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Christmas in Manhattan

Christmas is only a day away but with temperatures in the 60s here in New York, if the city hadn’t decked itself out for the season as spectacularly as it has, you might be tempted to think it’s Spring.

To be honest, I’ve been a little preoccupied with work – and a cold that for the last two weeks has stubbornly refused to clear up. A few weeks ago, though, I read Michele at Malaysian Meanders’ post about Saks Fifth Avenue’s Enchanting Holiday Windows and was inspired.

Saks Lights

I was also surprised, pleasantly so, to see a place I’m familiar with through someone else’s eyes. Instead of rushing past Saks’ window, as I normally do, after reading Michele’s post, I slowed down and looked, not just at Saks but also at the city. 

Saks Light Show6

I started looking at the decorations with different eyes – how long it takes to plan each show, how many people and time it takes to decorate and dismantle each display, what electrical cost might be, etc.  

Saks Light Show4

One Friday evening after work, I walked by Saks to take some photos and was surprised by the crush of people who had gathered outside the store to look at the windows. There was hardly room to walk as people stood cameras in hand, mesmerized by the light show which is synchronized to Christmas music. Being rush hour, traffic practically inched along Fifth Ave. 

Saks Light Show1

But it was worth standing on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-Ninth Street and watch for while. As the music washed over me, I felt my somewhat indifferent feeling towards Christmas lift. I smiled as I remembered Christmases past. 

Saks Light Show2

As I walked towards the bus stop that evening, I decided to get out by 7 a.m. to take some photos without the crowds and the traffic.

The following morning, I hit the main spots: Rockefeller Center, Saks, 59th Street. 

Across the street from Saks is Rockefeller Center and the famous Christmas tree. This is the view towards the Rockefeller Center skating rink.

Rockefeller Christmas
Rockefeller Center Angels

 And the view towards Saks. 

Rockefeller Angels1
Looking towards Saks, from Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Christmas2

The corner of Fifty-Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue is lined with high end stores, like Tiffany, Bulgari, Bendel’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Burberry, Piaget – you get the idea – and they’re awash in lights.

Christmas 2015 Harry Winston

Harry Winston shimmers like diamonds – each window a well thought out setting.

Harry Winston Lights 


Bulgari, detail

Christmas 2015 Tiffany Splendour.


New York Star

Christmas 2015 58th Street Lights
59th Street

Merry Christmas!

How does your city celebrate the season? 

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday which is hosted by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations


Budget Travelers Sandbox

Sorrel, a Popular Jamaican Christmas Drink

There’s no Christmas in Jamaica without sorrel, a drink that is infused with ginger, sweetened with sugar and spiked with white overproof rum. It is as ubiquitous at Christmas time as rum cake, curried goat, and rice with pigeon (gungo) peas.

A hibiscus variety, sorrel came to Jamaica from West Africa. According to the National Library of Jamaica website, references to Jamaican sorrel date to the 1700s.

How to Make Sorrel Drink
Sorrel plant

Sorrel is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It is also rich in copper, calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous. Researchers at Jamaica’s Northern Caribbean University have found that three varieties of sorrel that are grown on the island could be effective in fighting some forms of cancer.

Many Jamaicans have the plant in their backyard gardens and some use it not only to make the popular Christmas drink but also to cool fevers, cure colds and lower blood pressure.

Sorrel Drink
Sorrel sepals

Its popularity as a Christmas beverage likely stems from the fact that it is harvested around November/December – just in time for the festive season. For many years, sorrel was only available at that time but as the numbers of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals living in North America and the UK swell, you will find several different brands of the dried sepals for sale in supermarkets and health food stores. You can also find the bottled beverage available in some Jamaican/Caribbean restaurants.

Sorrel is also popular in Latin America. A few years ago, my boss’ Mexican wife introduced me to flor de Jamaica. I was so fascinated by the name of the blood red tea she’d made, it took me a while to realize that the color and vaguely familiar aroma was really sorrel.

Unsweetened, sorrel has a sharp, tangy taste. Add a little sugar and it becomes a refreshingly delicious drink. Sorrel can be used to make jams, jellies and chutneys, the leaves can also be used in salads.

Sorrel Drink

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  1. 6 cups water
  2. 3 cups sorrel sepals
  3. 2 oz ginger
  4. 6 whole pimentos
  5. 1 cup granulated sugar
  1. Bring water to boil.
  2. Pour boiling water over sorrel and ginger. It should be enough to cover the sorrel
  3. Cover and let steep overnight.
  4. Strain and sweeten.
  5. Add rum, if desired.
  6. Add pimento berries and refrigerate.
  7. Serve with ice.

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New York City at Christmas

Christmas decorations start going up on stores, office buildings and private homes in New York City right after Thanksgiving. The decorations are sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate. No matter, they put a smile on my face and help me get into the spirit of the season. I’m sure they do the same for others, which is why there are usually scores of people milling around.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 9.07.35 AM
All Dressed Up for Christmas

Each Christmas, this building on 6th Avenue near 50th Street decorates with these large red balls but every year when I see them, it feels like the first time (at least to me). A little Christmas magic, perhaps?

Red balls decorate building in New York
All Dressed Up
Lipstick lights decorate a building in New York
All Dressed Up in color
Radio City Music Hall tree
All Dressed Up – Radio City Music Hall

Continue reading “New York City at Christmas”

The Poinsettia

Few flowering plants say Christmas (or December) the way poinsettias do. I found this beautiful one a few weeks ago at Devon House in Kingston.

Poinsettia, maynefoto
Pointsettia, maynefoto

The Jamaican poet, Claude McKay, wrote the following poem, Flame Heart, in praise of the poinsettia. It sums up some of my feelings since I returned home — there’s much that I’ve forgotten about this place but I haven’t forgotten the poinsettia. Now, in addition to the traditional red, there are white, pink, variegated ones.

Poinsettia, maynefoto
Poinsettia, maynefoto

Flame Heart

So much have I forgotten in ten years,

So much in ten brief years! I have forgot

What time the purple apples come to juice,

And what month brings the shy forget-me-not.

I have forgot the special, startling season

Of the pimento’s flowering and fruiting;

What time of year the ground doves brown the fields

And fill the noonday with their curious fluting.

I have forgotten much, but still remember

The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.


I still recall the honey-fever grass,

But cannot recollect the high days when

We rooted them out of the ping-wing path

To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen.

I often try to think in what sweet month

The languid painted ladies used to dapple

The yellow by-road mazing from the main,

Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple.

I have forgotten—strange—but quite remember

The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.


What weeks, what months, what time of the mild year

We cheated school to have our fling at tops?

What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with joy

Feasting upon blackberries in the copse?

Oh some I know! I have embalmed the days,

Even the sacred moments when we played,

All innocent of passion, uncorrupt,

At noon and evening in the flame-heart’s shade.

We were so happy, happy, I remember,

Beneath the poinsettia’s red in warm December.

Travel Photo Thursday: New York Christmas Scenes

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in New York.

Here are a few scenes from Bryant Park. I’ve always loved Bryant Park – it’s small and intimate, and very accessible especially for people who work in midtown. People stop by during lunchtime, sit at the tables and read or take advantage of their free wifi. In the summer, there are movies. In winter, ice skating.

Skating in Bryant Park
Skating in Bryant Park
Bryant Park Christmas Tree
Bryant Park Christmas Tree
Met Christmas Tree
The Metropolitan Museum's Christmas Tree

Last Saturday, as I traveled around the city, I couldn’t help noticing that almost every guy of a certain age (and some girls) was dressed like Santa. Cars honked and people waved when they saw them. But these Santa guys and gals weren’t going to dole out gifts, they were part of the Santas-only pub crawl – a flash mob type event that brings together people dressed as Santas, elves, etc. They go from bar to bar, drinking and generally having a good time. Great way to get “into the spirit,” isn’t it?

Going to the Santa Pub Crawl
Going to the Santa Pub Crawl

This Santa agreed to let me take a photo but pulled on his mask just as I raised the camera.

Santa Pub Crawl
Santa Pub Crawl

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!

Twelve Days Till Christmas

I just realized, today, that there are only twelve days to go before Christmas and I’m still don’t feel the Christmas “spirit.” I’d like to chalk it up to the various upheavals that have occurred in my life this past year, but I’m not so sure as I’ve heard several of my friends saying the same thing.

Normally, by now I would have baked my cakes and this weekend, I’d be getting ready to make cookies. But it’s twelve days till Christmas and nothing’s done. This morning, I picked up fruits. I’ll flash steam them in rum later. Maybe that’ll help change my mood as Christmas is my most favorite holiday of the year. While I try to get myself into the spirit of the season, here’s a look at some of my memories of Christmas.


In our house, Christmas was a big deal. Preparations would start early, sometimes by the end of November or early December and continue until Christmas eve. The house had to be readied, the grass cut, trees pruned and part of their trunks whitewashed. Since we didn’t have a traditional Christmas tree, we’d pick a tree — for years, it was the rice and peas plant that covered a corner of our house, like an ivy plant — and trim it and the house with lights. New curtains, sheets and bedspreads would be bought or special ones brought out and washed then put in place on Christmas eve.

Fruits that would have been soaking in rum a year or more, would be ground and folded into cakes that my cousins and I would help my mother to bake. I’ve put the recipe below.

Continue reading “Twelve Days Till Christmas”

A New York Pre-Christmas

While the weather here in New York is slightly un-Christmassy (rain’s in the forecast today) the decorations definitely are. Here are a few Christmas photos I pulled from the Internet.

Photo from via the Internet
Photo from via the Internet
Photo from via the Internet
Photo from via the Internet
Photo from via the Internet
Photo from via the Internet
Photo from wikipedia
Photo from wikipedia