Friday, May 6, 2016

Wading Pools.

"Put yourself out there!" 

"What do you have to lose?"

"DO IT FOR THE BLOG!"

All solid reasons from my friends in favor of me jumping back into the dating pool. It's more like taking my first jump though, because I, for one, am not a recreational dater. I never have been. Interestingly enough, my past relationships didn't even have a real courting stage; it was sort of like I met a new buddy (not to downplay the relationships) who then stuck around for the next couple of years. SO, that makes me a thirty-year-old who has never entered the dating pool - until now.

I'm thinking of it more as a wading pool though, and I dipped my big toe in a few weeks back. 

Every year, an Irish pub downtown hosts a huge St. Patrick's Day festival. I usually try to avoid the chaos (think a mob of drunk people in the street at 7AM, clad in green, spilling their green beer while trying to ride my big dog like a horse), but last year I learned it was Ellie's favorite holiday. She convinced me to join her - and to even be somewhat festive - so out I went, wearing olive green pants (mine) and a green boa (hers).

To be honest, I had a blast. It felt less hectic than I had anticipated, which I'd attribute to good company. For that reason, I didn't even think twice about going this year, but I did opt for jeans and a black tank top instead of rocking anything green.

Ellie and I walked around for a bit, did some people-watched, and at one point began chatting up two guys on the corner of our street. One was talkative and one, well, he wasn't. (He did have "pretty eyes" though, as Ellie pointed out.) Not much has ever stopped me from talking before, so I tried my best to carry a conversation with Pretty Eyes while Ellie was talking to his friend a few feet away.

"You live downtown?" I began.

"Yeah, just moved here," he said, a bit distracted.

"Oh, from where?" I continued.

"Up North."

Mkay.  "Nice. What do you do for work?"

"Uh...it's complicated," he muttered, still distracted, looking beyond me into the sea of green.

"Okaaay," I said in a sing-song voice, taking the obvious hint. Pretty Eyes was pretty uninterested.

I shot Ellie a look. Help! She came right on over with the friend, and we thankfully swapped conversations.

"Your friend isn't very talkative," I joked (but not really) about Pretty Eyes, who was just out of earshot. "So, what does he do for work? His job is complicated?"

"You wouldn't believe him if he told you," the friend replied.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued by the evasiveness at that point, but it wasn't enough. I was ready to go and made that clear. I heard the friend whisper something to Pretty Eyes about getting my number (you're fucking stupid if you don't get her number) and I was flattered - until I quickly wasn't. We had just waved goodbye, and Pretty Eyes still hadn't asked for my number.

"Hey," he called out to me as I was walking away. "Can I give you my number?"

Well that's new, I thought. I couldn't tell if I should be offended, or if I liked the idea of not being harassed by some guy I'd just met (and hardly spoken to). Still undecided, I handed over my phone and watched as he typed.

And with that came a ripple in the wading pool.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tempe, AZ.

Not to be confused with LA palm trees, these are Arizona palm trees, guys. South Mountain, to be exact.

I made my way to Arizona to visit Carli and her boyfriend, Tyler, who was there for Spring Training, and to clear my head of the city for a couple of days. It was exactly what I needed: friends, food, sun and fun. (And a lot more work than I had anticipated on my little "vacation," but what can you do.) We walked, we hiked, we cooked, we dined out, we watched a baseball game, we watched the Bachelor finale (since blogging is about keeping it real), and I couldn't have wanted anything more. Except an elongated stay, of course...

The cutest place ever, The Farm, was walking distance from where Carli was temporarily living, and we'd head over each day for a bite to eat. (I'm still dreaming of their brownie bites.)
Breakfast was here. I mean, a cafe called Morning Glory? Cutest. Ever.
We made a quick trip to Camelback Mountain on my last day - quick because it's not a very leisurely hike and I, of course, had my camera. I immediately learned that rock climbing while holding a large camera wouldn't work, so we did as much as we could without jeopardizing my camera. (Noted for next year.)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Reminder.

"You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." - Francis de Sales? Charlaine Harris? Fore sure Nykia W., my Bloomingdales Sales Specialist.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Engagement: Audrey & Kyle

One may think that photographing your ex-boyfriend's old roommates - for an engagement shoot no less - would be awkward, but I'm here to tell you otherwise. I've known these two for some three years now, and I actually helped orchestrate their engagement at my favorite restaurant, so it was only fitting that I'd be the one to take their engagement photos. 

We spent no more than five minutes in each of three locations and we were done. Wham bam thank you ma'am. I've never had a faster shoot in my life, which must be a testament to how authentically cute these two are in real life. Check out the ridiculously cute nose-to-nose shots that I didn't prompt (and others) below!

And a few more urban shots geared toward the groom-to-be...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Amsterdam II.

After a quick flu hiatus, I'm back! And I forgot to previously mention that I got to Amsterdam via regional train from Belgium, which was a first for me (versus flying). It was pretty quick and painless, including the quick stop at Antwerp Central Station to change trains. That station is actually known for its incredibly beautiful architecture, and it's not uncommon to see as many photographers as travelers there. Here's why:

She's a beauty, right?

Tip: It's worth it to upgrade to first class on a train. It's not nearly as expensive as a plane upgrade - don't worry. (81 EUR or so from Belgium to Amsterdam?) There weren't many people in my train car compared to others, which were jam-packed. There were pick-pocket alerts sounding over the intercoms every now and then, but I was told there was nothing to worry about in my train car. Perks of first class? (Not sure how true that is but it was nice to hear, being alone and all.) I did feel comfortable enough to doze off for a bit though, and two-ish hours later, I was in Amsterdam.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I-heart-amsterdam is what this should read, because I loved it that much. I had to get up super early to get this shot without tourists crowding and climbing the letters and throwing elbows for photo opportunities, which I learned after two attempted visits. So there's an immediate tip for ya: If you want this touristy shot sans tourists, get there before 8AM. (Those circles around me? They're from the early morning street sweepers, cleaning and prepping the space for tourists soon to come.)

I actually asked the concierge from my hotel in Begium where this place was after I'd seen it on Instagram (shocker), and I was lucky enough to have a list of "What to Do in Amsterdam" tips written out for me. The guy who wrote them was actually from Holland and he took the train to Bruges every day for work, so I trusted he knew what he was talking about:
  1. Visit "De Jordaan" 
  2. Soak up some culture in "Museumplein"
  3. Take a canal cruise
  4. Try herring from a herring court
  5. Visit Anne Frank House
  6. Go beer tasting at a windmill
  7. Walk around in "het Vondelpark"
  8. Join the cool crowd in "De Pup"
  9. Catch the ferry to Amsterdam North
  10. Discover a secret courtyard in the heart of the city
I missed numbers 4, 6, 8-10, which gives me all the more reason to go back. And per usual, here are my suggestions, below!


WHAT TO EAT

FRIES!
Amsterdam fries, French fries, whatever-you-want-to-call-them fries - eat 'em. The "it" spot for these bad boys in a cone was super close to my hotel (woot!), called Manneken Pis, known in particular for its insane selection of toppings. I was going to go with some kind of cheese sauce, but I decided to be adventurous and get what was considered most popular: peanut butter sauce(?!). It was more like peanut curry, which I wasn't expecting, but hey, I tried something new!




(Bacon-apple) Pancakes / Pannenokek
Topping my list of best eats in Amsterdam? Pancakes. I'd would have never thought I'd get that excited about pancakes (I don't think I've ever ordered them for breakfast), but here I would easily do so for any meal. They're crepe-like thin and still taste like pancakes. But even better. Then throw bacon in 'em. Better than even better.


(Top from Pancakes! Amsterdam (my favorite); bottom from The Alley.)


WHAT TO DO

Head to Museumplein to get your culture on! As the name suggests, there are a bunch of museums here you shouldn't miss.

Van Gogh Museum
Naturally, this place holds the world's most extensive collection of Van Gogh! No photography is allowed here, which is more than fine with me; you get to really experience the artwork that way. I'm not going to lie, I even got teary-eyed from viewing a couple of paintings. I swear at one point I even felt dizzy from looking at the art. Apparently I'm not the only one, because I then came across three wooden "mobile clinics," specifically for taking a breather should Van Gogh's artwork overwhelm you. (They look like wooden boxes with a seat so you can just chill for a bit.) Crazy, right?

Tip: Several works by Edvard Munch (a new favorite of mine) and Claude Monet are on display here as well, so be sure not to miss them!



The Rijksmuseum
They actually do allow photography here - despite what the photo below may be depicting. (It threw me off at least.) The Rijksmuseum is vastly different than the Van Gogh Musuem, from it's size and Neo-gothic architecture (compared to its modern/Japanese neighbor, Van Gogh), to its extensive possession of Dutch and world art "masterpieces" like The Night Watch, by Rembrandt. (Look at the crowd in front of that piece, below!)
    Tip: If you are carrying an over-sized bag, or more than one bag, they will make you consolidate or check your belongings upon entry.




    Way down at the bottom of the Rijksmuseum Research Library you could see people studying. You could hear a pin drop, it was so quiet. (This wound up being one of my favorite shots of the trip.)


    Anne Frank Huis
    Incredibly moving, is all I can say. I must have been ten years old when I first read the Diary of Anne Frank, and I never would have thought I'd one day be standing in her home - which was much bigger than I had expected, by the way! No photography allowed here either, which makes sense. I'd almost feel as though I was being disrespectful to her, snapping photos of her pain for my pleasure, or something. Truly incredible.

    Tip: Buy tickets online way in advance, or chance it and wait in line at the museum itself, like I did. I was told by my hotel that tickets were sold out and I was so, so disappointed; however, I walked by and noticed there was a line to buy tickets and just hopped right on in. I waited for over an hour or so, but it honestly moved faster than I thought it would and before I knew it, I was inside. 



    Stroll through Vondelpark!
    This public park also serves as an open-air theater in the warmer months, and has endless grassy fields, bike paths and playgrounds. It was pretty chilly when I was there so I didn't stay too long, but I imagine it's beautiful (and crowded!) in the spring/summer.


    Go Antiquing!
    For the life of me I can't remember the name of the gentleman who runs Antiquariaat Hoogkamp, but I adored him. (He even made me a customized souvenir!) We spoke for quite some time about travel, literature, and his beautiful antique map collection. I refrained from buying an expensive map of Massachusetts, and instead bought a more economical black and white etching of Amsterdam. (I went back the next day to buy little prints of Amsterdam for my family, and his son was working at the store. He's actually the one who told me that pancakes are no big thang to the Dutch folk!)


     


    Ready for it? Take a good 'ole canal tour.
    I couldn't get enough of these tours while I was abroad, and for good reason. You really get a different perspective of wherever you're visiting, and there's something calming about checking it all out over water. Plus, it's nice to give your feet and legs a break from running around town trying to see every single tourist attraction you can.

    Tip: Find a coupon book for tourists either online or at your hotel. You'll find discounted rates for canal tours and other tourist attractions.



    Some more pretty photos (and one of me), below!

    (Taken by a photography student!)
    I want to live here, please.

    And to park my boat here, please.




    (Love this shot.)