It was mid-winter break last week. Seemed like everyone we knew was either skiing or in Mexico, but the girls and I didn’t do much. I pushed through deadlines while they played at home. Fifty something glorious degrees on the weekend made the snow melt in the city, but the snow was too much in the surrounding areas to make much of a dent.
We visited a farm on Long Island Saturday, family owned and operated by a couple and their adult children since they bought it in the late 70s. There was one thing that the father said when he was answering questions about life on a farm that stood out for me. Someone asked if raising chickens was hard work. He said, no it wasn’t hard work, but you had to be 100% committed. I thought it was interesting that he made a point to differentiate between the two. It made me think about our business – our “family farm” – and really any business out there. The work itself isn’t necessarily hard, but you have to be 100% committed. Those words never rung more true.
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A few weekends ago, the girls and I stumbled upon this exhibit, “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” at the New York Public Library. We were in the neighborhood and on a whim decided to take a look inside since they had never been. Although the exhibit has been open since summer, it was a fantastic, unexpected find. Well curated and beautifully designed, the rooms brought some of the most beloved children’s books to life including a life-size replica of the green room in “Goodnight Moon”.
As we made our way from room to room, we spotted well-loved characters around every corner like Alice, Harold and his Purple Crayon, Max from “Where the Wild Things Are”, and one of Max’s monsters recreated as a cutout entryway covered with fur on one side of the wall and gilded with gold around the edges. When you step back and look at the entire wall, you discover that the monster is a cutout from a wall that is in the shape of Max’s crown.
Books to pull out and read can be found throughout the exhibit and if your kids are like mine, they’ll take every opportunity to sit down and read. One of my favorite little details was an ivy covered wall from The Secret Garden which had a carved out ledge for sitting. On either side, almost hidden by the ivy, were 2 slots in the wall wide enough to hold a single book.
Leonard S. Marcus, a children’s book historian who is the curator of the exhibit, draws together 250 artifacts from the library’s archives including original artwork, manuscripts and letters. On display is a rare illustrated edition of Aesop’s Fables, the original stuffed bear and tiger that inspired the characters in “Winnie-the-Pooh”, and original watercolors from “Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm”.
The exhibit runs through March 23 and is free to the public. Make sure you visit the library gift shop too. Can’t remember the last time I bought a book for myself (the kids buy books all the time), but the gift shop is stocked with some great books and we walked out with a few.
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We missed the peak colors of Fall apparently, but I’ll take any excuse to drive up the Hudson Valley. We didn’t get dazzling color, but we did get fog and a moody overcast day that quite frankly, I often prefer. Sometimes there are compelling enough reasons to blow off all your work so that you can go hang out in the woods, wouldn’t you say? I’m paying for it this week, but that’s what I told myself on Sunday morning when we decided to join Mark for the drive up the Hudson Valley to deliver boxes of cookies to one of our retailers.
It’s true. I have this totally weird, irrational aversion to going into stores that carry our stuff. I can’t explain it…so I won’t, but I will tell you this little anecdote. A company that I have been freelancing for this year has offices in midtown a block away from one of our newest retailers and one day I popped in to kill some time before a meeting. I was standing in front of shelves that had some of our cookies when an employee of the store popped up behind me to tell a customer about cookies of ours he wanted to recommend that he was raving about, only to realize that they had sold out of them. For some reason I blurted out, oh, I own this company and we chatted for a few minutes. They jokingly asked if I had any of the sold out cookies in my bag (I get that a lot, is that strange? Should I start carrying around packages of cookies with me?) Don’t know why I decided not to be anonymous since my normal reaction would be to run away, but what are the chances that I walk into a conversation about our cookies at a store I would otherwise rarely go into?
Speaking of cookies, I don’t know if Mark has ever baked as many as he did this week. Nearly 7,000 cookies baked on Tuesday alone. I still don’t know how he does it, though we do have PT kitchen help now from a dear friend who comes in to help Mark bake. She’s been a lifesaver these last few weeks as we get into the thick of things.
Thanksgiving is in a week. That just snuck in there, didn’t it?
P.S. Head over to our Facebook page for a calendar giveaway…
P.P.S. We had to cancel our last outdoor Flea date this Saturday. We’ll be at the new indoor market in Williamsburg alternating weekends starting in January and back outdoors, of course, starting in April.
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Did you have a good weekend-before-Halloween? One of our favorite harvest festivals in the city happen to be in the Meatpacking District and that’s where we spent our morning on Saturday. It’s held in the little plaza off of Gansevoort and the activities and even some of the food is free as local businesses in the neighborhood donate their time and goods. The kids are at an age, as Mia rather begrudgingly observed, where they are aging out of some of the holiday events in the city, but this harvest fest is still fun and age appropriate. I like it too because it’s small and very neighborhoodly and I guess I still get a kick out of the irony of this very family and kid friendly event held right in a neighborhood that was known for sex clubs, slaughterhouses and prostitutes even as recently as 15-20 years ago. But you know…NYC has changed, yada yada.
I guess Mark has now lived in the city long enough to even wax nostalgic about the old days. He started working as a pastry cook in Soho when it had long turned touristy and expensive in the mid to late 90s, but the Meatpacking District was nothing like it is now when he took a job at a new restaurant in 1999. Fressen was one of 2 restaurants that opened in the meatpacking district at a time when you could walk around and still see blood stains and grease on the cobblestoned streets. Meatpacking plants and butcheries still remained in the area, but down from the few hundred that existed when the neighborhood got its name. It was kind of exciting to go down to the restaurant in those days when Mark worked nights. There was really nothing there – just dark streets, hand lettered signs from the meatpacking plants, and the iconic sidewalk overhangs where sides of beef hung on large metal hooks that characterized this neighborhood. All of it is gone now of course, and all replaced by high end boutiques, hotels and restaurants. Probably the last nail on the coffin to any connection in the neighborhood’s namesake was when Western Beef closed in the mid-2000s.
But I think the closing of a little restaurant called Florent in 2008 was the most devastating blow to the area to New Yorkers who liked to lament on changing times. I loved Florent. I didn’t go there as often as I would have liked, but I loved its story: the owner, a Frenchman who named the restaurant after himself and put his name in lights – pink neon lights in the front window – took over a luncheonette on Gansevoort Street in 1985. Florent was much beloved, but its fate fell like so many businesses like his; the rent was reportedly increasing to 30k a month (30k!).
I might very well be destined to become one of those old people who sit around in outdoor cafes remembering how things were back in olden times, but I admit I still rather enjoy the new Meatpacking District, especially on a brilliant October morning like this past weekend. Ironically, some of the early retailers and restaurants who moved into the area in the late 90s and early 2000s as the first wave to gentrify the area have closed up or moved on to other neighborhoods because the rent has gotten so high (Stella McCartney comes to mind, and Fressen closed some years after it opened). Seems like only the big chains like Apple can afford the rent these days.
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Fall isn’t quite the same without a drive up to the Hudson Valley – and specifically the town of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. At Washington Irving’s cottage we watched a shadow puppet rendition of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and took a walk around the grounds with a fantastically animated storyteller who retold Irving’s “The Devil and Tom Walker.” Basically, your perfect mid-October day in the way that only the Northeast can do. Why is Halloween SO fun? Fall is the best time of year, especially around here because the NE basically owns Fall as far as seasons go. The abundance of activities, harvest festivals, holiday paraphernalia and the anticipation of the actual holiday itself rivals Christmas at this point.
It was a much needed break and a really great Saturday. But then the next day the girls and I had one of the worst days. I don’t want to indulge in a pissing contest about how hard things are because everyone has their own issues to deal with, but it’s been rough around here I’ll tell you that. It’s pretty naive to think that if you take on too much, nothing will suffer, but something usually always does. In this case it was family because I placed work first. Sometimes it’s a choice that you feel you have to make, however, because there is something to prove, lost time to make up for or money that needs to be earned so you feel like you’re making the right choice. I felt like I had won at life when I successfully juggled clients and had a great design review at a presentation last week after being concerned that I had taken on too much, but I pretty much lost it Sunday in a swirl of stress and pressure and sleep deprivation. In the end, I didn’t win at anything.
I remember the first time I saw my mother cry. It was sort of terrifying and for a kid, the world became a little more confusing. I suppose it’s for that reason I try to hold it together – and I’m not saying that I am stronger than my mother; our circumstances in certain ways couldn’t be more different, but I do remember at that young age how heavy life suddenly felt. Some days prove to be too overwhelming though and it takes very little for things to crumble. So your children see a side to you that you never want to show, but it happens sometimes. I don’t think it’s bad, but I don’t think it should happen often.
Today felt like the first day in a long time where things felt less hectic. There was still a lot to do, but the pace wasn’t urgent and deadlines weren’t stifling. I helped C with her math homework after the girls came home from school and then ate dinner with the family rather than at the computer as I have done many days before. Afterwards we lounged on the bed and we talked. This is the kind of day that you chase after, the balance that is often elusive. The girls and I put Sunday behind us (them a little quicker than I). You move on and accept that there are good days and bad days and hope that the next day will be a good one.
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There’s no better way to usher in Fall than apple picking (though admittedly, late summer weather has been hanging around). It had been about 2 years since we last went and we definitely missed it (we missed strawberry and peach picking this year too. We’ve been such slackers). This year we tried Masker Orchards up in Warwick, NY and I can’t recall ever visiting an orchard this big that had so many rows of trees and was this prolific with fruit. There were apples everywhere – growing in clusters like grapes on branches, collected on the ground near the base of trees, and piled in every tree hollow. So many apples that they didn’t care if you plucked and ate them right off the branch (though they do briefly look in your car when you exit to make sure you’re being honest about the number of bags your picked). The orchard was like a maze and you needed a map or you risked getting lost and then resorting to leaving a trail of crumbs to find your way back to your car. The good thing about going apple picking this early in the season are the full trees. There’s nothing more disappointing than going late in the season and picking through some sad looking trees. The disadvantage is that there aren’t as many varieties ripe yet.
But what’s with the tailgate parties? Being as huge an orchard as this was, there weren’t any dedicated parking fields, so cars were directed to some of the widest rows for makeshift parking. This would have been fine, but some people decided to park their car anywhere in random places. Mark said it felt like an apple orchard had grown in the middle of a parking lot. I’d never seen a set up like this before and I’m guessing since you can park your car right next to a row of trees in certain areas, tailgate parties somehow became a thing (for those of you who don’t know what tailgate parties are – and why would you unless you’re American because I think this is an American thing? – it’s basically partying with food and booze in a parking lot, usually at a sporting event or a concert, with the back of your vehicle open. Damn, it sounds kind of stupid just typing it out.) We saw groups of families and friends hanging out by their SUVs, trucks and wagons with huge picnic spreads. Sometimes you heard music in the distance. I even saw one dude sitting under an apple tree in a folding lawn chair watching a movie on his laptop (yeah, I dunno). But for as many of these tailgating groups that we saw, we stumbled upon as many rows of trees where we didn’t see another apple picking soul.
When we had filled our bags with apples and decided to go hike back to our car, we did what any other curious person who had never tailgated would do. We popped open the trunk door on our Subaru wagon, sat on the edge and took big gulps of water from our bottles. We sat like that for awhile, shielded from the sun by the shade of the trunk door. Yeah I must admit, it was kind of fun.
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