Snapshots from New York.

Dear friends,

I’ve been resisting writing a travelogue post about my recent trip to New York City.

Mostly because it would bore you death, not because I wouldn’t love to do it.

As much as I’m a small-town girl, I adore cities, especially New York, and there’s nothing more I’d rather do than write at length about every detail of my six days there. (Mr. Mom will affirm this. I think he’s tired of my one-track conversation, but he’s still politely listening).

So for your sake, I decided to consolidate my favorite impressions and photos into a Top 5 list.  By the way, Kate would have a totally different list. This is Joan’s opinion only and everyone knows Joan is one opinionated broad.

Joan’s Short List of New York City Wonders (in no particular order):

MOMA ought to be designated one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I got goosebumps and shed a tear or two during the few hours we spent there. Really, it was sublime overload. It made me think heaven is probably filled with art. Anyway, besides works by Dali and Pollock and Monet and Rothko and Mondrian and Van Gogh and so many others that made me marvel, I was absolutely smitten by this piece by Edward Ruscha:

The gallery text reads: “In capital letters, ‘oof’ floats against an empty blue backdrop, suspended somewhere between image and language and between iconicity and absurdity.”  Ruscha’s delicate balancing act is deliciously irreverent and ironic and reminded me why I love modern art. And you know what else I love about MOMA? Cameras are allowed! I took a slew of photos of both art and gallery text as a personal memoir. Thanks, MOMA curators. You totally made my week.

Broadway simply can’t be beat as an entertainment destination. I had the good fortune of seeing two shows and wished I could have seen 10 more. “Jesus Christ Superstar” was brilliant — a post-modern vision of the passion story with a soundtrack that everyone my age knows well. I couldn’t help singing out loud to most of the songs. “Hosanna” was especially well staged with a chorus line waving giant aluminum palm leaves.  And “Nice Work if You Can Get It” with Matthew Broderick was two hours of old-fashioned Gershwin fun chock full of eye-candy costumes, slapstick humor and more songs you know all the words to. My next dream vacation is to spend five days in Times Square doing nothing more than seeing as many shows as can be crammed into 120 hours. By the way, the discount tickets line in Times Square is a bargain one should not lightly dismiss. Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, you have to wait in a long line. But it’s also a fun way to pass a couple of hours. I wouldn’t be smiling if it weren’t.

Ground Zero is hallowed, mystical ground. There’s a vibe to the place I can’t describe — except to say it’s simultaneously reverent and celebratory. I almost passed it up thinking it would be overrun with tourists (it was), which would ruin the moment (it didn’t). My last trip to NYC was in 1999, at which time I stood on the observation deck (107th floor) of WTC 2 and took in the wondrous view on a cold but clear winter day. This trip, I laid on the grass of the Memorial in silent meditation and concluded the view of the emerging four towers was just as spectacular.

Buddy of Cake Boss has it going on! The man is not just a TV star — he’s a pastry God. I was all set to conclude the whole “Hoboken Baker” schtick was just a hefty fork-full of reality-television schlock. But his baked goods were ungodly good and unbelievably fair-priced. Props to him for not jacking up his prices in the wake of his television success. And next time you go to the Big Apple, make time in your schedule to visit Hoboken. (You can get there in 15-20 minutes from almost anywhere in Manhattan on the Path 33 subway line.)  Hoboken is totally underrated, which I’m sure has everything to do with the fact that New Jersey is its surname.

Street performers are one of the coolest free benefits of big cities and NYC abounds with talent. Kate and I sat and watched these two  guys near Times Square for quite a while. I couldn’t help but give them a few bucks. I always give street performers a few bucks. I mean, if they’re going to the trouble of entertaining me for free, how can I not give them a little legal-tender appreciation?

With gratitude {for the trip of a lifetime and 144 hours of uninterrupted time with my sweet CupKate},

Joan, whose face is hurting because she still can’t stop smiling

A tip o’ the hat.

Dear friends,

Guess what’s swarming all over Manhattan?


Fedoras, Boaters, Panamas, Newsboys, Buckets, Berets, every kind of hat imaginable can be seen on men and women of all ages and all styles across the Big Apple.

If I had a buck for every time I turned to Kate during our trip to New York City and declared “I wish I had a HAT!” I could buy . . . well . . .  a hat.

I adore hats though I rarely wear them, save the occasional ball cap worn while canoeing down the river or a Coach rain hat I bought on deep discount and pull out during inclement weather. I try on hats every chance I get, but something always stops me from making the actual purchase.

Here’s one I’ve owned since Kate was a child.

I wore this hat one time. To Kate’s T-ball game in 1999. As I sat in the stands cheering her on, a small child playing nearby wandered over to me and asked “Why are you wearing that hat?”

“Because it’s hot,” I replied. “And I like it.”

“I don’t,” the young girl said very matter-of-factly before wandering off to write her name in the dirt.

I haven’t worn the hat since, though not because of that child’s withering criticism, but because it doesn’t fit particularly well and tends to fly off my head in the slightest breeze.

I keep vowing to buy and wear a fashionable hat and I keep failing to do so. Somehow I think middle-age women wearing hats in Midwestern small towns are a half-step away from crazy cat ladies in the minds of most people. But in New York . . . man would I have been in style.

For a glimpse of the vast array of hats I spotted during my trip to NYC, take a look at Bill Cunningham’s video essay from the New York Times. Bill’s a marvelous observer of style and I watch his segments often.  And who knows . . . maybe you’ll be inspired to buy a hat and I can live vicariously through you.

Bill Cunningham’s hats, hats and more hats.

With gratitude {for my sweet traveling companion who told me I looked lovely in every single hat I tried on during our trip},

Joan, who’s mustering up the courage to buy and/or wear a fashion hat before 2012 ends

A budding welcome.

Dear friends,

In the days leading up to Mother’s Day, Mr. Mom and Parker worked hard to build a raised flower garden for me. It wasn’t much to look at back in May — a few railroad ties arranged into a rectangle at the edge of our woods filled with freshly fertilized dirt and sprinkled liberally with flower seeds. At the time, I took a photo of it to show you, but there wasn’t much to see so I never got around to posting about it.

But when I got back from New York City, Mr. Mom couldn’t wait to show me the all the growing our little garden has been doing. My flower plants are fully leafed out and bursting with buds.

And there’s even a tiny purple bloom among the sea of leafy green.

I can’t tell you all the varieties of flowers in my garden because I literally pulled random packets of seeds off the shelf at Lowe’s and didn’t even keep track of what we planted.  I figured the fun would be in the surprise of the bloom that awaited me. I think July is going to be a great month for fresh flowers around our house.

One of the things I hated most about leaving our previous home is the cutting garden we planted in our back yard. At its peak, it was bursting with color.

That garden produced enough blooms to fill a vase for my Sunday supper table every week from June until September. I knew our new place would never truly feel like home without a cutting garden, so I was grateful that Mr. Mom and Parker were willing to provide the hard labor to build the bed exactly where I wanted it (in a perfect sight line from my kitchen windows) and haul dozens of wheelbarrow loads of dirt from our bottom land to fill it. And I should mention they’ve dutifully watered it every day since we broadcast the seeds on Mother’s Day.

Mr. Mom has always been diligent about harvesting and drying our flower seeds each year, so after we plant a garden we never have to buy more seeds. It makes me feel so Mother-Earthy. (And I haven’t even lifted a finger!)

I noticed in New York City that even the most humble abode — surrounded by concrete as far as the eye could see — often had a pot of flowers on the stoop or in the window.  And flower vendors seemed to thrive on every other corner all across the Big Apple.

Clearly, no matter our environments — urban, suburban or rural — flowers fill our lives with beauty as surely as air fills our lungs with oxygen. Last Thursday evening, in the middle of an “up and coming” neighborhood in Brooklyn where we visited my niece, I spied a modest pot of geraniums brightening up the saddest and dirtiest stoop on the block. I took note and said a silent thank-you for my 15 acres of Missouri heaven where the love of my two boys will be in full bloom all summer long.

With gratitude {for my two able gardeners, who I like to refer to interchangeably as “Tall Juan” and “Hunky Hector”},

Joan, who daydreamed on the flight home of a “shop girl” existence in the West Village where she would break new ground as the neighborhood’s finest purveyor of cupcakes AND fresh flowers

It’s a beautiful day in New York.

Dear friends,

It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting in a Starbucks window seat on the Upper West Side drinking my latte and watching the world walk by (so very “You’ve Got Mail”).

It’s a beautiful day in New York City.

Over the last four days, my responsibilities and anxieties have melted away and all that remains is one fabulous, monumentally memorable mother-daughter trip.

I’m relaxed. I’m happy. My heart is full with gratitude for the gift of this time with Kate. I’m guessing it won’t surprise you to hear that I have very nearly burst into tears a million times — so many things have moved me these last few days. Even as I type this and look out the window while waiting on Kate to fill her coffee order, I am overflowing with joy.

There is beauty everywhere.

We’re off now — to soak up one last day in the city. Truth is, though, we could be anywhere. Mostly I am off to soak up one more glorious day of memories with my sweet child.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful Saturday, too!

With gratitude {for all the love and beauty in this world},

Joan, who is convinced travel is a fool-proof tonic for the soul

Joisey girls.

Dear friends,

Not long ago I was kvetching to a friend about how much I’ll miss Kate when she moves away to college, about how time is slipping away, about . . . oh, you know — that thing that mothers do.

And my wise friend, who has been the source of many good ideas and advice over the years, suggested I needed to plan a girls’ trip with Kate — a week’s getaway after she graduates from high school, just the two us, as a kind of rite of passage/celebration/cementing of the mother-daughter bond experience.

I was all over the idea and mentioned it to Kate immediately. I told her we would go anywhere she wanted to go (within reason of course, which my girl is nothing if not reasonable) and to think about it.

A couple of nights ago I followed up with her.

Joan: Have you been thinking about where we might go for our girls’ trip?

Kate: Anywhere is fine, Mom. Wherever you’d like to go, I’m sure I’d enjoy it.

Joan: No, no, no. I want you to pick. It’s your trip.

Kate: Well, I was talking to a friend and I was thinking how fun it would be to go to Hoboken.

<insert screeching tire sound>

Turns out, guess who is in Hoboken?

Photo credit: hddavila2007

Our favorite baker ever, Buddy of Cake Boss!

Kate started her confectionary odyssey before I did. In fact, she’s the one who inspired me to take up baking. Long before I was spending my Sundays making multi-layer, filled cakes from scratch, Kate was creating and selling these little delights:

So Hoboken it is! And while we’re in the neighborhood, I suggested we ought to drop in on the Big Apple. Because there’s just a few things we might enjoy over there, like hanging around outside 30 Rock and stalking Tina Fey.

I’m so excited, I’m tingly! I’ve been to NYC three previous times, in 1976, 1987 and 1999, but Kate has never traveled there. The last time I was in Manhattan, I went to the top of the World Trade Center for the first time. Kate and I both want to see Ground Zero.

If you’ve been to NYC more recently than 1999, would you do a girl a favor and drop me some suggestions? Where should we stay? Where must we eat? There’s so much to choose from, I need a carefully edited itinerary and would welcome your input.

With gratitude {for the anticipation and excitement of planning a big trip},

Joan, who in her secret dreams believes she could have been a real-life Carrie Bradshaw, pink tutu and all (except for the Mr. Big part because she is clearly more into the Mr. Moms than the Mr. Bigs)