We’re on Each Other’s Team

So last night at the Vespa Queens Grand Opening Party, I was having a chat with the lovely Matt of Snowdonia, Vespa Queens, and all around Astoria. He asked me if I had posted my Snowdonia post yet and he had missed it or what, bringing to light how much I have not blogged in the last month.  I sheepishly said, “No, you didn’t miss it, I haven’t posted it yet.  I know, I know, I’m way behind.”, to which he replied (like the polite gentleman he is) “Oh, no, no pressure, just wasn’t sure if I missed it or not!”.  I told him not to feel bad, I needed that pressure to get started on this Mt. Rushmore sized task.  Like when your laundry piles up and the only thing that motivates you to do it is when you run out of underwear, or when you finally get around to writing that paper because you realize that if you don’t, you’ll fail  that very important class.  In this case, nobody’s failing anything, and we’re all good in the underwear situation, so that’s a start 🙂

I believe when we left off, I was going to tell you about my excellent trip to Crescent Grill for my plate, and a special delivery of more cookies.  When I first came in, Ryan had told me about a duck confit and pappardelle dish that I just had to try, so on my return trip, I saddled up to the bar, ordered a drink, and prepared myself to be wowed.  I was not disappointed.

I forget exactly what I had to drink, but I believe it was a cocktail from their cocktail menu, a house drink, I think.  I do remember it being delicious.

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My entree came, and was also delicious to match.

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Ryan came over and offered me some bread, which ended up being this basket of amazing biscuits accompanied by butter drizzled with honey.  I had a friend (or a guy that I think I was dating at the time?  I can’t be sure.  Oh, labels!) that was meeting me at Crescent Grill for a drink, but by the time he got there, I had had a few conversational exchanges with my fellow bar companion, Jerry.

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Over the course of the next hour, my drinks date and I got to know Jerry quite well!  We learned that he was in a managerial position at Tom Cat Bakery, lives in New Jersey, loves his wife, comes into town every few weeks to oversee some things, and was staying around the area and had happened upon Crescent Grill.  I told him about SGC, he ate a cookie, and seemed to like it!  I told him some stories about all the crazy people I’ve met along this journey so far, and the conversation was flowing so much at one point that he interrupted a convo I was having with Drinks Date to make a jokey reference about a story I had told!  I loved it.

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My entire experience at Crescent Grill was one I can’t wait to repeat again and again.  The food was delicious, the service was excellent, and the people were warm and welcoming.  Also, I can’t leave out how beautiful the space is as well.

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I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that it’s also an art gallery of sorts, and the pieces I’ve seen hanging there are pretty great.

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All and all, this was definitely an A++ drop spot.

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I asked Ryan at Crescent Grill for my recommendation and he told me to go to Baroness Bar just down the street.  That’s that new(ish) wine bar where they open bottles of champagne with sabers.  Yes, you read that right.  🙂  My drop and pick up there were pretty uneventful; I got a chance to briefly meet Melinda, one of the owners, while dropping off and she seemed friendly.  I didn’t have a chance to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine while picking up, that was a pretty crazy week for me, but hopefully one day soon!  Maybe I’ll even spring for a special bottle of champagne.  I did learn that I was to visit neighborhood hot spot, Snowdonia, next.

Now, I’m no stranger to Snowdonia.  I first stopped by to check it out with an impromptu meeting of my friend Alex of Cocktail Crate as he was having dinner with a long lost friend of mine from college, Emily, who founded the Astoria Whiskey Society. I hadn’t seen her since college, and didn’t even know she lived in Astoria until I checked out the AWS website as an interested party (I really like dark liquors) and saw her familiar face, as well as others!  Turns out Westminster Choir College has quite a representation in our great neighborhood.  Adam, another college acquaintance and friend of Emily’s, is the artistic director of the Astoria Symphonic Choir, which I’d like to sing with one day if I ever get the time!

I’m also friends with Dennis and Liz of Astoria Coffee, the coffee that Snowdonia serves with brunch (good stuff, can’t wait for their shop to open!!) and had brunch there some months ago with those two and Dennis from DHAP before our podcast.  While we were there, I put out a plate of cookies with a sign that said “free”, and happened to run into Bradley Hawkes, who then wrote a really great article of me that was in BORO!  Neither of those last two things are related to each other, just giving context 🙂

Needless to say, I was excited to drop off some cookies to the good folks of Snowdonia and was greeted with a “Hey, it’s the cookie lady!”  when I walked in.  I love it when that happens.  I got to meet the aforementioned Matt, who is the final nudge in making this happen, another owner, and a gentleman whose name I have no idea how to spell, so I’m not going to try, but it starts with a J.  Let’s call him J!  Anyway, they were all very receptive of me and my cookies when I came in, and  couldn’t wait to come back for their Game of Thrones live viewing night for my plate pick up and a GoT Ommegang beer.

I wasn’t able to enjoy either of those things when I went to pick up because I had a two day migraine and didn’t think drinking or being around loud GoT noises was a good idea.  I’d never had a migraine until my concussion from the car accident, but I guess I’ve got’em now!  Not my happiest moment, and I’m still itching to get back there; it’s been too long since my last visit.  Maybe I’ll make to their Monday brunch, which, btdubs, is the best idea EVER.  On Monday they do a service industry brunch so those that sling of our food and drinks all weekend have a chance to relax and enjoy being on the other side of the table for once.  As a former server at the worst place ever, I can tell you how much I appreciate this idea.  Plus, my weekends are spent singing and teaching voice lessons, so, it’s my brunch too!

And as if all that awesomeness weren’t enough, the people at Snowdonia are just great as well.  The thing I love most about the whole process of Single Girl is, hands down, the recommendation process.  I now know that Matt is both part of Snowdonia, Vespa Queens, and some other Astoria entities.  Tom, owner at Snowdonia, is also a involved with Vespa Queens.  Yesterday at the VQ‘s Grand Opening Party (check their FB for a pic of me on a Vespa and the goodies I brought!), I started chatting with a gentleman who turned out to be Damian of VQ’s roommate.  Then he introduced me to “Willie and John”, who, unbeknownst to me at the time, are the heart and soul of Mundo!  I actually ran into them again today at the brand new Astoria Flea and Food, hugged them and thanked them for bringing Mundo back.  Do you see where this is going?  This crazy red thread that connects us all really does connect us all.  Not only that, but it retraces and intertwines in ways I’d never dreamed.

Jane Goodall is quoted as saying “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.  What you do make a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”  The truth in those words is undeniable.  Most of us think about “making a difference” to mean some grand gesture that betters the world.  I think that’s pretty daunting.  If that’s what I thought making a difference was, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.  But the truth is, each of our actions puts something in motion in the environment around of.  Even the tiniest one. Now, I don’t know about a butterfly causing a tsunami, but I’ll tell ya, when I smile and say ‘hello’ to someone, I feel good.  I’m guessing they do too, and that’s a start.

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Life is a Highway

If I had to make a gross generalization, I’d say that 65% of the posts in my Facebook newsfeed in the last few weeks have been about the weather.  And over the last two days, I’d say that number shot to 113%, mainly because many of my friends reside in Upstate NY, Jersey, or Pennsylvania – all the places that got a dusting of snow this weekend.  Most of them were pictures of someone’s back or front yard with a caption like, “Wtf, Mother Nature!” or “Uhh….what??  It’s supposed to be spring!”.  I, thankfully, did not wake up to any snow this weekend where I was, but I feel your pain.  I’m going to have to say it – who else is tired of this bullshit winter weather??  I think it’s made many of us a touch crankier than we usually might be, and a little less willing to give an inch, let alone a mile.

I think that’s how I came to be at Vespa Queens for a cookie drop, at least that’s the story I tell myself so I can believe that there aren’t truly nasty people that are like that just for the sake of being nasty.  Some weeks back, I was supposed to make a drop at Grand Bazaar, a lovely Turkish shop on Steinway that I have been to a number of times and really enjoyed the things there.  You can imagine how excited I was to “patronize the business” – one of the other things I do at drops.  I find it helps me open up to trying and buying new things, helps keep money in the local community and feeds small business, and let’s face it, I love an excuse to shop.  So one day, I came jaunting in with my cookies, like I do, and without getting into too many details, both of us (me and my cookies) were rudely refused.  After I got over my shock (nobody in the year I’d been doing has flat out refused my cookies), my next thought was “Uh………how am I going to know where to go next week??!?”

You know I don’t choose any of the places I visit, the current, weekly business/place that got cookies that week does.  But without a “current business”, what’s a Single Girl to do?  Even with that rule in place, it doesn’t stop people from giving me hundreds of recommendations of places they think would appreciate some cookies.  And while I’d love to visit ever place that y’all think are great and deliver some homemade kindness to them, that would be totally insane.  I would be busy making so many cookies that I couldn’t go to work, and without a job, I wouldn’t have any money to pay rent, and without money to pay rent, I’d be homeless, and if I’m homeless, I couldn’t make any more cookies!  You don’t want that to happen, right?  Hint: you don’t, because I’d be your newest couch guest 🙂

In true generational form, I decided to take to the World Wide Web to make my decision for me.   I figured, you guys have been telling me for a year where you think I should go, here’s your chance.  I polled Twitter and Facebook and the Astoria place with the most votes would be where I started this new thread of recommendations.  Honorable mentioned go to Astoria Bookshop and Petals and Roots, but the ultimate winner was Vespa Queens.

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After all the tweeting that was done to find the winner, the folks at Vespa Queens knew I was coming in with the goods, and I was greeted with a warm, “The cookie lady is here!” when I walked into the showroom.  Which is gorgeous, btdubs.  It’s a longish room, painted a nice calming gray, beautiful, vivid photos line the walls above the Vespas, also lined up along each side.  There are also some vintage-y poster type pictures that hang on one wall that depict a blonde on one of these sleek machines.  I’d buy a bike in a heartbeat if I could.

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Turns out the woman that greeted me was Stella, a very friendly, nice, warm and awesome staff member.  Damian, the owner, came in from the service side when he heard I was here.  I felt like we all already kinda knew each other, both because of all the tweeting that had been done, but they both were so open and just awesome people.  They totally get/got what I’m doing, which always makes things a little easier on my end.  As we were chatting, I noticed a small room at the back that had a bunch of helmets and whatnot, so I poked my head in to see what other kind of accoutrement there was.  I saw some logo sweatshirts and thought. “Yay!  I can’t buy a Vespa, but I can certainly buy a sweatshirt, that’ll be my way to patronize the business!”  I happened to say, “Oh, I love logo apparel”, because I do, and Damian hopped right in front of me and handed me one and said, “Here ya go!  Take it!  It’s the least we could do!” I tried to refuse, but Stella helped me sort through the piles to find a good color and size.  Which is kinda funny because there were only size L and up 🙂 I took home a very comfy large, gray zip up that has become a favorite of mine in the few weeks I’ve had it.

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My return visit to pick up my plate was no different.  I got the opportunity to chat with both Damian and Stella a bit more and found out just what Vespa Queens is all about.  Turns out Damian is actually a fashion photographer, and quite a good one. (I googled him, you should too)  to my way of thinking, being a photographer and Vespa shop owner are two very different things, so I asked him how did he get into being the new owner of Vespa Queens.  He said he had a bike, loved it, and had been financially successful as a photographer and was looking for an investment opportunity.  It now makes sense as to how aesthetically pleasing the showroom is.  Stella is equally as awesome, having worked there before Damian was there, and originally from Portland.  She’s super knowledgeable about the product, and ready to answer any questions you may have.

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I know they’ve got plans to put in a small coffee bar in the back area where people will be able to come and relax, or have an espresso while they wait for their bike to be serviced, but for now, it’s worth swinging by to take a look and meet some really cool people.

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I asked for their official recommendation (even though they already told me when I first dropped off the cookies) and as you know, they sent me to Crescent Grill just down the street, where they got the art that graces their walls.  I’ll tell you about THAT later this week 🙂 For now, enjoy the warming weather.  It might not be on a long, open stretch of road on a beautiful Vespa, but at least crack the windows a bit.  And I’ll look forward to tell you more about how awesome they are after their grand opening party in May.  I think I see some Vespa shaped cookies in their future….

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As an unrelated thought, I wanted to share this with you.  Best life advice I’ve heard lately came from a babysitting charge that I spent yesterday evening with.  He is 6 years old, and his dad is an artist.  We were both drawing (I am a terrible artist) and I said “I find drawing a little scary.  He asked me why, and I told him it was because I was never sure what to draw, and once you started, if you don’t like it, you can’t always fix it, but have to erase it and start again but that you’d still be able to see the lines and it just wouldn’t be any good.  And he replied with the assuredness and certainty that can only come from a 6 year old, “That’s ok, if you don’t like it, you can always paint over it.”  And that struck me.  Isn’t that just a great metaphor for living life?  There are options if you don’t like something, or are less than satisfied – you can start over, paint over it, but ultimately you are the creator and you are the master.  Nothing is set in stone unless you make it so.

So what are you waiting for?  Get creating.

I Just Called to Say I Love You

Not only do I love you guys, but I miss you!  I haven’t blogged consistently since about October, and even more sporadically since the accident, but damn it, I miss it!  I’ve been doing my drops the whole time, of course, but saying I’d get around o blogging when I had the time.  Well, we know that kind of thing never happens.  And as life happens, what happens with me is my space gets messy.  And messier.  And messier, until I can write messages in the dust on my TV console and I have a mountain of laundry to do.  My kitchen is easy to keep clean because I’m constantly in there, baking, doing dishes wiping off counters, but the rest of the place I often feel like a ship passing in the night, just coming home to sleep.  All that is said to illustrate my next procrastination technique – I should clean before I do anything else.  Sounds productive, right?  WRONG.  You see, in my head, I set aside a certain number of hours any given task will take, and I won’t start that task unless I have said number of hours available.  Which also never happens!

But this past month I’ve had pretty good reason to clean.  I may have mentioned this before, but an NYU grad student in the Journalism Department got in touch with me and asked me to be the subject of her video profile for a class assignment.  If that isn’t a fire lit underneath me, I don’t know what is. Richa, this student, has been coming over to film my baking, doing a podcast, for a sit down interview, doing drops, church rehearsal and time at TBMS.  I believe she’s in the editing stages right now, and i can’t wait to see how this whole video comes together!  She had access to all areas of my life, so I’m thinking it should be pretty fascinating to see how someone else interprets my story.

Now I’ve got nothing standing in my way!  My space is clean, my brain space is uncluttered, I’ve had my coffee, life is good.  Just to add a little spice to the mix, I think I’ll start backwards.DSC_0772

Last week, I was at Crescent Grill to drop off my goodies.  I had made my almond cut out cookies that some of you may have had at the Queens County Market I participated in in February at Singlecut Beersmiths.  (I was passing out heart cookies for free and it was a blast!  They were pretty huge, too) You know my signature cookies are my secret family recipe chocolate chip cookies, but Richa wanted to film the actual act of me baking, and I said no way to filming those cookies being made – you think I’m a fool??  So I made almond cut outs instead.  I think they turned out pretty cute!

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I loaded up the car full of cookies, dropped some off to my good friend Amanda at Singlecut (these are her favorite cookies of mine), then made my way to Crescent Grill.  Like my drop at the previous spot, Vespa Queens, I drove, because it is so damn far.  BUT – Crescent Grill realizes they are not in the main pathway of many people, so they offer a shuttle service to dining guests within their pick up zone.  You heard me right – they will pick you and drop you off.  Insanity.  It’s like Snowdonia’s beer delivery – a complete game changer.

That’s actually the only thing I had heard about Crescent Grill via the interwebs before making my way there, the shuttle service thing.  And they they had great artists hang their works there, because Vespa Queens got their artwork from an artist that exhibits at CG.

As I walked in I was greeted by a wonderful mix of sleek and rustic; warmth, yet with a cool, clean line.  The bar stools are shiny, red cup seats, while the bar itself is a solid natural plank that has been sealed to a high shine.  There is reclaimed wood overhead and chrome accents around the room.  It’s really pretty beautiful.  I handed over the cookies to Ryan, general manager and events guy, as he exclaimed, “It’s the cookie lady!”  Indeed it is 🙂

I explained to him what I do and this time, I also explained to him why I brought these particular cookies, the almond instead of the chocolate chip.  I was surprised to hear him say that he had heard so much about the chocolate chip that he wouldn’t be disappointed if I brought them with me when I came back to pick up my plate.  I didn’t realize they had a reputation of their own!

He also said he wanted to “feed me” (I always want to be fed!) and so we made a date for Wednesday for me to come back and try some of their menu.  I’m sure it is all delicious, based on the reviews I read and the pictures from their website.  Everything looks fantastic.  Regardless, I’m excited to try it all!

Next I’ll tell you about how I got to Crescent Grill, through Vespa Queens, and how I even got to Vespa Queens in the first place.  Hint: It’s a completely new thread of recommendations!