Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013

Tomorrow is the first day of 2014.  And you know what that means?  It means that Rudolph, Holly, Eve and I have successfully completed the challenge we set for ourselves – to post entries to our blog each and every day of December without missing a beat.  Not a single one!  We may have had to switch days with another family member when life made it complicated to post on our assigned day – but regardless of how we got here, we did.  And we each contributed a fourth of the blog entries.  I am SO very proud of our family for having accomplished this!

2013 was an exceptional year.  While it certainly wasn’t perfect, I loved it.  Possibly my favorite year of all time thus far.  Eve, Rudolph and Holly are an amazing family and I’m truly blessed to have been able to share so many wonderful things with them this year.

So, for my last entry of 2013, I want to highlight some of my personal favorites of the year:
-- Soup kitchen and Father/Daughter billiards with Holly’s Girl Scout Troop
-- Seeing lots of friends at my 25th Cornell Reunion
-- Numerous school concerts for both kids (including 2 performances at School Board meetings and Holly in All-County Chorus)
-- Holly’s travel basketball and volleyball games
-- Rudolph’s cross country meets
-- Galapagos trip (including biking, surfing, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, hiking, caving and exceptionally good mojitos)
-- Holly’s graduation from Seely Place and starting Edgemont Middle School
-- Walking miles and miles of the Old Croton Aqueduct trail
-- Sunset at Cayuga Lake and hiking to Taughannock Falls
-- Bicycle Sunday on the Bronx River Parkway
-- Blue Man Group for Holly’s birthday; Avenue Q for Rudolph’s
-- Lots of summer tennis at Maplewood
-- Visiting the Dexter set just prior to the finale
-- Amazing performances by both kids at Play Group Theater, by Holly in Bye Bye Birdie and Guys and Dolls and by Rudolph in Our Town
-- Hiking on Whiteface and corn mazing in Saratoga Springs with the Carpenters
-- Mask-making, gondolas and gelato in Venice, Florence cooking class, hiking along Cinque Terre, biking in Tuscany, Colosseum, gladiator school and Tiber River Festival in Rome
-- Rudolph’s Eagle Scout ceremony (and working with Rudolph on his Eagle Scout project where we all got severe poison ivy)
-- Eric and Eileen’s wedding (and seeing lots of old friends there)
-- Billy Joel concert in Birmingham; Fleetwood Mac concert at Jones Beach Theater
-- Fun dinner on the pier at Rye Playland (and fireworks!)
-- Laughing with our friends at the Telluride Film Festival
-- Discovering Bar Taco in Port Chester
-- Wonderful whirlwind weekend in London capped off with a visit with Andy Serkis
-- Lots of Broadway shows, movies and family dinners
-- Christmas shopping with Holly

Wishing all of you a happy and healthy 2014 filled with fun, love and laughter.

-- Frosty

Monday, December 30, 2013

If The Zombie Apocalypse Occurred At My School

So the apocalypse has come and my entire school has suddenly dropped dead and then stood back up again--because that’s what zombies do. My high school has multiple buildings which means us kids have to actually walk across the campus to go to our different classes. I know, it’s crazy to make students walk but what are you gonna do? 

If all the students and teachers “turned” between classes, the zombies would be shuffling about the campus. Lucky for me (and no one else because they’re dead), my school has breezeways that lead from building to building. From the tops of these bad boys, I would have full access to the entire school and could hide from the decaying remains of the people who made me fill out endless scantron sheets. 

Usually I get depressed at the thought of school work, but hands with missing or rotting fingers aren’t capable of handing out homework, are they? The challenge, naturally, would be to get on top of said breezeway. If I could summon my upper-body strength that I don’t have, I could pull myself up to safety. 

As for items I would take with me, I would take a needlessly massive textbook for a weapon, a sweatshirt to cover myself to prevent bites, my phone to seek help but mostly to play games (obviously), hand sanitizer, and maybe I’d find a cafeteria knife if I felt like getting down and dirty. Collectively, I could use these things to survive. 


-- Rudolph

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why I Make My Children Walk the OCA Trail

It's 8:30am on a cloudy Sunday morning smack in the middle of vacation.  I barge into the room where my children are sleeping and briskly wake them up.  "Time to go for a walk!"  I insist.  After several additional rounds of this, they do, in fact, yield to my demand.  Quick to shower, up and out - mainly to beat the impending rain. 

The OCA Trail is a walking/biking trail that follows the Old Croton Aqueduct. The Aqueduct was a large and complex water distribution system constructed for New York City between 1837 and 1842. It brought water, by the force of gravity alone, 41 miles from the Croton River in northern Westchester County into reservoirs in Manhattan, where local water resources had become polluted and inadequate for the growing population of the city.   While the Aqueduct is no longer used to transport water, the trail alongside it is still very much in use by anybody who wants to get a little exercise in the great outdoors.

So why do I make my kids walk the OCA, are you still wondering?  There are many reasons:

Because exercising as a family is as important as doing anything else as a family
.  Our little family of four goes to all kinds of restaurants, hits the movies, travels abroad, sees Broadway shows, plays board games, or simply hangs out at home together.  All good things - but missing a crucial piece of the puzzle: getting out and moving!  For children, it's important to teach them to weave exercise into the fabric of their daily life.  For parents, it is important to remind us to take the time to do what we should - get our blood pumping!

Because in order to respect nature, one needs to commune with it.  When you think about it, one actually needs to be aware something is there in order to care about it.  As we trod along this wooded path, we've come across flowers, deer, snakes, squirrels, and birds.  We've witnessed a beautiful view of the Hudson River and the Palisades across the way.  We've walked the OCA on sunny hot days, very humid days, windy days, and cloudy cold damp days.  All the while, we make little discoveries of cool microcosms co-existing amongst us.  Hiking the trail is a good reminder that we are only a small part contributing to the big picture.

Because when you walk, you talk. It is on one of these many walks, my son convinced me to watch one of his favorite TV shows because he thought I would like it - and he was right.  It is on one of these many walks my daughter shared with us all of her favorite trips that we have taken as a family.  And it is on one of these may walks my husband played Christmas music on his phone thereby reigniting the discussion as to whether or not "Favorite Things" is actually a Christmas song.  Quality time doesn't happen on demand folks, but an environment can be created that is prone to such good stuff!

Well, that about sums up my little explanation to the method of my madness.  Hopefully, we will see some of you (locals) out there joining us!  Happy trails!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Food Artistry

The concept of Food Artistry conjures different things for different people. 

To some, this brings to mind one of the many contests on Food Network, typically themed around a holiday like Halloween or Christmas, where chefs design and build elaborate edible displays.  “Edible art,” if you will.  While the displays are often actually made of fondant or spun sugar, nobody really ever intends to eat those displays.

To others, the notion of Food Artistry brings to mind dishes they’ve been served in restaurants where the plating of the food is statuesque.  Elements of the dish piled high or wide, the plate painted with a balsamic reduction or similar such material.  Tasty dishes all dolled up for their coming out party.

Tonight, our family experienced the ultimate in Food Artistry at a restaurant called Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY.  Now, we’ve been to this restaurant before.  But it never fails to surprise and impress us.

Over the course of four hours (yes, really – 4 hours), we were served thirty-five (yes, really – 35) different plates or courses of food.  Each was different from what came before it.  Each was a small bite of a distinctive taste.  And aside from being delicious and distinctive in its own right, every single course was presented distinctively – from marinated vegetables on short metal spikes, on miniature gold trees, plated on a piece of slate, served on the bark of an oak tree, resting on a plate of sesame seeds, on a lazy Susan of assorted condiments and fixings, and in hexagonal stacked dishes that were unstacked by our waiter to form a honeycomb pattern of 12 dishes on the table at the same time. 

The quality and attention to detail were exquisite; the presentations were creative and inventive, and yet they were all completely in keeping with the farm atmosphere of the restaurant (which is situated on an actual farm from which many/most of the ingredients are sourced.

As each course was served, typically in unison by multiple waiters, we were given an explanation of each dish – the ingredients, how they were prepared and where they came from.  We were fascinated to try tastes we had never experienced before – and learned a lot about spices, roots, vegetables and other types of food in the process.

Through the entire meal, my daughter took notes about the dishes so she’d remember the experience.  Not sure we captured them all but here’s a list of what we think we ate tonight:

- Vegetables on spikes
- Orion fennel
- Pea shoots with lemon vinaigrette
- Homemade ginger ale (with a sharp, fresh ginger taste)
- Celery root jerky
- Herb potato chips, dried red cabbage, dried kale, seckle pear and pear bread slices served in a gold painted tree
- Beet sushi
- Pork pastrami
- Pickled vegetables with carrot mustard
- Black trumpet mushroom, vichyssoise, and sage and squash whoopie pies
- Chick pea and pancetta served on a stick
- Beet and goat cheese burger on almond bun
- Liver and chocolate
- Turmeric tea with green apple (tasted like mulled cider)
- Oysters (3 kinds -- Shiso, apple and moscato, and American sturgeon, sour cream and dill)
- Bone char cheese, preserved plum and bone marrow
- Celery root risotto with charcoal squid
- Brioche, kale & spinach marmalade, fresh ricotta, cracked pepper (served at a chef’s table in the middle of the bustling kitchen)
- Farm tacos – kohlrabi shells, bay scallops, mullet, broccoli guacamole, radish slaw, carrot yogurt, watermelon hot sauce, potted herbs (presented with scissors so you can cut what you want off of the plant itself), salt with lobster roe, and dehydrated corned beef
- Potato onion bread, farm butter, pig lard and celery salt
- Farm egg, speck, Swiss chard
- Hudson Valley duck and endive, smoked raisin sauce
- Berkshire pork, grains and carrot puree
- Ham and greenhouse herb salad
- Parsnips cooked in hay

And for dessert….
- Graham cracker, hibiscus and pumpkin
- Sprouted rye, pecans and apricot
- Spelt, apple and Stone Barns honey ice cream
- Squash jam with warm sourdough biscuits
- Shortbread biscuits
- Honey and sesame truffles
- Quince gelee
- Red delicious apple slices and honey
- Seckle pears
- Chocolate hazelnut needles in a (literal) haystack

If you want to experience true food artistry, we would strongly recommend a visit to Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

-- Frosty

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tall Tales

I am 15 years old and over 6 feet tall. I have always been tall for my age, and have always grown fast. Most people view being tall as a gift, and in some ways, it certainly is. Yet at the same time, the gift of height can be a curse as well as a blessing. I have found in my experience that the bonuses of being tall are the same thing as the curses. Here are a few examples. 

I think it’s safe to say that people are generally intimidated by things that are big. If that wasn’t the case, then Godzilla would’ve been the size of a gecko, and Jaws would have been the size of a goldfish. Therefore, people who are bigger than others can and in some situations do come off as intimidating. While that can be a good thing most of the time because it simply keeps people from bullying or trying to fight you, it can also be a curse. For example, not too long ago I went to see some young cousins of mine that I only met once prior to this. These little girls had an excellent time playing with my sister our whole visit, but they were afraid of me, as I towered over them. Sometimes it isn’t fun to be scary.

The obvious one would be that tall people are higher up in the air and can reach stuff that is on the top shelf. At school, I am always asked by my shorter teachers to turn on the projector and save the day. Which is good. I’m glad my height can contribute to society. But on the other hand, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m hitting my head on everything. Do you know what it’s like to run cheerily  and care-freely down the stairs as a young child just to walk down those stairs as an older child and have to duck in terror of cracking your skull open on the ceiling? IT’S DEPRESSING.  

Here’s a good one. Whenever my family goes to massive family get-togethers, the people who haven’t seen me in while will talk to me about how tall I am. Which is a good thing because sometimes I don’t even recognize who I’m talking to or if I’m even related to them so I’m very grateful to just have something to converse about. On the other hand, the whole height-conversation thing backfires in some situations. I have some family members that I can’t have a conversation with that doesn’t involve my height as the main topic. Like that’s all they’re able to talk to me about.


-- Rudolph