Books I read in June and July

Whoops! This post is coming to you late,¬†mostly because I’m ashamed at how little I’ve been reading! There’s a weird combination of settling into a new work routine (although it’s been two months, so I probably can’t use that excuse much longer), and having the hardest time getting into anything. I’m not sure I’ll be able to hit my goal of 52 books this year, but who knows! All the more reason to be glad I hit my travel goal, to be honest. The reading has picked up a bit lately, but for now, here are the books I finished earlier this summer…

The Nightingale and Warby Parker sunglasses

The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah

This is literally the only book I read in June. To the surprise of nobody, it’s World War II historical fiction set in France – aka my favorite very specific genre¬†(I read¬†All the Light We Cannot See while lying on a beach in the Bahamas in March). I was thrilled that¬†The Nightingale focused on the women “left behind” while their husbands were at war, and shed light on everything women did for their families and their countries. I highly recommend it. Four stars

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell

My best friend suggested I read some Rainbow Rowell when I said I was struggling to find anything, and I remembered reading and loving¬†Attachments several years ago, so I got¬†Eleanor & Park on audiobook and listened to it. It’s young adult, sure, but a great, realistic story. And it was SUCH a nice change to read a book with an ambiguous ending – and no promise of a sequel. Sometimes things should be left up to the imagination! But if that would bother you – this isn’t your book. Three stars

Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer

After so many novels in a row I went on a non-fiction kick, specifically non-fiction written by journalists. There’s a bit of controversy over how accurately¬†Under the Banner of Heaven portrays modern-day Mormons, but I found at least the historical pieces to be extremely educational. This book is part history, part crime thriller, and 100% journalistic. Three stars

The End of the Perfect 10, Dvora Meyers

This book came out in the lead-up to the Olympics and I bought it right away. I’m a huge gymnastics fan (and not just every four years!) so it was fascinating to get an in-depth look at how scoring and the sport have changed over time. Even though I already knew the basics of the changes, I loved reading exclusive interviews and getting different perspectives. Highly recommend if you’re a sports fan in general, and if you loved watching Team USA dominate in Rio! Four stars, due to an overabundance of unnecessary pop-culture references

So, that’s where I’m at! Including August so far, I’ve read 27 books this year (52% of my way to 52!) I’m clearly in desperate need of suggestions, so fire away in the comments, and follow me on Goodreads here.

#take12trips: Complete!

Back in January, I set the audacious goal of taking 12 trips in 2016 (an idea I borrowed from Clare over at Need Another Holiday). It felt¬†absurd for a number of reasons, including the fact that I have a full-time job with limited vacation time, and the memory of only leaving New York City four times in all of 2015. But I set the goal anyway. The guidelines I set for myself were pretty simple – if I left New York’s five boroughs, it counted – and that certainly made it easier to accomplish. As of the end of last month, I’ve taken 12 trips – and there are more to come! Here’s a look back…

The Washington Monument on a foggy day, Washington DC
1. Washington, D.C.

I started the year by jumping on a bus to visit my friend Courtney in her new home, and we had a great weekend hanging out, eating and sightseeing – despite the rainy weather and the fact that we both had horrible colds.

Sunset in Allen, Texas
2. Dallas

Trip number 2 came somewhat unexpectedly when I found dirt-cheap flights to Dallas on my mom’s birthday weekend. It was my first trip to see them in about a year and a half, so we had a great time shopping, visiting museums and just hanging out!

Marina Green, San Francisco
3. San Francisco

My best friend and I decided to meet up in her favorite city for once Рbonus that I had never been and had always wanted to go. It definitely lived up to the hype!

Sunrise on the beach in Nassau, Bahamas

4. The Bahamas

Another spontaneous long weekend away because of a cheap flight, this one motivated by the miserable New York winter.

View of downtown Phoenix, Arizona
5. Phoenix

I re-ignited an age-old tradition this year by spending a week in Arizona for MLB spring training! Bonus that I have a ton of friends and family there, and my parents joined me as well.

Breakneck Ridge, New York
6. Breakneck Ridge

My friends somehow tricked me into climbing a mountain upstate, but I was well rewarded with ALL THE FOOD in Cold Spring after.

View from One Liberty Observatory Deck, Philadelphia
7. Philadelphia

I didn’t love Philadelphia, true, but I¬†was thrilled to take advantage of a transitional period and squeeze in an adventure!

Long Beach, New York
8, 11. Long Beach

I have, as you know, become quite the professional beach bum this summer. It’s just too easy to take advantage of!

Mural in Jersey City
 9, 12. Jersey City

I haven’t written about Jersey City at all, because I’ve just been hanging out at my friend Ashley’s apartment, but hey – the walk through Little India is cultural and the street art is on point.

Jones Beach
10. Jones Beach

Not my favorite beach, if only because it’s so hard to get to, but hey – can’t beat a day trip.

I’m excited to see just how many trips I can cram into 12 months – I’m off to Texas again on Wednesday, and I’m thinking at least one more beach trip before summer ends. But as I’ve learned – some of the best vacations are spontaneous!

Currently: August 2016

 

San Francisco-style building on the Lower East Side, New York City

I love this building on the Lower East Side – it reminds me of San Francisco!

It’s August! I’m actually really excited for this month – some people I love are celebrating birthdays, the summer excitement is still in the air but the promise of cooler weather is looming, and I have some exciting travels coming up – more exciting than New Jersey and Long Island, I promise. Here’s what I’ve been up to for the last 30 days!

Reading:¬†I finished¬†Americanah¬†this morning, and I loved it, but was super disappointed in the ending. I have a couple “easy” reads lined up next.

Wearing:¬†It’s been too hot and humid lately to wear anything but shorts (or skirts, to the office) and cotton tops.

Buying:¬†Just ice cream, mostly. (See: Way too hot outside. I’ve definitely become a hardened New Yorker!)

Listening to: I recently discovered the Best of Friends podcast and have been listening to old episodes on my commutes, especially when election coverage sends me running from NPR (I love NPR and their coverage, but sometimes you just need some humor in your day!)

Eating: Lots and lots of salads and fruit. I was REALLY proud of this fruit tray I put together for the opening ceremonies!

Watching:¬†Mostly re-watching old shows for the summer (Friends,¬†Grey’s Anatomy, Parks and Rec), and getting SO excited for the Gilmore Girls revival in November!

Planning:¬†My sister is doing most of the planning for this, but I’m going to visit her in Texas NEXT week! And then I’m heading upstate for Labor Day – but again, letting my friends do the planning. I think I wore myself out planning trips earlier in the year!

Excited for: TONS of travel, my best friend’s birthday this week, seeing my sister for the first time in over a year, picnics, my best friend from college visiting in October, etc etc etc

Books read: 25/52

Trips taken:¬†12/12 –¬†That’s right, I’M FINISHED! But not really. I can’t wait to see how high this number gets before January!

And how is YOUR August going?

World Trade Center, New York City, at sunset

A self-guided tour of Lower Manhattan’s ice cream shops

During the dog days of summer in NYC, it feels like there’s a new ice cream shop opening every weekend, and they all have a gimmick: They roll their ice cream, they shave their ice cream, they serve their ice cream with marshmallows or gold flakes or potato chips. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and you can let that feeling drive you to the bodega for a classic pint of Ben & Jerry’s – or you can dive right into the world of New York’s boutique ice cream shops.

When Emmie and I realized our list of places to try was growing exponentially, we decided that the only way to make a dent was to visit more than one at a time. So on Sunday, we put on our loosest clothing, feasted on carbs in preparation (it soaks up the dairy, probably) and ventured out in the rain to five of the trendiest, most Instagram-able ice cream spots in Lower Manhattan. Here’s what we discovered.

Magnum bar at Magnum Store in Soho, New York City

Magnum NYC Store

In this beautiful space – it’s seriously so bright and classy – you can customize your own Magnum bar. For only $7, you get a chocolate or vanilla bar dipped in chocolate (dark, milk or white), sprinkled with three toppings and drizzled with more chocolate. And¬†then you can blast it on social media using the decorated light boxes that are everywhere you turn. The Magnum Store knows what the people want.

I opted for a vanilla ice cream bar dipped in milk chocolate, covered in mint chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and gold flakes, and drizzled with white chocolate. In case you were wondering.

Strawberry balsamic ice cream at Morgenstern's, New York City

Morgenstern’s

Our next stop was perhaps our most traditional of the day. Rather than crazy concoctions and presentation, Morgenstern’s is known for their adventurous flavors. I had the strawberry balsamic (strawberry is my favorite flavor, but I knew I had to branch out¬†a bit here) and Emmie had green tea pistachio – both of which we highly recommend!

Mango ice cream at 10Below, Lower East Side, New York CityMango ice cream at 10Below, Lower East Side, New York City

10Below (Lower East Side location)

If you’ve been on Instagram in the past few months, you know 10Below. Here, cream and toppings are transformed into ice cream before your very eyes, and then rolled and placed into cups, just waiting to be Instagrammed. It was fascinating to watch the employee beat nothing but cream, mango chunks and strawberries into what became a creamy and delicious treat. I can speak highly of the mango flavor, and Emmie loved the Oreos variety, although another friend mentioned she wasn’t a fan of the Oreos when she visited. This place is a MUST if novelty is at all important to you when picking an ice cream spot.

Shaved cream at Snowdays, East Village, New York City

Snowdays (East Village location)

Snowdays specializes in “shaved cream,” which as far as I can tell, is ice cream with the texture of shaved ice. The portions here are HUGE, so Emmie and I decided to split a regular (small isn’t an option!) We opted for NY cheesecake flavor with rainbow sprinkles and blueberries (because it seemed like a good time to start caring about our health). The shaved cream was delicious, but the absolute highlight for both of us was the spoons: They change color when they’re cold!

Soft serve and friends at Chloe's, Union Square, New York City

Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.

I admit, this was a nostalgic choice for us rather than an adventurous one: Emmie and I met here in July 2014! This whole day was a celebration of our friendship and the shared love of frozen treats that brought us together. Chloe’s is one of my absolute favorite places, bias aside: It’s delicious AND healthy! I ended our adventure with strawberry soft serve – no toppings, because my stomach was DONE – and Emmie had mango with kiwis. Wonderful, as always.

Some notes:

  • This ended up being an excellent order to go in: Not only is it a relatively sensible walk (straight east, then straight north), but the ice cream really goes from heavy and extravagant to simple and light.
  • Sunday started out as a rainy day, so we got lucky and didn’t have to fight crowds. Some of these places – particularly Magnum and 10Below – are notorious for lines that wind around their blocks. We didn’t wait more than five minutes anywhere.
  • Eating ice cream all day makes one crave salt. We ended up at Friterie in the East Village shoving fries into our mouths, in between 10Below and Snowdays. Don’t¬†judge.
  • We really, truly loved all of these spots! For more dessert and NYC recommendations, check out my delightful guide to New York City.

What’s your favorite ice cream spot in New York City?

Getting to know New York’s beaches

When I moved to New York City from Phoenix two years ago, I thought one of the things I’d miss the most would be easy access to the Pacific Ocean. I was so used to packing my bags and jumping in the car on a whim every time I needed a beach vacation, and that became even easier when one of my best friends moved to Los Angeles after college. I thought having the beach a six-hour drive or 45-minute plane ride away was a luxury I was sacrificing in favor of my big-city dreams.

But as it turns out, New York has beaches. New York¬†City even has beaches. And this summer in particular – my third on the east coast – I’ve become a bit of a beach bum and begun exploring what it turns out are the many, many beach options a day-trip’s distance from my Brooklyn apartment. Granted, they’re not Malibu – but they’re not bad.

Long Beach

Long Beach, New York

I think Long Beach is my favorite of the New York beaches I’ve explored so far. It’s easy to get to – right off the Long Island Railroad, which you can get at Penn Station or at any number of stations in Brooklyn and Queens. Long Beach is also incredibly well-kept. Its only downside as far as I can see is that there’s a fee. BUT – pro tip- if you buy a beach getaway package at your train station, you get a round-trip ticket and a beach pass for less than $25. Worth it.

Jones Beach

Jones Beach

I wanted to go to Jones Beach because I had heard it was a really nice beach – not as crowded or dirty as some of the options closer to the city. It turns out that the reason for that is it’s very difficult to get to! We took the Long Island Railroad again, to Freeport, and had to catch a bus there to the beach itself. And after all of that, the beach was still pretty crowded. We still had a great day, though – it IS a clean beach, and there are a lot of food options and indoor spaces you can hang out in if it starts to rain (speaking from experience here). And it’s free! All told, though, it’s just not worth the hassle, especially when you factor in the unpredictability of traffic.

The Rockaways

Rockaway BeachThe Rockaways are the furthest-out of the New York City beaches. You can get there on the subway, which is awesome because it’s no extra money if you have an unlimited metrocard. There are a ton of food options as well – I’ve had some of my favorite tacos in NYC out by the beach. The Rockaways are my beach of choice for solo beach trips, without a doubt – you just can’t beat the convenience and value!

Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach is in BROOKLYN, which blows my mind on a regular basis. It’s also accessible via subway, but since it’s off multiple lines and isn’t very far from Manhattan, it gets very crowded and VERY dirty. I haven’t ventured out there at all this season because I’m very much of the “once was enough” mindset on this one. Still, it’s ideal if you’re crunched for time – a full “beach experience” can be had in half a day, easily.

Coney Island

Coney IslandOK, I’ve never actually been to the¬†beach at Coney Island (I walked out there just to take this photo), but I’ve spent enough time on the boardwalk to know that it’s not for me. It’s packed with tourists year-round, and is very much the east coast (and far inferior) Santa Monica. Hit it up if you want to eat at Nathan’s or ride the coaster, but if you want to lay out with a book – skip Coney Island.

Still on my list: The New York area has so many beaches and there are still so many I’m dying to visit! Next on my list are Jacob Riis Beach, Orchard Beach (this one’s in the BRONX of all places), and Sandy Hook in New Jersey. What are your favorite beaches in the area?