Staycation!

Ooooooh boy, welcome to Monday. Happy Memorial Day! I’m so glad I have today off to recover from the weekend!

It all started on Saturday evening. Clare left town, so Erik and I took over the balcony with a bottle of wine:

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We took turns posing with the ivy:

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I brought out the unsweetened dark chocolate, because dark chocolate and red wine must be paired:

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For you, Heather:

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I spent some time admiring the behind-the-scenes view of Brooklyn brownstones:

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And then it was on to course two: cheese, crackers, and cards!

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I sliced the rest of our Dubliner, and we devoured it with Carr’s rosemary crackers (the best) and IKEA cardamom crisps (don’t laugh — you must try them!):

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Proof of the deliciousness:

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When sky started spitting, we packed up our intense card game of Speed and headed inside for dessert. IKEA cookies (I actually don’t normally do my grocery shopping at IKEA. Mom brought the cookies for me when she visited last week!) and Sopranos:

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We had biiiiiiiiig plans for Sunday, so we got to bed at a reasonable hour and set our alarms for 8:00 …

The day began with a filling egg, arugula, and tomato tahini scramble, accompanied by cardamom crisps with guava jam:

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Post-breakfast, we suited up for a …

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… BIKE RIDE!!!!

In addition to all manner of IKEA goodies, my old bicycle (circa 1997?) also happened to arrive last week with mom and John. With the bicycle in mind, I had concocted an elaborate beach (obviously) scheme for our 87 degree Sunday. I sent Erik to the bike shop around the corner for a rental, and we were off!

Of course, I did not calculate mileage or anything ahead of time, but I did have a map of NYC bike routes, and they seemed to complement my plan perfectly. We started off riding along Prospect Park, merged onto Ocean Parkway, and took the Pkwy all the way to our first brief stop: Coney Island.

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Upon arrival at Coney Island, I realized that I had taken the same route on foot exactly one year earlier for the Brooklyn Half. Awww, memories.

Anyway, we arrived at Coney Island at 10:02 a.m., and apparently bikes are only allowed from 5:00 to 10:00. So, five police whistles later, we were back on our way to the ultimate destination: Riis Park!

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I knew about Riis Park from my impromptu trip there with Gina and Kate last year, and I’ve been thinking about the trash-can-free shoreline ever since! The beauty of Riis Park is that it is not as readily accessible by public transportation as, say, Coney Island.

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As soon as we arrived around 11am, we peeled off the sweaty bike clothes and jumped in!

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OK, perhaps it was more like a tiptoe:

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The water was FREEZING!!!!! Literally, it was an ice bath. It took me 20 minutes to get feeling back in my toes. After baking out in the sun for a little while longer, though, we were eventually able to work our way all the way in and play in the huge waves. It reminded me so much of summers on the beach in RI when I was little. Amazing!

Erik had a specific time to get the bike back to the shop, so we left the beach at 1:30 with a plan to find lunch (we had picked up 3 pears and 3 oranges pre-beach and inhaled them all) along the way.

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We ended up stopping in Sheepshead Bay, a neighborhood in Brooklyn that I’ve never visited due to my dependence on the MTA. The bikes really do open up a whole new world! As we rode through Sheepshead Bay, I kept repeating, Where are we? Florida? How did we get to Ft. Lauderdale? The sidewalks had little blue ocean waves tiled into them, and there was a yacht club, for heaven’s sake!

Anyway, I had noticed Halikarnas on our way to the beach and had been fantasizing about eating in that upstairs window since:

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At first, the host refused us the upstairs due to lack of A/C, but we insisted … and won!

I was ravenous (and Erik was more so), so we were thrilled when this glorious basket of sesame bread arrived with a zesty dipping sauce:

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Black and white sesame seeds, so exciting!

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We posed with our bread and dip and the yacht club:

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Our waiter was worried about the lighting, but I told him the scenery was the only important part anyway.

We also got an order of babaganouj to accompany the bread:

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Mmmm, best ever, I promise!

Next, we split the Halikarnas salad that came with char-grilled shrimp, roasted peppers and tomatoes, and arugula:

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This is how I felt when that salad arrived:

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I was really in heaven! Bike, beach, char on my veggies, arugula … I almost cried! Instead, I posed with the hanging flowers:

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For our final course, we split the grilled Turkish meatballs.

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Another winner!

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I took two of the meatballs and half the veggies and doused it all with yogurt sauce:

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Sadly, the teeny piece of hot pepper I took was tooooooooo much and completely exploded the fire in my mouth. After I extracted the bits of pepper out of my mix and recovered somewhat, I could only eat about 2/3 of my plate because I was stuffed. 😦 We didn’t even have room for dessert!

Anyway, we got back on the bikes around 3:30 and, by this time, sitting was starting to become decidedly uncomfortable! My lips were burny, my skin was burny, I couldn’t sit, I was covered in sand, I was hot and sweaty, I was way too full, and we still had over an hour left to bike! We finally made it home just before 5, and in perfect time for Erik to get the bike returned.

I took a shower and napped and started thinking about mojitos. I wanted to go here for the outdoor movie and frozen mojitos, but it was wayyyyyy too packed when we arrived. Instead, we wandered around until we landed at Bogota, one of my favorites!

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We immediately ordered a pitcher of mojito:

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We started out not hungry at all, but about 1.5 mojitos in, I started eyeing the complementary plantain chips that we had not yet received. The busboy brought some right over!

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Erik ordered the chicken quesadilla with black beans, sweet plantains, cheddar cheese, pico, and a big side of guacamole. He insisted on sharing, and I gladly took half:

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This was the best quesadilla EVER! It’s that salty-sweet combo, can’t beat it.

Meanwhile, the mojitos were getting to me. I think I might be allergic to mojitos. Sometimes, they make me break out in big red splotches all over my chest and back and face. This reaction was taking place last night.

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I started chugging water and eventually abandoned the mojitos altogether after my second one. Quite sad because mojitos are my favorite drink! Erik had to pick up the slack:

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The people next to us had gotten the dessert sampler that looked amaaaaazing, but Erik ordered a second quesadilla accidentally, and we no longer had room for the whole spread of tres leches cake, coconut flan, dulce de leche wafers, and churros 😦

We settled for just the churros:

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They came with a dark chocolate sauce and a dulce de leche sauce. Heaven!

On the walk home, Erik got the hiccups and had to meditate them away. The camera made him self-conscious, so he turned around:

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The end!

Oh, and I just checked the mileage for our bike trip … 40 miles!!!???!!! No wonder I can’t sit down today!

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So many good things

Helloooooooooo, and happy glorious long Memorial Day weekend!!

I have had quite the eventful week … of not working. I had to have a magnificently unpleasant medical procedure on Tuesday, so, in preparation for that, my Monday looked like this:

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Following the magnificently unpleasant medical procedure (from which everything checked out quite healthily), I ate many many salads to reintroduce my body to solid food. I don’t have any pictures because they were on my old computer, and I wasn’t excited enough about them to transfer them to my new computer.

That’s right, my new computer!!

I have been working with the same ibook G4 since 2004 when my four “parents” got it for me as a college graduation present. It has served me loyally, but six years is a long time in laptop world. The poor thing lost the ability to hold a charge (or even be charged), not to mention that nearly everything stopped functioning because the operating system was too old to handle application upgrades. The G4 conveniently saw me right through to the end of grad school, when the four “parents” came through once again with a brand new MacBook as a graduation present 😀

Speaking of which, I officially graduated from Bank Street with my Master of Education degree on Thursday! I had a dazzling cheering section with mom and John:

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And Erik:

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Next Thursday is the Social Work graduation, and then I will be free!!! Except for a summer full of studying for the social work licensing exam … FUUUUUN.

In the meantime, I got inspired by Gena’s post about tomato tahini dressing. I had conveniently just made my own tahini a few days earlier by whirring home-toasted sesame seeds, olive oil, and coarse sea salt in my Nut & Spice grinder. After reading Gena’s post, I trotted over to Union Market and picked up a few sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil:

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I threw the tahini and the tomatoes back in the grinder with a bit of white wine vinegar and came out with this beautiful (to me) paste:

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I’ve been crumbling it on my arugula salads and spending a big chunk of time in salad heaven ever since 😀

In my second bout with food fun at home, Erik had exhausted his lunch supply mid-week, and I realized we had peanut butter and jelly … but no bread! Never fear! I dusted the ice off the rest of my pack of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (the first half of the back went to calzones) and uncovered this guava jam that arrived months and months ago (or perhaps even a year ago) for review:

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I rolled the dough out into a bunch of funkily-shaped squares and slathered on the goods:

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Sealed with a fork:

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Baked for 20 minutes at 375 until crispy and oozy:

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I sampled a baby one:

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OoooooooooooooMmmmmmmmmmmmGggggggggggg delicious!

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Melty peanut butter, be still my heart.

So, now I am going to go back to planning my staycation itinerary for the rest of the weekend. I think it will be brilliant. If I am so inspired, I might even take pictures!

Enjoy the sun!

Old friends, new beginnings

A little bit too early on Saturday morning, we piled into our little rental and made our way down to Athens for the graduation at UGA.

We just happened to bump into Wife and Ted and the whole Wife and Ted crew on our walk from the parking lot to the big auditorium. After six years in school (and here I am complaining about three all the time!) working toward Ph.D.s in Social Psychology, the two seemed appropriately enthusiastic to be graduating!

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Once seated inside, we sat through many hours of official proceedings. I was very excited to spot my Wife (and her Ted) in the processional:

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Post-ceremony, we headed back to Wife’s house. The girls chatted; the boys cheered their beers:

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Clearly, no one is trying to combat any gender stereotypes here!

I happened to open the fridge, and my heart did 5 thousand jumping jacks at the sight inside:

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Chocolate-covered strawberries, hand-picked and dipped only the day before! Yummmmmmmmm. It took a lot of willpower to wait for their official unveiling to start sampling.

We “kids” spent some time catching up until I spotted this scene down in the parking lot:

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It was Wife’s family arriving with lunch!

Hummus and bread:

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Sandwich selection:

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I made a colorful plate of salad, loads of hummus with some bread, and an open-faced turkey sandwich:

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The turkey sandwich had a layer of mango chutney. Very exciting, especially since I assumed it was mustard on initial inspection!

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When we were stuffed from lunch, desserts arrived!

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I obviously had a number of chocolate-covered strawberries. Alongside them, however, I had at least half of every single kind of authentic Italian cookie that Wife’s mom brought all the way down to GA from Providence!

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That one on the bottom right with pistachios and dried berries — amazing!!!

The adults soon left to prepare for the night, leaving us kids to splash around in the pool for a couple hours until we worked up an appetite for dinner. Wife and Ted’s parents joined forces to put on a lovely graduation party/dinner at La Dolce Vita in downtown Athens:

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I actually felt like I was in Italy (well, I have never been to Italy, but I imagine it would feel similar to this restaurant) with all of these warm colors, strategically run-down patches of exposed brick, and bottle upon bottle of wine:

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I got going with the delicious red while contemplating the constantly refilling appetizer platters with arugula-tomato bruschetta and antipasti:

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I kept grabbing all the arugula I could find — it was soooooooo tasty and peppery:

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The crowd mingled:

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While the other diners tried to pretend they were not inadvertently crashing a graduation party:

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Chris and Wife’s brother Matthew wondered when the main course was going to arrive:

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We killed some time by posing with our wine:

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In all honesty, though, we did not really need to kill any time because we were having such a blast! Finally, Wife and Ted calmed the masses so they could give their speech:

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Holding court:

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Post-speech, the family style food started rolling in! We began with a super-dressed (though quite delicious) Caesar salad:

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Paired with mixed greens:

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And then the main pasta courses arrived!

We had rigatoni (?) in meat sauce:

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With spinach ravioli in a brown butter and sage sauce (omggggggggggg, I wanted to take a bath in this sauce!):

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Plus a caprese-esque pasta dish:

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And gnocchi in that same brown-butter sage sauce:

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We did not like anything:

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Just when we thought nothing else could fit, we were offered a choice of two graduation cakes that Wife and Ted had picked out! I chose the lemon custard:

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Erik picked the tiramisu:

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We shared bites, but I was overall quite pleased with my lemon 😀

I cleansed my palate with a lovely cappuccino:

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Meanwhile, night had fallen in Italy:

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We made a quick pit stop outside with the Georgia Bulldog:

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(I promise I am pregnant with food and not with a baby in that picture!)

And then headed across the street to dance it all off in the club until the wee hours:

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Overall, it was a perfect whirlwind of a trip with scrumptious food and amazing friends and almost too much fun! Wife and Ted should be making one more appearance when they come out to NYC in June for one last hurrah before they move to Bilbao, Spain for a two-year post-doc, AHHHHHHHH!! So jealous. Anyway, stay posted for more adventures to come 🙂

When you graduated from college, did you ever imagine that you’d be going through a whole new round of graduations years later? I was sure college was the end of the road for me and my education!

City-hopping

A couple weeks ago, Gina, Chris, Erik, and I took a group field trip down to Atlanta for Wife and Ted’s graduation. Since we arrived Friday morning and graduation festivities did not start until Saturday, we spent the rest of our first day covering a whirlwind of Atlantan highlights. We began in the illustrious airport rental car lot with Chris behind the wheel:

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We pulled out into the sunshine and soon saw the city waiting to greet us:

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We beelined directly for the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and, more directly, to the cafe there because we were ravenous:

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While waiting for our lunch to arrive, Gina demonstrated appropriate sun protection strategy:

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And then, the food came! I ordered this beautiful salad with artichokes, goat cheese, and walnuts:

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Delicious!

Sufficiently fueled, we headed out into the children’s garden, the best part of any botanical garden …

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… except for maybe the Orchid House!

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After the gardens, we drove over to Virginia Highland, a little neighborhood with a bunch of shops and restaurants. Look at what we found!!

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Cacao was not even a planned stop on our itinerary. What fate!

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Inside, we found a beautiful selection of handcrafted dark dark dark chocolate truffles:

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We made our selections and went to have a sit in the little garden area outside with our treats:

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Erik and I shared the Lotus Sutra (ginger with candied ginger in belly) and the caramel sea salt truffle:

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Gina and Chris shared the Tartufo Classico (dark chocolate ganache), the Harmonize (clover honey, organic crunchy peanut butter, dark chocolate ganache), Coconut Love (Brazilian Catauba Coconut), the Italian Cowboy (Illy Espresso & Woodford Reserve Bourbon):

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Luck was clearly not in short supply, as we came across a mulberry tree moments later:

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$3.50 artisan truffles or free just-picked mulberry? It’s hard to choose a winner!

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After wandering around a bit, we stopped into Neighbor’s for a snack and some drinks.

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Erik and I shared the chicken nachos, mmmmmmm:

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They were tasty, but not the best I’ve ever had. Erik is a messy eater:

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After Neighbor’s, we could not help but make a visit to Paolo’s for gelato!

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Mounds of creamy brilliance:

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I ordered a combo of mint chip and straciatella:

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Our final city stop was The Sun Dial since I have a preoccupation with finding the best and highest views in every city:

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We timed our visit so that we could get the tail end of the daytime view:

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I had planned for us just to go for the observation deck, but we found ourselves in the revolving bar!

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Gina ordered a warm she-crab dip, and we all shared and shared and shared:

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And then the sun …

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… began to go to bed:

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We welcomed the night with a crispy cheesy pizza that we all split:

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And then we hit the road toward our hotel to rest up for all the graduation festivities awaiting us the next day!

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Hasta manana …

‘Hood to ‘hood

Since Penno’s bachelorette festivities, a number of things have happened in my world, the most exciting of which was FINISHING THE LAST PAPER OF MY GRADUATE SCHOOL CAREER!!!!!! You may be aware that I have been in grad school forEVER. Having graduation within my grasp is epic, and having a homework stress breather has been brilliant … and just long enough to get me psyched for my social work licensing exam prep course next month (ugh).

Other things have been happening in the world of my food. Recently, Sam left his job at my agency to relocate to San Francisco.

Jose and Sam:

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We sent him off with a smashing smattering of nibbles, obviously!

Jessica demonstrates grapes, crudites, cheese, crackers, chips, salsa, guacamole, asparagus spears (!!!!), and more:

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The crowd mingled:

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Carrot cake was present:

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I ate a baby wedge because I obviously can’t resist carrot cake with cream cheese icing:

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The crew (partially):

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Then, on a non-food note, I joined some of the office for the May Day immigration reform and wall street reform on a crazy sweaty and hot Saturday morning:

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Next up … Kate’s birthday! Kate arranged a little last minute group for all-you-can-eat taco night at Mad Dog and Beans in the financial district:

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Lucky Kate had her 28th fall on one of the most gorgeous nights of the season (more than I can say for my cloudy dreary frigid May 11 birthday), so we got to eat outside:

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Mad Dog and Beans is genius because they have special all-you-can-eat nights every week. Monday is for tacos, Tuesday is for burritos, and Wednesday is for fajitas. Brilliant, right? We were there on Monday, taco night! The deal was unlimited tacos (chicken, mahi mahi, and/or steak) with a frozen margarita for $20.

Sadly, I had already eaten more than my fill at work (surprise surprise), so I decided to take a non-unlimited route. That does not mean I did not taste Kate’s margarita:

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Or have a bite of her mahi mahi tacos!!!!!!! (omgdelicious)

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If I didn’t get unlimited tacos, what did I get? A side of sweet plantains, of course!!

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I also ordered a refreshing mojito to wash my maduros down, but it somehow escaped the wrath of the camera lens?

Here’s the birthday girl:

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And here’s the birthday girl’s cosmo cupcake from Crumbs:

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I was so excited when Kate cut the cake to share:

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Crumbs actually did a decent job making this cupcake cosmo-y. The inside had a strawberry-ish cream, and the frosting on top was lime. Delicious!

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Shortly thereafter (on another day), I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge with this stud, one of my all-time favorite activities:

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From there we walked to Sahadi’s, quite possibly my favorite store in Brooklyn, as they sell unsweetened chocolate disks and unsweetened and unsulfured dried papaya, dried strawberries, dried pineapple, and dried mango from bulk bins! I have no pictures because I ate it all too fast 😛

So, there it is, a whole bunch of random adventures, inside to outside, East Harlem to Brooklyn Heights. Yayyyyy for spring! Month of May, I am counting on you to be breezy and warm for your remaining 10 days!

P.S. Happy BIG birthday today to my big brother, Mark!!