Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween in the Park

I have been sick with a cold all week and have been working a lot, so this weekend arrived with a big sigh of relief. Even though it was Halloween weekend, I needed the rest and relaxation, so we skipped the parties and the costumes and instead snuggled under the covers and watched the 80's vampire hit, The Lost Boys (it was good!)

On Sunday, I woke up finally feeling like myself, so I decided to go on a walk in Central Park. It was just what I needed: the fresh air, the nature, the festive tourists, and oh, it was Halloween!

Tourists at Bethesda Terrace.

Pooh and Mickey

Alice in Wonderland posse

Angel and the devil.

Usually, New York City's fall foliage isn't spectacular, as the colors are rather dull and there is the chance if you are not observant (or don't visit a park) you might miss the whole thing. Most of the trees in the Park were pretty average, except for this one tree that just glowed.

People couldn't help but flock to this beautiful tree, and boy, was it a stunner. (BTW: none of these pictures are color-corrected. This is legit Mother Nature at its best, people!)

Everyone was taking pictures, not just me!

In all of my years living in NYC, we have never had a trick-or-treater visit us. Through the years, I have seen many kids visit in costume walk into pizza shops and bodegas, asking for candy, which I always thought was a little strange. On my way home from the park, I found a bunch of kids trick-or-treating for real. The beautiful brownstones in the neighborhood were decorated with cobwebs, lights and skeletons, and there was a mob scene of children on the sidewalk, decked out in costume, getting some candy the old-fashioned way.

I thought this girl had the sweetest face.

Who's that scary person in the window?

Help! Out of these options, what do you think should be my picture of the day for my 365 project? I can't decide. What do you think best represents my Halloween?

UPDATE: I went with the scary person in the window. I actually liked the picture of the little girl better, but her dad standing behind her with the camera ruined the pic for me.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I spend my days looking for a picture. Finally, a picture that found me.

Can you believe that the 365 Photo Project is half way done? While I am no master photographer just yet, I am happy to report that I am getting better. Practice works.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Too much work

I was really looking forward for this weekend. For weeks, it stood on my calendar empty and inviting. I told everyone who would listen I planned to keep it that way, and I would spend it dedicated to my creative projects that have been sitting on the back burner for ages. This weekend, I imagined, I would be fruitful and productive on my things...for once.

Then Thursday, I heard about a writing job for a new client, an online retailer, who had what could only be called a sh*tload of work to do. I do want more digital writing experience on my resume, and it's hard for me to turn down a paycheck, so I accepted the assignment, even though I knew that I would be working day to night every single day of my empty weekend. Creativity took its place back on the back burner. Instead I spent my entire weekend frantically writing hundreds of listings about beauty products. Sigh.

My mom worked on an assembly line for most of her work-life packaging over-the-counter products like Ben-Gay, Visine and Desitin. I spent two summers in college working with her and that experience of watching millions of bottles traveling down a belt, getting filled and packaged, changed my entire perspective on things. I can no longer walk through a drug store and not think about how all those boxes on the shelves got there.

Well, after this writing assignment, I have a whole new respect for online retailers and the written descriptions you see on those pages. Someone had to write those, there are so many of them and gosh it is so tedious. Reminded me of the assembly line.

Nestled between my workload, I did have some downtime, though my brain and body felt completely fried. Annette came into town on Thursday night, and we ate sushi at Ruby Foo's and saw Fela on Broadway, starring Patti Labelle. Then on Sunday night, Meagan and Julie came over for dinner. I made a spinach quiche and salad, and we had chocolate fondue for dessert. It was great to see them, but by the end of the night, I had a head ache and was down with a fever. This weekend completely drained me. I took the day off from work on Monday and slept all day.

Before the guests arrived.

Annette in Times Square.

There isn't a gum ball machine or trinket game that my sister doesn't want to play.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jim and Catie Wed

This weekend, Dan and I went to San Francisco for Jim and Catie's wedding. Dan went to high school with Jim, and we stayed with another fellow Visalia mate, Brad and his lovely wife, Holly. It was a whirlwind 48-hour trip, with little time for sightseeing, though luckily, their apartment had sweet views of Alcatraz.

View from their living room window!

Some things we did get to do this weekend: We walked around Brad and Holly's fun and lively neighborhood of Pacific Heights that had tons of cute restaurants, bars and shops. Dan and I popped into American Cupcake where we had a cotton candy cupcake (disappointingly, it did not taste as good as it sounded). We met up with my friend Megan and her boyfriend Ralph at a wine bar on Polk Street for a few drinks. Dan and Brad went on a run, and Dan tested his endurance on SF's famous hills. I spent most of the weekend wrapped up in conversation with Holly. If she and I lived in the same city, we'd be best friends. We just have a great connection. So she's trying to make us move to SF. We're not entirely sold, but Dan said that he was more fond of the city this time around compared to our last visit. (Though I think the nice weather had something to do with it!)

And then of course, there was the wedding:

Dan and his bow tie preparations.

Jim and Catie had a beautiful ceremony at St Catherine's Church located in Hillsborough, just outside of San Francisco. Here's Dan and our hosts Brad and Holly outside the church.

Mr and Mrs James Hurley!

The priest was Irish, the bag piper wore a kilt and boy, did that baby really know how to party. He was up all night, in good spirits!

The couple was whisked away in a street car.

The reception took place at the Burlingame Country Club which looked like a scene straight out of Wedding Crashers.

We enjoyed fresh potato chips in a Catie and Jim-branded pouch.

Hanging out with Valerie and Ryan during cocktail hour.

The signature drink.

Dan, Brad and Jim.

V-towners unite!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Apple Picking

It was kind of a boring weekend because Dan and I spent most of it doing some household errands and such, but two things of note:

1. We saw The Social Network, which is probably one of the best movies I have seen in a really long time. Go see it!

2. It was such a lovely weekend (much too nice weather for all work and no play) so we decided to go apple picking at a farm close to my parents' house in NJ. I have never been before. It was super crowded with families and kiddies. We gathered a half peck of apples of all different varieties (we didn't even use an apple picker....Dan would just jump and grab!) We also purchased three little pumpkins that I put on our window sill. They make me very happy.

This picture makes me happy, too.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dan and I get our 15 minutes of fame

A few weeks ago, I told my friend Katie, "Guess what? Dan and I are going to be featured in Style Me Pretty!"

Katie replied, "Oh my God, Yvonne. That's so great. Congratulations!"


"Um, what's Style Me Pretty?"

You probably wouldn't know this unless you have been planning a wedding lately, but Style Me Pretty is one of the biggest and best wedding blogs out there. I sort of became addicted to it when I was planning my own, and it offered me lots of inspiration and escape from the doldrums of my unemployment days. I wondered if Dan and I were up to snuff to be a Style Me Pretty featured wedding, so I submitted our photos in and we made it!

They posted our wedding today, so check it out.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Age 32: My First Day

This is what 32 looks like.

For my 32nd birthday, the grand-finale of our "European vacation," Dan and I went to Belgium. Or rather, we went to B. Cafe. I had passed by this restaurant many times on my way to Central Park but had never been, and it's a small, romantic spot right in our neighborhood, perfect for a happy birthday meal.

We shared a salad filled with greens, juicy tomatoes, beets and goat cheese to start and then both of us ordered huge bowls of steaming hot mussels. They came with french fries and a wonderful condiment assortment of ketchup, mayonnaise and the orange stuff. The food was hearty and warm, and I probably ate a loaf of French bread in an hour.

Dan didn't want to split a dessert as we usually do, so we ordered two: the chocolate molten cake and a Belgian waffle topped with powdered sugar, chocolate, ice cream and whipped cream. Without my knowing, though it was suspicious because he dashed to the bathroom right after we ordered, Dan told the waiter it was my birthday.

"Do you want the music?" she asked.


I saw the waiter coming with my dessert with the lit candle, which I sort of expected. But what was completely out of the blue was the cheesy birthday music they played over the loudspeaker, which made the entire restaurant come to a complete standstill for what seemed like ages. Finally, when the song neared its end, eternities later, I made a wish (it's a secret!) and blew out my candle.

It was a lovely birthday meal, a great end to our European vacation, and I am so grateful to have such a loving and thoughtful husband like Dan who planned all of this for me.

As I was getting ready for bed, I felt a wave of nausea, but I figured it was nothing since I never get sick. But then, for the next hour, I proceeded to puke out my entire dinner! Dan and I had talked about going on a diet on October 6th to make up for all of our eating in the past few weeks, but binge and purge was not what I had in mind.

I guess you can say my birthday was memorable.

Pre-vomit: Dan and I practicing our "character heads."

Note for mom: I feel all better today.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Vacation Continues

Day 4, Vienna
We spent the evening at the Neue Galerie, a small museum devoted to German and Austrian art, located right in our neighborhood. We saw one of the best exhibits I've seen in ages: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt's "Character Heads." Basically, the exhibit consisted of a bunch of head sculptures making all these facial expressions, such as yawning or grimacing. According to the museum's web site: "To produce these works, the artist would look into the mirror, pinching his body and contorting his face. He then rendered, with great precision, his distorted expressions." They were awesome. Some of them had funny names like "Afflicted with constipation." For dinner, we had kebab at this quaint Middle Eastern restaurant. After all, you can always find great kebab in Eastern Europe.

Day 5, New York, Czech Republic and back to New York
So the guide book said we'd be going to the Czech Republic, but the travels fell at the same time as The New Yorker Festival, AKA Dan's favorite event of the year, so we did some back and forth.

Dan in his element

First, we went to see New Yorker writer James Surowiecki talk about Talent and Luck. Even though I had gotten enough sleep the night before, I was totally falling asleep during the lecture! Dan and Jason loved it, but it was not for me. We also went to see Tales out of School, where New Yorker writers such as Susan Orlean, Jeffrey Toobin, Calvin Trillin and David Gran, and Jane Mayer, reminisced their personal experiences working at the magazine. It was very funny and interesting which made up for the last one.

In between lectures, we headed uptown to a Czech Republic street fair. The fair consisted of only one city block, but it was filled with tons of people listening to live Czech rock music and eating Czech food. Just like my experiences in the country, the people were a bit chilly and the dessert was lousy, but otherwise it was a good time and a nice break from the festival.

Kayleen's brother Jarrett and friend Chad were in town, so at the end of the night, we met up with them and some friends to catch up and have a drink.

Creepy marionettes

My plate of Czech food

Day 6, Slovakia and Poland
We had a big day ahead of us: not one, but TWO countries. But long ago, before this trip was planned, Dan and I signed up for a 5k cross-country race in Van Cortlandt Park. For those who don't know, that's in the Bronx, about an hour from our apartment! I had run the race before back in 2003, and it's very fun because it is a race like no other in NYC. It's small and it feels like you are back in high school in gym class. You first run across a field of grass and then through a curvy and hilly trail in the woods. It's hard, but in a good way.

After the race, we headed back home to shower and refuel and then we made our way to Long Island City, Queens, for a quick stop at Slovakia:

We picked up some treats at this tiny store and walked across the Pulaski Bridge into
Greenpoint, Brooklyn to hang out in NYC's biggest Polish neighborhood.

Some of you might be surprised to learn that I don't know Greenpoint very well. My half-sister Jola used to live there with her family, so I visited there a few times growing up. But since moving to New York City, I have only been there once or twice. It's just not all that convenient, that's all. But I like it there. After all, you definitely feel like you are in Little Poland.

Here, you can find delis packed with the finest Polish hams and kielbasi. The cashiers greet you in Polish.

Dan, convinced he can read Polish, checks out the deals.

Here's one of the many apple cakes we've had this week.

Since it was a Sunday, many stores in the neighborhood were closed but the streets were festive because it had been the Pulaski Day Parade in Manhattan that day. Many people were walking around wearing their red and white and honking their horns as they drove their flag covered cars down the road. We bumped into this group of Polish officers and what looked like to be two Miss Polonia beauty queens. Dan was obsessed with the guy with the mustache. After walking up and down Manhattan Avenue, we had an authentic Polish meal at Karczma, but it didn't taste half as good as any of the Polish food my mom makes.

You think we'd go all the way to Europe without hitting a record store?

Walking back across the Pulaski Bridge, we were tired but content with our travels. We had covered 4 NYC boroughs in 1 day!

Day 7, Hungary
For our visit to Hungary, we ate at Andre's Cafe, one of our favorite Hungarian restaurants right up the street. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, our neighborhood was home to many Czech, German and Hungarian working class people. Unfortunately, most of the ethnic places and people have disappeared and have been replaced by big box stores and generic restaurants and well, people like us. If you look hard enough, there are still some authentic good food to be found here. Andre's is one of them. It was the perfect, cozy place to have a meal as the cold rain misted outside. They have wonderful cake though unfortunately tonight they were out of the Sacher Tort, which Dan had been craving all week. We somehow managed.

Desserts for miles!

Just one more day of our trip left!