Sunday, August 28, 2011

NYC July 2011 – Day Five (and Six) – The Closing Ceremonies

Well, I can’t really tell you what our second to last morning in NYC looked like, because we pretty much missed it.  Closing down the bar is hard work (haaaard wooork!  Sorry, inside joke with my coworkers).  Let’s just say we took advantage of my travel perks rewards, which included a 4PM checkout.

Before hailing a cab and schlepping all our stuff over to our friends’ apartment, I had one last errand to run.  After being lured to the knish place’s neon display the other night, I knew I couldn’t leave the city without a knish shirt, like the ones that had beckoned to me in the dimly lit storefront.  We stopped in, where I was able to scope out the actual space and dig through a huge box of shirts (obviously, we weren’t the only ones entranced by the storefront display).  Although I admit I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get greeted in Yiddish (as they greeted my husband the day before), I still scored a bright yellow shirt with all the appropriate stuff on it: name of place, address, phone.  Designed to advertise, not win any graphics awards.  Which works for me.  Below, I bring you Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery:

Apparently, you also don't have to be Jewish to be greeted in Yiddish either... (at least in hubby's case):

Guess we weren't the only ones who thought a souvenir from Yonah was mandatory:

I enjoyed our stay at the Thompson, but nothing really completes a visit to a new city like spending the final day in the company of good friends, hosting you at their very own abode.  Oh, and having a BBQ in their backyard (yep, they lucked into a rare amenity for Manhattanites – outdoor space).  Even though I know the joke is on myself, there’s a certain sense of…  what to call it…  ridiculous snobbery… when passing the other tourists whose stay is confined to corporate hospitality, and heading right into someone's home.  It’s as if you’ve received the secret key to join the locals.  And, again, it’s a completely misplaced conceit, considering we just left a hotel ourselves.  Even so, a trip to any city seems to gain a special sense of authenticity when you're shown around by good friends, as opposed to Frommer's.  It was time to say good-bye to our stellar room with a view.

So long...


Adieu, adieu...

To you and you and yooooou...

By the time we arrived at our friends' East Village apartment (“We’ll be there by 1:30,” “OK, looking more like 2:00,” “3:30 at the latest I swear!”), S already had the charcoals on the grill, and drinks were being poured.  While waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive, we kicked back and relaxed on the patio.  The next few hours included brats, burgers, Run DMC and good conversation under the quiet watch of the trees stretching above us.

Neighbors' fancy place (to the far right):

Ahh, the food.  S is a master of the grill (and smoker, don't get me started on his fanfreakingtabulous brisket).  Proof of his mad skills:

The liqueur known as Unicum made an appearance, courtesy of Zwack, courtesy of Hungary:

Oh.  I forgot to mention.  It was also the 4th of July.

Now, I’ve celebrated our Independence Day in many cities (watching the Pops Orchestra in Boston, a tiny local parade in Maine, several in Chicago...).  But somehow it seems fitting that the best place I’ve seen them yet was this evening in NYC.  After dinner, we meandered up the stairs to our friends’ roofdeck (more roof with a few chairs than a proper deck, but still).  Although the five-story building couldn’t offer us a completely unobstructed vista, it did provide for very entertaining viewing.  Besides the official fireworks, which were launched on the west side, you can always depends on the locals to join in the festivities with a few illegal sparklers.

While this entry is a little shorter on pictures (insert sigh of relief here), I still have a final round of them to share with you, accompanied by a brief video that allows you to hear the locals' antics, as well as see it.  Unfortunately, after numerous attempts to upload another video of what I think may be the best rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (ever), Blogger disagreed.  Try as I might, it ended up a massive fail.  Just imagine it being sung grandly, loudly, and drunkenly off-key.  But, with feeling!

Looking northwest, where the official pyrotechnics would be based.  Wouldn't you know it, I spy the Empire State Building, too.  Show off!

The neighbors over on Avenue D:

Doing their best to see the show:


Overall, it was a fabulous show, even with the somewhat compromised views (of the official fireworks...  we had front-row seats for the many impromptu displays).  As we closed in on the end of our NYC trip, I felt as if all of New York were throwing us the most awesome send-off party.  Like our very own closing ceremony for what can definitely be considered an Olympian visit (Gold: Eating.  Silver: Shopping.  Bronze: Margarita-ing ;).

With a flight to catch in the morning, and it being a "school night" for our friends, we turned in comparatively early.  And before we knew it, we were bidding our most excellent hosts a fond farewell, grabbing a cab, and watching New York whiz by us all the way back to LaGuardia.  As I watched cars and buildings slip backwards in the window, I thought of all the amazing things we got to see, eat, drink and, yes, buy.  My brain was already writing a “dang it, we didn’t get to do/shop/eat/drink/see this” list in my head.  Which includes all of Brooklyn, other parts of Manhattan, and some spots in Queens I had been told to check out.

Final scenes from our trip:

Heading back into the tunnel:

Eh.  You can’t do it all.  Even in 130-odd hours of being there.  We were bummed we didn’t get to cover everything.  But there’s an upshot to having unfinished business.

It means we’ll be back :)

Images: all my own

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Question To You, My Readers...

Ladies and Gents:

My little blog is coming upon its one year anniversary.  I am very grateful for all the views this has received, and I have thoroughly enjoyed writing it.  No, no!  I'm not leaving.  Rather, I feel my approaching milestone is a great opportunity for changing the blog up a bit.  I know some of these posts are a little lengthy.  Sometimes my own eyelids start to droop from the marathon reading.

Starting soon, I plan to offer you briefer posts, but more frequently.  Right now, my mantra is going to be, "One."  Maybe it's one dress, one interesting topic in the fashion-sphere, or one new designer.  Can't promise just one photo, but I don't plan to assault you with 100+ anymore, either.

Here's where my question comes in...  with the upcoming change, I am considering archiving the "Mir Gefaellt Es" name.  German speakers aside, the name - while fun and actually fitting - leaves many people's tongues tied.  Also, if anyone wants to refer my blog to someone else, it's not exactly a name that is easily recalled (or pronounced).

When I started this blog, nearly a year ago, my friend E and I sat around in my dining room, had a glass of wine, and tried to come up with a great name for it.  Eventually, "Curating Maggie" won out.  It also seems fitting, as all the things I like - that gefaellt mir - essentially shape who I am.  It's an ongoing act of curating the self, via showing you clothes I love, places I eat, and so on.

Then, someone asked me what the name of this baby would be.  And when I was about to tell them, I had some weird gag reflex.  I promptly started thinking of another name - something different - and, thus, you got Mir Gefaellt Es.

I know it sounds a little strange to be asking you guys whether we should keep Mir or ditch it, but I feel like, at least for my regular readers, that's how you've come to know this page.

So, I'd love your feedback.  Keep Mir?  Or adopt Maggie?  I've already asked a few friends about the format change, and they've been very supportive of the new direction.

Again, I can't thank you enough for all the encouragement I have received about this endeavor.  I admit to checking the audience stats for the blog (a lot), and it gives me a serious thrill to know you're tuning in not just locally, but internationally.  вы так много, 당신을 순전히 감사하십시오, thank you so very much, and of course, Vielen Dank!  I sincerely hope you find my chattering and sharing both informative and entertaining.

The last NYC post will be up shortly.  After that, I hope you'll join me as Mir Gefaellts Es (or...  Curating Maggie) continues my love affair with fashion, shopping and whatever else gets the "Like" button!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

NYC July 2011 – Day Four – And She’s Off!

If I awoke all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed like a racehorse ready to spring out of the gate, the sun wasn’t cooperating with my attitude.  The morning looked even more bloated and humid than the previous day, and this was the one time in NYC that we were expecting rain.

However, not even storm clouds could dampen my energy that grey morn.  Today was THE day – Shopping Day!!!  I’d hit the hay early the night before, so I'd be in optimal shape, ready to attack store after glorious store.  While I had a short list of must-go-to shops, I was also relying on the 2 L’s (my friend, L, and luck) in hopes of stumbling across unknown places.

After a walk through SoHo, a short train ride, and another stroll, we ended up back in the Meatpacking District.  Naturally, food was on the brain, so we headed towards yesterday’s lunch spot, where 14th Avenue, 9th Street, and Hudson Street all sort of collide, and where we’d seen plenty of other eating options.  As we walked towards that intersection, we passed by a storefront that made us put on the brakes.  My husband and I are fans of designer toys from the likes of Kid Robot, Gloomy Bear and other artists.  We are also pulled like ridiculous magnets to funky kids’ stores.  We’re not talkin’ the Children’s Place, mind you.  Or, um, other typical mall retailers, the names of which I don’t know because, well, we don’t have kids.  I’m not even sure how to explain it, so I’m just going to show you the pictures.  They can easily illustrate our quirky taste in stuff.  

I want to thank the staff at Yoyamart for not only stocking such fabulous items (I sooo wanted to buy a couple of the large framed art pieces), but also being very gracious and letting me take some pics in the store.  If any of you readers are lucky enough to visit NYC – or even luckier still to call it home, I command you to stop by Yoyamart and experience the happiness for yourself.  Who knew that a store geared towards kids could be so dangerously appealing to adults without rugrats?

Love the art!

More art I covet:

Kiddie-sized Corb and Eames chairs (but in white?  Really?):

A couple re-edited shots including that great art...

By now my tummy was grumbling fairly loudly, so we proceeded straight to Pastis for a quick lunch.  L and S were meeting up with us shortly.  S and my husband had already planned an afternoon of exploring the city.  L, of course, was about to partake in my shopping marathon.  While waiting for them to arrive, we enjoyed a light lunch (nothing too heavy, can’t risk feeling full and tired with all the activity ahead of me).  I decided on another lox and cream cheese bagel, knowing it’s just not the same outside of NYC.

Once lunch was over, we wandered over to Chelsea Market and snooped around.  I actually got a head-start on shopping before L arrived, scoring an Eva Franco sample frock at a designer outlet called Privé.  Here are some snaps:

I couldn't decide if this spigot feature was cool or creepy:

Do I see…  clothes???  (Yep, this is where I bought the dress).

Fabulous seafood place:

L called to let us know they were here, and we agreed to meet up at the fashionista mecca known as the Diane von Furstenberg flagship store.  On the way over, we passed the McQueen boutique.  I didn't have time to stop in, and that's probably a good thing.

As you already know, I’m a big fan of "DVF" and her beautiful clothing (and accessories).  You can read here for more fawning.  Stepping inside the store, my heart skipped a little beat.  I.  Wanted.  Everything.  This season’s offerings are big on the color-blocking, and many pieces seemed to call out to me from the rack…  “Try me on!”  “Give me a shot!”  “You know you want me!”  Heh heh.  I succumbed and took a number of things into the dressing room.  Here’s what made the initial cut into the room:

I always gravitate towards anything red:

Loved the color of this skirt (burnt orange, Hook 'Em, Horns!).  But the hem was just a little too long and the cut a little too A-line:

This dress looked great on the rack, and on the Shopbop model below, but as soon as I donned it, I felt all Stars on Ice.  I really don't want to be Stars on Ice.  I can't even skate.

Much better, including the shoes:

Ultimately, I bought two dresses: the red one and the raisin-colored one.  While their lines are fairly simple and clean, the strong colors keep them from looking boring.  I love that the raisin dress has a rose gold-hued zipper as well.  The amazing red suede shoes also pleaded with me, but no!  I had to refuse.  (Besides, I’ve found them elsewhere and am waiting to see if they go on sale…)

By this time, the guys had fled.  L and I were on our own and more than ready to tackle our huge task.  I had L take a photo of me with my first official shopping stop:

We then looped back over to neighboring shops that I’d seen yesterday, including Theory (home of work separates which boast wonderfully fluid fabrics and tailoring), Vince (I honed in on a black leather shell), and Trina Turk, she of the bright tropical colors and playful patterns.

I don’t have pics from my Theory stops (L and I also wandered into the SoHo store the day before), but here’s what I tried on (the dress in black, not blue as shown below):

Me trying on the fab leather shell at Vince (sorry, camera phone pic):

Public art by KAWS, compliments of the Standard Hotel.  We love it.

Looks like the meatpacking is alive, well and co-existing just fine with all the boutiques and restaurants:

Yes, L, we must stop inside Trina Turk, which wins points for store design from me:

Of course I had to try some pretty things on:

Knowing we had a lot more ground to cover, L and I departed the Meatpacking District and headed back towards SoHo.  As we migrated over, the dreaded rain began to fall.  Thankfully, it wasn’t an all-out downpour.  More of a humid drizzle.  We ducked into the Diesel store to dry off, and I scouted its two levels in hopes of finding a purse I’d seen online, which has sadly sold out.

After the unsuccessful purse search, we moved on to other stores.  One of L’s recommendations was Uniqlo, otherwise referred to as the “Japanese Gap.”  Initially overwhelmed by its size and massive amounts of stuff everywhere, the survival shopping instinct kicked in, and I scanned the racks methodically and somewhat ruthlessly.  I didn’t come to NYC for t-shirts and chinos, so a lot of Uniqlo’s offerings were immediately crossed off the list.  However, I did get pulled into the room which boasts their collaboration with Jil Sander, known as +J.  There, I found a light khaki windbreaker I liked (despite a fellow shopper’s need to tell me khaki is not a good color for me…  which, thanks lady, but I already know that…  I just don’t care in this case).  Uniqlo:

My best Uniqlo score, however, almost didn’t happen, save that L had picked up some jeans.  I was about to head to the checkout line, when she showed me her find.  She adored the ones she already owned and decided it was a great opportunity to snag another pair in a different color.  Now, my body was telling me to call it quits.  My feet were getting tired from all the walking, the eyes were definitely starting to glaze over, and my back was beginning to cuss me out from the backpack now stuffed with dresses and a couple other finds.  Plus, I was a sweaty mess from the rain, humidity and body heat from the overpopulated stores.  Game over?

I’ll tell you, serious shopping really should be considered a sport.  And something inside me said, “Get the damn jeans and try them on.”  OMUG (as in, oh my Uniqlo goodness): I have found the most perfect jeans.  EVER.  And they’re (relatively) cheap!  $39.99 I recall.  Seriously.  I thought I was overdoing it by buying a white pair and black pair.  Now I’m considering a return trip to NYC, with the main reason being BUYING MORE UNIQLO JEANS.  In fact, for the style that fit me so well, one in every darn color.

L had one more store she wanted me to see before we both passed out from over-shopping.  Backpack now truly heaving from the addition of denim, I trooped alongside her, back to the Lower East Side.  We passed some fun signage on the way:

There was an accessories boutique where she suspected I’d find a great purse.  As we arrived, we were met by a large “going out of business” sign.

The good news is there are two stores, and while this one is closing, the other is doing just fine.  The even better news was that everything was on sale.  The place, simply called Bag, indeed had many great bags, scarves and wallets.

My insane shopping excursion closed with a pretty yellow scarf (under $20) and a nice bucket bag in a very versatile saddle brown tone.  I use it all the time – work, running errands, going out to dinner.

The marathon was over.  L and I crossed the finish line in one piece.  Exhausted and sweaty, but victorious!

I returned to the hotel to drop everything off and chill out for a bit before dinner.  This turned out to be a wise move, as I was about to enter yet another endurance event – dinner, a date with Death (+ Co.) and my karaoke singing debut. 

Our friends selected the Breslin, which cozies up next to the Ace Hotel, as our final restaurant stop for our vacation.  Hopping on the train for one more ride, we headed up to Midtown an enjoyed a short walk up the street.  Having always hung out in the background like a Where’s Waldo game, the Empire State Building now loomed over us in the foggy sky, making for a gorgeous, atmospheric image:

Some more pics from our walk to dinner:

Interesting art displays:

In action:

Couch, anyone?

We got to the Ace, which was teeming with tourists and local 20-somethings alike in the lobby.  And what a lobby!  Kind of like a library for taxidermists, or a friend’s party loft stocked with books and dentist’s cabinets (or both), I very much enjoyed the room’s design and lighting.

I can haz entire animal kingdom?  Cuz I wants:

While the Breslin is known for its meats, I have declared it should be touted for one of its drinks – the Pickleback.  But what is this, you ask?  Why, I reply, it's a shot of whiskey followed by a chaser of pickle juice.  I'm not kidding.  Although available elsewhere, it was new to me, and it became the highlight of my equally delicious meal.

More scenes from the Ace Hotel and dinner at the Breslin:

We found the plug-ins convenient.  My parents would find this totally obnoxious.

The menu:

We started with the salt & cracked pepper crisps (basically very tasty house-made potato chips), then moved on to the terrine board, sampling all sorts of treats including patés, pickles and – yum! – headcheese (don’t know what that is?  Wikipedia is more than happy to tell all).  I opted for a huge lamb burger with fries as the main course.  As always, my eyes got the better of my brain, and I asked for a Scotch Egg, too.  Why?  Because clearly all that shopping had sapped my brain of any remaining reason.  Finishing that off became a group effort.

Why, hello, crisps.  Nice to eat you.

Here's the headcheese:

Yeah, that definitely ain't cheese:

Lamb burger, frites & accompaniments:

Scotch Egg, which looks like it came from a very large, very angry bird:

And who was the braniac that ordered dessert?

As the plates were cleared, L and S figured we might as well take a final stab at the elusive Death + Co.  We piled into a cab (in fact, one of only 4 cab rides we took during our entire 5+ day stay – 2 of them being to and from LaGuardia) and headed back to the East Village.  Lo and behold, the same guy was there again.  This time, though, we didn’t take no for an answer (nicely).  Once inside and seated at a booth, we lucked out and got our friends’ “regular” waitress.  The next couple of hours included absolutely fabulous crafted cocktails – all I remember is one being named Carroll Gardens (I think?) and that we ordered concoctions not listed on the menu.  We sipped and talked in the glow of candlelight and a couple glittering chandeliers.  If I could describe the ambiance in this little (but deadly) gem, I’d liken it to a velvety blanket of dark quiet that glowed around the edges.  With secret teeth.  (Aren’t we all glad I wasn’t a creative writing major?)

Back in Minneapolis, which is where L and S lived til last year, the four of us went out often.  It shouldn’t come as a shock that it usually involved good food and cocktails.  It also frequently concluded with karaoke.  In the early days, we’d go to the VFW on Lyndale (off of Lake Street).  These days, that place has more 20-something kids than actual vets, so we’ve called the Vegas Lounge our karaoke home for the past few years (separate entry on that place later).  Now in NYC, our friends were quick to find a replacement for their favorite Minneapolis haunt – Sing Sing on Avenue A.  Our next destination.  On the way, I spotted this sign...

The Jucy Lucy is a specialty of the Twin Cities.  It's a burger, not a beverage.  It's also spelled "Jucy."  On purpose.  (Side note:  Minneapolis ranks as the third most literate city in the US, so says USA Today, just in case you were worried about us).  I'm waiting for our friends to check the place out and give us a report.  I'm not holding my breath for actual Jucy Lucy's, though.

Now, I don’t know what it was at Sing Sing.  The festive young crowd (we made friends with a couple near us, thanks to a Texas connection between me and the gal).  The excitement of being in a new city.  Death's helping hand…  whatever it was, I pulled the ultimate stunner on my husband and friends.  I sang.  Yep.  After years of cheering my friends along and sometimes singing with the crowds (far away from the mike and front of the room), I actually did two karaoke tunes.  With the mike.  My selections?  The Fugees’ cover of “Killing Me Softly”.  And then Hank Williams Jr’s “Family Tradition.”  Very random, just like me.  'Cause that's how I roll.  It was super fun.  It might even happen again.  Sometimes you just have to roll with it, live in the moment, and enjoy yourself, even if you know you’re assaulting the crowd’s ears.

Our new pals really let loose:

It's imperative we have a little video for a sing-along!

We were having such a grand time that we closed the bar.  The 4AM bar.  It was that much fun.  Knowing we needed to check out of the hotel in a few hours (as we were staying with our friends for the final night), we scurried back to the hotel, and I can tell you I was asleep before my face hit the pillow.  Game over.

Images:  my own - except...

DVF yellow and white dress:  Shopbop

Theory images: first one from Shopbop, second and third from Nordstrom