Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy accident

Tonight, I did a stupid thing.

The weather was nice, so when I picked Clay up from daycare, I told him we could ride his bike when we got home. We went straight from the garage, through the house, and into the back yard via the kitchen door. As I closed the door behind us, I thought I heard a click.

Now, we have one of those kitchen door knobs that automatically locks if you turn the button one way, but doesn't if you keep the button turned in the other direction. For this reason, we always keep the button in the "unlock" position. However, either someone moved it sometime this week, or I nudged it myself when I was opening and closing the door, because IT AUTOMATICALLY LOCKED US OUT. So there Clay and I sit in the back yard at 5 p.m. There'll be no sign of hubs until at least 6:15 p.m. In the meantime, I've got to occupy a hungry (and soon to be dirty) toddler.

Now, part of me was frustrated with myself for being dumb enough to lock us out. But part of me started to think that this might be a pretty fun adventure. First off, we went next door to see the neighbor's dog. The dog barks like crazy every time he sees us. Clay is always scared at first, but then he starts getting excited and yelling, "Dog! Dog! Woof!"

Then, we decided to go over and talk to our across-the-street neighbors. They were out in their driveway working on some furniture projects. This was fun. They are an older couple, and they think Clay is the cutest thing ever. Plus, they have tons of little statues in their front yard - bunnies, frogs, dogs, all kinds of stuff. Clay loves pointing them out to me, telling me what each animal is, the sound it makes, etc. (We also used their phone to leave hubs a quick voicemail, letting him know we were locked out, just in case he wanted to knock off a little early.)

After that, we decided to walk down to the res, which is really close to our house. We saw a guy on a jet ski. He kept motoring out and back. I almost started to think he was doing tricks for us! (Clay kept saying, "HEY!! Whatcha doin'?" to him. Soooo precious!) We jumped in some puddles. We met a man and his mother who were picking up pecans off the ground under a few of the pecan trees out there. (They were on a 4-wheeler, which Clay found completely fascinating.) We found a bunch of those little white flowers (weeds, but I always thought they were beautiful when I was little). We ran around in them, picked a few. We saw a plane in the sky and watched it until we couldn't see it anymore.

Then, we walked a little bit down the walking trail that runs by the side of the road. As we were trotting along, who should drive up but hubs? He picked us up and took us back to the house, where we had a very satisfying dinner of chicken nuggets and chunks of pear.

Little man was all smiles as we kicked off our shoes and sunk our bare toes into the carpet. He ate nearly all of his supper and hopped into a bubble bath (these are becoming really popular at our house) before watching 30 minutes of Bee Movie, reading some stories, and going happily to bed.

We actually had a really great time. And if I'd been "together" enough to have left the door unlocked, we would have missed it.

The world, I am convinced, is a wonderful place.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Whodunit?

I had a Clue party last night. I've always loved Clue, the board game. I played it a ton as a child. Recently, I saw a vintage Clue game on ebay, and I snapped it up. I figured we could assign each guest a character, have everyone come in costume, eat dinner, then play. (Sounds like a great Halloween party, right?)

Our party of six (plus three little people) gathered at the house last night to find out who really killed Mr. Boddy. My only real concern was behavior of little people. Would they be sweet? Would they destroy the house? Would we be able to play an entire board game in peace? We'd have to risk it to find out.

First, the menu. Here's what I served:
Appetizers - mixed nuts, garlic herb dip with veggie dippers and crackers. (The dip was a recipe from this month's edition of Cooking Light. I really liked this. It was light, and not too strongly-flavored.)
Entree - Baked Chicken with Peas (This was an old recipe that I used to make all the time in college. I thought, "Hey, since we are going retro with the game, I'll make a retro recipe!" In hindsight, I probably would not make this again. My tastes have changed in 10+ years. Plus, for fear of oversalting, I under-seasoned this dish. This one goes in the toss pile. But, hey, you can't win 'em all.)
Dessert - Apple Crostada with Vanilla Ice Cream (I made this one from scratch from a Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and I thought it came out really well. The crust was reallyreally good, probably because it was mostly butter!)

We also ordered a cheese pizza for the little ones to inhale while they watched Bolt on hubs' big-screen TV. Once the dishes were cleared away, out came the board game.

The good thing about Clue is that, even if you've never played before, it's an easy game to pick up. Plus, it doesn't go on and on and on like Monopoly. It's fairly quick to play a game, which was good for us, since we had two toddlers to tend to. We played two games, then bowed to the demands of little people and packed it up.

And might I say that our little people were pretty well-behaved? Aside from pile-driving poor Adeline as if he were in the WWF (I've got to send that girl some babysitting money or SOMETHING.), Clay was pretty decent. (A relief. I never know what I'm going to get!) Adeline was, as always, a sweetie, and precious little Ace kept us company with regular informative updates such as "I'm a boy!" (I love that kid.)

We ate at 6-ish, played the game around 7, and were wrapping up by 8:30-ish, a perfectly acceptable toddler schedule. (Though Stace did say that they achieved full nuclear meltdown on the way home. Whoops.)

Between the pages

I have read a couple of books lately that I really enjoyed, so I thought I'd share! While hubs and I were en route to NYC and back, I picked up a paperback - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I just grabbed it because it was a paperback, it was on the best seller list, and the cover art looked cool.

Anyway, I got started reading it, and I simply could not put it down. The novel is like a cross between a murder mystery, an epic tale about a successful business family, and a business/financial labyrinth, with a bit of love thrown in.

Here's the skinny: Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who has just been burned by a major expose that went wrong. As he recovers from the greatest setback of his career, Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger, an aging business giant, to discover what became of his favorite niece, Harriet. (Harriet disappeared more than forty years ago. No body has ever been found, and no one has ever heard what became of her.)

For various reasons, Blomkvist takes the job. In his search, he pairs up with Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed punk computer prodigy. The two develop a relationship as they uncover clues to the old mystery.

Though there are certainly some parts of the book that were difficult to read (Blomkvist and Salander research a series of grisly murders), character development in this novel, particularly in the case of Salander, is amazing. The plot moves quickly and keeps the reader guessing as to the truth - suspects, motives, the lot.

I liked the book so much that, upon completing it, I went out and bought the sequel (now in hardback) - The Girl Who Played with Fire. The second book features both Blomkvist and Salander, but more of the latter than the former.

In book two, we learn much more about Salander, her history, and her motives. And though I wouldn't say that the end of book two leaves the reader hanging, there are certainly a few loose ends to be tied up.

That noted, I admit that the tale of the novels' author was another driving factor in my reading tear. From Wikipedia: Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist widely considered an expert on extreme right and racist organizations. He frequently wrote and spoke publicly against such movements. Because of his public position, he'd made some enemies in Sweden. As a result, he reportedly lived under death threats from his political enemies for years. Swedish law states that, to marry, one must have a public address on record, and Larsson was so against his address being made available that he did not marry his long-term companion, Eva Gabrielsson.

Apparently, Larsson worked as a journalist and speaker during the day, and he came home and wrote these books at night. His goal was to complete a series of 10 books. However, he had written three books before he even approached a publisher about having them printed. Once he'd had a contract written up and delivered the first three books, Larsson died. He died, at the age of 50, of a massive myocardial infarction (heart attack). He left behind the unfinished manuscript of the fourth novel and synopses of the fifth and sixth in the series.

Now, to me, the story of the novelist is nearly as interesting as that of the novels themselves. Who works all day, lives under the threat of death, then goes home at night and completes THREE ENTIRE BOOKS without a peep? Then, he just shows up at a publishing house, turns the three books over, then promptly dies? Utterly fascinating.

And what's also intriguing is the unfinished work. I will forever wonder what he would have written, what, say, the ninth book would have been about, had he lived to write it.

Regardless, I can vouch for the fact that the first two novels are thrilling page-turners and worth every word. I anxiously await installment three: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is that your facelift, or are you just surprised to see me?

Each year, the Madison County Chamber of Commerce hosts a big "Ladies' Night Out" event. I went last year, and I attended again this year. This year's theme was classic TV moms, and several tables were given a popular television show (featuring a well-known mom and her family) and charged with decorating their table to suit. The table decor would be judged, and one table would be declared the winner.

Our table got The Brady Bunch, and because a certain member of our party is reallyreally competitive, we were determined to have one of the best-looking tables at the event. To wit, we trolled Gateway Mission until we found an authentic little TV from the 70s. Then we dug up some shag carpeting and some darling place mats/napkins/napkin rings. Lastly, we surfed online for a good print-out of the classic Brady grid and purchased an mp3 of the television theme song. (Which we burned onto a CD and looped for a THIRTY MINUTE run time. Have you ever listened to the Brady Bunch theme song for THIRTY MINUTES STRAIGHT? I beg you not to attempt it.) We made a bunch of psychedelic flowers out of foam and threw in some huge, clear containers of bright-colored candies.

But were we satisfied? Of course not. As a final touch, we all dressed in 60s/70s garb. (So, while everyone else slinked around in their black cocktail dresses, we were rocking the headbands and wild colors.) I pulled on a pair of white go-go boots, a mini sheath dress, and a set of white acrylic jewelry. The rest of my table mates did not disappoint. One woman came in a FABULOUS wig, with kicky black boots and amazing yellow accessories. And one member of our party actually dressed as Cindy Brady. (I told you we were committed, right?) We were forced to try and avoid the photographers from VIP Jackson the entire night, because NO ONE wanted photographic evidence of our outfits.

However, we were all still surprised when it was announced that we had WON the table decorating contest! (There were a bunch of really amazing tablescapes there.) Woo to the hoo! They even shone the spotlight on us. We were positively giddy with attention.

And what, you may ask, did we win? We each got a $100 gift certificate to Faces, a plastic surgery clinic in Ridgeland. (I am soooo not kidding.) I'm kinda wondering what kind of plastic surgery I can get for $100. Half a chin implant, maybe? Perhaps we should all pool our gift certificates, then vote on which one of our party is the most needy (Lord, I hope they don't pick me.), and send her in for a lip plumping or something.

I'm thinking that the clinic also does facials and the like (or rather, I'm really hoping), so maybe that could work. Because I am so not up for Botox. I'd like my eyebrows to raise and lower for at least a few more years!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More fall fun!

Ahhhh, fall! I love it so!

A week or so ago, I decided to ring in the season with an Oktoberfest dinner. I made homemade pretzels, which we served with this reallyreally good whole grain mustard with garlic. For the main course, I made brats braised in beer with a bit of kraut, carrot and sliced green apple. It was really yummy! And even though I'm not a beer drinker, I got hubs one of those "pick six" six packs, with six different beers to try. (I think that at least two of them are still in the fridge. They will probably sit in there forever.)

Yesterday, we loaded up and went to Nichols Boyd Farm to pick out our pumpkins. Due to the rainy weather, they didn't drive us out to the patch to pick our pumpkins. It was too muddy. (Boo, and may I also say, hoo.) BUT, Clay did get to see all the animals (chickens, goats, donkeys, cows, even some fish in the lake) AND ride in the hayride, which I think was his absolute favorite part. We could have taken 3 pumpkins but, truth be told, we could only carry two and keep up with Clay at the same time! No worries. We're never short on pumpkins during October at the Bradshaw household.

Today, we carved our pumpkin! We used one of the patterns from the old carving kit we bought last year, called "Two Face." I think it turned out pretty darn well! It may or may not last until Halloween, but no worries. We have a plug-in jack o' lantern that we can use if need be. Now, the pumpkin seeds are drying on a cookie sheet in the kitchen, (We'll toast them up and spice them for a snack!), and the pot roast I put in the crock pot is bubbling away.

I also found a bit of time this weekend to clean out my kitchen cupboards, so I'll be ready for baking! I went through everything pretty systematically, tossing what seemed old or out of date and making a list of things that we might need for all our holiday favorites. I was really surprised how well-stocked we are. I can say this for myself, there's ALWAYS something to eat around here.

NEXT weekend, I'm planning a Clue party! I've always wanted to host one around Halloween. We'll each come dressed as a character from the game, have dinner, then play! I've been practicing my accusatory hand gestures and shocked gasps all week!

Fall totally rocks.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's here! It's here!

Fall has finally arrived!! Woo to the hoo! Last weekend, hubs, Clay and I went Halloween costume shopping. This will be Clay's first year to trick or treat. (Last year, we dressed up, but we didn't go door to door. We just stayed home and opened the door for other trick or treaters.) This year, we're going dressed as Princess Leia, Han Solo and Yoda. Might I say that we look pretty sharp in our costumes? I will be sure to post photos of the big night!

I decorated the house for fall, too! I've got my garland above the door, my fall wreaths hung in the den and I even bought some pumpkins for the front porch. (I will likely buy more before the end of the season. I always jump the gun! By the time Thanksgiving gets here, I need to replace them!)

Clay and I baked pumpkin bread tonight, and I've already made pumpkin butter! (I need to get some cinnamon raisin bread to spread that stuff on. Making a mental grocery list . . . ) Tomorrow, if the rain holds off, our little family is going out to Nichols Boyd Farm to choose our jack o'lantern pumpkin! We went there for the first time last year, and it was really fun! They have a hay bale maze, big fields full of pumpkins, and lots of fun little places where you can take great pictures. (If your kid cooperates. Which mine won't.) I'm hoping that we'll have a good time tomorrow, and that the weather is decent.

We'll probably carve our pumpkin (I miraculously found our carving kit and design booklet from last year, stuffed in the kitchen junk drawer) and make spiced pumpkin seeds (which are sooooo good) on Sunday.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Absolutely raving.

Sweet Sandi and I went to Thalia Mara Hall on Wednesday night to see the Kessler production of Rave On!, the Buddy Holly musical revue show. What fun!

The show featured a great band (keys, drums, three horns, two guitars) plus the singing, guitar-playing, acting sensation of Billy McGuigan as the legendary Buddy Holly. The music was so much fun! As I was listening to the band, I realized how seldom it is in this market that one hears a full band like that. I mean, three horns? And the sax guy was crazy-good. Hearing him play made me remember why musicians get all the girls.

McGuigan gave a marathon performance. Basically, this one guy carries most of the show. He's the only one who really speaks, plus he's singing, dancing, and playing his guitar. Not only that, he wrote, produced and directed this production. Amazing. I was very impressed with him.

The songs are classics, and they were very well-performed. The audience really got into it, too, singing, clapping, swaying. A couple of ladies down front even got up and danced.

And by the way, ol' Buddy threw ONE guitar pic into the audience that night. Guess who ended up with it?

Sometimes, my life sooooo rocks.

Two more reasons I love hubs.

Exhibit A

Hubs (while cleaning the kitchen one evening): Why do you NEVER rinse out your coffee cup in the mornings?! There is always this ring around the cup because you won't rinse it out! Then, I have to SCRUB it before I put it in the dishwasher!

Me: That's some pretty big talking from a man who doesn't know how to put the toilet paper back on the roll.

(Pause.)

Hubs: Touche'



Exhibit B

As you may know, we have made some forays into the wildly discouraging world of potty training. One evening, while Clay was in the tub, my angelic little boy abruptly stood up and said, "It's yuck."

I looked to see that he had just dropped a deuce into the tub. I quickly plucked him out of the tub, cleaned his little dirty bottom, wrapped him in a towel, and toted him into the den, where I could put his diaper/jammies on him, etc.

At such time, I said to Brian, "Clay just pooped in the tub."

Did hubs say any of the following?:

A. "He pooped in the TUB?! GROSS!"
B. "How could you let him poop in the tub?!"
C. "Good luck cleaning THAT mess up."

Nope. With nary a word, hubs got up from the couch, went to the kitchen, and started cutting up a paper towel roll, which he then used to scoop the poop out of the tub and into the toilet. Then, this sainted man cleaned up the tub and the bath toys.



~Sigh.~ Am I a lucky girl or what?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New York Trip report, final installment

Day 6
Hubs and I slept late on Thursday, but when we finally got going, we took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked about half of it and got great views of both Brooklyn and Manhattan's financial district. There are plaques and little signs with information about the bridge's construction and history along the footpath, and I really enjoyed taking pictures of all the cool cable formations that make up the bridge's support system.

After that, we decided to swing by Chinatown, which was only a subway stop or two away. Have I mentioned my love of Chinatowns in previous posts? Every time I go to a major city, I investigate to find out if it has a Chinatown. And if it does, I go there. Why? Not only can you find cheap souvenirs, you can eat DIM SUM! If you've never had dim sum, allow me to enlighten you. It's almost like the Chinese version of a buffet. You sit at a table, and some nice waiter or waitress brings you a lovely pot of hot tea, plates, silverware and cups. You pour your tea, sweeten it, and take a few sips, letting the cup warm your hands.

Before you know it, another waiter/waitress comes by, pushing a rolling cart filled with all these little covered dishes. He/She begins opening the lids, and the little dishes are each filled with all kinds of things: steamed dumplings with every imaginable filling (and you KNOW how I loved a steamed dumpling, right?), pork buns, egg rolls, spring rolls, sesame cookies, little pastries filled with chicken and pork and other stuff, little heaps of steamed veggies, tender little morsels of beef and chicken. So you point to what you want, and she puts the little covered dish on your table, marking the piece of paper at the table's edge to reflect what you've chosen. AND THE CARTS KEEP COMING. And each one of them offers something different. You don't even get up from the table! You just point and eat!

And here's the best part. Dim sum is CHEAP. Like, two people can order half the stuff on the cart, and still pay only $20. I've eaten dim sum in three U.S. cities: Honolulu, Portland, and now, New York, and it's been yummy every time. The only challenge is not to fill up on the first two carts, because there are usually at least four. (FOUR! Woo to the hoo!)

Anyhoo, hubs and I found a little place in Chinatown called Mandarin and had a great lunch, then we poked around all the cramped little shops and bought touristy souvenirs. I got a scarf, some chopsticks, and a bunch of T-shirts.

That night for dinner, we hit the street for a good slice of pizza. We ended up at Naples 45, a great Italian restaurant right behind Grand Central Terminal, in the bottom of the MetLife building. The restaurant imports alot of its ingredients from Italy, and everything else is made from scratch on site. I got a kick out of watching them toss the pizza dough.

Hubs and I ordered two small appetizers - the meatballs (which were YUM) and the fried calamari (the best I'd ever had. IF ONLY they served it with a saffron garlic aioli, like they used to at Del Sol. That was the best stuff EVER. Unfortunately, Naples 45 serves theirs with a spicy marinara. The sauce was ok, but not a show-stopper.) Then, I tucked into a super pizza. It was very simple - just tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil - but all of the ingredients were so good that it was nearly perfect.

After dinner, we headed out to rue B (a little restaurant/bar on the lower East side) to meet up with Paul and Brooke for drinks and dessert. Brooke is a darling, delightful former co-worker of mine, and she lives in Brooklyn as a newlywed with her precious husband, Paul. They'd been apart for about a week right before we arrived in the city, and they made the most adorable goo-goo eyes at one another all evening! It was wonderful to see them so happy, and we had delightful conversation for a few hours before I declared that I was old and needed to hit the hay!

We caught a cab back to the apartment and sank gratefully into bed.

Day 7
We lazed around our last full day in New York City. After a late breakfast, we went to Central Park. We spent some time at Bethesda Terrace, then we ran around in Sheep Meadow for a while. After that, we sat a spell at Strawberry Fields. The park is absolutely beautiful and, for all the greenery, it's pretty densely packed with attractions - statues, lakes, fountains, amphitheatres. There's just alot there. In the more touristy areas of the park (Bethesda Terrace, Strawberry Fields), there are lots of visitors, but the less high-profile areas just seemed to have a smattering of New Yorkers in them.

After enjoying the park for a while, we figured we'd seek out a classic New York deli for lunch. We ended up at Carnegie Deli, where hubs and I split the biggest open-faced Reuben sandwich that I have ever seen. I was only responsible for eating half of it, and I think I left about 30 percent of my portion on my plate. If only I'd been more discriminating, I would have had more room for cheesecake! (Their desserts looked DIVINE.) The place was packed, though I think alot of the customers were tourists. (The deli's proximity to Times Square definitely skewed the clientele.)

After that, we turned our attention to souvenir shopping. We picked up a bunch of campy stuff for the family back home, plus nabbed a few things for ourselves, at the big and gaudy Grand Slam shop near Times Square. Fun!

Then, it was pack, pack, pack. In the morning, we were off to Jackson again, where I was so excited to see little man that I nearly wept! We had a really great time, and I'm soooo glad that hubs and I decided to take some time out for ourselves. We've already decided that we'll return to NYC, for a shorter trip, some time in the future!

Monday, October 05, 2009

New York City trip report, continued . . .

Day 4
On Tuesday, we woke and rode the subway aaaaalll the way down to South Ferry so we could catch the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island ferry. We had the chance to walk through Battery Park while we were down there, and it's a lovely little public green space. Tickets to the ferry were included in our CityPass and, again, because we were early, we boarded the boat pretty quickly and were on our way! Views of the statue on the approach are beautiful, and you get some great views of Manhattan from the water as well. It was sunny and a bit breezy on the water, very pleasant.

When we arrived at Liberty Island, we strolled around the perimeter, admiring the statue, the views, and the weather. (The statue was actually alot smaller than I thought it would be. And did you know that the metal sheathing that makes up the exterior of the statue is only the width of two coins? Amazing little tidbits of info all over the place up there.) However, we later realized that what we SHOULD have done was get right in line to go inside the museum located in the base of the statue. By the time we decided to do that, the line was heinous. We decided to skip it and head straight for Ellis Island on the next ferry.

Ellis Island turned out to be one of my favorite experiences of the trip. The more I explored it, the more I realized that it was this part of the attraction that gave the statue meaning. We started on the ground floor, where we learned all about immigration to the United States over the past century or so. Then, we moved upstairs to the huge Registry Room, where immigrants were initially "processed" after landing at Ellis Island. The exhibits on the second floor were heart breaking. Gaining access to the United States was not an easy process. After a long, expensive, often arduous ship voyage, immigrants lined up in the Registry Room so they could be assessed. Officials did this to make sure immigrants were healthy, able to work, sound of mind, and otherwise equipped so they would not become a burden on the state.

At the museum, you could pick up phones throughout various parts of the exhibits and hear the voices of immigrants, telling you in their own words about their experiences at Ellis Island. Some of the stories were sad, some of them were hopeful, and all of them really spoke to the indomitable spirit of this country. It made me proud to be an American.

We were getting a bit hungry, so we bought lobster rolls and fries from the cafe at Ellis Island and ate them on one of the stone picnic tables overlooking the water. A lovely lunch!

That evening, we gussied up and headed to Uncle Nick's on 9th Avenue for dinner. We had huge, delicious Greek salads and a huge mixed appetizer plate loaded with Feta cheese, pita bread, tzatziki, taramosalata, grape leaves, olives, grilled octopus, kaftedes and more. The whole purpose was not to fill up too much before hitting the theatre scene that night, but I don't know if we truly succeeded!

At any rate, we finished dinner and then hoofed it to the Gershwin Theatre for a thrilling performance of Wicked. First of all, I really liked the Gershwin. They had little exhibits on the theatre's history throughout, as well as signed photographs of stage and screen legends all over the walls. And once the curtain went up, well, I was good and truly hooked. I've read the book that the stage musical is based on, and while many liberties certainly were taken, they did make for a dazzling live production. It didn't hurt that the two leads were phenomenally talented and that the costumes were a fanciful delight. The show was also very self-aware, a tactic seen often in more modern work. References were frequently made to The Wizard of Oz movie, currently in re-release. Very, very entertaining!!


Day 5
Wednesday was Met day. We took the subway to 79th Street, then cut through Central Park to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Along the way, we got to explore the Shakespeare Garden, poke around in Belvedere's Castle (Views were great from up there!) and even snap a few photos of Cleopatra's Needle! (I photographed its twin on the banks of the Thames in London a decade ago. It was eerie to be taking pictures of it again in the here and now!)

When we got to the Met, we headed straight for the Egyptian galleries. The Temple of Dendur is completely surreal, and standing in front of the sarcophagi was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Giving the Egyptian exhibits their due worked up my appetite, so we stopped for lunch at the Petrie Court Cafe and Wine Bar. I had the special - a delicious pork roast with horseradish potatoes and braised cabbage. I topped it off with a yummy apple crisp, and we were ready to tackle more of the museum.

We decided to head towards the Medieval galleries next, which featured some wonderful religious art. Then, we just HAD to slip through the armor galleries. (Those really reminded me of the armory we visited in Spain. But the Met had more pieces on display, including some of the most gorgeous firearms I'd ever seen. I mean, if I had a rifle with an ornately-carved wood grip, capped at the butt end by a finely illustrated Native American in sterling silver, I might just take up hunting, kwim?)

Lastly, we tripped through the European sculpture and decorative arts galleries, which smacked of the Louvre. Whole rooms from French palaces and English country estates, re-created on this side of the Atlantic. Mind-boggling.

All in all, we covered the better part of the first floor (including the two sculpture gardens, which were soooo beautiful). We also went up to the roof to see the modern installation there. I was absolutely sick when we had to leave, but we had dinner reservations and show tickets for that evening. At such time as I return to NYC, the Met will be one of the first places I go.

Incidentally, going to the Met made me very proud. I've been to several of the "big" European museums, and none of them could touch the Met for holdings, layout (it was easy to find everything, the art was beautifully displayed, and even though there were tons of people there, I never felt crowded or rushed), and guest services. (Bathrooms, shops, restaurants - everything was everywhere. Mighty convenient.) People of all nationalities were there, admiring one of the greatest museums in the United States. Nice.

After resting a bit at the apartment, we headed out to Marseilles (again, on 9th Avenue! Noticing a pattern here?) for a delicious dinner. I was glad we had reservations, because the place was absolutely packed with the pre-theatre crowd. This charming restaurant is set up like a French bistro, and I had the mussels with fries and a glass of red. Hubs had a DELICIOUS steak, smothered in melted herb butter, and I nearly stole it off his plate! Service was prompt, friendly, and attentive. This place was a bit spendy, but completely worth it. I loved it, and I'll return when I'm back in the city.

Fully sated, we walked a few blocks to the Minskoff Theatre to see The Lion King. This show has one of the most moving intro numbers I've ever seen. And though the story and music was familiar, the way the production suggested the environment of the African savanna was remarkable. I loved, loved, loved the costumes, and they accentuated the beauty of the performers while also creating the world of the production. Brilliant. Also, the use of symbolism in this show was very nearly cathartic.

After the show, we stopped by Junior's for some authentic New York cheesecake. We tried both the plain and the raspberry swirl variety. I may be having some of this stuff shipped to me over the holidays! Then, we legged it back through the theatre district to our apartment. On the way, we bumped into Daniel Craig, James Gandolfini, and Bill Pullman. I am sooo not kidding. They are all in shows on Broadway, so by the time we left Junior's, they were out in front of their theatres greeting fans. We didn't stop, but dude, they were right there. (Gandolfini looked buzzed.)

More to come . . .

Sunday, October 04, 2009

NYC trip report

We're baaa-aack! Hubs and I just returned from our first non-baby vacation since Clay was born two years ago. We spent a romantic, exciting week in New York City! Read on for the trip report. (If any of you are planning a similar getaway to the city, I hope the info will be helpful!)

Day 1
We flew out of the Jackson airport on Saturday morning. Flights were on time! (The "trend" watch in this month's Sky Magazine is bacon. I need to write the editors and let them know that, where I come from, bacon is not a trend. It is a mainstay.)

We got to NYC mid-afternoon and took Super Shuttle from the Newark airport to our apartment. (We chose to fly into Newark because the flight times there matched our desires most closely). They picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at our apartment door for about $35. (A cab would have cost $45, plus tolls and tip.) Our little studio apartment was spacious, clean, and much quieter than I thought it would be. (We were on the 9th floor, which helped.) We booked it through Homeaway.com, which we've used to book properties before. The apartment was near Times Square on 41st Street. If we'd been a few blocks farther downtown, we would have been in a gritty neighborhood. As it was, though, we were super-close enough to attractions and a major transportation hub, and we got the place for a steal.

After getting settled and freshening up a bit, we headed out to Times Square, which is a total assault on the senses. It's crowded, gaudy, and full of tourist traps. A hot mess. But we had to go and check it out. That night, we stopped for dinner at Nizza, a wonderful little place on 9th Avenue. I had a delicious arugula salad, the broiled clams, and a glass of wine, and hubs had the veal. We really loved this little place. There were a ton of great little restaurants on 9th Avenue - delicious, reasonable, not too crowded. It became a favorite place for us to troll for lunch and dinner.

After that, we went to an improv comedy show very much like the old "Who's Line Is It, Anyway?" television show, over at The Broadway Comedy Club. (Yep, we got hustled there by one of those hawkers in Times Square. Totally fell for that one, but we didn't have plans that night, and the show was funny, so it worked out.) Lots of audience participation (which you KNOW I love).

Day 2
Sunday morning, we started out with a full breakfast at a little deli near the apartment. Then, we hit the stores (in the rain) for some essentials. We had to go all the way to Macy's to find towels. TOWELS! "This is the greatest city in America," I thought. "Surely we'll find a purveyor of towels close to our apartment." WRONG. If someone was selling towels in the blocks surrounding our apartment, I sure as hell couldn't find them. No, I had to take the subway all the way to the freakin' GARMENT DISTRICT, in the RAIN, and go to the SIXTH FLOOR of Macy's. Yeesh. I was rather hoping to avoid Macy's altogether, but it was not to be.

At any rate, I felt much better after a long shower. Hubs and I headed out to the Upper West Side for a delightful lunch at Savann. I had a delicious salmon fettuccine with tomatoes, scallions, and a light cream sauce. Hubs had a GORGEOUS steak sandwich. Loved this little place, too. They brought these sweet little rolls and muffins out to you when you were seated. We wanted to try the bistro next door (Nice Matin, I think?), but we didn't get back over there.

Much restored, we went to the American Museum of Natural History to escape the rain. And what an escape it was! I LOVED this museum! We gave short shrift to the "people" exhibits, but we covered pretty much all of the animal exhibits, including the amazing dinosaur skeletons. What I really enjoyed about this museum is that the building itself is historic. In addition to the scientific value of the actual exhibits, the facility presents the visitor with a wonderful, evolving idea of what a museum should be, and how that ideal has changed over the course of American history. Riveting. Before leaving, we also stopped by the planetarium to catch the current show. It was short and very entertaining!

Since we'd spent virtually all day at the museum, we were starving by the time we left. We ate dinner at Bella Vita, a boisterous, crowded little Italian restaurant a few blocks off Times Square. I washed down my heaping plate of spaghetti and meatballs with a nice glass of cab sav, but the pizzas and the salads looked absolutely amazing, too!


Day 3
We started Monday with an early trip to the Empire State Building. We got there at around 9:15 a.m., and we'd already bought our City Passes online (which include admission to the history museum, the Empire State Building, the Met, and many other must-see attractions), so we didn't have to wait to buy tickets. As a result, we absolutely whizzed up to the top of the building. The Empire State Building is a beautiful structure, and it's obvious that it was built to impress. (Take a look around the lobby. Not only is it razzle-dazzle, there are images of the silhouette of the building everywhere. I wonder what Freud would have to say about that . . . )

Views from the top are amazing (you get a great view of the Chrysler Building, in particular), and I was really glad we'd decided to do this early in our trip. It helped us orient ourselves in the city as we explored later in the week. We got the audio tour with our City Passes, and I thought it was extremely informative. Hubs and I took goofy pictures of ourselves at the top that look strikingly similar to the goofy pictures we took of ourselves atop the Eiffel Tower in 2002. (The Bradshaws - goofy for at least seven years, and counting!)

After that, we legged it up 5th Avenue to the New York Public Library. Now, I'm sure many people go to New York and never feel the need to visit the New York Public Library, but it was important to me. I observed the lions, standing guard over the library's entrance and keeping a wary eye on the street traffic. Then, we went inside and poked around. There are a few public exhibits inside on the library's history and restoration. In addition, I wanted to take a peek into the reading room, which is probably the most beautiful room inside a library that I'll ever have the occasion to be in. Huge windows let the sunlight stream in, there are gorgeous chandeliers in addition to table lamps, and even the roof is decorated, painted with the sky and clouds. All of this, plus loads of books. Heaven.

We grabbed lunch on the go and walked further up 5th to arrive at St. Patrick's Cathedral. I have been to many old churches in Europe, and St. Patrick's offers much of the same feeling. The arched ceiling seems impossibly high, and a bevy of small altars in front of statues of saints and the Virgin Mary provide places for visitors to make donations, light candles, and offer prayers. There is some beautiful statuary in here.

We crossed the street in front of St. Patrick's to check out Rockefeller Center. It's a large complex of buildings that houses television studios, shops, and performance venues. We had planned to take the Stage Door Tour at Radio City Music Hall here, but I have to admit that by this time, we were pretty pooped! Instead of the 1-2 hour tour, we headed back to the apartment to take a load off.


Later that day, we ventured out to Grand Central Station so we could see the rush-hour traffic hit. We parked ourselves in an out-of-the-way location and watched as people ran all over the terminal, lugging bags, listening to their headphones, and looking terribly worried they'd miss their next train.

The terminal itself is a feat of architecture. You could clearly see what parts of the structure were older and what had been added, and I loved the painted, illuminated ceiling. I was getting a little hungry by this time, but we had dinner plans with friends, so I satisfied myself with a fig balsamic gelato from the dining concourse. (By the way, there is no excuse to be hungry at Grand Central Station. There are tons of cheap, tasty options in the dining concourse, as well as a few nicer restaurants on the ground floor.) We stepped outside while I licked my cone to get a better look at the Chrysler Building from up close.

After that, we headed to Gyu Kaku on 3rd Avenue to meet a very sweet friend of mine, Anna Lise, and her boyfriend for dinner. We loved this place. You basically sit at a table that features your own little grill in the center. You order raw meats and veggies, then you can cook them yourself on the grill. It was fun!

I started with a mango mojito and the delicious house salad. Then, hubs and I ordered Chateaubriand, garlic chicken, and sausages (which were dang good), as well as broccoli and mushrooms. I finished up with a great crepe/cream/green tea layered dessert (which tasted soooo much better than it sounds). The company was wonderful. I hadn't seen Anna Lise in so long, and she seems to really be thriving in New York. It made me happy to see her so happy, and her boyfriend was perfectly lovely! Yay for meet-ups!

After that, we headed straight back to the apartment and collapsed!

More to come . . .

My 101

September was a good month for the list. Checked off three things. Woo to the hoo!

101 things to do in 1001 days

Record family history (Create a family tree with my grandmother? Photos? Stories?)
Take Clay’s picture professionally at least once every 6 months
Make a will
Make a living will
Talk with Laura about Clay
Send a Christmas card to an estranged family member

Write to my grandmother
Attend services at three local churches
Volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to me
Go back to the gym – at least 3 times a week
Lose 10 pounds

Keep it off for 6 months
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures
Go to the Smith Robertson Museum
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Take an art class (pottery, painting, etc.)
Paint a picture
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Paint the front porch swing
Tile the master bathroom
Plant some flowering shrubs in the back yard and DON’T let them die
Plant an herb garden
Fix the patio table
Get a window shade for the baby’s bedroom
Have an energy audit done on the house
Paint the shed in the back yard

Paint the inside of the garage
Take Clay swimming
Drink wine in California
Ride in a helicopter
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go to Graceland
Go to New York City - I have just returned from this trip, and it was AWESOME! Look for a full trip report in coming posts.
Create a “great books list” and start reading (at least 5 books)

Create a “great movies list” and start watching (at least 5 movies)
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Host a “dinner among the leaves” party
Host an Easter brunch
Throw a Kentucky Derby party

Celebrate the Chinese New Year
Pay off the last of my student loan
Buy some sexy new underwear
Attend at least one live concert

Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Visit a botanic garden
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Watch a meteor shower
Give blood
See snow
See the ocean
Adopt an Angel at Christmas
Go bowling
Pay for the person behind me in line
Do an anonymous good deed
Learn to bake a good loaf of bread
Go on a day hike
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Go on a vacation sans baby - Check and check. Hubs and I took our New York trip solo.
Let Clay ride in the convertible with the top down
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one Mensa meeting
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Learn how to play poker
Learn how to shoot a decent game of pool
Make a real paella
Make a real sangria
Get a facial
Start taking vitamins again
Take mom to have her makeup done
Discover 5 new recording artists I really like and buy their CDs
Find a pair of sunglasses that will change my life - I think I can count this one done. Last month, Belk had a big sale, and their Fossil sunglasses were more than half off. I stocked up. Surely at least ONE of those pairs will change my life, eh?

Find my signature fragrance
Take some pictures of leaves turning color in the fall
Set up and take some faux-tography shots of the baby
Write to Grace
Visit Grace in Oregon

Go on a picnic and eat food that I MADE, not food that I bought
Visit a dermatologist
Book a session with a personal trainer
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Bring the baby to visit my dad at work
Take a bubble bath
Light some candles just for us, when we DON’T have someone coming over
Make mint juleps and drink them on the front porch swing

Go ice skating
Preserve Clay’s foot and hand prints
Attain APR accreditation
Buy or make Clay a kick-ass Halloween costume
Give a gift that I made.

Send someone flowers for no reason
Begin using my wine notebook again and identify at least three new wines that I like
Buy a birdfeeder and set it up in the back yard
Fix the broken window pane on the porch
Spend an afternoon lying in the hammock


First day of the challenge: January 1, 2008
Last day of the challenge: September 28, 2010