Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Springtime in New York, part 1

This past weekend I went to New York City, which just happens to be my favorite of all of the cities. I've lost count of how many times I've visited, but I'm pretty sure I've covered every month — December was the coldest (-22 with windchill), June the hottest (90+, a record that year) and August the rainiest (I nearly lost a flip flop down a storm drain).

I've been there when it was 60 degrees in January and 40 degrees in May, but this past weekend it was absolutely perfect. Sunday was chilly and rainy, but Friday and Saturday were some of the most gorgeous days I've spent in the city.

Determined as always to see as much as humanly possible, I packed an extraordinary amount of sightseeing into two-and-a-half days. I can't possibly pick a favorite spot, activity or even borough when the contenders include most everything on my to-do-list, with notable additions being the "Cat You Care For" book I bought for forty-eight cents, delicious burgers at Shake Shack and an entire grove of lilacs.

I have to say though, for being such a city, New York certainly knows how to do nature. I spent a considerable amount of time walking around Central Park, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and every time I turned a corner something was blooming and taking my breath away. The highlights:

I spent Friday morning walking most of Central Park, eventually ending up at the Conservatory Garden. I was just about to exit the gate, when I walked into this courtyard ringed with the most gorgeous tulips I've ever seen. Believe me when I say these tulips were a game changer.

I hesitate to say they took my breath away, but I'm still having a hard time believing I even saw something this beautiful. Did I mention the Conservatory Garden is free?

After the Conservatory, I headed to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I went for the flowering cherries, and they didn't disappoint. I wish I was still there, sitting under the canopy of peak-bloom cherry trees — every time the wind would blow, a few petals would fall and I had to keep reminding myself that it was real life. Sometimes I can't believe I'm so lucky.

Also, I got in for $5 thanks to my student I.D., even though it's been 4 years since I could call myself a student. Don't tell New York.

As if the cherries weren't enough, the Botanic Garden also has the most delicious smelling lilac grove I've ever seen. Well, it was also the first lilac grove I'd ever seen, but seriously I wish you could smell my photos. That's not usually something I wish when presenting New York City photos, but trust me.

Not to be outdone, the azaleas were also in peak bloom and in such vibrant colors I could barely trust my own eyeballs. Luckily I took approximately six thousand pictures as proof. Apparently the bumble bees enjoyed them as much as I did — I tried to take a picture of two bees getting fresh with one another, but they were all "stop creeping on us" and flew away.

I can't recommend the Brooklyn Botanic Garden enough — every where I looked was incredible. The bluebell field is apparently in bloom as of right this second, so grab your fraudulent student I.D. and head over to Prospect Park if you can — tell the cherries that I'll see them next year.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

To-Do List: New York Edition

As I've mentioned, I'm headed to NYC this weekend to visit my friend Trent — I'm the "special guest" at a sure-to-be-epic Merylthon celebration, culminating in a drinking game centered around the Devil Wears Prada.  I've been feverishly making list after list of things to fill every second of my time in my beloved city — that is while I'm not talking Streep or doing liver damage.

Here is a partial list of my plans so far:

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

It may seem strange that I am going to New York City to see nature, but every year I drool over other people's pictures of too-gorgeous-to-be-real cherry blossoms, and this year I'm going to see them for myself. I originally planned to get my blossom fix at the New York Botanical Garden, but BBG's website lured me with it's simple design and a map of the cherry grove showing most of the trees at peak bloom. Also, it's only 1.6 miles from: 

The Pink Palace

I can't go to NY for a Meryl Streep celebration without finally seeing where they filmed (the exteriors, at least) of Sophie's Choice. I've already been to Coney Island, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, explored Prospect Park and after the Pink Palace (aka 101 Rugby Road) the only filming location I haven't been to is Yugoslavia. Maybe next year?

Coney Island Sideshow Circus

My first visit to Coney Island was last summer, but as soon as I stepped onto Surf Avenue, knew it wouldn't be my last. This continuous admission sideshow is open on Saturdays and Sundays, and claims to be the "world's first professional, non-profit theatre dedicated to keeping alive the American sideshow." Freaks, wonders and human curiosities! Where do I get my tickets!

I'm not quite sure what to expect from the Brooklyn Flea. Part of me wants to check it out because I've read about it a million times on a million blogs written by people a million times cooler than I'll ever be, but part of me knows I'll be disappointed because I'm a cheap, thrift-snob from Ohio and I'm thinking the bargains will be few and far between. I have similar feelings about the:

Do I take my chances and hope that I find a gem amongst the 100+ vendors, or do I just spend more time in:

I must have a thing for man-made nature, because I plan to spend a lot of time in Central Park — since seeing Meryl Streep perform in Mother Courage, the Delacorte Theater has always been a stop, along with its neighbor, Belvedere Castle. This year I'm planning on touring the Conservatory Garden for the first time and I'm sure I'll cross paths with my favorite fountain, that saucy little minx Bethesda. Has anyone been to the Central Park Zoo? Worth my (limited) time or should I just get my penguin fix closer to home?

I planned on visiting the Transit Museum the last time I was in the city, but unfortunately they were closed for the holiday (I'm trying to avoid similar disappointments this time by doing my research — and here you thought I was just being incredibly type A and nerdy). I've been wearing a subway token around my neck (almost) every day for the past two years, so it's about time I learned about its origins. See also: I'm a 12 year old boy.

The Strand

No trip to New York would be complete without a visit to one of my favorite places anywhere - the Strand. It's not just the miles of books — new and used — but I also love their (cheap!) totes and enviable collection of rare and antique books. Call me a nerd, but there's nothing like shopping for a real, printed book in a real, New York bookstore.

[my favorite view]
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade

My favorite spot in the entire world. Or at least of the parts I've been to. And I'm sure a lot of world parts I haven't been to can't compare either. It's that wonderful to me.

The Cloisters

Ever since I read Annie on My Mind in high school, I've wanted to visit this Metropolitan Museum of Art branch museum, devoted to the medieval arts. I tried to go once before, and by tried I mean I got off the subway, took a look around at the sketchy neighborhood and immediately returned to safety. I think it's worth another shot though, and I've been working on my gangsta face so I'm pretty confident that I'll make it there in one piece.

Any other must-dos I can squeeze into my list? It's the city that never sleeps, so I don't have to either, right? You wouldn't be agreeing with me if you've ever seen me without sleep.

PS, did I tell you my flight leaves at 6 am? As in a full hour-and-a-half before I usually get up for work? Sometimes even I question my vacation-induced insanity.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bernie Dexter

I've spent the last few weeks researching pin up style for a calendar we're working on — I'm sorry, I should have warned you that this post was going to start off in a I-sound-like-I'm-bragging-about-how-awesome-my-job-is-but-really-I'm-just-providing-exposition-before-I-get-to-the-real-point-of-this post-which-is-pretty-ladies, sort of way.

Anyway, while I scouted various sources for period-correct pin up-style clothing, I kept noticing a particular model. I then found out that not only is she a pin up model, but she also designed a lot of the clothing I was finding — her name is Bernie Dexter, and I love her.

I'm pretty sure you can figure out why.

All photos from here or here.
She's like Bettie Page, but you know, gorgeous (sorry to all of the Page fans out there, but girl had a bizarro rib-cage, no?).  She's also an incredibly talented designer — pretty much every outfit I've fallen in love with has been from her collection.

Check out her website and Facebook page for more reasons to dye your hair black, sell every modern thing you own and replace it with leopard print and gingham.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mozart Monday

I know I'm that annoying lady that shoves photo after photo of her ugly kid in your face in an effort to solicit praise for just, like, creating something, but seriously. ISN'T SHE CUTE.

Friday, April 13, 2012

New Glasses

I have horrible vision. Like, bad enough that perhaps my greatest fear in life is going blind and spending the rest of my life Magoo-ing around, missing so many things. But enough about my deepest, darkest fears.

Bad eyesight doesn't have to equal bad glasses, however, and while my current eye-wear is not exactly Sally-Jessy-Raphael-bad, I don't quite look forward to putting them on each night (I'm strictly a contacts-girl as far as the general public is concerned).

Therefore, I'm in the market for some new frames and I have a few specific challenges:
  1. My head is tiny. Like, teeny tiny. My current frames are from the kids section, a choice that was suggested to me by the sympathetic frame saleswoman upon noticing that she was assisting a real life pinhead.
  2. Having a prescription that would trump most 85-year-olds means that I'm in serious danger of venturing into coke-bottle land. Luckily, its not 1812, and there are ultra-thin lenses that make my ocular deficiencies less noticeable. Unfortunately, those options also cost more. Remind me to thank my near-sighted father for his excellent genetics next time I see him.
  3. I'm cheap. My last pair of glasses cost me more than $200 — a price I'm not necessarily eager to pay again for something I only wear at night. Oh and I also passed out and broke my frames two months after dropping those two hundos. Eyemasters wasn't exactly sympathetic.
  4. Back to my terrible eyesight: Even though my head is small, I need a bigger frame to hold a bigger lens so I have a bigger field of vision. You know, so I can actually see. That's kind of important to me, you know?
Thankfully, hours of grueling internet research (i.e. reading mom blogs) have led me to two great sites that seem to address all of my issues: Warby Parker and Lookmatic. Both have set prices ($95 for Warby prescription frames and $88 for Lookmatic), great styles and virtual try on software. They both charge extra for the thinnest lenses (can't a blind girl catch a break?), but Warby's $30 seems more fair than Lookmatic's $60.

Warby Parker also offers the home-try-in option — they'll send you five frames free of charge to try on your actual face. I ordered my five pairs yesterday, and we'll see how they compare to the virtual try on software. Speaking of which, the two pairs above are my favorites from each site (here and here).

Please ignore my weirdo web cam expressions and be thankful you're not my poor computer which is forced to look at this face for at least 8 hrs. a day. Do you like this style? Do I look like a complete hipster nerd? I'll post the results of the home try on sometime next week, even if only for a laugh.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hatch Show Print


Our local ad club hosted a luncheon event today featuring Jim Sherraden of Nashville's Hatch Show Print and it was one of the best speeches I've ever attended. Now that I'm thinking of it, I actually haven't attended many speeches (ok, only one is coming to mind right now, but I'm sure there've been more — I'm not (quite) a hermit), but don't let my loser-y existence make him sound any less impressive.

Jim is such an incredibly talented and interesting man, not to mention the omg-look-how-amazing-that-is nature of every single thing that has rolled off of the Hatch presses since 1879. He stressed the shop's motto of "preservation through production", and chronicled their history (on real, honest-to-goodness slides, no less). Their holy-shit collection of wood-type and hand-carved blocks is something I decided that I must see one day — Jim even told us to stop by and he'd throw aprons on us and put us to work (um, I guess you can call that work — I call it a dream).

Upon returning to where I actually work, I immediately went to their site to find out how I could own a Hatch poster and not surprisingly found a lot of great ones.

This Pure Coffee poster is probably my favorite, although choosing just one is sort of like asking me to go all Sophie's Choice on my cats (ok, that one's actually not that hard, sorry Fizzy).

The man and I also decided that a trip to Nashville is a must — I've never been there but I've heard (aka read in Bon Appetit while in the waiting room of the Volkswagon service department) that the hot chicken is not to be missed. Have you ever been to Nashville? Besides Hatch, what else should I add to our list of must-dos?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Recap

I hosted my very first Easter dinner this year, and I think (hope) it successful. I have a thing for vintage, flocked bunnies, so any event that allows me to put them on display is immediately a favorite.

I made individual baskets for everyone (even though the youngest person there was... me) and filled them with Cadbury mini eggs, Reese's cups, Kit Kats and topped it all of with a Peep. The egg-shaped gumballs only confused two out of two grandparents.

I've never really "decorated" a holiday table before, but I let my pink Pyrex bowls and various bunnies do most of the work. I may have also used some (unused, obviously, I'm not that cheap) orange Solo cups leftover from our Halloween party — who says pink, orange and red don't go together?

This was also my first time cooking (or, heating up) a ham — apparently a whole, spiral-sliced ham is too much ham for six people? Ask me how I know this. Or rather, ask me how many times I was told this.

How was your Easter? Are you still eating handfuls of black jelly beans every morning, or is that just me?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday To-Do

To do this week:

1. Make a doctor's appointment.

I'm 26 years old and I don't have my own doctor. I go to Statcare when I get sick (which is rarely, thankfully) but I wouldn't exactly call it top-notch, specialized care. I was diagnosed with Strep C about a month ago, and after a course of antibiotics I just don't seem to be getting better. It's a bit ridiculous that I don't have a doctor to go back to, or anyone who knows my history or has even seen me more than once. I'm not even exactly sure how to go about looking for or eventually picking a doctor that's right for me, but I need to figure it out.

Anyone has to be better than constantly googling my ailments, which inevitably leads to me having the most incurable, devastating diseases possible (see past "self-diagnoses" of pink-eye, multiple-sclerosis and glaucoma, amongst many others).

2. Start my passport application process.

I don't have a passport, and I've been meaning to get one for some time. I don't have any immediate plans requiring me to have one, but a trip to Europe is definitely on my life to-do list. My man got his last summer for a trip to Canada so now I'm the one hindering our international adventures.

3. Cook (and eat) at least one meal that I've never made before.

If left to my own devices, I may never eat, let alone make, a full, complete meal. See also: I ate cornbread every day last week. But I don't live alone and I'm not five, so I've been making an attempt to cook interesting, healthy foods for us lately. I think this week I'm going to attempt bruschetta — any recipes or helpful tips are always appreciated — I'll let you know how it turns out.

4. Make an NYC to-do list for my upcoming trip.

Can "make a to-do list" be part of this to-do list? It's my life, I can do what I want. I've been mentally cataloging possible adventures to take, plays to see and places to eat when I go to New York in a few weeks, but writing it down will help me make sense of it all. I've made some epic trip lists before — researching addresses, hours of operation and ticket prices in advance really helps me focus on actually enjoying the trip.

5. Fold my laundry.

I'm actually pretty good at conquering laundry mountain every weekend, but it seems as if there's always one last load in the dryer on Sunday night that I don't get around to folding until the next weekend. By then, of course, it's horribly wrinkly and I feel like a domestic failure. In fact, there's a load of last week's whites in my dryer right now, mocking me, gathering wrinkles as I type.

6. Cook Easter dinner for my family.

I've never made a ham. Do you even "make" ham, or just heat it up? I guess I have to find out by Sunday, because the part of my family that didn't see me succeed cooking my first Thanksgiving is coming over, and now I need to succeed cooking another first-time holiday meal. But I DID buy butter in the shape of a lamb so I'm already doing it right, right?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mozart Mondays

In an attempt to be a more organized and informative blogger, I've been thinking about some ways to revamp my content. Currently, I write about what I feel like, when I feel like it, and lately I feel as if I've really lost any sense of direction or cohesiveness — or maybe this blog never had those things. 

Either way, I've come up with a few "themes" for posts, based on the things I seem to write about the most, including: my cat, Meryl Streep, books, movies, travel, Blue Carrot shop news and vintage (or other) inspiration. I hope this is will be a good way to keep me on task, and help keep things fresh.

Today will be the very first "Mozart Monday", to be alternated every week with "Meryl Mondays" — because who doesn't like alliteration and cat photos?*

The day I lost Mozart (for an hour).

I've had my share of pets in my 26 years and I'd never lost a single one. We even had outdoor cats that would go on daily adventures, but the cats always (sometimes even regrettably) came back. Mozart is very much an indoor cat — she has no front claws and generally zero interest in venturing beyond the many comforts of home. But a few weeks ago, inexplicably, she was gone.

We had gone to breakfast on a Sunday morning and upon returning home I started to clean the house. It wasn't until about a half hour later that I noticed something was off — Mozart usually follows me like a shadow, and I hadn't seen her all day.

I checked all of the usual hiding spots — under the beds, behind the couch, in the spare bedroom, and no Mozart. I called her name, rattled her food dish, threw a few toys, and still no Mozart. We don't exactly live in a palace, so I checked and rechecked every room and within a few minutes I knew she couldn't be hiding.

And then I slowly started to panic. I've never loved a cat as much as I love Mozart — there are few people for whom I even feel anything remotely similar. I began to search outside, checking our busy street and hoping that was the one place she wouldn't turn up. I felt the tears start to come as I called her name, louder and louder.

I was just about to go into the back yard, when I heard a meow. The unmistakable Mozart Meow, coming from behind a pile of junk in our garage. I bent down and could barely see her, meowing uncontrollably, crouched in safety from the terrors of the outside world.

We pulled her out (no amount of coaxing was going to get her out on her own) and brought her in the house — her whiskers were dusty but otherwise she was perfectly fine. I later discovered that the window I had opened (and then closed) in the morning had no screen in it, and she must have jumped out. Or she was pushed by our jealous, uglier cat Fizzy (The Other One), which is the version of events that I'm most inclined to believe.

"The Other One"
Either way, once she got out she obviously panicked, and headed straight into the garage, terrified of, instead of interested in, the world. I was so glad when I found her, not only that she was safe, but that she had shown zero interest in exploration. I no longer have to worry about her getting hit by a car or cat-napped — I know now that if she ever gets out again, she'll stay as close to home and as out of harm's way as she can manage.

When we found her my man was relieved as well, but more for my sake. He looked at her, then back at me and said "I'm so glad we found her. I was thinking, "Allie isn't going to be able to handle this."'

*This blog is pretty much all alliteration and cat photos.