Friday, November 25, 2022

Still Grateful

We've had a full house. Full house equals happy heart. The kids came home Tuesday and they both brought friends. We hosted a Mexican fiesta at Casa Wags that night. I worked during the day, but Mike was off so he executed my menu muy bueno. My brother and sister-in-law joined us. I love when we have to pull out the extra chairs because that means interesting banter, lots of toasts and lingering long after the meal around the candlelit table. We're reminded of how much we all have in common and the very few degrees that separate us. And yet the differences, while they don't define us, distinguish us. Ava and Meryl have been welcome additions to the house this holiday weekend.

As I'm writing, the ladies are playing Gin with Mike, Teddy is writing a paper and Alan just dropped off extra tickets for tomorrow's Badger game. The weekend will be cut short by the last home game of the season against our Gopher rivals. Life is good whether we win back the axe or not.

I was already feeling grateful before taking stock yesterday. And distracted enough to focus on who is present as opposed to who is not. That being said, my mom is always on my mind at times like this. We had our moment while the rest of the house was still asleep yesterday. I put on the parade and had a little chat with her. Then I got busy making a beautiful breakfast frittata. Pee came for her annual Thanksgiving day visit. She made her mom's stuffing to take to her in-law's gathering while we did our best to catch up. It's not Thanksgiving without your favorite recipes...your mom's stuffing. It turns out that her mom's stuffing is my mom's stuffing. The elusive recipe is on the back of the Pepperidge Farm bag.I took a bite and it felt like a hug.

We loaded up the car and made our way to my parents. On the road, I sent holiday well wishes to family and friends around the country who were on my my heart. My Dad and Judy are King and Queen of Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite meals of the year and I appreciate all of the effort that goes into the feast. I love entertaining, but I'm not going to lie...this meal intimidates me. My dad made two turkeys. One roasted and one fried. All in all, I think it was about 35 pounds of meat for 10 people. There were lots of leftovers...thankfully. It's the best part. Well, after the communion.

I'm going for a walk with the girls. It's a beautiful 50 degree and sunny day. First, I'll make Ted a breakfast bagel. He's still writing his paper. And when I get home, I'm going to call my parents and thank them for the beautiful, delicious day we had yesterday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Happy Birthday Weekending

So I woke up to snow this morning. Usually the first snowfall makes me feel warm and cozy, and giddy like a little kid. Not so much today. It feels like fall is flying by. It's my favorite. This precursor of what is to come, while lovely, is not yet welcome here.

Life has been full mostly in the best of ways, which means the usual autumn lingering has not happened. I've been gone 3 of the last 4 weekends. While I've turned into quite a crazy cat homebody these last couple of years, the recent going has been good for me. The reminder of the wide world, even if it's just 90 miles from home, is overdue. It's been a nice change to get out of my comfort zone. The storyteller in me has very much enjoyed meeting new people and seeing new things even the most mundane.

Mike's birthday weekend in Chicago was really quite perfect. We took an early train to the city Friday morning. There is something deeply nostalgic about train travel. I get lost in thought as I watch out the window. Life on the side of the tracks is often not particularly beseeching. It's the underbelly of so many small towns...graffiti, garbage, abandoned junk, but every once in awhile I see something that fills me with hope like two horses running in tandem across an amber field...unbridled, free. When the scenery started to look familiar, I knew we were approaching Amy's hometown. Saturday she'd been gone for a year. A quiet cry was cathartic. Texts from the chain were hitting my phone along the way. She was on all of the minds of those who love her and feel the deep loss of an exceptional woman and friend.

We dropped our luggage off at Ted's apartment (the view is still stunning) and walked along Michigan Avenue. Workers were busy lighting everything up for the holidays. My festive meter was on high.We ended up at The Billy Goat Tavern for lunch, which was made famous by SNL's skit about their cheezeborgers back when SNL was still funny. So many greats are in these skits. Cheezeborger. Cheezeborger. Cheezeborger. No coke. Pepsi.The burger was delish and while you can order other things, I'm not sure I'd want to. We had a 2 o'clock Architectural Boat Tour that has been on my short list for a long time. It is a must do. We were a little skeptical about hanging out on the Chicago River in the Windy City in November, but the sun was shining and it was surprisingly beautiful. It was also entertaining and informative and I think the very best way to see the city. We shopped our way back to the John Hancock for a little rest and happy hour before dinner at Giordano's. The birthday boy's birthday eve choice was deep dish pizza. It's another good one, but I thought the star was the salad that I cannot wait to replicate in the near future. After the carb load and a day of fresh air, we called it a good night.


Our Saturday started as most do...with a morning walk. We walked north on Lake Shore Path out to a precarious point (imo) with the most fantastic views of the skyline and then back South and through the city doing a little exploring for next time. Walking is the best way to get bearings. It was a broody day, but only brisk. Mike wanted to watch the Badger game so we found a Bucky friendly Irish pub for bloodys and the WI slaughter. Dinner was at Eataly. Silly Wisconsonites that we are...we're not used to making reservations months in advance so our first and second choices were off the table, but this ended up being a very good third...highlights of which were Leo's generous pours, the melt in your mouth meatballs and the best ever tiramisu. We left satisfied, but not full, which was good because our 10 o'clock stop was Second City. We both laughed hard and often and thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was a bit PC, but not PG and I can appreciate humor even if it's at my expense.


Our last stop was the Redhead Piano Bar. It was packed to the gills, but we bellied up to the bar and belted out some tunes. When we left in the wee hours, people were still coming. Our timing meant we decided to forego Sunday's walk. Lil's was waiting at home and we were anxious to spend some time with her.

The apartment is empty until early January. We will be going back at least once...I've got to see the holiday lights. Maybe twice. I've got the bug to go again.


Friday, November 4, 2022

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

A quiet weekend at home. I didn't get back from NY until 10 o'clock Saturday night. It was a long day of cars, wheel chairs, planes, more cars. A two hour delay on the runway while they repaired a fuel line that was leaking. A two hour delay while we waited for Linda's son in law to pick us up. A 45 minute wait in a drive through that just about did me in because who needs Portillos at 9 o'clock at night. A 1 1/2 hour flight should not waste a whole day, but then I didn't make the arrangements.

 I am planning our trip to Chicago next week. We've been trying to go since September and it is finally working out on Mike's birthday weekend. I've got some fun things planned.

That our plane did not catch fire. It is a little unsettling to see a line of fire trucks racing across the runway right at you.

Knowing I was missed. The kit kats have been extra present and snuggly especially my Hazel girl. Mike missed me too for the record.

It's been an incredible week of 70 degree days. While I love fall sweatshirt weather, I am not complaining.  

I finally finished Notes on an Execution. It took me so long to read it that I think it lost a bit of its impact. Dani Shapiro's new novel arrived just in time for me to take it with me to NY. I didn't have  much time to read, but I am off to a good start and rumor has it we're in for a rainy weekend.

I found an old New Yorker cover at a street vendor for each of the tres amigos that uncannily captures  their unique personalities.

 Finnegan is always finagling into baskets, bags, boxes.

 Our lady Hazel loves to window watch.

And Gus is always in the midst of everything, the life of the party, in the thick of things. He would totally hang out at Grand Central Station.

 My brother and sister-in-law are going to Madison this weekend so the kids will be wined and dined.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

I Heart NY

I had to drop something off downtown today. I didn't mind the lack of traffic or the parking spot right in front of the business I was visiting. Then I drove the 10 miles back to work along the lakefront feeling relaxed and grateful that this is home.

I love NY and was glad to visit last week, but I'm an unapologetic fan of my hometown. Every single time I go away, this gratitude is reaffirmed.

I grew up when taking a flight was a treat and a privilege. We dressed up and used our best manners. The stewardesses (yes, all woman) were always helpful and friendly and the pilots (all men) were proud and professional. Drinks flowed and meals were served. I don't miss the meals or the smoke filled cabins, but I surely am nostalgic for that sense of common goodwill travelers shared. Everyone felt lucky to be going on an adventure or reconnecting with loved ones.

Flying is no longer fun. People are rude and in a rush whether they have a deadline or not. Everyone wants to get on first and get off first pushing the limits with their carryons. I witnessed a young mother laden with baggage as well as a baby in a carrier get one dirty look after another as she squeezed down the aisle. I smiled at her. She apologized. "No need," I said. "I've been there. You're fine." A young hipster with ear buds in rammed me in the head with his backpack. He said nothing. The steward and stewardesses were aloof and annoyed. The pilots looked tired. Both coming and going we experienced 2 hour maintenance delays after boarding the plane. I would have much rather have been waiting in the terminal instead of the stuffy plane. Flying is no longer glamorous, but it still felt worth it when I saw the NYC skyline through the moody end of day sky.

It wasn't ideal to arrive during rush hour and our driver continued to let us know that during the 60 minutes it took to get from LaGuardia to Midtown. It had been a long day of travel so after getting settled, I went for a walk to clear my head and get my bearings. It was a beautiful bustling night in the city. I stopped across the street at Nehri for a delicious glass of cold Moscofilero while I waited for my Chicken Limonata to go. It was a delicious choice. If you are only going to have one meal a day, this is a good one. I'm still thinking about that pita.

I slept like a rock, and then headed to 30 Rock early Thursday morning for a day of meetings at NBC. It was a good, but long day.

We took a rikshaw back to the hotel knowing it would be faster than a taxi and also more fun. Mohammed covered us with a blanket and played Sinatra's NY NY and then Alicia Keys' Empire State of Mind while he wove through traffic. I got chills and not because I was cold. The wind in my face and the several close calls got my adrenaline going. Linda's too so we motivated to walk up the street for dinner at this darling bistro that went all out for Halloween. Inside and out it was covered in skeletons in all variety of interesting, humorous, provocative poses. It was better than a museum installation. Only in NY.

I washed down my Steak Frites with a delicious dirty martini. It was another meal well-earned and most enjoyed.

Friday morning we had to follow up on some work, but we were able to get out in the afternoon for some shopping, sightseeing and the securing of theatre tickets for the evening. Linda loves to shop and she especially loves the street vendors. We both scored some good deals. Linda makes friends with everyone we meet and passersby look at her trying to figure out if she is someone famous. It's quite entertaining.

I stepped into Our Lady of Fifth Avenue to light a candle for my mom. It was a rare moment of solitude in the chaos of the city, and one of my favorite stops of the trip.

I couldn't go into St. Patrick's because a wedding was being officiated. When the bridal party spilled out onto the street, the crowd erupted with cheers and applause. I got chills again. I won't forget that. I bet the bride won't either.

We shared a hotdog for lunch. A $15 lunch! It was the only street food we ate, and we never got to a deli. No NY bagels either, and they are the best. Next time.

After scoring tickets for The Music Man, we cabbed it back to the hotel with just enough time to change our shoes before dinner at The Monkey Bar. Yes, twinning, and we both ordered the burger which was outstanding. I opted for an espresso martini so I'd be fresh faced for the 8 o'clock show. It worked. Definitely want to come back to the swanky Monkey Bar with my guy.

It was my first time seeing The Music Man. I knew nothing about the story and not a single song, but I loved it! Both Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster were outstanding. I'm beyond grateful that we were able to sneak in a show, and it was extra fun to see a big star on Broadway. 

We walked back to the hotel flanked by men in tuxedos, couples out for late night strolls, people walking dogs...lots of people. The city never felt unsafe. Of course, we stayed in Midtown and stayed away from the subway. Everyone was friendly and kind everywhere we went.

Our week in the city turned into three days, but it was enough for a work trip with a little fun thrown in. I'm excited to come again with my husband. We've never been to NY together, and I would love this city even more exploring it with him.

Until next time NY.