Tuesday, June 29, 2010

meet the twangs

Hi, my dears! Sorry for the delay on this beautiful Travel Tuesday. There's been a lot of excitement today, big and small... but we'll save those explanations for another day :) and continue with the plans of this road trip of mine instead. Oh and on that note, what'd you think of Sunday's wander wonders?
Anyway, the fourth stop on the trip will be Montgomery, Alabama. The 4th largest city in the Southern region, Montgomery is often remembered as the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement. And it was. I'd like to see Dexter Avenue and the Civil Rights memorial, in addition to the marina and a possible music venue as there also was and (hopefully) still is quite the rock scene. P.S. All four of these city photos are from the NY Times, ironically enough ;).
Next I'm headed to the Big Easy and a city I've only dreamt about for years, New Orleans. In my two short days there, I intend to take in all of it: the food, the music, the architecture, and the beer. Somebody's got to have a few fantastic places to advise me to go, right? Bon. I swiftly yet steadfastly want to wander through the various neighborhoods, and see the city that is still able to be, "a place that embraces sorrow and joy with equal gusto," as Shaila Dewan wrote. 
After that, I'll be in the big and proud state of Texas visiting my AlphaChi little in San Antonio. I'd like to explore the folk art galleries, old missions, the River Walk, an authentic Mexican restaurant (yes!), historic mansions, and more. Plus, if I have time, I'd really like to venture to Austin for even more music and a few college bars and quirky boutiques. I'm sure to be busy with Rachel as my tour guide.
Then, a few days later, as I head on my way to visit K, I'll need to spend an overnight in Salina, Kansas. Forgive me for my ignorance, but this may be my most important question--does anyone have any idea as to what I should plan to do there? The only thing I've found so far is actually taking a stop somewhat south of the city in Lindsborg, so that I may view a town decorated by a distinct Swedish style. At the very least, seeing the open prairie will be a nice first.
This is certainly turning into quite the adventure! I cannot wait. As my title suggests, I find this area of the United States particularly enticing because of the common Southern/Midwestern accent. I like it, and I like it a lot. I actually had the pleasure of being in it's presence this past Saturday after the USA's pitiful loss against the talented Ghanians. I was at a family friend's house for a two-year-old birthday party complete with big balloons, cute little people, and lots of catered Whole Foods, um, food :). Delicious. 
What American accent could you listen to all day?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

to infinity & beyond

Hiya sweet peas, hope you weekend was fabulous! As you saw, Friday was a smashing success, I can tell you that Saturday wasn't too bad either, but Sunday, well, I've had better. I'm still trying to figure out why; there's not really any particular reason for it, nothing completely catastrophic happened at all, (besides the pitiful/painful USA and Mexico losses), just a lot of overwhelming thoughts. Please excuse me as I try to sort 'em out...

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Toy Story 3 in all of it's three-dimensional glory with two of my friends from high school. I don't want to spoil it for anyone so here's a quick introductory synopsis courtesy of the Wall Street Journal: "Fifteen years after "Toy Story" burst upon the scene as the first full-length animated feature created completely on computers, the third film of the trilogy turns out to be gorgeously joyous and deeply felt. Only the toys are essentially unchanged, albeit scuffed and worn, in a family that's been transformed by the passage of time. Andy, no longer a boy, is college-bound. Buster, no longer a pup, is so old and fat he can hardly walk. Since no one seems to want the toys any more, they find their retirement prospects looking grim until they're consigned to a local day-care center called Sunnyside... Sunnyside provides a perfect place to explore some new ideas, starting with the perils of fidelity versus the benefits of emotional detachment. Woody, Buzz and the others, including a distraught Barbie, have suffered the pain of being cast off by their beloved Andy (though the facts of the case are more complex), but all of the toys at Sunnyside are castoffs and, as one of them says, no owners means no heartbreak."

I loved it, I did, and maybe it's just because I remember being twelve years old and going to see the first one in theaters with my uncle :). But I was also impressed with how closely they stuck with the original themes despite the fact that the story had so thoroughly evolved. As the Wall Street Journal (yes, again, sorry kids), said, "From the start its essential elements were friendship, innocence retained in the face of adversity, and abiding love dramatized with beautiful clarity."
I'd even go as far to say that it was moving, only a bit too much as it struck quite a few emotional chords... and that must be where all the thinking sprung from. For instance, why the hell do I feel the need to take a road trip? It's a great question. Not because I'm second-guessing myself (gosh no, my inner-globetrotter would not be able to handle that excitement-killer) but because I'm trying to figure out what it is I'm trying to run away from, or on the other hand, what exactly I hope to find. That's not to say, of course, that I know those answers.
I finished reading The Lost Girls earlier this week, of which has no doubt contributed to the wonder about my wanders. As I told Ashley in the comments a few posts back, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I love how talented the writers are (no surprise, but still) I love the way the chapters are organized chronologically but with insight into each author, and I love how every single part of their lives is threaded into their travel memoir... because in reality, that's how most life-changing foreign experiences are.
Thoroughly single and independent, with my brilliantly Quirky internship behind me, I will be completely free falling. I'm probably being dramatic when I say this, but I feel as though now every choice I make will influence the rest of my life. And it might, yet I do hope that isn't as threatening as it seems. So, on this grand ol' road trip of mine, I pray that my mind comes upon an inkling of my first career step, that my heart truly heals, and that I am able to have faith in a mapless life.
As one third of the Lost Girl trio, Holly, said at the book's end, "Floating there, I held on to faith. Because you can't know who might cross your path or who will take your breath away. You can't know what friends might actually become sisters because they stayed by your side. You can't know when there'll be an unexpected detour that'll take you to the place where you were always meant to be." And as much as I'd like to say that I can't wait to get there, I cannot let the destination distract me from enjoying the ride for all it's worth--bad days, good days, and all. 

[By the way, the majority of the photos above are from an exquisite dinner I had a few weeks back at Zengo, a Latin-Asian restaurant. Please note that the mojito was not made with the typical rum but with one of the 400 tequilas from La Biblioteca. Best innovative idea ever.] 

Oh and P.S. If all this isn't enough to quiet your own future fears, give my wise little brother's yearbook quote a try, "I'm sick of this phrase, 'the sky's the limit.' One day we're gonna be looking down at the sky and laughing. Be the limit." Okay, I'm done. Promise. See you at infinity.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

it's good for you

From the time we are young, we are told to do all kinds of things that are "good for us" - brush our teeth, take our vitamins, eat our vegetables, wear a seat belt, go to the doctor's - and as we grow up, it's not only our parents advising us, but our teachers, our friends, and the millions of salespeople/advertising trying to push unhealthy products. Most of the time though, it's all subjective. And so at this point, a lot of what is good for me is not based on any fact other than I've learned that it, or they, help me to feel my absolute best. 
For instance, after a long day in the office, a nutritious plate of vegetables and whole foods (yes, whole, it's a Sunshine burger) is just what I need to pep myself back up for a heart to heart with a friend, an editing session at Go Backpacking, a movie marathon, or a little indulgent blog reading.
Then again, other times it's not the food that matters but the company. My parents often cook dinner meals that aren't quite as green-centric as I'd like, and still, I partake in it's enjoyment. My mom makes a mean baked mac & cheese.
Another example? Exploring new museums. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I love 'em. Yesterday I went to the Brooklyn Museum a.k.a. took a stroll through the the various regions of the world and a walk back in time, and just because it may have all been an accident, does not mean that I did not fully enjoy it. Learning can be a beautiful thing.
But that's not even the best part. I didn't wander aimlessly alone, rather I had the lovely (and modelesque) Kailey by my side. It took us the entire four hours to catch each other up on our fabulous lives and eventually we did find the exhibit we were looking for: an incredible showcase of approximately 85 dressed mannequins and hats, shoes, sketches galore in American High Style. Each piece was amazing.
We also were able to tour one of the most female-empowering dinner party place settings that would be perfect for the biggest blogger meet-up of all time ;). Hell, yes.
Afterwards we went out for lunch, at which time I realized how vital discovering new eateries is to me. Snackface and I walked through Prospect Heights a while until we came upon RawStar, a small, quaint, and colorful café with a laid-back Caribbean vibe.
We ordered salads, mine of the sea variety, and two appetizers - falafals in a cashew sauce over greens and the chipotle spring rolls. I loved the raw balls of chickpea wonder, (Kailey could have done without,) while she tore apart yet nonetheless enjoyed the spicy insides of the rice papered creations, (they failed to impress me). Honesty is a very healthy thing, my friends.
Nevertheless, the raw food lunch was exactly what I needed. It was satisfying yet light and energizing in a way that only sun-powered veggies could be. 
But, you see, needs are not stagnant, and following one of the most prolonged and crowded subway experiences of our lives, a frozen yogurt duo was exactly what felt good to us. So what if it went against every raw philosophy there is? Sometimes rules, even raw ones, are meant to be broken. As such, you may not be able to photograph your cup of original and chocolate frozen yogurt with toasted almond slivers because you've savored it's refreshing qualities at an alarmingly fast rate, and in these rare occasions, a simple borrowed picture will do.
Or how 'bout this one? My body is a pretty darn demanding temple. Case in point: after I had the chance to meet and get to know the wonderfully generous Muffin, I wanted pizza. But not just any greasy slice, oh no, I wanted a spelt crusted quarter of a pie with a walnut-pesto spread and topped with spinach and feta. I sure hope two of my favorite Ohio girls enjoyed their gourmet dinners as much as I did mine.
Furthermore, there are cases, although rare, when a fratty college bar calls out to me. And I prefer to answer it with a visit, complete with dancing, drinks, and blogalicious babes.
Twelve hours later, on the morning after a night like that, nothing sounds better than a big bowl of oats pumped up with almond milk, cinnamon, flax seed, banana, mixed berries, a touch of plain yogurt, and almond butter.
Oh, and a hearty cup of black coffee. No matter how much of a tea girl I may be, sometimes a bit of hard-core caffeine is just what I need to get me up and at 'em, all while enjoying yet another beautiful summer day.
Alrighty then, I'm off to watch the US v. Ghana game at a bar with friends. And just for the record, I refuse to apologize for drinking a couple of brews at two in the afternoon... it's good for me, somehow, I promise ;). Peace out, cub scouts! 

P.S. Two questions: Did you know a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down? (I really want to see Mary Poppins on Broadway, just sayin'.) What unconventional things are good for you?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

paris in mind

Last night I had an hour and a half to kill before meeting an old friend for dinner. Before leaving work, I scoured the NYC free event listings until I came upon a  Ron Galella exhibition at Clic Bookstore & Gallery. Done and done. The photographs were absolutely beautiful, and it was so wonderfully satisfying to wander around the gallery alone as I gazed upon them, (you can take a look for yourself here, I'm sure you'll recognize a few). Then, just as I was about to leave, I said goodbye and thank you to the curator and heard something... an accent. One deep breath later and I had walked over to him to ask if he was French. "Non," he replied, "mais j'y ai véciu pendant huit ans."
He wasn't French but he had lived there for eight years, and although I didn't ask, it sounded like he was a native French-speaker from another Francophone country. We chatted for a while about my own studies and he complimented me on my French. Oh, my dears, you should have seen me, I was beaming! Finally, just as I began to bid him adieu, he asked if I was continuing to practice the language. I admitted a non but promised to join a French conversation group soon. And with that, plus an enchanté and a hand shake, I headed uptown to The Crooked Knife.
The Crooked Knife is a French-style bistro serving American, Irish, and Italian food. I surprisingly managed to arrive early and chat with the waitress, who just happened to be  French. I apparently could not escape it last night. Consequently, my friend that was on her way, studied French as well, in addition to being abroad in Strasbourg, and having a fascination with languages, and graduating from Newhouse with a degree in magazine journalism. 
Her name is Agatha, and she is wonderful. We met, serendipitously enough, through a mutual work friend about three years ago and I have not seen her in two. As a result, we sat wining and dining for two and a half hours. We talked about all kinds of things but most relevant, at least to this blog, we spoke about France, food, and le joie de vivre. Translated the last phrase means, a joy of life, but it's so much more than that, and yet perhaps it's power can only be felt in it's French origin.
Four and a half years ago, Chris and I visited Marie in Paris for the first time. My grasp of the French language was at a beginner's level, at best, and still I found myself understanding it. Since then, four visits later, their general philosophy towards food, and living in general, has not once ceased to amaze me. Or Agatha, for that matter. Although I'll admit that these cultural themes are quite prevalent in most other foreign countries as well, or so I found in my own experience.
To begin with, food is appreciated for the pleasure it brings. Taste and presentation is revered whether it be at the finest dining establishment or in the comfort of one's own home. As such, wine and bread can often be found on every table, alongside water, of course.
Second, quality is a prioritized. People eat food, real food, that is readily available in their region at the whichever season they may be in at that moment. This is not to say bananas aren't available year-round in large supermarkets, but that also doesn't necessarily mean that people are accustomed to buying them 12 months of the year, nor skimping out on the dandelion roots or leeks when truly fresh.
Third, food is understood to be exactly what it is, nourishment. In today's day and age, it is difficult to not be informed about what is healthy and what is not, but people do not let them stop that from living. They eat well, for the most part, and don't let anxiety, fear, or despair distract them from other joys of life.
Now, as I sit on my desk, snacking on a multigrain Wasa cracker that is topped with Dark Chocolate Dreams and savoring a glass of Bordeaux, I think I get it. I have bookshelves full of nutrition books, I've experimented with multiple dietary styles, I seek out organic foods at the farmer's market, I focus on eating lots of green and I don't stress out when I don't. I finally care enough without caring too much. All there's left to do is sign up for a conversation group with Agatha at the French Institute Alliance Française...
P.S. I spent my evening watching my little brother graduate from high school.
I. feel. old. Mais c'est la vie, je suppose.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

to a tea

Hello, hello, hope you're having a beautiful morning! I personally love the early hours of day. Not only is it a time when my energy levels are naturally at their peak (yes, I'm that girl) and my favorite meal takes place, but it's also filled with serene yet invigorating solo moments, Danielle time, (as Miss Gena would say). One of the most enjoyable parts of my A.M. routine are spent with a cup of tea, usually green, and in the past few days specifically BourgeTEA.
Chris, the creator of BourgeTEA, contacted me a couple of weeks ago to see if I would like to sample his products. I, obviously, did not hesitate to say yes. Not only am I an avid tea drinker, but I was also looking forward to supporting his brand which began on a university campus similar to the one I left. He saw an opportunity to create quality tea, of which had been lacking, and he went ahead, made, distributed, and sold them himself. Since then he has continued to grow, changing the stigma of tea and tea drinkers and creating a product that has become an "amazing, flavorful resource."
The exciting story alone was enough to make me excited to review these teas, but then I also got to break out this little guy. All BourgeaTEAs are high quality loose leaf, meaning that those beautiful jars are filled with dried hand-picked buds and pieces of whole tea leaves, and that one must brew them in a special tea pot or mug with a filter. Each day last week, I either added Green Citrus or Lucari Chai to the filter in the pot above along with boiling water from my stove-top kettle. Then, after about 5 minutes of letting it steep, the true taste-testing began. Let me please first say that I don't often like citrus-flavored anything nor chai teas.
But I absolutely loved them both. The wonderful thing about larger loose leaf teas (as opposed to the ones in tea bags) is that the flavor is more subtle yet full. And, that once I brewed a pot, I had many cups to enjoy throughout the morning. Green tea is my tea of choice, but I highly doubt that the other black, white, and rooibos selections would be any less delicately tasty. Still, I thought I'd shed some light on the healing properties of teas that are green-most importantly the highest concentration of antioxidants, which have been attributed with reducing the development of many health problems including cancer and heart disease. 
For me, drinking tea has become a daily experience, one that I usually prefer to an A.M. coffee (unless the latter is needed), but I do have concerns about it's environmental impact. As a result of the breadth of high quality flavor combinations, many teas are cultivated in rugged and remote areas of the world where biodiversity is usually at it's highest. Organic teas are grown in a sustainable manner, while all others risk soil degradation and a reduction in species. Also, in extremely unfortunate cases, wood used in drying the tea leaves can lead to deforestation. Quite a lot of information to ponder, I know.
Will I continue to drink my BourgeTEA? Of course. I am blown away by how much pleasure I truly derive from these teas, especially the the Lucrai Chai (a blend of bright, exotic Viet Nam Mekong Cinnamon, Sri Lankan Green Tea, Indian spiced Chai, and pineapple). Nevertheless, due to the tea's involved preparation and my limited time, I doubt that it will become a consistent habit. It may simply remain a weekend treat with the ever-constant glorious breakfast bowl of oats. Thank you for the samples, Chris! I look forward to Friday morn.

Are you a tea-drinker yourself? Or is coffee more your thing? Tell me why :).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

self-induced molasses

Buenas días beautifuls! This Tuesday marks the first of many Travel Tuesday blog posts. What do I mean by that exactly? Oh well, you know ;) in an attempt to slow down my excited planning tendencies, I will spend one day a week (Tuesdays) overviewing four city expectations in the order they will be visited. Ready? Set? Go!
My first stop is Philly for two very important reasons: (1) despite it's proximity, I have never actually been and (2) one of my best friends from home just moved there.  I'm only spending an overnight though so I want to make sure to pack in a few must-sees, including LOVE park (cheesy, I know), City Hall, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, and the stairs of Philadelphia's Museum of Art. And possibly, just possibly, an insignificant bite of a Philly cheesesteak. 
From there I'll go to Washington, D.C. for a night to stay with a group of girlfriends that will have just moved in. I've already done the touristy things thanks to a National Student Leadership Conference in high school (I'm a nerd) so I'm looking forward to a few "off the beaten path" spots, such as the Georgetown waterfront, U street, and a super secret speakeasy. By the way, besides my personal photo above, the others are courtesy of the NY Times website.
Afterwards, it's off to Raleigh, North Carolina and the surrounding Research Triangle. I would like to visit Museum Park (pictured above), the Eco-Junk store, and Eno River State Park. Also, if at any point during this planning series that you think of something I should really see, eat, or do, please don't hesitate to let me know. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Then I'll briefly stay with family friends outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I have yet to get exact recommendations from a good friend of mine who spent two summers there, but as of now, I believe I will be hitting up the Colonnade and Decatur square. And last thing: if you'd like to make plans to meet for coffee, (in between or at the stops themselves), pretty please please please (with a cherry on top) send me an email at aroundtheworld340@gmail.com.
As for the here and now, I'm looking forward to another packed week filled with Yoga at the Great Lawn, a French dinner with an old friend, my little brother's graduation, and an NYC-initiation celebration with AXO sisters. While eating dinner last night, (salmon raviolis and salad), and flipping through VegNews, I also couldn't help but think about Miss Snackface (good luck vibes, baby) who I also plan on passing the wonderful week with. I may be a child for my constant need of life's many excitements, but I like it :).

Monday, June 21, 2010


Since I didn't get a chance to post yesterday... Happy (belated) Father's Day! I hope you enjoyed a wonderful one. Mine was mostly spent in the river town of Irvington. It was beautiful, even with the clouds and humidity.
My family and I had lunch at the new and soon-to-be ridiculously successful Day Boat Café right by the train station and on the Hudson. It was nice to take Papi (as we call him) out to eat for a change, he deserved it.
The seafood restaurant is decorated like a northeastern boat house, and both my grandfather and my dad loved it. Especially with fantastic Bloody Marys and an amazing selection of fresh rolls, cornbread, and sweet butter.
For my meal I ordered a Frisee salad with goat cheese and the scallops entrée. P.S. My sister took most of the mashed potatoes before this shot :).
Then, with a family of sweet tooths (myself and my dad excluded) we no doubt ordered dessert. The first, a mixed berry pie with cream, and the second, the Boathouse Ice Cream Sandwich. Following in my daddy's footsteps I also had an espresso.
I have my dad to thank for my quirky humor, facial features, peaceful introversion, constant curiosity, support of Mexico in the World Cup, determined nature, and humble pride. As for my love of ice cream, I owe all that, and more, to my maternal grandfather. I love them both, plus mi abuelo, for all of it. Happy Monday.