29 June 2012

Less is More

I'm the kind of person who has a hard time getting rid of stuff.  I wouldn't say I could be a subject for 'Hoarders': I throw things out constantly, and I'm not a compulsive shopper (anymore.)  But when it comes to certain unnecessary things, I have a habit of holding on to them for no good reason, and then when I finally get around to purging, it's such a relief I ask myself what took so long?  It basically comes down to procrastination. 

So the thing that took me forever to get rid of this time is cable TV.  Okay, you can say it doesn't take up a lot of space: after all, it's only a box (or in my case, two boxes, but they don't really collect dust.)  You can even argue that it doesn't necessarily take up time.  It's like anything you have, it only takes up the time you put into it, or get out of it.  There are plenty of people who would argue that in the age of DVR's and TIVO, you can budget your time by recording the shows you want to watch and only watching that.  Well, that should be true but for me it wasn't.  Even so, I wasn't chained to the TV by any means, but what was really bothering me was the monetary expense.  How could I, in my right mind, spend so much for so little?  In the end I'd gone down the basic package, so I didn't even have most of the good channels, yet I was still paying way too much. 

I try not to be a cheapskate.  There is a difference between being cheap and thrifty, though there's a fine line.  Still, the longer I kept cable, the more I'd do sums in my head, thinking of all the other things I could spend my money on.  Therein is the key:  if I think about things like rent and utilities, sure it's useful but it's not a satifactory means of saving.  So I operate on my Wishlist Currency: how many months of savings = another trip to London, Afternoon Teas, a fabulous pair of shoes, art books, or even a gadget I'd been eyeing.  Now all those cable shows don't sound as exciting, and certainly aren't as tangible. 

What really did it for me, though, was when I got around to calling my cable provider, in an attempt to find a lower priced TV/internet package.  I see ads all the time for deals that were more than half of what I was paying, for new customers, and that didn't seem fair.  In the past I'd call from time to time and get a small chunk of money lopped off my bill, and it seemed reasonable that this should happen again.  This time, though, the person I spoke to wouldn't budge.  Well, fine with me lady! 

So it's been a few weeks since I've been TV-less, and I have to say, I rarely notice it's missing.  Yes, I have Netflix, but that's dramatically cheaper, and I borrow DVD's from the library which is free.  In the future I'll probably get some sort of coverter/antennae so that I can have a couple of network channels, but I'm not even in a rush to do that.  Picking this time of year to quit was convenient, because most of the shows I follow are on hiatus, but even when Fall comes around I can watch them the next day online.  (I didn't have BBC America, so I'd have had to find another way to watch Doctor Who anyway.)  Actually, what I miss the most is the clocks on the two boxes I had to bring back, but that too shall pass. 

I don't know if this has been a rant or a smug back-patting moment - you decide.   All I can hope is that life is slightly less complicated.

20 June 2012

A Somewhat Crazy Long Walk: High Line

It's hard to classify this walk as crazy, as it's designed to be walked from one end to another.  You could cut out early, but even if you walk the full length, it's maybe a mile at the moment.  What makes this more of a challenge is getting to the High Line in the first place.  The closest subway station is the 8th Avenue line, which means you still have to make it to 10th - and in my case, it seems I always start from a greater distance away.  Recently I came from Midtown East, and let me tell you, I'm glad I wore comfortable shoes.

Though the inception of the High Line as a public space began over a decade ago, it look time to convert the former elevated train tracks to something resembling a park, not to mention getting the support to do so.  There's a book out explaining its history, which incidentally is a lovely coffee table book, particularly for those who love anything New York.  What would you call that, by the way:  New Yorkophiles?  That sounds weird, but what can you do?  Anyway, it opened to the public in 2009, the year I took some of my craziest long walks, and it's lengthened gradually since then. 

Now the High Line has become immensely popular, which also makes it a little too crowded sometimes.  Still, it's no Grand Central Station, and for anyone looking to get some excellent bird's-eye views of the city, it shouldn't be missed.  If you're like me and hate stairs, quite a few exit points have elevators.  They've got it covered.

A panoramic view

The Lady's backside: guess she doesn't want your tired and poor anymore.
 A relaxing way to watch traffic

Leafy and potty

Kitty cat

These are only a handful of pictures I've taken up there.  It's certainly a photog's haven.

In keeping with the spirit of this blog, I have to say that on a nice day this would be a fantastic place to take tea in a slightly informal way. I've probably mentioned before that I don't possess any outdoor space of my own, so I can't do 'Tea in the Garden' on a whim.  With its decent amount of seating areas, though, something can certainly be made of the High Line.  There's enough entertainment in people watching, flower admiring, and skyscraper-gazing, on top of the fact that there's some actual live music here and there.  And, of course, one end of the park is by the Meatpacking district, just a scone's throw away from the West Village, which means Tea and Sympathy, The Tea Set, Bosie Tea Parlor, DAVIDs Tea, to mention only a few spots to pick up your tea and cakes if you didn't pack any.  Oh, and let's not forget Chelsea Market!  Don't worry about the calories...you can always walk them off.
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18 June 2012

A little note

It looks like I hit 6000 pageviews...it's always nice to know someone's looking.  Thanks for reading, everyone!!!

15 June 2012

Iced Tea

Every day seems to be a National Something Day...Talk Like a Pirate Day, Pancake Day, Hairball Awareness Day...it goes on and on.  Some days seem to overlap, and I'm sure many are being created anew each year.  It's probably some big marketing ploy, but as long as there's no National Stab Someone on the Subway Day, I'm not going to complain about it.  I'm not going to observe it either, unless there's a coupon involved, or a coincidence. 

Last Sunday was apparently National Iced Tea Day, and I found myself experimenting with iced tea on Sunday...totally by happenstance.  It's something I've tried to perfect over the years, though I think in the long run iced tea is a matter of taste.

My first attempts that didn't involve mixing powder with water was well over a decade ago.  I remember using my old white 'brown betty' teapot - I still have that one, it's my first useful teapot purchase, but I rarely use it - to brew black tea extra strong, as per a recipe's requirements.  Then I boiled up some simple syrup, which later ended up being useful in making cocktails (the Mojito phase...), and then I combined the two liquids and refrigerated.  Later I poured the concoction over ice.  It was pretty good, though not exactly out of this world. 

Like all my tea drinking, with the exception of the occasional strong breakfast tea or chai I don't add sweetener.  To me, well made tea does not need to be sweetened, whether it's hot or cold.  And fruit teas really really don't need anything added to them.  Now I basically brew up slightly stronger tea in a pot, and pour over lots of ice in a tall glass (or thermos if I'm taking it to go,) and it's a lovely drink, especially in the summer.  If I serve others iced tea, I'll give them the option to sweeten, like I would with hot tea, but I prefer if they tasting before adding anything to it.  I won't express disapproval either way, since I still need iced coffee to be sweet (though not too sweet, and only natural sweeteners.  Ugh, I had a 'skinny' iced vanilla latte from Starbucks not long ago and well, like I just said, Ugh.) 

Back to Sunday, I had a small packet of Organic Saigon Chai from DAVIDsTEA.  On the label it encourages the user to 'try it iced, Viet-style, with sweetened condensed milk.'  Now, I've never been to Vietnam, don't know anyone close to me from Vietnam, and even if my Dad were still alive I don't think he'd have to many tea-drinking experiences, so I'm just going to have to take DAVIDs word for it.  Since chai is one of my sweetening exceptions, and I happened to have a can of sweetened condensed milk that cried out to be used, away I went.  This resulted in a delicious, refreshing glass of Sunday afternoon.

So where's the picture?  you may or may not be asking.  Well, I wasn't being lazy (not that lazy anyway), but I have to say it wasn't the most pleasing-looking beverage I've prepared.  It kind of looked like creamy rusty water.  Perhaps I hadn't made it strong enough.  So you'll have to take my word for it - it was good.

I decree every Sunday should be Iced Tea Day!...at least for the summer months.  Ice Cream Day, too. 

08 June 2012

Crazy Long Walk: West Village

Normally, when I think of my long, long walks I think of covering a longer distance, like from Uptown to Downtown, or through a large park space.  It's not a stretch, though, to talk about wandering essentially one neighborhood, but in a pretty thorough fashion.

Recently, after a poor attempt at winning plane tickets, I had a lot of pent-up energy and a system full of iced tea - that courtesy of the new Alice's Tea Cup mini-shop in Books of Wonder.  So I took that energy and walked throughout most of the West Village, mostly window shopping but generally getting a bit of air, and a rare mild tan.

Though a good portion of Greenwich Village has given way to chain shops and restaurants, it's retained enough of its charm to still merit a visit from time to time.  There's plenty of independent places, and it feels like a step into the past while not seeming like a museum - nor does it seem contrived.  There are tourists about, but they don't clog up the pavement like they might in Midtown.

What I also like about this neighborhood is my ability to get lost without feeling lost.  If I'm looking for a particular street, I tend to veer off the wrong way, and manage to explore blocks I haven't seen in a while.  I decide that I must come back to these streets, and eventually I find my intended destination, if I even care to find it after all. 

Finally, it's one of my Teahoods - one of the largest concentration of favorite tea haunts in New York.  I only needed to mention that, probably, and you'd understand why I come here to wander when I can.

A record shop.  Yes, kids, we used to have these on every corner.  The 'For Rent' sign on the door is kind of freaking me out.
 Caffe Reggio - still going strong.  I must try sitting outside one day.

Pack in my college years, it was nearly impossible to find loose tea in New York outside of Chinatown.  I developed my habit by visiting places like Porto Rico and nearby McNulty's.  Sure, they smell overwhelmingly of coffee, but that not a bad thing.

A wonderful bookshop - I went to two Jasper Fforde signings here, and hope to one day watch one of their "radio dramas".  It's on Greenwich Avenue, just down the road from Tea and Sympathy.  Scones....

A beautifully aloof kitty on MacDougal Street.

When I think of clean clothes, Van Gogh's name rarely springs to mind, but this place is gorgeous. 
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01 June 2012

Our Mutual Book

I still seem to be carrying on the habit of reading two Dickens books a year.   It seems pretty reasonable for a reader like me anyway.  I don't read in the order he wrote usually, but it seems that recently I've been in his later years.  Our Mutual Friend was his last completed novel, and I'd say one of his best. 

He seems to have toned down slightly on the ridiculous at this point.  I mean, everyone's still interconnected - it wouldn't be a Dickens novel without coincidence, but it's woven in a marginally more believable way.  The names are still sometimes goofy - can you say Boffin without smiling?  and of course Sloppy is a funny name, but it's a nickname (I think).  People are still caricatures, but with an air of seriousness, like Jenny Wren who makes the same complaint over and over again, but instead of making her pathetic, she is a truly resourceful, hardworking person who puts up with disability and a hopelessly alcoholic father by being eccentric enough to cope with everything.  The ladies are less simpering - you couldn't imagine Lizzie Hexam offering to sharpen her husband's pens to keep herself occupied - and while I wasn't necessarily enamored with any of the male protagonists, at least a few of them were people I wouldn't mind knowing - Noddy Wilfer, for instance, seemed like a cool guy to have as a dad.  Indeed, this book could almost have been titled Fathers and Daughters, there were so many of these important pairings. 

In Our Mutual Friend (I would have initialized the title but it might be mistaken for an texpletive,) class distinction is put under the microscope.  Even at the time of publication, readers may have started to ask themselves, are high class people really classier?  Does education make you 'better', or arrogant?  In the end you could say there's good and messed up in every level of society.  Food for thought at a period where the middle class was in development.

I'd started this book at the end of last year, with Bonnie, as Our Mutual Reading, but both of us petered off for a while.  I have to admit I ended up finishing my reading electronically.  It didn't take away from the enjoyment of the process, but I wouldn't recommend it for some of Dickens' other books, where you really really really have to keep going back to remember the cast of characters.  iPads might have a different feeling - I'll have to ask Bonnie...whenever she finishes reading.