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Friday, January 31, 2014

20 (good) reasons jersey city is the "semi-city" life

it's friday, my friends!  i still haven't met a super bowl football player, but last night we did meet "Captain Morgan" at Park and Sixth, got our photos with him, and scored 8 free drinks all because he was promoting the new "white rum".  honestly i don't care what kind of rum it is, as long as it's free, right? haha

with the new layout and header, i decided to brand this space with the "tagline":

beyond the stoop  ...and the semi-city life


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living in jersey city VERY MUCH gives us that "city life" feeling.

here are 10 reasons why:
  1. we live in a "walk-up"/brownstone/townhouse/rowhouse/whatever-you-call-it-in-your-city.
  2. mr p takes the train to work and works on park ave amongst some of the top businesses in the nation.
  3. we frequently meet friends for happy hour at the staple neighborhood spots, all "just around the corner".
  4. we have our favorite bodega, our favorite brunch spot, our favorite wine store, and favorite place to pick up a good vintage find.
  5. we do our laundry at the laundromat (hey, getting 5 loads done in 2 hours has its perks)
  6. we sometimes sneak to the rooftop for a quiet get-away with cheese and wine and debate whether what we see in the sky is a star or an airplane.
  7. it's normal to see bikers with baby seats, skateboarders, strollers, and scooters (for kids AND adults)
  8. we never have to worry about "who's going to drive home" after a night of drinking, because there's always a way home on a train, on a bus, or in a taxi.
  9. we spend the summertime attending street fairs and dining on the sidewalks.
  10. most of the stores in the neighborhood are locally-owned and operated.

but really... it's just a "semi-city" life, and there are some perks to living just outside of "THE city".

here are 10 reasons why:
  1. i work in suburbia new jersey, so i have a car and drive to work (ok i admit, being able to have a car is 75% of the reason why it's the "semi"-city life, and it's awesome)
  2. i still park on the street, but i can actually find parking.
  3. we're seconds from most of the major highways in the area, so getting around and getting out to that beautiful green part of new jersey is fast and easy (despite what the media claims, it really is called "the garden state" for a good reason)
  4. though most of the stores are small businesses, we still have a few big box staples like BJ's, target, McD's, and starbucks.
  5. we have a huge park just a few minutes away (via walking, biking, or driving) called Liberty State Park that lets you feel like you've truly escaped the urban life.
  6. "going to the beach" in the summer is as simple as packing a bag and driving a half hour.
  7. rent and real estate is cheap (or, at least cheap-ER than manhattan)
  8. gas stations are easily found.
  9. "going to the grocery store" is a pleasant experience that happens often, almost everyday (you'll know what i mean if you ask a manhattan-ite about shopping for groceries)
  10. did i mention i have a car and can find parking?

jersey city is truly the best of both worlds!! if you're truly not convinced yet, read this article from itsjerseycity.com to see all the fabulous buzz about jersey city in 2013.  it was pretty impressive.... (p.s. that's where we got our super cool shirts in the photo too)

cheers.
jenn

p.s. don't for get to follow me on the T the P the IG and the FB ;)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

january date

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since the day union republic opened in our neighborhood 9 weeks ago, mr p had his mind set on going there for our january date.  i got a little worried when halfway through the month we had not picked a day to go.

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"hey babe, we should pick a day to go on our date."
"why not Friday?"
"ok sure!" 
....then we agreed to show a friend of a friend around town friday night.
"oops, ok we'll go saturday then."
"perfect!" 
...then we remembered our friend from ohio was visiting for the weekend. 
"shit. let's try to go the next sunday so we won't double-book."
"well, unless we go after he leaves on sunday, there aren't any sundays left in january." 
....hmmm...
"wanna go tonight?"
"let's do it!"

ok ok ok... so it didn't exactly go as planned, but that didn't stop us from having a good time last thursday! we were instantly happy the moment we walked in those big glass doors.  it was so cold outside i think if i had walked a step farther my ears would have frozen off! gosh it was so cold out there.  perfect for a warm bowl of soup, i say!

we weren't sure if union republic was a byob place, so we thought we would sneak in a bottle of wine in my bag. if it, indeed, was a byob, we were well-stocked.  we walked inside and i immediately went to use the ladies' room, and when i came back there were two wine glasses on the table ready to be filled! score....

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(greeted with an unexpected dose of baba ganoush and hummus)

while i really was in the mood for some good hearty, silky, brothy ramen, i knew that's what mr p was going to get, and there were so many other things to try on the menu for us BOTH to get ramen! we shared a "ramen burger" for an appetizer (i could have eaten 5 of them, as they were topped with my favorite pickled onions, but it was totally not was i had expected), and i ended up getting the ratatouille (the place practically encompasses all ethnic foods in one restaurant)

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though the veggies in the ratatouille were tasty, the flavor combination was so much better when i snagged a bite with some of the walnut pesto. i kept telling our waiter i NEED to make the walnut pesto at home! i could seriously put that stuff on just about anything!

mr p's ramen hit the spot too.  i think the noodles are the best i've had in the fancy, non-instant kind of ramen.  some people go for the perfect broth, some people go for the perfect noodles and goodies.  i go for good noodles and goodies, and this one certainly topped my tastebuds for the noodles and soft-boiled egg part.  why is that such a good thing for union republic? you can buy the noodles!! they come in a package, sort of like instant ramen, with sauce packets to make the broth, but the noodles are fresh! and for just $5 it would be worth it to at least try it one day!

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union republic wasn't just an eatery, though.  with a grocery section, a "bar" area where you can grab a seat and watch the cooks do their magic, a lounge area, and a byob policy, this place can truly be the ultimate hang-out spot.

...and hang out, we did! we still had half of our bottle of wine to go, and a set of interview questions to answer (remember yesterday's post??), so our waiter talked us into getting the banana bread chocolate bread pudding.  yes, that's right, chocolate bread pudding made out of pieces of banana bread (don't worry, our minds were blown too).  it's no secret i have an obsession with the lemon bars at thirty acres (see this post and this post for proof), and this dessert is giving those lemon bars a run for their money for my favorite sweet treat.  i'm usually not one for desserts, but this bread pudding might have to be a must-have every time we go.  i might even just order an appetizer and the bread pudding so i make sure to save room!  as of last thursday, the desserts weren't on the menu. so in case your waiter forgets to mention the bread pudding, you better ask!!!!

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(ahhh chocolate overload!  a chocolate overload that i'll eat again, and again, and again, and....)

now it's your time to venture a few blocks further from grove street down newark ave and experience union republic for yourself.  your tastebuds (and your wallet!) will thank you.

cheers.
jenn

p.s. high five to jersey city for snagging yet another great restaurant!! keep 'em coming!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Date Night Is

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mr p and I do practically everything together.  there's never arguing who has to go to the grocery store to pick up food. 90% of the time we both just put on our shoes and go together.  we go to kickboxing together, we go to see family together almost always.  by this point, we mostly have the same friends, and mr p sometimes even joins me to get my hair cut.

so why is it so hard for us to go on dates??

though we do everything together, we're not SO creative when it comes to dates.  it's sometimes difficult to justify eating out just to have a date when we both know we can make food that tastes just as good at home.

...but we do it anyways.  we always leave the date feeling revived, feeling even just an ounce of those butterflies that used to fill our stomachs when we first started dating.

we recently discovered Date Night Is, a website full of great date ideas that will stretch our creativity beyond just going to dinner someplace new.  it helps you dream about a romantic day in the park, going to shows, taking a new class together, going to museums... all things we would like to do, but never actually do.  they make it easy by breaking ideas down into categories like dining, experiences, things, places, and articles.  the categories are color-coded, and by clicking on the categories at the top of the page, you can turn them "on" or "off" to include or exclude them in the list of date ideas.  you can also search for restaurants or ideas in your city, including several deals from sites like Groupon.  it really is a handy date idea tool!!

we recently did an interview for Date Night Is, talking about how we really do enjoy going on dates that have anything to do with food, you should go read it here!

hopefully our next date will be more of an adventure.... but it might have to do with food too ;)

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also, to you loyal readers who don't know us, surprise! that's my "mr p" who has finally decided to be in photos on this space.  his name is hung, and he just might be the most wonderful man on the planet :)

cheers.
jenn

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

i don't hate my clawfoot tub anymore

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thanks to a string of impulse buys at target and a 5-minute fix from that seemingly handy man in my apartment...

i no longer hate my clawfoot tub.

you see, i was so excited for it when we first moved in.  although it was a gross white color on the outside and it looked like it was painted in flat white wall paint to hide the rust, i had a vision, and we eventually made it "look" like the perfect clawfoot tub. 

- we sanded it as much as we could
- we painted it with the appropriate black glossy appliance paint, making it look practically brand new
- we installed a d-shaped shower curtain rod that hung from the walls and the ceiling
- i even found a cute white outer curtain solid with ruffles that made it look so adorable
- and mr p and a friend installed a proper shower head so we didn't have to jimmy rig a hand-held one to the curtain rod anymore.
- see the bathroom progress here.

...but i still hated it.

i hated showering in it, i hated warning people before they went in that they had to watch their step, don't slip, put the magnets in the proper place so the plastic shower curtain liners don't stick to them on all sides while they're showering, and that they had to enter from the back, so don't step on all of the shampoos and soaps on the floor.

mr p and I went to target sunday to pick up 3 things: new plastic shower curtain liners, laundry detergent, and dryer sheets. $250 later, we came home with lots impulse-but-necessary things for the bedroom, the things on the list, and FABRIC shower curtain liners.  FABRIC. 

fabric apparently makes the difference between shower curtain liners that blow in and stick to your body, and ones that don't. they're also machine-washable, so we will never have to replace them again.  they were also $11/each instead of $3/each (we need 3 to get around the whole tub).  the extra $$ is totally worth it in my opinion though. they make our shower feel SO big compared to how it used to be because the curtains hang straight instead of blowing in and grossly sticking to my skin.

last night during the time that i washed dishes after dinner, mr p moved the part of the shower curtain that hangs on the ceiling from the center of the tub to the back of the tub.  now that we have the proper shower head holding up "head" end, we could move the ceiling hanger to the "foot" end.  now we can open the shower curtain along the entire long side of the tub (aka, like a normal shower).

after getting out of the shower last night from our newly-awesome clawfoot tub/shower situation, i proclaimed to mr p with excitement, I DON'T HATE OUR SHOWER ANYMORE!

in case you missed it, and in case you're thinking about getting a claw-foot tub (to be also used as a shower) or have one and hate it (likely, if you live in a 100+ year old, barely updated brownstone like us), the key components of possibly even loving your tub are:

1. if you must paint, paint with appliance paint
2. install a d-shaped shower curtain rod and proper shower head. you can buy it as a package for fairly cheap.
3.  install the ceiling mount of the shower curtain rod to the "foot" end of the curtain. the shower head holds up the "head" end. now you can open up your shower curtain the full length of the tub.
4. FABRIC shower curtain liners.   the curtains completely surround the tub, and plastic ones grossly blow in and stick to your body.
5. get a no-slip shower mat. clawfoot tubs are deep and EXTRA slippery.  if you don't have one, you WILL slip, and you WILL regret it!

and that's how to make your clawfoot tub dreams come true!!
(otherwise, you'll be like us and live with a sub-par shower for 2.5 years before figuring out that we should have done it right in the beginning!)

cheers.
jenn

Monday, January 27, 2014

wait, the super bowl is in new jersey?

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that's right, my friends. 

to those of you local people, you already know the tension/mockery that surrounds the whole "new york" jets and the "new york" giants.  afterall, they do play in new jersey. 

so why does the press still say the "new york" super bowl?

i'm still asking the same question.
(perhaps it has something to do with money, but i'm going to ignore any of those excuses)

i mean, times square is even setting up a big to-do for the super bowl.  last time i checked manhattan was a little too crowded to build a football stadium on it's own turf (pun-intended). and in last night's press conference at the westin, seahawks coach pete carroll even said how he was "glad to be back in new york." luckily councilman rich boggiano corrected him, stopping him in his tracks before he went on repeating his mistake, and reminded him that he was actually in jersey city, new jersey.  read the full story here.

one thing is for sure though, jersey city is getting quite the press for hosting the players downtown at the hyatt and the westin.  if governor christie and the rest of new jersey can't push to show the rest of the country that this huge event is actually in new jersey, and not new york, at least our mayor, steve fulop, will do justice for jersey city, proudly promoting jersey city as a key element to the big game (even if he does look like a "young man", at just 36 years old, and john elway doesn't even recognize him when fulop asked for his autograph, read the good laugh here)

in the meantime, i might just happen to take a stroll down to the hyatt to catch a glimpse of some players.  i mean, when else am i going to have that many football players just a few minutes walk from my house?

happy monday, my friends!

cheers.
jenn

ps. image via mayor fulop's twitter account, go follow him...  and follow me too @beyondthestoop while you're at it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

downtown yogurt (gosh, finally!)

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to some places, the whole self-yourself-froyo thing is gone, done, out the door, never coming back because it was exploited so much when it was popular.  to you local people, hoboken is a good example.  when i moved there, i was in the middle of the froyo "boom".  the second year i lived there, falafel was the big boom, with 5 restaurants/take-out places opening in less than a year.  today there's far fewer froyo and falafel places, and quite possibly there may be another "fad" food that's taken their place.

i've lived in jersey city for over 2 years now, and for as long as i have been there, the froyo fad never came.  local ice cream shops served vanilla soft serve yogurt as an alternative to ice cream, but that's it.  until now!  i admit, even when there were 6 froyo shops in hoboken, i still frequented them at least once a week (i couldn't help it!! it's so good!). this place is one of a kind for downtown jersey city right now, and being in such a convenient location, how could you NOT at least try it out?

downtown yogurt opened a few weeks ago, just across the street from the grove street PATH station, but it wasn't until monday night that i had my mind set on getting some! mr p isn't a froyo fan, and convincing him to go get some sweets that he doesn't enjoy and I certainly don't need was pretty far-fetched.  i made it a plan to convince a group from kickboxing to walk down after class (hey, it's better than NOT working out and eating froyo, right? right) after about 8 of us got our bucket of froyo (yes, bucket, those sneaky kids know what they're doing when they give you huge containers to fill!) mr p couldn't resist.  no yogurt for him though, thankfully they have softserve sorbet too!

i'm not one to eat the crazy flavors they come up with, 99% of the time i'm a original tart and sprinkles sort of girl. and the good thing about self-serve yogurt is that you can get as much or as little as you like!  (as you can see from the photo above, i barely filled the bottom of the bucket, and that was the perfect sweet treat!)  for those of you who DO enjoy eating the different flavors, downtown yogurt has a whole wall of handles, pouring out your favorite flavors, and endless toppings, including my two favorites of rainbow sprinkles and toasted coconut, and mr p's new favorite of "boba".  the boba there is nothing like what you see in bubble tea though, these little balls are more like gushers! they have a chewy outside, but a burst of tangy goodness pops out after biting into them.

now it's your turn to try downtown yogurt. afterall, if you ride the grove street PATH train, it's just a few steps away!!  and why not support another local business, right? DTJC needs it!

cheers.
jenn

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

savory breakfast muffins

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you may have noticed there haven't been a lot of recipes on here lately.  that's not to say that we're not cooking (there's not a day that goes by that i'm not cleaning dishes at our house), we've just been total slackers when it comes to sharing the goods!  ...and we've been doing a lot more of "hey i saw this great recipe in food network magazine" or "i want to make this from thekitchn.com".

last night was one of those nights we were dying to try something we saw on thekitchn.com:

savory muffins

i scored a half snow day from work, and told mr p i would make anything he wanted.  anticipating a response along the lines of something for dinner, he wanted muffins.  after trying scallion and black pepper scones at a&j king in salem a few years ago, we've been talking about savory baked goods ever since, yet we never take the time to make anything!

though not all of the ingredients for the muffins were things we had on hand, the actual recipe (see here) was simple, and didn't require a lot of dishes (that's the WORST part about baking sometimes!) with just 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour, the recipe was nearly gluten-free, and could easily be substituted with a gluten-free flour. the original recipe calls for prosciutto and chives, and i simply read that as "some sort of cured meat and something onion-y".  instead i used hard salami and scallions (hey, we had it on hand!) the recipe also calls for muffin liners and spray oil to keep the muffins from sticking to the liners. we didn't have any spray, and gosh they stuck so bad.  next time i'm definitely just buttering the pan and forgetting about the liners!!

the recipe is great for big group breakfasts, because the muffins are all finished at the same time (as opposed to cooking eggs, omelets, french toast, things that take lots of labor and you must eat as soon as it hits the plate.

.....well, and they are also good for snow days when you have a bit of extra time on your hands ;)

the recipe is a good base for any savory muffins, really. maybe i'll try adding amaranth or millet, or maybe i'll try adding in goat cheese and cracked black pepper! with all these ideas they make be on our weekend breakfast menu for a long time!  the amazing smell in the kitchen was enough incentive to make them again!

cheers.
jenn

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"oh... you live in JERsey"

i sort of get that line a lot.

as if it's some gross far away place (new yorkers really DO have terrible geography skills outside the limits of the 5 boroughs, or even just outside manhattan for that matter)

to people in manhattan it's practically as inconvenient as LA.

sometimes we even get that line from people we visit back in ohio (as if THAT is any closer!! lol)

i took this photo while on the 102nd floor observatory of the empire state building with my mom a few weeks ago specifically to put the "nyc metro area" into perspective.  besides the whole being in the state of new jersey thing, jersey city (and hoboken for that matter) really could be considered "the sixth borough" considering how close it is to all things manhattan.....

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NOW who's coming to visit?!?

we have a comfy air mattress and cozy couch for you to sleep on!
(we may be minutes from manhattan and have cheaper rent, but we still don't have much space...)

cheers!
jenn

Monday, January 6, 2014

on being home.

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after spending 3 wonderful weeks of holidays, holiday parties, traveling to see family, having visitors, lots of eating, lots of drinking, lots of being "on the go".... we're finally home. and back to normal life.

even though that scene above is what we were greeted with when we got off the train from newark airport (after coming from sunny and warm florida), there was a comforting feeling of being home.  ...and i couldn't have cared less that it was cold, icy, and just plain gross outside.

the new year started last wednesday, but we've hardly had a chance to kick it off on the right foot until today.  mr p is going to try to eat healthier, i'm starting the whole living 28-day challenge (the one from 2012 is the best one i think!!), and we're both going to commit to working out on a regular basis.  the last 3 weeks have been ROUGH on us as far as going to kickboxing or the gym, but we're anxious to get back into it. 

i know, i know... it's "so cliché" to say you're going to "start the new year by getting healthy", but hey.. any excuse to want to change your life for the better is a good excuse, right? right.  i'll never knock on anyone for making new years resolutions to get healthier or shed those extra pounds... at least they are trying, right?

now that we're going to be at home for a while (at least a few weeks anyways), we filled the fridge with healthy veggies and fruit, lean meat for mr p, and healthy nuts. plus, almost the entire stash of holiday goodies have made their way inside our bellies, so there's not too much temptation of sweets and chocolate, there's only motivation for eating healthy because i know that it WAS there ONE day, and it's certainly not burned off of my body yet considering how much i ate and how little i worked out, haha.

happy new year everyone! here's for a healthy start to 2014!

cheers.
jenn
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