Out and About in the New Decade

Ali Bar

I literally haven't gone out to dinner since I arrived in New York. Well, I was treated to dinner a couple times but dining out – other than an occasional take-out sandwich or soup – doesn’t happen if I’m paying for myself. It doesn’t fit in my budget, and let’s face it, buying groceries and preparing a meal is much cheaper. But I deviated from my normal eat-in habit the other night and went out to dinner in Chinatown with friends. I guess I can chalk it up to a once a month entertainment cost.  Plus it would be pathetic to live in New York and not take advantage – at least on a limited scale – of the culinary scene.

My friends and I went to Teariffic Cafe. (51 Mott St.) I got vegetarian dumpling soup, passion fruit bubble tea and appetizers – all for the low cost of $10. And it was too much to eat. I couldn't even finish my soup. If I were to return again and could curb mycraving for bubble tea, I would only get the soup, which cost just under $5. Appetizers run from $3 to $6. Drinks are in the same price range. If I get the urge to go out again, I'll definitely stop here.  

L

Extra tip: If you like bubble tea, go to Ten Ren -- absolutely the best bubble tea in New York.

As far as economical, healthy and plentiful food in South Florida, I would recommend Harvest Moon Bistro at 102 Curtiss Pkwy. (on the circle) in Miami Springs. The portions on the wraps, salads, sandwiches and melts are generous, and the most expensive item on the menu is only $8.25. If you order the Mediterranean salad, for example, you’ll get a mountain of greens topped with couscous, feta cheese, garbanzos, tomatoes and black olives and accompanied by hummus, grape leaves and pita bread. I guarantee you’ll have plenty to take home. It’s pretty much a lunch-only place and it’s closed on Sundays.

Also note, they only take cash. The same goes for Teariffic Café and Ten Ren in New York. There is an ATM by the cash register at Harvest Moon and ATMs near the two New York restaurants, but chances are you’ll have to pay those pesky ATM fees if the nearest ATM isn’t one for the financial institution where you bank. So come with cash in your wallet and avoid the ATM fees that will just eat up your savings at these restaurants.

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All Hallows Eve

Ali Bar

Once again it’s the night before Halloween – and if you’re like me, you’ve probably waited to the very last second to come up with a costume for tomorrow’s parties. I’ve cut it very close. But if you’re in need of a quick – and cheap solution – I can help you out. 

CostumesHere are a few costumes I’ve tried in the past that can be whipped up in no time. Want to be lightning? So glad you ask, because that is what I was last Halloween. To start things off, I happened to find a steal at Target – a black, floor-length sleeveless cotton dress on clearance for $5. (Why spend major money on something that you’re probably only going to wear once?) I also bought some white sparkly felt that I cut into a lightning strike pattern and glued to the dress, which I hacked off to hit mid-thigh. I wore black
tights and black shoes. And then my very lovely friend painted a silver lightning bolt across my face a la David Bowie with rhinestones. Oh, and I painted my nails silver. For practically no money at all it was a pretty good costume. My friend, who had waited even longer than I, bought a purple shirt at A.C. Moore's, which was quite inexpensive, and also purchased various lengths of silver, purple and white string. He punctured holes in the shirt, pulled the cords through and knotted them on the reverse side. On the front, the cords cascaded down to his feet. He said he was Purple Rain. It went quite nicely
with my lightning costume.

This next idea may only be applicable to people who have access to plotters (large scale printers) but it also produces outstanding costumes. My friend and I found a high resolution image of a USB key, which we then plotted and printed. With spray adhesives, we attached the front and back images of the oversized USB keys to large pieces of cardboard. We added straps to hold the panels over our shoulders and side panels to keep the costumes rigid. It was difficult to walk, but everyone pretty much loved our people-sized take on a USB. We even made hats – the plug portion of the USB. I am thinking of being a lamp this year. Oh please, you may be saying. But I think being a very ordinary object is funny. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do this, but,hey, I’ve got until tomorrow to figure it out.

Hope this gives you a few ideas on how to whip up cheap costumes quickly. Feel free to borrow. On a side note, while my friend and I were shopping in Whole Foods on Union Square, we were bombarded by a slew of zombies. It was quite funny and helped us get into the Halloween spirit. Many of them asked me for my brain. I politely declined. 

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A Tip for Free Food

Ali Bar

Who doesn’t like free food? I’m about to share a technique that has provided me with plenty of carbs -- gratis. When I worked as a receptionist at the Cornell Store, which also has a small convenience store, I’d hit the jackpot on certain Fridays. If the store planned to be closed over the weekend, it meant the food would not be fresh enough to sell on Mondays and I could take home the remaining bagels, croissants, and pre-made sandwiches. It was a pretty good deal.

The reason I'm bringing this up now is that I've found another such gem. There's a small cafe next to my studio in New York, and on Fridays if I go in to buy something right before closing time, I end up with a ton of free bagels and rolls. Super nice guy at this cafe. He even provides tips: cut the bagels in half, freeze them, and then when you want one, pop it in the toaster. Let's just say I won’t need to buy bread products for quite a long time.

A friend of mine used to work at a bakery here in the city and although her pay was, well, not the best, she often got at least two free meals a day and plenty to take home when her shift ended. She spent almost nothing on groceries, making the job much more worthwhile. Right now I need a job where I can also squeeze in a bit of school work while I’m on the clock. But if that’s not your situation, I’d recommend looking for a job where pay isn’ t the only perk. Food doesn’t necessarily have to be the fringe benefit, but make sure to look for other perks that might stretch your wallet a little further.

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Bike Riding

Ali Bar

Since the weather has been cooling off and a day outside has become quite enjoyable --unless standing in direct sunlight for an excess amount of time -- I thought it would be nice to take a bike ride. I borrowed a roommate's bike and set off from my apartment in Spanish Harlem. I found a trail that runs nearly the entire length of the island of Manhattan along the water’s edge. It was filled with bikers, joggers and people out for a stroll, but somehow it felt completely separate from the city itself. Even though the sun was beating directly on my head, the breezes off the water kept me cool. No vitamin D deficiency here. But as winter sets in here in New York, I’ll probably be begging for my skin to see the light of day.

Biking II: A couple Fridays ago, my class went on a bike tour of Governor's Island. I assumed I was going to need to pay the $15 fee for a bike rental, but it turns out that on Fridays the first hour of bike rentals is free. Our tour concentrated on the future plans for Governor’s Island, including having free wooden – yes, wooden – bikes to offer to everyone who wants to get in a little exercise on the island. If you want to catch a few rays and get in some exercise on a bike in South Florida, I’d suggest Key Biscayne or South Beach.Viewing the world from a bike, you get a completely different perspective than from your car window. Mangrove Cycles in Key Biscayne has a starting day rate of $20, or two hours for $15.

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A Walk Filled with Art

Ali Bar

Nothing beats autumn in New York. A little bit ago, on a day with a deep blue sky, a couple friends and I wandered from gallery to gallery in the Tribeca/Chelsea area.  First we made our way over to see the Gerhard Richter show at the Drawing Center on Wooster Street (Still up and I recommend it -- if you like Richter). We also stopped by a Rob Pruitt exhibition. All that art reminded me sadly that, once again, I will miss Art Basel in Miami Beach. But at least there is a plethora of things to do in New York City vs. my college town, Ithaca, N.Y. So I guess I shouldn't complain. The great thing about galleries in and around the Tribeca/Chelsea area is that most are open to the public for free, or they ask for a small donation, which depending on your financial situation, you can choose to give or not. On this lovely day we ended up along the water’s edge where we chatted on an old pier that had been converted into a park. We made our way up the island and hit the Frying Pan, a bar on three boats linked together. I didn't spend any money at the bar, but it was really nice in the late evening sitting on a boat in the Hudson River. Oh so nice.

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A piece from the Richter show.

If anyone knows any good galleries -- beyond the usual suspects -- in and around Miami, feel free to share. I’ll take recommendations for New York too for that matter.  Here’s just a list of a few of the New York museums where you can avoid paying the full admission price:

Frick: Pay what you wish Sundays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Whitney: Pay what you wish Fridays 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Jewish Museum: Saturday Free!
MOMA: Friday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free!
Guggenheim: Pay what you wish Saturdays 5:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
New Museum: Thursdays Free!

Here’s another tip: Lots of people already know about Target free + reduced price events, but just in case you don't, Target teamed up with various arts and cultural centers to provide cultural events one day of the week that are either free or reduced in price. In Miami, for example, you can go to the Miami Children's Museum for free on the third Friday of the month. That'll save you the $12-$15 admission price. In Fort Lauderdale, you can go to the Young at Art Children's Museum for free on the first Friday of the month.

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Museum Membership

Ali Bar

Not sure how many people know about this, but if you are an avid museum visitor, this will be pure bliss. It’s a year’s membership that allows entrance to tons of museums across the country. For students, it’s $35 annually for as many visits as you care to make. It means you don’t have to fiddle around with crowded Friday free-entry nights. You purchase the membership through the American Association of Museums (AAM). I sent my application out with a check and a copy of my student ID. I got an e-mail confirmation, which will act as a temporary place holder for my card, which is supposed to come in the next month. I can get in free at MOMA, the American Folk Art Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Jewish Museum and a plethora of other places in the city. The membership also includes a discount at some museum stores. Some of the museums aren't free however, prices are often reduced. In Miami you can get into Vizcaya, MAM, MOCA, the Jay I. Kislak Foundation and the Jewish Museum – all for free.  In some cases, you’ll also be able to get free subscriptions to museum newsletters and magazines.  Just going once to the four New York museums that I mentioned above would have cost me about $30 at the student price. Now I can visit multiple exhibits and never spend more than $35. So nice.


Reminder: This weekend, October 1 & 2, Museums on Us Bank of America Program.

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Beach Day

Ali Bar

Last weekend I went to the beach – a New York beach. Since fall is imminent and, unlike Miami, it actually gets cold here, I wanted to take full advantage of the still relatively warm weather. All it took was a somewhat lengthy subway ride on the A train down to Far Rockaway. As the train nears the beach, the ride becomes quite pleasant and at one point the subway car even goes over the water, setting up a strange juxtaposition. The view out the window is black, black, black and then water. It’s sort of surreal. PhotoA friend and I made the trek down to Far Rockaway and we brought food and had a nice little meal. There were clam shells scattered everywhere and we picked up a few. They’re quite large and now sit on the dining table in my apartment, holding change and all sorts of things. Of course, I didn't swim due to the ice water, but my friend found getting smacked around by the waves invigorating. All in all it was a relaxing day filled with sunshine, food, discovery, and lounging. And it only cost my subway fare there and back.

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Bike and Beach Longing

Ali Bar

This past weekend I went on an adventure to the lovely and incredibly safe Governor's Island, just off the shores of Manhattan. It’s a short FREE ferry ride away. Just take the 1 train to end, the South Ferry stop.  It gives you a completely new perspective on the city and for a newcomer it’s a good way to orient yourself on what’s where. A friend and I walked around a bit, taking in nature and the breeze off the water, until we came across a bike rental place.  Now with me missing my bike, I just had to see if I might be able to afford a rental. Given the benefits, the $15 fee seemed reasonable to me for two hours. It made the visit quite enjoyable and it was good exercise.  There is a sort of promenade around the island and you can see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty as you ride.  I'd say for a really nice day, $15 was well worth it.  However, I guess it wasn't as cheap as my $8 beach day in Key Biscayne at the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in August.  Now I know there are free beaches all over the place in Florida, but I really didn't mind paying to go to Key Biscayne.  It doesn't even feel like you're in Miami anymore when you hit the beach.  All that surrounds you is water and the Cape Florida lighthouse, which you can climb.  Just seeing how the lighthouse is put together -- its large metal components and then the massive glass lenses used to send beams of light out -- was worth the entry fee to the park. (Remember I’m an architecture student.)  But on top of that, you get to enjoy a beach day.  How I miss swimming at the beach. :(

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A Pricey Transportation Snag

Ali Bar

I couldn't avoid it. I got a monthly unlimited metro pass for the New York subway. At $89, it’s expensive for me, but the subway is my lifeline and I take it for just about everything – shopping, school, to entertainment destinations. It will certainly end up being far cheaper than paying for individual trips. But if I had my bike, which sadly I left in Ithaca, I would attempt to use it for trips around the neighborhood. That could save me money and perhaps some time too.  In Ithaca, I could walk everywhere, and when I couldn't, my student I.D. acted as a bus pass. Public bus rides were free in Ithaca after 6 p.m. and on weekends.  I never put down a cent to get myself anywhere.  Now I'm definitely dealing on a much larger scale in New York, so that adds to the expense.  But if you have a bike, I'd recommend pedal power versus paying for public transport.

Subway1

Interesting Note: Images from Noorda Design Studio. Bob Noorda, late designer of subway signs.

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Don't Always Take the Easy Way Out

Ali Bar

Now that I'm in New York, all settled into my new apartment (quite spacious I might add), I'm looking for adventures for the monetarily disadvantaged (Oh, and also working very diligently at school).  It's coming along.  But, back to the apartment, one of, hopefully, many good notes this semester. It’s in Spanish Harlem and about a half hour commute by subway from my studio on the East Side, but it's about half the price I would be paying in university-provided dorms.  Grin.  While I could have made things quite easy for myself and just moved into the dorms, I went in search of an apartment. I share it with three other people – including one who is temporarily renting the living-room couch, but as I said the apartment is large by New York standards and even has a dining room.  Even though dorms do have communal spaces such as kitchens, I often find it difficult to cook. Think disappearing food and waiting to use the stove while on a tight schedule. So, for me it makes sense to go the apartment route. I save money, have my own kitchen and don’t have to rely on an expensive meal plan, which generally only makes sense for big eaters. True, it's nice having everything provided for in a dorm setting, but looking for your own space and cooking go a long way for me. Also, I’m in search of good low-cost recipes, as well as ideas for portable food that I can make at home and take to studio for lunch. Any suggestions are welcome.

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