The Current Version of the Yearly Tradition

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Saks 5th Avenue holiday light show

I love New York. Of course by that I mean NYC, and mostly Manhattan. I’m not sure how fond I am of Staten Island. The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn all have stellar qualities but it’s Manhattan that makes my pulse race, my breath quicken. And not from fear, oh you nay sayers you. I love the excitement, the thrill, the sights, the energy. I love it best at holiday time because of the extra dollop of excitement. I have been there in the blazing hot, humid days of summer when the garbage wasn’t being collected and while there is still some energy then, holiday time is better. Even if it’s bitter cold.

My family has a tradition of heading into the city sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years. I think it started even before my son went off to college, but it certainly solidified in those years. We’d head in to the city, see a show, check out the tree and plaza at Rockefeller Center, watch the Saks holiday light show, and have a great steak dinner. Yes, it is always dinner at a great steak house. This year we needed to head in during the Thanksgiving weekend because that is when my son was home. To my great disappointment it turned out that Rockefeller tree would not be lit until AFTER he returned. We went in last T-day weekend as well and the tree was definitely already lit. I have the photos to prove it. Ah well, at least the Saks light show would be running.

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James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5

I couldn’t find any matinee that appealed to me. I wanted to do something different this year, still tradition but with a little twist. The gentlemen agreed that a museum would be okay so I set my husband to the task of finding an interesting exhibit. He knocked this one out of the park. We went to Spyscape – an espionage experiential exhibit. It was GREAT! I had no idea what to expect. I will say that you should buy tickets online because there is a surcharge for buying them at the desk. 🙂 You are given a gold bracelet with your own identifying disk. You use your disk to sign in to the various experiences. At the end you get a report on how well you did in all the various skills tests and a ‘placement’ of the role you might play in the spy world. I was sure I’d end up being told I’d be in the home office filing papers, but I did well enough to be an Intelligence Operative: The heart of an intelligence service, involved in an array of operations, from servicing dead drops to setting up safe houses. Who’d have thought it, right? I guess Operatives like to plan and make lists. 🙂 Many of the questions are of a “what would you do?” and “what do you believe?” nature. They assess you on those questions by the answers that scored furthest from the average. This is a bit circular, I think, because their assessment of me is my assessment of me: Team Player, Determined, Empathetic. *smile* I have to say that taking the pattern recognition and logistics questions stressed me out A LOT. I was great at encryption and deception. More risky than I expected. And TERRIBLE at brain power. The test that I thought would be the worst and most stressful was the Special Ops test. That is the one where you are in a room full of laser beams and buttons. You must hit as many buttons as possible without breaking the beams. It helps to be both tall and limber for that exercise. I could not reach the top row of buttons at all but I squatted down and made it under almost every beam, slamming buttons as I went. It was incredibly exhilarating. I understood why so many of the younger visitors were doing that test again and again. 🙂 Overall I still think I’d be a terrible spy and should be home filing papers.

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Blueprints

We also did the special James Bond exhibit – about the making of the latest Daniel Craig James Bond film, Skyfall. My husband insists that the “best” James Bond was George Lazenby’s Bond. He is incredibly disdainful of all other Bonds, although he admits that Sean Connery’s Bond was adequate. *rolls eyes* The Skyfall exhibit was very interesting. I LOVED seeing the car, and all the detailed plans for how they actually built the car so that all of Q’s special gimmicks worked. There are 3 short videos where they explain how they filmed the final climactic scene – from finding the location to building the necessary items to merging 1:3 scale models with the live action. You mean it didn’t all happen live once?

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Champagne bucket was in the later models

Skyscape is definitely worth a visit, although I’m not sure it’s a good match for very young children. The ability to read is a must. Many of the exhibits are texts with photos, telling spy stories. I can also recommend Mastro’s for dinner. My son and I have been dining at Mastro’s in Phoenix my last two visits and have loved it there. When we saw there was one in NYC we decided that would be this year’s steak dinner location. It was wonderful. The food and service are fantastic and we had great leftovers to bring home. Our waiter was a history buff and we had great discussions when he was at the table. 🙂 Our complaints were about the lighting and noise. I’m not sure why restaurants have decided that people want to eat in darkness. Maybe this is an east coast ‘thing’ because I don’t recall this issue in Phoenix. We needed flashlights to view the menus. We weren’t the only ones doing that as I noticed people at nearby tables doing the same. The noise level was also higher than is pleasant. I understand the allure of live music, and piping music all over, but most people are dining out to DINE and CHAT, not listen to music. My opinion is that the background music is always too loud, causing people to talk loudly, and by the end of the meal you are exhausted because you have been yelling to have a simple conversation. (It’s not just Mastro’s – we encounter this at so many restaurants.) I soothed my throat with a yummy profiterole. 🙂

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Saks 5th Avenue before the show

Rockefeller Center is not as grand when the tree is dark, but the Saks light show is still a wonder, no matter how many times you see it. I include a video for those of you who may not make it into the city this year.

Ahhhh! Morning treasures

buttermilk biscuits and coffee

Buttermilk biscuits hot from the oven and fresh-brewed coffee. Working from home. Day before a holiday and most of my coworkers are NOT working, which means a very quiet day for me. 🙂 My cats and my ‘guys’ are here, too. A morning full of treasures.

Getting Grounded in the Tree

autumn tree

There’s been a lot going on the last few weeks, not the least of it being the “month” of Jewish holidays. Sometimes there seems to be no time to breathe, much less compose a post. At the office today I got up to take a short walk. It is too windy and cool outside so I walked about the hallways. As I headed back to my desk I was captured by the view out the window. I always appreciate that I can gaze out the windows and see trees and mountains and birds. Today is a perfect autumn day – clear blue sky, fall-colored leaves, puffy white clouds. I went and stood by the window and practiced a moment of mindfulness. Looking at the tree, the leaves, the bark, the branches the pods. Just breathing.

A Moment of Harmony

GC and BC enjoy a moment of harmony

GC and BC enjoy a moment of harmony

Life has been hectic-busy lately. I took off for another vacation in Arizona to visit my son and celebrate Rosh Hashanah. When I got back, work exploded. *grin* That’s always a fun thing because I love being busy and challenged. It does mean, however, that there isn’t much time to curate vacation photos or write posts. My husband took care of the kitties while I was gone but now they are all over me all the time. Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Here you see a moment of harmony. Don’t let it fool you – they are waiting for me to go back and sit down so they can stake out their claim on my lap.

At Least It Wasn’t Raining

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The big broad Hudson (looking back to NY, NJ ahead on the left) under a beautiful blue sky

Yesterday was one of THOSE commuting days. It took me 2.5 hours to go 75 miles up, and just about 2.5 hours to return. That’s 5 hours commuting to spend about 6 hours meeting with folks. I spent a LOT of time simply sitting in traffic, waiting to inch forward. I remembered why I used to try to be on the road by 6am and not leave the office until after 6pm. That made for an extremely long day but a much shorter commute. Yesterday the weather was beautiful, although a bit chilly in the morning. I should have tossed on a jacket for the ride up. I was in the convertible and even with the windows up and the heat blasting, my shoulders were cold. Riding up it took me nearly 90 minutes to reach the Palisades. I think that might be 40 miles. That’s terrible progress. I think the fastest I ever got moving on the NJ Turnpike after Exit 11 might have been 40 mph. Most of the time it was 25 mph. On a road where I can usually hit 80 mph.

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Pretty sailboats on the Hudson by South Nyack

Coming home I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the Tappanzee Bridge (No, I will NOT call it the Mario Cuomo Bridge) as you can see by the pictures. Apparently there was some accident further north on the NY Thruway. Heading from Westchester county to Rockland county in the afternoon rush hour is always slow, but this took it to a new delay for me. I apologize for the poor quality. Every time I picked up the phone to take a picture, we got to inch forward half a car’s length. I finally held the phone up and pushed the button and hoped something would come out. Of course the camera assumed I was looking at the barriers, not the pretty sailboats out there on the Hudson. Still, I think you can get the idea. I do love looking at the river, the palisades, the mountains, the boats. That and the Kensico Dam and reservoir really make up for the ride on the NJT between exits 11 and 14. *grin*

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Before cropping

New Shoes (a silly little post)

I was running errands the other day and just happened to find myself next to the shoe store. I didn’t think I NEEDED any new shoes, but I thought I’d check out the stock, see what was new, see if there was anything on sale, see if anything appealed to me. After all, we are changing seasons which does mean less warm, toe-showing weather and more wet, soggy, keep-the-feet-dry weather.

Amazing as it might sound, I found THREE pairs of shoes that appealed to me. And slippers to replace my favorite no-skid Penn State socks. Some of you are new to my blog, and don’t know me from my SecondLife days. In those days I was renowned for my spike heels and steam-punk boots. I do still have most of those shoes and boots, but I’ve found lately that my “beach” persona has been more dominant. I’ve been wearing sandals, flip-flops and top-siders all summer and I’m loathe to give up the ambiance. I have 2 pairs of top-siders – one faded, stained sea foam and the other pink. Neither seemed right for fall, so I had to indulge in a new color. The other pair, although they look kind of like slippers, are so comfortable that I couldn’t resist. I NEEDED a pair of fall shoes that weren’t boots. You will probably call these boots but as they say, if the shoe fits, buy it. 🙂

4 new shoes

please note that I do still like buckles and metal on my footwear!

Late Summer Garden Glory

closeup white cosmos

Not only is it NOT a weed, but I believe that the thick hairy plant I accused of being a weed is actually a cosmos. That means it had every right to be growing where it was growing (where I dumped the cosmos seed). It seems to be a different variety than the ones that bloomed earlier. I have to say, I REALLY like this variety. *grin* And to think I was so disparaging earlier in the season. I’ll have to remember to be very careful weeding next spring and hope that this one self-seeds.
white cosmos

I’d had 2 hanging plants in the middle of my grasses and rudbeckia. One of them was finished by the end of July (I don’t even remember what they were – maybe orange zinnias? superbells? something orange-y that was done by August). I treated myself to a red begonia to replace it. I love the color!
red begonia

One of the other perennials I have been trying to get established is my pink guara. I “discovered” this plant a few years ago and fell in love with it. The way the flowers appear at the end of a long thin stem make it look like a cat toy. 🙂 I kept buying them and planting them and they would not come back the next year. This is the first year that my guara came back and I’m so pleased. I may pick up a few more to string them together. The recommended planting guide says to put them in a clump. Maybe that would have helped them winter-over as well. Whatever the reason, they came back this year and I am loving them.
pink guara

As for those trying-to-be-cucumbers… Well. We are definitely going to run out of something before they actually become cukes. For starters – how can they be growing when it looks as if the vine has already shriveled and died? There is no way these round balls are going to have time to elongate into cucumbers before the first frost. Ignore the little sign that says ‘lovage’. I was using that to support the vines when they were still green and healthy looking. What am I going to DO with these ‘fruits’? Do you think they are edible? Do you think they will turn all green? Did I grow ROUND cucumbers? Is there such a thing?
cucumbers

It’s now officially fall, but the temperature was over 90 yesterday. That means I have to keep watering everyone. We haven’t had rain in quite awhile. This is about the time I’m done with maintaining my garden but Mother Nature isn’t doing her part to take over automatic maintenance. In the past I was so energetic and ambitious I would get pots of mums and line the walk with them. I’m not doing that this year – WAY more effort involved than I feel like expending. It’s almost time to start pulling out dead plants, tossing them to the compost, dumping the dirt, and stacking the planters on the front porch to wait for next year. But until then – I’m going to enjoy the view.
thick cosmos


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