Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ci-tay day in the NYC

As part of the moving adventures from the forest of North Carolina to the concrete jungle of New York, sissy and I took a good chunk of Saturday and played tourist in Manhattan so I could indulge in various passions - photographing everything, checking items off a list, and eating really tasty food.  After our morning explorations of Brooklyn, we zipped over to Union Square and emerged from the depths of the subway to find ourselves right in the middle of the Greenmarket, which made both of us pretty happy - fruits and veggies and yummy deliciousness and artsy things and kittens for adoption (squeee, so cute!!) as far as the eye could see.  And you know what else is right there in Union Square?  Whole Foods.  Amanda was happy to find a totally familiar grocery store just a few subway stops from her home.  I also kept hoping for a minor celebrity (to me, anyway) sighting in the form of Smitten Kitchen Deb or Amateur Gourmet Adam, both of whom frequent said Greenmarket in search of star ingredients, but no luck.  I did find some really tasty mint tea, though!

My memory actually served me correctly as to where something was (also, my memory may or may not have been assisted by the magic Google machine I carry around in my purse at all times), and after a little wandering around the pretty food and flowers, we headed in the direction of Strand, prepared for an overwhelming literary selection.  I ♥ books.  We didn't actually buy books, though - just a remarkably handy map (for Amanda - really for both of us this day as we were all over the city) and an adorable stripey bag for me.

By the way, I'm looking through these pictures and realizing just how long my hair was...I chopped a lot of it off in Dallas last week.  Phew.

With the help of our handy little map and my recollections of burger deliciousness, we walked over to Madison Square Park and joined the always-long line for Shake Shack.  A THOUSAND TIMES YUM.  And yes, the line is perpetually lengthy, but we put the time to good use and figured out how to shoot video with my camera, and we got our food before we died of hunger, so all was well.  I mean, just look at that fry joy:

And we continued to enjoy a state of burger/fry/shake-induced bliss on a beautiful spring afternoon...until a dive-bomber pigeon attempted to steal my burger directly out of my hand.  Dis-gus-ting.  Important lesson learned - hold your food in close to protect it from those burger-stealing rats with wings.

There are only about eleventy billion awesome things to do in New York, and since we'd knocked out a lot of biggie tourist things on our sister adventure to the ci-tay about four years earlier, we headed a little off the beaten path to make a stop at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (pretty much only so I could check it off my Smithsonianity list, but then it started looking like the museum would actually be kinda cool).  Now...maybe it's just the D.C. Smithsonian museum part of me that's grown to expect Smithsonian = free...because the Cooper-Hewitt is most definitely not free.  And we didn't want to spend the whole afternoon wandering through this thing - definitely more in the mood for a quick jaunt through the niftiest exhibits.  Which in my mind didn't exactly justify the cost of admission.  So...we spent that quick jaunt going through the gift shop instead, which is kinda like going through the museum...right?

I'm totally counting that as a visit, which means I only have four left - woot woot!

Oh, and in another instance of enjoying a museum's exterior more than the interior, we captured the Guggenheim since it's right there by the Cooper-Hewitt.  Cool building.

A quick stop in Central Park for some lovely views and people watching (and pizza watching - bungee-corded onto a bike basket - very innovative)...

...and we continued with a lovely stroll through the park on a beautiful, beautiful afternoon where we witnessed sunbathers, picnickers, engagement picture takers, players of "the Viking game" Kubb (which we saw again in the park by Amanda's apartment!  never heard of this thing before, but now I really want to play it...perfect summer lawn activity...), sleeping old men (don't worry, parents, not of the homeless variety), remote-control sailboaters, carriage riders, rock climbers, and partiers of the all-white variety (I'm not being racist, promise - they really were having a "white party" a park...I see visions of grass stains).

One park bench break with a restorative Diet Coke later and we were off to find sissy's work building...and we found it in the middle of some random street fair that closed off Avenue of the Americas, giving us the opportunity to take some middle-of-the-street shots and wonder why they were selling the same thing block after block after block.

More wandering - Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park, a little coffee pick-me-up, pondering the plethora of flavor options at Rice to Riches but not indulging so we could eat something more closely resembling a real dinner in Little Italy, and coming to end of an exhausting but delightful walk-fest through the streets and parks of the NYC.

Check out the full haul of photo goodness over on Picasa.  As always, more there than you need - feel free to fly right through.  Although if you fly too fast, you might miss our new friends Jim & Joe, saddlebags for little dogs, and the easiest way to move from one apartment to another in the enjoy.  How very city.

Friday, May 28, 2010

It is Friday, isn't it?

Amanda keeps telling me about the siren song of the Mister Softee truck that patrols her neighborhood...but today I think I'd rather answer the call of one of these:

Thank you, explodingdog, for your thoughtful and well-timed creativity, and to the serious minds at Serious Eats who find these awesome links.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have at least one cocktail and some Sex and the City 2 to attend to this evening.  A long weekend is definitely in order.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A tree grows in Brooklyn...and many, many trees grow all the way from Durham to Brooklyn

Last weekend I was in blessed, blessed Texas.  The weekend before the CR-V and I embarked on the longest road trip we've ever taken together - today's topic of discussion.  This weekend I'm looking forward to not traveling at all.  Homegirl needs some down time.

Back to that road trip I mentioned.  My little sissy (although she really is remarkably taller than me, so maybe I should go with the more accurate "younger sissy"...oh, Erin) wrapped up year two of legal studies at one Duke University and prepared to embark on the summer internship.  In...New York City!  Much apartment debating, sublet from random person in Brooklyn (subletting is an odd, odd concept to me...someone just moves into your space!  And you leave your stuff there!  I don't think I trust enough for that), housing situation is set.  Only thing...any sane person doesn't really want to deal with a car in New York City when an all-encompassing subway, coupled with your very own legs and occasional taxi or bus, can get you anywhere you need to go. does one get one's self and all one's self's stuff to the ci-tay?  Enter fellow East Coast sister who ambitiously offered to drive down to Durham, load up sissy and stuff, journey to Brooklyn and deposit sissy and stuff there, then drive back to D.C.  Yipes.  That's a lot of driving.  But sister adventures await!

I headed down on Thursday after work, encountering only the usual city delays getting out of D.C. instead of any epic traffic disasters, and proceeded to drive through hours and hours of dark, scary forest.  I've made the drive before, but I think I forgot just how boring and foresty it all is.  So, so many trees.  Nothing but trees.  And you have to just trust those roadside signs that tell you there's a Chick-fil-A waiting, just on the other side of those trees - because you can't see the darn thing for yourself.  Sometimes I do miss those wide open plains of West Texas.  But I made it!  A little last minute packing, as many sister-hugs as I could manage, and a little last minute clearing out of the fridge, where I was more than happy to take care of a couple of those's just too bad we forgot to eat the strawberries in the morning.  That's just going to be ugly come August.

We actually left at the time we said we would leave in the morning (go us!), and after waving goodbye to the apartment and the poor abandoned car and most of Durham, we grabbed some lovely (literally - just look at it!  They don't do that at Starbucks...) coffee at Joe Van Gogh and set off on our journey through six states, a district, and two boroughs.

It took a long time.  And many, many dollars worth of tolls.  But we made it!  And you know what greets you as you drive into Brooklyn?  An official sign declaring "Welcome to Brooklyn!  Not Just A Borough, An Experience!" - delightful.

After leaving sissy's worldly possessions sitting in the street (don't worry - they were still inside my car), we chilled at Blackbird Parlour for a little while, enjoying some tastiness and soaking up the Brooklyn vibes while waiting for the key drop-off from subletter's friend.  And of course I took pictures of our food!  We were in need of veggies and such after our speedy Arby's lunch.

Acquired keys, navigated to temporary home, found parking spot almost directly in front of said home (miracle of miracles!), unloaded, contemplated exploring neighborhood, decided we were tired and should probably do that in daylight instead, knocked back a couple of "Gilmore Girls" with a little celebratory "yay, you live here!" wine.  Proceed to sleep like rocks.

Hellooooo, Brooklyn!  After confirming that the car survived the night as well, we set out to explore.  And on our short walk to breakfast (where I felt obligated to eat a ginormous bagel and took great pleasure in doing so) at Brooklyn Standard Deli, we saw delightful Polish pastries...

...and witnessed a guy learning how to drive a bus (yipes!) and giggled at some confused produce signage at a local store...

...and discovered a ton of grocery options in the space of just a few blocks that carried things like giant vats of pickles and sauerkraut and packages of pierogis and proteins labeled "misc." and tubs of jellied chicken and crazy mystery Polish jams (among many other products)...

Ok, I promise I'll show you pictures of things other than food.  It's just that I find it SO fascinating!  I really, really do.  But you know this already.

Fortified by coffee, we did a little more neighborhood wandering and discovered some delightful restaurants and shops before making a quick stop in McCarren Park to finish off the coffee, observe all kinds of people and their four-legged companions, and give the parents a quick call to reassure them that all was well in 'da Brooklyn.  Just look at all that green!  We also found pretty much every paperback book you could want for sale along the sidewalks before dropping down into the Bedford subway stop to zip ourselves into Manhattan for the rest of the day.  Which I'll tell you about later - for now we're just going to focus on the other borough.  And apparently food.  But come on, did you expect anything different?

So after an exhausting day in the ci-tay, of course we woke up in need of coffee the next morning.  And the fascination with subletting continues.  In search of a hidden coffee maker (how does a kitchen even function without a coffee maker?!?), my detective skills unearthed some ground coffee hanging out in the freezer...meaning there MUST be a coffee maker somewhere...and this gal has an endless supply of coffee mugs (well, as endless a supply as one can support in a dishwasher-less Brooklyn apartment)...but the contraption she uses to make coffee ends up looking something like this:

You do NOT make coffee by plopping some plastic contraption on top of a mug and then filling it with a filter and grounds and hoping for the best.  Fortunately, we were quite capable of boiling water for tea, which along with a couple of muffins made for a delightful pre-breakfast since we had brunch plans at The Habitat (discovered courtesy of the Serious Eats New York Brooklyn: Greenpoint neighborhood guide - I knew excessive food blog habits would pay off at some point).  They had coffee, thank goodness, with plenty of refills, and they also had bloody marys and mimosas and huevos rancheros and a buttermilk biscuit benedict that made me very, very happy.  They also weren't very well-lit, which doesn't lend itself to awesome pictures, which does lend itself to leaving a camera in a bag and just enjoying the delciousness.

Our relatively short walk to and from brunch also allowed us to discover: (1) a full-sized normal-like grocery store with a parking lot and everything, (2) more beautiful Polish pastries (I'm thinking maybe just go in and point at what you should work, right?), (3) a street after my own heart:

(4) supposedly delicious food from an establishment by the name of "Yummy Taco," (5) hipsters, (6) a Starbucks with frappuccino offerings displayed on nothing less than a movie marquee, (7) many adorable puppies waiting on their owners outside various stores, (8) a flyer and enthusiastic sales pitch from a young man who really, really wanted us to check out the rummage sale for the Polish Dance Something Something, and (9) a very Amanda-like grocery store that made her very happy with its amazing selection of healthy (and familiar) for that aisle of "Polish only" food that I think is unavoidable in her area.

We made our way back to the apartment, where I did a photo session for the parents to assure them of her living space and safety, and then I hit the road to drive that final 232 miles back home.  Tolls to get myself from Brooklyn back to the D of C: $11 at the Verrazano Bridge, $5.95 to get through the state of New Jersey, $3 to get into Delaware and another $4 to get out (so many dollars for such a tiny state!), and a final $2 for the tunnel in Baltimore.  I don't think those tolls will ever cease to amaze me...and neither will grocery stores.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mo' crazy signs round these parts

In Northeast D.C. near the Franciscan Monastery and an entrace to Rock Creek Park.  Given the "Sundays and holidays" restriction, I'm guessing it's more for the monastery and less for the park.  Although "going to church" is hopefully a little more involved than just "sightseeing"...

Forgive the angle which gives it to us backwards, but it was the only responsible way to snap the shot at Brookland Metro since I was in my car.  What exactly does "kiss & ride" mean?? 

My own parking garage.  Why the 1/2, seriously?

Nature is not an ash tray, ESPECIALLY at BOTNSOTIC where they specifically tell you so.

Well, you're not going to get those directions to the restrooms very often.  One place where you will is Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery.

I'm guessing the Mexican restaurant next to Ray's Hell Burger gets a lot of people looking for the burgers.  The really tasty burgers.

You know, because you send them plummeting to their death on the concrete floor about thirty feet below.  Courtesy of the Udvar-Hazy Center, giving you some basic parenting tips.

On a massive jet engine, I'm hoping it would be somewhat obvious where at least one source of danger lies.  Arrows aren't really necessary.  Air and Space Museum.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

They've gone city, part two

Have you seen enough air and space things yet?  No, no you have not!  Which is why the parents and I actually found a parking spot right by the Air & Space Museum (!) and continued to explore the fascination that is air and space amazingness.  I actually do really love the Air & Space Museum and could spend excessive amounts of time in there.  I am truly my father's child.  We were fascinated by missiles (although apparently not the ones my dad worked on back in his Army days)...

...and played space flight director...

...and marveled at what the Wright brothers managed to put in the air...

...and took a break for lunch by going over to National Museum of the American Indian, which (1) is conveniently located right next to the Air & Space Museum, (2) is WAY tastier than McDonald's, (3) gave us a chance to feed the parking meter, (4) provided a minor break from the airplanes because food ranks right up there with airplanes on Dad's awesomeness-meter...and then we went back and were generally fascinated by all manner of aircraft.

After the airplanes, we rested and chilled with Harry before having a lovely dinner with Dana at District Chophouse.  The Texans and the New Yorker are equally fascinated by each other and the vast differences in natural habitats, I assure you.

More D.C. adventures...after we slept in a little bit the next day, which was truly lovely.  If you know me at all, you know how I feel about weekend mornings accompanied by the addiction I just can't, and frankly don't want to, kick (ever!) coffee.  It was remarkably rejuvenating.  And then...on to the D.C. adventures.  For a more chill museum experience after surviving what is one of America's most-visited museums (on a Saturday, eeekk!), Mom suggested the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, which I love for that very reason - it is pretty chill.  It's also remarkably close to my apartment - score one more.  I mean, just look at the quiet peacefulness, whether it's folksy Americana...

...or a couple of Bushes hanging out, undergoing a close inspection by Dad...

...or a gallery so free of other people that we managed to get Dad to strike a pose.

Ahhhh, I can hear the silence now.  Well, except for the talking garbage cans in the courtyard, which are quite possibly the most polite trash cans ever as they slowly proclaim "thank you" for every piece of trash that goes in.  Mom made a movie of me throwing away our snack trash.  Not gonna lie, my acting skills were kinda awesome there.  It's what won me the part over Dad.  We also spent some quality time in the gift shop and then found a pony for Dad.

We had a special dinner planned for that night per Mom's request for "a place where they dump seafood on the table and you get to whack it."  I've got just the place, Mom.  Last summer I met up with work buddy Stephanie along with her husband and a friend at Quarterdeck in Arlington, which I don't know if I would have discovered otherwise.  Total dive, and an excellent place to get a bunch of steamed crabs and attack them with a mallet.  Well...if you like that kind of thing.  I think Dad had a comment along the lines of "anything that only gives up 10% of its body weight in edible mumble mumble whack whack at crab..."  Let's just say that Dad really enjoyed the appetizers of crab balls and onion rings (can you say two kinds of deep fried deliciousness??), his side of baked potato, and our shared pitcher of Miller Lite, likely because they were all immediately consumable and required no excessive amount of work to get from hand to mouth.  It does take some effort to get out the crabby deliciousness, but once you get the technique down and dip it in butter...oh yum.  Please enjoy the photo spread from the evening (with a notable lack of photographic evidence from the portion of the evening where my fingers were covered with crab goo and were in no way suitable to touch the camera).

Prepare to attack...

Yeah, I made a smiley face out of grease...yipes....

WHAT are we supposed to do with those??

The final verdict

On the way home from the seafood dining adventures, we made a stop at the Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.  We managed to get some quiet time in between the buses of tourists arriving and leaving on a very military schedule, and I managed to take about a million shots demonstrating my need for a tripod in order to actually get really good night shots.  For now I'll settle for this.

For our last day together in D.C. (boo), we had two very important items to tackle:  tube meats and old pieces of paper.  Sounds fascinating, doesn't it?  Maybe I should rephrase that as...quintessential street food dining in the form of a street cart hot dog...

...a trip through the National Archives, which unfortunately now prohibits photography in any way, shape, or form in any of the exhibits, so I don't really have much to show you there...except us eating the aforementioned hot dogs right outside the National Archives...

...and a food stop at a D.C. dining institution, Ben's Chili Bowl, where we made short work of some loaded half-smokes, managed to make a dent in the massive amount of fries loading our table, and shared a tasty piece of pound cake.  Yes, we were very, very full when we left.

I really didn't want them to leave, but after one last stop at home to say goodbye to their grandfurchild, it was time to drop off the parental units at their rental car so they could drive down to visit the other child in North Carolina.  So glad you finally made it to D.C., Mom & Dad - hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Side note - why do I feel compelled to blog about things in chronological order?  I'm guessing it has something to do with the same genetic makeup that compels me to be an accountant.  At any rate, last weekend I drove approximately 1,000 miles and moved my sister from Durham, NC to Brooklyn, NY.  Definitely a blog-worthy experience you'll hear alllllll about soon.  And I leave for Dallas (SUPER YAY!!!!!) Thursday morning, so let's see if I can manage to squeeze it in for posting before then.