Intro to Pottery

I have always wanted to try working with clay on a potter’s wheel, so when Random Events scheduled a pottery class, I was one of the first to sign up!  We went to Choplet Ceramics Studio which is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a three hour pottery class.  Our group was divided in half so that some could learn to make something on the potter’s wheel while at the same time others could work on hand building.  After an hour and a half we would then switch activities.

I was at the potter’s wheel first learning how to throw clay.  It was more difficult than it looked but our instructor helped us out with each step as we went along.  Having long nails proved to be a bit of a handicap but my piece still turned out pretty well as I tried to be extra careful. 

Once we were done with throwing, it was then time to build something by hand directly with slabs of clay.  There were different objects we could use to add textured patterns to our pieces and we were taught how to mold and connect the separate clay slabs to create an object of our choosing. 

It was a lot of fun learning these two different methods to make a clay object. I am very happy with the bowl I made on the potter’s wheel and the mug I built by hand.  After completing the class, there is approximately a two week period before you can come back to pick up your finished masterpieces.  During this time the pieces are placed in the kiln and glazed in the color that you choose at the end of the class.  Below you will see my finishes pottery pieces.

Choplet Studios provides an excellent way to learn pottery making.  They offer a variety of different classes and workshops in their well equipped studio.  You can read all about their studio and how to get started at www.choplet.com.

Learn How to Make Your Own Sushi

I love sushi so I was really excited to have an opportunity to learn how to make it.    On Tuesday nights, Satsko Restaurant (the location on 245 Eldridge St.) offers to teach you how to make your own sushi and you get to eat what you make!  This is a great deal for $25.

You are presented with a large bowl of rice at the table, a bowl of water, your own maki rolling mat, a knife and each person gets their own plate of sushi ingredients.  Each roll you make can be filled with whatever combination you would like from what you are given.  For the first roll attempt, they suggest you try making a vegetable roll to start.  I recommend that you save eating this one for last because I quickly discovered that you get full very fast and I would have much rather eaten more of the rolls made with the seafood ingredients.  So arrive hungry and you will definitely leave full.

Throughout the session, you are taught how to make a regular roll, an inside out roll, and a hand roll.  I had an even greater appreciation for the sushi making experts after trying to make these myself.  But the good news is that even if your technique is not at expert levels just yet, everything that you make will still be delicious.  It was a great deal of fun to learn and it will be entertaining to try to make rolls at home once I find the proper ingredients.  For those who like sushi as much as I do, I highly recommend checking out Satsko on a Tuesday night for their sushi making session. 

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):

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.

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.

Touring the World’s Oldest Subway Tunnel

On the busy street of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, everything appeared to be a normal Saturday.  The Trader Joe’s was packed with long lines of shoppers, cars and people were busy going about their business.  But then a car drove up and  a small blockade was put up around one of the manholes in the middle of the street.  A ladder was set up reaching its way to the bottom and a large group of people started to line up along the sidewalk.  They were preparing themselves for the descent down the ladder and into the depths of the oldest subway tunnel in the world which was lurking below the surface.  I was one of those people waiting in line.

At the bottom of the ladder, there is a small room filled with dirt where a walkway has been dug out and you must duck under a large concrete slab in the middle of it.  At the other end, is a small oval entryway which you must go through to get to the tunnel.  Once there, you see the wooden stairway below and the enormous (and very dark) tunnel in front of you.  For those of us at the beginning of the line, we had a lot of time to look around as it took a long time for everyone in the group to enter.  After we were all assembled, it was time for the tour to begin.

Bob Diamond, who discovered the tunnel in 1981, is a wealth of information.  His tour is a narrative of different parts of NY history, politics, and his own story of researching and finding this tunnel.  There is a lot of standing and listening, but I found it all quite interesting.  As the tour progresses, the group walks through the half mile tunnel, stopping as we go along to continue the story.  You get to go the entire length of the tunnel and see where it ends.  Definitely heed their requirements of wearing sturdy shoes and bringing a flashlight.  There are many grooves from the train tracks so the ground is uneven and while there are some lights along the side of the tunnel, it is still quite dark.  It was a very hot day above ground when I went, but in the tunnel it was cold.  We were 4 stories underground and you would never know a busy street was right above you.

A brief history for the tunnel is that it was built in 1844 by William Beard.  It was in use for many years but was eventually supposed to have been filled in.  Bob Diamond did a lot of research and was able to find it in 1981.  It is from his many efforts and labors (he had to dig through the room full of dirt to get to that tunnel opening to find it) that this tunnel is now available for the public to see.  The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

You can sign up for an Atlantic Tunnel Tour by clicking here or calling 718-941-3160.  It is definitely something worth experiencing.

Surfing Day Trip with ZogSports

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After last weekend’s day of surfing at Rockaway Beach which was organized through one of my meetup groups, I was really looking forward to getting an actual surf lesson and seeing if I could improve during my day trip with Zogsports.  For this outing, we met in the city at 7am to begin our bus ride to Long Branch, NJ.  I was surprised at how quick the bus ride was and we arrived before the beach was officially open.  This worked out well because we had our pick of were to set up our blankets on the beach.  The weather was absolutely perfect and our surf instructors said these were great conditions for learning to surf.

The surfing lessons were organized through Billabong Surf Camps.  They had a tent set up on the beach where all the boards, rash guards, and wet suits were kept throughout the day.  They were also kind enough to provide super strength waterproof sunblock (which was greatly appreciated!), as well as some cold water and snacks for our group.

Since we had so many people who had signed up for surfing lessons, the day was divided as follows: there were three different groups of surfing lessons and then after those were over there would be time for people to get back out on the water with the instructors there to assist as needed.  I was disappointed that I would not be able to go out on the water as much as I wanted to during the day, but that was how this trip was organized.  I was in the first surfing lesson group where we had three instructors for each group of six students.  The lesson consisted of half an hour on land and then an hour on the water.  For this official lesson, everyone was instructed to try to stand instead of use some of the less difficult positioning that I had started learning the other day. 

Once on the water with our instructors, we were dependant upon the ocean to provide us with some great waves.  There were some frustrating lulls (since time was so limited) but there were also some nice opportunities to try our hand at standing up on our boards.  I caught some waves and got really close to standing up although I usually wiped out immediately after getting on my feet.  I only wished that I had more time on the water to keep working at it. 

After the lesson was finished, I stayed in the water for a bit before resting and relaxing with my friends on the beach.  Due to the wave conditions and the lesson schedule running over, I never did get back in the water with a board.  Instead, I joined other people from the group for the planned happy hour. We ended up at a place called Tiki Bar which was located nearby. Surrounded by palm trees with a nice view of the ocean, they served some excellent frozen drinks while a band played some reggae tunes.  It was the perfect way to cool off after lying in hot the sun most of the afternoon.  At 6pm it was time to head back to NYC.  This time there was some traffic but that is to be expected on a Sunday evening in the summer.

All in all, I had a great time on this trip.  I loved hanging out on the beach and not having to worry about getting myself there.  I would prefer to have access to a rental board for the entire day in the future, so I am not sure I would sign up for actual surfing lessons again if that is not something that can be arranged.  With Zogsports, there is the option to sign up without the lesson and just pay for transportation and a day at the beach.  This is something I hope they offer again this season as I would definitely sign up.

Long Branch, NJ was quite beautiful and very clean.   There were some amazing houses that we passed by on the drive in.  The main area where we spent most of the day had a variety of nice shops and places to eat, although some leaned towards a higher price range.  If you are looking for a beautiful, well-kept beach that is not too far from the city, this is a fantastic place to go.