Summer Snapshots

How is it the last week of August?!

Hard to believe summer is already coming to an end. As always, it feels way too soon.

But what a summer it’s been! While I wouldn’t say it was relaxing and stress-free, it was definitely eventful and, overall, pretty amazing. Despite some major bumps.

Here’s a look:

I spent every possible minute outdoors, from a double header weekend Mets game in early June (they won both games!)…

CitiField | nycexpeditionist.com

CitiField | nycexpeditionist.com

…to many weekends at Mal and Peter’s.

Ping | nycexpeditionist.com

We were helping them pack up to move to a new apartment. I didn’t mind lending a hand to do that, because it meant grilling…

Grilling | nycexpeditionist.com

Grilling | nycexpeditionist.com

…and relaxing on their deck afterwards.

Hudson River | nycexpeditionist.com

And then, the beach!

Rockaway Beach | nycexpeditionist.com

Despite the two-hour ride each way to the Rockaways, I managed to go and meet up with friends every single weekend, for more than a month.

Rockaway Beach | nycexpeditionist.com

Sure, Rockaway isn’t the prettiest or cleanest of NYC-area beaches. But the people-watching is incredible, as is just escaping the city! And seriously, nothing beats Tacoway Beach and Rippers after hours of laying out.

Rockaway Taco | nycexpeditionist.com

I’m so glad I got in tons of beach time. Because a few weeks ago, this happened.

Foot in boot | nycexpeditionist.com

It started in July, during a routine ballet class. I was wearing a pair of pointe shoes that was almost dead, but I could barely get my right foot up and over the shoe. It felt like I was wearing an ill-fitting new shoe with an extra-hard shank, and not a very well broken-in pair from my favorite maker! I kept the shoes on for barre and noticed that I was having a hard time supporting myself on my right foot. I thought all that was weird, but chalked it up to dead shoes and a bad ballet day. (The lies we tell ourselves!!)

The next few classes were the same. I realized, that in addition to not being able to support myself en pointe on my right foot, I was also having trouble just pointing it. Plus, my whole ankle just felt off—weak and unable to move the way it usually did.

I stopped wearing pointe shoes and went down to two classes a week, hoping that more time off would help whatever was going on with my ankle. I increasingly believed I had Achilles tendinitis. But the weird thing was that when I wasn’t dancing, my foot and ankle felt 100% normal.

Finally, in early August, I was in yet another class, struggling to point my right foot and feeling like I could barely land my jumps. (I actually continued doing all the jump combinations in every class. Probably not the smartest move.) When I got home, I noticed that my foot and ankle were swollen.

That led me to go to urgent care the following day, and then to a podiatrist they referred me to, the next day. His diagnosis was not at all what I expected. It turns out that I have an extra bone in my ankle that I either broke or impinged from all the pointe work. That’s led the tendons around it to become inflamed from the constant rubbing against it.

The official name for this is os trigonum syndrome. Apparently, it’s fairly common among ballet dancers. By some miracle, the podiatrist I was referred to has worked with a lot of dancers and has been a primary podiatrist to several dance companies in the city. He knew almost immediately what the problem was.

So I’m in boot for several weeks!

Luckily, it didn’t get in the way of one of my biggest and most elaborate plans: An all-out party for Mal and Peter, who are expecting their first child next month! (I’m going to be an aunt!!!!!)

I decided that I wanted to throw a celebration that all their/our loved ones could attend—not just women. We booked the clubhouse at their new apartment complex and I spent several weeks planning and prepping. Thank god for my parents, who wholeheartedly went along for the ride and never once questioned if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

I never thought of myself as craftsy, but this was the most DIY thing I’ve ever done.

My mom and I made all the props and background for a photo booth. (If you’re every interested in setting up your own, I highly recommend this tutorial and purchasing this lighting kit.)

We cooked and prepped almost all the food for the baby buffet—an array of bite-sized finger food for 40 people, spanning three tables.

On the menu: mini empanadas, mini mac and cheese cups, chicken sandwich sliders, spinach balls, guac and mango salsa chip cups, meatballs, deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket, shrimp cocktail, cucumber salad, caprese salad, mini cupcakes (two types: chocolate and lemon), mini chocolate dipped macaroons, chocolate dipped strawberries. Whew! (Thank you to my mom, E, Marianna, Olga, Mal and Peter for their help and contributions!)

macaroons | nycexpeditionist.com

My one regret was not getting a photo of the full baby buffet table. That’s what happens when you’re having too much fun while mingling and trying to be a good host. (And, um, quaffing lots of white wine.)

Luckily, we got tons of great photo booth shots!

Photo booth | nyexpeditionist.com

Photo booth | nyexpeditionist.com

And I was thrilled that so many loved ones showed up to celebrate my two favorite people.

HMP | nycexpeditionist.com

Somewhere during the summer, I also found out that my landlord was selling my beloved apartment and that I needed to move. After months of searching for something affordable, I finally found the perfect place…the apartment right upstairs from me. I will hopefully be moving into a carbon copy of my existing apartment in early October.

Another miracle. Somehow, things are working out.

And I have one more exciting summer plan.

Tomorrow, I’m flying to London (boot and all) to spend a few days with Shirin. And then, we’re off to Morocco!

So much craziness, but so much good stuff. Hope your summer was every bit as wild and wonderful, as well!

The Truth About Third World Travel

I recently discovered the site Wait But Why and am hooked.

For each post, Tim Urban, the site’s sole writer and illustrator, delves into a topic—like How to Pick Your Life Partner, or Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy—in such a hilarious, honest, intelligent and insightful way. I’ll find myself reading and laughing out loud and exclaiming, “That’s awesome—and so true!!!”

Take, for example, this post, “Traveling to the Third World Is Great and Also It Sucks.”

As Urban describes it:

You know that upsetting person who posts pictures on Facebook of themselves doing some delicious- or beautiful- or wild-looking activity in somewhere like Tanzania or India or Peru? And even though they’re posting for their own purposes as part of a skillful weave of Image Crafting and Jealousy Inducing, it makes you yearn anyway as you sit there in whatever shitty life you’ve chosen for yourself?

The thing you need to remember is that they did some careful cropping on the photo—they cropped out the misery. Misery is a government requirement when you visit a country like Tanzania or India or Peru and your body is totally unaccustomed to the ecosystem, but that’s easy to forget when you’re not there.

So it’s not that your upsetting friend isn’t having a great time—they are—but beneath their shit-eating open-jaw delighted smile and upward-extended arms grasping into the succulent mist of a waterfall, just a couple feet down are aching, blistered feet, malaria-ridden-mosquito bitten legs, and some gurgling diarrhea nightmare.

He then goes into detail about why third world trips are so amazing but also so miserable—in a very logical way.

I have to agree 100%!

Most of my favorite trips have been to third world countries. And while they were life-changing and pretty fabulous overall, there was a fair share of misery involved.

Like:

  • Peeing all over my jeans because I wasn’t accustomed to using a drop toilet. (China)
  • Staying in a hotel that lacked heat and hot water in winter, in the middle of a dessert. I was so frozen I didn’t even want to wash my hands after going to the bathroom. (Bolivia)
  • Having to use the buddy system to walk home after dark due to the risk of violent crime. (Guatemala)
  • Getting so tossed around in rough water while snorkeling that I actually threw up. (Nicaragua)
  • Taking icy showers with no water pressure in poorly heated hotels/homes. (Almost every third world country)
  • Not being able to flush toilet paper. (Almost every third world country)

I almost feel like an ass writing all those out, because it shows just how lucky we are. You don’t often think of flushing toilet paper as an amazing luxury. Or browsing in a shop without being an easy target for persistent store owners.

salesman-1 salesman-2

So yes, third world trips are fantastic. But I don’t believe anyone who says there’s not discomfort and misery involved!

(Images by Tim Urban via Wait But Why)

A Free Library on the Beach

You know how much I love the beach.

And you know how much I love shelves that facilitate free book-sharing.

So it’s no surprise that I love this: beach-library-albena books-libraryThe Beach Library is located in front of Hotel Kaliakra in Albena, Bulgaria, a resort area on the Black Sea. It has more than 6,000 books in 15 languages. German architect Herman Kompernas designed it so visitors could easily share and enjoy books while on vacation. A nice touch: the shelves are weather-proof.

Now that’s my kind of beach. Can I go there, now?

(Image via Goodreads)

Eddie Huang on NYC’s Food Culture

eddie_huang

I’ve been reading a ton this summer, and recently finished Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off the Boat.

In the book, Huang retraces his rough upbringing in Florida—constantly dealing with blatant, violent racism—to a life-changing few months in Taiwan, to law school and beyond in NYC, where he launched a street clothing line and opened Baohaus, his successful restaurant.

Huang’s voice is distinct—slang-inflected and and at times rambling. His ’90s hip-hop references and matter-of-fact observations had me laughing out loud. And I appreciated how he didn’t sugarcoat just how tough it can be as an Asian-American. I could certainly relate to dealing with ignorant people while growing up, and even now.

But by far, my favorite part of the book was the end, when things started looking up for Huang. He discovered the amazing breadth of the NYC food scene and eventually found his own place in it:

I liked how we all took ownership in the city, its culture, and its food. We still argue all the time about soup dumplings. Tourists and cornballs love Joe’s Shanghai, but everyone knows it’s Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao holding down in Flushing…we’ll go on and on about how great the lox and whitefish are at Russ & Daughters, but how undeserving their bagels are. The biggest travesty in downtown New York is that you have to buy your lox at R&D then take the train up to Ess-a-Bagel to put together a proper lox, caper, red onion, cream cheese, on sesame or salt bagel. We wish 2nd Ave Deli was still on Second Avenue, we worry about the old man’s health at Di Fara Pizza, and we still don’t understand how people can go to Szechuan Gourmet and order from the American Chinese menu while we get busy with the chili leek intestine casserole and a Diet Coke.

But despite the misfires, overhyped openings, and super-restaurants that mar the landscape, New York is the best eating city not named Tokyo or Taipei, and we owe it to the people Fresh Off the Boat. From the old chick selling churros on the Sunset Park D train to the stray cat crawling over the counter at Fort Greene’s Farmer in the Deli to Peter Luger’s in Williamsburg to Great N.Y. Noodletown on Bowery to Shopsin’s on Essex to Baohaus on Fourteenth to La Taza de Oro on Ninth Avenue to Sapporo on forty-ninth to the golden elevator at Kuruma Zushi to Lechonera in Harlem to SriPraPhai in Woodside to Mario’s on Arthur Avenue, it’s an army of first- and second-generation immigrants that feed this city.

I couldn’t help but smile when I read those two paragraphs—because it’s all 100% true!

I’ve had awesome meals at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, Szechuan Gourmet, Great N.Y. Noodletown and SriPraPhi. I’ve eaten more Ess-a-Bagels than I could ever count. (In fact, that was my “poverty diet” lunch for years, when I worked across the street from the shop. I was making so little money that all I could afford was a bagel with nothing on it, because it only cost $1 and filled me up for hours.)

And we really do worry about the old dude’s health at Di Fara! Because if he goes, who will make the pizza?!

Plus, whenever I ask myself if I could ever leave NYC, the same few things remind me that I couldn’t: My family. Ballet. And the food, for exactly the reason Huang states: all the immigrants from around the world, cooking their specialties and serving them up to hungry, curious and appreciative New Yorkers.

Not something you find in every city!

(Image via Friends We Love)

A Weekend in Indianapolis

I spent last weekend in Indianapolis.

Random, right?!

Well, not so much considering that my good friend Lindsay grew up there, and recently moved back.

During a recent phone chat, she threw out the idea of me spending a weekend there.

I hadn’t seen her in years. (Since that time I visited her in Chicago.) I’d never been to Indianapolis before. And I vaguely remembered the NY Times featuring it as one of their top 2014 destinations, thanks to a network of new bike trails. Plus, I could count all my visits to the midwest on one hand.

Within a day, I’d booked a flight to Indy.

I had a great time catching up with Lindsay, staying in her gorgeous apartment and grilling with her family. She also gave me a sweet tour of the city, highlighting all the cute places and up-and-coming areas.

On the evening of my arrival, we had dinner at Plow & Anchor, a restaurant the focuses on seafood and seasonal produce. (I loved the mackerel crudo with pickled strawberries.)

Afterwards, we walked down Massachusetts Avenue, a main drag with restaurants and shops. A mural of Kurt Vonnegurt, an Indianapolis native, overlooked the street.

Kurt Vonnegut | nycexpeditionist.com

Lots of people were out, dining al fresco and enjoying the hot weather, which was nice to see. I did a double take when several beer bikes went by—I didn’t know those existed outside of London. Lindsay attested that they’re super-popular in Indy. Who knew?!

We spent the next day walking around Broad Ripple, a part of town that was once known for its bar scene, but is evolving. The Monon Trail, a path that’s part of Indy’s new hiking/biking network, runs through it, and we strolled along.

Monon Trail, Indianapolis | nycexpeditionist.com

I loved stumbling along this cute hotel

Hotel Broad Ripple, Indianapolis | nycexpeditionist.com

…and an old railway car alongside the path.

Monon Trail, Indianapolis | nycexpeditionist.com

We walked among the sculpture garden at the Indianapolis Art Center.

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

My favorite piece: this whimsical house!

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at Public Greens, an awesome cafeteria-style eatery.

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

They actually grow their own produce along the trail.

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

The following day, we drove through Fountain Square, an up-and-coming ‘hood—but because it was a Sunday morning, most places were closed. (Except for Milktooth, currently one of the hottest restaurants in town, which was overflowing with brunchers.)

We also strolled along the Canal Walk, another leafy trail alongside a manmade canal. Unfortunately, the gondolas weren’t out at that time!

Indy is definitely a city in the midst of change. Everywhere we went, we saw tons of fancy new condos going up. Though who will be living there remains to be seen. The city felt pretty quiet for most of the weekend, and Lindsay hadn’t heard of any new incentives to draw more residents to the city.

But who knows? Maybe all the new greenspaces, trails and growing food and drink scene will lure more people to the city. I’m definitely glad I got to see it now. And I’m curious about what it’ll look like in a few years.

Retro Airline Ads

This is one coffee table book I’d love to have: Airline Visual Identity 1945-1975, by Matthias C. Huhne.

The 400+ page tome, broken down by airline, features ads from the golden age of flying.

Many of them exude a retro glamour scarcely associated with flying, these days:

Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975

Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975

Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975

While others are cringe-worthy in how un-PC they are, by today’s standards:

Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975

Yiiiiiiikes!

The book has a hefty price tag ($400!) so I’m doubtful that it’ll end up on my coffee table any time soon. But if you’re interested in seeing more interior pages, check them out here.

(Images via Callisto Publishers)