the big cheesy

i had a delicious day this weekend, at “the people’s choice awards for grilled cheese sandwiches”, aka the big cheesy. my boyfriend sean works at open house gallery, and invited me to  their third annual big cheesy grilled cheese competition. this year featured local sandwich makers, Keith Klein’s Milk TruckLucy’s WheyMelt ShopMurray’s Cheese BarSay Cheese UWS, , Sons of Essex and ‘wichcraft.

melt shop’s sandwich was with cheddar, bacon, cranberry onion chutney on levain bakery bread. my vote went for them, and of course won! 🙂

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milk truck’s sandwich was with bacon, cheddar, blue cheese, caramelized onions and McClure’s spicy pickles on a rosemary pullman bread from blue ribbon bakery. i would definitely say they deserved second place.

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say cheese’s sandwich was an ode to s’mores with nutella, mascarpone, and graham cracker dust.

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murray’s cheese sandwich was with secret 5-cheese blend and a smoky tomato soup.

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and below is my boyfriend sean goofing around before counting some votes…

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i’m going to be a bridesmaid!

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recently, my friend jackie (on left) asked my friend christine (on right) and i to be her bridesmaids. it was just a couple days after valentine’s day, so she very appropriately made us each valentine’s day cards with poems asking us to be part of her big day. i’m excited to be apart of her wedding , and to be a bridesmaid for the first time in my life! naturally it got me thinking about weddings, and how i picture my own someday. personally…i prefer a more intimate wedding, that’s very personal, fun, casual, and elegant all at the same time.

here are a couple weddings i thought represented all of the above…

paris elopement  – even though most people love elegant lavish weddings, i find it hard to believe they couldn’t equally love getting eloped in the most romantic city in the world. sometimes all you need is paris (watch video here)

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intimate dockside wedding  – proving all you need for an amazing wedding are your closest friends, a beautiful lake setting, gorgeous gown, your favorite record, your beloved dog, and delicious seafood (see more photos here)

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health & happiness

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two sundays ago, i was visiting my parents in CT, when i started feeling a mysterious pain in my stomach. a couple hours later nausea and a fever kicked in, i had zero appetite, and this mysterious pain just wouldn’t quit. that’s when my parents and boyfriend suggested that i go to the ER. 

one pathology test, one ct scan,  and 4 agonizing hours later, the doctor confirmed i had appendicitis. i was scheduled to have my appendix removed first thing the next morning.

it’s been two weeks now and i’m almost 100% better. and so thankful for last week’s recovery period to be all over! it makes me appreciate just feeling normal again. i can walk, sit, move, sneeze, laugh, all pain free! you seriously take for granted all the things you do every day, that seem so normal when you’re in good health. it truly makes you appreciate all those simple things. and i can finally eat normal again too. surgery left me bloated and soar, with very little appetite, which is very unlike me.

so obviously there is a lesson to be learned from all of this. one being as i mentioned, appreciation for health and the ability to heal. the other, is to always follow your gut, i could have easily ignored all the symptoms, and avoided the emergency room, and that would have led to my appendix rupturing. but deep down i knew something was off, and i’m so thankful to my parents and boyfriend for giving me the extra push to go to the ER.

i was also reminded of how caring my friends and family are. the get well balloons, flowers, and cards, all meant so much to me. my parents took great care of me the entire week, and my boyfriend took time off to take care of me, and every day i had someone checking in on me. I felt very thankful to be so cared for and for everyone’s well wishes.

instagram love

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i love that my instagram allows me to document my life with styled photos, and turns every landscape i see, and every food i eat into instant art.

i also love that i can follow adorable animals, and to be honest, i follow more instagram animal accounts than people. i especially can’t resist following animal instagrams with an artistic style like below…

andrewknapp (follows momo the border collie, who is hidden in every photo)

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makicocomo (follows a toddler and her cat companion)

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thiswildidea (follows maddie the coonhound as she travels the us with her owner)

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darcytheflyinghedgehog (follows the cutest and most eccentric hedgehog)

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portlandia live

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offbeat and quirky sums up my taste in tv shows, which is why portlandia is on my list of tv shows worth watching. so last night my boyfriend and i were super excited to go to a TimesTalk event, where the co-creators and co-writers fred armisen and carrie brownstein, and director jonathan krisel talked about the show, the characters and life in “portlandia” with a new york times reporter.

you can watch the portlania talk livestreamed here.

also check out upcoming events, and watch previous times talks here

wallet friendly date nights

in honor of my previous post about life on a budget, i’d like to share my favorite “cheap eats” in my neighborhood, williamsburg, brooklyn.

$30 per person will get you plenty of food and at least one drink.

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pates et traditions (french bistro/crêperie)

why is it great? cozy place with delicious crêpes & affordable wine

  • savory crêpes $9-12
  • pasta – $12-13
  • dessert crêpes – $4.50-$6
  • wine – glass $6-8 / bottles $26-30

menu sample:

forestiere ham, mushrooms, swiss cheese, cream, garlic

bergere goat cheese, swiss, fig, honey, onions caramelized, rosemary

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bozu – sushi/japanese small plates

why is it great? inventive sushi and small plates give you a chance to try and share so many things

  • snacks – $5-7
  • sushi bombs – $4.50-6
  • sushi rolls $5-7
  • shime & soups – $12-14

menu sample:

mexican bomb salmon, avocado & green tomato sauce

salmon stinky roll salmon, cucumber & garlic sauce

fried tako ball snack made of a wheat flour based batter, filled with diced octopus

sanuki udon flat udon noodle in choice of hot or cold soup, comes with shrimp tempura

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oregano – traditional italian/byob

why is it great? cozy all brick space with wood burning oven. save on drinks by bringing your own wine, that can be purchased from liquor store across the street.

  • appetizers – $6-12 (daily selection of cheese & meats most expensive)
  • salads – $9-11
  • pizza $12-14
  • entrees $14.50-17
  • dessert – $7

menu sample:

caesar salad romaine lettuce, wood fired croutons topped w/ shaved parmigiana reggiano

four cheese pizza fior di latte, parmigiano-peggiano, ricotta, porgonzola and extra virgin olive oil.

pastrirma pizza air dried cured beef, san marzano tomatoes, fior di latte and extra virgin olive oil.

chicken parmigiana breaded and topped with fior di latte served with our homemade fettuccine.

shrimp fettucine with choice of alfredo sauce or garlic and oil. served with arugula and cherry tomatoes.

tiramisu or canoli

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caracas – venezuelan arepas bar

why is it great? have you ever had an arepa before? personally, i believe they’re even better than tacos. i recommend sharing a salad, two arepas, and a side dish, and i promise you will leave with a full tummy and wallet

menu sample:

ensalada fresca watercress, cherry tomatoes and avocado salad over a crispy yucca and cucumber bed, dressed with salty cheese and a tangy passion fruit vinaigrette ($9)

croquetas deep fried yucca potato cakes with chorizo, corn and cilantro ($5)

de pabellon arepa shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains $(7.50)

la surana grilled chicken, hearty chorizo, with avocado slices and the classic and always enigmatic spicy chimi churri sauce ($8)

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beco – brasilian bistro

why is it great? cozy place with exotic food and tropical cocktails, that has live music every week, check their calendar here

menu sample:

joanna d’arc linguiça (portuguese sausage) finished with cachaça ($6)

arugula salad baby arugula, steamed beets, butter beans, red onions, with goat cheese crostini ($9)

feijoada the national brazilian dish: black beans and smoked meat stew with rice, couve, farofa, and hot sauce ($18)

moquecam shrimp stew with coconut milk, yellow peppers, cilantro, ginger, and dende oil. served with rice, couve, and farofa ($16)

caipirinha or roska muddled fruit, sugar, and cachaça, vodka (lime, caju, pineapple-mint, maracuja) ($8)

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samurai mama – japanese snacks and udon 

why is it great? homemade udon noodles and broth. plus the design of this place is just as amazing as the food, beautiful all wood space. i recommend sharing sushi, dumplings, and two orders of noodles, and a glass of their only draft beer sapporo.

sample menu:

sushi taco/roll $5-7

  • guacamole tuna tuna, guacamole, cilantro
  • ab crunchy boiled shrimp, cucumber, tempura flake

 

mama’s pork gyoza handmade pork dumpling 6pc – $7

Udon $8-14

  • nikujil kake udon with cooked pork belly & scallion
  • kinokojil kake udon with assorted cooked mushrooms

a penny saved, is a penny earned

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how to be richer, smarter, and better looking than your parents by Zac Bisonette, is a ridiculously cheesy title, for a very informative book. a friend had lent it to me, as a perfect read for my new “financial lifestyle”. i’ve always been quite thrifty, but after moving from the burbs to the city, it was time to reassess my finances. after analyzing my expenses, i took some steps to ensure i was saving as much as possible, and set some financial goals….i know that’s so adult of me.

steps to saving

  •  high yield savings account – thanks to a suggestion of a friend i sought out a savings account with a competitive rate, and opened a high yield savings account.
  •  weekly budget – i put myself on a realistic weekly budget to ensure i’m not over spending, and i’m able to save. with the weekly budget i figured out ways to stretch out my money in simple ways such as bringing lunch to work, and cooking at home more.  the budget also helps me save because i can put purchases in perspective by comparing each purchase to the amount of my weekly budget.

financial goals

  • get rid of student loan debt – i plan on paying off two student loans this year that have decreased to a manageable amount. one will be paid off with my tax return. 
  • get the most out of company 401k –  once i reduce my student loan debt i plan to contribute up to the amount that my company matches.

here are some highlights from the book….

why you should invest like a woman

“If you want to get rich invest like a girl. Seriously.”

According to a 2011 study conducted by Barclays Wealth and Ledbury Research, women performed better in the market than men.

According to a 2009 study, women earn about 1 percent more per year on their investments than men.

The reason the author gives for women being better investors is they, “aren’t testosterone fueled egomaniacs who think they’re brilliant and better than everyone. Men try to be brilliant and creative; women, on average just buy their mutual funds and sit tight. That’s the approach that wins.”

why thrift will make you happier

“In addition to materialism, another leading cause of financial difficulties is inattentiveness; not paying attention to financial decisions, floating around through life overspending out of sheer laziness. In short, not being thrifty.”

“Unfortunately thrift gets a bad rap these days”….The author explains, “the earliest meaning of the word thrift was ‘the condition of one who thrives’, or being endowed with good luck, good fortune, wealth, and health.”

The meaning was also once associated with “prudent housewives who were neat, clean, industrious, imaginative, clever, enterprising, and generous.” He also insists to reflect on those words, “Think about those adjectives. Those are the key words for a good financial life, neat clean, industrious, imaginative, clever, enterprising, and generous.”

how to become wealthy

“It’s a cliché: ‘It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep.’ But it’s true!”

The author shares a convincing study by two economists that found income differences account for only about 5 percent of the differences in household wealth.

“They way people accumulate wealth is that they decide to save a significant amount of their income. Most people of all income brackets don’t do this, and that’s why most people never accumulate any significant assets.

What matters in wealth building is the decision to live a life that allows you to save a significant portion of your income. There’s no secret, there’s no trick.”

why investing is the best tax shelter in the World

“the higher percentage of your wealth that comes from investments (as opposed to working) the less you’ll pay in taxes.”

The author recommends investing with vanguard  or fidelity in Roth IRA and individual 401k, and always taking advantage of company 401K, and contributing up to the company match.

why you should avoid high mutual fund fees

“There is no evidence – and in fact there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary- that investors can beat the long-term returns of the stock market through superior stock selection or by timing the market. Famous studies have shown that randomly selected portfolios of stocks perform just as well as the highest-paid mutual fund managers and stock will outperform the averages. “

book of salt

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this print i recently saw by tina crespo brought to mind a book i once read, that follows the life of a vietnamese chef in 1934 from french colonized vietnam to paris, france. the beautiful story consists of sweat, tears, the ocean and cooking, all tied together with the simple title “the book of salt”. the author monique truong, writes so poetically and had me captivated from the first page. below is one of my favorite quotes from the book…

“if i had your voice, i would never be so terse. i would never stop talking. why would i if i had a voice like a warm fire, not at the crackling and popping early stages but at the moment when all becomes quiet and the embers glow, when heat appears to melt the wood? if i had your voice, i would call out your name from the street, let it pound like a heartbeat at your door, offer it to you as a song. i would never cease.”

– monique truong, the book of salt

a home for my books

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a new piece of furniture purchased recently, meant something had to go. sadly it was our book case. but thanks to my obsessive perusing of home décor blogs, i immediately had a back up plan to keep the books in our fireplace (seen above). now it finally has a function! other than being beautiful of course.

here are few of the homes that inspired the idea…

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