Friday, June 22, 2012

Foggy London Town - Sunday, May 27th (Day 1)

We landed about 7:30 in the morning London time and even though we were very comfortable on the plane we only had a few hours of sleep.

Luckily we had access to the Virgin Atlantic Arrivals Lounge. Here we were each assigned to a private bathroom with a shower stocked with very nice Cowshed brand products and we enjoyed a proper breakfast.

Once we ate and showered we headed in to the city on the train ready to find our hotel and determined to stay up until at least 9pm so we could reset our internal clocks. About 4pm this proved very difficult as we were both tired of walking and tired of being awake.

We found our hotel and checked in to our room. It was a Holiday Inn, very clean and suited our needs very well. We dropped off our bags and headed out for the day. We walked down Oxford Street through Oxford Circus and then Bond Street, both areas are known for fabulous shopping. We caught a quick glimpse of Picadilly Circus and made our way through The Green Park to Buckingham Palace.

The fountain honoring Queen Victoria was in the process of being transformed for the big Jubilee concert. The entire city seemed to be decked out in Union Jack flags and bunting, it was quite a sight to see all of the decorations.




Buckingham Palace was just as fabulous as I expected it to be - the gates, the guards, the famous balcony, it was all amazing.




I was thinking it must be strange to have people hanging on the gates to your house all day just staring and wondering what life is like inside the palace. Is that something you just get used to or do you just want to be left alone, I imagine some days you don't mind and some days it is really irritating (and if you are the Queen on those days you can head out to Windsor or Balmoral, it is good to be Queen).






We walked a down from Buckingham and had a quick bite to eat at a horribly touristy pub. It was fine but it was more about sitting and getting a drink than looking for something fantastic to eat. After the little break we took the Tube (London's subway) to Kensington Palace. Kensington Palace was the home of Princess Diana and it will be the future home of William and Kate (apparently they are getting a 20 room apartment). The entire Kensington compound is huge and there are other Royals that live on the property. They have just opened some parts of the Palace to visitors, these rooms include living quarters for Queen Victoria.



We didn't take the tour, instead we enjoyed the grounds and the beautiful sunken garden.




Kensington Palace is on the edge of Kensington Gardens, a huge park that is adjacent to Hyde Park.




We were at Kensington Gardens sitting on a bench about 4pm and I think we both could have fallen asleep right there. We rallied and figured out something to do before eating an early dinner and heading to bed.

My research librarian let me know the Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 was at the King's Cross train station. I remembered my friend Bex saying it was really lame but I couldn't remember why and it was just one of those things I had to see for myself anyway. We hopped on the Tube to King's Cross station and looked around for Platform 9 3/4 - it was pretty easy to find. It was surrounded by families of tourists with parents taking photos of their children "pushing" the luggage cart though the wall, just like Harry Potter. Clearly the little set up was a total last minute afterthought, it is one sign and half a grocery cart in an odd part of the mall above the station - it isn't even in the station or near any actual train platforms. I had Michael take my picture and we moved along. I was glad we went to see it but I would have been mad if I had chosen to see this over something else or if had been a real pain to get to that train station.


 

The real gem of this tourist outing was the St. Pancras station. From the outside it was this imposing red brick structure that served as a hospital at one time during its history.






Once you stepped in side the station it was even more impressive. The entire platform area would have once been an outdoor courtyard, but now it is covered by a huge glass ceiling that let in lots of light and was architecturally stunning with the glass and iron beams arching gracefully overhead.



Inside the station the high speed Eurostar trains were loading up travellers headed to Paris or Brussels. The trains travel at a max speed of 186 mph and can get you to Paris in about 2 hours. We seriously considered going to Paris for a day but there was just too much to see in London. It was really tempting and we wrestled with the decision for a couple of days.




The station has a huge set of Olympic rings hanging at the entrance. London is definitely getting ready to welcome the world this summer.



It was a quick walk back to our hotel and dinner from here. We ate just across the street from our hotel at Marquis Cromwell. We didn't realize it, but Sunday night was a quiet night for the pub - every weeknight it was packed with locals grabbing a pint after work. It was Sunday night, the tradition 'roast' night. Michael had the lamb roast and I had the nut roast. I had to try it just to find out what a nut roast was, basically it was similar to a piece of meatloaf but it was made entirely from different nuts ground in to different textures, bound together and then baked as a loaf. It was very tasty and very filling. Both dishes also came with roasted carrots and new potatoes. The new potatoes were roasted and then they had to be fried, they were absolutely delicious but you knew they were not good for you - luckily there were just a few in a serving.

We made it to 9pm, time to get a good night sleep and get ready for day 2 of our London holiday! (I tracked our miles once we were home and we walked 8.5 miles that first day, no wonder my legs were tired on Monday.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Where in the World - London!


My big surprise trip was a real surprise - until we checked in at the airport I had no clue we were headed to London! I have always wanted to go and because of a great airfare special in honor of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee Michael booked the trip of a lifetime.

He really wanted this to be a total surprise so he packed for me;I had no idea what was in my suitcase. I didn't even look to see if he pulled our passports, he really wanted this to be a surprise so I did my part to ensure it was. On the way to the airport the cab had a meter that wasn't working and the driver took a different route to JFK (the cab bit was just lucky - Michael didn't ask him to drive any particular route).
Once we were at the airport he showed me the board that had our flight and asked where I wanted to go - the choices were Las Vegas, Stockholm. Oslo, and London. I really wanted to go to London but I didn't want to pick it as my destination because I didn't want him to feel bad if he didn't pick it (Michael likes a vacation where his choices are do we sit on the beach today or by the pool). I had very incorrectly assumed we were going to Vegas, so that is what I said. His reply, "Let's head East." When we got to the ticket counter he pulled out our boarding passes for London! I was beyond excited and that wasn't even the best part - we were flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. What an amazing way to fly, it will be hard to go back to coach.

Michael made sure we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to enjoy the Virgin lounge. It had a full size pool table, open bar, several dining options, a Bumble & Bumble salon, and a spa. Various spa and beauty treatments were complimentary. I opted for a deep conditioning hair treatment (complimentary) and a blow out (which was definitely a reduced price from the regular Bumble & Bumble prices). I was so excited my hair would be sleek and beautiful headed to fabulous London. Michael opted for a massage.
My first drink was an ice tea. Look at how it was served - just fabulous. All ice tea should be served in fancy glass pitchers just like this one and fresh brewed just for me. The small white pitcher had simple sugar syrup in case you wanted your tea sweet.








The bathrooms were of course very nice as well. I loved the tribute to the Statue of Liberty on the door of the ladies room. Inside there were urban planning type drawings of New York City. The photo below shows Central Park's reservoir.



The lounge had lots of different seating options. We had plenty of time to sit and then enjoy a full meal.




I finished our late lunch with a special chef's dessert. It was a sampling of a few different items, just a small bite of each. There was a chocolate mousse, a grapefruit sorbet and a sponge cake topped with raspberries and Poprocks. I haven't had Poprocks in a very long time, the crackle was a really fun touch.




Once on board (we flew a 747 with the upper deck and our section had a bar in back) we found our individual pods. The seats had a footrest (my black bag is sitting on my footrest) and when you were ready to sleep they folded down completely flat. Of course there was an individual entertainment system with countless movies and tv shows. I only ended up watching one show and that was the London destination video.

They even provided us with a 'Sleep Suit' so we could change and be comfortable during the flight. It was basically a set of light weight sweatpants and a long sleeve top. We had dinner at the bar and the moved to our seats. When I was ready, the  flight attendant made my bed and I enjoyed about 3 hours of sleep.



Once we landed in London we took advantage of the Arrivals Lounge. Here we were able to eat a full, made to order breakfast and take a shower. They assigned you a lovely private bathroom with a sink and shower during your visit to the lounge. The showers were stocked with a fabulous local bath products by a company called 'Cowshed'. There were attendants who made sure no one else used your room and they cleaned it once you were done. It made it so much easier to take on our first day in London after a shower.

Michael had really wanted to take me to London during the actual Jubilee celebrations, unfortunately with my work schedule that just wasn't possible. As it turns out, our timing was much better. We had absolutely lovely weather with just one 30 minute rain shower during our entire visit and there were no crowds.

Of course the time flew by way too quickly. We made sure to arrive at the airport early on our departure day to enjoy the Heathrow Virgin Atlantic lounge. Upper Class has its advantages, we had our own customs and TSA line. We were the only people going through at that time and just flew through and straight to the lounge.

The London lounge was just beautiful. It also had a salon and spa with complimentary services, various dining options, a pool table, a media area, a library, and you could go up on the roof to see the planes.

We first sat in the area pictured below. I tried the hanging chair but it was about as easy to get in and out of as it looks - and I am just not graceful. One would think the hanging chair was the most complicated chair but the brown chairs had a really strange center of balance. Yes, as soon as I sat down the entire thing tipped forward and I was on the floor! You really can't take me anywhere - I hadn't even started drinking my Pimm's cocktails yet.



At 3pm they offered a tea service. I didn't have time to enjoy a proper tea during the trip so it was absolutely perfect. The scone was flaky and warm and the sponge cake was delicately flavored with lemon. I also had not tried Pimm's in London, I made up for that in the lounge as well. The Pimm's cocktail was pretty tasty and I think was basically Pimm's, ginger ale, and fruit - sort of English sangria.



The media area was really cool. The chairs had sets of headphones and you could tune the headphones to one of the channels up on the screen.


There were all kinds of great areas to sit in this lounge as well. The library had sort of an ocean beach house vibe and the dining room was sleek and modern. They kept putting out differnent magazines, I am a magazine junkie and ended up with about 6 of them in my bag for the flight home. I opted for a manicure as my complimentary spa service and Michael had another massage.



This is relaxed Michael after his massage - actually I just think he's tired of me taking pictures. 



I completely adored London and I can't wait to go back. It was an incredible trip!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Week in Review - 5.26.12

Yes, an early update this week!

Monday 5.21 - Domestic day - laundry done, slow roasted chicken for dinner with a tasty side salad of arugula, roasted beets, walnuts, and blue cheese crumbles. The cats LOVE roasted chicken - Trixie can't hear much anymore, but her nose sure works. She is relentless with roasted chicken and deli meat. At 18 I tend to indulge her now - she deserves to get some treats!

Tuesday 5.22 - MW had an annual work party on the roof deck of a swanky bar/event space. Luckily there was no rain, they were able to enjoy the roof deck as planned. He had some great passed appetizers crab cakes, fried mac n cheese, tuna tar tare, lobster spring rolls, and sliders. There was a dinner buffet as well, but it didn't stack up to the apps. I went to go see the movie 'Battleship' - and enjoyed a small bag of movie theater popcorn for dinner. I liked the movie and it was action packed, I was on the edge of my seat until it was over.

Wednesday 5.23 - Home made pizza. I used some extra yeast I had in the pantry to make a nice rising pizza dough. I topped the dough with red sauce, mozzarella cheese, anchovies, garlic, and fresh basil. I needed to stretch the dough more as it was kind of thick and tasted like it needed to cook longer. It was OK for a first attempt, but like the artichoke I need to practice some more before it is really good eating.

Thursday 5.24 - MW hung out with the kitties and had delivery KO Sushi while I went to the ballet. The dances were two story ballets - one was set like a silent movie and the a lively dance number. We had crazy rain storms with lightening and thunder. The cats were quite unhappy with the thunder because it interrupted nap time!

Friday 5.25 - I've been working on logging 1,200 fitness minutes for the month. I am just about there with 1,120 minutes as of Friday. My shameless plug for the day is for Spark People. It is a free website dedicated to healthy living and fitness. You can use it to track what you eat and how much you exercise. We were both pretty busy with work because we are leaving for vacation on Saturday! MW planned the entire trip and even packed for me. We had a late dinner at Mole and kept it pretty low key for the night.

Saturday 5.26 - Just about time to leave. I still don't know where we are headed. I had a hard time sleeping last night because I am excited. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Week In Review - 5.20.12

Monday 5/14 – Quiet day. Sautéed tilapia topped with salsa and served over brown rice for dinner and a side of oven roasted cauliflower (a very tan dinner, at least the salsa added some color). I also made an artichoke, but I didn’t cook it long enough – I need to make artichokes again to work on my technique. I wasn’t going to do it, but I ended up watching the Bachelorette – it’s not on the DVR so maybe I won’t get sucked in for the entire season!


Tuesday 5/15 – We keep trying to get a good sunset on the roof. Nothing spectacular yet, but the weather has been really nice and we’re on the roof just about every night. For dinner, roasted chicken (FD) and a salad with blue cheese and pistachios, also FD.



Wednesday 5/16 – One more sunset on the roof and then tasty sandwiches for dinner – whole wheat bread, avocado, arugula, soy bacon, buffalo chicken, and pepperjack cheese.



Thursday 5/17 – Kind of a repeat of Wednesday, sunset on the roof and then Caesar salad (FD) and artichoke and spinach pizza (FD) for dinner.



Friday 5/18 – Pre-dinner snack of fresh guacamole with chips and salsa followed by sunset on the roof. We’ve decided more young people have moved in to our building as we are seeing younger couples up on the roof. It used to be we were the only people up there for sunset on a regular basis. The pedal car (last Saturday’s event) made it to CA and even in time for the b-day party. According to my sources the car was a big hit. Dinner at KO Sushi and they spoiled us with a free appetizer (edamame) and free dessert (tempura fried green tea ice cream).



Saturday 5/19 – Breakfast at the Mansion and then an adventure on Roosevelt Island. Roosevelt Island sits on the East River right in between Manhattan and Queens. There is a tram that goes from Manhattan to the island and it is part of the MTA system, it is the same cost as riding a bus or subway. Once there we walked around the entire island, almost 4 miles. The weather was really nice, sunny and bright with a light breeze. The island once housed a small pox quarantine facility and the remains of one of the buildings are still there today. It’s an odd space as it has apartment buildings and some amenities but not too many people. It has the feel of a college campus, not a neighborhood in Manhattan. After taking the tram back to the city we went to Cavatappo for their weekend special “Afternoon Delight”, a bottle of wine and two appetizers for $35. We had a table right by the open windows and relaxed watching the world go by outside. After that little break we headed over to the Met to check out the new roof deck installation. The piece is a big group of connected pods, some are open and some are covered in a reflective material. You can walk up in them, but only if you have a timed admission ticket. We were not able to get tickets on Saturday, but it’s on the list of things to do for the summer. After the museum closed we headed to dinner at Hi Life. We ate at the same restaurant on the West Side a few weeks ago and decided to try the East Side location. We had a great table right by the open windows and once again enjoyed the parade of people along with our food and drinks.



Sunday 5/20 – Bagels for breakfast and then we each headed in different directions. I was unsuccessful in my mission to find white jeans for summer, but I did get lots of outside time and sat on a park bench in Union Square after my shopping trip. Union Square is not one of my favorite parks, it is small and very crowded and they don’t allow people on the lawn. And today the spot I was sitting in didn’t smell so nice – never a good thing! Michael headed to the park close to our apartment and also spent some time up on our roof deck. Dinner was delivery from Falafel House (one of our Sunday night favorites).



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week In Review - 05.13.12

Sunday 5/6 - The last leg of Amazing Race, I kind of didn't care who won so it was a bit anti-climatic this season. I would have loved to been an eliminated racer and sequestered in Hawaii! That sounds pretty darn fantastic.

Monday 5/7 - Finally I realized it was the night the Costume Institute Gala at the Met the night of the Gala and not the morning after the event. I went over there to see the red carpet arrivals and had a great time. I was in a decent viewing area and was surrounded by really nice people. Unfortunately Michael had to work late, but that worked out OK for dinner. I just cooked when I got home and dinner was ready just a few minutes after he walked in the door. Chicken tenders with asparagus and spinach over brown rice and a side salad of tomato and red onion. 

Tuesday 5/8 - Mom's Day cookies round 1. I made lemon cream sandwich cookies edged in sanding sugar for Mel and her family using my new favorite recipe.It was a pretty quiet day and we just had a quick and easy dinner of chili (KO made leftover, pulled it out of the freezer) and FD cornbread. We had another day of clouds and rain - it was a gray week here in NYC!

Wednesday 5/9 - Mom's Day cookies round 2 - a Snickerdoodle, adapted from my new favorite cookie recipe (no, I'm not sharing that recipe...yet).

I had an unplanned and fun shopping trip when I was coming back from my walk to the Central Pack Conservatory Garden. (The garden was absolutely beautiful - it had rained in the morning and the plants and flowers had drops of water on them. There was a squirrel drinking out of a puddle, a bright orange butterfly sitting perfectly on a white flower, a brilliant red bird flying through the trees, and dark burgundy leaves with drops of water on them. Michael would have loved to take photos, lots of good material.)

Now, back to my shopping trip - on my way back from the garden there were signs for a Sr. ceramics sale at the Y, just May 9th and 10th. I stopped in and there were about three banquet tables of really nice ceramic pots, bowls, and plates and about 75 seniors sitting at tables and chatting. I started to look at what was available for sale and almost immediately I was approached by a very nice woman who told me the ceramics were lead free, could be used in microwave, and depending on what I bought I might be able to meet the artist. She left and about 2 minutes later another very nice woman came up and let me know the same thing. The ceramics were all made by members of the senior ceramics class at the 92nd St Y and they put them on sale once a year. I selected a nice pot with shades of green glaze for MomW, because her kitchen has lots of green. Next I picked a pot with an earthy brown/green glaze and one big spot of red for MomO. I could imagine it with a plant sitting in her yard. And finally I selected a bowl with a blue glaze for myself. Without knowing it, I selected three pieces from the same artist! And as it turns out not only was she one of the women who talked to me initially but she was also the cashier. She was just thrilled I was purchasing three of her pieces and she liked hearing who was getting what and why. She was just delightful, and her work was beautiful.






We had a tasty dinner, home made sandwiches with whole grain bread, guacamole, soy bacon (facon), pepperjack cheese, and spiced turkey. A pretty quiet night, I just wrapped up the Mom's Day gifts and got the packages ready for shipping.

Thursday 5/10 -

MW had dinner with some guys from work at an "expense account" type steakhouse called Maloney & Porcelli. They had a multi-tier seafood tower as a starter (yum!) and of course steak and bourbon for dinner. I went with a simple dinner of chips, salsa, and guac!

Friday 5/11 -

A pretty quiet night. I wasn't feeling 100% and MW wasn't quite at full speed either. We had an easy dinner in the neighborhood at KO Sushi. We haven't been there in a while and it was nice to go back to one of our favorites. I had to finish up the birthday gifts I was making for my niece so they could get shipped in Saturday. I embroidered 2 onesies - I dubbed one the 'Taco Bell dog' and the other 'Foxy Roxy'.




I also made a scrapbook for her - it was a great kit that looks like I spent a ton of time and effort, but really all I did was add the photos and one or two embellishments on each page. The best kind of crafting, maximum reward for minimum effort! As an example, on the double page spread below I added the three photos, the word 'Enjoy', and the two butterflies on the right side - everything else is already on the page and the embellishments are layered, the ribbon is actual ribbon, and the buttons are really buttons.  




Saturday 5/12 -

We had a full day for one major errand so I got up pretty early to wrap up the birthday presents. Her party is Hello Kitty themed and I had some Uniqlo shopping bags with Hello Kitty I cut up to wrap her gifts. I love that I could re-use the bags for something so cute.

  


We took a New Jersey transit train an hour and a half to Morristown, NJ. And while Morristown had a lovely park we were there for a very specific reason.


 



Michael had to give Alexander Hamilton a $10 bill - just kidding! (The statues were very similar to the Signer statues at the Constitution Museum in Philadelphia - life size replicas of our Founding Fathers.)

  





We were there to pick up a '55 Chevy pink pedal car - also for the niece. MomO won the car on eBay, but didn't realize it was 'local pick up only'. There are some items on eBay that the seller won't ship and they put this in the item description when you bid. Well MomO didn't realize this and lucky for her the car was relatively easy for us to go and pick it up. After we got off the train we picked up a Zip Car and had about a 15 minute drive to the seller's home. The car was waiting out front and they had washed it for us, it was shined up and ready to go. We got to meet the car's first (and only owner) - she is 6 now and seemed OK that it was going to another little girl. The car is really cute and was in great shape, I'm sure it must have been hard for the original owner to give up something so special. It is all metal and was pretty heavy, weighing in at almost 40 pounds.





 



We loaded it in the Zip Car and headed back to Morristown where it was promptly dropped off at a UPS store for shipping. By next week it should be in CA and ready for it's second owner. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant in Morristown. Not related to NJ (well maybe, but I can't say for sure), I was under the weather Saturday night and MW was on his own for dinner.

Sunday 5/13 - Happy Mother's Day! We spent the day outside as much as possible. The weather here was just perfect sunny and in the mid 70's with just a little bit of a breeze and low humidity. After brunch at Mole (like the sauce not the animal, and yes, I will probably say that every time) we headed to Central Park. On the way to the model boat pond we got a preview of the Met Roof Top art installation opening next week: 

  




I looked on the website and they are big modules that are connected and they are made with transparent and reflective materials. According to the website you can walk through them. The roof deck opens on the 15th - if all goes well, we will be up there Friday night! Dinner was at our local diner, The Mansion. It was getting late and we just wanted something easy. It was diner food, so it was fine but nothing special.

That is a full lid for this week, we'll see if we can make next week more exciting!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Met Gala 2012


Monday night the Met held their big Costume Institute Gala. Every year I seem to miss the red carpet and see the photos of the fabulous gowns and celebrities the next day.

This year I actually made it over to the Met and had a great spot across the street from the red carpet entrance.

It was really had to see who was who and I saw the back of a lot of amazing dresses. The photo is the main red carpet and it was filled with photographers yelling at the celebs and snapping photos like crazy. The flash bulbs when big celebrities hit the red carpet was blinding.

I was by a really nice group of people and we had fun guessing each celebrity and wondering if we were going to see Beyonce or JLo! The girl next to me was so excited when SJP arrived she grabbed me by the shoulders and turned my body so I could see her too. It was really cute.



This photo is Tom Brady and Giselle posing for photographers. They are both just stunning.



And this was my view of where the celebs were getting out of their cars. The woman in white is Florence Welch. She had on quite an outfit, but it was fitting for her personality and the event. We were able to see more celebrities getting out of their cars than we could see on the red carpet.


Later that night I was looking through photos of the event on the Huffington Post - it was fun to see who was wearing what dress as the dresses were easier and remember than the faces.


My favorite photo was of Elizabeth Banks in a Mary Katrantzou dress, not only does it look very Hunger Games but I'm in the background!



Image from Getty Photo

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Week in Review - 05.06.12

The week in review:


Sunday 4/29 – goodbye Team Bopper. Bopper and Mark ran a great race but they just couldn’t make up all of that time. And Once Upon A Time – what happened to the shows I had saved on the DVR? I had two episodes and now they are both gone. Stupid DVR. We really need to look in to FIOS. Fresh Direct grocery delivery, another week of meals and another week of Delivery Pass.

Monday 4/30 – Relatively quiet day at work for both of us. Dinner was sautéed shrimp with spring vegetables (asparagus, red onion, and grape tomatoes) over a little bit of whole wheat pasta. I ended up with major stomach issues and maybe that was due to my snack of ‘pocket almonds’ – I was out buying my Star Wars cookie cutters and was starving, so I ate the two almonds in my coat pocket. Apparently that was a bad choice!

Tuesday 5/1 – I made my cookie dough and cookies, with the intention of shipping them out on Wednesday for a Friday, May 4th delivery. Easy dinner of a Fresh Direct Caesar salad and Fresh Direct thin crust artichoke pizza.

Wednesday 5/2 – Busy day for me at work but I was focused crossing things off of my to-do list. Attempted to decorate my Star Wars cookies, epic failure! Made my to-do list shorter as there were no packages to make up and label and no trip to the post office. Returned Star Wars cookie cutters to Williams and Sonoma! Dinner was over roasted cauliflower mixed with whole wheat pasta and topped with sautéed Hen of the Woods mushrooms and Fresh Direct chicken sausages.

Thursday 5/3 – I had the ballet. It was a mix of 4 ballets. The opening piece was interesting. The 8 members of the corps de ballet danced to the orchestra and the soloists danced to just the piano. Sometimes it was just one or the other and sometimes it was a mix of both. It was almost like two separate dances competing on stage. This piece was followed by an Italian inspired ‘Tarantella’. The dancing was lively and fun with tambourines! The third dance was a lovely modern orchestra piece with big sweeping movements. It was written for the dedication of a train and the music and dance depicted travel. The conductor for this piece was one of my favorites, this little tiny woman with so much spunk; she is as much of a delight to watch as the dancers. We had Fresh Direct turkey meatballs in red sauce over the leftover cauliflower and whole wheat pasta from Wednesday night. All week the weather was gray and drizzly, I’m looking forward to some sunshine over the weekend.



Friday 5/4 – I ended up busier at work than I planned and didn’t get out to exercise until after 5pm. The weather was warm and even a little humid; I walked to the park and did a lap around the Reservoir. We decided on dinner at our local Indian favorite, Mumtaz. We had a great table by the window. Unfortunately, it was Michael’s turn to have stomach issues. We wrapped up dinner and headed home for the night. Michael was pleased (not really) to find out we might be headed to New Jersey to pick up something MomO purchased on eBay.



Saturday 5/5 – Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby! We had breakfast at the Mansion and then headed to the Met. We saw the baseball card collection on display and then split up. I stayed in the American Wing and took my time going through a cool cabinet display by a local master craftsman, Duncan Phyfe. He made furniture in the 1800’s and his work was beautiful. Simple yet elegant and functional. After the furniture I stayed in the American Wing to see one of my favorites, the Frank Lloyd Wright living room. Behind that area was a very nice display of Tiffany glass and a library table made for Cornelius Vanderbilt. It had mother of pearl stars inlaid across the top of the table, the pattern represented the night sky the day Vanderbilt was born. I finished up with the Japanese collection and a look at one of my other favorites, the water fountain. Michael went thru the American Wind art and then on to the photography. We met up and I thought I wanted a glass of wine at the Wine Bar in the Met, we decided to go to Swig (where we met Chris after he ran the NYC marathon). We stayed there for the Kentucky Derby and then decided on dinner at Cavatappo (the Italian restaurant we ate at after the NYC marathon).



Sunday 5/6 – Brunch at our new favorite, Mole (like the sauce not the animal, but I can’t get the accent mark). The food was great but the service was really slow. It’s funny because Taco Taco had really slow service and the new place has changed for the better in just about every aspect except the service! After brunch we headed up to Harlem to go to Costco and Target. Dinner at Brother Jimmy’s (but not the location we used to go to all the time, unfortunately just that location has a ‘C’ food rating – we’ll stick with the other locations that have an ‘A’ rating). The service again was really slow, just one of those days for us and restaurants! Now we’re ready to see who wins The Amazing Race! And no trip to Jersey this weekend, looks like it will be next Saturday.

Friday, May 04, 2012

May the 4th Be With You!

Alternate title: Star Wars cupcake stencils 1, KO 0

I didn't come up with the title on my own. Lego is doing a promotion today with Star Wars kits and they sent out an e-mail last week with the same subject line. It made me laugh and also made me think I should do something to celebrate May 4th.

Williams and Sonoma has great Star Wars cookies cutters and cupcake stencils so I bought a set of each and got to baking cookies.




I made my dough and it was really dry. I didn't want to over work it, so I added a bit more liquid but I knew it wasn't going to be good for the cut out cookies. I had the same problem with the shoe cookies. When I made those cookies I ended up making a third batch of dough and it was much better. Because this was one of those "fun" projects I didn't want to make a second batch of dough so I decided to just make round cookies and use the stencils to decorate the flat round cookies.







Sounds easy enough, right? Not so much! I frosted the cookies with royal icing and waited for it to dry. I think I should have tried to stencil when the icing was still a bit wet, but I thought my luster dust would stick to the icing the same way it works on sugar flowers - again, not so much!

I tried liquid color, luster dust, cocoa powder, adding more icing to the cookies so they would be a little tacky. The powders and dusts just smeared everywhere or didn't stick to the icing at all.

It was a total decorating fail.



Luckily I figured it wasn't going to work in about 15 minutes and scrapped the project. No packages were mailed and Jose and Shorty were happy to receive lots of undecorated cookies (Michael was nice enough to help me eat the rest.) And thank goodness I didn't commit to making these for someone, I would have gone crazy trying to make it work. Lesson learned, no more cupcake stencils and add the last bit of flour to my cookie dough very slowly.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Week In Review - 4.30.12

Alternate Title - MomW's Update

A good week to be in NYC.
  • Sunday 4/23 - at home with Amazing Race - go team Bopper! And grocery delivery for the week from Fresh Direct. We've been using the free delivery promos and keep extending our 'delivery pass'. Usually Fresh Direct has a $6 delivery fee, you can pre-purchase a delivery pass, $99 for one year. Last year we bought the pass and have saved over $150 on delivery fees. Recently they have been sending out free delivery promo codes just about every week. If you already have 'delivery pass' they extend the end date by a week. So far we've been able to extend our 'delivery pass' end day by 8 weeks!
  • Monday 4/24 - turned out to be laundry night. The laundry room was empty and we were able to get everything including 3 sets of sheets washed.
  • Tuesday 4/25 - Counting Crows! Great show! It was general admission and we stood pretty close to the stage the entire time. The opening act was interesting. Young, passionate, and full of angst. The Counting Crows did a really nice set list with plenty of favorites.
  • Wednesday 4/26 - MW had a work function and KO went to the Tribeca Film Festival to see 'Knife Fight'. It is a political thriller staring Rob Lowe! I saw him promoting the movie on the Today Show and even though tickets were sold out, I was able to get a seat thru the reseller market (scalper). About 10 of the actors from the film were there for the wold premier of the movie. I enjoyed the movie but not sure if I would recommend it. And if you are wondering, Rob was looking pretty darn fantastic on the big screen and from the brief glimpses I got in person.
  • Thursday 4/27 - late night after the party and movie, kind of dragging today....pushed through and had dinner at home.
  • Friday 4/28 - we started the day with space shuttle Enterprise flying over the city. I was able to get photos from our roof deck and MW caught it from work. It was an awesome sight and very exciting to see in person.  We enjoyed dinner at a new place in the neighborhood 'Seahorse Tavern'. Good food but very slow service. It took 2 hours for dinner and we started with a plate of oysters and had one entree each. Michael had one of the fish specials, grouper with asparagus and something else that was tasty but we can't remember what it was! I had a grilled shrimp salad that was wonderfully grilled shrimp over romaine with soy crisps and a sesame dressing.
  • Saturday 4/29 - kind of a lazy day. We had to get cat food, we were down to one can and I'm always surprised there isn't cat mutiny when the supplies get so low. We started the day with breakfast at the Mansion and finished with dinner at somewhere new - 'Mole' (as in the Mexican sauce, not the little critter, I can't type the accent on the 'e' correctly). For dinner, we decided to eat dinner at 'Taco Taco', a Mexican food place in the neighborhood that is acceptable and relatively easy. We went to 'Taco Taco' and they were closed! And just down the street one of our favorite Thai food spots 'Sala Thai' was also closed!! (MomW, this is where we ate and had the wonderful mango sticky rice.) What is happening to the neighborhood....we noticed across the street from 'Taco Taco' there was a new Mexican food place that was busy. We decided to look at the menu - it looked pretty tasty so we got a table and ordered. As it turns out the owner was walking around the restaurant and chatting with customers. The new 'Mole' was the old 'Taco Taco' but in a nicer space and a spiffed up menu. The setting was much more vibrant and the food was delicious, a great improvement over 'Taco Taco'. The service needs some help, it is the kind of place where lots of people are trying to look busy but no one is really doing anything other than run around but the good food definitely wins over the slow service.
  • Sunday 4/30 - what a nice day. Breezy, but bright and sunny with no clouds in the sky. We grabbed egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches from OK deli and headed to the Carl Schurz park (we call this Peanuts Park - because Schurz sort of sounds like Charles Schultz and he penned the Peanuts comic strip). We ate and watched the East River for a while and then decided to head to Central Park, the Sheep's Meadow. Central Park was packed! After hanging out in the Sheep's Meadow enjoying the fresh air we made our way to Fish down on Bleecker. We started off with oysters and clams and then MW had the chopped salad with lettuce, tomato, blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing. The salad kind of wants to be a wedge salad but it is chopped - this time it needed more dressing and even though we asked for more our server forgot to bring it to the table ( wuh wuhhhh). MW had the crab cake for his main and I had the fish market stew  (a spicy tomato based broth with pieces of shrimp and white fish) with lobster mashed potatoes (regular mashed potatoes topped with a big scoop of lobster bisque and lobster meat). The potatoes were on the cool side and not my favorite, I wouldn't order them again. The crab cake is good and the fish stew is one of my favorite items on the menu. Tonight it was really spicy, but still very tasty. After dinner we stopped at Murray's Cheese Shop and per usual had great service. We went home with a tasty blue cheese and nice aged Mahon Curado cheese. Time to see Phil on Amazing Race!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Best Thing I Saw Today - Space Shuttle Enterprise!

This morning space shuttle Enterprise flew from Dulles to JFK, eventually it will be on display at the Intrepid.

NASA was nice enough to do a few loops over the city and Mother Nature was nice enough to give us a beautiful blue skies.

There was a small crowd up on the roof of our building and we tracked it as it went up and down and back up the Hudson.



And then over the Bronx and RFK bridge before touching down at JFK.



It was an awesome sight.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Best Thing I Read Today

"Be yourself is about the worst advice you can give to some people."

By Thomas L. Masson, 1866-1934, American editor and author

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Final Frontier

We have become official Natural History Museum members - thanks to a Groupon making the cost a very reasonable $60 for the year.

Our first visit was last Sunday. As members we get to enjoy many of the special ticketed exhibits for free. We spent the afternoon walking through the special exhibit: Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration.

Here we found out about, "robotic missions to explore our universe and what it will take to build a lunar elevator, deflect deadly asteroids, and travel to Mars."

In fact, if Michael were to travel to Mars this is what he would look like:


This Mars exploration photo inspired my blog post title. It is a very obscure reference to the song that was played by JPL as the Mars rover first landed. It is also the song used for the show "Mad About You".

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Move over cake balls - time for Push Pops!

Thanks Pinterest for yet another great idea!

I was never really a big cake ball fan, but I have quickly adopted the push pop craze.

Basically tasty treats are loaded in to the push pop form factor (yes, thanks to my technology background this is the word I choose - 'form factor' - keep your 'dork' comments to yourself please).



Once packaged up in cello bags with a little bit of ribbon they are pretty darn cute!





I've made a ton of them with various Easter related treats. I do realize they have a novelty factor, so I'm not sure I'll make push pops treat again - but you never know! They were easy and I liked how they turned out so the odds are ever in their favor for a repeat performance.


Monday, April 02, 2012

Cinderella is proof....

A great pair of shoes can change your life!

No, I didn't get a new pair of shoes but I made 29 pairs of cookie shoes for a party.

They were all pumps, but I made about 10 different colors and designs.

This design looked like wedding shoes to me, white with sparkling white sanding sugar.



Next I made a pale yellow with iridescent glitter - they were my favorite but the glitter really doesn't photograph well.

The dark green shoes were studded with gold dragees.



This style was a bright orange coat of royal icing with pink sanding sugar in various shades - very Boca!




I was not so pleased with the yellow and pink dragees, but I wasn't going to change anything.





This style was my attempt as a Tiffany blue. They are covered in a very light Tiffany blue sanding sugar.






And in honor of Princess Catherine with her Prada navy pumps - I made navy pumps studded with silver dragees. Probably a little too 'rocker' for Kate.








Of course I needed some in purple, this is a light purple royal icing topped with sparkling purple sanding sugar (brought home from my recent trip to Seattle. I knew the jar would set off the baggage scanner so I put my two jars of sugar in a separate bin - sure enough they had to be searched!)








This style did not photograph well, but they looked really cool in person. I covered a darker purple royal icing with an iridescent smoky amethyst luster dust. I use luster dust on my gum paste flowers, it was great to find another use for it!








And finally the greens - the first shade of green I made was a little off and then for some reason I added pink dragees. This pair looks like a pair of prickly pear cactus.









And the final two styles - a darker green with white sanding sugar and the same green but coated in gold luster dust. I liked the gold pair, it reminded me of the statue of liberty with it's green patina.







The cookies were mailed to California and unfortunately they were a little delicate and many didn't survive the trip. Luckily the shoe cobbler on the receiving end used white melting chocolate to get them back in one piece for the party.