Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Destination: Savannah, Georgia

“Are you interested in purchasing that house?” He said to Gman and I as we stood tiptoed peering into the windows of a brick-faced two story townhouse. It had a wraparound porch that was covered with intricately curving rod iron gates. The man startled us from our daydream. “No, we’re just looking,” we replied. “Oh, well I know the owners and they are very interested in sellin’ it.” He continued as we strolled with him and his dog down the brick-paved sidewalk. What are we doing? I thought to myself. Why are we talking to this random stranger? It went against my instincts, but something about his demeanor lead us to continue our conversation. He was so unguarded and genuinely interested in chatting with us while his dog sniffed around the planters by our feet.

“I live here in this house with my wife." He pointed to one in a few doors down. "Twenty years ago we were livin’ in the city. We both had prominent jobs and lived in a shoe-box apartment. We came to Savannah on vacation and decided we must stay. Savannah offered us the lifestyle we always dreamed of – we could still take advantage of city perks like walking to restaurants, shopping, and entertainment, yet we could enjoy the slow pace of a small town. Because of the art school [Savannah School of Art and Design] this otherwise sleepy Southern town is always fresh and youthful. So we bought this house and have been fixini it up ever since. We found jobs that we can walk to and meet friends for brunch on the weekends...”

As he talked my mind started wandering, he was describing a life I once dreamed about - and still do from time to time. How nice it would be to have the best of both the country and the city, to have a relaxed pace but still make a living, or to have a house but also walk to the store. How exciting to go on vacation and then become so inspired that you make a choice like that and change your life!

Gman asked him questions here and there, and I just smiled and nodded. We greeted the other neighbors as they walked by, some even stopped to briefly catch up. Then we changed our mind from “just looking” and said, “We do like the house, but it’s out of our budget.” He smiled. I half expected our new friend to invite us in for coffee and biscuits, but we said our good-byes and thanked him for his time.

It was in that moment I was hooked on Savannah.

Our friends were waiting for us and we hurried to meet up with them then continued our explorations. We came here with the same couple years before, and stayed in the same Bed & Breakfast, the Eliza Thompson House. What makes Savannah unique is a mix of historic Southern town, college party town, and a healthy dose of hospitality. Each time we come here our goal is to recharge our batteries.

For this trip, Gman and I drove into town after spending two weeks down in Florida visiting family and friends. While it was incredible to spend that much time with our families, as neither of us has had that much time off in years. But when you are on an emotional high for two weeks, constantly being stimulated with stories and visits and activities, then eating and drinking whatever is put in front of you, you realize you’re tired once you sit down and take a time out. We often joke about taking a vacation from our vacation, and this time when our friends called we jumped at the idea of spending 36 hours in Savannah for New Year’s Eve.

If you only have 36 hours in Savannah, spend most of your day walking the streets and checking out the architecture, parks, the historic cemetery and Cathedral of St John the Baptist. Grab some coffee from Gallery Espresso for a mid-morning pick-me-up. Then go to Shop SCAD to pick up some affordable original artwork created by the students as a souvenir {more on that later}. You might try Mellow Mushroom {pizza} or Six Pence Pub {English pub grub} for lunch. If you prefer brunch I recommend J Christopher's.

 Although it can be filled with tourists {who cares, you are one}, go down to the waterfront to do some people watching. Grab a beer to-go if you’d like as you can drink in the streets here. This is a novelty that will never get old.

Go back to your room to refresh and perhaps squeeze in a nap. Then head to Crystal Beer Parlor for an authentic local Savannah experience and cuisine. After dinner walk over to Savannah Smiles for dueling pianos. The fun part here is that it’s a mix of locals and tourists, and you can pay to have a message written on huge mirrors behind the stage. People get really into it around football playoff season. Be warned that they will write just about anything so this is not for the faint of heart. If you like to be scared, Savannah is also known for being haunted and many visitors love to go on a haunted pub crawl.

We enjoyed our time there for New Year’s, but I’ve heard the best celebrations are for St. Patrick’s Day. It looks like you have just enough time to book your trip and check it out!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekend Recap: Shopping, eating, drinking

As I mentioned on Friday, one of my best friends {college roommate} came to visit this weekend. Time together was long overdue. It was her first visit to DC and we had so much planned - sight seeing, art museums, brunch, shopping, dancing... but we ended up spending most of our time eating, drinking, and shopping. We'll have to get to the rest next time.

We went shopping in Georgetown and I totally scored with this necklace! It's green leather and I dig the geometric shapes. It's different than anything I already have and I can't wait to take it from winter to spring. I got it at Charm in Georgetown. They also have it in tan, if you think you might need one.

After shopping Stephanie and I got into some cupcakes at Sprinkles and then went out dancing. I just love girl's weekends... {sigh}

Sunday we had taco night with Tammy and her husband. mmm mm!

What did you do this weekend? Did you take it easy or paint the town red? If you were in DC, did you just love the perfect weather we had?

taken with instagram

Friday, January 27, 2012

Shoe Love: In the Streets, Remy

Hooray it's Friday! I've been counting down the hours! One of my best girlfriends is coming to town and I can't wait to share my favorite things with her this weekend.

I've got girl's night on the mind, so let me introduce you to Remy's go-to party shoes. I can imagine dancing my booty off while wearing these babies. You can't go wrong with a red satin pump accented with jewels on the vamp. It's only too bad we don't wear the same size.

Happy weekend, dear readers!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Eataly, New York City

I've been hearing so many good things about Eataly. How authentic it is, how delicious it is, how interesting people like to go there, and how it's an "it" place to go to in the Flat Iron District. You might recognize the names of one of the partners, Mario Batali. But what is it? I've always wondered. So on a very cold winter's day, I had to go and find out.

Eataly is a mix of grocery store, coffee shop, charcuterie, cheesemonger, bookstore, and wine bar all rolled into one little destination that is greater than the sum of its parts. Almost everything is freshly imported from Italy and is 100% authentic to Italian cuisine. Their philosphy is to consume the highest quality products that are produced in a fair, clean environment, and to share them with friends and family. There is a bakery with fresh breads, a chocolatier with decadent treats that look through the glass displays like puppies in a pet store - just begging me to scoop them up and take them home. Imported specialty jams, sauces, vinegars, and olive oils pattern every nook and cranny to an exhibition designer's dream and foodie's delight, as each package is new, exciting, and perfectly organized. At every turn I was overwhelmed by the impecably fresh selection, beautiful displays, crisp, modern design, and the hords of people. This is not a well kept secret! If it was 10 degrees when we went, I can't imagine the crowd when it's nice out. But still, I found myself drooling and wanting to buy everything I saw.

My girlfriend, Katie, eats here often for a lunch-time panini, so if you go, I recommend grabbing one of those, some freshly sliced cured meats, a cheese plate, oh! and some specialty chocolates, warm bread, wine, a cappuccino....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tips to Travel By: Like a Local

I talk about going to New York City so much, it's about time I gave you some tips on how to act like a local the next time you visit. These tips will help you blend in and have a more enjoyable experience.

There is strict sidewalk etiquette in the City. Please treat sidewalks like roads, slower traffic to the far right, pass on the left, stay in your lane, and above all DO NOT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK. Tourists are especially guilty of this when stopping to take a picture. If you see something you like, pull over and wait for the traffic to clear. New Yorkers aren't rude for running you over, you are inconsiderate for not paying attention to those around you.

In many places I've been it is considered polite to greet a random person with pleasantries before asking for directions. In New York however, it is considered rude if you waste people's precious time. New Yorkers would be glad to help you find the fab restaurant you are looking for, but they are busy, so ask quickly.

Know what you want to order when you reach the front of the line. This goes for coffee shops, bars, and fast food restaurants. Similar to above, no one has time for you to decide if you want decaf or regular. We have important places to be, like 10 minutes ago.

It is not only OK but encouraged to carry coffee with you wherever you go. It's a thing. Just do it.

If at all possible, make reservations at every restaurant where you plan on eating. Unlike many other cities, it isn't necessary to wait for a table here. You will get better service if the wait staff expects you. If you don't make reservations or the place you want to go doesn't take them, you will have to wait for a table, sometimes for an hour or more. In these situations, I recommend taking a seat in the bar area. There are two benefits to this: you don't have to wait for a table and you get personal service from the bar tender. Gman and I do this often. We like the convivial atmosphere of the bar too.

Lastly, if you do find yourself getting frazzled by the fast pace, go to Central Park and take a stroll around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. I used to run around it as often as I could to de-stress.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Discovering Art and Art History: The Key Players

Hello and welcome back to Discovering Art and Art History. There are many important players that make up the art world. I’ll skim the surface for you today and we will look at them closer in the weeks to come. This is in order to start everyone on the same page and so I stay organized. If you have any questions, or if I left someone out, please comment below and I will respond. I always find the discussion of art to be the most fun!

 Artists are the backbone of the art world, clearly. There are many different types of artists – illustrators and graphic designers make up a large portion of artists employed by companies to help create advertising, branding and media campaigns. They also work for companies like Pixar and create the virtual world of animated film and video games.

Traditional artists who work in media like sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, and print, also find work from museums and galleries to create exhibitions or by building relationships within the industry. For example, they might be represented by a dealer who sells their work and takes a commission. If you ask your friends, you might be surprised to find you probably know an artist. Ask them how they make their living or what type of work they prefer. You might even ask them to see their studio or to purchase a piece of their work.

The art object is what the artist creates for the viewer to consume. Thinking about this reminds me of the question, “What is art?” Traditional art objects are things like paintings and sculpture. Today, art objects also include experiences and performances. Art can be divided into categories such as decorative art, fine art, craft, and books and manuscripts. With each new media produced, controversy creates discourse about the virtues of art.

The viewer is as important as the artist and the art object. The viewer is the whole reason for making art! Art is made to be looked at and to be experienced. It's important to note that the intended audience changes over time and from object to object and should be considered when trying to look at a piece in context and determine its meaning.

The function of an art museum is to preserve the history of the art, promote scholarship, and educate the public. Creating a public space for the everyday person to look at art is an enlightenment idea that developed out of the French Revolution during the 18th century. To keep this post relatively simple, after the revolution the Louvre was converted from the king’s castle to the museum we know it as today. It was a symbolic gesture towards democracy.

Today there is controversy over whether art museums are still relevant to contemporary life and whether the public finds art that is non-representational and self-reflexive, to be meaningful.

Art dealers sell art. They are like the retail stores of the art world and they are the means by which many people purchase art. They know the art markets’ ins and outs and have a direct relationship with artists. As a purchaser, having a healthy rapport with a dealer will help you develop your taste and collection. In addition to selling art, they offer appraisal services.

Because art is such a subjective commodity, the market for it is also subjective. Basically, things are worth as much as people are willing to pay for them. Often, un-educated purchasers are taken advantage of by unscrupulous dealers. Not only that but some dealers don’t fairly compensate the artist for their work, which has given many an untrustworthy reputation. But not all dealers are dirty dogs. I will introduce you to a few who are making great strides to provide their clients with high quality objects for fair prices.

Auction houses are the wholesalers of art. If a dealer does not purchase work directly from the artist, they generally buy it wholesale from the auction house. Auction houses get works of art from individuals, dealers, and estates and offer them for sale in auctions. Specialists working in auction houses lead the market in terms of determining the value of artworks. They establish prices and have to judge the value, if they are wrong then the work fails to sell or is undervalued, etc. The exciting part about the auction is that once the auctioneer starts, the outcome is left in the hands of the bidders. Auction houses also offer appraisals with the intent of offering the property for sale.

Art education is essential from grade school and beyond, we need it to be enlightened citizens. Its important not only to learn how art is made and to create it but to understand the history of the world through the objects. They are a direct link to the past and to the present. In addition, the study of art and art history combines other educational disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, linguistics, history, and science.

Critics are a touchy one. They review or critique exhibitions, institutions, and individuals. A lot of people get annoyed with critics, because it's easier to talk about something than to actually do it. But I find them useful as they give feedback about the success of a show or if I can't go see something in person, their reviews are a great resource.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekend Recap: Alice Waters at the National Portrait Gallery

This was amazing and literally melted in my mouth. I'm drooling again as I look at this picture...

Alice Waters with her portrait, photographed by Dave Woody

The highlight of my weekend was Friday night at the National Portrait Gallery. They hosted an event honoring Alice Waters as her portrait was added to the collection. She is important to me not for her philosophy in seasonal, sustainable living {which is good too} but because she taught me to cook with her cookbook, The Art of Simple Food. It is my food bible. What a treat to see her and to sample the delicacies of the best D.C. chefs, like Todd Gray and José Andrés, and mixologist Adam Bernbach.

It was difficult not to indulge myself and I was even talked into trying oysters! I am a seafood hater, so this was huge. I didn't gag but I can't say I will eat another one. Here's how it went down, if you don't believe me {mom, Gman} ...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shoe Love: In the Streets, Melanie

Welcome to our second installment of Shoe Love: In the Streets!

Whenever I see my friend Melanie, she's pulled together with a smile on her face. She's a typical New York girl {in a very good way!}: in addition to lovin' some head to toe black, she is always wearing sky high stilettos or high heeled boots. I'm not one to shy away from wearing heels for eight hours, but I wondered how she does it day after day. So I asked. Her secret is her love affair with Cole Haan Nike Airs. I particularly love how these booties are a multifunctional wardrobe staple and completely chic at the same time.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Crif Dogs, NYC

Crif Dogs on St Marks Street is a drunken late night staple for many a New Yorker. The place has the perfect tiny, dive-y, this-has-been-here-forever vibe that you can only find in NYC. Not to mention the selection of dogs is incredible. Do you like 'em plain? Do you want cream cheese, chives, hot sauce and everything bagel sprinkles? What about avocado and mayo with a dog wrapped in bacon? Do you like tots and root beer too? It can all be yours here. They even have veggie dogs for your veggie friends. There is no excuse not to stumble into this place.

There is also something secretive, special, and important about Crif Dogs. It is the gateway to PDT or Please Don't Tell. PDT is a speakeasy which is hidden inside of Crif Dogs. The only way into it is with a reservation {good luck} and through a phone booth. I'm glad we had some drinks here before Tony Bourdain announced it to the world on The Layover because it was insanely packed last weekend. If you can get a reservation then it's worth checking out. The atmosphere is exclusive, old fashioned, and totally sexy. I tried the bacon flavored whiskey last time we went. It was delicious, as I like to say, "bacon makes it better." Just be careful how much you drink - it's about $20 a pop and adds up fast.

Review: Cookshop, NYC

It's always difficult for me to decide where to eat, especially for brunch. It is my favorite meal of the week after all. I love the idea of eating breakfast at noon and lingering at a table for 2-3 hours drinking coffee and mimosas at the same time. Usually if I commit to brunch, that's all I'm doing that day. And I especially like brunch in NYC. I might argue it's what they do best.

Luckily last weekend, my girlfriend narrowed it down for me with four suggestions. We choose Cookshop because of the variety on their menu and location. I couldn't resist descriptions like, "Skillet Baked 'Dutch Baby' Pancake," and words like "caramelized onions" in the same dish as "buttermilk biscuit" and "bacon." I just couldn't.

The atmosphere was typical for the neighborhood {Chelsea} - groups of young people, and new families {read: babies, but not one of them cried! amazing}. I don't remember if music was playing but the sun softly lit the space as the wait staff bustled around us, and were just the right amount of attentive.

We started with the Cookshop Breakfast Pastries. I highly recommend these and if I was a naughty girl I would have ordered a second plate just to eat for myself. I've never had sweet potato bread before and I very much liked it! Sweet, moist, and cake-y, not unlike banana dense, flaky chocolate chip scone melted in my mouth. Finally, the cranberry apple muffin with maple butter, let's just say I ate more than my portion. I would have stabbed someone with my fork to eat more of that crumbly topping and warm fluffy cake {muffins are breakfast cake. It's true. Get over it.}

Each of us had a hard time choosing a main course and I ended up with the Cookshop Scramble. It had a unique flavor that I kept taking more bites of just to investigate. I liked the biscuit and eggs together but it was a bit rich for me to eat more than a few bites of.

Maybe next time I'll get down with my badself and have a full serving of the breakfast pastries and skip the eggs...

Tip for eating brunch in NYC: like most of your other meals in the city, you will need to make a reservation.
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