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.

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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Great Expectations

photo-21This is a story about expectations and the benefits of keeping them low.

Now, of course, this idea is nothing new. Every year there’s some article written about how Denmark is considered the happiest country in the world and it’s in part because the Danes keep their expectations low.

They are just content with their lot in life and don’t expect much more.

I’ve mentioned this idea to my kids, the notion of keeping their own expectations low, which is usually met with groans and eye rolls. Okay, it might be a bit of a bummer – having your mom tell you not to expect too much out of life – but it is a surefire path to happiness. Don’t get your hopes up for, say, a hamster for your birthday when you know your mom is not willing to clean more poop.

I like the slant the novelist Jodi Picoult gives to achieving happiness in her book, “Nineteen Minutes”: “A mathematical formula for happiness: Reality divided by expectations,” she writes. “There were two ways to be happy: Improve your reality or lower your expectations.”

Maybe this idea is a little more hopeful, a little more in line with what my friend Lisa was trying to get at during a recent conversation we had about expectations. “Shouldn’t we all expect certain things from ourselves?” she asked, and I agreed. We should have a certain set of boundaries about our own and others’ behavior and if those our not being met — our expectations — then something needs to change.

But we both agreed that low expectations for our Ladycation to Florida this past weekend was probably the key to a memorable getaway. Like, we had off-the-charts fun.

In the days leading up to our departure, people would ask me where I was going in Florida and I would have to tell them, “I have no idea.”

I mean, I knew I was flying into West Palm Airport and that we were staying at our friend’s place somewhere around there and that the three of us would be joined by the homeowner’s college roommate the following day.

That’s about it.

I had no idea what we were going to be doing, if I needed to pack some dressier stuff for dinners and if bringing sneakers was way too ambitious. And I figured the college friend would be nice enough, but didn’t really give her too much thought.

I just figured it would all be fine and nice to get away from cold New Jersey for a long weekend with nice women.

When my girlfriend who lives across the street – the kind of friend who, when I am packing for a trip, lends me all her chic Joie tops and Anthropologie necklaces – learned that I was not going to South Beach, as she first thought, but West Palm, she said, “Oh, so it’s just going to be a nice, quiet girls weekend,” and started putting her fancier items back in her closet.

I nodded my head and picked up the stack of colorful Lily cashmere sweaters she was lending me to take along and I packed for days lying out in the sun and casual dinners with the girls at night.

It turns out, that the weekend was anything but quiet. In fact, I’d say it took on the feel of one of those Vegas commercials because some of the things that happened are really better left in the West Palm-area and definitely not on my blog which is read by my kids, their friends and my mom.

We got a little crazy.

Perhaps the tone of the trip was set when that second round of drinks at the Newark Airport wine bar caused us to almost miss the flight out Thursday night (it turns out a 7:30 departure means they shut the door to the plane at 7:20, according to the flight attendant who lectured us while checking us in at, like, 7:10 and then punished us by making us check our carefully-packed, carry-on bags.) There was my Beyoncé moment when the singer in the band at the bar we went to after dinner Saturday night came down off the stage to dance with me to “Walk This Way” and one of my moves was crooking my pointer finger to get him to, well you know, walk my way. (My girlfriend Lisa said the next day, “I know the type of shenanigans I can get into, but didn’t know you had that in you.”) And the tail end of the trip found me in the airport bar, again, drinking Scotch out of a straw being held by some hot guy whose sunglasses, at 8 p.m., indicated he had had a rough weekend, too.

Here’s that mathematical formula: Low expectations + High alcohol =  Mucho fun.

We had joked all weekend that Lisa was a “connector.” She loves to chat with the workers at her local Dunkin Donuts she visits daily and tried to high-five one of the flight attendants on our flight to Florida. But it is pretty safe to say that Florida Amy was also quite the connector.

As for the college roommate, it turns out that we were separated at birth. We hit it off immediately when she arrived early Friday morning, totally admiring each other’s outfits, and the four of us were really well suited for traveling together. There was a high-level of bossiness that was balanced by others’ (me in particular) willingness to just get in the back seat and go along for the ride. I am an amazing Indian.

And my friend who owns the house, unbeknownst to me, had planned our weekend with lots of fun things to do on an almost hourly basis, like at 3 p.m. Saturday we needed to leave the beach for cocktails, 4 p.m. was ice cream at her favorite ice cream place followed by shopping and then home to be ready for our 7:00 pick up to go out to dinner. I woke up Sunday morning to find a pink bag filled with assorted resort wear pieces lying on the floor of my room and carried it into the kitchen and said to the girls standing there, “What the hell? I don’t even have a job.” 

Therein lies the danger of shopping with girlfriends after drinking a goblet full of Hendricks gin on a sunny deck in Florida. Rational thinking goes for a swim in the ocean.

Anyway, lest you start to get worried about me, I’ll assure you that Florida Amy has been packed away since my return late Sunday night. She was a lot of fun but doesn’t really fit into my daily grind of laundry folding and driving duties. She wasn’t the most solid of citizens.

Take heart, though. I leave for Jamaica next week.

God only knows what Jamaica Amy is like.






The Girls

IMG_7658Between us, we have 19 kids, 9 weddings, 3 ex-husbands, 2 boyfriends, over 25 years of memories and a lot of opinions.

Since we met as students at the University of Delaware in the mid-80s, our gang of 8 friends has come a long way from our days of sitting around dorm rooms and sorority dens in oversized Forenza sweaters and big Jersey hairdos, telling each other what to do.

We’ve seen boyfriends – and those bad hairstyles – come and go. We’ve danced at weddings, celebrated the births of all those babies and when the towers came crashing down in 2001 and took one of the husbands with them, the group swooped in to support our friend bowing under the pressure of all that grief.

We’re scattered now up and down the East Coast – with one West Coast outlier – and don’t keep in touch like we should.  We don’t send cards for birthdays, reply-all to group emails and only a couple of us are active on Facebook (which is confusing to those of us who can’t imagine a day without it).

Without the Internet grapevine, we still know the big stuff – like who’s getting a divorce or moving to a new state – but the little things – like where the kids are headed for college or news on a parent’s hip replacement – gets lost in the shuffle of daily carpools and holidays.

So when we do get together every few years, catching up is our number one priority. We are expert interrogators.

We gather around dining tables and lounge around sofas gleaning as much information as we can about kids, jobs, husbands, parents, siblings and every facet of each other’s lives while slipping back into the easy friendships that began in college.

There’s always a carbohydrate involved and we laugh a lot.

But it’s a challenging crowd. They put the “Boss” in Bossypants. In fact, there are so many chiefs in the group, I just get in the back seat and try to keep my mouth shut like a good little Indian.

And I can be a bit of a loudmouth in my regular life.

But in much the same way that we revert to old behaviors when we get together with our families, when my college girlfriends and I gather, we assume the roles that originated almost 30 years ago.


View from me and the Jet Setter’s room at the swanky Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

We convened this weekend on the east end of Long Island – after a quick night of eating and drinking in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (ground zero for hispsterdom) – and by the time we drove the few hours out to the beach on Friday, we had fallen back into familiar patterns.

There was the Spy, the Smart One and the Jet Setter. Bossypants, the Nice One and the GDI (Godddamn Independent). The Senator was declaring her allegiance to Chris Christie’s presidential campaign by nightfall and I am supposedly the Funny One, but I think I am way more amusing on the page than in real life.

During previous gatherings, I had discovered that I tend to lose sight of 30 years of personal growth and become thin-skinned around the group. This year, I didn’t want our gathering to be clouded by hurt feelings and all my, like, stuff.

So I went back and skimmed my copy of “The Four Agreements.” I reminded myself not to take everything so personally or to make assumptions. (They happen to be two of my favorite internal hot buttons.)

My resolve was quickly put to the test Thursday night when we were freshening up in the hotel room before dinner when the Boss – who has been in the fragrance and cosmetics industry for 25 years – cut me off in mid-sentence to question my lipstick choice.

“I don’t like it,” she said, rubbing the dark stain from my lower lip with her thumb.

Five years ago, I would have been crushed. I would have taken her words as a personal affront. She was the same person who, when I made a comment about the group of girls sitting around her dorm room bleaching their mustaches with Jolen, came close, stared at my upper lip, and said, “Not for nothing but you might want to think about it.”

But as I listened to her explain that at our age, we should veer away from deep stains and formulas that sank into the crevices that have formed in our aging lips and opt instead for more neutral tones that used more of an emollient to literally gloss over our old mouths.

She was helping a sister out.

And that was that.  I didn’t dwell. I thought it was funny and moved on.

We spent the rest of the weekend eating great food, drinking lots of wine and discussing our sluggish digestive systems at length. We also got some very detailed information about somebody’s bikini waxing preferences — using raingutters as a metaphor and ensuring I would never look at the outside of my house the same way again.

We walked along the soft sandy beach in Amagansett and shopped in tony East Hampton stores where I found the perfect pair of short black boots, only to discover that they cost over $900.

Sunday came much too quickly and soon, we were all heading home via planes, trains and automobiles knowing that we would gather again next September and get serious about planning our oft-discussed 50th celebration.

The emails started that night, everyone chiming in to say what a great weekend it was.

“I adore all of you and love having you in my life even if it’s just once a year,” wrote one pal.

“It was so nice to see everyone and you haven’t changed much, funny thing,” chimed in another. “It’s so easy to be with all of you and to just continue on where we left off.”

The way good girlfriends do. Who could feel bad about that?