Saturday, April 30, 2011

Long Island Trips....commencing now!

We're off to Patchogue today to collect a few cases of beer from Blue Point Brewery. They were generous enough to donate them to our upcoming fundraiser, Forward, on May 11th. Post Lent it's been a while since I've done a beer tasting so today might have to be the day.
Island DiVine 2009

I can't believe our event is just over a week away. After all the planning, plotting, motivating, pleading, we're almost there. Almost means we still have to sell another 50 tickets at least - yikes! Ironically, when I was involved in Junior League in SD, events like Forward that had so much appeal - great food, open bar, fabulous venue, amazing raffle prizes - sold tickets like hot cakes! Today, JLSD has their Island DiVine event, which offers all these same qualities. If you're in SD, consider going - it's always a rock star event! Hopefully Forward can pull the same success off on May 11th!

A plus of heading out to Long Island today is a visit with my best friend's cousin and her wife. They are fabulous hosts, chefs, entertainers, and sommeliers. We always have a wonderful time with them and make trips to Long Island such a blast. It might not be quite warm enough to get in some pool time, but sitting on the porch sipping a great read and snacking on Italian salume, cheeses and olives sounds just divine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Random Ramblings

So I just signed up for Twitter...and really it was motivated by the need to spread the word about my fundraiser, FORWARD, that is two weeks from today. But I'll be honest, I have no idea what I'm doing and how to really take advantage of it. Unlike Facebook where I'm rather adept, I'm still wet behind the ears here. And "twitterspeak", excuse me? No clue. Maybe I'm beyond in years...but it's kind of fun. You follow people you wouldn't necessarily follow on FB and you can say what you want without having to share your history, photos, etc. Not that I'm that secretive...but, well, you know.

I submitted my revision of my Ghana piece to my class - I cut out 3 whole pages! And, according to my mother, a lot of the funny parts. Hmm. We'll see what my class says. Cutting it down to 2,000 words was quite a chore. Sadly the part about the non-Oscar winning Ghanaian film classics hit the cutting room floor. One of my classmates told me it was "mean". It was mean that they made ME suffer through that movie for FIVE hours. Mean? Are we in 5th grade? I guess she'll be relieved to see it's gone. Once I get their feedback I'll post the revision for you all to read and see what you think.

My next task will be researching some newsworthy pieces for my trip to Berlin, Basel, Lyon, Lake Anasee and Zurich in July. If you have any insider tips, let me know. Otherwise I'll be hitting up the tourist bureaus here for some leads.

Here's a photo to break up this babble....I like it a lot. Shocking, I know.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Slovenia...and a very small soap box.

It's my second to last class tonight and I'm a total slacker and didn't do my homework. Honestly, I'm exhausted. From traveling coast to coast two weekends in a row to co-chairing a fundraiser for the Children's Aid Society to actually doing my real job, I just didn't dedicate the time. So, I'll try for next the interim, I'll share the topic. Feel free to pass on any suggestions if you are so inclined.

Stumped and Tired.

Assignment: An editor offers you an opportunity to write a piece on Slovenia for their magazine. You have to come up with your own angle for writing about Slovenia as a travel destination.

So, first of all I have to outline my research process: 1) select an angle - anyone been to Slovenia or have any unique thoughts on trends there? 2) prepare my travel plans...piece of cake, this is my favorite part and 3) prepare my agenda when visiting - what will I see, who will I interview, etc. Part and parcel to each of these steps is coming up with unique ways to access this information - FB, Twitter, NYTimes Travel, tourist bureaus for Slovenia (most are in NYC fortunately.)

I'll also need to add essential facts about Slovenia to facilitate my reader's understanding of the angle. That part will come through my research. Funny, I have enough time/energy to write this but not do the rest. Oh well. Next week will be that much more exciting with the actual piece, my re-draft of my Ghana piece (trying to publish it!), and whatever homework awaits for me then.

A side note on charity work....for all that know me, you know I've been involved with fund raising for various non-profit groups for years, most notably Junior League in San Diego (where I met some of the most amazing and some of my best friends ever.) And those same people know I can't give less than 100% to that effort. I get that not everyone shares my enthusiasm nor willingness to sacrifice their time and effort. That's fine. Do whatever you want with with your personal time. I would (if I could.)

But what does frustrate me is people who join organizations with the legitimate goal of helping but then totally drop the ball. Or drop off the face of the Earth. I mean, just tell me you're flaking and leave it at that. But don't portend to be a philanthropist when you really prefer to blatantly ignore my e-mails, phone calls and desperate pleas for some help, any help. I mean, I'm a volunteer too. That being said, I'm tired. The stress of asking, encouraging, pleading, helping, facilitating, mitigating, and feeling that it's still not enough because the collective result isn't meeting our goals. It's exhausting. But I know there are the mighty few of us that have been TOTAL rock stars and after we've passed this hurdle, we have some strategic planning, some much needed hair cutting, and some infrastructure building to do. And then maybe next year I won't be so damn tired.

Happy Easter Everyone - May the PEEPS be with you!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sailing into the Sunset

Tracey & Angela - Mrs & Mrs Beal!
The last two weekends have been a whirlwind of activity from coast to coast. First, I was in Miami for a bachelorette party. We had a grand time - no drama, no divas - but it was so fast that I don't think I ever really relaxed despite the South Beach warm weather, great company, and fabulous itinerary.

Our fabulous jazz singer.
Fast forward four days and I was headed home to San Diego for a dear friend's wedding. Tracey, blogger extraordinaire of A Bicycle Built for Two, is a San Diego native and we decided to move to New York together in 2008 (I arrived 6 months after her.) She and her now wife,  New York native, Angela, had their ceremony this past Saturday on the Yacht America sailboat in San Diego bay. The weather was AMAZING even for San Diego standards. And for the 20 or so of us who traveled back from the East Coast, it was even more incredible after the winter we've suffered through.

Sunset over the Del Coronado.
The backdrop of Downtown San Diego, North Island and Coronado made the perfect decor for this emotional and touching affair and the group gathered to celebrate were the best of the best. The officiant was the husband of the bride's good friend who happens to have a PhD in poetry. Obviously he did an amazing job. Totally apropos readings were done by Angela's youngest sister and Dawn, another childhood friend of Tracey's. And Tracey's sister, Ali, killed it with the maid of honor speech...equal parts riotous, emotional, articulate, sincere and just awesome.

Coolest. One bride wore gold boat shoes and the other gray & white converse with the wedding date printed on the side.
Yacht America
Paying homage to Angela's ancestry, there was catered Greek food that was scrumptious, a bevy of cocktails and mocktails and the BEST desert ever. VG's cake and doughnuts. I mean, it's just the "bizness" when it comes to cakes. Whenever and wherever I get married, I will try to get a VG's cake fed exed for our eating pleasure. Enjoy a few pics from the day...

Sailing around San Diego Bay

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lenten Sacrifices

Through my writing class, I've learned no topic is too diminutive to write about. It need not be a 3 week excursion through the Andes; it could simply be a day strolling through the second hand shops in the Lower East Side. As such, I thought I'd write a little piece on my Lenten Sacrifice (one of them) and my plans post April 24th.

My Faux Martini...almost looks real, right?
Anyone who is a friend on Facebook knows I gave up alcohol and bread for Lent. Despite one dispensation for a dear friend's bachelorette party (she demanded it...I obliged), I haven't had a sip of alcohol since March 8th. No beer, wine, or booze. It is GREAT not to feel slightly groggy from several glasses of wine the previous night, but honestly I've never felt so consistently tired before. Sure I'm up and at 'em and clear-headedly tackling the day before me, but I could sleep for weeks if given the chance.

The Real Dispensation Martini. In comparison the impostor is obvious.

With the final countdown to Easter approaching and the appearance of flower buds and open cafe doors FINALLY arrived, here's my list of places to imbibe in the near future:

1. Forward. "Where Everyone Should Go." Craft brews & cocktails, 'wichcraft snacks, Bryant Park, great friends. May 11th from 6-9 PM. Be there. $90 all you can eat and drink - be honest, you'd spend this much anyway and half of the amount goes to charity. (Self-promotion at its finest.)
2. Birreria at Eataly. We've been teased for nine months about the opening of this 8,000 square foot rooftop biergarden and with a purported mid-May opening (I'm betting on June-July), I'm already salivating at the dynamic craft creations that await!
3. La Cava. Midtown East has a million Irish bars and general divey looking places, but yesterday I walked past this place located around the corner from my office and the allure of open windows and wafts of great vintages instantly added this to my list.
4. Maialino. We've had this one on our all around must go to list for a while. Originally we'd planned to go during Lent to save on the alcohol price, but it hasn't happened. I just want to be a fabulous person sitting in the window sipping vino and savoring Danny Meyer's elegant creations. 
5. Mayahuel. I love margaritas. I love tequila. I love Mexican food. (Revision - GOOD Mexican Food.) I've heard great things about Mayahuel from respected sources and this is apparently a must try.
6. J.G. Melon. I'm perpetually on the search for a great burger. My favorite still lives in North Park, San Diego at Jayne's Gastropub. DIVINE. But a great burger needs a great bun and great beer, two things I've been deprived of for the past 34 days so post-Lent I'll be heading to JG's (apropos don't you think?) for what's apparently a top ten NYC burger. I'll see.
7. The Yale Club. While it won't be my first martini at the Yale Club, it sure IS an amazing one. A group drink date is already planned. Can't wait!
8. Zum Schneider. Since my move Downtown last summer I've been threatening to go here with my best friend. We still haven't made it. A sunny day of beers awaits us. And maybe a sausage or two.
9. Amor & Amargo. Pop-up shops became pop-up restaurants and now pop-up cocktailers. Whatever, I'm in. Add in un sabor espanol and you're talking mi lenguaje. Love the concept, love the location. Can't wait to love the liquor!
10. BYOB. On a recent excursion to Westchester, I picked up two cases of my favorite wines (well, two of the many). Whether it's a picnic in the park or BYOB at a fun resto, I'm looking forward to a bottle of my Clos de los Siete or Kono as an accompaniment!

There you have it. Is it April 24th yet?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Travel Style... Yours vs. Mine

So my writing class has an eclectic blend of travelers - those that travel frequently, others that don't; both domestic and international frequent flyers; those that have lived abroad and others that are looking to do so. Regardless, we are all there with our distinct motivations but with the shared passion for travel in some form.

Our writing teacher, Farley, gives away the travel magazines he's already read. Last week, among the collection of "AFAR", National Geographic Travel, Budget Travel and others was a copy of Conde Nast Traveler. My classmates snatched up all of them except Conde Nast Traveler so Farley pipes up..."Nobody wants the Conde Nast?" to a silent audience. I already subscribe so I didn't say anything. "Yeah, I'm not a huge fan either," Farley replied to the nothing response. Several of my classmates chimed in, "Yeah, their mode of travel is so beyond my means it's of no interest to me." And another, "Not my style. Who even likes it?"

Shut the front door
! I shouted (to myself) looking around my class for anyone else who shared my taste in travel. I mean, I get not being able to afford the adventures Conde Nast Traveler endorse but to dream of them and vicariously participate in them with a little help from the padres is TOTALLY up my alley. Luckily I recognized a kindred spirit (or two) in my Miami Food & Wine Fest friend and my Swiss Cycling friends. We locked eyes, sharing nonverbal shock and awe at the classes outrageous commentary and collectively retorted, "UM, WE DO!"

Now I know I wouldn't appreciate the luxuries of staying at The Raffles in Angkor Wat, riding the Orient Express to Machu Picchu, sailing on the Silversea Whisper around the Baltic, or bedding down in the George V in Paris if I hadn't experienced the antithesis. There was the arrival in Athens after braving the ship from Brindisi, arriving after 24 hours of travel to our "hotel" where warm water occurred twice a day and we'd missed it. That was a COLD shower. Then there was the shady hotel in Rome where we were forced to order a pizza for dinner because the neighborhood was too dangerous to be out and about after dark. The bathroom in Spain that had a sink, a toilet and a hole in the floor with a spout on the wall, doubling as a powder room and shower all at once. Or the ten hour African travel adventure using three modes of transportation to get 180 miles! The list goes on. And on.


I haven't won the lottery and certainly know how fortunate I am to get to travel with my family (they go only Conde Nast style), but even when traveling on my own I prioritize the right splurges and economize where I can, and with a little more due diligence I always end up on the other side of just average...usually closer to pretty fabulous. I mean, for me, it's just worth it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Hey Bruni" Revisited

Tonight I'm turning in my next piece for my travel writing class. I decided to revisit a short blog post I'd written when I went to Ghana back in 2008. It was amazingly challenging to make this piece flow considering how much I wanted to write about. Next week we'll see what my classmates think. If you read it let me know if you have thoughts or suggestions!

Cape Coast, Ghana

Hey Bruni!

Temporarily back later!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Fifth Sense....and My Favorite Travel Thing

So much for anyone guessing (and even fewer even attempting) the mystery of my sensory piece from last week. Admittedly it was beyond obtuse in the sound articulation, not even choosing onomatopoetic representations but at least make a guess! Anyway....the answer was that I was swimming. The clop clop were my flip flops and the first two sounds were other swimmers doing laps. The "wallop" that became "chop" was a guy doing the butterfly and the sound transition was from my perspective above the water and then later in the water. And the harmony was our three strokes together, slowly breaking down to just my own stroke as the other swimmers exited the pool. The blanket of breeze was the initial jump into the water slowly transitioning into warm tickles as I started my laps. Read it again and see if you "see" it now!

For this week's class I have to turn in my next piece to be workshopped. It's still in development (I'm having a tough time) so I'm sharing my homework for the week instead. The genesis was an in-class writing assignment about our favorite item from our travels. Here you go!
An artist from the Artisans D'Angkor
 My Favorite Travel Thing
There’s no denying it’s bright – subtlety not its strong suit. The first hostess to greet your eye in my room, if the sun is shining just right, its luster is luxurious. And I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Imagine flying over an expanse of green, luscious fields covered in water, interrupted only by rivers, wooden and tin huts on stilts and an occasional dirt or rudimentary paved road. No factories, not even any farm equipment...just water buffalo. This was the sight we saw as we circled over Siem Reap, Cambodia. One of the most beautiful pollution whatsoever for there is nothing to pollute the apparently untouched landscape.

One of our many stops on our trip to Cambodia in 2007 was Artisans d’Angkor, a professional training school founded to help the youth of Cambodia rediscover their artisanal heritage lost during years of war, genocide and poverty. I’d been to similar textile factories in other countries from Africa to South America, but this one compelled me more than the rest. Perhaps the empathetic connection with the country I developed in the weeks I was there was partially a factor.

Cambodia is the poorest country I’ve ever experienced (the average annual salary is $300 per year, but most people make much less than that.) There are few paved roads, or cars for that matter, ramshackle dwellings, and little to no public infrastructure.  Growing up 15 miles from the Tijuana, Mexico border, we spent many weekends in the slums on charity expeditions building houses, playing with children, painting over graffiti. So the lack of plumbing, overabundance of garbage strewn everywhere and squalid living conditions weren’t new to me. What was new was the caliber of people. Despite having next to nothing, the Cambodians were the nicest people I have ever encountered – gracious, interesting, kind; they almost seemed oblivious to their condition relative to the rest of the world. Maybe ignorance truly is bliss? Given the devastation they endured under the Khmer Rouge it was hard to fathom.

At the factory we had a private tour of the silk making process from silk worms to final product. The time, excruciating detail, hours of work and collaborative effort of many that went into the gorgeous pieces was overwhelming. Each piece was flawless and spectacular. Throughout our tour we had met the artisans creating these works of art, learning their stories and how each piece came to fruition. At the end of our tour we perused the boutique showcasing scarves, purses, ties, blankets, and other crafts made on site.

Perusing the shop a brightly colored throw caught my eye.  Shades of orange, pink, yellow, red & white carefully constructed into a gorgeous 7 x 10 foot blanket. I asked about the price – “It is $250 American dollars” the response. “But who made it and how long did it take to weave?” I replied. The object of my affection took two women three months to weave. In awe of an obvious conflict of time and effort versus price I immediately replied, “Sold.” With it I took home three complimentary pillows in reds, greens and yellows. These works of art adorn my bed, always impressing visitors to my apartment. The first thing I share is their origin and labor intensive history. For a country lacking infrastructure, education and resources and having suffered the unspeakable devastation of decades of young people, the products of their human capital speak volumes of the ornate culture, history and tenacity that make Cambodia such a captivating country to experience.

**I don't have a great shot of my purchases but will add one soon!