Hello, Summer!

Sunny Isles, Fla. | nycexpeditionist.com

Oh, yes. It’s here, again—my favorite weekend when the best time of year officially begins.

Hello, summer!

I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to, in the past several months. Life has been a bit crazy in all areas: work, ballet, personal. Though I haven’t shared details here, it’s actually been a very trying time with lots of ups and downs.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t usher in my favorite season—because I’ve so been looking forward to every bit of it: long, hot days; weekends at the beach; quick shore getaways; bbqs; summer Fridays (!!!); a likely vacation at the end of August. Plus, some very exciting ballet and family stuff going on.

Will keep you posted on all that. But in the meantime, here’s to sunny days!

(Photo of Sunny Isles, Fla. via Mallory Eng Burger)

NYC Cooking Date: League of Kitchens Workshop

And in other Evan-Heather adventures: For Christmas, just like his birthday, I wanted to give Evan something that the two of us could share.

Instead of going on another trip, I opted for a local experience.

Evan loves food. In fact, I think he’s more passionate about eating and trying different types of cuisine than he is about anything else.

So I thought that a League of Kitchens cooking class would be perfect for us.

The idea is that home cooks make some of the best food—especially dishes that are handed down through generations and made with love for family and friends. The League of Kitchens partners with NYC immigrant cooks who teach small groups of students their signature recipes in their homes. They offer several types of cuisine: Trinidadian, Argentinian, Indian, Korean, and more.

Evan chose a vegetarian Bengali class for the two of us.

And that’s how we found ourselves deep in Bay Ridge, a few weeks ago, in the cozy home of a woman named Afsari.

The workshop started with a snack of tea and samosas, while Afsari told Evan, three other students and me a little about herself. She’s from Bangladesh and has one son. In addition to teaching with the League of Kitchens, she’s also a cooking instructor at the nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York. She caters events, as well. Afsari’s signature dish, which she described to us with pride, is rice pudding, which takes two hours to make.The plan was to make that rice pudding, as well as some other items. The menu for the day was quite ambitious:

  • Palak Paneer (spiced spinach with homemade farmer’s cheese)
  • Gobi Masala (cauliflower and potato in a spiced tomato and coconut sauce)
  • Begun Pora (roasted eggplant with mustard oil)
  • Plain Chapati (flat bread)
  • Firni (rice pudding)

I could see why the workshop was 5.5 hours long!

Afsari started us on various tasks: slicing vegetables, shelling pistachios, cutting herbs.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

She’d demonstrate how to do something…

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

…like frying eggplant in a cast iron skillet, stirring rice pudding, or rolling and heating bread…

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

…and then we’d jump in.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

Hours later, once all the dishes were complete, we sat down to enjoy everything we’d created.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

For me, the food was like cleaner, healthier versions of the food found at most local Indian places.

The palak paneer and, of course, the rice pudding were my favorites. And everything tasted even better the day after, once the flavors had some time to meld in.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

The class was understandably a bit pricey, so it’s not something I could see myself doing frequently. But for a special occasion or couple’s activity, it was definitely a fun and tasty way to spend the afternoon.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

A Birthday Weekend in the Hudson Valley

A few weekends ago, Evan and I escaped NYC to celebrate his birthday.

He asked that I plan the whole trip and make it a surprise—which made it both easier and harder for me!

I decided that since we weren’t taking time off from work, I wanted to keep travel time to under two hours. And I know that Evan loves being in the country, so I focused on places with a farm-like vibe.

I spent weeks down the trip research rabbit hole as I decided for, then against numerous places: a farm b&b that my parents recommendedbut seemed too much like other trips Evan and I had taken. A North Fork b&b on a vineyard—that ended up being booked the weekend we wanted to go away. A Woodstock b&b that I reserved, then cancelled when we changed our trip weekend. A number of awesomelooking places that I loved, but seemed more my style than his.

After weeks of searching, I finally stumbled upon an Airbnb listing that immediately said: “Evan!!!”

It was for a small, Ulster County cottage on what was once a farm. It looked bright and airy with plank wood floors and doors. And it was less than two hours from the city.

I booked it right away.

Evan and I drove up on a Friday after work. The cottage’s owner, Reinhold, met us upon our arrival.

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYC Expeditionist

It turns out that he and his wife Lisette, an architect, fashioned the cottage out of a chicken coop.

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

The couple splits their time between there and NYC.

I could certainly see why—we loved being there.

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

The setting was so quiet and peaceful.

We loved the two barns that sit on the property.

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

Evan made friends with Batman, Lisette and Reinhold’s cat.

Evan and Batman, Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

It turns out that he also splits his time between the city and country!

Batman, Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

The location couldn’t have been better. The cottage is in Stone Ridge, a small town that’s near other cute, small towns, like Kingston, New Paltz, Accord, High Falls and Rosendale.

In each town, we met other NYC expats, or people who share their time between there and the city.

I have to say: I now want to be one of them!

Some highlights:

Evan and I had dinner at Boitson’s on Friday night. A Williamsburg expat runs the hopping restaurant/bar, and it’s one of the few places that served dinner after 10. We were happy with this as our first meal of the trip—we especially liked the cocktails, deviled eggs and bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese.

The next morning, we drove to the Village Tea Room, in New Paltz. Like many restaurants in the area, they source most ingredients locally.

Village Tea Room, New Paltz | NYCExpeditionist.com

Evan at Village Tea Room, New Paltz | NYCExpeditionist.com

We enjoyed their corn pudding and the madeleines we took on the road.

On the way back, we passed through Stone Ridge, and a big barn with a yard full of antiques caught our eye. We stopped to browse. It turned out to be Field and Barn, an antiques expo, that had even more gorgeous, rustic finds inside.

Field and Barn, High Falls | NYCExpeditionist.com

We also went into Fred, a boutique with beautiful new and vintage furnishings. While Evan and I didn’t realize it, we were shopping alongside Daniel Craig and Rachael Weisz, who made a purchase.

In an effort to train for our upcoming road race, Evan and I attempted to run in Minnewaska State Park. Let’s just say, it did not go well. Ice and snow covered so much of the trails that we really couldn’t run.

The lake was pretty, though!

Minnewaska State Park | NYCExpeditionist.com

Minnewaska State Park | NYCExpeditionist.com

Afterwards, we had awesome lunch of bratwurst, sauerbraten and beer at Gunk Haus

…and later on, a fabulous dinner at A Tavola, an Italian restaurant in New Paltz. That was our favorite meal of the trip. Our upstairs table was quiet and romantic and we loved everything we ordered: pappardelle bolognese, and an outstanding fish special in a tomato lobster sauce. (At one point, Evan turned to me and said it was the best fish he’d ever eaten. I wholeheartedly agreed!)

The next day, we went to the spa at Mohonk Mountain House. We’d both had so much going on, lately, that I thought we could use some pampering.

The hotel, itself, is insane—we drove nearly two miles down its “driveway” before reaching it. The building is ultra-dramatic—it doesn’t seem like such an old world, castle-looking place would exist there.

The spa, however, was perfectly low-key and tranquil. Evan and I got a much-needed couples massage—that was among the best I’ve had—and relaxed in the whirlpool before heading back to the city.

Airport Codes, Decoded

This is too cool: Airportcod.es, a site dedicated to the backstories of airports’ three-letter abbreviations.

Airport Codes

I’ve always loved searching for flights and discovering my final destination’s airport code. Some are self-explanatory: LHR, MIA.

Others have made me think, whaaaaaaaaa??—like MSY for New Orleans, EZE for Buenos Aires. (Click the images below, if you’re curious!)

MSY

EZE

I’m glad that I now have an easy place to go to demystify them. Airportcod.es currently has 369 airports from 91 countries, and the sites’ designers/developers, Lynn Fisher and Nick Crohn are adding more each day.

A Future Ballet Dancer

This Humans of New York photo—and accompanying caption—made me smile:

Humans of New York

“I want to be a ballerina.”
“What’s the best part about being a ballerina?”
“Dancing.”
“What’s the hardest part about being a ballerina?”
“Dancing in front of people.”

I’d have to agree with her! Few things in life rival the joy I get from ballet. But working on a piece until it’s audience-ready takes lots of time and effort—both mental and physical, as you work out every tiny detail. And then you have to deal with the inevitable nerves that come once you’re onstage. It’s fun and rewarding, but really freaking hard!

Happy Friday!

(Photo via Humans of New York)

Spring Running Weekend, Booked! Maine Coast Half Marathon Relay

lobster buoys

Apologies for the radio silence!

The past few months have been pretty crazy. I’ve had some good things going on—work has been busy, and I’ve been doing lots of ballet, including my first pointe variation performance! But I’ve also been dealing with some not-so-fun personal life stuff, as well.

I think it’s telling that we’re now deep into the long slog (my least favorite time of year), and I haven’t even put up my annual post about getting through it!

In all seriousness, though, over the past few weeks, I decided I’ve been in need of some carrot-planting: planning some fun things to look forward to, to ride out the remainder of this long slog/rough patch.

The very first carrot planted: signing up for a spring road race.

I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant. I really haven’t gone running since my last race, the Long Branch Half Marathon Relay, two years ago (!!). And that was such a special race. My pace was a personal best, and Mal and I hit the goal we set for ourselves. And we finished ninth out of all the female teams! Accomplishing that, with my sister, was seriously one of the best moments of my life.

But I realized that that’s not a reason to never run again! I’ve felt like Evan and I have needed to shake up our routine. Plus, I wanted a carrot that would take me right into spring. And, of course, I wanted an excuse to get away.

The Maine Coast Marathon’s Bosom Buddy Relay seemed like the perfect fit. It’s in early May, which will mean ideal running weather–not too hot, not too cold. Since it’s another relay, I can prep for the race without disrupting my ballet schedule—and Evan and I can train as a team. Part of the run is by the beach—and you know how much I love the beach. Shipyard Brewery Co. is one of the sponsors—and it’s in Maine! Hello?! Beer and lobster to celebrate afterwards!

So we’ve started training, a bit. Some runs at the gym, an outdoor run this weekend, now that NYC isn’t covered in ice. (Evan had the brilliant idea to run from my place to Sylvia’s, 4.5 miles away in Harlem. Nothing like the promise of mac and cheese to get you motivated!)

Seven weeks to go!

(Image via Pinterest)