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Yes, it’s true, I went to see Les Misérables this past weekend. While I was watching the show, I dreamed it was forty minutes shorter. But besides dreaming of a longer attention span, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dreams and why some are achievable and some seem out of reach.

In 6th Grade, my friends and I volunteered to clean the attic over our friend Kristin’s parent’s garage so we could have a clubhouse. We pushed and swallowed years of dust to carve out a meeting space. As much as an attic can, it sparkled when we finished.

We never met.

I don’t recall why we needed a clubhouse. Maybe Kristin’s parents just wanted their garage cleaned and knew they could trick us into doing it. Or maybe we had a mission in mind but doomed ourselves with lack of planning. But for whatever reason, we dreamt small and didn’t make it.

That same year, my 6th Grade class went on a trip to Washington D.C. and Gettysburg. I remember very little of the trip except for a light up board to illustrate troop movement during the battle of Gettysburg and a night in a hotel room signing choir songs in four-part harmony with my roommates. The light up board was educational. The singing was magical.

My spirit soared with the high notes; our bond grew with the harmony. We sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” like no four tweens in a hotel room ever had. I saw big things in our future (including solos for me but I was willing to share the spotlight). Next stop: Carnegie Hall. All we had to do is practice, practice, practice.

I was still dreaming BIG the next day, until a doubter brought me down. We arrived home and as we lumbered off the bus, a classmate sniped something like, “Hey, I hear you’re going on tour.”  A friend, our soprano, jumped to my defense! She said I didn’t mean it. She said everyone knows the idea of a singing group is just a joke.

I felt stripped bare, as if I’d ridden the bus home naked and everyone noticed the moment I stepped on the sidewalk. And, I thought, I wasn’t joking.

Before I let this story tug too hard on your heart, you need to know I have precious little musical aptitude. Years of piano lessons yielded one single, shaky performance of “Cockles And Muscles” and I hated every moment of practice. I didn’t go to a performing arts school and I wasn’t paying my dues in sweat or dancing my feet to bloody stumps. I doubt my friends had begun to consider their future and I’ve learned that it’s often easier to doubt than believe.

Around the same time my singing career crashed and burned on the sidewalk, I also wanted to be a hairdresser, a Supreme Court Justice, a dancer, an actor, a teacher and a large animal vet. Those are just the ones I remember.

The hairdresser dream came out of a day at the public pool. I styled my friend Tracy’s hair during the car ride home and Tracy’s mom said it looked so good that she didn’t want her to wash the chlorine out since doing so would ruin her do. Had scissors been in play that day, her mother would have taken a very different tone.

Dreams, it seems, are tricky business.

One magic moment can set your dream machine in motion and one harsh word can break it apart.

So how do parents know how to nurture children’s dreams? And how do dreamers know which dreams to follow and which to let go?

I’m mentoring a 14-year old girl and I see that she, like most 14-year-old kids, has trouble looking past the next big moment. She likes to dance. She wants to be a pediatrician but she doesn’t like science and she doesn’t intend to live away from her parents even for a second.  I think back to some of my dreams and what became of them and I wonder how I can influence my mentee to dream well and dream BIG.

I’ve noticed that practice often trumps natural ability. I overcame middle to poor athletic ability to be a starter on my high school soccer team and score a soccer scholarship to college. I did that even though I’m likely to trip over a crack in the sidewalk and I often don’t know my right from my left. But sports were a constant in my life and I was willing to put in the work to be a part of it. I was willing to pay my dues in sweat.

I want my mentee to know that dreams are in her grasp and maybe she can tell the fake ones from the real ones by deciding which she is willing to work for. The things she loves enough and has enough drive to sweat for might be the real deal.  And if she is willing to open it up to the light of day, make her intention clear and let people know what her dream is, then she is brave and wonderful and on the right path.

So I’m proud of her because she decided she wants to play volleyball so she goes to open gym after school to practice so she can try out for the team next year. She gets mad at herself when she makes a bad play and that makes her want to practice more. The dream to play volleyball was laying right in front of her. She picked it up and she’s going for it.

I’m grateful to her for reminding me of lessons long forgotten.

I have a dream that I sweat for on occasion. I pick it up and put it down. I take it for a walk in the sunshine and then drop it back in the closet. But it’s been with me my whole life. Even when I abandon it, it doesn’t leave me. And unlike the dream of being a singing star, I can practice, practice, practice and make this one come true.

I dream the dream of writing a novel. It is my intention to get it done. I also dream the dream of getting this novel published. That one is a little less in my control but I’m going for that too. I’ll keep you posted.

If you’re dreaming of good food, drink and fun, please check out The Lion (NYC).  The Lion made lots of dreams come true when I went with The Independent Panel of Judges for an extended brunch. Everything was perfect – including that they forgot to put chicken in the Chicken Pot Pie. When we told the waiter we expected Chicken Pot Pie to have chicken in it, he pointed out that we were at a restaurant called The Lion and there aren’t any lions…. He then dreamed a dream that he could make us forget the kitchen’s “oops.”  He did an excellent job.

Please go and when you do, try the Chicken Pot Pie. I’m not joking. Even chicken-less, it was pretty good.

And if you dream of margaritas – order one! It was tasty and they don’t skimp on the tequila!

Margarita at The Lion. They didn't forget the tequila!

Margarita at The Lion. They didn’t forget the tequila!

 

 

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There are a billion reasons to travel.

I won’t list all billion here because my blog is not the cause of anyone’s eyestrain! I want you to use your eyes for very important things – like booking a trip to Iceland. Pronto!

Really.

Iceland is the kind of place that imagination and research can’t do justice. When I read up on Iceland, I learned the Gulf Stream moderates the temperature so the island’s northern location doesn’t mean sub-zero misery. But I had no clue what it was like to spend an afternoon in a sun-hail-rain-snow-sun-storm. I didn’t know that going up a few feet, really just a few feet, could change the world from dry to snow-covered and stormy. Without making the trip, I wouldn’t have learned that the weather is changeable and brutal and beautiful and works to form not only the character of the landscape but of the people.  As we walked the streets of Reykjavik, sun smiling on our faces and hail biting our cheeks, our guide told us that “… Iceland doesn’t have weather, it has examples of weather.”  He also told us that there isn’t any bad weather, just bad clothing. (My damp, loose weave wool mittens that begged the wind and rain to turn my hands blue proved his point.)

These people can really roll with change … except when they can’t.

If you live in Iceland, 50% of the calories you consume are imported.  That must take some planning. While the geo-thermal power is impressive and gives heat and electricity to the majority of the country, it doesn’t make it cheaper or easier to buy a car or a camera or any of the other goods and services that come cheap and easy to someone living someplace other than Iceland. Lots more planning!

So go to Iceland! Expect the people to be lovely and happy to see you. And expect a quick “No” if you ask for something that strays outside the norm. (In our case, it was a late-night bottle of wine in the hotel bar and the need for a detour around a snow-closed road that caused a reflexive “No” but we worked it out.)

And when you’re there, order a margarita (or two). You’ll enjoy them because the food and cocktail scene in Reykjavik is alive and well.  Eat a lot of lamb and fish and absolutely have dinner at Dill and Grill Market (both in Reykjavik). Dill has a tasting menu with wine paring and is an experience you’ll never forget. Grill Market has amazing food served in a very cool space. I had “Red Fish.” It was described as a very ugly, angry fish that can make you sick if you come in contact with it while it’s alive. But they promised me that when they cook it, they get the ugly out and it’s delicious. And it was.

If only we had another few nights in Iceland I feel sure we’d have seen the one thing we missed: Northern Lights. For now, I have to settle for pictures on the Internet. But I feel pretty sure I’ll be back someday so I have another chance.

Thanks for reading – If you go, you should also expect to be blown away by the landscape. I hope you enjoy my pictures!

 

I think what I liked best is that the people seem to have their priorities straight!

And they have a sense of humor! Reykjavik is full of street and public art.

And the landscape is like nothing you’ve ever seen.

And finally, one of my favorite signs ever!

Do you think Iceland is used to dealing with silly tourists?

Do you think Iceland is used to dealing with silly tourists?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes, it’s winter.

It happens every year but this winter is extra dreary because it’s actually cold and snowy and icy and grey … and did I mention it’s really, really cold? Since anyone who resides in the ever-widening snow belt has to slog through it every day, we also endlessly talk about the weather. There’s no escape, even in our conversation, and that’s making winter even drearier.

So while New York City is likely running out of road salt, budgeted overtime hours for plow drivers and possibly patience the good citizens are, thankfully, funny as ever.

Since the weather drove me inside for the little exercise I get, I can report on SoulCycle’s hilarious request that clients practice good hygiene (they call it doing laundry).  The bikes are close together and they worry that when your neighbor takes a deep, cleansing breath, they might choke on your odor.  Flywheel’s attempt to be hip and cool with everything down to the locker instructions is also worth a chuckle as they dare you to lock up your Blackberry.

NYC, you’re doing great! Let’s keep up the humor and keep our heads on!

Greensquare Tavern, 5 West 21st St, NYC, is holding up their end in the humor department.

You should go here, not only because the signage is funny but because the food is fresh, organic and good.

If you order a margarita, the joke is on you so please steer clear. This is more of a pull of beer, pour of wine kind of place.  We ordered meatballs and being New Yorker’s, expected a single meatball centered on a giant white plate to be set between us.  But instead of gingerly cutting tiny food in half and wondering what else we’d eat, we got a bowl – and not a single meatball in a giant, but an actual bowl of meatballs!

We left Greensquare tavern nourished by the food and connected to the restaurant through our mutual dislike of Jury Duty Justin Bieber.

And we are warmed by the promise of Spring!

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This weekend, New York opened its slushy, crusty coat of winter to give us a glimpse of the blue sky and heart-warming hope of spring.  It was a spectacular February weather weekend.  It was also National Margarita Day. Coincidence?  I think not.

Spring and Margaritas have a lot on common.  In their best form, they both have a pleasant hue.  Both can make you forget your troubles.  Both can inspire love and adventure.  Both can change your perspective.

I can’t say which had more influence this weekend – spring-like weather or Margaritas.  But the good citizens of New York City were out in force and in the mood to celebrate.  I think of their numbers and zeal as an unofficial parade in honor of National Margarita Day.

There was a man on the sidewalk, tucked into the shadowy crevice of a building.  Usually this kind of beginning would have a bad ending – but not on National Margarita Day!  He was air-swinging a “golf club.” He had a cigarette perched between his lips.  He inhaled on the back swing and exhaled on the forward swing so his hands cut through his giant puff of smoke.  He smoked with no hands and golfed with no club and looked thrilled.

The grifters, dressed as your children’s favorite characters, had an extra spring in their step.  Elmo and Cookie Monster gave exuberant high-fives as they stuffed tips in their fanny packs.  Their costumes could harbor margarita sippy cups.  I picture a hat with two cup holders and straws under those furry heads.  Or maybe it was just the sunshine?

Coats were off and skin was out.  Ladies on the way to the gym let their calves loose and left their coats at home.  Grateful faces sat on benches, cheeks turned to the sun, soaking up Vitamin D.

And love was in the air.  I sat, sipping a margarita and eavesdropping on the people next to me.  Eavesdropping is a New York City hobby.  In more polite moments (or when we can’t get close enough to listen) we call it “people watching.” But I was flat-out listening to a couple on their first date. as he explained that he isn’t rich and isn’t successful but he’s glad about that because he really likes to scramble.  His ex-wife is a vindictive person and he’s in a good place about their break-up. He views it as a blessing because had they stayed together, he would have killed her.  Oh, and he cries in therapy weekly.

I tend to think that first dates need better game.  It’s wise to keep murderous thoughts to yourself if you’re hoping for date #2.  But thank the margaritas – either overconsumption or the magic in the air … she was leaning in.  I wish them well! And, I’ve taken a mental snapshot of his face if he ever comes up in an online dating match.

I went a little crazy too.

At Quality Italian, I turned down Aprile Super Oakville (2010) from Gargiulo Vineyards in favor of a margarita. Super Oakville is Gargiulo Vineyards version of a Super Tuscan or Brunello and Brunello is my favorite wine treat.  But margaritas are well, margaritas.  And I’m nothing if not dedicated to my research.

We had Chicken Parmigiana for Two (which is really enough for six).  It’s a giant, round chicken parm disguised as a pizza.  The chickens I’m used to eating doesn’t come flat and round so I’m sure a lot of manipulation (I don’t want to know) goes into this entrée.

We shared Dry-Aged Porterhouse Agnolotti and a bunch of sides.  If you go, bring your appetite.  Quality Italian is a steakhouse and the dinner menu is protein-heavy and priced to match.

And if you go, bring a lot of friends.  Even the best restaurant is helped by good company and on this night, the company was really good.

The weather here in New York has turned cold again so we tuck our skin under coats and scarves and bend our heads against the wind.   But the sun is out and hints of spring linger … and margarita magic is still (always) in the air.  I hope you can all feel it and I hope you had a wonderful National Margarita Day!

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At the end of each year, my friends pick a theme for the year to come.

Finding a few words to set a tone for the days ahead is tricky business.  Add in the wish to balance humor with momentum and the need to come up with a single idea that will gain mass acceptance and you get an idea of the care that goes into each theme choice.

Despite our best efforts, some have been more successful than others.

The Year of The Hard Body:  We gave ourselves latitude on this one. We could meet the goal by improving personal fitness or by dating a hot guy who already had a hard body.  This was a spectacular failure on both counts.

The Year of Amore:  I think this was the year I dated a guy with a cheese phobia. Amore? Not quite.

The Year of Giving:  What I gave must have been brain cells because I really don’t remember how we followed through on the theme’s intention.  I do recall an attempt to be giving of spirit.  I gave a second, third and fourth chance to the guy I was dating and as a result, I have the distinction of being broken up with four times in four months.

The Year of the Bitch:  This might have been an over-correction after The Year of Giving.

The Year of No Fear:  Awesome because it rhymes, this theme was about going after dreams.  I wrote a novel.  I didn’t get it published before the theme expired so fear set in. Maybe this theme should be renewed.

The Year of Fun:  It had been a while since we had a contagious giggle. You know, when it’s hard to say the exact funny thing that sets the laughter in motion but it starts to roll and if you stop, you can’t look your friends in the eye without starting again. We had so much fun in this year that I decided to replay it because the next year was …

The Year of Yes:  I’ve come to believe all those childhood promises:  Ask and ye shall receive; You reap what you sow; I’m rubber and you’re glue ….  So it felt reckless for “yes” to be the standard for the year.  There are a lot of things that nobody should say yes to and there’s no need to invite them around.  So I went rogue and repeated our most successful theme, The Year of Fun.

The Year of Adventure:  We defined “Adventure” as anything new.  Anytime we were on the fence about a plan and wondered if we should bother with the first date or the museum exhibition or the out of the blue plans with new friends, we said, “Well, it is the year of adventure!” And we went. We also went to Turkey and Greece (and for the record, I was able to get excellent margaritas in both countries.)

This year is The Year of Well and Good.  This suggests balance and every past theme rolls into this one.  We need to be giving and bitchy, have fun and adventure, be fit in body and mind and be all around good citizens. I think we’re off to a good start. I’m mentoring a 14-year old through IMentor and if all goes well, I will mentor her straight into college. We are lending our effort to Cycle for Survival to raise money for research into cures for “rare” cancers.  Because Cycle for Survival requires getting on a bike, I’ve finally started to exercise.  And, we’ve booked a trip to Iceland with hopes of seeing the Aurora Borealis.

And the year has only begun!

My adventure to find the perfect margarita continues.

I checked out Park Kitchen. It’s brand new in the lobby of newly renovated Park Central Hotel (NYC).  The space is graciously designed though it’s impossible to forget, even for a moment, that you’re in the middle of a hotel lobby.

I didn’t have much hope for the margarita since lobby bars, even in New York City, often disappoint.  When my drink appeared, the bright yellow hue made me think I was looking at high-end mix abuse.

Park Kitchen Marg - Well & Good!

Park Kitchen Marg – Well & Good!

But it was good and strong.  The flavors well-balanced and the tequila was the clear star.

I left feeling both well and good.

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Not being Santa Claus frees me up to do lots of stuff.

I’m not responsible for delivering gifts to the 1.9 billion children of the world.  Be thankful for that.  Logistics isn’t in my wheelhouse.

The Santa Operations Center at NORAD reports that Santa had an on-time departure.  He’s following his usual route, starting in the South Pacific, hitting New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Asia, Africa, Europe, followed by North America and South America.  At the time of writing this post, Santa is about to deliver to Kenya. NORAD says they aren’t responsible for planning Santa’s route – they just track him!  Which is good for NORAD because that frees their staff up for other things too.

Here are 5 things I’ve done with the free time I have (from not being Santa):

1. Travel to Seattle.  I made my way to Seattle to spend the holiday with margagogo’s Marketing Director and North West Correspondent, as well as margagogo’s two biggest non-margarita drinking fans and margagogo’s future Investigative Reporter and Managing Editor. (Tracking how people move around so gifts can be delivered properly must be time-consuming and a giant pain in Santa’s tuchas.)

2. Win all Tickle Fights.  Since the future margagogo employees are only 8 and 5, I can still take em. Size and a team approach makes my future standing in tickle fights uncertain. My nieces are getting bigger and getting organized.

3. Manage Amazing Feats of Athletic Prowess.  Ice skating and rock wall climbing topped off with cartwheels are what it takes to keep up with the margagogo team. I made it to the top of the rock wall (in the children’s section), never left the ice till skating ended and after years of considering my body a no cartwheel zone, managed impressive cartwheel form. Christmas is an endurance event for everyone. I’m a little tired now so I can’t imagine how Santa feels when he parks his sleigh back at the North Pole on the 26th.  He is an endurance champion. But as crafty as he is about getting down chimneys, I’m certain he can’t pull off cartwheels.

4. Eat and Eat More.  Evidence indicates that Santa makes this a priority and everyone celebrating is doing the same.  So I won’t dwell on food. I’ll just say that I’m stuffed full and can’t imagine eating again at least until dinner.  Thank goodness I only have to wait a few hours.

5. Drink Margaritas.  Santa needs to be sober but since I’m not driving a sleigh tonight, sobriety isn’t a priority for me.  My future Managing Editor and I invented the song “The 10 Margaritas of Christmas” and I’m ashamed to say that actual events don’t live up to the lyrics.  But, I did manage to taste test at three different venues:

La Catrina.  Seattle, WA. Nothing says “Christmas” like a mural with a skeleton.  And nothing says “Christmas” to me like a pint-sized margarita that’s actually good. What a gift!  So if you’re in Seattle, check out La Catrina. It’s in Georgetown – a hip and gritty neighborhood. (For you East-Coasters, it reminds me of Hoboken of ten years ago.)

The Whale Wins.  Seattle, WA. I made a mistake by not asking them where the name came from but going here was a genius idea (credit to my Marketing Director).  They’re serious about their drinks and take great pride in the mixing.  And the bartender was happy to share his margarita secret – Dry Curaçao instead of Triple Sec or Cointreau to give the drink zip without syrup sweetness.  It worked.  I had two.  If you go to the Whale Wins, make a reservation or go at lunch.  I hear they get quite a crowd.

The Big Picture. Possibly the best place in Seattle, WA.  It’s a theatre and a bar.  A bar and a theatre.  If you give them your seat number they will deliver drinks to you as often as you direct.  They too serve a margarita in a pint glass (scary sign) and they too pull it off!  And they’re serious about their mixing.  They also serve popcorn in champagne buckets and give out Hershey’s Kisses with the tickets.  I love this place.

The Big Picture

Merry Christmas!  I hope not being Santa gives all of you time to focus on the important stuff too.

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My mother crocheted me a bikini.

I was maybe 4 years old. I felt uneasy as I donned my fancy, loose-looped bathing suit but I’m sure my mother will tell you that time and experience warped my memory. She’d also say the bikini was “high” fashion and could have come out of the pages of Vogue.

We went to the public pool where I eased my crochet clad self into the water.  The fancy loops of my suit got loopier.  The holes grew holier.  With a single dunk, my bikini, both the top and bottom, blew up and swished right off my body.

There I was, naked in the shallow end.

Possibly that same year, I dressed as a pumpkin for Halloween.  My mother made the costume, a big orange fabric orb and a green felt leaf hat. How to make the fabric pumpkin costume round must have been a conundrum.  But my mother is nothing if not a problem solver.

She rounded out my pumpkin suit with balloons.

My costume was stuffed with balloons and I was stuffed into the station wagon (I recall it took some maneuvering because my costume girth was greater than the door width and I was an under-coordinated 4 year-old) Once in, the downside of balloon stuffing revealed itself.  I couldn’t sit without popping the balloons and turning my pumpkin from plump to sad and saggy.  So I stood for the drive, with my arms wrapped around my father’s driver seat headrest so I wouldn’t take a tumble (and pop the balloons).

I remember a birthday party where the entertainment was making party hats.  My guests and I each colored a thin paper plate and my mom stapled a ribbon to each side so we could tie our decorated creations under our chins.  We had party plates on our heads for the afternoon.

I didn’t yet have to wear an eye patch so I got to see all of this with two eyes wide open.

The thing these memories have in common is they must, at least in part, be responsible for my grown-up sense of humor.  And all this action took place in Ohio. “O-O Way to go Ohio.”  (Extra pride points if you remember the musical reference.)

There are lots of directions this post can take now.  I can explore lessons learned (like not all yarn is good for all projects and if anyone out there decides to crochet a bikini, learn from my experience and do a bath tub test).  We can discuss creative mishaps and unintended consequences (like balloons are a great filler until they aren’t).  Today I’m most interested in memory.

I’m not sure why some images cement into my life story while others fade away.

I remember two apartments, powdered milk, the crunch of the gravel parking lot waking me up and welcoming me at the end of a car trip.  I remember our neighbor who used to swallow marbles and then gag them back up.  We made card houses. I went to dance class and got to dance on a public access television show.  I was super excited to go and buy baby wipes because the teacher said stage lights are hot and we’d want to blot.  I was a star in need of supplies.

The Ohio memories seem to group together but I have super vivid memories throughout my childhood.  Things like resting under the dining room table with the dog, carrying Nilla Wafers in my patent leather purse, sledding though my sled wouldn’t go, making ornaments out of dough we couldn’t eat and my Kindergarten School Bus driver, Mrs. Hubbard and her nursery rhyme key chain.

But while I can remember toddling into my father’s 70’s brown panted knees and laughing and getting away and doing it again, I can’t give you directions to 90% of the streets in my home town.  To this day, I seize with fear if asked how to find Walnut Street.  I often forget people’s names as soon as they say them and for all the money in the world, I can’t tell you what I ate for dinner last night.  Memory making is fascinating and I’m always impressed when people show off extraordinary memory feats.

Like when the bartender at Maysville (17 W 26th St, NYC), across time and out of context, remembered me and a friend.  A year earlier, he worked at a different restaurant and we stopped in after shopping.  Cut to current day when we pulled ourselves up to the bar at Maysville and he remembered us, the shopping and our conversation. Impressive.  And he makes a great drink.

Maysville has more than a talented bartender who may well have the best memory in the city.  The food is excellent. Go and try the Crispy Grits with Country Ham.  Believe me, you’ll forgive its artery clogging properties as you bite into one of these treats.  And you’ll order them again.  The Brussels, a menu regular, are amazing (I confess, I push the pig’s ears aside) and so far everything I’ve tried rates a “yum”!

Maysville is a bourbon bar and the under lit bottles give the place a warm bourbon glow.  They take their drink making seriously.  My margarita was delicious.  They use Milagro Silver Tequila and fresh lime.  (I can’t believe I forgot to take a marg picture!)  The drinks are balanced and worth the indulgence especially if you line your stomach with Crispy Grits.

So check it out and when you go, say hi to Andy (I really hope I got his name right). He’s super nice, he will mix you a great drink and when he says hello to you on your second visit, you’ll know he actually remembers you.

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