Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Blissful Week of Doing Nothing in the Tropics: Christmas in DR

December 19 - 26, 2015
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Celebrating Christmas Day at Bavaro Beach Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
A few years ago, we started an unofficial tradition of traveling somewhere interesting or at least warm over Christmas week, typically returning home on or near Christmas Day and hence avoiding the worst of the holiday crowds.  In 2012, we jetted off to (frigid) South Korea Merry Christmas from Seoul!.  2013 found us road tripping to Crater Lake National Park and around the south central part of Oregon A Wintry Exploration of Central Oregon before driving off in the opposite direction to celebrate New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in LA, cheering the Michigan State Spartans to a Rose Bowl victory with friends The MSU Spartans Go to the Rose Bowl...and So Do We!.  And finally, last year we made our second trip to Hawaii, this time to the stunningly beautiful island of Kauai, before leaving the west coast to make our home in New York City.

While it's been a truly enjoyable and rewarding experience in many ways, moving to Manhattan from Oakland last February has been a challenging transition and Scott's job as US market controller for Nespresso is highly demanding, to say the least.  Add to that our utter fear of the cold winter weather staring us down and the decision to go to an all-inclusive resort in the (relatively) nearby Dominican Republic was an easy one.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Family Portrait Kind of Holiday!

November 22 & 26, 2015
Beverly Hills, MI & Clarkston, MI

Scott's family selfie while waiting for Debbie to prepare her shot
This year, we decided to travel to Michigan for our Thanksgiving celebration upon realizing that we had not  celebrated this particular holiday in our home state with our families since we before we were married 17 years ago.  And while we have visited many times since, apparently everyone was feeling nostalgic and decided this year was to be the unofficial "Year of the Family Portrait" on both sides of our family.  There were no professional photographers engaged (unless you count Scott's Aunt Debbie, who also appeared in many of the shots) and therefore was copious tripod and timer use, combined with fidgety young children, but I think we managed to get a keeper or two!

I wanted to gather and present these portraits all in one place, so here they are. :-)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An Autumn Stroll in the City

November 7, 2015

In Riverside Park on Manhattan's upper west side
On Saturday, the weather was overcast and cool, but we had decided in advance to check out the last gasp of fall color in Riverside Park.  The park, which hugs the Hudson River as it runs up the far west side of upper Manhattan has an impressive array of deciduous trees lining its pleasant walkways.  A collection of winding paths and wide, flat promenades (which are unfortunately but understandably popular with the under-ten cycling and scooter set) makes for a satisfying stroll.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Leaf Peeping in Central Park

October 31, 2015

The NYC Marathon's 25-Mile mark, located in Central Park
The leaves have finally started to turn here in New York City and Mother Nature's been going gangbusters this past week.  With all of our friends out of town and no Halloween plans or parties to prepare for, Scott and I spent a quiet afternoon the day before the famed NYC Marathon admiring the changing foliage in Central Park.  It was a mostly overcast day with temperatures in the low- to mid-50s - a bit chilly for us - but it seemed fitting weather for Halloween afternoon and the vibrant yellow, orange and red colored leaves popped in the soft grey light. Here is some of what we saw.

The whimsical clock at the Central Park Zoo was striking the hour as we were passing by, so we stopped to watch as the anthropomorphic animals made their rotations around the tower
Central Park Zoo
The colored leaves were mostly yellow in the lower section of the park
Entering the Mall
A pop of orange
The Mall
Some lucky bridal couple will have this gorgeous specimen in their wedding photos
A stunning tree for a stunning bride

One of Central Park's numerous picturesque bridges, made even more so with a backdrop of autumn color
The view from the bridge
Even in the gloomy chill there were lots of rowboats on the lake
In the Ramble, New York City's hiking trail and one of my favorite parts of Central Park
We stopped off at the Wheeltapper on the way home, having worked up quite a thirst with all that leaf peeping!
Guinness reflections

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jerry & Denise Visit the Big Apple!

October 23 - 26, 2015

Family selfie on our rooftop deck
Scott's parents, Denise and Jerry, made the trip out to New York from Michigan this past weekend to come pay us a visit.  Since it was their first time in New York City, they spent a couple of partial days at the beginning of their visit getting the lay of the land touring around on one of NYC's ubiquitous hop-on-hop-off buses.  They now know more about the history of New York City than we do.

After their bus tours, we still had plenty of time with them to eat our way around town and take in both a live comedy show at the Comedy Cellar's Village Underground as well as a Broadway production of 'A Gentleman's Guide to Murder,' which was so outstandingly good it might just have made a Broadway musical lover of me (no easy task)!

Our unofficial food tour began on Saturday with lunch at Sarge's Deli, located very near our apartment in Murray Hill.  Scott has eaten here several times and swears by their pastrami.  Denise opted for the corn beef and gave that two thumbs up as well.

In front of the delectable deli case at Sarge's
After lunch, we whiled the afternoon away taking in the view from the roof and relaxing over Nespressos and tea in our apartment on a grey and chilly day.  We enjoyed catching up on all the latest family news, including Jerry and Denise's recent (and fabulous-sounding!) Viking River Cruise in Europe, which began in Budapest and ended in the Netherlands and as up-to-the-minute as looking at photos from Denise and Jerry's bus tours from the previous two days.

The two elder Brookses have always been big comedy fans and so we made plans on Saturday evening to take in a show at the popular Comedy Cellar's slightly more spacious room, the Village Underground, located just around the corner from the famed original.  Unfortunately, there were no celebrity drop-ins that evening but it was a solid line-up and our second row seats - close enough to feel like part of the show but just far enough away to avoid the scrutiny of the comedians and being the butt of their jokes - only added to our enjoyment.  

Prior to the show, we weren't looking for a big meal, what with our hefty deli lunch.  But places in the Village tend to be small and crowded and we ended up having drinks, cottage fries and chocolate cake at seemingly the only sit down restaurant in town with not a single shareable appetizer offered on the menu.  A little weird, but it tided us over.

The real culinary treat of the evening came after the show when we enjoyed a midnight snack of hot dogs (for Jerry, Scott and me) and hot wings (for Denise) at a stand-up table in the door way of the Papaya Dog, while watching the hustle and bustle of the busy Village sidewalks swirl by just inches from our table. 

Enjoying a snack at Papaya Dog
On Sunday morning, Scott rushed out of bed and over to Times Square in a highly successful attempt to score some discount tickets for a matinee showing of 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder' on Broadway.  

Scott shows off the 12th Row Orchestra seats he scored at the TKTS booth
Shortly after noon, Scott and I picked up his parents at their well-located East Midtown hotel and we headed up 5th Avenue, doing a little casual sightseeing as we made our way to the theater.  The autumn leaves have just started to turn here in the city, and as we set off on foot the sun came out.  It was a beautiful afternoon for a walk. Our first stop was the New York Public Library.

The New York Public Library was sporting some pretty autumn foliage
I visit the Mid-Manhattan branch of the NYPL quite regularly. However, I am a bit ashamed to admit that it was my first time in the main New York Public Library, even though it is an easy walk from our apartment and kitty corner from the lending library I frequent.  The main library houses some research materials but it is not a lending library, hence my failure to visit in the first 8 months we have resided here in Manhattan.  Once inside, it looks and functions more like a gorgeous museum than a library (and it's free!).

The entrance hallway of the New York Public Library
We enjoyed perusing the interesting photography exhibit currently on display on the main level called Public Eye.

Public Eye exhibit at the New York Public Library
The interior architecture of the space was at least as intriguing as the art exhibit. 

Public Eye exhibit at the New York Public Library
We could have easily spent more time looking around, had we not been on a schedule and I eagerly look forward to returning one day very soon to give it a closer look.

After leaving the library, we continued up 5th Avenue, going just far enough to admire (and for Jerry to photograph) the impressive St. Patrick's Cathedral before turning west towards Rockefeller Center.  The fountains as we approached Rockefeller Center were decorated with colorful autumn gourds and flowers for the season.

Rockefeller Center, dressed for fall
The ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center had already opened for the season.  However, it was difficult to discern if many people were there to skate on the iconic rink, since the Zamboni was in the middle of smoothing the ice during our visit.  

The Rockefeller Center skating rink, ready for action!
Eventually we arrived at our destination, the Walter Kerr Theatre on 48th St. just off Broadway.

It's Matinee Time!
We had plenty of time to get settled into our orchestra section seats in the intimate-feeling theater before the 3 pm curtain time.  

Awaiting the curtain at 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder' at Walter Kerr Theatre
Our friend Richelle had highly recommended the show, but I was still a little nervous, since I am not much of a live theater fan.  However, the charming characters, clever sets, detailed period costumes and lively musical numbers combined with our great seats had me quite engrossed in the performance within the first 30 minutes.  Everyone else in our party seemed to enjoy the show equally as well, making it money and time well-spent.

Following the performance, we decided to splurge on a prime rib dinner at Gallagher's Steakhouse, located a very short walk from the theater right in Times Square.  Immediately upon our arrival, we reserved the last three pieces of prime rib available for the night (Scott decided to try a different cut) and enjoyed a cocktail at the bar before being shown to a quiet table right in the window.

The bartenders at Gallagher's know how to make a perfect martini
Scott and I had visited Gallagher's back in June to celebrate my birthday so we knew what to expect.  We were not disappointed, to say the least.  The food was superb and cooked to perfection while the service was gracious and impeccable; all in all the meal proved to be a fitting end to a most enjoyable and memorable day!

Monday dawned sunny but brisk and we continued our unofficial food tour of NYC, this time venturing across the East River to Brooklyn.  We opted to take the ferry over the subway as our mode of transit today and boarded at the 34th St. ferry terminal right near our apartment for the short trip. Everyone enjoyed the views of the iconic skyline from the water and we disembarked at the DUMBO terminal in Brooklyn in no time flat!

On the ferry to Brooklyn
The day continued sunny and pleasant so we started with a stroll along the waterfront.  On our walk, we checked out Pier 2, which has been thoughtfully re-purposed into a park, complete with various sporting courts - handball, basketball, bocce and shuffleboard - and even a roller skating rink with skate rentals.

Before we knew it, it was time for lunch so of course we headed to nearby Grimaldi's for a New York style pie.

Keeping up with the lunch rush at the old-school Grimaldi's, in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Photo by Jerry Brooks
After lunch, we continued our tour with a visit to Park Slope, where Scott and I did a highly memorable home exchange nine years ago, almost to the day.  The foliage in this leafy neighborhood was just barely beginning to turn but we enjoyed seeing all the Halloween decorations the local residents had erected, taking great care not to trip over all the local children being pushed in their strollers.  
Halloween comes to Park Slope, Brooklyn
Park Slopers definitely have us Manhattanites beat in the Halloween spirit department, no doubt about it!  
Near the end of our tour, and after dragging Jerry and Denise to see the apartment building where we stayed on our home exchange, Denise was struck with a craving for a tall piece of New York cheesecake so we took the subway back to Manhattan.  After a failed attempt in Soho, we settled in at Katz's Deli in the East Village for a piece that really hit the spot.

Katz's Deli, home of the famed "I'll have what she's having!" scene from the movie "When Harry Met Sally." Photo by Jerry Brooks
Later that evening, we concluded our unofficial food tour of NYC with a low-key yet satisfyingly tasty meal at Baby Bo's Cantina, where they also have great happy hour margaritas.  We said our goodbyes as the senior Brookses headed back to their hotel to get a good night's sleep before their flight home in the morning.  It was great to be able to spend so much time together catching up and we look forward to picking up where we left off on our upcoming trip to Michigan over Thanksgiving week!

More photos:

The TKTS booth line that Scott braved on Sunday morning for our theater tickets, proving that Times Square is never quiet!
New York Public Library in autumn. Photo by Jerry Brooks
New York Public Library. Photo by Jerry Brooks
New York Public Library 'Public Eye' photography exhibit
New York Public Library 'Public Eye' photography exhibit
New York Public Library 'Public Eye' photography exhibit
New York Public Library
New York Public Library
Autumn comes to Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center 
Eagerly anticipating the show at 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder'
Documenting the changing of the guard at the Late Show
The Chrysler Building beneath a full moon
Oh, the anticipation! Lunch at Grimaldi's in Brooklyn
It's pie time!

Halloween in Park Slope, Brooklyn
I just happened to be sitting right next to the photo of one of my favorite actors, Paul Rudd, at Katz's Deli