City Escape: Beacon, NY

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I’d been feeling a little cooped up after all the snow and cold weather we’ve been having, and I was itching to get a little further out of the city. On a tip from a friend, I decided to take a day trip to Beacon, a small town about 60 miles north of Manhattan accessible via the Metro North’s Poughkeepsie line.

Dia:Beacon, a contemporary art museum, is probably the town’s most well-known attraction. Located on the banks of the Hudson River in a building that used to be a Nabisco box-printing factory, the museum features works by Andy Warhol, Blinky Palermo, Sol LeWitt and others. Beacon has a growing art scene, and although I’m not exactly an art aficionado, reading through a few New York Times articles provided interesting background (“Beacon: A City Reborn as a Haven for Art” and “Art and Calm Just Up the Hudson“).

Andy Warhol's "Shadows"

Andy Warhol’s “Shadows”

"Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964-1977"

“Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964-1977”

The ride up was super convenient and very scenic. Metro North has a “Getaway” package deal: a round-trip train ticket to Beacon and museum admission for $35. It was about an 80-minute ride with some pretty nice views to boot.

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The town’s population is 15,000, and walking up and down Main Street made the idea of living in small-town America seem pretty appealing: being overwhelmed with options isn’t possible because there is exactly one grocery store, one dentist, and one of each type of ethnic food restaurant, and a three-bedroom house goes for about the same price as a 300-square foot studio apartment on 5th Avenue. The views of the Hudson and Mt. Beacon in the backdrop didn’t hurt either. I got lunch at Homespun Foods, popped into a used bookstore and bought two old issues of National Geographic for 25 cents a piece, and ended the day at Bank Square Coffeehouse.

View of the Hudson River from Dia:Beacon.

View of the Hudson River from Dia:Beacon

Main Street (Beacon, NY)

Main Street (Beacon, NY)

Overall, a nice mini excursion with some indoor alternatives when it’s a little too cold to go hiking or running outside.

(New Year’s) Resolutions & Cooking (Mis)adventures

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chicken soba noodle soupUsually I don’t make a big deal about New Year’s resolutions, and I actually can’t remember a single other one I’ve made before. I do tend to come up with little ideas and goals for myself here and there; I just don’t necessarily keep them within a dedicated timeframe.

This year, New Year’s happened to fall at a time when I was discovering mini “goals” for myself anyways:

1) Cook more
2) Focus on increasing the number of miles when running and less on time/speed

The cooking one came about because I kept coming across all of these tempting holiday-themed recipes. For some reason, my apartment is equipped with a dishwasher but no oven, so I bought a toaster oven off Amazon and then a mini-prep food processor a few days later.

I should explain at this point that I would not exactly consider myself to be adept in the kitchen. I eat out or throw together frozen or pre-cooked Trader Joe’s items, and make eggs or pasta when I’m feeling particularly ambitious.

In the past few weeks, I’ve played around with several different dishes with the recipes and moral support from my friend Cara, who has a great cooking blog (Big Girls Small Kitchen) and book (“In the Small Kitchen“).

Baking proved to be the most fun and challenging experiment. (My parents immigrated from Thailand so I grew up in a household where there was always chili paste and oyster sauce aplenty, but finding flour and baking soda was a stretch.)

My first attempt—oatmeal raisin spice cookies—tasted more like Cliff Bars than cookies because I made so many try-to-be-healthy substitutions. Edible, but I had them for breakfast rather than for dessert.

The second attempt—Cara’s banana, chocolate chip and granola cookies—turned out a little better. But entailed two trips to the grocery store for all of the proper ingredients, and a few important lessons learned:

1) When the recipe calls for both granulated sugar and brown sugar, you really have to use both. (I only had brown and thought that would be fine. It was not.)

2) It’s not a good idea to make egg substitutions in baked goods. (I’d forgotten I’d hard boiled mine earlier, and thought that since the internet said you could sub applesauce or yogurt for eggs, it’d be ok. It was not.)

3) It’s important to cut the cookie sheet to the size of the pan or smaller in a tiny toaster oven. (I may have started a small fire when the oversized cookie sheet caught fire…)

I also made homemade hummuschicken soba soup, and fried rice, each of which had its own little lessons learned. The overall lesson so far? It’s fun to be creative and see what you can do by putting different things together, and pretty fulfilling to make your own meals!