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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I’m Still Standing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

New Monkey Suit Seen In NYC

IMG_5339Could this $139 coat from Amazon spell the end of the de riguer Canada Goose on the slushy streets of NYC? Will I no longer feel like I’m surrounded by an army of high-priced soldiers? The creative and bold fashion statements seen during all other seasons in the city are scarce in February. But, hope springs eternal! There is a new kid in town – and it’s priced for the masses. Due to this post last spring in New York Magazine, they are everywhere this winter, and they come in lots of great looking colors. And I’ve heard they are super warm. Function and form for less than $150. I love it!

I was in the Bronx this week visiting The Bronx Academy of Letters the public school that  I’ve been on the board of for many years. I finally got to go for lunch at La Morada. If you want an authentic Mexican meal, I highly recommend the trip. Everything about the place feels like you are walking into a local spot in Mexico City. We ordered several dishes and shared. If you go, don’t leave without ordering one of their seven different mole dishes.

Continuing on the topic of good food, a new Israeli place opened a few minutes walk from Union Square called Mint Kitchen. It’s the same format as a SweetGreens where you place your order, and they call you when it’s ready – so an excellent option for a quick, reasonable, delicious meal. I ordered the Kibbutz salad with a side order of green falafel, and it was incredible. I want to return for the falafel-crusted salmon that looked divine.

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And on a last foodie note, Sugarfish has opened its second spot in NYC – this one in Soho. Heres hoping the lines at the original (on my block) get a bit smaller due to the new location.

I was back at the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library this week as I’ve decided to try once again to find an agent for my middle-grade novel. I do my best work within these hallowed walls. They also have an incredible gift shop (I love a great gift shop, especially at institutions such as this.)

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Speaking of books, I think I might need to buy this one. I saw it on the “Just Released” table at Barnes and Noble. Seems timely and necessary.

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I’m incredibly excited for the week ahead as I’ll be spending it with my very good friend Napanista. She’s in town from Napa with her family for spring break, and we have a ton of fun things planned. Starting with Sunday brunch at Union Square Cafe and dinner Monday night at Tokyo Record Bar. I am thrilled that they’ll be joining me at the Chefs Tasting benefit for Bronx Letters Wednesday night, with host Eric Ripert, honoring the life of Anthony Bourdain. A few tickets are still available here.

And on a final note, just wanted to recommend one book and one movie. I read a lot and watch a lot, but don’t endorse a lot. These should be at the top of your lists.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Paris By Numbers

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Last winter I spent a week in Paris with my husband that I’d planned months in advance. Each meal was chosen with care, and we found ourselves running from one side of Paris to another like the proverbial chickens without heads, and it was cold and rainy. I vowed that the next time I returned, I would do it differently; I would use math. Since I’m a writer and not a STEM girl when I say math, I mean numbers; specifically arrondissement or “districts.” I culled together all of my favorite “eating, drinking, shopping and seeing” lists from over the years and created a Google document to use as a roadmap so that I wouldn’t miss something fabulous just around the corner (a dreaded fear). I have to say, it worked like a charm, and I will continue to build on it and take it with me when I return in May with my daughters for Mother’s Day, and their first trip to Paris.

The trip began with a semi-stalker moment. One of my favorite bloggers, Sara Lieberman, is a NYC expat living her dream in Paris and writing about it. Her newsletter, Overthinking It is fabulous and one I look forward to reading when it arrives in my inbox on a bi-weekly basis. Many of my past Google searches about all things Paris have her name on the by-line, and now I understand why – she is a FONT of knowledge. More on Sara and her many talents in next week’s blog. Sara suggested we meet for wine at La Cave du Paul Bert. I have to thank my friend Syd for the personal introduction!

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Me and Sara only a few hours after arriving in Paris (my justification for how I look in this picture).

This is a picture of the special ladies that shared my week. Kylie (on the left) was in Paris working on the branding of her frozen yogurt shops, California Bliss , which help to fund her non-profit Global Glow an incredible organization that helps young girls in 27 countries around the world (and my school in the Bronx, The Bronx Academy of Letters) to find their voice and tell their stories. And Lisa, Efrot and I were there to eat and shop and TALK. We all accomplished what we set out to do!

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We ate at L’ami Jean Bistrot Belhara Les Philosophes Cafe Charlot Bofinger Ellsworth and La Societe where we were joined by Candice Kumai, a food and wellness influencer with a HUGE following.  We had yummy margaritas at Candelaria the speakeasy in the non-descript taco shop (thank you Tori B for the great rec).

And we sang into the wee Paris hours at Aux Trois Mailletz a past favorite from Maria. We took advantage of the twice-yearly sales, where almost everything was 50% off, (see Google doc mentioned above for names) and spent our last day together combing the stalls of the Vanves Flea Market.

This buyer’s paradise has always been on my Paris To Do list, but I was never able to get there. I’m thrilled with all my purchases, especially my new coupe glassware that I’ll use to make my current cocktail, the French 75 (thank you Jacqueline) and my cool coasters, from 1924 that say Liberte*Egalite*Fraternite.

There is no place like NYC, but Paris is my happy place. Every time I leave, I can’t wait until I can return. A tout de suite!

Amusez-vous soyez audacieux!

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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.

 

 

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.

 

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.