Do you know how sometimes among friends it can be hard to collectively agree on plans? Everyone throws out ideas and then you do this back and forth dance until a decision is finally made. It ends up sounding a little something like this:
So what do you guys want to do today?
Do you want to go to a museum?
Do you want to go to the street fair?
Do you want to go to the East Village? I think there’s a traveling circus performing today.
Do you want to go to Dumbo? There’s an art festival there.
I don’t want to go to Dumbo, I don’t want to go anywhere.
When your kids get older and start expressing their opinions about weekend plans, it gets much harder to motivate the family out of the house sometimes because there’s always that one person who disagrees and throws everything off when you have 4 people trying to make decisions. Sure, we can exercise our parental powers and make all the decisions – and we often do otherwise we’d be going to Coney Island every single weekend if they had their way – but we do like to give the kids a vote on how we spend our weekends sometimes. But holy hell! It can be a painful process.
When we finally got out of the house in the afternoon on Sunday after much group deliberation, Dumbo was already teeming with people. The Dumbo Arts Festival is an annual three day art event with exhibits, open studios and plenty of tables and supplies on the street to make your own little pieces of art. Despite the crowds, it was one of those weekend days that made the effort of getting out of the house quite worth it. Sometimes crowds can be draining and other times it can be energizing, and Sunday was one of those days where it felt good to be out in the city amongst other New Yorkers, looking at art, getting inspired and enjoying what is probably the last of the lingering summer weather. NY was full of energy last weekend; so many different kinds of events happening all over the city. And thank you to those who stopped by our booth at the Chile Festival on Saturday. If we appeared frazzled, I apologize. It’s always our biggest event of the year and this year proved no different. It isn’t often that I’m at these events, so it makes me really happy to hear people come back to say that the Chocolate Curry Fudgsicles were the best thing they had at the Festival or that they had never tasted this flavor combination before. And to that man who enjoyed the Massaman Curry Peanut Butter Sandwiches so much that he saved the last bite in a napkin to enjoy later because he didn’t want the cookie to end – you made my day.
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These are new things we’re bringing to the weekend markets this Fall – pecan pie bars with a shortbread crust. I have a distinct association with them which I won’t share at this time, but they are quite delicious and I think everyone who bought them last Saturday would agree. It’s always nice when people come back to the table for seconds. This week we’re getting ready for the Chile Pepper Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It’s our biggest event every year and one of the only events where we “work” the booth as a family, and I put work loosely in quotes because well, let’s face it – Mark does most of the work. The kids get super excited about the Chile Festival every year and this year we’ll have our friend Megan working the table as well. Come say hello if you attend – it’s supposed to be another gorgeous warm day on Saturday.
But this post isn’t about cookies or the business. Fall is officially here. I feel like summer is bookended by months of complex emotions and transitions. September in particular is a month of change and renewal, but also when the natural world around us dies down and retreats into deep hibernation. It isn’t surprising then that it’s often a time for re-evaluation – of life, career, friends, relationships. I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships in particular these past few weeks and how it can feel like it’s in constant flux. All these online relationships complicate things too. It’s easy to come under the illusion that you have a lot of friends, but who, really, are your friends? I find myself digging deep, back to older friendships lately because there’s history there and the familiarity is comforting.
A few different fiends of mine and I have debated this theory on whether or not social media and texting contributes to an increase in flakiness among people. I’m totally generalizing here, but because we’re always (over)connected all of the time and chatting on various platforms, plans get loosely made, but sometimes lack follow through and there’s this general acceptance that it’s par for the course these days. Would you agree? I could be wrong, but I don’t remember this being so prevalent in ancient times before the internet. When you made plans or agreed to get together, you really meant it back in those days (or so it seems)! It’s sort of unthinkable now to pick up a phone and talk to someone to make plans. The irony of it all is that sometimes all the chatter and online noise magnifies our loneliness.
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Discovering a gem like we did on Sunday makes you wonder how many other little known places remain hidden. You know how we love to visit old mansions and estates in the New York area. This one was never on our radar until we happened to casually do a last minute search on things to do within an hour’s drive of the city. Untermyer Gardens may currently be in a period of restoration, but there’s no denying that the state of ruins add to the magic and nostalgia of days gone by (the foggy weather helped too).
You know a place is really special when you turn a corner and find something unexpected that completely surprises you. I was taking my time looking at all the flowers in the walled garden when the girls excitedly called me over. I didn’t expect to see the the long vista of stairs leading down to a view of the Hudson River. We didn’t expect to come across a rocky tower capped with a lacy filigree temple either. A maze of narrow stairs, little alcoves and tunnels made of stones lead you up to a landing overlooking a curious arrangement of rocks. The graffiti reminds you that this place was neglected for some time, but it doesn’t take away from the charm at all. I think I’d even be a little sad to see all the graffiti washed away if this part of the gardens get restored.
This place is for fantasy, perfect for the girls to explore and pretend play and perfect for a short break from the city. It felt like we were the only ones there. We’re coming back when the leaves reach their peak; with only the edges of a few trees turning color, we saw just a hint of what could be.
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Glorious weather here in NY–the stuff that September dreams are made of. The last bits of summer linger with the plums and tomatoes still found at markets, but soon those will be gone too in favor of apples, gourds and pumpkins. The cycle of life, the cycle of seasons.
We’re wearing sweaters, light jackets and boots. I’ve given up on finding weather appropriate shoes for between seasons now that I no longer wear ballet flats. It’s either sandals or boots and nothing in between. The girls grew over the summer in ways you can’t notice if you are with them everyday. It was only when they slipped on pants and boots that were stored and put away for the summer that I was able to tell that everything was a few inches short and a size too small. M seems to have grown whole shoe sizes this summer and we were shocked to discover that her feet and my size 7’s are nearly identical in size. Even more shocking is that Miss C’s are only a tad smaller than ours. When did this happen? Seems like overnight.
When they come over to the couch for good night hugs, the weight of their bodies is a reminder that in time–maybe even in a few short years–I will be the smallest person in the house. Can you imagine? I’ve noticed now when I’m cleaning out my closets that I’ll save certain things for the girls rather than throw them into donation bags. And it’s already started. Gave the kid some earrings that I no longer wear, her first pair of dangling earrings made from small drops of jade green glass. Her excitement over them made me smile. The little things, right?
I’m trying to conjure up enthusiasm for my favorite season, but it’s a little harder this year, I’ll admit that. Maybe because it signifies that time is indeed passing and whatever state of suspension I’ve felt I was in for awhile is loosening its grip. Ready or not, the season is changing.
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Nothing like getting knocked back a few pegs in the last week to remind you that you’re on a long road toward any kind of normalcy. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m feeling totally lost. I’m trying not to hold in so much anger at the world either, but this year has totally knocked the wind out of me and it started months before it culminated in our loss. I don’t really know who I am right now; I don’t even know what identity the business is anymore. We’re barely keeping afloat.
Can I tell you a little story? A few weeks before our trip in early August, the girls and I were doing errands in the neighborhood. As we were walking on the sidewalk down our block, I saw a tiny fuzzy green line on the street close to the curb. I looked closely again and realized that the fuzzy green line was moving and that it was actually a caterpillar. Have you ever seen a caterpillar cross a busy intersection? Because I haven’t! I pointed the caterpillar out to the kids and we watched for a minute as it inched its way across. We kept our eye on him as we crossed the street from the other side of the intersection and was surprised that the caterpillar was still visible to us. Incredibly, we could still see the fuzzy green line move from several dozen feet away. As it inched its tiny body halfway across the street (the caterpillar could crawl faster that you’d think) we saw a car rambling towards us right on the street that the caterpillar was crossing and we squealed, hoping that it wouldn’t get crushed. We held our breath as the car passed the light. Was the caterpillar still alive? Oh wait, there was the tiny green line…and yes! It was still moving! But, oh no! Another car was coming down the street. We held our breath again and when it passed, we waited to see if the caterpillar was still there and we cheered when we saw it moving again.
We couldn’t take the stress anymore after the 4th car had passed, so we crossed the street where the caterpillar was headed and I looked for a twig. At that point the caterpillar had crossed two-thirds of the street by itself, but I just wanted to scoop him up and carry him the rest of the way. I walked off the curb and approached the caterpillar with the twig. After a bit of finessing and a fall from the twig where he curled himself up in a little ball, he climbed and stayed on. I carefully walked toward the sidewalk with the caterpillar on the twig and found a leafy place under a tree on someone’s front yard. We named him “Furbert” and nudged him off the stick and watched him crawl away under the leaves.
As we went about doing our errands that day, the girls would ask me why the caterpillar decided to cross the street. Did he know he was entering a dangerous and hostile environment? Was there something on the other side that he was looking for? Or maybe he was a brave caterpillar just looking for an adventure! I think you may know where this is headed, and as cheesy as it may be to completely spin this story into a “fable” of sorts, I’m totally going there because I’m sure we can all relate to that little caterpillar at certain points in our lives. Because that’s kind of how I’m feeling like my year has been, exposed in the wide open dodging bullets that seemingly come out of nowhere. In my case, I got steam rolled by one of those bullets and I’ve been down for the count, but I’m slowly inching my way to the other side. I wouldn’t mind a little help sometimes. My family could use a dose of luck or good fortune, but I know ultimately this work needs to come from myself. Who knows what the other side looks like? I suppose that’s the beauty and mystery of it all.
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