Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Heart DR

It’s September and we’re back in the swing of things over here—the sand has been shaken from my favorite carry-all, while the pup has resumed lounging upon the cushiest spot in the apartment.


In other words, a most successful transition from summer into September, which is beyond compare in New York. But wait! What’s this I’ve come home to? A new and improved DuaneReade on 57th and 3rd? And another at Union Square? What, pray tell, is going on here?

By now, many of you are probably familiar with (read: sick of) my urban drugstore lament. So to say I was skeptical of DuaneReade’s snazzier stores that promised better lighting and larger footprints would be an understatement. Of the decade.

I decided to investigate these retail goings-on. You know, really get to the bottom of what could only be another disappointment to my drugstore dreams. The writing and editing, as you can see, was really flowing that day.

And this is what I found: drugstore nirvana. I kid you not. There’s not even a whisper of sarcasm to those words. As I skipped through the wide, inviting aisles of the splashy, new Union Square DR, past the expanded offerings of beverages, candies and toiletries (that weren’t locked up!), I came to the food section. Yes, you read that correctly, a food section. And I’m not talking about a tiny shelf that leans to one side and holds a meager sampling of stale, generic-brand pretzels.

I’m talking gourmet.

There were four shelves of Eli’s bread. A refrigeration section that was stocked with, among other delectables, Fage Greek yogurt, four flavors of Siggi’s Icelandic-style yogurt, Ronnybrook milk and cage-free vegetarian-fed eggs. I did a twirl by the freezer cases to discover Cacadian Farms organic vegetables—peas, broccoli, corn and winter squash. I broke out in a full Snoopy dance down other aisles containing Harney & Sons tea, R.W. Knudsen pure juices, 10 different kinds of Sarabeth’s preserves, and Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter. DuaneReade had transformed itself into a one-stop shop for delicious treats!

All it took was a summer. The summer of 2010 will go down in the history books as the season where the most reviled and entrenched chain store in this city’s landscape became one of the most welcome addition in decades. Take that D’Agostino!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

It's that time of year when everyone is wringing out the last drops of summer.

For many, these days signal back-to-school, which means leaving whatever philanthropy they've been doing, or perhaps part-time job. Maybe summer sports are coming to a close. Regardless of the sunny pursuits these last few months, it's no doubt time to try on those new fall clothes.

For me, this time of year means firing up the grill as many times as possible and making the most out of moments like these:




Here's hoping your final summer moments are just as special as the first ones were.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Kiss Off

This is the thing about being from Cleveland: We’re fanatically loyal.

If you happen to move away, you carry your hometown with you everywhere. You shoulder your sports teams’ tragedies and triumphs (no matter how fleeting, how many decades play out in between any modest victory). You develop clever retorts to snickers, and yes, slurs, about where you come from. But no matter what is said, no matter if it’s someone from Jersey mocking where you grew up, you defend Cleveland to the ground. We’re a freakishly devoted tribe that way.

And, yes, we live and die by our sports teams. We suffer the slings and arrows. Perhaps you’ve heard, we endure a curse.

So when LeBron James serves as ring master to his own three-ring ego circus, complete with an hour-long, journalistically questionable, fawn-fest on ESPN to tell the world “The Decision” he’s made to bolt to Miami, it hurts. It hurts bad. It wasn’t so much a decision as it was The Kiss Off to Cavs fans everywhere. And that pain wasn’t just felt in northeast Ohio: We’re in New York and Chicago too—hell, we’re even in Miami. We’re not James’s fans—we’re Cavs fans. We are Clevelanders.

This morning is a rough one. Like so many others, I’m hurt and angry. I feel betrayed. I’m supremely sad for Cleveland, for our revitalization that people have been working so hard on for so long and especially for the Cavs, who have been knocking at the door, so close to having it opened for them. It’s devastating to think of the time the Cavs are going to need in order to recover and rebuild. There were loads of unfortunate decisions made by the team brass that helped put the Cavs in this spot—lackluster acquisitions, kowtowing to a child king when guidance from a seasoned veteran was what was needed. Right now, all we can do is shake our heads in disbelief that this is happening to another one of our teams. Again.

But what really stings today, what really makes the heart ache is the utter disregard for a loyal fanbase, for a city that embraced a player so completely. LeBron’s Mickey Mouse marketing firm stomped on hearts to repackage and sell himself to a bigger, flashier city. If leaving was The Decision, have some dignity about it. Do it with minimum fanfare, with a tip of the hat to the fans and the city who have loved you for so long. Show some respect, and, above all, demonstrate how appreciative of you are to have played for Cleveland fans, to have represented us.

LeBron did none of this. His comments to the moon-eyed ESPN talking heads centered around what he’d given Cavs fans, how he’d shown them something they’d never seen. His words were more than hurtful, they illustrated with screaming clarity a lack of humility and a dearth of grace. Every truly great king knows that you have to be benevolent to your subjects. Instead, LeBron orchestrated an event lacking any semblance of class or regard. And that is unforgiveable. That, simply put, is Art Modellian.

LeBron’s show last night was a giant EF YOU to all us loyal fans. Perhaps this isn’t surprising. He’s from Akron, after all.

He’s not really one of us.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Room With a View

When you live in Manhattan, you put up with a lot: congestion, noise, a city that is unrelenting in every way. But when it comes to real estate, you’ll put up with anything.

The building where I used to live had an elevator that was small. Smaller than your usual small elevator. So small that I had to have my brand new couch sawed in half in order to stuff it into said elevator.

My apartment wasn’t much bigger than that elevator, mind you. It was a studio and, as far as studios go here, on the cozy side—real estate parlance for “uncomfortably small.” No matter, it was mine. I didn’t care that I had to climb up to my bed, or that my refrigerator was so small you had to bend down to open it. Or that I had to pay two broker's fees for 250 feet of personal space.

And this is why.


This view.


This building.


This roommate.


For a slice of sky like this, you’ll do most anything.

Including cut furniture in half.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Make It Right Already

BP’s spectacular futzuppery throughout every moment of the Gulf crisis had become the stuff of legend. Horrible, cataclysmic, environmental legend. The degree of criminal ineptitude, the callous disregard for entire ecosystems and human life, as well as the failed handling of every aspect of BP’s “response” is hard to quantify. Much like the amount of oil spewing from the underwater oil geyser that the company unearthed.

There are 5,000 barrels of oil gushing per day—no wait, make that 10,000. I mean 12,000. That’s wrong, it’s more like 15,000. Hang on, multiply the first number by 2. No, I mean, 6. Make that 12. To be precise, the daily amount of oil furiously pushing up from the Gulf seabed is in the neighborhood of HolyChristAlmightyThisIsn’tReallyHappening. Give or take a few thousand barrels.

We’re in week eight of the worst environmental disaster in US history. BP’s response? It has thrown golf balls at the oil. It’s tossed garbage at it. It’s circled ships around the general vicinity of the underwater oil volcano—not in any manner that’s made a lick of difference in stopping the mad, underwater crude flow, mind you—but, hey, those ships are out there. It started a blog that's all about how they're going to "Make It Right." It told the public that it wasn’t a big spill, that there wasn’t a plume of any sort and that, at the end of the day, that oily vomiting gash in the ocean’s floor wouldn’t affect much of anything. The ocean, you see, is a very big place.

In recent days, we’ve learned about BP’s cutting of corners, the neglected safety measures and the permitted lapses that could very well have prevented this “nightmare” drill site from becoming the environmental nightmare that it is today.

But this horrific disaster is but an aberration, according to the oil patch fat cats who descended upon Washington D.C today to point fingers at BP and tsk tsk their way out of having their operations watched or regulated. Safeguards are in place, they told a Congressional panel. The need only be followed and that unfortunate bit of business that befell BP’s oil rig would be avoided, they assured.

Thing is, those so-called safeguards that the industry puts in place on paper are identical. One Congressman read each company’s plan prior to today’s hearing and noticed that they even use the same wording. Why? Because they’re all outsourced: The paper safeguards are scribbled down by some paper-pushing firm who Xeroxes the “safety plan” and mails them en masse to oil companies, which in turn put those “plans” to use. As paperweights. Or doorstops, I’m not sure which. From what I’ve read, they probably aren’t even good for such pedestrian tasks.

One thing is certain, those plans aren’t much use in preventing the kind of widespread devastation that we’re seeing down in the Gulf. Sadly, we have proof of that.

For this post’s kicker, I defer to Aziz Ansari’s recent performance.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Good Walk Spoiled

It’s that time of year again, the season where it’s reaffirmed that I’m the worst golfer on the eastern seaboard. How bad, you ask? Let’s go to the tape.

video

Notice the purposeful approach, the patient, quiet swing and the utter grace exhibited. It’s not like this video happened to capture some rare “Oh my God you’re not going to believe this” occurrence on the course. This kind of stuff happens on every hole I play, no matter where I play. Mini golf included.

Soon I shall begin taking lessons—again. I will vigilantly practice some more. And after a few months of hacking around, chewing up each fairway with a five iron or a hybrid—or a five iron hybrid, if such a thing exists—a video will be shot of me playing only slightly better than what you’ve just witnessed.

In retrospect, I think maybe Mark Twain was right.

Friday, May 14, 2010

LeHeartbreak

Can't even muster up the words for a serviceable post mortem this morning.

I'm that depressed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Seventh Stage

So, it really happened. I see it for what it is now: a team that went out and came up short. It happens, even to the Cavs, a team that I still cheer for and will continue to cheer for.

Sometimes you gotta make lemonade out of situations in life. You gotta put lipstick on a pig. Dress up a corpse. Wait, I don’t think that last one fits. Anyway, point being, you just have to accept things as they are and look toward the future with hope and gratitude.

And so, I will be ready for Thursday’s game in Boston. I’m certain the Cavs are going to digest Tuesday’s devastating loss, regroup and then Bring It tomorrow. At least, that’s what I hope.

As for LeBron, yeah, I still hope he stays in Cleveland. I hope he’s not lured away by a bigger-city team that shall remain nameless. But all I can do is hope and accept what is.

The seventh stage of grief is…well, it just is.

Go Cavs.

The Sixth Stage

I’m so depressed.

The sixth stage of grief is the hardest.

The Fifth Stage

Fucking hell.

Are you kidding me, LeBron? Are you flippin’ kidding me? With your piss-poor performance, your lackadaisical lumbering up and down the court, your ineffectual bullshit in and outside the paint? Are you fucking kidding me?!

And you, Mo, what the fuck?! What are you even doing out there? Shaq scores more points than you! Christ, my three-and-a-half year old niece could score more! My dog could! You bring the ball down the court just fine, but then you get close to the basket and come down with a case of “Oh-my-flippin’-lord-what-the-fuck-do-I-do-now?-Just-get-rid-of-it!-Just-get-rid-of-it!” and throw the ball away like it’s diseased. You’re not playing a game of hot potato, Mo. Set up a play. At the very least, pass the ball to someone else who can make the shot.

Oh wait, there’s no one to pass to! That’s right, because no one can make the shots!

As for you, Coach Brown, you have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! What did you say to the team at half time? Did you read nursery rhymes? Make everyone some warm milk to drink? Because you inspired a bunch of alleged professional basketball players to head out to the court and sleepwalk their way through the second half. Bang up job, Mike.

You know what, LeBron? Just leave. Don’t even show up in Boston. We all know you’re outta here—that’s exactly how you play. You want to come to New York, you traitorous ego-saurus? Fine. Leave all the comforts of home. Leave your hometown. Leave a city who loves you. But remember, the Knicks suck and they will still suck when you come. At some point, the big city lights will stop dazzling you and you’ll be saddled with the albatross that is the Knicks. Still sucking.

A pox on you all!

The fifth stage of grief is the hardest.

The Fourth Stage

Jesus, it’s because I didn’t wash the jerseys.

The Cavs lost because I didn’t wash the jerseys. Oh my God. I said I was going to wash them and then I didn’t, and husband and I sat there wearing those jerseys, with loss and defeat just clinging to those polyester fibers, ruining any chance the Cavs had. I caused this. Oh my God, I feel horrible.

Christ, I also didn’t eat a powerbar last night, like I did during Friday’s legendary game. I tried to recreate everything…oh my God, I also didn’t keep the kitchen light on the entire game. Dear God. I can’t believe I did this.

The fourth stage of grief is the hardest.

The Third Stage

Oh, God, why couldn’t this have happened to me? Why couldn’t I have shouldered a career loss instead of the Cavs?

I’m a writer, for crying out loud—loss is my currency! I’m a veritable professional at rejection, wayward dreams and crushed hopes! I could have handled the career setback and then the Cavs could’ve gone on to win and then we’d be going to Boston and we’d win that one and it would be so happy, so joyous.

Why couldn’t it have been me?

The third stage of grief is the hardest.

The Second Stage

Last night’s loss couldn’t have happened! There’s no way LeBron mailed it in before setting foot on the floor. There’s no way the Cavs put up zero defense and a pitiful offense. There’s just no way. No way did this happen. Look at the Cavs’ regular season record! We have the league MVP on our team, for Pete's sake!

Ok, I just checked the sports section of The Times, which reported that the Celtics beat the Cavs. Roundly. But, I mean, c’mon, that’s The Times—a total rag of a paper. Can’t trust anything that the Gray Lady says. Really.

Well, looks like The Plain Dealer is reporting the same thing. It’s impossible. No way did the Cavs douse the hopes and dreams of every Clevelander like a bunch of inept boy scouts who threw water on the cozy campfire of victory. No way did I just use that metaphor. This can’t be happening.

The second stage of grief is the hardest.

The First Stage

I don’t know what to say this morning, the darkest of dark mornings, except that I’m in shock, wrapped up in a thick cocoon of disbelief.

That didn’t really happen last night, did it? The Cavs didn’t get spanked in spectacular fashion on their home court last night—did they? LeBron didn’t check out moments after tipoff, did he? Mo Williams didn’t miss shot after shot, right?

Tell me LeBron didn’t just play his last game as a Cavalier, giving a performance that was painfully...cavalier.

The first step of grief is the hardest.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

We Are All Witnesses

I don’t know if I should even be writing about this—we’re in a precarious situation here and who knows what’s going to tilt the scales one way or another. Wearing the jersey? Husband wearing the jersey? Pup donning his team wear? What will allow LeBron & Co. to win tonight? Because, obviously, what two adults and a puppy wear in New York City is going to control the outcome of tonight’s game against Rondo—I mean, the Celtics.

If this seems odd to you, a bit insane, then you’re not from Cleveland. You didn’t grow up with the constant hanging-in-the-balance feeling that whatever you ate or wore, whoever you talked to and when you talked to them, would have some bearing on whether your professional sports team won or lost. There have been games where I wouldn’t answer the phone for fear that it would be someone from home, thereby jinxing a win. This, of course, became an issue at times when I was sure not talking to anyone from Cleveland would secure a win and my mom (in Cleveland) was certain that she needed to touch base with me and my sister in order for our team to win. It all gets very complicated, you see.

Which is why I’m dithering about this morning (game time is at 8 p.m., no time to waste), pacing to and fro, wondering what we should be wearing (and when—you don’t always start the game with the jersey on…sometimes you need something to turn to if things go badly) and what we should be eating.

There’s also the tricky matter of trying to recreate an entire mood from a previous win. Take, for example, Friday’s game: utter Cavs perfection, right? Well, husband wasn’t home for the first half of the game. So does that mean I need to banish him from the apartment for the first half to ensure the Cavs win? I can’t do that to my husband, who knew full well that the “for better or for worse” portion of our vows included being saddled with Cleveland sports teams. On the other hand, he’s a Mets fan, so maybe he’d understand…

I even considered including in this post a picture of us all decked out in our team gear during last year’s playoffs. Of course, you know how that turned out (the series, not our outfits), so including such a picture today of all days would be tantamount to…you know what? I can’t even finish that sentence, because if I did, maybe that horrible thing would come true and I would have ruined everything for tonight's game!

Maybe I need to buy new shirts. I mean, the Cavs can’t possibly be expected to win with us wearing team jerseys purchased last year—the year they lost! Those things are expensive though, so that can’t be the answer. I think a good washing and drying will have to do. Along with some sort of spiritual cleansing involving incense and chanting. Possibly candles.

I’m going to post this so I can go watch Major League. Yeah, I know the movie is about an entirely different sport. Doesn’t matter—I’m trying everything today.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Worry Monster

I’ve noticed that I tend to focus—some might say obsess—over things when the writing is clunking along like a car missing a wheel. But I don’t sweat feverishly over the words, the turns of phrase, the story arc. No. I panic about the pooch.

For those who haven’t met the pup, he’s the happiest little thing on four paws: tongue always a wag, ready for cozies at a moment’s notice. He is the personification of joy and love.


So when he doesn’t eat with his usual pup verve (and, ok, I’m in the thick of a tricky edit), I grow a tad worried. Nothing major, mind you. I just wonder if everything’s ok with his gastrointestinal business. That’s all.

Really.

Cool-as-cucumber husband will entertain my cursory concern for a day or so with an “Oh,” and “Uh huh,” unwilling to feed the beast that is my worry monster. But the worry monster demands to be fed. Another day passes and I’m still blathering on about how the pup isn’t running to his dish. Another day, another serving of my worry monologue. It will continue like this for days.

Of course, I eventually come to my senses and realize that it’s the dish! So I try out a new dish. Four different new dishes. No, it’s not the dish. I’m being ridiculous. It’s the food! I buy a new bag of food. So foolish, because clearly the pup wants a little moisture on his dry kibbles! So I start sprinkling water over top his food, setting it down with a magnificent TaDa!

Pup just looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind.

Which, of course, I haven’t, because I know he’s not interested in his food because I haven’t done an enticing enough dance for him before meal time. I haven’t sang to him his Chompy Chomp song in just the right key to whet his appetite. It’s all wrong!

After 10 days of this, husband calmly suggests that perhaps the pup just eats a little less now that he’s exiting the puppy phase of development.

No, it’s the song and dance routine that’s all wrong. That and the moisture content. I start leaving the dish a little damp—not too damp, mind you, just a little damp—in hopes that this will tip the balance of the million variables that determine whether or not Precious Pup eats.

Husband suggests that I talk to my sister-in-law. She’s the family Dog Whisperer, so whatever she was going to tell me would crack this mystery for sure. Sister-in-law/Dog Whisperer suggests that maybe it’s the time of day that I was sprinkling water on the food that was all wrong. No wait, it’s the outfit I was wearing at the time of said sprinkling. Scratch that. It’s more likely that the moon was in the third house and when that astrological phenomenon takes place, dogs just don’t eat.

I think that last one was sarcasm.

Naturally, my next step is to take the pup to the vet. Surely she will feed my worry monster! The vet looks at me, gives the pup a full and thorough examination, then says he’s fine. She even weighs him—he’s exactly where he was two months ago. The vet takes his temp; it’s A-OK. Then she says that the pup is perfectly healthy and is probably only eating a bit less because he’s exiting the puppy phase of development.

And then I realize it. It cannot be more clear: Husband and the vet are in cahoots.

Not to mention I still have a load of editing to do.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Stop Ahead

Maybe you missed it, but among the day’s pressing news stories—Greece’s continued, sloppy skid into financial turmoil, the latest sordid and inept goings on with New York Governor David A. Patterson, and The Orange’s surprising and utterly depressing collapse—there was this nugget, courtesy of the New York Post: Michael Lohan is vying for a reality show.

It’s good. Better than good, really. Borders on brilliant. Here’s the high concept pitch: Cram Jon Gosselin’s ex-girlfriends into an RV and send them careening across the US.

Seriously, I’m not making this up.

As a nation, we love us a good road trip. From Road Rules to Amazing Race, networks have struck gold time and again with people traveling. And not just the networks, film studios love them with equal verve. The early 1980s gave us Cannonball Run—a madcap romp starring Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Terry Bradshaw, among others. Then there was Cannonball Run Two. Followed by Cannonball Run Three. Which was, if memory serves, the launching pad for the much-acclaimed Smokey and the Bandit franchise.

The point is that we’ve been there. We’ve done that. So, please, please television people, do not give this cross-country catfight a moment’s consideration. Our television psyche couldn’t handle it. Isn’t it bad enough that Kate Gosselin is on Dancing With the Stars? (Again, who is watching that show?) If nothing else, don’t disturb the traffic on Route 66—or, Route 50, if they really want to do the true coast-to-coast thing. I’m guessing after about 100 miles, it really won’t matter what highway they’re on.

Road rage will take on a whole new meaning.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sleep Shopping

Would you believe it if I told you that I fell asleep Sleeping Beauty-style on February 15th and awoke this morning to the realization that I’d slumbered for six weeks straight?

I know, neither would I.

And yet, I’m going with that as my excuse for not blogging. Really, it’s as good as any.

Seems in my slumber I bought a bed for the pup.


Your thoughts....


Too big?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Birdie Lovin'

I've been doing a lot of editing of late, which is to say I’m spending an inordinate amount of time staring out my window. Specifically, this one.


What I’ve noticed is that the ledge on the building next door is a pick-up spot of sorts for pigeons. Manhattan’s native bird favors this particular lip of brick when they feel like cruising for a date. It’s quite sweet to watch, really.

They gather.



Talk their pigeon talk.


Even share a smooch.


Mon dieu!


Scratch that. Turns out I live next door to a birdie red light district. Maybe it's the day, the amore in the air. Either that or this ledge is the feathered equivalent of Times Square circa 1987.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Winterless Wonderland

My boots are out. The puppy’s winter wear is at the ready. And I’ve stocked up on the essentials (cheese and chocolate). The family is ready for Winter Storm Watch 2010!

Of course, I was ready last weekend too. Could hardly contain my excitement, in fact. And for what? A flurry that didn’t even rival a mild case of dandruff. The depth of last weekend’s disappointment simply cannot be described.

Which is why I’m trying to temper my expectations for tomorrow’s snowfall. However, hailing from the snow belt of Cleveland—which does snow with the best of them—this is difficult. When I was growing up and the forecast was for snow, you can bet you were getting snow. And it would take a gargantuan amount of snow to close school—it needed to be measured in feet. A foot of snow wasn’t going to cut it. Most times, two feet wouldn’t either. The governor of Ohio actually had to call my school district’s superintendent once to get him to close school one particularly horrible winter. That’s how accustomed we were to huge amounts of snow.

I miss those winters. Of course, snowy weather is always more fun when you’re a kid and don’t have to go to work. I get that. But it does little to diminish my intense disappointment in Manhattan winters. More than a decade and a half of lousy snowfall here (save a few glorious snowstorms here and there) has me positively nostalgic for blizzard conditions.

I’m trying to stay positive as I arrange my mittens and haul out my snow pants. And the glove warmers I’ve been holding all day like a rabbit’s foot? They’re for good luck.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Veggie Love

I started a love affair with kale yesterday. You think I’m speaking hyperbolically, but I’m not. I love kale's green leafy fabulousness with everything that I am.

I haven’t always had this love. Actually, I’ve avoided kale for years now. I’ve gone out of my way to be sure I never put it in my shopping basket. My refrigerator crisper has remained steadfastly—and, on certain days, quite proudly—a kale-free zone.

No longer.

And this is why: Kale ROCKS.

I’m not even going to go into the nutritional aspect: It’s green, it’s leafy, you get the picture. I love kale on taste alone, which means only one thing: Our love was meant to be.

How, you ask, did I make the journey from shunner of kale to ardent paramour? After a bunch of the stuff made its way into my shopping basket this weekend (unbeknownst to yours truly), I decided to make a little lunch with it yesterday. After consulting with Queen Kale (my sister) as to the ins and outs of this leafy wonder, I improvised a little dish that was so good I had to share (read: proselytize). Below, the recipe.

Oh, first, I should mention that I added some homemade roasted tomatoes that I happened to have in the fridge to my kale wonder dish, so I’ve included that recipe as well. Roasted tomatoes are a cinch to make and they’re great to have around so you can add them to all kinds of savory dishes (or put on a piece of crusty bread…or plop atop a wedge of parmesan). Without further ado, the steps to kale nirvana:

What you need:
1 bunch kale
1 large shallot
1 clove garlic
About 1 cup chicken stock (I used Pacific Natural Foods organic low sodium—delish)
Roasted tomatoes—8 halves or so (see recipe below)
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

What you do:
Take one bunch of washed, trimmed kale and chop it into thin strips. In a large sauté pan, sauté one large diced shallot and smashed garlic clove (which you remove at the end) in olive oil (add salt and pepper) for just a couple minutes. Then, put the big frizzy mass of kale into the pan, drizzle the chicken broth over top, add some more salt for good measure and then cover.

I checked my kale after about 7 minutes or so, gave it a stir and taste (adding more salt, natch) and it was fantastic. To make it even better, chop the roasted tomatoes and add them. Cover to warm through, check seasoning and enjoy! Another terrific finisher would be a squeeze of lemon or a liberal dusting of parmesan.

Ok, for the roasted tomatoes:

What you need:
Plum tomatoes—the ones that have no taste—any number (I typically make a big cookie sheet of these things, so figure on 10-15 tomatoes.
Dried oregano
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

What you do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with either a silpat mat or tinfoil. Cut plum tomatoes in half lengthwise and take out all the seeds (leaving the center membrane). Because I hate stems, or even the semblance of them (it’s completely weird, I know), I also remove that tippy top dimple where the stem used to be attached. Do not by any means feel like you should follow this step that borders on the insane.

Next, put all the tomato halves cut-side up on the baking sheet. Liberally drizzle olive oil all over—and I mean liberally. What will come out of the oven will be a rich, tomato-y olive oil that you can flavor countless things with (barley, pasta, veggies, fish, meat…a wedge of parmesan—do you see a theme here?), so don’t be chintzy with your drizzle. Sprinkle salt, pepper and dried oregano over top. Pop the whole sheet into the oven for about an hour. Every oven is different, so check your tomato babies a couple times, turning the baking sheet if necessary. Also, you might find that they need more than an hour or perhaps less. When they start to turn a little brown around the edges, that’s typically when I take them out. Let cool on sheet, then store (along with all remaining olive oil—don’t let that stuff go to waste!) in a plastic container in the fridge.

I’m well aware that I’m hardly the first person to try kale, much less have an inkling of what to do with it. So why an entire post about it? What can I say…I’m giddy with happiness over my new veggie steady.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Survivors Ready?

There’s something about wind and rain that makes Manhattan feel like an episode of Survivor. When Mother Nature feels peevish, it’s everyone for themself on this island.

Take today. The skies are a dreary gray. Actually, they’re a similar shade as that gray Crayola you never used, the one that always stayed super sharp (unlike Midnight Blue or Carnation Pink, which were quickly worn dull). The rain thrashes you from every side, thanks to the quickly shifting gale-force winds, rendering umbrellas completely useless. Everyone is poorly equipped to handle the elements. And everyone is grumpy. Like impacted-molar grumpy.

So, my challenge today was to get to a morning appointment without looking like I swam there. It wasn’t easy. With no warning whatsoever, my umbrella flipped up—not once, but twice—into a triple-back aerial flip. It was frightening move of spindly metal and cheap black nylon that nearly stabbed a passerby in the process. Actually, two passersby.

I arrived at my destination only modestly wet, not a hint of Tammy Faye Baker eye and my umbrella, amazingly enough, still working. Immunity was within reach!

Of course, there was the walk home, which was even more trying. At this point, the rain was pelting the ground in fat, powerful drops and the wind had escalated to Wizard of Oz strength. I was outside for less than two minutes when my umbrella decided it was really a tulip and damnit if it wouldn’t be recognized as such. I heard something about “Flower Power” and then the entire thing flipped heavenward and I was left trying to stay dry holding a giant dripping black tulip above me. That lasted a block until I shoved my umbrella-cum-nylon flower in the garbage can and decided to make a run for the nearest DuaneReade, which was two blocks away. That crazed woman you saw running down Second Avenue? It was me.

You know how in movies the rain comes down in uniform sheets and you think smugly to yourself, “Oh, that looks so fake. Rain doesn’t come down in sheets like that. If I were making a movie I would at least wait for a rainy day to get an authentic shot.” Well, I’m here to report that yes, rain in fact does pour down in sheets. Massive, sopping wet sheets.

I made it into the DuaneReade, picked up another umbrella, saying a silent prayer that this one too didn’t think it was a flower, paid for it and headed back into the contest before anyone else won. How I wanted to secure some shelter! Maybe some giant palm leaves, or bamboo. God, what I wouldn’t do for some flint and the ability to make fire! There was a perfect nook—with an overhang!—near this antique shop. Christ, would this challenge never end?

Eventually, I did make it home. To my warm apartment. That has a roof. And a stocked refrigerator. But let me tell you, it was close.

Fortunately, I’m not the least bit dramatic.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It’s Get Hit By a Bike Messenger Week

Ok, not really. GHBABMW doesn’t take place until late spring, but I’m thinking the calendar might have changed or something (is 2010 a leap year?) because this week I’ve seen too many near-misses with renegade messengers.

Ten years ago I participated in Get Hit By a Bike Messenger Week. Unwillingly, of course. It was a warm spring night—a Thursday, if memory serves—and I had just left a couple of friends to walk home to my teeny tiny studio apartment. There was a fun little company get together after work and then a few of us went this gourmet French fry place in Chelsea to eat an obscene amount of fries. It was warm evening and almost the weekend—it was just one of those moments where you simply love living here.

I stopped at the corner of 23rd and Sixth Avenue, waited for the light to change, paused until I saw the little white illuminated walker flash on the crosswalk indicator, and then stepped off the curb to cross Sixth Avenue and continue east on my way home. I took two steps before BAM! I was plowed over by a bike messenger barreling south on Sixth Avenue. (For those of you who don’t live in New York, Sixth Ave is a one-way avenue that runs, you guessed it, north.) Actually, “plowed over” isn’t exactly right, because the impact of the bike threw me up into the air like a pale, skinny rag doll and smack down into the middle of 23rd Street.

Now, you’d think that anyone who had a) been riding his bike the wrong way down a one-way street, and b) continued through the intersection without slowing up even though he didn’t have the right of way, and c) oh yeah, ran somebody down, would be a little apologetic. A tiny bit remorseful. But this was a New York Bike Messenger and not only wasn’t he going to help me up, he was going to yell at me while I was splayed on the pavement. Because, that’s just what they do.

But this bike messenger didn’t realize the self-righteous wrath, the screaming fury of denouncement, the polysyllabic bitchiness that a pale, skinny rag doll girl can muster up. Even when she’s lying in the middle of 23rd Street. Suffice it to say, Bike Messenger’s demeanor quickly turned. He helped me up, apologized profusely and handed me his business card “in case I needed anything.”

So, the moral of the story is, always look both ways when crossing the street. Lest you too become an unwilling participant in Get Hit By a Bike Messenger Week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good Reads

Forget Must See TV. I’ve got a handful of Must Read Books for you:

This is Where I Leave You
by Jonathan Tropper
This is nothing short of a brilliant romp and terrific read. The setting: Judd Foxman’s family comes home to sit shiva for their father…who was an atheist. Foxman, who just lost his wife (to his boss) and his job, is plunged into a sea of familial dysfunction. It’s darkly hilarious and poignant, by turns. You will not be disappointed.

Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves

by Andrew Ross Sorkin
Ok, I’m not even half-way through this book and I’m already recommending it to everyone who will listen. Seriously—I’ve told my dog about it. The title spells out the subject matter: i.e. what happened when the financial world started circling the drain two years ago. But what the title doesn’t tell you is that this is a meticulously reported, brilliantly narrated, behind-the-scenes look at what was really going on. It reads like fantastically crafted suspense fiction…only it’s a true story. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Lake of Dead Languages: A Novel

by Carol Goodman
This is one of those books that after you’ve put it down you can’t wait to pick it back up; it envelops you in a mood and leaves you craving another page, another chapter. The writing is positively lyrical—sparse, yet powerful. If you could read film noir, it would be this book. A perfect winter read.


Finally, I have a couple good friends you have written two terrific books. I know I’ve told some of you about them, but for those of you who I haven’t, here they are:

Inside Rupert’s Brain

by Paul La Monica
This is a spectacularly told analysis of Rupert Murdoch—what drives him and how he’s built his media company into a veritable global powerhouse. It’s particularly relevant, given how Murdoch’s kingdom is growing and the role of media in society is ever-changing. La Monica is a veteran reporter who's seen it and analyzed it all. Here, he's at the top of his game—hands down, there is no one better to tell the story of Murdoch.

The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents

by Stacey L. Bradford
This is absolutely a must read if you have kids, are thinking of having kids or know anyone who has kids. Why? Because there’s precious little good information out there on the financial challenges that new parents face. Bradford, a veteran personal finance reporter and expert, tackles every topic of childrearing from a financial standpoint. Even better, she does it in an engaging, conversational manner that is her trademark style. This is a terrific book that’s sharply reported and wonderfully written.


So, my Q to everyone is, do you have a Must Read Book? If so, do tell!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nincompoops R Us

Can NBC do anything right? Answer: No.

I should just end this post right there, because the story is so obvious, so in-your-face that, frankly, to devote more ink to it would be a shame. And yet I’m going to anyway.

For those of you who haven’t chronicled every excruciating moment of NBC inching its way closer to the crapper (or, watched as much TV as me), a recap: NBC promised The Tonight Show to Conan, a show that Jay had. NBC gave said show to Conan, bumped Jay to some odd variety show in the ghost land of a time slot that is 10 p.m., then, as ratings in every category cratered (more on that in a minute), it decided to give Jay his old 11:35 time slot back, moving Conan’s show, The Tonight Show, to 12:35, or tomorrow.

The Jay/Conan/NBC ClusterFutz is but a snapshot of the Futzupery that is corporate decision making at the Peacock Network. This is the station that’s home to Law & Order SVU, a beyond-tired franchise, Mercy, a show you’ve never seen, and Heroes, which, inexplicably, is still on the air. Good ratings, in other words, are not this network's specialty.

Indeed, the only good decision NBC ever made was keeping 30 Rock, one of the best half-hour shows on TV today, in my opinion. I will also say that I’m a fan of Parks & Recreation, The Office and Chuck. Although my world wouldn’t be rocked if I didn’t see any of them again. 30 Rock is another story, mind you.

But let’s not forget that NBC is also the network that aired Lipstick Jungle and The Philanthropist. With regards to the latter, I remain a big fan of James Purefoy, who seduced audiences everywhere with his portrayal of Mark Antony in HBO’s Rome—a brilliant series that lived far too short a life (fodder for another posting). However, the supporting cast in the show was offered no real scripted meat to sink their teeth into. And here I speak of the criminal underutilizing of Michael K. Williams—yes, Omar from The Wire. How do you not give him a big, fat vehicle in which to shine? This is Omar, people. Omar!

But I digress.

Now, let’s look at the highlights of a competing network. Hmmmm…..who should we examine? How about Fox? I want to be clear here: I’m limiting my comments to its entertainment programming—not its “news” offerings…we’ll leave it at that. So, here’s Fox’s marquee lineup: Glee, House, Fringe, The Simpsons, Family Guy, as well as American Idol and 24. The last two I’m not devoted to (but the rest of the country is) and my interest in Family Guy peaked several years ago (although my unabashed love of Stewie lives on). Still, this is a lineup. Sure, there are more than a few clunkers in Fox’s portfolio. Why, for example, Gordon Ramsey has been given multiple television vehicles remains, as ever, a mystery—as does the continuing allure of Cops and America’s Most Wanted. Some things were just meant to never be understood.

If you ask me, Conan should jump ship to Fox. After all, he can’t be in any worse company than NBC. (Again, I'm just talking about entertainment programming here…In the interest of offending no one, I'll refrain from commenting on other Fox offerings. For now, anyway.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

There are some nights—ok, many nights—that I go to sleep earlier than my six-year-old nephew. I can’t help it: If I don’t get a solid eight hours’ worth of rest, I’m a terror the next day. Think Cruella de Vill meets Medusa—with hair just as frightening.

My toddler-esque bedtime is an endless source of amusement to friends and family. Dinner reservations for 9? Forget it. A midnight movie? Not a chance. Dancing until 4 a.m.? Please.

The way I see it, my sleeping pendulum has swung in the other direction. All throughout high school, college and grad school I was a serious night owl. I didn’t even like going to bed. All those late nights have finally caught up to me. Now my bedtime rivals an octogenarian. Actually, scratch that. My grandma goes to bed later than me too.

Tonight we’re going out to dinner with some great friends. At 6 p.m. No one who lives in Manhattan eats dinner before 8 p.m. Why are we? Because the mister and I go to bed so early. God bless them, our friends continue to remain friends with us despite our early turn-in time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sleep, as it’s come up in a few articles recently. The Times ran a story about how more younger people are taking advantage of early bird special dinner times. I read this and immediately thought, “Yes! I knew others would follow my lead!” Alas, these folks weren’t elbowing the blue hairs out of the way for a table because it worked better with early bedtimes; they were being thrifty and getting a deal on a meal in these tough economic times. Sigh. In something else I read, Arianna Huffington challenged all women to get more sleep in 2010. Seems American women are among the most sleep-deprived in the world. Well, American women except for me.

So, I've decided that my resolution for this year is to stay up a little later, be a little more social during non-daylight hours. My big goal: 9:30 p.m. (baby steps and all).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Letting Go of Mistress Christmas

There’s something infinitely sad about taking down the Christmas decorations. It’s the ultimate admission that the holiday fun is over. There are no more twinkly lights. No more festive table arrangements made of evergreens and candles. No more stockings hung by the chimney with care—or, in the case of our apartment, the breakfast bar. Putting away the Christmas decorations means you have to face January. And February. Without nary an ornament or swag of holly.

This year, I served as Mistress Christmas for my family. We stopped exchanging gifts years ago and now only buy for the kids and dogs (yes, we treat our dogs as children). The thinking is that, for us adults, focusing on being together is more meaningful than opening up presents. Well, togetherness requires a leader, a Julie McCoy, if you will, to usher the family (sometimes begrudgingly) through one activity and gourmet meal into the next. My sister came up with the Mistress Christmas concept, the person who would serve as the invisible hand, the director of holiday cheer for the days we spent together.

It was my turn this most recent holiday to assume the awesome responsibility that is Mistress Christmas. I planned meals, wrote shopping lists and decided on a slate of activities for each day. I sent out formal invitations detailing the long weekend’s worth of fun. I made homemade chocolate truffles (a holiday ritual). Shortly thereafter, I realized that Mistress Christmas needed a trusted assistant—there was so much to do! So my husband was recruited as Mister Christmas. We purchased games for “game night,” designed and procured team t-shirts for a family football game (Whos vs. Elves) and made a home movie showcasing the year’s most memorable moments of all of us. Having taken lead on all things holiday, I was determined to make this The Best Year Ever.

And then Mistress Christmas got sick. Right along with Mister Christmas.

We managed to drive to Cleveland, with throats that felt like we swallowed glass, fevers that could melt butter and coughs that telegraphed our illness to anyone within a 400-yard radius. One visit to the Urgent Care center in town, two bottles of Nyquil, a package of Advil Cold & Sinus and too many tissues to count later, Christmas took on a distinctly different feel than I had imagined. There was no football game, with two of its starters sitting on the bench. And game night devolved into a coughing/snot fest that, frankly, no one wanted to be party to. Mistress and Mister Christmas felt oddly MIA from the entire holiday extravaganza they had so painstakingly planned.

But there are some things that even Mistress Christmas cannot control, and that’s just a reality I have to accept. I have two years before I am again given the honor of assuming the most prestigious of holiday titles. And let me tell you, 2011 is going to be The Best Year Ever.

For now, I must take down the tree. You know, before it spontaneously combusts.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Second Coming

Have you heard? At the end of the month Apple is going to announce a space-age, handheld device. Scratch that, it’s actually a GPS-enabled helmet that lets you fly wherever Steve Jobs wants you to fly. No, wait—it’s really a tablet. A revolutionary, game changer of a tablet computer that will be able to surf the Internet, make phone calls, drive the car, wash the dishes and open mail. Wirelessly. While levitating.

Tis the season for unbridled excitement, courtesy of the Cult of Apple. The faithful masses of Steve Jobs’s revolutionary company are notorious for whipping themselves into a frenzy before each and every announcement that Apple makes. Well every announcement except for ones where the CEO mysteriously leaves the company for a vague medical reason that turns out to be for an organ transplant. Those just don't rank.

For Apple acolytes, the company is akin to a religion. These are folks who will sleep in a line outside for days before Macworld so they can secure a spot to view the latest and greatest product reveal. Their devotion is easy to poke fun of—indeed, in my previous life as a financial reporter, I often did—but at the end of the day, all the snarky comments and bad metaphors about Appleheads can’t erase the fact that the company delivers what people want.

Which is why the latest announcement has rumor message boards crackling and legitimate media outlets drooling with excitement. Apple has a storied, not to mention highly successful, past of rewriting consumer technology rules. There was the Mac, iTunes, the iPhone—not to mention many of its software products, which designers routinely herald as best-of-breed. But there is one thing that Apple’s portfolio lacks: a category killer that seamlessly meshes together every wireless technology whim from the Internet to television to email to e-books.

Indeed, every company would kill to have such a product. Some have come close to knitting together a few of the disparate pieces: Game consoles, for example, have tapped into digital downloads quite nicely, although the infrastructure pipelines for such activities are arguably ill-equipped for the demands of high-definition. But no company has effectively pulled off a wireless mash up to satiate consumers’ myriad needs. For Apple to do this would be a major coup.

Of course, there’s the physical consumer interface of such a dream product, and then there’s the background infrastructure bits. How would it all work? Who would the partners be? Can Apple engender enough excitement with a mere product launch to get technology partners to line up like little obedient ducks? That, presumably, is the reason for Apple’s curtain raising at the end of the month and an actual shipment date several months later.

As the date approaches for Steve Jobs to stroll out on stage in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans (how is it that this guy doesn’t own another outfit, btw?), the pent-up excitement and blind proclamations of Apple’s genius will likely grow louder. It’s understandable. I mean, who wouldn’t want a game-changer? As the country picks itself up from the recessionary bootstraps, what better jolt of confidence than an American company leading the innovation charge? And an innovation that could lead to an uptick in consumer spending, which accounts for the lion share of GDP? What's better than that? If the landscape is going to be redrawn, you can bet that Apple will be playing a part. On this front, you have to applaud Apple’s ingenuity. It’s not Dell, a bland manufacturer of boxes, devoid of any innovation. Apple actually shifts how people around the world utilize technology. If it indeed happens again, it could produce a lovely daisy chain of beneficiaries.

All that said, it’s worth tempering all the budding optimism surrounding the coming announcement with a smidgen of perspective. Don’t forget that Apple is also the company that produced the Newton handheld and the Cube. Not exactly what you'd call category killers.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

End of an Era

Tavern on the Green, the Central Park mainstay who seduced so many with its tacky, gilded décor, has closed its doors for good. You’ve no doubt read the stories detailing the restaurant’s license dispute with the city or the auction that’s now being readied to sell the contents of the fabled spot. If you’ve lived here long enough, everyone’s got their own Tavern story.

Mine involves holiday parties—years of them in fact. Back in the day when I worked at SmartMoney.com, which was co-owned by Hearst and Dow Jones, we got to attend Hearst’s annual holiday party, held at Tavern on the Green.

Being there always felt like spending an evening at an eccentric great aunt’s house that was overly decorated with chandeliers, sconces and lots of mauve. Everywhere you looked there was something gilded or some sort of stained glass. Tavern was like a grand lady who wore too much garish makeup to compensate for her looks that had faded with age. Still, you had a soft spot in your heart for her.

And that’s why, looking back now, dipping into Tavern’s kaleidoscope of holiday cheer was a kitschy treat. We never arrived on time because, as daily reporters, we always had deadlines to meet, a million things to do before our day was done, so some of the buffets were fairly picked over by the time we walked in. But there was always another table brimming with different treats, another chafing dish being replenished, another food station to explore. There were ice sculptures surrounded by shrimp and crab legs, dessert tables longer than most city apartments were wide and uniformed servers rushing to and fro. In retrospect, that such a fete was held at Tavern on the Green, where all things over-the-top seemed to live, was perfect. It made for the quintessential holiday indulgence.

Today, many are mourning the restaurant’s passing, but not me. I think it’s great that someone is going to breathe new life into a location that, while possessing an odd charm, had grown stale over the years. It is, in other words, time to make some new memories.