Saturday, October 31, 2009

Photo Essay: Day of the Dead Cooking Demo



I keep threatening that I'm not going to do anything to celebrate my birthday, Halloween, New Year's Eve, et cetera, but when it comes down to it, I always find something to do. No use in staying home doing nothing.

This is the first Halloween I can remember not being in an office at work, so Edith, Eric and I took advantage and signed up for a Day of the Dead-themed cooking class at Dos Caminos, one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. Though he offers a modern take on traditional Mexican cuisine, chef Scott Linquist gave an informative demo on the history, culture, and ingredients that come together to make a delicious meal.



A lot of the foods and ingredients come from Oaxaca, where grasshoppers are called chapulines and are smoked, cooked til crispy, and used as a snack or a garnish.





Although a bowl of them were passed around the room for the attendees to peruse and, if brave enough, snack on, I passed. I had a taco full of them at a Oaxacan restaurant in D.C. last April, which was enough for a lifetime. E+E didn't seem too thrilled with theirs until after they washed them down with some mezcal.



avocado leaves

turkey rub

We watched Scott and his team rub down a whole turkey, blend nearly thirty ingredients together into a mole poblano, roll bread dough to look like bones, stir fry peppers, and beat corn masa into little patties, all while the aromas of chocolate, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, and pumpkin seeds wafted over us. We listened to our stomachs growl and felt our mouths water in anticipation.

And then we got to eat it.

pan de muerto

chips

guac

pumpkin tamale



ancho-rubbed roast turkey w/mole poblano and apple-cranberry salsita, rice, and greens

apple empanadas w/ice cream

Washed all down with pomegranate sangria and a margarita.

It was so good it was scary.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Little Things

I get a lot of minor thrills out of my current inhouse consulting job that, in aggregate, make me a relatively happy person.

No one gets into the office much earlier than 10:30 a.m., which, at my previous jobs, was LATE. In the morning, I snooze for an hour, eat cereal and go online for 45 minutes, take my time selecting shoes and stockings and lying down on the bed to zip my jeans up...

I leisurely leave my apartment, giving myself plenty of time to return for a forgotten umbrella or magazine.

I saunter down E. 26th Street, hanging left onto Third Avenue, crossing at the D'Agostino amidst their morning grocery deliveries. I hang a right on 24th Street and plow through the Baruch College students on their hungover way to class, weave around the television crews that are invariably telling me to take 23rd Street instead, and angle straight for Madison Square Park, where dogs are trotting their morning walk and emboldened squirrels are demanding their first hand-feeding of the day.

Just beyond the park, there's the Van Leeuwen ice cream and coffee truck, often situated in the morning at Fifth and 23rd. It's too early for ice cream, so the truck-bound baristas push their other sweet treats at you: delectable brownies, peanut butter and jelly cookies with real preserves, and heirloom pear tarts, all crumbled on plates and in bowls with tiny white plastic spoons for sampling. Meanwhile, they agonize over the cappuccino, and it is worth it.

If I miss the coffee truck in the morning because it's raining, or because it hasn't arrived yet, I count down the minutes until I can escape the office for lunch or an afternoon break and head for Joe The Art of Coffee on 23rd and Ninth, the least-busy Joe I've seen amongst its locations. They, too, take their time with my cappu, and they never run out of cookies, seats, or smiles.

When I am in the office, it's the smallest of achievements that fuel my fire: tweeting on behalf of a company that really has something going on, conferencing Felix from Basement Jaxx into a number of phone interviews, seeing an artist I pitched appear in a newsletter or on a blog, even saying I'm a publicist when clearly I am not.

But most of all, despite the joy I feel in working with a musical genre that I can actually palate, and artists whose recordings I actually choose to own, there is one small detail about my current situation that makes me the happiest: that it will end in a couple of months.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Back and Forth

I’m riding backwards on the Amtrak train from Paoli to New York Penn Station. I usually hate to ride backwards – it exacerbates my propensity for motion sickness – but I am comforted knowing that the train will change directions at Philadelphia 30th Street Station, and my backwards will become forwards for the greater duration of the trip, when we adjust from traveling east to northeast. The poor suckers sitting face-forward now, glib in their settled stomachs, must not know about the sickening, hour and a half ride they are in for.

The Paoli station is one of the small stops along Philadelphia’s SEPTA commuter rail, and one of the stops along Amtrak’s Keystone service to Harrisburg. It’s the preferred rail station for QVC presenters such as myself because it has a small waiting room on the inbound side, as well as a Starbucks to fuel the trip. When I first started coming down to this area of Pennsylvania to present on QVC, having only previously come here with the Irish Tenors who insisted on taking a limo, I naively booked my trip to the Exton train station, closer to the hotel whose shuttle would pick me up, but one stop farther. Paoli – pronounced “Pay-oh-lee” in true American style instead of the probable original Italian pronunciation of “Pow-lee” – is a town dotted with shopping centers lit deep into the night, always precipitating a mass exodus from the train and usually leaving me one stop’s duration to have a seat to myself.

Last year during a storm, feet inappropriately shod in soaking-wet ballet flats from Old Navy, I sat outside on a bench at the Exton station and watched an Amtrak train careen past me, all the way past me to several hundred yards down the track past the station. A half dozen of us were waiting for that train back to New York, standing in shock at the screeching brakes we didn’t hear until after it passed us, wondering whether it would come back for us, or even ever start up again. Five minutes later, it struggled forth, leaving us behind and presumably stopping at the next station, Paoli.

Since then, I have followed the advice of my fellow QVC on-air guests and have patronized exclusively the Paoli train station.

Even though it’s only October, it was equally as stormy during this trip to the outer regions of the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area. Waking up at 11 a.m. yesterday morning, eyes bleary from the layers of television makeup that weighed them down to sleep at 7, I looked out my Sheraton hotel window to see sheets of rain ripping the yellow and orange leaves from the trees, splatting them onto the blacktop below. Because I’d taken the train, I was without a rental car and had to rely on either the hotel van or my own feet to take me anywhere to waste time until I had to return to QVC Studio Park for my second appearance of the day. I was hoping to have slept longer, maybe even all day, but once I was up, the anxiety of selling more copies of The Easy Rock Collection than I had at 5:50 a.m. kept me wide awake and needing a distraction.

When the rain let up around 12:30 p.m., I slipped this year’s ballet flats on, grabbed an umbrella, and started walking. I planned to walk all the way to The Classic Diner, where all the QVC presenters and staff moon over huge platters of eggs benedict and read their newspapers while waiting an hour for their breakfast to arrive by way of a blonde ponytail in a t-shirt. Only a mile and a half away, it would have been manageable with good shoes and weather, but about a half mile into my trip, it started to rain again. I was tiptoeing along the shoulder of Route 30, cowering in my hoodie, trying to protect my hair and face from washing off, when I came across Jack’s Pizza and Pasta, a hole-in-the-wall slices joint run by an aggressive, not-Italian pizza purveyor, pushing his stuffed chicken parm pie on me.

I had plenty of time to kill, so I took a pepperoni slice, salad and diet soda into a booth and parked there for a while, staring at the rain through the red glow of the window’s neon sign. Plaid-clad local after local came in with their trucker hats, canes, and even wheelchairs and ordered a giant sub or an entire pizza, trying not to look at me while I photographed a shaker of red pepper flakes.

I bet no one from QVC ever dared to go into Jack’s, or to walk anywhere.

But I’m glad I walked. These trips to QVC are all about sitting: on the train, at the hotel, in the salon chair and in the green room, waiting hours for your eight minutes and sixteen seconds on air. And after you’re done, you go sit at the Outback Steakhouse in the Sheraton parking lot and sip a too-sweet margarita, wolf down a pork loin or steak, and try to consume only half of the brown bread loaf and whipped butter.

It’s a different world down there, and I’m always glad to go. Right now, the trees are blindingly autumn, a great change of pace from my too-green wilderness excursions in New York upon my return from the brown-and-red desert. And as the rainbows of leaves whiz past me as I head home, sometimes interrupted by an old factory or an abandoned warehouse, I’m already hoping to be called back to Paoli sometime soon….

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Sell, Sell, Sell

I'm going to be back on QVC this weekend, after having most of the year off.

I am heavier but happier than I was last time.

I am trying not to obsess about my weight and improve slightly those things over which I have control. Manicure, check. Eyebrow wax, check. Haircut and blowout today, check. Teeth whiten, oops forgot.

I have had zero alcohol since October 5, leaving me less bloated and tired-looking, but none the less curvaceous. 

Thank God for the QVC Salon's blowtorch-like airbrush machine that smooths out my face and paints a new one on, all at the same time.

Last year, I sold a LOT of CDs on QVC during the holiday season. Now that QVC is kicking off their 2009 holiday season (yes, before Halloween), I hope I can replicate my past successes (which can be seen on YouTube).

The nightowls can watch me late Friday night / early Saturday morning sometime between 4-6 a.m. ET, and then again Saturday night sometime between 9 p.m.-12 midnight ET.

Or watch live on QVC.com.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fruits of My Labors

During my month's writing residency in Joshua Tree, CA, I compiled all my blogs about the Salton Sea - which I got to visit for the third time - together in one essay, and submitted it to The Sun Runner's annual Desert Writer's Issue. Although not a permanent resident of the desert, I fancied myself as someone with "strong ties to the desert," so I hoped I would qualify for inclusion.

The Sun Runner indeed chose to print my essay, which you can read in the issue below:



Or click here to read it.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Photo Essay: Them Apples

It was 38 degrees and raining today in Rhinebeck, but we went apple-picking anyway.

I don't even eat apples, and I went apple-picking, though I left the actual picking to Edith, Eric and Mike. We had Cedar Heights Orchard all to ourselves, paying for bags of apples on the honor system and being the only pickers brave enough to weather the rain.

My only regret is not spying on Mike while he climbed trees to get to the good apples. A great missed photo opp.

















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Today's Moment of Clarity



This was when the goats at Greig Farm were still letting me be egalitarian with them and give each of them the same amount of feed. Shortly thereafter they started butting heads and leaping on top of each other to get to my hand, greedy guys who'd already been fed stomping on the hungry babies.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

A Real Charmer

At home alone on a Friday night, still blissful from an evening massage at the day spa, I get an email from "AdventureMan08," a real charmer from Match.com. It reads:

I was wondering if following me satisfying your wanderlust, in the city and beyond... we could take a nap, do some stuff and maybe you could make me some children, so there is something left after us. What do you say?

Disclaimer - this is the most direct email you will ever receive on Match or anywhere else for that matter...past performance is no guarantee of futher results.

Think you're cool but not sure your sense of humor is up there

Steve

I think that deserves a big

W
T
F

The fact that someone rejected my "wink" earlier today pales in comparison to this overt fight-picking.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Underground Conversations

I'd been waiting for a while for the R train at 23rd Street, but when I finally sat down on the subway car, my exposed toes were still red from the cold, rainy day.

As I clutched my black canvas tote bag and purse on my lap, a fragile old woman with freshly-set gray curls sat perpendicular to me, leaned over, and tapped my left knee.

"Are your feet cold?"

I felt a little embarrassed that I was wearing strappy shoes without stockings so late in the season, so I said, "Yeah, it wasn't this bad this morning...I'm pretty cold."

I thought maybe our conversation was over, but she shifted in her seat, and said, "I know I sound like a grandmother. I can't help it."

I smiled and assured her, "That's ok. It's nice."

We both got off the train one stop later.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Open Letter to My Potential Matches

After years of being single - really, since December 2004, when I discovered that I was not the girlfriend being cheated on, but rather that I was the other woman - I gave into technology and joined Match.com this week.

I'd already been rejected by eHarmony, who cited my various personality quirks relatively accurately while stating that their pool of singles wasn't quite a match for someone like me.

I'd gone on a coffee date courtesy of Nerve.com that traumatized me forever and was so bad that I had to report my date to their authorities and get him kicked off.

But still, tired of all the insults and back-handed compliments that I'd been getting in NYC bars, I turned to Match as a kind of online shopping alternative to the window shopping I'd been doing. At least with profiles, I'd know whether they were single, had kids, smoked, or were interested in curvy women. Most importantly, I assumed that whoever I would find on Match.com would want to be in a relationship. And right now, that's kind of the most important thing.

It hasn't exactly worked out that way.

So here is my open letter to my potential matches, a plea to make the system work in my favor, and to not totally turn me off to the human race or the male gender for all of eternity:

My dear men of Match.com:

Thank you for winking at me. I'm sorry that I haven't winked back, but I am puzzled by your profile and am not sure how to respond.

You are not 39. I don't care what your profile says, you are not even 40 or 45. You are clearly at least 49. I am not interested in being your daughter or your trophy girlfriend or the one that suddenly makes you feel alive again. Perhaps your vision has deteriorated so much that you cannot see the keys before you, or the results of your keystrokes on the screen.

You are not Caucasian. I know it's not politically correct to say I only want to date a white guy, but if I'm given the choice and I need to narrow the pool down by various factors, and it's ok to request someone between five-foot-seven and six-foot-five, then it has to be ok for me also to request someone of a certain ethnic or racial background. But why would you, when clearly you're Asian or Middle Eastern or Inuit or Polynesian, claim to be something you're not? To appear in more search results?

To be frank, there may be a day when I change my search and look only for an Indian guy, wistful of the love I had for an Indian college friend I had who would always sleep over but never touch me. And you, kind sir, would not appear in my search results, and I would never find you.

Gentle men, let me offer you a few words of advice. Misspellings on your profile are not ok. Proclamations that you don't write so good and are better on the phone lead my finger almost magnetically to click on the "Not Interested" checkbox. Profile photos with cute girls make you look like a player or, worse yet, gay. Profile photos of you holding a baby - is that yours or someone else's? - freak me out. And, yes you Grandpa, sepia tone photos circa 5/10/20 years ago when you were once attractive and at the height of your game don't fool me.
Even though you're cute, you have too many self-portraits on your profile, pouty lips and half-closed eyes. It's sexy when I do it. When you do it, it's embarrassing.
It's a sick game we're playing, we online daters. We say we want someone to make us laugh and who likes to cuddle in front of the fire, but the first thing we do is look at each other's photos. If we don't like what we see, we move on.

The only problem is, there aren't many of us in there. Unless I want to respond to the guy in Austin or the guy who's "moving back to New York any day now," I've only got the firefighter from Flushing, Vinny from Staten Island, the "stocky" guy from Ridgewood, and one really handsome fellow named Michael, inactive for three weeks, to choose from.

Good luck to you, fellows, and keep trying. I respect your audacity and tenacity. I wish you love and affection and the many dinners-and-drinks that you wish for.

I just have this sneaking suspicion that none of that will happen with me.

Regards,
Name Withheld

Maybe I'll go on a coffee date with this one guy who seems innocuous enough, though he may be guilty of using old, younger-looking photos to sell himself to younger women. I guess I won't know unless I meet him.

I've got three months on this thing. If I don't get harassed, insulted, called filthy names, or otherwise degraded, I'll be relieved. I have a feeling I'll just be perpetually disappointed. But at least I tried.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Photo Essay: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Under Construction (Open House NY)



We'd been seeing the SKANSA signs on the Brooklyn Bridge waterfront at least since last summer, when we took a number of harbor cruises that launched out of Fulton Ferry Landing. But we weren't really sure what was planned for the construction site on the old piers until we visited today as part of Open House New York

The first sections of Brooklyn Bridge Park are scheduled to open in Winter 2010, but they've already made quite a bit of progress on Pier 1 and have moved onto Pier 2. A lot of the old shipping containers have been removed or renovated to open up the waterfront to visitors in an expanse of rolling hills, benches, and lit pathways below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and under the south side of the Brooklyn Bridge.









fibers to prevent erosion



granite from Roosevelt Island bridge









Pier 2

Limestone



manhole cover

Somehow, I felt at home there, amidst the simultaneous destruction and construction. It felt so very tangible to me, man's impact on his environment, all footprints and tire tracks and neon construction colors. It was like one big open-air abandoned building.

When it's completed, the park will feature some grassy slopes that seems a little closer to the original topography of New York. But it'll be noisy like the rest of New York: helicopters overhead, boats motoring by, traffic clogging the BQE behind and the bridge to the north. Children will wander off and throw rocks, hoist wooden spears and kick dirt, just as they did during today's tour. And it'll be yet another spot from which to gaze at the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty, as though that's all New York has to offer.

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