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.

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

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Believe The Hype

Okay, I take that back. Don’t always believe the hype. Some things of course hold up, like the beautiful landscapes of the south fork of Long Island (see above), or the satisfaction of making salted watermelon juice fresh from the farm stand (see below). IMG_0936

But, this weekend, thanks to Resy Select, I was able to score two reservations to restaurants I’ve been trying to get into for months; Don Angie and Frenchette. Regarding hype, Don Angie hits the mark. However, I found it a challenge to dine at Don Angie with only two people, as I wanted to order everything on the menu. We started with the stuffed garlic flatbread, which was exceptional, as well as the cantaloupe, prosciutto, mint, tamarind, hazelnut, and feta cheese salad. It was summer on a plate; a recipe I will steal and make at home. For the main course, we shared the garganelli with broken meatball ragu (OMG) and the charred shell steak with preserved lemons, and a side of eggplant with pine nut brittle. Nothing on the dessert list tempted us, so we saved our calories for Twizzlers at the movies. The only thing we found a bit odd, was that there were several open tables. Knowing how hard it is to get a reservation, I couldn’t figure out how they were managing the room. Maybe they save tables for walk-ins? If so, I highly suggest you do that.

On the other hand, I know my experience at Frenchette is going against everything I’ve read, but I thought it was just okay, and expensive. The room had a great buzz, and unlike Don Angie was packed, with tables turning constantly. My first issue is that their wine list consists only of petnat wines, which are very trendy right now. I tried to like them, I really did. But I’m not a fan of wines with a tingly mouthfeel. When I drink champagne, I like bubbles. But when I drink wine, I don’t want anything buzzing on my tongue. We had several of the menu highlights, like the raw oysters served with sausages, the brouillade (softly scrambled eggs with escargot), and the duck frite. I think I would have enjoyed the brouillade more at brunch with toast. Speaking of toast, I was disapointed by their bread as well. The duck was overcooked and lacked taste. We also ordered the bistro cut steak and the clafoutis with cherries for dessert. The steak and frite were good, the dessert, not so much.

The highlight of the weekend was knocking off another item on my Summer To Do List – Coney Island. The weather was perfect – 75 degrees, overcast, and breezy. We took the Q train to the last stop and found ourselves in crazy town.

We had a blast riding go-karts, eating Nathan’s hotdogs, White Castle hamburgers, soft serve and Italian ices. The boardwalk is one of the best places for people watching. Grab a bench, and get a front row seat to a fascinating world.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

 

Happy Marriage: Free Advice

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On Saturday night, my niece Spencer got married at The Liberty Warehouse, the most spectacular location for a wedding on a beautiful summer night.

At this time in my life, weddings are a time for reflection on my marriage, as well as on the overall idea of marriage as I look to the future for my adult children. Marrying Tom was the single best thing I’ve ever done, and yet a happy marriage is a hard mission to accomplish. Saying “I Do” for the rest of your life is no easy task, especially today when we have the attention span of goldfish.

Spencer asked me to be a part of her ceremony. She wanted me to give her and her future husband advice for a happy marriage. I’m sure she thought that as a writer, and someone who was happily married, it would be an easy task, and to be honest, I thought it would be too. I usually have no problem sitting in front of an empty screen and banging out 1000 words. But, it was one of the more difficult pieces I’ve ever had to write.

  1. This wasn’t something I was writing inside a card. It was to be read in front of hundreds of people.
  2. I had to be brief – I limited myself to 90 seconds.
  3. It had to ring true and be “doable.”
  4. I wanted it to be about the bride and groom, and not me and Tom.
  5. Was I jinxing my marriage by daring to give others advice?

I started with an excerpt from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin to set the overall theme of the message.

Love is a temporary madness,
it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness,
it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being “in love” which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two.

And then came my advice:

Laughter is your secret weapon. If you can laugh together, you can get through anything.

A successful marriage involves conscious effort. Don’t expect challenges to clear up on their own. And when all else fails, rock, paper, scissors is a good alternative.

Embrace change. I’ve had at least three marriages, all to the same person. Humans are works in progress. A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.

I think it went well.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

One Perfect Day

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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.

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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.

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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.

It’s My EmptyNestiversary!

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The anniversary art Tom and I bought for each other this month. It’s a significant change from the Asian-focused art we usually buy. We think it perfectly illustrates the new chapter in our lives.

It’s hard to fathom that it’s been a year since we became empty nesters, and moved back into the city. In some ways, it feels like we’ve lived here forever, and yet I still pinch myself knowing I get to call NYC my home. I’ve learned more in the past twelve months about myself than I learned in the five years prior. And that is because I grow the most when I’m in a changing environment. When things are unknown, when my curiosity is at its peak, I expand and stretch. Since I started this blog, I’ve written about finding new friends, adapting to a new set of family parameters (aka squeezing six large people into a two bedroom at Christmas), looking for meaningful work, running errands without looking like a bag lady, and other assorted empty nester challenges. I’ve learned a lot since last July…

  1. Love is actually all around. No day goes by that I don’t see people hugging and kissing.
  2. Comfortable, cute shoes are a must. If you find a pair you love, buy three.
  3. July 4th is the best traffic-free day. You can drive from downtown and make every light.
  4. Bicycles are more dangerous than cars. Look both ways, then look again.
  5. Focus on the sidewalk when walking – there is dog poop everywhere.
  6. When it rains, $5 umbrellas magically appear on every corner.
  7. Everyone walks and texts.
  8. In winter, don’t leave the apartment without gloves and a hat.
  9. It’s impossible to keep up with every new restaurant and bar that opens in NYC, but there are some incredible ways to try: The Infatuation Eater Time Out NY Times
  10. There is nothing you can’t get in NYC (and usually at any time).

This weeks new restaurant recommendation: Yakitori Nonono loved everything! Make a reservation because it’s new and popular. Would be an excellent place for a group. Perfect sharing menu.

Can’t wait to see what year two brings!

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.

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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.

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

Have fun. Be bold.

 

My Summer To Do List

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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.