Sunday, December 28, 2008

'Twas the night

Went to my cousin's house in Westchester for Christmas dinner.  It was cozy, and wee little Skippy was all over me, so I got puppy cuddles, and fur on my clothes.  :)


And then after all that coziness, today I headed out to Jersey City in a falling fog, a pervasive sea mist, dampness that goes through to the bone.

St Paul's Chapel near the PATH train to NJ at the WTC station.  A few hours later the fog had thickened so much we couldn't even see across the street.

Jason flew in from Houston and is staying with Chris in JC until the 31st, so I went to keep him company while we waited for Chris to arrive later.

I haven't seen him in exactly 4 years, so it was lovely to catch up and have a laugh face to face, I mean, we do talk regularly on the phone.  Also, as he is studying for his final flight simulator module in mid-January, we ran through the pre-flight and post takeoff checklists, with a huge poster of the cockpit draped on our laps.  Hehe, I was in the Captain's seat :)

The nothingness of sea fog

The Boardwalk in Jersey City.  It seems Manhattan and the entire Hudson River have disappeared!  You stand at the railing to look across the bay and see exactly...nothing!  It is a mist that hangs on your eyelashes.  You think you can blink it away, but it stays.

Also note the pile of frozen snow beside the lamp post, one of many dirty stubborn piles scattered across the city in random corners and in the middle of walkways.  Tomorrow, it will be rainy but even warmer than today (record 65F/19C) so surely there will be more melting.


When Chris arrived we went into Chinatown to the Malaysian restaurant with the awful service and delicious food that we stumbled upon when we went to dinner with Vera and her father in September.  

We ordered and shared, I do love sharing.  
Starters:  Indian roti with curry sauce, and fried calamari.
Mains:  Pad Thai and drunken chicken.

Jason loved the Pad Thai, which was indeed outstanding.  Now let me tell you about the drunken chicken.  Half a chicken steamed in rice wine, a ton of minced garlic, ginger, turmeric root, and I'm pretty sure the red things were goji berries (!) - it was deeeelicious, yummy, scrumptious, and I want it again soon.

Then we walked into Little Italy, which is actually being subsumed by Chinatown, for hot chocolate/coffee and pastries at the same place as last time, Cafe Roma.

It's funny, I used to do that in London, go to my favorite dim sum restaurant in Chinatown, then walk to Leicester Square for hot chocolate goodness at the Haagen Dasz Cafe.  Everyone who visited me in London did that routine - just ask Chris, and probably Vanessa too!  

Oh shoot, I forgot to take pics of the food tonight.  It's OK, Jason and Chris had me in stitches all evening.  I was laughing so hard I wanted to tell them to stop and let me breathe.  I think I had a year's worth of laughter in one go, and I'm set for more, since Jason will be here till Wednesday morning.  Usually I'm the one missing from our group, though they were all together in Houston last week.  Vanessa, we miss you!

Thank God for real, true friends.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all. Best wishes for you, your loved ones, family and friends.

With love,


Joyeux Noël

Feliz Navidad

Buon Natale

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Gleðileg Jól

Καλα Χριστούγεννα
Kala Christouyenna

Monday, December 22, 2008

In the wee hours

Yesterday, 4.18 AM

Tumble, crash, thud, and I was out of bed in a flash with my heart racing!

Alone in the house, for a moment I had to remind myself that my roomie had told me the place wasn't haunted and I didn't need the nightlight.

I couldn't face it at that hour, so I left it till the next day, picked up the smashed baubles and rehung the good ones, by which time roomie was back home so she vacuumed up the pine needles.  While she was doing so the tree fell again - on top of her.  We adjusted the base as best we could and it's standing once more, albeit with more lopsided decorations.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Frick and Friends

I know, I have about 3 memes to catch up with in the next few days!  :)

At the beginning of the week, it rained, which turned to sleet, which turned to wet snow.  
It stuck a little bit.

It would not have been nice if the wet roads had frozen, but at the most it settled, became slushy.  By Wednesday all was reduced to a falling mist which obscured the tops of buildings.  On Thursday, the sun was laser bright.

But today there was a snowstorm that had the city scrambling to salt the roads.  Like clockwork, half the neighborhood was out shoveling driveways and scraping the sidewalks because the snow turned to sleet which is fast becoming freezing rain as darkness falls.  Ooh, I think I just saw some winter lightning, yep, and there's the thunder.


Thursday, the day of falling mist, I went into town to meet fellow blogger Rick (oh
he of Palm Springs fame) for breakfast at the Waldorf-Astoria, which is the done thing, like tea at the Ritz.

A couple of jetsetters are we, to meet twice in the same year in two different world cities.  I enjoy this tradition and hope it continues.

Eggs Benedict seems to be the dish of choice for breakfast, but as I was not very hungry I had a bagel instead and now regret that decision because I am not likely to go back anytime soon.

The Waldorf-Astoria is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen.  Like the city of New York, it is full of Art Deco detail (the present incarnation of the W-A having been opened in 1931), so much that my eyes were overwhelmed and I would have taken photos of the corners of everything if I hadn't felt so self conscious about it.

The Waldorf-Astoria looms over St Bartholomew's 

So I made do with a quick shot of one of the elevator doors

...And a view of the Park Avenue (exterior) lobby.  The Main (interior) lobby was more like the heart:  darker and warmer, with an ezquisite central clock flanked by the Peacock Alley restaurant.

After breakfast, I wandered into St Bartholomew's for the midday Holy Eucharist but left before it started because the only people in there were two Polish women gossiping behind me, a businessman who went to the front to pray for a few minutes, and the permanent fixtures, a handful of snoring bums installed at the ends of the pews.  I suppose it would have been unchristian of the ladies at reception to turn them away.
Feeling unusually discouraged by the quietness I skipped the free Baroque Christmas concert too and re-emerged into the light of day to start my trek uptown.

This is when I like New York City - along the great Avenues - when I have my great impressionistic moments.  Looks like I'm more of a city girl than I'd thought.


I had told Rick I might visit the Frick Collection, and I was true to my word.  I walked 20 blocks uptown on Park Avenue and then cut across to Fifth, which took about half an hour and soon found myself at this neat little mansion/museum, former home of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick (protege of Andrew Carnegie).

Of all sources outside the collection's website, my longtime subscription The New York Social Diary has perhaps the best pictures of the interior along with a great deal of enlightening social column-style gossip on Mr Frick and his circle.

The Frick is one of the best private collections in America, containing lots of Renaissance bronze sculptures, a few pieces bequeathed by his contemporary John D Rockefeller, a number of Old Masters and medieval Italian panels, some works by Vermeer, Constable, and others I recognized as in:  "Oh, wow! I didn't know this was here."

I also greatly appreciated the small jewel-like Boucher Room (see NYSD), like a tiny and perfect ballroom: candy-toned Boucher wall panels and little Louis XV mechanical tables, complete with 17th century creaking parquet floor shipped from France.

Frick was not a great fan of James McNeill Whistler, yet these musically-themed pieces were perhaps my favorite pieces in the collection.  On a musical theme, L to R:

1 - Harmony in Pink and Grey:  Portrait of Lady Meux, 1881-82
2 - Arrangement in Brown and Black:  Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder, 1876-78
3 - Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink:  Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland, 1872-73
4 - Arrangement in Black and Gold:  Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac, 1891-92

Mr Frick's collection perfectly mirrors his simple personal tastes.  There is little violence, mostly serenity.  According to the video presentation in the Music Room, after a particularly harrowing day, Mr Frick might stroll through the darkened halls to his Gallery, turn on the light, and sit for an hour or more on one couch and then another, absorbing beauty into his soul.

Monday, December 15, 2008

City in the Morning

On Sunday morning I found myself in the city.  

In the early morning, Times Square is sort of unsettling because you know it is waiting for the nighttime, the darkness....

I did not know which way to turn the camera.  To my left was the Armed Services Recruitment Center, and to my right an NYPD station - both luminous boxes of colored flashing lights.

I decided to check out the Holiday Fair at Grand Central Station, so I walked the few blocks over to Park Avenue and 42nd Street.

Walking east along 41st Street, I looked up and saw this sight

Even closer, and here are Grand Central, the Hyatt Regency where I stayed this summer, and the Chrysler Building

A Christmas tree of cycling colored screens near the great hall at Grand Central

The most famous man in the world on a magazine rack at a bookstore where I hung out while waiting for the crepe stand to open so I could have a crepe suzette.

One of many letterboxes in the lower Dining Concourse.  At Grand Central, if it's not made of stone then it's made of brass - the metal of choice in this city.  I've included a Wiki link covering the creation and history of this, yet another astounding Beaux Arts landmark.  There is so much I could say but don't feel like turning this post into one of my infamous infoblogs, but I will drop one goodie, which is that two of Hitler's spies were foiled in a sabotage attempt underneath the station!

Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central, where the Holiday Fair was held.  Of course I was more taken by the architecture than the fair, which was predictably composed of many lovely stalls of expensive exquisite handmade baubles.

As I was already in town and it was a lovely mild day (48F/8C), I decided to walk down to 34th Street by Macy's Herald Square where I could catch the subway back to Brooklyn.  So here is the Empire State Building against a backdrop of altostratus clouds.


If you want to read the Flying Rant, click on YourEyesOnly.  It was up here for a few minutes but it may be safer elsewhere.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another go

This may surprise you - actually no it won't, you know me better than that - but I've been looking at jobs in the Washington DC Metro area for a couple of weeks now.  

I can see that New York is not going to give me the life I want and I don't have time to force the issue.  Before it turns into another London, I have decided to look at places with a lower cost of living and a different lifestyle.  

All the jobs that suit my mind are concentrated there.  Some of you may know that I've been wanting to go since college, and others may remember that before I left London, it was very high on my list.  I wish I'd gone waaaay before the elections though.

DC is not New York and it doesn't want to be, which really annoys the expat New Yorkers.  It's more conservative in style and habit.  I have never needed hipness or a vibe, whatever they mean.  

It has the feel of a smaller town and is in fact more compact, less populous, a bit slower.  A happy medium between Northeastern grit and Southern gentility, with the added bonus of colonial charm.  There is a different energy, too.  The energy of a population on a mission:  highly educated people from every state in the union and every country in the world with national and international interests.

....New blog titles?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Poor Mum

The day started off not so well with the news - a text from my mother - that she fell at work and was taken to hospital.  It appears she got stuck or tripped, fell on her head, and injured a lower limb.  So those of you who pray, please remember her.  Thank you :)

See, for the past couple of months she has had what seems to be a pinched thoracic nerve and couldn't walk properly on her right leg as well as having poor balance.  And now her left leg is in a cast.  I don't know the details because I think they turned her phone off after the first few messages, but my cousins, aunt and uncle are there for her.  Still, I feel pretty helpless and very terrible.  So instead of prostrating myself on the sofa I thought I'd come here.

Not only did she have a stiff right leg, but her ankles were very swollen for a few weeks.  Plus, during the trip to Canada she was recovering from a cold but as soon as she returned to London she was hit with a nasty chest infection and was put on two consecutive courses of powerful antibiotics.  Trying to open a bottle of cough medicine one night she cracked two crowns.  So for the two months she was off work, she spent going to the doctor for meds and a referral to the neurologist for her apparent nerve problem next week - at the same hospital she was admitted to today; the dentist for temporary additions to her existing bridge and a referral to a periodontist for implants, an appointment she may miss if she's laid up.

So now because she can't climb the stairs to her place, a social worker is going to see her and she may be given a ground floor flat or something.  I hope she doesn't have to quit work:  they have  trained her up only two years from retirement and she likes helping people (she works with special needs residents in a group home).  

I don't know what has happened!  Last summer when she joined me in London she was all fit and energetic and kept going on about how young she feels.  But since moving she has broken down a lot.  The cold grey weather has changed her diet from healthy organic grains, greens, and proteins, to more comforting foods including cream - but she is so well informed about food and supplements, I tell her she should be a dietitian.  She hasn't been able to afford the gym - but she used to be so good I would tell her she could teach classes.  She outspun all the young women in her spinning classes, and younger guys used to hit on her.  I call her condition Englanditis because in all my years growing up there, this is the kind of pattern that I would see with every woman over a certain age there, like clockwork.


But I am allowed to comfort myself.  I took a shower this afternoon with a selection of lovely things I picked up last week at TJ Maxx.  I may never shop at the pharmacy again now that TJ Maxx has expanded its exquisite toiletries section.

Pure & Basic comes out of California and doesn't even have a website, just a gmail address.  The gardenia and lavender smells gorgeous and leaves the skin feeling naturally soft, clean, and unstripped.  It doesn't foam, it pearlesces.

Beautao also comes from California but of this lot it is the product I would give up first.  Still, bamboo is all the rage at the moment which makes me happy because some types grow dizzyingly fast making them a very renewable resource, and it is a more eco friendly fiber to produce than cotton.  (If you want to learn more, click here.  I once spent hours on this site reading about all the others.)  I have some bamboo sleepwear, underwear, and a bamboo wraparound cardigan - oh, and soybean protein pajamas - I will show you if you want to see them sometime.

~H2O+ comes out of a lab in Chicago and seems to be a decent replacement for the increasingly rare Biotherm products I used to like years ago.  Of course I won't stop using Origins.

Finally, best of all:  Hush Rituals...unfortunately their website doesn't work and the postcode leads me to a business park in Chester, UK.  But the products leave my hair and skin feeling soft and smelling sweet; the scent still lingers in my hair which never happens once the conditioner is rinsed off, and it feels shiny and soft.  After I tried the first soap and lotion set I returned to the store and bought two more of everything else....but what will I do when I run out?

I love loove looove the clean cotton seed and white tea aroma of the soap, and the lotion continues the theme despite the addition of passion flower oil and red seaweed.  They smell like a smoother, more grown up version of the fresh white musk I used in my 20s.  My room spray is...guess what... Egyptian Cotton linen spray with white lily, jasmine, and woody balsam notes from Bed Bath and Beyond.

I seriously wish we had scratch n sniff screens.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Odd few days

Those of you on Facebook know I had a pizza incident but nothing more.

Brooklyn Pizza Pie - my undoing

Roomie and I ordered a veggie pizza on Friday night. I was expecting lots of melted cheese with a piece of broccoli on each and a sprinkling of spinach. But no, I opened the box and saw a jungle with undergrowth - every square millimeter was covered with green stuff an inch thick and the cheese was negligible. Shocking! The first few mouthfuls tasted fine, I felt righteous for eating broccoli (not usually my best green anyway because you never know what microbes are hiding between the florets), and there was fresh garlic on it, but I struggled to get halfway through the second slice. I may never eat broccoli again, and pizza will have to go a long way to win my affections back. Just the thought of that green stuff makes me queasy. So I had a rather unhappy tummy on Saturday and a little on Sunday too until I asked my roomie if she had any imodium - yes, ONE tablet left!

I thought the point of pizza was to eat melted cheese on a fairly thin crust, so next time that is what it will be. And if I have anything fancier it's going to be my old fave of Italian sausage and jalapeno pepper - the way I learned at CiCi's Pizza in Texas. Brooklynites are so fiercely proud of their "pizza pies" that you'd think it was invented here. Indeed, roomie had to give me a quick lesson in the local lingo before we ordered. The locals might call me a philistine if I order Papa John's in future (if there even is one in Bay Ridge) but I don't care.

I am fine now, but still haven't got my appetite back. Unfortunately today I felt precursor symptoms to - well, I hope I am not coming down with something. It is Arctic outside and when the air is cold and dry, viruses thrive. At first I thought I felt tired and buzzy because I was out in the cold this morning, or because I skipped breakfast, or because I carried heavy bags, but as the evening wears on I am growing suspicious...


Meantime, Captain America is in town this week for work, so we had dinner and a movie last night. Obviously couldn't face the subway again this evening but even the offer of a taxi up there couldn't get me to budge out of the house.

I did a little bit of shopping this morning and had a rare New York Moment looking at people rushing around wrapped up, their breath like wreathes of smoke, commuters mixed with tourists, all the bright screens of Times Square battling valiantly against a sunny sky, frozen puddles at the curb, yellow taxicabs crawling everywhere and the street vents streaming steam into the frigid air.


This weekend roomie and her friend put up the Christmas tree. I didn't join in because I was sleeping and feeling queasy, but also they're childhood friends and they know how to work this thing so I left them to it.

Nothing on the tree matches, but many ornaments are quirky, have a meaning, or are there for a reason. No doubt the Menorah under the coffee table will also go up for Chanukah :) She just likes Christmas trees too.


When I was out today I found an ornament and it is now on the tree in honor of my return to the USA. The base is engraved UNITED WE STAND. It is silver plated and the flag is filled with champleve enamel.

I love it not only because it is patriotic but the eagle reminds me of my 7th grade entry in the North Texas French club competition (my first year here). I made a poster: in the background, all the notable flags of the world and in the center, a majestic Golden Eagle, shoulders draped in the Stars and Stripes under the title
SERVE YOUR COUNTRY: Learn a foreign language.

It won first place. You know it was the eagle draped in the flag that did it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Odd n Ends

THE PUPPY, or Craig Ferguson's monologues

Last month, 3 days after the election, I was watching Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show on CBS.

He does a great opening monologue and the big topic of that week was "What dog will the Obamas choose?"

So Craig weighed in with:

The Obamas say they won't buy a puppy, they will rescue one. Now, when Barack Obama says he will rescue a puppy he doesn't mean he will just take it from the pound, he means he will take it from a burning building using his superpower of Hope. I don't know why Barack Obama is going to rescue a puppy. Many people think he could just make a puppy out of moonbeams and angel farts.
Here is a sample of the usual:


THE POET, or the East Village flaneur

No more than 16, he was so typical of the more artsy parts of this city.  A skinny kid with the clear skin, angular features and long legs that so often foreshadow a career in modeling. Lounging against the subway doors in his skinny jeans, retro sneakers, floppy sandy hair.  The cream pages of his leather journal filled with delicate handwriting. After a couple of stops created seats, he sat beside me counting his couplets and I glimpsed two lines:
Oh my love, my love, my love
Why do I (something something something) at your feet (etc.)

A delay on the N train held us at the platform and I could sense him watching people, taking in the details, noticing the world around him, and fidgeting because he was too cramped to express his creativity.  For a moment, he reminded me of me.  When the empty R train arrived, we both ran for it and he sat opposite me, scribbling away in his journal and flipping his hair until his stop came and he loped off.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

On Wednesday night I went up to stay with my cousin Ryan so that his sister Mandy and her family could pick us up Thursday on their way down to Long Island.  Mandy's brother in law and his wife live in Huntington.  They are dentists - he is from Guyana and she is from Brazil.

Is this confusing?

She usually has Thankgiving catered and it was delicious.  There were interesting Brazilian snacks - breaded balls of salted fish, breaded chicken balls, and the best one, beef meatballs made with bulgur wheat.  Now that's an addition to the mix I would have never thought of (usually breadcrumbs (too dry), grated potato (fairly moist), or water chestnut (juicy)).  Bulgur wheat doesn't exactly add moisture, but it does create an enjoyable texture, and there was a hint of mint.

Main course:  turkey that had been soaked for a couple of days in sugar water, very tender. Caesar salad, and a Brazilian ground chicken salad mixed with sliced green olives, raisins, diced apples, and topped with crispy fried potato sticks
Sides of sweet potato, seasoned rice, farina stuffing, and the nanny made shrimp lo mein.
Dessert included pumpkin pie, coconut custard pie, an assortment of luxury cookies, and a variety of Indian sweets made of milk/nuts, etc.

There was of course lashings of rose, red and white wines, and Moet & Chandon champagne.  No matter what the name, I still don't like champagne, and oddly enough neither does the host as he commented to me while collecting our empty flutes.

L-R: My second cousin Kristine, my cousin Mandy, another in-law's kid, Mandy's sis-in-law Monique and her son Danny(?)

Mandy, her daughters Kristine and Karissa, and her husband Cornel (son Kevin is missing, he was in the living room arguing politics with his uncles)

With my second cousin Karissa.  She is 13 now and so grown up and full of knowledge about anything you care to discuss.  But I still remember when she was a tiny baby and so cute with such a soft little voice, and my mother used to make whispery sounds in her ear to lull her to sleep...In fact, the first time I visited NYC that hot summer of 1995, Mandy was pregnant with her.  Her brother Kevin was 3 at the time and his brain worked faster than his little lispy mouth could talk, so all his information would come out in a jumble.  Or he would ask you a question and then impatiently answer it before you'd put your response together. :)


Monique's style is very warm and Mediterranean - everything has a Portuguese/Spanish/Italian authenticity, as though I'd been transported far from icy New York.  So of course I got caught up in light and color:

Champagne, flowers and light

Candle with solarize effect

Bright still life

Dark still life

I prefer the dark still life (looks more Old Master) but Karissa doubted that I wanted my crumpled napkin and her hands in it.  I should not have turned on the flash.  Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Michael Crichton

The ironic tale of how I unwittingly found Michael Crichton's successor on the same day he passed away.

At Toronto airport last month I decided to break my rule of "no more books" and buy something riveting to read on the plane back to NYC. I usually skim for any Michael Crichton book I haven't seen yet.  Not easy.  So I picked up a medical thriller called Cold Plague by Daniel Kalla, apparently a rising star in Canada. The moment one of the reviews on the back compared him  to Michael Crichton I was hooked.  I have been jealous of actually running out of Crichton's works so was hesitant to finish the ones I haven't read yet.  (Robin Cook is also good but hasn't captured me in the same way.)

I devoured the book in a day. Kalla's writing indeed rivals Crichton's in that as you turn the pages, you lose sight of the author, his words, his craft, and any trace of self consciousness on his part - you see only the characters and the story.  Look out for Daniel Kalla. He needs to break out of the Canadian market to keep us literary nerds enthralled for years.

The next morning, amid the post-election results, I was surprised and saddened to hear that Michael Crichton had lost his short battle with cancer. It's tragic when a doctor succumbs to disease, and the loss of a respected cultural talent is disappointing.  He was only in his 60s but has had a significant impact on popular culture over the past couple of decades, and in spite of Hollywood's depictions good or bad, his books are highly technical, educational, engrossing, and addictive.

I hope many other teenagers are introduced to his works as I was.  Too easy for them that most have been adapted into film (~21 so far).  In the spring of 1993, our 10th grade Biology teacher assigned us the book 
Jurassic Park a few months before the movie came out and it changed the literary landscape for me forever - yes, Crichton succeeded in becoming my first favorite contemporary author.   

Additionally, that was the summer we moved to The Woodlands, a master-planned community nestled in the great Jurassic forest north of Houston.  (The tail end of the Piney Woods region of the Southeastern US.)  Coming from the arid prairies of Dallas where we'd been living, the first time we visited I believe my jaw hit the ground.  For months after moving down, every time we crossed the bridge over Lake Woodlands, I held my breath half expecting a brontosaurus to raise its giant head over the misty tops of the towering pine trees along the shore.

Thank you, Dr Crichton...

Lake Woodlands sunset

George Mitchell Preserve, named in honor of the founder of The Woodlands

Texas Piney Woods


If you follow this City Data link, you will see why my standards are still high, as proven in previous posts.  Even I can't believe this is where I lived for one-third of my life!  Is it possible to envy oneself?


Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Saturday I ventured up to the Upper West Side for a girl's evening in with Denise.

We had pizza and salad at a pizza place, and as it was so cold out we wanted dessert at home.  So we stopped in at Magnolia Cupcakes where we bought a couple of hot chocolates and two cupcakes.  

We got comfy in her adorable apartment where we had our dessert, some blueberries and raspberries, and even some Greek dessert wine.  It was just wonderful hanging out with my old friend, chatting and gossiping and watching Oswald (sooooo cuuuuute!).  Denise is a reading specialist with the little kids so would appreciate something like that :)  Oswald is a blue octopus who wears a little bowler hat and has a sausage dog called Weenie.  Oswald and Weenie cleared out the closet and put some things in the wagon to take to the city dump.  However, walking through the park on the way there, people kept stopping them to take items they thought they could use.  And by "people", I mean a penguin, a walkin' talkin' tree, cactus, daisy, butterfly and caterpillar, even a trio of paper cutout people....!

In the living room:




Saturday, November 22, 2008


My nose is cold all the time, I feel like a dog.  My fingers and toes fare little better.  I'm wearing three layers and long socks.

Since these frigid temperatures took hold last weekend, cold air has been streaming through the air-conditioning unit in the living room window.  (It should have a cover.)  Somehow my roomie claims this has never been a problem before (!).  I am not into hermetically sealed houses and am usually the one that keeps a window cracked open in winter to allow oxygenation, but when you have the radiator next to the window at full heat and the room is still cold, then something needs to be done.

Thankfully my room is the warmest, in fact a little too warm, but I do think that the bowl of water on my radiator contributes to the general comfort of my room.  It is attached to the living room, so I leave the doors open in the day so that some heat can flow into the living room.  But I suspect it's too scared to come out.

In the summer, you cannot possibly conceive of winter's coldness, so even if only 2 of 5 rooms have functioning radiators you assume they are going to spread their warmth comfortably around the house, as long as the windows are closed.  No such luck...

I know this is an old house, but surely winterproofing is not too much to ask, since the landladies only live downstairs and they can't be all cold round the edges.  This reminds me of growing up in our old house in London, which was draughty through the original leaded window panes.  Memories of my mother plastered against radiators, yet she always hung up on double glazing telemarketers.  We were all for authenticity, back then.

Then we moved to Texas, leaving behind our turn of the century Tudor style house.  We moved into a cozy modern townhouse, followed by a fairly luxurious new colonial style home with nary a draught, well finished in every corner.  Needless to say, my standards went up.

I like original features, but I think from now on I should choose new constructions...or at least very well refurbished old places rather than merely maintained ones.  Comfort AND authenticity in one place.

End of Rant.

I have another thing to whine about, but that's for later.

I've made my bed really cosy, redraping the swagged voile to completely enclose the top and sides, like a room within a room.


By the way, this week I applied to a couple of cool jobs in another major city south of NYC.  It had been my original intention to job hunt up and down the eastern seaboard while staying with my cousin, using NYC as a base but setting a time limit on my sojourn here.  However, when I was forced to find my own accommodations this changed slightly and I focused only on the local area.  Now that the economy has worsened and I haven't heard back from anyone, it's back to plan A:  expand the search and go wherever the job is rather than forcing it out of just one place.

Time for me to go off and meet my friend Denise for a pizza dinner followed by dessert in the comfort of her home.  It's on the Upper West Side so I need plenty of time to get there, especially on a weekend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Winter is here at last

Oh my gawd!  It musta snowed in Canada or somethin' cuz it's frickin' freezing out here!!!  (Said in best NYC accent.)

Seriously, I made a late night run to the grocery store on Atlantic Avenue and the wind was so biting that by the time I walked one block from the subway to the entrance my face went numb!  As I entered the relative warmth of the fresh produce section I gasped with shock and spent the next few minutes clutching my face.  

They say the Christmas weather has arrived a month early.  Eeee!


AND ANOTHER THING!  I HAVE LOST MY CURLS!!!  Yes, a few weeks ago my hair suddenly went straight, well ok, wavy - but to me that feels straight.  I hate it, hate it, hate it.  What used to be my kiss curl is now a straight wisp that keeps falling into my eye.  Very annoying.  

Once upon a time nothing would affect those curls - not cold weather, dry heating, or a change of styling products.  Now, nothing I use is bringing them back :(

I know I used to complain about them, but it was all in jest and I am sorry, I truly am....pleeeeeeeeease come back, please...?


This week has turned up a couple of good things to apply to, so wish me luck.

Just felt like sharing a nice picture, the clerestory of St Patrick's in Manhattan:

Gives me a contented feeling to look at it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thanks Facebook

Thanks to Facebook, I've gotten back in touch with many people I knew at my alma mater, the University of St Thomas. Whereas before we used to hear about each other through mutual friends, now FB has enabled us to network across oceans and meet up whenever anyone is in town.

So Friday I met with Lynette who was in town for a day and a bit. We know each other from the dorms because she was on the residence life staff. She's nearing the end of a 2-year work assignment in Italy, after which she will return to Houston HQ.

We ate near her hotel at the Cinema Brasserie where I had attended a dinner in the summer. Nice food, very chic. I was SO hungry I forgot to take photos before tucking in, but we ordered everything to share: a small plates taster - more like small bites - (tuna tartare, grilled shrimp on cilantro rice, filet mignon skewers, avocado salad, crabcakes) and a dim sum taster. A chorizo tarte flambe on a slate tile added weight to the starters, and we finished with a raspberry Napoleon pastry.

Cinema Brasserie on 45th St @ 5th Ave

She was staying midtown at the Library Hotel, which is a characterful boutique hotel near the Hyatt Regency where I stayed last year. I discovered it while exploring the neighborhood back then and slapped my forehead as soon as I saw it, so when she invited me to explore the place with her after dinner, I jumped at the chance.

This is how I saw it last year, the lights oozing yellow pools of warmth onto the sidewalk, inviting you in, promising comfort and satisfaction...

The hotel itself is stocked to the brim with vintage and antique books. The lobby is full of art history publications and the slots behind reception are actually card catalogue drawers. Every floor has a different theme of the Dewey Decimal System, Lynette's being Math and Science, and her hall was Zoology.
Her small but convenient room was tastefully finished in dark woods and warm tones, including a few shelves of zoological books. I found a 70 year old book of Spaniels with photos of curly-eared, puppy-eyed, um, puppies that made me happy :)

Actually, if I had stayed at that hotel you wouldn't have been able to tear me away from the books and then I would have been late to the event!

First we went up to the cute roof terrace and leaned over the gothic parapets to see the street and the surrounding buildings. It was a very mild night and quite a few people were sitting outside.

We settled in the Reading Room for tea and cookies and further chatting. There is a bar with carafes of coffee as well as an espresso/cappuccino machine, a selection of teas in a box, and cookies and pastries under glass domes for the late night snackers. Apparently in the afternoon there were cheese and crackers on offer. The music selection that night was opera but there was also a baby grand, more bookshelves, tables, and reading nooks.

1) The hotel seems very narrow from Madison Ave, though the width stretches to the back.
2) The Reading/Breakfast Room.
3) The exterior entrance on 41st St. The sidewalk outside the hotel is called "Library Way" and the paving slabs are inset with brass plaques with literary quotes and designed according to each.
4) The tiny lobby with card catalogue behind the reception desk.

1) See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil on the window sill of the Reading Room.
2) A dictionary flanked by the two lions, Patience and Fortitude, which sit on the steps of the NYPL a block away.

[Food-wise (but not book-wise of course) the Reading Room at the Library Hotel reminds me of the Concierge Lounge on the top floor of the historic Beaux Arts Sheraton Gunter in San Antonio, which is a big comfy living room maintained exclusively for the 6th floor guests. We were there some years ago when my father served as best man at my cousin's wedding to a San Antone debutante. We didn't know her parents were there too, but we bumped into each other in that lounge and later spent many hours up there demolishing the chocolate-dipped strawberries and getting to know each other.]

Grand Central Station on 42nd St with the Chrysler Building shining like a beacon in the background

The cavernous interior of Grand Central at midnight
with the Milky Way on the ceiling


I love this city, with all the beauty in its details...