Thursday, November 21, 2013

I May Never See the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (and that's okay!)

The other week, one of my coworkers invited me to his apartment for Thanksgiving morning because his apartment overlooks the trail of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I thanked my friend for the invite but told him I was heading home to South Jersey for my favorite holiday ever. Because it is such an iconic NYC event, I would LOVE seeing the parade, but I have a feeling I will never see it in person. And that's okay!

My parents have hosted Thanksgiving for our extended family (the frousins & co.) for over 25 years - and I have been helping for one of those years. I think it became my favorite holiday when I was younger because it was the only one we didn't have to drive up to Trenton for. I could sleep a little later, didn't have to beg my dad to buy me a new notebook at the gas station to entertain myself for the two-hour drive, and I got to show off all my toys (or, later on, my *N Sync posters) to my cousins.

If you think my frousins and I are weird now, you should have seen us when we were younger. In 1992, we spent the day practicing every single word to the Aladdin soundtrack and then performing it to the adults (who I hope had all had some wine before sitting through it). I remember stopping the performance abruptly because some of the adults were not taking it seriously enough and kept interrupting by walking through our stage. A few years later, we started making original movies with super weird plots and characters. For some reason, I usually played a villain - most vividly, the leader of the aliens who kidnapped the stupid girl ("tonight is a good night for aliens!"). I also remember being cast as a set of twins who sang "The Boy is Mine" together while fighting over the male lead (Frousin Mike).

When we weren't making movies, we were busy drawing on giant rolls of paper strewn across the kitchen floor, making acorn rings outside, playing spoons or drugdealer (that's a card game for the record), and overappetizing (overestimating the size of our stomachs and filling up too early at the appetizer table). Luckily, everyone saves room for my dad's apple pie and my grandmother's pumpkin pie - so famous that the recipe has been on the Libby's pumpkin can label for decades. 

In recent years, we've also had lots of good news of engagements and babies at the Thanksgiving table. Or, tables, I should really say. Last year we had 23 family members so there were two long tables, a kid's table (no, I didn't sit there), and a few at the counter. It's tight, but we're all in one room, and nowadays, that's my favorite part of the holiday.

This year, it will be a small gathering of just 18, and that includes someone brand new. My cousins have promised to embarrass me in front of this particular guest, as if I don't do a good enough job of that myself. And I can't wait. Parade schmarade. Bring on the appetizers.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

5 Pointz: One of LIC's Coolest Jointz

When Banksy took NYC by storm last month (which I wrote about here), suddenly everyone became interested in graffiti, including this girl. Banksy's New York exhibition brought a lot of attention to the graffiti mecca in Long Island City, 5 Pointz.

5 Pointz, named to recognize the five boroughs of NYC and not after the old Irish slums of the early 1800s, is in danger of being torn down and replaced by condominiums. But because New Yorkers don't give up that easily, there is still a force working to establish it as an NYC landmark. When MK and I were there on Sunday, I signed a form in favor of this so stay tuned. The city may have just been waiting for my feelings on the matter. Take the 7 train out to Court Square and get there as soon as you can, just in case.

Editor's Note: The morning after I posted this, the news came out that the owner of 5 Pointz had white-washed the walls the night before to prep for the demolition process. I'm really thankful that we made it out there just a few days before this happened. Apologies if you missed seeing this in person, but hopefully you can still get something out of these pictures.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day Trippin' - I Went to Philadelphia and I Liked It

I have had beef with Philadelphia before. And not chopped up, grilled, and covered in Cheez Whiz kind of beef. I'm talking about, you tell me you're from Philly or going to Philly or like the Eagles and I raise my eyebrow, scrunch up my face, and sigh kind of beef. This all stems from growing up on the Jersey Shore. On our particular beaches down south, every summer there is a huge invasion of Philadelphians to our otherwise calm and pleasant seaside towns.

this is how empty our beaches should stay

Despite me holding a grudge against an entire city because of tourists who bring tons of money to the Jersey Shore every summer, when I heard MK had never been to Philly, I immediately thought we should take a trip. I wanted an opportunity to change my mind about the city and its residents. I did go there several times in my first two years after college before I moved up to NYC, for birthdays or nights out, but I hadn't actually explored the city like I do now when I travel.

I'm calling this a "Day Trip" even though we stayed a little longer because you could absolutely go to Philly in a day from NYC. It's less than two hours by car or train. We took a little longer on NJ Transit to Trenton + SEPTA to Philly because it was a lot cheaper than Amtrak. 

Here were my favorite things about our trip to the City of Brotherly Love:

Getting to see old friends!

MK and I were able to spend time with two of my favorite friends from college and their wonderful significant others while in Philly. I hadn't seen either of them since Alumni Weekend in June so catching up was long overdue, plus I've told Ash at least twenty times in the past five years that I was going to come visit Philly at some point. We also randomly ran into one of my very best friend's parents on the sidewalk which was super fun and unexpected.

The Corner Foodery!

MK and I hopped into The Corner Foodery for dinner on Friday night. We ordered the porchetta sandwich (with aged provolone, broccoli rabe, & long hots), sides of marinated mushrooms and warm mozzarella, and picked out two Philadelphia-themed brew-skis. Lucky for me, MK took the first bite of the sandwich. He hadn't noticed the long hots on the menu and I hadn't really realized how hot they were. MK's mouth basically set on fire and I didn't know what to do except attempt to feed him the mozzarella since I know milk helps in these situations. The mozzarella did not help. So I just giggled for a few minutes, picked anything off my sandwich half that might be painful, and continued to eat. My sandwich half was absolutely delightful.

For Saturday, I set up a historical tour for us with Marta at Free & Friendly Tours, a tip-based company. We started off on the wrong foot when I accidentally brought MK, AM, & GK to the wrong coffee shop where I thought we were supposed to meet. This resulted in MK and I waiting 25 minutes for our coffee and two really gross croissants. But once we got started, we walked around the town learning a ton about William Penn, the Quakers, the signing of the Constitution, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall (below left). We traveled to Ben Franklin's home and tossed pennies on his grave (to commemorate his witticism "a penny saved is a penny earned") AND learned what a womanizer he was while he was traveling in France. 

Not only did Sabrina's Cafe have a special "Hunger Games" themed menu (with dishes like "Peeta Peeta Pumpkin Eater Pancakes" and "Haymitch's Hangover Cure Egg Sandwich"), but it also lived up to its reputation of having one of the best brunches in Philly (is that Stuffed French Toast even real?!?!) AND the waiter gave MK a "To my Daughter" mug for his coffee. Home run.

While most of the exhibits at the Franklin Institute are actually geared toward children, MK and I enjoyed everything interactive. We climbed inside the two-story model of a human heart, touched a chunk of a meteorite that is a billion years older than the Earth (below right), and watched a movie in the planetarium. MK's favorite part was getting shocked in the electricity exhibit and then poking me so the shock got transferred over. I'm not sure that we learned much but we did have fun playing. 

Philly, I think I want to see more of you. Let's be in touch. Just please don't shock me anymore.


PS - Of course we ate Cheesesteaks! I'll be writing about that on a later date!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Global Bites without the Flights: Afghan Cuisine at Ariana

My old roomie Nicole and I had a dinner date in Afghanistan last week. Well, at an Afghan restaurant in Hell's Kitchen - Ariana - as part of my Global Bites without the Flights feature.

Afghan cuisine typically consists of rice dishes, qorma (a stew or casserole), dumplings, and of course, the kebab (lamb being the most common). According to the Afghan cuisine wikipedia, in Afghanistan, people do not typically dine out and eat more within the home. Women also do not dine alone or with friends.

Nicole and I ordered samusas (ground beef dumplings with yogurt sauce) as an appetizer and then split a lamb shish kebab and a chicken breast kebab, which both came with brown rice, a salad, carrots, and dried grapes. 

The samusas were new to me and I loved the dough consistency. Ariana is definitely several steps above Halal cart food but the idea is the same for the two kebabs we ordered. Perhaps we should have just done one kebab and ordered something a little more adventurous for the other entree - a Global Bites lesson learned. Even though the kebabs were familiar for two big fans of cart food, each dish was fantastic and we loved the green and red chutneys on the table and used them on everything. 

I have gone five for five on Global Bites at this point. There hasn't been a dish I haven't enjoyed at any of the restaurant picks for Laos, Belgium, Ethiopia, Brazil, or Afghanistan - each pick chosen with the help of my respective dinner companions. Let's hope this pattern continues because I have some great dinner dates lined up and I do not want to disappoint.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day Trippin' - I Just Can't Wait to be STORM KING

For our second Frousin day trip this fall (read about our first here), Jake planned a trip a few Saturdays ago for the NYC & North Jersey chapters of the fam to visit Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York, about an hour north of the city (just like Croton Dam). Christie, Jake, Katie, and I rode up together to meet the others. Other cars may not have had to deal with such sassy backseat drivers (guilty) or may not have been as lost as we were on the way home, but I can also bet that we had better car games than anyone.

Storm King Art Center is a collection of over 100 large-scale sculptures on 500 acres. It is described as one of the world's leading sculpture parks, where people can enjoy the relationship between art and nature. Many of the sculptures were inspired by the landscape and the surrounding fields, mountains, and woodlands. It sure was a beautiful place and we went at the most perfect time of year to see the amazing fall colors of the trees and stomp on all the crunchy leaves.

All three cars miraculously showed up within ten minutes of each other even though ours left from Manhattan, one left from Hoboken, and one came from Jersey City. This was important because we had a picnic planned. If our family ends up going down in history for anything like the Rockefellers or the Kennedys, it will probably be for having way too much food at a picnic.

Until our second picnic toward the end of the day, the rest of our time was spent wandering around the sculpture garden grounds, giggling, and taking tons of pictures. We all wore flannel on purpose because our last name in Gaelic translates to "those who are the cheesiest of all time." The scenery was beautiful and the art was large and in charge.

{pic thanks to KRF}
Some of my favorites:

Three Legged Buddha (Zuang Huan) - a Buddha with his body parts rearranged which reminded me of my trip to Thailand earlier this year:

A sculpture that you could bang with a rubber mallet to hear the different sounds the metals and shapes made (anything interactive is good with me):

{pic thanks to KRF}
Five Men, Seventeen Days, Fifteen Boulders, One Wall (Andy Goldsworthy) - A stone wall winding around all of the trees:

{pic thanks to KRF}
A deconstructed bulldozer in the ground under some grates:

A sculpture that we had to have Jake explain the engineering of and that I was strong enough to hold up with just one finger:

{pic thanks to KRF}
This split panel in the woods where my sister and I look like we are posing for a creepy horror movie poster:

{pic thanks to KRF}
Mermaid (Roy Lichtenstein):

Our visit to Storm King is definitely in the running for "best day of fall 2013"- and I'm not even just saying that because I got awarded "joke of the day" - one of the biggest accomplishments in our fam. It's also because of this great jumping photo:

{pic thanks to KRF}
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