summer

Off to the Shore!

beach

I’m so happyВ that it’s summer. And I’m even more thrilled that I’ll be spending a week at the beach!

My friends and I rented a house on Long Beach Island, on the Jersey shore. (No, it’s definitely not like THAT Jersey Shore.)

I used to vacation on the island when I was a kid. I remember it being sleepy and quaint—no chain stores, lots of mom and pop restaurants, tons of mini golf courses. My sister and I loved Fantasy Island (the island’s little amusement park) so much, that we even rode and named the same carousel horses year after year. (Mine was “Galaxy.”)

I haven’t been back to LBI in almost 20 years, so I’m excited to see what it’s like now. Either way, I’m expecting to have a very nice, relaxing time. It’s hard to beat long days at the beach.

I may or may not be posting next week, so in the meantime, a few quick links from around the web:

There’s a tech edition of Cards Against Humanity. Yessssssss.

An awesome DIY IKEA cat bed.

Some cool photos and video of the Oakland Ballet working with street dancers. (I’m a big fan of Storehouse, the platform on which that was built. So awesome for telling stories. Can we get that functionality on WordPress, please?)

Have a warm and sunny weekend!

Let Summer Begin!

Aaron_Rose_1

It’s finally here: the weekend that officially marks the start of summer! (At least, in my book.)

Anyone who knows me—or occasionally checks in on me, here—knows that I’m a total summer girl. I live for long, sunny days; beach weekends; steamy weather; and as much time in the sunshineВ as I can possibly manage.

I’m having a very-NYC Memorial Day weekend: going to a friend’s BBQ in Brooklyn, tomorrow, and to the beach (Rockaway) on Monday—as long as the weather holds out.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend! And until next week, some interesting links from around the web:

The photo above is from an awesome-looking exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York: In the early 1960s, Aaron Rose photographed Coney Island beachgoers. His intimate portraits have a romantic, nostalgic feel. (The very effects that we’re always tryingВ to create on our snapshots with Instagram and other photo programs!)

This even earlier shot of Coney Island, from 1947—can you believe the crowd?!

Speaking of Rockaway—have you seen this proposal to bring a glampground there?

Um, this has to be one of the craziest ballet photos I’ve seen!

For those of us superstitious about 8s and 4s—this made me laugh.

(Image via by Aaron Rose, via the Museum of the City of New York)

A Bit of Summer in Fall

One of my favorite summer traditions, as of the last few years, is downing blue crabs by the dozen during trips to the Maryland coast. (I know I’ve certainly posted enough photos of them on this blog!) It’s one of those experiences that’s so quintessentially summer—and a ton of fun when you’re with a group. Mal, Peter and I joke that that was the best part of their year living in Maryland—easy access to crabs after a day at the beach.

Apparently, the best crabs come at the end of the season—after they’ve had months to fatten up. I never made it to Maryland during September or October. But luckily, this weekend, some blue crabs found their way up to New York—and Mal and Peter stumbled upon them in Fairway.
blue crabs

They purchased a few pounds and invited me over for dinner. Have I mentioned that they’re my favorite people in the world? (As well as good cooks—I don’t consider the dinners I throw together for myself to be real cooking, so eating at their place, where they actually cook, is always a treat!)

The crabs were big…
burg and blue crab

…check out the claw on this guy!

blue crab

The crabs sat on ice for most of the day, so Peter moved them to a box to bring them to room temperature before cooking—and make sure they were still alive. Then, he dunked them in water, and steamed them over water and vinegar. With lots of Old Bay sprinkled on, of course.

In the meantime, Mal and I fried hush puppies—our favorite crab side.

frying hush puppies

In my humble opinion, hush puppies taste better with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, so we dressed ours accordingly.hush puppies

We couldn’t get authentic wooden mallets and plastic crab knives, so we made do with nutcracker sets.

nutcrackerAnd the crabs were amazing—super-meaty and tasty! For the time we were eating them, it really felt like summer again.

blue crabs

Now that we know how easy (and fun!) it is to make a crab feast at home, we’re thinking of catching our own and holding a crab boil at our rental next summer. Something to look forward to in 2014…
crabs and hush puppies

NYC Beach Day: Rockaway

For the past week, I’d kept my eye on Sunday’s weather. Each day, the forecast was holding steady at 80 degrees and sunny, and I figured it could be my last chance to hit the beach.

So I was thrilled, this morning, when I woke up to clear blue skies and sunshine. Even though I’d accidentally slept in (something I rarely do!) and wouldn’t get to the beach until nearly 1:30 p.m., I figured it would be worth it.

Rockaway is probably the nicest beach in the five boroughs. (Though, to be honest, that’s not saying much.) But it’s a trek for me—nearly two hours on the A train. I get on at one of the first stops in Manhattan and ride it through my entire borough, all of Brooklyn, and then, finally Queens.

By the time I arrive, I’m more than ready to get my toes in the sand. It helps that the stops near the shore are preceded by a “B”—for beach, of course. That always makes me smile.

b 90 street

I stopped byВ Rockaway Taco for an order of fish tacos, to go. Like me, they’re also in denial about the end of summer—until the end of the month.

summer's still here

I’m glad that the taco stand came back, this summer, and that Rockaway seems to be recovering, post-Sandy. Some houses near the water are still under construction, and portions of the boardwalk are being rebuilt. But the open concession stands and bathrooms along parts of the beach have allowed people to patronize the area all season long—which, hopefully, has helped the local economy, a bit.

we've some a long way

I got onto the beach on 95th Street and walked east until I found a decently empty, quiet spot.

rockaway beach

Then I happily tore into my fish tacos.

rockaway tacos

As I was eating, I realized I’d settled in a surfing section. Everyone around me had a board and everyone in the water was on one. (In fact, an NYC Parks department vehicle drove by about once an hour, telling non-surfers to get out of the water. I suppose the don’t want to worry about swimmers getting whacked by surfboards!)

rockaway surfersWatching the surfers made me want to learn how to do so. For most of my life, I’d been oblivious to the sport—I didn’t know any surfers, growing up, and it was something I associated with the west coast. But last year, when I was in Bocas del Toro,В Panama, I wanted to be one of the surfers who spent all day out in the middle of the ocean—they’d drag their boards into the little water taxis, then jump out when they saw a good spot. I realized that there’s a grace to riding the waves, which is appealing to me. Plus, as someone who’s afraid of the ocean (surprise—I’m a total beach girl who almost never goes into the water), I’m envious of the fearlessness surfers seem to possess!

rockaway surfers

Maybe I’ll add surfing to my list of goals…rockaway surferAnd speaking of surfing—I still find it odd that Rockaway has become the go-to beach for surfers, hipsters and twentysomethings! When I was growing up, “the Rockaways,” as we called it, was just a working class neighborhood on the edge of Queens.

I’d been to the boardwalk once or twice, back when the Parks department ran the concession stands (no saltenas or frozen bananas then!) and the sunbathers were all locals. At the time, the only beaches I’d been to were on Long Island and the Jersey shore, so I was surprised that one existed in my own borough.

I hadn’t realized how close the beach was to JFK, either—and that’s proven to be a nice surprise, this summer. As you’re lying on the beach, you’ll see dozens of planes flying overhead, so close that you can identify the airline—Virgin, Quantas, Delta, United.
plane over rockaway

Something about that just makes me happy. All those planes remind me of great trips I’ve been on, and ones I’ve yet to take. And I imagine that the airplanes are full of excited people going on vacation, or coming back with good memories from ones they’ve just taken.

airplane

airplane over rockaway

If there’s another warm, gorgeous weekend, this year, there’s a good chance I’ll be back in the Rockaways. For me, it’s worth the four hour, round-trip subway ride!

So Long, Summer

ocean city lifeguard stand

My favorite season always comes and goes so quickly. But this summer flew by especially fast.

Now that I’m already looking forward to future summers, I’ve come up with two goals:

  • Buy a beach house.
  • Re-learn how to drive. (To get myself to said beach house.)

Obviously, both goals won’t happen overnight. Especially the first one. But they’re doable!

Here’s the logic behind both:

Mal, Peter and I decided that we want to buy our own beach house in five years, or so. It would prevent us from dealing with the nutty summer rental market. And it would take me eons to save for a decent-sized apartment, here in NYC. So it makes sense to look for a house in an area where my money would go a lot further. And as much as I love NYC more than any place on Earth, even I need frequent escapes from the city, for my own sanity—especially during the summer.

We’re planning to spend the following summers doing a few weekend rentals in various east coast beach towns, to get a sense of their vibes. Hopefully we’ll find one that suits us, and has property within our budget.

As for driving…I am the world’s worst driver. I have a license, but I’m so bad that it’s been seven years since I’ve really been behind the wheel. But over the past few months, I’ve decided that it’s time to relearn. I want the freedom and ability to get around in areas that don’t have public transportation—without having to rely on other people.

I’m actually hoping to check off that goal by next summer—so I can drive myself to our rentals. I figure a few hours of driving a month might get me there?

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

(Photo: Ocean City, MD lifeguard stand)

Summer Snapshots: Delaware and Maryland Beach Weekend, 2.0

I’m back from my long weekend on the Delaware/Maryland coast, and it was pretty much everything I wanted it to be: relaxing with tons of beach time with a few of my favorite people!

Mal, Peter, Paul and I rented a little bungalow in north Ocean City, a prime position close to all our favorite sandy spots—like the quiet beaches just a few blocks away. (The beaches farther south, near the boardwalk, are much more crowded.)
ocean city, md

The weather was chilly on our first afternoon, so we practically had the beach to ourselves. I was thrilled just to have my feet in the sand, once again.

sandy feet

We all ended up taking long afternoon naps—not a bad way to start a trip!

beach sleep

At sundown, everyone else ran sprints along the beach to warm up and get some exercise. I opted to stay on the blanket—only one vacation per year involves running, at least in my mind!

sunset sprints

The O.C. beach was so nice that we returned the following day. But after that, we decided to switch things up and go to Fenwick Island State Park, just over the border in Delaware. I’d forgotten how much I liked that beach. They only let in as many cars as can fit into the small lot.

walking to fenwick island

Which means that the beach never gets too crowded! Plus, the sand was soft and clean.

fenwick island

Also, unlike many other beaches along the east coast, there are no buildings or high rises adjacent to it. The view is just a little nicer that way, isn’t it?fenwick dunesOne of the reasons Mal, Peter, Paul and I travel so well together is that we all appreciate ridiculousness. That’s why we ended up at Seacrets, the spring break-esque beach bar, for a second year in a row. (Apologies about the slightly blurry pics—I took them through a waterproof bag.)
seacrets

We had a few drinks on the giant floats before the sun went down. Unlike last year, we didn’t end up dancing (and drinking) for eight hours.

mal and peter, seacrets heather, seacrets

Mal and I believe that you have to eat at two types of restaurants when you’re at the shore: an old school, red sauce, family-style Italian joint. And a blue crab place. (I know I’m stating the obvious with the latter!)

For this trip’s Italian, we went to Mancini’s, on Fenwick Island. They make an awesome marinara, whose scent hits you, upon walking in. I ordered the spaghetti and meatballs based on that, alone, and wasn’t disappointed. We ate in their small, outdoor area, which was much airier and brighter than the spartan indoor seating sections.

We also made two trips to Bethany Beach’s Blue Crab, our all-time favorite blue crab restaurant: once for the all-you-can-eat dinner, and a second time for our final lunch before heading back to NYC. During that last meal, I felt a little sad when I realized I was savoring my last crabs until next year. But it was a pretty perfect way to close the summer.

blue crabs