There Are Many Places Where I Belong – One Of Them Is Not the Gym

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I love my new mug – a gift from my youngest daughter’s college roommates. It makes me laugh. I’m almost always early, so it really tells you just how much exercise I get. There are many places where I feel right at home – a library, almost any type of restaurant, cafe or gourmet market, a book store, a speakeasy, a bridge table, a NYC subway, and at the five-way crossing in Shibuya, but put me in a packed gym on a holiday Monday, and I look like a newly arrived alien from the planet Xena. I’m 53, so I don’t have any hope that will change. I’m failing terribly at my attempt to get my body in better shape, but I am killing it in my brain stretching and flexing attempt.  Last week I spent three mornings playing bridge at Honors Bridge Club. I’m obsessed and utterly hooked. But it’s all in pursuit of staving off dementia, so I don’t feel too guilty about spending countless hours playing with a deck of cards – can you say grand slam?

In addition to my card obsession, I have been looking for new ways to get my hygge  on – the only reason to live on the east coast in January. This recipe was from last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, and they had me at “one cast iron pan”. Side note, I love to cook and have for decades, but just purchased my FIRST cast iron pan when I moved to the city 18 months ago. I use it almost every night I cook. I bought Smithey at Food52, and I LOVE it. The recipe was for Stock-and-Cider-Brined Chicken Over Stuffing. I think mine looked exactly like the picture, and it was seriously delicious (and easy). I cook a lot for my city kids, but I’ve never received a text the next day from my son telling me how good the dinner was, until now. Make this, and if you don’t have the cast iron pan, buy one, you’ll thank me. img_4549

This week was filled with art because it’s the perfect thing to do when it’s cold and rainy. I spent a fabulous winter afternoon at the Guggenheim with an “old” friend immersed in the revolutionary art of Hilma af Klint. The story of this fierce turn of the 20th-century painter is pretty incredible. She was a fan of the spiritual occult, and not only is it evident in her forward facing artwork, but she also writes of having her art displayed in the future in a circular “temple.” How did she know?

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After making our way around the exhibit, we had craft cocktails at Jacques Bar in the Lowell Hotel.  It left me wanting to return to eat at Majorelle. The menu is expensive, but I like their economical $40 lunch in 40 minutes. Sounds like my kind of work out.

Friday night, Tom and I were in the mood for noodles and went to Hunan Slurp in the East Village. I’d been for lunch but wanted to return for dinner. I do love a noodle shop that takes reservations! NB, they don’t have a liquor license, but there is a store across the street. Tom ran out to stock up on large Sapporo beers, while I ordered. We loved it all, including the walk home via St. Marks. Not much has changed on the famed block since I was a freshman at NYU, and that is a good thing. It’s nice to see that not every downtown neighborhood has been gentrified.

 

 

There was a lot of talk this week about the weekend storm arriving on Saturday, and MB and I had plans. Initially, we thought it might be fun to get out of the city and find a fireplace, but the snow estimates made us change our plans and stay put. We started the day at the Outsider Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion. I went last year and loved it. Outsider art is defined as art produced by self-taught artists who are not part of the artistic establishment. Many of the artists represented at the fair have mental illness, are autistic, were once incarcerated, or have other incredible life stories. The art represents their experience, and if I didn’t live in a 1600 square foot apartment that is already covered in art, I would have been a purchaser instead of an observer. Here are a few examples:

 

 

It was the perfect “snow is on the way” activity. Unfortunately, the snow never came, but that didn’t stop us from watching movies, ordering in, and pretending there was a foot outside.

Sunday was spent watching the Patriots do exactly what they always do, come from behind and win. As we are not Patriot fans, and we are pretty sick of them always landing on the right side of the scoreboard, we’ve decided to now become fans hoping this will be the end of their winning streak. Just kidding.

Monday reminded me that yes, it’s winter. It was f@#$%$#*& freezing! There was only one thing we wanted for lunch, and it was another bowl of steaming noodles. The closest spot was Bao Bao Cafe that claims to have the spiciest ramen in the city. Judging by the medium spicy, I’d say they might be right. The sign outside says, “If you hate someone, bring them here for ramen. Ours is the spiciest in the city.”

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Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

700,000 Hours

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That’s the average amount of time we get to spend on this planet. I don’t know about you, but that struck me as not that much. The day I read it, I was sitting on my couch going through the stack of magazines I hadn’t read since November, and I could almost hear the clock ticking. It made me think about how I spend (or waste) my time. I have no problem sitting on my couch on a rainy day with my head in two books, nine magazines, and the Sunday New York Times, and look up four hours later, surprised to see that the sun set long ago. Obviously, not everything I read is a good use of my time, but I almost always unearth nuggets of information that inform my life. The 700,000 hours came from an article about the first “wandering hotel” in the world 700,000 Heures. If I had the means, I would become a member today. With less than half of those hours already spent, I’d want to spend the rest of them traveling the world and staying in incomparable locations curated by a staff that aimed to “astonish” their guests.

Here’s a look at some of my best hours this week:

 

I love it when fellow city friends introduce me to their favorite places in their neighborhoods. I have to thank MB for showing me William Poll, the Upper East Side’s tiny gourmet food store. It’s the type of place that I would have walked right by, but I am so happy I know exists. Need delicious appetizers for a dinner party? Dips for days? Soups in cute little containers? Stop in, but bring your $$$$.

 

This week I went back to yoga. I’m not sure why I stopped. I always feel better when I’m walking out of the studio than when I walk in.  I go to, Yogamaya. It’s bare bones and totally yoga focused with minimal ohms and scattered skylights with a view of rooftops and watertowers.

A 2-hour winter walk in Central Park. It doesn’t matter your path, where you start or end, the park has so many gifts to give, in any season, at any time of the day or night. It was an exhilirating way to start the year. Marybeth and I kept walking until noon because we both had started intermittent fasting and the lunch bell wasn’t going to ring for us until noon. But, it was worth the wait. We had the juciest burgers (without a bun, over a tossed salad) at JG Melon a New York institution that’s still got it.

I went to my first drop-in supervised bridge play at Honors Bridge Club. Two hours of supervised shuffle and deal – $20 and it includes breakfast. Those were two very well spent hours. I could literally feel the synapses in my brain firing on all cylinders. You don’t have to be a member to attend.

I’ve mentioned Silver Mirror before – my favorite place for derma planing! But it gets another mention because they just opened a new location in my neighborhood! What could be better than your favorite face shaving facialist now located within a five minute walk?

Speaking of what could be better…I have to say one of the best things about living in my apartment is having an AMC Movie Theater around the block. When January roles around, it becomes my go to destination. And with assigned seats I leave my apartment 3 minutes before the credits role. This weekend I saw Vice and Green Book, two movies that on the surface seem so different, and yet they both make you feel equally bad about being an American, granted in different decades.

Saturday night I finally made it to Ichiran, one of the best ramen shops in Japan, now in NYC. Considering there are over 50,000 ramen shops in Japan, that says a lot. I’m a huge ramen aficionado, after living in Japan for 6 years, I feel I have an educated palate. When I first moved back from Japan, I tried many ramen shops in NYC looking for something that felt like Tokyo, but they all fell short for various reasons. But I was holding out for Ichiran. Arriving on Saturday night at 6pm, we found a line, which was a good sign. We waited for about 20 minutes and then were seated at conjoining booths.

 

All I’ll say is that its a unique experience – don’t go with a group, it’s actually better to eat here alone. The menu is limited to one type of ramen – what? And two bowls with two draft beers cost $73. Yes, I said $73. If you eat at Ichiran in Tokyo, you won’t pay more than $10 a bowl. But, was it good? Yes, it was very very good. But still.

After I was completely stuffed with noodles, I went to see The Cher Show on Broadway. If you, like me, grew up watching Sonny and Cher on the Sonny and Cher Show, if you thought Chastity was the cutest baby of all time, and if you lived in the same apartment building as Cher and Rob Camiletti when you were in college (oh, that was just me) then you will want to get tickets to this show. If not, then I suggest you get tickets to The Ferryman.

One last tidbit…brunch at Cafe Cluny in the West Village. It’s not new, it’s not hot, but it’s very very good. You’ll walk in and feel the vibe immediately. The food is delicious and I highly recommend ordering a drink called the Cluny. They don’t take reservations on the weekends, but it’s worth the wait.

So, what are you going to do with your hours this week? I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve…stay tuned.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

I’m Not Feeling It

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I’ve been looking for my next big thing since January, and it’s been quite the learning experience. First was the resume creation, which in and of itself was humbling; you have to come face to face with what you’ve actually been doing (and sometimes not doing) over the course of your so-called life. Next up was asking the actual question – What is it you really want to do? That question stopped me where I stood, and to this day it’s an evolving answer. And then there was the dreaded headshot for the Linkedin profile. The woman who worked on my resume recommended I upload a few photos to the crowdsourcing website Photofeeler  The big idea behind the site is that you upload a picture (you specify whether it will be used for social purposes (dating) or professional (getting a job)). Then, other users give their honest opinions of your picture. The first photo I uploaded was me smiling right at the camera.

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This picture yielded comments like “Would prefer if they were smiling a bit less,” and “I think it would be better as a social picture.” My likable score was 82%! But my influential score was 25%. Not great for getting a job. I uploaded a new pic.

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“They seem a little arrogant.” My likable score dropped to 51%! My influential score was now a whopping 45%. I didn’t use either and opted to upload a professional photo I used for a weekly column I wrote several years ago. The problem was, it wasn’t representative of how I felt about myself today. So, when the opportunity for free headshots presented itself, I jumped! The photographer would take headshots for free in return for helping out with the promotion of a new book (more on that in another blog entry). The picture was taken in a Soho coffee shop during the weekday morning buzz and chatter. I was completely mortified, and as a result, the muscles in my face decided to play games. It was an embarrassing 15 minutes, but I’m happy with the results. This looks and feels more like me today.

Ok, enough. Let’s talk food and fun. This week I struck gold while walking in the West Village. Tom and I passed by a cute little Thai spot with a sign out front that said Garden Open. The food was so authentic at Pinto Garden, and the garden was lovely, I made reservations for dinner in a few weeks. And if you are a banana pudding fan, all I can say is that it’s the best one I’ve ever eaten. And it comes in a Chinese takeout container. The picture doesn’t do it justice. Just go.

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I ate ramen twice this week. Once at Ivan Ramen. I met Ivan Orkin in Tokyo and first ate his unique style of ramen in Japan. I enjoyed his spicy bowl of noodles on the LES and will return to try more of the menu. I find it very funny that you can make a reservation at a ramen shop. I’m sure anyone from Japan would agree.

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The second bowl I ate was the Tan Tan Men at Naruto Ramen. Tan tan is my favorite type of ramen, and yet it’s not often found at NYC ramen shops. If you haven’t tried it, you need to.

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I enjoy spending time with people decades older than me because they are wise and have no filter – which makes the conversation both enlightening and entertaining. That is exactly the way I felt sitting in the 92nd Street Y audience listening to Iris Apfel talk about her new book. She’s 96 and smart as a whip. Her memory is sharper than mine, and her life, especially the last fifteen years, is inspirational. I left the theater with renewed energy and a few added items on my personal to-do list. One of her quips I just love, “If you’re not interested, you’re not interesting.”

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Extra things I did this week: Saw Saint Joan on Broadway (I would PASS). Finally saw Come From Away (Amazing. I want to go again). Emptied my closets and stored eight large cartons of my kid’s memorabilia at Manhattan Mini Storage which felt great. The clerk asked if I had insurance for my possessions. I told her they were both worthless and priceless and completely uninsurable. I also don’t plan to see them again. I put the names of my two oldest children down on the list of people who can access my storage locker. I’ll make sure to put the keys and the address in my will. It feels good to purge.

This is me up on the ladder very early Saturday morning trying to figure out the lock.

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My empty nest is about to get a hell of a lot less empty with the return of my two college kids this week. I’m going to stock up at Morton and Williams Liquor.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

 

Seeing NYC Through A Different Lens

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This week was action-packed, and curiosity filled. Thankfully, the weather cooperated, and by Friday it was downright balmy! On Monday, I locked myself in the Rose Main Reading Room at the NY Public Library to edit my middle-grade novel for the 78th time. I’ll be attending the annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference the first weekend in February, and my goal is to submit my manuscript The Curse of the Baseball Oni to agents attending the event. There is no better place to sit your butt in a seat and write.

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Tuesday, I spent a busy day with a long-lost friend in lower Manhattan. We started early with a visit to the mock-up of The TWA Hotel in the Freedom Tower. You can contact them via email to request a free tour. It’s a wonderful way to get inside the Freedom Tower (the views from the Sky Lobby are insane – the pic at the top of the blog is from the Sky Lobby), and the TWA exhibit is fun.

 

It was a day of non-stop catch up which included what Ginny’s been up to over the last few years. After a very intensive training program, Ginny is now a docent at the MET leading tours for public school students. She also gives tours of Grand Central and the surrounding neighborhoods for the Municipal Arts Society. I would hire Ginny in a hot second to take out of town guests for an inside personal tour of NYC. She can lead tours in any of the following areas: Grand Central & Environs, Herald Square to Empire State, Chelsea and The Highline, Chelsea Galleries, Lower East Side Galleries (plus history), Upper East Side Galleries, and the Flatiron/Ladies Mile. She can be reached at ginnypoleman@me.com and followed on Instagram at @art_encounters.

After a delicious spontaneous lunch at Gotan in Tribeca, we arrived for our 4 pm guided tour of the artist Donald Judd’s private living and workspace. The The Judd Foundation is located on Spring Street in Soho and is a great way to get a birds-eye view into the life of an artist who lived and worked in Soho for twenty-five years.

On Wednesday night, Tom and I had tickets to see Magic After Hours with Noah Levine. It’s not like I’m a huge magic enthusiast, but this show checked a lot of boxes. It was to be held at Tannen’s the oldest magic store in NYC (I love historical NYC), there would be around 10 audience members (I hate crowds), Veuve Cliquot would be served (doesn’t need an explanation), and the show would last about an hour (perfect amount of time on a weeknight). I absolutely loved it, and Noah Levine is adorable.

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Before the show, we enjoyed a delicious bowl of ramen at a new Herald Square area ramen shop. If you spend time in this midtown area, you’ll know there is a shortage of good places to eat. Next time you attend a sporting event or concert in the Garden, I highly recommend a stop at Tonchin. Just make sure you leave some wiggle room for the line. We waited about 30 minutes.

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Thursday included a visit to an “old faithful” with new eyes. Together with a few friends, I booked a spot on the Yum Yum Met Tour through In Food We Trust. Our tour guide Angelis was a treasure! He took us on a whirlwind tour through many different areas of the MET spanning thousands of years showing us how food impacts art. I highly recommend this tour for anyone; from the savviest of art fans to the least initiated – there is something for everyone. I’m still thinking about many things I learned that day, specifically the concept of tables for ladies which is beautifully rendered in Edward Hopper’s painting with the same name. This is a picture of our fabulous tour guide Angelis with your group:

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We worked up quite the appetite and were happy we booked ahead at Flora Bar located in the MET Breuer, only a few minutes walk from the MET (it’s the old Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue). It’s the perfect place to cap off a morning spent looking at priceless works of art.

It’s Saturday afternoon, and there is a whole world out there to explore! Thanks for reading.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

 

The Best Thing?

IMG_7361A good friend of mine who’s lived in NYC most of his adult life asked me what the BEST thing I’ve done since moving to the city was. I didn’t have an immediate answer. There was an awkward pause as he waited for me to speak, and then I said, “Everything.” And when I answered everything, I meant it.

Living in NYC, one can have a 24/7 feeling of FOMO. There literally is something fabulous going on all day and night, every day and night.  Keeping up with the NYC Jones’ can leave your bank account on fumes. To see more on less, I’ve recently applied for membership as a seat filler on Play-by-Play. For $100 a year you can buy a membership where you can reserve two seats for all sorts of performances for less than $10 a ticket. The only hitch is that the member must be there to pick up the tickets (and attend the show).

I’m not a live music fan. There I’ve said it. And it’s not because I don’t like music, I do. But I think I’ve boiled it down to the fact that at my age I want a seat. And a drink or two.  Friday night I was invited to a charity event at The Triad Theater. The word intimate best defines this spot. As you enter through the Turkish restaurant and walk up the tight squeeze of a staircase, you’ll find a lovely cabaret-like setting. They have some interesting upcoming shows on the calendar. I might actually return one day!

I found myself in Brooklyn Saturday night, quite literally under the Brooklyn Bridge on Water Street. The picture above is of me looking at the city from this beautiful vantage spot. I’d been here decades ago for a meal at The River Cafe  but hadn’t been back since. Wow, a lot has changed. Popping up from the subway, we passed a massive line for Juliana’s Pizza,  which thankfully was not my destination (emptynestnyc doesn’t like waiting), and we walked past several other buzzy spots before we arrived at Ignazio’s Pizza. I’ve never had a better view while eating pizza. The recommendation was from my friend Cozy who is a pizza aficionado and she’ll be doing a guest blog in the new year on where to eat the BEST pizza around the city.  Continuing on the topic of pizza, we took a large group of millennials to Speedy Romeo’s LES which had fabulous pizza, a great steak, and gulp-worthy cocktails. It’s located on Clinton Street, a very hip block on the Lower East Side with many yummy restaurant options and fun bars. It’s a few doors down from Ivan Ramen a favorite from Tokyo, and you can even make a reservation which is fascinating to me.

We went to see People, Places, and Things at St. Ann’s Warehouse  and I won’t talk about the play because it closes today, but I absolutely loved seeing a show here. It’s a modern take on a “theater in the round,” and the warehouse is totally cool. I’ll make sure to arrive early next time I see a play because I loved the vibe in the bar/lobby and you can take your drinks to your seat, which I always appreciate.

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that since it’s only been five months since I moved back to the city, I’m still finding my “people.” I scored big last weekend when I went in search of a real Italian deli. I found Faicco’s Italian Specialities , a completely authentic spot in the West Village that’s been open since the 1900’s and now I know why. It’s that real and that good. It also happens to be right next door to the absolute best cheese shop Murray’s Cheese, so this makes it a very expeditious visit.

My yummy picks this week are Tim Ho Wan a fantastic dim sum spot within walking distance of Union Square. I was hesitant to recommend this place because they don’t take reservations and at peak times (and non-peak times) there are exhaustingly long lines. I never make a plan to go there. I book somewhere nearby and then when passing if there’s a short wait, I’ll cancel my reservation elsewhere and pop in. It has a Michelin star, but I don’t think there is a dish on the menu more than $10. If you are intimated by a dim sum menu, you won’t be here. The menu is your paper placemat with pictures that you check off a list. I’ve never had anything that wasn’t delicious.

Another new favorite is Boqueria. I’ve walked by this place dozens of times as it’s around the block and in addition to being sucked in by the large prosciutto hocks hanging in the window, there is always a cool crowd with a hopping vibe. I can now confirm that the carpet matches the drapes; the food is divine.

Thanks for reading. Off to find a Christmas Tree, which should be interesting!