Monday, December 31, 2007

Should we or shouldn't we ...

So it's about 5:30 pm, and we are contemplating whether or not to go in the direction of Times Square tonight. Rachel and a bunch of her friends are going--probably there already--but of course, we would never be able to find them!

We thought we MIGHT take the subway down to 59th Street and see the view down Broadway from there (Times Square is at 42nd Street).

But we are undecided. Luckily the weather isn't bad--breezy and high 30s, could be worse--but we just aren't sure if we really, truly want to brave the elements on our first New Year's in New York.

We'll keep you posted on what we decide to do. (As of 8:30, we're not going anywhere. Jeff is ill with something. But not too ill to send you the link to his video interview on ESPN. Look at the first guy interviewed here).

Saw "I Am Legend" today. It was really weird seeing New York deserted ... now, all movies that portray NYC as deserted or destroyed seem strange, because we walk outside and we're in the exact spot where the movie takes place! We recognized all the neighborhoods Will Smith patrolled in the movie, especially where his apartment was located, since it's the same neighborhood where Rachel lived last year. And, she saw Will Smith while he was filming some scenes there last year.

Also of note, if you see the movie, when he says he'll be at the South Street Seaport every day, that's right across the street from Rachel's current dorm. Cool!

Happy New Year, everyone ... wherever you may be.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Resale clothing, Thai food, and a movie review

Yesterday, Mary and Rachel went to Williamsburg, a section of Brooklyn, to visit some resale clothing stores. Had lots of fun looking through the racks, and Rachel found several cute items. We ended up spending $50 for 5 tops--much cheaper than normal retail prices, that's for sure.

Also had fun looking in a "junk" store at old record players and some lovely china and furniture. Rachel is already decorating her first apartment in her imagination ...

Williamsburg is an interesting place. It's definitely not "there" yet, but it shows signs of being up-and-coming: some nice little restaurants and shops, new apartment buildings being constructed. There is quite a bit of graffiti, which makes the place feel pretty rough around the edges. But the streets themselves are clean, and it doesn't feel unsafe. In a few years, it will probably be the hot place to live--and it's a really short commute to Manhattan.

We enjoyed lunch at a Thai restaurant called Sea. Fun ambience, decent food for the price. The bathrooms are ... unusual: two female and two male "pods" that you step into to use the toilet. The sink is a round communal one in the middle of the pods.

Jeff got off work early, so the three of us met at the Regal theater near Union Square to see "Atonement." Split vote: Jeff liked it very much; Rachel and Mary did not--at all. Found out that the two of us actually had the same thought, of leaving in the middle of the movie! The professional critics seem to like it, so maybe we missed something ...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The next adventure ...

We decided to try and start the process of buying an apartment in Paris. We may have to start a whole new blog for that one! We contacted the property finding service--run by Adrian Leeds, whom Mary met in Paris at a Living/Working in Paris conference a few years ago. Adrian is an absolute expert in buying Paris properties, and we trust her to help us.

We are planning a trip to Paris in March, and we're having our first consultation with Adrian by phone next week. Wish us luck!

Mary and Rachel are venturing into Brooklyn tomorrow (Mary is taking the day off). Rachel wants to show Mom some fun vintage stores in Williamsburg, a very hip and trendy section of Brooklyn. Looking forward to it! We'll try to remember to take the camera along and post some photos afterwards.

Meanwhile, the apartment is coming along, albeit slowly. We may go look at some tile this weekend for the kitchen backsplash. The lighting is almost in place. No resolution to the granite snafu yet, which is disappointing. But we're just moving ahead. We're planning a housewarming party for the first week of March sometime, so the clock is ticking!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick entry to mark our first Christmas in New York.

No snow, but plenty of sunshine and warm feelings among our little family, in our little apartment in the Bronx.

We enjoyed some good food and lovely gifts, and just a generally relaxed day that all of us needed.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Fuerzabruta" and bizarre weather

First, the weather: lots of rain and wind today. But the real news was the temperature. When Rachel and I returned from seeing a show tonight, at around 9:30 or 10 pm, it was 60 degrees! Considering that in the past week the high has been in the 30s, with lows in the 20s, this weather shift is truly bizarre. Not complaining, just noting. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and 40. Doesn't look like we'll get a white Christmas, after all. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 40s for the next 10 days. Maybe we will have a mild winter?

Second, "Fuerzabruta": What an imaginative show! More like performance art, really, with some pretty wild stunts. But it definitely had a message of breaking boundaries and defying conventions that Rachel and Mary took home with them. (Jeff didn't want to see the show, which was probably good because if you were at all claustrophobic, it might have bothered you.)

It was a really lively event, with some audience participation--essentially, we were part of the show, since there were no seats, we stood and moved sort of in sync with the performers as the stage moved around the room, and they came into the audience for part of the show, as well.

There were portions of the show that took place in water, inside heavy-duty plastic pools suspended above the audience. At one point, a giant pool with four female swimmer/dancers came down right above us (see photo), and we could touch the dancers through the clear plastic--it was encouraged (not in a lascivious way at all).

Hard to explain this show. You might want to read about it on the NY Times site:

Christmas Eve tomorrow! YAY!

A minor disappointment

Guess you can't win 'em all when it comes to the NY Philharmonic.

We went to hear Handel's "Messiah" last night and left at the first intermission.

To be fair, the orchestra--strings, oboe, harpsichord and organ--was wonderful, as was the choir. Really, truly excellent.

But the four soloists were generally terrible. They strayed off pitch, swallowed the lyrics, and sometimes sounded like they were choking. The soprano had the best voice but over-acted her part. The mezzo soprano was OK but wavered on the lower notes, and often was difficult to hear.

The tenor was standing in for someone who was ill, so we'll give him a slight break. The baritone--if we had to hear him one more time, we thought we might run screaming from the theater.

Sad, isn't it?

We have seen an awful lot of shows and other performances since we moved here, with very few "misses." So it's probably par for the course.

Tonight, Rachel and Mary are going to see "Fuerzabruta," an interactive dance, movement, crazy extravaganza. Maybe it will be better than the NY Phil ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Crazy week

With the holidays approaching, we have been very busy at our respective jobs, trying to meet deadlines. We won't really be able to relax until Friday after work. We both have the 24th and 25th off, and also the 31st and 1st, which is nice.

We are starting to understand the New York mentality a bit more--how people tend to think here vs. California. There is an interesting attitude of both entitlement and courtesy, of trying to behave civilly in a crowded, stressful environment, while at the same time feeling like, Aren't I entitled to (fill in the blank--this spot on the subway, this place in line at the supermarket, etc.)?

It's not always easy to be courteous, but New Yorkers really do try. We hear "excuse me" throughout the day as people navigate the subways, the stores, the sidewalks. Rarely have we seen anything nasty happen between people: maybe once or twice we have heard people get loud on the subway if one person thinks another person has gotten in their way on purpose (highly unlikely, but sometimes tensions run high).

The only thing Mary really hasn't gotten used to: the panhandlers on the subway. And also the poor people who sleep on the subway or in the subway stations. We see someone like this basically every day, in one form or another. The subway panhandlers make Mary the most uncomfortable. You know, you want to believe what they're saying--sometimes they do seem legitimate--but at the same time, you figure the money just goes toward another bottle of Ripple.

Being confronted with this type of situation, on such a regular basis, has an interesting effect. Mary thought she would get used to it--but instead, she has become more and more uncomfortable with it. Not sure what to do about those feelings of discomfort, either. Back in SLO, for awhile she carried some business cards of the homeless shelter and handed them out to panhandlers--probably no one actually took action, as a result, but at least she felt like she did SOMETHING. For its size, SLO had (has?) its fair share of homeless people and beggars on the street.

So what do you do? Look down and pretend not to hear? Look them in the eye as you refuse to give them money? Mary's tempted to put headphones on and pretend to listen to her iPod (which she doesn't on the subway because it's simply too loud to hear anything without wrecking her eardrums).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In the air there's a feeling of Christmas ...

A few sights of NYC that we saw today ... The crowds in Macy's weren't too bad, especially on the higher floors, where we bought Rachel a new winter coat. Macy's had the most fun window displays (a couple are pictured here, one of which simulates the feeling of looking down on Macy's from above).

But we enjoyed the sparkling Cartier only from the outside (darn!). The snowman video is of a window at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Thanks for the comments!

So far, we haven't gotten an answer on the granite situation. The cabinet guy, who contracts with the granite place, is stepping in. He originally suggested we talk with the granite place directly, so Jeff did that--only to be told that what was installed was what we ordered! Not.

Back to the cabinet guy ... who said he would call the granite place on Monday.

We'll keep you posted.

In other news, we have never seen so many people crowded around a dang tree in all our lives. Took Rachel shopping yesterday at Rockefeller Center. To say it was crammed with people is an understatement. Even though we still feel very much like tourists ourselves, we forget that millions of people come to NYC to see things like the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Rachel's comment was, "Gee, they should come down to the South Street Seaport and see OUR tree. It's actually prettier than this one!"

Which goes to show you that sometimes tourists miss the real NYC because they don't veer off the beaten path.

That's not to say that some of the touristy things in NYC aren't wonderful: they are. The Empire State Building is majorly cool, for example. And Central Park is superb, as are many other places tourists go.

But if you come to NYC, first of all, you'd better visit us. And second of all, let us tell you some of the places that you might not otherwise visit, but that will give you a real feel for this city. We have only been here about 10 months, but already we are starting to get to know the place--probably because we don't have the option of driving everywhere, so we actually SEE places while walking.

Stay tuned for some photos of store windows. We're going to brave the elements today and visit 5th Avenue!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Messy weather and ... our granite arrived

First of all, the weather today SUCKED. It snowed, and then it sleeted--if that's a word. The sidewalks are absolutely treacherous. Even normally speedy New Yorkers slowed down to avoid falling and breaking legs, arms, heads.

And ... our granite countertops were installed in the kitchen today. Jeff and Mary came home and had a strange sight before we turned on the lights. Hmmm ... looks a little dark in there.

We turn on the lights and, sure enough, the granite isn't what we ordered! We had ordered sort of a golden brown with dark brown and ivory flecks--imagine golden wood except in granite form, and that's the color.

Here's about what it looked like:

What we got, instead, is a very, very dark brown that matches our floor, flecked with a slightly less dark brown. Maybe a coppery color?

Something like this:

OK, so Mary decided not to freak out. Even though it's exactly the granite we DID NOT want when we saw it at the store.

She's freaking out a little.

(And a minor thing: The beautiful faucet we bought in the kitchen section at Home Depot is, according to our super/contractor, actually made for a bathroom! He's going to try and make it work anyway, but that may have to go back, as well.)

In the perspective of life, of course, all of this is meaningless. But it's frustrating when we physically went to the granite supplier and picked out the actual slab and had the guy mark it with our name! And now we get the wrong stuff.

Our plan is to tell them, Look, we'll keep it, but you gotta give us a discount on the price.

What do you think? Good tactic?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Super super and nice neighbors

What's the definition of a super super? Someone who comes to your apartment at 6:30 in the morning to fix your bathtub/shower, so you can get ready to go to work on time. It's also someone who follows up on your behalf and works hard to ensure you're happy with the work he and his team are doing.

That's Tom, or Big T, as he's also known (he's very, very tall!).

Met some more of our neighbors at a little party here in the building. Everyone seems very nice and friendly, willing to talk to the new kids on the block!

Also scored some storage space in the building, so we moved some of our boxes in there (like Rachel's keepsakes and some extra chairs). We have a few more items to put in there, but that was enough for one evening.

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the details of renovation and moving to the point where you lose perspective. Saw a segment on BBC News tonight about some people in South Africa who can't find work and live in tin shacks. They showed this one absolutely lovely woman who cannot find a job, who lives in one of these shacks. Inside, it was spotlessly clean. But there was no running water, just a hot plate, and when it rains, the roof leaks badly. Why should this woman, who seems intelligent and responsible, have such trouble finding meaningful work so that she can afford to live in a real home? We're no better than she, and yet look how much we have.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Rachel stayed with us last night!

She tried out the Murphy bed--it gets an A! This neighborhood is much quieter than Union City, so we all sleep better than we did previously.

Also wanted to extend our congratulations to Rachel's friend Beth, who found out yesterday she was accepted as a transfer student to NYU, starting next semester. Wonderful news!

Busy, busy, busy

We seem to have forgotten how much work it is to move, especially when half your furniture needs to be put together again, you have very little storage, and the kitchen isn't finished.

This morning, we encountered another minor problem: our shower doesn't work. We needed to call a plumber out anyway, because whoever installed the faucets in the bathtub and sink obviously didn't know what they were doing. In the shower, both hot and cold go the same direction, so that when you try and turn on the shower, that handle bumps into the cold one--not too brilliant.

So now, the shower works (barely) for about 30 seconds, with very little pressure, and then simply stops.

And . . . We need a brand new faucet for the sink, because a) the spout comes out so far over the sink that the water splashes all over the place, b) the handles are completely loose (maybe stripped), and c) the trap doesn't work, so you risk losing your valuables unless you manually place the trap into the drain.

Nothing major, but a hassle nonetheless. This is also what happens when you use a real estate attorney who doesn't follow through on the home inspection. If he had, we could have asked the seller to fix all of these problems beforehand. Now, we're stuck with them, sigh.

A word of advice for anyone buying property in New York: watch your lawyer like a hawk, and make sure he/she does EVERYTHING they're supposed to do. We made a couple of assumptions that we shouldn't have: like our lawyer would do what was required without us having to check on every detail. He was a nice person, no doubt, but there wasn't much follow through or communication.

On tbe positive side, we are making some progress around here. We are putting some items in a storage space in the building--Rachel's keepsakes, mostly--and we got a couple of items in the mail yesterday that we need: a wall-mount pot/pan rack and a couple of cool bookshelves (we bought 2 of the shorter ones, from We also may buy some more wall-mounted shelves by Elfa, because Mary fell in love with this system when we installed it in the closet.

So Mary's goal is to have this place basically done by mid-January: that includes a little painting, putting up some artwork, getting rugs, the whole deal. Wish us luck! As always, we'll keep you posted.

Will post some photos soon of beautiful holiday decorations in New York. Last night we went to a "mall" at Columbus Circle--"mall" because it's technically one but doesn't look like a suburban mall by any stretch of the imagination ( The decorations were lovely: giant ornaments that put on a light show along with the holiday music that was playing (see the photo at top). If you have never been to NYC at this time of year, you must consider a visit. Forget about the cold weather--it's not that bad if you have the right coat, and the city looks positively gorgeous!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

An unfinished kitchen ...

... but it will be done soon. Next week at this time, it should look much more like the real deal--although it will be missing a couple of details, like a tile backsplash. Gotta see it all together before we choose that.
The picture from the living room looking in toward the kitchen through the pass-through shows Rachel's murphy bed: a horizontal twin model. A big slab of granite is going over the top of it to make a counter for the kitchen; it will extend just a little bit into the kitchen itself. Will make a nice place to set hot items from the oven and also serve people buffet style. Can't wait to do some entertaining!

To all our friends and family back in California, we're surviving the cooler weather just fine. I guess when you're in California and you hear about snowstorms back east, you assume the worst. Believe us, we'll let you know if we're experiencing the worst. So far, it's been very mild: a little bit of snow, a little bit of wind, a little bit of cold air--nothing our clothes can't handle. :-)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What a day!

Yesterday was a busy one around here, with the movers arriving with the rest of our beloved belongings. We are now surrounded by towers of boxes and face the challenge of putting together our Ikea bedroom furniture again. Should be easier the second time around, right? At least, that's been true with our marriage ... :-)

It's supposed to be a blustery day here today, with some snow flurries later on. Wonder if it will snow on Christmas? That would be awesome!

Will post some photos as soon as we can uncover the little camera ... it's around here somewhere!

So far, though, we already feel like we are home. It's so much quieter here, and the commute is simple, simple, simple: a brief walk to the subway station, and then just one subway train for about 20-25 minutes.

Yesterday, Mary was surprised to see a guy smoking on the subway. Guess he felt since part of the ride was outdoors and not in a tunnel, it was OK? Every once in awhile, he would open up the door between the cars to spew some smoke and cigarette butt. It takes all kinds.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Quick post from snowy New York

OK, so LAST night was actually our last night in Union City, NJ. Today, we finished moving all the little stuff, and the cats, into the new apartment in Riverdale. Hooray! Tomorrow, we supervise the movers as they take boxes, our sofa, our wardrobe and bed up here for us.

Hopefully the weather will be better than today--although it hasn't been windy, it's definitely been cold and snowy. There is about an inch or so of snow on the ground. The drive to the Bronx from Union City was easy, though: no real traffic, and it wasn't snowing or raining. Just cold.

So now, we're ready to collapse onto our air mattress, since our real mattress won't be here until tomorrow. The kitchen is not finished yet, either. We do have a working refrigerator and a microwave, but that's it. The cabinets are in place but not quite finished (doors not adjusted, no knobs, some doors still missing), the countertop is not here yet, the sink isn't in, the stove isn't ready ... So it will probably be at least another week or more before everything's fully functional. But they're doing a good job, and that's what counts!

Anyway, we'll post some photos soon, so stay tuned for the next segment of Jeff and Mary's Excellent Adventure ... in the Bronx!