istanbul_mosqueJust back from Istanbul, and I have to say that exploring somewhere new is just good for your psyche. Not that this is a newsflash for anyone, but it was a good reminder for me. Just the small act of finding your way around a strange place and showing yourself how self-sufficient and resilient you can be gives us each a lot of faith in ourselves. I liked Turkey and the artifacts were really something to see — we think the rest of Europe is old, but when you are standing below ground in a 3rd century cistern, or turning the corner to see Moses’ staff from the parting of the Red Sea, you begin to have a whole other understanding of antiquities. The plunder from war was very good to the Ottoman Empire — and they have the emeralds and diamonds to show for it!

My son fell in love with this yogurt drink that they guzzle like Coke: Ayran. (I’m happy to report that we found some here in NYC at a Turkish restaurant on 14th Street.) We had lots of kebabs and these huge overstuffed potatoes called kumpir, We stayed in the Beyoglu area and that definitely felt like the place to be — lots of people out til all hours and just a palpable sense of energy, particularly on Istikial Street. Our favorite restaurant there was probably Konak Kebob, and head to Mado for dessert. It really is amazing how many different versions of baklava there are.

On the Bosphorous you definitely want to have a fish sandwich over the Galata Bridge in Eminonu. They catch it in the river. fry it up on a boat and hand it off to you to eat at a little wooden table, lemon juice optional, all for about $3. (And when the young men come around trying to sell you handwipes, buy them! Your hands will smell fishy.) Nearby is the Spice Market, which I liked better than the Grand Bazaar. Definitely worth a walk through if only for the spectacle of the colors and variety of spices. Further up the river is the Assk Cafe, which is a nice spot in a more quiet, exclusive area.

If you head up that way, the Hotel Les Ottomans has one of the nicest spas I’ve ever been to and if you want to experience a Turkish hammam, this is the place to do it in style. Go for the hour-long Citrus Remedy, where you get exfoliated, cleaned, massaged and moisturized, plus you get full use of the facilities, including the meditation room and steam room with salt inhalation. The ice exfoliation was particularly…reviving!

We took a nice boat ride on the river up to the Black Sea and headed over to the Asian side, where we had a tasty lunch of fresh fish kebabs and then took a bus down through a bunch of small towns. We got off in Kanlica to sample the yogurt.

Of course there’s the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Aya Sophia, and a little off the beaten path is the Istanbul Modern art museum, which had some interesting pieces and a hip vibe. (If you’re not Turkish, don’t be fooled by the “Free Thursdays” promotion — it’s only for the Turks.)

We finished up our trip with a traditional Turkish breakfast at Namli Gurme Karakoy, sitting outside near the Bosphorous, drinking Turkish tea and sopping up cream and honey with some Turkish bread.

All that’s left to say is “tesekkur ederim,” which means thank you and took us about half of our vacation to master. Someone gave us the tip that it’s like saying “tea sugar and a dream” really quickly, all together, so I pass that on to all of you.

Dry Me

Like most things in life, until you actually try something it’s hard to appreciate or understand it. Add towels to that list. I had heard of pestamels and seen people using them, usually as scarves and usually by people who some would refer to as “earthy.” They are thin towels, usually with tassels on the end, sometimes with stripes woven in. We are familiar with our western ways where bigger is better, and an absorbent towel translates to thick and cozy. But the beauty of a pestamel is that it’s super absorbent but never heavy, and it dries quickly. This makes them perfect for beach towels and as a regular towel in the summer. I was amazed how well it worked on my hair, getting most of the water out in no time flat. Like anything, there’s better quality pestamels. Jennifer’s Hammam in Istanbul carries particularly nice hand woven ones, and you can choose from cotton or bamboo. Definitely worth having a few around for the summer. And yes, in a pinch they can double as scarves, wraps…even a tablecloth!

Etc.

Slowly but surely we are getting over the time difference. Our first few days back we were all up around 5am and then ready to crash by 9pm, always fun…Finally the weather seems to have taken a turn for the better. Let’s hope it stays. I, for one, am sick of wearing socks!

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Phoenix or Bust

February 27, 2013

Horseback riding -- fun for the whole family.

Horseback riding — fun for the whole family.

Just back from the warm and dry (and did I say warm?) world of sunny Arizona…when we got off the plane I think my whole family realized how sick and tired we were of the cold. If you need a getaway, the Phoenix area has a bunch to do with kids, starting with baseball and spring training! We went to a Cactus League game in Surprise (Rangers vs. Royals) and while the tickets aren’t cheap, for $40 a seat we were right behind the Kansas City dugout, had our chances at a few foul balls and our son managed to snag some autographs.

If you were talking to my children, they would far and away recommend Crackerjax in Scottsdale, which has bumper boats, 3 miniature golf courses, batting cages, a driving range and 2 different sized go karts. You can pay by the ride or for a 4 hour block of unlimited fun — on Tuesdays it’s only $15 a person. It’s right down the road from Scottsdale’s Kierland Commons, where you can get a little shopping in and have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.

Horseback riding seemed to be the far and away favorite activity of the trip. We went to Ponderosa Stables and a group of about 10 of us took a lovely afternoon ride for about an hour. The horses were very friendly and seemed to know the terrain well, so everyone from my 5 year old daughter to my parents were able to ride along relatively easily. The cowboys were incredibly nice and it really allows you to get out and enjoy the desert terrain in its un-strip malled state, which is getting rarer and rarer there as the population explodes.

My son wanted to try the Elephant Bar, which is a chain that we don’t have back east, but we never had time. We did go to La Grande Orange Grocery in downtown Phoenix, which by day is a general store and a counter service restaurant. The food is local, fresh and organic and you can choose anything from a chick pea wrap to sushi or a host of salads. Really something for everyone, at reasonable prices. At night it turns into a full service restaurant with wood burning ovens for pizza. Use the valet service (it’s free) as it gets difficult to park.

Speaking of pizza, we had to try Pizzeria Bianco, which for years now has been voted the best pizza in the country. Yes, in the whole U.S. Apparently the lines to get in can get ridiculous (it’s a small place), but we went for a late lunch on a weekday and it wasn’t too bad. Everything they use is homemade, from the dough to the cheese to the basil that the chef grows in his garden. It’s definitely delish and worth a try, if you don’t have to wait 4 hours. It’s a little hard to find even with Google maps so leave a little extra time.

The Heard Museum, where I hadn’t been in many years, had a lot of different activities for the kids, with different crafts. If you want to learn about the plight of the Indians in the west, this is the place to go. It’s a bit on the high side to get in (adults are $18) but you can save $1 per person if you have AAA. (It’s something!) The main gift store has ridiculously high end items, but there is a separate store across the way that has mostly books but some other items that are much more reasonable.

It’s close enough for most people that you can do a long weekend in Phoenix, and there is certainly enough to fill several days of activities. Sometimes the nicest thing is to grab a margarita and just sit outside in the sunshine.

Etc.

It’s amazing how quickly you lose your vacation zen when it’s back to reality…but what can you do. That’s why it’s always good to have something else planned that you can look forward to, because it all goes so fast.

The days are getting longer here in the northeast, which is nice. A few more weeks and we should be on our way to spring!!

Tea with the Queen

June 9, 2012

Not quite, but we’re just back from London and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee! We didn’t really plan it that way, but it was a nice backdrop for our trip. Between that and the remarkable weather we had — not any rain! — London seemed incredibly vibrant. If you want to plan a trip, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

If you plan on traveling by train, and you have kids, get yourself a Family Railcard. You save 1/3 off every trip, including the Heathrow Express train from the airport. It’s 28 pounds, and it paid for itself with the purchase of our roundtrip tix on the Heathrow Express, where we saved over 30 pounds. (And that really is the best way to get to and from the airport. Yes, you can take the tube but it takes forever and is difficult with suitcases. This gets you to Paddington in 15 minutes and you can get a taxi to anywhere.)

Kids under 5 ride free on all trains; kids under 10 ride free on the tube. And if you get an oyster card for the tube, make sure it registers when you tap in and out! Otherwise there’s a 5 pound surcharge.

Usually we go to some of our favorite restaurants from way back (Wagamama, Ping Pong, Le Caprice) but we found some new ones this trip — Jamie Oliver’s Union Jack’s and the Italian restaurant Zizzi’s. If you want something on the go, nothing beats Marks and Spencer. Their selection of prepared foods is fab. I really wish they would expand to NYC!

We also took the kids to see the newly opened Making of Harry Potter tour, just outside London. They essentially kept all of the sets and costumes and, frankly, just about everything from the HP movies and opened up a tour to the public. Die hard fans will just, well, die, and even those who only have a limited acquaintance (that would be me) can appreciate the craft of movie-making and the sick attention to detail that really showed the level of devotion to the books. My son had just finished the first book and he found it all intriguing and said it’s his favorite thing he did in London; my sister had read all the books and seen all the movies and completely loved it. Worth the short train ride and shuttle bus to get there, but definitely buy your tickets in advance.

I have to say, we found London incredibly kid-friendly. In fact, we were there about 6 years ago with a 15 month old, and found it incredibly not kid-friendly, so it was amazing to see. Kids meals everywhere with actually decent food. Special family bathrooms. They even let us cut the line at customs since we had little ones.

The only thing I fear for the 10 million people about to descend on London for the Olympics is the lack of air-conditioning. Especially on the tube. Good luck with that!

Call Me Maybe

Perhaps you’ve seen the over abundance of remakes of Call Me Maybe — everyone from the Harvard baseball team to Justin Bieber to a masked Romney and Obama have posted them. But I thought this one by Jimmy Fallon and the Roots with Carly Rae Jepsen was super cute, using only childhood instruments like the xylophone we all had growing up. Check it out here.

Etc.

Party people in the house! I’ve got my daughter’s party today (even though she doesn’t turn 5 for a few weeks) and my son’s party next weekend. After that I feel like I need to let summer start and try to relax!!

Have a great weekend!

Nashville Scorcher

August 9, 2011

I had to go to Nashville last week for work, and let me tell you I was not thrilled about heading to Nashville in August. Dreams do come true — it was the hottest day on record there since 1952. Walking outside was like wading through an oven.

Anyway, while I wouldn’t go in August, it’s not a bad place to visit. In fact if you like country music, it’s a must stop. I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan, but I do see the appeal. I didn’t get to go on this trip, but on my first trip to Music City I hit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Museum, which were both worth a trip. (Elvis’ car with a record player in it — this was pre-8-track, people — is a highlight.) Hatch Print Shop does all of the cool block print posters for everyone from Johnny Cash to the newscasters on CNN. I overheard a tour guide saying that it’s superstition in the music world that it’s good luck to have them do your concert poster, so no musician wants to tempt fate.

You’ve gotta have barbecue down there — I hit Puckett’s Grocery, and it was tasty. They’ve got live music and chocolate checkerboard pie…and they take reservations. (On another trip to Nashville I went to a barbecue at Billy Ray Cyrus’ house, which had the best banana pudding I have ever had!) I had the blue plate special for lunch at 417 Union, and it was delish — salmon cakes with mac and cheese and glazed carrots, a biscuit and a big ‘ol iced tea.

I stayed at the Hermitage, which is one of the nicer hotels, and the people there are quite accommodating and the rooms are renovated and nice. Even if you’re not staying at Opryland, you must check that place out…it is HUGE. Lots of restaurants, shops, common areas…there’s even a river that runs through it.

The airport is a short drive from downtown and the people are friendly, which can only mean one thing: long weekend!

Free…Really!

The Clearview Cinema on 23rd Street has free kids’ movies on Wednesday mornings til the end of the summer. Crowd pleasers like Cats and Dogs 2, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Shrek 4 bring in the kiddy mobs at 10:30. And when I say “free,” of course I mean $5, the cost of a kid-sized popcorn and lemonade, which they will inevitably beg for.

Etc.

We had a great time in Pennsylvania with some friends at their house. The husband was a great cook and made this grilled peach and pesto recipe that I must get and share — it was amazing!

Hope your week is off to a great start!

Virgin Camper

August 5, 2011

Our guest blogger Tori packed up her hubby and went camping in the great outdoors for her very first time. Here she shares her tips, even if you want to do a test run in your backyard…happy trails!

I wonder if you ever hit a point in your life where you run out of “firsts.” I mean, obviously, you could be 80 and decide to go sky diving, for example. First time for everything, I suppose. But I wonder if, by the time I reach that ripe old age, firsts will have lost their luster. I wonder if I just won’t bother, and instead, contently sit at home for the 40,000th time, watching “Law and Order: Mars” reruns. Honestly, I might be halfway there already. But not entirely! Because last weekend, I went camping for the first time.

When I tell people that I never camped before, they don’t believe me, since I grew up in a very rural area. But here’s the thing: Because I grew up where I did, camping was kind of pointless. We already lived in the woods! I mean, sure, I “camped” in fields with friends when I was in high school and college. Who needs a sleeping bag when you’ve downed 2 bottles of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill? Not me! Those were classy times.

But I digress. Flash forward to present day. My husband and I decided (well, I decided and he begrudgingly agreed) that we wanted to go to the Newport Folk Festival this year. It promised a great line up and a great location on the water in Newport’s beautiful Fort Adams State Park. I lured my husband in with promises of a relaxing weekend in a lovely town. “Sure,” I said. “We’ll stay in a hotel! This won’t be like a normal music festival experience! You’ll see!”

Except…turns out that Newport and the surrounding area hotels jack up their prices to a million dollars a night during the festival. So when we found out that some friends of ours were also attending and camping in a nearby state park, we decided to take a gamble and take a snooze in the great outdoors.

It was kind of great! We stayed at a campground that had bathrooms and a camp store and security, so we were hardly roughing it. But it was real camping – we stayed in a tent, built a fire and ate some kind of beef and vegetables cooked in tin foil packets (it was good!). And we survived!

So now that I am a successful outdoorswoman – I am still hoping for that merit badge – here are my tips for first time campers:

  • Go with someone who knows what they’re doing. Thank god for our friend Chuck. Without him, we would’ve slept in the car and eaten Goldfish crackers for dinner. He helped us put up our tent and made the aforementioned campfire vittles. Applause!
  • Bug spray. It’s your friend.
  • Bring a flashlight. Looking for the bathroom in the pitch black is the worst.
  • Don’t buy what you can borrow – a friend lent us her tent, sleeping bags and air mattresses, saving me from spending money on stuff I might not ever use again.
  • Don’t forget your pillow. Rolled up towels and jeans just ain’t the same.
  • If your husband is afraid of bugs, don’t point out the wasp digging a hole in the dirt under his chair. He will be very alarmed by insects that are strong enough to move earth.
  • If you’re a city dweller, look up at the stars. Remember stars? Holy crap. They are amazing.
  • Just go with it. One morning at the campsite, a little boy rode by on his bike, yelling at his parents, “I’m never coming back, so you better say bye!” There, underneath the trees and sunshine, I realized that I was surrounded by quiet calm, and even though my back was a little sore from sleeping on the ground, I thought that just maybe that little guy had the right idea.

Oh, vacation — so good and yet re-entry is so hard!!

We had a great time during our week off, combining a few days at the beach with a few days around Hersheypark. The only drag was I got a cold partway through — summer colds are the worst! I’m still trying to get rid of it.

Many of you may take your families (or yourselves!) to amusement parks — Hersheypark, Disney, Sesame Place, Sea World and the like — we have a strategy that I promise will make your day more enjoyable: book a reservation for lunch at an indoor restaurant with air conditioning and table service. Really.

At some of these places, it costs a little more and oftentimes comes with up close and personal visits with characters, but it is worth it. At Sea World we had lunch with Shamu. At Sesame we were shut out of lunch (and had to wait for almost an hour in the miserable cafeteria line) but had dinner with Elmo and friends. At Disneyland Paris we had lunch on the pirate ship at the Pirates of the Caribbean, and dinner with the Princesses at Auberge de Cendrillon (ok, the latter was insanely expensive, but that was the exception).

At Hershey, we had been many times and eaten our overpriced Subway sandwich out in the hot sun time and time again. This time, I asked my sister (the Hershey expert) if there were any inside, air conditioned restaurants. She said no but then remembered there was a place just outside the gate — it used to be called Tudor Grill, but now it’s Hersheypark Place, and it’s on OpenTable! You have to get your hand stamped for re-entry, but it’s worth the few steps outside the gates. First, if I haven’t mentioned it, it’s air conditioned. (90 degree heat takes its toll — on you and the little ones.) Second, you can sit like human beings in a not crowded room and order decent food off a menu. Sandwiches, salads and yes, beer too. Third, the service is incredibly friendly and helpful — they’ll answer any questions you might have. Fourth, the costume characters come in to entertain the kids — Hersheybar Guy even took our picture. And fifth, they give the kids Hershey Kisses and Hershey pins as souvenirs…come on!

The only caveat I will give is that a lot of these experiences fill up, so you need to reserve in advance. And there’s not really a rhyme or reason to it. Sesame Place did a huge lunch business, but our waiter at Hershey told us dinner there was usually the much busier time.

Those long days are always so draining, and taking an hour or so out to rest and refuel always makes it more bearable. After doing this a bunch of times, I definitely think it’s a must.

And make sure you have your camera!

Sandwich Anyone?

Underrated (or under-utilized) sandwich, courtesy of Elvis: 2 slices of whole wheat bread, toasted, peanut butter, sliced banana with a drizzle of artisanal honey. Mmmm! Makes a nice breakfast or a light dinner, with a cold glass of milk. (I believe Elvis also liked bacon on it and it was deep fried — but we know what happened to poor Elvis…)

Etc.

You know the old, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” saying? I’m prepared to say it’s actually everything. Heat, humidity — it’s all unbearable. Especially with a cold.

Today was getting everyone off to camp day! Our daughter started ballet camp — very cute. There will be a recital on Friday, and she already told me, “Mom, don’t forget your camera!”

Hope all is well…

Blog Rant: Airplanes!

June 28, 2011

As someone who has searched out somewhat healthy food at most of the major metropolitan areas in this country and come up pretty much empty-handed, and as someone whose flights have been canceled several times, allowing me to watch the inefficiency that the airlines call their “business model” to unfold before me in real time, I completely empathize with today’s post from guest blogger Denielle. Take it away:

I used to travel a lot for work. Then I had kids and the logistical drama caused by my brief absences led me to boycott work-travel altogether. So, as I fly to/from LA / NY in less than 24 hours, some questions have arisen that I hope someone can shed some light on.

1. Do I keep getting bigger, or do airplane seats keep getting smaller? Wait, don’t answer that!

I am sitting on a plane as I type.  My laptop is sitting on my actual lap because only 50% of it fits on the tray table in front of me, even at its full extended position, given that the seat in front of me is reclined! Don’t ask me to reach for the gum in my bag on the floor! It would be a physical impossibility.

2. Why is in-flight entertainment so *$% expensive????

I remember when Continental used to charge for headphones. It was a one time fee, as you could bring your Continental set to any future Continental flight (hats off to anyone who actually remembered to do that). There was one movie you could barely see or hear over the din of the engines, but everyone was in it together. Now everyone gets a personal TV on the back of the seat. Seems like an improvement, right?

Not so fast!

I’ve been on recent flights where you bring your headset and watch TV/movies of your choice on said personal TV.  On this Continental flight, they are charging $7.99 for DirecTV access.  No discounts for current DirecTV customers. If I know my TV commercials, I know that the average monthly price for a full DirecTV subscription is not much more than the price I would pay for TV access on this one round trip! There’s nothing on anyway.

3.  Why do airlines not want you to bring bags when you travel?

Call me crazy, but it seems that the price of bringing my luggage on a trip should be factored into the price of the overall flight. I get it if the bag weighs 200lbs, but $25 to check a small backpack? Really?

4.  Why do airlines want me to eat gummy bears for dinner?

If a flight departs city X at 3:30pm and is due to arrive at city Y by 11:45pm, would it not seem hospitable to offer, say, a small bag of pretzels?  Fortunately, 9oz bags of gummy bears are sold at a stand by the gate for $4.50 and suffice as dinner-in-a-pinch. My close friend, and frequent air traveler, confirms that anything consumed in an airport or on an airplane may not be measured for caloric or nutritional value. It just doesn’t count.

5. If you know we are coming into your airport, why do you not have anyone to let us in??

Once I’m comfy on a flight – one that gets in at say, 1am – there’s no need to rush me off the plane. I’m fine if we all just keep hanging out together for an hour or so.  The view from the runway is stunning and I’m always happy to make new friends.

I understand that when you are re-routed because of weather, and land at an airport that has already closed, it is unreasonable to expect that someone will be there to refuel you for 3.5 to 4 hours.  That someone is at home, watching his already-paid for DirecTV. But when we are expected, and there’s even a gate for us, PLEASE open the door.

All ranting aside, I will sit with my knees under my chin, listen to my stomach growl above the din of the plane, chewing gummy bears one by one for a smooth, safe flight.

Safe Travels!

Vantage Point

June 17, 2011

Rainbow City visits the High Line

A few weeks ago our guest blogger Bret talked about the High Line and an art piece that someone had created. Today I have another push for it, since section number 2 has opened and you can wander all the way up to 30th Street for lots of fun in the sun, high above the rest of the city.

It really is odd how being up on the elevated tracks gives you a whole new perspective on the city. Most days there is a cool breeze coming off the Hudson, and every time I walk along the High Line I notice architecture I’ve never seen before, even though some of those blocks I’ve walked a thousand times. It’s amazing how the new park comes so close to existing apartments — I can’t imagine living and having the world seemingly able to peer in. It must be a rude awakening for many of those residents who have been there for years.

There are lots of places to stop and sit, chat with your friends or just gaze off in one direction or another. There are different small food carts intermittently dotting the Line — frankly not enough considering the looooooooooong lines that form at most of them on the weekends.

Right now if you go check out the new section, mosey on up to 30th Street and venture down below. AOL is sponsoring a balloon art exhibition from these artists FriendsWithYou from Miami. There are cool balloons to push and tug, and some of them have jumpy houses inside for kids to expend some energy.

Nearby is a down and dirty beer garden, run by Colicchio & Sons (The Lot on Tap) and some food trucks, including the super tasty Taim (try the date-lime-banana smoothie). The mix of people is fantastic: kids, frat boys, couples, tourists, hipsters and senior citizens all hangin’ out, under the High Line.

If nothing else, the High Line is fascinating as a piece of urban renewal. The tracks sat unused and overgrown for years and years, with repeated calls to tear them down. But as is often the case, through the foresight and vision of a few, it is now one of the top destinations in the city, adding so much to the fabric of the west side. The city’s initial investment of $115 million (the rest came from private donations) has given way to an attraction that generates billions of dollars of revenue and investment on and around it and  close to 20,000 jobs.

So grab a friend or a book and head on over to the High Line — now with more to love!

Music Man

Here’s Ken and the single of the week, and some serious fiction:

As Fathers’ Day approaches, the exercise of remembering life lessons passed down through my dad seems cliche at the very least – and a little empty at the very most. Isn’t parenting a long slog where you grasp to piece together advice and wisdom, knowing most everything will be forgotten by your child? Well let me tell you this – there’s one thing that my father believed in that I still hold on to today: there was no Civil War. No Emancipation Proclamation, no Fort Sumter, no Appomattox Court House (it was, however, the country’s first 99-cent store, which in those times held fairly high-ticket items) and Ambrose Burnside wasn’t a general, but rather a private investigator specializing in lost chickens. Indeed, my father was the world’s sole Civil War denier, and staunchly maintained that the “war” was a ruse Lincoln perpetrated to deflect the country’s attention from a sagging GDP. He and his cabinet traveled through the South lighting smoke bombs and dressing dogs up in army uniforms. And Ulysses S. Grant? There’s a growing body of evidence that he was the one who originally developed the idea behind “Celebrity Apprentice” and is also considered a pioneer of dubstep. So while most wallow in misinformation and credit the solidarity of the Union to General Grant, those of us in the know can give him props for influencing this week’s single, which really kicks some serious alien booty:

Etc.

On Monday I thought I had strep throat so I headed to the doctor. Today I found out that I don’t have it. Yet still, my throat hurts!! (Sigh.) Let’s hope I rally for the weekend…have a good one!!

Since the rapture seems to have postponed itself, why not plan an outing to the beautiful High Line? (For readers who aren’t in NYC, this is the elevated train tracks that were left overgrown and abandoned for many, many years, that have now been reworked into a gorgeous park/pathway with wildflowers and amazing views.) They just opened up some more of it, so your stroll on higher ground can be that much longer. Now that our resident Upper East Sider and guest blogger Bret is working down in Union Square, he seems to be checking out all that downtown has to offer. Welcome Bret!:

Recently, my wife and I walked along the High Line near the West Side Highway and exited at the north end at 20th street.  At the bottom of the stairs, someone had erected a colorful sign attached to a pole with the word HOPE surrounded by flowers and blank pieces of paper for passersby to jot down their hopes (see photo).  Many of the notes were handwritten on small price tags connected with string, making it easy to read them quickly one after another.  In addition to the scraps were notes scribbled on receipts and transit passes from other cities (such as Boston and San Francisco) demonstrating how people from all over had visited.  There were hundred of notes and I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of private thoughts and personal poetry.  There were plain vanilla hopes for world peace, joy, love, etc., but there were enough interesting ones that we remained glued to the spot for 15 minutes, feeling like voyeurs.

I don’t want to ruin it for you, and it’s worth checking out, but here are a handful of my favorite comments:

I hope all my two children’s highest aspirations are realized

I hope everything stops sucking soon

I hope we make solar our energy

I hope that you and I will end up loving each other

I hope the Knicks will win a title

I hope to get back to work in NY

I hope people realize the beauty of the things around them

I hope that Gilad will be free very soon

I wish for this moment to last forever

I hope we can be boring together

And the winner:  I hope the nasty loud neighbors move out tomorrow and are replaced by a respectful friend who will find a lover.

Application Nirvana

May 17, 2011

As many of you may remember, I was struggling with a Motorola phone whose batteries would only hold a charge for a couple of hours before it needed to find a plug, since I was waiting and waiting for the iphone to come out on Verizon’s network. Well, it finally did, and within a few weeks I was in possession of a new iphone and an ipad 2 (the result of a very generous gift). So now I am on the hunt for good apps, free and low cost alike. So far I have Fruit Ninja (addictive game for the whole family), the NY Times (stay informed) and the Kodak Gallery app (to show pics of my kids). Today, guest blogger Liz weighs in with some of her favs, but if any of you out there have good ones to recommend, please email me or reply in the comments section. App you very much!!

We recently took a six hour driving trip with our kids to the Outback and had the DVD player stocked up and ready to go, but our kids could have cared less because we had a juiced up ipad and an HTC phone on hand.

Finally, I’ve ditched my old Nokia phone and switched to one with Android technology.  I have discovered application heaven and, yes, they are all free!!!

Here are a few applications that we are finding particularly cool right now:

Google Sky Maps This amazing program lets you look up at the nighttime sky and learn about the heavens.

Tiny Flashlight & LED – Yes, this is a flash light application that turns your phone into a flashlight using the flash on your camera – genius!

Epicurious – Hundreds of recipes at your fingertips.

Daily Chinese  – I am sure that they have every language available, but this one is fun.

Dolch Sight Words – There are many applications available and this is a great way to get your kindergartner to learn their sight words.

If you’ve got any favorites, please share!!!