Moving to Chelsea

Two days after my last day of work and just about a month prior to my departure for Paris, I took all my belongings and moved to the heart of downtown Manhattan to spend my last month in New York City. For the first time in my life, I had no job and no responsibility.

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Spring in New York!

Today, New York finally woke up from its long winter sleep as Spring kindly graced us with her presence. New Yorkers were out and about, jogging, brunching, walking dogs, chatting up friends and enjoying the gorgeous weather. 

I woke up at 10AM after six hours of sleep, ate breakfast, picked up dry cleaning, and decided that it would be a beautiful day to go skating. So I grabbed an iced coffee, hopped on the L train and headed over to Chelsea.

Chelsea - 22nd Street and 10th Ave (iPhone)

Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, as the name suggests, lays on the west side of Manhattan in the Chelsea neighborhood right on the water. I usually skate on the West Rink, which has beautiful sweeping views of the hudson river. 

I've been coming here for just three weeks, and I've already made some new friends. N, G and A also came to the rink today, and it was fun seeing all of us spin at the same time. We even tried some synchronized waltz jumps around in a circle. Skating is so much more fun with friends.

Chelsea is one of my favorite places in New York. The vibe here is completely different from the rest of Manhattan. It's a trendy residential area with beautiful brownstone apartments lining the streets. The pace of life is slower and people really take their time to enjoy what they're doing. It's a great place to people watch with plenty of cafes and restaurants - a fast-paced atmosphere that also manages to be calm and stress free. I feel grounded here, which helps me relax and regain focus. A lot of celebrities live and frequent this area in the typical nondescript gym clothes, baseball cap and shades. The other day, G and I saw Sasha Cohen running down 9th ave when we were having an afternoon snack outside Le Pain Quotidien. We both almost died being star struck. 

The thing is, I would have never really frequented Chelsea if I didn't decide to get back into figure skating. This is when I realize how the networks people form in New York is really a funny thing. Similar people tend to hang out at the same places at the same times, and that's why the city feels so small. A friend of a friend will almost guarantee to already have mutuals friends with you.

But then the moment you change a little part of your life, just a tiny little bit of your routine, a whole new world suddenly sets in. You meet new people with different aspirations, goals and dreams. At first, they seem really different from you, but then you find little similarities here and there. And you start feeling that emotional connection that feels exciting and comforting at the same time. It's these small moments with those around me, even sometimes with people I've just met, that makes me feel the true magic of this city.

I took my time strolling through Chelsea on my way home. I walked by a girl walking her baby husky, and I couldn't help but stop and pat her as she licked my fingers. Then I continued strolling down the streets, snapping some of these pictures on my phone along the way.

I felt so incredibly wonderful and so, so happy.

Thirsty Hungry Thursday Night

Today, after two hours at the gym (while watching Chopped on Food Network while killing it on the treadmill), I came home absolutely starved. Even after some pasta. I wanted to reward myself for being awesome, but I've been watching my diet since picking up figure skating again. I needed to eat well to be strong and flexible but also keep a low weight at the same time. So I decided to make some KALE.

Ahhh, baked kale is so delicious - crispy, savory, packed with nutrients. 

Take a piece, pop it in your mouth, and feel it gently crumble to pieces. The slightly browned parts gives it that lovely roasted flavor. Yum!!!!

Served perfect as a side dish or a (late night) snack. It's like the vegetable sister of potato chips, the greener, healthier, better sister. Satisfies all your cravings but without any of the bad stuff.

In just 15 minutes, I:

1. Washed kale and dried it (very very) thoroughly (so it bakes and not steams)!

2. Broke kale into pieces and laid it out on a pan with aluminum foil.

3. Drizzled olive oil and salt to my liking (aka a lot of both).

4. Popped it in the oven at around 400-450 degrees.

5. After the edges had turned a bit brown, took it out and ate it with an episode of Grey's Anatomy (I know, I've seen so many episodes (aka every single episode) that I can actually eat during this show - don't judge).

And then I realized it was already 10PM. Somehow my life always ends up being a race against time (and I always lose). So I quickly made some of my favorite Crème Caramel Rooibos tea (another relaxing way to satisfy cravings without the junk!) from DAVID'S TEA (my newest tea place obsession), and unwound into the night reading Redbook with Jessica Alba on my iPad. It was very soothing.

And there yah go. My thirsty hungry thursday night. <3





Places to Eat in NYC!

Living in NYC has allowed me to discover some of the best foods I've ever had. While most places (4+ stars on yelp) are good, here are some exceptional places that really stood out:

1. SASHIMI at Kotobuki

Oddly enough, most sashimi look alike in restaurants (rich and fresh colors), but can taste very very different in your mouth. I search for the right texture when I taste sashimi, because I think this is what determines how the flavor will unfold on your palate. Too dry/hard and the flavors will be subdued, and the occasional stringy sashimi is just awful (mostly take-out experiences). My favorite kind of sashimi are the ones that melt in your mouth, releasing a rich, natural flavor with or without any soy sauce. This is most noticeable with Salmon, my absolute favorite - a good piece of salmon will give you that rich fatty flavor reminiscent of juicy fried pork (but not quite as pungent). 


2. BURGERS at Umami Burger

This place is touristy but their burgers are to die for. They are petit compared to the typical burger in America, but each bite is the perfect combination of freshly baked bread, crunchy toppings, juicy meat, and full, delicious, savory flavor. I particularly enjoyed the truffle burger - as the caramelized onions and mushrooms made the kind of sauce that only got better with each bite. Oh, and as with any great burger place, their fries are just as addictively crunchy and savory - mostly because it comes with their signature spice that adds just the right amount of salt and flavoring.

oh my god

3. NOODLES at Cocoron

I have been to a lot of ramen/noodle places - Sapporo, Toto Ramen, Ippudo (both locations)...and I can tell you that nothing beats the flavor at Cocoron. The problem with many of these other places is that the broth is just too salty - as if they are trying to force the flavor that just isn't there in the first place. Cocoron's flavor tastes the most natural, as if the broth was really made from slow cooked meat with just a few flavor enhancers. I also don't like when noodles tastes too, well, noodle-y, as if the flavor hasn't yet soaked in (this is the worst - it's like one bite of bland noodle, one gulp of salty broth, blah). I watched my food being cooked at Cocoron and suspect the reason why it's so good is because everything is made to order - literally in its own pan. Anyone who has made noodle soup knows boiling all ingredients together in the end (very briefly) will taste very different than when noodles and broth are just quickly tossed together before serving.

tastes even better than it looks

4. FRENCH at Amélie

Not the typical French restaurant you would expect - innovative foods but not without traditions. The flavors here are not only original (as original as French food can get), but complex with many when the food first hits your palate, another when you begin to chew, and finally a taste that lingers afterwards. I've had food that had somewhat of a bad aftertaste despite being great in the beginning, so I think it takes great skill to have all three. The fact that the flavor changes as you chew means the flavoring has really done its job - enhancing the taste rather than overpowering it.

Roasted Duck Leg...

5. AMERICAN at Traif

This is my all time Williamsburg favorite - a highly rated place many people will discover through Yelp (probably the highest rated in the neighborhood - 4.5 stars, 1000+ reviews) and a very long wait on the weekends. The portions are extremely small so be prepared to share and shell out a bit of money. However, the taste of literally every dish is spot on. The pork is tender and juicy. The scallops plump and full of flavor. The ribs soft and savory. The sweet potato god, there was some flavoring in there that was god. 

the ribs

6. JEWISH JAPANESE at Shalom Japan

This restaurant is owned by a Jewish and Japanese couple, who decided to create their own type of Jewish/Japanese restaurant. Sounds weird, but it is actually a lovely combination. For example, cold udon noodles is typically japanese, but there is this interesting flavoring added that gives it a very unique kick. A crunchy topping with finely chopped fried onions (maybe? can't really remember) complemented very nicely with the doughy udon. Texture and flavor...that's just a killer combination. 

Couldn't find a good picture here

7. SPICY CHINESE at Xi'an Famous Foods in Midtown

This is hands down the best ethnic Chinese food you'll find in Manhattan. The pork burger and spicy lamb noodles...spicy, juicy, tender meat...the kind that makes you want to eat the whole thing in one gulp except it's just too damn hot. The noodles are hand-pulled immediately prior to hitting boiling water - all the elements needed for perfect noodle texture. This place is famous so it can get a bit touristy. 

spicy lamb noodles

Images taken from Yelp. All are pictures of dishes I've tasted.

How to Quit Your Job without Everyone Hating You

I officially resigned last Friday to leave at the end of April! Here are some tips about quitting that worked great for me.

The first step towards quitting your job is an acceptance and understanding that you will inevitably bring about some degree of hatred from your team, but there are a few things that you can do to at least mitigate some of it.

1. Be Honest

I've always believed in the power of honest communication. My mother once told me that disagreements are 80% of the time caused by miscommunication; and that most people have similar opinions about most things. It's likely that if you explain your decision in a sincere and genuine manner that your team would understand where you're coming from. When I told my team my story, my boss understood: "It sucks for us, but I would have done the same thing". 

2. Give Enough Time

Quitting your job is one of those things where it gets exponentially worse the longer you wait. Two weeks is the typical notice period, but giving your team more time to find someone else will not only show that you care and respect your coworkers, but also allow everyone to be as prepared as possible before you leave (so they don't end up working long hours to pick up your slack - and if they do end up having to do that, are at least prepared to do so).

3. Know Your Boss

Remember breaking bad news to your parents in high school? How you would wait for them to be in a great mood before you snuggled up next to them and sandwiched bad news between words of flattery? Life doesn't change much when you get older; your bosses are humans too. Maybe take your boss out to lunch or coffee, where you can set the mood before you tell. Getting away from company grounds will allow more genuine conversation and a sit down lunch will give you time to really explain things. 

4. Involve them in the Decision Making Process

In psychology, researchers found that people come together when they are working towards the same goal. If you can somehow involve your team in the decision making process of how and when you're going to leave, they will feel better and more in control over what is happening (and basically sanction your leave since they were technically, well, involved in the decision). 

5. Manage Expectations and Leave Room for Negotiation

Immediately following the breaking of bad news will be a negotiation period whereby your team tries to keep you for as long as possible while you try to quit as early as you can. If you're planning on leaving in say, 8 weeks, hint at an earlier time like 4-6 weeks. That way, you have plenty of room to compromise and will even appear very willing to do so. 

In conclusion: The more you're able to show your team that you care and respect them, the more likely they will also return the favor. In social psychology terms, this is the rule of social reciprocity. Seems like common sense, but many people assume that their team will never understand and that the team's intentions will most definitely always be in conflict with theirs. It doesn't have to be that way. Find out what concerns them the most about you leaving and help them solve that problem (whether it is helping hire a new person, leaving after an important project, etc.). They will be appreciative of your consideration and be more willing to see things from your perspective, and maybe even be happy for you (and genuinely so)! 



Top 5 Things I Will Miss About New York

1. Passionate, driven and outgoing people, who all seem to have hidden talents and amazing life stories to share. It is rare to find an uninteresting person in New York, and most people are also really accomplished in something or another. Fashion, technology, finance, media, law, sports, medicine, performing name it. There are activities and social groups in every field, and most people love and are excited about what they do. People are young here, so they have that wide-eyed hungry look, willing to do anything and everything to follow their dreams. Of course, just like any other city, you'll find plentiful arrogant douches around town, but you come to love the people here for who they are, both good and bad. And the best part? Everyone is down to have some fun and are super open to making new friends. 

2. How everyone is somehow connected to everyone. It could have been your best friend's college roommate's sister, but somehow, hitting that Facebook "mutual friends" button is always either a really pleasant or really horrifying surprise. It's also extremely likely that the new friend you just met at the bar was also involved in some similar social event as you. "Omg, do you know [xx]????" "Omg, YES." Two drinks later, you guys are now BFFs. 

3. NYC Nightlife. More often referred to as just "going out" - usually beginning with a casual dinner turned into two drinks at a bar, then a drunken wait-let's-go-dancing followed by drunk food in K-town at 4 in the morning, and finally a really expensive cab ride home in which you gradually sober up and try to remember what happened. "Going out" is a rite of passage everyone must go through. Some places are classy like The Press Room and Sky Room that will give you sweeping views of the city champagne in hand, some are in hip underground tight spaces where most people would prefer a beer over a cocktail, and then there are of course the giant warehouses turned club venues that will have enough people, energy, booze, and music that'll keep you up until dawn. You will get a rush, a mind blowing rush from the lights, the music, the alcohol, the sweat, the glow sticks, the fact that it's 3 in the morning and you're in New York, and for that moment in time, nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is on your mind, except for the experience you are having with the people around you. In a city when rush hour is a 24-hr phenomenon, there's no better way to relax and unwind than to hit up the clubs. But clubbing is a rite of passage, and it's just that - a passage. Watch out because if you stay more than your due time, it will only go downhill from there.

4. Don't let #3 fool you into thinking New York is just about the nightlife. There is a mind blowing number of festivals and cultural activities in town, especially in the summer. I went to the biannual Jazz Age Lawn Party here at Governor's Island last August. Everyone was dressed in 1920s attire, and we danced to live music in broad daylight. It was one of the best cultural experiences I ever had. (Below is a video, click to play! :D)

5. The Food. New York may not be world famous for its cuisine, but only here will you find the delicious inventions of cronuts, ramen burgers and the likes. Venture far enough into the Lower East Side or Williamsburg, and you'll find a whole new world of dangerously indulgent new flavors. Consider yourself warned. ;)