Category Archives: art

Why I Like Sad Movies

My favorite type of movie is a sad movie. I am not normally a sad, Debbie Downer. I am actually quite the opposite. In college my roommates and I would watch sad movies and joke about popping in The Notebook, taking shots and crying. We even added eating fried chicken to the laundry list of things to do on a Saturday night to make it even more epic. Of course we were only joking… unless desperate times call for desperate measures. Then and only then would that be appropriate.

In all seriousness the thing I love most about sad movies is the way they make you feel so much. With action movies and comedies you get good a laugh and experience a grand adventure, but once you finish the movie it’s over. None of those feelings stick with you. It’s like waking up from a dream. You remember that it was exciting and wonderful, but don’t really recount what exactly happened if someone were to ask you about it later. Maybe it’s just me, but sad movies stick with you for hours, maybe even days. The characters are relatable and the situations and feelings the characters go through seem all too familiar.

It’s the sense of vulnerability when watching a sad movie that is so attractive. I was watching a movie with someone once. I wouldn’t say it’s a considerably sad movie, but he thought it was. I remember him jokingly saying that the movie was taking advantage of his emotions. I think that is the best part of a movie. A good movie makes for an easy watch, but a great movie takes you on an emotional roller coaster that drops you off at the end with emotional heaviness that seems to linger for hours.

I suppose I am into lists nowadays. Let me give you a list of my favorite sad movies I have watched thus far.

Schindler’s List
The Joy Luck Club
Atonement 
The Notebook (what girl doesn’t love this movie?) 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Virgin Suicides 

All of these movies are hauntingly beautiful. It makes you realize that life is short. It pushes you to reevaluate and reflect. I experienced something at work that mirrored a tragic Grey’s Anatomy episode. At work there was a patient who suddenly died without warning after what they thought was a successful recovery. A death that was unforeseen, a surprise, is the worst. He wasn’t my patient, but  I saw the tragic story unfold within a couple of minutes. The family members teary eyed, cried out in grief. The wife had to wheeled away in a wheelchair too unstable from distress. That event left me shocked all day just as if I was watching a sad movie. It would be very unfair to compare it to a movie, because this situation it was very much real life.

Sad movies reflect the potential of what real life could be in the most tragic way. And that is exactly what I love about these kinds of movies.

Ambiance

My friends always associate the word ambiance with me, and that is the very essence of me. Foodifyme wordpress readers might notice that I frequently use the word ambiance in my food blogs to describe an atmosphere that elevates the dining experience.

from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

am-bi-ence noun \ˈam-bē-ən(t)s, ˈäm-bē-än(t)s\: a feeling or mood associated with a particular place, person, or thing: ATMOSPHERE

It is spelled two ways, ambience and ambiance, with the original spelling derived from the French word ambiance.

I fully believe that when eating out it should not only be about the food, but the experience in itself, although this is a highly contested issue among my friends. The experience of being seated surrounded by a new place that takes you to another era, another world, another universe. That experience you cannot get from dining in your our dining room or at friend’s place no matter how good the food may be. It’s just not the same. The food and mood of the restaurant go hand in hand to make a one of a kind experience for any foody!

If a restaurant has just okay food, sometimes the ambiance makes up for just mediocre food. The best restaurant on the other hand offers both quality food and an inviting, unique atmosphere that creates a certain mood to the entire experience.  A lot my favorite places that I frequent have this mysterious, secretive quality to them equipped with moody, dim lighting and aged, vintage decor. This ambiance provides a breathtaking experience that becomes unforgettable.

Here are the recent places I’ve been to.  Note some of these pictures are taken from the lounge’s website.

The Violet Hour – Wicker Park, Chicago

A speakeasy tucked away in a the most hipster neighborhood in Chicago, Wicker Park.

This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow again and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen magically along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn.” – Bernard DeVoto “The Hour”

This quote perfectly summarizes the essence of The Violet Hour. A dimly lit lounge with modern decor that exudes a certain magical, coolness about it. The entrance is not as secretive as the other speakeasies I have been to. Instead of taking your number and calling you when your table is ready, they make everyone wait outside until there is an open table for your party. Thus there is a very noticeably long line outside of what would normally be an unsuspicious door. Kind of gives away the best part of going to a speakeasy, finding it.

The Violet Hour has a set of house rules associated with the speakeasy. The most amusing one is their last rule:

“And finally, please do not bring anyone to The Violet Hour that you wouldn’t bring to your mother’s house for Sunday dinner.”

Please keep the unclassiness outside of the The Violet Hour!

The long ceiling to floor curtains create an illusion of magic, kind of reminds of the land of Narnia. When you enter into the Violet Hour, you pass through two sets of these ceiling to floor velvet curtains. What’s behind the curtain? Well let’s see.

Unlike the other speak easies, the Violet Hour has a more modern theme than the usual rustic, old fashioned, vintage theme. The high back chairs complement the long velvet curtains along with the very dim, moody lighting.

I ordered two drinks here. The drinks are a bit pricey coming in at $14 a drink, but at a place like this you are not only paying for high quality drinks, but the chance to lounge at the Violet Hour. Pictured is The Lay of the Land, a gin based drink. I also got the Gates of Paradise, a vodka based apple cider drink.

Lay of the Land – Letherbee, Lemon, Strawberry Preserve, Green Chartreuse

Gates of Paradise – Zubrowka, Apple Cider, Ginger Syrup, Lemon, Blackberry

The Gates of Paradise was definitely my favorite. The combination of all of those ingredients made for one delicious drink.  Overall it is a bit loud for a speak easy since they play music in the background. Other than the noise level and the lack of mysteriousness surrounding the entrance, the Violet Hour is definitely worth a visit. Their menu changes every season, so I will have to go back soon to try the Gates of Paradise again!

The Bedford – Wicker Park, Chicago

Seems like all the hip places are in Wicker Park! The Bedford is a restaurant/lounge located underground in what use to be a bank.

Pictured above is a peak at some of the dining area seating. Also pictured on the left is one of the two entrances into the bank vault!

Here I am with my friend in front of the bank vault doors. We didn’t get seating inside the bank vault, but I would love to lounge in the bank vault next time.

This is what the inside of the bank vault looks like. Notice all of the authentic bank drawers lining the walls. How many people could say they sipped a cocktail inside a bank vault?

I wasn’t too hungry, so I just had a drink at The Bedford. They had their own version of  the Dark and Stormy called Darker and Stormier, the drink on the left. This drink was more on the heavier side.  No wonder it was darker and stormier than a regular dark and stormy! Look at all that rum. 

Darker & Stormier – Dark Rum, Allspice, ROOT Liqueur, Jamaican Bitters, Lime, Ginger Beer

There’s something so very special about lounging inside an authentic bank. The next time I come I will make sure to get seated inside the bank vault!

Gilt Bar – River North, Chicago

Finally venturing outside of Wicker Park to River North. Gilt Bar is a small dish (think of tapas) styled restaurant with a full bar serving classy cocktails and range of liqueurs.

The lighting inside this restaurant is whimsically beautiful. Lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, lit with a warm glow from the visible filaments inside the lightbulbs. A gorgeous cascading, web-like ceiling lamp in the center of the room. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of all of lighting.

Here is a picture that captures the warm, alluring charm about Gilt Bar. I took this without flash on my phone. I think it came out pretty well!

A lot of people have been raving about their Truffle Pasta, so I just had to try it for myself. It was definitely a unique dish. It is a little bit too heavy if you were to have it by itself. The creamy sauce it came with was so strong that I started feeling a little sick towards the end. I loved the pasta. You can definitely taste that it was hand made that day. Overall I think this plate is better when shared with someone else.

I got a side of the Blackened Cauliflower to balance out the heaviness in the Truffle Pasta. I have never had cauliflower like this before. It seems like they roasted the cauliflower giving it a slightly crunchy exterior with a hint of smokiness. It was served in a weak vinaigrette sauce and vinagrette onions. Gilt Bar did a very good job in dressing up the cauliflower.

My friend and I both ordered the Pimm’s Cup, a classic summer drink made with the UK liquor Pimm. It had just the right amount of sweetness and kick from the ginger beer.

Pimm’s Cup –  pimm’s, lemon, ginger beer

The thing that made all three of these experiences exquisite and memorable is the unique atmosphere that they provided. Each of them slightly different. A modern styled speakeasy, a restaurant inside a bank vault, and a restaurant, bar with the best ambiance lighting. Ambiance really does make a difference. The next time you dine out make an effort to notice what type of atmosphere the place has. For me there is nothing better than sipping a delicious, classy cocktail in a warmly lit lounge with a couple of good friends. Makes for a fantastic night!

Los Angeles Part 2 – Being A Cali Girl for a Week

Landed in Chicago last Sunday, and I was happily greeted with a bizarre 60 degree weather in Chicago. Can’t complain right?  You have to keep in mind though that whenever there is extremely warm weather in Chicago the next day it will be extremely cold. It’s like you have to sacrifice freezing temperatures for one day of LA weather in Chicago.

I have this theory about people in California especially in places where it’s sunny year round like LA. The more sun people get the happier they are. Doesn’t matter if you are having a bad day, some sunshine makes everything go away. Maybe that’s why New Yorkers are a bit more on the bitter side. All of those skyscrapers and high rises never let sunshine through. The same can be said about Chicago, but because Chicago has that Midwestern charm I think Chicagoans are friendlier. At least I would like to think so! Everyone I met in LA was so friendly. Definitely getting that Cali, hipster, chill, cool vibe from those in LA. Perhaps it was the certain areas of LA I was hanging out at, because I heard people in LA can be a bit phony and pretentious. I’m thinking Beverly Hills.

Even though I loved being a LA girl for the week, I think I prefer Chicago and NYC over LA. Guess I’m a Chicago girl at heart. Here’s my picture documentation of me being a California Girl.

Look at that clear blue skies with no clouds in sight. All that open green space with palm trees. Paradise? I think yes!

Bottega Louie – Downtown LA

This Italian restaurant and bakery is one of my favorite places that I went to in LA in terms of eateries. It definitely did not fit the ambiance of the rest of the places I went to in LA which seemed more hipster and chill. Bottega Louie reminds me of a place that would do really well in Georgetown, DC or Manhattan, NYC. A bit pretentious, classy, and a good looking customer crowd. My cousin and I split a pizza, half Burrata (burrata, grana parmesan, rapini, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and prosciutto di Parma) and Artichoke (roasted artichoke, chevre, mozarella, tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, Italian parsley, fleur de se). The toppings tasted so fresh! LA is known for their extremely healthy and fresh ingredients, and I can really taste that in this pizza.

Being a bakery, Bottega Louie’s bread is the best I ever had. I loved the complimentary bread. You bite into it, and the outer layer cracks right when you sick your teeth in opening up to a soft, moist inside. Plus look at that design of the bread. How pretty!

Macaroons galore! I tried the earl grey and dark chocolate macaroon. Both were so delicious, but I think I had more fun just looking at the beautiful macaroons. So petite, colorful, and yummy. What’s not to love?

I was too full from all the pizza and bread, carb galore, to try any of these petite cakes and desserts. The next time I go back to Bottega Louie I will save my appetite for only desserts! YUM!

Hollywood

First time in LA and of course we had to check out Hollywood. Even Mickey Mouse has a Hollywood star.

Here I am with the Harry Potter cast’s hand prints and shoe prints. Emma Watson is one tiny lady. Her hands and feet are about the size of mine.

In-N-Out

I finally got to try In-N-Out. Californians always rave about how amazing In-N-Out is, and I think they might be overdoing it. After trying In-N-Out, Shake Shack, and Five Guy’s, I definitely would say Shake Shack comes out on top, then In-N-Out, and then Five Guy’s in terms of their burgers. Read this seriouseats burger review of all three chains here. The In-Out burger was a bit lacking. I thought the patty was a bit on the skimpy side. The bun being a classic white burger bun was definitely not as good as the potato buns the Shake Shack burgers are served on. Now I really want to venture to the east coast for a quality Shake Shack burger.

Bench from 500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer is one of my favorite movies. There are two scenes in the movie where the two characters sit on this bench. Those who have seen the movie know what I’m talking about. For those that have not you should watch it. It is a great movie! The view from this bench was amazing. Though it is overlooking parking lots and random buildings, it is relaxing spot to just sit and enjoy the little things in life.

To the right of the bench is this beautiful grassy area. Perfect for dozing off in the sun. I love the feeling when the sun hits your face in just the right amount of warmth and light. I could stay there like that forever.

The Getty

We went to visit The Getty, an art museum in LA. I loved the way it was laid out. Instead of being one big building, The Getty consisted of many smaller buildings that were connected through outdoor paths that weaved through flower and sculpture gardens. I am a big fan of impressionism especially the works of Degas. This painting, Dancer Taking a Bow (the Prima Ballerina), captures the complex and delicate beauty of ballerinas.

I also really enjoyed the rooms with the French decor and furniture. Imagine sleeping in this monstrous bed! Maid service please!

If only I could take this home with me. A clock that is intricately beautiful.

View of LA from The Getty. I thoroughly enjoyed my week long trip in LA. The people, the food, the culture, the places were all spectacular. You can definitely notice the stark difference between the go go go east coast culture and the more laid back west coast culture, two completely different worlds. Perhaps there is some truth in my sunshine theory. If you see a cranky east coaster on the street, tell them to take a vacay to the west coast and they might come back refreshed and hopefully a little less bitter. I think the world needs more sunshine-y, happy people.

Los Angeles, where people wear winter scarves and gloves in 60 degree weather

Greetings from Los Angeles! Nothing better than escaping the cold, chilly Chicago weather with a trip to LA before I start real life working. Visiting and living in the other major urban cities, Los Angeles definitely has a very different feel. Spread out on 502.7 sq miles compared to 234 sq miles in Chicago and 468.5 sq miles in New York City, LA is the largest urban city in terms of surface area. Though LA does have the largest surface area, the population in LA is a lot smaller compared with NYC: NYC with 8,244,910 inhabitants compared with 3,819,702 in LA. With that there is a lot of space in LA. Everything is super spread out making LA seem more like a populated suburb than the urban cities I am use to.

One thing that I can get use to for a while is this LA weather. My cousin noted that the weather does not drastically change as in Chicago or NYC where the four seasons are quite apparent. I am a big fan of warm weather! Apparently when the weather starts dipping into the 60s, the people of LA start breaking out their winter gear. I was so confused, when I saw people walking around in the daytime with scarves, gloves, and even puffy winter coats. A bizarre sight when the temperature is in the 60s! Maybe because I am not use to warm weather all the time I feel the need to take advantage of every single warm day in LA by wearing sandals, dresses, skirts, and t-shirts. When I get back to Chicago, I will sadly have to convert back to puffy winter coats, sweaters, and boots.

CALFORNIA dreamin! Here is a picture update of my adventures in LA so far!

on USC campus

Here I am in front of a water fountain on USC campus. The campus is huge and very beautiful. There are a lot of relaxing places outside to just chill around. What a wonderful way to spend the day! If I went to school at USC, I would have so much trouble focusing and actually going to class. Why not just spend the entire day sleeping on the grass outside, basking in the sun?

dinos at the Natural History Museum

We stopped by the Natural History Museum. They had a very large collection of dinosaur fossils. I learned that it is easier to discover fossils on the west coast where it is mostly desert compared with the west coast where the fossils may be hidden in large forests.

Trying my best to fend off the big Polar Bear, but obviously failing.

We walked through the Rose Garden. What a magical garden with all of the towering palm trees in the background!

The Space Shuttle Endeavor recently rolled into the Science Center after retiring from many missions into outer space. Here is the beauty!

farmer’s market in Culver City

The farmer markets in LA are fabulous. Lots of fresh produce at reasonable prices! After seeing some fresh greens and salad leaves, I was craving a fresh salad.

Urth Farmer’s Salad at Urth Caffe

I got the Urth Famer’s Salad at Urth Caffe after visiting the farmer’s market. Inside the salad were locally grown baby spinach salad with peppercorn dressing, heirloom tomatoes, French radishes, grilled artichokes, onion, shaved fennel, glazed pecans & shaved parmesan cheese. The spinach leaves tasted so fresh! I could get use to year round fresh produce!

This outdoor art display of lamp posts called Urban Light at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) was featured in the movie No Strings Attached. It must be so gorgeous at nighttime when they turn all the lights on.

Here is Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher at the Urban Light display at LACMA in a scene from No Strings Attached.

Kalbi Bun

I had this Kalbi Bun from a food truck outside of LACMA. There are so many food trucks in LA. There is just something so whimsical and cute about buying a meal from a food truck. Wish they had more of these in Chicago!

More LA adventures to come, sans scarves, gloves, and puffy winter coats of course.

Whimsical Occurrences with Cupcake ATMs and Dream Engines

Things that are out of the ordinary are amusing, and adds a certain whimsical quality to life. Things that don’t belong, things that are out of place, things that bring fantasy into real life. I think this Dr. Seuss quote is quite fitting.

 “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” – Dr. Seuss

Without fantasy people would view life in black and white. What a lifeless world without excitement, without color, without playfulness. Welcome to the world of whimsy.

Sprinkles Cupcake Vending Machine

Spotted this on the streets near The Water Tower in Chicago. When did Sprinkles Cupcake ATMs become necessary? I guess if you have a late night craving for a Sprinkles cupcake and the store is closed, cupcake ATM to the rescue! The entire idea that you can get cupcakes from a vending machine is strange, but very appealing. I might just have to try one of these ATMs for fun and for the delicious cupcake of course.

ComEd Dream Engine

Dream Engine

While shopping downtown, my sister and I spotted this Dream Engine. What is a Dream Engine you ask? Perhaps a machine to store dreams, to share dreams, to reveal dreams? This Dream Engine is made from an old refrigerator transformed into a dreamlike art work. The viewer turns the handle and peers inside the engine. Inside you see a short stop motion picture animation of a horse galloping. Check out the other fridge artwork here.

House Without Stairs

Second floor entrance slightly out of reach

I guess no one enters the second floor through the front door. Unless people have amazingly high jumping abilities like the Olympian pole vaulters. Imagine if someone was to try to exit the second floor through that exit. A trick door just like in the old school, black and white movies.

Fake Subway Signs in London

Whoever put these up is a genius! Spotting these signs would make a great start to any morning commute. Check out more signs here.

Sandwiches at the Secret Garden

One of my favorite things to do is to go to gardens. There’s something so peaceful about wandering into secret places filled with the aromas and vivid colors of flowers and plants. I like to think of them as secret places, because when I go to gardens I like to wander around without a map. I know that it is not the most efficient way to see the entire garden, but it adds an element of mysteriousness to the adventure. Kind of like the book Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett where a little girl finds the entrance to a hidden garden. Closed off from the rest of the world the secret garden seems so surreal. A place where anything goes, and fairies, unicorns and magic exist. Well to my disappointment no fairy sightings or unicorn encounters at the Chicago Botanic Garden, but there were a lot of breathtaking  views and gorgeous spots perfect for daydreaming. Take a look! 

Chicago Botanic Garden – Glencoe, Illinois

Homemade bread rolls

I baked some bread rolls the day before. It made for an excellent sandwich for our picnic at the garden.

Using the bread rolls I made I had a Turkey Swiss sandwich with edamame hummus from Trader Joe’s, lettuce and raisins.  I discovered in college the wonders of pairing raisins and turkey sandwiches together. The sweetness of the raisins really add a unique element to any ordinary turkey sandwich.

Japanese Gardens

First time seeing a swan up close.

Waterfall Garden

view from on top of the waterfalls. Paradise!

Brand New To Twitter – Twittering Around

click to follow me on twitter!

I just made my Twitter account, and I am quite excited to begin my tweeting adventure. I will be using my Twitter account to do more daily, quick posts about what I’m up to. Perhaps twittering about my sudden dessert craving or tweeting about the new pasta dish I made, or tweetering about the new Ramen place I tried. More foodifying life for all of you guys! Follow me on Twitter!

Vintage Bazaar – Uptown, Chicago

I recently went to a Vintage Bazaar in Uptown Chicago. Lots of old things to look at. I saw lots of very chic things, but didn’t really have any use for them. I tried really hard to find a way to justify buying something, but couldn’t think of any legitimate reason. I didn’t end up getting anything, but looking around at all the various goodies was extremely fun.

outdoor part of the Vintage Bazaar

There were both an outdoor and indoor parts. I really enjoyed looking at around at the outdoor part. Lots of vendors were selling vintage clothes, beautiful jewelry and one of a kind furniture. Some vendors even had trailer homes with more clothes and unique items inside. One of the trailer homes is pictured above. I thought that was super cool!

BEAVER’S Coffee + Donuts food truck

The best thing about outdoor markets are the food trucks! I love food trucks! I love the idea of people making tasty, on the go foods in trucks. The designs on the trucks are always unique and super cute.  Look at the cute beaver eating a donut and holding a cup of coffee. Irresistible! My friend told me BEAVER’S Coffee + Donuts has some heavenly donuts. We had to give it a try.

BEAVER’S Coffee + Donuts – half a dozen mini donuts

These donuts were extremely tiny like the size of Dunkin’ Donuts’ Munchkins. When I first bit into them, they were a lot softer and moister than the other donut holes I have had. Extremely moist with the slight crunch of the fried exterior. It was really delicious!! Pictured from the left to right is the powdered sugar, chocolate, and cinnamon donut holes. My favorite was the powdered sugar. I felt so lucky that day, because right when we were about to order the person told us that this was the last half dozen donuts left. We got there right in time to snatch up the last of these yummy, bite-sized pieces of heavenly goodness. Lucky us!

Puffs of Doom – Chocolate and bacon cream puff

Seems like I am paying more attention to the foods at the bazaar than the actually goods! I just can’t help it. Puffs of Doom had a booth selling mini cream puffs. Puffs of DOOM, what a great name! I got a small chocolate and bacon cream puff pastry. I was so intrigued when the vendor told me it had bits of bacon in the pastry. The bacon pieces were extremely small, so the bacon flavor was very subtle. I thought it was quite an interesting mix of chocolate cream, puff pastry and bacon bits. Wouldn’t say it was my favorite, but definitely worth a try!

inside Aragon theater

The inside portion of the bazaar took place at the Aragon theater. A beautifully decorated theater that reminded of a medieval castle. After shopping around for a bit, my friend and I did some exploring. I loved the intricate detailing on the poles. Wouldn’t it be so grand to host a party here? President Obama did to kick off his election campaign last summer! Maybe next time I can score an invite to that.

March Photo a Day – March 1 – March 9

Click here to learn more about this little photography project I am doing.

MARCH 1 – UP 

On the bus from DC to NYC

MARCH 2 – FRUIT

At Gray’s Papaya in NYC.

MARCH 3 – YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

Unfortunately I was not in Chicago or DC on March 3. This photo was snapped at the MoMA in NYC. An architectural display of my future neighborhood.

MARCH 4 – BEDSIDE

Saved this picture for when I got back to my apartment. My wallside besides by bedside.

MARCH 5 – SMILE

Got the chance to watch Avenue Q in NYC. Avenue Q puppet smiles are simply the best.

 MARCH 6 – 5PM 

Got back from NYC at 3PM, and off to meet my friend for coffee to gush about how amazing NYC is.

MARCH 7 – SOMETHING YOU WORE

I went to Dupont Circle in DC to study. A beautiful Spring-like day fitting for some popping pink action.

MARCH 8 – WINDOW

Goodbye Winter. Hello Spring. The view of office buildings from my balcony window.

MARCH 9 – RED

I got this red butterfly at the Phibbs Conservatory in PIttsburgh last year. It is currently clipped to my floor lamp.

I <3 NY

Arriving into Manhattan I always get sense of excitement, of invigoration, of energy that life is full of surprises and endless opportunities. A city full of life, full of thrills that will make even the dead of winter come alive  If I were to make a list of all the things I love about NYC the list would go on forever, but here are my top favorites about NYC.

  1. Abundance of cheap, delicious foods.
  2. The urban fashion of New Yorkers on the go.
  3. Hustle and bustle of the city streets even at night.
  4. The idea and the sense that anything is possible.
On the train I overheard this conversation between two guys. In NYC…
you go from your tiny apartment, to the cramped train, to your small work cubicle, then back onto the cramped train returning back to your tiny apartment“.
Space is tight in NYC wherever you go, but perhaps I wouldn’t mind that.

Here are short blurbs of my most recent trip to NYC, and what I have been up to.

Gray’s Papaya 

Gray's Papaya

I love Gray’s Papaya. This hot dog place has the best hot dogs ever! The casing of the hot dogs have the perfect amount of crunch so that when you bite into them it snaps in your mouth releasing all of the juicy, meaty, hot doggy goodness inside. The hot dog is topped with onions and sauerkraut. This simple hot dog is definitely a must for anyone who is in or visiting NYC. The hot dog is so good, I’ve gotten it at 9AM before, because we were passing by a Gray’s Papaya, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to eat this delicious hot dog.

note the guy's face

The inside of Gray’s Papaya is really colorful with fruit hanging from their ceilings and fun signs everywhere. They are also known for their various smoothies, but I am not really a big fan of their smoothies. We asked to take a picture with the Gray’s Papaya worker, and he did. I think I caught him in mid sentence when he was asking whether this picture was going up on Facebook. Well Gray’s Papaya guy you made it to my blog!

Toys R Us 

This Toys R Us located in Time Square had its very own Ferris Wheel. How cool is that? I didn’t get a chance to ride it, but I would imagine this would fulfill any little kid’s dream. An entire store with four levels filled with toys of all sorts complete with a Ferris Wheel. As a twenty something walking through the store I was living in a world of whimsy.

The Urban Jungle of NYC

Joyce and I were walking to the train when we noticed this car with the coolest collection of bumper stickers. The car’s sun roof was almost completely covered with bumper stickers. Kind of defeats the purpose of having a sun roof no?

The subway system has a certain grunge factor about it. You can occasionally spot rats running on the tracks. A pool of water sitting on the tracks with a variety of trash floating around. Seriously do not know how long that water has been sitting there.

Take a look at the mysterious brown colored muck running down the wall. There is a continuous stream of liquid flowing from the top. Where is that liquid coming from? The subway may be dirty, it may be filled with rodents, but I think this is what gives NYC it’s character. An urban jungle both underground and above ground.

Avenue Q

Finally got to see a Broadway show in NYC, and Avenue Q was the best! Singing puppets talking about very adult, controversial subjects like being gay, being racist, porn on the internet, and making love. The singing, the acting, the dancing was absolutely amazing. The central theme to this musical is the journey of the characters to realize their purpose in life only to come to the conclusion that life is not as easy as we envision it to be. That being a real person, an adult is hard. Though life is filled with the messiness in growing up it is okay to mess up and live and learn. This troubling thought of who you aspire to be when you grow up is a topic that everyone could relate to. Especially a college senior with two months left of college…

The wall in the back says “CREATE”. If you have a permanent marker you can write your own words on the wall.

They sang this song in the beginning of the musical when all of the characters are complaining about their adult life. Unemployed, broke, getting old, single, being Gary Coleman.

Optical Illusion Sculptures by Rafael Barrios

From a distance the sculptures look three-dimensional. A couple of floating boxes.

But actually the sculptures are just two-dimensional sheets of metal painted to create the illusion of three-dimension. What fun!

NYC is simply amazing. What a city!

Take Me Down to Chinatown

You can find practically anything you want in NYC’s Chinatown. A neighborhood of rich culture, exotic foods, and an array of meals for under $6. What is there not to like about Chinatown?

Xi’an Famous Foods 

Spicy and Tingly Beef Hand-Ripped Noodles and Concubine's Chicken Hand-Ripped Noodles

Oh the food! The food in Chinatown is just so delicious, made fresh, and the number one thing cheap. Joyce and I decided to stop in Xi’an Famous Foods for some noodles. I got the Spicy & Tingly Beef Hand-Ripped Noodles, and Joyce got the Concubine’s Chicken Hand-Ripped Noodles. The noodles were made fresh at the restaurant.through a vigorous beating process that makes the noodles chewy and soft. Not like your average noodles at all. The slight elasticity of the noodles was an excellent surprise. The Spicy and Tingly sauce was definitely spiced and tingled my senses maybe even a little too much. A slow build-up of heat until my taste buds were on fire.

Sun Ming Jan – Chinese Sausage Store

Chinese sausage

A Chinese sausage store where they hand make their own Chinese sausages. The entire place oozed with the color red, and smelled like the aromatic smell of sweet and heavenly seasonings of meats. It can be compared to the Italian pancetta. Chinese sausage galore.

Grocery Markets and Stores

street fruit vendors - dragon fruit and guava

Street vendors selling an array of fruit is not an uncommon site in Chinatown. Exotic fruits like dragon fruit, rambutan, guava, durian, mango, and so much more. Oh the colors, the shapes, and the textures of all these fruits were fun to look at especially if you’ve never seen these fruits before.

fish market

So much cheap seafood. The variety and freshness of the fish cannot be beat. There was even a fish who was still breathing and another flopping around on the tray being displayed for customers to buy. I don’t think PETA would be too happy about this…

Street View

taken in my 2011 trip to NYC -smaller streets in Chinatown

The streets of Chinatown are small and narrow. Both cars and pedestrians wander the streets. The sidewalks lined with tables of goodies to see and buy make it so only a single person can pass on the sidewalk at a time pushing people to walk on the streets out of convenience. The buildings with fire escapes, all the Chinese characters, different dialects of Chinese being shouted across the street really give NYC Chinatown a genuine, authentic atmosphere.

Terrible Traffic

note the motorcyclist in the middle

Doesn’t this look like a traffic accident is about to happen? That somebody somewhere will push the accelerator and ram into another car? Well thankfully a traffic accident did not happen just a bunch of congestion. Poor motorcyclist…

Dragons in the Park

The colorful dragons flying around in the park are made out of recycled materials like water bottles and plastic bags. An environmentally friendly way to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Dragon Beard Candy

the fuzzy quality reminds me of cotton candy

Dragon Beard Candy is an ancient Chinese candy described as being rich and sweet in flavor in the shape of a white cocoon. In the center is a chewy peanut butter, coconut filling. It is extremely hard to eat this without eating it in one bite, because the powdered sugar goes everywhere. This was an interesting texture like cotton candy. The overload of sugar was a little too much for my taste, but I’m sure this will satisfy anybody’s sweet tooth.

Rating – I LOVE CHINATOWN.