Category Archives: Events

Re Opening Party at Brooklyn Collective

So, way back before the long summer hiatus, I wrote about the Brooklyn Collective  moving locations into its very own sprawling 1,500 square foot  digs complete with artists’ studio space and room enough to run classes. Well, the space is open and to celebrate, they’re having a re-opening party! Collective parties are always fun and packed, so go and have a complimentary cocktail, browse a whole bunch of new pieces from local artisans – there are about 30 new collections on show – and shop.

The party will be held Friday, October 1 between 7pm and 11pm at the new Brooklyn Collective ,  212 Columbia Street, between Union and Sackett Streets.

Becoming American

I have lived in the United States for some 12 years. I married a US Citizen, my children are US Citizens, so I figured it was about time I joined their club.

Friends kept warning me that “you never know what can happen” and the most compelling message from well-meaning advisors: “you should always have the same citizenship/s as your children.” Was I worried my husband might flee with the kids and deny me access, like those awful stories on the 10pm news? No, I am pretty comfortable in the thought that my children will stay glued to me for as long as they can, G*d bless them and their attachment issues.

But it did make sense not to worry about renewing my Green Card every so many years: and it did feel odd having to stand in a separate immigration line to my kids and husband when I travel with an Australian passport and they all have US passports. It’s the little things that made me to push ahead, plus, it seemed like only a little effort  and about $675 to make the application.

Now the fun begins. I have a couple of days to cram the history of the United States, from colonization to present day, with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the structure of government, wars spanning the 1800s and 1900s, a smattering of geography, a bunch of presidents and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in between.

I happen to know from watching late-night talk shows – Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segments come to mind – that the average American, born and schooled in this fine country, could NOT, even on a very good day and with clues, answer most of the test questions laid out in the printed 29-page Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the New Naturalization Test publication that citizenship candidates are handed after their fingerprinting and biometrics ‘meeting” with immigration officials.

My husband is a bit of a history buff and could answer most of the questions correctly, but I suspect he’s not the norm. Here is a sampling of the questions: how do you rate?

Who is Chief Justice of the United States now?

The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the US Constitution. Name one of the writers?

When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?

When was the Constitution written?

What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?

What territory did the US buy from France in 1803?

How many amendments does the Constitution have?

The House of Representatives has how many voting members? They are elected for how many years?

These are just a few of the questions that most people probably have to think about, just a little, lest the number get muddled of the memory is hazy. And I’m willing to bet many, many people wouldn’t even have a clue, but perhaps I am underselling the population. Either way, it’s a task for those thousands of people who, every year, choose to pledge loyalty to the United States, many who speak or read little English and probably weren’t taught about the Civil War in school, and haven’t heard Star Spangled Banner at a hundred baseball games.

I’ll admit, I plan to study the book before I go.

Failing the civics section of the test (it’s not multiple choice unfortunately) is not an option. There are 100 questions; I will be asked 10 and have to answer six right to “pass”. There is also an English writing and verbal test, which I hope not to worry about, given that English is my first language and writing is my living.

But hey, I am not getting cocky about any of this. One dear friend has already made it clear that I will be mocked mercilessly for years to come if I don’t walk out of my interview a citizen. I consider myself warned!

Lobster + Pool = Summer Salvation

The sweltering heat is killing me just like everyone else. I’ve spent a disproportionate number of hours with the AC running, much to my annoyance. But there are two things in particular that have given me solace this summer: the weekly lobster feasts at Rocky Sullivan’s pub in Red Hook and the Double-D pool.

Lobster no doubt speaks for itself. What’s not to love about a fresh Maine lobster cooked by the Red Hook Lobster Pound crew and dished up with corn, a teeny container of coleslaw or potato salad, a bib and a mound of napkins for cleanup – followed by a whoopie pie for dessert – all for $25. With a Sixpoint Ale at hand and a table of friends outside on Rocky’s sprawling rooftop you really can’t go wrong. This weekly dinner – lobsters are Friday and Saturday nights only – are a great way to get together with people and include the kids. Who doesn’t like lobster- especially when you can crack and suck and gnaw out in the open without worrying too much about the clean up?

The other almost daily destination that has saved many a scorching day is the local pool. Not some fancy country club or beach house out East, but a New York City public pool, one that came distressingly close to being closed because of budget cuts before the swim season even started this year. Thankfully Mayor Bloomberg and co had the sense to keep open the Double D, so named because of its location between Douglass and Degraw Streets, and Nevins Street and Third Avenue. Its dubious position, nestled amongst derelict industrial buildings and just across the Gowanus Canal, has helped keep it a bit of a secret watering hole for as long as I’ve lived in Carroll Gardens.

The first time I took my children there a summer ago, we embarked on an adventure, strolling down the street in just our swimsuits and towels, past the old men huddled outside C-Town and across not-so-salubrious streets into something of a wasteland butting the Gowanus, the now Superfund site-and aspiring Venice of Brooklyn. The pool is not in the prettiest spot, and it’s not easy to find unless you’re willing to venture outside your usual zone. The rigid rules that go with a City pool can also deter a lot of people – from only allowing white tees and hats to banning cell phones in the pool area. But traveling light (swimsuit, towel, that’s it) and going early all make it worthwhile. It really is a neighborhood oasis.

We’ve been to the pool at least every second day since school ended, sometimes for a full four-hour session and other days for just a quick dip before dinner. It’s worth knowing that children can have a free, school-style lunch, too, if you are there through lunch hours. It’s usually a sandwich, fruit and a carton of chocolate milk – not especially appetizing, but enough to tide waterlogged children over until they get home.

The Double-D pool is open daily until Labor Day. There are two swim sessions: 11am-3pm and 4pm -7pm. For pool rules and information ring 718 625 3268.

Rocky Sullivan’s is at 34 Van Dyke Street, at Dwight Street, 718 246 8050. If you can’t make it to Rockys but still want lobster, head to the Red Hook Lobster Pound at 284 Van Brunt Street, 646 326 7650.

Comings + Goings

A sign in the window at shuttered Cube 63 on 234 Court Street announces that another eatery, Brucie, is coming soon. No further details yet.

Strong Place gastropub has just opened (July 26) in the old Shakespeare’s Sister location at 270 Court Street. The team at Cobble Hill’s Bocca Lupo is behind the new spot, which boasts a seafood-meat rich menu and some 24 beers on tap. Word is a garden area is planned as well, possibly through September.

On Smith Street, there is a new Mediterranean-style restaurant in the works, adjacent the Big Apple deli that has just shutdown after a speedy “buy one, get one free” clearance sale.

This is especially annoying since it’s where my husband has long picked up icecream for me on his way home from work late at night, and it was really the only well-stocked deli on the stretch between the subway station on Warren Street  and Degraw Street that opened late.

Across the way at 208 Smith there is another casualty. Rocketship – the geeky comic/anime store is finally gone for good after a string of lengthy, unexplained closures signaled something was wrong in the land of graphic novels. It’s a shame – my 7 year-old-son loved stopping in there on weekends to choose some quirky book with great drawings and impossibly small print.

Streuth! Crikey! WTF? To Aussie National Costume

Arghhhh ... my eyes!

When  you  switch on the TV come August 23 to watch the Miss Universe pageant, which I know you all will, please disregard this crazed ensemble on Australia’s entrant. High-heeled Ugg boots, a sheepskin shrug and a cutout cossie, that’s a swimsuit in Oz-speak: Is this really worthy of a national fashion identity?

Please, Ugg boots shouldn’t be seen outside of your cold apartment in the dead of winter, or at least that’s my take on them, let alone adorned with heels and on a catwalk. Hideous. But, what do I know. Jesinta Campbell, the 18-year-old Aussie pageant queen, is chuffed with the costume, which she will wear to represent the land down under in the national costume section of the contest. “Isn’t it incredible,” Campbell said when revealing the outfit, which a-la-pageant style also reveals plenty of her.

Well, yes Jesinta, it is incredible, in the same way that the Crocodile Dundee stereotype was incredible, and horribly embarrassing. The costume was designed by Sydney’s Natasha Dwyer who works under the Arthur Ave label, and the swimsuit bares a design hand-painted by an Aboriginal artist. To be fair, I actually don’t loathe the multi-layered skirt, but I am not sure how it really speaks to Australia. Perhaps the color palette is reflective of the earthy reds and ochres of the landscape, and common in indigenous art. Or perhaps Jesinta is headed to Rio for Carnival after her Las Vegas jaunt?

Please, before you judge Australian fashion sense based on this national garb,  think Sass & Bide,  Lisa Ho, Peter Morrissey, Richard Tyler, Collette Dinnigan, Carla Zampatti – there are plenty of great designers to emerge over the years, and they really are incredible. Oh and feel free to smack me silly if heeled Ugg boots catch on!

Brooklyn Collective Gets Big New Digs:General Nightmare Shutters

There’s movement on Columbia Street again.  Brooklyn Collective  is moving to its own digs and expanding to include artists’ studio space and classes in cool stuff like sewing and silk screening.

The Collective had been in a space at the back of vintage furniture store General Nightmare , which is shuttering once and for all.

While demand for pricey antiques may be waning enough to send the General packing, the cry for local handmade goods continues to thrive on the increasingly popular Columbia Street Waterfront, prompting the Collective to shift into a 1,500sq ft space that will open August 1.

The Brooklyn Collective was founded in 2004 by locals Rachel Goldberg and Tessa Phillips, jewelry and fashion designers respectively, as a way to give other artists a place to display and sell their work. Member artists share the rent, hence the idea of it being a “collective”, and get to keep 100% of all profits from any of their creations sold.

The Collective is closed through July and will reopen next month at 212 Columbia Street, next to Mazzat restaurant. As part of the expansion, the Collective will be offering studio space to local artists and classes, including sewing, photography, drawing, metal smithing and silk screening. Look out for a schedule in September.

Brooklyn Collective parties are always fun, so stay tuned too for info about an opening event.

Meantime, mainstay General Nightmare  at 196 Columbia is calling it quits, with just a scrappy note in the window advertising a closing down sale to get rid of the last of the furniture before turning out the lights.

The store, once cluttered with antiques and mid-century treasures, had long been a favored hunting ground for locals and visitors alike in search of something obscure or specific.

My husband and I have scoured the basement on occasion in search of Eames chairs and ottomans. It was like slipping down the rabbit hole into a crazy garage sale.

General Nightmare survived and grew even after the death in 2005 of its well-known owner and Columbia Street pioneer Barry Jetter, with partners taking over and sprucing the place up a bit.

But even as the Columbia Street Waterfront is “discovered” almost weekly by one publication or another, and new spots move into the neighborhood, ailing demand for antiques and rental drama apparently encouraged the closure.

Enough About The Kids, Let’s Get Coffee!

So it’s the last day of school, the children stream out all hot and sticky and relieved to have long, lazing weeks ahead. We, their mothers, dig deep in their backpacks for the report card with that crucial number scrawled at the bottom: the number of the class our children will enter the following school year.

And then it begins: “What class did you get? Who else is in there? Who is teaching it?  Are they good, bad? What’s the scoop?.”  This goes on out front of the school and carries on through the stroll to the after-school hangout, the park, and then via email in the hours long after backpacks have been emptied and schedules put aside for a few months.

If you’re lucky, a crafty parent will gather all the class info and post it in a spreadsheet for everyone to peruse and add to. It’s in our natures I guess to want to know it all, right away. Who wants to walk into class in September and be surprised?

Do the kids care too? Not so much.

But we the parents, from the over-hyped-up helicopters to chilled out, work it out yourself parenters do care who our children proceed with, and who will lead them. We care for them, and for ourselves.

What adults will be tossed into the class boat with us for 180 days; who will we work alongside to fund-raise and feed and entertain our kids? Never mind all those hours spent sitting on a park bench watching little ones play, or killing time when they are dropped at a birthday party, or grabbing a quick meal before a school function.

At the end of the day, what really matters is that our children have great teachers and at least one buddy to help them adjust to the next year. But for the parents, it’s social too. I am as guilty as anyone of wanting to hang with my posse of fun mamas and dads; sipping wine at birthday party picnics, and chatting about life beyond our children, because we like each other – not because we have nothing else to say.

Having had some really terrific classes the past few years, I can vouch for how much it helps when the parents gel. It probably helps the teachers too when there is a cohesive parent group, and if the parents and teachers are happy, shouldn’t it follow that the children will benefit?

Afterall, it’s all about the children. Isn’t it? And if anyone’s wondering:  WE are in 2-3 and K2 next year!

Opa! It’s Greek Festival Time Again


It’s that time of the year again when I acknowledge my Greek heritage and schlep the family to the Sts. Constantine and Helen Cathedral in downtown Brooklyn for some fabulous food.

It’s all about the lamb and potatoes, sticky Greek baklava and kataifi and the loukoumades dripping with syrup, made by tireless Greek mothers and grandmothers lurking in our community. They work hard through this festival, feeding masses of Greeks and non-Greeks alike.

Every year, as I am noshing on lamb and missing my own mother and grandmother’s cooking, I vow to go to church more and become a part of Brooklyn’s Greek community. And then another year rolls by and so it goes. Thank goodness for the annual festival to serve as a reminder to me of where I came from – before the Australia and New York parts that is.

Oh, and if the Greek food and dancing doesn’t lure you, there are carnival rides and sideshows to captivate the kids and empty your pockets too.

The festival is at 64 Schermerhorn St. until June 13. It opens weekdays at 11am, and 1pm  Saturday until late, and Sunday 1pm to 4pm.

Lines, Lines + More Lines at DVF Sale

I am not usually one to give up but the lines at the DVF sample sale did me in today.

Queueing along Fifth ...

I was about 15 shoppers away from getting through that hallowed door when the cold (yep it was cold standing in the shade all that time) and the seemingly-endless wait made me farewell the new friends I braved the line with for almost one-and-a-half hours, and head elsewhere.

I arrived right on 9am to find a line stretching along Fifth Ave. and around the corner to about half-way down 28thSt.  There were at least 200 women at that stage, all around size 2-to-4, sipping coffee, trawling the Internet and making phone calls; it was a friendly, if antsy scene as we took bets on how long it would be before we could even see the door. Some half-hour later, I made it from 28th onto the Fifth Ave. line, and then it took another 30 minutes to the front of that queue, at which point a suited young man with one arm in a sling, ushered us forward to the line outside the door. I gave it 30 minutes or so there before calling it a day.

almost there, just one more line ...

I had places to be and children to collect from school. I figured by the time I got through the bag check, looked around and possibly got on another killer line to pay, my children would be en route to a police station with child protection workers!

Will I try again? Maybe. But for now I can report that the sale seemed to be some kind of black hole, people were let in – hundreds and hundreds of them – but they came out in dribs and drabs, and some people never seemed to make it out.

Mind you, pretty much everyone coming out did have a large white bag, so there was some shopping going on. A lot of people were pulling handbags from their shopping, showing that the demand for DVF accessories was alive and well.

I’d love to give you tips on the best time to go, but frankly, I’m not sure that there is a good time. Certainly not first thing in morning when people stop-by on the way to work. And avoid bringing a large bag that will have to be checked, if you want to save time. Someone in line also suggested having cash, to cut the credit card queue.

The sale is at 260 Fifth Ave. between 28th and 29th streets. It continues Wednesday 10am to 8pm, Thursday 10am to 7pm and Friday 9am to 3pm. 

It’s a DVF Wrap! 75%-Off Sample Sale

DVF's Hesta Dress in Sand Palms

I feel like a wrap dress is something everyone should have in the closet: Diane von Furstenburg’s iconic wraps are classic, easy-to-wear and and on sale this week.

Get DVF’s boldly patterned summer styles for up to 75 percent off at the sample sale beginning tomorrow, Tuesday June 8. Signature silk jersey wraps that can take you from work to a wedding, cocktails to dinner, are marked around $150, down from $325. And swim cover-ups, including bright kaftans ideal poolside or at the beach, are $100 from $250.

I’ll be scouring the racks in search of the Hesta dress pictured left, or anything similarly chic. The sale opens to the public from 9am Tuesday to 6.30pm; Wednesday 10am to 8pm, Thursday 10am to 7pm and Friday 9am to 3pm. It’s at 260 Fifth Ave., between 28th and 29th streets.