When my sister was visiting here in June we walked through Times Square. I pointed up at Forever 21 and said "there goes the neighborhood". While Times Square probably has the most chain restaurants and chain stores in the city, the newest entrants have been less than exciting, American Eagle and now Forever 21.
I am a firm believer that store in Times Square should be over the top or highly specialized. For example:
Toys R Us has a ferris wheel inside
M&M's store where you can buy all one color or a million different colors
MTV store offers jersey shore bobble heads
Well even though you can find Forever 21 in your local mall, they did this store right. Reportedly 90,000 square feet of shopping space, this place is HUGE. The first step in was a little overwhelming. They created a more open space and white atmosphere making the place look a lot bigger than the Virgin Megastore it replaced (as well as actually being a bit bigger). It also appears a bit more high classed then the stores I have been in before, with special uniquely decorated sections for each of their lines of clothing.
With four floors of mostly women's apparel (I think I spotted a corner devoted to men) the place could easily occupy a chunk of time. I went in with a friend and we immediately lost each other. After an hour and two trips to the dressing room I left with three shirts.
But I couldn't find her... I texted and called, and finally decided to leave (It was time to get out!).
A short while later I received a text that she was still inside and a text again almost two hours later that she was headed to the check out line... this place is huge!
Forever 21 taxi on the bottom floor
Side note: As I was walking back through Times Square (dodging people left and right) a guy in front of me dropped a wad of cash. I pick it up and notice that the outside bill was a $50... So I look back up and the guy is halfway down the block... moving and a swift pace. I was still in my heels from work, but I started dodging in and out to grab him. Finally I decided I was going to have to run or miss him in the next traffic light. After sprinting a few steps I catch him. He was thankful and flustered (but did not offer me a cash reward). He was also Australian and asked me if I was a "local" ha, hmm... I said uh yeah. He wanted to know how far he was from Madison Square Garden, so I guess he was late for something. I told him 10 more blocks and off he went half running down the street.
My neighborhood has a greenmarket, but this year they moved it from Saturday to Wednesday. It's open when I go to work (who wants to carry a bag of tomatoes around all day?), but closed by the time I get home. After a phone call from my sister telling me about how she had gone with my other sister and my mom to get farm fresh peaches I decided that I wanted to see if I could get some straight from a orchard. So last weekend I went to http://www.cenyc.org/ to find where I could find a greenmarket on Sunday. Not wanting to make many subway transfers I decided to head to Jackson Heights.
I had never gotten off the subway in Jackson Heights before, I'd only rode past the neighborhood. When I exited the subway on to Roosevelt Avenue the surroundings looked about like I expected, but as I started walking towards Travers park I found myself in the historic garden apartment district. In the 1920s many buildings were built in this area with interior gardens and set away from the street so that gardens could be planted in front of the buildings as well.
View down the street of a garden apartment
The market itself was pretty nice. There were maybe 15 vendors of fruits, veggies, and meat. There was also a city agency doing a cooking demonstration, a learn to bicycle station, and a few people serving prepared food such as grilled corn, tamales, and gorditas (I had one of these, yumm).
View down the sidewalk
As I was walking back to the subway and pondering that yummy cheese that real Mexican food always has (think my yummy gordita) I spotted a Met supermarket. Jackson Heights has a large south american population (apparently primarily Colombian, Ecuadorian, and Peruvian) so I thought my best bet of finding that cheese might be in front of me. Not only did I find the cheese I also picked up some tostada shells.
My goods from my outing... Tomatos, cilantro, tomatillos, peaches, red onions, green pepper, and golden plums.
Lunch- tostada, smashed black beans, mixture of onion, tomato, tomatillo, lettuce, cilantro, and topped with cotija molido
I decided to check out the new Harlem Target today (the exciting life I live), but as soon as I excited the subway at 116th I knew it wasn't just going to be an average trip to the store. 116th was blocked off from Lexington to 2nd avenue. Most of the street was taken up with carnival rides and games and people selling pina coladas.
At the end of the street a small stage was set up. When I walked up a rapper (hip hop artist?), Blaze, had taken the stage. Blaze wasn't half bad and had some lovely backup dancers dressed like bikers (I think?). A old Dominican man took a liking to me and made sure I had a prime viewing spot and that I got one of the free CDs they were handing out. I'm listening to it now... he's pretty good, but as it is all in spanish, I'm not sure what his "One Man Army" CD is about.
Next act? The local dance school. Their performance was divided into three age groups. The little kids salsa'd, the pre teen's hip hopped, and the old kids did a great routine to the In the Heights soundtrack. I was very impressed by their dance ability.
Now let's pause for politics. There were campaign signs for Charles Rangel, Harlem Congressman, who is currently under fire from the House Ethics Committee for 13 ethic charges, including the misuse of office stationery and undeclared income.
I continued on and within a block of the Target I saw another festival. A Giglio feast, which is an Italian festival that only takes place in six places worldwide, three in Italy and three in the greater New York City area. I'd stumbled upon the feast for Our Lady of Mt Carmel in East Harlem. Basically over a hundred men (and I think I spotted some women) carry this statue, over 6 stories tall, and brass band down the street while dancing it up and down and around in circles. It was pretty amazing to watch.
After some song and dance they marched down to the church (only a few buildings away) and engaged in more song and dance.
I went on to Target (I forgot to take a picture). It is a pretty nice store and I checked out the Harlem designer items, but thought they were a little flashy for Midtown. I left with a pair of sunglasses, work dress, and fruit bars.
This summer as part of the Summer Streets program, where they are closing down Park Ave for three weekends in August, the city has deployed "dumpster pools". At 40th and Park on Saturday morning there were three pools full of people splashing around with a view of Grand Central Station.
I've been growing three tomato bushes in my apartment... my studio apartment. I've been growing basil, cilantro, rosemary, and even a sunflower, but I wanted to see if I could grow tomatoes. Right away they sprung out of the ground and grew and grew. Then they began to flower and I got excited, but then the flowers just fell off and nothing happened. As the flowers fell over the last few weeks and the bushes grew to almost my ceiling I was thinking evil thoughts. I was thinking of getting rid of them. I couldn't bare to, but why weren't they producing any fruit?
I've been trying to figure out what was going on, but I'm not a tomato apartment expert. This weekend I discussed my problem with my cousins and aunts in DC. They suggested that although tomatoes are self pollinating that they may need some help spreading it around. We came up with three ideas: 1. Let some bees come hang out with me in the apartment 2. Use a q-tip to spread the love around 3. Put a bag over the plant and SHAKE.
I came back home Sunday night with all intention of trying method 2 and 3 only to find.... A TOMATO GROWING! I was so excited I snapped several (poorly lit) pictures. The next day I looked around and I think she has a buddy growing. I'm keeping the faith for more!
Success! (or almost success, lets see if we can get it to grow and ripen up)
When you think of National Treasures in Washington, DC you think the Capitol Building, White House, National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian Museums... the list could go on, but have you ever thought of trees? I spent this last weekend in DC and having lived there for a summer and visited numerous times I've hit all the hot spots. My friend suggested we try the National Arboretum.
Even with the drive through some questionable neighborhoods, the Arboretum was pretty cool. One garden area contained all kinds of plants used for different purposes including: dyes, teas, eating, perfumes, medicine, etc.
It was in the dye area that we spotted this beauty
Another area, fern valley, had these pillars from the Capitol building. When the building was expanded these were removed and the addition was completed with marble replicas.
One area was full of bonsai trees and I knew that I had seen them before. Soon I remembered that my favorite TV show, CBS Sunday Morning, had done a piece on the bonsai trees located here. I have to admit I loved looking at the tiny trees.
Matt volunteered to give some size perspective
Especially the tiny forests
Other areas included a State Tree Forest (although the map wasn't very helpful and I am pretty sure the Dogwood Tree was missing), power plants, azealas, and holly and Magnolias.
This last weekend I took the MegaBus down I-95 to DC for some fun.
Bonus- I got to see these guys:
We met for the first time
We had fun hugging trees
While I was visiting we headed out to Great Falls. Great Falls was created during the Ice Age when the river needed to drop in order to continue to flow into the ocean. The Potomac drops a total of 76 feet in elevation in less than a mile, creating pretty amazing rapids. The water level was pretty low on the day of our visit.
To avoid these rapids the Chesapeake & Ohio canal was created. Through this area there are a series of locks to account for the drop in the river. We got to ride a canal boat through a the lock and up the river being pulled by two donkeys (although they said our boat was so light that a 5 year old could pull us).
Last week as a work event we headed to Staten Island to watch the single A Yankees play. All we could eat hotdogs, hamburgers, popcorn and soda, hat, and seats. Not much talent on either team but the Yankees beat the Tigers that night. We were even treated to an amazing fireworks show after the game as we headed back to the ferry.
I highly recommend this trip for all you baseball fans out there. Skip the Yankees in the Bronx, skip the Mets and take the ferry. The ferry ride is free and you get great views of the statue of liberty, Brooklyn, Governor's Island, and wait turn around... Manhattan! Tickets to the game and food are a cool $18. And get this, it took me less than an hour to get home from the game... in the Bronx it would be an hour from your seats to the crowded subway car.
Now don't get me wrong, the level of play was ehm... sub-par. There may have been more errors than runs, but there was plenty of side line entertainment and who knows when you may get to see a future star before they make it big.
Enjoying unlimited popcorn
The boys in Richmond County Stadium
The orange chariot shuttling people across the city