Onwards and Upwards

This time last year, I shared with you all a list of 15 new things I wanted to do in 2015. Some were culinary, some were cultural, some were personal, and all of them fed into my larger resolutions of being more proactive and getting to know — and, hopefully, love — New York better. I made the list public in the hopes that it would make me more accountable, all of you dear readers the virtual sponsors of my 2015 journey. So I feel it’s only fair, now that 2015 has officially gone, to share with you how I did.

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So what, in January of 2016, does my 2015 report card look like? Not perfect, but passable I think. Of the 15 items on my list, I confess I can definitively cross off only five. I learned to make cocktails, in large part helped/motivated by our “Eat This, Drink That” series (solidarity for the win!). I took a spontaneous day trip with the roomies to go apple picking outside the city.  I visited Astoria, multiple times in fact (though I have yet to visit the Museum of the Moving Image, the original impetus for this particular resolution). I went to a few museums, including the previously unexplored Whitney (the Guggenheim and American Museum of Natural History remain on my list, along with the Transit Museum, Tenement Museum, and the aforementioned MMI). I did in fact try one new bar or restaurant every month, including many spots in my new hood (favorites so far: Bahnmigos, Café Rue Dix, and Chavela’s, especially for brunch).  And while I didn’t roast a chicken, I did learn to fry one, thanks to Gaga, so I’m going to go ahead and add a sixth “soft check” to my list.

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The rest of the items remain, I must admit, untouched. I did not touch Proust, did not watch “The Wire,” have yet to visit Albertine or stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. Most shameful of all, I still do not know how to ride a damn bike. But as for my larger resolutions, to say yes to more things and use my time more effectively and take advantage of my time in New York, I think I did ok. It waxes and wanes, it’s true, as housing searches, general life stress, and budgetary concerns dampen my enthusiasm for venturing beyond the confines of my apartment. But I can say with conviction that I am fonder of New York now than I was a year ago, and most certainly more at peace with it than I was my first unhappy winter here.  It’s not a whirlwind romance like some folks feel for the skyscrapers and concrete; I do not see myself staying here forever. But we’ve come to an understanding, New York and I, reaching a copacetic balance where we can, for the most part, enjoy each other’s company in peace.

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So as 2016 starts to chug along, what new things do I want to try? My overarching goals remain the same: to be braver and more adventurous, in all aspects of my life; to say yes to more experiences, because I am almost always happier when I do; to appreciate my friends and my family, the ones who make me laugh until my stomach aches and who never hesitate to offer a sympathetic ear and a hug (sometimes in person, sometimes via text or phone or Google Hangout) when I need it; and to take advantage of all the things that living in New York, 26 years old and relatively unburdened by adult responsibilities or entanglements, has to offer, because these days are fleeting.

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There are a few specific items I want to add to my remaining list of 10. I want to get away for a weekend with my and Scout’s New York squad (already in the works!), I want to take a trip with our high school gang, and I want to have a reunion with my Paris filles (commence praying for the funds and, more importantly, vacation days to make these all happen now). I want to be more diligent and proactive about my writing, both on this blog and elsewhere — to be braver about advocating for my own work and more disciplined about putting in the time to write the pieces I want to, not just the ones I can conveniently cram into my schedule. I want to drink more water. I want to read more (and spend less of my commute playing Temple Run). I want to practice yoga more regularly, because I always feel less stressed and more in tune with my body when I do. I want to remember to moisturize. And even though it’s scary, I want to start thinking about what comes next — for my job, for my personal life, and for this blog.

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At the end of each year or significant period in my life, I look back and ask myself three questions. Did I learn something? Did I go somewhere new? Did I make a new friend? Those are my real resolutions. Even that term seems too trivial: They are my guideposts, the points on my personal compass that tell me if I’ve lived an experience or a year fully, lived it well. This year, I learned how to make an old fashioned, to sign up for my own health insurance plan, to embrace my hair’s natural curls. I went to Dr. Davies Farm and Jones Beach and Crown Heights. I made a delightful bunch of new friends, including some who graduated from workplace colleagues to bona fide, see-each-other-outside-the-office pals. So all checklists aside, I think 2015 went ok. And I can’t wait to (lovingly, creatively, courageously) kick 2016’s ass.

15 New Things: Whoa, We’re Halfway There

Greetings, dear readers! With June officially coming to a close, we have reached the halfway mark in 2015 (crazy, I know). And so this seemed like an apt time to check in on my resolutions/goals/new adventures for the year. I started this year off with a list of 15 new things I wanted to do, see, try, learn, or generally accomplish in the year 2015. Here’s how I’m doing so far.

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1. Find a signature cocktail and learn how to make it. Thanks to our new series “Eat This, Drink That,” I have officially embarked on the first resolution on my list! I busted out my Mason shaker and muddler for my first foray into the world of shaken not stirred: Mamrie Hart’s Show Thyme. It was summery and delicious, but a bit sweet for an everyday drink. Next up on my list is BOURBON PEACH DRINK — a peach, tea, and bourbon iced drink that sounds like Kentucky summer in a jar — and that Kentucky classic, the old fashioned.

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7. Try at least one new bar/restaurant every month. This continues to be my most successful resolution thus far. To be fair, I’ve had a few visitors over the past few months, which has helped spur my culinary explorations. In one of the highlights, I finally tried quintessential hipster pizza joint Roberta’s and was surprisingly impressed; normally I find these places don’t live up to the hype, but the pizza was fresh and delicious, with some of the best crust I’ve ever tasted and scrumptious cocktails to boot. And my new favorite from this week is Melt Shop, a Midtown spot that I can already tell is going to be a favorite lunch spot due to their winning combination of grilled cheese, tater tots, and puns.

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11. Go to more museums. I have not yet made it to any of the three main museums in my original post yet (I did actually set foot in the Natural History Museum, but it was only to use my work ID to get my visiting friends free tickets before I myself departed for work). But I did make it to a spot that, while not on my blog list, was way up on my New York/life bucket list: Ellis Island. I went a couple weeks ago with my mama, who was visiting, and there was a strange kind of déjà vu to walking halls that many of my ancestors also walked, not so many generations ago. My inner historical fiction nerd child was doing cartwheels as we strolled the halls (side note: if anyone would like to start an adult Dear America book club/appreciation society, please see me and Scout after class). And even though most of the actual museum artifacts have been temporarily moved off-site as they rebuild the climate control systems destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, it was still an incredibly cool, and educational, experience. And as a bonus we got to visit the Statue of Liberty AND ride a ferry, which gave me what I’m calling a half-check for number 8 on my list: ride the Staten Island ferry. (Note: Ellis Island also has the bonus advantage of being a surprisingly good deal: $18 gets you ferry rides from Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty, from there to Ellis Island, and then back to Manhattan, as well as admission to the museum and audioguides for both islands. It’s very un-New York of them. So thanks, National Park Service! Leslie Knope would be proud.)

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I still have a long way to go before I can consider this list accomplished, but I do feel good about the way I’ve adhered to the general sentiment of the thing: take advantage of being in New York and profiter de my life here. This is a more intangible resolution, one that seeps into most items on the list even if it isn’t written explicitly, and every show I’ve gone to and concert I’ve attended, every day I’ve spent strolling the park with a friend or reading in my favorite coffee shop, puts another check in the yay column. So my goals for the rest of the summer are pretty simple. The museums and TV binging can wait for a grey and rainy day. For now, I want to spend time with good friends, doing fun things, and soaking up as much sunshine as I can.

15 New Things: Profite bien!

We’re two months in to 2015, ⅙ of the way through this year, and so I thought I owed all of you lovely readers an update on my resolutions. I started this year with a list of 15 new things I intended to do, try, or learn in 2015. Here’s how I’m doing so far.

For the most part, the winter weather has had me in hibernation mode, which is less than conducive to accomplishing many of my goals. However, I have done remarkably well with one item:

7. Try at least one new bar/restaurant every month.

Despite the cold and the ice and the uncooperative subway, I have managed to try not just one, but at least two new spots each month, so far to great success. January brought Sweet Chick, whose fried chicken and waffles won over my little Southern heart (I’ve already waxed poetic about how at home the cozy Williamsburg joint made me feel).

In January, my roomie and I (along with her sister and cousin) also ventured to Rosemary, an Italian restaurant in the West Village that takes the term “farm to table” to heart; much of their produce and herbs makes a long and arduous journey from their rooftop farm directly to the kitchen and into patrons’ delighted mouths. My carbonara was melt-in-your-mouth good, conjuring up memories of the bygone summer when I lived in Florence, and of scrounged up dinners senior year of college with my then, and current, roomie, whose go-to dish made ready use of our fridge’s eccentric staples: eggs, cheese, bacon, and shallots. (Girls gotta eat, and in our case eat carbonara.) We also split some incredible rosemary focaccia, a side of roasted brussel sprouts, and some heavenly lemon beignets with nutella whipped cream. The only dissapointment? A much-touted house hot chocolate with marshmallow, which turned out to be rather unspectacular. Even my roomie’s “grown-up” version, infused with cognac, wasn’t worth the price. (To be fair, once you’ve had Angelina’s hot chocolate, you’re pretty much ruined for life.)

February brought two new faves with a decidedly Southern flavor. Scout and I finally made the trek to Arrogant Swine, and promptly wondered why it had taken us so long to make the walkable (in nicer weather) journey. While the barbecue was Carolina style, and therefore not our favorite, the sides more than made up for any of the meat’s deficiencies. As the owner explained to us, the Bushwick joint does not have an oven, so anything that needs to be baked gets baked in a waffle iron. Hence sweet potato waffles, mini cornbread waffles, and the piéce de resistance: the baked macaroni and cheese waffle. The great beer list, ample bourbon selection, and friendly staff made us quick converts, and definite return customers.

My neighborhood does not lack for great brunch options (Fritzl’s Lunch Box and Heavy Woods are my personal favorites), but this past weekend I braved the crowds of the L and headed to Williamsburg to meet one of my favorite fellow Southern transplants. Being a vegetarian, Anita is sometimes limited in her breakfast options, but she had heard of a spot that served not just great biscuits and gravy, but great biscuits and gravy that could be made meat-free. She was intrigued, as was I, and so we found ourselves at Egg. She got the veggie version, while I went all-meat-in, and neither one of us was disappointed. I’ll be perfectly honest: I am not normally a biscuits and gravy kind of gal, even though I know it infringes on my Southerner cred. To me, the gravy just adds an extra heavy layer to the already buttery biscuit, and I can feel my arteries clogging with every bite. But Egg may make a convert of me yet. The biscuits were perfect, sturdy but not tough, and the gravy offered an unexpected bit of spice that brought the whole meal to another level. While perusing the menu, I also discovered a country ham biscuit that featured, among other things, homemade fig jam and Grafton cheddar, therefore landing it at the top of Scout’s ideal food list. I immediately snapchatted her a photo, as besties do, and her reaction did not disappoint. We will be making a return visit ASAP.

Scout does not take kindly to interruptions to her burrito time.

Scout does not take kindly to interruptions to her burrito time.

Even though I’ve only technically checked one item off my list (and since that item is an ongoing one, it’s not so much a check as a running tally mark), I’m still happy, and pleasantly surprised, by my progress with my resolutions so far. And it’s had me thinking about one of my favorite frequently used french phrases: “Profite bien.” See the French are always telling you to profite from some thing or another — a trip, a sale, the day, the weather, your life as a whole. Aesthetes that they are, they firmly believe that if one is not sucking the marrow out of life, seizing moments of beauty and pleasure when they come, then one is not really living. Carpe diem, as it were. It’s a sentiment I appreciate, but one I find hard to adhere to in New York, especially during the winter months. This city is hard and expensive, and it can be difficult to muster up the energy and willpower to leave your den, get on the subway with another several hundred people, push your way through crowds, sacrifice a chunk of your hard-earned money, and then do the commute all over again. It’s exhausting just thinking about it, and doubly hard when the winter adds an extra bundling step to the whole process, while also eliminating many of your free activity options.

Seizing the day

Ready to embrace life, or at least warmer weather.

The vast majority of my goals for this year could really be filed under one larger aspiration: profiter de life in New York. And these past few months, in spite of the cold (and, admittedly, more than a handful of days when I wore pajamas until 4 pm and my only interactions were with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the Bartlet White House staff, or the TGS crew), I feel like I’ve done ok with that. I went to a movie by myself on a Wednesday afternoon (sometimes, mid-week weekends aren’t so bad after all). I went to a production of one of my favorite plays in a coffeeshop (my inner site-specific theatre nerd was singing with joy, and nostalgia) and reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school. I drank bourbon and beer and ate burritos with Scout and another lover of the finer things in life that start with B. I left my apartment and went to the coffee shop around the corner to write this post. And all those admittedly little things, when you add them up together, make me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Maybe it’s the sunshine, which has slowly started to invade the forecast. Maybe it’s the new year, with it’s (arbitrary) sense of a clean slate and new beginnings. Or maybe it’s that, after 18 months in this city, it’s finally starting to feel like a home.

15 New Things for 2015

Well, it’s official. A new year has begun. I’ve never really been big on New Year’s resolutions, partly because it seems arbitrary to me that January 1st is the day when you suddenly turn your life upside down, and partly because I have a terrible track record at keeping them. I think part of it stems from a lack of specificity: It’s all well and good to say “I’m going to get in shape” or “I’m going to be better at relationships” or “I’m going to be creatively engaged,” but when push comes to shove and there’s no easy way to quantify your success at keeping these commitments, it’s easy to feel like you didn’t get anything done at all. Similarly, when your resolutions are a laundry list of things you enjoy that you are going to deprive yourself of from this point forward, this so-called holiday can become down-right depressing. So this year, instead, I’ve made a list of 15 new things I want to do in 2015. A lot of them are part of a bigger, general resolution to get to know New York better. Some of them are new skills I want to acquire or stuff I want to learn. But they’re all things I’m excited about. And hopefully, I’ll be able to share my 15 adventures with all of you.

Via Small Batch America

Via Small Batch America

  1. Find a signature cocktail and learn how to make it. I’m particularly inspired by this article from Bitter Southerner on what they consider to be the top five Southern cocktails. I already know how to make a mean mint julep, but the other four are fair game for 2015. Also fueling my cocktail fever are my new Mason Shaker and Shake book, long-term residents of my wish list and this year’s Chrismukkah presents from Scout, with the caveat and she be designated #1 Official Taste Tester for any and all experiments (unless they involve Fireball).

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    Via Hey Reverb

  2. Learn to play the ukulele. I bought myself a ukulele last spring, in the midst of a Polar Vortex and thankless barista job-induced funk. My brother happened to be visiting that week, so he tuned it, showed me some basic chords, and taught me how to play my favorite Ingrid Michaelson song. For about a week, I practiced diligently, strumming those Gs and Cs over and over again while “Scandal” played on my TV. Slowly, however, my practice sessions grew more and more infrequent, until the strings were hopelessly out of tune and I couldn’t tell my Ds from my Es. So this year, I try, try again.

    Via The New York Times

    Via The New York Times

  3. Take a day trip somewhere upstate, in New York but outside the city. Some of my resolutions this year involve exploring New York City, getting to know this sprawling metropolis that, for better or for worse, is my home for the foreseeable future. But “New York: The City” is just one tiny fraction of “New York: The State,” 99.9% of which I have yet to explore. This city can get me down, with the smells and the concrete and the starless skies, so this year I’m going to remind myself that I don’t need to leave the state in order to get a dose of fresh air and green. Bonus points will be awarded for apple-related activities: picking, cider drinking, donut tasting, or otherwise.

    Via The Stranger

    Via The Stranger

  4. Roast a chicken. As I’ve written before on this blog, I am a compulsive baker. My roommates past and present can attest to my spontaneous urges to make muffins or chocolate chip cookies or apple pie, just because it’s a Tuesday and why not. But one area that my kitchen experimentation has largely shied away from is meat. I can bake or sautee a chicken breast with the best of them, but the scale of cooking a whole bird in one go has thus far intimidated me. No more. With Julia Child and Mark Bittman as my guides, I will put my newly inherited roasting pan to good use. Domestic goddess points, 10.

    Via Brownstoner Queens

    Via Brownstoner Queens

  5. Check out Astoria. I hadn’t been in New York long before I started hearing about a mystical neighborhood, as trendy as it was hard to access from Brooklyn (#thanksMTA), full of bona fide ethnic cuisine and groovy culture. This year, I vow to explore the magical land known as Astoria, along with all the Greek, Egyptian, Brazilian, Palestinian, and Algerian food my stomach can take.

    Scout and I, gettin' our Nerdeoke on

    Scout and I, gettin’ our Nerdeoke on

  6. Sing solo at Nerdeoke. One of my and Scout’s favorite pastimes in New York is nerdeoke, a low-stakes, show tune-sprinkled karaoke fest hosted on Sunday evenings at our favorite Doctor Who-themed bar (yes, that is a thing), the Way Station. And while I have rocked the Dixie Chicks, the Spice Girls, and the epic ensemble numbers of Les Misérables with Scout and other friends, I have yet to take the mic solo. Song suggestions and glasses of liquid courage welcome. (Also, in a joint resolution, Scout and I have sworn to finally tackle our favorite drinking song, near and dear to our hearts since our pre-drinking days. If you have not yet experienced the joys of Monty Python’s Philosophers’ Drinking Song, you have not yet fully lived.)

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    Via Arrogant Swine

  7. Try at least one new bar/restaurant every month. There are approximately 38,000 bars and restaurants in New York City. Many of the most exciting ones are in my hood, which is constantly being named the 2nd/7th/11th coolest in the world, largely because of its exploding culinary and nightlife scene. One of my biggest overarching resolutions for this year is to get to know the city better, and as a foodie, a big part of that is the culinary scene. So at least once a month, I’m going to try something new, from Bushwick barbecue to gourmet macaroni and cheese and just maybe, if I’m lucky, a ramen burger.

    Via Hawk Talk

    Via Hawk Talk

  8. Take the Staten Island ferry. This resolution encompasses two goals. First off, it offers sweeping, and free, vistas of the Statue of Liberty. Second, it would complete my five-fecta of New York City boroughs, allowing me to say I’ve officially set foot in all of them. Note: At this time, this resolution does not include any actual time on Staten Island. The ferry terminal will be sufficient to make it official.

    Via Seriable

    Via Seriable

  9. Finish “The Wire.” Many moons ago, as a college freshman, I, like scores of liberal arts students before me, became enamored with “The Wire.” I plowed through the first three seasons in an addicted haze, thrilling to the gritty streets and colorful cast of characters. Then finals hit, and summer break, and I never quite got around to watching the rest (including the fourth season, Scout’s favorite). Special thanks to my parents’ HBO Go password for sponsoring this resolution, and to “Serial” for reviving my love of Baltimore-based crime narratives.

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    My apartment building in Paris, and our neighbor the Eiffel Tour

  10. Find a French conversation group and go. Last month, I spent a glorious two days being reunited with my former European home. There are many, many things I miss about living in Paris, but one of the biggest is speaking French. I realize it makes me a total language nerd, but those 48 hours spent reunited with the imparfait, the accent circonflexe, and even the subjonctif were magical, and rather than slaking my thirst, they amplified it. With 8.4 million people in New York City, some of them have to speak my (second) language. And if the French group goes well, I may even up the ante and bring my now very rusty Italian out for a spin.

    Via New York Observer

    Via New York Observer

  11. Go to more museums. I love museums. I think part of it stems from my time in Paris, museum-tastic city that it is. There’s something about the quiet and the colors and the neatly placed wall tags that gives me a sense of peace, even amid the bedlam of an urban center like New York. And despite the fact that most of said museums are found on the Upper East Side, a foreign land to which I rarely venture, I want to make a conscious effort to make the trek more often, especially in the winter months. At the top of my list are three New York Institutions (with a capital I) that I have yet to experience: the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and the Natural History Museum.

    Via The Design Inspiration

    Via The Design Inspiration

  12. Walk across Brooklyn Bridge. A rite of passage for any Brooklynite, and one which I have yet to accomplish. I’m saving this one for a sunny day, with the promise of pizza and a picnic waiting on the other side. I’m warning you now: Prepare for the Instagrams.

    Via Wikimedia Commons

    Via Wikimedia Commons

  13. Read “Swann’s Way,” all the way through, no cheating. My reading list for the upcoming year could take up an entire post of its own (Roz Chast’s graphic memoir! Marilynne Robinson! Gone with the Wind!). But perhaps the most ambitious goal on there is the big madeleine, as it were: Monsieur Marcel Proust. I dabbled in M. Proust in college, reading the first section of Swann’s Way for a Modernism class in college. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, sinking into the language and losing myself in his patient, painstaking narration. But after chapter one we stopped — there were Joyce and Woolf to be read, after all — and my dog-eared copy got consigned to a box. It has finally made its way to Brooklyn, and in 2015, by Marcel, it will make its way into my brain.

    Via Le Temps

    Via Le Temps

  14. Go to Albertine. This is Albertine. It is basically my version of heaven on earth. I want to go to there.

    Via Wikipedia

    Via Wikipedia

  15. Learn to ride a damn bike. Readers, I have to confess something, which is quite possibly the greatest secret shame of my life. I do not know how to ride a bike. There are conflicting theories as to why I didn’t learn as a child, with my parents and I trading blame on who gave up on the process first, but either way, I never picked it up. I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life thus far making excuses and squirming my way out of having to admit this fact — just typing it now and knowing all of you are going to read it is already bringing on a bit of a panic attack — and I’ve decided that it’s time for it to stop. At the age of 25, I’m finally going to do what 5 year-olds around the world are currently doing with ease. I’m going to learn to ride that damn bike.