Tag Archives: Central Park

Surviving the polar vortex

parkGreetings from the Arctic North! Or at least, what feels like it to my imagination. We have reach the bleakest of bleak times: the dead of winter. I don’t know how anyone here is faring well with their New Year’s fitness-related resolutions because I’m pretty sure the only thing these continuous weeks of below-freezing temps, snow and icy winds are good for is wrapping up in a blanket and drowning your sorrows in Netflix marathons and hot cocoa.

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snow 1I still find myself enchanted by the utter transformation of Central Park in the snow. It emerges as a miniature Narnia; you can half-expect to see Mr. Tumnus come plodding along the wooded paths, umbrella in hand and invitation to afternoon tea perched on the lips, at any moment. See this bench in the Shakespeare Garden here? On one of the blissful days when I had secured my job but hadn’t yet started working, I spent a whole August afternoon curled up in that exact spot, reveling in the dappled sunlight and the campiness of Valley of the Dolls.

The actual streets and sidewalks one has to navigate each day, however, are an entirely different story — one filled with many lost hopes and dreams and plenty of dirty slush. People only seem to be out and about when absolutely necessary; on the weekends, the sidewalks are eerily deserted, only a brave few navigating the rock salt rubble and goop.

pancakesI am incredibly eager for spring: for the daffodils that seem to peek up from every crack in the sidewalk, to shed my puffy down coat (and hat and gloves and scarf and boots), to breakfast on scones at the Conservatory Boat Pond again. The last two weekends have been so brutal, we’ve cozied up in the apartment and made oatmeal banana pancakes instead of moseying on over to our favorite corner diner. Surprise! Our pancakes are better. (:

I do believe I am starting to develop cabin fever though. I think that has to do with it getting dark by the time I leave work combined with the hurrying extra-fast from Point A to Point B to avoid getting frostbite. The first round of this beast known as the Polar Vortex, I couldn’t feel my thighs by the time I got to the subway station — it was -15 F with the wind chill! I saw people sprinting in the direction of the train station from blocks away, which was an amusing sight, despite the bitterly cold circumstances. To solve the frozen thigh problem, I took to wearing tights under my pants last week, which was effective for the outdoors, but made me feel like I was sweating out all my toxins at a sauna once I got to the office. (On blistering hot summer days when I sweat off all my makeup and deodorant by the time I arrive in the morning, I have to wear a cardigan indoor to prevent goosebumps. You can’t win in that place!)

aliAll this time cooped up indoors has motivated us to explore out-of-the-ordinary hobbies. Sean has started picking up his guitar again, and I’ve busted out both the yoga mat and some French grammar workbooks. There’s the pancake-making, of course, and I’ve decided to finally tackle that intimidating Western epic of a novel, Lonesome Dove. We’ve also started watching The Wire on DVD, which is a crime drama about the street drug trade in Baltimore, and will keep us quite occupied from here until next New Year’s.

And to stay warm, we’ve been exploring all varieties of foods that can warm a person from the inside out. I’ve made taco soup and shepherd’s pie, but on the weekends, we’ve been trying out a world of “chicken noodle soups.”

First off, we decided to visit an authentic ramen-ya to see what all the fuss is about, as we had brushed off ramen as overly salty and reserved for a poor college student’s dinner. We went to Ippudo in the East Village and after waiting for what felt like FOREVER (ramen is very popular in the cold), we were led to a large communal table and all the servers greeted us joyfully in Japanese! We both ordered the “Akamaru Modern,” which is pork soup noodles topped with  “umami dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. Not your boring old microwaveable Cup ‘O Noodles! It was a giant bowl of delicious.

ramenBut this past weekend we found a real gem! Cafe Himalaya, a Tibetan/Nepalese hole-in-the-wall, with cheap, piping hot eats. Here we tried the thukpa, a traditional Tibetan noodle soup with lots of veggies and hearty pieces of tofu. Once you mix in the house-made spicy chutney, this stuff will clear out your sinuses really well, I promise. I guess the mountain dwellers would know how to make an incredibly satisfying winter’s meal. For $6.99 and easily over two servings in one order, we will definitely be back before we see the other side of freezing up here. And next time, I’m getting the hot tea! Give me all of the warm.

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How do you keep warm on frigidly cold days?

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New Year’s Eve in New York

I know that ringing in the New Year in Times Square is pretty high up on a lot of people’s bucket lists, but nothing about the idea has appealed to me. Too many people in a place I already detest. And I don’t know if you know this, but it was FREEZING (technically, below freezing) on New Year’s Eve night in New York. And we saw people starting to stake out and claim their spots two whole days before the celebration. Uh, no, thank you.

But I’m here to tell you that there is a more laid-back — family-friendly, even! — way to kick off another twirl around the sun. I have to thank my brother-in-law, Ryan, for finding out about this event. He was also responsible for getting us to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and giving Ali her new favorite toy (a catnip-stuffed raccoon), so I guess he more than paid us back for his stay.

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In Central Park, in the area near the Naumburg Bandshell (closest street entrance to the park is E. 72nd & 5th Ave), Emerald Nuts hosts an annual Midnight Run. Like, a four-mile run in the park that starts at midnight. In 20 degree weather. Meaning some people REALLY get a headstart on all those healthy-living resolutions. But the event is open to everyone!

In addition to a pretty impressive fireworks show at midnight — which also signals the start of the run — Emerald Nuts provides a DJ, a few live musicians, dorky “insert New Year here” hats, and of course, snack packs of nuts. We didn’t get the dorky hats (oh, darn) or nuts, but that’s OK.

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I liked this event because it was not only free and within a reasonable walking distance from our apartment, it was also pretty fun. There were enough people to make it feel celebratory without being overwhelming. And, come on, it was kind of hilarious to see people of all ages jumping up and down in their parkas, beanies, boots, and scarfs to clubby music trying to keep warm in the frigid temperatures. Costumes are encouraged for the run, so those were fun to check out, too. My favorites were the two guys who wore whole-body spandex outfits in solid blue and solid green. I don’t know why, I just feel like things get really interesting when people cover their faces with colored spandex.

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We enjoyed this event so much, we think we will go again next year! You could even hear some of the ruckus from down in Times Square, which is crazy. After, we went home and toasted with some faux-champagne, a.k.a. cheap sparkling white wine, that tasted like it was worse even less than the $10 or so we paid for it. Maybe because we were sipping it from coffee mugs, as all (three) of our wine glasses were dirty.

Happy Belated New Year! What are your resolutions? Mine are to read more nonfiction, join an “extracurricular activity” to meet new people (I’m attending a book club next Monday!), and to write more snail-mail letters to people.

Here’s a gift to keep you going through to Dec. 31, 2013. Are there two more adorable people in the world? No. No, there are not.

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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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Adventures in Art and the Park

Like I mentioned in my last post, I have been trying to enjoy these last few days of fairly responsibility-free summertime. Wednesday was quite gloomy and rainy, so I decided it was the perfect day to finally visit that kinda-sorta famous building down our street, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Of course, it was not the perfect day to walk to said building because it was wet and rainy. The hems on my jeans got soaking wet, and I hate that, but it was OK because you know what? NYC is very pretty in the rain. I watched the documentary Bill Cunningham New York about the Times‘ fashion and society photographer of the same name, and there’s a segment where he just raves about New York in the rain or snow, how it transforms the city. He loves to get shots of impeccably dressed women leaping over puddles of rainwater or melting slush because it captures a sort of candid grace otherwise not often seen.

Yesterday, walking along East 82nd in the rain, I totally got that. Women in billowy maxi dresses and strappy sandals were arabesqueing from the curbs, doormen waved down taxis for impatient residents huddled under awnings, and tourists squealed while skipping through the puddles in a hurry to cross the street. It was wonderful and lovely.

I found this photo of a doorman on Humans of New York, a photography project/website that I highly recommend checking out. It reminded me a lot of my rainy walk to the Met.

I also love that in NYC, a rainy day is a business opportunity, at least if you are an umbrella salesman! There were two who quickly opened shop at the bottom of the Met steps, beckoning tourists from beneath their crowded cover to purchase their wares. There was also a saxophonist playing jazz music underneath a cheap plastic poncho, and it was like a scene out of a movie. Cue: soft rain. Cue: distant thunder. Cue: improvisational jazz music. Cue: enthusiastic umbrella salesmen.

Once I got inside, worked my way through the crowds at the entrance security and admissions/donations line, I was finally free to explore this labyrinth of rooms, full of works by names I once knew only from textbooks. I’m no art expert, that’s for sure, but I did take AP Art History my senior year of high school, and I’m so glad I did. I only vaguely remember a few specifics about various art movements and artists, but my teacher did a wonderful job teaching us to appreciate art. That was her big goal for us that she announced on the first day of class (that and learning the difference between “nude” and “naked”), and I think she certainly succeeded.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze. How can you see something like this and NOT stop to look at it for a while?

As I began my museum explorations in The American Wing, I began to remember why I don’t always enjoy museum visits. I am appalled by the way some people approach artwork! I saw not one but two different individuals in different art galleries touching and leaning on decades-, even centuries-old sculptures!!! I don’t even…sigh, anyway. (Eventually the museum chaperones? Supervisors? Uniformed individuals creeping in the doorways? fussed at the sculpture-touching bafoons.)

I understand a lot of the museum visitors are tourists visiting from out-of-town, -state, or -country and they are hurried to “see all the sights” of New York, but what’s the point of seeing them if you don’t take the time to truly absorb what you’re looking at? My advice would be to pick a few wings/galleries of The Met that you know you are interested in and spend some quality time getting acquainted with the works on display there.

My pet peeve is when tourists rush from room to room in the museum, photographing artwork or displays along the way, without even so much as stopping read the plaques. If you aren’t literate in English, I understand, but for God’s sake, at least LOOK at the one-of-a-kind masterpiece in front of you. For at least five seconds. That’s not even that long. Sigh.

I enjoyed looking at the “period rooms” in The American Wing, which are replicas of rooms from various American country houses filled with all sorts of luxurious furniture and decorations. They kind of looked like sets from Downton Abbey, although I know that show is set in Britain and not the U.S. My favorite period room was one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Gorgeous. I also liked the paintings in The American Wing, especially the cheery, picturesque depictions of country life, the like of which were printed by Currier and Ives.

A Jackson Pollock piece.

My other favorite section was the modern art gallery, which probably means I need to visit MoMa soon. I know this is the kind of artwork a lot of people understandably blow off, but I think it’s fascinating because these artists were bold enough to do it and proclaim it as artwork. It takes a lot of guts to splatter paint on a giant canvas and draw attention to the fact that those paint splatters can be just as visually engaging as the carefully rendered still-lifes of the realists in centuries past.

I decorated my college bedroom with colorful Warhol prints, so it was cool to see some real Warhol pieces as well.

Of course, I also had to pay a visit to the European painting galleries, mainly to check out the Impressionist exhibits. Impressionism is my absolute favorite art movement, and I decorated my bedroom in Florida with a number of Monet prints. I have seen one of Monet’s waterlily paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, but it was a real treat to check out a specific painting that I had a print of in my room growing up, Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies.

This version (and its frame) is a lot nicer than the cheap print I had in my bedroom back in Florida. Unsurprisingly.

Maybe it’s cliche to like Rodin, but I love his works.

I also had time to check out some Picassos, Matisses, Seurats, and Van Goghs. I’m not that into sculpture, but luckily I stumbled across a few pieces by Rodin on my way out. I spent nearly three hours in the museum, but honestly, you could spend days. I didn’t even glance at the ancient Egyptian or Greek exhibits. All that looking at artwork–actually looking at it–and reading the accompanying informative plaques was mentally and physically exhausting! I headed straight back to the apartment, with a brief pit stop at Insomnia Cookies for a double-chocolate chunk pick-me-up.

Yesterday (Thursday) was a much lovelier day, sunny with little to no chance of rain. Shortly after eating some lunch, I set off on a trek to Central Park, my current read (Valley of the Dolls), some chilled cherries, and a water bottle in tow. After some aimless meandering about the park looking for the perfect reading spot, I finally decided to check out the Shakespeare Garden. See, I always thought the garden was named such because it is next to the Delacorte Theater, where Shakespeare in the Park is held every summer. Some quick Wikipedia research–I’ll be quick to confess that I Wikipedia everything in life–I learned that it is actually called that because the plants in the garden are those mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. How cool is that? Also, um, hello–could there be a more literary garden out there?

The peaceful view from my reading spot. I actually ended up moving a few benches down to a shadier spot away from an annoying bee, but you get the idea.

I spent an hour and a half or so here reading and snacking on my cherries. When I reached a good stopping point, I decided to check out the neighboring Belvedere Castle since the stairs to it were RIGHT THERE. I had been to the bottom platform of the “castle” before, but this time I climbed the narrow spiral staircase inside the tower. “Belvedere” translates to “beautiful view” in Italian, and boy, they aren’t kidding! From the top level you can see The Duck Pond that serves as the castle’s moat, plenty of sunbathing New Yorkers on the Great Lawn, a forest of park trees, and just beyond, the Manhattan skyline. On a clear, sunny day like this, it was picture-perfect.

After my visit, I learned that the castle was constructed in 1869 as a Victorian “folly” (a decorative rather than functional building). It definitely doesn’t feel that old, but the wall-climbing ivy and surrounding water cluttered with lily pads must do the trick, because I heard a little girl at the top observation platform asking her mother repeatedly, “But Mommy, where are the princesses?” Adorable, just adorable.

When I was finished exploring the castle, I realized I was hungry. Again. Darn you super-fast metabolism, that’s what the cherries were for! I debated buying a Belgian waffle from the Wafels & Dinges cart, but deterred by the prices, ended up selecting a cheap, plain pretzel instead (Why?!? Those things are loaded with calories!), and promised myself I would eat a small dinner to compensate for my afternoon gluttony. I found another bench along one of the main walkways to enjoy said-pretzel, one near a saxophonist jazzing up “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

I wouldn’t say “no” to being a princess in a pretend-castle if I had this view.

Then, I went home, and in reverse-fairy-tale fashion, ended up having fled a castle to play Cinderella before she met Prince Charming, cleaning up the seemingly endless amounts of cat hair that have found their way into every nook and cranny of our little apartment. Today I think I might do some shopping, check out the UES H&M, which seems pretty affordable, or maybe do some thrifting (my favorite). Ironically, I have more nice business casual clothes than I do nicer plain-casual ones, so I’d like to find a new pair of jeans and maybe a couple new tops I can wear to my new job. I haven’t gone clothing shopping since pre-wedding and honeymoon, so it would be nice to get just a few new wardrobe items. Everyone seems is so absurdly stylish here, and it has inspired me to, uh, go shopping.

I think I’ll also clock-in some downtime at home, where my new favorite activity basically consists of this:

An adorable cat and a good book, all you really need in life.

Also, I forgot to share this last time, but I think this is more appropriate to include here in a somewhat art-themed post, but I had a Q&A article with photographer Kevin Bauman published in the digital GALO (Global Art Laid Out) magazine Wednesday. The article discusses Bauman’s series “100 Abandoned Houses,” which you should definitely check out even if you don’t want to read a super-long article about it.

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