Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! (or, F U 2013)

2013 was a rough year for us. Although no one died and we've still got our health, we did encounter a few too many challenges for our comfort. Without question, part of the problem, like when we moved to Dundee, were our high expectations. We thought we knew what we were getting into (e.g. moving to a city we'd been to before, back in the USA) and would be safe expecting a certain level of comfort and familiarity. We were wrong.

Happily (you have no idea), we not only survived the trials of 2013 but prospered, even enjoying a good portion of it - admittedly, most of which was during the latter half - and are ending it in a much better position than when it began. As a consequence of our rough beginning though, we find ourselves a bit less confident of our decision making skills but a bit more self-assured of our resilience.

As we begin to map out our ideal 2014, we're hoping to apply the lessons we've learned over these past years to the obstacles and challenges which will inevitably befall us. Especially with a big move planned for July, we must remember these lessons so as to avoid landing in the same difficult spot yet again (fool me once, shame on you...). With that in mind, in addition to the traditional health and happiness that we always hope for ourselves, we're adding the secular sentiments within the Serenity Prayer to our annual refrain.

...serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference

In particular, the serenity and wisdom would be nice traits to acquire. And, though you might think we have courage in abundance, this year really beat it down and we now find ourselves lacking it in certain situations. Hopefully it regenerates because we'll need every bit of it if we have to make some hard choices this year (e.g. where to live).

Due to our rough year, we haven't had the opportunity to see many family or friends this year, though we're closer to most than we've been in a long while. Hopefully 2014 will bring more opportunities to see those we love. In the interim, we hope your 2013 was a good one and we wish you a happy and healthy (and serene, courageous and wise) 2014.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Snow on the morning commute
As we begin our 2013 Christmas celebrations here in New York City, I can't help but be reminded of our recent Christmases. Last year we celebrated in London; 2011 we were in Rome; 2010 we were in Paris; and, in 2009, when this trend of travelling over the holidays began, we celebrated with family in Kaohsiung. This year, similar to last year, we find ourselves staying in the city where we live, which isn't a bad thing but not as exciting as previous years.

Although not necessarily our first choice, New York City has been really great during this time of year. First of all, the city is deserted, making normal tasks a bit more pleasant. Like today, for instance, I was almost the only person on the bus during my morning commute.

Secondly, the weather has been all over the place, hitting all the extremes, providing a bit of excitement on a day to day basis. Although today it appears to be back to normal, hovering in the 30s (F), this past week was more like a Roman holiday, even hitting 70 degrees over the weekend. Two weeks ago we were way below zero and had a pretty heavy snow storm, which we didn't really get to take advantage of because we were both sick.

Christmas trees are being sold in pop-up shops on almost every corner, providing a pleasant pine scent and special festive note, allowing us to feel festive even without decorations of our own. And, surprisingly, if we avoid certain areas of the city (between Park and 6th Avenues in the 50s), we're not even overwhelmed by the worst part of the season, consumers and holiday tourists.

As we prepare to begin our Christmas celebrations by brewing vin chaud and wandering the country's number one neighborhood for holiday lights, we wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. Although we probably won't be celebrating Christmas in the traditional New York way - with a movie and Chinese food - we do plan on wandering the city, taking pictures at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, meandering through Central Park, viewing the window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney's, and otherwise just absorbing our surroundings. Even if this isn't our last Christmas in New York, it's definitely our first and we're looking forward to making it a memorable one. We hope you have a memorable and joyous holiday season too.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Bronx River Trail
On the first weekend in November, we ventured north, to the border of Westchester County in the Bronx, to ramble the Bronx River Trail.  We started at Muskrat Cove and almost made it the full 9.5 miles before heading towards the nearest subway at Bruckner Blvd, just north of where the Bronx River joins the East River, due to waning daylight and no clear path across the rather busy expressway. The ramble was mostly disappointing as it's not very well marked (hence our early departure), still under construction in parts (which caused us to miss "one of the most striking features...the roaring waterfalls at River Park"), and not terribly picturesque due to all the litter.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation
Moving on towards the end of the month, our Thanksgiving celebrations began on Wednesday night when we ventured over to the Upper West Side to watch the balloons get prepped for the next day's parade.  We wound up missing the actual parade on Thursday morning but still had a lovely day, leisurely wandering down to our restaurant in the Financial District.  We had such a great time stuffing ourselves full of salmon, beef and turkey that we completely forgot about giving thanks.  Though we didn't think to take a moment over dinner to give thanks, we are of course thankful that we were able to stuff ourselves full of salmon, beef and turkey.

Sleepy Hollow, Old Croton Aqueduct trail
We rambled the rest of November away, venturing north to Sleepy Hollow to walk the Old Croton Aqueduct trail and out to Queens to visit the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Westchester County, from Tarrytown to Irvington, was just lovely.  The people were super friendly, the towns we passed through were super charming, and the vibe was super artsy (craft ales, art house theater, etc.). We can't wait to venture back up to Tarrytown again, this time heading north to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve and beyond.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge was disappointing.  The refuge itself was hit rather hard by Superstorm Sandy and parts of the main loop trail were completely washed away.  Though the view of Manhattan was rather interesting, the views in the other directions were dismal at best, with a lot of orange construction tape in the bay on one side and JFK airport on the other. Overall, I couldn't believe this was actually a national park. We went to a similar arrangement in Mallorca, the S'Albufera Natural Park, which was exponentially more impressive in regards to the facilities alone. One would expect a national park in New York City to be better maintained than a similar situation on a small island in the Mediterranean, far from any major city. Very disappointing.

Lyndhurst, Westchester County
As we wrap up November and begin the final days of 2013, we'd like to wish everyone a belated Happy Thanksgiving, a delayed Happy Hanukkah and a preemptive Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Happiness and good health for all!
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