Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Paint with all the Colors of the Wind

(Do you like how two of my recent entries have titles that are lyrics of Pocahantas songs?)

I am struggling A LOT to find an apartment to live in come August, but luckily I will not be struggling to decorate my walls if/when I actually find a place and move. As you may recall, I took a painting class with Nicole in December, I also recently stole a painting from my parents’ house that my dad did in college, and I just took a BYOB watercolor class with Emily last week. Just like the first painting class I took, this one was available via a deals site, this time through GoogleOffers, and just like last time, I almost let it expire and then had to rush to use it in a particularly busy month. The class was at Michiyo Art Studio in Tribeca. Emily and I used another one of my almost-expired deals to get drinks and appetizers in the West Village beforehand. If we hadn’t done this, we probably would have bought a bottle of wine for class, but we were all set, trust me.

The studio on Franklin Street is very small and down a few stairs. We were in the class with another girl our age, one a little older with her mother, and two dudes. The owner, Michiyo, was at the studio but she seemed to be watching the instructor John do one of his first classes as he taught us how to do everything and she corrected him every once in a while. We were given a guide of a painting with a few fir trees in a fields with mountains and clouds in the background, a setup of colors and brushes, and a blank canvas.

Just like in the last painting class I took, everything was done step-by-step so that no one could really mess up. If we did something a little too extreme, there were plenty of ways to fix it, by blotting the paint or putting a hairdryer to our painting or just going over what we did again. 

I definitely like this painting better than the one I did in the last class. Maybe because it is smaller or not as boldly colored. I think it will look awesome on the wall of my new place. And if I don’t find an apartment, can I please put it up above your couch when I am forced to move in with you?


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wear Two Socks (in case you get a hole in one)

One of the thousands of things I love about NYC is that people have really thought about what city life is missing and they've developed places for city dwellers to experience the joys that suburban life holds without having to drive over a bridge or through a tunnel (the horror). For example, the city developers way back when deciding that Central Park needed to be in existence, or the offering of kayaking on the Hudson, or the sports facilities available at Chelsea Piers. It's been on my to-do list (although no one suggested it for my 28 Things list) to go to the driving range at Chelsea Piers for quite some time.

My golfing experience can basically be summed up in three bullets:
  • Going to some LPGA tournaments with my dad a few times during the '90s. My dad and I both thought it would be really cool if I turned into the next Annika Soremstam but both thankfully gave up that goal - I have enough on my plate already.
  • Working at a miniature golf course / ice-cream parlor when I was 15 and managing the entire place myself AND unwillingly babysitting the owners' daughter during my shifts for a total of $7.00 an hour.
  • Participating in the National Honor Society miniature golf tournament during which my team cheated and we ended up all winning t-shirts from the local surf shop.Yes, the National HONOR Society, and we CHEATED. Not my proudest moment, but it also wasn't my idea. I was a follower at that point in my life.
Last Sunday, I was hanging out with Nicole and Dave when Mendy called and wanted to play. We couldn't think of anything to do and settled on just meeting up in Chelsea. Mendy had suggested the High Line but I boycotted that because I had already been there twice that week. By the time we got down to Chelsea, Mendy had decided on the driving range at Chelsea Piers and we were all for it. Mendy and his friend Scott put our name in but we were around number 80 and the next one up was still in the 40s so we sat outside and chatted for a while, threw a football around, and tried to get a dog on one of the boats to bark at us. I also called my dad for some tips and to wish him a Happy Father's Day (mostly to wish him a Happy Father's Day because I knew I wouldn't remember the tips by the time we were called). We also went into the Golf Club and ate some free squash and sweet potato chips and drank some free soda. There was some sort of viewing party for the US Open and we wanted in on the goodies.

Our turn finally came and we were sent up to the second level of the driving range. Mendy gave me a quick lesson and I have to say, I actually didn't do *too* terribly. I used to go to the driving range every once in a while with my old man or my Allie Bear. My main problem on Sunday was that I would bend my knees but as I swung back, I would stand up straight again. There were also a few times I wasn't gripping correctly and I would hit the "green" instead of the ball but that just really meant I got an extra swing, so go me!

We had purchased $50 ball cards and I got one $5 card for free for checking in on Foursquare (see! it has benefits!) so we had about 200 hits between the five of us and took turns. It worked out pretty well, each of us hit five at a time and while I could have swung more at the end of it, I was also ready to go get some grub at Chelsea Market:

We finished the day off at a friend's apartment's amazing rooftop which made me (a) really jealous and (b) really proud of my beautiful city! That weekend was my three-year anniversary of moving to the NYC area and it was a nice nightcap to an incredible three years of living here. I don't know what I would do without New York. (Yes, Stumbles, you can tease me about that line.)

Manhattan from Hoboken, a few weeks into my first summer in the area

Three years later.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Ain't Saying She a Gold Digger

At the end of March, my friend Kyle at work emailed a bunch of us to organize a tour of the Federal Reserve Bank of NY. Space was limited and we were not able to get on FRB’s calendar until June, but we still signed up. I later chatted with Kyle about my 28 Things list and we decided that since I wouldn’t have signed up for the tour without his initial email and since we hadn’t gone on it yet, that it should count. If you disagree, please take it up with my lawyers.

#4 Visit the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

I was hoping our visit would be like the visits Harry Potter and his friends take to Gringott’s Bank. I imagined taking a roller-coaster-like ride down into the vaults in minecars and walking into giant secure rooms filled with ornate swords and challices and maybe some priceless items that duplicate themselves when you touch them (image below). Unfortunately, this was not the case. There were also, sadly, no dragons as far as I could tell.

Although it is no Gringotts, the Federal Reserve building in the Financial District is beautiful and very secure. We had to go through airport-like security and were warned repeatedly that we were not allowed to take any pictures. But after we were in, we were let loose in an exhibit called Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars: The History of Money where there were thousands of coins and monetary objects from history. It's really amazing to think about how they used some form of money in seemingly every society across the globe and to see some of the currencies used back in the day, including painted-on seashells which were exchanged as recently as last century.

The tour started with a small history of economics, finance, banking, and of course the Federal Reserve Bank itself and what they do. As listed on the Federal Reserve Bank of NY's website, the Fed is responsible for:
  • formulating and executing monetary policy,
  • supervising and regulating depository institutions,
  • providing an elastic currency,
  • assisting the federal government's financing operations, and
  • serving as the banker for the U.S. government.
After the finance lesson, we were finally able to go down to the vaults to see the gold reserves. This was of course, the cool part of the tour and everyone was looking forward to it. We took an elevator down 80 feet underground, which doesn't seem that low, but it is five stories underneath street-level, three stories below subway-level, and probably the lowest I will ever be in NYC. The vault is built on top of the bedrock of Manhattan so don't even think about getting down below the vault and drilling into it from underneath. This is another idea of what I wanted the vault to look like:

The Federal Reserve Bank vault is actually a little different than Scrooge McDuck's. There are about 7,000 tons of gold bars in the vault; each one weighs 28 pounds and is worth between $600,000 and $700,000 depending on the value of gold that day. Today, 95% of the gold bars there are owned by foreign nations and only 5% is owned by the United States or organizations like the IMF. The video playing in the FRB and the data on the website says it is 98/2% but this has changed in the last few years.

When gold transactions are made between countries, workers at the FRB physically weigh and move each bar from compartment to compartment. They have to wear special metal shoe-covers over their shoes so that they will not get hurt if they drop anything on their toes. It makes me wonder if at one point, a worker's foot was smashed during one of these transactions.

Seeing the gold reserves was definitely cool, but for some reason I thought we would be able to walk through the vault and all we got to do was go down into a room where we could see it through gates. The gold bars themselves actually looked really fake as if they were just spray-painted. It was a little strange because the tour itself was a little anti-climactic considering the value of the gold and what goes on down there. I think they could have used some dragons.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Flowers are a Girl's Best Friend

Just kidding, suitors, I still prefer diamonds. BUT, flowers definitely are pretty sometimes and in some places, like on the High Line, for example. I told you in my last post that I would be writing this post if everything went as planned, and it did, so here you go!

Last week, I received an email from "The Green Team" at work. Little known fact, when I worked in Delaware, where they don't have mandatory recycling, I started the recycling program for our entire site of over 1,000 people. It began as me loading all the cans and bottles from the cafeteria into the trunk of my Ford Focus and ended with us paying a guy and his truck each month to pick it up so that I didn't have to do that for more than a few weeks. Anyway, the email was to offer a tour of the High Line with an "expert gardener" with the Nature Conservancy Young Professionals Group so Carrie and I decided to sign up.

We left work and walked up the west side and got distracted by a film crew catering truck. We snooped around and saw a sign that they were filming "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." I had learned from twitter earlier that week that Ben Stiller had been filming this movie in the West Village. We followed our stalker instincts, took a few turns, and walked almost into an older woman who I knew was famous. I nudged Carrie and the woman saw me do so and gave me a raised-eyebrows look. I couldn't think of her name at the time, but it was Shirley MacLaine. We turned another corner and saw Ben Stiller walking on the other side of the street. He walked behind a long truck and we sprinted while he was behind it so that when he came out we could get a good view. I didn't get an awesome picture, but he's the short guy in the middle with black pants.

After our little detour, we were running pretty late. We high-tailed it to the High Line as quickly as our legs could carry us and got to the meeting spot right at 6:15, panting and sweating profusely. The tour was really cool and probably for just a half hour or so, but I learned a lot and even actually am able to identify the plants I took pictures of, so I'm proud of that. There are a gazillion different plants along the High Line and when my parents and I were walking it this past weekend we were quite impressed with the variety. 

Some Things I Learned on the High Line:
  • When the developers were figuring out what to do with the High Line, they wanted a real fusion of the city and the environment. 
  • They wanted to keep the native plants that had seeded over the years but also needed to pick plants that would survive living 30 feet above the ground. 
  • Some areas of the park have shade during different times of the day because of the buildings, but some are in direct sunlight throughout the whole day. For that reason, there are a lot of prairie plants on the High Line.
  • The Sassafras tree has three different leaves, one that looks like a mitten, one that is full, and one that has three parts.
  • Echinacea is a flower (? - had no idea) and has a cone head so when the petals wilt, you can take them off and still have a good-looking flower.
  • There are trees in the "pea" family and pea-pods grow out of their trunks.
  • The American holly tree doesn't grow berries unless there are both a male and female tree close enough to each other.
I instagrammed the heck out of most of these. Enjoy.

butterfly milkweed

Sally Holmes rose


Mexican feather grass
foxtail lily

Visions in Pink Chinese astilbe

Okay, I had to look up that last one. So sue me. Just please let me keep my diamonds.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Just around the Riverbend

My parents came to visit this weekend and I was so excited to spend my Saturday with them. I won't be able to make it home for the rest of the month because of my charity event and two weddings and I was at my college reunion last weekend. It was so nice of them to drive up so that I didn't have to travel two weekends in a row because I get overwhelmed with things like that easily. I'm working on it. So we celebrated Father's Day a weekend early and did the item my dad suggested for my 28 Things list yesterday.

#3 Kayak on the Hudson

One of the first things I'm sure my dad would like for you to know about him is that he is a kayaking champion. He has the trophies and medals to prove it. I've always really liked going out in the boats with him and my sister so it made sense that my dad would chose kayaking for his 28 Things submission.

After my parents got to my apartment and we ate our Wawa hoagies (yes, with all the awesome food in NYC, we still eat Wawa hoagies each time they come up), we walked a few avenues over to Pier 96 on the west side and 56th Street. The New York City Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking from May - October every weekend and weekday evenings. I've actually been wanting to try this out the last two summers but never took the plunge, so I was really looking forward to crossing this off my list. When I told people what I was doing this weekend though, they all made a face and warned me not to fall in. The Hudson doesn't have the best reputation for cleanliness but it is definitely a lot cleaner than it used to be. Plus, my friend jumped in it a few summers ago and he has not grown any extra limbs yet, so I wasn't too worried.

My mom decided to stay on the dock while my dad and I went out. We had to each acknowledge that we could swim, sign a waiver, and put on lifejackets. The women helping us out told us how to paddle, which my dad just smiled politely in response to as I tried really hard not to roll my eyes. We went out in a double kayak because I wanted to be able to chat while we were out there, but my mom said while we were out, the women were looking at us in awe saying that we knew what we were doing and should have taken singles out.

It was really fun and I definitely want to try and get out there again this season. The river was obviously a lot calmer than the ocean where I've kayaked most recently. Even in our local river, there are more waves, but we did catch a few from a Circle Line boat tour. We were probably out for a half hour - my arms were hurting because I am not awesome at keeping up a normal workout schedule and we didn't want to leave Mom on the dock too long, but it was enough time to try it out.  It's cool to add to the list of places I've been kayaking with my dad since that's something special I really enjoy doing with him.

It started to rain almost right when we got out of the water. After going back to my apartment and changing, we took a cab down to Chelsea Market and walked around there for a while, shopped, listened to some musicians, and ate some ice cream. My parents thought the market was as cute as I do.

We then walked along the High Line and they were really impressed with it. They enjoyed the views, the flowers, and being above the city. Luckily the sun came out just in time for us to have a lovely stroll together.


I will actually be writing more about the High Line this next week if everything goes as planned so stay tuned, folks!

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