Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Who knew, all we had to do is party"

School is such a time warp.  A week on campus is faster than a week anywhere else, it seems.  Ally and I arrived Saturday afternoon to settle in, and I was welcomed by the accommodations of Veronica at the Green House.  My ID card still worked (take that, res life!), so on Sunday I hauled my luggage back to Habitat where a desk on the upstairs landing and my former room (with both former roomies) became home base.
I can only think of one person that week I never had the chance to see, because everyone was dumped into their full-time routines of being students again.  I was actually pretty busy as well, but before the psychosis of school work really settled in, we had time to do silly things.

... Like dressing up an armadillo that was sitting in the heat duct of the kitchen of the Green House and dubbing him Jacques Dillion.

And cooking food.

And cooking more really delicious food.  
It was fantastic working in the spacious glory of The Annex kitchen, another theme house on campus. 

And staring at beautiful walls in the library while trying to read journal articles with the pitifully ironic realization of being the only one in the library without even taking classes on campus this semester.

And celebrating!
Twenty of us jammed into a suite to surprise Holly for her 21st birthday this past Thursday, also on the same day as another friend, so the partying continued all night.  Holly here demonstrates an excellent example of being iced, with a special St. Lawrence dynamic: you only have about 15-20 seconds to finish it, depending on how fast everyone sings, "Weeee like to drink with (name) ..." and so on!  I know our school probably doesn't want to be associated with such a game, but at least the NY Times speculated the game's origins correctly here!

Anyway, that's where the photographic evidence ends for the week.
We stayed warm with layers on layers (once wearing a sleeping bag as a cape), though still exposed ourselves too much at night, hustling around to party.  We drowned inhibitions, stopped caring and danced like fools (that was probably just me), held, yelled, hugged, kissed, and parted with what I'm hoping will only be temporary farewells.  Each goodbye had its own demented beauty-- of desperation, disbelief, reluctance, finality and joy.  Because we know I'm off to do great things while they remain and do great things.

Just another kick ass week with some really wonderful people in the middle of nowhere.  
And yes I know, I am so dramatic.

After stewing in transit purgatory hungover and exhausted, off I was into the Floridian sunset.
Mission 'Nicole-needs-to-keep-her-psyche-in-tact-before-leaving-for-China' has officially begun.

Listening: "Avec Mes Mecs" by Humans.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tour de New England

I ended my visit in Maine by visiting the Portland Museum of Art, downing a pot of lychee black tea at Dobra Tea, then harking down my friend Ally from the streets, who was pointedly walking the opposite direction despite a city map and many verbal instructions (I'm directionally challenged as well). 

She, Justin and I had lunch at this whimsical diner called Silly's.  The walls are artfully cluttered with family photos and random memorabilia  and the wait staff was really upbeat and friendly.  There were numerous vegetarian, vegan, glutent- lacto- free and dietarily-modifiable food selections.  Then the milkshake menu, how outrageous!  The possible combinations were endless, such as a rice milk shake with bacon, avocado and strawberry jam with  (I probably wouldn't do that)!  However, I ordered a regular vanilla shake with graham crackers and coconut with my spicy falafal wrap.  It was fantastic!  Justin ordered fried pickles as well, so we were so full.  Like all the other establishments I visited in Portland, this one is worth a stop.

Silly's & Silly's with a Twist on Urbanspoon

He's the best.  I'll come back to Maine any day!

And off we went to New Hampshire!   Ally's family owns a beautiful farmhouse built in the 18th century on 200 wooded acres, spotted by creeks and crumbling stone walls.  It snowed pretty heavily the next day and we found ourselves in a winter wonderland.

 We went snowshoeing!

Ally showed me around Concord, the capital of New Hampshire, a mere 15 minutes away.

I was actually astounded by the New Hampshire state house, not expecting the gold-gilded dome and architecture!  We wandered around a few floors as the state reps were heading home at the end of their day.  Kind of embarrassing that I've never seen the New York capital building or state house...

 Another perk of the small-ish scale of New England is the proximity to large cities like Boston.  For $25 we bought round-trip bus passes for a day trip.  I had never visited Boston, and although we only had until mid-afternoon, it was a glorious day to visit.  Courtney lives north of Boston and she took a train in to guide us around!

 We strolled along Newbury Street with all the fantastic (if not over-priced) boutiques.  I was able to purchase a paisley tunic from a secondhand shop and a shirt from H&M.  Out hunger bordering-desperation, we ducked into a downstairs brasserie called Daisy Buchanan that sought to emulate the Great Gatsby with stained glass walls and a luxe bar feel -- that actually fell flat.  Our waiter mumbled almost incoherently and the food was cold.  Sometimes you receive what you pay for, I guess!  Haha, but as consolation, we stopped at Georgetown Cupcakes.  I had a caramel praline cupcake and a chai that were almost too sweet, but delicious nonetheless.

So after being spoiled all week by Ally's father's delightfully plated cooking, we parted Saturday for school.  I'm glad the residences opened a half-day early so students like Ally could settle in without feeling rush.  The semester started yesterday!  I'm not necessarily supposed to be here, but with my heavy coat, scarf, boots and backpack, I fit in with the rest of the student body.  There's been many double takes of, "Hey-- aren't you supposed to be in China?!"  And then the pleasant surprise that I am living the gypsy life on campus until Saturday morning... but then my bemoaned realization that everyone here will be at least 1/3 of the way through the semester by the time I start my first class in Shanghai.
It's an odd feeling, just floating around and not having a permanent residence, but my house where I've lived for the last year has accommodated my sleeping bag (also borrowed) and food in the refrigerator.  I didn't want to mooch too many swipes off of everyone's meal plans.  And actually I'm just as busy as last semester because I've been volunteering, attending a few classes (just as a preview for next fall), researching for a grant proposal, going to meetings, frisbee practice, cooking and dates with friends.  It's been amazing catching up with those who were abroad last semester.  I feel washes of anxiety and sadness knowing that I won't see most of the seniors again for a very long time, but hey, that's what time does.  Everyone has to move on.

The North Country is FREEZING right now.  As in, 1 degree Fahrenheit today and a high of negative 4 degrees tomorrow.  I am tempted not to leave the library just so I don't have to bear it...

Listening: "Speed of Sound" by Coldplay

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Maine Event

 Snowy coastlines, pine and birch forests, L.L. Bean boots, artistic and local tendencies, and lots of charm.  This visit to Maine is proving to be quite enjoyable.

 Little Brother Island reserve near Yarmouth, Maine.
I've been following around my dear friend Justin that I haven't seen in months, reconnecting and leading life the way he does in Maine.  I've missed him a lot so it's been great, even if we're just sitting around as he and his friends jam out on instruments, exploring music, sipping wine and watching The Legend of Korra and Girls until 2 in the morning.

The Old Port of Portland, Maine.  
It's known as the San Francisco of the East Coast and I couldn't agree more, except it's far less overrun by tourists.  We went for lunch at the used-to-be warehouse building on the right side, now a fantastic wood-fired pizza bar and grill called Flatbread Company.  It was actually pretty crowded for a mid-afternoon lunch, but we sat at the bar and were well-attended.  All their ingredients are sourced from Maine, and their rustic interior is adorned with drawings and doodles of child patrons.  We devoured a large Coevolution pizza between the two of us, with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, goat cheese, tons of rosemary (we nexted the kalamata olives) on top of a well-cooked flat bread crust.  With organic, blueberry soda and local-brewed beer between the two of us, the meal with a tip came to $25.

Flatbread on Foodio54

Flatbread Company on Urbanspoon

Today we went to see the Portland Head Light.  
It's still a functional lighthouse with a fog horn, and also a museum during the summer.  The coast line was breathtaking, and the endless skies made this the perfect day for a visit.  We scrambled along the sea grass and rocks, soaking in the sights before taking a few hucks of the frisbee.

We headed back to Portland and had another delicious meal at a talk-of-the-town restaurant called Duck Fat.  Their menu is brief but eclectic: all their french fries are cooked in duck fat (creates a mouth-watering crispiness), their milkshakes are made with gelato, paninis with meatloaf and roast beef and eggplant, and an ever-changing slab of charcuterie.  Like many other eateries, their menu promotes locally brewed and bottled drinks.  This was quite busy for a Monday afternoon as well, though we only waited 10 minutes until we were given a seat on the tall bar stools throughout the small space.  It's sort of an industrial elegance, with brick walls, post modern art, chalkboards and an entertaining wall filled with word magnets.
We took the advice of another Urbanspoon reviewer and shared our meal: the brussel sprout salad, the duck panini, a small order of fries with sweet and spicy mustard mayo and aioli for dipping, a beer for Justin and a Maine burnt-honey milkshake for me.  The bill was a bit more expensive than I would have preferred, but I had a fantastic meal and hey, I probably won't be back in Maine for a while to enjoy all of this.  If you're ever in Portland, you should go to these two restaurants!  And the small joys of Yarmouth (a 20 minute drive north), like Clayton's, Bruce's Burritos and The Royal Bean for coffee.

Duckfat Cafe on Foodio54

Duck Fat on Urbanspoon

Maine has been an exquisite adventure of cozy delights.  Tonight's the is my last here; tomorrow I'll be off to New Hampshire with my friend Ally for school.  My friends are fantastic, loving people with marvelous families to host and entertain me so generously-- I'm incredibly fortunate!

Listening: browsing around Justin's Soundcloud network.. who knows! :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Playing til I pack

The longest winter break of my life has been going quite well.  For once, I've achieved a satisfying balance of friends, laziness and productivity!  I've painted, read three novels (that's an achievement to be proud of), watched movies, played computer games, began my research, walked-ran, nordic skied, and made a fair contribution to capitalism. Then every weekend, I joined a group text with my favorite ladies from high school, we dolled up because we can, then danced the rest of the night.  I downloaded this new photo app for my Windows 8 laptop called fotor, so please excuse the excessive Instagram-esque edits.. I liked how they turned out though!

I've made a lot of incredible friends at college, but there's still something about the people you've grown up with that is irreplaceable.  I wore a lot of outlandish ensembles I'm not brave enough to try at school, and I'm back into makeup again.  I used to be a huge Sephora junkie, then could no longer justify $35 on mascara that could be a shirt or jeans :B.  Nonetheless, I've reacquainted myself with the power of lipstick and the certain femme fatale it may inspire!  And then there's that damn cat mask..  

This is a shot of the lake from the park where I used to teach swim lessons.  The snow is wonderfully crunchy, the sound of my footsteps the only disturbance present on the beach.  This temporary warm spell is melting all the ice.  I was sitting on my back porch today reading in the sunlight, while birds were chirped like a spring awakening.

I'm taking off Friday for Maine, while my parents are driving the other direction to Florida.  We've been on a clear-the-food crusade, so obviously that meant dinner party!  I'm quite proud of what I did here (adorned in an Anthropologie apron and heels, of course).  The menu:
- romaine and homemade croutons (olive oil, kosher salt, garlic, parsley, chili powder)
- onion-garlic-parsley wheat biscuits and brown sugar and cranberry corn bread
- egg noodles with curry powder, turmeric and garam masala
- a whole roasted chicken (salt & pepper, olive oil, cumin, smoked paprika, adobo seasoning), stuffed and cooked with potatoes and onions
- Italian bread and broccoli (didn't make those)
- for dessert, we had mini cheesecakes and a cookie cake 

Yeah, I'm going to brag; I was even impressed with how delicious it all tasted!  There was enough for everyone to eat generously plus a full serving of leftovers to bring home.  The only thing missing was wine!  As I've expressed before, I'm one of those live to eat people which isn't necessarily healthy because my emotions can be tied to my consumption, yet I achieve such joy from cooking and sharing a meal with people I love.
So around 4:45 AM tomorrow morning, I'll be on my way out, not to see home again for six months.  I'm studying abroad this spring in Shanghai, but my program doesn't begin until February 24th.  In the meantime, I'm visiting my dear friend Justin in Maine, then Ally in New Hampshire, living the gypsy dream at St. Lawrence for the first week of the semester (but besides socializing, I'll volunteer and research and play frisbee), then reunite with my parents in Florida.  From then, it will be another 3 1/2 weeks until I join my friend Kat in Boston, where we'll leave for China on February 22nd!  WAHOOOO 

Yeah, it is insane and I am ready to take it on!  I actually packed most of this last weekend because I didn't want there to be any chance of forgetting anything, since I won't be able to return to my house.  The small suit case and Dakine backpack are my luggage for this 2-week northern tour, while I'm taking the large suit case and the L.L. Bean hiking pack to China.  It's finally coming together and I couldn't be happier.  How do you like to spend your free time during the winter?

Listening: "Paddling Out (Wolfgang Gartner Remix)" by Miike Snow

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

To Live By

I found a suitable mantra for this illustration-like acrylic I did during my 24 hour painting spree.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Now I'm on the hunt for a correctly sized mat to post this in clear view.  I admit I'm fearful of sinking into a routine of idle indifference; I want to lead a life that's fulfilling for myself and hopefully impacts others in a positive sense on the way.  So I selected this quote as a reminder that passion, curiosity, and risk are worth the while.  

Listening: "Cult Logic" by Miike Snow (their album Happy to You is amazing for running and working out!)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Finger Lakes Finds

For those of you who follow me on Instagram (Nicolewhaat), I post more frequently than I should, sometimes twice a day!  I justify this with my lack of any other social media; my Facebook will have been deactivated for a year at the end of this month, except for a 36 hour period back in November when I was trying to contact friends from Canada, France and Argentina.  ANYWAY, I love IG because you visually connect with other people, be it friends and family, celebrities, brands, or indie photo heroes from California.  It's a photographic Twitter phenomenon: you can decide what your feed will look like: random shots from your daily life, breathtaking scenery, throw backs to childhood, or food porn!  I openly admit that I dabble in food photos, I have my own cooking hash tag called #properlyplated.  
Another trend you would see in my photo feed are from the region that I'm from, the Finger Lakes of Western New York.  Honestly, it's taken a few trips half way around the world to realize how stunning the area is where I live.  I grow tired of the isolation, lack of infrastructure and 40 minute car rides to any semblance of a city, but the hills, woods and water are worth it.  We also have a lovely art community that I've increasingly embraced.  Although a bit more expensive than what you'd find in the super market, hand-crafted products make marvelous gifts.  Next Friday I'm going to visit my best friends in Maine and New Hampshire, so I hope their families enjoys these little reflections of the region I'm proud to call home. 
 Behind my friend Kristen's house, who lives in the Bristol hills that surround Honeoye.

 I met up with Caitlan and Kristen at the lone coffee shop in our town.  It's changed owners a few times but I like the current offerings and ambiance.

 F. Olivers Garden Fresh Gremolata Olive Oil, which is a beautifully subtle infusion of parsley, mint, garlic and lemon into olive oil.  This shop in Canandaigua sells infused oils and balsamic vinegars.  I stopped in their with my friends for the first time yesterday and the sales clerk was so generous, having us taste samples and pairings (think: a peach light balsamic vinegar with tuscan herb olive oil) and helping me select this bottle for my friend's family that loves cooking!  
Their site:  http://www.folivers.com/
 This is just one of the beauties that I picked up at the Wizard of Clay in Bristol.  It is a father-son team of potters that make functional art, kitchen ware, vessels and more.  I bought this mortar and pestle as a gift for my Chinese host family.. I'm sure they could find some use for it!  Their signature design is the Bristol leaf pattern, like what I purchased.  They actually hand pick the leaves for each piece, and the impressions are emblazoned after the piece is fired in the kiln.
As of this summer I also became a fan of Wick-edly Scent in Canandaigua.  They hand make lotions, soaps, candles and washes in their shop as well.  This fall I was obsessed with their Riesling, champagne and grapefruit mimosa-scented soaps.  I also bought white tea body lotion, which you can kind of see is almost gone!  I purchased a few Canandaigua Lake olive oil soap bars for gifts, then received a few from my mom from Christmas!  I have the cranberry orange on my dresser because I don't need it quite yet, and it makes my room smell wonderful.

So no, I wasn't paid or endorsed to write about these shops (but if some one wanted to send samples my way..!) , but it's my pleasure to support and promote their businesses.  And you can bet that once I turn 21 next November, I will be touring every winery around!  Finger Lakes Rieslings are gaining more national and international prominence, and we're known for ice wines, when the grapes are harvested after the first frost.  My particular favorite is the Gewurztraminer grape.. not that I've done any wine tasting before.. ;).  So if you're ever in upstate New York, head west towards the hills and water, and there you'll find me.. and let me know!  I barely mentioned the diversity things to do in the Finger Lakes, but it's really a place worth visiting!
Listening: "Punching in a Dream" by The Naked and Famous