The Brass Nameplate

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Little things can mean so much.

It was just your typical brass nameplate placed haphazardly on a desk, the same as the hundreds of others in the massive open plan office space on the far west side of the city.  But, to me it meant everything. My oldest child Thomas works at Apple in San Francisco. When he first started working there, Tom and I went to visit, and due to the stringent visitation rules, we met him in the lobby, took pictures in front of the Apple logo, and ate in the very impressive cafeteria. I was, and still am, extremely proud, however, when I try to construct a picture in my mind of him at work, things get a little fuzzy.

When my second son Hayden started work in June 2016 in Herald Square, I was thrilled he was so close by, and we would meet every so often for lunch. But, I never saw his desk, or met the people he worked with, and although I was proud, again, I couldn’t picture my boy at work.

This week I got an invite to visit Hayden at his new office, and have lunch in his cafeteria. It seems silly writing this, but seeing that nameplate just meant everything to me. It said that for all intents and purposes, I had done my job. He was a fully formed human, out in the world, responsible for himself and beholden to others. Now, when I get a text from him mid-day, I can picture him in his seat, or walking the long rows of other desks, and even ordering a chopped salad in his cafeteria. I think I’ll insist when next I’m in SF.

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I saw this the other day, and it struck me as pure wisdom. I eat out a lot, but I realize that it matters less what the food tastes like if you are sitting with the right people, and vice versa. #foodforthought

Speaking of #foodforthought, I’d like to invite all my readers to come to one of the most delicious fundraisers in NYC. Wednesday, March 6th at The Lighthouse at Chelsea PiersThe Bronx Letters Foundation will hold it’s annual Chefs’ Tasting Food for Thought Benefit. Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin will be the night’s host, we will celebrate the life of our Patron Saint, Anthony Bourdain who helped us raise funds for our public school in the Bronx for the past ten years, and we will honor our past principal and the current  Senior Education Advisor in the NYC Mayor’s Office, Brandon Cardet-Hernandez.

Some of the best chefs in NYC will be there to cook! You can still buy tickets here. Trust me, this event can cause some of the worst #foodieFOMO.

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I went to see the new Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum this week. My tip: buy the timed tickets ahead, and go alone. This exhibit is dense. There is so much to see, and read. It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours to yourself. I discovered a new fabulous app while at the museum. It’s called ASK. Download it on your phone, take a picture of something you see in the museum, and ask your questions directly to the staff sitting in a room in the basement (I asked if it was AI or real people) waiting to answer. The team consists of an archaeologist, and anthropologist, as well as art historians and educators.

And eat in their restaurant, The Norm. The menu is Frida inspired and quite delicious. I first became obsessed with Frida when I read The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver and my fascination continued when I saw Mercedes Ruehl play her at the theater in Sag Harbor a gozillion summers ago. One of my favorite quotes of hers (although I have many), “There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”

She was comparing the love of her life to when she was hit by a bus.

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I can taste the spring in the waning winter days. But if it doesn’t come soon, I may purchase one of these.

Go see Network on Broadway. Bryan Cranston is fabulous. I bought the partial view last minute tickets on SeatGeek in Row E for $75, and I was very pleased with my purchase. There are so many monitors on display; you don’t miss much.

I am looking forward to seeing the premiere of the final season of Catastrophe at an upcoming NYTimesTalk. The show is hilarious and authentic. I’m sad that this will be the last season but thrilled to “meet” Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan in person.

One last discovery of the week: Dr. Hilary Brenner! I never needed a podiatrist before I moved to NYC, but walking 5 miles everyday can be a killer on your feet. She takes insurance, her office is a one minute walk from the 4,5 Fulton Street stop, and she’s adorable.

The good news? March begins on Friday. I think we can say we officially made it through another NYC winter.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

Expat Eyes

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When you live in a foreign country, you see it through expat eyes. It’s a special lens which allows you to see things that natives don’t see. When I lived in Tokyo, I was fascinated with all sorts of things that the Japanese people took for granted, and didn’t find particularly interesting, like vending machines, bathroom slippers, automatic doors, the lack of garbage cans on streets, the wrapping of packages ( I could go on and on…). When I returned to my native land of NYC, I was determined to bring my expat eyes with me, but what I’ve realized recently is that although I have a carpe diem attitude, it isn’t the same thing. This realization came on Wednesday when I had plans with my Australian friend who is an expat in New York. It was a rainy day, and she had a few suggestions of how we should spend it. The first was to get something to eat in Grand Central in the Noma foodcourt. I had no clue what she was talking about until we arrived. I had dashed by it many times, rushing to get through Grand Central and had no idea that it was a Claus Meyer venture, a co-founder of Noma, a ground-breaking restaurant in Copenhagen. I love sitting and talking to Wendy because she always has good ideas and interesting observations about life in NYC.

After lunch, we went to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to watch a free film, which Wendy had signed up for online. I had no idea you could see movies at the MOMA. We watched Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House in a packed luxurious theater. It was a fun look at New York City in the 40’s.

 

On Thursday, an absolutely beautiful day, a friend and I walked downtown in search of a place to eat outside. We found ourselves at The Wren on the Bowery. I’ve been to the Wren before for lunch and brunch, and I highly recommend it. However, I wouldn’t recommend going for drinks. Cocktail hour it’s packed with kids that were born in the mid-90’s. From there we walked down the Bowery to Prince Street and walked through Soho stopping at a new store I’m totally obsessed with, The Eight Senses.  Around the corner, we met up with Toni, the owner of Olives, and a good friend of my friend Lisa. She brought out her two beautiful dogs and we hung out on the sidewalk in the sun talking and catching up, constantly being stopped by people who wanted to pet her adorable baby pug, Dumbledore.

Friday night we had dinner with friends at Salinas a warm and cozy tapas restaurant on 9th Avenue in Chelsea. The space has several small dining rooms, an inviting bar and delicious food. The weather had turned colder that night and luckily our dining room had a nice fireplace. After dinner, we walked over to Milk Bar to get a baby birthday cake shake.

Saturday we had tickets to the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Thankfully, the weather was gorgeous and it was a great day to walk the garden grounds. Admitedly, we are a bit spoiled as we lived in Japan for six years and have been to real deal Hanami parties, but it was still fun to take pictures under the pedals, and watch the festival goers let their freak flags fly. Japanese festivals seem to be an invitation to let loose and dress up, which I love.

Coffee Shop has been around forever (the owner is a former model and married to music producer Jellybean Benitez – Madonna’s old boyfriend) and is a great backup spot if you are in Union Square and you want to eat outside. The food is decent and the people watching is ideal. It’s known for it’s beautiful staff, which makes waiting for a table more enjoyable. Tom and I had a late lunch and felt so happy to be eating outside in the neighborhood.

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Saturday night it was time to put on our dancing shoes, or in my case, my van high tops. Dinner was at Barbounia a fun place to go with a group in Gramercy. Their flatbreads are HUGE.IMG_9319

We had an after-dinner drink at my favorite place to people watch Mari Vanna and then it was off to Retro Club NYC where I’d reserved a table and invited a group of disco-loving friends. We danced and sang and jumped up and down until the wee hours. It’s amazing how the words to songs like It’s Raining Men, The Dancing Queen, and Disco Inferno come right back.

Have fun. Be bold.