BLOGMAS DAY 8: The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2016

When I was thinking of things to do for BLOOMS DAY 8 I was sat at my computer one night (look at the sheer exhaustion on my face, daily blogging clearly isn't for the fainthearted!) looking for gifts for friends and family when I thought of doing a gift guide! I've seen quite a few people mention on social media that they love these kinds of festive blogs and that they really help when thinking of things to buy a loved one, for people in the family or for Secret Santa! I thought here on NevNYC I would collate some ideas in different sub-categories that would be helpful to those who really are lost for what gifts to buy! I've tried to pick products and links to websites that purchases can be made both from America and the United Kingdom however not all of the links are able to do so, however you can still browse the products and buy them from your preferred retailer!

Men's Fashion Faves

Women's Fashion Faves

Gino's Top Picks

Books & Stationary

Gadgets & Electronics

Mens Grooming 

Beauty & Fragrance

Stocking Stuffers

I really hope this gift guide is somewhat of use to you all and that you find some things you might not have thought of! I really loved sitting and getting all the items together and actually in the process found so many great items I think might end up in some peoples stockings this year! Let me know if you enjoyed this post and I'll be sure to do other ones in the future!! 



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BLOGMAS DAY 6: New York in December Part 1

I think out of all the BLOGMAS posts I had planned, this little three part series was one of the ones I was most excited to shoot and share with you guys! A huge part of my love for Christmas comes from the complete magic that is in the city during the festive season. Walking around the streets is like being on the set of Christmas movies like Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Elf and of course Miracle on 34th Street! I thought that this year I would share with you guys some of the New York hotspots I highly recommend visiting during the festive season!! 

This time last year I was psychotically running around the streets of Manhattan with my faces pressed against the windows of department stores. You could find me under the Rockefeller Christmas Tree mesmerised by the twinkly lights or repeatedly wandering around the Bryant Park Christmas Market. All things Christmassy here in New York just makes me even more thankful for being here! NevNYC has been the perfect platform to share my delight and thanks for having this insane opportunity so there was no way I could do BLOGMAS whilst here in NYC and not share with you guys some of the incredible sights there is to see!!

1) Lord & Taylor - 424 5th Avenue, 10018


If you're in the Midtown area, swinging by Lord & Taylor to check out their windows is a MUST DO. I had never heard of the department store prior to last year as we don't have it in England, however when walking up 5th Avenue I was like a homing pigeon to the festive fairy lights that are wrapped around the awning outside, I mean it just makes for the perfect Christmassy picture! This year the theme for both the windows and the awning is "Enchanted Forest" and it is such a cute theme. Each window is animated and magical, I honestly could spend a solid hour looking in each window. I feel like one of those classic Christmas pictures of the children with their faces pressed against the windows. No seriously...that's me this year. 

The best thing for me about these windows is that they are not commercialised at all. Usually and rightly so, department store windows are selling something through their festive decorations but here you can just immerse yourself in the magic and I really really enjoy that! Make sure you check it out!!

2. Bryant Park Christmas Markets - 40th & 42nd Street


If you fancy a little escape from the streets of New York then the Bryant Park Christmas Market is the perfect place to do so! Reminiscent of the famous German Christmas Markets, there are rows and rows of bespoke gift shops, food and drink as well as places to pick up a Christmas ornament or two! It is so refreshing to wander round the little stalls and just take in the festive buzz in the air! What makes it so special is that right in the centre of the market is a huge ice rink! Surrounding the ice is views of the New York Public Library and it just makes it all the more special. Gino and I grabbed a coffee and pastry and wandered around for an hour just looking in each of the stalls, I had to pull him away from making crazy purchases! If you're looking for something to do on a weekday evening then I can't recommend this place enough! Both the market and the ice rink get incredibly busy during weekends so be sure to plan accordingly when making your visit! 

3. Saks Fifth Avenue - 611 5th Avenue, 10022


If you wander up 5th Avenue you can't help but notice a huge glow in the distance, as you get closer and closer you will recognise that it is Sak's 5th Avenue. This department store to me looked like that classical Christmas window. Garlands and lights frame each window and as you walk along you notice the intricate detail they have entered this year. In the side windows is the fashion windows with various displays of designer gowns. However right at the very front is the main event. In the windows you have the story of "The Nutcracker Sweet" a tale in-keeping with this years theme "Year of 1000 Delights", the whole store is BRIGHT! HOWEVER in recent years, Sak's Fifth Avenue has become renowned for is light show. And when I tell you that it is out of this world, I mean it!

If you cross the street to the beginning of the Rockefeller Plaza (which I will be showing in Part 2) and face back towards Sak's, your breath is literally taken away. Every 10 minutes there is a huge light show played to "Carol of the Bells", the festive sound echo's down 5th Avenue and you cant help but be completely taken of by the Christmas Magic. I highly recommend heading to the spot I have photographed which is in-between the fountains down in Rockefeller Plaza. There is a much smaller crowd there than at the very edge of the sidewalk up on 5th Avenue. I will say this area gets EXTREMELY busy, so be prepared for huge crowds and try and time it so that you go maybe a little bit later in the evening as crowds tend to disperse around 10PM and the light show continues on until 11PM!

I absolutely loved going on this little NYC Christmas Adventure with Gino, and I know he did too so I really hope you guys love this little mini-series too! I'm really looking forward to going out and shooting part two where I'm going to get photos and review even more iconic New York spots! 



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Film Sets, Exploring Dumbo & Busy Schedule!

Wow, what a week. Adjusting to this new busy schedule is somewhat fascinating, frustrating and rewarding. I feel like the past year has been as if I'm on a very fast train. Back in May when we finished first year we slowed down and stopped at a couple of stations all summer long and now in second year it's pulling out of the final station back on route. You know that sluggish slow feeling as the train gathers its full speed again. That's how I feel at the moment! Of course in typical Luke fashion I decided to fill up my past weekend with extra curricular activities that required me to wake up early on my days off! I signed up for Backstage, for the Brits who read my blog it's similar to our "Stage" or "Spotlight". It was actually kind of complementary to my Career Prep class to see character breakdowns for shows, first hand. I was flicking through the casting calls when I came across a call for 5 male "high school student" types for a feature film called "Epic Feud", shooting on Saturday at a high school in Brooklyn. Now I was unsure that I would still be able to pass for a high school student with my stubbly face, balding head and somewhat stocky build however it's crazy how young I look when clean shaved and short-haired. I ended up booking it! Fun! Now the role was unpaid, but credited. At this point and whilst on my current VISA this was perfect, plus my experience was baron in the Film region, so a credit in that field what welcomed greatly. 

We shot at a high school on the edge of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, a mere 10 minute bus ride from my house, perfect! It was so much fun spending the day on set! I'd been pre-warned that there is a lot of waiting around in film and TV in comparison to theatre, and they were correct however this allowed me to crack on with work for college, uninterrupted. When we got up and shot scenes for the movie it was SO. MUCH. FUN. It took us around an hour to shoot one 5 minute scene, and we did four of them, so it was a LONG but very rewarding day. 

After shooting I headed back home to get ready for Yazz and Sophie's birthday party. Back in first year, the McKibbon loft gang held the best parties so it was sooooo nice to head back to one, this time with Gino, no matter how tired I was! I swear Gino actually knew more kids from my school than I did. It was such a good night! 

Sunday was a weird but great one! Most Sunday's for the past 6 months is where Gino and I have had corresponding days off. Mornings spent with Bergen Bagels and afternoons spent strolling around Williamsburg or Green Point. However this Sunday, Gino had work. HOW DARE HE... Just kidding but yeah it was weird to wake up and him having already gone into work! #workinggirl. What was great though was that 3 of my friends from home, Andrew, his brother Phil and Joe were all visiting post-Camp America! I had a leisurely morning of line-learning and then the boys arrived around 2PM. It's always so nice to show people around Brooklyn as it's really somewhere that a lot of people don't visit when coming to NYC for the first time. 

I took them up to the roof so they could see the view, something I definitely take for granted. I really want to have some form of like wine/cocktail party up there for a blog one day. Maybe the 50th blog post of something.... we'll see ;) I then of course HAD to take them to Bergen Bagels and it is safe to say that they were not disappointed haha! 4 bagel, 3 iced coffees and 2 brownies later I think we were sufficiently fueled for the walk along to DUMBO. I've never shown visitors to DUMBO before so it was great to see their amazed reactions at the place before placing it in my future "Top 10 Things Tourists MUST DO in NYC" blog post. Keep your eyes out for that one! 

I honestly need to stop shooting blog posts here in DUMBO but there is just something about the environment that makes for an extremely reflective blog post. Oh well! The boys loved the area and then as it neared time for them to head back to Manhattan for their cruise, I walked them to the beginning of the Brooklyn Bridge and we went our seperate ways. 

One thing I love about being here is that whenever I have visitors or meet up with friends, it really feels like a shared, amazing experience. We can say together that we have spent time together in the City. It's always so bittersweet saying goodbye, excited in the knowledge that we will have an amazing time together when I am back in the United Kingdom but also kinda sad saying goodbye to people that were part of my life before NYC. Crazy thought process. THIS IS NOT A DEEP BLOG POST LUKE, CALM. DOWN. 

As Monday came back around the corner before I could even say the word "weekend", I felt myself getting ready for the busy week ahead. My second year schedule is CRAZY however in its manic format I have had to dive, head first into the work and focus on the year ahead. Exciting times!!

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

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Losing my Mojo (Creative Block)

For a week I've been hesitant to post this, and the many ways in which I've attempted to write about this topic. Mostly because, since starting this blog in May, I haven't experienced the usual appearance of creative block. As someone who hates feeling pessimistic or experiencing a lack of hope, I've had a really hard time with creative block for NevNYC and for the main reason I'm here in New York; Acting. 

I know "blah blah blah", "woe is me". One of the main reasons I was hesitant to post this was because I now there is so many worse things going on in the world and creative block is something so many creatives experience day-to-day and sadly is just a part of the career paths I have embarked on. 

This summer my focus has been somewhat "wack". Back in October of last year I scored an assisting job in the Summer Program Office of the school I study at. AMAZING! As a student currently on a F-1 VISA (a VISA where I can legally study in American, however cannot work, EXCEPT on campus), this was such awesome news. Regular hours, awesome colleagues and management. As the year has gone on my responsibilities have broadened and as we approached the start of our Summer Programs my schedule got busier and busier. When I finished my first year training on the Full-Time Acting program I swapped onto full-time hours on the program. It sounds like I'm complaining about my job, this is NOT what this blogs intention is, I love my job and I am very appreciative of the opportunities and experiences it offers me. 

The problem I have with situations like this, is I HATE half-assing anything. As the Summer Program becomes busier my attention and focus has been on my job. Meaning my hours dedicated to writing and shooting images have decreased. The hours dedicated to training have also decreased. I still allow myself time per day to warm up physically and vocally, but applying it practially has been tough. I'm so lucky to be surrounded by acting and theatre even within my side job, so it's not as if it's a lack of inspiration that has instigated this "drought", I believe it's a pure focus shift. 

Within the past two weeks I have hit a rock bottom regarding my creativity and channeling as well as having one of the most creatively stimulating weeks of my life. CONFUSING!  I am someone who does not like to live amongst negativity or pessimism so after a week of wallowing in self-pity and blog-neglect I decided to pull my finger out. No one else can make a change expect myself so I decided:

> The only person who can implement change in my own life, is myself. 
> Cut the crap - I've been eating a lot of junk food lately, so best thing to do is CUT. IT. OUT.
> Book our rehearsal spaces to go over singing rep and old dances/jazz combinations. 
> Sing at Jim Caruso's Cast Party at Birdland Jazz Club to reconnect the feeling of getting up and performing.
> Read more
> Write down more ideas
> Re-read old blog posts
> Clean, tidy and organise the apartment
> Explore more of Brooklyn
> Spend more time with Gino
> Find the time to sit and enjoy the apartment. 
> Appreciate more.

I have to say from the positive mindset I have now thankfully returned too, this list looks so wanky, but it helped! All these things factored in to me re-routing the way my mind was heading. I say this in almost every reflective blog post but for me, positivity is all about changing the mindset and the way you look at what you have and what your goals and aims are. One of the most beneficial things I did was to take a day to get everything back in check and back in line. I sat on my new sofa with my laptop and my notepad and just wrote everything out. Everything that I feel I am lacking, everything I've seen recently that has inspired or interested in me and everything that I want to do in the coming weeks. For some reason having it all written out really helped with implementing change. Setting up performing at Birdland really set my performance preparation routines back into check. SIDENOTE: If you haven't been along to Jim Caruso's Cast Party on Mondays at 9PM yet, you're missing out. Jim is such a wonderful host and the food/drinks are diviiiiine! I had so much fun getting up and singing again and it re-lit the little flame in me, right in time for second year! Also within the same week my friend Adam, who I go to school with asked if I would like to record a radio play that he had adapted. Erm...YES! We had so much fun recording the piece for Galaxy Radio Theatre, albeit EXTREMELY hot in the recording booth! 

After a follow-up week of being proactive and positive its safe to say I am in a much better place but BOY did I hate having a week like that. But I guess its the normal, some people are going through things way worse, obviously. And some people have longer bouts of frustration or creative block but I really make it my priority to not fall into those droughts, and every time I do, its an opportunity to learn what really pulls me up and out of those moments. 

Wow. I feel so much better after getting all that off my chest. Damn I'm sorry you guys had to sit through all that, half of it probably didn't even make any sense but y'know, I guess its all part of what we do and its something we all go through from time to time especially when we get into a routine!


In other news:

I've been working on some possible future YouTube stuff, and you can pre-subscribe to the channel here!

What do you guys think of a live stream Q&A either on my Facebook Page or my YouTube. I receive a lot of questions about living in NYC and thought it could be fun! Let me know! 

Last night was really really great. I currently have my friend Joel staying with me in our spare room before he heads back to the UK. Joel actually shot my blog post in Times Square and did such a great job, but yeah he stayed with us this past week and with last night being his last night in NYC we decided to do some cooking. I say US, but Gino and Joel really cooked up a storm in the kitchen last night. Be sure to check back this week on ExperiencingGino to see what he made.... But yeah last night was really great, we had friends round we all had some drinkies and played games, it was just the perfect Sunday Evening to set up for a great week. I spent Saturday re-organising and setting up the apartment with new furniture that we got. I'm going to be doing a separate apartment post where I will go into more detail as to how we acquired the furniture (it involves my friend Jess, a UHAUL truck and driving through the heart of Manhattan at the butt-crack of dawn). 

I got the new Harry Potter book, or play script. And I am SO freakin excited! I will be reading it over and over again for the next week!

But ANYWAY *raises Monday morning coffee* heres to a positive week of making things happen!


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