Monday Musings: A Long Weekend kind of Monday

Monday musingsIf last week was cold, today, New York is freezing! I am almost sure my favorite fountain in Bryant Park will be heavy with ice. Just when I thought this year would be warmer and easier. The morning began with single digits today and it didn’t really go up by much.

True enough, when I got to Bryant Park, this is what greeted me:

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Bryant Park, 21 January 2019

Blogging consistently. While it seems like I’ve been a Monday and Friday blogger, I think that is quite a feat considering I haven’t been writing this much for the longest time. It takes a conscious effort to begin a post — but writing has never really been an issue to me. So it’s more about making time. I am trying and happy to be at this pace, yet hoping to write more in the coming weeks.

Destash ongoing. This should really be in my next Friday Five but it’s a Monday and it’s work in progress. And my weekend is still technically on because we have a long weekend this time around. (It’s Martin Luther King Day so I got Monday off.).

I started going over my magazine pile for destashing. The first one was a Food & Wine magazine from 2003. Older than my little guy!

Now, I’m one for keeping food magazines for the recipes, and right now I just can’t part with this. So of the three I’ve gone through so far, only 1 is heading out the door. I should do better than this, I know. I am trying!!! (Does it help that I’m planning to do a second pass when the pile has dwindled?..). There is more that I need to get rid of and I have vowed to do this in earnest. The goal is to go through at least a dozen this weekend, and I’m a quarter of the way through.

Fabric haul. From time to time, I browse Craig’s list for free fabric and craft supplies listings. I will write about this another day, but I got lucky when I hit it Friday evening and saw a giveaway in Brooklyn. I emailed and got an address for a storage place.

After trying to figure out the best way to get there, I settled on uber pool and packed my expanding luggage and shopping totes. Saturday, I thought getting there at 2:55 for a 2-5:30pm slot would be plenty of time, but I arrived just as the entire haul was almost totally gone! Still, I managed to grab some nice African prints and other fabric and yarn. There were also several patterns, some uncut and complete with instructions — in total making up for the cost of the trip back and forth. I figured it was more or less the cost of a trip to Michael’s and I think I got that much and more. I am craft happy!

Fabric happy

Taking time to go to my quiet space. It seems that I am needing to reflect more and more these days, with so many things happening around me, and not happening at the same time. I know it is a time for prayer — and a time for reflection. Someone told me I’m stressing too much about so many things that I should be easier on myself. Today, I tried.

Winter Restaurant Week in NYC. Yes, it’s this week!! I will write about this more next time but this is the Branzino I had at Ortzi by Jose Garces at the Luma Hotel NYC. Definitely recommending you try this!

Restaurant week NYC, winter 2019, Ortzi by Jose Garces

It’s called LUBINA on their Restaurant Week menu ($26.00++) for a two course meal. It’s Branzino with Gigante Bean Stew, Spiced cauliflower, Hazenut sofrito and Pequillo peppers.

Am I glad I braved the cold and went to the city and had a relaxing and filling lunch. Nothing beats good food and good company. That’s another post altogether.

Here’s to a good and not so cold week ahead for all of us here on this side of the world. And a good one for the rest of you!

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Walk with me

It’s rare that I get to take so many pictures chronicling what is an every day trip for me from my home to my place of work.  When I posted them on my Instagram account, I was struck by the way the pictures seemed to be telling a story.  While they are seen as individual photographs on my IG feed, seen together and in my own mind is a single narrative that begins with the first picture and ends just before I go up to my perch to start another day at work.

So come walk with me and see New York City through my eyes this snowy and cold Monday…

I start my day walking to my bus stop to take the ride that will bring me to Manhattan. I always make it a point to look up. I sometimes wonder why people keep looking down, but hardly, ever, look up.
UntitledThere is a ton to be seen if we took the time to just take a moment to train our sights upward for a change.

I ended up taking an alternative route which will be my usual route in a few weeks’ time as we move eastward to our other building.  I really don’t mind.  The two stops are separated by avenues which take me all of 7 minutes to walk if I don’t stop anywhere.  But whenever I can, I say hello to the boss upstairs.  I walk into the Church of St. Agnes on 43rd to pray.

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This church is very special to me because it has been a place of solitude for me during my weakest moments.  I have shed tears here.  I have given thanks.  I have simply sat and be.  I listened without saying a thing, not even in my heart.  This is like home to me.
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I have walked in and out of these doors many times before, but for the first time, I paid heed to the ornate grillwork that showed the world outside.  Again, we don’t stop enough to admire the beauty around us.

From there I take the scenic route through Grand Central.  Instead of entering through the main corridor, though, I always choose to walk through Grand Central Market for the visual and gastronomic treat.

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I notice there are new stores now like the two stores you see on the left.  (EAT gifts and that new SUSHI place.)  I like walking down this way because I get to see my usual favorites and whenever I can, I grab lunch.  This time it was a half pound of French Raclette from my favorite cheese place, Murray’s.  I love the sights and smells of this place, from the smell of bread to chocolates to the pungent cheeses and fish at the end of the row.
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It’s food and more food all around — plus a few extras like gifts and flowers.  If you were to throw a last minute party for two or more, or even one you planned ahead — this is a one stop shop for anything and everything you might want to serve.  (You’d just have to walk a few steps away for the vino, though.)  I’m on an almond croissant quest and I had already sampled Eli Zabar’s a few weeks back, but wanted to grab a delectable shot to use when I do write my post on which one wins my heart and tummy.
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I can stay here all day and watch the world go by.   I have never seen this place not  busy — less busy, yes, but always abuzz.  And yet it isn’t a noisy or dizzying kind of busy that leaves you with that urge to walk away or leave this place.  It’s that kind of busy hypnotizes you into just letting the world turn as you find yourself a quiet corner to watch spin around.

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I don’t know when exactly they put up what is now known as The Great Northern Food Hall, but I’ve visited here a couple of times to grab a sweet treat or a pastry for breakfast. One of these days, or when we finally move perhaps, I might take a quick bite here and write more.  This is the side that greets you when you emerge from the main hall of the terminal, and you will find clusters of their various outlets for you to choose from.  (Each station has it’s own check out counter which precludes any guessing games like bigger food spaces.)

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It occupies one half of the huge space that was all of Vanderbilt hall.  With the Food hall there, the event space has been reduced to the other half which isn’t really a bad trade off considering what is now on the other side.

Making my way out to 42nd Street, I walk westward and find myself at one of my favorite spots in the city, Bryant Park, where the New York Public Library is situated.

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In the spring and summer this place is awash with green, but even in the dreary months of winter, the tall trees stand majestic providing such a dramatic background as you walk its grounds.

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Mornings are my favorite time of the day in the park because it’s practically empty.  As the day wears on, the seats and tables all fill up with regulars from the offices around or the countless tourists both local and foreign who seek out the thrills of New York City.

The snow that was in the forecast started to fall.

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I like snow best when it is falling, no matter that it is pouring in torrents or drifting down aimlessly as if the air was cushioning it from crashing down.  I’ve seen these tables covered and buried in white.. then in grey.  I wondered how much snow was coming.

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I walked to my favorite bakery kiosk by the edge of the park closer to Avenue of the Americas, and taking shelter from the snow which had started falling heavier, I actually took a film clip panning the area (which, I am trying to upload but have not been successful doing.)  It is uncanny how no matter how many times I take a photograph from any angle or any corner, it never quite comes out the same.

And so I crossed, looking uptown, snapping away as I walked.
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Then I decided it was better doing this at a full stop, so I became one of those pedestrians who stands in the middle of the street, whips out a camera and shoots a pic.
UntitledFrom here I enter my building and go up to my perch, starting yet another work day.  This is My New York.

Off key

There are days when you know everything is supposed to be okay, but you somehow feel like your life is out of sync.  Much like how my two hands would play as if they belonged to two different bodies whenever I hit the keys for the first time, after years of not playing.  (Lightbulb reminder: Find a rehearsal studio to actually play at – still up in the air.)  It would take a few pieces or minutes to eventually get them to hit the keys in unison to make music.  Then it all  comes back.

I keep hearing about being “more than okay”, but things feel different.  I know.. I’m overthinking things.  We all go through rough patches, and then we hope for the best and pray that we bounce back.  Or if we don’t, that we actually land somewhere better.  It’s not exactly “bad”, but it’s not a warm-and-fuzzy kind of phase.  And like all phases, it passes — not just quickly enough.

Sometimes life likes to throw surprises our way — and no matter how prepared we may think we are (“been there, done that!” — I tell myself), there are still bits of news that will catch us off guard.  I say I’ve gone through this before — I lived through it and have survived — and I will do that again.  So I am not at all being smug when I say I’m good for all the experience I have tucked under my belt… Some well meaning friends are asking how I am doing.. am I okay?  (Let me throw back the line at you now, “More than okay!”)… No matter how self-assured that may sound, I am actually wondering if I am trying to convince myself I am.  Or maybe I am, indeed.

So how do I cope during times like this?

I think about the things I should be thankful for.  Like earlier today, I fell in line at my favorite bakeshop at the corner, Breads Bakery over at their Bryant Park Kiosk.  Every morning, I usually get off my ride (the ever dependable QM5 Express Bus from my part of NYC) right in front of it or just a few feet away.  I am usually good with resisting the temptation, but on days when I can’t shake it, I give in and plod my way to the order window.  It’s a choice of cheese straws (yum) or the feta bureka (yum yum) as a breakfast treat.

I fell in line and was approached by this friendly and harmless looking young lady who chatted me up and — hold your breath — offered to pay for this morning’s purchase.  Now I had my heart set on two burekas for lunch — and that was $5.  I asked her, “For real?”  And she said yes with a smile.

Then she handed me this card which said:

THERE’S GOOD ALL AROUND US IF WE JUST LOOK FOR IT.  Let’s open our eyes, and our heart.  And let’s See. Good. Daily.

There’s actually more blogworthy material on that business card size piece of good she handed me, but I think it deserves its own post.. later.  But the long and short of it was, she did pay for my purchase, and even posed for a picture which I promised to post on Instagram to plug their effort — but the picture didn’t come out well, and I would hate to have such a bad picture of her for all the world to see. It just didn’t do her justice.

Apparently, this was all part of a commercial shoot for a lens company, Lenscrafters, and they had wanted to interview me for a short clip — but I was in a rush to go to work.  I had already crossed the street to my building when one of the production assistants came with a pro forma release form of sorts which I filled in and signed. I told them they better tell me if I’m appearing anywhere!

But it wasn’t so much the 15 seconds of fame I might possibly end up enjoying or being given at a later time.  It was the feel-good treat on a terribly cold autumn day in New York City.  I got my burekas free, and someone made me smile.  #SeeGoodDaily

How often do you get a breakfast treat from a complete stranger?  That was one big “Thank you” I owed the universe.

I go back and look at pictures that bring me back to happy times.  No matter what they say, pictures have a way of reassuring us all is well — we are blessed — and in short, we are more than okay.  What more can beat a visual reminder of how much better we truly are compared to how we are imagining our world might be?  (Writing that last line somehow made me feel silly for even feeling this way right now.)

Perhaps it’s just the needy, whiny me.  (Shrinking into my chair now and feeling guilty of being a brat.)  I really shouldn’t be complaining.  I have been telling myself that over and over again… and it helps ease the anxiety, and it reminds me of how I have been so lucky to be where I am, and to have the people who are in my life today.  One of the more remarkable lines I had come across in recent days is that we should stop feeling bitter about the ones that we lost, but instead be grateful for those that we have.  (Or something to that effect.). How true.

And those pictures and the feelings that go with them serve to remind me that I have much to  be grateful for, and there are so many happy thoughts and memories tucked in there somewhere.

I self soothe with my drawing, sewing and my crafting.  Drawing has been such an escape.   My Paper Flower Garden is a continuing project, but even that can get tired and old.  There are times when I don’t feel inspired or motivated, and when that comes upon me, I put my pen or my scissors down and I let it go.  Putting pressure on myself will only serve to defeat the very purpose of the exercise, which is to calm me down and just bring me to a quiet place of bliss.

I have been sewing and my coat is almost done.  (Yay!)  There are nights when I stay up late redoing the stitching over and over again until I get it right.  Yes, my seam ripper is my bestfriend now.  I’ve gotten so adept at working with it that I can now systematically undo a full side of a garment I had painstakingly sewn with a few nicks.  I am getting to know my simple sewing machine better, and soon, she’ll be a bestie like my seam ripper.

As for my crafting, I’ve been trying to get my materials sorted so that  I can start creating not just new pieces for myself, but for the shop as well.  (I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record.)  I have actually started working on a brass metal stamping that I have glued onto a base fabric to bead and embellish.  I’m thinking “statement piece” necklace, but I have been busy experimenting on the base fabric.  (Felt to stiff interfacing to maybe faux leather.)  Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to figure out the design beyond the focal of the whole piece.  That’s taking a bit of time.

Trying not to resort to comfort food but my spirit has been broken.  Considering the food I’ve eaten outside of what I am allowed, I have actually done pretty well in keeping my weight gain minimal and manageable enough to get back on track more easily.  Still, I can’t be complacent about it because gaining is always easier than losing it.

It doesn’t help that there’s chocolate within reach, and that there’s the “Pancakes for dinner” alternative.  I have tried not to be too liberal with the leeway — I have struggled to get back to my lowest weight, and I want to break that barrier before the holiday food binging begins.

Aromatherapy to bring the happy thoughts forward.  I’ve always been a fan of sweet and fruity scents.  I like milky and “clean” smells — scents that bring back memories of fab times and fab people.  Do you ever find yourself associating certain scents with people you have spent time with?  I have.. and I do.. I don’t don perfume regularly but always slather on some lotion or body butter, and the scent or formulation I use at any given time are usually associated with how I feel or want to feel on any given day.  There are times when I just don’t care and the moisturizing matters more than the scent that lingers on — and there are days when I put a favorite scent on to just put some “happy” into my day.

I go “Lipstick girl”.  I have always proudly declared myself a make up lover / addict, and I used to saunter down the make up section of Rustan’s back home, just to ogle the palettes and displays of the various brands.  Be it in a drugstore or in a department store or Sephora, make up continues to have a soothing effect beyond description.

It’s like entering a candy store.  I just can’t have enough.

I have, however, significantly held back from binging on make up — for now — but only because I have more than enough in my stash.  I keep my lipsticks separate because they are determined by my color scheme for the day and the overall look I’m trying to achieve.  So I would fish through my make up box and look for the lipstick purses and just go over them and inventory my stock.  Yes, that makes me happy, knowing I have this shade and that.. in this form, be it matte or glossy — liquid or stick.  Other people go for shoes.  My comfort go-to in the pretty-me-up department is plain and simple lipstick.

We all hit a rough patch every now and again — it’s how we deal with our own demons that determine whether we let it drag us down or we up and go and move on.  I always choose the latter but it isn’t always done in a snap.  Like most things, it takes the willpower to bring “happy” or a semblance of it back into your day when everything seems to look bleak.

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to get yourself there and out of the darkness.  Then you can sing in tune again, and dance in sync with the music.

 

 

Christmas in Bryant Park

I was going to do another Friday Five  when I started writing this Friday night, but I changed my mind after I went through the pictures I shot at noon around Bryant Park earlier that day. The sun finally came out despite the low temps and it seemed to be almost perfect lighting at high noon, so I had decided to take a detour around the christmas tree by the New York Public Library, closer to Fifth Avenue.  I bundled up, put on my shades, walked the longer route, and I snapped away…

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014The park comes alive with the holiday shops every year, along with the skating rink that draws both local patrons and tourists.  It’s one place where the Christmas spirit is felt very strongly in this melting pot of different holiday practices and sentiments.  I always complain that it’s not as “christmassy” as back home (in Manila) because there’s a divide between Christian and Jewish holidays.  So we are awash with red and green and a sea of blue.

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014

But here in Bryant Park, you just get enthralled by the overpowering holiday cheer, whether you believe or not in Christmas.  Its Christmas songs and decorations all around.  It brings the park to life in a different way — making it my favorite season in this favorite park of mine.  It reminds me of home where Christmas begins in September and ends with the Feast of the Three Kings the first Sunday of January.

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014Christmas has always been my most favorite time of the year but it is celebrated very differently here.  It’s not quite the same as we know it back home.. still, it’s “home” to me now and has been for the last 15 years.  I revel in my little boy’s lighting up when he thinks of presents and all that.  And while like me, it’s our first Christmas here again after three years of christmases spent in Manila — christmas is christmas wherever it finds us.

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014
I’ve decided not to make my holiday cards this year.. succumbing to the 50% off sale in Barnes and Noble the other weekend.  I just figured I’d save myself the trouble.  (Yes, I’m being cheap but this is THE BEST time to buy your cards.. and weeks after the holidays!)  I think I’ll actually be able to send out more being that I’m not pressured to produce them myself… and maybe it’s time I take a break and enjoy the holidays instead of stressing out about it.  (Note to self: start the cards in September next year!)

 

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014

I’ve been thinking of actually sitting here one of these days, but the autumn has been a very cold and wet one — I almost shudder to think how our actual winter will be.   

I have always looked forward to Christmas — even when I don’t want to look back to holidays that may have not been festive enough or happy at all in the past.  I look to it as a time to make new memories and to close out a year ending — whether the year was good or bad.  I’m not quite in that mindset yet — writing about the year just passed.  It hasn’t quite gotten me there. 

I’m sticking to Christmas.  I know that no matter how simple or grand this year’s celebration will be, it definitely will be much better than the previous year’s.  And if only for that, there is much to look forward to.  I might even put up the Christmas stockings again — not so much for myself but for the little guy who is all this Christmas is all about.

A sight to behold: Analogia in Bryant Park

Analogia over at Bryant Park - viewed from across the Avenue of the Anericas.  This is an epic new public outdoor art installation by artist Ben Tritt making it's worldwide debut at #bryantpark.  There until March 18.  Just another one of those everyday t

It’s entitled Analogia and it’s one of those things that make being in New York City a privilege.  This has been up for a week now and you have another week or so more to enjoy it.  Up until March 18, this epic art installation in Bryant Park by Ben Tritt, produced by Jodi Kaplan has been standing proud on the Fountain Terrace.  The picture above was taken from across Sixth Avenue, aka Avenue of the Americas.

I snapped up a picture during my noon walk and another on the way home.

Even when taken with natural lighting, the graphics were imposing and just amazing.  Although the installation is not lit, the way it was executed makes the visuals come alive, more so when viewed up close from street level, making the various levels “connect” into one flowing scene on each side.  (Just below the steps is the better angle.)
In Bryant Park: Analogia at night with the Josephine Shaw Lowell MemorialFpuntain glowing at the back and the New York Public Library standing guard in the distance.  Even more imposing at night and viewed up close by the steps.  Art installation by Ben T

It was pure luck that I stood in the middle and then noticed the gap framed my fountain beautifully.  Just moving a few inches to center it made for the gorgeous evening shot.

Catch it if you can while it’s still in the park.

I wish I could…

It’s another Friday — and a super cold Friday at that.  I took this snapshot of my favorite fountain here in Bryant Park this noon on the way to pick up lunch and a few odds and ends for a weekend project at the bead stores.  As you can see, the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain is freezing up again and will likely be another elegant ice sculpture over the weekend, more so when we get some snow again from Sunday into Monday.

The Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain all frozen

I can never tire of taking pictures of this gorgeous fountain.  It’s not one of our more majestic ones but it has it’s own reason to be proud as a source of beauty in this great city.

I’m waxing poetic, I know.  It’s been a long and tiring week for me.  I feel as though many parts of my life were put on hold due to the rest taking it over.  I have even missed a day here and there on Instagram.  (THAT busy!)

I haven’t quite moved as progressively as I had wanted in the fronts I had hoped to work on.  I wish I could… but sometimes, you just get paralyzed from all the movement and find yourself moving and not moving at the same time.  There are the projects and homework to finish.  He takes precedence, of course.  At the end of the day, I had wished I could just finish dinner and curl up in bed and lay down to sleep.  But there have been many late nights and no reprieve from being the first to wake up the next day.  Tomorrow, I will get my chance — I hope.  Even just an extra hour would do wonders.

I wish I could just sit in the park and watch the world go by but it is too cold to do that.  There are many thoughts crowding my head that at times, something as trivial as playing slot machine games (just for play, not for money) on my iPhone helps to bring me down to a quiet calm. 

I haven’t written much.  None of the letters I had hoped to write have been written.  Rereading those two sentences made me sigh deeply at the thought that my world seems to be stuck at a certain point even if I know I’m moving in all directions.  Sometimes we get so busy that we end up seemingly standing still even if we aren’t. 

But it’s Friday. 

And although it’s another winter weekend — I hope to do a few things and hopefully report back with something accomplished.

I am looking forward to a restful weekend with the family.  No real plans as of now except to get  a treat from my boy who promised me a present for all the help with his school projects.  He was being overly generous but I told him I’d be happy with some polymer clay or other odds and ends.  He said as long as it’s at least $50.  That’s my boy who promised mom a diamond ring when he’s working already.  (And if he doesn’t have a girlfriend yet.)

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Snowy, snowy Monday

Snowy Monday
We woke up with a good layer of snow covering most of the ground and a steady snowfall threatening more.  I was the only one who trudged out to brave it, and there was already almost two inches of snow as I made my way to the bus stop.

I’m a fan of freshly fallen snow, but I loathe having to deal with its aftermath.  You feel like you’re walking inside a freezer and you have to be quick to distinguish ice from slush from soft snow.

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More than an hour later, the bus managed to literally crawl to Manhattan.  Snow tends to slow vehicles because it is slippery and gives the vehicles a lot of difficulty when it comes to maneuvering.  It wasn’t as bad in the city but the snow didn’t stop falling.  The trees were already outlined by snow resting and accumulating on its branches when I reached Manhattan just after 9am.

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By noon, the New York Public Library and Bryant Park 41 storeys below me were blanketed with snow — and no, this photo is not in black and white.  Snow and the weather condition made it look like it was.

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The vista across from our building was a gloomy grey.  The continuing snow fall made it so, as if a shroud of gloom descended upon the city.

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The most dramatic yet was the one I took just a short distance from my doorstep as the sky glowed while a slight drizzle of snow fell to the ground.  For all the hazard and difficulties brought about by such heavy snowfall, you can’t help but admire the beauty of all that white, coating the outlines of the trees as you look up into what looks like a luminous night sky.  No bright lights — hence, the brownish tint of the picture.  (Plus, of course, a little help from Instagram’s filters..)

Breathtaking.