Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lovely Letterpress

My friend and I recently stumbled upon this
adorable little stationary shop in Manhattan's West Village: Greenwich Letterpress. SO CUTE! To paint a picture, this sweet store is located in the heart of the quintessential, romantic New York City neighborhood. Imagine narrow tree-lined streets, old brick pre-war buildings with shutters, terraces, secret backyard gardens, and wrought iron fences. So, so lovely. Alas, it also happens to be one of, if not the most expensive neighborhoods to live in rent-wise throughout all of the five-boroughs *sigh* but hey, a girl can dream.

Anyway, we venture into Greenwich Letterpress to do a little pre-dinner, spur-of-the-moment perusing, and what a fun surprise! A word about the fledgling graphic designer in me: I could spend hours oogling over stationary, stamps, greeting cards, paper, knick-knacks, and the creative like. All the inspiration and design possibilities that lie within such retail shops are simply enthralling! (I think my heart rate actually increases when I step foot inside a paper store). Reason being, in this technological age where we have at our disposal ever-increasing means by which to communicate instantaneously with one another, receiving a hand-written note in the mail on a real piece of beautiful stationary from a close friend or loved one is becoming a lost art. Very sad. Which is part of the reason I love pushing my creative limits designing and then mailing out notes and letters; they're often unexpected, yet widely appreciated upon receipt!

I adore Kate's Paperie, Paper Source, and Papyrus, don't get me wrong - but, there's something so home-grown feeling about shopping in an independently-owned, small business card shop (operated by two very creative sisters - Amy and Beth). Props to them for standing their ground amidst an ever-expanding competitive corporate market. With their expertise, they're keeping the Art of the Printed Word (and thought) alive, reviving a disappearing method of communication - cheers to you, ladies!

Greenwich Letterpress is unique in the fact they specialize in custom-printing solely utilizing the letterpress technique. While they offer a variety of other brands' greeting cards, stamps, paper, and post cards for sale, this artisan, very chic-looking letterpress style is textured and simply beautiful in a antique-preppy-bohemian sort of way. It is relief printing of text and image, which results in giving greater definition to both the type and artwork. This printing exhibits a sort of retro look and has a very high-quality look and feel to it.

Furthermore, this little company takes extra effort to be kind to the environment. As stated on their website, all of their
paper is either made from 100% post consumer cotton or 100% recylced, and all inks are soy-based. Their work is produced using 100$ wind energy (which means no carbon footprint), and they are a featured member of Greenopia, as well as some of the founding members of Greenprint. What's not to love about cards and a company that's devoted to all that?

Below are some examples of their pre-designed greeting cards for sale. Check out their website, blog, and on-line shop for more creative offerings! I hope their cards will provide you with a little design inspiration of your very own.
As for myself, I predict a weekend excursion to Greenwich Letterpress again in the near future, and new-found motivation to get back on the card-designing and letter-writing bandwagon.

Greenwich Letterpress
39 Christopher Street (b/w 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10014

Tuesday-Friday 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday Noon-6:00 p.m.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

En la Moda

Fashion Week came to a close a couple weeks ago here in New York, and amidst all the hustle and bustle, I happened upon a fantastic blog called Advanced Style. I've been checking in on it quite frequently, and apart from the hilarious culinary-disaster blog called Cake Wrecks, Advanced Style makes me smile inside every time I scroll through author Ari Seth Cohen's posts. Maybe...just maybe because his blog reminds me a little bit about my own fashionista Grandmother, (who has a closet specifically designated for her handbag collection, btw). Here she is, always looking so glam!

Similarly to The Satorialist, (which is another fun blog to check out), Advanced Style is unique and genius in the fact it focuses solely on the fashion sense of the ever-so-slightly older set of Manhattanites. No, you won't see any sky-high gladiator heels, mini-skirts, or distressed jeans featured in these postings. Rather, this blog brilliantly - in a simplistic and respectful manner - showcases the classically stylish (if not sometimes eccentric) outfits of older generations, struttin' their stuff.

These individuals' threads and treads may not grace the pages of Lucky Magazine, InStyle, or WWD, but it goes to show that true fashion isn't always about the next season's cuts and color trends. Rather, it's about confidence and self-expression.

The men and women photographed in Advanced Style radiate confidence. After all, their personal style has been chiseled to perfection after years of donning one outfit after the next, (and perhaps throwing a few vintage pieces in there for good measure). Their clothing embodies the idea that fashion doesn't always have to be about a trend or fad-of-the-moment, but rather clothing that one feels most comfortable and themselves in. Most importantly, their outfits reflect that creativity and living life to the fullest do not diminish with age. In fact, a little wardrobe "zest" here and there - no matter the designer, color, or era - is an inspiring way of dressing indeed, and a wonderful means by which to express LOTS of shining individuality.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Laundry Lifesaver

All morning and afternoon it's been absolutely pouring outside, so I had NO excuse to put off doing several loads of laundry today. A word about me and laundry: I completely despise the thought of doing it. Once I'm going through the motions, it really isn't that bad, but If I had a washer and dryer in my apartment, oh, what a luxury that would be! The fact I have to lug it up and down the stairs and PAY $2.50 per load just isn't fair. Though, I really shouldn't be complaining because at least my building has its own laundry room. My old walk-up apartment did not, so I had to haul it down 5 flights of stairs, 2 blocks up the street (through the rain, sleet and snow), then babysit it while biding my time in the laundromat for half a day, lingering by machines for the chance to grab one as soon as someone was finished, and guard my clothes when they were in the dryer so no one would steal them (a fairly common occurrence; one of my co-workers lost half her fall wardrobe).

So, in the midst of my 3rd load today, I have a RAVE for a new fantastic product by Tide that makes the process of washing delicate items SO much easier. You see, I've discovered the hard way that building washing machines (and especially the ones in laundromats) are incredibly harsh and relentless on clothes. They're usually older, and wrangle them around so much, I always spend a couple minutes after the cycle is over untangling pant legs tied up with shirt sleeves, and digging socks out of pant legs.

For lingerie and delicate tops whose labels read, "Hand Wash," yeaa....that's not going to happen when I have a gazillion things to get done. So, when I was in Bed Bath and Beyond the other day, I picked up the Tide High Performance Bra Bag. Victory! This little cylindrical micro-mesh product is simply genius.
Here's the way it works: The padded mesh protects the shape of bras and underwires and prevents delicate items from twisting, snagging, stretching, or tangling during the wash cycle. The mesh is ultra-fine, which means the hooks won't pierce through, but the material will allow water and detergent to penetrate for proper cleaning. Additionally, all seams in the Bra Bag are covered with smooth nylon material to further prevent delicates from ripping or snagging. The bra bag also features two zippered compartments with a mesh barrier between them, so you can easily wash two bras at a time (or a combination of delicates) along with your jeans with confidence; they will re-emerge from the depths of the washing machine unscathed!

But of course, always be sure to hang your delicates to dry. And if you have something extra fancy and/or delicate to clean - certainly take the time to wash it by hand and according to care-label instructions.

Available for $3.99 at Tide.com or the Container Store. I purchased mine at Bed Bath and Beyond, but I don't see them available via their online shop.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Ate

I rarely watch any TV on my 13" monitor from the late 1990's (I call it the baby dino), but there's an excellent new program on the Food Network entitled, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate!" According to Food Network's on-line episode guide, the show highlights, "...the country's most amazing meals, eats, and treats as told by the pros who spend their lives obsessing over food...featuring some of your favorite Food Network stars, offering a taste of the things you must try before you die."

It got me thinking. If I were to write a list of the absolute BEST things I've ever eaten in my life (which, I haven't done), what would it look like? What and where would my choices be? I've certainly eaten many a memorable meal, but I've only kept track of these few culinary standouts in the back of my mind. Which is a shame really, because the whereabouts of excellent cuisine should be shared, and the chefs/restaurants who prepared it should be recognized for making it so darn tasty.

So, how exactly does one categorize the best food one has ever eaten? I suppose it can either be a single specific piece of nosh (ie: the best burger or cupcake or egg salad), type of food (ie: Indian, American, Japanese), or a favorite meal, which would include an overall everything-was-tasty-on-my-plate combination. I'm also a big believer in the influence of ambiance. One can certainly consume a delicious 5-course meal, but if the environment doesn't vibe well, it can detract from the overall enjoyment of the food in front of you.

To keep matters simple, I'm going to be as specific as possible. When it comes to the best things I've ever eaten, it's a single piece of food, little treat, or dish that floats into my mind surrounded by detailed memories of its exquisite taste, company, and atmosphere of where it was enjoyed. While many of my favorite foods have not been consumed in restaurants, I will only be sharing those that were - so you can hopefully come across them someday in your travels and let me know your thoughts about them!

The Best _____ I Ever Ate:

211 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003

I stumbled upon this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with E about year ago in NYC's East Village. I had walked by it a dozen times because it was near my old apartment, noted it was Italian, and we trekked in there one night for pizza. It's definitely a good sign when you walk in the front door of a restaurant and there are photographs of Martha Stewart posing with the Chefs and NYTimes and WSJ reviews framed all over the wall. The secret to Luzzo's delicious pizza is how it's baked: in authentic coal and wood-burning ovens. This makes the crust thin, but not too thin, and crispy in all the right places. The pizza also picks up a slighty smokey/rustic flavor which really makes it out-of-this-world. I HIGHLY recommend the Arugola Pizza, featuring fresh crushed tomato sauce, fresh slices of mozzarrella, prosciutto, shaved parmesan, arugola, and basil leaves. Delicious. The best anywhere, but their takeout can't beat eating it in the restaurant.

Slice of Chocolate Cake:
307 West Pierpont Avenue
Salt Lake City, UT 84104

Hands down, the best dessert I've ever had the pleasure of consuming in my entire life. Yep, out of all of them (and trust me - there are A LOT!). Perfect in it's simplicity, this slice of chocolate cake is unrivaled heaven on a plate. I literally remember feeling myself melt into each bite. The cake itself is chocolate, impeccably infused with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and bourbon vanilla. A silky chocolate mouse is layered between the four cake layers, and the final outer frosting is a creamy, shiny chocolate ganache. In fact, on my way out the door after a fantastic dining experience, I gave the owner (who was greeting guests) a hug. I thanked him and his team for featuring such a culinary masterpiece and, in essence, making my life complete in terms of eating the best piece of chocolate cake imaginable. It has yet to be surpassed.

California Sushi Roll
Times Square
1626 Broadway at 49th Street
New York, NY 10019

Sushi has recently grown on me over the past couple of years, and while I typically stick to the vegetarian rolls, this one in particular featured fresh King Crab leg meat and (of course) avocado. Though Ruby Foo's is located in the heart of Manhattan in Times Square and consequently, is insanely touristy, they can really roll out (no pun intended) some exquisite food. This roll wasn't fishy at all, (like some California rolls can unfortunately be), and don't even think about any of their sushi featuring imitation-type meat. They are sushi rolls rolled to perfection and they're mighty tasty at that!

Indian Food:
633 D Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

E introduced me to this restaurant which positively blew me away the first - and second - times we dined there. The interior is very modern; sophisticated, yet decorated with a bohemian sense of style. I especially love the tiled floor and chandeliers. The food is exquisitely seasoned - we're talking about a restaurant whose Chef was nominated "Best Chef - Mid Atlantic" in 2009 by the James Beard Foundation Awards. You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but you must MUST try the Palak Chaat (crispy fried spinach drizzled with sweet yogurt, tamarind, and date chutney) as an appetizer. The Chicken Biryani is also a favorite dish of mine; it has a kick of heat, but comes served in its own little copper pot, with homemade naan baked over the top like a pot-pie. The entire dining experience is flawless from start to finish, including the service. And the menu? It features a wide enough variety that there are seemingly always new things to try.

Gelato Ice Cream Cone - Flavor: Dulce de Leche
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94104

It was a hot Spring day in San Francisco and I was doing some sight-seeing which included a walk in and around the famous Ferry Building and sea lion photo-opp. I then spontaneously decided it was time for some gelato! Mind you, this was before my no-dairy days, but OH WOW, this flavor really hit the spot. Ciao Bella uses all natural ingredients in their gelato and sorbet, and they feature an incredible assortment of concoctions to choose from. Though they now nationally distribute pints to grocery stores, ordering it al-fresco at a "scoop" shop makes it taste soooo much better. Do seek one out for sweet, creamy, refreshing indulgence at its best.

Crossaint (chocolate, plain, and almond)
6528 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

A few days after visiting downtown San Francisco, it was time to hit up Napa Valley! After a long while driving, my fellow travelers and I came across the tiny town of Yountville. It was very cute, very clean, and very walkable. We were hungry too (no surprise there), so we stopped by this bakery for a snack. Come to find out, after researching what Bouchon was and why they had just produced the best croissants I had ever eaten in my entire life, that they are renowned for their treats, and have two other bakeries established in New York City's Columbus Circle and in Vegas. The flagship though, which is in Yountville, really gives you the authentic experience. It was originally opened to provide the pastries and breads for their adjacent bistro. Inspired by the boulangeries of Paris, Bouchon does a fantastic job of bringing a little bit of the "cafe life" to the places that surround them.

Mug of Hot Chocolate
Troll Hallen Restaurant Lounge - Stein Eriksen Lodge
7700 Freeway Park Drive
Park City, UT 84060

It could have been the fact I was skiing all day in knee-deep powder at Deer Valley and desperately needed a break to defrost. My thighs were burning. I was tired and cold. My Father and I walked into this gorgeous lodge, pried off our ski boots, donned some slippers provided by the lodge (nice touch there), and snuggled into our seats for a steaming mug of hot chocolate...piping hot, made with real, melted, gourmet sipping chocolate and fresh whipped cream. It was so good I promptly had two in a row. Nothing better before tackeling another afternoon of epic pow.

Calamari Salad
237 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Like I mentioned earlier, I rarely, RARELY order fish, shellfish, or squid for that matter when dining out, but this salad was an exception. Dining here for NYC's restaurant week (but a constant item on their menu), this salad features crispy calamari with chayote, hearts of palm, banana, cashews, chicory and radicchio, tossed with a light sesame orange dressing. At $25.00 it's pricey, but this is a "Cheesecake Factory sized portion", plenty for 3 people to share. And wow. Go for it.

...there are so many more delicious things I'm leaving out, but I fail to recall the restaurants from which they were ordered and eaten; especially the international meals. I'll need to dig a little deeper into the depths of my mind and do some research! This being said, be sure to check back, as I will be adding new "best things" to this post as I remember the old and come across the new. Totally a blogging faux pas, but I'd rather share the goodness in an easy-to-access, single-post manner. Yum, yum!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Half-Marathon: T-13 Weeks!

In a burst of inspiration at the end of 2009, I officially registered for what will soon be my third half marathon: The 19th Annual Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Vermont. I had heard about this race before; not only is the course rumored to be breathtakingly scenic, (it runs through winding backroads and over covered bridges), but it's also a supposedly fast and flat route. Excellent. Additionally, thoughts of making this destination-race into a little weekend getaway, complete with visiting family (and perhaps a post-run celebratory dinner at Hemmingways) flashed through my mind. Perfect! Click, and done.

This all seemed like a fantastic idea a few months ago. I suppose my thinking at the time was, "I've run two half marathons before, how hard can another one be?"

I'm old-school in the sense I put technology aside when it comes to organizing my life. I schedule everything into a flimsy spiral-bound monthly planner from Staples (hey, whatever works!). Today I was updating it, filling in some upcoming travel dates, when I flipped three months ahead, and oh-my, there was June. At that moment, I realized in terror (cue in Psycho theme song) that my half marathon training MUST commence ASAP with no exceptions.


So, it's that time to lace up my running shoes and start the training process (which at this point, basically means from scratch after a long winter hiatus). I'm going to think back to the time I trained for and ran my first half marathon in October '08. The best advice I ever received about running a race (albeit simple) was, "No one can run it for you." Taking this to heart, I diligently stuck to a training schedule and, to put it bluntly, worked my butt off. Success! My first half marathon equalled pure elation crossing that finish line. I even had two donuts waiting for me as a treat (and not an ounce of guilt after eating every last morsel of both). Let me tell you: that was a great feeling too.

On the other hand, the second half marathon I completed in April '09 was - shall we say - an...uncomfortable experience. Though I finished with a decent time, I had slacked on the training bit and paid for it by limping around for the next several days. Ouch. I definitely learned the hard way that consistency in training and sticking with a plan is the only way to go about the running-of-a-half-marathon-endeavor. After all, they don't call it "training" for nothing.

From past experience, my two most challenging aspects of training for the big 13.1 and consequential recommendations are:

1. Motivating myself to actually get dressed and go for a run. You're probably thinking, well, that's kind of a problem. Indeed, but hear me out. You see, once I'm dressed, outside and running, no sweat. I enjoy the physical exertion, time to de-stress, and cherish the moments to think about everything and nothing at the same time. But oh, rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn to squeeze in a 3-mile loop is tough. So, to combat my inner demons, I try to mentally remind myself how good and accomplished I'll feel after my run is over. I've also found a route I particularly enjoy running in Central Park. Discover a loop or route you love to run, and that will certainly help the motivation bit!

2. Sticking to a training program. I'm a big advocate of making "To-Do" lists to keep myself on track, so I do precisely this with the Runner's World Smart Coach tool. This is a brilliant, BRILLIANT method of creating a personalized training schedule, (it's also free, which makes it that much more effective to use). The online form asks you to enter some basic information about your running and goals, then calculates a personalized training plan within seconds.

You can then print this schedule out. While it's up to you to fully motivate yourself to do the actual running part, I find that this chart keeps me on track more so than any other plan I've tried creating myself. I also recommend using a big, fat red pen to "X" off your training progress day-by-day. It's amazingly satisfying to see the entire training schedule crossed off by race day and helps keep you motivated along the way. Utilizing a training schedule like this from Runner's World also provides you with guidance and safe training techniques, so you remain healthy and on-track the entire time.

My half-marathon training officially begins this upcoming Monday. I'll be sure to keep you updated throughout the entire 13-week process and race, with all my Printed Thoughts thrown in between. In the interim: June 6th - you're on!