Brooklyn Bridge from my window.

Saturday we got going with Gloria to get to NYC to visit Alex during parents weekend. We are not big parents weekend type parents—as I do not play well in groups…and eating potato salad and small talk with people other than my child is not top of my list when it is wrapped into a five hour drive. So, our idea of parents weekend is that we grab our kid and go do something fun and a bit spoiling as we are parents, and that is what we can do. So, in the spirit of spoiling Alex, we got going around nine…to get Gloria to a friend of her’s house in the city to visit, allowing us to get to Hempstead in time to have dinner with Alex.  We dropped Gloria off in NYC and then Rob decided we needed to eat something as it was late afternoon, and we hadnt eaten since Ithaca.

Radegast Hall and Biergarten, Williamsburg, NYIn the tricky way he has, he took me to Radegast Hall and Biergarten. Turns out, it was packed as it was one of the three full blast Octoberfests this amazing place was celebrating. Radegast Hall comprises of three different rooms: an open classic Biergarten with long shared tables and benches; a smaller, more cozy dark room, and an enormous bar—also dark that abbuts the Biergarten. This place was jamming, with oompa music and beer flowing. They had two grills going with an offering of all sorts of sausages (Venison and Kielbasa were what we picked) which came with a very delicious mild sauerkraut and the whole mess was plopped onto a bed of fries. There were people on top of people—some with funny beer drinking hats, a few in liederhosen and my favorite was the Williamsburg Hipster take on liederhosen—the same outfit made out of cutoffs and denim. Hilarious! Brilliant!

We had a nice schnellembus and then booked out of there to visit Mast Brothers chocolate (next door) and the Brooklyn Art Library (I have a sketchbook there). Mast Brothers is sublime—and warm and wafty. You are hit by the rich chocolate perfume as you enter the big retail and manufacturing floor—enveloped the scent and what it promises. Mast Brothers makes handmade chocolate bars (they make it in front of you), wrapped in beautiful papers and sealed with a tipped on label—very bookbindery—very eriudite but approachable. Mast Brothers had a strong use of small and wall blackboards in their display, teaching illustrations of what they do, and how they do it, nice tips on how to use the chocolate, and of course samples on big boards that they chopped up for us to try from nibs to a salted chocolate. They had wonderful big baking bars, to little packages 3 or 5 bars which made the per piece price quite concievable. Mast Brothers have a real grasp on their brand dna, and really stay true to it.

The same with Radegast….it is so good there that one might not believe that this place has not been here since german beer was created.  The look is so old and ancient with lots of old seeming wall graphics, signage all int german (truly a fake job) and the way it is staffed and organized it is pure, beliveable theatre…not Disney entertainment, but the read deal. You are in Germany only it is right across the East River.

Birthday Cake made from used sweaters, Williamsburg, NYWe looked at the stores nearby and I was stunned by the originality, fun, and sheer arty energy that was happening in this neighborhood. There was a great and smart childrens store that had three crazy cakes (one to the left) made out of recycled sweaters (a new upcycled product) along with a plethora of cute character illustrations, handmade kids stuf, fun fun fun. There were folks just selling antiques and curated “stuff”. There are mini factories/showrooms for furniture and housewares—all approachable, all handmade and all at a very nice level of craft and finish.  Lets just say it, i fell in love with Williamsburg—and hope there will be many visits in the future.

After that little foray, we got into the car and zipped (via a new way that talkin’Tina (our name for the Garmin girl) took us that was pretty and not odd and scary that sometimes we go (with lots of winding through neighborhoods and by the Belmont Racetrack.

We found Alex just absolutely amazing and agreed to pick him up after the free Snoop Dog concert to bring him into the city for a day of as he put it “hanging out and drinking coffee with you guys”. So Rob and I went to the Hicksville LI Ikea to look at lighting fixures (a favorite), sofas and light bulbs (Rob’s passion). It was fun to find IKEA and get the lay of the land out there relative to Alex and his perceptions of where he is, and what is there…plus, we burned time in a very productive way. I think we are close to picking a door style for a new kitchen we will be putting into the Camp House. Simple but nice (wood doors too). Around 8:30 pm, we gathered Alex (after seeing his room, meeting friends and seeing him in his new environment), and drove back to the city to have a late dinner and sleep. Long and full day.

Sunday was the coffee and talking.  We toured the food vendors by the Seaport with our favorite, Joe Mozze--offering up a range of cheese and deliciousness. There was a man shucking oysters and prepping raw sea urchins with a tub of shiny black eels at his feet ready to take home. Across the street was the amazing, New Amsterdam Market—a farmers market under the overpass—with such an amazing selection of food, bread, things to eat, handmade bicycles, teeshirts. High high quality. They have a series of events that I need to relate to my farmers and producers as the exposure is so enormous. The programming around having certain events or foodtypes featured is something we can take advantage of at our market—to supplement the movie nights and other things that we use to bolster the attendance/sales at the market.The New Amsterdam Market hasan inspired set up (simple white signs with black lettering) with a big chalkboard underneath for the vendors to do with what they will).We went over to the Meatpacking District to see what was on sale at the Vitra Design sale this year. Nothing that made us crazy with delight, but as it started to rain, we ran for cover in the Standard Hotel and had a snack at the Standard Plaza, the most casual of their eateries. It was so nice just being able to talk with Alex, to really check in on how his new life was going (beyond expectations from our viewpoint), how he is navigating being independent, his new friends, new observations and his new structured life. I am beyond delighted. We drove him back to Hempstead with lots of talk and laughing—and he noted that he was referring to his school as his home, and that maybe he has decided that he was going to stay for a while. Oh, I miss my boy…but in the same vein, I am so proud he is at it, working hard, settling in, making friends and building community. He is a treasure that I am so lucky to have in my heart.

blingy thingiesMonday was my birthday! Rob gave me the best present! It was spending the day with me. We went to see a few findings shops I wanted to see for the gemeralds I have been making. I thought that coming to the source in NYC might rock compared to my shopping online and using those resources I have uncovered. How wrong was I? Good knowledge—but I can do it cheaper with more choices on line—without the hassle and attitude (which is fun, sometimes) that NYC layers on. But, I had to do this just to learn this. I was overwhelmed instead by the zillions of bead stores for little ladies to make little things. And of course, the blingy of the blingiest….from cellphone (amazing decoden stuff) and ipad cases to complete shops of wedding crowns and tiaras. Love that stuff, but just didnt have the patience to go deep yesterday. Instead we took in a perfect NY day in Bryant Park—watching people play ping pong and chess; adoring the reading room al fresco; amazed at the succoh that was set up to celebrate the harvest; and inspired by the classes that were taught at the library (the most sublime was a course in writing your college essay). All easy…all attainable..and all transferrable to our little Ulysses Philomathic. Hmmmm.

Rob and I toured this amazing Japanese store, Kinokuniya opposite Bryant Park—with books and gifts, Manga and Japanese office supplies…and then had lunch at the restaurant there….admiring the scene. Fun. We did some more shopping (getting him a really cute blazer) and saw the new Benneton Pop up shop in Soho. Drinks at Bread and dinner around the corner. It was such fun. I will be back in the saddle tomorrow a.m. but wanted to say hi before doing something neighborhoody here. We leave around 3. Maybe I can knock out a pair of fingerless gloves on the way home? 

Fast and Furious.

Street art, NYC, Q . Cassetti, 2012Last Thursday, Rob and Alex roared down to NYC after a ribbon cutting to pick up Kitty and her possessions after being ousted from Alumni House at FIT. She peacefully stayed in the downstairs sewing room,  I joined them Friday evening after riding the lovely Cornell Campus to Campus bus leaving Ithaca at 6 and promptly getting into NYC in less than 4.5 hours. No stops…quick as can be. I sketched out possible tattoos I want to sell ( “Until death do us part”, and Lucky 13) on Etsy. It was fun…and a really nice break for me. Rob, Kitty and Alex waited up for me, and we had a late dinner at the River Cafe, NYC.

Rob and Kitty had the weekend on Governors Island with GlassLab. So, Alex and I had two days to ourselves. So, he and I walked up Bowery to the New Museum to see two very thought provoking shows(Ghost in the Machine  and Pictures from the Moon: Artists Holograms 1969-2008)that we both really enjoyed seeing and seeing together. The Ghost s how spoke more to me with imagery from paintings from the 20s, to interpretations of literature, music and embroidery, to how people interact with technology to interface with nature (stratosphere suits, cars, bikes, airplanes, diving bells, sailboats, submarines, spacesuits, rockets etc). Lots of kooks and kookery….but challenging none the less. Alex looked at things I blew by…and thanks to him, I really saw the show through his eyes and his total appreciation of the sublimely abstract. Sol Lewitt is a favorite of his. Wall graphics, tattoos and renaissance art top my list…but you know that. I like a lot of stuff. The New Museum is an amazing space with a great shop with very edgy things, a good selection of books and just enough to pick through. Then it was off to a this and that lunch at the Fiat Cafe (which Alex proclaimed as “perfect”). We ordered an antipasto, some fresh mozz, and a few bruschetta. Alex was in heaven.

We did a tea tasting at David’s Tea, a canadian chain that approaches tea the way gourmet food is sold with tastings, smelling, and customer education. Alex and I had Note: Babyfood type jars, clear with black screen printingfun chatting with the Tea Barista—enjoying his candor and wit. Smart people work for Davids.We bought some green tea that seemed palatable and not like a concoction of grass clippings. We did a walkthrough at Dean and Deluca with my taking pictures of things to bring home to my local foodies. Cupcakes and cookies are the rage…with less focus on fresh produce and more on meat/cheese/ bread and condiments. The funniest thing we saw was a granola called “Hippie Chow”. What a hoot. Low key packaging that is standing on humor to get the buyer to reach for the first package. Then hopefully, they “get em”.

Lots of clear glass or plastic packaging with single color (black or white) screenprinting on the front. The Yogurt to the right is an example of what we saw a lot of (including an heirloom tomatoe sauce, McClure Pickles etc). Lots of food with minimal/kraft paper packaging. Just to keep it in the front of our local food nation packaging. Nothing feels custom (even though much of it is)—but a clean humility is kind of the aesthetic that is presented by the hopelessly hip. There is a celebration of basics too( flour, salt, sugar)—that seems to be new.

Then, we shopped for shoes and nipped into exclusive mens stores for fun and to see what was cool. We got some Birkenstocks for Alex on sale as his were hand me downs from Rob and the bottoms were peeling off them. And then we got back to the hotel to meet the other two and see a little Olympics with my guy.

Untitled Restaurant at The Whitney with Kusama sculpture above the space, Q. Cassetti, 2012Sunday was Metropass day with mother and son. I showed him the difference in express and local trains. I pointed out the crosstown buses and how it works. We changed lines from the green to the yellow to the red…piecing together a ride to get from one point to another…helping Alex to realize that this is a skill he will have when he visits NYC from Hofstra. It was good to give him that time and point up. I worry about my kids…and Alex is alway reticent to get “out there” and try new things. Hopefully, the subway will not be one of those scary things he will not try.

Sunday was also another Q and Alex museum experience: The Whitney with see the  Yayoi Kusama show. Alex and I waited in line for well over an hour to just get tickets and then scored 2 of the free tickets to see the special installation of Fireflies on the Water. It was interesting as the Kusama show was another styles company sponsored art event (with crossover installations at the Museum and at the Louis Vuitton shop) mirroring the show we saw at the Temporary Contemporary Gallery in LA, the monumental show of the work, product, videos of Takashi Murakami.  Kusama is a product of her time—with self sponsored art events in Washington Square—very much in the Yoko Ono mode…with Murakami not riding on top of this style piece but integrating with it…and embracing it in his art.  but, it was a big show…and fun to see the work with Alexander.

We also saw a bit of the Whitney collection including a wonderful Walton Ford Turkey, and the Alexander Calder circus. Alex was a great companion—and seemed to take a lot in. From the Whitney to Aldo to get a pair of “real shoes”—something that spans birkenstocks and boat shoes…but isnt too dressy. So we got some dark blue “bucks” which he was delighted with. He must have tried on a dozen pairs of shoes to get to this decision…but we made a choice, and he was and still is charmed. Then, more subway time…to get to Peck Slip for the five o’clock looksee of the Olympics and to wait to meet up with Kitty and Alex.

Garmento, Q. Cassetti, 2012We met them at the Stone Street Tavern, a big beergarden in lower Manhatten.  The area the Stone Street Tavern occupies is shared with a half dozen restaurants and spans a small, wide alley that teams with people eating and drinking under huge umbrellas and european picnic tables. It is so curious the way beergardens have popped up all over NYC and Brooklyn—and how finally, New Yorkers are taking advantage of the big sidewalks and the culture around hanging out, out of doors. This is the kinder and gentler New York that we didnt live in…and welcome the change.

Monday, Kitty, Alex and I shopped for fabrics and trims in the Garment District in the morning. We saw beads and baubles, gold boullion, and embroidery, buttons, and bag trimmings, clasps and zippers, spandex and sparkles, sequins and feathers, mens suiting, and fishnet. We bought yards of spandex printed like a newspaper, a few yards of a lovely printed material with a Mary Blair style border, and a spectacular ombre that is a gradient from mustard to liliac and then back to mustard….with cream as part of the blend. More subway riding…back to the hotel to meet with Rob as we had Hempstead on the schedule to get Alex to his first Hofstra Orientation. And so we did.

We discovered that instead of Hofstra being on the edge of an edgy neighborhood, it turns out that Hofstra is on the edge of a gorgeous perfectly named area, Garden City. We found the Mineola train station and the Hempstead bus station—thanks to Rob knowing that we needed to center Alex in the neighborhood. We found his adorable dorm on campus, and got him registered for the early morning start with new classmates. We discovered a phenomenal restaurant in Garden City, Waterzooi, a belgian restaurant known for mussels, beer and waffles…Boy howdy, we are definintely going back there! It is a soup and shellfish thing…that we all basically took baths in. Alex was on time the next morning—with Hofstra cutting things off at exactly 8:45 a.m. to prevent the helicopter parents from  hanging on. Once again, I am always thrilled and happy with the way Hofstra does business along with the really nice and smart people we always meet.

It was chop chop on Tuesday after the drop off. We got in the minivan to get to the Governors Island Ferry to get over to pick up a half dozen totes filled with GlassLab product, sketches and models.  We got back on the ferry and high tailed it home.

We are home…for now. Alex is on the noon bus to Ithaca from Hempstead…and he figured it out! I have Farmers Market meeting this p.m. and then the home team for dinner….or at least, that is what I hope.