Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year!!

Bonne Année, Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr, Prospero Año Nuevo, Voorspoedige nuwe jaar, Happy New Year.

Whether you are sliding into the New Year like the Germans, wishing a prosperous New Year like the Mexicans, or greeting the New Year in another language, I hope your 2007 is a happy one!!

I know that 2007 will be a great year for me because my horoscope in Cosmo and the Bucks County Courier Times says so;-) I’ve included your horoscope below (from just in case you want a definitive answer about how your year will be.

New York Adventures will continue next year as I settle in and finally have a chance to test my “urban legs” in the city that never sleeps.

Till then…

Aries: Motivation and hard work will help you recreate your life, giving you new opportunities in your career this year. Change is in the air. While you are in the process of enhancing your career, take stock of yourself and reconnect with your roots and what you want to achieve. A new relationship coming your way will really perk up your interest as well. Get out that swimsuit and get ready to spend some exotic moments in the sun with the new person you're attracting into your life.

Taurus: Optimism will help you break out of any routines that you want to be free of this year. Focusing on your idealistic approach to life will afford you exciting new opportunities in education and travel. Besides needing to work hard to form strategic alliances, you will find groups of people to support you in your business and financial concerns. Your down-to-earth communication skills will benefit you greatly in your social life, and you will attract many new opportunities with your friends. You're able to handle the social demands put upon you this year and work things out in a constructive way. You will gain tremendous financial benefits from all your hard work. You'll feel very fulfilled and loving this year. Enjoy!

Gemini: Gemini thrives on change, variety and mental stimulation. You will attract these in all areas of your life, making for a very exciting year. Use your talent of looking at your emotions objectively to come to terms with them when you don't understand logically what's going on in your life. You will make long strides in your career this year -- as long as you keep faith in yourself. You attract a variety of people with your great charm, and you have a natural ability to gain admiration. You'll feel energized by the opposite sex. For most of the year, communication will be top priority, and you'll be asked to articulate your inspirational ideas in some kind of writing project. Friends and family are key in helping you manifest your desires, especially in the latter part of the year, and the chance to deepen your relationships with them makes you very happy!

Cancer: Being the ultimate caregiver to those you love, you thrive in your relationships this year. Your understanding and compassion are an inspiration to others, and your optimism is contagious. This year brings opportunities to explore new horizons through travel and/or spiritual studies. This is a wonderful time for you to build more resources in your life. You will feel confident and satisfied with how you spend your time and money. You realize your need to regroup and recharge your emotional energy this year. With so much joy and harmony coming to you this year, you'll find that it bubbles over into your career as well.

Leo: Your sunny disposition will bring harmony into your life this year, resulting in an integration of all that you are becoming. You are dynamically active with lots of friends and group associations, and you love diversity and stimulation. Guard against taking on too much responsibility this year, otherwise you might end up feeling overloaded. The passion you feel toward your family this year will lead to a powerful relationship you may have never known.

Virgo: Maintaining positive friendships and close personal relationships is a high priority for practical Virgo this year. Your family and home life will be a source of great happiness and pleasure as you spend time building good relationships. You are a healer at heart, and would do well in the healthcare field, perhaps teaching people to maintain a positive self-image through artistic creativity. Later in the year, make sure to take more time for walking in nature, gardening, relaxing in health spas -- places where you can freely connect with your deepest self. Your spontaneous and impulsive nature makes for a very physically active year.

Libra: Balancing acts are something you do very well, and you'll be regular tightrope walker this year! You have a natural ability to patiently give people your valuable time, and weigh new ideas without jumping to conclusions. Long-deserved appreciation for all the love, respect and uplifting energy you exhibit will connect you with new opportunities for advancement in 2007. Your nurturing gives people a deep sense of security and stability, and helps them to be more successful in their own lives. Short trips and travel will intellectually stimulate you this year, and provide a refreshing change of scenery.

Scorpio: Passion carries you far this year in the realms of creativity and expression. Getting in touch with and appreciating more of your passionate nature will transform you in a way that results in putting more money in the bank. You could easily work as an advisor for big companies or in public relations. You have a very good support system in both your career and home life, and will learn that perfect order is taking place in your life at this time. Since your career has gotten off to such a great start this year, by summertime you will have more time on your hands to become romantically involved in a new relationship (or rekindling of old), which you've been thinking about for quite some time. You could enjoy spending time traveling to foreign lands and be drawn to observing others' ideas and cultures.

Sagittarius: Your strong sense of self will get you through almost anything this year, and your confidence will enable you to take on any new opportunities that come your way. You may want to take some long journeys this year to give yourself spiritual stimulation and to help you feel more connected to the deeper philosophical side of your being. Communication becomes easy this year. You will learn to trust that you are cared for by a universal support system, and develop tremendous faith in knowing that your needs are being met in life.

Capricorn: A hard worker, you will find new ways expressing yourself this year. You are taking life very realistically this year and are feeling very serious. In your personal life, you will express yourself more passionately, and notice that you are developing more sensitivity in how you come across to others. You may find relaxation through gardening or other grounding hobbies.

Aquarius: This year, idealistic Aquarius shines brightly. You truly are a visionary with a high sense of purpose and an advanced way of thinking. It will be very easy for you to express your individuality and altruistic ideals. You will find that you have unique ways of earning money this year. You may choose to experiment with different lifestyles this year. Your career may take on more of a passionate way of using your intuitive abilities to get to the inner meaning of things. In love relationships this year, you will be very energetic and may very well attract a flamboyant and energetic significant other.

Pisces: Pisces is having a once in a lifetime opportunity for great changes this year. You will be having the time of your life, expressing your loving and compassion to the world and fulfilling your boldest dreams. Your natural ability to communicate ideas to others is keenly perceptive now. Focus on trusting your intuition and you will get through nearly any circumstance. You need to lighten up about difficulties in life. Don't be so critical and overly concerned about details.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Can you feel the love tonight

It’s been a great couple of days full of family, holiday and New York activities. I knew it was going to be a fun Christmas when Granny and Grandpa walked in the front door on Saturday and Granny announced to Katie, “my medicine has LSD in it, want some LSD?” Laughs continued for the rest of the weekend, plus a healthy dose of Christmas cookies thrown in for good measure. We had our traditional Greek Christmas meal (spinach pie, grape leaves, Greek salad) on Monday and welcomed Dave, Lisa and Ellie to town later in the day.

We all headed into NYC on Tuesday—first to see my apartment and have dinner in Brooklyn Heights. I got lots of good decorating ideas from Granny and space maximization ideas from Grandpa. We didn’t have a ton of time for dinner, so we headed down the street to Sea Asian. While not sheshe Asian fusion, it was a definite "go back to" local restaurant.

Our second stop was Times Square, where we had tickets to see the Lion King musical. What a show!! The costume design was remarkable. Some actors were dressed in giant animal suits while others, like those who played the lions, looked like people but moved like animals and had lion masks that could be moved in front of their faces. Even the grass had actors behind it. The musical was more than two hours long but it kept my attention and smiling throughout. Hakuna Matata!!

The train ride back to PA was capped off by a bunch of drunken idiots who kept screaming like Howard Dean, talking about their “Buttery Nipples” and “Jager Bombs” and yelling “who had a merry Christmas.” The ring leader kept saying he was the fire chief of Hamilton Township. Let’s hope such a loser isn’t really in charge of public safety! The conductor was ready to kick them off the train but their stop came up before he had the chance. In a bit of sweet justice, one of them left her cell phone on the train. Yours truly thought it would be funny to send inappropriate text messages to everyone in her phonebook. But I chickened out in the end and settled on curtly answering the phone when she called and telling her that she and her drunk friends annoyed me and that maybe she would find her phone at lost and found the next day and maybe not. Can you feel the love tonight?! (Of course I handed the phone to the conductor)

Back to work and Brooklyn Heights tomorrow.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday “Tips”

I still have a lot to learn about the city. While chatting with people at a holiday gathering yesterday, I learned that the going Christmas tip rate for doormen in “white glove” apartment buildings is $250. WHAT! And I’m not talking $250 split among all service staff; I mean $250 per person! I realize that service people live on tips and good work should be recognized, but when you do the math for a doorman working in a 100 unit building that’s quite a haul. Then again, if you are one of the Goldman Sachs employees splitting $16.5 billion in bonuses perhaps you can afford huge tips for your doormen!

Offering a different kind of tip, I read on the front page of the Wall Street Journal yesterday that the UK department store Marks and Spencer has specially trained “stocking fellas” to help men pick out lingerie for their wives and girlfriends this Christmas. You have to pay to read the WSJ article, but check out the M&S press release and website. Ingenious!

Finally, if you haven’t been watching much tv lately, check out this holiday commercial for BMW. As a general rule, I DETEST Christmas car and jewelry commercials, but this one is just too funny to not watch. Even more amazing is the story of how the home movie ended up in a commercial. The link above tells the story.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Kicking into Christmas

Wanting to celebrate my first New York Christmas in style, Katy Z and I headed off to Radio City Music Hall last night to see the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular. What a theater and what a show! Radio City, with its red carpet, recessed lighting, voluminous stage curtains and overall art deco style was as grand as I could have imagined. I was so impressed by my surroundings that I was tempted to run down the aisle like Little Orphan Annie (luckily for Katy I restrained myself!)

The show itself had a little something for everyone—the long-legged dancers, Santa in 3D, dancing bears, ice skating and a live Nativity. I was most enthralled with the dancers. The world-famous kick line was truly something to see in person, as was the number where the dancers dress as toy soldiers and fall on top of one another like dominos. My favorite number, however, was the 12 Days of Christmas. The melody of the music was a rhythmic version of the song but had no words. Instead, the dancers were constantly forming new configurations corresponding to the number of the day as they acted out the different gifts. Does that make sense? Let's just say it was the traditional Rockettes, with a traditional song, performed with precision and a modern twist…amazing!

We had dinner at the Heights Cafe in Brooklyn--good food, great ambiance but they didn't take Visa. Who doesn't accept Visa?

Friday, December 15, 2006


Since certain people have questioned my choice of words in the last posting, let me add another unusual word to the mix: straphanger. What on earth is that, you ask? Am I the only one who has never heard this expression?

Apparently a straphanger is a commuter. A report on the evening news interviewed "straphangers" to see what they thought about the contract agreed to by the Metro Transit Authority and transit workers. A quick google/wikipedia search revealed that the term was probably first used in the late 1800's when trains had leather straps for riders to hold on to. Ya learn something new everyday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Kamikaze Death Mission

I knew it was risky... the weak might not make it... but for the love of cute boots I had to at Macy’s at 34th Street during Christmas. I will not lie, it was touch a go for a while-- fighting through the crowds at Penn Station, on 7th Ave., and surrounding the beauty counters on the main floor of the department store. Luckily, once I found the fantastically old wooden escalators that carried me to the shoe departments (oh yes there is more than one) I had a pleasant holiday shopping experience. And I must admit that the decorations are something to be seen—poinsettias, trees, bows, ribbons and red carpet create a Christmas dreamland. I dare say I might even go back in the next 11 days!

Equally precarious was my trip last night... to purchase a mattress. Talk about the forest of no return! Who the heck knows what I actually bought! I walked into the store wanting a firm queen mattress and had a certain budget. I ended up with a pillow top double, a bit over my budget but somehow ended up negotiating the price with the salesman. The brand is well known but the model is unique to the store so I can’t even do online research about what I bought. In the end, the double is a more sensible size for my room and it will certainly be more comfortable than the air mattress on which I am currently sleeping! Mission accomplished:-)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Knowledgeable Europeans and Jolly Good, Wunderbar American Speakers

A recent article in the NY Times articulated an interesting 2-way cultural perception that I have noticed with Americans and Europeans (at least Germans and Brits.)

In “Talking the Yanks Under the Table,” Sarah Lyall noted that “Britons seem to have the advantage of accent: their exotic pronunciation can make even dubious observation sound like unimpeachable truth… ‘Every Englishman can talk for 15 minutes on any subject without a note,’ Norman Mailer has been quoted as saying.”

I would say something similar about most Germans I have met. While people often diss the accent, Germans can speak like an expert on a wealth of topics including America. Of course some perceptions about the US to be a bit skewed, but I found it impressive (though also discomforting) that a foreigner would know more about Aretha Franklin, classic American films or Native Americans than I do.

So what can we conclude from these two observations? That Brits and Germans are great, smart speakers, better than Americans? Perhaps. But the admiration doesn’t just flow is one direction.

I was always intrigued to hear my German colleagues comment about how well Americans present information. From the perspective of the Germans I met, Americans are able to succinctly present ideas, use Power Point more effectively and come up with smart sound bites. My adviser also commented that it takes a German twice the number of words to write his disseration as an American.

Most recently, I had a Brit say to me that he was taking a public speaking class. The class is super popular and fills up quickly because the class, in essence, teaches people how to be a public speaker American-style. The group of Brits I was with seemed perplexed and fascinated by this perceived American ability.

I realize that these observations don’t match up exactly. Are the Europeans saying Americans present crap, but do it with great flare? Still I think it is great trans-Atlantic case of the grass is always greener on the other side.

Any similar experiences with other Euros or people from Latin American, African or Asian countries?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Lower East Side

Attending a Christmas party with belly dancers and off-color jokes; getting stuck in a 2 hour traffic jam because someone (IDIOT) got his tall truck stuck in the Holland tunnel; gagging so bad from the smell of subway you almost puke; sending more than ten messages from your Blackberry in one day. With all of those having happened to me in the last 72 hours, I am sure that I am well on my way to becoming a New Yorker (at least as much of a New Yorker as I ever want to become.)

Not only have I had those “unique” experiences in the last few days I have finally had a bit of time to set out and explore the city. The Lower East Side was my neighborhood of choice on Saturday afternoon. My first stop was to S’Mac, a macaroni and cheese restaurant near Cooper Union (E 12th St. bet. 1st and 2nd.) All I can say is yum! I had the “nosh” size Cajun mac n’ cheese and am already planning to go back for a “major munch” order of 4 Cheese and a “mongo” portion of Brie and roasted figs.

After fueling up at S'Mac, I was ready to peruse the Christmas market at Union Square. While you can’t replicate the ambiance (or Gluwein) at a German Christmas market, the market at Union Square is not to be missed. Candles, jewelry, shirts for dogs, skirts for ladies, bath “truffles” and pottery were just some of the things the market had to offer. The regular open-air market was also going strong. It was surreal, but also wonderfully new and relaxing to walk around the market sipping warm, spiced grape juice, while watching families buy Christmas trees and fresh meats, fruit and veggies brought in from upstate NY. Though surrounded by skyscrapers, concrete and urban grim, the vibrancy and accessibility of the market made me understand how people survive and and even thrive in the city.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Where's the giant menorah?

I IMed a New Yorker friend of mine the other day to ask which radio station played all Christmas music between Thanksgiving and the Dec. 25th (I needed some Christmas tunes to sing to as I waxed my wood floors.) DC had such a station and so does Philly, so I assumed NYC must too. “Um, I don’t think we do that here. The demographic is different,” he wrote back. Interesting point! But for a city where “The Dreidel Song” might be more popular than “Little Drummer Boy,” there are Christmas trees everywhere and I haven’t seen a single menorah. I didn’t see any giant menorahs in Berlin last year, but to quote my friend, “the demographic is different.” But in DC the giant menorah stands right next to the Christmas tree behind the White House. Couldn’t Swarovski make a giant crystal menorah to stand next to the Rockefeller Christmas tree with Swarovski tree topper?

I did a little research on this matter and discovered that the world’s LARGEST (32-ft) menorah stands in Central Park at 5th Ave and 59th Street. New York also has the largest Jewish population outside Israel. Who knew? Guess I just found something else to put on my list of things to see and do in the city:-)

P.S. My friend was wrong; NYC does have a radio station that plays Xmas music.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pinch me...

…it doesn’t seem real that I have finally moved!

After moving the furniture on Friday, we packed the mini van to the ceiling and headed back to Brooklyn on Saturday. Luckily, Drew was willing to come over and help me get settled. Between my mom and dad and his help, my apartment was starting to look like a home by the end of the afternoon.

As you can see, there are still boxes to unpack, but my Berlin painting has finally landed in its rightful place and paper white bulbs have been planted and might bloom by Christmas. Unpacking has been a bit like Christmas; “Oooooh, I forgot I had that” was a phrase I used more than once this weekend.

arial view of my room taken from the top of my closet

After saying goodbye to Mom and Dad, I wasted no time heading out to see a bit of nightlife in NYC. I made a couple rookie subway mistakes, so the cocktails were already flowing by the time I arrived at Houstons to celebrate Katy’s 27th birthday. I had not participated in any of the planning (bad friend), but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with the girls for a fun evening. The homemade veggie burger and cocktail (it was pink!) were delicious and the company was a riot! For a brief moment I felt like a stylish hip New Yorker enjoying everything the city has to offer. But another subway mishap on the way home reminded me that I have a lot to learn!

What am I going to do tomorrow morning with the 1.5 hours that I won’t spend commuting? I could start to run off the two dinners that I had on Saturday:-0 Or I could relish watching the first snowfall of the year as I leisurely get ready for work. Hmmm, tough decision;-)

a Granny idea--garland on the ladder to the loft

Friday, December 01, 2006

Blogging from my new apartment!!

Wahoo, I'm blogging from my new apartment (courtesy of a neighbor's wireless connection:-))

The movers were waiting for us when we arrived and I was moved in by 8:30am. My mom has already tackled the wood floor and shutters and my dad's been cleaning the windows. What have I been doing, you ask? Blogging:-)

There are a few things that need the land lord's attention (lack of toilet seat and low battery in the smoke dector), but all in all things are great!

More later...