Singing In My Sleep

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

You know how sometimes you hear a new song and listen to it a hundred times in a single day?  Just one of those days that needs a Texas lullaby...

Top Chef Columbus Circle

Oh my goodness, this is a good one people.  I've been saving it for a little while, just because it's that exciting.  A few weeks ago, I boarded the downtown 1 train for Columbus Circle just before lunchtime.  I waited over an hour.  I bought the cookbook.  I managed to keep my mom in the dark about my plans for the day.  All for this ridiculously handsome Australian chef man...    

If you don't know Curtis Stone, you really should.  He's done a lot of cooking shows on various channels, including Top Chef Masters and Take Home Chef, when he would go to a random grocery store, talk to a stranger, and go home with that person to cook dinner.  He's sort of like Bobby Flay.  It's like all my dreams come true.  Seriously, I love him a lot.  How could you not?

Curtis was doing a cooking demo and book signing for his new cookbook at the Williams Sonoma Columbus Circle.  I got there early enough to be within arms reach of him.  Note to self: if Curtis Stone asks the crowd who among them never cooks, raise your hand.  This lucky dude cooked the whole meal with him.  

Here's a video of Curtis talking, just for the full effect of his Australian accent.  

Since I was front and center, I got to try the stir fry he prepared for lunch.  To be honest, I would have eaten whatever he cooked, like it or not.  When Curtis Stone cooks you lunch, you don't say no.  There was also a warm chocolate chip pecan cookie.  I would have eaten twelve if he offered. 

See, aren't we so cute together?  Too bad he's married to Lindsay Price, one of my favorite actresses, and they have a baby named Hudson, who is gorgeous.  Not that I stalked them through the streets of SoHo last year or anything.  That would be crazy.   

But, um, in case I had stalked them in SoHo, here is what they might have looked like...

So The Chief got a pretty good Mother's Day present from Baby Sister, Just Matt and I.  The Chief loves him even more than I do.  I think he loves The Chief too.

Neighborhood Tours: Brooklyn

Monday, April 29, 2013

So here's the thing about Brooklyn.  It always seems like a good idea until you go there.  

For an Upper West Sider who rarely ventures outside of the only borough that really counts, Brooklyn is this romantic, dreamy idea of a place that sounds like a lovely way to spend a Saturday.  Great time to wander cool, vintage hipster neighborhoods and discover so many unknown places of the city I know so well.  It's especially good if you have someone romantic and dreamy to wander with...or if you are avoiding final papers for doctoral classes.  So when I woke up Saturday morning to a 70-degree sunny day, there was really only one thing to do.

Now, just a disclaimer...Brooklyn is roughly the size of Houston (seriously).  There is no possible way that one Neighborhood Tour post could possibly cover it all.  So much left unseen and unsaid.  Perhaps you will see more of Brooklyn on {the ivy project}. Today's post is just a little piece of the puzzle.  

I started out in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (or "Bed-Stuy") neighborhood of Brooklyn.  Let's be honest.  I only went out of curiousity for Brooklyn Kolache Co.  I read about it online recently and, being the good Texan that I am, had to check it out.  It took three trains and over an hour to get there.  It was when I was waiting for the G train deep in the heart of Brooklyn that I started to second guess this plan.

Manhattan-dwellers do not get on the G train for anything.  And we judge the people who do.

Here's the neighborhood I found at the end of the G train.  See the difference already?  Now, parts of Brooklyn are gorgeous enough to make me want to live there.  This was not one of them.

Finally found Brooklyn Kolache Company.  People in front of me in line were talking about Kolache Factory and Shipleys.  {insert Texas giddiness here}  Turns out, they were from Austin.  We're best friends now.

New Yorkers do not know what kolaches are...never heard of them.  Now, if you don't know, this is a kolache.  It's a Czech pastry found across Texas and not many places beyond the Lone Star State.  In my world, kolaches originate from the tiny Czech town of West, Texas (which is not the same as the region of West Texas), about 15 mile north of Waco.  It kind of tastes like a Hawaiian sweet roll stuffed with fruit and cream cheese or meat and cheese.  Here are a strawberry cream cheese and a bacon, egg and cheese kolaches...

Sufficiently full and happy from my Texas treats, I wandered about a mile to Clinton Hill, another Brooklyn neighborhood.  Definitely starting to get a little prettier, but not quite there yet.  Definitely less sketchy though...

It was in Clinton Hill that I found Brooklyn Flea, supposedly one of the nation's best flea markets.  I was hoping to find a cute guy waiting for me there and orchestrating the perfect soundtrack, sort of like in the movie Elizabethtown.  All I found was this elephant...

And this lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound, which will go on the list of best things I've ever eaten. Try the Maine style, of course.  

Three miles of walking later, I finally arrived at my actual preferred Brooklyn neighborhood, DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).  I was finally starting to feel like I was back in civilization (but, let's be honest, we're still in Brooklyn). This tiny little neighborhood sits in the triangle between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and is home to a super artsy eclectic crowd.

DUMBO is full of great indy shops to explore.  Check out Stewart/Stand, Dabney Lee, Dewey's Candy, Journey Home, West Elm, and Powerhouse Arena Books.  

Now, by this point you've practically walked a marathon and you are still in Brooklyn.  You need snacks.  And a good bathroom.  One Girl Cookies has both.  They specialize in teeny tiny half-dollar size cookies (which don't even really count), but everything is just gorgeous.

You could also check out Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and Grimaldi's Pizza.  Both super famous, with super famous long lines to match.  So delicious. 

Now, if you need a show-stopping, pull out all the stops, kind of spectacular New York evening.  River Cafe is your place.  Sitting right below the Brooklyn Bridge, it is probably the best meal of my entire life.  And yes, it looks a little better when it's nighttime and sparkly and the water isn't so brown.  Maybe I'll get married there one day.  Or just throw a really amazing party.  Please read my previous post on the River Cafe for the full rundown.  

And finally, you find yourself in Brooklyn Bridge Park along the East River.  Here is the full 180 degree, one in a million view...

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best part of Brooklyn.  The part where you can see Manhattan.  But seriously, it's a great day trip.  The food is fantastic and the views are unbelievable.  At this point, the fastest way back into Manhattan is to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, which is its own special experience...definitely my favorite tourist attraction in the city.  At just over a mile long, it offers the best views in the city and ends right at Manhattan's City Hall.

Of course, when you're still in Brooklyn home just feels so far away.

Neighborhood Tours: Nolita

Saturday, April 27, 2013

On today's {the ivy project} neighborhood tour, we're venturing to Nolita.  Nolita is the nickname we New Yorkers give to the neighborhood North of Little Italy.  It's east of SoHo (South of Houston, pronounced how-ston), west of the Lower East Side, South of NoHo (North of Houston), and North of Little Italy/Chinatown.  Nolita is this wonderful, tiny little hidden gem of a neighborhood that very few tourists ever see.  Small buildings, narrow streets, tons of charm...definitely one of my favorites in the entire city.  I could easily live in that neighborhood.  To get there, go to the Prince Street NQR station (located at the SoHo Dean and Deluca) and walk directly east on Prince.

First up is McNally Jackson Books.  New York is overflowing with independent booksellers, unlike the Midwest that just has the one giant store of books.  They have an awesome New York section and light fixtures full of books...

While browsing the New York section, I ran across this book of Manhattan maps, full of hand-drawn depictions of what Manhattan looks like from a New Yorkers' perspectives.  I'm feeling a little inspired by the idea and the daydream of what my Manhattan looks like, so stay tuned for that one, friends...

There are always cute little street vendors along Prince Street.  I never buy anything, but I appreciate that they are always there...

Still on Prince Street, I love WRK Designs.  They sell vintage industrial furniture and other cool finds.  I never buy anything there either, but it's a cool urban-ish kind of store...

And then you arrive at Little Cupcake Bakeshop at the corner of Prince and Mott.  This is where Nolita really starts, right across from the St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.  That's actually what it's called.  They have so much more than little cupcakes, too...

Now, the best parts of Nolita lie along Mulberry, Mott and Elizabeth streets, from Bleecker on the north to Broome on the south.  Aren't those just great names for streets?  Here's another place I've never been, but just think is so darn funny.  Tacombi at Fonda Nolita...there's a permanent taco truck inside a building.  Who doesn't love a good taco truck?

And almost right next door is Tory Burch.  I've never bought anything there either.  I came really close yesterday, but the super skinny pretty clearance dress I fell in love with was still $200.  Crap dang.

And now we've come to Peels.  Technically, Peels falls just outside of the Nolita radius, at the corner of East 2nd and Bowery, but it's close enough that every time I go to Nolita, I go to Peels.  Amazing all day brunch (hello, build-a-biscuit) and cute little walk-up coffee and pastry counter.  

This is where you will find the Peels graham cracker.  Now, I know what you are good can a graham cracker be?  You don't even know.  Absolutely one of the best things I've ever eaten in New York.  So good that they didn't make it long enough to be photographed yesterday.  I bought two, intending to save one for later, and seriously did not even realize I had eaten both wandering back through Nolita.  If they had made it home, they would have looked something like this (from a previous Peels excursion) ...

Also not technically in Nolita but on the way to the subway, the Housing Works Bookstore is another one of those great old indy establishments in the city.  It is run by the company that does many of our thrift stores, but is all old books.  Heaven.  Their profits benefit HIV and AIDS research and care, which is even more awesome.  Just imagine if I had that wall of books in my home...

So there you have Nolita.  Next up?  Brooklyn.  Oh man, get ready.

Bright Lights, Bigger City

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Here is my super embarrassing blog confession.  I could go to Soul Cycle's killer spin sessions every single day.  I could walk 15 miles around the city on a beautiful Saturday.  I am (a little bit lazy), but pretty tough.  But I absolutely am not a runner.  I really like the idea of running.  All these people just seem so happy lacing up their shoes and hitting the parks for peaceful, easy-looking runs.  I (sort of) want to be one of them.  I have no desire to run a marathon...those people are crazy.  I just feel like I should at least be able to run a mile without looking like Phoebe from friends and passing out halfway through.  My boss is a runner.  My BFF coworker became a runner.  They are very good at putting on the pressure/encouragement (or challenge and support, for all my higher ed friends).  

So I bought fancy new running shoes at Christmas, and then it proceeded to snow every single day in February.  I'm dedicated, but not that much.  Plus, I cannot run laps around a track or on a treadmill.  If I don't feel like I'm going somewhere, I get bored and stop.  I've been doing the first two weeks of the Couch to 5K app for the last four a minute, walk two, repeat.  The longest I have ever run without stopping is half a mile, which occurred three weeks ago when it started raining in Riverside Park and I didn't want my iPhone to be ruined.  True story.

So then I signed up for a 5K, which I planned to run a very little bit and walk the rest.  Sunday morning, post two middle-of-the-night fire alarms, I found myself at Chelsea Piers very sleepy and very chilly.  It was six days after Boston, and I've never seen so many NYPD officers in one place at one time.  Every imaginable cop and counterterrorism officer was swarming the start line at 15th street and West Side Drive.  But if you know anything about New Yorkers, you know there's no stopping them, especially for something like the 9/11 Memorial 5K.

So I ran the first mile along the Hudson River and was really tired, but then I saw the one mile sign and was surprised I'd made it that far.  Wanting to see how far I could make it, I kept going toward the second mile sign.  That second mile that circled Battery Park City was a really stinking long mile.  Beautiful, but definitely longer than just the one mile.  I have yet to experience the so-called runners high, but there's nothing like running alongside the Manhattan skyline and turning the corner to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  Then I hit the three mile sign and knew there was no stopping.  That last 0.1 miles?  Awful.  Definitely longer than they advertised.  But when hundreds of NYPD officers are lining the route, not just protecting you but cheering you on, it's sort of like turning the corner and seeing the Statue of Liberty.  Impossible to stop.

And after a week of terrible, horrible, no good very bad days, there's just something about crossing the finish line at the World Trade Center Memorial to put it all in perspective.  Obviously, I celebrated my accomplishment with Doughnut Plant and a brunch that lasted seven hours with my Okie-turned-West Village BFFs.  Brunching is absolutely what we New Yorkers do best.

Other than the adrenaline and the view, my perfect NYC run playlist pushed me through.  Here you go, for your running pleasure...

The actual 38.45 minutes of running...
She's Got Something (Greg Holden)
Bella's Finals: Price Tag/Don't You Forget About Me (Pitch Perfect Soundtrack)
We Found Love (Boyce Avenue)
On Broadway  (SMASH Cast)
Only in America (Brooks and Dunn)
Empire State of Mind (JAY Z)
Girl on Fire (Alicia Keys)
King of New York (Newsies Soundtrack)
American Girl (Tom Petty)
Trebles Finals: Bright Lights Bigger City/Magic (Pitch Perfect Soundtrack)
Home (Phillip Phillips) (which was playing as I crossed the finish line)

And the lazy walk home after wandering around the 9/11 Memorial songs...
Seasons of Love (Rent Original Broadway Cast)
New York State of Mind (Glee Version)
Human (The Killers)
Caught In The Storm (SMASH Cast)
Don't Stop The Music (Pitch Perfect Soundtrack)
Flyover States (Jason Aldean)
Since U Been Gone (Pitch Perfect Soundtrack)
Just The Way You Are/Just A Dream (Pitch Perfect Soundtrack)
Southern Comfort Zone (Brad Paisley)
We Are Young (Fun)
Breakfast At Tiffany's (Deep Blue Something)
Pictures of You (The Cure)

And if you happen to know how to make my legs stop hurting, please call me ASAP.

Deep In The Heart Of Texas

Saturday, April 20, 2013

For a lot of Americans, it's been a horrible week.  The worst possible, unimaginable things have forever changed lives.  In a week marked by anniversaries of major tragedies, no one ever expected to add more to that list.  The world watched and prayed and cried for Boston on Monday, unaware of the real-life action movie that was to come at the end of the week.  I had bagels with Boston friends yesterday morning and then dinner with a first responder from that finish line medical tent.  He walked away, but will live that day over and over again for a very long time.  

New York is on edge.  People are just a little more anxious than normal.  (And that's saying a lot, since this is the most anxiety-driven city in the world.)  Reports of suspicious packages and out-of-the-ordinary behavior spiked since Monday.  I put my crisis management expertise to good use Thursday night when the dreaded emergency alert interrupted my glued-to-the-news evening: "Columbia University has reported a bomb threat at 116th street and Broadway.  All recipients are to shelter in place until the all clear is given by the NYPD."  Which, by the way, is the exact location of my front door.  Now, please do not panic.  Everything was and is fine.  People are just hyper-vigilant, which is good.  It's exactly what we want them to do.  A woman accidentally left her bag near the Columbia gates, prompting the entire university to come to a halt for an hour or so.  Even though I could write a dissertation on how poorly that incident was handled, that's not the point.  

Just that kind of week.  

So here's the most unpopular thing that's been said all week.  Boston was horrible, no question.  But it is overshadowing an equally devastating tragedy.  West, Texas (the town, not to be confused with region of West Texas) was literally leveled Wednesday evening.  While the rest of the world watched in disbelief as the event in Boston unfolded, a tiny little map dot town just a few miles north of my home faced a reality even more unthinkable.  At last count, 14 people lost their lives, with over 200 injured and a number of others still missing.  Homes, schools, and businesses are just gone.  And beyond that little region of Central Texas (and the Baylor green and gold flung afar), not many people seem to remember.  Whatever your politics might be, this was a classy way to wrap up the news conference focused on the Boston developments...  

"Finally, let me say that even as so much attention has been focused on the tragic events in Boston, understandably, we've also seen a tight-knit community in Texas devastated by a terrible explosion.  And I want them to know that they are not forgotten.  Our thoughts, our prayers are with the people of West, Texas, where so many good people lost their lives; some lost their homes; many are injured; many are still missing.  I've talked to Governor Perry and Mayor Muska and I've pledged that the people of West will have the resources that they need to recover and rebuild.  And I want everybody in Texas to know that we will follow through with those commitments.  All in all, this has been a tough week.  But we've seen the character of our country once more." (President Obama)

I'm so grateful to be a member of the Baylor community.  So proud of the university and students for turning the Diadeloso spring carnival tradition into DiaDelWest, with hundreds of volunteers and thousands of dollars donated.  Proud of the random Boston surgeon who, understanding the week more than anyone else could, ordered pizzas for doctors at Waco's Hillcrest Hospital.  For all the bad in the world, people are good.  From what I understand, West is overwhelmed with donated items right now and just needs money for long-term relief (through Red Cross or Baylor Gives).  You can also download Songs for West, an album of Baylor alums and friends like David Crowder and Robbie Seay...100% of proceeds go to the Baylor University West Relief Fund.  And pray.  They need prayers.  

I've talked to a lot of New York friends this week who only see the fear and hopelessness in the world.  It's an easy opinion for sure.  But why live in hopelessness when hope outshines fear?  

"Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace." (2 Corinthians 4:16)


Monday, April 15, 2013

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world." (Mr. Rogers)

This week snuck up on me.  Almost slipped my mind, what with 10 flights in four weeks, a wedding, a crazy job, a job search, and this pesky little dissertation.  I am so tired.  It wasn't until I came home from a meeting and turned on the afternoon news that the significance of this week sunk in.  Not until the two bombs at the Boston marathon did I remember why and how much I hate this week.  

You see, tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, any higher ed leader's worst nightmare.  Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the Waco incident and the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, two cities that will forever be home for this New Yorker.  And Saturday is the 14th anniversary of the Columbine shootings, which changed the landscape of school violence and safety in America.  Maybe it sounds a bit like I'm making a mountain out of what could be random coincidences, but when you grew up in Oklahoma City, were in high school during Columbine, went to college not far from the Waco site, and studied higher ed administration when Virginia Tech happened, it matters.  Not to mention the fact that I live in a post-September 11 New York, where everything is always on high alert.  It's just a strange week.

And in 2013, the week began how no week ever should, on a beautiful day a lot like so many other beautiful days when things end in a nightmare.  When things like this happen, the last thing I want to do is work on my crisis management dissertation.  I know too much about too many things by now.  Tonight I sat at dinner with my closest friends, whose friends and family ran the marathon and crossed the finish line minutes before the bombs exploded.  I'm sitting in bed listening to helicopters circle my city, watching for even the slightest sign that something might be out of the ordinary.  

Some of the mid-April violence isn't so random.  Columbine happened on Hitler's birthday.  Oklahoma City was planned to mark the Waco anniversary, which according to conspiracy theory was aligned with the Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775).  I am making no assumptions about what happened in Boston today, but I'm heartbroken that one of the city's biggest, happiest holidays to commemorate those very battles ended in such terror.  Virginia Tech, I think, was just a coincidence.  Still, I usually just want to crawl into bed and watch Lifetime movies when this week rolls around every year.  But I don't, because the survivor tree still stands in Oklahoma City and the New York City daffodils planted in remembrance of September 11 bloom without fail, reminders that the best way to honor the past is to really live.

So you follow Mr. Rogers' advice.  He never led us wrong before.  You look for the helpers instead of the hurters...and you become one of them.  You pray for peace, even when it's nearly impossible to fully grasp the 400+ references to "fear not" in the Bible.  And, as a man named Kyle Lake taught a generation of Baylor students in a sermon that went un-preached...

"Live.  And Live Well.  BREATHE.  Breathe in and breathe deeply.  Be PRESENT.  Do not be past. Do not be future.  Be now.  If you've recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE.  And grieve well.  Taste every ounce of friendship.  Taste every ounce of life.  Because it is most definitely a gift.  All we need to do is love God, embrace beauty, and live life to the fullest."

Neighborhood Tours: Greenwich Village

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

So here's the deal.  I have just under twelve weeks left in New York, at least for this part of my life.  Come summertime, I'm packing my bags and headed out west...destination unknown.  I'm a little sad about this and not sure how to handle living anywhere that doesn't have nine million people, 466 Dunkin Donuts, 256 Starbucks, and a 24-hour public transportation system.  But...New York will always be here.  Of that much I am certain.  But more on the move later...

With just a few short weeks in the city, I want to make the most of the time that is left.  Tons of great friend outings and parties for no reason whatsoever.  And for {the ivy project}, it's time for neighborhood tours!  The weather is just starting to convince New Yorkers that there is hope in the world.  After a solid six months of winter and above-average snowfall totals, it was 85 degrees today.  Perfection.  So over the next few weeks, I'll be hitting the streets to take you all (and myself) on a little tour of some of my favorite places.

Up first?  Greenwich Village.  One of my favorite neighborhoods in the entire city.  (You should know that I will probably say that about all of them...but I really do mean it for this one.)  Greenwich Village, also sometimes known as the West Village, between 14th street and SoHo.  It's basically just west of NYU to the Hudson River.  It's more of a foodie neighborhood than anything else, which is fine by me.  The Village is home to some of my all-time favorite friends: Chandler, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, Ross, and Rachel (they lived at Bedford and Grove).  So here's a quick and random collection of some Greenwich Village highlights...

Pour over coffee from Joe on Waverly Place...

Joe's Pizza on 6th Avenue: best slices in the city...

Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleecker...because it's a cheese shop.  So how can you go wrong?  Also home to the absolute best grilled cheese in New York City.  I like the Murray's Melt with turkey (like Thanksgiving turkey...none of that deli stuff) and tomatoes.

And for a great night, Murray's Cheese Bar two doors down.  Because it's a cheese bar, which is pretty much like heaven.  Feel free to take me on a date there.  Oh, and that bookstore next door is cool too...

Non-food related, but Greenwich Letterpress is a great little card store at which I could spend hundreds of dollars...

Every single restaurant on Cornelia Street.  It's only two blocks long and home to some of the city's greatest date night spots, especially since most of them only have about 12 seats.  Here is Le Gigot, which was once a great night...

Obviously, you have to go to the original Magnolia Bakery at 11th and Bleecker.  It's worth the line and the second cupcake...

One If By Land, in case you are a millionaire or planning to propose to one...

Tons of designer shops and random boutiques along Bleecker street, in case you find yourself with some extra money...

Cafe Minerva at West 4th and Bank, one of my favorite places to sit and read and talk for hours...

And finally, just because it's funny, A Salt & Battery, the Village's fish and chips restaurant.  Seriously.  I've never even been there.  I just laugh every time I see that sign...

So there are about a thousand other amazing places in Greenwich Village, especially fantastic places for a lazy all-day weekend brunch.  I love Hundred Acres.  There's a cool cookie place, conveniently called Milk and Cookies.  The Village even has Peanut Butter & Co., a PB & J restaurant.  I could go on and on.  Of all the neighborhoods in the city, this is your best chance of wandering into some random restaurant and enjoying an amazing meal.  I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it.  Why didn't I get that second cupcake when I had the chance?

More neighborhoods to come friends.  It's a whole big city out there.