That Hibernating Feeling

I've had a hard time maintaining my "get up and go" lately. It's not that I've lost my momentum for the year…it's just that it's so darn cold outside! Seriously—NYC is in the midst of a deep freeze. The past few weeks have been among the coldest and snowiest of all my years in the Big Apple (and it's supposed to snow again this weekend!). I know that technically, this is what winter is supposed to feel like in the northeast, and the last few milder winters are, in fact, not the norm. But wow, this winter has hit me hard. Ponytail. No makeup. Knit hat and puffy coat with hood. This is what I have looked like for most of the last two weeks.

Most days, I don't want to walk to the subway in the sleet. I don't want to stay out after dark—which at this time of year is still pretty early. I don't want to go to the effort of putting on layer upon layer of clothing, only to still feel cold when I am actually out and about. I want to stay home, in my pajamas and fuzzy socks, and wrap up in a quilt. I want to read, and I want to work on my new book.

And there's the upside to feeling like I want to hibernate: I can hibernate with my work-in-progress! Which I am making pretty good progress on, by the way. I have most of a first draft written. I'm currently polishing up the opening chapters to—*gulp*—send to my agent in a few weeks. Two people have read the beginning and offered some feedback and positive reinforcement (and thank you—you know who you are!), and I feel like I'm on my way toward something reasonably good. Not finished product–good, but early draft–good. Which is good enough for now. I keep telling myself, You can't revise a blank page. And forward I march.

I may not be wearing proper pants most days (do yoga pants count?), but I am writing lots of words.

Does anyone else have the its-never-gonna-be-spring blues? How do you cope, short of packing your bags and jetting off to a tropical location? I think I need a sun lamp or something. Or a drink with a little umbrella.

At least it's been pretty:

The view from the window by my desk.

Snowy Brooklyn bushes.

On Monday evening, I made a little snowman on top of the trash cans in front of our building. And yes, people walked by and saw me doing it.


From Coney Island to the Bronx Zoo—in Pictures

The blog is back, after a week off! I just couldn't bear to move "Announcing...My Book Deal!!!" away from the top slot. But after the weekend I just had, I knew my blog hiatus was over. I have to share pictures from one of the most epic NYC Adventure Weekends my husband and I have had in a while. (Also, one of the first completely work-free weekends I've had in far too long!) So prepare yourself: Pictures Ahead! On Saturday, Justin and I went down to Coney Island to check out the Mermaid Parade. I've wanted to go for years, and this year the timing actually worked out. We were prepared for crazy costumes and crowds, and we weren't disappointed! We got there early to snag a prime spot. I slathered myself in sunscreen. And then we proceeded to have a great time. The pictures below are only a fraction of what I took, and a fraction of the awesomeness we saw! But you'll get a taste:

It's the Mermaid Parade!

This is Miss Coney Island

An octopus up close

A lovely group (school?) of mini-mermaids

A seahorse? Or just a sexy horse?

A clownfish?

Cartwheeling baton twirlers!

And...these guys...

This guy is a giant lobster creature, complete with moving claw arms

Avengers Assemble!

When we were all paraded out, Justin and I rode rides at Luna Park and walked on the beach. This was Justin's first visit to Coney Island, so I wanted to make sure he got the total experience! The only things we missed were the Cyclone (couldn't get there around the parade crowds) and Nathan's Hot Dogs (the line was so long, and we were so hungry...). But since Coney Island is only a subway ride away, I'm sure we'll be back.

View from inside the Wonder Wheel, which has been in operation since 1920

Another view from the Wonder Wheel

We rode the Soarin' Eagle—and it was awesome!

Me, barefoot and windblown, on the beach

Justin catching some waves

Enjoying the beach and the sunshine together

His and hers sandal tans

On Sunday, we joined some friends for a trip to the Bronx Zoo. I didn't take nearly as many pictures—the Mermaid Parade's costumes were, let's face it, a lot more exciting than some of the hot, sleeping animals—but we still had a blast. I love going to the zoo! Here are a few highlights from the day:

This gorilla posed like we were the paparazzi

Seriously, he was working his angles

Yuri the tiger enjoying the shade on a hot day

Ever wonder what it looks like when an elephant gets a pedicure? It looks like this.

Crossing the Bronx River

Subway station stained glass

Stained glass up close

Justin and I will be out of town the next two weekends, so it was great to spend a full weekend enjoying some of the awesome events and attractions NYC has to offer! Meanwhile, as I write this post, I am enjoying the couch and the air conditioning. :)


Summer Dreaming

It's been a pretty dreary month here in New York, weather-wise. It feels like we've had more gray, snowy, sleety days in the past few weeks than we did the rest of the entire winter combined. I enjoy the winter, where it belongs. But by mid-March, the Southern girl in me is begging for flowers and sunshine. I want to trade my jeans and sweaters for dresses and tights and t-shirts. I want to put away my snow boots and break out the ballet flats. I want to look through our apartment window to see our tree in bloom. So, to combat the winter-in-March blues, I've been dreaming about summertime. I mentioned in my "I Heart NYC" posts (check 'em out here and here) that my husband and I love to explore everything this city has to offer. Yesterday, we started thinking about what we might want to see and do this summer. Among the ideas we tossed around: the Queens Botanical Garden (we've been to the gardens in Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Staten Island—why not see 'em all?); Coney Island (my husband has never been! Maybe I'll even get him on the Cyclone...); and the Museum of the City of New York (NYC history, anyone?).

Coney Island—can't believe my husband's never been!

We're also starting to fill our calendar with our usual summertime faves. We bought a FastPass to the Big Apple BBQ, an annual celebration of all things barbecue (and sides) in Madison Square Park. I'm keeping an eye on the performance dates for this summer's outdoor concerts, from the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera to more contemporary acts. I'm pretty confident that thinking about all of these things—and imagining the sun on my shoulders—will get me through these last few chilly weeks!

Pitmaster Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q at the Big Apple BBQ

Whatever we end up doing, I can't wait to document the fun here!

What are your favorite NYC summertime activities? Any can't-miss things Justin and I should check out? Are you as tired of winter as I am?


Intimate and Distant: Liss Fain Dance's "The Water is Clear and Still"

I love seeing dance up close. So close you can see and hear each breath. So close you see individual beads of sweat. I love to see muscles twitching and engaging. From a distance—from a seat in a large auditorium, watching dancers on a traditional proscenium stage—I know the dancers are breathing and sweating and that their muscles are twitching. But there's something different about being so close you can almost experience each of those things alongside the dancers. This past Thursday, I attended a performance by Liss Fain Dance, a San Francisco–based company visiting Brooklyn for two showings of its hour-long piece "The Water is Clear and Still." The show was held in DUMBO's powerHouse Arena, a bookstore, gallery, and performance space. I didn't know anything about the company going in, but I was intrigued by the unusual setting, and by the fact that the audience was encouraged to wander between the piece's sculpture installations, around the perimeter of the dance space, to see the dancers from different angles and vantage points.

Photo by Frederic Boulay

In terms of visual interest, "The Water is Clear and Still" didn't disappoint. Because I was standing on the same level as the dancers, rather than sitting and watching them from afar, the piece felt incredibly intimate. Yes, the six dancers and one actor who made up the cast occupied a defined performance space, but I could travel with them around the room. I chose who and what I wanted to see in any given moment. And my perspective in viewing the choreography was constantly shifting. I had dancers moving in my immediate foreground, close enough to touch. Through their stretching limbs and suspended shapes, I could see other dancers moving; audience members on the other side of the room experienced the opposite. In one dizzying and effective moment, the lighting design on the floor began to move—and because I was standing there, too, I suddenly felt like part of the piece. Not once during the evening did I find myself without something arresting to see.

"The Water is Clear and Still" was inspired by a short story collection by Jamaica Kincaid, At the Bottom of the River. Throughout the piece, an actress circled the space, reciting fragments from Kincaid's stories. She was as much a part of the sound score as the music, and I have to confess that there were times when I heard her voice as nothing more than that: sound, rather than words. Because the movement was abstract and didn't directly relate to what was being spoken, it was hard to focus on both. Aside from a section set to Kincaid's "Girl," in which the actress interacted with and manipulated the dancers directly, I heard individual images rather than a clear through-line. Was this frustrating? A little, and probably mostly because I'm a writer. I would have loved to have seen even more connection between the text and the choreography.

Photo by Frederic Boulay

Director/choreographer Liss Fain is lucky to have a group of incredibly talented performers at her disposal. Each dancer's technical ability and strong focus worked well not only for the challenging contemporary choreography Fain created, but also for the overall dreamlike aesthetic of the piece. While I wouldn't say I came away from the evening with a clear sense of what differentiates Fain's movement from other technique-driven contemporary dance companies out there, certain movement motifs in this piece did stick with me. Dancers pounding their breasts in unison. Pulling their arms apart, as if drawing back a bow. Promenading slowly in back attitude, wrists circling. The performers were powerful, present movers. Shannon Kurashige in particular kept catching my eye with her precision and control. She danced with complete confidence and wasn't afraid to let go and move with abandon.

Would I recommend this company's work? Definitely! The dancers are skilled and deserve an audience, and the conceptual design of this show made for a fascinating viewing experience. I'm interested to see what else Fain might have up her sleeve. If the company returns to New York—or if you're based on the west coast—consider checking them out. (Go here for more information on Liss Fain Dance.)


Family Time and Travels

You may have noticed that I was supposed to post yesterday, and didn't. Or, more likely, you have no idea when I plan to post and simply come here whenever I share a post on Facebook or Twitter. Regardless, this week, Wednesday is the new Tuesday! Justin and I spent the weekend in Tennessee with my family. The main reason we went was to meet our new nephew. He didn't disappoint! I dare you to tell me this isn't the absolute cutest five-week-old you've ever seen:

Turner sleeping

Unlike our last visit to Nashville over Christmas, when we saw a movie and did a few touristy things and ate at every delicious restaurant in the city in just six days, this trip was completely calm and quiet. We mostly got up, watched some TV, got dressed, and went to my brother and sister-in-law's house to hang out with baby Turner. Where he mostly did this:

Turner sleeping 2

We also got to give him a bath, whereupon he made possibly my favorite face ever:

Turner bath

Except for the time he made this face:

Turner squint

In short, it was a lovely weekend, and I got my baby-cuddling fix, and I'm bummed that we can't see Turner (and the rest of my family) more often. One of the few things I dislike about living in Brooklyn is how far away my family is (and how expensive plane tickets are!!). But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we've already video-chatted with Turner a few times. Hopefully he'll eventually start to recognize his Aunt Kat and Uncle Justin, despite our distance.

Yesterday, back at home, it was back to work as usual. Not only do I have some freelance deadlines to meet this week, I'm hoping to finish revising my novel within the next month. I've heard back from all of my brilliant beta readers and they've given me a lot to chew on. Now I just have to implement those changes! I'm really happy with how this book is turning out, and it's a relief to know that other people have enjoyed it, too. I'm confident that if I dig in, I can make it the best it can be.

And maybe by the time Turner is a teenager, it will have been published. :p

Now, back to it. See you on Friday!


Why I Heart New York—Part 2

After last week's New York-y post, I got inspired to do another! You're getting a Part 2 because I encountered something else I'd never seen before that I had to share, and because after writing about loving New York in the snow, I got plenty of it! (Of course, it's almost gone now, but it was beautiful on Saturday...) But before getting to those things, I have to digress a little. It's Valentine's Day on Thursday, and while I didn't want to do a lovey-dovey post, I have to mention my own little love story. After all, one of the reasons I heart New York is that I met my husband here!

Four years ago today, we went on our first date. That date almost didn't happen. We were set up by two acquaintances, and Justin wasn't sure he even wanted to contact me. Neither of us really thought a setup would work, but I was willing to give it a go, so I e-mailed him first. We made dinner plans for Bacchus, in Brooklyn. Then, on our big date day, I woke up feeling so sick. I ended up meeting him dosed up with cold medicine, and with a definite "cold voice." Not quite the first impression I was going for! (He made up for it by getting a bad case of poison ivy shortly thereafter, causing us to postpone our second date for almost three weeks. I thought he was blowing me off—who gets poison ivy in New York? Luckily, it was a good second date, complete with a perfect kiss at the bus stop in the snow...which is a story for another post.)

So, happy dating anniversary, Justin! I'm so glad my low energy, foggy head, and snotty cold voice didn't scare you off, and that you gave me another chance. (And that I gave you another chance after the poison ivy excuse...) It's been an amazing four years with you!


Now on to the non-mushy portion of the post!

*     *     *

In the late fall, I joined a Wednesday evening "Write Night" that meets at the midtown Panera. The restaurant is right around the corner from the beautiful New York Public Library, and depending on which subway I take there and back, I either walk past the front facade of the library, or past the lovely Bryant Park. In general, midtown isn't my favorite part of the city, but you can't argue with this:

The New York Public Library on 5th Avenue

Last week, I happened to walk to Panera via 41st Street, and I saw something I hadn't noticed before. Because 41st Street comes right up to the front of the library, this block is known as Library Way. And, if you look down between Madison Avenue and Fifth, you'll see reading-themed plaques embedded in the sidewalk. I think my walk took three times as long as usual, because I had to stop to read them all! Here are a few of my favorites:





If you're a book lover, and you find yourself in this part of Manhattan, walk down Library Way! You won't regret it.

As for snowstorm Nemo (how's that for a segue?), it wasn't nearly as bad in our area as predicted, but we still got some lovely snow. On Saturday, Justin and I bundled up and headed to Prospect Park to see what was going on. I think every child in our neighborhood was out sledding! Next year, we'll be prepared with sleds of our own.

IMG_0990We headed from there into the Ravine, a wooded part of the park I love because its hilly trails can make you forget you're in a major metropolitan park. Though we could still hear the laughter and squeals of the sledders and snowball fighters, there were a few times we were the only people on our trail! And the snow was gorgeous.


IMG_0996Now that it's a little warmer and what little snow is left on the ground has turned black and slushy, I'm pretty much ready for spring to come. Still, it was so great to get a proper snowstorm this year! It makes those sub-freezing, sleety, windy, gray NYC winter days a little more worth it.

And on that note, this long post comes to an end. :)


Why I Heart New York

One of my favorite things about living in New York City is how the most amazing sights and experiences are just around the corner. I've lived in Brooklyn for more than eight years, and even in areas of Brooklyn and Manhattan where I spend a lot of time, I'll still walk down a block I've never walked down before and encounter something entirely new. Or the light will hit something just right and I'll have this moment of "Wow—I live here!" Case in point: On my daily walk to the R train, I pass The Grand Prospect Hall, an event space built in 1892 that has housed vaudeville shows, early motion pictures, masquerade balls, a Prohibition-era speakeasy, and countless movie shoots over the years. Today, it's a wedding venue, party space, concert hall—and fulfiller of dreams, according to this amazing commercial. I haven't yet been inside, but I'm keeping an eye out for open-to-the-public events this year!


Another example: I have been taking dance classes at the same Lower Manhattan dance studio since 2006. Last year, I happened to walk down a street two blocks to the north of the one I usually take, and I saw this for the first time:

The African Burial Ground National Monument




The African Burial Ground National Monument is a site with remains of several hundred Africans—free and enslaved—buried in the 17th and 18th centuries. It's this elegant, imposing, quiet, sacred space surrounded by Lower Manhattan's bankers and politicians and tourists and general bustle, and it's beautiful.

There are some NYC sights I never get tired of seeing. The Statue of Liberty. Lower Manhattan lit up at night from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (or Brooklyn Bridge Park). New York City with a dusting of snow (at least until people begin walking their dogs in it). I love standing between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges in DUMBO and feeling lost in the woods in Prospect Park. I love riding in the front car in the subway and watching the tunnel appear ahead of us, out of the darkness. Basically, I heart this city, and whenever I get frustrated with a delayed subway ride or the crush of tourists in Soho or the bitter February cold or the miserable August heat or the average rent in our lovely neighborhood—I picture all the things I love. I turn a corner and see something new. And I'm so happy to be here.

My husband and I like to go on NYC "adventures." We've taken a tourist boat cruise around the tip of Lower Manhattan, gone to the botanic gardens in Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Staten Island, toured the abandoned Atlantic Avenue rail tunnel, checked out dozens of museums, visited the Bronx Zoo, and done so much more. I can't wait to see what adventures 2013 will bring, and I can't wait to share them here. (Spoiler—Justin's never been to Coney Island, so that's on this year's list!)

What's your favorite NYC spot or activity? Any hidden gems I should know about?