On Friday, November 18, my family crossed a finish line of sorts—we made it to Thanksgiving Break. That may not seem like a big deal, but when we started the job at Stony Brook everyone we talked to told us that the hardest part of the year was the long stretch to Thanksgiving. After that, they said, the breaks come at regular intervals and before you know it the school year is finished. So with a sense of relief (and some exhaustion on Brad’s part), we made it to our first milestone. We celebrated by Brad building a fire in the fireplace, toasting with some wine, and then Brad fell asleep on the couch for two hours. Not a bad way to welcome a week-long break.
The week of Thanksgiving was certainly a break. From cooking meals at home to watching movies to visiting NYC twice, the week was a good mix of activity and down time. My highlight was the overnight trip to the city that Brad and I took. Brad surprised me for my birthday by planning this trip.
We left on Sunday, the 20th, to sunny skies and mild temperatures. To avoid the high cost of parking in the city, we parked the car in Queens and hopped on a train that took us the remainder of the way into the city. Our hotel was in Midtown and was close to Rockefeller Center, Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and of course, all the restaurants and shopping a person could want. After a recommendation from the hotel concierge as to a good spot for lunch, we walked to an Irish pub called the Long Room. The place was perfect. It was quiet and filled with lots of wood. Brad and I ordered an appetizer platter filled with cured meats, various cheese, cornichons, toasted bread, fig jam, and candied walnuts. Since it was a later lunch for both of us, we were quite hungry. We also split a crab cake sandwich served on a sourdough roll. Lots of French fries came on the side and they were well-seasoned too. Pleasantly full, we started walking. Brad had asked what I wanted to do on this trip (keeping in mind that we only had roughly twenty-four hours), and the main thing I wanted was to walk around and see the lay of the land and to eat good food. We succeeded on both fronts.
Our walking journey took us up 5th Ave. and across Central Park to Broadway and then up to 79th to attend the 5 pm service at Redeemer Presbyterian. It was a treat to hear Tim Keller preach. We then headed back to our hotel to change for dinner. In one of the travel books I looked at, I saw a recommendation for a French restaurant called DB Bistro Moderne, owned by the famous chef Daniel Boulud. He owns several restaurants in the city and this one fit our budget. When the guide says that plates routinely go back to the kitchen empty, I take that seriously. The service was attentive and helpful. I wasn’t terribly hungry after a big lunch so I ordered the appetizer portion of the squash risotto. It had tiny brussel sprouts in it along with a balsamic glaze and walnuts. I ate every bite. Brad ordered the lamb shanks with the meat literally falling off the bone. For dessert we ordered the Maple Crème Brulee, served with green apple coulis and a dollop of butterpecan ice cream. We licked up every bite of this as well. My only complaint about the restaurant was how close the tables were to one another. I know that space is limited—especially in a city restaurant, but we sat really close to our neighbors. After dinner we walked around Times Square and enjoyed some people-watching before heading back to our hotel.
On Monday we did more walking along with some shopping. Our big adventure was traveling to Harlem to eat lunch at a restaurant owned by a family who has students at Stony Brook. We timed our arrival perfectly because both the mom, who runs the restaurant, and the kids were there and I think genuinely glad we came. One of the things that struck me about seeing Harlem in contrast to Manhattan was the wideness of the streets and the beauty of the brownstones. I’m sure those old homes have lots of stories to tell. Brad enjoyed his salmon and I had the squash ravioli with sage. (I think I was on a fall kick in terms of the flavors I enjoyed on this trip.)
Our time together just the two of us was wonderful. Brad knows me well, and this trip was filled with all of my favorites—good food, good conversation, good atmosphere, and good walks.
This past Saturday we took Jacob and Anna to the city for the first time. Once again we enjoyed mild weather and sunshine. We asked the kids to pick the top three things they wanted to do during our time. Jacob said he didn’t care what we did (next time we won’t listen to him because in the end he really did care what we did), and Anna wanted to see The Plaza Hotel, FAO Swartz, and Dylan’s Candy Store, which we did.
The day wasn’t the best family moment we have ever experienced. I am still trying to figure out what made the day “off.” Maybe we were all tired or maybe we walked too much or maybe we just have teenagers who are hard to please. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t a great day. I know the kids enjoyed certain aspects of what we did, but overall our time in the city felt like a flop. I guess that is how it is with family moments. Sometimes you strike gold and thank God for your wonderful family, and the time you are sharing together. Other times you wish you could trade your family for another one.
We’ll try New York City again as a family at some point, and hopefully strike gold when we do. In the meantime, both Brad and I agreed that we had a much better time just the two of us.