Wednesday, July 31, 2013

#nycdonuttour @ dough

Not to be defeated by our recent cronut experience, Jenn and I continued the NYC Donut Tour with a stop at Dough in Brooklyn. 

I've been hearing that Dough has the best yeast donuts in the city, so it's been high on my list of places to try.

They have some exotic flavors to offer, including Cafe au Lait, Passionfruit, and Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs as well as basics like Plain Glazed and Cinnamon Sugar. I have a feeling they rotate the menu, so I bet we were only seeing a sampling of the goods.

There's a small little corner to perch while you eat devour your donuts and can look into the kitchen. Not much was going on while we were there, but I can bet it is fun to watch when they are shaping all the donuts before they get fried.

I went with the Dulce de Leche. The taste was lovely and subtle and the donut was light and fluffy and delicious.

Jenn tried the Toasted Coconut, Mixed Berry, and Lemon Poppy Seed. (Don't judge, she took some home!) She liked the berry best. I'm a lemon fan, so the strong flavor of the poppy seed one was my favorite. The toasted coconut reminded me of Girl Scout's Samoa cookies. Very good as well!

And because I am a good girlfriend (i.e. wanted to sample more flavors) I brought a couple extra donuts home to share with Kurt. He loves anything spicy, so I knew he would appreciate the Tropical Chili and the Hibiscus just sounded too pretty to pass up.

He approves!

305 Franklin Avenue
Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

Monday, July 29, 2013

stems flower school

One recent Sunday, Jenn, Christine, Kristin, and I took a bike ride over to Ditmas Park for a flower arranging class at Stems, the flower shop inside Sycamore Bar. The class was very informal and our sweet teacher only gave us a few pointers (and a couple mixed drinks) before setting us loose on some gorgeous floral ingredients. After learning a few basics, we were able to pull together some loose, organic arrangements with a mix of "face flowers" (the pretty, colorful ones) and greenery. 

We didn't plan on carrying large mason jar vases home, so Jenn (the only one with a basket) had to bike all our arrangements home safely. She was a champ! Thanks, Jenn!

It was such a laid back, free spirited class (and not very expensive). I highly recommend it as a fun afternoon with your girlfriends!

Friday, July 26, 2013

happy house warming weekend!

Kurt and I are finally getting around to having people over to our new(ish) apartment this weekend for a housewarming party. Our place is nowhere near "done" (don't think it ever will be) but is leaning towards the direction of presentable once I give it a good straightening (i.e. shoving clutter in closets).

I put the invitation and guest list together through Paperless Post (so many cute options!). We're shamelessly asking our friends to help us stock our fledgling bar with booze and mixers. I'm excited to learn how to make lots of cocktails! Please send me recipes of your favorite concoctions.

For the party, we're planning on serving beer, wine, and an assortment of bruschetta which I'm pretty excited about putting together. I hope we have space to house all these people (remember? it's pretty small)! Overflow will be the building lobby and the front stoop. Great way to meet our new neighbors, right?!

I hope you all have a weekend filled with friends and fun as well! Send some good party vibes our way!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

summer visits

Kurt's parents came to visit the first week in July. It was unbelievably hot in the city (still is!) but somehow we were able to coax them outside for a spin around Brooklyn Bridge Park on citibikes and checking out Kurt's plot at our nearby community garden. We rounded out the 4th of July with some steaks on the grill and rooftop fireworks. I could do without all the gross sweatiness, but other than that, this summer thing is okay by me. Keep it coming, July!


Kurt and I arrived back from Charleston last night and phew was that a good trip! We have more photos than we know what to do with! I will get on sharing them as soon as I can but you know how those things go. It might be October before I get around to it :) Thanks for all your great tips! I hope you had an equally amazing weekend!

Monday, July 22, 2013

diy at the y

I get lots of "things that are happening in NYC" type emails and read a few blogs of the same nature. Even if I don't make it to a quarter of the events, I like to have my ear to the ground to be aware what is going on around the city. One such source is Daily Candy which, among other things, broadcasts a weekly listing of interesting events around town. A couple weeks ago, they mentioned a fundraising DIY class series at the YMCA. I like learning new things and I really like what the YMCA does for the community, so I was sold right off the bat. And the classes are actually really interesting! AND they were super cheap. I may have gone a little crazy and signed up for three. (Having been to two already, I can say it was so worth it.)

Jenn came with me to the first class called "Frozen Treats". It was taught by Anna, a sous chef from Dominique Ansel Bakery (yes, the one of cronut infamy). We learned all about the basics of ice cream, sorbet, custards and any other icy sweet we could think of.

It's kind of hard to demonstrate making something frozen in a two hour class, but Anna showed us how to make a couple ice cream bases, how to cook egg yolks so you make custard and not scrambled eggs, and let us sample some concoctions she had made at work (sadly, no cronuts).

We even had a chance to try and make our own granita base. Jenn and I went with strawberry, blood orange, and basil.

Our instructor Anna was super personable and entertaining and really knowledgeable She had lots of greats tips and guidelines for tweaking recipes to fit your needs and ingredients. I can't wait to get an ice cream maker and start whipping things up!


The other class I took was Web Coding 101, not quite as photogenic, but still really interesting. I'm not going to claim I've mastered HTML code in any way, but it does seem less cryptic and overwhelming. Don't expect any big changes around this Gravytrain anytime soon. That stuff is hard! I've still got lots of learning to do!

If you live in the city and are interested in trying a class, definitely check out the remaining options. I've signed up for Block Printing in September but stupidly bought a flight for the same evening and can't attend! Email me if you want my spot! And if you have any bright ideas for future courses or know someone who might be interested in volunteering to teach a class, email the coordinator Grace at grochford (at)

Friday, July 19, 2013

on the road to...charleston!

{image via}

Kurt and I are lucky enough to travel a lot. Most of the times, there are short weekend trips outside the city, visiting family in Ohio or Alabama, joining friends for weddings, and unfortunately sometimes heading home for more sad occasions. However, we don't often take completely gratuitous, no agenda vacations. And this weekend it's finally happening! I've been dying to go to Charleston for years. The city seems so lovely and scenic and the beach is thisclose. Sounds like my idea of perfection. I'm looking forward to wandering the historic streets, shopping at cute Southern boutiques, and taking bike rides along the water--all interspersed with good food and drink along the way, of course. I've got a long list of things to see and do but I'm trying to keep things casual and relaxed. We're planning a quick day trip to Savannah as well, so Kurt gets his full dose of Southern charm :)

My love for Charleston has undoubtedly sprung from all the gorgeous photos I see floating around on the blogs. Here are a few of my sources for planning/obsessing:

If you've got any last minute tips, feel free to pass them my way! And follow along on Instagram @melgraveline and @kurtmartig !

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

riverside south

Kurt's boss recently had a birthday party at Riverside Park South--an early project he worked on after arriving in the US from New Zealand. It was one of those all-day camp outs with a generous supply of food and drinks and a revolving cast of characters throughout the day. The weather also went through many phases, including sunny and hot, then cloudy with sprinkles, and finally clearing up a bit for a lovely sunset over the Hudson. 

With the recent heat wave, it's hard to remember what winter is like here. I enjoy the annual process of forgetting. I like to believe NYC hosts 365 days of sunshine, bike rides, picnics, and sunburns, but somewhere in the back of my mind I know it's too good to be true. So until the cold and snow inevitably return, I'm going to enjoy the summer for all it's worth!

Monday, July 15, 2013

#nycdonuttour @ dominique ansel (take one)

Have you heard of the cronut? It's a combination between a croissant and a donut created at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho and is a current craze in NYC. 

They only make a certain amount per day, so demand is pretty high. Once word got out how delicious they are, people started lining up outside the bakery at un-godly hours to get their hands on one. 

Not ones to miss out on an exciting cultural experience, Jenn and I decided to try our luck at the cronuts one morning. We didn't need to be the first in line (which requires about a 5am start time) so we decided to queue up at 7 when the bakery opens at 8. 

I'll save you the suspense, but we didn't get any #sadface. We weren't even 75 people away, not even close.

Thankfully, the bakery workers were super kind and kept us aware of the supply and let us down easy once they knew we were out of luck. By that point we had already waited in line for a couple hours and I was going to be late for work anyway, so we decided to stick it out for a little longer to sample some of the other treats Dominique Ansel has to offer.

{left image by me, right images via}

Showing up with treats definitely forgives being late much better at my office, so I was sure to get my coworkers a chocolate croissant, fresh Madeleine's, and another bakery specialty called the DKA. It was all amazing. I have even higher hopes for that cronut now. Jenn and I are determined to try again. 6am next time! Wish us luck!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

living room gallery wall!

Now this is living, people!  I am feeling 1000% better about our apartment now that we finally have some art on the walls. Our ceilings are decently high, so I knew I wanted to load one wall up with frames before we even moved in. Once Kurt heroically hung my TV on the wall (this required some intense cursing and trips to three different hardware stores) I started the planning process of hanging the art. 

I've seen some great tutorials around the internet about how to plan and hang a gallery wall, but I decided to make it very complicated in my own nerdy way. I photographed all our framed pieces, cropped them down in Photoshop, and then arranged them in AutoCAD (see above). Yes, it was a lot of prep work, but having an idea mapped out ahead of time made the installation process fly. I only strayed from the original layout slightly when I came across some extra items to hang or changed my mind about the placement of some things. 

The process! (Click if it's not moving.) Our TV isn't perfectly straight, so I didn't bother measuring much or using a level. Maybe that's why it went so quickly!

I'm one of those mean girlfriends that is making Kurt save all of this football paraphernalia for his future "man room", so most of the stuff I hung is mine. I hope it doesn't seem too girly. Although I have a feeling what I hung on one of the other living room walls makes me a super cool girlfriend in the end. I'll share that soon!

I seriously love how the wall turned out. Now I'm inspired to get moving on the rest of the place! (Any tips on concealing TV wires?!)

I hope everyone has a lovely 4th of July! Woo hoo America!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

date night at the brooklyn crab

Back at Christmas, Kurt gifted me a homemade book of coupons for dates around the city. It was such a fun present, but six months later, I had yet to use any! I decided it was about time to start cashing them in, so I told Kurt to keep Saturday night clear because he was taking me out. I chose my coupon for dinner and drinks at the Brooklyn Crab in Red Hook.

The place has three open-air levels for eating and drinking and an enormous backyard with mini golf and corn hole (sadly I didn't get a shot of the back). The place was packed (and somehow I missed the memo to dress up and looked pretty schlubby in my shorts) so it wasn't shocking when we were assigned a nearly two hour wait. Luckily we weren't starving and got some beers while we waited for our turn.

Finally, we were granted a table on the top floor. I wish there was still a little sunlight left because the view that high up was amazing. You could see the Statue of Liberty and out to Staten Island. We perused the mainly seafood menu, asked the waitress a few questions, and settled on an appetizer of mussels and then spicy snow crab legs for dinner. So good. We were a mess by the end of it all but full and happy.

Lest I think about double dipping and using my coupon again, Kurt made sure it was clearly marked "VOID" in my book :) Thanks for the great date night, Kurt! Lookout, I've got many more coupons to burn through!

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