Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie Review: Bridesmaids

Everybody is loving Bridesmaids and I wanted to love it too. I was out with mums from school, a rare week night outing, a chick felt so right. The woman sitting next to me (not a school mum) was laughing constantly and hysterically, making me laugh along; often I would stop mid-laugh realizing I was laughing because of my neighbour not because anything genuinely funny was going on.

Sorry, let's backtrack. The opening scene featured my favorite Blondie song "Rip Her To Shreds" and I felt I was going where I wanted to go with this movie. But I wasn't. Don't get me wrong it was OK, a big solid OK, but nothing more. I hate it when I see the potential of a film but the script just doesn't allow the story to be everything it could be.

And another thing, why two hours? Unless a film features hobbits, boy wizards and/or creatures from the planet Pandora there is no reason why they need to exceed 90 minutes, 100 minutes tops. There is nothing you need to tell me about the hilarious goings on of a bunch of bridesmaids that fills up 125 minutes.

While I love Maya Rudolph I found Kristen Wiig slightly annoying. Sure there were a lot of bang on moments but there were a hell of a lot of ho hum moments. I especially struggled with the relationship between Annie and sweet Officer Nathan Rhodes. Just didn't sit well with me, again I blame poor writing.

I'm also probably reaching the end of my tether with bodily function gags; the shock horror disgust factor is starting to wear a little thin. Enough already.

Bottom line: Bridesmaids is reasonable entertainment with potential to be much more so. Unlike a Snickers bar it just didn't satisfy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I've had a moment of clarity today. My life is no longer "Say Anything" or "Sixteen Candles" or "The Breakfast Club" or even "Reality Bites". It's much more in the neighbourhood of say "Ordinary People" or "Steel Magnolias" and heading towards "Cocoon" and "Driving Miss Daisy".


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New York Picture 13: The Big Day - Part 3

New York Picture 12: The Big Day - Part 2

New York Picture 12: The Big Day - Part 1

New York Picture 11: Happy New York Faces

New York Picture 10: The Lady herself

New York Picture 9: View from the Top

New York Picture 8: Hanging out with King Kong at The Empire State Building

New York Picture 7: The Dog with the Shoes

New York Picture 6: Shake Shack at Madison Square Park [Heaven]

New York Picture 5: Having Fun at Coney Island

Monday, June 13, 2011

New York Picture 4: Nathan's Hot Dogs - Coney Island

New York Picture 3: Times Square

New York Picture 2: Grand Central Station - stunning!

New York Picture 1: Kicking back in business class

Hell: The Extended Director's Cut

At the airport all went to plan. Check in, go to gate, run around looking for last minute suveneirs (at this point let me ask "why don't Americans like tea towels?" and also lots of you are now not getting a pressie because there is bugger all to buy at JFK airport).

Disappointingly we are not upgraded but board nevertheless. Then we wait and wait and wait and wait....

You get the idea. Our plane is delayed by six hours because of thunder storms in the area. We spend most of that time on the plane apart from a brief time off for good behavior when we return to the terminal to refuel. So we spend five and a half hours on the plane before we even take off.

During our "break" at the terminal I ask the super friendly and helpful (ha!) lady at the desk about the fact we are going to miss our flight to Sydney. Without saying a word (like explaining our options or say, acknowledging my presence) she takes my boarding passes and prints out new boarding passes (or so I thought) for the same flight but 24 hours later.

So we finally fly into LAX at 2:00 am local time (that's 5:00 am NY time) very very very tired. No bags we troupe through an almost deserted airport into the cold night. United have offered not one comment or word of support or advice on what our options are. We are on our own and decide to stay the night at an airport hotel and decide what to do in the morning.

The first and only hotel shuttle bus which arrives is from the Marriott and we file on board hoping that they have a room available (you never know when there is a convention of second hand refrigerator spare parts salesmen). Luckily they do and I take a moment to thank the credit card gods who make these difficult life moments manageable and almost pleasant.

Fifteen minutes later we're in our warm, comfy room. Kids are asleep and I'm in bed trying to count my blessings and wondering about the next day and thinking that my nice plans to be home three days before we return to school and work have just been flushed down the loo.

In the morning we put on our dirty clothes (hate that) and go to breakfast. Love a hotel buffet breakfast and have decided I may have a mild addiction to crispy American bacon.

Our initial thought is to keep the room for that day and hang around but then Jay comes up with the idea of going to Universal Studios for the day. At first I thought it would be too much but I talk to the Concierge about it and find out we could leave our stuff there (all two plastic bags of it) and we would be picked up and returned just in time to get the shuttle to LAX. The cost would be only a little more than keeping the room for the day. So we book in an await our pick up bus.

Universal Studios is a really great day out. It's not full of scary rides, just one I think. Everything else is more laid back. There is the great tour (which we "only" had to wait 45 minutes to go on, lucky it was a quiet day) which takes you around the back lots and shows you some of the great old and new sets from movies (like Psycho) and tv shows (like Desperate Housewives). It finishes with an amazing 3D King Kong ride which isn't scary in a roller coaster way but is really fun.

We also loved The Simpsons virtual roller coaster - THE BEST, the Waterworld stunt show, the Animal Actors show and I loved the Ben and Jerry's Churros Ice Cream Sundae. [can you believe I've only put on half a kg during this trip?]

Anyway, it was lots of fun and we were happy and excited as we headed out to get our shuttle back to the hotel.

On the schedule I was given it said we would return to the hotel at 7:30 pm. Great, just enough time to get our stuff and get the airport shuttle in time to check in at 8:30 pm, two hours before our flight.

After we had been driving for about an hour and didn't seem to be getting anywhere near our hotel we asked the driver, a grumpy sort of guy who couldn't tell us who much longer it would be. A little while later we again explained we had to be at the airport at 8:30 and asked how much longer it would be. Again no sensible reply. It almost seemed he was determined to drop off everyone else except us.

You could say I was a little agitated by the time we arrived at the Marriott at 8:30. I believe my words were "thanks for nothing" as we got off the bus. There is a nasty email heading to VIP Tours, Los Angeles... which is a shame because we had such a great day.

At the airport we have some more fun and games, discovering we weren't actually checked in or have confirmed seats. There were a few stressful moments when we weren't sure if we had seats (it was a packed flight) and then if we would able to sit together.

All came together at the last minute and we were seated. Again our flight was delayed by one hour (no explanation given) but finally we were headed home.

Dinner and a good long uncomfortable snooze and then I was wide awake. Let me say that no amount of Matt Damon makes The Adjustment Bureau a film worth watching. On the other hand I was obviously tired and emotional when I shed tears at the end of Country Strong and surprisingly it wasn't because of Gwyneth Paltrow's singing. There are some good things about long haul flights and getting to watch the entire first series of Laid on my iPad was a real bonus. Love that show, great writing... but I do have a soft spot for anything involving market research... can't wait for season two.

So we arrived home on Sunday morning, just over 24 hours behind schedule. Our lovely friend M had stocked us up with food basics meaning I didn't have to head straight out for the shopping. We got stuck into unpacking and washing but lethargy soon caught up with me.

Getting into bed to watch the Swans vs Richmond game was a fatal mistake and I was fast asleep half way into the second quarter. I got up at 9:30 to find Jay asleep on the sofa and the kids in bed. Slept until 2:30 or so. Dozed a bit. Then the kids and Jay woke up and we've all been awake fully since about 4:30. Bum. Means we'll crash early again today.

Well that concludes our excellent New York adventure. Despite the rather shitty ending all's well that ends well and we had a wonderful time and are home safe and sound ... So who could ask for more.

Will load photos later today.

Normal transmission will return when I can be bothered.


If you are of the god bothering persuasion you might be wondering what hell is like, after all it is one of the two major options awaiting you when you shuffle of this mortal coil. Am I right?

Well, I'm here to tell you exactly what to expect. You will spend eternity in a people mover, make and model unspecified, with your husband and kids. It will be a scorchingly hot day and the a/c will be making the smallest dent in the ambient temp. Your kids will be sitting in the back row constantly whinging about how hot it is, you will be trying to reassure them but your motherly warmth will fade after the 300th time.

The driver of your eternal vehicle will be a homicidal Mexican who will think it's appropriate to fill up while you are all in the car, despite already being late. He will then turn up the Latin American pop music to 11 and proceed to drive in a style I like to refer to as SEVENTY MILES STOP!!! This involves screaming down the highway and slamming down the brakes just as you are about to run into the back of the car in front.

Did I mention he won't help with the bags because, well, you know, being a scum sucking waste of space is pretty exhausting and he just can't afford to exert the energy on anything like helping his passengers.

So where was I?

I'll have what she's having

Thursday morning we finished packing and headed over to J's and M's for our final day in NY. Dad and Irina arrived and we all headed to Houston Street on the subway.

Katz' Deli is famous for the "I'll have what she's having" scene from "When Harry Met Sally" but it should really be famous for having really great Jewish style food and a really cool atmosphere.

It's really old style New York cafeteria, a big room with basic furniture, a giant deli counter along one side and a ticketing system run by the yellow ticket Nazi.

What a way to finish our NY adventure! Big Jay got a famous Reuben sandwich with pastrami (which was huge and delicious). The kids got cheeseburgers which they confirmed were "the best" and I got a chili dog which is a hot dog with beef chili all over it. Americans do hot dogs well, really well, which I have always thought is a no-brainer. What's a hot dog? A good frankfurt sausage on a decent fresh bun with your choice of accompaniments. Easy. Not here in Oz. As veterans of most sporting venues on the East coast we know that hot dogs are a way of catering companies saying "screw you, suckers". But I digress.

My chili dog was yummo as was everything else I tried from other people's plates. I especially love the plates of pickles they bring to the table when you arrive. Two different types, both delicious. The other thing I tried was a New York Egg Cream, which I thought sounded like a custard dessert of some kind but was actually a milk shake with a spritz of Seltzer water in it. Not bad but a bit strange.

We came out of there stuffed and walked straight over the road to the Italian ice cream laboratory where we stuffed down some gorgeous ice cream (well it was a really hot day). Too hot to walk anywhere we took the subway back to Brooklyn and waited for our car service car to head to the airport.

Goodbyes (I HATE long, drawn out farewells) and the car arrived. It didn't fit all of us and the luggage and this is the exact point where things turned into a big steaming pile of manure.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

More randomness

I have noticed how good or reasonable the cost of living is here compared to Sydney. This surprises me as I have always thought New York would be an uber expensive place to live. It isn't. If you have a medium to good salary you can live quite well here. Real estate is comparable to Sydney, food (groceries, fresh food and restaurant/take away) is considerably cheaper than in Australia and of course the choices are much more varied. Let's not mention that you can buy five delicious golden bananas for $1.00 to us banana starved Aussies. Taxis are dirt cheap as is public transport; both are much more user friendly. I can easily see how people can get by without cars. From what I've seen, around Brooklyn at least, it is much more of a local community lifestyle, not as shopping center based as we are in Sydney. In fact I haven't actually been in a mall these past two weeks, except the one across from us which is just Target and a few other stores, a rather odd mall and not very welcoming or user friendly.

I think it would be a tough life here on a low wage and there are lots of people, particularly in service industries, that would be in that range. However, the same goes for Sydney. I guess it's no fun anywhere without enough money. Der, KB, how about pointing out the bleeding obvious. I'm so good at it.

The dog situation, which I have written about before, is noteworthy. There are dogs everywhere but I have not seen dog poo on the street. It is strange because the streets are actually quite dirty, people aren't great about putting their rubbish in bins and it is often swirling along the streets and public bins are often overflowing. But almost no dog poo. Peculiar. We have seen many dogs in shops, trains, buses and being pushed around in dog strollers. It isn't just the Paris Hilton types who have tiny canines, old women, young men, mums, dads, everyone. No demographic has been spared from the dog phenomenon. Jules tells me about seeing a woman getting her nails done with a giant dog at her feet who got bored and climbed up into her lap during her pedicure. Things that make you go "hhhmmmmm"!

Guns. I haven't seen any but they have been on my mind. Walking to the station the other day there was a young man who may or may not have been assaulting a young woman in broad daylight near the local station. It didn't look like a nice situation, whatever was happening. I was concerned but felt very intimidated by the idea that he would more than likely have a gun. So we didn't interfere but I felt badly about our cowardice and still do.

Ok, now for the elephant in the room. Tomorrow we are leaving and I don't know when I'll see my sister again. That's the reality and it's not a jolly thought. But I can't say I'm feeling super sad. Why? Most likely denial, I think I have a strong case of it. Also I am more or less used to her being overseas as she has been on and off for the last few years. Also email and Facebook make regular, almost constant, contact a normal part of our lives, even when we're living in the same city. It's not like we need to wait six months for the ship to arrive carrying the handwritten letter. What we're doing, thinking, (importantly) eating, is always updated on FB which may be a grating social phenomenon but is fantastic in this case.

Sure I will miss our outings, shopping, yum cha, cooking classes. All the things we love to do together just won't be a part of our lives anymore. Luckily we both lead busy, interesting, fulfilling lives so it won't be a case of sitting around pining for each other. But it is undeniable that we will each have a JB and KB sized hole in our lives.

Long distance travel is possible but not all that easy or affordable on an all too regular basis. I think I will need to start donating my charity money to super fast air transport research rather than all those sick kiddies I keep supporting. Let someone else fund the cure for cancer, I need fast, affordable travel to New York.

But seriously Jules and I have a bond which no amount of distance can dilute so I prefer to look at this situation as a minor annoyance rather than as a serious hardship... and I believe that none of us know what the future holds so you just never know, my New York super modeling career could be just about to take off and then she'll be visiting me in my Manhattan pad all the time.

Love you sis. I know you and M will have a beautiful and fascinating life together and I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Hot, damn hot

What a day. It took a while to get out of the house this morning, everyone tired and/or cranky and/or sick. We thought we'd just have a quick breakfast nearby but ended up walking many blocks to the French Cafe we had brunch at last weekend. Again the food was lovely but we had to hike back to the train station which was not fun because of the heat.

We wanted to go to Central Park today and Big Jay wanted to visit the Dakota Building where John Lennon lived and died. It was not the best day for such an adventure with the temperature being around 93 degrees (or 34 degrees to you and me). It felt much hotter where we were; really hot, can't go on living hot. Nevertheless we managed to walk 20 or 30 blocks and around the Strawberry Fields area of Central Park with two whiney kids. Please send medals to the following address...

The heat made it difficult to really enjoy the excursion but I'm glad we managed to see the Dakota Building which has special meaning to Jay, being a huge Beatles fan.

We returned home around 4pm, hot, sweaty and generally over it. We plonked the kids in front of the tele and hit the packing. Then we dragged ourselves out again for a quick (and miserable, thanks to Marianna) pizza and pasta dinner at one of the many local Italian joints.

It's now almost 9pm and the packing is just about all finished. A few last minute bits to do in the morning once we're dressed and ready to go.

The plan is to go to Jules' place in the morning, leave our bags and head to Katz' Deli in Houston Street (made famous in "When Harry Met Sally") for lunch. We'll then head to JFK Airport at about 3pm to make sure we have lots of time to buy crappy souvenirs for our friends back home... you have been warned.

We'll be arriving at Sydney Airport around 6am on Saturday morning. Luckily we'll have the long weekend to recover from what will undoubtedly be horrific jet lag.

Thanks for reading about our New York adventure. Good night.

Another big day

Yesterday was another big day and with the kids and I all being sick I am frankly surprised we made it through and managed to have a wonderful day.

After a slow start (Jay had left earlier for his big shopping day - he netted one, not so cheap, work shirt - he's such an amateur) the kids and I set off for The Bronx Zoo. The Bronx inspires images of mean streets populated by even meaner people but it seems to be just another neighbourhood now; probably a little bleaker than the area of Brooklyn we're in but nothing terrible.

Luckily the train to The Bronx runs directly from our local station so we just had to get on here and ride directly to the zoo. What a lovely little zoo it is. Lots of trees, so it's very shady and lots of interesting vantage points to see the animals from.

We loved the little monorail which took us around the Asia display, complete with commentary. My favourites were the gorillas, the mongoose, the aardvarks, the tapirs. Sadly we didn't find the sloths before we ran out of time. The kids loved having a ride on a camel and the Bug Carousel and the Butterfly House.

One thing I confirmed was that all zoos, worldwide, must have the same policy of offering only overpriced, third rate food. I don't mind paying extra if it goes towards the upkeep of the zoo and helping the animals but surely they can at least provide decent junk food of McDonalds type quality. It's annoying to pay $17.00 for a cardboard container of cold chicken strips and lank fries and an almost inedible chicken roll. The orange Icee was good though.

We then headed back on the train so I could drop Will off at Grand Central Station to meet Jay and Dodo so they could head off to their baseball game. GCS at 5:00pm is madness!

Marianna and I had to head back to Brooklyn to meet up with Jules, her gorgeous friend Ruth and mum and David for dinner. I realized I didn't know what train to get to that part of Brooklyn. Went to wait for a cab, couldn't get one. Went back to the subway, thinking I'll get our usual train and get a cab when we got there. On the train I studied the map and realized with two train changes we could get to the correct stop near the restaurant. Poor Marianna, she was so stoic (not her natural position, especially since she was already hot and tired) as I dragged her all over the subway.

Finally we got off at the right stop and only had five blocks to walk. Sheesh! It was all worth it to eat at Buttermilk Channel. Strange name, wonderful food. By the time we arrived the others were already tucking into the most devine salad of lettuce and duck skin croutons and gorgeous pate. We all ordered the famous fried chicken which arrived in an obscenely huge serve (three large pieces but it looked like a mountain when it was coming towards us). It was served with fresh, crunchy coleslaw and waffles with maple syrup - hmmmm? Sounds weird, tastes amazing. I didn't think I'd get through it all but rest assured I ate every morsel.

And then followed it with a decadent Pecan Pie Sundae. I KNOW! Not sure how I managed but I did. Felt like a snake that had swallowed a goat. But we then walked about a dozen blocks which helped the gross amount of food settle.

Mum and David are staying another few weeks and then mum is heading to Europe for a month so I said my goodbyes to them and to Ruth and we headed home on the now very familiar subway.

My cold really hit it's peak last night and I felt like a big pile of poo by the time we got home. I put M to bed and waited for Jay and Will to get home. They got home about 11pm, full of excitement and great stories about their first trip to the baseball. Then Will and I snuffled and sweated through a night of broken sleep.

Will seems fine this morning and I'm not too bad. It's going to be about 36 degrees here today so I'm not sure how we'll manage our day out to Central Park. Our last full day. Hopefully we'll manage to sneak in a frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity today.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


It's Tuesday morning and the kids and I are a little under the weather. Jay arrived here with a sore throat and now we have all come down with some sort of non-specific headachey, sore throat thing. Possibly air conditioning combined with hay fever combined with strange sleep...

Anyway Sunday was fairly quiet. It was cool here and the picnic J and M had in mind for Prospect Park didn't eventuate. Jay went into Times Square (his favourite place, I think) with Will and Marianna and I walked around the local area and had brunch.

Then late in the afternoon we headed to J and M's for a sausage sizzle. We finally got to taste Marvin's sausages and home cured bacon. So good! We hung out for a little while but were really tired and headed back fairly early.

Yesterday we struggled to get up but finally headed into Manhattan to meet Jules at Century 21 to take back one of the dresses I had bought the other day. Nothing happens quickly at that place and it took forever to get out of there (especially after Marianna came out with three new pairs of sandals for next summer - thanks to her generous aunty - and a handbag which every six year old needs).

Next stop was the fabulous Chelsea Market. What a great place. So much character! So many great places to eat and/or buy top class ingredients. First a stop at Anthropologie which is the most beautiful store for women's clothes, accessories and homewares. Not only are their products gorgeous and wonderful quality but their shop is just beautiful. Came away with lovely sandals and two pairs of pants (half price - yeah!).

Then onto The Lobster Place for lunch... The most devine seafood shop you'll ever see. Not only the freshest fresh seafood but a magnificent array of sushi, giant pots of different types of seafood chowders and made to order lobster, crab and shrimp rolls.

We loaded up with two trays of sushi, a shrimp roll, a lobster roll, crab club sandwich and a small pot of lobster chowder. Everything seemed to come with extras of coleslaw and chips so we had a huge feast.

After stuffing ourselves and begrudgingly walking past the yummy cupcake and ice-cream shops (aware of our dinner booking) we walked through some of the meatpacking district and onto The Highline. I had never heard of this area before... It is a disused train line which runs high above ground and close to the water. It has been revived and rejuvenated into a wonderful area to stroll and enjoy the quirky views of Manhattan's West Side. There are gardens, places to sit, places to dream and think. Really a wonderful, creative use of unwanted public space.

At this point we were getting hot and tired, the kids needed the loo desperately and we rushed into a Starbucks before taking the Subway home for a brief rest before dinner.

Dinner was at Frankie's, Jules' favourite place to eat in Brooklyn. Apart from the kids being unwell, tired and cranky it was a great evening. Lovely, simple Italian food and lots of it. I just couldn't deal with the carb overload. Probably shouldn't have eaten so much of the gorgeous bread before the meal.

This morning we are loafing around trying to muster the energy required to get us to The Bronx Zoo. Jay has gone into Manhattan for his shopping day with M, so it's just me and the kiddos today. Better get organized.

Tonight Will, Jay and Dodo are off to see the Yankees vs The Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. I can't stand baseball but it should be a fun "cultural" experience for the boys.

Monday, June 06, 2011


Brunch is big here. Our local cool street is 5th Avenue and it has countless places to eat - from take away holes in the wall for juice and coffee to restaurants and cafes of all sorts. I have really enjoyed walking around here the last couple of mornings, window shopping, people watching and eating. Is there any better way to spend a weekend morning (that doesn't involve Robbie Williams and nudity)?

This is a really diverse neighbourhood with old timers mixing it with young, hip singles and yummy mummies with their yummy hubbies and yummy kiddies (or to be more truthful underfed middle class hippies in birkenstocks and organic clothing, eating tofu - or "protien" - and drinking fair trade coffee). It takes all sorts and I love that.

After Marianna and I had our brunch of bagels and coffee/iced tea we found a tiny farmers' market and bought giant punnets of sweet New Jersey strawberries and a tub of amazing fresh pickles. Super friendly pickle dude gave us lots of yummy things to sample and Marianna came away with a bag of green olives to munch on on the way home.

They love dogs here. REALLY! Dogs are everywhere. Because they are mostly allowed to have pets in apartments people come out of tiny apartments with huge Great Danes. Mainly they have little dogs here, tiny little dogs, microscopic dogs. You need special magnifying glasses to see some of these dogs.

There are pet businesses everywhere. Most cafes have outdoor seating that's pet friendly or at least somewhere to tether your dog. Shake Shake even has a Pooch-ini which is a shake for dogs which has a dog biscuit blended into it.

The other funny thing is child care centres in shopfronts along the main shopping streets. You can drop off your kid, your dry cleaning and pick up your organic fair trade soy latte in a bio-degradable reusable cup all on the same block. I know we're starting to get a few centres in high rises and in big shopping centres but these seem funny to me.

More random thoughts later.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What we've all been waiting for

We were a little concerned that our driver didn't seem to know where we were heading for the wedding ceremony, even though when we got there it seemed to be a very popular Brooklyn waterfront area with lots of people enjoying a beautiful day out and quite a few weddings and wedding photo sessions taking place.

Our small group of family and friends slowly gathered and we awaited the arrival of the happy couple.

They arrived together, both looking simply stunning. I could use fluffy words to describe how gorgeous and glowing they both were but I won't.... There will be photos when I come home and can download from the good camera. I have put up one stunning photo from my phone on FB and if you've seen it you'll know how beautiful Jules was and how handsome Marvin looked, with the magnificent Manhattan skyline as a backdrop to their special moment.

It was very sweet that Marvin's best friend officiated at the ceremony (and Marvin will do the same when Dan gets married later in the year).

While photos were taken a man arrived with a tray of ice creams to enjoy while we were waiting. What a super cute idea. A delicious ice cream by the waterfront on a beautiful Brooklyn summer's day. Perfection.

A fleet of cars whisked us off to iCI restaurant where the reception was to be held. From the moment we arrived and had our first drink in the lovely little courtyard, shaded by a pretty tree laced with lights, we knew this was the perfect venue. The restaurant is small, with simple, elegant charm and we had sole use of it. There were rustic bunches of flowers in glass jars and candles flickering everywhere. Even a blackhearted crone like me couldn't help but be touched by the romantic ambience.

Drinks and delicious nibbles in the courtyard; a little pre-reception dancing as the lavender-infused vodka and champagne cocktail went straight to my head. Then dinner at the single long table upstairs. Our place cards were Photoboothed photos of each person - hilarious; much giggling and exchanging of photos as we settled down for dinner.

Because J and M are foodies of the highest order we knew the food would be good and it was. Tiny delectable oysters with a champagne sabayon, antipasti featuring the most delicious salami and pickled okra, a spring panzanella salad, a light salad of greens, then the heavy hitters, braised beef brisket and slow cooked lamb shoulder, both with beautiful sides. A superb meal, easy and relaxed, platters of food passed from person to person amidst much aahhing and mmmming.

After the food came the speeches, all heartfelt and special, funny and touching. Even a bitter and twisted old cow like me can believe in love and romance in the face of so much beautiful sentiment. I was so happy that the DJ was able to incorporate Anthony and the Johnsons' "You Are My Sister" to finish off my little speech, I had been worrying about the logistics of it for ages. It is a song which exactly says, so much better than I can, how much I love my sister and how much hope I have for a wonderful future for her.

One of the terrific things about the evening was the quickly formed friendship which formed between my kids and Marvin's nieces and nephews. While they were shy to start with it didn't take long before they were all playing and eating together, dancing and running around taking photos (with the cameras and special "tasks" provided for each child in their special box - brilliant idea).

The fun rolled on with dancing and drinkies downstairs. The music was great and everyone was up and getting down. Even my dad, who for those who know him is the least likely person I can think of to hit the dance floor, did a fair bit of getting jiggy with it (including some pretty impressive moves, I must say).

A brief break for the cake, a delicious and beautiful croquembouche, then lots more dancing. It was so much fun. Exhausted we finally caught a cab home at about 1:00am (unbelievably both kids were still awake and in a good mood, though Marianna was getting very sleepy). We were actually all starving by this point and Big Jay set off to find a pizza. No pizza to be had (we thought we were in New York, a 24 hour sort of town!) he returned with chicken, cheese and mayo sandwiches, procured from god knows where, I was too scared to ask. We ate them in bed and were all soon asleep.

It's now 9:40 on Sunday morning. I tried to sleep in but just couldn't manage it. Bummer. Everyone else is still asleep. I'm going to clean up (we left the place in an awful state yesterday as we zoomed around getting ready) and hopefully the others will get up soon - I'm starving.

A slow day today. We'll head over to J and M's later for some of Marvin's homemade sausages, which is how this whole thing started in the first place, and then a late afternoon picnic at Prospect Park.... Maybe just squeeze in a quick bit of shopping before then...

These shoes are made for walking

So much for having a quiet morning before the wedding. We slept in a little and set off for breakfast. They don't seem to do breakfast so much on weekends around here; brunch is more the way things roll here. But after walking eight blocks we finally found a little French bistro happy to let us in a little early.

Breakfast was great. People say you can't get a good coffee in the US. I haven't found that. Every cappuccino I've had has been great; my two main requirements are a hot coffee and a mild, smooth taste, and they have all ticked those boxes. I'm not a fan of bitter, super strong coffee that can do double duty as paint stripper so what I've been served here has been perfect.

Anyway, we introduced them to the concept of "babycinos" which is what Marianna wanted. I have been having a bit of a French toast fest since we've been here and this place did a great version, with super crispy bacon, fruit salad and maple syrup - mmmmmmmmmm.

We walked back towards home thinking we'd look at some of the quirky little shops in the area but they were all still shut, apparently opening after 11am on weekends. So we headed to the big "mall" to see if we could find Will some nice black shoes to wear to the wedding.

We walked all over, bought a few things in Target and I got a pair of purple Converse at DSW, but didn't find anything for Will. So being the mental giants that we are we walked all the way back up the street we had just come from in the hope of finding something in one of the shops we had passed.

Again, we bought a few bits and pieces but no shoes for Will. It was now after 1pm, our day was drifting away and we needed to be ready to leave for the wedding at 3pm. So Marianna and I headed back home, after a quick stop for the best iced tea and chocolate muffin I've ever had, while the boys continued the shoe search.

Marianna and I came home, had showers, washed our hair, got dressed, I ironed the boys' clothes and still no boys. Finally they turned up at 2:15 with a pair of shoes from a shop near Target which we hadn't found on our first visit there. A great pair of black shoes, perfect for the occasion for $16.99 - can't argue with that.

The car came to pick us up at 3:10pm and we only just made it onto the street before it arrived.

So our "relaxing" pre-wedding day turned into a shop-fest with countless blocks walked and not a single minute of hanging out watching crappy tv. Typical.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Hitting the wall

Feel really tired and homesick tonight. It usually happens about this time. Our sleeping patterns are all over the place and we have been doing a lot every day. We're asking a lot of the kids and, being kids, they are driving us nuts with whining and bad behaviour.

Today we started the day with a bus trip to Jules and Marvin's place and then a multiple-player mani/pedi at one of the gazillion local salons ($20 for a mani and pedi - that's insane!!). Little Miss M had her first proper manicure (not just a mummy special) and sat through like a pro, especially excited about the little flowers she got on a couple of the nails.

Then we subwayed it into the city for lunch (yay, Shake Shack again - not as pleasant an experience as yesterday with us having to get take away as we were so short on time; also, my jelly donut flavoured shake wasn't as good as yesterday's Concrete Jungle). Then a mad rush to the waterfront to start our Circle Line cruise with mum and David and a bunch of J's and M's friends and family.

It was a great cruise with a very informative commentator. But three hours was too long, only because we were all so tired and it wad just too relaxing to sit on the deck on a glorious blue-skied day and watch the magnificence of New York roll by. The Statue of Liberty was much smaller than expected, though much bigger than it looked from the Empire State Building. An impressive and moving monument either way.

By the time we returned to land at 5:00pm we were a little ratty and Marianna's insistence that Jason carry her all the way to the subway (quite a few blocks away) put him in a bad mood. Our trip home wasn't super jolly. Dinner at the tiny sushi place around the corner was lovely but we couldn't wait to get the kids home and into bed.

Now they are both asleep and I'm waiting for a couple of loads of laundry to finish drying before I also hit the shower and head to bed.

Tomorrow is the big day but we don't officially have to be anywhere until just before 4:00pm so a day of pottering around the interesting little local shops in our neighbourhood before we get ready is the order of the day.

Thanks for organizing a wonderful day for us all J and M. Sorry we are such grumps. We love you and know tomorrow will be just amazing.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Working our way through the list

Another huge day and hard to believe we got through it as we had very strange sleep last night (the kids just wouldn't settle, none of us could sleep - it was very weird, you'd have though we'd all had large red drinks for dinner).

Subway to Union Square which is only a couple of blocks from Madison Avenue and 23rd Street, which is home to THE Shake Shack, nestled in the middle of a sweet little park.

I was skeptical that a burger joint could be THAT good but yes, it can be. Not sure what it is about the burgers... the buns are amazing (I really don't care what their secret ingredient is, sugar, arsenic, cocaine, kryptonite... I'd eat them every day given the opportunity). They are just really delicious and fresh tasting. The fries are very good too, possibly just a great potato cooked in good oil - simple. Now let's talk about my Concrete Jungle shake. I'm drooling just thinking about it. Hot chocolate fudge, banana and peanut butter together with their frozen custard ice cream blended into a super thick thick shake (lucky I'm such a good sucker)...superb and I'd have one again right now if someone would just drop it over for me.

After lunch we met with dad and Irina and headed to the Empire State Building. It's stating the bleeding obvious to say it's a superb building. Everything about it's art deco splendour is awesome. We tried to enjoy the experience but it was tough going with the kids constantly whinging... how long are we going to be here, can we go now, what are we doing next.... AAARRGGHH!!!!!!! How to ruin a perfectly wonderful holiday to New York? Take a couple of ungrateful children along.

Then we decided to head towards Times Square but walked about ten blocks in the wrong direction before we realised and headed back. Half way there we decided to split up. I wanted to take Marianna to the American Girl doll shop on Fifth Avenue and Jay wanted to take Will to the Hard Rock Cafe.

American Girl is a bit of an institution with the idea being to find a doll that looks like you (preferably the child, not the mother, that would be doubly creepy). Then you can buy matching child/doll outfits. You can even take your doll to the beauty salon where you can treat her to a new hairstyle or a "facial" or even ear piercing. If you've been loving your doll too much you can take her to the doll hospital. It's a strange old world we live in.

A major dent in the credit card and a large bag in tow we headed for Grand Central Station and some afternoon tea. Marianna had spied the Magnolia Bakery (yes, of Sex in the City fame, though this isn't the original one) on our previous visit and I had promised her a cupcake. What better way to end a girly doll buying session than with a couple of cupcakes and an iced tea in the beautiful GCS food concourse (that's a fancy word for food hall).

Our subway ride home was memorable because of an African American couple sitting next to us who were straight off the Jerry Springer set. I don't honestly know what they were actually talking about because despite them speaking words that sounded like English the sentences they were putting together was nothing like the Queen's English I am used to. The only thing I could decipher was the man thought he was being good daddy because he supplied his child/ren with candy. It wad a highly entertaining train trip, my main objective not to make eye contact with other passengers in case I started laughing hysterically.

Arriving back in our 'hood (see how I'm fitting right in over here in the U S of A?) Marianna and I walked another half a dozen blocks to find the sports store which sold New York Cosmos (the soccer team you have when you're not having a soccer team) shirt for our friend S. I was starting to near the end of my tether, it was after six, so I rang Jay to see if he and Will wanted to meet us for dinner at the fish cafe which caused the fight between the children a few nights ago.

A quick dinner of yummy fish and another purchase for Little Miss Spoiled Brat at the tiny local kids' clothes shop and we're finally home. My feet are throbbing, The Big Bang Theory is on the teev and I think it won't be long before we all hit the sack.

Later peeps.

Oh, did I mention we saw a dog wearing shoes today? There's a photo to come if you don't believe me.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Shop till I drop

Today was the day, the long awaited SHOPPING DAY. Big Jay and the kids were off to Coney Island for a day of rides, games and hot dogs (and in case I forget to mention them again they had a wonderful HUGE day, ate lots of crap and did a little shopping of their own).

I took the subway into Fulton Street Station which is on the doorstep of the World Trade Centre site. As I came up onto the street from the subway the worksite was the first thing I saw. Walking towards it made me all tingly and my legs heavy.

As I walked along the street, the sun shining, people hurrying all around me I looked up and tried to imagine how it must have been on that day, much like today. All words seem inadequate, not up to describing what people must have thought as they lived that day first hand. I watched it from the very safe distance of my house in Sydney and it had felt surreal, impossible. Seeing it up close today it felt the same. When I think about the horror my mind shuts down, doesn't want to go there. Marvin's mum was working only a block or two away and she saw people jumping out of the burning buildings as she ran away. My god!!

I stood across the road and looked at the busy worksite, at the building already completed, the one almost completed...and I thought for a long time. Then I went and had a Starbucks white chocolate mocha and a bagel. Well what else could I do?

Soon my dear sister joined me and Century 21 was calling. Whoa baby. That place is something else. Minor designer, non designer and major designer stuff hanging side by side in total chaos. It's a hunter-gatherer experience. Luckily today wasn't super busy, but busy enough. We had to line up to try stuff on and to pay. But I did come away with some great dresses, a top and some cardies (including a RARE one, an Italian brand I really love).

A quick stop in the children's department and we were off to meet mum and David at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. What a trip back in time; so elegant and beatiful. Even the bathrooms were lovely, with a woman who squeezed soap onto my hands and then handed me a towel (did I feel like a doofus for leaving my handbag at the table and not being able to leave her a tip, the bedrock of American society). They have a bar where you can sit and order from a menu of maybe twenty different types of oysters from different parts of the US. Heaven. The ones we tried were lovely (I preferred the East coast to the West coast ones, if anyone is interested).

Lunch over we had to head over to Soho as Jules had an appointment and I wanted to continue with the retail therapy. The Subway was having some sort of meltdown so after a 45 minute wait we headed back upstairs to find a cab. Finally we were back on Broadway.

I went to Desigual, my Spanish sweetheart (discovered in Noosa last year). Some of their stuff is a little left of centre for me but I did get another of their beautiful skirts and a t-shirt (and a free beach bag thrown in). Meeting up with Jules again we had a quick wander around Dean & Deluca, a foodie paradise.

A trawl through Zara, Banana Republic and Bloomingdales didn't provide any new finds but we were exhausted, it was after six o'clock and we decided enough was enough (to be honest I could have done another hour but hoisting my shopping bags around was getting somewhat tedious).

I came home exhausted and with a couple of dud purchases which will need to be returned (what a shame, I'll need to make another trip to Century 21). I have also had the opportunity of trying out the laundry room in the basement. What a pain not to have a washing machine/dryer/clothes line in the apartment. Apart from the cost of $2.00 per load of washing and then drying it's the thought of using big industrial washing machines that are used by lots of other people. Yuck. Not the world's biggest problem though.

Tomorrow is family day in the city. Union Square, the American Girl doll shop, a burger at Shake Shack for lunch. Good night.

Last night...

Yesterday was a little of control. We had plans to spend half the day in the city with my dad doing a double decker bus touristy trip and then to head back early to have a rest as I was going to Jules' girls' night out.

We walked down Atlantic Avenue to a diner which looked good but was pretty basic. It's true about serving sizes here; an order of eggs comes with lots of bacon, fried potatoes and toast - all for $6.25. The bagels are good here.

Then our first subway trip into Grand Central Station, which is just stunning... I could have stared at that amazing ceiling for hours. A walk to meet dad and Irina at the Waldorf and we were off on our bus tour.

Sitting up on the top deck gave us a great view but also made us very hot and we all realized we needed hats, pronto. So we hopped off at Times Square and spent a fortune at the big souvenir shop.

We then hopped back onto another tour and ended up going through Soho, Greenwich Village, past the WTC site and lots of other interesting places. We had a great guide who was very informative, funny and entertaining. I didn't want the tour to end. It almost didn't as we got stuck at one point waiting for a guy who had left his wallet on the bus during a previous tour to catch up with our bus in a taxi.

By the time we got off and headed back to the Waldorf for a late lunch it was 3:00pm. So much for having a relaxing day and being home early. The Waldorf is a seriously old world classy sort of place, with prices to match (it stands out because food is generally very cheap here). Will's Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich was $15 and he didn't want to eat it because there was no "jelly" and he doesn't like peanut butter (both issues were discussed at length during the ordering process). My ridiculously priced Club Sandwich was very good though.

Then we had to hightail it over to Grand Central Station again to catch our train home. After a long wait we walked in the door at 5:30, leaving me 25 minutes to refresh before heading out for the evening.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the Momofuku Ssam Bar. Momofuku has legendary status with my sister and she loves/worships it's chef/owner David Chang. This bar is part of his empire but not the main restaurant. It's small and very loud and funky (meaning uncomfortable for old fuddy duddys like me).

Our group squeezed (triple emphasize squeezed!) into our table and proceeded to scream into each other's ears for the next few hours. The food was a set menu and each dish was amazing. The sparsely worded menu didn't really provide much of an idea of what we were going to get. All I can say it wasn't a great place if you are either Kosher or a vegetarian. The whole "butt" (pig of course) served sang choy bou style with lots of various accompaniments was a "wow" sort of dish.

It was a welcome relief to fall out onto the street sometime later. Despite New York's stifling hot weather and humidity the air outside was so refreshing after the sweat box which was Momofuku Ssam Bar. After all about half of NY's population was squeezed into an area about twice the size of a phone box.

At this point we decided the night was too young to call it a night and teetered over the road to what Jules called a "dive bar". It was so fabulous and such a contrast. A small, simple, quiet bar which would definitely have been my local had I been living in a parallel universe as a single working girl in NYC. Just the front bar and a small back room, a single female bartender, a jukebox and a handful of regulars (including a super hot guy who looked like RW in a certain light or maybe it was the couple of cocktails I had ingested earlier??).

Things fairly quickly took on a David Lynch film-like quality when a strange little dude came in and befriended us. Then we took another couple of steps into Twin Peaks world when a handful of young Navy boys came in looking for a good time. Jules' friend quickly roped in a couple of them to pretend they were strippers (Jules was morbidly terrified of having a stripper there). These boys were already pissed and one went into a convoluted story about his nickname, gained in Iraq, on account of his hobby of stripping for no apparent reason.

Being a pathetic old worry wart I was a tiny bit concerned this would not end well. Before we knew it Jules and her friend R were sitting out in the small back room being straddled by two cute young Navy boys. I stayed on the outskirts but the horrified look on my mother's face told me things were getting a little crazy. Apparently they weren't but mum was being horrified in advance. I'm fairly sure no wobbly bits saw the light of air.

Soon we called it a night leaving some of Jules' friends to carry on partying and headed home in a cab with a hilarious singing driver. The weirdness continued.

It was a great but thought provoking night. I really loved meeting some of Jules' friends who I had previously only heard about. I enjoyed meeting Marvin's lovely sisters who are as gorgeous and smart as he is (remember what I said about diluting your gene pool by joining our family Marvin).

Seeing the young Navy boys at the bar made me a little sad. They were just like Forrest Gump, young, naive boys from somewhere down south. They had been to Iraq. They were drunk and lonely and looking to distract themselves for a few hours. They didn't seem much older than Will which just made it all the more bizarre. Fresh faces, barely shaving, gentle manners like boys out for the day with their mother. Yet they had probably seen the most horrible things, possibly killed other people. Surreal.

I collapsed into bed and slept properly for the first time since we left home.