Tag Archives: snow

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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5 things (about life lately)

560379_10151458986121743_1899409956_n(1) Last night, I made Ratatouille a la Remy, just like in the Disney/Pixar film, thanks to smitten kitchen. I am immensely proud of myself and my mandolin for our hard work. Also, isn’t this one of the prettiest dinners you’ve ever seen? It’s really tasty, too. Now I want to try cooking other French-ish things like coq au vin or boeuf bourguinon. I love cooking. Cooking is my favorite.

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(2) It’s funny how people always make Christmastime to be all winter-y, dreaming of White Christmases and decorating with snowmen and paper snowflakes, when really February is the dead of winter. And no one wants to go out on their Valentine’s date in 5 degree weather. It’s amusing how quickly everyone’s seasonal love for scarves, hot chocolate, and other warm coziness fades by this time of the year. I’m struggling to remember how deathly hot it was when we moved in at the end of June, when I took two frigidly cold showers a day and pressed chilled Diet Coke cans to my forehead to prevent overheating. (Photo taken from Sean’s office, at Madison & 42nd, overlooking Grand Central Station.)

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(3) Central Park in the snow is the most beautiful, happy thing. When we got about a foot of snow on Feb. 9, there were hundreds and hundreds of New Yorkers out enjoying the snowfall. It looked like one of the old-timey Victorian postcards by Currier & Ives, depicting an era when people would go ice skating on frozen ponds instead of man-made ones and used wooden toboggans instead of the colorful plastic ones of today’s age. You know, like this? This was Central Park two Saturday’s ago.

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It was such a delight to see children zooming around every which way on sleds and inner tubes and their own backs, dogs frolicking, and grown-ups giggling delightedly like children.

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(4) I started volunteering one evening a week with the cat rescue organization from which we adopted our dear Ali. Myself and two other volunteers tend to the half dozen or so cats currently living at the UES Petco. We clean up after them, feed them, provide any medications, and love on them (of course!). Petco is a sad in-between place, like a cat orphanage, before cats are adopted or just temporarily fostered. Some of the kitties, like adventurous, not-quite-photogenic Diesel (above, who just went to a forever home this past weekend!) are sweet as can be. Some are problem children, who dump their food face-down into their litter boxes or hiss at all the other cats. The cats cycle out pretty quickly, fortunately, but it means there’s always someone new in transition there and you don’t know how they’re going to act. In case you couldn’t guess, I now want to adopt ALL OF THE KITTIES. Even the problematic ones.

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(5) For Valentine’s Day (OK, technically the day after Valentine’s), Sean and I checked out the NYC location of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, which opened in the fall. We went to the original — and only other — location of Beecher’s at Pike’s Place in Seattle on our honeymoon. It was eerie how similar the two locations looked, right down to the milk jug “stools” and the glass walls that allow you to watch employees make cheese on-site. We went to the downstairs “cellar,” which was surprisingly ritzy. They have nice happy hour deals where you can get the “world’s best mac ‘n cheese” for half-price and $6 glasses of wine. It was super-crowded and unorganized downstairs, and while the decor was nice and the macaroni was delicious, as expected, I think next time we’ll just eat in the casual upstairs deli. Same thing, lower price. 🙂

Then we came home and made fancy s’mores on our gaslit stovetop with a s’mores kit I got from the Brooklyn-based etsy shop whimsy&spice. These were a little more “grown-up,” with substantial graham shortbread cookies, maple-infused homemade marshmallows, and extra-fancy Madecasse chocolates.

But yeah, we did celebrate Valentine’s with mac & cheese and s’mores, so we are probably 10 years old, secretly.

P.S. My Valentine’s gift from Sean, which completely broke our rule of “not getting anything seriously nice,” is two tickets to see She & Him on the Central Park Summerstage this July, furthering my Zooey D. obsession. So sweet! I’m already envisioning myself in a flowy sundress and sandals in the NOT COLD.

Check these two cool kids out here. This will be my third time seeing M. Ward live, and you should definitely check out his work with indie supergroup Monsters of Folk. And give a listen to M.’s solo stuff, too.

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Hello, Winter.

IMG_0703It snowed a beautiful snow Friday evening. Glittery, dry powdery snow that didn’t melt on the heavily salted sidewalks, but formed a soft carpet that looked like it belonged in a miniature Christmas village display on someone’s mantle. Snow like this snow makes New York a magical, quiet place. Fewer people go out to begin with, and the footsteps of those who do wander about are muffled. Even the noisy, ceaseless traffic sounds seem to fade away.

Don’t get me wrong though. It has been very cold here. The kind of cold that stings the face and causes the legs to go numb. The kind of sub-freezing temperatures that make a person ponder if it is possible to suffer hypothermia of the eyes. Thank God for cashmere-lined leather gloves, down-filled parkas, and fleece scarves. There will forever remain little to be done about the nose, unfortunately.

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We warmed ourselves up on Friday with a Sri Lankan dinner at one of our favorite hole-in-the-wall places, Sigiri. Full of fragrant spices and clear-your-sinuses heat, our stomachs were warm all the way home, full of kottu roti, a popular roadside dish in Sri Lanka (I am 99.9% certain Sigiri is the “cramped restaurant squashed between two obnoxiously iridescent, LED-lacquered Indian restaurants” mentioned anonymously in the linked article).

When we got home, I put on my new moccasin-style slippers (faux fur-lined, mmmm!) and made a steaming hot pot of hot cocoa on the stovetop.

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The next natural thing to do was, of course, curl up with my favorite feel-good movie, You’ve Got Mail. Sigh. Don’t even get me started. Meg Ryan’s character has my dream life: adorable Upper West Side apartment, classic wardrobe, charming neighborhood children’s bookstore, butterfly-on-the-subway sightings. And Tom Hanks is impossibly charming in this film. The Pride & Prejudice references! The NYC scenery (H&H Bagels, Grey’s Papaya, Riverside Park, etc.)! The not-quite-quotable, but oh-so-true lines: “The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. […] So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!”

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We spent the vast majority of the weekend inside, although we did brave the cold to get a couple of scones to-go from Alice’s Tea Cup, Chapter III  and coffees from Oren’s Daily Roast for cheap and delicious brunch. (I wish every meal could be brunch. Brunch is the best. Brunch needs to be a thing everywhere, to the extent that it is a thing in New York.)

I also journeyed through Middle-earth a lot with Frodo and the gang, and their hardships made my winter coldness hardships seem a lot more bearable.

In other winter news, I finally put the microfleece blanket we got as a wedding gift on our bed, right between the T-shirt sheets and the fluffy comforter, officially transforming our bed into the most comfortable bed of all time. If only I could master Ali’s level of lethargy, and sleep 18+ hours a day without ever feeling much more energized.

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Here’s a Winter-song for you:

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