The Day of My Birth

This marks my 5th birthday since I have moved to New York. I had more amazing birthdays growing up than I can count (actually, it'd probably be the same number as my age!) But since I've been so far away, birthdays have taken a different tenor. Maybe it's growing older. Maybe it's the distance from my parents and siblings. Yet despite how much I downplay the day, there is always something so wonderful about feeling celebrated by family and friends. As a child, my parents, especially my mother, were really big about birthdays. It was our day and no one else's.
I look back on the last 5 birthdays, and each of them still were incredibly special in their own way...
In 2007, I'd just moved a month before, so everything was still new and exciting. My mother shipped me a Blue Chip Cookie Cake (I've had one every year since I was 10.) And my dad ordered flowers. They gave us money for some of my friends and I to go out to dinner and celebrate. We ate Mexican food downtown, and it felt like home.
In 2008, I came home after work, and Justin had decorated my apartment. He'd been over during the day and hung streamers, blew up balloons and made me signs. I still get all smiley and mushy imagining him coloring the sign or taping up streamers. It was the sweetest, most precious thing he could have done to make me feel special. My friend Maggie was in town from LA, and several of our other friends came over for a mini-surprise party. We had Buttercup Bakeshop cupcakes, a chocolate fountain, and, of course, cookie cake!
In 2009, my birthday was also my last day of work at Reader's Digest. They'd canceled my department, so all of us were out of a job. Our team had lunch that day as a final goodbye, and we reminisced over the two years we'd spent on the project together. As I was getting close to leaving that day, the receptionist called to tell me I had a delivery. Expecting flowers, I happily walked to her desk only to see MY DAD! He'd flown in for 24-hours. Instead of sending a gift, my family sent him, which was better than any present. I needed a boost and a reminder that all would be well, that I was loved and valued and cared for. We went out to dinner at Roberto Passon, my now-closed favorite restaurant and it was unbelievably good to spend the time with him. Then, the next weekend Justin and I went to Tavern on the Green, another now-closed NY eatery, and we had a party at my apartment. That year, I woke up believing it would be a bittersweet day, and instead it turned out to be one of my most memorable birthdays, ever.
Oh, also, 2009 was the year Justin made me a travel scrapbook of adventures we've had, and others we would someday have together—he promised an Australian vacation so I'm holding out!
And finally, in 2010, Justin and I were apart. I was working in New York, and Justin was doing a show in Connecticut. Although I'd prepped myself to spend the day alone, he suggested we meet midway for dinner and then to stay at his parents'. He surprised me with a bunch of our friends from the area, all gathered at the Mexican restaurant for a birthday dinner. (I know, there is a theme in many of my favorite foods—Mexican or Italian!) That weekend, we had our own getaway at a B&B near the theater.
This year, we are in Italy. As I write this the week before, I am hoping that as you read this, I'm exploring the countryside, driving safely in our SmartCar, and having a wonderful, romantic time.

But as I remember all these birthdays, I can't help but feel incredibly humbled and abundantly blessed. I have such a generous, thoughtful, amazing family and husband. I love y'all! And everybody else, talk to you when we get back!


Italianspiration: The Doors

As a child, I wanted to be an architect. Though some dreams and interests change, I am still fascinated by space and place and how it defines life. What happens inside apartments I can only glimpse through the window? What does the city look like from 30 stories in the air? What treasures do people keep, what paint colors do they choose? J can attest to my constant stumbling around the city, barely dodging other pedestrians as I crane my neck to look at the built-ins of a brownstone as we pass by. In Venice, the mystery was compounded. Some of the most decrepit facades concealed elegant palaces, homes that have stood for centuries, outfitted by aristocracy both modern and ancient. I love the way the water ages the wood, the way it strips back layers of paint, the way it feeds the moss and mold that reach up from below. Riotous, unintentional color. What is going on inside—ruin or renewal, mystery or normalcy?

 All photos taken in Venice, March 2006.


Italianspiration: One Week

One week from today, we will be on a plane to Italy. I have to admit, it's turning out to be both the best and the worst timing possible. It's been an insane couple weeks for both J and I. (My clip folder—thankfully—attests to many of the recent late nights spent reporting.) And J is in the middle of some big changes on his current project. The time away and alone will be good for us, even better and more necessary than we'd imagined when we originally booked the trip. However, it also comes in the middle of big projects and deadlines for both of us, so leaving is a little scary. But we're going. Period. So I am praying we get everything done in the meantime and are able to focus on our trip and each other when we're there. I cannot wait for next week!


Happy September

September is my favorite month. Other months boast great days like Christmas and our anniversary, but as far as entire month-long periods go, September is still tops. I'm sure it's a holdover from my years as a student, but it still feels like the year really starts in September. It was always both a new grade in school and a new age for me.

Reasons to love September:
  1. My second-youngest sister's birthday (see T-shirt design below)
  2. My dad's birthday
  3. My parents' anniversary (#29 is this year!)
  4. Labor Day = three-day weekend
  5. School gets going, which means new friends and new school supplies
  6. The heat abates somewhat but it's still lovely enough to be outside
  7. Charity: water's September campaign
  8. My birthday (not telling what #)

Newsstand: Bike NYC

As a newly-minted bicyclist, I enjoyed Frank Bruni's op-ed yesterday about Janette Sadik-Kahn and New York City's increased bike lanes and push toward fewer cars. The city is gradually becoming a much friendlier place to ride on two wheels. Of course, it doesn't always feel that way commuting in the morning along Central Park South...

I like Bruni's quote of Gabe Klein, the Chicago transportation commissioner, who noted that biking was an antidote to many modern ills: “There’s the congestion problem,” he said. “The pollution problem. The obesity problem. The gas problem.”

Biking is really a great way to accomplish so many things at once: get where you want to go, exercise, save money and help the environment. Saturday, J and I rode our bikes up through Harlem to Hamilton Heights, then cut over to the Hudson River up to Washington Heights. On the way back, we cut through Columbia and Morningside Heights. We enjoyed the opportunity to get outside, breathe the fresher air, and explore uptown. I've gone on a couple biking trips in foreign countries over the years, and it's one of the best ways to see a place. You can cover a lot of ground and yet go slow enough to experience your surroundings, even to stop and check out places en route. All of this is to say that I'm thankful we have bikes and excited to continue exploring our city.


Empire State of Mind

This was my view as I walked to the doctor's office early this morning. There's something about sunny New York mornings that puts me in a good mood—that and the prospect of a three-day weekend. Hope everyone has a safe and happy Labor Day!

A New Take on Microwave Popcorn

I brought popcorn to work with me today (I know, thrilling, right?) Our office microwave is abysmal, with no rotating plate and temperature control that I believe conspires to both scorch and freeze my food simultaneously. It's pretty amazing when the edges are burned and the inside remains unthawed.

I shouldn't have been surprised when my bag of popcorn (suggested time = less than 3 minutes) wasn't popped after 5. Unfortunately, I ripped open the bag it comes in to count my kernel-to-popped ratio. It was unimpressive. Like any good Googler, I went online and found this gem from the NYT archives. I grabbed the Pret bag in my desk drawer, dumped the un-popped kernels inside, folded the top over twice, and put the whole thing into the microwave in the other office kitchen. Viola! My snack was saved!

The whole ordeal also showed me that popcorn can be cooked easily in any paper bag, which can be pretty helpful. To cut down portion size, split the kernels inside a microwave-ready bag in half and save some for later. To cut down on all the butter and chemicals, buy the jars of kernels at the grocery store and use paper sacks. (This is also less expensive!) I realize these are unexciting tips, but it's an unexciting Thursday, so that's how it goes sometimes...