Pecan Pie.. maybe next year

So Thanksgiving is officially over and we must now get busy preparing for the next big holiday — which, at least as far as my family and I are concerned happens to be Christmas. Funny that I should be writing about this exactly a month to the date.

My four-day weekend went rather well.  Quiet, eventful (meaning I accomplished a lot), but allow me to skip the “What I am Thankful” boiler plate post.  While I had done this in previous years, I am now taking on the mantra that we should be thankful all year round — and not more thankful on certain occasions than most.  Thanksgiving, after all, with all its trimmings, is a pagan holiday.  It is perhaps one of the only holiday besides the Fourth of July which is celebrated across all religions and races in this great country.  I do wish to declare that my next big project for Thanksgiving 2013 is to be able to bake Pecan Pie from scratch.  An absolute favorite of mine, I am trying to sparingly dive into a delicious full-sized pie delivered to me by FreshDirect today along with the rest of my groceries.  (Tip: Their Thanksgiving related goodies are all 50% off.  Grab your pie now!)

My signature leche flan gets better with each year, although I need to nail down the exact number of multipliers I need to do to produce enough llaneras of my famed flan.  I follow Nora Daza’s recipe with a slight twist, replacing the last cup of condensed milk with a cup of evaporated milk, and more lime zest than she recommends.  I actually went down to the city on Wednesday to drop off some with my former Millie, a Cuban by birth who swears by my flans as to-die-for.  Plus I had to get the usual haircut since my hair was literally getting all frumpy and out of control.

I also cooked the leche flan a while longer than usual to toast the top, and while I had hoped to make some calamansi ice cream (experimenting with some vanilla ice cream flavored by honey calamansi concentrate), I was too exhausted by the time I got on the bus for the trip home to stop by the grocery to pick up the pint of ice cream I had planned to get.  (Next time..)

I cooked through Thanksgiving preparing my usual Foolproof Standing Rib Roast courtesy of Paula Deen — never fails!  The great thing was that Angelo insisted and cooked the Apple Sausage stuffing I did from scratch which resulted in semi-cooked onions and a slight burn or two which my young chef took in stride.  Steamed veggies, potatoes au gratin (just the boxed variety) plus my macaroni salad and we were all set.  The wine was a perfect pairing to the beef and we sat down to have our feast.

The highlight of my weekend, though, was the trip into the city with my little guy on Black Friday.

He obliged me with my stop at Victoria’s Secret  on 34th street (free tote with qualifying purchase.. I couldn’t let THAT go by!) and then we walked to the Toys R’Us flagship store on Broadway and 44th in Times Square.  We spent a good hour or so there as he browsed the racks of action figures, and the unbelievable deals.   By the time we walked out, we were carrying a huge bag thanks to a two-box set at a total bargain price of $20 (and each box was priced regularly at between $30-40 each) — but my office was just a short walk away.  We deposited our things there and headed for our usual date at McDonald’s for lunch, but only because STK Out was closed.  I was looking forward to having Angelo sample their savory burger and absolutely heavenly truffle cheese fries — but that it was closed wasn’t a complete surprise considering half the city was on holiday.  (Well, the other half went to work like those working in the service industry like Alan.)

The Empire State BuildingFrom the office on 42nd, we walked to 36th, and then Angelo said, “It’s too early to go home.  I want to do something fun.”  We went back to Bryant Park 42nd and walked around to check out the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park.  There’s also the skating rink at Citi Pond (the ice skating rink running through to March 3 next year),  and while I knew he was itching to try and skate, I wasn’t.  I told him we’d have to wait for when his Dad was available to go with him because he wouldn’t be able to catch me if I fell.  My personal choice is to stay by the sidelines and watch and click away.  Besides, there was  a long line of would-be renters.  Entrance to the pond is free you’re okay if you have your own skates, or you can rent from the organizers.  There are also coaches available for those who want to learn (although I don’t know if coaching is for a fee), and a portion of the pond towards the center is cordoned off for younger and novice skaters.  The rink moves in a single direction and is policed by skate guards.  (What else?)

It was midday and I was really (for once) hoping he would tire of walking and tell me he wanted to go home.  Instead, he came up with the bright idea of heading out to Central Park.  “I haven’t been there for so long!” — and while I was afraid he’d give in to fatigue before we could head back to the bus stop to take the ride home, I thought the worst thing that could happen was I’d have to grab a cab.  So off we went.  Took the M7 up to the 80s and then walked.  And walked.  And walked.

My feet were ready to give in before the tyke’s, but I wasn’t about to be cowed.  He wanted to climb EVERY rock we came across, and it took some stern warnings to prevent him from walking up the taller and seemingly more steeply inclined rock formations — but I felt like I had to let him go and do it.   More so when we got to the Gill in the Ramble, a mini-forest in the forest that is Central Park.  We had been looking for the Conservatory Water hoping to rent a remote-controlled model sailboat, but alas I figured out on the way home we were on the wrong side of the park.  (I have always been more familiar with the attractions on the West Side than the far side.)

Where the stream flows through: Central Park, The Gill

We must’ve gone into three playgrounds in all as we went walking through the various areas, climbed atop a dozen rock formations, but we spent the longest time in this meandering rock formation with an actual flowing stream.  There were many children here when we arrived so I felt it was safe to let him go up.  Plus one of the Dads was actually going up and down — playing along with kids who were Angelo’s age as they went through their bit of forest in this concrete jungle.  And when everyone else had left, my boy begged me to stay a while longer, even trading it for the quest to find the rent-a-remote-controlled-model-sailboat portion of the park.  So I relented.

The view was magical.  They had stone benches at the foot of the stream as it joined the lake, and while I tried not to take my eyes off Angelo as he walked up and down the rocks holding a twig in one hand, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the view below.

The view from the Gill as the sun begins to set

By the time he agreed to leave, I was running after the last vestiges of light as the sun began to set.  The tricky thing being that the sun can run down and disappear on certain days, and there we were in the midst of a the Ramble.. The lights hadn’t turned on yet, but for all the boasting about the safety of NYC and its parks these days, there are still those one-off incidents when someone bumps into some bad luck, and I wasn’t about to risk that with an 8-year-old in tow.

We walked again and climbed more rocks and took more beautiful pictures.

Central Park as the sun was setting

The boy was exhausted but beaming, and still begging to stay.  Even when the sun was already in the horizon, ready to bid the city goodnight, and the lamp posts of Central Park turned on in unison.

My boy amazed by the rocks of Central Park

It was well worth all the walking and the time in the cold.  This on a day when I decided to forego the leggings under the jeans thinking I wasn’t going to stay outdoors long anyway.  Lesson learned: never brave the cold under-dressed.

I finally get to chalk off one of my “to-dos” on my list — Central Park, and I actually intend to go back, hopefully before the last hints of fall disappears into winter.  I am sure Angelo will insist on going with me.  There aren’t many opportunities to do this — but I have promised to bring him back to Central Park in the spring.

It was a most heartwarming date with my little guy.  He’s grown so much.  I could see the priceless smile on his face — I felt like a real rock star in his eyes.  I wanted to write there and then — to capture the moment in words.  But that would’ve distracted me from enjoying watching him figure out ways and means to go up and down the rocks.. and see him flash me a smile every now and then.  So I folded my arms and hugged myself, tucked my scarf as high up my neck as I could, and I didn’t let the cold get to me.

He napped on the bus ride from the park to my street Midtown.  By the time we got off to grab what we had left in the office, he was re-energized.  I got some treats from the shops in the park and he tried some Kettle Corn NYC, then we hopped on the bus home.  I hugged him close to me as he dozed off again.. smiling.

It was, indeed, a happy, happy Thanksgiving.