nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Looking forward to coming back

We have just returned from our first foray out of the US, across the border to Canada. Six days in a twilight world that’s not American and not British, but a pleasant hybrid of the two. I discovered Tim Horton’s – a crossbreed cafe somewhere between Dunkin’ Donuts and Greggs the Bakers. I ate the Boston Cream doughnut, a custardy, chocolate covered delight. I struggled with Canadian vowels, where ‘mud’ rhymes with ‘could’ which you discover you buy your toddler a Canadian board book, so you have to adapt when you read it. I scrutinised Canadian currency with its nod to Britain with the Queen’s image firmly ensconced on the coins. And the weather’s just like NW3, all wet, a bit warm but mostly boots and rain coat weather. Kind of comforting. I thought it was telling that I looked forward to returning to NYC with its 30 degree heat where it is warm enough in the evening to stroll around in a t shirt and shorts (not that I have unveiled my knees to NYC yet). I’ll tire of the heat and humidity soon, but for now, it’s good to be back.

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The lure of lulu

Lululemon, dresser of the lycra clad ladies of New York. Ever wondered what that funny little symbol is on all the ladies running in Central Park or pouring out of Soul Cycle? It looks like the hair of a  cartoon lady but with her face missing.  According to their website:

“The lululemon name was chosen in a survey of 100 people from a list of 20 brand names and 20 logos. The logo is actually a stylized “A” that was made for the first letter in the name “athletically hip”, a name which failed to make the grade.”

I had also been wondering what these funky bags were that the same lycra clad ladies were carrying. They seem to be a bit of status symbol and often go with Toms wearing, so it’s clearly a look here. They are essentially posh carrier bags, too nice to throw away, but sturdy enough to carry your stuff around and tell everyone you shop at lululemon. Proudly.

I’ve been feeling sartorially inadequate for a while, so I bought a lululemon top to perk up my running wardrobe. I got it from their website which rather coyly says ‘we made too much’, which I think really means, they overstocked and it wasn’t very popular (or it’s a bit crap and no one wants it).

Oh, and I just visited their website and there is a deeply depressing picture of a gorgeous woman in a swim suit who looks nothing like anybody normal. Don’t look.

Check out my new top and the funky lululemon symbol and unthrowawayable bag:

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Don’t sling that banana skin in the bin

In the last year we lived in NW3, our local authority introduced food composting. I was sceptical. I couldn’t imagine how it would work, with having a bin in the kitchen with food scraps, which is then transferred to a bin outside our house and taken away by the bin men once  a week. Surely a recipe for rats? I was reluctant to start with but gave it a go and I was converted: the amount of food waste created by a small family is massive once you start actually separating it. I became a bit of a zealot with the food scraps and whilst R was hard to convince, eventually he was doing it too – apart from the odd rogue tea bag, which I rescued, much to his disgust.

So when we came to NYC I kind of missed this slightly OCD activity. I was delighted to read that Mayor Bloomberg is going to introduce food composting into New York as part of his last hurrah as mayor. There were some articles in the press here in the last few days talking about creating new facilities to handle the food waste and turn it into green energy and an estimate that around 10 per cent of the food waste would be composted. There are a range of recycling laws in NYC about paper, plastics etc and for now food composting will be voluntary, but possibly in the future the laws will mandate everyone to separate food waste. I was amused to see down on 14th Street, Union Square, a corner of the park dedicated to huge bins of food waste and some dedicated recyclers selling compost to passers by. Clearly ahead of the curve there.

See the New York Times for more info.


From punk to toddler

Well, that’s not quite the title of the fairly new exhibition at the Met, but that is what I renamed it for this afternoon. Taking advantage of a 7 year old-free afternoon, I took J to the Met to see the Punk: from chaos to couture exhibit. I thought it would be reasonably quiet given it’s Friday afternoon and near closing time on a nice, sunny day. And it was. Sort of. I planned it meticulously so that J was in his buggy with snacks, trapped and safely away from the dozens of mannequins sporting bizarre wigs that I’d spied on the exhibit website. Err, well, that would have worked if I hadn’t been banned from taking the buggy in: ‘we don’t allow strollers into exhibits, ma’am’. Arse. I’m here. I’m prepared. I’ll risk it.

And J was the only child there.

I know a bit about fashion and it was great to see so much Vivienne Westwood – although I note she is actually the same age as my mum! We enjoyed the urinals and their graffiti strewn walls, safely hidden behind a perspex screen. J enjoyed the plinths hosting the mannequins of Amazonian proportions but unfortunately they were all alarmed, so every time J went near, the alarm went off and we were scowled at. He loved the enormous screens showing distorted images of Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten with a punk soundtrack. The staging of this exhibition is fabulous. One room has fake vaulted brick walls to look as if you are in a cellar, painted black as a fantastic backdrop to the fashion. It’s a fine line between stimulation and sheer terror for J, who often sought refuge by grabbing my legs. And my favourite bit? The final mannequin wearing nothing but a few lines of black tape with her middle finger held aloft.

And then you go next door and you enter a room of Monet paintings and think happy thoughts as you wander further and stumble across a few Van Goghs or a Gauguin or two. In just a 15 minute walk from our apartment, we can be here amongst the most amazing art in the world: this truly is the privilege of living in NYC.

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First there was nannycam

And now there is doggycam. For the New Yorker who loves their dog but has to work but doesn’t want to use doggy daycare, there is the dog walker. How do you know they actually walked your dog?  A company called Swifto was mentioned in today’s New York Times. They have developed a GPS device that you can access via an app on your smart phone. They say: “View a live map of your dog’s walk. See the exact route, miles, and duration of the walk with alerts when the walk starts and ends.”

The New York Times article starts off with a graphic description about how it works:

“At 7:03 p.m. on May 25, my dog went to the bathroom in front of the Chinese massage place up the block from my house in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

I was not there, but I know this is true because a “poop alert” popped up on my laptop, 22 miles away at a friend’s house. A poop alert is a little white-on-brown icon of a squatting dog with, yes, a small pile beneath its tail, superimposed on a map of the walk fed by GPS data from the walker’s phone and updated every few seconds.

In addition, I received a text message on my phone. “Barnaby has just pooped.”


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Cheese danish

So my trip to a local cafe went like this:

“Waddaya want?”

“Hot tea, please”.

(I have learnt to ask for hot tea, as opposed to iced tea.)

“Cheese Danish?”

(He looks confused.)

“No. Hot. Tea. Please.”

(The server looks pleadingly to his co-worker.)

“She wants tea. Hot tea.”

(The co-worker looks bemused, just like me.)

“Ah. OK.”

(He’s happy.)

“Yes, hot tea.”


(I’m happy.)

I point to the packets of tea behind him. I am relieved to see earl grey (gray here) as an option. I am more relieved to see him put the bag into the cup and then pour the water on. A proper cup of tea.

Really. Since when does ‘hot tea’ sound like ‘cheese Danish’. And more importantly what is a cheese Danish?

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Breakfast doughnut anyone?

I’ve written previously about the preponderance of Dunkin’ Donuts in New York. We have one near us and I visit to buy iced tea and the occasional doughnut. Every item has a calorie count, with the least calorific thing being the hot tea (zero calories) to the tuna melt on a croissant (680 calories). But this must have been beaten into second place with their latest offering: the glazed doughnut sandwich with bacon and a fried egg! I kid you not. No calorie count specified.

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Pools in the sky

What a great idea, a swimming pool on the top of a high rise building. Not something you’d see much of in the UK, but here in New York I thought there would be loads as it gets very hot in the summer. A funny piece by Gerald Eskenazi in this week’s New York Observer tells me that there are only 15 outside residential pools in New York. I am surprised.

How about something like this in the middle of NW3? Not sure the locals would approve!

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And there were over 5,000 ladies

That’s a lot of ladies running 10k in Central Park at 8am this morning. And today it included me. It’s hard for New Yorkers to run 10k as they have the imperial system here, so you have to think in miles until the final mile when they suddenly introduce metres! I was doing quite well until the final mile, but then realised that 10k is more than 6 miles and with the addition of metre signs, I got confused and I blame this for my pace slowing…

It’s great being in a race with over 5,000 other women and running along roads that are normally packed with traffic. Running past the Natural History Museum and other sights on Central Park West before entering the park felt pretty good, stopping traffic for us! I thought the park was pretty flat but apparently not. Someone seemed to introduce small hills at the top end of the park, the bit I don’t normally go to. And then there was a huge outdoor swimming pool that I’d never seen before, empty but worth noting for yet more hot summer days. What a great way to discover bits of the park. I finished in 56 minutes, so pretty good for me given how humid it was, but I’m in no hurry to do another. I looked aghast at the lady who tried to foist a leaflet for a half marathon in my hand – could she not see the colour of my face? 10k or 6 and a bit miles is more than enough for me.