Thursday, November 20, 2008

Asian Smashed Potatoes

Yesterday morning was a stressful day. For those that know me, I have a pervert for a landlord and yesterday I knew I was going to have to see him, even if I managed to actually not speak to him.

I usually keep my breakfast at work and come in a few minutes early to wolf something down before I actually clock in (I also read the news and catch up on my Yahoo Groups at this time). But I wasn't at work yesterday morning (pervert appointment) I was scramblin to find something quick and yummy to eat and given I'm not picky, wound up microwaving a red bliss potato for breakfast.

When it popped out of the oven, I decided to do my usual thing, which is use toasted sesame oil and worstichiere sauce on top instead of butter. I was reaching into the cupboard for some salt and pepper when I had a flash of genius and spied my bottle of Ume Plum vinegar. Now the biggest problem with Ume Plum vinegar is it's salty, so I sprinkled some on instead of the pink Himilayan sea salt (that Sally bought for me over a year ago) with my pepper.

Wow. I'm talking toe curling wow. I obviously haven't worked out perportions or anything, but I can so see this being a smashed potato recipe with some 5 spice blend added. Now, I don't know a single person who would be willing to do an asian dish for Thanksgiving, but I'm going to try and spread the word.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Vampire Day

I have a secret. The reason I never went to medical school, or became a vet tech or worked in medicine is I hate blood and needles. I always have to the point I was terrified of my mother's sewing machine growing up.

Ever since 9/11 I've made it a point to donate blood on a regular basis to honor not only the victims, but also all those military personelle who risk their lives on a daily basis because of bad choices the rest of us keep making (about who should be president, etc.).

Anyway (and I'm about to start ranting in a moment) our job makes it easy. There about 4 blood drives a year, we get gifts, lots of free cookies, brownies, juice, fruit and a chance to win $100 gift certificates. And only about 50 people could be bothered to donate blood this time around. Okay, WTF. I know there are reasons not to donate. Hell, I had to take iron supplements for a year and couldn't donate, but out of over 1,000 people, more than 50 should be able to take the time to give a pint.

I am so freaking PO'd (not my first words of choice on the subject). Why is it I keep reminding people we are at war? Do you know what happens in a war? Bullets flying, blood splattering. Where are people's brains (our's not the soildiers who just got his splattered on the inside of a tank)? I'm so at a loss. I keep wondering if I set myself up to be disappointed in people. I might be a left wing liberal nut job, but at least I know the value of civic duty.

one thing my beautiful friend Filomena taught me (and yes, I spelled her name right) is that you need to lead your life as if the world is really the one you want to live in. That means you do the right thing, even though you know that it won't be reciprocated just because it's the right thing and you wish everybody else would join in. Then again, I also know why Filomena is depressed all the time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote Early, Vote Often

I woke up 10 minutes to 6am in order to vote this morning. Never before have i waited on line, but this morning it took about 1.5 hours to cast my ballot. And my roommate and I were lucky we didn't have to wait longer. We arrived maybe 6:05 to find a line around the corner and nearly completely down the street. 1 hour on line listening to the stories of the neighborhood from those who grew up there (I might be a native Brooklynite, but I didn't grow up in Brooklyn). When we got through the front doors of the school, I grabbed my roommate and headed for our voting booth. Others had to spend at least .5 hours having their district looked up for them. We still had to wait at least .5 hours for the 5 people in front of us to vote. Again, lucky because some other districts had at least 25 -50 people on that line. We then headed for the coffee shop before going home.

My roommate showered for work and I designed and sewed up a tv remote pouch for us to hang off the coffee table. I'm still debating whether or not to staple this directly to the coffee table or use grommets and a grosgain ribbon. I think I'm gonna K-I-S-S this one and just staple it down.

I'm proud of my design. I used 2 $.50 napkins I purchased a few years ago during my first trip to a Target store (in Jersey with Filomena). I didn't want to rip the seams, so i used one for the back cut to the length of the table (1 raw edge) and the second napkin was cut the length of the pouch and then I cut off the side seams (3 raw edges). I then cut a fabric insert (so you wouldn't see the underside of the napkin and you'd have a little contrast in fabric) and straight stitched the top edge right under that top seam. I also sewed up the 2 bottom raw edges. Then I folded over the side edges for the back and top stitched those down creating one big pocket. I sized my remote pockets and sewed divisions leaving a large pocket for netflix DVDs and mailers (get them off the table please).

I did have to leave the thing on top of the table so that my roommate doesn't get home and go "what the hell happened to my DVDs and the remote controls". But tonight I guess I have a date with the staplegun (and Trader Joe's to pick up coffee).

Monday, October 13, 2008

The physics (or chemistry) of homeopathy

Got invited to an interesting lecture this past Friday given by the Amazing Randi. It was a last minute thing, and of course since i didn't have anything better to do, I thought I'd join the nerds for what seemed to be at least an interesting lecture. First, you'd be amazed at how many nerds showed up (including me). Definitely, SRO.

The Amazing Randi is a sceptic and famous debunker of spiritualists. This includes those Sunday morning faith healers as well as new age healers etc. Unfortunately, most of the lecture consisted of his old Johnny Carson tracks. But that doesn't mean you couldn't learn something. For instance, he pointed out that some famous marketing products make such ridiculous claims that he couldn't understand how the average educated person (high school by the way) would fall for them. For instance, he pulled out a advertisement for shoes with magnets in the soles to help the wearer with circulation (since Iron is a metal, the magnet pulls the iron in the blood and helps circulations). There was something about unipolar magnets in the ad and the Amazing Randi rightly pointed out that such a thing existed, it would win the noble prize (once again high school physics, no magnet can be unipolar).

The most interesting part of the lecture had to do with homeopathy and actually analyzing the claims. The idea behind homeopathy is that you can cure an ailment by giving a small dosage of the cause of the ailment. For instance (e.g. by Randi) homeopathic sleeping pills are made with caffeine. But as the Amazing Randi pointed out, based on the dilution used, if you calculate the molar properties, you would find that you would need to take about 1,000,000 homeopathic pills before you even managed to potentially ingest even one molecule of caffeine.

Hurray, for science.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blind People and Wheel Chairs

I have been avoiding posting because I know I'm gonna write about my perverted landlord (or managing agent as the case may be) but this happened just this past week and I'm still so peeved.

When I get a day off, I try to schedule a day with my friend Cynthia and her mom, Bess. Bess is in a wheelchair. She isn't really that old, but as she ages, she gets frailer and frailer and she has had to rely more and more on others to get around. Despite this, she is still very independant and she has more strength of character than most people simply because she now has to rely on others for the most basic things, like help going to the bathroom.

When I first met Bess, she was using a walker and doing her best to remain active. She didn't want to give up her independence or have a stranger in her house. Suprisingly she gets out more now that she is in a wheelchair than she ever did on the walker.

Anyway, the reason I try to visit at least once a month is that my friend Cynthia cannot lift her mom's wheelchair, so in order for her mom to get someplace that isn't within walking distance, they need a 3rd wheel. I realized how important our "little adventures" are when I invited them to join me for a trip to Costco one weekend (on Amber's membership no less) and she put on lipstick for the event. Few placed in NY are wheelchair accessible, and adventures usually consist of shopping trips (what a novel idea, to pick out your own clothes) or the movies and dinner (Siam Orchid on Emmons Ave. is our favorite).

Anyway, Cynthia was in charge of a Big Politico Party at the NY Aquarium and she asked me to attend so that her mother would have a companion for the evening. Even though I had to leave work half an hour early, I said yes. Poor Cynthia was busy shmoozing with the likes of Marty Markowitz and me and her mom wandered around the animals until the Sealion show and dinner. (I'll digress for another moment and tell you Ayvek's baby boy looks just like him and I can't wait till he turns 4, Spook is off exhibit but doing fine at 46, Fonzie has been retired from show business but also doing fine and the Sea Otters [I could never tell Spanky & Danny apart] have grown to their full size and are gorgeous).

So, why am I mad? You have no idea how badly the other guests treated Bess. The few people who spoke to us, talked to her like she's an idiot while the rest avoided us. Seating for dinner was open and we were given a prime table, but no others would join us. I'm not just talking about the guests (which included the new Army commander at Fort Hamilton) but Cynthia's co-workers (and my former co-workers). We were 2 people alone at a table for 8. I can also tell you, that if the former director was there (Paul Boyle) this would have never happened. He would have made it a point to join us for part of the evening along with his wife despite the big muckity mucks hanging around.

Now that is not to say me and Bess didn't enjoy ourselves despite the situation. I have a feeling she is used to it, but despite the fact I see it, I don't get it. When did an infirm body mean an infirm mind? In a world with people like Steven Hawkings, you would think people would get it.

Anyway, I was so mad, I was ready to volunteer at a VA hospital with wheelchair bound vets, until my friend Barbara pointed out that only way for me to do something like that would be between 2-4am every other Wenesday. Then again, I'm not the type of person who actually let's reality dictate how I spend my non-existant free time. Let's see what I can do.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Tribute to Alison or How to Make Mush

My friend Alison has been a busy mom lately and she contacted me yesterday to ask about starting a lifestyle blog. Imagine her surprise when I told her I already did and it wasn't even that hard (although since this is a work computer I can't add pictures).

Anyway, Alison has money issues. Okay, the biggest issue is her sponging lazy in-laws and she wanted to include some money saving tips in her blog (how to prepare a dinner for 10 for $20) so this is for her.

Mush has a bad reputation thanks to the Little Rascals. You remember the scenes ("oh no, mush again" or "don't drink the milk, it's spoiled"). And across the pond it has an even worse reputation where they call the stuff gruel. But if you ask the average person they don't even know what either one is. Well, all this stuff is basicly the same thing as porridge, or farina, or grits or pudding or the countless of other names given to a thick pasty mixture made up of mostly water and a grain (even polenta counts).

The basic difference between all these different names is the grain used. Porridge is made from oats. Gruel can really be made from anything. Mush is made from ground corn meal and grits from ground hominy which is just dried corn treated with an acid (which basicly pre-digests your food for you). These are actually some of the cheapest, healthiest, easiest eats a person can get. Generations of people quite litterally survived the plague on this stuff. Where the gentry quite literally died from malnutrition due to a diet that consisted mainly of rotting proteins, the peasants managed to both work in the field and survive on this stuff (that could be whipped up in minutes and stayed good for days). Okay so I wouldn't want to have it every day for the rest of my life, but I can definetly see having it every weekday for a year.

Would you believe I was actually introduced to Mush by my "Tia Broncha" when I stayed with her in Puerto Rico. I was in my early 20's at the time and I couldn't believe that somthing so simple, easy and delicious had such a bad reputation.

Okay, I'll try and give approximate amounts here, but realize, like any traditional cook, I have no idea about measurements unless I'm following a written recipe (and my aunt certainly didn't write this down for me). But give it a try.

She put about 1/2 cup of corn meal (masa maize) into a pan on the stove. In a microwave safe dish she would put about 1 cup of water with raisins and 1/2 a cinnamon stick and heat until just under a boil. Once the water was heated, she would slowly pour over corn meal while stirring vigerously so you don't get lumps. In this case, it's important not to let the raisins drop into the mix until the end. Once smooth, she would add milk to get the right consistency (a thinnish oatmeal consistency) while heating the pan over the stove which made it thicker. Then she would sweeten (usually with sugar), but now is the time to add really anything you want and truly make it your own. Add vanilla, or more cinnamon, or cardamon, cumin, should know the drill.

Okay, do you want to know the best part of this, as it gets cold, it thickens into a pudding. No, not the jello box kind, the real pudding stuff, blanche mange, the stuff they used to eat in Little Women and housewives used to make at home until Jello spoiled it all. All I can say is wow, and it's worth it.

Really give it a try. It'll make you happy and you can now eat pudding for breakfast too (and you don't have to be British or Irish and worry about the pigs to do it).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Holy Trinity

As many people who I have regaled with my Christmas Epiphany story, I am not a religious person. But if your visiting New York you should take a peak at these places. If you live here and haven't yet indulged, then shame on you. This is something I wrote about a year ago, and have sent individually to many friends, but now I post for all the world to see (and eat hopefully)

Food on the upper west side : Each of these three places deserves and has their own special and excellent reputation. The only reason I’m putting them together is – well the whole is more that just the sum of its parts. The whole is pretty much an experience to be reckoned with and as a New Yorker I thank the lord I can reckon with it on a pretty frequent basis (did you ever notice the only time I ever get religious is when foods involved?). And I can say you pretty much have to thank the Jews for this incredibly delicious conflagration that managed to occur and survive.
I am not well versed in either the historical of sociological history of the upper west side, but I’m about to give you my opinion and analysis of how this amazing experience came into being. Just beware that this little story I tell is based on rumor, innuendo, old wives tales and just a little bit of family history to boot (okay, it’s bullshit, but it’s supposed to be funny bullshit so just read and enjoy). Back in the day when everybody kept to their own kind, the Eastside (Park Avenue, 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue) was over taken by the WASPS of the world. Needless to say, WASPS don’t eat and back in the day, they didn’t even bother to eat salad. But that’s not the point of this story, the point of this story is that WASPS took over the East side and kept anybody who wasn’t a WASP and who didn’t work for them and disappear into the woodwork, out.
What you may not have known is that one of the reasons Jews have been such successful business men in history is that part of the religion dictates that to be a good Jew you must teach your children to read the bible. In a world where illiteracy was common, this was a major step up from the general population. Another benefit is that the Hebrew alphabet is also a numbers system, so to learn to read involved learning math and hence the tradition of being an accountant was born. More importantly, unlike WASPS, Jews love to eat. This is often a over looked aspect of the religion because, let’s face it, the traditional Jewish holiday foods leave a great deal to be desired (e.g. leg of lamb so dry it reminds you of the desert, flunken that is about as appetizing as it’s name, and the ubiquitous gefilte fish and the gelatin that it’s found in that my sibs and I kindly called “fish snot”). Jews are also great bargain hunters and will forever search out where they can get the best bang for their buck. Hence thank the Jews who populated the west side giving rise to a multitude of wonderful stores that specialize in great food at good prices (or thank those WASPS who forced to Jews onto the West side to begin with).

Fairway’s – Okay, this is the original, my first and still my favorite although as it has grown over the years, I’ve found my passion for it fading just a little bit. What makes Fairway’s stick out on this tour is its’ produce. Okay, and the fact they were the first place in NYC I found carried Schrafenberg’s chocolate. The sale items line the sidewalk just tempting you every time you pass by. When you enter you are greeted by the yummiest of sights and smells. This is especially tempting on a chilly day when you can picture yourself in a kitchen cooking up a storm. The great thing about Fairway’s piles of fruits and vegetables is that you don’t have to wade through them in order to find that unbruised one or something a little fresher that won’t rot on you by the next day. It’s all good, it’s all fresh and it’s all great quality (and did I mention the variety, I seem to recall about 10 different types of apples). This goes for everything in the store. The Dairy case is stocked with some of the best varieties available and the prepared foods can be found in back (just ready for that picnic in central park or that impromptu party or get together with friends). There is an olive bar and the isles of the original part of the store are stocked with imported food items. The cheese area is divine and I can never pass picking-up a container of the grated pecorino Romano which is about a cheap as those imitation Parmisian cheese sprinkles Kraft keeps manufacturing. They also have a great collection of spices. Sure you can get dried basil anywhere, but only so many places carry smoked whole black cardamon pods. In the newer section you’ll find the fresh fish and meats in the back along with the frozen desserts (I would indulge in these more except that they melt before I get home to Brooklyn). The main part of this new section is the center aisles of regular branded staples like bounty paper towels, or Francesco Renaldi tomato sauce. Of course there are the more upscale brands peppered throughout these shelves, but in the end, it’s just regular grocery store items at not so fantastic prices.

If you manage to find the elevator and squeeze in to get to the second floor you can experience the organic food section which is huge. This is litterally a store within a store and has it’s own produce, dairy, bulk and frozen foods sections (also it’s own checkers with shorter lines than found downstairs. And did I mention the prices. Although organic in general can be pricey, these are some of the cheapest prices in the city. I usually stock up on tempee here.

The second floor also has a little café restaurant. Again, good food, good prices and if I remember correctly a liquor license (which explains why all those WASPS can be found luncheoning here). I wouldn’t pull out your knitting unless it was a very usually uncrowded day. This place is too crowded and your likely to get something spilled on a project

Downside – over the years they have discontinued making my 2 favorite salads. A salad nicoise that was in the prepared food section made with real pan seared tuna and a grated carot and raisin salad dressed with their dijon vinagrette instead of that yucky yogurt gook other places seem to use. Both yumm and I want both to come back.

West Side Market – The most grocery like of the stores in this collection. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just walked past this store between my shopping sprees at Fairway’s and Zabar’s thinking “how could this place even compete”. A roommate actually got me to go in one day and now it’s a regular on my route. Alright, so part of the reason I love this place are all the freakin different types of potato chips they carry. But if you can get your eyes past the all those bags of chips that line the store you’ll notice the most important things. Produce is fresh, a necessity given the competition and prices are also great. Cheese selection is incredible and if you go on a Saturday morning they often have samples to try and did I mention the prices are great. Prepared foods that are definetly yumm (I always pick up stuffed grape leaves/dolmas when I stop by) and did I mention the prices are great.

Zabar’s – Cheese glorious cheese. Cheese, cheese and more cheese. Okay so they do have the smoked fish and bakery sections which aren’t slouches either, not to mention the olive bar, prepared foods and upscale grocery section (with lots of exotic spices as well), but don’t come here unless your prepared to indulge and buy cheese (most cheeses freeze pretty decently, especially if you plan on cooking with it after defrosting). And you’ll never have to worry about quality here. Zabar’s will take a loss and not sell an item if it’s not up to their standards (which I am sure is more educated than my palate any day). This fact is legendary and true and has probably earned them more loyal patronage than their incredible prices on cheese ever did.
Zabar’s has the biggest international reputation of the three and therefore you will squish and bump through their narrow isles with the most tourists and their lines are as long as Fairways but simply not as fast. Make your way upstairs if you want to drool over the best cooking impliments. Their prices aren’t bad either considering the quality. I did buy my silicone baking pads here because they were at least a few bucks less per than anyplace else, including the internet (these items are imported from France for some reason and are expensive). However, I leave the $5 linen dish towels alone (I guess it’s plain ole cotton for me) and simply ogle all those copper pots and kitchen appliances that I dream about actually owning one day. Oh, and I can’t forget the knives. They have the most incredible collection of knives and brands. And there really is a difference between a good knife and an ordinary knife in the heft and feel.

Next door is Zabar’s café. More of a place to pick up your bagel (with a shmear) and a cup of coffee, than to sit down and indulge in a full meal, but who’s complaining. Again, keep your projects tucked away unless there is a big snow storm and you happen to be one of 5 people in the place.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hair at the Delacourt --- YUMMMMM

Okay, the nice nerdy guy invited me to see Hair at the Delacourt. He lived on the upper east side and he's used to getting up early to wait on line for tickets. How does a girl say no?

The actors were incredible. The art of the craft is very visible when the actors are throwing out there energy to entice an audience that is used to being a passive observer. I did do my best to try and give them back the energy they needed, but I was caught in the awkward position of being with a guy who is a stump on a log. Like many of us learned long ago, it's important to make others comfortable and one of the easiest ways to do that is to mimic their behavior (Psychology 101). Hey, many bird species have perfected this into a mating ritual. So, here I am trying to be kind to my host, a man who has woken up at 5am to get tickets on my behalf, by not participating and being a passive observer. My problem is that by doing that I'm being disrespectful to the actors who quite literally (and emotionally) stand naked before you in order for you to lose yourself in the moment.

So here is my sincerest appologies to all the actors in last nights performance. Especially poor George Berger who came up behind us only to find my date and I sitting their instead of standing and clapping with the rest of them. You all deserve better than what I gave, and my friend will have to explain his own behavior in another venue. You were all great, absolutly incredible and I think this revival definetly has it's own meaning and I happen to know it wasn't lost on most of us.

If somebody in the company happens to read this (and I'm amazed by who actually does read my blog) please let the rest know that in tribute to your performance I will be making and donating 10 lap blankets appropriate to soldiers in wheel chairs, will knit 10 helmet protectors for soldiers in combat, will donate 10 knitted children's sweaters to afghans for afghans and continue to volunteer with Disabled Sports USA which works with injured soldiers returning from war (okay, so I would have done this one anyway and have been for the past 3 years, but it's an important organization and I thought it deserved a mention).

Friday, August 1, 2008

Adventures in Craft Land

I've been a little obsessed with this Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt I've been working on, which is a good thing. I mean, when you have 999 pieces that need to be hand sewn and each piece takes about a hour to prep and sew completely, you better be obsessed in order to complete it. So, I go to knitting meeting with it, doll meeting with it and work on it at work (during lunch of course).

Well, I decided to delve into my fabric stash for more floral fabrics to add to this quilt. Not just my stack of scraps, but all my yard pieces, fat quarters and fabric sample collections have a hexagonal chunk cut out of them now so long it's a floral print. I still have a few more lurking in places, but I pretty much attacked everything. I haven't done the final count, but that should put me about 700 of the 999 when I finish basting. That should keep me occupied for a while.

I also have my next 2 knitting projects planned. Brooklyn Tweed really has been a inspiration with his designs. They keep me drooling even if I can't share his love of wool and wool like fibers (alpaka, mohair, etc.).

I also stopped by Fiber Notion last night. I didn't buy anything (I'm being good, besides I really can't afford to buy much of anything other than some food until payday yet again) but we had a nice long chat. I'm so sorry it's slow for these store owners. They really do bring us much joy and creativity, and let's face it, they pay a shitload in rents. I just hope them the best.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why, little ole me?

Given all the blogs out there, I'm sort of shocked to find people reading mine. The purpose of this blog is first and foremost, a writing exercise. I actually do like to write and sometime I have a hard time finishing a complete thought because I'm way on to the next one before I can get it all down. Not an uncommon problem for a person with ADD, but I've taught myself lots of tricks to help get me through (so no comments on my spelling are allowed).

Since I don't have a home computer, there are no pictures to download. I don't advertise the blog like some of my fellow writer friends do. And I have yet to even begin to blog on the initial purpose of this blog which was to be a crafting tourists tour of the city. I mean, if your gonna go to Smiley's, you might as well take a look at the things Queen's has to offer along the way.

So, why would anybody read about my dates? Anyway, since it seems like some people can't help themselves, I would like to lay a few ground rules for comments.

A. Be accurate. For example the previous post mentioned a sidewalk leading to the Queen's side off Roosevelt island, but yet they failed to mention for how long this sidewalk has been closed. That's sort of like telling me that it's easy to peddle accross the GW bridge despite the fact I can't carry my bike up all those stairs (It's a 15 year old Raleigh one speed with foot breaks, not a nice lightweight model) because the bike path has been closed. And no, I can't push it up 5 flights of 2 inch ramps that steep either. Please feel free to try it out, especially after peddling the darn thing from Brooklyn.

B. Be current. I'm a scientist. I always check out the latest information and I happen to love historical background. You don't think i checked out a simple thing like are there bridges in and out of Roosevelt Island? I was on a date and I like to walk and it's a lot easier to kill time moving than sitting still (although the tram isn't a bad thing, but who likes to be in a cattle car crowded with smelly strangers and kids).

C. Don't you dare assume I haven't checked my facts. Let me explain something, I refused to have my name used as an author to a paper because I felt my supervisor was misrepresenting facts. Yes, technically you could say X, but the truth was X was not happening (I was the one there, wasn't I and i would have been the one to benefit if X was happening the most, but I'm too honest to falsify and disrespect my research and hard work by lying) and I don't LIE, mislead, dissimilate or any such thing. Am I perfect, no. But I darn well do the right thing when the right thing needs to be done.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Things NOT to do for July 4th

Okay, I had a date. Not a great date, but he's a sweet guy and nice and dare I say, we'll just be friends.

Anyway, despite having just the one day off, I spent most of the day outside with him. We started off early afternoon going to Governor's Island. He had 2 folding bikes and we peddled all over the island. For a place that's supposed to be bike and pedestrian friendly, they have an awful lot of cars. Okay, they are mostly parked willy-nilly all over the place, but half of the island is still closed off to the public, so that means not as much room and space to peddle around as you might think.

The most distinct feature of the place are the old victorian houses. Small rooms with high ceilings and lots of nooks and cranies. Oddly, these beautifully built houses stand empty except for temporary sculpture exhibits. The oddest feature of these places are the kitchens with metal overpainted cabinets and formica countertops. A few stainless steel appliances and you'll have housing to die for.

In the evening my date had tickets to watch the fireworks from Roosavelt island. The tickets are for seating at the tip of the island past the ruins of the turn of the century smallpox asylum. May I give you a piece of advice, save your money and don't do it. Camp out of the FDR if you must, find a friend with rooftop access or even watch it on TV, but don't give your money to this horrid farce of an event.

Whoever the planner is, should be shot. Although they insisted that everybody be seated for the start of the fireworks, they didn't insist people remain seated and nobody bothered to say your going to have to put your umbrella's away. Needless to say, the thing was ruined by the preponderance of rude people who think because they are paying for something, they deserve the best, forget all the other people paying.

Then the next nightmare began, getting off the island was nearly impossible. This is Roosevelt island. The only way off is by tram or subway. You cannot walk off the island (I would like to know the city planner that needs to be whipped for that lack of insight and planning) on any of the bridges, not even into queens. I can think of few worse ideas that packing into a dangling cattle car stuffed with sweaty tourists and screaming kids to travel over the east river. But the MTA decided that the subways will be restricted to very few people trickling in.

At first, while we were waiting our turn I thought how clever, they are keeping everybody safe from overcrowding on the platforms. But by the time we got down there only to notice the platforms are completely empty, you realize the stupidity of their system. I mean, people didn't even have to stand on the subway, the cars were empty, the platform was empty, and everybody who was dying to get home was outside hoping to be let into the subway.

Save your money. Spend it on beer. Stay home and watch a good sci-fi flick instead (Starwars for the 200th time comes to mind).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

English Flower Garden Charm

For some reason, I usually knit in the summer, but this summer I'm sewing instead. Maybe because I'm stuck on this knitting project since I really want to do it right. Or maybe because I'm just slightly obsessed with this new quilt project that will only take me about 20 years to complete.

This project is an English Flower Garden. A very traditional quilt that really needs to be done by hand to be done properly. Not difficult for those Victorian women who had nothing much better to do with their days, not the most practical for a person who works 4 jobs and ocassionally tries to have a social life.

Anyway -- The English Flower Garden is nothing more than a bunch of interlocking hexagons. Doesn't sound like a big deal until you realize that to match each point of the hexagon, you need a Y-seam. Since there is no practical way to do a Y seam with a piece of fabric smaller than 4 inches per side, that means get out your 9 sharps and thimbles.

Each piece of the quilt requires several steps. First there is the paper that is cut into hexagons. I chose to do this step the modern way and use freezer paper instead of plain everyday paper. I don't know if this actually saves time or not, but by now, I'm used to it and it suits, so I'm keeping it. i've been using freezer paper off the roll, folding it 8 times at about 4.5 inches and then cutting around my template outline. I'm going to try the straight sheets for printers now that I've finished the roll (but not the hexagons needed) and see if it is more economical or easier.

Once you have your freezer paper hexagon, you can just iron it onto the wrong-side of your fabric, trim the fabric and the seams are ready to be basted. Okay, so the basting takes more time than you think it should and your thread is always getting knots and tangles, but it's a good project for lunch hours.

Once all those steps are done, you get to start sewing them together. My teacher suggested a ladder stitch and it seems to work for me, so I'm just gonna keep doing it this way.

Then again, my personal quilting philosophy is getting in the way. First, I can't make a small quilt. A quilt should always be big and warm and be able to cover a family of 10. The approximate number of hexagons needed for a quilt of approximately king size is 1000. This is good since i've decided to make this quilt into a charm. That means each one of the fabrics used should be unique, no doubling and traditionally charm quilts have 999 different fabrics. Well, deciding isn't quite the right word. I mean I decided to take a charm class and English Paper piecing was suggested as a possible project, and I sort of wanted to do one, but the idea of all that hand work made me think twice. And did I mention since it's an English Flower garden i'm only using floral fabrics (or anything resembling a leaf or floral, viney will certainly do)

Are you starting to get the picture. I just managed to fall into a hole that involves making a king sized hand made quilt with 999 different fabrics about 4.5 inches wide that i really was trying to avoid doing in the first place.

Anyway, I'm around 16% done (each hexagon attached to another is .01% completion) and to finish this rambling project, i decided I will not hand piece a quilt only to machine quilt it in the end. That's right, I'm gonna hand quilt this sucker and I even know I'm gonna fill the thing up with buttefly and bee motifs.

And all this proves is that I am certifiably insane. Then again, how do they ever expect me to finish this quilt in a straight jacket?

Friday, June 27, 2008

RIP -- Ayveq the Walrus, NY Aquarium

As my friend Stewart was driving on a errand last night, he casually mentioned that he heard Ayveq the walrus had died. He thought I had heard but I hadn't. You would think that working for 5 years with these animals for barely any salary would entitle me to a least a courtesy call, but I've learned not to expect it.

After calling some friends in the know, the officials aren't telling much of anything concerning Ayveq's death. A necropsy was of course performed, but any conclusions were not released. And since zoo animals aren't given graves or epitaths, I thought I'd do my best.

I first met Ayveq when he was about 4 or 5 years old and coming into his sexual maturity. To say it made for an interesting summer is of course an understatement. His antics at the discovery of his 5th appendage would make you chuckle if not outright laugh. Oh how do I even begin to explain this summer to you.

First, most people need a lesson on walrus anatomy. Males have a bone and it's 3 feet long. Although the bone makes for an interesting eskimo conversation piece, it makes for an even more interesting solitary sex life, especially in front of 6 year old humans. All of a sudden, you would see Ayvek stopping his swim around the enclosure, and then the magic whistle would begin. Eventually Ayvek would bound to the top of the pool, roll over on his back and you would see that 3 foot salami being held by those flippers.

Mark the keeper had to point out the magic whistle to me. I forget what we were doing together, but we heard the whistle and Mark said "alas, there he goes again". I even think Mark is the one who came up with the term magic whislte. Of course I needed a guy to point out the correlation to me (sometime I'm such a girl). And it's not like this was a quiet little tune either. I often would hear it while walking on the Coney Island Board Walk from more than a mile away. At least it always promised an interesting day for visitors.

That year Ayveq's favorite toy was a Fisher Price stearing wheel from some child's toy and he loved to hang it from that famouse 5th appendage. Eventually he just wore that steering wheel out and although they replaced it with similar toys, he never seemed to show the same fondness for any of them. He did grow out of the whistling phase over the next few years. He was always a crowd favorite and loved to interact with visitors at the underground window to his enclosure. He was also one of my favorites just because I loved to watch him move. I loved seeing the play of his hip bones as he manuvered on land and his good natured temperment which showed clearly on his face.

And despite maturing at the age of 4, it took him another 8-9 years before he finally managed to get a girl pregnant. At least we still have a little part of him left. And even though it's been years since I've seen him, I will always remember him and always miss him. I will tuck him into my heart with all the other unsung heros of my world. He is there with Kathy the Beluga and her son Casey. Osoy, the Chimpanzee and all the rest who's beauty only came briefly into my life. I've been so lucky and I promise never to forget.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Diner Party

I love to cook. I love to cook for friends and I have a hard time cooking for one. So now that my friend Emma is leaving us for foggier pastures (she's moving back to the UK) I have an excuse to throw a dinner party (sniff, good bye Emma).

Anyway, I love my menu. Just the right combo of vegitarian/omnivore, healthy/cardiac mix for the menu. Can I just brag a little bit....

Appetizers: Guacamole & Chips, Stuffed Dates - Okay, Guacamole made from scratch but the chips from Trader Joe's. The Stuffed Dates are so simple and delicious. Take the pit out of a date, fill it with cream cheese and then stuff a nut in it (perferably walnut, pecan or almond). It tastes better than it sounds.

Dinner: Empanadas Argetinas, Portabello Cheeseburgers, Roasted Carrots & Potatoes, Sesame Sugar Snap Peas, Guava Ketchup - Talk about all over the place, but such yummy simple foods. The most complicated are the empanadas. After being disappointed ordering them from a restaurant (Argentinians do not put tomatoe in their empanadas) I decided to make them myself (okay, so I bought the dough disks, but the insides are what count). How is it that so many people manage to ruin a dish with exactly 4 ingredients. Ground meat (I use turkey), sauteed onions, Yellow raisins (black raisins just don't taste the same, but i've been known to use them in a pinch) and a green olive (the pimento ones in a jar. I tried to substitute the fancy ones, but it didn't work). Okay, so if your a true purist your supposed to include a wedge of hard boiled egg, but I hate hard boiled eggs so I leave it out.

Dessert: Ghiradelli Brownies and fresh Strawberries with Eggcreams (which have no egg and no cream). How would one say goodbye to NY without an Eggcream toast.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can't Just Give Things Away

Okay, I'm going to bitch because I just can't take it anymore. I'm not Miss Manners, but things have gotten so bad that I find myself telling people off for outrageous behavior. Is it too much to ask for people to use common sense. Then again, who was it that said Common Sense ain't so common.

I am one of those people who can never throw things out because one day there may be a use for it. Being a nature girl, I'm a strong believer in the reuse method of recycling. So, can you imagine how happy I was when i discovered Freecycle. A chance for me to get rid of things i no longer need while doing something good for somebody else. Awsome, right.

In theory, yes. In reality, you find out just how many stupid, ungrateful people really are out there. For instance, I offered a 32" free TV and posted a Must be Picked Up By dated... First you get the people who don't understand the word free. That means, I am not a sales person. That means, if you want it pick it up, not that you get to shop around and go for the best deal. I've gotten people questioning the size of the TV, why I want to give it away, will I send them a picture, how is the picture quality?

Let me reiterate. FREE means FREE. Did you never learn the saying "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth". That originated because if somebody is willing to give you a horse, don't start looking for something wrong with it. Be grateful you got something for nothing and move on.

So, you think I would learn. I guess not and I should put myself on the stupid list because despite all evidence to the contrary I tried it again with the TV stand. I put down the size of the table, gave a brief physical description, even remembered to say no pic, but do you think that would do? Of course not.

So, here I am rambling, and if this was the only problem in my life, I would be grateful right. I mean the garbage man isn't so picky. But no, I seem to be dealing with other rude people in a different matter.

I've spent the past several years hanging out with New York Outrigger Canoe Club. Even though I can't afford to join and I'm not allowed to paddle without joining, I've maintained my friendships and have spent a good portion of time trying to do good by them. Right now they are working on getting corporate sponsors for our big annual race, the Liberty World Challenge. They don't get it either.

They keep treating these corporate donations like little kids at Christmas. It seems impossible to get them to understand that these little "donations" aren't really donations at all but business deals.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Free Cycle

I love the concept of Free Cycle simply because I can be such a pack rat waiting to find a person who can use that exact item I just don't want anymore. Let's face it, most of my electronics come second or third hand. What I can't believe is how picky people are about free stuff.

My new roommate brought a TV with her and since my old TV has been failing for ages, I decided to find if somebody wanted to take it off my hands. You would not beleive the response:

"Please send pictures"

"Does it have a remote control"

"Can you hold onto it for another month when I get back to Brooklyn"

"Do you live in a building with an elevator?"

Common people, it's a free very large TV. Okay, so the colors off and it needs to be smacked around on occassion, but it's certainly good enough to watch DVDs on or find out the local weather.

Over Memorial day I posted a joke to Freecycle. I asked for a free cookout. Not a charcoal grill, but all the food (top quality of course) drinks, chairs, cooler and a frisbee. I said I'd pick up in the park or on the beach. The sad part is that some people didn't get the joke. I actually got an e-mail from a reporter wondering if they could report on my Freecycle experience with food. I obviously didn't hear back from them when i clued them in to the Sarcasm of the post.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Hawaiian Flag Quilts

My friend Kathy looks like and Irish cop's daughter from Chicago with a temper to match. But her heart is in Kaui despite the fact she now lives in the big apple.

Ever since she learned I like to quilt she has done her best to teach me about Hawaiian Flag Quilts. Most quilting enthusiasts know about Hawaiian quilts which are these beautifully worked tone on tone needle turn applique pieces all about the natural elements found in the quilters environment. It almost looks like the quilter made a paper snowflake gone amok since they are both vertically and horizontally symetrical. These quilts are finished with the most intricate needle work. They are echo quilted (by hand) with no more than an gap of an inch between each line. This quilting technique was a kick in the pants to the missionaries that introduced quilting to the islands. Hawaiian women couldn't understand the purpose of patchwork (cutting whole cloth into smaller pieces to sew them back again into blankets that are too warm for Hawaiian weather) but they did understand decorative work and instead adapted applique to their own traditional uses and arts.
The Hawaiian Flag Quilt is of a different nature entirely and I never heard of it until Kathy Mentioned them. After the overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani , the Hawaiian Royal Flag, that represented the country of Hawaii (and not the 50th state) was banned. In order to keep the memory of sovereignty and independance alive, women turned the Hawaiian Flag into quilts to remember their own history.

I am very proud of Hawaiian women and of women everywhere who continue to let their voices speak through art. We are once again in a revival of handmade products. Everywhere you look you see somebody knitting, crafting, sewing. It certainly makes people appreciate what they have more. Once you learn to knit, you can no longer even look at a scarf or hat without full comprehension of how much time it took somebody to make that. We are talking from raising the sheep, to processing the wool, spinning, dyeing, and finally making it into something wearable. Hawaiian women put there heart into those flag quilts. I'm proud to say that I'm at least one person who still hears it beating.
Thank you Kathy