Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sensory overload

Not the best night last night. All our sleeping patterns were out and after tossing and turning for hours I got up to find both kids sitting up playing with their DSs at two am. Then the musical beds started and the whinging about being hungry and thirsty. Blah! Finally I managed a few hours sleep but was not exactly chirpy when I dragged myself out of bed just after eight am.

A walk, a bus trip and another walk and we were at Kensington, visiting Jules and Marvin in their lovely pad. Airy, quirky, with gorgeous views... the only thing missing was a tv, a fact the kids (and I) can't quite comprehend.

When mum and David turned up we took a long walk through the amazing old neighbourhood, full of huge old homes and beautiful trees. It was hot and super humid and we were all looking forward to brunch at the "best cafe in New York".

The cafe was ok, nothing more or less. The ordering area was small and crowded, the guy taking the orders slow. The food and coffee were decent, but my cappuccino didn't even come with a metal spoon, just a help-yourself wooden stirrer which looked liked it belonged in a medical practice. Not impressed.

Nevermind. Stuffed, we squeezed into a "car service" car and dropped mum and David home before heading back to our neck of the woods for a late lunch with my dad and his friend Irina, who had arrived last night.

The seafood restaurant we had been anticipating was closed because of the Memorial Day public holiday but we found a great, laid back Middle Eastern eatery across the road and we were set for the afternoon. Drinks, delicious food (two courses for $14 per person - the best hummus I think I've ever had) and great service made for a very enjoyable session two of Meet the Parents.

Next door I found a cool little gift store which is where Gino came from. A sock monkey with a Mohawk - genius!! He is made by a disabled artist in NYC and he is the best thing. He will live on my bed and always remind me of Brooklyn. (picture on my FB page)

We all walked back to our apartment so everyone could have a sticky beak. I was hot and bothered and ready to throw in the towel but I was out voted and we got a car into Manhattan to check out the Waldorf Astoria where dad was staying. The per night rate was so reasonable I thought it must be a shadow of it's former self but it wasn't, it's still elegant and luxurious and truly awesome. The Fawlty Towers connection made it doubly special for us and of course dad had to have the Waldorf Salad last night (apparently they weren't all out of Waldorfs), which he said was delicious.

Despite the whinging of the children (and of my feet) we then proceeded to walk countless blocks to Times Square. Wow, what a mind blowing city. Every adjective I can think of just doesn't come close to describing it's size and awesome-ness. It just goes on forever, as far as the eye can see. Sydney is a big, wonderful city but it's a drop in the ocean compared to NYC. You could walk around every day for a month and not see the half of it.

It is almost daunting. I'm one of those people who struggles to choose my meal in a restaurant with a big menu, always looking at what others ordered and worrying that they made a better choice. NYC is like that. There is so much to see and do and eat, the possibilities are truly endless and as I walked around today I wanted to do it all.

Spotting the M&M's store in Times Square we decided to grab some take home goodies and found ourselves in Hell on Earth. All we wanted were some unavailable in Australia almond M&Ms but we found ourselves in three stories of crazy. It's impossible to believe the choice of sugar coated chocolate inspired crappola one can purchase. I didn't actually see a toilet seat or ear hair trimmer sporting the M&M logo but I'm quite positive such things exist, everything else is there. Having spent about $80 on almond, peanut butter and pink (for Marianna of course) M&Ms we escaped into the stifling humidity of Times Square and the secure understanding we would never set foot in that place again.

So we returned home to Brooklyn and hopefully a better night's sleep tonight. Tomorrow we're heading back to Manhattan and then, tomorrow night, Momofuku. Oh, the sweet anticipation.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The start

So we landed at JFK safely and in an incredibly good mood. That soon changed when we texted my sister to let her know we'd arrived - early. She was on her way but soon after sent a message to say they had a major petrol (gas in American) leak and were waiting for the cops, fire engines, etc.

We got a cab to my mum's apartment as she had arrived a few hours earlier and my sister had the keys to our apartment.

After a brief wait during which fatigue crept up on us slowly but surely (it was almost midnight local time so god only knows what time our time) Julia and Marvin arrived and we were off to our temporary home. (BTW apart from it being a major pain in the bum they were both fine, it was just one of those annoying, unavoidable accidents.)

The apartment is cool. It's in an old newspaper building which has been converted. Big rooms with soaring ceilings, exposed pipework. Funky mix of eclectic retro furniture. The original of our Pegasus (this is where I got the idea for ours, except this one is four times the size) hangs above the leather sofa.

Showers and bed time followed but our internal body clocks were totally stuffed so we couldn't sleep even though we were utterly exhausted. Finally the children went to sleep and I went off sometime around 3:00am.

Jason woke me at 9:00am and I felt amazingly good. Getting the kids up was difficult but finally we were ready to head off to brunch and to meet Marvin's mum and dad.

We walked through our part of Brooklyn and it is what I love in a neighbourhood. Wide tree-lined streets, interesting old buildings, a mish-mash of shops and businesses. Our brunch cafe was a welcoming combination of hip and earthy, our table in the courtyard surrounded by buildings casting cool shadows amongst the tables. Great food and laid back service added up to a wonderful first meal in NY.

[Yo, I've now eaten grits. It's like polenta, yummy. Nothing like I imagined. Tick of another American cultural mystery unravelled.]

Then we started walking... my favourite part of any holiday. Just walking, absorbing the atmosphere, the sights, sounds and smells.

We made our way to Prospect Park, a fabulous huge space, much like our Centennial or Bicentennial Parks. Grass, trees and lots of people having a great time on a warm weekend day. There were families playing and picnicking, groups of friends playing with frisbees and all sorts of ball games, lots of dogs, bikes and joggers. Just a really happy atmosphere.

More walking and we ended up back at mum's apartment. Then we headed back to the bus stop and back to our part of Park Slope. A goodbye to Jules and Marvin, who were headed to collect dad from the airport, and then a bit of shopping and we came home for a rest.

We probably should not have tempted fate by taking the kids out one more time for a play at the playground across the road and then some dinner but we did. The kids fought over where to eat, not because either of them truly cared but because they were both over tired and ratty and driving parents nuts is obviously what you do when you're tired and ratty.

After a quick and painful Chinese dinner we dragged them home whereby Little Miss M promptly took herself off to bed without a word, followed shortly by Big Jay. Now Will is watching Funniest American Videos and I'm blogging. The weariness is setting in and I think it won't be long before I'm in bed myself.

One thing I've learnt is that Brooklyn is not a suburb, which is what I had believed. It's a city in itself. So saying you are going to Brooklyn is like saying you are going to Sydney, you could be going to Bondi or Penrith.

More Brooklyn sights and good food tomorrow.

Start spreading the news

...that I love United Airlines.

Weren't expecting that, were you? I haven't had anything good to say about them since we purchased our super cheap tickets for this trip nine months ago. In fact I have been dreading the flights for this whole time. For some reason I held UA in very low regard and contemplated changing our tickets, at whatever cost, on numerous occasions.

However, my fears were unfounded. Our Sydney to LA flight was smooth and straightforward. Sure the staff don't see the need to over mollycoddle us cattle class plebs and obviously there is no clause about smiling at customers in their contracts but we were fed and watered regularly and the plane remained in the sky between take off and landing, which suits my basic air travel requirements.

I have to make special mention of the chicken dish we were given at dinner time. Delicious. Small but very tasty.

Onto LAX. Hmmmmm. Things got decidedly more unenjoyable upon disembarking. We had about three and a half hours between flights and were frankly worried about how we would occupy ourselves for that amount of time. Luckily the lovely people of US Customs have that figured out. They kept us standing in three separate queues for over two hours thus eliminating the need to fill in all that boring down time. Thank you US Customs.

Actually FUCK YOU US Customs. Do you know how much fun it is to stand in a barely moving line with two tired, grumpy children who are both busting to go to the toilet? Yes, it's even more fun than it sounds. By the time we got through I swore I would never again darken the doorstep of our American cousins, ever.

Cross and annoyed with each other and the universe in general we trudged off for a drink and a snack since we knew there was no meal service on this domestic leg of our journey. So $35 and two sandwiches and a couple of drinks later we turned up at our gate.

No sooner had sat down than a message came over the PA asking for my presence at the desk. We rolled our eyes, wondering if they had realized that they had let us through without the compulsory cavity search. Prepared for the worst we faced up to the burley UA man at the desk.

He looked us bedraggled travelers up and down and said the most wonderful words in the English language. "You folks don't feel like flying business class, do you?". My eyes bulged as my brain tried to digest the meaning of this sentence. I glanced at Big Jay. Was this a joke? Were they asking if we wanted to pay for the upgrade? Did they realise we were travelling with two bordering-on-feral children?

"If we have to," Big Jay said and next thing we know we're walking down the special line and being welcomed by the friendly, smiling business class stewardesses (only distantly related to their economy cousins). So began five hours of luxurious relaxation. There's only one thing better than business class and that's FREE business class.

Before you can say "I think you've got the wrong people" we were being offered drinks from a linen lined tray and choosing our dinner from the menu. Smoked salmon, salad, beef rib with freshly grilled asparagus. At one point they apologized that they only had the pasta dish from first class left and would Will be happy with that. He was.

Then some freshly prepared ice cream sundaes with hot chocolate sauce. Did I mention my cocktail and the copious amounts of red wine Big Jay managed to consume? Oh, and the freshly baked choc chip cookies right before we disembarked?

The staff were so friendly it was almost painful, I felt if I had asked for a glass of freshly squeezed Yak's milk they would have said "no problem, madam". It was surreal.

After a nap in our super comfy recliner seats we arrived at JFK relaxed and refreshed but that didn't last long.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Modern Families (or bloody hell, we're off to New York)

We're packing (imagine a farmyard full of recently beheaded chickens) for our trip to New York. This is our entertainment kit for the plane: one Kindle, one iPad, three iPods, one iPhone, two DSs and a partridge in a pear tree. Well, we are flying United so the base level of entertainment will be equivalent to 1970s era Aeroflot.

I have my usual level of equal parts excitement and anxiety when faced with a long haul flight (with children). But I'm trying to focus on the fact that in just over 48 hours we'll be landing in New York, New York... the city so good they named it twice (like Wagga Wagga and Woy Woy).

We literally don't know where to start, there is so much to see, do and eat. Everyone we meet offers suggestions for the things we MUST do. Two short weeks seems like such a microscopic amount of time in such a wonderous city. I can only calm myself with the thought that this won't be our last visit.

Now that I've discovered a decent iPad blogging tool I will be sharing our Big Apple adventures right here, so stay tuned.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Grinding axes

We all have an axe (or a few) to grind. They may be trivial or earth shatteringly important but their relevance is only apparent to us and those who love us.

A terrible experience in a restaurant... An hour and ten minutes on the phone to Qantas with a simple request... The incompetence of a government department in processing the adoption of your children.... How long do you have?

I'm getting to my point. The man who took over the Sydney Harbour Bridge last week does not deserve the fame and relevance he's suddenly surrounded with. I don't know his story: bitter custody dispute, DoCS unhelpful,etc. What's new?

What is driving me nuts is that he is suddenly a media darling instead of just being a very naughty little boy. Maybe it's his military background which gives him an air of authority other nutters don't readily possess. Whatever it is, it just isn't on.

To paraphrase an interview I heard with him on Triple M last week: "oh well you inconvenienced tens of thousands of people but you do have an important point to make". No! There are countless "important points" out there waiting to be made. Are we prepared to disrupt the civil running of society, stressful as it is for the ordinary person, so that each bugger with a problem can have their voice heard?

Yes, life is frustrating, especially when it's not going our way, when obvious injustices are being perpetuated, when simple things just can't get done for a myriad of reasons, mainly human error or incompetence. But that doesn't give us all carte blanche to stop traffic, figuratively and literally.

As always I blame the media for being pathetic brainless morons, nothing more than magpies picking up the brightest baubles. They have made a hero from someone who does not deserve it. They have rewarded bad behavior, somethingng every parent knows not to do. When some nutter causes a civil drama to further their cause in the future I'll know where to lay some of the blame. When you glamourize and validate this sort of "terrorism" you say it's ok to disrupt your community to grind your axe.

And I say it isn't. That's what blogging is for. We all know that.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Royal wedding fashion round up

You know every man and his dog has had their two cents' worth about the royal wedding and I was feeling a bit left out. I knew you've all been awake all night this past week wondering what on Earth DeepKickGirl thought of Princess Beatrice's hat.... well, your wait is over.

To be honest I've paid only marginal attention to the whole circus but today I was reading my first iPad version of the Women's Weekly and had my first good look at the wedding fashion and decided I had something to say.

Firstly Kate (surely it should be Cate?). Simple, elegant, beautiful. Well done.

Chelsea Davy (Prince Harry's on again, off again). Looked like she was on day release from Ladette to Lady. Could have brushed her hair for f's sake.

Princess Eugenie. Frumpy.

Princess Beatrice. On first glance, terrible. But on closer inspection it was just the hat; the dress and shoes were actually lovely. The hat was a crime against humanity. I hope Philip Treacy, who was responsible for most of the hat atrocities on the day, is on Scotland Yard's Most Wanted list.... talk about the Emperor's New Clothes!

Now let's talk about Becks and Posh. What the fuck is wrong with that woman? Would it kill her to crack a smile. Here she is, next to her gorgeous, beaming man, looking like she's just been slapped in the face by a dead fish. Furthermore her dress was plain drab, more suitable for a funeral than a wedding. She really really shits me! Eat something and cheer up, you silly cow.

I'm afraid I have nothing positive to say about our PM but I do have a soft spot for the First Hairdresser, seems like a lovely bloke. Our GG looked elegant, as always.

Away from fashion I thought the media hoopla that went on in the lead up to the wedding was downright obscene and pretty much every Australian media outlet should be ashamed of themselves.

To finish let me paraphrase a joke on the subject. K(C)ate Middleton asks the Queen about the secret to a long and happy marriage. The Queen tells her "wear your seatbelt and don't piss me off".

Friday, May 06, 2011


Why is it most of my best (only) thinking is done in the car? If only I had some magical contraption which would suck out my thoughts and transfer them straight onto blogger. Seriously, it would be profound.

I'm typing this on our new iPad, which is the new addition to our stable of gadgetry. It's cool and fun and will be wonderful on our upcoming trip to the US. It is pure middle class extravagance, that is true. But it allows me to lie in bed, watch Masterchef and update my badly neglected blog. What luxury!

Our trip to NY is now only three weeks away and the excitement is rising. Also the mild anxiety about being ready, work and home wise. How do we make the best of this opportunity without exhausting ourselves and the kids? So far Big Jay, Will and my dad have tickets for the Yankees vs the Red Sox which should be a wonderful cultural experience if nothing else. We've given up on the idea of seeing The Addams Family on Broadway because Nathan Lane is no longer in the cast and he was the main draw card for me. I'm sure we'll find other ways of entertaining ourselves. Carlo's Bakery (of Cake Boss fame) is definitely on the itinerary. I have overdone it lately on the retail therapy so the dream of heavy duty NY shopping has faded a little... though I still harbour a fantasy of wondering the Brooklyn neighbourhood where we'll be staying and discovering sone quirky little boutique which will present me with a magical bag or cardie or pair of shoes which will blow my mind and give me the ultimate NY souvenir.

I'm super busy at work and finally facing the fact that working four days a week just won't cut it. So after many years I'm back to working full time. It's cool, not liking I'm breaking rocks with my bare hands for a dollar an hour. The problem is I'm so easily distracted I don't seem to be achieving all that much. Must try harder.

The kids are great. Will's last batch of testing with the school counsellor has shown considerable progress but we still worry about high school next year. He just seems so vulnerable to me. There are so many sharks out there in the big bad world. Little Miss M is powering on. Dancing is everything right now and she has started having a private lesson each week to prepare for an Estedford she's preparing for. This is on top of the ballet, tap and jazz class she has each week.

Um, energy running low now.... Brain in "sleep" mode. Good night. Will try to write some more over the weekend.