The Art of Dog Watching in New York City

This morning I pet a really beautiful old hound-like dog inside a tiny coffee shop called Boxkite. He was waiting with his owner by her window seat, just smiling and slowly wagging his tail up at her as she sipped along. He's definitely my best friend now.

I love dogs. I love dogs in New York City more. I don't have a dog (someday when I'm actually in my apartment after work I will) so I take it upon myself to talk to dogs on the street either in my head or in real life. It's a real life fan fic I'm writing all the time about the dogs of the city.

My favorite places to watch dogs have to be the neighborhoods on both sides of Central Park. The west and east side are full of wealthy and funny people with an arrangement of weird and wonderful dogs. I love the families on Madison Avenue taking out their giant lumbering dogs for walks. It's like you know they must have an equally giant apartment to house such a majestic creatures that would take up the entire space of my kitchen table. I'm also a fan of posh looking senior ladies with extremely tiny dogs wearing boots in the rain. I would wear those boots too!

The Washington Square Dog Run is my favorite go to dog run for watching when it's warm. Its got this great little platform bench by the trees, which makes for prime interactions between the small and large dogs that jump up onto the perch.

I also love the Halloween dog parades, those in Carl Schurz and Tompkins Square park.

When in doubt though, I get my Instagram dog fix on The Dogist.

I hope it's not creepy I'm just watching your dogs, people of New York.

 

 

Hello 2018

A lot changed for me in the past year. I moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan, took a new job, tried to feel grateful every day (thanks, therapy!), recognized where I need to change, started to change, recognized not so good friends, recognized good friends, saw a lot of performing arts which was my only goal for the year. On top of it all, I took several art and design classes from graphic design to UX to illustration, really challenging myself to be creative in a multitude of ways.

I really grew in my art practice. It's so easy to feel like an interest is daunting when you're just beginning so it's nice to take a break and appreciate where I've come in what I started to call this year The Art School of Life.

 

My 2017 in Favorites 

Trip: A birthday in Hong Kong when I turned 30. Movie: Ladybird with Okja in a close second place. Theater: Animal Wisdom Book: Pachinko, Min Jin Lee  Eaten: Absolute Bagels New York moment: Walking in northern Central Park. Music: SZA and Lorde. Podcast: The Daily. So simple and short. Art: Chantal Joffee at Cheim Reid. Her work is an inspiration, with such bold figures and colors. Thing I learned: Silk painting at the Textile Art Center, I need to get back there for more classes. Thing I bought: Everlane denim. I've been wearing two pairs of these high rise jeans since they launched. I'm a convert. Also this Innisfree serum. Thing I cooked: This easy lemon tart.

Happy Holidays!

It's almost Christmas but I didn't get to most of the things I thought I'd get to this holiday season, of course. I didn't make those gingersnaps I loved last year, the ones stuffed with cream cheese frosting. I didn't craft any homemade cards. I also decided not to make my yearly biscotti for my dad, opting instead for other gifts because my tiny kitchen is overloaded right now.

But I did get a small streetside Christmas tree, strung with my favorite strange ornaments--with a felted penguin added this year (thanks, Brian!)--that is just right sized for my current tiny apartment. I did bring home gifts from Spain and France for family and friends, so shopping was a bit easier. Plus I've already braved the line at the post office. And just this Saturday I went to see the Dyker Heights Christmas lights which was hilariously fun.

I guess it's better to aim for a few things, not a million.

Happy holidays!

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Dyker Heights Christmas Lights 11th to 13th Avenues from 83rd to 86th St in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.

On view: Day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Eve

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Nom Wah Tea Parlor opened in in 1920, the start of a long (and still going) life in the heart of New York City's Chinatown. It's a longstanding institution that also tells the social-history of the Chinese in all of America, from exclusion to inclusion. I've always found it's storefront to be beautiful, a worn but bright mix of colors on the outside, with an 1950's seeming interior peeking through the windows in a faint neon glow. The dim sum is fast and casual, with the usual stars that are always just right.

And now Nom Wah has expanded with hipper locations in the past few years, a fun sign of what is old is also new again. It's nice for an New York City institution to be growing, not closing.

I always hope to sit in the window, by the maneki neko and the potted plants, at the original. It's a perfect spot.

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Nom Wah Tea Parlor 13 Doyers St. New York, NY 10013 (212) 962-6047

Pizza I've Known: Pizzeria Sirenetta's Clam Pie

A few months ago I had dinner with my oldest friend at Pizza Sirenetta. It's adjacent to and operated by the same folks at the lovely Mermaid Inn where you can get great oysters at he happy hour.  Th

The draw for me was the promise of a clam pie, though. I love clam pies, like a girl who grew up going down the cape and eating fried clams like candy every salty summer.

In my pizza hunting adventures around New York City, Pizza Sirenetta quenches that fancier-than-usual rustic Neapolitan pizza experience, similar to that of the late Franny's which also had a great clam pie.)

It's got one of the best clam pies in the city, too. It has that rich combo of thin crust, creamy sauce in place of cheese, and peppery parsley to compliment speckles of clams. I'm thinking about another subtle but rich clam pizza for a celebration in the future.

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Pizzeria Sirenetta 568 Amsterdam Ave New York, NY 10024

 

Sketchbook Scenes from Spain and France

I'm feeling energized after a Thanksgiving vacation abroad with a lot of inspiration from the Catalan ceramic tiles and the medieval architecture of hill towns in Luberon.  I'll be posting more art and recommendations based on my trip to Barcelona and Provence as I start sketching more of what I saw there.

I'm happy to be back in New York City for the Christmas season. Time for a solstice tree bought from a street vendor.

Food Crawling Around Montreal

blog_guide_montrealI love our almost yearly trips to Montreal to visit family. That old cliche The Most Beautiful City in North America rings true. Montreal has a certain historic charm crossed with a old French city vibe that both reminds me of Boston meets a small French city meet San Francisco (if it got really cold, that is.) The old Port is old world, then Westmount reminds me of a bit of Boston's Back Bay, while the streets of Plateau Mount Royal and The Mile End are a mix of hip art, food, and students. I love too that city always seems to have some kind of festival happening no matter the time of year. We've visited in the summer, fall, and even Winter (bring your long underwear, though!) yet there is always something on view like the international fireworks show and jazz fest.

It's funny when you visit a city often for family though, because you're not exactly being a tourist the way you would on another kind of trip. But through these occassions I've come to know how bike-able and walkable Montreal is no matter our itineraries. I'm familiar more and more with the joys of climbing Mount Royal, the public markets, the amazing street art, strolling alongside St. Lawrence, navigating the underground to fight the cold, as well as the glorious Expo 67 architecture.

This year I decided to add to our trip with a guided food tour day, majorly helped by a pair of in-the-know hip Montrealers. Cousins are great! We decided to primarily focus on the Plateau and Mile End as they're both full of hip food destinations and very easily walked in a long day of eating and drinking.

Highlights from our food crawl for me were definitely buttery slices of Kouign Amann, fatty delicious smoked meat, and lounging at a local gastropub for beer.

Of course, there is a lot more to eat and see in Montreal than this little jaunt so take it as a starting point for your food crawl and not an exhaustive list. Next time I'd love to venture farther out east as well as explore more of the markets.

Montreal Food Crawl 

in no patricular order 

Atwater Market: This one is nearer to Westmount as well as the canal,  but a classic open market. It's great for cheese, maple, butchers, and basically everything fresh to eat. Kem Coba: Interesting flavored ice cream shop just made for instagram but still worth it. I recommend my cherry almond swirl soft serve. Dieu du Ciel: This is a great Montreal brewpub! They have a terrace, too. I loved the hibiscus infused draft I tried. Saint Viateur Bagels: Hand-rolled Montreal bagels! Take them to go to just eat freshly baked, dipping into cream cheese tubs. Cafe Myriade: A great latte is always needed on a food crawl itinerary. Cheskies: Decadent Jewish chocolate Babka. I could eat this forever. Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann: An ethereal buttery cake from Brittany.  Hof KelstensA hip Jewish boulangerie with great coffee and treats. Shwartz's: Smoked meat! This is like what Katz's is to New York City.

p.s. Well okay I didn't include this intially but yes, we ate Poutine at Cafe Claudette. I couldn't help myself. While we tried many versions, I loved the classic. What can I say I love all french fries!

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Inktober Week 4: Why I Love New York

I finished my first Inktober! It was a rush to the finish. I'm very glad I got to think and draw about New York City all month, a place I love to live in, even though it's not always on my side. Hello, stepping in dog poop on my block.

The main thing I learned from this all month draw-a-thon is that drawing fast, every day, is great in strengthening visual thinking and sketching. Even if every drawing didn't come out exactly how I wanted it to at first, I felt my ability to get a drawn concept from mind to sketchbook getting easier with the daily practice.I've taken inspiration from this element of Inktober then, adding a reminder to my phone to draw every night. Maybe some days I won't make it, but if I can, I know it will be a creative practice to keep.

Inktober Week 4: Why I Love New York Corona Park for the World's Fair Unisphere Bodega Roses Times Square (because it's like turning the lights on in the middle of the night) The Art Deco Chrysler building Pigeons! They eat my crumbs even if I am afraid of them sometimes. My metrocard. Dim Sum in chinatown in Manhattan, Queens, AND Brooklyn. Meeting by the clock at Grand Central. And finally, all the wonderful, interesting, weird, and different people of New York City.

NYC Pizza I've Known: Martina

PizzaIveKnown_Martina Martina is a new fast Roman pizza place by the ever expanding Shake Shack crew. I eagerly awaited it's arrival as both a budget New York dining and pizza aficionado.

To start, they have a fried risotto suppli and a lemony arugula salad. I love simple dressed salads, call me a boring lady, but it's my favorite side dish to pizza. The pizzas here remind of Rome through and through: zucchini flowers, gooey mozzarella, spicy salami, and a cracker crust. Martina is a good mix of delicious and quick, a spot I can see myself stopping in before a cocktail date or post-movie in the neighorhood. True to the style, you can drink prosecco in plastic cups which is delightful.

Next time I've got to try the dessert of flor di latte soft serve gelato because it sounds amazing.

I love the illustration on the paper that lines their metal trays, of course. __

Martina 198 East 11th Street East Village, NYC

Favorite New York City Coffee

I like to pretend I'm on vacation most weekends by treating myself to espressos. During the week it's mostly french press at home or coffee cart dollar cups. But fancy coffee never tastes so good as when I'm lounging at 3pm in another neighborhood or just down the street on a Saturday afternoon.

Here's a current list of my favorites for the season of back to school and back indoors. Now, if the New York City heat would finally leave.

My New York City Coffee Geography

Toby's Third Estate because it's a tiny spot with a hidden Strand. Third Rail  for the Washington Square Park vibe. Sweatshop for Aussie Williamsburg espresso. Birch because of the cold brew I'd drink all year long. Joe as a classic from back when I moved to New York. 9th Street Espresso for a real space to work and think with your espresso and milk. Think because the old NYU undergrad heart only grows fonder! Blue Bottle in Carroll Gardens since it's got that South Brooklyn charm. Like, is this neighborhood even real?

 

A First Time Trip to Rome and Florence

Rome and Florence are tourist destinations unlike any other I've been to. They are in late May and early June also teeming with college kids finishing their semesters abroad, spilling into plazas at night. They are hot, crowded, and wonderful cities that I'd visit again in a heartbeat because sometimes being a typical tourist abroad is blissful. 

Maybe it was that we flew into Italy right as the season warmed, a welcome change from rainy spring, because the crowds didn't bother me in the least. Sure, there were moments of waiting in humid lines. And yes, we did watch a particularly intoxicated American fall asleep at a fountain around midnight, who thankfully awoke before we had to rescue him like awkward faux mom and dad Americans we are. And yet in both cities we ate really, really well. I know that's what everyone says about Italy but the food and the wine and the gelato and the coffee are really all I need to feel like I'd gotten away from home for a bit. Spending nights in plazas, sipping cheap peronis without needing a plan is exactly my kind of casual respite.

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We flew first to Milan on a good deal with Alitalia, hustling on a high speed train to Rome. We walked around Rome by day and night for several days,  hardly ever taking the metro.  We drank two, sometimes three cappuccinos a day always standing at the counter, speeding into the day but still crashing from heat and walking exhaustion. We rode a double bicycle through the Villa Borghese, which turned out to be less whimsical vacation and more hilariously difficult, battling Italian drivers and skidding down hills while I laughed unlike I've laughed in while.

Rome was graffitied, gritty, and pockmarked with with hot trash piling everywhere. Yet it was also beautiful, old, and differently dense than New York City, with quiet back street cobblestone neighborhoods right around the corner from literal Roman ruins. I was most impressed by the Rome of working Italian people living their lives despite the tourism facade, stopping at coffee counters in the morning because it's just a normal everyday ritual.

We left Rome for Florence by high speed train too, my burgeoning art history afficiando ready to lean into the tourism of such an amazing city. I stood like a child in front of so many larger than life paintings, trying to see right into the grain of the paint strokes, inspecting faces in early Renaissance frescos with amusement.

We waited in line for close to two hours, fending off so many line jumping Italian grandmas for the Uffizi.  Brian read me the entire Rick Steves walking guide to the galleries as we meandered around. I loved it thoroughly, like a kid.

We gazed upon Duomo everyday, staying right nearby. We sat in manicured parks as well as open church squares in the Oltrarno neighborhood after dark. We ate late after spending days walking up and down hills, staring at churches so much older than things I can imagine. We shared Florentine steak and pasta with house wine at a small Tuscan restaurant called Osteria Cinghale Bianco where we just happened to get a seat without a reservation.  It was absolutely one of the best simple meals I've had, the kind of serendipitous moment you can't repeat.

We flew back through Milan, a funny thing to be a little familiar now with this northern Italian city I've stopped over in twice. We too took a moment to gawk at its epic Duomo. More summer tourists arrived for Italy just as we departed, feeling a little like we were temporarily studying abroad in our thirties.

Rome --

seeing All the greats are here, of course. I loved the otherworldliness of the Pantheon the most, it felt like it belonged in Battlestar Galatica (nerd alert.) Walking through the heart of the city to see the Trevi fountain at night. Stranger but lovely was the Capuchin Crypt. I found the Vatican Museum not as awe inspiring as St. Peter's, though. Capolitini museums were worth it for the awes inspiring Roman statues as well as the view of the forum. 

staying The Monti neighborhood was lovely and very slice of life Rome right by the main tourist destinations. We opted to stay in a hotel there.

eating Travestere for all dining and especially Dar poeta pizza. A cute cafe spot for breakfast in Monti called La Casetta. There's a mini chain worth it called La Prosciutteria The best gelato I had was Fanta Morgana. Pasta Chef for street food carbonara that delicious and budget friendly. Lunch and apperativo around Campo di Fiori Antico Cafe Greco for a little posh old school cappuccino

Florence --

seeing Duomo!  Walking everywhere, especially at night across the Ponte Vecchio. The Boboli Gardens for meandering and the views. The Uffizi Piazza della Signoira  with a beer in the evening, observing people. Piazza Santo Spiritu for a lively night scene, too. There was a cute cafe with to go spritz. Leather goods everywhere, you can tell the more artisan stores if you wander a bit. Ceramic goods from Tuscany at La Botteghina Del Ceramista Santa Maria novella for the beautifully patterned church and the famed perfume store.

staying We stayed right by the Duomo in a side street airbnb on the top floor. It was lovely.

eating Aperitivo at the Santa Croce hip spot Oibò Pizza off the beaten path at Marlborghetto Sandwiches everywhere, in little delis tucked on so many streets. Old school pastries at cafes like Bar Pasticceria Cucciolo and La Loggia degli Albizi A fantastic Tuscan dinner at Osteria Cinghale Bianco

Saying Goodbye to Apartments

I've lived the longest on my own in the apartment building we're about to leave in Brooklyn. It's been almost four years in one building, crazily enough. Four years back in New York City. I'm happy to have been here and happy to move somewhere else, to buck the nostalgia people always cling to when leaving phases in life.

In my packing, I found this sketch from one of my 2015 sketchbooks. It was the year I decided to start making art again, not really caring why or how. I'm so glad I did because it brings me so much joy outside of the hot subway commute of working life in the city.

We brought both of these bookshelves to the basement a day or two ago. We found them first on the streets of Brookline when we were living in Boston. In the two apartments in this one building I kept the shelves organized about the same way in each. Funny how I repeat life patterns. It's a bit freeing though to realize they're old and musty, that we don't have to keep just so many books.

Our super arranged the boxes upon boxes of books we got rid of into a free library in our laundry room basement. That made me a smile a bit and feel less like I was throwing away good reading material. My New York Times Cookbook was already snatched up by the time I returned to the basement. People are less interested in the literary and cultural theory textbooks with the used label I've kept way too long. Ah, ghosts of a liberal arts youth!

I'm keeping the vintage globe because a girl has got to keep some whimsy in her life, and the painting my mother did of a picture I took in France and the ye olde time looking radio. My terrarium died, of course. I've got no green thumb, but I'll keep trying. I'm thinking: ferns!

I'm keeping books that have a sentimental value to me and letting go of the rest. Oh and my fruit bowl, that will live on. I love an apple a day.

I know I'll be back to Brooklyn, maybe not to the exact spot I've lived in for four years, so I don't feel any kind of fear of leaving. It's easier to romanticize the past or the way things are than to embrace the change of the current and the future. I am so ready for getting older and moving on with whatever happens along the way.

Recently I told a last-year-of-teenage-dom teenager that every year we are dying so why fear change. She asked me if I was always 65 years old. The answer is yes, yes I have always been.

Here's to moving back to Manhattan, where I haven't lived since I was a college kid in 2007.