Family Album: SuperCaleighLilyisticEvieVividocious

And we thought we were busy in New York!

We had to get back to California to greet some very important guests. Tina brought the girls up to meet Lily – good thing, since that little puppy is well on her way to being a big dog. Twelve to twenty-five pounds went by in a flash!

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Everyone loves her! Well, almost everyone. Lily is already BFF’s with Tina, Evie and Viv.

But when you’re only six years old, a squirmy puppy with shark teeth can be a little daunting. Caleigh is working hard on being brave and Lily is working on the “Down!” command. We’ll get there…Caleigh is spending a week with us, so we’ve got lots of time.

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Lily is also working on her relationship with Dodger, who is infinitely, incredibly patient with her. He still hasn’t even scratched her on the nose!

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While the big girls were here, our back yard handed them some lemons, and they knew just what to do:

Best lemonade we’ve ever tasted!

Great-Granny joined us for a bbq up at the pool:

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And then Tina and the big girls headed home – they are off to Rome and London!

Meanwhile, we get to have fun with Caleigh…

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And soon cousin James will join us. Lily can’t wait!

“Will you play with me, please????”

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There’s no food left in NYC. We ate it all.

I can’t prove it, but it feels like we have walked every one of Manhattan’s 22 square miles this trip. Sometimes en route to cultural enlightenment but – let’s just be honest here -mostly in search of food. The way we see it is this: if your kitchen is the size of a broom closet, the only thing you’re making there are reservations.

And somehow we convince ourselves that the calorie math somehow works to virtuous advantage since we walk almost everywhere. It’s lies, all lies, but if a great famine is on the dystopian horizon, or we are reduced to eating insects and synthetic lab-grown meat, we are going to cherish some great food memories from these good old days.

Since we are, above all, creatures of habit, there are the trusted “neighborhood” favorites, meaning anyplace we can walk to in under half an hour. In fine weather, you can walk to Rockefeller Center and sit outside at Brasserie Ruhlmann. They do a middle-Eastern accented branzino that I order every single time:

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Or you can walk up to 70th and Amsterdam to our beloved Café Luxembourg for steak frites and my new fave, the shaved Brussels sprout salad:

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We discovered that in addition to good neighborhood Italian on the UWS,  Pomodoro Rosso on Columbus Avenue serves a tasty sundae:

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Going to Lincoln Center? The Smith Lincoln Square has an excellent lobster roll:

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And if you aren’t in the mood for pizza or hanging-over-the-plate lasagna, you can just order from the vegetable menu at Cafe Fiorello. My new fave there is fava beans with ricotta salata, heirloom carrots with yogurt and sausage and peppers:

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No trip to NYC is complete without lunch at Bergdorf-Goodman’s BG Restaurant. I did, however, forget that hard, fast NYC rule: never, ever let the waiter talk you into the Gnocchi special with Black Truffles without first asking the price. Oops.

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Café Boulud on the UES is a bit further afield, but their prix fixe lunch is well worth a stroll across the Park:

We always try to discover a new restaurant or two each trip. This time, my friend Judy introduced us to Sandro’s on the UES. Homey neighborhood place where they ply you with complimentary bruschetta at the beginning and a glass of grappa at the end of the meal. In between, we sampled pasta with a ragout of wild boar and the peach melba for dessert:

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But above all on this trip, we discovered that Greek island known as Manhattan.  If I’m headed to Bloomingdales, Anassa Taverna is a good bet for lunch:

And we’ve enjoyed Avra Estiatorio on 48th several times for lunch so I decided to check out their newer outpost on Madison at 60th where Rouge Tomate used to be. Lovely but oh so pricey. Good thing that you can almost make a meal from the pita and spreads they bring to the table. I ordered a tomato salad and their absolutely divine baklava, but their entrée menu is better suited to patrons with expense accounts.

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Speaking of pricey, Eater NY recently published a very critical review of the new Estiatorio Milos at Hudson Yards .  The gist of it is that Eater NY took a very, very dim view of the Milos menu tradition of ordering your seafood by the pound.

It’s true that you can spend someone’s college tuition at Milos – we are still recovering from a dinner at their Las Vegas location a few years back that was tantamount to a financial crisis. But please don’t write off Milos at Hudson Yards – the space is absolutely, exquisitely gorgeous, with a sweeping view of the Hudson River and of the landmark Vessel. And what Eater NY failed to notice is that if you go mid-day and order the $32 prix fixe Business Lunch, you can enjoy the restaurant’s gracious hospitality without applying for a loan. I should know – I’ve had lunch there so many times this trip that a very kind and exceedingly generous manager showed my friend Lori and I to a spectacular view table and comped us dessert when we dined there yesterday. It’s my favorite new restaurant in the city and, oh, by the way, an excuse to breeze through the sale racks at the adjacent new Neiman Marcus after lunch. The Eater NY reviewer gave the restaurant one star; I give it five – maybe I can invite that young man to lunch next time I’m in the city and change his mind.

But for now, the trip comes to a close. A few more walks, a few more meals and then home for puppy wrangling! Magnificent time in the city and, as always, can’t wait to return.

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Here. And there.

The gallivanting continued, apace. The 20,000 step mark was duly broken, as was, more than somewhat coincidentally, my inferior-issue body. But no matter, we had a whirlwind girls’ week to finish up, and did so in style.

Toughest item on the itinerary was the 9/11 Memorial and museum. It is a heartbreaking pilgrimage that must be made. You’ll want to sign up for a tour. I’m not saying you will enjoy it, but it must be done. Takeaways: the voiceovers of “where I was” when it happened, the playback loops of endless voicemails sent to the phones of that day’s victims. The videos of the attackers going through airport security. (If only someone had listened…) The photo of what a perfect, crystalline morning that was in New York City…

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The memorial fountain, where the birthdays of victims are annually observed.

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Soberly, and then less so, we moved on to brunch at Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington famously dined with his troops in 1783.

In the interest of breaking that 20,000 step barrier, we walked across the Park later in the day to take in the Camp exhibit at The Met. Takeaway: I have even less of an understanding of “camp” than I did previously, but it was pretty and I appreciated the Oscar Wilde references.

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We assuaged our lack of campiness with a glass of wine on the Met Rooftop on a perfect afternoon after a perfect NYC girlfriend week. So very much perfection…

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Except for the fact that drama was brewing in the wind to the west. 3,000 miles to the west to be exact.

“It was a colossally bad idea”, said the never-one-to-mince-words CE by phone. By that, he was referring to our bass-ackwards game plan that would allow us to make a previously-scheduled trip to NYC at the same time we acquired a new puppy. No problem! The CE would take care of her on his own the first week, and then she would go to be with our beloved trainer while we were both away. It seemed to make sense at the time. In theory. 

But in practice, um, things were shaping up a bit differently. When it came to shipping Princess Lily off to doggie boot camp for two weeks, the tough guy blinked.

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Lots of discussions with Delta Airlines. Lots of discussions with Friends of Lily. The princess pretended to behave when Kirk and Pamela visited.

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But when Christi stopped by, and Lily gnawed ferociously on her forearm, she wisely allowed that could see the wisdom in some quality time with the trainer.

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What to do? The CE was either departing or not in a matter of hours. We needed a solution, fast. I generally disdain unwieldy plot devices, but the deux en machina in the third act was so swift, so sudden and so welcome I could not help but applaud. Dear Tammy and Tom, set to watch over our house, hearth, chickens and Dodger volunteered – no, insisted – that Lily split the difference and stay a week with them before packing her gear and reporting for basic training.

These guys, soon to be canonized:

Oh, and Saint Oliver, who gave Lily a little taste of his own brand of training (“No, you may NOT eat from my bowl”, and, I believe, something along the lines of “Down, girl!”) Lily finally learned who’s boss:

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So the CE made his trip after all, for which we are especially grateful since this guy breezed into town the next day:

We saw American Ballet Theatre’s delightful Whipped Cream – kind of like a summer Nutcracker:

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Less delightful – even though I greatly esteem Kerri Russell and Adam Driver – was the Burn This Broadway revival. The original helped make John Malkevich a star but for us it did not time travel well across the decades.

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Last night we strolled over to Feinstein’s 54 Below for a great walk down memory lane with Chita Rivera’s one-woman show. She’s still got it at 86 and I loved, loved, loved hearing her sing “A Boy Like That” from her role as Anita in West Side Story.

We get to do this, thanks to Tammy and Tom holding down the fort:

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And, for one more day, they and daughter Claire have this:

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And then it is really off to boot camp for Miss Lily. But you just wait – she has lots of happy adventures coming up in a few weeks. And we’ll spend the next few years trying to make this up to Tammy and Tom. Thanks so, so much you guys! (And Christi – your turn in the barrel is coming up, lol – hopefully that little princess’ tiara will be on straight by then:-)

 

 

 

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Stepping it up.

Apologies to those hoping for more puppy pictures. The action has shifted 3,000 miles eastward and I feel like I have walked at least that far this week. 17,630 steps yesterday, 18,112 the day before and miles and miles to go today.

Because it’s this time of year again:

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You can run from a birthday but you can’t hide, especially if you are lucky enough to have such precious family and friends who inexplicably decide to celebrate you, lift you up, ignore your deep flaws and even deeper wrinkles and make you so grateful to have creaked your way around another year.

What a week this has been! The CE held down the fort with sassy little Lily while I jetted in to NYC to see a different superstar: P!nk at Madison Square Garden! With son Daniel as my date! Unforgettable experience!

And hard to believe that was just the opening act for the week. Up early the next day for breakfast with dear friends Judy and Wendy who made the trek from California for a whirlwind girlfriends’ meet-up in the city. We’ve talked about doing this for years and it finally all came together.

Breakfast was not, alas, at Tiffany’s, but Nougatine sufficed quite nicely with avocado toast for Wendy:

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We did the 30-second apartment tour:

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And then it was on to Ft. Tryon Park and The Cloisters. A magical, exquisite place. Memorable for the art, the tapestries and not least of all,  endless flights of stone stairs hewn into the hillside park.

Birthday dinner at Balthazar that night – a perfect trifecta of companions – Wendy, Judy and Daniel – and a perfect dessert duo at the end (we couldn’t pick just one!)

Yesterday we walked over to Hudson Yards and had a lovely ladies’ lunch with a view at the new outpost of Estiatorio Milos, then breezed through the fabulous new Neiman Marcus and paid a visit to The Vessel.

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We walked the High Line, where our trip-planning mastermind Judy found her niche:

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Last night was “Ain’t Too Proud” on Broadway – great fun!

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And now I’ve got to run because we are off for more adventures this morning. I’ll let you know if I break the 20,000 step mark…

Thank you to everyone dear to me for the beautiful birthday wishes, flowers, uplifting encouragement and cheer. And especially especially to my beloved CE for gifting me this adventure. Get here soon – I miss you!

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Day-by-Day Lily

It’s all Lily, all the time. Twelve Lily-packed days so far:

She peed outside! Yay! She pooped in her crate. Boo!

She’s so loving! Yay! Wait, she just flayed my arm with those shark teeth. Boo!

She’s perfect!

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No – she’s crazed!

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You get the picture. Every day has its “pups and downs” so to speak.

We decided to introduce her to friends and neighbors last weekend with a party befitting Princess Lily. She met so many new friends that day!

 

 

 

And they all brought presents. She loves all her toys!

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Mother’s Day was perfect. The kids were brilliant – they all sent flowers – lilies, of course!

 

 

And the little princess got to meet the Queen Mother when Granny stopped by for a visit.

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She has explored her kingdom…

 

 

 

And she paid a visit to Chloe and Soho.

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She loves hanging out with Dad (and thankfully conquered her fear of the car!)

 

 

 

She had her first trip to the vet! Dr. Lawrence was so happy to meet her after all the sadness in our pet world this past year.

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House training is an adventure. Let’s just say it’s progressing, whatever that means. Crate training, ditto. Sometimes she sleeps through the night in her crate. But her favorite place to sleep is on my shoes!

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She loves Dodger, but has learned to keep her distance:

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Sometimes she is perfect.

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And sometimes she is just silly Lily.

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She has completely captured our hearts. Puppy love is the best!

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The Golden Standard.

There’s a saying for when you take something perfect and try to improve upon it.

This, of course, was perfection:

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Chloe left us almost a year ago, followed by her sister, Soho, and nothing has been quite the same since. A season of loss; a season of silence. All that freedom to come and go as we pleased, but none of it pleased us.

Thus, here we go, trying to match perfection, which of course cannot be done, but if you’re going to try to gild the lily, as that saying goes, this is a pretty good place to start, and so is that name. Please meet our new puppy, Princess Lily:

It wasn’t an easy choice! So much adorableness!

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Here she is the day we  picked her out at seven weeks:
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With her Uncle Dave, who along with Auntie Karen, got this ball rolling:

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Saying goodbye to mom at nine weeks:

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First day at home:

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Meeting new friends Auntie Pam and Uncle Kirk:

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So much for being penned up in the kitchen. She’s already queen of the castle, which I know surprises nobody:

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You can’t improve on perfection. But I’m hoping we can gild it, with Lily.

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inpaint Lily on kitchen step

 

 

 

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Viszontlátásra to Budapest and the Danube.

There’s never enough time. It seems we’d barely begun our love affair with Budapest, with its farrago of influences from East and West, combining to make the most fragrant, scrumptious cultural – and culinary – goulash.

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It began more or less with the Celts, in 4th Century B.C., who paved the way for the Romans’ long reign and then there was the arrival of Huns, Goths and the Slavs. Things looked hopeful for Western Civilization until the Mongols roared through in the 1200’s. They retreated, but a weakened Hungary eventually succumbed to an Ottoman conquest in the 1500’s and was ruled by the Turks until the Habsburgs took over in the 1600-1700’s.

While there are many architectural reminders of its Oriental past, much of Budapest is decidedly European, like the magnificent Hungarian State Opera House. While it was still under a multi-year renovation during our visit, the ever-resourceful folks at Tauck provided us a private tour complete with a mid-morning performance.

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Yup, there are lots of stairs:

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But so worth it to experience this:

I puzzled a bit over how a city as resplendent as Budapest – “the pearl of the Danube” graces the relatively minor country of Hungary. Andrew Beattie, in The Danube: A Cultural History illuminated my poor grasp of history: Hungary’s allegiance to the central powers during World War I resulted in an ignominious defeat. The country “was forced to acquiesce to the Treaty of Trianon, which awarded two-thirds of Hungarian territory to newly created countries that were intended to be “successor states” to the old Habsburg Empire.” Transylvania, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia and more were suddenly torn away in a punishing re-drawing of European borders. And more woes were in store: more than 600,000 Hungarians died in World War II, and every one of Budapest’s beautiful bridges were blown all to bits by the Germans. Then the Hungarian people were forced under Communist rule for more than forty years. Today, the bridges are all rebuilt and Budapest is filled with a freedom-fueled spirit of hopefulness for the future of Hungary.

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Our tour came to an end with another elegant Tauck-hosted evening, this one at the lovely Akadémia Club, overlooking the Danube. We watched the sun set, toasted our farewells to our newfound tour group friends, and savored an elegant dinner with a lively violin and cymbalom serenade by local musicians.

Budapest was quite truly lit that night, as it is every night. According to Andrew Beattie, “Budapest seems the most adorable, bewitching city in Europe.” I must enthusiastically agree.

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We said our final farewell as our plane lifted us from the Budapest airport over the serpentine curves of the Danube. Viszontlátásra is the formal Hungarian word for good-bye, but by then we felt such an affectionate familiarity with our now-beloved Budapest that we felt almost entitled to use the less formal szia, which, apparently like ciao or aloha, can mean hello, goodbye and perhaps everything in between. Lastly, we said thank you very much – köszönöm szépen – to Budapest, to the Danube, to all the the stops along our way and especially to Tauck, for a magical and memorable trip.

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