Category Archives: shopping

Vintage Lover’s Guide to Banbury

alice_chess_blogIf you are one of the many people who love vintage décor, collectibles, clothes, and accessories – then Banbury and its surrounding villages are the place for you!

The Vintage Lover’s Guide to Banbury, the Banbury blog post that was on this page has now moved to its new home on The Banburian, a site devoted to exploring Banbury and the surrounding areas. Other posts about shopping in Banbury on The Banburian include:

Spring Shopping in Banbury

There are many signs of Spring in Banbury. The sun shines more often, daffodils are swaying in the breeze, a few bees start buzzing around. It all brought me out to shop and browse.


The plant and garden stall at the Banbury Market was a veritable riot of colour

It was Market Day so I made a point, as I always do of browsing among the stalls – then had some lunch, did a bit more browsing and a spot of shopping.  This is great for the local economy and a bit hard on my wallet. But only a bit since I have to say – Banbury’s independent shops did right by me this week. From the handbags, to the repair, to the pins – bargains all around. Wanna know what else I saw and what I ended up hauling home? Check out Spring Shopping in more detail over on the Banburian.

Banbury’s Independent (Shop) Spirit

The weather was too nice to stay inside today so I went out along the canal into town – took some pics, made some purchases along the way and shared it all over on The Banburian.

One of the things we like best about Banbury is that while it is well-supplied with the usual big name chains, there are also a great many independent shops – and offering a wide range of goods. What this means is that yes, I can go and pick up my contacts at Boots, or check out the sales at Debenhams but I can also treat myself (and others) to “won’t see everywhere else” handbags, toys, gifts and books, etc. I love Banbury’s Independent Shop Spirit.


Spring has Sprung in Banbury!

According to Tennyson, ‘In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’ – and that’s as may be but come Spring, this girl’s fancy turns to long walks, farmer’s markets, the garden and cheese.  At TransAtlantic Towers, we can tell that Spring has sprung because we have been replanting beds in the garden. Behold!


Between that, the fruit trees – we now have five! – and the “herb potting” marathon we have planned for next weekend, I feel very seasonal. Spring planting in NYC was more a case of sweeping the balcony off, cleaning the chairs and moving the jade plants back outside. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it was a lovely spot, as you can see below, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.


I do miss having jade plants but we just do not have the right window for them here for wintering.

Another thing I miss about NYC in Spring – the ‘long walks’ season along the river. And when I say long, I mean long. It was not unknown for me to go from 72nd & 1st over to 110 & West End then turn down along the River to the Village all in one go. Still, plenty of walks around here – more rural than urban, of course but no complaints there.  I have a lovely canal to walk along here in Banbury.


In theory, I could follow the canal and walk from here in Banbury to Oxford though I think that’s a bit far even for me. I’ll break it into sections, thanks very much and tackle it that way. Luckily, walking is a bit thing around here and the local council even produces a set of scenic walk brochure/maps for some of the more popular ones. So does the Walking in Oxfordshire website. All downloadable and free!

Spring is also when I once more became a frequenter of those staples of the Manhattan street scene – I love  the ‘one of a kind’ or ‘not often seen’ items you get at the outdoor markets. One of my favorite regular days out when in NYC is the Union Square market – the best place to get apples in all of Manhattan – or (if I can’t be bothered to go that far) the St. Stephen’s Market up on 82nd.


Luckily, Banbury comes up trumps for me there as well.  The canal walk will wait until we’ve had a few more days of good weather so the footpath can dry out a bit more but the weekly markets are only a short, dry stroll away.

Banbury has two markets – the Banbury charter market on Thursdays and Saturdays then the farmer’s market on the first Friday of every month. Both markets take place in – wait for it – the Market Place. There’s also an additional antiques market that runs along side the charter market on the 2nd Thursday of each month.  I’d also seen news that an artisan cheesemonger would have a stall for the first time. I love living in a place where the word cheese monger in in common usage. And so as this past Thursday was a 2nd Thursday and the weather was fine, I figured it was worth a wander in.

And I was right! I mean look at that fruit and veg!




I also scored the most amazing pair of cheeses from Curds & Whey, the cheesemongers. Well, they were amazing and so are these cheese: a black truffle cheese and an extremely mature gouda. That black truffle cheese is going to be made into an extra special risotto tonight.


Rather than rush immediately home with my score, I also decided to check out the antiques market and see what the percentage of antique to junktique they had. And by saying so – I am in NO WAY dismissing junktique items as worthy. Some of my favorite things are such things. “Junktique’ – by my definition – is that which is old, vintage-y and/or perhaps something someone else would have just tossed. Not garbage by any means – just not ACTUALLY antiques. And I have to say, I saw quite a lot of things I might have picked up if I wasn’t walking home with two ENORMOUS wedges of cheese and a tiger bread baguette (and let me give a two thumbs up to Isla Jane Bakery for that AMAZING bread) .



There will more on the delights of Spring in Banbury to come but that will have to wait – for I have some cheese to indulge in.

Christmas in NYC – from a distance

Ah Christmas in NYC – the windows, the crowds, the Chinese food and a movie that makes up the traditional Jewish New York City Christmas. Sure, having moved across the Atlantic means I didn’t get to see the windows in person but did I miss them? I did not. The web is full of the Christmas windows – wanna see the Lord and Taylor windows (always some of my favorites)?  Here ya go.


Want a movie of the whole thing instead?  YouTube is an amazing resources in this way now that everyone and their brother has a smartphone and a compelling need to record everything they do. The L&T 2013 windows are no exception.  Moving so far from NYC also means I don’t have to deal with the crowds of people who flock there every December. Don’t get me wrong – I was never a tourist-hating New Yorker. But in certain spots in December it was IMPOSSIBLE to move and you’d do anything to avoid those spots. Banbury doesn’t get nearly as crowded ever on it’s biggest day (which I suppose it Canal Day).

I do still get Chinese food and a movie though the Chinese food is homemade (seriously – everything here closed for Christmas. Even the Chinese restaurants). Once again, dungeekin did his best to turn TransAtlantic Towers into a first rate Chinese buffet. It was delicious – more on that can be found over on Fabulous Foodie. In related news (that will no doubt inform Chinese food meals of the future), we have found two well-stocked Asian supermarkets nearby and it took ALL my considerable persuasiveness to prevent SOMEONE from buying everything in sight. We do plan a major shopping excursion soon but there was already a considerable amount of food in the TransAtlantic Larder so there was, culinarily speaking, “no room at the inn.”

Meanwhile, we look forward to another year of exploring the area, experimenting with food and – DEFINITELY getting back to New York for a visit or two. Happy New Year, one and all. No matter which side of the pond you’re on.

Learning from mistakes

I made the tragic mistake today. A mistake I have made before. One I keep telling myself I will not repeat. After all, that would be insane (at least according to Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.)

And yet – I did it again. So I have decided that the only way to avoid repeating this pattern of behavior is to make my self publicly accountable for it.

What was this mistake? I went into my neighborhood Duane Reade.

Is there a more annoying drug store chain in the city? I doubt it. Despite being in their new premises (across the street from their old one) only a few months, the place already looks in need of major cleaning and not insignificant repairs. The staff, by and large the same as they were in the old location, continue to stun me with their ability to reach new levels of inaction and/or slowness each time I go in (the single exception being the very prompt and helpful gentlemen who seems to have drawn the early morning shift straw every day for the last two years).

The selection of goods – that one might have assumed would expand or at least be better presented in a new and larger space remains “shot in the dark” at best.

Now that the weather is improving, I am recommitting myself to avoid Duane Reade (and their ridiculously redesigned logo that should have raised eyebrows in the legal department of Radio Shack) as much as possible.

I loathe them with every fiber of my unsatisfied shopper being. I was all ready to post lyrically about bike sharing programs (and still will) but now I am so grumpy I’ve lost my train of thought.

Great Gotham Deals

If you have been toying with the idea of getting away, you’d do well to consider a Gotham get away these days. NewYorkology has an impressive round up of great hotel deals across the city and some of them are so good, I’m tempted to book them. And I live here! Seriously though – I know times are tough. There are probably a million things you could and should spend your hard-earned cash on other than hotel rooms and a trip to NYC. But think of it this way – times are tough and they will be tough a while longer. A quick trip now might do wonders for your outlook or give you a chance to get a little distance between you and the pile of bills on the table. A little distance can help you gain a lot of perspective. And it’s not as if I’m suggesting a World Cruise. Just a long weekend.

Think about it.

Are you thinking? Here. Let me give you some more food for thought.

  • A lot of the best attractions are either free or “suggested donation.”
  • New York Sales & Bargains from New York magazine (updated every day) for the shopping fan.
  • They also have a guide to New York on the Cheap which also has something for the shopping fan but beauty and entertainment deals as well
  • Citysearch has a guide to the Best Bargains in New York – including attractions, places to eat, dates that won’t break the bank
  • Sad as it is to contemplate, Broadway is struggling and struggling hard. On the bright side – this means tickets are available for almost everything and you can almost certainly find a bargain. Don’t rule out off-Broadway either. Some of the most exciting stuff happens in those theaters and the prices can’t be beat.

New York is a great place to visit – and never more so than now.

No Place Like Home in New York

drinks.jpgSure, Gotham is awash in great restaurants, bars, cafes, street food and food stalls. But sometimes – you just want to stay in. And then there are those times you want to stay in with company.

Maybe it’s because neither of you can decide between Chinese and Italian. Maybe you want to impress her with your domestic side or you want to impress him with your ability to saute in stilettos. Whatever the reason, Gotham at home can be just as fabulous as Gotham Out on the Town.

Don’t worry if you don’t cook, have never “staged” your place or set a mood. We’re here to help.

  • Straighten Up: No, I don’t mean shove everything under the bed and behind the closet door. Well, yes I do mean that actually – shove all your various and sundry out of site but grab a Swiffer and dust, plump the pillows (change the sheets!) and put away the laundry.
  • Light the Lights: but not too bright. Look, fluorescents don’t bring out the best in anyone’s skin tone and are about as romantic as a cafeteria lunch. So – soft light, please. Candles are always good. Line them upon window sills, float them in a bowl of water or group them ON small mirrors to reflect more light in new directions. If candles aren’t your thing, use the table lamps as opposed to overheads. Change a few bulbs from the usual to some pink tinted ones (Men, do NOT groan. You have no idea how much more attractive everyone looks and feels in a slightly pinky light). If you can, shield the light from the kitchen (usually the harshest light in the home) from coming into wherever you are dining.

Bonus idea: Candles themselves are easy enough to get (you can even get quite realistic flameless candles these days) but what about candle holders? For maximum effect try using tiered candle holders as well as candle trays.

  • Laying the Table: Decant the food into actual serving dishes and don’t lay it out in it’s plastic containers. There is nothing romantic about plastic and paper containers unless you are in the movie “My Favorite Year” (and last time I checked, none of us were). Using a number of smaller mix and match bowls allows you to create a cohesive look for a “sampler” menu, which lends itself to ‘finger foods’ – which lend themselves in turn to feeding to each other. No need to go overboard with the matching. You don’t need a set of dishes. Complimentary pieces instead of matchy-matchy pieces make a more attractive and more interesting table. Fishes Eddy and Pearl River Mart are great resource for small ceramic dishes, bowls and the like.

Bonus idea: Give the dining table a miss entirely. So formal! Maybe dine amongst some floor pillows? Silk throw pillows can be found relatively inexpensively – buy a bunch and really pile them up. It will make any meal positively decadent.

  • Blooms: Get flowers not just for the table but also some for the entry way and/or bedroom. Some things to remember for the table arrangement – non-scented flowers. You don’t want it competing with the food (chrysanthemums or zinnias are a great option). It should also be low so you see each other without leaning to the side. (maybe have the chrysanthemums or zinnias floating in a shallow glass bowl)

Bonus idea: Take a tip from all those hotel romance packages – sprinkle rose petals on the bed but beware – you do run a risk of stains from darkly colored flowers. So if the bed is made with super expensive, highly valued sheets you may want to lay a throw down first and not risk potential stains. A great tip for avoiding this potential mood killer – order fake rose petals.

  • In Vino Veritas: Get some wine. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about wine. Again, this is New York – city of experts, home of many of the best wine shops around. Ask the staff at the wine shop. They will have suggestions
  • Food, Glorious Food: Don’t cook? Don’t worry. This is New York – world headquarters of the concept of “delivery”. Work that angle and all will be well. Want a slightly more hands on approach but still fear using actual appliances? Wander down the aisles of places like Grace’s Marketplace, The Vinegar Factory, Eli’s Manhattan, Zabar’s, Agata & Valentina and the like. Compose a feast of his or her favorites. Who cares if it’s a balanced meal. As long as it shows you picked everything out with the thought of them first and foremost, it’ll be a hit.
  • Dolce Sotto Voce: If you have a system that allows you to plug in your MP3 player – get it charged up and put together a play list. Something not too jarring. If you wanted to shout over music, you could have gone to a bar.

Bonus Idea: Try some Michael Bublé.

  • What To Wear: Consider what you’re going to wear. As long as you are straightening up your stuff, you might as well straighten up yourself as well. Sure, they’ve probably seen you look worse but this is Valentine’s Day. Dress for them – wear the shirt she bought you for your birthday or the dress he always seems to compliment you on. Or, since you’re at home and not in public – why not wear something a bit racier. Push the envelope a bit and pump up the “sexy.” Come on! You’re at home!

OK, we’ve done what we can. It’s all up to you now. And you know what? You’ll get a lot of points JUST for trying so enjoy. Oh! Almost forgot – turn off the cell phone and make sure the answering machine is on. We need no interruptions this evening.

Valentine’s Day in New York

One month until Valentine’s Day! With New York is so full to the brim with romantic possibilities, you have no excuse for not finding something exciting, exceptional or expressive for your main squeeze.

chocolates.jpg Chocolate is a Valentine’s Day standby and somewhere in Gotham is just the right sweet for your sweet. Check out our Gotham Guide to the Sweeter Side of New York to find the best and most original (and of course, the yummiest) choices.

roses.jpg Flowers. A lovely way to mark the day and Gotham has florists who can produce classic, contemporary or unusual arrangements to fit any taste, mood or decor. Now, if you’re gonna pick up a quick bouquet at the deli on your way home for no reason in particular – that’s a lovely gesture. Flowers ‘just ’cause’ are romantic in the extreme regardless of the condition of the flowers. But Valentine’s Day is another vase of water entirely. They may be ok as an accompaniment to the chocolates but if the blooms are all you’ve got – these deli bouquets will reveal one of two things. Either

  • you’ve forgotten Valentine’s Day until the last minute. Listen, it happens. Don’t make a habit of it and you will be forgiven.
  • you think one bunch of flowers is as good as the next. On the most basic – and unromantic – level that may be true but it won’t help keep you warm on the couch later on.

If you want the flowers that are a strong stand alone gift, why not splash some cash and/or time and get something that will make chocolates an ‘also-ran’. There are a lots of florists in town that can make classic, contemporary or unusual arrangements to fit any taste, mood or decor but among the floral finest, some stand outs are:

romance_room.jpg Hotels. Ah there’s no place like home. But if you really want to set Valentine’s Day apart as something special, why not “play house” somewhere else for the night. Don’t let the potential price of New York hotels put you off. The managers of these hostelries are a bunch of old romantics and they’ve put together some great packages that will make your night out (and morning in) something to remember.

  • Book yourself into either the Erotic Literature Room or Love Room at Library Hotel. Not only will you find the shelves stocked with the appropriate titles (as is the case in all their themed rooms) but for Valentine’s Day, the hotel’s Erotica Package means that the room is also stocked with a chilled bottle of Mionetto Prosecca, a dozen Red Roses, strawberries with a bowl of whipped cream, erotic dice, bathrobes to take home as a souvenir, a pocket guide edition of the Kama Sutra (you never know when you might need it) and a Kama Sutra Love Essentials Package including a sprinkling of sweet, edible Honey Dust, tongue-tempting Original Oil of Love and a lubricating Love Liquid.
  • Maybe a spot of Seduction at the St. Regis is more your style. And that is just the package on offer – with fresh flowers, chilled champagne and breakfast for two on the menu.
  • Seduction is not only an uptown option. You can get down downtown as well by signing up for a little Seduction in Soho. Sure, there’s champagne and room service. It’s a given. But how could anyone resist “heart-shaped scented bath confetti?” Or while everyone else is seducing or being seduced, you can sneak off for a Tryst in Tribeca.
  • I need to talk to whoever put together the Indulgence Escape Package at the Hotel Gansevoort. I think I love them. A bottle of Moet & Chandon, your own “Mile High Kit”, Chocolate Body Frosting, Copy of The Kama Sutra – Book of Erotic Games, Chocolate truffles at turndown, a moonlight dip in the hotel’s rooftop pool and – attention to detail being everything – a late check-out at 2pm.

drinks.jpgDinner and/or Drinks at any time in New York can be a daunting decision. This is a food and drink town. But this particular choice can mean the difference between another nice night out and a night that will have the two of you smiling quietly (and maybe not so discreetly at each other) for weeks afterwards.

  • Rooms with a view: Go up, up and away to look out over the city (which looks exceptional at night). Both the Beekman’s Top of the Tower (a classic deco destination, slightly passed it’s prime but serving some of the best martinis in town) and Marriot Marquis’ View Lounge (ok, you have to wade through Times Square to get there but once you look out, you may find it’s been worth it)
  • At the water’s edge: If you like your view pastoral and lakeside, The Boathouse is where you need to be. For a riverside view of the water traffic gliding, glitteringly by get down to the Water Club and see if you can’t snag a window table. The view isn’t much during the day but it’s utterly magical at night. Or you can take it all in from the other side at Brooklyn’s River Cafe.
  • Romantic heavy-hitters: Wanna haul out the big romance guns and impress the heck out of someone? One If By Land, Two If By Sea makes it onto everyone’s “most romantic list” and seemingly has since the beginning of time. This is romance old school style. For other ways to harken back to a quieter, classier age try Cafe Des Artistes and La Grenouille, for even more l’amour

Something a Little Different. Pass your eye over these possibilities and you’ll have the novelty bonus to add to your romance score.

  • Museum of Sex – topical, educational and entertaining. Follow it up with an after visit recap over dinner and drinks at some romantic location and chances are you’ll creating some exhibits yourself later on. 
  • Central Park is gorgeous and romantic when seen by foot, by bike by horse drawn carriage or from a boat.  Speaking of boats, the Boathouse is where you can rent the bikes and the boats in addition to enjoying a waterside snack.
  • Ice Skating Rink at Rockefeller Center is not only seasonally appropriate but has that “very special episode” feeling thanks to being featured on both the big and small screens. Even if you aren’t the world’s best skater, you can make this work for you. After all, what could be more romantic than injuring yourself in pursuit of your loved one’s happiness. And then they can tend to you and make it all better. Sweet.

I hope this gets some ideas going for you. I’m a little depressed myself because there’s no way I can do this ALL in just one day and it all sounds really good. And of course, I welcome any further suggestions if you’ve got them. What was your favorite Gotham Valentine treat?

New York’s Holiday Best

Since we can’t sit enthralled watching Broadway (including my almost certainly now doomed plans for Tuesday), we might as well wander around a bit and be enthralled by the city that has been tarted up for the holidays. Few cities tart up so well and in so many various ways.

l_t.jpgDepartment store windows are the first thing that came to mind and as luck would have it, the New York Times has just come out with their Holiday Guide to Window Gazing.

What would the holidays without the department store madly trying to outdo each other by decking the halls, the windowsills, the mannequins and the staff? They’re all fighting for your attention – Macy’s, Bergdorf, Bloomingdale’s Saks, Lord and Taylor (my personal favorite every single year). New York Magazine has a video interview with Barneys creative director Simon Doonan who describes the “green” theme of their windows this year. I applaud the concept in theory but wonder about the implementation when it involves things like “Rudolph the Recycling Reindeer.” But of course, you can make up your own mind.

shops07-03.jpgAnother great of New York’s great strengths at the holidays is the holiday fair. They are usually a filled with Technicolor accessories, ornaments (to replace the ones you thought you’d wrapped more securely until you opened the box), ropes of beads, more scarves than you could shake a stick at and other delightful items that sparkle and gleam from temporary stalls in places like Grand Central and Bryant Park.

Actually, Bryant Park is a good place to start. Ice Skating and shopping? You bet. All this can be yours at The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park.

If you love the idea of the Holiday Fair shopping experience but were hoping to do it sans mittens, check out the Grand Central Holiday Gift Fair anytime between Nov. 19 – Dec. 29 (except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). In fact, Grand Central has thrown itself into holiday mode with great verve this year. They’ve also got the New York Transit Museum’s Sixth Annual Grand Central Holiday Train Show and the Kaleidoscope Light Show running during the holidays. For more details on any of these, check out the Grand Central Calendar of Events

New York Magazine’s Holiday Shopping Guide has a nice list of holiday fairs – including these and quite a few others. There’s bound to be one close to where you plan to be so check it out. They’ve also got a guide to some of the best holiday trees in the city

There’s obviously some superb shopping in and around the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (lighting on Nov 28th for those who want to catch this great tradition) but another – and I think even more special — holiday tree convenient to a concentration of shopping is the South Street Seaport Chorus Tree. If the lighting of the tree has you in the “lighting” mood, why not check out the lighting of the world’s largest menorah at 59th St & 5th Ave. It happens for eight sunsets in a row from December 4 to December 11.

There’s tons more to see and do in Gotham at this time of year. Over the next few days, I shall endeavore to share as many as I can with you. And what the heck? If you don’t get to it this year, bookmark it for next. New York celebrates and celebrates big EVERY year.