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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 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: Connection

Christmas VacationSugar Cookies, homemade quilts and everyone snuggled in by the fireplace, including a sleepy cat or two.

(skip to the bottom for recipe)

This is how Christmas should be. And it is. At my house.

My love of all things Christmas did not come from being raised with a sister who was five years older than me, and willing to carefully  unwrap every single gift under the tree. Before Christmas morning. While our parents were at those 1980’s parties that required big hair and a LOT of booze.  I had to fake surprise long before I should have had to. Gifts skirted the tree often in a wide, three or four foot swath of colourful wrapping paper, and my mother made sure that every gift purchased was “expensive-looking-enough’.  I learned early that gifts weren’t the reason for the season. Gifts caused a lot of grief.

What made me fall in love with Christmas was the food and the company. Oh. My. Goodness. The food. I grew up in a teeny-tiny village. We had a grocery store that stocked tangerines, nuts and pre-bagged bulk candy only during the Christmas season, and it was fucking magical.  The smell of a tangerine still makes me wax nostalgic. My aunts would bring platters of sweets and savouries that we ONLY got during the Christmas season. They also brought my cousins. Growing up in a village of 500, your cousins were your playmates and best friends. Food and cousins. Christmas rocked.

Today, my kiddo is grown, and I miss the Christmas wonderful-wonder that children radiate throughout the holidays. I find myself surrounded by adults who bitch about the burden of Christmas, primarily the financial burden. I get it. I feel the pressure too, or rather, I observe it.

I’ve never really been about the show. It doesn’t turn me on. I do love giving gifts that I know people will use and love, but the best gifts were alway the ones that were handmade. Or the visits with friends and family that alway seemed to get put off until the holidays. Christmas is about connection.

When I sit down at my sewing machine, or spend the day in the kitchen preparing for Christmas, I feel connected to the best parts of my family.

CherryGems-bake2Despite a very painful estranged relationship with my late mother, in the kitchen I remember the good parts. I make the same too-much-sage stuffing recipe with white bread, the same gravy, and tacky ambrosia salad. I try to make things that make my kiddo, and my sweety’s kiddo’s feel special.

I tend to bake the same old-fashioned squares that my Grandmother produced, and think of her when I pull out my sewing machine and blow the dust off that settled in from the Christmas before.

Christmas is all about connection for me. When I give a homemade piece of needlework, a quilt or homemade sweet treats, I’m not only giving you the gift, but I’m giving you my time. You were on my mind when I sewed, baked, iced, stitched or preserved it.

Every minute spent into the wee hours getting things ready for the people I admire and love is time spent in connection with my values. This is what Christmas is about. Connection.

If you are reading this and you are my friend, know that I only crave time with you. Latte at a crowded cafe? Yes please! Yoga pants and cheap plonk in your living room while the kids go wild? Yes please! Dual sewing machines going in my Christmas Craft space in the basement? Absolutely!

Connect. That’s what the season is about.

GREAT GRANNY’S CHRISTMAS COCONUT CHERRY BALLS

1/3 cup margarine

1 1/2  cups icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups coconut

1 tbsp milk

maraschino cherries

graham wafer crumbs

Mix margarine, icing sugar, vanilla coconut and milk together. Chill until mixture is firm enough to roll into 2″ balls. Roll balls in wager crumbs. Make an indent in each ball with your thumb, and top each ball with 1/2 cherry.   Seal in airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Christmas Survival Guide for the Lost Woman: Delegate

opinions

My friends have let me down. I’ve let them down too.

At some point women give up their own selves for the selfless, and mostly unrecognized emotional work of maintaining a home (creating the atmosphere, remembering birthdays, preparing for holidays, and bearing the greater responsibility of relationship nurturing).

Don’t be her. Don’t be the woman we all become at one point or another; a frumpy feeling, sad, uninspired woman who feels like the dishrag that society treats her like.

This Christmas I’m challenging you to connect with your pals, and I’m also challenging myself. In order to make more time for me, and to enjoy the preparations for the holidays, I’ve come up with a few strategies.

 

  1. The word of the year this Christmas is; Delegate.

Make lists….and then give them away. I mean, you single-handedly make the magic happen, at least save some time not shopping and not running errands.

shopping list

 

2) Clear out the clutter.

No, not stuff, people. If you need the whole house so you can spread out the holiday decor,  but your lovey insists on being sprawled on the couch watching the boob tube and basically being useless, ask them to leave. Unless they’re helping, they’re hindering. Vamoos!

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3) Bake ahead, and if you don’t like baking, don’t.

This year I’m googling ‘christmas cookies that freeze well’, and I’m going to use it. I’m also stocking the freezer with some frozen cheater meals so that I can enjoy my time off throughout the holidays, without cringing when I’m asked, “Have you thought about dinner”. Also, it’s so I don’t tell them that prison dinner might be worth it since I wouldn’t have to cook or do the damn dishes. My eggnot loaf is currently cooling on the counter so it can be frozen.

eggnog loaf

 

4) Be the one who puts a stop to gift exchanges. Other than a few things under the tree on Christmas morning that my loved ones need, will have sentimental value, or are a true ‘Santa’ surprise gift, gift giving falls a long-distance second to just spending time together.

get together

 

5) Make some gal-destinations a priority. Whether it’s a spa date for candy-cane mani’s, or a local church craft sale…make an excuse to get out, wander through all of the delights of the season, and make it a date with someone you’ve been meaning to get together with but haven’t.

one of a kind

 

 

Whatever you do this Christmas season,  make sure you make time to slow down and take in some of what brings you joy.

 

 

 

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Santa & The Single Mom: Christmas Stress

unclelewis

Last night, while making a right hand turn at a busy intersection (during rush hour no less), I was so anxious having a little cry and panicking about paying the bills that I drove into a snow bank, went into auto-pilot and put the car in neutral, and then stepped on the gas (while still in neutral), and basically scared myself back to sanity. I did not shit my pants and I consider that a victory.

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.

Any single parent knows how difficult it is to keep the ship afloat at home.  You finally get a little savings packed away, and voila, an emergency and then POOF, it’s gone. It feels like a really blue collar Harry Potter life without the magic of cool creatures.

No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on…

I love Christmas, and I love celebrating it. The reality is a single parent home is a vortex of anxiety and stress during the holidays. The best you can do is try to breathe deeply, and most importantly, remember that you always get through it. Always.

Now, getting through it this year has been a bit easier as we’ve had some exciting and positive distraction in our home thanks to my fabulously awesome kiddo.  I’ve also had a lot of practice throughout the years, so keeping that in mind helps to relax me a bit. If you have little ones at home, trust me; it gets easier. Not that the pressure eases, no, it actually gets worse. You become more graceful about it as the years pass if you try.

…and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.

The truth is I get through the holidays with a few vices. Tipples in my morning coffee when I don’t have to go to work or be out on the roads. Knowing I can play my ukulele for distraction despite how badly I suck at it. Baking, stitching, and staying under my cozy blankets on my days off for as long as possible to meditate by counting my blessings. Oh, a fabulous drug plan, and a  good therapist go a long, long, way to always having a ho-ho-hold the stress holiday.

Mostly though, it’s counting my blessings and appreciating all of the fabulously weird, wonderful and kind people that I am proud to call friends.

And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

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New Year’s Resolutions for People Who Have Their Priorities Straight

winter-tableTime changes people. I’d like to think that it’s mellowed me and smoothed down some of the rough edges. Not all of them though, the coolest women I know have some pretty groovy edges.

Today I was snuggled in under my fluffy, white duvet, snuggled in between cozy flannel sheets coaxing myself to get up and press the button on the coffee maker when I got that little tapping glass signal that a text message had arrived.

It was from my best friend; The woman I met the first day of high school as we hunted for our new lockers and found ours side by side. We’ve been through a lot together, mostly in spirit and via telephone as we live at a distance from one another.  She never fails to make me smile, or let me know she cares, and I hope I do the same for her. When was I going to see her during the Christmas holidays…hmmm….good question. You see, I’m a mortician, and death is far too graceful to care about holiday time.

At this time of year, I am more aware than ever that I don’t see my friends as often as I would like; Vicki (my mumster) and her crazy sidekick Jim, Cindy and Jacques (my fabulously stylish friends), Virginia (the magic woman who is connected to the universe), Virginia (the crazy pet lady), Darleen (a woman who knows how to conjure the teenage girl in me), Carlo (a woman trapped in a man’s body with more empathy in his babyfingernail than most people have in six lifetimes), my cousin Mark ( one of the only people I share DNA with that I’m not ashamed to call family), my Auntie Penny ( a woman I admire for her zest for life and ability to mix a grand cocktail…. 

Instead of writing about not seeing the people who matter in my life, I think it might be the time to whip up some resolutions for the new year…

  1. Set up social time with all of the above listed people who matter in my life.

  2. Finish my second novel.

  3. Publish my first novel.

  4. Work toward my goal of getting out of this crazy cycle of socially accepted bullshit in order to live in the country in a house with a huge harvest table so all of my friends can gather on a regular basis for intelligent conversation, support and life affirming connection.

  5. Practice my ukulele more.

  6. Write more poetry.

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Ho-Ho-Hold the Holiday Anxiety

plum pudding.jpgLooking at my schedule for the next two weeks makes me anxious. I don’t know how I’ll have enough time to do all that I need to do or the resources to do it.

Yes, I preach about spending time not money, but by this time of the season, I’m feeling stretched to the point of breaking with both. On top of that, I have real life things to deal with too, like work,parenting, a relationship and trying to make ends meet that I know simply won’t.

So, if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all (like I am). Do yourself a favour and reinforce your boundaries. Insist on the quiet time you need. Insist on reminding yourself that what you are doing for everyone else around you is enough.

Pick up the phone and listen to a friend tell you about their day, smile at someone, and take five minutes to sit down with a cup of tea, and remember why you do all that you do in the first place.

Yes, I said that. Sit your tired ass down, right in the middle of your work day, your preparations for dinner or at the mall and take a break. You are good enough, and the rest of your world will wait.