I Love New York!

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I had so much fun in New York and I took a ton of photos, of course. How could I not?  Too many to cram into one post but I’m going to try anyway. Get your scrolling finger ready.

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I have to start out with our hotel, Citizen M, because it is really what I fell in love with first. Payam picked it out based on yelp reviews and I have to say that yelp reviews have NEVER steered us wrong. It was the coolest hotel ever! It’s a pod hotel and that means that the rooms are really small but you don’t care because it’s such a cool, cozy space and there is a giant window looking out onto the city. You don’t feel claustrophobic at all.  It’s pretty much a window, a giant bed, a small glass shower unit that curves on your left and a tiny little motorhome-eque sink on the right and then the door out. Of course everything is white and modern and hip.  And then to top all that off, everything is interactive too. You can change your lighting to any color you like. They have settings like, romantic, business and some others that I don’t remember, disco maybe? Of course I kept it on romantic all the time. Flattering light, duh! But it was super fun to swirl a little dial on the handheld tablet and make the shower blue or purple etc etc… And then you could also watch tv or pick from about 50 channels of Dutch house music to listen to.

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But the real secret to pod hotels is that you don’t spend that much time in your pod. The central space downstairs is so fun you’d rather be down there. They have little nooks and libraries, couches everywhere, a bar, several patios and of course the roof! It was just all-around fun. I could have spent the entire two days inside the hotel and left happy.

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One night we went downstairs to the bar to have a drink and we ended up having several rounds of shots with the funniest New Yorker named Courtney (pictured top left). She was so cool. She is a manager at a restaurant near by.  She gave us all kinds of tips on what to see and even some drink recipes to try later.  She made the bartender hunt us down some orange peels because she INSISTED that the kind of tequila we were drinking was better that way. I always thought New Yorkers were rude but it is NOT the case. I met friendly person after friendly person. Everyone was nice! We even hung out with the manager of our hotel for nearly an hour just talking. It’s bizarrely wonderful.

Of course I happen to have the nicest boyfriend on the planet who strikes up conversations with everyone. He’s so cool like that. When we first arrived we right away hit Times Square and ended up getting a kabob for dinner from a street cart vendor. Guess who’s chatting away with the guy on the corner who was heckling and making fun of every other tourist who bought a kabob from him? My guy. Yeah. He just fits right in. So that’s kind of nice.

And speaking of friendly New Yorkers, I had to meet up with Isabel, my boss at AlphaMom who is probably the nicest boss I have ever had. Seriously. I had to have her meet me in the hotel lobby because even though New York is supposedly the easiest place to navigate, I was hopelessly lost all the time. Yes, everything is a grid and it’s all numbers but I’m terrible with numbers and the blocks are really long going one way and short the other. Half the time I just didn’t know which end of the block I was on. I’m sure if I was there a few more days I would get it.

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Here is Times Square. It’s closed off to traffic these days so it’s become a GIANT mob of tourists. I guess it always was but at least now it’s safer.  There are chairs set up everywhere so you can sit and take it all in. Or stand around like an idiot gawking with your phone in the air, which is what everyone is doing. The lights are so bright, it’s like daytime. It’s all very overwhelming because everything is moving and blinking and honking and there are people everywhere.

I heard from every local I talked to that it is extremely annoying to try to get across Times Square because tourists are constantly stopping in your way to gawk and take pictures. There were some girls ahead of us who were taking selfies in the middle of the street and a taxi came barreling down the street right at them, blaring the horn. I laughed at their stupidity and then proceeded to do the exact same thing. I don’t know where my brain went. I think I just turned into a lemming and had an overwhelming need to share my experience with all my friends on instagram. So if you saw that movie and you heard the honking you know what happened. I blame it on over-stimulation.

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The next day we went walking to find breakfast. Actually, I have no idea which day was which. I’m just going to post pictures and not worry about chronological order because we woke up at 1pm and pretty much did everything out of order anyway. Somehow we ended up at Bryant Park for breakfast. I’m sure it’s not the most famous of parks to visit but we had a very loosy-goosy plan for our tourism anyway. We just kind of flew by the seat of our pants, which is just the way I like it.

Bryant Park was lovely. So much like Paris. Trees and grass, little tables and chairs and a fountain. They even had reading library for kids and jugglers that were giving free lessons to the public. You could play bocci ball and ping pong. I don’t know what New Yorkers pay in taxes but they sure do have a lot of nice perks.

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People were everywhere enjoying the beautiful weather. It was supposed to rain that weekend but as you can see it was perfect. I asked for snow, I got sunshine and flowers. I’m not complaining!

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Then we rode the subway to Central Park. The subway was probably the scariest thing I saw in New York. That’s not saying much. I think it was just scary to me because everything was so nice and then we went underground and it was dark and there were pipes with gobs of crud and moldy residue all over them. I was kind of worried that something might leak on me. But of course that didn’t happen.

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Payam sprung for what seemed at the time like an expensive pedicab tour of Central park but it turned out to be the nicest thing ever. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly (it’s a NY theme). It was downright pleasant to ride along in the sunshine with a breeze in your hair and hear little bits of trivia about the park. We learned all about the celebrities who live around the park and about the buildings too.  For example on that building behind me in the lower right photo, one tower is thick and the other is thin. It’s kind of strange and you don’t really notice it at first glance. It was built that way because during the depression they couldn’t afford to finish it in the fashion that they started. He had all kinds of stories like that. Some of them may have been made up but it didn’t matter because it was very entertaining.

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We visited the center of the park which is also the very center of Manhattan. We took some pictures of the “Friends” fountain that is not actually the Friends fountain at all because the one in the tv show is a fake one built in Hollywood. We watched some street performers and random people learning how to dance. I just loved it all.

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Then it was back to the gritty city. Yes, New York smells like trash cans and stinky bars but you know what? It’s a big city. That’s how it is. And what is neat about so many people cram-packed into such a small space is the diversity of restaurants! Every single restaurant is a mom and pop and they are sooooo good. No boring chains like we have in California. You can walk a block in any direction and end up in an interesting dining experience like no other.

One night we had Dim Sum, another we had nachos in a Victorian bar called Lillies.. the waitresses were so nice and funny, well maybe that’s just Payam and his charm. But I just had a wonderful experience everywhere I went!

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Oh yeah, here’s a church we visited. I don’t remember which one. St. Michaels? St. Andrews? It was under construction but very beautiful in spite of all the scaffolding.

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We also visited Grand Central station and met up with Payam’s cousin for a quick bite.  There’s a whole elaborate mall under Grand Central station with trendy shops, bakeries and even a farmers market. It’s New York, they’ve got it all. You just have to pay top dollar for everything. And I mean TOP dollar. I thought we had it bad in California but we are cheap compared to New York. We couldn’t even buy two lattes and a pastry for under twenty bucks. Cha-ching!

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One of my favorite things that we did was walk The High Line. It’s a 1.45 mile walk on this up-in-the-air boardwalk that’s between the street level and the sky scrapers. So you have great views of the city and you don’t have worry about getting run over by horn-blaring taxies.

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It used to be a railway that brought meat from the meat-packing district to the rest of the city but they remodeled it into a public walkway. There are all kinds of art installations and pretty things to look at like crocuses pushing their way up through the ground between the old railroad tracks and flowering cherry trees being pretty like they tend to be. Spring was just starting to show but I’m sure it’s blasting with beauty by now. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise and the fact that it was free!

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There were so many photos to take, which made me very happy.

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And THEN as if we weren’t having enough fun, we squeezed in a Broadway show!  Actually Payam bought tickets before we even left California. That was a big part of his surprise for me. (Yes, I am sooooo spoiled rotten. That is the other theme of this post.) We wanted to go see Phantom of the Opera but tickets were pretty steep so instead went to go see Wicked, the musical which I really liked. It’s a great story. Makes me want to invent my own prequel.  I’d never been to a Broadway show (obviously) and it blew me away. We dressed up fancy and walked across the street from our hotel.  That part is kind of funny but fun nonetheless because I never get to dress up!  We didn’t even know that Wicked was playing across the street. It was a total coincidence and convenient!

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So in conclusion: I love New York and Payam is a keeper.

 

Throwing Money in a Cup

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Christmas came big to my house this year.  I have a boyfriend who spoils me rotten. Have you ever been on the receiving end of being spoiled rotten? It’s not as easy as I always thought it would be. It’s downright difficult. I’m a sputtering mess on how to receive graciously. I feel like I need to reciprocate and when I can’t, it’s just worrisome for me. I stress out about it. But I’m learning to accept and be grateful. Maybe I need more practice. Just kidding!! I don’t need more spoiling! Seriously.

I better give you some history before I unravel the whole story of spoiling though. A while back, on a whim, Payam (that’s his name, said like Pie – Am or Pay-Am) bought me a $50 espresso maker. He was at Best Buy or some such place and he knew I liked lattes (since that’s what I drank on every single date we went on, and maybe it might have been somewhere in my online dating profile, cough cough.) so he picked it up. It was no biggy to him. Like throwing a few candy bars into the basket on your way to check out. Crazy! I’m not trying to say he’s loaded but you know, things are different.  To me an espresso maker was a BIG. MAJOR. DEAL.

I have a HISTORY with coffee. I’m a snob of all snobs. I don’t just drink any old coffee. I obsess over coffee. I have very particular tastes (Strong, with milk. No sugar, unless it’s bad and then I need sugar but I hate flavored creamers…and so on). I always wanted an espresso maker but I couldn’t settle for just any old machine. I’ve had coffee machines in the past but not a real espresso maker with the steam I needed to make the best latte.  I figured I needed the best of the best espresso makers and since I couldn’t afford that, what was the point? My French Press was doing the job and I like to go out to coffee, so it was all good.

When he showed up with the cheap Mr. Coffee espresso maker I was delighted yet skeptical. I’d never had one of these home jobbies before. What could it do? I immediately put it to the test.

I tested it EVERY DAMN DAY. All in the name of research of course. This little Mr. Coffee espresso maker kicked butt! It made a pretty good latte. So good that I never used my French Press again and if you know French Press, then you know that’s kind of a big deal. French Press coffee is delicious!

I made latte after latte after latte after latte. I made lattes for everyone! I tried to create latte art on top like the barristas do at fancy coffee shops but I had no luck. Flop after flop after flop. I made interesting art but I never quite mastered it.

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Payam said that if I mastered latte art on the little Mr. Coffee espresso maker that he’d buy me the real thing someday. Hmmmm! Now that’s a challenge worth taking seriously.

And so I aspired. I really did. I tried and tried and tried. But I never quite got it. I’d make progress and then fall back into foamy messes. One step forward two steps back. But it was fun. I sipped delicious failures every day. Sometimes two and three times a day. They all tasted pretty great.

I finally resigned myself to the fact that the little machine just didn’t have enough steam power. It couldn’t make the creama espresso that’s just the right dark color and the foam often was just super airrated and not really thick foamy milk like it needs to be. Your latte art foam needs to be the consistency of house paint to get the pour just right and I couldn’t get it there.

So guess what I got for Christmas?

A super deluxe Mr. Coffee Maker!!! Ha Hah!

Wait, what?

Oh man. A Mr. Coffee Maker again?!!  A super-size version?  I tried really hard not to be disappointed. The sad fact was that I just don’t love Mr. Coffee. He’s like a Dodge Neon on his best day when all I really wanted was a fine Italian Lamborghini. I’m not a snob! I’m just smart!! Or am I?

Of course not everyone can afford a Lamborghini. I fully expected to wait twenty years for the espresso maker of my dreams. That’s what you do. I tried really hard to be happy with the super deluxe version of my Mr. Coffee espresso maker. It was big and it made any kind of sweet drink at the touch of a button….but you know what? I couldn’t fake it. The kicker was that it didn’t even let you make latte art! The milk came out in a compartment that you couldn’t even pour. It was stuck in the machine like a vault. I was so sad.

Payam was even sadder. What crappy way for me to ruin Christmas. Why do I have to be such a snob? I was fed up with myself.

We made the best of it and found joy in the kids unwrapping their many presents.  But deep down I had a monstrosity on my counter that I wasn’t sure what to do with. Later we talked about it and I admitted to him that I really just wanted to send it back. He understood. At the end of the day I really liked my little $50 espresso maker better. I just like making latte art. All the bells and whistles on the other machine didn’t excite me.

But you know the story doesn’t end there! Of course not!!

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Black Friday, or maybe the day after, came around and Payam talked me into going shopping with him. I don’t really like shopping in general and I don’t really like crowds so a bit of coercion was involved. But I figured I’d tag along for the fun of an outing with him. We walked and window-shopped and somehow ended up going into Sur La Tab, the most expensive of all kitchen stores. OF COURSE we ended up looking at the espresso makers, FOR RESEARCH, right?!! That’s what I was saying. We might as well see what they offered so that someday I could save up for what I really wanted. And maybe he’d even help me buy it…

You know what happened next. So much for saving up. Mr. Boyfriend had to go and be a sugar daddy and bought the top model right there on the spot. Oh my goodness.

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Yes, I am the proud new owner of a Breville espresso maker.  I like to call it my boat. As in it’s a close-your-eyes-and-throw-money-in-the-water kind of hobby.

Espresso making is such a crazy expensive hobby!! Did you know that? There are so many variables! Just to create the perfect espresso you have to have the best beans (which I don’t), the best burr grinder (which I don’t) and the best water (which I don’t). If you want to create latte art you have to practice about three-thousand-and-eleventy-three times before you get it right. So that’s where I’m at. I’m working on extraction and pre-extraction. I’m working on double-grinding my grocery store beans and I’m learning. It’s going to take a while. But I’m making progress. This new espresso maker blows doors off the old $50 Mr. Coffee Maker. Unfortunately it blows out all the doors and windows and floors and everything else too. So I’m pretty much starting from scratch with my new espresso making skills. It’s a game changer.

In the meantime I’ll be creating lots of latte flops! You should come try some, they’re delicious!

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1. All the filters and date night make up., 2. When all else fails, break out the toothpick. , 3. Coiled snake of micro foam. I don’t seem to be making much progress. , 4. Oh no it’s another cat butt! I seem to have mastered the cat butt latte pour art. , 5. Sloppy love. , 6. One step forwards, two steps back. , 7. Afternoon Taliban latte., 8. Maybe I need a bigger cup. , 9. Getting there… This is toothpick art but I sure have a lot more variables to play with., 10. Well, it’s pretty! Still have a ways to go… , 11. Attempt #3 radio antennae! , 12. Try number two. It might take a while before I get it but this new machine is a game changer!, 13. First work of latte art from the new espresso maker. I think we are in BUSINESS!! , 14. Latte in a cup from Lubna. Thank you @lubna_lola99 ! , 15. An ornament on the tree? , 16. Lips with spots. , 17. It’s not always all about the pour., 18. , 19. Twee to go latte. , 20. Steaming ñ with a side of “Do not even think about eating ONE cookie!!” So that means I’m fine if I eat four or five? , 21. B as in “I love it when you call me Big Poppa (latte).” , 22. Two birds in one…latte! , 23. Two birds in one latte. , 24. Rock me like a subtle hurricane. , 25. Six-toed bear paw? , 26. Brachiosaurus in the sky with sprinkle stars which is sort of like Lucy in the sky with diamonds but with more caffeine and less LSD. , 27. Crack o’ dawn Whirling Dervish Latte., 28. Looks prettier stirred up. , 29. Looptiloop P or something… , 30. Not impressive but I’ve almost got it… I’ll call this “kissing swans” #failedathomelatteart #brendaslatteartcollection