Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Foodie Wednesday: Frittata with Asparagus, Tomato & Fontina Cheese

Giada De Laurentiis' Frittata with Asparagus, Tomato & Fontina Cheese

Have you ever cooked everything in any of the cookbooks that you own? For a couple of years I've thought about it...and now I've decided I'm going to do it. Yes, I'm going to cook every recipe in one of the many cookbooks that I own.

I chose my Everday Italian cookbook by Giada De Laurentiis for a couple of reasons. 1) As I've said again & again, you cannot go wrong with Giada, everything I've cooked from one of her recipes has been delicious! 2) Her cookbooks are smaller than some of the other cookbooks I own.

So the other night when I was looking for a new recipe to try I immediately took out Everyday Italian and flipped through it deciding which recipe to pick. I chose a Frittata! I haven't made many Frittat's in my life but the few I have made I've enjoyed. It looked nice and light and like it would re-heat well as leftovers so I decided to give it a go.

The Frittata was delicious and so easy to cook. I would use a smaller pan next time because it came out thin but the flavors blended together perfectly! I love asparagus and the crunchy pieces that were all throughout the Frittata gave the meal a good texture. And it re-heated well the next day for dinner and the day after that for lunch at work. I would definitely recommend this dish it was easy to cook, flavorful and delicous! (Also, as a side note, you could really put anything in this frittata: canadian bacon, onions, mushrooms, etc.)

Frittata with Asparagus, Tomato & Fontina Cheese

Serves 6

6 large eggs
2 tablespoons of whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 pieces
1 tomato, seeded and diced
3 ounces fontina cheese, cubed

Preheat the broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper to blend. Set aside. In a 9 1/2-inch-diameter nonstick ovenproof skillet, heat the oil and butter over a medium flame. Add the asparagus and saute until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato and saute 2 minutes longer. Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus mixture and sprinkle the cheese over. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the frittata is almost set but the top is still runny, about 2 mintues. Place the skillet under the broiler and broil until the top is set and golden brown, about 4 mintues. Let the frittata stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittata from the skillet and slide the frittata onto a plate. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve.

Post in Comments:

What are you favorite frittata ingredients?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Travels: The Botanical Gardens

(Jon in the Haupt Conservatory in the Palm Room).

On Memorial Day Jon and I were looking at our NYC list trying to find something we hadn't done yet that we wanted to do. After some discussion we agreed to visit the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. You can take the Metro-North train to the Botanical Garden stop. It's only a 20 minute ride and $10 round trip per person, not too bad!

We checked the schedule before we left and agreed that we would spend about 2 1/2 hours walking around the Botanical Gardens so that we could get back and still have some of the day/night to enjoy (cooking dinner, watching a movie, etc).

(A picture of the fountain in the Haupt Conservatory that features aquatic plants).

The Haupt Conservatory is the nation's largest Victorian glasshouse. It features a sampling of different climates & environments. There is the Palm Room, the Desert Room, the Rainforest Room, the Aquatic Plant Room and the Seasonal Flower Room.

(A cactus that looks like a "seat" in the Desert Room - don't sit on it!)

If I had to pick a favorite section of the Haupt Conservatory I would say either the desert or the Season Flower section. Either way the Haupt Conservatory is a neat place to explore and walk through.

(Some of my favorite flowers from the Season Flowers section!)

After we fully explored the Haupt Conservatory we wandered around through the "marshlands", through the "forest" and enjoyed the peace and quiet that is the Botanical Gardens. Next time I would pack up a back pack with sandwiches and drinks and have a picnic while we were there.

(Me with yellow roses in the Rockefeller Rose Garden).

The last place that we visited before we left was the Rockefeller Rose Garden. The Garden was designed in 1916, but it was not until 1987 that the Garden was totally rebuilt to the original design thanks to a generous donation made by David Rockefeller in honor of his wife Peggy Rockefeller. The rose garden was beautiful. There were all different colors and kinds of roses and it was just a really pretty place to wander and walk.

All in all, Jon & I really enjoyed our visit to the Botanical Gardens. It was nice to get out of NYC for a while and be in a quiet peaceful place. It was a beautiful day, perfect for strolling through such a picturesque place. I would definitely recommend a visit to the Botanical Gardens to everyone & anyone.

Post in Comments:

Have you ever been to the Botanical Gardens?

What was your favorite section?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Bookworms: The last 2 books in the Twilight Series!

Eclipse, Stephanie Meyer
629 pages, @2007

Elipse is the 3rd book in the Twilight series:) In Eclipse, Edward is back in town and him and Bella are as inseparable as ever, much to Jacob Black's chagrin. It becomes apparent that a vampire is creating "newborn vampires" in Seattle without monitoring them and they are on the loose killing people. The Cullens realize that the only way the are going to win the upcoming battle is to pair up with Jacob and "his friends". This forces Edward and Jacob to work together to (once again) save Bella. Will they be able to?

Breaking Dawn, Stephanie Meyer
754 pages, @ 2008

In the 4th and final book, Bella has finally made her choice between Edward and Jacob (thank goodness!) Looking forward to her future and joining her new family. On her honeymoon something shocking happens no one ever though possible. Soon the wrath of the Volturri is upon them and Bella and her new family once again have to fight to protect themselves.

Meyer's once again weaves a great story in both books. I will say the whole Edward or Jacob decision in the 3rd book was a little can't love them both and have them both you have to choose! I was glad that the decision was made at the end so that in the 4th book the characters could move forward. In addition, I will say that I felt that the 4th book was too long. It was 100+ pages longer than any other book in the series and it felt longer. There were just some "waiting" parts and I wish Meyer had shortened some of those scenes up. However, I thoroughly enjoyed and devoured both books (finished them in 3 days I think!)

I would definitely recommend this series for someone looking for a brain break and to escape to another world via a book! I definitely escaped reality for a couple of days.

The only other comment I have about the whole series was that I thought that Meyer's writing was pretty atrocious. She's lucky she weaves a good story because if these books were at all judged for her writing effort it would not be nearly as positive. I say that only because as a serious reader, you will need to adjust your literary perception and just get over it from the beginning and remember that you're reading the book for the story not for her literary prowess, otherwise you might not get through them!

Storytelling: 4 stars Writing: 2 stars

Post in Comments:

Did you read the Twilight series?

Did you enjoy all 4 books? Which was your favorite?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Catch-All-Fridays: Bar Review of Bourbon Street Bar & Grill

Our B Bar for ABC Club NYC was Bourbon Street Bar & Grill on West 46th Street between 8th and 9th. I picked it because our first bar was in Midtown East and so I wanted our 2nd bar to be in Midtown West. I figured that Midtown was the easiest place for people to get to so that we could begin to build a following. (A following of what - ABC Club NYC of course!)

Bourbon Street Bar & Grill has a great raised back section that we reserved for the night. It's part of the bar but separate enough as well. Every night Bourbon Street has $5 hurricanes - can we say danger, danger, danger.

It was a great space, a great atmosphere, really fun music (REALLY FUN MUSIC!!!) It is definitely a place I would go back to!

Post in Comments:

Have you been to Bourbon Street Bar & Grill?

Do you love hurricanes (the drinks, not the storms)?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Entertainment Thursdays: AFI's 10 Top 10 Challenge

Jon and I have decided to begin a movie challenge! A couple of months ago we watched the AFI's 10 Top 10. We were shocked by how many movies we have not seen that were on the AFI's 10 Top 10. So we decided not too long ago that we are going to try to watch all 100 movies. We're going to watch them one genre at a time and where we can we're going to go from 10 down to 1. I'm going to review them as they are watched and then once all 10 in a genre have been seen I'm going to put what are thoughts were on the list overall. Were they in the right order? In our opinion was there a movie not on the list that we felt should have been? Vice versa was their a movie on the list we really didn't feel deserved to be there? You get the picture.

The 10 genres are: Animation, Romantic Comedy, Western, Sports, Mystery, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Gangster, Courtroom Drama and Epic. I think it is realistic for us to finish this up in 2-3 years (that would be about one movie a week...OK maybe 3-4 years...we'll see how it goes!) We are going to re-watch any movie that we have already seen unless we've seen it within the month that we started the genre. We are starting off with the Gangster genre (that wouldn't have been my 1st choice but we recently just watched The Godfather and The Godfather II so we figured 2 movies down let's just start there...unfortunately we watched the out of order but I'm going to review them in order.)

So here we go....

#10 in the Gangster Genre is:
Release Date: December 9, 1983
Duration: 170 minutes

Scarface is the story of Tony Montana, a small timer from Cuba who recently emigrated to the United States. He begins to work with Frank Lopez and as he earns more trust and responsibility he also earns more money and power making him unable to stop as he rushes to get what he wants to ultimately be the lead guy. Will anything stop him from getting what he wants? How long will he be able to hold it all together?

So we were really excited, here we were starting our movie challenge, and watching a movie that we'd heard of with stars that we knew (namely Al Pacino as Tony Montano) and boy were we disappointed.

Scarface is totally 80's. It is so cheezy it had me laughing when I should have been covering my eyes. The music, the hair, the was HILARIOUS! I just felt compared to other Gangster movies I had seen this did not cut it. It was pretty horrible from beginning to end. The story was the same as every other gangster movie (guy starts to get power hungry, guy tries to take over the mob, guy takes over the mob and realizes that it isn't that easy, guy loses control and everything falls apart) and it just didn't have anything to me that really made it stand out except for it's ridiculous cheeziness.

I would give it 2 stars, Jon said he would give it 3 stars. I'd say take it or leave it (unless you too are working your way through AFI's 10 Top 10!)

Post in Comments:

What genre are you most excited to see me review?

I personally am looking forward to the mystery genre and western genre!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Foodie Wednesday: Arthur Avenue

As a continuation of Mother's Day after the Bronx Zoo we picked up Tim's wife Christine and drove over to Ann & Tony's restaurant on Arthur Avenue.

Arthur Avenue, is the heart of The Bronx's Little Italy. My mom had heard a lot about it and wanted to go try it out. She had done her research which landed us at Ann & Tony's restaurant. We were probably the only "non-regulars" and non-Italian people in the place! They literally had to put a table together for us towards the front of the restaurant. It was pretty cool!

We started off with a bottle of Chianti (yum!) and bread with olive oil. The olive oil was only the best dipping olive oil any of us had ever had. From what we could tell it was a combination of olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and crushed red pepper. It was divine. They had to bring us seconds because none of us could stop eating it!

It was a prix fixed menu so for our appetizer they brought out for the table: eggplant parmesean and fried mozzerella cheese. They were both delicious although I perferred the cheese because I'm not quite an eggplant lover yet. Then they brought out our pasta. We had a choice of two and I chose the penne in vodka sauce. It was delish! I should have bought some to bring home it was that good. Even though I knew I had another dish coming I just could not stop myself from finishing the bowl!

My entree was chicken parm (of course!) and it was huge. I brought 3/4 of it home for Jon for dinner that night so he got to enjoy a taste of Arthur Avenue as well. Lastly, we all had a small bowl of ice cream for dessert. We had wanted gelato but their freezer had been left over and their basement was covered in gelato so that was not meant to be.

The meal lasted about 3-3.5 hours! It was a lot of food but it was over a lot of time and it was so good. I came home and immediately changed for the gym and was down there for 90 minutes. I felt fine the next day!

Overall, I loved eating on Arthur Avenue. I would definitely return (with reservations again of course.) I would know to eat light before going next time:) It's a hidden gem and next time I would love to look in the Italian Deli's and Gourmet Food Shops to see what unique ingredients I might be able to pick up.

Post in Comments:

Have you ever eaten on Arthur Avenue?

What's your favorite Italian restaurant?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday Travels - The Bronx Zoo

(Tim on the tram as we're trying to meet up with our parents & Bridget!)

For Mother's Day my mom wanted to go to The Bronx Zoo. I hadn't been to The Bronx Zoo since I was probably 12 (oh if you could only see the photos from that trip - bad haircut and all!) So my brother and I met up and took the 5 train (because I have an aversion to the 1,2,3 trains) to 145th Street where we promptly had to switch to the 2 train because that was the only way to get to the Zoo (oops sorry Tim!)

We walked the couple of blocks from the subway station to the Zoo and were ready to go. Only problem, my parents were in Parking Lot B waiting for us and they had already purchased our tickets. We realize Gate A is not where we need to be so we ask the woman there how to get to Parking Lot B. She tells us to go out the corner and up the block and turn right when the street ends. So we walk the 15 minutes in the direction she says only to end up in Parking Lot C! Yikes. We walk up to the guy collecting money from the cars (and yes, a car pulled up behind us as we were asking him directions!) He informed us that Parking Lot B was literally on the opposite side of the Zoo from where we were and that the best way to get to them was to go through the Zoo.

We discovered that our parents could return the tickets they had purchased for us so we bought tickets and then tickets on the shuttle because everyone informed us that we couldn't possibly walk to where we needed to go. As we were on the shuttle driving to the other side of the park my brother was looking at the map and realized it would have taken us 10-15 minutes to walk it. Oh well...lesson learned.

(The trainer feeding the sea lions.)

After meeting up with our mom, dad & Bridget (our grandmother) we caught the feeding of the sea lions! I love the sea lions. They did all sorts of fun tricks and it was fun to watch them.

(A picture of the baby sea lion - he was just a pup!)

After the Sea Lions we walked through the monkey house, saw the bears, baboons, tigers, etc. We also took a tram ride through the Asia section of the park. There we got to see the elephants, rhinoceros, different kinds of deer, wild horses among other things. We spent a good 2 1/2 hours wandering the zoo.

(The Giraffes!)

All in all once we met up we really had a nice time at the zoo. We just walked our own pace and saw what we were able to see. Everyone had a really nice time! Jon and I need to go back this summer...I didn't get to see the gorillas which I'd like to see and Jon has never been to The Bronx Zoo and it's on our NYC list. So I'm sure I'll be posting about it again. It's a great day trip for people of ALL ages!

Post in Comments:

What is your favorite animal to see at the Zoo?

Mine is easily the penguins or the giraffes!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Bookworms: Dragonfly in Amber & New Moon

Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon
961 pages, @ 2001

A couple of months ago I started the Outlander series. Dragonfly in Amber is the second book in the series.

In Dragonfly in Amber, Claire Randall returns to Scotland with her 20 year old daughter, Brianna, who has flaming red hair! She is there to do some research on the Battle of Culloden. She then flashes back and picks the story up from where it left off with her and Jamie Fraser arriving in Paris, trying to thwart the Bonnie Prince Charles from taking the thrown in order to protect Scotland and it's people.

Dragonfly is a good 2nd novel. It dragged a little bit in the beginning because there was not as much "action" more plotting and a lot of characters to get to know! However, once past page 300 it was back to what one expects from Gabaldon - action, romance and suspense! I could not put it down. And I cannot wait to start on Voyager the 3rd book in the series.

If you are into romance, action and light on historical fiction then these books are for you!

4 stars

New Moon, Stephanie Meyer

Ok, I have already warned you in my last Monday Bookworms post that I have become totally addicted to the Twilight Series.

In New Moon, Edward decides that the best thing for Bella would be him leaving. She is upset beyond belief and turns to Jacob Black for comfort. The friendship blossoms until all of a sudden he won't return her calls or see her. Soon she learns his secret. Towards the end of the novel Edward is in danger and Bella has to go rescue him and she has to choose: Jacob or Edward.

Once again, Meyers weaves a great story together. I liked that this book focused on Jacob Black's character. It sets up the 3rd book nicely. I would say that Meyers writing is a little better here or maybe I just thought the story was better and didn't notice the writing as much! I'll review the 3rd and 4th book in the Twilight series next you can't wait.

4 Stars

Friday, May 15, 2009

Catch-All Fridays: Bar Review Artica Bar & Grill

I mentioned when I started my bar reviews with Donnybrook Bar that I would backtrack and review bars we had visited prior to D with ABC Club NYC!

Our first outing back in March was at Arctica Bar & Grill. I had never been there even though it's in my neighborhood. There were not that many "A" Bars to choose from.

The owner of the bar was awesome. We were able to use the private room in the basement level of the bar for free and he extended the Happy Hour for us till 10PM. Can't beat that!

I definitely like the upstairs part of the bar (in the above picture) better - it has a lot of character and there is this great seating in the back with big couch type chairs and a fireplace, which would be cozy for a cold winter night. I love the decor. The downstairs room was big, had a couple of high top tables, a pool table and of course TV's! It was the perfect spot for an event for 40 people.

Arctica Bar & Grill is definitely a bar I would return to most likely during the winter months! If you haven't been you should check it out.

Arctica Bar & Grill
384 3rd Avenue (between 27th and 28th Streets)
New York, NY 10001
(347) 329-4277

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Entertainment Thursday: 1776, The Musical

Ah...what's that you didn't know that 1776 was a Musical? Well, it is and it's fabulous!!! Maybe it's a Jersey thing, but I grew up on the musical 1776. A musical about the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of our nation. I own the DVD, I've seen the show on Broadway, I've had sing-a-longs of the whole soundtrack on school field trips, and a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing the production once again at the Paper Mill Playhouse.

My mother, grandmother and aunt have season tickets to the Paper Mill Playhouse. With those season tickets you get two opportunities to purchase just two tickets to any show that season for just $20. My mother has been kind enough since I've returned to let me know the season ahead of time and ask me what I'm interested in seeing. Since I've been home, I've accompanied them to Kiss Me Kate, Little Shop of Horrors and Oklahoma.

Well, 1776 is soooo good, that not only did I go but my sister and my uncle went as well! We had lunch beforehand at David Burke's, Restaurant M.C. (Foodie Wednesday, Restaurant Review to follow soon...) and then walked over to the theater for the show.

The set is basically Independence Hall and John Adams, Ben Franklin & Thomas Jefferson are the main characters in the play. The music is fun, the history lesson is always important, and I thought the Paper Mill's production was so good, I almost cried at the end (they almost had me)!

If you are a history buff, this is definitely a movie you should rent, if not, then you probably think I'm incredibly dorky! For me, I know that if it ever comes back to Broadway, I'll be there!

A congressional incubator, Lord knows that the temperature is hot enough, to hatch a stone, but let alone an egg.

Post In Comments:

Have you seen 1776? What's your favorite song from the soundtrack?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Foodie Wednesday: Restaurant Review, Penelope Cafe

A couple of year's ago a girl I went to college with recommended this restaurant with me. It's literally blocks from where I live but I didn't get there until the end of 2008, right before Jon and I thought we would be moving out of the city. We had such a great experience we were so sad that we weren't going to have more time to go back.

Then we decided to stay in town, since then, we go back every opportunity we get. It's definitely one of our two favorite neighborhood restaurants.

Last Wednesday, I went to Penelopes with Shion, Christina & Emily after book group to celebrate Shion's new job. I suggested it because it was close to our book group meeting and close to the 6 train, so easy for everyone to get home.

We only had to wait about 10 minutes for a table, so we each got a drink at the bar, and ended up brining them to our table. We ordered the artichoke & spinach dip for an appetizer. This is THE BEST artichoke & spinach dip I've ever had. They serve it in a bowl and toasted pieces of homemade bread are what it is served with to spread the dip on. It is divine. (Hopefully everyone else liked it!)

For dinner I was debating between trying something new and getting my "usual". Shion suggested that we split our dinners so that I could try something new and she could try two different things. So she ordered the Hummus and Avocado sandwich (description: Hummus and Avocado with tomato, red onion, arugula, and a drizzle of balsamic dressing on somun bread). I went ahead an ordered my usual the Veggie Burger. I am not a vegeterian by any stretch of the imagination but their Veggie Burger is out of this world! (description: Veggie Burger Heaven flame-grilled garden burger on a toasted english muffin with pesto mayo, sliced red onion, greens, and tomato). It is so flavorful and after our dinner Shion & I both agreed that the Veggie Burger Heaven was the better sandwich.

Next time I go I'd like to try one of their salads...but I don't know that I'll be able to pass up the Veggie Burger....we'll see! If you're ever in NYC and looking for a real kitchy, eccentric, low key, neighborhoody place with good prices and great food, Penelope Cafe is definitely worth the visit.

159 Lexington Avenue at 30th Street
New York, NY 10016
(212) 481-3800

Post in Comments:

Have you ever eaten at Penelope's? Did you love it?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tuesday Travels: A Day in Downtown NYC

(Tiffany & I outside Fraunces Tavern after lunch!)

Ever since Jon and I moved to NYC - we've been talking with our friends Gary & Tiffany about doing a downtown New York tourist day. After two years of talking about it last Saturday we actually did it! We started out with lunch at Fraunces Tavern. This was an establishment frequented by General George Washington himself. He was good friends with the then owner and this building was used for many secret meetings. He gave his farewell address to his officers on the eve of his retirement on December 4, 1783. It's a pretty historic place. We went there for lunch and ate in the Tavern side. It was pretty empty, which I wasn't that surprised by. What did surprise us was the quality of the food. We were expecting an over-priced tourist trap and while it was a little overpriced I have to say that the Turkey Club was amazing!!! I would definitely go back there again - I love being that close to history.

(Jon and I standing where George Washington was inaugurated as the 1st President of the United States.)

After that we mosied on down past the Stock Exchange to the place where George Washington was inaugurated as the 1st President of theUnited States. We stood up on the stairs and imagined what it must have been like with the streets lined with people during the birth of our Nation. Pretty powerful stuff!
(A View of Trinity Church from Wall Street.)

Then we headed up to Trinity Church. This building used to be the tallest building in New York prior to the building of the skyscrapers. Pretty crazy to think about now! The church on the inside is beautiful but very small. Much smaller than I was expecting. We went in and walked around and then spent some time meandering through the graveyard. Alexander Hamilton and Robert Foulton (inventor of the Steam Ship) are both buried here so we found their tombs and read a few others.
(Jon, myself, Tiffany & Gary with the bull!)

We then of course went and got our picture taken with the Bull! He looks pretty angry. The main purpose of our day was that we were going to visit the Skyscraper Museum over in Battery Park. It was only $5 to get in but once inside we understood why. It's pretty small, just one floor, and we were unfortunately disappointed. Don't get me wrong we were glad we went because we would have wondered what it was like, but it didn't live up to our expectations. I thought there would be all these great exhibits on the building of the skyscrapers in NYC during the early 1900's. You know all those old pictures of the guys sitting way up in the sky on those beams seeming to not have a care in the world??? Instead there was none of that and the whole museum is a visiting exhibit. So the exhibit we saw was about Hong Kong and how it compared to New York - which is the Skyscraper capital of the world. We're all glad we went but it's not something we would recommend.

Afer that we walked down to Wagner Park where you can see the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. We went to Gigino a little restaurant right there with outdoor seating and enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and bruschetta (delish!) It was a nice way to end the day with great conversation, great friends, great wine, and great views! I think that Jon and I may have to go back there this summer for dinner because the food looked amazing.

Post in Comments:

Have you spent time exploring downtown NYC? If so, what's your favorite thing to do downtown?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Bookworms: Vampires & Salinger

Twilight, Stephanie Meyer

498 pages @2005

OK, so I know that I have been MIA from my blog and this book, no this series, is the reason why. IT IS SO ADDICTING!!!

When my new co-worker started 6-8 weeks ago she recommended the series to me and brought the first book in the series in for me, therefore making it more likely I would read it. I had a gazillion books home from the library that I needed to get through before I could pick this up. Finally once I finished all the library books I decided I would just read this real quick so I could return it to Christina.

I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into. Twilight is the story of Bella Swan. She moves from Phoenix, Arizona to Forks, Washington (?) to live with her dad because her mom is getting remarried. On the first day of school she sees Edward Cullen from afar and is instantly drawn to him. She doesn't understand his hositility to her at first but then as she discovers what he is she begins to understand. But can she help herself from falling in love with him? Even though she knows his secret?

This is totally a PG romance novel for tweens (at least so far...). Meyer's writing is not at all impressive and I found the 1st book a little repititive at times but her storytelling is pretty addicting. She's certainly weaved a good story, one that keeps you turning the pages, and continuing on with the series.

I'm currently on book 3 and hoping to finish the 4th book by this weekend. Then you'll have my take on the entire series (so far I can say that each book is getting better in my opinion.) I would recommend the series, especially as a good summer, brain break.

4 Stars

Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger
202 pages, @1961

On to more literary books! Franny and Zooey was Emily's book group pick for May. I was excited to pick it up because I'd read Catcher in the Rye and remember liking it so I was looking forward to getting to read Salinger again.

The book is broken down into two shorter stories. The first story, titled Franny, takes place in a small college town. Franny is meeting her boyfriend Lane Coutell for lunch and a football game. However, over lunch as she listens to him talk on and on about his most recent essay that he's written, she begins to have an unexplained mental breakdown.

In the second story, titled Zooey, Franny is back at home at The Glass Family home in NYC. Zooey, one of her older brothers, and Bessie, her mother, are trying to figure out how they can help Franny. During this part of the book you get a lot of background information on The Glass Family.

This was definitely a piece of literature. One that at times I felt was a bit over my head. I was glad that I was able to make it to book group to discuss the book because I felt it helped me to understand it better. Themes in Salingers's book are: family, defining moments in life, intellectuals, religion and perhaps even the meaning of life.

We all agreed during our discussion that the character of Zooey was probably an accurate portrayl of Salinger himself. And while I didn't love the book, I definitely would be curious to read, The Nine, by Salinger. I've heard that some of the short stories in that book are about The Glass Family and I'd be curious to learn more.

3 Stars

Post in Comments:

Have you read the Twilight Series? If so, what did you think of it?

Have you read Franny & Zooey? Which character did you like best?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Catch-All-Fridays: East End Bar Review

As you know from my bar review of Donnybrook a couple of weeks back, I'm part of this group called ABC Club NYC. This is my review of our "E Bar" which was East End Bar and Grill on the Upper East Side.

The place was a decent size and we had this little section up in the front to ourselves. We didn't get as big a crowd as we had when we hit up the bars in midtown and downtown. People felt the Upper East Side was a bit far.

While the atmosphere of the bar itself isn't anything to write home about their drink specials certainly are. Every Thursday you can pay $15 and have an open bar from 7-10PM. Granted the open bar only consists of Bud Light and Well Drinks. But hey, I'm a Bud Light kinda of girl, so this is my kind of deal!

They have a juke box and so there is always a good selection of music playing and it definitely gets more crowded the later it gets. I wouldn't go out of my way to go hear again but if I found myself on the UES on a Thursday night I would certainly take advantage of the drink specials.

For more information you can click here to visit their website.

East End Bar & Grill
1664 First Avenue (between 86th and 87th Street)
New York City, NY 10028
(212) 348-3783

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Entertainment Thursday: Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs

@ 1992

Randomly Jon and I got this movie off our Netflix queue. OK well, it wasn't that random, I mean I had put it in our queue, but it was pretty random we chose to watch it.

I had remembered hearing about it in high school and I remember the soundtrack well! I was excited as I felt this was kind of a movie that everyone my generation had seen.

Boy, was it bizarre. Essentially the plot is that this group of men are going to rob a jewelry store and something goes wrong, the cops come, people die and a few of them end back at the meeting spot. Everyone jumps to conclusions and it's basically a long drawn out conversation with flashbacks as to what they should do next.

I can't say that I really enjoyed it necessarily while we were watching. There were a lot of long drawn out scenes and at times I was like, "What is the point of this movie?" But the ending was so a weird way...but I liked the way it ended and it brought the whole movie together for me. So I found that redeeming. I can't say that I would outrightly recommend it but I'd be curious to hear what other people thought of this movie (Quentin Tarantino's first!)

3 Stars

Post in Comments:

Have you seen Reservoir Dogs?

Did you like it?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Foodie Wednesday: Cooking Light Cinnamon Raspberry Muffins

(Muffins in the pan having just come out of the oven!)

My friend Christina had a housewarming party in early May for her new condo! I offered to bring something and immediately decided on Cooking Light's Raspberry-Filled Cinnamon Muffins. These are a family favorite and I've been making them for years. This seemed like the perfect excuse to make some!

(A View of the Muffin broken open - see the raspberry jam in the center - YUM!)

These are really easy to make. I made a double batch and it took me about an hour overall. They are delicious, freeze well, and make a great breakfast or snack!

Raspberry-Filled Cinnamon Muffins
(The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook @ 2000)

1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup low-fat or nonfat buttermilk
1/4 cup stick margarine or butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking Spray
1/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves
1 tablesppon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, margarine, and egg; add to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Sppon about 1 tablesppon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Spoon 1 teaspoon preserves into center of each muffin cup (do not spread over batter), and top with remaining batter.

4. Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; place on a wide rack. Yeild: 1 dozen (serving size: 1 muffin).

Post in Comments:

What is your favorite kind of muffin?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Biking Around NYC

(Jon on the West Side Highway path - with Jersey in the background!)

One of the items on our list of things to do in NYC was to bike around the entire island of Manhattan. Now we didn't quiet accomplish that on Sunday, April 26th when we headed up to the Upper East Side to rent bikes & helmets, but we still had fun. We rented our bikes from Bike Heaven on East 62nd between 2nd and 1st. It didn't take that long and we were off on our way.

I'm not an incredibly strong biker, I probably bike once a year, and it's always a challenging experience for me, yet I continue to suggest these crazy bike riding ideas and end up doing them. Last year when we biked Valley Forge (another one of my crazy ideas that almost got us killed when our bus driver dropped us off in the wrong spot on the side of an almost highway that we had to cross...but that's another story for another time) I broke the bike (chain fell off) and didn't learn how to use the gears until we were almost done (and let me tell you those hills at Valley Forge without bike gears - really tough!)

So needless to say, you can imagine how nervous I was about biking in NYC. I informed Jon that I was going to walk my bike to the path about 3 blocks away along the river because I wasn't comfortable riding next to the taxis on 2nd Avenue. He met me there opting to ride.

(Me at the top of the stairs on the East Side River after we carried our bikes up - Roosevelt Island is behind me - I think!)

We biked up the east river to about 116th street where the path ended. We opted to just go straight across the island as opposed to going North and going all the way around. I made it across the island biking in the road with the cars although it wasn't nearly as congested up at 116th street. When we got to the West Side Highway or River Side Park we biked down to about 67th street.

At that time we decided to be adventurous because Jon really wanted to bike in Central Park. We biked part way across Manhattan in a pretty congested area to Central Park and entered at 72nd Street (and yes, we survived and it wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be but I was also feeling more comfortable on the bike having been on it for about 2 hours). We biked down Central Park and exited on the Southeast corner and then rode in the streets again heading back to the bike shop.

It was definitely an adventure. It was such a great way to see NYC in a different way. It was calming, relaxing, there were a ton of other people out on the paths enjoying the perfect NY day, and we just really loved every minute of it.

Next time I think we're going to rent bikes down by the Seaport and bike along the path towards the Southern part of the island! I'll make sure to blog and let you know how it goes....:)

Post in Comments:
Have you ever biked in NYC? Do you enjoy it or find it hectic?
What is your favorite bike route?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bookworm Monday: Tom Wolfe & Jodi Picoult

The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe

685 Pages, copyright 1987 long last (and a good 3 months late) I finish the New Classics Reading Challenge. The Bonfire of the Vantities was the 6th (and final) book that I read for my very first Reading Challenge. Even though I finished late, I finished. The New Classics Reading Challenge was the reason I picked up this book, although it has always been on my list of "must read" books.

The Bonfire of the Vanities takes place in New York City in the 1980's. It follows Sherman McCoy, a bond tradesman, at Pierce & Pierce; Peter Fallow, a British ex-patriate, who works for The City Lights, a local tabloid newspaper; Larry Kramer, an assistant district attorney in the Bronx; and Reverand Reginald Bacon an activist.

One incident that occurs in the book will bind all of these characters together. Bonfires of the Vanities tackles the issues of GREED, social class, racism and ambition. The title literally means a huge fire of the vanities/conceits of all the characters in the book. I don't want to say what the incident is because I do not want to give away too much of what happens, so you'll just have to read the book to find out.

I have only read Tom Wolfe one time prior to this, I Am Charlotte Simmons. Wolfe's strength is taking everyday life and filling it with the most despicable, unsympathetic characters. There are few characters I have hated more than Wolfe's. He takes it to excess.

The first half of this book Wolfe works in great details to build these characters, to make you the reader understand each of them and what makes them tick. Then the incident occurs and the book really takes off. While I criticized what I felt was his excessive character development I understood why he did it as I was reading the 2nd half of the book.

I felt that the 2nd half of the book redeemed itself. Wolfe certainly makes you think. When everyone's motives are wrong then who is right? How many of us every given day are motivated by truly selfless motives? What would we have done if we were in the shoes of any of these different characters (well, I hope a lot - because like I said they were pretty despicable!)

Overall, I would say this book is a take it or leave it purely based on the length. It was a long haul and a real commitment to read and I'm not sure at the end I was satisfied. I was certainly happy that I had read Wolfe's most beloved and well known novel but I can't say I would enthusiastically recommend it. If you told me you were reading it though I'd be interested to discuss it with you.

3 Stars

Perfect Match, Jodi Picoult
352 pages, copyright 2002

I decided it was time to pick up another Jodi Picoult book because I hadn't read her in awhile.

The premise of Perfect Match is, Nathaniel Frost, a 5-year old boy, is sexually molested and his parents decide to take justice for their son into their own hands. The book makes you question what makes a good parent and what would you or wouldn't you do to protect your child?

I did not think that this was one of Picoult's stronger novels. I just felt too much happened, once you got over one hurdle something else went wrong and so on and so forth. Most things that went wrong centered around the mother, Nina Frost. She was not a sympathetic character and it was hard for me to get behind some of the decisions she made. I found her incredibly selfish, claiming to do the things she was doing for her son, but it seemed like she was doing them more for herself and what she could and could not live with. Now granted I'm not a mother so maybe I would have felt differently if I had a 5 year old son and I was reading this novel.

In addition, I found child molestation a very difficult topic to read about. It's not very uplifting and you really do not want to know the details. Thankfull Picoult was not too graphic. I will also say that I was displeased with the ending of this book...but I won't say more about that because I do not want to give it away.

With all that said I did not hate the book. I thought her writing was strong and she once again tackled a very timely issue. This book was published in 2002 during the Catholic Church scandal. I would not outright recommend it but if you were to pick it up I wouldn't say it was a bad read, it was just OK.

3 stars

Post in Comments:

Have you read Tom Wolfe? Do you like his writing style?

What's your favorite Jodi Picoult book?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Catch-All Fridays: Running Challenge

Man oh man, lesson learned. Last week I was so excited to blog about the show Castle and I had just seen the movie 17 Again so I decided to just blog twice on Entertainment Thursday leaving me where this Thursday - nowhere - becuase I had no fun entertainment news to share, no new movie reviews, nothin'. Lesson learned, next time I'll just share one and save the other for later! I'm watching a movie tonight though so I'll definitely have a movie review for next Thursday.

Running Challenge

Ok, Ok I'll admit it I've totally let my stress fracture from almost two years ago and the fact that I say I don't like running in NYC ruin my running stride. So I'm setting a running challenge for myself to keep me motivated and to get back into the running shape I used to be in. So here it is:

There are 35 weeks left in the year and if I average 15 miles running per week then I will top 500 miles for the year (not including miles I've already logged).

I am going to sign up for at least 4 road races between now and the end of the year, starting possibly with the Mother's Day run at 8AM in Central Park next Sunday - 4 miles - totally doable although it may not be pretty! My friend Shi is running and I'm thinking I may join her as long as my mother doesn't have early morning plans for us all that day.

I will run in new places in NYC (ie: around the reservoir in Central Park, finally do the full 6+mile loop in CP, run North along the East River instead of always running south, run North along the West Side Highway, etc). I'm going to explore.

I'll post reviews of any new routes that I try and let you know what I think. Maybe just maybe by the time I leave this city for the suburbs I'll be converted to a runner who loves running in NYC (doubtful but I'm keeping an open mind).

Post in Comments:

How do you keep yourself motivated with your running?

PS - Shi, I might steal your idea of running on Roosevelt Island. I've always wanted to go over there but never had a reason to. Maybe running around RI will be one of my new routes!