Stuff I see, which you might not.

New York books and things 

I love New York. I don’t have the t-shirt or mug or hat with that message plastered on it, but I really do heart New York. So many amazing things to see and do and watch and eat and drink, but today I wanted to tell you about a book shop (book store, if you prefer). It’s called Book Culture, and it’s brilliant. 

But first, here’s Central Park under snow this week…

Anyway, my favourite link in the Book Culture chain is the store on Columbus. If you’re in town, it’s a great place to look around and spent some quality time with books and gifts and trinkets and cool things. Even if you’re the fussiest fuss-pot, or if you’re looking for a gift for said fussiest fuss-pot, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something (or things) here.

I was lucky enough to visit again this week, and wanted to share a couple of examples of their awesomeness with you: a blind date with a book; and a beautiful desk with stationery and encouragement to sit down, relax, and write a letter. 

The “Blind Date with a book” table is full of different novels wrapped in brown paper. On each mysterious package is a note that helps you choose the best match for your date: with a list of three other novels (if you liked them, you’ll like this book too). Like an old-fashioned book match making service / lucky dip. Love it. 

And then there’s this desk, with a note encouraging letter writers to sit, write, and have their letter posted by the good people of Book Culture. With nearly 2,000 letters sent from this very spot, it’s clearly helping to rekindle the art of letter writing. And they have included some political addresses, but you could also write to your granny, kindergarten teacher, or boy next door. (Or anyone else.) Such a great idea.

And now here’s the city lit with a few touches of green on St Patrick’s Day. (The beautiful view is from the fab Top of the Rock experience.) Just because.

‘Til next time, NYC. Love ya.

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Village oasis

On Friday, I met my lovely friend Sophie for lunch in NYC. Soph and I used to work together, joining our professional services firm on the same day around six years ago. Fortunately, we have remained friends long after our interesting challenges at that place were over. (But those days will be a chapter in my book one day: the working title for that section, “Mon Dieu! Surviving the GFC and a crazy French Canadian boss”.)

Anyways, Soph is now living and working in New York, so it was great to get the chance to catch up while I’m in town. We met at a great little restaurant, Rosemary’s, near Soph’s home in the West Village. (Not that this is a food blog, but I definitely recommend Rosemary’s for a casual meal – they even have a rooftop garden that supplies some of their delicious fresh ingredients.)

[Image from rosemarysnyc.com]

I arrived early, so spent time wandering around the Village and discovered an amazing oasis amidst the bustle of the busy city, where sounds of sirens, car horns and construction can be kinda overwhelming. This magical place was filled with the sounds of birds, insects and quiet chatter (plus one man talking loudly on his phone for a loooong time). Turns out it’s also the site of Miranda and Steve’s wedding in Sex and the City. And normal people can get married there too, just fyi.    

 Jefferson Market Garden. An amazing place, staffed by volunteers, and well worth a visit if you’re in town – a perfect spot to take a break, take a breath, and enjoy this oasis in the Village.


I love the Humans

It’s the week leading up to Valentine’s Day and, whatever your status or your take on the whole festival, it’s a good chance to think about what we love. Whether that’s people, furry friends, places, foods, languages, brands, weather, hobbies, or even shoes. Or weird stuff, like those people on My Strange Addiction who love eating the synthetic filling in couches or love their car (as in, really love their car) or love their teddy bears as if they were children. (If you don’t believe me, you can check out the stories on the show’s website here.)

Anyways, this week I’ll be posting about some of the things that I love. Today, it’s the incomparable Humans of New York.

Image from the Humans of New York Facebook page here.

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

It’s more than a blog and a book and a community – I’d say that it’s a public service. When I first encountered it, I was hooked. With a snap and a few lines from someone out and about in NYC, you get an incredible insight into their life – sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes hopeful, sometimes heartbreaking. For a fanatical people-watcher like me, it’s gold.

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

Brandon Stanton is the man behind the Humans (well, technically he’s behind the camera in front of the Humans). What started as a ‘photographic census’ of NYC grew into a hugely popular blog and it’s now even bigger thanks to Facebook (the page has almost 3 million likes). There’s also a book of HONY photos and quotes that you can buy.

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

These are just a selection of some of my recent favourites. If you are on Facebook, I strongly suggest that you get on board with Humans of New York. You can also check out the book here and the blog here. I LOVE IT!

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A Skateboarding Dog in Central Park

Because, why not? My cousin in New York sent me this video, recorded by a friend of hers in Central Park a few evenings ago. Look at how many people are happy and excited about this spectacle – there just aren’t enough skateboarding dogs in this world, I tell you.


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.


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!


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.


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.


Kids Draw The News

There is a section of the New York Times called ‘Kids Draw The News’, which pretty much does what it says on the tin – kids from around the USA (and sometimes even other countries) are invited to submit a drawing to tell the story of a particular news topic. As is often the case with pictures drawn by kids, there are some very funny and very clever and very wacky results. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about…

An excerpt from an article last month: Swarms of honeybees seem to be everywhere in New York City these days — on cars, on trees, outside restaurants — as fast-growing colonies take off in search of new homes. As illustrated by the kids who made a big effort:


As illustrated by the kid who was maybe being forced to enter by an eager Mom and Dad:

Also from last month, an article about NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to limit the availability of giant serves of soda: Because way too many New Yorkers of all ages are overweight, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wants to make it illegal to sell large sugary drinks in restaurants, movie theaters, delis and some other places.  From the pens and pencils of babes:


And from a kid whose parents maybe need to cut him off from tv shows like NCIS and Law & Order:

As an HR person, I can’t help but think that ad agencies should consider signing up some of these kids sooner rather than later. And I am now imagining a newspaper with kids’ drawings to accompany the stories, rather than shocking photos. Or maybe even using kids’ drawings instead of some of the news stories. Somehow, they get to the point and make you smile at the same time – would love to get their take on issues in politics and the environment. Oh, and the real story behind the breakup of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, of course.

You can check out the ‘Kids Draw The News’ section of the New York Times online here.