Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snow Storms and Spices

Well hello! We're almost through a very snowy January - tonight being a very snowy night in particular. Actually, I'm wondering how concerned I should be that the weather channel keeps upping it's accumulation prediction  for Manhattan every time I check. Should I be stockpiling antibiotics and protein bars, hightailing it to the public library and burning chairs for warmth? It's getting a little chaotic looking down there on 9th avenue.

I'm warm and cozy inside my apartment, making tea and cooking away.

I've been really sticking to my healthy eating (for a healthy me!) plan and experimenting with some great new recipes. There have been some failures, burned Brussels sprouts, beeping smoke alarms and gooey gummy carrots, but I'm mastering it along the way, right?

Basil Maple Apple and Barley Stuffing

I'm also slowly acquiring fancier cookware, which is making me giddy. So the gummy carrot episode was tolerable.

Spiced chickpeas with yellow peppers and brown rice
Now that I have chairs around my table in my new apartment, I can probably stop pretending to be a sad excuse of a grown up and have my friends over for dinner. It was a long stretch without chairs. But hey - I made due! I now know that you'll never truly appreciate the idea of chairs until you've eaten your breakfast while sitting on a plastic storage bin every morning for three months. 

Stuffed Butternut Squash

I also am learning to love my new luxury of the... microwave. Yes, that's right. I lived for over two years without a microwave and a stove with 1.5 out of 4 working burners. It was a time of forgotten left overs and charred stir-frys. But 50th Street is a story for another day. Now I have a microwave and I can make popcorn all day every day until I'm full of microwave popcorn up to my eyes.

Okay, I won't do that. But I could. If I wanted to.

Sweet potato and Quinoa cakes with Blackberry Jalapeno salsa.

What I will keep doing is cooking up a storm! Maybe that's a terrible metaphor to use during a blizzard. It is getting terrible out there! Every time I look out the window I get a little more worried that we're in a War of the Worlds type emergency and I haven't caught on yet.

Anyway, I'll keep on with the new recipes. And I'll keep up with the yoga. And my resolution to be more Zen. And I'll keep making a lot of arts and crafts projects. And staying up really late with equally Type-A friends playing hilariously competitive games.

I should probably work more on the whole "a little more Zen, a little less type A" thing.

But hey, tomorrow is another day.

Friday, December 6, 2013

2013, and where it's all going

Well, it looks like 2013 is coming to a close. I know everyone says the same thing every year, "I can't believe it's the end of ____!" but seriously, I feel like it was only weeks ago that ending everything with the 2012 apocalypse punchline, and here we are, at the end of the following year. Did the rapture happen and we didn't notice? Oh well. Super old news.

I made a pact with a friend on New Year's Eve that we were going to fill this year with new experiences. While I recognize that it was a really stupid pact (because aren't all experiences new, in a sense?), it ended up being a pretty fantastic year. When that same friend packed her bags smack dab in the middle of our fun-filled year and left on a jet plane to the west, I thought I would be crushed. But something entirely different happened - I saw that I could to anything. We sat on the edge of the East River, watched Manhattan light up in front of us and the Brooklyn bridge loom over us, and the realization flooded over me like a cold, fast rolling wave of river water: I can do anything. Anything. It smacked me in the face.

Sometimes I walk down the street during rush hour and take a moment to look at the people rushing beside me. All in black, carrying briefcases, looks of quiet concern and preparation on their faces as they lean forward towards their lives. So professional. So ambitious. And then every once and I while I realize that it's very possible that I am one of them too.

I made some changes this year. Hopefully they are for the best, hopefully they make me an more of a better, freer, loving person.

"'I have never felt more alive then I do right now!' she yelled... As we all stood in an empty predawn Times Square the size of eternity, with the dazzling blinking lights blazing above our heads and the whole beautiful world at our feet.

I've met some beautiful people and I've heard some astonishing stories, good and bad. I want to keep collecting these stories. The more you hear and see and feel, the more you begin to wonder about the people around you. The commuters in black rushing beside me in the mornings to get to their own offices and to deal with their own concerns: where did they come from?

I want 2014 to be just as wonderful. Because the biggest lesson I learned in 2013 is that life doesn't just happen to be fun and fullfulling and full of excitement and love and romance and drama. You make it that way.

So I'm going to work as hard as I can. I'm going to keep jumping at opportunities. I'm going to take a cab to Chelsea and try to cook an Indian recipe with a friend. We'll eat Ethiopian food. We'll participate in the art shows and we'll swim in waterfalls. We'll run down Broadway at dawn. We'll eat cupcakes. We'll hang out with Austrians and sing more Ukrainian birthday songs and eat more oysters. I'll hop on buses and trains and visit the people I love in faraway states like Vermont and Oregon.

Because half of the fun of all of this are these experiences. And the experiences happen because you make them happen. The rest of the fun? The the stories you hear from the people you are with and the new ones you make along the way.

And I'm going to keep soaking it all in.

Goodnight ya'll.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Over the River and Through the Woods

Adirondacks... July 2012

Ohhhh the Adirondacks. It was a beautiful trip. I don't think any pictures could do the beauty of these mountains justice. An escape from the city was exactly what we all needed - and it was perfect. Five days of silence, mountains, good food, good beer and incredible people. And of course- an extremely intense game of capture the flag (and only a few injuries).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Adventures in Queens

So I'm sorry if this post looks a little strange, my laptop has come down with computer appendicitis and I've resorted to writing on my iPhone (first world problems, am I right?) I tried to fix my it myself, and now I have a broken laptop with a few keys missing and tech guts hanging out. Turns out, computer surgery is not my specialty. Big surprise there.

Braden and I decided to venture out to Queens to see the Queens Art Museum... And we made a stop at the 1964 World's Fair along the way.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon wondering the museum, which (among other awesome pieces) is the home to this giant panorama of New York City. All of the buildings in the 5 Burroughs is represented to scale... And they have a touchable representation on the side where you can run your fingers over the brownstones in Greenpoint to the Empire State Building in Midtown.

After the museum, we thought it'd be a great idea to hop on the subway and hop off at a new stop we've never seen before.

We found ourselves on Roosevelt Avenue - picked a random direction- and ended up eating the best plantain empanadas on this side of the border.

Well Queens... it's been great!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Life is too short for Kickball.

Hold up ya'll. It's time for a serious moment today. A few weeks ago, I was talking to one of my very best friends on the phone. She has known me for most of life... we met in second grade and became best friends the instant we figured out that we'd rather write plays and read novels than play kickball (seriously - that game is SO stupid).

On this particular night I was crying over a boy who really put a huge dent in my sense of self. First of all, it's embarrassing to admit that I would ever cry over a boy... but I guess it happens to even the toughest of us at some point, right ladies? (Oh shut up, don't lie. You've all been there.... Unless you have no heart, and in that case I'm just concerned for your blood flow situation). I've always prided myself on being so tough, and the fact that I let such an unimportant person make me feel like I was anything less than kick-ass is, in retrospect, ridiculous.

But back to the point. My friend, who has provided nothing but love and support throughout the entire crazy nauseating weird winding lurching truck on a corroding dirt road journey of my life so far - told me to stop. "You are NOT worthless. You are the example I use when someone needs a success story. You've had some really tough breaks - and look where you are now."

Okay, fine. She's right. I've had some roadblocks. But haven't we all? Haven't we all felt like giving up at some point and surprised ourselves when months later we were the happiest we've ever been? Weren't you glad that you didn't quit? We all know a person who's picked themselves up after an immeasurable setback. We all know someone who has figured it out when things were stacked against them. This world throws some crazy stuff at all of us.

People are amazing.

Perhaps the most miraculous thing about our world is the resiliency of the human spirit. We are adaptable, pliable; we can turn ourselves into whatever or whomever we need to be in order to survive. It is amazing how an individual can experience horrific circumstances and still find the strength to rise inthe morning, brush his teeth and begin a new day. A villain can smash our world into tiny fragments and we still figure out a way to collect all of the pieces and put them back together with the scotch tape and Elmer's glue that we found in our apartments' junk drawers.

These people are everywhere. They pass you on the street. They wait in line at the bank. They pour your French roast at the coffee shop and they return your change at the grocery store. He is waiting next to you at the bus stop. She sits behind you in your English class. You would never give them a second glance otherwise.

How do we do it? We have entire communities destroyed by hurricanes; many of our neighbors become ill. Yet we still find the strength within ourselves to keep moving and help the person next to us off her knees. We take our newly single friend out for a romantic comedy and chai lattes. We listen closely as our sisters tell us the second doctor's diagnosis. The human spirit itself adapts constantly to the environment and rises above and beyond disaster.

We are survivors.

Oh and that boy I cried about that night? He ended up to be nothing more than a small pinch of salt in the really awesome story that I'm creating. He'll find where he needs to be, I'm sure. But the world is at my feet, bitches.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why I Hate Buses.

My hatred for buses did not begin in Chinatown or even in Brooklyn.

My hatred for buses began in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania... with the horrible Blue Loop.

Bloop: Vehicle of nightmares.

I developed my first aversion towards buses on the second day of Kindergarten. I'll never forget watching my mother's confused expression, the smile still wide on her face while her waving hand dropped as the yellow public school bus sped past my driveway. I had pulled my new floral baseball cap over my eyes and began to cry. Convinced that I would never see my mother again because the bus driver was taking me to a place filled with nightmares and cigarette smoke and keeping me in a room with all of her pet ferrets, five year old Lauren couldn't be consoled at the next bus stop down the street. The bus driver forgot I was still on the bus. I should have known then.

For real. Ew.

During my first three years at Penn State, I refused to ride the bus alone. Sure, I would take the bus at night with my friends while drunk students swayed and sang our favorite football cheers. Sometimes I could even be convinced to take it downtown if a few of my girlfriends convinced me the trek was too far for heels. But I never rode that terrible thing alone. I would hike in the snow for miles, inflicting a lot of unnecessary pain upon myself just to avoid that bus. "Freeze warning?! Only stay outside for 10 minutes at a time, you say? Whatever Weatherman! I will take breaks! I will thaw in coffee shops and regain feeling in my legs in lecture halls." DON'T tell me to ride that bus.

On a gloomy, overcast day in November, I walked toward my apartment as a drizzly, icy rain began to fall. I was at a building on campus that was almost a mile walk away from home. Up ahead, I could see the Blue Loop approaching the bus stop. Today would be the day! I would finally muster up the courage and get on that bus! Ride it all the way home! Ride in the warmth home to happiness!

I got on the bus and proudly sat in my seat. Girl conquers bus. Take that, bus.

I rode the bus that day for a few stops when I began to notice something was wrong. The driver was driving away from where I wanted to be going, and people were getting off at the stops, but no one was getting on. Strange, I thought. These people don't have the fiery courage that I have to conquer this unruly bus!

But suddenly, everyone was gone and the only person left on the bus with me was the driver. He drove away, away from the campus, away from downtown, away from anywhere I wanted to be and pulled into a parking lot. He turned off the bus.

What was this? Was he going to murder me? Was this finally the day I would be kidnapped and forced to live with a smoker and a house full of ferrets? I only had a minute to think about my inevitable ferret filled future because after a moment the bus driver turned around in his seat and gave me a brief look of jaded indifference.

And with that the man shrugged his shoulders, stood up, and got off the bus.

Oh what the heck.

WHAT? Seriously? I sat there for a few minutes, confused, wondering how my courageous bus trip and turned so terrible so quickly. Defeated, I got off the bus and walked an hour home in the cold Pennsylvania wind. When I got home that afternoon, my friends couldn't stop laughing as I told them my story while trying to thaw my red cheeks and ears. That day ruined it for me. The Bloop ruined it all.


Three years later, I found myself in the Bronx riding the bus home one night with two of my coworkers. One of my coworkers had just started the job earlier that week, and we were giving her a tour of our site in the Bronx.

The bus was filled with loud people who were yelling in Spanish and an icy rain poured down the windows, blocking our view of the dark sidewalks of Tremont. We were pretty sure that we were going in the wrong direction, and I was pretty sure that I was going to die. I was going to die on this B40 bus somewhere in the Bronx next to this man clutching a chicken. That was the end for me. Y pollo.

We tried to ask for directions, and everyone started trying to answer our quiery all at once in Spanish and broken English. We rode along into the night deeper into the wrong direction. "It's not ALWAYS like this," my one coworker told the newer one as she looked around feverishly at the men wearing matching colored bandanas and the women bickering loudly about dinner. The old man clutched his chicken closer to his lap. The bus screeched to a halt and we lurched forward.

But she was lying. The bus is always like that.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Subway Chronicles: Episode 1

Some seriously strange things happen in the New York City Subway. I don't know what it is about those underground concrete tunnels, but they seem to really bring out the weirdo in some people. Most of the people who ride the trains have the same stoic, expressionless stare with glassy eyes that look at the advertisements without seeing them. I like to call this the "train face." Everyone who rides the subway has a train face. It's one of our only methods as New Yorkers to have a moment to ourselves... a piece of solitude in the subway car packed with dozens of other expressionless zombies. We need to pretend that we have space.

This subway ad scares me. No wonder everyone has to look elsewhere.

Last night, someone from Connecticut commented on New Yorkers' lack of social space. A stranger in public is very likely to come up to you and stand so close to you that your arms are touching and you can smell his Crush cologne (that stuff sucks, seriously, why?). Odds are, if you have lived in the city long enough, these intimate moments with strangers won't even cause a second thought. Apparently, outsiders are totally creeped out (GASP) by this and end up jumping away from said snuggly stranger, bumping into someone who then doesn't apologize or even glance at him, and then wonder to themselves why is everyone here so mean!?

Leave us alone! We have our train faces on.

No one here wants to talk to you. No one.

In fact, when someone speaks to you at all on the subway, it kind of freaks you out. Even harmless courteous gestures become shocking and suspicious. One day, during my old commute from Williamsburg, a strapping young lad asked me if I would like to take a seat instead of him. I was so dumbfounded that he broke the bleak silence on the 8am L train that I didn't even respond (stupid!) and sat down in the seat like a confused foreigner.

Where do these people come from on the subway? One morning I saw a man with the EXACT same hair cut and color as the poodle that he was smuggling in his purse... Murse?

Sweet hair-do, dude.

Something I've always wondered... you know that blind guy that wonders the 2 train during the work day? He walks from car to car asking for donations to "help the blind"... and my first reaction is "aww, that's sad!" and then after a second I think, "What is a blind guy doing walking by himself in between moving train platforms!? How is he on the subway platform alone at all in the first place?! That shit is hazardous."