don’t tempt me

I’ve been in NY since Wednesday. After about 30 minutes in town, I started thinking I’d absolutely love to live here. This has blindsided me. I was never that girl that wanted to move to the big city. Like most things, I’ve never been opposed to trying whatever or moving wherever, but there has never been that burning desire.

Now I am feeling the burn.

The last thing I would have ever expected on my journey to 50th state Alaska; The Last Frontier of all places, is that I’d roll into NY for some quick fun, food, touring and seeing friends, that I’d get smacked in the face with a screaming “Welcome home Diane!”- from the universe. What does this mean? I’m not sure but I do know that I LOVE:
1.) A place that you could ride a donkey down the street and no one would give a damn. 2.) Food glorious food. 3.) The energy here that’s impossible to find anywhere else. 4.) A fashion that is unmatched. 5.) It’s like free 24/7 dinner and a movie just by walking down the street. 6.) Never a dull moment. 7.) The survival of the fittest; Keep your ass moving and gettin’ smarter, faster, better, or you will be run over. Peace out lazy-asses! 8.) The general lack of complacency. 9.) The fact that I can walk. EVERYwhere here. 10.) The never ending supply of friends and family who’d visit because everyone comes to NY. And so much more.

Of course there are 1,001 reasons it’d be crazy to try to make it in this city. If I were scared of/opposed to; Rats like the one who ran down the stairs as we waited for the train the other day, the fairly regular smell of pee in various places, the completely insane people that roam the streets, the roach infested apartment I could afford with 64 roommates, and traffic, traffic, traffic- nah- I’d be fine. I’m twisted enough to actually find those things charming. The single thing that appeals to me even with the 1,001 reasons to NOT to try to live in NY is the fact that not a single person could give a flip about you. (In a good way.) People generally don’t care about what you’re doing. It’s Ok if you talk to yourself while walking down the street. You can sing out loud and pick your nose in public and no one turns a head. Just twirl around in the middle of the sidewalk- everyone will walk around you and keep on their way. Sport your purple hair with teal fringed jorts and leopard print loafers or some other form of a schizophrenic outfit and blend right in. You just do what you do and no one bothers you or judges you. It’s a giant free for all and I find that more comforting than anything.

I leave in the morning to head upstate to the green. I’ll likely think and discuss the same when I’m there and 50 other places; wouldn’t it be great to live here. For now though, I sit alone in Union Square overlooking the park and Empire State Building, about to go nosh on some serious Max Brenner chocolate with a friend I haven’t seen in 12 years, feeling happy as a clam and daydream of this being home.

Stay tuned for food posts coming. Off the charts yummy these past 4 days. There’s that bonus of a walking city again; I can stuff my face for several days in a row and still feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.



meet gabriela

This is my day 3 in NYC and only at lunchtime. I am whooped. It’s whooped in a good way, but my lord you can do some walking, touring and seeing just about everything in this place. I have lots of stories I’m looking forward to sharing, but I must first go back to my night in NJ with Gabriela and Phil on Tuesday…

Gabriela started reading my blog about a year and a half ago. She wrote a comment to a post that I had written about how ignorance is bliss and I responded. She replied back to me and we have been email buddies ever since. We have exchanged stories, photos and pretty much been pen pals, like we all did in elementary school. Just notes, but never meeting face-to-face until this week. When Gabriela learned that I was going to be driving north for my first leg to Alaska, she wrote and told me it’d be “an honor” to host me. It was actually an honor for me to meet her, a stranger who I’ve bonded with and who’s been a loyal reader for so long. She’s never put off by the utter nonsense and babble I often write, but has promoted and encouraged it.

Upon my arrival to her home, I got an excited welcome like you get when you go home for Christmas. She and her husband jumped up from their chairs on the patio to greet me and immediately offered me drinks and anything else I might want. We chatted as if we’d been old friends for years and they toured me around their gorgeous property. There was so much green and everything was so lush, it was hard to imagine I was only 30 miles outside of NYC. They had vegetable gardens and blueberry bushes, pretty flowers, a fire pit and slate patio, and even a white fence. I learned that the house was put up in 1926 after it’d been ordered out of the Sears catalog. It’s The Del Ray model. These houses would arrive in 30,000 pieces. Price; Just over $2,000. The garage is The Avenue model and came at a price of $173. (How neat is that?) Every little piece of the home and property was just lovely. Here are a couple photos:

Gabi and Phil house

Gabi and Phil house, NJ

Gabriela is from Brazil- her family all still there. She came to the states for work about 3 years ago where she met Phil. They’ve now been married a year. They host and attend lots of bbq’s with neighbors during the summer, so were excited about grilling up some veggies and meat and stuffing me too. (I was excited to be stuffed!) Gabriela made a Brazilian “sauce” that is essentially the garnish and big pop of flavor you pour over your dish. The sauce that night was yellow and green peppers, tomato, onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt. It was incredible. Here’s my first helping of dinner:

Dinner with Gabi and Phil

(It’s officially impossible to be a vegetarian on the road or eat light with these types of meals, but really who would want to? I I’ve been an absolute carnivore in the past few days and I have to say I am loving it. I might switch back to vegetarian status in due time.)

We all grilled together, visited and scarfed. Grilled corn, asparagus, and squash fresh right out of the garden 15 feet away. After dinner Phil made us fresh espresso and surprised us with ice cream. This night was a feast like you read about. Full and long conversation with so called strangers who ended up being not so much strangers at all, but more like those friends you’ve had for years. They told me stories about a pesky raccoon who they’d been trying to catch for days and the strategies including all kinds of food bait and waiting up all night trying to nab him. The stories were hilarious. I’m convinced the raccoon was playing with them, barely defying them every night flipping them the bird as he ran away with all the treats they had put out to bait him. (Phil spent hours outside that night with another friend trying to catch the bugger with still no success. That varmint must be one smart cookie.)

Exhausted from a long drive, lots of good chatter and a feast, Gabi and I snapped a quick photo before we all retired to our rooms for bed:

Di and Gabi

She was off to work in the morning so Phil generously accommodated me with breakfast, coffee and even lead me to the interstate to make sure I found my way ok. Before leaving the house, he wanted to make sure I got a photo of the back of the shed that he had painted. I happily snapped this:

Gabi and Phil shed

I’m very thankful to have met people like this. They were 1,000% generous to me for no gain other than to be just that and share good company. My favorite thing to do in this life is to feast, visit, and spend time with people that I care about who are interesting and fun. This was no doubt one of those times.

Thank you to Gabi and Phil for welcoming me with open arms as if I were a part of your family. I look forward to staying in touch for many years to come and hosting you sometime in your travels down the road. Cheers to new friends!


you beat me

As an answer to my slurping down the mega de-lish mocha java shake at Port City Java the other day in no time, one of my readers Bibb sent me this photo:

Bibbs after mocha java goodness

My shake was gone within 5 minutes. Bibb said his was gone in about 35 seconds. Now that’s some devotion. I am impressed with this photo too. With one glance you can almost feel the chill and taste all the melty goodness of this perfect summer treat.

Thanks for sending Bibb!


food, glorious food

From my wonderful stay in Mendham, NJ on Tuesday I headed into the one and only New York, New York.

I’ve been to NYC at least 15 times before but yesterday was easily one of the best days I have ever spent here. Maybe it was good company, amazing food, the general energy of the city, the fashion, the people- I think a combination of it all. I absolutely love love love the big city. I’ve already been thinking about how I can either get about 5 roommates or rob a bank so I could afford to live here for a while.

I arrived at my friends place, surprisingly easy and with little traffic to maneuver, put my car in a lot so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for few days and we headed off to lunch. He took me to this amazing little Cuban joint Cafe’ Habana on Prince St. The place was packed as I learned it always stays. There were good looking people all around to watch which made our wait time pass very quickly. When the waitress called us in to our table I knew that this was going to be one of those places that every last thing on the menu would be delicious. Turns out it was.

Cafe' Habana, NYC

I had to order the straight Cuban sandwich just because. My friend ordered a quesadilla with chorizo, avocado, mozzarella and a bunch of other goodness and this appetizer for us:

Cafe' Habana, NYC

Holy moses.

This is grilled corn slathered with butter, cheese, lime and chili powder. I said wow several times as we both scarfed the corn down and we laughed that wow really summed up the taste perfectly. Add a cold beer, my Cuban sandwich, fantastic friendly service from the staff and oh what an excellent first meal in the city as my welcome wagon.

We left Cafe’ Habana stuffed and happy and toured around Soho. We wandered the streets for a while until it started pouring. We sprinted drenched into the Soho Grand to get out of the rain and have an afternoon cocktail. What a gorgeous spot. It’s so fun to have a glass of wine on a weekday afternoon.

Back to the apartment we headed for some chill time, but I got a burst of energy and decided to go for a run. For some reason I sprinted like there was no tomorrow. It’s oddly fun to have to jump around and play frogger to maneuver the streets of NY. In a short 30 minutes out I almost got hit by a few cars, I saw old men playing dominos in the park, I watched a guy pick a nearly empty Snapple bottle off the ground, examine it carefully then drink the last sip, and spotted more jorts than I ever dreamed would be fashionable again. Bored falls out of the dictionary in this town.

After a shower and change we headed off to The Spotted Pig for dinner. We waited again as to be expected for a well-known delicious food spot. I have to say I’d prefer waiting to sitting right down any night for dinner. To me it’s like dinner and a movie all in one. Have a drink, talk to some strangers, watch what’s coming out of the kitchen the most to help your decision on what to order and avoid that fast food eat and get the hell out feel that happens all too often when you go out. My dinner was off the charts ridiculous. (It was a suggestion by the waitress. I’m a big fan of asking server opinion and always choosing what they suggest. Especially if the suggestion is not the most expensive thing on the menu, then you know you can trust them.) It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I honestly cannot remember when I ate something that perfectly flavored and prepared.

I went to bed so stuffed and happy last night it’s as if I were in heaven falling asleep. With hundreds of more off charts ridiculous spots to eat in this city, I’m wondering how I could make it possible to stuff my face for a living.


“do you have a french press?”

…”if not I am going to give you one of those, along with a bunch of coffee because no friend of mine is going across country on bad coffee!”

Spoken like a true coffee lover from one to another.

My friend Tom roasts coffee for Blanchard’s Coffee Co. in Richmond, VA. The above is what Tom responded in an email to me after announcing my trip. In enters Blanchard’s as my coffee sponsor.

I got the chance to stop by for a chat and pick up with Tom on Monday. I had been in the roasting house before and the smell is so delicious you want to lick the air. As always Tom was in good spirits, peppy about life and loving his job. He had just finished roasting with the crew for the day so I snapped this photo of the roaster:


…and of course some boxes full of all the hard roasting work:


…and finally my gifted stock to start off my trip (Tom is going to ship me more as I drive.) A French Press too. Ahh…


What a great treat. Bad coffee is a serious no-no for sure. I was happy to pay some of my stock forward to my hosts Gabriela and Phil who I stayed with last night. More fellow coffee lovers. It’s so fun to be able to do that thanks to Blanchard’s.

Thanks guys. No sleepy driving for me!



When I look at my friend pool and people I like spending time with, it never fits anywhere close to one category. I have the most schizophrenic looking contact list. It’s great. I have friends that are 20 year old college students and 40 year old firefighters, executives who live in big cities, and bumbpkins that live in the country. I’m even pals with my previous auto insurance agent who I’d only actually met once face to face. I guess after calling and emailing him about 560 times within a 10 month time frame last year helped us to get to know each other. Turns out those commercials are true. They really do care and will be there when you need them.

This agent and I have broken up. That is, in the way of auto insurance. I’ve moved away and switched agencies, but we still stay in touch. We went to lunch the other day while I was in town. During our chat over yummy Thai food, captain safety/big brother kicked in. (I can’t say I’m surprised as he is married with a couple of kids and that seems to always make guys even more hyper-protective.) Like several other of my male friends he inquired about my road survival kit and supplies. I told him that I was not carrying a gun at this point (even though that has come highly recommended by several people in the past week or so.) I gave him the full run down of what I do have with me; “I have a knife and Swiss army knife, spare tire, maps, AAA card, compass, flashlight, can, bottle and wine openers (these are among the most important of course along with a nail file) cooler, lighters, matches, blanket, cell charger, water bottle, pens, paper and…”

“Don’t forget the condoms” he interrupts.


Me; “What?! Ok, so that wasn’t top of my list but thanks Dad. Safety first!”

More laughter.

Well Crager, seems you’re in the perfect line of business.

Thanks for lunch and cracking me up.


mocha java shake; revisited

Once again I’m slurping down the best shake I’ve ever had; The Mocha Java from Port City Java in Wilmington, NC.

I wrote about his indulgent shake a bit over a year ago when I lived in Wilmington. 16 months later when deciding on where to camp out and work a bit, there wasn’t even a question, so here I sit. I’m thinking there might be crack in these things. Heavenly, mouth-watering, scrumptious or lip-smacking can’t even come close to describing how these things taste.

I’m glad I snapped this photo quick because as I type this now 5 minutes later, my cup is empty. Ahhh…

If you are every anywhere near a PCJ, do yourself a favor and drop in for one. With the combination of this treat and the always friendly staff here, it’s comforting to know that some things never change.

Mocha Java shake- Port City Java. YUM!


get your kicks

I am happy to share the news that Fruit 66 is sponsoring me for the Alaska or Bust road trip. They have stocked me up with more cans of their D-lish drink than I could imagine to keep my thirst quenched. I’m a fan of this sparkling juice because it’s all-natural and there’s the equivalent to one full serving of fruit in every can. You know I eat and drink my fair share of treats and chocolate, so this is a good alternative for me to grab instead of a soda on the road.

Fruit 66 gives a portion of their proceeds to the School Nutrition Foundation. Their product is in a slew of schools and replaces those bad for you sugary/high-fructose corn syrup drinks for kids. I love that. Any program or product that promotes health and activity (especially for kids)- I am all about endorsing.

Here’s a funny addition to my Fruit 66 story:

I leave Richmond, VA (home base of the drink) for the first leg of my trip to meet up with my Uncle’s extended family on their beach week. As I brought a few cans into the house, his 9 year old niece Gillian sees me and screeches “I love that stuff! We have it at my school!” (She lives in GA.) This sassy little cutie whom I had never met before was all about smiling for the camera as she guzzled down her can. What a perfect poster child for this stuff.

Thank you Fruit 66! I am already making friends and keeping the kids happy with your yummy drink.

Gillian with Fruit 66


Even A Homeless Dude Has 3 Quarters

I stopped at my local market this morning to grab a breakfast on the go.

.49 for an organic granny smith apple.
.36 for organic honey sesame sticks
Grand total; .75 
This is only the beginning of me putting the kibosh on the ever annoying and ridiculously untrue “I cant’s” I seem to hear all the time about, well- everything.  
Really people? 
One of my recent favorites is; “I can’t afford to shop local or eat organic.”
Ok, where here’s one example to call a bullshit on that excuse.
If anyone out there has an argument as to why this option is too expensive or not healthy enough and you have a better solution for us all, please let me know. I am all ears and I’d love to share your information here.