Sunday, March 31, 2013

March Recap

The month of March is supposed to come in like a lion and out like a lamb. Maybe Mother Nature is confused with her animals, because this March has not gone out like a lamb. At best, it has gone out like a lion who was raised by humans (see below - get your tissues ready), a lion who is a little nicer and tamer than a normal lion, but is still, at its core, a lion.


This March was full of me trying to achieve my goals - although I don't really know a month when I'm not trying to achieve my growing list of goals. I've been working on a secret project (that must remain secret for the time being). I've been running a lot to prepare me for the Atlantic City 7K in six days (yikes). I've been meticulously planning how on Earth I'm ever going to finish my 28 Things (spoiler alert: I think I'm going to). 

Have fanny pack, will run.
March was also full of catching up with old friends - a dinner and drinks with my fabulous college roomie Georgia, two lovely afternoons with my darling Jenna, and a brunch with some homegirls and a frousin. There was also a fantastic and random St. Patrick's day which included finally see a great college friend I hadn't seen since he moved away from me and New York, an ice luge, secret pizza, and my friend Chris dressed up like a unicorn-leprechaun, naturally.




The Empire State Building was looking mighty fine this month - decked out in all green for St. Patty's Day, with the lights turned off for the worldwide Earth Hour event on March 23rd, and in pastels for Easter this very evening.




I also of course enjoyed a wonderful Easter celebration with the framily (friends + family) and can't wait to see many of them (including my fantastic parents) for the race next weekend in the homeland. I love you New York, but sometimes a girl has to go home and smell that ocean air.

xo

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Meals on Wheels

Most items on my 28 Things have been one-timers, things that, once finally scheduled with the people who have been dying to do them with me, only take a few hours. This list item was more of a challenge than that. Emily suggested that I eat food trucks for the entire weekend - three meals a day, each day of the weekend, only from food trucks, but because Emily knows me so well, I was allowed to supplement with late night cheese fries if I found it necessary to do so (which I did on Saturday night). Challenge accepted.

#22 Eat from food trucks for a whole weekend


Friday Dinner - Usually at happy hour with the biddies, I fill up on the bar's homemade popcorn and chips while sipping vodka-sprites, but I started my challenge right after work and didn't allow myself to eat them this time. Not snacking actually got me a little more tipsy than usual so when I finally realized I needed to go home, I skipped down to the Urban Lobster Shack truck hanging out on Greenwich Street in Tribeca which I had seen earlier that day. It was a little late and when I got there I had to knock on the window. "Are you still serving?" I asked, anxiously. "For you? Yes." said the kind gentleman inside. I ordered the Garlic Lobster Roll for $14 but you have to treat yo'self once in a while (or every day). This truck hangs around work quite frequently in the spring, so I knew what I was in for. I hopped in a cab and went home to enjoy it the garlicky meaty treat.



Saturday Breakfast - I knew from Twitter that Cinnamon Snail, a vegan truck a friend recommended, was going to be in Union Square so I headed over there when I woke up. The order in my head changed about five times while waiting in line because there was so much on the menu that I found intriguing. I settled with the blue corn pancakes with pine nut butter and Vermont maple syrup ($9), the salted Caramel Dutch Cocoa Coffee ($3), and the 2011 Vendy Award winner: the Maker's Mark Bourbon Creme Brûlée Doughnut ($3). I think that I was given a regular coffee instead of the specialty one I ordered, but the rest of the meal was absolutely fantastic. I would eat those pancakes any day of the week. If you ate the doughnut each day, you'd be way too sugared up, but no wonder it's award-winning. It had a creme brûlée burnt sugar hard topping and a surprisingly amazing whiskey-flavored cream in the middle.


Saturday Lunch - I hung out around Union Square after breakfast to run some errands, buy some new running gear, catch up with the 'rents on the phone, sign a few petitions, and watch a movie being filmed. There was a Gorilla Cheese (cute) truck parked right in front of Cinnamon Snail so I thought I might as well cross lunch off my list while I was there, even if it was only a few hours after my filling breakfast. I ordered the Spicy Buffalo Chicken with smoked mozzarella on white bread combo for $10 which came with tater tots and a drink. I ended up bringing it home and popping it in the toaster oven a little later. The tots were probably from a bag, but were still good, and the sandwich could easily hold its own in a grilled cheese competition.


Saturday Dinner - This was my biggest challenge of the weekend. I walked uptown to a few spots where I thought food trucks might congregate - Madison Square Park, Herald Square, around Penn Station, but didn't find anything. Maybe on a normal spring or summer day they would be there, but I was having trouble this particular chilly evening. I passed several hot dog, pretzel, and halal carts, but I felt like these didn't count toward the challenge because they weren't "trucks" and didn't even have Twitter feeds. After an hour of walking and cursing Emily in my head (JK girl, lub you), I ended up walking back down to Union Square to see if a raw food truck I had seen hanging around earlier was still there. I found myself at The Squeeze and wasn't entirely hungry yet from my late lunch so I got a PB&J bottled shake with "alkalized water, organic raspberries, organic strawberries, organic peanut butter, organic dates, organic maca, hemp protein, and himalayan sea salt" for $8. For sounding so healthy, it was actually really yummy and just what I needed before a night out.


Sunday Breakfast - I meant to eat from different food trucks the whole weekend, but Kater stayed over and we went back to Union Square to eat, figuring we'd find something different, but the only truck there at the time was Cinnamon Snail again. The other breakfast truck I would have gone to, any of the fabulous Wafels and Dinges trucks (which I eat at least twice a month), were all the way uptown or in Queens, so I decided this was okay, as long as I ordered something different. This time, I got the Classic Breakfast Burrito with scrambled tofu, refried beans, pico de gallo, and avocado ($8), a mint chocolate coffee with vegan marshmallows ($3) and the truck guy's favorite pastry, a Raspberry Blowout doughnut ($3). I liked the pancakes the day before better, but the burrito was flavorful and nothing to shake a fist at.


Sunday Lunch - I wandered over to SoHo mid-afternoon and found myself surrounded by trucks. I clearly should have gone down there Saturday evening when I was looking for dinner, but it all worked out. I got a late lunch from Phil's Steaks. I ordered the American Steak with white American cheese for $6.75 plus a Snapple for $2. I liked that this truck had two sizes, I felt like I had been getting too large of servings from all the other places. I didn't love the sandwich, but I think that's an aspect of the cheesesteak as a food in general and maybe the fact that I'm not a fan of anything from Philadelphia (except a few friends). So this shouldn't be a reflection of the truck. I just prefer my red meat in other forms.


Sunday Snack - I felt a little guilty about going to the same place for breakfast both days, so when I passed the NYC Love Truck, I decided to get a drink. I ordered a mint hot chocolate for $3.75 and was really happy about both the warmth and the taste.

Sunday Dinner - After hanging out around SoHo for a little bit, I went to the Tribeca Taco Truck (a misnomer) which was parked right down the street from Phil's Steaks. The $3 tacos intrigued me because the prices were so much cheaper than all my other meals. They were out of a few things but I ordered a Pollo Asado taco with grilled seasoned chicken and a Carnitas taco with slow braised pork, both with avocado and chipotle crema sauces. I brought this home with me and reheated it later and was pleasantly surprised. The tacos were delicious, I think I had been expecting just average food since they were so inexpensive.


Sunday Dessert - I walked down to one more colorful truck before heading back to my place, not knowing what it was, and it turned out to be the Brooklyn Popcorn Truck. I sampled the ketchup popcorn, but ended up ordering a bag with a mix of jalapeno and cheddar flavors. They also had salt and vinegar, butter, and caramel popcorn. The bags cost $5 and I will definitely be going back to that truck. The jalapeno has quite a kick and smells a lot and people on the subway looked at me strangely when I got on because of the smell, but it is kind of addicting.

My favorite out of all of these? Good question. The food item I'm thinking about the most right now is the blue corn pancakes from Cinnamon Snail. I would actually eat from all of these again, except maybe Phil's Truck but again, this is just because I don't like cheesesteaks that much. Cheesesteak fans should still try it out.

It was more challenging to find food trucks in an unusually cold March weekend than in the middle of summer. I kept seeing trucks from afar and then walking up to them to find out they were ConEd or piping trucks of some sort. This was especially disappointing Saturday evening. I also had tweeted a bunch of trucks I'd been dying to try who tweeted me back saying that they weren't open on the weekends. A travesty if there ever is one. I'll have to try them all sometime when I have time during the week instead.

What do I think is one of the most important components of a good food truck? Charming employees. The most charming of all the trucks I went to was definitely one of the guys at Brooklyn Popcorn Truck who kind of made my day. Second place goes to the guy at the Cinnamon Snail who I got to see twice. Email me, gentlemen.

xo

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Up in the Air

As I mentioned in my Dylan's Candy Bar post, Kat and I were there to stock up for a "long journey" for #21 on my 28 Things. The "long journey" was actually just a trip to Roosevelt Island, but we were leaving *our* island, and for us in the bitter cold, that was a big deal.

#21 Take the tram to Roosevelt Island


After a lack-luster brunch at Les Halles, Kat and I took the 6 train up to 59th Street. The tram entrance is at 59th and 2nd and I had no idea it even existed until Mendy put this on my list. We swiped our metrocards and waited for just a few minutes while we watched the tram come in from Roosevelt and then grabbed window seats for the ride, which lasted all of five minutes, but was pretty cool. 






It seemed like most people who rode the tram got right back on and took it back to Manhattan. But I had googled "things to do on Roosevelt Island" and came up with a few options: a historic hospital, an old insane asylum, and a lighthouse, so Kat and I stayed to explore a little.

We went to the Roosevelt Island Historical Society booth and picked up a cute little hand-drawn map for $1 and hopped on the bus for a quarter. We were clearly not in Kansas anymore with those prices. The bus took us to the north end and we got off at the Octagon, which used to be the NYC Lunatic Asylum in the 1800s but is now luxury condos. I imagine it's quite haunted, but is very pretty and looks like a great place to live aside from the ghosts.


The coolest part of the island aside from the tram seemed to be the lighthouse but when Kat and I walked up a little further north, we were met with fences and the realization that we couldn't get anywhere near it. We thought maybe there had been some damage to the island during Hurricane Sandy but who knows. At this point, we decided to just walk along the river back to the tram and call it a day. It was really too cold to be walking around as long as we had been so we promised to come back in the summer and have a nicer walk another time.


Just as Kat and I had had several questions about the Professional Bull Riding Championships, we had a long list of questions about Roosevelt Island. What is the rent like? Is it a premium to live on the island because it is quiet or is it cheaper because the commute is probably annoying? Do people commute every day or do they work on the island? Are there people who live there and never leave? Does the tram run into the night? In all weather? Is there a good frozen yogurt shop? Do taxis go there? What is it like to date a guy who lives there?

Before starting our long journey back home, we took a few moments to sit down and watch the 59th Street Bridge while listening to "The 59th Street Bridge Song" by my favs, Simon and Garfunkel. Here's a video; you're welcome.


Hope you're all feeling groovy after that one. I know I am.

xo

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sweet like Candy to my Soul

I have an extreme sweet tooth. A day is not complete without half a tray of brownies, seven or eight Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs, or a package of Lifesavers gummies. Don't worry, I'm actually starting to eat heathier, although I need to take a break this weekend for one of my 28 Things challenges. Last weekend I took a break as well because when Kat heard that I had never been to Dylan's Candy Bar, she was appalled so I had to redeem myself and put it on the list.

#20 Go to Dylan's Candy Bar


On Sunday, Kat and I needed to pack some snacks for the long journey we were about to take for #21 on my list and decided to kill two birds and go to Dylan's on the way. Somehow I've always had self-control each time I've walked by this magical candy paradise, which I clearly don't normally have.



Dylan's has about every kind of candy you could imagine, but I didn't want to get anything that I could easily purchase at Duane Reade and I happened to be in a particular mood for gummy candy that day. And I went to the right place - there were gummies in every shape you'd ever want - letters, animals, princess crowns, bears of every color - and some you wouldn't want for any reason but I got anyway - teeth and chicken feet. I got tons of different types of gummies (including sharks and turtles because sealife gummies are the best) and some piña colada fruit twists and rock candy for good measure.



The bulk candy is all $12.99 a pound and my sweets came in at just about one pound. The price is worth it to "treat yo'self" plus we got to rock out to tunes like "I Want Candy" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me" while we were browsing. I'm glad to have finally experienced Dylan's Candy Bar, but now I'm also nervous that I'm going to go there every few days and refill my stash. All I have left are three chicken feet, one turtle, one gummy teeth, and three pieces of cotton candy rock candy. And that's only going to last me another few minutes.

xo

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You Oughta be in Pictures

For a few years in high school, I was convinced I was going to become a famous film director. I had made several films with my frousins, neighbors, and in school. I had a notebook full of opening scenes for movies. I practiced my Oscar speech in the mirror. This dream eventually went the way of other dreams, like being in the Olympics, becoming Miss America, and being elected the first female president. As it's turned out, I am a terrible athlete, I'm too old to be Miss America, and I probably have too many pictures on Facebook playing beer pong to become president (including some with my grandmother at the family's Easter BP tournament, but that's a story for another day). Recently, I spent some time at the Museum of the Moving Image as part of my 28 Things list, and I think I could make it in the movie business with the skills I learned there.

#19 Go to the Museum of the Moving Image

With Mrs. Doubtfire's face

This suggestion came from my frousin Christie who lives in Astoria and has been trying to get me to go out there more often. It's easy to hibernate and not leave Manhattan in the winter, but I decided to venture out last weekend and to meet my friend Jessica who lives in Queens as well. It should have taken just a half hour but I had a horrific time getting there and it took me almost an hour and a half. Thanks, MTA.

Once I relaxed a little from my journey by catching with Jessica in the museum cafe, we ended up having a fantastic time. The museum has displays about every aspect of the industry that I could think of: the history of film, cameras, television sets, and lighting; walls of famous actor portraits; makeup, costumes, sound, music, special effects, merchandising, theaters, and on and on.





The best aspect of the museum was that it was so interactive. Jessica and I danced in front of a screen for a few seconds and got a print-out of our dance so we could make it into a flip book. We were going to take it out with us that night as a conversation piece, but we didn't want it to get spilled on or stolen. It's that good.



In the sound section of the museum, there were a bunch of interactive displays but there was a wait for most of them. People were recording their own dialogue in famous scenes and choosing their own music to go with other scenes. We managed to get to the sound effects display at the right time and chose our own sounds for a scene in Home Alone 2 and had some giggles with what we had selected when our scene was played back to us.


We recorded our own stop-action animation videos filmed frame-by-frame so it took a few minutes just to make a few seconds worth of each movie, if you can call them movies. The videos were e-mailed to us so they can be shared with the world:

video


video

I mean, based on my stop-action animation skills alone, I would say I have quite a career in film in my future. Maybe I'll add this back on my list o' dreams.

xo

Sunday, March 17, 2013

This is my Sorry for 2013

I was told I should lead with Ruben Studdard, that he was the most exciting part of this story.

I inadvertantly left out this important detail at first when gabbing with my girlfriends at brunch last week about Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. This task was suggested for my 28 Things by David (who accompanied me to The Moth).

#18 Go to Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater

Ruben Studdard (winner of the second season of American Idol) was the special guest star at opening night for this season's Amateur Night. He sang amazing renditions of two classics, Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" (which the woman next to me got a little too into) and Luther Vandross' "Superstar." To answer your first question, yes, this is what he is doing with his life. To answer your second question, yes, he still looks the same.


About an hour before Ruben came on stage, Rohan and I walked into the Apollo Theater on 125th Street in Harlem and immediately felt like we were at a bizarrely themed bar or bat mitzvah. A DJ was on stage and people were standing in their seats dancing emphatically to terrible music from the early 2000s. Then four people were invited on stage to participate in a dance competition. It was all fairly awkward, and just continued being awkward when the host of the show, Comedian Capone, finally came out. He wasn't as funny as he thought he was, but I have to give him credit because I think I'm funnier than anyone else thinks, too.

The premise of Amateur Night at the Apollo is six performers each week, first place continues on in the competition, winner is crowned during the last week, and he or she receives $10,000. The audience is allowed to boo the competitors off the stage if necessary and the winner is voted by the most applause / loudest noise at the end of the evening. Before the competition began, there was a showcase of youth talent, where two 13-year-olds and one 11-year-old each sang. The 11-year-old was my favorite performer of the night and the one I cheered the loudest for. The crowd was told not to boo the kids so that we didn't crush their spirits, although I hope people wouldn't have even without the warning.

The actual adult competition had a male rapper, a male saxophone player, a male singer, two female singers, and a female singer with a guitar. No one got booed off the stage completely, but people were booing at least during the rapper and the female singer with the guitar. If I had to pick someone to win it would be the saxophonist, but I have to say, I wasn't that into any of them. One of the male singers won. I had been expecting to hear the next Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, or Mariah Carey, all who performed during Amateur Nights before being discovered (although presumably, not on the same night). I would have even settled for the next Ne-Yo. Unfortunately, the performers were not up to my impossible-to-meet standards.

Erin was not impressed.

(White House photo | Pete Souza)

xo

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Two Perfect Days in Phuket - Day 2

As incredible as our first tour with Phuket Sail Tours was, I think the next day was even better. This is probably because it involved two of my new favorite things, 1) animal experiences, and 2) doing things I didn't think I could do.

The first stop was Maya Bay, the setting for the Leo DiCaprio movie "The Beach." This gorgeous beach becomes very crowded throughout the day and we got there just in time to enjoy it before the masses came. We jumped on the white sandy beaches, explored, and found the spirit houses. Spirit houses were all over Thailand. They believe that when you build something, you disrupt the spirits and need to make sure they have a place to live. So you will see little doll-house sized homes for spirits in front of every dwelling, temple, and most businesses.







The most embarrassing moment of the day was when we had a photo opp to jump off the boat into a beautiful lagoon in front of the gorgeous scenery. I'm not a great swimmer despite growing up at the beach and spending three summers in the beginning swim class before begging my mom to let me stop. I also apparently don't like heights that much (as learned on my elephant ride) and have to hold my nose when I get to the water or I freak out and can't breathe, so jumping in a non-awkward way for the photo was going to be difficult.

When it was my turn, my body just froze completely. It would not move along with my thoughts and I panicked. I let others go in front of me. I didn't think I'd be able to do this and I didn't really understand why. I tried again a few minutes later and froze just a little this time and jumped off in probably the least graceful way possible. It wasn't great, but I was in the water and I was okay. So I got up and tried again, and this time, I froze so much that the tour guide got up and threw me into the water. I forced myself to try two more times without being scared because I couldn't understand what I was so nervous for and I felt absolutely ridiculous. If I had been able to jump one more time I think I would have gotten it but the boat had places to go and monkeys to feed.


We got to Monkey Beach before any other tour boats got there and fed the monkeys lychee fruit (which prior to Asia I had only had in martinis). This was another occasion in which volunteering to go first was a good decision. Once all the other tourists got the island, they were all competing for the monkeys' affection, but Katie and I were able to bond with our new friends without much distraction as two of the first in our group to volunteer.



The other thing I wasn't sure I'd be able to do was snorkeling. I had done it ten or so years before while in Puerto Rico, but had quit after just a few minutes the day before. This tour had a bunch of different snorkeling opportunities and I didn't want to miss out again. I learned that you have to spit in the goggles to make them not fog up which made me feel a little better while underwater that I wasn't going to swim into a family of sharks. I also got the breathing down after thirty seconds of panicking. I was able to enjoy it and swim right up to the fishies and through caves and around the coral. We brought bananas with us in the water and people were breaking pieces off to give to their fishies but I realized if I just held the banana in front of me that swarms would come and hang out. That was pretty cool. And now I won't be panicked to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef whenever I end up there (hopefully within the next two years).


Feeding animals and doing things you didn't think you could will make a good day out of any day, but *especially* of a day where you also get to see scenery like this all around:





One of the upcoming items on my 28 Things is going to test this fear of heights/falling thing again. Kat and I are signing up tomorrow and I hope I don't freeze again like I did on the boat. Don't worry, it's not as crazy as bungee jumping or skydiving, but it does involve flying through the air with the greatest of ease. I've said too much.

xo
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