life in and around NYC is insane

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February is the shortest month

And thank goodness.

Between the petty annoyances (the bad weather, the tow truck experiences, unexpected car repair bills, replacing my debit card) and the real, serious stuff  (Drew's surgery, my medical tests, Becca's roommate fiasco, Marc), it's been a bad month. 

Goodbye, February 2015, you will not be missed.  I hope March will be a better month.

Friday, February 27, 2015

In the spirit of the NaBloPoMo theme

The theme this month is "make".

Well, I am terribly impressed with myself because I actually "made" something.

Well, "assembled" would be more appropriate.

But I am still impressed that I managed it.

My childhood was spent in the pre-feminist world, where girls took home economics and boys took shop.    There were two memorable weeks in junior high where  we girls were sent to woodworking shop and the boys took our place in the home economics room, but that was just an experiment.

Where a woman doing home repairs/construction was fodder for a sitcom; she'd screw it up, make the situation even worse, and her husband would have to rescue her and do the repair or call a professional.

That is, until Archie Bunker's new neighbor, Irene Lorenzo, showed us that women can do plumbing and carpentry and home repairs, too.

Still, it was never something at which  I really excelled.

But necessity leads to a learning experience.

My office at work shall I put it...cozy.  My desk  ... not the largest.  As in, there's no room for my brand new printer on the desk.  I had to have another place to stash the printer.  Hello, "assemble it yourself, no tools needed" shelving unit.

It was touch and go there fore awhile, but I think I did OK.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

of valves and valves

So Monday morning I made a return trip to the repair shop where I bought my brand new tire last week.

It seems the tire was a bit low.  Not quite flat, but definitely not fully inflated.

Turns out, the tire had a leaky valve.  Mechanic swapped it out, and I was on my way.

In a way, it was a weird coincidence.

On Monday  my sisters took my mom to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital for evaluation.  They're trying to determine if she should have transcatheter aortic valve replacement. 

That's a less  invasive procedure than open heart surgery, where the surgeon uses a catheter placed in the femoral artery to place the new valve in the heart.

My dad had  procedure two and a half years ago.

A marvel of modern medicine, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vacillating between anger and pity

Drew and I were watching a movie Sunday afternoon when Marc came home. And then we had the eruption.  Knew it was coming, but it was still frightening to see.

The shouting was so loud that it scared the cat. She was skittish for hours afterwards.

And the words that came out of his mouth. The paranoia. The feelings of self doubt and self pity. The total lack of self worth or self esteem. Inadequacy.  Depression.  Anxiety.  Irrational thoughts.  Panic.

He's not functioning on a normal adult level. After what I heard, I'm surprised he's functioning at all.

And he's irrationally blaming Drew for his own issues.

I almost didn't believe Drew, but now I've heard it for myself.

And he's refusing to get help.

We both think he belongs in a psychiatric hospital.

It's scary.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NaBloPoMo prompt: Have you ever attempted to make your own clothes? Tell us about the results.

When I was in junior high, back in the Dark Ages, girls took Home Economics and boys took Shop.

I did well in 7th grade, with units on shopping and cooking and nutrition.  I enjoyed cooking.  I never became a great chef, I've had my share of kitchen disasters, but I can put a decent meal on the table.

And then came 8th grade.  And the focus shifted to other domestic arts.

Learning to crochet was fun.  I wasn't very good at it, my stitches were uneven. But I persevered, and actually followed the pattern and completed the hat.  Even wore it once.

Then came sewing.

You had to pick a pattern, cut the fabric and sew the garment.   I don't know how my mother survived bringing me to the fabric store so that I could buy my supplies -- she'd break out in hives anytime she got close to a sewing machine.

 I chose a pretty, cap-sleeved  A-line dress and aqua fabric.  It was a dress I really wanted.  I imagined myself wearing the dress, twirling around  in it, feeling like a princess.

 In hindsight it was probably  way too ambitious a project for a girl who had never done any sewing before.  But I had high hopes.

And then I sat in class every day and struggled.  Threading the needle took forever.  I couldn't get my seams straight.  The thought of adding the zipper scared me half to death.

The other girls all finished their projects before I sewed a complete side seam.

Ultimately the teacher sewed the dress together so that I could pass her class.

And I never wore it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Misadventures in the snow

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So Saturday night Drew and I decided to brave the bad weather for a belated Valentine's dinner.  The weather must really be eating into the restaurant business.  I can't remember the last time I walked into Red Lobster on a Saturday night and didn't have to wait for a table, but with 3-5 inches of snow predicted...

Dinner was delightful, we stuffed ourselves on shrimp and lobster and cheddar biscuits.

Anyhow, after dinner, Drew wanted to stop at the ATM across the street, in the parking lot at the mall.  It wasn't a full branch of his bank, just a drive through kiosk.

 photo 20150221_221800.jpg

Problem was, the bank closed the kiosk awhile back and removed the ATM. DreW wasn't aware of this because he usually banks at his own branch. The parking lot had been plowed after the first major snowstorm, but had not been plowed after the more recent storms. It was dark, it was snowing, and Drew didn't realize what he was getting us into when he drove into the lot.

We got stuck just as we were trying to pull out from under the awning.

So Drew tried to "rock" the car to free us from the snow. The tires were spinning, the transmission was bucking, I could smell burning rubber. I wanted to scream 'stop, stop, STOP!!!!" As I kept imagining ruined tires, a burnt-out transmission, or, worse, popped surgical stitches and a visit to the ER.

Eventually he gave up and called his emergency roadside assistance service. they sent a tow truck. The truck got stuck in the snow! Eventually he freed himself, but told Drew that the car was too far from dry pavement, that he wasn't able to connect the cables and couldn't pull us out of the parking lot. Really nasty guy, he just abandoned us.

Obviously Drew called the service to complain. They agreed to send someone the meantime, Drew 'rocked" the car again. I felt the same waves of panic. But this time he was able to back up the car the way we came in. We got stuck again, but this time it was closer to the entrance. The second tow truck was able to pull us out ...

3 hours and $56 later, we made it home. Car is fine, Drew is ok, but yeah, I want to scream "Go away, snow!"

Sunday, February 22, 2015

the promise of spring

So for  the past few days my Facebook news feed was filled with reports from Port St. Lucie.  The Mets have officially begun their spring training. Time to plan our trips to Citi Field.

The Jewish holiday of Purim will be March 4.  It's a fun holiday, like Mardi Gras, with costumes and parties and carnivals for the kids.    Purim is exactly one month before Passover, so as you finish off the last of those great cookies called hamantashen, you have to start planning your Seder

My mailbox is overflowing with catalogs featuring pretty spring clothes.

Did you know that in Ancient Rome, the New Year was celebrated on March 1?

Spring.  New life, new beginnings.  I guess I'm so down on this cold and snow that I can't help look for signs that better days are coming.

And as we transition to warm,sunny days...who knows what changes the new season may bring?

Saturday, February 21, 2015


I take it back, never mind what I said on Friday the 13th.  I am, after all, a bit superstitious.

After the attempted bank fraud, the flat tire resulting from my encounter with the pothole from hell, and the bad news I got from my accountant (It's never good news when he finishes a tax return and says "Please don't hate me" before telling you that you owe the IRS...), I've decided I need to change my luck.

I've taken to wearing this bracelet:

From  Wikipedia

-The hamsa (Arabic: خمسة‎ khamsah, Hebrew: חַמְסָה, also romanized khamsa, meaning lit. "five") is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and commonly used in jewellery and wall hangings.

The Hand (Khamsa), particularly the open right hand, is a sign of protection that also represents blessings, power and strength, and is seen as potent in deflecting the evil eye.


The name “hamsa” comes from the Hebrew word “hamesh,” which means five. “Hamsa” refers to the fact that there are five fingers on the talisman, though some also believe it represents the five books of the Torah. Sometimes it is called the Hand of Miriam after Moses’ sister.

Of all the Biblical heroines, I've always felt an affinity for Miriam.  So it's nice that the talisman I choose to wear right now is linked to her.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rommate trouble retrospect

All the trouble between Drew and Marc, and Becca's woes vis a vis apartment hunting, got me thinking about my former roommate  Eileen.

I was fresh out of law school and happy in my first real job.  It was time to move out of my parents' house.  The studios and one bedroom apartments I'd seen were either too expensive or not what I wanted, so I used a roommate referral service and found Eileen.  She had a two bedroom apartment in brownstone Brooklyn.  She'd gone to Brooklyn Law and was now working for an insurance company in downtown Brooklyn, and needed a roommate because the classmate she'd been sharing with had moved away.

We got along great at first.  In fact...well, about three months after I moved in, Eileen had a fight with the landlady.  Landlady served us with eviction papers, but told me  that I could stay if I wanted.  I decided it was easier to find another apartment than to find another compatible roommate.

So we moved to another brownstone, four blocks away.  And things were good, for awhile at least.

Drew and I dating  at the time, so every weekend he'd take the train into Brooklyn and sleep at my apartment.  Most weekends, Eileen would stay at her boyfriend's apartment.  Not a bad arrangement.

Eileen was a neat freak, I am not, and while I tried to keep up with the housework ...well, there was friction.   And she was jealous when Drew and I got engaged.

What threw me over the edge, however, was the infamous "mouse" incident.

We stored our nonperishables in a cabinet over the kitchen sink.  We'd store pots and pans, etc. in the cabinets under the sink and countertop.   Eileen was afraid of attracting bugs, so she'd wrap items like boxed pasta, bags of flour, sugar, etc. in plastic.

But she didn't consider other unwelcome visitors.

.  One Sunday morning, I decided to make eggs for breakfast.  I opened up the cabinet to get a frying pan ...

...and nearly died.  For some reason, Eileen had left a five pound bag of flour, neatly wrapped in plastic,  in the cabinet with the pots and pans. It was like an open invitation to the neighborhood mice.  They had a party with her flour, and everything in that cabinet  was covered in floury mouse footprints and  Disgusting didn't even begin to describe the mess.

Drew ran down to the corner deli to buy breakfast.  After he left, I got to work.  I emptied the cabinets, I cleaned the cabinets, I washed the pots and pans, and I put everything away.

It must have been about 4:30 or 5:00 when Eileen came home.  I was still in my bathrobe, still putting pots and pans away.  When she asked what happened, I told her about the mice.  I don't know what I expected her to say, but I certainly didn't expect her to complain that I hadn't done enough because I hadn't gone downstairs to tell the landlord!

And here's why I believe in karma.

The landlord placed glue traps in the kitchen.  I don't think glue traps are humane, but it's his building. I would have chosen a different method.  One of the traps worked, the mouse was caught sometime in the wee hours of the morning, and it cried...and cried...and cried...until it died.

I never heard the poor mouse, my bedroom was next to the living room.

But Eileen's bedroom ... you entered her room through the kitchen.

She was up all night.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Another This And That

The good news is, Drew's back surgery went very well, and he is recuperating at home. The bad news is, the hospital. The quality of care was excellent, don't get me wrong, but the petty annoyances ...Starting with the wait for a bed ... When you are medically cleared to leave the recovery room at 2 PM but aren't brought to a regular room until 8:30 PM ... Or when you have to wait forever to get a wheelchair to the lobby so you can leave ... Or when you have to park in a municipal lot down the street because the hospital lot is full...

So our Valentine's Day celebration turned out to be takeout Chinese food and TV shows we DVR'd. We will save the fancy dinner for another night. The important thing was that we spent it together.

Really hating this winter weather. Tuesday morning, driving to work in the snow ...I hit a pothole, wound up with two flat tires ... Damaged the steel rim ... Like I really needed another car repair bill ... Or losing the use of my car for two days and having to ask my daughter to give me a ride.  At least Jen had the time to do it since she's home for winter break.    Interesting role reversal.

 There was some sort of crisis at the law firm Tuesday night, and Becca and one of the other paralegals were asked to work mega overtime.  The firm bought them dinner, and sent Becca home in a car, but the poor thing didn't get home until almost midnight. And had to go to work as usual on Wednesday.

Drew is totally fed up with Marc. The friendship is over, I'm afraid. Marc needs help but won't get help. He refuses to take responsibility for himself, and he blames Drew for his problems. Drew read him the riot act -- if he doesn't get his act together, he'll be out on the street.  The real problem isn't the money, it's the tension he created in the house.  Right now Marc is playing hermit crab again, hiding in his room upstairs whenever he's home, avoiding conversation with me and with Drew.  Drew keeps waiting for Marc to erupt.  It's not a healthy way to live.

I had a roommate situation like that once, before I was married.  I'd found Eileen through a roommate referral service, and at first we got along great.   Eventually, though, the relationship fell apart, and the tension between us was so thick...well, it felt like I was living in an armed camp.  I broke the lease, told a lie about following my fiancé to his new job in Texas, and moved out.  Living in a hostile environment is not good for you, physically or emotionally.

But the good news is...spring training has started.   If there's life on the baseball field, can spring be far behind?

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Happy Birthday To Me

The family story is that I was my father's birthday present. His birthday was yesterday, mine is today. Traditionally we would have spaghetti and meatballs for his birthday because that's what my mother prepared the night before I was born.

I also told that my parents saw the movie "Ben Hur" just a few days earlier; they joked that I shou have been a boy, should have been born in the movie theater, and if that had happened, I would have been named Ben Hur.

My dad turned 88 yesterday. We celebrated with a family dinner. My sisters were very clever ...there are 88 keys on a piano, so they did a party theme in black and white, to represent the keys.

They bought paper goods and candy to fit the theme. Black tablecloth, black and white placemats. White candles, white tulips in a vase. Some of us had black plates, others had white plates. Black and white napkins. The cups were black, the straws black and white. Black jelly beans and white jelly beans. Snow caps -- dark chocolate with white nonpareils.

No spaghetti, but we did have lasagna. Jen made garlic bread. There was steak and baked potatoes. We had cake from Reinwalds and cookies from Dortoni.

My dad enjoyed himself. It's good to see him smile.  I saw flashes of the man he used to be, before old age robbed him of his health, his independence, his personality.

My day will be a bit different ... After work, Drew and I are headed to Benihana.  Twirling knives, onion volcanos, flying shrimp tails ... Can't wait!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I miss King Cake!!!!

I've never been to New Orleans, the closest I ever got to any sort of Mardi Gras celebration was when I took Jen and Becca to Universal in Florida one year -- and that was a child-friendly celebration.  Floats and beads, but no alcohol or raunchy behavior.

The other day I saw all the Mardi Gras party stuff in Party City the other day, when I was buying things for Valentine's Day.

Before I changed jobs last spring, I  was employed  in the environmental claims department of a major insurance company.  In the 12 years I spent at that company, I handled all sorts of environmental disasters, from ruptured pipelines and Superfund sites to oil spills resulting from misdelivery at a residential site.  A huge chunk of our workload originated in Louisiana.  We had a working relationship with several large law firms in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

And so every February the law firms would send us...King Cake.  A long, flat box would arrive, and inside you'd find a coffee cake with purple, green and yellow icing, or with white icing and purple, green and yellow sugar.  There would be beads, coins, mini goblets, maybe some masks.  And, of course, a plastic baby buried in the cake.  We'd have enough King Cake to enjoy ourselves for well over a week.

In 2006 we had more than just the cake.  We threw ourselves an entire Mardi Gras party, and encouraged everyone to donate to charity -- Hurricane Katrina relief.

But times change, I've moved on.  And there's no King Cake around here.  Sigh.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bank fraud...ugh

Well, it happened on Friday. Friday the 13th.

"Ms. Songbird, this is the fraud detection unit at XYZ Bank. We noticed some suspicious activity. Did you try to use your debit card at BJ's Warehouse today? The transaction was for $900 and it was declined."

No, I was not in BJ's. I don't even have a membership at BJ's.

At least the transaction was declined!

So off I went to replace my card. Again.

Remember that Target Stores were hacked in December 2013? I seldom shop at Target, I go into that store every now and then, but "now and then" coincided with the time period they got hacked. The bank replaced my card.

And then in September 2014 Home Depot was hacked. I almost never shop there, stopped by one day to buy a trash can. The Bank replaced my card.

But this is the first time someone apparently cloned my card.

It's happened to Jen, though. And it happened to Becca, twice. First time it happened was during her freshman year, she'd gone done to Philadelphia to visit at friend at U Penn. she had a round-trip bus ticket and enough money to get back to NY, thank goodness, but wanted me to meet her at school and give her some cash to tide her over until the new card came in the mail. She didn't realize she could go to the bank, fill out a withdrawal slip and give it to an actual teller --that "ATM" means Automated TELLER Machine.


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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Taco King

Taco King on Urbanspoon

We were regulars here for awhile, but then a new place opened up in Levittown...We like the other place, too, but last week we found ourselves returning to the King.

This is strictly a storefront operation.  There's no "atmosphere" except for a few Mexican hats hanging on one wall. 

Food here is fresh and plentiful  Favorites include the quesadillas and the steak platter.  They have the best Mexican rice I've ever had from a take out place.  Chili con carne was merely OK.  I'd like to see a combo plate with tacos, the menu offers tacos a la carte only.  And alas,  they do not have a dessert menu.

Overall, though, it's a nice place for a quick and tasty takeout meal.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine'd Day

Today is a day for romance.

Friday, February 13, 2015

So happy it's Friday

It's Friday.  And it's pay day.


Even if it is Friday the 13th.

Actually, I'm not all that superstitious.  I mean, I do throw salt over my shoulder and stuff like that, but I don't freak out  ...

And I am looking forward to a three day weekend.   Not that I have any major plans, but it's nice to be away from the office for a few days.

I would have preferred a vacation, somewhere warm enough to wear a tee shirt and flip flops.  That luau display at Party City...sigh.

I know, I'm whining again.  I'm really not enjoying this weather.  In the past few years it seems winter has gotten colder, snowier, more miserable  ... sigh.

I used to like playing in the snow when I was a child.    Now I hate it.  I want to go where it's warm.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Songbird Salutes the 70's --- the 1973 energy crisis

If you ask my children, they'd tell you:  "Of course our school was open on Lincoln's Birthday, we get a whole week off for President's Day.  That's how it's always been."  To their minds,   Midwinter Recess is as much a part of the school calendar as Christmas Vacation and Easter Break.

Not quite.

When I was a kid, the schools would close on February 12 for Lincoln's Birthday, and again on February 22 for Washington's Birthday.  Two days, usually in the middle of the week.

That all changed when I was in junior high.

First came the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which became effective on January 1, 1971.  The observance of Washington's Birthday was moved to the the third Monday in February.

And then came the energy crisis of 1973.

October 6, 1973.  Syrian and Egypt invaded Israel on Yom Kippur. the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.  The United States offered support to its ally.

In retaliation, the Arab-dominate OPEC declared an oil embargo.

There were shortages, of course, and rationing of gasoline.  If your license plate ended in an odd number, you could buy gas only on odd numbered days; an even-numbered license plate meant you bought gas on even-numbered days.  Either way, you'd have to wait in line at the gas station.

The national speed limit was reduced to 55 MPH to save energy.  

Year-round Daylight Savings Time was implemented from January 1974 to February 1975.  I remember arriving at school before sunrise, and seeing the moon in the sky.

And (around here, at least) the powers that be who run the schools figured that instead of closing for President's Day and for Lincoln's Birthday, the schools would close for an entire week to save energy.

Midwinter Recess did not reduce the number of instructional days, but rearranged some days off so that schools could shut off lights and turn down thermostats for a whole week. It also meant a break from transporting students during a time of long lines at the gas pumps.

Now, of course, the pressures of the energy crisis are long past, but having that week off has become so popular in this part of the country that it would be hard to revert to the older calendar.

Those of you who have a mid-winter recess, enjoy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February Julep box

So, ok, I still haven't cancelled my Julep subscription. The February box has arrived.

This box is well worth the money. Two polishes. -- a green called Brandis and a purple called Hazel. A top coat called Hartleigh -- it contains pink and red glitter. And a face powder called Glow, which is used as a highlighter on cheekbones, etc.

Not crazy about the green polish, I already have two greens in my collection, and I tend to wear pinks and purples most often. I like the purple. The glitter, though, is definitely my favorite -- I've been doing glitter accents for awhile now, but I don't have a glitter in this color scheme. Should be fun.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Roommate troubles

Like father, like daughter.

Becca feels like she dodged a bullet. The girl she was supposed to live with bailed on her the day they were supposed to sign the lease. Given what this girl put her through, she's better off.

The girl doesn't earn a lot of money, she's financially dependent on her parents, and her parents agreed to pay her share of the rent. But her mother is the quintessential helicopter parent, kept throwing up roadblocks every time the girls tried to move forward on the apartment. Helicopter Mom had a list of requirements... Becca kept making compromises as the apartment search dragged on and on...I don't think Helicopter Mom ever thought they'd find an appropriate apartment.

If they actually moved in together, Helicopter Mom would have been in their business all the time.

Unfortunately all the other friends Becca might have paired up with already have apartments. So now she's looking for a studio.

Drew is having issues with Marc -- again. Same old same old. Marc is moody, depressed, anti social. Hides in his room. Doesn't do any chores around the house. Seriously, he needs a psychologist or perhaps a psychiatrist, he's barely functioning. But he won't get help, there are a million excuses why he can't.

But what threw Drew over the edge ...

Drew and Marc have a joint bank account. It's the only bank account Marc has. The agreement is that Drew will deposit his share of the rent into the account and Marc will write the check to pay the landlord. So last week, when Drew went to the bank to make the deposit, he discovered that Marc didn't have enough money in the account to cover his share of the rent. Drew had to come up with an extra $300 to cover the shortfall.

It's the third time in two years that Marc hasn't been able to pay the full rent and Drew had to cover his share.

If there had been some emergency, some unexpected expense ...but no, it's just that Marc has no control over his spending and never reconciles his bank statements. Drew is convinced that Marc didn't have a clue that he was $300 short.

I think Marc knew, but couldn't tell Drew. A week earlier they had an argument about money. Marc didn't understand ... Drew pays all the utility bills. Marc is supposed to pay half. Drew doesn't ask Marc for the utilities, he simply deducts Marc's share of the utilities from the amount he gives Marc for the rent. This has been going on for many years, but suddenly Marc was not understanding what Drew does and accused Drew of cheating him.

Drew told me he wants Marc out of the house. And this time I think he means it.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Restaurant review -- Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company

So, as I mentioned the other day, Drew and I wound up in Bubba Gump's on Saturday night.

I think one of the reasons I like this restaurant is my fondness for the movie. It's one of those films that I'll watch whenever it's on TV. The restaurant is kitschy and touristy, it's like stepping into the middle of the movie, it's like going to Disney. In fact, the first Bubba Gump's I went to was the one on Citiwalk, at Universal in Orlando, Florida.

The NYC location in in the heart of Times Square. Street level contains a lobby/hostess station and gift shop, dining is on the second floor, with wall-to-wall windows offering a view of the street below.

The place is always busy, but we arrived early enough in the evening that we did not have to wait for a table.

There are salads, steaks and burgers on the menu, but the star of the show is clearly shrimp. The menu offers a variety of shrimp dishes -- fried, grilled, scampi -- as well as other fish and seafood.

We ordered our usual, the Shrimpers' Heaven: fried shrimp, coconut shrimp, shrimp tempura and peel-and-eat cocktail shrimp, accompanied by French fries and dipping sauces. The waitress offered up grilled shrimp in place of the cocktail shrimp, and we both chose that option. I won't do that again, the grilled shrimp was underdone and way too spicy. The other shrimp varieties, however, were wonderful -- I especially like the tempura shrimp, such a light and delicate coating. I'd order the tempura as an entree if it were offered. Coconut shrimp and fried shrimp were crunchy and delicious.

The drink menu is always interesting. We're not doing anything alcoholic these days, but the lemonades...I loved the strawberry lemonade, tart but refreshing. Drew's drink was much sweeter, he had something called a Fizzy Fizz, a cherry lemonade.

If you are celebrating a birthday, the waitstaff will show up at your table with a small sundae and a pink unicorn hobby horse, and will sing and make a fuss over you. It gave Drew a moment to act silly. (I tried to take a photo, but it came out blurry.)

We did have one glitch. We ordered the Frizzled Onions appetizer, but it was never served. We were not billed for the missing item, and we did get an apology from the manager. Mistakes happen, it's how the staff handles them that matters to me, and this glitch was handled appropriately.

Overall a nice dinner, a good experience. New will be back.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on Urbanspoon

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Grand Budapest Hotel

I hadn't even heard about this movie until the Golden Globes were handed out and the Oscar nominations were announced.  Before that, we hadn't even seen trailers for it when we went to the movies. 

It's a gentle comedy-drama.  A flashback within a flashback within a flashback.  The Author tells a story from his memoir, a visit he made in 1968, to a dilapidated Alpine hotel, long past its prime, called the Grand Budapest Hotel.  There he met the hotel's mysterious owner, Zero Moustafa, who tells the story of why the hotel means so much to him.

It's 1932, the hotel is in its prime, and young Zero is a lobby boy at the hotel, being mentored by Monsieur Gustave, the hotel concierge.  Gustave is framed for murder, and Zero joins him as he tries to clear his name.

The film is artsy, it is quirky, it is humorous and thought-provoking.  Rich in characters that can draw you in and keep you involved.  At times it felt like an audio-visual version of the rich pastries Zero's girlfriend Agatha was baking at her job at Mendel's, sweet and rich and very satisfying.

I can't wait to see what happens with this film on Oscar night.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Into the Woods

So I'd seen the original 1987 Broadway production of Into the Woods at the Martin Beck Theater (remember the boot on the theater's marquee?), though by the time I saw the show, Phylicia Rashad had replaced Bernadette Pewters as The Witch.  And I'd seen Vanessa Williams as The Witch in the 2002 Broadway revival.

And on Christmas Day, as you recall, Drew and I saw the movie.  Very well done, true to the Broadway version even though there were some plot changes. 

Drew has some sort of membership with the Roundabout Theatre Company, so we tend to see a lot of their productions, most of which are revivals.  Roundabout's revival of Into the Woods is currently playing at the Laura Pels Theater (making it an Off-Broadway production but in the Theater District).

We saw it last night.  It was very different from what I've seen before.  Stripped down, bare bones.  A single set, looks like someone's living room, with a piano in the center of the room.  Chairs, couches, musical instruments.  A grandfather clock.  

Behind that, the walls look like they have been decorated with the giant inner workings of a piano.

The performers are dressed in somewhat nondescript style, the women in off white peasant dresses, the men in trousers, shirts and suspenders, a look right out of the 19th century.

The cast remains on stage for most of the production.  Most play multiple parts, creating a character through props and slight changes in costume.  For example, the actress playing Jack's mother wears a heavy shawl.  The same actress plays Cinerella's stepmother -- she removes the shawl and adds a frilly hat and a change of attitude.  One actor plays the cow (a bell around his neck), Rapunzel's Prince (a tailored jacket and a hobby horse) and one of Cinderella's stepsisters (a frilly hat).  The Baker's shop is simply a table, a throne is created by placing a wooden crate on the table.  Rapunzel is created by putting an actress on the top of a ladder and having her wear a bright yellow wool hat, the kind with the braids ...only these woolen braids go on and on and on ...

There is no orchestra, the music is provided by the piano on stage, supplemented by the actors occasionally playing the other instruments.

This type of staging really shows the talent of the cast, the audience sees the performer, not the costumes and props.  Your attention is drawn to the character, to the music, to the lyrics, without the "distractions"of elaborate sets, props and costumes.

Act I is cute and clever, telling the fairy tales we all know, woven together into one story.  Act II is the "grown up act", all about what happens after "happily ever after".  It's the story of real life, of love and loss, of banding together to face a common enemy.  Act II does get repetitive at times -- I guess that's why the movie made so many cuts -- but this kind of staging helps the audience focus on the deeper emotions of "real life".

Very well done production, we really enjoyed the show.

On a personal note ... Drew and I laughed a little louder than the rest of the audience when the two princes showed up with hobby horses.  Earlier in the evening we had dinner at Bubba Gump's, and when the waiters came to our table to sing "Happy Birthday", they brought a pink unicorn hobby horse with them -- and ham that he is, Drew actually danced with it.

(No picture, alas, it came out far too blurry.)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Another this and that

Becca has been dating someone new.   She won't call him a "boyfriend", and I don't know how serious it is, but I'm glad to see her moving on.

Jen seems happy with her boyfriend.  She's spending a lot of time at his house.    It's good to see her happy.

But I'd like her to focus  on career again...she's stagnating and needs to figure out what she wants to do.  She was very upset after that bad experience coaching the cheer team. She may have soured on teaching altogether.

Though I do get some grim satisfaction knowing that the backstabber, the who made Jen so miserable that she quit coaching, couldn't manage to put a competition squad together, and completely trashed the cheer program.

Becca is looking to move out.  Lots of drama there.  Not from Becca, from the girl she wanted to live with, and the girl's parents.  They were on the verge of signing a lease....but now she's looking for a studio.  Sigh.

I really, really want the girls and Drew to end their current hostilities.  Maybe for his birthday (today), or at least by Thursday -- he's having back surgery.  (Yeah, I'm a bit worried...) 

Yeah, I know, I'm whining about the winter weather a lot lately ... but those ads for cruises, for tropical resorts, those places with palm trees and turquoise waters and etc., are really making me crazy.    I prefer a t shirt and flip flops, not a parka and boots. Yes, "snow" is a four-letter word.
A lot of friends are heading to Florida, and I'm jealous.

And it doesn't help that all the sports reporters are headed to warm climates for sprng training.  I love baseball, but it's torture...

Tuesday was Tu B'Shevat, a minor Jewish holiday similar to Arbor Day  It's the "new year for trees" and  hints at the coming of spring.  Well, in Israel perhaps, where the weather is warmer, but not here in New York.  Hard to say spring is close at hand with a foot of snow on the ground..

My car door froze shut the other night.  Again.  I hate when that happens.

The good news about February...and yes, there's some good that we really eat well this month.  Lots of chains offer a "free meal" on your birthday...I love checking my email this time of year.

Doesn't take much to make me happy, I guess.

Friday, February 6, 2015

fuzzy socks

Several years ago, my sister and her best friend decided to sell Arbonne.  Arbonne is a sort of upscale Avon, focusing on more natural skin care products.  The business didn't pan out.  But while they were involved, I bought myself a lovely gift -- peppermint foot cream.  The gift set came with a a pair of red, pink and white striped fuzzy socks, warm and cozy.  I really loved those socks.

Therre's a message board I read occasionally, and recently they were talking about Brookstone Nap Socks.  They sounded so...cozy. Just like my Arbonne socks. I'd seen them in the Brookstone store, but didn't buy them...

So a friend gave me an Amazon gift card for Chanukah, and it was burning a hole in my pocket.  And there, on the Amazon site, were the Brookstone socks.

You can imagine my disappointment when Amazon cancelled my order because the socks were out of stock.

So I browsed around the Amazon site and found...these. Sakkas Super Soft Anti-Slip Fuzzy Slipper Socks.

Six pair of sleep socks for less than the price of three pair of the Brookstone socks.  Sounded like a bargain.

Here's what came in the package:

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I like the bright colors.  The socks are soft and cozy.  Advertised as non-skid, they have plastic dots on the sole  to provide traction.  They're easy on my swollen ankles -- there's no elastic.    I'm not sure they'll survive more than one winter, they don't look well made or durable, but for the price I paid, a very satisfactory purchase.

So cozy on a cold, miserable winter night.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

NaBloPoMo prompt: Tell us about a dish you attempted to make that ended in disaster. Have you ever re-attempted the meal?

You've probably seen it on Pinterest or in someone's Facebook feed:  One Pot Garlic Pasta.

It's a fairly simple recipe.  You sauté garlic in olive oil and butter, add chicken broth, cook your pasta in the broth mixture, then add cream, parsley  and Parmesan to make a sauce.  You don't have to drain the pasta, and the resulting sauce is supposed to remind you of a creamy Alfredo.

Leave it to me to screw it up.

I used a pot that was far too large, so the broth was absorbed before the pasta was tender.  Thank goodness I had more broth, added it to the pan while the pasta was cooking.  If I do this recipe again, I'll use a pot that is smaller and deeper.

And I'll measure the cheese next time.  I put far too much cheese into the pot.  It melted nicely, but when it sat on the plates for awhile it congealed into a horrible mess.

Live and learn.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NaBloPoMo prompt: What is your favourite thing to make for dinner?

I don't do much cooking these days. When I was married, and my kids were young, I had to put dinner on the table most nights.

 But now I live a much more bohemian life, splitting y time between my parents' home and Drew's house.

 Even before we started with the renovations at our house, the kitchen had become my sisters' domain.   Drew and I tend to go out most weekends, and when we are at his house, he likes to do the cooking.  But I occasionally take over his kitchen, and when I do...

Well, my favorite.

Spaghetti (or some other pasta) with meat sauce.  It's easier than making meatballs, and the recipe is very forgiving and adaptable.   Add a salad and buy a loaf of garlic bread, and you've got dinner.

Here's my recipe:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
6 oz water

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, salt and pepper, and cook until brown, breaking up with fork, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to plate. Add onion and garlic to skillet and sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir. Return beef to skillet; add tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Add water. Add oregano.  Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until sauce is thick, about 30 minutes.   Serve over cooked pasta and pass grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

I measure the salt by pouring it into my hand until it looks "right", just as my mother and grandmother did.  I measure the water by filling the can from the tomato paste.  And I crush the oregano with my hands before adding it to the sauce.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mouse in the House!

So  with all the construction/renovation/repair work going on at the house, coupled with the horrid winter weather, it was inevitable.  One of my sisters found the evidence in the upstairs bathroom.  We have an unwelcome visitor, one with four paws, fur and a tail.

And no, his name isn't Mickey.

Our two resident felines looked at us, looked at each other, then looked at us again, as if to say "So what do you expect us to do about this?"

I think they need "the lecture".

Unfortunately, this is not the first time we've faced invasion from the furry creatures who reside in the neighboring woods.  My mother always identified herself as a "dog person", but when the little rodents started eating the dog food...we did what all our neighbors had done:  we got a cat.

Even as a kitten, Cinders (so-named because her fur was black as the ashes in our fireplace) knew what was expected of her.  Within a short time of taking up residence in our home, she proved herself an excellent mouser -- and left the evidence of her prowess in the middle of the kitchen floor.  Cinders 1, Mice 0.

And then she rested on her laurels for the next 20 years.

Enter TJ.  My mother's coworker found this cute ball of orange fur abandoned in a cardboard box in the woods.  Although we had a dog and a cat already, somehow my mother was persuaded to take the ginger cat home.  My sisters named him TJ.

It was late at night, and my sister was alone in the kitchen, and she was startled by the site of an unwelcome visitor.  She screamed, and my father came running downstairs.

And that's when my father gave TJ "the lecture".  He walked the cat over to the pantry closet, where the critter had been spotted.  And then he explained to the cat, "You're a member of this family.  You have a roof over your head and you get fed every day.  But you also have certain responsibilities..."  He told TJ that "You have a job to do, and we expect you to do it soon."

When my father lectures like that, you listen.

The very next morning, my sister found the deceased in the middle of the kitchen floor.  Of course she told TJ what a good boy he was, how proud she was of him, what a  good job he'd done.

Yes, I think Redford and Mr. Kitty need "the lecture."

Monday, February 2, 2015

Groundhog Day

Tradition holds that on Groundhog Day,  if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow,  then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will  see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and there will be six more weeks of winter weather.

You know what I am rooting for, of course.  I am so sick of the cold, the raw gray days, the snow.  I really need the spring.  Winter is NOT my season.  Not one little bit.

This is the time of year I start longing for Caribbean beaches and palm trees and turquoise waters.  Where the song I hear in my head is usually something by Jimmy Buffett or the Beach Boys.  I want to trade in my cozy socks and warm sweaters for a t shirt and a pair of flip flops.  I want a pina colada and a plate full of coconut fried shrimp.

We were supposed to go to Florida this month.  We have friends who recently moved to Tampa.  Had to cancel the trip for various reasons.  How I wish we didn't, I could use a few days of sunshine.


Considering we have a "snow emergency" in effect in our town today, I think the Groundhog may come through for me ...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Happy February!!!

So on the one hand, February is a  cold, dark, dank, middle-of-the-winter, depression-inducing month.

On the other hand, this is the month I celebrate birthdays -- my own, my dad's and Drew's.  Not to mention Valentine's Day and President's Day, a three-day weekend.

I joined Blogher's NaBloPoMo again this month.  Hey, I can easily blog for 28 days in a row, so why not?

The theme this month is:  MAKE

By that, the folks at Blogher mean "be creative, try something you haven't done before." 

As in,

This month we want to celebrate you and your creativity. Hopefully by writing about projects gone right (or even... er... wrong) you'll be inspired to roll up your sleeves and try something new.

I'm game for something new, maybe I will try something creative.

Or perhaps blogging alone will be enough for my creative impulses.

Let's see how this month plays out.

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