Tag Archives: Westchester

Sooo out of my element…

12 Oct

Every time I hear a Southern accent I cringe slightly. And every time I hear a northern one my ears perk up as I try to locate the source. That’s been my week, in a nutshell.

I know it will get easier. I know it will get better. Transition is hard on everyone, and certainly aggravated with a two year old in tow, who is also feeling a bit displaced and confused. We spent every morning this week with him shrieking, “No like school!! No want to go!! No, mommmmmmmy!!” It was heartbreaking. This is a kid who’s always loved going to daycare. He loved his teachers, he loved his friends. He would race me inside the school every morning, and then practically push me out the door because he was a “big boy” who didn’t need his mama. Talk about disruption to our lives… this isn’t easy on ANY of us.

I spent a lot of this week thinking about the things I took for granted living in New York. Things like:

  • General sophistication that comes with a New York state of mind. Not that people here aren’t “sophisticated” in their own right. It’s just… different. Any New Yorker will know exactly what I mean. Are we elitist? Yup. No question. Are we apologetic for it? Nope.
  • Access to things that other people just don’t have. Like being able to sit in on a taping of “Watch What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen. Or sitting next to Richard Gere in a local restaurant. Or being in the audience for a VH1 Storytellers concert. Or getting to see the inner workings of Dan Barber’s kitchen at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I know that sounds very “celebutante” of me, but it’s true! Those experiences are SO New York.
  • The narrow, uneven back roads. The Saw Mill Parkway. The Merritt. Seriously, the roads down here are in perfect condition, they are super wide, and it’s a breeze driving anywhere. You could probably do it with your eyes closed. But isn’t there something sort of charming about winding up the Saw Mill? I never thought about it until I wasn’t doing it anymore. And yep, I miss those twists and turns and dangerously narrow lanes.
  • Relatively easy access into creative communities. I clearly need to find my way, and figure out where the creatives hang out and work and play, but for now I’m just a little bit missing my smarty pants peeps who inspire me, make me laugh and teach me new stuff.

Hmmph. Today the North Carolina State Fair opened. This is apparently the biggest deal in the world to North Carolinians. We are thinking about hitting it up this weekend, so be on the lookout for a post about fried soda, pig races and pie contests. In the meantime, go out and enjoy New York… grit, grime, bad attitudes and all. And take me with you in spirit…

Week one in the RTP: a recap

5 Oct

Getting our pizza fix.

So we’ve survived our first week down south. Here’s a recap of what’s gone down in Raleigh-town:

  • I’m realizing how jaded, bitter, and unfriendly service people in New York are. And how there is no accountability for this behavior. Down south, service people are friendly, approachable, and genuinely interested when they say “gooooood mornin’ ma’am! How’s your day goin’ so far?” I mean seriously, ya’ll. Who knew a cup of coffee could come with such cheer??
  • Cleanliness is clearly next to godliness. Literally. Down here they are super-tuned in to both. The churches here are about the size of The Westchester. I’ve never seen anything quite like it – and streets and sidewalks are SPOTLESS. Like, eat off them spotless. People here just seem to care more about their environs. Word up to that.
  • It’s a kid’s world. This area is MADE for kids. Everywhere I turn I see a playground or park. And each one is bigger and more amazing than the last. Last night we hit up a park in Durham that hosts a “First Thursday” night, with awesome, local, totally hipster food trucks serving up everything from pizza to “peace pops” to locally crafted ice cream. Hundreds of kids were just running around, jumping, playing, doing wheelbarrow races, and generally just having an awesome, old-fashioned “kid” time while moms and dads hung out, chatted, and chowed. It was like Park Slope. In the south.
  • Bugs are bigger here. And just like in New York, they like me. A lot. I’m already covered in red, splotchy bites which I can’t help but scratch at constantly. Not cute. I’mma have to find a serious bug spray, hopefully one that won’t kill me with chemicals. Like the things on this list. 
  • People of Raleigh eat well. Really well. We aren’t exactly “set up” in this corporate apartment to be able to do a whole lot of cooking (the kitchen is great and modern, but their version of “furnished” includes one small pot and a pan big enough to cook one measly little piece of chicken in). So we’ve been eating out and ordering in. And let’s just say, we haven’t had a bad meal yet. Not even a mediocre one. From chinese food to Mexican to locavore fresh, I’m seriously impressed. And considering how important food is to my happiness and stability, the hubby is very, very thankful as well.
  • The sheer options in terms of grocery stores. No longer am I relegated to A&P as the only option in town. (Unless I counted overpriced Mrs. Greens, which I didn’t, because it was wildly overpriced.) Here I’ve got Trader Joes, Fresh Market, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter all within a mile or so of one another. Each one I visit is better than the last. They’re big, they’re super-stocked, they’re CHEAPER than back home, and did I mention the people that work there are FRIENDLY?? How novel!
  • Parents aren’t as concerned with outward appearances. Kids act like kids. No one here seems to bat an eye at a public tantrum, whereas back home I felt like all eyes were on me, judging, if Jack so much as made a peep in a coffee shop or cafe. This could be a game changer.
  • The weather is ridiculous. It’s October and it’s like 78-85 degrees and sunny. I sooo did not expect it to be this warm still, and didn’t pack appropriately at all for my month of “interim” living. I totally look like a Northern outcast, in my jeans and sweaters, while everyone else around me is in flip flops and shorts.

Anyone have any more NY-vs-the-world differences to share?

Goodbye, Westchester.

21 Sep

I’m out of here.

And I’ve struggled with how to share this news with my readers. I guess also because truthfully, I’ve been struggling with the news myself.

Westchester Life is moving… to Raleigh.

As some of you know, I’ve grappled with the “should we stay or should we go” conundrum for years. New York has a way of sinking its gritty teeth into you, and making you its bitch. But we got a get out of jail free card: a job offer for my hubby in Raleigh, North Carolina.

When the offer came, it was that moment in the game of chicken where you are forced to actually make a move because the other party is charging at you, full force. Sure, we had talked about leaving New York. I’ve shared with you my love/hate feelings before. But never was it a real, tangible option… at least not one with a real, tangible job offer attached to it. This time was different.

So we flew down, we did some recon, we ate some food, we talked to some people. We drove through neighborhoods, we checked out some pre-schools. And the verdict? A unanimous “It’s just easier in Raleigh.”

So I’m leaving, on a jet plane… I don’t know when I’ll be back again.

And I’m ok with it. I’m viewing this entire move as “an adventure.” The adventure of our lives. Moving somewhere else, experiencing something outside of this bubble we live in in New York is both scary and exciting. We won’t know anyone there. We won’t know our way around. We won’t have our go-to “spots.” We’ll have to start over, and make new friends, and find our favorite local places. But that’s kind of fun, no? The discovery of it all? The newness?

I write this as I come down off a high from a very inspiring coffee date this AM with Sheri Silver, bloggess and adventurer and free spirit and awesome mom. She asked me if I was going to continue WestchesterLife. I told her I didn’t know, that I hoped to… but I didn’t know how to transition this thing that was so location-centric to.. .well, a new location. She told me that my blog was more than that. She reminded me that I write about my experiences as a mom, as a self-employed writer, and as myself, and that people (apparently) like to share those experiences with me — the location is secondary. So if you’re glad to hear that I’ll be continuing this blog from Raleigh, you have Sheri to thank for showing me the way.

So, when does this madness happen? Next week. That’s right. I’ve let denial shape this long enough. It’s going down in Chinatown in ONE WEEK. One week! I’ll keep writing from here, before I transition this sucker over to RaleighLife. Eek, ya’ll!

So, what to make of packing it up and moving down south? Well let’s see… here are the things I’m actually looking forward to:

  • Milder weather. Longer falls and springs and a shorter, milder winter. Bring on the boots and sundresses, donate all 45 of my winter coats. Sweet.
  • Lower cost of living. It’s going to be an eye-opening exercise realizing how much money we’ve been pissing away living here in New York. It may require therapy to get over , actually, given how much less it costs to live in other parts of the country. From gas prices to childcare to home costs, it’s just cheaper outside of this crazy Big Apple bubble.
  • Living somewhere that celebrates FAMILY. Raleigh is famous for being a very family-friendly place to live. That means an abundance of parks, trails, activities, festivals, fun weekend jaunts, outdoor movies, markets and more.
  •  Less “have-tos.” Living here in the 914, in my 1904 fixer upper, has come with its challenges and obligations. We are constantly working on our house, my husband  can easily spend an entire weekend in the garage, and we’re always running around like chickens with our heads cut off. It’s always just been chalked up to, well… that’s life. But there’s something semi-refreshing about going somewhere no one really knows us. No plans! And renting a brand new, pristine house? No laboring over bathrooms and B.S.! AHH, the freedom!
  • Taking it down a notch. Just a hair. A sliver, really. Because I am truly a worker bee, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I’m hoping some of the slow Southern nature will rub off on me a little. I want to relish in reading a book. Or linger a bit longer over a cup of coffee. And maybe do both without my iPhone dangerously close by.

Well there you have it. You’ll be hearing more about my adventures, trials and tribulations in the coming weeks, as we begin our sherpa trek down south.

Stay tuned!

Northern Westchester gems (Part 3 of 3 of my Meet Me in Westchester series)

14 Sep

When I lived in the city, Westchester sounded FAR. It was upstate. It was the country. At the time, I was talking about Bronxville and Scarsdale. I had never even been beyond White Plains. I didn’t know anything existed north of there. Except for Cape Cod. And Canada.

And then my hubby and I set out on a quest to buy a house. And it was discovered that there actually were things beyond White Plains. Nice things. Towns that had running water and electricity. Movie theaters, even. Novel, sure, but I was a big city girl… I lived in that big city girl bubble. Everything beyond Grey’s Papaya was “country” as far as I was concerned.

Fast-forward four years and I’m the first one in line to defend “Northern Westchester” to all my big city friends. They have no idea. I school them on the Bedfordisms and Chappaqua-ishness. And of course, the Mount Kisco-esque vibes. Because that’s where we bought our house.

When friends make the trek up here, by train or Zipcar usually, I feel the need to have an itinerary ready so I can show off my hood. Here’s a fun early fall weekend morning/afternoon itinerary that will leave you looking like the high-class hipster-suburbanite you are:

Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

Start at one of the many local farmer’s markets for some coffee, a fresh muffin, and some local flavor. I recommend John Jay Homestead farmer’s market. It’s on a “homestead,” for crying out loud, and if that’s not hipster I don’t know what is. Take that, Union Square Greenmarket!

Next, head over to Caramoor for a walk through their magical gardens. I finally got to explore Caramoor and its grounds a few weeks back with Westchester County Film & Tourism as part of their Meet Me in Westchester blogger tour. I was left wondering why I’d waited so long. This place is minutes from my house, and offers a robust calendar of musical events, including their annual Jazz Festival in the Venetian Theater, a Dancing at Dusk series, fireworks on the 4th, and much more. But what I didn’t know is, Caramoor is also home to these ridiculous gardens, and most times of the year, you can just drive in during the day, park, and walk around. This is such a peaceful place to come for some inspiration, or to snap some Instagrams of the kids running through an English garden. We also were treated to a special tour of the Rosen House which uncovered more treasures than you could shake an Antiques Roadshow stick at, and just pretty much blew us all away in opulence. The house isn’t currently open for tours, but they do host musical events in the courtyard, so I definitely recommend checking it out.

That’s a gold bed, ya’ll. If you don’t know, now ya know.

After you’ve high-classed it up in the gardens, sate your hunger at another high-class spot: Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua. Crabtree’s is a special occasion kind of place. It’s just in the air. Don’t get me started on their wine cellar. 60,000 bottles. That’s six-zero. We got a tour, and let’s just say, I’m going to live with shame every time I crack open a $10 bottle of Pinot Noir from here on out. I touched a bottle of wine worth $10,000. I’d choke. I mean, who drinks $10,000 wine?

Don’t drop it, ya heard?

The food here is fabulous. To keep it casual and still offer up a memorable experience, they do a Sunday brunch buffet which would totally work for your day-trippin’. It’s served from 11:30 to 3pm ($34.50 per person, includes dessert, coffee, soft drinks and one mimosa), or you can choose from an a la carte brunch menu on Saturdays from 11am to 2:30. Best kept secret? They also happen to be a participating restaurant on Savored, which if you haven’t used yet, you’re missing out. You basically get up to 30% off your bill, just for booking your reservation through them (for a small up front fee). The best part is, the discount is automatically reflected in your check. You don’t have to pull out a cheesy Groupon or remind your server you “have a discount.” Keep it classy, Westchester.

Seriously delish ricotta gnudi which I inhaled.

After all of this, your out of towners are going to clearly be exhausted, so I suggest you take them over to Oriental Foot Reflexology in Mount Kisco for the best hour of their life (at $35!!), and then send them off on a train home to their teensy weensy apartment, where they can dream about all the awesomeness in good old, suburban Westchester.

Meet Me in Westchester!

22 Aug

I’m so excited, I can hardly stand it. Tomorrow I embark on a 2-day adventure with Westchester County Tourism. We’re going to be galavanting all over the county, visiting some amazing spots… like Caramoor and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. (Did I mention that I can. Not. Wait? ‘Cause I can’t.)

If you want to follow along on our adventures, be sure to ‘like’ Westchester County Tourism on Facebook. If you’re a Tweeter, you can follow the tour through hashtag #MeetMeInWCNY.

Stay tuned… there’s more excitement to come!!

 

 

Little Man is Turning 2!

8 Aug

1 day old, 1 year old, and almost 2. WOWZA!

Unreal. Jack turns 2 on Friday. Two years of parenting under my belt. I can say with confidence, it was nothing like I thought it would be and everything that I hoped it would be. Jack is the coolest kid in the world, with a laugh that can cure any bad day, a smile that is infectious, and the sweetest personality I could ever hope for in a little boy.

Happy Birthday, Jack! Here are the top ten things you’ve taught me so far:

1)    It’s much more fun when you tag a “y” onto the end of everything. Like “hug-y” and “lunchy” and “drinky.” (I think mommy’s clients agree.)

2)    Throwing out “gahbage” can be a very good way to spend 2 hours. And no one should judge otherwise.

3)    TRRRRRRRRRRUCKS!!!! are indeed the most exciting things in the universe. And they should be acknowledged as such. Every. Time. We. See. One.

4)    A person can survive on peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt alone. Thank you for dispelling the rumor.

5)    The word “shooshee,” whatever it means, will always elicit a monster giggle from you, which makes it pretty much the most valuable non-word in my vocabulary.

6)    Unlocking an iPhone, scrolling through the various screens and folders, and finding all the apps you like to play was a fun game when you were one. Now that you’re two I’ll have to step it up and get you an internship at Tumblr before you get bored.

7)    When in doubt, call Ammy and Papa.

8)    Negotiating for 3 bedtime stories (instead of just one) only requires being coy and saying, “lah-loo Mommy…peez?”

9)    Sleeping beyond 6am is for the weak. 6am is the perfect time to watch Despicable Me! In its entirety! In our bed! (EVERY day….)

10) The best things in life are hugs, snuggles and kisses from you, despite how messy they may be at the time.

 

What fun thing(s) have your kids taught you? Please share with me!

Moroccan Dinner Party recap

2 Aug

There’s a group of us here in Mt. Kisco who have a sort of irregular, when-the-mood-strikes tradition of getting together for Sunday night dinner. It’s usually suggested mid-week, and usually after we’ve been drinking way too much, and the thought process is something like, ‘Sure! I can put together a meal for 12! No problemo!‘ Until the next morning when we realize what we’ve committed to, and our thought process is something like, ‘F&*k, well there goes my weekend, now I have to clean the house and grocery shop and cook.’ 

But it always is without fail a super fun night with a great group of friends and it makes it all worth it.

A few weeks ago was my turn to host, and after being told I was ‘booooring‘ when I suggested an Italian meal, the mood struck me to take things up a notch: What could be more un-boring than a colorful, traditional Moroccan dinner party outdoors? Call in the belly dancers and set up the hookas!

This party ended up being so much fun to put together! Everything for the table came from inside my house. I just walked around collecting things I thought would work. Here’s how I did it, and how you can too:

The “rugs” were two king sized quilts.

For the table, we used a piece of plywood set on cinder blocks. I wrapped the plywood in a table protector pad and then wrapped it in a dark brown tablecloth. I dressed it up with a colorful, mirrored runner. Did you know an 8×4 piece of plywood creates the perfect sized table for 10-12 people? Two can sit comfortably on each end and 4 on each side. Score!

I grabbed all the throw pillows I could find and just tossed them around the blankets. I brought out accessories like brass elephants and candles to create a centerpiece. I recently inherited an amazing brass and crystal chandelier from my grandmother, so we strung it up inside our tent, and it added the perfect finishing touch.

Mismatched, patterned plates and colorful Indian and Moroccan print cotton napkins made up the place settings.

My #1 hosting tip? Always use real linen napkins at a dinner party!! They are the most inexpensive way to dress up a table and make it look like you tried harder than you really did! I am obsessed with linen and cotton napkins and I pick up interesting patterns whenever I see them. Anthropologie is a great place for finding cool patterns and colors.

Also, when doing outdoor parties like this, I head to Target for their selection of fun melamine dinnerware. Any time I see an interesting pattern or shape I like, I’ll pick up 4 plates or bowls to add to my collection, because I love mismatched place settings, and trust me: melamine plates are so much easier when hosting outdoors.

Our menu consisted of crispy Moroccan chickpeas, mesclun greens with green olives, almonds and lemon with a homemade lemon spiced vinaigrette, couscous, chicken and apricot tagine, Moroccan meatballs, flatbread, and cucumber salad. The only thing missing from our meal was Moroccan mint tea, but I made up for it with some fresh cucumber water. We boozed it up with homemade rye lemonade and loads of wine… Riesling goes pretty well with Moroccan food. The sweet balances the spicy, and of course white wine on a hot summer night is pretty perfect. We finished the meal with ice-cold Limoncello shots, fresh fruit, and a delicious cake for our friend Mark’s birthday. And if there’s one benefit to eating while lounging on pillows, it’s being able to literally just roll over and lie down when you get too full.

Here’s my recipe for the Chicken and Apricot Tagine, which was made in a…wait for it, wait for it… a CROCK POT! I swear, the crock pot is the most undervalued kitchen accessory, and the most useful one. You have to have one hell of a big tagine to cook a meal for 12 people, so I busted out the crock pot and this recipe worked like magic. It simmered for hours, and was absolutely delicious. (I think, or my guests were lying.)

Chicken + Apricot Tagine… in a Crock Pot!

(serves 6…double up for big groups)

  • 6 boneless chicken breasts, cut up into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces dried apricots (you can roughly chop these or leave them whole, I left them whole)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans chickpeas
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 pint chicken stock
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • The following spice mix:
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
    • salt and pepper sparingly
  1. Heat up olive oil in a large pan or skillet and saute chopped onions & garlic for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add chicken stock, gradually stirring in flour until no longer lumpy. Add honey & tomato paste & mix well.
  3. Stir in herbs,spices, ginger and canned tomatoes.
  4. Pour the above tomato,onion & spice mix into crock pot.
  5. Add dried apricots, and then add chicken & chickpeas on top & mix well.
  6. Cook on high for about 3 to 4 hours OR low for up to 8 hours. (Please note that the cooking times depend on your crockpot… play around with it, and taste!)
  7. Serve harissa on the table so people can add their own heat to the dish!

Great success!

[Special thanks to Maria Famoso for some of the awesome pics you see here!]