Friday, June 27, 2008

My Husband, the Chef

So, one of the big-time benefits of being married to Eric so far is his cooking! I mentioned in an earlier post that Eric spends a lot more time in the kitchen than I do, and it really is true. Since we've been married, he's really taken to cooking for us. He seems to really enjoy it, or at the very least, he's willing to give it a shot, and experiment with new things. I'm not generally a motivated chef (it's so much work and makes such a mess!), so I'm happy to sit back and enjoy. I'm a lucky wife!

Last Friday, Eric did some shopping while I was at work and picked up the fixin's for a great dinner: steak with bacon (and mushrooms for him), baked potatoes, asparagus, and fried onions. Mmm, mmm! And then we prepared it all together. Well, in all fairness, he prepared 3/4 of it, and I baked the potatoes. But, at least I contributed!

Eric, hard at work frying those onions

Mmm, delicious asparagus

One of the really fun parts of watching (err, "helping?") Eric cook is watching Achilles watch Eric cook. Achilles has learned over the years that he is under strict instructions to "STAY OUT of the kitchen" when we're cooking. So, he sits just barely outside of the kitchen, as close as he can possibly get without being IN the kitchen.

In the picture above, Achilles is in his "out of the kitchen" spot and is giving me his very best pitiful face. This is rare. Usually, when he is out of the kitchen while Eric cooks, his eyes are glued to Eric the whole time.

What can I say? Both Achilles and I are enthralled with Eric's cooking talent. And it's pretty safe to assume that at least one of us is hoping for the opportunity to participate in a pre-dinner taste test.

See the above picture? Even when I joined Eric in the kitchen (remember? I did the potatoes!), Achilles can't tear his eyes away from his dear friend Eric for one second.

At last, dinner is served! Now does that look delicious or what? And let me tell WAS! Who would have guessed that one of the perks of being a lawyer's wife would be the home-cookin'?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

We have an apartment! Yesterday, we officially applied for a one-bedroom apartment in the West 54th building that we liked so much. We decided not to go for the sublease, because we'd rather just rent from the building directly and know exactly what we are and are not responsible for. And this weekend they were having a leasing expo, which meant that if you rented an apartment this weekend, they would waive the application fee, so we decided to go for it! We applied online and then spoke to the leasing agent on the phone. Our lease has been prepared and is being FedEx-ed to us to sign and notarize and send back, and then we'll be official!

We're so excited to have this all figured out! Our next step will be to contact the movers that Eric's firm recommends to figure out how all that will work. They will pack up our current apartment and move us to NY, which will be SO NICE. Once we get that all scheduled, we'll talk to our current apartment about a move-out date. It'll be so nice to have this all settled!

So, anybody wanna hear about our new place??? Allow me to share some pictures with you! Below is the floorplan for our new apartment. Hooray for three closets!

The pictures below are taken from the building's website, just to give you an idea of what it's like, since we don't have pictures of our actual apartment just yet.

The building

The lobby

The Fitness Center

Bedroom (again, not our actual apartment, but ours will be similar)


Bathroom (how cute is the tile? Although it doesn't match our decor...)

As for the neighborhood, we're really excited about our location! In addition to being walking distance from Times Square, Restaurant Row, Central Park, Broadway, my school, and a dog park, we also figured out that the Colbert Report is filmed in a building on our block and the Daily Show is filmed just a couple blocks away! So it really feels like we're in the midst of all the New York happenings. I also found a good description of the Hell's Kitchen/Clinton area on a website called NY Bits:
The West Side of Manhattan, between 39th and 59th streets, west of 8th Avenue.

Hell's Kitchen is a busy mesh of tourists, theaters, restaurants - and locals. Aside from the bustling tourist attractions (such as Times Square) and Theater Row, Hell's Kitchen boasts "Restaurant Row" (W. 46th St, between 8th and 9th Avenue) where one can find any culinary delight imaginable. The West Side overlooks the Hudson River, where cruise ships disembark on a weekly basis. Ninth Avenue is a busy walk of shops, cafes and galleries. West 51st Street, with its brownstones and quaint row homes, evokes a French flavor with many Parisian cafes and bars. The area is constantly busy and thriving, be it 4pm or 4am. Hell's Kitchen is the ideal area for those who wish to be in the thick of the New York bustle!

Population about 42,000. Being slightly more affordable than other parts of Manhattan (mostly due to its lack of parks and residential feel), the area is populated with both younger and older business people, teachers (both F.I.T. and Parson's are nearby), and actors - who benefit from being close to the Theater District as well as the lower rent! Traditionally a blue-collar neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen has been gentrifying for decades now. 

Things have changed since the days when Irish gangs ruled Hell's Kitchen. Nowadays, apart from the sketchy Port Authority Scene (west and south of 42nd Street), the neighborhood is safe.
Needless to say, we're really excited! I'm so glad that it didn't end up being a terrible headache to find an apartment. And now, it's really starting to feel real - we're really moving to New York!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Apple a Day Keeps the Vet Away

Many of you know from our stories that our dog is not your average dog. Achilles has all sorts of little personality quirks, and we're still figuring them all out - even though we've had him for 3.5 years already!

One of our latest discoveries about Achilles is that he LOVES apple slices. LOVES them. Actually, no. Let me clarify. Achilles does not love apple slices in general. He loves McIntosh apples. He has no interest in Gala apples. He could care less about Red & Delicious apples. We have yet to try Granny Smith, but I don't expect him to care much for them, either. But McIntosh apples? Now THAT is a delicacy. Have you ever heard of a dog who loves apples? And better yet, a dog who loves only a particular kind of apples?

Here is photographic evidence of Achilles enjoying a delicious McIntosh apple.
Note the apple piece hanging out the side of his mouth, and the crazy tongue action.

The best part about Achilles and his apples is how he eats them. When you give him a slice he'll run off with it, usually to one of his "safe" spots, like his pillow on the floor (as seen above) or his favorite blanket. Then he'll bite it to break it up into little pieces and eat it one piece at a time. Then he takes each piece in his mouth and throws his head back, pushing the apple to his back teeth and he just chomps away! It's hilarious to watch. So, why not watch for yourself? Below is a video, courtesy of Molly, of Achilles enjoying his morning apple during her visit:

Awww! Look at that face!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Dad

Happy Father's Day!

In honor of the day, I think a break from the New York Apartment Search posts is in order. Today, I'd like to talk about my dad. 

My dad is a great man with a big heart, and is a true gentleman. He has taught me many, many things over the course of my life:

He taught me to love books and reading...

He taught me to love music (in many forms)...

He taught me how to celebrate birthdays, which usually involved spice cake...

He taught me how to swim...

And to love the beach...

He taught me how to properly put lights on a Christmas tree, so that when you take off your glasses and squint your eyes at it, there are no dark spots (this is a very important life lesson)...

He taught me that there's nothing better than laughing with the people you love...

And most importantly, he taught me that your family is something to be treasured - these are the people that will love you always.

Thanks, Dad, for all the life lessons and happy memories you've given me. I hope you have a wonderful Father's Day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

To Sublet, or Not to Sublet...Now THERE'S a Question.

So, earlier this week we got pretty excited...we thought we had a great lead on an apartment! Eric found it on Craigslist. It's actually a sublease in the West 54th building that we looked at and liked so much this weekend! It's a one-bedroom apartment on the 5th floor, with a courtyard/sundeck view and pass-through kitchen. And the best part, it's $200 less per month than renting a one-bedroom through the building itself. 

The current tenant is a girl who just finished law school and will be moving to L.A. in mid-August, so the timing is perfect. Her lease is up in November, so we would sublet until then, and then we would have the option to sign our own lease at that point. We thought that could be great, because it would give us a chance to see if we really do like the building and the neighborhood, so we can better decide if we want to sign a one- or two-year lease on our own (or if we hate it, we can get the heck out of there!). 

The catch is, it just might be more of a hassle than we're looking for. We'd have to apply both with the building and with this girl, sign contracts with both, and she wants our first month's rent in advance PLUS a one-month security deposit. She says she will refund the security deposit after we move out, when she receives a signed letter from the building saying that we don't owe anything for damages to the unit. A one-month security deposit isn't abnormal, and we're certainly prepared to pay a security deposit on whatever apartment we find, but we have lots of questions for this one that need to be answered first. Like, she says she'll refund the deposit after we move out...but what if we end up signing our own lease and living there for a few years? Will she just have our money indefinitely? Will the building do an inspection regardless in November so we can get our money back from her? What about any damages that SHE has caused in her 8 months of living there? Will they do an inspection after she moves out so that we know what was caused by her and what was caused by us? Also, is it fair to us to pay a full month's rent as security deposit -- which is the standard deposit for a one-year lease -- when we're only going to be subletting for 4 months? And so on, and so on. We understand that she needs to look out for herself in this situation, but we want to make sure we're taken care of also.

Plus, part of the big appeal of this building was the lack of security deposit. It sure would help us out to save that money up front, so we can have it for the summer, other moving expenses, whatever. So maybe it's better to just lease through the building itself (even though it will cost a little more per month) to save that money upfront, when we really need it.

So many questions! Anyone have any advice?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Operation:NYC Apartment is underway!

Well, we had our first real NYC apartment hunting experience this weekend. On Friday night, Eric and I were sitting around watching a movie, and he was looking up apartment buildings on his computer. He found one that had a one-bedroom apartment opening up in August that looked interesting, so we debated for a while about hopping on a bus early Saturday morning to go to NYC for the day. By the time we really got around to discussing the plan seriously, it was already 1:00 a.m. so we decided to put the trip off until Sunday. We developed more of a plan of attack, which included visiting four different buildings: two on the Upper West side, and two in Long Island City.

So, Sunday morning arrived and we left our apartment at 6:00a.m. by cab to catch a bus in Chinatown at 6:45. Amazingly, we made it to NYC in 4 hours, which is record time. I think because it was a Sunday morning, there was virtually no traffic heading into Lincoln Tunnel, which is usually the part of the trip that slows things down. So we exited the bus on to the streets of NYC (Broadway, to be exact) a little before 11:00.

Below is a map of Manhattan, with the locations of each of the buildings we visited, designated by the colored markers. I'll describe each in the order in which we visited them.

Our first stop was Archstone 101 West End, which is the green marker on the map. We had seen online that they had a 1-bedroom opening up in August in our price range, with what looked like very large closets (a definite plus!). The building and apartment ended up being alright. It had a nice gym, apartments were nice, etc. However, in order to get there from the subway, we had to walk through a pretty questionable area, which I would not want to do at night by myself. Plus, this building was so far West that it felt pretty removed from everything. There really weren't many shops, restaurants, etc. nearby, which is definitely not what we're looking for. We also didn't get the best impression from the leasing agent we spoke to, who seemed to not really know what he was talking about and was pretty unprofessional (he kept talking about how hungover he was). So, pass!

From there we walked down to our next stop, Archstone West 54th, the blue marker on the map. This was the building Eric had seen on Friday that really got us interested. On our walk, we actually passed by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (pictured left), which is where I am planning to apply to a PhD program! It is literally about 2 blocks from this apartment building, which is a major plus on my end. Actually, I really enjoyed the whole neighborhood. When we last visited John Jay about 5 years ago, it was in a pretty sketchy area known as "Hell's Kitchen." Well apparently, since then, they have cleaned up the area and renamed it "Clinton." Now, things seem much cleaner and safer. There were lots of shops, restaurants for every type of food you can imagine, plus a grocery store, Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins on the ground floor of the apartment building. Now THAT is something I could live with! There is also a small park, including a dog park, just a few blocks away. How great! It also is walking distance from the Theater District (Broadway show, anyone?), Times Square, and Central Park (read: if you want to visit NYC, you'd love to stay with us here!). 

We had to wait a while to get a tour of the West 54th building, but when we did, we were pretty pleased. This leasing agent was very friendly, very knowledgeable, and very helpful. The building was great - it also had a nice fitness center, two on-site laundry facilities, a sun deck, and a courtyard. The apartments were nice, decent sized, with good closet space. The building requires no security deposit with approved credit, has no pet deposit or monthly pet fee (yay!), and even has complimentary bike storage. So, lots of pluses for this building! The only downside is that the only 1-bedroom that is available (as of right now) for August is just a little out of our price range. We're going to have to crunch some numbers to see how it could work. But, we were very pleased with this building, and they do have less expensive 1-bedrooms, so we might hope something else opens up in that price range.

After that building, we walked over to Times Square and grabbed a slice of pizza and lemonade for lunch. Then we caught the subway out to Long Island City for the next two buildings. We had heard good things about LIC, which is actually in Queens. From the looks of things, we would be able to get a larger apartment with amazing amenities (such as rooftop pools with views of the Manhattan skyline) for the same or less money than in Manhattan. Eric's commute would actually even be shorter from LIC than from the places we looked at in Manhattan (it's only one subway stop from Grand Central Station, which is where he would go). So we thought it was worth a look. We looked at a 1-bedroom in the East Coast Long Island City building (the red marker on the map) and also at the Avalon Riverview North (the yellow marker, and pictured left).

Our general consensus about both buildings was the same: they were great, but we just weren't sure LIC was for us. Both apartments were really nice, and the amenities were really fantastic. The East Coast building apartment even had a great view of the Manhattan skyline, which was beautiful. But, the city itself had a very small-town feel to it, and really didn't have much around it, as far as restaurants and shops. It didn't even have a local grocery store, with the exception of a deli that happens to sell a few groceries and a Costco that is 2 miles away (no good if you don't have a car!). We felt that the area would probably end up being very up-and-coming, and soon enough there will be everything you could possibly want in the area, but for now it was just too bare for us. We figured we would spend most of our time in Manhattan if we lived there, so we may as well just live in Manhattan. So unless some sort of outrageously amazing apartment opens up in LIC, we can probably cross it off our list of possibilities.

After that, we had about an hour until our bus home, but we were absolutely exhausted. We stopped and got something to drink and just sat in the air-conditioned shop for a while to pass the time. The weather was so unbelievably hot this weekend! Then we caught our bus at 5:30pm, and finally made it back to our apartment at 11:00pm. What a long day! But, I think it was very productive - even though we didn't actually get an apartment, we got a much better idea of what we're looking for and got a few more ideas of things to look into. We'll probably do another day trip next weekend to keep looking. So, wish us luck!

And just for good measure, I thought I would share a couple of NYC-esque pictures in addition to the "all-business" apartment pictures above:

Saw this on the side of the street - somebody had quite a night! They finished a bottle of Jaegermeister and lost their pants.
Perhaps this belongs to our hungover leasing agent from the first building?

Eric taking care of business on the streets of NYC

Typical New York scene: so much to look at!

Me in Herald Square

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Pastor Gramps

Pastor Gramps holding baby me

Today, the church that I attended as a child in Cleveland is throwing a celebration in honor of my grandfather, and the 60th anniversary of his ordination. Gramps was a Pastor at that church for years and years, and still lives in the former "Pastor's house" behind the church. That church, and Gramps' ministry, have been a big part of our family's lives. 

Some of my favorite memories of Gramps are of him in his role as Pastor of our church. For example, I think of him every Easter Sunday, when the Pastor says "Christ is risen!" and the congregation is expected to respond, "He is risen, indeed!" I have never seen another Pastor say that with as much enthusiasm, spirit, and inspiration as Gramps always did. He would have the congregation shouting back at him in no time!

Gramps, congratulations on 60 years of faithful service. You are such an inspiration to your family. I wish I could be there to celebrate with you today, but I'm thinking of you!