Breaking up with Google Reader

Whether you've been hiding under a rock and will find what I'm about to tell you a total shock, or you've been going on as if things were normal and basically indulging in denial, I'm afraid it's time to come to terms with the painful truth: On Monday, Google Reader is breaking up with all of us. It's packing up and disappearing into thin air with all those feeds we've painstakingly subscribed to through the years, as if all our delightful daily encounters meant absolutely nothing. We thought it took two tango, but on Monday when we go in for the dip, Google Reader won't be there to catch us. Yup, Google Reader is going away to never be heard from again! (well, unless it wants to emotionally manipulate you into a rendezvous in Google+ land ... but, dear readers, don't let them get away with it! Stand strong.)

I swear, I'm still talking about web feed aggregators.

Like most other heartbreaks, this too shall pass—and much faster if you find a new love, like I have. I moved on to Bloglovin' a few weeks ago and I haven't looked back.

While I actually am a techie by education and profession, the absolute truth is that I like Bloglovin' because it's pretty and it gets me. It makes my morning blog-browsing such a lovely affair, with its aesthetically pleasing typography and the option to see the blog post anchor photos in two sizes.
Bloglovin' lets you click over to the actual blog, which is nice because seeing the blog layout is part of the experience. I usually harbor a dislike of toolbars, but I find Bloglovin's pretty handy, as I can scroll through between new posts from the blogs I follow, plus cross-post to Facebook and Twitter, or go pin-happy on Pinterest. I especially like how it sussed out the only social media platforms its target audience actually cares for, rather than bombarding you with a bajillion buttons.

Bloglovin' makes it really easy for you to import your Google Reader subscriptions, so if you haven't done so already, get to it! It's idiot-proof, I swear.
If you're not part of the blog-lovefest yet, you can sign up for Bloglovin' here. And if you'd like to follow The Happily Ever After Project on Bloglovin', you can click here or on that pretty little pink button with a plus sign on the sidebar.

We will be okay.

New York Wine Trails

It's hard to believe that summer just officially started. It's been a wonderful few months of soaking up the warm weather (well, except for those rainy days when we were just literally getting soaked). It's so nice to know that there's more of it to come.

One of the loveliest ways of spending a summer day, I've found, is to get out of the city for some wine-tasting. Years ago, I didn't even know that there were vineyards to visit and good wine to be had in these parts. Since my friend Zoe introduced me to the wonders of New York State wine, we've had many lovely day trips seeking out sun-drenched spaces where we can sip while gazing out at lush East Coast vines.

The latest revelation: the Shawangunk Hudson Valley Wine Trail. In less than two hours, we went from Penn Station to a sunny patio overlooking lush vineyards and the majestic Whitecliff bluff. This was Whitecliff Vineyard, where the white wines are crisp and delicate. I don't normally like white wine because I'm not keen on acidic tastes but at Whitecliff Vineyard, I tasted quite a few to my liking and even took home the Mountain Laurel White, a lightly fruity vidal blanc. The young man who attended to us told us that the Bounty of the Hudson will take place here from July 27 to 28, bringing "Gunks" sips, artisanal bites and live music from the area to Whitecliff Vineyards' grounds for a lovely little fete. It sounds so tempting ... we just might make the trip back! 

Our next stop was at Brimstone Hill Vineyard, one of the older wineries in the Hudson at 29 years old. It was an extremely laid-back operation seemingly out of their home/office, but when I got a sip of their Cab Franc, I was impressed. As I handed over my card to pay for a bottle, I thought perhaps when you've got good wine, there's no need to try too hard. 

Our final stop for the day was at Robibero Family Vineyards. It's a relatively new winery, but their grounds are gorgeous and their Traminette luscious. After our tasting, we sat at a picnic table outside to snack on cheese and potato chip chocolate (no, that's not a typo and yes, it was fabulous).

I took home a bottle from each winery that we visited and I'm really happy I did. These Hudson Valley wineries are so small that most of the time, their wines are only available at their tasting rooms and through their websites, so it's quite special to have a bottle or two in my wine rack.

Our more regular haunt, as far as wine trails go, is the North Fork. Earlier in the season, we drove approximately two hours East to celebrate Zoe's birthday with some good old Long Island wine. We've been visiting North Fork wineries quite regularly and through the years have settled on some favorites. Duck Walk Vineyards is a mainstay on our list as I find myself always wanting a few of their dessert wines. I'm a fan of the unusual boysenberry port, which is lovely when poured over vanilla ice cream—one of my favorite hot weather treats! We also visited some new spots. Jason's Vineyard is recommended if you're winetasting with kiddies in tow, as they have some entertaining and highly vocal sheep on the property. It's fun to see them, no matter how old you are. The Winemakers Studio by the Anthony Nappa Wines was also a nice place to visit, as we got to try a number of private label wines from local winemakers that we might not necessarily have access to otherwise because they don't have their own tasting rooms.
Our stop at Mattebella Vineyards was quite enjoyable, too. They have a lovely patio overlooking the vineyard, and they serve you complimentary little bites of brownies and fig-heaped crostini to go with your tasting. Little snacks are always helpful when you've been swigging wine all day.

Of course, we always save our appetites for Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck. They have a great brunch menu with everything from burgers to lemon ricotta pancakes. Love Lane Market next door is so hip it puts Brooklyn to shame. Rotisserie Duck?? My local Peas n Pickles needs to up its game big time.
I expect that there'll be a few more visits to some vineyards before summer ends. Here's hoping your summer is just as sun- and wine-soaked! Cheers!

Surviving Mudball 2013 (a.k.a. Governors Ball)

I'm not gonna lie: Last week, when I first stepped foot on the Governors Ball grounds and took in the apocalyptic muddy mess I was expected to dive into for the love of music, I thought, "What the f@*% have I gotten myself into?"

Governor's Ball was one of the most highly anticipated festivals of the year, with its killer lineup and location in the Big Bad Apple.

But Mother Nature literally rained on our parade, as tropical storm Andrea dumped record amounts of rainfall on New York on Friday. Day 1 of Governors Ball had music-lovers contending with a Waterworld-meets-Woodstock scenario, with the main grounds transformed into a shallow lake and festival goers braving pneumonia to see Of Monsters and Men on stage. By Day 2, the festival grounds had turned into a treacherous swamp that could and did suck off the sandals and sneakers of some poor, unfortunate souls.

Over the years, I've become somewhat of a music festival ninja so I did not end up on the casualty list. As I trolled Twitter and Instagram on Saturday morning to figure out what state Randall's Island was in, the only question on my mind was whether I should wear short rain boots or tall wellies—any other type of footwear was inconceivable. My short Hunter boots turned out to be quite perfect; they protected my feet from the ankle-deep mud but weren't stiflingly hot in 80-degree temps.

Wading through the mud on Saturday to get from one stage to another was time-consuming and exhausting. But once we were on solid cement in front of the main stage dancing to Cut Copy, singing along with Kings of Leon, and head-banging to Guns n' Roses, it was all too easy to forget the mud and mayhem behind us.

Sunday was a cakewalk in comparison to Saturday. While rubber boots were still an absolute necessity, a lot of the mud had solidified, making treks between stages far less arduous. My happiest moment was watching The Lumineers and the adorable kids from Success Academy Bronx 2 perform "Stubborn Love" and "Ho Hey" just as the sun was setting. I found The Lumineers to be one of those bands who you end up loving more after seeing them live. They are absolutely charming. 

The main event on Sunday was, of course, Kanye. For the love of Yeezus, we crammed ourselves in with thousands of other festival goers an hour before his set began. I'm partial to his Coachella performance in 2010, but it was pretty fun to be in the thick of the crowd throwing my hands up and bouncing in unison with everyone as he performed hit after hit. His new tracks are a bit rough for my taste, but we'll see. He might wear me down.

As challenging as it was to trek through all that mud, I still had an amazing time. It helped that I was as prepared as possible. If you're Type A like me and cannot stomach being on an island feeling utterly helpless, may I suggest a few things that would be great to have for the next (mud)fest?
  • Wet wipes. I know, it seems like something only a Mommy should carry, but it is positively luxurious when you're feeling sweaty and grimy. And after that inevitable porta-potty visit when the antibacterial gel has run out and the handwashing stands are piled with muck, you'll be thankful you have them. 
  • A portable cellphone charger. My friend Ajay sent me this little gizmo and it is an absolute lifesaver in these situations. Poor cell reception at festivals + phone calls and texts to locate friends + those videos and photos that you must take + adding filters to said photos on Instagram + posting on IG, Facebook and Twitter to #humblebrag = one dead phone. Yes, festivals have started putting up charging stations but they're not open all night (particularly at that moment when you phone breathes its final gasp) so it's better to take matters into your own hands. The MiiPower charger also has a built in flashlight, which is a nice little bonus.
  • Cash. Seems like a no-brainer but easy to forget. There are ATM stations in festivals but who really wants to pay all those additional fees on top of the exorbitantly priced cheapo beer? Not I, and I'm sure you'd rather not, too.
  • For the ladies: a bikini underneath your fab festival outfit. Whether or not you're able to summon up the courage/shamelessness to disrobe, it's always nice to have that option once the summer sun starts relentlessly beating down.
That I now have festival ninja tricks up my sleeve could mean that I've probably been to too many ... OR maybe it means it's time to hit Burning Man? Food for thought ...

Cronut Crazed

Given my propensity for chronicling everything New York, as well as most everything that enters my belly, I would be remiss if I didn't address the current baked goods madness sweeping through the city. If you haven't heard of it yet, let me introduce you to the almighty cronut.

This love child of a flaky croissant and a custard-filled doughnut has driven New York to madness. Cronut fans line up at Dominique Ansel Bakery as early as 6:45am, in the hope of taking home just two of these baked goodies before supply runs out at around 10am. Yes, you read that right, just two. Chef Dominique has instituted a two-cronut limit per person in an attempt to give as many people in line a taste of these coveted goodies. Three weeks ago, the limit was 6 per person; this week, it dropped down to 2 despite production having gone up. That should give you an idea of how ridiculously high the demand is for this mega pastry.

It is such a prized commodity, in fact, that there is now a black market for cronuts. A quick search on Craigslist brings up at least 12 posts of enterprising folks providing line up and delivery services to the city's cash-flush, line-averse cronut addicts for as much as $40 a pop! Extremely hands-on Chef Dominique is well aware of it and has been trying to stamp down on the scalping, tweeting today:
I've found Chef Dominique's egalitarian approach to cronut distribution refreshing. No one, absolutely no one, gets a cronut without putting in time on the line: not the Associated Press, not The Chew, not even Hugh "Jean Valjean" Jackman!

So how on earth did the unicorn of pastry goods end up in my lucky little hands? Readers, I reckon I must have done something fantastically sweet in a past life because I've now had two versions of the cronut purely through the generosity of friends who went to great lengths to procure them. A few weeks ago, my surrogate New York Mum and Dad, Bong and Bads, shared the precious rose-flavored cronuts they took home after waking up bright and early to line up. Then, last night, I was a lucky guest to a bacchanalia of Korean barbeque, Sapporo-soju bombs, narwals, and lemon-maple cronuts engineered by my friends Avery and Ajay (let me clarify that narwals were merely discussed and not consumed in this exercise).

My personal feeling about cronuts? I'm glad one has to go through extreme lengths to procure them because if they were available on every corner, my waistline would be in grave danger. While May's rose vanilla cronut was a shade too rich for my liking, June's lemon-maple version hit my sweet spot. The subtly tart lemon flavor is the perfect counterpoint to the flaky layers inlaid with rich custard. And did I mention cronuts are being rolled in maple sugar all month this June? It's bikini suicide, I tell you. I could eat A LOT of those guys given the chance, so I'm thankful that the laws of supply and demand ensure that more often than not, I won't have that chance.

If each new month means the conception of a new cronut flavor possibly even more addicting than the last, however, then we should probably brace for a lengthy cronut obsession. This may just be the beginning.

Dominique Ansel Bakery is located at 189 Spring Street 
between Sullivan and Thompson in New York