smoked salmon and avocado ftw

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My new favorite sandwich is salmon and avocado. I used to be a turkey and colby jack girl, then I switched to tuna salad sandwiches, and now it’s all about the smoked salmon and avocado. If I phrase it like that, it sounds like I’m becoming more hoity or health conscious, but it’s really just that I’m discovering new foods and my palette is improving. I’ll still go for a good ol’ turkey and cheese every so often. But smoked salmon and avocado? Wow. It’s a revelation. The only problem is that in comparison to other sandwich options, it’s downright pricey.

When I first started working, I ate out every lunch, which in the Flatiron District equates to a serious drain on the bank account. Now I try to bring my lunch to work, but I still love Cafe Prague, because they’re amazing. And their smoked salmon and avocado sandwich (pictured above) is just TOO amazing. So yummy. But at $11.92 a pop (with a side of chips), it’s just too much for me. So I went to the grocery store, bought sliced potato bread, avocados, smoked salmon, and swiss cheese, assembled, and voila! My version (pictured below) is not as great as Cafe Prague, but for the budget conscious, it’ll do.

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Cafe Prague
cafepraguenyc.com
2 West 19th Street
Flatiron District, New York, NY

heading home (tbt)

I’ve been back in the United States for about six months now, and although I find myself reminiscing about China, I have no regrets about leaving. Sure I’ll complain about how expensive things are in New York and how I’m much busier with work here, but it is so nice to feel like you’re at home.

For me, being back in the US means feeling like I belong, like I’m not an outsider. Not having to alter my speech into that dreaded Chinglish or hide my accent so people could understand me easier. It also means having access to great healthcare, and not worrying so much about food safety, or product safety, or water safety. It means being able to establish a routine, and not having to continually make friends. In Shanghai it was actually much easier to make friends, but only because people were constantly coming and going, so everyone was more open to meeting new people. But it got tedious. No one really lasts in Shanghai. Heck the city itself is in a state of constant flux/evolution.

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I was recounting to a friend how I love flying, because I generally just fall asleep, so long hauls usually aren’t a big deal. But remember that one time I flew to Shanghai and got sick? I think that was mostly because of nerves. Because I was so terrified that I had just made a huge mistake by moving to China, and since I was already on the plane headed to China, it was too late and I was screwing myself over. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a good thing I ended up going to China. I learned a lot about myself, and I feel like I grew up a lot as well. I gained valuable work experience, made great friends, traveled to amazing places, and learned what I really wanted out of life. So even though I was pretty much convinced that moving to China was the wrong decision, I don’t regret any of it.

On my flight back to the US (or rather to Vancouver first, then the US), I slept like a baby. Well, I slept like a baby after the turbulence died down and they moved me from a squished window seat to a free row, but I probably would’ve slept like a baby regardless. No nerves or mini freak-outs whatsoever. Moving back to the US? Definitely the right decision. No questions about it.

hei/hey there!

When I was living in China, I met a ton of non-native English speakers. Not only Chinese people, but also a lot of European foreigners, many of whom had a very tenuous grasp of the English language. Some of their English was near-native. Some of their English downright sucked. But even if their speech was flawless, spelling and written grammar often proved massive hurdles.

I’m not disparaging them in the least. Goodness knows my Mandarin is merely decent and my French is just a step above abysmal. To even know (or attempt) a second language is a massive feat—one that many, many Americans don’t even bother trying. So when I got a letter from A, a French woman who has lived in China for a really long time, I couldn’t help but smile at her opening: Hei.

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I’m guessing she was going for “Hey.” The funny thing is that in China, “Hei” that would actually be somewhat correct. “Hey” is a loanword that many young people use, and when written in Chinese, the character 嘿 (hēi) is used. The character is basically just a sound word/interjection that places a 口 (mouth symbol) next to 黑 (word for the color black), visually representing the sound (but not meaning) of the word for black. And when written in pinyin (romanized), it’s h-e-i.

So basically, it’s kinda like playing telephone. From English to Chinese to Chinese-tinged Franglais, hey becomes 嘿 which becomes hei.

brooklyn glass (in gowanus)

Somehow I keep ending up in Gowanus, which is a somewhat icky/industrial area of Brooklyn that is super cool these days. But still … it’s Brooklyn. And I’m a Manhattanite. I had lived in Astoria and Flushing for a bit, but I far prefer Manhattan. To me, Brooklyn is a faraway land, although it is pretty cool.

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Case in point, Brooklyn Glass. Went there with some friends last night, and 25 dollars got you a handmade glass and free-flow wine or beer, which is a pretty decent price. It wasn’t so much an “event” as a fun time to drink, chat with friends, and watch people making things out of glass. It was super cool to see them pull and warp the hot glass, while trying to guess what they were making. Apparently it was supposed to be a high-heeled shoe, but it didn’t turn out all that great. And weirdly there were quite a few people wearing tie-dye (see the tie-dye shirt/toga in the above picture) … definitely a sign you’re no longer in Manhattan!

The place also holds classes, which sounds pretty neat, but probably not something I’d actually do. There are just too many other fun things to do in this city! That aren’t all the way out in Brooklyn! The only downsides of the evening were that the trains routes were weird (as they are often on the weekend), which meant a super long trek to get there, and there was some smoking, which (combined with the heat and alcohol) caused me to feel faint and we left a bit early. But yeah, still very fun.

Brooklyn Glass
brooklynglass.com
142 13th Street
Gowanus, Brooklyn, NY

battery park’s seaglass carousel

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I have a thing for carousels.Ever since I had back surgery in high school, I can’t ride roller coasters. I was never that fond of roller coasters to begin with, but once that option was taken from me, I just really want to ride a roller coaster. It was even more Tantalus-like because I lived about five minutes from Kings Island (I could see their fireworks from my backyard), and when my high school physics class took a field trip to Cedar Point, guess who rode the merry-go-round again and again and again?

Anyhow, I learned to love merry-go-rounds and carousels and have made peace with the fact that I will never ride a roller coaster ever again. No matter. While roller coasters rely on screams and thrills, carousels are works of art. Take for example the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. It was built while I was in Shanghai, so I hadn’t heard of it until I was interviewing for jobs. The firm I was interviewing at (but who didn’t get back to me until I had been at my current job for a month already – what’s up with that?!) had worked on the project and they showed me a video of it … and I was mesmerized. So when my sister was in town, I dragged her down there and we rode the carousel.

Totally awesome. Lights, colors, trippy music, and fun for all ages. It was a bit pricey at $5 for a 3.5-minute ride, so it’s not something you could ride on repeat without going broke, but I’d definitely go again.

SeaGlass Carousel
seaglasscarousel.nyc
Battery Park (entrance at State and Water Streets)
New York, NY
Open Daily, 7 AM – 7 PM

the danger of sample sales … to your wallet

Do I need a bracelet? No.
Do I need a dress? No.
Do I need a ring? No.
Did I get them anyway? Yes.

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One thing I love about New York is all the sample sales. You think a normal sale is a good deal? A sample sale is an amazing deal. But since these are often high-end brands, an amazing deal can still be somewhat expensive.

Last month a friend dragged me to a House of Harlow 1960 sample sale, and I ended up purchasing a pair of earrings, a ring, and a bracelet. Last week, I was almost late for brunch because I happened to pass by a Pinkyotto sample sale in SoHo and bought a dress for $55 (a great price in my opinion). Then a few days ago, I went to a Joomi Lim sample sale and walked out ten minutes later with a ring and my wallet $50 lighter. Sigh. I really shouldn’t have spent 50 dollars on a ring. It’s really quite ridiculous. It was less than half of retail, but I keep beating myself up for it because I’m supposed to be saving money – heck, I’ve even been bringing my lunch to work! But oy, I love jewelry! And I love unique pieces. And every time I look at the ring, I think it was worth it.

Sigh.

izakaya mew – the pride of midtown

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Midtown Manhattan has horrible food options. Ask any local and they’ll tell you. Midtown Manhattan is full of quick sandwich lunch options and crappy bars with decent happy hour specials. In other words, food options are usually geared towards the working masses. But since I live in Midtown Manhattan, I know three things: The food options really do suck. But they’re great if you’re looking for Korean. And if you’re not, there’s always Izakaya MEW.

32nd Street is known as “Korea Way” according to the street sign, but no one calls it that. It’s Koreatown, pure and simple. There’s a host of great Korean food in the area: Jongro (fantastic Korean barbecue), Miss Korea (not that great, but decent enough), and Food Gallery 32 (food court with good options but limited seating) all on 32nd Street, and Turntable Chicken Jazz (fried chicken!), KyoChon (more fried chicken!), and Cho Dang Gol (standard Korean) not too far away. In other words, I’ve had a lot of Korean food since I moved to Midtown. But otherwise? There’s Izakaya MEW, which I have been to waaayyy too often.

In basic, Izakaya MEW is a decently-priced restaurant with good drinks, good Japanese food, and a great environment. Its entrance is a fairly nondescript staircase leading down to its basement level, located right next door to Cho Dang Gol. The ramen isn’t too great, but I highly recommend their drinks, sushi, fried baby octopus, and potato croquettes. Wait times can vary from no wait to an hour, but they stay open quite late and in all honesty, there ain’t much else!

So yay for Izakaya MEW, you make Midtown less horrible!

Izakaya MEW
53 West 35th Street, Basement
(between 5th and 6th Avenues)
Midtown, New York, NY

upper upper west side dreamin’

On Friday I got off early from work and went up to my old stomping grounds. Ah, hello my old neighborhood! Hello dearest Columbia! Hello quiet residential streets!

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There isn’t much up there except housing, the university, the hospital, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, but I have such fond memories of the area! It’s where I first lived in New York, and while I was busy at grad school, that quiet environment was just what I needed. Oh, but seriously, Columbia isn’t in Harlem, it’s in Morningside Heights (the area west of Morningside Park, West 110th to 125th Streets), which I tend to merge with the UUWS (Upper Upper West Side, aka Manhattan Valley, West 96th to 110th Streets), which itself is differentiated from the more happening part of the UWS to the south.

But in truth, who really cares? I lump Morningside Heights with the UUWS because combined, that was the majority of my life, and culturally, it feels more like the UWS than Harlem. And after living in Harlem for a year (east of Morningside Park), I gotta say, that park is a pretty serious dividing line. Oh gracious, all those stairs. (Not so fond memories.)

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I was actually up at Columbia in order to get an alumni ID because my student ID had been stolen (along with the rest of my wallet) during my last few weeks in Shanghai. I also went to look at an apartment in the area, which was spacious and clean and recently renovated and overall great. But unfortunately not great enough to outweigh the location. That being said, I love the location.

The UUWS really does feel like home to me (or more like home than my current tourist-ridden pit of hellfire), but alas, it’s no good for me anymore. Sigh, if only I could transport the UUWS to Midtown. So yes, this is a bit of an ode/elegy to the Upper Upper West Side, because it was amazing. But is no longer. (For me anyway.)

how to use the laundry room

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Ah, the convenience of an in-unit washer/dryer … how I miss thee! Having to trudge downstairs with a basket full of laundry makes me think back to my college days, and not in a good way. Plus, the laundry in my new place is crazy expensive. As in $3 for a wash and $2.75 for a dry. SERIOUSLY? It is such a rip-off, I feel like I’m being fleeced, but I’m not barbaric enough to go without washing my stuff.

When I lived in Astoria, I had to use the coin laundromat around the corner, which was annoying but not as bad as you might imagine because I was only working part-time that summer, which means I never did laundry during the rush periods and I had the time to chill and read a book while waiting. In the grand scheme of things, laundry in-building isn’t too bad either, but between carrying your giant basket, debating where to wait, hoping that no one takes your stuff, and praying that there are machines open … it does get to be a bit frustrating.

But seriously people, there are some basic rules of communal laundry:

  1. Don’t hog the washers or dryers. Yeah it’s convenient to do all five loads at once and block out the dryers, but if you’re doing that, you really should do laundry more often OR not do laundry at peak times! That’s rude. If you’re going to treat the place like your own personal washing room, invest in an apartment with an in-unit instead.
  2. Keep it clean. Or at least try to. While doing laundry is inherently about cleanliness, laundry rooms aren’t the cleanest places. Somehow there’s always spilled detergent and lint and soggy lost socks everywhere. If you’re cleaning out the lint trap, use the trashcan, because that’s what it’s there for. Don’t just bang it against the side of the machine and send lint into the air.
  3. Don’t leave your laundry in a washer or dryer! After that buzzer beeps, you get a maximum five minutes to make your way over before the machine becomes free game. If all the machines are full and there’s one with already-cleaned stuff that’s just been sitting there, I will dump the wet pile into a basket and no one will judge me. I don’t want to touch your stuff, you don’t want me to touch your stuff, but if I need to use the machine and you’re not responsible enough to be on time to remove your own stuff, you and I will both just have to deal with it.
  4. Don’t touch my stuff. This may seem to go against #3, but as long as I’m abiding by the other rules, don’t touch my stuff. If I happen to leave my laundry detergent there (which I never do anymore), don’t use it. If I happen to leave my laundry basket there (which I rarely do anymore), don’t use it. You know what you should do instead? Invest in laundry detergent and a laundry basket.

Rant completed.

architecture randomness (tbt)

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Back when I was at Columbia I used to sit in on a lot of the lectures hosted by GSAPP, and attended one that I made a note of. I shall now share:

Date: April 04, 2013
Setting: Wood Auditorium, Columbia University, New York
Event: “Converse” – Conversation between Mark Wigley and Wang Shu

Wigley was TORTURING this conversation about hard versus soft for what seemed to be forever. I was over it, I’m sure most of the audience was over it, and maybe even Wang Shu was over it (or at least he seemed kind of confused). Wang had brought up that he practices calligraphy in the morning before he begins pencil sketching his designs … and Wigley took off from there, trying to conceptualize Wang’s process. Then Wang mentioned that the first thing is actually making tea, which comes before the calligraphy, which Wigley took as the ultimate soft (id est, the liquid) that transitioned to the semi-soft (ink and brush) and then to the hard (pencil). In other words, this was a really weird conceptual sort of conversation and this particular topic went on much longer than it should have. But then:

Wigley: How hard is your pencil?

Wang: 1H.

[Laughter from Audience]

Maybe you had to be there? I think it was funny because of the literalness and simple specificity with which Wang Shu answered compared to Wigley’s all over the place hard-soft monologue. And the fact that an H pencil isn’t all that hard. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wigley … but this was not one of his finest moments.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why this post started with a picture of an alpaca/llama, it’s because it’s also random and somewhat Columbia/architecture-related. It was a Saturday, I was stressed and sleep deprived because the end of the year was nearing, and I was on my way to studio to work on my thesis. And then I ran into an alpaca/llama. Well, not literally ran into it. About a block from campus there was a street festival with bouncy castles and the alpaca/llama and I basically froze in shock. Because, seriously? How much more random can you get than seeing an alpaca/llama on your way to school? Or well, I actually have no idea if it was a llama or alpaca because I can’t tell the difference and didn’t stay long enough to ask. Anyone know for sure?