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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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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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.

 

 

A Refugee Camp Grows in Brooklyn

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Tom and I went to see The Jungle Friday night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo. This original play, hot off the stages of London, is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.        St. Ann’s is known for physically transforming the theater to meet the needs of each play, as well as their ability to make the audience a part of the experience. For this play, a replica of an Afghan Cafe inside an actual refugee camp in Calais, France comes to life. You’ll sit side by side with the residents of the camp, and learn about their journey from war-torn countries to the promised land of the white cliffs of Dover. It is a play that everyone, everywhere should see. But, fair warning, it is not a pretty experience, and you aren’t going to have “fun.”

Before the show we ate at Gran Electrica, a mexican restaurant with a healthy slant. Of course, we chose the most unhealthy of dishes, pork belly tacos, and they were very good. They make a nice spicy marg, and the walk to St. Ann’s is about 4 minutes long, which is ideal when it’s 20 degrees outside.

Do you like pho? I am a huge fan. I love it because it’s a big bowl of noodles, and yet it eats healthier than ramen. This past week I had lunch at Sai gon dep a new restaurant that just opened by the chef of Hanoi House. I went during the soft opening when the menu was limited, but I thoroughly enjoyed their chicken-based pho and spring rolls. I look forward to returning and trying the rest of the menu. It is the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day and might rival a bowl of chicken soup if you are suffering from a cold.

 

My youngest daughter is days away from returning to college for her second semester of sophomore year, and so we have made it a point to do as much as possible together before she leaves. We had a great afternoon wandering around the meatpacking district, shopping at Story, a retail store that “takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store.” They completely reinvent themselves from design to merchandise every four to eight weeks, highlighting new trends. I dare anyone to leave without purchasing something. We had a late lunch at Restoration Hardware in their rooftop restaurant. I’ve written about this spot before, and I said it was meh, however, if you go with a Generation Z young adult, it looks more impressive through their eyes. I took her to the new Camp on 5th avenue, because even though she’s 19, and Camp is really for humans under the age of 10, I knew she would love it. It’s hard to describe, but if you have a young child in your life, you need to go and make sure you try the edible bubbles.

We also passed by the new Starbucks Roastery Reserve, which is unlike any other Starbucks. It is on my short list to return. We found this gorgeous creature in the window as we walked by.

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Saturday night we returned to Brooklyn (yes, twice in one weekend) to meet friends for dinner at Frankies Spuntino. The last time I was there, it was a tiny hall of a restaurant with a fabulous garden. The tiny spot still exists (for walk-ins), but the reservations are now seated down the block in the old Prime Meats location. It’s a beautiful space, and the menu is the same as I remember. We enjoyed our meal, despite the significant flooding in the kitchen. They kept calm and carried on.

From there we went to “the” spot to sing karaoke in Brooklyn, The Old Carriage Inn in Park Slope. Judging by the talent in the crowd, and the wait to sing a song (2 hours) I’d say it is definitely the place to go. Just make sure you get there early if you want to sing. We stayed for a few beers and sang along with the ringers.

On Tuesday, when Annie leaves for school, our apartment will return to empty nest status…at least for a month or two – having her home this past month has been a gift.

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.

 

 

 

The Perfect Holiday Cocktail

IMG_3718I was in Napa last week for the annual Tokyo Tomodachi gift exchange. Each year, a group of friends who met in Tokyo many years ago re-enact a holiday tradition that was started by a group of expats in Tokyo circa early 2000s where great friends dress up, eat a decadent meal, drink many cocktails and fight over an expensive trinket. I look forward to this exchange every year, and it really has nothing to do with the gift. I don’t see these women often, but our connection to one another was formed in the perfect kind of petri dish – we had no extended family, we lived in a very foreign land, earthquakes were a regular occurrence, and we all shared an adventurous and curious spirit. Our time together last week was a whirlwind of fun, and the best gift I could have given myself for Christmas. We cheer each other on and give big hugs when needed. We learn from each other, and I always return home with a list of things I need to read, see, buy or eat. I think a part of the magic is that we are not in each other’s daily lives and so we never take one another for granted. We appreciate every minute together.

Okay, getting back to the title of this post… the perfect holiday cocktail (besides the mix of old friends, great food and bottles of Napa wine), it’s called a Paperplane, and I’m a huge fan. Hilary, the Napanista made it for me last week. Equal parts Bourbon, Aperol, Nonino Amaro, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Shake over ice. Many of these will be quaffed on Christmas Eve at my apartment.

Before I get to the “all things good in Napa” part of this post, I need to tell you about a new play that just opened at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Sunday. It’s called The Jungle, and the reviews are fabulous. I have tickets in January, and I can’t wait. You should go too. Also, Oklahoma (from the same St. Ann’s Warehouse) is coming to Broadway, and the tickets went on pre-sale today. The show was so fun, and I know it will be a big deal. Get tickets for this too!

Napa:

Sleeping in a home surrounded by grapevines is divine. These were the views I had with my morning coffee.

 

We had two full days in Napa and did some serious wine tasting. First up: Okapi Wines. Kim is awesome. You need to meet her and drink her wine.

 

 

Next up: Kenzo Estate a very special place for our Tokyo group. The wine is mostly distributed in Japan, so it’s hard to experience unless you visit the estate. The attention to detail in everything they do is very Japanese, right down to the etching of the names of each wine on the glasses.

 

 

Dinner that night was at Miminashi – are you sensing a Japanese theme? The food was divine – Japanese but with a twist. I loved everything, but I’ll be thinking about that macaroni salad they serve as an amuse bouche. I need the recipe. Put this place on your Napa list. The dessert is just as good as the meal so leave room.

On the second day, our crew became a peloton (I recently learned the definition, and I’m excited to use it in my first sentence) on our rented ebikes. We started in Napa and powered our way to Yountville along the highway next to the train tracks – the views were breathtaking, but we were going so fast it would have been dangerous to take pictures. Thankfully this ride took place BEFORE the wine.

 

 

Lunch was at the new Restoration Hardware restaurant in Yountville. I’ve been to the one in NYC, and I thought it was nice. The one in Yountville will blow you away. The food is better, and the experience is more authentic. I also learned that antique wheat threshers can be art. Now I want one.

 

We dropped off the bikes and ubered to Robert Sinskey Vineyards where there was a table waiting for us in a cave surrounded by library wines, and more food. Somehow we powered through it. Their wine tasting pamphlet “Gluttons Only” was aptly named.

 

Guess what was next? More wine! Our last stop was at The Prisoner Wine Company, which gets a lot of play on Instagram and is very popular with millennials. I was sort of obsessed with their sexy rose and shipped some home. The question will be whether I wait until summer returns to drink it – not likely.

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Our final meal together that night was at Angele in Napa in a small private room. We dressed up…heels, fur, jewels, the works and kicked off the night with the giving of omiyage. The Japanese love bringing small gifts to friends when traveling and we do the same when we see each other.

 

The evening ended back at Hilary’s house where gifts were exchanged and fought over, all in good fun, of course.

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.