Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We escaped!

Last Friday, some friends and I did one of the "Escape the Room" games that have been cropping up in New York lately. For anyone who has ever played the Escape the Room computer games the premise should sound familiar: basically you're locked in a room and have to solve puzzles and clues to figure out how to get out. In the live action version, you have an hour on a big clock, and if you don't get out in the hour, then they just let you out to face your shame. There are also a bunch of different options in a Midtown and Downtown location. I found a number of friends willing to try it, but we ended up in a room with a maximum of 12 people, so there were a few strangers as well.

There are several different games from an office to an apartment to a Victorian mansion. Our room of choice (or rather necessity in terms of scheduling) was the Theater. I won't provide any spoilers lest anyone reading this wants to attempt the game sans cheating, but the gist is the twelve us were shut in a small theater with talking puppets. There were various locks that needed keys or combinations and once opened would provide tools or keys for the next obstacle. As you might imagine from the title of this post, we were successful in escaping. My contribution was pretty much nonexistent, however. Were I leading the team, we would probably still be in there.

I had a lot of fun, but my one quibble with the game was that there were a few too many people. With twelve, there was a lot of chaos. People were finding clues and riddles left and right, and most of the time I had no idea what was going on. Then again, that was possibly my own fault as I pretty much spent the whole time walking in circles and following one red herring doggedly for about 20 minutes. At the end, after we were successful, one of the games organizers walked us through the whole narrative that we had just done. I was amazed at all the things the team had accomplished while I was confusedly following along three steps behind. I was definitely glad for the post-game walk through, and if not for that, they probably could have locked me in there again and I would have no idea how to escape.

My poor escaping skills aside, I would do this again (were I but around for it). It was nice to do something a little different with a few of my favorite people.

Some proud escapees!
Totally unrelated to all of the above, but I must record for my own posterity: On Sunday night, my obsessive signing up for John Oliver tickets finally got me to a live taping of Last Week Tonight. Funny stuff. Also of note, former New York Times movie critic Elvis Mitchell was sitting in front of us. These are just a few of the things I'll miss about living in New York.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Harbor livin'

This past weekend and the first part of this week, I was in Maine enjoying some time with family and some cool coastal breezes far from the city. Our adorable harbor town of choice was Boothbay Harbor where my uncle and aunt have frequently gone in the summer (I don't think we're bourgeois enough to use "summer" as a verb). In fact, I was there as a kid once, although my only abiding memory is of petting a lobster to calm it before it was boiled for dinner. I guess I didn't get too attached. I do also remember seeing a photo of a little kid's train my grandparents apparently took me on. Twenty years later, the train is still there, although my sister and I had perhaps outgrown it. 

I know that many of my readers were on this very trip with me, but hopefully they will still appreciate the photos:

A family photo in front of the wildflowers at Stonewall Kitchen
On our drive up, we stopped in York, Maine as my uncle had recommended Stonewall Kitchen as a nice lunch spot. Stonewall Kitchen is the maker of a ton of jams and sauces, and most exciting they had their entire product line to sample. I made it a mission to try most things (excepting the chutneys), so I ended up not actually being able to eat much of my lunch. Nevertheless, if you're driving up through Maine, I highly recommend this stopover.  
The beauty of the Costal Maine Botanical Gardens
My aunt and uncle spoke highly of the Costal Maine Botanical Gardens (in fact, my aunt even appears in a photo from their official coffee table book!), and after going there, we could see why. Maine has an exceptional climate for flowers, but the gardens were also just really inventive. There was a wonderful children's garden and also a Five Senses Garden with elements to touch, smell, hear, see, and taste (well the taste was more theoretical, as they didn't really encourage eating anything).

Fairy house construction.
At the botanical gardens, there was also a 'Fairy House Village' with sticks and bark for building fairy houses. Some of our group partook. Others just watched and photographed the progress.

Some hardened sailors.
We chose our one very sunny day to go sailing. I had never been sailing before, and I'm not totally sure if what we did qualifies as we were not required to actually do anything other than not stand when the boom was occasionally coming across. There also wasn't a ton of wind so weren't going at too fast a clip. Still, it was a lot of fun to be out on the water and see a few of the islands in the area. And now I can cross sailing off the list of things I've never done. I still need to ride a motorcycle and try water skiing at some point though.

Our sailing captain. 
The town of Boothbay Harbor is quite cute and small enough that we quickly gained our bearings. There were plenty of fudge shops, galleries, and bookshops and one well placed popcorn shop with flavors like Coconut Curry and Bacon Chocolate. The per capita number of ice cream shops in Boothbay Harbor is also very high. Alas, we weren't there enough to try them all, but suffice is say, we didn't go hungry and were especially not wanting for sugar.

This adorable used book store seems to appropriately illustrate Boothbay.
 Naturally, in between fudge and ice cream gorging, we also managed to eat a few lobsters (or lobster rolls in my case, as I don't like the fuss involved).

Sam in his element. For the record, only one of those lobsters was his. 
 Now for some reason during the trip it became an important task to take photos of Sam with all of the bears we saw. It turns out there was a number of bears in Maine. The following is thus a selection of Sam and bear photos. Enjoy!
Sam and Smokey!
Sam at the botanical gardens
Sam at this great microbrewery in Boothbay. The bear is slightly less evident here, but he's back there.
That about wraps up our trip. It was a short one, but a truly lovely weekend with some wonderful hosts. I think I have some much clearer memories this time around. And if not, I'll at least have this blog post full of photos. 
'Til next time, Boothbay Harbor!

Monday, July 14, 2014


A weekend away can be so restorative, even if the "away" is actually still within the borough where we live. A friend organized a trip to the beach at Rockaway this past weekend, in part to celebrate the recent homecoming of another friend from Honduras. I always enjoy going to Rockaway as a day trip (it's a couple of hours on the subway though), but had never considered spending the night. Through the power of AirBnB, we got a lovely little surfer's paradise a block from the beach and with a charming backyard. It's amazing how much farther away Rockaway felt by the sheer act of spending a couple of nights there. But it also still lovely knowing on Sunday, we just had to hop a MTA bus back and enjoy a scenic drive through Queens to get home.

Beach friends!
There wasn't too much on our beach weekend agenda. Mostly making mojitos, cooking dinner (during the process of which, we may have set off the smoke alarm...but in our defense, who puts a smoke alarm right over the stove?), playing games, obsessively reapplying sunblock, listening to a 90s pop cover band that sounded suspiciously like Hootie and the Blowfish, and general merriment. We also eat a few tacos and arepas and watched the soccer game. It was exactly the sort of low key weekend that managed to feel longer than it was and yet still leave me refreshed and ready for Monday.

We tried to take pictures of the "super moon" but Sam's artsy picture of a streetlight came out better.

This is what breakfast at Rockaway Taco looks like. 

Me, taking all necessary sun precautions. 

A morning walk on the beach. 
Anyway now I'm back in town (or back in my proper part of Queens anyway), and it's cloudy and a bit rainy, but luckily it won't be so very long until my next summer getaway. Looking forward to it!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Things photographed

First off, I would be remiss in this post if I didn't first wish Sam a happy birthday! Secondly, sorry it's been a couple of weeks hiatus. In an effort to catch up without the actual effort of stringing events into a narrative (it may not look it, but I do put some effort into that sometimes), I'm going to do one of those ever-popular "photos from my phone" posts. Does this still count as blogging? More importantly: is it at all interesting? These are the hard questions I leave to you, my readers. As for me, I've got photo dumping to do: 

I like the miss en scene here, and it was the healthiest looking picture of food on my phone. 
To begin: Sam and I hosted a game night at our apartment last week, and it was far too hot to cook anything for people to nibble on, so instead I served guacamole (the avocados are unreal right now!) and summer rolls. I suppose I took the above picture of the ingredients for the summer rolls because I planned to share the recipe later. Obviously, that did not happen. But then again, who needs a recipe to make summer rolls?

Crossfit pride. Or rather gay pride + Crossfit.
 Last weekend was Pride, which I didn't remember until getting out of the subway in the West Village to go see a movie. At first I was confused by all the shirtless men walking around (although it was pretty hot), but once I saw a few rainbows and cowboy outfits, I got with the program. My final clue was when I actually ran into the parade itself. As luck would have it, Hells Kitchen Crossfit had a float, and it was going by right as I walked up. Our gym should clearly do this next year.

Rainbow Empire State!
This picture is kind of a wash because you can't tell what I was going for. The Empire State Building was lit up like a rainbow for Pride. It looked cool in person, anyway.

PS 1
This was taken from PS 1 the school turned modern art museum (off-shoot of the MOMA) in my neighborhood. Residents of Astoria get in for free, so I went with a friend on my day off. Every time I go I am reminded that it's not really my style of art, but that I do love the building. They always do a cool outside exhibition in the summer though. So, you know, I took a picture of it on my phone.

She finally won the window sill battle and made me get rid of that plant. 
No phone photo dump is complete without a picture of Dinah! She is the most photographed thing on my phone by far.
Grand piano in Washington Square Park
 After brunch yesterday, we went for a quick walk through Washington Square Park. The guy playing this piano was pretty good. So there's that.

Sam's patriotic birthday!
Although Sam's real birthday is today, we did some pre-celebrating over the weekend at his parent's house. That did mean there was some 4th of July crossover though, as this cake (really a tart/cheesecake) will attest. I have too many strawberries on hand to not decorate things like the American flag when the situation presents itself. Luckily, Sam's mom had a "happy birthday" cake decoration laying around, so there wasn't any confusion as to the cake's true purpose.

This little bench puppet was also in Washington Square Park
These are out of order, but this little guy seemed like a fitting way to end this post. Next time, I promise: more words, fewer pictures. Well unless you actually prefer more pictures and fewer words, in which case I really need to figure out how that Instagram thing really works #finallyunderstandtwitter.