Category Archives: Christmas Vacation 2011

Christmas Vacation: Days 4 and 5

We have spent the past two days exploring various parts of the city.  Josh and Julia wanted to see as much as they possibly could during our visit.

On Wednesday, we began our day in Little Italy, in search of the perfect pizza.

Near the top of nearly every list is a place called Lombardi’s.

It was delicious. My husband wanted to go back there for every single meal until we left the city.

My friend Ida Mae had told me that we had to visit a bakery in Little Italy called Ferrara’s.

Oh my word, it was scrumptious! Worth every single calorie! See for yourself!

Just as Doug will be thinking about the pizza at Lombardi’s, I will be fondly remembering this gelato. It was perfection.

Our next stop was Chinatown.

Any ideas what in the world these are?

We sat for awhile at Washington Square. It is a fabulous place for people-watching.

As we took a taxi back to the hotel after dinner that night, we were debating about extending our stay by another day.

There are TVs in taxi’s now and an ad came on for Mary Poppins on Broadway. The kids said they would love to see that show. It was one of their favorite movies when they were little. Josh loved it so much that he began to affect a British accent at the age of three.

‘Allo, Mummy,” was the way he would greet me in the morning. He also took to calling Doug “Guv’ner.”

To this day, he loves to do accents and it all started with Mary Poppins.

Since it is less than two weeks before Christmas, we didn’t know if we could get another room in the hotel, so Doug inquired. We were told that we would have to vacate the room we were currently in but there was another room available and we were assured that we would find it “quite satisfactory.”

So, this morning, we checked out, left our bags with the hotel, and planned to check back in later in the day after more sightseeing.

The first person we saw was Mary Poppins herself!

Well, not really. At least, I don’t think so. But Julia was convinced that if Mary Poppins were real, this is what she would look like. 🙂

Our first stop of the morning was Grand Central Station to check out the Holiday Fair, where artisans from the world over display their handiwork. There was jewelry, clothing, ornaments, and artwork. Everything was so lovely.

A trip to Grand Central wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Hot and Crusty Bakery.

When Doug worked in Manhattan, he would often pick up a loaf of their Challah bread and bring it home. It was so good that sometimes that would be all we would have for dinner. We were delighted to see that it was still in business and their Challah is as good as ever.

We bought a loaf and headed to the main concourse to have a bite and people watch. However, the waiting area that used to be there is now a full-fledged Apple Store!

On our way out, we strolled through the Grand Central Market:

Doug’s favorite building has always been the Chrysler Building so we went into the lobby to have a look.

You can barely tell that they are tourists! 🙂

The photo doesn’t do it justice but there is a beautiful mural painted onto the ceiling of the lobby:

We made a quick stop at the New York Public Library.

Julia was fascinated when Doug and I told her that back in the day when we were kids, there was something called a “card catalog” system. She could not imagine such a thing and hoped that this massive library would still have card catalogs. In this computer age, we were doubtful but we did find this…

Kids have it so much easier these days. (In addition to using the card catalog, I still remember having to type all my high school and college papers on a Selectric typewriter while using lots of White Out).

Bryant Park is right next door to the library.

This was an outdoor restaurant, complete with heating lamps. (Not that we needed it, as it was almost 60 degrees!)

We saw the Times Square ball on the way to Macy’s and the Empire State building…

Later that afternoon we headed back to the Waldorf to freshen up before attending “Mary Poppins” on Broadway. We checked back into the hotel and were given the keys to our new room.

Rather than go to the bank of elevators we had been using, we were instructed to go to another area of elevators labeled “The Waldorf  Towers.” The elevator would not even move until we inserted our key inside. When we got off the elevator this is what we saw:

Our room was at the end of the hall. Here is Julia, full of anticipation:

Well…let’s just say that the lady at the front desk was right. We did indeed find this suite of rooms (as opposed to our previous one room) “quite satisfactory.” Ahem.

The views were just spectacular!

We just could not get over it. We have never stayed in a place so lavish and grand.  This book on the built in bookshelf in one of the bedrooms said it all:


There was still yet another surprise in store for us when we left to attend the Broadway show.

Every other night we have left the hotel, the bellman hails us a cab. However, tonight, as soon as we emerged onto the sidewalk, we were asked if we would like to take a limo to our destination?

Yes, we certainly would!

We were led to a sleek black stretch limo and rode to Broadway in style:

I must say that “Mary Poppins” exceeded our expectations. It was brilliantly and exceptionally done and we loved every minute of it!

We walked back to the Waldorf marveling at what an incredible trip this has been…

We will head home tomorrow morning.

I am typing this sitting on a window seat enjoying the incredible view from our suite and listening to the sounds of the city below. I am also incredibly grateful for God’s wondrous goodness to us and the lovely surprises He arranged for us to have along the way.

Doug and I wanted to give the kids a vacation that they would remember for the rest of their days.

I think we have succeeded.



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Christmas Vacation: Day 3

Our third day in the city began early. The day dawned bright, clear and reasonably warm. We could not have asked for better weather for sightseeing!

Our first stop was Lincoln Center in the Upper West Side, as we had tickets to observe the New York Philharmonic rehearse Handel’s Messiah.

We chose to sit in the box seats where Josh had a good view of the principle oboist, Liang Wang.

Josh was in his element. He is passionate about playing the oboe and I loved watching him experience what it is like to be part of one of the best orchestras in the world.

Who knows? Maybe someday Doug and I will be in the audience watching Josh up on that stage. 🙂

The music was so thrilling,  beautiful, and enchanting . It was easy to forget that outside that elegant concert hall was a bustling, crowded city in the thick of rush hour. It was such a lovely way to begin our day.

As we left Lincoln Center, we heard and saw a lot of commotion. There were bright lights and cameras everywhere. Apparently, the cast of the daytime talk show “The Talk” had just finished filming and were being interviewed.

I raised my camera and just started snapping photos.

Here you can see actress Sara Gilbert (from the “Roseanne” show) and half of Sharon Osbourne’s face. 🙂

Suddenly, it seemed as if Sara spotted me…

Hi Sara! I’ve never seen The Talk but I used to watch you on Roseanne!

Is it just me or does she look slightly alarmed?

Moving on…

I’ve always heard that people are TV are prettier in person. (Why is that?). In any event, that was certainly true in this case.  Sharon Osbourne has the most gorgeous skin. Both ladies are quite lovely (and extremely tiny!).

After our brush with stardom, we decided to take a carriage ride around Central Park.

Since we were near Central Park, we had to stop in at the Plaza…

Then we saw this in a store window nearby:

These are wedding gowns. Can you imagine?!

The dresses were so ugly that I didn’t even notice the fact that there were birds on the heads of the mannequins.

Wow…we’re not in New Hampshire anymore.

One of my kids’ very favorite places was  a candy store called Dylan’s Candy Bar, which was founded by Ralph Lauren’s daughter Dylan…

This sign says it all. This is Josh and Julia’s idea of heaven on earth:

Mosaic of Dylan Lauren, owner

For the evening’s entertainment, we went to see “Sister Act” on Broadway.

Every time I see a Broadway show, I am absolutely blown away by the talent of these actors, singers, and dancers. Tonight was no different.

After the show, we went to Lindy’s for dinner.

(We really did feel like New Yorkers because we were eating dinner at 10:00 at night! 🙂 ).

What happened next still amazes me.

Josh ordered a breakfast item from the menu.

Our waiter shook his head and said, “No. You have to pick something else. That is too small for you. I will bring you the chocolate chip pancakes instead.”

That was it.

No discussion. No opportunity for protest.

He just turned on his heel and left our table to deliver our order.

Josh turned to me and said, “What just happened?”

I said, “Surely he is joking. He IS going to bring Josh what he ordered, isn’t he?”

The answer was no. He brought Josh the chocolate chip pancakes and told him he was going to like it.

As my grandmother would have said, “Well, I never!”

Live and learn, I guess!

Tomorrow we are headed to Greenwich Village and Chinatown.

I love New York!!!


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Christmas Vacation: Day 2

After spending the night in Connecticut, we arrived in New York City  at lunchtime on Monday.

There truly is no place like Manhattan: the energy, the pace, the endlessly fascinating people watching.

Our first stop was checking in at our hotel, the Waldorf Astoria. The lobby is beautiful.

Next was a visit to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree…

On the way to Times Square, we stopped in at St. Patrick’s church. It was a strange mix of worshipers, tourists, and a heavy police presence, but it is absolutely beautiful.

I loved watching my kids’ reactions to Times Square. It is such a feast for the senses.

Minnie Mouse was our first (and so far only) celebrity sighting:

Julia had no trouble acclimating and was soon hailing taxis like a native…

It was soon time to head over to Radio City Music Hall to experience the Christmas Spectacular.

The show did not disappoint. It was amazing, fun, and very uplifting. No cameras were allowed inside the theater but I was able to take some photos of the lobby. It is delightfully garish.

After the show we walked to Del Frisco’s Steakhouse for dinner. There was a lot to see on the way…

Our dinner at Del Frisco’s was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I had heard Neil Patrick Harris tell Kelly Ripa on “Live With Kelly” last week that he had recently enjoyed a meal there and it was the best steak he had ever had. I would have to agree.

We made a nighttime stop at Rockefeller Center before heading back to the hotel. The tree is even more stunning in person than it looks on TV…

You will probably notice that I have a lot of photos of Doug and Julia. I would like to have photos of my son but he has developed an acute case of camera shyness. I hope this phase passes quickly.

Several hours, a million calories, and about six taxi cab rides after leaving the hotel that afternoon we were ready to call it a night.

This may be the city that never sleeps but we need to.

Tomorrow, the New York Philharmonic and Broadway!

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Christmas Vacation: Day 1

Here we are: the Griswolds Browns getting ready to head to Vermont for the first leg of our Christmas vacation.

Notice that Buddy is attempting to remain unobtrusive, hoping to slip out the door with us.

Not a chance, Bud. We wouldn’t want to deprive Uncle Jeff of all that quality time with you.

Darkness fell as we drove the back roads of New Hampshire and Vermont. A full moon shone in the sky and every so often the silvery night would be punctuated by bright Christmas lights strung merrily along trees, porches, and windows. We listened to Christmas music as we drove and my heart overflowed with gratefulness and anticipation.

We awoke bright and early and headed out to breakfast. It was so early there was no one in the streets:

But the sun sure did look pretty rising over the Green Mountains:

As evidenced by this fountain in someone’s front yard, it was cold!

We headed to one of our favorite breakfast places:

And here is my family walking “up for breakfast”:

It’s a cute little place with delicious food and a small town feel…

After breakfast we headed for Connecticut.

On the drive there, the Brown family ended up behind the Brown bus:

We  decided to make a short stop  in Northhampton, Massachusetts. Back in 2007, we flew to New England from south Florida for our niece’s surprise wedding shower.

We had lived in Florida for nearly five years by that time and we were so homesick for New England. Right before we left, Doug had agreed to interview for a job in New Hampshire. The interview would take place a few weeks after we were in Massachusetts. We wanted it so badly. New England was home and while we experienced many blessings living in Florida, it never felt like home to us.

The cold winter weather was a shock to our systems but Josh and Julia have always loved winter and were desperately hoping for snow.

We checked into the Hotel Northhampton only to find that  we were given a smoking room. We immediately placed a call to the front desk and were told that the only room available was the bridal suite, which they would upgrade us to at no extra charge.

The room was gorgeous and spacious. The best part for the kids was the fact that the room came with a balcony that overlooked part of the town. That especially came in handy the next morning when we woke up to snow.

The kids were overjoyed and immediately went outside to play in it.

It was a gift from Heaven, an answer to their prayers. I remember watching them being so filled with happiness and praying fervently to God, telling Him how much we wanted to move back home. I was so afraid it wouldn’t happen and was scared to get my hopes up.

His still, small voice told me, “Trust My heart.”

I did…and He sent us back home later that year. I still praise Him for that every single day.

So, it was sweet to go back and see that place where we had so many fun memories and hopeful dreams…

Hotel Northhampton

Next stop was New Canaan, CT where Doug and I lived for two years when we were first married.

It’s a charming little town and we were looking forward to taking a trip down memory lane…

We visited the place we used to live…

We lived in this two bedroom apartment with our Border Collie Charlie…

Charlie and his favorite toy

Charlie was an absolutely amazing dog…crazy (in a good way), incredibly smart, tons of fun, and very protective. .

To be honest, we had no business having a Border Collie while living in an apartment, spacious though it was. Border Collies require a ton of exercise. Fortunately, our apartment was the right across the street from Mead Park…

Charlie and I spent hours here and he loved it. He could run, sniff, fetch sticks, and stealthily stalk squirrels.

I could still see him in my mind’s eye as we walked through that familiar park.

We still miss Charlie to this day.

Next up, we took the kids to a lovely place in town that the natives call “God’s Acre” because there are three churches on one acre of land.

One of the most magical experiences my family has had on Christmas Eve took place on God’s Acre back in 1993.

It was my first Christmas away from home and my parents and brother had come up to spend Christmas with us.

Every Christmas Eve, everyone in the the town is invited to God’s Acre to sing Christmas carols in front of the huge, brightly lit tree on the property.

That evening,  as we gathered with the townspeople, we were given a candle to hold as we sang the familiar carols.

Would you believe that just as we all started singing, it started to snow?!

It was magical, like being on a movie set.

After singing the last song, “Silent Night” we blew out our candles and walked back to our apartment while the snow fell all around us.

It is still one of our favorite memories.

On the way back to the car, Julia wanted to try to recreate the “Abbey Road”  album cover with her dad:

I don’t think she quite pulled it off. 🙂

Before we left town, we went to the largest park in New Canaan called Waveny Park. There are loads of hiking trails and picnic areas, including a lovely mansion that once belonged to a family but was given to the town back in 1969. It is now used for weddings and events.

It’s a beautiful place…

This reminded me of a Romeo and Juliet balcony

Julia and Doug

Our last stop for the day was Stamford, Connecticut. After checking into our hotel, we went to one of our favorite malls, Stamford Town Center, which has 9 stories…

These pictures were taken on the 9th floor…right before the security guard came up to us and told us that that floor was no longer open to the public.


After doing some Christmas shopping and having dinner, we headed back to the hotel.

While waiting for the shuttle to come pick us up, Josh agreed to let me snap his photo wearing the new hat he purchased…

Is it just me or does he look like the main character in the “Despicable Me” movie?

Here he is looking much more like himself during dinner…

Earlier in the day when we were having lunch at a Chinese restaurant in New Canaan, we each opened our fortune cookies at the end of the meal. Mine read:

“There are many golden hours ahead for you.”

I don’t believe in that kind of stuff, but I must say, as we head into New York City tomorrow, I am looking forward to the golden hours ahead.


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