Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

These are pumpkins from the Union Square Greenmarket, love the fall colors!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Carlton Arms Hotel & Artmess

I am always up for seeing something new, something I may not have seen before. So was more than ready to go along last weekend for an art exhibit at the Carlton Arms Hotel. Art on a Friday night? Sounds great! I like to introduce culture into my life, especially when our friend, Amy, invites us (She is Ms. Brooklyn art scene and works at Sotheby's).

After a varied past, it became a respectable hotel in the 1950s, but not for long (according to the website). After a period of Single-Room-Occupancy, it became a home for hippies, transvestites and hookers.

A new owner took over in the 1980s, and the rooms were scrubbed, cleaned and rented out to travelers and transients looking for something not so hip, but at a good rate. It started with a mural on one wall, and then one by one artists were invited to paint rooms.

Today, all 54 rooms and 4 hallways are fully painted with colorful scenes. This event celebrated the opening of 3 more rooms (the event was entitled Artbreak Hotel Unconscious Artmess and is held about twice a year). There was actual artwork being created and live music.

Here is a picture of NYC on a wall:

A new room opening last Friday night. Yes, that is a little sink in the corner:

And a look down the staircase. Yes, everything is painted!

It was a very artsy crowd, if I can describe it that way. A mix of a art opening and real life living. It was definitely interesting to see, and the owner was very cool and clearly loved what he was able to do. I will admit that when I first walked around, I thought I was in someone's house and wasn't quite sure what was going on. There was shampoo out for the shared bathroom and someone going into their room that I was standing in front of.

Just a little bit of exploring new places in New York....we mixed this event up with a little CPK that night. Yes, crazy, but it is the one place you can go and there isn't a line on a Friday. It was really a little bit of a treat to walk right in and be seated.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Million Dollar Cookies

A few weeks ago, my friend Emmie was here for the NY Food and Wine festival. She was so sweet to bring a gift with her! Granted, I'm not sure my couch for the evening warranted a gift.

I have to admit, I love seeing these and think they are perfect for gifting. So cute, perfect for the home, and extra perfect for a baker.

The jar didn't last long, as last Saturday seemed like a perfect baking day. Rainy and cool outside. How can you say no to cookies on a day like this? You would think this is virtually fool proof but realized after combining the butter and the egg to cream, that I was supposed to cream the butter then add the egg. I thought it would good enough and would still work, despite being a little runny.

And they did. Slightly crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Someone already sampled!

And then ready to eat:

I have not mastered the art of food pictures. Either there is too much flash or not enough (like here), so thoughts are appreciated!

Just a short post after a busy week. I'm still settling in at my new job and trying to manage the commuting logistics (or at least stay sane during Lincoln Tunnel traffic). I see some baking in my future, but not sure what yet. M's mom sent us her pumpkin chocolate chip loaf, so that is a perfect weekend treat. I was able to get the recipe, but haven't made it yet myself. Somehow I don't think it's going to be the same.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cranberry Time (or Wonderberry Time)

Wow, it's been a week and I haven't posted! I have to apologize, it was my first full week back at work in many months, so there was a bit of transition to having my days filled!

I've been saving this post since we visited Rockefeller Center about 2 weeks ago actually. I went up to Midtown with M. because he had a lunch meeting. It was cancelled at the last minute, so we ate lunch at Pret A Manger in the concourse by the ice skating rink. They were actually working on it that day, so it should be opening soon!

While we were enjoying the nice day and not working, we wandered through the Plaza at 30 Rock and it was cranberry display day. In addition to lots of Ocean Spray free samples, there were actually mini cranberry bogs built.

I tend towards being cynical at times so figured that the people wading in the "bogs" were Ocean Spray marketing folks. I was pleasantly surprised that these were real life cranberry growers! The woman we talked to (below) is actually from New Jersey and a family run farm. If you didn't know, Ocean Spray, is actually a cooperative of growers. Who knew?

I thought Massachusetts was the biggest producer of cranberries, in part because I toured the Ocean Spray factory there as a little girl. Wisconsin takes home the prize, with New Jersey not far behind.

The cranberries actually grow on shrub like vines close to the ground. Then the fields are flooded and a harvester machine comes through to loosen the berries. White cranberry juice comes from white berries that just haven't turned red yet.

All in all, a fascinating little discovery that day. As for eating them, I enjoy dried cranberries in my oatmeal and "chunky" cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. But alas, my sister is a die-hard cranberries-from-a can-with-the-ring kind of girl, so that's what we have at my house.

Any good cranberry recipes out there?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

NY Food & Wine Festival

What a lucky girl am I? My great friend, Emmie, was in town on Friday for a work-related trip to the NY Food & Wine Festival. As a dedicated friend, I accompanied her to the grand tasting on Friday. With notebook in one hand and my glass in another, we entered Pier 54 on the west side for a few hours of tasting and learning, and tasting and tasting...

Here was one I liked. Or did I just like taking pictures of the bottles? I can't remember:

And another:

I discovered a new Australian "verde" wine that reminded me of fresh green apples, so maybe we'll be seeing more of that out there.

Emmie was a great teacher, explaining more about how the distribution levels, the variance by state, and then just some helpful wine info along the way. NYC is still a mom & pop wine store state, so it was interesting to hear the different perspectives on the recent law to open up sales to the Targets and Costcos of the world (it didn't pass).

This is a really bad picture of Fabio and Jeff, both from Top Chef NY. Really looking forward to pregnant Padma on the next season.

The event actually goes on all weekend, but I never bought formal tickets to any other events. On Saturday, it was a sunny but windy day and we went back down to the Meatpacking to enjoy espresso at the illy coffee display in the heart of all the food activity. It is actually a shipping container that opens up to form seating areas, and an area for free hot drinks. And there is always a lot to look at down here. From the warmth of my own apartment, I caught up on Eater blog, which reported out interviews with chefs who stopped by the Standard Hotel lobby.

Big changes ahead, so hoping that I can continue to post a few days a week. Yes, after quite a few months, I'll be heading back to the work world. Have a few more posts from my out-and-about activities last week, so look for those soon!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hudson River on the High Line

This is my last post in this week's focus on the High Line. Thank you for joining me! Today I'm off to a wine event during New York's Food & Wine Festival with my very good friend Emmie, otherwise known as the Aspiring Southern Housewife.

So here we go with one last little piece of the park that I enjoy.

This is the Hudson River.

And so is this:

Under Chelsea Market Passage on the High Line, you can view "The River That Flows Both Ways". It is an installation of 700 panes of colored glass designed by Spencer Finch. This is his first major public exhibit in New York City.

How does this relate to the Hudson River?

On June 12, 2008, Finch photographed the Hudson River’s surface once every minute for 11 hours on a tugboat. The Creative Time website describes it best, so will borrow from their site:

The color of each pane of glass was based on a single pixel point in each photograph and arranged chronologically.Time is translated into a grid, reading from left to right and top to bottom, capturing the varied reflective and translucent conditions of the water’s surface. The work, like the river, is experienced differently depending on the light levels and atmospheric conditions of the site.

He tries to capture the color of water.

Finch lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and has a degree from RISD. He works on both installations and paper, and according to the High Line site, he works with difficult subjects and tries to explore the nature of color, light, and memory. He "works to operate in the gap between the objectivity of scientific data and the subjective nature of perception".

I think the exhibit is especially interesting when you know the story and then see the reality.

The Standard Hotel on the High Line

You can't possibly discuss the High Line without touching on the Standard Hotel, an Andre Balazs creation. But first I have to recount my initial encounter with the structure. Back in the day when I lived in Connecticut and we'd drive into the city on the weekends, we would park in the meatpacking (easy parking). I would watch as this giant concrete thing came up out of the ground. Was it a new bridge to NJ? It was just so odd looking. Well, now I know it was the elevator bank.

The hotel rises to great heights over the High Line, and you walk right underneath.

At first it was only open for a select crowd, those in the know. Which means I probably could not have gotten a room. What is most interesting is that the rooms have floor to ceiling windows and it is not uncommon at all for some exhibitionism. It goes on all day and night, from what I've read (have not seen).

The hotel sports an upper level bar, nicknamed the Boom Boom room, with a 20 person hot tub. This is a little creepy to me. But the views from the 18th floor are probably amazing. A room for private events (the High Line Room) just opened with views level with the High Line, and this may be more my style.

Street level, you can enjoy The Standard Grill, or an outdoor beer garden next door. The Grill has gotten pretty good reviews, although it's pretty hard to get a table. If you do snag one, you are likely to see a celeb or two.

We've walked through here on a Thursday night and the hotel entrance area was hopping. Just like a scene from SATC when the girls are out in the meatpacking on a busy night. It's quite easy to take a look inside or enjoy the modern furniture for some rest. It's all a really bright yellow, as is the actual entrance.

For Fashion Week, they knitted stockings for the posts out front.

If you are ready to book your room, or just want to read more the Standard Hotel site:

For the "Exhibitionist Enthusiasm" check out the NY Post piece via NY Mag.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The High Line: Good Sitting Places

Continuing on with the High Line...There are a few interesting areas and features on the path. All places to sit and people watch.

There is an area at about 18th street that has a sunken area with seating and a bird's eye view of 10th Avenue running north:

On a busy day, this is a popular spot for people to linger and take pictures. The benches are very neat, and it's hard to describe how the seating becomes a sort of ramp down to the bottom.

These benches become prime seating on a nice day. I've seen people napping, computing, eating, sunbathing. They don't look that comfortable, but provide a nice space to spread out.

If you look closely, you'll see that the benches sit on wheels and the old track:

Aren't these benches cool? I don't see anyone sit on these. Well, except for a wedding party that was up here taking pictures one Saturday.

A little preview of what's to come: The Standard (how you can talk about the High Line and not this hotel??)

Monday, October 5, 2009

This Week: The High Line

Now for a week dedicated to one of my new favorite spots in Manhattan: The High Line. It is like a park in the sky, moving between New York buildings, green with trees and grass, meandering and relaxing. I've visited a half dozen times now and find something new every time.

The High Line is a public park built on 1.45 miles of railroad tracks running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking to 34th Street. It was originally a freight rail line and used from 1934 to 1980 (B&W pictures and history from the High Line website):

It carried meat to the meatpacking, agricultural goods to warehouses and mail to the Post Office:

Now, the tracks are owned by the City of New York with the space underneath owned by the state, the city and private owners. The Friends of the High Line is a non-profit organization that helped to build and now maintain the park. Let me add that among the benefactors and advocates are DVF who wanted to save the structure in the late 1990s.

Now for my journey down the High Line. Today we'll take a look at the rails and save some of the special details for the rest of the week.

A view south (I entered on 20th Street. When it first opened in June, the crowds were so large, they only allowed entry at the south end):

A great view of the Empire State Building, almost eye level with the billboard:

As you can see, it moves through the buildings. The building on the left is the Caledonia, a new apartment building. As I walked by, you end up eye level with a yoga class at the Equinox.

And a closer view of the planks:

A landscape architecture firm, James Corner Field Operations, used a self-seeded landscape and plantings that grew on the unused High Line. Warning to keep out of the planted areas:

The entrance at the south end:

Looking up from street level. It's amazing what they have done to incorporate this into the surrounding neighborhood.

And my last picture. Apparently, the day I was out there, someone was performing some sort of sky performance art. I captured this in the few minutes it was in the sky:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My New Fav App: CardStar

Do you carry around points and rewards cards, cards for grocery stores, cards for drugstores, cards for travel? I hate to put the mini ones on my keychain, so I have them wrapped in a rubber band that I carry around. I like to make sure I get my Insider Beauty points at Sephora, what can I say?

I'm always on the lookout for a neat app to make my life easier. Some are silly and I don't use them, but Cardstar is really very useful. This one came to me from Nathanael, the Pilates instructor at Chelsea Piers. And it's free, anadded bonus.

CardStar lets you load your card numbers and adds the bar codes, so it looks just like your plastic card. You can search for store, airline, etc in the various groups (travel, grocery) in the app. The developers must have contracted with quite a few places because there was only 1 I couldn't find.

Here is my uploaded CVS card:

The real test of whether this app works, though, is taking it to a store and getting them to scan my screen.

Test Location: DSW in Manchester, CT

I really wanted to try it here because I could be certain there wasn't a line behind me. At first, she looked at it and seemed a little perplexed. I assured her it was my card, so she gave it a scan. I think we were both surprised when it registered at the register. I loved her comment: Is that one of those app things?

What I would love to see is coupons for my phone, or stores scanning the coupon code from an email. It seems like such a hassle to remember the actual coupon in the mail, or have to print the email. Another way to "save" money!


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