Thursday, March 27, 2014

The things I won't miss at all about NYC & the U.S.

Vintage NYC cab  |  The things I won't miss at all about NYC & the U.S. on afeathery*nest  |
{ Vintage cab right off Wall Street, where I've lived for 7 years  |  Spring 2013  }
And as an antidote to my earlier post, which made me a bit homesick (and I haven't even left yet! Although...T-5), here are the things I'll be glad to leave behind:

What I'll not miss at all about NYC
+ "Living to work" vs. "working to live" mentality.

+ The noise / stench / crush of humanity at avenue crosswalks.

+ Subway / sidewalk umbrella battles when it rains—not to mention the nasty water that drips through the sidewalk, down the pipes in the subway and onto the back of your neck while you wait for your train. Oh, and let's not forget the nasty street water that seeps into your shoes. Gross. 

+ The wretched odor of city streets in the summer, when piles of garbage bags line up like little sentries of digustingness.

+ The underground tenants of the city—furry little rodents that scuttle about the train tracks...and sometimes make their way up to the platform (eeek!).

+ A view from my apartment windows with no "scope for imagination"—a direct sight line into semi-abandoned high-rise Office Space-type offices is quite dismal.

+ Absurdly thoughtless neighbors.

What I'll not miss at all about the U.S.
+ The guilt of feeling the need to tip even for poor service because I know that's how waitstaff earns a living.

+ Piddly vacation policies.

+ The abysmal vortex of health insurance.

Lack of a proper rail system connecting cities and regions.

One year ago: Easter Dinner 2013

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The things I'll miss most about NYC & the U.S.

Brooklyn Bridge from South Street Seaport  |  The things I'll miss most about NYC & the U.S. on afeathery*nest  |
{  South Street Seaport, my NYC neighborhood for the last 7 years  |  October 2007  }
What I'll miss about NYC
+ The scent of roasted nuts from street vendors on a crisp fall day—especially after emerging from the subway (I've never eaten them, I just snuffle up the smell).

+ Knowing I can get any kind of cuisine I want at (almost) any time of day.

+ Decent $20 manicure/pedicures with invigorating massage chairs.

+ Open mindedness (granted, Sweden is pretty good at this, but from what I can gather, it's a little more accepted in theory than in practice).

+ Jaywalking with abandon.

+ The glorious local bounty of FreshDirect.

+ The West Village—a charming neighborhood with windy streets upon which, despite how long I've lived here, I always think I'm going one way, but almost always turns out that I'm going the exact opposite way. I love how the neighborhood is filed with small, intimate restaurants like Alta that make you forget you're in a high-octave city. From the walk down cobblestoned streets with an arch of leafy boughs above, passing proper family homes with mantles and hall closets, to the staircase winding up to tables snuggled close together, it's all lovely and dreamy. The exact opposite of mega-chain restaurants that seem as big and loud and chaotic and homogeneous as a cruise ship.

What I'll miss about the U.S.
+ Customer service! 30-Day return policies! Free shipping!

+ Stores open in the evening and on weekends.

+ Soft towels and dryers that keep them nice and fluffy.

+ The general optimism, hopefulness, ambition/drive of Americans.

+ A welcoming and friendly nature. Small niceties: saying "hello, how are you" throughout the day–and people genuinely inquiring, or at least making polite small talk; saying, "excuse me" when you bump into someone; holding doors open so that people behind you can pass through  (doesn't really exist in Sweden).

One year agoSo worth it

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Week 12

Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NYC  |  Week 12 on afeathery*nest  |
  • We officially have no more furniture. The only things left in our apartment are the boxes of our belongings and summer/winter clothes that we're shipping to Stockholm, and our suitcases of things we'll be using in Italy and in Sweden until our shipment arrives. The one thing we're keeping until Departure Day is our mattress. We're too old and crotchety (okay, maybe just me for the last one) to spend our/my last week in NYC sleeping on a yoga mat.
  • I feel so untethered. I'm doing a little bit of work on one of my projects and have one more teensy thing to resolve with the silly banks, but other than that, we seem to be ready to go. At least physically and financially. Mentally is another thing altogether.
  • R's last day of work was today, so for the next week we'll mostly just be saying our goodbyes to New York.

P.S. This will be the last Weekly roundup for now/ever—I'm putting them on hiatus during the move/vacation and "12" is a nice, round number to pause on, right? Plus, I think once we're in a new home in May, I have a feeling I'll be posting more frequently.

One year ago: Mid-week treat at The Nomad Hotel Library

Friday, March 21, 2014

How today looks

How today looks on afeathery*nest  |

Balancing pizza peels topped with cheese and olives and sauteed greens on top of gaping cartons that haven't been taped closed yet and are now serving as a makeshift table.

The bureau hauled out of the bedroom and hulking in the den to make room for maneuvering around the bed so I can haul childhood things down from my closet shelves...and to have a countertop for resting our bags and winter layers on when we walk in the door (since all the surface areas in the living room have been sold).

Piles of precariously-stacked things for Salvation Army pickup, other piles in hopeful mounds for Craigslist sales. Some boxes carefully labelled and secured shut, others still open waiting to be filled and final decisions to be made.

A kitchen and bathroom I haven't bothered to tidy up in a week (or two) because, why?

But still, fresh white sheets in the bedroom (even if our mattress is on the floor now) and candles lit there and everywhere else.

Feeling somewhat accomplished as almost everything on my pre-move checklist has been checked off.

Yet, looking at the calendar and realizing it's only 10 days until our departure, I feel a bit achy and topsy turvy in my tummy.

Are we really moving to Sweden?!

One year ago: Banished from the bedroom

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Brighton Beach walk

When I checked the 5-day forecast last Friday evening and saw Saturday's high was 57F (to be followed by a high of 28F today), I messaged my Dad and asked if he'd like to meet me on the beachfront in Brooklyn to wander along the sand. I've been out to Brighton Beach/Coney Island three times in my life, and all of them within the past 18 months (did I mention I was born and spent my first few years in NYC? Perhaps my parents once took me to Coney Island in the summer, but I clearly have no recollection).

The last time I went was  a few weeks ago when the landscape was a quite a bit different. While the weather was ever so much more cooperative this time, the topsy-turvy MTA subway system was not. What should have been a simple 40-minute subway ride turned into a 2-hour ordeal, due to weekend construction work, that involved two trains, a long (very long) wait, and a shuttle bus through Saturday traffic.

I was not amused.

Luckily, the feel of sea air (even if not quite "fresh") on my skin, sunlight on my face, the calls of seagulls, and scrambling along a rock jetty for some pictures blew all my black clouds away.

P.S. T-14 days!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Week 11

Central Park  |  Week 11 on afeathery*nest  |
  • This last week started with a long, crisp walk in the park with my dad, simultaneously avoiding crisp mounds of snow in the shade and slushy muck pits in pools of sunlight. I'm going to miss tromping through Central Park, but luckily I don't think I'll have any shortage of green spaces.

  • The goodbye dinners, drinks and days are continuing: R and I spent Tuesday with my grandmother at my mom's to enjoy a few hours together and hear some of her stories—and of course to indulge in some Goan food, as we all go to my mom's for our fill of that.

  • Naturally, lots of sorting and culling again this week, but also lots of last appointments. Follow-up doctor's, dentists, meetings with agencies—but in a valiant show of efficiency I scheduled them all for the same day and spent the in-between hours in the lobby coffee shop at The Ace Hotel, which while a bit dark, especially for an almost-spring day, is the perfect set up for freelancers and entrepreneurs. Nice long tables with lamps and outlets spaced out evenly along the surface, Stumptown Coffee Roasters with decent coffee and munchies, and, of course, free Wi-Fi.

  • After The Great Unraveling of 2014, I got two huge cones of natural, creamy cotton and started another set of napkins, this time a bit larger—proper lap napkins versus itty bitty table-top ones. The perfect, portable knitting project for our upcoming nomadic chapter.
One year ago: An extension

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An amuse-bouche, theoretically

A few weeks ago I started working on a new knitted piece—my hope was to finish and block a fresh springy cardigan for myself before we moved. It was to be a necessary palate cleanser after my last failure of a project, but alas, I learned something valuable:

+ I do not like endless stockinette.
+ And, I do not do well with big projects.

Which is why last night I unwound the whole damn thing when all I had left to finish was one and a half sleeves. Typical J: if I don't love it wholly, it's not worth it (also: too proud to wear something that's not perfect).

One year ago: Monday meanders, 8

Monday, March 10, 2014

Week 10

Happy Bones NYC  | Week 10 on afeathery*nest  |
This week was a treat—R and I had not one, not two, but three days off together! We filled it with coffee and massages and walks and things (and okay, a smidgen of packing), but it was so good to have some time together—full days, instead of a few exhausted hours before collapsing into bed (speaking of bed, we sold the frame so our mattress is on the floor now, which oddly, I kind of like! Feels very zen).

But back to the week and the highlights of our outside-the-apartment lollygagging:
  • Wandering around Soho to pick up goodies for a picnic-like dinner at home and happening across a coffee shop I had pinned forever ago on my NYC To-Try list: Happy Bones (pictured above). They've become known for those beautiful spoons (which apparently are so beloved that people are swiping them!). Coffee was delicious and the atmosphere was delicious, too, in that sunlit, industrial, minimalist style. 

  • In the aftermath of all the work hubbub, my back was a mess of knotty ridiculousness that not even R could work out, so he took me to Taiji Body Work, where we had the most incredible massage, made even more so by the price—$55 for 75 minutes. (For non-New Yorkers: that is an insanely good deal). We arrived a few minutes early for our appointment, and were escorted straight in to a clean, calming room with dim lighting, a portable heater and soothing music playing. We lay down on the two tables and after a few minutes petite women walked in and started loosening our muscles with a strength that belied their size. My lady was particularly good, using her knuckles, elbows and knees to smooth out all the kinks between and around my muscles and tendons and whatever else was all convoluted under the surface. They didn't stop with their hands, but incorporated hot stones, too. When I walked out my shoulders were noticeably two inches lower than when I walked in. We made a pact to come back to see these women every time we return (that's how good it was).

  • Then, strolling over to the newest FIKA outpost (yes, I know I've complained before, but it was necessary) to indulge in Semla for Fettisdagen (a.k.a., Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, etc.). Semla are yeasty, saffrony, cardmom-cream filled buns with a layer of marzipan that Swedes eat once a year that day to mark the start of Lent. We had two macchiatos post-massage and one Semla to share (I swiped the cream and left R the hull, of course).

  • And, speaking of R and dairy-type things, I showed him what I wrote on Friday and he promptly Googled and sent me this link to Lost in Stockholm, a blog I've been to many times before (she's an American Expat in Stockholm), but had somehow missed that post. Mystery solved: I need to get Gammaldagsmjölk (translation: Old Fashioned Milk) for an approximation of what I have here at home.

One year ago: Snowy deliberations & In search of true painting

Friday, March 7, 2014

The sound of silence

Brunch at ABC Cocina  |  Pre-move jitters on afeathery*nest  |
It hit me today as I stood completely blanking in the midst of our slowly-emptying apartment while wondering whether to put the pan I had just washed in the box of things to go, or in the one to donate: in a few weeks I'm going to be completely relying on another person in a way I haven't since I was a child.

I'm the go-getter, the one everyone relies on, the gal who always has her books balanced, Plans B-F on the back burner in case Plan A falters. The one who outlines, maps, forecasts, and always knows the answer to every question. That's such a massive part of who I am that the idea of it no longer being my role or persona is incredibly unnerving.

In between wrapping breakables with The New York Times and washing my hands for the seventh time, I tried to wrap my mind around the idea of being in the background. About not being able to joke around or reference pop culture-type things or understand all that's being—or not being—said. At least when we're in Italy and people are speaking too rapidly or using too much dialect, years of public school Spanish and my history with R helps me understand the general gist of what's going on around me.

But in a country with a Germanic-based language (and a penchant for smushing words together to create new, insanely long ones), it's all going to sound like jibberish. I won't have a clue as to what's going on. I can't even imagine what it will be like to depend completely on R and his family (or the kindness of strangers when I'm alone) to explain how the heck the subway system works, which government office I have to go to get signed up for the language class for foreigners, what the street sign says, and horror of horrors, which is the milk I really want at the grocery store (a place I haven't even been to in ages in NYC!).

So on the one hand, in a few weeks I'll barely be able to understand anything around me. Here in NYC I can hear three languages in my own house, countless on the street and on the subway, but the strongest, most forceful current running around me (at least in Lower and Mid Manhattan) is always English. Soon, I won't have that to depend on unless I speak first. Walking into a store or a restaurant or bumping into someone on the sidewalk won't result in an English exchange.

On the other hand, after (over)hearing a particularly obtuse conversation while stuck on the 2/3 train last night on the way to dinner at a friend's house, maybe a break from hearing (and understanding) all the mundane, the mindless, and the middling will be a most welcome relief. Silver linings and all.

One year ago: Beating the winter blues

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Standing savasana

Alternatively titled: "Meditating—without having to say you're meditating".

With all that's been going on lately, I've had to institute a new "thing" of sorts to help me get through this particularly stressful time and it's all courtesy of Elizabeth. She posted recently about her acceptance, nay, celebration, of another year of life on this earth, and I commented about my own un-settledness of hitting a milestone a few months ago. The simplicity and truth of her response knocked me over.

She said, "There is only THIS moment".

Of course, right? That's so basic and elemental that we forget. Or at least I do.

Whatever happened yesterday, this morning, or will happen tomorrow or next week, who cares? There's only this moment.

So there was that conk on the head.

Then there was the staccato of other knocks on my head—I've been coming across so very much about mindfulness, meditation, and making time for yourself, that it stopped being noise and began to be something at the top of my mind, all the time. To be fair, I have started to take a few moments here and there to at least be grateful for all that I have, but why don't I meditate?

Because I hate the word. I actually hate the word mindfulness, too. We label things that should come naturally to us, or that should be the norm. Being conscious shouldn't be a thing, it should just be. I rebel against the word, not the act.

But then I realized that I do meditate, I just didn't realize it. You may, too. Do you do yoga? Do you know that blissful minute or two at the end of practice when you're laying still and your body is vibrating and your mind is calm and you're breathing deep? That final savasana? That's meditating.

How did I miss that all these years?

So I've been doing this thing the last few weeks that brings it all together—meditating, mindfulness, mantras, being in the moment, etc., but without all the labels.

Anytime something, or everything, just seems like it's all so very much, or there's a horrendous smell emanating from the subway platform, or I just need a beat to calm myself down, I stand very still, close my eyes, breathe deeply* and say to myself "There is only this moment". If I do it for a few minutes I open my eyes and feel miraculously calm.

Sometimes it takes more effort, like when my list of to-do's or what I need to do to prep dinner or something niggly creeps in, but I shake it off and get back to the point—there's no need to feel X, Y or Z and let it ruin my day, there's only this moment.

I had been mostly doing it on the subway, but now that one major office project is over and I'm working from home full-time / getting-ready-for-the-move and not on mass transit at least once if not twice a day, I've been doing it in the shower, when I'm in the space between turning off the light and falling asleep, and sometimes in the elevator in my building, when there's a particularly annoying person riding with me.

Shockingly, it helps more than I ever thought something "voodoo"-y, "hippy"-ish or "new age"-y ever would.

*When I'm anywhere but on the subway I breathe through my nose, but for any MTA moments, it's all about mouth breathing.

One year ago: Thyroidy

Monday, March 3, 2014

Week 9

The Strand at Club Monaco in the Flatiron  |  Week 9 on afeathery*nest  |
  • The mental reconditioning has begun: I've officially changed my Google account to military / European clock settings and kilometers (eep!). Haven't made the plunge to Celsius yet, though I should get on that soon.

    Actually, first I should get my head around the conversion between USD < > SEK < > EUR...

  • We're getting used to eating all our meals from the couch and finding new ways to balance whatever we enter the house with in precarious piles, as we've been selling things like mad and our beautiful dining set, as well as basically all table-top surfaces, have now found new homes elsewhere. But, we still have our entire bedroom set to ship off.

  • Actually, as part of the last-month-in-NYC whirlwind, we've got lots of meals planned out—dinners, brunches, coffees, etc., so we may not be spending all that much time awkwardly cutting our food from our lap top setting on the couch anyway. We're crossing all the places we've meaning to get to off the list, while spending as much time with our friends and family here before we're off, like ABC Cocina, Family Recipe, Barn Joo, Pearl & Ash, etc.

  • And while we're wrap things up here and getting lost in the minutiae of details (me more than R, naturally), we're still finding moments to start daydreaming about the place that could be ours in Stockholm. I'm already envisioning a rose-filled balcony...
One year ago: 'I am here' days