Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Top 12 Things I'll Miss About NYC

I have three more days until I move back to South Carolina. Three days. I can't believe it. The summer has flown by. When I first came up here, I decided that I could never live up here long term, not even for a year or two. However, as I got more and more adjusted each week, I slowly fell in love with New York City. I love the South, but I've learned to love it up here too.  I could see myself living here for a year or two. Of course, that's what everyone says when they move to the city, and they usually end up staying longer than that. I'm not planning a move in the near future, but I do plan on making as many weekend trips as my schedule/wallet allows :)

As promised in my Top 12 Things I Miss About the South post, I came up with a list of things I'm going to miss about NYC...

1. The food
  • New York has so many great restaurants. I've loved getting out of my comfort zone and trying so many ethnic foods while I've been up here. I've never been a timid or safe eater, but I've gotten to the point where I'll just order something off the menu even if I have no idea what it is. Everything has been good so far!
2. Cute little bakeries/coffee shops
  • So maybe this could technically fall under the food category, but it's a different category in my book. I absolutely love all the local bakeries and coffee shops up here. I even love the coffee man with his little cart that parks outside my office building each morning. Since I've been up here, I've tried to avoid chains like Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts and instead try to visit as many local places as I can. Of course, I have gotten Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts here and there for sake of convenience since they're located on practically every street corner in Manhattan. 
3. Endless list of things to do and explore
  • There are so many things to do up here. While I sometimes enjoy doing touristy things, I've grown to love the non-tourist things New York has to offer and find myself staying away from the crowded, touristy parts of the city. 
4. The shopping
  • I'm going to have withdrawals when I come back. Planning to get my last shopping trips in this week - might have to stock up a little bit :)  
5. The people I've met
  • I've met some great people since being up here and will miss seeing them all the time. 
6. The spirit of adventure
  • You have to be somewhat adventurous if you've made the decision to live in New York. While there are some adventurous people in the South, it's more of the norm up here. People just pick up and move either to or from NYC all the time.  In the South, it's very common to graduate college, get a good job, settle down and get married and then have kids all within a span of five years. People don't have "five year plans" up here. They don't always plan ahead and instead just go with the flow. I kinda like it. 
7. Diversity
  • I haven't been exposed to a lot of diversity growing up. The area I grew up in in South Carolina is predominantly white. In New York, it truly is a melting pot. It's been really neat to be exposed to so many different people and cultures in one place.
8. Healthy lifestyle
  • People eat so much healthier up here. While fast food is available, people don't eat it like we do in the South. I've had fast food two times since being here. Granted, this may be due to the fact that there's not a Chick-fil-a around, but still :) Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are everywhere, and regular restaurants serve healthier food in general. People eat salads up here like they do Chick-fil-a sandwiches and hamburgers down South. I know, two references in one paragraph - too much maybe? Cut me some slack - I miss it a lot.
9. Reading time
  • Thanks to the subway, I've gotten in so much reading since I've been up here. 
10. The relief from humidity - sort of
  • It can still get hot and muggy up here, but it's not as bad as South Carolina. It was 66 and sunny when I walked to the subway one morning last week. It felt amazing. However, like I mentioned a previous post, there aren't lakes and pools to cool off in when it does get hot up here. 
11. Cheap manicures and pedicures
  • You can easily find salons around the city that offer $20 mani/pedi combos. Such a good deal! 
12. Seeing views like this...

Sunset at Chelsea Pier

View from the ferry on the way to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

View from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

View from South Street Seaport

Taken from my old rooftop garden at the Webster

And there you have it! Summer 2012 is coming to a close for me, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to live and work in this wonderful city. To sum it up in a few words - I really do love New York.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Smorgasburg: A Foodie's Dream

Smorgasburg combines two of my favorite things - flea markets and food. It's basically an outdoor food flea market that takes place each Saturday through November in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. From 11am to 6pm, approximately 100 food vendors gather and sell their products. I've been twice now, and I highly recommend it if you're ever up here. Williamsburg is extremely easy to get to from Manhattan, but it's shocking how different it is from the hustle and bustle of the city.  It's a much slower pace and a lot less crowded - there aren't even walk signs at intersections! It's a very cute, artsy neighborhood - kinda reminds me of downtown Asheville, NC.

Back to Smorgasburg. Sorry.

I went alone the first time I went to Smorgasburg, not knowing exactly what to expect. I still thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I wished I had come with someone so we could try out more food. Some of the portions being sold were small enough where I could try a few different things, but some of them are quite large.

My sister and my best friend Emily visited me two weekends ago and we headed to Smorgasburg on Saturday morning. I wanted to them to see some of the other boroughs besides Manhattan while they were here, and I also enjoyed getting to try more food between the three of us. Here are a few of the things I've tried over my two trips....
This place specializes in hand made pigs in a blanket - such a fun and unique idea

Oh my goodness. This donut was from a bakery called Dough in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. It was incredible. New York knows how to do donuts. 

Frozen mini smores
Brisket sandwich from Mighty Quinn's. Very moist, juicy and full of flavor. The line for Mighty Quinn's booth is consistently the longest line, so you know it's good. 

Southern Fried Chicken Taco. I had to try it as soon as I saw the words "southern fried chicken." Southern food/comfort food is very trendy up here. The taco was actually really good. NY does tacos a little different than the tacos I'm used to. They're usually made with a variety of different meats (shrimp, tilapia, carnitas, chicken, etc.), fresh lettuce, cotija cheese, cilantro sprigs, picked onions and are usually free from grease. Delicious.

Hope this has given you a taste of Smorgasburg (pun intended). Like I said, I highly recommend it and it's also something that's unique and not super touristy. 

When you go, you'll also get to enjoy these views while you're there...

Very cloudy on my first visit

So beautiful. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Best Cupcakes in NYC...

One my favorite things about New York is the abundance of cute little bakeries and coffeeshops. I love it. If I had the time/money/metabolism to visit a different one each day, I would do it in a heartbeat.

That being said, I have had the chance to try out quite a few bakeries while being up here. I've visited several different places, but my work also serves "Cupcakes & Cocktails" every other Wednesday, which has allowed me to test out a few cupcakes without ever leaving my desk.

Being a completely unofficial self-proclaimed cupcake critic, I decided to make a list of some of the bakeries I've been to along with my opinions.  In my defense, even though I'm no professional baker, I do love to make cupcakes and have been told they're quite good :)

Note: I have not been to ALL the bakeries in NYC - that would take hours upon hours of exercise :) However, these are a few places worth visiting if you're in the area. I'm sure there are plenty of other wonderful bakeries up here, but I unfortunately haven't been able to visit each one. 

1. Sprinkles Cupcakes - The Original Cupcake Bakery
  • Sprinkles is known for starting the cupcake trend, so I had high expectations going in. If you've ever watched the show Cupcake Wars,  one of the judges, Candace Nelson, is the founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes. They did not disappoint. I had the raspberry cupcake with raspberry icing. So delicious - very impressed. 

  • If you've ever seen the show DC Cupcakes, then you're familiar with Georgetown Cupcake. The bakery is based in DC, but thankfully they have one other location in Soho. I've been there twice now and have been impressed both times. I got a salted caramel cupcake the first time and a key lime pie cupcake the second. 

  • Baked by Melissa specializes in mini cupcakes. These aren't the mini cupcakes you make in a mini muffin pan, they're even smaller - literally bite-size cupcakes. The upside is that you can try out several different flavors. The downside? Not quite as filling. I've tried several different flavors now and loved them all. They are so cute and extremely moist, which can be hard to achieve with mini cupcakes. 
Here's a picture from their website to give you an idea of what they look like. 

  • Remember that time I raved about Crumbs' Apple Cobbler cupcake? And then I went back and my chocolate peanut butter cupcake was super dry? So sad.  I couldn't believe it. I had fallen in love at first bite with their Apple Cobbler cupcake, and then been slapped in the face when I went to get more. Come on Crumbs - I need you to redeem yourself. 
My love. 
  • I haven't been to the actual storefront in the West Village, but my work served these one week at "Cupcakes & Cocktails" and they were amazing. I got the red velvet and it was wonderful, but everyone also raved about the other flavor being served which was some kind of banana cupcake with chocolate frosting. Apparently you can create your own cupcake (pick your base, filling and frosting) in the store and they make it right in front of you. Highly recommend this place. 
  • This bakery has made quite the name for itself,  partly due to its appearances on Sex and the City and mentions on various shows and movies. However, I had one of their Orange Meringue cupcakes and wasn't impressed, so technically it shouldn't be on post titled "The Best Cupcakes in NYC." The icing is extremely light (which some people like) and the cake was a little dry. I've heard their other desserts are delicious, so it's definitely worth checking out. 

I've tasted cupcakes from a few other places, but maybe I'll save those for another post. Plus, I don't want you to think I just gorge myself on cupcakes all the time :) I'm only up here a few more weeks - might as well test out as many as I can, right?

If you're ever in New York, please eat a cupcake for me!

Monday, August 6, 2012

BlogHer Recap

Mommy bloggers and tons of free stuff.

That sums up BlogHer in one sentence.

Okay, so maybe there is a lot more to BlogHer than that. It actually is a really cool event and I enjoyed getting to experience it. The conference had close to 5,000 attendees. Attendees were able to hear from guest speakers likes Martha Stewart and Katie Couric. President Obama even addressed all the attendees via live video feed on the first day.

BlogHer is all about building relationships and getting your name out there while connecting with other bloggers and brand reps. There are also numerous workshops and parties throughout the weekend. The agency I work for attended BlogHer on behalf of several of our clients. Here are a few pictures of our booth...

Our "business card." Banana flash drives with all our product and contact info. 

The "greenhouse." Doesn't it look awesome? The day before this space was just a 10'x30' section of a huge ballroom. 

More greenhouse pictures. 

Our fruit carving station! We brought in a fruit and vegetable carver from DC - he was so great! 

How awesome is this? 

Between our shifts, we were able to walk around to the other booths. It's really neat to be able to see all the various ideas from the brands come together in one place - lots of creativity. 

Remember the free stuff I mentioned at the beginning?  We were able to get in on some of that as well :) I came home with a nice little tote bag full of samples. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Top 12 Things I Miss About the South

I've been up here long enough to start missing some things about the South. Of course, there are definitely some things I will miss about New York once I leave, but I'll save that for another post. Here's why I love the South...

1. My family, friends and community. This one goes without saying.
2. Lakes and pools.
  • There aren't any lakes up here, and if there were, I don't know that it would be safe to swim in them. There's no telling what's in there. 
  • There are public pools, but it's a very different experience. Lots of rules are involved. First off, you have to buy a lock (or bring your own) for the locker, and then lock all your belongings up. You aren't usually allowed to bring in food. You can bring a towel, your keys, your phone and a book. No electronics are allowed on the pool deck (i.e. iPod and phone). I haven't been yet, but I've heard they are somewhat crowded and many people lay out on the concrete due to the lack of chairs. 
3. Chick-fil-a.
  • Yes, this deserves the number three spot on my list. It maybe should have been number two. Apparently, there is a Chick-fil-a in the NYU food court, but I haven't tried it out yet. Of course, they don't make any of the food there, but it might be better than nothing. 
4. The convenience of having a washer and dryer.
  • People don't have washers in dryers in their apartments. A few might, but the majority don't.  I'm very fortunate to have a laundry room in the basement of my building, but many New Yorkers have to lug their clothes to a laundromat to do laundry. I used the word "lug" on purpose because plenty of apartment buildings are without elevators (not mine), and you may have to walk a few blocks to a nearby laundromat. 
5. A dishwasher.
  • Again, not many apartments are equipped with a dishwasher. I've lived without a dishwasher before, and it's not a huge deal, but it's a very nice thing to have :)
6. Home cooked meals.
  • Both of my parents are great cooks, and my Dad loves to make gourmet meals on the weekends. My mom always keeps me in the loop about the new recipes he tests out, and it makes me want to be there so bad. I enjoy cooking, but cooking for one person isn't always the easiest or most convenient thing when you have a small kitchen and don't get home until seven or later every night. Let's just say I lack my usual inspiration up here. New York does that to you. I usually cook once or twice a week and will make a big meal that will supply me with plenty of leftovers. 
7. A car. However, there are pros and cons to the subway. 
  • Pros: It's nice to be able to read everyday on my way to work. My commute is about 40 minutes, and this is very normal for New Yorkers. Unless you happen to live within walking distance of your job, most people have a thirty minute to hour long commute regardless of where you live. I only live five or six miles from work, but I still have a nice little commute. 
  • Cons: While I enjoy not having to drive 40 minutes, there are definitely some down sides to the subway. No matter where I go, I always allow myself 20 minutes to go somewhere, even if it's just one or two stops away. You never know how long you'll have to wait for the train, so you always want to give yourself plenty of time. When I'm traveling to and from work, I rarely have to wait more than two or three minutes, but the trains run less frequently on nights and weekends. This is when I really miss the convenience of being able to hop in my car and drive to the grocery store a mile down the road. 
8. The cost of living.
  • Don't even get me started about how much everyone pays in rent up here. Unless you're super rich, no one owns any real estate. If you want to live anywhere in Manhattan, you either need to a) be okay with having a tiny little apartment - I'm talking a bedroom the size of a walk-in closet or b) be willing to fork up a good bit of money. This means a minimum of $1200 a month - and that's with several roommates. 
  • Food can be a bit pricier as well, especially when eating out. I've done my research and found several places I can eat at without paying a ton, but you can end up spending a lot on food if you're not careful. The main grocery stores people go to are Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and Trader Joe's has a reputation of being the cheapest grocery store in the city. There are a few supermarkets, but nothing near as big as Bi-Lo, Publix, Ingles, etc. The supermarkets tend to be a little on the pricier side. 
9. The work-life balance. 
  • As a whole, Americans are known for not being able to relax and disconnect. It's SO much worse up here. It might not like this in all professions, but corporate culture up here is very intense. People definitely work hard in the South, but for New Yorkers, work is their life. I honestly don't know how they balance it all. 
10. Southern gentlemen.
  • First off, New Yorkers aren't rude, regardless of any stereotypes associated with "Yankees." It's just different up here. I don't think people are always aware of their surroundings. Everyone's worried about where they need to be and are lost in thoughts of their own. That being said, I definitely miss always having the door opened for me. There are also many times that I'm standing on the subway and can't help but wish one of the many men around me would give up their seat. Or give up their seat for the elderly lady standing up. Those kinds of things wouldn't happen in the South. But like I said, it's just different up here. People don't expect to have the door opened for them. They don't expect someone to give up their seat on the subway. But that's okay. It's not looked at as an insult up here, it's just their way of life, and you have to accept that.
11. Fresh air.
  • New York is full of all kinds of smells, and not all of them are great. I can't wait to breathe the fresh, albeit humid, air down South. 
12. Cleanliness.
  • You just can't think about all the germs floating around up here or you'll drive yourself crazy. The sidewalks are far from clean. I don't want to know how many people have touched the bars in the subway. Like I said, you can't think about it.
And there you have it! I'll post a list of things I'll miss about New York soon! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

If you know me well at all, you know that I'm a little bit of a choir nerd. I've sung in multiple choirs for the past six years, and I met some of my dearest friends in the choirs I sang in at Clemson. My non-choir friends know my choir friends as my "singing friends." There's nothing quite like being a part of a group of talented people who love to sing as much as yourself.

I went to church at the Brooklyn Tabernacle this morning, which is a church well-known for it's church choir, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. The Brooklyn Tablenacle Choir is directed by the pastor's wife and is made up of 280 voices. The choir is mostly composed of church members with no formal vocal training, but you would never know that listening to them. They've won five Dove awards and six Grammy awards and have also performed at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall and the Madison Square Garden Theater.

Here's a few clips of the choir singing to give you an idea of what they sound like. I think both of these clips may be from a concert or something, because no one was dressed like this today. There were no choir robes to be found, and everyone was wearing normal, everyday clothes.

Not sure why these have subtitles, but there surprisingly weren't a ton of videos on YouTube. 

The choir nerd in me loved it so much. Some of the soloists were ridiculously talented. I had heard of the choir before, but my Mema really wanted me to go hear them sing while I was up here. One of the first things she said to me when I found out I was moving up was "oh Laura, you have to see the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir while you're up there." So cute. 

If you're ever up here, I definitely recommend stopping in on a Sunday! 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Fam in NYC

My goodness, what a crazy week it's been! Like I mentioned earlier, my family (plus Andrew and Katie) came up last weekend. We had a great time, but we were all exhausted by the end of the it. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to recover as I had to be at work bright and early on Monday morning, but I finally feel like my schedule is getting back to normal. 

So the fam flew in on Thursday. I met them on Thursday night and was able to take Friday off of work. I have one summer Friday to take off during my time here, so it worked out really well. It was SO good to see everyone on Thursday night. 
Our first picture in five weeks - way too long!

I met everyone near Rockefeller Center and we headed down to the Lower East Side to eat. We ate Cafe Habana, which is a neat little Cuban place famous for their grilled corn on the cob smothered in feta cheese, aka "Mexican corn." It may sound weird, but it was delicious.

After dinner, we wandered over to SoHo and got a cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake. My sister and I watch the show DC Cupcakes a good bit, so I wanted to make sure she got a cupcake from their SoHo location. I tried the Key Lime Pie cupcake this time - so delicious. 

On Friday, we woke up pretty early and headed to Times Square to stand in line for Jersey Boys tickets. We were able to get really cheap tickets with our student ID's, and since we were able to buy two tickets per ID, we were able to get my parents student tickets as well. 

Waiting in line for tickets. 

After snagging our tickets, we walked around Times Square a little and then headed to Madison Square Park to eat at Shake Shack. I work right by Madison Square Park, so I see the ridiculous line for Shake Shack every single day and knew we needed to get there early. We got there at 11:15 and still had to wait for 45 minutes! Isn't that crazy? By the time we left, the line was twice as long. It's literally like that every single day, all day long. I don't know how people have the time to stand in that line. However, the food was delicious, and it was on my bucket list of things to do while I'm here. 

Me, Caroline and Katie in the castle at the Disney store in Times Square. 

Katie and I in the Barbie house in Toys R Us - can you tell we like fairytales/princesses?

We spent the afternoon at the 9/11 Memorial, and then headed back to Times Square to eat at Carmine's. Carmine's is a famous Italian restaurant that serves all their dishes family style, meaning you order a few things for the table and they bring them out on huge platters. It was so yummy. If you're ever in NYC with a group, I definitely recommend going there. You get a ton of food and it's not super expensive. 

Does it seem like our trip revolved around food? Well, it kinda did. We had quite a few foodies among us, myself included. 

We saw Jersey Boys that night and it was so great. Loved it. 

On Saturday morning, my mom, Katie and me went wedding dress shopping! Up until this point, my mom hadn't seen any dresses on me because I had done all my shopping in NY. I'm glad she was able to shop with me a little, and I actually ended up buying my dress! 

For lunch on Saturday, we went to a restaurant called Pommes Frites.  I don't know if I would consider it a full-service restaurant because they only serve french fries. Huge french fries. With tons of different sauces. We ordered two large orders for all of us (which was plenty) and got several different sauces to try. I definitely recommend going there if you're in NYC - very unique. 

On Saturday night, we wandered through Chelsea Market and strolled along the High Line, ultimately ending up at Chelsea Pier. 
Sunset at Chelsea Pier

On Sunday, we had a cute little brunch at place on the Upper West Side called Cafe con Leche. Brunch is huge up here, so I wanted to make sure they got a complete NYC experience. After brunch, we decided to visit the Museum of Natural History because there was a possibility of rain. NYC is MISERABLE in the rain, so it was good to have a backup. It didn't end up raining during the day (thankfully!), but we still had fun at the museum. 

Of course, I had to take a picture with the leopard display. If you know me at all, you know that I love animal print, particularly leopard print. Thankfully, I was wearing my new leopard shorts that day - perfect photo op. 

We rode down to Canal Street on Sunday afternoon just for the experience, but I honestly don't like going to Chinatown. Canal Street and Times Square are both SO crowded. Andrew and I split off from the family and actually got our engagement pictures done on Sunday night. My roommate up here is a photographer, and we had so much fun taking them. Maybe I will be able to share some of them in my next post :)

That's all for now - this girl is sleepy!

Have a great weekend!