Thursday, September 10, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
156 pages, @2003
Woo-hoo my 11th President I'm flying through this challenge, only 33 more President's to read about!
So I try to read 2 books about Presidents a year. I read about John Tyler in the 1st half of the year and decided to pick up James K. Polk now so I wasn't struggling to read it during the holidays in the 2nd half of the year.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about James K. Polk. I thought he was kind of one of those forgotten Presidents and let's face it I'm in President no-mans land with all one term peeps leading up to Lincoln.
James Polk, however, really impressed me. He is consistently ranked behind Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln as a President that wielded the power of the office of the chief magistrate effectively. I was surprised by that. In fact, since Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. began periodically surveying experts in the field, he has consistently been ranked among the great and near-great Presidents in the US. Again, surprised by that fact. He achieved great things as President for our country but it appears his personality as an annal, controlling, blah kind of man has tainted all that he accomplished.
The most amazing thing about Polk's story is that he was on his way out when he was elected President. Basically he had lost the governorship of Tennessee (his home state) two elections in a row. The year he was elected President he was aiming for the Vice Presidency and his party wasn't even in support of that! Then at the same time the two candidates that were pretty much going to win the nomination from their parties (Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay) came out and declared that they were not in favor of bringing Texas into the Union. This was not the way the majority of the country felt. Polk, as a known supporter of bringing Texas into the Union, became the lead candidate for the Democrats, won the party nomination and then beat Henry Clary for the Presidency. I mean talk about coming out of nowhere this guy was politically dead when he was elected President. I found that incredibly interesting.
In order to win his party's nomination he guaranteed them that he would only be President for one term and that he would not seek a 2nd term. He went into his Presidency with 4 goals in mind: 1) He would lower the tariff, 2) He would re-create Van Buren's independent treasury, 3) He would acquire Oregon from the British and 4) He would acquire California from Mexico. He accomplished all 4 of his goals during his Presidency of 4 years, which in my book is pretty amazing.
He was succeeded by his enemy Whig President Taylor (who led the charge in the war against Mexico to acquire Texas and then California). He then died 3 months after leaving office. He had no children.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about Polk. I would definitely be interested in reading a larger biography of President Polk...we'll see if that happens one day!!!
Post in Comments:
Who's your favorite President of the first 11? (Washingston, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler or Polk?)
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I know, I know this movie came out forever ago. It's been in my infamous Netflix queue (that I swear I'll get down to under 100 before the year is up!) The other day I found it on TV and dvr'd it so I was able to watch it sooner.
While The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was not nearly as good as it's competitors (ie: Harry Potter) I thoroughly enjoyed the story and feel the need to now re-read the books.
Essentially the plot is that during WWI or WWII 4 children are sent to live with a Professor far from London where the bombing is going on. They arrive at this incredibly huge house but are told the Professor is not to be disturbed. They decide to play hide-and-seek and the youngest child Lucy hides in the Wardrobe and discovers the mystical state of Narnia. No one believes her until one day trying to escape getting in trouble they all hide in the wardrobe and all end up in Narnia. The White Queen is looking for them because she wants to end the Prophecy. In the meantime they're looking for the Lion (can't remember his name) who is building an army to fight The White Queen. They each discover their strengths and are tested by loyalty.
In the end I thought it was a very enjoyable movie. I was happy I watched it. The acting wasn't phenomenal and the sword fighting was a little cheesy but I can forgive them that. I was surprised by some of the actors in the movie - James Broadbent, James McEvoy, and Tilda Swinton. They were great but they were all kind of side characters to the children. I loved the cinematography tn brought Narnia and it's inhabitants alive - it was very well done! It seemed a totally magical place. I'll have to check out the 2nd installment Prince Caspian.
Post in comments:
Did you like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I love to travel and I love to run (although I'm not quite the runner I was when I lived in MA). Regardless, when I travel I love to find running routes. I find that it's the best way for me to see a city the way the locals do.
A couple of years ago I found www.runtheplanet.com. When you go to the home page and click on Running Routes you can type in the city, state and country that you are visiting and you'll find running routes (for most places). The routes are written up by runners who have visited the city, who have lived in the city, or who currently live in the city. I used this to find a great running route in San Francisco for Jon and I when we were there and for Portland, Oregan when we were there and for Amy and I when we ran in Puerto Rico. I've printed out running routes for our upcoming vacation for Munich, Salzburg, and Fussen. I'm excited to check them out.
Run the Planet is a great way to get to know a city and even if you're not a runner a lot of these paths are also great walking paths or biking paths so check it out. Also, another great resource for running routes is the concierge at your hotel. That's how we found a great 4 mile loop through the vineyards in Napa. It never hurts to ask the locals.
Post in Comments:
Where have your favorite runs been? For me my favorite runs have been Land's End in San Francisco, Summit Avenue in St. Paul, The Circus Maximus & Appian Way in Rome, running through the vineyards in Napa.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
#9 - Little Caesar is a 1930 movie that tells the story of a man who works his way up the chain of command to be the top dog (isn't that they way with all gangster movies!) Edward G. Robinson plays Little Caesar. Our opinions differed on this movie. Jon liked it more than I did. He loved that the actors talked like old time gangsters (what you might expect from a movie from the 1930's). I do remember that I was surprised by how short it was. It was like 80 minutes or something crazy like that. I just find some of those older movies to go slower because they're not as action packed or the action is not as high-tech as I'm used to seeing (which is a sad statement to make). I did definitely enjoy this movie more than Scarface! Jon rates it 4 stars and I rate it 3 stars.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I have to say that it was the weirdest feeling just running in the middle of Park Avenue. It was awesome though we just did a 3 mile loop - 1.5 miles downtown and then back up the other side of Park Avenue. All along the road as we were running there were bike rental places (although I'm pretty sure they were free rentals), there were mini-tennis courts for kids to begin to learn to tennis, different vendors providing information about their services, and plenty of traffic cops and crossing guards as there are a couple of busy intersections where they were letting the traffic cross Park Avenue when they had the light. The entire 1.5 miles down though we were only stopped 3 times (which in NYC is amazing!) For a full list of activities, click here!
This is definitely a great program. People were biking, running, you could tell that there were marathoners out on a long training run, group runs and families taking a stroll. It was so great to be outside in NYC in a different area (ie: not Central Park or the West Side Highway for a change) and be surrounded by other New Yorkers enjoying a beautiful day in the city by being active!
If you live in NYC and don't have plans this Saturday maybe you should rent bikes on Saturday and ride from Central Park down to the Brooklyn Bridge. I know if we were in town this weekend that's what we would be doing.
Post in Comments:
What is your favorite outdoor space in NYC?
Monday, August 17, 2009
This was our August book group book picked by Nicole. I had never heard of Maile Meloy so I was excited to explore a new author.
Liars & Saints is the story of three generations of the Santerre Family. The story begins with Yvonne & Teddy who get married during WWII. Before Teddy ships off for war Yvonne is pregnant with their oldest daughter Margot. Then comes Clarissa. Then the web of lies begins as Margot and Clarissa begin their teenage years. In the end there are so many family secrets that come to light that all lead back to that very first lie.
Essentially the family are Italian Catholic and there are a lot of underlying themes of religion, guilt, conscience, right vs. wrong, when is OK to lie or rather is it OK to lie, what does family mean, etc, etc.
I really enjoyed this book (even though part of the storyline is pretty messed up). I thought Maile Meloy did a great job writing it. She was very concise with her words and packed a lot into less than 300 pages. This is definitely a character driven book. The chapters alternate being narrated by all of the different characters so you really understand the story from every perspective, which we all agreed in my book group that we loved.
It definitely provided great fodder for our book group discussion! Overall, I wouldn't classify this as a must read but it was definitely enjoyable.
Post in Comments:
Have you ever read anything by Maile Meloy?
Friday, August 14, 2009
I got there at 7PM and Legends was hopping. They apparently get a great after work crowd for dinner and drinks. It's a nice looking bar, new, clean so I could see why people would want to hang out there. We were upstairs in the lounge area, which I had reserved. The lounge had all of these great chairs & comfy couches. It was a pretty cool layout.
The best part of the night though was that they had a DJ there spinning tunes primarily from the 80's! And when he would play a song he would simultaneously play the video for that song on the screens in the bar. It was awesome!!!! It was a total party atmosphere. It was a little loud but it was a lot of fun. I would definitely return to Legends on a Thursday night for drinks and dinner and I'll be back all fall cheering on the Patriots.
If you're looking for a sports bar with lots of televisions, good food, and a great atmosphere this is definitely a place to check out!
Post in Comments:
What's your favorite sports bar in NYC?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Les Halles, is a french style brasserie. It has a great feel when you walk in, it's bustling, I loved the decor, it just totally fit that Parisian style. Matt informed us that it is known for good steak so even though I was leaning towards getting the scallops (next time) I opted for a steak. I rarely eat steak or red meat, not because I'm a vegetarian, but just because I never think to order it.
We ordered drinks. Jenn and I split a bottle of the House Wine and the boys drank Vodka tonics. I wasn't in the mood for an appetizer but everyone else ordered one and they all enjoyed them. Jon and Jenn both had Croutons De Coulommiers Rotis Au Miel Et Poivre (brie topped with honey & cracked black pepper roasted and served on croutons) and Matt had a Smoked Salmon Sandwich that was one of the specials.
Then for the main course Jon had Steak Au Poivre, Frites (steak coated with cracked black peppercorn); I had Onglet A L’Echalote (hanger steak, shallot sauce); Matt & Jenn shared Côte De Boeuf (prime rib on the bone, for two).
I have to say my meal was delicious!!! The shallot sauce was out of this world. It had a light shallot taste but was also a little smoky perfect for dipping my steak pieces in. Everyone really enjoyed their meal and the people watching was fabulous!
I would definitely visit this restaurant again. If you like steak or all things French then I would recommend it as a restaurant you too should visit.
411 Park Ave S
(Btwn 28th & 29th St)
Post in Comments:
Have you eaten at Les Halles?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
In the meantime, I thought I would write a review of Home Away. We used this service when we went on our girls trip to Puerto Rico in March. For whatever reason we couldn't find a hotel suite in San Juan that would sleep 5 (suites just don't exist there!) and we didn't want to have to pay for 2 hotel rooms because it was just going to be expensive for 4 nights. My friend Rachelle informed me that for her girls trip to Napa (coming up in September) her and her friends had booked a house through Vacation Rentals by Owner. So that got me thinking, maybe we could rent an apartment for our trip!
Both sites are great resources for the savvy traveler. Renting an apartment or a house is much cheaper then getting a hotel room during your vacation, especially if you're going to be staying in one place. Of course this depends on how many people are traveling, if it's just 2 it's probably not that much different, but for a group of 5 of us it made a huge difference.
We got a great apartment downtown in the Old Historic District of San Juan. If you want to check out the place we stayed click here! For 4 nights and 2 days car rental we each only had to chip in $180! There is no way it would have been that cheap if we were staying at a hotel. I had no reservations booking through Home Away because the reviews I had seen were top notch. It was very easy to work with them. They sent me a contract and I had to put down 1/2 up front and then the other 1/2 right before we left. I also had to put down a security deposit that was returned to me once they saw that the apartment was returned to the way we found it. The woman met us at the apartment when we arrived and showed us in, gave us a tour, told us where things were in the city, gave us the keys and we were on our own. She gave us her cell phone in the event we had any problems and needed to reach her.
The other great thing about renting an apartment as opposed to staying in a hotel is that we were able to go to the grocery store and purchase food for breakfast, lunch and we ate 1 dinner in. We all chipped in about $20-$30 and that covered breakfast for 4 meals, lunch for 4 meals, 1 dinner and alcohol for the weekend. You can't beat that. We also commented that we ate a lot healthier because we were eating "at home."
Now don't get me wrong I love staying in hotels! They're awesome, but if you're looking for a more affordable way to travel with a family or with a big group of friends apartment/house rentals are the way to go!
Post in Comments:
Have you ever rented an apartment/house when traveling?
Monday, August 10, 2009
322 pages, @ 2009
I have been an avid Mary Higgins Clark fan since I was 13 and on vacation with my parents in Cape Cod. One rainy day I declared I was bored and my mother gave me While My Pretty One Sleeps and I was hooked.
I went on to read every book she'd ever written. My mother obviously is also a huge MHC fan and so every year for Mother's Day part of her gift is that I get her the latest MHC book. Luckily, once she's finished she always passes them on to me!
I realized not too long ago that I had never gotten this year's book, Just Take My Heart, so when we stopped by my parents this weekend to drop off the car I picked it up and promptly started it on the train ride back to NYC.
Just Take My Heart centers around the Bergen County assistant prosecuter, Emily Wallace, who is assigned her biggest case yet, the murder of actress Natalie Raines. The obvious suspect in this murder is Natalie's soon to be ex-husband Gregg Aldrich. Emily's, put-away witness, is an ex-con Jimmy Easton, who claims that Aldrich hired him to murder his wife. While all of this is going on, Emily, unbeknownst to her, has a larger problem on her hands, that of her creepy neighbor, Zach Lanning. Will she realize in time that he isn't who he says he is?
Of course in typical MHC fashion this book flew, I finished it in about two days! I did however, disappointingly, figure out "who done it" about half way through the book. I wouldn't say that MHC mysteries are usually the most difficult to figure out, but she usually narrows it down to two men, one who will end up wooing the main female character, and one who is the murderer and therefore trying to stop the main female character from putting all the pieces together...who can she trust?
In this book however, MHC took the approach of introducing a totally different storyline that had nothing to do with the main part of the mystery. This story line instead of adding to the mystery was just a distraction from the main plot. Therefore, I found it easier to figure out the mystery.
While I didn't think this was MHC's best effort, I did thoroughly enjoy it!
Post in Comments:
What is your favorite Mary Higgins Clark book? Mine is definitely Stillwatch!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Jon got me this book for Easter 2008. He found it at Borders and thought it looked right up my alley. In my quest to read the books Jon buys me instead of saving them I decided to pick it up.
The book takes place in the late 19th Century in England. They classify it as a psychological thriller which I'm not sure I agree with. Essentially "something" is occuring in the home of the Barton's. The Barton family includes: Joseph Barton, the father; Constance Barton, the mother; Angelica Barton, their 4 year old daughter and Nora the Irish live in maid. Constance believes that she sees a ghost haunting Angelica and becomes very over protective of the girl, calling in a spiritual advisor. Joseph, sees how distraught his wife is but does not understand the reason for her bizarre behaviour. Angelica sees the division between her parents and is unsure what to do so she plays into both of their weaknesses.
Angelica is a well written book and what I loved most about it was that there were 4 parts. The first part was the story told from Cosntance's point of view, Part 2 was told from Anne Montague's point of view (the spiritual advisor brought in by Constance to assess the situation, Part 3 was told from Joseph's point of view and the final part was told from Angelica's point of view. I thought this was a clever way to tell the story. The reader was able to understand everyone's point of view.
As a psychological thriller I would say it fell short. I knew there was going to be a twist and I was turning the pages waiting and waiting for it to come and when the twist came it was a little rushed and just fell short of my expecations. However, waiting for that twist definitely kept me engaged and turning the pages.
Overall Rating - 3 stars
Post in Comments:
Do you like psycholgoical thrillers?
Friday, July 31, 2009
That was until we hit up Jadis Wine Bar just two weeks later! This is hands down my favorite bar that we've found for ABC Club. Jadis (located at 42 Rivington Street in the LES) is a wine bar (although they do have beer). We had the back area reserved which was filled with plush leather couches surrounding a large coffee table. The decor was awesome and the food & wine were delish! They have scallops wrapped in bacon on their menu...I mean are you kidding me...best wedding appetizer ever! I've never seen them on a menu before. I also had a pear and goat cheese salad that was so good. This is a bar I definitely want to go back to again and again and again.
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Thursday, July 30, 2009
Maria Full of Grace has been on my netflix queue for sometime. Recently it was playing on the IFC channel and I dvr'd it. The other day I was looking for a relatively short movie to watch and seeing as it was only 1 hour and 45 minutes I decided to dive in.
I don't remember how this got on my netflix queue, whether it was recommended by netflix, or by a friend, but I do love foreign films so I was kind of excited. The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles.
The premise of Maria Full of Grace is a 16 year old girl from a small town in Columbia is pregnant and becomes a drug mule in order to make some much needed money for her family.
The movie was incredibly disturbing. I do not know how true to life the story is but if that's really what these women have to go through as drug mules it's just awful. I understand that they are desparate to make money but to take such a risk... While disturbing it was also bizarrely fascinating to watch. The movie was very well done; it didn't drag out, it was efficient with it's time in telling a compelling story, the acting was good, and the story itself was powerful.
Overall, I am glad I finally saw this movie and would definitely recommend it as long as you don't mind a heavy topic!
Post in Comments:
Have you seen Maria Full of Grace? What did you think?
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Since that dinner I have been back to the Turkish Kitchen at least 3-4 times! It is a great restaurant, delicious food, and great for group dinners! Although the bill can definitely add up if you're drinking bottles of wine and ordering a lot of appetizers for the table.
Our table always always gets this lamb appetizer. It's ground lamb on almost a pita. It's delish but of course it's not on their online menu (I hope they still have it!) After going numerous times and ordering all different kinds of meat, I have come to the conclusion that their best dishes are their chicken dishes!!! Specifically the Chargrilled cubes of chicken breast and fresh mushrooms on a skewer served with rice. Instead of rice though I asked them to substitute in their pan fried potatoes (so good, although probably not good for you!)
This is definitely a restaurant that I would go back to and I would recommend it to anyone in NYC!
386 Third Avenue
(between 27th and 28th Street on the west side of the street)
Post in Comments:
Have you ever eaten at the Turkish Kitchen? What's your favorite dish?
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
1059 pages, @1994
I recently noticed on Goodreads, one of my favorite websites (thanks Joe for introducing me to it!) that I had rated 299 books. Now I know for a fact that I've read more than 299 books, but since 2007 when I joined Goodreads I have rated (some that I had previously read and every book I've read since) 299 books. In realizing that whatever I read next would be my 300th book rated on Goodreads I decided it had to be good and fun (oh and because I try to read a couple of Amy's book recommendations each book journal period I was looking for a book she had read and recommended as well!)
I've recently reviewed the first two books in Gabaldon's famous series: Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber. Voyager is the 3rd book in this series of 8 books. I do not normally read books in a series so fast, because I like the series to linger and to always have something to look forward to, but since Amy had loaned me the book, and I figured I could return it to her in September when she came to visit, I decided to give the 3rd book a go!
Ahhh....Jamie Frasier and Claire Randall Fraser! In this installment, Claire Randall is in Scotland in 1978 and is searching for Jamie Fraser among the history books to see if the father of her daughter (Brianna) survived the Battle of Culloden. As she gets closer to discovering the outcome of the Battle of Culloden, she begins the big decision of will she return to Scotland circa 1700's and return to Jamie or will she stay in the present with their daughter Brianna. Well, there wouldn't be 8 books in the series if she decided to stay in the present day:) So back to the 1700's she goes and after 4 months of being reunited many adventures ensue: Jamie's smuggling operations are thwarted and he (per usual) is a hunted man, his nephew is kidnapped by pirates, there is a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the West Indies, a witch, a serial killer, a hurricane, and all the while Jamie & Claire are discovering the secrets of their twenty years apart.
Now as I've said before this is a romance novel before anything else (historical fiction, mystery, etc), but as far as romance novels go it has it all. I will also add that this installment was not nearly as smutty as say the 1st installment of the series! All in all the 1059 pages flew by - Gabaldon has really succeeded in creating characters you want to root for in Jamie & Claire. I thoroughly look forward to seeing where their adventures take them next but I think I'm going to take a break from the series as their adventures were seeming slightly riduculous for me by the end of the book.
All in all if you are into the Romance Genre this is definitely a series that you should pick up and the 3rd book was very good.
Post in Comments:
Do you read romance novels? If so, who's your favorite author?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tonight I went with two of my girlfriends and my sister-in-law to see HP6. I have to say that my expectations going into the movie were pretty low based on some reviews I read beforehand.
In HP6, Harry is still trying to defeat Voldermort. Although there isn't exactly a face to face throwdown as there has been in many of the other movies. The dark magic is trying to overpower the light magic (good vs. evil; love vs. hate).
As the kids return to Hogwarts, security has been heavily increased. Draco Malfoy has a secret mission, that could endanger people's lives. Severus Snape has made an unbreakable vow. Dumbledore is taking secret trips off the school premises. And left and right teenagers are falling in love!
This movie was visually very appealing. The director really continued to bring the Hogwarts we know and love to life. As always it was good to see the cast of characters again. The movie started off right where HP5 had left off (I'm glad I re-watched it on Monday for a refresher!) The movie moved slower than the other ones in my opinion, there just wasn't as much action. I can't remember if that's really how it felt when I was reading the book as well, or not. I did enjoy all of the "relationship awkwardness" that they students are going through. They are 15/16 after all. It definitely added a lot to the movie in the way of comic relief (in my opinion).
Standout performances: Shion & I both felt that Rupert Grint (Ron) was awesome! He was so funny! Luna Lovegood - gosh, I love her. She's just so refreshingly different from everyone else, and Evanna Lynch plays her perfectly. Professor Slughorn - ah, who doesn't love Jim Broadbent. Every since he was Bridget Jone's dad, I've had a soft spot for him:) And while he didn't have a big part - how creepy was Fenrir Greyback - he scared the crap out of me. I'm not looking forward to his larger role in HP7! eek!
While I can't say this is going to go down as one of my favorite Harry Potter movies ever, I thought that the director did a good job of setting up the 7th movie (Parts 1 & 2). I am slightly concerned about HP7 Part 1 because while I loved the 7th book I do remember the first half seeming really long and slow and I'm wondering where they are going to make the break and how they are going to keep it moving at a good pace to lead up to Part 2.
I think this is a movie that any Harry Potter fan would appreciate! I'm glad I saw it and now I think I'm going to have to go and re-read the 7th book:)
Post in Comments:
What's been your favorite HP movie so far? Mine's a toss up between Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
(The egg, whipping cream, basil & prosciutto mixed together)
(Everything cooking together in the pan)
On Saturday we will take the 90 minute train ride to Salzburg, Austria. I've been to Vienna (during that same crazy 8 countries in 4 weeks trip in December of 1999 - we actually spent Christmas in Vienna) but I've never been to Salzburg. Everyone that I've mentioned this trip to that has been to Salzburg says it is amazing. I can't wait to see for myself.
While in Salzburg we will enjoy the Sound of Music Tour, the famous Salzburg Music Festival, Mozart's birthplace (and cathedrals, palaces, etc). During our 4 days in Salzburg we will be taking two day trips.
The other day trip that we will be taking is to St. Gilgen. A spot I read about on http://www.slowtrav.com/. This is in the lake region of Austria just 30 minutes outside of Salzburg. We're going to hike from St. Gilgen half way around the lake to the town of St. Wolfgang, have lunch and take the boat back across the lake. We're really trying to incorporate a lot of outdoor activity on this trip something we've never done on an international vacation before.
Then we will be spending 3 days in the town of Fussen, Germany at the end of the romantic road (or I guess beginnging depending on where you start from!) This region is known for it's quaint medieval towns and great outdoor activities (hiking, biking, boating, etc). It's also famous for Mad King Ludwig's castles (specifically Neuschwanstein Castle pictured above.) Here we will visit the castles, hike hopefully a part of every day, perhaps bike or kayak if we can find a good place for rentals).
Monday, July 20, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
For my 30th birthday Jon got us tickets to see West Side Story. I had been saying for years "When are they going to bring West Side Story back to Broadway??" Low and behold the year of my 30th birthday was the answer.
I was so excited to go! I love the story, the music, everything about West Side Story. We had dinner beforehand and then walked over to the Theater which is at Broadway and 47th Street.
Our seats were in the last row of the orchestra. The last three rows of the orchestra were a raised section though so we had a clear view of the stage.
The play did not disappoint! The music and the dancing (espcially the dancing) was amazing! The choreography, especially during the fight scenes, was awesome. My favorite song, "America" sung by Anita and friends was easily the best song of the night. It had power, dancing, color, humor, it was spot on. And Karen Olivo, who played Anita stole the show I thought with her spunky character. She was amazing.
Maria, played by Josefina Scaglione, was also very good. Her soprano voice (she was trained as an opera singer) was beautiful. She nailed every song!
I did have two complaints though about the show. First, I though Tony, played by Matt Cavenaugh, was weak. He had a great singing voice and when he and Maria were singing their duets I loved him. However, when he spoke his voice was so "over-acted" that it really took away from his character. He just sounded ridiculous.
Second, the play was partly in Spanish. I didn't mind that so much because I was able to understand most of it, but I thought that was an interesting decision by the director, given that the average American probably does not have a solid grip on the Spanish language. The other weird part about it was that in my opinion, you either needed to commit to all The Sharks (girls & guys) speaking Spanish every time they spoke or they shouldn't speak in Spanish at all. Instead, it was very sporadic. Sometimes the characters would speak in Spanish, sometimes they wouldn't. Sometimes every other sentence was in Spanish. There were two whole songs in Spanish - "I Feel Pretty" and "A Boy Like That". It was a bummer not to be able to hear and enjoy the version that we know and love. In addition, Anita & Maria sing "A Boy Like That" in Spanish and as they finish they lead into another song "I Have a Love" that they proceeded to sing in English. The inconsistency just bothered me.
Overall, though I LOVED IT! I had so much fun watching the story unfold and I just enjoyed hearing all of the songs sung live right in front of my eyes. I would definitely recommend it to people, as long as, part of the play being in Spanish doesn't bother you. If you know the story, you'll get the gist of what's going on...
Post In Comments:
Have you seen West Side Story yet on Broadway? If so, what was your favorite song?
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Even though I may not have had a Foodie Wednesday post in awhile (last week due to internet technical difficulties at my house and prior to that just being busy with work) does not mean that I have not been cooking up a storm!
In my quest to cook all of the recipes in Giada DeLaurentis' "Everday Italian" cookbook I present to you Mushroom Risotto with Peas.
8 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2-ounce dried procini mushrooms
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup grated parmesean
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional
Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms and garlic. Using slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan.
Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stire in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes.
Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by the cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth.
Stir in the peas. Mix in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
I will say that this did take a long time to cook - I was stirring for what seemed like forever - but it was well worth it. I was nervous having never previously made a risotto and it doesn't start to really look like risotto till towards the end, so I was unimpressed with my big brown glob of mush in the pan while I was cooking!
However, the final product was outrageously delicious!!! Jon and I could not stop saying how good it was. It made about 6 servings and had 4 as leftovers. It was a fight as to who got them! I will definitely make this recipe again and I look forward to trying additional risotto recipes. Now that I've done it once it doesn't seem so scary anymore.
As a side note, when purchasing the 1/2 ounce of Porcini mushrooms you really only need 1 maybe 2 mushrooms. They are $49.99 a pound (at Whole Foods) so be careful how many you throw into the bag!!!
Post in Comments:
Have you ever made a risotto?
What are your favorite risotto flavors?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
1 - The Frick
2 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
3 - Ellis Island
4 - Museum of Natural History
5 - The New York Historical Society
6 - The Whitney
7 - The Tenement Museum
8 - The Museum of Modern Art
9 - The Folk Art Museum
10 - The Guggenheim
11 - The Skyscraper Museum
12 - The Museum of the City of New York
1 - The Frick
2 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
3 - Ellis Island
4 - The Tenement Museum
5 - The Whitney
6 - Museum of Natural History
7 - The Museum of Modern Art
8 - The New York Historical Society
9 - The Folk Art Museum
10 - The Museum of the City of New York
11 - The Guggenheim
12 - The Skyscraper Museum
Monday, July 13, 2009
Netherland was our July book group book picked by Jen. She said she chose this book because it was recommended and given to her by one of her clients. She said another reason she picked this book was because when she was reading the reviews about half said they loved the book and about half said they didn't love the book and she thought that would provide for good discussion. And a good discussion, we did have!
Netherland is primarily the story of Hans Van Der Broeck. He is originally from Holland, but moved to London for a job in his 20's and ended up marrying a Brit named Rachel. In 1997 or 1999 they decide to move to NYC just for the experience. After 9/11 Rachel becomes fearful, distant and unemotional and eventually says she's leaving, she's going back to London and she doesn't want Hans to go with her and their son.
Hans is left in NYC, living in the iconic Chelsea Hotel with other"misfits", and looking for a place to fit in. He rediscovers his love of cricket and through cricket he meets Chuck. Chuck is a dreamer, always only looking at the big picture, always living "larger than life". Hans and Chuck strike up a bizarre friendship during the rest of his stay in NYC.
This book is a story about a man, a marriage and a friend all tied into one. It deals with the immigrant experience in New York City, love, friendship, sports, family and loyalty.
So where do I stand on the book - I'm kind of teetering on the fence. My biggest problem with the book was that I didn't feel O'Neill painted any of the characters as sympathetic so really I just didn't care what happened to them, which doesn't keep you reaching for a book day after day. And Hans, oh Hans, he was so blah, he had no fight in him, no passion, no anything he was just a lump on a log used as a vehicle to tell the story. It was a shame because he was the narrator and you wanted to root for him but at the same time you just didn't really care!
One of the things I did really like about it was that New York City itself (in all of it's glory and weirdness) was a central character in the book. We all agreed that since we live in NYC that made us like the book a little more, because we could relate to some of the things that were said, or we new some of the places or people mentioned in the book. We were curious during our discussion as to what a non-New Yorker's opinion of this book would be.
All in all it was OK, but as we've discovered in book group, sometimes it's the books that are just OK that provide the best fodder for discussion. In the case of the Netherland that proved true.
As an aside, many have compared Netherland to the greatness that is The Great Gatsby. To this I strongly disagree! I mean his prose is just not as beautiful and his characters are not crafted as well. Fitzgerald has a gift (IMHO) for creating characters that you love so dearly you almost wish you have their life. Then he shows the reader that in all their glamour, they're real people, with real faults, but you love them so much that you still root for them in the end. O'Neill did not in my opinion achieve this.
However, as one of my fellow book group members pointed out, maybe when Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, his contemporaries didn't feel that way about his writing. Perhaps in 50 years if I was to revisit this book I too might feel different.
Post In Comments:
What books have provided your book group with the best disccusion??
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The New York Historical Society is located on Central Park West at 77th Street. We weren't quite sure what to expect and were pleasantly surprised. We started on the top floor at The Henry Luce III Center for The Study of American Culture. Almost the entire floor is dedicated to artifacts from New York's history. They house the largest collection of Tiffany lamps for example. You'll see busts, sculptures, toys, a real horse drawn carriage and furniture among many other things. We spent a good part of our visit wandering this floor and pointing out things from NYC's past.
There were some paintings on the 3rd Floor, but most are on the 2nd Floor. One whole side was portraits of children and adults alike, some who were even family members, all real New Yorkers. The other part of the floor was dedicated to paintings that were Hudson River School landscapes. They were large and beautiful almost entirely landscapes without people in them.
The first floor we first took in the visiting exhibition of "Landmarks of New York". This is a collection of over 80 photographs of New York's more important landmarks. They are separated out by the year in which they were built, so as you walk through the room you essentially watch New York evolve. It was hands down our favorite exhibit.
The second visiting exhibition we saw was Harlem: Photographs of Camilo Jose Vergara 1970-2009. This was a collection of photographs that would show one storefront in Harlem from the 70's, then that storefront again in the 90's and then again in present day. Not just storefronts but schools, apartment buildings, streets, etc. There were also just great photographs of Harlem in general in this exhibit. I'd have to say the coolest thing about this exhibit though was seeing the changes of time right in front of your eyes when you see how something was at one time and then you see it again in the present. Those of us that haven't lived here our entire lives don't have those images in our heads. I found it very intersting.
The last visiting exhibit that we visited which was on the second floor was Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words. This was a very small exhibit that had writing samples and letters directly from Abraham Lincoln. It was basically set up as a U shape and took you through highlights of his career. It was small but incredibly powerful (especially to one so interested in the President's). I mean to see an actual letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote, his handwriting and all...pretty cool.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to The New York Historical Society. It was the perfect size, we were able to meander our way through in 2 hours or so. I can't say that it's a museum that would have me coming back again and again, unless they had a great visiting exhibit I wanted to see, but I was certainly glad that we took the time out of our day to have the experience. New York is full of history and it's always interesting to learn more about the place where we live!
Post in Comments:
Have you ever been to the New York Historical Society?
What is your favorite time in NYC history?