Tuesday, November 17, 2009

weekend pictorial

Despite a rainy, dreary Saturday, this past weekend was a great one. I started the weekend off with a difficult hill workout. How did I recover? I met friends for a delicious brunch at the New Leaf Cafe in Fort Tryon Park - all the way up at the very tippy top north end of Manhattan.

Wendy enticed us back to her apartment by claiming it was a "short" 4 1/2 block walk once we were out of the park. Oh, and she promised pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. So we sludged through the rain and I saved Kamillah's life a dozen or so times since slick bottomed boots plus wet leaf-lined hills don't mix so well.

At least I got to see beautiful fall colors like this:

Dripping wet, we settled into Wendy's apartment and caught up with her husband too. I have to admit I ate more than my fair share of cookies (uh, they were small and I did all that life saving back in the park).

Still wet from our earlier trek, we made our way back to the subway where Emily and learned where the A train ends!

I did a little shopping, had time for a short, short break on my couch before I had to get myself ready to go out again. I was double-booked for the evening - Ute game with the alumni chapter versus dinner with some of my favorite friends. Luckily dinner was just a few blocks from the game watch. And unluckily, the Utes didn't make it too difficult for me to leave after an hour since they forgot how to play football.

So I met up with these fun people and had a fabulous night!

I then finished the weekend with a 3 mile run on Sunday as the sun was setting over the Hudson and the leaves were popping more vibrantly than they have all fall. I wish it could be 60 degrees and sunny for at least a few more weekends because it makes running so much more enjoyable.

Making Me Happy Today

These new boots in steel suede.

Thank you Kenneth Cole for realizing some women have actual calf muscles.

Thank you for making a beautiful boot with a 15.75" circumfrence for those athletically calved women.

Thank you for figuring out how to make a 3 1/4" heel comfortable for all day wear.

Thank you for utilizing a rubber sole for non-skid utilitarianism in a pretty boot.

Thank you Zappos for delivering these overnight with no shipping charges.

Thanks to both of you I received several compliments today and looked like this sitting at my desk all day.

Friday, November 13, 2009

From the House of the Dead

Last night I attended the premier performance of "From the House of the Dead", an opera by Leos Janacek. It was . . . hmmmm. I'm still struggling with how to describe it but one word keeps popping into my head. The word that was stuck there throughout the performance.

It was weird.

I knew next to nothing about this opera when I arrived at the Met last night and I admitted as much when I was talking with a couple of women at the cocktail reception prior to the performance. Luckily I was given a very helpful piece of advice - don't try and follow the story, there really isn't one, think of the acts as three vignets. Gratefully, my inside informant also advised that this opera was only 90 minutes long with no intermission. Good thing, I never would have made it to the end had it been longer.

As I was waiting for the chandeliers to rise and the lights to dim, I skimmed the summary of the three acts in my program and focused my opera glasses on the tuxedo clad set in the box seats. (My oepra glasses, by the way, are a pretty blue enamel and silver and yes, they have that one side handle thing which looks very elegant but no matter how much I adjust them I always see double so I have to close one eye. Is that my eyes or are they just not capable of functioning properly?) Part way through my skimming I realized nothing was registering and I had to back track and try again to catch names of characters to watch for.

Reading through the New York Times' review today I wonder if it would have helped to know a bit more background before taking my seat. For example, while I learned in my quick read of the program that the setting was a prison, the fact that it was in Siberia didn't hit me until somewhere in the middle. And I did not know the opera was based on a fictionalized account of Dostoyevsky's years in a Siberian prison. Perhaps that would have made it more interesting to me. Or not. Hard to tell.

Either way, I was startled when the orchestra started playing. When did the conductor walk in, I wondered? Why was there no applause? Did I miss the applause somehow? No, no one clapped. How strange. According to the Times' review, the conductor purposely snuck into the pit to begin the "eerie opening march." I agree, the opening was eerie and stark and a bit unsettling so maybe I was feeling exactly what I was intended to feel and I just wasn't comfortable with it.

Throughout the brief first act I was just taking it all in. The imposing gray, concrete walls that formed the set, the hodge-podge group of men who slowly shuffled onto the stage out of the black with the lighting of a cigarrette to illuminate their entrance and the distraction of wondering about the old man who appeared to be holding an overcoat. Speaking of distractions. The opera is sung in Czech and so I had my Met titles turned on so I could read the translation on the tiny little screen in front of me. But when someone finally started singing, the titles were projected onto the concrete walls in varying places depending on who was singing. In some ways this was easier to read than having to look away from the stage but mostly, I found the words pulled my eyes away from the stage too much without really adding much to my understanding of what was happening. Besides, when words are placed in front of me I have a difficult time not reading them. And re-reading them. And very often, the words were up for significantly longer than necessary or were repeated and I was annoyed at how often I read them. It also made me wonder about the translation when someone would be singing on and on and on and there would be a four-word phrase projected onto the stage.

I will grant that, upon reflection, the music was intriguing. It wasn't anything I would run out and purchase but I wonder if it is something that might improve with repeated exposure. I spent a great deal of time throughout the performance watching the percussionist who used steel chains and a hammer against a piece of metal as his instruments. But nothing really stood out. It was dark, cacophonous and eerie. Which means I'm surprised I didn't like it more since I have a taste of 20th Century Eastern European dissonance. I'm not saying I disliked it, the music simply did not speak to me. And while the singing was all quite beautiful and there was a particularly haunting choir off-stage in the final Act that punctuated the narrative of a rather lengthy story telling, I was mostly unmoved. I guess I only got one level of the music, since the Times indicated "On one level, the repetition conveys the drudgery and routine of prison life." Yup, got that. I just missed the deeper level where "the repetitive riffs evoke the thoughts that get stuck in the minds of the prisoners: resentments, violent fantasies, feelings of betrayal, isolation and yearning."

One more thing confused me. In the second act there are women. At first I thought they were there as visitors but this didn't really make sense in the rest of the staging. Were they also prisoners? That didn't make sense either. I found it distracting because I didn't understand what they were doing or why they were there. At one point near the beginning of the second act I wondered if we were outside the prison. I'm still confused.

So what was my favorite part of the performance? The two transitions between the three acts. There were no intermissions and oddly, no one applauded between acts or following any lengthy solos - I can't say I could pinpoint an aria though. The first act ended with a whole bunch of garbage dropping onto the stage from the rafters. It was startling and visually beautiful to watch it all explode onto the stage without warning smacking the stage floor loudly with bits and pieces trailing lazily in the air and dust rising up and I worried about what may have gone flying into the orchestra pit. Before I could wonder too long as to how they would clean it all off without an intermission, the stage was full of people cleaning up and Act II was under way. The transition to Act III was not quite so dramatic but an unweighted silky black curtain tumbled elegantly down to briefly cover the stage to indicate the transition. Not as shocking as garbage but beautiful and effective.
A couple of other things to mention. First, this is my second opera this season and the second opera with nudity. Yup. Not sure if I mentioned it in my review of Tosca but in the second act one of the three whores who were lazing on the couch in filmy, diaphonous dresses was not fully dressed. Shortly after I wondered if those were boobs I saw on stage (no opera glasses that night) she pushed first one breast and then the next into the dress and then laced up the bodice. There were no boobs at this opera but there was full on male nudity - but not of the lascivious variety. The Times' reviewer described it by explaining the "prisoners arrive fresh from baths, looking scrubbed and bedraggled, some in underwear, some naked and embarrassed.  That even in this prison they cling to a shred of privacy was a poignant touch in the staging." I agree. I was startled and uncomfortable to suddenly see a stage full of naked men but it wasn't a shock value thing, more of a humiliating part of being a prisoner which gave more real life flavor to the performance.
Overall, I would not go so far as to say I have any particularly strong feelings one way or the other about the performance. Actually, that isn't true. I found the performance incredible. I also liked the set and staging (other than the projected super-titles) and the quirky little sub-play performed by the prisoners in Act II that was pretty funny at times. I just was not riveted by the music and was not moved by the singing.
In the end, after the curtain fell and applause slowly broke out, I thought others shared my meh attitude. But as the many, many performers took the stage for their bows, the applause grew louder and louder as more prominent characters came to the forefront. I was seated in an end seat in the second tier of balconies and decided to beat the rush and slipped out just as people started "Bravo!"-ing the leads. Yes, they were amazing, I just didn't share the enthusiasm for this piece of work. And I took it neither did the man who was right behind me descending the velvety spiral staircase that spilled us out into the main lobby while applause still thundered inside.
The New York Times may believe "Tosca" was "a dismal failure" and "From the House of the Dead" a "needed comeback success" but I will have to disagree and place Tosca in the lead of successes so far this season.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

odds and ends

  • Things are suddenly busy at work.
  • I keep getting evites in my email inbox
  • which makes me paranoid that maybe I'm slacking on the whole reserve a date thing for my annual dessert party
  • I've picked a date, I think, but sending an evite out more than a month in advance seems pretensious to me
  • or anxious?
  • the date I have selected is December 12th - that is one month from today!
  • I'm already exhausted by everything I need to get done and wondering why I do this to myself
  • I just saw the trailer for the movie Date Night and I think it looks fun - Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Check it out:
  • I would also like to see Up In the Air
  • I don't understand why the best movies come out during the holidays when people have the most stuff going on - more parties, more travel, more shopping, etc.
  • there are never good movies in February or March and seriously, what else is going on during those months?
  • but I guess a lot of people like to see movies over the holidays
  • I don't mind it but I'm usually trying to cram in time with friends and family and I don't feel like movies count for that
  • I may have to go to London for work next week
  • I've never been to London so that's exciting
  • But I'm afraid it will be a crazy short trip with no potential for extending since I'm flying home for Thanksgiving on the 21st and the meeting is on the 19th
  • I'm looking forward to spending a week at home for Thanksgiving
  • my sister already thinks I'm being overly ambitious with what I want to do while I'm home
  • maybe because I told her we are going straight from the airport to the Utah football game
  • and I'm going to St George for a couple of days
  • and all the usual running around to catch up with friends and family
  • I'm going to the opera tonight and I remembered to bring my opera glasses!
  • I'll be seeing From the House of the Dead
  • I know nothing about it
  • I've been growing my hair out for reasons I've never quite figured out
  • other than I see women with long full hair and I want it
  • and laziness
  • I haven't had a haircut since June or maybe May?
  • but I forget that my hair doesn't look like the women I covet when it is long
  • I also hate drying it in the morning so most days (like today) it is pulled up in a twist
  • or a ponytail
  • I do like that it is long enough to be pulled up in a twist
  • I'm supposed to run a 6k on thanksgiving morning but I've been having a hard time running lately
  • either my breathing (been changing the dosage of my asthma medication) or my knee or ankle hurts
  • plus, ever since I recalibrated my ipod so that it is accurate, I have been discouraged about how slow I really am
  • I never thought I was fast, it is just painful how slow I really am
  • I had a brief crush on a boy
  • I use the past tense because last night I saw him again and realized I was just grasping at straws
  • he reminded me of someone I like on the Food Network - Aarón Sanchez
  • If he had any interest in me, I could revive the crush, but I don't get that sense so I'm just letting it go
  • having limited options can taint my perspective anyway
  • I think I have developed an addiction to solitaire on my blackberry
  • I'm not kidding, I have recently started playing during boring conference calls
  • when a partner caught me, he showed me that he was playing soduku on his blackberry
  • It really does help me listen better because my mind doesn't drift off to run through a meadow while people drone on about boring blah, blah, blah
  • I played a lot of solitaire in law school on my laptop during class
  • I can't believe Thanksgiving is two weeks from today
  • sorry this was the most boring post ever, I thought I had more interesting things to say........

Monday, November 09, 2009

Raffle Winner!

Thank you to everyone who participated in my blogwarming party. With 32 comments received in one weekend, I think my blog feels sufficiently warmed. Which is good because I sort of feared losing the blog-affirming support of comments when I went private. Especially since my mom rarely comments. And if you can't rely on your mom to say something nice. . . well, I guess I just have to rely on you guys and luckily you pulled through.

For my raffle I got really fancy. I wrote all of the names of those who commented on a piece of paper in the order that the comment was made (multiple commenters got multiple entries) and numbered the names and smiled really big when the number hit 32. Because, you know, I really like comments.

As a side note, has anyone else noticed how cell phones are the new social crutch? I don't remember what one did in the past while waiting somewhere awkwardly or while being ignored by those around you other than just stand there (seriously?) but these days I've noticed that pretty much everyone consults their phone. For example, arrive at a restaurant before anyone else in your party? Just pull out your phone/blackberry/iphone and look at it with an impatient look on your face and voila - now everyone in the vicinity will realize your friends are just a few minutes away and are just late. You are the thoughtful punctual friend. Feeling left out of the group's conversation because the restaurant/bar is too loud to hear anyone not sitting immediately next to you? Pull out your phone and check your email and text messages to see if anyone else in the world is thinking of you at that moment - or at least give others the impression that you are wanted/needed/desired by someone not in the room making you oh, so very important. Waiting for a bus? Scroll through your emails and again, others will view you as important.

I will confess that over the weekend when I found myself in a couple of these situations, I did in fact consult my blackberry for moral support and often, to my surprise and joy, there were your comments filling up my inbox. It was fantastic! This is what popular bloggers must feel like.

Anyway, on with the raffle. I suppose for this to qualify as an actual raffle (instead of just a different word for blog giveaway) I would have had to sell you tickets and then pulled out your number from a bucket. But since this is a virtual raffle (and my blog), I get to decide the rules. So I assigned you all a number and then I used that random number generator thingy and right before I told it to go, I considered cheating and giving the prize to the commenter whose comment made me laugh out loud when I read it. Luckily I was standing in my living room at the time and was not in one of those other social situations because it might have been difficult to explain had someone inquired (especially since none of the people I hung out with this weekend have any inkling that I have a blog, especially now that I'm private). I mean, there were some other great comments so how could I play favorites and not love that lemoniepants wanted me to send her pumpkin waffles with "star trek fancy glitter" [even though I truly have no idea what that means]? Or that Customer Support has suggested some intriguing substance called "homemade buttermilk syrup" to pair with my waffles? And how could I not love getting compliments on both my shower curtain and my plate? Surprisingly no one complimented my awesome Jay Leno outfit.So I hit Generate and the resulting number was:

And guess what comment was number 26? The funny one I wanted to cheat and give a prize! Good job randomizer! In case you are wondering, that comment came from KimmyGoat who said ...
"Thank you for sharing. You have SO MADE MY SUNDAY! For what it's worth, I will forever assume Leno wears denim shirts off-stage because of you. It's a hoot! My choir trip was to Disney World in 1995. Karaoke (in the hotel bar) also featured prominently."
You made my Sunday as well KimmyGoat. And the emphasis is mine because I had never made that connection before! I mean Jay did admire my ensemble as I walked down the stairs (right after he called me a "woman" which totally baffled my 17-year old self who had never previously been referred to as a woman) by asking if I was in town for the 90210 auditions. Clearly he did not actually watch 90210 because if he did he would know that neither Brenda, Kelly nor Donna (and not even Andrea) would never have been caught dead walking around in home-made patchwork denim shorts, knock-off brand birkenstocks and that Guatamalan print hat, let alone willingly walked into a live national television broadcast looking that way. And if you watch my reaction to his comment, I was clearly insulted by the comparison. I was a few years away from my frequent 90210 watching years. In high school I hated the show and the girls at school who imitated it.

Oh, and bonus points to Kimmy Goat for using the term "it's a hoot" because that is a phrase that has always delighted me when my mother uses it. I put it in the same category of her question "are they getting thick?" when asking whether a couple is getting serious.
And what has Kimmy Goat won in my raffle? I would like to give her a big stack of homemade pumpkin waffles still steaming from the waffle iron but logistically I think that would be a little difficult since I don't make it to Nebraska too often (although I did go there once in law school during an extreme blizzard! Fun times.). Instead, she wins this:

That's right, a jug of maple syrup to be poured over waffles and pancakes and whatever else she chooses. Except, a new jug, not the one out of my fridge. Just email me your address and I'll have it delivered to your door in time to impress your Thanksgiving guests (if you have any) or to keep all to yourself to enjoy its deliciousness.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I'm still embarrassed

The scene: It was 1993, I was a senior in high school and I was on a band trip to Los Angeles that I didn't really want to go on because we were going with the choir and I hated the choir. The choir had loads and loads of rules. Ridiculous rules. Like seating charts on the bus. I was an officer in the band (because I was awesome!) so I had to attend all of these meetings with the choir director and the choir officers that took place on Saturday mornings. I hated those meetings. When we went on jazz band trips we just practiced our music and told everyone when to meet the bus and our teacher told us we would get left behind if we didn't show up on time. And we believed his threats. The choir people planned ridiculous details like bus seating charts (boys on one side and girls on the other!) and scheduled our every waking hour on the trip. In the past, the jazz band always went to a jazz festival in Greeley, Colorado and the only thing to do there was to go to clinics with legendary jazz musicians, listen to performances and make nuisances of ourselves at the motel. Oh, and discover karaoke at a local bar. It was awesome. Not sure why that bar let a bunch of underage kids wander in off the street but I am glad they did because we had some a lot of fun karaoking when we weren't running around the motel with squirt guns, putting shaving cream and toothpaste on people sleeping and taking photos of people in the shower (okay, that was just one guy getting back at another guy for the shaving cream thing and I never saw the photos). We stayed at a nicer hotel in L.A. but girls and boys weren't allowed to stay on the same floor and chaperones were forced to wander the floors to make sure we didn't sneak out (some of us still did) and we had some ridiculous curfew. In Greeley there wasn't a curfew and we never really saw our chaperones.

And while I'm talking about that particular high school trip I would like to share one little anecdote before we get to the embarrassing part. The majority of my high school consisted of Mormon kids and the choir often performed at church-related functions. I found it weird. And when I was in a planning meeting and the choir director put church on the schedule, I balked. And I was the only one! For whatever reason I was the only band representative at these meetings and the choir kids all thought I was horribly rebellious for not wanting to go to church while on a high school trip. I argued that a large portion of the kids in band were not Mormon. The choir director's response? We can provide a bus to take them to their church. I then argued separation of church and state. I was upset. I did not want to get forced into going to church in some strange city when my family didn't even do that when we were on vacation. We also didn't have any beach time on the itinerary. After quite a bit of arguing, I managed to get buses to go to the beach as an alternative to going to church. I was not able to work out any alternative though for the band when the choir performed at a fireside Sunday night. So we went straight from the beach, covered in salt and sand to a church where I sulked outside fuming over how wrong it was that I was being forced to go to church on a school trip.

None of that is really the point. The main point is that I didn't really want to go to California, I didn't want to go to Disneyland, I didn't want to travel with all the choir kids and their rules. I wanted the unruly ways of Greeley to form the memories for my senior year band trip. But I didn't get my way and the one time the jazz band was allowed to break away from everyone else was to go to the Tonight Show. Which was also sort of a disappointment. When we started planning Johnny Carson was still hosting and the whole reason we were going was to see The Tonight Show band. But by April Jay Leno had taken over so no more big band. After seeing the likes of Dave Brubeck, J. J. Johnson, Diane Johnson, Louie Belson and Paquito D'Rivera perform in the past, just listening to other high schools perform wasn't as appealing. Even if we did get to go to Disneyland. Luckily, Jay Leno had Branford Marsalis leading his band so we were still able to justify our break with the choir.

Since I was in charge of assigning seats for the buses, I made sure my bus only had people I liked and I definitely did not enforce that whole boys on one side girls on another thing. Especially since band had more boys than girls anyway. We drove all night from Salt Lake to Los Angeles and I'm pretty sure we played Hearts the bulk of the drive. We went straight to Disneyland upon arrival and ran around getting soaked on a few rides before we left early to make our way to Burbank for the Tonight Show taping.  I hadn't slept all night and I was definitely not wearing makeup.

Exactly how one might imagine the lead-up for their debut on national television, right? Right.

I will take any questions you might have in the comment section. But before you begin, I will just point out that I remember being almost hypnotized by the combination of the thickness of Jay Leno's makeup and the giant camera zooming in on my face. I will point out that I had about 20-30 fellow band members in the audience with me and not one of them cheered or offered support when I blankly blinked into the camera and uttered "Hillcrest" as where I went to school. No, I never was able to use my gift certificate for a free meal at Mumms because the choir director wouldn't allow it despite the fact that my friend's mom was one of the chaperones and volunteered to take us. And finally, I would like to tell Jay Leno that education is a legitimate college major. It wasn't mine but what did I know, I didn't figure out my final major until midway through my sophomore year.

Keep the Party Going . . .

Thanks for such a great turn out for day 1 of my weekend blog warming open house. I hope you all realize that every comment you make is an entry for the raffle. That's right. At some point Sunday I'll select a lucky winner for a prize. I'm not quite sure what the prize will be yet. If I could figure out a good way to ship cupcakes, I'd give those away but since that isn't really practical I'll have to come up with something else.

If you pay any attention to the time stamp, you will note that it is very late in NYC right now. I had a great night - watched the Utes beat New Mexico with my alumni group and then met up with a friend visiting from out of town. Overall, a great Saturday night. Funny thing. As I rode the subway down to the bar where we were watching the game in the Village, this thought crossed my mind "I feel like a real New Yorker right now." You see, sometimes I get caught up in my tiny little version of New York life that rarely strays beyond the 50s where I live and work that I forget about other aspects of this City. Well, I don't really forget, I just feel detached from the rest of it. Riding the subway is a necessity for the vast majority of the people with whom I share this island. But I'm lucky enough to be within walking distance so riding the subway turns into a sort of novelty. You are thrust so much more into the city waiting on a subway platform, riding in a packed subway car and wandering through a not quite as familiar neighborhood. I had this odd wave of love for this place wash over me with a good helping of gratitude for the opportunity I have had to live here. New York is such a hard place to live sometimes, I treasure these moments of appreciation because they remind me of why I stay - despite the extreme downsides that can get me down sometimes (uh, small apartment for extremely high rent and excessive crowds are the negatives, in case you were wondering).

But I'm rambling. I blame the late hour. So why am I blogging right now? To remind you to comment for the raffle. Oh, and to give you a little hint at what you might see when you drop by to visit: my most embarrasing moment. In video format. Barring any technological meltdowns that prevent me from putting it together of course. So cross your fingers and wish me luck and don't forget to drop by because you will not regret it. I mean, how often are our most embarrasing moments captured on film? Luckily mine was long enough ago I can laugh at it now without cringing. Okay, I still cringe but I can laugh too. See you then!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Bathroom Makeover

Do you ever take photos with the intent of using them for a blog? But then you never get around to writing the post. Or is that just me? A couple of years ago (that's right a couple of years!), I documented the redecorating process of my bathroom. Not the most exciting thing but since the photos have been lying around for a while, I thought I'd share.

Welcome to the open house! While you are here, you might need to use the facilities so I thought I'd give you a tour. I like decorating the bathroom because you can re-do it fairly easily (no heavy furniture to heft around) and relatively inexpensively (although linens and even shower curtains can be pricey so I suggest watching for sales).

Speaking of decorating, yes, I did change things up around here a bit. Thanks for noticing. I love the old design which was done by my good friend Emily but going into the cooler months I decided I needed something a little less spring-like. 

When I got my first apartment that was all my own when I graduated from law school, I didn't have a lot of money for decorating after I bought the basics (a bed, dresser and couch) so I focused on the bathroom. I have no idea why I remember picking out that shower curtain so vividly but I was really happy with it for several years.

But after over six years with the same bathroom decor (re-worked in 4 different apartments), I was ready for something different. Something a bit more bold. So I searched high and low for a shower curtain that spoke to me. I found this one in a local store in my neighborhood and the super fuzzy rug was a find at Macy's, which is also where I bought new towels. And can I just recommend Macy's Hotel Collection linens if you are in the market? After two years of frequent use, those towels still feel plush and soft - as does the rug. I'm also a big fan of their sheets. And Macy's has lots of sales so don't ever pay full price!

By the way, have you entered the raffle yet? Did you know all you have to do is comment on any of the posts this weekend and you are entered to win?

Pumpkin Waffles!

About a month ago I made some pumpkin waffles from a recipe someone had recommended on their blog. And I hate to say it, but I was a little disappointed. It wasn't that they were bad or even that they weren't good. They were tasty enough. But I knew they were capable of more. So this morning I decided to experiment a bit by merging the Basic Waffle Recipe from the New York Times Cookbook (my copy is actually the 1961 edition) with Martha Stewart's pumpkin pancakes (which are delicious, by the way!).

And before you jump in, let me warn you: this is an involved recipe that requires a lot more dishes than the "Basic" name might imply. But rest assured, the end result is worth the extra effort. For a complete listing of the ingredients, see the bottom of the post.

In this first step, the key change to the ingredients will be these spices:

Start by combining the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.

Sift 2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, a little less than 1 teaspoon salt, close to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and ground ginger,  about an 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and a couple of shakes of ground cloves.
Just to make sure your waffles are extra smooth, I recommend measuring them all into a sifter first so you don't end up with any flour lumps in your waffles. The other ingredients can be sifted to fully incorporate them into the flour without the added step of stirring. Plus, you want to do as little mixing as possible once you add the wet ingredients so it is best to get rid of lumps now.

Next, add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the dry ingredients (or do this when sifting, I just forgot).
In two separate bowls (I warned you there are a lot of dishes involved, didn't I?), separate your two eggs. The egg whites should go into a small mixing bowl that is big enough to beat them in later. The yolks can be in a smaller bowl but still needs to be big enough to accommodate the other wet ingredients.

Beat the egg yolks and then add 1 cup of milk and 6 tablespoons of melted butter. Oh, and this is the best part! Add in about 6 tablespoons of pumpkin puree. Just a word of caution here - pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie filling are not the same thing so don't mix those up. I used a bit more than 6 tablespoons because that is what I had left over from my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies last week. Can't waste any pumpkin these days since there is supposedly a pumpkin shortage. Or, at least that is what I hear. But I haven't had any problem getting it so far this season.

After combining all the wet ingredients, you can pour it into the flour mixture and stir it just enough to moisten the dry ingredients.

Your mixture should be looking pretty good but we have one more step remaining. Remember those egg whites you set aside earlier? Grab those, because now you need to beat them until they are stiff, but not dry. You can do this by hand, but this is a lazy Saturday morning so I suggest pulling out the hand mixer and saving the exercise for later. Use the whisk beaters if you have them.

After you have some nice stiff peaks, gently fold the egg whites into your batter. They should slide right out of the bowl. This is the part where it is really important not to start vigorously stirring because that will ruin all the lightness you have worked so hard to get with those egg whites. I use a wooden spoon to fold the egg whites in slowly by sliding it around the outer edge to scoop up from the bottom and fold it over the top (does that make sense?). It takes a number of spins around the bowl to fully work in the egg whites.

The purpose here is to get light and fluffy waffles. If you have the time and patience you can let this sit for a while because I believe that adds to the lightness. But, uh, I was ready for waffles so I went straight to the cooking stage.

Don't forget the maple syrup - real maple syrup is the best way to go here (in my opinion).

And can I toot my own horn and call them a success? So much so that I ate two? The recipe made six waffles, so what to do with the leftovers . . . freeze them of course! That way, on Monday morning I can pop one into the toaster, top it with Greek yogurt and I have a delicious weekday breakfast. Don't believe me on the Greek yogurt thing? Seriously, it is creamy and delicious and addicting and I put it on everything - oatmeal, fruit, waffles, sweet potatoes. Yeah, I'm addicted. I guess you can try syrup in the middle of the week as well but I save that for a weekend treat.

Pumpkin Waffles
2 cups sifted flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
dash (or 2) ground cloves
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons melted butter

Welcome to the Party!

You're early! Come on in, you can put your coat on my bed and then find a seat. I'm still making pumpkin waffles and will have a recipe up for you soon. Oh, would you like one while you wait? I suggest the maple syrup.

Pssst, don't forget to comment if you want to be eligible for the raffle that could take place at any time over the next two days!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Blog Warming Party

We are nearing the end of my first week of private blogging and I want to thank each of you for your willingness to follow me into this secret little club I've got going on here that requires a confession that you read my blog and the hassle of entering a password to see what I have to say. I was pretty surprised to receive 69 70 requests to keep reading and of those 61 of you have actually accepted my invitation! Hooray!

Not sure what is going on with those other 8 people. It sort of feels like an evite where you wonder why those 8 people can't even be bothered to open the dang invitation to see if they are interested! Except these people actually requested the invite! Except for my grandpa. My aunt requested it on his behalf and I am 99.9% positive he will never accept that invite. That's okay. I still love him. The invitation probably confused him anyway.

If you are wondering what other things blogger tells me in private mode, I will tell you - nothing. I don't know when you read or if you read after you accept your invite so don't worry if you come back obsessively (not even my mom does this) or if you check in once every couple of months, I will never know. I am slightly concerned about the 100 reader maximum capacity. What if 32 more people email me for invitations?

Right, I probably shouldn't worry about that.

Anyway, you are probably wondering about the title of this post since this doesn't look entirely festive right now. So here is the announcement: I'm throwing myself a blogwarming party! Yay! It will be an open house format so you can stop by the site any time Saturday or Sunday. I'll be baking some seasonal treats and pumpkin waffels and I may even share my butternut squash bisque recipe.

Don't worry about bringing a gift, your presence (by which I mean comments!) will be more than enough. But don't be surprised if I spruce the place up a bit and make a few changes, I want everything to look its best for the party. If you'd like I will give you a tour of the bathroom I redecorated over a year ago (or was that 2 years ago?) but never got around to showing off.

There may even be a raffle or two over the course of the party so watch for those. Oh, and a raffle means prizes. I'm not sure what prizes but I know this, you must be present (ahem, comment) to win.

And what is a party without music? Suggest a good background party song in the comments and I'll start putting a playlist together for the party (but I promise to never have music start automatically because that is just plain annoying!).

Oh, and speaking of music. Below I've played a little game I wanted to share - it is the soundtrack of my life according to my ipod nano on shuffle. I'm curious what the result would be if I used my full itunes library rather than the condensed version but I think this one works and I don't have any acid jazz, Christmas songs or random stuff people gave me that I am always shocked is in my library to mess it up. Try it, it's fun (I'm easily entertained). Consider this your first party game (unless you hate party games, then you can just concentrate on what you are going to wear to the party. But don't worry, the party is casual so don't agonize over it. Although casual always worries me more because I don't spend a lot of time in casual wear so I don't have a lot of go to casual outfits so I spend a lot of time trying things on and piling the rejected pieces on my bed. Shoot, now I have to figure out what to wear for the open house. Ugh. Maybe I'll just come as goth girl again.)

Soundtrack of My Life
Here's how it works:

1. Open your music library

2. Put it on shuffle

3. Press play

4. For every question, type the song that's playing

5. When you go to a new question, press the next button

6. Don't lie

Opening Credits: You Make My Dreams, Hall & Oats [Awesome!]

First Day Of School: Tangerine, Led Zeppelin [I think this works well!]

Falling In Love: Love Rain, Jill Scott

Fight Song: Beautiful People, Rusted Root [really? for the fight song?]

Breaking Up: Scheherazade, Op. 36: The Tale of the Kalender Prince, Rimsky-Korsakov [pretty heart breaking actually]

Prom: Rainy Day, Guster [a bit sad for the prom but mine wasn't exactly the romantic sort]

Life's Ok: Lost Cause, Beck [ARGH! This is not a good fit]

Mental Breakdown: Elderly Woman Behind the Counter, Pearl Jam [maybe this should be switched with Lost Cause]

Driving: Mudfootball, Jack Johnson [not bad]

Flashback: Etude No. 2 in F Minor, Chopin [this is pretty fast so it would work if I'm having a jumbled flashback I guess]

Getting Back Together: Clocks, Coldplay [meh, I'm not really into Coldplay and I think this is one of only 2 songs of theirs I own]

Wedding: Ten Dollar High, Medeski, Martin & Wood [hmmm, not really wedding-ish or danceable exactly but it is upbeat and not depressing, so that's good]

Birth Of A Child: Tchfunkta, Charlie Hunter [looks like I will be having a very funky kid, awesome song, odd fit]

Final Battle: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G major, III: Presto, Prokofiev [good fit]

Death Scene: Light My Fire, The Doors [not really what I would picture but it could be worse]

Funeral Song: Ruby, Kaiser Chiefs [hmmm, a bit to upbeat and odd to be singing someone else's name at my funeral]

End Credits: Mathis der Maler: I Engelkonzert, Hindemith [I would switch this with the funeral song because it would make a great one]

See everyone at the open house!!!

p.s. I like plants . . . but of course, don't feel obligated to bring anything.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Halloween Recap

I love Halloween. And to those of you who don't love it, why don't you? There is candy and dressing up. Two things I love. If you think dressing up is just for kids then you haven't been to New York City on Halloween. Adults have pretty much taken this holiday away from the kids.

Case in point, a native NYer friend of mine told me that she only went trick-or-treating twice as a child. TWICE! And this year I opened the door to trick-or-treaters in my building a total of 5 times. The bulk of my candy was taken by my neighbors who asked if I had any left as I was leaving for the evening. Granted, my friend (the child of a dentist immigrant) may not be the typical example of a child's experience but I'm not sure how atyical that experience is so I'm going to broadly generlize and roll with the idea that Halloween in NYC - especially Manhattan, is for adults.

For one thing - there is the parade. I've never been because I hate crowds and I don't really get parades but New York's Village Halloween Parade is certainly not suitable for children. And from what I have heard, some of it is only suitable for, ahem "adults".

For another, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, not only do random costume shops start cropping up all across the City but one particular hard to categorize chain of beauty products stores turns into Halloween Central - Ricky's. Actually, it turns into Halloween Central for all of those girls dressing up in those plastic sexy nurse, sexy little red riding hood, etc. costumes.

Side note: a few years ago when I was faced with the dilemma of throwing a costume together at the last minute I decided to sort of make fun of the sexy costume craze of turning the most innocuous things into "sexy" and dressed as ironic sexy auto mechanic by wearing a pair of coveralls I bought for my high school auto shop class (wherein I learned how to ditch class after roll call with my partner by explaining to the teacher the shop was full and we had to work on our car in the parking lot) with heels and a lacy camisole. I probably added a wig to the ensemble as well. It was far from sexy what with the slouchiness of the whole thing couple with long sleeves and long pants. Yet, people either failed to catch the irony of it or actually thought I looked sexy in it and took it literally. Or, maybe the third option was they felt sorry for me for misunderstanding the definition of sexy . . . I still thought it was a funny costume.

Back to my point - Halloween in New York is geared toward adults. And it is fun! There are parties all over the city and riding the subway and walking around on Halloween dressed up is pretty much the best part. Especially when the weather cooperates as well as it did this year.

So what was I?

I had no good ideas and no great party invitations but I knew I would feel pretty bad if I let a Saturday night Halloween with relatively balmy weather slip by without an attempt to celebrate. So I decided to turn myself Goth.

It was all pretty simple (and fun!). I wore the same basic outfit I wore last year as one of those guitar girls playing back up for Robert Palmer. See the difference?

It was all about changing up the makeup and accessories. Add a wig, fishnets and some fake tattoos and instead of '80s music video, I'm goth girl! The hardest part was the makeup, which I did all on my own this year.

For the first time since I moved here, I ventured into the Halloween mecca of Ricky's. That is, I ventured in after I had to WAIT IN LINE!!! There were only two procrastinating people in front of me when I arrived around 3 pm on Halloween day. Once inside I realized that shopping early is a good thing and the enforcement of maximum capacity was necessary because it was jam packed. The already narrow aisles were made more constricted by the loads of costumes hanging everywhere. It didn't help that one guy wandering the store was dragging his rollaboard suitcase behind him. It was an unseasonably warm and humid day and inside the store it was stifling. But I found some fake tattoos, a choker and wrist band (with spikes and skulls!) and squeezed my way into the checkout line that wound its way through half the store. I picked up some black liquid eyeliner at the checkout counter and was nearly finished with my costume shopping. Across the street I bought some baby powder to brush on my face under my makeup because according to one goth makeup tip site I stumbled onto in my research, this helped get the desired paleness.

But the hardest part was the smoky eyes. Thanks to the world of internet, I got an excellent YouTube how-to demonstration I was able to sort of copy as my friend looked on. Let me tell you something about liquid eye liner, especially the black kind, it is not as easy to put on as that goth chick on the video demonstrated! Mine was smearing and smudging everywhere. Plus, I learned that the inside part of my lower lid is ticklish. That's right, it tickled to put eyeliner on there! Plus, when I blinked, it smeared all over my eyeball! I went through a lot of q-tips and eye makeup remover but ultimately managed to do this:
Here are a few more photos of the process:

The friend who gave me moral support while I was getting ready was not interested in dressing up beyond the red sweater and devil horns she was already sporting because she was overworked and not interested in the cultural experience of going to a Mormon singles Halloween dance. I don't blame her. I wasn't interested in the experience either since I have been experiencing it for essentially twenty years.

That is right, by my calculations, I have been going to pretty much the same stupid Halloween party since I was 14. And guess what? Despite the fact that I have moved around to all sorts of different locations, the dance remains the same! There is no improving on it.

And yet I go.

Why? Because that was my best option. Actually, because a friend told me she would meet me there before we went looking for another party. Also, because last year it was kind of fun. Not the case this year.

This year, I wanted to leave as soon as I stepped off the elevator and into the brightly lit hallway. That desire intensified the moment I stepped into the dark gym with the unidentifiable music blaring and the stench of sweaty bodies hit my nostrils. My friend was right in front of me and she looked bored. It was too loud to talk so we just stood there. I asked her if she wanted to walk around and she said she already did that. So we just stood there.

She said she was waiting for one other person before leaving so we went and sat on a couch in the hallway. It seemed everyone we saw was waiting for someone before they could leave. It was the most depressing party I think I have ever attended.

But her costume was fun. She was a Scare Bear. Specifically Goth Bear. So we were kind of coordinated. This picture doesn't really give the full effect to her costume but you get the idea.

As a funny sidenote (I'm full of them today), I was scanning through my Reader this morning when I saw a post title that did not jive with the blog: The New York Regional Singles Halloween Dance. The blog is a movie (and sometimes book) review site I have been reading for ages and as far as I am aware has absolutely no cross-over with Mormons ever. At first I thought I was reading it wrong, then I clicked on it and discovered it was reviewing the memoir of someone I know and that is the title of her book! Did I mention I know the author? I don't mean I know her in that we hang out and call each other and stuff but more that I know her in that we are both Mormon and have lived in NYC for a long time and our paths have frequently crossed so I know random snipits about her even though we may have never actually met officially. So I had to buy her book and I am now anxiously awaiting its arrival because I am pretty sure I will be able to relate. And if you want to know why she named her book that long and cumbersome title - watch the little video of her on that Amazon link to her book a couple of lines up and let her explain. Also, try not to fall in love with her. I now wish our paths had crossed more frequently.

Where was I? Oh yes. Once my friend's friend finally showed up (after we had moved our waiting to the couch in the lobby), we left.

But let me say one more thing about this sad Halloween dance and why it is so depressing aside from the fact that it is in a church gym full of the most socially awkward and despondent singles from the tri-state area (because it isn't just for Manhattan Mormons, some poor soles come all the way from Connecticut, Long Island and New Jersey!). It kind of represents everything that is wrong with the way I think singles are treated in my church. Like children. There are older missionary couples staked out all over the place. For what purpose? Oh, to chaperone, I'm sure. You have to sign in at the front desk with an elderly gentleman who compliments your costume and tells you to go on and have a good time. I am 34 years old and should have outgrown that sort of thing when I was 18 and old enough to move away from home. I do not understand why there are chaperones. If they are concerned with keeping random riff raff from mistakenly wandering in off the street to cause trouble, they already have a security guard at the front who should be able to attend to that. Each year you swear you won't go back but each year you realize you have no other options and find yourself there with the optimistic thought that this year it will be different and somehow better.

Once we managed to leave, the fun started. First off, we got to ride the subway! And the subway on Halloween is fun because you get to see all the crazy costumes. Oh, and show off your own:

We went to an overly crowded party where before long everyone there was a familiar face from the party at the church. So we left. I think I talked to three people.

Then we actually had fun. It was just about midnight so we staked out a table at a corner pizza place (with amazingly good pizza!) and talked about a variety of things and watched people. It was fantastic! We saw slutty girls and ghoulish guys and a cute girl dressed as a lady bug and another dressed as a lamb. We ran into the tall black guy who showed up at the Mormon party in search of free booze but was sorely disappointed to only find soda. We asked if he knew anyone or just showed up and after a minute of stammering he admitted he had crashed. Served him right to show up at the one party in the area that was dry!

And that was Halloween 2009. Next year I need to either pull myself together and throw my own party or grow up and opt out of the whole thing because despite the fact that it ended well, I mean it this time when I say I cannot face going to one more church dance.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

just like us

As you may or may not know, I am not celebrity obsessed. I don't read gossip magazines and there have been many times in my years in New York when I know I am looking at someone famous but I haven't a clue who that famous person could be.

But that is not what happened this morning. This morning I knew exactly what star I encountered, even if I was a bit reluctant to call it until someone else confirmed the sighting. But I find this is often how it is in New York - you see famous people in the most unexpected places looking altogether normal and you think "wait, that can't really be [fill in the blank with famous person]."

For example, a number of years ago my sister, her now husband and I were walking through Central Park on a bitterly cold January day. I was walking a bit ahead of the pair of them and mostly stared past the two men walking toward us until they had almost passed us. Just as the shorter man's identity registered with me, I turned around to look at my sister who quietly mouthed "Was that Sting?!?!?!?!" Yes, Erin, that was Sting. Jaymon saw the same thing we did but was not convinced - why would Sting be walking through the park with that normal looking guy? was his defense. Because stars are just like us is the answer one of those gossip magazines would have us believe.

I'm not convinced.

Although this morning's experience leads me to believe that at least one star is just like me in terms of the Duane Reade she uses to get her prescriptions filled. You know those days you roll out of bed and have to get a number of errands run and you take a chance and go out without showering or putting on makeup? You know, the days when you just pray you don't run into anyone you know because you look like you just rolled out of bed? Or maybe you are actually sick and you just need to run to the pharmacy to pick a few things up so you don't even care how you look because surviving your ailment is your only real concern. I'm kind of guessing that is how Goldie Hawn may have felt this morning.

I walked up to my pharmacy counter to pick up a couple of prescriptions and the woman behind the counter mumbled something I didn't understand as she put a number of items from the counter into a bag. There was a small red purse, a blackberry, a notebook with a scribbled list and a few other things strewn across the counter and for a minute I thought maybe someone had some sort of medical attack and had been carted off - why else would you leave all your valuables at the pharmacy counter? Then the pharmacy woman repeated that someone else is paying so I backed off to the side and waited - slightly annoyed.

A woman came back to the counter and started gathering her things. She told the girl at the register to bag the smelly things separately referring I assume to whatever mentholatum product I could smell so strongly. In retrospect, I think I recognized her voice first but it didn't really click. I was looking at her hair trying to decide if this was day two after she slept on it or if the woman had done that to her hair on purpose. It was blonde and loose but messy in a sort of fixed way. Her errand list was on really nice stationary cardstock - possibly from a fancy hotel.

When she turned to leave she was standing a foot in front of me and I thought "is that Goldie Hawn?" She looked older than I would have expected but then, I think Goldie is permanently stuck in her Overboard role for me and that movie was filmed at least a couple of decades ago so of course she would look older. As the pharmacy girl wandered off to find my prescriptions I debated in my head whether it was really her - the lips seemed too small. Hasn't she done a lot of work to her lips to make them all puffy, I thought.

As I was caught up in the "was that or wasn't that" debate in my head, a woman approached the pharmacy line and asked the two of us who were standing there "was Goldie Hawn just here?" And I said "Yes! I thought that was her!" This newcomer said she practically ran into her as she made her way down the broken escalator and around the candy aisle to the pharmacy. The third woman in line blamed her blackberry for missing the whole scene and asked how she looked. I blurted out "old" just as the other girl said "she looked great!" Am I a jerk? I then explained I just didn't expect to see her without makeup and without the big lips.

The pharmacy girl took a long time coming back with my prescriptions and my guess is she was having a similar conversation with her co-workers in the back, gossiping about how Goldie Hawn looked in real life.

I think she may have been sick. At the very least, she defintely ran out without a shower or fresh makeup. And with that in mind, I will amend my response to say, she looked good. And bravo to her for running her own errands like a normal person in her sweats. Her possibly extremely expensive designer sweats, but still.

Monday, November 02, 2009

My Weekend (in random form)

Ed.: Shoot. I just wrote a really long list style post about my weekend and when I hit publish, this is all that was left of it: UGH! It is now too late for me to start uploading the photos and re-writing it. I switched to this new editing format on blogger and it is just giving me headaches. Anyone else have problems with it? Great, it is just me. 
Well, enjoy this little excerpt from my weekend where I talk about the marathon, a headache and soup. All the parts about my costume and trick or treaters and what I'm currently reading vanished. As did the photos and they take ages to upload so I'm not re-doing that. Great first post in private land, right?

  • It made me feel bad that I missed the year when two friends were running because I was sick. (Sorry Ali and Ruby!!)

  • The friend I was with has ran a number of marathons including the NY a couple of times. She said this last mile where we were standing was sometimes the hardest so we cheered loud.

  • We got everyone around us to clap and cheer and yell along with us.

  • People wear their names on their shirts so we yelled their names and encouraged the walkers to push through to the end and got really excited when someone started running again.

  • It felt like we were contributing.

  • Only problem was I woke up with a head-ache I couldn't shake and yelling over a police barricade wasn't helping.

  • My friend and I also got in a territorial stand off with an Italian woman who didn't speak English.

  • She kept trying to squeeze us out of our viewing spots. 

  • At one point she had her elbow jabbed into my friend's ribs and my friend started yelling at her. The woman ignored her.

  • Later, when she moved to the other side of me where there was some room, she tried to take up more space by shoving into me. 

  • I still remember how to box out from my basketball days (thanks Dad!) and she decided to yell at me for standing my ground. In Italian. 

  • Good thing I'm not willing to judge all of Italy for her rudeness because she was a jerk.

  • When I started getting light-headed and slightly dizzy I walked home to try and recover.

  • I must have been dehydrated because I drank about a gallon of water in the process of nursing my head back to tolerable levels of pain.

  • And I had to cancel plans with a friend and I felt really bad.

  • So I made soup.

  • But I did something stupid (didn't cook the onions before adding them) and it didn't taste as good as I would have liked.

  • Now I have a ton of sub-par butternut squash soup in my fridge and freezer.

  • And that was my weekend.

  • I cannot believe you read all the way to the end. (Except there wasn't much to read after blogger got rid of most of it!) 

  • Thanks for logging in, hopefully my next post will be a bit more exciting.
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