Monthly Archives: February 2018

Day One Hundred and Two: Walking the Avenues of the Upper East Side from East 84th to 72nd Streets between Fifth Avenue and FDR Drive February 14th-20th, 2018

I took some time out after Soup Kitchen to get some exercise and start my walk of the Avenues of the Upper East Side. I spent the whole morning making lasagnas for lunch the next day and I was tired as it was that afternoon. I ended up walking from 9th Avenue and 28th Street to Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street to pick up movie tickets at the MoMA for that afternoon and then walked to Fifth Avenue and East 72nd Street and walked down to East 72nd Street to re-walk York Avenue from East 72nd Street to East 84th Street and then walk the remaining Avenues. It was turning to twilight when I last walked it and I wanted to see it again. The neighborhood like the rest of Manhattan is changing.

You really are seeing an area in its own transition especially along the Avenues. The side streets have kept their character to a certain point but on the Avenues the old brick buildings and brownstones are giving way to large apartment buildings like its neighbor to the north in the Yorkville, Carnegie Hill and even East Harlem. More and more of the main thoroughfares are becoming large residential buildings.

I started the day first having lunch a small pizzeria called La Crostada Pizzeria at 436 East 72nd Street (See review on TripAdvisor) for a slice of pizza ($4.00). I needed my carbs for the walk ahead of me. This small pizzeria has a really nice menu with very fair prices. The pizza is really good and they have a good sauce on the pizza which really makes the pie.

I would revisit the restaurant again later the next week to try their meatball sub with mozzarella ($7.95) to see if it would make the cut for my blog, DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com (which it has see the review on the site) and was impressed by the sandwich. They loaded the sandwich with homemade meatballs and then loaded with shredded with cheese and finished off in the oven. It was some sandwich.

After lunch, I walked the length of York Avenue. I had really misjudged this part of the neighborhood when really looking at it. When walking York Avenue I started to notice a difference in the architecture once you hit about East 80th Street. The lower part of the avenue is being knocked down and rebuilt while up in the 80’s, you still have a fair amount of small buildings and businesses.

When I crossed over to John Jay Park again for a bathroom break (note this bathroom when walking around the neighborhood. They keep it really clean). I wanted to take another look at the Douglas Abdell statues in the park. They are off to the side of the park in the pathway leading to East 75th Street from Cherokee Place.  Really take time to look at the two sculptures. There is a uniqueness to them. It like the way the artist twisted the work to get the geometric forms that he did giving it a juxtaposed pattern.

Douglas Abdell is an American Artist whose work has been seen all over the world. The two statues, Eaphae-Aekyard #2 and Kreyeti-Ackyard #2 use the artists sense of vertical, diagonal and horizontal patterns to create the works (NY Parks System). You really have to take time when in the park to take a look at these two statues and judge for yourself.

First Avenue has a bevy of interesting local restaurants and stores that are concentrated up in the 80’s and while walking up to the upper 80’s, I had to stop by my standby place, Glaser’s bakery for dessert. You can’t walk around the Upper East Side without coming to Glaser’s. I love this place!

I got one of there freshly baked chocolate chip cookie sandwiches, which was filled with a mocha cream ($3.50) that was out of this world! I think I have been concentrating on this part of town just so that I can visit here. Everything always looks so good.

Second Avenue is very similar in feel to First Avenue. In the 70’s, there is a lot of change in the businesses to more commercial establishments with the 80’s still being dominated by more local restaurants and shops. The buildings above East 80th Street are still the smaller brick and brownstone buildings holding the local businesses.  All throughout the Avenue there are pockets of local stores and restaurants.

Park Avenue between East 72nd and 84th Streets still is an Avenue of quiet elegance with beautiful older apartment buildings and co-ops that line the beautifully decorated gardens that line the median and the fronts of several buildings. There is very little commercial businesses on the street less a flower shop here and a dry cleaner there type of thing. It is a block after block of pre-war buildings that have not changed much except for sandblasting clean the exterior of the outside. In the Spring, Summer and the holiday season, the median is nicely landscaped and decorated.

Madison Avenue is mainly a upscale shopping district that is getting too expensive for its own good. In the lower 70’s, I saw a lot of empty spaces cramped in between the over-priced clothing and jewelry stores. I think the rents are pushing out the first wave of shops that moved here after Fifth Avenue got too expensive. Even the rents here are getting to be too much. I am beginning to see these upscale shops moving to Lexington and even Third Avenues in the 70’s. This is pushing out the mom & pop places that dominate those Avenues. It still is one of the premier shopping districts in Upper Manhattan where many European merchants open.

The stores that are located on the Avenue you still have to be buzzed into and is lined with expensive clothing, jewelry, art and decorative stores with a few boutique hotels and restaurants. In the past few months that I have been walking the neighborhood, I have seen some of them move off and to other locations in the surrounding streets. As the twenty year rents are up, many of the traditional businesses from the 1970’s, 80’s and even the 90’s are giving way to chains or just empty store fronts.

Fifth Avenue is always a treat. Most of the buildings in the area have not changed and stayed mostly residential. It is lined with elegant marble apartment buildings and some modern day structures. The park is still quiet with the last days of winter slowly becoming behind us. Still on a semi-warm day, there are still kids playing in the playgrounds. I swear, nothing stops these kids. It still is part of the “Museum Mile” and there are smaller gallery spaces and museums.

On my second day walking the Avenues, I doubled back to FDR Drive to walk along the riverfront. This is a juxtaposed position. There is no one clear walking path on FDR Drive. The cross over pedestrian bridge is at East 78th Street by John Jay Park and you can cross over to walk along the East River. It was 72 degrees the second day on the walk and it just gorgeous outside. Everyone had the same idea that I had and I saw many people walking their dogs or jogging along the water.  The walkway is currently being renovated so it stops around 71st Street.

I doubled back to John Jay Park and walked the remainder of FDR Drive by sidewalk around East 79th Street, with many cars driving by at full speed. The sidewalk ends at 72nd Street at the Con Ed building and I don’t suggest walking any further. There is a slim strip of edge of sidewalk and unless you want to be hit by a car, walk back down East 72nd Street. It is full of guys coming and going for work so it is very busy on this street during the day.

I went back to East 78th Street and went back on the bridge and proceeded to walk up the walkway to East 84th Street to Carl Schurz Park. School had let out by this point and both this park and John Jay Park were loaded with kids for the rest of the afternoon. All of them obviously enjoying the surprisingly warm weather. When walking across East 84th Street, the southern part of the park, I came across a plaque dedicated to Archibald Gracie, whose estate used to be located here and whose family Gracie Mansion is named after (the Mayor’s residence).

Gracie, who was a merchant and shipbuilder and good friend of John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, had bought the land around what was called “Horn’s Hook” in 1798 and built the wooden home as a county estate. The house had been headquarters for many prominent residents of the city as Gracie’s position changed to include insurance and banking. He had to sell the house in 1823 to pay off debts and it was acquired by the city in 1891. After different uses, it was renovated and now serves as the residence of NYC Mayor and his family.

I walked down East End Avenue and walked all the side streets between East 84th to East 79th Streets where East End Avenue ends. Most the streets have a dead end with a beautiful view of the river the most scenic at East 72nd Street, where you can sit on the benches and just watch the river. Here starts the Weill-Cornell Medical Center so you will be sharing space with many of the hospital workers out on a break.  It also offers views of Roosevelt Island (see Day Ninety Five “Walking Roosevelt Island”) especially Lighthouse Park.

As you walk past buildings along the river, you will see the old sign for the “East Side House Settlement” at East 76th Street, which used to be the home for the establishment which is one of the oldest non-profit social service organizations in New York City. It was founded here in 1891 and moved to the South Bronx in 1962. The building still stands now part of the Town School but the sign still stands as a testament to where it was founded. You can see the sign carved in the stone from the FDR Walkway.

Walking York Avenue, you will pass the same type of construction along the Avenue as the smaller brownstone buildings give way to the larger apartment complexes.  There is a little gem off York Avenue at 502 East 74th Street. This small carriage house seems out of place in the neighborhood but has been around since the Civil War. It had been converted to manufacturing in 1892 and most of its existence had been a place of manufacturing. It now has been restored and is now a private residence.

Another building that is interesting is at 450 East 78th Street, a small wooden structure that houses an antique and a blinds store’s that was built in 1910. This small building is relic of a time when this area must have been filled with homes like this. Martine’s Antiques located in one of the stores is a treasure trove of small items and is worth the trip inside. It really stands alone in a neighborhood in constant change.

I followed York Avenue up to 84th Street and crossed down to Third Avenue. Third and Lexington Avenues are very similar in look and in businesses. Third Avenue and Lexington Avenue in the 70’s are really going through a transition as rents are forcing older businesses out. That classic 90’s look of the Avenues is giving way to either empty store fronts or upscale restaurants and shops that should be on Madison Avenue.

Still there are a lot of those businesses hanging that still give it the neighborhood feel and that is more in the low 80’s. One of those businesses is the Lexington Candy Shop, where I had lunch (See review on TripAdvisor). Founded in 1925, it is a reminder when these type of stores used to dominate New York City until the arrival of McDonalds in the 1970’s. Even the automate’s gave way by the early 80’s.

I had eaten here several times before and I wanted to know if it was still as good as it once was then. Trust me it is still great and it is a real New York experience to sit at the counter.  I ordered a regular burger and a strawberry milkshake, both of which were excellent. The burger was perfectly cooked with fresh lettuce and tomato on the side and the milkshake was made with Basset’s of Philadelphia ice cream, which I have mentioned in my blogs to Philly and is one of the best ice creams on the market. Both the food and service make Lexington Candy Shop a ‘must see’ for out of towners.

Third Avenue especially in the low 80’s still holds onto it classic New York look but I am afraid not for long. It looks like the whole Avenue is giving way to larger apartment complexes and office buildings. Even the traditional shopping district on 86th Street is giving way to all new buildings. Once the home of Gimbel’s Uptown, the neighborhood is slowly going upscale with a new Shake Shack and Brooks Brothers.

Still there are many unique stores in the area. Flying Tiger Copenhagen recently opened at 1286 Third Avenue, which has great novelty items for kids and seasonable gift items. The sad part is that everything seems to be made in China, not Copenhagen. If you like unusual novelty items, this is the place. Another great store for kids and one of the oldest toy stores in the city is Mary Arnold Toys at 1178 Lexington Avenue. They have a nice selection of commercial toys and novelties. Most of the items you can find cheaper in other stores though but still it is a great store to look around.

For many, the Upper East Side still has the feel that it has always had since the 1960’s and admittingly not much has changed in some parts of the neighborhood particularly around the side streets but massive changes on the Avenues are happening as rows of brownstones and small buildings give way to large apartment and building complexes and along the East River, there is a lot of construction along FDR Drive. Pretty soon that will all be luxury buildings as well.

The Upper East Side can be accessed by Subway on the number 6 or the G line. Go to the G line to see all the artwork.

Restaurants:

La Crostada Pizzeria

436 East 72nd Street

New York, NY  10021

(212) 472-5004

http://www.lacrostadanyc.com

Lexington Avenue Candy Shop

Glaser’s Bake Shop

1670 First Avenue

New York, NY  10028

(212) 289-2562

http://www.glaserbakeshop.com

Stores:

Flying Tiger Copenhagen

1282 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10001

(917) 388-2812

http://www.flyingtiger.com

Mary Arnold Toys

1178 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY 10028

(212) 744-8510

http://www.MaryArnoldToys.com

Martine’s Antique Store

450 East 78th Street

New York, NY  10075

(212) 772-0900

Places to see:

John Jay Park

Between East 78th and 75th Streets

The Abdell statues are located just outside the park by East 76th Street.

Advertisements

Day One Hundred & Three: ‘Xin Nian Hao’ ‘Gong Hei Fat Choi’ or “Happy Chinese New Year”!

Xin Nian Hao Everyone!

Happy Chinese New Year!

After a long day in the Soup Kitchen (I have to stop doubling up events on days), instead of finishing the walk of the Upper East Side, I decided to head downtown to Chinatown for the first day of Chinese New Year. What a madhouse!

First off, it was a gloomy day. The clouds kept threatening rain which finally came around 4:00 pm but it did not damper everyone’s spirits. The city closed off the main streets of Chinatown, so people were able to walk around Mott, Mulberry, Bayard, Elizabeth Streets and all the side streets around the core of Chinatown.

It was a very festive afternoon of Lion Dances in front of businesses and a non-stop of silly string and firecrackers going off all over the neighborhood. It was fun watching all the kids with the help of their parents set off these long cylinders of confetti and streamers. Nothing gets lost in the translation of the holiday as it was a very diverse crowd of people enjoying the beginning of the New Year. I was able to walk around the neighborhood and watch all the families having a ball watching the lions and the musicians play music and dance in front of the businesses that requested them.

The meaning of firecrackers translates to ‘Baozhu’ or ‘exploding bamboo’ that was used in early years to scare off the evil spirits at the beginning of the New Year. It seems that there was a legend of a monster called ‘Nain’, who used to destroy homes every New Year and the use of burning bamboo used to pop to scare him away. Bamboo was replaced with the invention of fireworks. The cylinder tubes are all colored ‘red’ which is a lucky color in the Chinese culture.

I watched the Lion Dances all over Chinatown. These according to custom are to ward away evil spirits from the businesses and bring prosperity  for the New Year. There must have been over a dozen of cultural groups from all over the city hired to visit the businesses during the afternoon. It seems that the loud cymbals evict the bad and evil spirits (the picture above is the ‘Lion Dance’ from the  Chinese New Year Celebration that I ran for the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library in 2011 at the Asian Grill in East Rutherford, NJ).

I walked all over the side streets of Chinatown and stopped in Sara D. Roosevelt Park for the opening festivities of the New Year that were sponsored by Better Chinatown USA. The place was mobbed with people. All the kids were playing games or the families were socializing with one another. It was so busy that I took a walk around the neighborhood, walking through the fringes of what is left of expansion of Chinatown into the Lower East Side, which is quickly gentrifying. The Lower East Side has gotten very hip over the years.

When I rounded the corner at Hester Street, I came across Chicken V (see review on TripAdvisor) at 124C Hester Street, a small Taiwanese fried chicken place that I found out has a branch in Brooklyn. I decided to order something different and got the Chicken Omelet, which was a chicken wing stuffed with fried rice, the popcorn chicken, which was made with thigh meat. I ordinarily hate this but they did a great job with the seasoning and OFC French Fries. Everything had a salty, garlicky taste to it and the popcorn chicken I could taste a hint of ginger and garlic in it. If you like salty food this is the place for you.

I walked around the Bowery and crossed back over into the heart of Chinatown as it started to rain. It had been threatening all day and it started to pour after 4:00pm. The last of the Lion Dancers were performing outside a business on Mott Street and all the restaurants at that point were still busy with people wanting to get out of the rain. The streets were quiet but were loaded with the remains of firecracker streamers and confetti.

My last stop in Chinatown before I headed uptown was Sun Sai Gai See review on TripAdvisor & DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) at 220 Canal Street, which has been my go-to place for roast pork buns ($1.00). I love this place. It is a little on the dumpy side but it is one of the best hole-in-the-wall places in Chinatown and I have always enjoyed it.

As it poured rain, I saw the last of the people begin to leave Chinatown. To celebrate the beginning of the New Year was a lot of fun. There was a lot of energy in Chinatown. People of all ages and races were enjoying the festivities and families really were enjoying their time together.

Isn’t it what the New Year is all about?

Gong Hei Fat Choi!

Restaurants:

Chicken V

124C Hester Street

New York, NY  10002

http://www.OFCchicken.com

(718) 255-9222

Sun Sai Gai

220 Canal Street

New York, NY 10013

(212) 964-7212

 

 

Day One Hundred & One Walking the boundaries of the Upper East Side from East 84th Street to East 72nd Street from FDR Drive to Fifth Avenue January 26, 2018

It was a surprisingly sunny and warm (41 degrees F) today and it felt warmer than the temperature let on. It was a beautiful, clear sunny day and I decided to continue my walk on the Upper East Side, venturing from East 84th Street to East 72nd Street. Even though I have been visiting this area for years by way of the museums, I had never ventured this far to the East River.

My day started with a walking tour of the Asian Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the new “Chinese Scrolls Exhibition”. The Asian Galleries have been updated over the years and the new exhibition was displaying recent acquisitions of the collection plus newer pieces based on the Master’s in the collection. It was eye-opening to me the perspective of nature that they had in ancient times versus the growth and building of today. It was interesting to hear the difference between how the artists used ancient art as an inspiration for their perspective on the how the location in nature should look. These tours attract lots of people who are not from the cellphone set.

I started the walk as I exited the museum. It was such a beautiful day that I thought it would be fun to walk around the neighborhood and really explore the Upper East Side. It really has changed over the last ten to fifteen years. It has always been a very expensive area but it looks more expensive now. Not only have the apartment buildings changed but the stores and parks as well.

I have noticed over the duration of this walk that the area keeps getting knocked down for bigger and more glossier buildings. The older brownstone covered streets are giving way to large box-like apartment buildings whose character is not the same and changes the complexity and look of the grid pattern. It’s hard to believe it is getting generic.

Another thing I have noticed on these walks especially as I have gotten below 96th Street is the amount of empty store fronts. I know as I revisit the old neighborhoods I have already walked that this is happening, it is becoming an epidemic in the expensive areas as well. I noticed that in areas of Fifth and Madison Avenue, there are a lot more empty store fronts and then the expensive stores are being pushed to Lexington and Third Avenues, pushing the moderate restaurants and shops out of the neighborhood. I hate to clue these landlords in on this but not everyone needs $300.00 shoes or a $16.00 hamburger and this is happening in places like Harlem as well.

Where this character has not changed is as you exit the museum and walk down Fifth Avenue, which has not changed too much over the years in on 79th Street just off Fifth Avenue where a line of ‘Gilded Age’ mansions still exist. I bet most people don’t see this row of grand old mansions that are now being used as stores and embassies. I am sure that a few are still private but these homes were expensive to maintain back then and went out of vogue after Income Tax was established.

Really take time to walk down 79th Street on the north side between Fifth and Madison Avenues to get a good look at the detail of these stone masterpieces. They don’t build homes like this anymore and I don’t think we have the stone masons around to do them again. It is hard to believe for most of these residents this was one of four homes.

I took a quick swing into Central Park to see Cleopatra’s Needle, which is located behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art located by East 81st Street. This obelisk was erected February 22nd, 1881. It was secured in May 1877 by Judge Elbert E. Farnam, the then-United State Consul General at Cairo as a gift the Khedive for the United States for remaining friendly neutral as the European powers, France and Britain, maneuvered to secure political control of the Egyptian Government (Wikipedia). The twin was given to the British and resides London.

Although this is a genuine ancient Egyptian obelisk, it has no connection to Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. It was already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. The obelisk, which originally stood in the ancient city of Alexandria were made during the reign of Thutmose III in the 18th Dynasty (Wikipedia). Since their arrival in New York City, there has been a lot of wear and tear on this statue and the elements have worn down a lot of the carving. Still this is something that you should not miss when visiting the neighborhood.

After I turned the corner onto East 72nd Street, I walked the length of the street until I hit FDR Drive and took a walk around the busy through-way. Walking along FDR Drive is always interesting because there is no clear path down the road. As I have said in previous walks, it is not the most scenic route and cars just love to honk at you.

As you make the turn around to head north, I discovered John Jay Park, located between East 76th  and East 78th Streets. This park is very nicely situated by the East River and offers great views of the ever changing Queens waterfront. I swear, they must be knocking everything down on that side of the river to build new apartment buildings. They must have great views of the skyline.

John Jay was a prominent statesman and was elected the President of the First Continental Congress in 1778. He served as Minister to Spain, drafted New York’s first constitution in 1777, served as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1789-1795) and lastly served two consecutive terms as the Governor of New York (1795-1801). Imagine in today’s turmoil in the government trying to do all that. A very impressive man with a very impressive park named after him (NYC Parks History).

Another unique feature to the park is the sculptures installed on the west side of the park in 1979 by artist Douglas Abdell. These are made of welded steel, painted black and are meant to frame space and define irregular areas. He has been quoted as saying, “that each sculpture as a building block of something potentially more complex as the alphabet is the basis of the written language” and calls the works “The Aebyad Series” (NYC Parks History). This two structures are located just south of the entrance of the park and are very geometric looking, done in twisted black steel. They are in the pathway between East 75th and 76th Streets. Take time to really look at them. The work is unique.

Outside the views of the park and the art work, they also house much needed public bathrooms so plan your trip accordingly as there are no public bathrooms until you hit Carl Schurz Park up on East 84th Street.

Across the street from the park is a very unusual apartment building, 516 & 517 Cherokee Place, with the most beautiful wrought iron features along all the windows. It looks like something built for New Orleans. The green color of the metal accents the building perfectly and meshes well with the greens of the park. This historic building lines the park and when you look in has a courtyard. It really does add something to the park and P.S. 158 next door. That extra character that makes the neighborhood.

I did the whole walk around John Jay Park along Cherokee Place and watched as some city workers were cleaning and sweeping the outside of the park. God, did they give me a funny look when I watched them. They actually looked guilty (they could have done a better job of cleaning up the leaves and garbage).

I took an unusual path as I walked up the elevated extension of FDR Drive, which offers great views of the river along the waterfront to Carl Schurz Park and then I doubled back and walked up and down East End Avenue, which only goes from East 79th Street to East 90th Street. I swear that most of East End Avenue is being knocked down for newer big apartment buildings. This is what I mean by the character of the neighborhood changing. The whole block felt like it was under scaffolding. I walked up and down both sides of the block to see the work being done.

I doubled back and walked up and down York Avenue as well. It is also under the same transition but only on the Avenue sides.  There are some nice businesses and restaurants along York Avenue you can stop at along the way. I stopped back at Carl Schurz Park at East 84th Street for a breather and to just look at the view. It really has the most spectacular view of Randalls-Ward Island and Roosevelt Island and the East River and on a sunny warm day, it is a nice place for break.

I could hear all the noise and commotion from the kids at P.S. 158 at 78th and York Avenue, who were either playing outside in the cool weather or singing in one of the classes. I swear not much has changed since I went to elementary school. The school is a beautiful old building that was built in the late 1800’s and just went through a full renovation to bring it back to its elegant beauty. This was built at a time when education was truly valued. I could not believe all the parents waiting outside talking amongst themselves in the cold.

I continued walking east across East 84th Street, the border of Yorkville with the Upper East Side and took a lunch break at 83 Asian at 1605 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com) and a much needed sit. The food is excellent here and over two trips to it made the cut for my own blog site.

For lunch, I ordered a Beef with String Beans that was freshly cooked in front of me and came out on a timely basis steaming hot. The beef was so tender and was cooked in a combination of what seemed like soy and Hunan sauce with perfectly cooked string beans. The portion size for lunch was large and was my lunch and dinner. Their eggrolls are really good as well full of pork and vegetables. The service is really good as well as the cooks are friendly and very welcoming. Lunch cost only $10.10!

I walked the rest of East 84th Street until I hit Central Park again and then walked down the opposite side of Fifth Avenue near the museum and started in the other direction. On the north side of East 72nd Street, there is a graceful and elegant building that was once the Henry T. Sloane Mansion that is located at 9 East 72nd Street.

The confectionery of a building was designed Carrere & Hastings in the late French Renaissance style in 1894 and built for Henry T. Sloane, the son of the founders of the carpet firm W & J Sloane. It housed a private school until recently and is now once again a private home. Look up at all the beautiful detail work in the stone and the accents along the roof of the house. The masonry is superb and the house has been been so nicely restored.

Having walked both sides of FDR Drive (to what you can), East End Avenue and York Avenue, I re-walked York Avenue again to look at the Henderson Place homes by Carl Schurz Park and East 86th Street one more time. These homes are such a special and unique part of the neighborhood and if the builders had known how expensive they would become 100 years later would have probably built more of them.

Having walked both sides of Fifth Avenue and all of East 84th I took a pit stop at Glaser’s Bakery at 1670 1st Avenue (see my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for some dessert. I swear that I think I am walking the Upper East Side first just so that I can go there before I take the subway back downtown. I love this place!

The ladies recommended a sugar cake doughnut ($1.25) and the apple turnover ($2.50) and since I could not decide between the two, I bought both and God, were they good. The apple turnover alone had the sweetest and tartest apples and a thick layer of icing that made the twelve block by nine block walk well worth it. I figured I could just walk them off again. I highly recommend the cake doughnuts as well.

I was finished doing the perimeter of the neighborhood just as it was getting dark so I will be doing all the Avenues and Streets for another day. There is a lot more to see and do on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Things to see:

Cleopatra’s Needle

Located behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art @ East 81st Street

John Jay Park

Between East 76th and 78th Street off Cherokee Place

Carl Schurz Park

Between East 84th Street and East 90th Street off East End Avenue

Henry T. Sloane House

9 East 72nd Street

Henderson Place

East End Avenue between East 86th and East 88th Streets across from Carl Schurz Park

The Abdell Statues

Between East 75th and 76th Streets in John Jay Park

Restaurants:

Glaser’s Bakery

1670 1st Avenue

New York, NY  10128

(212) 289-2562

http://www.glasersbakeshop.com

83 Asian Chinese Cuisine

1605 2nd Avenue

New York, NY  10028

Phone: (212) 288-0622 & 0633

Fax: (212) 288-0699

 

 

 

Day One Hundred: This is Christmas Part Two December 10th, 2017-January 1st, 2018

It is never easy when there is a death in the family and is harder when it happens during the Christmas holiday season. This blog is dedicated to my uncle, Donald Snyder (1929-2017), who passed away December 4th, 2017. I had just come back from my Sinterklaas weekend in Upstate New York when we got the news as I was getting out of class on Monday night. So the next week after Sinterklaas weekend was spent preparing for the funeral.

My brother had flown in for the service so it was nice to have some support and I could see that my aunt and cousins appreciated it. At least we could be there to support our family in their time of need.

My aunt had planned a small and tasteful service for my uncle and it was the first time I had met many of my cousins cousins from my uncle’s side of the family. They pretty much talked amongst themselves and were not at the funeral services the next morning.  It was going to be a snowy day the next morning and the commutes would have been tough for everyone.

My aunt kept everything simple and tasteful and it was a short service with a smaller internment service at the mausoleum. It was only the immediate family and friends of my cousins who came to the service and by the repast dinner, everyone was exhausted and it was a small crowd of close family (our side) and friends of my cousins. We had a toast to my uncle and then talked amongst ourselves.

After that weekend, the holidays started to speed up again. It is always tough after a big loss to a family but I found ways to support my aunt and my cousins during the holidays as we planned a Christmas dinner right before Christmas Day.

I took my younger brother to the fire department Christmas Party and that was a cultural awaking for him. He had never been in a firehouse before and really did not understand the culture. He was a little shocked to see adults fighting in front of small children and some of the horse play that the guys do on one another. Even though he had a good time and enjoyed the food, it was a different experience for him.

The holiday month continued on with Christmas tree sales every weekend (we sold out by December 18th this year with a record of 315 trees). We had the Christmas Party for the Men’s Association at the Christmas tree site, which is always interesting. We spend most of the time huddling around a barrel fire to keep warm.

This is when the guys culinary skills kick in and we see some interesting dishes. I always leave it easy. I made chicken cutlets, baked ziti and double fudge brownies ( I am not going to say how many baked zitis, lasagnas and batches of stuffed shells on top of gallons of marinara sauce and pounds of cookies and brownies that I made this holiday season but it was a lot). This party was the first in five meals that I cooked at the holidays trying to keep with the same theme so I did not have to do double time in the kitchen. Plus everyone seems to like Italian cooking so it makes it easy.

The party was a great success with about thirty members coming and going all night while we caught up with what each other were doing at the holidays and the parties that they were planning and cooking for their families. December is always a tough month to get anything done as everyone is running around. Leaving at 11:00pm as I usually do because of work, I had heard they were still going strong into the morning hours.

I took an about face and at the last minute decided to go to Carnegie Hall for a Christmas Concert starring Megan Hilty, a Disney star, who was terrific. I got last minute tickets in the nose-bleed section of the theater but still could see and hear everything. I was really surprised being on the top tear and to hear it all so perfectly.

It was an excellent concert with many popular songs of the holidays being performed so well. She did a great job with the more contemporary classics such as “Sleigh Ride” and “Santa Claus is coming to town”. Everyone in the audience got so into the show and the last few songs became a sing along and the whole auditorium became alive with song. People really enjoyed themselves and were still laughing and singing as they were leaving the theater.

The last full week before Christmas weekend was non-stop cooking, cleaning and running around. We started the week with the Annual ‘Santa Around Town’ that the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department sponsors every year for the residents of Hasbrouck Heights. We take all the fire trucks and equipment to twelve locations around the town and have Santa meet with all the families. Every year this is a very big deal to a lot of residents and some plan their holiday parties around this event.

Our day started early in the morning when myself, my captain and lieutenant and a junior member met for breakfast and then washed and decorated the truck. This is where a lot of my cooking came into play. I made a sausage, egg and cheese souffle, homemade waffles and fresh cinnamon butter muffins. I had cooked enough for the company and it ended up only four of us showed up. So we had a great breakfast and then we scrubbed down the truck inside and out and put all the Christmas lights on it. The truck always looks festive in the dark.

For the trip around Hasbrouck Heights, I made homemade French Bread pizza with homemade marinara sauce and double fudge brownies, two items that are very popular with hungry firemen. Along the way, residents make all sorts of Christmas cookies and other holiday treats for us along the route so we don’t ‘starve’.

The tough part for us was that the generator blew before the last three stops and we had to bring it back up to the house and extinguish it. That was tough as the engine then had to go out of service for the holidays for repair. At least we got it back up to the firehouse in one piece.

The next night I gave my final exam in class and finished the semester on a high note. All of my students got “A”‘s and I could not have been happier with their final project , the tech start up “Buscomonzefi.com” (see ‘Day Ninety-Eight’) and was impressed with them as a class. It was fun going into work every week and I will miss this class.

What was nice was I took some of my team to Biagio’s Restaurant in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor) near the college for a wrap up party. I was surprised when only four of my sixteen students showed up. One of my students mentioned that no one would show because of exams and I was almost tempted not to show up but I figured I was starved so at least I could get something to eat. It ended up that all of my Sales & Marketing team showed up and we had a really nice time.

I could not believe how this group of students bonded so much together. I really did see a lot of new friendships being formed that night and for that I was really proud of the project. Plus the food and conversation were excellent that evening. If ever a Professor could be more proud of their students.

I did not have much time to dwell on class as I had to cook a Holiday luncheon for my Stroke & Disabled Support Group that meets every Tuesday in Ridgewood, NJ (See my BergenCountyCaregiver.com site on WordPress.com). I don’t know I got suckered into this but it was a lot of work.

In years past, our group normally ordered in for the party and all I would do is dessert. For years, we ordered in Chinese food but last year most people got sick of it so we ordered in pizza. This year one of the women in the group asked about maybe getting a tray of stuffed shells and of salad. When I mentioned how much that might cost and how I could make it for so much less that’s when I was asked to cook.

Thank God I had made a double batch of marinara sauce because it came in handy. I made the most amazing lunch for everyone and used every skill from catering that I learned from Hyatt.

I got up early that morning and started to cook. I did all the last minute touches and fried out the cutlets and cut up the salad. The last thing I did was prepare the garlic bread before I packed the car up. I never had so much food all over the car as I had to bring it from home to City Hall in Ridgewood.

The party was a huge success! I made Chicken Cutlet Parmesan with a side of plain cutlets for those who didn’t want all the cheese, a lasagna, two small trays of stuffed shells, a arugula salad, garlic bread, assorted cookies, brownies and cupcakes. Some of the members brought fruit and other desserts so we had a lot of food left.

The whole building came up to the conference room to the party so it was very festive. People from different departments who help us during the year joined us so there were people in and out the whole afternoon. I really think that’s what the holidays are about.  Everyone had great time and there was not much left over. All I know is that I was exhausted on the drive home. I had to take a nap when I got home.

There was not much time to rest as I drove out to visit Lillian again on Long Island at her Assisted Living Facility for her annual resident concert (see various blogs on my visits). I had gone last year and had a nice time. I swear even at 99, she has the same spirit that she always has had.

She sang and played the triangle as she did last year and all the residents performed a list of Christmas songs to the other residents and their families who attended. It was a nice concert but it seemed have more guests last year. Everyone who attended really enjoyed it.

After the concert was over, I went off and got Chinese food for our Christmas lunch, which I know that Lillian always appreciates. I go to Dragon House (See review on TripAdvisor) for our meals and this one did not disappoint. I ordered LoMein and Chicken and String beans with some eggrolls. I swear that Lillian has a good appetite. She can eat. For dessert, I brought some cookies from Park Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) right next store to the restaurant. To have two such good places to eat right next to one another is great.

After our dinner, we talked for the rest of the evening. Since the weather was going to be nice the next day, I got a hotel room and was able to stay late to talk to Lillian for a few more hours. We just caught up and as we talked more, I noticed how much more came back to her. It was the ‘old’ Lillian who I remember. I think she needed it as well. We laughed so much it was like old times. When I had to leave a little after seven, she had a huge smile on her face. It was a very special Christmas for the two us.

I stayed at a very Hampton Inn on the South Shore in Commack, NY (See review on TripAdvisor) that evening and just collapsed in the room. It had been a long week already and I was tired from all the cooking and cleaning. I just relaxed that evening and read and wrote out Christmas cards.

The next morning I got up and traveled out to Montauk on the very edge of the island.  I wanted to see their famous lighthouse and museum (which was closed at the time). It was a beautiful sunny and warm day for this time of the year.

The South Shore of Long Island is so beautiful and I highly recommend it in the off season. It is just so nice to visit these small towns when they are not overrun with people from the city. The locals are so nice and you really do remember that it is a farming community out there. Outside of the core of East Hampton and the overbuilt areas of South Hampton, the other towns were like visiting a farming community. All the locals were out in their pick up trucks carrying local products. It is so different in the off season but so much nicer. Everyone is so laid back.

I wanted to visit the ‘Big Duck’ (see Review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), a building in the shape of a duck on Route 24 Flanders Road in Flanders, NY. It is very interesting to see a building in the shape of a duck, very similar to ‘Lucy’ the Elephant in Margate, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com). It is a small building in the shape of a duck that was created by the owners back in the 30’s to promote their duck farm. Its cute but the guy that volunteers there must not get too many visitors because he NEVER SHUTS UP! God, I to fray going to the bathroom to getaway from him and got out of there.

I continued my way through the back-roads to the Hampton’s. I now know why it takes so long to get to the Hampton’s. All the roads once you get off the main highway are all local two lane roads. Most of the towns were quiet before the holidays so it was nice just to drive through.

I got out to Montauk to Lighthouse Park (See review on TripAdvisor) by 2:00pm. I took far longer than I thought but it was well worth the trip. It was a bright sunny afternoon and the view on the point was just breathtaking! The way the sun shone over the beach area and the point was spectacular. The only bad part was the lighthouse was closed that afternoon and would not open until the weekend. The giant wreath on the front of the lighthouse made it very festive.

I had lunch in downtown Montauk and most of the places were closed for the afternoon. The town was really quiet. I ended up eating at Pizza Village at 700 Montauk Highway in  (See review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area. The pizza is amazingly good and their sauce is excellent. I highly recommend it when visiting Montauk. It really warmed me up.

Then I headed back to New Jersey. Is that a long trip. Going over the George Washington Bridge at rush hour right before the holidays is a nightmare. It took over two hours to go from the Throgs Neck Bridge to Route 46 in New Jersey. The irony was that as soon as I got closer to home, we had a dumpster fire at the local Walmart. Never a dull moment.

As things revved up for the holidays, I had my family over to the house for an early Christmas dinner. Since I was going to be away and my aunt and cousin had just suffered a very hard loss right before the holidays, I had a holiday meal at the house.

Even at a time of loss, we had such a nice time. I went all out for the meal. I cleaned the whole house again, did more shopping and prep work and decorated the house. We had such a nice time. I had my two aunts and my cousin over for a three course meal. As usual, I started the meal with appetizers followed by a full meal and dessert.

I made sauted shrimp on toasts, pigs in a blanket and assorted gourmet cheeses to start with two bottles of Asti to enjoy with it. For the main meal, I made pork cutlets, a potato puff with lots of cheese and eggs, string beans and my aunt brought some of her homemade apple sauce (I hate to brag but she makes it terrific). For dessert, I brought a seven layer cake from Mills Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) and my aunt brought a strawberry cheesecake. We ate a lot.

It was a nice night of good food and great conversation. It was nice to have the house so full of life during the holidays again. It had been so long since everyone had something to laugh about. I have to admit we did have a nice Easter and celebration of our birthdays at the house, so it felt that my uncle was there with us in spirit. Dinner went into the late evening, so I had to clean up the house and run the dishwasher that night so it was a long night for me.

The next day I was off to spend my Christmas in Cape May, NJ. Most of family had their own plans and I like to spend the holidays by myself to relax and write. It was a gloomy day when I started out that afternoon. I had so much to do before I left like the laundry and the vacuuming, so that the house looked good when I got home. I just didn’t want to have to do much before I got home.

It takes about three hours to Cape May from my house. You are literally are going from one end of the state to another. When I finally reached Cape May I made a big mistake and took a turn over the bridge into the Wildwoods. When I tell you that is a dead community at this time of the year, it is DEAD. There were no lights on in any of the homes or in the hotels and there were very few businesses open as well. It is so weird to see a place that you were just in two and half months ago that was so much alive. Since I could find my way out, I had to take the route I knew off the island and drive back down south to Cape May.

When I arrived at the Congress Hall Hotel (See review on TripAdvisor), it was ablaze with Christmas lights. I have to say that the two days that I stayed at the Congress Hall put me in the Christmas mood. Since my father passed, the holidays have been tough on me and the atmosphere of the hotel was just what I needed. The whole place was decorated for the holidays with garland, trees, bright lights and Christmas cheer. It just made me festive for the holidays.

I got to the hotel late and wanted to celebrate Midnight Mass and unfortunately no church in town did the Midnight Mass. So I went to the Our Lady of the Sea Church for the 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass. It was a beautiful mass.

Not quite the elaborate mass I was used to at the Dutch Reformed Church up in Woodstock, NY for the past three years but still inspirational and enjoyable. Even though it is church, I still believe mass should not be stuffy or boring. I think it should be inspirational, engaging and make you reflect on the past year.

The church was beautifully decorated for the holidays with secular decorations of holy, trees, garland and poinsettias. I have noticed over the past decade that more churches have done this. The poor priest was suffering through a leg injury but still gave a nice sermon. I think he was surprised by so many out of towner’s at the mass.

After the service, I walked around the Washington Street Mall, which is Cape May’s downtown. It looked like every business was trying to outdo one another for the best decorations. All were so elegantly decorated for the holidays with detailed displays, lights and in some cases bows and garland. Inside there were all sorts of Christmas scenes with Santa’s, reindeer and Currier & Ives type displays. Everyone did a nice job and the downtown was very picturesque with the hotel in the backdrop being so nicely decorated on the outside as well.

I had Christmas Eve dinner in the hotel’s pizzeria, the Boiler Room, for pizza (See review on TripAdvisor). The service was excellent and the food was wonderful. I had an prosciutto and arugula pizza and it was perfectly cooked and just what I needed after a long drive. They even had music that night. It was a far cry from the two restaurants that I ate at in Woodstock over the past three Christmas Eve’s, where the food was hit or miss.

I just relaxed on Christmas Eve and walked back outside to look at the downtown and the hotel from a distance. I could not believe how packed the hotel was on a holiday. The place was completely sold out.

Christmas was very mellow this year. With my uncle passing two weeks earlier and everything going on in my life and family, I needed a break from everyone and everything in my life.

I slept in and relaxed Christmas morning, had a nice long breakfast in the very busy Blue Pig restaurant, the hotel’s casual family restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor) and just enjoyed the quiet morning. The restaurant itself was going full force when I got there. Families were all eating together and it looked like a lot  of family reunions were going on in the hotel for the holidays.

The food there is excellent and I highly recommend eating there when in Cape May. I had this dish, the Eggs Blackstone, that was a unique combination of poached eggs on two cheese biscuits with wilted greens and hollandaise sauce, which I normally do not like that just worked. The combination of flavors mixed so well and with the service of Laura, my waiter that morning, who I could tell has been in the business for years, just made the Christmas morning meal perfect.

I sat for most of the morning on a window bench on the second floor of the hotel, over-looking the courtyard of the hotel and the small holiday marketplace the hotel had in the courtyard for the guests. It was nicely set up around the heated pool.

They had a fire-pit for warm up around, small tents with quirky shops to buy local products (although I thought most everything was WAY over-priced) and a small Christmas cafe with traditional winter treats like hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. Even those were pretty but over-priced ($6.00 for four cookies?). It was nice to walk around and Christmas ended up being a bright and sunny day. We had missed the snow storm that hit Northern New Jersey and I later found out really hit Woodstock, NY.

I spent most of my morning doing my writing, call friends and family wishing them a Merry Christmas and talking to other guests who just happened to see me writing and wanted to know what I was up to.  I swear that I am never alone when I travel, people just seem to find me.

The rest of the afternoon I walked around Cape May, looking at the store windows downtown, walking along the shore and looking at the birds on the beach and the waves and looking at all the Victorian homes that were decorated for the holidays. Even though all the hotels surrounding ours including ours were fully booked, the town was quiet. It looked like a lot of people were away.

I had my Christmas dinner at the Ugly Mug (See review on TripAdvisor), a bar/pub that I had eaten at over twenty years ago. The food is still excellent. I had a bacon bbq cheeseburger with fries, not your traditional Christmas dinner but still was wonderful. The place was really busy with other people who looked like they were done with Christmas as well. Even the manager told me that they are always busy at the holidays.

That night I just walked around town and looked at the Christmas tree in the square, which was so elegantly decorated for the holidays. Cape May knows how to decorate for the holidays. I walked around the hotel and looked at the decorations. The hotel was mobbed with people just looking for something to do and a place to sit and chat. People were jockeying for a place near the fireplace and I could see there were some struggles for that.

On the 26th, things got back to normal in town. Most of the stores opened and there were sales on everything. I went to the Mad Batter Restaurant (See review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast, wanting some elbow room from the hotel. The food there is excellent. I had this Croustade with scrambled eggs, sausage, peppers and cheese served on a brioche bun. Again a somewhat overdone combination but it worked and was delicious .This institution has been around for years and I wanted to try it for a long time.

I explored the town for the afternoon. I went on the decorated house tour at the Emlen Physick Estate  (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), who was a prominent doctor in the town and his house showed it. His grandfather has invented a famous medical device and upon getting his medical degree, he inherited his fortune and never practiced medicine again. What he did leave was a beautiful home for touring and every room was decorated for the holidays. The woman who gave the tour was an actor playing his mother and it was the week before Christmas. She did a nice job.

After that, I visited the Cape May Lighthouse (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.Wordpress.com) and climbed the whole thing in about twenty minutes, shocking the guy at the admission office who said that I only had a half hour to spend before they closed. I even surprised myself with how fast I climbed it. I swear, this walking project is keeping me in good health. What a view! You could see all over West Cape May and the whole tip of the peninsula. The beach was so quiet yet majestic with all the waves crashing and the birds and dogs running around. They also have a small museum next to the building on Jersey flora and fauna that you should check out as well.

The last part of the evening was when I visited Sunset Beach in West Cape May (See review on TripAdvisor).  What a magnificent beach this is, located on the very western tip of New Jersey.  Sunset Beach has the most breathtaking sunset of any beach I have ever seen and I have been all over the world. The way the sun sets on the beach and the location of where it falls creates a rainbow of colors anytime of the year. Although it was cool on the beach as it fell, the beach was full of people watching the same natural phenomenon. It was just amazing to see all the colors change as the sun changed positions and more fun to watch the Lewis/Cape May shuttle drive past every half hour. If there is ever a beach that you need to visit, it is Sunset Beach.

That evening was my last night in Cape May and I had to change hotels because the Congress was booked solid for a wedding. I switched to The Chalfonte, one of the oldest hotels and most ‘Southern’ in Cape May. You have to remember that Cape May is below the Mason-Dixon Line and Southern New Jersey is technically the South.

The Chalfonte at 301 Howard Street (see review on TripAdvisor) is located in an older section of Cape May surrounded by Victorian homes. The main hotel was closed for the season (it closes in October) but they keep the ‘Southern Quarters’, a small house next to the hotel, open for the season as it is insulated.

As I wrote in my review on TripAdvisor, it was like staying at your Grandmother’s or Great Aunt’s beach home for the night. A little rough around the edges but comfortable, warm and homey. I find places like this charming but they are not for everyone.

I stopped by the Beach Plum Farm at 140 Stevens Street (see review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast and to tour the farm. Although the breakfast sandwich I ate was good as well as the home fries, everything was cold or lukewarm. They need to warm their plates. The property is so nicely laid out and it was fun to feed the chickens who were excited about the feed. I did one last walk around the downtown to see the tree on the square and had a slice of pizza at JoJo’s Pizza on the Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor).

My last dinner in Cape May was at the Washington Inn Restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor), considered one of the best in Cape May. The food and the service were all top notch. I had the crabcakes for my entree and the Bananas Foster for dessert both I recommend very much. The service was excellent but for some reason I expected older waiters to be working in a place like this. The rooms are elegant and romantic for couples. For me, it was just the thrill of eating in such a well-known restaurant with excellent food and service. At its price tag though, it is a special occasion treat.

I slept like a log that night, being able to faintly hear the crashing of the waves in the distance. They decorated the room with just enough plants and Christmas items to make it look festive.

The next morning as I was dropping off my keys, the owners son, Dillon, took me on a tour inside the family hotel. It was elegant as it was gloomy. I had read that the hotel was haunted but as he said to me he had never seen anything. It is weird to see a hotel closed down for the season. All I could think of was the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’. It just had that eerie, someone had just been there look to it. After I said my goodbyes, I was off to Rehoboth Beach to visit my mother.

On the trip to Rehoboth, I made several stops to towns I had passed through the previous year. I stopped in Millville, NJ first. The downtown has been creating a buzz for itself as an art center especially with the opening of the Cumberland College Arts Annex and the studio area. Artists from Southern New Jersey seem to be pouring into the town as all the buildings are getting renovated and new restaurants are opening. I stopped in a few galleries and looked at menus of what is going to be an ‘arts hub’ of Southern New Jersey.

The next town I stopped in was Bridgeton, whose downtown had seen better days. Most of the stores were either empty or catered to the Hispanic population who worked in the area. Not exactly the arts district they claim to be. There is not much to see here except a lot of Victorian homes in bad shape.

Salem was my last stop before crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge. This is a town that has not been discovered yet. The homes are really gorgeous in the downtown area, all built in the 1700 and 1800’s. Beautiful old Federal and Empire style homes are spread throughout the downtown and the sad part is that they are mostly in bad shape.

I stopped in the Salem Historical Society at 83 Market Street (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.Wordpress.com) . This place is not the usual Historical Society with the musty displays and the dusty artifacts with some woman older than God looking you over. It was an interesting, insightful and beautifully decorated for the holidays building with displays of local interest.

The building is made up of three homes, one of which had a hearth fireplace in the kitchen. That part of the building was decorated for a Colonial Christmas. I loved the spinning wheel with the lights and the tree in the older section of the house. It only takes about an hour to see the whole building but take the time to really look at the displays as they are so well mounted.

I ate at Bravo Pizza and Pasta at 179 West Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area and highly recommend their pizza. The sauce was excellent and the flavor was delicious. What was best was that the owner asked me to wait as he had a new pizza coming out, so It gave me time to walk around the downtown area and look at the old buildings. It was so sad to see many of these old homes in such bad shape. This is a place I am surprised that the artists have not discovered yet. Check out the local cemetery with the large historical Oak Tree that covers the graveyard. It is right around the corner from the restaurant and Historical Society.

I finally got out of Salem, it was the long drive down to mom’s from Salem to Rehoboth Beach. When I called my mother, she was wondering what was taking me so long. When I finally arrived around six, she was asking me what I was doing all this time. I told her discovering my State. I never realized how interesting the State of New Jersey is (no jokes everyone).

My mom and I talked about the trip, the holidays and what we had planned for the next two days. My younger brother was coming up with my nieces to celebrate the post holidays. We really had a nice time. My mom cooked ‘the Dinner’ again and we just sat around and I told her about my Christmas. I now know where I get my love for travel details from as she sees how excited I get when I talk about visiting places.

My brother arrived the next morning and we planned everything. We went took the girls to the boardwalk for the afternoon to walk around and ended up going to Thrasher’s (see review on TripAdvisor) for French Fries. I have never seen four people devour a medium bucket of fries so fast. They were just fried and were oh so good. Even in the winter, I never tire of seeing the shore.

Our first night at my mom’s she cooked so we had a mellow roast pork dinner and just sat around and talked. It was nice for my nieces who never get to see my mom much and for me who see them about the same about of time. They talked about their trip up from Florida and how school is going.

The next day we took the girls on a tour of Rehoboth Beach and the surrounding areas, we went at twilight to Henlopen Park (see review on TripAdvisor) to see the Christmas lights, which was very similar in feel to the JackleLantern display in Croton-on-the- Hudson. It was a huge display of figures, such as Santas, elfs, reindeer and decorated trees  lit up by lights all over the park and we were able to drive and see all the displays one at a time.

Even tough we were going out to dinner that night, my mother insisted we stop at the Big Oyster Brewery at 1007 Kings Highway (see review on TripAdvisor) for lunch when no one was hungry. I had some pulled pork sliders that were very good but like everyone else did not have much of an appetite. We had had a big breakfast earlier in the day.

For dinner my last night in Rehoboth, we went to my mother’s favorite restaurant, Confucius  Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Street (See review on TripAdvisor) by the beach.  We must have had eight different dishes on the table but you know what, the food here is just excellent and the service matches the food. My mother has been coming here since they opened and know the owners well so they are always coming over to say high or sometimes they give us a free appetizer, which I think is good business.

I had to head home the next day but we had a nice time even though it was so short with my nieces. I wish my brother had planned more time. We didn’t get to do too much on this trip since it was so quick. I headed back to New Jersey the next morning, probably seeing my mom again when the weather gets warmer.

My last day before the New Year began, I joined my other brother in the New York City for Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant at 18 East Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor), one of the mainstays for going for Dim Sum in the city. I swear we must have gone through half the menu. The food is really good and I love when the carts go around with all the dishes. I love to try many dishes when I am at the restaurant.

The only problem with New Year’s Eve is that the city shuts down all their roads by 3:00pm and it was also 20F outside that day. Trust me, it is not a day you want to be in New York City unless you want to sit in Times Square for hours on end to watch the ball drop. It was 9F degrees that evening.

The New Year brought in my Swearing In with the fire department. I am the Department Secretary (now on my fifth year) and Engine One Secretary (now on my eleventh year) and just keep rolling along. Our Installation  Dinner was the second week of January and that pretty much ends my holiday season.

It was a lot of running around this holiday season but I also was able to raise a lot of money for charity in between working three jobs, editing my book and all my volunteer work. I never seem to just stop and relax.

Now you all know why I had to put the WalkinManhattan on hold.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Everyone!!

Getting to Cape May, NJ:

Just follow the Garden State Parkway to the very end and there you are in the middle of town.

Hotels featured on the Blog:

Hampton Inn Commack

680 Commack Road

Commack, NY  11725

(631) 462-5700

Hilton.com

Congress Hall Hotel

200 Congress Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(888) 944-1816

http://www.caperesorts.com

The Chalfonte Hotel

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ 08204

(609) 984-8409

http://www.chalfonte.com

Bakeries featured on the Blog:

Mills Bakery

275 Valley Boulevard

Wood-Ridge, NJ  07075

(201) 438-7690

Park Bakery

112NY-25A

Kings Park, NY  11754

(631) 269-3825

http://www.parkbakeshop.com

http://www.mills-bakery.com

Restaurants featured on the Blog:

Biagio’s

299 Paramus Road

Paramus, NJ  07652

(201) 612-0201

biagios.com

Pizza Village

700 Montauk Highway

Montauk, NY

(631) 668-2232

pizzavillagemontauk.com

Dragon House Chinese Restaurant

118 Main Street #A

Kings Park, NY  11750

(631) 544-5438

The Ugly Mug

426 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-3451

uglymug.bar

Washington Inn Restaurant

801 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5697

http://www.washingtoninn.com

Boiler Room Pizzeria/The Blue Pig Tavern

Congress Hall Hotel

200 Congress Place

Cape May, NJ 08204

(609) 884-6507

Beach Plum Farm

140 Stevens Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 602-0128

http://www.beachplumfarm.com

JoJo Pizza

507 Washington Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-0404

http://www.jojopizzanj.com

The Mad Batter

19 Jackson Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609)  884-5970

Bravo Pizza & Pasta

179 Broadway

Salem, NJ  08079

(859) 339-0049

http://www.madbatter.com

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

57 Wilmington Avenue

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(308) 227-3840

http://www.confucius.com

The Big Oyster Brewery

1007 Kings Highway

Lewes, DE  19958

(302) 644-2621

http://www.bigoysterbrewery.com

Golden Unicorn Restaurant

18 East Broadway

New York, NY  10002

(212) 941-0911

http://www.goldenunicornnyc.com

Sites to see:

Emlen Physick House

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404

http://www.capemaymac.com/physick-estate.com

The Big Duck

1012 NY-24

Flanders, NY  11901

(631) 852-3377

http://www.bigduck.org

Sunset Beach Cape May

Cape May Point

Cape May, NJ 08212

(609) 465-1000

Salem County Historical Society

83 Market Street

Salem, NJ  08079

http://www.salemcountyhistoricalsociety.com

Events:

Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale

(From Thanksgiving until the trees sell out)

Hasbrouck Heights ‘Santa Around Town’

(The last Sunday before Christmas)

Please see this video of the Congress Hall Hotel by the hotel. It is a magical place at Christmas.