Staycation in Park Slope

Considering I had a long weekend trip just a few weekends ago, and I’m in the midst of planning a vacation with my mom for not too long from now, a four-day Labor Day staycation was clearly in order this weekend. I needed it. My apartment, which wasn’t looking bad but required a little cleaning and attention, also needed it. And so I had four days wherein I stayed so close to home that I didn’t take the subway and only took the bus once, after a particularly expensive drugstore visit.

???????????????????????????????A delicious and cheap brunch place where Mayor De Blasio has been known to hang out

I ran some errands, saw a couple friends for meals, did some trip planning, and got some reading time in. I also watched some TV and a movie, two things I haven’t done all that much of this summer. I even got up and went to the gym on Monday morning, a little later than I usually go because it was, after all, a holiday, and the streets were quiet besides a few dog walkers and cyclists. The gym was emptier than usual – I had the whole row of ellipticals to myself.

???????????????????????????????The Park Slope library, with random stoop sale outside it

During my errand outing in Park Slope, and when I was meeting up with my friends, I took a few photos of the neighborhood. It’s where I go for brunch and to buy shampoo and return library books (when the library is not closed for the holiday, oops). When friends visit who haven’t spent much time in NYC, they’re usually surprised by Brooklyn. It doesn’t look like the NYC they’ve seen on television or in movies.

DSC01850A pretty church

That’s one of the things I like about living here. Working in Manhattan is a lot of fun, but it’s nice to escape at the end of the day and on the weekends to a place that’s a little quieter. Even with Park Slope’s notoriety, I don’t think there are a ton of tourists wandering down 7th Avenue. I can handle the baby strollers, and there are usually enough cute dogs to more than balance out the small children.

???????????????????????????????Pretty houses

I meant to take more pictures of the commercial streets, but I got distracted by trees and pretty buildings. Next time I take a walk maybe I’ll get some more pictures of restaurants and stores, or even people.

Well, maybe.

???????????????????????????????A lovely weeping willow

What did you do with your long weekend, and what’s your favorite staycation activity?

PS The movie I was in has started showing in theaters, but I haven’t gone yet! If you see it, let me know if you spot me!

???????????????????????????????Another pretty church! This one has a used book sale every February.



Sunday in the park

It’s my first real Prospect Park Sunday ramble of spring. I’ve been here a couple times over the last few months on those weekends where we’ve gotten a taste of warm weather or sunshine, but today I’m in shorts and a t-shirt and flip flops.

I’m regretting the flip flops, but everything else was the right call.

I met up with a friend for pizza, then convinced her to put off her to do list for a little while and take a walk. We meandered from about 6th Street down to 15th and then she left to buy groceries and I walked down to the lake.

The lake is my favorite part of the park, probably because it was the first part I really got to know. My roommate and I used to bike down from Clinton Hill, and when you’re riding the bike loop, the lake is a perfect place to stop and take a breather.

Today I’m sitting on a bench right near the water. On any other day this summer that’s not the first lovely Sunday we’ve had, this little nook might be a quiet spot, but I had a lucky break finding this empty seat – and now there’s a kid standing directly in front of me, maybe two feet away, fishing.


There’s also a large group of kids with a couple of moms standing nearby, and now the fisher boy’s dad or grandpa is sitting next to me. I’m a little annoyed, but as long as I don’t get hit with a pole it’s fine.

I’m glad, though, when the group of kids leaves. There are ten or so of us now and yet it’s much quieter. All the people noise is on the other side of the trees and hedges and I start to hear birdsong, and dogs barking, along with planes overhead and cars far away.

There’s an Eastern King bird flying over the lake. I only know because a dad pointed it out to his kids, noting the white fringe at the bottom of its tail. There are also geese, and ducks, and turtles sunning themselves on a log. If I watch the water carefully enough sometimes I spot a turtle poking its head above water and then going back under.

The sky is bright blue, fading to a paler color by the horizon, and what clouds there are seem delicate against the blue.

There’s a swan in the distance swimming alone, parallel to shore. It turns and now it’s swimming towards us slowly, looking side to side as if unconcerned with us and curious about better prospects. It sticks its head under the water, long neck bending, and when it comes back up it shakes its head like a dog. A few minutes later a black bird with orange on its tail starts dive-bombing the swan and the swan turns in circles a few times like it’s chasing its tail, before the bird leaves it alone and the swan swims away.

The man catches a fish and when he notices a girl, maybe eight years old, watching in fascination, he calls her over to look at it. She comes, but politely declines when he asks if she wants to throw it back for him.

My allergies are acting up a little, but not enough to make me leave. Not quite yet.

There’s a bird perched on the branch of a fallen tree, its wings spread like it’s trying to get a tan. I wish that dad would come back and tell me what it is.

The buoy floating nearby says, near as I can tell: “Danger Thin Ice.” They’ve got that right.

There’s a kid leaning over the water, his face six inches from the surface, and I’m relieved when he sits back up rather than toppling in. Once we saw parents hold a tiny toddler near the water to “meet” a swan and I wanted to go yell at them. Swans can be mean, and even if they aren’t, why put your kid that close to a wild animal?

A little boy wearing a Rainforest Café shirt has walked up, saying “Ducks!” and carrying a roll. He tosses pieces of it at the two ducks nearby, who ignore it at first. The woman next to me tells her children that there’s a sign saying not to feed the water fowl, and that while we can’t control what others do we can control what we do.

The quiet’s been broken – more people again, lots of talking. I’ll try putting my headphones on and reading for a bit, but it’s almost time to go home, and soon I do.

PS New piece for Effed in Park Slope here.

Where to find cheese, or, blogging while eating

Much like my pizza post from a few weeks ago, this blog comes sponsored by Sarah is Hungry (and has done nothing post-worthy this week), though this time I am actually at my kitchen table snacking on apples and cheese while typing this. Oh, more apple left? Guess I’ll have to eat some more cheese with it…

I am a person of fairly simple (read: picky) tastes, but I’ve always been a fan of one kind of cheese or another. In elementary school and middle school, mozzarella was my favorite. Swiss and Lorraine (like Swiss, only more delicate and stinkier) came into play later on, and cheddar was just… there. I can’t remember when I started liking it, but I do know that soon after moving to New York, I developed an addiction.

It was an addiction to Kraft’s orange sharp or extra sharp cheddar. I could polish off half – well, way more cheese than is probably healthy in one day – without any trouble. But sometime in the last two years, I slowly made the transition to white cheddar, and from there it was a slippery, delicious slope to cheese that costs $9.99 a pound.

Not like that’s what I’m eating right now or anything.

Union Market in Park Slope is one of my go-to places for fancy cheese – fancy groceries of any kind, really – but I found my favorite cheddar at Gristedes on Mercer Street in Manhattan – it has bad Google reviews, but it stocks Adam’s Reserve cheddar, which is ridiculously delicious.

Where do you all shop for your favorite cheese, or whatever your guilty snacking pleasure happens to be?

Errands in the snow

On Saturday I put on my coat and boots and stepped outside with a mission in mind: I was off to Rite Aid to buy some day-after-Valentine’s-Day candy. It was early afternoon and as I closed the door behind me I realized that it had started to snow, the tiny, sharp kind of snow that blows into your face but doesn’t prevent you from seeing where you’re going. It was cold, and I was glad I had bundled up, but it was warmer than some snowy days have been this winter, and as I walked along one of the main avenues in Park Slope I saw lots of people out and about.

Some were running errands like I was, groceries in hand or kids in strollers ahead of them. I saw more than one pair of childless adults pulling a sled – what a good idea! – and countless people waiting for the bus. I know life in New York doesn’t stop when it snows – I’ve struggled to and from work in enough snow and slush to be sure of that – but there was something neat about being out in a weekend afternoon snowstorm and seeing that everyone else was out too. Maybe it’s cabin fever, maybe it’s that when the temperature is right at freezing it starts to feel warmto us now, or maybe we just all have things to do regardless of what precipitation is falling from the sky.

But weirdly, this mid-February snowstorm made me feel like spring might finally come, that the days of holing up with Netflix might almost be over, and that today’s snowstorm could be the last. I mean, the end of the week is supposed to be fifty degrees!

What do you think – is spring coming?

In need of some pizza

You’re reading this post because at the time of writing I was (am!) desperately in need of a slice of pizza. (Note from future Sarah: I am now very happily full, with pizza.) My hunger is great because I had a lame lunch, but I met my writing buddy and so before heading out to get some pizza I thought I’d write a bit about pizza in NYC.

I’ve already mentioned my favorite slice place, a hole-in-the-wall called Luigi’s in Clinton Hill. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I’ve slowly accumulated a few other regular pizza stops. The thing with pizza places is that you really ought to have one in every neighborhood that you spend a lot of time in. My list has grown as I’ve moved apartments a couple times and acquired more important places.
I should take a moment to say that I (being a picky eater) tend to eat only cheese pizza. This includes margherita, of course, but if you’re looking for a rec of a place with great toppings, talk to someone else.
Here, then are three of my current pizza places of note. I have others that I frequent, and they’re perfectly good places for a slice, but these three are special.
Smiling Pizzeria on 7th Ave in Park Slope is delicious, reasonably priced, fast, and happens to be the place where Patrick Stewart had his first NYC slice last year. Unfortunately I’ve yet to run into him there.
Pauline and Sharon’s, on 4th Ave in South Slope, is a recent add for me after a friend ordered delivery from there. The cheese pie has some herbs sprinkled on it that gives the flavor a kick and really makes it stand out. Not sure I’d want to eat it every week but it’s definitely a great treat once in a while. Plus their shop has some hilarious signage (written in somewhat foul but also hilarious language). Not technically a slice place, so only go by or order delivery if you have a couple friends on hand or are really hungry.
Third (but first in my heart) is Pomodoro on Spring Street in Manhattan. Big slices, chewy crust, great location. Their special vodka sauce is so good that I order the vodka pizza at least as often as I order the regular, even if the tomatoes under its cheese have a distressing tendency to slide off as I’m taking a bite.
One of the things all of these places have in common is that their slices are generous, fairly thick – no flimsy crust here. That kind of pizza has its place – such as a touristy but fun trip to Lombardi’s – but give me a good-sized pizza 99% of the time. My favorite local chain back home has delightfully thick crust, so much I call it bread pizza, and I loved to get a corner slice off a rectangular sheet pizza to maximize my crust intake. NYC doesn’t quite match this, but a NYC slice is equal to two or three square slices of sheet pizza, so I guess we’ll call it even.
I’m off to eat some pizza the way real New Yorkers do (thanks Jon Stewart!) but in the meantime, what’s your favorite pizza place?