Friday, February 28, 2014

happy weekend

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be as happy as a puppy on a boat ride.

my mom sent me this photo of our dog last summer when she was out on a boat ride on the lake she goes to.  i'm going to see both of them this weekend, and it's pretty friggin cold out, so i thought this was an appropriate photo to leave you with for the weekend! (and pretty darn adorable too)

i will be as happy as a puppy on a boat ride, despite the 22 hours of driving we will be doing this weekend.... it's been over a year since i've been to my mom's house!  we're long overdue...

be happy, friends, it's friday :)


Thursday, February 27, 2014

february date: a brooklyn adventure

my first attempt at topping all other monthly dates   failed.  kung fu is an off-Broadway show in manhattan about the life of bruce lee.  perfect, right?  i like shows, hung likes bruce lee.  it was going to be perfect, and tickets were going to be just $70 TOTAL for the two of us.  i ordered them, it was going to be the best surprise ever.  but only 20 minutes after i ordered tickets online, i received an email saying my order has been canceled.  there was a glitch in the system and i would be refunded all of my money.  i tried a second time, and the only tickets available were in march, and they were $75 EACH.  more than double the original price! although if it was a special occasion i may have just bit the bullet, but i was just so angry at the fact that my order was canceled for ticket prices to just go up that i decided it just wasn't meant to be.

luckily though, hung claims that my plan B turned out to be the best date yet (jenn does the happy dance!)  we have had such great experiences at olive oil and vinegar tasting rooms, so i set my sights on finding one in the city.  luckily for us, there's one right in williamsburg! it's called o live , and it's pretty close to a lot of other fun places, so i decided to turn our date into an adventure!

before trekking to brooklyn, though, we stopped at a vintage furniture store in manhattan called furnish green .  i have had my eyes set on a credenza there, and i NEEDED to at least look at it in person.  let me tell you guys, this store has SO many cool things! and in such great condition!  sure, your average vintage store might have a handful of mid-century modern furniture in beat up condition for a price you might find on craigslist, but this place is carefully curated, and only keeps items in good condition.  the pieces might be a little bit more expensive, but i'm no expert at refinishing furniture (let alone stuff that may or may not have a veneer on it), and i'm not about to PAINT mid-century modern stuff either.  hung ultimately made the "adult" decision, and said we needed to pass on the credenza, we don't "need" it now anyways... maybe one day though ;)

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next stop, o live!  i planned out our day such that we had to walk to the farthest place first, then work our way back to the train.  although we didn't purchase anything at furnish green , we were on a small "high" of furniture shopping (guys, it's SO fun!). so when we passed all those hipster vintage shops in williamsburg on our way to o live, we couldn't help by pop into some of them.  needless to say, we WILL be going back soon!  we tasted practically every balsamic vinegar at o live before settling on the cranberry pear white balsamic and the vermont maple dark balsamic.  we ran out of 2 balsamic vinegars at home recently, and before this purchase we only had, say, 3 or 4 kinds of balsamic vinegar at the house.  clearly we "needed" more options!

just a few blocks away was a vietnamese bar and restaurant called bia .  i was drawn to this place because my during FIRST time in new york city (looking for apartments, ironically), my friends took me to a place in manhattan (that's now closed) called bia garden.  just like it sounds, it was a TINY beer garden tucked away in the tiny "open space" behind a building somewhere in manhattan (I had no idea where I was at the time, NYC was so overwhelming!)  bia had a great vibe, although when we first walked in, we were the only ones there, so i was a little concerned my day date plan was going to be disasterous.  we sat at the bar, we each ordered a guinness, and soon people started strolling in.  i decided on my favorite vermicelli noodles with grilled pork and spring rolls, while hung ordered a grilled pork banh mi sammich, both better than expected! my noodle dish had about half lettuce, half noodles, so it was more like a salad than most places (which serve a huge bowl of noodles with a sprinkle of veggies).  we ventured to the rooftop, which was closed for the winter, but looked like it would be so fun in the summertime! i'll have to remember this place come april or may :)

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(don't make too much fun of our mini photoshoot.  guys, it was 55 degrees and sunny in FEBRUARY!! it put us in a good mood :P)

next on the list was momofuku milkbar ! the only time i had tried to go to a milkbar location was after dinner in manhattan, when milkbar is just PACKED.  although the intention was to get dessert, hung may have ordered the best thing on the menu : the volcano.  i'm not sure if it's on the menu all the time (it's not posted online), but this thing was a very chewy bun stuffed with pork, potatoes, carmelized onions, and fontina cheese. not exactly "dessert", but hey, that's how he rolls ;)  we also ordered the corn cookie and the 5 boro cookie, both worthy of ordering again (and again and again).

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last stop on the date was barcade! yes, we have barcade in jersey city too, but because we were so close and the brooklyn one is the original one, i felt the need to at least stop in for a beer.  it is practically the same thing as the one in jersey city (except ours is bigger with more arcade games!)  they have similar craft beers on tap, behind the bar is a big chalkboard wall with the menu and lots of neon beer signs, and no barstools match.  seriously barcade is the best bar to go to with a dive-bar feel with better-than-dive-bar beer (and, of course, all of your favorite childhood arcade games).

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around 3pm we looked up the location of the restaurant for dinner with friends, and found out that it was in williamsburg too! with a few hours to waste before dinner, we explored a grocery store (one of our favorite things to do! don't judge!), picked up grocery store sushi (i'm such a sucker for it), and made our way over to the restaurant.  with still an hour or so before dinner, we popped into surf bar .  this place smelled of nothing but fried calamari, it was crowded, and there was a beach on the floor.  yes, you read that right, sand on the floor, throughout the entire place! when i was lured in with the "hot spiked apple cider" sign out front, i was not expecting sand on the floor.  and, if we weren't heading to a pre-fixe, 3-course dinner soon after, my hands would have been ALL OVER that calamari.

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the rest of the evening was spent celebrating a birthday with out-of-towners, so date day ended at surf bar.  days like this are why i love new york city!!!! i wouldn't have changed a thing!

(except maybe grab more cookies from milkbar... damn they were good)


Monday, February 24, 2014

not the usual monday blues

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just like the photo above, our life is a little bit messy, a little bit cluttered, a little bit crooked, a little bit overgrown.  it's also filled with light, stuffed with love, a little bit whimsical, and feels like a sign of good things to come.

after a sunny, warm february weekend out and about in brooklyn and an impromptu sunday evening with friends, we're all smiles today....

it's better than the usual monday blues, right?

happy monday friends!


Friday, February 21, 2014

crimora mine retreat, weekend in virginia

hey friends! it's almost the weekend! no better way to celebrate than finding out more fun ways to entertain yourself right? right.  speaking of, here's a fun weekend we had in virginia now nearly two weeks ago.

hung and i drove over 6 hours to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday in middle of nowhere virginia at a place called crimora mine retreat .  it was a huge, beautiful cabin, set on over 100 acres with a lake, a hot tub (need i say more?).  the twelve of us ate a lot, drank a lot, and spent a whole day playing our own "olympic" games themed entirely around the birthday boy (we've got some creative friends on our hands, folks). for each main meal we all sat down together at the huge dining table, and teams took turns cooking the food.  our team was team "new america" (originally team USA, but hung decided his food was more like "new american" restaurant food).  mr p prepped everything at home, searing beef shank for wine-braised beef shank in the crock pot and making creamy lemon sauce for lemon pasta.  team greece, team italy, and team honduras also stepped up their game for their meals.

mr p and i made it to the house LATE thursday night, and friday afternoon most of us took off to visit a few wineries in the area (gosh that area is PACKED with wineries! it would be dangerous if i lived there!!) and a local brewery.

first stop was blenheim vineyards , where we learned that the owner is dave matthews , who also designed all the labels for the current list of wines. although i think my favorite wine of the day was from blenheim, i didn't want to overdo it buying wines, so i regretfully said no to buying any wine there (sad face).

next stop was trump winery , where we DID buy wine! bottles that, though delicious, were almost double the price (oops!)  we will save those for a special occasion or something ;)  we bought their cru wine , which is made from chardonnay juice and chardonnay brandy and has been aged in bourbon barrels!

a pit stop at starr hill brewery , and we were out, ready to eat food from team new america!  a special opening ceremony was held with glow sticks around the fire, shenanigans happened, and the night was over.

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saturday started off with team greece cooking breakfast, followed by olympic games including a t-rex relay, whitney houston lyric challenge, and a siamese-turtleneck, popsicle-stick-and-one-direction-duck-tape, bridge-building challenge.  team italy followed through with the last meal together, and we were off to closing ceremonies in fancy-fied togas.

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i can only wish my 30th birthday will be that fun (three years from now! bahaha).  mucho thanks to the organizers for letting us two from new jersey into your awesome virginia group for the weekend!

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and... of course... happy birthday to the birthday boy :)


p.s. wanna know the best part about this place? there was room for everyone to sleep, and for the entire weekend it was only $100/person to rent!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

jamie oliver's sweet pea fish pie

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i know i know, the name makes it sound pretty darn nasty, like something that should come from a prison cafeteria or something (but not big red's, or course! who else is excited for season 2 of orange is the new black !?)

honestly though, this stuff hit... the... spot... we invited friends over to try this out with us on sunday.  although a little hesitant, they agreed, and agreed to bringing over delicious boozy drinks (to wash it down if it was terrible, i suppose)

jamie oliver posts daily recipes on his facebook page , first thing in the morning (for us eastern-standard-timers), and for a moment just about every morning, i wonder why i packed a salad for lunch.  this was the first time we tried a recipe of his, and it looks like we shall be making many more!

sweet pea fish pie is sort of like a creamy fish version of shepherd's pie, or you could think of it as a fish version of pot pie without the crusts.  we used salmon and mahi mahi for the fish, and eye-balled most of the big ingredients (more carrots are good for you anyways!) although the dish is a lot of mush, it pairs well with some thinly sliced, toasted sourdough bread very well (and a sous vide poached egg, we're fancy over here).  when you top of the meal with a pitcher of champagne/vodka/sorbet, it's a solid boozy brunch at home.

i can envision so many variations to this meal that would make it equally as tasty:
  1. use chicken or turkey instead of fish.
  2. make it vegetarian-friendly by using mushrooms instead of fish.
  3. toss the potatoes and peas for biscuits on top!
  4. add more spinach (it seems like a lot, but seriously it wilts down to nothing)
  5. use kale instead of spinach for some added texture
  6. skip the potatoes, skip mashing the peas, toss the peas in the creamy mixture, and add pasta!
the recipe shows you such a great technique for making a creamy stew-like mixture that you could do almost any variation that sounds good to you.

any way we can add fish to our diet is a good thing.  high five to jamie oliver for giving us another great recipe to add to the list!

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(it's obviously not pretty, but trust me one this one, it tastes amazing)

click here to find the recipe for sweet pea fish pie, and go make it! it's a prefect recipe for a sunny sunday, and makes great leftovers too ;)


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

chop chop

welp, after months of saying "i need to get my hair cut" i took the plunge.
i told my stylist to cut it ALL off!

ok ok not ALL of it, it's not a buzz cut, but it was a significant chop to a pretty short pixie cut!!!

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before my first pixie in november , and now!

i tried out a new salon, new stylist and i love it so far! looks like i'll be going back!! that's saying a lot considering the only person to cut my hair more than once since i've moved out here is that awesome, hair-cutting roomie of mine.  he cuts boy hair, and my hair has been pretty close to boy hair for a while, so he does a good job... i just needed a totally new look, so i went to a professional.

don't let the name fool you, blow-out  is more than blow-outs, it's a full-service hair salon (and an adorably chic one at that!)  it sits in a renovated historic horse stable, with wide-plank wood ceilings and walls and exposed brick walls, all painted in white, and features a glam style with mirrors, chandeliers, chrome, and lots of natural light.  everyone was friendly, my stylist, cha cha, assured me she loved doing pixie cuts (and does them often), and i just felt at ease and at home there (i've had enough bad haircuts that i get anxiety when i go to the salon).

prices for cuts are fairly standard (maybe even on the low end) for downtown jersey city at $60, but it's steps from the grove street PATH train so it's very convenient, even for those of you who want to try it but don't live in the neighborhood.

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now I've just got to figure out corporate-office-friendly ways to wear this fun, rockstar new style!  (mohawks and extra spiky are probably not allowed, though i totally want to see the look on my boss's face if i walked in with a mohawk!!)

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(hung's reaction to this look on sunday: "it.. looks... AWESOME!!!" i'm glad i have a boyfriend that fully encourages these crazy looks!!)


p.s. i feel an instagram binge coming soon, it's so fun to mess around and style this cut!! follow along at @beyondthestoop

Monday, February 17, 2014

it's time to celebrate!

in a tough economy, any financial milestone can get you giddy.  whether it's paying off your credit cards (or getting them down to the 4-digit numbers), paying your rent on time, feeling financially sound enough to make a big purchase, it's all worth celebrating...

i am now happy to say that i'm debt-free! 

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"peanut" and i give each other high fives today... and reminisce the first few days of her existence from when i lived in hoboken, pre-parallel-parking bumper scratches, pre-deer-smash, pre-hubcaps-disappearing, pre-fender-bender-on-the-4th-day....

with my eyes set on my finances when i graduated, i was able to pay off my student loans in just a couple years, but when my car decided to poop out on me, i was faced with a tough decision.  i was out in scary new jersey, hundreds of miles from anything i was comfortable with, and had to get a "new" car all on my own.  there was nobody to ask advice where to get my car serviced, there was nobody to ask advice on the best dealership, there was nobody to sit with me when those scary car salesmen try to get more money out of a "little girl."  the ultimate decision was to get a brand new car, the safest bet when i was out here on my own.  who knows if i actually got a good deal on my car, but at least i'm DONE paying for it! and i paid it off over a year early.  there's certainly a special satisfaction for knowing i paid for the car all on my own....

i had a vision for being debt-free in my early adult life, and i did it.  boom.

now i can set my sights on bigger and better things.... or, you know, just save some money?