Feeling the Birthday Love

If there ever was a day to remind you how blessed you are, it’s your birthday. My 21st was on Friday, and it began with the opening of a box my mom gave me when I saw her the previous weekend. She had commanded me not to open it until my birthday, and I was proud of myself for waiting. Inside, I found 21 little birthday presents – one for each year I’ve been alive. It was perfect, and such a thoughtful gift, including everything from a Starbucks card to a bag of dry roasted edamame, the greatest snack in the whole world.

These are the unwrapped versions but my mom actually took the time to individually wrap each of the gifts.

The day was also special because my friend Miranda, who lived across the hall from me at school this year, sent me an edible bouquet of chocolate-covered strawberries. The fact that she sent me food, not flowers, and filled the card with 30 Rock references is probably a good indicator of why we are friends.

There was also a pink princess balloon attached; Miranda later told me that she wanted it to include a Disney princess balloon, but apparently Edible Arrangements only supports generic-brand royalty.

I received one more special delivery; this one, a non-edible bouquet of flowers from my parents (it should be noted that they are now in full bloom and look even more gorgeous than they do here):

Since I know you were wondering, the #1 way to put a smile on my face would be to send me flowers. The smile will be bigger if you also send coffee.

While Friday was the “official” day, Thursday was also filled with some birthday action. We Sports Illustrated PR interns didn’t have to work on Friday, so on Thursday afternoon, one of my co-workers asked me to walk with him to another department on our floor to pick up some magazines. Our final destination wasn’t magazines, but a small conference room where everyone else on the PR team sat waiting with cupcakes, a balloon and a birthday card. I was blown away by their thoughtfulness, especially because I’ve only been there a few weeks.

Also not to be forgotten are the decorations/gifts from my wonderful suitemates. I went out to dinner on Thursday night and returned to find this at my door:

The birthday surprise from my suitemates: custom-made birthday poster, sweets from Dylan's Candy Bar and "21" spelled out in Dove chocolates.

On Friday night, I went out for dinner and drinks with a group of about 10 people. I can’t even begin to describe how lucky I feel, knowing that after only a month in the city, I have that many people who want to celebrate with me. We had a fantastic night – dinner at Hill Country and drinks at a couple places near our building in Midtown. (Don’t get your hopes up; I’m pretty much the least exciting person to go out with in history. I remember every minute of the night, and my drink total only came to 1.25 drinks.)

The birthday crew at Hill Country.

Thanks to everyone who helped me celebrate in person or left me a note via Facebook or Twitter. Here’s to making it a great year!

Brooklyn, Skylines and Stalking Liz Lemon

Eight weeks down, two to go.

What?!

Somehow, eight weeks flew by and left me with just two more weeks in New York City. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to go home, but I’m also sad that time has gone so quickly and am determined to make the most of what remains.

I’ve failed at blogging this past week, so here’s a recap of what’s been going on in the Big Apple:

Last weekend, my dad visited! It was great to spend time and explore the city with him. Our first stop on Friday afternoon was the Museum of Modern Art. It’s not far from where I work, and admission is free after 4 pm on Fridays, so we walked over and looked around for a while after I finished work.

My dad (sporting Oregon State gear, as always) and I at the MoMA

I’m not an art connoisseur by any means, but I really liked seeing Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans in person.

Me with all the Campbell's soup you'd ever want.

We spend most of Saturday exploring Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, which was awesome. I hadn’t really had the chance to venture into Brooklyn, so exploring it with my dad was a lot of fun. He took a walking tour of Brooklyn back in June when he helped me move in, so he was able to tell me a little bit about the area’s history. One of the area’s most impressive landmarks is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch, which commemorates the sacrifice of soldiers and sailors in the Civil War. My dad explained that the statues on the top of the arch are facing south, as if to rub the northern victory in the Confederacy’s face. Awesome.

The arch in Park Slope. Statues of Lincoln and Grant on horseback are on the inside.

We also walked around Prospect Park, looked at some cool hipster clothing stores (I guess that was mostly just me) and explored the neighborhood, which mainly consists of old brownstone homes. These houses are beautiful and historic – I have long-term plans to live in one of them.

Brooklyn's brownstones; a far cry from the apartments of busy Manhattan.

I think I’ve picked this one as my future home…52 Berkely Place:

A pink brownstone in Park Slope. I'll take it.

My dad and I also explored Chelsea Market, took the Staten Island Ferry and went for an exhilarating run (sense sarcasm) along the Hudson River. All in all, a great weekend with my padre in the big city!

I know this post is all about what I did on the weekends and not really about what I’m doing at work; I’m still loving my internship, but there aren’t really any great pictures and the stories aren’t as exciting. Unless you count the conversation I had with the guy in the cubicle behind me about the possibility of a Liz Lemon-Jack Donaghy relationship on 30 Rock. Turns out he loves Tina Fey, too.

Friday night, some friends and I treated ourselves to ice cream from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, a cute little place that’s under the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s an observation-deck-esque platform next to the shop that gives you an expansive, breathtaking view of the city.

Looking out at the skyline, I had a serious New York City “moment.” No, Frank Sinatra did not come back from the dead and serenade me in the moonlight, but I could see the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and the Empire State Building. Someone was even playing Frank’s “New York, New York” in the background. It sounds cheesy, but I took a minute to just stand there and take it all in. The city never looked better and I felt like a true New Yorker, at least for a moment.

And even though it’s not the same as being there, I took a video of the whole expanse with my camera so you could get a little taste of the view (you also get a taste of my mad zoom in – zoom out skills):

If you’re still reading this novella, you’re almost to the best part. Okay, it might not be as great as the shimmering lights of the New York City skyline, but if you’re a total nerd like me, it’s close.

Yesterday, I had the morning and afternoon free so I decided to explore the Upper West Side, a neighborhood I hadn’t really been to yet. I’m sure a lot of famous people live there, but the most famous of all is my hero, head writer of The Girlie Show and 30 Rock main character Liz Lemon. (Yes, my hero is a fictional character.)

Many 30 Rock episodes feature scenes in Liz’s apartment, and the shot shown before each apartment scene is the outside of an apartment building at 160 Riverside Drive, on the Upper West Side. As sad as it is, I actually looked up directions to the apartment on my phone while I was walking and took a little stroll past Liz’s place. I didn’t go right up to it and take pictures for fear of looking like a total lunatic, but I did grab a good shot:

I was in full-on stalker mode. Anything for a picture of Liz's apartment!

Anyway, now that I sound like a totally deranged person who stalks fictional characters, I’ll end this post. Thanks for reading about my adventures – I appreciate it more than you know!

A Post About Food

There is a running joke in my family that all of my clearest memories in life are tied to the foods I was eating during important events. While this may or may not be true (decide for yourself), it is true that I love food.

I’ve eaten a lot of great food over the past few weeks and have suddenly become obsessed with hunting down great places to eat more. Here is a sampling of some of the best I’ve had thus far:

Magnolia Bakery

Saint Cupcake, it’s been a great few years. My favorite cupcake shop in Portland has been dethroned by the magnificent Magnolia Bakery, a popular NYC destination. Everything about it is delightful, especially the “Grand Central” cupcake they serve exclusively at their Grand Central Station store. Their Grand Central Station store has its own Grand Central cupcake – a chocolate/vanilla marble cake with delicious buttercream frosting and a chocolate on top. Observe:

grand central cupcake

The Grand Central Cupcake, kept in one of Magnolia's genius upside-down plastic cup containers.

magnolia grand central

The spread of cupcakes at Magnolia Grand Central

S’MAC

S’mac is short for Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese, and “most amazing random food restaurant ever.” At S’MAC, you can choose from a bunch of different mac & cheese combos and then have it served to you on a skillet. I recommend the “Garden Lite” – mac & cheese with lite cheddar, parmesan, roasted cauliflower and portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic, broccoli and scallions. Of course, that’s all I’ve tried, but it was pretty dang good.

mac n cheese from smac

Ignore the fact that I look really tired, and focus on the amazingness of that mac & cheese.

Street Meat

The street vendor/food cart craze is sweeping the nation, and you can bet NYC is no exception. Eating on the street is an art form these days, especially during summer weekends when street fairs pop up all over town. While on my way to a street fair in the East Village, I came upon one right in my own neighborhood (East Midtown). And while my best purchase of the day was probably Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium record ($7! Vinyl!), the second best was this lunch:

$1 lemonade + $5 chicken satay and pad Thai = $6 = the NYC equivalent of free

Even though I didn’t take pictures of all of my food, like some of my Rodale colleagues suggested I do during my first week (seriously – they were right; I should have), here are a few other places I’ve tried and loved:

Lombardi’s Pizza in NoLita (North of Little Italy) – can’t go wrong in a restaurant where you only pay $8 for two enormous pizza slices AND where they play Frank Sinatra music.

16 Handles – world’s most delicious self-serve frozen yogurt

William Greenberg Desserts – according to New York magazine a couple of years ago, they have the best black and white cookies in the city; those are a New York tradition

To me, a discussion of food isn’t complete without a little homage to my hero Liz Lemon, who loves food just as much as I do. So, while it really has nothing to do with anything I’ve said above, take 30 seconds to appreciate Liz and her food obsession. As always, thanks for reading!