Monday, December 23, 2013

Goodbyes and cookie making

It seems this winter is a transitional time for many around here. One of my first Crossfit friends had her last workout on Friday (moving to Cleveland), the same day that one of the members of my book club had her last day (moving to Nashville). Another girl I work with, who I've been friends with for pretty much the whole time I've worked at the company (which scarily enough will be six years soon), is moving on to a marketing company. We, and a couple of other coworkers (now mostly former coworkers) have been getting together to make Christmas cookies every December for the past four years. It's traditions like these that I'm particularly thankful for in periods of transition. New York is a very transient city, or perhaps all cities are when you're in your 20s, but while good friends come and go, it's nice to have things (such as cookies) that you can count on.

Here then, is a short recap of Christmas cookie makings past:

2010. The inaugural cookie making. We drank too much wine, and spilled frosting everywhere, but Kate still continues to invite us back. 

2011. This strangely was without wine. Also, I still have that reindeer sweater and wore it to another Christmas party this weekend, so there's that. 

2012. We didn't plan to organize in matching pairs like that, but clearly our decorating party is reaching new levels of synergy. Also, the only cookie decorating photo in existence showcasing all of us. 

2013. The party this year. Sadly, only one of these girls still works with me as of January 1st. 

Still 2013. Couldn't help but post a few of our creations. After  four years, we're getting a little better at this. 

So this was just a short post because I imagine many are celebrating things (Christmas/time off work/what have you) instead of reading blogs. Also, I probably won't be updating again in 2013 because I too will be doing such things. See you in 2014 then, those of you reading this. And may you have happiness for all of the holidays in between!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Snow and holiday cheer and rock music

We had our first proper snowstorm here this weekend. Where "proper" is defined as "lasting longer than just the duration of my walk to and from the gym and then stopping the instant I'm warm and inside and just want to watch some snow, damnit!" As a bonus, it even stuck for a little bit, thus transforming my neighborhood into a winter wonderland for an hour or so before people messed it up. As such, I spent a nice portion of the weekend indoors, drinking tea, and contemplating how to write 2,000 words on the basics of using a thesaurus. Nevertheless, not to be defeated by temperatures in the 20s, I did do the following things:

1) On Friday, we went to see American Hustle (amazing acting, inconsistent script, ran a little long), and afterward, since it didn't really seem that cold, we thought it would be a good time to check out the Christmas hoopla on 5th Ave. I have a love/hate relationship with these timeless traditions. On the one hand, there has not been a year since I've lived here that I've missed seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center or the windows at Bergdorf's. That said, every year, I spend most of the time there complaining about the crowds. Turns out the (seemingly obvious) key is to go on a cold Friday night after all the stores on 5th Ave are closed. I mean sure it was still crowded, but not nearly as maddeningly so. 

Next to Rockefeller Center itself, the tree actually seems quite small. 
This year the theme of the Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows was, in fact, holidays themselves. I think they called it "Holidays on Ice." Anyway, they were predictably well done, but my favorite was the April Fool's one (see below).
It looks like the photo is upside down, right? Not so! they actually hung a bunch of glass animals from the ceiling. Well done, Bergdorfs. It almost makes me want to buy a $2,000 coat from you. Almost. 
 2) Saturday, aside from brunch with a friend, was a day best spend inside. However, on a venture out, I did get this stunning photo of Sam outside our apartment.

Sam. Outside our apartment. 
Saturday night, a friend of my parents had given us tickets to go see Queens of the Stone Age at Barclay's Center. I felt kind of bad because I had never actually heard of them, and a friend on facebook who was an actual fan was upset because the roads were too icy to get there. It hardly seemed fair, so we braved the storm and the delayed train times to head to Brooklyn, despite remarking that you'd really have to be a diehard fan to be willing to do such a thing. Nevertheless, it was fun! I don't know that I'm entirely a fan of the band, but they did have a cool sound. Also, the opening band, whose name I never actually heard, was pretty awesome.

I'd never been to Barclay's Center, but it was very nice. Tons of food and drink options from local Brooklyn businesses. It almost makes me want to go to a basketball game sometime.
Queens of the Stone Age in all their glory. 
 3) Okay, there is no third thing. I really did spend all of Sunday lounging and making bolognese sauce. But, hey, here's a picture from my walk to the gym this morning!
The beautiful ConEd power station at sunrise. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Scenes from a Samsung Galaxy S3 (Holiday edition)

When I first got my phone, I indulged in a little lazy blogging by just posting a bunch of photos that were on my phone for a few weeks. Naturally, the novelty has worn off the new toy, as happens with all gadgets eventually I suppose because someone must be buying all these new iPhone updates. Anyway, one thing the novelty will never wear off of is lazy writing. Why take the time to come up with a true (or in my cause, usually somewhat tenuous) narrative to tie together random events when I can allow the random events to do that for themselves? In expertly captured image form, no less! 

I flipped through all of the things I took pictures of in the last week or so and included a random sample. Well that's inaccurate. If it were a random sampling, most of these would be blurry, accidental pictures of my face, or pictures of my cat. Instead there's only one picture of my cat (...and one picture of somebody's else's cat), so I can assure you the photo choices were anything but random. 

My favorite of the Dinah pictures currently on my phone. Not her most flattering angle, perhaps, but then this is my blog, not hers. 

The sun sets triumphantly over the 30th Ave subway stop. Times being what they are, this probably occurred at 4:45. 

Cabbage expertly squeezed of its moisture. Look at all that cabbage water! This did eventually become (according to Sam) excellent sauerkraut. 

The farmer's market on a winter's day. 

Stopping for warmth inside the W Hotel. Sam's head needed additional warmth, so he borrowed my hat and made that face. 

Decorating 101. Notice how the wreath oh-so-casually hides my door number lest Internet stalkers hunt me down. This sadly might prevent UPS from finding me though. 

This looks like a staged photo, but I really did magically capture my niece mid tree trimming. 

Still life with Martha Stewart. One day I too will host brunches this classy. 

A snowy eve in Prospect Park. It's blurry because it's snowy, not because I'm a poor phonetographer.

Sam's friend owns a wine shop and built this winter village window display. The train doesn't actually run, and I don't think it will rival the NYBG train show anytime soon, but I took a picture of it, so now I'm posting it because it matches the holiday tableau I'm crafting here. 

The second Christmas tree in this post and the second one that isn't mine.  Cute cat though. 
Hope you enjoyed these visual treats courtesy of my phone. It's fun to occasionally post these things, because otherwise they just languish on my phone until I eventually forget why I took them.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A little Thanksgiving post

I do enjoy writing my yearly Thanksgiving post because my Thanksgivings are pretty reliable. There's a reason it's my favorite holiday. I spent it with my wonderful family (who I've become only more thankful for through the years as I've encountered other people's families who don't all get along quite so oddly well), unapologetic food binging, and laid back good times. Another thing I should be thankful for but realized I've taken for granted over the years is the quality of turkey to which I am accustomed. During our Monday morning what-did-you-do-over-Thanksgiving chat circle at the gym (it's things like this which probably cause people to call Crossfit a cult), several people summed up their Thanksgiving as "spent time with family; turkey was dry." While dry turkey certainly isn't a Thanksgiving-ruining issue, provided enough extra gravy is nearby, it does make me grateful for both turkey bags and for my dad who can tease great flavor out of an otherwise bland bird.

Anyway, I think it's fairly safe to say that my entire blog readership was present this weekend (I'm joking of course, I know that Beth reads this too. Hey, Beth!), but I'm going to post a few pictures anyway. After all, you might have been there, but you could still want to see evidence of it.

My sister, me, and a mug. 

Sam and I and my grandfather. Santa hats were brought out, but don't worry, not until after Thanksgiving. 

With my grandmother, and in the absence of Santa hats. 

The bird prepares to make its debut

This house in Fort Worth was designed by my great grandfather. It recently sold for $1.4 million. For those who are interested, I also found this article that talks about the extensive grounds in the back that we didn't get to see. 
We went to the Kimbell Art Museum to see their new building. This isn't the new building, but I liked this picture because the colorful foliage in the corner keeps making me think the photographer's thumb brushed the lens.  
I was thankful to be down in Arlington yet again, especially with such ease of air travel. While the trip always feels far too short, I'm glad to know I'll at least some of the same folks in a little less than a month for our post Christmas celebrations! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Doing some wedding

I wanted to share a few photos from a wedding I recently officiated. To be clear, recent or not, it's also the only wedding I've ever officiated. I thought the process would be easy enough because writing a ceremony for my two awesome friends getting married (their awesomeness was actually something of a theme of the ceremony) would be a piece of cake, especially after recently going through the editing process of my own wedding ceremony. While the writing of the ceremony, being as it was quite short, went swimmingly, I'd forgotten I would also have to do the delivering of the ceremony part. Writing comes fairly naturally, but the public speaking part of wedding officiating does not.

Getting down to some serious officiating.
Watching the vow reading.
I was a bit nervous heading over to the wedding site, despite the fact that the entire group I would be speaking to was less than 20 people, a good portion of whom didn't speak English. Sam and I arrived early despite knowing the bride and groom would quite likely be late. Luckily all the other guests did too. After talking to everyone for a half hour or so before adjoining to the ceremony site, the nervousness went away as I got to know everyone. The end result wasn't half bad (or so Sam assures me). I don't think I'll be making a career of marrying people, but there are definitely things I am worse at (bowling, butterfly pull-ups, not arriving early to things, graphic design, etc).

I like this one of everyone else, so I'm including it even though I'm obviously looking at some other camera.
In addition to a not too shaky ceremony, it was just a wonderful day. The wedding was in a beautiful park uptown (Fort Tyron Park, home of the Cloisters) that is one of my favorites but that I never seem to actually make it to. The weather was lovely and the flowers were abundant. Not a bad place to do some marrying at all.

I loaned my sunglasses for this shot because I am a full service officiant. I don't just provide the ceremony, but also the photo props.

My favorite picture of the happy couple.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pickling and Nazi assassinations

It's been a pretty quiet week or so which accounts for my not updating. This will honestly be a pretty short one as well as I'm currently updating out of guilt for not updating recently more than because I have actual substantive news to report. I can however think of two small things to write of, neither of which warrant their own post (yet), but perhaps can buoy each other in tandem.

1) I've been doing a bit of pickling lately. I have all the canning equipment leftover from the great Apple Butter Onslaught of 2012 (otherwise known as wedding planning). I also, as luck would have it, have a very bountiful farm share this year. The only thing keeping me from canning more things is the fact that I don't particularly like pickles. Never have. Luckily, what would be an insurmountable barrier to pickling is solved by being married to a lover of all things pickled. So far I've pickled green tomatoes and am waiting on some pickled garlic and habeneros. (Side note: the main lesson I learned from the pepper pickling is that you shouldn't chop up a pound of habeneros without gloves on right before you plan to put your contact lenses in.) I also currently have some cabbage brining away on my counter in hopes of becoming sauerkraut (which incidentally, I also don't care for).

Aside from not particularly being excited to try the results of my labors, I must say I kind of enjoy the fine art of pickling. There's a certain chemistry to it, or in the case of the sauerkraut, I suppose some biology. Also, as the lady in my canning recipe book described it, there's an industrious immigrant feeling that comes along with using all your upper body strength for 20 minutes to squeeze the water out of cabbage.

3 more weeks til pickled peppers. 
2) My book club read Laurent Binet' HHhH a couple of months back. At the time I was a little overwrought with WWII after spending the summer writing a book on the Holocaust as well, but after some more distance I can really appreciate it more as being an incredible book. It's a novel, but almost a memoir. At the very least it's a novel with a very strong anxiety about getting all the facts right. It deals with the results of Operation Anthropoid where two parachutists (a Czech and a Slovak) attempt to assassinate Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich.

Anyway, the author was doing a discussion at a bookstore downtown on Saturday night, so Sam and I, along with a girl from my book club went to check it out. He was very endearing in person and not at all fitting the assumptions I had made about someone who would spend 10 years of his life researching Nazis.

I hopefully will have more (interesting) things to write about later this week, but in the meantime, if you anyone wants an autographed copy of HHhH or a jar of pickles in their Christmas stocking, now's the time to put in your orders.

Friday, November 8, 2013

New Years in November

Since living in New York the last few years, I've sought out a lot of classic New York tourist experiences. However, one thing I've never had any interest in doing is Times Square on New Years Eve. Tales of rivers of urine from people being trapped in pens for hours in preparation for the party and the mind-numbing coldness that always takes place around January have always kept that pretty far down on my list of ways to celebrate the coming of a new year. When a friend invited me to an event organized by the Obscura Society where you could learn about and even touch the famous Times Square ball, it seemed like the next best thing.

View (through a dirty window) at One Times Square.
The ball is kept at the top of the building One Times Square that it drops on year round. As it turns out, this building is accessible by elevators inside a Walgreens. It's visible from a number of rooftop and office buildings in the surrounding area since it's really only about 25 stories up. It would be interesting to work across from it, I should think, but then I suppose like everything else it would stop being noteworthy after a couple of days. They do apparently light it up for different days though, much like the Empire State Building. Apparently it becomes a pumpkin at Halloween and a globe for Earth Day.

The ball alit.
The event included champagne and a talk by one of the guys who works there year round. Apparently there isn't a lot of turnover in the News Years Eve ball dropping business, as he'd been working there since the mid-1980s. In fact, he was working there when the countdown switched from union guys with a stopwatch to the computer system (which apparently was the one time the ball was ever actually late). He was a fount of information about the history of the ball drop. Apparently, the first one in the early 1900s was a ploy by the New York Times to get people to come uptown to their new headquarters. They came up with the idea of having a ball that dropped based on a maritime tradition of dropping an iron ball at a predetermined time so ships could manage their timekeeping. They combined this not-so-exciting event with fun new technology (the original ball was 5 feet wide and made of wood and iron with 125-watt light bulbs) to create something noteworthy.

The reason you can't see it from Times Square usually is because it's behind this billboard.
While I was sipping my champagne and listening to his spiel about the over a million people who come to Times Square every New Years Eve from all over the world, it almost made me consider doing it for the first time. I thought about how I'd made it to the inauguration in 2008 which, really, involved just as much waiting around in huge crowds in the bitter crowd for hours on end, so why not this? However, then we actually made it up to the roof. It was about 40 degrees (according to Wikipedia the average temperature in NYC on New Years Eve since 1907 has been 33 degrees...and the coldest was in 1917 when it was 1 degree) and we were outside for maybe twenty minutes taking pictures, and I was pretty uncomfortable. Granted, we were on a windy rooftop and I wasn't wearing any heavy winter gear, but still.
Here's me with the ball. You can also note my new hair cut, albeit mostly obscured by hat.

I don't know where I'll be for New Years Eve, but I do know it will probably be inside somewhere. But for now, I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year has in store, as so far 2013 has been a pretty good one.

One final shot. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

The people like warm weather

Sam suggested going to Central Park this weekend because it was unseasonably warm and because I needed a break from writing. I realized on our way over that it was exactly a year ago that we took our engagement photos in Central Park. I mostly remember because it was the first weekend in November and should have been the marathon weekend, if it wasn't canceled due to Sandy. Also, interestingly, as I recall freezing in my cute-but-not-entirely-weather-appropriate mustard colored dress, this weekend marked little resemblance to that particular November weekend as it was in the high 60s.

Fall color. If you squint, and don't notice all the people, it almost looks like nature. 
This year, enjoying the park on a beautiful day (well up until it rained) made me realize how lucky we were in our choice of times last year. The advantage of going to the park when we did (super early. on a nearly freezing November day. directly after a debilitating city-wide natural disaster), is that we had the park nearly to ourselves. The thing I most notice when I look at our engagement photos is that it looks like we're alone in the park, which even on the best of days is hardly ever the case. To illustrate this point, I took a couple of shots around Bethesda Fountain, where we'd met our photographer last year. At 3 PM on a beautiful, warm November day, it was something of a different story.



 Despite the hardship of throngs of people (including us) we saw a number of photographers and couples  trying to capture their enduring love on film. I think we saw at least two brides and one engagement shoot just within the tunnel and area directly around the fountain. It's also worth noting that there was a camera man accompanying a sizable group of people dressed like Batman. We're talking maybe 20 to 25 Batmans (Batmen?). They seemed to be having an easier time than the engaged couples, as even the most self-involved tourist knows to steer clear of a fleet of caped avengers.
One of Sam's photos. He generally has the better eye.
This is why we need a professional photographer. 
Luckily, this year the marathon was able to go on as usual. A friend of mine was running in it and managed to get under four hours. I can't imagine running for four hours straight, but I know that even if I somehow managed that, that I would be close to completely 26.2 miles at the end of it.

Marathon runners rounding 5th Ave below the park (so about 24 miles in). 
So while I didn't accomplish any major life goals (not that running a marathon is even remotely on my list of life goals), it was overall a pretty good weekend. Hope it was equally warm, and perhaps less crowded where you were, readers. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lazy Halloweening

For someone who doesn't watch scary movies (with the obvious exception of zombie movies) and thinks paying money for people to jump out and attack you in haunted houses is kind of stupid (especially this one where the rumor is they straight up water board you), I'm usually pretty into Halloween.  The last few years, I've hosted Halloween parties and for the last two Halloween parades I've danced to some Michael Jackson song or another. This year, however, I'm feeling like ever since the wedding, we can take a break from hosting for a while. Also, I defected from the Halloween parade. Might as well give some new zombies a chance to shine, as I just couldn't get that excited about going to rehearsal.

Our Halloween plans might have amounted to absolutely nothing, excepting last post's pumpkin carving, if a friend hadn't decided to throw a party at the last moment. This left us with the need to come up with costumes on the fly. Knowing we couldn't top last year's ensembles, and really, you can probably only get away with a couple's costume that cloying once, we went a different way with it. We became determined to cobble together costumes from existing items rather than buy more items at Goodwill strictly for costume purposes. At this point I have an entire plastic tub full of clothes that I don't actually wear just keep around for rare costuming purposes. I refuse to start a second tub.

Oddly, our rummage and some Internet research led to two fairly disparate costumes. With some high-wasited sailor pants and a button-up shirt, I could pull off 70s. For whatever reason, I decided my pop culture icon of choice would be Jan Brady. Of course, the only real effort made there was pulling my hair back and curling the front bit which got a bit messed up on the windy walk to the party, so by the time I arrived, I was back to being generic 1970s person. Sam, by contrast, chose the route of gluing leaves and newspaper scraps to a rain poncho and being a person trapped in a hurricane. He was originally going to be a newscaster in a hurricane, but we lost the resolve to make a little fake microphone. Naturally, with Hurricane Sandy now being a year passed and this being (thankfully) a rather quiet year storm-wise, his cultural reference was perhaps only slightly less outdated than mine. He had the advantage though in that the windy walk to the party only enhanced the look of his ensemble.
Sam, caught in the hurricane that is our entryway. 

It's like looking in a mirror, right? 

The party was fun and especially enhanced because the host's have an adorable Jack Russell Terrier that reminds me very much of my old dog in that he loves all people and can barely contain his excitement around them. Luckily, through my awkward inability to show up anywhere fashionably late, we got a good 10 minute of uninterrupted puppy time in before the other guests arrived. That right there makes putting on bell bottoms and riding three trains on a windy night worth it.

So now, with no parade or other Halloween plans in my future, it pretty much feels like November around here (stay tuned for a writing project I may be working on in November proper). For those who live in neighborhoods where kids actually trick or treat or who have plans yet to happen, I hope you have a wonderful Halloween!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sleepy Holloween

Yesterday totally got away from me, but I'm still going to post about the weekend because it was wonderful. I'm not going to start with my cliche discussion of the weather that I've noticed is at the top of pretty much every one of my posts (although, if I were to go that way, I'd have to say it was perfectly crisp and autumnal). Instead, regardless of what the climate may or may not have been, it was decided that at halfway through October, it was time to start doing fall things, and in particular: Halloween things.

For years, I've been talking about going up to Sleepy Hollow around Halloween as they do a big to-do ever since they changed their name from the much less romantic North Tarrytown. As it turns out, most of the Halloween celebrations are at night, and also booked far in advance, so we didn't partake in them on our day trip. We, however, did walk around and appreciate the creepy scarecrow pillow people they tie to all their fence posts and the various headless horseman themed public art. It was the Sleepy Hollow High Homecoming game the day we were there, but we chose not to attend. I am curious what their mascot (they're the horsemen) looked like though.

On our walk, we hit Philipsburg Manor, an old Dutch settlement farm. This is also the site of the Horseman's Hollow where on nights during October, the house and grounds are transformed into a haunted house or, according to their website, a "terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane." Naturally, we were sorry to have missed that. In daylight, when there aren't masked horsemen chasing you around though, it's rather picturesque.

It's like you're in New Netherland.
A short walk from the Philipsburg Manor is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Washington Irving is buried there. Apparently so are Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Gompers, and Leona Helmsley, but the place is huge and we quickly tired of trying to find their graves and just wandered around the grounds for a bit. Some nice people at the entrance were selling apple cider and mulled wine which would probably improve any cemetery experience.

Irving's grave, complete with small pumpkin left by some well wisher. 
Sam enjoying a day at the cemetery.
Our cemetery companions--minus Sam, who took this.
Another of Sam's artsy cemetery shots. 
After a lunch at a waterfront restaurant, we adjourned back to Astoria. However, the photogenic and classically fall activities did not stop there! On Sunday, we went to a friend's pumpkin carving and chili eating party. There were prizes (this particular friend is a salesperson for a large winery, so the prizes were very good), so I encouraged Sam, as the superior pumpkin carver to represent us. I gutted a few pumpkins though in between chili eating in order to earn my keep.

I'll let you guess which one is his prize-winning pumpkin. See answer below... 
The artists with their pumpkins (and me with an untouched gourd).
Hope everyone had a lovely fall weekend (or whatever the weather was near you...). I'm still thinking of ideas for a costume that won't involve me spending any money, so all suggestions are appreciated.