nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Tonight’s experience just reminds me quite how different NYC is to NW3. I was out at 8pm after a school thing with a bit of baby sitting time in hand, so I wander over to 3rd Avenue and get my very favourite lychee flavoured bubble ice tea with a large bag of rice crackers from the health food store next door. Best enjoyed at home in front of Project Runway or The Blacklist (new series just started last week). And then I decide to get a spontaneous (and that’s not something any mother of young children can remember being) manicure. I know I’ve gone on about these before, but I feel the need to share. Here’s how the conversation went with the very nice lady doing my nails:

“Chinchilly?” she asks.

“Chinchilla?” I respond.

I look at the bottom of the bottle of nail polish and see it does indeed say Chinchilly.

“Chinchilla? That’s an animal, someone told me that” she responds, as if I don’t know that.

“Chinchilly. Yes, a cold chinchilla!” I smirk and think she will laugh at my lame humour.

“Eh?” She sort of says, but in a Nepalese way.

I then have to explain that chilly means cold and that it is a play on the word chinchilla, but her eyes glaze over and I give up.

I then apologise for my British humour and remind myself that I left my humour at Heathrow last time I left London and I never make a joke here because there’s no humour here. Not my kind anyway.

(NB: writing this blog post, the text editor has told me I have made four spelling errors besides the obvious chinchilly. Can you spot the US and UK English?)


Losing my grip

Yesterday I was reading a blog called the Selfish Mother and came across an article that appeared in the Guardian called “Why I won’t dress like a mum”. I was laughing until I realised she was describing me. Almost. I had recently ordered yet another hooded coat for the winter, a funky one from J Crew, in my defence; and I had also ordered a grey cardigan and jeans from Boden. You’d think I lived in the middle of nowhere, not Manhattan. I find clothes shopping in NYC utterly exhausting especially with J in tow, so I’ve pretty much stopped doing it now.
So when the Boden parcel arrived today I tried them on, thought ‘oh f***, she’s right, I look terrible: get a grip’ and promptly sent them back. Then I remembered how much I loved Cos in London’s Regent’s Street and how I’d read that recently they started selling online in the US. So I ordered four tops and a funky necklace. My only concession: they all had to be washable (I am a mum, after all). And then I looked at high top trainers on Zappos (amazing US online shoe store) and am still pondering whether I’m just too old. I’m not. I think. I might have stepped back from the brink. Just.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

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Bonkers in Brooklyn

I, like many people of my generation, would often watch Eurotrash on a Friday night and titter at Jean Paul Gaultier and his straight-man sidekick, Antoine de Caunes, as they were spectacularly rude and offensive but in lovely French accents. Well worth looking up on YouTube for a blast from the past. It made the designer, Jean Paul Gaultier a household name; it’s hard to believe he is now 60 years old.

Why this trip down memory lane? Well, Gaultier has an exhibition on at the Brooklyn Museum showing an extensive retrospective of his work. It’s an hour long trek from here involving three subway trains (one extra to avoid the steps with the buggy) down to Brooklyn, but helpfully the subway stop on the 2/3 line is right outside the museum. A relief in the pouring rain today. I wrote about the museum a while back, where someone had removed the entire front staircase from the grand facade and stuck a glass monstrosity on the front, but I’ve decided that’s OK, because it’s buggy friendly and the atrium is great for toddlers who like to run. A lot.

The exhibition is fabulous. They have, as you would expect, all of the mannequins wearing frocks, which are all very elaborate and mostly bonkers. But what’s unusual here is that they have used projectors to beam a face onto the heads of the models and they really look like they are talking, breathing, blinking. It’s quite unsettling. Even more unsettling is the model of Gaultier himself as he rambles on in French and English on a podium all by himself. Most of his designs are crazy, s&M style and over the top, but some of the craftsmanship on the frocks is incredible.

Have a look at my pics and see for yourself. It finishes on Sunday, so if you’re in New York for half term, be adventurous and go.

Jean Paul Gaultier talks animatedly

Jean Paul Gaultier talks animatedly

Ladies chatting

Ladies chatting

Medusa gone wrong?

Medusa gone wrong?

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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:

vogue jaffa

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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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:

blog pic 26


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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Why are all the women wearing Toms?

Toms what, you may ask. But where is the apostrophe, surely it should be Tom’s. Are there lots of Toms? Err, anyway, all the women, well lots of women here in New York, with its newly warm days are wearing these canvas shoes with a very thin rubber sole. They come in lots of jaunty colours and patterns but would be useless in the rain.

And they look like this. Like them? Then visit: http://www.toms.com/.  I will not be buying any, look like they make your feet way too sweaty and smelly for my liking…


blog pic 19

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If you want to get ahead, get a hat

It is hot here in New York today. After two days of rain, it’s now officially summer. I am in downtown Brooklyn, which is a world apart from the Upper East Side. It is busy, there’s a lot of flesh on show and not in a good way. The pavements of Fulton Street are lined with all sorts of stalls selling hats, jewellery and clothing.  Music blares out, competing with noise from stalls nearby. There are crowds of people in Macy’s (Brooklyn branch). I listen to harassed mothers who yell at their small children to ‘shut the f*** up’. I buy a hat in Macy’s:  I am gratified that my head is not large in Brooklyn. I queue in the equally crowded Gap Outlet next door and am barked at by the cashier, ‘next guest!’. I know now that means next in the queue. I don’t feel much like a guest as I’ve queued for 20 minutes and put up with the horror of the outlet experience. I buy E a hat too and hope that head size isn’t hereditary. I walk back to the subway and find I am the only one wearing a hat. I will set a new trend. Alone.

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The beauty wars

Previously I was shocked to find a man massaging my shoulders as I had a manicure in my local nail bar. It felt rude to ask him to stop, mostly because it was quite nice, but also because I thought maybe that was part of the deal. Apparently not. He stopped suddenly, said did I want a massage, 10, 20 or 30 minute? I said no, thanks, but it was everso nice. British politeness never fails me, even in massage incidents. I tried not to take offence when he went straight to the sink to wash his hands, clearly not enamoured of my slightly sweaty skin. Hey, I didn’t ask for it! Anyhow, having got over this by now, I actually asked for a massage today after my manicure and nearly started world war 3 between the heavy handed massage guy and the manicurist as they argued who would have the pleasure. Really? It’s not worth it, not for the tip, anyway. I am regretting it now. I was pummelled consistently in the same place on my shoulders and my arms felt like they were being rung out such that they were squeezed – maybe an antidote to bingo wings? I particularly liked the classy part where she plonked down a timer, like the one I have in my kitchen, to make sure she didn’t go over the 10 minutes. Once I’d baked, she then proceeded to knead my forehead and stretch it like some kind of amateur face lift. Who needs botox with that manoeuvre? I am a victim in the beauty wars.

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The power of TV

I am a big fan of Project Runway – or Project Catwalk it was called for the short time the UK version ran with Liz Hurley hosting and mangling her vowels. It’s another reality type TV programme, with a dozen designers all coming together to design various outfits based on various themes and each week one is eliminated until one wins the big prize at the end. A familiar theme. I’m very excited to watch the finale this week with my 7 year old who has also become a big fan and takes it very seriously. It has become increasingly commercialised over the  years with more and more brands included in the show and one in particular in this season’s show is Lord & Taylor. I’d never heard of them before, but they have a big presence on the show, they inspired a challenge and I was intrigued. So off I went to 38th and 5th Avenue earlier today, in the beautiful New York sunshine.

Lord & Taylor was established in 1826 and was the first department store to move to 5th Avenue. It’s a fairly large store with the usual cosmetics and accessories on the ground floor and then floors of clothes above. It was pretty quiet for a Wednesday which made the rows and rows of clothes look a bit lonely. I was particularly taken with the shoe displays, with reflective round tables beautifully showing the sparkly shoes to their best advantage. It was quite mesmerising, but I didn’t need shoes, so I tore myself away. Summer, must find summer gear, otherwise New York will be unbearable. New York is hot, hot, hot in summer and like most Brits, I have a minimal summer wardrobe because we have no summer. Lord & Taylor did me proud and with 25 per cent off everything in some random sale, I was in heaven. I did try to find a funky summer hat, but I appear to have an enormous head as none of them fitted. No runway for me then.