Monthly Archives: November 2012

Keeping warm in the Great North!

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I lived in southern Maryland. For six years. Sometimes I would wait for the bus in below freezing temperatures, and sometimes we didn’t have school for a whole week because there was so much snow. Back then, my mom wouldn’t let me out of the house into the icy weather without earmuffs, gloves, and of course…a puffy, warm coat. The coat I had in middle school was both puffy and light blue, so my best friend nicknamed it “my marshmallow coat.”

Then I moved to sunny Florida, followed by HOT Texas, and the marshmallow coat became a relic of the past.

And here I am living in the Northeast in the winter, when it is COLD. I mean, not horridly, unmanageably cold. But definitely a good 20+ degrees colder than whatever temperature it is in Houston right now. Never fear! I have found many warm replacements for my childhood marshmallow coat.

Note: I’m no fashionista, as you will notice from the bland color scheme below. But I am a real person who is aware of the weather and stuff, so I think I’m allowed to have some opinions about the things I wear. I’ve mainly learned what is acceptable/useful for cold-weather from observation and talking to people who have lived here longer than I have, so now I’m going to spread the word to others!

Guide to Not Freezing to Death in NYC Winter:

For not so cold days:

This first one is so basic, it’s a little ridiculous: your standard fleece. I got this completely inexpensive and totally practical full-zip fleece in “charcoal heather” (read: fancy word for “gray”) from Columbia on Amazon while I was in college. It has served me well in all occasions from Saturday football games to late nights working at the college newspaper to our June honeymoon in Seattle (where it is chilly…in June, go figure).

But what’s totally great about a fleece, aside from being super-comfy, is that if it is thin enough, it can be great for layering under other coats. See below!

For a little bit colder, possibly rainy days:

This raincoat has been a wonderfully loyal companion on rainy fall days up here. Sean and I both got his & hers raincoats (we’re awful) on our honeymoon because it was colder than we expected. We shopped at the large Columbia store in downtown Seattle and felt very Pacific Northwest-y. Raincoats are all the rage in Seattle, because it is always raining, you see. And everywhere we went for the rest of the week, we looked like outdoors wear models. Ha.

This (Columbia’s Women’s Ramble Rain Jacket) was more pricey at $90, but uh, we used wedding gift money on it, and it has been FAR more useful than any mortar and pestle or million-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets. It’s a great light jacket, and when you layer the fleece under it, they do great teamwork, blocking out wind, water, and most cold. Also, it has large pockets that are great at holding things. And, of course, a hood so you don’t have to carry an umbrella. I got mine in Black Like My Soul, as you can see.

When it’s cold, and you want to look stylish:

My mom insisted I get a wool winter coat before I went to college, which sounded silly at the time, because in Florida, winter lasts for two weeks and everyone just wears two hoodies layered on top of one another and makes it through. But you know what? Mothers really do know best. Wool coats are great.

She found this secondhand one for me on eBay, and it was originally longer than my knees, but she tailored it to mid-thigh, fixed the too-long sleeves, and then got it dry-cleaned. It’s a very good quality coat, so I’m not sure how much it would have cost to get it brand-new.

I love this coat because it is very tailored and makes you instantly look classy. I also sometimes hate this coat because the classy black color highlights my blondish hair (and more recently, the white-belly fur of my cat-daughter that manages to get in every nook and cranny of the apartment). I guess that’s why they invented lint brushes, right?

My wool coat is in I’m A New Yorker Now And Black Is The Only Color Of the Rainbow I Know.

When it is BEYOND COLD, and all you care about is not dying from the cold:

This is me modeling my new, ridiculous parka hood. When I wear the faux-fur-trimmed hood, it makes me feel like I’m possibly being eaten by a live animal, so I have to make strange faces. Sorry.

I got this parka from Land’s End in, you guessed it, Black Appropriately Represents The Impending Doom I Feel About The Live Animal Residing On My Coat. It’s on sale, and when I bought it, they had a 30% off EVERYTHING sale and free shipping for all orders over $50. And guys, I got a $160 parka for $55!!! Whooooo.

I am in love with this coat. It takes me back to my marshmallow coat days. It’s like enveloping my body in an impenetrable fortress of warm. Whatever skin this parka covers, it does not feel the cold. Not even a little bit. Supposedly it can keep me comfortably warm down to -30F, but 1) I don’t think NYC gets that cold, 2) If it does, I think I’ll be more worried about my nose falling off from frostbite. Or my eyeballs freezing (does this happen?)

My coat is in…*drumroll,please*…BLACK. Ha, you weren’t expecting that, were you?

When I wear the hood on this coat, I feel like fictional childhood heroine Julie of the Wolves:

For your feet, when it’s a bit nippy out:

This picture is kind of funny, because it turns out even though I wear my boots all the time, they never make it into normal photos. These riding-style, real leather boots were Sean’s birthday gift to me this year. We went to Macy’s flagship store the Saturday before my birthday, and it was an all-around nauseating shopping experience (the things we do for love!), but these boots are wonderful.

They are these boots from b.o.c. by Born Shoes (full price is $150, but they were having a beginning-of-fall boots sale that week, conveniently enough, and we scored them for around $100). I’ve gotten a number of compliments on them, including once from a random woman at the subway station (this never happens!), so I think they are winners.

Plus, they are sooo warm. Girls in Texas like to wear boots in the fall and winter because they are cute. Girls in New York wear boots in the fall and winter because they are a necessity! OK, and they are still cute.

For your feet, when it’s cold and icy and UGH outside:

I haven’t had to use these snow boots yet, but Sean and I viewed the freak storm Nor’Easter that happened a week after Hurricane Sandy (absolutely insane weather) as a wakeup call. We both scrambled to Amazon to find affordable boots that would prevent undesired slipping and sliding.

I settled on these Columbia Women’s Ice Maiden Lace-Up Weather Boots for around $60. They are waterproof, something that my leather boots are not, and they can apparently keep my toes warm at -40 F. How do they determine these things?

I’ve only worn them around my apartment to check out the size/style, but they seem pretty warm. They are not the prettiest shoes, but if you shop for snow boots, you will quickly learn that they are all on the bulky side, and with good reason.

My boots are in Black Is The Official Color of My Wardrobe.

They sure beat my Floridian winter footwear, that’s for sure. I used to wear Rainbows sandals year-round, more or less. My clarinet lessons instructor used to tease me about this, asking if I owned any other shoes.Rainbows are the best flip-flops you will ever own, I promise. They cost $40-$50, which I know sounds absurd, but they will last you for YEARS. They mold to your feet and are so, so comfortable. They withstand beach sands and rain puddles and all the walks of life. Everyone in high school wore them, and this is one trend I will proudly stand behind. I’ve owned three pairs, mainly because the first got chewed up by a dog and another got so dingy looking after hundreds of wears. But I knew guys in Florida who had the same pair for four, five, six years. I’ve converted Sean to the Rainbow Cult. I will convert you, too.

That had nothing to do with cold-weather wear. Oh, well. I still wear my Rainbows while doing laundry in the NYC winter. For maximum sock-washing potential.

Other warm stuff:

  • Scarves! I’m starting a small collection, any and all donations will be happily accepted. (Hint hint: Christmas gift idea!)
  • My raspberry beret (yeah, like the Prince song) I got at Target this past weekend. It’s not nearly as loosely crocheted as it looks in the photo. It’s made of warm, and looks much less ridiculous than my parka hood.
  • Leggings! I got this two-pack for $10 from H&M. The black and dark gray go with all colors of dresses, and when you pair them with thick socks and boots, you can be surprisingly warm.
  • Gloves! I only have cheap ones from CVS I bought when I came here for spring break last year, but I’m holding out for Santa to bring me some cashmere-lined leather ones like Sean has and loves so much.
  • Starbucks! On every corner! City living comes with its perks.

Really though, I want to know Buddy the Elf’s secrets to winter wear. He has a snowball fight in Central Park in leggings and a thin jacket made out of what appears to be felt. Maybe it’s the hat?

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Thanksgiving Week Recap

Didn’t you know Native Americans love pie? This is some charming artwork from my 6-year-old cousin. I mailed her a Thanksgiving Day card last week with a few sheets of these festive stickers, and this evening I got an envelope filled with some seasonal artwork in return!

My four-day holiday weekend turned out to be just what I needed, full of rest and also fun. Here’s a recap:

Tuesday: I played pub trivia for the first time with Sean and one of his female coworkers and her friend. I don’t know why I’ve never played pub trivia before, as I love random information and impressing others with said-random information. Team My Twinkies for Your Ho Hos just barely made it into the top half of the rankings of a 33-team competition, but I will say that Sean and I dominated the “Louie-Louie-Louisiana” and “In the News” categories. And there’s always next time.

Wednesday: I worked, but I got to leave at 3. Sean and I attempted to go see where they blow up the balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade over on the Upper West Side. The number of strollers on the crosstown bus on the way there should have been a clue that this was the WORST IDEA EVER (sorry, Sean). There were hoardes and hoardes of people gathered to see half-inflated (half-deflated?) balloons. I cannot even fathom gathering to watch the actual parade. We left for our sanity’s sake. The subway ride out of there toward downtown was the worst I’ve ever experienced.

But! Then we went to see the Icelandic (Icelander? Icelandish?) band Of Monsters and Men play at Terminal 5. And all was right in the world again.

Here are these cute people speaking in cute accents and playing music in their living room:

Thursday: We put our little kitchen to work. We made: baked Virginia ham (with this wonderful citrusy-Dijon mustard-brown sugar glaze), parmesan garlic mashed potatoes, traditional green bean casserole and cranberry sauce/Jell-O fruit salad. And sourdough from Orwasher’s Bakery.

Everything was made of deliciousness. It pays off to know how to cook. 🙂 And even though we didn’t have the traditional turkey, we passed out after. From all of that cooking…and the thought of cleaning up with no dishwasher after!

Friday: Although we did briefly get caught in the Black Friday madness on Fifth Avenue (accidentally, I swear), we didn’t really do any shopping. We did, however, spoil ourselves with not one, but two desserts from Two Little Red Hens, probably the tastiest place in the neighborhood.

We got a peanut-butter-and-fudge cupcake (my pick) and a slice of apple crumble pie (Sean’s pick). To make up for the lack of homemade dessert, you know. (As an aside, this place has the BEST cheesecake in the world, but they are often out when I go.)

Saturday: We learned history and stuff at the Museum of the City of New York, a quaint little museum within walking-distance of our apartment. We explored their street photography exhibit, activism in NYC exhibit, and watched the half-hour movie they show throughout the day about New York’s history. Did you know that Wall Street is named such because there used to be a physical wall there to keep out intruders? It sounds so obvious, but I never thought of that!

Also, did you know that Manhattan was purchased by the Dutch settlers for US$24? Crazy!

Later on we entered The Book of Mormon on Broadway ticket lottery for bazillionth time…and lost for the bazillionth time. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost any money to enter. To compensate, we ate at one of our favorite Thai places, Room Service — in Hell’s Kitchen.

Sunday: I went to Target in East Harlem in the afternoon. The place was ransacked from the Black Friday sales! I did manage to find a cute knitted winter hat, one of the things I came to buy, and some affordable Christmas ornaments (the main reason I went). OK, OK. And some festively-scented candles that were on sale. You can never go to Target and ONLY purchase the things on your list.

So then I coerced Sean into helping me decorate the horridly gaudy tabletop tree I bought. I guess all the other New Yorkers bought the “normal” mini trees. Whatever, I think it’s cute in its own tinsel-y way. Plus, once you cover it with sparkly ornaments, you can’t tell how shiny the tree itself is. I mean, not really.

In other news, I got to spend the looong weekend sleeping in, retreating to my happy place (a.k.a. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, as I re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the gazillionth time), watching Modern Family, and learning about credit default swaps on subprime mortgage-backed bonds (whoooo!) — thanks to Michael Lewis’ surprisingly fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the U.S. economic collapse of 2008 in The Big Short. Yes, I am married to an accountant.

Oh, and we hung out with the cat. Good times were had by all. Happy holidays!

(Aren’t they cute in their matching plaid? I thought so.)


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Personality Quiz! with Ali the Cat

I have a special bond with my cat. As I mentioned recently, we even enjoyed a girls’ movie night recently, when we watched the documentary First Postition, during which I learned of Ali’s deep fascination with ballet electronics.

As you can tell, she’s loads of fun. So today she’s presenting a fun Personality Quiz, using a series of optical illusions. Just pick whether you see (A) or (B) in each image, then scroll down to see the results of your final tallies.

Do you see (A) a winter coat, or (B) a bed?

2.Do you see (A) a wireless printer/scanner combo, or (B) a chair?

3.Do you see (A) a throw pillow, or (B) a bed?

4.Do you see (A) a drinking glass, or (B) a water bowl?

5.Do you see (A) a storage container, or (B) a chair?

6.Do you see (A) a shopping bag and writing pen, or (B) toys!!!

7.Do you see (A) a good book, or (B) a chair?

Now tally up how many questions for which you answered (A) and how many for which you answered (B). Scroll down for your results! Discover your inner desires and deepest fears! Discover who you really are!


If you answered mainly (A)s…

Congratulations! You’re a human being. You have opposable thumbs and the largest mental capacity in the animal kingdom! You can earn a college degree, learn how to cook a curry, and distinguish between a jazz ensemble and a Peruvian pipe band. You can savor a Picasso painting or a Nabokov novel. However, you have to participate in nasty things like paying taxes, traffic jams, and public speaking. Life is alright.

If you answered mainly (B)s…

Congratulations! You’re a cat! You get to nap and play and eat all. day. long. You get free back massages FOR LIFE, not to mention free food and housecleaning. You live by two rules: “If I fits on it, I sits on it,” and “If I can play with it, it’s a toy” (which is a much less rhyming and cutesy rule). The world apartment is your oyster! Carpe diem! Seize the day…or at least the four hours of it for which you will be forcibly awake. YOUR LIFE IS AWESOME.

Ah! Now THIS is the life. Sorry, humans. Also, dogs drool, cats rule…and stuff.



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A song for New York

I love music, and I love that there are so many songs about New York. So I’ve doing some research into what the general population considers the “ultimate” NYC song. Here are some I enjoy.

Is “La Vie Boheme” from RENT the ultimate NYC song? The lyrics to this are pretty awesome. “To day of inspiration, playing hooky, making something out of nothing/The need to express, to communicate/To going against the grain, going insane, going mad…”

Apparently Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” is considered by many to be that song. Sean informs me that if you go to certain bars and they play it, everyone sings along spiritedly. I am yet to have that particular experience, but I have heard it a disproportionate number of times since moving here in stores and the like, considering it came out in 2009. And Jay-Z did take his rapper name from the name of two subway lines (J/Z), then proceeded to sell-out four nights in a row at the HUGE new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, so I guess he is pretty New York. I do enjoy the shots of the city in the music video. “I think I’m goin’ where dreams are made of/There’s nothing you can’t do, now that you’re in New York…”

If you’re more of a classic ballet-flats-and-cardigans type of girl like me (or whatever the male equivalent of that is), you probably enjoy Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” We played this at our wedding reception, for fun. It seemed appropriate enough. “I want to be a part of it/New York, New York…”

As I’m really into folk music and singer-songwriters, I’ve gotta include Bob Dylan’s “Talkin’ New York.” I love love LOVE the verse about how cold the winter is. And how he calls the city “New York Town.” Such a classic interpretation of a newcomer’s observations of NYC life.

And as an indie kid, I enjoy Vampire Weekend’s “M79.” How hilarious is it they have a whole song about the cross-town bus route that goes through Central Park from the Upper East Side to the Upper West Side and back again? Plus, it’s upbeat and fun…which certainly beats how I usually feel on the bus (i.e., tired and crowded).

Having also been a band nerd, it would be a crime not to include George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Nothing else quite captures the nuances of the city, I think, from tranquil Central Park to bustling, chaotic Times Square. We played this a few times, just for kicks and giggles, in the top band class in high school — it was always such a blast. Also, the theater where Wicked is performed is totally and rightfully named after this composer.

The Ramones (Queens natives!) are so iconic, I can’t NOT include them. “Rockaway Beach” is about the Queens/Long Island town, aaaand it totally makes you want to be a punk rocker, don’t lie.

I know it has next to nothing to do with the city, but I’ve loved Death Cab for Cutie’s “Marching Bands of Manhattan” for years. It’s got to be included. “If I could open my arms/and span the length of the isle of Manhattan/I’d bring it to where you are/making a lake of the East River and Hudson.”

Matt & Kim’s “Block After Block” is a great music video filmed in the city. (They are based out of Brooklyn.) Such a fun couple/band!

I could go on and on and on…your “NYC song” could be completely NOT about NYC. It could be the song your cab driver played when you first drove across the bridge into Manhattan, or the song you played on repeat while you unpacked boxes in your new apartment, or the song you listened to in celebration on your iPod after getting your first NYC job, or the one the bar played when you decided “Hey, this place is alright.” Or any number of songs. And that’s the great thing. Whatever your NYC song is, it fits right into the cacophony/symphony that is this city of millions of individuals.

Speaking of songs for NY, I’ve been listening to wayyyy more electronica since moving here, because for some reason it makes more sense in this setting, like country music in Texas and Jack Johnson in Florida. I’ve been obsessing over Crystal Castles lately. You know, just trying to expand my musical repertoire. Here’s the song “Pale Flesh” from their new album that just came out:

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Movie night with my cat: ‘First Position’

Tonight Sean went to see the new James Bond movie with a friend, so I watched a really gorgeous film that I know he wouldn’t appreciate it with my cat:

First Position is a documentary about teenagers and kids (kids!) competing in the world’s largest youth ballet competition, the Youth America Grand Prix. They compete for awards, but more importantly, for full-scholarships to prestigious international dance schools and even for contracts to work for dance companies. They each get five minutes to prove themselves as the world’s best in their age group. Talk about one intense way to land a job offer!

If it sounds a little too “America’s Got Talent,” for you, don’t worry. These kids are AMAZING. I’ve thought ballet dancers are exquisitely beautiful since I was a preschooler in my first dance classes, admiring the older girls at studio-wide recitals. And while my dance classes ended ages ago, I had the privilege of befriending some truly talented musicians in high school band. These are kids who would practice their instruments for hours every single day, placing it even above schoolwork. One girl at my school transferred after her sophomore year to Interlochen School for the Arts to study oboe performance. A number got full music scholarships, one of whom later attended the Manhattan School of Music for one year to get his master’s and then left. Because he got offered a position in the extremely selective U.S. Air Force Band. Yeah. Like I said, talented. Insanely talented, and even more dedicated and passionate about their art.

Anyway, this documentary reminded me a lot of my band nerd friends in that way. First Position was also very moving. There were some interesting bits about a 16-year-old from Colombia who moved to NYC to study ballet (with the hope of eventually being able to financially support his family back home), and who dreamed of studying at the Royal Ballet Academy in London and being a professional dancer. There was a 14-year-old girl from Sierra Leone whose parents were killed when she was very young; she was adopted by an incredibly supportive American family, and this girl was giving her all to prove that black girls can perform classical ballet. And there were a number more. And they all had amazing stories.

You should watch it, even if ballet isn’t your thing.

But it should be. Because…because:




Don’t believe me? Watch the trailer. Watch the documentary.

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Gossip Girl: I can’t quit you.

Do you ever have the show you just refuse to give up on, no matter how bad it gets? For me, that show is Gossip Girl.

We’ve been through six seasons, more than 100 episodes together. I am deeply emotionally invested in its characters, in its plot lines — no matter how mediocre the writing is at this point.

Let me summarize Gossip Girl for you very briefly: A bunch of incredibly spoiled teenagers (who are now in their early 20s) attend an elite Manhattan boarding school. Their parents are all famous/rich, too, so like every socialite, their lives are tracked on Page Six and in this freaky blog called Gossip Girl. People start using Gossip Girl to manipulate others, by spilling one another’s secrets and ousting scandals. It makes no sense whatsoever, and almost has a bit of a sci-fi element to it — because who really allows a website to dictate their lives? shouldn’t they sue for slander? — but it is deeply fascinating. To me, at least.

Here is a cover from one of the GG series. As you can see, it is not fine literature.

I read most of the Gossip Girl YA series in high school, when the books were slowly coming out. The whole time I read them I would think, “These books are so awful. But I can’t put them down. But they are so terrible. BUT I CANNOT STOP BUYING AND READING THEM. You know what? They would be better as a TV show.”

And then you know what those foolish people in Hollywood did? They made it into a TV show.

I remember being captivated by the idea of these ridiculously wealthy teenagers, whose trust funds gave them no bounds. They lived in the ritzy area of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and they wore high-fashion designer clothing. The problem was that in my small town world, Hollister and Abercrombie were pretty high-end. I didn’t know that Louboutins are identifiable by their trademark red soles, or that Pucci and Gucci were two different things. I definitely couldn’t picture the many fancy-schmancy New York places where the books’ drama unfolded.

But I did read in the author’s blurb that Cecily von Ziegesar went to a private prep school in Manhattan, and with a posh name like that, I was prone to believe everything she penned was at least remotely connected to reality.

I now live on the Upper East Side, and all the myths they develop in the books/show about this magical, slightly terrifying place of extreme wealth and social order is only the teensiest bit true. Then again, I’m not a Park Avenue princess. I wouldn’t really know.

Anyway, I put off watching the show until my senior year of college, when I got Netflix. Then I became hopelessly addicted. Why, when I’d already read the books, you ask? Because Episode 1 is a synopsis of the first book, and then the screenwriters took the characters and rode with the wind!

New couplings were formed, new characters, new subplots. Everyone was pretty much terrible to one another all the time, AND IT WAS RIVETING.


Also, the fashion in this show was to die-for for at least the first four seasons. So. Much. Eye. Candy. (See the NY Times article on this very topic.)

And it featured my favorite NYC TV-apartment, the Humphreys’ Williamsburg, Brooklyn loft:

Fun fact: the exterior shot they use of this loft is actually in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, right where you can see the Manhattan Bridge. I walked on the very street outside it on my way to a job interview this summer, and almost died of excitement as soon as I recognized it. Yeah, I’m cool.

On a deeper level, I felt like in some of the earlier seasons, there was sort of this Great Gatsby-ish theme going on, about how money can’t buy you love and happiness. And I also observed some interesting commentary on modern social media (and traditional mass media). Kind of like how in 1984, Big Brother is watching everyone, only in this case: EVERYONE is Big Brother. If you can now share your every action and thought with the world, what’s to stop others from taking recording your actions and thoughts without your permission, and sharing them with the world? What are the consequences of that?

Let me tell you: one sickeningly addicting television show.

I can’t really explain why I stuck with the show for so long (other than the gorgeous cast members), but I guess I just really held up my hope for the characters. Every now and then, one of them would clean up their act, turn good, and my heart would grow three sizes. Then, inevitably, there’d be some misunderstanding/scandal/vengeful plot, and it would all go downhill for them. Again.

The last season I watched started to get EXTRA soap opera-y, with hazy flashback scenes, the cheesiest dialogue, and the most improbable relationships. But I refused to admit it had quite yet reached soap opera territory.

You see, my mother has watched Days of Our Lives for longer than I have been living on this earth. I have watched bits of it here and there, and I have scene toddlers grow to rebellious teens in the course of a single season, and perhaps the most ultimately soap opera thing: A CHARACTER CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD.

No characters had come back from the dead on Gossip Girl, so I figured the show hadn’t completely run into the wall, crashed and burned yet. I mean, the priest was having an affair with the prince’s sister. There was the fact that there was a prince on the show, and one of the characters was engaged to him. Yes, there was that whole weird the long-lost-cousin-is-really-a-con-artist-trying-to-get-Grandma’s-inheritance ordeal. There is the strange fact that Nate is running an entire Huffington Post-esque operation without every apparently finishing his college degree at Columbia (forget the part about how he was a pothead for all of the high school episodes, too). Let’s not even remember all the pregnancy scares, secret affairs, and back-stabbings of the past.

The show was a disaster, but no one had come back from the dead.

And then.

You guys.


I won’t tell you who, unless you’re addicted like me and would hate for anyone to ruin the show for you. It wasn’t a supernatural resurrection, or anything. Rather, they poorly wrote this huge plot loop about how this person didn’t really die when everyone thought they did,and why they hadn’t shown up for, oh, the past three seasons. I mean, I really think this conversation happened:

Writer 1: What if we bring back ______ from the dead? Spice things up?

Writer 2: No, that doesn’t even make sense.

Writer 1: Does anything we write make sense? Do the people who watch this show really think about it that much?

Writer 2: No, you’re right. _______ is coming back!!!!

For goodness sake, the producer of this show is the cousin of freaking Jonathan Safran Foer. One of America’s greatest contemporary authors, who penned Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Could said producer not call up his bestselling, awardwinning author-cousin and rectify this situation?!?

Oh. Wait. It’s too far gone.

Don’t be sad, Blair. It’s not your fault you’re stuck in that nonsensical world! I WILL NOT GIVE UP ON YOU AND YOUR FRENEMIES.

Besides, I only have what? 10 episodes left? Pass the popcorn. Let’s watch this thing go down in flames.




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‘Tis the Season!

It’s here it’s here it’s here!!

The new Sufjan Stevens Christmas album! The long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s Songs for Christmas, Volumes 1-5. It’s Silver and Gold: Songs for Christmas, Volume 6-10. I feel like Santa came early for me. I mean, there’s a song called “Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling” that includes the lyrics “Jesus-is-a-king-a-ling-a-ling.” It includes guest performances from members of The National and Arcade Fire! Perfection. I haven’t listened to all of it yet, but I’m pretty sure my future child(ren) will have many fond holiday memories to these albums.

The first Sufjan holiday album is my favorite holiday album EVER. It’s quirky, it’s whimsical (flutes! bells! banjoes!). I have listened to it all the way through (and there are dozens of songs) 23049283402984 times. I sometimes start listening to it in October, just to be extra-festive. We even had our musicians play his version of the traditional hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” in the prelude to our wedding. I have always found it hauntingly beautiful.

Here’s a cheesy fan-made video so you can listen to it:

A new, slightly creepy music video to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the new album:

One more! One more! Fan-made animation to “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever” from Sufjan’s first holiday album:

M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel — a.k.a. She & Him — approve this post. (Their holiday album is my second-favorite holiday album.)

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Becoming an ‘almost’ dog-person

While I think I have the most perfect, sweetest kitty in the world:

Living in this city full of dog-lovers has converted me…into an almost dog person. As in, I will never, ever stop taking a million photos of my cat and obsessing over every cat I see up for adoption, but I can understand the appeal of a dog. Dogs are loyal, playful, and a lot of other things that most cats, sadly, are not (although Ali does live by the mantra “if I can play with it, it’s a toy” and does cute things like wait patiently outside the bathroom door for our morning cuddle session).

Yesterday Sean and I went to Central Park to enjoy the warmer weather and the gorgeous fall leaves. For a while, we planted ourselves on a bench by the Conservatory Boat Pond — easily one of my favorite places in the city world — admiring this view:

And also the dog parade passing us by. So many pretty and HAPPY dogs out that afternoon! We’ve become pros at identifying the breeds, and then watching YouTube videos of “Dogs 101” from Animal Planet in order to learn more about them. After much debate, we decided that if we ever got a dog, it would have to be a REAL dog. A dog that needs a backyard, that loves to go on walks, that weighs as much as I do, and could in no way be mistaken for our cat’s breakfast. More specifically, we would love to have a husky.

I’ve seen a number of huskies up here, because it actually does get chilly. I love everything about them, especially their blue eyes! However, getting a dog seems like a cruel idea with such a small apartment (and all that fur! I can’t even imagine…), so for now, we like to admire our neighbors’ huskies and photos of huskies you can find on the Internet.

Now, if I ever do actually get a husky, I insist that it be a puppy. I’m glad we adopted an adult cat, but husky puppies. Are. So. Adorable.

See? How could you say “no” to a face like that?

Here’s the main researcher and her cuddly, domesticated silver fox.

If I couldn’t get a husky, I’d want to get a domesticated silver fox. “What?!?” you exclaim. Well, during our Hurricane Sandy trapped-indoors-for-days period, we watched a PBS documentary called Dogs Decoded on Netflix, which educated us about how dogs are superior beings that will one day rule the earth. (Kidding.) But really, we did learn a lot of fascinating stuff about how dogs have evolved. We learned that wolves cannot be domesticated, but a bunch of researchers in Siberia were able to domesticate silver foxes through selective breeding of “affectionate” versus “aggressive” individual foxes.

The “aggressive” foxes were the things of nightmares, and will not be pictured in this post.

And if I couldn’t have a silver fox, I’d want Mr. Fox of Fantastic Mr. Fox fame.




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Musical forever-favorites, and new ones, too

I’m going to write a random music-related post this evening. I was listening to Bright Eyes earlier today at work, and realized it had been a while since I visited their music. Bright Eyes is one of my forever-favorite bands. What I mean by that is I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of them. Since Bright Eyes — which, let’s face it, is just singer-songwriter Conor Oberst and his accompanying musicians — has been producing music since Conor was in high school, there’s a song or an album for ever stage in life, every mood, from angsty to mellow to joyous.

My beloved Conor O. I’ve confessed to Sean multiple times that this is the only other human being on earth I’d want to marry. He seemed to be OK with this truth.

I remember the first Bright Eyes song I ever listened to. I was a freshman in high school, and I noticed some interesting lyrics handwritten on my friend Annie’s binder: So I’ll keep working on the problem I know we’ll never solve/Of love’s uneven remainders/Our lives are fractions of a whole. And I asked her about it. She told me it was from the song “Bowl of Oranges” by a band called Bright Eyes. I went home that night and listened to it on the Bright Eyes MySpace page (ha, MySpace!).

I was hooked. Shortly thereafter, I purchased the Lifted CD from which that song and those lyrics originated. Bright Eyes’ dual 2005 releases of Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning followed shortly thereafter. I listened to them on endless cycles of repeat, memorized the lyrics, and had them running on a memory loop throughout my high school days.

It might sound cliche, but that music changed me. It wasn’t foreign, because Conor — being an Omaha boy himself — incorporates many of the same classic folksy instruments I grew up hearing on the popular country music radio stations my parents love. The acoustic guitars, the fiddles, the slight twang was all there. But at the same time, it was like nothing else I’d ever heard before.

First off, Conor couldn’t sing very well. At least, not in the traditional sense (he knows this, see lyrics from “Road to Joy”: “I could have been a famous singer, if I had someone else’s voice/But failure’s always sounded better”). In fact, this unique trait combined with his phenomenal song-writing skills have led him to be declared a modern-day Bob Dylan by more than one music journalist. His singing was always raw, unrefined and fraught with emotion. It felt unproduced; more importantly, it felt real.

And the lyrics? Some are tongue-in-cheek, some harrowing, all are honest. And almost all of them are quotable, too, which is how you know they’re really good. I can credit Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes for introducing me to the wonderful world of indie rock — more specifically, the singer-songwriter folk revival movement. And I never want to leave. There’s just something so wonderful about talented, slightly troubled individuals making music, making art because they can’t imagine living life in any other way. It’s not about selling albums or concert tickets, so much as expressing oneself with the feeble hope that you’ll provide a little more clarity to someone else’s life. I love that.

I have now seen Conor Oberst perform three times live, all in Austin: twice with the supergroup Monsters of Folk (Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and M. Ward of, well, M. Ward — how could you go wrong with that combination?!?) at Stubb’s and ACL, and again for a Bright Show at Stubb’s. That last show, which was a 22nd birthday present, is something I will never forget.

Here’s a photo I took of Conor Oberst and M. Ward performing in Monsters of Folk at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2010.

Of all of the Bright Eyes albums (and I have 10 of them!), I think I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning is my absolute favorite. I love it as much now at 23 as I did when I was 16 and it first came out. I think it has extra-special meaning in my life now: Conor wrote the album chronicling his life and thoughts when he moved from Nebraska to the East Village in Manhattan. All of the stories relate in some way to morning: morning as a beginning, and morning as an ending. Conor Oberst was 24 years old at the time of recording it.

I’m Wide Awake perfectly captures a place and time in Oberst’s life. It chronicles his first memories of staying in New York City, and the metropolis rarely gets a folk singer to chronicle its streets this lucidly, at least since the hootenanny days; he frequents its parties and stumbles down its streets like a midwestern transplant instead of a jaded hipster, sings about chemical dependency and the endless pains of love, while capturing as a backdrop the build-up to a foreign war. I’m Wide Awake weaves the personal and the political more fluidly than most singers even care to try, and the consummate tunefulness just strengthens those moments where he pinches a nerve– the songs that still give me chills every time, like “At the Bottom of Everything”: “Into the face of every criminal strapped firmly to a chair/ We must stare, we must stare, we must stare.” (from the Pitchfork review)

The beautiful album art for I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

I’m sure part of the reason I love this album so much isn’t just about the musicality of it; it’s also about the memories I have behind it. I included the song “First Day of My Life” on the first mix CD I ever burned for Sean, when we were just friends. We even considered it for our first dance at our wedding (and with lyrics like “Yours is the first face that I saw/I think I was blind before I met you/Now I don’t know where I am/I don’t know where I’ve been/but I know where I want to go,” can you really blame us?), but we ultimately decided against it because it’s a folk song and we couldn’t figure out how to slow-dance to it in any sort of rehearsed manner. I did manage to incorporate a Bright Eyes song title into the title of my honeymoon photos album on Facebook (“June on the (North)West Coast”).

I hope I still love this album as much when I’m 63 as I do at 23. I hope it always reminds me of what it was like to figure out life while living in the Big City, and reminds me that it’s OK to never fully figure it out.

And who knows? Maybe we’ll even have the “modern-day Conor Oberst” by then. One can only hope.

To conclude, a YouTube video of one of my favorite Bright Eyes songs from that album. Please listen to it if you get a chance, or better yet listen to the whole album on Spotify for free. Or best, buy the album , and support  some musicians!

“Poison Oak”:

Since we’re on the topic of music, I finished reading Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist yesterday. So cute! And what a fun experiment in collaborative writing — a female author wrote every-other chapter from Norah’s perspective, and a male author wrote the others from Nick’s point of view.

And I am able to relive on the of the MOST FUN musical experiences of my life through YouTube: Grouplove performing “Colours” at Terminal 5 last Friday night. I was there! I found confetti on my person for the remainder of the weekend. This was a fantastic show. I mean, it began with the members running out on stage to Kanye West’s “Monster” and ended with CONFETTI! Could it get any better?

No, no, it does not. (To make things even better, I watched Gossip Girl that weekend, and they played Grouplove’s “Slow” during a wedding scene. It redeemed the scene show for its utter soap opera-quality.)


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Going Without: What I Miss, What I Don’t

This is me, obviously. I always look gorgeous and happy when I hand-wash the dishes.

A fellow recent New York transplant commented that she found it so interesting that this city, while so cutting-edge and modern in many ways is also so…old-fashioned. Like how all prewar buildings don’t have central A/C and the only heat comes from radiators that cannot be adjusted and are ultimately controlled by each building’s supervisor (although there are city laws about when heat must be provided to residents).

In the past four months, I have learned how to go without a lot of things. Some of these things are by choice, and others? A little less so. But I’ve learned a lot. Here’s a list of things I’ve learned to do without, and how I feel about it:

1. A dishwasher. As in, those crazy newfangled contraption where you put the dirty dishes and glasses and cutlery in with some soap, and they come out sparkling clean. For the most part, I don’t mind not having one because the things that are most annoying to scrub clean (pots, pans, the cheese grater, wine glasses) would have to be hand-washed anyway, and plates, forks and the like take two seconds to suds up and rinse off. What I do not like is the drying part of the process. Although Sean and I have been pretty good about alternating washing vs. drying-and-putting-things-away duties, sometimes I just look at that mound of sopping wet items sitting on our drying pad on our ONLY built-in kitchen counter, and I just cannot bring myself to deal with it.

Hey, look, it’s me again! Don’t you just adore my darling apron?

2. A microwave. I don’t miss it all, actually! I like having one at work for the occasional leftovers I bring with me, but it somehow always smells like curry and then makes my food smell like curry, too, which isn’t cool. Even though Indian food is one of my ultimate favorite cuisines. We’ve mastered the art of reheating food on the stove top or in the oven (a lot of foil has been used in the process), and the food always stays hot longer and retains more of its original texture. I have an old-fashioned tea kettle to make hot beverages — which is what I used in college — and it’s much more effective than zapping hot cocoa or water in the microwave. Gas stoves are incredibly efficient. I do long for microwave popcorn on occasion, though. But that’s about it.

Ooh, look! An advertisement from the future!

3. An elevator. I mean, I have lived in a third-floor dorm room, a fourth-floor dorm room, and a third-floor apartment before, all without elevators, so this isn’t really a big deal. I think walking up the stairs in my building and in the subway is good for my health. I like living in an upper-story unit because it makes me feel safer, even though we already live in a very safe neighborhood of Manhattan. The only times I resent it are when I’ve carried a full load of groceries from my favorite supermarket a half-mile away and then have to lug them up the stairs, and when I am doing laundry and have to add another flight of stairs down to our basement laundry room (which I am so grateful for!!! no laundromat!). As long as I don’t have any drastic falls, we’re all good.

True story: I fell up the stairs one time in middle school. No one was around, so it wasn’t embarrassing, but my books went everywhere and I banged up my knees pretty badly. Mainly my self-confidence hurt because I did not know that anyone could possibly be that clumsy. I was clearly mistaken.

Another true story: One time in COLLEGE I fell down the stairs in an academic building after class. The friend I was engaged in conversation with at the time, God bless him, did not laugh or even comment when I bounced back to my feet like nothing happened and continued descending down the stairs. He also was a guest at our wedding, which I guess means he isn’t too embarrassed to be associated with me, even though there were other people around during that fall. People are so nice.

4. Central A/C. We have now adapted to the “New York version of air conditioning,” which is to say, a very weak version of hardcore Southern A/C. We learned not to turn on our unit unless it was stifling outside, and usually just as a fan to dehumidify the rooms. But those first few days when we moved in and didn’t have A/C? Brutal. I hate the heat because I feel like even if you take off all your clothes and sat around in your birthday suit, you’d still sweat through your clothes. Yeah. Figure that one out.

5. A doorman. Who is supposed to pick up my packages and food deliveries? Who is going to open the front door for me when it is windy and snowy, like tonight? Who?!? (Kidding. But truth be told, I aspire to have a doorman one day. It will probably never happen. But you know that’s when you’ve got it made. That, and when you no longer have to take the subway because you have a PERSONAL DRIVER.)

Why, thank you, Jeeves! Because doormen obviously have Butler Names.

6. A car. Do not miss at all. I hate driving. I hate automobile traffic. I hate navigating in a car. I don’t care if I have to stand close enough to a stranger that I can study the pores on his face and hear every lyric coming out of his headphones, while another stranger stands close enough behind me that I can practically feel their heartbeat and every exhalation of breath, IT IS STILL BETTER THAN DRIVING. The only time I don’t like it is when I have to sneeze because that could be catastrophic in such close quarters. You just gotta follow the No. 1 Unspoken Rule of Public Transportation: Never make eye contact with anybody. Ever. (The other rule is to give up your seat for pregnant women, the elderly, and the disabled. And sometimes children.)

Do you know how hard it is to not make eye contact with people who are quite within your personal bubble?

7. Cable. This was a purely personal decision between Sean and I, to stop unnecessary expenses. We’re not TV people. We have Internet and a good Netflix account, so we don’t have to watch stupid commercials and we don’t ever waste free-time flipping through channels “just because.” I prefer to read the news online or in print, anyway, and I can see the weather forecast on my phone. I didn’t have cable my sophomore year of college, either. I sometimes miss the Food Network, and Sean wishes we could watch the A&M football games without having to trek out to a sports bar, but other than that? We don’t miss it a bit.

8. Space. Our apartment is 400-sq-ft, more or less. In our living room we’ve managed to fit a three-person couch, an armchair, a TV stand, two end-tables, a bookcase, a small two-person dining table and chairs, a desk and desk chair, an ironing board (weekdays), a guitar, a cat scratching post and cat bed, and still somehow not blocked off the doorway, the fireplace, or the three windows. One corner of our bedroom makes me laugh because there is a filing cabinet/endtable, litter box, laundry hamper, laundry basket, and several storage containers of extra toiletries and medications. There is enough room in that corner for a person to stand and sort through laundry, or clean the litter box, or retrieve some ibuprofen. But there is no way two people could fit into that space at the same time. And our kitchen looks like this:

Easy-Bake Oven: Grown-Up Edition

You don’t get the full comic effect unless you see it in person, I promise.

I like that having a small space forces us to be tidy and organized — and that it takes very little time to clean because it is so small. I like that it prevents me from buying things I don’t need, especially random snack foods.

I don’t like that it means when the cat gets all nocturnal and chases her toys around at night, that she must literally run into every piece of furniture in the process. And as I learned after being stuck inside for most of four days during Hurricane Sandy, a person can go mad staying in this small of a space for too long.

I hate that on TV shows set in NYC, like How I Met Your Mother (which I love!, see left) have the most unrealistic apartments EVER. The apartment that our beloved narrator Ted lives in on the snazzy Upper West Side could never realistically be afforded by the characters. In the first season, Ted is around my age and has a fairly entry-level job as an architect at a smallish firm. He lives with a law student, and sometimes that law student’s public kindergarten teacher fiancee, and sometimes his late-night small-network TV reporter girlfriend.

There is just no way they could live in that apartment AND go to the bar downstairs every night for beers (which will cost you about $6+ a piece in Manhattan) and overpriced pub food.

And it just really bothers me because all these naive teenagers are sitting out there going, “Wow, I want to NY and have an apartment like that!” Yeah…try winning the lottery.

The apartment in HBO’s Girls is 1,000x more realistic (see left). Probably because the writer/creator of the show, Lena Dunham, has ACTUALLY LIVED IN NEW YORK. Crazy, huh? New York shows made by New York people. I think we’re onto something there.

I think I’m veering off on a tangent, but I love this blog post about famous TV NYC apartments, from Jerry Seinfeld’s to Carrie Bradshaw’s, and how likely it is the characters who live in them could afford to pay the rent in real life.

What do I miss about non-NYC life, aside from family and friends, like anybody who lives anywhere these people are not would? Tex-Mex. So bad. I miss it. My heart longs for it. My stomach needs it.

I would give up my foolish dreams of having a doorman for a decent Tex-Mex place in the UES.

P.S. Since I mentioned How I Met Your Mother, please click here for the biggest piece of Halloween adorableness you’ve ever seen. That is Neil Patrick Harris (Tin Man) and his too cute family! I can’t even handle it.


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