An Update + 40 Manhattan Memories

NYC, update, storyVirginia Hart4 Comments

I wanted to pop in here and share some personal news: Patrick and I are moving out of Manhattan! We're feeling so many different emotions about the transition, and I'm basically a big ball of sappy mush. 

I moved here in May of 2007, a week out of college and 21 years old. And now, what will be 10 years, 5 months, and 1 week later, this small but mighty island is the only home I've ever known in my adult life. It's crazy to think that when I moved here, no one had ever even called me "Virginia" before. The city of New York has truthfully transformed me into who I am today. For instance? I may not remember how to operate a motor vehicle, but I could hail a cab in my sleep! ;) 

When some people hear that we're moving, they're quick to assume, "Oh you finally hit your breaking point? You're over being in the city?" No. It's not like that. I will never be over New York, and will always consider it the best city in the world, and I know Patrick feels the same.  I never would have imagined that our love story would've involved the five years we've shared here together, living right in the thick of city life, but I'm so very thankful it did. No matter where life takes us, a part of me will always be a New Yorker, and I wouldn't trade the last decade -- and the impact it's had on my life and our marriage -- for the world. 

My heart is feeling particularly heavy this week after the devastating terror attack in Lower Manhattan. The evil in this world is always disturbing, but it obviously affects you on a deeper level when it hits so close to home. Sometimes all I can do in response is hold on tighter to the good, knowing it will always prevail in the end. And if I've ever seen a place overflowing with good, it's New York City.

We've been searching for the right neighborhood and place for our next step for quite some time thanks to our current landlord kindly giving us the flexibility to do so. We considered a lot of different options, but nothing felt 100% right for us until one night near the end of the summer when we saw -- *drumroll* -- the one. As excited as we are to have finally found a great fit, and as much as we know it's truly time, I'm so sad to close this door on living in Manhattan and specifically, on the Upper West Side. It's tough. I started crying when I told our mailman we're moving if that's any indication of how well I deal with change. :/

The good news? We're not venturing very far! We're relocating to an adorable condo on the other side of the Hudson River in a beautiful part of Jersey City, New Jersey. Surprisingly, Patrick's work commute to Brooklyn will actually remain the same, if not shorter, and we'll have a little more room to spread out.  It's kind of crazy when we step back and realize we've survived in such small quarters for as long as we have, but I'm hopeful that will always make us grateful for any extra door, closet, and square foot we have in life. Our new space feels very us and we're so excited to settle in, get to know the area, and make it feel like home. I love knowing that we'll be one step closer to our families, too. Jersey City is considered to be a "sister city" to New York and a "sixth borough" by many due to its close proximity. So yes, while this personally feels like a big change to us, logistically it really won't be at all and we can happily venture back into the city whenever we want. I realize we made the right call on not moving very far right now considering how emotional we are in anticipation of being only like 2 and a half miles from Manhattan - ha!

What about my work, you might wonder? One of the best parts about my job is that I can work from wherever -- my clients have been based everywhere from a couple streets away to Western Australia. However, I'm thrilled to still be serving NYC as my biggest client base and working with the same brands and companies. I especially love being a part of the on-site special events held here - this city does them like no other.

Yes, there's just something about New York. As Nora Ephron once wisely said, "I thought New York was going to be the most magical, fraught-with-possibility place; a place where if you really wanted something you might be able to get it; a place where I’d be surrounded by people I was dying to know. And I turned out to be right."

It's true. Here's to all the incredible people I've had the privilege of meeting and befriending. Here's to the energy of this island encouraging you to chase your scary dreams. And here's to the magic of New York City, where they might actually come true. 

As a lengthy postscript, here are forty random Manhattan memories - out of a million - in no particular order:

1. I visited the city with my stepdad during the winter of my fourth year at UVA. It was bitter cold that weekend, and the city felt rather intimidating, but hearing stories of the years he lived here and his confidence that I could "make it" was all I needed to take the leap.

2. I'll never forget venturing out into the big city for my first interview while carrying my New York Moleskine notebook that had a subway map in the back and thinking, "Look at me! I've totally got this!" As it turns out? Yeahhh, apparently not so good at reading maps. I was supposed to go to Midtown and took the subway to Coney Island instead.

3. Shortly after moving here, I took my first bag of trash out with my roommate, outside and underneath our stoop. A mouse scurried near my foot and I became so flustered that I completely freaked out and peed my pants. Yep. Meanwhile, my roommate laughed so hard she nearly choked.

4. Eating breakfast at Cafe Cluny, my favorite restaurant in the city, always reminds me of living a few doors down during my first two years in the city. I saw and sat next to so many celebrities there (Cameron Diaz, Brook Shields, Amy Poehler, Seth Myers, the Olsen twins), but my favorite meals were honestly the ones when I sat alone at the bar with a pad of paper and a pen.

5.  It felt like Christmas morning when we received surprise Fresh Direct food deliveries from our parents when my roommate and I were still job hunting and our mothers heard how frequently we were getting lunch at the dollar hotdog stand.

6. There I was, skipping home from an 80s party at two in the morning sporting neon spandex, a side pony tail, and eating McDonalds fries by the handful, only to realize Patrick had made a surprise trip to NYC and was waiting on my stoop, grinning and shaking his head.

7. My favorite Thanksgiving in the city didn't involve any celebrations or parades or elaborate home-cooked meals or travel -- just a morning working at a local soup kitchen with Patrick, being quietly reminded of all the blessings for which we take for granted.

8. Nothing beats the smell of New York in December when the sidewalks are tunnels of freshly cut Christmas trees. The tiny ones will forever make me smile and remind me of carrying home our potted-plant-sized trees from the corner bodega by holding onto the top little stem.

9. When I told my brother Jon that I was using a stiletto heel as a hammer he brought me the best tool bag that I still have today. With the added confidence from my nifty tool belt, I proceeded to add to the collection by buying a drill. And after several trips to the hardware store, I spent an entire weekend hanging shelves all by myself. I still consider those stupid shelves one of my proudest accomplishments.

10. One of my favorite memories with my mom is when she visited when I lived alone and we ate Chinese food together in bed because she would never-ever do that at home.

11. I'll never forget waiting outside in a line at 5am during the middle of the winter with my niece to be in the audience for Regis & Kelly. I don't recall ever being so cold in all my life, but it was oh-so worth it.

12. Before my best friend and I had official significant others, we decided that if there was ever a city emergency and our phones didn't work, we would meet at what we secretly referred to as, "the treehouse." I'm not telling you where in the city it is :)

13. The final let's-give-this-another-shot conversation Patrick and I had at the The Donut Pub in the middle of the night after he drove down from Boston is the reason I will always adore that place -- plus they're the best donuts in the city, and they're open 24/7!

14. I'll never forget leaving a Christmas party at the 21 Club one year and being greeted by the prettiest snowfall where all you could do was look up and watch it fall.

15. Despite never getting used to the communal dressing rooms, I did all of my shopping at Loehmann's before they broke my heart and closed. 

16. One category of memories I may choose to forget involves the ongoing saga of mice -- everything from borrowing a neighbor's cat to help us catch one to giving up one night and checking into a hotel. Come to think of it, it's the only time I've ever stayed in a hotel here...on the account of a mouse.

17. I hired someone to help me pick up a dresser I bought off Craigslist. While driving in his truck, he shared his story of living in downtown Manhattan during 9-11 and what it was like. It never really sunk in for me until that conversation.

18. Walking into the FedEx on Broadway and hearing, "mailing more love today, Virginia?" warmed my heart more than they'll ever know.

19. That one time I locked myself out of my apartment, climbed out of my neighbor's window, shimmied across the fire escape in a short dress and heels, and *ever so gracefully* canon-balled into my bedroom window.

20. After a birthday dinner in the West Village with my folks, we asked a kind man to take our picture. It wasn't until after he handed back my phone that we realized he was Ralph Fiennes.

21. One day I bribed someone at my landlord's office with homemade brownies so she would open the office on a Sunday so I could be the first apartment application in the stack. It worked.

22. I took the train back to NYC from Virginia right after Christmas, stepped outside Penn Station and was greeted by the blizzard of 2010. Subways weren't running, I had four bags of stuff including a heavy corded pink phone for my landline gifted from Santa, and the only car that would stop to take me home was a party stretch limo with a disco ball inside. It took me most of the way but got stuck in the snow trying to get down my street. I ended up falling over in a ditch, tearing my pants, and being helped by strangers to get up my stoop. 

23. One July we took a sunset cruise around the statue of liberty to celebrate my friends' birthdays and I got teary-eyed looking at the sparkly city in all of her glory.

24. While walking around the West Village, my mom and I ran into a friendly face. I'll never forget watching Robin Williams wish my mother a happy mother's day and then watching my mother tell Robin how much she loves Mrs. Doubtfire.

25. Painting cartoon wall murals in a computer lab inside a Manhattan public elementary school was one of my favorite New York Cares projects.

26. The things you do, like schlepping home a seven foot tall bookshelf you find abandoned on the sidewalk two blocks away.

27. I took the best shower of my life at the Waldorf Astoria during the week following Hurricane Sandy when we were still without power and hot water. 

28. One day I sat next to a little girl on the subway who insisted on holding my hand, so we held hands for my entire commute home from work.

29. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to attend my super's wake service and had the chance to tell his family how much his help and friendship meant to me during the years I lived alone.

30. I'll never forget hanging up the phone on a difficult break-up 5 minutes before meeting a roommate for the very first time, knowing she was heaven sent.

31. My "favorite" ER adventure (there were a few) was when Patrick had an emergency appendectomy the day after I told him he was being dramatic about his stomach ache. Oops. After putting my name as his emergency contact, I forgot to take my phone off silent and the surgeon spent 45 minutes trying to find me to get his ID. Double oops.

32. After getting my book deal, I sat on our tiny living room floor and burst into happy tears.

33. My coffin-sized toilet room in Chelsea had a large hot water pipe conveniently placed next to the toilet paper holder that would burn you if you touched it.

34.  I was looking through a telescope at the city skyline and telling Patrick how I could see inside the windows of an office building right before I realized he was down on one knee pulling a ring box out of his sock. 

35. Sarah Jessica Parker told me I smelled freshly showered on the corner of 12th and West 4th and it will forever remain my favorite compliment in life.

36. While living alone, I paid a random kid I saw in the hallway $5 to come pick up a dead bug I found in my apartment and throw it in the garbage outside. It seemed like a completely normal transaction at the time.

37. The feeling of being in the Barnes and Noble on 82nd and Broadway, seeing a magazine issue featuring my work, and trying not to cry in the checkout line.

38. While complaining about how a pigeon actually pooped on me while I was in Washington Square Park and being all mad at the city, my mother texted me, "Sometimes you are the pigeon and sometimes you are the statue." It was all the life advice I ever needed.

39. I was in disbelief when a stranger came up to me at Rubirosa in Soho to tell me my old blog inspired her to move to NYC after college. Little did she know she made my whole decade.

40. Years ago, I wore an apple costume on Halloween and corrected everyone when they thought I was a strawberry. No no no, I'm the little lady in the big apple.


Two New Designs for Bella Figura

Virginia HartComment

I have thoroughly enjoyed working as a Bella Figura calligrapher this year, and I adore the rest of the Bella team so very much! As much as I also enjoy working directly with clients and companies to bring their visions to life, I've been able to contribute to more suites and designs since this partnership, which has been wonderful.

I'd like to highlight a couple pieces from their new social album -- two adorable baby announcements:

This one ^ is appropriately called Berry and was designed by Sierra Detrick, featuring my Marlow calligraphy.  I love the combo of the painted strawberries and the speckled liner! Fun fact about my Marlow style -- I use a paintbrush to write it.

And then thisss one ^ is called Stardust. And, y'all, it has a unicorn!!! Designed by Katie McCutcheon with my Ginny calligraphy style, it combines a pale pink letterpress ink with pearl shine foil stamping on the stars for a secret little surprise! And in case I wasn't obsessed enough, the liner is ombre pink. As you can see, you can also order matching stationery - I really like the clever placement for the name!

Be sure and also check out the rest of their designs here if you need a birth announcement, shower invitation, christening invitation, etc! Keep in mind that everything is customizable. And if you order something requesting one of my calligraphy styles, I'll be over here calligraphing the special details behind the scenes. :)

You can read more about Bella's wedding suite designs that feature my calligraphy in my blog post here, but below are some helpful images to see all the additional suite pieces you can order!


all photos from Bella Figura