Holidays in the City

Unless you find yourself amidst the holiday markets in Europe, there’s no better place to be during Christmas time than New York City.  From the countless trees decked with lights to the window displays along Fifth Avenue to the ice rinks found around the city.  Hey, most of the time we even have the crisp air that allows you to bundle nice and warm, because who isn’t about that boots and scarf look?

Having lived here now through four Christmas seasons, I do agree that the Big Apple does it best – it’s been a treat to wear jeans, sweaters, and scarfs on a regular basis but I also have been fortunate to go home for a sunny and 70F Christmas morning.  I have made it my goal to experience as much Christmas cheer as possible and have a list of things that you certainly should check out one or many years down the road.

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Life of Late ~ 12.16.16

Ho ho ho, the holidays are in full throttle with less than 1 week to go until Christmas Day. I must be losing it because I originally published this as the 15th not 16th.  That has been updated. Well, I personally like the build up to the actual day of Christmas best but that’s just because when Christmas is over, we enter this dreary season of January and February chill.  Anyways, both Christmas and  Hanukkah happen fall around the same time period, which means celebrations at the same time for most people in the city!  Our apartment is all decked out with a baby tree, stockings, Hershey’s candy, and pine-scented candles (though my mother does not approve). 😉  Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on in NYC this week.

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Sharing a Bit of Christmas Cheer

What a bright time, it’s the right time to rock the night away and write a little survey.  Inspired by Hayley’s blog post last week and filled with all the holiday cheer that comes at this time of year.

Christmas Survey

Eggnog or hot chocolate? – Hot chocolate all the way.  I tested out eggnog on Saturday (along with some smog not) and it just wasn’t my jam.

Multi-color tree lights or white? – White is quite nice because it carries a calming aesthetic but since we’ve grown up with the multi-colored lights, I have to go with tradition.  Obviously.

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Do you hang mistletoe? – No, no, no.

When do you decorate for Christmas? – We try to get our tree the second or so weekend in December, just so that it lasts the entire season and doesn’t dry out.  As for decorations, they usually go up after Thanksgiving – depending on when we have time – or rather when my mom has time since my sister and I haven’t been living at home for the past few years.

 What is your favorite holiday dish? – Hmmm. Popovers? They are rare but delish.  Or peppermint bark.  I’m a new fan of the Holiday Flat White but that’s a commercialized dish.

Favorite holiday memory? – I love walking around Manhattan and seeing all the street lights, store windows, and decorated trees.  A new one is the NYC NP_Carols where we dress up and gallivant around the city singing carols (and even making the NYC Snapchat story)

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What’s on your Christmas wish list? – I would really like an updated phone, especially since it’s my lifeline, my camera, my planner, etc.  Although, I’m not too picky.  Just time to relax and workout with the fam and no drama.

Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve? – Since we spend the afternoon and evening with my dad’s side of the family, we generally exchange a gift or two or open PJ’s from the Christmas Elves.

How do you decorate your tree? – This is my very first personal tree! I have a tradition of collecting ornaments on every trip that I go on or every year that I live in a new place.  For the past three years I have picked out a turquoise glazed ornament from the Union Square Christmas Market – each one depicting one of my favorite places around town.  So far I have Flatiron District, the East River Path, and the Williamsburg Bridge/One Tower.

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Snow: love it or hate it? – Just for a little bit 🙂 I’m more of the sunny and 70 on Christmas morning kind of gal.  What can I say? I grew up in Southern California.

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^^ More of the Christmas Eve view but you get the idea.  Hard life living in Southern California 😉  Remind me why I’m living in New York?

Real or fake tree? – Real!  We pick our tree out from the local YMCA lot every year.  This is probably more work than it needs to be since my mom spends most days worrying if it has enough water but we love doing it and it helps out the YMCA.  This year my mom surprised my sister and I with our own little fake tree from Crate & Barrel so that we could decorate it with our own ornaments and take it with us when we move.

Favorite Christmas movie? – Christmas with the Kranks or White Christmas. I have never been one to re-watch TV shows or movies but boy those two can play on repeat and I would never grow tired of them.  Also, Tim Allen is simply the man.  So darn funny.  I could also see my dad pulling a move like that, so it makes it even more hilarious.

Favorite holiday tradition? – Our traditions or schedule has been relatively unchanged over the years >> driving down to Laguna Beach on Christmas Eve to spend time with my dad’s side of the family, spend Christmas morning with a jog (usually Meghan and I roaming the streets), and then driving up to Santa Barbara to spend Christmas night with my mom’s side of the family.

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^^ Lately we have been playing games on Christmas Eve and with a family of athletes and competitive individuals, it’s a hoot!

Favorite Christmas carol? – Mele Kalikimaka.  Because in my heart I live in Hawai’i.

Christmas morning tradition? – As mentioned above, my sister and I usually wake up and head off for a jaunt about town.  Something about working out in the morning, especially when the town is completely quiet makes the day special. Before setting out, we prep homemade cinnamon rolls and let it sit and rise.  Once back, we shower and usually jump back into pajamas, sit around the tree and open presents and eat our way through the cinnamon rolls.

IMG_7704_1024 ^^ Not a selfie around town but workout partners in crime.  We used to runt together on Christmas morning but our speeds have changed greatly so it might end up being a solo jaunt. 

Do you write Christmas cards? – I guess you could say we send them as a family and I often take charge of the writing the family letter.  There were a few years that my sister and I would send silly cards out simply because my dad wouldn’t let us take those goofy pictures.  We might pick up the tradition again if we live together down the road, but for now, it’s a family affair.

What are some of your favorite traditions??

Fifth Avenue’s Holiday Glitz and Glamour

The next four or so weeks are bound to be the busiest time of year for the city of Manhattan.  There are lights adorning every street and garlands galore.  The Rockefeller tree has been decorated and lit and you can battle your way for a skating spot at either the Bryant Park bazar or 30 Rock rink.  My friend Lindsay and I adore all the glitz and glamour as much as the next and felt like taking our own little tour of all the festive decorations along 5th Avenue and throughout Manhattan.

IMG_8245We took the subway up to 59th and started inside of Bloomingdales, winding upstairs and through the various booths, out and down the street until we reached  out to Central Park and past the Plaza Hotel (Fairmont) and onto 5th avenue.

IMG_8249 IMG_8251IMG_8253 Can you believe the vast amount of people on the street?  It was quite the scene to move from one window to the next, but well worth the view.

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IMG_8258 ^^ From Tiffany to Harry, Manhattan has your diamond needs covered.  I love that each of these stores decks out their window displays with seasonal stories, bedazzled mannequins, and so much sparkly garland.

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^^ Smiling but just about ready to be out of the Rockefeller zoo.

While I certainly love my city, I certainly don’t care for the overload of tourists and ultimately avoid most of these areas.  🙂  But, having lived here a little while, I’ve picked up on some tips and tricks to enjoy the holidays my way.  Try waking up early and taking a jaunt along 5th avenue before people have eaten breakfast or even woken up.  Then you can catch a glimpse of all the gorgeous displays sans crowds.

What are some of your holiday traditions?

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“May your holiday be as bright as your spirits are light”

Life of Late ~ 11.27.15

For some of you, Black Friday has already been a shopping success.  Bless the souls who have been up and at ’em, fighting the sales and fighting the lines.  I made that mistake once and realized crowds were not my thing.  Funny since I maneuver the subway crowds on a daily basis.

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Anyways, after rolling out of bed – with a stomach still full from last night – my sister, her friend Laura, and I headed out to Runyon Canyon for a little hill workout with NP Los Angeles.  Having grown up in Southern California, I really hadn’t spent much time exploring the local hot spots.  Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park are both known for their hiking trails and so it was neat to see what L.A. has to offer.

IMG_3709^^ Always fun to have a friend with me from my NP_NYC family.  Of course I may be biased but I love the New York tribe so much.

Let’s work in a little bit of reverse manner.  Throwing it back a week, I drove down to visit Meghan in her college habitat and completely forgot about this little thing called traffic.  It took me a good 90 minutes to drive down when it only should have taken 30.  Good job.  Some might think it strange for someone to want to go back and stay in the dorm overnight but that just meant free breakfast and boy do they have an excellent spread.  Putting that college tuition at work. We met up for dinner at Eureka! Burger, grabbed some frozen yogurt from the Southern California famous 21 Choices, and then finished the weekend with a nice hike.

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^^ What we call Instagram vs. Reality.  I love those posts where bloggers share a picture from their social media account and actually explain the level of difficulty it took to get that perfect, swoon or drool worthy shot.  Yes, Meghan does deal with my foodie photography but usually gives me a hard time along the way.

The rest of the weekend was spent playing golf, prepping for the week, and helping the parents cook a good dinner.  On Monday I took an early Equinox spin class, thinking that waking up early would help me beat the LA traffic.  Nope, apparently all of Los Angeles is also up at the crack of dawn and it still took me 80 minutes to travel 22 miles to the LA office, which certainly raised my blood pressure.  Later on in the day I picked up a friend from Santa Monica and we braved the two hour commute back home.  I’m glad we had the time to catch up but I swear, that traffic is just a depressant. If I decide to move back to Southern California, I would try my best to live and work as close together as possible because if I had to drive that commute 1x or 2x per day, I may very well go insane.

Monday was actually my only day of work since I had coordinated my vacation time to align with the holidays…hello extra long weekend!

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^^ Tuesday was filled with all sorts of doctors appointments and lunch with a friend from high school.  We had originally targeted Tender Greens for a nice sandwich but when we saw the line around the corner, we opted for Pasadena’s newest addition – Urth Caffe – instead.  While I usually go for the Spanish Latte or Spanish Granita, I was feeling more of the green tea boba combo.

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Bored Panda ~ “18 Real-Life Locations That Inspired Disney” ~ So you know those times where you walk around a foreign city and you feel like it’s right out of a movie?  Well, turns out these gorgeous locations were the creative inspirations FOR various Disney movies.

I’m full of good clips today.  Sit back and relax 🙂

Ok, I may be a new Bieber fan and James Corden fan.  Watching James drive through Los Angeles with various fans had me cracking up.

The Healthy Maven ~ “Life Without Labels” ~ Another great one.

IMG_3637 ^^ I was finally able to get my friend Laura to test out the free fitness movement with me and on Wednesday we ran NP_LAX’s PR Day, which meant zig-zagging the four levels of the Hollywood Bowl twice, enough to feel the burn in both our legs and throats.  Now I just have to make my way to SF to visit her and test out the SF tribe.  #traaaaaaverbal 😉

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^^ Pasadena’s temperatures were well into the 50’s but one should never turn down a trip to the Ice Cream Lab.

IMG_3647 ^^ For the past two years, I have spent Thanksgiving across the coast in the chilly Northeast.  While it was a great experience to be away from home, build a little character, I really missed some of those traditions.  My favorite? The morning ritual of running around town, burning up an appetite for that afternoon.  Since I decided to warm up with my sister and her friend (both college athetles), this was destined to be my view.

IMG_3651 ^^ They were nice enough to humor me and agree to a picture.  Because if there wasn’t a picture, it didn’t happen.  Right?  I tried my best to keep up with them but that was a very long shot for three miles.  Still, I wasn’t too bummed with my effort, a 7:22 average for 3 miles and a total of 5 or so miles for the day with the warmup, cool-down and various gallivanting.

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^^ Connecting with a couple of Thetas.  Siissssssters 😉  (cue jokes from both my mother and sister, I’m sure)

Breakfast (pumpkin waffles made by Meghan and batter by Trader Joes) + Thanksgiving Day Parade + lounging around + food prep and next thing you know, it’s time for TURKEY!

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^^ stuffed for days but possibly ready for round two tonight {coconut sugar cranberry sauce, broiled carrots, rolls, mashers, brown butter sweet potato mash, brussels sprouts w/ pancetta, turkey, gravy, and sourdough stuffing}

IMG_3674 ^^ If we weren’t full enough, we had three pies for 9 people.  My favorite was the chocolate pecan but since it was Thanksgiving, I was obligated to eat some of the pumpkin pie.  Ok, maybe the pumpkin pie was tied for my favorite.  Or the Talenti pumpkin gelato.  Or all of the above.  With full stomachs, we fell asleep to the sound of the first Star Wars movie and there you go, back to the beginning.

Boy, it was great to be home for Thanksgiving.

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when friends come to town

When friends come to town, you decided to check out all the restaurants and plays that you have had on your list for ages, but just haven’t gotten around to.  You walk all over Manhattan in search of nothing in particular, but just a means of catching up and seeing all the sights. This last weekend I had one of my good college friends, Alexis, fly out from California to spend some time soaking in the amazing east coast fall.  While she arrived in a storm (no literally, there were rainstorms and overcast skies for two days), the sun came out and we managed for two glorious days in the city.

Friday turned out to be surprisingly packed, so I had to scrap the leaving early on-time plan.  Since Alexis is always good at sampling different cuisine, I decided to take her to Jeepney, a Filipino joint in the East Village.  I had been there once before and really decided on it because they served Ube ice cream for dessert, which was one of Alexis’s favorite.

When we had arrived, the hostess said there was supposed to be a 90 minute wait for a table.  Since my hunger levels would have turned to hanger levels in that time frame, we opted for bar seating and may have had more fun in doing so.  There we could watch as the bartender whipped up drink after drink, topped with various orange peel and berry art.  I wasn’t in the mood to drink, but really should have at least asked about their virgin selection.  Those juice combinations would have tasted mighty fine.  Ah well, all the more reason to go back.

IMG_3466 ^^ One great thing about friends, especially good friends, is that they are generally open to ordering and splitting a couple different items.  This means sampling more of the cuisine at half the price and still leaving room for dessert.  Entree #1 Bicol Express {slow-roasted pork shoulder, coconut milk, sili, bagoong sauce, vigan longganisa, pickled chilies and baby bok choy} and a baby pot pie.  Double thumbs up for the bicol express with the savory sauce and tender meat.   I wasn’t as much of a fan of the pot pie or bao buns we sampled, but such is life.

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^^ The real reason we ate there.  Because it’s normal to center a meal around dessert.

On Saturday we slept in (try 9.5 hours of sleep!!! unheard of and evident that my body was still recovering from Monday’s red-eye), I went for a run, and then it was off to explore Manhattan.  I took her down to one of my favorite bagel shops (since Ess-A is no longer close by) Tompkin’s Square Bagels, where we drooled over the selection of sandwiches and spreads.

IMG_3471 ^^ Whole wheat everything w/ cream cheese + lox for her and whole wheat everything with blueberry cream cheese for me.  Deeeeelish and not to mention beyond filling.  Thank goodness we were banking on walking the rest of the day.

IMG_3470  No cookies were purchased on this venture, but it makes me smile when I see black-and-white cookies in every store.  Such a symbol of New York.  The rest of the day was honestly spent walking all around the city and if my FitBit were working and syncing properly with my phone, I would be able to tell you all the steps we took, miles we walked, and calories burned 😉

IMG_8191 IMG_8195 IMG_8201 ^^ Both of us agreed that the west village is where it is at, especially with the quaint looking brownstones and lovely fall leaves.  Alexis was just glad that she could wear a winter coat and dress up for cooler weather since cooler weather is rarely a thing in California.

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Who wants to even guess how much it would cost to live in one of these apartments?  Maybe my life savings?

IMG_8211^^ Since we had eaten our bagels around brunch time, we skipped out on a full lunch meal and decided to regroup, warm our hands, and charge my phone inside a Starbucks. This happened to be my FIRST red cup of the season (despite the changing temps, I have always gone for the good ‘ol iced cold brew) and don’t see what all the controversy is about.  Anyways, a new favorite combo >> skim peppermint mocha with only 2 pumps peppermint and make it extra hot 🙂

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Got to love me some Snoopy and Macy’s 🙂 Avoiding some of the chaos, we made our way through Herald Square (NOT my favorite place in town) and up to Bryant Park where the ice skating rink and holiday shops are already open for business.  Luckily for us we managed to take a picture right before the sun set, then continued to walk around and decide on a place for dinner.  Oh if we weren’t planning to go eat a full meal later, I would have taken to buying a snack or two from the vendors because the smells were so inviting.

IMG_8216 IMG_8217 ^^ I still don’t know what that delectable concoction is/was but I will make it my goal to get someone to go back to Bryant Park with me and split one before the holiday season is over.

IMG_8220^^ Not the best quality photo buuuuuut we ate ETHIOPIAN FOOD!  I have never been to an Ethiopian restaurant and was actually baffled at the selection on the menu.  I let Alexis do the deciding and we ended up with a meat combo and veggie combo, all atop this spongey pancake.  They don’t even provide utensils and the trick is to use the pancake in order to scoop up the toppings.

So.darn.tasty and I have to say, it’s pretty cool to explore the different cuisines in the city.  After all, that is something NYC is known for and I tend to stick to my Chipotle and Bareburger.  Once we had digested a bit more, we set off in search of the musical theatre by Lincoln Center.

IMG_8222Though this is a true classic, I had never seen it, not even the movie, so this was quite the treat!  We had picked up tickets at the TKTS booth by South Street (lower Manhattan) so the tickets were 50% off and right near the orchestra!  Originally we had tried to see “An American in Paris”, but all the Saturday tickets had been sold.  Anyways, who knew they had broadway productions outside of Times Square and at Lincoln Center?  (Don’t answer that.  That may have just been me…)

IMG_3472 Since we were watching the musical at Lincoln Center, we decided to drop by Magnolia’s to complete a day of eats with a little sweet banana pudding.  Because when in Rome New York, right? I probably should stop using that excuse since I live here and work right by a Magnolias.  Or not.

“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” – Khalil Gibran