Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rockefeller Christmas

Rockefeller Plaza has put up the Christmas tree, a pretty and humongous business from New Jersey. SNL made a funny joke about the Rockefeller tree and the tiny Rockefeller menorah that fell between the fridge and counter in the kitchen...

I love Christmas spirit and lights and ice skating and prettiness, but seriously, why can't people always be nice and giving? And why does religion have to be the excuse? We're all people, people. We should be each others' saviors every day.



Lighting to come on November 28th.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Big Plate, Small Appetite?

You know how dieticians tell you to use smaller plates to curb how much you eat? That studies show, the smaller your plate is, the less you'll inadvertently eat, no matter how hungry you are? Yeah, I think my plate missed that memo...

And in other news: make yourself a bagel breakfast sandwich!
-Fry an egg or two, toast your bagel, add whatever toppings you want (lettuce, cucumber, and tomato in this case), add a little honey mustard, and voila! Deliciousness!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Brunch Review: Queen's Comfort

Delicious location, although tiny so be prepared to wait. Staff is nice, if a little spacey. I had the french toast and nearly passed out from trying to inhale the plate, which was far too much but too delicious to leave uneaten.

Our mistake was not realizing that the place is BYOB, so you can bring your own orange juice and champagne for mimosas, or bust out the bloody mary mix after a long night of partying. Note to self for next time.

Score: 9/10
My favorite brunch place on 30th Ave so far, but still not as awe-inspiring as Northern Spy Food Co.
4009 30th Avenue
718 728 2350

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Brunch Review: William Hallett

At this point you may have noticed the 30th Ave commonality in my last reviews. I've befriended a group of foodies who are set on exploring Astoria, and we've been working our way around 30th Ave. We'll move onto the Broadway area, once the options on 30th have been exhausted...

William Hallett

Nice joint with great staff, although completely booked on the weekends. They don't take reservations, so take a smaller group and make sure you're prepared to wait.

Their vegetarian options are limited, so I got a goat cheese omelet that was uninteresting, but then again, aren't most omelets that way? Some of my friends got the Crab Cake Benedict, which they said was amazing. William Hallett adds a fried layer of bread crumbs around their poached eggs, adding that extra zing and setting themselves apart. Definitely going to try to get myself some of that crispy poached egg action next time...

Score: 8/10
Minus points for lack of delicious vegetarian options and charging extra for every little thing, plus points for awesome staff, creative menu items and delicious meat options.
36-10 30thAve
Astoria, NY 11105
718 269 3443

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Catch-Up: Elections

Spoiler Alert: Obama wins.

Rockefeller Plaza

The CNN Electoral College Tally on the Empire State Building. Yes, that's right. The blue and red lines on the bar indicated how many votes each candidate has (obviously this was early in the evening).

Review: Sugar Freak

Southern-inspired menu makes your mouth water, and the decorative style gives it a homey, southern town feel. However, the general emptiness of this restaurant at nearly all hours of the day hints at the possibility that the joint might not be living up to the image it's trying to project.

We ordered some house cocktails, along with hush puppies and draft beers. The cocktails were both good, as were the beers, but the hush puppies were extremely disappointing. Over-fried, the outer layer was hard and powdery and what little of the middle existed was flavorless. Complete waste of a dish.

Score: I don't want to judge the restaurant based on one appetizer, so I will be back again to try something more substantial off their menu, but I was not impressed.
36-18 30th Avenue
Astoria, NY
(718) 726 5850

Monday, November 12, 2012

Catch-up: Halloween

Check it: Halloween New York Style. I.e. Lots of bars and fancy roof-top parties. Sorry my pictures were not more awesome, I was distracted by the revelry.

He's a California Padre. Get it?! Get it?!

Views from the Roof-Top Party in Manhattan:

Brunch Review: Jane

Jane is one of those New York City Institutions everyone has heard of and everyone is dying to go to.

Don't bother.

Despite having reservations for 12pm, we weren't seated until almost 1pm, and had to deal with a staff that was rude. Understandable considering the unbelievable brunch rush they were facing, but still unpleasant. Our drinks and a plate of donuts were comped as a result that and a mistake they made on our orders, but ultimately the food wasn't worth the wait. I had a dull Eggs Florentine, and my friends had uninteresting omelets.

I could have made food that tasted exactly the same at home, minus the stress of waiting an hour and being jostled around by rushing servers, other restaurant patrons, and irritable hosts.

Rating: Don't bother.

But if you enjoy that sort of thing:
100 West Houston Street
NY, NY 10012
212 254 7000

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Catch-Up: Coney Island

Having never been to Coney Island, I decided to take Columbus Day and head on over there before they closed for the winter.

First up: Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs. They're famous for some reason, and also the site of the annual hot dog eating contest. As part of my cultural exception rule, I had one, plain with onions and slaw, and a lemonade. I give it two thumbs up, especially if you add the awesome mustard from the condiment table. Word to the wise: the "medium" drinks are the normal-person equivalent of an extra-large. For the love of God, order a small drink.

The Boardwalk. Strangely eerie in the first days of fall.

 Fishing off the pier. High potential of mercury-contamination, but when you gotta eat, you gotta eat.

The state of Coney Island trashcans.

The creepiest carnival doll ever. We abandoned it there, but I kid you not I have nightmares that it might come find me. I actually went through a mental process of assessing how I would best contain this monstrosity if it ever showed up at my apartment (answer: in a see-through, bullet-proof container with a combination padlock. It has to be see-through so I can reassure myself it's still in there without opening the box, and bullet-proof and locked because it's obviously dangerous and god knows what it's capable of.).
 Coney Island! We went on the Cyclone, the roller coaster to the right of the Ferris Wheel and that tower thingie. Awesomely fun, but somewhat back and neck ache inducing.

Brunch Review: Northern Spy Food Co.

Go. Just go. And suck up the long wait.

Everything on the menu is locally-sourced and delicious, and the menu varies based on the season. I got a delicious gin and cucumber cocktail, coffee, and a mushroom and egg Hollandaise concoction. My friend got the bacon rolls and oatmeal, which are apparently their most popular menu items, and also delicious.

This is hands down best brunch I've had thus far in New York, and at this point I've already been to six or seven places...
511 East 12th Street (between Ave. A and Ave B)
New York, NY 10009
212-228-5100 phone

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Catch-up: I really don't know

Yeah, I don't know what's up with this. It was parked on 30th, metal armor and all.

Review: Bouchon Bakery

I'd been avoiding Bouchon Bakery since it's so expensive, but ended up there with coworkers for coffee one day and gave into their lemon tart.

And became obsessed. I've since tried a bunch of macarons, a fruit tart, the sandwich of the day, a cappuchino, and the tomato soup and none of it is that awesome. My coworkers love getting lunch there, but I have to say, I found most of their food disappointing. I even added half-and-half to their tomato soup, because I found it a bit too sharp for my tastes.

But the lemon tart. I could wax poetic about that fluffy, tangy, creamy, not-too-sweet tart. I've probably had it five or six times since, and given their absurd prices, that's saying quite a bit.

So go ahead, get yourself a lemon tart. Experience the bliss.
They have two locations in New York City, and three others in California and Las Vegas.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Catching Up: Oktoberfest

Yes, it's late. So sue me.

In return for marching in the parade on behalf of the German World Magazine, I got free admission to Oktoberfest in Central Park. I also met the German Ambassador to the U.S., had some quality beer, and ate some delicioso Kartoffelpuffer!

Parade participants getting ready

German World Magazine

The Volkswagen Club of New York

German Rules, American Behavior

 WHAT a coincidence

Ahhhh, the age gap in the age of technology. So sad.

Review: Sweet Afton

Tucked away in the Astoria, this is a gem of a bar that reminds me of the locales in Istanbul and Berlin my friends and I liked to frequent. It has a cute (read: tiny) back garden area when the weather is nice, and a woodsy lodge feeling inside. It also happens to be a favorite date spot, so look out for groups of two trying to get to know each other.

Drinks: great beers on tap (although a little overpriced for Astoria). They also have a special house cocktail menu, but I have to say the drinks are watered down and bland, not really worth it when they have great beer alternatives.

Food: I had their Portabello mushroom burger, good but nothing to write home about, and their mac and cheese, which is absolutely outstanding. Seriously, delicious. I recommend it plain (which somehow includes scallions), but my friend swears by the optional bacon.

All their food is locally-sourced, which gives them bonus points in my book.

Score: 9/10
I took away 1 point for meh cocktails.
30-09 34th Street
Astoria, New York 11103

Thursday, November 8, 2012


We had Hurricane Sandy last week, and then this North Easterly yesterday, battering the city and making life incredibly difficult for so many people. As I've noted before, there are still people without power, without housing, and without the basic necessities like water and heat. If you can, please donate, reach out to friends who live in affected areas, or just start volunteering and training for disaster response through your local Red Cross chapter (after all, you never know when and where those skills might come in handy - climate change anyone? Anyone?).

That being said, I still can't help but be somewhat excited by my first snow in New York! Post-storm:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wrong demographic?

Netflix apparently thinks my love of 90s movies like "She's All That" means that I would also be interested in watching "Dora the Explorer" and "Blue's Clues." Interesting.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Affected by a storm I never saw

Still stranded in Philadelphia, the earliest train I could book was early Friday morning and all the buses are still cancelled. The worst storm I've ever experienced, and I missed the whole thing.

Based on the reports I'm getting from friends, Manhattan, Queens, and New Jersey are still really struggling with flooding, power outages, and fires, so please send support to your friends or relief organizations if you can!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm It Up

I went to Philadelphia for a conference. On Sunday at exactly the same time, two hours after my arrival, the conference was cancelled and so were all transit and Amtrak trains back to NYC. Leaving me stranded.

So after meeting friend at Cafe Lift - I highly recommend their brunch, they have a mustard hollandaise sauce to die for - I walked the Liberty Bell, Washington's Presidential House, and the Independence Hall area before walking back through Old City to my hotel. Which I promptly left to hole up with an old high school friend I hadn't seen in ten years.

Look, if I'm going to be stranded in a city for three, possibly four or five days, I don't want to be alone! And my hotel was on the river, which made me super paranoid.

So we made pumpkin cranberry scones (thank you Trader Joe's! Your mixes make my life) and are doing what work we can manage while we still have electricity and internet. The weather is still rather mellow, so I'm a little annoyed with Amtrak for cancelling the trains so early, but then working from (someone's) home while catching up with an old friend is also awesome.

Having handled three wildfires in one year, three snow blizzards in the following year, and now this Frankenstorm, I feel like I should change my career track and become a disaster response expert instead...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blast from the Past

Pandora just played "I want it that way." Luckily for everyone involved, I still remember the lyrics.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nora Ephron

I always liked Nora Ephron in passing (after all, the woman partly responsible for When Harry Met Sally gets immediate props), but I just read one of her books and I freaking love her. She is my new-found literary lover, and I am now on the waiting list for all the Ephron books that my library carries.

So excited!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: Max Brenner's

I may have explained this before, but in college my roommate and a group of her friends discovered their inner fat kids, and in turn I realized I had one, too. Your inner fat kid is that little big person inside of you who wants that extra cookie, that mac and cheese sampler plate, or the extra serving of cornbread-extra-butter-please. My inner fat kid is Augustus, and unfortunately when Augustus' appetite is awakened, it's hard to satisfy.

As we discovered yesterday, my friend also has an inner fat kid, Albert. And Albert suggested to Augustus that perhaps Mac and Cheese was insufficient. Perhaps, suggested Albert, we should also go to Max Brenner's, the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Equivalent of a restaurant.

And then, suggested Augustus, we can get three desserts. Because why just share one, or each get one, when we can get three?! It's not like we just had eight types of mac and cheese...

So, off their brand new menu we ordered:
Salted Caramel Milkshake - Pretty darn good, although admittedly the whip cream with the salted caramel topping was the highlight
Banana, peanut butter, and chocolate crepes - Outstandingly delicious. The extra peanut butter sauce on the side might be a bit excessive for the faint of heart when you see that there's already extra peanut butter in between the crepes. Also tastes good cold the next day.
Hazelnut Milkshake - Pretty darn good.

I've seen people go there for the food, too, and it always looks good. But why get dinner when you can just get multiple desserts??

Max Brenner
841 Broadway (between 13th and 14th Streets)

Friday, October 5, 2012


I went to S'mac by Union Square yesterday, a mac and cheese specialty restaurant. As an adamant food and mac and cheese lover, I insisted we get the sampler plate: a giant dish with eight different types of mac and cheese (All-American, 4 Cheese, Cheeseburger, La Mancha, Cajun, Napoletana, Alpine, Parisienne).**

Yum yum!

On the veggie options:
I loved the Parisienne with figs, brie, shiitake mushrooms, and rosemary. It's a serious indulgence and probably the most daring, but the flavors work and I love me some rosemary.

The La Mancha manchego cheese was a brilliant play, but I dislike fennel so I didn't really go for that one. But if you like fennel, the flavor is infused throughout the dish and it does complement the cheese well.

And for the less daring, All-American and 4 Cheese are both excellent. I was pleasantly surprised to find the All-American tasted more like the cheddar than the American cheese, so don't avoid it just because you don't like American. It is really quite good.

The Napoletana tasted like the pizza of the same name. If you want pizza but somehow ended up at the mac and cheese joint, get it, but otherwise the other options are a better bet.

On the meat options:
Apparently the the Cheeseburger tastes exactly like a Cheeseburger (but again, if you want a cheeseburger, maybe you should just go to a burger joint...), but the Cajun with andouille sausage is the way to go.

All in all, I was quite happy. I think next time I will take their "create your own" option, and see what fancy-ness I can come up with! They also have take-out and frozen, so you can keep some S'Mac at home in the freezer for the next time you're craving a little sumthin' sumthin'.

S'Mac Sarita's Mac and Cheese
345 East 12th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues
3 First Avenue, New York, NY 10002
157 East 33rd Street between Lexington and 3rd avenues 

**With tongue in cheek, they also sell antacid pills. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I don't normally do this...

...but what is one night of karaoke, right??

Apparently UN General Assembly delegates need a little time to de-stress, as a certain president of a certain country *cough* President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic *cough* did that by joining karaoke night at Keats yesterday. This is the man who vetoed the Lisbon Treaty, may be a climate change skeptic, and is an ardent admirer of Vladimir Putin. I forget sometimes that behind the hype of politics and everyone's wild opinions and crazy actions, there are also ordinary people who want a night out once in a while.

Monday, September 24, 2012


I saw Carol Burnett this morning. The poor woman had an entourage of four or five people who had to close ranks around her so she could walk five feet from my building into her waiting car without being physically knocked over by the paparazzi that were trying, apparently, to physically meld themselves to her. It looked absolutely miserable and she was graceful and made a joke anyway, but that's been her life for the last several decades and I don't envy her at all.

Although, I do wish I had four staff members to write my blog. It would probably be wittier and more reliable...I have been doing stuff, and cooking food, and taking pictures, and those posts will be coming soon, I promise!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homesick? Yes, We Can (fix that)

Just when I was missing D.C. a little bit, the President's motorcade zoomed past me while on my way home from work. The only other time I've seen the presidential motorcade was when two years ago while I was on my way to work in D.C.

Thank you for the thoughtful gesture, Mr. President

Thursday, September 13, 2012

And to think that I saw it...

First I find out Waverly Place really exists, and then I learn Mulberry Street is only a few blocks away! New York City really is magical.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


I stepped outside today and it was suddenly my favorite day of the year, when the suffocating scents are replaced by the sweet and crispy smell of drying leaves and a light breeze tempers the heat on our skin. The first day of fall is here!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives

I used to call this show "dumpsters, dive-ins, and drives" because all the D's kept getting me confused, but it continues to be one of my favorite shows on the Food Network.

Which made this morning SUPER AWESOME because Guy Fieri, the host of the show, was just chilling out in my office building's lobby this morning. I didn't talk to him (partially 'cause I find him personally annoying) but I was totally grinning afterwards and told everyone in my office. The sad, jaded New Yorkers didn't care. I thought it was awesome.

And this is after running into Jason Mraz last week while he was signing autographs. *sigh*. I don't like either one personally, but celebrity is celebrity and me recognizing them in and of itself deserves a cookie.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Not just for the kids

Apparently adult birthday parties in New York includes balloon animals with a drinking problem. I *love* it.

Thanks to Frenchy for the picture!

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Museum

Thanks to a lovely gift from my brother, I have access to a few museums in New York for free and yesterday evening I visited the New Museum, located on Bowery and Houston.

Although the museum is quite well-curated, it really reminded me of how much I dislike multimedia exhibits. There are often so many noises, conflicting both within the art itself and with other art whose noises are overflowing into the next room, and I feel the need to leave the noise as soon as possible. And this means...since the majority of the New Museum has auditory accompaniment, I missed a lot of the works. It's ironic really, because the artists often want to create a jarring or uneasy sense in the viewer, but the extremes to which they go results in me ignoring their art completely. I can't imagine that was their intention either...

I really liked the top level of the museum, which is currently an exhibit about gender, sexual orientation, and identity, based on a series of interviews that visitors can watch at individual booths. It was interesting to have so many different types of people talk about these issues on the different television screens, and it is particularly timely to visit it now with the current political climate.

The other exhibit I liked is in the gallery next door, called "The Parade." It's by Nathalie Djurberg, with "music" (of course, more noise!) by Hans Berg. In the gallery itself there are several dozen sculptures of birds, in various positions and activities, and each section has a stop-animation video (usually with clay) that portrays some horrible facet of human nature (greed, gluttony, etc.). It is meant - of course - to be disturbing and unsettling to the viewer, but the cartoon-like nature of the sculptures make the gallery look almost child-like. The videos on the other hand, regardless of being clay and stick puppets, are definitely creepy and unsettling.

All the exhibits had a feeling of insanity, disorientation, and emphasis on the negative. Although modern art has always had a tendency towards the critical, it has also sometimes been expressed through humor, beauty, or even sadness. These exhibits were almost entirely about disorientation or discomfort for the viewer, forcing me to ask - If the viewer has to be on the defensive every time s/he views art like this, isn't there a high risk that the ensuing frustration will be against the artist, and not the society that led to these visions?

All in all, not my favorite museum, but that's also due to personal preference for silent exhibits and some positivity. If you're into multimedia art, or the theme of technology in society, then I recommend the current exhibits. And if you can make it Thursday evenings, they have free admission (tickets must be reserved online in advance).

Next Up: Chelsea Art Museum

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Turns out that even in the city I can indulge in my love of water sports. The LIC Community Boathouse, sponsored by Parks and Recreation and donations from loving community members, offers free kayak trips up the East River and to Hellgate. I spent an awesome Sunday morning with fellow Queens residents, enjoying the skyline from an unorthodox point of view. Then I sloshed back to my apartment looking sort of ridiculous in my soaked sun dress and backpack (but not before a stop at Güllüoglu Baklava!).

Special thanks to Zsuzsanna for the pictures!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I keep meaning to blog about my time in Istanbul, through a mini-series that talks about touristy things and the less-explored parts of Istanbul, but I am having difficulty balancing the prose and emotions that I feel with the practical, do-this/do-that aspects of writing a mini-guide. Even if one ignores the whiny, self-indulgent anecdotes in his book, Pamuk's descriptions of Istanbul still fail to capture the full extent of life and living in Istanbul, making me wonder if anyone is capable of harnessing that beast of a city to paper. In any case, my part-time slapdash bloggery isn't going to reach success, and attempting even a partial transcription has been a painstaking process, which is why it's delayed.

In the meantime, our friend Kenan has written a truly thoughtful mini-series of his own, exploring his relation to the city and the impact it had on us all: Remember that time in Istanbul...?

I highly recommend reading it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Best. Neighborhood. Ever.

I just found an apartment in Queens, and I am quite the happy camper. In addition to having several CSA options in our neighborhood (see if there's one near you!), Mexican food, and a gym that is literally 1/3 the price of the gyms I looked at in Manhattan, there is a Güllüoglu Baklava branch nearby.

I am currently writing a series of posts on Istanbul (coming soon!), and in there I will extol the virtues of my favoritest baklava in Istanbul. Any guesses as to what they're called??

Let's just say I am a happy happy camper.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: FIVES

The Ambiance
Sadly lacking. We arrived at 1pm, the peak lunch hour, and the restaurant was perhaps 1/3 full and far too cold.

The Food
I was immediately disappointed because the restaurant had not included a vegetarian option in the RW menu, although they had chosen sustainable cod and chicken for two of their entrees. We were given a bread basket full of barely re-heated bread rolls that although varied, were far too hard to eat. After giggling our way through a few difficult and tooth-damaging bites, we gave up and left the basket full.

For the entree we ordered the mozzarella and tomato ravioli and the white bean and truffle soup. Although the ravioli was tasty, they were a little too soft, as were all the vegetables and beans in the soup. The flavor of the truffle did not come through, likely because the mushroom pieces had been thrown in along with the rest of the vegetables and overcooked.

The entrees were the highlights of the meal. The chicken was supported by a ginger risotto and light salad, both of which were delicious and excellently prepared. The ginger flavor in the risotto came through, and the salad was accompanied by a light lemon dressing that didn't overpower the other flavors on the plate. The chicken, although plain, was tender and well-cooked.

Dessert was labelled as "Lithe Asian Passion Fruit Cheesecake", by which they apparently just meant "Cheesecake with Passion Fruit on Top". It was boring, and instead of a cheesecake crust they had thrown two tiny crust croutons on top of the cheesecake square. Neither the passion fruit nor the cheesecake flavors came through, and the sorbet tasted like they had used artificial flavoring. The espresso was possibly the worst espresso I've ever had.

Rating: 3/10
Ultimately, for a restaurant that charges $9 for an espresso, the meal was profoundly disappointing and the empty dining room was confirmation that their lackluster performance was not just a RW fluke, but rather an ongoing issue. If you unwittingly find yourself dining at FIVES, stick to the entrees and find a nice cafe or bakery nearby to enjoy an after-meal dessert and coffee.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: Fig & Olive Restaurant

It's Restaurant Week in New York (a misnomer since the thing lasts nearly three weeks!), and that means: restaurant reviews!!

First off, Fig & Olive Restaurant on Fifth.

The Ambiance
The restaurant is surprisingly huge, with an entire second floor dedicated to diners, but was still hopping around lunchtime on a Thursday. Thankfully we had made reservations and were immediately whisked upstairs. The service felt a little forced, as the host downstairs alerted the hostess upstairs to our arrival, who introduced us to our server, who primarily took orders and checked in while another team of actual servers came by to serve our food. It seemed as if the logistics and effort were extremely difficult, while I suspect their actual intention was to appear like a well-oiled and effective machine...despite this, a nice lively atmosphere for a lunchtime meal.

The Food
Before we ordered we were given a three-plate olive oil tasting, which was quite good. All three oils (from Chile, Greece, and California) were very, very good.

Going with the RW Prix fixe menu I ordered the mushroom croquettes, the pesto spaghetti without shrimp, and the chocolate creme pot. My colleague ordered the gazpacho, pesto spaghetti with shrimp, and strawberry crisps.

The mushroom croquettes were absolutely delicious, fried and served with a creamy mushroom sauce, although I had enough after the first three (there were six).

The spaghetti was completely boring. A well-made pesto, varied slightly with the addition of other herbs to the basil, but ultimately not worth their regular lunchtime prices.

The dessert was mixed. My chocolate dessert was completely boring and could have been rivaled by a store-bought chocolate pudding, although it came with some hazelnut crisp-like thing that was absolutely delicious. I also had a good espresso with my dessert. The strawberry crisps, on the other hand, were outstanding. Fresh slices of strawberry served on a thin shortbread cracker with a drizzle of balsamic made this the highlight of the entire meal.

Rating: 6/10
All in all the lively atmosphere made it worth going with friends and all the dishes were good and high-quality, if somewhat ordinary. Next time I will have to try the more unusual dishes to see if the restaurant really brings anything new to the table.

10 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022
Between 5th & Madison Ave.
10 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022
Between 5th & Madison Ave.
10 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022
Between 5th & Madison Ave.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Even hats

Everything is bigger and better in New York:

Pain. Just Pain.

Kickboxing kicked my butt yesterday. Seriously considering calling sick into work today because I'm not sure my poor body can handled the five flights of stairs down to the street...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Concert in the Park

Jazz in the Garden, where you sit in the sculpture garden and listen to live jazz while drinking sangria and having a picnic, was one of my favorite activities in D.C. and I was very sad to leave it behind when I moved to New York. I was pleasantly surprised then when my co-worker invited me to Concerts in the Park at Central Park, where the New York Philharmonic was performing.

The performance was beautiful, and it was different from Jazz in the Garden in two truly remarkable ways:
1. Everyone was actually quiet so they could listen to the music, and
2. There were fireworks!!!

Take note, D.C., take note...

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4,
Respighi's Fountains of Rome, and
Respighi's Pines of Rome

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ahhhh the sun in July is sooo....?

After a broiling hot morning, it is now thunder-storming and I kid you not, hailing. In one day I have moved through two seasonal cycles. All I need is some snow followed by a warm breeze and I've got a full year of weather in 24 hours.

Street Art

My first street art discovery in New York happened in Union Square a few days ago, where this little guy (maybe six inches?) was reaching out to me on a rosebush:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Coffee Break

Who did I nod good morning to on my way to get coffee this morning? Oh yeah, Matt Lauer.

And in other news, it is incredibly difficult to find housing in New York.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Geek Girl!

While I was walking home today a girl was holding up a sign advertising a comic book and other nerdy stuff store. I've noticed in NY there are a lot of people holding signs pointing to particular stores: "Buy and seLL gold and SILBER!" or "Come to get your paycheck advance today!". But the comic store sign was unique, and it was being held by a girl who clearly knew about the merchandise they sold.

A stereotypical nerd guy (glasses, inappropriate and slightly uneven facial hair, and a nasally voice) had taken the opportunity to chat her up and seeing as she was paid to stay there, I considered her to be a captive audience. While I was walking by I overheard his analysis of the latest Marvel creation and her quiet "mmm hmmm." I can't really know their relationship and perhaps they already knew each other, but I would like to imagine that they just met for the first time and his detailed knowledge of her favorite comic book with the intricate but sensitive assessment of some superhero's superability perked her interest enough to go to coffee with him later. Who knows, maybe they're already talking about their second date.


When I was 13, I visited New York for the first time. And part of our tour included getting up bright and early (by my standards!) to hang around the Today show and hope we got on television. I remember people in our group freaking out as Al Roker walked around, and after a performance from the cast of Les Miserable, we left to continue the rest of our day. I was incapable of realizing then the full circle my life would come.

So you can imagine my surprise I walked to work for the first time today, only to find myself standing in front of the Today show as Al Roker walked around shaking hands. Over a decade later and the man was still there, doing his thing. And I had gone from an obnoxious junior high student to an employee - in his building.

That's right ladies and gentlemen. My office is a few floors above the Today Show and every morning I shall start my work day with a glimpse of Al Roker, and on some mornings (like today), Matt Lauer. I literally could not not stop grinning like a maniac for half an hour because I felt so utterly cool and New York-y.

I chatted up one of the security guards, too, and she said on Fridays they have concerts and she got to see Kanye and Justin Bieber in the last few weeks. Apparently people camp out on Thursday to see the performance on Friday. I won't be doing that because when I asked my coworkers about it, they said we can hear the concert from our office. Jealous yet?! I'm jealous of myself.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sleeping in the City

The whir of the unit AC, sirens, cars honking, and people yelling in the street accompanied my first night in the city. Check!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New York: First Day in the City

To Do List:
1. Carry suitcase up five flights of stairs. Check. (ok, so someone else did it for me. It was heavy, ok?!)
2. Eat bagel and cream cheese. Check.
3. Get creative with extra-small closet. Check. (Don't have my winter clothes here yet, that should be interesting...)

So this is it people. First day in New York City. And this time I've moved without a return ticket or a known timeline, which means I'm freaking out a little. Literally the first time I've signed on to something that has no known end-date and my friends are dispersed in other cities. Operation: Get Friends to Relocate to New York had already begun months ago, but chances of success appear slight to none, meaning I'm on my own until I make new friends here. Assessment: scary but with positive outlook.

And so it begins. Welcome to my new life.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Kigali: Remembering a Genocide

Rwanda is an interesting place because although they experienced a life- and country-shattering genocide less than 20 years ago, it is not visible to the casual visitor. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre ("Gisozi Memorial") is hidden on the side of a hill and the Hotel des Mille Collines, on which the movie Hotel Rwanda is based, continues to be a functioning posh hotel.

But the scars from the genocide are there and they run extremely deep. Everyone knows who was involved in the killings, who lost their family, and who helped or stood by as this all happened. That means the social life there is bracketed by this knowledge and many individuals really only socialize with a select few family members and friends. Joining a social circle there is extremely difficult and although everyone on the street is excessively helpful, they will never get into the personal discussions that you may get if you were a foreigner in say, Tanzania or Turkey. I was also talking with two girls who work in mental health in Kigali, and they said the matter is further complicated by the lack of appropriate words for feelings in Kinyarwanda. Very few people are willing to talk about how the genocide affect them, and those who do struggle to find the right words to express anger, frustration, dismay, and loss.

Hotel des Mille Collines is also interesting because in Kigali most hotels let you use their pools for $5/day, but in this hotel you know you're swimming in a pool that played an integral part of protecting over a thousand genocide refugees. Guidebooks expressly recommend going to this hotel and swimming in their pool because of this, a very odd recommendation in my opinion. I found it discomforting and strange just to sit in the bar there because all I could think was that a thousand people hid for their lives in what is now the most expensive location in the city. The garden is truly beautiful and it provides this amazing oasis from the sounds and discomforts of the city, but there is a constant feeling of parallel histories as you imagine the fear and anguish that existed only 20 years ago in the exact same location. The disparate realities are difficult to process.

Rwanda has recovered miraculously from the devastation that followed the genocide economically and politically, particularly since the current government is doing everything it can to memorialize the event while continuing to push the country forward to development and modernity. Nonetheless, I wonder sometimes at the underlying emotional damage that follows people around. Will they pass these scars and fears on to their children? Will the country ever open up emotionally or will it continue to grow as a guarded society? Will there later be outward manifestations, like a high level of mental disease or physical aggression?

If you ever are in Kigali, the Gisozi and Hotel des Mille Collines are must-visit locations, but both only really scratch at the surface of what happened and is continuing to develop in the country.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kigali Stories: Food

OK, so this isn't really a story, but I love food and here's what's up in Kigali (abridged):

Must Have:
Milk and/or yogurt, particularly the ones that are produced locally on the outskirts of Kigali
Homemade ice cream from La Galette, the German bakery (I like cherry, but all the flavors are outstanding)
Isambaza (available at all the local markets, but safer if you ask a local where to get the best stuff)
Market-bought passion fruit, avocado, and papaya. The papaya especially far surpasses any import you might get in Europe or the U.S.

Ok, I only went to three restaurants so this is not extensive by any general, all restaurants are vegetarian-friendly, so I won't make specific notes about that.

Kimihura (also called Kimihurura) neighborhood
The only Ethiopian restaurant in the city and popular with just about everyone. Go for their lunch buffet, where you can partake in an all-you-can-eat buffet with a drink for less than the U.S. equivalent of $10. The sponge bread is not as sour as you may expect from Ethiopian, but the rest of the food is good quality and traditional. In the neighborhood of

Africa Bite
You saw the pictures before (click the link if you didn't!), so you know their lunch buffet is also awesome. Slightly cheaper than Lalibela, in the same neighborhood, but less vegetarian-friendly. But they also include dessert bowl of fresh cut fruit, so I'm a fan!

Hotel de Milles Collines
City Center, Kiyovu
The hotel from Hotel Rwanda continues to be an expensive and upscale hotel (more on that later) and provides the perfect oasis within the city if you want cocktails or a quick bite to eat. Definitely more expensive than anywhere else you might go in the entire city, but might be worth it if you want to be surrounded by grass, leafy trees, and near-total peace from the city noises. They also make a mean (and surprisingly spicy) quesadilla if you're craving Mexican...

Kigali Stories: Children

The children in Kigali appear to be well-mannered schoolkids around their schools and playgrounds (in glaring contrast to the schools I saw in Tanzania), but there is this crazy phenomenon where they go insane the second they see white people on the street. All of the sudden these wild monkeys dressed in blue school uniforms,start yelling, I love you! I am 7 years old! Do you have money! I'm hungry!. What's even more interesting is that at a certain age, the behavior stops and the older students take a cool indifference to us. Although the kids legitimately hope they'll get money, they also just delight in yelling out everything they know in English, which sometimes leads to a string of ridiculous statements.

Kigali stories: Kimirongo Market

So my bad, I just realized I had stories from Africa I forgot to integrate into the pictures...whoops. Well, y'all can read them now and I'll try to link to the post with photos where it's relevant.

May 5, 2012
On Saturday Sam, Nynne, and I made our way over to Kimirongo Market, one of the biggest markets in Kigali. While Nynne was looking for a new purse, we walked into one of the clothing stalls and this old man there with a cane took a liking to Sam. He kept offering her marriage, and was pinching her arm and slapping her when she tried to get away. Sam was laughing, but at the same time the guy was seriously pinching her and she was trying to get away before his marks turned too red. The actual stall owner kept assuring us that he was joking, and I couldn't help laughing at the comedic scene (albeit from a safe, pinch-free distance)...

After we got away from the old man and with Nynne's new purse, we headed over to the fruit stands. One of my favorite things about going to countries that aren't overly developed and filled with supermarkets is that you can still get fresh (and cheap) fruits and vegetables. After bargaining with the sellers, I made off with a bag full of bananas for 250 Rwf ($0.41) and 150 Rwf ($0.25) for an avocado, which I proceeded to eat later in my room while waiting out a huge downpour.

Later on my way home, I mistakenly had it in my head that we were on the western side of Kigali, when in reality we were on the Eastern side. As a result, I started haggling with a mototaxi driver, saying I wanted to go home for 500 Rwf. In reality, that trip probably should have cost about 1400 Rwf...After 10 mototaxi drivers all pulled up and joined the discussion and a woman working at the cell phone booth next door came over to mediate, we finally settled on 1000 Rwf. I was arguing so earnestly because I was completely convinced that they were trying to screw me over, only to discover 30 minutes later that it really was quite far from my house...whoops, haha. I can just imagine the other 9 mototaxi drivers talking later about the crazy mzungu woman.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Istanbul: Breakfast

My typical breakfast (and lunch and dinner sometimes...) in Istanbul:

Frankfurt: Pirate Politics

March 2012
The Pirate Party in Frankfurt wanted you to know they "understood Frankfurt" by putting cute kittens on their posters. Yes, they're a legitimate political party in Germany and no, I have no idea who their marketing director is.

Stereotypes: Germans Love Pickles

I don't know if I posted this before, but this would be a 5,600 gram can of pickles in our office kitchen. That coffee pot it is sitting next to is an eight cup coffee pot...

Frankfurt: City Art

I forgot this post this earlier, but coming full circle I saw this man set himself up in one of the city fountains my first weekend in Frankfurt (October 2011) and my last weekend in Frankfurt (May 2012). His furniture and decorations were different every time, too. When I asked if he had a schedule, an exhibit, or a website, he just smiled and serenely said "no".

Friday, June 22, 2012

Istanbul: Pazar

I visited the market in my neighborhood on Thursday, and although the heat and heavy bags prevented me from taking too many pictures, I did catch this quick lesson on marketing: if you want people to buy your stuff, you have to be willing to wear it yourself:

Healthy living (plus three pairs of earrings!) on the budget of 40 lira or less: