Spend a Couple Hours »Antony and the Johnsons

at Radio City Music Hall

Since I’d only just emerged from a stomach flu induced haze, I thought twice about taking the free ticket to Antony and the Johnsons at Radio City–but I’m so glad I decided to go!

It was a fantastic performance. The stage and lighting design were constantly changing and challenging my perception: from a blurry scrim concealing all the action to the final, breathtaking reveal of a 50+ piece orchestra, each song ushered in a new visual treat.

Antony himself appears both beautiful and strangely confident while still remaining physically awkward (reminding me of a young girl throwing a fit). He’s an incredible singer; his voice is truly otherworldly and sounds even more lovely in person than any recording. If you’re a fan, nothing can replicate the experience of seeing him sing in person.

My favorite song of the evening (next to, of course, his heart wrenching cover of Crazy in Love) was I Fell in Love With a Dead Boy.

The crowd which was large (even the ticket-holder line was two blocks long): a mixture of teary-eyed die-hard fans, the painfully pretentious (lots of faux accents and “dah-lings”), and oddly enough conidering how hard seats were to come by, a helping of folks that seemed genuinely baffled by what they’d stumbled into.

A one night only performance sponsored by MoMa, even Antony himself admitted it was “so fucking ambitious”, but its unique mix of visual and performance art was a huge success–surely in no small part thanks to my dear friend Shaun who coordinated so much of it.

Also: my first time at Radio City Music Hall. It’s gorgeous!

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Posted on January 28, 2012

Spend a Couple Hours »Art Lab Junior

at Caribou Baby

I’ve been excited to find an art class for Van pretty much since before he was born, bit it’s not easy finding one for younger toddlers. So I was thrilled when Caribou Baby began offering ArtLab Junior.

We’ve been to two of five classes already and explored water and stripes to Van’s utter delight.

Plus I got my first fridge art!

The series ends February 8 but a new one for children 2-4 starts march 7. I hope a junior class is soon to follow. It’s 100 for five classes and is held Wednesdays at 3:30. I highly recommend!!

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Posted on January 19, 2012

Spend a Couple Hours »Best of 2011 – Spend a Couple Hours

One of the most interesting performances ever, an exhibit full of Muppets, awesome manicures, the best local massage and a Brooklyn waterfront market that became a weekly tradition, this list is full of great activities. None, however could beat the incredible McQueen exhibit that literally brought a tear to my eye.

1. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

2. Sleep No More

3. Marie Nails

4. Brooklyn Flea

5. Jim Henson’s Fantastic World

6. Pure Qi Regimen Spa

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Posted on December 28, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Christmas Tree Time!

Happy Holidays!!

One of the things I love most about the Holidays is the day we choose and decorate our tree.

After years of fakes, we do the real deal now, if only for the wonderful piney scent (and not having to store a musty plastic one).

We went to Greg’s Quality Christmas Trees on McCarren Park near Manhattan Ave. and found a perfect Fraser Fir.

They deliver at no extra cost too! (But be kind and tip your friendly delivery man).

My plan this year was to do fake flowers which I got from the local dollar store and bright glitter ribbons from another dollar store seemed to match perfectly.

I was a little nervous that it might look nuts, but it all came together splendidly!

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Posted on December 11, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Little Rock-its By Frolic!

at the Music Hall of Williamsburg

When Frolic! Opens in the spring it should be pretty awesome: a little kid fun zone with play rooms and interesting classes.

To say hello to the neighborhood and celebrate the holidays, they hosted a rocking concert at the Williamsburg Music Hall last night.

There was a free Santa photo corner, music that was refreshingly not obnoxious for kids (the class will be called little rock-its), a fake snow storm, a friendly environment and beer for the parents!

After my first exclusion for having kids (boo hiss Gutter – a bowling ally, in the afternoon no less) it was great to be in such a welcoming place for little ones.

Van was head banging to I Love Rock and Roll and learning a few new moves from his pal Lauryn.

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Posted on December 5, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Selected Shorts with Miranda July

at Symphony Space

Miranda July is a marvel. Her work is poignant, funny,personal and universal.

She recently read along with some superb actors excerpts from her non fiction book It Chooses You as part of the Selected Shorts series.

By way of procrastination, July began reading the Penny Saver and eventually called and met sellers, documenting it all with a photographer.

The resulting conversations are at times silly, creepy, hilarious, touching, heart breaking and exhilarating.
Not only did the evening strengthen my respect for her but it introduced me to the Selected Shorts radio program whose archives I plan to explore soon.

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Posted on November 18, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Sleep No More

530 West 27th Street

Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel is a remarkable, singular theater going experience. It’s often compared to a haunted house, which I suppose it is in format.

You enter and are left to explore several floors of darkened hallways and creepy stuff but this Macbeth performance is far more complex than your run of the mill scare tactics.

Everyone’s experience will differ. I personally spent a lot of time with the scenery – all of which you can interact with and in my case, accidentally thieve. (I was ushered out of a room with a prayer card on my hand).

There’s action happening all around but rather than closely follow this fellow masked audience members I kind of drifted in and out if the action. Sometimes I’d have neat moments alone with an actor but I also missed some things, but everyone does which is why if I had money I’d be going back for more.

Aside from impeccable, intriguing set design (the witches den, old hotel, and detective agency are particularly enthralling) the performance itself, consisting of a lot of interpretive dance can be amazing like a number featuring a pregnant woman on the top shelf of a book case and the big ballroom.

While one of the more intense scenes (trust me you’ll know it when you see it) would be most impressive to a 19 year old who’s really into David Lynch. If that sounds snarky, I once was a 19 year old really into David Lynch and it was  a pretty great thing to be. I guess just different things affect me now (the first long dark hallway alone gave me the willies more than the sight of blood).

Since we needed to trade off babysitting duties Jim and I went alone the same night several hours apart. I think solo is a great way to experience this and the makers seem to agree as there are several attempts by them to break you apart from friends.

There’s so much to say about Sleep No More but it’s better to find out for yourself and then we will chat.

I’ll just say that it’s really fantastic and inventive so if anything I’ve written intregued you I highly suggest you buy a ticket today, right now! You might regret it if you miss this one!

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Posted on November 16, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Witches March

Williamsburg Kiddie Halloween Parade

I have to admit, Van the most scrumptious French pumpkin and I, the makeshift Pinocchio pooped out of the Witches Walk before the parade even began but we had a blast seeing all the fabulous and adorable costumes.

Huge kudos to those parents who managed such great handmade costumes like the dumpling (complete with chop stick legs!!) and les family of old fashioned bank robbers pictured below.

For every little one I got a photo of there were at least ten more to say awwww about. We had become quite a formidable crowd by the time we left (to the absolute horror of single dudes caught in the wave of strollers).

Thanks to Flying Squirrel for hosting.

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Posted on October 31, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Thompson LES Pool

190 Allen St

We were lucky enough to have friends staying at the sleek Thompson LES Hotel recently and were able to enjoy their balcony pool. Well, truth be told Van enjoyed it most of all.

The place is far friendlier than I expected. Even patient and nice about the kids. Plus there’s wine and cocktails for adults.

Not a bad place to recommend to visiting friends and family. Just be sure to hit them up for pool rights in the warm months!

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Posted on October 21, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Marie Nails

155 Prince Street

Hooray for neon gradient calgel manicure from Marie Nails!

Just the break I needed from weeks of difficult sleep with the little one.

It’s a luxury but a much more affordable one than other spots in the city.

The trade off is a no frills, no AC environment but that didn’t bother me at all.

The nail technicians are very talented and polite while the possibilities endless.

Few tips though:

First, book early especially for a weekend appointment. (I booked myself for next month at the end of my visit.) They fill up quick and have people coming one after the other.

Which leads to tip number two. Research and ask for exactly what you want when booking. Some nail art takes much longer than others and they won’t be able to accommodate for trickier stuff with the tight schedule.

Third, cash only.

Fourth, some elements to a manicure like cuticle care may be additional small costs… just chill! It still ends up being a relative bargain.

I plan on getting a reverse French manicure next and can’t wait. I really love this place.

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Posted on September 22, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Queens County Fair

Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Parkway

Pigs, chickens, alpacas and beer! Here, here!

The Queens County Fair may not be the biggest in the country (we plan on going to that one some day) but we had a great time.

Nice to show Van actual animals that he’s read about in books and nice for Jim and I to enjoy one last outdoor Oktoberfest ale in a plastic cup.

We just missed a pig race and were too early for the arm wrestling but will probably be more into the scheduled activities next year when Van’s a little older.

Have always loved the Queens County Farm Museum and their various special events (see Thunderbird American Indian Mid-Summer Pow Wow).

A nice piece of rural living only a short drive away.

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Posted on September 19, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Jim Henson’s Fantastic World (and More)

3601 35th Avenue, Astoria

The Museum of Moving Image underwent a major renovation recently and looks great. Their current semi permanent exhibit is a fun look at movie making. It explores costumes, sound design, acting, editing and more with crowd pleasing artifacts (like Chewbaca’s mask, a Freddy Krueger prop and a large Blade Runner model) as well as fun hands on features.

Kids we having a great time doing voice over work and making special effects while Van and I made our own little video which we could and did buy as a flip book in the gift shop (pictured below).

It’s a family friendly environment and all ages will love the current Jim Henson’s Fantastic World exhibit. Just good to note: no strollers or photos allowed so bring that carrier for little little ones.

Many actual puppets are on display from Kermit the Frog, to Miss piggy, Fraggles to Bert and Ernie but Van was simply tickled with the Mahna Mahna and backup singer puppets – laughing and pointing when we got near them. He also found an old Kermit video about jazz absolutely hilarious.

Some of my personal favorites were early drawings of big bird, some wicked Skeksis jewelry from the Dark Crystal, and a delightful early film he made that plays on a loop on the middle level called time piece. Also be sure to watch the La Choy dragon commercial within the commercial video loop. It’s awesome.

On our way out we couldn’t resist the unique gift of a black and white Elmo doll, a strange Japanese product that van has taken a liking to wrestling with, hugging and eating it’s eyeballs.

Really look forward to taking him to future exhibits at this great new space.

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Posted on September 12, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Pure Qi Regimen Spa

26 Driggs Ave, Greenpoint

I’ve long been a supporter of the local absolutely no-frills Chinese massage salons.

After all, a cheap massage is worth a little bit of inconvenience, like the pungent smell of the massuses’ lunch and an old man next to you grunting, right?

Well, what if I told you that you could have a totally reasonably priced massage ($35 for 30 minutes) in a clean, soothing private room (pictured, sort of)?

What if I included a very courteous and friendly staff that is excited about their place of business and a very tempting menu of spa packages, body wraps, reflexology, and facials?

The place I speak of is Pure Qi Regimen Spa, and I am so happy I found it!

I am already planning my next visit.

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Posted on September 5, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Prospect Park Zoo

450 Flatbush Ave, Prospect Park

The city offers so much for babies and kids.. so long as you can manage getting from A to B with baby, a days worth of stuff, stroller and sanity.

But nothing helps get you out of your comfort zone better than a new, adventurous friend, so thanks Rachel and Spike for inviting Van and I on a day long excursion (and our first time with the stroller solo on subway) to the lovely little Prospect Park Zoo!

The park is intimate and small, just like I like them. Kids get to see all the animals pretty close up, and as you can see, Van’s reaction to seeing a real live monkey for the first time was priceless.

There is a great petting zoo complete with food to feed the llamas, sheep and goats as well as a wooden milking station that kids were queuing up for.

The sea lions get center stage in their giant pool and we were there just in time for a feeding, which Van specifically woke up from a hard earned nap to watch.

My favorite though, had to be the Pallas Cat, which looks like a real life version of Grizabella. She was elusive (hence no photo) but it was amazing to see the line of babies go nuts when she made an appearance.

This is an excellent park for young kids, not too big or exhausting with the beauty of Prospect Park just outside its walls for additional strolling.

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Posted on September 1, 2011

Drinks,Spend a Couple Hours »Sherry Tasting at Brooklyn Kitchen

100 Frost St, Brooklyn

All you know about Sherry is wrong.

Or, scratch that, all you know about Sherry is right, it is syrupy, weird and usually can be found sitting for decades in a grandmother’s cabinet, BUT there’s so much more to Sherry than that as I found out at a recent Brooklyn Kitchen Sherry Tasting and Class.

Because of age old laws, only over turned in the 1990′s, Sherry makers didn’t have the right to bottle their own goods. Not shockingly these laws were written by distributors who would bottle all the Sherry, adding sugar and other junk and export it to England under names like Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

There’s a new crop of Sherries out there though, the ones we sampled coming from Gutierrez Colosia (and all available at Vine Wine on Lorimer) and they are complex and delicious. My favorite was Oloroso Sangre y Trabajedero (Blood and the Worker). It was the farthest of the bunch from the taste of wine and actually tasted more like a brandy, but not quite.

The room hushed and all were blissing out on the Bodega Cesar Florido Moscatel Especial, a sweet sherry that was heavenly with the gorgonzola dulce they offered.

Also passed around were spiced green olives, dates, more cheese, and buttery jamon from the shop. Mmmmmmmmm.

Most tastings I have been to try to make it a laid back experience, but Brooklyn Kitchen probably does it with the most ease. Black Sabbath was blasting downstairs and everyone in our small class was having a fun time.

I had originally used my generous gift card for a Breakfast Making Class (I was so super excited to learn how to make amazing eggs of all kinds) but it was canceled. I picked this Sherry class because it was something I knew nothing about. I’m glad I did.

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Posted on July 18, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Aquabeba

194 Withers Street, #1, Guest Written by Jim:

Last Sunday (Father’s Day) Van and I attended our very first swim class. Along with two other dads and their respective infants, we hopped into the heated pool of a luxury Williamsburg condominium for our first AquaBeba session.

With the focus on allowing children to become comfortable in the water (as opposed to the rather dire sink-or-swim methodology so many of us experienced growing up), the 5-week program is run by Danilo Krvavac, an affable Serbian (and Olympic swimmer) who lives in Williamsburg with his wife and young daughter.

Extremely patient and full of useful techniques to make the experience as easy as possible for children (maintaining parent-to-baby eye contact throughout the class, walking backwards in the pool so your child always feels like they’re moving forward, saying your child’s name to maintain focus while you ‘condition’ them to become more comfortable with water flowing over their head, offering toys to distract and swim to… the list goes on and on), the class provides a tranquil, supportive place for children to develop swimming skills.

Fleeting recollections of swimming lessons I endured years and years ago at a Southern Connecticut YMCA conjure up unpleasant images of aggressive swim coaches dunking my head underwater–the exact kind of trauma Danilo seeks to avoid. In fact, poor Van (who had been having a hard time teething all week) just wasn’t in the mood for the final submersion exercises, something that would have only irked the swimming instructors of my youth and driven them to more aggressive tactics–but Danilo was totally cool, instantly recognizing that my poor baby was stressed enough and that the last thing he needed was to go under water. Maybe next week.

If you live in the area and are thinking about teaching your child to swim one day please take my advice and consider enrolling in this class. In fact, Aqua Beba offers pre-natal classes for pregnant ladies to just float around in so you don’t even have to have a baby (yet) to sign up.

One of the most compelling reasons to do so is safety: the sooner your child is comfortable in the water, the better; but another good reason to start your child early is that very young babies still have breath-holding reflexes from their days in the womb and Danilo can leverage this innate ability in such a way that children have a much, much easier time learning how hold their breath under water.

And besides, it’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable Sunday morning than one spent in a heated pool with your splashy baby.

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Posted on June 22, 2011

Spend a Couple Hours »Renegade Craft Fair

in McCarren Park June 11-12

It’s been a few years since I’ve attended the Renegade Craft Fair and I must say it has grown.

Even if some things can be repetitive (how many silkscreened tees with silly octopus on it does one person need?), the wares have gotten much better and varied too.

We found lots of things we liked and even walked away with a couple things: an awesome cheeseburger onesie for Van and a tiger embroidery from Coral and Tusk that will make a lovely gift for someone special (who will remain unnamed in case s/he’s ready this).

But whether it’s adorable ceramics, impressive original art, or one incredible necklace with a beaded antique crest (which was outside my meager budget) there’s likely something here for everybody.

It’s a nice way to spend the afternoon and will be up tomorrow from 11-7.

Be sure to stop by the free photo both!

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Posted on June 11, 2011