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Archive for the ‘FAMILY & FRIENDS’ Category

Dining out is always delightful and last Friday it was also DELICIOUS!  What a fantastic evening we had. To begin with we were the guests of our friends, Sandy and Rosemarie.  They have been regular customers at O YA in Boston, a restaurant that has garnered high praise for its excellence and accolades for the chef, Tim Cushman, who won the James Beard Best Chef in the Northeast award in 2012.  Frank Bruni  named O YA the #1 new restaurant in the United States in 2008 and that was just the beginning.  I could go on and on with a very long list of prestigious honors, but trust me it is long.  However, I want to mention that O YA in Boston earned the Top Food rating of 29 in Zagat Boston in 2011/2012 and Boston Magazine designated O YA as the #1 restaurant in Boston.

Nancy and Tim Cushman

                                            Nancy and Tim Cushman

Friday was one of the three nights of the soft opening and sneak peek of O YA New York.  We were treated like royalty (it helps to be the guests of VIP customers).  The tastings just kept coming and coming along with a bottomless glass of the finest Sake I’ve ever had!  Nancy Cushman, wife of Tim and co-owner of the restaurant personally served us the exquisite Nanbu Bijin “Shinpaku” Saké, Junmai Daiginjo, a dry and not so sweet Japanese delight.  I took this very accurate  description of this Sake from Southern Beauty, the Nanbu Bijin Sake Brewery: ” Made from 100% Yamadanishiki sake rice from Hyogo prefecture. Yamadanishiki is a very popular sake rice used in the production of especially aromatic Daiginjo sakes. This sake has beautiful aromas of fresh peach or strawberry with very mild rice aromas like soft marshmallows. Most of Yamadanishiki Daiginjo sake is pricey, but Nanbu Bijin Shinpaku is very reasonable. You can enjoy as an aperitif or also with main courses.”

Shinparka

                                                                Shinparka

One delicious delicacy after another was brought to the table, each one artfully presented as only the Japanese can do, and this team of sushi chefs does it exquisitely.  At one point I walked over to the Sushi Bar to observe the magic – I was referring to their expertise.

As in most cases, a picture is worth a thousand words…. I tried valiantly to scribble down the erudite description of each dish brought to us, as our extremely efficient and knowledgeable server described each menu item.  It proved more difficult than I thought;  It was noisy in the restaurant and the ever-flowing sake may have impaired my hearing just a bit.

Fried Kumamoto Oyster, Yuzu Kosho Aioli, Squid Ink Foam

                                  Fried Kumamoto Oyster, Yuzu Kosho Aioli, Squid Ink Foam

Warm Eel, Thai Basil, Kabayaki, Fresh Kyoto Sansho

                                Warm Eel, Thai Basil, Kabayaki, Fresh Kyoto Sansho

Kumamoto Oyster

                         Kumamoto Oyster Watermelon Pearls, Cucumber Mignonette

Kobe Beef

                                                              Japanese Weygu Beef

Avocado Tartare

                                                                  Avocado Tartare

Sea Trout Sushi

                                                                    Sea Trout Sushi

Raw Vegan Daikon Radish Dumplings

                                                 Raw Vegan Daikon Radish Dumplings

Fatty Tuna Sushi

                                                                      Fatty Tuna Sushi

Mosaic Edible Art Dessert

                                                       Edible Art Dessert

The crowning finish to our meal was a mosaic dessert which I believe to be a lemon-aloe granita with julienne dragon fruit, kiwi slice and small bits of Hakuto jelly (maybe!). It was true culinary art!

Thank you, thank you, thank you Sandy and Rosemarie for this wonderful dining experience!  We are so sorry we had to dash off to catch a train. Truly felt awful leaving you at the curb 😦

Sandy Levine

                                                     Sandy Levine

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I know it’s really getting out of hand this week!!  I’ve been receiving, reveling in and sharing videos of my grand kids who seem to have a groovy dancing gene.  My daughter sent me this one of Finley doing her own version of what may become the Clark family song;  By that I mean, she tosses in a few great gymnastic moves and stays with the beat and rhythm the whole time.  That gets a little tricky here and there because she is upstaged by little Fletcher who wants only to dance like his sister.

Turns out Fletcher is a real scene stealer so as the camera follows him around the room, Finley quickly moves to stay in the lime light.  I love her sense of stage performance!!  The music makes you want to just get up, shake your shoulders and swivel those hips.  Chiara has always danced around with her girls but somehow these latest moves look suspiciously like an MJ knock-off.  When Uncle Justin visits I’m pretty sure he gives the girls private lessons on how to moon walk

So here is Finley Ray and Fletcher performing to the beat of Michael Jackson’s SMOOTH CRIMINAL.

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I had a friend in need and I am a friend indeed.  About a week ago, a friend of mine asked me to help her out because she was going on vacation to the Bahamas and needed someone to straighten up her apartment and give the keys to some women she was letting use her place.  When she mentioned what day she would need me, I realized it would be my birthday, but I didn’t tell her because she would be upset that she asked me and then have to scramble to find someone else.  I mean really how hard could this be?  Clean up the apartment a bit, make sure the sheets were clean and meet them with the keys about 6:00pm.

KEYS

                  KEYS

I figured I could do the work in the morning, then go to the office and be back in time to let them in. WRONG!  She had left her keys with my doorman a few days earlier.  When I opened up the bag, I saw a LOT of keys, unmarked of course –  Not a good sign.  And then the phone calls and texts began… There was a set of keys with an orange tag and those keys were for some office space in another borough, possibly someone might come and pick them up, possibly… And by the way, if it hasn’t rained lately would I please water the plants in her garden?  Oh sure.

On the morning of my birthday, I woke up in a bad mood, didn’t open any of my cards or the two presents that were there. NOT a good start to the day. I went to my friend’s apartment and after trying each of the 15 keys in the bag, I finally got in.  Once I was in the hallway and in front of her door, the dog across the hall started to bark and bark and bark and bark.  It sounded like a  very upset German Shepherd!

I’m in the apartment and putting away some clean dishes, mugs and silverware left in the dishwasher and there was something wrong with the silverware drawer – there really wasn’t one.  Apparently, the forks and spoons went in one drawer, the knives in another and the utensils were in big jars.  The drawers seemed jumbled so my OCD kicked in and I straightened them out.  Since I know how I am about putting things in their appropriate place, I felt the the strong need to do the same in her apartment.  That required a couple more calls; like where does the small glass bowl go and oh by the way, did she know there were only four bath towels in the closet?  “NO” she did not!  So could I call the laundromat and have them pick up and deliver the dirty towels in the hamper?  Well at least she didn’t ask me to do the washing myself!

I had asked Peter to come with me and maybe between the two of us we could whip this place up in no time.  So you (Peter) do the watering and I’ll make the bed.  Oh for God’s sake, he couldn’t find the hose.  So like a jerk I call her instead of looking around myself and when she tells me where it is, I point it out to you know who and of course if it had teeth it would have bitten him in the ass.  Then I’m hearing that he didn’t know gardening was part of this favor and he’s wearing white suede shoes.  So?  So don’t get them wet!!!  Believe it or not, he couldn’t figure out how to turn the hose off – I’m not kidding at which point I screamed, “please go home and leave me alone”.

Finally we’re done and I’d come back before the women arrive to receive the laundry and then open the door for them. I left all the keys in the apartment except for two on a little ring.  Peter was to pick out two of the loose keys and match them to the ones left in the bowl on the table by my friend; Those were the two keys that would open the main door and the apartment door. 

Who Put The Wrong Keys On The Ring?

Who Put The Wrong Keys On The Ring?

I went back to my own apartment, it was gray and chilly out, not too propitious for a birthday.  I wasn’t in the best of mood so I decided to just stay home, do the laundry and iron the last of the summer clothes.  So far the best part of this day was getting a free Venti Americano from Starbucks because it was my birthday!

I went back about 5:30pm thinking I would give myself enough time to get the laundry delivery, put the towels in the closet and wait for the guests. I couldn’t get into the building! Neither of the keys fit – damnation.  I ring several buzzers and finally someone lets me in after I tell them who I am and where I’m going.  As soon as I get to her door, the monster dog across the hall starts barking and barking and barking.  The keys won’t open her door either.  I can’t f_____g believe it and call Peter up screaming about the wrong keys being on the ring.  He feigns no knowledge of such a mistake so I hang up on him.  I frantically call my friend and try to have a conversation with her while the maniacal dog across the hall continues to bark at the door.  We discuss a locksmith and then she says, try a credit card.  Of course I don’t have one with me.  Just then Peter shows up and luckily he had an old card we could use.  After 20 minutes of dog barking and trying, he actually gets the door lock to slip and we’re in!  Thank God!  I send him home and sit down to wait for the laundry and the guests.

My cell phone rang, it was my daughter grand kids all singing Happy Birthday to me!  Of course they’re on cell phone  speaker so it’s hard to hear with all the background noise but I was thrilled to hear from them.  Just as I am talking to my daughter, my cell phone is beeping in with call #2 and it is my friend.  I hang up with the kids saying I will be home in 30 minutes or so and let’s do FaceTime.  I don’t even remember why she called!!

It’s now about 6:45pm and no one has arrived. My phone rings and it’s my son calling from California to wish me Happy Birthday.  Since he asked I start to tell him some of my so far shitty day and the door buzzer rings.  I ask him to hold on.  I open the apt. door to go to the front door and realize it will lock behind me so I stick my Kindle in the door frame.  I’m back on the phone and my cell phone beeps again and I see it is my friend so “…can I call you back Joel”? No of course not, he has a photo shoot and a rehearsal and even later tonight will not be late enough for him so I suggest the weekend and hang up.  It’s my friend wondering if I got in and did the laundry arrive? YES! And can I leave a set of keys with my doorman for another friend to pick up just in case someone needs to get in while she is away because I am going away next week?  YES I will do that. 

At 7:30 there are still no guests.  At 7:45pm I call my friend and beseech her to find out just where the hell these women are!  Apparently their train was delayed an hour and a half – so why didn’t they call????  By 8:15 they have arrived, exhausted from their 8 hour train trip and I have a fixed smile on my face while I show them around and give them keys and suggest they go to the diner for dinner.  Maybe I’ll even see them there since I’m still in jeans and a tee shirt and it’s my birthday and I’m sure not cooking!

I call Peter once I’m outside and tell him to join me because I’m not coming home – I want to eat something.  As we round the corner heading to the diner, I see Arturo’s, a very nice neighborhood Italian restaurant and once inside with a glass of wine I am finally enjoying some of this birthday.  AMEN.

It never ends sometimes and Mercury is in full retrograde.  The next day I left the keys in an envelope addressed to Jennifer per instructions and a messenger was to pick them up.  Then she ( my soon-to-be-ex-friend) texts me some message I really don’t understand so I text back an inane reply.  The house phone rings and it’s our doorman saying there is a man here to pick up an envelope for Fay.  WHO? Oh geez!  I tell him to have the messenger wait and I will be right down.  Apparently the text was to let me know that the keys were going to someone else BUT the messenger was supposed to know that the envelope was addressed to Jennifer BUT of course the doorman was clueless and he wasn’t going to give the envelope over.  I straightened all of that out and the keys left – Thank God!

Once I got to the office I felt better, that is until I tried to print something!!!!

'Our printer cartridge cost are through the rood. Have someone in IT wirelessly connect all of our printers to a mimeograph machine.'

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Every now and then I like to organize a MMT – A Magical Mystery Tour with my husband and sometimes with friends too.  Last week I surprised Peter and our two friends, Rosemarie and Murray with an early morning adventure outside of the City.  We left a 8:00AM, with my husband repeating dire warnings about rush hour traffic.  I told him we were headed across the George Washington Bridge and that’s when they knew we were leaving the island ( you know New Yorker’s).

There was lots of guessing along the way and as the signs for the Delaware Water Gap grew more frequent, everyone was really wondering just how far were we going?  It took us about an hour and a half and we were in Columbia, NJ.  Our directions took us up a steep hill and into some very rural woodsy area – we arrived at the Lakata Wolf Preserve. 

Timber Wolves

Timber Wolves

We were fortunate that the day was chilly and was drizzling on and off because there were only 8 of us scheduled for the morning tour and that made it like our very own private experience.  We were shuttled up into the huge preserve area where 4 packs of wolves reside, each in their own 10 acre compound. 

Jim, who runs the preserve with his wife Becky, was our guide.  He told us SO MANY interesting details about the wolves both in general as a species but also with anecdotes about many of his “kids”.  The wolves there have all been raised in captivity and believe it or not, they come running as he calls out their names.  Of course that fact that they know he has dog treats on him doesn’t hurt because wolves can scent for 2 miles!  The wolves are beautiful; There are Timber Wolves, Arctic Wolves and British Colombian Black Wolves.  Their luminous yellow eyes capture your attention as they study you while you’re admiring them.  The Arctic Wolves have beautiful white coats (although better not to be seen my dear) and are the least social of the packs.  They kept their distance for the most part only coming to the fence for a treat.

And they howl!! Peter and Murray attempted a wolf howl to see if any of the packs would respond but they weren’t fooled.  Jim gave out one long howl and one by one each pack began to howl.  That was AMAZING to hear!  Wolves do not howl at the moon – they do point their noses up in the air so that their howl will travel further and louder.  Howling is used for many different reasons and in different voices.  If you were a wolf you’d know whether or not the howl was meant to signal you to come and join me or if it was meant to scare you off and make the pack sound like there were more of them than you thought or should attempt to take on!

Wolf packs are structured with an Alpha male and a Beta male and as with most animal species it is the most fit that survive.  The alpha male always eats first and wolves will eat all they can at any time because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from;  hence they are on the move all the time looking for game.  These wolves are well-fed mostly with deer meat.  Jim tosses in big chunks of frozen deer meat for each one of the wolves.  By having it frozen when it lands in their den area, the alpha will take his and by the time he makes any headway into it, the others have had a chance to grab their portion and each retreats to their own corner to chow down.

I could go on and on about all the super facts and information I learned on this visit but I would rather you experience it yourself.  The link to their website is http://www.lakotawolf.com/.  There is also a store, which is as you would expect, exceptional.  Artifacts and highly unusual items fill this place and it feels like you are in a movie set for a Trading Post.  The women who run it are delightful. 

Murray Head took all of the photos in this blog.  He had a wonderful time doing so, only lamenting that the wire fence was messing up his shots!

Serious Staring

Serious Staring

Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolf

Poised To Catch A Treat

Poised To Catch A Treat

“Can You Hear Me Now”

Oh My What Big Teeth You Have

Oh My What Big Teeth You Have

Stretching

Stretching

Nuzzling

Nuzzling

“Begging” for a treat

Guarding

Guarding

A Wolf At Rest

A Wolf At Rest

Beautiful To Behold

Beautiful To Behold

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Death is…final, painful, dark, lonely and forever.  And as the song goes,”…forever is a long, long time“.  Death is a passage, a cyclical expected conclusion.  We know death is nearby when a person is very old and frail.  Or when someone is suffering from an incurable disease.  Then death is welcomed with open arms.  We pray – please make the suffering stop and when our prayers are answered, we cry.  Isn’t this what we hoped for?  But loss is painful even when you know it’s inevitable. It feels like there’s an anvil sitting on your heart and you think the knot in your stomach and the lump in your throat will never go away.  The loss is real, the pain is real, our hearts are heavy.

Life is affirming, death is negating.

BUT, but.. what happens when death like the proverbial thief in the night, swoops in and steals a life? Who knew? NO ONE!!! Nobody knew death was lurking nearby, no one suspected the Angel of Death was about to pounce.  We didn’t know that yesterday was the last day we would ever see, hear or speak to our friend?  How could we know? There was no time to prepare ourselves for her SUDDEN DEATH.  The horror and shock and disbelief do little to take away the knife-like pain in your chest.  This isn’t a heavy heart, no, it feels like someone ripped your heart out!  Denial shows up and for a bit, you tell yourself this can’t be true.  She can’t be dead…I just saw her, I just texted her, we were together all day on Easter, I made her hat for God’s sake. And you don’t really believe it happened anyway – because sometimes the tragic truth is too much to bear, to comprehend.  Yet the pain, the searing, stabbing pain, you know it’s true.

What am I going to do? Where am I supposed to go? Why isn’t she sitting at the desk next to me? How could she do this to me?  Yes, pain is personal and self-involving.  I ask…why did you leave me? 

Sudden unexpected death is horrible., SNAP! Just like that. She was my friend and now she’s gone.  She was a mother and now the girls are motherless, she owned 2 adorable little dogs – what’s going to happen to them?  A whole life has to be dealt with; leases, electric bills, credit cards, phones and on and on.  Who is going to remember that there is food in the refrigerator?  Who stops all the mail? What will they do with all the furniture?  Shall I clean out your desk?  Our lives are filled with SO MUCH (stuff and such) that the dismantling of a life is one hell of job!

“…and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”.  I hope your soul and your spirit are in a good place.  You left us without warning and that wasn’t very nice of you.  I miss you already and wonder what I’m going to do without your laughter to make my day at the office fly by.  Who am I going to tell my Peter grocery store tales to?  Who am I going to walk home with?  It’s all very empty right now. 

I’m so sorry you’re gone, I’m so sorry you’re not here, I’m so sorry for your daughters and I’m so sorry for myself and my husband who misses you terribly.  He really did want to hang those drapes you know.  You have left behind so many people who are really really hurting right now but thank God, you left us with some wonderful memories and nobody can take those away.

See you in the ‘ hood…

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Did you ever wonder where things come from and where they end up?  Well, of course I’m not talking about something you bought in a store because we all know that item originated in China, Korea or Taiwan passed through the port of New York and ended up in Chicago!

Actually a friend of ours needed a curtain rod;  Not just any curtain rod, a certain kind that might extend the length of her oversized floor to ceiling window.  My husband prowled around all the obvious stores in the neighborhood and nothing was to be found.  He happened  to mention this when he was at the drugstore (and God only knows how you work that into a conversation) and the druggist mentioned he might have what we needed.  Why would the drugstore have a curtain rod?  Turns out, he owns the building and he is about to renovate the apartments  upstairs and invited Peter to go upstairs and help himself.  

It Looked Like This One

It Looked Like This One

He wandered through a couple of units and sure enough he found a lovely rod with finials and he removed the brackets that held and triumphantly returned home with his prize.  I took one look at it and said, “That won’t work”.  Sorry I deflated his balloon but facts are facts and it just wouldn’t fit.  

Naturally I wanted it to immediately find its way to the trash room but oh no, he thought it was good to throw out.  Once again for at least the 100th time, I remind him that items put in the trash room are hardly ever really thrown away.  First it has to get past the porters and the Super;  If they don’t need it or know of a tenant who can use it, it gets put out on the sidewalk with the bagged trash, BUT.  Things on the street in New York have a way of finding new homes for themselves long before the sanitation workers arrive.  However, apparently even this potential new life wasn’t good enough for this rod.  My husband wanted to give it to someone who needed it!

Naturally, if you know this household and the dynamics of our relationship, the rod hung around for a couple of weeks.  Finally I said,  “Enough is enough, out it goes”!  That certainly sent quivers through him and so I offered an alternative;  At least take it to the thrift shop and let someone who needs it, buy it.

It just so happened that he was on his way to New Jersey and so the rod, its brackets, a few books, two Beanie Babies and a stereo receiver and two speakers were sent to Habitats for Humanity in Asbury Park, NJ.  So as you think about it, the rod which began one of its lives in Manhattan will probably be holding up curtains somewhere on the Jersey Shore.

And there you have the life and times of a curtain rod or a weird version of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

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Of late, I’ve been blue or maybe gray is a better color description;  Not because I went to see Fifty Shades of Gray, but rather because there are so many things going on in my life.  Work has been troublesome and the immediate future in that arena doesn’t look very promising.  I seem to be in a time and place where if it can go wrong, it does AND it always costs $$$.

Then there’s the fact that it’s February and it’s been so cold here for so long that I can’t imagine we are actually going to have Spring next month.  The gray days of January and February are bad enough but when you live in The City, it can be downright depressing.  Imagine walking to walk when the wind is blowing and the temperature is in single digits.  Then imagine how it is to walk on sidewalks slick with frozen slush or cross streets where each corner is either a black pool or frozen lumps worn slippery by the hundreds of people walking on them.  OK, OK, enough already right?  NO! When the sun comes out and it does, the slick stuff melts and is black slush, something you would never ever walk in and the edges of the sidewalks are lined with piles of snow in Fifty Shades of Gray and Black and are embedded with trash.  This is NOT a criticism of the Sanitation Workers, because for 3 weeks alternate side parking rules have been suspended which means the streets have not been cleaned!

So now that I’ve painted the ugliest picture of NYC and haven’t begun to complain about the forced hot air heat that every apartment has, I will.   I hate the dry hot air which makes my hair fly around with electricity and my face crack, not to mention getting a bloody nose as all my nasal passages dry out.  Yuk that’s awful!! SORRY!

BUT THEN, there’s this…We left the apartment about 5:00 this evening and took the bus up to Fifth Avenue and walked over the Metropolitan Museum.  This IS a world treasure, there’s no doubt about it.  I take it way too much for granted and don’t visit the museum often enough.  We had in mind a few exhibits we wanted to see but of course walking through the museum on your way to one hall or another you are surrounded by art, sculpture, etchings, and artifacts from around the world!  Literally if you have never been to the MET, then you really can’t imagine  how big it is, how chock full of treasures it is and how accessible it is!  We marveled at Byzantine carvings, admired paintings by Jackson Pollack, Seurat, Pissaro, Van Gogh and more AND we hadn’t even gotten to the exhibits. 

We saw drawings and sketches by Paul Cezanne and the complete set of his portraits of Madame Cezanne.  Hortense Fiquet, (Madame Cezanne) was Cezanne’s favorite model, who he eventually married to legitimize his bastard son.  She posed for 29 portraits, never moving an inch and not talking since Paul Cezanne preferred his models to be silent.  This is the first time that the set of paintings known as Madame Cezanne in a Red Chair have ever been exhibited all together and in fact, they have never been together since they left Cezanne’s studio.  Then we were off to see the Caravaggio’s or at least that’s what we thought.  The exhibit was not exactly paintings done by him, it was more about the origin and evolution of musical instruments popular in the time of Caravaggio. However, we did get to view priceless Tintoretto’s and other Italian Renaissance painters.  The paintings were very religious and very beautiful.

We saved the best for last and headed to the American Wing where the fabulous mural, America Today painted by Thomas Hart Benton was displayed.  It’s a breath-taking,  wall-to-wall panorama of life in America in the 1920’s. The palette is rich in primary colors as befitting the strength of the muscled boxers, workers and the whole work itself.  Below is just one of the ten panels that make up this epic work.

AMERICA TODAY

AMERICA TODAY

But before we went into the room that housed these magnificent panels, we spent considerable time viewing his preliminary sketches, his models which were drawings and even small paintings of future sections of the mural-to-be.  There were practice sketches of hands in different poses, of complicated parts of machinery cobbled together and of many characters who would appear in the mural.  This is where I saw beautiful, sexy women just oozing femininity and each with the sparkle of life in the 20’s in their eyes.  They reminded me of my friend, the gorgeous Grace Gotham.  She exudes sensuality when she performs and was surely born in this era before her more recent incarnation.  Her burlesque performances are stellar with her as the shining star;  lithe, graceful and luscious, Grace could have been one of Benton’s models!  But don’t take my word for it, you can see for yourself at http://www.gracegotham.com.   Meet Grace!

Grace Gotham

Grace Gotham

 

 

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