Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Colombia, the BEAUTIFUL!

I mentioned in my previous post that I was going to Colombia - I left August 29th, and came back September 7th. It was a quick 9 days and I'm broke now, but the experience was worth it! Below are some of my favorite shots - all pictures were taken with my newest obsession, the Nikon D40. I was a purist before, reserving film for special occasions, but this has made me into a digital camera believer!

I started my trip in Bogota, the capital city of Colombia. It is incredibly high up in altitude - I was a bit dizzy at first, but you get used to it. The above picture was taken from the top of Cerro de Monserrate, which is a church built on top of the peak (3160 m).

Another view of Cerro de Monserrate.
The city of Cartagena - I would have to say it was one of the most aesthetically pleasing cities I've been to. This is part of the wall that enclosed the city - it was built to keep away enemies from shore. It is now a haven for domestic and international tourists - it is packed with horse drawn carriages offering tours of its winding streets, as well as an abundance of restaurants, shops, and money changers. The city stole my money, as well as my heart!
Cartagena, again - love the colonial architecture! I think I took over 100 pictures of just the buildings!
This is one of a couple of forts that protected the city of Cartagena.
Volcan de Lodo El Totumo - located 50km northeast of Cartagena. It is a small 15m dirt mound, but actually it's a volcano that spews mud! The selling point is that they allow you to swim around in the "lava." It's a little bit like swimming around in gravy. It was really warm and gooey. It's also impossible to sink! It was the most indescribable feeling.
There were enterprising locals everywhere - there was a person to scrub you down, a person to take pictures of you, a person to take the dirt off of you in the nearby river - craziness!
Playa Blanca - accessible only by boat. This was my first experience swimming in the Caribbean Sea. It was like bathwater! Nothing at all like the Atlantic Ocean. I could have stayed there all day. I also went snorkeling, and once I got the hang of breathing out of my mouth, I was able to see wildlife that I was only able to see in an aquarium or a fish store.
A typical meal in Colombia, also called Comida Corriente. It is usually a protein, like fish or chicken, with rice, beans, and a salad. If you're lucky, you may even get some soup. All for the low price of $2.50! For an extra $1, you can get the typical drink of choice, a Coke. I never drink Coke in the States, but I drank it all of the time while I was there - it was the best way to beat the heat and get back some much needed energy!
City #3 on the agenda was Santa Marta, and the Parque Nacional Tayrona. The first introduction to the rain forests. It was quite a hike to get there, and the heat for the past couple of days admittedly took a toll.
Lizard(s)! They were everywhere - once you saw one, you saw a hundred!
Another flight took us back to Bogota, near the historic downtown. The sky was unreal.
A busy Sunday morning - 6 short hours later, I was at the airport (sob!), planning my next trip abroad in my head! I have to say that there were a lot of naysayers who told me not to go to Colombia because it was too dangerous, I would get mugged, etc. Even though I didn't speak Spanish as well as I should have, I still managed to get around. The people were incredibly warm, friendly, and polite - they were great ambassadors for the country. The only time I felt that not all was well was going out of the airport - I had never been questioned, prodded or gone through so many checkpoints in all of my life! Too bad for me, I now have the travel bug. Got to start saving up for the next big adventure!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Not So Lazy Days of Summer

Yikes, time has blown by so quickly... my knitting has hit the back burner - maybe some cool weather in the upcoming months will be a motivator to start up. Actually, the real problem is that I have about 4 projects with patterns that needed some major altering - I had written up vague outlines for what I was going to do, but the passage of time makes my notes look like gibberish - I can't make sense of anything I wrote - ack! I feel guilty starting up a new project so I am currently just sitting on my uncompleted ones. I've been keeping busy nonetheless - my summer life thus far has been full of (unsuccessful) job interviews, making up lame excuses at work so I can attend said interviews, GMAT studying, hosting out of town guests, as well as being hosted as an out of town guest in various places. Got to go peach picking in Ulster County, NY for the first time, and attended the Peaches and Wine festival.

I also just joined a postcard swap, which I have never done - the organizer's blog can be found here. It was forwarded to me via Facebook, of all places!

ONE LAST THING - tomorrow, I leave for Colombia (the country, not the school) for a little over a week - just for kicks. We plan on flying into Bogota, then going out near the coast - visiting Cartagena and Santa Marta before we have to fly back to the capital to go home. I got my vaccinations a little too late for them to be completely effective, but I suppose it's better than nothing! As an extra precaution, I've gone a little crazy with the purchasing of mosquito repellent... On the upside, Colombia is also very well known for their crafts, textiles, and leather goods, in addition to the beautiful landscapes, the culture, and its rich history - it should be lots of fun.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nerd Alert! Will be seeing Harry Potter TONIGHT!

I never gave much thought to the Harry Potter series when the books came out - I love children's books (Wrinkle in Time and The Giver are what immediately come to mind) but books about wizards didn't really appeal to me. I remember reading the first book and thinking it was okay, and somehow I managed to keep reading the other books as they came out. The next thing I knew, I became completely obsessed! Although movies in general are almost never as good as the books, I have been going to see the Harry Potter movies. And, if you are a nerd like me, you will know that the movie release date in the United States is July 15th. I however, will get to see the movie today, at 6:30 pm! A fellow social worker was able to get in on some charity tickets that no one wanted... a small perk for being a social worker, I suppose. Oh! And another bonus - there are prizes for the best dressed Harry Potter character! I admit I was almost tempted, but that would be carrying the nerd-thing too far...

Friday, July 10, 2009


Happy belated fourth~! Such crazy, unorganized-ness. Most everything I love has been abandoned for immediate needs:

1) Finding another job. Ick - what an energy suck. I've been on 7 interviews during the past year, 4 of which had gotten me past the first round. These 4 were especially hard to take, as it was between me and another candidate, and always the other candidate won out. The jobs range from my specialties (grant and contract management in a non-profit) to far stretches (bi-lingual IT customer service specialist in the Japanese auto industry) but nothing pans out. My most recent rejection was especially annoying, since they wanted to talk with my current supervisor - if my boss was amenable to such things, I wouldn't be looking for another job! I told them I was open to letting them speak to my current supervisor once an offer was made. Wrong answer, apparently. An interesting discussion of this topic could be found here. So the job search continues...

2) The second thing that is somewhat related: test prep! Social work burnout has lead me to reassess and develop new career goals. In order to reach my new goals however, I need to re-enter grad school, hence the GMAT. GMAT studying is no fun.

How to cope? A number of things, but the most effective one (but probably not the most constructive) is just running away from my problems, albeit temporarily. A trip to Colombia in August is in the works. For July 4th, we took the LIRR to Glen Cove, where a group of us claimed a blanketed patch of grass for the day, at a small park (see pic on top left). Apparently, the property was originally owned by J.P. Morgan, who then donated the land to the public when he died. It has been an especially rainy summer this year, and the 4th was one of the first days it was nice out. Actually, it was painfully, gorgeously sunny - the skies were an unbelievable color. It made me so happy!

Some unrelated items: just read a great book, Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. It's 700+ pages, but I read it in three days - so good! Although it was a fictional account of Marilyn Monroe's life, it was still very gripping. Feeling inspired by the book, I also watched the Seven Year Itch, which was surprisingly hilarious... and speaking of movies, there's a movie out in select art theaters now that was very good - Departures. This movie is funny too, but is mostly really, really sad. I know someone whose only experience in Japanese cinema was watching The Taste of Tea - if you are expecting the same experience, I advise you to beware that diversity in cinema does exist, so please go in with an open mind : )

Monday, June 22, 2009

Food, and Fabric!

Summer is all about walking around and eating everything in sight. That, and window shopping! Some new food obsessions, as of late...

Picket Fence. Want some good old fashioned, American comfort food? Look no further! Off of the Cortelyou station on the Q train, only a 20 minute walk from my apartment. They have a lovely outdoor garden in the back, which is great for summer. Service is slow, but they are not in a rush to kick you out, unlike most Manhattan locales. Strongly recommend the mac and cheese and the apple turnover.

L&B Spumoni Gardens. For Sicilian style pizza lovers, this is your heaven. I prefer the regular pizza, with lots of sausage - it's always crowded with people coming in after their little league and not so little league games, but it adds to the character of the place - everybody there has a very thick Brooklyn accent. Different from your typical New York transplant crowd. Off of the Avenue U stop on the N Line. Very close to the Brooklyn Chinatown on 8th Avenue - strong recommendation to check out the Hong Kong Supermarket, and the fruit stands if you have a chance!

PinkBerry. Yes, they are taking over New York. Yes, it's overpriced. But, I love, love, love it! Similar frozen yogurt chains needs not apply. Pomegranate with double batch of fresh strawberries, all the way!

Rickshaw Dumpling Bar. I usually don't like fast food, but I have to admit that their steamed pork dumplings are pretty good. Never will be as good as Nice Green Bo's "tiny juicy buns with pork," but still acceptable, in a pinch...

Did you know that IKEA sells fabric?! I didn't, until last night when I was looking for a duvet cover for my bed. The fabrics are cute looking, and cheap! I don't know how sturdy they are, or if they are of good quality, but it looks promising.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hurrah for Spring? Where is Summer?

Usually New York springs are non-existent - one day you come out of the house with wet hair and find your hair frozen by the time you get to the train station, the next day you are wearing shorts and a tank top. Not so, this year - we've had an extended rainy season, accompanied by sporadic changes in temperature in a single day. I don't know what's going on, and I don't know how to dress anymore! The moody weather has mirrored my somewhat disorganized life - some random points of interest as of late:

A new toy - the Nikon D40 that I got at a super reduced price through an online promotion at Ritz. I have a manual SLR, but a DSLR with auto focus is so much easier! I am so lazy. It's super light, takes great pictures, and with so many controls, you can make it as vivid or as subdued in color as you want. I tested my camera out at the famed Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn as a less crowded alternative to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, which turned out to be great - the azalea bushes were in full bloom (see above).

Went to the first On the Rooftop event of the year. Pay $25 dollars for an all you can drink soiree on a rooftop bar overlooking Manhattan. I got my money's worth despite not imbibing any alcohol, because it's all about the gift bags you get at the end!

The job hunt is (hopefully) nearing an end. Got a call back after sending sooo many resumes out. Survived 3 rounds of interviews. Now they want recommendations from my current employer. Is this normal? If I don't get the job, I'm in huge trouble... grrr....

After my boyfriend broke my ceramic teapot for the second time, he got me a Cast Iron Teapot to ensure that he won't ever have to get me another teapot again... It's very heavy, but I love it more as time goes on.

Been in somewhat of knitting funk. Started too many projects and I've lost some momentum. Snatched up some more needles and yarn when The Point in the West Village closed down. I felt bad for the workers there - we were like a pack of hungry hyenas. At one point, I thought there was going to be fist fight, complete with animal fibers flying around everywhere - watch out for the knitting crazies! We are an interesting bunch.

Been drinking my coffee Vietnamese style, as I needed a change from my trusty Bustelo - I got myself some Cafe Du Monde and loaded up on the sweetened condensed milk. Is it good for me? Do I care?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Elizabeth Hat, With Some Extra Love

I am very much a sweater knitting kind of girl, but I needed a hat for very practical reasons. Prior to this hat, I was wearing a raggedy crocheted hat made by Burton. How could a knitter wear something that looks handmade but isn't handmade? I guess the biggest reason was that none of the hats I made in the past were warm enough - yes, they were very cute looking, but it couldn't withstand my wet hair and the cold wind tunnels. Also, my head is shaped like a bowling ball, so most hats are too long but not wide enough! The solution? I made the Elizabeth Hat, a cabled hat that requires the use of bulky weight yarn. Thicker yarn + cabling = more elasticity = more room for my giant head! The pattern itself was very generously posted on Ravelry for free. I used a skein of leftover yarn from my Corona, plus an alpaca tweed that I picked up at Rhinebeck. For some reason, this tweed just wants to be double stranded with something else, instead of a standalone - I used the majority of the tweed making this - it's the warmest sweater I own, so I thought it would be perfect for this hat. The hat was completed within one roundtrip work commute on the subway, and I was happy wearing it as it was originally designed, except that it got too stretchy over time and the alpaca was really itchy - I needed a barrier! So, I knit myself a little woolen band using my smallest DPNs (#1s). I used a provisional cast on, making the width of the band slightly smaller than the 2 x 2 ribbing of the hat. The length was determined by me wrapping the band around my head, stopping when it was snug. I then did a three needle bind off with the two live ends, creating a loop. Lastly, I turned the hat inside out, put the lining around the outside, and sewed it in place. Done! It was some extra work, but it was well worth the effort. Now I'll have a hat that I will actually wear for its practical AND aesthetic value - imagine that!