Category Archives: TV & Movies

The Big Apple From A Different View

Times Square, New York City

I live about forty-five minutes outside of New York City. Since suburban life is a completely different experience than urban living, my family enjoys taking a bite out of the Big Apple as much as tourists from anywhere else. We just have the luxury of doing it more often.

Long Islanders travel into the city for a variety of reasons other than work or connecting with relatives. We like to catch shows on Broadway, go out to dinner and shopping, see baseball games, visit museums, attend concerts, and go out to the bars. For holidays, many will hop the LIRR (train) to see a parade, watch fireworks, or count down until the ball drops. The difference with us local visitors is that we generally skip tourist attractions like the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and tours of any kind.

East River View of Manhattan

Two years ago, my son’s fifth grade celebrated their “moving up” to the middle school with a very special event. They scheduled a private day cruise around Manhattan on the Skyline Princess , and we parents were invited along for the ride. This gave us an oppotunity to view the city from a different perspective–away from Times Square crowds and midtown noise.

At first, I was hesitant about whether our son would enjoy the daytrip. His autism and sensory issues can lead to him acting out during new experiences, and we didn’t want him to leave his classmates with that lasting impression before they parted ways for the summer. To get him excited about the outing, his grandmother told him he’d be going on a cruise just like she does with his grandfather. We also showed him online photos of the cruise boat and explained the schedule. That did the trick. He wanted to go. For good measure, I prayed for nice weather.

The Pier, Across from CitiField

Cruise day arrives and it’s sunny! The boat’s pier happens to be across from CitiField–the Mets’ new stadium. We load onto the large, comfortable boat and the party begins. We watch planes take off from LaGuardia as we make our way onto the East River. We gaze in awe at the beauty of the skyscrapers lining the water’s edge, spying landmarks along the way.

Pier 17

The Empire State Building peeks above the other buildings as we travel beneath the 59th Street bridge. If you’re a movie buff, you may recognize Pier 17, featured in the romantic comedy, Fools Rush In, for the helicopter scene where the hero realizes he cannot live without his heroine. Don’t you just love happily-ever-afters?

Empire State Building peeks above other skyscrapers

We take a break from our sightseeing and photography to indulge in a catered lunch. For guests who’ve had their fill of water with a backdrop of tall buildings, the DJ begins the afternoon of dancing and music.

The Skyline Princess honks joyfully to the Staten Island Ferry as we glide into open water. It’s a bittersweet moment as we pass the southern tip of Manhattan. We then turn our thoughts toward the beauty of the monument ahead.

I’ve been to Ellis Island, but this day cruise is a relaxing alternative. We are able to see the Statue of Liberty from all angles, and imagine how the immigrants felt at their first glimpse of her after a difficult journey across the Atlantic.

Statue of Liberty

After a dozen or so photos of this beautiful gift from France, we head back toward Manhattan. The kids are excited to see all sorts of water craft on the return trip. I have to admit, I am, too.

Tugboat and Barge

It’s not often I get to see a tugboat pushing a barge, a fireboat spraying its water in all directions, or a beautiful sailboat with the New York skyline behind it. It’s been a wonderful day–relaxing, comfortable, pretty, and fun. In other words, a perfect escape.

A Fireboat

Have you ever visited New York City? If so, what were your favorite activities or attractions? If not, what would be on your must-see list for the Big Apple?

The Help

Hi! Today, I debut as a guest poster on Nicole Basaraba’s Uni-Verse-City blog. It’s a bit of a departure from my usual blog fare, as my history buff side shows itself in my book review of THE HELP. For a taste, read on.

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and major motion picture. A good friend of mine recommended it to me as a must-read.

The novel is set in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960’s. This was a time of great social upheaval in America’s Deep South. Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement featuring real-life figures Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, the setting is anchored by Stockett with historical references.

Stockett sprinkles in popular 60’s TV, inventions, personalities, and music. Jackson life is depicted through three main characters—Abileen, Minnie, and Skeeter. I enjoyed a trip down memory lane…

This is one of those rare books whose characters will live on your head . Join me over at Nicole Basaraba’s Uni-Verse-City blog to understand why.

Remember to stop by here for your weekly dose of Margarita Moments on Monday. I’ll be ready for an escape after all this academia. Wait a minute, I hear the blender whirring. Gotta go! Until then…

What’s Next for HP Fans?

Hogwarts Castle at Wizarding World

Like millions of devoted Harry Potter fans, my 20-year-old daughter and I attended a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 this past weekend. We had pre-purchased tickets (six weeks in advance, her idea) to our local theatre’s 3-D premiere, and arrived two-and-a-half hours early (her idea, too) to get prime seats. As the sold-out showing began, a hushed silence fell over the audience. Over the next 125 minutes, every pair of 3-D glasses was glued to the big screen, rarely interrupted by the occasional sniffle. (Okay, I admit it. I cried twice.) The closing credits rolled and my daughter turned to me with a somber look and said,  “My childhood has ended.”

I learned upon reading the news the following morning that my child’s sentiment has been echoed by young adults across the muggle world. Like my daughter, they literally grew up with the characters in JK Rowling‘s fantasy series about an orphaned boy making his way in a complex, magical world.

On the heels of that sobering statement, she smiled and thanked me for accompanying her to a midnight movie (I get up at six.) and for encouraging her to read that first Harry Potter book all those years ago. I almost cried a third time. To think, I’d almost forgotten how our love affair with HP had begun. But she hadn’t.

Back in 2000, I was warned by other parents the book I was so interested in buying for my child delved into witchcraft. Not one to be swayed easily, I bought two copies so I could read a chapter ahead and have her skip any parts I didn’t approve. (That never happened; I cannot imagine what those parents were thinking.) She didn’t like the book at first, and complained it was boring. I kept encouraging her to read one more chapter, telling her it would take off soon. She was a voracious realistic fiction and non-fiction reader. I felt she just needed a little nudge. By Chapter 5, I no longer needed to nudge. She had fallen in love with the story, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Eleven years, seven books, eight movies, one HP-themed bedroom, and numerous HP-related games, action figures, and video games later–in a blink of an eye, really–and we were leaving the theatre. All I could think was: What were HP fans like us to do, now that the last page had been written, read, and translated into a motion picture? And then it hit, we can relive the experience by rereading the books, by watching the movies, checking out Pottermore and, perhaps my favorite idea, by revisiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Chocolate Frogs in the window at Honeydukes

In anticipation of this year’s July 15th bittersweet moment, my husband and I had ventured to Universal Studios’ new theme park with our daughter for her birthday the previous summer. We stayed on-property and had early access to the theme park, yet still endured long, hot waits in line for everything–yes, even the stores had lines. But to us the waits were worth it, to be immersed so fully into the fictional world of Harry Potter. (My husband isn’t a fan per se, but he did enjoy a Hogsmeade beer or two.)

The Stairs Above Three Broomsticks Restaurant

Entering the Wizarding World, we were met by a friendly conductor of Hogswart Express who made small-talk as we had our photos taken with him. The village of Hogsmeade was incredible, with many little details we hoped to experience, from the potted mandrake to Moaning Myrtle’s voice in the witches room to the animated portraits in Hogwarts castle.

We ate a traditional British meal in Three Broomsticks, shopped in Honeydukes for chocolate frogs and at Dervish and Banges for Griffindor shirts and Remembralls. Our daughter had a wand choose her at Ollivander’s, we took the Forbidden Journey (Eek, spiders!) and twice survived the Dragon’s Challenge.

At the end of our little getaway, the most precious part for my husband and me was looking into our daughter’s eyes and seeing our little girl again–if only for a moment. She admitted to having fantasized about attending Hogwarts as a child and that this theme park was the closest she could imagine to that fantasy being realized.

I have a feeling we’ll be back again.

Are you or is someone in your life a Harry Potter fan? Do you have any thoughts on the phenomenal success of these books, or on the future of Harry Potter through JK Rowling’s ventures, such as Pottermore or Wizarding World at Universal?

Hogsmeade Village at Night