Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Bronx Christmas House

Visit Italy during the Christmas season, and you’ll find a crèche with figures of the Holy Family on every other corner and within every church; the Virgin Mary looking lovingly down at the baby Jesus.

In the outer borough of the Bronx in New York City, things are done a bit differently. Here in the yard of a residential home is another display of the birth of Christ, but along with the usual audience of Wise Men and angels are movie stars, princesses and models.

A local family who reside in the house creates each of the almost 200 life-sized mannequins that stand in their yard by hand. We arrived just in time to watch the family remove the plastic slipcovers over each mannequin, carefully brush out and style each doll’s hair, and power up the display to make the mannequins dance on rotating platforms – slightly tacky, but incredibly charming.

No diva is left behind – from Marilyn Monroe to Cher, every glamour girl is represented. But above all of the madness sits the Holy Family, perhaps to remind everyone what this is all about – we were told that the family does this out of gratitude for a miracle they were given many years ago, and they’ve continued the tradition for decades.

The project brings much joy to the community, who stand outside the chain-link fence and gaze in wonder at the outrageous scene. Money thrown through the fence is donated to a local church (after the electric bill is paid!).

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

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Filed under New York City, Random, Travel

Do This, Not That: Christmas in New York City

I can’t even tell you the number of times that relatives and family friends say to me, “it must be SO exciting to be in New York City at Christmastime!”

I usually just nod and smile and agree, but in reality the city gets downright crazy at this time of year. Tourists flood the streets to sight-see and shop, and while I won’t deny that New York really is beautiful at this time of year, it certainly makes simple tasks like getting to and from work a big hassle.

Despite all of my complaining, I really do love the holidays in New York — I just have a different idea of a good time than getting plowed over by tourists trying to catch a glimpse of the Rockefeller Center tree. Here are my suggestions for nice holiday activities away from the crowds:

Instead of hitting up the crowded outdoor holiday markets for shopping…

Try to find something unique in a quieter location. The Museum of Art and Design (MAD) at Columbus Circle has a beautiful gift shop that is right across the circle from the holiday markets, but sells much nicer items that are both stylish AND useful. This year, I’ve also been loving a great pop-up shop on Broadway near West 88th Street called Annie’s Urban General Store (they are only at that location until December 24th, but they also have a full store in Brooklyn). With a little searching, you can find awesome, unique gifts without the crazy crowd.

Instead of fighting your way down 5th Avenue and Herald Square to look at windows…

Veer away from the crowds to check out the windows at Barney’s and Bloomingdales instead, which are located slightly further from the hustle of 5th Ave. The windows at Barney’s are pretty much always better than those at Saks or Macy’s anyway, and you probably won’t need to stand in line or crane your neck to see them.

Instead of freezing your butt off trying to snap pics of the Rockefeller Center tree…

The museums in New York, particularly the Met and the American Museum of Natural History, have beautiful trees that are more elaborately decorated (although not quite as massive) as the one in Rockefeller Center. I’m hoping I get a glimpse of the origami tree that AMNH has this year!

Of course, if you have your heart set on doing these things during your stay I have only one recommendation: get there early, see what you want to see, and then move to a less tourist-centric part of town where you can actually enjoy the city and not be trampled by the holiday maniacs!

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Filed under New York City, Random, Shopping

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

As I type this, it is SNOWING in New York City! Since I grew up in New England I’m really not a stranger to snow, but it is still a little bit exciting to watch the first snowfall (from inside my apartment with hot chocolate in hand, of course). However, on my way home tonight I realized that the arrival of snow means that my ears will promptly begin freezing every time I leave my apartment. This wouldn’t be such a problem if not for one, tiny detail: I HATE hats.

My poor boyfriend has been lovingly trying to purchase a hat for me for years, insisting that he’ll pay for whatever hat I want (within reason) as long as I keep my head covered and protected from the elements. Every year, I refuse after deciding once again that hats look awful on me. Well folks, this might be the year that I finally give in and get a hat. My ears were freezing a little too much for my liking this evening, so I present to you Kristen’s List of Possibly Acceptable Hat Options for Winter 2010-2011:

Asos Knitted Turban ($24.14) — I really love the idea of a turban-style hat, and this one looks cozy, is affordable, and isn’t an in-your-face fortune teller turban.

Catarzi Felt Floppy Hat ($51.72) — So I’m not sure how warm this would keep my ears, but they do say that most of the heat in your body escapes through your head, and that’s covered! I really just love the sophisticated look of a real hat like this one!

Michael Kors Pyramid-Stud Earmuffs ($48) — I’ve never owned a pair of earmuffs, but I’ve been thinking about them seriously since one of my biggest gripes about hats is the hair-messing factor. Also, earmuffs often look sort of generic or boring to me, but I’m really loving the studs that give these a little bit of personality!

Any suggestions for functional-yet-cute hats? Let me know!

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Filed under Fashion, New York City