Emilie takes Manhattan


I’ve mentioned my gorgeous bold daughter in the past. But this article will be all about her. Emilie has wanted to see New-York for months. We were supposed to visit last May but my injury prevented us from travelling. Her dream came true last week. She was quite jazzed and was quite intent on 2 days of “gulp” shopping. She may be light as a feather but she’s not so light on the family wallet. I was scared to see her in a shopping frenzy. Like a shark smelling a drop of blood in gallons and gallons of water, Emilie can spot a sale from miles and miles away.

She’s got the shopping gene.

But I also was intent on making her dream come true. So on to NY we went but she had a budget cap. She was not allowed to spend more than $50 and she gave us $20 of her own money to convert to US currency. So, she had 70$ to shop with. I’ve done much much worse in NYC in the past. Ok OK! I’ve done worse in Montreal, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, etc. Her shopping gene did not fall from a tree. Baby Bear Ben had 50$ to shop with. He ended up spending 70$ on a helicopter with 6 minutes of independent life. But I digress…let me return to our trip and this travelogue entry.

The Drive There
We left at 2h00 AM to drive to NYC from Laval. My son had called shotgun and stayed up with The Driver the whole time. (The Driver is one of the Producer’s key roles in the family) I slept in the back with Emilie. the funny part is that I would wake up every 15 minutes to say: “Are you OK Greg?” It was the big joke of the trip.

We had downloaded car games on our ipad and played quite a bit of car bingo. My conclusion is: “where have all of the yellow cars and orange cars gone to?” They are nowhere to be found on Interstate 87 and pink cars simply do not exist unless you encounter a Mary Kay representative.

We barely noticed the drive. It literally flew past which is encouraging as family trips to neighboring big cities are important projects that we hold dear to our hearts. Boston and a return trip to Manhattan are in the plans for this fall. I also aim to visit DC with the family in 2014.

Getting into the City
We stopped in Albany, NY for a quick breakfast at 7h30 Am and we reached Secaucus, NJ at 9h30 Am. We checked our bags and took the shuttle to the Port Authority bus terminal. Within 20 minutes, we were on Broadway. We then took the subway all the way down to Battery Park to have a quick visit with the statue of liberty. The subway was clean and air conditioned. We felt safe.

She’s so small
Lady Liberty is on an island far from shore. All the cruise tickets to visit her and Ellis Island were booked up for the entire month of July. Emilie saw her from afar and was not impressed. We aim to visit with Lady Liberty on her own island next time we visit NYC.
Here she is in a store:

See Lady Liberty at a tourist shop

See Lady Liberty at a tourist shop

Here she is for real:

Lady Liberty on her Island

Lady Liberty on her Island

Notice my bad hair day. That comes from wearing a sun hat. It has unfortunate side effects. I had better pictures but this one was funnier.

And on to the Bull
Of course, the whole point of the day was to walk our way up to Time Square. I wanted the kids to see Wall Street and its brokers. There was a statue of George Washington. Baby Bear Ben had done a report on him in school so we took a picture of the two great minds together. That might be a bold statement but I stand by it. I love my son’s rational brain and inherent sense of justice and ethics.

Ben and George Washington

Ben and George Washington

And then, on to the lucky bull.

We took snapshots of the bull with both shop girl and polar bear cub

The bull for financial fortune accompanied by the great shop girl herself

The bull for financial fortune accompanied by the great shop girl herself

The Bull and The Boy

The Bull and The Boy

The restaurant that never was
After that, we took a gander at Trinity church (being restored but still a thing of beauty)

Trinity Church

Trinity Church

And continued on to Ground Zero and its Tower of Hope (still under construction)
and then, we walked on to Chamber Street to visit Burritoville (a restaurant recommended by our travel book “Cartoville”.) This book had been borrowed at the Municipal Library of Daddy but was from 2008. Under an uncompromising sun, we trekked on and on only to discover the restaurant did not exist anymore.

Note to self: Always get a recent version of a travel book or look into the restaurants you want to eat at online prior to your visit to make sure they still exist.

I was faced with a very cranky family until we encountered a quaint affordable diner called the “Square Dinner.” We took the time to sit and enjoy our meal.

The Square Diner, air conditioned, good service and affordable. A NY rarity.

The Square Diner, air conditioned, good service and affordable. A NY rarity.

The Compromises that had to be made
Some family members had been up since 1 A.M. It had been a very long day and Hell must have been cooler than Manhattan on this scorcher of a day. We were feeling the heat. The first sign that we feel the heat is that I cease to talk. Yes, I know. Some might consider that a miracle on its own but it’s not a good thing. Then, polar bear cub becomes very cranky and less open to compromise. He starts complaining *all the time.* We both become hard to live with.

As the adult, I had to give up a few things:
– No Skyline
– No visit to the UN building
– No visit to the New York Public Library

We just continued on Broadway and visited Tribeca (the Triangle Below Canal), Soho (South of Holland) and further North until we reached Time Square.

Shop Girl got her shop on at the Gap and at the Toys R Us.
Polar Bear cub got his shop on at FAO Shwarz the next day.

To finish the evening off as a treat to the kids, we went to Dave and Busters.

Dave and Busters

Dave and Busters

The kids got to play some arcades and had a great time.

Inside Dave and Busters

Inside Dave and Busters

We then walked to the Port authority bus terminal and took the shuttle back to Secaucus, NJ. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Meadowland Secaucus. The beds were really comfortable, the service was excellent, the breakfast buffet was quite voluminous (waffles, eggs, cereal, oatmeal, etc.) Our bellies were full when we headed off to the Big Apple.

Day 2
We took the shuttle back to NYC and our main goal for day 2 was to visit Central Park and then the Central Park zoo. We stopped for coffee at the Magnolia bakery (beautiful.)

Magnolia Bakery, good treats and in tones of tasteful pastels

Magnolia Bakery, good treats and in tones of tasteful pastels

Emilie with her new dress in the window of Magnolia Bakery

Emilie with her new dress in the window of Magnolia Bakery

And then we stayed in the cooling shade of Central Park. We almost reached the reservoir but had to stop because of, you guessed it, the heat. Central Park is gorgeous and my favorite part of the trip. It is much bigger than Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paolo though quite similar.

Our family by the pond

Our family by the pond

Emilie with Alice in wonderland

Emilie with Alice in wonderland

We then walked on the Upper East Side to take a look at how the other half lives.

Before circling back to Times Square for a few souvenirs and to revisit our favorite stores.

Ben is a minion

Ben is a minion

Imagine bringing this home?

Imagine bringing this home?

We stopped to eat the best pizza in NYC.

John's Pizza, a slice of heaven on Broadway

John’s Pizza, a slice of heaven on Broadway

On the way home, we did a post-mortem of the trip. We know that next time we intend on seeing the MoMA, the Central Park Zoo, on walking Central Park from East to West as well as North to South, on visiting the NY Public Library, the UN building, on seeing a Broadway show, etc. We know we all want to go back which is the surest sign of a successful trip. We plan on eating at John’s Pizzeria again and on taking the kids to play at Dave and Busters. It’s kind of fun. (don’t tell the kids I said that.)

And what about Emilie? What was her take on the trip? She enjoyed it but wished we would have shopped more. I think we did make her dream come true. I love this picture of her with the famous piano. Can you not feel her joy?

My Princess on the Piano

My Princess on the Piano

So, now, the biggest struggle is deciding for the fall: NYC take 2 or Boston take 1? What’s your take on it? We bought the 2013 edition of the Boston Cartoville.

Happy Thursday my Friends! Tomorrow, I will talk about the Dale Chihuly exhibit.

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A family hike to Ausable Chasm


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When I was young, we travelled to Myrtle Beach every year and we would stop in Lake George or Lake Placid on our way home. One year, we stopped in Ausable Chasm in keeseeville. I had been impressed by the canyon, the walkways and the wooden bridges that would crisscross the gorge.

I decided to bring my own kids there for a day trip with The Producer. We planned to eat a big American breakfast which was accomplished in Plattsburgh at Perkins restaurant. We felt heavy and bloated after that meal. But, we wanted the experience and we got it.

By the time we got to the chasm, it was eleven am. The sun hit us full blast. Now, you all know I have a family of polar bears i.e. the sun is not always our friend as a stroke of sunshine sometimes means a bad case of heat stroke soon after exposure.

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We walked the Inner Sanctum Trail followed by a foray into the Dry Chasm as well as a portion of the rim walk. This was supposed to be very demanding and long. By 2 pm, we had done it all. The scenery remained gorgeous but everything felt much smaller. It felt exactly like one does after revisiting your elementary school. Something that had struck you as larger than life suddenly appears so small.

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The whole family enjoyed the day trip but we were slightly disappointed with how quickly we covered the grounds. There is more to see and do in our own national parks than at Ausable Chasm.

The one lasting souvenir was my son and I suffering from heat stroke on the drive back home. As polar bears, we should stay inside during the deadly hours of 11 am to 3 pm during the warmest summer days. Do you think we will listen to our own advice? Of course not.

I saw two kids with a great haircut at the Chasm and The Producer used his barber skills on baby boy bear to mimic the style. What do you think? I love the clean-cut mohawk look.

Happy Monday my friends.
Ps: i visited Manhattan with the kids last week, wait for that blog entry. It should be interesting. It seems the Producer failed to share the photos from the trip with me so I will wait until I have the pictures before I write about our visit to the City that never sleeps with baby girl shopaholic bear.

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Which Topics Do You Hate to Read About On Cooksploratrice.com?


I’ve always find that if you ask the same question from different angles, you might get different results.

So, which topics do you dislike to read about on cooksploratrice.com?

I’ve asked for your favorite selection and now, I would like to see what your least favorite are.

This is not to say that I will stop writing about a topic you dislike but I might split the blog so that you can access your favorite topics more easily and disregard your least favorite ones automatically.

I want to make my blog a space where you, the reader, become completely comfortable. This is important to me. So, if you have feedback to give, please give it now. It could be about the layout, the look, the topics, the quality of the pictures, etc. It’s a free space for you to provide (preferably constructive) feedback.

 

What Are Your Favorite Topics on the Cooksploratrice Blog?


Initially, when I started the blog, I only meant to write about cooking. But then, I felt that cooking was only a subset of my interests. I could write everyday but only if I allowed myself the right to write about all my interests. I’m a naturally curious person. I’m always researching a new topic, trying to grow as a person-mother-wife-professional individual-project manager-athlete-ecologist. I love to travel, I’ve always got my nose stuck in a book. I’m fascinated by cultures and the multiple ways of life around this gorgeous globe.

I’ve taken to writing about books, movies, culture, science, sociology, television, cooking, wines,  health and healing. There are also posts that are about me and what I’m going through right now. It’s a very varied blog. I’ve strayed so far from niche blogging that it’s now a blog about anything and everything and sometimes nothing in particular.

I wonder, though, what you prefer to read about.

Some of you, I think I know.

Gibran responds to blog entries about food and cooking.

The Drunken Cyclist responds to entries about wine the most.

Lesley Carter responds to blog entries about travel.

Claudette and the producer respond to anything I write.

But, globally, what are your favorite topics? On which topics, do you prefer my penmanship?

Please respond to the poll and then, indicate in a comment if there’s a reason why.

I’ve activated multiple choices to allow you to pick as many topics as you like.

New Zealand Cuisine…Not as inspiring as New Zealand Music


I have been searching for New Zealand cuisine recipes all week and have been left uninspired. Nothing has struck my fancy.

Some of the interesting recipes depend on products we will be unable to procure here. For example, pipi fritters. I had discovered the recipe on food.com.

Pipi is not a warm liquid of dubious origin but a shell fish native to New Zealand.

Now, the entertainment value of asking for pipi at the fish monger’s might be high but I doubt the answer will be positive.

I dare you to locate pipi shell fish locally. If you are able to do so, please let me know.

New Zealand shell fish: Pipi

New Zealand shell fish: Pipi

The same goes for: Paua, Kina, Cockles and Tuatua

Which leaves us with the classical lamb. New Zealand exports plenty of lamb. Meat and wool export revenues are around $7.2 billion dominated by meat and wool but also comprising hides, oils etc (Source: Federated Farmers of New Zealand) Lamb is a very costly piece of meat, it is one of my favorites as well.

That being said, most of the lamb recipes I have found are quite similar to some Irish dishes made previously and to some British dishes as well. Canada is also an ex-British colony so we share a similar culinary base.

So…been there…done that…got the fridge magnet (I collect fridge magnets and not T-Shirts) Lamb is out and New Zealand is also out for the time being. I will sample it when I visit this gorgeous country.

I expanded the New Zealand cuisine to New Zealand and Australia. To the greater continent of Oceania. There were more options…and to my surprise lots of burger choices. I will add Australian burgers to my Need to Try list.

That being said, I remember that Australian palettes like lots of salt, they do not have the same affection for sweets as we do. There is actually an East-West divide on salt versus sugar. Westerners are more keen towards sugary meals whereas Easterners tend towards salty meals.

In university, one of the girls I knew, Claudine, had spent 6 months in Australia. She had brought back Vegemite and she made us sample it. It’s extremely salty. Australians put it on toast in the morning instead of jams or cheeses.

Vegemite Spread...salty breakfast spread

Vegemite Spread…salty breakfast spread

I invited my parents to come to the celebration of everything Down Under.

Locating Kiwi music is a lot richer and easier. They have really great musicians.

I found this great sampling on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elyk9MBY72U&playnext=1&list=PLEFAA9F379438CCC4&feature=results_main

Salt of the City, Kimbra, Brooke Fraser, Annah Mac, Brooke Duff, Minuit, Tahuna Breaks and Dane Rumble seem quite good. They are worth a listen or two.

The most famous musical export from New Zealand is…How Bizarre…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAxFc1k-2wA from OMC. Now trust me, that’s a blast from the past. There is also this music selection (kiwi music from the ’80, ’90): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFOaF-f2Fos&list=PL9EA42321EC3657C8

Give these channels a listen and let me know what you think of the music.

Here are tonight’s dishes: 

The recipes were found on the new Epicurious app on the iPad.

Roasted Beetroot (Beet), Blood Orange, Red Witloof and asparagus with orange oil

Chargrilled Surloin with mash and salsa verde

Mango-Pineapple-Lime cheesecake with Ginger Crust

The wine will be a red from New Zealand

Do you guys want to come over for dinner?

Fijians, You Have Competition


Someone else was sick and received great help when she needed it most. I think we should all take a moment to reward the stewards and stewardesses at various airlines for their assistance …mile after mile.

Lesley Carter has a great blog. It is called the bucket list. You should check it out.

IPAD App Idea


When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Last night, the eve of my medical repatriation, we visited Little India in Singapore. In a wheelchair, Little India is a nightmare. The sidewalks are uneven with deep trenches. My foot kept getting hurt. When we finally succeeded in leaving Little India, it was a total relief. Now, imagine a tourist with only a few days to spare in a new city. Would he not want to do a tour of the city by doing activities that will be easily accessible via wheelchair.

My idea for the app would be to create a map of a city indicating hotels, restaurants, landmarks that will allow the handicapped (whether permanently or temporarily) to safely visit a city without risking further injury.

I would like to call my app the Independent Motorist Maps (for those that have their own wheels)
You would type a city name receive itineraries by theme and also receive a beware section which would indicate the least friendly locations. We would also lobby the least friendly organizations to improve their services for the handicapped. If judged acceptable by an independent motorist, the establishment might end up in an itinerary the following year.

Travel guides do not typically offer such information.

What do you think of my idea? Does it have potential? Which city should I create first? Since I am from Montreal, should I start by my home town?