Friday, August 31, 2012

A Beautiful Afternoon in Central Park

I leave you for a week with an image of a beautiful summer afternoon in Central Park, when the sky was blue and the temperature, perfect. What more could you ask for?

This blog will return on Monday, Sept. 10.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Celebrating 9 Years of Marriage

Being married nine years isn't a traditional landmark, but it feels like one.

When we said our vows on Aug. 30, 2003, I sure didn't think we'd be living in New York just a few years later. Now we've spent more than half our anniversaries here. And back then I certainly didn't think that I'd be spending our ninth anniversary six months pregnant with our first child.

New Yorkers are often surprised when they learn that Paul and I have been married as long as we have. It's pretty uncommon to get married in your early 20s here, and we were just 22 and 24 when we got hitched. Mere babies.

Sometimes I wonder why we were in such a hurry. Paul and I have since discussed it -- there was really no rush. But there was really no reason to wait, either. I wouldn't change a thing.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sad Face at Pie Face

I'm always up for trying restaurants that feature food from other countries. And when it's cheap, so much the better.

That's why I was excited to try Pie Face, the U.S. storefront of the Australian savory pie chain. The restaurant is near Times Square, which made it a convenient spot to stop at after a visit to Central Park.

Pie Face, however, wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.

  • Strike 1: No seating. Didn't expect that.
  • Strike 2: Several of the flavors were sold out.
  • Strike 3: It just wasn't that tasty.

Paul said his steak pie was good but messy. The pies are meant to be finger foods, but a good chunk of his filling came out into its cardboard container as he was eating it. And they didn't pack forks in our bag.

I chose two mini pies -- a tandoori vegetable that wasn't bad, and a mince beef that was. Admittedly, I think I was turned off more by the look than the taste -- the appearance reminded me of uncooked hamburger. Paul finished it.

Cute ...

... but not very good.

Needless to say, we were both still hungry after this escapade, so we walked to nearby Junior's and got an order of onion rings and a slice of chocolate mousse cheesecake to go and found a place to sit in Bryant Park. Much more satisfying.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Prepping for a New York City Baby

I'm absolutely positive that preparing for a new baby is tough no matter where you are, and I'm also sure that it's impossible to be 100 percent ready for anything and everything that may (but probably won't) occur.

But as a country girl born and raised in a typical Midwestern home complete with the creature comforts of cars and carpet, I've realized that there are several things that will be different about rearing a city kid -- even in just the first few months.

Two people -- my sister and a friend -- have told me that they were surprised to hear the news of this pregnancy because I had said that we would return to Ohio before we'd have a kid. I fully admit to having said this, and thought this, for a long time.

While I'm sure that being a parent is tough regardless of geography, there are just certain things that make it easier in Ohio (or rather, easier outside of New York). Vehicles, and dedicated places to park them. In-unit washers and dryers. Abodes with one flight of stairs, at most.

Of course, people who grow up in New York City probably think nothing of all of what I suspect will be the challenges of a raising a child in the city. And after several years here myself, I gradually started to see that I could, in fact, rear a kid here. And in some cases, the city, with all of its options and advantages, will actually be a boon. Out of milk? No need to pack up baby for a cross-town trip. We can grab a gallon right across the street.

Right now, two things concern me most about a city baby: the lack of a washer and dryer in our apartment, and the number of stairs.

We can't do much about the washer and dryer, except get used to the fact that we're going to have more laundry, more often. But, short of installing an elevator, we're taking specific steps to lessen the impact of the stairs.

To wit: the stroller has been our largest purchase so far, and one into which I put hours of research. The one we chose is lightweight (about 17 pounds) and can be folded with one hand. Important considerations, since we'll often be carrying it up and down the three flights of stairs to our apartment, not to mention staircases at innumerable subway stations.

It will be interesting for me to look back on this post in six months or a year to see if my suspicions were correct. Some will be, and others won't, I suppose. And there will be other pros and cons that I've discovered that right now haven't even crossed my mind.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Food of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia

I saved the tastiest post about our vacation to the Canadian Maritimes for last: the food of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

As we do on every trip, Paul and I tried to make a special effort to sample the local cuisine. On this vacation, that meant lots of seafood, although I ate a fair number of hamburgers and french fries, as well. But even that wasn't totally out of line: in addition to its mussels and lobster, Prince Edward Island is known for its potato crops and beef.

One of the most memorable meals was at a lobster supper in Prince Edward Island. Lobster suppers seem to be fairly common -- I saw plenty of brochures for them, even though their roots seem humble. They're often fundraisers for a church, and the one we went to was in a church basement.

Paul ordered the traditional lobster supper, which included a salad, seafood chowder, mussels, a lobster with a side of vegetables and a dessert. I got all of the above minus the lobster and vegetables, opting to pick at Paul's instead. There was so much food, he didn't even mind.

Even though I live above a restaurant specializing in mussels, this is the first time I can ever remember trying them. Now I understand why the aforementioned restaurant is so popular.

Paul's first whole lobster

My first mussels

I have to admit, some of the best meals we had were the breakfasts served at our Prince Edward Island bed and breakfast, The Graham Inn. Breakfast started with either coffee or tea and some kind of baked good. I'm still dreaming about the cinnamon rolls.

It was followed by a fruit and yogurt parfait topped with granola, and then the main dish -- it was different each morning. One morning, for example, we had stuffed french toast, while the next morning a delectable breakfast BLT with Canadian bacon and melted cheddar cheese, with potatoes and fruit on the side. We always left for our day's outings pleasantly full.

Cows Ice Cream is based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. We each got a cone when we were there, but I'm guessing it's popular all over the Maritimes -- there were long lines at the shop we passed in Halifax, too.

Back in Nova Scotia, we had one of our simplest and most satisfying meals in Peggy's Cove: cornish pasties, a puff pastry filled with different ingredients. Paul opted for the traditional, with steak, carrots and turnips. I was happier with my bacon and cheddar. They were hot, flaky, delicious and filling.

Besides plenty of ice cream, I didn't try too many desserts. One exception was in a cafe in Chester, Nova Scotia, during our road trip along the South Shore. I tried a Breton -- a round, shortbread-type cookie with a thumbprint of raspberry jam. We were already seemingly surrounded by the French language; we not try a French dessert?

And, of course, we couldn't go to Canada without ordering some poutine, so in Halifax we ate one lunch at a chain poutinerie. Paul's eyes were big, so he got a large Montreal-style (fries topped with corned beef, mustard, gravy and cheese curds, with a pickle), and I got a small traditional order with gravy and curds. I'm normally a fan, but not this time. Luckily, the restaurant was right around the corner from our hotel, so mine went into our fridge, and Paul downed it as a midnight snack.

Last but not least: Prince Edward Island's version of the Buckeye. I almost wish I would have tried one.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Here & There in PEI: Charlottetown, Greenwich, East Point


Prince Edward Island is small -- in fact, it's the smallest Canadian province at just about 140 miles long and anywhere between 4 and 40 miles wide. Fewer than 150,000 people call it home. And it's a true island: the only ways to get there via the mainland are by ferry or an 8-mile bridge. (We chose the latter.)

Its size makes Prince Edward Island easy to get around. The roads are well-marked, and with a good map in hand, we were able to put away the GPS the entire three days we were there. And we saw a good bit of the central and eastern parts of the island, as well.


On our first full day in PEI, we went to Charlottetown. We had tickets to see the "Anne of Green Gables" musical that night, but I also wanted to walk around the town that was *the* big city in the "Anne" books. It's still PEI's biggest city, with 64,000 people.

The city attracts cruise ships and seemingly plenty of tourists (for PEI, that is). There wasn't much to do, and only a little more to see, but the visit made for a pleasant afternoon. We browsed the shops along Peake's Wharf at the waterfront and marina and finally ordered cones from one of the island's well-regarded Cows ice cream shops and meandered along Confederation Landing.

Of course, we visited the Anne of Green Gables shop and the short pedestrian-only block of Richmond Street called Victoria Row. We also walked to the edge of Victoria Park and sat on a waterfront bench before heading back to the center of the city for supper and the show.

Sign at Victoria Row

View from edge of Victoria Park


Paul wanted to walk some trails while we were at Prince Edward Island, and our bed and breakfast had an immediate suggestion: visit Greenwich Provincial Park.

The 90-minute Greenwich Dunes trail takes you over a floating boardwalk and sand dunes to a  beach with only a handful of others who had made the hike. No one was swimming, but it was quiet and peaceful. And Paul got to show off his stone-skipping skills once more.

The floating boardwalk

East Point

From Greenwich, we drove to East Point, the northeastern-most tip of the island. We ate lunch at the small cafe there, but mostly we just took in the views. It felt like we were at the end of the world.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Three Months til Baby

With the arrival of baby Edith just more than three months away, things are coming together.

Best of all, she can look forward to a new cousin not long after she herself makes her grand entrance: my sister, Katie, is due with her and her husband's first child in February!

On the home front, however, the last few weeks have seen my stomach expand from a softball to a soccer ball -- or at least it seems so to me. I definitely look pregnant in some clothes and pretty much all dresses, but sitting on the subway with my purse in my lap, I'm sure no one can tell.

Nevertheless, I'm feeling the extra weight, and noticing it in what I wear. It was a sad day when even my loosest shorts would fit no longer.

In the last month we've added a stroller and an area rug to our stock of baby-inspired purchases, and I got an infant "Anne of Green Gables" shirt on vacation in Prince Edward Island. The plan is to get a couple of things each week from here on out, in hopes of avoiding the inevitable stress as long as possible. The list is still long but not unmanageable.

The most frequent question I still get nowadays: how am I feeling? Luckily, the answer is still "pretty good."

On the downside, I can't walk as fast as I used to, and I'm not taking the stairs as much as I once did at work. And I did have a bout of sickness after eating my favorite sweet potato strings at a neighborhood restaurant last week.

But I feel energetic and excited, although more and more nervous about the birth itself. I'm doing my best to keep it out of my mind. After all, there's no turning back now!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Prince Edward Island Beaches

At Basin Head Beach

Our visits to a few of the beaches of Prince Edward Island were hit-or-miss.

Almost the first thing we did on our first full day on the island was visit Dalvay by the Sea (known as the White Sands Hotel in the "Anne of Green Gables" movie, and for Prince William and Kate's stay there after their marriage).

Dalvay by the Sea

At Dalvay by the Sea

We drove through part of Prince Edward Island National Park on the way there and parked our car to walk along a couple of beaches. Truth be told, however, I was pretty miserable. It was cold and extremely windy, and I had a slight earache by the time we returned to our vehicle. Luckily no other beaches were on our itinerary the rest of the day; we had only to try our luck during the remainder of the vacation.

And luck was on our side. The next day, after visiting the "Anne" sites, we stopped to get our feet wet at Cavendish Beach. It was a much better day for flitting about the sand. The sun was warm -- hot even - and wading in the cool, salty water felt nice. Paul enjoyed skipping stones -- there were plenty of flat ones about, and the multitude of waves made the actual skipping nearly inevitable.

Paul at Cavendish Beach

Cavendish Beach

The next and last day on Prince Edward Island was our true beach day. We made a couple of stops that day in Greenwich and East Point (more about those places in a future post), but our major destination was Basin Head Beach, also known as Singing Sands. However, the sand doesn't so much sing as squeak when you walk on it just right.

We stayed about two-and-a-half hours. Although I had my swimsuit on, I'm not sure much above my knees got wet. Although currents supposedly make Prince Edward Island beaches the warmest north of the Carolinas, it still felt pretty cold to me. Paul did take a dip or two, but I made myself comfy in the sand with a paperback.

With our visit to Basin Head, we ended up saving the best and most scenic of the beaches we visited for last:

Beach vacations aren't really my cup of tea. I don't like cold water, and I'm not a big fan of heat or getting tan (even at Basin Head I enjoyed myself more when we set up camp in a shady spot). I must admit, however, that our last day at the beach made for a relaxing end of the vacation. And there's nothing like an endless expanse of water before you to remind you of how small you really are.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Living "Anne of Green Gables" in Prince Edward Island

Visiting Prince Edward Island has been a dream of mine since I first read the "Anne of Green Gables" books some 20 years ago.

Maybe "dream" is too strong of a word. I've long known it was possible -- after all, it's only a two hour flight away; it's not like going to the moon. In any case, it's always been in the back of my mind as one of those trips I'd take someday when the time was right.

And this year was the time when we needed a peaceful, scenic destination instead of one that was a headache to plan and resulted in miles of walking. Don't get me wrong. I love those two-week trips that take me hours to plan. But that just wasn't happening this year.

And so Anne country it was.

If you're not familiar with "Anne of Green Gables," it's the story of a red-headed orphan girl who was sent to live with a spinster woman and her bachelor brother after they had originally sent away for a boy to help with the farm. They decide to keep her, and she promptly wins a place in their hearts (aww!) and in those of the members of the small, fictional community of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island.

Author L.M. Montgomery based Avonlea on settings in and around Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, where she grew up. "Green Gables" proved to be popular in the U.S. and abroad, and it was followed by seven sequels. The third in the series, "Anne of the Island" remains one of my favorite books to this day.

Prince Edward Island is a popular vacation destination, and I'd be interested to know if the beaches or the Anne spots are more of an attraction. We didn't visit all of the Anne locales (a re-creation of Avonlea, for example, just seemed like an expensive version of any of your re-created old-timey towns or, to my fellow northwest Ohioans, Sauder Village), but we went to quite a few.

First on the list was Green Gables itself. Yes, it was fictional, but the home was based on a relative's house that is now open to the public. It is furnished inside as it was described in the books, with three special bedrooms set aside and decorated as they would have been for Anne, as well as the siblings who adopted her, Marilla Cuthbert and Matthew Cuthbert.

"Anne's room"

Green Gables Heritage Site

The grounds included walks that inspired the book's Lovers Lane and the Haunted Wood -- both shady and pleasant. The latter led to what is left of the L.M. Montgomery home, where she spent most of her life with her grandparents. Not much is left -- literally just a foundation, with a small bookstore a short walk away.

Green Gables had a tiny cafe, where we finally tried a bottle of Raspberry Cordial, sold pretty much anywhere on PEI where tourists gather. If you don't know what Raspberry Cordial has to do with Anne, then I demand that you read the book!

We also drove to the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush. We didn't actually go into the museum, but we did see the pond that supposedly inspired the Lake of Shining Waters.

Lake of Shining Waters

The night before our day of Anne, we went to the popular "Anne of Green Gables: The Musical." It was cute, it was fun, but it wasn't the book. Why the needless changes, such as setting the musical some three decades after the book actually takes place? But it obviously wasn't meant to be a historical piece (hah!), and it was rather endearing.

All in all, I'm glad Anne lured me to Prince Edward Island, but not for the reasons I anticipated. I enjoyed the beaches, the scenery, the food of Atlantic Canada (more on that in the future), but I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the Anne sites.

This is completely and utterly my own fault, and I even suspected that it would be the case. When you read a book, of course you create certain images in your mind, and those can't be lived up to. That's especially true when it comes to a book set in the latter half of the 1800s. As I told Paul when we were driving to the island's biggest city, Charlottetown, it's difficult to reconcile the Anne in my head as visiting any town that now has a KFC.

When Paul responded by saying that Anne would probably have brought Matthew Cuthbert home a bucket of chicken, I kind of wanted to cry.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Day Trip to Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg

One of my favorite days of our entire vacation to Halifax and Prince Edward Island was the one we spent driving the Lighthouse Route of Nova Scotia, along the South Shore from Halifax to Lunenburg.

This drive takes about 3 or 4 hours following the scenic coastline, and maybe twice as long if you want to stop at a few of the little villages or viewpoints. The drive via highway from Lunenburg back to Halifax was about an hour. All in all, it was a full-day trip: we were gone about 9 hours.

The first (and in my view, the best) stop was 40 minutes from Halifax, at Peggy's Cove. It's a popular destination for buses and tourists, but there were only a few dozen people on the rocks around the lighthouse when we got there. By the time we left, however, the parking lot was full.

The lighthouse with the waves crashing white against the rocky shore made for lovely views, accentuated by the blue sky and even bluer water.

Peggy's Cove from a scenic viewpoint -- the lighthouse is directly above the rock sculpture.

Besides the stop at Peggy's Cove, most of the day was spent in the car. But we did stop at:
  • a small beach so Paul could get his feet wet
  • the village of Chester for a short walk and snack
  • the tiny town of Mahone Bay to sit in a gazebo and take in the waterfront views
  • Lunenburg, where we ended the trip with ice cream cones, a walk along the water and a quick visit into a quaint store or two
Paul jokes that all fishing villages are interchangeable -- brightly colored buildings against a shore. That was true here too, but it didn't make the views any less picturesque.

It was a long day, but pleasant. Especially since Paul was the one driving and maneuvering through the up-and-down roadway curves instead of me.



Monday, August 6, 2012

The Bay Ridge Sinkhole

The sinkhole, about an hour after it happened on Wednesday

My neighborhood, Bay Ridge, is sinking.

It's pretty much a fact, and it was corroborated on my walk home from the subway last Wednesday evening.

About a block and a half from our apartment, I saw a large crowd gathered. There were no flashing lights indicating a fire or massive police presence, and everyone was keeping a respectful distance. I was curious, so I went over to the crowd.

What was everyone staring at? A giant, car-sized sinkhole in the middle of the street.

The sinkhole is the second the neighborhood has seen this summer. The first, according to a New York Times article, came at the end of June and was about 60-feet deep. This one was merely 30-feet wide and 10-feet deep.

Workers in the sinkhole Thursday morning

The cause, according to the Times, was a burst century-old sewer pipe. No one was hurt, but workers did spend two hours getting a car out from the edge of the hole.

Construction workers had been expected to fully repair the hole by the end of the weekend; I'm not sure if that happened, but they were still hard at work when I walked by on Friday.


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