nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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How many Jaffa Cakes?

Ah, August, time for big fat issues of fashion magazines to hit the shelves with the much anticipated September issue. they arrive with a thud. Best issue of the year but my god they are thick here. US Vogue comes in at a whopping 902 pages, compared with the UK edition which is a mere slip of a thing at 430 pages. US Vogue takes until page 208 to get to the table of contents, such is the weight of adds vying to be near the front of the magazine. Want some words? Best go buy a book. Want to luxuriate in the promise of Autumn/Winter fashion? Read September Vogue.

I considered how to share quite how thick US Vogue is and came up with the Jaffa Cake measurement. Vogue is three Jaffa Cakes thick. Yep, that’s three Jaffa Cakes (kindly imported by R’s brother just last week). It would take me the entire packet to read the whole magazine. No chance I’ll be wearing any of the fashion if I do that. Must exercise self control. This is what your $5.99 buys you:

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And if you need any more convincing, here is the September issue of W magazine, which I think is only published in the US. It is a mere two Jaffa Cakes thick as it is only 454 pages for just $4.99:

W jaffaPhotos brilliantly photo-shopped by R after being bribed with a cup of tea and a Jaffa Cake, of course.

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Stoop stories

Stoop isn’t a word I’d used before I lived in NYC. I knew of it because I’d watched Sex and the City and seen Carrie Bradshaw sitting the steps outside her building, smoking a cigarette and watching the world go by. The stoop is those steps. It’s the steps up to a ‘walk up’, which is mostly a four storey building with an apartment on each floor. Originally many of these would have been single family homes, but in more recent years they’ve been divided up into apartments. They line the streets of Manhattan and make you feel like you’re really in New York when you walk down one.

I write about this simply because I took a walk around the block with J, who is now nearly 21 months, and he likes to walk without his buggy. It took us an hour to walk not very far because when you’re that age, everything is interesting. Everything is a place to run your 1970’s-style matchbox car. And just after the rain storm of this morning, lots of people are sat on their stoop, escaping from the non air conditioned oppression of their own apartments and enjoying a dry moment in the open air. J enjoys this. He walks up the steps and sits with random men, mostly men, to say ‘hi’ and show them his car. We chat, they share. We remark on his hair colour and mine, his size, my accent and then move on and repeat it on the next stoop stop. I think this is the friendliest I’ve seen Manhattan so far. And this is reassuring, as according to a survey I read the other day, New Yorkers are the rudest people in the US. I’d agree mostly, but today, I just enjoy the friendliness and the joy of having a toddler.


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An update on beer

I love beer. I love it almost as much as I love tea. But not quite as much, obviously. I miss London Pride and I miss Timothy Taylor Landlord on tap, but I can buy both in bottles here in NYC. I am now a regular visitor to City Swiggers, which is a great beer shop cum pub, with 14 beers on tap every night! You can buy a 2 pint bottle called a ‘growler’ and ask them to fill it up for you. We now own two of these and they make a regular visit on a Friday night, I think the guy behind the bar is starting to recognise me. Unfortunately most of the beers are undrinkable as they are 7, 8, 9 or more per cent alcohol beers. However, I have, through my weaker beer tastes of less than 6 per cent, discovered a world of IPA. To the uninitiated this means India Pale Ale. It’s a bit of a girl’s beer, but it tastes lovely. Fruity and fresh and goes down very easily on a hot summer’s day.

I had intended to write about our visit to the NYC Craft Beer Festival a few weeks ago, but failed to do so. Such a shame, because it was fantastic and introduced us to a whole new world of US beers. We drank beer from Hawaii complete with free flower garland around our necks; blueberry beer, beer from California, Oregon and many other states. Along with a fine sausage roll, it was a heavenly night.

And on our return, I took my free beer mats and new beer knowledge to City Swiggers and could finally make some sense of the wall of US beer! Hurrah! No more Corona for me. Can I recommend a Kona Big Wave Golden Ale? Perhaps a Dogfish Head ‘the continually hopped’ IPA from Delaware or even a Coney Island beer – but be warned they have a very scary looking clown face on the neck of the bottle, drink it facing away from you.


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A subtle shift

The women of New York have noticed a change.  They are going to work wearing long sleeved tops, something floaty and light still, but no longer revealing the entirety of their arms. They are wearing light jackets, maybe even a light scarf. Why is this? How do they all know that something has occurred? The weather has changed. A light chill has descended over the early hours of Manhattan. It is too cold now to run at 7am in a racer back top. It is mid August.  Has the mysterious ‘Fall’ appeared early? I am yet to be convinced that Autumn is called Fall. What is wrong with this place?


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Let’s talk about coleslaw

Yes, I know this is possibly not the most interesting topic in the world, but it’s on my mind and I feel the need to vent. I like coleslaw, I like the combination of shredded cabbage and carrot in a pleasant mayonnaise that I can add to my sandwich. I like it on ham and I like it on cheese. I quite like it on a baked potato too. It is a savoury snack. Not a sweet snack. I hate coleslaw in the US. What do they do to it that makes is so incredibly sweet? I know, I’ll pour some sugar into the mayonnaise just to up the calorie count. Great idea. And whilst I’m on about it, when I ask for a quarter pound (yes, the US still uses Imperial, an entirely separate subject to rant about) I want 0.25 of a pound, also known as 4 ounces. But no, you always get more and today I was given 0.42, which is pretty much half a pound. I was experimenting with a new source of coleslaw from Sable’s and it was equally hideous. I have, however, discovered the answer to this problem. Low fat coleslaw, sometimes known as ‘healthy coleslaw’ – ahem, I don’t think there’s anything particularly healthy about coleslaw, either way it’s mayonnaise and that’s pretty fattening. But hey, by making it low fat all the sugar seems to disappear. I now have the answer. Try Morton Williams deli or Fairways to see what I mean.


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Hangin’ with the hipsters

Well, not exactly, just visiting Brooklyn, which is apparently full of them. R tried to explain to me what a ‘hipster’ is and occasionally points one out in the street, but I’m still not sure. They seem to be mostly blokes in bad dress, NHS inspired glasses (but with no prescription) and big boots. Too hot for all that yesterday in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn and where we made our latest discovery: the Smorgasburg. No, this is not a typo. It’s an open air food market, with the unfortunate name of Brooklyn Flea Food Market – flea means to me horrible old second hand stuff sold in a dank church hall, but here means a market with lots of lovely food. It was so good, with dozens of stalls selling mouth watering food and massive queues at the more popular salt beef sandwich stall. We see massive blocks of ice being shaved to get icy drinks; iced tea of new and exotic varieties and my favourite? Bon Chovie – Brooklyn’s only fried anchovy. Which for anyone with a passing knowledge of 80s soft rock groups sporting long hair and a lot of denim, is a great pun on the rock band Bon Jovi. Quite why anyone would deep fry an anchovy is beyond me, maybe it’s what hipsters eat?

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Learning a bit about Korea

A glorious sunny day and I take J to Battery Park. This is the park at the very tip of Manhattan, the place where everyone goes to get their boat out to see the Statue of Liberty. It is rammed with tourists but poor old Battery Park is still looking worse for wear many months after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Much of the park is cordoned off but there’s lots of activity going on to reconstruct it back to its former glory.

The park is host to many statues and at least two war memorials. The memorial to those who died in the Korean War (1950-53) is relatively new, having been erected in 1991 and is impressively modern. We were there for some time and very few people wandered over to this corner of the park, which was a shame, because it’s very thought provoking and a close look at the flags at the base of the memorial reveals some intricate mosaics.

I was so impressed I wanted to share it here. The first photo is the actual memorial, which is huge, you can tell from the size of the surrounding trees. Then below I have photographed three of the many paving slabs which come out from the memorial, like rays of a sun, to show how many countries were involved and how many men died, were wounded and those who were missing. The numbers for the US and for Korea are way in excess of anything I would have guessed.

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There’s a macaw up that tree!

Yes, a green macaw, just hanging out in a tree in our local park. I ignore the protestations of E and her friend, when I humour them that ‘yes, dear, now off you go’, in a bid to continue an conversation without small children. Later, intrigued, we wander across the grassy part of the park and yes, there it is. A macaw, Chilling out on a deck chair next to a 60 something lady. ‘You bring him here everyday, do you?’, I ask, in an attempt to hide my bemusement at seeing someone in the park with a macaw. ‘Only on the weekends’ she replies. The bird goes nuts when a toddler gets too close and the owners say ‘he bites, get him away!’ Apparently he likes small girls, so he is happy when E is cooing over him and he’s saying ‘hello’ and other greetings. I ask them how they get him to the park, as I can see no cage or similar device. He sits on her shoulder and she walks to the park wih him. They talk like it’s the most normal thing in the world. NO IT’S NOT! Well, maybe it is in NYC but not in NW3, that’s for sure.


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Medieval Manhattan

Ah, I hear you say, but America wasn’t really around in medieval times. Sure, that’s true, but it doesn’t stop NYC from importing treasures from Europe and displaying them in a made up castle in the far reaches of north Manhattan. I kept seeing reference to the Cloisters in tourist blurb and at the Metropolitan Museum but couldn’t quite imagine what it meant. So on a hot and sunny day earlier this week J and I ventured up the A line all the way to 190th Street, which is a very long way away. And naturally it also involved a ridiculous amount of stairs, curses to you stairs, but I think my arms are rather more sculpted than they used to be, so I shouldn’t complain, really.

John D. Rockefeller Jr funded the Cloisters that emerged from the grounds of Fort Tryon Park in the 1930s. An architect called Charles Collens designed the building to look a bit like a medieval monastery and actually included relics into the construction and I think he did a pretty good job. It’s the home of the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum. The cloisters themselves are tranquil and beautifully landscaped and great fun to tootle round if you are 20 months old but hopeless if you are the mother of the 20 month old trying to keep him off the plants, climbing the walls and stopping him from falling into the gardens 20 feet below. But besides that the interior is great if you like looking at really old stuff, medieval stuff isn’t really my thing, but we did get to see the 1930s bowels of the building as we got special dispensation to use the original staff lift to go back up to the entrance – too many stairs. Again.

Fort Tryon Park is a revelation. Snuggled next to the Hudson River, which is very wide at this point, it is an almost tropical haven from the density of the rest of Manhattan. It was hard to believe we were still on the island at all. I doubt many tourists get this far, but on a sunny, hot day, it’s well worth the trip.