Tag Archives: winter

My favorite things: Winter discoveries

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Carl Schurz Park, our neighborhood park, after a recent snowfall

After what felt like six months of winter, today it is sunny and a glorious 48 degrees outside (who would’ve thought 48 degrees could feel glorious?). We’ve started our Saturday with homemade peanut butter oatmeal banana pancakes and French press coffee, I’ve been cuddling with Ali and reading a fascinating book (Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick), and this afternoon I’m taking Charlie-dog for a walk. As it turns out though, all this time cooped up has been a good opportunity for making discoveries.

Here are a few of my favorite (new) things:

1. The ‘Before’ film trilogy (Before SunriseBefore Sunset, and Before Midnight):

Before SunriseThese are some of the most romantic films I’ve ever seen (Sean enjoyed them too! added bonus!). In Before Sunrise (1995), young 20-something American Jesse crosses paths with French college student Celine on a train crossing Europe, and the two end up spending a day and night together wandering the streets of Vienna. Most of the movie is just the two talking about everything and nothing together, and the dialogue is just fascinating. The kind of conversations you’d love to eavesdrop on the bus and would be saddened when the two got off an earlier stop than you. And the chemistry between the two is just so palpable, you’re dying to find out if they get together in the end.

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In the sequel, Before Sunset (2004), Jesse and Celine, now in their 30s, reunite in Paris for an afternoon — nearly 10 years after that fateful night in Vienna. Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke are just as wonderful together, as always.

before-midnight-1And in the final installment (although I hope it’s really not the final final installment), Before Midnight (2013), we follow Celine and Jesse, now 40-somethings, for a day in southern Greece. We just watched this one last night, and let me tell you, these movies just keep getting better and better. I won’t spoil anything about this one for anyone though. It is just such a cool idea to follow the same two characters and their changing relationship over the decades; Delphy and Hawke also helped write the scripts for the second and third films. I just love both these characters so much, and each film is a wonderful emotional journey full of comedic, poignant, and bittersweet moments. The series seems to be both answering and begging the questions: Is there such a thing as a soul mate? Or is love just a matter of chance? Are relationships dependent upon some amount of fate, or are they ultimately the product of intentional commitment?

2. Brushing up on my French on Duolingo

tumblr_n19bpkxqWP1sgr8axo1_500A few of my college friends were getting really competitive about something called “Duolingo” about a month ago, and I had no idea what they were talking about. It turns out it’s a free language learning website/app that provides free education and also harnesses brain power to translate web pages into various languages. I took the French placement test and have been hooked ever since. I don’t think it’s so good for learning a new foreign language, but it is pretty effective for review. I have bought a few French review workbooks over the past couple of years, but nothing has motivated me so much as a little friendly competition and game-like elements. Some of the sentences are laughably random though, since I’m pretty sure they’re pulled from eclectic websites. C’est la fille qui peut lire un menu. “This is the daughter who can read a menu.” Okay, then.

3. Nora Ephron’s writing

IMG_2648I can’t believe it took me approximately a half-million views of You’ve Got Mail to realize that Nora Ephron also has published collections of essays. I borrowed a copy of I Remember Nothing from the library and positively devoured it in one day. I’ve loved David Sedaris’ essays for what feels like ages, and Nora is the female equivalent of that. She had one essay, in particular, “Journalism: A Love Story,” which I really loved. She writes about her enchantment with the speed of the newsroom, and her rise from mail room clerk in an era when female college graduates were confined to the lowest ranks of news organizations, to successful byline-boasting reporter.

I feel like Nora Ephron and I could have been really good friends, despite the age difference. She writes that her ideal afternoon would be a frozen custard from Shake Shack, followed by a Lactaid, followed by a walk through Central Park. Yes, we would have gotten along just splendidly.

4. Bob Dylan

IMG_2695I’m positively dying to read Dylan’s memoir, Chronicles, Part One, but after fruitless attempts to obtain either a library or a bookstore copy, I’m settling for the lovely box set of Dylan’s records Sean bought with some of his birthday money. This is another one of those things, like Nora Ephron, that’s I’m kicking myself for taking so long to try out. I love American folk music, and Bob Dylan is one of the originals. Of course, everyone and their mother has heard a Dylan song at some point in their lives, whether they were aware of it or not, but I never really listened to it, you know? I’m considering listening to all his early stuff an education in and of itself. Major props to the movie Inside Llewyn Davis for kindling my newfound interest in Greenwich Village of the ’60s and the birth of the American folk movement.

5. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

191132747_0322_Bernadette_Where_tcm20-1862557This book was so much fun! I’ve been wanting to read it for quite some time now, after much praise among my neighborhood book club. This is the zany tale of eccentric middle-aged mother Bernadette, who lives as a practical recluse and then disappears altogether, just days before a family cruise to Antarctica, leaving her gifted 13-year-old daughter, Bee, to follow a hilarious paper trail of emails, memos, news articles, and more to find out just what happened to her mother.

The author, Maria Semple, was a writer for the TV show Arrested Development, whose quirky humor I adore, and that really shines through in this book. It also predominately takes place in Seattle, and I recognized a surprising number of restaurants, cafes, and notable places from our honeymoon there, which only added extra appeal for me. Unlike Gone Girl or some other mystery thrillers I’ve read recently, this book manages to remain lighthearted. The core story of Bee’s admiration of and loyalty to her mother, despite all of her flaws, is charming too, of course. Recommended for anyone who enjoys chortling and smiling; also good for childhood fans of Nancy Drew.

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Let’s hope that spring is just around the corner!

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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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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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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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