Tag Archives: Family

A Wisconsin Summer With The People Who Matter Most

As I entered the baggage claim, I heard an old friend’s voice calling my name. But where was he?

My head swiveled around, confused. Then, Matt* rolled up to me in a purloined wheelchair with a big smile on his face.

That’s when I knew this would be an interesting trip.

A mural in Milwaukee celebrating the great Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks!

One of the greatest things about the world today is how we’re getting back to the moments we used to love. In person events, concerts, and travel are finally returning to brighten our lives after a long absence.

I’m back today from the most wonderful vacation I’ve had in a long time! I got to see my mother and my old friends in Wisconsin for the first time since COVID.

I began with a visit with Matt in Milwaukee.

We’ve known each other since the 8th grade. I’m lucky to have such a longstanding friendship.

It had been nearly three years since we’d seen each other, but we didn’t miss a beat! We laughed all the way home from the airport, always on an adventure no matter what we’re doing.

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Milwaukee’s Hoan Bridge

Dinner was airy spanikopita and delicate baklava at Sts. Constantine and Helen Grecian Fest. Milwaukee is known as the City of Festivals, and in the warmer months there are celebrations of heritage and food almost every day.

The next day, I grabbed the bus north to my mother’s house. Getting to hug her after nearly three years apart felt like the end to the difficult period the world has been in for the last several years.

Or…almost the end. Ironically, we both got COVID for the first time as soon as I arrived!

Luckily, our symptoms were mild and we’ve made full recoveries. And on the bright side, COVID kept us close to home and enjoying the simple things, like reading on the glider as deer and chipmunks passed by.

Deer in the yard
The view from the glider

We played cards with the same deck we used with my great grandpa 30 years ago. We walked slowly down the streets at sunset, just happy to be together again.

Frozen custard at Culver’s a Wisconsin must!

After about a week, I came back to Milwaukee to meet Matt again, joined by our friend Brian* from Madison. When we all lived in the same neighborhood shortly after college, we were an inseparable trio.

But we hadn’t been together all at once since 2018. We ambled down the charming industrial streets like the Three Musketeers, always more excited when it’s all three of us together.

When they dropped me at the airport to go home to New York, I wanted nothing more than to stay! But they have work they need to get back to, and so do I.

There’s only so many times I can go three or four years without seeing friends and family. At that interval, I might see them a dozen more times at most before we’re all gone.

So I plan to come more often and enjoy that special feeling of being around those I love and have known the longest. As Dorothy said, there’s no place like home.

More on travel:

A Special Weekend in Stokes State Forest

Pine Barrens Glamping in Brendan Byrne State Forest

Is this NJ’s Most Beautiful Spot?

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Misfits Market

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*Names have been changed

A Frozen Valentine in New York

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Considerate husbands begin planning Valentine’s Day months in advance.

Flowers are ordered. Reservations made. Wine chilled.

Yeah, I didn’t do any of that. 🙂

So I was left scrambling to find a dinner reservation in New York City on what is probably the busiest night of the year!

The wife and I wound up eating outside in temperatures of 23 degrees. Winter wasn’t going to keep us from the meal of our dreams!

Fortunately, the food at Bar Boulud made the cold an afterthought. I thought I’d share this amazing experience with you guys so you know where to go next year!

The appetizers:

Ora king salmon tarte with avocado, crème fraîche, and caviar. My wife being willing to give me a bite is the definition of true love.

The caviar was the best I’ve ever tasted, with an earthy quality a little like truffles.

Lobster Bisque. Unctuous, delicious. The little bits of lobster swimming in the soup were a nice touch.

The entrees:

Halibut with farro. When I sampled this, I marveled at the perfect, soft flakiness of the fish.

I had never had farro, but with this champagne beurre blanc sauce, I shoveled it in eagerly!

Beef duo. Braised short rib and tenderloin.

The short rib stole the show. It fell apart in my mouth, full of moist, fatty, umami flavor.

Dessert:

An assortment of ice creams for the missus: brown sugar, vanilla, and a pear sorbet.

Every Boulud restaurant has ridiculously good ice cream, made in house. The depth of cream and vanilla bean flavor made the vanilla my favorite.

A dark chocolate entremet for me. Don’t ask me what an entremet is.

All I know is this yummy chocolate mousse, along with hazelnut ice cream and some kind of little chocolate crumbly things, was amazing.

I’ve never seen hazelnut ice cream anywhere else. This needs to be in stores!

If you like Nutella, you’ll love this.


In all, outdoor dining, even in frigid temperatures, was pretty comfortable. A well-built shelter to block the wind plus patio heaters go a long way.

After a tough two years for our little blue planet, I was grateful just to sit down with someone near and dear and enjoy a good meal, both of us healthy. I hope that once this crisis recedes, I can maintain that gratitude.

How was your Valentine’s Day? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

P.S. This place also has the best burger in NYC.

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More on food:

The Best Mexican Food Is In…New Jersey?

The Best Bakery in NYC (It’s Not Levain)

New Jersey’s Jelly Donut Heaven

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Fundrise

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Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

I Got The Moderna Vaccine! Here’s What It’s Like.

At 1:48pm today New Jersey time, I got my vaccine!

I’ve been waiting for this moment for many months, and I’m so grateful to have a chance to get it. It was the Moderna vaccine and I got it through the Hudson County vaccination site. So far, I feel 100%!

Having lived through the dark period of spring 2020 in the New York City area, when sirens were almost constant and my neighbors were dying in huge numbers, reaching this moment is cathartic. It prompted a lot of feelings for me: relief, gratitude, and hope!

So, what’s it like? This is a drive through site, and I don’t own a car, so I took an Uber. The driver very patiently waited with me in the lengthy line to get the jab. Many cars slowly snaked ahead in the cold snow.

Once we finally made it to the front, I showed a QR code on my phone that the county had e-mailed me. Shortly therafter, the nurse came up and asked if I had been feeling sick today. Then, she gave me the shot!

I barely felt a thing, which was surprising. Since then, I’ve had no side effects that I can discern. I hope it stays that way!

Just after the shot, we took the picture above. It’s actually staged…she had already given me the jab before we ever thought to document the moment for posterity! So she posed with the needle near my arm, and I took a snap to record this wonderful moment in my life that I’ve waited so long for.

“This is a historic moment,” she said. I agreed.

If you’re still trying to get an appointment, don’t give up! I’ve been checking every area provider’s website repeatedly for months. And I almost wasn’t going to check again today, but I did, and found an appointment for just 90 minutes away! Perhaps someone cancelled last minute. The best strategy seems to be to check over and over.

Now, I can begin to plan for a life after COVID. A week after the 2nd dose, which will be around the end of March, it should have achieved its full 94% efficacy. I will finally be able to get on a plane and visit my mom for the first time since December 2019! And I’m looking forward to getting some great protection even sooner: just 2 weeks after the first dose, the vaccine is 80% effective.

I really encourage everyone to get this vaccine, although I know each person has to make their own decision. COVID may be something to fear, but this really isn’t! If I didn’t keel over after, you won’t either! 🙂

My Favorite Christmas Songs Now

These last few years, nothing gets me in the mood for Christmas more than music. It gives me the warm feeling of the holidays that we need more than ever this year. I love listening to Christmas songs in the mornings while making breakfast or while decorating the tree.

I grew up with the classics: Silent Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, etc. Beautiful as they are, I’m mostly listening to more recent, pop Christmas songs these days.

Check these out today while you finish up your work or buy those final gifts!

And if you’ve hit your limit on Christmas songs for the day, try this jam I put on while folding laundry last night. I wished I had more socks to fold!

Tell me what your favorite Christmas songs are in the comments. Merry Christmas!

Photo: Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, New York City

My Family in Japan Saw Me on TV!

My wife is from Japan and in our five years of marriage, I’ve become very close with her family. But, given today’s restrictions, I can’t see them any time soon.

But they saw me! My wife’s mother and sister watch New Amsterdam, a hospital drama shot in New York City. I appeared in this episode as an EMT, my first time acting. I’m only a background actor (also known as an extra), but it was a very fun experience!

I really enjoyed seeing how a TV show is made from the inside. Also, perhaps due to its high ratings, New Amsterdam has incredible food. Sushi, filet of sole, unbelievable!

The second season of New Amsterdam is now available in Japan and recently, my sister-in-law texted me to let me know her and her mother saw me pushing a stretcher and immediately knew it was me! It makes me really happy to be able to share something fun I’m doing with them. It also makes me feel closer to them since at least they’re seeing me in some way.

My in-laws had actually seen me on TV before. In my first full day ever in Japan in 2014, I happened to be on the national news. I was walking here, and a news program was filming a feature on increasing tourism in Japan. I had no idea they were there but my head wound up prominently visible in the footage. My wife was miffed that despite a lifetime in Japan, she had never been on TV! Her modest stature excluded her even from this shot. She still awaits her chance at stardom.

Interesting little tidbit from that episode of New Amsterdam: the actor on the other end of that stretcher was pushing it very quickly and the stretcher was extremely heavy. We had maybe 2 inches of clearance behind one of the main characters, a very nice lady named Janet Montgomery.

I kept trying to slow the stretcher down before we take out this very small lady. In this episode, she’s pretending to walk with a cast, and we didn’t need her to wind up in a real one!

After this episode, I did another day on New Amsterdam, an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and an episode of Netflix’s The Politician. It’s an enjoyable hobby.

Shows are still filming in NYC but only very few, and the safety situation concerns me, so it’ll probably be months before I return. But I look forward to it!