Tag Archives: New York

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese (2010)

16 Aug

One of my favorite things about the book club I’m in is that we take turns in selecting the book.  Each member gets a month.  She can pick whatever the heck she wants in her month, and doesn’t have to deal with winning people over to her choice.  The result of this is that we cover very broad ground in genre and style.  Best of all– it gets me to read books I would not otherwise pick up.  Sometimes these books, like Cutting for Stone, are magnificent.

Admittedly, I almost didn’t read it at all.  This book was up for discussion in July, and I wasn’t able to make it to the meeting.  I was already running a bit behind on some other things I was reading.  Also, the book was selected by my friend Viki.  Viki is a wonderful person, but she and I have just about polar opposites in reading tastes, so I assumed this book wouldn’t be to my liking.

The bookjacket description wasn’t doing much for me either:

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles–and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

Ok, love, betrayal, miracles. These are all supposed to GRAB your attention, but for me, it seemed kind of blah.  Then I had the guilt.  In the year or so of this book club’s operation, there has been one book I didn’t finish because I just did not like it.  I’ve never skipped a book entirely.  What a bad book club member I would be if I didn’t even give it a try.

This isn’t the kind of novel that sucks you right in with action and adventure.  It’s more like sitting around a fire with an old relative, telling you a story of life in the old country…and you start to listen, and your attention to the room around you fades as you are drawn in by the words and the figures, and before you realize what has happened, you are surrounded by the story, and can’t (and don’t want to) pry your attention away.

It’s hard to explain the plot of Cutting for Stone, because it’s so much more about the people.  There’s plenty of plot in there too– war, danger, all that exciting stuff.  But this book truly shines in its characters– devoted Ghosh, admirable Hema, flawed Genet, hardworking and heartbroken Marion, and selfish but simple Shiva.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I hand out “4’s” generously.  If I think something is a good use of my time, it’s a “4.”  But a rating of “5” I withhold for books that I think are truly amazing.  This book really is a 5.  Nice pick, Viki.

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fun in NYC #blogher12

4 Aug

Well Blogher ’12 has drawn to a close. I’ll be posting a more substantive retrospective tomorrow, but the short summary is that I got some awesome tech takeaways, and met some great people.

I strolled the expo a bit more today, and got to hang out with the Got Milk milkmen.

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I also had a hot date with Zac Ephron, except I was a little turned off because he had something in his nose, and didn’t get it when I tried to indicate that to him with subtlety, but he didn’t get it, so I had to take matters into my own hands.

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Hersheys and Wal-Mart sponsored a hospitality suite that featured INDOOR SMORES. You know my feelings on smores. I went back twice.

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Starbucks also had a hospitality suite featuring its new single-brew coffeemaker. I was very skeptical because I really do not like Keurig. I’ve tried all kinds of pods and settings and everything, and I can never get it to make anything other than gross. The new bux machine makes drip coffee, espresso, and lattes. I made a latte (with double espresso, naturally), and it was surprisingly good. I’m still not going to buy one of the machines, because I make coffee at home all of never, but I won’t turn my nose up if someone else offers me a cup.

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After I was done with a day full of awesome tech-centered seminars, Mr. Beez and I wandered down to Lindy’s famous overpriced deli for a sammich. It’s within view of Times Square, which the absurd prices reflect, however the food was surprisingly decent (despite the abysmal Yelp reviews). Mr. Beez had the worlds largest sandwich full of meat, which I had to help him eat because it was so massive.

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Mr. Beez and I also went out on the town on Friday night for dinner. The 3 Monkeys was the closest reasonably-priced eatery that had great results on Yelp. It was a comfortable bar, with quick service and a great beer selection. We had a charcuterie plate, which was good but nothing special. For my meal, I ordered the sliders sampler. You get to pick 3 sliders from beef, chicken, pork, and lamb. I went for the beef, chicken, and lamb. The beef was a classic cheddar bacon cheeseburger, which was solid and satisfying. The chicken was really surprisingly good, it was juicy and just the perfect amount of salty. The lamb, however, I am still dreaming about. IT WAS AMAZING. In a full burger size, it would have been overkill, but the slider was OMG DELICIOUS. We’ve got time to grab some brunch before catching the plane tomorrow, and I am seriously considering strong-arming Mr. Beez for a trip back there.

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Tonight we also went to the movies to see THE BATMAN. It may sound like a bit of a waste to go all the way to NYC to see a movie, but I really really did not want to see this movie surrounded by loud overstimulated Pittsburghers. Instead, we saw the movie surrounded by New Yorkers and tourists, and being the only overstimulated yinzers in the crowd, we ruined it for everyone else. I loved seeing all the footage of Pittsburgh pieced together. It actually made it MORE fun to me, to watch the chase go UP Smithfield street, then DOWN Smithfield Street, then UP Smithfield Street, then HOW DID WE GET TO OAKLAND?

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So tomorrow we head back to the ‘burgh, and I’ll get to snuggle that little baby girl that I’ve missed over the last few days (having 2 back to back weekends away is hard). We’ve been running around like crazy people this whole vacation, so I can’t say I feel rested. Still, I do feel ready to get back to work. That’s a good thing, because I’ve got a whole pile of stuff to tackle when I wander back to the office on Monday.

#BlogHer12 — in the full swing of things

3 Aug

Mr. Beez and I flew in to NYC yesterday, and started our visit with a storytelling performance by his friend (and her storytelling class) at the 3 of Cups. The $4 happy hour sangria, bacala bruschetta, and portabello pesto/asiago pizza were delicious, but I was really blown away by the storytelling. The performance included tales both comedic and somber, and all deeply personal.

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The calm of the story performance has been contrasted by the complete insanity that has been the BlogHer conference. The conference opened with inspiring words from our Commander in Chief.

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Mr. Beez and I also had a few drinks and snacks, and even tossed around a bowling ball, at the BlogHer parties last night.

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Today has been jam-packed with panels. I’ve been blogging since 2004, so I think I have a pretty good handle on how to produce content. It’s the technical and strategic side I need a lot of help with. The iPhoneography panel was the one I’ve been looking forward to the most. I got my iPhone back in January, and I haven’t used my digital camera since (mostly because it’s 5 years old, and technically inferior to the iPhone). The panel didn’t have the time to go through all the details of photo editing apps with a fine toothed comb, but I did get a good footing on where to start for some quick and dirty lessons in photo editing.

I also attended a panel on pitching to publishers, which was very interesting and informative. A lot of the bloggers here blog for money or sponsorships. I’m in a different boat, because, although our professional responsibility rules lag behind in specifically addressing the intersection of blogging and legal practice, blogging for money is an ethical can of worms I don’t care to deal with. Despite this big difference, I have met a lot of very nice people, and received a lot of business cards for blogs I look forward to reading.

Martha Stewart spoke during today’s lunchtime keynote, but I was still so overstimulated from EVERYTHING GOING ON that I don’t remember in the slightest what on earth she talked about.

There are 3 large expo halls which, likewise, are looking to set up review relationships with bloggers, or to even garner favorable publicity on their webpages. I’ve spent a little time wandering through the exhibitor halls, and taking pictures with REE DRUMMOND, the Lorax, and the Jimmy Dean sun guy (yes, the one from the commercial), and a Jamba Juice bananaman.

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My most valuable takeaway today has been that I really need to work harder on engaging with readers. Commenting and retweets are the currency of social media, and if I want others to read my thoughts, I need to work harder at reading and responding to theirs. I’ve felt a bit lost over the last few months, not entirely sure where to go to find interesting blogs in the MASSIVE space of the internet, but now with the heap of blogger cards at my side, I’ve got a good place to start.

The cutest wedding in the history of all weddings!

15 May

Although we did fit in a little vacation time, the purpose of our trip to New York was to attend the wedding of our friends Jen and Tom.  Jen is an incredibly talented and creative artist– musically, visually, she masters it all!  Their wedding was so charming and so FUN.  Also, the food- DELICIOUS. They had these amazing passed appetizers, and then a family style dinner of Peking Duck with lentils, short ribs with rice, and fish with vegetables. SO GOOD.

We sat next to Jen’s friend (whose name escapes me), who sewed her amazing wedding dress, and dance skirt! I spent the whole dinner lavishing him with praise for his talents, he was swimming in it.  He, and all the other guests, were super friendly and approachable, which made this wedding extra-fun!

He did ask me if we have horses in Pittsburgh. I told him there are horses in the ‘burbs, but we do know how to drive cars here. I don’t think he believed me.

These two can’t get any cuter! Jen serenaded Tom, and then he joined her onstage for a duet so adorable I almost died of the cute!  Going to one of Jen’s comedy shows is more what I had in mind in my 30 before 30 goal of seeing her perform, but with my schedule between now and November, it looks like that might not happen. But Jen DID perform here, so I’m counting this!

The beautiful Manhattan view from the rooftop deck!

They had a fantastic DIY photobooth, using an iPad!

CONGRATULATIONS JEN & TOM!

The Big Apple: Per Se

14 May

I have probably looked forward to dining at a Michelin-rated restaurant more than any other item on my 30 before 30 list. I ticked this one off the list this weekend, with an unforgettable visit to Thomas Keller’s Per Se. Per Se is everything everyone says it is, and more. Anyone who gives this restaurant anything less than 5 stars is the kind of person who can never be fully happy, and will always manage to find some little blemish in an otherwise perfect experience.  Per Se is perfection.  It was blissful, and in a way sad.  After that meal was over, I realized that that was that.  I have experienced the pinnacle of my dining experience.  No other meal will ever compare.  Even if I go back there for another visit, a second meal won’t live up to the magic and surprise of the first visit.

Mr. Beez and I excited for this adventure!  Our friend, Anthony, joined us but he was busy taking the picture.

We fully expected the servers to be pompous and judgmental. They weren’t.  They were friendly and joking, and perfectly attentive without being pushy.  We had FIVE people waiting on us– constant, but unobtrusive.  The wine list is loaded on an iPad…it had to be 50 pages long. I have an experienced palate for cheap wine. I was completely lost on this.  Amongst crowds of wines $900-$15,000, I managed to find the “cheap-o” wine at $100.  There wasn’t going to be a thing on that list that disappointed this girl, who rarely drops more than $12 on a bottle ($15 if I’m feeling fancy).  I have no idea what the wine was that we picked. But it was fantastic. Because this is Per Se and that’s how things are.

At Per Se:

MY PURSE HAD ITS OWN CHAIR. Not like an empty chair at the table, a teeny tiny little stool JUST FOR A PURSE. I couldn’t take a better picture because I would have had to crouch down on the floor and that would just look too weird. (For the record, the girl at the next table over was taking pictures of everything TOO.)

I truly don’t have the vocabulary to describe Per Se.  The first bite of each dish took my breath away, and I could only muster a “This is really good .”  There are so many adjectives to describe a sublime meal. None of them worked for me here.  All I could think to say, with each and every of the 9 courses (and then some) was “This is really good.” 


A description of each course would fall flat in comparison to the taste and texture.  The pictures are the best substitute I can offer.

This was the first dessert of FIVE consecutive desserts.  First was this cheese and sweets plate, then a raspberry parfait, then we had chocolate layer cake (Anthony opted instead for a grapefruit concoction), then they brought over a tin of macarons and other sweets, THEN a waiter came by and offered us truffles and fancy chocolates from this enormous, exquisite box of chocolates (I forgot to take a picture of that part), and THEN they even sent us home with a little bag of candies.  FIVE DESSERTS. IN A ROW. FIVE.

Ok, so this one isn’t a dessert. It’s just the sugar for my coffee. But even the presentation for that was impressive.

And here we are, fat and happy, at the end of our long and DELICIOUS evening.

The Big Apple: Day 2

13 May

I was going to write all about Per Se, but after getting home from our flight, I had to get some work done, and now I’m short on time for the attention that adventure deserves.  I’ll write up that post soon, promise.  I also have posts planned about Jen and Tom’s adorable wedding, and the adventure of our flight home. This weekend is going to take longer to write about, than it did to live it!

So on Saturday, we slept in a little bit (9am is sleeping in when you have a little one!), and headed back to Rockefeller Center.

Our first stop was Magnolia Bakery for some sweet treats.

Pumpkin cheesecake for breakfast is COMPLETELY reasonable, in my book.

Stuffed full of sugar, we headed over to NBC for the NBC studio tour.  Tourist tip: Visiting the “Top of the Rock” observation deck is an insane $25 ticket. It’s only $13 more to add on the NBC studio tour, and you don’t have to do both in the same day. In fact, you can schedule tour for any time within 3 months of purchase.  It was a no brainer for us.  Plus, the tour guides told us all about getting tickets for Jimmy Fallon’s show.  We’ll be back in NYC for BlogHer in August, and I may well try to get us Jimmy Fallon tickets while we’re in the City.

NBC Page uniforms! (Unfortunately, we did not spot Kenneth the page)

Tour time!

The tour was lots of fun.  We got to see the sets for Nightly News with Brian Williams, The Dr. Oz Show, and SNL.  I wish we could have taken pictures on the tour. I had no idea that the SNL sets were so tightly packed.  We also got to see the SNL house band rehearse for a few minutes, so that was lots of fun.

Afterward we walked over to Times Square. It was swarming with fanny-packed tourists, so we hightailed it outta there, and hopped on the subway to visit the East Village instead.

There was a big street fair going on, so we wandered amongst the vendors.  It was a phenomenally beautiful day. The sun was shining and it was warm, it was so lovely to be outdoors!

Even though soup isn’t exactly a warm weather food, we stopped at Pho 32 & Shabu for some pho and dumplings.

So very, very tasty!

And so concluded the exploration phase of our visit to the Big Apple. Lots of fun, and lots of YUM!

The Big Apple

12 May

Mr. Beez and I arrived in the Big Apple yesterday, to attend my pal Jen’s wedding reception (which starts in about an hour! Yippee!) and to have a bit of vacation. Baby Beez is staying with her grandparents for the weekend, an while I do miss her a lot, it is nice to travel and not worry about a fussing toddler).

We flew in yesterday morning, which gave us a whole day to hang out in the city. The first order of business was to drop our bags off at our hotel. We took the train/subway from JFK, and all of that went smoothly. The walking directions from the subway to the hotel, however, not so much. The hotel is BRAND new, meaning so new that the address doesn’t exist in google. That meant that although the hotel is only 2.5 blocks from the station, google maps took us on a mile long walking tour of Long Island City. It dropped us off at Moishe’s Self Storage warehouse, a couple blocks from some gritty smokestacks. Recognizing that nothing in that area looked remotely like a hotel, I put on my thinking cap, and we did finally figure out how to get there.

Once the bags were successfully dropped off, we trucked into Manhattan for some eats. We were HUNGRY, and comfort food was in order. We headed to Cafeteria

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Cocktails at 11:30 am sounds totally reasonable to me.

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Those are Mac and Cheese EGGROLLS, with melted cheese dipping sauce. No further explanation needed.

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Spinach eggs Benedict.

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Strawberry parfait. EVERYBODY LOVE PARFAIT.

We weren’t sure what to do next, so we wandered for a bit. I spotted La Maison du Macaron, and even though I had just eaten a parfait, decided I absolutely needed macarons (for later of course), or I would die.

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I picked out fig & balsamic, apricot something or other, mango, and lavender nougat. They were all delicious, but the lavender & balsamic was the best by far.

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Next we hopped on the subway to pay a visit to Rockefeller Center.

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We also took a trip to the “Top of the Rock.”

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Afterward we walked over to Radio City Music Hall.

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We said “yes, that is Radio City Music Hall.” and took a picture.

We went back to the hotel for a rest, because we had a big night up ahead.

Once we were well rested, we trekked back to the city to meet with our friend Anthony for drinks. We went to the Barcelona Bar which was a hole in the wall dive (literally hole in the wall, we passed it once without even seeing it) that was totally fun, and has a totally insane selection.

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I had a Flaming Moe!

After drinks, we headed to Per Se for our much awaited culinary adventure! THAT, my friends, deserves its very own post!