How to Plan a Birthday Gift

Two months prior, you start making mental notes of things your boyfriend likes. You start paying attention to small comments made here and there of things that amuses him. You scour the internet for concerts and shows.

You purchase tickets for a concert of a band he might enjoy a week prior his birthday. He knows one song from the band, but you’re sure he’ll enjoy the concert anyway. You click “Buy” without regard to the price. You want the best seats.

All men are boys – so you shop for a toy. You make sure it’s something he likes. He’s mentioned it months ago – this is a good buy. You ask his brother and sister for their opinion.

You buy novelty shirts. Something funny, smart and geeky. Buy it in blue because blue looks good on him.

You make reservations in a steakhouse. Fuck diets, it’s his birthday. You go through the menu and see if there’s anything he’d like. You call the restaurant and mention you’re having dinner for your boyfriend’s birthday before going to a Broadway musical.

You buy tickets for a show. You haven’t seen a musical in a long time. He’s going to love it.

You put all the gifts in a corner in your room so he’ll see the surprise you prepared for him when he comes over and stay for the night.

It’s going to be perfect.


The real gift is you are willing to cancel everything because your boyfriend’s sister decided to throw a family-only party that you’re not invited to.

The real gift is calling the restaurant to cancel your reservation.

The real gift is calling your best friend to accompany you to a Broadway musical because you don’t want to waste the rather expensive tickets you got, and you don’t want to go alone.

The real gift is not losing your shit because in a relationship, one has to be the strong one that the other can hold on to.

How to Avoid a Knife Attack: Visit Governors Island and Watch The Dark Knight Rises

Downtown New York City is filled with two kinds of creatures: people working the stock markets and tourists who want to see the World Trade Center site. I haven’t decided which one is more vile. But yesterday was a Saturday, so it was just tourists. My best bud Ryan and I wanted to check out one of the islands often ignored. More ignored than Staten Island. South of Manhattan is a relatively unknown island, Governors Island. It’s actually closer to Brooklyn, separated by the Buttermilk Channel – which sounds both yummy and disgusting. It’s a quick ten-minute ferry ride from Manhattan to get to the island.

From what I gathered, the Dutch bought the island from the natives, which was then taken over by the British and set aside as the governor’s residence. If I have to point out that this is how Governors Island got its name, I’m sorry for you. The Americans eventually took over and the island was fortified. A castle was built that overlooks the sea where a foreign naval attack may originate. It was turned into a prison afterwards. Many years later, the Coast Guard took over and turned the buildings in the island as residence. At some point, the Coast Guard left and the island was closed from the public. Bloomberg had it open and the island became part of the national parks.

Enough history. I’m sure Google and Wikipedia can offer better information anyway.

Ryan and I got to the island hungry and we were worried about the food situation. Food in a small patch of land surrounded by water is not too different from food served in boats and ferries – which is never good. The island had a “food court” which consists of a few food trucks lined up in between buildings. Not the same fancy food trucks you may find in Union Square that dare to make Korean food into tacos or make fancy grilled cheese sandwiches by using brie instead of processed cheese that comes in single wraps, the food is pretty much like street food. Which is to say it’s actually good if you’re hungry and have no regard for hygiene or standards. Ryan and I were hungry with no regard for hygiene or standards. We finished out barbeque chicken, yellow rice and sweet plantains that Ryan refused to share with me and had ice softees. Ryan had vanilla and chocolate twist which made her cough, and I had vanilla dipped in cherry. I’m convinced that the cherry coating they use is partially made of wax. Think about it – the ice cream truck keeps the cherry syrup in a warm container where it remains liquid, and yet dipping cold ice cream to it hardens it almost instantly. And that shit tastes like wax with a hint of cherry flavoring.

We headed over to the sculpture garden where you’d find a face replica of The Statue of Liberty sticking out of the ground. It offers a point of view you won’t see from the real statue as you can’t get the same vantage point if you visit Liberty Island. Lady Liberty does not have boogers.

Not far is a huge tv set where one can go “inside” and be a tv star. Ryan did her best Vitamin Water endorsement. To book her, call me – I’m her manager.

There was also a mini golf area but I haven’t actually figured out if this was for adults or just for kids. I don’t play golf, nor the mini version, so I didn’t care to find out.

We walked back pass the food court and went to one of the buildings that is used for exhibits and stores. This building, which I assume is a similar layout as the rest on this particular street, had three sections. Each section has three floors and each floor has two doors leading to apartments. Each apartment has two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a living space. They are rather small but I would kill to get an apartment similar to those.

We went to one section which is basically a store. They have a collection of handmade jewelry, screen printed shirts and tote canvas bags, artworks and other knick knacks.

The next section has an exhibit of old costumes that are basically rejects from museums because they are tattered and torn due to negligence and time. Ryan: “Of course there are neglected, museums didn’t take them to be preserved.” That girl made a good point – it’s like talking to Rain Man sometimes. There was a wedding gown in the living room surrounded by peeling paint chips from the walls of the old building. It was eerie and beautiful and it felt like New Orleans.

The last section has more artworks – sculptures and watercolor painting made en plein air of views and sites of the island.

We walked along the edge of the island through old buildings that look like were once lived in. There was a garage door left open with light coming in from the other side through windows covered in dirt and dust. It created a rather smokey light inside the garage that was so pretty, Instagram should create a filter like this for their app.

By the dock is a building that smells like a hospital. Ryan, being a nurse, can verify such odor of sanitized disease. We skipped the building coming in because of hunger fully discussed a few paragraphs earlier. There is an exhibit going on about graphics, which was surprisingly interesting. There were print ads, posters, and books about and of cool graphic designs (sidebar: I detest the word “cool” because it’s a lazy way of saying something is interesting without expanding on the idea – but I am being lazy right now. What? I’m not a paid writer).


For some reason, I am not excited about seeing Man of Steel. Every time I see Henry Cavill, I think of my boyfriend’s brother who I think is a dead ringer of Cavill. I can’t be trusted as I’ve seen him a total of three times including one New Year’s Eve when he spent most of the time in a different room playing video games.

Man of Steel is directed by the same guy who directed the latest Batman movie, Christopher Nolan. The third installment of the trilogy being The Dark Knight Rises which Ryan hasn’t seen, so we decided to see it. Also, we missed the Bourne movie by ten minutes.

Am I alone when I say Anne Hathaway did a great job? I feel dirty saying that. The dirty dive bar scene really did it for me, when she pretended she was an innocent bystander. I am not of course saying she did a great Catwoman. I still have issues with that. You can’t just give someone cat ears and call her Catwoman.  The character she played could have been anyone if you think about it, I don’t think it has to be Selina Kyle.

Tom Brady as Bane did one thing: give a few guys a Halloween costume this fall. And it’s really easy, I may do it myself: grab a brown leather coat, hold on to the lapels, put a black jockstrap over your head and speak in a sing-song manner with a British accent. How hard could that be? I already did my impression of Bane by just using my hands.

In a way, my greatest disappointment was really Miranda Tate. Marion Cottillard could have been a great Catwoman. I mean look at her! She already looks like a cat! She’s feline and seductive. Isn’t that the Catwoman mold? Tate being Talia as the twist was really good, but I saw it coming after Liam Neeson echoed Tate’s words in Bruce Wayne’s hallucinations. What really scared me was all her balance with nature talk – what if she ended up taking off her clothes to show a green leotard underneath and then started talking to plants? Poison Ivy was all about saving the planet, so was Miranda Tate.

Another good surprise was Blake’s legal name was Robin. Ryan almost lost her shit when she heard it. Look at Joseph Gordon-Levitt – doesn’t he look like The Riddler? I think that was a casting opportunity missed.


Before reaching the movie theater in Times Square, Ryan and I took the 1 train from Battery Park. We got out of the subway on the corner of 41st and Seventh Avenue by a Red Lobster when a bunch of people started running around the same corner. My first thought was “Lady, there are no sale worth running to” and then I realized she was running AWAY from something. Around the corner, I saw about ten cops, guns out of holsters. I look ahead of me, and I realized that not more than twenty feet away from was a guy brandishing a ten-inch butcher knife. He could have ran towards my direction, it was not much of a feat. My only consolation is I was actually behind a crowd of people. With their cellphones out. Taking pictures and videos of a desperate guy trying to get away from the cops. It made me sick to think that it is very possible that these people are also waiting for the worst to happen, and that they can take pictures of it, take videos, and put them up on Youtube, and on Facebook. I hoped that I was wrong. But I wasn’t.

Read more here: New York Times.

How to Make French Toast Using Your Smartphone, Your Tablet and the Internet

I recently visited my friend Rey and his wife Charmaine in Saint Louis and one morning, we decided to have breakfast in a French restaurant. Charmaine was craving for french toast, which was not on the menu. The chef and owner of the restaurant, who happens to be French, told our server that french toast is not actually a French dish, the same way french fries is not originally French.

Fast forward to one month later, Saturday morning, and I’m craving french toast. But I don’t know how to make them. I’ve seen my mom cook the dish, but I didn’t exactly hung around to watch the whole process. I was more excited about sitting down and inhaling my mom’s cooking.

I figured it can’t be that hard to make french toast. It’s 2012, everything can be found in the internet. My dad was active in the Navy when I was growing up, so I turn to my father figure: Martha Stewart. She of course, had a recipe for french toast. She had eighteen of them. I picked one with apples.

I use an app called Evernote. It’s amazing. I downloaded the app on several devices I have: my iPod, my Blackberry and my PlayBook. I copied and pasted Stewart’s recipe to the online Evernote app. Put on a baseball cap and head out to the local grocery. On my way, I checked my Blackberry and synced Evernote – the recipe is now on my phone.

I now know what exactly I need to buy in the grocery. Grabbed half a dozen of eggs, a loaf of bread and a few apples and headed back home.

I prepared the kitchen to cook and grabbed my PlayBook. Fired up the Evernote app and basically had a “cookbook” by my stove so I can follow along the instructions while I cook.

Isn’t technology amazing? So was my french toast.

A Country Mouse visits A City Mouse

I spent Fourth of July weekend up in the family ranch back in Colorado to attend my cousin Dan’s wedding. It was a beautiful wedding – very small, just close friends and family. Hay bales and planks were involved, camping gear and a double-wide trailer newly installed. From a city boy’s view, it was a hicks-ville but from a mountaineer’s eye, it was just pretty. Totally enjoyed it, and totally worth the hundred some dollars to fly from NY.
But aside from the holiday weekend and family wedding, my brother Saul also turned sixteen earlier this March. I have a long standing promise to each of my siblings that in the summer after they turn sixteen, I’ll fly them out to NY and spend a week with me in the city. To my youngest sister Bella who’s turning two this year – we have yet to talk and I have yet to make the same promise. This can be a possible loop hole when you turn sixteen.
We flew the same day to NY – my boyfriend Andy and I in one flight, and Saul on a separate flight. I tried to get the same flight but no seats were available. When we checked in, I made sure I spoke with the airline agent (and I did one of those I-just-glanced-at-your-name-tag-I-WILL-mention-your-name-if-shit-goes-down moves) to let them know that my brother was flying by himself. He had a connecting flight in Atlanta, and that was the only time he would be totally by himself. I’m not saying he’s not bright, he can read signs and all, but the kid is from the mountains – Atlanta airport is huge compared to Colorado Springs Airport’s twelve gates.
I arrived in LaGuardia around 7pm and let Andy go home while I stayed to wait for my brother’s delayed flight. He did not land until 11:30pm and we did not get to my apartment until half past midnight.
As any tourist in NY should do, first thing we did was go to Liberty Island. It’s a very historic site. It’s where Magneto used Rogue to power a machine that would turn the leaders of the United Nations into mutants. We spent most of the time following a group of young French girls and their chaperone. I bet Saul was thinking I wasn’t aware of what he was doing – I am very aware. He thinks he’s so slick.

We were trying to take a picture of the couple making out by the railing across from us.

We also went to The Natural History Museum. He took some pretty cool pictures of the dioramas, and of me posing next to dinosaurs. My Lady Gaga impressions were very useful – raise your paws up, little monsters. Since we were already in the area, we headed to Central Park and checked out Strawberry Field – when CDs first came out, I remember my Dad bringing compilation CDs and we would listen to The Beatles over and over all day.

We had dinner at Vynl which was in Chelsea. I’ve never seen my brother so uncomfortable! We were surrounded by rather outlandish gay guys, and it’s just something he’s never seen before. At one point, when I was going to the restroom, he actually said “don’t leave me by myself.” Poor kid. So I left him by himself and he wasn’t devoured by gay men. That was a teachable moment.
We hit the art museums in one day. We started at the Museum of Modern Art and showed him the three paintings that made me move to NY. We followed MoMA with the Guggenheim. I think he was more interested with the architecture than the art works inside. Though there was one work that got us both perplexed – a room covered in $100,000-worth of one dollar bills. A few blocks down was The Metropolitan Museum of Art and stayed in line for almost an hour to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit.

On our way to the Met, we saw this being sold on the street - reminded me of Grandma!

My good friend Ryan wanted to take Saul to the Bronx Zoo. I’ve actually been there only once before, and it was with Ryan as well. The zoo was fun, but nothing compared to the commute to the Bronx. It was a weekend so there were some train issues. At one point, we had to take a shuttle bus, and there was a crazy guy in the bus. I could feel Saul’s heart beating like a drum. The crazy had no shoes, and he kept yelling at everyone. I didn’t mind because I’m used to it, but when crazy guy put his hands in his pants, that was when I grabbed my brother by his hand because I would want to know where he is when I start defending him from a pervert with my free arm doing jabbing motions despite the lack of a shiv.

If they are undiscovered - how do they know it's forty for every one?

We went to the wax museum in Times Square – it was pricey to get in, but after seeing what’s inside, I decided it was totally worth. I’ll even add it to my list of where to bring tourists. The wax models were amazing as it is, but they also had a 15-minute 4D experience of the movie Happy Feet. You basically watch a 3D movie but you also “feel” what was going on in the movie. We got sprayed with water, poked on the back, saw bubbles. It was stupidly fun and I will do it again.

Saul with Jennifer Lopez. I told him to squeeze her ass, he wouldn't.

Was telling Woody Allen my idea for his next movie.

The last thing we did during his stay was go to the Empire State Building. I typically do that first when I take visitors out to show the city and what to see and expect but I figured I shake things up a bit. I’d like to think he was impressed by the city, and I felt proud showing him MY city.
He told me he wanted to come back, and he asked how much the plane tickets were so he can find a job and save up for a trip. It’s cute, but I don’t know if he’ll actually go through with it. We talked about our sister Angel who is next in line for the sixteenth-birthday-gift, and how I’m not going to let her travel the same way he did. I asked him if he can maybe drive her to Denver, that way, she won’t have a connecting flight and just fly direct from Colorado to New York. When Saul got back in Colorado, my sister called me and there was panic in her voice: “Saul told me you won’t let me fly by myself and that he’s coming with me when I come visit you. IS THAT TRUE?!” After calming her down, she asked me what we can do in New York. She wants to start planning for our trip. Three years premature.

CVS: A Food Porn Love Affair

A little over a month ago, Andy and I met with the happiest couple I know, Steven and Yeli. We met up for shrimp tacos in a wine bar down Broome called Ten Bells but the bar changed chefs and they don’t offer the dish anymore. We drowned our sorrows with their house wine, and ate olives, cheeses and empanadas. Conversation was mainly about food, because they were doing this binge-eating situation that I’m assuming they read from Tim Ferris’ book The 4-Hour Body. We also talked about how much we all love traveling to nearby cities like Philadelphia and Washington DC. We left the bar hardly tipsy and had cupcakes from Baby Cakes which was just across the street from the bar. We all had a cupcake and shared one cookie ice cream sandwich. We then started to walk down Chinatown to walk off the food and wine, while talking about good bad movies. I honestly can’t remember who said it, but someone mentioned crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m pretty sure that at this point, it was past 10:30 at night, and no one thought NO was the logical answer so everyone started walking towards the bridge. It was actually a lovely night, weather-wise. Halfway over the East River, IHOP was mentioned. We high-tailed it to IHOP, which was open 24 hours. The amount of food we ate was bordering immoral – different syrups, chicken and steaks, waffles and pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausages. We actually walked it off again by crossing the bridge a second time. And when we got to the City Hall, we shared a biscuit-sized strawberry shortcake.

From Chinatown to IHOP in Brooklyn

From Chinatown to IHOP in Brooklyn

This one-night of eating, talking and walking was a prelude to last weekend’s shenanigans.
The four of went to Washington DC for basically a food-tour. We met up Friday afternoon at the Megabus stop on 9th Avenue and got to the nation’s capital around 8pm. We went straight to the hotel on M street and decided we wanted to eat (surprise). We looked online for a burger joint since it seemed it was the four of us were craving for. We found a placed called Funxion that served amazing burgers. To top it, it’s one of those healthy places that uses organic ingredients and yet their menu is not high-priced. We shared a plate of chips and guacamole – the chips by the way were pita cut in triangles then toasted.
Interestingly enough, after having the meal, all we talked about was getting snacks as we walked back to the hotel. We passed by a CVS and that’s when the monster awoke. Steven decided we needed a cart to buy snacks. We grabbed an Entenmann’s cake. Which goes well with Eddy’s vanilla ice cream. And Utz barbeque chips. With watermelon Twizzlers on the side. And peanut-butter pretzels. With chocolate-covered almonds. Plus assorted flavors of Gummi Lifesavers. And I swear, I’m missing some more from this list. It was like everything you wanted when you were twelve but was told No. Andy said “We are disgusting” to which Yeli was quick to reply “I think it’s beautiful.” And you know what – it really was.

A small family of four can survive on this food for three days.

We got up fairly early the following day and went to a coffee shop to have coffee, apple fritters, a breakfast sandwich and oatmeal. The plan was to do yoga. I know. And I’m going to tell you what I told Yeli (who happen to be a yoga instructor – check out her website and tell her I sent you): I can’t exactly say it was fun, but I’m glad we went. Half a block after stepping out of the yoga studio, there was a Wholefoods giving away sausage samples. It was Have a Sausage Day. We talked about what to eat on our way back to the hotel, and we were shortly distracted by an art gallery along the way and decided to go in to fulfill our art appreciation quota for the day. Quick change in the hotel and we started walking towards the Ford Theater. Across from where Lincoln was shot was the best waffle place on earth. I now associate Lincoln’s assassination with food. We ordered country fried steaks slathered with white gravy, pork chops that tasted like a mix of adobo and teriyaki, western omelets, and the best waffles I’ve ever had. They were very thin, and had small square pockets which are not the typical waffles I often see in diners. After our meal, we stepped out to find a barbeque street fair. The whole fair was fenced which I thought was weird until we realized that the Safeway-sponsored event is not free. We decided that we are not going to pay the $12 fee to walk in and BUY more barbeque. We were glad to pay for the food inside, but not to get in. We walked away with our noses up high and had pina-colada-flavored smoothies and went to The National Aquarium.

Steven showing an alligator who's the boss.

The aquarium was fairly a small space and we finished early, and our minds were set on Ben’s Chili up on U street. It was a long walk coming from D, so we stopped at a Pot Belly for a sub sandwich because why not? Ben’s Chili is a pretty joint, even the President goes there. We had chili dogs with chili fries and shakes.

Chili in general is unforgiving to your asshole.

We carried our bloated selves back to the hotel but we had to make two stops: at Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury for a block of maple fudge, and the same CVS we visited the night before to get, um, reinforcements.

Bacon. That is all.

We had an early bus ride from DC on Sunday, so we didn’t have time to pass by any diner. Also, I realized that only NY would have diners open for business on ungodly hours. As a bonus, we did find a hooker on the street. Well, we don’t know if she was but here’s the picture: bright blue underwear, fuck-me Lucite heels, bright blue eye shadow that matches her underwear, it was not even seven in the morning, and she was pacing back and forth on an intersection. Draw your own conclusions, but as for me, she’s a hard-working hooker who thought maybe she can pull (zing!) one more customer but the sun beat her to it.
We didn’t go straight home – we stopped at DC and met a couple of Steven’s and Yeli’s friends. They took us to Lorenzo’s pizza, and let me tell, those are HUGE pizzas they have over there. We ordered one large pie, but they had to use two boxes. A slice can cover my face, and I have a rather wide face. We took our boxes to the river front and ate our slices while listening to P90X stories. It’s rather refreshing gorging on a pizza slice that can feed a small family of mice while others are talking about exercising like Navy SEALs about to assassinate the founder of al-Qaeda. After finishing the boxes, next stop was Fat Tuesday’s for some Philly cheesesteaks. We visited the Mutter Museum which showcases a roster of physical/medical abnormalities and saw an engorged colon that can contain two and a half buckets of shit. The sign from God did not escape us. So we went back to South Street to buy more Philly cheesesteaks for the ride home.
We got back to the city fairly late, definitely past midnight and I had a long commute back home in Queens. I had to work in the morning, so I wanted to walk in my apartment and just pass out. But when I walked in, I got a drink of water in the kitchen and thought: I’m hungry.

I’m a Wino-in-the-making

Not really of a wine-drinker, mainly because I don’t know wine and I can’t match which wine goes with what food. I remember going through a sangria-phase a few years back. There’s a Cuban restaurant I used to go to a lot down on Union Square called Havana Central, and they served a flight of sangria samplers. You basically pick four or five of the sangrias you want to try and then they serve your choices on a long piece of wood that holds tumblers of your drinks. The sangrias were pretty good and from what I remember, they were not too expensive – considering I was making substantially less back then.

It’s summer, so every other restaurant is bringing out their own creations of sangrias so I figured maybe I can make them myself. I did a quick google search for sangria recipes and came upon this blog post. After reading a few more post, I decided to subscribe to her blog and I think you should too if you’re a foodie.

The drink is really simple, nothing too fancy and all the ingredients – including the pitcher I used and the bottle of Pinot Grigio – I was able to purchase in one place. By the way, since they are in season, the strawberries and the blueberries taste very sweet! I’ve become a masterhuller of strawberries, and after cutting them in quarters, three-parts go to the pitcher, and a quarter goes into my mouth and made my tummy happy.

I placed a tub of blueberries, a bunch of strawberries, two lemons and a lime in a pitcher, added sugar – though I’m regretting it now, I think the fruits were sweet enough – a cup or so of orange juice and a bottle of white wine. I did all that last night and hopefully tonight, the fruits are already infused with the OJ and wine. I’ll pour some in a tumbler and top it off with club soda. This day can’t end sooner!

Something extra for you – a goofy pic: