Sunday, May 30, 2010

Central Park Boating

Larry, Min, and Kayla came into town in May to celebrate K's 4th birthday (they stayed with Grandma and Grandpa (Min's parents) in Queens).

I arrived early and had lunch on the steps of the Met- a great people-watching spot!
*Note- Security at the Met does not allow any food or beverages inside, except bottles of water. They wouldn't even let me bring in my (unopened) container of yogurt that I was saving for after the museum visit, stating that I might actually take it out and eat it inside the museum, and accidentally get some on the artwork. Um, yeah, I might do that... what?!? but my already opened bottle of water was ok to bring in. 

K, L, M, and I wandered around the museum- and I think K was most impressed with the modern art.
It was pretty exhausting so we walked into Central Park for some fresh air.  First we saw the model sailboats in the Conservatory Water...

Then we went "boating" (rowing) in the Lake. It's one of the best $12 you could spend in the city- and an hour was just enough time to enjoy the scenery (it was pretty hot out there!). Although most people were leisurely rowing around (and even taking naps), Larry was sporting his old crew skills from college and rapidly moving us across the pond.

It was such a relaxing activity that Wendy decided to also go rowing for her birthday, only 2 weekends later!

Some comparison shots:
Larry did most of the rowing. 
 Kayla loved pointing out the turtles. 

For Wendy's birthday, our group of 6 got 3 boats (Wendy and Sean, Lisa and Gabe, Paul and me).

 The guys did most of the rowing :)
 We saw a lot more turtles out on Wendy's birthday! 

Beautiful Bow Bridge

On K's birthday: After boating and getting hot dogs at Bethesda Fountain, we went to FAO Schwarz where adults and children alike ran around playing with all the toys. 
(Side note- we spotted Marcia Cross from Desperate Housewives shopping there).
Larry and Kayla playing on the BIG piano... (sometimes she didn't jump 
hard enough on the keys so they didn't always light up for her!)
Me next to the giant Chewie (Chewbacca) completely made of Legos!

Happy 4th birthday K!

Happy 30th birthday W!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Early BK morning

Hooray for Heather who finished the Brooklyn Half Marathon! Although she had to get up at 4:30am to get prepared for the race, P and I were up and out of the house by 7:30am. We biked down to south entrance of Prospect Park and were standing by the side of the loop by 8:10am along with other race supporters. The runners were finishing their 2nd loop and exiting the park by this time (on their way to Coney Island), and we were whooping, clapping, and cheering them along! It made me miss my running days... :(

We unexpectedly saw P's coworker which was fun, and within a couple of minutes, we saw Heather crying out our names as she ran past us waving with her giant smile! We whooped and hollered and in my excitement, started up again with the cheering. Noticing a guy wearing a t-shirt with his name (Bob) painted on it, I started cheering for him too- only to realize that I actually DID know him! (He is one of the engineers I work with!) After more cheering of the runners, we biked into the park to have some "breakfast" (water and bananas) and do some people/dog-watching. Then we decided to go to the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden but it was so early that even they weren't even open yet!

So we biked around looking for a cafe (good lord, is anything open before 10am in this city?!?)... and we found our answer... at the beloved and popular Tom's Diner, which opens at like 4am or something. Thankfully we got seated right away since it was still pretty early so we didn't have to deal with the typical line of people outside. The old friendly host/manager (I forget his name- no, it's not Tom) was joking around and clapping customers on their shoulders, greeting them by name, waving a Purell pump about. He was squirting it into the palms of people he was seating- two guys had walked in right before me- and then proceeded to squirt some into my hand- saying with a smile that everyone should always have clean hands in his restaurant!

We sat down and immediately the same manager guy set down a plate of (complimentary) cinnamon buttered toast in front of us while a waiter poured our coffee. What service! P got their famous fluffy pancakes and I got an assortment of pancakes, eggs, and bacon. Yes, the food lives up to the reviews (although my meal was a bit heavier than I would have liked) but those pancakes!! Wow! Meanwhile, the manager was walking around with a giant bowl of orange wedges and giving them out to customers while chatting with them- it seemed like most of the patrons knew him and his staff by name.

We literally rolled out of there, completely satiated and in such a happy mood- and walked off the breakfast at the BBG, now open. We wanted to take advantage of our membership (free admission) but turns out it's free admission anyway on Saturdays before noon! The rose garden was the place to be- and it was so colorful and gorgeously lush!

It was crazy- by the time we met up in Park Slope with Kel and Iris, it felt like we had done a whole weekend's worth of activities already- and it was only like 2pm!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Clipper City sailing trip!

To continue what seemed like a week of being a NYC tourist, Paul and I were able to score the few remaining tickets to sail aboard the Clipper City (for free) today!

It was raining in the morning, but as soon as we stepped foot on the ship, the skies started to clear. We're not sure if it was a little late leaving due to the Staten Island Ferry crash earlier that morning. The crew informed us that unfortunately there wasn't much wind that day, so they only had a small sail up and the motor was running the whole time. (They did encourage everyone to "help" out with the "rigging" (?)/ pulling of the sail, which everyone did with great enthusiasm.

The 1 1/2 hour journey took us south around Governor's Island, in front of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, under the tip of lower Manhattan, and through Buttermilk Channel back to Red Hook. Plus added bonus of seeing the "OBAMA heart" building!
My coworker Clare and her family were also on the excursion!(4 year old Lucca pictured below)
Sponsored by PortSide NewYork, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), and Manhattan By Sail Inc. to reactivate the Atlantic Basin and create opportunities for public programming in Red Hook.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Hanging out in NYC

Paul and I drove back to NYC after Maryland, with Jannie in the backseat. It was great to be able to spend some quality time with her since the wedding weekend was a whirlwind (for her, since she was a bridesmaid) and we had so much catching up after 3 years!

We stopped in Philadelphia on the way back to Brooklyn, which was an unexpected bonus for her! It was super hot and sticky, so we made our stop pretty short- lunch and a little walk around the historic neighborhoods. I guess to an Aussie, Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and Betsy Ross had no significance!

Coincidentally, the Japanese guests at Bryn and Liz's wedding were also coming into NYC on Monday, so we had planned on meeting them at their hotel that afternoon so we could show them around town. It was completely random and took a lot of communication to make the plans, and I couldn't believe it all worked out!

Jannie and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, hung out in downtown Manhattan, saw the World Trade Center site, and hung out at the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City. Then we headed uptown to meet up with Junko, Yoko, and Ippei.

Only then did we find out that they were only planning on being in New York for less than 24 hours! So, in typical Japanese fashion, they wanted to cram as much as they could during their stay as they could. The one thing they insisted on doing was watching The Blue Man Group and seeing Times Square, but first, they wanted to eat- and they didn't want anymore "rich food in huge, American portions".

So I brought them to Pho 32 where they finally got some fresh vegetables and refreshing noodle soup while I bought the tickets. It was their first time having Vietnamese food, and I was glad it was a hit! Ippei stopped at a B of A ATM for the novelty of withdrawing US$20 from his credit/ATM card- even though we warned him that the withdrawal fee was the same whether it was $20 or $200. There were a lot of photos of the transaction and the huge smile on his face when the machine spit out the cash was well worth it. Ahh, simple pleasures... :)

Then we hit the ground running- literally... We started off at 32nd Street & 5th Ave and headed up to 34th Street to see the Macy*s flagship store and the whole Herald Square craziness, up 7th Avenue through the Fashion District to... Times Square!! woahh!! sensory overload!! more photos and videos and pointing and gaping... we were at the red TKTS steps for like a half hour... and the triple-story (!?!) M&M store!! tourists!! street vendors!! ahhh!! We continued up Broadway to Columbus Circle and finally entered the peaceful sanctuary of Central Park. Since we were short on time, we were only able to wander around the south part of the park... It was about 30+ blocks of walking, not including all the walking around the m&m store!
Then we took the subway down to Union Square (another novelty- buying subway tickets took about a half hour- but the machines actually translated into Japanese!), walked down to the East Village (where we passed the only Ippudo ramen shop in the US), and along St. Marks. We shared a few orders of dumplings where Jannie and I got a few laughs over their amazement at the twist caps on their bottled drinks (so we didn't need a bottle opener)- lots of "hehhhhhhs", giggles, photos, and videos). We finally met up with Paul at the Astor Place Theatre in time for Blue Man Group's 8pm show.

The show was fun and super interactive- and I think they were so thrilled that they were actually able to score tickets to the show! Jannie was awesome and actually "shouted" the tickets for everyone (the tickets were all on her). After that, we walked to a nearby Indian restaurant on E. 6th Street (another first for the Japanese group) where we ate dinner accompanied by two old bearded men playing traditional Indian music. It was a late night! By the time Paul, Jannie, and I said our goodbyes and headed back down to Brooklyn, it was after midnight. Junko, Ippei, and Yoko still had plans on visiting the Empire State Building (apparently open until 2am!)
The next few days with Jannie were much more mellow. I had to work most of the other days but we met up in the evenings/after work, and one night we met up with Leigh, another former JET who lived in our area! As a generous thank you gift, Jannie treated me and Paul to see the Broadway production of Mary Poppins! Despite being surrounded by children and teens, we had a great time, and I was thrilled to finally see the show, since I've actually never even see the movie! We capped off her last night in NYC with a fantastic Greek dinner at Uncle Nick's.
Having these guests in town reminded me of how proud I was of New York!

I had so many experiences in Japan where total strangers went out of their way to take me into their own homes, drive me to my destination, or simply be generous and thoughtful of a visitor in their country. It was a blast to meet up again with Jannie, and to feel immediately comfortable hanging out with Junko, Ippei and Yoko. I heart NY!!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

california style tacos in the 11201

FINALLY! good Mexican food on the East Coast!

Granted, it's California style (which is why I like it) so maybe it's just my preference. It also helps that it's in a cool raw space- an actual taco truck is permanently mounted/installed on a former garment factory’s loading dock- hence the name- with a hip art gallery, outdoor "garden", and supposedly they even have a roof garden!).

The space has been winterized with wood-burning stoves and canvas flaps but for now, the outdoor area with all of its succulents and seating is the place to be. Looking up you are surrounded by the towering buildings of downtown Brooklyn, and right outside those metal gates is the awful and gritty frenzy of traffic coming on/off the BQE.
Forrest Cole (originally from California) started selling fish tacos at the Brooklyn Flea (under the name Choncho’s Tacos) and this spot serves a small selection of fish, carnitas, carne asada, and vegetarian tacos, burritos, and tamales. Unfortunately, it's a bit more expensive than I'd like, but I suppose these guys know that they are a rarity and can charge a premium for authentic Mexican food.

This is what they call themselves on their website:
Art Gallery Taco Truck Cultural Center of the West

I call them delicioso!

Sunday, May 02, 2010


P & I drove down to St. Michaels, Maryland to celebrate Bryn and Liz's wedding in early May. We were so busy up until the wedding that we had no expectations of where we were going... so, we were completely blown away by the quaint little town and the natural beauty of the Chesapeake Bay area! The main street (S. Talbot) was lined with charming little boutiques and cafes, while picturesque homes and beautifully landscaped b & b's were tucked away on the side streets.

The waterfront was where the action was happening- we spent a whole morning at the Maritime Museum, touring the boat yard and sheds, exploring the "screwpile" Hooper Strait Lighthouse, and learning all about the different watercraft of the area and of course, the local economy of crab and oyster harvesting.

We had our fill of yummy crabcakes, fish, and shellfish throughout the trip and were riveted by the gorgeous sunsets.

St. Michaels may look familiar since it was the location of where the movie The Wedding Crashers was filmed. However, Bryn and Liz's wedding was a very mellow, intimate event- even if it was one of the most multi-cultural events I have ever been to! We were thrilled to be included in their wedding celebration, which consisted of guests flying in from Japan, the UAE, England, New Zealand, Australia, and all over the US!

I met Bryn in Japan, and have lengthy posts about our travels and adventures (along with our other friend Jannie) in our tightly knit Tango region. The last time I had seen either of them was in the summer of 2006, right before I came back to the US, since both of them decided to renew their contracts with JET. Liz, originally from St. Michaels, came in the next wave of JETs (she actually replaced my good friend Becky, from Amino!), so unfortunately I never got to meet her. Jannie introduced her to Bryn, and the three of them hit it off and became fast friends, and I guess, Bryn and Liz became a bit more than just friends!

Since Bryn and Liz still live in Japan, many Japanese elements were incorpo- rated into the multi-cultural wedding, including their Japanese guests changing into traditional kimono, hundreds of meticulous- ly folded origami cranes, a matcha (green tea) wedding cake, wooden sake boxes (each painstak- ingly branded by Bryn and Liz with the name of the local sake distillery where they had also purchased several giant bottles of sake for the toast, and silk bags each hand sewn by Shinobu (a wonderful Japanese woman who was good friends with Becky, and now Liz, and unfortu- nately was not able to come to the wedding). I was devastated to hear that the Yoshidas (who practically adopted me when I was in Japan who became very close to Liz) and also Jun (my closest Japanese friend) were also unable to come to the wedding!

Some pics are from their photographer Gillette Portrait Arts.

Congratulations Bryn + Liz!
Omedetou gozaimasu!