What Freedom Tastes Like (Apparently: Porkroll)

It happened earlier this week: On Tuesday, my youngest turned 17 and left the house before sunrise, returning a few hours later triumphant, with his new driver’s license in hand. I often say that he’s not the worst teenager I’ve ever met, and generally cheery, but this new found independence sent him into a profoundly manic state.

“This is, like, the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said, sitting at the counter in our kitchen examining his new license. He couldn’t stop smiling and said it was the best birthday present, even though I’d just given him new AirPods.

We sat and chatted for a bit and then he ordered a porkroll-egg-and-cheese on a roll (no salt/pepper/ketchup) from a nearby deli, which — if you live in New Jersey — is apparently what freedom tastes like. Then I watched as he slid into the Honda Civic I’d leased a few weeks ago and backed out of the driveway to go pick up his celebratory sandwich and head to school and bask in all the birthday good wishes.

It wasn’t until later, when I was thinking about my youngest child’s new set of wings, that it occurred to me that for the first time in 27 years, I was no longer pinned to one of my children’s pick up and drop off schedules. That I, too, had been set free.

I’ve been towing kids around for so long that when I had my first baby in 1992, new parents were instructed to strap rear-facing infant seats into the front seat of the car. Like, a crybaby was my copilot for a good year until his sister came along and all of a sudden, all cry babies were mandated to be moved to the rear.

I shuttled my kids all over creation, like every other mom, in vehicles littered with crushed goldfish and empty juice boxes they’d stuff into cupholders, leaving a sticky residue on everything they touched. I can’t tell you how many times I had to disassemble a car seat to wipe barf from its every nook and cranny, and as this was well before the dawn of smartphones and iPads, we listened to a lot of Broadway cast recordings and could sing the entire libretto of The Music Man and Oklahoma at one point.

And as my four kids were spread out over 10 years, all that driving went on for a very long time.

The driving pinnacle came when I had four kids in four different schools, had gone back to work full time and was in the midst of a contentious divorce. I’d race to pickups muted while listening in on conference calls while the high school kids argued about who should have been picked up first. I even outsourced driving the youngest back and forth to preschool by signing him up for one that provided bus service. 

Eventually — meaning 17 years later — they started to get their licenses and we slowly began adding used cars to the fleet so they could get themselves where they needed to be (school, work, practice). When my third kid got her license, I finally had someone who could also help with errands and she gladly went food shopping and to Costco for a toilet paper haul. And she happily drove her little brother to and from wherever he needed to be.

But when she went away to college five years ago, that driving gravy train screeched to a halt and I was back shuttling the baby around. 

The upside to the fourth kid, though, is that he’s pretty resourceful and usually gets himself where he needs to be. My biggest driving responsibility the last few years has been getting him to school each morning, which I kind of strong armed my neighbors into sharing with me, dangling the promise that once my guy got his license, he’d gladly drive their kid to school until he got his own license. 

In fact, when I texted my neighbor on Tuesday to tell her the good news, that we’d NEVER have to be part of the terrifying drop off situation at the high school, she replied, “That’s a fabulous Christmas present for us all!!”

My third kid lives right outside DC now and she and I Facetimed on Tuesday after her little brother got his license and she joked that now I could just send him to the market to buy his own ham, which is what he eats every day for lunch at school and it seems like we’re always running out and I need to go buy more. 

“You just need to give Nick a credit card and you never have to do anything again,” she said, and we laughed at how true that was.

He’s lined up a babysitting gig for tonight — which means I can go out without worrying he’s going to throw a rager at our house and that I also don’t have to pick him up anywhere; and on Sunday he can drive himself to a 6 p.m. indoor lacrosse game a half hour away so I can go to my girlfriend’s holiday open house; and on Monday, he can be the Uber driver for me and my girlfriends so we can have a glass of proseco at our annual holiday lunch. 

Honestly, this kids growing older thing is really working out for me, and it was only 27 years in the making. 

Did you know I send out a newsletter on (most) Fridays, sharing all my faves-du-jour plus snippets from what’s going on in my life? Well, it’s true and you can sign up to get it plopped right in your inbox each week, by signing  yourself up.

If you are reading this on your phone, scroll down to the bottom, past my face, until you see NEVER MISS A POST.

If you’re on the computer, simply look to the right for the same form to plug your email into. 

Friday Faves: What I’ve Read So Far in 2019

Can I read 30 books this year?

One of my goals for this quickly passing new year is to read (or listen to) 30 books. Ambitious? Perhaps. But if you saw the stacks of books filling the nightstand next to my bed, you might be inclined to agree that I need to pick up my reading pace if I am ever going to make a dent in the piles (which just continue to grow because I have a book-buying problem).

One of my tactics is to set aside one hour to read each night before I go to sleep, which is generally scheduled from 9-10 every night. Ideally, I close the book at 10, turn on my sound machine, and go to sleep. In reality, there’s far more time wasting — last minute slides down internet rabbit holes, perhaps I sit down before my intense magnifying mirror and start shaving my face* — before my light actually goes off. But I’ve been pretty good about the reading part and have found it much more relaxing falling asleep with a head full of whatever I’d just been reading vs. the local Fox 5 10:00 news, which had been my falling asleep routine for years (I’d set my TV timer to go off at 11).

Besides being a little more calming than news of rape, murder and whatever Donald Trump’s been up to, reading an hour a night has really helped me stay on task and get through the books on my nightstand.

Another strategy has been joining book clubs. So far, I’m up to three: the big, unruly one I’ve been a part of for years where there’s wine and side conversations about kids and menopause inevitably crop up; a smaller group of women who meet to discuss usually more challenging fare over lunch or dinner; and a no-strings-attached book club at my local independent bookstore where a group of strangers gather and have excellent conversation focused on a book for an hour. I’m what Gretchen Rubin refers to as an Obliger, so I know I need accountability if I’m going to get things done and committing to a book club (or three) seems to be working for me this year. I’ve also been selfishly pushing fellow book clubbers to read stuff I already own (shhhh).

Here’s what I’ve read so far this year:

Circe (Madeline Miller) : Here’s one I read that had nothing to do with book clubs and was all about my love of Greek mythology and the notion of a witch living on an island. This is a lifestyle I could get behind. It’s a reimagining of the story of Circe, daughter of Helios the Sun God, and features cameos from all your favorite mythological characters: Hermes, Dedalus, the Minotaur and the wandering Odysseus. Plus, she transforms rapey dudes into squealing pigs which, in this #MeToo era, is an interesting idea. I immediately bought the author’s earlier book, The Song of Achilles, which is now living on the pile but I can’t wait to dig into Helen of Troy, Trojan Horses and all that good stuff.

Educated (Tara Westover): I know. Everyone’s already read this one. My big book club read it for January and it prompted wonderful discussions and kept the dozen or so of us on topic for most of the night. I was reluctant to read at first, because the story sounded so much like that of The Glass Castle, which we all read 100 years ago. But I liked getting a peek into what life was like living off the grid on a mountain in Idaho with a crazy dad, brother and enabling mother (spoiler alert: not amazing). It made my large, dysfunctional family seem like The Waltons in comparison. I’d also listened to a bunch of the book via Audible, and loved the narrator. In fact, I couldn’t shake the feeling like I’d heard her voice before and then about half way through, realized it was the same woman who narrated the unsettling My Year of Rest and Relaxation and kept waiting for her to say something really snarky. But there’s no snark in Educated. Just a compelling reminder of what we are all capable of achieving and how complicated families can be.

Warlight (Michael Ondaatje): From the author of The English Patient, here’s the first line of this novel, set in post WWII England: In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals. Atmospheric. Memorable characters. More contemplations on family and finding solace sometimes in those to whom you are not related. Maybe even forgiveness. I also listened to about half the book during a long drive, which challenged my ADD given its lack of real action. Read for my small book club and chosen by my friend who is an admitted Anglophobe who gobbles up any book taking place in or around the Great War. We also liked that it was on Obama’s list of favorite books in 2018.

Asymmetry (Lisa Halliday): Everybody is talking about this book, so when my local bookstore advertised it as their first ever book club pick, I had to sign up to read, but then walked into the meeting last week and said, “Somebody, please tell me what this was about.” One hour later, all the pieces had fallen into place and made me want to go back and reread (which a few of the women there had actually done). The internet, and an interview with the author, helps.

Scoop (Evelyn Waugh): I think I started this at the end of last year, but read the bulk in 2019, like, a day before my small group met to discuss in January. The send up of early 20th century Fleet Street journalism had been on my list for a while, and I’m glad to have read it but it probably won’t make my list of favorites at year end. A few interesting things: it’s where Tina Brown plucked the name “Daily Beast;” in some ways, (some) journalism seems to have swung back in that direction — where journalists less cover the news than create the news; and very interesting lesson in reading something under the lens in which the era it was written. Waugh is incredibly racist and uses some incredibly offensive language describing people of color and Jews. But then my fellow reader stumbled across this article, which helped us keep the book in perspective.

Next in my 2019 lineup:

The Female Persuasion

American Marriage

The Book of Help

The Library Book

Just Kids

My Sister, the Serial Killer

Follow me on Goodreads, which I’ve begun to dabble in recently. We can compare notes. As always, I want to know what YOU are reading, so please share. Also, if you want to borrow anything I’ve written about (or would like to peruse my sagging shelves), please come take your pick!!

Happy reading!

*WARNING: tread lightly with that micro trimmer! I went in to remove some hair right inside my nostrils and before I knew it, there was nothing left. For, like, a week I could see straight up to my brain. Lesson. Learned.

Football Mom

On Monday during my son’s junior varsity football game against the local Catholic school, he tackled a kid running with the ball who fell on top of his head and kind of knocked him silly. It was one of those situations where the game paused and all the players took a knee while my son sat there looking dazed, and then we all clapped when he got up and moved to the sidelines, where he immediately got pulled out of the game.

When I told my friend Dan a few days later that my kid had a very mild concussion from the incident, he asked, “Are you surprised?

“He plays hard,” he continued, as I pushed 10-pound weights over my head and thought mean things about him. “You had to know this was going to happen.”

This summer when I took my football player for his annual physical, we ended up seeing a different doctor than our usual pediatrician. He’s new to the practice, I’d never seen him before, and he was very tall and spoke with an accent that I pegged as Russian (which was later confirmed), based on how opinionated he was about everything. Especially football.

“You play American football and not the real football?” he asked all jokey, and went on to tell us that he would never allow his own sons to play America’s favorite sport, and then pointed to his head. “It’s very bad,” he said.

And I smiled and shook my head and was like, “Well, thanks mister. I guess I suck,” and we later made fun of him on the car ride home, doing our best Boris and Natasha.

The decision for my youngest to play football in high school was mostly my own. He’d never really played before, but I pushed him to try freshman football because A: I knew he’d like it, B: I thought it would be a good way for him to make some new friends and C: I envisioned myself in the stands wearing a shirt with his name on the back cheering for the team when he was a senior. His two sisters liked the idea, too, and helped me coerce him into showing up at the high school that summer for a workout with the rest of the freshman team.

And he loved it.

He’s a sporty kid and a decent athlete and has the great luck of good genetics, which has rendered him on the taller and bigger side of his peers. He’s also a total bro, and football is about as bro as you can get. He immediately bonded with his teammates and embraced the entire football culture.

And so did I.

I bought myself and my three older kids t-shirts to wear to the games and we embraced our baby’s efforts. I even started to learn stuff (read: pay attention) about football, like “What’s Up With the Punt?” and “That Yellow Flag Means Something Bad Happened.” I really started to care.

Fast forward to this year, he’s even started to get some varsity time as a sophomore, and it’s been exciting to watch him play under the lights. His sister came home from college last Friday night to see him play, and we monitored him on the sidelines, standing with his hands on his hips, helmet on, waiting to get in the game. Finally, my daughter noticed he wasn’t standing with the rest of the team. “Mom look,” she said, pointing to the field, “he’s in the game.”

He’s playing tight end, and we watched as he blocked the other team during a few plays, and then after another snap, we saw the quarterback draw the ball back and launch it into the air towards my son, who grabbed it and ran for the first down. As he was tackled by the other team, we heard the announcer say his name over the loudspeaker and my daughter and I looked at each other, she had tears brimming in her eyes, and we clapped and cheered. All the other players’ parents sitting around me stood to give me a high-five and I immediately got texts from friends further away in the stands, cheering for my son with lots of exclamation marks and emojis.

It was thrilling.

Our team ended up getting clobbered that night after a brilliant opening drive in the first quarter where we made an easy touchdown. The other team came back and scored and repeated that about four or five times, while we were thwarted at every attempt. We’re a public high school in an area where everyone sends their kids to private schools, so it’s a rag tag football team — kinda the Bad News Bears of football — playing a team who had a kid drafted as a sophomore by Notre Dame. An uneven match, at best.

But the thrill of watching my son’s catch and his run was what I left that game remembering, not the miserable score. I loved watching him, and his teammates, play with their whole heart.

I watched him all summer working towards that moment on the field. Heading off most mornings for 7:30am practices to lift in the weight room and work through plays on the school field under the hot summer sun in full pads and helmet. Earlier that summer, he’d been working out with his lacrosse team, going to crossfit two mornings a week at 7:30. He never complains. He never balks at going to a workout or a practice.

So of course, when he gets the chance, he’s going to give it his all, even if that means diving at another player and knocking his feet out from under him, and suffering a blow to the head, as had happened at this week’s JV game. Athletes sustain injuries when playing hard in any sport — I know a woman who’s daughter suffered from chronic pain after sustaining a concussion playing lacrosse and I’ve watched a boy fall hard on his head during a basketball game — but there’s lots of evidence that puts football at one of the worst for an athlete’s brain.

I knew all of the risks going in and still, I let him play. In fact, I strongly encouraged him to play football.

The day after the game where my son made his fateful catch, my college girl and I went into New York City to meet her sister to check out her new office in one of the new World Trade Center buildings and explore her new neighborhood. We ended up eating brunch at a restaurant in Le District, kind of the French answer to Eataly, and sat at a table along the water overlooking New Jersey across the river.

The girls split a carafe of white wine and we talked about my younger daughter’s classes this semester and reviewed my older girl’s new office digs (amazing), while picking at the salty fries that came with their burgers. Suddenly, my college girl stopped and said, “Oh my God, Annie! We didn’t even tell you about Nick’s catch!” and she recounted the whole play. How he easily caught the ball and ran along the sidelines to get the first down. And then how we heard his name announced over the loudspeaker, and how my younger daughter cried watching her little brother play so hard and well.

I looked up from the plate of fries and saw my older girl beginning to blubber over the news. “Stop it, “ she said, her face starting to mottle and tears welling in her big blue eyes, “now you’re making me cry.”

I told this story a few days later to the varsity football coach as we stood in the athletic trainer’s office after that JV game. As she assessed my son for a possible concussion, I told the coach about how proud we were of him. About how thrilling it was to watch him play.

In the end, our doctor determined he’d been mildly concussed from the hit, mostly due to a continuing headache he had the following day. He’s been taking it easy ever since and sitting out of practices, and will remain on the sidelines during this week’s game.

But next week, he’ll be back on the field, giving it his all. It’s really a brutal sport, all these big men charging at each other and trying to take each other down, while we all sit on the sidelines and cheer. And I’ve embraced and encouraged my son’s role as a gladiator in the game.

I hope it was the right decision.

Do you channel your inner Connie Britton and embrace your high schooler’s Friday Night Lights experience? Do you regret letting him play? I mean, I’m involved now, but would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Friday Faves: Get Organized

Greetings to all who haven’t had enough of me since the dawn of my Blogging Renaissance earlier this month.

A few weeks ago — as summer wound down and it seemed my time running a beach share to 20-somethings looking for a place to escape the city’s heat and eat all my food, was just about up — I started dreaming about giving my house a good scrub. After Labor Day had come and gone, I stripped all the white slipcovers off my Ektorp chair and sofa and let them dry out in the sun on my patio, and pulled everything out of our refrigerator and scoured the inside. We’re talking shelves AND drawers getting worked over with soap and hot water in the sink. It felt good rinsing away a summer’s worth of detritus stuck to the bottom of my deli drawer.

My neighbor, Liz, told me she’d just rented one of those carpet shampoo machines for, like, $25 at a nearby supermarket and was raving about all the dirt she pulled out of her rugs. I took a long look at the wall-to-wall carpet I had installed in our TV room before we moved in three years ago, and was horrified to see how stained it had gotten in that short of time. It didn’t help that our Crown Prince — Finn, the 18-month-old goldendoodle — had just enjoyed some kind of rawhide bone that left sticky white crumbs embedded in the carpet’s fibers all over the room.

So I decided that’s what I’d do with my upcoming weekend, rent the shampooer and go to town on the three carpeted rooms in my house. I told my pal, Dan, the exciting news, and he was like, “Do yourself a favor, just hire a professional who knows what they’re doing. It won’t cost that much more.” And because he gave me permission to do that, I found a guy who could come a few days later.

AND IT CHANGED MY LIFE. For $140 (plus tax), this guy cleaned three rooms (total!) and it was like I was living in a new house. I’d cleared a bunch of things out-of-the-way for them to get to as much carpet as possible, piling it all up in my living room, and after they left I decided I loved how everything looked a little less cluttered and spent hours moving things around. I think that day I walked about 18,000 steps, according to my Fitbit.

That, and my recent break from drinking wine every day, has ushered in a period of organization and productivity. As such, I’ve found a few items to be super-valuable in the effort to keep me on track, which is really like trying to herd a cat or, better, that dog from “Up.”

I get distracted a million times a day by stupid squirrels.

Here’s how I am trying to stay focused:

Best Self Co: This wonderful 13-week journal has kinda become the boss of my life. It not only helps me set goals but then has space  to break down the steps needed to achieve those goals. There are monthly, weekly and daily sections with areas provided for assessment, like “What was the biggest lesson you learned this week?” and “What were your 3 big wins for the week?”. My favorite feature though is on the daily pages, where there is a section to list 3 things your grateful for both in the morning and at the end of the day. It’s been particularly nice (and validating) to feel gratitude for not drinking. Finally, for clarification and further motivation, the BestSelfCo website has lots of helpful videos. My only complaint is that after I ordered it — and had a bee in my bonnet to start living my new, more productive life — it took forever for it to arrive. Do yourself a favor and order it on Amazon.


Pens: Obviously, if I’ve got this sweet, new planner, I need the proper writing utensils with which life changing entries are to be made. I’m the kind of person who likes other people to do the dirty work of figuring out what’s the best of anything, so am obsessed with The New York Times’ Wirecutter site. From dehumidifiers to cat beds, they’ve vetted all the options and come up with what they think is the best. Good enough for me. It helps me with the overwhelming FOBO I struggle with. My winners? This one, which is really fine, and this option that makes a little thicker line. I take my writing implements very seriously and think it’s a highly individualized preference, so here’s the complete list of Wirecutter’s favorite pens for you to waste time looking at. 

Command hooks: The night after my rug cleaning, herein known as THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE, I went into a frenzy clearing out piles that took up corners in my office and finally hanging a picture that had been propped against a wall since a friend gave it to me for Christmas. Nine months ago. I couldn’t figure out where I wanted to hang it and in my fugue state, it occurred to me it would look cool hanging from the bookcase in my office. I inspected the IKEA particle board piece and considered the damage a small nail would do and then I was like, “Duh, use a Command Hook!” Pretty much, everything else in my house is adhered to something with one of those magical doohickeys. I use them to hold garland I drape all over the place at Christmas, and to hang all the doodads I have hanging in the wall gallery in my office. If I could, I would use a tiny one to hoist the lovehandle on my back up to join the rest of my body that it has slowly drooped away from.

#amwriting podcast: If you fancy yourself a writer of just about anything — fiction, memoir, poetry, romance, parenting features, maybe even cookbooks — the writer/author/journalists who host this motivating podcast have something to make you want to “get your butt in your chair and your head in the game” (their tagline). I listen while I walk the dog around town and when I’m driving to Costco, or some other glamorous destination. As is the case when you spend an inordinate amount of time listening, or watching, folks, you start to feel like you know them. It’s the same way I feel about Joe and Mika and the lamentably absent Sue Simmons, a News 4 staple in New York for years. God, I miss her sassy self. Anyway, Jess and KJ — my podcast friends — REALLY motivate me and make me want to be a better, and more productive, writer.

La Croix Cerise Limon (aka Cherry/lime): This has absolutely nothing to do with getting organized, but it has been quite nice during this dry period I’m in. It’s in a fancy, skinny can, reminiscent of all those skinny seltzers I drank on the beach this summer, minus the self remorse.





Blue Diamond Dark Chocolate Almonds: Also, a girl needs chocolate, and since one of my goals in my planner is to lose weight, this is a pretty low-sugar indulgence that keeps me sane while also not getting in the way of me shedding some of this menopausal layer I’ve acquired of late.






Blinc Micro Trimmer: Do you have a teenage boy who’s got a facial hair situation? Not whiskers, per se, but more of a fuzz covering his morphing face? Do I have a fun tool for you, provided that teen will sit on a stool in your bathroom and let you have it, which my guy inexplicably does. I’ve mowed the equivalent of a small kitten off his cheek and I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to hack through that long, legit Shaggy stubble protruding from the bottom of his chin. I’ve also mowed my own cheeks, upper lip and nostrils and have tidied up some unsightly hair on an older child’s back. Honestly, it’s as satisfying as clean carpets, and a lot cheaper. You can get it at Amazon or run over Arch Brow Bar in Shrewsbury, NJ and you’ll be defuzzing everyone in your family by tonight.






Any must-haves i need to get and stay organized? Or good treats to make my dry spell even better? Please, share share share below!

Birthdays Can Be Hard When You’re Single

I turned 52 in the back of an Uber last month, crammed alongside my three adult kids on our way home from sweating on a crowded dance floor as we sang and danced to one of my favorite bands late into a Sunday night.

We jumped up and down to the opening chords of Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” shouting the OH YEAHs and ALL RIGHTs while pumping our hands in the air. Later, I saw that my oldest son had posted a video of me on Instagram, dramatically singing every word to “Born to Run,” my 24yo daughter looking on with a big smile, as I pressed my hand to my heart and swore to die with Wendy on the street tonight in an everlasting kiss.


I like to elbow my way up to the front of the dance floor, especially after a few vodka clubs, so I dragged the kids with me so we could watch the band up close. Later, we agreed we were slightly deaf from being so close to the stacks of speakers and wailing saxophone player.

I’m not sure what we talked about after we tumbled into the Uber car to go home. Initially, my older daughter was pissed because the rest of us were kinda wandering around deaf and tipsy outside the bar and having a hard time following directions. Eventually, she herded us into the car she had called and at some point during the half hour journey home, the clock struck midnight and the kids started wishing me a happy birthday.

And even though I really love my birthday, I mostly remember feeling relieved that I’d done the obligatory celebration and that it was almost over.

Here’s the thing about birthdays and holidays when you are single: they are hard.

I mean, maybe they’re hard for folks in relationships, too, but for some reason, I don’t remember it that way. Of course, holidays were always stressful, regardless of my relationship status. Every November I’d be sitting on my therapist’s couch complaining about how some of my family members would show up empty-handed to Thanksgiving or sometimes, just not show up at all.

But back when I was married, I mostly remember my husband doing all of the heavy lifting around my birthday. He was always good for getting tickets for us to see a show I wanted to see, or planning a gathering with friends. He loved a reason to celebrate.

Normal people probably don’t need a big commotion around their birthdays, but sadly, the Leo in me demands attention. She will settle for nothing less than a day in the spotlight filled with people celebrating her. 

Another driving force behind my birthday planning mania is that there’s also something super-depressing about having nothing to do on your birthday, especially in the age of social media. Your birthday needs to be all Insta-worthy to complement all those Facebook birthday messages (of which I’m always hoping to break 100 hbds).

Now that I’m divorced, the burden to plan and execute the kind of birthday extravaganza I need has fallen upon me. I now need to be a shameless birthday huckster and convince people to go along with it. And mostly, it’s been working.

The worst was turning 50.

While other people’s husbands I knew were organizing big parties or taking them away to Hawaii or Italy to celebrate the half-century mark, I was wondering just who I could convince to go to the movies with me, or maybe out to dinner. To make things worse, my 50th birthday fell on a Saturday, which added to the pressure to come up with something worthy of an entire weekend. It felt like I needed two-days’ worth of activities to live up to the hype.

But the problem with weekends, as any single person can tell you, is that your married friends are doing things with their husbands-slash-families. It’s hard for mothers and wives to get away on a Friday or Saturday night. When you are uncoupled, you’re more of a Monday-through-Thursday playmate.

Which left my four children to pick up their mother’s birthday mantel.

I ended up buying tickets for us to go see a matinée of the play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” which was playing at the time on Broadway. Most of us had listened to the audiobook on our way down to my older daughter’s college graduation in Virginia a few months earlier, and we ended up talking about it all weekend — joking about the characters and trying to speak with British accents. It got to the point that we began to annoy anyone who hadn’t been in my car and listened to the book.

So I returned to New York, the city of my birth — 50 years later and this time, by bus — and my children complained about the melting heat as we walked along 41st Street and cursed my parents for having me in August (“What were they thinking?” the children moaned). But other than the excruciating weather, we had a lovely day out. The kids took me to brunch where we were served pitchers of mimosas and ate chicken paillard and the play reminded us why we had liked the book so much on that long drive in the spring.

Then it was my BF’s turn to share my 50th birthday burden, and she hosted a little gathering later that night with some of my favorite ladies where I received an alarming amount of wine and appreciated their group effort to make me feel loved and give me the attention I needed.

Another year quickly flew past, and I found myself still single and needing to come up with a plan for turning 51. Since the recipe the year before had worked so well, I decided to get us tickets to see another show and started stalking the Internet for cheap tickets to see “Dear Evan Hansen,” of which there are none. Finally, after a lot of agonizing and rationalizing — not to mention needing to see Ben Platt sing “Waving Through a Window” IRL — I broke down and bought the tickets for a matinée on my Sunday birthday that I’d had in a shopping cart for a week.

The next day, my oldest son found me in the kitchen and announced that he’d heard Ben Platt wasn’t going to be in the performance we were going to, and I went upstairs to my bedroom and cried. 

Eventually, my older daughter came up and sat on my bed and assured me that we were still going to have a great day together. That was all that mattered, she told me. I heard the logic in her reasoning and eventually dried my tears and went downstairs with lowered expectations, to match my new credit score.

We took the bus back into the city on my birthday and returned to the same restaurant we’d gone to the year before, and drank more mimosas and I had that delicious chicken again. I am a strong proponent of sticking with a formula that works.

And of course, I don’t need to tell you how phenomenal the show was, despite Ben Platt’s absence. I had a feeling the story would resonate for us, but didn’t realize how much until I heard my daughters crying on either side of me. Then, towards the end of the musical, my older daughter grabbed my hand when Evan Hansen’s mom sings:

“Your mom isn’t going anywhere

Your mom is staying right here

No matter what

I’ll be here”

Seriously. Who wouldn’t have paid money for that? Then later, after we returned home, my 15yo son came downstairs and announced he already knew every word to every song, and sometimes when we’re driving around, he’ll put one of them on and we’ll sing along. Ka-ching.

Then, and I swear the years are coming at me on an accelerated cycle where 365 days have been compressed into maybe 300, yet another birthday approached.

The nice thing now is that my kids just assumed we were doing something to celebrate 52 together. “What are we doing this year?” they started to ask in, like, June.

Since my credit cards cannot handle five tickets to see a Broadway show, I needed to think cheap. For the last few summers, I’ve headed south with a group of women I like to call my Little Mommies to a Jersey Shore summer staple, the Parker House, to dance on a Sunday night. It’s a a big white house two blocks from the ocean with a wraparound porch where you can sit and eat and a bar inside that’s pretty clubby on a Friday night in July and where anyone over 30 would look really out-of-place. But on Sundays, they have bands down in the basement tavern that play lots of Bruce and Tom Petty and the likes and it’s a blast being down there with a big posse pushing your way up front to dance the night away. It’s pretty joyful.

As my birthday fell on a Monday this year, getting a group together to head to the Parker House seemed like a good way to celebrate my birthday, and then I wouldn’t care what I ended up doing on the actual day of my birth. It also helped that three of my four kids are now 21 and that my baby was not the kind to feel left out.

I put an invitation out in text and email to all my groups of friends but, as it was August, folks were away or busy entertaining out-of-towners. In the end, two (Gold Star) Little Moms hauled themselves down to show their love and dance — and it was perfect. We met up with two of my sisters and a brother-in-law and later, my baby girl, who’d been making beds as an intern at the Hotel Hershey all summer, arrived after her shift to join the fun.

We tumbled out into the warm August night and my inner Leo was satisfied with the celebration.

Lately, my dad has taken to telling me that he is impressed with the relationship I have built with my kids (he’s also always telling me that I don’t want to die alone, which is his way of saying, “Start dating, already.”). He admires how the kids and I still go on vacations together and that they show up to celebrate my birthday. “You have a family,” he says, and it resonates since I struggle with my family of origin. Even though my divorce shattered the fantasy I clung to of creating some perfect family, I think I might have ended up with what I really needed instead.

Jennifer My Therapist often reminds me of this phenomenon. She’s impressed that my adult children actually want to pay to go on vacation with me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a whole lot of dysfunction swirling around us — you should have seen the argument the kids had in Florence this spring that erupted over a pizza drizzled in pesto that should have been the real reason for tears, it was that good. One child stormed out of the tiny pizza place — where one little Italian man kept shoveling slices in and out of a giant oven, taking orders from a long line of customers — and I went out to reason with that kid and came back inside to talk to another kid, when all I really wanted to do was sit there with my glass or red wine and enjoy the magical pesto pizza I’d dreamt of eating for months.

But to our credit, I really think we’re all trying to figure it out. I think we all feel deep down that it’s worth trying to work through it all. When we are able to see past each other’s masks — through the hurt feelings and miscommunication — to see the person struggling inside. I think that’s what keeps us together. Pesto helps.

Prior to heading out to dance on my birthday eve, my two older kids and I had a drink, and my oldest son took a sip of the margarita I had made and asked if he could give me his birthday card.

“Well, my birthday’s not until tomorrow,” I told him. “Why don’t you wait?”

“I can’t,” he said, handing me the grey envelope. He’s the kind of person who gets a bee in his bonnet and just can’t shake it. The card itself was pretty funny, with a cartoon of a little yellow duckling on the front asking its mom if she remembered all the times he had said mean things and did things she told him not to do. “Thanks for letting me live,” the little duck says at the end, and my son thanked me for letting him “live 25 years on this Earth,” in his note below.

“I love you more than you know,” he wrote, and although there have been times when I’ve really wanted to throttle my oldest kid, I know that deep inside he’s a mush. He’s like my very own M&M, sweet and gooey deep down, once you get beyond the hard outer shell.

Tucked inside the card were two pieces of paper folded together, and when I opened them up, saw that they were two tickets he’d purchased for a performance next month of the show “Mean Girls” on Broadway. 

This. Was. Unexpected.

“I got you two tickets, but I was hoping that you’d bring me,” he said, and I told him that sounded like a perfect date. My daughter joked that she should have given me her gift first, and we finished our cocktails and called an Uber to go out and dance.

Happy birthday to me.

It turns out, my inner Leo is hungry all-year-long! Please consider feeding her by signing up for my highly-erratic newsletter, which sends my latest post right to your inbox (who needs Facebook?). 


Friday Faves: Bra-llelujah People!

Just a heads up: things are getting less-than-sexy around here.

When I was younger woman — with younger feet — I’d listen to my mom going on about the importance of comfortable footwear, showing me the latest pair of Sketchers or New Balance sneakers she’d just order online, and I’d be teetering around in high heels and think, “Sucks to be her.”

Well, obviously you know where this is headed, as I’ve already admitted here to wearing on the reg boots that resemble the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter and getting shots in my feet  so I can, like, wear Birkenstoks.

Now it seems that same sensibility has traveled northward on my body and is affecting my choice of brassieres of late.

During my final days at Athleta, a period we refer to around here as The Big Legging Grab — when I was buying things left and right from that place on the pretense that, without my 50-percent discount, I would never be able to shop there again — I stocked up on a sports bra that had become my undergarment of choice due to the extreme level of comfort it provided. It had just the right amount of compression to hold everything in, but didn’t dig into my torso — that area right under your boobs, that really should have a name — like my regular Double D Wacoal underwires.

Okay, let’s pause and discuss the importance of a good bra, especially when you’re old and stacked, like me.

After 50, my priority shifted from wearing something cute — I mean, as “cute” as a Double D can be — to wearing something comfortable. I realized early on that this particular Athleta sports bra was doing absolutely nothing for my physique, but decided to overlook that compressed, uni-boob look in favor of how comfy the thing was. Like practically wearing nothing but, honestly, I find wearing nothing both uncomfortable and slightly unwieldy.

Ladies, you get it.

And then there’s that whole phenomenon of what happens to your body after you hit the half-century mark. It’s like you’re one of those candles stuck into a bottle of Chianti at an Italian restaurant and are beginning to melt. Like someone lit the wick at the top of your head and everything has started to drip.

But recently, I went to buy a pair of jeans and the saleslady was my age and of course, the conversation eventually drifted to our shifting bodies and boobs in general, and she pulled the bra strap out from under her t-shirt to rave about her Spanx bra.

“Spanx makes a bra?” I wondered aloud, and she said it was great under everything — t-shirts and sweaters — and that she wore it every day.

Gentlemen, you have no idea how hard it is to find a bra that works under a t-shirt, where after 15 minutes of wear, your boobs don’t start spilling out of the top or that’s not digging a trench into your back and creating a big ripple under the fabric.

I got a total bee in my bonnet for this bra and, needing to see it in person, drove 45 minutes to the closest Spanx store to me here in New Jersey to give it a test drive.

I bought two, a black and a nude, and they’re all that I wear, alternating accordingly.

It turns out, the style I bought is dubbed the Bra-llelujah and you will be yelling the same thing once slip it on. It’s not Spanx-y, tight compression. It’s not like the “medical” undergarment that Tina Fey talks about here.

It’s just nice and smooth, and the front closure provides smooth, full coverage and the wide straps don’t dig into your shoulders but they also stay put. But most magical is the extra-wide band in the back that somehow smooths out that whole situation so you avoid wincing when you give your rear view the once over.

The Bra-llelujah comes in a padded and unlined version, and I opted for the latter as all that extra padding just adds to an already generous bust and, frankly, just makes me look dumpy. I like the minimizer effect and unlike the sports bra, my front view has a little more definition.

Depending on your cup size, there are a variety of styles to choose from and I have my eye on a lacy number I’d like to add to the bra stable at some point. In the meantime, although the bra doesn’t resemble anything I can remember from Harry Potter, its magical properties — able to obliviate and levitate the bustiest of busts — is as impressive as a hat that can sort.

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Your First Colonoscopy: What to Expect


This fall, after undue pressure — nay, bullying — from a friend, I scheduled my first colonoscopy. I’d recently turned 51, which is apparently the age when we up the magnification on the readers we buy, stop wearing high heels and schedule things like colonoscopies.

The first available appointment wasn’t until January, which I felt would give me enough time to warm up to the whole thing. I’m going to be blunt: I do not like the idea of anything going near my hiney. Capice? But I’m heading to Mexico at the end of the month and so looked at it as one big post-holiday cleanse. A method, if you will, of purging my tummy of all the cheese and bread I ate throughout December.

But what I’ve come to learn, much like worrying about bringing your fourth baby home only to learn the baby is the least of your problems, the actual colonoscopy is no big deal.

In the days leading up to the event last week, I was frantically searching the Internet for information about the prep, which I had no idea was such a big thing. I thought you just drank some poison the night before the procedure, evacuated your colon, and that was that.

What I was looking for was like a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Your First Colonoscopy” or a “Girlfriend’s Guide to Cleaning Out Your Colon.” How-to books are what got me through pregnancies, breastfeeding and teaching myself how to cook and garden. I don’t know where I’d be without Dr. Spock, Martha Stewart and the Silver Palate ladies.

I guess I like to be told what to do.

So I decided to write one myself. Okay you guys, here’s what to expect for your first Big C:

  1. THIS IS A TWO-DAY EVENT: I had no idea that the poison-drinking started a full day before your procedure. Originally, my colonoscopy was scheduled for the morning after I was going to see one of my favorite writers, Kelly Corrigan, give a reading at my local book store. I figured I’d go to the event and then come home and clean out my colon. Sound thinking. But, like, a week before I decided to actually read the big packet of paperwork the doctor’s office had sent months earlier and learned that I was supposed to drink the first of two bottles of poison the afternoon before the procedure. “Maybe,” I thought, “that just alerted your colon that a big reckoning was coming later that night.” So I called the doctor’s office to ask and the receptionist started to laugh. “Honey,” she said, “you are not leaving your house once you drink that.” Who knew? So I decided to choose Kelly Corrigan over my colorectal health and rescheduled for the spring. But then through some scheduling magic, the office called back and offered me a spot the day before Kelly’s appearance and I hope she could sense the squeaky-clean colon vibe I was giving off in the audience as she read.
  2. YOU NEED TO ELIMINATE THINGS FROM YOUR DIET A FEW DAYS BEFORE: Really, you’re encouraged to eat like a 14yo boy for the few days leading up to the Big C. Carbs and sugar are dandy but you’re supposed to lay off stuff like seeds, nuts and raw broccoli. I’m down with that kind of prepubescent eating, even though in my every day life I’ve started ingesting way more quinoa and kale than hot dogs and Doritos. Like a good rule follower, the kids and I went to Bobby’s Burger Palace the day before The Purge and I not only enjoyed French Fries and onion rings but topped it all off with a Nutella Banana shake for good measure.
  3. CONSIDER A PRE-CLEANSE: Okay, eating that giant meal the night before The Poisoning was stupid so I decided to pre-treat my colon and took some Ducolax before bed (the Internet, and my doctor, says that’s okay). Good call because it started moving things along before the freight train came through later that day.
  4. YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT FOR A WHOLE DAY: This was way worse than the colon cleanse. I am terrible at denying myself anything, much less food for an entire day. I drank a ton of water and sipped some bone broth I’d bought, but by dinnertime I was lying in my bed delirious. I kept thinking about how a friend confided that she’d cheated a little on her prep day and ate a pancake. And her sister had eaten a bagel. I furiously scoured the Internet for data supporting this idea and naturally, found a study claiming it was better to eat a little something. “Say no more,” I thought, and went downstairs and made two pieces of sourdough toast with butter that I savored like it was a 5-star meal. I knew my colon was clear after the first go-round of poisoning and felt confident the second round at 12:30am would push out the toast and apparently, it did.
  5. BUY SOME HARD CANDY: I’m not gonna lie to you — that poison tastes horrible, but not the way I’d imagined. I thought it was going to be thick and brown and taste like some allegedly healthy concoction I’d bought at the health food store a while back to help fight off a cold. Now that tasted like legit ass. But the colon prep I drank (and ps, every doctor seems to have a different way/formula to do things) was clear and super sweet but then also insanely salty. My advice: drink it a little chilled as fast as you can and then have something tasty to suck on after to get rid of that flavor from your mouth. I gagged like crazy when I drank the poison at room temp at midnight. Also, I’ll never eat Wurther’s again.
  6. FIND SOMETHING TO TAKE YOUR MIND OFF OF YOUR SITUATION: After I drank the first round of poison I pretty much took to my bed for the rest of the day (when I wasn’t in the bathroom) and watched TV. In fact, I binged the entire second season of Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” which I highly recommend, except if you’re prepping for a colonoscopy. It turns out, the lead character is a big foodie and travels to Italy in the first two episodes to learn to make pasta. It was torture and probably what lead to the eating of the toast five hours later. 
  7. FORGET MULTITASKING: After I drank the first bottle, I decided I’d start up some laundry and pretty much got one sock in the washing machine before I had to turn around and run to the bathroom. Later, I went back and put another sock in and then had to race back to the john. Pretty much, it took a really long time to get that load going. Plan on spending at least an hour post-poison near a toilet and have some reading material or an iPad on hand and obviously, since you’re old like me, glasses to see anything you’re trying to look at.
  8. FORGET SLEEP: My poisonings were slated for 12:30pm on Monday and 12:30am before my 8am Tuesday procedure. I dozed a little before the second dose and then was up until about 2am, when things started to calm down. I came home after the colonoscopy and passed out for a while.
  10. THERE WILL BE GAS: Apparently, you get pumped with air to allow the doctor to check out your colon but all that air needs to go somewhere. I had asked the doctor prior to the procedure if she’d make sure to try to get it out of me (which I’d read about on the Internet) and although she said later that she did, I experienced a lot of gas pain throughout the entire day. Lying on my stomach helped but Tums and a bowl of plain yogurt and banana did not. I felt fine the next day
  11. THINGS I WISH I COULD FORGET: By the time the day of The Big C arrives, you are anxious to get it over with and happily don your thin gown with the opening in the back and present your arm for the IV if it means you’re that much closer to eating. It was over an hour before they finally wheeled me back to the room where the anesthesiologist strapped the oxygen over my ears and up my nose. While we chatted, the nurse asked me to roll onto my left side, which was unfortunate because up until then, I thought I’d be blissfully unaware of the reality of what was about to happen; but then she began tucking a pad under my hiney (which had become exposed when the gown fell away after I rolled over). But the indignity is quick because before you know it, you’re konked out. I remember the doc injecting something into my IV and I immediately felt a weird taste in my throat. I said something about it and then the next think I knew, I was coming out of the sedation haze and talking about fresh pasta in the recovery room.
  12. YOU DON’T LOSE THAT MUCH WEIGHT: At least I didn’t. Maybe two pounds for all that suffering. That Nutella shake probably didn’t help matters. I still have a lot of denying of myself to do to feel good about putting on a bathing suit in like three weeks.

In the end, I am glad I did it. The doctor found two little polyps that she removed for biopsy but felt confident they were benign.

While I joke that I did it to lose weight for a trip, the truth is that I learned recently how a colonoscopy can save lives. This fall, the husband of my good college pal — the guy she dated way back when, who played football and remained the perfect specimen of health all these years later — was diagnosed with rectal cancer following a colonoscopy. He’s going through treatment now, which sucks, but imagine if the mass had remained undetected? Honestly, if that dude can get cancer, we all better get ourselves checked.

So if you’re old and over 50 like me, schedule your colonoscopy today. Peace of mind — not to mention your colorectal health — is worth suffering through a couple of bottles of poison and a day with (practically) no eating.

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Friday Faves: Audio Edition

This fall, I’ve spent a lot of time wandering around the woods with my dog and listening to a variety of audiobooks and podcasts wearing my groovy new over-the-ear headphones. I have either really big or really small, like, ear openings because I could never get earbuds to stay in my ears. It would be so annoying to be marching around, anticipating one to pop out of my ear at any moment. It kind of detracted from the whole listening experience.

So the new headphones have opened up a whole new audio world for me and I can’t recommend them enough (NOTE: I’m no sound expert — I don’t know my bass from my treble — but these seem perfectly fine for the price).

What have I been listening to? I’ll tell you:

  • My kids are SO tired of hearing me talk about this, but the audio version of George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo was BEYOND amazing. Like listening to an opera or something really epic. It’s based on the true story of Lincoln going in the middle of the night to the cemetery to hold the body of his 11yo son, Willie, one more time. The bardo is that place in Buddhist tradition between death and heaven and hell and the cemetery is filled with a bunch of ghosts stuck there and voiced by tons of amazing people urging Willie to move on. Parks and Rec’s Nick Offerman and the writer David Sedaris voice two of the main ghosts and Meghan Mulalley is perfect as a cussin’ crazy lady. The story is interwoven with letters and other pieces that document the era plus there’s some old-timey Civil War music for good measure.
  • I found myself crying — yes, crying — walking behind my dog listening to Brene Brown tell me, “Not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit and our sense of self worth.” Yikes.
  • Do you know Jen Sincero? She’s a frigging badass and encourages you to be one, too. She also wants you to make hella money.
  • If you are insane and good at following through at things, like my BF, you can try listening to all 35 hours of this, like she just did. I thought about it for a hot second and then remembered I have a 6-hour maximum attention capacity.
  • I found an audio of Ann Lamott giving a workshop based on her popular Bird by Bird. The audio’s pretty terrible, it’s from the 90’s, but she’s so likable it’s worth it.
  • My 25yo son and I got hooked on this podcast on a drive home from somewhere recently and it’s only 6 one-hour episodes and worth finding out what happens in the end. It also made me rethink a guy I dated a while ago who I now think might have been homeless. Another yikes.
  • If you can handle any more news in your life, I’ve been enjoying The New York Times “The Daily” podcast, even though the host speaks so slow it’s like the show is geared towards folks who don’t speak English as a first language. Nice deep dives into the news of the day, be it Harvey Weinstein or net neutrality.
  • The headphones aren’t just for the woods. I’ve been waking up early most mornings and listening to this guided meditation and honestly, if we all did I think we’d all be a lot happier. And more peaceful
  • Sometimes, I don’t even wear headphones while listening to stuff. My girlfriend Alexa, who hangs out on my kitchen counter, introduced me to the Holiday Favorites station on Amazon that’s not the same old Bing Crosby/Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer routine. It made me feel really good about Alexa and forgive her for not knowing the answers to a lot of questions we pose and for also butting into conversations when she thinks we’re talking about her. Rude.

I’m always looking for new things to listen to so please share what’s got your attention lately!

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My Thanksgiving Battle Plan

Preparing for Thanksgiving dinner is like getting ready to go into battle. It’s all about putting together your marching orders, gathering your troops and executing the plan.

But weirdly, I kind of like it, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been doing it for years.

The first time I hosted Thanksgiving was about 20 years ago and I think I fed around that many people. My mom came over the day before with a couple of my sisters and we all worked side-by-side peeling pounds of potatoes and chopping apples and celery for the stuffing. I didn’t grow up doing these kinds of things with my family — Thanksgiving dinner just kind of appeared – so it was a great team-building exercise, watching my mother stir the butter into the bread crumbs and monitoring the amount of half and half we poured into the potatoes. When we sat down to dinner the next day, we were pleased with the creaminess of the potatoes and nodded to each other as we tasted the apples and sausage in the stuffing. We gave each other a collective pat on the back.

Now that my girls are older, they have become my Thanksgiving soldiers. Our chopping and stirring is in lockstep. There’s no one I’d rather go into battle with than those girls.

Over the years I’ve kept copious notes of my Thanksgiving prep efforts. What worked and didn’t work. Different centerpieces that I tried. The Paula Deen sweet potatoes that made everyone swoon in 2006 and how a homemade pie crust would have been a better match than the Pillsbury affair I paired with the delicious filling in the apple crumble I made in 2007.

This year, we’ll be making dinner for a much smaller crowd than usual. On Thanksgiving it will be my kids and their dad sitting around the table and honestly, I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather gather and give thanks with. Unless Oprah wants to come. There’s always room for Oprah.

There are a few staples in my Thanksgiving menu. My stuffing is always a sausage and apple combo (the carmelized onions are the secret-sauce); Barefoot Contessa’s pumpkin banana mousse tart is so delicious you forget pumpkin is involved; and it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without cauliflower served with a white béchamel sauce on the side.

 I’m kind of obsessed with this blogger lately so thinking I might try these brussels sprouts she wrote about recently and even though the aforementioned Whiskey-Apple Crumble Pie is pretty delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream, I’m tempted to try Melissa Clark’s Apple Gingersnap Crumble. This sweet potato casserole is also kind of calling my name.

One thing that I’d never change are my mashed potatoes because not only are they consistently perfect (using a ricer ensures the smooth consistency), they can be made the day before. Go ahead, give them a try. And happy Thanksgiving.

Mrs. Pezzuti’s Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes

8 oz. cream cheese

1 c. half and half

1 stick butter

1tsp. onion salt **

1 tsp. seasoned salt **

1 tsp. salt **

¼ tsp. pepper **

Peel potatoes cook until tender and drain. (Here’s where the ricer comes in.) Beat softened cream cheese, seasonings, and hot potatoes and butter with hand mixer. Blend well and add half and half.

Put in a buttered 2-quart casserole (preferable a shallow one). Brush top with butter.

Bake at 350-degrees for 30 minutes (can be made 1 to 2 days ahead and refrigerated). Place on foil on cookie sheet, may bubble over.

*If making in advance, give ample time for reheating, taking dish out of fridge well in advance and heating in oven for at least 30 minutes.

**Season according to taste. I use a lot more than what the recipe calls for.

[This is pretty much the same recipe if you’re the sort who needs a video.]

What are your Thanksgiving staples? Share in the comments below!








Girls Weekend Getaway: North Fork of Long Island

Continuing with tradition, my trusty Ladycation squad took a late-summer getaway to celebrate yet another 50th birthday in yet another off-the-beaten-path location.

Last year, we rented a fabulous Airbnb in Woodstock, NY and ate, drank and hiked our way around the Catskills. The motto of that trip was “Whiskey & Boys” and I have it embroidered on my wall to prove it.

The year before, we flew up to St. John’s in Newfoundland where we made lots of friends, danced to Irish music and kissed a frozen cod. The slogan for that trip was, “What happens in Newfoundland, stays in Newfoundland.”

This year’s birthday girl chose the North Fork of Long Island as our destination and we drove out one Friday morning in September for our three-night stay and got out there in no time, which is a bit of a miracle.

Okay, some thoughts about Long Island: I really love it. But if you’re not already on Long Island, it is a bitch to get to from New Jersey. The traffic can be daunting, trying to navigate your way around New York City.

But the North Fork is so special – especially after the summer crowd has left – I’d be willing to brave driving there during a Friday rush hour. It’s so worth it.

Geographically, Long Island kind of juts east towards the ocean, with the ends splitting into a fork. The bottom half is the South Fork (the Hamptons, Montauk) and the top is the North Fork (Greenport, Orient) and they are two different worlds.

As you drive towards Orient Point, at the end of the North Fork, you can feel all the space. Farmland for as far as the eye can see. Farm stands. It’s not honkytonk or touristy. Having lived in New Jersey forever, I’m impressed with how much undeveloped land remains out there. Undisturbed stretches of waterfront. Really beautiful.

We stopped for a late lunch at Case’s in Southold, which we found down a long road off the highway that didn’t seem right and just when we started to doubt our GPS, we saw the water and the sign for the restaurant. We sat outside on the patio looking out at the water and drank icy cold local rose and decided it couldn’t get any better. And then it did.

If I could have the honor of marrying the lobster roll that I ate for lunch, I certainly would. But that would mean I couldn’t have devoured every last bit of big mound of perfectly dressed lobster meat on the perfectly toasted top-split roll. At the end of the weekend, we all decided it might have been our favorite meal, of a lot of fabulous meals.

 BEST LOBSTER ROLL EVAH (look, I even had to take a little nibble out of it before I could take a picture of it)


Other weekend highlights included our perfect Airbnb in East Marion, our day spent driving around Shelter Island and gawking at all of the to-die-for houses and the all-rose vineyard in Southold that made up feel like we were sitting in the South of France.

I can’t imagine what staying in the North Fork would be like during the summer season, much less trying to get out there. I highly recommend a late summer/early fall visit when you can rub elbows with the locals and feel like you’ve kinda got the place to yourself. One caveat: getting Uber or Lyft rides was a little dicey and another reminder that we weren’t in Jersey any more.

If you’re thinking of going, here’s what I recommend:


Airbnb: Our rental was pricey but fabulous. It sleeps 8 comfortably with 4 bedrooms, so would be great for a few couples or families to rent. Stylish décor; all the amenities you could ask for and cool outdoor space to hang.


Fork & Anchor (East Marion): Get the #15. It will change your life.

Love Lane Kitchen (Mattituck): We stopped here on our way home Monday morning. Totally charming. Awesome coffee. Put poached eggs on anything, I am a happy girl but on top of kale with avocado on the side and I just might start talking dirty to you.


Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market (Greenport): Unassuming set up on the dock in Greenport that’s pretty cool inside. Oysters. Rose. Cheeseboards. A little old xxx guy preparing it all who took a shine to me. On the menu, it says you can shuck your own oysters if you’re feeling adventurous, and one of our ladies asked the server, with a straight face, “Is it hard to shuck yourself?” which, as you might imagine, became the weekend’s catchphrase.

The Halyard (Greenport): We ended up here on Sunday night as a kind of consolation spot when we showed up to a nearby vineyard that had already closed and we couldn’t believe our good luck. Brand new. Insanely stylish. Perched on the sound. Killer sunsets. Ditto the cocktails. Would love to see what the rooms look like in the adjoining hotel and think dinner watching the sun set on the outdoor dining area would be beyond romantic.

Flying Goat (Shelter Island): At the Shelter Island Golf Club. Great place for cold local beers on tap and French fries after a morning hiking through the meadow (see below).

Four & Twenty Blackbirds (Orient): I don’t LOVE pie, but I would kill for this pie. All kinds to try. We had a savory pocket filled with mushrooms and a little cheese, a stone fruit number and a custardy baby pie. We sat at a table outside and said we were just gonna nibble and gobbled them all up.


Brix & Rye (Greenport): Another one of our top weekend faves. We stopped for pre-dinner cocktails and ended up staying to eat. A little dark and not a lot of tables but being there in off-season helps.

American Beech (Greenport): We sat outside on a very quiet night. Chic. Delicious food.

Noah’s (Greenport): Also chic and delicious.

To Do:

Croteux Vineyards (Southold): You would think that four women heading out to the North Fork of Long Island would mean that we’d being hitting up all the wineries but we only made it to one. If you can only go to one vineyard, I cant recommend this one enough. It really does feel like you are sitting in the South of France and the wine is delicious. Plus its owner, who was pouring the rose and working the register the busy day we were there, was super easy to look at. Plus, he was featured on Mo Rocca’s “Everything’s Coming Up Rose” piece on CBS Sunday Morning this summer.

Lavender By the Bay (East Marion): According to its site, one of the largest lavender farms in the country. Our Airbnb had baskets of dried bundles around the house lending just a hint of lavender to the room, so I knew I needed to go. Fun to walk around and just see all the flowers going on forever. Shop lets you buy it in all manner of shapes and sizes. https://lavenderbythebay.com/

Mashomack Preserve (Shelter Island): Covers one third of Shelter Island and run by The Nature Conservancy, the preserve offers a variety of habitats – fields, woodland, marshes and tidal creeks. What most struck me was the ingenious way that have woven technology into the experience. Along one of the trails there are stops with barcodes you can scan with your phone and listen to commentary specific to where you are. Not to mention, the scenery will knock your socks off.

Dam Pond (East Marion): Directly across the street from our rental, we mosied over to get one last look at the sound, which we did from atop a cliff at the end of a path. Cool.


Old Orchard Farm Store (Orient): Charming little shop westopped into roaming around Orient, where I found two really awesome Christmas presents.

Mercantile North Fork (Greenport): Okay, the real reason we didn’t make it to the three vineyards we planned on hitting on Sunday was that we got sidetracked here, wondering how we could ship the entire store home to New Jersey.

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