Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Explore New York : Central Park & the Guggenheim

Today I bring you another installment of Explore New York! If you missed the previous posts, be sure to catch up on my excursion to Times Square (complete with a fancy dinner at Marseille), my trip to the MoMA, and my SoHo brunch at The Dutch. Let's go exploring!


It was a gorgeous July day when my friend Sascha and I decided to make our way into the city for a visit to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Since the incredible Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildingthe shape of which is called an inverted ziggurat, as it turns outsits just outside the eastern edge of Central Park, it only made sense to take a scenic detour on the way there. Why stay in the stuffy subway when you could walk in the summer sunshine, right?

After a quick subway ride from Port Authority to 86th Street, we were above ground—and right across the street from Central Park. As with everything I experience for the first time in New York, I was filled with excitement to stroll through the grand green space I've seen so many times on TV and in film. Sascha and I took a path that basically made a beeline from one side to the other, so of course there is so much more to see, but it was quite a lovely walk along the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Blue skies with puffy white clouds, a shimmering lake filled with ducklings, and stunning city architecture framed the whole scene. It was picture-perfect.

A leisurely 20 minutes later, we had made it to the Guggenheim. That Frank, man. He was one cool dude. As is often the case, one of my favorite things about the museum is the architecture, inside and out. I'd love to come back and see the spiraling dome tower inverted ziggurat whatchamacallit all lit up at night.

When we visited, the primary exhibition on display, winding its way up the museum ramps, was Storylines, which ended its run earlier this month. As its name suggests, the show brought together more than 100 works from the Guggenheim's contemporary collection to examine the diverse ways in which today's artists engage narrative through installation, painting, photography, sculpture, video and performance. Each piece was imbued with meaning—sometimes overt, sometimes more layered and complex. Also featured at the museum, and still on display through Oct. 12, is the poignant and even haunting work of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo. The exhibition occupies the four levels of the Guggenheim's Tower galleries and addresses the traumatic history of modern-day Colombia, as well as the wider legacies of suffering inflicted by colonialism, racism and other forms of social injustice.

So, what's my take on the Guggenheim? It was interesting, to say the least. Some of the art I loved, some I liked, some I hated but understood and some made me scratch my head in dismay. But that's all part of the museum experience! A good exhibition isn't always a pretty one. Worthwhile art isn't always easy on the senses; sometimes it challenges you, makes you uncomfortable and makes you think. Many of the pieces on display at Guggenheim do just that.

My museum buddy only took a quick pass through the Kandinsky Gallery, so I'd also love to return to take a longer look at the abstract artist's colorful and energetic work. Fortunately for me, that exhibit is open through Spring 2016.

Following our spin around the Guggenheim, we enjoyed a casual late lunch at Sergimmo Salumeria, an unassuming but undeniably charming deli in Hell's Kitchen. My panini was delicious and the guy behind the counter didn't even give me a hard time when I asked to hold the cheese (ha!). It's New York; he said people have asked for weirder things. I have no doubts.

All in all, a terrific day filled with nature, art and good eats. What more could a girl ask for?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Explore New York : Soho Brunch at The Dutch

Since G was home and able to join me on my excursion to SoHo a few Sundays ago for my calligraphy workshop with Laura Hooper, we decided to make the most of our time and hit up The Dutch for a leisurely pre-class brunch. We chose The Dutch partly for its convenient location right next door to the workshop venue, The Lofts at Prince, but also because I had found in my where-to-eat-googling that Chef Andrew Carmellini's outpost for regional American farenot Dutch, as the name might suggest—had rave reviews. It came up on many "best places to eat" lists in SoHo. (That's short for "South of Houston street," for you non-Manhattanites.) The accolades are well deserved.

Brunch is just breakfast without a cocktail, so we ordered up two drinks stat. (Plus, I was trying to shake off those workshop jitters.) I tried a Campari concoction and was pleasantly surprised to find it not too mouth-puckeringly bitter while the hubs stuck with what he knows: gin.

The brunch menu does not have an over-abundance of options but the nicely edited assortment is sure to offer something for everyone. A loyal fan of Eggs Benedict, I couldn't resist tasting The Dutch's take on the classic. Listed on the menu as poached eggs (fresh and organic from Feather Ridge Farms in Milton, NY), cheddar biscuit, ham, chipotle and tomato, the dish arrived deconstructed as such; the ingredients all separate but ready to mingle in a warmed, shallow bowl. Since I'm not a cheese lover (I know, I know), I asked to trade out the cheddar biscuit for the restaurant's signature honey butter variety. The kitchen kindly obliged and, thankfully, the dish was no less delicious. 

The eggs were perfectly cooked and I would have greedily consumed three more of those sweet, flaky biscuits if given the chance. But the star of the show, in my humble opinion, was the roasted tomato sprinkled with oregano. In adulthood, tomatoes have become one of my favorite foods and this particular tomato was not only the best I've ever tasted, but it was likely one of the most—let's say top 5 best—lip-smacking, mmm-mmm good things I've ever put in my mouth. And I informed my hubby of this revelation with every bite I took, my emotions a mix of total glee and utter despair as the ruby red juicy jewel of a tomato disappeared from my plate. Thank you, summer sunshine, and kudos to the cook who slow-roasted that baby to a heavenly place.

I can't wax poetic about G's meal, but judging by his cleared plate and happy face I'm going to say he thoroughly enjoyed his shrimp and kimchi fried rice topped with two impressively-cooked sunny-side up eggs, served with grilled pork belly. But we both agreed that if we return, he must order The Dutch's famous hot fried chicken, not just because of the hype surrounding it but because the couple next to us ordered it and we started to drool. (Turns out Carmellini has shared the recipe, but I'd rather have someone else do the cooking, and the 12-hour marinating.)

Unsurprisingly, there was a wait when we walked into The Dutch that Sunday and I'm glad we decided to take bar seats by the window, looking out onto Prince Street. It doesn't get much better than sipping on cocktails (and later, a glass of Gothic "Telltale" Pinot Noir Rosé), devouring some good eats and people-watching (SoHo offers a chic show)—all in air-conditioned comfort.

Now, this isn't exactly brunch related, but when I got out of my workshop around 5 p.m., the clouds were doing some amazing things. While crossing the street I finally looked up and saw what a lovely view SoHo has of One World Trade Center, the glistening building towering in the distance, piercing the sky. So I'll leave you with that pretty view—and probably a grumbling tummy.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Explore New York : The Museum of Modern Art

While it hasn't always been this way, ever since my college days—including a year-long stint as the arts and entertainment editor for my university's newspaper—I have been a museum nerd. While stationed in St. Pete, I made it a mission to visit as many local galleries and exhibitions as I could. Now that I'm living just outside New York City, I have that same goalbut the artistic and cultural offerings afforded to me have expanded exponentially. Where to go first? Fortunately, the decision was made by a new friend who suggested we visit the Museum of Modern Art.

It was a muggy and drizzly July day, but Sascha and I braved the weather—and that almost-suffocatingly humid subway tunnel air—to travel to MoMA in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Even though it was a weekday, the museum lobby was bustling with people (likely on their summer vacation), and a long line for tickets snaked around the foyer. Luckily, I was able to bypass the wait and quickly pick up two free tickets for both of us (working that military discount, woot woot!) and we were on our way to exploring the wonderfully weird world that is MoMA.

I hadn't researched the current exhibitions as I typically do, so I didn't know what to expect. What I found was a wide range of modern and contemporary art, a true feast for the eyes. Highlights for me, personally, included seeing works by masters like Picasso, Matisse, Warhol, van Gogh and Mondrian, to name a few.

Unfortunately, we only had a couple hours to spend wandering the galleries and when our time was up I felt like we barely scratched the surface. While I have many other museums on my must-see list, setting aside a whole afternoon to revisit the MoMA is definitely a priority. (Especially to see the new Picasso Sculpture exhibition The New York Times called a once-in-a-lifetime event.) Maybe I'll bring my art-shy hubby along for the ride.

Want a quick mini-tour of the MoMA? Find more photos of world class art (and some Manhattan views) after the jump...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Opening Up Shop : wisp + whim calligraphy

Last week, I finally acted on a little dream of mine that I've had for years: opening an Etsy shop. 

Honestly, I didn't even really plan to do this last week. I'd had the name saved for a couple months but had been debating recently on whether Etsy was really the right platform for me and what I currently have to offer. (And, let's be really real, I was afraid of pulling the trigger, of putting myself out there and risking failure. Plus, there were those ever-present nagging feelings of not being good enough, especially when compared to other calligraphers whose work I admire.)

Maybe I was feeling a bit bold or simply curious, but last Tuesday I decided to just see how the process would work for setting up a listing. I made one listing and, in no time at all, four more. At that point, I handed over my bank account information and officially opened up shop. Click! It was so easy. Several hours later I had refined the look of the online store, added an "About" page and shop policies. While I still would prefer to have my own, dedicated website, you really can't beat Etsy's ease of use and low up-front cost. For someone like me who's just starting out, minimal risk and investment sounds good.

At this point, all the items listed are custom services: envelope addressingcalligraphed escort and place cards and event signage like hand-lettered chalkboard wedding signs, buffet and dessert table cards and other calligraphed paper signs

In addition to the services listed, I will happily accept custom orders! I'd love to take an idea and turn it into reality. Calligraphy really can go beyond just paper and ink; almost anything can be written on!

In the next few months, my goal is to add some ready-made, ready-to-ship products to the shop lineup as well. In the meantime, I'd love it if you'd check out my new online storefront and let me know what you think! 

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't offer up my heartfelt love and thanks to the friends and family who have supported and encouraged me in my calligraphy journey, especially my sweet husband who is always trying to drown out those nagging feelings of self-doubt stirring within me, to (gently) push me to be my best self and pursue my wildest dreams.

P.S. As you may already know, I have a calligraphy-focused Instagram, but I now also have dedicated Facebook and Twitter profiles, too. Likes and follows much appreciated :)

All product images, except envelopes, 
courtesy a wisp + whim bride, captured by Simply Perfect Images

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Explore New York : Times Square & Marseille

Today I'm launching a new series, Explore New York, in which I'll share my escapades in and around the Big Apple. I've journeyed across the Hudson from our Jersey abode to NYC several times already, and I can't wait for many more big city adventures in the months to come. Let's go exploring!


The hubs and I took our first trip to NYC two days after arriving in New Jersey, the day before G ended up having to go to Rhode Island (where his boat was in dry dock) for several weeks. It was a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon in June, but we braved the heat and walked from our Union City apartment to the Port Imperial ferry station to cross the Hudson River into Midtown. Since it was my first time on a ferry, I just had to sit on the upper deck and take in the panoramic views of Manhattanwindblown hair be damned.

A short 8-minute boat ride later, we arrived to the promised land. New York City! At 30 years old, I was finally in the city I had always dreamed of visiting. I felt electric. I could hardly contain my excitement as we started walking through Hell's Kitchen to Times Square, the penultimate tourist spot. I'm not sure what I expected, Times Square always looks like a thrilling place to be on TV, but in the end it reminded me of Hollywood and Highland in L.A., just with bigger buildings and more neon signs. Like you'll find along Hollywood Boulevard, there were lots of people, mainstream shops strange street characters and costumed personalities. Though, I don't remember L.A. having nearly naked painted ladies, but that's the Big Apple for you.

After snapping a few photos of the city sights and flashing billboard lights, eating a giant soft pretzel (that wasn't all that good but I felt it was a required NYC experience) and picking up a few goodies at Sephora (including a rice extract-infused face mask sheet and, appropriately, Tarte's Park Ave Princess Contour Palette), we left the hustle and bustle of Times Square and started back toward the ferryand on the hunt for dinner.

With no game plan or prior research, G and I figured we'd just stumble upon something during our stroll back to the waterfront, and of course we didthere are so many places to eat in NYC! Almost too many choices. As a newbie it can be overwhelming to choose, and as people who don't make decisions easily, it can be downright impossible. After glancing around and taking in our options, I told the hubs we should go wherever looked busy because then it must be good, right? We quickly settled on a French-Mediterranean brasserie, Marseille, located near the Theater District on the corner of Ninth Avenue and West 44th Street. The eatery's outdoor seating was almost full. And we weren't disappointed.

Everything was incredibly delicious. We began our al fresco dinner with wine. The refreshing “Cuvee Juliette” rose for me and, because G doesn't follow those weather-dictates-wine rules, a glass of Pinot Noir for him. To eat, I actually ordered two appetizers: fresh, pillowy sweet pea gnocchi with spring vegetables in a parmesan cream sauce and lemony baby artichokes oreganata. The hubs went for the succulent beef short rib “bourguignon,” served atop a velvety pomme puree and drizzled with a delectable cabernet wine sauce.

And because we couldn’t decide on just one dessert (they all sounded divine), we shared the strawberry mousse sponge cake with basil ice cream and a slice of mocha tart with candied hazelnuts and chocolate cream. Considering we had no idea where to eat, Marseille was quite the find! Though, I told G we can’t dine so good every time we go into the city, or else we’ll be brokefast.

With full bellies and happy hearts, we continued on home. The neighborhood we walked throughHell's Kitchenlooked so lovely in the golden evening sunlight and I couldn't help but daydream about living in one of the gorgeous, ivy-covered brownstones. A yarn bomb adorning a tree along the sidewalk summed up my feelings perfectly: I heart NY.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned—more NYC adventures coming up.
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