Will Someone Pinch Me Please?

30 04 2009

Life is pretty phenomenal right now. I just returned from a trip home. It was a short one, but a lovely one, and since I was home for a wedding I had the opportunity to see old college friends that I haven’t seen in far too long. Plus, it’s finally springtime in New York. The parks are green and the weather fine (it’s about time).

All that aside, the real reason that I’m flying high these days is that—wait for it—I finally have a job, a real, grown-up, regular hours job. And not just any job, a job with Hearst Digital Media that seems almost too good to be true. It’s been about a year in the making, and about three years since I’ve had a full-time job, and I am definitely, with all my heart ready to jump into Hearst and make things happen.

First, the commute is a straight shot from my home on the B train up to Columbus Circle, no frustrating transfers or running through subway stations. Second, the building is lovely and light-filled and LEED-certified (which, nerd that I am, makes me oh-so-happy), oh, and very close to Central Park, which is yet another perk. Third, and most importantly, the job is swell. I’ve only been at it two days, but I already know that the people are nice and that I’m going to thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing. I’ll be working on sweepstakes as well as the gift guides for the holiday season, which promise to give me a lot of Excel work (yes, I am an Excel nerd), a bit of writing and a whole lot else. Plus, it’s sort of like shopping for a living, and who wouldn’t love that.

I had a very hard time leaving my kids in Harlem, but this is a huge and exciting step for me, and one I’m most looking forward to. Stay tuned for updates to come!





Love for Swedes

27 04 2009

Oh those Swedish… They bring us some of the best shopping around.

First, there’s Ikea. I sometimes feel that I’d prefer to impale myself with a handful of those tiny pencils they pass out at the door than fight the crowds and maze-setup of this circus; but at the same time I must admit that there’s something satisfying about wandering navigating the maze, gazing at random gadgets and stockpiling items I never knew I needed, partially because they’re too cool to pass up (cheese grater that then stores grated cheese?) and partially because they’re ridiculously cheap (hello set of three scissors. I need you not but you’re $1.99!)

Then, there’s H&M, which despite its affordable price tags, can quickly become very, very expensive. And time consuming. And, ultimately (and most importantly) fashionable.

Now Sweden has done it again. I introduce from Sthlm,a site that celebrates the brilliance of Swedish design. Now you too can indulge in the brilliance of the Swedes (without dangerous pencils or the madness that is the H&M fitting room). Starting in April, the site will feature a new designer every month, selling that designer’s merchandise for a limited time (the period said designer is featured). This month: the candy-colored towels, coasters and other items of Lotta Kühlhorn. What a way to get unique, fun, and brilliantly designed items that aren’t recognizable as Ikea or H&M! Sign up for the newsletter and you too will soon be saying, “Thanks. It came from Sweden.”





Tweet on Travel?

21 04 2009

I like to think of myself as rather up on the latest technologies, though I know this is a total fallacy. In fact, though I consider myself “hip to tech,” I instead tend to be nearly the opposite. I don’t have an iPhone (my phone, at that, is a piddly, very old model, my iPod even older), it took me forever to start blogging, though I am on Facebook, I’m rather resistant (have never written a status update, don’t search for people I know there…) and the list goes on. Meaning that basically my tech savvy lies in knowing HTML and using the internet for all things efficient.

Which is why I have yet to join the ranks of the latest technology, which seems to me far from efficient. Yes, I have a Twitter account. I actually signed up long ago, before it was as huge as it is now, which places me on the forefront of the Twitter revolution, right? Wrong, if you consider that I have not tweeted a single thing in the months I’ve been signed up. I do, however, have 25 followers, and counting, none of whom know (at least not from Twitter) when I’m enjoying the sunshine, or in a contemplative mood or, for that matter, filing my nails.

Which brings me to Twitter and travel. The Twitter-obsessed, it seems, Tweet all the time, everywhere. While I recognize that Twitter is fun and that there is definitely value to certain updates, for the most part I feel it also has the tendency of making the mundane ubiquitous, and of being a total time suck.

The other day, when I saw a BootsnAll article about Twitter while traveling, I was intrigued. The article responds to a World Hum advice column piece by Rolf Potts, who answered the question, “Should I update friends and family by Tweeting while traveling?” with a decisive “no,” which was, predictably, followed up by countless responses, comments on Rolf’s own piece. World Hum then placated those tweeting travelers with a response giving tips from travelers who do like to Tweet. The BootsnAll article I came across that dragged me into this fray was essentially ad “live and let live” response to all the responses

I find the whole thing rather fascinating. First, there’s this main, overarching point of technology itself, since here is all this online discussion of the decision to “online discuss.” And here I am adding yet another voice to it all. In some senses, it is heartening, a sense of community in a way. Even though the opinions on the subject differ, it makes for interesting reading and interesting conversation on a topic that is, well, topical right now. It’s yet another means of making opinions and information ubiquitous.

As for the whole, Tweet during travel debate, though, I think I have to agree with Potts. While I do enjoy blogging while traveling, which some might argue is the same thing, I feel like there is a difference. A blog is like a mass communication, like sending a semi-descriptive missive to all those at home who want to know what’s happening with me and what sorts of adventures (or misadventures) I’m experiencing. While in theory Twitter does the same, there isn’t much one can convey in one line of text, so I’d guess it takes away from the experience without adding to much to those not experiencing, while a blog or an email is a way to relive certain aspects of the trip, almost a form of public journaling. And, since Tweeting is more immediate and shorter, I’d guess there is the risk of doing it more often, which means attention is focused on Tweeting about the experience rather than actually experiencing it (while with a blog or email, that time is explicitly focused on said task and on recalling, an experience, rather than relating it while it happens). Potts also mentions my favorite form of communication while traveling: the oft-overlooked postcard, the original travel communication and a memory in itself, which merits its own later post.

Ultimately, I agree that Ms. Spiegel of BootsnAll has a point: there are, in fact, all kinds, and what’s right for me isn’t going to be right for the next person. I travel far differently than my sister does. Likewise, she has 300+ Facebook friends while I have barely 70. It all comes down to what you like and what you do. But for me, I’d go with Potts and advise all those Tweeters out there to strongly consider resting their fingers over the course of their travels to fully immerse themselves into the experience, without the cocern of sending minute by minute updates home. Not that they asked me in the first place…





Mother Earth Love

20 04 2009

Cool article shout out. Yesterday in the Daily News was this cool article about eco-friendly travel. It’s got some great tips, such as free lodging in Ithaca for hybrid drivers, plus other deals throughout the Northeast and the rest of the country. Looks like I’m not the only one with Earth Day fever.





Green Grows Up, Over and All Around

19 04 2009

Spring has definitely sprung in New York. Everywhere I go my eyes and nose (and allergies) take in the beautiful buds of trees and flowers that have lain dormant all winter through.  That has me thinking about urban greenery. It’s still somewhat surprising to me how much of it I get to see here in the concrete jungle that is New York. In addition to the myriad parks in the city, most streets are lined with trees, and this is to say nothing of the rooftop gardens that are visible for those who choose to look up at them. The general idea seems to be that just because you live/work in a high rise, you don’t need to be deprived of greens.

Today this concept is becoming even more prevalent, as architects and artists everywhere seek to add green elements to buildings.  This makes not only for sustainable structures but atheistically interesting as well. To this end, Exit Art has a new exhibit up right now, in conjunction with  SEA (Social Environmental Aesthetics). Vertical Gardens presents audiences with architectural models, renderings and more, all imagining green urban spaces in various forms.

These visions, both imaginary and real, look to the future of green architecture, from green roofs to vertical gardens and from Florida’s Jacksonville Library to the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. And then there are those visions that take greening even further: indoor gardens that not only green buildings but give a whole new meaning to the term locavore, full walls of garden that are not only pretty but harness solar power which can then be used as other forms of power and even vintage articles that demonstrate that such things are not an entirely new concept. New or not, though, they are certain to amaze.

Exit Art
475 Tenth Avenue at 36th Street
Hours: 10am -6pm (Tues – Thurs), 10am-8pm (Fri), noon-8pm (Sat). Closed Sunday and Monday.
Cost: $5 suggested donation





And Then Again…

17 04 2009

I’m still thinking on this eco-tourism dilemma. Antarctica, yes, it’s a different story, and I agree that regulations should be put in place to protect it. Regulations should be put in place for any area that might be endangered by excessive tourism, for that matter.

On the other hand, such activities as listed by the Berkeley study (hiking, etc.), while they may endanger the areas visited, they also serve to promote awareness. What is nature, that is, if not to be enjoyed. And the more we enjoy it, the more we want to save it, right? So in this way, it seems to me, eco-tourism can actually be a good thing.

The Nature Conservancy, a conservation organization that works to protect ecologically important lands and waters worldwide, seems to believe that we should enjoy the nature we help to save. To that end, the Conservancy has a a feature on its website, Visit a Preserve, an interactive map of the preserves the conservancy helps to protect, which means wherever you are you can visit a preserve. Perhaps said visits will inspire folks to do even more to help. And so, eco-tourism is in fact a good thing, in moderation. (At least that’s my thought for the day.)





I’m Obesessed With: The Daily Green

16 04 2009

Since April is Earth Month, it’s only fitting that I’m feeling more focused than ever on eco-everything. With that in mind, I’ve been spending a lot of time on The Daily Green lately. Not only do the color scheme (a soft blue and green “globe” palette) and design have a relaxing “Zen-ish” quality, but the site is packed with easy tips and great newsy items that are not only easy to read but to put into action. A few of my recent favorites:

  • Obama’s High Speed Light Rail Plan: Just when you think the man couldn’t get any better, he comes up with this energy-efficient (and all-around efficient) way to boost the economy, save fuel, and travel. It’s about time we caught up with Eurail.
  • Earth Month Diet Tips: Easy tips to greenify your diet (and life).
  • Spring Recipes: Easy, healthy, and tasty recipes that make use of spring produce.

I could go on all day. It’s one of those sites that you get sucked into, and then suddenly realize you’ve spent far longer there than was your original intent. For that reason, perhaps, I should hate it. But I simply can’t.





Can We Love Nature Too Much?

16 04 2009

A couple days ago the New York Times ran this article about a recent conference in Washington focused on protecting the fragile Arctic and Antarctic regions. In her keynote address, secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed U.S. concern over tourism to Antarctica, both for the safety of the region and of the tourists themselves. Tourism to the region has become rather popular over the course of the past decade or so, and the effect on the area has been somewhat questionable. The article cites concerns over fuel spills and over the tourism industry in general being responsible for “about 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The article questions tourism’s effect on nature closer to home than the poles as well, discussing a recent study at the University of California, Berkeley, which went so far as to surmise that “even ‘quiet, non-consumptive recreation’ — defined as things like hiking, biking and horseback riding…still led to a steep decline in the density of native carnivores.”

The irony, it seems, is that as the world gets more eco-minded, travelers are more likely to choose “nature-based tourism, and yet it seems that this increase in demand (which, it should be noted, seems to signify an increase in awareness) is also putting some of these ecosystems at further risk. The question, then, is where to draw the line. Is eco-tourism, while excellent in concept, in fact part of the problem? I’ve got no answer, but I’m hoping people will weigh in…





A Few of My Favorite Peeps

14 04 2009

Another Easter come and gone, and this sweet-loving girl is finding herself in a self-induced “no-one-around-to-indulge-with-me-so-I’ll-eat-it-all-myself” candy coma. Because Easter isn’t Easter without some Jolly Rancher jelly beans and Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.

Then leave it to my mother to really pack a doozy. The other day I came home to find an Easter tradition in my mailbox: anyone who’s been to a mall in California has been to the mainstay See’s Candies, and anyone who’s spent an Easter in California has experienced See’s eggs, or at least they should have. Like the Reese’s eggs, these are the traditional See’s truffles, all grown up and Easter-ified. In our family it was tradition to get the variety pack and cut them up so everyone could have a bit of each, but Mom sent me a full-size of my favorite. The Bordeaux is a milk chocolate (sprinkle-covered) “brown sugar butter cream” filled truffle that is sinfully sweet with an odd little bit of crunch to it.

But all this sweet talk merely a lead-in to the fact that on Easter I find there are far too many sweet pleasures to bother myself with sugar-coated marshmallows. The peep might be a cute diversion, but give me See’s or Reese’s any day over that neon puffy creation. This year, however, I became a fan of the peep, not so much to eat as to look at. I discovered National Geographic’s “Peeps in Places” contest, in which readers were invited to send in their photos of peeps in their favorite travel destinations, resulting in a series of whimsical, comical and all-around amusing pictures of the little marshmallow guys in, well, places. I love it because it’s reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite movies, Amelie, in which the young French heroine cheers up her depressed father by sending postcards of his garden gnome, who she’s sent around the world with a flight attendant friend. Perhaps a random reference, but anyone who hasn’t seen it should.

At any rate, this year—especially since I’m swearing off sugar for at least a week—it’s all about the (in my opinion, inedible) peeps and, of course, the places they go. Check out the photo pool here. 15,000 and counting. Too bad I didn’t know of this last week: I could have taken my peeps to the beach after all. But surely peeps in paradise wouldn’t have held a candle to Cowboy Peep, Tired, Poor, Hungry Masses Peeps or Vincent van Peep.  Guess I’ll just have to wait patiently for the winner to be announced. They sure could hurry it up though…

This peep's looking at San Francisco from Twin Peaks. He must be looking for a See's Candy store... Photo by elmoizme.

This peep's looking at San Francisco from Twin Peaks. He must be looking for a See's Candy store... Photo by elmoizme.





Return From Paradise

9 04 2009

There is always a certain amount of letdown involved with the return from any trip: return travel itself can be exhausting, and that’s only compounded by a sense of wistfulness at leaving a place one loves or returning to the pressures of every day life. I’ve experienced this many times over, but today I’m a bit out of sorts for a whole different set of reasons.

I’ve spent the past five days in paradise. From the time I arrived on Friday evening to the time I left yesterday morning, I never stopped hearing the crash of waves, was never cold and never had a worry beyond what I wanted to wear (pat on the back for a job well done in the packing department: all three bathing suits were worn and all but two dresses and a pair of shoes got a little love) and how to capture the beauty of the pristine turquoise water in words and photos (the latter remains under close scrutiny).

Now I’m back in Brooklyn and not entirely sure what to do with myself. Not only was I in total relaxation mode for nearly a week, but I was completely unplugged as well. That means no cell phone and no computer. Both got stamps in their passports, but the laptop wasn’t opened once and the phone (on roaming) was used only as a timepiece. There are no phones in the cottages, and no internet either. This, at first, caused a little anxiety, but by Saturday morning I found it utterly liberating. So liberating, in fact, that being online now is a strange experience. I’ve done nothing today but unpack and sift through 200+ emails that piled up in my absence, and I must admit that neither have I done very well (papers remain piled on the table and there are emails that are going to take more time to respond to just waiting until I’m fully adjusted).

For now, I’m just watching paradise for a little bit longer: