Sunday, November 27, 2011

My First Thanksgiving

My mom is usually the queen of Thanksgiving and all of our family holidays, but this year, she asked for my help. Most years, I tend to look indifferently at my Thanksgiving-themed food magazines that pass through my mailbox and toss them aside since I am never in charge of cooking. Plus, we usually have the same menu year after year.

But this year, Mom gave me carte blanche to do what I wanted, so I planned a menu based on Mom's classic traditions (Ritz Cracker stuffing! pierogi!) and a few new dishes to spice things up. I came to New Jersey on Tuesday night, and Mom and I spent the next two days cooking and baking to make the perfect Thanksgiving meal.

That's me and Mom, about to kick ass in the kitchen in our matching hair nets.

Here's a little insight to my mom's thinking (or some may call it, madness) when it comes to cooking food for holidays. I planned to prepare a chocolate cheesecake, an apple pie, a lime fruit tart and a maple walnut cake - pictured here. I thought that four cakes for eleven people seemed reasonable. But Mom had other plans. Before I arrived, she made a rum cake ("for the Polish guests") and asked Iza to make some vanilla wafers ("Dan loves them!"). Then, early Thanksgiving morning, she went behind my back and put a pre-made pumpkin pie in the oven ("just in case.") That's seven desserts for eleven people! To be eaten after a THANKSGIVING MEAL.

As you can imagine, we had MORE than enough food. After everyone ate, it didn't look like we even made a dent. We had leftovers for days. Here's my overflowing dinner plate.

I am really proud of the work, especially brining and roasting my first turkey! I loved the quality cooking time spent with my mom--even though she kept making fun of me because on the first day, I told her I am "an experienced cook." (She was trying to help me out, and I told her I knew what I was doing.)

Between you and me, I AM an experienced cook. Okay, I am not an expert and I still have a lot to learn, but I know my stuff better than most people I know. But considering my mom and sister Annette are cooking geniuses, my knife skills can perhaps look a bit questionable, I still rely on recipes and I was a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to food preparation, no one in my family takes me seriously.

But--they still ate my meal and said they liked it.

Dan and I hang out with the dinner rolls.

Being at this will probably be the last Thanksgiving on the East Coast for a little while, I am very grateful for the time spent with my family! I am trying to avoid thinking about the fact that soon we will be far apart. To make myself feel better, I keep telling myself, "It's like going to college. No big deal. I will be back soon enough."

At least I'll be taking my mom's recipes with me!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Image by Improve Everywhere.

New Yorkers walk faster than most, a fact I notice about myself when I have out of town visitors. (You can always tell the difference a native and a tourist. New Yorkers walk quickly in straight lines with purpose, while tourists meander and take up the whole sidewalk.)

I may be fast, but compared to me, Dan is a speed demon. It is not uncommon that when we walk “together,” he ends up walking 15 yards in front of me. I am forever looking at his back. He has a nice back, but I would rather be looking at his face.

This happens especially in crowded situations such as subway platforms and staircases. We may exit the subway car at the same exact time, but his talent allows him to dodge masses of people and get many paces ahead while I am stuck behind a crowd. Luckily, Dan is very tall so I hardly ever lose him; the back of his head high above the crowd is a constant presence. Once in a while, he might even stop and wait for me to catch up. But if my “slowness” makes us miss the train, I often get the stink-eye.

From our apartment on the Upper East Side, it is a ten-minute walk to the subway consisting of three long blocks. Sometimes in the morning, Dan and I will leave together to go to work. He will walk next to me for the first block. Sometimes he will hold my hand so he can pull me to walk faster.

For the next two blocks, Dan has determined that if walks fast enough, he doesn’t have to wait for the lights which means he can get on the subway faster. I never want to rush to work so this is the time where we usually kiss good-bye. Dan will go full force ahead, and I will stay at my leisurely (though not exactly slow) pace and wait at the lights. About seventy percent of the time, his swiftness allows him to make the train faster, but often times, I will find him standing on the subway platform, face buried in his latest copy of The New Yorker, waiting for the next train.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dinner Conversation

"Occupy LA is so lame compared to Occupy NY," Dan said.

"I tried to read the LA Times online, and it was terrible," I replied. "That can't be my newspaper. I refuse to give up The New York Times."

"Are we going to be those annoying people who move to LA and say everything is better in New York?"

"Oh, totally. We're guaranteed to be completely unbearable to everyone around us for at least a year."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Click here for a New Yorker's perspective on Los Angeles, as seen in Annie Hall.

So far, the worst part about moving to Los Angeles is telling New Yorkers that you are moving to Los Angeles.*

Sure, we have received tons of love and support from friends and family for taking this next step in our life. But not without a little friendly backlash. First, no one wants you to leave the city because it would be more fun for them if you stayed put. (A reasonable reaction, admittedly). Second, no one in New York understands why you would want to move out of the best city in America to--of all places--LA.

Upon sharing our news, here are some sample responses we have received from fellow New Yorkers:

“Why would you want to move there?”

“Are you sure?”

“How are you going to find a job?”

“LA is fine to visit...but to live there? I dunno.”

“I know this girl who moved to LA and she hated it and was back in three months. Said it was the worst experience of her life.”

I consider New York and Los Angeles to be very two different cities, and that is okay. Dan and I are not looking to recreate our New York experience in Los Angeles. We are actively seeking to change our lifestyle. (Although I am sure plenty of Angelenos would mock our serious conversations about trying to get by with one car and our hopes of taking public transportation to work. Let us enjoy our ignorance for a little while, please!)

I think people would be more understanding if we said we were moving to Europe. In terms of coolness, Europe is on par with New York City. As for California, San Francisco would be a more acceptable choice. New Yorkers love San Francisco because they perceive it as a quaint West Coast version of New York. We would get more love if we said Portland because even though no one has actually been to Portland, everyone thinks they want to live in Portland. Even when we were toying around with the idea of New Orleans, people were into it since Northerners find anything south of Virginia to be foreign and exotic.

Mention Los Angeles, on the other hand, and there is a lot of well-meaning head scratching and grimaces.

I know there is supposed to be a rivalry between the two cities, but this is simply not true. Because to most New Yorkers, LA is not even on the radar. It doesn’t even come close. How can there be a rivalry when one side is oblivious to the other?

And when you put the city on their radar, by saying things, “I am leaving you for this inferior-to-New-York place,” they just don’t get it. You might as well be moving to Ohio.**

Since it makes no sense to them, they try to come up with logical solutions that would meet their needs and yours, such as:

“Why don’t you just move to Brooklyn?”

*Disclaimer 1: This may or may not be an exaggeration.

**Disclaimer 2: I am sure Ohio is just lovely.

Just for fun: Some other places where we considered moving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Move

Friends and Family, It is with great excitement that I officially announce to you that Dan and I are moving to Los Angeles next year.

While we have certainly left some not-so-subtle hints about our impending move throughout this blog, we didn’t want to come out on The Ham until Dan had given his notice at work. He did, in Dan fashion--two months early--and he has booked a plane ticket for December 31, the last day of our apartment lease. Unsure of my own work schedule, I haven’t determined my exact day of departure, but it will likely be on the same day or sometime in January/February--depending on my freelance work flow. Pretty cool way to start out the New Year, if I do say so myself!

For Dan, going to California is going back home, reuniting him with his friends and family and the comforts of year-round t-shirt weather, delicious Mexican food and ripe fruit. For me, California might as well be the wild west. While I always imagined living in California at some point, in truth, I have been a Type A East Coaster my whole life. I have no idea what to expect, but I will go with an open mind and heart. If my life will soon resemble the pages of Sunset magazine, I think I might be okay.

While I am excited/nervous about the move and ready to start a new phase of my life filled with sunshine, avocados, backyard barbecues, gardening, traffic jams and Ara, I am in complete denial that my days as a New Yorker are numbered. I really do love this city, and it's bittersweet to be leaving it, especially my friends and family.

So if you don’t mind me, as we begin packing up our lives here, I will be spending the next few weeks sharing some fun New York stories as a way to say good-bye to my home for the last 9+ years.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How to Succeed in Business

I have this 15-minute speech to write on the subject of "Faith and Doubt in Politics" and I've been dreading it. That explains why I'm still slogging through a first draft 24 hours after I outlined it and less time than that before it must be delivered. So I think I deserve on-sale drug-store candy corn. That's how this works, right?

UPDATE: Nine days after Halloween, and there's no candy corn to be found at Duane Reade! Aargh! BTW, how did I get vanilla sugar wafer crumbs all over my lap?