About this Site

Leslie Beslie is a personal blog of me, Leslie. I share articles and thoughts on where I live and things I like. This includes NYC, books, finances, running, music, cats, and drawing.

Other Projects: French Toast Brigade | Life & Spending 2016 Weekly Planner | College Football Daybreak Podcast

Shipwrecked NYC is an Amazing Mini Golf Interactive Pirate Adventure

Shipwrecked NYC is an indoor miniature golf course located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY. Featuring a storyline, prop design, and a hill course, this mini golf experience is perfect for kids and adults.

Shipwrecked Miniature Golf (Interactive Pirate Adventure) in Red Hook Brooklyn NY

Shipwrecked Miniature Golf (Interactive Pirate Adventure) in Red Hook Brooklyn NY

Theater majors should always make miniature golf courses if this will be the end result.

I was at first skeptical of an indoor mini golf course. Mini golf is about waterfalls and being outside in the sweltering heat with zero shade and being able to laugh at all the other golfers and kids crying and mosquitoes that you can swat at with the club. Wouldn’t indoor mini golf lose all that? Well, yes. And in exchange we get an interactive adventure with a story and a plot and scenes! What a way to golf!

Think of this as a very small-scale children’s version of something like Sleep No More. As you golf, you are immersed into a story of a fellow pirate who sunk his ship while looking for treasure. On your golf-pirate-adventure journey, you travel underwater, then trek through a jungle, get lost in some caves, and finally find treasure. It is designed for both kids and adults because there are a lot of puns and dad jokes. We went as two adults and had a blast.

This is a traditional hills miniature golf course. The owners of Shipwrecked NYC bought a mini golf course in Maryland that was being torn down. They purchased everything then relocated all the holes to Brooklyn. The course is easy but still fun. You are definitely not losing anything with the added indoor experience.

I can’t find it now, but while reading up about the course and it’s owners, I found a fascinating interview with them. In it, they said that they just want to make people “smile, laugh, and have fun”. Shipwrecked NYC definitely accomplishes all of that!

Indoor Mini Golf Brooklyn Style

The four areas I describe above are designed as scenes. Each scene (underwater, jungle, caves, treasure) is in a separate room with four miniature golf holes set up.

First Scene: Jungle

First Scene: Jungle

Second Scene: Jungle

Second Scene: Jungle

Fourth Scene: Treasure

Fourth Scene: Treasure (Third scene was Caves but it was hard to take a photo)

The golfing part is traditional and fun. Everything is about a par 2-3. The rooms themselves are extremely immersive since they are all separate. Because the experience includes a story, the golf course is closed off from the main lobby. Where in traditional outdoors mini golf, you can see everyone on the course, here you can’t. We always had every room to ourselves. Not because it wasn’t busy, but because that boosted the experience. At 1pm on a Saturday we waited about 15-minutes to start. Not being able to see the course before starting also really adds to the excitement.

The story portion of Shipwrecked NYC is entirely optional and is at an extra charge. To hear the story features along the course, it is an extra $5 per game. This comes in the form of tokens ($1/token). You enter a token into certain set pieces along the course and get to hear more of the story. You have to do this! (figuratively, not literally). I cannot imagine going through this the first time without the story!

Getting to Red Hook

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn is Red Hook and I have explored it several times already. Although Shipwrecked NYC is located closer to Gowanus than the main parts of Red Hook.

Shipwrecked NYC Hours & Location

You can take the F/G train and walk, or the B61 and walk, or take a car service (a cheap ride from most surrounding neighborhoods), or bike (a short ride from most areas in BK). It is located on Court St next to a lot of warehouses, apartment buildings, and an auto shop. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. There is a sign out front though it might be hard to miss if you’re in a car or on a bike.

You will walk into what looks like a normal apartment building (and it is) where you have to take the elevator up to the second floor. There are signs all along the way pointing you in the direction of Pirate Adventure! There is an entrance area with lockers and I saw some scooters & strollers parked there. You might be able to leave your bike there, I’m not sure (there are not bike racks out front of the building).

While you’re in Red Hook, don’t forget to get a key lime pie and check out the pier!

Just a note, they sell some snacks and sodas but currently not alcohol.

shipwrecked_elevator

Shipwrecked NYC Details
Address: 621 Court St. , 2nd Fl. Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY
Hours: Mon-Thurs Noon-9pm; Fri noon-11pm; Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 11am-9pm
Price: Adults $14; Kids $10


New Way to Get to Rockaway Beach

rockaway-beach-queens

If you live in NYC and still haven’t made it out to the Rockaways, I highly recommend it. The beaches are beautiful and there is lots of access to the ocean. Plus, it is all free. Rockaway Beach is in the outskirts of Queens so getting there can be a trek. But thankfully the MTA does have train service directly to the beach access points. And that’s all included with a swipe of the metrocard!

The beaches have gained popularity since Hurricane Sandy wiped out all of the boardwalk and almost everything there. Some growth in food pop-ups and for-pay buses that go directly to Jacob Riis State Park have helped bring new visitors to the Rockaways. Thankfully, the MTA has noticed this too and increased train service as of June 2016.

rockaway-beach-shuttle-service

Extended Shuttle Service to Rockaway Beaches

According to the MTA, Rockaway Park Shuttle service has been extended to reach both A trains at Rockaway Blvd.

Old Way (pre-2016): Take a Far Rockaway bound A train to Broad Channel and transfer to the Rockaway Park Shuttle (S) train.

New Way (as of June 2016): Take either a Far Rockaway or Lefferts Blvd A train to Rockaway Blvd and transfer to the Rockaway Park Shuttle (S) train.

It is still a same platform transfer from the S to the A. The Shuttle extension to Rockaway Blvd is on weekends only until at least labor day. It is making regular A stops between Rockaway Blvd and Broad Channel. If you find yourself on a Far Rockaway train, you can still stay on it and transfer at Broad Channel if you’d prefer.

On their site, the MTA alluded to keeping the extra shuttle service on after Labor Day. Hopefully it will continue while all the NYC public beaches are still open. Remember, the water finally warms up in August so late summer is the perfect time for a beach trip.

rockaway-beach-sand

Full Directions to Rockaway Beaches

Once you’re on the Shuttle, the rest of the trip is the same. From Broad Channel onwards all stops have direct beach access. You will be about two blocks away from the beach. And the ocean will be visible from the train platform. There are several different parts of the beaches here. I am mostly familiar with the beach access around Beach 105th st. I haven’t been to Riis Park Beach in several years.

Swimming/Sunbathing: The Shuttle train will take you from Beach 90th st to Beach 116th st. There is now a boardwalk for most of this. There are some food places. There are public bathrooms. The beach is nice for sunbathing, playing, generally relaxing. And the water is great for swimming.

Surfing/Hanging Out: The Far Rockaway A train will take you from Beach 67th st to Far Rockaway/Mott Ave. I have never been down this way so I do not have first-hand experience. There are more food & drink options here. And this part of the beach is great for surfing. I’ve heard good things about taking surf lessons here as well.

Riis Beach: The Riis Park Beach is accessible by bus & car only. The Q35 stops here. And there are lots of pay options now for bus services that go directly from neighborhoods in Brooklyn to this beach. There is a Beach Bazaar now too. There are definitely more food/drink options than when I was there a while back. There is also a part of the beach that is very lgbtq-friendly.


How To Legally Change Your Name in New York State

Order for Individual Adult Change of Name - Kings County (Brooklyn) New York

Order for Individual Adult Change of Name – Kings County (Brooklyn) New York

Since grade school I’ve wanted to change my name. My last name was not a family name but my mom’s last name out of marriage. It was a name that had no meaning to me. Then my first name, was actually a hyphenation of two names. It was really long. Later on, they hyphen symbol became an issue with computers, credit cards, and IDs. Having two first names, plus a middle name, is a lot for one person.

Once away from high school bullies, I really grew to love my first name. Well, the first part of it at least. I never used the second half except in legal dealings. Most people even now didn’t know I had a hyphenated name.

The first part of my first name was then, and is now the entirety of my first name, is Leslie. I am quite proud that my namesake is my grandfather. The original hyphenation was my mother’s way to feminize her father’s name. Leslie is still commonly used as a unisex name today. Have you ever met a Les? He was probably a Leslie.

Starting in high school, I had the thought of changing my last name to my dad’s last name, O’Connor. Whenever I looked into legally changing my name, I was immediately discouraged by hearing that it was expensive, required a lawyer, or I was too young and would regret it. And so I waited until I was 33.

It’s been officially one year since the paperwork has been signed. Perhaps I could have continued going by my nickname and never using my last name. Although I do enjoy the moniker Leslie Beslie, part of me felt silly handing out business cards with the name.

When my father passed away in 2014, I waited a year then went with my gut and finally, legally, took his last name. I figured that while I was changing my last name, I might as well change my first name too. Mainly to remove the hyphenated appended portion.

One of the biggest issues after changing my name was telling people. I understand it is rather rare to change your name without getting married. And that is the number one assumption. So, when asked, I would respond with, “No, I did not get married but I appreciate your optimism.”

My official work announcement was, “I recently changed my name to a family name for personal reasons.” My more personal announcement was, “My dad passed away last year so I wanted to take his name to have his memory with me.” No one in legal departments asked for a reason.

I tried to make the announcement at work as soon as possible to thwart the “Did you get married?” questions. But I was still bombarded by them. (Especially that conference call when I asked does anyone have any questions about this project? and someone, being light-hearted, asked what was with the name change is a congratulations in order and I had to awkwardly laugh then say No and I couldn’t end that call fast enough.)

The actual steps I took to legally change my name in New York State are below. The court-house process was quicker than I expected. Once the newspaper announcement had been published, I could then legally go by the new name. It didn’t feel official to me until I received my new Social Security Card and my new driver’s license.

The name change process varies a lot state by state. This is specific to New York State. And my court house dealings are specific to King’s County, Brooklyn, NYC.

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ve known for a while that I am now, officially legally, Leslie O’Connor. After a year, I have fully embraced this name. For the first time, I feel like me. I feel comfortable having a name that matches who I am.


Name Change Application

I changed my first and last name, leaving the middle name the same. Thankfully I did not need a lawyer for any of this. I completed a form online that was pretty standard but did require I give a reason for wanting to change my name. No proof was required that these reasons were valid. I was changing my name to serious names, nothing silly. There is a fee to file a name change in New York state which came to roughly $200 (cash only at the courthouse).

County Clerk’s Office

I then brought this form, a copy of my driver’s license, and a copy of my social security card to the County Clerk’s office at the King’s County Courthouse. (This is the same court house you will likely go to for Jury Duty. The County Clerk’s office is in the basement.)

A person there took everything, stamped a few things, stapled a few things, then gave me everything back and told me to go upstairs to submit to the judge. A New York judge has to approve all name changes in the state. This is to ensure that you’re not changing your name for malicious reasons; like avoiding paying debts or running from a warrant. I submitted all the paperwork plus my original birth certificate to the judge’s office. Three weeks later I went back to the judge’s office to pick up my approved name change letter.

Note: I filed for a public name change. You can file for a private name change, which will not be on public record or published in the newspaper. You will probably want to use a lawyer for this. (An example of a need to file privately is when victims of domestic violence are trying to leave their abusive partner.)

Public Newspaper Announcement

All public name changes in New York state are mandated to be announced in a newspaper. Information about which newspaper to use was included in the letter from the judge. I contacted the newspaper via email, then sent them a pdf of my name change (the file was provided by the courts in their system), with some personal information. It cost $130 to have this published.

They have a “legal notices” section in the paper, so they published it the following week. The announcement was only included in the paper copy, not their online version. I then went to the newspaper to pick up the clipping they provided, which proved it was publicly announced. The newspaper that was recommended to me was directly across from the court house, which really made this part quite easy.

Official Notarization

I went back to the County Clerk’s office with the newspaper announcement. They notarized my name change. And it was then, finally, legal. I could legally use my new name!

Social Security Office

I took my notarized name change document to the Social Security office, along with a form I filled out there, and applied for a new social security card. I did not have to provide any form of ID to prove it was me. This was free.

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

I took my new social security card and name change document to the DMV to apply for a new NY license. This cost $14.

Everything Else

Everything else is tedious but I’m handling it as it comes. Work was super easy as my HR department changed everything in payroll, health insurance, and my 401K. Credit cards and bank accounts are annoying but fine. I’ve noticed that it is much easier to change your name with companies due to marriage rather than a legal name change for other reasons. I sent my landlord a copy of the court order but did not have to re-sign the lease.

Total Cost of Legal Name Change

Filing Application: $200
Newspaper Announcement: $130
DMV: $14
Total: $344


The name change process was easier than I expected but it varies greatly by state. Be sure to look up your specific state requirements before starting the process.


Walking Manhattan’s 32-Mile Shoreline

george washington bridge on the great saunter

The Great Saunter

The shoreline of Manhattan is a 32-mile walk taking at least 12 hours at a 3mph pace. Every year the Shorewalkers organization puts on the Great Saunter, which is exactly that. If you register for the walk, it is $20 which gets you a bib number and their official map. There is some support of gatorade along the walk. At the lunch stop in Inwood Park they provide some chips, gatorade, and moleskine bandages.

Don’t let the word “saunter” fool you. This is no easy walk. It is an intense physical and mental challenge to walk the distance of an ultra marathon. It is a task for the physically fit who are willing to push themselves and suffer for an accomplishment. It’s not “just” a walk and you can seriously injure yourself by moving steadily for 12-hours straight.

It requires preparation. Not necessarily training but you definitely need the right clothing, strategy, and most of all supportive shoes. Hiking boots or newer running sneakers will work. Dry wicking socks are a must. Layers. Snacks. Extra socks. Water. Salt. Sugar. I can’t stress enough how this is a pretty serious walk.

With all the said, it’s a really fun experience. I walked it last year under much more favorable conditions. We can’t predict the weather. While last year was a high of 66, this year was a high of 60. That’s a pretty big difference for being outside all day. It also was rainy and overcast most of the time.

In the late afternoon the sun peeked out and that helped. Mood-wise there seemed to be a big difference between the two experiences. When it was warm and sunny, of course we were in greater spirits. I’m not sure I will do the walk again but I will factor in the weather next time. For runs, I’d never think about skipping because of rain. But running in gloomy weather for 2 hours isn’t nearly as bad as walking in it for over 12. Last year we started at 7:30am and ended right at 7:30pm. This year it took us an hour longer. That’s how it goes!

Little Red Lighthouse on the Great Saunter

How to Prepare to Walk an Ultramarathon

Changing my socks and using body glide on my feet was a life saver. If I do this again, I’ll bring two extras because putting on fresh socks made a huge difference! We still stopped to stretch a lot. I brought more snacks than last time, and it still wasn’t enough. I was hungry the same whole time until the last 3 miles when my stomach started feeling upset. That usually happens to me after intense physical activity.

I have the background of being a distance runner so take this with a grain of salt. Being able to ignore the pain, something I’ve learned from running, was extremely helpful. I was decked out in running gear including sneakers. I saw some people in hiking boots but for cement walking I prefer sneakers. I had dry wicking socks, compression sleeves on my legs, running pants, a flipbelt to stash snacks in; then 3 layers of shirts including a tank top, long-sleeve shirt, and running hoodie for more pockets and warmth. We all wore baseball caps, which I also recommend to be prepared for good (sunshine) and bad (rain) weather.

I may not do the full walk again but I would do just the first half. I felt “fine” (considering) at the halfway point of 16-miles. This is in Inwood where we eat lunch. There’s a subway station right there too. And that distance is still nothing to laugh at. Even “just” walking. Plus the West side is a much nicer walk the the east.

gps watch battery lasts 11 half hours

My GPS watch battery died after 11.5 hours

I didn’t really start to feel it until about mile 21. That was when my energy level really started sinking. My muscles started tightening up, especially my hip. The pain kind of sustained from this point, never feeling worse or anything. But I kept feeling more and more tired. Even after finishing. A friend of mine (brilliant illustrator Nikki DeSautelle) felt hyped up after finishing the walk. But I just wanted to lay in a horizontal position for a long time. I did take the train and still walked home from the station.

My recovery, and you do have to recover for this, was taking a warm bath & shower. Drinking lots and lots of liquid (gatorade, water, ginger ale for my stomach, and tea for something warm). Then elevating my feet – I slept like that too. If you have a stick or foam roller, that will help a lot.

kips bay from great saunter

The Best Way to Experience Manhattan

The walk is beautiful and I recommend it as an experience. If you are new to the city or don’t get to the upper parts of Manhattan much, it is a wonderful way to see all the neighborhoods. The scenery changes on a dime and more than anything the walk helps relight my love for New York City. When I was going through a tough time my first year here, I wish I had participated in The Great Saunter. Seeing so much of the city all at once, while also having time to think, meditate, and still be able to talk to others when needed is truly a unique experience that might have sped up my falling in love with the city.


Being Part of a Flash Mob

Here’s the video of our flash mob crashing a swanky party at the Central Park Zoo! (I’m hiding in the back right corner in a green dress).


A year ago, Tonya mentioned being part of a flash mob. When I asked how she found out about it, she passed along the company Flash Mob America. I signed up on their mailing list. Then promptly ignored every event they sent along. Finally, at the end of May, I decided to pull the trigger and go for it.

Once I registered for the specific event, FMA sent over a video with the choreography. I watched it a few times but didn’t really study it. We were taught the dance in person, the day of the event. The event was at 7:30p on a Friday. We were asked to be at the studio at 3:30p. And were not given any details about the event until around 5p. Secrecy is key otherwise you’ll ruin the fun.

Sure, we weren’t paid for this. But it was a lot of fun and I would definitely do it again. It was great seeing the guests laughing and smiling while watching us. The dance also sparked my interest in taking a dance class here. I took dance classes until I graduated high school then stopped completely. Focusing on a choreographed routine was a really great mindful exercise. Since this event, I have signed up for an affordable adult hip-hop dance class in Brooklyn.

This was definitely one of those events that made me very grateful for living in nyc.


Where To Buy European Treats in NYC

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the campy song contest Eurovision, I hosted a party and wanted to stay on theme. This being NYC it wasn’t to difficult to find European candies and foods. I found some on the books places and other local places, so here is the whole round-up. This spans Brooklyn and Manhattan of the best stores to buy European treats.


Meyers of Keswick – West Village

meyers of keswick in west village manhattan nyc

You know you’re in the right place because there is a bench outside painted in the United Kingdom flag. This was by far the best place I stopped at. It is completely a British market. It had all kinds of imported snack foods from the UK. But it also had just imported foods in general. It truly was a market. Lots of Heinz canned foods. And Marmite! That was $6 if you were wondering. They also sell Vegemite for $9.95.

They offer lots of tea. Plus, prepared foods of traditional fare. You can buy a full shepard’s pie or other meat pie if you call ahead. For take out they offer sausage rolls and mini-pie’s. These were delicious. I even saw the chocolate Smartie’s there.

The woman on register was definitely British and very friendly. I found exactly what I was looking for. And the store was really great. I definitely would stop there first if you’re looking for any type of British food or other items.


Golden Farm – Kensington, Brooklyn

golden farm kensington brooklyn

This is my local market! When I first moved to Kensington, I shopped here regularly because it is just a few blocks from my apartment. Then, there was a controversy about them not paying their workers fair wages. There was a huge boycott of the store and I started shopping somewhere else. Only recently, have I started shopping there again. It’s a shame there was that issue because it is a fantastic grocery store!

I almost didn’t need to go anywhere else, Golden Farm (Church Ave at E 4th st) offers so many foods from other countries. And it is very very cheap. (Probably because for a long time they didn’t pay their workers fair wages).

When you first walk in, head to the left and you’ll see plenty of European crackers, candies, and other snacks. Some are traditional, some are not. There are also American commercial and organic foods put in there as well. Kensington is a primary Eastern European neighborhood so that is how the store caters. There were lots of Polish snacks and foods. Traditional perogies. But also German cookies. Italy imported crackers. And authentic French crepes.

There is not a meat or cheese department, so you’ll have to go somewhere else for that. I even found preserves that were made in Armenia and Moldova (both Eurovision countries). And canned veggies from Israel. Many of the food items are fairly random. They also sell whole fish or dried fish. However it is. Sorry, I don’t know how to prepare that! But it’s there if you’re interested.

This is also a traditional market in that it has a huge selection of fruit and vegetables outside the store. They do sell a little bit of dairy; some milk and cheese. And have good prices on beer, cereal, and other ingredients. It is not a traditional grocery store since it doesn’t have a deli, a weekly circular, or sales.


Bobek Deli – Kensington, Brooklyn

bobek deli kensington brooklyn polish deli

Not actually Bobek Deli but close enough

I am extremely fortunate that two of the best sources of European goods were just a few blocks from my apartment. I love my neighborhood so much. There are quite a few Polish deli’s on Church Avenue with similar offerings. On the same block as the aforementioned Golden Farm, is a small Polish deli called Bobek Deli (Church Ave between E 4th and 3rd Streets).

This store offers many Polish goods like food ingredients, coffee/tea, soaps, sausages/meats, cheeses, and fresh food (perogie’s!). I went here mainly to pick up Polish sausage and fresh perogie’s. The perogie’s (several types) are $0.60 as of today. They also many types of sausage, salami, and other cured meats. I specifically asked for something that didn’t need to be cooked. Since I just wanted to make a platter of sausages for Eurovision (in honor of Conchita Wurst of course).

The woman behind the counter was extremely helpful. All the labels and names were in Polish so I wasn’t quite sure which was which. She spoke in English and was great at helping me pick which sausages would work best for the party and what else would go with it. I bought two Polish sausages, then some delicious salami, and perogie’s. Everything was very affordable.

Bobek Deli also offers other cooked foods, which I definitely recommend. Plus, it being right next to Golden Farm means you can get most of your shopping done right on the same block.


The Sweet Life – Lower East Side

the sweet life lower east side candy store

This candy store is very small, cluttered, and in an awkward area in the Lower East Side/Chinatown. There are lots of traditional candies on the right as you walk in. Then Jelly Bellies and other normal candy shop candies near the register. The register itself is kind of hidden and checking out with multiple items is kind of awkward. The whole places is pretty crowded with goods but I know small spaces is what NYC is.

More importantly, on the left near the front of the store, are all the Imported treats! Here is where you can find Vegemite for $9. This is the best price I found of the two places I found Vegemite (of the six places I went to). I also found Tim Tams here – those were $9 as well. I can’t even complain. These treats have to cross multiple oceans to get here. I’m glad that I can get them both for under ten bucks.

Because I do know what vegemite tastes like, I skipped on that. But I did pick up a container of Tim Tams to try, after hearing a lot about them. Well, they were delicious! And I wish they were cheaper because I’d love to have them on hand when friend’s come over.

The Sweet Life also offered Marmite (for $8, so not as good of a deal as Meyers of Keswick), which I did not purchase there. They had Italian hard candies. And Hob Nob’s. These were another treat that I heard a lot about but had never tried. This and Meyers of Keswick were the two places I saw that had them.

Honestly, I thought the woman behind the counter could have been a bit friendlier. I was in the store quite a while looking around and it seemed like she was in a hurry for me to leave. But they have an excellent selection of everything. And this was the only store that had any type of Australian treats! Maybe there are other places in the city that have them, but this was a fantastic selection over all of imported snacks.


Sockerbit – West Village

sockerbit west village best store to buy european candy

My plan was to visit the London Candy Company then Sockerbit because both are/were in the West Village. So, I first went to the London Candy Company several years ago on an awkward date. They were located on the Upper East Side and I loved the store. I had heard about a year ago, they were moving to the West Village but hadn’t had a chance to check out the new store. Over the weekend, I decided to go there for Eurovision supplies. I looked up the address and walked past. The building was completely closed up! Looking on line, their Twitter account hasn’t been updated in a while. And their domain has been sold/parked. It looks like nothing is happening there. This is very unfortunate and disappointing. The only upside is that Meyers of Keswick is near-by and is a great alternative.

But another great European candy store in the West Village is the Swedish candy store of Sockerbit. This was the “cleanest” store I visited of all of them. By that I mean more in design. None of the stores were dirty. But Sockerbit was extremely organized, highly stylized, and kind of very Swedish.

It is set up like bulk candy shop, which is unique in comparison to all of the others. They sell a few packaged items but that’s not the reason to go there. You pick up a paper bag and a plastic scooper then go to town in the bulk bins. Mix and match putting them all in the bag. All the candies are the same price (I think $12/lb). They also have Finnish and other types of European candy than just Swedish.

Sockerbit also offers several Swedish goods and market items. They also have a refrigerator for cheese and those types of Swedish goods. The store was fairly busy when I went. The bulk candy thing might weird some people out but they seemed to do a good job of the “no hands” rule. In general, this was the “prettiest” store of all of them.


If you’re looking for European goods/snacks, there are lots of options in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Australian snacks (other than dub pies) are a little bit trickier! My round-up included Meyers of Keswick, The Sweet Life, Bobek Deli, Sockerbit, and Golden Farm.


Bell’s Oberon on Tap in NYC

Bells oberon seasonal beer

Bell’s Oberon On Tap NYC Map

Using the site Beer Menus, I’ve rounded up an on-going list of bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn that offer Bell’s Oberon on tap. I’d like to visit all/most/a lot of them this summer.

Part of this is an #oberonchallenge to visit as many bars selling Oberon as I can. However, it’s also just an easy way to check out new bars. When I’m stuck for a place to go, I can pull out this list and suggest one of these places. That way I’m learning new places and new neighborhoods. If I don’t like the bar, I have my one Oberon and leave. Or if it’s great then I’ve learned a new bar.

Obviously the taps change frequently, so I’m trying to update the map once a week. No promises that this will always be accurate at all times.

Unofficial Bell’s Oberon on Tap in NYC


Why I Love Bell’s Oberon

I’m normally not one to shill products. Obviously these are my opinions and this post isn’t sponsored and blah blah blah.

My relationship with alcohol hasn’t been long. Growing up with an angry alcoholic was a pretty good deterrent for the stuff. I was convinced that if I got drunk, I would hurt someone (physically or verbally). So I avoided it all throughout college. I know, not stereotypical. My college boyfriend didn’t drink either (for no solid reasons) and I never felt pressured to drink. I made a circle of friends with others who didn’t drink and rarely thought about it. Also, taking a full class load and working full time really left little time for anything else.

After college, my 4-year relationship ended and my friend’s left Michigan after graduation. I stayed for another year and made new friends. Then I began socializing in bars and had to learn how to drink. Cheap college-kid beer tasted gross. It also reminded me of my step-father who only drank Milwaukee’s Best. Just the smell of cheap beer reminded me of smelling it on his breath. Gross!

Then at some point during the summer after I graduated, someone offered me a Bell’s Oberon. It was served with an orange slice. It wasn’t the color of pee. And it didn’t remind me of my terrible childhood. Also, it was actually quite tasty. Bell’s Oberon was the first ‘real’ beer I ever had. And the first beer I ever enjoyed. So when I say it’s a beer I love, there is a huge nostalgia factor happening.

After I left Michigan, I quickly learned that Bell’s is a rather small brewery in Kalamazoo and doesn’t have a huge distribution. None on the east coast, actually. Whenever someone took a trip to Michigan, I always asked them to bring me back Bell’s. I pined for it.

Last year, Bell’s announced they were expanding their distribution to New York City! I was ecstatic! I still am excited that I can get Bell’s on tap here! Since Oberon is a seasonal beer, this is only the second summer I’ve been able to just go out to a bar in Brooklyn and order it. I’m not over the novelty yet.


Falling Asleep on Public Transportation

When you don’t have to drive yourself home, you tend to stay out later and drink more. That’s the way it is here at least. I don’t really like taking cabs all that often. The social interaction is always awkward for me. Plus, it’s pricey. So I usually suck it up and take the train. Or back when I lived in NJ the bus. Here are some fun stories of the lucky, funny, and scary times I’ve fallen asleep on public transportation.


Don’t Rely on Luck

It was my first week in my new apartment so I went out with friends to celebrate. We took advantage of some really cheap cocktails at a bar in the village. I was still getting the hang of the train routes to my new place. But for the most part I knew my options. I got on an F train which would take me directly to my closest subway stop with no transfers. When I left the bar, I knew I didn’t feel well. Drinking some water on the way to the train wasn’t helping either. I managed to get a seat on the train but was still feeling really lousy. Really drunk and really nauseous. At some point, I knew I was going to get sick. So I got off the train at the next stop and got sick on the platform. Classy! I felt a little bit better. Well enough to get back on the next train.

The next train comes, I get on and take a seat. Now I’m just feeling tired rather than sick. I sit back in the seat and close my eyes, knowing there’s still a ways to my stop. I had lived in Manhattan previously so I wasn’t used to the difference in time it took to get to Brooklyn from various neighborhoods. Next thing I remember, I hear a metal clanging really loud next to me. I open my eyes and the conductor is standing in front of me yelling “Last stop! Get off the train!” I look around and I am definitely all alone on the train. I wearily stumble out and realize that I am at my stop! The last stop on the G train is my stop – Church Avenue. Apparently, the train I stumbled onto was a G train. And I hadn’t even realized.

I was very fortunate because otherwise, if I stayed on the F, I would have ended up in Coney Island for sure. Technically, the conductors are supposed to check the train for passengers at the last stop before pulling it out of the station. But they don’t always do this. I have had friends who ended up on an actually empty, powered down train, on the tracks, because it was never checked!


Look Like A Crazy Person

On a Sunday last August, I went out with some friends for day drinks. Nothing too crazy. Certainly not like the first story. We walked around the West Village just casually hanging out and stopping at places. At one point, we met up with a friend who lived near-by. He was weeding out his closet and trying to get rid of clothes. So he brought a bag of clothes he was going to donate, to see if we wanted anything. One of the things in the bag was a nice wool coat that he no longer wanted. I liked the look of it so I grabbed it.

This was early August so the weather was very muggy in the city. When it gets so hot, the subway cars blast air conditioning. Sometimes it’s welcoming but other times it is literally freezing. So I had the bright idea to wear the winter coat on the train on my way home.

Several hours later, we all part ways, and I’m carrying my nice wool coat. I get on an F train (damn F train again). It’s an old train so I get a seat in the corner at the end of the car. I wrap the coat around me, get really cozy, and promptly fall asleep.

It was so comfortable that I woken up a while later by the train being above ground. This really only happens after my stop. So, I definitely missed my stop. But the hilarious part was no one was sitting next to me. In fact, the people who were in the same train car with me, were very far away from me. Like, when you see a homeless person asleep and you don’t even want to sit in the same row of seats as them.

Sure, I wasn’t smelly. But it was over 90 degrees outside and I was asleep on a train in the early evening wearing a winter coat. Not typical normal-person summertime behavior. I would have questioned this person too!

However, I did learn that if you want some space on the train, just behave irrationally (and you don’t even have to cause a scene).


Falling Asleep on a Jersey City Jitney Bus and Somehow Did Not End as a News Story

Okay, I fully admit this one is the worst. Let me put this into context of the bus I was on. I was living in Jersey City Heights at the time. There isn’t a convenient PATH station to the city and NJ Transit buses are kind of expensive. So this private company has these little white short jitney buses that cost about $1 and make various stop s ending at Port Authority in Manhattan. They are barely legal. There is no time table. There are no actual official bus stops. No bus stop signs for them. When you’re on the bus and you want to get off at the next stop, you have to yell “Next Stop”.

A friend came to visit me from out of town and was staying in the city. So I came in to hang out with her. We had some day beers, then some food, and walked around some. It was a very long day. I wasn’t drunk but was exhausted from the busy day and tired from the earlier alcohol. I was very used to these buses and knew just how long I had to my stop. I got on the crowded bus at Port Authority and laid my head next to the window. Someone was sitting next to me. It was very loud.

Then I opened my eyes to see how close I was to my stop and no one was sitting next to me. I looked up and no one was on the bus. But the bus was still moving. So I thought maybe it wasn’t too far.

I walked up to the front to the driver. He saw me in the mirror and his eyes grew large like, “oh shit!”. Apparently he didn’t know that I was still on the bus.

He asks what stop I’m looking for. When I tell him, he responds, “Oh, very far.”

At this point I’m half-awake, a little buzzed, very tired, and just not thinking straight at all. I’m not sure where we are. And am trying to figure out how I can call for a cab. I ask the driver if he will just let me out but he continues driving. There was a language barrier here so that didn’t help. But we clearly were in the middle of no where around Jersey City so just dropping me off probably wasn’t a good idea.

I’m still standing trying to process what to do. When we now pull into a bus yard. A bus yard, definitely in the middle of no where, only warehouses surrounding it, with all these little jitney buses. I wonder to myself if I can call a cab to come to “the jitney bus yard”. The driver isn’t really saying anything because language barrier. But once he stops the bus in the yard, he opens the door and points out. Still really confused, I get off the bus. What else can I do at this point? I think I ask something and maybe he says something like “one moment.”

Okay now I’m just standing in the middle of this bus yard with no one else around except this bus driver. Who is now driving the bus around to park it. I do have my phone but have no idea who to call. He disappears from my view. For whatever reason, I never really worry. I just keep running through my options in my head.

Then a car pulls up to me in the yard, it’s the bus driver. He says the name of my stop and that he will drop me off there. Not knowing what better options I have, I get in the car. With the bus driver.

!!!

Yes, I am fully aware that this could have ended very terribly.

But it didn’t. We rode in silence and I told him some cross streets that were near my apartment but not directly in front of it. He dropped me off and I thanked him profusely for the help.

Then I walked up to my apartment and flipped the fuck out that I was somehow still alive and holyshit that was bad news and wow so glad he was a normal person.

Lesson learned. For as many times as I’ve fallen asleep on the train, I am now super extra careful about all buses!


Exploring Manhattan: Little Red Lighthouse

Built in 1921, decommissioned in 1932, originally known as Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse. It stands 28 feet above high water and had a candlepower of 10. Immortalized in the children’s book “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge” by Hildegarde H Swift, published in 1942. It is the last surviving lighthouse on Manhattan Island.

The Little Red Lighthouse sits right below the George Washington Bridge. Other than the zooming traffic overhead, you don’t really feel like you’re in New York. It’s set on the Hudson River, there are some large boulders to sit on, and a picnic area in a small field. It is along the Westside Greenway, which is a beautiful walk or bike ride. Pack a small lunch or bring a book and just relax while visiting. There isn’t too much to do once you’re there. But it is a pleasant excursion and a nice time.

You can go up inside it! Once a month in the summer/fall, they open the lighthouse up to the public. You can go inside and walk up to the top. I haven’t done this but it sounds neat. Your next chance to go up into the lighthouse is June 6th. You can view more Lighthouse events on the NYC Parks site.


Several years ago, I biked from my UWS apartment to the lighthouse. It was an easy ride on the paved greenway and wasn’t too far. I relaxed at the lighthouse then just biked back. It was a nice afternoon jaunt. My second visit to the lighthouse was just last weekend. It is a break-stop on the great saunter walk. You can take a stretch break, eat a snack, then get ready to go up the hills in Inwood.

I’m always looking for places in the city that don’t quite feel like the city. Here you have the wooded environment of the greenway, plus the river, and isolation from the main streets of Washington Heights. Unfortunately, there is the massive structure of the GWB over your head. But, all in all, it’s a pretty easy escape.


Great Saunter 2015: Walking 32 Miles of NYC Shoreline

George Washington Bridge and Little Red Lighthouse from a distance on the West Side Greenway

On the first Saturday on March, the nyc organization Shore Walkers hosts The Great Saunter. This is a 32-mile walk around the entire shoreline of Manhattan. This was the first year I participated. I really enjoyed it! Although my feet felt like they were on file by the end of it. And the last three miles was a real trudge. But it was also a great physical challenge for our bodies. And it was nice seeing an ultra-marathon event that people of all ages and fitness levels participated in.


Walking through beautiful Inwood Park great saunter

Walking through beautiful Inwood Park

For the most part, you don’t have to train for this. My background as a runner helped mostly just because I had the right gear to propel myself an ultra-marathon distance. I was still sore by the end of the Saunter and the following day. My body was also very exhausted. We finished the 32-mile Great Saunter in just under 12-hours; starting at 7:30a and finishing at 7:15p. Even for someone in shape, that is a long time to be moving.

Since this is an open walk, it’s certainly possible to do this not during the Great Saunter event. But I really enjoyed the company and camaraderie. Also, there are volunteers along the way with snacks, gatorade, and detour directions. At the start you get a hat and a map with specific directions along their route. This is to provide the most shoreline as possible; which is unfortunately difficult on the East side.

Even as part of the Great Saunter, I would not want to do this alone. There were parts where it was really boring. And parts where the pain & exhaustion were very prominent. Having a buddy as a distraction and motivator is really essential for this.


The East Side started out on a wide path with pretty trees great saunter

The East Side started out on a wide path with pretty trees

Here’s a short list of things to bring and wear with more details below:

What To Wear

  • Hoodie with pockets
  • T-Shirt
  • Capris or pants
  • Lots of layers
  • Compression socks/sleeves
  • Dry wicking socks
  • Cushiony shoes

This was my exact outfit. I did not bring a backpack because I knew it would kill my shoulders. Instead, I stuffed a running hoodie with various items (see below). The hoodie is dry-wicking material and dries fast if it were to rain, plus has a hood. It also has many pockets, with and without zippers, which was perfect for stashing food & supplies. Since I was just walking, I wasn’t as concerned about things falling out.

I wore capris then compression sleeves on my calves and I really think those helped a lot. I wasn’t as sore as I could have been the following day. And by the second day, I was barely stiff. The compression sleeves helped to keep my blood flowing and my legs felt pretty good, considering, for the entire walk.

This walk always takes place in the beginning of may when the temperature is highly unpredictable. It was a high of 66 on May 2, 2015. So the morning started off chilly, then the afternoon I shedded my hoodie to a t-shirt. But by 5p, the sun was setting and it was very windy along the East River. It got very very cold at some points. We all put our hoods up over our head. It wasn’t very comfortable. Definitely dress in layers. The end is the hardest part so you want to be as comfortable as possible.


Then the East Side became a sidewalk along the highway great saunter

Then the East Side became a sidewalk along the highway

What To Bring

  • Extra pair of socks
  • Body Glide or Moleskin
  • Band-aids
  • Light snacks
  • 1 Water Bottle
  • Advil/Tylenol
  • ID, Metrocard, Cash
  • Menstrual-related Items
  • Hat & sunglasses
  • Friends or Headphones

You must bring an extra pair of socks! I stuffed a pair of dry-wicking socks in one of my pockets and switched them out at the half-way point in Inwood Park. Your feet and socks are so sweaty by that time, changing socks will not only help to reduce blisters in the second half, but it also feels very refreshing. Just putting on dry socks can help lift your spirits.

First-aid stop at Inwood Park to change socks and reapply more BodyGlide to prevent blisters. great saunter

First-aid stop at Inwood Park to change socks and reapply more BodyGlide to prevent blisters.

Moleskin, adhesive bandages to prevent blisters or to put over blisters to prevent pain, is one way to deal with blisters. And this is offered for free at the half-way point in Inwood Park. From my running background, I always have BodyGlide in the medicine cabinet so I used that. You can also use baby powder or vaseline. In the morning I put BodyGlide all over the tops & bottoms of my feet. I brought it with me in a pocket in my hoodie. Then when I switched socks, I re-applied a whole bunch. It will start to wear off so you want to bring it with you. Be sure to also use it on your underarms, nipples, or anywhere else that is prone to chafing on your body. Thankfully, I’ve learned all this the hard way with running.

Inwood Park half-way point where volunteers provided snacks and first-aid supplies great saunter

Inwood Park half-way point where volunteers provided snacks and first-aid supplies

Food is something I may do differently next time. You don’t really have access to deli’s and bodega’s along your walk; especially on the West side when you’re stuck by the river. I only brought one granola bar with me but really wish I brought more things. Though I was slightly limited by pocket space. Small packages of peanuts, raisins, and dried fruit would work best. There was one stop where they gave out clifbars but that wasn’t quite what I wanted. Also a pb sandiwch, bread, or pieces of cheese are good too. You do not want anything heavy. And you definitely do not want to sit down to eat anything. You have to keep moving!

Before I left in the morning, I took some Advil. Then about every 4-hours we stopped to take some more. I took more when I got home. Then more the next day. Probably not the healthiest thing but I have to say that it all really helped.

The suggestion to take just one water bottle was one I found on a Great Saunter guide. I’m glad I took it. You really don’t need extra bottles to weigh you down. There are many water stops along the way. And volunteers hand out gatorade at points. I brought a large water bottle in a wrist holder (that I bought for long runs). This was attached to my wrist the whole time so my fingers never hurt carrying around a heavy bottle of water.

Last year my friend walked the Great Saunter and got her period unexpectedly. Having to find tampons then deal with that was not fun. Thanks to her recommendation I put my Diva Cup in before heading out. I was expecting my period within the week and figured all the movement would get it going. I was right. The bathroom situation is… okay… along the walk. On the map they tell you where bathrooms are. Some were locked, though. And at some points we had to use port-a-potties. I was glad to not have to deal with tampons for that. I can’t say that wearing the Diva Cup for a 32-mile walk was super comfortable, but it did mean fewer supplies to have to carry with me.


On a bench near Gracie Mansion

On a bench near Gracie Mansion

The Great Saunter Experience

We started the walk near Battery Park in FiDi at 7:30a. There is a late-registration point at 42nd street neat The Intrepid; this is about the 9-mile point. So you can cheat a little bit if you wake up late. This is around 9a. The walk goes up around the West side first. Going through Inwood Park really was beautiful. I’d love to get up there again. At the park there are medical supplies, snacks, bathrooms, water fountains, a little farmer’s market, and just outside the park some coffee shops and deli’s. I picked up a sandwich around there, which was delicious. There is also the 207th st A train subway station.

From there you start the miserable trek along the East side. This starts out along a really pretty walkway. But then quickly turns into a sidewalk along a highway. Then actual streets and neighborhoods as you zig zag your way back to the East river. These 100 blocks or so really were the worst. Around the 80’s you get back to the river until 60th st. Then you have to go around the United Nations Building. Then you finally get to head back to it.

For me, the last 3-miles were the worst. It was freezing along the East size once the sun had set. Under the bridges was dark, miserable, and cold. There were less saunterers. We were all tired and no one was talking. Our stretch breaks, which we had been taking throughout the entire walk, became more frequent. Our Advil stops became more frequent. We were trying to keep our pace our 3mph. At one point our group of 5 dropped down to 4. Then our 4 split into two groups of 2. Some faster some slower. We were trying to think of anything to distract ourselves. Make sure you really like the people you’re going with, because you have to talk to them for 12-hours.

My feet were burning the entire last 3-hours. But at least it was the final stretch and then we were back in FiDi again. We finish at Fraunces Tavern and upstairs there was a whole group to congratulate us! You receive a little certificate with your name stating you finished the Great Saunter! Then you can stay for a meal or head home and pass out like I did.


Zig zagging around the East Side, going through various neighborhoods great saunter

Zig zagging around the East Side, going through various neighborhoods

32-Mile Walk Recovery

During the walk I wore compression leg sleeves, which really helped. My calves were hardly sore after the walk. My feet hurt the most, just from over-use (no blisters). Then the top of my thighs, back of my thighs, and hip/butt were very tight. When I got home, I rolled golf balls under my feet – this felt amazing. I sat on the floor for a while stretching out my legs. Before bed, I used a massage stick to roll my calves, thigh, and butt muscles.

The next morning, I woke up around 6a with my hip really bothering me. I took some Advil then laid back in bed with my feet elevated on a pillow. In hindsight, I should have done that when I went to sleep because it really helped. When I woke up for real a few hours later, I felt much better. My legs were stiff but I felt fine walking around. On the day after, Sunday, I made sure to get out for a walk to help loosen up my tight muscles. By the end of the day I was feeling fairly normal. And by Monday, I was just a little stiff standing up from sitting at my desk for a while. But nothing out of the ordinary for me. Then Tuesday, three days after the walk, all my muscles are pain-free and feel great.


All in all it really was a fun experience. The physical challenge of it was great and it is for all fitness levels. I do have a base of running but I didn’t do any long walks to train for this. And I didn’t do this with any other runners. There were all ages participating. I really recommend doing this next year. I’ll be there for sure.