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.
Posted by Jenna | 19 Comments
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.
Posted by Jenna | 6 Comments
There are days when plans just come together and midway through the day you realize that you’ve constructed one of those perfect NYC days. We had one of those days over the weekend. It ended with a sunset view of the Manhattan skyline that was so incredible, that it couldn’t have been scripted better.
We also explored a small corner of the city that we have never been to before. As big as the city is, we often tend to stick to places familiar to us. It was a good reminder that the city is big and there is so much out there we have yet to see. I had never been to Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens before and when I saw that they were hosting free sculpture workshops every Saturday during the summer with a different artist and theme each week, I made sure to put it on our summer list of things to do.
It’s kind of hard to describe Socrates. At first impression it’s an odd little park that feels a little rough around the edges, but when you dig a little deeper and see all the art that’s happening – on view and in progress – you realize that it has a creative energy that you don’t see very often in public view. Aside from the free weekly art workshops for kids and adults (and outdoor movies in the summer too), there is a network of cargo containers and an open air workshop that make up artist in residency studios that the Park grants to select artists and architects. A small farmer’s market sold local and regional produce just a few meters away from where artists were working on their sculptures, and a dance company was working their way through choreography as part of a week-long residency program for dancers this month.
While we sat there watching the dancers rehearse, I realized that I felt like I was on an art school campus. It had that type of creative energy that we used to be surrounded by when we went to school, but haven’t really been immersed in since. It made me miss that free spirited energy back in college days when all we did was create and make things. In a city where there is so much art to take in, it’s somewhat unusual to have access to view works in progress like this. In the boat making workshop that we participated in last Saturday, it wasn’t just the kids who wanted to build and create; I saw a fair number of parents constructing their own boats alongside their kids. It’s hard to just stand idly by when there are so many fun and tactile materials to play with. It just goes to show…creativity can be contagious.
Posted by Jenna | 4 Comments
This right here might be my favorite thing in NYC this summer. Governor’s Island is the first American stop for this rare collection of 19th and 20th century French vintage carnival rides and Fete Paradiso is every bit as charming as it looks. Even the background music of accordions and the mix of occasional cuts from the Amelie soundtrack that’s pumped in through the speakers adds to the atmosphere. I often think that attendants dressed in costume can be overdone (like in the Punk: Chaos to Couture show at the Met), but everything just works here, right down to the roped off pavilion where you can sit under strung lights and chandeliers and order food from the French cafe, Le Gamin.
The vintage rides are truly spectacular and it’s amazing that they’re still functional. You almost have to keep reminding yourself of just how old these rides really are and it seems like a privilege to be able to take a ride on museum quality pieces of art. Maybe the most glaring reminder that these date back to the 19th and 20th century is that the rides don’t have seat belts. The girls rode one dragon ride that went quite fast, backwards and forwards, and as they took off I heard them yell, “but where are the seeeeeatbelts!!!”
Fete Paradiso runs on Governor’s Island until September 29.
Posted by Jenna | 5 Comments
I kept thinking over the weekend as I watched the girls enjoy the beach during our day trip to Montauk that we’re giving the kids a really good childhood. And it’s not because we have lots of money to spend on toys and gadgets and trips. On the contrary, we have pared down our lifestyle even further in the last 18 months, partly out of necessity and partly out of the desire to cut down on needless consumerism, but we also acknowledge that we are more fortunate than most. The one thing, for the most part, that we’ve had in abundance despite the intense juggling of business and work, is time spent with the kids. This is what I need to remind myself of when the envy starts to creep in. Oh you know, looking through vacation photos of friends on Facebook, admiring stuff that you wish you could buy.
But what I have learned in recent years is this: the stuff that you wished you sometimes had, that you thought you would need to give your kids a good childhood is often not necessary at all. Sometimes our perception of what we need can be influenced by what our friends and peers have, but it’s really not how much you have that’s important; it’s what you do with what you have that matters.
Not to say that the girls themselves aren’t immune to this. Mia in particular, will sometimes say that she’s the only one in her class who hasn’t traveled to another country yet (oh reeeally? I ask her). She’s been asking to go to sleepaway camp for the past few years like so many of her friends and I tell her, I don’t know, maybe some day. It’s these moments when I start to feel a bit bad that we don’t have the means to do some of the things that they ask for because frankly, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to afford sleepaway camp or extra dance classes or music lessons. But I just need to shake those feelings off because sleepaway camp or no camp, European vacation or not, the girls have a pretty sweet childhood.
Sometimes I feel like I manage our money a little too tight fisted and perhaps that’s rooted in the fear of what’s unknown, but when I see their smiles at the beach or the movies, or the times we spend in the burbs at my parents’ house, then I know that choosing experiences over things is right for us. It may get harder as they get older when they’ll feel pressured on their own to keep up with their peers, but I do hope that we’re laying down the foundation for them to feel secure within themselves, despite of all that (sometimes we need this reminder ourselves too). I remember wanting things and wishing my life was a bit different; I was a teenager once. I hope when they look back, they’ll remember how good it was and they’ll know that we tried to give them the best childhood that we could, just as my mom tried to give us a better childhood than the one she had.
Posted by Jenna | 34 Comments
I think we might be all festivaled out from the past few weekends. We didn’t set out to spend Father’s Day weekend at 2 festivals. Actually, I was looking to recreate the tradition that we started last year – spending a peaceful day strawberry picking at a farm. We did decide to go to a strawberry festival on the North Fork, but we didn’t realize what a carnival-type scene it would be, crowds and all. I thought it would be more of a quaint, relaxed country type affair – you know, where people judge the best pie and race little piglets or something, but it ended up being more like Coney Island, but in the middle of farm land. We ate lots of fried stuff and a huge strawberry shortcake big enough to feed an entire family for $5. That was pretty much the only strawberry themed item at the Strawberry Festival, but eh…like I said about Disney World, I can embrace the cheese and have fun pretty much anywhere (that’s a good skill to have, by the way. Comes in handy when doing unpredictable, family outings). Besides, I think Mark secretly enjoyed chasing after Mia with his bumper car and repeatedly slamming into her.
Saturday was spent with my dad at a Korean block party somewhere in Queens. There were performances up on stage, ping pong tables, and oddly enough, a sand pit where Korean wrestling was supposed to take place later on in the afternoon (don’t ask…I don’t know), but as it is at most street fairs, it’s usually all about the food. I think what my dad really wanted though was a bowl of noodles at some restaurant down the block because he kept dropping hints even though there was food around us everywhere. Even after finishing off a plate of rice, beef and kimchi, he kept mentioning noodles (uh…dad…do you want to go get some noodles??). Finally about an hour later, he steered us towards the restaurant he wanted to try out, giving as an excuse the fact that Miss C hadn’t eaten anything yet. When we sat down, we realized that it was a Vietnamese Pho place run by Koreans (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and not a typical Korean noodle shop like he thought. It was ok though; my dad had spent a week in Vietnam last year and had eaten plenty of Pho, but he kept asking us and the waitress if it came with “hove”. Huh? Interestingly enough, the waitress knew what he was talking about, but Mark and I were completely perplexed. What the hell is “hove”? My dad kept insisting that he didn’t want any “hove” on his noodles and told us that in Vietnam, he liked the food as long as they didn’t put any “hove” in it.
Um, ok. “Dad, I don’t what you’re saying. Hove is not a word.”
And then it hit me about 15 minutes later. He meant herb . “Hove” was herb, but he couldn’t pronounce it correctly because, well you know, it’s hard for Koreans to pronounce an ‘r’, no matter how long they’ve lived in the states. He didn’t want any cilantro on his pho. “No hove, no hove!”
I told you Koreans didn’t like cilantro.
ps. I know Michelle Obama’s name is spelled wrong in that last photo. It amuses me endlessly that Koreans still get amazed every single time they see a non-Korean person eating and enjoying kimchi. It’s the same reason why Mark gets the white person treatment at Korean restaurants, which my parents then have to correct with the waitress. Oh, you know, getting cold water instead of hot barley tea, a fork instead of chopsticks, not getting certain individual appetizers when the rest of us do. It makes him so mad.
Posted by Jenna | 15 Comments