Waking Up in the City That Never Sleeps

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I woke up our first morning in New York with butterflies in my stomach--that's how excited I was.  Mr. T&C had almost immediately reverted to his business traveler persona, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, so he was up and showering, checking on the weather, and finding where the newspapers and coffee were served.  I showered and dressed and then waked up the children, who protested only mildly.  We had a lovely breakfast at the hotel--fresh fruit and an assortment of muffins, scones, bagels, and croissants made by Sarabeth's, a popular UE establishment noted for its brunch and baked goods. 

Being a planner, I had made a fairly detailed--but flexible--itinerary before we left home.  Our "map of the day," as Middle calls it, began with us taking the Circle Line Cruise around Manhattan. The cruise departs from Pier 83 on the Hudson.  Pier 83 is between 42nd and 43rd streets, and is also where the USS Intrepid is docked. Now, Mr. T&C and I were in agreement that we wanted to do as much walking as possible on this trip because it's the best way to experience the city. We had given the children a pep talk  on a couple of occasions about how we would be doing a lot of walking, and we made sure everyone had comfortable shoes. Mr T&C was firmly convinced that we could walk to Pier 83--a mere 54 blocks away!  Sometimes it is just best to keep quiet and let nature take its course, so to speak.  We were all full of vim and vigor, so we set out down 5th Avenue, past the Met, past the Guggenheim, past the Whitney, past the point of cheerfulness.  I may have neglected to mention that it was 35 degrees and starting to rain.  We hailed a cab for the remaining 38 blocks. 

We made it, checked in for our cruise amid slight confusion, and then were told we needed to take the 11:30 cruise rather than the 10.  This would have been an opportune time for everyone to turn on me, but they did not, and as a result of their taking the high road, we had our first city adventure.  After asking one of the City Line employees about where we might find a drugstore (to buy umbrellas), we headed over a couple of blocks to 11th Avenue to a CVS.  Only we couldn't find the CVS, and we walked several blocks in both directions.  Providence intervened when I looked over my shoulder and spied a sign that said Salvation Army Thrift Store.  I pointed it out to the Mister, and he said, "why not, we're not getting any drier."  And off we went, up three or four flights of stairs in an old, old building and into another world.  We bought three umbrellas for a dollar each; and Mr. T&C found a Ralph Lauren black topcoat for $20.  As we were checking out--both amazed and aghast by our first NYC shopping experience, we noticed that the 20-something fellow in front of us was buying an armload of ladies' undergarments--the industrial strength type of products that feature lots of buckles and hooks and eyes.  I am thinking (hoping?) that the young man was an artist and planned to use his purchases in some sort of feminist mixed media work.  The Mister seemed to think there were other possibilities.

The cruise was excellent.  We were warm and dry.  Our narrator was funny and informative, and it was nice to sit down for a while, too.  We ate a very late lunch at Carmine's in the Theatre District.  Lunch was great, and the atmosphere was terrific.  We took a few photos in Times Square, when the rain began pouring in earnest, and our plan to visit the Empire State Building was scrapped for the day.  We decided to visit Macy's on Herald Square, which was mobbed, and, I am sorry to say, that the only miracle on 34th Street that day, was that the Mister and I were still speaking (barely) when we left that crazy retail madhouse.  We happened upon Grand Central Station and stopped in to admire the architecture and revive the kids with sandwiches and gelato before taking a taxi back to HW, where we collapsed.

It began with The House on East 88th Street

I think that I began to fall in love with Manhattan when I was in kindergarten. That was about the time Mr. and Mrs. Primm moved into the house on East 88th Street and just before lunch discovered that their new home came complete with a crocodile, Lyle.  Bernard Waber penned the children's classic The House on East Eighty-eighth Street in 1962, which actually was a few years before I headed off to nursery school, but I so enjoyed that book and the subsequent Lyle books, and part of their charm was their Upper East Side setting.  Soon after I was beguiled by Kay Thompson's mischievous Eloise, who lived in a hotel, of all things!  Clearly, New York was some kind of place.  My literary affair with the City continued with Stuart Little, Harriet the Spy, and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which first introduced me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  On and on I read and dreamed about going to New York City in such books as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Bonfire of the Vanities, and dozens of other less memorable stories.  New York, however, was never in the family vacation plans.  So, I marveled at the Badlands and the Tetons and the wildlife of Yellowstone, and planned and prayed about how I would get to New York.  And then, when I was able to make and afford my own travel plans, there were bills, and love, and babies, and furniture, and in-laws, and work, but, at last, the time came, and I expect it will come again and again.  New York was the New York I had imagined as a five-year-old, and that was mighty exhilarating.  So, bear with me, or skim, or skip, but I'm going to revisit our NYC trip in my next few posts.

Mr T&C and I and Big, Middle, and Little arrived at LaGuardia late Wednesday afternoon to a chilly but sunny New York.  Our shuttle driver sped through Queens to Manhattan, horn blaring, while I unabashedly gawked out the window.  After several stops on the West Side, we pulled up in front of Hotel Wales at the corner of Madison and East 92nd Street.  The hotel was charming.  It opened in 1900 and has operated continuously as a hotel all those years.  A few photos of our suite are below.  We were on the top floor, with a view of the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir at Central Park.   We settled in and freshened up, and then headed out for dinner in our Carnegie Hill neighborhood, finally deciding on Three Guys, a diner with a family friendly vibe.  We were all so excited to be in New York, even Mr. T&C, who has been at least a half dozen times.  Of course, he'd never been so close to the house on East 88th Street.

More company

From teenagers to retirees, we have hosted the gamut this month.  Mr. T&C's aunt and her beloved visited for a few days en route from Maine to Florida.  Having retirees is quite different from having a house full of kids.  Food is somewhat less important, or, more accurately, quality is more important than quantity.  This was an extremely busy work week for the mister and me, so I relied on the Crock Pot to feed everyone.  While we were busily re-merchandising the store, Mrs. Crock Pot was turning chicken thighs, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, and thyme into a delicious and colorful dinner.  We added a salad of baby greens and apple slices, and we were all set.  These particular retirees like to sleep in, or at least avoid the morning rush hour of bookbags, lunch bags, and breakfast, so again I offered juices, cereals, oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit.  The must-have item, though, is coffee.  There are several good brands available--even Publix has a fine store brand for everyday, but I do love Seattle's Finest.  More than Starbucks.  More than Peet's.  The aroma of Seattle's Finest brewing is amazing.  If you can grind your beans just before you serve, that is the best.  If that's not possible, measure and brew to the package directions. Don't skimp. Weak coffee is just not worth bothering about.

Another staple of the good host is, of course, a fine set of sheets.  My favorites are from Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  They are 600 count, 100% cotton.  They are quite thick and have a slightly puckered, or dobby, texture, which makes for a very crisp bed. I discovered these sheets when staying at a friend's house on Saint Simon's Island, and I became obsessed with finding them.  Thankfully, our hostess was forthcoming about where she got them!  I was fully prepared for her to say they were ordered from a linen shop in NYC, so I was really excited to know that I could get them here.  About once a month, Bed, Bath, & Beyond includes a twenty percent off coupon in the newspaper, so there is no reason to pay full price.  Although for these sheets, I would.

Mr. T&C's aunt and uncle have lived most of their lives in New England, so to share part of our culture, we wanted them to enjoy a Southern delicacy.  On previous visits, we had served up some cheese grits and turnip greens.  We had demonstrated and served the quintessential tomato sandwiches.  They had enjoyed barbecue.  So, Middle and Mr. T&C decided they were ready--Hot and Ready, that is--to taste the South's favorite pastry, Krispy Kremes.  Mr. T&C walked in with the box, and both Aunt and Uncle said, "Oh, yes, we get those from the grocery store sometimes."  Mr. T&C just laughed.  "Have you ever had a hot one?" he asked.  "No, what do you mean?"  I had already begun pouring glasses of milk.   "Here you go, try one."  Well, I won't try to capture the sounds and expressions that followed that first bite.  I'm afraid it wouldn't translate all that well.  Let's just say that they seemed to enjoy the hot doughnuts.  Mr. T&C seemed to enjoy his role as a Southern host, too, and the funny thing is, he had his first hot Krispy Kreme in Boston!

House guests, or as we say in the South, Company

Mr. T&C and I have enjoyed hosting company the past two weekends.  Our first guests were up from Florida to attend the Clemson football game.  The Mom, a Clemson alum, and her two teenage daughters, and their two platonic friends, who happen to be great friends with Big and Middle, arrived late Friday.  All four boys went to school together beginning at age three.  It was chilly, and it rained and rained and rained.  Nevertheless, we are a hearty crowd, and although we would have preferred sunny and crisp, bright days, we had a great time in overcast and damp, chilly ones.   Mr. T&C and I have had a lot of guests in our marriage, so I was prepared.  For the boys, we set up a bunkroom in the playroom.  In our old house, we could sleep seven (besides ourselves) in beds; here it's only four, so we have Aerobeds.  They work great--it is worth the money to get this brand.  They do not leak; they do not squeak.  Also important, lots of towels, fluffy and soft.  I used to use only white towels, but I recently bought some lovely pale seagreen/blue ones and some buff ones, too, at Marshall's.  Really lovely.  I also keep a few dark washcloths around for removing mascara and lipstick. 

When you have teenagers, you have to have a lot of food, and you have to expect some vegetarians and some less adventurous eaters.  For breakfast, we offered milk, cranberry juice, and orange juice with Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, granola, Instant Breakfast, yogurt, and toast with a selection of spreads.  Eggs and bacon cooked to order.  The second morning, we made pancakes with sliced bananas, if desired, syrup and butter.  For dinner, we had a salad, garlic bread, and two big pans of baked spaghetti--one traditional and one meatless white sauce version.  I know spaghetti is not exactly a thrill to anyone who likes to cook, but, believe me, every bit was eaten.  Other good things to have when it is raining and you have teenagers and the football game is over are chocolate chip cookies and card games.  And milk.  Buy more than you need, because--trust me--you're going to need it. 

Happy October!

 This week has been quite full, beginning with houseguests last weekend--more on that later; the culmination of a freelance assignment for the American Institute of Architects, which somehow resulted in my name--along with about twelve others--engraved in granite on a sidewalk on Main Street; the re-merchandising of our store; and a new contingent of houseguests.  I do want to post on each of these events, but, in the meantime, and because of the hour, I welcome October with this sweet poem.  It reminds me of nursery school and construction paper leaves taped on the windows.

October’s Party
by George Cooper

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came.
The Chestnuts, Oaks and Maples,
And leaves of every name.

The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.

The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed;
The lovely Misses maple
In scarlet looked their best.

All balanced to their partners,
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.

Then in the rustic hollow
At hide-and-seek they played;
The party closed at sundown
And everybody stayed.

Professor Wind played louder;
They flew along the ground;
And then the party ended
In jolly "hands around."
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