Touring New York during Covid (!)

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(This post is back-dated and obviously a trip that happened before the recent flooding from Hurricane Ida. I’m praying for safety for everyone. Please let this be my tribute to the wonderful city that keeps on going during all kinds of hardships. My heart goes out to everyone that is there in the thick of it.)

We went to New York! During covid! During the worst time of year to go! In spite of all the negatives we actually really enjoyed it. In fact, we had a really good time. Of course, it would have been better if there wasn’t a pandemic going on and I wasn’t riddled with anxiety over how unsafe we were and if we weren’t there during a sweltering hot summer heatwave… but we managed and we had a great time.

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The first thing we noticed about New York as we stepped off the airplane into the passenger boarding bridge was the WALL of hot, humid air. I knew it was going to be hot and I prepared. I packed every single hot-weather outfit I have and phew, I’m glad I did. The kids were not so prepared. They packed sweatshirts, their usual. I should draw a cartoon of Joon’s fashion choices for the seasons. It would be four panels of exactly the same thing: black sweatshirts. But I digress. I made just as weird choices when I was a kid!

We immediately Ubered to our hotel in Long Island where we would spend the night and attend our first ever PERSIAN WEDDING the next day!

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First-ever to me, Bug and Joon, that is. Payam has been to Persian weddings before. He had told us the wedding would be lavish and exciting and fun but I really had no idea. We had bought and packed ball gowns in preparation for this wedding and as we got ready the next day, I kept asking Payam, “Are you sure we are not overdressed?” I was sure I’d show up and be the only one in a full-length ball gown but nope! Payam was right. Ballgowns were exactly the attire and I was not embarrassed by my floofiness at all! In fact, it was perfect.

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I love my dress! It’s giant and light and airy and I danced all night in it without a care in the world. Have I shared that I’m training for a half marathon by running 2-3 miles every other day and dancing is so easy when you are in better shape? I don’t even remember sweating in my dress, which is my usual reason for slowing down on the dance floor. I wish I had a photo of me whooping it up but maybe it’s better in my imagination than it would ever be in real life anyway.

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The girls were dressed to the nines as well, not counting Bug’s hightops Converse underneath her long pretty gown. Really, she was the most sensible one. She did have fancy high heels but since both she and Joon were attending the bride all day, those heels were ditched in minutes.06-NewYorkNewYork-dancing-the-night-away

I love this photo of Bug and Payam dancing. They are often at odds with each other as Bug transitions into adulthood and it’s really heartwarming when I see them getting along. They do get along well because they both have great senses of humor BUT they are both natural alphas so you can see how that goes when they don’t agree.

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There was drinking and dancing and so much food! The cocktail hour put Las Vegas buffets to shame with its myriad of mini foods to try.  Sliders, tiny mac and cheese bites, cheesecake, fillet mignon, a noodle bar…I can go on for days about how much food there was. I hear a large buffet is a New York thing but I wouldn’t know. And then there was a full dinner too!

I think I danced all my calories off.

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The next day we stopped at Payam’s cousin’s highrise apartment in Hudson Yard on the Westside. Wow, what a view they have. I could sit there and just stare and stare, taking in all the tiny details of life going on below.

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We spent the night there curled up on couches because of a mix-up with our hotel reservations. A little backstory: I haven’t mentioned that the Persian wedding was for Payam’s cousin. This cousin was supposed to get married in 2020 but you know how that went. Everyone (including us) bought their plane tickets and reserved their hotel rooms in 2019 only to postpone it multiple times as Covid wrecked everyone’s plans in 2020. It was such a hard year, especially for Payam’s cousin. The festivities would have been called off for good (they still got married at the courthouse) but their venue wouldn’t give them their money back so here we are in 2021 having a wedding after all!

The beautiful thing is that we got to stay in the newlywed’s apartment the day after the wedding. Who does that? Really good cousins I guess. It was an amazing time catching up with the bride and groom right after the big event and then we got to wake up to that amazing view!

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The next day I woke up early to explore. How could I not?!

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While everyone else slept I got coffee with a friend (safely distanced of course) and toured The Vessel.

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The sad story of The Vessel is that it had to be closed because so many people jumped from the top to their deaths. It’s such a tragedy because this building is so beautiful. It was meant to be explored and wandered about but now all we can do is take pictures of it like the great big piece of art that it is.

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New York is full of art!

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My days are a little mixed up but we actually had walked to The Vessel as a family the night before on our way to see Times Square.

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I’m just going to gloss over how afraid I was of germs while in Times Square. I’m glad the kids got to experience it but it was nothing like the usual experience. We avoided crowds and didn’t linger.

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We still saw a lot and the kid’s eyes bugged out of their heads.  While Bug and I kind of got the creeps, Joon loved it. She thrives on being over-stimulated. She’s fallen in love with New York and plans to go to college there, which I think is awesome.

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The next day we walked The High Line. I love the High Line. I’m so glad there were so many things to do outdoors.

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It was still quite hot but there was shade and even water features to put our feet in!

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Then that night we traveled to Harlem to stay in our very own Airbnb brownstone! We were a bit hesitant to go here because we’ve heard so many stories about it being unsafe but it was actually really safe and an amazing experience. I’m so glad the girls got to see this side of New York.

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Our apartment was amazing and the pizza a block over was even more amazing. Is there any bad food in New York?

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I attempted to draw one skinny building but it took forever. If I lived here I would challenge myself to draw a building a day. I’m not the most patient sketcher so that would be a BIG challenge for me.

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Then we walked through Central Park from Harlem to The Met. That was a lot of walking! Central Park is big!

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I was happy we squeezed in a museum and it was really nice and cool to wander around looking at paintings. I realized that I could spend hours reading all the plaques but I also realized my family was NOT down for that. I made a mental note to take myself by myself to museums in the future.

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We whizzed through the Persian section and I got to check out an exhibit on women in photography through history which was pretty interesting. Then we went back to Central Park for a bike tour (my favorite!).

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Central Park is amazing. Even when it’s hot and sweaty. Actually, it’s a great way to escape the heat of the streets.

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I felt bad for the poor guy pedaling (we aren’t a light bunch, even broken up into two parties)  but it is the best way to see all the best spots with the wind blowing through our hair.

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Of course “The Friends Fountain” was a necessary stop for Joon who is a super fan of the show. She was predictably disappointed by how inaccurate the fountain was even though we all know the real one is on a set in Burbank California.

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We also got to see a snippet of the new Blues Clues being filmed. Watching something being filmed is always a fun part of visiting New York.

Then we were off to our last hotel of the great New York trip: The Citizen M!

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Payam and I stayed there when we last visited New York and I knew we had to take the kids there too. It’s such a cool way to experience downtown Manhattan. The rooms are small pods with just a bed and a window and a shower that lights up different colors depending on what mood you select on your provided Ipad. It’s all very cool. The girls got their own pod and partied all night I’m sure.

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Then the next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel AND down the street at our favorite bakery cafe! You can never have too many lattes and pastries when in New York I say!

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Payam took one for the team (so we could photograph it) and ordered the pig pastry that was filled with lychee cream and green tea cake.

We did some touristy stuff and bought the obligatory souvineers.

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And then we made our way to the 911 Memorial.

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The museum was closed for Covid precautions but that didn’t matter to us. The dual reverse fountains demand reverence and we stood there for such a long time just feeling sadness and respect for the great loss that was September 11th and those buildings that fell. The fountains are like giant gaping holes where the buildings used to be and the sound of all that water rushing towards a hole in the middle that you can’t see where it goes to, it’s eery and large and sobering. I can’t think of a better way to remember such an awful thing that happened. It’s beautiful and somber, awe-inspiring. It’s also really hard to describe!

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Next to it was this great big mall structure that was also pretty awe-inspiring. We went in but it was a ghost town as everyone in New York prepared for another big lock-down.

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After that, we headed to the Staten Island ferry for the free tour of the Statue of Liberty.

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I’ve taken this ferry before when I was sixteen and my family took the great cross-country RV trip but it was special to show the kids. Payam especially appreciated it and even choked up a little. I think the Statue of Liberty always means a little more to immigrants.

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Lastly, we toured the Rockerfeller building and let the kids do a tiny bit of back-to-school shopping on Fifth Avenue with some gift money they had received just for the trip. It’s not often that you can go back-to-school shopping on Fifth Avenue in the flagship stores of your favorite stores from back home. So that was fun. And then before we knew it it was time to catch a taxi to the airport so we could fly back home in time for the kids to go to school the very next day!

That’s how we roll.

 

The “13 Doesn’t Succ…” Succulent Party

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It rained all week and then suddenly on Saturday, the day of Bug’s thirteenth birthday party, the sun came out, the rain dried up and it was a brilliant lovely summer day. Pretty much perfect for an outdoor succulent-themed birthday lunch!

(Of course we had a back up plan. We would have went ahead and had a birthday lunch inside and crowded everyone into our dining room. I would have pan-fried the hamburgers three at a time and it would have been a smokey mess but we could have pulled it off. I’m just so glad we didn’t have to.)

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From the outside everything looked perfect. It was sunny and warm day in January. The napkins I found stuffed in my party box were the perfect color of orange to match Bug’s neon orange shirt that she picked out last minute. The adorable little succulent plants fit perfectly into their little terra cotta pots. The cupcakes were the most cute! The hamburgers were delicious and the avocados were even the perfect amount of ripeness to make a big bowl of tasty guacamole. The puppies were happy guests in the side yard petitioned by a puppy gate. Everyone was happy.

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I, however, was not as happy. A shame, I know. It’s just that I’m think I am ready to retire from party-throwing. I know. Nobody believes me. And maybe I’m just all talk. Come May when it’s time to throw Joon’s “baking challenge” birthday party, I’ll probably be rearing to go again. But right now I just feel like I’m done. I’ve spent way too much money on these parties over the years and it’s starting to get to the point where the wonderful creative aspect of party-throwing is not outweighing the financial and operational stress of making them actually happen.

It’s finally come to that. Maybe 2018 was a rough year for me and I’m finally growing up.

I love parties. I just don’t love who I become during party prep count-down time AND I don’t love how much money I spend. Unfortunately I’ve set the bar pretty high and the kids have come to expect this kind of festivities but I think it’s time to train them out of it because this can’t sustain itself. At least not for a while while I recuperate from losing my laptop and camera in Italy.

But you are not here to discuss my mental health and my party planning retirement. You are here to look at the details.

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Details! The green bar, the green lemonade, the sunny day, the succulents everywhere… It was all lovely

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Bug and I fell in love with the idea of succulent cupcakes. They are all over Pinterest these days. I didn’t really put a lot of effort into researching the how-to steps to make them though because Joon has become the baker in the house and I figured between the two of them, (Joon is the baker, Bug is the decorator) they would probably pull it off. I bought the Russian tips and let it all sit on the counter for a week until the day of the party.

Well, as luck would have it, the girls let me down. Not terribly but they kind of expected me to pull it off for them like I usually do and they were off in the bathroom somewhere doing their hair. So maybe you could say I let them down. Chalk it up to a miscommunication.

So there I was a the eleventh hour trying to figure out how Russian icing tips work. The kit I bought was super complicated with widgety plastic parts that for some reason with the last minute stress of it all turned into a rubic’s cube mystery operated by Greasy Fingers Mc-frustrated. Nothing worked and the cute little succulents of icing turned into smooshy blobs instead of leaf-like peaks. The color was perfect (because Bug, the color expert added the food coloring) but the shape was just a mess.  Of course it was 101 degrees in the kitchen because that is how our house works when the sun is out (pretty windows have an ugly side effect) and that probably contributed to my stress.

I grunted and screamed and pretty much turned into a Tyrannosaurus rex for twenty minutes. Poor Payam hovered nearby but there was really nothing anyone could do to calm me down or fix the situation.  I muttered through it and in the end the cupcakes turned out pretty cute. And since no one was comparing them to the Pinterest pin I had in my head, nobody realized they were a collassel failure.

Typical Brenda. Freak out and nobody knows.

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Payam cooked the hamburgers. Joon had perfect hair…

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And the party went off without anyone knowing that I was officially throwing in the towel. Last party I vowed.

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A funny thing about Bug and Joon. Bug loves to draw (of course! She’s just like me) and many of Bug’s friends like to draw too. Joon does not like to draw and many of Bug’s friends don’t like to draw either. So the party kind of split into two groups: the drawers and the game players.

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Joon LOVES any kind of game. The more active the better. I never realized how much I hated games until I met someone who really loves them. There are just so many games I am bad at!  Pretty much anything to do with math or being on the spot gives me anxiety. So that rules out all games except Pictionary. I love Pictionary because I love to draw. Sadly nobody else really loves Pictionary as much as I do.

When the party started out Joon was kind of moping around because it was a day for Bug and all of Bug’s friends were there. Joon didn’t get a chance to invite any of her friends, an oversight on my part. She was sad and bored.

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But then when Bug went off to a corner with her drawing buddies some of her non-drawing buddies got bored and wandered inside to find Joon who was standing by to save the day with TWISTER! and CARD GAMES! All the gamers were so happy and so was Joon. And that’s how that worked out.

It’s funny though because Payam came to me and said, Why are there two groups? Why are Bug and her two lone buddies off being anti-social to which I turned to him and said, Let them be. That was me. I always hated parties because I hated games and I just wanted to be off in a corner drawing. So we let them be.

 

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And that was that! Thirteen didn’t suck so much. But being the party planner did so maybe this is my last party. At least until May. And then THAT will be my last party.