Summer Statistics

Nantucket Lighthouse
Photo Cred: Libhop

It’s not the end of summer; it’s the beginning of fall.

I haven’t written in a few weeks, because on top of travel, this is my BUSY season, as my “real” job is helping high school seniors with their college application essays. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t squeeze in some serious summer emptynestering.

Tom and I shuttled up to Boston for a welcome home party in Hingham. Friends of ours from Tokyo had just returned home from a seven month around the world trip with their two teenage boys (yes, I said teenage boys) and I was so excited to hear all about the journey. Maria will be a guest on my blog this fall talking about the experience. I especially liked the fact that there was some serious macrame pool cover-up action at the party.

The following week we spent two nights in Philly moving our daughter back to college. The more time I spend in Philly, the more time I like it. It has an edge that second cities don’t often have, and a long list of varying neighborhoods. Not to mention it is a food lovers city. The first night we ate at Vedge. The website calls it “a vegetable restaurant” and it exceeded expectations. The food is both delicious and gorgeous. And it has a great vibe at the bar too.

The second night, we returned to one of our favorites, Zahav a modern Israeli restaurant that never disappoints. Pita and hummus for days…They take reservations 60 days in advance, and you’ll need to do that if you want to eat here.IMG_3425

The next day we scoured the thrift shops in search of just the right eclectic touch for Annie’s new room. We had a lot to choose from at The Strange and Unusual.

Despite the selection of stuffed game, they had a nice array of antique mirrors, which was on our list. I fell in love with the neighborhood. Next time I’m back, I’m going to canvas it some more. We stopped for a small bite at The Famous 4th Street Delicatessen. When the check comes, it arrives with a bag of warm homemade chocolate chip cookies.

IMG_2659

And then finally, we celebrated the end of summer in Nantucket with a Tokyo friends reunion where we played games, told stories, swam in the ocean, rode the bull, watched for shooting stars, and genuinely enjoyed being together.

A few of my favorite finds this summer:

Silver Mirror Facial Bar  – my new go to spot for my favorite dermaplaning treatment! Right now it’s on the UES, but they are opening a new location in Flatiron – yeah!

Stretch’d  OMG. This place is on my block! I go once a week for the quickie, and walk out an inch taller, and able to twist my neck all the way to my shoulders. They also sell great products with CBD oil!

It’s hard to believe that summer is really over when you are sweating bullets on the subway in 91-degree weather, but sweater weather will be here soon, and in my opinion, there is no better season in NYC. I think I’m going to make my Fall To Do list right now.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

I’m blaming everything on menopause. It’s just easier that way.

I was the one who thought I’d never go through menopause. Of course, I knew I would one day stop ovulating, but I had a feeling all those ugly symptoms my friends would bemoan about were not going to affect me. Every time a girlfriend would grab paper within her reach and create a makeshift fan, inside I shook my head and said: “that’s never happening to me.” Why I thought this was true, I have no idea. I just did.

Have you heard the saying “when man plans, God laughs?” Here’s a variation on the theme, “When middle-aged women plan, Mother Nature laughs.” And right now she’s bent over holding her sides guffawing. All of a sudden, and I mean all of a sudden, I no longer have a waist or an internal thermometer, my teenage acne has returned, I’m disoriented on occasion, and all I want to do is drink wine. I blame in all on menopause.

But here’s the exciting part; I don’t care. On some level, of course I’m not happy that my pants are tight, or I spend the night kicking off covers, and my doctors cringe when I tell them how much and how often I drink rose, but I’m letting some of the worrying go. And that says a lot because one of the best things I do is worry.

One thing that hasn’t changed is my energy, and Tom and I have been busy! We spent a fabulous 48 hours in Quoque, which if you didn’t know Quogue Is Not The Fucking Hamptons It’s our annual pilgrimage to our friends from Tokyo who now live on the West Coast. One of the highlights was a sea to table meal on the beach. IMG_1361

And seeing this a few feet from land.

IMG_1357

Making the rounds of seaside spots, we spent one night on Hen Island a magical place off the coast of Westchester that no one knows exists. My brother and sister-in-law have a family hideout where you spend most of your time bobbing in the bay, watching the sunset and digging for clams. It’s a complete off the grid opportunity – no running water or electricity – rustic and remote.

IMG_1409 2

We returned home, showered, and had a night in our bed before taking off on the next adventure, item #10 on my Summer To Do List – Glamping on Governor’s Island at Collective Retreats. The forecast improved over the course of the day, and we took the 1pm ferry to the island. Waiting for us in the ferry terminal on the city side was a rep from the company that checked us in and gave us braided bracelets that showed that we were guests of the retreat. Five minutes later, we were on the relatively empty island and were so excited to have Island Oyster mostly to ourselves. We’d been before on a weekend, and it was a madhouse. IMG_1426

We took our time and had a delicious lunch with lots of cold beverages. Walking over to the Collective Retreat area of the island (it’s a long walk, and there is no other way to get there than by walking – bring a wheelie bag), the weather looked like it was about to take a turn for the nasty. IMG_1435

But we were optimistic because it looked like this on the island.

We found our cabin and were so excited to settle in for an afternoon nap and some reading. Within 15 minutes, this happened.

We were evacuated, along with everyone on the island. They refunded our money, and we’re going to try again next summer. On another note, an Italian resort company known for restoring old buildings and making them into cool resorts just bought a huge piece of the island and will be opening in 2020 as a resort spa. I can’t imagine a better view from the pool. It’s on my Summer 2020 To Do List.

I started lifting weights recently – gasp…Tom has been begging me every other day for a year, and I finally said yes. I’ve been eight times, and I don’t hate it. But sometimes it leaves me a little stiff, and the other day I saw a great ad in a cab for a new spot called Strech’d. It’s a place you go where someone stretches you out. I went for the quickie session (25 minutes), and I came out feeling like I could twist and turn and bend much better than when I went in. It’s about half the price of a massage, and you leave without feeling like a greased watermelon. I bought a packet of five, and I’m looking forward to my next visit.

I have a friend that I’ve known for a long time, but we haven’t spent a lot of time together. But whenever we get together, we have a plan and a destination, and it’s always enlightening. This past Wednesday it was a guided tour of the UN. The last time I was at the UN I was in 3rd grade. Our tour guide, a beautiful journalist from Brazil that speaks three languages fluently and was very well versed in all things UN said they never get visitors from NY – everyone is always from somewhere else. The one hour tour costs $20 and is extremely interesting. I highly recommend it! Here I am pretending to be a delegate.

IMG_1506

I’m writing this blog from the Kimpton Hotel in Charlotte, NC. Tom and I are here to celebrate the 50th birthday of a very good friend who is one of the strongest women I know. It’s a priviledge to be here to celebrate another year of Rachel.

IMG_1529

Charlotte is a pretty happening city. Our hotel is a short walk from the Panther’s stadium (we had tickets to see them play the Dolphins last night, but my handbag was too big, so they turned us away), but fortunately, our hotel has a hopping rooftop bar with awesome views.

We’ve been enjoying the Southern Hospitality and the southern sized portions!

Sweet potato pancakes, a pimento cheese omelet and fried green tomatoes with faro, kale, and cauliflower.

Looking forward to the celebration tonight!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Hot Sweaty Mess

Summer in the city is comprised of many short jaunts from one air conditioned venue to another, intermingled with cold showers. It hasn’t stopped me from getting out, and doing interesting and delicious things, but I have to admit my steps are down and my Arro, Uber, and Lyft payments are way up. I tell myself the fall is coming, and this too shall pass, but until then I”m going to keep eating Kakegori (photo below) and drinking very cold rose (I have been to the Rose Mansion twice this summer.)

IMG_1234

I’ll admit that I’ve thumbed my nose at vegans. I’m an “everything in moderation” girl, and that applies to food as well. But my sister (a vegan) recently made a reservation at Avant Garden and if this is vegan, I’m a convert. It was honestly one of the best meals I’ve had this year. I have no idea how they do it. It’s magic. You don’t miss anything!

IMG_1226

One of the best things about living in Flatiron is the farmer’s market that comes to Union Square four times a week (M,W,F,S). I try to buy things just at their peak and then do something with them. Below was my take on an apricot tart. It was gone by the following day.

IMG_1250

Friends from Tokyo who now live in Australia who this past spring won a Tony for Once on This Island, have invested in a new show and Tom and I went to see it on Broadway. It is a very fun night! I recommend it for all ages (well, maybe late teens as there is a song called “I Slept With Your Mom”).

IMG_1240

Lucky us, we snagged a table at Danny Meyer’s newest hotspot, Manhatta. It’s way downtown in FiDi (rhymes with RyeGuy) on the 60th floor and from the moment we walked in I felt like I was at the reincarnation of Windows on the World (in it’s heyday). The views are unparalleled and every table has one. The big difference being the service, which is extremely friendly and not stuffy or formal. The $75 prix fix (service included)    3 course meal is a bargain considering there is lobster, steak and soufflé to choose from.  This is the perfect place to go to celebrate something big.

IMG_1284

It’s college application season, which means I’m working, a lot. Somehow teenagers all seem to send their essays at the exact same time even though I’ve been sending reminder emails for days. I was happy to be invited back this week to the  Anything Goes With Kim Berns radio show. You can listen to the link (August 2nd) if you have a student who is applying to college this fall – I give good tips! And if you are interested in having me help out, you can reach me on my website: ExpatEssay. (You don’t need to be an expat to use my services.)

IMG_1259-1

And lastly, the week ended with a 21st celebration for my daughter Sophie up on our roof with 50 of her closest friends. We served tacos from Otto’s Tacos and lots of margaritas and Tecate. Oh what a night!

IMG_1295

Shall We Play A Game?

I married into a family of game players. Many of my best summer memories were spent around the dining room table at “The Hideout” in Plum Beach, Rhode Island playing Tripoli and Contact Rummy with my in-laws. The games would go on into the early hours and would be discussed at the breakfast table the next day over custom designed pancakes. For me, summer weekends and games go together like lobsters and drawn butter; you would never consider one without the other.

However, it’s 2018, and the games have changed. Maybe it’s because 50 is the new 35, but many of our weekend games are more physical than those of yesteryear. Yes, we still play cards (although now, it’s strictly Hearts), and there is always a few rounds of Spoons, but all the hours everyone spends at the gym (I don’t include myself here) now pay off in spades. Our current favorite is the Bag game. I first played the game in Mexico when it was introduced by one of my best friends who lives in Chicago. The concept is simple:

1. Place a paper shopping bag on the floor.

2. The first player picks it up with their mouth (without using anything but their mouth – no hands on the floor (see above pics) and then rips a piece off the bag.

3. Continue with each player, biting and ripping, until the bag is the size of an index card. Anyone who falls or touches the floor is out.

4. You can end the game early if you are willing to eat the paper after picking it up. Yes, this has been done in the past (I’m talking about you Gina).

I promise lots of laughs, great photos, and a full pulled hamstrings.

August 1 is two days away, and I wanted to update you on my Summer To Do List.  I’m proud to say that I’m halfway there!

  1. Get tickets for Shakespeare in the Park and get them the old-fashioned way by arriving with a cup of coffee and waiting in line at 7:45 in the morning.
  2. Go to Tipsy Scoop and eat ice cream infused with alcohol. 
  3. Read Convenience Store Woman because the subject completely fascinates me. 
  4. Eat at the Queens Night Market on a Saturday night.
  5. Swing and drink rose with girlfriends at The Rose Mansion.
  6. Take the Ferry to the new Domino Park and have a picnic and run through the fountains.
  7. Go to The Little One and eat kakegori (Japanese shaved ice). 
  8. Much to Tom’s dismay, go hang out on the boardwalk at Coney Island.
  9. Walk across The Brooklyn Bridge (I admit, I’ve NEVER done it).
  10. Spend a night glamping on Governor’s Island Collective Resorts.

I have to admit that not everything has been awesome (you can skip number 7) It looks much better than it tastes.

IMG_1044

I highly recommend number 5. Drinking rose while taking fun pictures with girlfriends is as fun as it sounds.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

 

 

One Perfect Day

IMG_0621

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.

IMG_0617

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.

IMG_0619

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.

Cake and Ice Cream

IMG_0361It was my 53rd birthday last week, and more than any birthday in the past 25 years, I feel uncertain of what the future holds. It’s been exactly one year since we moved into the city as empty nesters and what an incredible year it’s been. But I can’t help thinking; what’s next? I spent the last few months trying to gain meaningful employment as well as find an agent for my middle-grade book. Both to no avail. I have re-learned how rejection feels, and it’s not great. However, I realize that no one is going to come and find me in my apartment. So if accomplishing my goals means additional rejection, then I’m sure there is more of that to come this year. The good thing is that I have so many friends in the same situation; looking for answers to what they want to do now that their kids are grown, and that helps.

As I said, it was my birthday, and there were lots of opportunities for celebration. A fun dinner at Eleven Madison Park (EMP) Summer House with old friends included cocktails on swings, and make your own sundaes (pictured above). IMG_0353

We used to have a home in Amagansett, and the town still holds a special place in my heart. But last weekend, I noticed that two of my favorite spots (the old Amagansett Market and Mary’s Marvelous) have been replaced with expensive gluten-free vegan health food. Sad!

On my actual birthday, Tom took the day off from work, and we had a lazy romantic lunch at Le Coucou my favorite restaurant in the city. We sipped pink champagne, and there was zero concern for calories.

Lunch was followed several hours later with a family dinner at Palma.

I’ve passed by this sweet little Italian restaurant many times while wandering in the West Village and it’s always packed. I booked a table in the back garden, and it was a perfect evening. Everything we ordered (and we ordered a lot) was wonderful. It would be an excellent place for a romantic date night.

Tuesday, Marybeth treated me to a great birthday by visiting The Met Cloisters to see the second part of the Costume Institute’s Heavenly Bodies. It was the perfect summer day, 75 degrees with no humidity. We couldn’t have timed it better!

Wednesday I scheduled a 90-minute birthday massage. My therapist came recommended, and when I arrived, I found out that he was visually impaired. This is something I was used to in Asia, as many of the best massage therapists are blind. And the first 45 minutes of the massage was great. And then he fell asleep. Yes, he did. I kept trying to wake him up by coughing or sniffing, and sometimes someone in the hall would drop something, and he would come back to life. It was a very odd 45-minute finish.

One of the best things about living in the city is that we get to see our Tokyo friends who are now scattered to various latitudes and longitudes around the globe. At some point, everyone makes their way to NYC. We met up with good friends who now live in Australia on the roof of Eataly at Serra by Birreria, which looks better than it eats. The bar is jammed after work with millennials drinking frose and aperol spritzes, and the food is just ok. But if you want to feel like you’ve been instantly transported to a terraced garden, it’s a good spot.

Friday night, I got an early reservation at Davelle a tiny Japanese restaurant on the Lower East Side that just received a great write up in the NY Times, and a high rating on The Infatuation. It has three small tables and a few seats at the bar, and that’s it. There was a line outside, and almost every seat was filled with Asians including a friend of our son’s from the American School in Japan. Having lived in Japan for many years, I am familiar with Oden, a main dish on the menu at Davelle, because it’s what they sell at every 7-11 counter in Japan. Small bowls of dashi broth with various ingredients like daikon radish, fried tofu, vegetables, etc… We ordered an assortment, as well as the best potato salad, and a delicious Japanese curry rice with shabu-shabu beef on top, and a crave-worthy spicy cod caviar spaghetti dish. Tom and I enjoyed the meal, but I wouldn’t suggest the place to the uninitiated. You need to really enjoy Japanese food to appreciate Davelle. It’s that authentic.

IMG_0493

6 pm dinner reservations scream for after dinner cocktails. We walked down Delancy to Sel Rrose one of our favorite cocktail bars (they also have the best truffle fries). The cocktails are divine, the bartenders are model-gorgeous, and it’s just a really fun place to people watch.

Late night, there was pie. And not just any pie – the best pie in NYC at Petee’s Pie . If you haven’t been, go – they are open until 1 am!!! Tom and I shared the strawberry rhubarb and bought a coconut custard to bring to friends tomorrow.

IMG_0506

Off to sweat it out at the Yankee/Red Sox game!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

My Summer To Do List

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 3.21.19 PM

When my daughter was going into junior year, I found a handwritten list in colored magic markers in her bedroom that said “Summer To Do List.” Of course, I swiped it and put it in my box of treasures for safe keeping, but I remember it had some really adorable things on it, like going to an outdoor concert, getting a tan, and having a summer fling. I think about that list every year right about now.

In fact, it was the inspiration for my own

SUMMETDLIST

1. Get tickets for Shakespeare in the Park  and get them the old-fashioned way by arriving with a cup of coffee and waiting in line at 7:45 in the morning.

2. Go to Tipsy Scoop and eat ice cream infused with alcohol. 

3. Read Conveniece Store Woman because the subject completely fascinates me. 

4. Eat at the Queens Night Market on a Saturday night.

5. Swing and drink rose with girlfriends at The Rose Mansion

6. Take the Ferry to the new Domino Park  and have a picnic and run through the fountains.

7. Go to The Little One and eat kakegori (Japanese shaved ice). 

8. Much to Tom’s dismay, go hang out on the boardwalk at Coney Island.

9. Walk across the The Brooklyn Bridge  (I admit, I’ve NEVER done it).

10. Spend a night glamping on Governor’s Island Collective Resorts.

Like my daughter’s Summer To Do List, I know there are some items I just won’t cross off this summer, but it’s nice to have goals, and it’s so fun when you accomplish them!

Happy first day of summer!

Have fun. Be bold. Wear Sunscreen.