Thursday, March 22, 2012

Evolution of A Basement Room

Our kitchen renovation quickly turned into an upper floor reno, which then evolved into an 'entire house' renovation once we broke ground back in November.  I mean, seriously, were we going to have a fabulous kitchen (and dining room and living room and hallway and stairwell) with a hideous TV room in the basement?  I think not!  And besides, we figured if we were having the top floor of the house torn apart, why not have everything torn up at the same time?  Why wait?

The blinds have yet to be installed in the window and pictures need to be hung on the walls, but besides that the TV room is pretty much D-O-N-E!

Here is the evolution of our TV room......

January 8th

January 9th

January 11th

January 29th

January 29th

February 22nd

February 25th

February 29th

February 29th

When we decided to go ahead with this house renovation, I only had two requests.  I wanted a broom closet in the kitchen.  And I wanted a built-in bookshelf in the TV room.

March 1st

March 1st

March 1st

March 7th

I am absolutely THRILLED with the built-in bookshelf that Nathan Webb built for me.  My vision was to have my books and travel mementos all live together on the same set of shelves.

I am not much of a stylist.  In fact, I'm not a stylist AT ALL!  I looked at various websites for ideas as to how to tastefully incorporate lines of vertical books, stacks of horizontal books, and tchotchkes.

Books and reading are my life.

Once I got all of my books together, I culled 4 banana boxes of books and donated them to the Women's Centre.

I organized my novels into alphabetical order by author and piled the stacks of books from A-Z all around the room.  From there I placed them on the shelves, hoping they would all fit.  I put my reference books on one shelf, my gardening books on another, my travel books on yet another.  The books from my childhood were placed on the uppermost shelves.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the finished product:

March 22nd

March 22nd

I love my basement TV room.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NYC: The Week In Pictures (And a Few Stories)

We arrived home on Sunday after spending 8 glorious days in New York City.  Just like last year, we had a fantastic time.  Being in NYC energizes me.  I find it absolutely invigorating.  Everywhere you look there is a story.

Here is ours....

On March 5th I posted this photo of the apartment we were supposed to rent during our week in NYC.  The owner, Elizabeth, e-mailed the picture to us saying her apartment was currently uninhabitable.  She kindly offered to have us rent her friend's apartment in Hell's Kitchen.  But that didn't work out.

The day before we left for NYC, Joe found us another apartment to rent in the East Village.  The owner generously agreed to let us arrive early (7:00am) on March 10th and stay late (6:00pm) on March 16th to accommodate our 'red-eye' flight schedule.

Our Apartment:

Our apartment building at 543 East 5th Street.

The view from our bedroom window.

The kitchen.

The bedroom.

The narrow bathroom.

The sitting/office area.

The bathroom is pretty much in the kitchen in these old-timey 'railroad apartments'.

So THAT'S where the pots and pans are stored!

Lazin' about in bed.

Our East Village Neighbourhood:

Our corner of 2nd Avenue and 5th Street.

Our subway station.  Good ol' Line F took us everywhere.

A happy New Yorker.

We, too, love the Lower East Side.

This trip to New York City was relaxed.  Don't get me wrong.  We were busy.  But we had seen so many of the major sights last year, there was no pressure to see them again this time around.  What we mostly did was walk.  And walk.  And then walk some more.  Oh, and eat.  And see some art.

The Streets:
The streets of NYC are a constant source of wonder for me.  Everywhere I looked there was something interesting, thought-provoking, disturbing, weird or wonderful to see.

Who would have thought to crochet a cover for a shopping cart?

Reflections on a building from a building.

My neck got sore from looking up.

Love is all you need.

Washington Square.

Ground Zero.  New towers going up.

Even the lamp posts are interesting in NYC.

More reflections on buildings.  The dark cube in the bottom right hand corner is a sculpture called 'The Alamo'.  It revolves when pushed.

Spring had sprung in NYC.  The average temperature was 68 degrees F.

Empire State Building.


Brooklyn Bridge.  We love walking across it.

View of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Lotsa bars in this town, people.  Lots.

"Raven On Three Great Apples".  A sculpture by Peter Woytuk on Broadway.

Joe patiently waited for me while I took photos in Greenwich Village.

"Elephant With The Big Apple".  Another sculpture by Peter Woytuk at Columbus Circle.

We stumbled across a movie being shot on Mulberry Street in SoHo.  I recognized the director Garry Marshall (in blue shirt and red pants) and only knew the actress was Eva Mendes (with the bicycle) because her name was on the back of a chair.

Lots of dog walkers in this town.  I have to admit I feel sorry for the dogs in NYC.  Always having to walk on a leash on the pavement.  If only they could experience what the dogs in Squamish do!

One morning we took the Staten Island Ferry to see the city and the Statue of Liberty from the harbour.  We had a laugh when we saw the life jackets stored high above our heads.  Safety last!

Manhattan from the water.  The buildings with the cranes on top are the new Trade Center towers going up.

The Statue of Liberty.

Food And Drink:
Our proximity to the Lower East Side meant we ate in delicatessens a lot.

Love this place.

My goal was to eat a bagel with cream cheese and lox every day.  I almost succeeded.

Mmmmmmmm...Reuben sandwich.

I also ate my fair share of cheese blintzes while I was in NYC.

We shopped here for our daily allotment of bagels, knishes, lox, pickles, cream cheese, babka, whitefish salad, and pastrami.

I discovered that knishes are not my favourite.  Give me a blintz any day.

Honestly, I think I ate my weight in hot dogs during this trip.

Nothing tastes better than a hot dog bought and eaten on the streets of New York City.

Vodka pizza?  Seriously?  Now there's a pizza I'd like to try!

Soul food in Harlem.  Chicken and waffles.  I adore sweet and salty together.

12 hours of happiness.

Can't keep away from the dogs that are hot!

We ate twice at 'Lupa'.  Fabulous Italian food.  
We had a celebrity sighting the second time we were  there.  Jake Gyllenhaal was two tables away from us!  OMG!

Frank's was just around the corner from our apartment.  Great Italian food.  It was so warm at 10:00pm we ate outside in our shirtsleeves.

This bruschetta at Frank's instantly transported me back to Tuscany.

Joe even took a barrista course one afternoon.

We learned about this new restaurant 'Via Tribunali' on Ludlow Street from a young couple at Frank's.  One afternoon we walked there to have lunch.  But when we went inside, we found out they were only open for dinner and that they wouldn't be opening for lunch until the following week.  We must have looked pathetically disappointed, because the owners quickly said, "Here, sit down in this window seat."  

The next thing we knew, a pizza was set down on our table.  "Eat this.  It's from the photo shoot that is happening in the next room."  Two beers magically appeared.  Dessert followed. 

While we ate, there were photographers, assistants, and chefs running all around us.  When we went up to the bar to pay our bill, they wouldn't take our money.  "No, no, no.  We are just happy to feed you.  We would have thrown this food out anyway."

One of the men who had been running back and forth during our lunch plunked his business card down on our table as we were getting ready to leave.  Joe read it and couldn't believe his eyes. The guy was the North American distributor of Bosco espresso machines.  (Big Bertha is a Bosco.)  Joe leaped up and shouted, "I have a Bosco!"  The man said, "Are you the Canadian who recently bought a Bosco and had it shipped from Naples?"  Well after that it was an espresso love-in.  Joe got a backroom tour of their coffee roaster and Bosco machines.  Such a small world after all.

On our last day we went to Zabar's on the Upper West Side.  Joe's favourite grocery store of all time.  We were buying food to bring home with us.  Here's Joe consulting with one of the butchers on the best way to warm up corned beef for Reuben sandwiches.

The Arts:
New York is a city full of art.  You name it, it is here.  In spades.

Jazz in Central Park.

Jazz in the subway.

Singers in Greenwich Village bars.

We hired an art history PhD student to take us on a tour of 'The Steins Collect' exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  A highlight of the trip.

 We went to the Guggenheim Museum.  Frank Lloyd Wright's building shocked the world in 1959.

Looking up inside the Guggenheim.

We saw the musical 'Jesus Christ Superstar'.  It was amazing.

We saw the musical 'How To Succeed At Business Without Really Trying'.  It was fantastic.

We went to Lincoln Center to see Verdi's opera 'MacBeth'.

We are such opera buffs.  NOT!  We left at intermission.

We went to the Museum of Modern Art to see the Cindy Sherman exhibit.

Cindy Sherman is a genius.

Some modern art I don't understand.

Music was everywhere on the street.  This guy has hauled his piano all over the country playing on street corners.

New York City is a shopping mecca.  I am not a shopper by any stretch of the imagination.  I prefer to spend my hard-earned money on experiences, not things.  But that being said, I did buy a few items during our stay.

I bought a $500.00 purse on sale for $125.00.  Such a bargain hunter!

While Joe was at his barrista course, I went uptown to Macy's flagship store at Herald Square for some retail therapy.

Christmas is never far away as this sign inside Macy's reminds everyone.

Very cool wooden escalators in Macy's.

I was considering buying a pair of shoes at Macy's.  But when I went up to the 5th floor, a shoe sale greeted me.  I immediately did an about-face and left.

We were looking for gifts to bring home to our kids.  While walking down the street one day, I came across a table full of ball caps that had graffiti sprayed all over them.  I told the artist that I wanted to buy one for my 20 year old son.  He said, "I ain't never sold no hat to no white brutha before."  "There's always a first time for everything," I told him.  We took turns taking photos of each other.  Nexus gave me his name on facebook, his e-mail address, his phone number and a big smooch when we said good-bye.

We went to the Chelsea Flea Market one morning.  But I said to Joe, "We just gave stuff like this away before our renovation."  We bought nothing.


  The Highline Park is built on an old railway track above the city.  It was a beautiful walk.  I would love to see it in full bloom in June.

We spent a lot of time in Central Park.

Cherry blossoms in Central Park.

Books are everywhere.  New York is a bibliophile's dream city.  Books are for sale.  Books are free.  Books are everywhere.

Books for the taking on the sidewalk.

Books for the taking on the bus.

Books for sale on the street.

This young woman looks through a box of books.  'Help Yourself' is written on the side.

The People:
As with any trip, it is the people you meet who make your travels truly memorable.  We found the people of NYC to be nothing short of helpful, friendly, and funny.

Without fail, every time we pulled our map out we'd hear "Hey!  Where you goin'?"  New Yorkers insisted on helping us get to our destination.  This gentleman in the scooter gave us some great advice on what to see and where to go.

Our friend Maytal recently moved back home to NYC after living in Vancouver for 6 years.  We met up with her for dinner one evening.  It was GREAT to see her.

My godson Miles now lives in NYC.  Maytal and I took the train to Brooklyn to see him.

Our Last Day(s):
Since our plane was leaving at 11:00pm that night, March 16th, we decided to have a lazy morning.  The owner of the apartment had given us a late check-out time, so there was no rush.  Until we got a text from him saying he had rented the apartment to another family and we had to be out by noon.  Noon?!  We madly scrambled to pack our belongings.  We were thinking, "Bloody hell!  We're going to have to drag our three suitcases and two carry-on bags all over the streets of New York for the next 12 hours!"

But then Joe had a brainwave.  He said, "Let's call Elizabeth (the owner of the original apartment we were going rent) and ask her if we can store our gear at her place until we leave for the airport."  We called and asked.  She said, "Of course."  We brought her a bottle of wine for her trouble.

Our new friend Elizabeth.

But the surprises did not end there.  As Joe was reviewing our itinerary he said, "Nanc, does this ticket say our flight leaves March 16th or March 17th?"  I looked at it.  It said March 17th!  So not only did we have to vacate our apartment six hours earlier than we expected, we had to find another place to stay for the night!  Yeesh!

Let me tell you, there are worse things in this world than to have to spend an extra day in New York City.    It was an unexpected gift!  Joe quickly pulled out our iPad and found us a hotel on the Upper West Side for the night.

Checking in at the Hudson Hotel on West 58th Street.

This is what $350.00 gets you on the Upper West Side.  The room is barely bigger than the bed.  Thank goodness we had Expedia Travel Points and the room didn't cost us a dime.

Another bonus was that we got to experience Saint Patrick's Day in NYC.  Every other person on the street was fully decked out in green.  And the partying started at daybreak.

So very true.

Irish dancing on the streets.

We stopped in at an Irish bar for some beers and whiskey.  It was packed.  It was loud.  It was fun.

This photo was taken at noon.  Check out the man in the bottom left corner of the photo.  I'm sure scenes like this were playing out all over the city on St. Paddy's Day.

Two tired but happy travellers on their way home.

Thanks again New York for another fabulous week in your legendary city.  I can hardly wait to return.