Color Me Happy: An Update on Our Apartment Renovation

Standard

For the past two weeks, I have been completely immersed in renovating the downstairs apartment that Todd and I hope to move into by the first week in June. We’ve already ordered some furniture, picked out new kitchen cabinets and appliances, and pulled up the old carpets. Lately we’ve been focused solely on painting. Unfortunately, neither of us are very good at it, so it’s a good thing we have my dad to help us out!

We still have a bit left to do, but for now I wanted to share some photos of our progress:

Living Room
My job has mostly been to paint around the borders and in the corners. Then, Todd follows behind me with the roller to fill in any empty space, and my dad gives it a final, smooth coat. We chose this turquoise for the living room and paired it with a Maui White. With the addition of sleek black and white furniture, we’re hoping for a vibe that’s part modern, part tropical paradise.

Living Room

Dining/Kitchen Area
We wanted a variety of colors in the apartment because we knew we would quickly tire of white walls. For the kitchen/dining area, we chose a green and beige color scheme that, when paired with our wooden table and bench set, will hopefully evoke a peaceful forest glade. The photo below is the very first coat of green paint we applied, so the final product is quite a bit darker (and much more even). As you can see, we hadn’t even started on the beige yet when I took this picture.

Dining Area

Bedrooms
For the apartment’s two bedrooms, we wanted softer colors that would give our eyes and minds a break from the nature-inspired living and dining areas. We chose a light grey for the walls in our bedroom and used a darker grey for the trim. We then inverted the colors for the second bedroom, which we’re planning on using as a music room, library, and storage space. The photo below is of our bedroom—though we still have to paint and install the new closet doors!

Bedroom

Exploring New York: A Taste of Hungary

Standard

I’ve been meaning to put up a full review of The Dandelion, my favorite brunch spot in Philadelphia, but between my freelance editing gig for O, The Oprah Magazine, gutting and painting the apartment, and figuring out how to deal with Cercospora leaf spot on my Swiss chard, I just haven’t had the time. And now that the weather is warming up, I’ve also been trying to soak up the heat outdoors as much as possible: jogging, strolling aimlessly, meeting up with friends in the city.

One such get-together led me to the Hungarian Pastry Shop on the Upper West Side. Because it’s slightly removed from my daily route on the 5 train, I don’t go very often. Yet, when I do visit this little gem, I always order a krémes. It has a light pastry bottom and a custard-like vanilla filling. Though its upper flaky layer is usually topped with powdered sugar, the Hungarian Pastry Shop uses a sweet glaze that tastes a little bit like caramel. Pair it with a latte, and it’s irresistible.

But I don’t love the Hungarian Pastry Shop just for its desserts; I really enjoy basking in the culture. The servers are always friendly and willing to explain their offerings. True to tradition, they’ll wish you jó étvágyat (the Magyar equivalent of bon appétit) before a meal. Yesterday I pronounced krémes like a Hungarian (“cray-mesh”), and the woman behind the counter asked if I spoke the language. We had a nice conversation about it—just the impetus I needed to start honing my Hungarian skills again.

Now, without further ado, itt van a kép (here is the photo)!

Hungarian Kremes

A Tour of My New Spring Garden

Standard

I’ve been weeding and planting and nourishing and coaxing for the past several weeks, and now I’ve taken the first photos of this year’s garden. To my surprise, some of the herbs from last year’s garden grew back on their own—and the thyme persevered throughout the entire winter beneath the snow! Others I discovered at Home Depot and knew I had to try out, like chocolate mint and swiss chard (one of my absolute favorite leaves to use in a salad).

Without further ado, I introduce my garden for 2015. In the photo below, the back planter bed contains varieties of lettuce, and the front has a mixture of herbs and veggies. The tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi—along with eggplant, broccoli, and strawberries my dad planted—are on the other side of the house because it gets more sun.

Garden 2015

You can see that the basil plant in the lower right-hand corner already wasn’t faring too well when I took this photo. Yesterday I went outside and it had all but crumbled after a few very cold and rainy days here. I’m hoping that maybe what’s left will revive; I’ll have to do some research to see how to best help it gain some strength.

Garden 2015

I’m most excited to grow some swiss chard, so I also planted a bit on the other side of the house to see which spot it will grow better in.

Garden 2015

We made sure to have a ton of parsley this year so we can experiment with pesto, and Todd wanted us to grow dill as well. (I have since gotten more dirt to cover that dill pot a little better!)

Garden 2015

Exploring New York: The Bronx Botanical Garden Orchid Show

Standard

I’ve been so busy planning for my move into the apartment downstairs with Todd in May and getting back into my editing career that I haven’t had much time to blog lately. But I did squeeze in a trip to the Bronx Botanical Garden, located only one convenient mile from my house. Once there, I saw that the orchid show was in full swing. I had never visited the collection in the past; why pay $25 just to see orchids in the conservatory, I wondered, when the rest of the grounds offered plenty of flowers and exhibits for free? But with the sun shining, the temperature inching toward 80 degrees, and the poem The Orchid Flower by Sam Hamill in my mind, I decided to just pay up and find out what all of the fuss is about—and I don’t regret that decision one bit.

Botanical Garden Orchid Show

Walking into the conservatory feels like stepping into another world. At once, the sweet scent of dirt and leaves and growth fills your nostrils, and your eyes aren’t sure where to settle because every angle offers new colors and patterns and displays. There, a star-shaped yellow orchid with red streaks like a sunrise. And there, purple with blue veins like a bruise. The backdrop to the displays are rainforest plants, adding even more color and mystery: strange curled fruit and cocoa beans, multicolored ferns and hanging vines. Most of the orchids grow straight out of the trees or from hanging planters; this is how they grow in nature, according to the exhibit, and they suck water from the tree to survive. Most of the orchids displayed are hybrids, some saved from certain death in the wild, and all are breathtakingly beautiful.

Botanical Garden Orchid Show

Although the conservatory was filled with people, it didn’t feel too crowded. We all flowed through at a similar slow pace, and people glided smoothly around each other as we all stopped to take photos or examine a plant more closely. The rainforest collection led to another exhibit of desert plants, where we saw various cacti, a venus flytrap, and plants that had evolved to look like rocks as a form of camouflage. And the hanging orchid displays continued to amaze us, with Todd and I quickly agreeing that the show was more than worth its price. As we finally found our way out of the conservatory, I couldn’t help but think about my own little garden, and my excitement for its second year just continued to build.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the show. If you’re in the Bronx while this exhibit is going on, I’d highly recommend attending.

Botanical Garden Orchid Show Botanical Garden Orchid Show Botanical Garden Orchid Show Botanical Garden Orchid ShowBotanical Garden Orchid ShowBotanical Garden Orchid ShowBotanical Garden Orchid Show

Happy Easter! (Or Passover, or Anything Else)

Standard

Easter EggsYesterday, Todd’s sister invited me and my parents to a delicious seder meal at her house to celebrate Passover. We had a great time with his family! When we got home, we dyed our Easter eggs to get ready for our own Easter celebration today, which includes eating our dyed eggs for breakfast, going to mass to honor Jesus’s resurrection, eating a ham, and finally opening the platter of struffoli (honey balls) that we bought! Maybe next year I’ll try to make my own. For now, I just want to wish everyone a happy Easter, Passover, or anything else you might celebrate. I’m so thankful for all of you.

A Promise of Patience

Standard

There’s no doubt that I had a great weekend. Todd and I sampled delicious small plates at The Stanton Social; I jogged 5.5 miles at an average pace of 11.5 minutes per mile, my longest run so far; and we walked with a friend along part of The High Line in Manhattan. As good as it was, this upcoming weekend promises to give last weekend a run for its money. I might get dinner with two close friends on Friday, I’ll spend Saturday with Todd, and Easter Sunday will be filled with family and laughter and irresistible desserts. But as the end of Lent approaches, I think it’s important to evaluate the progress I’ve made on my Lenten promise to give up impatience.

Trees on the High Line

Trees on the High Line

One of the things that tests this promise every day is the slow arrival of summer, and it hit hardest while walking the High Line. In summer, the elevated park overflows with colorful flowers and blooming trees, but in winter, their bark is pale and their branches spindly. I’m waiting for the trees to sprout leaves. I want to run in shorts, with sweat dripping from my skin. I want to walk outside without a coat. I want to start planting in my garden and watching it grow. I want to eat street foods and walk through street fairs and sit in Central Park and write poetry. But each time I feel that itch for summer, I try to take a deep breath and repeat a mantra: Patience is a virtue. Patience is a virtue. Patience is a virtue.

I’ve also been trying to show less impatience in other areas of my life. I’m trying hard not to be anxious about when I’ll find my dream job or let myself feel overcome by the desire for Todd and I to move into our own apartment right now. In my daily life, I hate rushing from place to place or activity to activity, and I keep reminding myself that impatience is just another form of rushing. Everything will come in its own time, and impatience will only cause my life to pass by in a blur without true appreciation for every minute of every day.

I’m reminding myself to be mindful and appreciative of everything I do. When I eat a good meal, I try to savor all of the flavors. When I take a walk, I try to notice the scenery around me instead of getting lost in my thoughts. When I exercise, I try to feel how each part of my body reacts to my movements. I’ve been taking yoga slow, holding poses longer and using it as a lesson in waiting.

I’m not doing a perfect job of controlling my impatience—I still check the trees for blooms when I walk past the park near my house—but I think I’m making progress. And even though Easter marks the end of Lent, my journey toward patience is far from over.

Favorite Foods at the Village Voice Choice Eats Tasting Event

Standard

A few weeks ago, Todd and I attended the Village Voice Choice Eats tasting event, where hundreds of foodies gathered to sample delicacies from more than 50 restaurants located in Manhattan and the boroughs. We expected the event to be jam-packed, but the crowds spread out pretty evenly and we didn’t have to wait in super long lines to sample any of the food—though certain crowd favorites, such as Luke’s Lobster, ran out of bites before we made our way to their tasting table. Here are some of our favorites, all from restaurants that we had never tried before but have now added to our list of places to eat in and around the city.

This Russian combo platter from Veselka had distinct flavors that merged savory and sweet. The pierogi was especially soft and tasty:

From Fort Defiance we sampled deviled eggs, which had a creamy center that melted in your mouth:

Fort Defiance: Deviled Eggs

We often had to pile plates on top of each other while browsing a row of tables, then we stopped at the end of the row to consume what we had gathered. We tried tangy yet refreshing broccoli soup from The Queens Kickshaw and a crostini with stracciatella, apricots, and roasted garlic from Brucie:

Choice Eats

Todd and I both agree that this Hot Goldie Sandwich from Untamed Sandwiches was the best bite we tasted throughout the entire event. It featured delicious grass-fed beef short rib, red onion, sweet and sour cabbage, and black pepper aioli on ciabatta bread. We enjoyed it so much that we went back for seconds even though we were stuffed by the end of the tasting:

Choice Eats

As much as I loved all the savory samples on the first floor, the second floor continually beckoned with its promise of sweets. I believe I found my favorite dessert of all time. Robicelli’s nutelasagna had lasagna noodles surrounded by cannoli custard, toasted homemade marshmallow, Nutella ganache, and roasted hazelnuts. It was a little messy, but so delicious:

Choice Eats

Here’s another plate of desserts, including banana pudding pie toped with a smoked peanut butter cookie:

Choice Eats

All in all, the event—and the sheer amount of good food—was worth the money we paid for admission ($65 each for general admission at 7 p.m.), and we are already planning to go again next year. It’s a great way to try out bite-size portions from so many great New York restaurants, and I would definitely recommend attending.