Lens on June 2018

We’re about halfway through the year, which is wild because wasn’t it just January yesterday?

This month, like each month, was jam packed with food, fun, and lots of books. First I wanted to give an update on my 2018 goals. I wanted to eat less sugar, read more books, and join a music group. I did another no sugar month in April (I cut out a few days early) and have been trying to be more conscious of my selections in the supermarket. My favorite smoothie of the month is: mixed greens, one banana, a handful of frozen mango/pineapple mix, and unsweetened almond milk. I’m currently at 28 books for this calendar year! I will definitely be beating my goal of reading more than last year’s 31 books. And finally – I joined a jazz singing group which meets weekly and it’s been really fun and what a pleasure to be singing again!

So far so good! We’ve already taken our two ‘big trips’ for the year, and this summer will be filled with smaller weekend getaways. Maybe I can save up both money and vacation days for a vacation in the fall. If not, definitely Spring 2019!

Restaurants

This month I went to some fun places around the city and out of state.

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Cheese yo-yo at Cachapas y Mas and a cup of Chinola juice

Cachapas y Mas (Inwood) – When I lived in Washington Heights a few years ago, I used to go to Tu Cachapa on Broadway and 177th which had some great food (although the recent Yelp reviews don’t speak very highly of it) so I was looking forward to going to a similar restaurant in Inwood. Unfortunately Cachapas y Mas was a bit of a let down this time. The plantain tasted like it had been re-fried. I will say that the chinola (passion fruit) juice was very good, and the portions were huge but I don’t think I’ll be going back to this particular restaurant.

Pier 66 Maritime (Hudson Yards) – a friend and I caught up over fried food and drinks on this floating restaurant. I had a generous portion of fried cod and french fries. It was really nice to be on the water, but if you go during peak hours I imagine it’s quite hard to find a table.

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Beautiful donuts at Glazed Donuts in Amherst

Glazed Donuts (Amherst, MA) – Yum! This place has a fun selection of flavors and also a number of gluten free and vegan options as well. I had half of a chocolate twist donut and some tasty iced coffee.

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Banana wall art at Chloe Soft Serve Fruit

Chloe Soft Serve Fruit Co. (Union Square) – If you’re looking for something sweet but not too artificial, check this place out. The servings of soft serve looked so large, so I had a chocolate covered raspberry popsicle which was tasty! They add only a bit of sugar to their soft serve fruit, which makes it a refreshing summer treat. You can also buy the fruit bars in some supermarkets.

Trece (Union Square) – this unassuming restaurant delivers big on food and service. I went here for a friends’ birthday and when I walked in, realized I had been there before. I had some tasty fish tacos but underwhelming guacamole. The servers were very attentive and overall I think the whole party enjoyed. We were able to sit at a semi-private table towards the back.

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Ajo y Oregano (Parkchester, Bronx) – I wrote a more elaborate review last week, but this restaurant was a fun experience (if you don’t mind a bit of a wait!) that brought me back to the Dominican Republic. As our party was mostly vegetarians, we ordered a number of side dishes and enjoyed the visit there.

Dekalb Market Hall (Downtown Brooklyn) – some colleagues and I went after work for some bites. I tried some fish tacos which were delish! This place has so many options and also shopping (can you say TRADER JOES!?).

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Fun decor at Kabab Culture

Kabab Culture (Franklin Township, NJ) – we stopped by hear for lunch while visiting some friends in New Jersey. The menu is not particularly friendly for those with food intolerances (many of the meat dishes had dairy, etc)., but the waiter was very gracious and tried to suggest a few other items. I ordered the jackfruit fried rice to share with a friend. It was just the right amount of spicy and even with the two of us eating it, I had plent of leftovers to take home. The garlic naan was also nice and fresh. While the service and food was good, the prices were a bit high for the area – more what I’d expect in midtown Manhattan.

New York City Parks

Summertime in New York City is unlike anything else. Parks are a favorite place to relax, have a picnic, or see a concert.

Inwood Hill Park – this park is one of my favorite uptown spots. There are so many things to do in this park: watch a baseball game, take a stroll on one of the many paths, sit by the water, play handball, have a picnic, play on a playground, or bring your dog to one of the dog runs. It’s a really beautiful park.

Madison Square Park – some friends and I met up in Madison Square Park to eat some Shake Shack (or selections from other nearby restaurants) and enjoy the nice weather one Friday evening.

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Tango concert at the West Side Community Garden

West Side Community Garden – I popped in for a few minutes during a free concert so I didn’t explore too much, but this was such a tranquil spot I wanted to include it on my list! There’s one more summer concert coming up this summer: July 8 at 6pm – Marc Irwin Jazz Quintet – so if you’re on the west side, put that on your calendar.

Prospect Park – I trekked out to Brooklyn yet again to meet up with my book club (we read The Big Sleep which I mentioned last post) for a lovely picnic near the Picnic House. We brought an assortment of dips, crackers, chips, fruit and cookies to share while we discussed the book.

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Music in the Rockefeller Rose Garden, part of Rose Weekend!

New York Botanical Garden – the Botanical Garden in the Bronx is truly a gem in New York City. Once you’re inside the gates, you don’t feel like you’re within the city borders. We arrived before 10am on a Saturday in order to get free access to the grounds. Our friends have a membership, which they say is totally worth it, even if you only go a few times a year. We wandered through the rose garden and some of the woodland trails.

Five Borough Green Roof – for my full review, read my blog post about my tour of the roof! This is such a lovely little spot that really makes a big impact on the future of NYC and I hope more roofs will follow its lead. The roof has a few different sections with different types of plants, seating, and wonderful views of the highrise buildings.

Festivals and Events

While half of the year the city is cold and slushy, when it’s summer, New Yorkers really go all out with a plethora of outdoor festivals.

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Puerto Rican Day Parade – this annual parade is a true display of patriotism and pride for Puerto Rico. We staked out a spot on Fifth Avenue and Central Park and avoided the crowds closer to the beginning of the parade in the 40s and 50s. From there we had a front row view of the fun floats, music and dancing.

Museum Mile – each year a number of museums along Fifth Avenue participate in Museum Mile, where they stay open late for free after hours. With Fifth Avenue closed to vehicle traffic, the festival takes on a whimsical air, with live performances and tents set up to get you in a festive mood. It was perfect weather that night and my friend and I checked out the Met Rooftop, the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, and the Jewish Museum. It was fun to walk uptown and be part of the festivities.

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Bareburger – the Guadelupe at Yankee Stadium (vegetarian black bean burger with guacamole)

Yankee Stadium – my cousins invited me and my husband to a Yankee Game, and we had a lovely evening watching them win against the Tampa Bay Rays. I also turned it into a culinary experience and bought a veggie Bareburger and some soft serve ice cream.

Books

In the first half of this year, I’ve almost read as many books as I did in all 12 months of 2017. I’m on my way to approaching my reading goal, which I’ve now set at an arbitrary 52 (one book per week). I get all of my books from the New York Public Library.

If Beale Street Could Talk,James Baldwin – This month I continued to read my way through the five contenders for the One Book NY. While this one was not the winner, I definitely thought it was a stronger book than the winner, Manhattan Beach. This book spoke to my heart and really captured a moment in time between __ and __. It could have been written today and would still ring true. This was the first book by James Baldwin I’ve read and I’d definitely read another – any suggestions?

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The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende – I had been looking forward to reading this book as it was written by a Chilean author and was highly acclaimed. However the mystical aspect of the book was really underwhelming. Yes, there were some spirits, but they didn’t really do much and the mysticism was more of a sideline than a real interwoven aspect of the book. The story followed three familial generations in all their glory and despair. While some characters are lovely and bright (especially Alba), others are completely awful (Esteban). I always wonder if things are lost in translation when I read books that were originally written in other languages. Towards the end I started to like the book more and I’m glad I pushed through, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to anyone.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro – Wow. I did not expect to like this book, especially after reading his dreary Remains of the Day. This book grabbed me by the collar right at the beginning and I was completely drawn in. I finished this book in maybe two days and it really was just a downwards spiral. The characters are in a desperate, lifelong horrible situation that they understand but maybe they don’t understand (other reviews have said the book alluded the book to animal abuse or racism) and it really seems TOO REAL but also so appalling. I highly recommend this book. You’ll fall in love and then be devastated.

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The Black Tides of Heaven, Jy Yang– A NYPL recommendation, this book was a fun read and also perfect timing for Pride Month. In this world, all children are born genderless and can decide on a gender when they get older. Interlaced with magic, called “slack”, two twins end up fighting their powerful Mother, whose powerful slack controls the people. They both go down different paths but at the end their love for each other brings them back together.

Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan – The third book in Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, it was a nice comforting ending to all the ‘craziness!’ I had read the second book about a year ago so it took me a while to get back in the groove and remember which character was which (although there is a helpful family tree at the beginning). This book took me a few months to finish, as I kept picking up other books in the middle. I guess that says enough about it. However it had a satisfying ending and wrapped up most of the plot lines, so I don’t need any more books in this particular series. I would love to read another Kwan novel with different characters, and I’m really excited for the movie that’s coming out August 17!!!

Here’s to a fun rest of the summer… do you have any fun plans or book recommendations for me?

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