Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Best thing since sliced bread

I hate wasting stuff. Why, just the other day I used only half of a salt packet and Scotch-taped it shut so I could use the other half later. While this instinct comes with its share of dubious labels (hippie, cheapskate, OCD...), it usually manifests itself positively. For example, though a dedicated lunch packer, I manage to stretch a box of Ziploc baggies for months at a time.

But what if you had kids and packed several lunches a day, 5 days a week? Imagine the waste of baggies and money! So, when last week I told Chris my idea for reusable sandwich bags, I thought we should start brainstorming ways to spend the million dollars I was about to make.

But doggone it, somebody beat me to it. The good news is that rather than waiting months for me to apply for my patent, you can just go buy some now. Behold the SnackTaxi:
Formerly known as happysacks, these babies are fully washable and have a coated lining to deal with moisture. They come in different sizes and designs, too. And wouldn't you know, they were created by a mom who was burning through Ziplocs while packing lunch for her kids.

These aren't airtight, so there is still a need for a Ziploc here and there. But I'm betting you could get some serious mileage out of these. I plan on trying a couple out!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sushi art

Wow, the sushi guys at TJ Asian Bistro on the corner of our street have really outdone themselves. We kicked off last weekend with dinner there and were served these plates:

OK, they haven't outdone themselves on the Sashimi Regular yet (nothing can top the flashing, color-changing LED lights embedded in crushed ice). But the baby's breath IS frozen into a standing sheet of ice. Pretty intense.

They've certainly outdone themselves with the regular old sushi plates:That is seaweed, drawn in a brown sauce. (I had to make these pics black-and-white because the sauce is brown. It looks delicious in person, but low lighting + iPhone photos did not convey the tastiness.) And as you eat the California rolls...
You uncover a fish! The bubbles were done in green sauce. Not sure if everyone would like seeing a fish while eating fish, but I was too overwhelmed by their artistic ambition at the time to mull that over.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Typewriter magic

In keeping with the "stories/writing" vibe Chris and I have going with our wedding, we will be typing our invitations on my grandfather's 1935 Underwood Portable, purportedly the same model Faulkner preferred. This is on generous loan to us from my grandmother. My grandfather obtained this beauty in a swap with his brother Tom. Gram cannot remember what he traded for it, but she remembers him boasting that he got the better part of the deal. Hard to imagine that he didn't: 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

File under...

Kittehs are very neat and organized pets. Here, Roger demonstrates by helping with the filing:

Belongs in here somewheres...

No, not under A...C? No...H, I, J...

I filez me under "K" for "kitteh"

Friday, March 27, 2009


Since the layoffs at work, I've been a bit lax about hitting the gym. I've just had a hard time motivating myself to go. Felt a little too heavy, a little too low. But I'm back in the saddle this week because...

1) There's nothing like getting the heart pumping and inhaling the vaguely antiseptic scent particular to gymnasiums and the Blockbuster Video shop at the Cross County Mall.

2) There's nothing as refreshing as a midday shower with L'Occitane Milk Soap.3) And mostly, there is nothing like a discounted membership to the Upper West Side Y to guilt me into getting my ass over there.

Hanging up my winter coat?

Today I left the house wearing a light jacket. The sun is shining, children are outside playing, dogs are out for walks. Could it officially be time to hang up my winter coat?

Before it is relegated to the back of the closet until next winter, I have to pay respect to my Brooklyn Industries Snug Coat. I agonized over this purchase for ages, because dropping a lot of money on one article of clothing is a tough decision for me. But I would say it was some of the best money I've ever spent.

This coat allowed me to wear a dress out on Valentine's Day and made long waits on subway platforms bearable. On long bus or train rides, it can serve nicely as a comforter. It eliminated the need to stuff long johns under fitted pants.

Yes, it does somewhat appear that I am walking down the street in a sleeping bag. However, the diagonal stitching on this baby makes it look a tad more slim-fitting than other full-length puffers I've seen. Even though I bought it late in the season, I wore it up until yesterday, and am not convinced that I won't break it out at least one more time this year.

If you, like me, commute to work in rain, shine, sleet, blizzards, or mini-hurricanes down Broadway, you NEED this coat. If your commute is a trifle less X-Treme, maybe a knee-length parka, like The North Face Artic Parka, will suit your needs (tested by my friend Jenn down in DC).

Every spring, I promptly block the preceding winter from my memory. That's the only way I'll ever get through winter again. But at the first sign of chill next year, you'll know where to score one of these coats. Trust me, you will not be sorry.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More music lessons

Orchestra humor never gets old. In honor of normal rehearsal day, a snippet from last night's Mozart run-through:

Concertmaster: "This is allegro non troppo."
Second violinist: "Yeah, allegro non stoppo."

Kiddles on the commute

Nothing better to brighten my gray, rainy commute than a pack of well-behaved 4-year olds in candy-colored rain gear.


"I went to the Museum of MODERN Art"
"Where's my nickel?"

Supercute froggie boots available here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


As a dedicated lunch packer, I felt I should give some props to my little lunch bag.

This Mario Batali tote has been serving me well. My purchase of this bag resulted directly from the destruction of my former lunch vessel, one red, insulated Big Bird satchel. Big Bird served 2 years before succumbing to utter annihilation from daily subway travel. As I bid him goodbye, it also dawned on me that it is terribly unstylish for a 25-year old woman to be carrying a Big Bird lunch box to work, no matter who her employer may be. Enter Mario.

I must say, the "persimmon" color is a bit brighter than it appears onscreen (kinda screams CAUTION: LUNCH!), but I love brightly colored things, so all is well. Plus, maybe the color deters people from stealing my food in the communal fridge at work. (And apparently orange was big in Paris for Fashion Week.) The exterior does not get dirty easily, and the tag bragged that the insulated interior is made from an eco-friendly material (edit: finally found out that the material is polyethylene foam, purportedly recyclable and CFC-free).

This keeps my lunch cool (tested during a 2-hour meeting) and tremendously cuts down on paper or plastic bag waste. As an added bonus, Mario Batali donates a portion of all proceeds from the lunch bags to The Lunchbox Auction, providing assistance to the New York Food Bank and meals to schoolchildren in Africa.

I truly love the new bag, but I would say that I have yet to find my ideal lunch bag. I slightly misjudged the strap length on this little cutie, and I have determined that shoulder straps are key for juggling violin + coffee + purse, as is sometimes necessary.

If you're on the lookout for a new lunch tote, consider the Batali bags, or maybe one of these cute options:

You can find the blue bag on etsy,
The damask-print bag on etsy,
And the purple neoprene bag is by BuiltNY.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Regal Ewok

Went to the movies in Times Square this evening. Anyone else like to refer to the Regal E-Walk as the Regal Ewok, or is that just me?

Excellent shot of the Regal by mulmatsherm on Flickr.

Write poem-trees

Just came across this snippet from Billy Collins in a book of quotations intended for kids. Maybe this was weirdly abbreviated or taken out of context?:

"I think more people should be reading it [poetry] but maybe fewer people should be writing it. . . There's an abundance of unreadable poetry out there."

With all due respect to our nation's former Poet Laureate, I strongly disagree. Maybe fewer people should be submitting their poetry to literary journals of a certain caliber, but I firmly believe that MORE people should be simply writing poetry.

This reluctance to encourage poetry writing seems widespread. I had a high school English teacher who decided to entirely forgo a poetry unit because, "If you write it, I have to read it."

I believe that poetry is undervalued as an outlet for self-expression and as a vehicle toward self-awareness. For anyone under stress or experiencing hardship or grief, writing poetry can aid tremendously in the healing process.

It is one thing to sit in a writing workshop and critique a work of poetry. The authors intend for those poems to be read and critiqued as literature. But in general, I've always found poets to be generous spirits, and I don't think any one of them would knock someone for self-expression (fiction writers are another story). So write your poem-trees, and send them my way any time at all.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Making lemonade

Let's face it, people: Times are tough. Life is doling out lemons left and right, so the only thing to do is make lemonade. Literally.

Del's Lemonade is a Rhode Island staple. My brother happens to operate one of these stores, so on my jaunt to the Ocean State this past weekend, I found out just how it's done.

You can take the lemonade on the road if you've got a couple of these babies:

Otherwise, you need to keep a tidy little shop:

And in that tidy shop, it helps if you have also just added the only hip coffeeshop in a Del's AND in the entire town:

But we're losing focus. It's truly about the lemonade:

And the ladle is key:

You need to rest it firmly in your palm and balance it evenly:
(that's Jim, the professional)

If held correctly, the ladle acts an extension of your arm...
(that's me, learning)

...allowing you to proudly serve the perfect cup of lemonade.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Music lessons

In honor of rehearsal day, a short music lesson by my stand partner, Craig.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Feed the Cat, Tuppence a Bag

If only feeding our furry and feathered friends were as easy (and cheap!) as buying a bag of bread crumbs from the iconic St. Paul’s bird lady. Now we know that feeding people food to the birds is not really good for them, and we also know more about the negative consequences of packing cat and dog foods with corn fillers and wheat gluten.

Chris and I are pretty efficient grocery shoppers, but when we hit the Pet Supplies aisle, things hit a standstill. We freeze in front of the cat food, puzzling over brands, ingredients, and prices.

We know that feeding your pets a good quality food prevents health problems, prolongs their lives, and, as an added bonus, keeps your vet bill low (hooray for “well” visits!). But what is a “good” food?

Like any concerned cat-mom, I hit the Interweb to find out. As with human nutrition, there’s a lot of conflicting information. Some sources say rice and veggies are good for a cat’s diet, others disagree. Cheaper brands are full of icky by-products, but even pricey organic brands have histories of recalls. (Begging the question: How organic is organic, anyway?)

Homemade pet foods are gaining in popularity, but since I do not eat beef or chicken myself, I can’t see purchasing these ingredients and cooking (or not cooking, as raw food diets demand) dinner for my cat. Honestly, sometimes I hardly get it together enough to make sure the boy and I get healthy dinners. And I wouldn’t trust myself to give the cat his proper balance of crude proteins, vitamins, etc. I am not a vet.

Under consideration:

Iams is an affordable, “premium” brand. However, only a few “flavors” are available, and many contain meat by-products. They make special formulas for various health conditions, but our kitty is not in need of these.

Purina Pro Plan Selects is not organic, but seems to get rave reviews for its high-quality ingredients. Sadly, I can’t find this stuff anywhere in order to try it out. I hesitate to order a case, in case Roger hates it. I'd also prefer not to rely upon having cat food shipped.

Wellness "natural" food is available at one of the specialty pet stores in our neighborhood. The price makes me a bit wary, in addition to complaints against one of their manufacturers.

We are still on the hunt for the perfect food. And that’s just wet food—grain-packed dry foods are an entirely separate headache. For now, he gets both wet and dry, in measured helpings 2x/day. Our beloved vets at the Sunnyside Veterinary Group assure us that Roger is a healthy boy…we’ll do our best to keep him that way.

Roger's belleh, for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another post about Ireland

It's been about four years since I lived next to the Corrib River. Some memories:

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

The Aran Islands

My family's 130-year old bakery, Shop Street, Galway

Flats off of the river, Galway

Blarney Castle, Cork
Man playing the whistle in archway, Belfast

Beannachtaí na Féile Páraic oraibh

You may take the shamrock from your hat
and cast it upon the sod,
but 'twill take root and flourish still,
though underfoot 'tis trod.
My grandfather used to sing me this song. Although much of this ditty is not exactly child-friendly (lots of hanging), I always sensed he was trying to impart to me something crucial about our heritage. This morning, singing this verse in the shower, the message truly clicked. I have faith that no matter how difficult things get, something in my genetic composition will kick in and enable me to not just survive, but to flourish. [title translation] A Saint Patrick's Day Blessing Upon You.

Monday, March 16, 2009

This is our life.

"I can't sleep. And now I'm keeping you awake talking about Swedish Fish and Li-Young Lee." —me to C. 

If anyone is wondering what it is like to live with your beloved, this should prove somewhat enlightening.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Today my favorite Dylan is Jakob

I got "Seeing Things" for my birthday (a granted Amazon wish!). Lovin it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Club

"But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed - because 'Thou mayest.'"

Once again, I am grateful to my Book Club for having me pick up something I might not have otherwise read. This book had been on my "Someday I'll Read That" list. Alas, the editions are a bit pricey (thanks, Oprah, for adding this to your book club and driving up the price), its 600-page heft makes it fairly subway-unfriendly.

But then it was a glorious Book Club pick! The Queens Library branch some 5 blocks from my house solved the price dilemma, and I just braved the subway. Balancing this volume and my coffee mug requires true skill. I will remember this book and its indelible characters for the rest of my life.

I just passed on my last Book Club fave to Chris, Serena by Ron Rash. Never would have found that book without Book Club.

My Book Club is thankfully not a thing like these book groups profiled in the NYTimes, full of drama and politics.

My Top 5 Favorite Things About Book Club:

1) Smart (not snotty) girls
2) Diverse and amazing book picks
3) Drinks and snacks
4) Members' pets
5) Hysterical off-topic tangents

Side note: If you're on Goodreads, friend me! I warn you that I am not very conscientious about updating my book list. I contribute the occasional brief review, mostly for myself and my own friends. The culture on the review boards can get a little snotty, so I like to keep it low-key.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Supreme Court divided on issue of apostrophe s

Hehe, fun article.
"As one of its final acts last term, the U.S. Supreme Court issued Kansas v. Marsh, a case involving the constitutionality of a state death-penalty statute. The 5-4 decision exposed the deep divide that exists among the nation's intellectual elite regarding one of society's most troubling issues -- namely, whether the possessive form of a singular noun ending with the letter 's' requires an additional 's' after the apostrophe."
full article at law.com
I happen to be firmly in favor of adding the extra s. It may get bulky, but to me the logic is almost mathematical.


Gosh darn you, Ginnifer Goodwin and Amy Adams. My desire to dye my hair brown-red or actual red now runs very deep. BUT I shall resist. I am not changing anything until after my wedding photos are taken (in case it is disastrous and takes an absurdly long time to grow out).Font size

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Donate Your Phone

I finally broke down and upgraded my cell phone in December. I stashed the old phone in my box of mysterious electronic junk, unsure of exactly what to do with it next. Since the phone still works, Jenn gave me the great idea to donate the phone to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In conjunction with The Wireless Foundation, NCADV provides phones to individuals in dangerous situations. In its new life, my Samsung SCH-A950 can become a literal lifeline for someone in an emergency. I sent my mom's old phone in, too.

NCADV provides instructions for deleting your personal data from the phone. If you're broke, they even offer prepaid postage for your donation.

Donate your phone here.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Every day on my way to work, and then again at the gym, I've been listening to my brother's epic new album, gray. This is not just a big sister brag, I promise. The sophistication of this record is blowing me away. Driving repetition. Exultant choruses. And the writing, guitar, piano, and vocals are all a one-man job (and were done at home).

The clip included here is from the track iamgray. (Not sure how he'll feel about my choosing this clip, as he mentioned he wasn't 100% happy with the vocals, but this is what I listen to every morning around 57th Street, so I had to.)

I don't need to tell most of you that my brother is an insanely proficient guitarist. Lately, he's been into exploring a more electronic sound, which I tend to shy away from in my own listening habits. What I've learned from this album is that when electronic sounds are treated as true instruments, I really love the added dimension. Sometimes I think they're just used to make a point and mess with perceptions—music from the head, not the heart.

There is so much to hear on this album. There is clearly a lot of care put into the instrumentation, but it doesn't feel overthought. It's unaffected.

I wouldn't call gray an "electronic" album altogether, though. The range showcases an unusual versatility and adds accessibility...a little something for everyone, from an ardent audiophile, with love.

Among his influences: The Beatles, 65daysofstatic, Telefon Tel Aviv, NIN, Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age, Atmosphere, Massive Attack. I also find traces of Snow Patrol and/or Coldplay in my favorite tracks.

You can check out his MySpace, MyElectricLife.

Recommended tracks: Pistol, Circumstance, iamgray

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Birthday Weekend

I already posted a birthday post, but I have to write another to stress just how fantastic it's been.

Key Lime Pie. Made by Chris. Men who bake = sexy.

Rock Band 2 for Wii. My parents are awesome. Also got some Wii games from Chris...guess everyone decided to help me celebrate 25 by reminding me that I'm actually 5. :-D

Cats love birthdays because they come with paper, ribbon, and boxes.

Claret Wine Bar in Sunnyside, and all of the lovelies (the "Easy People") who came out to celebrate with me. Particularly my cousin Patrick, who came the farthest.

And also hooray for: The Nields, sandwiches at Piano's, Bass Ale, cards in the mail, books in the mail, e-cards, original personalized birthday songs, chocolate truffles, Emmylou Harris, old school Mario games, and purring cats who don't even know they're making your day.