Tuesday, January 29, 2013

JackRabbit Sports

My friend Courtney is one of my running inspirations.  We met at work, and she started running about a year and a half before me, just blasting off.  When I saw how healthy she was getting, how gorgeous, and most importantly, how much happier she seemed after she started running, I knew I had to try it.  We don't run together nearly as often as I'd like to, but I do think of her as one of my running buddies, and I ask her for advice constantly.  When I first started, one of the first things she recommended was that I go to JackRabbit.  And now, I want to share that advice with all of you.

It's rare that I go to a specialty shop for anything, but JackRabbit really made me a believer, at least for running.  When you go to try on shoes, they video tape your feet as you run on a treadmill to make sure that the shoes are working with your stride, and correcting it where necessary.  The salespeople are always super-helpful, and offer honest advice about which products work and which don't. 

I was fitted for shoes for the first time in December, and Roger got his first pair over the weekend, and we both had really excellent service.  I went with a pair of Mizuno Wave Inspire 9, and Roger got a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13.  I'm completely happy with mine, and while Roger's still in the trial-period with his, if he decides they're not quite right, JackRabbit will let him exchange them for another pair within two weeks (so long as he doesn't go nuts and run through a giant mud-trail or something like that).  Their return policy for shoes is really generous, and they also have a shipment system, where you can have shoes over-nighted to your house or office, if you don't need to be fitted.

Of course, they have a wonderful array of other products, and while I tend to get my active-wear from Old Navy or at shopping outlets where they're a little more affordable, I have bought quite a few accessories from them, including a water-bottle with a special handle for carrying as you run, and some really great headbands.  Once I start doing my long runs this spring, I know I'll buy my gels and perhaps some other gear from them as well.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the store, though, are the activities they run.  Every year, they have a New Years resolution kick-off, where you can sign up to receive a free tech-shirt if you meet your goal.  They have tons of lectures during the year with runners, sports-medicine experts, and nutritionists.  And although I haven't taken advantage of them as much as I'd like to, they also have group runs from all of their locations, and free yoga and pilates classes.  They really seem to care about creating community here, and I definitely appreciate that.

One of my favorite things about running is the fact that you can do it with pretty few start-up costs.  I started with just an affordable pair of Vibram five-fingers and sweats, and I ran like that for over a year, with no problems.  If you haven't been running, you can start out now, too!  That said, now that I'm upping my mileage, I wanted something more supportive and padded, and knew that JackRabbit was just the place for a high-quality pair of shoes.  So, if you're in the market for some new gear, or you're looking for someone to run with, or you just want to learn something new, JackRabbit's the place for you!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Weekend Wanderings: Snowy Days

This weekend went by much too fast!  On Thursday, I got together with two of my closest friends, who are constantly busy.  We were all randomly free that evening, and decided to try the new Todd English Food Hall for dinner.  Two of grabbed a drink at the Champagne Bar before heading downstairs for dinner, and I had a nice Moscato d'Asti.  We had originally decided to go to Todd English for the restaurant week special, but ended up just getting separate meals instead.  We split a prosciutto and fig pizza as an appetizer, which was wonderful.  I ordered the chestnut and duck ravioli, which was also fantastic, but so rich.  The atmosphere was very casual, and while the prices were a bit high, they weren't completely insane.  Sadly, the rest of the food hall was closed when we finished the meal, so we weren't able to get any of the treats there, but I would definitely go back to get a Luke's Lobster roll and some Billy's Bakery icebox cake.

On Friday night at the apartment, we hosted some of Roger's colleagues and one of the artists they'll be exhibiting later this year.  It snowed, but we still had a really great group of people trek in from Queens and Brooklyn.  We put together some appetizers quickly, and ordered a pizza from our neighborhood pizza shop, and I think everyone had a nice time doing a bit of out-of-office socializing.

 On Saturday, we headed to Jackrabbit to get Roger a pair of running shoes.  He's going to run the Boilermaker with me this summer, and so we decided that it warranted a fancy new pair of shoes.  I bought him the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 as an early birthday present (very early - his birthday's in April), and we're hopeful that they'll provide the right amount of support as we both start running more.  We decided to walk home from the store, and started to walk along the park, which was gorgeous under a thin layer of snow.  It's been a long time since I've seen the snow I used to love as a kid, but even just a dusting makes me want to grab a sled.  Instead, we decided on the spur-of-the-moment to visit the Natural History Museum

It's one of my very favorite places in New York, especially the exhibit on New York ecology, but Roger had never been, so it was a fun way to spend the afternoon.  He was, of course, pretty appalled by the African peoples exhibit, but I think generally liked the rest of it.  I'd really love to see their exhibit on Our Global Kitchen, but at $19 for students, it's just a little bit expensive, so I'll likely have to skip it.  We headed back home for a bit and watched more Parks & Recreation, the latest show that we're obsessed with, and made a quick dinner of sandwiches.  Then, we headed to our friend Jamie's house for drinks, and to see Molly and Laura, who were in from out of town.  The whole motley crew of us headed to Swift Hibernian Lounge and spent the rest of the evening there.  It's a fun bar with a good beer list, so I'd definitely recommend it if you're searching for bars in SoHo. 

It was a late night for us, and we made it home around 3:45am, so of course, we stayed in bed late on Sunday.  I made a breakfast of blueberry pancakes, and we watched more Parks & Rec until finally heading to the gym and doing a bit of work in the evening.  Starting tomorrow, I'll be back in school, and I'm a bit nervous about losing my free time.  Still, I'm scheduling things closely and trying to keep on top of everything, so we'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Weekend Wanderings: Around the City

It's been a while since I posted a recap of my weekend, and that's not because we haven't been busy.  But, this was a particularly wonderful weekend, and I want to capture and savor it.

After work on Friday, Roger and I picked up a bottle of wine and headed to Brooklyn to visit our friend Danielle's apartment, where our other friend Allison was staying after being tattooed earlier that day.  We had a great time chatting over wine and cheese, which is probably my most favorite way of seeing friends (clearly I'm a bit of a homebody).  Since Allison lives in Ohio, and Danielle lives in Brooklyn, we don't see each other as often as I'd like, so it was great to catch up.  We headed out for a very late dinner to Oaxaca Taqueria, where we had some really fantastic tacos.

On Saturday morning, just as I was starting to feel like I hadn't accomplished much (a big problem for me on weekends - I'm no good at relaxing), Roger suggested we head downtown to run a few errands and get brunch with Rob.  We dropped books off at Bobst, went to the NYU bookstore to make sure they had all the right books for the class I'm teaching this semester, returned a book to the Strand, and finally found ourselves at The Smile.  The restaurant was a little bit pricey, but the ambiance was great and the food was so delicious!  I had ricotta with honey and pear, and it was just wonderful.  In the hopes of replicating it at home (and planning a fun activity for the day), we decided to try and make our own ricotta.  As it turns out, you make ricotta from the whey of other cheese, and so we decided to try and make our own mozzarella first. 

In order to find the rennet, we treked over to Chelsea Market (making a quick stop at Astor Wines on the way).  I'd never been to Chelsea Market before, and I was so excited to wander around and see all the shops.  It was a little crowded, but so much fun.  I can't wait to go back and try out some of the foods there!  We perused all the different shops, and bought a cheese-making kit from Lucy's Whey. 

We decided to stop at the Highline before heading home.  It's another spot I've always wanted to check out, and it was definitely worth the wait.  With the weather a bit warmer, we enjoyed the walk up the whole thing, and stopped for a while to see the El Anatsui piece that's on display in the northern part of the path.  The architecture was really cool, and everything seemed to mold together with the train tracks really well.  I can't wait to go back in the summer!

After seeing a poster for a chili-making competition, we decided we were all really craving chili, and headed back to Harlem for dinner at Dinosaur Barbecue.  Since it was a Saturday night, it was packed, and we waited at the bar for about an hour before we were seated.  The food was a little off that night, and so it wasn't quite as good as it has been in the past, but we had a good time in spite of that.  It was getting pretty late by the time we got back home, so we decided to save cheese-making for Sunday.

I was able to wake up early enough on Sunday to get to pilates and go for a quick run, which was wonderful.  I just feel so much better when I have a chance to get it out of the way in the mornings.  We cleaned for a while, and made some General Tso's tofu for dinner before starting on the cheese-making.  The process is another post for another time, but it turned out wonderfully, though it took longer than expected, and we enjoyed some delicious farmer's cheese at around 1am.  (Sadly, our ricotta never took, so we didn't get to re-create the pear dish I'd had earlier in the weekend.)

On Monday morning, while it seemed everyone else was at the Inauguration, I was doing laundry, and Roger was at a meeting.  After folding and a quick run, I headed back to Brooklyn to watch Blue Planet: The Deep with Dana and Michael, two friends from school who are equally obsessed with animals and poetry.  It was a really fascinating documentary, and the highlights for me were definitely the underwater lake, and a segment on a dead whale at the bottom of the ocean.  I can't wait to write some poems about it.

When I came home, Roger and I decided to go to the movies at the last minute, and saw Lincoln, which was excellent.  I'd thought we were the last people on earth to go see it, but the theatre was packed.  We splurged on popcorn and soda because we had a gift certificate from my sister, and it was pretty much the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.  With classes starting next weekend, I know things will get a lot more hectic soon, so I'm so glad we took the time to really enjoy things this weekend.  It will definitely stick in my memory for a long time.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Upward Dog

For the Yoga People of the World

I went to my first yoga class when I was a sophomore in high school.  It was run by one of the teachers there, and it was seriously amazing.  I was basically a stress-case in high school, and being forced to relax was the greatest thing ever.  Corpse pose was the first time I'd realized that I could take some time to myself, away from work, and just exist without thinking or worrying.  I was hooked, and have taken classes on and off since then.

We recently joined a gym that has branches right near the apartment and my office, and so I've started taking yoga there again.  It's a lot harder than some of the other classes I've taken, but everyone is welcoming and open, and I never feel pressure to do a pose that isn't working for me, so usually I take things slow and just tinker away at the poses I find difficult.

But today, I had a small breakthrough, and I wanted to share it here.  After never being able to move smoothly between an upward dog and a downward dog, I seem to have somehow managed it today.  I know my arms are getting stronger, because I can finally hold a plank, and this must have translated into my upward dog.  Because I have a very tight lower-back and not a ton of arm strength, I've always found this pose hard, but today, I was able to lift my legs up completely, and then push up through my toes without bringing my knees to the ground, for the first time ever.  It may not sound like a big deal, but for me, it was huge, and it absolutely made my day.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Things to Do in Harlem

I’ve lived in Harlem for about a year and a half now, but I realized I’ve never really written about our neighborhood and all the things to do here.  So, if you’re planning a trip to New York, and you want to spend a day in Harlem, here’s what I’d suggest:

Start your day with breakfast at Des Ambassades. Roger and I can be found here most Sunday mornings, waiting for our laundry to dry.  Everything on the menu is delicious, but for breakfast, I’d especially recommend the almond croissant, which I like to say is made with unicorn blood (it’s actually almond paste), and which is the best croissant I’ve ever eaten (even better than croissants I’ve had in France), with a coffee of your choosing.  They also have really delicious Senegalese dishes for dinner, and some truly amazing crème brûlée for dessert.  Once you’ve enjoyed your croissant, you’ll find you’re right in the middle of things, and that you can walk in nearly any direction and find something interesting to do. 

If you walk west, you’ll find Morningside Park, which is small, but has a few playgrounds, a duck pond, basketball courts, and some baseball fields.  If you walk up the steep stairs, you’ll find yourself in Columbia territory.  The campus is lovely, and worth a visit.  The Butler Library there often has exhibits up, and they’re usually interesting and free.  On Sundays, they have a small farmer’s market with some great booths.  You can also stop by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, one of the largest churches in the world, and also a work in progress since 1888.  There are also peacocks in the backyard!  If you’re in this area and ready for lunch, I’d recommend stopping at Toast or Mel’s Burger for lunch.  Both have great burgers and strong beer selections at reasonable prices.  Other great lunch places include: Blockhead’s, Dosa Cart, and Roti Roll.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

If you’d rather head south, you’ll find yourself passing Le Petit Senegal on 116th St.  If you’re interested in trying Senegalese food, there are a few good restaurants here to try, along with the Malcolm Shabazz outdoor market, where you can buy West African cloth and goods.  If you continue south, you’ll run into Frederick Douglass Circle, which has a nice plaza surrounding a statue of Frederick Douglass, featuring traditional African American quilt designs in its paving pattern. complex colored paving pattern that alludes to traditional African American quilt designs.  You can hop over to Larry’s Freewheeling and rent a bicycle here if you’d like to explore more of Central Park.  If you’d rather continue on foot, though, you can explore the northern tip of the park and Harlem Meer, a really lovely pond and the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, where you can borrow a fishing pole in the summer.  The Lasker Pool and Ice Rink is also relatively close, if you’d like to take a swim or go ice skating.  If all that activity gets you hungry, I’d recommend stopping at Maoz, a falafel chain that I think is really fantastic, on the bank of the pond.  You can also head back north a bit to Amy Ruth’s, which has some of the best southern food in Harlem (if you go, get their Kool-Aid of the day!), or Zoma, an Ethiopian restaurant with great platters to split.

Charles A. Dana Discovery Center
After lunch, you should head north, where you’ll pass “Swing Low,” one of my favorite sculptures in all of New York.  A statue of Harriet Tubman by Alison Saar (who you might remember from our trip to New Orleans), it’s facing south instead of north because Saar wanted it to stand as a reminder not of Tubman’s first journey north, but all the journeys she made south, where she risked her freedom to help others.  Keep heading north, and you’ll find yourself on 125th St, the most famous street in Harlem.  Here, you’ll find plenty of people selling various things on the street, along with a number of higher-end chain stores.  Drop by the Studio Museum, which has been featuring artists of African descent since 1968 and is open for free on the first Friday of every month. 

"Swing Low," by Alison Saar

At dinner-time, you’ll have several options for your meal.  The most obvious is Red Rooster, where Marcus Samuelsson serves up traditional southern food with a Swedish and Ethiopian flair. It’s gotten a lot of publicity, and I’ll be honest: it isn’t my absolute favorite restaurant in New York, but it’s strong and if you’re interested, definitely worth checking out.  Sylvia’s is next door, and though I’ve wanted to go for several years, I’ve still never tried it.  Likewise, Maison Harlem is supposed to be great, but I haven’t had a chance to go yet.  Corner Social, just across the street, has a good selection of American-fare, and Bad Horse Pizza, just a bit south, has fantastic brick-oven pizza in a calm, casual setting.

In the evening, you can also take in a show at the National Black Theatre or the Apollo Theater, a Harlem tradition.  If you’re in the mood for bowling, Harlem Lanes is right around the corner, as is the Magic Johnson Movie Theater, which I can tell you from personal experience is always an interesting spot to take in a movie.  In the evenings in the summer, there’s usually a concert at Marcus Garvey Park, and it’s almost always worth taking in.  There are a number of good bars in the area, including Shrine, 1020, Harlem Tavern, and Bier International.

And, when you’re ready to tuck-in for the evening, I’d recommend A-Loft, which is a really nice hotel at an affordable price, and centrally located near several subways and the M60 bus from LaGuardia.

I hope you'll come visit soon, and when you do, give me a call!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cooking with Kristin: New Year's Eve Shrimp and Beans

On New Year's Eve, Roger and I decided to make a big meal to ring in 2013.  The year before, we enjoyed black eyed peas for the first time, since it's apparently good luck.  We tried to do the same this year, but when I got to the grocery store, all the black eyed peas were sold out (we weren't the only people who wanted good luck, it seems).  So, I substituted cranberry beans for the black eyed peas in this recipe, changed some proportions based on what we had on-hand, and Roger says it's the best thing I've ever made.  (I really enjoyed it, too.)

New Year's Eve Shrimp and Beans (adapted from Epicurious)

For black-eyed peas:
  • 4 bacon slices 
  • 4 scallions, chopped 
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped 
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped 
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped 
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 (15-ounces) cans cranberry beans (or black-eyed peas) rinsed and drained 
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth 
For shrimp:
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 pounds large cooked shrimp (tails removed)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
Cook bacon in a large pan over medium heat until browned but not crisp. Transfer bacon to a plate, and chop when cooled. Cook scallions, carrot, celery, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves, red-pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in the bacon fat in the pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are cooked, about 10 minutes. Add beans and broth and simmer 5 minutes.

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Season shrimp with salt and black pepper. Cook shrimp with garlic, stirring occasionally, until warm.  (If you're using uncooked shrimp, cook until they are just opaque, and not fully cooked.) Add wine and bring to a boil, then briskly simmer 2 minutes. Add bacon and black-eyed-pea mixture to the pot and simmer until the flavors are mixed (about 10 minutes, the mixture will still be juicy). Discard bay leaves and enjoy plain or over rice!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

I'm not one of those people who never makes resolutions.  I really like goals, particularly achievable ones, and the new year really does feel like a fresh start for me.  Last year's resolution was to "get back into being more active, both physically (by running regularly and eating more healthily) and mentally (by reading more and sending out poetry submissions)."  I think I've done a fairly good job of that.  I read 40 books (5 more than in 2011), sent out 8 submissions (1 more than in 2011), and joined a gym to start taking classes (for the first time since 2008).  Eating healthily didn't go so well, but I accept that given how stressed I was all year, it's okay to let something slide.

I'd mostly like to keep that momentum going, particularly during what I know will be a grueling semester, so rather than just set big goals for the year (although I have those: run a marathon next January, read 45 books, and send out 52 submissions), I'm going to focus on small, achievable monthly goals.  I first read about this technique on the No Meat Athlete, and it really makes a lot of sense.  (Seriously, go read that post; it's excellent.)

I haven't decided on all 12 goals for the year, but I'll check in on the first of every month and update you (and me) on how the month went and what the new goals are.  For the first quarter, here's what you can look forward to:
  • January: Run three times a week.
  • February: Start a morning routine.
  • March: Drink more water.
Some pretty simple goals, but some things I'm really interested in making lifetime habits, not a one-time change.  I think 2013 is going to be a good year.  I'm looking forward to teaching for the first time, to writing my thesis, to graduating, to going out west, and to enjoying life to the fullest even when things feel overwhelming.

What are your resolutions/goals for the new year?  Anything you're particularly looking forward to?