Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Coney Island

When I looked at my “New York City Summer Bucket List” last week, I realized I only had one more item to cross off: Coney Island. I’ve known about Coney Island since I was little, thanks to a chain of hot dog restaurants in Michigan by the same name, and always wanted to visit the amusement park and famous boardwalk.

I knew I couldn’t go to Coney Island alone. I’ve heard my fair share of stories about the “weirdos” and dirty ocean water. So when Jake came to visit me this past weekend, we packed up the sunscreen and took the long subway through Brooklyn to the park.

I imagined the amusement park to be a few little rides wedged between the road and the pier, but, like always, I underestimated the glory of NYC. The park actually had a few roller coasters, some thrill rides, and a giant Ferris wheel – a pretty nice assortment, although it definitely doesn’t compare to Cedar Point back home.

Jake and I paid $7 each to go on the “Wonder Wheel.” That thing is a danger zone! We were both terrified of the “swinging” carts that moved back and forth in the middle of the wheel. Watch this video to see what I mean:

Video from here

We were both clutching the handlebars really hard, which actually makes a funny mental image. Two twenty-year-olds scared of a Ferris wheel. At least we can laugh about it now.

The boardwalk was just as picturesque as I imagined and surprisingly not too crowded for a hot Friday afternoon. You can't see the Manhattan skyline from the pier, but the pretty view of Brooklyn and the amusement park is almost as nice. Jake and I didn't wander down to the beach but tons of people were laying out by the water. Although I would never swim in the ocean, the water looked way cleaner than my friends from work claimed.

My friends were also wrong about the notorious "weirdos" at Coney Island. Maybe I have the definition of "weirdo" wrong, but throughout the day I only saw a handful of people I'd fit under that category.

Of course we tried Nathan's Famous hot dogs, an iconic Coney Island treat. Jake got a chili dog, and I was bad and got an amazing chili cheese dog. Might as well enjoy the fattening foods of NYC while I can, right?

If you're in NYC for only a few days, I'd suggest sticking with the touristy stuff in Manhattan. If you're staying longer, Coney Island is a fun, family-friendly escape from the confining concrete and hustle of crowds.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Days and Long Goodbyes

Blogging about relationships is hard stuff, because you never know how are people are going to take it. But this is supposed to be a lifestyle blog, and my relationship is a big part of my life, so here it goes.

A few days ago, Jake came to visit me in New York City for the second time this summer (hence the lack of blog posts). We had the most amazing four days, complete with a trip to Coney Island, last minute tickets to see Jersey Boys on Broadway, loads of new restaurants, a romantic walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, and miles of walking all over the city. And also lots of tears, because this was the last time I'm able to see Jake until December.

I'm leaving to study abroad in Berlin in a couple of weeks, and Jake has to travel with our school's football team. We'll be within a few hours of each other for short time, but our schedules conflict so we can't make the trip to see each other.

I've broken up with boyfriends before, and I've been broken up with, but watching Jake's bus drive away on Sunday was one of the hardest things I've done in a relationship. That man is my best friend, my biggest supporter, and my number one confidant. He knows all of my secrets and irrational anxieties. He even puts up with me when I forget to eat and act like a crazy lady, which I give him endless amounts of credit for.

During the school year, we saw each other every single day. We studied together, watched movies together, ate lunch together. And even though we were "long distance" for two summers now, we still saw each other two or three times per month. Now we have almost five months to wait. I know we'll have a difficult road ahead, but we're both willing to put in the work.

So here's to Skype dates and iMessages (no calls or texts from Europe!). Here's to celebrating our two-year anniversary a little early. Here's to handwritten letters, stuffed animals, chocolate-covered almonds, and any other gift I can squeeze in my suitcases bound for Europe. And here's to taking over Syracuse again this fall.

(Also, here's some photos of our long weekend in New York City.)

We couldn't have picked a better night for walking over the Brooklyn Bridge
The fountain in Central Park is always a nice place to relax 
"Our spot" in Central Park: A rock formation overlooking the skyline
Indulging in $2 Boba Tea in Chinatown
We got discounted tickets for Jersey Boys on Broadway (amazing show!)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Random Facts About Me (Liebster Award)

Ever since starting a blog, I'm learning how kind and welcoming the blogging community is. I've seen the Liebster Award traveling around, and I was excited to find out that I was nominated! A big thanks to Mary from Crazy in Life for the nomination.

For anyone who doesn't know, the Liebster Award is basically a way to help new bloggers (me, me, me!) get recognized. I love the idea of helping other bloggers, so I decided to do the Liebster Award today!


1. Post eleven facts about yourself
2. Answer the eleven questions provided by the person who nominated you, and then create an eleven-question set for the next group of nominees
3. Choose eleven people to nominate and link them in the post
4. Let your nominees know they've been tagged- and no tag-backs!
5. Nominate blogs under 200 followers

Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg) in Germany, 2012

Eleven Facts About Me:
1. Watching TV shows on Netflix is one of my favorite downtime activities, but it takes me a questionably long time to get through a series. I'm not one to binge-watch, and I typically only watch one or two episodes at a time.

2. I love food, and I'm constantly trying new and exotic foods. I can thank my dad's world travels for that. However, I absolutely can't stand scrambled eggs. I'm fine with hard-boiled, poached, or over-easy, but something about scrambled eggs makes my stomach churn.

3. I love traveling to different counties, and I wanted to be a travel journalist at one point. I've been to Germany, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Mexico, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Belize, Honduras, the Bahamas, and Jamaica (thanks to a few Carribbean cruises).

4. I'm studying abroad in Berlin next semester!

5. I'm a pretty anxious person, and my anxiety usually comes on during stressful times in my life.

6. I'm allergic to cats, some dogs, horses, and chinchillas.

7. I found NYC too overwhelming the first time I came here, but now I love it!

8. Coffee is a much over-exposed topic in blog world, but I am in love with it like everyone else. Give me an (iced) coffee with milk or cream, and I'm set for the morning.

9. My boyfriend and I were on the "kiss cam" at a Syracuse University football game. That's actually how our friends found out we were dating.

10. I've had a red birthmark next to my eye since I was born, and I constantly get asked if I was punched in the face. Thank goodness for concealer.

11. I used to live two minutes away from Eminem (the rapper) in Michigan, although I've never actually seen him.

Messing around with a spider monkey in the jungles of beautiful Honduras
Mary's Questions
1. What is your favorite book?
"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd

2. How do you capture memories?
By taking pictures! I have literally over 2,000 pictures on my iPhone.

3. Rain or snow?
I've spent the past two winters in Syracuse, where the snow falls two feet at a time and is accompanied by freezing temperatures (it got to -40 degrees F last year). So I'm going with rain.

4. Who would you choose to celebrate your birthday with?
My family, my boyfriend, and a few of my close friends.

5. Tea/water/juice/coffee?
Coffee is always a necessity, but I usually drink water throughout the day.

6. Favorite hairstyle?
I like curling my hair, but I typically run out of time and wear it straight.

7. Your favorite TV show?
Hmmm. Vampire Diaries.

8. What is the first thing that pops into your head?
I really want to make some waffles!

9. One place you want to visit the most
Italy! I want to visit Florence, Rome and Vienna.

10. You have $1,000. What do you do with it?
Have fun in NYC! See a Broadway show, go shopping, eat the expensive restaurants...

11. Are you afraid of thunderstorms?
It depends. I find thunderstorms relaxing a lot of the time, but I get scared if the storm is huge. Or if I'm driving in a bus down the highway during a tornado warning... bad memories.

An official "post-kiss cam" photo (yes, we're painted orange for the Syracuse Orange!)
My Questions
1. If you had an entire day to yourself, what would you do?
2. Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?
3. If you could wear only one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
4. What is something quirky about yourself?
5. What is your favorite season?
6. If you could meet any three people (dead or alive, famous or not), who would you meet?
7. What is your favorite dessert?
8. You have a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world! Where would you visit?
9. Would you rather be a famous actor, singer, or dancer?
10. What is your favorite movie?
11. If you could travel in time, would would you like to see?

Finally, I Nominate...
1. Caitlin from A Wondering Wallflower
2. Amber from The London Proper
3. Laura from Simply Easier Living
4. Dani from The Postcard Journals 
5. Ellen from A Pop of Pink
6. Natt from itsnatt
7. Maria from From Metro Cards to Meal Plans

Keep blogging!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ohio Girls Take NYC


My two best friends from Ohio visited me in New York City this weekend. Since they came on Friday afternoon and left Sunday morning, we only had one full day together. We woke up at 7:30 a.m. to pack as much sightseeing as we could into our schedule, visiting Battery Park, Ground Zero, the financial district, Little Italy, SoHo, Chinatown, Central Park, Times Square, Bryant Park and the Empire State Building. The day wasn't complete without miles of walking, a few subway mishaps (stupid construction) and a lost, but eventually found, cell phone. We rounded out the trip by seeing Newsies on Broadway, scoring some seats in the first row of the balcony. The musical was absolutely amazing! We stayed after to meet the cast and get autographs and selfies, and sang the catchy Newsies soundtrack for the rest of the night. A girls' weekend was just what I needed.
Newsies at the Nederlander Theatre
Corey Cott, the insanely talented actor who plays the role of Jack Kelly in Newsies
The adorable Nico James, who plays Darcy
We have a bit of an obsession with Daniel Radcliffe
Baked by Melissa shops are everywhere in NYC, and I finally got to try the amazing mini cupcakes
The Freedom Tower at Ground Zero
The famous "Charging Bull" on Wall Street

Starbucks on the subway! Construction on the tracks got us lost in Brooklyn
I've never seen Times Square so crowded

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Favorite Things to Do in Manhattan

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my opinion of the top tourist-y places in New York City. While the main tourist attractions are definitely important to see, I think visitors should also go beyond the typical Times Square/Central Park/Statue of Liberty agenda. I've learned so much about NYC life and culture by exploring Manhattan. Here's a list of my favorite places that may not be on every tourist's agenda, but are worth the time to check out.

1. Little Italy
Little Italy stretches for a block or so on the Lower East Side (a convenient 10 minute walk from where I'm staying this summer!). The street is lined with authentic restaurants complete with comfortable outdoor cafes perfect for people watching. I've taken my family and friends here for lunch, and I've never been disappointed with anything I've gotten. The food at all of the restaurants is generally the same, so don't stress over researching the restaurants beforehand. Make sure to save room for an Italian cappuccino, gelato, or cannoli! YUM!

2. The High Line
The High Line is an old railroad track turned into an elevated public walking path, stretching from the Meatpacking District (specifically Gansevoort Street) to West 34th Street. The path is lined with trees and greenery, and is a nice escape from the sidewalks surrounded by concrete buildings. I've never heard of the High Line before coming to NYC, but apparently many other tourists have since it was packed both times I've visited. Nevertheless, the pretty views and unique atmosphere (as well as the awesome Mexican food station near the 14th Street entrance) make the visit worthwhile.

3. Chinatown
If you're looking for a cheap meal in NYC, take a visit to Chinatown. You can buy authentic Chinese food for a cheaper price than take-out! My favorite place is Prosperity Dumpling, where I get four dumplings for $1 or beef noodle soup for $4. That being said, I'm not a huge fan of actually walking through the heart of Chinatown. I find it extremely overwhelming and a little too hectic.

4. 34th Street
The area around West 34th Street is always crowded and touristy, but the sights are worth the hustle. The Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Penn Station, and the gigantic James A. Farley Post Office Building are all on 34th Street. The original ten-and-a-half-story Macy's, which is apparently "America's Largest Department Store," takes up an entire block and has very scary old escalators (see picture below). I spent an hour looking at the entire floor of shoes! 34th Street also has other stores like H&M, Forever 21, Aldo, Sephora, Zara, and Victoria's Secret.

5. SoHo
SoHo is a great place to spend an afternoon. Luxury boutiques and more affordable shops (think chain stores) stretch for blocks. Bring lots of money and be prepared for large crowds.

6. Flatiron District (and Eataly)
If you're in a shopping mood, the Flatiron District should be on your itinery. The area has a nice mix of stores, including Anthropologie, Kate Spade, Trader Joe's, Club Monaco, H&M, and Madewell. Of course, the iconic Flatiron Building is right on 23rd Street. Madison Square Park is right across from the building. If you're a fan of Italian food, you should check out Eataly- an huge Italian marketplace on Fifth Avenue. In Eataly, you can buy anything from dried pasta, meats, and sauces to hot coffee and gelato. Oh, and they have a Nutella bar!

7. Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village is probably my favorite park in NYC. Although it's usually crowded, I've always found somewhere to sprawl out among the hundreds of benches. People are always relaxing in the grass, reading, or playing in the iconic fountain.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Secret To Doing Anything

I've always dreaded talking on the phone. Ordering a pizza, making a hair appointment, answering my long-lost relative... everything about phone conversations is just so unsettling to me. I can't exactly pinpoint the reason, but maybe it's because you can't see the other person to read their emotions.

Imagine my horror when, after starting an internship at a newspaper last summer, I learned that I would have to conduct phone interviews almost daily. With my boss listening, sitting at a desk a few feet away. The anxiety! I didn't want to appear unprofessional or timid to my boss, so I tried really hard to think of a way to motivate myself to make the calls. That's when I remembered this quote from We're the Millers (which is an absolutely hilarious movie):

"Whenever you get scared about anything (...) you just count to three, and then do it. 'Cause if you take too long, you'll start to overthink it and you'll just drive yourself crazy. Trust me, it'll change your life."

Here is the quote from the movie (sorry about the subtitles):

The advice seemed so simple, but it worked. Whenever I had to make a call, I just grabbed the phone, counted to three, and dialed. Once the ringing began, there was no turning back. This was a huge step forward from my previous method of procrastinating my phone calls, which made me even more anxious and nervous in the end. As it turns out, I'm not nearly as bad at phone interviews as I thought. I even had local officials call back after my article was published to say how wonderful my interview with them had been.

Apply this "three second rule" to any aspect of your life, as a way to get over your fears. It helped me, and I'm sure it can help some of you. Lesson learned: if you want something,  just do it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Weekend in Syracuse

I've been living in overdrive ever since coming to New York City in May. Life here is more fast-paced than in the Midwest, which is a welcome but exhausting change. The quiet time I used to crave in college is harder to find amid bustling crowds, packed subways, and even 20-minute lines at the grocery store (which is totally my fault for shopping in Columbus Circle during the 6:00 rush).

Although I've learned to love being in the heart of the excitement, I jumped at the chance to spend a weekend in Syracuse with my boyfriend. Jake is interning with a sports company in Syracuse (where we both go to college), so we've been doing the "long distance relationship" thing for the second summer in a row. Last summer, I was home in the Midwest and he was in upstate New York. Long distance relationships are tough to begin with, but even tougher when both parties have internships with different schedules and no cars.

Since I work only three days per week, I hopped on a bus Thursday afternoon and trekked up to Syracuse, where there is surprisingly little to do when school isn't in session. We spent long days watching Netflix, eating popcorn, telling corny jokes, stumbling onto an outdoor concert downtown, and hanging around the mall. I thought I'd get bored going from crazy NYC to quieter Syracuse, but another laid-back weekend is just what I needed. Jake and I are actually the lame people who often watch Netflix to instead of go to a party on Saturday night. I really don't need a sprawling city to have fun... all I need is great company!

 We never venture to downtown Syracuse, and I have to say I was impressed by the beauty of it
(Credits to Jake)

A playful fountain, reminiscent of Washington Square Park (Credits to Jake)

My first time at Dinosaur BBQ, which is beloved by the Syracuse community
(College kids + BBQ = a love affair)

BBQ ribs, baked beans, and salad