Paint Along

Do want to expand your creative horizons? Want to paint but not sure where to start?  A Paint Along class is a great way to break away from the daily grind and let your creativity flow for an evening.  I had a class with  Paint Along last night and couldn’t wait to write about it!

Paint Along‘s calendar shows all the different images currently on the schedule, so when you go into the class you know what you will be painting.  In the picture above, you can see some other examples of class painting selections as many were hanging around the studio.  Everyone is provided with a blank canvas and their own set of paints and brushes to use.   You are also welcome to bring your own wine to sip while you paint which was a nice touch.  The class started at 6:30pm and it usually goes for 2 hours, although ours went a little over. 

For the class I selected, our goal was to paint a version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.    I was not sure how it would go since this is a very complex painting.  However, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the instructor was able to guide us through creating our own versions of this classic image (you do not need to be a professional to get a beautiful painting completed during this class).  You are lead through the painting in simple steps that build before your eyes into the image you are trying to create.  There is no judgment and our instructor was happy to help if anyone felt stuck or was concerned about how they were doing.  You are also free to paint as you would like to and can either follow the instructor directly or go on a different path if your creativity leads you elsewhere.  While we were all painting the same image of Starry Night, each painting definitely had its own unique artistry.  At the end of the class, it was really fascinating to see all of the different finished creations.  There was a blow dryer available to help dry the paintings before placing each in a bag to carry our new masterpieces home in. 

I really loved my first visit to Paint Along.  It was wonderful to relax and create something for an evening.  Don’t be intimidated by skill level and just go to enjoy yourself.  Many of the attendees were repeat painters at Paint Along and I will probably be joining them as a return artist.  Paint Along‘s studio is located at 928 Broadway near the intersection with 21st Street.

And just to share, at the end of the class, this is what my painting looked like (although some of the colors didn’t all come through so well in the picture):

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Learn to Paddle Board!

Yes, you can learn to paddle board right here in NYC!  The New York Kayak Company is located on Pier 40 (West Houston and West Street) and this is their first summer of Stand Up Paddle Boarding instruction and tours.  I have really enjoyed learning to surf so I had to give this other popular sport a try.

I signed up for Intro to Paddle Boarding through Urban Escapes.  We had a 2 hour lesson followed by a pizza dinner on the end of the pier.  The ratio was 2 people for each paddle board, which meant lots of opportunities to get out and work on improving your skills.  NY Kayak and Co. also offers Intro to Paddle Boarding classes for $25 on Wednesdays.  More people are in those classes so the ratio is usually closer to 3 or 4 people sharing time for each board.  For an introduction to the sport though, it is definitely a great deal to get yourself out on the water.  Because paddle boarding is such a workout, it is better to take breaks when you are starting out and you will not mind handing the board to someone else in between tries. 

The scenery was beautiful and the sun was in the process of setting during our lesson.  Getting on the board from the dock was the easiest part.  Then once you row yourself far enough away from the dock, the goal is to stand up in a fluid motion so that you can then continue to balance and row yourself along.  As a beginner, it was an amazing experience.  There were more waves than I expected due to passing boats on the Hudson, thus balance was quite a challenge.  I could feel every muscle working to maintain my stance.  It is better to keep your board moving through the water to prevent yourself from falling.  Between trying to stay standing up, steering and rowing over waves I was very focused on my efforts.  With more practice, I am sure I would be a bit more relaxed than I was this first time.

Once you are more comfortable and experienced with stand up paddle boarding, NY Kayak and Co. has paddle boarding trips where you can venture out further than Pier 40.  It was mentioned that going out towards the Statue of Liberty would be one of the tours they offer.  I am not at the skill level for that yet but perhaps with more practice I will be.

Urban Escapes will be offering another intro course in September (for those interested click here).  You can view the current schedule of Stand Up Paddle Boarding offerings from NY Kayak and Co. by clicking here.

The Creek and the Cave

It is long overdue that I write about one of my favorite spots in Long Island City.  Located just one stop outside of Manhattan on the 7 train, you will find The Creek and the Cave (10-93 Jackson Ave.), a spot that has something to offer to anyone who values live entertainment, food and drinks.  While they have a plentiful beer selection, I simply cannot go for a visit without ordering a pineapple margarita (pictured above).  For those looking for a bargain, they have a fantastic happy hour special on weekdays from 3-7pm.  During happy hour, you get 2 for 1 margaritas, $2-$3 beers and $2 off of other drinks.  With a restaurant area upstairs, fantastic outdoor seating on the back patio, and indoor space to lounge or catch a comedy show, you will have a great time at this LIC spot.

Usually, I lean towards ordering fried seafood, but at The Creek there is nothing better than their grilled fish or shrimp tacos.  A wasabi sauce with finely chopped cabbage is all that accompanies the tenderly grilled fish on a small tortilla and it is the perfect flavor combo.  I have yet to try another fish taco that I love more than The Creek and the Cave’s version.  I also adore their spinach burrito with fresh avocado, tofu, brown rice, cheese and a dash of sour cream.  I am so hooked on these two menu items that they are my consistent order (even if it means taking some of it to go).  However, from what I see being ordered around me, there are many other delicious options to choose from as well.

If you are interested in stand up comedy and improv theater, The Creek and the Cave is a prime spot to watch, participate and learn from local talent.  There is always something going on so visit their website (www.creeklic.com) for a schedule of daily events and these shows are usually free which is even better.

Learn to Surf!

One of the best ways to cool off in the hot summer months is to go to the beach.  As I discovered with my first attempts last summer,  it is even better if I can grab a surf board and get in the water to catch some waves.  I had a really successful surf lesson on Long Beach, Long Island this past Saturday and wanted to share the company info with those who might be interested.

Skudin Surf, Inc. has local surfing lessons at Long Beach and the Rockaways. The instructors were really helpful and I improved a lot during my 90 minute session. Here is a link to their website where you can sign yourself up for surf lessons and camps www.skudinsurf.com .  Even if you have never surfed before, they will help you get up on the board in no time!  I look forward to putting the skills I learned to good use on future surfing outings.

Club Getaway

I have heard about Club Getaway for a while now.  But this past Memorial Day Weekend was my first visit to the adventure/activities/party camp for adults.  With all of the activities I have been doing for the past few years, I thought it would be the perfect weekend trip for me.  Here was my experience this past weekend:

Club Getaway definitely has many devout followers.  One of the questions that my friend and I were asked the most during our trip was if this was our first time there (which it was).    People come from all over to enjoy a weekend away from their everyday lives and they often keep coming back frequently.  There are already plans from some people I met there to return for the July 4th weekend.  As for me, I had a great time, but am not sure I will be one of those people.  Time will tell.

Buses from NY and Boston, along with people arranging their own transportation, all came together on Friday evening to start off the weekend.  There were around 300 people there to celebrate the Memorial Day summer kick off.  I signed up with a meetup group, which I will write more about in another entry, but they were a highlight to the Club Getaway experience.

Once checked into our cozy cabins, we arrived to an amazing assortment of appetizers – everything from sushi to a mashed potato bar.  After indulging in far too much food, it was time for even more food at dinner.  Everyone is served a few courses and many bottles of wine during dinner.  Since this was the first night, there was not as much partying.  People needed to rest up for a busy day of fun the next day!

Everyone is provided with a jam packed schedule of varied events for each day of the weekend.  Some events require signing up in advance which should be done ASAP the morning of the event because things fill up quickly.  For my first day, I started with the camp zipline followed by the trapeze and bungee trampoline.  Then after lunch, my friend and I had signed up for a local vineyard tour which was a great way to see the surrounding area.  It was beautiful!  Once back at Club Getaway, happy hour was in full swing with a burger competition and people hanging out at the boathouse.  There were early evening rides around the lake in the pontoon boat which featured delicious rum punch and sometimes even guitar music – I loved the pontoon boat!  This was followed by dinner, comedians and a themed neon glow party which went on into the night.  For me, Sunday consisted of a morning stretch, a walk to the town of Kent, and swimming and relaxing by the waterfront.  After Sunday’s dinner there was a band, another theme party and a campfire complete with s’more making.  By Monday, I could feel that I was running out of time.  There was so much more to do!  I decided on a yoga class followed by a hike around a local waterfall before that final lunch snuck up on me and it was time to pack and return home on the bus.

There is so much I wanted to do, but those were the activities I was able to fit in for the weekend.  In addition to my preferences, there are numerous sports, classes, hikes, biking, and many other options to choose from to fill your day.  Many people opted to just relax and lounge by the water during most of the three days.  The weekend is entirely up to you and you can be as adventurous as you want to be.

Throughout the summer and even during early fall, Club Getaway has different weekend adventures planned.  Check out their schedule and pricing on their website at www.clubgetaway.com.  There are often specials if you sign up early so be sure to plan ahead!

Paintball Is a Blast!

Up until last weekend, the only gun I have ever fired was a water gun.  That all changed when I joined Urban Escapes on one of their Paintball and Beer Tasting day trips.  We met at 9am close to Port Authority and arrived at the NJ paintball park at around 11am.

We had been told to wear lots of layers for padding and the only items we were given were a face mask, a paint gun and 500 paintballs each.  Once our group was divided up into two teams, it was time for the first game (where the rules were set that if you got shot once then you were out).

In all, we played on three different terrains: a junk yard, a castle, and the forest (my favorite area was the junk yard).  During these games, each team would get a chance to start at different sides of the terrain and we discovered there were definite advantages to certain areas.  After the official games were over, it was time to finish off all of our paintballs by playing a wilder game.  In this last round, you were out when you called yourself out, so you could get shot as many times as you were able to stand it.  This is where I got a little frustrated because some trigger happy players shot me after I had already called myself out (and that’s when I got my worst battle wounds).

All in all though, paintball was intense at times but lots of fun.  Urban Escapes does a great job at planning the perfect day trip.  After we changed out of our paint covered clothes and into something more presentable, it was time for lunch.  Included in the cost of the trip, we enjoyed a salad bar, pizza, pasta and beverages.  To make things even better, as our welts made themselves more visible, we were able to help numb our pain at our next stop – beer tasting at Cricket Hill Brewery (also in NJ).

The beer selection at Cricket Hill was great and the brewmasters were really fun while being informative.  We were able to sample quite a bit of their selection, relax and mingle, and then make our purchases before it was time to get on the bus and head back to NYC.  If you ever wanted to try paintball, this is a great way to do it.  Urban Escapes has other dates scheduled for this popular trip, so definitely sign up before they sell out!

Join the Circus!

Ever think about running away from city life to join the circus? Well, NYC has its very own circus school to learn how to do just that! This Saturday, a friend and I took an Intro to Circus Arts class at the New York Circus Arts Academy. The academy is located in Long Island City and is just  a short walk from the 7 train Vernon-Jackson subway stop.

Since this was an intro class, we were able to try our hand at a variety of circus arts.  For two hours we were exposed to gymnastics, the trampoline, acrobalance, juggling, the trapeze and ribbons. The exercises were challenging but they were also a lot of fun!  Our teacher was very understanding of our varied levels of experience. With his encouragement and teaching, he really helped us achieve success while we attempted to work on the skills such as hanging upside down from the ribbons (as pictured above).

The Intro to Circus Arts class is the perfect way to find out what area you would like to study further.  The New York Circus Arts Academy provides more in-depth courses on everything we tried during our intro class, as well as, offering some fitness courses.  I can definitely say that my muscles are feeling it after those 2 hours, so I can only imagine the benefits of continuous work on these skills.  Once you try it, you will most likely be hooked!

UPDATE (on 8/31/10): I was just informed that the New York Circus Arts Academy has closed. However, in the same location you will find Circus Warehouse which looks like it offers similar classes and training.  You can read about Circus Warehouse on their website at http://circuswarehouse.com/.