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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

cobble hill Brooklyn NYC

One of my favorite things about NYC: there are endless new neighborhoods to explore.

I love returning to my well-loved haunts there. I’ve spent some time in Fort Greene, and I was happy to revisit Park Slope (especially the Chocolate Room) on this most recent trip. But on Saturday, I decided to walk a few blocks west and wander Cobble Hill – partly motivated, you will not be surprised, by a bookstore.

Novelist Emma Straub opened a bookstore, aptly named Books Are Magic, a while back. It was an easy walk from my Airbnb, so I headed that way, grabbing an iced tea and popping into a few shops. I bought a long green dream of a dress at Something Else, then headed for the bookstore. It was well-lit and well-stocked, a little bit funky and yes, a little bit magical.

I browsed for a while, dipping into novels and mysteries, and saying “amen” to a fellow customer who was recommending Anne Lamott to her friend. (Bird by Bird!) I picked up a fun kids’ mystery featuring Agatha Oddly, then went down the street for an early dinner at Jolie – the only French-Mexican bistro I’ve ever seen.

Even though I’m living in Eastie, land of delicious tacos, I rarely pass up an opportunity for good Mexican food. The enchiladas, the fresh guacamole, and the late afternoon light at Jolie were all perfect.

My next stop was Whisk, which I discovered a while back via their store near the Flatiron Building in Manhattan. That location has closed, but their main store is in Cobble Hill, so I popped in to buy a couple of new tea strainers. (I can always use them.) From there, I headed for the subway and my Saturday-night plans: Come From Away, which I adored.

I was a little bit worried about coming to Brooklyn: it holds some tender associations for me. But I was very glad to discover a new pocket of it for myself, and make some new memories.

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halifax harbour j k

After our glorious five nights/four days in PEI, the hubs and I headed to Halifax for the weekend. We’d never been there, and we thoroughly enjoyed checking out this smallish, vibrant city on the water.

halifax harbour dusk

I’ve said it before: on vacation, we like to wander and we like to eat. That is exactly what we did in Halifax, for two days.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, checked into our Airbnb apartment, and immediately went a-wandering. We found the Halifax Common, and a few streets away, DeeDee’s ice cream.

jer-deedees-ice-cream

(J’s berry-swirl ice cream happened to match his polo.)

katie-deedees-ice-cream

I had raspberry passionfruit sorbet, which is as tart and delicious as it sounds.

We strolled the neighborhood a while longer, then drove down to the waterfront that evening for dinner at the Bicycle Thief.

bicycle thief sculpture halifax

While we were waiting for our reservation (it was crowded), we walked along the harbourfront. Live musicians, food trucks, cool old ships, and lots of families out enjoying the lovely evening.

ships halifax harbour

When we did have dinner, it was delicious. I had a truly amazing lobster-corn chowder with new potatoes and bacon. (Also: their bread is focaccia and it’s homemade. Yum.)

bicycle-thief-chowder

We sat outside, and the view was as fantastic as the food.

bicycle thief restaurant halifax

We wandered around town in the long dusk, and split a decadent chocolate torte with raspberry sauce at the Middle Spoon. I could not get a good picture, but it was scrumptious.

The next morning, we headed to Annie’s Place for breakfast.

annies halifax

Annie herself welcomed us, and we had huge chai lattes (not that either of us were complaining) and excellent eggs, bacon and toast.

We spent most of the day exploring after that. First up was Woozles, an utterly charming children’s bookstore down the street from Annie’s.

woozles bookstore halifax

We didn’t spot any Heffalumps (or Woozles), but there were plenty of gorgeous books.

woozles interior

We also stopped by Bookmark – I’d been to their Charlottetown store, but enjoyed exploring this location.

bookmark halifax

The Halifax Public Gardens are close by, and they are gorgeous.

halifax public gardens

We’d heard the Halifax Central Library was worth seeing – though, to me, a library is always worth seeing. This one did not disappoint.

halifax central library

We ate lunch at the Seaport Farmers’ Market, then wandered back downtown, popping into more fun shops, including The Loop, a sweet little yarn shop.

loop yarn store halifax

For dinner that night, we ate at 2 Doors Down – really good pub food and local Nova Scotia wines.

two doors down halifax wine list

We weren’t quite ready for dessert, so we spent a while playing board games and eating popcorn at the Board Room Game Cafe. A Canadian friend had told us about this trend – it was so fun.

jer board room game cafe halifax

We capped off the night by splitting a slice of cheesecake at Sweet Hereafter. (It’s J’s favorite dessert.)

jer cheesecake sweet hereafter

We had to hit the road on Sunday, but stopped at Coastal Cafe for brunch first. J’s face says it all. (The huevos were amazing – some of the best Mexican food we’ve had outside of Texas.)

jer brunch halifax

Halifax, you are charming. Cheers!

halifax mural

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strand books nyc exterior

It’s no secret by now that the bookstores are the first place I go when I visit a city. This is particularly true of New York City, which has tons of great bookshops.

On my recent solo trip to NYC, I visited half a dozen – several new-to-me spots and one old favorite. So here’s a roundup of the bookstores I visited, what I bought and what I loved.

book culture columbus interior nyc

Book Culture has three locations on the Upper West Side. I’d visited the one on 112th Street before, but didn’t even know about the one on 82nd and Columbus Avenue. Luckily for me, it was right around the corner from where I was staying. The first floor is packed with beautiful books and gifts, and the children’s area in the basement is enchanting.

book culture childrens department

I spent ages in there on the first night of my trip, browsing the shelves. I bought three books (and a couple of other treasures) that night – then went back the next day and scored a lovely copy of Anne of Green Gables from the remainder table. (Because you can never have too many editions of Anne.)

westsider used books nyc

Westsider Used & Rare Books on 81st and Broadway is narrow, crowded and fascinating. I popped in for a browse on my first day in NYC, and loved eavesdropping on other patrons’ conversations with the owner. She said about an author whose name I didn’t catch, “Sometimes we put him in the philosophy section because he’s weird.”

I was a little overwhelmed, but picked up a Mrs. Pollifax mystery for just $3.

mysterious bookshop sign nyc

On my second day in NYC, I hopped a train down to TriBeCa for the express purpose of visiting the Mysterious Bookshop. What a fabulous name, no? (That’s the door sign above.) It’s nearly all mysteries, and the entire back wall is dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockiana.

mysterious bookshop nyc

Also: multiple ladders you can climb to browse the stacks! Be still, my mystery-geek heart.

I left with three mysteries: one set in Oxford, one fun vintage find and one middle-grade mystery featuring Enola Holmes, Sherlock’s younger sister.

idlewild books nyc exterior

I love books and I love travel, so a travel bookstore is my happy place. Idlewild Books, on 19th St. just north of Union Square, is tiny but delightful. I picked up a Chicago travel guide for a friend (on sale) and a book about English football for my Tottenham Hotspur-loving husband.

The Strand needs no introduction from me. It’s a hulking wonderland at 12th and Broadway, near Union Square. It has 18 miles (!) of shelving on four floors.

strand bookstore exterior nyc

I’d been there once before, but couldn’t pass up the chance to go again. This is a slice of the first floor, taken from the staircase above:

strand interior nyc

And this is how my head felt after browsing the fiction, poetry, mysteries, food and kids’ sections:

fiction essentials sign strand bookstore

I did pop down to the basement to check out the travel and essay sections, too. Here’s what I bought:

strand books bag

Board books for a friend’s baby girl, a foodie exploration of New York, a meditation on “idle travel,” a chick-lit novel by an author I like, and possibly the only E.B. White essay collection I didn’t already own. (I love him.)

My shoulders were so sore from lugging my purchases around (and of course I’d brought half a dozen books with me). But my bookworm heart was so, so happy.

What are your favorite NYC bookstores? Any spots I missed?

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parnassus cooking travel section bookstore

It took me a long time to realize this, and even longer to admit it. But I am a person easily overwhelmed by too many choices.

Give me a couple of options and I’m fine. English Breakfast or Earl Grey? Chocolate or vanilla? Red or white wine? I can make a quick, painless decision when the options are few. (Chocolate and red wine, always.)

But put me in front of a vast array of choices – booking a vacation rental on Airbnb, grocery shopping without a meal plan, clothes shopping of almost any kind – and I start to panic, then shut down.

I realized this again recently, when I headed to the mall to run a few errands. I only go to the mall about three times a year, but I needed to go to Target, which is attached to our mall. I also had two store coupons that were about to expire, and I was looking for a dark gray cardigan to replace my ancient one.

All of the above were fairly simple transactions. I bought the items on my list at Target (though I still spent more than I intended to), used one store coupon and decided to toss another, and searched for a gray cardigan (to no avail). The overwhelm set in when I decided to do a little extra browsing – and couldn’t find anything I liked.

strawberries

I love browsing and having a ton of choices in a few specific settings: the farmers’ market, the library, the bookstore, the florist. Mostly because I know that a lot of the available options are things I will definitely love. (This is one reason I love a good series, literary or otherwise: it eliminates decision fatigue.)

At my favorite stores, it’s easy for me to zero in on what works. I enjoy consignment shopping because the options aren’t endless (and I can look for my favorite brands). I can also shop with a few specific items in mind. But a department or big-box store with too many choices is a recipe for disaster.

I do like to try new things: a different style of dress or shoe, a new flavor of ice cream or (nearly always) a book I haven’t read. But it’s amazing how helpful this bit of self-knowledge has been.

Sometimes, when I’m faced with a dizzying array of choices, it helps to narrow them down: to choose from four flavors of frozen yogurt instead of 20, or limit my shopping to one or two stores. I can usually find what I’m looking for, and I’m left feeling much less frazzled.

Of course, there are some things I never get tired of buying, and sometimes the decision-making is part of the fun. But for those times when it’s overwhelming, I’m doing my best to remember: narrow the choices.

Do you struggle with decision fatigue?

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stripes tea bare feet red scarf

I love a good list, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. I’m also battling the winter blues over here (already), so here’s a list of fun ideas to help me get through my least favorite season.

  • Fill up the journal I started earlier this month. (Related: keep writing by hand.)
  • Spend some time at the Harvard Art Museums. They’re finally open again after a multi-year renovation, and my Harvard staff ID means I get in for free.
  • Start hunting for a new pair of red ballet flats. Mine are falling apart, and I know I’ll want some new ones come spring.
  • Invite some friends over for dinner.
  • Spend a long weekend in Nashville with my sweet college roommate and our husbands.
  • Knit myself something cozy. (I’m working on a cabled wrap.)
  • Watch some good stories. (Currently watching new episodes of Downton Abbey and Castle, and season 3 of Veronica Mars.)
  • Read a couple of books for the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. (Join us?)
  • Drink lots and lots of tea. (Obviously.)

What’s on your list for this winter?

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brooklyn spread love sign

Our recent New York weekend began with Mexican food, book browsing in the West Village and dessert at Cafe Lalo. It continued with a gorgeous, sunny Sunday.

little zelda brooklyn

We got chai and breakfast sandwiches from Little Zelda, and ate them perched on a bench on the sidewalk, enjoying the sunshine.

sept 11 memorial reflection

After breakfast, we caught a train to Lower Manhattan, where we visited the 9/11 Memorial. It was crowded, but still (mostly) quiet, and so moving.

sept 11 memorial pool

Everyone says it was a gorgeous fall day when the planes hit the towers – a day just like this. Endless, heartbreaking blue sky.

sept 11 memorial blue sky

I had wanted to see the memorial for a while, and I’m glad we finally went: it felt right to walk around the two sunken pools and pay my respects. I couldn’t help thinking back to the day (I was a high school student in West Texas) and the changes those attacks have wrought in all our lives.

sept 11 memorial flowers

I wanted to walk around and read every single name.

first responders sept 11 memorial

After spending a while there, we caught a train up to SoHo, where we browsed the high-end shops and visited Purl Soho. I came away with two gorgeous skeins of bright pink yarn.

purl soho yarn

Our friend Mary Kate recently moved to NYC, and we met her for lunch at Parm. We ate delicious Italian food (eggplant parm on a sandwich, people) and talked for ages.

jer katie mary kate nyc

After lunch we headed up to Central Park, which is always a treat, but especially so on such a gorgeous day.

central park nyc

We walked and walked, watching the children and the buskers and the rowboats on the lake, trading stories about our time in Boston and Mary Kate’s brand-new NYC life.

After all that walking, we needed sustenance, so we popped into Magnolia Bakery on the Upper West Side, where Mary Kate tackled this chocolate monster. (She asked for a box to take it home.)

mary kate cake magnolia bakery nyc

We headed back to SoHo in an attempt to visit the Central Perk pop-up shop – but, alas, it was closed. (We’d checked it out earlier, but the line was miles long.) We contented ourselves with photos of the iconic logo.

central perk logo nyc

Next we headed to McNally Jackson, where we stayed almost until closing time. I picked up the delightful Greenglass House (the author works there) and the fascinating The Genius of Language.

mcnally jackson books nyc interior

Dinner at the Grey Dog was delicious – hearty American food and more good conversation. (And cool lighting.)

grey dog soho nyc interior

New York, you are full of wonder (as always). We’ll be back.

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london view red bus

During my recent trip to Oxford, I hopped the train to London for a day (it’s only an hour’s ride each way). London is the first European city I ever visited (when I was 16, on a high school band trip), and while I find it a little overwhelming, I do love it.

From the house in North Oxford where I was staying, it’s a lovely walk to the train station along the canal.

oxford canal morning

For breakfast on the go, I snagged a bacon-and-egg baguette from On the Hoof, the best sandwich shop anywhere.

katie baguette breakfast

After a smooth ride in the quiet car (I adore train travel), I disembarked at Paddington Station, where I bought a large chai latte at Caffe Nero (combating jet lag with caffeine) and ran into an old friend:

paddington bear shop

Paddington Station boasts an entire Paddington Bear shop, full of stuffed animals, books and other Paddington merchandise. I had a delightful browse, and when I came down the escalator nearby, the bear himself was waiting for me.

paddington bear statue

After saying hello, I hopped on the Tube and rode over to Tower Hill, site of the Tower of London.

tower of london poppies

This fall, volunteers are planting 888,246 crimson ceramic poppies around the base of the Tower, one for every British fatality in World War I. The final poppy will be planted on Remembrance Day (Nov. 11), and the flowers will eventually be sold off for charity.

tower of london poppies spill

Even though the installation isn’t complete yet, the effect is truly stunning.

poppies tower of london

The jostling crowds at the railing detracted from the effect a little, but I still found myself getting choked up.

tower of london poppies

I walked around all four sides of the tower, snapping photos, and said hello to another old friend: Tower Bridge.

katie tower bridge

I hopped back on the Tube to meet the lovely Caroline for lunch in the National Gallery’s posh cafe. After finishing our salads, we headed out for an afternoon of book browsing.

bookshop window books charing cross road london

The bookshops along Charing Cross Road are legendary, and we talked each other into a couple of purchases (Gilead for her, The Handmaid’s Tale for me) before heading up the road to Foyles. Their new premises – five floors’ worth! – are rather dazzling.

foyles books london

We were a bit overwhelmed, but managed a tour of the fiction floor and the children’s area. I came away with a lovely edition of Sense and Sensibility and a copy of The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp, the new Eva Rice novel I’ve been dying to read.

From Foyles, we caught the Tube to King’s Cross Station, where I wanted to get my photo taken at Platform 9 3/4. Unfortunately, the queue was long, Caroline had a train to catch and I had another friend to meet – so we contented ourselves with walking by, then snapping a slightly blurred selfie.

katie caroline selfie

London always feels like a mad dash – so many things to see and places to go, most of which seem to be across town from one another. This day was no exception – I made good use of my day pass on the Underground, and I was plenty tired by the time I got back to Oxford that night. But it was a wonderful day.

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