everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Good night, New York

So we all know that it’s the city that never sleeps. And while it is not sleeping, it is also the city that is beautifully lit – especially at this time of year. Here are some pics from New York City in the night time, when the winter chill has me zipping my jacket up past my chin and hurriedly snapping photos so I can put my warm gloves back on. (That may explain why some of these are a little blurry!)

Good night, Time Warner Center. I couldn’t really catch your beautiful colour-changing lights here, but you know you’re gorgeous. And you’re one of my favourite places to soak up the hustle & bustle of NYC.

Good night, random festively dressed hotel on Central Park. You look very pretty. And kind of like you’re wearing a fairy light witch’s hat…

Good night, Public Library. You are such a beautiful building and you look very cool with your fancy coloured lights.

Good night, Harry Winston. Your festive lights look as lovely as the jewellery that you sell. Like very classy diamond accessories for your building, as it were.

Good night, Buckyball. You’re a fabulous colour-changing installation at Madison Square Park and you’ve even brought your own ‘zero gravity’ curved benches, so that viewers can lie back and marvel at your cleverness. And you make the wait for burgers at the Shake Shack much more fun.

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Give thanks for delicious food

Last week, I was very lucky to be able to share Thanksgiving with my American family and some of their friends. It was fabulous. Here are some pics of the food highlights (although I didn’t take nearly enough photos – I didn’t want to seem like a tourist snapping anything and everything at the dinner table)…There were three kinds of pies (and a cheesecake) for dessert. I repeat, three kinds of pies. Heaven!

Chocolate turkeys made by some kids from the ‘hood.

Give thanks for homemade apple pie.

Give thanks for homemade cherry pie.

Give thanks for homemade pumpkin pie.

Give thanks for homemade cherry cheesecake.

Give thanks for vegetables covered in marshmallow & baked in the oven. Hooray for yams!

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The veritas about Harvard

I am a bit of a dork, so I was very excited to visit Harvard when I was staying in Boston. On another beautiful day in that great city, I walked across the Charles Bridge and over into Cambridge, arriving first in MIT territory. I stopped for breakfast and there were two chaps at the next table discussing something suitably smart – they were speaking English, but I still couldn’t really understand what they were talking about – one guy had written an algorithm or something something and the other guy was talking about trade secrets law across the USA something something. Being a gold star eavesdropper, I felt more clever just for listening in on their conversation.

One of the first-year student dorms. I think I would work harder just by living and studying in this beautiful environment.

 

It sounds hard to believe, but you can just feel the smarts in the air in Cambridge – lots of bright young things from around the world and all over the country fulfilling their dreams of studying with the best at MIT and Harvard. It’s a fantastic place to visit – am sure it would be great to study here, but perhaps that’s another story for another day.

I went on a walking tour led by a current undergrad student and he was full of interesting facts about the place. I was intrigued by the payment system they have: the cost they quote is around $54,000 per year (including tuition, books, accommodation, food etc). That sounds pretty horrific, but the guide assured us that relatively few people ever pay that much to attend Harvard – if your family’s combined income is less than $75k, you can attend FOR FREE. And if your family’s combined income is less than $180k, you’ll pay no more than 10% of that (ie, $18,000 PER YEAR). He didn’t go beyond that, but presumably they’re the people that pay a little closer to the quoted figure. What a great system, I reckon – if you’re smart enough to be accepted to Harvard, then your family’s financial status shouldn’t be a barrier to entry. Right on.

The guide showed us the gigantic and very impressive library – from the outside only, as you need a Harvard ID to actually enter the library. Apparently, they have an incredible collection of books stored in their underground stacks and there were certainly a lot of students heading to and from the building. I think the beauty of the buildings and surrounds must really help with study programs – especially when you’re studying alongside some of the brightest minds in the world. I can’t remember spending too much time in the library or hanging out in the grounds of Sydney Uni, but I’m not sure whether that says more about the Uni or more about me…

Had to snap this student leaving the library with a big bag of books. He looked like he might just be the next Bill Gates.

Apparently, it’s good luck to rub the foot of this statue of John Harvard (the 3rd most photographed statue in the USA). This tiger mother was pushing her two daughters to do so, even though the little one had to keep jumping and stretching to try and reach it. Awkward. Especially since there is a rumour that students often try to wee on that part of the statue as a college prank.

And, last but not least, is it just me…or was DONALD SUTHERLAND on my tour of Harvard?

Dear Harvard, in one form or another, I really do hope I’ll be back. (If only I could have ended with a Donald Sutherland line rather than an Arnie line, but I’m not really that familiar with his work – I really should have asked him while I had the chance.)

 

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Getting close to JFK in Boston

OK, I’ll admit it – I’m a bit of a Kennedy nut. I own a lot of books about them and find that whole dynasty fascinating. Although, to put my cards on the table, I’m a much bigger fan of Robert Kennedy than JFK. Bobby wasn’t the pin-up boy of the clan, but from what we know of him, he was a really good man. Whatever your personal opinion of them as individuals, there is no doubt that they were a pretty incredible family. Descendants of Irish Catholic immigrants made good – really good, if you rate the election of the youngest-ever US President as a success. And the youngest-ever US Attorney General (Bobby).

Here it is…And that sky is not PhotoShopped, I promise.

When you add it all up, you can see how the Kennedys have been the fodder for so many books and films and telemovies (argh, Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy): a father and three brothers reaching very senior levels in US politics, tons of children, some very interesting women who were born into or married into the family, significant controversies & scandals & tragedies. Not to mention Marilyn Monroe, some major moments in US history, their Catholic faith, a super-stylish First Lady and a domineering dad. Anyways, lots of stories to tell from before, during and after JFK’s presidency and so I was super excited to visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston – it was #1 on my itinerary.

The lobby, with stunning views of the ocean & the city in the distance.

The Museum was outstanding and even better than I’d hoped – in a beautiful location, with incredible attention to small details and a great collection of memorabilia. Starting with a movie (in a theatre, if you don’t mind) to provide some background on the early years of JFK, in his own words, then moving through brilliantly set up exhibits depicting the election, life in the 60s, the inauguration (with seats set up so you can watch the whole thing on a big screen – since it was a freezing cold day back then, this is a much more comfortable way to see it), the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination.

Yep, that’s the view from the lobby. Sorry the iPhone pic is a bit wonky looking.

There was a room dedicated to the too-often-overlooked Bobby Kennedy and a room with more info on others in the family. So interesting – even if you’re not a Kennedy nut, there’s enough personal material, video footage and realistic room settings to keep your attention.

The giant flag hanging from the glass atrium in the lobby.

And I was lucky to strike a new addition – a Jackie Kennedy exhibit, including quotes from interviews she gave to a family friend in her latter years, personal video footage and photos, dresses and amazing gifts from leaders all over the world. Incredible stuff.

Recreating the excitement of the election.

Campaign posters

Anyways, I’m mindful that this might be like re-telling a dream, which is always more fun if you actually witnessed it first hand. So, I’ll stop now. But please make sure that you add this to your itinerary if you’re in Boston!

The Kennedy Clan.

And, last but not least, a wall-sized version of my favourite photo of JFK & RFK. I would totes love this in my home.

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More pics from Boston

Here are some more pics from my time in Boston. It’s such a great town – easy to walk around, lots of history, lots of Kennedy-related places, lots of Irishness, beautiful parks and water, stunning architecture, Harvard & MIT, a relaxed vibe and friendly people. Yay for Boston, I say – I love it!

A beautiful day at the State House – the dome of this capitol building is golden as presidents (three, I think) have come from this state. Just trying to save you some money on a guided tour, folks.

Old City Hall, Boston.

Thinking frog at the Frog Pond in Boston Common. He’s watching over the ice skating rink, which has just opened up for the winter.

The fairly creepy Granary Burying Ground, with graves dating back to 1660. The late afternoon light and the cold mist made it pretty spooky.

Most of the gravestones had this image carved (or whatever the right word is) into the top of them. Eeeeeek!

And then some of the gravestones had something that looked a little more like an alien or a light bulb with a face…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here too.

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Beautiful Boston

This is my first visit to Boston. And I love it. The weather has been perfect – beautiful blue skies, sunny days and really cold. It’s great weather for walking around all day, but the chilliness gets a bit biting at night. Actually, it starts getting a bit too cold to be fun in the afternoon – it’s now starting to get dark around 3pm. Here are some pics from Boston’s Public Garden & the famous Boston Common – two stunning parks that live side-by-side here in the middle of the city. A lot of the trees have already lost their autumn colours, but there are still lots of reds and yellows brightening up the parks.

Afternoon in the Public Garden.

Lagoon in the Public Garden.

Giant trees in the Public Garden.

Love your work, Boston.

Boston Common

Boston Common again. I took about a thousand pictures, but tried to limit them for this post.

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New York, New York

Here are some more pics from my New York days – a range of everyday (or not so everyday) sparks that caught my eye as I wandered around.

An important discovery – Trader Joe’s chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

The best toy shop in the world. The best.

You can even adopt a baby at FAO Schwarz. The staff in this area wear white coats, like all good dolly doctors should.

Oh, the things you can do with duct tape…

So, I found this amazing. And other people were taking photos in the Macy’s bathroom too. That’s the tap in the middle, the soap on the right…and the hand dryer on the left.

Serious table tennis players in Bryant Park.

And in upstate New York, a cool way for kids to travel (and be distracted) during the weekly grocery shopping trip…

It’s a drive thru kinda country. This is a drive thru bank in upstate New York – ATM on the left, deposits & human (voice) interaction on the right.

And if you’re tired of your Snuggie, maybe it’s time for a Footsy – the throw that’s a treat for your feet!

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New York’s finest fro-yo

Really, I just like how people say fro-yo: a much cooler way to say frozen yoghurt, making it sound edgier and not at all like the low-fat alternative to ice cream. There are a few competing fro-yo chains here, but my cousin took me to the newest (and, according to most of the locals, the best) addition to the fro-yo scene here in NYC. It’s called 16 Handles, so can only presume they’re Molly Ringwald fans. Either that, or they are just very literal folk – there did appear to be 16 flavours of fro-yo.

I’ll let the creators explain what it’s all about, this “hands-on revolution”: 16 HANDLES is mixing things up and at the center of our frozen playground is you: an uncontainable, independent champion of your own taste. More of this, less of that—you want frozen yogurt your way and we’re all about it. With 16 rockin’ kosher certified flavors on tap daily, we provide you with a twisted canvas, your own fat-free backdrop of calcium, protein and probiotic goodness. At our mammoth toppings bar, you’ll find a world of possibilities, from wholesome berries to decadent sauces, that you handcraft into something uniquely yours. Welcome to the hands-on revolution.

Some of the 16 handles of flavours (and one of the topping bars).

Basically, you get a cup and fill it with whatever flavours you like by pulling the handles. Then, you can go to the topping bars and add whatever toppings you like – healthy things like fruits and nuts; or badder things like candy corn, peanut butter cups and gummi bears. It’s pretty much what I imagine heaven to be like at dessert time, to be honest (although with ice cream handles, rather than fro-yo).

Some of the handles – I tried peanut butter, apple pie, coffee and birthday cake. I could only actually taste the apple pie.

The fruit topping bar. I did take some maraschino cherries and chopped almonds.

I promise that I only took little chocolate-covered peanut butter cups from here. And only because they matched the peanut butter fro-yo, of course.

My creation.

So, the verdict: the consistency was fantastic and I really like the whole self-service concept and especially the topping bars. But the flavours weren’t strong, with the exception of the apple pie – which is maybe why they offer so many different toppings, so you can add flavour to the otherwise fairly tasteless low-fat fro-yo. Although that probably defeats the purpose, I guess. Anyways, I liked it and would definitely return, although the weather is starting to get chillier now so it feels more like time for ho-cho (that’s my cool new word for hot chocolate) rather than fro-yo.

The end.

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A sunny day in New York

I have a few things that I do when I come here – traditions, if you will. Here are some of the things. I like to go to Starbucks and get a seasonal flavoured drink (with whipped cream, as I’m on holidays) – yesterday I tried the Peppermint Mocha, it was very tasty. Today I may try the Gingerbread Latte. I like to eat at a diner, because it reminds me of American TV shows from when I was little and I really love the way they come around and re-fill your coffee, just like on Happy Days. I like to walk and walk and walk and put off catching the subway for as long as possible – this way I can (almost) justify the Starbucks and the diner food and the Ben & Jerry’s and the chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels. And stuff like that.

A sunny day at Rockefeller Center.

Our favourite diner in NYC is called The Red Flame – it’s around Times Square and it is just what I think a diner should be: reasonably priced, good food, nice staff, pies for dessert and lots of booths. Though on this visit, I am having some troubles with The Red Flame. I had the great idea of buying one of their caps for my brother (who also loves this diner) as a Christmas present. The staff all wear them, so I figured they probably had a stash out the back and they’d sell me one for $20 or something. Alas, they are protecting their hats for their workers – they will not let me buy one. So, it’s become a challenge for my holiday now – I need to get one of those hats. My plan at this stage is to either (1) get a job there, or (2) take one off the head of the waiter who looks like the slowest runner (with the cleanest hair). I will keep you posted.

Diner & Coffee House, but not Hat Sellers.

Just a little sandwich at the diner.

The city is gearing up for Christmas – even though there’s still Thanksgiving to get through next week. There are crazy sales on everywhere, decorations are going up, the ice rinks are full of skaters and the Christmas markets are opening in the next week or two. It’s unseasonably warm here at the moment (not hot, obviously, but not too cold) and yesterday I saw some people walking around in t-shirts (and trousers). It’s an absolutely perfect time to be wandering around, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells (but trying to avoid the horsey smells around Central Park) of what would have to be my favourite city in the world.

I’m glad they pointed out these were dyed. Otherwise, I was seriously considering a trip to see the Mongolian cows.

OMG! I don’t have a calculator handy, but that seems like a GINORMOUS saving if you buy the fake bracelet, yes?

Getting the ice ready at Rockefeller Center.

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New York State of Mind

I’ve timed this trip really well, weather-wise, as I’ve been fortunate to miss ‘Frankenstorm’ Sandy and her follow-up act, Athena. There was some snow on the ground at JFK airport (courtesy of Athena), but it was neatly piled into frozen hills, rather than all over the runway. There are still people in New York without power (two weeks after the initial hit) and the nightly news shows heartbreaking pictures of a lot of homes and businesses damaged by flooding.

No real sign of it in the part of town that I’m in, though – the only real sign of the storms that I’ve seen so far has been the giant trees in Central Park that were uprooted and have been cut into pieces and cordoned off with police tape. It gives you an idea of how powerful the winds must have been – although, as a couple walked past behind me and looked at one huge upended tree, the lady said in a fairly nasty, disapproving voice, “Well, I can’t believe those roots were holding up that tree – look how shallow the roots are.” So maybe it was the trees’ fault, after all.

The weather has been beautiful – a nice chill in the air in the evenings, but sunny days that are perfect for walking around. Which is good, because I’ve discovered Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels. Here are some pics from my trip so far…

Really mild November weather, so lots of people out & about in Central Park.

All that remains of the snow storm in Central Park – kids were still trying to have fun with it, but failing as it’s now really just grey ice.

Nice tag line for the new Cinderella musical on Broadway.

Ah, Times Square. Daytime in the nighttime.

A whole world of M&Ms.

I know it’s a cliche, but I really LOVE this city.

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