Our fascination with the Gold Coast Mansions of Long Island continues and we found a new one to visit last weekend at Sands Point, which is the home to the Guggenheim Estate. There are walking trails and acres of grass to set up a picnic, and access to a quiet beach which hands down sealed the deal when we were thinking of places to go on that sunny Saturday. We had space to run, think and enjoy the view; pretty much the perfect place to spend a day.
And you know what I did? Read. Not on my phone, not on the computer, but an actual book. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I read a book uninterrupted in one sitting like that. I’ll admit that when I attempt to read at home, the temptation to answer emails that come in is too damn hard. I can’t even watch TV or a movie without multitasking on my computer. Sad, isn’t it? Or is this a new normal?
Now that I am making the moves to declutter my life on various fronts, I’m hoping I can change some habits and focus on things one at a time, just as we used to do without so many distractions.
More Gold Coast Mansions
Planting Fields at Coe Hall | Vanderbilt Mansion | Nassau County Museum of Art/Frick Estate | Old Westbury Gardens
Posted by Jenna | 8 Comments
An afternoon at the Whitney Museum on a weekend when there are sketching tours and open studios for kids on their calendar is a great way to spend a Saturday in the city. Admittedly, the girls usually groan when I announce that we’re going to an art museum, but they always declare it a fun day after the fact. Give them an activity booklet and a pencil and they make it their mission to fill out all the pages and find the relevant artwork to each activity. They’re tireless, and their love for crafting is tireless too. You all know by now that I’m not a crafter, but I admit I may have been picked up a piece of yarn and a pipe cleaner or two that afternoon (though the other day at my friend’s house I absentmindedly starting playing around with these striped pipe cleaners while we talked and made something of a sculptural piece with them. But I wouldn’t call that crafting either. I was fidgeting, and there is a difference).
I love how so many museums in the city organize activities and special tours for kids to get them engaged in the art. Kids under 18 have free admission too which makes it easier for a family to spend the day at the museum. As funding gets cut in NYC publics, art education is sadly one of the first things to go unless you have a PTA that has the fund-raising skills and resources to reinstate those enrichment classes, but unfortunately not every school is able to do this. I’d love to think that we benefit from having world class museums in the city that we live in, and as parents we can help supplement arts education for our kids, but the reality is that we probably don’t get to museums enough.
Now, the girls are old enough that we are paying subway fare for the 10 year old, though oddly enough paying for subway fare is determined by height and not by age which kind of sucks for families with tall kids. We’ve been getting away with the girls ducking under the turnstiles for a long time and bus drivers will still let the kids go on for free, but Mia is just too tall to be doing the ducking thing. This means that at some point it will cost us 20 dollars at the current fare for a family of 4 to take a round trip ride on the subway, and $30 if we need to make an additional stop and ride the train 3 times in a day. I love public transportation, but wow, I never considered the soon-to-be costs of these outings. I hate to say it but driving will become far cheaper and after our train experience last Saturday, definitely more pleasant. Not sure if it’s because the weather was so nice and there were more riders and tourists in general, but the subways were crowded, like rush hour levels crowded. The kind of crowded where you’re packed in like sardines and you wonder to yourself, even though you are totally pro-public transportation all the way, if the destination is worth the hassle of getting there. The girls were getting squished, especially because adults can’t see them at their eye level when they’re trying to push their way in. All they can see is an empty space thinking there’s more room when in fact it’s being occupied by children. So much fun, so much stress, trying to prevent your kids from getting trampled on a crowded train while you become that obnoxious person on the train who yells, “hey, we can’t move further in because there are kids down here!”.
I admit that I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to subway fare because as self employed people in NYC, we have to pay the MTA a commuter transportation mobility tax because…who knows why? It’s the stupidest tax created for the self employed on the planet. Let’s penalize freelancers who don’t even commute by making them pay hundreds of dollars to the MTA every year! So yes, even though we only ride the subway a handful of times a month if that, Mark and I both pay more tax to the MTA than we spend on subway fare every year. It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? (said no self employed person ever). So whenever I think about the MTA tax, I shove Mia under the turnstiles at the subway stations despite her protests of wanting to pay, explaining to her that I’ve already paid for her, in taxes!
Oh, New York. Sometimes we put up with your bullshit to get to the good stuff.
Posted by Jenna | 7 Comments
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.
Posted by Jenna | 10 Comments
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.
Posted by Jenna | 11 Comments
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.
Posted by Jenna | 7 Comments
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.
Posted by Jenna | 6 Comments