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Christmas in New York: Part 2

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In Christmas Part 1, I gave you a brief summary of our itinerary and slagged the possibility of contracting something awful from the subway.

In this instalment of the wonderful Christmasy world of New York,  I’m going to talk about my experience at Rolf’s restaurant and Paddy Maquire’s Ale House.

First of all, let’s talk about Rolf’s. it’s as over-the-top as you imagine. I mean, take a look at this;

 

This was my first and last Christmas trip to Rolf’s. It was one of those destinations that leave you feeling glad you did it once, but a little deflated at the same time.  The mass of decorations in photos like I’m sharing with you here give the impression that the restaurant is big enough to accommodate crowds. It is not.  It’s a tiny little space like all of the other tiny little spaces in NYC.

When I made my reservation ( in September ), I was told that each person dining MUST order an entree, and that seatings were only for one hour. Considering each meal is big enough to serve at least two people, you can’t complain about the cost. Ridiculously large, isn’t really my style. If you go and don’t order the potato pancakes, what’s really the point? And the black forest cake. If you’re gonna do it, so it right, right?

No wine list offered, but $18.00 for a 5oz glass of house plonk, really is gouging. The heat generated from all of the guests crammed uncomfortably close under a zillion lights made the hour-long giant meal uncomfortable at best.

If you want to see Rolf’s, save yourself a load of cash, and line up first thing in the morning to get into the bar area for a drink. They seat you so tightly, that standing shoulder to shoulder while sipping an overpriced Christmas cocktail seems to be the best

choice to observe this NYC Christmas landmark.

Just down the street is Paddy Maguire’s Ale House.  I happened upon this gem while waiting for my table at Rolf’s.

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I have to admit that I’m a pub girl. Irish blood runs in these veins, and there’s nothing like a good pour at an Irish pub to warm  you up from the inside out. Plus, there are always friendly regulars.

Drinks were reasonable, service was excellent, and the decorations were both bountiful and welcoming.

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If you ever find yourself lucky enough to be in the city during the holidays, Rolf’s and Paddy Maguire’s are both a must see.  Although I appreciate the effort, and commitment to wowing the Christmas crowd’s at Rolf’s, it definitely costs. It’s a one-time-visit versus a multi-visit-I-wish-I-lived-close-enought-to-be-a-regular at Paddy Maquire’s.

The rest of the NYC Christmas Extravaganza can be found here.

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Christmas in New York: Part 1

Trish Taking Pic of Tree

That’s a picture of me taking a picture of ‘THE TREE’.  Photo credit to my friend Bobby who made his way from Queens for a visit in Bryant Park, and then hung in for a walking tour which pitched us down the heralding-angeled-chute of Rockafeller Centre toward the big tree.

My sweetie referred to the crowd gathered as a cult, and almost went into full drowning-panic mode trying to get the hell out of our North American Christmas mecca.

As I write this, I’m watching, “Extreme Christmas Trees”. My gifts are already wrapped, and I’m feeling full-on-merry.  I think that visiting New York City last week has a lot to do with it.

Our first stop was at Bryant Park to meet up with friends. It was also adjacent to the New York City Library where our evening tour of the famous store windows would start.   I ‘do‘ Christmas every year. Always have, always will.

The Macy’s windows this year brought tears to my eyes. On one side of the building, they told the story of Virginia O’Hanlon. I’m named after Virginia O’Hanlonwho wrote the famed response from the editor of the New York Sun that, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”.  Be prepared for a story if you ask me why then, is my name not Virginia…it’s a long story that involves genetics predisposed to alcoholism and shenanigans.

The Sak’s light display was breathtaking, and the Bergdorf Windows were over-the-top.  We visited the plaza hotel, had a carriage ride through Central Park,and made it (unwittingly) in to the middle of the memorial of the 39th anniversary of John Lennon’s death in the Strawberry Fields at Central Park, across from the Dakota hotel. I tried to spot Yoko, but it ‘was dark,and everyone was bundled up.

We ate at Rolf’s, walked our asses off and got the requisite photos at Radio City Music Hall and in front of the giant, red balls in the Chase fountain.  We shopped on Canal street. It really is the giant, dirty heart of the consumer beast that has ruined our civilization…I managed to score a few bargains, and question my own ethics as a consumer.  I bought a knock-off, got my aura photographed and read (dead on by the way, and totally worth the thirty bucks. Magic Jewelry is truly a ‘hidden’ gem and a bastion of tranquility within the hustle and bustle of NYC).

Mulberry Street in Little Italy is a pocket of lights and merriment. Street vendors offer mouth-watering roasted nuts, fresh nougat, and cannoli. And by the time you make to all of these places, your immune system will be either fortified or completely destroyed by the subway system, and your feet will be wrecked.

But it’s all worth it.  At least once.

Let me tell you about Rolf’s.

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Christmas is: Sharing

I have a few closely guarded secret recipes that are standards at our house. The, “It wouldn’t be Christmas without these mom”, kind-of-recipes.

Cookies are my thing, and I make a lot of them at Christmas time. I love the way that fancy sugar cookies look added to a tray of down-home-country-girl sweets. The little maraschino cherry balls that my granny used to make melt in our mouths, but by far our favourite cookie recipe is this;

WHIPPED SHORTBREAD WITH TOBLERONE

1 lb butter at room temperature

1 cup icing sugar

1/2 cup corn starch

3 cups flour

1 tsp vanilla

Large Toblerone bar.

Cream butter on high until light and fluffy. If using a stand mixer, use the whipping attachment for this. 

While butter is being whipped, divide Toblerone into triangles and then divide those triangles into thirds. 

Combine all other ingredients and slowly add to whipped butter, using regular attachment. Be patient when mixing as this dough gets quite crumbly before coming together into a smooth dough. 

Place 1″ spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press a piece of divided Toblerone into each mound of cookie dough, and top with same amount of dough. Feel free to be generous with the chocolate…just sayin’

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. Do no overcook. Let cookies cool on tray before moving them to a cooling rack as they are very delicate and crumble before they cool. 

 

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Christmas Is: Sweet

I bake too much at Christmas, and then I eat too much sugar, and then I look as jolly as I feel. By the time Valentine’s Day rolls around feeling sexy is very tied to how much bubbly I need to drink to feel lithe underneath my post-Christmas layer of fluff.

But I digress. It’s the holidays, and what better way to kick it off than to dig into the retro recipes that we all remember our favourite aunt decking her sweet trays with?

At my house, the tackiest of tacky goodies were always the butterscotch marshmallow squares. Heaven forbid you pack these little gems in a container with anything else, or everything in there would smell the same.

I always used to think that if you ate these, you’d eat anything, but as I’ve gotten older, I realize that the sense of taste can be pleasantly nostalgic.

Exactly one month out from the big day, I present to you my family recipe.

BUTTERSCOTCH MARSHMALLOW SQUARES

1/4 cup butter

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup peanut butter

1 bag coloured marshmallows

Grease a 9 x13″ baking dish and set aside.

Melt butter, and butterscotch chips in a pan over medium heat. Remove once thoroughly combined and remove from heat. Immediately add peanut butter. Mix until well blended and cooled slightly. Add coloured marshmallows and mix until butterscotch and peanut butter mixture coats the marshmallows.

Scrape mixture into greased baking dish and pat down to fill the pan. I often used a buttered spatul to press the squares down before placing them in the refrigerator to cool. Once cooled, cut into squares and place in an airtight container. DO NOT place with other baked good. These little tacky tidbits freeze well.

If retro recipes are up your jingle-belled alley, try my great-granny’s recipe for Coconut Cherry Balls.

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Christmas is: Grinches Saving Christmas

theatre assSit down and shut up.

Yes. Please. And shove your phone somewhere I can’t see it.

During the holidays, a lot of people make a special effort to connect with loved ones…in public.  Holiday dinners, shows, concerts and events keep us all hopping, and happy. Trust me, you are not more important than anyone else in your row, room or venue.

Lately, I’ve met a lot of people who think that they are extraordinary, and they have no regard for anyone around them. Sit down and shut up.

Recently at a Christmas performance, the line-up to sit down after the lights went up was so long and so noisy, I really had to wonder about the entire process of going to the theatre at all. People do not know how to interact any more. Civilization is on the brink of disaster because everyone is the centre of their own universe.

The whole world has turned inward. No one has any idea of the shrapnel that their ill behaviour shoots into innocent bystanders. This is not what the season is about. The season is about connection and joy. There’s nothing that destroys a sense of connection and joy like someone oblivious to the fact that they share space with other people.

Look around you Ellen. We’re at the threshold of hell!

Christmas Vacation

I immediately fall in love with the first person to lose their mind. That is, if you lean in and ask the idiot to please be quiet, turn their phone off, or simply please sit on your ass instead of leaning over your friend to have a conversation, you are immediately my hero. We share a common good-manners-grinchness that makes me feel cozy and warm on the inside just like a warm cup of cocoa spiked with peppermint vodka.

Remember the good old days when people had enough self control that they didn’t have to slurp a beverage, or light up the room videotaping an entire performance so that every single person behind them suffered through their arrogance? I remember, and I miss it.

I understand why people snap. And I admire a thorough snapping. It makes my jingle-bits tingle.

Living in the GTA, the excuse is always; traffic was terrible! Or, my personal favourite – the subway was delayed. Traffic is always terrible, and there’s always a transit delay. Get over yourself and get there. And when you do, shut your phone off, and shut up.

And what happened then…?
Well… in the6ix they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day! 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Go out. Enjoy your friends. By all means, if you’re going out for coffee or dinner, or wandering one of our cute little Christmas markets have a visit, giggle, laugh, take selfies. If you’re at an event where you’ve paid for a seat, and they ask you to turn off your phone, please, sit down,shut up and for the love of all that sparkles this time of year, try to be in the moment.

Should that not be the case, my wish is for everyone to be a little Grinchy and take away the offender’s joy for the sake of the greater good. Ask loudly for silence ( ironic, I know), throw a phone through the end of the aisle curtain, ask an usher to remove someone. Public humiliation is a great deterrent.

Get Grinchy my friends, and take back the season.

 

 

 

 

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Christmas is: For Boundaries

stressfreechristmas

Last year,  a decree went out that there would be only one gathering around a traditional Christmas table.  She who does all the planning, shopping and personalizing,  shall be making one Christmas meal whenever the hell she liked, and you could show up (on time) or not at all.  And it brought her great relief and joy.  A very durable boundary wall went up to protect her, and the world was good.

Last year, after seven, yes, count’em, seven rescheduling attempts at a  family get together, it finally happened, with the people whom I arranged a second dinner for, arriving over two hours late.

My jolly goodwill and ho-ho-home form the holidays ended. I leaned on my wee bottle of Jameson to get me through the evening, and then I did some reflecting.

I decided, after much hurt, anger and frustration, that the only thing to do was surrender. I surrendered to the values I hold dear.  This was met with love and support from people who love me.  Everyone else continues to have that glazed, “I don’t compute”, look on their face.

You can’t change people. Although it’s a saying we frequently use, really accepting that means you hold fast to your boundaries like a life raft, especially around toxic people.

I came from a kooky family but we did Christmas right. We put aside our differences, and showed up, on time, respecting the effort we had all made to have a special day together.   Homemade gifts showcased every person’s creativity, and the food, my goodness, the food!

Since those days when we gathered on Christmas Eve to see one another, make our way to church, and finish off our meal and gift giving in the wee hours of the morning, so much has changed. I’ve experienced great loss during the holidays more than once. I’ve struggled to put food on the table and gifts under the tree. I’ve had Christmases when the pain of loneliness was almost unbearable. In other words, I’ve worked damn hard for my happy, and I’m not letting anyone take it from me.

I want no part of disrespectful, entitled people under any circumstances, but especially during one of the most joyful, loving, happy times of the year.

I have stopped being the only one who engineers parties, family gatherings and sacred times to connect. Planning, shopping, cooking, and decorating take a lot of time. I love doing it when I know it means something to my family and friends, and I resent doing it when someone shits all over the plans. I stopped buying gifts I didn’t want to buy and came back to my homemade roots. I stopped hosting parties for people who may or may not show up. And you know what? The world didn’t come to an end. In fact, it feels damn good. Boozy-eggnog-in-my-cocoa-good.

My exhaustion levels have gone WAY down, and my Hallmark Christmas movie watching time has gone up. I have come back to the sweet meditation of making; sewing, baking, stitching. And the people I thought it was so important to connect with have faded into distant social media clicks. Live and learn.

Boundaries are the best gift you can give yourself for Christmas. They give you the time and space you need to heal, and root yourself in traditions, new and old, that bring you joy.

 

 

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Modern Christmas: For Empaths & Introverts

What happened to our society? Especially at Christmas time?

Who else remembers a time when November and December were full of social engagements and excuses to dress up? There once was a time that I looked forward to the annual company party, where everyone was expected to dress up, socialize, and participate in some good clean fun…until most everyone drank too much and had to be chauffeured home.

And what the hell is with not playing that wonderful song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”? Give. Me. A. Break.

Maybe it’s the new cultural trend of insta-worthy-over-sized sweaters and hands wrapped around steaming mugs of cocoa. Hell, it’s a lot easier to pull off than heels, strapless dresses, and a clearly defined ‘date’. I totally get that everyone has either become an empath or an introvert; a modern way of saying; I’m sensitive, so don’t hold me to your cultural standard of politeness and respectful interaction….the penultimate of victim culture.

Just a tip – half of the fun was watching everyone interact. It was fun to play with our persona’s of  sequined flirts with no other intention than to share a few laughs; to entertain and to be entertained by virtue of our very own selves.

I miss what I so fondly refer to as Gatsby-Socializing. When you were expected to flirt with everyone, the art of telling a joke was appreciated, and keeping up with current events wasn’t quite enough. People actually had discussions intelligent enough to persuade, entertain and engage.

There was no distraction appropriate at the table. I mean really, cell phones at the table are akin to someone in the 80’s taking out a handwritten letter, smoothing it out on their lap, lowering their reading specs, and totally disengaging with the people in front of them. Talk about a slap in the face of civilized behavior.

For a while I thought that the slow fade of high-end socializing was directly related to my age. I was wrong. It’s the result of fear. Everyone’s afraid that they’re going to be fingered for being inappropriate, being blamed for the irresponsible behavior of another adult, and painted with the pariah brush of our I’m-not-responsible-for-my-own-behavior culture.

So get out your cocktail dresses and brush off your dyed satin shoes. Break out your costume jewelry, shake up a mean cocktail. Invite a wild mix of personalities over and watch the magic of real-live human interaction unfold all in the name of Christmas cheer. I’m dying for some superficial and super-fun festivities.