Southern Review: Smorgasburg and Artists & Fleas

IMG_4217This past weekend I was able to find a little bit of North Carolina in the City. Not only did I have a friend from home in town, but I was able to find a few NYC attractions that brought forth memories of the Carolinas. Where did I find all of this? In Brooklyn, of course! More specifically, Williamsburg.

Over the past two years, Brooklyn has become one of my favorite places in the New York area. I spent a summer  living in Brooklyn Heights and fell in love with the quaint quietness of it all. The streets are actually lined with trees and the buildings often don’t reach higher than several floors in height, and for a brief moment you are able to forget that you live in one of the largest metropolitan cities in the world.

I’ll spare you the rest of my Brooklyn love story, you get the picture, and get to my point – Williamsburg is home to two of my favorite gems in the city. Smorgasburg and Artists & Fleas.

Smorgasburg is a weekly food festival featuring some of the best local vendors in the area. This is the type of place where you can find a vendor devoted solely to gourmet grilled cheese, or the recent food trend/crowd favorite, ramen burgers (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a burger squished between two buns made out of ramen noodles). Read more

Amber and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Bug


As promised, let me tell you a story about me, my apartment, and a very big bug.

You remember me mentioning that sometimes I catch my Southern showing? Well honey, this was one of those days (cue Patti LaBelle voice).

It’s no lie that we are familiar with bugs in the south. Mosquitoes and gnats are everywhere, especially in the summer, but the bugs in New York are from a different family. They are decidedly bigger, badder and of an entirely different breed. You haven’t truly lived in New York until you see your first cockroach.

The day was September 12th and it was an oddly warm fall evening for New York. Not quite hot enough for the A/C unit to be turned on, I cracked a window in my apartment to let in some fresh air. A traditional girls movie night, a friend and I set-up shop in my apartment surrounded by halal and an array of junk food from the nearby Duane Reade. The feature film of the night was “Age of Adaline.”

We were about an hour into the movie and Blake Lively had just pulled us into yet another graceful plot twist when the visitor arrived.

My vision was triggered by sudden movement on the wall to my right.

“Oh. My. Gahhh-shhh!” I whispered the statement in fear that the apartment’s latest inhabitant would hear me.

On the wall, about four feet above my bed, sat the biggest cockroach I had seen in my 20-something years of life. I don’t know how long it took me to get up from the couch but the next several minutes were a blur and slur or What do I do?!

Maybe the drama of the moment was enhanced by the darkness of the movie, but at that time the situation was life or death. My friend and I decided it would be best for me to use my Swiffer as a weapon… oh, and I would be the one to kill the bug.

My heart quickened as I climbed upon my bed to be in better reach of my opponent. What would I do if he fell to his death upon my soft yellow bed spread and favorite decorative throw pillows? I would for sure have to replace it all.

Usually when one gets closer to an issue their fears begin to dissipate as they realize the situation is no where near as big or dire as they thought. The opposite happened for me. Up close and personal, I saw that the roach was as big as I had imagined from afar – maybe even a centimeter bigger. At about two and a half inches in length, he was ready for a fight.

I became paralyzed with the exception of my legs which were now shaking due to nerves and the squishy surface of my bed below.

“You can do it! Kill it!” My friend chirped in the background. It wasn’t until the bug began to move that I too jumped into action.

With my Swiffer waving up into the air I would attempt to squish and swipe him to my right behind the bed. A brilliant plan except for the fact that as I swung in defense I closed my eyes, letting out what I imagine to be a full Serena Williams level grunt of power.

When I came back to my senses the bug was nowhere to be seen, but I was told that my plan had somewhat worked and he was now on the other side of my bedframe.

I walked around to the back of the bed with a heavy amount of dread and anticipation. The fight was not over. There the bug lay. Unmoving, unconscious, and surely not dead. I would have to finish him off.

Oh my gahsh!

Oh my gahsh!

Oh my gahsh!

The southern accent deep within me reared its head and the verbal attack was on. Sometime between my ill wishes and my friend’s kind encouragement I managed to complete the task. With pink rubber gloves and a wad of paper towels, I picked up the victim and threw him into the trash can. This must be what a near death experience feels like.

The next morning I called my super, and the exterminator arrived two days later. A pest control company visits my building once a month. They are perhaps my favorite people in New York.

Got a story of your own? Send it my way for the chance to be featured on The Urban Magnolia!

Monday Musings

7 Reasons Why I Want to Sit at the Reception Desk

Recently, my office was moved into a smaller space behind the reception desk of my organization’s office. Due to that small space actually being a conference room, we often leave the door open to feign off the feeling of cramped claustrophobia. That being said, we have the pleasure of hearing daily reception desk convos.

As a writer, this is paradise considering the conversations and the amount of shared personal information literally runs the gamut – especially on a Monday. Below are several conversations I overheard this past Monday, and some pretty darn good reasons why working at the reception desk is totally underrated.

  1. Movie Reviews – I received a full review of Zootopia. Apparently the movie has “deep undertones,” and is an adult movie in disguise. Note taken.
  2. Weekend Recaps – On average between the morning and the afternoon about five people stopped by to share full details of their weekend gallivants. My particular favorite was a spirited play by play from the office delivery man. He boisterously shared a story about watching his baby alone for the first time without his wife’s supervision. It seems that this was a trial and error experience.
  3. City Events – I learned all about the Gay Men’s Choir event held at NYU last weekend.
  4. Drunken Subway Stories – An associate in the office gave a boisterous monologue about being stuck in a drunken conversation with a friend of a friend on the subway. He does not remember the details, and fears that his feigned sobriety was blatantly apparent. Takeaway – awkward conversations are to be avoided by taking a cab.
  5. Anonymity – Often office visitors cannot see what a receptionist is doing on their computer due to their low-sitting desk behind a partition. I envy this ability.
  6. Health Advice – While sitting at the reception desk, one hears a great deal of unsolicited advice. Today’s topic was health and the importance of offsetting workouts with regular rest to prevent muscle tears. “Once you kind of tear it, it stays,” said a man with a small voice (I remained at my desk and never saw his face). The man continued on to share how he himself had torn a muscle in his knee a long time ago.
  7. Popularity – Did I mention that receptionists are often the most popular people in the office due to the array of mints and candies sitting on their desk. Yeah, it’s pretty hard to beat that.

Let that all sink in for a moment. Have a good day, lovelies!

She’s Not From Around Here

Oops! Your Southern is showing.

I recently had a job interview that began with an unlikely question – “Is that a drawl I hear?” I chuckled in response. Not because it was a funny question, but because like a child playing hide and seek I had been found. Discovered in all my Southern glory. At home in North Carolina it is rare that anyone mentions that I have an accent. – In fact, most Southerners comment upon my lack there of. I tend to over annunciate my words, preferring “ele-men-tary,” to the usual “ella-men-tree” as often said in my native region of the United States.

This encounter led me to think about all the other times since moving to the city that my Southerness has been caught showing – whether that be yelping “y’all” or donning my pearls.

I met up with a contact last week in effort to spread my social roots through the city and was surprised how quickly my lunch acquaintance was able to read me. A fellow North Carolinian herself, she has been living in the city long enough to conceal her soft Southern interior until the most appropriate of moments.

As we sat over Sourdough bread and decorative salads I chatted anxiously about my background and arrival in New York.

“You have a certain Southern politeness,” she said. “There is a very ladylike quality about you.”

I smiled sheepishly. Oops, my Southern was showing! It is not that this was an insult or a compliment. It was merely an observation. But any Southern transplant in the city knows that Carolina graces can at times be a disadvantage in the city. The humble pleasantries can sometimes be interpreted as a reason to be ignored, walked over, or even to be passed over for a job.

In a place where people are often competitive and sing their praises at the top of their lungs, those who are meek do not get heard. I personally have been working on ways to speak up for myself while also remaining true to my learned behaviors.

This is not in the least bit my way of labeling Southern charms as bad, but rather myself noting that New York calls for a certain air of boldness in its residents. Whether that boldness be balancing on the subway without holding onto the rail or calling out your cab driver when he tries something funny with your fare, there is a daily opportunity to learn how to be a little more self-assured.

I still yell “Oh my goodness!” and use the word “lovely” in ironic situations – this is something I will never give up – but I am proud to be learning a few New York mannerisms as well.

Southern Review: Jacob’s Pickles


Location: 509 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

Cuisine: Southern Comfort

Magnolia Rating:  4.5 out of 5

“Beer. Biscuits. Pickles.” Jacob’s Pickles prides itself on a sort of Southern simplicity. Although, the restaurant is anything but simple. You tell me the last time you ate chicken and pancakes sprinkled with bacon and homemade maple syrup… all at the same time. Never? Yeah, I thought so.

After a number of over the top reviews from friends who live in the area, I decided it was time to try the popular brunch spot for myself. With a Southern friend in tow, I headed to the restaurant around 9:30 on a chilly Sunday morning. We were hoping to beat the foretold crowd but were greeted by a line that overflowed out the door.

Though daunting, the line moves fast and the host puts customers on a list to be texted when their table is ready; a convenience that afforded us to pop across the street to chat over coffee until our table was ready.

In about 30 minutes we were seated and innapropriately gawking at out table neighbors’ food. We started the meal with the Hot Sour Cukes and both ordered the Chicken & Pancakes, although it was a close call with the numerous Southern Biscuit Sandwiches.

Foodie or not, expect to be defeated. The portion sizes are huge and you will likely need a break and a nap halfway through your first pancake.

Simply put, the food was Insta worthy. Check out Lena’s plate below and then head on over to Jacob’s Pickles.

Jacobs Pickles
Chicken & Pancakes with a side of pickles.


Southern Style Takes New York

When I moved to the city I quickly learned that my Southern sense of style wouldn’t fly on New York streets. Anyone who knows me is familiar with my partiality to floral prints, vibrant colors, and patterned pants from J. Crew.

It took me approximately one day to realize that New Yorkers’ favorite colors are black, black, and any other dark hue that resembles black. This was a shock to say the least, considering the fact that my closet resembles that of someone going to daily garden parties or afternoon tea (a girl can wish, right?).

In due time, I embraced my new surroundings realizing the New Yorker’s love for black makes them look effortlessly chic. Hoping to blend in a tad bit more, while also staying true to my Southern style and graduate student budget, I took a trip to Zara to vamp up my look. And guess what! I found a way to infuse florals as well.

Check out the look below and stay tuned as I continue to explore my new hybrid of style. Stay cute my dears!

Why yes, those are magnolia flowers on my dress!
Dress: Zara, Shirt: J. Crew, Shoes: Calvin Klein, Backpack: MochiThings