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The Radiance Tea House & Books -and- The Great Jones Spa
The title should actually be “oases,” since I have plural to share, but let’s just admit the correct form looks funny and doesn’t carry the same impact as the palm-tree, sunshine and calm that “oasis” does.
This was a much anticipated weekend for me, since not only was it extended (thank you, President’s Day), but one of my best friends and much-missed roommate from Chicago was visiting for the first time.
Beyond the hugs and laughter, booze and bars, shopping and strolling, was an overall fantastic NYC experience (I like to think phase one of her eventual move here). One of the places we visited (in addition to the New York Public Library – which was gorgeous and inspiring) was the Radiance Tea House & Books.
You all know I fear disappointment, and having been here once before with my Mom and Sister for a tea tasting that was absolutely fabulous, I was nervous that my second experience wouldn’t live up to my very high expectations.
Luckily I was wrong (and I don’t say that often).
The ambiance is tranquil, with moving water, soft scents, colorful accents and tea sets for sale and a book collection – all with Asian overtones. Charlotte and I shared a pot of tea for two and the best soup I’ve ever tasted. Not being one for extremely healthy bittles, I was skeptical of the all natural, gogi berry, fig, chicken, broth concoction, but my new age-y side came out and I tried it – to find it absolutely delightful and rival the dumplings for my favor.
Now, for the books that compare to this delightful experience are as follows:
- SHANGHAI GIRLS by Lisa See: Though this book is far from tranquil as it follows the struggles between sisters as they escape China and have to carve out new lives in the different world and culture of LA in the 1930s, it’s an obvious choice due to its Asian focus and the detailed description of culture and color, which immediately bring my rich Tea House experience.
- LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH by Emily Giffin: The obvious is that much of this chic-lit novel takes place in NYC. But there’s also the deeper, underlying questioning we women tend to do upon making any big decision, and there’s no better solution than to talk things over with your best friends – hence this choice.
- I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE by Sloane Crosley: Another NYC setting, but this one depicts the city in all its reality, told in a fresh and real voice. Crosley’s essays are relevant, hilarious, often too relatable and she has that enviable skill to be an incredibly talented writer that at the same times makes you feel as if your own stories are worth sharing.
After Charlotte leaves early Monday morning, I lie in bed, drained from our activity and other debauchery. Luckily, I happened to be swept away on a wonderful date to the rejuvenating oasis of Great Jones Spa.
Armed with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, a bikini and very pale skin (though luckily, Char and I had indulged in a nail session, so my fingers and toes were appropriately glowing) – we arrived at the “Water Lounge” around 3pm.
Needless to say, it was a decadent experience. Traipsing between the “River Rock Sauna, Chakra Light Steam Room, Thermal Hot Tub, and Cold Plunge” then relaxing in a chaise reading while wrapped in a fluffy robe it was the perfect way to spend a snowy day off work.
I plan to make this a yearly President’s Day thing – I have no doubt the company may change, but I’m hoping the experience remains the same!
Corresponding reading material:
- PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen: Though the Bennett sisters lacked the accommodations of the spa, there was plenty of innocent flirting taking place throughout the watery haven. There’s no better place to read about Jane & her Mr. Darcy than drinking tea under the lights of a fake palm tree.
- OLIVIA JOULES AND THE OVERACTIVE IMAGINATION by Helen Fielding: Why? Well because it’s fun, frothy and an escape from reality. Though Fielding does a nice job integrating bigger issues (9/11) into this frolicking tale. It’s an experience akin to reading The Economist (not kidding, my man friend did) at the spa.
- ROUGH COUNTRY by John Sandford: Though Virgil Flowers may not be an obvious choice, this hilarious mystery does take part near a women’s spa/camp in Minn. And Flowers is known for enjoying a relaxing time in his fishing boat, so I don’t doubt he would enjoy the sound of running water here.
Brrrrrrr… I thought moving from Chicago to NYC would be a breeze, since I literally would be escaping the Windy City (yes I realize that refers to politics and not weather, but anyway you look at it Chicago has damn bitter gusts) to the land of a more mild temperate. But last week Gothamist burst my bubble, reporting that this may be the coldest NYC winter in almost 30 years! Totally unnecessary, and unappreciated.
I’ve brought out my woolies and curled up next to my radiator (yes, this is also my first experience with a radiator – the little things like thermostats I used to take for granted <sigh>) and have managed to survive this cold snap. While I love paradise, drinks with a straw and my hammock on the beach, sometimes I get bitter at reading about these places when my own surroundings are far different. So as I avoid beach reading, I wait, along with many others, for the third installment in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST… Not only has this proven to be a fantastically thrilling series, but the fictional weather tends to be more dismal than I’m experiencing – which makes me both selfish and happy.
Due to this new found love for Scandinavian thrillers, I was doubly triply excited for the recent U.S. debut of SNOW ANGELS by James Thompson, an author out of Finland. Not only did this novel make my winter seem decidedly less severe (considering 24-hours of darkness, like they have in Finland, tends to put things in perspective) but I found the characters and the setting compelling… and add in the twisting and turning plot and it was overall un-put-downable!
I am unbiased. For real. But James is a Putnam author, so instead of giving too complete a review and have you guys think that my having spoken to him on the phone and listened to his nice Finnish accent gives me a clouded opinion, I’ll share those of others (beyond the “MASTERFUL” Michael Connelly quote on the jacket).
Jen Forbus at Jen’s Book Thoughts reviewed SNOW ANGELS and also shared a Q&A with James. I also direct your reviewing eyes to the thoughtful reviews on Jenn’s Bookshelves and Whimpulsive. And there are more – if you’d like to share your thoughts on SNOW ANGELS I invite you to leave a link in the comments and I will add you here!
So next time you’re staying in a cold winter night, take my advice and make a hot toddy (yummy & easy: tea *I’ve tried black, lemon, raspberry and mango- all delicious*, lemon juice, cinnamon stick or clover, honey… don’t forget the whiskey!) and escape to Finland with SNOW ANGELS – though you may have to sleep with a nightlight on.
One of my many resolutions for 2010 is to be more consistent about updating my blog!! It falls higher on the list than running the elusive 5k I’ve successfully avoided the last five years, but lower on the list than trying to maintain a budget, part of which is packing my lunch vs. eating out (benefits the waistline and the wallet!).
In mid December, it occurred to me that a mere year had passed since my world was first turned upside down when I was laid off from my advertising gig in Chicago (pink slip rather a symbol of solidarity in the Recession of 2008/2009, yes?). Was I passionate about the job – No. But it could have been worse and the people there were fabulous and are still my friends today. After some indecision and stress over uncertainty, the event ultimately propelled me into my dream publishing job, for which I am undoubtedly grateful.
I look back on 2009 with fond memories, including the arrival of my nephew Alton, who has made me realize I may have more maternal feelings than I thought (which still isn’t saying much) and my move to NYC (a city that I’m really starting to appreciate the intoxication when here).
Looking back upon my, eh, totally nerdy book spreadsheet, I realize 2009 has also been a fabulous year for the written word. I know there are innumerable year-end lists floating around by those far more qualified than me, but just in case anyone is interested in the books that stood out in my eclectic reading list (disclaimer- all were read in 2009, though may have been published in different years):
- THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett: This book has appeared on many “best of” lists, including the Book of the Year (USA TODAY), #1 chosen by book bloggers (BBAW) and more. I can’t recommend it highly enough and find it offers a unique ability to immerse the reader in the time and deilect of the courageous women in the story.
- MY HORIZONTAL LIFE: A Collection of One-Night Stands by Chelsea Handler: No literary award winner here, but as I mentioned in my original review, this book had me laughing uncontrollably over Handler’s antics and story telling. Not G-rated, but not completely smutty either.
- THE MAN WHO LOVED BOOKS TOO MUCH: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Deception by Allison Hoover Bartlett: I love books about books. While I tend to shy away from nonfiction, this “cat and mouse tale” set in the world of rare book collecting had me captivated (and seeking the elusive first edition of GONE WITH THE WIND).
- ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Brant: This novel really struck a chord within me and I found the characters compelling and utterly relatable (full review). I’ve recently rediscovered my own Sam Blaine (read the book and you’ll understand!) and have found myself frequently thinking fondly of the story.
- THE BEST OF EVERYTHING by Rona Jaffe: I have attempted to write a full review of this book so many times, but find it impossible to convey my thoughts and feelings. I think a list of the irresistible attributes are appropriate: Publishing, NYC, girlfriends, relationships, trysts, ambition, books and intertwining lives.
Ok those are my top five in no particular order. Surprisingly, all women authors (I swear I read men too – JULIET, NAKED, ROUGH COUNTRY and 13 REASONS WHY would all be in my top ten). Does anyone else have any overlap on their top titles?
Now, back to drinking hot toddies with my roommate as I try to make my sore throat disappear, prepare myself to drift into a peaceful slumber and avoid the potentially bad news I learned today. I wish you all the best in 2010 and hope to see more of you as I keep up with my resolution to be a better blogger!
Cheers & hugs-
For being the biggest city in the U. S., NYC is quite a lonely place.
I tell my friends back in Chicago that it’s really fun because you can truly wear whatever you want without people caring or noticing (if you’d like me to illustrate with pictures of other East Village locals wearing neon colors, animal prints, or an occasional live cat on the head let me know) – but you’re often invisible as well.
Maybe it’s because I’ve led a spoiled life – always had close family and friends, but NYC is a test. Not just because it’s ridiculously expensive w/less than optimal living space (I don’t allow pictures to be taken of my apartment; I insist upon visiting for the experience over a still image) but because you’re by yourself. A lot. And the crazy thing is, I think I’m starting to like it.
With the exception of my mom reprimanding me for drinking wine alone tonight (before you judge, I was trying to write and I now understand why real writers are notoriously heavy drinkers), I’ve learned I may not be quite as social or as talkative as I would have previously believed. I actually enjoy eating dinner out by myself (usually with a good book) and the solitude when my roommate leaves and is no longer constantly trying to speak to me.
I recently read Jen Lancaster’s memoir, BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG ASS. It resonated with me not only because she hails from my beloved Chicago and the bus lines she spoke of were so familiar, but when she talks about the fast and easy friendships of the past giving way to new living, and relationship, situations:
“Suddenly I found myself living around people very different from me. We were diverse not due to ethnicity, race, or age, but because we didn’t come from a shared past; our jobs, hometowns, educations, and experiences were all vastly different and we had no instant commonalities…” (pg. 178)
This I can commiserate with. Yes, I’ve made acquaintances here in this huge, vast city that sparkles in the night and grimy by day… Even some people I call friends. But it’s hard work when you don’t have the baseline from which to start.
Luckily, I have books to escape the real world and I find myself disappearing into them quite often. For the second “luckily”, this trait is advantageous to being in a job I love. So while I desperately miss my friends in Chicago (there’s nothing comparable to living with your two best friends in a downtown highrise boasting a pool on your rooftop with a view of Lake Michigan) I like to believe I made the best decision in transferring my life to the East Coast. While I admit I’m not exactly living an Into the Wild survival expedition, I think I have given up some basic luxuries.
This may be a pointless post, but thanks for indulging in my slightly-wine induced thoughts and joining me all the way out here in NYC. In fact, I think I officially belong in that annoying group of people that think “everyone should live, and thrive, in NYC at least once in their life.”
Update: Oprah (along with some kind words and admittances of solo and proud drinking from OUB & OAD) has made me realize that moving to NYC is a worthwhile adventure for a job I love. Recently, Oprah shared a list of “The Top 20 Things I Know for Sure” and I’m happy that I am totally in line with several, including #13: Let passion drive your profession.
Yes, this is my FIRST BLOG GIVEAWAY so please be kind and participate!It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.
Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go—sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.
Still, everyone has something to learn about love—perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending…
I am not a Jane Austen fanatic. Truthfully (ashamedly), I’ve never even read
the works of Ms. Austen, though I have her large red omnibus on my bookshelf, along with an old garage-sale copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and the same book with the irresistible, re-designed cover from Penguin classics. They are on my ever growing, never dwindling shelf of to-be-reads (I’m sure many of you can sympathize).
So even though I’ve never officially been introduced, I now feel I’m on intimate terms with Jane, after hearing her wit and euphemisms through the voice of author Marilyn Brant and in the head of protagonist Ellie Bartlett, in the debut novel ACCORDING TO JANE (Kensington Press, Sept. 29, 2009).
While the premise sounds odd (Jane Austen in a role similar to an invisible friend or “A kind of literary twilight zone thing”), the witty banter, lovable characters and unforgettable story take me to my happy “I don’t actually want this book to end but I just want the characters to find what they’re looking for” place.
Brant manages to jump around time and place without making you lose a second of the story to confusion. She has the rare ability as an author to take you from reliving your awkward high school years along with Ellie (and the traumatic male/female interactions) to within the psyche of a single, searching, adult woman in the next paragraph. Ellie is a unique female protagonist that I find endearing in her failures and utterly relateable in her fears, while trying to find herself (though I wish she weren’t already worried about marriage at the mere age of 26!).
It’s no surprise to me that this book took home the coveted Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements in 2007. Brant has the humor of Sophie Kinsella with the best-friend-esque (made that up) intimacy of Jennifer Weiner. The sex scenes are humorous in an actual funny, relatable way as opposed to the over-done, awkward to read (unless that’s just me) scenarios found in other novels featuring “strong romantic elements.”
In an effort of full disclosure, I was lucky enough to meet Marilyn back in June, when I wrote an article on the romance genre. But, just because I like you doesn’t always mean I’ll like your book – so imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered my friendly, vivacious penpal can translate her personality so splendidly to an entire book! I invite you all to hurry and visit Marilyn at her personal blog Brant Flakes ASAP, so you can boast about how you “knew Marilyn Brant before she was a huge author”! Even better, visit her blog and let her know you’ve already pre-ordered ACCORDING TO JANE and are anxiously awaiting its arrival (discounted to only $10.29 – a steal! I’m thinking book club…)!
I admit, I’ve already read my bound manuscript twice and have thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself laughing even more — in one instance, out loud at sushi by myself in NYC – now that got me some looks.
And now for the fun part:
- Do you like free books?
- Are you a Jane Austen fan?
- Ready for some new chick-lit/women’s light contemporary fiction?
- Enjoy reading a new voice?
Marilyn was nice enough to send me two extra bound manuscripts PERSONALLY SIGNED (!!!) for your reading & reviewing pleasure!!!! Hurry now for these limited pieces.
To enter to win your copy of ACCORDING TO JANE, please comment below including your email address. For an additional entry, share your most embarrassing high school makeout (ok kidding…unless you want to – I would reward you!) – for an extra entry up to 1/day, tweet this giveaway with a link and include my @novelwhore handle. The contest ends Friday, September 25 at 11:59PM EST. I’ll contact the two winners via email, and you must respond within two days to claim your prize.
**My apartment listing from Craigslist, I know this isn’t a book review, but since I need to find someone to sublease so I can head to NYU am hoping it’s somewhat relevant! Please pass this on to anyone who may be interested in Summer in Chicago!**
It makes me melancholy to even post this, since I know there is no better place than Chicago in the summer, especially in my apartment where we have a pool on our roof (32nd floor!), floor to ceiling windows and are just blocks to the beach and many summer festivals!
But alas, I’m headed to NYC for a potentially life-altering summer course, so my room in my Gold Coast high rise will be available, fully furnished and with two wonderful female (24/25) y.o roommates to share the summer experience with!! I’m looking for someone June 1 – July 20, but the end date is negotiable.
Like a hotel but more homey (and no maid, but there is a dishwasher and maintenance men!), the amenities are as follows:
• View of Chicago from the 24th floor in every room, yes that is Lake Michigan!
• POOL on roof with tons of chairs for sunning
• Workout room and laundry room
• 24 hour door men
• Double bed (I’ve been told it’s like “sleeping on a cloud”!)
• Furnished bedroom with desk and wardrobe
• Furnished living room including 42” flat screen TV to be shared (typically Lifetime movie Sunday!)
• Blocks to all public transportation – Redline, 22, 36, 151, 156 buses
• Walk downstairs to the heart of the Gold Coast – State and Rush Streets, for nightlife, food, bars and fun!
• Very affordable rent – Central air is included!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. We would like to “interview” you since you’ll be living in my room with my two best friends, but I promise it won’t be painful (we can do it with drinks to make everyone more comfortable!). We are looking for a young, professional female who is both fun and independent. I’ll need the first month’s deposit when we come to a living agreement.
I have more pics but posting my bedroom on Craigslist seemed super creepy so contact me for those!
1. View from our living room window… No, it never gets old
2. Pool! I think this was a “staycation” work day; it’s typically more populated
3. North Avenue Beach – a ten minute stroll, of if you’re really lazy a five minute bus ride
4. Roomies on the pool deck – this could be you!!!
It’s Friday, why don’t we all put down our latest novel, link arms and take a little jaunt in this gorgeous Chicago weather and our favorite little BYOB spot and celebrate the weekend and the win by the Cubs.
Oh, wait, you’re sick of your go-to BYOB restaurant and want something new, that’s also affordable? I mean who can afford to pay for drinks in this economy! Oh I’m hearing an interest in outdoor seating? Can do!
Take a gander at the amazing new website http://www.GoByo.com! Able to sort by such important characteristics as location, meals served and features (40 available! Such as outdoor seating, dancing, or if you’re drinking so many calories you need to compensate with light food, they even have a healthy meal option!). Much more reliable than Yelp!, this nifty little site was publicized in Thrillist’s Daily Chicago email (sign up here: http://www.thrillist.com/signup) and will definitely be a site I frequent.
Happy Friday & GO CUBS GO!
I like to think of myself as a wine connoisseur, though as my OUB & OAD (aunt & uncle, the legitimate connoisseurs) would tell you, I just like all booze! Though my palette may not be picky, my wallet definitely is (which bodes well for cheap wines sold in bulk). So even though I can’t afford nice “vintage” wine (not to mention wouldn’t be aware of the difference), I like to know a little bit about what I’m drinking and what I should be cursing the next morning. That’s where Alpana comes in…
The youngest Master Sommelier (quite the title, and she didn’t even go to a real college per se but a wine school!), Alpana Singh resides in Chicago, has worked at luxurious restaurant Everest and has written the successful book Alpana Pours: About being a woman, loving wine & having great relationships. Quite the title and I admit I was skeptical, until Alpana pulled me in with her wit, knowledge, and wine jokes even I could appreciate.
Though I’m not quite finished with the book (I thought I had lost it for awhile and found it on the shelf, right where it belongs… Who would’a thought?!), I did come across an Alpana article in the Tribune’s “RedEye” today I thought I would share, that’s so relevant on this (finally!) sunny day.
To RedEye and Alpana, hope you don’t mind me copying this article, and my deepest thanks go to you for choosing affordable wines to celebrate the season, so go ahead and pour yourself a glass of sunshine! For more Alpana, visit her blog at http://www.whatwouldalpanadrink.blogspot.com.
Wine faves change with the weather
By: Alpana Singh, April 15, 2009
People often ask me, “What’s your favorite wine?” While I do have certain preferences, I find that my answer varies according to my mood, which often is dictated by the weather.
During the cool winter months, I tend to comfort myself with rich, full-bodied wines such as cabernet sauvignon or malbec. Their velvety textures envelop me like a warm blanket, and they pair well with cool-weather classics such as pot roast and braised short ribs.
Now that we are beginning to see signs of spring and the weather is beginning to warm up, I’m starting to crave lighter dishes and more refreshing wines to go with them. Lighter-bodied wines that are low on oak and big on flavors of green apples, lemons and stone fruits complement the fresh peas, asparagus, morel mushrooms and leeks I enjoy during spring season. As I grow tired of the cold, I become bored with the big, heavy reds, and my favorites become sauvignon blanc, torrontes, chenin blanc and assyrtiko. The aromas of these lighter varietals lighten my mood as they evoke the essence of spring and warmer days–crisp weather, freshly cut flowers, sprouting lawns and farmer’s market produce. I’ll enjoy these wines until the weather truly begins to warm up, and by then I’ll have a new set of favorites.
While we may not have the ability to control the weather, we can certainly turn to these styles of wine to put a little sunshine in our glass.
2007 Alamos torrontes
Torrontes is an Argentine specialty. With its exotically perfumed notes of white flowers and peaches, it’s a wonderful match for asparagus or your first outdoor meal of the season.
2008 Graham Beck chenin blanc
South Africa, $15
The French use chenin blanc to make slightly sweet vouvray wine. South Africans, who refer to chenin as steen, prefer a drier version with flavors of yellow apples and honeysuckle. Pair with morel mushrooms and asparagus or a tangy wedge of goat cheese.
2008 Brander sauvignon blanc
Santa Ynez, Calif.; $15
Vibrant and juicy with flavors of grapefruit, lemon zest and freshly cut grass, this selection is more in line with a New Zealand style than a California one. Pair it with a spring pea risotto for the ultimate ode to spring.
2008 Sigalas assyrtiko
Santorini, Greece; $18
Fans of crisp Italian whites will enjoy the refreshing zing of assyrtiko, an ancient Greek varietal indigenous to the island of Santorini. Winemaker Paris Sigalas produces a style bursting with citrus fruit. Pair with shellfish, grilled fish and Greek-inspired dishes.
Full article here: http://redeye.chicagotribune.com/red-041509-alpana,0,5798755.column