Hunting for Birthday Treasure…

This past monday, my husband celebrated his 31st birthday, and we got an extra special present in the form of our nephew being born! So as birthdays go it probably is pretty high, but hopefully last years birthday still holds a special place in his heart as it was the ‘Year of the Birthday Treasure Hunt’! We had just moved to NYC, away from family and friends, it was a ‘big’ birthday and well, David can be a bit funny about birthdays in general, so I knew I had to do something special. At some point I had come across yet another adorable idea from Oh Happy Day and her great birthday surprise and it had stuck in my head as a great way to involve all of David’s family and friends back in England. Logistics, timing and various scenarios meant this project snowballed into quite a different project which worked out in a way I never could have expected…an adventure birthday hunt around the city, with clues and presents along the way ending with a poster of birthday messages from around the globe. This day/project/birthday had a lot of elements to it, none of which I want to fall by the wayside, but it’s all a bit of a mouthful so please bear with me as I try and go through it all. I’ve included a full rundown at the end, not for the faint of heart!

The Adventure Hunt, Messages & Poster (aka the setup)

1. I setup a topsecret email address away from prying eyes about a month and a half before the big day and set out begging for peoples memories, stories, pictures, drawings…ANYTHING to make David’s day better. Then I sent email after email chasing submissions!

2. Meanwhile I was arranging ‘the day/advenutre’ portion of it…David’s parents were making the trip over to the US for his birthday, so I also invited my dad, stepmom, brother and sister-in-law from the surrounding states to make a day trip up. This turned David’s birthday into a small reunion for people who don’t get to see each other often, a tourist trip for people who don’t live in NYC as well as a birthday. Whew. I started brainstorming EVERY day on the way to and from work about what people would like to see, where they would like to go and how I could link them all together. I think in some sort of post-traumatic-stress disorder from it, it all it goes a bit hazy after that, but after much to-ing and fro-ing I settled on locations and started researching facts and clues about each place (useless knowledge and trivia about cities, or well anything, is like catnip to me, so this portion was sort of like a present to myself).

3. With about a week to go, I started compiling all the submissions from family and friends and started laying out on an A1 layout (for US’ers thats approimately 8 pieces of letter sized paper). It was all going to get cut up, but I ignored where all those lines would be so it would be puzzle-like. In a separate document I started making my clues and hints in a completely different colour pattern so the two sides wouldn’t get confused as they were two separate, albeit parallel things. I made the clues (see above) in all different shapes and sizes but filled each design page completely.

4. At the time I didnt have a printer, so I took it off to Staples for an unnecessarily eyewatering cost considering the lack of quality, but it came out acceptable. Of course right after I had it printed, I had three of David’s best friends FINALLY return their submissions. I couldn’t afford (or wouldn’t!) to get it reprinted but also didn’t want to miss out on these messages which actually led me to one of my favourite parts of the poster-3d pullouts (see above)! I found areas that were filled with lines or deadspace and created fold out cards to hold the extra messages!

5. I now had 8 pieces of A3 paper, so I glued the clues pages to the back of the poster message pages and then holding my breath started cutting out the clues, ignoring what I could be cutting through on the other side on the messages side. Now I had a bunch of irregular clues pages, with abstract bits of message on the other side, but when arranged formed the poster of messages!

The Day

David’s parents were staying with us and I had informed David we would be going out to see New York City with them and gave them a time I wanted to be out of the house by…just five minutes after the time I had given my Dad & Stepmum to arrive at our apartment! This is where slight behind-the-scenes pandemonium ensued. Unbeknownst to David, my family was having MAJOR issues finding a parking spot (it was marathon weekend) and had been circling the neighborhood for over an hour and a half. In fact both parties had driven by us when we were out with the dog! It hindered timing slightly but all things considered it was the only minor blip! Anyway, after surprising David at the door, we headed down the street to the location that ‘Deals in the currency of the celebrities’…I’ll give you a second. Currency: Bucks. Celebrities: Stars….Starbucks! I know heading to Starbucks on an adventure hunt…how exciting. BUT it was exciting that my brother and sister-in-law were waiting inside (in the warmth!) so David walked by doing a double take and then finally our little group was all present to get started.

From there we walked from movie location spotting on the Upper West Side into central park, receiving clues and riddles along the way. Occasionally the clue was ‘for a pie piece’ (a nod to Trivial Pursuit) and those resulted in a gift (which I was carrying in my totebag of tricks). Eventually we found ourselves outside Top of The Rock (Rockefeller Center) with tickets for all of us to go up to the observation deck. Lunch around the corner and then outside to find a limo waiting for us to transport 8 people painlessly around the rest of our journey.

David was tested on his special agent skills when forced to ‘crack a safe’ at a local bag drop to find his gift from me, a watch. From there he had to use the time on his stopped watch, to get the address of a location on 5th avenue ( my work) and use his new binoculars (a gift from his parents earlier) to see into the seventh floor window. ‘The Bronx is up…’ and the Battery is down! And that’s where we headed to show off David’s work area and then finally a drop off back home for tea and cake and the final surprise. David finally got all his completed clues back to turn over and complete the puzzle for a big birthday message!

Thanks to everyone who was involved, it turned out amazingly well and David was so pleased! Of course my 30th next April is looking a bit daunting for him and who knows how I’m going to deal with his 40th?!?! Around the world in a hot air balloon?! Currently accepting ideas at hello@pillarboxpost.com

 
 
 

Oh you bully…

Every season I have to check out Comptoir des Cotonniers for their latest wares for their mascot ‘Leon’ the French Bulldog. Sometimes not so great and sometimes SO GREAT. A bit more Lola than Leon, sure…but that sweet crumpled face wants to be cuddled up next to me all.day.long.

You can find the Leon Jumper at Comptoir des Cotonniers

 
 
 

Color Me Senseless

I’ve been known to run a race or two in my ‘past life’…an assortment of short runs and a marathon or two sprinkled around the world. But never have I run so excitedly around a giant parking lot/runway as I did this past weekend. My friend Darcy joined me in the deepest parts of Brooklyn to test my lazy bones for a 5k known as ‘The Color Run‘ (do you know how many times I have written color with a ‘u’ just in this post alone?!?). You’ll have to check out their site for their funny FAQ’s but for the CliffNotes version: it’s an untimed 5k where they douse you in different color powders as you go around…and you complete with a crazy powder fest at the end ensuring that your car and clothing will have just a little bit more life to them than they did when you woke up that morning at 5:45. Did I mention you wear white for it? …and that you’ll never look cleaner at any point in your life than you will when you look at before and after pictures from the day? I’ve always been a sucker for a motivational film (e.g. Nike ads) to get me up and ‘attem’ which explains why I signed up the day I watched their little film below. And if all other reasons fail: it’s an instant whitening tool for your teeth.


*photos above by the Mister

 
 
 

Decision 2012: Artwork

Decision 2012 might sound like some horribly misplaced political article or a terribly clean and unfunny Jon Stewart segment… but really it’s just my new household initiative. Adorn the wall with frames and then decide on some artwork, and get.it.on.the.wall. No spending months, years with empty frames waiting for the right thing to suddenly appear. Just make it happen. So pleased to introduce you to the  two new pieces of eye candy on the wall. First, I saw this fabulous ‘mermaid’ print on the blog of my favourite new obsession, the stylist Emily Henderson (seriously she needs a whole post dedicated to her and my stalking of her incredible style) but for now, I’ll keep it short. I love everything she does, she had some artwork on her blog. I saw, I liked and I purchased. In about a four minute turnaround. This is a completely foreign behavior, but apparently contagious because just a few short weeks later a great image of my Grandpa came through from an Aunt. They had found an image of him from on top of a Red Cross building in China during the War and with some clever help from my uncle they made a jpeg and literally THAT night, it was up on my wall. I’m planning on rewarding myself with more frames for the wall. And it’s because of this crazy behaviour that means I’ll never become President…Unless it’s of my own house and then I graciously accept the nomination. See ya at the polls David!


You can have your very own copy of ‘Married to the Sea‘ by Tastes Orangey for $25

However, I’m afraid you’ll have to find your very own cool & handsome Grandpa. He’s all mine.

 
 
 

Are you a Professional…what?

I’m fairly certain my obsession for a library card catalogue unit started way before they were cool. I love drawers and organization (despite being an INCREDIBLY messy youth)…I even had a metal drawer version that I stuck index cards in containing, ughm, super secret really cool things that I didn’t even know about. Well fast forward to the 2000s and, well, a wooden library card catalogue is on every designy/interiors bloggers list, isn’t it? Well.lookie.here what became the newest member of the  household this weekend! AND it’s best friend- a piece of old store signage. Way. Too. Excited. I very nearly brought home the entire word ‘TODAY’ as well. It was the same colour as the ‘H’ but in uppercase italics, which I have a bit of a personal relationship with that borders on frenemies. I love uppercase, and even have grown to love italics, but upperitalics. Nuh, uh.

Best part of the whole ‘adoption’ experience (one that included the handover of money) was when I was asked something to the effect of, ” Are you going to be using this professionally or just for decoration?” Ughm…well I don’t have a library, and I don’t use the Dewey Decimal System in my house YET…so does this count as decoration? I mean I’ll use the drawers for other stuff? Does rubber stamp pads count as professional? Trust me, this running inner monologue was as painful to be a part of  as it was to read and I ended up stuttering out something like, ‘oh,well I’ll use it, can I use it?… I mean i want to use the drawers…’ until my sister-in-law saved me from my own social awkwardness with, ‘she’s an artist’. Whew, he seemed okay with that response and off we went to find arty stuff to stuff in the drawers in case the professional organizing/library police come sniffing around Brooklyn anytime soon.

 
 
 

In a New York Minute

Today, August 8th, is the one year anniversary of our move to New York City from lovely London…so how does that feel? Well, to quote an LCD sound system song, ‘New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down…’ except in our case just remove the love… New York you’re okay but you’re bringing me down. Perfect.

You see I don’t mean to make a once-in-a-blue-moon appearance and then just whine…but with all the hype over new York and everyone loving it soooo much you start to feel a bit alone, when you possibly, perchance, definitely don’t agree. What am I missing? It’s dirty, it smells ( because I’m a nice person and you might be snacking while reading this, I won’t be saying what it smells like. Lilac bushes and freshly cleaned laundry it is not). There are rats, and more rats.  And the amount of people that just give you the heebie jeebies is just, well, crazy. To say it doesn’t compare to London FOR ME is the understatement of the year. But we’ve done it, and that’s gotta count for something? ‘if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere’… like an advert for the armed forces. Yay, I’m lying in a barbed wire ditch. It can only go up from here, eh?

But it’s not like we haven’t made it– we have, there are positives. David and I both have good jobs, a beautiful apartment and for the past few months have found a place to call home that makes us feel happier. We’ve made DUMBO, Brooklyn our home, which is fantabulous on it’s name alone. Who doesn’t want to live in world of hat-wearing baby elephants?! But in actuality it stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass. This also means that we are few short blocks from the Brooklyn bridge, from the water and from glorious views of the city. I know, you probably don’t believe that after the last little rant, but honestly the city is pretty from afar, with the statue of liberty waving her little flashlight in the distance, the sun setting behind the Financial district, the Empire state building and Chrysler building peeking out of the skyline and saying ‘hello!’. Whew, I feel a bit calmer already. I’ll detail DUMBO a bit more in the future, but it’s very creative, great industrial buildings and a regeneration with some serious love behind it.

 

And lastly, the thing making me avoid Pillar Box Post for months. A bit of sad news…our little Olive Juice, the french bulldog life and rumpled-faced-soul, of our little family is no longer with us. In April we had an emergency visit to the vet and sadly our little girl had to stay there to go to sleep. It was in connection with her back issues we first had a year ago, right after we moved to New York. It’s been seriously hard for David and I to get over not having her around…and we still miss her every. Day. When you aren’t satisfied with other areas of life, sweet puppy breath and kisses on your face is always an instant soother. Sigh. There I got that out, not that most of you don’t know that already..it was some how a mental struggle to come out with that on here. She was quite the star of PillarBoxPost…so here are some of her best bits… biking around Kensington Gardens , relaxing around the house , travelling in England , visiting Rye England , and her introduction.

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A quick list of  where and what we’ve been up to this past year, as per the photos above.
Starting in the Top, going left to right…

——— FIRST SET ———

ROW 1: 1. Two weeks after arriving in New York we ‘survived’ an earthquake and a hurricane hitting NYC. Yay for crazy Northeast weather! | 2. Our second flat on the upper west side. | 3. Oh Olive, and your crazy outfits…silly girl

Row 2: 1. Christmas tree hunting, on a real life tree farm…yay for being back in Central PA. | 2. Family photo, frenchie fur babies and all! | 3. All ready for the ‘First Annual Forest Friends Christmas Eve Feeding’ which consisted of taking the deer and other cute animals of the forest a lovely christmas dinner of carrots, corn etc. at midnight on Christmas Eve

Row 3: 1. Taking Olive out for our annual New Years walk, but bag style. | 2. Gondolas…indoors…waaaaitaminute? This must be crazy-vegas. | 3. Out at the Grand Canyon, right before the hail blizzard started.

Row 4: 1. Yep, that hail blizzard has now started…very impressive my face doesn’t look like swiss cheese after that encounter! | 2. Zion National Park, yes that IS a real photo. Places like this DO exist. Wow. | 3. And yep, these little sheepy guys do too. Right next to the road! Saw a roadrunner after this, it was like Wild animal Bingo.

——— SECOND SET ———

Row 1: 1. Brooklyn Bridge with the lovely Clare. | 2. David and Olive…oh she’s. so. happy. Can’t you tell? | 3. We fled for some winter sun down to the Riveria Maya, Mexico. Beautiful eco resort full of canalways, crocodiles and other potentially less dangerous things. This is the view of our casita, aka adorable little building, on the canal, taken from our nature boat tour.

Row 2: 1. Lunchtime at work–fabulous view of the Empire State building. | 2. Our UWS flat, or one corner of it, at least. | 3. My 29th birthday at the Standard Grill, where I made a pact with myself to make a penny floor in my imaginary house.

Row 3: 1. Drinks after work…palm trees and that same pesky little Empire State building. It’s everywhere. | 2. ….like right here…in between the arches, do you see it, yep it’s piercing the Manhattan bridge in DUMBO | 3. View of DUMBO and the Brooklyn Bridge from a Manhattan rooftop.

Row 4: 1. Finally had our first trip back to England for a few days…just in time to catch some beautiful summer fields | 2. …and take some random pictures of ourselves on said train | 3. and catch the London Olympics site, sadly just 2 weeks too early.