March

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“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  ― C.S. Lewis

For the first time since high school, I’m keeping a list of the books I’m reading or have read this year. It seems as if every single time I step into Strand, I pick up several of them. Yesterday, I purchased Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse, Christopher Isherwood’s Prater Violet, and a selection of translated works by Pushkin, published by Random House in 1937. The best way to get me to read Russian classics I either haven’t read or memorized when I was three (and since have forgotten) is to get me to swallow the translations. Which is why, after seeing “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812,” I decided on buying the unabridged War and Peace. (Also because I descended from two participants in the War of 1812 that get mentioned in the book: one a General and the other an Admiral.)

My previous purchases at the Strand were the aforementioned W&P, Funny Girl by Nick Hornby, and my now beloved Lafayette in the (Somewhat) United States by Sarah Vowell. Before I started reading the book, I’d ventured to Fraunces Tavern to see their Lafayette exhibit and just yesterday came across the Stuyvesant Fish House, which hosted Lafayette when he returned to the US in 1824.

All of these book purchases were kick started by one book — Provence, 1970 — which I read because I needed some time off the computer. I fell in love with the travel diary-type: the history, the anecdotes, the vivid descriptions. I wanted to escape into something well-written and thoughtfully put together, enough to ease my mind from the world around me. It worked, in the end, inspiring my own writing and making me want to see that part of the world, which my mother traveled to the year before. (My mother’s keen sense of direction and willingness to try anything and befriend anyone are traits to envy, especially on vacation in France where she doesn’t speak the language as well as she wants to.) I so desperately want to break out of my own shell, relax, and explore just as any flâneuse would.

~

I’ve been in love with Kevin Garrett’s music since I discovered it several months back. Here, have a listen to his cover of James Vincent McMorrow’s “Cavalier”.

On Friday, We Feast

Hello, January. You’ve been kind to me so far. The weather has been unseasonably warm and this coming week is no exception. Although weather in the 50’s is great, it’s not ideal for this time of year. Then again, remember when it was in the 60’s on Christmas two years ago? Kind of an improvement. (But again, it’s New York.) I started to get into bullet journaling, or at least figuring out what to do with an empty Moleskine I didn’t have any use for until I couldn’t find a suitable planner for this year. The bullet journal inspiration blogs have been eye opening: they’re incredibly creative and organized and pulled me away from the computer. I pulled out my colored pencils and markers as I filled pages with my calendar of updates and future plans. This, however, lasted for as long as I thought it would: a couple of weeks before I decided to write long, lengthy paragraphs, started doodling on the side, and converted it into a diary, but with time stamps and glued-on tickets from trips to museums.

Speaking of — the Whitney Museum of American Art was pay-as-you-wish on January 20. I bolted there with my parent after 5:00 PM, taking the E train all the way down to 16th street/8 ave. The walk, especially at night, was pleasant. I don’t frequent the neighborhood at all. Plenty of stores and food halls have opened up. The Chelsea Market and Google HQ aren’t far at all from there. New, modern buildings have sprung up. It’s a nice mix between modernity and history the closer you get to the Hudson River.

Several exhibits at the Whitney stood out to me.

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These two are from a couple of different exhibits. The first was of a video of nuclear testing being done in the Marshall Islands. It’s eery to watch, especially with the uncertainty happening now (and also to see a crowd of mostly young people huddle quietly in the dark to watch the awesome power that such a weapon can have). The second photo is connected to the events that unfolded on Saturday: one of raised fists at protests, from leaders including MLK Jr., Jane Fonda, and even Richard Nixon.

Afterward, I made my mother walk down to Greenwich Village for about twenty-five minutes. We stopped at a Russian dumpling cart (promo for Natasha and the Great Comet of 1812 — been meaning to see it) on the West 4th street F train stop. They were alright. The sour cream and dill topping was ideal but the pelmeni themselves tasted slightly rubbery. The real objective of the trip down was to visit Manousheh for the second Friday in a row. I previously stopped by the week before after an interview as a reward. I’d seen it somewhere before and was immediately taken in by ‘cheap eats’ and ‘Lebanese street food’. So I came away with two ‘cocktails’ with veggies ($8 each) and a flatbread with cheese for my brother. The second time, I took two ‘cocktails’ with veggies with my mother, then went on our way home. It’s always cool to see the delicious flat breads being made in the oven in person while waiting. Also, the staff is super friendly. The second time I went was also the second time the person behind the counter remarked how they liked my name because it’s from one of their fave movies (ha!).

And because it was Friday, I pulled out my favorite mug from Strand that I received for Christmas (with a quote by Michelle Obama on it).

 

Happy New Year!

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“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better [person].”  — Benjamin Franklin

Welcoming the new year with a family dinner and watching fireworks from our window. We could see the fireworks show all the way from New Jersey.

Hoping 2017 will bring fantastic experiences, new lessons, and new adventures 🎉🎆❤.

Second Ave

I took a stroll down to Houston Street where I stumbled upon the First Street Green Art Park, which is a public art space featuring stunning work. It’s vibrant and definitely gives you pause when you walk past it. There is much more that I didn’t get the chance to photograph (there’s a peace sign in Christmas lights decorating the gate), but one of the best things about going downtown is seeing how much public art there is on display.

Stick to the right side of Second Ave while walking north and you can find the following displays. The one on the left decorates the Bean.

Pierogi with short rib
Boiled pierogi with short rib

I stopped by Veselka, which was as busy as ever. I ordered these boiled short rib pierogis (4 for $8.50) because I was introduced to them, albeit they were larger, when there was a free pierogi giveaway at St. Mark’s last Halloween. These were tiny, delicious, and went well with the sweet onions and sour cream. I haven’t heard of apple sauce added to pierogi (or pelmeni) — I usually stick to sour cream.

I previously intended to stop by the restaurant to have beef stroganoff, but because I eat Russian cooking on the regular, my mother decided it was a better idea to 1) do it herself 2) also mention that she used to make her own pierogi 3) needle me for not getting them fried. I usually tend to avoid Russian or Ukranian restaurants because inevitably I compare their food to my mother’s and if she’s with me, she always says she can do it better. There is an exception: Stolle Cafe and Bakery, which makes delicious pies.

How am I going to spend New Year’s Eve? Listening to Coloring Book and continue obsessing over bullet journaling. I have an unused Moleskine that I’m transforming into a planner/art book.

HOT TIP: unable to find the appropriate jam playlist for 2016 (“It’s the End of the World” on repeat does not count), the Infatuation strikes again with their top 100 for the year. I would have added Common’s “Black America Again (featuring Stevie Wonder)”. Give it a listen below.

Cold Spring, NY

To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon the verdant green hills is the most perfect refreshment.

Two months ago, the weather was in the mid-sixties; fall was setting in; and my mother decided the weekend was the ideal time to find a hiking trail an hour out of the city. We went through various web sites and researched small towns along the Hudson, finally arriving at the best choice (“oh, man, we should have gone up to Sleepy Hollow on Halloween,” I lamented): Cold Spring. The best way to get there for those without the ability to drive (yet) was by train from Grand Central. It didn’t take too long: we set out in the morning, returning in the late afternoon.

Taking the train was also taking the scenic route. We traveled past New Jersey and up through the Hudson Valley, seeing busy towns, docked sailing boats, bridges, and even West Point when we got close enough to Cold Spring. We arrived a bit after ten in the morning, the tourists really making their mark a couple of hours after us.

Sights:

West Point Foundry Preserve – our first stop on our walk around town was the West Point Foundry Preserve, which you can read more about here. It’s a short walk from the train station, offering historical glimpses of an abandoned ironworks site which at the time it was open helped produce canons during the Civil War as well as pipes, steam ships, and more. There are guides along the paths and ruins informing visitors about the historical significance of the site.

Putnam History Museum – You can reach the museum after walking through the Foundry. (Tip: if you check in on Facebook, you’ll be able to get in for free.) Inside are historical documents, artifacts, and other works that celebrate and highlight the significance of the area, Foundry included, during the Industrial Revolution.

Breakneck Ridge – There are quite a number of ways to reach the trails that lead you through Breakneck Ridge. I’ll say this: it’s very popular, so do not be surprised to see people (families included) walking along the same paths you are. As someone who isn’t a hiker, the trails were easy enough to navigate. You don’t have to reach the highest peak (that takes a long while) to get great glimpses of the Hudson Valley.

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Food:

Hudson Hil’s Cafe and Market – our lunch time pick. Warning: it gets very crowded, so there’s a good chance there will be a 40 minute wait, particularly if you come at peak hours. The wait is definitely worth it: I had a delicious quiche and tea that satisfied me after a long walk through the Foundry.

Rincon Argentino – run, don’t walk to the best cafe in Cold Spring. It’s located on the corner of a street that you’ll find going through the underpass after you arrive at the train station. It’s very homey; friendly; warm; and decorated beautifully. There is lemonade outside the cafe; we bought homemade empanadas (spinach and beef) and alfajores, which are dulce de leche cookie sammies that are soft and sweet. Yelp reviews here. As a Spurs fan and more importantly, a Manu Ginobili fan, I was so pleased to see my favorite basketball player from my fave team posted (twice!) on the front door (as were other Argentinian athletes).

The train ride back to the city took the same time it did going in. Again, quite busy on weekends, but worth the trip if you go early enough (leave NYC at 9:30 AM, get there by 10:30 AM). My 4G worked; I pulled out Google Maps to navigate through town (and find the path we needed to reach the hiking trail); and I had great food. I don’t own hiking boots and wore my NB sneakers and a light backpack. Bring water, as it’s always valuable especially when you get tired after walking for hours, and snacks for the trail.

US Open: Saturday

I’m pretty embarrassed not to have gone to the US Open sooner. Really. But I didn’t watch tennis that much until this year, in part because of the Olympics. So I bought a ground pass for $25, and it really is so much better than spending over $60 or $80 to watch from the nosebleeds inside Arthur Ashe. You’re much better off watching the games on television than you are inside.

What the ground pass offered: no access to Arthur Ashe, but the best seats to watch the doubles Legends Match, which this year featured Lindsay Davenport, Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, and Mary Joe Fernandez. They played on Court 17, which is smaller, more intimate, had no assigned seats, and a lively crowd that cheered on the players (who interacted with the fans in turn and signed autographs after). What better way to spend the afternoon than to watch former greats?

There were other attractions at the Open as well: the food court area which featured fantastic eats, including Fuku, Neopolitan pizza (organic, non-GMO), Korilla, Soom Soom, Hill Country BBQ, an Oyster House, and more. There was alcohol flowing everywhere thanks to the sponsors: Moët champagne, Grey Goose vodka (the promoted Honey Deuce cocktail that came in a free commemorative cup was one of the best drinks I’ve had in a while — $15, not so bad! You can even construct it yourself via Cocktail Courier). There were mojito stands next to Evian stands. Ben and Jerry’s showed up. And aside from the food, there were the other sponsors: Adidas, Fly Emirates (thanks for the hats!), and more.

There were areas specifically designated in front of Arthur Ashe that were covered to keep people out of the sun to enjoy the food. The space and seating were plenty. Fans could also come out to see ESPN’s outpost next to the stadium. You could, actually, stay to watch the tennis matches at the big court on the big screen. I opted to leave instead.

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View more pictures here.

Austin (Part II)

Saturday and Sunday can only be described as ‘wound down’ days where I did nothing but relax; check out the convention; and try out some Texas BBQ.

Day 3

I made it a mission to find decent breakfast on a Saturday morning before hitting the convention floor, so I opted for Houndstooth Cafe. Got a cup of early grey (their mugs are so great) and a breakfast taco from Tacodeli, but that didn’t do the trick. My brother and I were running on fumes as soon as we got back to the convention, scanning the floor for free giveaways and activities. There were tons of freebies sponsored by Geico that we picked up. The rest of the time was spent waiting in line to watch panels.

(My brother, at this point, tried the spin wheel contest and won the last Voodoo donut which he shared with me. So there you go, can’t say we didn’t have at least one (and it was free).)

Lunch was a pick up effort on my part as I walked to Koriente, an Asian fusion restaurant with quality ingredients and choices. Somehow I managed to spent $28 for two but considering how hungry I was from the morning it was worth it.

Later, we thought of trying out some BBQ. Unfortunately, Franklin’s was too much of a long shot for us so we instead were able to reserve a table at Lamberts at 5:30 PM. Note to self: while the walk down from the hotel was enjoyable (hello, Willy Nelson statue and Google Fiber!), it’s best to come at a much later time preferably when the live band plays (after 7:00 PM). We tried the natural black angus brisket along with their mac and three cheeses and mashed potatoes. Both sides highly recommended, but we weren’t digging the brisket (it was decent, just not what we wanted). Should’ve gone for the pork ribs.

Afterward, we ventured to Halcyon Bar and Lounge where we had cocktails. I indulged in the Madison Ave (recommend 10/10) before going back to the convention for more events. (We didn’t go on a happy hour day — those are better.)

We regrettably didn’t make the most of our second-to-last-day, but the convention occupied much of the time late. It was my sort-of first introduction to RTX (decidedly not for me) and I would have much preferred going out to listen to some music on Sixth. Perhaps next time.

Day 4

While my brother went down to the convention, I again made the right choice in going to Blenders and Bowls on my last day. Acai bowls have become an obsession for me because of this place, but since I got back I haven’t found anything close to what I had in Austin.

Our last lunch was appropriately spent at Easy Tiger, where we also picked up their breads to take home with us (along with a pretzel). I ordered my usual and a local beer. We were then on our way.

Finally
  • Austin is a fantastic city. You can’t compare it with New York because it’s different. What I loved most about it was the food scene. I loved the murals. I loved how Texas it was. I loved the hospitality and kindness of the people — all very engaging.
  • The next time I visit I’ll definitely take more photos. I’ll also visit the same food places and try out new ones. There’s so much more I didn’t see, including their state history museum.
  • I can only vouch for where I stayed — at the Hilton on 4th in Downtown. I also walked across the river to South Congress. The restaurants and stops I mentioned were all within walking distance.
  • Beware the heat: I can’t say enough. We came on June 30 and left July 3. The (dry) heat can be unforgiving, so wear shades, hats, loose fitting clothing, and drink plenty of water. It’s cheaper down there. Starbucks offers it for free, too.
  • I can’t wait to go back. I miss it already.