The Met, Martinis and Lower Manhattan

Thursday was a huge day despite not checking out of our hotel until about 11:30!  Robin was first up just after dawn and ventured out for a walk and then read in the lobby while the rest of us continued to sleep.  When we awoke, we were greeted by a text message from her asking if we would like cappuccinos.  Yes please!  (Tea for me). We  had a leisurely morning enjoying some people-watching from our floor to ceiling windows including being able to see into a dance studio directly across the street from us.  Breakfast came in the form of a bacon, cheese and egg croissant, a Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Sandwich, fresh fruit and grapefruit soda from the deli just around the corner.  A perfect breakfast for counteracting our tequila fueled evening.

When we were finally ready, we decided to take a taxi to The Met as it was a rainy day.  Upon our arrival there,  we discovered that everyone else had the same idea and the line snaked around the side of the building.  We almost decided to head off elsewhere but then decided to tough it out for 45 minutes in the pouring rain and we were glad we did.

Our primary interest in going was to see the Costume Institute’s current exhibit, Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion, a wonderful display of classic pieces from all the iconic designers from over the years.  A real feast for the eyes and amazing to see the detailed artistry of the clothing.

After all the beautiful clothes we stopped by to see some of the Impressionists, along with a gazillion other people.

Our final stop was an exhibit called “Beyond Caravaggio” a fabulous display of the works of artist  Valentin de Boulogne, the greatest French follower of Caravaggio’s who had never had his work in a solo exhibit.

In need of sustenance, we headed to the giant cafeteria in search of food and wine.  Mini bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, Gouda and Apple sandwiches on a Nut and Raisin bread, Chicken Salad and chips did the trick.

Getting out of the Met is a challenge, it’s like a never ending maze but we finally did it and hopped into a taxi.  Our driver was an amiable Russian Jew who was ready to chat. As we made the journey down Fifth Avenue he told us about his 30 years here in what he described as “the greatest country in the world”.  He was excited about the upcoming Trump presidency and did not hold back with his feelings about Hillary Clinton.  He then discussed 9/11 and shared some very powerful photos of that day, taken by himself and his passenger.  He says he has never been able to work again on that date and stays home in a mini depression refusing to watch any coverage of it.  We talked about where we were that day when it happened.  I was at home, 5 months pregnant with Rory, wondering what kind of world I was bringing a child in to.

After hearing his account of that day, I rolled down the window and enjoyed the lights, sights and sounds of this most famous Avenue, soaking up the energy of the traffic, shoppers and marveling at the dwindling light.  As we got out of the taxi, the sky was finally starting to clear and the setting sun cast a warm glow over the skyscrapers.


It was then declared that it was time for a martini which we enjoyed in our hotel bar before retrieving our luggage.  Kerry and Robin had classic dirty vodka martinis and Cherry and I went with the bartenders recommendation of  vodka with a dash of sweet vermouth.  So good.


Next up was a taxi ride down to the Financial District to our new home for the next 4 nights, Keju and Marc’s gorgeous apartment.  Keju welcomed us with prosecco and snacks and we got to meet our charge for the next few days, Ling Chao.  After enjoying our bubbly, we headed down to South Street Seaport to Barbulu for a fantastic Italian dinner.  Charcuterie and cheese with a Sauvignon Blanc to start, then pasta dishes that included bolognese, Gorgonzola and walnut, Scallops and asparagus with a white wine butter sauce and a shrimp and arugula dish.  All amazing, and we switched to a lovely Sangiovese to accompany them.  Two tiramisu and some coffee rendered us completely full.  We finished off our evening by walking around the neighborhood then went up to the rooftop terrace of the apartment building to see the city lights.  Beautiful!  Back at the apartment, Keju shared some Canadian Ice Wine that his friends had given him, we chatted some more then all collapsed into a carb coma.  A great day.





So this time last year, I headed to Montreal and Quebec City by myself for what was to pretty much be a next-chapter-of-life – defining trip for me.  It was spectacular and I loved every minute of it.  It’s looking like the post Christmas week is my week to myself without the boys.  After having a lovely Christmas with them, they have headed to Florida with Steve, and this year, I had the wonderful opportunity, along with my mother and two friends Robin and Kerry, to come to New York City for five nights.  Our dear friends Keju and Marc are heading out of town for New Year’s weekend and were in need of a dog sitter at their lovely apartment in the Financial District.  Don’t have to ask me twice!  We elected to arrive early and so here we are tonight in Midtown Manhattan.

We took the train from Petersburg and Cherry treated us to Business Class.  What a civilized way to travel!  The train staff were delightful and the train was on time.  Robin took the train from Lynchburg and arrived at Penn Station less than half an hour after us, which allowed us to order large glasses of not so great and overly priced wine at the first and last chain restaurant we will go to whilst here.  It was convenient!!

After fortifying ourselves with drinks and appetizers, we headed down the few blocks to the Executive Hotel Le Soleil, a delightful modern hotel on W. 35th St.  After checking in and freshening up, we headed up Fifth Avenue towards Rockerfeller Plaza.  On our way, we marveled at the fabulous displays of lights at Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.  The latter was spectacular and was pretty much an on going show that ran every 15 minutes.  When we reached our destination after battling the throngs, we were not disappointed and it was fabulous to see the Christmas tree and ice rink in person.



Hunger pulled us away and we headed to my pick for this evening, a place that unfortunately plenty of other people had picked too.  The wait was an hour and the accommodation in the bar was packed so off we went elsewhere.  We had spotted a tequila bar opposite the hotel so headed to Habanero Blues where we enjoyed expensive margaritas, delicious guacamole and Ceviche.  Kerry was the most adventurous of us, ordering first a Habanero Margarita which was incredibly spicy followed by a Mezican, made with Mezcal.  Service was somewhat slow from the front of house staff but when we made it to the bar, our bartender was delightful and to our surprise, offered us shots of tequila to thank us for being “so nice and so patient”.  We accepted the compensation and fueled with more tequila than any of us normally drink, we went in search of French fries….

Our hotel had a speak easy bar attached to it and here we enjoyed beef brisket sliders, the much needed extra salty French fries, delicious knotted warm garlic bread served with Mozzarella wrapped ricotta and a tomato jelly and a gorgeous flatbread topped with pancetta, melted leeks and much gooey cheese.  Washed down with a glass of wine, the four of us were ready for bed by 10pm!

Ladies Night

“You know, it might be good for you to get out for a drink with some of the girls one night” said my dear friend Hope almost 2 years ago, after I was reeling from my separation….she’s one of those beautiful people in life that everyone should be lucky enough to have in their corner.  She was right, and we made it happen.  We sent out some messages, met at Wabi Sabi on a Wednesday night at 6:30 and so began “Ladies Night”.  In 2 years it’s become so so much bigger as the lives of a dozen+ women evolve and we celebrate, sympathize, support and sometimes simply drink too much wine together.

Eventually, during the warmer months, our Wednesday night gatherings moved to my porch and then when it’s too chilly, to my kitchen.  At one point I was worried that it took away from time with my boys but even they know how important it is.  They love having people in our home and I think that can loosely translate as they love seeing their Momma happy.  This past Wednesday was Ladies Night: Christmas Edition.




Ladies night has gone FAR beyond just getting me out of the house.  Shoot…we all have our burdens to bear and triumphs to celebrate!  What has transpired is a beautiful support network of women in all stages of life, in all chapters of their careers and different statuses of relationships.  No one is exempt from challenges in life and our group is no exception.  Everyone gets their moment to be supported and in return to be a support whether it be battling cancer, giving birth to twins, career challenges, promotions, lifestyle changes, trying to make a decision, relationship issues or simply venting about our  general frustrations or celebrating our victories, however small.  Not everyone comes every week, but if they do, they simply know to show up with a dish and a bottle to share.  Great things happen when ladies gather together with food and wine.

As we approach this Holiday Season, we have all the more to be thankful for.  We are not alone or lonely because we have each other.  These women carried me through a crazy time and to be allowed to even attempt to reciprocate is a priceless gift in itself.  Lucky me.  Cheers to this tribe of phenomenal women!


Celebrating Life



You just have to celebrate birthdays.   It seems that the older you get, the less you worry about the age you are turning and the more you are grateful just to have the opportunity to celebrate.  I have phenomenal friends and two of my favorites have birthdays within days of each other.  Last night we celebrated Aimee and Kerry’s combined 100 years of gracing the world with their extraordinary talents and general loveliness.  When asked what they wanted to do, Kerry said “Steak Night would be perfect”.  As well as sharing a wonderful friendship, the three of us, along with many others, share a love of steak.  The big, fat, juicy kind.  Medium Rare.  Served with salad and potatoes.  And great wine.

We initiated the fledgling tradition of Steak Night about 3 months ago.  Everyone provides their own meat, brings a good bottle of red and I make the sides.  I think it started when we talked about having a hankering for steak but lacking the budget to go out for one.  I have a grill on the side porch of my kitchen and last night Bart braved the cold to grill about 15 steaks perfectly.  Seasoned with just garlic powder, sea salt and pepper, they could not have been more delicious.  We served them with Gratin Potatoes and a salad with Field Greens, Pear and Pomegranate with  Honey Balsalmic Vinaigrette.



Dessert was provided by my mother in the form of two cakes:  chocolate with fudge icing filled with freshly whipped cream and raspberries and a lemon cake with cream cheese frosting.  This was no night for calorie counting… I think we are hoping that the salad and red wine may have negated the damage that the steak and potatoes surely did to our arteries.

I love having a house full of people eating, drinking and laughing.  My boys do too.  It breathes so much life into our home and makes it so much richer.  Fun times with great people.  Cheers to dear Kerry and Aimee!



EDWARD DICKINSON  9/3/36 – 11/26/16

The first restaurant meal I experienced with Ed Dickinson was during the summer of 1993. I was just 20 years old and meeting the couple who would become my parents-in-law 4 years later.  There was a twin lobster special for $15.95 at The Weathervane in Kittery, Maine.  It was the first time I had eaten lobster and where better to do so than in this part of New England, a place that I would grow to adore.  Ed, Polly and Steve patiently and painstakingly instructed me on the art of dismantling this delicious crustacean, making sure I didn’t miss a single part.  Dipped in melted butter, I enjoyed every last mouthful and so began my love for lobster.  Ever since then, whenever I’m in Maine, there is rarely a day when I don’t eat it in some form or another.  Years later our favorite place to go was Chauncey Creek, a delightful place on a dock in Kittery, where you can take your own beer and wine and sit at colorful picnic tables by the water.  We would eventually bring our own kids there. I’m not sure if we ever paid for a single meal there or anywhere for that matter.  Ed loved to take his family out to eat.




Just as he had introduced me to New England cuisine, I in turn introduced he and Polly to my English family which resulted in lots of time eating in pubs, a trip for them to Ireland with my grandfather and even a few days in Paris.  When we opened our own pub here in Petersburg, they were naturally fixtures there when they came to visit, and we finally got to buy them dinner for a change.

Just two weeks ago, the weekend before Thanksgiving, I flew down to Florida where Ed and Polly retired to, and where we have enjoyed countless visits to their home in Cape Canaveral.  This time it was not such a happy visit as Ed was seriously ill in the hospital.  Life can change in an instant. He had been living with multiple forms of cancer for 15 years but it was his kidney that was getting the better of him.  It was never going to be an easy weekend as I knew I may have to say goodbye for the last time.  I was also going to spend 72 hours with Steve after having been separated for over 2 years in an environment with many wonderful shared memories.  What transpired was a weekend that was focused on family, memories, support, and healing.  It was painful, emotional and transformative all at the same time.  I watched as my father-in-law slowly faded but all the while being lucid and aware of what was happening.  The man who had always been a bit of an anxious guy, was suddenly calmer and more peaceful than I had ever known him to be.  I hope he gained comfort from Steve and I being there together despite no longer really being together.  You just can’t erase 23 years of history and we will always be family.

The food in the hospital was in no way appetizing but this man who had always enjoyed eating and drinking, no longer had any appetite.  Steve and I spent time together in the cafeteria when we needed some food, chatting and reminiscing over such delights as buffalo chicken salad, iceberg lettuce and all the fixings from the salad bar, pop tarts and some particularly bad candy.  Here we were, facing losing such a big person in our lives at the same time as coming to terms with how our own lives had changed.

We all have our ways of coping and dealing with a crisis like this.  For some it is to provide a reassuring quiet presence in the hospital room, for others it’s running errands, some simply pray….  Me?  I get cooking.  After a day of eating barely palatable hospital food, I wanted to make sure everyone ate well at home.  For me, food is a source of nourishment, but also joy and comfort.  Cooking for others is an act of love.  I couldn’t cure Ed, but I could make sure there was food in the house for his family.  Heather arrived on Saturday and I picked steak for our dinner with roasted baby potatoes, a salad of field greens, Gorgonzola, caramelized onions, toasted almonds and balsamic vinaigrette.


As we ate and drank wine, we chatted and shared the tough realization that Ed was declining and that we were facing the inevitable.  A really hard fact to swallow.

The next day, my last full day, I prepared myself for taking over Polly’s immaculate kitchen in order to cook some meals for the days ahead.  I headed to Publix, the local grocery store which was packed full of people shopping for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  It’s always so surreal to go to a crowded public place when you are going through an intensely emotional and sad time.  It feels like somehow everyone should be sad. But life goes on and the population of Cape Canaveral needed to stock up for their dinners.  As I navigated my way through the crowded aisles, I was suddenly overwhelmed by hearing “Sweet Caroline” playing loudly throughout the store.  I found myself singing along but then memories of times spent watching the Red Sox play on the TV and at Fenway park came flooding back.  I remembered being with Ed and Steve when the Red Sox finally won the World Series for the first time in their lifetimes and it suddenly truly hit me that I was going to cook this food and then go and say goodbye.  I was alone and surrounded by strangers and started to cry.

I managed to get myself together enough to get home but then the tears wouldn’t stop.  I drove to the hospital where Steve came down to meet me in the parking lot and we walked along the perimeter of the hospital grounds, a prime waterside location with a view of the cruise ships at the Port and the Kennedy Space Center in the distance.  It didn’t feel good to be losing my composure, not helpful to everyone else at all, but ultimately a demonstration of how emotional this experience and situation was and a clear indication of how I felt about Ed and his family.  The fresh air helped somewhat and I spent a couple of hours up in the room and down in the cafeteria.  I then decided I needed to go back to the house and start cooking.

The act of chopping, slicing, dicing and seasoning was calming and most therapeutic.  But I continued to cry while I occupied this space where I had cooked before but under entirely different circumstances.  First on the list was dinner for after I had left.  A large Chicken Divan for the refrigerator and a smaller one for the freezer, an easily microwaveable meal that I have made and served countless times and that is always satisfying and comforting especially when reheated.  The other dish, another favorite, Beef in Beer, which was to go in the freezer.


I had somehow instinctively chosen to make “Cheesey Potatoes” for that night’s dinner, one of Ed’s favorites.  Thinly sliced potatoes layered with just heavy whipping cream, sharp cheddar cheese, salt and pepper then baked in the oven for about an hour.  Pure comfort in a casserole dish.  It was to accompany Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Apples, Pears and Onions served with green beans.  It was served again on a platter I gave Polly a few years ago.  I love serving dinner family-style on a platter as I think firstly, it looks good, and secondly, it contributes to the feeling of a truly shared experience, creating a connection between everyone around the table.


With dinner prepared for each of the coming days, I went to the hospital where the room was darkened and Ed was resting peacefully with Polly, Steve and Heather by his side.  A number of close friends and family had come to visit so he was surely tired.  He insisted that he be woken up every time someone left so that he could say goodbye.  After the shift changed, it was time to go and it was my turn.  Needless to say it was hard, a tender exchange which I will always cherish.  We all left the room feeling highly emotional, of course.  It’s truly a gift to get to say a final goodbye to someone, especially someone like Ed.

It was sort of fitting that this all happened around Thanksgiving, the holiday that was introduced to me by Ed and Polly.  I have so many memories of this holiday spent around their table in York, Maine.  We always marveled at Polly’s ability to produce the entire feast without ever messing up the kitchen, something I will NEVER master.  I remember fondly offering to help do something my first year there and being asked to peel the squash for the Dickinson classic dish of mashed butternut squash with maple syrup and butter.  I loved the dish but have since avoided the peeling over the years by splitting it in half and baking and scooping instead of dicing and boiling it.   I attempted a Polly Dickinson Thanksgiving dinner in Petersburg, once, I believe?!  Silly me….what was I thinking?  When it comes to food, sometimes it’s best just to take the spirit of the occasion and try to carry it on.

So this year, I returned home to my boys in time for the holiday, and our 15 guests.  I was feeling deeply anxious about Ed’s failing health, not being with them all, but especially grateful to be around the table with many special people.  We carried on the traditions of love, good food, family and gratitude.  We didn’t walk the beach at Long Sands in between dinner and pie like many years past, instead we walked the Centre Hill Circle and then went around the table all saying what we were thankful for.  Ed featured an awful lot.  It’s remarkable how particularly important the simple traditions and rituals of life become at a time like this.

I texted this picture to Steve, Heather and Polly when I made the butternut squash the night before:


I will always think of them when I make this every year.

Ed spent Thanksgiving at home, surrounded by family.  Not the usual fanfare, but the place he loved with those he loved, most of all, Polly.  Two days later on Saturday 26th November, he peacefully passed on to his next adventure with Polly and Steve by his side.  Steve called to tell me just as I was heading out to go to the Model train exhibition at the Science Museum, another Thanksgiving tradition.  I didn’t cancel our outing, it was yet another lovely ritual and therefore comforting.

Thank you for your kindness, wisdom and generosity, Ed.  Thank you for treating me like I really was your daughter.  Thank you for all the lobster dinners.  Thanks for always having Stoli and Schweppes or Fever Tree tonic in the house when I came to visit, even though you really only liked Absolut and generic brands of diet tonic.  Thanks for so generously and enthusiastically showing my English family around in both New England and Florida.  I think they even liked it when you forced a shot of Jagermeister on them at the end of the night.

Cheers ❤️