Thursday, December 29, 2011

Goodbye 2011!

Are you ready to say goodbye to 2011?

I am.

I'm ready to move on and put some beauty into 2012. Another year behind me and another shining chance in front of me. To a happier, joyful, and more successful year!

Song of the Day
Safe and Sound - Taylor Swift (ft. The Civil Wars)

Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm Turning Into a Cat Lady

I've been babysitting my neighbor's cat for the past few days and we have a special bond with each other. I love it when the cat nudges me with its head. I love it when it rolls over and wants to be petted. I love it when it purrs softly, contentedly.

New York, Day 4

Last day in New York.
  • Flatiron Building 

  • Laut (Union Square) - the Boy wanted to check this Malaysian, Singapore, Thai fusion restaurant out because it was Michelin rated.
  • Chelsea Market - loads of good food. Lesson learned: don't eat lunch before coming visiting Chelsea Market.

  • West Village - very unique area with a wide assortment of boutiques. You can't really afford anything here on a student budget.

  • The view from my friend's apartment.

The weather in New York was REALLY cold today for a Los Angeleno, hovering in the mid-30's. It was cold enough to warrant heattech attire, thick peacoats, and earmuffs. It was cold enough to warrant hopping in and out of coffee shops and bookstores to stay warm.
After a stint in New York, I realize that weather in the low-60's (what people here consider cold) is not really cold at all.

New York, Day 3

I call today the day of excessive food and shopping.
  • Alice and Teacup (Upper East Side) has really good scones and "spicy" hot chocolate. Unfortunately, the wait time was 2 hours so we took our food to-go and ate in Central Park.

  • Central Park
  • The Apple Store on Fifth Avenue marked the beginning of our day trying to push through hordes of people to get to places. While the glass entrance was beautiful, there was literally no standing room inside of the Apple store.

  • The LEGO Store (5th Avenue)

  • Shake Shack: the general consensus is that it is better than Five Guys but not as good as In-n-Out.

  • Central Park - Belvedere Castle
  • Uniqlo (5th Ave)
  • Walking along 5th Avenue during holiday season = bad idea, unless you enjoy getting jostled about as you walk. There is literally no breathing room here.

  • Radiance Tea House and Books - Yellow Mountain Mao Feng tea.
  • Walking by Hilton New York, where I stayed back in 2003.
  • The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
  • We wanted to stroll around Central Park but we were warned by our friends to vacate the park by 4:30pm. "In case you guys get lost and things start getting shady," they warned us.
  • Unlike yesterday, the weather was pretty cold today. Not freezing, but still cold.

Song of the Day
Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z

Because walking along 5th Avenue reminds me of pop/R&B/hip-hop music.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New York, Day 2

The first real day exploring New York is like walking into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory - so many things to explore and sights to see yet so little time. We thought about taking the subway from Long Island City to Manhattan but considering we didn't even know how the subway system here works, we decided to hail a cab instead (which is a hard task itself...)
  • Brooklyn Bridge - we didn't actually get to walk the Brooklyn Bridge but we did stand on the sidelines admiring its structure.
  • Grimaldi's Pizzeria (19 Old Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY) - the restaurant was closed for renovation, so we decided to try out Lombardi's instead.

  • Lombardi's Pizza (32 Spring St, New York, NY) - according to our friends, this is Grimaldi's competitor pizzeria. We ordered a pizza with garlic spinach, meatball, and mushrooms. While the pizza was good, I don't understand the whole "New England pizza is holier-than-thou" idea. What makes a pizza "good"? Pizza is just pizza, right?

  • Rice to Riches (37 Spring St., New York, NY) - it's similar to an ice cream parlor but serves rice pudding instead. Very expensive rice pudding. Though I really like their mascarpone and cherry flavored rice pudding.

  • Walking down the street, we found a cute little leather craft store selling leather brooches, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. They even gave us flowers as we walked into the store.
  • The MoMA Store contained a fun collection of items inspired by the museum. I found a collection of really cool items - kangaroo pouch desk organizers, the classic sky umbrella, and this bowl made from pebbles (which seems like it would be a lot of fun to make).

  • Just as it started to sprinkle, we took cover in Muji - a cute little Japanese store that carries everything useful. I fell in love with their pen collection, notebooks, and aroma diffuser.

  • Along the way, we stopped by Harney & Sons Tea Tasting Room in SoHo.

  • Ippudo Ramen was recommended by my friend living in New York and by our friend from school who was touring New York with us. Though I'm not a fan of ramen in general, I did enjoy the broth at Ippudo. In fact, if you can ignore the $15 price tag on ramen, I'd say that Ippudo is a lot better than Daikokuya.

  • Since we were planning to take the Uptown 6 line and transfer to the E or M train back to Long Island City, our friends suggested that we stop by The Strand Bookstore. It is known for its 18 miles of books and harboring a large collection of rare books.
  • The weather in New York was interesting. I walked out of the hotel dressed in a peacoat and thick scarves, only to realize that it wasn't even cold. Ironically, it was warmer in New York (57 degrees @ 9:04pm) than it was in Los Angeles (52 degrees @ 6:05pm).

I didn't quite learn how to use the subway system in New York but I did learn how to hail a taxi. After minutes of waving my arms madly with no luck, I flagged down a local to help me with the art of hailing a taxi - how to tell when they are available, when they are occupied, and when they are off duty.

Song of the Day
New York, New York - Ryan Adams

(Fun fact: the music video for this song was filmed in New York four days before the September 11 attack. The scenic backdrop for this song is the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New York, Day 1

The first time I went to New York with the Suzanne Middle School Challenger Band and Orchestra, I stayed at the Hilton Hotel on Avenue of the Americas. The hotel was teeming with pandemonium caused by the arrival of hundreds of eight-graders. We thought it was highly amusing to pull pranks, like making the elevator stop on each floor of the hotel (keeping in mind that the Hilton New York apparently has 46 floors).

We stayed in a prime location. A short walk around the corner was a concoction of all of the famous New York City attractions, from Times Square to the Rockefeller Center. It's hard to imagine a more perfect part of the city for a casual tourist. The trip culminated with our performance at the famous Carnegie Hall. I was too young at the time to understand the significance and acoustic brilliance of Carnegie Hall. "It's just an old but famous concert hall," I thought as I walked onto the brightly lit stage of the venue.
First time in New York (April 2003)
We visited New York in April 2003, just as winter finished thawing into spring. The weather was almost perfect. This time around, the Boy and I flew into New York in December, when the weather on the east coast is generally 25 degrees colder than weather in southern California.

"I can handle the cold," I tell him, "and I really really hope it snows while we are in Manhattan!"

He raises his eyebrows. "You've obviously never experienced a real winter," he says, "and snow is pretty damn inconvenient."

The dreams of experiencing a "real" winter, possibility of snowfall, and potential to don peacoats and boots quickly overshadowed any concerns of painfully cold weather.
We took off from Los Angeles (LAX) around 1:30pm and arrived the John F. Kennedy International Airport around 10pm that night. The island of Manhattan was still as grand and gorgeous as ever. From our aerial vantage point, the illuminated island was a sharp contrast to Oklahoma - we could only see two lighted points throughout the entire state.
We stayed at the Z Hotel in Long Island City. The hotel is nice if you can get over the fact that it is literally in the middle of nowhere. Even taxis don't frequent the area around the hotel.

The view of the Manhattan skyline from our hotel was decent.
My favorite part of the hotel room - they used Mason jar lights!
I was excited to be back in New York again!

(*** I've recently discovered the joys of Instagram on my iPhone! It's quick and convenient - I don't have to carry around a bulky DSLR. While it takes really nice pictures, the amount of creative control I have over my pictures is slightly lacking. I'll probably get over this phase sometime in the near future and start using my DSLR again. In the meantime, bear with the Instagram photos***)

New York Song of the Day
New York, New York - Frank Sinatra