Monday, January 24, 2011

Around Town....The American Antiques Show

The fact that it ranged from 5 to 17 degrees this weekend didn't stop me from being out and about the city! Last week I had seen an article on the American Antiques Show, a benefit for the American Folk Art Museum in NYC. So Sunday I set out donned in my floor length fur coat (yes, it was THAT cold) and fuzzy hat and headed to the show. 

Influenced by a mother that loves art (Art History Major, Masters in Art, has dragged me to museums all over the world) I have been a huge fan of PBS's "Antiques Roadshow" for years. We'll be watching simultaneously in different cities and I'll call my mom to express my shock at some unassuming trinket being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and asking her to scour our house for something to present at the next show. You never know. 

I wasn't sure what to expect at The American Antiques Show. I entered the pavilion and was confronted by one booth of all antique silver pieces, a plethora of quilts at another, and another of antique grandfather clocks. This might be a long afternoon... But I pushed on and found some really unique pieces and learned about art movements that I'd never heard of before and saw price ranges on pieces from $1,200 for a wood carving to a collection of twelve Early 18th century dining chairs for $325,000. While I appreciate the design and singularity, I wouldn't allow anyone to dine on them! 

The photos enclosed in this post were a few of my favorite items. One is a rather ornate trolley car done in the style of Tramp Art, a unique art form surrounded in a bit of mystery. The origins are unclear but some say it was the art of wanderers creating art forms out of cigar boxes with primitive tools (i.e. pocket knives) and used in exchange for room and board, among other things. The pieces at the show ranged from elaborate mirrors and highly detailed tables to small embellished boxes but the details were quite impressive.   

As a dear friend loves to point out, I'm apparently fascinated with American Flags. The Jeff Bridgman booth was obviously one of my favorites at the show. My favorite piece was a commissioning pennant (c. 1837-1845) that was mounted in a zigzaging, bee sting fashion that sold during the show. If only I'd gotten there earlier....there were a lot of 0's on that sale price though.

A series of late 19th century wood carvings caught my eye - and one in particular that had two women fighting over a man with the caption "A Good Man Is Hard To Find". Glad to know things haven't changed much over the years!

A respite from the cold and an interesting and educational experience...all in all The American Antiques Show was a great Sunday adventure in NYC.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Around town...

Once you move to New York City I believe there is a certain grace period when you can still do touristy things. It's perpetual! With so many things to do and places to discover a moratorium would just be unfair.

Last Saturday we set out to visit a place that has been on my list for a while: The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. The museum showcases the lives of immigrants recently arrived to America in the 19th & 20th centuries in an actual tenement building from that period. The tenement housed over 7,000 families during an approximately 100 year period and has been restored to reflect how immigrants lived during that time.

Visitors can select from a variety of tours that relate the story of the Lower East Side and its immigrant roots, walking tours, or visits to the apartments of German-Jewish, Irish Catholic, or Greek Sephardic (among others) families. We selected the Confino Family History Tour, an interactive tour that allowed our group (6 of us) to take on the identities of a recently arrived Russian Ashkenazic Jewish family visiting with Victoria Confino, a Greek Sephardic Jew, in her families three room apartment. I point out the distinct Judaic backgrounds as historically they created a great divide in the Jewish population at the time. One group spoke Ladino, the other Yiddish, and that language distinction kept them from embracing one another (despite their common religion) for quite some time.

Through our tour (and visit with Victoria), we learned all about what immigrants went through upon arrival to Ellis Island, how they found housing, work, clothing, the cost of things and what their living situations were like. I mentioned their "three room apartment" above, which may sound quite substantial. Realistically, it was the size of my 500 foot studio apartment and they had eight people living there together! Toilets were down the hallway and baths were down the street on Essex Street ($.50 for a five minute shower). Electricity, a relatively new invention at the time, was $.25 for five days worth; one tenement dweller had ingeniously thought to freeze an ice chip the same size as a quarter and was able to get her electricity gratis! Stoves were a novelty and cost $20, which was about 2 full weeks worth of the head of household's wages (3 weeks wages for the women who were obviously paid less).

The whole tour lasted about an hour and a half and was at all times entertaining and fascinating. Definitely on the top of my list to recommend to others visiting NYC and wanting a flavor of how this dynamic city became the melting pot it is today.

Food museum we were famished and headed up a few blocks to The Meatball Shop for some delicious meatballs and brews. I highly recommend the addition of the Family Jewels to any Naked Balls combo. That statement alone will get you to their website I'm sure....

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holiday Hulabaloo from coast to coast!

On December 22nd, I headed off to San Diego for a quick four day celebration of Christmas with my family. The travails of holiday travel did not evade me....45 minute security line, hour an a half chilling on the tarmac and bumpy descent into San Diego, but I arrived! Not the same could be said for the return but I'll get to that story. Despite San Diego's recent torrential rains, I arrived to the sun peaking through the sky and one of my favorite people in the world picking me up at the airport! Christmas was filled with great meals with family and close friends, visits to old haunts (Fidel's, Pizza Port, The Brig for fish tacos), walks on the beach, lots of hot yoga, and just pure relaxation!

As the East Coast was gearing up for a blizzard at the same time we were to fly back to NYC our first flight was canceled and we were re-booked for the following day. Amazingly you couldn't contact Continental Airlines to find out further information; their recording simply said "We are too busy to take your call at this time. Feel free to check our website for further information. Good bye." Seriously? By chance I tried to check in again with my confirmation number and it told me I'd been re-booked for the next morning. No e-mail notification, text message, nothing. Imagine all the people that didn't do that and were waiting to speak with a live person! So, my best friend and I had another full night to spend in San Diego - no complaints! We arose at 5 AM and headed to the curbside check in the man asked me simply, "Newark?". I nodded...he replied, "Canceled." It was so nonchalant we thought he was joking. He wasn't. We headed upstairs to join our fellow travelers in figuring out when we'd be getting back to NYC. An hour an a half later (with a LOT of confusion on the part of Continental), the woman told us (reticently) that the earliest we could get out was Thursday morning. To her surprise, we were both ecstatic! Four more days in Sunny San Diego with our families! So we headed home and went directly to the beach for brunch and a long walk along the ocean. It was phenomenal! While our friends were inundated with snow, no snow plows, mounting garbage and limited transportation, we were getting our dose of Vitamin D, extra time with friends and family and extra R&R.

Our return to NYC that Thursday was thankfully rather uneventful. The streets were still covered in snow and we could only imagine what it had looked like four days earlier. Thanks to Facebook we'd been kept apprised of New York's "Snowmageddon of 2010". They hadn't exaggerated. Today, over a week later, there are still 10 foot high piles of garbage spanning entire blocks that have yet to be collected. Limited garbage collection resumed yesterday and recyclable collection is suspended until further notice. For people in the Midwest who experienced 15 feet of snow over the past two months, we are a joke. New York City had 22 inches at the MOST and apparently can't deal. It's almost laughable....unless you were the people stuck in a subway car for 9 hours without heat or the family that lost their newborn because they were unable to get to the hospital as their streets weren't plowed. For one of the largest cities in the world, there was a major failure in action.

Despite NYC being off its game, I wasn't! After a 'grueling' half day of work on Friday (the only "work" of the entire week), I was off for my next adventure: New Years Eve in Vermont! Two girlfriends and I had planned a two day adventure in Grafton, Vermont. We had found an amazing place to stay: The Old Tavern at Grafton. The three of us hit the road and were so excited when, several hours later, we pulled into the cutest town ever. It was dark upon our arrival and the homes in town were decorated for the holidays with ribbons on the porch pillars, wreaths on the doors, Christmas trees lit and a candle in each window! It was as if we'd driven into a Norman Rockwell town. We checked into the Old Tavern and were delighted at how nice everyone was and how darling the property was. Our room was perfectly appointed and even had a cheese plate with Grafton Cheddar awaiting us in our room. We took a quick tour of the property before relaxing pre-dinner in our room with our cheese and some wine.

We had reserved a table for three for dinner and were pleasantly surprised at our delicious meal. One of the inn keepers stopped by our table to welcome us and share her story of how she'd come to be part of the whole Old Tavern experience. She was just as fabulous as the rest of our experience thus far and made our night even better. Post dinner we retired to the "Barn" where a Celtic Band was scheduled to ring in the New Year! We were mildly surprised (in retrospect I don't know why given the demographic at dinner) that we were about 40 years younger than most of the other NYE "party goers". Regardless, we sidled up to the bar, ordered a Brattleboro local brew, McNeill's, and headed up to the balcony to play a mean game of Scrabble while being entertained by the somewhat somber band. The Old Tavern provided noise makers, hats, horns, and leis to get us in the mood and the band kicked it up a notch with some great jigs and fabulous rendition of Auld Lang Syne to ring in 2011!

New Year's Eve can be such a painful experience; I was fortunate to be with two fabulous ladies who shared similar interests and were just fantastic travel companions! Despite slight headaches from the bottle of Veuve Clicquot that had been gifted to us anonymously the night before, we arose on 01.01.11 and started the day out with another amazing meal at Old Tavern before heading out to Grafton Ponds. Grafton Ponds is a year round recreation center offering tubing, snow shoeing, Nordic skiing, mountain biking, swimming, etc. located half a mile from our hotel. We trudged down the road in our snow gear amped up to hit the tubing hill and sign up for the wine and cheese snow shoe. We accomplished both and had a blast! On the tubing hill we felt like little boys trying to figure out how to make our ride faster and "funner"! Outside of a singular body slam into the wall incident, we succeeded! The follow up wine and cheese snowshoe was just as vigorous of a work out and with an equal pay off at the end: wine, cheese (Grafton Cheddar of course!) and a toasty fire at the top of the mountain. We hiked back down just in time for the sunset and a quick nap in our room prior to dinner. Back to the Barn we went for great nibbles (Mac & Cheese, local beef sliders, & chili), McNeill's brews, and a re-match Scrabble game (I won). It was the perfect way to end the first day of 2011!

We were early to bed that night and headed out post breakfast towards home. Our important pit stop was at the Grafton Village Cheese shop (at the 2nd location in Brattleboro, VT) where we stocked up on our weekend favorites: Maple Smoked, Four Year Aged and Goat Cheese! We did a quick walk through the charming town as well....I'd been there a number of times as my college roommate is a native and then road tripped it back to NYC. The holidays were a spectacular end to an interesting 2010 and an energetic kick off to 2011. I've got my goals set and my attitude ready to tackle the exciting adventures of the year to come.

Happy New Year!