Taste of the city.

Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that I go out to eat a fair amount.

 

Like, a lot.

 

I like nice restaurants. I like ambience. I like a glass of wine. I like appetizers and desserts. I like debating what my dining partner and I are going to get for ourselves and what we’re going to share. I like cheese plates and tapas. I like big salads filled with caramelized nuts and avocado. I like mood lighting and the clink of glasses and waiters who keep my water glass filled.

 

Plus, I mean, you know I like eating.

 

The only problem with this little hobby of mine? I live in New York City, and it’s not, you know, inexpensive to go out around these parts.

 

For the record, I have cut back. And it’s not like I’m spending like a millionaire even when I do go out. But it’s definitely a sizable portion of my monthly expenses.

 

The thing is, I accept that. I guess I figure that now is the time of my life to go out to dinners and meet up with friends. At some point, we’re going to settle in more. We’ll probably move away from New York, get a house, have a couple of kids, and suddenly a dinner on the town will become an event and not so much just our lifestyle. So even though it’s a luxury, it’s one I always appreciate.

 

Like when I’m walking down 9th Avenue to meet up with a friend at Chelsea Market. Or (gasp) hopping in a cab because I’m late for dinner in the East Village. Or like last night.

 

My friend Carly and I had dinner in one of my favorite restaurants in Chelsea Market, Friedman’s Lunch. Friedman’s occasionally has a special dessert that is a skillet cookie with ice cream (also known as my favorite thing), and I was telling Carly about it during the meal. When we asked, though, we were informed tonight was not one of the magical evenings the skillet cookie is available.

 

Driven by a desire beyond our control, Carly and I took to the streets trying to find somewhere we could procure a warm chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of ice cream. Finally, we happened upon a diner. Carly explained our quest, and the maitre d’ told us to take a seat because he would take care of us. Carly also managed to finagle us two healthy pours of wine because — surprise! — she also happens to speak Italian and the entire waitstaff was Sicilian. Whatta gal, right?

 

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These kinds of things don’t happen in every city in the world.

 

And, not to get overly sentimental, but those are the things I want to remember when I think about my New York life. I did cool things. I had so much fun. So I keep these things in their place, but I also appreciate fully when they happen.

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What to wear to jury duty

I’m starting to think me saying I’m bored is the kiss of death. I mean, the last time I thought “I haven’t had a good New York moment in a while,” I was almost hit by a car. So…I should stop whining.

Mere hours after I posted this a couple of days ago, I found out that I was, in fact, going to experience something new — I got called in for jury duty.

All together now: WHOMP, whahhhhhmp.

It was the first time this had ever happened to me, and I’m honestly not sure how it happened at all. I still haven’t updated my driver’s license to my Queens address (whoops). Yet somehow, it happened.

The day was pretty boring — I arrived at the courthouse bright and early to wait in line with my fellow citizens, then waited in a room through “orientation,” then waited some more until I was called in for interviews around 3 p.m.

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 6.02.12 PMLike most people, I had planned on trying to get out of it. Saying something crazy, like how I could usually tell if people were guilty just by looking at them, had crossed my mind.

But by the time I actually got in the little room, I was tired. The case presented (a liability trial determining fault in a minor car accident) was so innocuous, I couldn’t even work up a fake emotion about it. Plus, the attorneys assured us the trial wouldn’t even last a full day, making it “not the worst case you could get stuck on.” (Their actual words.)

And, honestly, they spent more time asking me about my employer than anything else.

So I guess by default I came across as fairly level-headed. Or, you know, just not crazy.

I was the last juror they picked. I may have said, “Seriously?” out loud when it happened. Because, really, when was the last time you heard about someone actually sitting on a jury?

Anyway. I have to go back tomorrow for “my case.” The lessons I learned from my first time around?

Here’s what to wear (and bring) to jury duty:

What to wear to jury duty.

Bring a jacket because the rooms are cold. Bring snacks because they will NOT be provided. (This should probably have been obvious to me, but I thought there would at LEAST be a snack machine.) Bring a book because using the Kindle app on your phone will drain the life out of it. And bring a charger because inevitably you will drain the life out of your phone answering work emails. Also, a notebook and bottle of water because, dude, it’s like an 8-hour thing and you’re going to get bored.

So I hope you all think of me fondly tomorrow while I’m upholding justice. It’s a tough job, but someone has got to do it.

The hardest workout I’ve ever done.

I’m aware the title of this post is a bold statement. But it’s really the only way to describe what I did this morning.

(I’m also aware just YESTERDAY I said I wasn’t going to talk about working out all the time. But I’m boring. And a liar. Deal with it.)

I’ve mentioned before the intense Epic classes that I signed up for with my friend Diana. What I have not mentioned?

Burpee Thursdays.

What is a Burpee Thursday, you ask? I’ll elaborate.

The class is broken into eight stations. Each station is comprised of some kind of toning move followed by five burpees. You perform each station five times before moving on to the next station. You have 45 seconds to perform each set.

So, for example, at one station you might do five dead lifts followed by five burpees. Five times. Then, at another station, you might do a box jump followed by five burpees. Five times.

Occasionally you finish the set before the 45 seconds are up, which means you have time to fit a few more burpees in. (Lucky you!)

I’ll save you the head scratching and just tell you that all of that averages out to at least 200 burpees per class.

I know you’re no doubt a busy person, so you probably read the last sentence kind of quickly and the meaning didn’t truly sink in for you. So I’m going to need you to pause for a second and really think about that.

Two. Hundred. Burpees.

In case you are unfamiliar with burpees (in which case, you were probably pretty perplexed at the 800 references to them I made above), this is a burpee.

It might look like the slightly more energetic cousin of the jumping jack, but rest assured — it’s so, so much worse.

If you don’t believe me, get on the floor right now and do ten in a row. Just ten. Go on, I’ll wait. I DARE YOU.

Now that we are all in agreement that these things are the work of the devil, it seems only fitting to remind you that I did over two hundred of them this morning.

TWO HUNDRED, YOU GUYS.

Even crazier? It’s the second time I’ve taken this class. The first time, I think it was actually worse because I had no idea what to expect and I was by myself. This time, it was still a beast, but at least I had my pal Diana to grumble with.

In case you were wondering, this is what you look like after you’ve done over 200 burpees:

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Diana defies the laws of science and logic with her ability to still look cute. (I credit the mystical powers of her entirely jade outfit.) I look appropriately near death.

Of course, the obvious benefit to doing The Hardest Workout You’ve Ever Done (besides bragging about it 8,000 times in your next blog post) is that you feel like a warrior princess the rest of the day. No matter what you accomplish for the next 12 hours, you’re doing this in your head:

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Because you accomplished anything after doing over 200 burpees. (Say “over 200 burpees” again.)

And that, my friends, is pretty epic.

How I spent July 4th Weekend

That, my friends, was a great holiday weekend.

It probably helps that I had, in total, five glorious days off of work. It was a much needed recharging. Here’s a little recap of what I did.

Thursday
July 4th was spent how all July 4ths should be spent — on the beach followed by a BBQ.

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Saturday I had the Justine-iest of all Justine-y days. I started out with a trip to the gym, then got a pedicure, then went shopping, then I got my hair highlighted at what is officially my new salon, Muze.

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Afterward, Joey and I met up for my favorite pad thai in the city, followed by a viewing of a little film called Monsters University. Because we’re adults.

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Saturday
Saturday was a fairly low-key day, involving brunch at The Sandwich Bar and another backyard BBQ with some of our new Astoria friends. Much fun was had by all.

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Sunday
Sunday was wedding day. My dear friend Melissa got married in New Jersey at the most gorgeous reception hall you’ve ever seen. Seriously. The words “fairy tale” only begin to describe this place.

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Yes, that is fog around their feet and a chandelier the size of my living room. BECAUSE SHE CAN, PEOPLE.

The hubs and I turned out in our best black tie for the affair.

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My dress is from Rent the Runway (the Carlos Miele Olinda Ocean Gown…rent it now because it’s awesome). (Also, click that referral link and we BOTH get a $20 credit. For realz.) I did my own hair and makeup because I’m not always high-maintenance.

Monday
Monday was recovery day. We slept, ate the hotel’s free breakfast, came home, napped some more, and generally did as little as possible. It was successful, if you ask me.

And that’s it! How did you spend your long weekend?

Things I learned after publishing yesterday’s post.

1. Joey admitted that the creature he had killed in our bedroom was roughly the size of a chipmunk. We should all just start evacuating now.

2. Apparently this fact lessens the chance that it was an actual cockroach and increased the likelihood that it was what people around here call a “waterbug.”

I’M SORRY. A waterbug is one of those spidery things that dances across ponds and lakes and looks like the insect version of a ballerina. IT CANNOT BE MISTAKEN FOR A COCKROACH.

Apparently New York waterbugs look exactly like cockroaches except giant. I had to hear no fewer than three people tell me last night, “Oh, that doesn’t sound like a cockroach. It had to have been a waterbug.” Then they would look at me like they had just delivered reassuring news.

My response:

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Cuz, uh, guys? “Bug that looks just like a cockroach but is technically not a cockroach because it’s BIGGER” is not a consolation.

The only thing that might actually be a consolation? Apparently waterbugs are less of an infestation-type thing and more of a one-off occurrence. WE CAN ONLY HOPE.

On the bright side, when you tell people your cockroach horror stories in New York, invariably someone tops you. Which means I have heard some of the more horrendous, nightmare-inducing cockroach stories of my life in the last 12 hours. I haven’t even begun to live the cockroach nightmare. (One of my friends was actually pinned down and had an entire cockroach nest swarm his body. At that point, I’m pretty sure I just black out and hope I never come to.)

So anyway. I haven’t burned down my apartment (yet). But if this happens again…I just don’t know, you guys.

***EDIT: OMG I FORGOT TO TELL YOU THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. Joey also admitted that the reason why he woke up and saw the cockroach/waterbug/stuff-of-nightmares in the first place is because he HEARD SOMETHING CHEWING THE PLASTIC THAT OUR RUG IS WRAPPED IN.

I need you to take a second and think about that. He woke up from SLEEP because he could HEAR this INSECT CHEWING. CHEWING. LIKE YOU CAN HEAR A SMALL CHILD CHEWING. CHEWINGCHEWINGCHEWING. I literally cannot get over it. CANNOT WILL NOT.

An (almost) complete apartment tour.

Can you believe it? We’ve been in our apartment only three months and I’m basically done decorating.

It’s a miracle.

I mean, sure, there are little things here and there I want to add. And the bedroom isn’t quite done yet. But everything else is about as done as it’s going to get. (In an effort to live a simpler life, and to acknowledge that this is just an apartment we’ll be in for a while and not our dream home, I’m trying not to change our decor as often as I did in the last place. Trying.)

Anyway, here’s a quick tour of the parts that are 99.9% done.

Here’s the view facing the front door toward the kitchen. You can just see our little Craigslist-ed kitchen table and chairs. Hanging on the wall to the right is a vintage Paris map I picked up at HomeGoods ages ago but never had the right spot for.

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Here’s what you see when you first walk in the door facing the bathroom.

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Joey actually picked that spot for our wedding guest “tree,” and it fits perfectly.

If you go right from there, you enter the kitchen:

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Here’s our table with two prints I found on Etsy. (One is a beer bottle and champagne glass with “his” and “hers” on it, the other says “The secret ingredient is always cheese.”) (Because it is.)

The one thing I still want to add to this corner is an oversized print of a Penguin book I have, but I haven’t had a chance to get to Kinkos yet to print it.

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Here are the built-in cabinets. I’ve made peace with their old-timey color. We store our bigger items (crock pot, cake plates, etc.) on top and dishes and glasses inside them. My father-in-law also installed little hooks for me under the cabinets to hang teacups and mugs. The seafoam green mat I got from a tag sale at work for about $5.

Back to the living room!

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Not too much has changed in here since you last saw it. (It’s cleaner, though.) We actually have no visible clutter in this room, which is pretty incredible to me. (And awesome.)(I’m a nerd.)

The one thing I still want to add to this room is a bulletin board over the computer. I have cork tiles that I want to spray paint white to make it. Stay tuned.

So that’s it! It’s so nice feeling like we can finally have guests over. We already had overnight guests, but we spent so little time in the apartment with them, it didn’t seem to matter if everything wasn’t put together. But Saturday we had our first dinner guests, and I’m hoping to host a few more events this summer. Can’t wait!

How to: Memorial Day in New York

The unofficial theme of my Memorial Day weekend was “the time we ate and drank our way through New York City.” And I have no regrets about that.

Two of my oldest friends visited Joey and I with their significant others, and we spent our time strolling (a fairly rainy) Manhattan and exploring my favorite places (so far) in Queens. These are those stories.

Thursday: Erik and Alison arrived around noon on Thursday. I had to work from home that afternoon, so I sent them off to a nearby bar to unwind until six. When Joey got home, we headed off to the city for dinner at Bocca di Bacco, which my super hip-and-in-the-know co-worker Lauryn had recommended. If you like traditional Italian (I had the Ravolini di Pesce) and extensive wine lists, you will like this place.

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Then we sent E+A off to see Once, which, as you may recall, I adore. They ended up getting drinks in the city and then heading back to our apartment.

Friday: The next day, Joey and I had both taken off from work, so we started the morning with brunch at my favorite breakfast spot in Astoria, Queens Comfort. It was predictably delicious. (Word to the wise: Get the tater tots. If you’re feeling especially crazy, get the Disco Tots. You will thank me.)

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Next, we headed into the city for a few touristy things (it was Allison’s first time to New York), including a peek at the park, a stop in Grand Central, and some serious window-shopping on 5th avenue. We tried to get into the MOMA during the free hours, but a line around the block combined with seriously unpleasant weather deterred us.

Then it was time to head back to Queens. We grabbed a quick snack at Martha’s Country Bakery (AMAZING…I usually get a chocolate chip cookie or cannoli, but Joey swears by every flavor of their cheesecake) to revive us before we went to pick up Annie and Al from the airport.

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Once we had acquired an Annie and Al, it was time for dinner! We took everyone to one of our favorite Astoria restaurants, the newly liquor-licensed The Thirsty Koala. (I highly recommend clicking that link if you enjoy photos of adorable things.)

We ordered kangaroo sliders, lamb chops, prawn and steak tacos, crostinis, and a host of other things. Plus, of course, a few drinks to celebrate our reunion.

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Saturday: After a few bagels from the Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company on our street, we headed back into the city Saturday morning. We visited the 9/11 Memorial (which I had never done) before grabbing some coffee and strolling The High Line. The weather wasn’t great, but the views were still pretty nice.

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After a quick dash home to freshen (and warm) up, we returned to the city for dinner at A Voce, another delicious Italian recommendation by Lauryn. I had the pea-stuffed mezzaluna pasta and a Kir Italiano – delish.

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After some low-key drinks at The Guilty Goose nearby, we were ready to head home to bed. (Oh, right, we’re kind of old.)

Sunday: For everyone’s last full day in New York, we decided to hit a few more of our favorite Queens spots. We started with an incredible brunch at MexiBBQ (unlimited drinks from noon to three-ish). I had the Eggs Benedict and a mimosa, Joey got the Challah French Toast and a mimosa. No. Regrets.

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Next, because the weather was actually nice for once, we were off to the Astoria Beer Garden. There was some kind of celebration going on, so we joined the party with a few pitchers and some flower crowns. As one does.

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Afterward, we took a quick group nap before heading to dinner at Watawa, my favorite sushi place near our apartment. (Everything is good.)

Monday: The gang had to roll out around noon, so we grabbed a quick breakfast at Martha’s before heading home to pack. (Total disclosure: Alison and Erik ate at Martha’s no less than three times during their visit. It’s THAT good.)

After dropping everyone off for their flights, Joey and I headed to Astoria Park for a few hours of sunshine (I’m sufficiently pink now) before joining our local friends for a backyard barbecue.

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Basically, I got everything I wanted out of the weekend, including time with my oldest friends, a little color, and some really great memories. Can’t wait for our next reunion!