Friday, August 27, 2010

NYC Flower District

Last summer I read this article in the Travel section of The New York Times. I'd never been to the Flower District before....honestly, I didn't even know there was one. So I added the Flower District to my "NYC TO DO LIST". Finally, on this trip, I made it there....

As Cara recommended, I started my trip at Guy & Gallard. Yes, good move. I had a Chai that was just belly warming and delicious. It was a delight and a good find. The place was booming...

Then I walked over to West 28th Street. My first sight were these Van Gogh sunflowers. Swoon. They gave me a flashback. I had two of the most beautiful dinners ever at La Grenouille a couple of years ago. These sunflowers will always remind me of those particular dinners & that restaurant. When we organized the dinners, the restaurant allowed us to pay additional money for more flowers. We did and I'd recommend that to anyone planning a private party there. The flowers were so magnificent and the bouquets included tons of the Van Gogh sunflowers. I was so pleased to turn the corner and run into them.....

Cara Buckley described the sidewalk here as "a lush hallway" and she was right. I tried to capture this in a photo. I love the juxtaposition of so many plants, all this nature, set right up against the cement, street signs, manmade structures, etc.

You expect to find a lot of things on a New York City street but maybe not these.

I walked into a few different stores here to browse around. Wow. I LOVED the store above....thought I'd walked right into ribbon heaven. I helped a total stranger pick out ribbons for her mother's 80th birthday party. I'm always tickled at the encounters I have with random folks when I'm visiting New York. People often incorrectly assume that people are rude in the city. I would strongly disagree with that.

I love anything to do with presents, gift wrap, ribbon, presentation, etc. so I enjoyed this display of stacked presents hanging from the ceiling.

I'm really glad I visited The Flower District. It's so tiny....not even making up an entire city block. I don't agree with Cara that this will take you half a day. I was there about an hour and a half. But it was worth the trip. My guess is that, over time, this "district" will get smaller or disappear all together. I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inspiration in The City

When I'm in New York, I feel constantly inspired. By everything.

The colors (how about these rainbow file folders?).

The advertising.

The architecture (ah, the architecture!.....).

The little touches of nature. Sometimes you have to intentionally look for it.

The randomness.

Even the mundane (Knuffle Bunny, anyone?).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Scenes from The City

I am back from New York.

I had a wonderful trip. Six full days.

But even six days is not nearly enough.

I am already longing for my next trip there.

I can't get enough.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Eat Your View"....Brought to Life

Blue Hill at Stone Barns. A dream of mine. A mecca of local and seasonal eating (a huge passion for me!). Artisanal wine. A long dinner with great friends. What more could a girl ask for?

As I've mentioned, I'm heading up to New York City soon. Helena has surprised me by making dinner reservations at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I look forward to this dinner with so much anticipation. Mostly, I can't wait to spend some time with my lovely friends. Helena and I had dinner at Blue Hill, in Greenwich Village, about a year and a half ago. It was a memorable meal ~ the food, the ambiance and the company. I had cauliflower steak (I'm a vegetarian) and I am pretty sure that is still the most original entree I've ever eaten. And that's saying something considering the restaurants I've had the pleasure of visiting.

What will this dinner bring? I can't wait to find out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rural Retreat

As I may have mentioned before, my family lives smack dab in the middle of Suburban Hell. If you look up "White Middle Class Suburban Mother" in the dictionary, you will see my photo. I may or may not be smiling. Why? It often feels like I'm living a big fat juicy cliche. Not a nice feeling. To a small degree, it's okay. Life is convenient and easy. Small kids outnumber adults by a large margin. Or maybe it just feels that way. Did that I mention that life is easy and convenient? Oh yes, I did. There must be more. Wait, of course, it's fairly safe and has good schools.

The downside is that life (outside the home) isn't that interesting. Everyone seems EXACTLY the same. There isn't much character in our surroundings to be spoken of. See above photo. I once went to Target and there were four of the EXACT SAME mini vans parked in four spots right in line. Same make, same model, identical same color. I wasn't even surprised. I am one of five people who actually drives a sedan. My daughter recently asked me to get some of those white stick-on, stick figure people for the back window of the car. Note to self: time to move. I'm just not interested in telling the world how many people/animals are in our family by sticking decals on my car. But, trust me on this one.....I am the oddball.

Another downside, at least for me, is the wildlife deficit. You can't drive past 1/10th of an acre without there being some development. Residential (think cookie cutter!), church, office, church, retail, church, self storage, church, massive apartment complex. You get my drift. But barely any wildlife to speak of. Maybe it's just me. I was lucky to grow up in a fairly rural environment. Once I learned to drive, I'd often stop the car in the middle of the road to save a crossing turtle. (Yes, I'd put him/her on the opposite side of the road.) It's not something I think about all the time but, when I'm exposed to it again, I realize that Nature, wildlife, something major is missing from my life.

Sophie and I just returned from a visit to Grandma & Grandpa's house. I'm going to start calling our visits there a "Rural Retreat". On the drive there last week, we passed a field of cows. It was so beautiful, so stunning, with the sunset and the verdant hills, that we turned around on the highway to drive past it a second and then third time. There were some cows shoulder deep in the pond and the sight of it gave us both a silly little giggle. Yes, I'm someone who is oddly comforted by a field full of cows. When I first moved to Charlotte, twelve years ago, I knew exactly where to drive to see a field full of cows. Fast forward twelve years and you can probably guess......there's a MASSIVE subdivision in that field. Stone Creek Ranch. Typical suburbia. There are no stones, no creeks and definitely no ranches. How I wish. Come to think of it, I don't even know where to find a field of cows these days, but I can assure you it's pretty far away.

I was thinking about this on Thursday as I was driving from Lynchburg to Charlottesville to visit a friend. I was so content on this drive. This was the view out my front windshield. Aside from the ugly highway, there was nothing but trees for miles and miles. Other people might be bored by this drive but not me.

That night, as I was driving back into my parents' neighborhood, this sweet little being was there to greet me.

I stopped in the middle of the road to let the fawn pass. She was so quiet, so gentle. I had a big smile on my face. I know the deer are a huge nuisance to those who live nearby. The deer eat their plants and tear apart their gardens. Make the dogs bark. Driving at night is downright scary. I get all of that. Still, I enjoyed this little dose of Mother Nature while I could.

This morning, back in Charlotte, I came upon a common sight here. Geese. Canadian Geese. In a church parking lot. There were about 30 of them resting on the asphalt surface. I stopped to take some pictures. I was slow and gentle in my movements so they didn't mind my presence. I'm one of the few people who actually like the geese and never complain about them.

I guess geese can't read. :-)

Here, in my adopted hometown, you have to search hard for the wildlife. Blink and you might miss it. I'm going to try harder to appreciate the little bits I encounter. At the same time, I will always look forward to our "Rural Retreats", when I can be reinvigorated with the beauty and simplicity of Mother Nature's vast and varied gifts.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hitting the Jackpot Twice

One of life's greatest pleasures is seeing a good movie in the theater. I absolutely adore going to the movies. I love the freezing cold and being transported to another time/place/story/character. Also, I think any movie is better with an ice-cold drink and maybe some popcorn or Goobers. It's an escape. The only movies I won't see are violent ones or horror movies.....because, honestly, what kind of escape if that???

In recent years, I've found it's much harder to find good quality, interesting movies. Or maybe, with age, I just have more discriminating taste. ??? Who knows. But I am writing this post because, recently, I've hit the jackpot twice. I recently wrote about A Single Man. That movie was WONDERFUL and I find myself still thinking about it. My fingers are crossed that Tom Ford comes out with a second movie, just as good.

Well, I neglected to mention that a member of our village (Hi Mom!) came to visit last weekend. She always seems to know when Alain and I desperately need a break. When Mom visits, we almost always head to a movie, if something good is playing. We're lucky in that we have a more artsy theater nearby. We see a lot of smaller, independent films....some that we never hear of before seeing them. Not this time. I'd been waiting a long time for The Kids Are All Right to come to Charlotte. It took a while but, BINGO, we finally saw it.


File:Kids are all right poster.jpg

I can't remember the last time I saw a movie that was so emotional, so original, so human, so moving. Honestly, I don't know when I last saw a performance as good as Annette Bening's. I wanted to see this movie in part because of Julianne Moore and because I heart Mark Ruffalo. I was not expecting for Bening to just blow me away. But she did. She stole that movie and made it her own. I think one thing I really enjoyed was seeing an actress (not actor, actress!) with her natural face. She is allowing herself to age gracefully. I guess that's rare these days. Maybe that made me put myself in her shoes more easily? I think so. Some of her best scenes rocked me. I cried like a baby in one.....had to bite my tongue to hold in my sobs. When is the last time that happened? Perhaps I also loved this movie because it's not geared to teenagers. And we all know that's rare these days. It's a story about a family, period. No matter what your nature or how you got there, being married and having children can be damned hard. Anyone in a marriage or with children can relate to some part of this story. I don't want to give away too much because I know most of my friends & family haven't seen the movie. But, if you have, email me......because I'd love to discuss it.

AND, if you haven't seen it, please do. You'll me. Unbelievable. Amazing movie.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guard Your Tennis Bag

Sometimes I arrive a little late to the game.

Way back in the day, my 9th grade biology teacher took a liking to me and told me I was joining the tennis team. You see, she was also the school's tennis coach. I'd barely picked up a racket in my life but, for some reason, I did it. And I am SO GLAD. From that first season, I played tennis for a couple of hours a day for a good part of the year. I recall those years, before cell phones, when my friends would drive over to the school courts if they were looking for me. It was their best chance of success. I became friends with other tennis players and we'd hang out there all day hitting balls. Even my friends who didn't play could often be found hanging out at the courts. Still to this day, I consider it a big part of who I am. Even though I don't play anymore.

You could probably guess that, during that time, I became very familiar with the pro tennis circuit and I loved watching matches on TV. Although I consider Lendl my all-time favorite, I was also a big Andre Agassi fan.

Do you remember when Andre's autobiography, Open, was released last year? Yes, me too. I read review after review after review about it. They were all glowing. I don't know what happened but all this time has gone by and I never got around to reading the book. Well, at the library on Monday, I passed by a copy on a shelf and I was SO THRILLED. I'd totally forgotten about it. You best believe I checked it out so fast I almost gave myself whiplash.

I must confess that I'm only about halfway through but I couldn't wait to tell you that this book is RIVETING. Andre is so honest and, well, open, about his life. It's really not what I was expecting to learn about the tennis circuit and other players. Mainly, it's not what I was expecting to learn about Andre, the person. I didn't know it was possible but I now like him even more. I look at the photos of his highlights, the long hair, the denim shorts and the earrings and it really takes me back. I have such fond memories. I look forward to having free time to read because his story is just that good.

If you're an Andre fan or just a big tennis fan, I highly recommend this book to you. It's very entertaining and you won't want to put it down.

To all you Andre fans out there, do you remember how he was so particular about his tennis bag? He had to pack it himself, he always had that huge stack of rackets and no one else was allowed to carry it? It was his thing. Early on in the book, he had this to say:

"The tennis bag is a lot like your heart ~ you have to know what's in it at all times".

Well said, Andre, well said.

(Wait, how did that middle photo get in there?)

Images own & BBC Sport

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finding Meaning at the Nail Salon

This post is not about manis/pedis. Now, having said that.....

A mani/pedi, for me, is one of life's pleasures. It's one of my true few splurges. Currently, I'm only going once a month so I really savor those days. Having nice nails makes me feel better, in general. I've always received a lot of compliments about my nails and, when compliments aren't flowing in other ways, I take a lot of pleasure in that. My most recent nail appointment was on Friday.

A gentleman, whom I believe to be the owner of this nail salon, is giving my mani. Being that this salon is close to my house and I worked in commercial real estate, I'm always interested in their business. They have a lot of competition nearby. In the midst of our conversation, I ask, "How have things been this summer?" Maybe I wasn't very specific. I meant the business. The gentleman replies, "It's been a bad summer. My father passed away." Immediately, I was touched. He doesn't even know me, really. But he was not afraid to just throw it out there. So I asked about his father, his mother, his siblings, their relationships, his visits with his family, why he lives so far from them, etc. You must understand, this is just how I'm built. We spoke for a while. Then, very quietly, he says to me, "Things come when they come....whether or not you're ready to accept them."

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We were quiet for a long time.

It was so simple and straightforward but very poignant. Touching. I was moved.

In this society, I don't experience many moments like this. Everything is so rushed. It's much more common to almost get run over in a parking lot (as in the Target parking lot yesterday!). Everyone is closed off - on their cell phones, foot jammed down on the gas pedal, ear buds firmly plugged (those ubiquitous white cables hanging down and tucked into a random pocket), music blaring, always working, always running. SO BUSY. Or so they make it seem. I very much appreciated this one little moment where a virtual stranger took an opportunity to open up to me about a personal experience and talk about life a little bit. Real life. Not TV. Not the Kardashians or the Gosselins (puke!). Not business (ahem!). Not the silly details that fill our lives but something deep and real. Straight from the heart.

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I promised myself a couple of weeks ago that I would listen hard for more meaning in this world of noise. Guess what. On Friday, I found it.

Images via Allaboutyou

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Pleasure of Good Friends

I am a very lucky woman. In many ways. But today I consider myself to be lucky because I have really wonderful friends.

Our Friends, Ourselves

Friends, really golden ones, are so hard to come by. You have to try out every different style and flavor to find the right one. I'm of the school of thought that I'd rather have a few great quality friends than to have lots of mediocre ones. The saddest part is that, along the way, I've discovered a couple of the wrong friends and had to divorce myself.....which is NO FUN and SO AWFUL. Lately though, I've put a lot of focus on my relationships with my friends. A few months ago I shortlisted my friend list because I realized that I was going about things the wrong way. I wanted to devote more time to loving and getting to know my good friends better....but I couldn't do that when I was spending a lot of time with other people who didn't mean that much to me. And, to be frank, some folks just weren't making the grade. I know that sounds mean and I don't mean it to be. I think you know what I'm talking about. Certain people just GET YOU and I typically like really strong women with a bit of an edge. I also like having friends who aren't afraid to tell me the hard truth, when it's necessary.

Lately, I've been having a hard time personally. Because of this, the nature of my friendships is really coming to the forefront. These friends have allowed me to really be myself.....with all the harsh realities and the terrible things I have to say. Some of them have come right out and said things that were hard to hear but very necessary. I feel their open arms and loving hearts down to the core of my soul.

Life is a highway.....yes, I believe that's true.....and, good thing, because I LOVE DRIVING.....I'm just glad I have some wonderful friends in my life who make me feel like I'm driving down that highway at full speed....with the top down.....the wind in my curly hair.....and the crazy tunes just blasting.

Eco-friendly Vacation

Ladies, I thank you. You know who you are. And I love you to pieces!!!

Images via WholeLiving

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Single Man

I did warn you that I am a dreamer. Well, today I am dreaming of being an actress for one day. One day only. And playing only one part.

Last week I had the pleasure of viewing the movie, A Single Man. Wow. The movie was vibrant, vibrant, vibrant. I absolutely LOVED it. I'd recommend it to anyone. And Colin Firth blew me away with his acting skills. Shocker! Especially in one scene (if you've seen the movie, PLEASE let me know as I'd love to discuss it).

But that's not my scene. No, if I could play just one scene, it would be the scene with Julianne Moore. The dinner scene at her house. For me, it was perfection. I have a few movie scenes that stick out to me as my favorites ever. I've added this one to the list. Everything about it was perfection to me. Her hair. Those earrings. Her divine bracelet. That dress. Colin. His suit. Swoon, his glasses. The carpet. Those beautiful pillows. The music. Great choice of song. The dancing. Her furniture. The smiles and laughter. It was all pretty magical to me.

Image borrowed from Austin

Please see this movie. It's already on DVD. I can't imagine you wouldn't love it too.

(But call me after and tell me that scene wasn't made for little ole' me. I would ROCK IT!)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

LSP: A Merry-Go-Round

Last Thursday I decided to spoil my daughter and take her to the local amusement park. We have a season pass but I've generally gone only when my husband was around and willing to join us. However, Thursday was a little cooler (you know, only 90 degrees rather than 98) and I was feeling like a fun Mom so we went. The Merry-Go-Round is the ride we always go to first and this time was no different. We hopped on and Sophie ran out in front of me to search for her perfect horse......

As I was watching her go about making her selection, I was overcome with the sensation of how that used to feel to me when I was a child. I could clearly recall running around the carousel passing horse after horse after horse. The one with the pink saddle. The one with the cool name. The tallest one. The one next to the cute boy. One special horse would always call out to me and I'd hop on filled with so much giddiness and excitement.

Pure happiness. I could see this happening to Sophie and I was a little overcome. Yes, THIS is what a childhood should be made of. This silly brand of magic. I want a lot of things for Sophie but those magic moments are really, really high on my list. I was so happy to be there to share that moment with her. A simple moment. But maybe one that she'll recall sometime in the future when her child is running around the carousel looking for just the right horse.

This simple ride got me thinking about life. Over time (and this is my old age speaking) everything seems to get more complicated.....better, faster, taller, get my drift. A simple thrill just isn't enough anymore. Sometimes it's too much for me. And here I was literally surrounded by examples.

Sure, I love a good thrill. I do hope to ride this on one of my next visits if I can find someone brave enough to join me.

BUT, at the end of the day, I'll prefer the simple pleasure of the Merry-Go-Round. The slow gentle motion. The feathery breeze that passes your cheek. The cheesy fair music. If nothing else, it will take your back to your own childhood which was hopefully filled with magical moments.

The Merry-Go-Round: One of Life's Simple Pleasures

Monday, August 2, 2010

NYC, Baby, Here I Come!!!

I am heading to my favorite place on Earth next month. New York City. Each time I go I have a long list of places I hope to visit. This time is no different. I'm composing my list here....

1.) Pop Bar. Yes, it's ridiculously trendy right now. But I am going in August and I'm sure it will be hot out. And who can resist this choice of gelato on a stick??? Maybe I will skip a meal so that I can sample more than one. Yum yum.

2.) I am reading one of the books that I posted about here. It's titled In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise. A couple of nights ago I was reading a chapter that discusses pocket parks. These are "small patches of landscaped nature generally built on vacant building lots or scraps of urban land that fall between the cracks of real estate interests". I love the idea of a little oasis of nature and quiet (actually "water masks the grinding city sounds") right in the middle of Manhattan. One of these parks - Paley Park - is near my hotel. It's also one of the oldest pocket parks in the US, having opened in 1967. I will definitely visit this one. There are two others mentioned as well. If time permits, I will try to visit at least one of those. They are Greenacre Park (51st St between 2nd and 3rd Aves.) and 1221 Ave of the Americas.

Greenacre Park Image via New York Times

3.) Brooklyn. This chick, in about 30 visits, has never left the confines of the borough of Manhattan. I intend to visit Brooklyn on this trip. I am really hoping (fingers tightly crossed) to walk back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. This is something that has been on my list for YEARS.

4.) Fishs Eddy. Okay, I visit here on every trip. But I love this store and it's always worth the time and effort to get there. Since I'm already there, I will most likely also stop in ABC Carpet & Home.

5.) A walk through the Flower District. Oddly enough, I've never been to this part of town. Hoping to take an early morning walk there....

Flower District Image via New York Times

6.) The whole purpose of this trip is to celebrate my dear friend, Dori's, birthday. In her birthday celebration plans, she is fulfilling a long-held dream of go to a private karaoke bar. I feel like a kid going to the world's biggest candy store. Let's just hope all these ladies want to remain friends with me after they hear me sing. (I hope they sell alcohol there.) Hmmmm......I'm wondering if they'll have The Dixie Chick's "Sin Wagon" on the playlist.

7.) I am heading up early so that I am able to visit my very sweet and lovely friend, Helena. She currently resides in Sleepy Hollow, up in Westchester. I am so thrilled to spend the night with Helena because, well, I just love spending time with her. We go way back. But I'm thinking maybe we could visit the famed Sleepy Hollow cemetery. Great for photos. Helena, are you reading? What do you think? (Side Note: Helena and I took the best bus tour over in England. It was my first and only foray outside of the city of London. One of our stops was Stonehenge. The massive bus pulled into the parking lot....Helena and I viewed Stonehenge from across the street.....agreed that we'd "Been there, done that"....and then sat on a bench eating snacks purchased at the refreshment stand......and we were as happy as clams....I love that about us!)

8.) Since I'm training for the race at the end of September, I'm thinking it would be cool to take one of my runs around the Reservoir in Central Park. I would SO feel like a native. Maybe I'll pass by Charlotte York. Oh yes, wait, that is only a character.
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