5 Battening down the hatches for Hurricane Irene

Walking the streets in NYC this weekend was a little eerie. The city dwellers had holed themselves up in their apartments, after stocking up on flashlights, batteries, canned food and bread*. The subway stopped running, the stores were closed and there were hardly any cars out on the road. We spent some time on Saturday getting our little apartment ready, tied down our furniture on the rooftop and then settled in to watch Mad Men, read books, eat chocolate and unpack our boxes from Australia.

Saturday: Pre-hurricane preparations

- Taping up the windows on Sullivan St, West Village -
- Stores and Subway closed for the weekend -
- Boarding up a bakery and covering the windows at the Apple Store in Soho -
- Pre-hurricane emergency response already underway -
The worst of the hurricane hit on Sunday morning at around 7am – I have to admit I woke up only briefly, thought about how loud it sounded and then slept through the rest. When I got up at 10am, it was so quiet – the storm had passed and the cars still weren't out yet. We ventured outside to see what the damage had been in the West Village and found lots of tree branches and leaves on the road and plenty of children and dogs enjoying themselves in the water the rain had left behind.

Sunday: Post-hurricane cleanup

- Bleecker St -
 - Lots of things fell down -
- Gumboots just get in the way of the water! -
- The squirrel was going for my coffee... -
- A little bit of residual wind -
- The calm after the storm -
- The new Jimmy Choo store pulled through ok... -
We feel fortunate that the worst of the hurricane passed us by and our thoughts go out to those that have been impacted. Thank you to all our friends and family for your messages and well wishes.

From New York, with love xox

* My pragmatic friend L. stocked up on all the essentials - a bread stick, brie cheese, sundried tomatoes and wine.

6 Favourite Photo: Soho Art

We were walking home one night after dinner in Soho when we stumbled across these lovely ladies. The artist was packing up and after a day of answering plenty of tourists' questions (plus ours) and he was looking forward to a long, cold beer. Naturally, I wanted to take one of these home with me and as you can probably guess, lovely husband C. was the voice of reason…

- Aren't they just fabulous? -
… and it's a good thing too – our container from Australia finally arrived! We've unpacked our art and we're getting re-acquainted with our lovely paintings – Kelly*, our Staffordshire bull terrier; Lovebirds*, our engagement present to ourselves and Commodity*, a wedding present from our wonderful family and close friends.

We're spending the weekend inside unpacking boxes and having a Mad Men marathon. The city is on Hurricane Alert, so there's definitely nowhere better to be than home.

From New York, with love xox

* By the fabulous and talented John Giese, Janine Daddo and Linda Vario – I highly recommend a visit to Manyung Gallery in Melbourne to check out their work

2 Getting back into... exercise

When I lived in Melbourne, I had a great exercise routine going. I got my butt kicked by a personal trainer twice a week, went rock climbing with a girlfriend once a week and horse riding on the weekends. Since we moved to New York (a city of exercise fanatics), I can count the number of times I've exercised on one hand… and that includes twice this weekend.

Work has been so intense over here that I haven't had time to exercise during the week and sleep, shopping and catching up with friends seemed much more important than exercising on the weekend. All that changed this week when I saw some recent photos of myself on facebook and was reminded of my chubby cheeked four year old self.

So on Saturday morning, I took myself off to a Bar Method class, an enticing sounding mix of yoga, pilates and ballet, with some aerobics thrown in for good measure. I was shaking when I came out and stiffening up about two hours later. Verdict – fantastic. I’ll have a figure like a Victoria's Secret Angel in no time. I then decided to back it up on Sunday with some Bikram yoga. You know, the 90 minute session in 42 degrees (Celsius) and about 150% humidity? Yep. Almost died.

It wasn't all just about the exercise though. To console my shocked body, and show my friends K., A., and L. from Melbourne the foodie side of New York, we ate a lot. We tried kin shop, a new Asian restaurant in the West Village which is fabulous, Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, where you can't go past the pork buns and Momofuku Milkbar around the corner which has interesting sounding (and yummy) desserts like Crack pieTM and cereal milk milkshakes, both of which are delicious.

Aside from that, we ticked another thing off our list of fabulous New York things to do – we rode the Circle Line ferry that goes the whole way around the island of Manhattan.

- So many high rises, such a small space -
- Even more impressive, second time around -
- Sailing around Manhattan... so cool -
- The Big City -
From New York, with love xox

3 Favourite Photo: Coffee Craving

Crazy week. Like seriously crazy. One of those weeks where every time you cross one thing off your to-do list, an additional five things are added on. It was a week where sleep was the optional extra, caffeine the staple in my diet and chocolate a must to get me through the afternoon. So, I drank plenty of these*….

- Coffee and pancakes at Bubby's in Tribeca... a must on a Saturday morning -
… while dreaming of long lazy brunches, being my own boss and /or retiring to the beach.

Now – happily - my to-do list has been whittled down, and the weekend is here to relax away – have a lovely one!

From New York, with love xox

*Except the coffees I was drinking didn't look like that… they were more the takeaway variety in the Starbucks cup!

0 Meandering through Montreal

The best places to go are always the ones the locals tell you to go to. In the case of Montreal, the locals tell you to go to Pied du Cochon for food, Jardin Nelson for the jazz and old Montreal for the art. Working our way through those three things (plus some, ahem… shopping) made for a very relaxing weekend.

Let's start with the jazz – the singer had an amazing voice beautifully suited to the mixture of French and English songs she sang. Yes, French. Really, I wanted to be wearing a classically tailored black dress, high heels from Chanel, strings and strings of pearls and lazily waving a one of those long handled silver cigarette holders. If you're ever in Montreal, visit Jardin Nelson to listen to the jazz and drink the Sangria (but don't wear what I suggested – it's in a lovely outdoor courtyard and you'd look a little out of place).

Next, Au Pied de Cochon. At least five people told me to go there and not one of them was wrong. Rustic French food, cooked in plenty of lard = very happy tummy, not so happy hips. We went for the works – entrĂ©e, main and dessert - and didn't regret a single bite… (until I finally get back into the gym that is).

Finally, Old Montreal is a pretty part of the city – stately buildings, cobble stoned streets and lots of little art galleries to wander in and out of. I tried to convince lovely husband C. to buy a piece of art as a memento, however, he reminded me that the arrival of our paintings - and the rest of our container – is imminent (apparently!). So, I bought a different piece of art… a fabulous metallic blazer cum biker jacket from Zara… that counts, doesn’t it? 

- "And did you hear about ... "
- Perfect day for an idyllic carriage ride...  -
- Someone probably called this home once... nice! -  
- Out front of the fabulous Jardin Nelson -
- Everyone's a tourist... taking photos of... me!
- You can see the dog thinking... "He's so not with me" -
From New York, with love xox

0 Favourite Photo: Joe's, and my brush with fame

It suddenly dawned on me… "Are you famous?" I asked the tattooed, muscled, mustachioed man next to me. "Yeah… kinda," he says, "I have a small* show on the Discovery Channel – it's called American Chopper." Finally, my first bona fide American celebrity sighting. Not only a sighting either, I sat next to Mr American Chopper (Snr) and talked to him for two hours and he was so down to earth, and very lovely... not what you might expect when you check out his photo here (he's on the right).

This whole subject of celebrity ties in nicely with my favourite photo this week. This is Joe's in the West Village, a coffee hangout for all the cool people in the West Village. It's also supposed to be where famous people go for their coffees, but I haven't seen one yet… though I've come to the conclusion that I'm not very good at recognizing them!

- Lazy days and good coffee... -
Have a lovely weekend!  I'm off to explore Montreal and am looking forward to a couple of relaxed days with lovely husband C. and MO, my fabulous friend from Melbourne.

From New York, with love xox

* Not so small really. Screens in 180 countries and has been on the air for 10 years.

0 Chicago... in two lovely summer days

Usually when I'm in Chicago I stay out near the airport and my days are a blur of meetings, emails, phonecalls and really bad coffee. I broke that trend a couple of weeks ago when lovely husband C. flew over mid-week to join me so we could explore the city at our leisure over the weekend. And what a lovely weekend it was...

… the people were SO nice and… normal. They smiled and said excuse me and didn't yell at each other for no reason. They struck up random conversations, wore casual clothing and didn't all carry designer handbags. Did I mention they smiled ? It felt just like Melbourne – laidback, relaxed and happy - only in America.  And oh, the coffee! It was such a joy to drink great coffee again – if you're in downtown Chicago, check out Sacred Grounds. I had a skinny latte every day in American sizes (huge!) and I finished every last wonderful drop of it.

There are plenty of things to do in downtown Chicago. We hired "cruisers" (vintage bikes) for the day and spent some time lazily cycling around Lake Michigan. We went to our first baseball game, which was high on atmosphere but low on action (aka home runs). We wandered around Millennium Park and walked the Magnificent Mile (shopping heaven). We admired the architecture in the city, went to the top of the John Hancock Tower and also battled our way through the crowds on Navy Pier. On the food front, we checked out a couple of great restaurants – Hub 51 for a tasty brunch, Osteria Via Stato for thin, delicious pizza and fresh pasta – both of which I highly recommend. We also did as Americans do and ate hotdogs at the baseball and had our first big pretzel from Auntie Anne's.

- I want one of my own now... -
- Not so relaxing days at Lake Michigan -
- Relaxing days at Lake Michigan -
- "I'm coooommmmiiiiinnnnggggg"
- Navy Pier... a food and boat haven -
- The architecture tour -
- The view from the John Hancock Tower -
That thing you hear about mid-western hospitality being some of the best in the world? It's true. We've been asked to go sailing on Lake Michigan and out into the country to stay on a farm… maybe next time we'll have enough time to take everyone up on their offers!

From Chicago, with love xox

4 NYC weekend in tourist mode

You can pack a lot of tourist-ing into two days, especially here in NYC where everything is so close and the transport is so convenient. I did a whirlwind trip around some of the city's main attractions with my fabulous friend from Melbourne, MO. and of course lovely husband C. (who did an amazing job of navigating, particularly as I tried to divert us into cute little stores at every opportunity).

- No name necessary -
If you ever find yourself here for the weekend, here's what you can fit in:

1. Take the ferry out to Staten Island and back
It's quick, takes you past the Statue of Liberty and best of all in the most expensive city in the world… it's free!

2. Go shopping in Soho
I know, I know… trust me to fit this in. But in my defense, everyone wants to go shopping in New York City. Who am I to not indulge the wishes of the wonderful friends that visit me?

3. Watch a Broadway Show
This time we saw the Addams Family. Lighthearted, funny and starring Brooke Shields who was fabulous. Who knew she could sing?

4. Walk around Times Square at night
Electric, bright, loud and crowded – a total must-do.

5. Visit the Museum of Natural History
Loved the Dinosaur exhibit but be prepared for queues, crowds and getting lost (inside...).

6. Meander along Bleecker St
Of course. It's like 50 steps away from our apartment (a tough life, I know). There's so many good stores there… like MAC, Mulberry, Diptyque, Reiss, Nars, Marc Jacobs, Burberry, Coach, Intermix, Comptoir Des Cotonniers… and a Jimmy Choo coming soon. Oh, and Magnolia Bakery and Vive La Crepe and other very fabulous things.

- MO. in full tourist mode -
- The ferry ride -
- Times Square - seriously bright at night -
- "It was thiiiiiis big" -
- There's some gorgeous man messing up my photo -
We tried a couple of new places for brunch, unequivocally the most important meal of my day. Lovely husband C. often jokes that my first words in the morning are "I'm huuuuunnnnngggrrryyyyyyy", rather than "Goodmorning, how did you sleep?" These two places were close enough to satisfy my hunger pangs quickly:

1. Frankie 17 in the Lower East side
A simple menu with really good coffee (for NYC), something I don't get enough of here – I think my standards are ridiculously high having come from the coffee capital of Australia*.

2. Jeffrey's Grocery in the West Village
Oh yummy. I shared with lovely husband C. and we had blueberry French toast which was almost like a dessert and a New York staple – cream cheese, chives, capers and thin slices of smoked salmon – heavenly.

On top of all that, we (girls) managed to fit in a makeover at Benefit (love, love, love!) in Bloomingdales, mani/pedi's, some time watching reality TV shows and lots and lots of conversation. Thanks MO. for a wonderful weekend – look forward to seeing you in Montreal in a few days!

From New York, with love xox

* Melburnians take their coffee vvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyy seriously thanks to the large Italian population

4 Favourite Photo: Marilyn

In Australia we have the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple, the Big Prawn, the Big Mango, the Big Orange, the Big Lobster, the Big Cow, the Big Egg and the… well, just about anything you can think of. There are people who practically go on pilgrimages around Australia to visit all the "big" things we have.

In Chicago – they have the Big Marilyn.  No, really, it's true and actually kind of hilarious. I couldn't even count the number of (grown) men I saw having their photo taken (amid much sniggering) as they stood underneath her skirt, looking straight up.

A 26 foot high homage to the fabulous Marilyn Monroe
I've had a crazy week so haven't told you about our Chicago weekend yet – more on that soon!

From New York, with love xox