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.