Monday, November 24, 2014

Pretty Painted Pie Crusts

With pie making taking center stage on Wednesday along with all my other prep work for Thursday’s dinner, I’ve planned ahead and taken some steps to make the day less hectic and more organized with “pretty” still in mind.

Truth be told, I cannot make a pie without a decorative crust finish.  When I won the blue ribbon for my Dutch apple pie at the Orange County Fair, one of the judge’s comments was how pretty the single painted apple cut-out was on top of the pie and how it added to the presentation.

I made my first pie of the season this past weekend because it was my mother-in-love’s 92nd birthday and she loves pumpkin pie.  Who says a birthday has to be celebrated with a cake? 

I used Wilton’s 6-pc. Pie Crust Cutter Set to cut leaves out of the pie crust scraps to add the decorative maple leaves and I’m going to show you how to paint the pretty colors.

Wilton Pie Crust Cutters Pretty Painted Pie Crusts-

I’ve used Martha Stewart’s recipe for Pate Brisee for my pie crusts forever.  It’s the best.  Apparently the OC judge’s liked it too.

Wilton Pie Crust Cutters -8197

I found it’s best to prepare your crust with a simple cut edge so the leaves have a wide, flat surface to adhere to.

To make the “paint” take 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten to break them up, and place them in the middle of a plate.

Add Wilton’s Decorating Colors around the inside of the plate.  The colors I used were kelly green, golden yellow, red and lemon yellow.  I also experimented with a purple but I don’t recommend using it.  Keep the colors in the lighter hues and a swipe of green only to add depth once in awhile.


I used the egg yolks and the spots of color like a painter’s palette and pulled the yolk into my colors.

Paint each individual leaf with the colors.  There is no right or wrong.  I like mixing colors - painting some yellow then perhaps some red on the tips of the leaves.

Wilton Pie Crust Cutter Set

Pretty pastry leaves. 

Wilton Pie Crust Cutters--2

I admit to adding some glittery sparkle.  I just can’t help myself.

These can also be made days ahead or frozen.  Thaw before placing them on the pie or place them on the pie crust then freeze the entire crust.

Adhere them to the pie edge by moistening the pie crust edge with water or more beaten egg yolk.  I prefer water.

Place your leaves around the crust edge pressing a little to make sure they have adhered.

Bake your pie as directed BUT I found the colors do darken when baked so I recommend covering the pie crust’s edge with foil or with a pie crust guard after the leaves have had a time to set. 

You can also bake the leaves separately on a baking sheet and remove them from the oven before they brown too much and use them to garnish dollops of whipped cream on your pie slices.  I add this special touch to my final presentation before we dig in.

The cutters can be found at Michaels and Jo-Ann Craft Stores or wherever Wilton is sold near you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is a sponsored post.  As a Wilton Brand Ambassador, I received compensation and/or product from Wilton Cake Decorating.  All opinions and endorsements of the products I mention are my own.  If I didn’t love them… you know.  :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

USC Trojan Cupcakes! Fight On!

USC Cupcakes circle--2

While I was making the USC cupcakes I had to open my college box and see what was in there since I haven’t opened it up in a couple decades.  I loved seeing dozens and dozens of handwritten letters from my friends.  What a gift!  There were letters detailing how they spent their summer vacations and hopes for the next school year.  Lots of love letters from various gentlemen which were fun to read.  Nothing will make you feel younger and older at the same time!  I revisited the humor of my senior year room mate, Lorraine, who is the funniest person I’ve ever known and I even found letters written to me by my husband-to-be when he was a freshman in college and I was still in high school.  He told me I was one of the nicest people he knew while he thanked me for making him chocolate chip cookies! 

Each letter from my friends and family is priceless.  I had no idea then how special those handwritten pieces of our souls would be.  You can feel every emotion and every ounce of personality in one’s handwriting with pen to paper.  That just isn’t possible with email.  

I also found these – various spirit buttons I would buy at the bookstore before a game. 

USC Cupcakes -

The house button was used during sorority rush at the Tri-Delta house.  In my senior year I was voted VP.  By that big front door under the Deltas, after one of the football games, I was given a kiss that made my toes curl and liked it so much I asked for another.  Months later but right before graduation, in the same spot, my heart was broken into a million little pieces.  In the box, I found a summer letter with news of an engagement.  I remember reading that letter over and over as if doing so could change the contents.  It was painful.  We ultimately attended our respective weddings.  Funny how things work out.

USC Cupcakes -8170logo

I was at the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day when USC won the championship against Michigan.  The energy was incredible.  I will always think USC and the team they’re going to beat should be the only teams allowed to play in the Rose Bowl on January 1.  It’s true Trojan mentality.

I loved my time at SC.  All of it.  I hope you loved my USC cupcakes even if you’re a fan of that “other” team.  A cross-town rivalry is always fun to have but if you really want to score points, at halftime, go write a letter to someone special in your life, a real one, with a pen. Red heart

USC Cupcakes circle-8153

FIGHT ON!  May the best team win.  Like we don’t know who that is!  :)

Update:  Ugh.  Better luck next year!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holiday Cookie Decorating Workshop at West Elm South Coast Plaza

I’m so excited that West Elm South Coast Plaza has asked me me return to teach a holiday cookie decorating workshop at their store in Costa Mesa!

There’s lots of info on West Elm OC’s Facebook page where you can sign up for the class !

decorated snowflake cookies west elm

We’re going to have a flurry o’ fun!

decorated snowflake cookies west elm

Here’s the workshop info from West Elm South Coast Plaza’s Facebook page-

Want to impress your friends and family with your cookie decorating skills this holiday season? Come join us December 4th at 6:30pm and learn how to create some holiday cookies taught by local baker and award-winning blogger, Marilyn Johnson of Pink Martinis and Pearls!

A baker, entertainer, and cocktail shaker for starters, Marilyn's artistic passion is decorating cookies. She loves planning colorful and fun parties and sharing her expertise with others. She features DIY photographic tutorials on her website.

The cost for this event is $65 for an hour and a half. You will be walking away with about 5 skillfully decorated holiday cookies and a goody bag that will include:
- Booklet with recipes
- Cookie cutter
- Icing
- Piping bags
- Brushes
- Squeeze bottles
- Couplers
- Decorating embellishments
- Decorating tips

Spots are limited so please call our store to RSVP, 714-662-1960. WE can't wait!

Also, my Holiday Gift Wrapping Workshop at the West Elm South Coast Plaza store is scheduled for Saturday, December 13.  Smile

Look for more details to come on both of our Instagram pages @westelmoc and @pinkmartinisandpearls

and Facebook – West Elm South Coast Plaza and Pink Martinis and Pearls

Hope to see you at both!

Monday, November 17, 2014

USC Cupcakes Countdown …Sneak Peek

This week the countdown begins to what hopefully will be a great game against the “other team that will not be named on my blog”, but they are our crosstown rivals from Westwood and have a teddy bear for their mascot, at least that’s the effigy that was tied to a stake and burned in the pep rally bonfire on campus a couple nights before the game!  HA! It was a great rally with all the players in attendance and the coach firing up the crowd.  I wonder if they can still do that today with air pollution restrictions and teddy bear political correctness.  Hmmm.

As a USC alum, I’ve been working on some game day USC cupcakes.  Here’s a couple pics I posted on Instagram and Facebook last week.

We can always dream of the Rose Bowl.  Uh, 2016, anyone?  :)

USC Cupcakes Rose Bowl

We went to the USC vs. Cal game last week with our best buddies – my Tri-Delta room mate and her hubby.  I learned 2 two things – the Cardinal and Gold Club makes some mean margaritas and they could seriously use some USC cupcakes on their dessert table, but I could be biased.  Think so?

USC Trojans Cupcake-

But as we Trojans like to say, “The Tradition Continues” and so does my cupcake design work to get them ready for Saturday!

Check back later this week as I drag out my USC memory box (no telling what’s in there) and what USC cupcakes I’ve come up with to celebrate our pending victory against that other team. 

There’s nothing more loyal (or obnoxious) than a Trojan fan.  Smile 

Love to my ucla gal pals. Red heart Smile

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Get The Party Started with Shutterfly– Perfectly Personal™ Holiday Card Collection

Are you thinking yet about the December holidays and sitting on the fence whether to entertain and host a fun party?  With the temps in the high 80’s here in Southern California it doesn’t exactly feel like the holiday party planning season is here but it is!  Thanks to Shutterfly, I was able to find my holiday spirit while working on a project for them. 

I’m very pleased to feature a party invitation that I chose, and I think you’ll love it too because it has happiness written all over it!  It’s the Jingle Jingle Mingle Holiday Invitation from the Perfectly Personal™ line of invitations from the Holiday Cards Collection.  Every holiday season, I decorate my red front doors with silver sleigh bells so this caught my eye immediately.

Shutterfly Holiday Collection 2014F-1

Did you know invitations from Shutterfly are two-sided?  I was able to add more special touches on the back.  Of the many backgrounds to choose from, I felt red bokeh lights nicely complimented the red graphics on the front of the invitation. 

I also downloaded a photo of my of mini snowflake cookies and added a message for my guests to “bring a plate of cookies and their singing voices.”  It’s a holiday party after all!  It’s perfectly acceptable to get your fa-la-la-la-la on.

Shutterfly Holiday Collection Party Invitations

Do you give your guests a little something extra to remember the party by?  I do.  A little bag of mini snowflake cookies like the ones seen on back of the invitation will be a perfect party favor!  I ordered a set of stickers to make gifts tags to tie onto bags of decorated cookies.  I chose the Holiday Cheer Pattern Stickers and added the text line - “Have a sweet holiday”.

Making these gift tags using the stickers couldn’t be easier – Place the stickers on card stock, cut around the sticker with a decorative edged scissors, punch a hole for baker’s twine, loop the twine through and that’s it!  So cute, easy and fast to make!  These will be finished long before the time it takes Clarence to get his wings or Rick to take out the majority of the zombie population in the greater Atlanta area.  :)

Shutterfly Holiday Collection Tags-

To complete the theme of snowflakes and candy canes, I ordered custom postage stamps from Shutterfly and chose a candy cane striped border to frame the same  photos of my cookies that I had used on the back of the invitation.  Now the envelope will be a sneak peek to the call of festivities that await inside!

Shutterfly Holiday Collection Combo-

It’s really fun to browse the Shutterfly site to bring together all the elements that get the party started.  Instant holiday spirit is just a click away!

AND…if you want to learn how to decorate the mini snowflake cookies for your own gift giving and other sweet holiday decorated cookies, I’m teaching 2 holiday hands-on workshops at West Elm OC South Coast Plaza.  1.  Holiday Cookie Decorating Workshop on Thursday, Dec. 4 at 7:00 PM and 2. Holiday Gift Wrapping Workshop on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 10:00 AM.  More info to come!

This is a sponsored post. I received compensation and/or product from Shutterfly.  All opinions and endorsements of the products I mention are my own but I chose this ensemble for you!  Thank you, Shutterfly!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Black Cinnamon Candied Apples

Trick or Treat!  Happy Halloween Week!  Here’s a treat that’s best made a day or two before the big night.  It’s a twist on the hard candied apples that are usually colored red but I’ve made these black and cinnamon flavored.  That would be the trick but they’re not tricky to make.

Wilton Candied Apples-7926 Black Cinnamon

To begin, clean apples thoroughly to get the wax off.  I did this by taking baking soda in my hands, dampening with water to make a paste and rubbing it over the apples.  If you sniff the apples before the baking soda rub down and then compare it to the newly scrubbed apples, you’ll notice a more pronounced apple scent afterwards.  This means the wax coating has been removed.

Place a wooden stick (pointed end helps) into the apple.  I then used a Wilton lollipop straw for an added decorative element.  This slid over my stick but if your stick is larger in diameter, you could slit the straw all the way up and slide it over the stick or you could puncture the apple and make a place to stick in the straw.

Wilton Candied Apples sticks

The Silpat mat I placed the apples on before dipping will hold them afterwards.  Parchment paper will also work well if it’s coated to be non-stick.

The sugar mixture is simple -

2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1 1/2 c. water

Additions -
2 T. black decorating color
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon oil

In a heavy bottomed high-sided sauce pan, boil the sugar, syrup and water to 300 degrees.  This is the hard ball stage.   This means the sugar mixture will harden when it’s set.  The sugar will stay at 200 degrees for a relatively long time, about 10 minutes but then it rises quickly to 300.  Watch it or it’ll overcook and you’ll have caramel but not the soft, chewy kind.  Let’s save that recipe for another time.  A candy thermometer helps big time.  You could do it without but it’s a complicated process to check by dripping the boiling sugar mixture into water at various times to see how hard it is when it hits the water.

When the sugar has reached 300, take it off the heat and mix in the color and the oil.  Don’t panic if it looks kind of gloppy when you do this.  It’ll will settle down and be smooth.  To taste test the amount of flavoring.  Take a spoon and dip it into the sugar mixture and then run it under cold water or let some sugar drip into a glass of cold water.  You never, ever want to taste hot sugar.  NEVER!  You won’t have any taste buds left on your tongue.  The cold water will immediately harden the candy.  If you’re tasting by cooled spoon, make sure it’s cool enough for you to take a lick by touching the spoon first.  Add more flavoring to suit your tastes.

Before dipping each apple, make certain the stick is thoroughly secure.  You don’t want the apple coming off into the sugar and splashing you.  With the pan tilted, take each apple and dip it into the sugar and give the apple a twirl.  Let some of the sugar run back into the pan.  Place the coated apple on the silicone mat to set.

Your apples will quickly harden to a high shine and be ready to decorate.

Wilton Straws

Bubbles are a hit or miss thing.  Personally, I loved them on the apples.  Kind of wart-like and fitting for the holiday.

The shiny black candy is pretty as is but I wanted to go all out and add another layer of flavor and texture.  I did this with melted candy coating and sprinkles.

I melted Wilton’s candy coating in Pumpkin Pie flavored (orange) and Caramel Apple (green).  They’re seasonal flavors and are so good.  I mean really good, as in I barley had enough left to decorate the apples because the packages were opened a couple weeks ago and, well, you know how those things go, a nibble here, a nibble there, handing out samples to those who popped in.  Did I say they were really good?  I mean really good.  I love Wilton’s seasonal flavors.  I highly recommend giving them a try.

To make the melted candy coating look consistent on the apple, I placed it into a parchment cone and piped it on using an #11 plain round decorating tip.

Wilton Candy Melts Pumpkin Spice

I then added sprinkles.  Sprinkles make anything look happy and that the party has begun, don’t you think?

Wilton Halloween Sprinkles

I finished decorating the apples with pretty ribbon.  Oh, the apples aren’t sitting directly on the cleaned real leaves, waxed paper is on the bottom.  Sticking to the bottom of the apple, I cut the excess off with scissors.  There’s a trend to insert twigs from the yard into apples.  I’m kind of a sticker for not wanting sappy green wood inserted in my juicy edibles.  Besides, the straws are so colorful and fun that I feel they really add to the festive presentation.

Wilton Candied Apples

And just for fun, here’s a blast from the past Halloween party.  I was so proud of the fact I made these costumes and yarn wigs.  Apparently Andy was mature for his age with a full beard!  And, yes “Andy” still married me after this and 31 years later we’re still going strong!

Halloween Costumes

I think I have one more Halloween post I can squeeze in for us last minute pumpkin people, like me!  Come back, if you dare!

Wilton products used:

Candy Melts – Pumpkin Spice
Candy Melt – Caramel Apple (if you can’t find this flavor but like the green try Vibrant Green)
Lollipop Sticks – Orange and Black
6 Cell Sprinkles – Halloween

wilton candy melts product

As a Wilton Brand Ambassador, I received compensation and/or product from Wilton Cake Decorating.  All creations, opinions and endorsements of the products I mention are my own.  If I didn’t love them… you know.  :)

Past Wilton Posts -
Decorated Ghost Cookies with Fondant
Fabulous Fondant Give-Away
Sea Life Fondant & Gum Paste Mold
Endless Summer Cupcakes
Pretty Pink Petal Cake
Fabulous Fondant Daisies
Father’s Day Golf Themed Cupcakes
My Trip to the Wilton Sweet Up (Visiting the Mothership)
Peeps Brunch Bunnies
Whimsical Springtime Brunch
Twist Quick Coupler Review
Sweet Treat Team

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Decorated Ghost Cookies With Fondant

First, thank you to all who participated in my last post’s Fabulous Fondant Wilton Give-Away.  I had fun reading all your comments and seeing how you would use all the wonderful products.  I’ll be choosing a winner soon!

Wilton Ghost Cookies-7856h20

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you know that sometimes, I also like to use fondant to decorate cookies.  On my Pinterest Board – Fondant on Cookies & Cupcakes, you’ll see lots of cookies I’ve decorated using fondant.

Today I’m featuring a DIY tutorial for Halloween Ghost Cookies!  You can make the fondant ghosts and pennants ahead of time and assemble the cookies a day or two later if you don’t have a big block of time available.  I’ll give you a few tips to make it a success for you!

Are you ready?

I used my wonderful sugar cookie dough recipe that I’ve used for decades.  It tastes buttery and delicious and works beautifully without spreading and holds the shape.  Soon I’ll have a new feature on my blog that will allow you to print out recipes but for now you’ll have to cut and paste.  I hear all the time how many readers love this recipe.  If you’re looking for a great recipe, look no further.

Wilton Ghost Cookies-7823

I’ve had this little ghost cutter by Wilton for a very long time and believe it or not it’s the first time I’ve used it.  You could say I hoard cookie cutters but I prefer the term “collector” instead.

I used Wilton’s White Decorator Preferred Fondant which is wonderful to work with.  It stays soft and malleable until left to dry. 

Wilton Ghost Cookies-7828crop

Wilton’s rolled fondant also comes in ready-made colors.  I used the neon orange as a base and added white to tone down the color. I recommend having a color multi-pack on hand.  It’s so convenient to have on hand when you need small amounts of multiple colors. I also used Wilton’s Decorator Preferred Fondant in black

Wilton Ghost Cookies-7835

I made the letters by mixing the fondant with a 50-50 mixture of powdered sugar and corn starch to make it very stiff.  I then used a mold.

Fondant sticks together when it’s moistened with just water.  For added sparkle to highlight the pennants, I tapped a brush dipped in Disco Dust edible glitter in Rainbow over the pennants.

Make-ahead fondant tip -

If you’re ever concerned about piping or drawing on a fondant covered cookie, cut out the fondant and place it on top of the cookie without attaching it.  The fondant will form to the cookie shape and when it dries a little it can be lifted off.  You can then decorate the fondant piece and if it turns out the way you like it then attach it to the cookie, if not, cut another piece of fondant and start over.  Sometimes when you try to take icing or fondant off a cookie the cookie can break so this is why I’ll do this at times.

Wilton Ghost Cookies-7837

The dried fondant base can be attached to the cookie with dabs of royal icing or piping gel.  I used thinned royal icing.

Wilton Ghost Cookies-7839

Complete the decorations with black thinned royal icing.

With a #1 (very small round) decorating tip, pipe two eyes and string on the sides of the pennant banner.

Wilton Ghost Cookies-7851Boo

So what do you think?  Don’t give up the ghost if you haven’t tried fondant yet!

You can create spooktacular cookies!

Ghost Cookies

Visit these other past Halloween treats posts!

Halloween Tushie Cookies
Candy & Cupcake Ideas
Party Garland & Cupcakes
Bat Cookies with Fondant
Halloween Cocktails
Boo-zed Basket
Peep Ghosts on a Stick

Past Wilton Posts -
Fabulous Fondant Give-Away
Sea Life Fondant & Gum Paste Mold
Endless Summer Cupcakes
Pretty Pink Petal Cake
Fabulous Fondant Daisies
Father’s Day Golf Themed Cupcakes
My Trip to the Wilton Sweet Up (Visiting the Mothership)
Peeps Brunch Bunnies
Whimsical Springtime Brunch
Twist Quick Coupler Review
Sweet Treat Team

As a Wilton Brand Ambassador, I received compensation and/or product from Wilton Cake Decorating.  All opinions and endorsements of the products I mention are my own.  If I didn’t love them… you know.  :)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wilton Fabulous Fondant Give-Away

I’m very excited to present my ”Fabulous Fondant” Wilton Cake Decorating Give-Way! I’ve been planning it for a very long time and hand choosing each wonderful product for one very lucky reader of Pink Martinis and Pearls.  This fabulous fondant friend of my blog will win everything needed to get started to create fabulous cupcake toppers with embellishments.  Thank you Wilton!

If you haven’t worked with rolled fondant to decorate treats such as cakes, cookies or cupcakes you’ve been missing out on a lot of creative fun!

Wilton Fondant Cupcake Give-Away

I’ve chosen these products just for you!

Wilton Fondant Cupcake Give-Away 

Here’s all the goodies the winner will be receiving from Wilton:

White Decorator Preferred Fondant
9 inch Fondant Roller
White Pearl Dust
Water Brush
Dust n' Store Pouch
14 pc. Flowers Fondant Cupcake Decorating Set
Flower and Leaf Mini Fondant Cut-Out Set

… and some examples of what you could create!  With the floral stamp from the 14 pc. Fondant Flowers Cupcake Decorating Set, the design below is one impression away!

Wilton Fondant Cupcake Give-Away

I’ve really enjoyed creating toppers with this set that even comes with a round cutter so I thought you would too!

Wilton 14 pc. Flowers Fondant Cut-Out Decorating Set

You can make any design with the little stamps.

Wilton 14 pc. Flowers Fondant Cut-Out Decorating Set

I’ve also included two other sets - the 7 pc. Cut-Out Set which includes textured sheets and the Flower and Leaf Mini Fondant Cut-Out Set.

Wilton 7 pc. Cut-Out Set Fondant

To make the cupcake toppers below, all you do is -

  1. Roll out the fondant and press a textured sheet into it.
  2. Cut out the shapes with the cutters. 
  3. Add flowers stamped from the Flower Fondant Cut-Out Set and flattened out the petals with the end of a craft paint brush. 
  4. Add glitter and luster powders for a little sparkle and shimmer.
  5. Attach flowers to the shapes with a dab of water brush. 
  6. Finish with pearl dragees.

Wilton Fondant Flowers Cupcakes

I always hit fondant with a hint of luster powder, edible glitter and/or dragees because it adds a little extra sophistication.  Perhaps for the holidays?

Wilton Flower Fondant Cupcakes

So are you ready to sign up for the Wilton Fabulous Fondant Give-Away?

Good luck!  Remember to follow Pink Martinis and Pearls on Facebook and Instagram for extra chances to win!  And while you’re there, follow Wilton Cake Decorating too for even more inspiration.  Smile

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hey, It’s New York! Fuhgettaboudit! Vacation–Part 2

Hitting NYC running was the second part of our “big” family vacation recently.  The first leg of our travels took us on The VIP Washington DC Trip.  I hope you go back and read about our adventures in the Capitol and to the Congressional floor!

I considered this visit to NYC as my second.  My first trip only being four years ago where I blogged about it here.  This was our boys’ first trip.

i love NY

Without anything really planned in the city except general areas to see, it was almost a social experiment at times to navigate with four adults.  Sometimes I felt like the mom and at other times like the child or maybe I should say like the old person when it came to Uber and Yelp and the speed and aptitude my sons had when accessing both on their phones. They took the helm when finding interesting places to eat.

When we made our reservations to fly in from DC I knew we would be traveling on 9/11.  A few weeks out from the flight I was feeling much less trepidation.  Two days out not so much.   I rationalized it must be the safest day to fly in and being on a relatively small commuter flight must add a layer of protection.  Still.

Of course, we arrived safely and took Uber into the city across the Queensboro Bridge.  Can you imagine maneuvering a Suburban through Manhattan?  Our driver was a pro.

queensboro bridge b.w

queensboro bridge

Have you tried Uber?  It’s GREAT!  We had such good experiences with it in DC that we used it again in NYC.  If you’re not familiar with it it’s basically a private taxi service that you access on your phone.  You see a photo and name of the person who will be picking you up, and where their location is en route.  You can even specify a certain size car which we did when we had all our luggage.  The drivers are rated as are the passengers.  You sign up with a credit card and tip is automatically included so there is never any cash exchanged on site.  All of the drivers we experienced in both cities were very friendly and knowledgeable.  And on our maiden voyage from the airport into the city our fare was discounted $30!  How great was that?

To get the lay of the land when we visited a few years back we really enjoyed the double decker bus tour.  I know, I know, it’s the typical touristy thing to do but it gave us an excellent overview of the city’s terrain where we could get our baring and step off and on easily.  And the history lessons the live guide narrates as you drive along is always fascinating.

We settled into the Parker Meridian.  Naturally, I found the bar as the boys were checking us in but did not imbibe.  But it’s always good to know “in case of emergency”.  Be prepared, as they say.  The Knave.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

Parker Meridian 2

Our view of Central Park, well sort of.

central park view

What you don’t see is another building very close to ours.  We were on the 31st floor and there was a working kitchen in the adjacent building as high up as we were.  We couldn’t figure out why it was way up there.  Any ideas?

Once we dropped off our luggage we had pizza across the street before heading over to Times Square to pick up our lower Manhattan bus tour.  We had planned to see the 911 Memorial but thought to keep this visit for the next day, 9/12.  We saw the new tower as we drove by on the bus and you could not help to think of the chaos that occurred here on this anniversary day.  For hundreds of years lower Manhattan has been wrought with history and so it continues. 

freedom tower

What was interesting about this tour that I hadn’t experienced before, is that we came up along the Hudson in Chelsea.  It was pointed out were the two hotels the Titanic survivors resided upon their return, Pier 54 were Carpathia docked and Pier 59 where the Titanic was scheduled to dock.  It was actually interesting to see these locations in passing.

We had some time before the night tour so we headed over to Rockefeller Center and the outdoor cafĂ©.  I found the humidity in NYC could suddenly appear and increase within minutes so my intention was only to have one margarita but it became hotter and more humid so I upped my game to a second.  Besides they were killer, like the smoothest of snow.  It was wonderful.  I was happy.  What blisters?  Take me to that tacky m&m store in Times Square again!

And, uh, yes I did.  A big ‘ol plastic apple full of ‘em!  I make no apologizes for sustenance.

I was feeling pretty darn good on top of that bus waiting for our city lights tour to begin and although you might notice some of the photos look a little blurry it’s because we were in transit with my phone not because of the margaritas.  Honest. 

Times Square

Here we go!

We had stopped at Bryant Park and the gorgeous jewel that the Chrysler Building is came alive just at this moment, at dusk.

crysler building

The Empire State Building was lit up in tribute to 911.

empire state building 911

Did you know a river runs under the building?  I live for little factoids like this!

In lower Manhattan, we crossed over the East River via the Manhattan Bridge and ventured over to Brooklyn and hung a u-turn and crossed over again.  Whaaat? I was disappointed.  I thought we were going to see more of Brooklyn as this was the “Brooklyn Night” tour but I guess it was actually to show off the lights of the city looking over from Brooklyn which were spectacular.

Being 9/11 on this night, the memorial Twin Tower lights were lit in tribute and were to stay on for the week.

manhatten bridge

After the tour, my eldest epicurean son found an authentic Japanese restaurant in Chelsea via Yelp. I believe this is the first time I didn’t know what I was ordering.  I was praised by my child for being a good sport and trying something new!  Yay for mom!

japanese food

After dinner we walked over to the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck around midnight.  No waiting, no lines.  Warm night.  Live sax music.  Doesn’t get better than this, my friends.  Head over to the Hudson River side for a blast of air that will knock your earrings off.  There’s something about visiting the deck late at night.  It’s pure magic.

Each of the four side views are different.  To the east, you could see 5 bridges crossing over the East River, looking uptown was a long, dark rectangle that’s Central Park, west is the dark Hudson and New Jersey and then there was this…

Night of 911

It was as if one could see collective prayers and thoughts being delivered straight to heaven.  It was quieter on this side of the deck.  Words were of little value.

If you looked up, the very top of the Empire State Building, art deco was wrapped up in beautiful blue.

top of empire state building

The next morning we had brunch at the Carnegie Deli then walked over to Grand Central Terminal and hopped on a train to Wall St. to see the 911 Memorial.  I wasn’t expecting this.

world trade

911 memorial 4

911 memorial 2

911 memorial 3

911 memorial

Hundreds of flowers tucked into the names.  It was beautiful and poignant as the heat caused most of them to wilt and die so soon after being placed there the day before.  Some names were without flowers.  I wished everyone had one.  I let my finger tips touch the water under the names.  It was as if I had dipped them into a font’s holy water.

From here we walked on to Battery Park to take a harbor cruise where we literally missed the boat by 5 minutes. Ugh.  The view of the Brooklyn Bridge was stunning even from the dock.

brooklyn bridge

Next neighborhood -  Mulberry Street in Little Italy where the Festival of San Gennaro was taking place. 

And yes, we were all thinking of Robert de Niro hoping over the roof tops.  Of course!

mulberry street san ganarro

The street looked very different from the time we were there before, sans the festival.  This was big doings.  Big!  Rows and rows of vendors selling sausage and peppers.  Cannoli all over the place.  Had to get one, you know.  Hey, when in Rome or in Little Italy, right?  I learned a valuable lesson though – one cannoli doesn’t go very far with four people and that was the first and last time I’m going last on the cannoli go around!

The aroma just walking up this street!  Vendor booths.  Loved this one of foodie magnets.  Someone’s been a very busy crafter with polymer clay and did an outstanding job!  Bellissimo!


One thing about NYC – objects and locations appear closer on a map than they really are!

Walked, walked, walked and whined (my feet talking) to Washington Square because it’s a must see.  I could have spent a couple hours people watching and listening to all the music.  There are over 20,000 bodies buried under Washington Square mostly from yellow fever in the early 1800’s.  Even then it was location, location, location.  Sorry.

washington square

And right across the street from the arch a row of homes like this…

washington square home

“Catherine!” “Catherine!” I expected to see Montgomery Clift banging on the door for Olivia de Havilland.  If you haven’t seen The Heiress with both these fine actors, you are in for a treat! It’s a film adaption of Henry James’ book, Washington Square.  No one rocks a hoop skirt like Miss Olivia.  No one!

Everyone had separate plans for the evening as both boys were meeting up with friends for dinner which meant date night for us.  After dinner at a little uptown Italian joint where I put my extremely limited Italian to good use, we were invited to the Penthouse at the Parker Meridian where upon stepping outside on the terrace that was surrounded by a short glass wall, I leaned over a couple times to show my husband who was taking on New York. 

After which I said this…


… because my blisters had called it a night.  This was our door tag.  How incredibly NY is this?  I had to bring it home with me.

This next morning would be our last full day so it was “uptown” day.  We found ourselves back on the tour bus so we could hop off to see Grant’s Tomb.  The sheer scope of marble used was incredible.  Seeing the old photos of the burial and the thousands who attended is always interesting to me.  The location was chosen next to the river on higher ground so it could be seen from downtown.  There was nothing else in the area at the time.  This section of Manhattan is very hilly and as we learned on the tour, the native Americans called the entire island “man-a-hat-tan” which meant land of rolling hills.  Turns out mid and lower Manhattan was leveled when the building began.

The area this far up on the west side is called Morningside Heights and the neighborhood is sprinkled with beautiful and ornate stone churches.  We happened to go into the Riverside Church which John D. Rockefeller built in honor of his mother according to the plaque in the church.

On up to Harlem and a diversion over to Lexington instead of 5th because of an event going on.  As luck would have it, this detour gave us yet another neighborhood to explore and to have lunch before walking back over to Central Park.  We were caught in the rain but luckily we had our nifty touristy plastic ponchos we were given on the bus when it started to sprinkle.  Laugh if you will but we were able to still walk around the park at our leisure while everyone was running for cover.  We probably did look pretty silly though.  Silly, dry and happy.

Our last vacation splurge for the evening was a choice of a Broadway musical or nice dinner.  The guys chose the dinner.  The younger epicurean son found a small plate restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called Kilo which also specialized in fine wines.  This was a great little place and so narrow!  We sampled unusual dishes which were fun to try.  Two bottles of wine.  Yes, please!  So glad we talked and laughed the evening away.  It was absolutely perfect.

boys at kilo

Before catching our Uber ride back to the airport on Sunday morning, I went back over to the Carnegie Deli to bring home a few memories.  The best black and white cookie I’ve ever tasted.

carnegie deli

And one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken.  I just love ending on a sweet note, don’t you?

If you’re a non-family member and have made it to the end of the travelogue, you deserve a medal.  Thank you for riding along with us!

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