12.20.11 New York Christmas
Occasionally, Jeff and I like to be tourists in our own city, whether it was Los Angeles or now New York. At Christmas, we love being a part of the crowd (I’m serious!), pushed or pulled in every direction by all the excited people rushing to see the Rockefeller tree or the gorgeous shop windows. We ready ourselves with a relaxing hot cocktail at the outdoor bar in Bryant Park and then brave the best of the Christmas decor the city has to offer. Here are a few of our favorite activities from this year’s adventure!
DIY Wedding: Follow Our Picnic Wedding Progress!
Let the Madness Begin, What I know I know, Just MAKE Decisions, Save the Dates for $130, Paper Pom Poms, Sparkly Flower Crown, Sweet Pennant Bunting, It’s All in the Details, Bridesmaids and Groomswomen, Co-ed Shower, Personalized Wine Labels, Cheeky Buttons
05.06.10 A Tour Under Brooklyn
I’m doing my best to learn to love this new place, and Sunday was a step in the right direction. Jeff and I are young, but we freely admit that we are not usually late-nighters or going-out-on-the-towners. We are more nerdy than that, watching episodes of “Life” late on a Friday or heading down into a mysterious manhole for an impromptu tour of the oldest subway in the world. Yeah, you read that right.
It all started on Sunday, when we headed to Trader Joes in Brooklyn for groceries. We noticed people paying someone to go into a manhole in the middle of a busy intersection and we thought “what the hell?!” and asked what it was all about. It’s a tour of an old underground railroad tunnel, and what do you do when you have no other plans on a hot day? You MUST go in.
I highly recommend this little adventure, though you might want to leave your kids at home for this one, until the guide/founder edits his shpeel a bit. He rambles on about icebergs and the source of rocks themselves, but he is quite obviously brilliant and if you have a little patience, you can mentally edit out all the peripheral stuff and focus on the tunnel itself. Its cold, creepy and very dark. Don’t wear sandals (like me) and bring a flashlight (your iPhone won’t help you down here).
03.27.10 Real Southern Food ALERT!
Found: Real Southern Food in Brooklyn. I am happy and in love. Pies n’ Thighs on S. 4th St. is truly authentic southern food, and I’ve never said that about any place outside of the south before. Really. I prefer my pulled pork sandwich from this tiny place behind a gas station in my home town of Wake Forest, NC (not to be confused with the huge university that was originally in a house in my town before it moved two hours away).
True Carolina pork is an acquired taste. It is super tangy from vinegar and not saucy at all. It comes on a white bun with coleslaw and you can throw sauce on it at that point if you want. It comes on a cheap plastic plate in a smoky (Marlboros) lunch-counter type of place or at a church pig pickin’. This was exactly what it was at the yankee establishment (sans cigarettes), but they added a few slices of pickles for an even punchier vinegar taste, and I think I’ve been missing out. Pickles were perfect on it, sweetening it up a bit, adding some high class texture to the mix. I absolutely loved it. Bravo, New York!
Jeff had the fried chicken and it was beyond great. Crunchy, moist, juicy and salty with a buttery biscuit on the side. My only complaint as a southerner was his side of potato salad. I love red potatoes and dill, but no one in the south makes potato salad this way. I like all kinds of potato salad, but it was a little too “Union” for the chicken and biscuit it was next to. For my favorite southern potato salad recipe, click here. It is a wonderful treat to have a little of it warm, just after you’ve finished mixing it and before you chill the rest for your picnic. Trust me.
And as far as Pies n’ Thighs, they have my southern two thumbs up, but make sure to get there early in the evening before the cool kids start lining up around the corner to try the next “new” thing, because you’ll really forget where you are before that.
03.02.10 Finding Inspiration
If you have ever hit a creative or emotional block, you have tried, like me, to suck inspiration from literally anything around you. I was out walking yesterday to meet a friend and I caught myself in the middle of a desperate search for some spark in my environment.
As a visual artist, everything is potential research in your surroundings and you can pull energy from anything you encounter in a normal day. But yesterday, it was kind of sad. We all know I’m having a hard time with this transition to Brooklyn, but now it has affected my ability to come up with ideas or to even follow through with ones I already have. So on my walk, I was asking myself if anything inspired me.
Is that boring graffiti inspiring? Is it inspiring because its boring? What about the dull color of that brown building? Or that dirty one? Or that mysterious crowd of hipsters standing on the corner? How about the light clicking sound of my bum knee popping as I walk? It sort of goes with the music on my iPod…
I’m not kidding. I really was trying. I was almost at the subway by the time I realized how desperate it was and that I shouldn’t have to ask if something is inspiring. Then, I remembered something that had occurred to me a few days earlier.
There are so many buildings and businesses in New York, some of which you would never go into, but at some point, they were someone’s dream. Someone put energy and hope into every little stinky market or beautiful boutique. Even if the current owner wants nothing to do with it, it might have been their dad’s greatest dream; to build or own a (insert building or business here) in New York City. I realized I was trying to pull energy from the little things when maybe in New York, the big picture is more inspiring. Because everything still standing is a success story. And because I really need some positive energy in my life right now, I’ve decided that goes for people too.
02.18.10 The Immigrant Experience
Every year on our anniversary, Jeff and I go away for the weekend and explore random cities. This year, being a little broke from our renovation, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to explore our own new city as tourists.
Being lovers of history, we chose places of great significance and purely by coincidence, our tour should have been titled “The Immigrant Experience of Old New York”. Here is what we did, with our notes should you decide to do any of these things on your next trip to the city:
Saturday Brunch: Blackbird Parlour (197 Bedford, Williamsburg)
I had a mushroom frittata with potatoes that was a little dry and desperately needed seasoning, but not all together bad. Jeff had a grilled cheese with prosciutto that I was really jealous of, but I tried to keep my disappointment to myself. It was really, really good.
After Brunch: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
I was armed with the names of my grandparents who had passed through Ellis Island and I was very excited to see them up close and to feel a real connection to history. After standing in a VERY long airport style security line to get on the ferry, I was sort of over it. The melted snow had seeped into my poorly chosen, but very cute shoes, and I could no longer feel my toes. Once on the ferry, I felt a little better about everything, but I should also mention here that I am afraid of water. Advice on the Statue of Liberty: Do not buy tickets to go inside, there is another very long security line to get in and you have to buy advance tickets online; Definitely get the audio tour, it was really interesting even without going into the statue.
Then we were back on the ferry to Ellis Island, which I highly recommend. This place is beautifully renovated, perfectly curated with just the right amount of emotional fluff and dark truth, and it is full of history that you really can feel when you walk in. An important note: All of the ship manifests are on computers, so if you are only going there to find your relatives, skip the ferry and just check out their free website, www.ellisisland.org. The site is easy to use and you can even search for names with the “sounds like” function if you know your last name was changed at some point, but are unsure of the original spelling.
Saturday Early Evening: Wall Street
We tooled around Wall Street for a bit, and tried to go to the revolutionary war-era bar, Fraunces Tavern, but it was closed. So, we decided to head up to Little Italy for some food instead. Should you want to go to that tavern, the website is: www.frauncestavernmuseum.org
Saturday Night: Little Italy
Ate some Italian food that doesn’t really need to be reviewed or mentioned, but was satisfying in that “need some marinara and meatballs” kind of way. It was a nice end to a cold day.
Sunday Brunch: Diner (Broadway at Berry)
Most amazing food yet in Williamsburg. Highly recommended. I don’t know what else to say. It was REALLY REALLY GREAT. I had the country breakfast with mustard greens, sausage gravy on a biscuit and scrambled eggs. Jeff had the hash special that had a bunch of yummy stuff in it and some pork sausage. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what we had, because the menu is ever changing, and that is the way you want any good restaurant to function.
Sunday: The Tenement Museum (108 Orchard St.)
Nestled in the Lower East Side was a tenement, untouched since the early 1930′s until a museum moved in and started doing tours. This place is so amazing. After the early 30′s, new laws were made and the owner decided to evict his tenants rather than updating the building and for 50 years or so, no one lived in its 20 apartments and while the store fronts on the first floors changed and shifted through the decades, the top floors were frozen in time. For the most part, this is how you see this place, and the museum curators have renovated some of the apartments by time period so you can see how immigrants really lived in the LES. You should definitely make a trip to this museum and do two tours with a lunch break, because I feel like I missed out with only one. www.tenement.org
Sunday Afternoon: Skinniest house in New York City (75 1/2 Bedford St., West Village)
If you’ve ever been to or lived in Pittsburgh and seen the building downtown that is only one window wide, this trip in NYC will not entertain you. That was me. But if you haven’t seen a narrower building, check it out!
Sunday Dinner: Gray’s Papaya
This is supposed to be one of the best hot dogs in NYC. I liked it, but I hope that’s not true. It’s pretty standard; all beef dog with a little snap on a squishy white bun and I had mine with sweet onions and kraut. It was a decent dog, but I can’t believe that it is really up there with the tops. Maybe I’m wrong? Time will tell.