Yelp’s House Party to Fight Hunger

Last Tuesday, I attended my first Yelp house party for the NY Coalition Against Hunger with my partner in crime, Helene. It was dubbed as an “Alterna Office Party” and we were encouraged to wear ugly office clothes. I love Yelp, but they need to hire new party planners.

The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory served mini cones. Score. Momo Sushi Shack, Scottadito Osteria Toscana, and Brooklyn Brewery provided hors d’oeuvres (WOW, it just took me 3 minutes to spell that) and beverages. We entertained ourselves by getting nerdy in the BK Booth. Fun. Side note: I was wearing 5 inch platform booties. Helene wore flat-bottomed boots… yeah, I’m a midget.

Since this was clearly a fancy party, there had to be swag. I picked up a Yelp key chain, lip balm, and nail file. They also had these “Blood, Sweat, and Yelp” sweat bands that I decided were too hardcore for me, but not for Helene.

Usually, I feel awkward at parties and don’t know what to do with myself. Since we’re not big drinkers and the food was meh, after about 40 minutes, we were partied out. Then it was sushi, girl talk, and in bed by 11. What can I say, we party hard. All in all, fun times and a good cause.

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Salvation Army Coat Sale

I’m getting ready for my second thriftastic adventure – the Salvation Army coat sale.

You guys, this is going to be epic. It’s supposed to be so crazy, it’s kah-ray-zay. We’re talking Running of the Brides mad rushing to snatch up furs and leathers for sale from $8 to $50. They also have bags for $2! I am somewhat of a bag snob and I’m excited to see what the world of thrift has to offer me in this area of fashion. So far, all I’ve seen are moldy synthetics and counterfeit Coach bags.

This Saturday, Helene and I will be lining up outside of the Salvation Army in Hell’s Kitchen on West 46th Street. The doors open at 9 am, but lines start as early as 8 am. Here’s the game plan –

  • No liquids. Breakfast but no liquids so we don’t have to pee while waiting.
  • Suit up. I plan to wear my hardcore shopping uniform – leggings, sweater tunic, cross body bag, and warm coat. Side note: My coat was my little sister’s hand-me-down that I’ve been wearing for three years. That’s just wrong.
  • Collaborate. Go over sizes and most desired items so we can help each other score deals.
  • Make friends. Good shopping karma never hurts.

Thrifting has really changed my view about shopping. I’d previously shared my past history as a shopaholic. I’ve been shopping my closet, altering clothing to make it look better and fit better, and shopping sales. I thought I’ve been making progress in the shopping department. The Buy the Bag sale has really opened my eyes to my budget and fashion options.

Recently I purchased a few items from Macy’s – rain boots, a new scarf, and fleece boot liners (this was due to the snow on Saturday – I was so unprepared!). I only bought stuff that I’m not comfortable buying secondhand. I didn’t really look at cardigans, coats, or pants because I want to see what I can thrift. Seriously, it’s tough for me to buy retail now when I bought 19 items for $25. Side note: I’ve worn most of the items that I purchased, received compliments on them, and wowed people by telling them the price.

The thing I love most about thrifting is that I don’t feel guilty about shopping!

It’s gotten to the point where I turn my nose up at regular thrift store prices, like when I went to Beacon’s Closet. This coming from a person who bought a stupid tank top from Express for $45 and never wore it. I shudder to think about all the money I wasted on overpriced and ill-fitting clothing. Oh, well. As Daenarys Targaryen would say, “If I look back, I am lost.”

Anyway, the dates for the Salvation Coat Sale are November 5, December 3, and January 7.

Also, good news! Due to popular demand, Housing Works is having two more Buy the Bag sales – hooray! November 19 and 26. Doesn’t look like I can make either date though 😕

Winter is Here

Yesterday, the weather guy said to expect “snow flurries.”

There is nothing flurry-like about this!

I was utterly unprepared. They say you shouldn’t wear leather in snow. Oh, well.

I’m conflicted about snow. On the one hand, it’s great cuddle weather 🙂 I get to do all the things I love – lazing, watching TV, and online window shopping without guilt. On the other hand, it’s freezing and going anywhere is a hassle. So I guess my positive and negative feelings toward this weather cancel out and I’m neutral to snow.

Winter is back too soon. Boo.

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Lessons Learned

You’re probably super grossed out from our mice ordeal or at least tired of reading about it by now.

Sorry… I still have more to say.

Throughout this ordeal, I’ve scoured the Internet for information – mostly I found random threads and a few stories here and there. But I never chanced upon a blog that chronicled the financial, emotional, and deeply personal battle that results from living in a mice-infested apartment. Either people just aren’t affected by this sort of stuff or people just don’t want to talk about it.

Well, it makes me feel so much better to talk about it.

I can’t describe the shame and guilt that I felt about having mice in my apartment. Somehow I figured it was my fault – mice are dirty, ergo dirty people must have mice. Dirty people = me and ST. When I told my landlord’s son, he insisted that when he was living in this apartment, he’d never seen mice. So it must be something we’re doing wrong. The problem must have started with us.

This couldn’t be more untrue.

I tossed and turned last night and couldn’t really sleep until around 5 am. I kept dreaming about checking the mouse traps and seeing only poop and no dead mice. I seriously think I heard squeaking and scratching behind the walls. I even got up and turned the lights on to inspect. ST didn’t like that at all.

Now, after we’ve used up our last can of Great Stuff and laid out as many traps as humanly possible, as I sit here reflecting on the past 72 hours of my own personal hell, this is what I’ve learned.

  • It is not and has not ever been our fault. This place is old, grimy, poorly maintained and riddled with mouse holes. Sunset Park is also the center of the mouse universe. All of these things existed before ST and I moved into this seemingly perfect apartment over a year ago.
  • There is no shame in having mice! Even though ST didn’t like it when I discussed our furry friends with other people, it was really therapeutic for me to talk about it. There was no judgment, only sympathy and understanding (thanks friends!). 9 times out of 10 the person I was talking to also had mice. This is NYC people! Not just mice, but bed bugs and roaches to boot. It happens to everyone. This does not mean you’re a dirty person – those suckers are hardy.
  • Keep calm and kill mice. If you’ve stumbled upon this blog in search of “humane” or “nice” ways to get rid of mice, you should definitely leave now. I don’t want to cuddle or be nice to mice – I want to kill them permanently. The best thing to do is to remain calm and create a plan. It might not work the first, second, or third time you try it. THAT’S OKAY. You just need to be strategic and meticulous.

Through trial and error, we found what worked most effectively for us. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Great Stuff expanding foam. If you have mice issues, stock up on this. Depending on the size of your apartment, I’d recommend having at least one of these cans on hand at all times for emergency patch-ups. We recommend the triple-expanding foam in the black can. The foam in the red can doesn’t expand as much.

  • Marble chips. Any type of small rocks will do but a huge sack of marble chips were like $4 so that’s what we picked up. This works much more effectively than steel wool because the mice in our apartment actually chewed through the damn steel wool.
  • Glue-type mouse traps. Again – this post is not about the humane treatment of rodents. There’s setting and resetting – just pull it out of the box and place it where you’ve seen droppings. It’s completely okay to OD on mouse traps. Check out what the floor under our stove looks like:

Here’s what worked for us:

  1. Get on your hands and knees and locate every crack and crevice. Don’t just look for holes – they can crawl out of the tiniest places and little cracks become future holes.
  2. Fill holes with rocks. Get a chopstick or pencil and really push the rocks in there. Cram as many as you can in there.
  3. Cover holes with spray foam. I liked to dig down past the rocks and spray to my heart’s content. Then I’d cover the rocks entirely with foam. The result will not look pretty but this is the best method so far.
  4. If you’re super paranoid like me, set glue traps around this hole, just in case. Glue traps cost like $1 for four at our local deli so we went to town.
  5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It is better to be safe than sorry so OVERDO IT. Overdo the crap out of it.

We tried other methods but they didn’t hold up as well as we’d hoped or read about:

  • Steel wool. Our mice chewed right through it.
  • Caulk of any kind. Our exterminator used white caulk that the mice chewed right through like it was pudding. It only took a few days for them to do it too.
  • Poison. This had absolutely no effect on our mice. They ate it, pooped green poop, and went on their merry way. So not only did we have regular disease-causing poop laying around we had disease-causing poop laced with poison. Terrific.

If things don’t work out in the future, these are additionally defenses we intend to try:

  • Peppermint essential oil. I’ve read a few times that they hate this smell.
  • Baiting traps with peanut butter. There are traps that mice crawl into and then get electrocuted. Then you just dump the body into the trash.
  • High-pitched noise makers. These gadgets supposedly give off a high-pitched sound that is inaudible to humans but terrible for mice. Some people swear by them. I’m skeptical but it can’t hurt.
  • Getting a dog. The most consistent recommendation we’ve gotten is to acquire a predator. The mice sense these animals and steer clear.

We know that this probably isn’t the final battle. It’s only a matter of time before the mice dig themselves a new hole or chew through rocks and plumbing foam. Both scenarios are highly likely. Moving would be the best thing to do although probably the hardest. The problem is that we have nowhere to go. Last week, we looked at 6 apartments, all of which were far worse than our current situation. Such is the plight of the common renter in NYC.

ST and I are now thinking and re-thinking our future plans for buying a home in Brooklyn. The popular spots are among the most highly-trafficked by mice and other vermin. It’s cute because ST constantly says, “When we move we’ll get this” or “When we move, we’ll get rid of that.” Everybody needs a goal and a hope for something more, something better. We’ll get there. Until then, this ride isn’t that bad.

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Redo

We woke up bright and early at 11:00 to loud reggaeton music. Boomboxes are the birds of Sunset Park 🙂 We decided then and there that we’d take advantage of the gorgeous weather and redo our failed date yesterday. So off to the Village we went.

I was craving ramen and according to Yelp, Ippudo and Momofuku were in close proximity. We put our names down at Ippudo – even at lunchtime there is a 45-minute wait. That was an immediate turn-off. Waiting makes me grumpy. Since Momofuku was only a few blocks away, we decided to walk over and check it out. There was a large crowd of tourists there, which was an even bigger turn-off than waiting, so we walked back to Ippudo. Plus, I swear by Yelp and Ippudo is more highly rated. Ippudo was also recommended by Wendy, our ramenophile. Momofuku was more expensive – that was straw that broke the camel’s back, for cheapos like me. Fortunately, our names were called as soon as we walked in the door – only a 25 minute wait. Not bad.

Verdict? It was SO GOOD.

I love eel and this una don was prepared perfectly. I didn’t even take pictures of my ramen – I was too busy shoveling it into my face.

It was so good, in fact, that ST forgot about his beer. That has NEVER happened before in the history of ever.

Side note: I think ST is embarrassed that I take pictures of our food… 😀

We left full and satisfied. I felt like a G. Allow me to elaborate:

Or better yet, a Lannister.

The damage was $50 for two ramen sets and a Sapporo. Worth it! Our goal was to have a $20 date but its so hard in Manhattan. Also, I was really craving ramen so I was blinded by that. I’m not sure if we’ll be heading back to Ippudo anytime soon due to the distance, wait time, and expense, but we’ve definitely tucked it into our little book of yummy places.

My goal is to find a great ramen place in Brooklyn.

After that, we needed to walk off our meal. We decided to head over to the Wall Street protests since word on the street was that Radiohead was going to perform at 4. Liars! Can you imagine the madness if Radiohead was there though? ST is a huge fan so we had to at least try.

Along the way, I couldn’t help but notice these gorgeous wrought-iron, zombie apocalypse-friendly window and door bars.

The West Village is such a peaceful, beautiful neighborhood. A great place to stroll. We passed by Greenwich Letterpress and stopped in. What an adorable shop filled with delightful paper goods and vintage toys. Too bad the cashier guy wasn’t nice and it was over-priced. Polka dot cupcake liners were $10 a set while vintage tin cars were $15 per pack.

I also stopped into Buffalo Exchange just out of curiosity. It was small, stinky, disorganized, and worst of all – expensive. There were stained Coach canvas bags, ripped leather bags, watches for $35 and plastic rings for $7.50. Basically, it was gross. I understand that thrifting is an art form – I just don’t think it’s always a deal. I was wearing this shirt from Gap that I got for $5 with a pair of old James Perse shorts from Marshall’s, purchased for $40. At a glance, I saw old no-name dresses and tops ranging from $10-$25. Seriously? Thrifting only makes sense if it’s cheaper than new for comparable brands. I support buying used items as part of a green lifestyle. I don’t support getting ripped off, ever.

We stepped into Jonathan Adler because he rocks! I love his colorful, bold, and whimsical designs. We saw a boob vase and gorgeous porcelain coasters. I really like the snail box. At $78 it’s really pricey, but maybe some day we’ll have a place for it.

Boobies and butts!

Hello there 🙂

Anyway, Wall Street was a mess.

Our friends who work on Wall Street describe it as anarchy. Half naked women, protestors provoking police, etc. ST doesn’t know if he’s for these protests – after all, what do they hope to accomplish? I think it’s always good for people to speak out against injustice, no matter the timing or cohesiveness of the demonstrations. It would have been more helpful during the bailouts but I’ll take what I can get. Go on with your bad selves, crazy peeps of Occupy Wall Street.

We only hung around for 15 minutes – it was total chaos down there. We got home, ate ice cream, took naps, went to church, and are now watching Pineapple Express for the 100th time.

Redo was a success.

Rainy Day Things

Today has been super gloomy. I woke up at 6:45 am because Bloomberg’s robots called me yet again. This time, it was Chancellor Walcott assuring me that I’d get paid for working at the evacuation centers. Great – where do I clock in?

I’m pretty sure my time is better spent at home with ST this weekend.

Most of the day has looked like this:

And most of the day, we looked like this:

I mostly worked on this year’s curricula while watching copious amounts of TV. Your grandpa has also been Face-timing us for updates on Brooklyn.

Then, I decided to make sausage meatball heroes for dinner. I use this simple recipe as a guide. I skipped the cheeses because we didn’t have any. I also liked that the recipe called for oats instead of bread crumbs since I always substitute oats for bread crumbs anyway.

I also used only one egg instead of two since we already had eggs this morning for brunch (I made scrambled egg spaghetti).

The great thing about using sausage for meatballs is you don’t need to season it at all. Everything is already in the sausage. So, just squeeze the sausage out of their intestinal casings (I love this part) and mash, mash, mash.

Then roll into cute little balls…

Drizzle some olive oil into the pan and gently place cute meatballs in. Lower the heat, cover, and flip as necessary.


While those cuties get cooked, I cut a loaf of some nice, crusty bread ST picked up from a shop on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 68th Street. I don’t know the name but the lady who works there is sweet as pie.

When the meatballs are almost done, toss in some sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally, spoon meatballs and sauce into your bread. Ta da!

I thought it was just okay but ST loved it and devoured every crumb.

As the rain and wind picked up, our satellite signal started breaking up. ST was prepared though – he’d taped episodes of Family Guy, Futurama, Frasier, and various movies for me. He’s a handy guy to have around during a hurricane, the zombie apocalypse, or just any normal day 😀

I’m worried about tía Mel though. She’s an RN at NY Presbyterian. She’s working all weekend and due to Irene, she has to sleep at the hospital. Since we don’t have you yet, tía Mel is kind of our baby. Our 23 year old baby. She’s as tough as she is little so she’ll be fine, but we still wish she was hanging out with us during Irene’s rampage instead of out there 😦

So anyway, after dinner I started craving Nutella for some reason. Since we had some of tía Kim’s homemade pizza dough, I rolled out two little pizzas, baked them for 15 minutes at 375, spread Nutella on them, and baked them for another 5 minutes.

I don’t think I needed to bake it again – I think next time I’ll just slather the Nutella on and eat. It doesn’t look pretty but it was delicioso!

Hurricane Hysteria

Mayor Bloomberg sure has a sense of humor. He took away our raises in exchange for not laying off teachers. Then, he proposed layoffs anyway. When that didn’t work, he criticized us in the media, blaming everyone but his own bureaucracy for the dysfunction in NYC schools.

Now, he has robots harassing us, forcing us to “volunteer” at hurricane evacuation centers. Estás loco, Bloomberg. Go call your friends for help – I’m not one of them.

Anyway. After work today ST picked me up and we went to Lowe’s to refill our propane tank. Surprisingly, Lowe’s was out of propane. Great minds think alike, I guess. Fortunately Home Depot was only a 5 minute drive away and they had a few tanks left. It was more expensive but ST’s piece of mind is worth the extra $5.

I’m worried about this tree right outside our house. It’s big enough to cause damage if falls down. Poor Barney will be outside during the storm so we definitely have to find a safe, tree-less, and pole-less area to park him.

While I was at meetings today, ST was busy securing our grill to the deck, buying extra provisions, and filtering a lot of water.

Side note: That’s 2 pitchers, 3 bottles, and one tupperware container. He is still filtering. Also, the lumpy cake with the yellow flowers in the background is the first tier of our wedding cake. We ate it last week for our anniversary and it wasn’t bad.

He’s also been doing some research (examples: “Science and Math Prove this Hurricane will Destroy us All” and “New York Evacuates Low-Lying Zones, Shuts Down Subway“) that might have made him slightly paranoid.

On a brighter note, Hurricane Irene has helped us determine that we probably don’t want to live in any beachy areas.

Hurricane Irene

NYC is all abuzz about the imminent hurricane this weekend.

I received 5 messages today from some NYC agency urging me to volunteer at one of the city’s 65 hurricane shelters.

How have we prepared? Well, due to my slight obsession with the inevitable zombie apocalypse, I think I have enough food to last us about a month. ST will start bottling up water tomorrow. He also plans to refill our propane tank for the grill in case there isn’t gas or electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. We also have flashlights, lighters, candles, and a first aid kit.

Hopefully, Irene doesn’t live up to the hype.

Dekalb Market

…yawn.

Actually, that’s probably not fair since it opened recently (this summer?) but basically, all the stores are located in old shipping containers. As of right now, there are about 10 vendors.

Before we even got there, our friend Pati was complaining about horrible, overpriced fish tacos. $9.50 for two fish tacos? Loco. Anyway, when we got there, I wanted something sweet so ST and I stopped by a bakery. A cupcake for me and whoopie pie for him. Both were mediocre. My cupcake was still a bit frozen. I don’t remember the name, but it was right by one of the entrances.

We probably won’t bother visiting again. Vendors aren’t friendly, there’s too many hipsters and it’s way overpriced.

Since we still had a few hours to hang, we walked to DUMBO and peeped a volleyball game. The walk over was not pretty.

But we did see the Manhattan skyline. Nice but not exciting.

We also saw a trailer that reminded ST of the one he grew up in.

Then, we headed over to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Things have changed a lot since last year. There are roped-off patches of grass big enough for running, playing, and sunbathing. Side note: We saw this weirdo who was topless and wearing a lime green thong, sunbathing a mere 10 feet from a kid’s birthday party.

There was even a cute little playground. Side note: ST said people would think I was a creep for taking pictures of a playground. Really?

There was also a burrito cart and a Blue Marble ice cream cart. We also saw a wedding party take their photos and we discussed politics, zombie apocalypse, and regular apocalypse.

Anyway, DUMBO is just okay. If we’re bored, we can hang out there for a day, I guess.

Oh, The Places We’ll Go!

ST and I love traveling. Our jobs provide us with ample vacation days. Here are the places we visited during our first year of marriage:

  1. Puerto Vallarta (our honeymoon)
  2. El Paso, Texas
  3. Roma, Italy
  4. San Francisco, California
  5. Pocono Mountain, Pennsylvania
  6. Honolulu, Hawaii

As we were discussing our plans for future vacations, we began brainstorming fun vacation spots with you. Here’s what we came up with:

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico – This place is AMAZING. It’s a huge cave in the desert that was discovered in the 1920s. There are stalactites, stalagmites, bats, ponds, lakes, and all sorts of mining artifacts left over from the original discovery of the cave.

Side note: These images were captured with my trusty waterproof Olympus Stylus digital camera that is now swimming with the fishes at Kailua Beach Park in Oahu. Farewell, old friend.

Hueco Tanks in the outskirts of El Paso – Your dad took me hiking here during my second visit to El Paso. The views are beautiful and there is lots of beginner rock climbing and wildlife to be seen (we saw a rattlesnake!).

La Mesilla, New Mexico – This cute little town is close to your Abuelos’ home in El Paso and it has all sorts of stores and most importantly, ice cream.

Grand Canyon in Arizona – I visited when I was in high school and ST has never been. The Grand Canyon seems to just go on forever… it feels infinite. Check out this awesome view from the plane on our way to Honolulu:

Disney World in Orlando, FL – Three words: Harry Potter World! ST and I decided it would be ridiculous for us to visit without a child, even though I so want to. But we’ll wait.

Hershey Park in Pennsylvania – I haven’t been here since I was 12 or so but I remember I loved it! They have chocolate samples and chocolate-themed rides – ST may enjoy it more than you ; )

Strolling through Boston – ST has history with Boston. When we were dating, we went for a weekend trip and stayed at the hotel where he used to work. There’s excellent seafood, shopping, New England Aquarium, and of course, Fenway Park!

Side note: We will never go whale watching, ever.

Every Museum, Aquarium, and Zoo in NYC – American Museum of Natural History, NY Hall of Science, MoMA, NY Aquarium, Bronx Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo – enough said. You shall see it all!

Growing up, my family couldn’t afford to buy 5 plane tickets so we went on road trips a lot. The final destination was always fun but the journey was challenging in your grandpa’s baby blue Buick Century. I don’t remember what year it was, but it looked like this:

Road trips are totally fun. We definitely want to road trip it to Boston, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and maybe even Canada. We even went so far as to buy a comfy road trip friendly car that we have lovingly named Barney:

But a 24 hour drive to Orlando, FL is not fun. It is intense for all parties involved. So for non-local trips, we signed up for the South West Rapid Rewards Card. We got 50,000 points for our first purchase. My frugal spirit rejoices and does a happy dance.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

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