Radio City, Stardust Diner and Matilda on Broadway

We are a family who loves the theater. My husband and daughter are natural performers who love to be on stage, and my son has been testing out his acting chops in recent years as well. I’m a visual artist, so to find my part in this dramatic family I’ve been tapping into my creativity by helping to design sets and props for the school plays. We love everything having to do with the stage. So for my daughter’s birthday, I planned a quick, jam-packed trip including a “behind the scenes” Radio City Stage Door Tour, lunch at Ellen’s Stardust Diner (with the famous singing wait staff) and the Broadway show, Matilda playing at the Shubert Theater on 44th St. Here are a few things to enjoy in NYC if you love theater; Radio City, Stardust Diner and Matilda on Broadway.

Radio City Stage Door Tour

radio city picOur Radio City tour was very good but limited because it was a Sunday and the Rockette’s were performing SIX shows that day! We got to meet a Rockette, ask questions, see them exercising between shows, view the light room and the theater from above, and learn a bunch of amazing things; like the fact that the stage is 10,000 square feet in size.


A collection of Rockette costumes including the famous soldier with pants starched so stiff they have to stand up on a table to slip into them.


The 10,000 square foot stage at Radio City

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Ellen’s Stardust Diner (1650 Broadway & 51st St.) 

My friend Meggan recommended this place since her kids love it, and my family had no idea what this diner was all about. So it was fun to see their faces as they realized that the broadway show tunes that they were hearing were actually being sung by the wait staff. Lunch at the Stardust was good but the entertainment was the most fun part. I’ve heard breakfast is better, but be prepared to wait in line.

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The Broadway show Matilda at the Shubert Theater

IMG_5426Both of my kids enjoyed the Broadway production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, even though they said it was admittedly a bit “darker”/more sinister than the movie. The stage effects and actors performances were outstanding. Especially Mattea Conforti who played Matilda that evening (there are four Matilda actresses). My daughter said the sets were fantastic; they moved up and down and came out of the stage. The Scrabble tiles were a fun feature because it changed the words that they spelled out. There was a lot of live movement and action on stage as well. One thing I love about the theaters in NYC is that they are all pretty small so almost all seats are good. If you have some flexibility, don’t forget to check out last minute ticket deals at the TKTS booth in Times Square.


Eventually, you must eat.

Everywhere you turn in the city there are food options of every ethnicity and price range you could imagine. We sampled it all. The very first thing we did when we set foot on the street was buy hot dogs and a pretzel from a street vendor (not as good as I remember).

IMG_5382A word of caution here – there are tons of people dressed up in random character suits who want to pose for a picture with you in exchange for tips. This is a new phenomenon I wasn’t prepared for. Panhandlers used to at least play some music or do some sort of entertainment for money like the Naked Cowboy that we encountered. But I digress…back to the food…tons of street vendors, especially middle eastern “Halal” but the best we had was the pizza at John’s Pizzeria Times Square which conveniently located across from the Shubert Theater. I wouldn’t recommend anything other than the drinks and pizza (dessert was stale, chicken scampi was overcooked and dry, salad was ordinary) but the pizza was awesome.

IMG_5518The next night we had dinner at The View revolving rooftop restaurant at the top of the Marriott Marquis hotel where we stayed. This very upscale restaurant offers a prix fixe dinner for $90 so we opted for the buffet in the lounge for $38. Next time I would just go there for a drink to see the view, which was fantastic and skip the unimpressive overpriced food, or visit the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center or the Empire State Building Observation deck which I have never done. Have you? Please comment below if you have anything to add, I’d love to hear your tips for next time!

Walking tour of NYC 2015 Holiday Windows

IMG_5508Last weekend my family and I had a wonderful time touring the NYC 2015 Holiday Windows. It’s a special treat and a fun way to get into the spirit of the Christmas season. I grew up in northern New Jersey and have very fond memories of going into NYC to see the spectacular twinkling windows in midtown. My father worked in Soho and commuted in daily by bus. I always looked forward to those special times when my mother and I would drive into the city to meet my dad for dinner at some interesting place, and then we would walk around to see what stores like Lord & Taylor, Tiffany and Macy’s created for that year’s window display. Sometimes we would see a Broadway show, but almost every Christmas we would go see the Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center. I never got tired of seeing that world-class performance, or how happy it made my mom when the giant Christmas tree would rise out of the stage. But my dad did get tired of seeing it after so many years…literally tired. When I was a freshman at Parsons School of Design, I was living in the city and my mom suggested that dad and I go see the Nutcracker together. After settling into our seats at Lincoln Center, he promptly fell asleep, and I thought it was so funny that I told mom about his snooze. He was no longer invited to go see the Nutcracker.

Nutcracker Ballet NY

After I left New Jersey, and graduated from college, trips to NYC for the holidays were a distant memory.  I had always planned to bring my children to experience the same wonder and joy that I did, and even though I  live only a little over 3 hours away, somehow it just always seemed too difficult/crowded/cold….whatever. Needless to say I was thrilled when my daughter said that for her 14th birthday she wanted to go see a Broadway show. I immediately began planning all the details and my preparations paid off; we just returned from a jam-packed, memorable holiday weekend in the city and I’m excited to share our experience with you to hopefully encourage you to make the trip – from where ever you begin! (Note: I had so much to share that I decided to split this blog post into two parts; more on NYC for theater lovers tomorrow)

Walking tour of NYC 2015 Holiday Window Displays

Macy’s inaugurated this tradition in 1883, and every year more and more stores participate. This is one of the most festive and beautiful things you can do for the holidays. It’s like visiting an outdoor art exhibit and it’s free!

Don't miss the amazing light display on the facade of Saks Fifth Avenue starting at 4:30pm every 10 minutes

Don’t miss the amazing light display on the facade of Saks Fifth Avenue starting at 4:30pm every 10 minutes

Some of the store windows are not to be missed, in my opinion, and one of those is Barney’s so I recommend starting near there and working your way south. They are also best seen at night. Here is my list in walking tour order:

  1. Bloomingdales – Lexington & 59th St
  2. Barneys – Madison & 61st (the “Ice” theme is amazing with a 35′ ice locker and a live sculptor inside creating ice sculptures)
  3. Bergdorf Goodman – 5th ave & 58th
  4. Tiffany & Co. – 5th ave & 57th
  5. Henri Bendel – 5th & 56th (they have a very cool giant tree inside that you must see)
  6. St. Patrick’s Cathedral – 5th ave & 50th (don’t miss going inside this stunning piece of architecture)
  7. Saks 5th Ave – right next to the Cathedral/49th st. (it’s best to stand across the street to watch the beautiful light show choreographed to music)
  8. Anthropologie/Rockefeller Center – near 50th St. This is typically one of the most creative and unusual window displays and one of my favorite stores to visit. If you have kids, at this point in the tour they are probably losing their patience so it’s a good time to stop in at Nintendo World and the Lego Store where they can build their own mini figures. There are restrooms and eateries down below Rock Center and you can sit and watch the skaters.
  9. Lord & Taylor – 5th ave south of 42nd near Bryant Park
  10. Macy’s – Broadway & 34th (very traditional)



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Other Winter Fun while you’re there – Ice Skating!

Skating in Bryant Park NYCHow much can you fit in 48 hours you say? Plenty! My kids love ice skating and we discovered a wonderful rink in Bryant Park (42nd St between 5th and 6th avenues). The park alone and the adjoining NY Public Library are beautiful destinations, but as an added bonus, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park offers free skating and a discount on skate rentals for Bank of America card holders.
We easily could have spent all day here; there are restaurants & food kiosks, plenty of tables and chairs to sit and enjoy the view, little Holiday Shops to browse, and a carousel. The Winter park is open from 7am – 10pm from October through February.

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Willy Wonka Jr.

Archie Cole Middle School Drama Club presented Willy Wonka Jr. this past spring and we had about 100 kids involved in every aspect of producing a show; from performing on stage, creating props and sets, poster designs, concession stands, to backstage crew and house management. It’s an amazing and rewarding experience for these kids!


The drama club is run as an after school program led by an advisor, a director and many countless volunteers. The cast rehearsed 3 days a week for about 11 weeks while the crew members along with myself and other volunteers met the in the art room to design and create sets and props, practice stage makeup, design the t-shirts, programs, poster boards and photography.

As members of the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild, our club received 13 nominations in various categories for both our Fall show (Little Mermaid Jr) and our Spring show (Willy Wonka Jr). It was an amazing experience for the kids to attend the award ceremony at the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston a few weeks ago – and what an honor to take home 3 awards! Continue reading

Busy being mom

The past few weeks we’ve been gearing up for two drama productions that my kids are performing in. They have always loved to dance, act, sing and be funny and my husband is also a talented performer in many ways. So naturally, I want to support that passion and enthusiasm and the best way for me to do that is to donate my time and creativity with sets and props for the shows. This morning I realized that I haven’t posted on the blog in a while but I quickly reminded myself (before I felt any hint of guilt) that I’ve just been busy being mom!


All mothers (whether you work at home, away from home, part time, full time or not a all) need to cut themselves a break when it comes to thinking you can do it all. It’s impossible. And it’s important to think about what will really matter in the end. I have piles of laundry on my dining room table, dust bunnies that would qualify as another dog, a strange mix of ingredients in my fridge none of which equal a proper meal, I haven’t seen the bottom of my sink in days and there are so many emails backed up in my inbox I think I should just start over with a new email address…but what my kids will remember is the time and effort that their mom and dad put into helping them prepare for a show and working with the backstage crew on sets and props. I’m positive that the kids won’t look back and say, “boy I wish mom kept the house cleaner and didn’t have to order pizza for dinner”.


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Exploring the delicious art of the American pop artist Wayne Thiebaud

I’ve enjoyed teaching art to 4-6 year olds at my local Parks and Recreation center. It’s a small class, which is nice, and kids this age are just so adorable and clever! This past week I introduced them to a living American artist while painting with glue and shaving cream….we had lots of fun exploring the delicious art of the American pop artist Wayne ThiebaudWayne-Thiebaud-Cakes-1963

 Wayne Thiebaud is one of the giants in American art. Though he’s held many humble jobs – from working on a farm to washing dishes in a diner – his artists’ eye has always been dazzled by the American Dream. At first unappreciated because of their everyday subject matter, Thiebaud’s paintings of tasty hot dogs, delectable cakes, dizzy streets and sleepy deltas have become icons of twentieth-century American art.

51CddHkP+2LThe kids loved looking at the images in the book, Delicious: The Life & Art of Wayne Thiebaud and were so excited that we were going to make our own pop art rows of cupcakes with frosting.

As we were working on our projects, I had to keep reminding them NOT to taste these cupcakes (and yet I overheard one girl tell her mom that she tasted the “frosting” and it wasn’t very good)!

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A snowy day planting terrariums in the sunroom

It’s snowing here again. The prediction was for 2-4″ and I just measured 9″ at 3pm! I actually saw the surface of my driveway yesterday for the first time in two months. Oh well…winter in New England has it’s challenges for sure, but it is pretty.


When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? So I decided to get my hands in the dirt and plant flowers in my indoor terrariums while I watched the snow fall to get in the mood for spring.IMG_3232

One of the perks of a surprise snow day is being given a day where everything planned gets wiped off the schedule and you find time to do things unplanned. I re-potted my terrariums (I started this project a few days ago and ran out of time to finish). I was inspired by a lecture given by Tovah Martin at the Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show so I recently bought a few new plants that she suggested would work well, including Primrose and Violets.

Terrariums IMG_3254They always look kind of pitiful and floppy when first planted but I’m hopeful with a little sunshine and TLC they will perk up nicely. I also took some photos of our (almost) completed sunroom surround by snow. Continue reading

Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show


IMG_3140The Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show comes at a most perfect time of year in New England. The past few weeks have been challenging for so many of us…with all of the snow, freezing temps and illnesses that have kept us indoors for a stretch of time that is just not healthy. I personally have become desperate for color and sunshine so I was really looking forward to going to the “Garden Adventures” themed show in Providence this past Sunday.



The New TerrariumI loved seeing the garden displays, and I attended a great lecture about Terrariums by Tovah Martin from Connecticut. You might remember from my post last year about indoor gardening with terrariums that I’m a big fan of these small garden compositions. Tovah has published several books and lectures around the country. One of her recent books, The New Terrarium is a beautiful inspiration and Tovah is so encouraging of everyone young and old to give it a try. I agree!


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