nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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Happy St Patrick’s Day

It’s very popular here, with so many people claiming Irish roots, that it’s hard to escape as you walk around town. We avoided the parade today as it’s just too busy with young children, but we saw plenty of escapees in green outfits and shamrocks galore. One reveller gave E a balloon hat in the three colours of the Irish flag, which went down very well.

The mayor, Bill de Blasio, boycotted the parade saying, “I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city.” Seems to be focused on anti-gay sentiments of the event. So he’s having a bit of a do at Gracie Mansion and hanging out at a Catholic church or two instead.

The Irish pubs were full at 230 in the afternoon, when we walked home from the subway. Fairway was full of green food but was lacking imagination in the cup cake decorations that we loved last year. I think my favourite was the woman wearing black jeans with long socks to her knees so that she looked like she was wearing leprechaun trousers. She looked about as Irish as I am.


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A different kind of familiarity

Returning to the UK for Christmas and New Year proved to me how much I love the UK. Even though it was mostly wet, mostly grey and dark, it was home. The familiarity of language, accents and culture all came flooding home. And in the most peculiar places. The services on the M1, where the woman behind the counter in Starbucks just said ‘hi, what would you like?’ No asking me how I am, having to ask back and them move on to the transaction. No standing in line, no being called  ‘a guest’, when I am a customer. And lots and lots of ‘cheers’ when concluding any  transaction. Ah, how nice.

I never thought I’d say this, but going into Marks and Spencer was great! Even though the one I went into was a bit rubbish and small, it just felt so British, so familiar. Given that practically every British person owns some M&S underwear, it seemed rude not to get some. And then there’s the classic M&S Cherry Genoa Cake. I love fruit cake and this is the best. Having devoured my mother in law’s one, I went to find another and was sadly disappointed. All gone. So I consoled myself with a packet of 6 mince pies, reduced to 50p (about a dollar). Bargain. I love mince pies too. I should start a new business importing them into the US to replace their obsession with cup cakes.

I had such a lovely time catching up with family and friends, I almost didn’t want to come back to New York. But the funny thing was when we got here (in a treacherous taxi journey in the driving snow from  JFK airport), it all looked so familiar, so normal, that it was good to be home.

Happy New Year to all my lovely readers. Only 18 months to go!


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Wow. Barneys. Amazing.

Barneys is a high end department store on 5th Avenue. It’s pretty flash, bit clinical inside, but seems to be pretty popular. Like all its competitors, Barneys has revealed its Christmas window displays. Having perused them all this weekend, they take the award for the most amazing windows. Well, one window in particular. They have constructed a viewing room on the pavement so that you are in pitch black when you look at the window. The display is 3-d and shows a kind of utopia of the future, buildings kind of floating in a sea of black. Accompanying the changing display is the music of Shawn Carter, also known as Jay-Z, also known as Mr Beyonce. And he wasn’t swearing.

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So, imagine you are standing in a freezing cold black room with a bunch of strangers, having just stepped in off 61st and 5th Avenue and you are looking at the image changing over time. The pictures came out surprisingly well, but they don’t tell you anything about the movement, as this is entirely animated. But, hey, the images are amazing in themselves. So put on on some Jay-Z  and enjoy.

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Thanks, Fresh Direct!

It’s Thanksgiving today, our first one, as we just missed it last year. We decided to take the plunge and let Fresh Direct sort out the dinner. They are an Ocado-style supermarket delivery service. I ordered the entire meal from them with a view to not having to do very much. This is what it looked like out of the box:

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So here’s the verdict:

  1. When ordering your turkey dinner know what you are ordering. Think you are ordering a fresh turkey that has to be cooked from scratch? Think again. You have ordered a pre-cooked turkey that you will re-heat. You will discuss in detail with husband about said turkey timings comparing Delia Smith to Fresh Direct and saying you will go with Delia, because she’s British. But no, on second or third reading of the helpful Fresh Direct cooking guide provided with your meal, that it is indeed pre-cooked so you are just reheating. Ignore Delia and proceed.
  2. Sellotape Fresh Direct instructions to wall by cooker and follow religiously (see below).

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You can’t read this very well, but essentially it says heat and eat food. We had creamed spinach, mashed potato, roasted root vegetables and forgot to heat the beans, so they are still in the microwave. There was gravy and cranberry sauce and a pile of ‘dinner rolls’ which were basically little rectangle white bread rolls. 

R is obsessed with bread sauce, so I cracked open the Delia Smith cookbook and made some, starting at 8am with infusing the milk. Many wife brownie points earnt there. It was lovely, but not as nice as his mum’s.

So here is the finished product:

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All in all a very nice, if overly salty meal. It involved very little effort from me, a lot of plastic for the recyling and enormous plates to accommodate it all. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Thanksgivukkah

It’s hard to escape from the preparations for Thanksgiving here in New York. It’s on Thursday 28 November. It’s made even harder by the coincidence that the Jewish holiday of Hannukah is at the same time (well, day 2 of Hannukah to be precise) – the first time since 1888 apparently. The press are dubbing it ‘Thanksgivukkah’, which is quite hard to say.

We are learning about both, mostly through E who is bringing home various turkey themed objects and even J has stuck a few feathers and a strangely located eye on a turkey cut out. E came back home from school with a few Hannukah goodies including a dreidel , a four sided spinning top played during this Jewish holiday and tonight will bring home her home made menorah (candle holder) replete with stuck on metal nuts and glitter.

It’s all ‘happy holidays’ and ‘happy Thanksgiving’ at the moment and a trip to a supermarket invariably involves turkey, stuffing and anything dressed as a turkey. I particularly like the Fairway Hannukah signs above the cheese aisle, showing what to eat on each of the eight nights of Hannukah. I think it might be stretching it a bit to have a cupcake day, but hey, why not, if it sells more cupcakes!

Hannukah Fairway style

 

 


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At last, it’s Halloween

I say this because it feels like the run up to today has been going on forever. I knew Americans loved Halloween, but in New York it’s crazy. Houses are covered in ghoulish decorations; shops are dripping with pumpkins and other pumpkin related paraphernalia and if I see another Halloween related food stuff, I’ll scream! I have never seen anything like it.

In honour of this madness, I have been collecting photos of Halloween decorations from when I’ve been out and about in the last couple of weeks. Happy Halloween!

If this isn't enough to catch your attention, get closer to the door and find the notice telling you this property has been condemned!

If this isn’t enough to catch your attention, get closer to the door and find the notice telling you this property has been condemned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh dear, the wicked witch of the east appears to have met her end under this hay bale.

Oh dear, the wicked witch of the east appears to have met her end under this hay bale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little something from Dean and Deluca that dyes your teeth black. They wouldn't let me photograph the others directly behind this one I bought for E last week.

A little something from Dean and Deluca that dyes your teeth black. They wouldn’t let me photograph the others directly behind this one I bought for E last week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A scary sight when you walk into the lobby of this apartment building.

A scary sight when you walk into the lobby of this apartment building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet more cupcakes, this time from the new Zabar outlet on 87th and Lexington.

Yet more cupcakes, this time from the new Zabar outlet on 87th and Lexington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most impressive of the lot, this is the front of a house on 72nd Street.

The most impressive of the lot, this is the front of a house on 72nd Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are the front steps of the same house. What you can't see is the rocking mad lady at the top of the stairs.

And here are the front steps of the same house. What you can’t see is the rocking mad lady at the top of the stairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the side of the house. This place is nuts and attracting a lot of interest from passers by.

And the side of the house. This place is nuts and attracting a lot of interest from passers by.

 

 

 

 

 


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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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Ben beats ball

The first hint that it is New Year’s Eve comes when walking up the avenues in New York. Out of nowhere new street hawkers have appeared to sell plastic tat – glasses in the shape of 2013 that light up, sparkly hats and noisy whistles. It makes a change from the usual sellers of woolly hats, unsafe children’s toys and a bizarre line in fake ivory ornaments. Lots of local restaurants and bars invite you to come to their party with no ‘cover charge’. Lots of shops shut early. It’s cold but clear, so a good night for fireworks. We have a good high up view, so we looked for some and were disappointed to see very few in the distance. We surfed the channels looking for New Year’s with Ryan Seacrest (ABC, I think). In London we would watch either BBC or ITV to see the enormous crowds along the north side of the Thames, opposite the London Eye, waiting for midnight. It’s near Big Ben, so it tells the crowds when midnight has arrived. The fireworks are spectacular on the Eye, on the Thames and on the South Bank. Here in NYC crowds gather from midday at Time Square and surrounding avenues – you can’t get on to 7th Avenue at 5pm without a ticket, so a long way round to get the subway home for R. On TV it looks impressive, masses of people, lots of excitement. Although the ad breaks every five minutes or so and the constant Weightwatchers references (I presume they sponsor it) is incredibly distracting. You kind of have to watch it live, so trusty Tivo and the time lapse are no good here. And what are they waiting for? The ball to drop. Yep, it’s a ball on Times Square, high up and it’s lit up and at midnight it drops. That’s it. Give me Big Ben any day.


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Happy holidays

No one says Happy Christmas in NYC. There are Christmas trees, Santa is around and stores said they were open Christmas Eve and closed Christmas Day, so it does exist. There is no Boxing Day, it is all back to normal on 26 December (to the extent that I am going to the dentist in the morning, which just seems strange). The mad post Christmas sales rush isn’t quite the same either as the big sales day here is the day after Thanksgiving, ‘Black Friday’, which sounds pretty ominous. So all back to normal tomorrow. Oh, and the 24 hour Christmas tree seller has gone.