Friday, December 23, 2011

An Untraditional Big Apple Christmas

We were in New York City last week for a few days, and since this was not the first time I'd seen

NYC all decked out in its Christmas finery, we took a few detours to see some places one doesn't usually go on a trip to the Big Apple in December.

We loved the food vendors all lit up for the holidays,

and the whiff of chestnuts roasting on their fires.

Instead of a Broadway play, we headed to Ellen's Stardust Diner on Broadway at 51st Street.

A retro 50's diner, the singing waitstaff puts on incredible shows each evening and you'll be thoroughly entertained

by some of these talented young people who are all aspiring to get on Broadway.

We headed to SoHo on one afternoon, stopping first at the infamous John's Pizzeria on Bleecker Street, known for its brick oven thin crust pizza. Originally opened in 1929,

the pizza is listed in the North American edition of 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and the Food Network featured it in their "Best Of" series. Look it up the next time you're in town--you might even spot a celebrity or two dining there.

Just down the street, we spotted Molly's Cupcakes, which my niece identified as the winner of the TV show Season 1 Cupcake Wars.

Of course, Megan, my niece and I had to try them out, and I tell you, it was one of the moistest cupcakes I've ever tasted. The place is cute as a bug inside too, with a welcoming decor, and swing seats at the coffee bar and board games sitting around, encouraging you to take your time and stay awhile. So unlike my experience at the more famous Magnolia Bakery, which is a bit overhyped.

One of their award winning cupcakes is the Peach Cobbler Cupcake. Along with that, there was a  huge selection to choose from, and what did I select? It was a "back to basics" day for me, and I chose the simple chocolate cake with white icing, which they iced while I waited--offering "with sprinkles or not." Probably the best cupcake I've had in a long time!

Of course, you might prefer to try the cupcakes from this street vendor, but I bet you can't beat Molly's!
Chicagoans--the original Molly's is in your hometown!

Still exploring SoHo, we found Treasure & Bond, a unique charitable concept store, that had recently opened.

Believe it or not, its parent company is Nordstroms, which has yet to open a store in the Manhattan area. Instead they have opened this unique and interesting store, all whose proceeds benefit children's charities. Many think they are testing the market to see just how New Yorkers shop, before coming in with a full size department store.

With housewares, accessories, gifts

jewelry and clothing to choose from, the store is off and running.

Next on our list was MarieBelle's

which is known for its divine range of chocolates and hot chocolate,

and I fell in love with its interior and product selection. So, so tempting--why did I fill up on pizza and cupcakes before finding you??

Lucky for me on this trip, I had the chance to see the Elizabeth Taylor collection of jewels, clothing, accessories, art and memorabilia that was displayed to the public before being auctioned by Christie's.

Although photos were not really allowed, I grabbed one quick snap of a few of her dresses, before heading off to see the amazing jewel collection she had collected through the years--many of them gifts form Richard Burton, Mike Todd and even Michael Jackson.

Antique and the Arts Online

Definitely, the most beautiful "decorations" I saw this Christmas season, the jewels were amazing. The first day of the auction, the 50 carat "La Peregrina" pearl necklace, a gift from Richard Burton, sold for $11.8 million dollars.
I put a few of the "baubles" on my Christmas list this year, so let's see what I find in my stocking!

Then it was off to Bergdorf Goodman's with its elaborate window displays and quirky trees, 

where I headed to their Christmas department and found this whimsical Marie Antoinette, as I named her, and wondered if the only one way to get her home would be to buy her an extra seat on the plane next to me!

Then for the most untraditional part of all my Christmas exploring in NY--the Lady Gaga Workshop in Barney's Department Store on the 5th floor.

Deemed a "reinterpretation" of Santa's workshop, the 5th floor of the iconic and elegant Barney's New York store on Madison Avenue has been transformed. 

With a range of special edition items to select from for your Christmas shopping, would you choose the Lady Gaga stockings,

"chocolate shoes,"

decorated cookies `a la Gaga,

her own interpretation of a snow globe,

magnetic doll dress up set,

or this one-of-a-kind skull ornament for your tree?

There's something for all her "little monsters," and the upside of this bizarre, but wildly popular Workshop is that 25% of the sales will go to her newly created anti-bullying Born That Way foundation.

Not your typical New York City tour of Christmas decor, but I hope it was a fun peek into the city in December, nevertheless.
And now it's time to wish all of you the merriest Christmas, full of joy, and to express my gratitude for all your gifts and expressions of love all year long.
May your new year be blessed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Favorite London Shop

Continuing with the theme of shopping that I started in my last post, I thought I would share with you one of my favorite little shops in London. The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers is a flower design school located in quiet St. Martin's Courtyard, offering courses in flower design, but they also have a little shop just full of merchandise.

Of course, on any day, you can always find a beautiful selection of

fresh flowers no matter what time of the year,

but if you come on in the shop, you'll find a treasure box of delights.

Little gifts for all occasions,

beautiful Christmas ornaments this time of the year,

tiny evening bags for you and a friend,

royal frames,

golden bottles,

bowls in rainbow colors,

and candles,


and more candles in many styles and colors, even in tea cups.

Found these cute magnetic "pegs" (or clothespins as we Americans call them) the last time I was there, and just had to buy some for me and my friends.

Cashmere throws,

journals for keeping secrets,

and all sorts of "lovelies" so tempting, that I bet you can't walk out without buying at least one thing.

A couple of weeks ago, I had to chuckle at this new line of merchandise,

with options for either line of thinking

and equal opportunity to decide whose really in charge!
I'm steering clear of this debate.

Check out their little store and the beautiful design studio on the lower floor the next time you find yourself in the Covent Garden area.