The Great Pizza Tour of 2017

A few weekends ago, I cashed in my Delta trip voucher to go visit my old roommate in New Jersey! But really, that meant New York. And if there’s one thing I know about New York is that it’s the home of some good pizza. Rather than spend time and money doing touristy things (full disclosure, I did see a show on Broadway) I wanted to spend my days eating pizza.

It was a trip that took an emotional and physical toll on me. I spent a lot of money on transportation and a good amount of money on food. I also walked about 20 miles in two days in 90 degree New York heat. By the end of the first day, I was literally limping. There was also the matter of 4 pizza places in two days. Mind you there was only one place that offered pizza by the slice. Most of the time I ate 4 pieces of pizza! But, I persisted.

The first day was a little shop called Joe’s Pizza on Carmine & Bleeker near Washington Square Park. This was the classic New York Pizza – thin crust, big slice, cash only divey place. Here are my notes from my phone:

  • Stop 1 – Joe’s Pizza. Classic New York slice. Really hot, served on a paper plate. Cash only place in West Village. Decent, doesn’t crack my personal top 5. Crust is a bit too hard and not as chewy as I’d like. The cheese fell off, which loses some points for me.

I have to explain, sometimes cheese falling off is a good thing. However, this pizza wasn’t the margherita style pizza (which is normally wet because of the heaps of olive oil). Therefore, I expected the cheese to stay on. Some photos:

joe's pizzajoe's storefront

After walking around for probably ten years and taking an air conditioned break in the form of Aladdin on Broadway. My original plan was to go to Brooklyn for the night, but silly old me didn’t know how freakin’ big New York was. So in an effort to make our train back to New Jersey for the night we had to detour into Hoboken. This time, we stopped at Grimaldi’s. It’s an old school pizza family in New York. As far as I can tell, the New Jersey locations are original to the Grimaldi’s. The Brooklyn locations were licensed to some guy who took the name. I’ll explain more about that with the next location. Anyways, here are the notes from my phone:

  • Grimaldi’s in Hoboken, NJ. This pizza is pretty good, coal fired like [a local spot in Minneapolis] and the whole pie is HUGE. Crust could be crispier or softer to make it better. It is kind of in between which makes the crush meh. Cheese is really good, though. Overall, not bad. It gets cold pretty easily, but to be fair you’d have to eat like a monster to eat it before it all gets cold. I also didn’t like how the cheese came all the way up to the lip of the crust.

Coal fired is pretty darn good. So far, the trip wasn’t letting me down! Some photos:

grimaldis pizzagrimalid's menu

I’m not a food photographer and the low lighting didn’t do me any favors. And I forgot to get the Grimaldi’s storefront. Oops. Total slices eaten day one: 4 big ones.

The next day, we headed back into the city for some fun. First up was DUMBO in Brooklyn. We went to a place called Juliana’s. This is run by Patsy Grimaldi, the patriarch of the Grimaldi family. He came out of retirement to open Juliana’s, because the man that the Grimaldi name was sold to moved across the street into a new place. Patsy opened his shop in the old Grimaldi space, which brought a new level of rivalry. You can read about it more in depth here. The pizza itself was quite delicious – and it should be noted that I usually only ever get cheese pizza at restaurants. My theory is that if they can’t do a cheese/margherita pizza well then I am less inclined to believe they can do other “fancier” pizzas well. Some notes from my phone:

  • Stop 3 – Juliana’s in DUMBO. Coal fired pizza with SUPER FRESH mozzarella!! Decent amount of olive oil – not too much to make it soggy but enough to add to the taste. The crust is perfectly crisp. It’s not too soggy, which is refreshing for a margherita. I think this is coming in at a strong 4 or 5 on my top 5 list. The third slice was a bit cold but still tasted really fresh.

I’m glad this dude came out of retirement. Some photos (I split the pizzas with my friend, as they are legitimately very large):

juliana's storefrontJuliana's

We unfortunately had no air conditioning break today, unless you count the Subway. We did go to Coney Island which was actually really fun. I guess I did do a tourist-y thing by riding the giant ferris wheel. Again, it was hot so we didn’t do much besides walk around and drink water. After our little jaunt down to the ocean we headed back up to Brooklyn for the final pizza stop of the trip. This time, it was Lucali in Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens Neighborhood). We arrived at 5:30, because the restaurant opened around then. Little did we know there was already a 2 hour wait for a table. Must be good, right? According to my research, Beyonce and JAY-Z went to Lucali a few years ago instead of going to the Grammy’s. If it’s good enough for Bey, it’s good enough for me.

This was made worse by the fact that there was a loud block party going on outside. Literally there was a DJ on a residential block? Playing rap music definitely not suitable for kids under 12?? Call me old, but that music was loud. The restaurant had tables outside if you wanted them but obviously we did not. The weird thing was nobody else seemed to mind. They just thought this was a normal occurrence?? It was really annoying, especially because we weren’t able to wait around the restaurant in case there was an earlier table because it was just so loud. We ended up going into a weird Brooklyn hipster coffee shop that also served food. I am not a New Yorker, but that’s what I definitely assumed Brooklyn would be like before I visited.

The cool thing about Lucali is that it is BYOB. But at that point if I had any liquor I probably would have died because of the dehydration in the heat, so water it was for me. We finally were seated around 7:30-7:45 and I was starving. But don’t worry – it was worth the wait. Some notes:

  • Stop 4 – Lucali in Carroll Gardens. 10 or so table place, one is pretty big for parties of 6. It’s very loud inside, not so ideal for conversation. At this point I’m too hungry to eat so who cares whether or not I talk. [Rant about how loud the DJ is]. The ingredients are truly amazing. My only critique is that the crust is a little bit thin. If it had a bit thicker, fluffier crust this would be a surefire winner. Comes in at a strong 2-3 on my list of top 5. YUM.

Some photos (it was literally like candlelit in this place, and I didn’t want to be obnoxious with the flash):

lucali pizzalucali storefront

It should be noted that when I “review” pizzas, I’m just going for taste. I don’t care how it’s served; I don’t care how long the wait is. If your pizza is good, then you can do whatever you want. Also, I just like pizza. I don’t know anything about the techniques to making it or any of the terminology that goes with it. In general I like fresh ingredients, the ability to stay warm for a long time, and the crust. The crust needs to have a decent hole structure that is fluffy and not too dense.

My official rankings for this trip are as follows: Lucali, Juliana’s, Grimaldi’s, and Joe’s. We saved the best for last! And if you’re wondering, my all time top favorite pizza is Pizzeria Beddia.

Where should I go next?

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#HarryPotter20

Today, June 26 2017, marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (or Philosopher’s if you want to be like that) Stone.

Even though I was 3 years old when the book was released, I still count it as one of the most important book and series of my life. Here’s a short list why:

  • It was my first long book that I read by myself. I felt so accomplished that I finally read a chapter book with small-ish font!
  • Because of that, I credit Harry Potter with my love of reading. A lot of my friends say that they never read anything, and that makes me really sad. Books allow you to  do so many things, and people who haven’t yet discovered that probably aren’t reading very good books.
  • I have bonded with people over Harry Potter. Feel like you don’t have a lot in common? Ask someone what their favorite book is. They might say Harry Potter, and you pretty much can have a 30 minute discussion about the books, movies, and your favorite characters.
  • It sparked a sense of adventure in me. Granted, I don’t own a wand and live in Europe, but I can see the world and still think that is magic enough for me.
  • It provides me with an escape – during some difficult periods in my life I like to turn to something familiar. Harry Potter lets me sink into the familiar story and let me escape my problems for a while.
  • Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, Tonks, Minerva McGonagall, to name a few. Strong females forever.
  • It taught me that being curious isn’t always a bad thing. Yeah, Harry and pals got in a lot of trouble (looking at you, Fred and George) but they learned more about life than school probably taught them.
  • As Hermione and Ron and Harry grew up, so did I! It was a cool aspect of the series to see your characters grow up and deal with different challenges as I dealt with the challenges my own life dealt me.

These are just some of the reasons why I love Harry Potter. The best thing? Everyone who has read the books loves them for different reasons than I do – and that’s why the books have been so successful and have created a community around them.

-Martha

Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home…

 

Thoughts on the election

In 2008, I was 14 or so when Barack Obama first got elected to office. I didn’t really know much about anything back then. I mean, I was 14! I knew it was a historic event. Time passed, I turned 18. I voted for Obama. I was really excited about the fact that I could vote. I always knew I was a Democrat because it lined up more with my beliefs that the Republicans. That’s not to say I agree 100% with Democratic policies, but generally, I do.

When I was 11 I woke up in the middle of the night because I was scared that the Earth wasn’t going to be around forever. I was 11, and I knew climate change was real. The fact that the Current President has eliminated all White House pages on climate change concerns me deeply.

I was 19 and decided to get birth control. The Affordable Care Act was not yet in place, so I had to pay for it. It didn’t strike me as unusual at the time. But it wasn’t until I needed to have several OBGYN appointments I realized that I was lucky that the ACA greatly reduced the costs of my health care.

When I was 19 I needed to see a therapist. You can see more of why in my TED Talk, here. It was a scary time for me, but I’m glad I was able to get help. I’m sad that the current President dismisses mental illness. More people struggle with anxiety and depression and other things than you think.

I was 10 when I was in elementary school and a boy snapped my bra strap when we were walking to the cafeteria. Ten. Gross. So I’m not sure why people think it’s okay to assault women and it makes me sad.

When I was 21 I realized what good role models were. And I realized that women can do anything they set their mind to.

When I was 22 I realized how important of an election this was going to be. I had been informed on the issues before and did my civic duty to vote each year. But this year, I tried to step it up. I always wanted to keep my Twitter/Facebook neutral in case potential employers read these things (which I’m sure they do) but that all went out the window this year. I needed to stand up for what I believed in and make sure that others knew they could come to me if they needed to talk or find a safe space.

I’m 23 now and Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States. Sadly, it’s not a bad dream. And I am most certainly not okay with it. I think it’s stupid to pretend that you are and it’s stupid to ignore what’s happening. Don’t hide your feelings – SPEAK UP. You don’t have to get angry at someone for supporting this, but you need to make them understand that their actions are hurtful to you. You can’t normalize this what is happening in the United States because IT IS NOT NORMAL. You are not alone in thinking this way.

And you aren’t alone in the fight.

2016 Wrap Up

All things worth mentioning that happened to me in 2016:

  • Started a company.
  • Said company was featured on The Today Show’s website, and on local news 3 times!
  • Got eyelash extensions.
  • Graduated college. (Note to self: change the blog name?)
  • Started a full time job.
  • Celebrated 2 years with my boyfriend. (Cue “awwwws” here)
  • Went to Mexico, spent a night in Houston aka Hell Hole of America.
  • Went to Philly because we got free flight vouchers.
  • Went to the doctor’s because of stomach pains, turns out it was appendicitis.
  • Got my wisdom teeth removed, and instead of being funny on the meds I cried a lot!
  • Got TWO toenails removed.
  • Got runner up in a startup competition and won $5000!
  • Booked a trip to London for next year… expect more travel posts!!!
  • Did a TED talk.
  • Ate pizza at TWO USA famous places (one in Phoenix, one in Philly).
  • Hit 10,000 tweets.
  • Voted for a woman president.
  • Discovered the magic that is Hamilton (and the Hamilton Mixtape, for that matter).

Happy 2016! This year was a good one, and I feel like it’ll be hard to top. Stay tuned. Below: Ham4Ham performance of some of the songs of the Hamilton Mixtape.

I graduated!

….about 3 months ago. Oh well, better late than never, right? If you’ve read some of my posts from the way beginning, you know that freshman year of college was HELL. Sophomore year was better because I got to go abroad. And then finally, junior year is where I hit my stride. Senior year? Couldn’t have been better.

I was recently asked by someone to share some advice I would give to my freshman year self. She was compiling it into a book for someone who was starting college, and I honestly think that’s such a great gift! But, the advice I would give to my freshman year self is to KEEP GOING. Nobody knows what they are doing in college. So if you think you’re doing something right, then keep going and doing that thing. Don’t let other people influence your decisions (unless, of course, you are doing something highly illegal and very destructive – then please, get some influence).

And if it turns out that you were doing something and that thing didn’t turn out then stop, but then try a different way. For example, I thought I knew how to study. Or that I was smart enough that I didn’t need to study. Well, I ended up doing pretty terrible on a couple of tests and then I realized that the way I thought I was studying was totally wrong for me. But, I kept going. And in May, I graduated.

Sure, I didn’t graduate with any honors or even an amazing GPA. But I LEARNED. And isn’t that what college is supposed to be about?

xo, Martha

Related college article I just read about sex on campus: here. Idk, could be useful. Below: my alma mater. P.S. Do I have to change my URL now?

Image result for university of minnesota

Kickstarter Success

The Nesel Packs Kickstarter was successfully funded, with just under $36,000. I’m really proud of my team and everything that we’ve had to do to make this happen. I thought I would share some tips and tricks that helped us on the path to success.

  1. Know your audience. This is probably where we actually failed. Being young 20-somethings, we assumed that everyone knew what Kickstarter was. This was actually not at all the case! I answered several emails a day explaining what Kickstarter was and I had to send screen shots to make sure people understood exactly HOW to donate. That being said…
  2. Bend over backward for your customers. During the 30 day period of your Kickstarter campaign, you will likely have lots of questions. Do your best to answer all of them in a timely fashion. Also, you’ll get tired of answering the same questions over and over, but these customers will turn into potential sales, and the goal of Kickstarter is to raise money (and in our case, awareness as well).
  3. Start early. We have a very unique and niche product that a lot of people somewhat understand. We wanted to spread the word as early as possible, so we reached out to the media about a month before to pitch our story. We were incredibly lucky, being college students and having an amazing college newspaper. They wrote our story and within the next day, we were picked up by 2 local news stations and it spiraled on from there, peaking when The Today Show’s website covered us. Starting early also means PLANNING everything. We had a Google Doc going of our Kickstarter story and all of the graphics we needed/wanted.
  4. The video is important. Our video was good, not great. And that’s okay. A lot of people fundraising on Kickstarter don’t necessarily have the money to produce an amazing video. As long as it gets your point across and it is well-done, it doesn’t need to be like an Oscar winning short film. What’s more important is that the product is quality!
  5. Be transparent. Our product is expensive, and we’ve had to work really hard to justify that. Sometimes customers just won’t understand it either way, but it’s important that you try to explain anyways. Be transparent about your manufacturing process and how you are getting the bags to everyone, including delivery dates.
  6. You’ll get a lot of emails, and it’s probably best to ignore them. There are lots and lots of websites offering SEO optimization, press release writing, logo creation, and others will offer you cross-promotion. I took one offer for a phone call up and did one cross-promotion because it fit with our mission. It’s a lot of time to research these website’s credibility and often times it’s a hefty fee. We didn’t have the money for these services, and we were doing pretty well just on our own.
  7. Use your network! One of the best pieces of advice I received from a contact who ran a Kickstarter was to call in every favor you have. This is not the time to be scared or uncomfortable to ask for money. Post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, whatever social media sites you use to gather donations! The second piece to this is that reach out to people in your network who have done this before. Chances are, you can have a 30 minute conversation to ask all the questions you need.
  8. Make sure your website is ready to handle the influx of traffic. This means that your hosting platform is solid, and it also means that it’s important to have a nice website so that people understand what you’re supposed to be looking at. Our website is looking a little rough right now, but we’re working on it!
  9. Triple check those backer surveys. I screwed up and forgot to ask the people who backed our t-shirt level what size they wanted. YIKES.

Any questions? Please let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer them as best as I can. I’m by no means a Kickstarter expert, but if a college student like me can figure out how to run a successful campaign, you can too!

-Martha

Below, an awesome dude named Liam trying out our backpack and some of my team members!

LiamwBackpack_Jake.Will

Pride and Joy

As part of my last year at the University of Minnesota, I’m taking a class called Entrepreneurship in Action. In this class, we start up our own company. Seriously. I’m actually doing it.

I’m CEO of a company called Nesel Packs, and it’s been my labor of love (I honestly don’t know if that’s a phrase) for the last year. On March 19, we are launching a Kickstarter to raise $10,000. It’s a big task, but my amazing team and I are more than up to the challenge.

We create backpacks for students with autism. Students with autism often have a difficult time in school because their senses are overloaded (sensory processing disorder is really common among autistic students). We want to create a safe and comfortable environment for them and we think this is a great product for that.

Check us out on our website and Instagram. Please sign up for our email list and help spread the word!!!!

xo, Martha (Below is our first prototype)

DSCN8614