It’s Fall in Astoria!

It seems my blog has become predictable – the last three posts have all named a season in their title.  I suppose this means two things…  first, I apparently only write one blog post a season, and second, the seasons here on the East Coast are dictating my weekend adventures and ever-present in my thoughts.  At the moment I’m fine with that, because boy is Fall my favorite!  Not only is the weather cooler, but the trees are so beautiful this time of year, the whole city gears up for the start of school and then a string of holidays, the flavors are delicious, and the anticipation in the air is tangible!  It reminds me of Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, when she’s enthusiastically describing the smell of sharpened pencils in the Fall, I have to say I sometimes feel the same way.  Since it has been a while since I’ve posted, I have some pictures stored up of the recent events here in our apt  in Astoria….



James and I tried our hand at canning after our annual apple picking trip this year.  We made apple butter for three nights (it cooks for about 12-13 hrs) in the slow cooker, and then canned it all in cute 4 oz jars to give out at Christmas.  We now have a grand total of 43 jars…and even after some suspicious noises while the jars were cooling it appears that their lids are all successfully “popped in.”  The process was actually easier than we expected… hopefully the final product tastes good in a couple months!


On Sunday we went on our last bike ride of the season and enjoyed the beautiful red and orange of the trees on Randall’s Island and Central Park.  We had to cut our ride a little short because it got too chilly, but it was fun nonetheless.  Some months ago, James set up several sets of hooks so that we could store the bikes upside down from the ceiling of the guest bedroom.  Unfortunately, most of the hooks have since come out of the ceiling and so we (and by “we” I really mean James) are devising a new reinforced system for the winter ceiling storage.  Don’t worry if you plan to visit us – we will take the bikes down before setting up your airbed underneath the hooks and no middle-of-the-night accidents have happened so far!  Good thing our landlord doesn’t visit very often though, because I’m not sure he would be as pleased with the efficiency of the ceiling hooks as I am!

IMG_20131027_103201 IMG_20131103_193027

Last but not least, here are a couple of the Fall recipes I have tried recently – pumpkin scones with pumpkin glaze and a potato/roasted red pepper soup with sausage.  Yumm!  I’m always on the lookout for new Fall recipes, so if you have a good one let me know!  Now that it is November, my thoughts have also turned to the Grand Thanksgiving Menu and so I’m working on that as well.

Hope you all are having a wonderful month, and enjoying some Fall activities and treats before the weather gets too cold!


Summer has Arrived (finally)!

It’s June 15th and I think I can finally say that summer has arrived in NYC!  Coming from CA, it always feels like I’m waiting AGES for spring to come on the East Coast.  It’s usually several weeks after my mom has sent me pictures of all the blooming trees around Village Homes that I see one single daffodil poking its head out in Central Park.  But I don’t remember having to wait till mid June to be able to break out my shorts or think about sunscreen.  It seems as if the whole city is excited about these sunny days.  People (New Yorkers no less!) are walking around with smiles on their faces and the fields in Central Park look more like seas of skin than grass with the number of sunbathers on them!  While the Manhattan-ites are testing out their new swimwear, I have recently observed that the Astorians seem just as excited to test out their barbecuing (ahem, sorry James, grilling) skills.  In fact, I was jogging along Astoria park the other weekend and the smoke in the air was so thick I could barely see where I was going!  Families, extended families, friends of extended families, etc, all were out enjoying a relaxed evening by the grill.  The road leading up to the park from the Northeast has a long line of storage units and there were even families crowded around their open unit, feasting on hamburgers, hotdogs, and what looked like some pretty delicious snacks and side dishes.  Who knew that people in Astoria rent whole storage units just to hold their plastic chairs and grills?

Anyhow, I am resolved to enjoy the warmth and sunshine as much as possible as well.  Here are some pictures of recent adventures since my last post.

Bikes in Prospect Park

I am happy to say that I’ve completed multiple bike rides since my last post, and despite a few traumatizing instances of NY traffic and no bike lanes, am generally loving the freedom of biking.  Last weekend, James and I biked to Prospect Park in Brooklyn (pictured above).  We’ve also been along the Westside of Manhattan, to Central Park, and to Roosevelt Island – all fun rides.

Last month, I also had a great time visiting with family in a Grand New York trip for my dad, his siblings, and their spouses.  It was my Auntie Carla and Uncle Rick’s first trip to NY and we all had a great time seeing some of the highlights of NYC.  We also took a day trip to Stone Barns, a farm outside the city which I’ve been hoping to visit for years.  Here are some pictures that Uncle Rick took of the group.

Group at Stone Barns

At Tufinos Pizzeria

On the last night before departing, Auntie Carla and Uncle Rick took us out to a restaurant a few blocks away from my apt and just across the street from where they had been staying.  The restaurant, MP Taverna, had just opened a few weeks prior and is without question the best Greek place in the neighborhood (and there is no shortage of Greek restaurants in this part of Astoria).  Carla and Rick not only took us out to “MP” but were able to make recommendations off the menu and guide us in a delectable dinner as they had already visited the restaurant twice during the trip!  Guess I know who to ask for restaurant recommendations from now on!

Last but not least, here’s some pics of my latest sewing project.  I suppose it’s more of a “fabric project” as it did not actually involve any sewing, but nonetheless I have had it on my project to do list for months.  My dining room chairs were covered in an off-white fabric that was more than five years old at this point and unfortunately weathered some water stains from a leaky ceiling in a previous apt.  I bought some fabric to reupholster them back when I was in Oklahoma and had the pleasure of visiting a Joann’s Fabrics, but have been slightly intimidated to try reuphostering for the first time.  Inspired by my friend Erin, who has completed multiple projects of this type, I unscrewed the chair seats last weekend and gave it a go!  I was pretty happy with the end resultChair


Hope you all are enjoying the summer so far too!



Springtime Travels

I realized last week that I accidentally discovered the trick to spring cleaning….schedule multiple trips one after another and then you’re never home to have to do it!  Haha, just kidding… I have felt like a bit of a jetsetter the past several weeks, with not that much time at home.  Since I haven’t had a chance to post in a while, I’ll give you some pics from my various adventures…

I started out with the ACMG (American College of Medical Genetics) conference mid-March, which was held this year in Phoenix.  It was pretty amazing to leave NYC with snow on the ground and land partway across the country to 80-degree weather and sun!  My first time in Phoenix and at that particular conference, I learned a lot and tried to get a feel of the city with some early morning jogs.  The hotel I was at even had a pre-made card with running routes that I could use!  My friend Erin and I lucked out at the hotel and got a free upgrade to a top floor suite…we felt like we were sure livin’ in style for a few days!  Pictured here is Erin shading herself from the hot sun and some AMAZING pizza we had at an award-winning pizzeria right by the conference center.



Next up was another first…Oklahoma for Easter!  I had a wonderful time seeing where James grew up and visiting with his family…cooking in a real kitchen, experiencing suburbia,  shopping with the Fisher girls, and eating some delicious meals!  Here’s the Easter table and James and I in our Sunday finest.



 Back in NYC after Easter, my friend Amy Clinch came all the way from England to visit us!  Although she is already a seasoned New York visitor, I was able to find some new things to show Amy including our new apt, our neighborhood in Astoria, and Amy’s first try of sushi!  After a couple days in NY, she and I headed to Pittsburgh to relive the days when we first met there almost 7 years ago.  We realized as we were telling people about our plans that it sounded like a romantic getaway “…going to the place we first met!”… it really made perfect sense to us when we thought of it!  It was very fun walking around the places we remembered from Pittsburgh, as well as seeing my cousin Emily, Auntie Julie, and Uncle Randy and catching up with them.


 One crazy tidbit from Pittsburgh – we were staying at the apt that Emily has lived in the last year and a half.  As soon as we reached it on our first night, I realized that we had been to that exact apt 7 years ago during Amy and my internship!!  Out of the 2 apt-parties we went to that summer, what are the odds that one of them was exactly where Emily would be living years later?!?!  For proof, here’s an old picture from facebook and one we took in the same place last weekend…



 My last picture is of an exciting addition to my life…a roadbike!  As the weather gets warmer I hope to start going on some bikerides in the area with James and friends.  Here’s to spring coming faster for us all!


Conquering Little Egypt!

Well, the title of my post is a little…or more than a little misleading…but buying some pastries in Little Egypt today sure felt like a victory!  I have been walking through Little Egypt for several weeks now, as my path to the gym goes right through the center of this colorful area of Astoria. I’ve brought visitors down that way during the daytime, but nothing compares to Little Egypt at night…the smoke from kebabs grilled on the street, the neon signs, the snippets of conversations in foreign (to me) languages, and the fragrance of hookah lingering in the air…certainly a change from the Upper East Side!  I have been trying unsuccessfully for weeks to build up the courage to go in one of the shops, filled with colorful knick knacks and foreign foods. Today, with the moral support of my friend Christine, we braved the unknown and stepped into a Middle Eastern pastry shop.  The man behind the counter picked us out immediately as “first timers,” and proceeded to help explain all the different types of pastries and cookies, even giving us a free sample of one!  After watching an experienced customer rapid fire her order of a few pounds of pastries, we carefully selected a few each to bring home….delicious!


Aside from the conquering of Little Egypt, James and I have been slowly but surely settling into our new home in Astoria.  We have tried a few of the nearby restaurants lately and I’m keeping a running list on the fridge of places that friends have recommended when they hear I’ve moved to Astoria.  We had a fabulous fondue dinner last weekend at Winegasm with friends Carolyn and Zach who were visiting.  We had a lot to celebrate that weekend since Carolyn and Zach had just gotten engaged!  My “part” in the proposal (ie making up a plausible story as to why I needed to leave Carolyn and Zach during our run in Central Park so they could have a mile or so alone where he would pop the question) had made me so nervous that I was ready to celebrate all weekend!IMG_20130215_205145IMG_20130215_204721

In addition to eating out, I have been enjoying the kitchen and trying out some new dishes.  I brought out the pasta maker for Zach and Carolyn, and we enjoyed fresh pasta, homemade tomato sauce with sausage and butternut squash, with roasted garlic and bread on the side.  Another personal favorite that I’ve made lately was from a recipe I saw on….salted caramel brownies, yummm.  The recipe is slightly time consuming since you make the caramel first, then cool it in the freezer, cut it up, and put it in the brownie batter before cooking the brownies – but it is all completely worth it!  I often try to make myself feel better about eating decadent treats by making some “healthy” substitutions, and I don’t think anyone could have told that I cut the butter in half in these brownies and used applesauce instead!  What yummy treats have you cooked up lately – anything I just have to try?

IMG_20130209_174650 IMG_20130209_190404

Moved again…with the backstory

I started this blog right after moving to a cute duplex apartment on 1st Ave, which led to the blog name Manhattanamania.  Unfortunately, our upstairs neighbors in that apartment were a family with two young children…and the floor/ceiling insulation between us was unimpressive, to say the least.  So, here we are moving again.  This time the packing was easier (not two apts packing into one), the move much simpler (no furniture needing to be taken up through skylight and down six flights of stairs), and the unpacking was fairly painless as well!  We are successfully moved into the new place and all I have left to unpack is a few plastic tubs of craft stuff and summer clothes.  …Ready for visitors! 😛

Although we have known for many months that we’d be moving, it was a little up-in-the-air as to where we’d move to within NYC.  Since being a student at Mount Sinai, I’ve only ever lived on the Upper East Side and have loved every year.  Nevertheless, I felt ready to explore the possibility of a new neighborhood as well. After some convincing, James and I visited an apt I found on Craigslist in Astoria, Queens.  (Astoria is directly east of the UES, across the East River.  There’s a subway line that goes underneath the river around 59th St, and conveniently on the Manhattan side stops near both James and my offices.)  It was December and snowing the day that James and I went to see our potential new home.  I had been going through Craigslist postings in Astoria for days and had a lot of stock placed on this one.  The pictures online had looked nice, it was fairly close to the subway and near to our friend Laura’s apt as well.  James was uncertain about moving to Astoria in general, so I had one chance to change his mind!

Luckily, I had chosen well.  Undeterred (correction: I was undeterred, James was notably put out) by the fact that the current tenants were sleeping and we had to wait around for a while until the landlord finally made them wake up, we finally got to see inside the apt.  I knew at once that I loved it – a reasonably priced two bedroom especially compared to our options in Manhattan, a newly renovated space, and one that did not look old or slightly dingy like many I’ve seen in NY.  James, not one to make quick decisions like myself, took longer to convince…but in the end we decided to take it!  And so far, the apt has lived up to our hopes and expectations.  It is much quieter in general, and with the help of James’ sister Alicia, we set it up in a way that is both cozy yet spacious.  We are now in the process of finding our go-to places around the neighborhood (grocery stores, laundromat, gym, bagel place, pizza place, CVS, etc).

Below are a couple pictures from our first weekend here.  We’re taking care of Laura’s dog Teddy and he’s finding his favorite areas to perch.  Also, now that I have the kitchen unpacked I can cook again!  Starting off this morning with some yummy applesauce muffins….

IMG_20130121_110049 IMG_20130120_213749

As an ending note, I’ve gotten a few comments about the name of my blog now that I live in Astoria.  I do not have plans to change the name, mostly because I can’t think of anything as good that’s Queens-related.  In fact, all of my suggestions have been laughed at by James.  If any of you have an idea, I’d love to hear!

Fall Cooking Mania

Hello Readers!  I hope you’re all enjoying the Fall wherever you are.  We’ve been having a wild ride here on the East Coast, what with Hurricane Sandy, the Nor’easter, temperatures fluctuating every day…and that’s only the weather!  James and I are extremely fortunate not to have lost electricity, internet, belongings, or our home during the month of November, and every day are hearing stories from people at work or other acquaintances who have.  It is going to be a long road to recovery for some, and I have a lot to be thankful for when we celebrate Thanksgiving next week.  Speaking of which…if any of you need a place to go for Thanksgiving, please let me know!  There’s still room at our table and I’ll guarantee you a meal made with fresh and local ingredients! 😛

Cooking is one thing I’ve been spending a lot of time on in the last few weeks. I find the fall/winter months of my CSA to be the most challenging as most of the veggies I get require cooking, and some of them are not veggies I’m used to.  I thought I’d use this post to share a few of the recipes I’ve tried recently, along with a couple tips and recommendations (click on each for a link to the recipe):

1. Collard cobbler with Corn Bread Topping:  This was an enticing recipe and seemed like a great way to use a bunch of collard greens.  I used whole wheat flour and some extra baking powder for the corn bread.  The dish ended up looking very tasty, but it was also very salty.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to experiment with the leftovers because they rolled out of the freezer and crashed onto the floor the next morning…gaa!  (PS I found this recipe on an awesome website that my cousin Emily showed me called…check it out!)

2. Beet Cake: I made this cake in a loaf pan and left off the icing for something a bit healthier.  I also added about 1/2 c of grated carrots.  I was amazed at how the batter was very very pink and yet the cake, once baked, was completely brown in the middle.  It was a hit as a Monday morning treat at work!

3. Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Mushrooms in a Creamy Sauce: My friends Erin and Pete make a delicious brussel sprout pasta, and I thought I’d try something similar.  This one was warm, filling, and also tasty!  I substituted low fat sour cream for the creme freche…don’t tell!

4. As featured on FB a couple nights ago, I entered the Davis Farmer’s Market Cookbook recipe contest and made Ann and Georgeanne’s Grits with Collards and Wild Mushrooms recipe.  I had even more fun than expected taking before and after pictures to send in, and coming up with a 25-word explanation of my experience.  Check out the website for information about this wonderful cookbook and rules to the contest!

5.. And now for my pièce de résistance…momos a la Evan Feenstra!!  There is no recipe for these, because I learned from an expert.  I didn’t quite get the chutney right and I think the wrappers were too thick, but for my first time making momos on my own, I was quite pleased with myself!  I used a bunch of potatoes for the filling, along with the rest of the collards from Monday, onions, garlic, some grated white cheddar, and a good amount of spices of course!  Here’s some pics of the momos plus one extra of a homemade fondant cake I made with Carolyn when I visited Norfolk a couple weekends ago.

Hope this helps inspire you for your own Fall cooking and Thanksgiving meals coming up!  Please share if you come across any great recipes, especially if they use up some veggies!

Fall in NYC

September has always been my favorite month in NYC, but I decided this morning that I just love fall in New York in general.  When the air is crisp and cool, when the leaves are bright colors and Central Park is rich with them, when you can sense the energy of school starting and going back to work after vacation and the expectation of coming holidays in the air….I just can’t go outside without smiling!  It’s like the first scene in “You’ve Got Mail” with the stores in Manhattan opening up for business, a cool wind in the air and a warm coffee in hand, and Meg Ryan talking about the greatness of fall in New York…so true!

The past couple weekends I’ve done some wonderful Fall things, and I hope I have more to come this month before the cold really sets in.  I went apple picking for the first time when James’ brother Jeff and sister-in-law Jennifer were visiting.  The apples were plentiful and the apple cider donuts and pumpkin sling shot made the experience all the more fun!  Every day this week I have enjoyed a fresh, crisp apple….not to mention leftovers from the A-mazing apple pie that Jennifer made after our adventure.

This weekend I have been doing some more fall baking and cooking…and just enjoying the new flavors of the season.  I started with a potato, sausage, kale casserole last night, and this morning was inspired to make pumpkin scones and a homemade roasted squash soup with leeks, which I am sampling right now.  I am so excited to have used up nearly all the vegetables from our farm share box for the week and it’s only Sunday!  Fall, please stick around for a while!