Thursday, May 30, 2013

on the heartbeat of a city.

taken from the top of the rock the first summer i lived in nyc.
as i prepare to swap out my neighborhood for brian's neighborhood in the next few weeks, i'm trying to savor everything i can about this old place. after four years of living in this part of town i know it well. i have a grocery store, a dry cleaner. i know which subway entrances are only uptown and which ones are only downtown. i know the man who lets his bulldog sit at the dinner table with him, i'm used to seeing the italian waiters chain-smoking during their breaks at the restaurant on the corner. yeah, this neighborhood is mine.
and yet, it's not.
as i struggle to hold onto the days and hours and tiny threads of familiarity before i leave, i'm also aware that this spot was never mine to begin with, and not mine to idealize. after lying dormant for all four years, a construction project for a new high-rise building on the corner of my block finally broke ground this spring. it will probably bring with it around 100 new residents. 100 new people on my block, using my subway, my grocery store, my dry cleaner. 100 new residents change a place. they'll make the commute more crowded, the lines longer at the cleaners, and the bagel shop even slower on a saturday morning. it makes me anxious for this place, even as i'm about to leave it. brian also has a new high-rise going up a few blocks down the street from him - it stands to bring in 300 new residents. it scares me even more. but the fact of the matter is, plain and simple, these are not our neighborhoods to have and to hold forever. not in this city. nothing irks me more, as cities grow and change and grow and change some more, to hear people say they're losing their neighborhood. at one point, they were the new face (this fact always seems to escape them). my great grandfather owned two homes in brooklyn - one to run his business out of, one to raise his family. the neighborhood is nothing like how it was when he lived there - and he lived there for decades. and the hands of time are slowly starting to change the neighborhood again, with current residents complaining about all the new faces. they must have forgotten when they first moved in, too.
a few summers ago my dad and i went to visit the house my grandmother grew up in, also in brooklyn. when she lived there it was a staunch irish-catholic neighborhood. today it's filled with russian immigrants and their families - their stores, their corner markets, their shops. i read more russian signs that day than english ones. and perhaps the neighborhood will stay that way forever. but, more likely, a new wave of immigrants will take over at some point. move in, buy property, set up stores. and so it goes, and so it goes.
it's important to build communities that are conscious of how they grow - mindful of how new high-rise effects current residents or how to help shop-owners adapt and find success with new clientele. but a neighborhood in a growing, living, breathing, beast of a city like new york belongs to you as much as you belong to it. there were thousands, millions before you - of different races, religions, careers, ages - and there will be millions after.
the first year i lived in the city, late at night, after a long night of work, my cabbie pulled up to my building and, to his utter amazement, couldn't believe where i had taken him - his brother's old apartment building. yes, his brother lived in my building for most of the 1970's. it was a perfect new york moment - in a city of millions i was the one who got in his cab and took him down memory lane. i can only imagine what my neighborhood was like back then, and i can only imagine where it's headed. all i know is that it gave me four nearly perfect years. i'll hold on to those memories as i prepare to leave, and not the notions of what i think my neighborhood should be. it was never mine to begin with.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

oh three day weekends. while the weather could have been better, i'll take you. it was a great start to the summer - good food and good friends, which i feel increase during either (a) warmer weather or (b) holidays. and we had both! i kicked off the weekend by breaking out my white pants and white bag, an annual ritual, and on saturday a good friend from philadelphia came to visit. we caught up, drank a little champagne, had a divas dinner with tina at the best place ever invented to have divas dinner (beauty and essex, also where we celebrated galentine's day, of course), followed by a screening of kings of summer. duuuuuuuudes. go see this movie. it's opening this weekend and it's super good and funny and a coming of age story anyone can relate to, guy or girl. we even got brian to take a brief break from studying to join us (and he said it was totally worth it, too!) it was, fittingly, screened in the auditorium of a high school on the lower east side (and yes, high schools on the lower east side look no different than high schools anywhere else), and we followed it up with a diet coke and fries. and then some wine and cocktails, but for a minute there i really felt like i was 18 again. (good thing i'm not though, because the wine was quite good). the rest of the weekend was low key after that. brunch, errands, long runs and the like. we ended it by reminiscing about our trip to italy right at this time last year (can't believe it's been a year!) that trip was the best, ever. it truly, truly was. i am forever grateful for that week and the relaxation and cheap but delicious wine it brought into my life. then, brian, like the old sap he is, made me hot dogs for dinner. what a keeper i tell ya. and now here we are - back at the grindstone. but my week is cut even shorter with a trip to nashville this weekend, so i don't mind. just gotta get to thursday and i'm golden!

Friday, May 24, 2013

on what's in a name.

as brian and i get closer to our wedding, many people have been asking a natural question: will you take his name? and for me, the answer is no. i remember when i was growing up and realized this is the way things work and thinking to myself - that is not for me (little colleen was not amused by this business). as i got older, many people used my last name as a source of nicknames (big mack and mackdaddy are popular ones), as well as just calling me by my last name. and as i've spent more time in the working world, most colleagues know me by my current name. while it's not like after some time they couldn't figure it out, it's, you know, one less headache. but the real reason, at the end of the day, is that my last name is me. it's who i am. perhaps i'm more connected to my last name than some others, but my name also reflects my history, my culture, my heritage. and, at least in my case, brian's last name reflects nothing similar to mine. i look at his last name as something completely foreign to me. and i think brian would feel the same way - changing his last name to something completely different would feel just as odd. it would feel like if we got married and i was forced to dye my hair red. i'm not a red-head - why, now that i'm married, do i have to be?
however, on the other hand, i get it. you are becoming a family the day you say i do, and a family unit shares a last name. and from that perspective i get it. yet, of course, no man would change his last name in order to fulfill this. so yes, i get it, but i suppose the tradition of one gender conforming does rub me the wrong way. and in this way, i'm in the minority. in america, approximately 90% of women change their name when they get married. that's a lot. and out of my friends, every single one of them has changed their name except for my college roommate (must have been something in that water in our apartment!) so for all appearances, most women still seem to love and embrace this tradition.
for my part, i've made it clear this isn't something i'll draw a hard-line on. if someone calls me by brian's last name i won't correct them. if we have children they will have his name (no hyphens here, folks). and i've also made it clear that i'm fully aware that this may not last. it could be too much of a legal and paperwork headache as the years go on to have separate last names within the same household. if we do have children, i may consider it more important for us all to have the same last name. all i know is that right now, and for most of my life, it's just not something i've wanted. basically, i want to get married but i don't want to become a red-head in the process. is that so much to ask?

Monday, May 20, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

oh new york, new york. it can be a strange place this town. and sometimes that leads to good times, and sometimes that leads to bad times. saturday, for me, was new york at it's finest and at it's worst. when i was walking home in the afternoon i happened to pass the anchorman 2 set. and so i walk along, minding my own business, when will ferrel runs past me, filming a scene. or perhaps i should say ron burgundy ran past me as he was all dressed up for the part. the most wonderful thing about movies (or sets) like that one is that they totally transform the street. on fifth avenue it was 2013 and on broadway it was 1973. all the taxis and costumes and handlebar mustaches - it's always a trip. a strange, but fun, trip.
then, later that night, at a club for a friend's bachelorette party, i bumped into one of the managers. he proceeded, in a coke-fueled rage, to scream in my face about shoving him and then, AND THEN, got a bouncer to throw me out of the club! i was dying - dying - of laughter over this. little old me, sipping on a small glass of champagne, sober as a skunk, thrown out of a club. i mean, truth be told, i really felt like such a badass - thrown out of a big time club in nyc, that's living y'all! however, my bad-assness was quite short-lived - after waiting outside for a few minutes the bouncer snuck me back in, thoroughly convinced that i was probably the least of that club's problems (and from what i saw in there, i most definitely was). it was all very scandalous, and i loved it, except for the part where i was screamed at. have you ever had a strange man scream in your face? it doesn't make for the best night. and that's new york - it's filled with some very strange, very angry people, who do love a good power trip. and that just makes it a drag some times.
but, let's end this post on a good note. it gets better than those two stories.
often when i'm out and about on the town, particularly for a party, i like to seize opportunities that come my way. if someone asks me to do something the answer is almost always yes. i mean - if they're asking me to stroll down a dark alley with them it's probably not going to happen - but i try to be game for what comes my way. so, on the way to the club, whilst hailing down a taxi, a limo stopped. usually in new york town cars or private sedans will also try to stop and pick you up but they cost a ridiculous amount of money so you shoo them on their way. but a limo? sure - i was game. the driver said ten bucks a lady and i said you've got a deal. and that's how we took a random limo to the club, where we blasted eminem's "real slim shady" (as it's what came on the radio), like the ballers we are (or in my case, like the badass i am). because what cool, hip, young woman doesn't listen to eminem's "real slim shady" on her way out for the night?
oh, new york. stay strange. stay wonderful. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

on my fangirl moment.

dressed up as angela with a stapler in jello/with a gift from my roommate with a favorite quote from the office on it
well, the day has finally come. the day i dreaded since the summer of 2005 when i first fell in love with the office. i watched the first season that summer, only 5 or 6 episodes, and from the moment season two debuted it was true love. and for the next two years, every thursday, without fail, my group of friends from college and i would get together and watch it. we laughed our butts off, fell in love with jim and pam and wished michael would find love and maybe tone down the awkwardness. creed, though, we thought was perfect. every thursday we did this...and then headed out to the bars together. it's probably one of my most cherished and appreciated memories i made with those friends. when i got a text from my college roommate last night, where we both admitted to the fact that the last few episodes have been a mixture of lots of laughter and lots of tears, it brought me back to those thursday nights. the office holds a special, sentimental little place in my heart because of that but, don't get me wrong - i'd still think it was one of the best shows that's ever been on television. almost everyone has a show, or a movie, or a play, that is implicitly theirs. and when someone says they don't like the office, or they don't get the humor, i simply nod and smile and promptly remove myself from the situation. there is no reasoning with a super fan like me - and no one can say anything denigrating about the office to me. it just won't fly.
and why - why do i love this show so much? as the years have gone by, some people, who say they're "fans", have ceased watching the show. it's not any good since steve carrell left. or it's not funny anymore. or it's hit and miss, they say. and, to me, those people never really got what the office was about in the first place. sure, episodes stumbled here and there. yes, the writers have made andy's character change personalities a few too many times. but at the end of the day, the office was a love story. many people's love stories - dwight and angela, michael's search for love, andy's search for love, and, of course, above all of these - jim and pam. and it was here where the office excelled. many episodes i have laughed until my sides hurt, or repeated certain lines for months on end, sure - but these episodes had just as many moments where my heart skipped a beat, or i held my breath in anticipation, or i shed a few tears as two people finally found love. all of which, of course, was made possible by an amazing cast - i'm always dumbfounded that the actors who play jim and pam aren't actually together in real life. so many moments from the show about these two still give me the same reaction - i tear up when jim finally kisses her, i can't stand pam when she's too afraid to say something to jim when he's dating karen, the reaction they have on camera, with no sound and no lines, that lets you know they just found out Pam is pregnant never ceases to amaze me, i still cry at their wedding when jim says his plan was to marry her a long time ago after they do an impromptu ceremony on a boat, and when i watch last week's episode again i will still shake my head in amazement when i see jim finally give pam that teapot note.
(and yes, i am currently crying after typing that all out).
yeah, sure - the office is a comedy. but it's really just one big, grand love story - the kind of love story we all can relate to. we have all been at a job, or in a class, and pined away for someone. along with the weird co-workers, the office was just so damn relatable at the end of the day. comedy, love story, drama - it was, at the end of the day, a story about life. and what could be more compelling than that?
"I bought those boat tickets the day I saw that YouTube video. I knew we'd need a backup plan. The boat was actually Plan C, the church was Plan B, and Plan A was marrying her a long, long time ago. Pretty much the day I met her." -- jim

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

on a compromising dinner.

as summer is coming and all the pasta and donuts that kept me warm throughout the winter are making their presence known, i've started to make a bigger push to eat more lean protein for dinner. usually during the week pasta is my fallback meal, which is fine, but not fine to do every night. the only catch is - brian doesn't really like fish (hate would be an appropriate word). and while he, or myself, are free to eat different meals, in tiny new york kitchens it's better to have one cook in the kitchen rather than two. while this salmon dish is still, hands down, one of the best recipes i've put on the blog and one i try to use at least once a week, salmon is not a great fish to eat if you don't like fish. it's called a "fishy" fish, which i don't really get as a fish lover, but whatever. fine. this time around i tried to use a more subtle fish - sea bass - but wanted to keep the premise similar to the salmon recipe: all ingredients must basically be on hand, already in my kitchen, and the only thing i'd have to pick up on the way home would be the fish. and voile - mustard crusted sea bass.
the recipe also calls for olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper - but i deemed them not worthy of the photograph. the original recipe calls for marjoram and, while i have nothing against marjoram, there comes a point where you're tired of picking up a whole new bottle of seasoning for one recipe. in these instances i usually google the spice to learn what family it's in/what it tastes like. it doesn't always work - for instance, rosemary is part of the mint family, and replacing rosemary with mint or vice versa would result in a completely different meal. however, in this case, marjoram is in the same family as oregano, it just usually tastes a little sweeter. i have lots of oregano, one of my favorite seasonings, so i just subsititued oregano for marjoram. feel free to use the marjoram if you would like. and, to make it simpler, i used dried thyme and oregano, not fresh herbs. remember, when you substitute dried herbs for fresh herbs, cut the amount in half - dried herbs have a much stronger flavor than fresh herbs.
so mix up your few ingredients, rub your filets with a little oil, then rub with the marinade, then lay thin slices of lemon on top. pop into a 400 degree oven for twenty minutes, depending on your oven. next time i'll cook mine a little less as my oven runs hot.
and scene - 20 minutes later you're done, and it took only a couple of minutes to put together the marinade. serve with some fresh vegetables and you've got a perfect summer meal! and, yes, brian actually enjoyed it. now to convince him to eat more salmon...

Monday, May 13, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

this weekend was probably the friendliest weekend i've ever had in new york city. wearing my college sweatshirt on the way to and from workouts, i had two separate people spark conversations with me (one who went to school nearby and a fellow alum), and as i was leaving my building yesterday a neighbor started talking to me, with the conversation lasting a few blocks. i mean, it was crazy people! so much friendliness, which i'm assuming is a product of the weather, does not always come easy in new york. although now i do feel like i used up all of my friendly encounters for the year. it's probably just scowls and curse words muttered under one's breath from here on out. oh well. besides all of the good vibrations this weekend, i also ran a 10K (and beat my time by three minutes from last year!), brian and i hosted a party at his apartment, and we enjoyed the weather with a long walk around brooklyn. not too shabby if you ask me. (oh, and i ate all this delicious stuff below, with a recipe coming for you tomorrow!)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

on becoming a mother.

at the end of this month, i'm headed to nashville to visit a close friend who recently became a mother. i've had acquaintances, or people i've stayed friendly with over the years have children. but this is my first close friend to become a parent - as in i'll probably know this child 20 years from now. and another close friend is a few months away from becoming a father (hurricane sandy baby, making it's debut in july!) and then another close friend called me this week to tell me that she and her husband are going to start trying to get pregnant.
which, as a sidenote:
i love the phrase "trying". 
it's basically a socially acceptable way to say you're 
doin' it and doin' it and doin' it well. 
it makes the 15-year-old in me giggle really nervously.
quite mature.

but i digress.
it was this last piece of information that really set me off. made me a little nervous. made me break out into a little sweat. for as long as i've been alive, i've had zero desire to become a mother. nada. zilch. so many women around me (and on the internets) say they can't wait to become mothers. they've known since they were little girls. it's always what they wanted to do. and, naturally, this often led to people telling me that i would change. that once i met the right man, i would see, i would feel it. that once i got older, one day i would just wake up and want to become a mother. and, i'll tell you what. there was one day when i woke up and wanted to become a mother. it was another 100-hour work week, i sobbed whenever i got ready in the morning and, with no end in sight, i thought that maybe i should get knocked up so i could get three months off due to maternity leave. and that's when i knew it was time to quit my job. and promptly went back to having no interest in becoming a mother.
yet as i've gotten older i have distinctly noticed a yearning to have a family. having a family appeals to me because i like my family. i have fun with my parents. i have fun with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. i like the support they give me, i like hanging out with them, i like the guidance they try to provide me. i think i'd enjoy that. i think i'd enjoy watching my child grow up and become an adult. i KNOW i'd enjoy celebrating christmas with a child because finally someone would be able to match my unbridled joy. do i reconcile these things? what does it mean? i wonder if it's because i'm afraid to be pregnant. i'm afraid of having a sick baby. i'm afraid of "ruining" my body (because it's just oh so hot). i'm afriad of pooping after childbirth (it seriously sounds horrifying). but all those are fleeting. except, well, except for that sick baby. i genuinely think having a child is the biggest risk someone can take in life (and applies to anyway you may have a child - naturally, adoption, etc.) bungee jumping, skydiving, climbing a mountain - to me they all pale in comparison to having a child. and like any risk, the rewards are just as great as the dangers. we can do all the "right" things, but sometimes cells mutate, DNA gets screwed up. or later they may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. it scares the bejesus out of me when i think of it, and it also gives me the greatest rush. so it may be that that holds me back, more than the other fears.
all in all, when push comes to shove, i think i'll try to have a child one day. but still, i just wonder how to equate my feelings. when people ask me if i want to be a mother i still say...not really. but i do want a family, i tell them. take it how you will, i tell them. those two things are one in the same, yet they feel so different to me. 
and how about you - have you always wanted to be a mother? if you're a parent already - how did you arrive at that decision? do you have no interest in becoming a mother? let's hear your take on all of this.

Monday, May 6, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

another low-key weekend here, filled with long runs (the first since it's gotten warmer!), bagels, laundry and some more food. on sunday night we "grilled out" as only those living in apartments can - throwing a few steaks on the grill pan on top of the stove. while it's not quite the same as grilling outside, it still made me feel that much closer to summer. the night before we also managed to finally go out to dinner for our anniversary, which - true to form - was delicious. so yes - long runs, great weather, good food. i'll take it. and i'll see you soon summer! (even if i am still grilling inside). 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

on becoming marlene dietrich.

i've gotten into the menswear trend over the past year. it started with my tuxedo jacket. then a light winter coat that was cut like a man's wool coat. and finally, my new loafers.
which, let's take a moment here - yes, flats! i have so many issues with flats, as has been well documented, and while i love heels more no matter what, i hate that flats these days provide so little support and protection for your feet. and in a city where i walk a lot and have to choose them over my precious heels (you now know why i call them a necessary evil), they don't do much for me. wearing men's shoes though?! oh hell yes. support for my arches, stability, thick soles. i'm in friends. i. am. in.
aaaaand back to regular programming...for someone who tends to embrace more feminine fashion, it's surprised me to say the least, this embracing of mens' clothes. but the reason i think menswear works so well on women are the sharp, well-defined lines that contrast wonderfully with a softer, fuller body. a well-cut suit looks wonderful on a man, no doubt (looking at you ocean's 11! and 12! and 13!), but it also looks freakin' fabulous on women, too. in fact, don't look further than marlene dietrich. my word could that woman make a suit look sexy. i can't pull off every item in this set, but i can appreciate them when i see them. and in a fun twist, i chose expensive and inexpensive items - everything in the "save" category is under $100, and most are under $50.
Menswear for Women

1. when i say splurge i mean it on this almost $2,000 stella mccartney jacket. whew. it is a beauty, though. i adore my tuxedo jacket (that i got on sale and far away from a $2,000 price-tag), but i feel like this item out of the whole set is the one that most people won't try. when i first got it i hoped i wasn't being ambitious - seeing it on a model and loving it is one thing, pulling it off on yourself is quite another. but it is, hands down, one of my favorite purchases. it's a great way to stay warm and look chic on early fall and late winter nights, and it adds a perfect edge to an all-black outfit (my preferable pairing). so try this forever 21 version - you won't regret it at that price.
2. a tuxedo shirt in soft cotton or silk and muted pink colors is a perfect way to try this trend and embrace your femininity. this tibi version i love because of the color contrast but, admittedly, the menswear trend can be a bit harder to pull off in the spring and summer. this equipment version is perfect for the summer as it's silk and sleeveless, with an added bonus of being on major sale at the outnet.
3. if you can't yet see yourself in the tuxedo jacket, the tuxedo pants are a much easier sell. wear them to work if you're going out for happy hour afterwards, or a date on saturday night (as long as your date doesn't mind that you can wear his pants and heels, to boot). you can splurge on this pair (that's still 45% off), or save on this pair (that's 80% off (!!!) at the outnet).
4. and now we get to the fun part - shoes. this dolce vita version is perfect for the summer because of it's side-vents, but this version from target is pretty much perfection - leopard print and a pink sole all in the packaging of typical man's oxford. oh - and it's under $15.
5. the panama hat - a great way to take part in this trend during the summer. i've tried one on and so far it doesn't work for me (to put it lightly), but i do love it. the expensive one is here and the affordable one is here.
6. the mens' watch was what really started this whole trend a few years ago. i've never worn a watch so i don't have one, but i love them. this sleek gold nixon one is really my jam, but if silver is more your thing - check out this version from (yet again), target. the rhinestones on it don't hurt either ;)
and...if you've tried this trend, feel free to share your favorite items, looks or advice!
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