Ramblings: Just a Walk in the Park...










Memorial Day weekend always reminds me of moving to NYC – the heat, the humidity, the laziness of the first holiday of the year since New Year’s Day in the middle of the bustle and noise of everyday life. Subsequent years bore beach days and hungover days; brunch times and walks in the city;  Long Island days and barbeques in Bushwick. Every year I longed for Memorial Day weekend to arrive so that I could celebrate the beginning of summer, my real favourite season in NYC. This year it crept up on me, my first Memorial Day as a family: a day where no one needed to work, a day to spend together as we see fit, no plans, just mother, father and baby time.

Nowadays it’s really just the simple things that matter: a walk in the park, watching the turtles watching you with their little heads sticking out of the water, looking at the squirrel scampering away with the acorn in its mouth, relaxing on a blanket under a tree and closing your eyes. Choosing a pretty spring outfit for yourself and your daughter, knowing full well that she doesn’t care if you are in a dress or pyjamas, or if she is in a onesie or a dress, but doing it anyway because it is fun and because you can. Walking along the sidewalk as a unit, mother, father, daughter, altogether as one, making jokes and gazing at the pretty houses and gardens, imagining together what our next home and garden will look like. Tickling your child under the chin with a blade of grass and listening to her laugh and hoping that you will hear that beautiful sound every day, forever.

Flushing ended up being a good choice for us, because despite the commute into Manhattan, it really is beautiful here. There are parks and gardens and trees and flowers everywhere and a happy alternative to the race of the city and all that it entails. As I was walking around the neighbourhood yesterday I realised just how much every single priority had changed for the better. A walk in the park is just so much more enjoyable now, as are all of those little things that we take for granted most of the time, the turtles and the squirrels and the naps in the grass, the smell of concrete after a rain shower, and the lilac bushes in bloom on the street corners. I guess this is what my real happiness is…

Photography: 41 weeks

Baby_Luna_April_2014

The entire photo set can be found on Flickr HERE. I still can't figure out how to put a slideshow on Blogger.

I have so many stories to write and so many blog posts to catch up on, and, at some point over the next few weeks, I will get to them all, but in the meantime I am spending my time staring at my daughter in awe, taking photos of her, breastfeeding, trying to entertain her and then trying to get a few hours of sleep whenever I can. It's amazing, all of it, motherhood, being part of creating this wonderfully perfect little being, and still feels pretty surreal in all the reality of it.

Week_15_Oct_2013

From week 11 of my pregnancy, right through to just before I hit week 41 (and the reason there is no photo for that week will be explained when I write Luna's birth story) I took a photo of my growing baby bump. It makes me laugh now to think that back in the weeks 13 and 15 and 16 I really thought that I was HUGE and that everyone could tell I was pregnant. Looking back at the photos, it wasn't until I was in the 20th week that you could really start telling if you didn't know me.

Week_24_Dec_2013_3

Once I hit the third trimester I knew I was going to get big, but it wasn't until I got to week 38 that I actually started feeling uncomfortable... I still roll out of bed like I had to in those weeks, forgetting that I don't need to do that anymore! It's kind of crazy to think that my daughter actually fit inside my belly only 3 weeks ago, and was comfortable there... I can't imagine being curled up like that and not being able to stretch out!

Week_38_March_2014_3


Ramblings: Setting up a new home and those last few weeks

ALISON TOON: Jade baby shower &emdash; Jade's baby showerAh it has all been a bit of a whirlwind these past few weeks, and I have been getting so tired that between work, the commute and trying to make our new apartment into a real home before the baby gets here I haven't had a moment to really write anything down. Although there is a lot to be said... I feel like so much has happened and I need to record it now before I forget due to baby brain, or have even less time on my hands! I know full well that the moment the baby gets here I will hardly have time to sleep let alone anything else!

Between the endless (or what seems to be that way) snowstorms and icy winter days and nights we managed to move a lot of our belongings from the old apartment on Troutman St in Brookyn to the new place in Flushing at the beginning of February. Our moving truck man got stuck in the slushy snow pile outside the building, and tried to put Joey Ramone the howling cat in the back with the furniture, but we managed to make it to our new home without breakages or damages. And what a home! It's big, airy, bright and so quiet. I slept so well the first night and woke up to the sounds of birds singing, not to the sounds of the endless construction on the streets of Bushwick. There were still quite a few of my belongings left in the old place, but my mum and wonderful best friend went to pick it all up for me last week so I didn't have to deal with it. I just don't know if I could have faced any more moving at that point.

Setting up home has been so much fun, apart from the fact that every time we save some money, we end up spending on very important things... Necessary things of course, but the money part is beginning to worry me, as we have 4 weeks left until the baby gets here... I know deep down everything will be fine, but I am taking 2 months off, and am not used to not making my own money and not being financially independent! All for a very, very good cause though, as I will be busy looking after our little Munchie and giving her the best start in life that we can give her. Buying a new couch was the most fun part, turning up at Bob's Furniture and walking around trying all types of different couches, and looking at sectionals as we have the space for one. We ended up going for a lovely coffee coloured one with large pillows and enough room for us to both lie down on it and watch TV on our brand new 42 inch HDTV... Which we ended up getting at a super discount price because someone had messed up on the pricing at Best Buy... There are still boxes and boxes that need to be emptied or put away, but there is no real rush with this. I've been doing one or two a night, and trying to imagine how I would like our home to look like when it is all done. I feel like we are finally really making a home for our family, a place that is ours and no one else's!

I'm still working 40 hours a week, and C. is still at his 60 plus hours, and it's been a little strange for us both as I am now working day times and he is still working the usual night time hours. We are going to have to make real efforts to spend enough time together on this schedule as I spent a lot of the first week feeling a bit thrown off and missing him, even though we live together and work on the same premises. I know he did too. Thankfully we both have Wednesdays off together still and these have become even more important than before. We have been trying to explore our new neighbourhood (we already have found "our" deli and "our" diner), looking for places to eat and shop and hang out. It's been a little difficult with the weather that has limited my movements a lot (on top of the fact that I get tired fast when I am walking now, as Munchie is really growing fast). I love how multicultural the neighbourhood is, how there is a church that has service in 5 different languages on Sundays, that it feels like it's still NYC, but a little quieter and more relaxed than where I lived in Brooklyn before. Then again, I wasn't too happy when I had to get the shuttle bus instead of the subway last week and people kept pushing me, despite the fact that I have a very obvious baby bump. I'm sorry to anyone who got my elbow in their face, but being pushed and squashed makes me do those type of things!

ALISON TOON: Jade and Cesar &emdash; Jade and Cesar


I don't really want to get started on the whole getting up and giving your seat to a disabled, elderly or pregnant person on the subway, but I do want to mention it. I was brought up in countries where this was a normal thing to do. You don't look up, look at a person and look down again, without getting up from your seat. Yes, maybe I chose to be pregnant and ride the subway, but standing up for long periods of time in a crowded subway at this point in my pregnancy actually makes me feel light-headed and faint, and easily able to lose my balance. In any case, it's always other women who give me their seat, never has a man offered his seat, not even when I am standing right above them. I'm not the type to ask for a seat, nor am I going to glare at you angrily to make you feel bad, but people need to be a little more aware. It's quite sad really! The best moment for me was the time I asked a woman to move her bag so I could sit down and was looked at as if I were some kind of cockroach trying to crawl into her personal space. Of course I didn't feel bad ha!

 My amazing mother came out for a week to help us with everything and to participate in the baby shower that my lovely best friend threw for me. It was really perfect, as I really don't like being the centre of attention, but she made it into a lovely tea party at the Kings' Carriage House where people I love joined me to celebrate the impending arrival of my little girl. Everyone has been so generous and it is really helping us get ready for having a baby in our home. I have the best people in my life, and I hope I am the same type of friend to them as they are to me. Mum took some wonderful photos of the afternoon that display how lovely (and pink) it really was. You can see them HERE

ALISON TOON: Jade baby shower &emdash; Jade's baby showerSo this is it really... Four weeks left (give or take a few depending on when she decides its time to come out), and I am hovering between stages of feeling elated and intensely nervous. Not about the actual birth which still feels like something surreal that is going to happen but that I have no idea how, but more about afterwards. Am I going to be able to breastfeed easily? Is everything going to be OK? Will I be a good mother?!? Will my baby be happy and healthy?

In the meantime I shall continue to feel content and to breathe through all the mini moments of panic, and just know that everything WILL be OK. Both C and I are happy and healthy and are prepared to do anything to make sure our child is happy and healthy too. And I really really really can't wait to finally meet her outside of the womb, and talk to her little face and tell her how she spent the last month inside me kicking my ribs and making me laugh.

This continues to be the most amazing journey of my life.


For more of my mother, Alison Toon's photos from her recent stay here and more check out her website here: Alison Toon

Photography: Liberty State Park


Because it's Autumn, my real favourite season (I sometimes pretend Summer is, but Autumn really wins every time), and because I love going on long walks in new places, taking lots of photos, I'm determined to do this as much as possible until I won't be able to do it as much anymore. Who knows where I will be next year (although I have a pretty good idea of what I will actually be doing!), so I may as well do as much of it as I can right now. That and other outings like going out to dinner and the movies, things that I may not have too much of a chance to do much next year...

 
This week Cesar and I went out to Jersey City to visit Checho, and walked all around Liberty State Park, picnicking in the park, right across from the Statue of Liberty, watching the crazy clouds cross the sky, aiming to disperse and then failing and falling back into grey doom again. My favourite kind of weather, ominous and windy, with a hint of hope. I will never fail to admire the Manhattan skyline, even after over 8 years of living in this city. From wherever you are it always looks amazing, a mix of old and new with constant additions. I always wonder how many more skyscrapers will fit on the small island... I've heard news that in the next few years very tall buildings will line 57th street, right below Central Park, buildings that will rival the height of One World Trade Center, the building which now makes the Empire State building look tiny in comparison. I suppose that as long as there are pockets of land available there will be room for building up. And up.


In any case, it was a wonderful day, amongst people I love, with beautiful views. This city still has so much to share with me, which makes it all the more such an amazing place to live in.
You can see the full set of photos HERE

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Liberty State Park, a set on Flickr.

Ramblings & Photography: A Long Beach Walk




The equivalent of a 79 block walk on the beach, from Rockaway Park right down to 37th street, started off as a day taking photos and catching up with a friend who had never been to the Rockaways before, and turned into a day full of adventures. It’s amazing what the imagination can do… Shipwrecks! Secret treasure troves hidden under the sand! Volcanoes! The remains of witchcraft rituals in the sand!


It all started right between 116th and 90th streets, in the sand, while contemplating the vast variety of odd jellyfish that had washed up onto the shore, what appeared to be a tugboat seemed to be heading directly for the shore, the closer it got, the more worried I was that it was going to be beached in the sand, unable to move again. That is, until it dawned on me that the boat wanted to be shipwrecked on the shore! It had been stuck on a remote island for years and was so excited to see civilization that it was heading directly towards us, and the Caterpillar diggers working on the beach to fix the pipelines damaged by the previous hurricane. Land at last! However, I don’t think that the version of civilization that the captain was approaching enchanted him that much, because he turned around after a while and disappeared back to where he came from… 


A little bit further along I nearly tripped over a piece of rusty metal wiring that was slightly sticking out of the ground. The low tide had revealed the hiding place of what could be an ancient treasure trove, locked way down under the sand, the evidence that it was there soon to be erased by the incoming tide. I wonder if this is what the captain of the tugboat had come back for, and realizing that there were too many people to witness his arrival, turned back, to come back at a later date, maybe during the winter months when the beach is deserted apart from the random person playing with their metal detector? He could anchor the boat of shore and swim inland with divers, dig out the treasure and take it back to the deserted island without anyone seeing him!


After nearly being decapitated by fishing lines pulled taut along the sand we bumped into a shaman, seemingly dropped from the sky right in front of us. A parrot on his green hair, followed by a green and pink poodle, walking towards the water, smiling at us, waiting for us to talk to him. I imagine him walking on the water, connecting with nature and the sparkling sunlight on the waves, collecting more pets and followers along the way. I wish I had managed to capture his essence on camera but I was a little nervous about his reaction. What if he decided to send his parrot to take my eyes out? He didn’t seem completely benevolent to be honest.


Walking on, we managed to avoid any more appearances for a while, until we came across what seemed to be an abandoned film set on part of the boardwalk that was still intact (all along the way parts of the boardwalk have disappeared and have not been fixed yet). We rushed over to it and found that it had actually not been abandoned, but was guarded by strange individuals who let us take photos but wouldn’t let us touch anything. We were taken back to the Prohibition era that Boardwalk Empire is set in, surrounded by billboards for Atlantic City, and an inhabited house in the sand that obviously used to be grass and road until the storm surge brought the sand inland… After removing ourselves from the 1920’s we pushed through heavy dunes of drift sand and found evidence of witchcraft rituals held in the sand at some point not so long ago. There is nothing better than a remote beach surrounded by dunes for a nighttime ritual, is there?
And then for the last discovery, before making our way back to the reality of the A train: volcanic rock hidden in the sand! The glitter of the rock in the sun, half covered by the sand, lead to a larger piece of rock, maybe the last remainder of what used to be a volcano, thousands and thousands of years ago, before the world was what we see it as today. A little reminder of what and where we come from…


All in all, the walk is really worth it, especially on a beautiful day in September, just before it really gets cold. There is so much to discover and see along the shoreline, and so much to imagine…
For the full set of photos taken please see below or HERE 


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Rockaways Sept 2013, a set on Flickr.

Photography: Roosevelt Island




I love summer in New York. Especially those days when it's in the 80's and there is a slight breeze in the air. I also love taking photos in the city, and today I decided to go to Roosevelt Island and walk around, especially after I found out that there is a pretty cool ruin of an old smallpox hospital in the park (while randomly searching for abandoned mental asylums on the web the other day). I've only been to Roosevelt Island once in the 8+ years that I have lived in this city, and that was a couple of years ago when I ran a 5k charity run to raise money for women in the Congo. Needless to say, I didn't do any running today, but I did walk around a lot of the island.


Located in the East River, between Manhattan and Queens, the views are pretty amazing, especially of Manhattan. I could totally imagine myself living there - it's easily accessible via the F train or the cable car/tram thing, and it's so quiet! Not many cars around, a few buses, and mainly apartment buildings and hospitals. And a beautiful park - although for some reason the new FDR Four Freedoms Park is closed on Tuesdays. Luckily I could still access the area of the park where the Renwick Smallpox Hospital ruin is located though. I wish you could actually walk around the ruins, but apparently the building is unsafe (or they are just safeguarding it from graffiti and vandalism, who knows).  Everywhere is so clean on the island - I even found myself holding my cigarette butts until I found a trash can, as I didn't want to just leave them on the ground... Makes a change from the streets of Bushwick or the LES...


It always makes me happy to still discover places that I haven't really been to, or captured with my camera. Full set of photos HERE.

Roosevelt Island 27Roosevelt Island 1Roosevelt Island 2Roosevelt Island 3Roosevelt Island 4Roosevelt Island 5
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Roosevelt Island, a set on Flickr.

Photography: Summer 2013 sets - Coney Island



I have always loved Memorial Day weekend, just because it basically means the start of summer, of beaches, of sunshine, of wearing shorts and dresses and no sweaters. Lying on the sand in the Rockaways or Fort Tilden, going on mini road trips towards adventures in the sun, late nights and early mornings, thunderstorms and humidity, and most importantly again, the beach. It doesn't really matter which beach (although I will miss Fort Tilden this year, as it won't be open due to the damage caused by Sandy), any beach will do as long as there is sunshine, sand and water.
The weather on Saturday was later winteresque - cold and windy and rainy. The weather on Sunday was a little better, apart from the rain, but it didn't bode too well for a summer kick-off... And then Monday dawned with sunshine and warmth, and there wasn't a better way to kick start summer with a visit to Coney Island with my Brazilian newly-wed friends Bela and Jerome. Of course I made them go on the Cyclone (and watched from afar - once in a lifetime was enough for me!).
Hopefully I will be able to document many more adventures this summer...
(Link below for the full set of photos).

AmusementTwisting and turningWatching the oceanThrillsRuby'sRemain seated
HappinessIntricate towerCarouselUnityBela and Jerome on the TwisterGoing up
ScaryCaricatures on the boardwalkCreepyBela and meMoving carriagesUpside down
Cyclone plungeFrom belowNewly wedsBrace yourselfSea buildingIntricate design
Summer 2013 - Coney Island, a set on Flickr.

Photography: Orchard Street


For the past two years I have spent most of my days (nights) on Orchard St, working, hanging out, chatting, eating, making friends, drinking, dancing, writing, working, pouring drinks, serving food, working and smiling. There is something very special about this one block on Orchard St that has been the main part of my life for a while now. I've been wanting to do some kind of photography project to document every day life on the block for the past few months, so over the past week I have had my camera on me at all times and have been taking random pictures of the street, the shops, the restaurants and bars, but also of friends and locals and business employees. It's not finished yet, there are a few people that either weren't around when I had my camera out that need to be part of this collection, so I am sure there will be updates over the next few weeks and months.

RosariosJamesTaqueriaCarlHanging coatsMoustache
Million dollar deliLuggageTony's tattoosMatt and TraciLate nightLate night 200
BereketStoop drinkingHiding behind a treeAriSilLe French Diner
LarryAri and JessyTonyJoe and JamieBiker boyAlejandro
Orchard St, a set on Flickr.

For the time being just click on the link above to see the entire set.

Photography: Random film prints


I love finding a random roll of film that I forgot to get developed in the bottom of my bag, not remembering when I finished the roll and what on earth is actually on it. I finally got round to getting this roll developed today, all photos taken with my Holga over the past year, most of which I had totally forgotten that I had taken. I love the striking colours the Holga tends to produce in bright sunlight, as well as the softness, or slight blur, that appears in most prints. My favourites are definitely the ones taken by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco last year, mainly because the blues are so dense and pretty, and also because it is one of my favourite places to be in the world. I must make it one of my goals to use my Holga and Canon AE-1 more often this year - and then wait a while to develop the films so that I get more nice surprises.
Link to the full set below.


San Francisco BayWalking the Golden Gate BridgeView from my sideTime n PlaceSunset in JamaicaSnowed in
San Francisco skylineRosie at the beachOleanderGuinness IciclesGolden Gate BridgeFort Tilden
Clearing Orchard StCaribbean SeaCalifornia flowerBridge in the distanceBoats on the water200 Reflections
Film 2013, a set on Flickr.

Photography: Spring equals Happiness




Springtime!!!

Pink blossom 1BroadwayCashPainted wallsFlower standNamaste
Free moviesChildrenBushwick buildingWall artA wicked thing to doOn Troutman
Doll in a truckMagnoliaBushwick AveGreen and brownFreedomOK
Lost hensSuper truckWhite blossomGeneral strikeStreet artStrange
Springtime!, a set on Flickr.

Finally. This past winter dragged on and on and on and I never thought it would actually start getting warmer and brighter and more colourful outside. I woke up this morning and went for a walk around Bushwick, taking random shots of tree blossom, flowers, new and old street art and enjoyed feeling the warm sun on my face. I can't wait for it to get even warmer and for all of the adventures I aim to go on over the next six months... To be continued...

See full set of this mornings shots HERE (and link also above).