Now I Know, New York.

Everything is scary until you do it.
New York is kind of a scary concept. Millions of people in a small amount of space. Crowded streets, crowded buildings, crowded subways. There isn’t crime around every corner waiting for you. But you do need to pay attention to your surroundings. The sheer number of people means there will be more poverty and homelessness, dirtier streets, more germs. It also means there will be loud, opinionated people. Or sometimes there will be loud, mentally unstable people sitting next to you on the Subway talking to themselves or yelling “You’re all going to wish you were dead!” at you and a friend in the street (yes, that actually happened).
There are a lot of unsettling things about New York. But, having just left, I can say I felt an overwhelming sense of security and like I was truly at home in New York.

Central Park

This summer, I did something I’d always wanted to do. A friend of mine asked me if I had known about my internship before I decided I wanted to live in the city. Basically, what came first: my job or the city? And my answer was the city. The city always came first. If anyone ever asked where I wanted to live most or where I wanted to visit, that was the first place to come to mind. I was just too afraid to really ever do it or say I was going to do it. Personally, I thank God for the courage and good timing to do it.

When I came to New York in middle school with my mom and a friend, I really saw it through rose-colored glasses. This idealistic view of the city continued as I grew up and obsessively watched Sex and the City and Gossip Girl. I viewed NYC as this glamorous oasis with constant excitement, lights, fame, love, beauty and opportunity. And that is absolutely part of the multi-layered cake that is New York. But only part.
Now I know so much more about this place than I ever did.

Now I know Times Square is not the coolest part of the city and it’s actually a death trap full of tourists and guys with comedy show tickets waiting to rip you off.

Now I know that the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and 5th Avenue are beautiful, clean, and well-deservedly famous but some of the coolest, most chic people and places in the city can be found in SoHo, the West Village and Chelsea. That goes for the most expensive apartments too.

My favorite street in SoHo
My favorite street in SoHo

Now I know that having a rooftop with a view is an unbeatable perk to look for, whether in an apartment, club or a restaurant. But I also know it’s impressive to find an apartment with a dishwasher and laundry in the building.

Now I know the other boroughs have tons to offer, you just have to be willing to look.

Now I know that, yes, there are 1.5 million Starbucks in Manhattan but to find the best coffee, you have to go looking. And coffee is always necessary. Always.

Now I know that you fold your pizza when you eat it. That’s really the only way to do it.

Now I know that black and white never go out of style. If you ever want to push your fashion boundaries there is no better place than New York to try.

Now I know that New York has some of the best bakeries and desserts you’ll ever find. Items like the Cronut and the Cookie Shot at Dominique Ansel’s are truly an experience just to get your hands on. But sometimes all you need is a classic black and white cookie, a dessert that I now know New York loves.

The Cronut
The Cronut

Now I know that anywhere unlimited sushi and sake is offered is guaranteed to be two things: 1) loud and 2) incredibly fun.

Now I know that you don’t really have to wait for a walk sign to cross the street. In fact, doing that is kind of weird.

Now I know that it might be worth looking like a weird newbie checking the street before you walk in order to not be pummeled by the bikers that fly by without stopping for pedestrians.

Now I know that you should never really feel lost in New York because no matter where you are, there’s something incredible to see and someone else equally lost to see it with.

Wings

Now I know that people don’t talk on the Subway. Ever.

Now I know that making a plan is overrated. I spent more days than not just wandering around my favorite neighborhoods with no specific destination in mind and that is when I enjoyed myself the most and when I found the coolest spots.

Now I know that the best things come when you’re least expecting it or looking for it. Seeing celebrities, for example, always happened at the most random times in the most random places. New York will always surprise you.

Now I know that if I made it in New York starting from scratch, I really can make it anywhere (Jay Z knew what he was talking about). New York challenges you and pushes you to be tougher and ready for anything.

Street Art 2

Now I know that if you don’t know what to do after college and you find yourself getting an internship offer in New York City and you see no possible way it could work out and you don’t really know what you’ll do after, there is only one thing you should do: make it work. Don’t even think twice.

Now I know that everything is scary until you do it. Then it’s just part of life you’ll look back on and always love that you did it.

A friend I met in New York shared a quote with me that I think perfectly describes the effect the city has on its explorers: “Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.” – John Steinbeck 

Now I know.

Brooklyn Bridge

Feeling 22: The Birthday Cake

No birthday is complete without a cake. No girl’s 22nd birthday is complete without an even better, delicious chocolate cake topped with fudge, right? 

I turned 22 January 4th and can honestly say it was the best birthday yet. I went to lunch at Buffalo Grill with my mom, dad and boyfriend Charles. Then went to dinner at Cafe Prego with my best friends – one of the tastiest Italian places in Little Rock.

To top it all off, my mom made one of the best birthday cakes I’ve ever had. I feel like it wouldn’t be fair not to share the recipe with everyone else. If you’re a chocolate lover like me, give it a shot and let me know what you think!

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We made a chocolate cake and topped it with cream cheese icing and a Semi-Sweet Chocolate Glaze. The ingredients for the chocolate glaze are described separately below. We also put a chocolate-dipped strawberry on top and some crumbled Oreos around the bottom edge. So much chocolate – so good.

 

Chocolate Cake
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strong black coffee 
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round baking pans. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder. Mix dry ingredients on low until thoroughly combined.
3. Add coffee, buttermilk, eggs, oil and vanilla. Mix on medium for ~two minutes.
4. Pour batter into two prepared pans.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes for round pans or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
6. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
7. Frost as desired. I used Pillsbury Cream Cheese Frosting. 
 
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Glaze
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 3/4 cup

Ingredients:

 
3 squares BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

1. Microwave chocolate, water and margarine in a large microwavable bowl on high 1 to 2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring once. Remove from microwave. 
2. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
3. Stir in sugar and vanilla until smooth. For thinner glaze, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon additional water. 
4. Drizzle chocolate glaze on top and sides of the iced cake. 
5. Add crumbled Oreos around the bottom edge of the cake for some extra sweetness!
 

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That’s how you make the best cake, birthday style.