green is lit with hundreds of paper lanterns. The last one I attended was in 1993 and one of the highlights was seeing JFK, Jr. and his date, Daryl Hannah.

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Instead of getting a hotel room 30 minutes outside of Providence (every room in town was booked), we decided to opt for an Airbnboat. When I reserved it way back in September, I thought how fun it might be, but when the time came to wheel my suitcase down the dock ramp, I started to question my decision. Tom, of course, was thrilled. I immediately popped three Bonine.

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Turns out, sleeping on a houseboat is fantastic. I haven’t slept better in years. This was my view brushing my teeth. Not a bad way to wake up.

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We even entertained a few old friends for sips and snacks.

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The weather changed from a blazing 90 degrees to 55 and pouring. We thought about leaving early and heading home, but we sort of got attached to the little houseboat. It was pretty cozy bundled up under the covers watching Lost in Space while the boat gently rocked, and the rain pelted the windows. I was actually a little sad to leave Monday morning.

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Our waiter at brunch said, “Providence is just like Boston, just friendlier and less expensive.” I’m not from Boston, so I can’t compare. But I think Providence is actually like nowhere else. I’m glad I get to call it my home-by-marriage. It’s a pretty special place, and they make some pretty awesome people.

Here’s a link to the houseboat.

Some not to miss spots while in Providence:

Al Forno

Milk Money

RISD Art Museum

For old school pizza that hasn’t changed since 1953 Caserta Pizza

Italian specialty shop like no other (sit and have a coffee with the locals while your sandwich is made): Venda Ravioli

Breakfast at Brickway on Wickenden (we went twice).

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.

 

48 Hour Spring in NYC

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The 48-hour spring weather this weekend had New Yorkers sprinting out of their apartments like cockroaches and making a hasty beeline for Central Park, myself included. Saturday was a gift for the winter we endured, and it was a well-deserved one. I especially loved the multi-tasking of the guy on the hoverboard, talking on his cell, with a snake wrapped around his neck. Impressive. We were lucky enough (thanks MB) to score the perfect table at Le Pain Quotidien at the north end of Sheep Meadow, deep in Central Park. It was the ideal place to catch up, have a glass of wine, and people/dog watch.

 

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back it up to Monday night when Tom and I went to our first Tasting Collective  dinner. Tasting Collective is a private membership that sends its members invitations to private tasting events with the chef. The membership cost is low, and the events are very reasonable. Our first dinner was at Oka a creative izakaya whose chef John McCarthy is an alumnus of WD-50. The food was delicious and inventive, and Tom and I sat next to an adorable young couple, making the night even more fun. These are just a few of the courses. The tonkatsu was on point, and the edamame salad with the crispy cracker was amazing. I’d go back for that alone.

Wednesday night I was at Indochine with girlfriends. Indochine is one of those restaurants that never fails to deliver, and there is always a buzz. I “grew up” at Indochine during my 5 years at NYU. Back in the day, a night at Indochine would be spent rubbing elbows with Bianca Jagger, Kate Moss, and Linda Evangelista. It’s not exactly as high profile today, but it’s just as fun and the food is great too!

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I’m on the right in the picture above. I made the big leap and got bangs, something I haven’t had in decades. I forgot how much work they are and how they have to be managed and can misbehave for no reason at all. I still kind of dig them.

Saturday night, I had a reservation at Lilia (thanks Wendy). It was an exceptional meal from start to finish – the company was pretty awesome too. Lilia is one of the hardest reservations in Brooklyn to get, but the food totally lives up to the hype. Go with a group so you can order everything. The desserts were amazing too.

Things I’m looking forward to doing this spring if it actually returns:

Revisiting South Street Seaport. I haven’t been there since I graduated from college. The area had a lot of damage from Hurricane Sandy, but they’ve been completely transforming it since then. Lots of interesting shops, restaurants and a new cool hotel are either already open or have spring/summer opening dates.

Seeing Mean Girls and The Donna Summer Musical on Broadway.

Eating at Legacy Records Don Angie Uncle Boons Frenchette The Bombay Bread Bar Szechuan Mountain House

Actually getting a job.  My search began in January, and what I’ve discovered is that it’s not easy to find a job at my age. Still plugging away.

As I sit here writing, the spring weather has returned to winter temps. I’ll have to bundle up to walk to a bottomless brunch at Miss Lillys. If its cold outside, I’m happy I’ll be drinking rum all afternoon in a warm and cozy spot.

Have fun. Be bold.