Tuesday, December 24, 2013

merry and bright

Taking just a moment to wish you a very merry Christmas that I hope is filled with laughter and loved ones, rest and relaxation, and a sweet treat or two ;)

Have a safe and happy holiday!!

xoxo, Mary

Sunday, December 22, 2013

30x30: Get Bangs

This is a post about hair. More specifically, this is a post about my new haircut. Now, before you scroll down to see if at any point I start to wax poetic, spout profundity, or attempt to solve a world crisis, let me stop you right now - I don't. This is and will always be a post about hair.

That being said, I got a new haircut! And it includes bangs! I've been wanting to try a new style for a while now (I've had roughly the same haircut since 2007) and a day off earlier in the week prompted me to just go for it. The picture above was take almost immediately after I got it cut and styled, which is why it looks so good. Due to an unfortunate cowlick (damn you, DNA!) I unfortunately haven't been able get my bangs to do again what the stylist intended, but for those few days before I was forced to wash my hair I look goooodd ;)

All photos were taken by me with my trusty iPhone 4s and edited with PhotoToaster, Snapseed, and/or A Beautiful Mess. 30x30 is my name for a silly little bucket list project that I intend to complete by my 30th birthday at the end of March, 2014.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

30x30: Try Acupuncture

Ok, so the above picture is just a silly little thing I threw together because I needed a graphic for this post. Acupuncture has nothing to do with poison or skulls or crossbones, but the app I used had a limited pool of drawings and I didn't want to get too wrapped up in finding the perfect Rod of Asclepius.

Anyway, so today I completed 30x30 Challenge #20 - I went to an acupuncturist and subjected myself to 20 minutes of lying facedown with a dozen or so needles sticking out of my back and legs (hence why I couldn't get a picture of said activity). Why would I do such a thing, you ask? Well, I've always been curious about the "softer" medicines and Eastern healing techniques. I'm in no way an objector to modern medicine and science, but I do think that there are definite benefits to yoga, tai chi, massages, positive thinking...the list goes on and on. I have spent most of my adult life dealing with a problem neck/back/shoulders and basically my whole life living with migraines and headaches, and my patience is running out. So I figured it was high time to see what an acupuncturist would have to say.

The session began with a quick lesson in proper standing and lifting techniques. Since my job routinely requires me to lift/crawl/move in mysterious ways, it's entirely possible that my back problems are related to how I move throughout the day. Then we moved to the actual needling, which was nowhere near as scary as I had thought it would be. I laid facedown on a masseuse table, he inserted the needles, turned on some classical music, and then left me there to rest underneath a heat lamp for 20 minutes. I felt nothing (other than the soothing warmth of the lamp), and rather enjoyed my brief nap.

All too soon I was woken up and told to get redressed and come into the waiting room. We then had a brief chat about how I was feeling (perfectly fine) and about my diet - which is apparently not perfectly fine. I was told that eating foods containing high levels of sulfides is a major cause of headaches, and that dried fruit, red wine, and cheese have the highest levels of sulfides among most commonly eaten foods.

I won't say which, but two out of three of those aforementioned foods make up like 90% of my diet. I haven't yet decided how far I'm going to go with his suggestion (slightly, greatly, or completely cutting out sulfides), because I frankly don't know how much it's worth. Yes, being headache free would be fantastic, but if it means that I can never have a slice of pizza or grab a piece of cheese from the snack tray...that just doesn't sound like a very enjoyable lifestyle for me.

Case in point - just hours after I was told to cut cheese and red wine out of my diet, I decided to roast some Brussels sprouts for a quick snack - but it was only after I had started chopping the sprouts that I realized my recipe contained both cheese (a sprinkle of parmesan) and red wine (drizzled over the top with some salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar - delicious, if I do say so myself). Clearly, this isn't going to be a quick adjustment.

While the majority of my 30x30 challenges have been more New York Bucket List-type activities, I do acknowledge the benefit in choosing experiences that help further my education and prepare me for the next 30 years. If that means being more responsible in the foods I chose to eat, than maybe that's just what 30 is all about.

All photos were taken by me with my trusty iPhone 4s and edited with PhotoToaster, Snapseed, and/or A Beautiful Mess. 30x30 is my name for a silly little bucket list project that I intend to complete by my 30th birthday at the end of March, 2014.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Salt and pepper sweet potato chips

I had one lone sweet potato left over from Thanksgiving and couldn't figure out what to do with it, so this afternoon I made these incredibly easy and tasty sweet potato chips! To make them, simply slice a washed sweet potato into very thin rounds (the thicker the slices, the longer you have to bake the chips) and spread evenly onto a large cookie sheet. Brush both sides of the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (I used truffle salt for an added kick) and roast at 200 degrees for 2 hours, or until the edges have curled and the potatoes are crispy (times may vary due to differences in your oven). That's not a typo, by the way - slow roasting at a low temperature for a lengthy period of time is the best way to lock in the flavor without the vegetables getting dehydrated. One sweet potato generates enough chips for a solo snack, but if you're cooking for a party be sure to add a few more to the order ;)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

365 photo-a-day - November wrap-up

homemade bread bowls - 7-layer sunday - sunset - bagel bites - colorful
green-wood cemetery - poffertjes - chilly but clear - fall foliage - pecan pie rugelach
sweet potato pie - weekend greenmarket - arancini - coffee date - stuffed dates
more colorful - fresh produce - a tree grows in brooklyn - afternoon sun - rocky terrain  

Wait, what's that, you say? November is over? As in, it's already December? Well, huh. Fascinating.

Technically speaking, this past month was an utter failure in terms of me sticking to my goal of taking one photo per day. In my defense, I did not have a ton of opportunities to achieve said goal. Of the thirty days in November, there were a total of 2 days in which I did not step foot in a theater or rehearsal hall, and one of those days was Thanksgiving where as hostess-elect I was way too busy making sure I didn't serve a side of salmonella with the turkey to take many photos. 2 days. That, and sometime during the second week of November the weather turned utterly ugly -rainy/sleety/freezing/windy/puffycoat/nasty. Just walking to the subway became a hunger games of will and determination, not a scenario that lent itself to beautiful and inspiring photos.

This was also the month where the project became more of a stressor than a fun challenge. I am so close to finishing and yet tripped up in the 11th hour. While I did manage to go on a few "photo hunts" early in the month, the time ultimately just got away from me. I also felt the external pressures of pintergrambook, where seemingly every housewife in America captured that perfectly cooked and well-lit turkey picture a week before Thanksgiving, where as by the time I got the bird out of the oven it was already dark outside and the terrible lighting in my kitchen made my turkey look grey and sickly (it wasn't though. it tasted wonderful and sans salmonella, thankyouverymuch)

Oh well. There are much more serious things to worry about in this world than this silly little project. I did get a few lovely pictures, and though it went undocumented, achieved personal success in getting seven different types of food to the table at the same time and correct temperature on Thanksgiving. There is only one month left of 2013, and thus one more month of (attempting) one-photo-per-day. It pains me to realize that December has the very real possibility of being much like November - more shows, more rehearsal halls. But, there is also the whole holiday-lights-Christmas-merry-cheer thing to attend to. In theory, this final month is the most photogenic of them all. In actuality, well...we shall see ;)

November by the numbers
Total number of photos: a sad, sad 20
Photos of my feet: 1
Photos of other people: 1 (2 if you count the shadowy stranger walking down the street)
Selfies: 1
Photos of the sky: 5
Photos of food: 8.

365/Photo-a-day is a personal undertaking to capture one photograph per day in 2013. All photos were taken by me and processed with Instagram, Snapseed, PhotoToaster, and/or the new A Beautiful Mess app. The images were compiled using Picture Collage Maker Lite. What to see my pics as they happen? Follow me @maspad on Instagram!

Friday, November 8, 2013

30x30: Green-wood Cemetery

This week's 30x30 experience might fall into the "slightly morbid" category, but I once took great joy in joining thousands of other tourists and running around Paris' Père-Lahaise cemetery to find the final resting places of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and dozens of other famous denizens. So it didn't strike me as too bizarre when I decided to take an afternoon (and a long subway ride) and pay homage to some of New York's more famous residents spending eternity in the state's largest cemetery.

I probably use this phrase too often, but boy am I glad I visited that cemetery. Not only was it interesting to visit the grave sites of Leonard Bernstein, Horace Greeley (of Greeley Square!), and Jean-Michael Basquiat, but I happened to go on what was possibly the most picture-perfect fall day of the year. Maybe ever. (ed. note: I bear no shame for hyperbole) The sun was streaming, the trees were lined with gold, there was a chill in the air and a crunch under my feet, and I swear the leaves were actually slowly falling around me, ensconcing me in my own personal, over-saturated Thomas Kinkaid painting. There was also not a soul around for what seemed to be miles. It was like everything Central Park wants to be but is too popular (and populated) to actually achieve.

There actually isn't too much else to say about this except that if you're looking for a quiet place in a busy city to walk and think, then I highly suggest Green-wood Cemetery. It's obviously free, and depending on where you live, possibly even more accessible than some of the city's larger parks. As long as you are respectful to the deceased and anyone living who may be visiting said deceased, then there is no reason why someone can't use a cemetery as a serene, reflective, meditation spot.

If you go: Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is open seven days a week; take the D/N/R to 36th St. and walk to the main entrance located at 5th and 25th Streets.

All photos were taken by me with my trusty iPhone 4s and edited with PhotoToaster, Snapseed, and/or A Beautiful Mess. 30x30 is my name for a silly little bucket list project that I intend to complete by my 30th birthday at the end of March, 2014.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

30x30: Noguchi Museum

It's no secret that I'm a bit of an art museum nerd. I've trekked across cities all over the world just to step foot in certain museums, and it's likely that given even a few hours of free time, I can be found wandering amongst the statues and paintings of the Met. So I was actually a little disgusted at myself when I realized that there was an entire art museum a mere 15 minute walk from my apartment and I hadn't once visited it in the four years I've lived in Astoria. I vowed to change that asap, and there was no better time than during this 30x30 challenge.

So on a blustery day in November, I took advantage of the museum's "First Friday" policy (a lovely program that allows patrons to pay-what-they-wish on the first Friday of every month) and walked over to The Noguchi Museum. Named after and designed by 20th century sculptor Isamu Noguchi, the museum is conceived to be an open-air sculpture garden, housing what Noguchi considered to be some of his best works.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the museum. It wasn't at all crowded (note to self: stop being an old lady) and it was perfectly peaceful to wander the naturally-lit galleries, getting in touch with my inner Zen amongst the wabi sabi of the minimalist wood and stone carvings.

It was a relatively small space - the entire experience took about an hour, and that was with circling back to view some galleries a second time. But the museum's accessibility (in terms of content, that is) is one of it's stronger points. While the Met is famous and amazing and spectacular, it is so incredibly huge that first-time or casual visitors can and do get so overwhelmed that it's hard to visualize just popping over for a quick and quiet visit. But the Noguchi is just the opposite - it's actually perfect for a lunchtime recharge (provided you're in the area), and makes me wonder if more museums shouldn't be designed with this idea in mind. Not everything has to be flashy and designed by a starchitect. Sometimes it's nice to just appreciate good art.

If you go: The Noguchi Museum is located 9-01 33rd Rd. (at Vernon Blvd.) in Long Island City; take the N/Q to Broadway and walk towards the river. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday and is pay-what-you-wish on the first Friday of every month.

All photos were taken by me with my trusty iPhone 4s and edited with PhotoToaster, Snapseed, and/or A Beautiful Mess. 30x30 is my name for a silly little bucket list project that I intend to complete by my 30th birthday at the end of March, 2014.

Friday, November 1, 2013

365-photo-a-day - October wrap-up

shadowplay - tomatoes - fall colors - chrysler - cucumbers - cute
artichokes - serene hallway - happy opening - gourds - a quiet moment - tiny bouquet
walkin' in a spiderweb - yoga - date night chili - banksy #2 - flower - day off bagel
foliage - squash salad - banksy #3 - 6th ave. - honeycrisp - empire state building
lone lamppost - fall boots - pumpkin spice whoopie pie - 1am grilled cheese - cloisters - banksy #1

October was a beautiful month here in New York City...or so I heard. Ok, that's a bit of a lie. I did manage to surround myself with autumnal colors once or twice this month, but I largely spent the weeks crouching in a small dark box with a sweaty drag queen (long story). This lack of free time didn't come as a surprise to me though, so photographically speaking, I dealt with it in two ways - first, I allowed myself to take and use multiple photos from single-day excursions and experiences (one day at the Cloisters, one day Banksy-hunting). Second, I pushed myself to spend a little extra time at my favorite farmer's market each week, knowing that there I would find the highest concentration of colorful subjects that were easy enough to snap a quick pic of.

Was it cheating? Maybe, but I like to think that I made lemonade out of glittered lemons. While it was (and has been this whole time) a bit stressful to know that I needed to produce 28-31 decent photos by the end of the month, I did truly enjoy wandering the greenmarket, taking in the best of upstate New York's fall bounty. Had I not been anchored to this photo project, I might not have left the apartment ten minutes early each Saturday and would have missed out on some truly beautiful moments.

I have two months left in 2013, and I'm honestly not sure what the rest of the year will bring. I can only assume that there will be many, many more food photos (I'm hosting Turkey Day this year and cooking up a storm), but that just means that I have to try (much) harder to look up from my plate and snap a photo of the people with whom I'm sharing that food.

October by the Numbers:
Pictures of food: 10
Pictures of fall foliage: 7
Pictures of people: 2 (3 if you count my shadow)
Pictures of my feet: 2

365/Photo-a-day is a personal undertaking to capture one photograph per day in 2013. All photos were taken by me and processed with Instagram, Snapseed, PhotoToaster, and/or the new A Beautiful Mess app. The images were compiled using Picture Collage Maker Lite. What to see my pics as they happen? Follow me @maspad on Instagram!

Friday, October 25, 2013

30x30: Find a Banksy

Prolific graffiti artist Banksy recently declared a month-long "residency" on the streets of New York. I've long been a fan of Banksy and urban street art in general (yes, it's illegal, but so are a lot of things that are no where near as beautiful or interesting to look at), so viewing a Banksy, live and in person, immediately got added to my list of 30 things to do before I turn 30.

This became especially challenging because at the exact moment these artworks started hitting the streets, I descended into the dark underbelly of New York's theater world, resurfacing with just one week left in October. Add to that the facts that many of the artworks are in hard-for-me-to-get-to locations (I couldn't find Bushwick if you paid me) and have already been re-graffitied over, and it becomes clear why finding these limited editions was so difficult for me. But yesterday, I happened upon the perfect combination: an afternoon off AND an actual address of the most recent Banksy - the side door of the Hustler Club on Manhattan's west side.

With a spring in my step and a fully charged iPhone, off I went. Admittedly, this one wasn't hard to spot. Half a block away there were people selling Banksy magnets from inside a garage. 2 bouncers and a group of about 20 people surrounded the artwork, and I had to wait for my turn to reach my arms through a gap in the crowd to snap the requisite photos. But lack of ceremony aside, there it was in all it's glory - a forlorn man leaning up against a doorway, waiting for his paramour while the flowers from his bouquet wilted to the ground. And I have to say that it was beautiful. It was bright and vivid and elicited emotions I didn't think possible from a mere few cans of spray paint.

I was pretty pleased with myself - I found a Banksy! But my luck didn't stop there. A few hours later and on my way to work, I saw a huge group of people gathered in Union Square. Since it is not out of the ordinary for large amounts of people to be staring at something in a heavily trafficked area in New York, I actually didn't pay too much attention to whatever they were staring at. Until I heard squawking. And mooing. And banging. And then I looked up, and found myself face-to-face with a second Banksy - called the Sirens of the Lambs, this one is a mobile art installation in which a slaughterhouse delivery truck filled with animatronic stuffed barnyard animals roams the streets of New York.

It was disturbing. And recollective of The Jungle. And turned me into a vegetarian for a solid 20 minutes. The poor little lambs actually looked down at you, begging to be saved from the deep fryer! Rethinking my culinary outlook on life, I began to walk away when I pretty much ran right into a THIRD Banksy - a replica of a Ronald McDonald statue with a live actor in tattered clothing giving the clown's shoes a shine.

This was easily the most thought-provoking artwork of the three. The social commentary was obvious, but it also brought to mind the degree to which someone will go to make a point. Artists have been creating performance art in the form of live installations for decades (Marina Abramović, Wafaa Bilal, Sophie Calle, just to name a few), but these are often ticketed events and/or situations in which the patron has to seek out or attend the artwork, and usually feature the artist him/herself. In the case of this Banksy, however, unsuspecting viewers happen upon this artwork in the middle of their commute. This then begs the question, does one need to seek out art in order for it to be effective? Or is it actually more effective if it surprises you? I went looking for Banksy - but I can only imagine how someone would feel if s/he had run to McDonald's on a lunch break only to be confronted with a poor-looking teenager literally toiling at the feet of the very symbol of the business he was attempting to patronize.

Definitely food for thought, and certainly the most interesting and exciting of my 30x30 projects so far. Banksy is supposed to be in this city for another week or so, and I hope to see more of his work, whether intentionally or by accident.

All photos were taken by me with my trusty iPhone 4s and edited with PhotoToaster, Snapseed, and/or A Beautiful Mess. 30x30 is my name for a silly little bucket list project that I intend to complete by my 30th birthday at the end of March, 2014.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Week night/date night meals: Chili

I had the entire day off yesterday, and since it's been nearly a month since J and I have seen each other during normal business hours, I decided to cook up a batch of hearty chili for a fun weeknight/datenight - but added a surprising ingredient (chocolate!) to create a sexy vibe to an otherwise comforting fall meal.
In a large pot, sauté a chopped medium-sized onion and a clove of garlic in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the onions are nicely browned, add your spices. This is where the chili becomes particular and distinct - personally, I opt for healthy dashes of salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cumin, a hearty amount of Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning, and a few pinches of a special spice blend gifted to me at a party that includes cayenne, coffee, coriander, fennel, ginger, juniper, paprika, and thyme (note to self: recreate this mix asap, as I am getting dangerously low). Let the spices really soak into the onion and garlic, smell-testing as you stir. Add 1 lb. of ground beef, and cook until brown. Stir in 6-8 oz. of tomato paste, 12-14 oz. of diced tomatoes (for an added kick, I chose a can of diced tomatoes with jalepeños added in), 2 cans of red kidney beans, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Let this mixture simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce and (get ready) 2 tsps. of chili-flavored dark chocolate (Lindt makes a delicious version) - this will give your chili a sultry flavor you never knew you were missing in your cooking. Cover the pot and simmer for at least 15 minutes or longer (the longer you simmer, the stronger the flavors will get). Boil 12 oz. of elbow macaroni. When the pasta is fully cooked, remove the chili from the heat and stir in the macaroni. Serve in a bowl, adding shredded cheddar cheese if desired.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Butternut squash salad with apple honey vinagrette

Even though we've been hit with a beautiful Indian Summer here in New York City, I couldn't resist the siren call of butternut squash while at Trader Joe's last week and whipped up what has quickly become one of my all-time favorite salads. I first served this with the squash still warm from the oven, but it tastes just as great a few days later and cold from being stored in the refrigerator.

How to
Peel 1 butternut squash. Slice in half, remove the seeds and other guts, and cut into small cubes. On a foil-lined cookie sheet (the foil makes for an easy clean-up later on), spread out the squash cubes and coat in extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is soft and starting to brown. While the squash is roasting, make the dressing. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, the juice from one small lemon, 2 tbsp. honey, 1/4 cup olive oil, and a dash each of cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Whisk or blend (I used my immersion blender) until everything is completely mixed together. The dressing will be a bit frothy, so let it sit in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Add 1-2 handfuls of dried cranberries to the squash for the last five minutes of baking - this will give the cranberries a nice warm plumpness. On a large dinner plate, place 2-3 large handfuls of leafy green (I used a spinach and spring greens mix). Add the roasted vegetables and a large spoonful of feta cheese, toss with the dressing. Add walnuts if desired!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

365-photo-a-day - September wrap-up

coffee on the balc - up in the air - sandwich time - sunset over astoria - grant's tomb - happy feet
rehearsal dinner - flower power - san gennaro - new kitchen table - b/w portland - congrats
old friends - new beer - tiny windows - big buildings - outdoor performance - leafy greens
citi field - old men - lemons - testing the lights - then I saw sting - beach day
stylish feet - go mets - upstate - holler for challah - macro - northwest latte

Technically (according to the rules of this project), September was my most successful month to date. With only about three exceptions, I managed to take almost one photo a day that I was proud of AND that reflected my actions and events of that particular day. Though that was and still is the original intention and goal of my 365 project, I've rarely been able to actually achieve this due to frequent long work hours, uninteresting backgrounds, overcast skies, yada yada yada. But September? She came through for me ;)

Granted, I had a lot of opportunities to get said photos. My travel extravaganza continued for three more weekends, taking me to Buffalo, Portland Oregon, and an island resort off the coast of Florida. Work was also at a minimum, so I had ample time to wander the sunny gardens, parks, and streets of New York and bask in the city's late summer light.

Unfortunately though, I fear this trend is not going to last into October. My trophy wife training time off from work has come to an end, and I'm staring down the barrel of some really long days. But (and I say this every month), that'll be the challenge - to find those photographable moments in and amongst the daily grind. I'm in the home stretch for this project, and I can't wait to see what these last three months will bring ;)

September by the numbers:
Pictures of food or drink: 7
Pictures of my feet/shoes: 2
Pictures with people: 3
Pictures of the sky: 6
Pictures of flowers or nature: 4

365/Photo-a-day is a personal undertaking to capture one photograph per day in 2013. All photos were taken by me and processed with Instagram, Snapseed, PhotoToaster, and/or the new A Beautiful Mess app. The images were compiled using Picture Collage Maker Lite. What to see my pics as they happen? Follow me - @maspad on Instagram!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

30x30: Take a dance class

Full disclosure: I spent the better part of my first twenty years on this earth in dance classes, orchesis recitals (my high school's dance club), and playing second girl on the left in community theater chorus numbers. I grew up in a performing household, and there were more than a few times my mother and I devolved into perfecting the triple time step while brushing our teeth before bed. I cried while watching Michael Flatley and his Irish step dancing troupes transform into actual lords of the dance before my eyes, and there are a large number of dance routines from famous movie musicals that I can do by heart.

So why did taking a dance class warrant a spot in my 30x30 challenge? Because even though dance was, and is still, such a huge part of my life, I hadn't stepped a pointed foot into a dance class in almost 10 years.

Sometime in college, the fact that I would never actually become a professional dancer became all too clear. Genetics had made me short and round, talent in the organizational arts was driving me to managerial, rather than creative, roles, and frankly a lack of physical drive prevented me from pushing myself to the extremes needed to pursue a life of dancing as a means of making a living.

And so the story goes. I took an internship, I worked hard, I moved to New York City. Time and money became a commodity, and I all too soon found myself scheduling the choreography rehearsals that I used to attend. And to be perfectly honest, I hadn't actually given my lack of dance too much thought. I'm still very physically active - long walks and lots of yoga keep me moving, and I've been known to hop around my living room to online Zumba classes now and then.

But last week, my lovely friend Kristen mentioned in passing that she would be taking a tap class the next day. My ears perked up. A tap class? I used to love my tap classes! It would be so fun to take a tap class again!

So come with me, she said.

And so I did.

It was actually that easy. For once, all schedules aligned so that she and I and the class time were all available. The studio (Broadway Dance Center, for all those living in this area) allows you to drop in without pre-registering or signing up for an entire series of classes, so I was able to one-off this class without any repercussions (the uneven nature of my daily schedule precludes me from ever signing up for reoccurring classes). So with taps in hand (um, foot), I took the first Advanced Beginner Tap Class of my adult life.

And it was great! Admittedly, I was a little rusty. I concentrated pretty hard for those 90 minutes, forcing my brain to talk to my feet in a language my body had long forgotten. Eventually, the steps came back to me. I was by no means the best in the class, but it didn't actually matter. Since we weren't rehearsing for a recital at a later date (one of my issues with childhood dance classes, but I won't tangent on that now), we were able to focus on a few techniques at a time and then add those into a combo. The final routine we worked on was a waltz to the tune of Mr. Bojangles. Stereotypical, yes, but it's one of my favorites. When there was just one minute left in the class, the teacher, who had spent the class correcting, fixing, and adjusting, announced that we were going to do the combo one last time - and that we should just enjoy ourselves and dance, because that's what we came there do do. So with one last fa-lap-shuffle-heel-ball-change, I leaped back into my teenage self.

If you go: Broadway Dance Center is located at 322 West 45th St., 3rd floor (between 8th/9th aves.); classes are open to the public and available on a walk-in basis. Prices and times vary, so check the website for class specifics.

All photos were taken by me with my trusty iPhone 4s and edited with PhotoToaster, Snapseed, and/or A Beautiful Mess. 30x30 is my name for a silly little bucket list project that I intend to complete by my 30th birthday at the end of March, 2014.

Friday, September 27, 2013

On routine

I had been in Portland for all of 36 hours when I realized I had developed a routine. 7am: wake up sans alarm, turning off my three "just in case" alarms. Leave my hotel, saying goodbye to the same chipper doorman on my way out. Walk down the same downtown street, passing the same homeless guy wrapped in a blue fleece blanket. Decide that, meteorologically speaking, Portland wouldn't be too terrible a place to be homeless in (if you absolutely had to, that is). Walk into the nearest Stumptown Coffee, standing behind the same befuddled Norweigan couple still unable to navigate the American sizing system. Oder a latte (with skim, please) and a bite to eat, choosing between the apricot/honey/cardamom scone and the hazelnut/sour cream/blueberry muffin. Sprinkle some cinnamon into my coffee while admiring the artful frothy stylings of my barista at large. Sip. Breathe. Enjoy.

I only remained in the rainy Northwest for about 20 hours after that second Stumptown latte. I was there for work, on a schedule, and didn't have much time to linger. I was amazed, though, at how quietly necessary it was for me to establish a personal routine. I was in an unfamiliar land and needed a constant, albeit a small one, and found it in my mornings. Had I stayed in Portland for longer, I absolutely would have worked my way through the dizzying array of independent coffee roasters offered by the city - but I only had two days, and a lot of stressful work to accomplish within those two days  - and relished in the comfort that the same 12oz. latte could provide.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

30x30: Chrysler Building Lobby

It's one of the most famous New York icons, yet I had never gone inside the Chrysler Building. Yes, I had admired it's Art Deco spire from afar, allowing images of dusty Depression-era builders working day and night to erect its' 77 floors to flood my head. But other than cursory glances at times when I wasn't looking down at my phone, the Chrysler Building had been nothing more than a passing thought.

Chrysler Building lobby

Until I made my 30x30 list. What better time to take in all that the building has to offer? And, come to think of it, how had I not taken a tour of the building in the five years I'd been living in this city?

Art Deco mailbox

Because it's not allowed. More specifically, tourists are not allowed beyond the building's lobby. Unlike the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center, there is no observation deck near the top of the Chrysler Building. Private offices occupy the entire building, and you must work there to use the elevators.


Ok, fine. So I'll just look at the lobby. At least that's open to the public!

And so I did. Taking advantage of a break in between nearby meetings, I walked over to 42nd and Lex, passed through the golden revolving door and into the rust-colored lobby. There were some info signs on the walls detailing the history and technical specification of the building, and it was populated by foreign tourists taking photographs, but beyond that, my entire "tour" took less than 10 minutes and was fairly anti-climactic.

Ceiling mural by Edward Trumball

Oh well. You win some, you lose some. Granted, I'm glad that the lobby is open and accessible to the public, free of charge. The city's museum admission prices are ever-increasing, so it was refreshing to not be nickel-and-dimed to death. And it's never a bad thing to let a little Art Deco into your life ;)

Retro meets modern as the Chrysler Building is reflected in a next door skyscraper
If you go: The entrance to the Chrysler building is located at 405 Lexington Ave (and 42nd Street); the lobby is open to visitors during normal business hours.

All photos were taken by me with my trusty iPhone 4s and edited with PhotoToaster, Snapseed, and/or A Beautiful Mess. 30x30 is my name for a silly little bucket list project that I intend to complete by my 30th birthday at the end of March, 2014.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

back to work

Even though I heralded the end of the Summer of Yes a few weeks ago, my vacation still had a ways to go. Or rather, it had two more out-of-town weddings to attend, a kitchen table to purchase, a challah to make, and one blissfully indulgent lazy day to while away.

But now it's back to work for real. The emails are coming in, the paperwork is being printed, and I've already been to Staples three times this week. However, for the first time in who knows how long, I am more than ready to face the next four months of rehearsals, double show days, production meetings and broken set pieces. Taking a month off was one of the better ideas I've had in quite a while. Normally, I feel guilty for not working even a few days in a row - I beat myself up, doing the math on how much I could have made/saved by taking that gig instead of that flight. This time, though, I refused to do so. I made the choice to attend the family vacations, weddings and girls' weekend, and then I let myself be ok with that choice. And then I let myself enjoy the repercussions of that choice.

As a result, I am tanned, I am rested, and I am truly excited to start a whole mess of new projects. Verdict? Listen to your body. Listen to your mind. If they are telling you, no, screaming at you to take a vacation, then please do so. You will be so much happier in the end.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

30x30 - a challenge for my 29th year

I love a good challenge. In fact, my über-organized, nearly Type-A personality thrives on checklists, to-dos, flow-charts, maps and goal sets. When I say I'm going to do something, I usually get it done (or at least make everyone around me think I've gotten it done). That being said, I recently decided that one challenge at a time isn't enough (I'm still going pretty strong on my 365 photo challenge), so... <drum roll, please!>

In just a little over 6 months, I turn 30 years old. I'm honestly incredibly excited. For reasons far and wide, I am not dreading/terrified of/freaking out about meeting a new decade, but actually can't wait. I've loved my 20s, but I'm ready to embrace all that my 30s have to offer. I will not, however, go gently into that good night. In celebration of all that is awesome about being 29 and childless in New York City, I've created a bucket list of 30 things I've always wanted to do but have just never gotten around to doing. Just to be clear, these aren't crazy, insane, one-last-hurrah hopes and dreams - I won't be base jumping off the top of Mt. Everest, running with the bulls in Pamplona, or tight-roping walking over Niagara Falls. I'm simply realizing that there is no time like the present to do some things I've always wanted to do.

The other day I completed #25 (I'm not going in order) - a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I walked along tree-lined paths in deep thought, I contemplated the nature of a bumble bee, I questioned why anyone would spend even a moment of their time creating a topiary - and it was delightful! I enjoy a good solo trip. The frenetic energy of the summer had left me feeling untethered, and it was great to spend an entire afternoon wandering amongst nature and not too many people (I went on a Tuesday afternoon and there were moments when I was completely alone).

If you go: The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are located in the northeast corner of Brooklyn's Prospect Park (take the 2/3, 4/5, B, Q, and S all stop near the entrance). The gardens are free on Tuesdays, Saturday mornings, and weekends in November and December, but will run you $10 all other times.

All photos were taken by me with my trusty iPhone 4s and edited with PhotoToaster, Snapseed, and/or A Beautiful Mess. 30x30 is my name for a silly little bucket list project that I intend to complete by my 30th birthday at the end of March, 2014.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

365-photo-a-day - August wrap-up

sunset - last look - mountain time - bangs! - club-fetti - wash.sq.pk. arch
flamingo hotel - lazy tuesday - it all fits! - tramsportation - q'boro bridge - neon museum
dockside - can't stop - bellagio fountains - dinner with friends - after work drinks - vegas calling
more neon - o captain my captain - m&m fancy - waiting for a truck - lake wake - inspiration
friendly skies - chihuly glass - going out with a bang - my morning - lake norris - wynn

The Summer of Yes is officially over. With one last swig from a Prosecco bottle in a bag as we walked down the street, we put the summer to bed - and not a moment too soon. Our legs are tired, our voices are strained, our livers are complaining, our bank accounts are depleted, and our souls need some serious attention. 

Once again (I seem to be a bit of a broken record on this subject), August was a month when some days I just couldn't seem to find anything interesting to photograph, but other days were full of photo opportunities. It helped that I spent almost two weeks out of town and on vacation - both a girl's weekend in Vegas and a family vacation in the middle of the Smoky Mountains kept the shutter button clicking, but many of my days were spent in long rehearsals and seemingly endless storage wars as Jon and I continued to merge all my worldly possessions into his already-full one-bedroom apartment (spoiler alert: we were amazingly successful and I even have an entire closet to call my own!). What also seems to be a recurring theme in this project is that I'm realizing there are many instances in which I would really like to take a picture, but just can't - dim lighting in the back corner of a restaurant, playing paparazzi with someone else's child, an un-showered, hung over friend - these are just some examples of the ever-increasing occurrences in which I think to myself, "gosh this would make a great photo!" and then immediately realize that I would be disowned by whatever friend I'm thinking of photographing at that moment. Because at the end of the day, this is just my hobby. I'm not getting paid to take photos, nothing is riding on me taking the world's most perfect Instagram, and my friends don't necessarily want to be my models every day. So for the sake of my relationships, I abstain from some photo ops. And we're probably all happier because of it ;)

August by the numbers:
Photos of my feet: 1
Photos of other people: 3
Selfies: 1
Photos of the sky: 8
Photos of food/drink: 3

365/Photo-a-day is a personal undertaking to capture one photograph per day in 2013. All photos were taken by me and processed with Instagram, Snapseed, PhotoToaster, and/or the new A Beautiful Mess app. The images were compiled using Picture Collage Maker Lite. What to see my pics as they happen? Follow me - @maspad on Instagram!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

vegas or bust

This past weekend I hopped a plane to Vegas for the quintessential girls weekend. I had never been before, and when my friends asked me to join them on their trip I bought a ticket faster than you could say "Viva las vegas!" (which, incidentally, was said quite a lot).

And boy, did we viva. In four short days that quickly turned into four long nights, and in no particular order (there's no way I can remember everything in order anyway), we ate gelato at the Venitian, danced in public in our bikinis while day drinking at the Flamingo pool, saw amazing ariel and water acrobatics at Le Rêve, watched the dancing fountains at the Bellagio, closed down a Vegas nightclub at 4am, toured the Neon Museum, stumbled down the strip in heels at 2 in the morning, got our money's worth by eating everything that the Wicked Spoon Buffet had to offer, crashed Ryan Lochte's birthday party, embraced the chain restaurant nature of Vegas and had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, ate cereal in a cocktail at the Chandelier Bar in the Cosmopolitan, watched Wine Angels at Aureole, played video poker and won a couple of bucks, played the slots and lost a couple of bucks.

My feet still hurt from three straight nights of heels, but that, my friend, is how you start to wrap up a summer of yes.

#1 landing in Vegas  #2 drinks at Tao
#3-5 Neon Museum  #6 desert palm tree
#7 Flamingo pool party  #8-9 - more Neon  #10 Chihuly ceiling at the Bellagio
#11 looking down at the Wynn  #12 Bellagio selfie
#13 nightclub confetti  #14 Bellagio fountains
#15 Paris in Vegas  #16 how Ryan Lochte celebrates his birthday

Friday, August 9, 2013

right now

anticipating an awesome girl's weekend in vegas next week

but nervous about the bikini I bought to wear at the pools

excited for the frozen pizza I'm going to make for lunch (it's the little things in life)

apprehensive about a show I have to run later today

and so relieved that rehearsals are over for a while

realizing that I need to dye my hair before next week

stressing over the how and where I'm supposed to fit the rest of my worldly possessions in this one-bedroom apartment

yet loving this cohabitation thing we've started

needing to do some serious laundry

pinteresting like crazy for storage solutions (shoes, jewelry, purses, herbs and spices...the list goes on and on...)

so geekily excited that instagram lets you straighten your pictures now

watching Orange is the New Black and reading At Home (by Bill Bryson)

...and guilty pleasure watching Project Runway ;)

giving myself a little (and much needed) pedicure

slowly sipping my coffee on my couch, in front of the tv, from something that's not a to-go cup

Friday, August 2, 2013

365/photo-a-day - July wrap up

rain halo - bagels on the balc - bryant park - beach day - goodnight sun
csa mushrooms - greenmarket cherries - bathing suit - movies in the park - summer sun
wash.sq.park - on our way! - paparazzi - sunset beauty - vintage filter
girl's day - mr. ice - hudson river view - would you like to dance - mad.sq.pk.
dinner of champions - lost in booklyn - hazy sunday - soup's on - sooo hungry
picnic time - rainy ballerina - empty n train! - heatwave - little pink flower

Sooo...July happened. And as I write this, I'm realizing yet another benefit of this project: taking roughly one photo per day every day helps you to remember what the heck happened over the past 30 days. This is especially necessary when said past 30 days include beginning/ending/beginning two separate work projects, surviving my last (hopefully) un-air-conditioned heat wave, starting to pack up and sell four year's worth of furniture and tchotchkes in preparation to move three blocks away, planning an obscene amount of travel to take place in the next 30 days, beach-ing it up with some girlfriends for the 4th of july, catching up with old friends, making new friends, buying my first non-Ikea furniture ever (making me officially an adult...at 29...), and generally summerofyessing my face off.

Admittedly, I did not do too well on the photo-a-day thing. It was another one of those months where entire chunks of time were spent in dark theaters and sweaty subways - nothing that begs to be photographed. As a result, I embraced the handful of really awesome, out of the ordinary events I did attend, and used multiple pictures from single days. Is that cheating? Kind of. Do I care? Not really. I mean, let's be honest - I stood outside for five hours in 95 degree weather just so I could get pictures of myself walking through the rain - you'd better believe I'm using more than one picture from that day!

August is looking even more insane than July. As it stands, I'm already a picture behind. BUT I'm still going strong. I've officially moved beyond the halfway mark in my year-long project and can. not. wait. to see how well I adhere to my own rules in the future.

July by the numbers
Photos of my feet: 0!
Photos of food: 7
Photos of the sky: 6
Photos with people in them: 10 (a personal best!)
Photos taken by someone else (not me): 4 (I wasn't going to chance the rain room pics to a self-timer)

365/Photo-a-day is a personal undertaking to capture one photograph per day in 2013. All photos were taken by me and processed with Instagram, Snapseed, PhotoToaster, and/or the new A Beautiful Mess app. The images were compiled using Picture Collage Maker Lite. What to see my pics as they happen? Follow me - @maspad on the Instagram!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chilled Summer Squash Soup

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was out of town and unable to pick up her Farm Share/CSA for the week - so she gifted it to me! I received a ton of beautiful, leafy greens (seriously, I came home with like 8 different bunches), a handful of garlic scapes, and four mid-sized summer squash. The greens went right into a huge 4th of July salad, and a few days later I turned the squash into a yummy chilled soup. Stay cool!

Chilled Summer Squash Soup
4 summer squash, peeled and sliced
1 garlic scape, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
14 oz vegetable broth
8 oz sweet corn, drained
Spices to taste - thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper

How to
Lay the squash slices on a cookie sheet and coat with olive oil and salt. Roast at 425 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime and in a large pot, saute the onions, celery and garlic scapes in the remaining olive oil until brown and tender. Add the roasted squash, vegetable broth and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid, and simmer the vegetables for 20-25 minutes, or until ingredients are tender. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Add the corn, let simmer for another 5-10 minutes, then remove from heat and transfer into smaller bowls that can be refrigerated. Chill for 3-4 hours, serve cold.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Finding play

All too often we get wrapped up in work. Making money, making a schedule, making that transfer to an uptown express. And while I'll be the first person to stress the importance of staying vigilantly late at work to finish that one last task or rereading the email for the 10th time before you hit "reply all," I'll also be the first person to tell you just how necessary it is for us as an exhausted, overworked society to make the time for some serious play.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that "it is a happy talent to know how to play," and Gretchen Rubin dedicated an entire chapter to the business of play in the recap of her year-long project dedicated to finding happiness (check out The Happiness Project, a thought-provoking, if maybe slightly implausible, way of life). We spend our entire childhood being told to "go play outside," but why do these instructions stop once we hit a certain age and obtain a "real" job? Many people like to brag that they work hard and play hard, but if you were to actually tally up the amount of time you spend working versus your moments of real play, how balanced would that scale actually be?

The other day, my friend and I dedicated the better part of an entire day to experiencing about 15 minutes of true play. The goal was simple - gain entrance into the Rain Room, a large-scale art installation at the MoMA in which digital sensors cause rain to fall from the ceiling except where you're walking or standing at that moment. This allows you to walk through the rain without getting wet. Which. Is. Awesome.

We arrived at the museum around 10:30am. We were directed to the end of the line, located on an unglamorous section of 53rd Street. We were told that the at this point, the wait to get in would be about 4 - 5 hours.


Only 10 people are allowed into the Rain Room at once, and there is no limit to how much time you can spend once inside. It's suggested that you cap off at 15-20 minutes, but one MoMA intern told us that just the other week someone led an entire 35-minute yoga class in in the room. Apparently wait times have reached 8+ hours on previous days in New York; patrons logged almost 12 hours of waiting when the exhibit was in London last year. So clearly, we were doing well with a projected time of only 5 hours.

I won't bore you with the details of what amounted to a full five and a half hour wait on a New York sidewalk on a hot, sticky New York summer day. We checked our email, ate a wrap, dedicated a solid two hours to deconstructing our current relationship statuses (stati?), and I passed Level 23 on Candy Crush Saga (why why why did I ever start playing that?!?!).

And then we finally made it into the hallowed halls of the Rain Room.

And we played. Simply, purely, innocently.

I twirled. She sun-saluted. We threw our heads back and laughed. We allowed ourselves to be children, playing in the rain.

And it was delightful.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

365/photo-a-day - June wrap up

summerofyes - toasting my union - jersey shore
astoria sunset - 92 and sunny - central park - met rooftop 
end of an era - looking down - somewhere on lex - fancy shmancy!
sunset love - art in queens - boardwalk sunset

Gosh I love the summer. The days are longer, the air is stickier, the drinks taste better, and even the vacations wear sunglasses. And I embraced this month with open arms. A fancy dinner where I got to get all prettied up, two separate visits to the Met, two separate visits to the beach, a marriage equality music video (I like to think I had a little something to do with the recent news out of the supreme court!), and some serious sitting in Central Park.

The thing that's becoming very clear to me in light of this take-a-photo-every-day-in-the-year-2013 is that it's actually really difficult to take a photo every day. I'm not using this as an excuse, but I work a lot - sometimes six days a week for hours (and hours) a day - and it becomes impossible, not to mention irresponsible, to devote considerable time every day to taking a photograph that I am proud to post and call my own. Maybe it would be different if I didn't have such a crazy schedule. Well, actually, it would be different if I didn't lead this schedule - if I was a full-time blogger, then of course I'd be taking more pictures and posting every day and baking so much more than I already do. But I'm not a full-time blogger, this is just my hobby that arose out of a need for a creative outlet outside of my daily occupation.

It sounds like I'm complaining, or rationalizing. I'm really not. I love my job and it's insane schedule, I love my friends and the huge amount of time and attention they require, and I love the challenge of finding the much-needed "me time" that I require to accomplish my hobby-related goals. And at the end of the day (or the month) if I have a collection of photographs that showcase my previous month, I can consider that a job well-completed.

I'm at the half-way mark of this project. I had assumed I'd peter out and forget all about it by mid-March, but that hasn't happened - instead I'm finding more things to photograph, finding new inspiration (and gaining more followers!) on Instagram, and loving this project more and more each new month.

June by the numbers
Pictures of the sky: 8
Pictures of my feet: 3
Pictures of my hands: 2
Pictures of people/animals: 4

365/Photo-a-day is a personal undertaking to capture one photograph per day in 2013. All photos were taken by me and processed with Instagram, Snapseed, PhotoToaster, and/or the new A Beautiful Mess. The images were compiled using Picture Collage Maker Lite. What to see my pics as they happen? Follow me - @maspad on Instagram!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

summer: playlist

It's hot here in New York.

Very hot.

But there are a few things that are getting me through this heat wave. A super powerful fan I bought two summers ago from Target. Air conditioned rehearsal halls. Frozen Thin Mints (my rule is that when you buy them in the spring they go right into the freezer and are not to be touched until June). And a rockin' summer playlist to accompany me from smelly subway car to crowded city streets and back again. Below is my list (made with the awesome A Beautiful Mess app!) of songs that are basically a requirement for jamming out this summer. Some are new songs, some are old (we should probably just give the Best Song Ever Award to "Ignition (Remix)" and call it a day), some are Top40 hits and some are local bands, but all are available on iTunes and pretty darn rad.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The miniest of micro vacations

Every once in a while, I get the luxury of going on a real vacation. I'm talking plane ride to exotic location, hotel shampoos, drinks with colorful straws for days on end. Unfortunately, scenarios like that don't happen very often for me. Maybe it's because I'm an American and we can't just seem to get this paid vacation thing figured out, but my days off are few and far between.

As a result, I've learned to find joy and renewal in what I like to call a micro vacation. Shorter than a mini vacay, a micro vacation is measured in hours, not days - but still has the requirements of a full vacation: travel to a new location, turn off your phone, and don't forget the sunscreen. The key to taking a micro vacation, though, is to know when to spot it. Planning in advance is fruitless - you'll end up spending more time figuring out what to do than you will on the actual vacation. Instead, a micro vacation shows itself, and it is your job to recognize and grasp the opportunity.

That happened to me today. I was chatting with some girlfriends over our morning coffee when some facts suddenly became clear: I and one of my friends both had the afternoon off AND we had access to a car. Two very rare occasions for people who live in New York City. First we considered spending the hot summer day at a nearby pool. Then we decided to go big - we were going to the beach.

In what seemed like only minutes later, she and I were clad in our finest bathing suits and heading straight for Rockaway Beach. If it was good enough for the Ramones, it would be good enough for us. Soon enough, we were sprawled out on our towels and soaking up the sun, Cheryl Crow-style (how many music references can I fit into one paragraph?). My inbox took an immediate backseat to running into the ocean, and even though I knew that I had to go to work later that day, I turned my brain off for the two hours that we were at the beach.

And you know what? It turns out that the world didn't end just because I waited to respond to an email. On the contrary, I was refreshed and rejuvenated when I arrived at work. I wasn't cranky on the phone with my boyfriend. I was actually excited when he told me we were having dinner with his parents this weekend. And that's all because I jumped at the chance to immerse myself in a micro vacation. The whole thing took less than four hours of my time - but added a week's worth of energy to my day.