Escape from New York: Hudson Valley Adventure Part I

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Even the most die-hard New Yorkers have to admit that getting out of the city at least every once in awhile is a good thing. On weekends in the summer, it seems like there is a mass exodus for the countryside. This past Fourth of July weekend, my friend Sarah and I joined that movement to meet friends of ours update for a #countryweekend (yes, we had an official hashtag. Or at least an ironic hashtag). With the Fourth being on a Friday, no one had an excuse not to take a long weekend. Instead of driving up, we opted to take the Metro North commuter railway. Getting from Greenpoint to Grand Central was easy enough, but with roller bags early in the morning, it was a bit tricky. The tourists created a long line to buy tickets but weren’t using all of the machines. We just grabbed an open one. It was a rainy, somewhat miserable morning but the ride was still beautiful.

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IMG_1252Even on such a grey day, there were plenty of interesting things to see. The trick is to make sure you get a seat on the side of the train with the windows facing the river. Otherwise, the view is not quite as interesting as we learned on our way back. Although, I will have to admit that the motion of the train put me to sleep for most of the ride. Overall, a quick, very pleasant journey. Even if I were just going upstate for a day trip, the train is a great way to travel.

IMG_1256 We made it to Poughkeepsie! We didn’t stay too long. Our friends came to pick us up from the train station to drive us out to our home for the weekend- a cabin near Accord, New York. As we arrived, the clouds started to disappear and the sun came out. It was turning out to be a very beautiful weekend.

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Myrtle Beach: Part II

IMG_1136Over the dunes, here is the surf. As much as I love the sand, I’ve always thought the Atlantic was cold, murky. It feels eerie not being able to see what you are stepping on. I don’t think I went in past my knees. The damp, hard sand was the best for spreading out my beach towel to read in the sun. I got a little bit pink, but it was worth it. When the tide changes at Myrtle, “little pools” of water are left on the beach. Taking a walk down the beach, I made sure to splash in a few like we did when we were kids since our favorite part of the day was when we could play in the pools.

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While most of North Myrtle was once private residences and smaller rental houses, those have long since been sold. These  condos are the new landscape of the beach, but that development all started even before I was born. North Myrtle Beach is the hometown of Vanna White and the miniature golf capitol of the world. It felt strange not playing a round, but it wouldn’t have been the same without my brother and cousins. We would always have to get in at least one game of Hawaiian Rubble, which had a volcano that would “erupt” or Professor Hacker’s Lost World with a wooden train that takes you to the top of the course. I played with the pink ball, my cousins usually insisted on brining their own putters. There are all still there. Not many people were playing on a Wednesday afternoon in the 90 degree heat, but I almost wished I had stopped to go a round. I can’t even remember which one was the last we  all played together.

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On a slightly less nostalgic note, we did make one of my favorite summertime desserts- strawberry shortcake! My grandmother got fresh strawberries, newly in season, from a roadside stand. The shortcake was made in a nearby somewhat geriatric but popular restaurant, and the Cool Whip was from the BI-LO (which I got lost in, but that’s a different story). Not only is the perfect dessert for this time of the year because the strawberries are in season, but it essential no-bake. If you already have your shortcake prepared, you don’t have to worry about heating up the house with the oven. Delicious!

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Myrtle Beach: Part I

IMG_1165A few weeks ago, I caught a direct flight from LGA (the gross terminal, which turns out to be all of the airport except the Delta terminal) down to Myrtle Beach. Aside from some weather related delays,  which have become the norm for me at this point, it was smooth traveling south. I was staying with my grandmother and aunt in North Myrtle Beach, “home of the shag” as their water tower proclaims. For those of you not familiar with the shag, it is the official dance of beach music and danced with a partner. Growing up, we always went to Myrtle beach once a summer. I was told they would teach me to shag, and I was going to win contests. Despite the confidence in my dancing abilities, I wasn’t ever taught and grew old enough not to have the time or want to drive out to the beach with my family anymore.

This trip, I watched the main drag of North Myrtle through the car window. I couldn’t exactly tell if it was exciting, it was certainly more exciting than being inside, or if it was dilapidated and sad.  I made my aunt stop at a souvenir shop so that I could buy an oversized, tacky cat beach towel. The sign on the shop advertised “exotic” body piercing. We stared at the girl in the glass booth. “You ladies lookin’ to get a piercing?” she asked, noticing our necks craning. No, we laughed. “I do mother-daughter piercings all the time, even grandmother-daughter-mother once.” My aunt and I don’t even have our ears pierced.

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As strange as the culture in Myrtle Beach might be, the Grand Strand lives up to its name. First you have to climb over the dunes, which always feel too hot, too long with lizards and bugs running across them. Once you get across and over the dunes, the air immediately cools. The sand is powdery and soft at first, hardening where the waves brush against it. Miles of public beach in either direction. This is the sand you can sleep on for hours, dig your toes into, make sandcastle for days. It has always been my standard for, my norm for the best beach sand.

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Dessert in a Jar?

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Yes, an actual apple pie in a jar. For sale at the Taste of Asia event in Times Square, the packaging of the cake is just too cute.

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It even came with a blue plastic spoon! Unfortunately, the concept was much more fascinating than the actual execution. It did not have a very long shelf life. I waited until the final “best by” date, which was only a few days after purchase to eat it. Sadly, it was kind of just the different parts of an apple pie mushed into a jar. While I wouldn’t recommend this particular pie in a jar, I think it is a really interesting concept that made me think about packaging vs. execution. I know a few brands with awesome packaging, but does the product inside live up to that hype? In publishing, we talked a lot about the “package” of a book, what that manuscript would eventually become and how you would sell it to the public. I think with books I might be more forgiving. But with food, what is on the inside really does count for a lot.

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Mountain State Brewing Co.

 

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For Memorial Day weekend, our motley crew of city-folk adventured out the mountains of West Virginia for some fresh air and grilling. My one request was that we stop by the Mountain State Brewing Company, a local brewery. Above are Stephen and Gabe in front of the brewery’s pub. Inside, it had a very wooden-rustic look that felt very down-home, but not in a kitschy or fake way. At three in the afternoon, there weren’t many patrons, but the bartender was happy to help us out. They were also serving some really great looking sandwiches.

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So, the beer! First of all, the prices were great (although after being in New York long enough, just about any price for beer seems reasonable). The sample flight included their four main beers. From left to right are the darkest to the lightest. First is the Miner’s Daughter, an oatmeal stout. It wasn’t as heavy as other stouts I have tried, but still too dark for my taste. Next is the Seneca India Pale Ale (my second favorite), which had the great hoppy taste without the bitter aftertaste that many IPAs have. Third from the left is the Almost Heaven (are you sensing a West Virginia theme here yet?) Amber. This one was nice, lightly hopped with a caramel aftertaste. My favorite was the final, the Cold Trail Ale, a light but not too wheaty Blonde Ale. Our group took a six pack of the IPA and Blonde to enjoy by the lake later in the weekend.

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I found this little guy near the bar. Maybe it was a tiny bit kitschy, but that’s okay with me.

I had to get a souvenir t-shirt! Even though it wasn’t my favorite beer, I did really love the design for this one. In addition to great beer, Mountain State does have excellent design for their packaging. They also have other brewery locations in the WV/PA area, but if you find yourself in a specialty beer store that carries Mountain State, I would highly recommend giving it a try. WIN_20140624_113408

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Sometimes I threaten my roommates with baked goods…

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One of my absolute favorite things is to make dinner and/or baked goods for my friends. I am notorious for forcing Tupperwares of leftovers on people. Here, I just wanted to make sure everyone got some treats!

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This past winter, I held a dinner party. I managed to make a total Frankenstein’s-monster-esque table. Yes, by the end of the evening I managed to squeeze 13 people into a Brooklyn-sized dinning room. Although, to be fair, that end part wasn’t completely structurally stable. No elbows on the table! None of the flatware or plates matched, but luckily that mismatched look is really in now. When I buy new dishes, I usually keep them in the blue-family to at least coordinate.

IMG_0505IMG_0502Everyone enjoying some appetizers before dinner. To make things more manageable,  I had everyone bring something, either a wine or an appetizer, salad or desert. No one went thirsty in this crowd. I made the main course (a mac and cheese obviously) and vegetable dish. The mac and cheese was from the cookbook Melt. I selected one that could be made ahead of time, then just baked once guest arrived. I also prepped the roasted vegetables ahead of time so that I wouldn’t spend the whole night in the kitchen. Sadly, I did not take a picture of the food, but it turned out marvelous. One of the keys to a great mac and cheese is buying really great ingredients. The recipe called for a pancetta, but I found an excellent thick cut bacon as a substitute. People went wild for it! I am about due to host another cocktail party (which I love doing even if they never quite work out the way I planned) or dinner party, but it is so hard to get motivated in this heat! I need to plan a picnic or do some sort of no-stove dish.

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Here are the infamous Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies. I wish I could take credit for the recipe, but that is all Sydney at Crêpes of Wrath. Her blog is one of my favorite food blogs and actually a great resource for awesome bars and restaurants in the North Brooklyn area. The greatest part about these cookies is that there is more “stuff” than cookie, it is basically chip and strawberry held together by an excellent soft dough. They are easy to make and always a crowd pleasure. You should keep them in mind now that it is strawberry season!

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Adventures in New York: Surplus Candy

2014-01-10 20.27.10-1This past winter, when NYC was in a state of perma-sludge, I was lucky enough to attend a very secret art show. 43 street artists, lead by Hanksy, turned a condemned building in Alphabet City into a giant and totally illegal art gallery. The girls with the weapons in these alcoves (one of them above) were probably my favorites.

2014-01-10 20.27.23Here’s the kitchen. It was a three floors of street art in this falling apart building. Apologies for the quality of the pictures, but it was really hard to set up a decent shot as people were walking through. Not that I am complaining, it was really an experience to feel and see with your own eyes instead of through your IPhone screen. My personal relationship with documenting art, monuments, places that attract a lot of people, etc. is that I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone else by keeping them from walking through just because I HAVE to take the perfect picture. There was a woman who kept yelling at everyone in one room because people were walking into the picture she was trying to take of her friends. I wouldn’t have minded if it was once quick picture, but they kept taking them! Totally rude behavior. End rant.

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To learn about the show you had to follow the right Twitter at the right time, which would reveal the location in code. I was lucky that a friend of mine’s boss is really into street art and told us the location of the show.

2014-01-10 20.34.08It was stunning. Weird, surreal, but exciting to see something that was so once-in-a-lifetime. I wish I had gotten pictures of the bathroom, but it was hard to squeeze into the smaller spaces.

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In a museum, it is such a different use of space. Things are hung or installed. Here, the apartment was the canvas. It was such a neat experience as a viewer, I can only imagine how exciting it was for the artists to make.  I would like to emphasize that this is a building that is slated to be demolished, which ads a layer of complexity to the statement.

2014-01-10 20.37.39-1A crownut! Hanksy is my personal favorite street artist, so I was really excited to see this walking up the stairs.  Celebrities, puns, what’s not to love? That’s 0ne of the most incredible things about NYC, on any given night, something truly weird and amazing is happening in the art world. That includes an illegal three-story street art gallery.

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