Monthly Archives: July 2014

birthday adventure in astoria. pt I.

in times of
gluttonous aging (part 1) 

I tend to write a lot so feel free to jump down to the end of the page if you want to skip the fluff & want the bare bones itinerary.

My fiance, Mike, turned 26 this year, and because 26 is such an exciting age, I decided to do something super fun!  OK… maybe 26 isn’t that exciting and I just wanted to do something super fun to begin with because I love fun and planning, but let’s say it is anyways.

So here’s how it began (the brainstorming that is).  I just finished my best friend’s bachelorette party, which had a different theme for each day or even half day, so I was in a theme frenzy.  For Mike’s birthday, I also wanted a theme so I thought of “(his) Favorite Foods Weekend”!

Basically, after a whole healthy week of eating gluten free & meat free, I knew I was in for a terrible hangover on Monday and even possibly Tuesday from the amount of dairy and carbs I was going to eat.  Oh, what I’ll do for love…and food.

In addition to wanting to please his bottomless tummy for yummy foods, I wanted to satisfy my own want of exploring parts of NYC I haven’t really hung out in before. Living in the Upper East Side has been extremely unsatisfactory to me.  It just doesn’t compare to my old neighborhoods, Chelsea & SohoWestGreenwichVillage (I used to live at Houston and 6th, which literally is the border of all those neighborhoods so I used to just mash them together when people asked where I lived).  I miss downtown but can’t be ungrateful for this beautiful apartment I live in now.  Anyways, since Upper East Side has been a BIG two thumbs down for me, and Astoria is practically right next door, I thought I could combine “Favorite Foods Weekend” with “Discover Astoria Weekend”, and woah, what a great combo.

Here’s what we did.

Day 1:

Saturday morning… or call it early afternoon… we headed to our first stop, Cafe Triskell, to have French Onion Soup, which I found on nydailynew’s the Best of NY’s French Onion Soup List.  The owner of this restaurant is also the one and only chef of the restaurant and has been for 8 years since it’s opened.  As the only man behind the stove, you can truly taste the love of cooking in the food.  Between the main course and dessert, it occurred to me that this might be one of my favorite restaurants in NYC.  By the time I was halfway through dessert, I knew, yes, this is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC. We’ll be back again… and again… and again.  Hmm… why haven’t we gone back yet? Read about my Cafe Triskell experience here.

[Favorite food: French Onion Soup]

Cafe Triskell's french onion soup

Cafe Triskell’s french onion soup

After Cafe Triskell, we took the subway up one stop and walked over to the Socrates Sculpture Park.  This park is “an outdoor museum and public park where artists can create and exhibit sculptures and multi-media installations” (Google).  It’s on the East River, which you can peer over and see Roosevelt Island & Manhattan.  Read more about the park here.

After the park, we strolled down to the Roosevelt Island Bridge and walked into to Roosevelt Island.  We walked south all the way until we hit the tram then took the tram home, which dropped us off a couple of blocks from our home.  The tram was so cool and definitely worth riding on at least once.   It only costs a subway swipe ($2.50) and you get a mobile vantage point of NYC you normally never see.  You fly over the East River, the Queensboro Bridge, then rooftops of buildings just like the symbolic pigeon of NYC (obviously everyone’s “If you could be a bird, what bird would you be?” answer).


moving view from the tram

We then relaxed at home, and before we knew it, it was time to hit up Astoria again.  This time, we headed to Queens Comfort, a new age twist on Southern comfort food, for mac & cheese, which was featured on VillageVoice’s & nydailynews’ best mac & cheeses in the city list.  Even more of a plus, this place is BYOB with no corking fee or anything so we brought two large beers I got at Whole Foods: Ale Smith IPA and Eviltwin Brewing Chocopologie Stout.  We loved the vibe here and the food.  It was just so Queens (hehe Manhattan noobs over here obviously).  We’ll be back again with a big group of friends.

[Favorite food: Mac & Cheese]

After dinner, we hit up two bars in the area: Front Toward Enemy, which just opened up recently, and New York Dog House.  Both were cool in its own way, and of course, I’d go back to both.  When I’m not too lazy, I plan on writing a review on both of these places.

On the way home, we found this amazing convenience store that had the best selection of beers I’ve ever seen a store carry… seriously, EVER!  We asked the cashier, “What’s up with the amazing selection of beer?”  He said, “Oh well, the customers want a good beer. They write it down and then I get it.”  Simplistic customer service at its finest.  So impressed!  I wish I lived closer to this place.  If I did, my beer belly would get so big, people would ask me how many months I am (tip: never assume a woman is pregnant unless it’s beyond obvious).  Anyways, the convenience store is Smart Choice Convenience at 3412 30th Ave
Astoria, NY 11103.

 Ta-da. There’s Day 1 of Favorite Food/Explore Astoria weekend, which included french onion soup, mac & cheese, a park, the tram and a couple of bars.  Want to check any of those places out? I will definitely join you! 

Click here for Day 2’s blog post (coming soon). 

Day 1:

  • Cafe Triskell
  • Socrates Sculpture Park
  • Walk to Roosevelt Island Bridge to Roosevelt Island to the Roosevelt Island Tram
  • Queens Comfort
  • Front Against Enemy
  • New York Doghouse
  • Smart Choice Convenience

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Filed under Itinerary, Restaurants, Traveling

brunch at cafe triskell.

in times of
savory soups and sweet surprises

(c) Chrysantha C. from Yelp

Hey everyone! Here’s my Yelp review on Cafe Triskell.

“Cafe Triskell became one of my favorite restaurants in NYC in just one meal.  It won me over by the main entree but by dessert, it was hands down one of my favorite places.

I loved the decor of the place as soon as I walked in.  It was cozy, warm and inviting.  The pace of the meal was excellent.  It felt like I was eating at home.

My fiance and I each ordered a french onion soup and split the corned beef hash brunch.  The french onion soup was delicious.  The broth was brimming with flavor, there was the right amount of onions and the blend of cheeses was perfect.  I loved the pieces of the cheese that was burnt.

While we were waiting for our soups, I saw two soups just sitting on the counter and I was wondering why they weren’t serving them to us immediately.  Good thing they didn’t! They were the perfect temperature to enjoy it without burning my mouth, which I’ve done at other places before.  I liked that the cheese in the broth was easy to break through and didn’t turn into one giant clump like at other places.

I am a huge fan of corned beef hash. I sometimes like the canned version better than the real version and I don’t eat anything from cans…’cept for corned beef hash, tuna and chickpeas.  However, this was the best corned beef hash I ever had.  It was a sort of deconstructed version- actual corned beef over hash with a poached egg with a runny yoke and some salad with a hint of mustard in its dressing.  I was very very impressed.

By this time, because the service was so great (our server was so sweet and smiley), the restaurant was so cute and the food was out of this world perfectly delicious, I thought, “I think this is one of my favorite restaurants”.  I was surprised at myself that this stamp of favorite resturant approval could happen so quickly.

I originally didn’t want to order dessert but because the soup and the meal was so great I had to.  This place is known for their crepes.  I got a simple butter sugar crepe and woah, I’ve never had a crepe like this (I’ve made them at home, had them in France, had them at creperies…).  This crepe was crispy, thin and tasty.

OK. Hands down one of my favorite restaurants.  I’ll be back again and again and again and again…  I live in Manhattan but this just made me LOVE Astoria.

A note: two french onion soups, corned beef hash brunch plate that came with coffee, tea or a juice, a tea, and a butter/sugar plate with 20% tip came out to $45.  Cash only!”

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Filed under food, Restaurants

italy at $690 round trip.

.in times of wanderlust.
A few days ago, Mike and I cancelled our trip to Israel, which had a layover in Ukraine.  It just isn’t the most ideal time to be flying into either of those countries.  I accepted the loss of a $950 ticket each before we even began to try to get a refund because safety & health > money.  However, we got our money back with the help of Priceline and it was so easy!  Took me 15 minutes total on the phone and I had the money refunded within the week. Wow.
Anyways, this is what prompted us to go somewhere else.  After all, I was expecting an international trip and still wanted one.  I found a round trip ticket to Italy for $644 round trip.  Yes, it’s an amazing deal, especially to fly to a European country.  I ended up going with a $690 round trip with Delta because the $644 trip with Air Swiss and Air Canada charges extra to reserve seats 24-48 hours in advance since they were code share flights (whatever that means).  Of course, on a lengthier flight or I guess any flight, I want to ensure that I get to sit together with my favorite traveling companion, my fiance, and get an aisle seat to accommodate my overactive bladder. TMI?
Anyways, here was my process, which is pretty simple.  The key here is to have very flexible dates and to be open to the world and what it has to offer– I guess a few dollars in the bank wouldn’t hurt either.
For this specific trip, I used and  Kayak is usually my go to flight search engine but I just discovered Adioso, which opens doors to the world like no other.
Adioso is a more “human” way of searching.  You can search your arrival city by putting a specific city, state, entire country or if you know you want me to domestic or abroad, you can type in “domestic” or “international”.  Sky’s the limit in how you can search.  As for the dates, that’s also extremely flexible as well.
I’ve always used Kayak for similar reasons.  When you search for a flight, you can make your departure and return dates flexible by adding the flexible dates option.  This will help you fly in a day later or earlier than you wanted but help you save a lot!
On Adioso, I looked up basically any dates that would work with work (oh the dreaded work that rules our lives with an iron first. Work, one day, I will love you. Today’s just not the day) and weddings (we’re going to two weddings in August and September; one that I’m honored to be in as my best friend’s bridesmaid).  That left us with some of July, some of August and most of September.  So after playing around with dates, I saw our cheap flight options lead us to Italy, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and a few other countries.  It didn’t take us long for us to pick Italy after all of our friends’ tempting recommendations, which I’ll be posting soon.
Once I saw the dates that were the cheapest in Adioso, I used Kayak to search again to have more flexibility in flight times and to lead me directly to the airlines’ direct site to book the flight.  I highly recommend booking directly with an airline to get better service when needing to cancel or change flights.  Third party sites often have rules against being helpful.  Seriously, if you think regular airlines are not helpful, then adding a third party to the mix makes the process more onerous.  There’s been quite a handful of times when I’ve caught myself saying “never again Expedia”, “never again Priceline”, “never again third party site”, and “should’ve booked directly with the airline to deal directly with them”.
So at the end of it all, we’re flying into Milan, but don’t worry, based off peoples’ recommendations, we won’t be spending more than a day there.  Flights into Milan were about $300-400 cheaper than any other airport in Italy so we figured we’d just use it as a landing hub and then train off to other places, which is an efficient and cheap method of getting around Italy and Europe in general.  Oh USA, why can’t we have a similar public transportation model enabling the middle class man to be able to travel around the US more freely?
Per person:
Flight to Rome, Venice, etc. = $1100+
Flight to Milan ($690), train tickets on a super fast train (estimate $80) and super cute smart car rental (estimate $100) = $870
There’s that for this specific trip.  Otherwise, I really love this site-  Its mission is to only provide flights that are under 6 cents a mile and provide reward points.  They don’t believe in simply cheap flights by the total cost of the flight.  They believe in the whole cost-saving package. Sign up for the daily newsletter or peruse their site to see if anything fancies your interest.  They have deals for flights that may be one month away or even 6 months away like during that time when it’s frigidly cold in NYC for way too long and you begin to wonder if the sun will ever come back.
I also like Groupon and know someone who’s been on a Groupon trip deal who said it was totally legit. I found an amazing trip to Budapest and (somewhere else in Europe, I forget) with a flight, various hotels for 6 nights, breakfast, etc. for $1099, but the dates the trip departed just didn’t work for us.  Maybe it will for you!
Happy traveling!
How do you get your flight deals?  Post below to let us know!

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Filed under Savvy consumer, Traveling, Wanderlust

my go to juice.

In times of health, happiness & simplicity,
my go to juice – apples, kale, celery, carrot and ginger.

I love the time I spend juicing.  It’s a time I get to myself while the rest of the city continues to dance on by.  I come home.  I unpack the vegetables I just picked up from the store on my walk home from work.  I rinse the vegetables (with a fruit & veggie wash of course!) and chop them into Omega 8004 juicer size pieces.  Then I put together the juicer and juice away– always saving a carrot for last to push all the last of the juice through.  It’s rhythmic.  It’s soothing.  It’s my time juicing. [happiness]

The entire process from picking out the vegetables at the store to drinking the last sip of the juice out of a glass mason jar in my home makes me oh so happy.  Part of it may be because I can’t really think of anything that much better to feed my body every day besides my go to juice packed with greens, nutrients and so much love.  Yum!  [health]

This recipe has set itself on auto pilot.  When I’m at the store, it’s ingrained in my brain– apples, carrot, celery, ginger, kale repeat apples carrot celery ginger kale repeat applescarrotcelerygingerkale– and I don’t have to think twice about what I need to get.  It’s become a staple in my weekly rotation or is the weekly rotation because it’s just so easy to remember, prepare and juice because of its simple ingredients.  [simplicity]

So here’s my go to recipe.  When I’m at the store, I usually get a difference amount of each ingredient depending on how sweet I want my juice to be or how lazy I am about carrying everything home so definitely feel free to adjust how you’re feeling as well!

I got all this at Whole Foods in Midtown East.


six gala apples 4.72
one bag of chopped up kale 2.99
one bunch of celery 2.99
two lbs of carrots 1.99
two inches of ginger 0.50
total 13.19 = five 16oz juices


$13 worth of veggies + one salad in a jar made enough for a tower of juices! Woo!

Back to the list now…

Apples: I consider six apples to be on the sweeter side to me but this juice is still pretty green so add a couple more if you think it’s going to be too green.  I’ve done as little as three so if you like it greener, go for it!  As for the type of apple, I like galas or pink crisps the best because I feel like you get more juice and less applesauce that wants to be juice coming out of the juicer.

Carrots: Sometimes I get one bag. Sometimes I get two.  Like I said, adjust to how much your arms want to carry home an extra bag of carrots.

Kale: I love getting chopped up kale if they have it. I find it easier to juice but of course when there’s no bag, I just get a head of it– is that what’s it called? a head? a bunch? enlighten me.

All the veggies: I didn’t shop organic this trip. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.  It depends on how generous my wallet is feeling that day or how healthy I want to think I am, but I personally don’t think it’s a must do because drinking a non-organic green juice is pretty much  still better than most non-organic foods I like…halal food anyone?

What juice is your go to juice? Tell me about it!

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Filed under health, Juicing, recipes

easy diy photobooth with streamers.

     in times of celebration & fun

     Oh hooray, hurrah.  I thought this post would be a super fun post to share with everybody and a good time for me to get back (or actually… start…) posting about some things I love!  One thing I really love is photography and everything related to it so here’s a post on how to make a very easy & inexpensive DIY photobooth backdrop. Yes!

     This past weekend, I was away in the Hamptons for my best friend’s bachelorette. We’ve been best friends for more than 12 years, have never missed a birthday and have actually never gone more than a month without seeing each other.  We’ve been ever so lucky to have both decided to go to schools in Florida then move to New York City to start our careers.

     Enough about us and more about the party… of course since this is my best friend, her sister and I had to make it the most memorable party of her life so we went all out with renting a house, getting a limo for a wine tour, having a clam bake and tons more that we may or may not remember.

     One part of the weekend, we had a pool party with the theme of “Officer & a Gentleman”, her favorite movie! Basically, it was a sailor themed day, which ended up just being a bunch of girls hanging around the pool in their multi colored bikinis, but one part of the party did scream the theme– the photo booth!


Here are the materials you need:

  • Two large rolls of streamers (or more depending on how many colors you want)
  • A wall to put your streamers on
  • Blue painter’s tape or masking tape
  • Photo booth props
  • A camera and tripod or any camera without a tripod will do too
  • Camera remote control

     This photo booth was very easy to make and will look great with any party since you can mix and match whatever colors you want.  For the sailor theme, I got blue and white streamers.  I hung up the white streamers first.  Then when I hung up the blue streamers in between, I twisted them slightly before I taped them down to get some texture in the photos.  I used blue painter’s tape to help keep whatever surface I worked on just as it was before and voila! There’s your photo back drop.

     As for the details, if you can see the tiny nautical banners hanging on the top, I get those at Oriental Trading for about a couple of bucks when they were on sale and also got some sailors hats as props there as well.  For the photo booth props, I got those off eBay.  Compared to etsy, Oriental Trading and other websites, eBay’s photo booth props were the cheapest.  I feel like I got about 15 for $5. They do take a few weeks to arrive and you need to assemble them yourself with a glue gun, but for 15 props, it probably took me 5 min. max.  It’s so easy and adds to the DIY feel!

     I set up my SLR camera (Canon Rebel XTi– so old school but so trustworthy– it’s been around the world with me to New Zealand, Thailand, Peru and many more places but I’ll save that story and some photos for a rainy day) on a tripod and put it on the self timer mode.  Then we snapped the night away with this AmazonBasics Wireless Remote for Canon, which was only $8.50 and works like a charm for this purpose.  For you Nikon users, there’s this remote on Amazon as well for $8.50 and works great with Nikons.  You can’t go wrong with either.

    Well, once the back drop was set up (in probably about 20 minutes by myself), the tripod was ready and the camera was in focus, the photos came snapping away.  What do you think???  I hope you love it and please please please share with me any photo booth inspirations you get from this as well.  Happy photo boothing!


the bachelorette & me!

and how could I not feature this lovely lady?

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Filed under Photo booth