Monday, August 8, 2011

One Gal’s Garbage…

For the three people who read this blog, here’s something you might not know: I’m a super hero. This is not a joke. I’m known in certain well-recognized circles as Compost Girl.

Yes, I live in Manhattan. In an apartment. Without, it should be noted, a lick of outdoor space. Nonetheless, I compost my vegetable scraps. I’ve become that person. The canvas-bag-holding, organic-food-eating, green-product-using superfreak. I’m recycling junk mail, shredding store receipts and recycling those as well (natch). Those empty toilet-paper rolls? You know what I’m doing with those. And, most importantly, I’m saving the world, one bag of frozen vegetable scraps at a time.

The source of my superpower strength is the freezer. Throughout the week, I throw bruised bits of nectarines, limp leaves of lettuce, and rotten parts of onions (among other unusable vegetal remains) in a giant ziplock bag and shove it in the freezer. The bag is enormous. Really, it's like the size of a Kia. I don’t think they make a bag bigger:

Then, the compost phone rings—it’s actually an old rotary phone that the Eco Friends (cousins to the Super Heroes) deemed the only acceptable instrument of communication—and that’s when I know it’s time to haul the compost downtown. Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t have a compost phone; my signal to unload compost is when husband’s gripes about the lack of space in the freezer reverberate off the apartment walls. Loudly. Whatever. I like to think of it as my compost phone.

So, I squeeze into my compost leotard, which, it should be noted, has sparkles, tie on my long, red cape, and hop on the subway with my 30 pounds of frozen vegetable scraps in tow.

Do people stare at me in my awesome compost costume? Yes, but I think it’s because they are envious of my white, patent leather knee-high boots. Am I uncomfortable shifting my weight from one foot to another while my compost poundage slowly melts on my hip and condenses on the outside of my nylon greenmarket bag? A bit. But it’s a small price to pay for saving the world.

I alight from the subway, then run as quickly past what is possibly one of the most foul-smelling stretches of sidewalk in Manhattan (on the east side of Union Square Park) to the compost dump area. There…there is where my magic is on full display. I dump my frozen garbage into giant trash cans then stand back, cape a flutter in the wind, hands on hips, face turned toward the sun as I bask in the adoration of the masses who’ve flocked to thank me for giving back to Mother Earth.

That is, you know, until somebody elbows me out of the way. This is New York, after all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fall Into The Gap

I went to The Gap the other day in search of some summer bargains and found myself right in the middle of a retailing horror land.

I looked around bewildered, desperately trying to figure out what market this company was targeting. Teens? Tweens? People who will go to the store in late July searching for some bargain that they’ll wear a handful of times at most, then donate to Salvation Army because it’s impossible to justify the drawer space for those “boyfriend shorts” that are cut like a potato sack and, frankly, even less attractive than a potato sack? (Full Disclosure: I own said potato sack shorts—Salvation Army, you’ve been warned.)

Aside from the disappointing clothing selection, there was the unkempt look and feel of the stores, like I’d happened on some indoor yard sale. Most location are packed with so many racks of so many clothes that so many don’t want that the stores have an unpalatable flea market feel to them. There are others, like the one I went to on the east side of Manhattan, that have a certain, weird ’70s downstairs den feeling—the kind you don’t want to spend any time in whatsoever.

All of which is supremely disappointing, I’m guessing to Gap shareholders—of which I’m one. Gap stock, to put it in retail parlance, has a huge, ground-in stain…a seemingly unfixable tear…a split seat. Really, there isn’t a metaphor powerful enough to illustrate the fashion faux pas that is Gap stock.

I actually thought the investment was a good one at the time—the shares had been dressed down by Wall Street, and the clothing line was roundly rejected by those in the know. Simply put, I was banking on a turnaround. After all, Gap had done it before, ascending from its retail ashes into a khaki and denim phoenix that soared above all other retailers. It was the late ’90s and the company, left for dead in the retail sector’s sales bin, was resuscitated by the indomitable Mickey Drexler. The stock soared. Of course, did too back then, but there were actual sales and earnings behind Gap’s heady ascension.

Thing is, there is no Mickey Drexler this time around. And before we lose all semblance of perspective, it’s worth noting that there was a time too when Mr. Drexler’s charms no longer worked on The Gap—its rapid expansion and increasingly lackluster workaday offerings eventually caught up with the company and it was time to go shopping for a new CEO.

Which brings me back to the sorry state of Gap affairs today. With sales lagging and the stock once again in the sales bin, the company fired its global design guy in May. Then, inexplicably, company executives threw all of the company’s oddly flowered and buttoned garments in one heaping pile and danced around it chanting in an attempt to exorcise some haberdashery devil. That last part I don’t get, and, for the record, was not disclosed on any SEC filings. But, you know, people talk.

For all the doom and gloom, however, there is one bright spot in Gap’s portfolio. One beacon of clothier light: Athleta. For those who aren’t familiar with this athletic line, Athleta is known for terrifically made clothing at—this is the best part—a fraction of the cost of some other trendy lines. It is the reasonable person’s lululemon. Does it have the cache? Not like lulu's. But every active woman I know not only swears by this line, they’re devoted to it.

Now, do I own anything from Athleta? No, and this is why: Until recently, it’s been a catalog-only line. That is, until they opened up a retail store in California last year—to huge acclaim. Next month, two more locations are opening: one on the west side of Manhattan and one on the east side. To which I can only applaud loudly, and then yell over my own applause: WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL STRETCHABLE FABRIC TOOK YOU SO LONG, GAP?

My disappointment at how Gap has handled its Athleta clothing line cannot be overstated. Why oh why didn’t they try something like a pop-up store somewhere to build excitement? Or maybe host a trunk show of sorts in an existing Gap location—something that could goose those limp same-store sales? Why didn’t you, company executives, take your noses out of your PowerPoints to see that what real people want you, amazingly enough, have? But I digress.

While The Gap has been late, and not in the fashionable sense, of harnessing the power of its Athleta line, at least it’s doing something proactive now. And it’s got lululemon in its sights—a smart move, I think. Lulu might be yoga wear for the trendy set who have loads of disposable income to spend on stretchy workout gear, but Athleta, with its more varied portfolio of active clothing, is for the woman who’s not only athletic, but who also understands the reality of things: She’s going to be working her tukus off in her fashionable gear, so it really isn’t necessary to spend $128 on cute pants that are mere sweat holders. The Athleta gal will spend a fraction of her fancy lulu counterpart, and have enough money left over to buy, oh, I don't know, Gap shares at a discount.

I'm still betting on a turnaround at The Gap. Athleta is a good first step, and I couldn't be more excited to go shop at the new stores next month. That said, there is still loads of crumpled, unfocused clothing lines in Gap's closet. Time for company executives to purge and donate what it can't sell. You know, like those boyfriend shorts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fine Dining Postscript

I've just returned from dinner out with my dear friend. And I've returned with what might be the best restaurant calling card ever:


Rosemary, thyme and basil! It's practically a Simon and Garfunkel song in my pocket!

Now, I know what you're's not deodorant. Still, I'm happy to report that I'm not in the least disappointed.

Fine Dining

I used to eat deodorant.

Now, before you become completely alarmed and, yes, repulsed, let me say in my defense that it wasn’t last week that I was sitting down to a stick of Secret solid with a knife and fork. This was years ago—decades in fact.

It was the ’70s, and I was a young slip of a thing who played softball, climbed trees and, every now and again, licked my parents’ deodorant. Don’t ask me how or, better yet, why I started doing this. At some age kids are supposed to stop putting things in their mouths—I was apparently left unsupervised in the bathroom before this maturity set in.

To this day, I remember how that Arid Extra Dry tasted. I don’t know if they even make that brand anymore, but if they do, I’m sure the formula has changed so it’s lost its lemony metallic tang. It was the kid of tanginess that made your taste buds tingle and stand at attention. There was a ZING! that let you know you were doing something a little secret, a little forbidden.

Of course, now that I think back, it’s more than a little unsettling that the same glistening roller ball that I used to surreptitiously lick was the same one that was lavishly worked around my parents’ armpits to keep them smelling fresh. Sometimes, I swear, retrospective thinking does no good at all.

In the name of all that is private...God, and embarrassing, why am I telling you this?

Oh, I know why, because I’m going to dinner at a new restaurant tonight—one I’ve been wanting to try ever since it opened. It’s restaurant week here in New York, and that has me thinking about all the great meals I’ve eaten over the years. And, yes, for whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about my food appreciation and how it all developed.

Food has been such a big part of my life that my first journalism job a zillion years ago was at a foodie magazine. My first book focuses on food and meals cooked with family. My entire life is punctuated by food moments—what I’m cooking, what I’m going to cook, what I’m eating, what I’m going to the greenmarket for so then I can cook it and eat it.

A foodie’s life is one that’s always growing; you’re always learning, always creating, and always savoring the bites, morsels and tastes that are as unexpected as a cartwheel or as familiar as a cozy pair of slippers. Even, as in my case, if your appreciation started with some secret licks of deodorant. Sometimes, the most inauspicious beginnings are the ones that eventually lead us to the greatest fulfillment.

Unless, you know, I develop some rare brain tumor from all that deodorant aluminum I ingested. Then screw all that inauspicious beginnings crap.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Magical Me

I’m an unabashed Harry Potter fan, have been for years.

When I picked up the first book, it was a simple curiosity. Back then, I was working as a journalist, sometimes pulling 13-hour days that began at 7 a.m. sharp, and supremely unhappy in my personal life. I had an ardent desire to escape from the daily grind, and a kid’s story about witches seemed to fit the bill.

To my delight, it did just that. From platform 9 ¾, I was whisked away to another place, far from my adult reality. There, amid witches, potions and staircases that moved, I found solace in this new, mystical world. It was not New York. It was not a never-ending reporting job that started before I could get a cup of coffee in me. It was not a relationship that was flimsy and unfulfilling, with unrequited emotions and frustrations. It was pure, escapist enchantment. It was magic and discovery. Most of all, it offered a delightful, youthful comfort to a weary young adult.

As I slipped into that world every night before bed, curled up in my sleeping loft with a book that was meant for a 10-year old, I felt the heaviness, the seriousness of my day fall away. The burdensome clothes of a young adult trying to make it in Manhattan were replaced by a witch’s wispy robes. I became lighter ensconced in my make believe world. I grew happier in the presence of magical mysteries. I was transformed into a kid without a care in the world.

It’s such purity, that feeling like you’re little again, where everything is fresh and full of magic. Kind of like when you’d spend a summer’s day flitting through the sprinkler in the backyard, the heat of the midday sun drying your bathing suit while you eat a popsicle and giggle with your sister. A single day spent like that, wrapped up in the sparkly happiness and lightness of childhood, that’s the kind of powerful memory that rejuvenates you. That’s what reading Harry Potter was like for me.

It’s been more than a decade since I cracked open The Sorcerer’s Stone. That first book, the one that served as sort of teddy bear or security blanket, has since been thrown away. By mistake of course, and not by me. In a flurry of cleaning and thinning of the bookshelf one day, my husband mistakenly disposed of it. I was crushed when I realized what had happened. That was the book that had allowed me to go to sleep with lightness in my heart instead of angst. But I realized that sometimes those are the books we should let go of—the ones that are so saturated with memories. Sometimes those are precisely the books that are meant to leave us after they’ve done their duty, as that first Harry Potter book had.

After all, I’m not in the same place that I was in the late ‘90s, professionally or personally. That’s not to say there isn’t a need for Harry Potter anymore, or that I’ve somehow outgrown him. Quite the contrary. When you’re trying to become a published author yourself, there’s a certain amount of angst and loneliness that can creep in from time to time, no matter how strong your Patronus charm. Turns out, I still need that delicious slice of escapism that J.K. Rowling can provide.

Which is why my husband, the one who disposed of the memory-laden first book, gave me the entire Harry Potter series. It was a new start of sorts. My reasons for falling into Hogwarts are different, you see, but that doesn’t make them any less important. And it’s something that my wizard husband, while never having read any of the books himself, somehow, quite magically, gets.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For OM the Bell Tolls

For years, yoga simply wasn’t for me. Slow movements, holding poses, just breathing….for a girl who grew up playing softball and running, a class where you stretched slowly while inhaling and exhaling seemed weird to me. And boring.

However, as an undergrad at OSU, I found I needed another couple credits to fulfill my Tuesday/Thursday class schedule. And yoga was the only thing offered that fit the bill. Half of the class was made up of women looking to get fit, or, like me, realize their two-day-a-week course load dream. The other half was made up of football players. For anyone not familiar with Big Ten football, they grow those guys pretty big out in Ohio.

Thus the scene played out: For an hour, a bunch of petite women and an equal number of muscle-bound men would stretch and OM and eventually fall asleep next to each other for the final savasana. It must have been a thing to see, so many giants snoring away surrounded by a field of lithe ladies. By the middle of the quarter, yoga class had become nothing more than glorified naptime. I stopped going shortly thereafter, figuring I could sleep in and have my own savasana in my bed.

After I moved to New York for graduate school and somehow, some way, managed to scrape together a couple nickels to join a gym, my friend and I went to a yoga class. I hadn’t been since college when I slept beside giants, but it was a new gym membership and I was game to try anything.

Fifteen minutes into my first class, I attempted to contort my legs and arms—as malleable as tent poles—into what my body, given the unidentifiable cracks and shooting pains, deemed impossible positions. Then there was the shoulder stand, which everyone did by effortlessly elevating their legs above their heads and lifting their light-as-air torsos to stand on their shoulders.

After several attempts to heave the lower half of my body up, up good god go UP, after I’d painstakingly propped my butt and torso higher than I ever thought possible, after I’d exhaled a Christ-on-a-crutch-why-in-the-world-would-anyone-do-this? breath, my shirt slid down, exposing my stomach...My floppy-skinned, toneless, pasty stomach—a stomach that bore an eerie resemblance to my cat’s after she’d been neutered. Horrified, my entire body flopped unceremoniously to the mat as the instructor, a leotarded woman with a taut face and a long, tightly braided rope of dark hair running down the middle of her back like some serene kumbaya anchor said (most pointedly in the direction of my yoga mat), “If this position is not available to anyone, please feel free to enjoy child’s pose.”

Suffice it to say, I spent the rest of the class in child’s pose, as the remainder of the positions were unavailable to me. That was my last class for years. I didn’t care. I was a runner, after all. I’d been a runner since the sixth grade. I’ve completed two New York marathons, run I don’t know how many half marathons and gone on countless long runs that make a half marathon feel like a warm up. What the hell did I need yoga for? Answer: I didn’t.

That is, until I got older and my hamstrings staged a revolt on my body. Those grumpy, muscled generals enlisted my knees in the fight along with my beleaguered IT bands. Right around the time when I was seriously outnumbered in the fight, I went to a Bikram yoga class. It was insanely difficult—on par with a long run. It was an ugly, brutal, break-you-down-to-your-core kind of class, not like those pristine yoga classes where hair is rarely mussed and sweat never breaks out. A Bikram yoga class is akin to war, at least that’s how I looked at it at first. I kept going back—for the sweat and the stretch, but mostly for the muscular challenge of it all.

Then I broke through and found the serene, mind-calming rationale for going. The cobweb-clearing, spirit-affirming underpinning of the whole practice. The emotional and spiritual aspects, combined with the physical difficulty, was the exact balance that I needed in my yoga. That’s right my yoga. I no longer sleep through or give up on or outright mock yoga, because I’ve found a technique that works for me. And anything that makes me feel like I’ve run 15 or 16 miles without the pain and injury associated with actually logging those miles, well, it’s worth sticking with.

Turns out, not only is yoga for me, I actually need it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cook to Heal What Ails Ya

Once upon a time I worked at Saveur, a glossy food magazine. This was, ahem, many years ago. I was still at New York University, getting my master’s in journalism and Saveur was my first internship. I loved food, cooking and magazines, so it felt like I’d found the perfect place to begin my journalism career.

’s offices were located downtown in SoHo, far from the maddening, midtown crunch where most every other magazine was located. The offices were airy and filled with sunlight—not to mention much prettier than the ones at The Daily News and The New York Post where my friends had secured internships. I was in heaven, but also, I was lost. And young.

This was my first taste of a real job in the big city. The office might have been perched on the edge of SoHo, but things were still very much corporate. First, there was work attire: For anyone else in the publishing world, Saveur’s dress code was pretty laid back, but it was still more put together than I’d been in any of my years during college and graduate school. So, every morning I struggled with what to wear. Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less what I looked like. All I cared about was words and writing. My only goal was to get clips.

That internship turned into a full-time job and my thrill at being staffed at Saveur lasted for only a short time. My insatiable thirst to write was driving me forward, but instead of watching the clips pile higher, I was thrown into the mundane office tasks that accompanied the mechanics of magazine production. My stay there wasn’t long. The panic I felt at having my budding journalism career die on the publishing vine propelled me out of that airy magazine office and down to South Jersey, of all places, where I worked at a teeny tiny community newspaper. There, in an ugly office (but, it should be noted, not the ugliest—for that was my next newspaper job back in New York), I reported and wrote my fingers off every week, covering every aspect of small-town life: education, politics, government and even the goings-on at the local water authority. It was the perfect boot camp for me, and, just as I’d hoped, the clips piled up.

No one I worked with at Saveur would ever remember the young woman who filed slides and answered phones for a handful of months. And it’s not just because I was Monica Rivituso back then; it was that I gave them little reason to remember me. I was too rarin’ to go and felt my current circumstances were doing nothing but holding me back. Like I said, I was young.

It’s a shame, because what I didn’t realize then was that I was surrounded by foodie luminaries, including Christopher Hirsheimer, who went on to Canal House fame, or Colman Andrews, a veritable food world giant in every regard. The presence of the people I was with was completely lost on the quiet mouse who dutifully answered reader mail, organized back issues, then abruptly, and, let’s face it, unprofessionally quit. My embarrassment at how I left Saveur has always stuck with me, so much so that when I went to a Canal House dinner at Williams-Sonoma with a friend, I couldn’t introduce myself to Ms. Hirsheimer or congratulate her on her books. Utterly pathetic.

Happily, I’ve since matured. And in retrospect, while I didn’t handle my stint or departure from Saveur as well as I’d have liked, I am glad I worked at a tiny newspaper in South Jersey, at a scrappy community newspaper in New York, and at, back when it was a new website and staffed with talent from top to bottom (that’s no slam on its current iteration—although, come to think of it, they just wiped out the entire archive, erasing the site’s golden era, so, forget it: The slam remains).

Today I’m doing an entirely different kind of writing—not journalism and not editing Wall Street folks, as I did for several years after I left journalism. Also, I cook. A lot. More than I ever have. Last Friday was a banner day: I made chocolate bark with sea salt...

pizza dough...


a ginger/red pepper simple syrup...

and, finally, spicy pickles.

The pickle recipe, which yielded some of the most scrumptious little Kirby gems you’ve ever tasted, was from Canal House’s cookbook series (Volume No. 1). Not only am I going to make them again for a family gathering this weekend, I’m considering it a karmic way of making amends with Saveur.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ko’s Koup

Do you see the date?

It’s 2011 and my human hasn’t posted a blog in…well, more months than I’m capable of counting. It’s high time I took matters into my own paws: I hereby rename this cricket-quiet nook of the blogosphere Kona’s Korner!

I know what you’re thinking: I don’t have opposable thumbs; I’m only a pup; I can’t spell. All true. And yet, none of this matters, for I have stories that must be heard. Tales that must be shared. Oooooo...TOY!

But I digress. I’ll save my thoughts about the unfairness of prohibiting me and my four-legged friends from patronizing New York establishments for another post.

Today, I want to talk about snow.

I love snow.

So do my humans.

They recently went to a mountainous place where the snow was so deep they had to attach big popsicle sticks to their boots to slide around. While they were there, I got to stay with my Aunt Ermenia--one of my favorite humans. I'd trade all my toys to spend more time with her--she's like a puppy in human form! I think I might just log onto Petspedia to book my humans on another vacation.

But first…a nap.