April 20, 2008


above: sake served in traditional square containers at satsko; below: we ate belgian fries at vol de nuit
I certainly didn't enter the age of 31 quietly. In fact, if I had to assign a description of this birthday celebration, I'd identify it as one of the very most memorable in the past several. Last year at this time, my parents were visiting NYC, which was also a really good time. This year, however, the majority of my special day (and the days surrounding it) were spent mainly with only Craig, plus a miscellaneous additional cast of fun characters such as Jen from the French Culinary Institute, Ricardo from Satsko, three New Yorkers we met sitting at the bar at Satsko plus a New York bird (will explain), Alison and Scott, and varying native Vermont flavor in Burlington. But all that said, I had a lot of quality Craig~Kristin time, which makes all of the struggles of daily life completely worthwhile! Wednesday night we dined and drank at Satsko Sake Bar, a place we've been to once before but not to eat. I can't say enough about this place - the food was maybe the best I've had in New York, no kidding, and the sake was smooth and Ricardo (who runs it) was ever hospitable, filling our glasses with bottomless Sapporo and doing "sake bombs" with us. We met three people plus one bird (the married couple of the three we met owns a parrot who is evidently welcome at Satsko) at the bar (see our other page for pictoral details) and had an overall amazing and fun time there. We will be back. Thursday morning (the day I entered what I've deemed "real" adulthood, or, the Gateway into Real Adulthood - age 31) Craig gave me a really sweet birthday card and in it was my birthday gift - reservations for us to take a wine course together! Exciting!! That takes place in two weeks. We ate bagels and jumped in a cab and headed to the License Xpress Branch to finalize (two years later) our induction into New York City by obtaining New York City Drivers Licenses. It was shockingly and brilliantly easy - we were shuffled about various windows signing various forms and having our mugshots snapped, and $46 later and only a matter of maybe 25 minutes it was official - our Georgia licenses were removed from our possession. As Craig reminded me, No more White Trash Wednesdays at Brother Jimmy's! (Southern ID discounts at the neighborhood BBQ joint on Wednesdays no more!) Then we traveled one stop on the subway to grab lattes at West 11th Street Cafe. We walked our way to the French Culinary Institute, whereupon we learned that the woman I've been exchanging emails with regarding a tour is a native New Yorker but studied at IU in Bloomington! Go Hoosiers! She's a few years older than me and over the course of time wound up in culinary school so who knows - there's hope yet for that avenue to open up! Really, I've been intrigued by culinary arts heavily more recently, and in addition to that, I want to take the food writing course this fall. Anyway, the facilities were amazing. There were students adorned in white coats, hats and pants running all over the place carrying dishes, dicing, dressing, plating - it was fascinating. Each "level" has its own specific area/kitchen. The place is huge! I believe the school is four floors. Craig was impressed as equally as I. Jen was great - really personable and helpful. Following that, she had asked me if I'd like reservations at the students' restaurant called "L'Ecole" located in the same building. So we walked in through the Level 5 (I think) kitchen which belongs to the restaurant and we were seated by a host who slipped a card to the waiter - lunch was on Jen! How nice! We ate very well, too - an open ravioli seafood appetizer followed by seafood entrees. After lunch, we walked about and ducked in a couple of bars. It was a great day - beautiful weather, relaxing, very fulfilling to see the school and to be with Craig on my day. Around 5 we headed back to the apartment to take naps before dinner at Land on the East Side with Alison and Scott. They were so sweet - gave me a serving platter and a wooden placard with a Lucille Ball quote about the secret to staying young. We ate delicious Thai and then headed over to the Auction House, a secret tucked away unmarked bar that we've discovered recently and find endearing. Friday morning we woke up early again, and Craig picked up the rental car and we were off to Burlington. We didn't make it out of town until 9, but by abut 1.30 we were at the Essex Ferry on the New York side boarding the ferry in the PT Cruiser we had landed in (wait until Jen and Pete get a load of that...we were stuck in a PT Cruiser in Illinois to drive to their wedding a couple of years ago - it was black then and this weekend again - like driving a hearse!) and before too long, we were rolling into South Burlington, where we stopped at the Magic Hat Brewery for beer tasting and Magic Hat garb. The brewery is under construction so we only hung out for a few minutes in the shop, where we tasted Hocus Pocus and Circus Boy, both which wound up being flavors of the weekend, primarily Circus Boy. Then we traveled into Burlington, easily found our B&B, and parked the car for the duration of the trip. The B&B was super nice, called The Lang House - an old giant house with beautiful wood and large rooms and cozy smells and sounds. The house is situated right on Main Street, a quick 5-minute walk from Church Street which is a happening pedestrian mall filled with eclectic shops and bars. We hadn't eaten lunch yet, so we freshened up and walked to the ped mall. It was about 3.30 by this time and Friday early Happy Hour goers were already filling the outdoor seating spaces at all of the restaurants. Church Street is blocked off to vehicular traffic its whole length - it was very reminiscient of the ped mall in Montreal where we've been a couple of times, only maybe longer and better. We wound up at a place called Sweetwaters and I ate a Kobe Beef Burger with Goat Cheese while Craig tried the chicken sandwich. We were already beginning to realize what a relaxing day and a half we were in for, as people strolled by calling out to one another (everyone knows everyone in that town!) and tables filled with patrons wanting to enjoy the gorgeous blue skies and temperatures. I came back to New York with a sunburnt nose and pink cheeks, that's how divine was the weather for us! Anyway, the remainder of the afternoon we spent wandering around, trying a beer here or there, watching the locals and forgetting about real life for a while. We were both just terrifically happy to be away from the pace of here, for a bit, and to be anonymous in a new town (we really like that). Friday night we ate dinner at Smokejacks. The food (as Alison and Scott, who have been to Burlington twice before, have said) was incredible. The flavors were well-balanced, and we even scored free mesclun salads because of a "ticket mix-up" so we left full - but ended our night there, early, before 11. It had been a long day, and plenty of beers and ample food later, we needed to get a good night's rest to have a full Saturday. Saturday morning greeted us with a heat wave in the B&B (they had explained that they hadn't pulled out their Air Conditioners yet - ill-prepared for the quick wash of heat over the weekend, I presumed) but also with the wafting scent of breakfast. We've been to B&B's before - a stinky trashy one in Montreal years ago, a quaint and well-manicured one in Maine - but this one was far and away one of the best in terms of everything (aside from the cooling issue). The breakfast options (I'm recapping from memory so I'm going to use my fictional memory powers but this is close) included Frittata with Potato, Sausage, Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce or Whole Grain Flapjacks with Apple-Almond Butter topped with Vermont Maple Syrup - I nabbed the Frittata and Craig opted for the Flapjacks - we were both stunned at the results. Oh, and once we sat down, immediately after we sat down, we were each dealt a plate of Chocolate Banana Bread - so fresh, I didn't even use butter and fell in love with it. Needless to say, the place has its act together as breakfast goes (this morning's offerings included Whole Grain Waffles or Onion-Dill Popper with Eggs, Vermont Cheddar and a side of ham after slices of warm coffee cake- delish!) Anyway, we spent the morning wandering in and out of unique shops. Craig gets quickly bored looking at item after item but he hung in there while I browsed cool stuff. The stores were often handcrafted gift things - Craig bought me a pewter necklace at a pewter specialty shop called Danforth, native to Vermont, and there is a home goods store which used to be a Pier 1 but the owners disengaged from Pier 1 to offer more unique things, and there we purchased a picture frame that is surrounded with a white notepad containing removable notepad pages so that you can write creative junk all around the perimeter of a photo and change the "frame" when you change the photo. Moreso neat for a kid, but I will have fun decorating frame "pages" with my funky handwriting and little sketches. So, we aimed to hit most the stores, and did, and really just did a lot of wandering and browsing. We ducked into a place off Church Street called American Hearth (where we will eat next time because rumor has it the food rocks the town) and drank a beer and met a bartender who is a dead ringer for Matthew Perry. Then we navigated back to Church Street to Ri Ra, which is the town's Irish pub, with a wait of more than 30 minutes for outdoor seating. We didn't mind, and waited, and waited and waited...then were seated and waited for an endless time for our food (there was something peculiar going on with the kitchen there - sounded like the kitchen was understaffed for the gorgeous weather) but we didn't care because we just drank beer and people-watched again. It was glorious to sit and feel without a worry and to be 31 and to not have much stress for the afternoon! We did finally get served food, then headed over to the Red Square for more outdoor seating and a beer, but Craig wanted to hit the B&B to freshen up for dinner and the "nightlife". We ate Thai at Bankok Bistro, and it was okay (maybe Thai isn't Burlington's specialty, though we loved the ambience in there) and then we headed to the Nectar Lounge to experience Konami Kode (a band that plays Nintendo Game Theme songs in techno fashion) but to be honest, the band was just O.K. We then toured a couple of other spots with live music but before too long, we were ready enough to be done for the night - I'm not sure if Burlington is exactly famous for after dark, perhaps. But we did see the faded mountains across Lake Champlain, we experienced good Vermont brews, incredible Vermont food, and the laid back nature of the Vermonters is nice for a change from what we get in New York. Our pictures will reveal more of what we saw. Then today we drove back, and I read the March issue of Cooking Light cover to cover. We made it back to the City in great time - I came right to the computer to download pics but may or may not have them up by tonight. Craig wants to catch up on TV shows from the week. We're ordering Indian again but tonight is the end of the overindulgence road - I've gained an unacceptable amount of weight since going on "hiatus" from Weight Watchers and now it must be worked off, with better eating and some exercise.*More soon. It's Sunday which means close to Monday which means back to the grind, but I think I don't mind going back after how relaxed I feel right now. Next big trip: Myrtle Beach at the end of May with Craig's family. We've got the whole week at that time - how comforting, knowing how good it felt to be away only two days!!*

April 13, 2008


What better two things to align the stars than taxes and German beer?? Tonight marks the writing of two huge checks to the State of New York for Craig and me. I am combatting the problem with Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash and Orange Banana Nut Bread (the two aromas are fighting one another for attention, I can attest to that). Allow me to begin from the beginning of the weekend, so that any of this makes chronological sense. By every Friday nowadays, I feel like stabbing myself in the eye with a felt tip pen. I'm not sure what good that would do, considering it would be a felt tip, but that's my favorite kind of pen, or one of, so that's my choice. Anyway, riding the train home, I listened to my Nano, and I closed my eyes and "Little Babies" by Sleater-Kinney came on and I visualized myself with much better and longer hair dancing in rhythmic pretty circles to the song, simple and genuine, paying proper props to the beat. This slight image while I closed my eyes on the subway helped me look more forward to life, even though I won't likely ever have better hair or dance in obnoxious circles to "Little Babies". I got off the subway, happy to embrace a Friday, and walked more of 3rd Ave than I usually do (I give preferential treatment to 2nd). The song "Rise" from Into the Wild's soundtrack started on my Nano, and I bet people that passed me on the street wondered if my head might explode with mandolin, because I had turned the song just that loud. I couldn't get enough of it so I replayed it, and then the Andrew Bird song "Lull" followed, as if my Nano knew just what I needed to salvage the pieces of my week and make things right. I entered the biggest wine store in my neighborhood on 3rd listening to "Lull", and it felt like I had walked into a romantic dark episode of my own life, where I was browsing bottles of wine to the tune of some amazing lyrics backed by brilliant sound, and down about things, to boot. But my spirits shifted dramatically when I stopped at the grocery and picked up ingredients for Thai Chicken Tacos and Coconut Curry Rice, which both turned out tremendous and delighted us. Craig attempted to watch a movie and I hung around in the computer room a bit and we wound up in bed pretty early for a Friday, which is always fine by me.*Saturday, I woke up and felt overwhelmed with motivation. I leapt from bed, made mental lists, wrote physical to-do lists, made great decisions to do great things, and then Craig woke up and discovered how amazing the weather had turned out to be and thus wiped out all of my amazing plans to do amazing things: Craig wanted to go have fun! I'm always on board for fun, of course. So, instead of staying home and accomplishing, we headed right down to Alphabet City and bar-hopped. We found a curiously strange venue called Porch, where there must have been a party of people dressing strangely or maybe it's just the way the neighborhood unfolds - we couldn't figure it out. Adults were dressed in Girl Scout vests, silver pants, bath robes, feathered boas, gym shorts, short skirts, and really a lot of stuff we don't see every day. But the place was offering 2 for 1 beers, which we happily enjoyed. Then we were off to right next door, another German haunt called Zum Schneider. We were so starving - had not eaten since bagels earlier that morning. But our wait for a table would be like hours, the German-American hostess informed us! Or maybe she said, "A long time." Whatever, we were geared for that - the crowd was huge. So we bellied up to the German taps and just drank! We were both completely in shock at the coolness of Zum Schneider - it feels, and boasts itself to be, a very authentic beer garden (and I say this having not yet been to Germany and to an authentic beer garden!) I liked this place far better than Lederhosen. It felt more fun, somehow. We were finally seated outside in their sidewalk outside area, and we ordered so much sausage and more beer and there we were, practically in Germany. Fun!! After a terrific lunch and more delicious beer, we finished the afternoon at the Grape and Grain, which we just love. Then we came home and it was an early night - by nine, we were ready to collapse.*Today has been nice, too. I did get a lot done - the Chicken Paprikash is almost done, and the bread is cooling on a wire rack. Craig went to an eye doctor appointment early in the day, and I am geared up to cook Indian Butter Chicken tomorrow hopefully in time to watch all the new sitcoms. And our week is short. OUR WEEK IS SHORT. I'm so relieved. I haven't spent one of my birthdays since we moved here traveling to Flushing. And if possible, I won't ever. We're off Thursday (my birthday) and Friday. Thankfully.

April 08, 2008


Oh, to spring clean. Sunday I did wake up much healthier than Saturday, although, not in top shape. The weather was overcast and yuck, and although Craig and I ate our responsible adult-friendly Kashi bowls of cereal for breakfast, Craig offered to get us donuts when he went for our coffees at the local Dunkin' Donuts shop. I couldn't resist. I requested strawberry frosted. When he returned, I swear, we both sat in utter silence relinquishing ourselves to the force of the donut. Sheer delirium in less than five minutes. I couldn't believe that within like three bites, one donut probably scored me 10 points in Weight Watchers tallying, and with that, how minimal was the reward! But here I am recalling it fondly, so it must have wedged a nice memory into my mind. Then, following the donut, we somehow managed to get completely motivated and completely clean the apartment, ceilings to floor. I worked mostly in the kitchen, which included climbing clumsily to the countertop to the left of the sink (hard to see in the photo above, but that's because it's barely there and small and hard to stand on!) and worked feverishly, in varying clumsy approaches, to get the kitchen window open enough to place the temporary screen and let the air flow through the mid-section of our apartment. Shew! Wow, did it take magic to make it happen. The window sticks, doesn't ride correctly on its track, etc., etc. But I managed, and now my kitchen not only glows with its freshly cleaned counters, sills, corners, shelves and newly re-analyzed organization, but it also breathes with the fresh (New York City) air that drifts in through the screen mounted in the window! Wonderous!*We're just at Tuesday, but it feels like perhaps I'm ready for a weekend again already. I'm not sure what's happening with me these days. I'm such a worker bee, always ready to arrive awaiting tasks and attempting to complete said tasks. But, with all of the re-adjustments at work (I can pat myself on the back tonight because today I walked into a room filled with people who have come to rely on me and when I walked in, they literally cheered at the sight of me - how novel and self-gratifying!) I guess I'm only half-there. So when things like leaving work early to go to Shea to see the Last Opening Day at Shea Stadium happen, I feel no guilt, no remorse, no shame, no ethical challenge to or with myself. Why? Because my grip is slipping on how much I care about what I'm up to right now. Craig thinks differently, that I "love everything" and I hope to learn that he's correct in stating that. But for now, today, tonight with the early evening as my oyster, I'd imagine I really don't care about what goes on there anymore. And if that's the case, my passion, which is usually at an overflowing capacity, dwindles down to dry dust. For something to cause that to happen to me, the impact must be grand. We'll see how things unfold. I suppose life just is what it is and hopefully someday this work will be a distant memory and I won't regret the energy I've expended. Luckily, there's always Craig to remind me what the end result is all about. Craig is my hope.

April 05, 2008


Well, it's Saturday in early April and while I woke up feeling ontop of the world, by mid-morning I felt pinned to the couch in the throes of another spring cold. I think some people at work have off and on been sick, which leaves the air filled with it, so likely I grabbed a strain and brought it home. Regardless, I'm glad it's Saturday and will continue to sniffle through it and sip hot flavored tea to warm my insides. Craig worked almost all afternoon (from home) so it worked out alright that I kept the living room company. I caught up on TV programs from the week and finished (or, re-started and finished, rather) Rendition, which was decent, and I pushed up on an elbow to snap the photograph above which reveals sunshine pouring in through our kitchen window. Well, sort of, at least. Today was supposed to be rainy and cool, but the weather anchors around these parts never quite get it right, so here we wound up with a glorious sunny warmer spring day, all of which we spent pent up. Sometime later, if we do leave New York, I will regret these perfect days we wasted lazing around the apartment, but at the same time, that's why living right on Manhattan Island is good for us - if we already lose spending days because of illnesses or laziness wandering the streets and taking it in living in this borough, imagine how those days would multiply if we were in, say, Brooklyn and didn't feel like "coming into the City". So at least we've got proximity covered. So, our rent renewal letter arrived last week, and I'm happy to announce the change in monthly rent went from $100 per month last year to $0 this year. This must have everything in the world to do with the Second Avenue Subway Construction which takes place at the intersection of 2nd and our street, along with other neighboring side streets, or perhaps it's because we're such good tenants but I'm leaning more toward the former. See photo for evidence of inconvenience. The shoring and fencing forces us to cross our street and cross back to travel south on 2nd Avenue.

It's a pretty decent pain but considering the fact that the layout of our apartment verges on better than others (in our price range) that we've seen, the compromise might just be worth it. Plus, there's construction all over Manhattan Island, from the southern tip traveling all the way north! It's somewhat difficult to escape. Scaffolding and shoring become like second nature for city dwellers. Likely we will sign a third year and stay right here.*Our week coming up is a busy one, much of it work-related and some of it social-related. We've got tickets to the Last Opening Day of Shea Stadium for Tuesday, a work-related milestone event Wednesday, and tickets again to Thursday night's Mets game (hot seats on the 3rd baseline that we were offered generously). Monday, my beautiful friend Lauren and her theater company host their annual benefit to raise money for the company, but we're unable to go because of work- and other-related issues. Lauren knows we will attend in spirit, though!*This coming week also marks the last full week of me as a 30 year-old. The following week, the 17th, I turn 31. We have off that Thursday and Friday. Wednesday night we're going to kick my birthday celebration into high gear by eating at a hip Japanese restaurant called Sake Bar Satsko in Alphabet City (as seen on Three Sheets, of course!) Thursday morning we're going to travel to 11th Street Cafe for Lattes (the place we happily discovered last weekend), and then before noon we're going to tour the French Culinary Institute, where I hope to take the Craft of Food Writing course in the fall. For lunch, we're going to splurge on L'Ecole, the restaurant adjacent to the FCI where FCI students polish their French cooking techniques. Following that, the world is my proverbial birthday oyster, and we will let Manhattan embrace me as a 31 year-old happy to thrive in the Center of the Universe! Friday morning, we plan to grab bagels and coffee to go and hit the road in a rental car to head to Burlington, Vermont. Road-tripping with Craig has taken on a whole new meaning since we've been together full time versus the long distance status of us prior to Atlanta. All of our trips then hold such vivid spaces in my memory: Cape Cod (Mass), Mystic Seaport (Connecticut), Bar Harbor (Maine), the quiet cabin in New Hampshire, Montreal twice, all the weekends we traveled to New York City, day trips to Boston, Newport (Rhode Island), later on the Finger Lakes Upstate plus the Thousand Islands and the boat trip to Boldt Castle...but each of those trips concluded with the same sad ending of me packing my bags to fly back to Detroit, or later to St. Louis. Now, we leave together and return together. I may never be able to express to him how differently I cherish our adventures now. When we left for England last January, or when we left for Mexico in December, I experienced the sensation of excitement for a trip without the dread of the end of the adventure (while, of course, all fun trips do eventually end, it isn't the same sunken feeling knowing I get to come back home with and to Craig!) Anyway, Vermont will be so nice, relaxing, beautiful and cozy. We're excited for it.*Unfortunately, I'm re-writing the latter half of this post because the post I composed prior disappeared into thin blog air. I'm annoyed with the disappearing act and at the fact of trying to recreate all that I wanted to say, so with this, I'm going to sign off for the night. Craig is watching the Final Four and I'm just sniffling away here in the computer room - might think of popping in a movie. As excited as I was for March Madness, it isn't fun anymore without any glimmer of hope of winning money on our brackets - ha! So I will try to recover from this silly cold and watch mindless entertainment and hopefully tomorrow will bring a healthier KB.*