Unique Holiday Windows at NYC’s High School of Fashion Industries

I’ve written before about the incredible variety of of department store holiday windows on display across New York City during the month of December (here and here), but I recently found out about a set of windows I had never heard about before – they’re found at the High School of Fashion Industries. Students at the school worked with the creative ambassador for Barneys New York, Simon Doonan, to design and build the window displays.

The students chose not to stick to a holiday theme for their designs, instead focusing each window on an iconic woman musician, artist, or model. There are six windows in all, honoring Joan Jett, Beyonce, Celia Cruz, Madonna, Dolly Parton, and Grace Jones. I think they are imaginative and delightful.

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While I was viewing the windows, I also noticed this set of beautiful mosaics above the school’s entrance.

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Want to see the windows at the High School of Fashion Industries yourself? The school is located at 225 W. 24th Street in Manhattan, between 7th and 8th Avenues. (The closest subway stations are the 23rd Street stations. The 1 train or E and C train stations are very close – it’s a little further walk if you take the F, M, R, or W trains to their 23rd Street stations.) In my research about the school, I discovered that they actually create windows 4 times each year, so it’s not just a holiday thing. And, as a bonus, you are just a short walk up 7th Avenue to the Fashion Institute of Technology’s free museum, a hidden gem I’ve previously written about here.

Lord & Taylor’s Holiday Windows 2016: Enchanted Forest

New York City is a magical place during the holiday season, and those seeking activities to put themselves in the Christmas spirit can find endless activities to enjoy. Of course there are the Christmas trees at locations like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History, which I’ve featured before here and here. But both New York City residents and visitors alike always look forward to the department store holiday windows, wondering what each store’s them will be for the current season. One of my favorites this year is Lord & Taylor’s Enchanted Forest, a delightful set of windows that appeals to both adults and children. Here are some of the photos I took of the Enchanted Forest recently.

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If you are in New York City for the holidays, I encourage you to check the Lord & Taylor windows out. They are even better in person, especially with the animation and moving figures! Lord & Taylor is located on Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets, just a short distance from Bryant Park and the iconic New York Public Library building. It is easily accessible by subway or bus.

Celebrating Diwali at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tomorrow is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Each year, there are numerous celebrations of Diwali in New York City. Last year, one of those celebrations took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I stumbled upon it during a visit to the museum. Although the museum is not hosting a Diwali celebration this year (at least, I haven’t been able to find anything about it if it is), I thought that revisiting last year’s festival activities would be a great way to celebrate the holiday this weekend.

To celebrate Diwali, the Met offered numerous activities, including henna painting, lantern-making, and children’s dance activities. I met some visitors who were willing to share their experiences with me, as you can see from these photos.

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In one room, children were being taught some traditional dance steps – guaranteed to burn off some youthful energy, and fun to watch!

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There was also a dance performance, difficult to capture in photographs because of the crowds, dark light, and fast movement, but so beautiful.

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One of the benefits of hosting this event in the Met Museum is the proximity to a wonderful collection of Indian art. I made sure to explore some of it while I was there, and here are photos of a few of my discoveries.

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And don’t forget to look up!

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Although the Met Museum may not be holding Diwali festivities this year, I recommend visiting to see its Indian and Southeast Asian art collections, which are primarily located on the second floor of the museum. There’s also a small special exhibition of Indian art on display at the Met through December 4, 2016: Poetry and Devotion in Indian Painting: Two Decades of Collecting. More information about that exhibition is available here.

Cider Week in NYC

New York City is in the midst of Cider Week at present, and there are numerous opportunities to taste the New York-made ciders throughout the city. Cider is becoming more and more popular in recent years, and New York state cider makers are producing excellent hard cider varieties. Cider Week celebrates the variety of those New York ciders in tastings, dinners, and a variety of other activities.

One of the early events of Cider Week was the second annual Lower East Side Cider Festival, held this past Sunday on Orchard Street. Numerous cider makers offered samples of their delicious ciders, and there was food – both apple-themed, and otherwise – for sale. Wassail, the cider bar I’ve previously discussed here, also offered a variety of ciders on tap. Here are a few photos of my visit to that event.

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There’s still plenty to do before Cider Week ends on October 30. Want to check out some of the events yourself? You can find the schedule here.

Tasting the City at Broadway Bites

There are numerous opportunities to experience the variety of restaurant offerings in New York City, including food halls, flea markets, food trucks, and food carts. Another popular option is any of the markets organized by Urbanspace. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to experience firsthand Broadway Bites, a pop-up food market curated by Urbanspace.

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Broadway Bites is great on so many levels. There are 28 food vendors participating in the fall market, ranging from sweet to savory and spanning the globe with different food styles and cultural influences. Meeting up with friends who all want something different? Broadway Bites is the perfect choice! Everyone can get exactly what they want, or you can get several things to share. There’s plenty of seating scattered around the park as well.

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I was invited to taste some of the delicious food offerings, and I thought I would share some of my favorites. There was this incredible truffle cheesesteak by the Truffleist, with its perfect balance of grilled meat and peppers, cheese sauce, and crusty yet soft bread, crowned with freshly-sliced truffles from Burgundy, France. The Truffleist is known for its handcrafted truffle products, and the company is based in Long Island City, Queens. More recently, they have been participating in pop-up markets and have just opened up a permanent kiosk at Gaansevort Market in Manhattan. All I can say about this is Yum! I plan on having this cheesesteak again sometime soon!

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I love poutine, that delicious Canadian comfort food that usually consists of french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds – and Birds & Curds by MeltKraft offers some creative and flavorful poutine options. The Birds & Curds people suggested that I try the “Nacho Average,” a marriage between nachos and the traditional poutine. The crispy hot fries were covered in a refried bean gravy (yes, it did have that delicious flavor of refried beans) and then topped with cheese, salsa, and pickled jalapeños. Poutine traditionalists might be shocked, but this dish was really good!

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Or how about the fresh, clean taste of Gotham Poke‘s spicy tuna poke? Poke is becoming popular in New York City, with new poke shops springing up across Manhattan on a regular basis. Gotham Poke is among the best, and its spicy tuna poke included Vidalia onion, seaweed, pickled ginger, chili mayo, and gochujang sauce, and was garnished with spring onion and thinly sliced radish.

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I was intrigued by Hai Street Kitchen & Co.’s sushi burrito, which is offered in this box, almost like a present.

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Once the package was opened, I discovered this Instagram-worthy and delicious treat – this one with salmon. The “burrito” form turns the sushi roll into a hand-held street food.

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I’m a fan of Korean food, making Chingdu New Korean’s offerings intriguing. I tried this tender bulgogi, made with ribeye steak and garnished with pickles.

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The man taking orders at Bar Suzette Creperie persuaded me to try the lamb burger, topped with carmelized onions and fried goat cheese and garnished with arugula, grainy mustard, and fig jam. The goat cheese added a tangy, creamy taste to each bite, and the mustard and fig jam balanced sweet and savory.

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What made this stop particularly fun was watching one of the guys make a delicious looking crepe as I waited for my lamb burger to cook. Doesn’t this look tempting? I think it will require a return visit to try it as well!

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Perros y Vainas has one of the most colorful kiosks at Broadway bites, and is the inspiration of the people behind New York City’s very popular Wafels & Dinges, Rossanna Figuera and Thomas DeGeest.

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Perros y Vainas offers Venezuelan street-style hotdogs, which are cooked to create a crispy exterior and then loaded with a variety of toppings. I gave Rossanna free rein to garnish my hotdog as she saw fit, and this was the result – a masterpiece of flavor! My favorite part is the crispy potato sticks (papitas) that offer an unexpected but satisfying crunch with each bite. What also makes Perros y Vainas special is that Rossanna and Thomas are donating part of their sales to organizations that provide food and medical care for children in Venezuela.

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Ending on a sweet note, I stopped by Mochidoki to try some Japanese-style mochi. The ice cream comes in a variety of natural flavors and is covered in the rice-based mochi dough. Ken Gordon, the company’s founder, presented the mochi with well-found pride, and I was excited to try it. In fact, I’ve already been back to try additional flavors since my first visit. So far I’ve tried coconut, double chocolate chip, mandarin orange cream, and salted caramel – and I’ve loved them all. Another bonus for those who can’t have gluten: all but two of Mochidoki’s flavors are gluten-free!

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Want to check out Broadway Bites for yourself? The market is located in Greeley Square on Broadway between 32nd Street and 33rd, only a short distance from the 34th Street – Herald Square subway station. (The N, Q, R, B, D, F, and M trains all stop at this station.) Don’t wait too long though – the fall Broadway Bites market only continues through November 18, 2016.

Broadway in the Boros

(This was originally posted yesterday, but I had technical problems with that post and had to repost it.)

One of the things that makes New York City such a special place is that there’s always something new, something unexpected, around the next corner. Yesterday, I traveled by ferry to Staten Island, intending to visit the National Lighthouse Museum for the first time. As I entered the plaza next to the museum, however, I found my plans had changed. Broadway in the Boros had come to Staten Island!

Sponsored by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Broadway in the Boros brings cast members from Broadway musicals to perform songs in concerts in the city’s outer boroughs. The goal is to make Broadway musicals more accessible to all of the city’s residents. The concerts are informal, with performers wearing T-shirts and other casual attire. In between songs, the concert’s emcee gives away Broadway show tickets and other freebies.

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Friday’s concert featured performers from two musicals: She Loves Me, and Fiddler on the Roof. Cast members sang four songs from each musical, accompanied by the members of the musicals’ orchestras. It was a fun performance – I especially enjoyed the performances from Fiddler on the Roof, one of my favorite musicals.

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Wanting to catch one of the future Broadway in the Boros concerts? The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment posts announcements of future events, including these concerts and many other special events, on its social media sites. (You can find its Facebook page here, and its Twitter page here.)

NYC’s Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas Festival

New York City is a city of immigrants, generation after generation. It epitomizes what is best about the tradition of immigrants coming to the United States in search of the American dream. The city’s neighborhoods tell that history as well, with new waves of immigrants coming from different locations each generation. The Museum at Eldridge Street, located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has chosen to commemorate that rich, diverse history in its annual Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas Festival.

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The Museum at Eldridge Street got its start as a Jewish synagogue in 1887, serving the surrounding community of Jewish immigrants making their way from Eastern Europe. In fact, the Eldridge Street Synagogue was one of the first synagogues built in the United States. As the United States restricted immigration after World War I and the city’s Jewish population eventually scattered to other parts of the city, the synagogue’s congregation shrank, and the main sanctuary fell into disrepair. In recent decades, however, the building has been restored and turned into a museum, although religious services continue to be held every Sabbath and Jewish holiday. The Eldridge Street Synagogue has also been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The festival, held in June each year, celebrates the diversity of the Eldridge Street neighborhood. In incorporates the food and culture of Jewish, Chinese, and Latin American (particularly Puerto Rican) immigrants, as evidenced by the festival’s name: Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas. (For those who have never heard of an egg cream before, it is an old-fashioned drink made of milk, seltzer water, and chocolate sauce – despite its name, it contains neither eggs nor cream!)

Part of the festival is held in the street outside the museum. Some tents sell food from the three featured cultures, including egg rolls, egg creams, and empanadas. Other tents offer activities for children, including a yarmulke (or yamaka) decorating station and another one where girls and boys create masks for a Chinese dragon parade. There are also a number of musical and dance performances. I was fortunate to arrive just in time to see a demonstration of Chinese opera, which is beautiful and dramatic. These are a few of the photos of the performance, which took place with the crowd surrounding the two characters.

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As I entered the museum, there were two men demonstrating their writing skills. This man wrote visitors’ names in beautiful Hebrew script.

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His neighbor demonstrated traditional Chinese calligraphy for museum guests.

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From there, I went further into the sanctuary and up into the balcony to appreciate the synagogue’s impressive architecture and beautiful stained glass windows.

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At this point, I thought my tour of the museum was finished, but a volunteer directed me downstairs to the basement, where the museum has a permanent exhibit tracing the synagogue’s history. There were these documents from the founding of the synagogue, along with one of the seven original Stars of David that were placed on the roof of the building during its construction.

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I was also intrigued by this two-sided Tzedakah Box. The box was originally mounted on a wall that separated men’s and women’s entrances to the weekday chapel. There were six separate slots, each marked with a particular charity that corresponded to a day of the week, and synagogue members would drop money into the appropriate slot. I found it interesting that it was more intricate on the one side than the other.

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Further handiwork demonstrations were offered as well, including several women exhibiting Chinese paper folding projects and two other women showing off intricate bobbin lace.

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Although the festival is only held once a year, you can still visit the Museum at Eldridge Street throughout the year. (Keep in mind that the museum is not open on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath.) The Museum is located at 1200 Eldridge Street, just south of Canal Street. If traveling by subway, you can take the F train to the East Broadway station; the B or D trains to Grand Street; or the N, Q, R, J, Z, or 6 trains to Canal Street. For further directions, see the museum’s website here.

NYC’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade 2016

It’s been said that New York City has the largest Puerto Rican population outside of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans certainly are significant part of New York City’s cultural diversity and its residents. In fact, in the 2010 U.S. Census almost 9 percent of New York City’s population was Puerto Rican, and the numbers have continued to grow in the past several years. In celebration of New York City’s Puerto Rican residents, the city hosted the 59th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 12, 2016.

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Like in almost all New York City parades, the New York Police Department, New York Fire Department, and various other law enforcement and government agencies marched in the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Often, these agencies’ employees have founded their own Hispanic or Latino cultural associations within their respective agencies.

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I particularly liked the vintage police cars and fire engine.

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Many local and state politicians participate in the parade as well, including New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio. Mayor de Blasio is the one in the white shirt, a traditional Puerto Rican shirt, and waiving the Puerto Rican flag. I heard some of the parade bystanders react with pride because of his clothing choice. (Members of the New York City Council, the governor of the State of New York, and numerous other political figures also marched.)

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But the best parts of the parade were the elements of Puerto Rican culture. There were numerous dance groups and folk characters in costume. There were thousands of red, white, and blue Puerto Rican flags waving in the breeze. Most importantly, there were parade marchers and bystanders enjoying themselves and celebrating their heritage, and the energy was contagious!

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This parade has quite a few people marching in support of various political causes and environmental issues in Puerto Rico or in some way involving Puerto Rican people. One of my favorite photos from the parade was of this couple marching with others in opposition to an environmental concern.

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The parade travels north along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, from 44th Street to 79th Street. Central Park stretches along the parade route starting at 59th Street, offering welcome shade for bystanders but some challenges for taking good photos at times.

Shakespeare in Central Park

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One of the hottest tickets in New York City each summer is not a Broadway show and is absolutely free: the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park. Although the performances are free, the tickets are not easy to come by. There are only two ways to get them – (1) showing up early in the morning and waiting in line for hours at either the Public Theater’s box office at Astor Place or the Delacorte Theater box office in Central Park; or (2) entering the ticket lottery on the TodayTix cellphone app. (You can also get tickets by making a large donation to the Public Theater to support its programs – I didn’t count that option since it isn’t free.)

Because I’m not excited about waiting in line for hours at a time, we have relied on the ticket lottery instead. Last summer, we entered the lottery every day, but with no luck. This summer, we once again began entering every day, even though I had basically given up all hope after last year’s failure. Imagine my surprise when I learned that we won two tickets to last night’s performance of The Taming of the Shrew!

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Performances start at 8:00 pm, and we were told we could pick up our tickets from the Delacorte Theater box office between 5:30 and 7:30 pm. We were warned not to be late – after 7:30 pm any remaining tickets are handed out to people waiting in the standby line. We arrived in plenty of time and, after receiving our tickets found a park bench near the theater to wait and watch people. Many people bring picnic dinners, which they eat while sitting on the nearby lawn. There are also plenty of snacks and drinks (including wine and beer) for sale at the theater. The staff will even let you bring your own food and drink into the theater, although glass is prohibited.

While we waiting for the play to begin, I noticed these two bronze sculptures located next to the theater. The first is titled Romeo and Juliet, and the second is The Tempest.

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We also listened to this saxophonist play for a while.

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Soon, it was time to enter the theater! The Delacourte Theater is perfectly sized – I really don’t think that there’s a bad seat in the house. It’s open air, and we watched the sun begin to set as we waited for the play to begin. Our own seats were excellent. We were only six rows back from the stage, right at stage center. We took in the stage set with interest.

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Unfortunately, no photos are permitted during performances, so that’s the last photo I have for this adventure. But The Taming of the Shrew was amazing! While I’ve always found the play entertaining, at the same time the misogynistic plot often makes me cringe, even taking into account the fact that it is from an entirely different era in history. This version put a new twist on the original story line, however – the entire cast was made up of women! Some of the best-performed roles were those of the male characters, including the role of Petruchio, played by Tony and Olivier award winner Janet McTeer. (The comedy’s director, Phyllida Lloyd, has also been nominated for a Tony award.) The entire performance was thoughtfully, artfully done.

The Taming of the Shrew continues through June 26, but that will not be the end of this year’s Shakespeare in the Park series. From July 19 to August 14, Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, a rarely performed play, will be offered.

For those traveling to the Delacorte Theater, the website provides directions here.

(Note: TodayTix is a great app – you can get last-minute discounted tickets to Broadway shows without waiting in long lines. You have to be flexible, as not every show is available every day. And you must also be realistic. The musical Hamilton is the hottest ticket in town right now, and you aren’t going to find discounted tickets on TodayTix for it at this point.)

NYC’s Greek Independence Day Parade

In addition to warmer weather, Spring in New York City signals an increase in the number of parades. One reason why I love NYC parades is because they celebrate the diversity of our great city. Most recently, the Greek Independence Day Parade marched its way up Fifth Avenue. The first Greek Independence Day Parade in New York City took place in 1938, and it has been held on Fifth Avenue since 1951.

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Greek Independence Day celebrates the Greeks’ independence from the Ottoman Empire on March 25, 1821, but New York City’s parade does not usually take place on that exact date. This year, the parade was held on Sunday, April 10. The parade’s main sponsor is the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York.

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Like all New York City parades, some of the best parts of the Greek Independence Day Parade involve both adults and children marching in traditional dress.

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The parade also includes numerous floats with blue and white colors and various Greek themes.

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The Greek Independence Day Parade usually takes place in late March or early April each year. This year, it ran from 64th Street to 79th Street on Fifth Avenue.