New York City… Walking the NY Walk – The First Three Days

Naturally, I awoke that first morning in NYC wondering (worrying) about what was going on back home. After all, what kind of mother would I be if I did not check in with Sissy Jo throughout the week to check on our three little Japanese Chin and to find out how Daisy was managing with her new fawns? I also wanted to be sure Sissy was doing well and had everything she needed. I was surprised, and mostly relieved, to know that everyone was doing just fine. In fact, Daisy was eating cherry tomatoes from Jo’s hands, and the three chin were behaving exceptionally well. Even antisocial Mr. T seemed to have become lovey-dovey all of a sudden, vying to sit right next to Sissy just like Bear and Zoe were!

I was also relieved when, later that first day, Jules and her family arrived in NYC safely and on schedule too. Oh, they had a few humorous events during their travel from Omaha, Nebraska to Midtown NYC, but it would all make for great storytelling. It seemed, all of a sudden, that after the “worry” part of my journey was put behind me, I began to relax and get on with “my week”.  FD had been calling this trip my birthday week so, by golly, I was going with it!

The prestigious Dakota Aparments, well known as the home of former Beatle, John Lennon, and also the site of his murder. Security was tight there, but FD and I did manage to peep through big iron gates into the beautiful central courtyard. Exterior work was being done on many buildings in Manhattan (including the Dakota) during our visit.

The prestigious Dakota Apartments, well known as the home of former Beatle, John Lennon, and the site of his murder, was currently having some exterior work done. Security was tight there, but FD and I did manage to peep through big iron gates into the beautiful central courtyard. Exterior work was being done on many buildings in Manhattan during our visit.

Our morning activities usually began anywhere from 6:00 to 7:00 with all of us meeting on the first floor of the hotel, in the dining area. Jule’s family really enjoyed the buffet-style breakfasts but, for FD and me and our Paleo diet, the choices were fairly limited. Generally, the scrambled eggs and whatever meat was offered was the only heated items we could partake in. Thankfully, there was always fresh fruit offered on the buffet, and we took advantage of that each morning. Additionally, hotel staff provided a large bowl of apples in the lobby that they kept full all day long, so FD and would take a couple for a snack each day. Jule’s bunch enjoyed the fruit too, but also enjoyed the option of having fresh cookies that were available at the front desk for only a very short time each afternoon. For what ever reason, it seemed those cookies held more appeal for folks than the apples did, as the cookies were snatched up within a few minutes after they were put out!

By 8:30 we were all full with breakfast and ready to head out for the day’s adventure.  FD did most of the route planning. Frankly, I got lost just about every time I walked out the hotel door. I blamed this loss of my inner compass on all the skyscrapers that block any view of a horizon. I also lose my sense of direction in the mountains and in heavily forested areas. Most every time we set out as a group, FD was at the lead, and we all simply followed like a bunch of little ducklings waddling along behind their mother. If anyone became sidetracked with gawking at something, FD was a good shepherd, yelling out that person’s name and jolting them to attention to rejoin the pack. Our nephew Sid’s name was yelled many times that week. It seemed very easy for a 13 year-old, small-town boy from Nebraska to stray off course, take too long a gander at some cowgirls, or simply slow down the pace. Also, niece Emily was with us the first three days, as she did not have to join the Honors Performance group until late Wednesday afternoon. Emily was drawn to the stores and was always looking for souvenirs and gifts for friends back home. I am pretty sure FD called her name a time or two as well…

This is what I loved about being the photographer for my family! Some of the expressions are hilarious! Here they have just spotted the Naked Cowgirls!

This is what I loved about being the photographer for my family! Some of the expressions are hilarious! Here they have just spotted the Naked Cowgirls!

I guess theses two were giving the Naked Cowboy across the street a little competition. Our cowgirls in Oklahoma do not look like this!

I guess these two were giving the Naked Cowboy across the street a little competition. Our cowgirls in Oklahoma do not look like this!

This street performer posed for a lot of photos, and also signed autographs. Can you imagine painting your face green and wearing that getup all day, never speaking to anyone?

This street performer posed for a lot of photos, and signed autographs. Can you imagine painting your face and hands green, wearing that getup all day, never speaking to anyone?

The first day out, after Jule’s family arrived and we had a bite to eat at the House of Brews, conveniently located just around the corner from our hotel, we checked out Carnegie Hall where Emily would be performing on Saturday night. Then, walking a bit further to the east, we stopped by The Roosevelt Hotel, where Emily would spend Wednesday night through Sunday morning. By the look of things inside the Roosevelt’s lobby, it was obvious Emily would be living the fine life at a much fancier hotel than ours. Next, we moved on to Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and finally stopped at John’s Pizzeria for dinner. The food at John’s was scrumptious! FD and I had the Chicken Marsala and it was the best I believe I have ever had! Jule’s family raved about their entrees as well.

It was getting dark by the time we finished our dinner, so we moseyed on over to the Empire State Building, hoping to catch the nighttime scenery when tourist numbers were low. As we hoped, our trip through security was fairly quick and we were soon enjoying the spectacular viewing of the city’s night lights from our perch atop the grand building. Emily was enthralled with all of the helicopter traffic high above us. I know she would have loved to have taken the HeliNY tour but, at $150 for a 13 to 15 minute flight, it was not in the budget. After spending about an hour taking photos and taking in the views from the observation deck, and another browsing the gift shop and making our way back down the various stairways and elevators of the Empire State Building, we decided to walk back to our hotel – which was quite a jaunt. I think all of us were a bit worried about taking the train (subway) at night.

Tuesday morning, we were up early. On our schedule for the day, was a trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately, we had followed advice to purchase tickets on Statue Cruises in advance and have printed receipts so we could assure passage on the ferry at a specific time. To get to Battery Park where we would board the ferry, we would need to ride the train from a stop near our hotel. This was our first time riding the NYC subway system, and Sid soon discovered he loved people watching on the train. I liked the speed and timely manner of travel. It’s amazing to think a system that has been in operation for 110 years is still regarded as one of the most efficient mass transit systems in North America. And though many of the MTA ticketing agents were not very informative or friendly, usually a local person was willing to help with directions and route information. Properly swiping MetroCards at the turnstiles also took a bit of a knack, which was frustrating. However, seeing many other tourists struggle with those flimsy cards made us feel a bit more at ease about our own ineptness.

Arriving at Battery park, we followed the shouts of instructions from the cruise people directing tourists where to go and what lines to form to get to the ferry station. I was sure glad we had purchased tickets beforehand, as we were able to bypass the very long lines at the ticket station. Once on the ferry, we enjoyed a leisurely cruise to our first stop, the Statue of Liberty. Well, at least I thought it was leisurely. Jule’s told me later that Sid was not feeling very well the entire ride. Apparently Sid does not have sea legs!

Lady Liberty was stunning!

Lady Liberty was stunning!

Prior to our trip, I did not expect to be bowled over by Lady Liberty… but I was.  She was absolutely stunning! Her robes draped in perfection and she looked ever so confident and proud standing there on her platform. My, I thought, she even wore sandals! Who knew? She paid little attention to the oooh’s and aaah’s of the crowd below her, standing staunchly with that majestic crown atop her head, as if she had a job to do by gosh, and displayed a very impressive image holding the flaming torch that welcomed so many immigrants who arrived from abroad in our country’s early years.  I was a bit envious of the lucky people who were on her platform and a few who had made the climb into her crown. We discovered one had to make reservations about three months in advance to climb to the crown, and book at least  two weeks in advance for access to the platform. As we walked all around Lady Liberty, I had a new appreciation for this very gracious gift from the people of France and the artist, engineers, and sculptors who had created her. I thought of the work that went into hand hammering the folds of her robe and every little detail from the torch she held to the sandals on her feet… she was utterly magnificent.

Ellis Island as seen from the ferry.

Ellis Island as seen from the ferry.

Here is the wall that we all spent about an hour looking for Granpa's name before realizing it was the "donor" name listing! Did we ever feel silly!

Here is the wall at Ellis Island where we all spent about an hour looking for Grandpa’s name – before realizing it was a dedication to all the donors who had helped with the restoration efforts! Did we ever feel silly!

Back on the ferry after spending time with Lady Liberty, we were off to Ellis Island next. Upon arriving, we first grabbed a bite to eat at the cafe just outside the immigration station, which is now the museum. It was a pricey lunch and nothing to brag about, but it filled our bellies for the afternoon. Just outside the cafe’s seating area, we noticed a huge circular wall with names on both sides. So, for the next hour, we all intently searched for our Danish Grandfather’s name, but he was nowhere to be found. This was quite disappointing and perplexing until my bro-in-law, Chris, discovered, and laughingly exclaimed, that was the “donor” wall – people who had kept Ellis Island alive with renovations and improvements over the years since it closed down. Did we ever feel silly!

Not wanting to waste any more time, we headed inside to tour the museum. Jules and FD took off for the records department in search of more information on Grandpa while the rest of us checked out various rooms, where we learned about the history of Ellis Island. My favorite room was the photo gallery. Viewing the historic photos really put the experience of so many immigrants into perspective for me.  Jules and FD found Grandpa’s records, but also discovered a discrepancy between what they found and the information we understood from hearing relative’s stories over the years, and even from Grandpa himself. It ended up being a mystery… and not one we will ever be able to solve I’m afraid.

I believe Jules has a kind look about her... often people approached her asking if she would take a photo of them with their camera. Jules always obliged them and often chatted after.

I believe Jules has a kind look about her… often people approached her asking if she would take a photo of them with their camera. Jules always obliged them and often sparked up some friendly chatter afterwards.

By late afternoon, we had taken in all that Ellis Island had to offer and were ready to get back to the hotel and find a place to have supper. It had been a long day, and the trip back on the ferry to Manhattan seemed to drag on and on.  The ferry was crowded and hot, and I am sure for Sid the ride on the choppy water was an eternity. And unfortunately, the return trip on the train was more crowded since it was the beginning of rush hour. By the time we arrived back at our hotel, we were quite hungry and tired.

Jule’s bunch were interested in trying some New York hot dogs, and went their own way to find dinner, while FD and I opted to dine at a French restaurant just across the street from the House of Brews and around the corner from our hotel. Tout Va Bien proved to be some of the most delicious French cuisine we have ever tasted! We took a little walk after dinner, and stopped at nearby Xai Xai, a South African wine bar. Here, we finished the evening watching people walk by while sipping a lovely Cabernet at a sidewalk table.

Em and I stand at the statue of Balto the sled dog in Central Park.

Em and I stand at the statue of Balto the sled dog in Central Park.

This stone owl and bat were part of a pillar in Central Park.

This stone owl and bat were part of a pillar in Central Park.

This protest was getting very heated about the time we happened to walk by. Police were arriving from every direction, so we decided it was time to vamoose to a safer area of Central Park!

This protest was getting very heated about the time we happened to walk by. Police were arriving from every direction, so we decided it was time to vamoose to a safer area of Central Park!

FD and Chris take a moment to watch the model boats sailing on Conservatory Water in Central Park.

FD and Chris take a moment to watch the remote-controlled boats sailing on Conservatory Water in Central Park.

Wednesday was Em’s last day with us before she had to check in at the Roosevelt Hotel later that afternoon so we elected to let her decide where she wanted to go for the day, and she chose Central Park. I was a bit surprised at her decision, but then I probably should not have been. Emily has always been a bit like me in the sense that she loves animals and nature.  And, after a very taxing day on Tuesday, we were all ready for a more leisurely pace this day. Central Park sounded like it would provide for a slower pace but, by the end of the day, it had not been leisurely at all, as the day was hot and sweltering, with high humidity.

FD, our tour leader, initially guided us by observing signs and various diagrams posted along the way, but finally had to purchase a park map because the trails were so extensive – meandering and crisscrossing in every direction! A person could easily get lost wandering around this huge park without a map! But fortunately, Central Park was not terribly crowded, and the stroll along almost every trail we took was simply beautiful. There was stunning architecture and sculpture, lush lawns, and beautiful landscaping. For the most part, we spent the day walking and climbing, taking photographs, and stopping to simply observe the beauty surrounding us. I did a little bird watching as well, hoping to see signs of the famous Red-Tailed Hawks that nest on tall buildings just across from the park on 5th Avenue, but I did not see a hawk at all that day.

Once again Jules has been asked to take a photograph!

Once again Jules has been asked to take a photograph!

While maneuvering through the park, we occasionally sat on benches to rest a bit and take the opportunity to listen to the various street performers who hoped to make a few dollars playing their music. I guess because she seems so approachable and friendly, many of our stops in the park frequently included Jule’s being asked to take photographs of various tourists and visitors. At every turn in Central Park, there was something of interest or beauty. I could not imagine the work involved to keep such an expansive place groomed and manicured. I found myself feeling very much at home here.

Having finally put about six miles on our feet and getting very close to the upper end of the park, we opted to take the train back at 103rd Street on the Upper West Side.  As we stepped out of the almost magical beauty and seeming innocence of Central Park, things looked quite different (and somewhat unpleasant) just across the street at the MTA entrance where we would get on the train. The buildings were shabby and the streets held an eerie quiet to them. I tried to look confident as we walked to the MTA station, hoping I looked like one of the locals. But inside I felt fearful. My instinct was telling me we had gone too far north in our venture. Let me tell you, that train could not get back to our home base fast enough!

This group of musicians was a delight to watch and they were quite talented. Emily was able to approach the clarinet player and asked questions about jazz clarinet, which she had never heard before.

This group of musicians was a delight to watch and they were quite talented. Emily was able to approach the clarinet player and asked questions about jazz clarinet, which she had never heard before.

But then something happened on the train that completely made me forget the ill feeling in my gut. At the next stop, a flurry of pink suddenly bounded into the train. A rather gangly looking “lady” sighed as she tossed her hair and flopped into the seat just across and down from Sid. Her dress was a flimsy pink frock, and she carried a little purse. Settling into her seat a bit more, she crossed very long pale legs, with feet adorned by some strange, black Converse tennis shoes that had been spray painted with silver glitter. I was just thinking how odd those shoes looked with that flimsy pink dress when the “lady” turned her head towards us – and that is when I realized that she was a HE with quite a bit of beard and mustache stubble. Oh dear… and poor Sid could not wash the grin off of his face to save his own life! The gentleman across from Sid got tickled watching him watching the “lady” and, before long, several of us near this lady were struggling to compose ourselves. Interestingly, the “lady” seemed to enjoy the attention she/he was getting. And I was immediately thankful for this humorous diversion that kept me from fear and panic and made the trip back to the station near our hotel seem like it took no time at all. I smiled pleasantly at the lady in the pink dress as we exited the train, but she just looked down demurely, as if shy. As we were all walking back to the hotel, we realized FD had not noticed our “lady” at all! He had been sitting right next to Sid, but had missed the whole show, too busy wondering why the scruffy-looking man directly across from him kept smiling so strangely at Sid!

Back at the hotel, Emily grabbed her bags and we all walked the distance to the Roosevelt Hotel together to get her checked in to what would be her home for the next three days. In the registration area, we met Em’s chaperon and one of her four roommates. Then, we helped them both settle into their room, and said our goodbyes to Em. I thought about what an adventure this must be for Emily, and was not so sure that, at the age of fourteen, I would not be scared out of my mind. But, this would also be an exciting venture for Em, and I hoped that, as she looked back on the trip one day, it would be a bright diamond in her life’s experiences.

Checking Emily in at the Roosevelt Hotel and helping her get settled in her room - shared with four roommates.

Checking Emily in at the Roosevelt Hotel and helping her get settled in her room – shared with four roommates.

When we finally left Em at the Roosevelt, it was only becoming late afternoon and there was still plenty of daylight left to take in a bit more sightseeing. We headed to Bryant Park, which was small, but a beautiful gathering place for many. I was surprised to see both young and old quietly playing chess or checkers, while others laid on blankets, having a rest in the sun. After strolling through Bryant Park and on to Rockefeller Center and Madison Square Garden, we observed many fire engines making their way through traffic, even going the wrong way down a one way street in order to get to their emergency call. I thought about the chaos NYC service people must deal with on a daily basis.

Toward dark, we stopped for dinner at 5 Napkin Burger, where the noise was deafening. This famous burger joint was listed on a friend’s recommended places to eat, so we endured the noise and waited patiently for a table. As it turned out, the burgers were very good, and the service was excellent. But after finally taking a little time to sit, relax, and fill our bellies with good burgers and beer, that walk back to the hotel seemed like an eternity! Again, we did not take the subway. Instead, we walked back through Times Square, which was enormously crowded even at this time of night. It seemed that, no matter what time we traversed through Times Square, it was always quite noisy and congested with people. Now, I was truly beginning to understand why NYC  is known as “The City That Never Sleeps”!

Bryant Park was not far from our hotel, and it was a spot we would pass by many times as we walked the streets of Times Square.

Bryant Park was not far from our hotel, and was a spot we would pass by many times as we walked the streets of Times Square.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

Note: For those of you interested in my sister Jule’s documentation of the NYC trip, her blog is Groovy Love, Scrubs & Chimichangas.

 

 

 

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New York City… A Farm Girl Hits the Big Town

Back in March when FD and I first committed to going, I could not give much thought to our trip to New York City. It was just too overwhelming for me. For one, we had not managed a significant vacation in more than seven years, as it seemed our finances were always funneled into a project, or some repair, or our schedules just would not allow time away. But when my sister Jule’s called to announce that our niece Emily would be playing her clarinet in the 2014 Middle School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall, we knew we could not pass this trip up. Opportunity does not usually knock twice… and this was our sign to finally visit the Big Apple.  So, we would most definitely go and, fortunately, we would have three months to prepare.

Manhattan Background_6212

Photographs just never seem to do justice to the amazing skyline of New York City.

Happily, my first concern regarding the trip was nipped in the bud when FD’s sister from Dallas, Sissy Jo, offered to house sit for us – and care for our three little house dogs and look after Daisy deer and her fawns. She would also water the gardens and harvest vegetables. To me, her offer was another sign that this trip was meant to be.  Normally, we would never venture very far away from home in early summer, but we knew Sissy would be someone we could rely on and trust to take care of things while we were gone.

Another good sign was that we were able to book reservations at a hotel that touted great reviews, included a buffet-style breakfast daily, and a limited dinner menu four nights a week. This worked for both Jule’s and our schedule because we hoped to do most everything together – wanting to cram-pack as much sightseeing in as we could during our stay. The hotel’s amenities would also save a bit of money on dining expenses. But then, over the course of the following two months, my feelings of confidence sunk when our reservations became iffy. Our hotel had issues with meeting the schedule for its grand opening and, as a result, we were twice bumped to different hotels. In the end, FD bargained for a sweet deal in the theater district, closer to where Emily would be, at The Roosevelt Hotel, and just a few blocks from Carnegie Hall, and most important of all, the rest of us would still be together in the same hotel.

My next concern about spending a week in New York City was the mere expense of it all. Normally, when FD and I plan a big trip like this, we also plan ahead in the finance department. However, there was no time to put away a nest egg for this trip. To boot, since starting the Paleo diet (also known as the Caveman or Hunter-Gatherer lifestyle) back in December, both FD and I had lost weight. FD was now wearing clothes he had not been able to get into for a few years, but I was down two dress sizes and had not been this size in three decades or more! Great, right!? But what this really meant was, “Cha-ching, cha-CHING”!! Oh well, at least most of the new wardrobe that I had to purchase just two weeks before the trip was sale clothing. And I must admit, I was fairly excited to have new threads that fit well for a change.

FD and I had our first evening dinner in NYC at Carnegie Deli. We shared a corned beef sandwich which was HUGE! Photographs of famous people line every wall in the establishment. Wait staff was outstanding!

FD and I had our first evening dinner in NYC at Carnegie Deli. We shared a corned beef sandwich which was HUGE! Photographs of famous people line every wall in the establishment. Wait staff was outstanding!

Taking in fabulous NYC food at 5 Napkins restaurant in the Hell's Kitchen district. It was a noisy spot and very popular. This place is well-known for their great burgers!

Taking in fabulous NYC food at 5 Napkins restaurant in the Hell’s Kitchen district. It was a noisy spot and very popular. This place is well-known for their great burgers!

Another issue I had, was in not being able to book excursions for sightseeing in advance, as the Honor’s Performance group had not been very timely in providing an itinerary for the kids. Emily would be with us the first three days but, after that, she would be at the hotel with the rest of her group and they would have their own schedule for rehearsing and sightseeing. We hoped to coordinate with Emily’s schedule as much as possible, and we needed to know what she would be doing so that we would not duplicate events or trips to the city’s many attractions. We also hoped to have lunch or dinner with her when time allowed. So, needless to say, not having this information in my hands early on, the “planner” in me was extremely frustrated. If an itinerary for the Honor’s Performance kids did not arrive in time to plan things well ahead, sadly, there would be no opportunity to secure reservations at well-known places of interest and, worse yet, no chance to save a bit of money by booking in advance. When we finally did receive the itinerary, it was apparent that Emily would be very hooked up with practices, rehearsals, and outings with the group. We would have to hope that Emily could contact us when she had a little impromptu free time so we could dash over to her hotel or nearby eating establishment to see her.

FD takes a moment to watch Central Park Traffic. Central Park was just a few blocks from our hotel in the Theater District.

FD takes a moment to watch Central Park Traffic. Central Park was just a few blocks from our hotel in the Theater District.

It was soon evident to all of us that we would be flying by the seat of our pants on every aspect of this trip. Being the planner that I have always been, this would be new ground for me, and I felt uneasy about such an unorganized week. I worried too, that this was the first trip Jule’s and her family had taken to a big city like New York. After all, Jule’s is my baby sister… and what big sister doesn’t have a few worries about safety and the unknown when the youngest of the flock is flying commercial for the first time, hailing her first taxi, and making her way across the expanse of one of the largest cities in the world? I knew though, that my brother-in-law, Chris, was level-headed and practical. Still, FD and I flew to NYC the day before Jule’s family arrived, just to make sure we would be there when they arrived and have a chance to get a feel for the area we would be staying in. Oh, there would be so much to do when we got there… or, at least, that is what was going through my worrisome mind as we soared over the landscape on our way to the Big Apple.

I don't know about NYC but this is not the cowboy image we are used to seeing here in Oklahoma!

I don’t know about NYC but this is not the cowboy image we are used to seeing here in Oklahoma!

Another view of the famous Naked Cowboy in Times Square.

Another view of the famous Naked Cowboy in Times Square.

But FD had another plan. It was called relaxation. And so, with all of the ease in the world, he made the crazy unplanned trip seem like an adventure that we could manage, and he was sure everything would be just fine. Being a savvy business traveler and knowing I hate preparing for trips, he neatly packed our clothes and checked us in with the airline early, using an app on his iPhone. He also arranged for us to spend the night before our flight at a hotel near the airport, so that we would not have to get up quite so early in order to make the hour-long drive from home. Once on the plane, he talked about what we might do when we arrived. After all, it would be early afternoon when we touched down, and there would still be plenty of time to for us to do some sightseeing and get familiar with the lay of the land around our hotel.

Times Square was also near our hotel. Just about every day we walked through this busy, and very crowded area. Even though it's crowded, annoyingly noisy and chaotic, it is an experience people shouldn't miss! It's the true vibration of the city!

Times Square was also near our hotel. Just about every day we walked through this busy, and very crowded area. Even though it’s crowded, annoyingly noisy and chaotic, it is an experience people shouldn’t miss! It’s the true vibration of the city!

Another view of exciting Times Square.

Another view of exciting Times Square.

As we flew into LaGuardia airport, I marveled at the skyscrapers and the close quarters of buildings. I had been here before, but I was still amazed that people could live like this. I was used to the wide open spaces of the heartland, and of being a Midwestern girl who lived next to nature and had my own woodlands to roam. I just could not imagine living in a world of cement and noise like the one we were about to land in.

As we exited Grand Central Terminal we heard the most beautiful bagpipe music just around the corner. Street performers can be found in just about every area of NYC, mostly around well-known sightseeing areas where tourists tend to congregate.

As we exited Grand Central Terminal we heard the most beautiful bagpipe music just around the corner. Street performers can be found in just about every area of NYC, mostly around well-known sightseeing areas where tourists tend to congregate.

Once safely on the ground at LaGuardia, we took a taxi to make our way to the hotel. It was a beautiful sunny day and our cab driver had the windows down. The temperature felt pleasant yet, even before we even made the outskirts of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the noise of the city was blaring loudly, and the scents our nostrils encountered vacillated between rotting garbage and the aroma of great food. Soon, our pace in the taxi was more of a crawl through the busy, one-way streets, where honking horns and a stream of pedestrians moved along like congealing blood in a vein too small to begin with. The beat of the city was deafening, yet exciting. I could not wait to get unpacked at our hotel and hit the streets. Yes, I would be flying by the seat of my pants on this trip… and why not? But, by gosh, this was my birthday week and I was ready to start celebrating!

My sister Jules took all of the photos of FD and me in this post with her iPhone camera. This spectacular photo shows the vastness of city lights from atop the Empire State Building. I highly recommend taking the nighttime tour. The view is simply breathtaking! And for those of you who adore the movie, "Sleepless in Seattle" like FD and I do, it's a lovely spot to find romance too!

My sister Jules took all of the photos of FD and me in this post with her iPhone camera. This spectacular photo shows the vastness of city lights from atop the Empire State Building. I highly recommend taking the nighttime tour. The view is simply breathtaking! And for those of you who adore the movie, “Sleepless in Seattle” like FD and I do, it’s a lovely spot to find romance too!

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

Note: For those of you interested in my sister Jule’s documentation of the NYC trip, her blog is Groovy Love, Scrubs & Chimichangas.

 

 

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Catching Up After Vacation

I fretted something fierce the week before FD and I headed to New York City. It was our first real vacation in seven years. I wanted everything to be done here on our ten acres so that on our return we would not have so much to deal with. FD’s sister from Dallas, Sissy Jo, offered to house sit for us while we were gone, watching our three little house dogs, and making sure Daisy and the fawns had water and feed. She also promised to water the gardens and flower beds and harvest the vegetables and blackberries, if there was anything to pick. And, if she didn’t mind, cleaning the pool a bit and making sure it was running up to par was yet another task we would appreciate her doing. I felt terrible leaving her with so much to do – yet I also knew these duties were just a small part of my normal, daily work routine. Even having completed all my preparations to “get everything done” and having Sissy Jo’s help while we were away, arriving back home after nine days away was still likely to be crazy.

So, it was a big relief when my concerns about the animals adjusting were quashed as soon as I contacted Sissy from NYC. Already the dogs were agreeable with her, and even shy and anti-social Mr. T was cooperating. I was a bit flabbergasted about that. Mr. T usually took three days to warm up to any of our guests. And Daisy deer had even eaten tomatoes and blackberries from Jo’s hands the very first day! Daisy does not usually have much to do with strangers. Regardless, it was happy news for me to hear everything was going well at home.

FD and I on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

FD and I on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

I will write more about the NYC trip itself in another blog post, but I have to say it was a grand time for FD and me, spending a week with my sister Jules and her family. We had arrived determined to see as many of the tourist attractions that we could in a week’s time, so each day we set off on a new adventure in the Big Apple.  Generally, we were all tuckered out by evening, but gleefully so.

The energy of the City that Never Sleeps was captivating and always brought something exciting and interesting to this group of small-town, Midwestern folks. And, on our last night in NYC, FD and I celebrated my birthday in grand style. This also happened to be the night our niece, Emily, played clarinet in the Middle School Honors Band Performance at Carnegie Hall. The performance and setting in the grand old music hall of NYC was spectacular! What an exceptional birthday it was!

Central Park was one of my favorite attractions. Our little group put on more than eleven miles that day walking Central Park and the surrounding area.

Central Park was one of my favorite attractions. Our little group put on more than seven miles that day walking Central Park and the surrounding area.

As wonderful as our vacation had been, I was ready to be home by the last day of our trip. Oh sure, the week of eating out and enjoying fabulous cuisine, not having to cook, and no household duties and chores, had spoiled me something fierce! But already, my mind was swimming with thoughts of all that would need to be done on our return. Sissy said it had rained a couple of times, so I knew the yard and pastures would need mowing. And I would have a mountain of laundry to do. Sissy mentioned there was a lot of summer squash and zucchini, and the tomatoes were ripening by the buckets full. This meant I would have to get busy freezing my winter sauces and soups.

I worried a bit about the dogs that last day too.  Sissy had to return to Dallas early in the morning of the day we were flying home. I hoped the three dogs would  be fine until we got home that evening. It had been comforting to hear from Sissy Jo that it was apparent to her that Mr. T could see just fine getting up the steps at night. For years I thought his vision was too bad for him to see very well getting up the steps since he often refused to climb them at night. I always had to go down and get him, and sometimes he got playful and ran off, making me chase him! Sissy said he managed just fine and never once did she have to go after him. I was glad Mr. T did not go back to his old tricks while Sissy was there.

Of course there was Daisy and the twins for me to wonder about as well. I thought about how the fawns would have grown. Sissy mentioned that Daisy was nursing the fawns in front of the house each morning and at noon, and often brought them out together several other times during the day. I noted that Daisy was doing things different than last year, and was anxious to watch her new habits and observe the twins. I also thought about Spirit. I wondered how she was managing on her own. Happily, Sissy had spotted her several times during the week, and even managed to toss her a few cherry tomatoes.

Upon finally pulling up to the house, it was apparent the yard, gardens and flower beds had flourished in the rain. Obviously, mowing would have to be my main priority the following day. While I scanned the yard and garden area, and fretted about how I was going to get everything whipped back into shape, FD promptly parked the truck and took off for the woods. Daisy and the fawns were his main concern.  I petted and loved on Zoe, Bear and Tori, and then began to unpack the mountain of clothes and start the laundry. Gads! There was so much to tackle. I stepped back outside in the scorching heat thinking I should pick all the produce in the gardens. Looking through heat waves rising up from the ground as I gazed at a garden full of tomatoes and squash, I remembered the cooler weather of NYC, with the gentle breezes tunneling between skyscrapers, and through the busy streets and honking horns. That was all just a memory now.

Sissy had been right about the gardens boasting a bumper crop. I came back from my harvesting with buckets of summer squash, zucchini and tomatoes. In the flower beds where I grow my herbs, my dill and oregano were out of control. My parsley, kale, lettuce, and cilantro had all bolted in the summer heat. Despite rain, some areas needed water again, so I knew that, after we finished mowing, I would surely be dragging the water hoses around.

As I laid down that night, I was thankful for the trip we had taken. It was an amazing time and I enjoyed the break from so much work here. But I also realized that, more than ever, I really love my life here. It is a busy life, and every day presents something wonderful and beautiful while I work outdoors and indoors. There are hard times and difficulties too. Still, it was good to experience something different – a unique place in the world, a whole different culture and way of life than what we know in the Midwestern US.  We observe and learn from our experiences, and hopefully gain an understanding about a very different way of life. Then we come home to what we know and are comfortable with – home to all of the people and critters we love – and it feels right. What better feeling is there to lay your head down at night and know that you are where you belong?

After a period of squealing and excited barking, Zoe settled down to her ranch dog stance - ready for another work day by my side.

After a period of squealing and excited barking, Zoe settled down to her ranch dog stance – ready for another work day by my side.

Bear is always ready to luxuriate in the air conditioned comfort of the house.  Food begging and couch potato loafing are his specialties.

Bear is always ready to luxuriate in the air-conditioned comfort of the house. Food begging and couch potato loafing are his specialties.

One week after our return, Mr. T resumed his silly game of refusing to climb the steps at night and sometimes making me chase him down. I guess the Mama is just too soft!!

One week after our return, Mr. T resumed his silly game of refusing to climb the steps at night and sometimes making me chase him down. I guess the Mama is just too soft!!

It happened again! Owl was perched in the blackberry patch and in the night was attacked likely by a Barred Owl from the woods. The same thing happened last year. Unfortunately, this time Owl lost his nose in the battle. We have placed him on a lower perch near the tomato garden, where so far he's kept pesky birds from having a peck at my bountiful tomato crop! Owl looks ferocious as ever, despite his handicap!

It happened again! Owl was perched in the blackberry patch and in the night was attacked likely by a real Barred Owl from the woods. The same thing happened last year. Unfortunately, this time Owl lost his nose in the battle. We have placed him on a lower perch near the tomato garden, where so far he’s kept pesky birds from having a peck at my bountiful tomato crop! Owl looks ferocious as ever, despite his handicap!

Mother hen hatched three little chicks shortly after we returned from our trip. This is a little Buff Orpington - just hatched!

Mother hen hatched three little chicks shortly after we returned from our trip. This is a little Buff Orpington – just hatched!

These two Barred Rock chicks were the first to break through their shells. Most of our chicken population is the Barred Rock breed.

These two Barred Rock chicks were the first to break through their shells. Most of our chicken population is the Barred Rock breed.

Daisy has the kids eating greens now. I am so thankful FD planted this clover patch. Daisy has used it all spring and summer for nourishment.

Daisy has the kids eating greens now. I am so thankful FD planted this clover patch. Daisy has used it all spring and summer for nourishment.

The twins will continue to nurse until they are about three months old. Heidi stomps her front legs as she nurses. Both twins head bang Daisy's udder to encourage more milk.  Poor Daisy!

The twins will continue to nurse until they are about three months old. Heidi stomps her front legs as she nurses. Both twins head bang Daisy’s udder to encourage more milk. Poor Daisy!

Both Dancer and Heidi have the business of relieving themselves down pat. Daisy no longer has to stimulate them to start that process, but she still does a lot of grooming on the little ones.

Both Dancer and Heidi have the business of relieving themselves down pat. Daisy no longer has to stimulate them to start that process, but she still does a lot of grooming on the little ones.

Daisy has trained Dancer and Heidi to drink water from the tub. They know to go to the high side of the tub for better access.

Daisy has trained Dancer and Heidi to drink water from the tub. They know to go to the high side of the tub for better access.

Daisy still loves to eat and rest in her old deer pen. We put a deer mix planting in half of the pen. Daisy used the high grasses and plants as her nursery for the twins the first weeks. Now they are big kids and often bed down in the pasture, but Daisy still loves to bed down in the area that was her very own nursery.

Daisy still loves to eat and rest in her old deer pen. We put a deer mix planting in half of the pen. Daisy used the high grasses and plants as her nursery for the twins the first weeks. Now they are big kids and often bed down in the pasture, but Daisy still loves to bed down in the area that was her very own nursery.

Heidi (Front) and Dancer (Rear)  often lay down together to rest while waiting on Mama Daisy to finish grazing nearby.

Heidi (Front) and Dancer (Rear) often lay down together to rest while waiting on Mama Daisy to finish grazing nearby.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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Flying High

Where does time go? I mean, really? We look at old photos and video and the memories come flooding back. We wonder, as we review just a short series of photographs, how a cute baby girl could grow into a pretty young lady in such a short time?  And, as I look back at my own life’s photos, I am amazed how quickly I became so, uh, mature!

This last trip to Nebraska made it quite apparent to FD and me that time is slipping away ever so fast. We generally stay with my sister Jules when we go up north, and this time, when our niece Em and her brother Sid came out of the front door to greet us, I swear they had grown a foot since we saw them in December of last year. Sid is quite athletic looking – all muscular and tall, and Em… well the braces are off, her blonde hair is longer, and she has evolved into quite a beautiful, young lady.

My sister and her family live in a very small farming community. My brother-in-law, CF,  is the town go-to man for everything, and performing maintenance to help keep the little village running is his job. He is also a member of the volunteer fire department and he actively sits in on town board meetings. When you live in a small community like this, people help one another, they look out for each other, and they get involved. I knew Memorial Day would be a busy one for CF, as he would be responsible to make sure things looked spot-on in the little town that day!

I, myself, have never been one to visit cemeteries on Memorial Day, and am ashamed to admit I have only attended a couple of Memorial Day services in my entire life. Growing up, my family always went to various cemeteries to decorate graves when our grandparents were alive, but after they passed away, this tradition just fell away from me.

Relaxing before the ceremony.

Relaxing before the ceremony.

Folks gathered round to listen to the message.

Folks gathered round to listen to the message.

Sid, Em and Jules singing National Anthem. CF (in red at the left) ALWAYS manages to avoid me and my camera!

Sid, Em and Jules singing National Anthem. CF (in red at the left) ALWAYS manages to avoid me and my camera!

An Auntie shares about the lives of her parents with a young niece and nephew.

An Auntie shares about the lives of her parents with a young niece and nephew.

So, switching back to this Memorial Day morning, CF was up bright and early to put flags up along main street and also to get the flags hung out at the cemetery.  After he returned, we all took off to the community building for breakfast where the locals gathered to eat a bite before heading off to memorial services at the cemetery. Always looking for photo opportunities, I grabbed my camera at the house before walking to the cemetery, just a couple of blocks away.

I was both amazed and impressed by all of the folks who showed up for Memorial Day services! There were people of all ages – some lived in town, some were rural folks, and many were visitors from out-of-town. Some pulled up in cars, but many walked the short distance from the community building just a few blocks away. Several folks helped the handicapped and the elderly, while parents and grandparents held the hands of little kids so they would stay put – at least for a while. Once the honor guard was situated, the main speaker, a veteran himself, gave a straightforward speech about appreciating and respecting not only our veterans, but the families who endured in their absence or were left behind when a loved one did not return. I had never thought about that before. As I looked around at all of the graves, I wondered about the people who had never been in a war, but who suffered because of a war. No one in my family had served in any war, so my family had never been directly affected by those circumstances. Suddenly, I was humbled in a way I had not been in a long time.

Of course I was not allowed to stay in thoughtful mode long because my danged iPhone began ringing in the middle of the services! Thank goodness the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway engines pulling about one hundred rail cars had roared through just prior to that moment. Still, I was mortified – I had made a spectacle of myself! Or so I thought. As it turned out, very few people looked my way, and I also saw about a dozen folks hurriedly reaching into their own pockets or purses to switch off their phones. Even so, I was prepared for some smart-aleck remarks after the services but, thankfully, no one said a word. And this simple courtesy made the experience of “small town America” all the more pleasing.

A BNSF train rolls by every ten to fifteen minutes! We endured three trains during the ceremony.

A BNSF train rolls by every ten to fifteen minutes! We endured three trains during the ceremony.

This was my point of view when my darned cell phone went ringing. Thankfully, the train moving by competed with my chime-type tune!

This was my point of view when my darned cell phone went ringing. Thankfully, the train moving by competed with my chime-type tune!

After the Memorial Day ceremony ended, I was happy for the chance to meet a gentleman and his wife who were originally from this area of Nebraska, but now reside in Ohio. Verne and I had connected online after he read my blog post, “A Bird’s Eye View“, and we vowed to get together if we were ever in the area at the same time.  I was even more excited to learn that he wanted to take us flying in his twin-engine plane that afternoon! And even more thrilling, Em was asked to co-pilot! Evidently, she had co-piloted with Verne once before.

I will not play the part of the bragging auntie who drones on and on about how her nieces and nephews are the brightest little stars in the galaxy. They are all gifts and each one shines brightly in their own right. However, I will say that Em is a courageous, free spirit, and I wish a hundred times over I had her tenacity and pluck to pursue and achieve dreams. She is a bright star in the Universe. She delights us with music by playing various instruments. She is athletic, she sings, she enjoys motocross, and she flies planes and helicopters. Every bit of this came to her because she worked at it. Her parents are just common people like the rest of us. But Em showed a true interest, kept asking questions, and sought opportunities with people who could help her. It was all won by hard work and a tenacity to keep after her dreams.

As we began preparing to board the plane, Verne told us it would be a bumpy flight that day. It was already heating up and big fluffy clouds were building. I was panicked by that! I am not a good flyer on bumpy flying days. Thank goodness Verne’s wife, who is also a pilot, was sitting in back with FD, CF and me, and she helped me deal with my anxiety. FD was probably happy about that too, since most of the flight he had to photograph the aerial shots and endure my death grip on his leg!! Still, Em did an excellent job at the helm, and Verne’s sense of humor and continual encouragement to Em helped me too. And CF, who sat across from me, gently chided me with his humor.  Again, like everything else I had experienced that day, this adventure was also about people helping people.

Verne and FD meet for the first time.

Verne and FD meet for the first time.

Jules and Sid stay behind - no more room in the plane!

Jules and Sid stay behind – no more room in the plane!

Em is excited to fly the twin engine!

Em is excited to fly the twin-engine!

Em flying with Verne encouraging.

Em flying with Verne encouraging.

Em the co-pilot.

Em the co-pilot.

Next week, Emily will be flying to New York City to play her clarinet in the Middle School Honors Performance at Carnegie Hall. She will fly her first commercial flight, not at the helm, but sitting back in coach. I am absolutely thrilled for her to be going to NYC! Can you imagine how exciting this will be for her? At the age of fourteen, as Emily is, I was shy and had no self-confidence at all. Now, at the age of 53, I am just beginning to find my courage and “pluck” in life. I always was a late bloomer! But oh, how I am loving this time of my life… flying high as I evolve into who I dream to be – a writer!

I want to share this video link “NYC Bound“. I have watched it a dozen times if not more, and each time my eyes well up with tears. Not because I see how Em is evolving and growing into this beautiful free-spirit, but because I should have been that girl growing up. I am happy when I see young people who follow their dreams and they fly high… because it is what they were born to do!

Em and me back in 2004 wrapped in a duck blanket on a chilly night by a bonfire.

Em and me back in 2004 wrapped in a duck blanket on a chilly night by a bonfire.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 

 

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