a taste of the ‘burbs

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Last weekend, we went to New Jersey to HOUSE-HUNT! Bah!

Don’t mind me. It’s just that we’ve been doing everything we can to stay in New York, but once you look at a place in New Jersey and you realize that you can have ALL THE SPACE (+ a washer & dryer inside the actual home, which is my dream!) for almost half the price, it’s like, well this is a horse of a different color!

bob2

Did I ever tell you I lived in central New Jersey for a few years? Well, I did. I moved to Old Bridge some time after I started college. I rode into New York every day for school and to tell you the truth, the commute wasn’t bad at all. Sure, it’s no Astoria where you can be in midtown in about 20 minutes, but 45 minutes on a comfortable bus isn’t terrible either.

I’ve actually come around to the idea that we’ll likely move to Jersey. I was hesitant at first, but I didn’t want to be one of those people that would rather pay top dollar to live in a shoebox just to be in New York. That works when you’re 21. Not so much when you’re nearing 30 and thinking about your future.

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On the other hand, I’d always imagined that if I had kids I would love to raise them in the city. I was raised here and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I loved having access to different foods, neighborhoods and being exposed to people of different races and cultures. I started riding the subway on my own when I was twelve. I started lugging my dirty clothes to the laundromat and doing my own laundry when I was fourteen. My friends and I would hop on a train or bus into the city any time we got bored in Brooklyn.  When I’d walk home later at night, I’d make sure to have my keys wedged in between my fingers in case I needed to stab someone for trying to mess with me (not so much an experience I’d want for a kid, but to have that anything-can-happen awareness is something). My point is, it’s easy to be self-sufficient and street-smart when you’re raised in New York. You have no other choice.

But living in the suburbs has its benefits too. The first time I went into a supermarket in Jersey, I thought, This place is massive! There was so much space down the aisles and no rushing or crowds of people.

On Saturday, we borrowed Bob’s mother’s car and decided that since we were already there, we’d do our groceries in Jersey. When Bob tried to unload the groceries by the exit, I stopped him and said, “What are you doing? You don’t have to unload here, you can actually bring the cart to the car”. He was shocked! “Really? I’m not used to stores trusting us like this!”. It was pretty funny but very telling of the differences between where we grew up and where we may end up.

bob

Bulk-shopping! I love it. ↑

After this long post about moving to New Jersey, I’ll laugh if it turns out we end up staying in Queens. And that’s the funny thing about it. We don’t know where this path will take us.

But seriously, if I could afford the $900,000 single family home that’s available across the street from us, then I’d be more than willing to stay. Anyone got a cool mil they’d be willing to part with? Anyone? Hello?

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click on these

white wine

  • More reasons to love toast.
  • After getting over my initial reaction of “Oh, I’m so scared something bad is going to happen”, I actually found this to be quite cute and endearing.

Happy weekend!

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how i eat: last week in dinners (7/6 – 7/10)

Sunday: Thai Salad

thai salad

I try to have a salad for dinner at least once a week. I always put shredded chicken in it to make it more hearty, but this time I wanted to omit the meat. The peanut dressing for this was amazing! It was the best part. I changed up the original recipe because there were ingredients I didn’t have: rice noodles, radishes, red cabbage and green onions. I instead added edamame, avocado, subbed red for green cabbage and added more chickpeas. Overall, I found the salad kind of unexciting and it was probably because of the missing ingredients. The fried egg was a good touch though. Next time, I’d like to try it with the rice noodles. I’d also like to try roasting the chickpeas to add more flavor and crunch. Surprisingly, Bob thought differently and said, “Now this is a salad I can eat!” Not the reaction I was expecting, but I’m glad he dug it so much.

Monday: 12-Minute Chicken and Broccoli with Jasmine Rice

chicken and broccoli

Bob has been known to complain that we never order in Chinese. It’s true. For as long as we’ve lived together, I’ve only ordered Chinese once for us and even that was too much. It’s one of those things I really have to be in the mood for, which funnily enough, I never am. Let it be known, we’re talking American Chinese food here. So I compromise by making something that’s close to what he’d order at a Chinese restaurant, which is some variation of chicken & broccoli. The recipe is so easy and it comes together rather quickly. I really liked it and it reminded me of a stir-fry I make sometimes. The chicken was a little dry though, even with lots of sauce on it. It may have something to do with their cube shape because I’ve made stir-fries with short thin slices of chicken and had no problems with dryness. Either way, next time I’m going to replace the meat with mushrooms. I think they’d be even better in this and the meal as a whole would be much cheaper too ($2-$3 for 8 oz. of mushrooms versus $6 per lb. for skinless chicken breasts).

Tuesday: Summer Orzo Salad

summer pasta salad

I’ve been playing around with this recipe a lot and what’s great is that it’s the kind of meal that you can do that with and almost anything will work. I’ve slow-roasted the cherry tomatoes, which gives it a nice depth of flavor. I’ve used a mix of arugula, spinach and parsley. I’ve added sauteed garlic. I’ve made this with and without chicken. I’ve added little slivers of sun-dried tomatoes for tanginess. When it comes to pasta salad (or for anything that isn’t a baked good, for that matter), I don’t usually adhere to any strict measurements. This is a great base recipe. The one step I find unnecessary is cooking the orzo in chicken broth. I just salted the water as I usually do and the results were still tasty as ever. You’re getting plenty of flavor from the ingredients and the dressing!

I consider this the ideal work lunch, since you don’t even need to heat it up. No waiting on line for the microwave! Fellow office workers, you feel me on this, right?! I just take it out from the fridge about 30 minutes before I’m going to eat, so it can lose the cold edge before I dig in. Doesn’t get any easier!

Wednesday: Wild Salmon, Mushrooms in White Wine & Garlic Sauce and Roasted Potatoes

salmon and mushrooms

This was my favorite meal this week! I love love love salmon. The mushrooms are good too and what’s even better is that they call for white wine. Which means I get to have a glass of wine while I cook. It just makes the dinner-making process more…luxurious.

These days, I like pan-frying salmon over baking it because it cooks off the slimy subcutaneous fat (or at least, it makes the texture of it not so slimy). I learned the perfect technique for cooking salmon, thanks to Serious Eats. They break it down so well and they point out all the ways it can go wrong and how to prevent them. But since that’s going to take some time for you to read, I’ll give you the condensed version here (along with some safety instructions because, trust me, you’re going to need it).

Easy Pan-Fried Salmon (adapted from Serious Eats: The Food Lab)
serves 2

1 lb. wild salmon filet 
3 tablespoons of oil
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedge (optional)
Parsley, for garnish (optional)

Pat your salmon dry with paper towels.
Salt the fish generously.
Pour the oil in a pan and set heat to medium-high.
When oil starts to sizzle, place the fish skin side down in the pan.
Drop the temperature slightly.
It may start to curl up in and if it does, just hold it down for a bit with a spatula. Make sure to have on long pot-holders to protect yourself from the spitting oil.
Partially cover the pan with a lid to keep the oil from spitting everywhere (or prepare for your stovetop to be covered in fish grease!)
Leave in the pan for 6 minutes. My time is 6 minutes exactly, but yours might be a minute or two off depending on how hot your pan gets.
Lift the fish with a  spatula gently (don’t forget those gloves/pot-holders!). If it comes out easily, it’s ready to be flipped. If it gives some resistance, i.e. the skin is still sticking to the pan, give it another minute or two. It’s not ready to be flipped yet.
Once flipped, leave alone for about 1-3 minutes. Err on the side of more time, if you like the salmon a little more cooked. I think 2 to 2 1/2 minutes is perfect. It will be cooked through, but still very tender and moist on the inside.
Season with a squeeze of a lemon wedge and a little black pepper. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
Serve immediately.

Let’s not forget the mushrooms! I actually do the mushrooms first because those can be easily heated up in the pan again, if it gets a little cold while waiting for the other food to cook. Of course, if you’re a good multitasker, you can make this and the salmon simultaneously.

I prefer to use cremini mushrooms, but you can use white too. If the white ones are on sale, I’ll usually go for those. Can’t pass up a good sale.

Mushrooms with White Wine and Garlic
serves 2

8 oz. sliced cremini or white mushrooms
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
7 garlic cloves crushed and/or minced (I love garlic so I use a lot. You can use 2-3 cloves if you don’t like a strong garlic flavor)
1/4 cup dry white wine
Pinch of salt and pepper

Heat olive oil on medium in pan. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
Add the mushrooms and toss around with salt and pepper for a few seconds. Then (and this is a big one!) leave them be. Don’t move them for about 4-5 minutes. You want them to be nice and golden and caramelized and the only way to do that is to not mess with them.
Stir again for a few seconds. Then leave for another 3-4 minutes.
Add the wine and cover the pan until the wine completely cooks down. This will take about 3-5 minutes, so keep an eye on it. If you cook it too long, the mushroom and garlic will stick to the pan and you’ll need to add a little more wine (or water) to scrape up the bottom.
Serve.

Thursday: Yebeg Alecha at Meske

yebeg alecha

samra and nelida

That’s Samra on the left, schooling us on Ethiopian food. ↑

Oh wait, did I say the salmon was my favorite meal of the week? I changed my mind. It’s this one! Let me explain. I usually don’t go out to eat during the week. But my friend Samra, who was born in Ethiopia, has been trying to get me and our other friend Nelida to eat Ethiopian food for the longest time and so we finally made a date to go to Meske in Hell’s Kitchen. Samra said it’s the best Ethiopian in the city. I have no basis for comparison, but—dare I say?— yes it is the best! I loved it. I ordered yebeg alecha, which is lamb marinated in butter and then sauteed with ginger, curry and garlic all on top of injera, a spongey-type bread.  It was so delicious, as were the other meals (we all dipped into eachother’s food). I loved eating with my hands and trying new flavors and having Samra tell me what was what. And the honey wine! We drank two bottles of it and it still wasn’t enough. Good good times.

If you’re in NY and looking for something different, try Meske. I plan on going a few more times and perhaps adding it to my To Eat tab, if it’s consistenly great. I’m sure it will be ;)

And check out the first post in my How I Eat series: Last Week in Dinners (6/15 – 6/20)

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the weekend and pics from a sunday walk in the park

flowers

We kept really busy last weekend and that’s just how I like it, most especially in the summer. But I’m talking fun-busy, not obligation-busy. There’s a difference, clearly. Friday night was dinner with friends at Home in the West Village and afterwards, a going-away soirée in the Lower East Side for another friend. Saturday was spent house-hunting in Jackson Heights. It was much more promising than expected and that lifted my spirits and made feel hopeful about finding a place in Queens (see past thoughts and doubts here for reference). To end this optimistic day, a peanut butter fudge ice cream at Sweet Jane’s (fellow Astorians, let it be known that this is what dreams are made of! Okay? Now go). Then Sunday, my friend Jen came over and we walked and talked around the beautiful Socrates Sculpture Park before stopping at Vesta, a relaxed Italian spot that makes a mean brunch. It was a nice leisurely way to cap off the activities-filled weekend.

These are my pics from Socrates. I didn’t photograph anything else this weekend, so this is all I got. But they’re really interesting, I assure you.

table

The pic doesn’t do it justice, but this is kind crazy to walk through. The ribbon gives you this dizzying feeling. ↓scarecrow

Not bad for a place that used to be landfill.

row

Queen Mother was my favorite exhibit. It’s made up of umbrellas, hats, lampshades, pans, hubcaps and other unexpected materials and items. It’s also quite poignant when you realize it’s not just cool-looking, but it actually pays tribute to Dr. Delois Blakely, who is an advocate for women, children and the impoverished. ↓queen mother

queen mother2inside2insideThere are wishes on paper hanging from the inside and they all seem to be written by kids. These in particular stood out to me. ↓

wishes2

wishes

See? I said it’d be interesting. Also, affecting.

suralark

And just to end this one on a slightly higher note: This view. The East River, Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side.
view

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the 2014 brooklyn color run + 4 helpful tips to remember for next time

Color Run - BandsWhat fun The Color Run was! It was my first time at the event and it certainly won’t be my last. Me, my friend Val and her friend Dwahni headed out to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and had the time of our lives getting fit and having colored powder thrown on us at every mile mark.  It was an easy course at only 5k and we walked it the entire way (as most people did). We did about 15 seconds of running before I was like, “Yep, I hate running!”.  The best part of it was the after-party. The DJ was pumping all kinds of dance music and had no problems getting the crowd going. At the climax of every song, he had us throw the contents of our color packets in the air, so it created this really cool rainbow cloud effect. It was such a trip!

Color Run - Start Line Color Run - JumpI haven’t been to other races, I agree that this is certainly, as advertised, the happiest 5k in the world. We were in such a good spirits that day.
Color Run - Afterparty
Color Run - MeAnd since I’ll be back, I jotted down a few notes to remember for the next time, which may help you as well:

1.) Do not raise arms too high during a color attack or the powder will latch on to the armpits like white on rice and not come out for days. Perspective: I ran on Saturday and still had blue underarms on Tuesday.

2.) This would be even more fun to do with a larger group of people. The energy is super high at The Color Run and going with a large group will only heighten that.

3.) Definitely take advantage of the blow-dry station before leaving (which I need to make more of an effort to find next time!).

4.) Stock up on waaay more free samples. When you think you have enough, take two more!

I believe there’s still time to sign up in a few other cities, so click here for the dates of you’re interested!

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click on these

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Cape May Beach (taken in 2013)

Happy weekend!

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my favorite beauty products right now

 1.) L’oreal Infallible Eye Shadow in Bronzed Taupe

LOreal-Infallible-Eyeshadow-in-Bronzed-TaupeThe staying power on this shadow is pretty fantastic. Does it last 24 hours like it claims? Well, not on me it doesn’t. But it does last for about 7 hours without a primer and I classify that as having good (enough) staying power. The name accurately represents the color, which is really pretty on the lids. It’s the kind of shade that’s neither too light or dark, and manages to look great during the day and in the evening. Wear it alone for a more neutral smokey look or paired with a dark matte brown in the crease for something a little more dramatic. I love it both ways!

This applies best when the color is applied with the ring finger, as opposed to sweeping it on with a brush. The only time I use a brush for this shadow is when I need to blend out the edges.  If you’d like to see how it looks on the eyes, I think these photos are very true to life.

2.) NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss in BeigeNYX Megashine Lipgloss in Beige

It’s widely known that this color isn’t beige, it’s more of a neutral mid-toned pink. The color is lovely because it’s pink (but not too pink) and sheer (but not too sheer) and I can see it being flattering for a wide range of makeup looks and skin tones. The texture is creamy, comfortable and not at all sticky. The scent is cherry-licious!

3.) Perricone MD No Bronzer Bronzer (SPF 30)MD Perricone No Bronzer Bronzer

BEST. BRONZER. EVER. I haven’t worn bronzer in years because I think the majority of them make you look like you’re wearing bronzer, which in my opinion, defeats the purpose of wearing it. It looks dark in the bottle, but once you blend it in, it gives your skin this subtle warm glow that looks incredibly natural. It’s gorgeous. I’m not a fan of countouring myself, so I like to wear it where the sun would naturally hit: the high points of the cheeks, upper forehead and a tiny bit on the nose and chin. The bottle is priced at $35 for 0.3 fluid oz, which may seem like too much for too little, but the quality of this is superb and a tiny bit goes a very long way. In other words, I think it’s worth it. If you don’t want to commit yet but would like to try it, ask for a sample of it at Sephora (which is what I did). Even the tiny sample is enough to last you for a few days!

4.) Jimmy Choo Rollerball PerfumeJimmy-Choo-Rollerball

This smells of sophistication and femininity so I usually wear it for a day at the office or during some kind of evening event (e.g. dinner, a party, etc). I love that it’s so small and slim because I can just toss it in my bag and reapply at any point. I’m such a fan of rollerball perfumes because they’re so handy and there’s less of a chance of overapplying since it dispenses a little bit at a time. I also find them to be economical since you’re getting every last drop in this, as opposed to just spraying it everywhere (and spraying half the bottle in the air).

5.) Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 in Rosé

Sugar Lip Treatment in Rose

This is probably one of my favorite lip products of all time (and I mentioned it before here). I love it because it not only makes your lips feel pillowy-soft, but it makes them look soft and healthy too. It’s a balm with a rosy sheer wash, so no mega glossy shine, glitter or crazy bold color. It’s perfect for just swiping on without a mirror. It has built-in sun protection, so this has been my go-to summer staple.

6.) Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Flamingo PoseMilani Lipstick in Flamingo Pose

This color is pure summer fun. As in hot, flirty and perfect for this time of year. It’s definitely not a color for everyday wear, so I reserve it for weekends and parties. Milani lipsticks, as a whole, are just killin’ it. They are velvety, long-lasting and richly pigmented. And you get all that at the drugstore for a great price. Told you…killin’ it.

View a lip swatch of this color here.

Raise your hand if you’re a makeup-o-holic like me! And don’t forget to share your current favorites down below.

And check out my past favorites!
My favorite beauty products right now (August 2013)
My favorite beauty products right now (February 2014)

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