daily dessert

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Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day. I didn’t have a single plan and I decided to let the day take me where it pleased. First, our friend Matt met Kevin and me at our apartment after we’d just finished eating breakfast (coffee, bagels and an omelet made by Kevin The Breakfast Cook Extraordinare). Then the three of us set out to meet up with some friends in Williamsburg, first taking a detour through Fort Greene for some very special ice cream.

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A casual corner restaurant called The General Greene (229 Dekalb Ave at Clermont Ave) has recently become locally famous for a little ice cream cart that sits right outside its front door. They have incredible, unusual flavors like Honey Vanilla and everyone’s favorite, Salted Caramel Pretzel, which was my pick. Faryn made a trip to the cart earlier this summer and it looked like a delicious experience, so when my friend Matt suggested we stop by to get some scoops, I was more than agreeable. The ice cream was incredibly good – creamy, salty, sweet, so flavorful – we mmm’d after every bite. (Although Matt and I agreed it would have been even better with a little chocolate mixed in. There’s always room for a little chocolate.)

So that was my first dessert of the day.

After the Greene ice cream, we spent a perfect afternoon with some of our best friends at Marina’s apartment in Williamsburg. Marina is an incredibly talented cook – there is no doubt in my mind she will one day own and operate a lovely little cafe. She made amazing pizza and yummy sangria for everyone.

Later, we all ventured out to see a concert that we ended up missing. So instead, we stopped into a polish restaurant and enjoyed some comfort food and good conversation. When dinner ended and we were walking to the subway to head home, I saw another ice cream shop called Penny Licks (158 Bedford Ave, between 8th St & 9th St).

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Having had such a small scoop earlier in the day, and wanting something sweet to cap off my wonderful Sunday of delicious food and drink, I forced Kevin to pop in for another treat. I chose the organic cookie dough ice cream, but I ended up having only a few bites of it. That was really all I needed to feel sweet-tooth satisfied. Kevin, the poor guy, was charged with eating the rest. It was incredibly good ice cream so I think he survived.

The shop itself was cute and cheerful.

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All in all, yesterday was a great day for a dessert journalist. Three cheers for ice cream!

daily dessert

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Our friend Dan threw a party last night and it was a great time. Along with performances by a lot of talented, funny people, and beer sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery, Faryn and I made Fanny & Jane cupcakes and buttercream cookie sandwiches to sell.

People seemed to enjoy the sweets, and I stole a cookie sandwich – it was my dessert for the day. It was delicious.

The party, which was held at Gowanus Studio Space, was an interesting mix of people – some I knew, some I didn’t. It was such a cool, breezy night in Brooklyn that the open windows and dim lighting gave the whole event a really relaxed feeling. It was an all around easy and fun time.

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the envelope method check-in

It’s nearing the end of the month, which means it’s time to check in on my envelope method progress.

It went well! I spent more than I’d intended to, but for my first attempt at cutting back I did a really good job.

I withdrew all the spending cash that I was allowed to use up in a two week period and then I gave myself a budget of $20 a day, which would spread that cash out over the two weeks. Anything I wanted, including food, had to come from that budget. I’m sure this is true of most places, but in New York City specifically, it is so easy to blow $20 without even noticing you did.

So, keeping my cash for the two weeks in physical form all in one place really did help me to have an idea of where and how I was spending my money. It made me realize that using that damn debit card can really add up. It’s so easy to just quickly swipe it for a $9 lunch or a $7 cab ride. It’s so much harder, though, to dig into my wallet, pull out the actual cash, and pay someone half of what’s in there for something I probably don’t even need.

It goes without saying that one of the simplest ways I was able to make this happen was by committing to buying food at the store and eating the food I bought. It worked. In the last two weeks, I spent a fraction of what I usually spend on food and I felt less wasteful too. Sure, I occasionally bought food when I was out, but not to the extent I usually do.

One night, Sunday night, I was met with a new scenario. I don’t often go out on the town, but I’d planned to on Sunday night. I knew it would cost me more than the $20 I’d allotted for myself, especially since I’d already spent some of it during the day. So I had to dip into the following day’s funds in order to cover it. But it worked out just fine. I cut back the next day, and it all evened out. Usually, I would have spent whatever I wanted or needed to on Sunday night. And then I wouldn’t have realized or even considered that I should compensate for my splurge by spending a bit less the next day. As a formerly overweight person, I do it all the time with calories – consume more one day and less the next. It’s how I’ve been able to maintain my weight loss and still enjoy myself. But I’ve never thought before about trying to relate that way to my money too.

The point is, I saved a few bucks in these last couple weeks. And that feels good. I’m gearing up to try it for another two weeks and hoping I can make a few more adjustments. My next plan is to be a billionaire by the time this experiment is over.

daily dessert

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When I was very little, my mom and I lived with my grandparents in a town on the Mississippi River called Quincy, Illinois. Actually, my grandma, my mom and I were all born in Quincy. My mother was young when I was born, only 19, so while she finished college and got her teaching certificate, we all lived together in my grandparents’ big old house. It was great.

We moved to a town about 90 minutes away when I was four years old. My mom had gotten her first teaching job – 5th grade reading – and it was time for us to have our own apartment and our own lives. Once we’d moved away from Quincy, a feeling of devastating sadness would wash over me every time we said goodbye to my grandparents, whether we were visiting them or they were visiting us. I would sob. I’m talking gut-wrenching, lung compromising sobs. I hated leaving them, specifically her. My grandma was my best friend when I was little. We did everything together.

Wow, this got off track. Save it for the mini-series, right? I’d started out wanting to tell you that when we lived in Quincy, my two favorite fast food joints (besides some local places you’ve never heard of) were Wendy’s (shout out to Chris Griggs!) and Dairy Queen. In fact, rumor has it that my mom had a cherry flavored Mister Misty from Dairy Queen the night before I was born.

My grandfather always used to take me to Dairy Queen to get Butterfinger Blizzards, which are to die for, and they remain one of my favorite treats ever. But when I wasn’t visiting the Dairy Queen with my grandpa, I’d get one of their famous chocolate dipped vanilla cones. I can remember waiting patiently, my sneakers sticking to the orange tiled floor, while the teenager behind the counter dipped my cone into that gooey chocolate.

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Yesterday, on an afternoon break at the desk job, I took a walk down 5th Avenue, found myself a Mister Softee truck, and ordered myself a chocolate dipped cone. The guy gave me a deal, asking me if I worked in the neighborhood and nodding to the line of tourists behind me, indicating that he had to charge them the higher price but for a local, he couldn’t bear to do it.

I was so pleased to be standing there with my chocolate dipped cone. I had to show great restraint to snap a photo before I took a gleeful bite.

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It was very yummy and I reminisced about trips to Dairy Queen while I ate it. Here’s a shot of it mostly eaten (with one of those awesome Party Rental trucks with the big pig on it in the background). This treat wasn’t very filling like my cone from Blue Marble on Monday had been, which leads me to believe that Mister Softee is not really ice cream at all, but more likely some kind of frozen chemically milky type substance. Yikes. It’s definitely not “real” food. But oh well. It was delicious and a few chemicals every once in a while are probably good for the immune system. And memories of favorite childhood sweets and favorite all-time relatives are always good for the immune system.

midtown

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Sometimes I wonder if I will miss midtown Manhattan when I don’t work here anymore.

There are some lovely things to see and smell, there’s amazing street food, and there are always interesting people to see.

I am looking forward to escaping its frenetic pace and its tourist traps. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anyone their tourist traps. But it will be nice not to work near them someday, so I can, you know, walk down the street at a natural pace.

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daily dessert

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Rare are the days when I haven’t given myself some errand or task to accomplish on my lunch break. But I found myself with nothing to do for an hour yesterday afternoon. Glorious. I escaped from the desk job with my wallet and my camera and set out on a little lunchtime adventure.

The lunch carts this side of 5th Avenue don’t always cut it for me, so I ventured over to good ol’ Avenue of the Americas where the street meat flows like…plentiful meat. I found a little taco stand I’d noticed once before and was dying to try (lunch from them was just okay – nothing special) and then I remembered that parked nearby was my favorite sweets truck, the first-ever, which set the standard for all sweets trucks that would follow in its wake – The Treats Truck.

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I don’t mean to be a purist, but standing there in front of  Sugar (that’s the name of the truck) watching all the sweet-toothed midtowners order their classic crispies and oatmeal jammies made me want to forget about all those other sweets trucks forever. Some of them might have delicious wares, but the Treats Truck remains my number one.

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I’m in love with this truck, you guys. Doesn’t their stuff look so simple and yummy? It is.

I kept myself in check, though, and only got two cookies: A little tiny sugar dot, which was a mere $.50. (The first photo of the post is the sugar dot.) And a divine, chewy, perfect chocolate chip cookie.

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I had to pry it out of my own fingers in order to snap this photo before I gobbled it up. It was one of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had, hands down.

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In summation, it was a delighful lunchtime adventure and I returned to the office well fed, well sunned and smiling. Thank you, Treats Truck. I’ll be back.

daily dessert

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This doesn’t look too appealing does it. Well, I blame my amateur photography skills, because it tasted heavenly.

I put about 3/4 of a cup of chocolate soy ice cream into a little bowl, topped it with some leftover cream cheese frosting I’d been saving in the freezer (oh god, so good), and some crunchy little sesame sticks from Trader Joe’s that I’m in love with that the moment. And for a final touch, I threw a little all-natural peanut butter on there.

The result was one of the mostly sinfully delicious sundaes I’ve made in a while. It reminded me of the hot fudge peanut butter sundae I used to get at Julieanne’s Custard in Crystal Lake (my home town). Julieanne’s has since closed down, which is an absolute shame because it was the best ice cream in the area, but my little sundae last night had me imagining all the ways I can recreate my favorite sundae flavors.

Basically, if it’s got chocolate and peanut butter, I want it.

a brooklyn job hunt

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So yesterday was an interesting day. It was certainly not a normal day for me.

After getting dressed and finding myself some breakfast, I slathered on sunscreen, packed up my stack of resumes, gave Kevin a big smooch, and headed out the door. I was looking forward to the afternoon. At worst, I’d have a lovely walk through sunny Brooklyn on a day I’d otherwise be inside staring at a computer. And at best, I’d find a million dollars in an envelope on a park bench. Or a new job. Whichever.

Since I’m not eleven, I can vividly remember a time when there was no internet. Although I wasn’t part of the work force at the time, I remember knowing that you found a job by looking through a newspaper, asking a friend to refer you, or walking into the place where you wanted to work. But I didn’t enter the work force until the internet was a big part of the world. So with the exception of a few odd jobs I landed through word of mouth or friend referrals, I’ve usually found work by searching for it online, as I’m sure is the case for most people my age and in my socio-economic class. That’s why it felt incredibly foreign to be walking around in the outside world yesterday, expecting to say not to just one person, but hopefully to dozens, “Are you hiring?”

I did what I often do in potentially intimidating situations like this. I just imagined that this was something I did all the time, and something that I felt really confident doing it. Luckily, that method worked and the I’m A Big Weirdo feeling went away pretty early on.

When I left the apartment, I first walked to the nearby grade school. I had this daydream that I’d find some non-teacher work there, anything they had available, maybe even a lunch lady job (!). I’d have to get up early to work at the school, sure, but I’d be done every day by 3pm. And my commute would be the 46 steps to and from to my front door. But when I got to the school, I found it was closed. It is summer, after all.

So my first attempt didn’t work out. I decided, however, not to let the circumstances of the day impact my mood too much one way or the other. I knew I wasn’t embarking on this experience with unrealistic expectations of finding a job, nailing the interview, being offered the position, and walking home with my first paycheck in my pocket. I knew it was going to be a afternoon filled with unknowns and there was no right or wrong way to do it. So I let that be my guide. I reminded myself that I was likely to get hot, tired of walking around in the summer sun, hungry, maybe even lonely. So whenever I felt one of those things, I just dealt with it. I sat down, or found some water, or checked my email on my blackberry.

I’m making it sound like I was on an eight month jungle safari, right?

Ten or twelve years ago, walking around my neighborhood on a hot summer day asking for jobs would have been my idea of human torture. And if I found myself doing so, it would have almost certainly been inflicted upon me by my mother, who would have, for one annoying reason or another, insisted I leave the house and not come back for X number of hours or until I had a job, which ever came first. (Had she ever done that, which she didn’t, I probably would have parked my butt on a curb somewhere and waited for the sun to go down before coming home and claiming that I’d dropped a bunch of resumes off and I should have a job in a matter of hours.)

Anyway, after the lunch lady dream was dashed, I kept walking. My immediate neighborhood isn’t necessarily the kind of place I’d expect to find a job. It’s mostly hair salons, take-out restaurants, and 99 cent stores. I’m certainly not above working in any of those places, but I was hoping for something that would pay a reasonable hourly rate. I didn’t think I’d find that at “De Bamboo Express.” So I walked for a quite a while, stopping once at a dentist’s office (“No, I’m sorry. We’re not hiring.”) and once at a coffee shop (“No, but you can leave a resume.”) and I eventually found myself outside my immediate neighborhood and into one nearby. I ended up the Brooklyn Library for a few minutes. I used their restroom AND dropped off a resume. Two birds.

Then I stopped for ice cream and a sit-down. And after I finished my sweet treat, I was ready to go again. I ended up walking up and down all kinds of streets that I’ve often driven down or walked by, but never really explored. I popped into every shop or establishment that seemed appropriate and I was gaining more confidence after each attempt. “Hi. I was wondering if you guys are hiring?” It was a question that seemed to first surprise most people, but it was also met with a certain level of respect, and then kindness. I probably would have felt the same if I were in their shoes. I imagined myself sitting at my current job, looking up to find a girl like me standing in the lobby with a folder tucked under her arm. I would have thought, “This girl is walking around in the heat, pounding the pavement to find a job. She’s just walked right in here and bravely asked me if we’re hiring. I would never do that. She must really need a job. And she must be brave.”

It was sort of fun to dream up what these people might think of me – that I’d been laid off, been out of work for weeks or months, had a family to support, that I was broke, that I’d been competing for jobs on the internet for so long, without any progress, that I’d gotten fed up and decided to strike out on my own. I can only assume that’s what I would have thought about me if I were them. It was funny to remind myself that none of that stuff is true, that I was choosing to do this – that I have a job with a decent salary and health insurance, a job that I had to take a vacation day from in order to walk around asking people for another job, that I’m not broke, that I haven’t been laid off, that I’m just looking to change my circumstances. It was a much different situation than I’ve been in before when on this kind of hunt. In fact, this might be one of the first times in my life I’m actually looking for a new job because I want to, not because I have to. It’s fun. Almost like shoe shopping. Almost.

I walked into dozens of places. Some I left resumes, some I didn’t. If didn’t feel good about the place, I wasn’t going to waste my time asking if they wanted me to work there. That would defeat the purpose. I stopped in a bunch of cafes, some stores, a couple yoga studios and office buildings. I avoided traditional restaurants, having had absolutely no restaurant experience whatsoever in my entire life. I didn’t think my chances were good at a restaurant, I didn’t really want to lie about my experience and I didn’t know the first thing to say if I were to be asked questions about waiting tables or serving food. I’m sure I could make something up, but I was worried it would seem obvious that I was lying (and that I was terrified.).

Many places gave me their cards, directed me to email addresses to send a resume to, or websites to visit to check on their hiring status (ironic). A bunch of places said they’d just gone through a round of hiring, but it couldn’t hurt to submit my resume so they could have it on file. Near the end of my journey, I was finally able to fill out an application at a coffee shop in Park Slope that I’ve always liked. My resume, overflowing with administrative and receptionist positions, probably didn’t look too appealing to whomever reviewed the application later that evening. I hadn’t even considered changing it around to put the focus on my customer service experience, to mention my food handlers license, or to write a nice, cheery objective, like, “I hope to work as a counter person at a friendly Brooklyn café.” I felt silly handing my office worker resume to these trendy café servers, but I did it. And the act of doing it matters for something, I’m sure.

Once I’d hit the three-hour mark, it was time to head home. Surprisingly, I wasn’t terribly tired or hungry. Years of living in New York City builds one’s endurance for hot days where lots of walking is involved. But I did have an appointment to get to (An interview I conducted for this blog – to be posted soon!) and I didn’t want to be late.

When I got home, Kevin greeted me with lots of kisses and hugs and “I’m so proud of you!”s. That was reward enough for my full afternoon. While I sat on the couch and stared off into space, I thought about the business cards I collected from the different bakeries and cafes, the variety of people I’d met, the Brooklyn daytime culture I’d gotten to experience, and how genuinely nice every single person I spoke to was. No one was rude to me when I asked if they were hiring, no one was short with me, or even indifferent. They were all employees who’d been, in one way or another, standing my shoes at some point, and they were all more than happy to spend a few seconds of their time answering my questions and making sure I didn’t feel stupid for asking.

I learned that I need to have a more appropriate resume if I expect to get a non-office job without having any non-office experience. I learned that it’s awesome to be walking around outside on a beautiful, warm weekday. And I was reminded that I can be outgoing when I decide to be.

I’m not sure what’s in store for me in terms of getting a job in Brooklyn. I’m keeping an eye out for opportunities online and I think I might pop back into a few places here and there when I get a chance (with the right sort of resume, of course). Most importantly, and this was really the goal to begin with, I know that the very act of doing what I did yesterday was valuable for me as I continue to create momentum and build connections. Those will all come together someday to construct that magical bridge, which I know will appear when I least expect it, to lead me out of this desk job. It’s not a bad job. I just want something different for my life.

(Oh and by the way, to throw a little humble pie in here, coming back to work this morning to sit in a comfortable chair, at a place where I know the rules and parameters, and can expect my paycheck at the end of the week? It wasn’t so bad.)