I’ve been having a really fun time getting into vlogging! It’s really weird and awkward at first if you’re filming in public so I’m still adjusting to that but I love having the footage to look back on afterward so I’ve been making a concerted effort to vlog whenever I’m on the go. Two weekends ago, I had a really exciting string of days so I combined footage from Jonathan of Geekscape’s Pokemon Go meetup, PotterCon at Irving Plaza in NYC and National Book Lover’s Day at Barnes and Noble with Monica. At PotterCon I finally got to meet Jordandene who is a super lovely person and she filmed a little clip with me for my video! There’s also a ton of Harry Potter cosplay (the winner of the contest’s cosplay is one of my favorite I’ve ever seen) and a mini book haul.
In NYC, we’re very fortunate to have a ton of spectacular bookstores to spend our time in when the urge to pick up something new strikes. If you live in New York City, or you’re planning on visiting sometime and you want to know the best bookstores to check out, I made a list of my top 5 favorites because really, those are the places I spend most of my time here. My number one store will always be The Strand, but there are some really close seconds which I detail in my video. I hope this is helpful!
One of my most recent Christmas season traditions is to visit (and preferably eat at but I’ll get to that in a minute) at Rolfs in NYC. It’s a German restaurant that draws a huge crowd of Christmas enthusiasts because upon entering you may think that Christmas has exploded inside. It’s honestly breathtaking. Andrew and I went last year and even though we waited in the cold for hours our experience was definitely worth it. This year, we were joined by my brother Bob and while overall, we did have a lot of fun, it became clear just how mismanaged Rolf’s busiest season can be.
We waited on a line outside for about a half an hour only to find out that they weren’t taking table reservations until you got to the front of it. We put our names down and crowded into the already overcrowded bar to enjoy a warm glass of gluhwein while we waited for our table. We spent about 3 hours inside squished at the bar and maybe one table was called in that time (with zero effort put forth by the host to find the people called). We found out that 10PM is their last seating so at 9PM when there were still 7 people ahead of us on the list we decided to bow out and eat some junk food at Penn Station on our way home instead.
I would suggest dropping in for one drink at the bar if you love Christmas as much as I do. The drinks are overpriced, the restaurant is overcrowded, the staff is pretty obnoxious and walks away from anyone asking them questions but the decorations, quality of their gluhwein and the company you bring with you can still make it an enjoyable experience. I really loved the potato pancakes I ate there last year and I’m thinking that I may take a day off of work so I can be at 4PM there when they open for my 2016 trip because I cannot picture willingly going in for a repeat of this year. The only exception would be if I went in with the mindset that I would be having one drink and then leaving.
For this week’s 5 Fandom Friday I decided to throw together a little hodgepodge of my favorite holiday recommendations in 5 different categories. I’m going to be doing a book specific holiday recommendations post next week so I thought it would be nice to compile my top favorite favorites here today.
1) Book – My True Love Gave To Me – This book is full of short stories set during the holidays. It’s perfect to read during the season when you can’t devote as much time to reading a full blown novel. I read it last year and really enjoyed it and I’m planning on re-reading it this year and writing a full review of each tale!
2) Cookie – Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies – My mom makes these every year and I have never been able to resist them when they’re just sitting there on our table basically begging to be eaten. It’s essentially a shortbread cookie with a scoop of raspberry jam in the middle. I’m a sucker for raspberry anything so these have always been my holiday favorite!
3) Drink – Gluhwein – It’s been a tradition in my family since long before I was born for my grandfather to make a huge batch of gluhwein. It’s a mulled wine (full of tons of liquor) and can be garnished with a cinnamon stick or orange slices. It’s so delightful to warm up a cup on a freezing cold winter night and sip it while reading or watching tv. Luckily, my grandfather has been teaching my dad and brother to brew his version for the past few years so the recipe will continue to be passed down throughout our family.
4) Song – Baby It’s Cold Outside – I just adore this song. Paticularly, the She & Him version. I play this on repeat without ever feeling the slightest bit sick of it and I love singing along and switching parts or singing both by myself if I’m alone. Zooey’s vocals are so beautiful<3
5) Movie – Elf – Elf is one holiday movie that I watch year round. I love everything about it! The humor, the positive Christmas spirit message it sends and obviously Buddy’s enthusiasm and eating habits. Andrew and I have been quoting Elf to each other since we met (a sure sign of true love if you ask me).
Decorations – Rolf’s – Andrew and I went to Rolf’s for the first time last year. We spent at least 1.5 hours (it honestly could’ve been more) waiting outside in the freezing cold December weather just for the opportunity to get inside. Rolf’s takes Christmas decorations to a whole other level. It’s like Christmas exploded inside. Plus, there’s gluhwein! We’re definitely planning on going back this year because despite the wait, the experience was just perfect.
I always count myself lucky that I happen to live and work right near Nintendo World which is the only Nintendo Store in the United States. On Friday morning before work I was planning on stopping there to try and grab the new Amiibos and a copy of the new game Super Mario Maker which is INCREDIBLY cool. The game is for Wii U and it allows you to design your own Mario levels! Unfortunately, the line at the store spanned an entire NYC avenue and there was no chance I would be able to wait there and make it to work on time. Since I did have my heart set on seeing how the store was decorated to promote the game, I went back during lunch when I knew it would be less chaotic. I picked up a copy that Andrew and I have not yet had time to test out but we’ll probably give it a go sometime next week. The window display is one of the best I’ve ever seen and the inside of the store looked amazing as well! I already have a photo of myself coming out of a warp pipe from E3 a few years ago, but I’m tempted to go back and take photos with this one and the adorable mushroom!
And as for those Amiibos, I carried out Plan B which was to run to the Best Buy a couple of blocks over and I waited on a VERY short line where I was able to get 2 / 4 Amiibos (Ganondorf and Zero Suit Samus) that my heart desired. Some guy cut me in line and got the last 8-bit Mario Amiibo and to say I was upset is a gross understatement. But anyway, Andrew was able to order one online from GameStop when it appeared later in the day! We also have Dr. Mario en route from Target.com and the last figure I want to add to our collection from this wave is Bowser Jr.
Attention NYC nerds! This coming Saturday I’ll be joining Lorraine Cink of Marvel’s The Watcher as a guest on her Co-Ed Geek Girl Slumber Party podcast which is a nerdy variety show. The event is being held at The Peoples Improv Theater at 9:30 PM and other guests include Jill Pantozzi, Daniel Kibblesmith, Margaret Lyons, Monique Moses and a special surprise guest! There’s going to be a Q&A panel, a geeky musical act and the chance to win a prize as long as your dressed in your favorite fangirl pajamas. Tickets are only $10 and you can purchase them here and you can visit the official website here!
Never in a million years could I have imagined just how lucky I would be to find someone like my now fiancé Andrew<3 He is an extremely talented graphic designer (which sure helped during this elaborate proposal) and he is the most creative, kind and loving person and I can’t get over how lucky I am to be spending the rest of my life with him. Please note that we had him sorted on Pottermore a few weeks ago because he insisted that he’s a Hufflepuff but I’ve been saying he’s Gryffindor since day one. Albeit, Pottermore sorted him into Gryffindor and he went out and bought a House tie for this glorious occasion.
We recently got engaged at my favorite place in the world, The Strand Bookstore in NYC and the entire process leading up to it was absolutely magical. If you’ve been following me on Instagram and Twitter you’ll know that I’ve been receiving a series of letters from Harry Potter characters for the past week. I’ve scanned high resolution versions of each so you can read them clearly and I’m going to be writing out exactly how the actual proposal happened because I’ve had so many of you comment about how you enjoyed following along so it’s only fair that you find out the ending (or rather, beginning) of our story!
I also have to point out that there were seven letters in all which as all Potterheads know is the most significant number for reasons. (ie. there are seven Harry Potter books and seven Horcruxes)
A letter from Minerva McGonagall stating that I’d been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! Imagine coming home from a seemingly normal day of work only to find an envelope with an official Hogwarts wax seal (Andrew ordered a Hogwarts stamp online, and red wax which he melted and sealed each envelope with), an owl post stamp and two lines of claw marks from the owl who carried it on his journey. My initial reaction “WHAT IS THIS!?!?!?!” My parents just stared at me and mother insisted an owl dropped it off earlier that day. When I opened it I found an acceptance letter on official Hogwarts letterhead inviting me to attend the upcoming school year. This is literally my dream come true! I’ve been waiting for this letter since I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and suddenly at 28 it appeared. I’m assuming the poltergeist McGonagall is referring to is none other than Peeves and what I took away from this is that 1) I would be getting more letters(!) and 2) I had no idea how to send my reply (an obvious yes) since I do not own an owl. Andrew said it sounded like I would be getting more instructions so I should probably just wait. Sidenote: I am incredibly impatient. I actually considered not going to work the next day because I wanted my next letter so badly. And so my magical week began! (Key clue words include “Commitment” and “long and happy future”)
A letter from Fred and George Weasley! It’s difficult to tell in the scan but Fred’s writing is in a deep navy blue and George’s is in black and their handwriting is in slightly different fonts (which is easier to see). I love how humorous and in character their correspondence is! The post script had me laughing out loud! In addition to the letter, Fred and George also sent me a parcel packaged in brown paper and tied with a string. I opened it quickly and discovered that they had entrusted me with the Marauders Map (from the Noble Collection- a thing I have mentioned to Andrew that I’ve always wanted)! My next thoughts revolved around how easily it will be for me to sneak out of the castle and grab Butterbeers in Hogsmeade when Potions class seems unbearable!
Another letter from Professor McGonagall! I love how she stresses the importance of the three things that Hogwarts students carry with them at all times. I immediately texted Cassie and Melissa in our ongoing group chat with a photo of the letter and we set up a date for our “We’re going to be Wizards!” manicures. I can only assume that Andrew is in fact the one that stopped at Gringotts to cover the cost which is beyond sweet. I appreciate that he scheduled in some female bonding time with my best friends before the big day so we could talk about everything in person and grab some cupcakes together. (Key clue: manicures –> hands –> fingers –> ring)
A letter and parcel from Hagrid! This is one of my favorite letters I’ve received, particularly because 1) it came with Chocolate Frogs which I had JUST been talking about wanting not even a week earlier and 2) the letter is burned around the edges and it looks beautiful in person! It’s so like Hagrid to have a dangerous little creature wreaking havoc on his letters. And he wasn’t kidding about the owl being confused, the envelope is postmarked in 6 different countries before it finally reached me! I’ve been savoring my Chocolate Frogs so I still have a few left but I’m hesitant about diving into the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans as I’m sure you can imagine.
Another follow-up letter from McGonagall stating the time and date of my appointment at The Strand to get my books for the upcoming school year. Anyone who knows me is fully aware that books are my the most important material possession to me and I am always the happiest when I’m in a bookstore so the thought of waiting until Wednesday for this appointment was absolutely excruciating. Daydreams of new books, and magical books at that, were definitely keeping me up at night when I should’ve been asleep. (Key clues: The Strand aka my favorite place in the world – Suggesting I dress well)
A letter from Professor Trelawney warning me of the doom I shall face should I accept my place at Hogwarts! This is another one of my favorite letters because I couldn’t stop laughing while I was reading it. My parents did not get it at all which was even funnier to me. This letter also included a package of African Mint Green Tea from David’s Tea and Andrew put his graphic design skills to work again and created a Wizards Brew label for the package. (Key clue: RINGING. RINGing.)
The last will and testament of Albus Dumbledore! So, here’s the full story:
When I arrived at The Strand I went straight to the back corner of the fiction department and when I didn’t see anyone waiting there I asked Andrew if he thought that the person’s name was actually an author and not an employee. He shrugged noncommittally and I started searching the stacks. Andrew grabbed a ladder for me because Emma Chapman was located on the top shelf. In one of her books entitled How to be a Good Wife (Andrew assured me this book was chosen because wife was in the title and it was in no way a reflection on me) the final letter was hidden. I read through Dumbledore’s will and laugh-cried through the whole thing because of all of the reasons I wouldn’t need what was being left to Ron, Hermione and Harry were heartwarming and / or humorous. When I finally finished reading through the Will, Andrew pulled a golden Snitch out of his bag. He said some very beautiful things to me including that his world would end without me. He then said “I only open at the close,” got down on one knee, opened the Snitch (which he ordered online, cut in half and turned into a ring box) and asked me to marry him right there surrounded by stacks upon stacks of books! Tears of joy ensue!
I had no idea but Andrew had asked his friend Michelle who is an amazing photographer (seriously, you should check out her instagram for a taste of her work!) to come and take photos of us during the proposal and I’m so happy that it’s all documented! We took several more photos after I exclaimed my YES (on the second floor with the Harry Potter books of course). One of the Strand employees gave us a lovely card wishing us luck in the future and telling us how much they appreciated being part of our special day. They also posted a photo of us on their instagram account which is pretty awesome!
And then, as if this whole thing couldn’t possibly get any more romantic, Andrew and Ben (his coworker and our dear friend) spent the afternoon calling Please Don’t Tell to get reservations for us to celebrate. PDT is a speakeasy on St. Marks and you can only enter through a faux phonebooth. They only take same-day reservations and they begin answering their phones at 3PM. BUT, what makes this incredibly romantic is that PDT is a place that Andrew and I went together after several dates and it’s the place he asked me to be his girlfriend<3
So basically, the most wonderful and magical proposal a girl could ever dream of. I’m still amazed at all of the time and effort that Andrew put into his elaborate proposal and how he made the entire process into something he knew would mean everything to me. It was just such a special experience since Harry Potter had such a large impact on me throughout my life and to incorporate it into this next chapter means the world to me. I’m over the moon about everything and I’m so excited to start planning our wedding day and to know that I’ll be spending the rest of my life with the man of my dreams!
Last week, Melissa, Cassie, Andrew, Gil and I met up at Books of Wonder to celebrate the release of Melissa Grey’s debut novel The Girl at Midnight. I’ve already read, reviewed and loved the book, but I was so excited to be able to upgrade my ARC for a fancy new hardcover!
There were purple cupcakes, purple rock candy (which turned my mouth purple enough to match the book cover but it was SO good that I didn’t mind), popcorn, chocolate covered pretzels and best of all, champagne! It was so fitting to have such a feast since food is constantly mentioned in the book. I kept getting hungry while reading every time one of my favorite foods would come up!
The event kicked off with Melissa reading a passage from The Girl at Midnight and answering audience questions about the story, her writing process and her characters. Melissa is extremely entertaining and I truly adore her sense of humor so it was really enjoyable to take in all her answers.
After about an hour, we were all able to line up and have Melissa sign our books! I know the first one just came out but I seriously cannot wait for book number 2!
Last weekend Sara of Sincerely Sara and I met up for a full day of fun on the first day of the season that was actually worthy of spring. We grabbed crepes from Viva La Crepe (both of us opted for nutella & strawberry) and then walked over to The Strand where I put a slight lift on my No Spend April but I limited myself to just 3 books (which was especially difficult since we kept trading recommendations). Then we met up with Andrew who took this lovely photo of us in front of a cherry blossom tree<3 We also got to see the newly unveiled street art of the giant baby Hulk in front of an American flag made up of distorted logos and ads which hit the corner of Bowery and Houston just one day prior.
We walked to Morgenstern’s for ice cream cones (I had pistachio green tea, Andrew had salted caramel pretzel and Sara had mango), and then backtracked down 2nd Avenue where we made a quick stop at Toy Tokyo. Sara picked up so Funko Pop figures for her brothers and herself, and I grabbed some Sailor Moon charms and a Funko vinyl of Trixie Lulamoon (the wizard pony on MLP). We ended our day at Phyiscal Graffitea where Andrew and I had the most refreshing iced Moroccan Mint tea, and Sara had chocolate iced tea which we sipped while chatting about photography and past art exhibits in the New York area. We also saw this beautiful Converse sneaker along our travels. Overall, we had such a wonderful time and I can’t wait to plan another trip together! Sara is absolutely lovely in person and if you haven’t read her blog you can check it out here. I personally love her outfits inspired by Once Upon a Time and classic literature, as well as her own outfit of the day posts and book reviews!
After months and months of building anticipation, the days finally came where Andrew and I could head to Lincoln Center and claim our seats for the three night Lord of the Rings Trilogy event. Lincoln Center played all three films, (Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King – one per night) on a giant IMAX screen with a live orchestra playing the score along with the film. The event was nothing short of breath-taking. It was so amazing to be in a theater full the positive energy emanating from all the Tolkien enthusiasts in attendance. I loved how much audience reaction there was at pivotal moments during the films, whether it was applause, or cheering and laughter after specific lines (one of the best obviously being “They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard.”) There were people dressed in formal gowns, and people cosplaying as Hobbits and Elves. There was also such a diverse age range of audience members which is wonderful to see.
There were no photos allowed during the event, so naturally I snuck one at the beginning of each night to commemorate the performance. The 21st Century Symphony Chorus & Orchestra as well as the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and solosit KaitlynLusk were led by conductor Ludwig Wicki who has an immense amount of energy. I hadn’t previously realized how closely conductors resemble magicians. Kaitlyn’s voice was magical and perfectly fit the LOTR score. The only downside to the event (which is reasonable so I can understand) is that the theatrical versions were played instead of the extended cuts.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the absolute highlight of the event was on the third night when Return of the King ended and Howard Shore appeared onstage to give a speech. I was nearly in tears! I wasn’t expecting him to be there so I was totally taken by surprise. He thanked Peter Jackson and Tolkien and the LOTR fans. My hands were actually burning as we were leaving from clapping so hard. If you ever have to opportunity to see LOTR played with a live orchestra, I cannot recommend it enough. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had!