What’s in a word?

Every decade brings its own expressions and buzz words.  In the Seventies, I was running around in miniskirts and hip-hugger jeans hoping that using expressions like Far Out and Groovy would make me sound cool and hip.   Miniskirts are a thing of the past for me and my hip-hugger jeans have been replaced with ones that hopefully disguise muffin top, but I still find the English language fascinating.             

Sitting in front of my sister’s fireplace on a chilly fall evening with our glasses of wine, we reminisced about some of our favorite slang from the Sixties and Seventies and then moved on to the present. If you want to get my sister Jeanne riled up, just suggest she practice “mindfulness”.  For Jeanne it connotes cultish-ness and airy fairy thinking.  She prefers logical, well-reasoned discourse.  I will be mindful of that.

An expression that drives us both crazy is “gone missing.”  We hate it and think it’s wrong.  Either you’re missing or you’re not, you have not gone missing.  But I must confess, Merriam Webster disagrees.  Despite what Webster has to say, the jury is still out on this one for me and I’m hoping “gone missing” falls out of favor soon.  

One of my trigger words is “selfcare”.  A few months ago when I was dealing with purging, packing and moving and getting a bit stressed, I actually had a friend ask me “are you practicing selfcare?” At the time I found it amusing, but then began to wonder what exactly does that mean?  Search selfcare on the internet and you will find more books on the subject than I could ever read, along with a monthly selfcare subscription box you can purchase “to live your best life.”  Apparently selfcare runs the gambit from drinking wine and binge-watching Netflix to Michelle Obama spending her Sunday at the gym.  Even Good Morning America wants you to get in on some selfcare.

Recently when I again found myself getting stressed, I decided to take the bull by the horns and give selfcare a try.  My gym has a sauna and a steam shower which I had never taken advantage of and they became part of my plan.  I decided I would sign up for a gentle yoga class and then indulge in all my gym had to offer.  I packed up some my favorite toiletries and headed off to find my bliss.

 

Since I arrived a few minutes early for class, I peeked into the steam shower to check it out. With no laminated wall posters to explain how it all works, I went to the front desk to ask some questions.  The two young women said, you mean the sauna?  No, I mean the steam shower.  They didn’t seem to know that there was one but gamely followed me back to the women’s locker room and we had a look.  With their somewhat vague directions, I moved onto my yoga class.

Following my gentle yoga class, I applied a deep conditioning hair masque, plopped on a shower cap and headed into the sauna. 

Ha! No make-up selfie!!!

I did find the sauna relaxing and calming and hope to make it part of my regular routine.  Then it was onto the steam room.  Based on my earlier conversation with the gym employees, I thought I knew what to do.  All I could think while trying to get the steam shower to work was “I’m in an episode of I Love Lucy, minus my sidekick Ethyl.”  It would have made a hilarious episode of Funniest Home Videos with water spraying everywhere from hoses I couldn’t get under control.  Happily, there are no videos or photos of my adventure. And luckily the gym provides plenty of towels and I was able to mop up my mess. I never did get any steam.

But I’m not giving up on my selfcare routine and I will master the steam shower. Perhaps next time I’ll dig out my mood ring and consult it first to make sure the conditions are right. Wouldn’t that be groovy?

C’est la vie.

The last acts…

I am on what I hope is my last solo trip to Michigan for the time being. Driving across Pennsylvania and Ohio on Monday was gorgeous. I’m not sure it was peak color, but Mother Nature certainly did her part to provide a spectacular backdrop for my drive.

After a day of hanging out with my sister Jeanne, she gamely agreed to accompanied me on my trip up to the thumb of Michigan today to meet a piano mover at my late mother-in-law, Pat’s, condo. When her husband, Bud, passed away in 2015, he had wanted our son, Adam, to have his piano. Pat had spent many delightful hours listening to Bud fill their home with their favorite music. In 2015, while trying to adjust to the loss of her husband and his companionship, she decided she was not yet ready to deal with the loss of his beloved piano too.

Grandpa Bud and Adam, circa 1987.

Now that Pat has passed, her children have the sad job of clearing out her home of over 20 years and putting it on the market. The process of going through a parent’s belongings is often a necessary part of the loss of a parent. While it seems straightforward, it can be a minefield. Each sibling comes with their own agenda. In the end, should it not be a labor of love and kindness? The last service you can offer a parent.

Mr. Smith and I believe our children may have at easier. We have downsized and culled our possessions through years of moving and our shrinking household. When we make purchases theses days, Mr. Smith is quick to remind me we’re no longer buying heirlooms. Our kids have made it pretty clear they have their own “stuff” and don’t need or want our leftovers. Except for Winged Victory. I think we may have to have a lottery for her.

C’est la vie.

A toast to New York!

Happy Sunday to you all.  It’s been a bit crazy here this week, leaving me unfocused as to what to blog about today.  I’m working on some different posts but couldn’t decide what direction to go.  Then I came across this article, A Moet & Chandon Champagne Vending Machine Has Arrived in New Yorkand I was once again in a New York state of mind!  The Stayton Room, a bar at the Lexington Hotel, Autograph Collection in Midtown’s fashionable East Side is now home to this fabulous invention.  

I’ve never stayed there but obtaining the $25 gold coin needed to dispense my drink of choice is now on my “to-do” list.  Pretty sure I’ll choose the Imperial Rose’.  I’ve been aware these vending machines are out there and had hoped to stumble on one.  

This led me to think about other “bucket list” items in New York City.  From Central Park to Battery Park along with all the iconic buildings we recognize from so many films and TV shows, do the attractions live up their hype?  Since some of you mentioned you were thinking about a trip to the City, I thought I would make a list of the top tourist attractions I had visited and give you my thoughts on whether or not they were worth being at the top of your list.  My list quickly grew exponentially, so much to see and do!

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Yes!  Lady Liberty, a gift from our fabulous French friends, stands on Liberty Island in the New York Harbor.  Mr. Smith and I made our way to Battery Park and took a ferry across.  We purchased the self-guided audio tour of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and thought it was worth every penny.

Empire State Building

I would say No. Going up to the top is a lot like being herded through a buffet line at a Vegas hotel, complete with security checks.  It is nothing like you see in the movies.  I have been up top, and the views are marvelous, but these days I prefer the observation deck at the Top of the Rock.  That doesn’t mean I don’t feel a little thrill every time I catch a glimpse of The Empire State Building’s iconic spire while I’m walking the city, especially at night.  I love seeing it lit up, whether in its signature white or another color in honor of various days of celebration or organizations.

Times Square

This is another No for me.  It’s an area I walk through to get to the theater, but not to spend time.  New York is a crowded city, but Times Square is jam-packed!  

Brooklyn Bridge

This is another Yes for me.  Mr. Smith, our oldest son and I walked across the bridge on a very warm fall afternoon.  The views of Manhattan from the Brooklyn side of the bridge are amazing.

Staten Island Ferry

Yes!  You will have stunning views of the Statue of Liberty, Lower Manhattan and Ellis Island.  When going from Manhattan to Staten Island, sitting on the right (starboard) side will give you the best look at Lady Liberty. The ferry has the cheapest beer prices in all Manhattan and the ride is free!  If someone tries to sell you a ticket, it’s a scam.

Rockefeller Center

At Christmas time it can be as crowded as Times Square, but the tree and the skaters make it worth it for me.  I’m sure it has to do with growing up in small town Indiana, longing for the glamour of the big city. But my delights are not everyone’s. Out walking past the skating rink one Christmas morning, Mr. Smith and I watched a mother trying to persuade her young daughter to go skating saying “Everyone wants to skate in Rockefeller Center on Christmas!”  Not that little girl, mom.  She just wanted to be cozy at home in her pajamas opening presents from Santa.  

9/11 Memorial and Museum

This is something I wish everyone could experience.  This tribute of remembrance and honor to the people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 is both beautiful and humbling.  The memorial is free and open from 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. daily. You can pre-order tickets from the museum up to six months in advance.

Parks

Some of my favorite are Bryant Park, Washington Square Park, Madison Square Park and the grand dame Central Park.  Mr. Smith and I have devoured a delicious brunch at The Bryant Park Grill overlooking the Bryant Park on a Sunday morning and I always love getting to peruse the Bryant Park Winter Village (open 10/31/19 – 1/5/20) for Christmas gifts.  We had Christmas Eve lunch at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park one year.  It was delightful to sit outside under their patio heaters and dine on a delicious cheeseburger.  And we’ve taken many a delightful walk through Central Park.  Walking through one very cold Christmas morning, we bought hot waffles from a food vendor.  They were delicious!

Museums

There are 32 museums in Manhattan alone and we’ve visited many of them.  Museums are a definite Yes for Mr. Smith and me, but we often go our own way according to our interests, meeting up later. My advice would be to do some online research before you go, see what the current exhibits are, and put at least one museum on your NYC list.

Once I started making a list of things to see or do in NYC, it just took on a life of its own.  We love The High Line, Grand Central Station, Blue Note Jazz Club, Chelsea Market, The Cloisters, Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall and on and on.  It’s a very walkable city, laid out in a grid that even the directionally challenged (me!) can negotiate.  And yes, it’s noisy, gritty and crowded, but I love New York!

Thanks for reading and thanks very much for all your kind condolences on the loss of my mother-in-law. 

C’est la vie.

End of an era…

On Friday, October 11, 2019, Mr. Smith’s mother took her last breath.  She leaves behind eight children, 13 grandchildren, 11 greatgrandchildren, and many loving friends.  Pat was 91 years old and managed to live on her own until the last week of her life when she moved in with one of her sons and his wife.

Pat at her 90th birthday party.

She was my mother-in-law for forty-one years.  Although Pat could be intimidating and always to the point, I learned a great deal from her through the years.  She was great at answering cooking questions, worked on sewing projects with me, and was an inspiring example of choosing your own life. Her passing has left me a bit unsettled and introspective.  

While raising her family, she worked tirelessly to take care of her children.  My husband remembers waking up to the sound of the sewing machine and falling asleep to its hum.  She was a marvelous seamstress, providing her and her children with many remarkable outfits. She baked countless loaves of bread and pies and prepared more family dinners than you could count.  She may not have hovered over her children as many parents do today, but she kept them safe, fed and clothed.

Pat and my Mr. Smith at our wedding, August 19, 1978.

And she was an artist.  Her first love has been art since the painting class she took at the Detroit Institute of Arts at age 14.  While marriage and motherhood consumed her for many years, she was always able to insert creativity into her life.  Finally, in her forties she was able to return to college, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Michigan.  While some middle-age women may have been intimidated by competing with the younger students Pat found herself surrounded by at University of Michigan, she was quoted as saying “You just have to put your foot out and go.  All it takes is a little bit of courage and a little bit of stamina.”

Pat exemplified courage and stamina throughout her life.  After losing her husband of 67 years, she bought herself a loom and learned to weave, adding another accomplishment to her long list of talents.  For many years she made all her grandchildren Christmas ornaments that she had designed and in the more recent past her greatgrandchildren became the recipients of her creativity.  And in her usual pragmatic way, concerned she might not live until Christmas, this year’s ornaments are all completed, wrapped and ready to be sent off in December.

Pat never lost the little girl inside.

I will remember Pat for many reasons, but foremost in my mind today are the two things I believe were her greatest strengths.  She never stopped looking forward and living life, painting until her last week.  And she never lost the little girl inside her, the one who loved playing in a patch of brown-eyed susans and who gloried in a new box of crayons.  She was a good woman and I will miss her.

C’est la vie.

In a New York minute…

I’m not a morning person, but when Mr. Smith nudged me last Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. and said “hey, you’re the one who wanted to get into the city early”, I popped right up and headed for the shower. By 8:00 a.m., Mr Smith, Jeanne and I were headed into the Big Apple.

We had a crisp, clear, sunny fall day and a smooth drive in. Then we hit Midtown. Traffic that morning gave new meaning to gridlock and on top of that the street in front of our hotel was closed for a street fair. With my (unsolicited/unwanted) backseat driving, Mr. Smith persevered and we finally arrived at our hotel.

We had 2:00 p.m. theater tickets so after checking our luggage, we hailed a cab and headed out to grab some lunch at Chez Josephine, a lovely quirky little place on 42nd Street, started by Jean-Claude Baker, son of the eponymous Josephine Baker. Our taxi ride took FOREVER due to all the traffic so we were a bit rushed and didn’t get to truly appreciate the restaurant and it is on the list for a return visit.

After our rushed lunch, we walked over to the Shubert Theater for the 2:00 p.m. matinee of To Kill A Mocking Bird. Based on the 1960 novel of the same name by Harper Lee, it was adapted for the stage by Aaron Sorkin. I’ve read the book and I’ve seen the movie but neither of those moved me like the play. Mr. Sorkin did a brilliant job, including giving new meaning to the words All Rise. Mr. Smith shared that he had always thought All Rise was simply a nod of respect to the judge. Instead, the words are elevated to a higher meaning, making “All Rise” a call for decency and compassion.


The ceiling of the history ShubertTheater.

After the play, we headed over to The Algonquin for a drink. The Algonquin is Midtown’s oldest hotel and was a gathering place for writers in the Roaring 20s. It was designated as a National Literary Landmark by the Friends of Libraries USA in 1996. While sipping my delicious Cosmopolitan, I did my best to channel some of that extraordinary writing talent that used to lunch there daily.

After our cocktail, we continued our walk back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. This posted sign caught my attention as I am a Madame Secretary fan. And it reminded me of being in the city years ago with Mr. Smith and our friends the Pillers. On our last morning there, Mr. Smith headed out for a business meeting and Bob, LouAnne and I headed out to Rockefeller Center to check out the Today show that morning. We walked out of the Waldorf there were large towers of lights set up and several official looking folk with clipboards running around. One of the clipboard commandoes asked “Are you with the TV pilot?” In our trustworthy midwestern way, we said “No” and were quickly asked to leave the area. Later we decided that should that happen again we would answer “Yes” and ask where the food truck was located. We may have missed our 60 seconds of fame.

We returned to the hotel and freshened up for dinner, before heading to DeGrazia Restaurant for a delicious dinner. We toasted Jeanne’s 77 years on planet earth.

Happy birthday eve, Jeanne.

Jeanne’s one birthday request was Sunday brunch at Tavern On The Green. She had fond memories of taking her sons there many years ago. Mr. Smith and I had never been there so we were more than happy to accommodate her request. As former residents of Ithaca, NY in the Finger Lakes Area, we were delighted to see Konstantine Frank’s Sparkling Riesling on their wine list. We had a delightful meal – I had avocado poached eggs. Jeanne had steak and eggs, Mr. Smith had Eggs Benedict but saved room for a delightful dessert of cheesecake.

He did let me have one (very) little bite.
My sister took a picture of me taking a picture of Tavern on the Green.

After brunch, we walked through Central Park, heading to the New York Historical Society to see the exhibit LIFE: Six Women Photographers. From the early 1930s through the 1970s, LIFE Magazine retained a few women photographers who played an important role in creating modern photojournalism.


All too soon it was time to head home but we all felt energized by our time in the city that never sleeps. A fall weekend in the city is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Grab your favorite sweater and stroll the streets. Ride the subway and explore the different sections. And if you have the chance to go see To Kill A Mockingbird, do it. It’s worth every penny. Here are a few of my tips to help you with your own trip.

  1. Bring lots of small bills – $1s and $5s for tipping. All the service employees rely on these tips. The doorman, the bellhops and porters. In the bustle of packing up when we’re leaving, I am sometimes guilty of forgetting to leave a tip for housekeeping and really, where would we be without housekeeping. So you don’t make my faux pas, here’s A Guide to Tipping in NYC.
  2. Allow plenty of time to get where you’re going. Remember that walking is sometimes faster than a taxi – who wants to watch the meter climb as you sit in gridlock?
  3. Wear comfortable shoes. These don’t have to be big, ugly, white sneakers. There is a plethora of attractive, comfortable shoes if you take time to hunt them down. I have spent much time in the city watching women – young and old – shifting from one foot to the other, trying to find a bit of comfort.
  4. If you walk out of your hotel and into a filming, just go with it and act like you belong there.
  5. Don’t give your spouse unsolicited driving advice. They don’t want it and don’t need it. At least that’s what Mr. Smith’s says.

C’est la vie.

Ready, set, Christmas…

With my sister visiting, we’ve been in a few stores this week and it’s obvious the holidays are coming.  While not yet in its usual overwhelming presence, evidence is popping up everywhere. Thanksgiving turkeys are sharing display space with elaborate Christmas ornaments, dishes and linens, holiday cards and wrappings, and my mailbox is overrun with holiday catalogs trying to entice me to choose their wares.

Thanksgiving is unusually late this year as the fourth Thursday falls on the 28th, making Christmas three and a half weeks later.  As someone who particularly likes the holiday of Thanksgiving, I don’t want it to get lost in the Christmas frenzy.  My plan to save Thanksgiving is to be organized with regard to Christmas. 

  1.  Before November 1, I will make a list of lucky people who are on my gift list, as well as ideas for presents.  I will not get caught up in the material trappings and will keep to my budget. I WILL WRAP EACH GIFT AS IT IS PURCHASED.
  2. I will purchase and address my holidays cards early.  Although it seems we receive less and less cards each year, I still love finding those greetings in my mailbox and will continue to send them as long as I can.
  3. In early November, I will pull out my Christmas trimmings and check for anything that needs attention. Even though I do less holiday decorating these days, I still enjoy creating a festive atmosphere. My turkeys will make an appearance in early November and the Santas will come out the day after Thanksgiving.
  4. The first week in November, I will start planning our holiday menus and organizing the recipes.  I will shop ahead for the staples, simplifying my time in the grocery starting Thanksgiving week through the New Year.
  5. I will put aside my obsessive nature, not worry about perfection and practice enjoying every fun, noisy, delicious and messy moment of time with friends and family.
And to all a good night…

C’est la vie. 

I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say “There’s no place like New York.” Robert DeNiro

The Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, Gotham. However you refer to it, it’s my favorite city in the world. It’s like a gift I get to open each and every visit. You never know what you’re going to discover. One of the best things about living in Wilkes Barre is its close proximity to New York City.

When Mr. Smith moved to Wilkes Barre for the first time in 2007, he discovered Isabella’s, a lovely restaurant/bar on his route from work to home. When I joined him in 2008, we were frequent customers, getting to know the staff and owner. In fact, it was the owner who told me about the “Shopper’s Special” bus I could take into NYC. My $30 ticket would whisk me in to the city in the morning and deliver back that night. I was suddenly a much happier citizen of Pennsylvania!

And now my sister Jeanne is here visiting from Michigan. I picked her up at the Scranton/Wilkes Barre International Airport on Thursday and we stopped at Isabella’s for lunch on our way home. There sitting at the bar was the owner! He waived at me but as I’ve been away for five years, I asked if he remembered me. He very smoothly replied “Your face is familiar.” I reintroduced myself and reminded him he was the one who turned me onto the convenient Shopper’s Special.

Even better than the Shopper’s Special, is the Mr. Smith Express. Yesterday Mr. Smith drove Jeanne and me into the city for the night. We are celebrating her birthday! Although we have a couple of things planned, we are always open to the unexpected.

As we eat and drink our way through New York, I’m grateful that the treasures of the city are close enough for an exciting weekend. Next Sunday’s post of New York pics and tips will hopefully tempt you to plan your own adventure.

C’est la vie.