Thursday, December 22, 2011

A New York City Christmas

I'm not going to lie - there are thousands of amazing things about living in New York City.  I often find myself looking around saying, "seriously?" and "how did we end up here?"  It's such a bright and dynamic city... and with the exception of some a lot of questionable smells emanating from sidewalks, street corners, subway grates and unmarked buildings, it really is one of the most magical places on earth.  At Christmas, this is especially true. A New York City Christmas is something everyone should experience at least once, if just for the shopping alone.

This year, I tackled the challenge of cramming my NYC holiday extravaganza into two short weeks.  It required commitment and dedication, but I managed to take in the Radio City Rockette's Christmas Spectacular, the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, the Lincoln Center Winter Festival and, my favourite holiday tradition: viewing all of the amazing Christmas window displays.

I'll let my photos speak (mostly) for themselves - I hope you enjoy my view of "A New York City Christmas" just as much as I've enjoyed sharing it...

At Macy's, you can always expect style with a side of sequins

This year, Macy's tackled a whimsical "history of Christmas ornaments"

A tribute to Elton John?

Macy's - Herald Square

A toy soldier at Rockefeller Center, overlooking the skating rink

A light show projected on the building across from Rockefeller Center

 If you've ever wondered how they get the lights on the Rockefeller Tree, here is the mystery unveiled: wooden scaffolding built up around the tree

I just can't help it: I can't get enough of Nutcrackers!

The Rockettes display at Henri Bendel

One Singular Sensation.  Okay, that's A Chorus Line, but it seems appropriate!

Meanwhile, the windows at Berdorff Goodman...

Over at Berdorff Goodman, they created amazing displays focused on single construction mediums.  Here, the aquatic scene is made exclusively of mosaic tiles

Berdorff Goodman: A display made exclusively of paper

Birds of a feather...

A view of Lincoln Centre

The magical ballet!

The Lincoln Center Winter Festival: Tree lighting time!

Looking into the amazing Lincoln Center square

Inside Radio City Music Hall after the Rockette's Christmas Spectacular

Inside Radio City Music Hall - Glitter tree!
A view of the infamous Radio City Music Hall... one of the happiest places on earth

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


 The attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing or special: "the glamour of Monte Carlo."

Here I am with my cape/coat and my Glamour bag outside of Carnegie Hall.

For the second year in a row I have been lucky enough to attend Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall.  It goes without saying I’m a fan of the glitz and pizazz such an event brings.  From celebrities to sequins, the evening is an all-out star-studded extravaganza that’s inspirational and entertaining.

If you don’t know what the Awards are about, here’s a quick rundown.  Each year, Glamour selects around 11 women who are doing amazing in things out in the world.  These women can be politicians, artists, fashion designers, royalty, actors or activists, and every year they are selected by past recipients and honoured at the Awards. 

As I’m clearly not famous (well, at least not yet), how I was able to attend this event is a bit of a mystery, that is, until you discover the world of being a seat filler.  Basically all televised awards shows get a group of people to dress up and, well, sit in empty seats so the theatre always appears full. If Cher gets up, you sit in her seat.  When she returns, you give her seat back.  This particular example hasn’t specially happened to me, but I have seen Cher at the Awards, so I’m speaking from experience. Ish.

Last year, I braved this new world of seat filling on my own and I moved about the theatre a number of times, filling empty chairs and having a few brushes with fame (thank you, Stanley Tucci – I’m still talking about you).  This year, I convinced my husband to come along, but unlike last year, after we sat down in the 10th row, we didn’t have to move.  We sat across the aisle from Tory Burch, Lea Michelle, Gloria Steinem and Jennifer Lopez; we listened to colourful stories from Arianna Huffington and shared in an inspirational adventure with Esraa Abdel Fattah.  The night was full of girl power… and it was awesome.

“The Bests” – in my opinion

Of course, it wouldn’t be a truly glamorous event without an equally fun bag of goodies at the end of the night.  So, what was in that bag?

As the title sponsor is Loreal, you'll notice a pattern of strategic product placement.  Here we have full sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and hairspray.

Loreal make up fun! False lash mascara, Glamour Women of the Year lipstick in 'blazing sangria',  'blushing berry' lip gloss, and 'smokey for all eyes' eye shadow (a product I'm frankly skeptical of... how can one foam brush blend everything in one sweep?)

A Pandora collector's guide and, perhaps most importantly, a bottle of 'Youth Code' serum.  Apparently  if I put it on  in the morning I'll look like me and by the end of the day I'll end up looking like Abigail Breslin.  Quite frankly, as long as it can guarantee I'll look as good as Julianna Margulies at some point in my life, I'm willing to try it out. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Super Fans

Spending hours in stand-by lines of television shows can be either a frustrating or rewarding experience… much like how rainy days can go one of two ways: full of gloom and disappointment or crammed full of fun and unexpected surprises.   When you get a frustrating, gloom-filled, disappointing day, it’s best just to go home and turn on the Wendy Williams Show because sadly, your day can’t get much worse... but when you get a rewarding day jam-packed with fun and unexpected surprises, you’ve hit the rainy day lottery.  Last Thursday, alongside a group of friends, the rainy day jackpot was ours for the taking and no inverted umbrellas or messy hairstyles could stop us!

Writing about the entire day would take approximately 8,000 words (yes, it was that crazy), but the story that will live on forever is short-ish, oh so sweet and involves 30 Rockefeller Center and that late night host named Jimmy Fallon.

Life lesson: Friends who will spend rainy days in stand-by lines are keepers

When we lined up for tickets in the morning, we only knew of one specific guest: Eva Longoria.  Now, having seen Eva on a few talk shows over the last year, I’m not ashamed to admit I have a bit of a girl crush on her.  She’s smart, fun, competitive in family games like charades and can cook.  Basically, if she lived next door, I would befriend her and borrow cups of sugar.  All of us were just excited at the prospect of being in the Jimmy Fallon audience, no matter who else was going to be on the show – Eva was a bonus and anyone else would be icing on the cake.

Coming back in the afternoon to redeem our tickets, we lined up in numerical order – we had tickets 17-20 and were reasonably confident in our positions.  The first cut the NBC staff made: 1 – 36 would get to go to the next checkpoint.  No guarantees on audience admittance, but the further you get into 30 Rock, the better.  Horray – and we’re off!  Next up, we find ourselves in a boarder-line deserted hallway with the top 36.  The next cut: 1 – 15 would get in.  Disappointment… and not just for us, but for ticket holder #21 who had her wallet stolen a few hours earlier and who was still in line to see the show (WHAT?!  I would be losing my mind if I was in NYC and had lost my wallet… I wouldn’t be in line to see my hopeful new bestie do a 15 minute interview with no guarantee of Jimmy’s ‘thank you note’ bit).  But wait!  As they look at the top 15 it seems some people are missing… they are willing to take the next four people in line.  Hello rainy day lottery!

Hello upgrade opportunity!
Wristbands up!

After taking a quick look at our little group they handed us tickets, attached green bands to our wrists and pulled us out of line to take us to another roped-off area.  Puzzled, we stood with a group of about 20 people until our beloved NBC girl came back and announced she had “an upgrade opportunity available.”  You had me at “upgrade” NBC – this could only mean good things!  The offer was to be in the bandstand and dance/sway on stage when their musical guest performed.  Well, this was better than we ever could have imagined.  Ummm, yes, we’ll take it! 

Wait, should we at least know more about this band? 

Fast forward. 

Jimmy slow-jammed with Brian Williams. Eva was awesome. Kal Penn was entertaining.  We’re up. 

During the last commercial break we are taken on stage with a clear view behind the scenes where we see what can only be described as “alien monsters.” The band: GWAR.  If you aren’t familiar with them, neither were we.  According to their cyber fortress, GWAR is a heavy metal band that’s been around since 1984, they are all about outrageous costumes often made of rubber, body paint and obscene lyrics.  Of course, they were on Jimmy Fallon to perform a new hit from their current album, ‘Bloody Pit of Horror.’  Oh sure. To get the full picture, I encourage readers to visit - my words alone aren’t able to do justice to this group.

So there we were, on stage in the bandstand, clouds of dry ice encircling us as GWAR performed their song.  To be honest, it was difficult to understand – it could be because the singers were wearing enormous amounts of rubberized head gear, or it could be because we had to head bang so as to appear like number one fans.  Either way, nothing could have prepared us for the slaughter that happened next.  Yes, slaughter.  By the end of the song, band members were fighting on stage, tearing chunks of flesh from their costumes and trying to decapitate each other with saws.  At some point I had to ask myself, ‘why couldn’t we have landed on Josh Charles day… Josh Charles day would have been so much dreamier,’ but it’s one of those things you can’t question.   The universe wanted us to see GWAR.

The only way to truly sum up this experience is by saying one word: hilarious.  How we made it into the audience, how we were selected to be bandstand members and how we managed to land on GWAR day is simply a mystery.  It’s something that a very few people would ever experience – a true, ‘if not now, when?’ moment.    That said, if you’re in Calgary on November 5th, they’re playing at MacEwan Hall.

And that’s how we became super fans of GWAR, super fans of Jimmy Fallon… or maybe just super fans of those things you look back on and say, ‘only in New York.’

Even Jimmy Fallon was scared

Friday, September 9, 2011

Remember to Love

Ribbons tied to the gates of St. Paul's Chapel
On the street the other day, I overheard two men bragging about how many Jeeps their respective families own.  One man’s family has four, the other, nine.  Nine Jeeps in the family?!  Variety is the spice of life, but Jeeps are clearly the starchy side for this meat and potatoes crowd.

With the 10th anniversary of September 11th around the corner, the sobering realities of that day’s events are ever-present around North America, and especially New York.  Here, people are finding ways to pay tribute to those who both survived and lost their lives.  TV shows are offering moments of silence, reporters are interviewing those who made it out of the wreckage, drug stores are offering free American flags and churches are giving people "Remember to Love" ribbons so they can write messages and tie them to the surrounding wrought iron gates.  So, how does this fit in with the guys talking about the Jeeps?  I’ll get back to that eventually.

A decade ago, I couldn’t ever have imagined I would be living in New York City, let alone mere blocks away from the World Trade Centre site and watching these things go on around me.  It’s difficult for me to believe it has been 10 years: in many ways it seems like yesterday and in other ways I can hardly remember a world without the date “September 11” being associated with the attacks.  I remember the morning it happened, watching, in shock, as the Trade Centers came crumbling to the ground and as I walk the streets that would have been covered in debris, I can only imagine the chaos that would have been running rampant throughout lower Manhattan.  Even today, you can tell the events of 9/11 are within those New Yorkers who lived through it – the feeling is palpable and I don’t think that will ever go away.  Even for me, I won’t ever forget being outside when airspace over Calgary re-opened and a plane flew overhead.  I stopped on the street and looked into the dark sky, thinking that things wouldn’t ever be the same again.  Our world was forever changed, New York more than anywhere else.

10 years ago, I was starting my first year of college, I had just met the man I would later marry and I was embarking on a great new adventure.  By the time I graduated, the events of 9/11 were in my text books as a piece of modern day history and these days, watching the rebuilding of the site has become part of my daily life. 

Now, with the 10 year anniversary on the horizon, threats of another attack have surfaced.  Checkpoints have been set up and those riding the subway are being spot searched.  I’m thankful for the vigilance of the NYPD because, well, this is what living modern day history looks like in New York City.  If Michael Bloomberg can ride the Subway, so can I; if the average person can talk about how many members of their family own Jeeps, I will listen and be grateful for the lightness of the conversation; and if New Yorkers can carry positive spirit, strength and resilience with them, I can, too. 

In a world where variety is the spice of life, I’ll take meat and potatoes this weekend. 

One of the many police checkpoints that has been set up in Manhattan

A cherry-picker style police tower overlooking the Trade Center site

Construction in the reflection of a nearby building

10 years later, the rebuilding continues

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fiesta Fruit Hats and other Surprises

Oh surprises.  Sometimes even the most basic things in a life can give you an unexpected jolt into reality. You know what I mean.  Things like finding out the milk you just bought has gone bad or that you inadvertently bought perm solution when you meant to pick up hair dye.  You don’t always know why things happen the way they do (example: You weren’t supposed to have milk because you developed an allergy to dairy overnight and, the truth is, curls are really flattering).  The point is, on occasion you have to give in and let the universe leave its mark… even if you have no idea why.

One such ‘universe footprint’ tread on my life a few days ago – one of those moments that makes you say to yourself, “What are people thinking?” and “Seriously?!”  As the story goes, in the middle of last week I found myself  a local branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL… and acronym which will become important in just a minute).  The truth be told, I’m a frequent library visitor.  I love the people watching (the 6’4” man in a fiesta fruit hat continues to be a highlight), I love picking up books (and occasionally judging them by their covers) and I love the fact that you can go and learn something new every day (from how to make fabric flowers to how to write the next great screen play and from saving the world one vermi-composter at a time to how to hide vegetables in dinner … don’t judge).  It’s all there and I’ve probably researched in, thumbed through or read at least 268 of the NYPLs bazillion book collection.  I’ve also began to embrace the world of DVDs though the library.  I’ve caught up on new and old movies – things I’ve wanted to see but have missed, or things I’ve heard about so thought I should try (example: Rachael Getting Married.  If you haven’t seen it, I can save you some time.  Rachael gets married.  Some stuff happens, it’s not all good, and then, yes, she ties the knot). 

So last week, I decided I would check out three movies: a) The Blindside, b) Life As We Know It and c) The Back-up Plan.  As an avid “re-watcher” of things, I’d seen two of these movies before (hint: a and b), so “c” seemed like a reasonable, well, back-up plan… and I don’t even particularly like Jennifer Lopez.  That should have been my first clue.

My fatal error, was, perhaps, in thinking this J-Lo movie would be different from the others.  I wish at this point I could give away a spoiler to the movie, but I can’t… and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to in the future.  Why?  Well, when I opened the DVD all I saw was a shiny disk with Sharpie letters “NYPL” scrolled around the inner circle of the disk.  “Strange,” I thought to myself, noting that a few other DVDs I have don’t have images on them and can be played on both sides.  That’s when it happened.  I turned the disk over, only to find that someone had switched disks and had left me with, well, adult entertainment.  Yes, someone left me with their back-up plan.

In all likelihood, that’s probably not even the best part of the story.  It’s the fact I had to take the DVD back to the library, make the guy working at the check-out counter open the case and flip the disk over himself.  The words, ‘Oh God’ with a horrified throat gurgle could be heard for meters (it is a library, after all).

Lesson learned: While back-up plans are good, I won’t ever pick mine off a communal shelf again.  As for the library, and hopefully my fiesta fruit hat guy... I'll see you later this week.

At least I know what it should have looked like...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Look, spaghetti arms...

I’ve never had a problem with personal space – I don’t mind people near me, I’m not claustrophobic and I hug my friends.  When you think of cities with a lot of personal space, New York probably isn’t the first one to come to mind.  Of course, your assumptions would be correct.  You just have to walk through Times Square a few times to realize that this city has nothing but people!  That said, New Yorkers are definitely of the ‘keep to themselves’ variety, which means bumping into someone on the street or in a lobby will get you the world’s biggest stink eye.  
Sometimes it feels like being in a magical school of fish, all of whom know the intricate dance of speed walking and sidewalk weaving, but sometimes it feels like you’re in the smallest of sardine cans, unable to stand, let alone make any kind of movement that would be Dancing with the Stars approved.  So the other day when I was on the Subway and a lady reached out to grab a bar in the center of the 40+ degree train and instead grabbed my face with her talon nails, all I wanted to do was exclaim, ‘Look, spaghetti arms… this is my dance space [insert me drawing a one-inch arch around myself], this is your dance space [insert me drawing a one-inch arch around her).’  The point is, you can hug me, just don’t gouge me in the face with your nails… and most importantly, don’t invade my dance space.
Sadly, that wasn’t the worst train offense of the day.  No, that came a few hours later on the way home, when  a man sneezed directly onto my face.  Suddenly, I became the person giving the stink eye… and I think I was justified.  He didn’t even apologize for the million germs he power-sprayed across my face.  Forget the need for dance space, I was just hoping he didn’t have swine flu.  The point is, you can be in my one-inch arch, just don’t sneeze on me… and most importantly, if you do, please apologize.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The man in the rose-coloured jeans

Admittedly, it has been awhile since I wrote a blog post.  Sorry dear readers… I promise to be more diligent this summer.  I mean, really, if I want to be discovered for something that will yield a ‘c’ or even ‘b’ list status in order to get a call from Dancing with the Stars, blogging could be my meal ticket.

With that, I bring you: The man in the rose-coloured jeans.

Earlier this week, I found myself at The Body Shop (though this is, in principle, against my Fruits and Passion roots, no such stores are in New York… so I made lemonade whilst in search of a pillow spray).  While smelling a bar of summery pink grapefruit glycerin soap, a man who entered store caught my eye.  Maybe it was because he gave off a vibe or maybe it was because he was wearing dusty rose-coloured jeans.  Who knows?  When I turned around, I spotted him removing a tester of men’s cologne off the shelf, coyly flipping it in his hand and sliding it into his pocket.  Outrage!  Having worked in this industry for years, shoplifters officially give me mad rage.  Enter mission: catch the criminal.  I calmly walked over the cash register and told the two clerks I had just seen the pilfering go down.  They quietly made a call and headed over to chat with the man who proclaimed an interest in gift sets (what… to put down his pants?!).  Giving him items to smell and products to try, the clerks kept him in the store until security arrived.  Security came in the form of a large man, probably 220 lbs and dressed in uniform.  All of us had gleeful aura surrounding us, lest the criminal escape the throngs of our plan… however, it was clearly foolproof.  We’d done all the heavy lifting:  Spotting the crime and secretly detaining the criminal.  Enter mall security in the most ‘epic fail’ moment ever.

Security guard: “What am I here for?”

Clerk tries to secretly point to the thief.

Security guard: “So someone stole something?”

Rose-coloured pants man takes his additional new ‘time killing’ sample and leaves.

Security guard: “Oh – that was him?  Well, what did you want me to do?  Search him?”

Ummm… yes! 

A long story short – the man in the pink pants made a mad dash off the property and the guard watched him do it.  The upside, I got a high-five from one of the clerks for my Nancy Drew-inspired skills.   After not only watching this go down, but having been part of it, I have discovered some very important life lessons:

1) My uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of mall cops has hit an all-time high and is apparently well-founded .

2) Pink jeans for men are seemingly being crafted and sold throughout the world.  To some, the shoplifting would take a backseat to this offense alone.

3) Sometimes finding the perfect pillow mist can get you caught up in a situation you would never expect... like a heist, or a fashion crime.

All I can say is next time I see someone pocket body care, I’m going to pull out my high kick and nab the thief myself.  I can hear Tom Bergeron telling the story now…

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thank goodness for garbage collectors… and the Obama children

Heading home for Christmas was a great getaway –  I had to be up around 4 am and was plagued by brief, interrupted sleep.  After counting sheep (literally, I tried it and failed because I imaged them dancing in the air like cows jumping over the moon), I fell asleep, dreaming that the Obama children were helping me pack using their Mary Poppins-esque carpet bags. I hope I at least gave them homemade muffins for their efforts, which makes me wonder if Michelle bakes now that she’s First Lady.  Is she allowed?  Does she own a J Crew apron?  Can she make carrot raisin muffins from ingredients from her White House garden? Does a special ‘taster’ need to be involved to ensure they are right for Presidential consumption?).  In any case, a heartfelt thanks to Malia and Sasha – I’ll look to you two to helping us move in a few weeks.

Coming back to NYC in early January was the perfect time to hit the ground running on the New Year.  We arrived one week after a huge snow storm and were greeted by the garbage and recycling remnants on streets, piled more than 5’6” high, with only enough sidewalk room left available for one person to walk down a path at a time.  A few days ago, light flakes of coconut-coloured snow began to fall and ‘emergency command posts for winter weather’ were deployed.  I’m pretty sure 1/89th of an inch of snow fell, but we were prepared this time.  Mayor Bloomberg was featured in a press conference and school was cancelled. Coming from Canada, I think back to the days I trudged through knee-high snow and can’t help but feel I would probably still be in junior high if school was cancelled every time 12 snowflakes fluttered from the morning sky.   On the upside, the emergency procedures meant that garbage trucks were deployed with tire chains.  Oh New York, how you entertain me.

Above: A view from our apartment...

Below: A view from the street...

I’m looking forward to writing a full report on our impending move to the Financial District and the start of tap lessons later this month.  For now, I’m off try on my new tap shoes and dance around the apartment to “Marry You” from Glee (I'm pretty sure they can't evict us for noise infractions this close to our move out date... can they?).  At least I'm not singing Glee Karaoke here.  I'm saving that for the new place.

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