Category Archives: Do This

Do This: Discovering Columbus

At first glance, you might think that scaffolding surrounding the statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle means the statue is under restoration.  Not so!  The statue is in fact the center of an art exhibit called Discovering Columbus.


The artist built a modern living room around the statue.  Before I went to visit, I had thought that the artist had built the Columbus statue its own living room, as though the Columbus statue was living in modern times and needed a living room, but it appears as though the Columbus statue is merely a feature of the living room.  (What gave it away: The statue could never fit into one of those chairs.)

Just because the Columbus statue can’t fit into the chairs, though, doesn’t mean that you can’t – you’re encouraged to relax in the living room and read the magazines and newspapers (but not the books!).  We visited a couple of weeks ago after work, and we found the experience really neat.  It’s pretty crazy being so close to a statue that you usually see from so far away.

Now, my fear of heights is well documented, and I’m sure you realize climbing the equivalent of six stories up some scaffolding was not really my cup of tea.  Once up in the exhibit, I couldn’t quite ever get out of my head enough to totally enjoy myself – which is kind of a shame because the views were amazing, the exhibit is a neat idea, and every detail deserves attention, right down to the pink Americana wallpaper.  Hey, the important part is that I got up there, right?  And now I’m sharing it with you!  Go visit!


Do This: Dim Sum in Flushing

On Sunday, we finally got around to doing one of the things we’ve been talking about since I moved to New York: have dim sum in Flushing.

I’ll give you the bad news first.  It’s not easy to get to Flushing.  Flushing is way up there.  We took a tri-borough route, heading into Manhattan to transfer to the 7 at Times Square.  (If we had wanted to go directly from Brooklyn, we would have had to rely on the G, which is a dicey proposition.)  Our trip there was fairly quick, as the track work made our 7 train run express. The train made all its normal local stops on the way back, however, and it was a long ride home.

that’s Flushing up there with the A

Your travel will take you at least an hour each way, so make sure you have enough time to allocate to a dim sum adventure in Flushing.  If you have the time, it’s definitely worth it.

We went to Jade Asian Restaurant.  Like so many of the big dim sum places down in Chinatown, it’s a huge space.  Unlike those places, though, it’s not dripping with opulent glitz.  It’s almost minimalist decor and huge picture window make dim sum a brighter, sunnier affair.

image from Cassy S. on Yelp

Food comes quickly at Jade; we had barely taken off our coats and we had a pile of baskets on our table, with more servers pushing their wares.  There’s also a huge variety of dim sum, and it was all very good.  The food seemed to all be very good quality (nothing is worse than gritty shrimp), and it was all flavorful. It was also all very pretty; this was no slapdash operation with poorly constructed dumplings.  I can’t remember everything we had, but my favorites were the steamed barbecue pork buns.  It’s not a terribly original favorite, I know, but I always really like those things, and these ones were very good.  Also, on recommendation of a commenter on another of my posts about dim sum, I tried the turnip cake, and I really liked it.

barbecue pork bun image from Lily Z. on Yelp

Read More:

☆  A Taste of Jade [Gothamist]
☆  Dim Sum at Jade Asian Restaurant [Serious Eats]
☆  Jade Asian Restaurant and Caterer [Yelp]
☆  Jade Asian Restaurant: Flushing, New York [food enthusiast] –> This guy is a random I found using Google, but he has a picture and description of the durian pastries, which I kept seeing and wondered about.

Do This: Empire State Building

As promised, here’s the post on the Empire State Building! I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get it up here!

When my brother was visiting me in October, we visited the observation deck of the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building is one of those must-see destinations that locals never really get around to seeing, most probably put off by the throngs of tourists. (The Sears Tower is another example. I lived in Chicago for almost five years and never once made it up to the observation level.)

I wasn’t just dissuaded from visiting by the likely crush of tourists; I didn’t really get why a person would want to pay $18 to look over the city. It just seemed a little … well, boring to me.

My brother was interested in visiting the Empire State Building, though, and so I went. We bought our tickets online to avoid waiting in line at the building, and the tickets enable you to visit at any time during the day. We visited on a random Wednesday in October, so there wasn’t much of a line, but I can imagine that it would be a huge timesaver to buy tickets in advance on busy days.

The observation deck is on the 86th floor and is over 1,200 feet above the ground. The view completely blew me away. I was dumbstruck at how far you can see in every direction, and it’s fun to pick out the NYC landmarks from way up there. (I could see my apartment building in Brooklyn!) I could have stayed up there all day. You can pay extra to visit the 102nd floor, but that didn’t seem like it would be worth the extra money to us. It’s not like there are any other buildings that you clear in those sixteen stories.

I am a bit acrophobic, and so I was slightly apprehensive about what it would be like to be so high up in the air. Once on the observation deck, I felt completely at ease. There are metals bars preventing you from leaning too far over the edge, and there is a thick wall at chest-height circling the entire deck.

I am so glad that I finally made the trip. (Thanks, Dave, for being the impetus for the adventure!) I would encourage anyone to go … and to bring me along!

Read More:

☆ Visit the Official Empire State Building site to purchase your tickets

☆ Read basic information about the Empire State Building on Wikipedia

☆ Find out what color the Empire State Building is (and why) tonight (and, along those lines, if you were staring at the Empire State Building in befuddlement over the weekend, here’s some speculation about those rainbow lights)

Do This: American Idiot

I work out at Crunch, which, in celebration of its 21st “birthday,” was giving away prizes this summer. The prizes ran from small things like t-shirts to gym-related goodies like a year of free membership to some things that were truly awesome. The most desirable prize, as I saw it, was tickets to see American Idiot on Broadway … and I won! Can you believe it? I was so excited!

I won a pair of tickets to a schoolnight show in September, so I grabbed one of my friends and went to see the show last night! I was incredibly pleased with our seats – since they were free, I assumed we would be in a less than desirable location, but we were towards the front of the balcony, right in the middle. The seats were amazing. Our only problem was that the woman in front of us kept filming parts of the show on her phone and the woman next to us had taken it upon herself to be The Enforcer, but that’s neither here nor there.

The show itself is awesome! The show is, of course, based on the rock opera of the same name released by Green Day in 2004. The show includes a couple of extra songs for good measure, like Know Your Enemy and 21 Guns, but otherwise follows the progression of songs on the album and only adds a bit of dialogue. I loved the album and listened to it pretty much constantly when it came out, so I really enjoyed seeing the characters in the flesh.

The show has a lot of energy and is a lot of fun, and I would definitely recommend it!

Read More:
☆ Visit the official American Idiot on Broadway site
☆ Read the NY Times review
☆ If you’re so inclined, next week is a good time to see the show, as Billie Joe Armstrong is briefly playing St. Jimmy
☆ Watch Green Day and the cast of the show sing 21 Guns

Do This: Chicago Edition

I spent last weekend in Chicago, which is my favorite city in the world. I was in Chicago for one of my closest friend’s bachelorette parties on Saturday night, and, because my birthday was on Sunday, I stayed through Monday. (I don’t travel on my birthday. Two years in a row of land border crossings on my birthday led me to establish this rule.) My parents came up on the train to celebrate my golden birthday with me.

with some of my besties at the bachelorette party

I did some of my favorite things over the weekend, so I present the Do This: Chicago Edition.

Drinks on the Chicago River: I arrived on Friday afternoon and had drinks at Flatwater with one of my oldest friends. There’s something undeniably wonderful about drinks on the water, and this was no exception.

Brunch at Orange: The morning after the bachelorette party, some of us girls brunched at Orange before reluctantly scattering. When I lived on Roscoe Street way back in 2005, I used to eat at the Orange on North Clark with some regularity. Four moves later, I’m living in Brooklyn and eating there has gotten increasingly inconvenient. (Compounding the problem, the internet tells me that location has closed.) We met at the location on Clark near Chicago, and, even though we were a large group, we were seated immediately. (It probably didn’t hurt that we arrived at 10:30!) Orange makes the best coffee – it has orange zest in it, and it tastes so good. Orange is famous for their frushi and pancake flights, but I’m more of a savory breakfast girl, so I got an omelet.

Dinner at Le Colonial: My parents came up to Chicago for my aforementioned birthday, and we had my birthday dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Le Colonial. I love the atmosphere there, and I would happily eat Vietnamese food for every meal for the rest of my life. Mom stopped by earlier in the day and told the staff it was my birthday, so they seated us at a perfect table by the front windows, and they brought out a delicious macaroon with ice cream and a candle. It was so nice!

birthday dessert with Mom & Dad

Architectural Boat Tour: The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat tour is a new favorite of mine. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and we had a sunny afternoon on Monday, so we bought tickets for the tour. It’s a ninety minute ride along the Chicago River with a guide who points out which architectural firms designed which buildings and discusses the influences and contexts of each. It’s even more interesting than I imagined it would be, and I highly recommend it if you’re in Chicago.

Tea at Russian Tea Time: My mom and I often have tea, and one of our most frequented tea spots is Russian Tea Time. They serve a house tea that delicious and comes in a fun Russian mug. We rarely get the full tea service there, opting instead to get scones a la carte. On Monday, my parents and I had tea and a snack there before it was time for me to collect my suitcase and get on the blue line back to O’Hare.

Until next time, Chicago!

Do This: Snug Harbor

Sometimes you just need to get out of the city. The constant crush of people, the loud honks of traffic, the dearth of grass, the fact that sometimes the entire city smells like a kebab – it all can be a bit wearing. Unfortunately, getting away is usually easier said than done. It can be time-consuming and cost-prohibitive.

Does that mean you’re doomed to suffer? No, it just means you need to get creative! As I mentioned yesterday, we spent this past Saturday afternoon at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. While we didn’t technically get out of the city, it sure felt as though we did.

One of the perks of Snug Harbor is that it is easily accessible, so you only need an afternoon. Just hop on the Staten Island Ferry, and then take the S40 bus, which stops in front of the main entrance. It couldn’t be easier!

Isn’t this photo awesome? Marc took it off the Staten Island Ferry sign against the sky.

Snug Harbor was founded in 1801 and was originally a community for retired seamen. This is evident in the amazing nautical imagery on the ceiling in the main building. The entire complex is eighty-three acres that include botanical gardens, a center for arts, and the Staten Island Children’s Museum, among other things. The Staten Island Museum will also be located on the grounds.

Our main objective was to tour the botanical gardens, so we bought our garden tickets ($6 each) and picked up a Self-Guided Walking Tour brochure. All of the gardens are beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised that the gardens were thriving even though we have had such a brutally hot summer.


Aside from flower gardens, Snug Harbor also boasts some theme gardens. We visited both the Healing Garden and the Chinese Scholar’s Garden. I wanted to see the Secret Garden, which was enclosed in a castle-like thing, but it was locked. I scrambled up on some nearby rocks to peer over the walls, but I wasn’t quite tall enough. The Healing Garden, according to the guide,

is a living memorial to the 267 Staten Islanders who perished on September 11, 2001. Located on an acre of forested hillside and overlooking 20 acres of officially mapped wetlands, the Healing Garden includes mixed hardwoods and will be enhanced with 100 canopy trees, 150 understory trees, shrubs, and perennial and seasonal planting displays. The site quietly evokes the healing power of trees as symbols of life and renewal.

It was a really lovely space. A trickling stream runs through the area, and the entire area is lovely and serene. You really forget that you’re still in the city.

Healing Garden

The Chinese Scholar’s Garden is modeled after the scholar’s gardens of the Ming Dynasty. According to the guide, it “is the first outdoor garden of its kind in the United States.” The garden is contained in a structure and encircles a pond full of beautiful fish. There are cards at the beginning of the garden that highlight different elements of the garden. For example, there are bats on the door pulls because the Chinese word for bat is “fu,” which sounds like the word for prosperity. It was a very beautiful and interesting space.

Chinese Scholar’s Garden

Pro Tip: Pack a lunch! We arrived at Snug Harbor around 2:00 pm, and we were hungry. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was expecting to be able to find food somewhere. We followed the map to where it looked as though there should be a café, but there was no building there. We found ourselves standing in front of the Children’s Museum, so I went in and asked if there was food anywhere. The woman told me that I should follow the road back the way we came, and there “might” be a guy with an “American Grill” sign. If he wasn’t there, she warned me, there was no food. (At this point, I considered grabbing the ice cream from some nearby kids and running, but I restrained myself.) Dubious, we returned the way we came and eventually found a small building labeled “Garden Grill.” The food is … not something I would recommend. Definitely bring something to eat, and then you can augment that with a cold drink if need be.

All told, we were at Snug Harbor for around three hours. We really enjoyed our time, and I definitely recommend it!

me screwing around in the weeping willows

Do This: Friday Night Himalayan Art

If you’re looking for a way to inject some culture into your Friday nights (or even just a respite from the heat), check out the Rubin Museum of Art. The museum, which, according to its website, “has the largest Western collection of religious art from cultures of the Himalayan mountain range,” is free every Friday night from 6:00 – 10:00 pm.

Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha
Remember That You Will Die: Death Across Cultures
image from Rubin Museum website

My visiting cousin and I checked out the museum this past Friday, and I was suitably impressed. The museum, tucked away on 17th between 6th and 7th, is deceptively large; an interior staircase spirals up six floors, and each floor features a different exhibit.

The first exhibit we saw was called Gateway to Himalayan Art, and it provided a helpful primer for the rest of the museum. It introduces the visitor to the traditional iconography of Himalayan art, and knowing the difference between, for example, a bodhisattva and a wrathful deity makes the rest of the museum much more accessible for a novice to the culture.

The museum is fascinating because it doesn’t just present traditional or ancient artifacts; it also contains exhibits of modern Himalayan art. It was particularly interesting to see that some of these artists still choose to use the traditional medium of crushed pigment on cloth.

Check the exhibitions list to see what is currently on view. I am planning to return in October to see an exhibit called Embodying the Holy: Icons in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism, which sounds very interesting to me.

Also, if you’re looking to spend a little more cash on your Friday night, the Rubin Museum is hosting an acoustic singer/singwriter series through the end of the year on certain Friday nights. The next such performance is Joan Osborne on August 20.

Read More:
Art Review: Mulling Mortality, in the East and in the West [NYT]
Rubin Museum [Facebook]