Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Even with a cold, Mom outdid herself once again for Thanksgiving dinner. Here's my dinner plate. There's the usual suspects: turkey, stuffing, corn, potatoes, sweet potato, dinner roll, cranberry, veggie salad, green beans and pierogi.

Mom hosted 17 people this year. Noticeably absent: My sister and her husband who celebrated with his side of the family, and my niece Tiffany and her family.

Mom managed to get all those people around the table, but for the first time in history...we ate on plastic plates. They were high quality, but Mom was kind of embarrassed nonetheless. She probably HATES me for mentioning it. Sorry Mom, but no one cared.

My old roommate Meagan and her mom were special guests this year.

They brought these homemade pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie and apple caramel pie, which means they can come again next year.

I made this pumpkin-clove pound cake, from my new cookbook, Cake Love. Dan deemed it "too spicy" but I liked it.

In all, we had 7 choices of desserts for 17 people, which is my kind of dinner party.

Yeah, Thanksgiving at my house rocks.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rockefeller Center

These pictures I took got some love at my photo class a few weeks ago.

What am I doing?

I don't know what I have been doing this Fall. It hasn't been much blogging. Nor has it been going to the gym and certainly not writing. All I know is that when I stepped outside this week, it colder than I had remembered it being in a long time, a cold that declared to me: It is no longer fall.

I've been completely oblivious. Barely know what date it is on the calendar. One weeks blurs into the next. On Tuesday, I walked out of the house with a light coat, sweater dress, bare legs and boots. On my way back from work, shivering and walking from the subway, a man passed me and said, "You are in a worse shape than most of us this evening. You must be freezing."

"Yeah," I replied. "I made a really bad decision this morning."

I don't know when it started, but also noticed in this time frame, that there has been a shift in my brain that I am not so happy about it. Let me call it: The "I don't feel like it."

Dark mornings leave me in bed instead of running on the treadmill. The other day, I forced myself to run in the park and despite the fact it was a beautiful day, after five minutes of running, out of breath from lack of recent activity, I just stopped and started walking and thought to myself, "This is absolutely MISERABLE. How--in the last 15 years of me being a runner--did I ever think this was FUN?" I ran and walked the next four miles and was immensely relieved when it was all over. I haven't run since.

Well-intentioned diet strategies laid out on Sunday evenings are foiled Monday at lunch with a cookie shoveled into my mouth. Yes, I have begun eating sweets again at work. Even my photography class is starting to lose its appeal. I still like it, but last week I didn't want to leave my apartment to take pictures and so I didn't take any pictures. Most of my classmates must have felt the same way because only five people showed up to class.

My work day is pleasantly not difficult, but I've noticed that if I don't have a lot of pressure on me (like, "we need this by end of day!"), it takes me twice as long to do something. My work assignment is ending in the middle of December, for the first time I am legitimately wondering if I will find freelance work easily in the New Year. January is a slow time for freelancers, but with the state of the economy, I wonder if this January will be standstill. Despite hearing about magazines folding every week and nearly every day reading about hundreds of media people losing their jobs, the only comfort I have is that had I taken the "secure" route and taken a permanent job back in January instead of going freelance, I would be unemployed right now. That magazine has since folded.

And as Dan says, "Well, if it gets really bad and you can't find work. Well, that will just give you the motivation to seek out what you really want to do."

And maybe that is what this "shift" is really about. Being that it is fall, I am constantly reminded that one year ago, I was in Europe, having the time of my life (literally). If I look in my calendar or someone says a date, I think to myself, "a year ago today, I was in Poland...or Croatia...or Germany." My life was just so exciting and so productive then. I came home from my travels with so much to show for it. With this year nearing an end, I think I have this sense of disappointment in me that I don't have much to show for it. I managed to have a successful freelance career, I got engaged, I traveled to some great places....for everyone else, sounds perfect. But remember, I am high maintenance in the personal expectations department. I have one chapter in my "novel" written, a bunch of crappy photographs, and no closer to knowing what I want to do with my life. Despite my lack of interest in doing anything, I feel a little bored. Disappointed. Resigned.
I think I am living this Fall a little "out of it" because I don't feel like dealing with my feelings.

As our society heads toward the next "Great Depression," I wonder if I am somehow getting swept into it.

But wait! There is photographic evidence that I have been doing SOMETHING this fall and I have been happy doing it. Despite the depression (both economically and personally), my social calendar has still been full. This week:

No! Your eyes are not deceiving you. That is Geneva-resident Emily having a drink with Adam at Baby Bo's in midtown. Emily had a business trip which conveniently dropped her in the city for a few days, so Dan, Adam, Nell and I took advantage by having dinner with her at Nell's favorite Mexican restaurant. It was great seeing her, so weird to think of her coming as a visitor, not a resident.

My old roommates Meagan and Julie and I have started a monthly dinner to stay in touch better. I hosted in September, Julie in October and Meagan last night. That's me and Meagan.

Meagan is the type of girl who only has energy drinks and a tub of cottage cheese in the fridge, so the fact that she made us dinner, including these desserts (low-calorie, low-sugar of course) was pretty impressive.

Julie was into it.

No photographic evidence, but we're also starting regular Sunday get-togethers with our friends Adam and Nell. Last week, Nell cooked us some Italian spaghetti and meatballs and we watched the Godfather. We'll be hosting the next one. Menu and movie to be decided.

So believe me, it's not all bad. On the surface great. Under the skin, slightly irritated.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book recommendation

Probably the best book I have read this year...Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

I picked it up at the library yesterday afternoon and just finished it tonight.

The book is an autobiography of an ordinary women. On the cover it says "I have not survived the odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story."

Her life story is told in alphabetical order, encyclopedia-style, and is mostly random musings about things in life.

It is funny and witty and poignant and original and random in a good way. Absolutely brilliant. I finished this book wishing Amy was my best friend. Or that I had written this book myself.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I like Indian food.

I have been in a food rut. Nothing excites me lately. I am never in the mood for anything. At lunch, I am bored with my choice of either salad or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and vegetable soup, but then can't figure out what else I would want. I have been reading a lot of food magazines and web sites, but none have motivated me to try something new. On the weekends, Dan and I usually go out to eat, and even coming up with a restaurant has become a chore.

My friend Anjali has talked about hosting an Indian food night for about a year. I don't really like Indian food. Any time I have had it, I found it too fragrant and saucy and thick. However, I was really excited about Anjali's Indian food night because it would be homemade and when it's authentic, that usually means it will be good. It was also a chance to catch up with my old-coworkers, Anjali, Kim, Elizabeth, and Dani, who I don't see so often anymore. Indian night kept getting scheduled and cancelled, but it finally happened this week.

Here's Anjali, the chef.

I don't have a picture of everything Anjali made, but here is some of it. White rice, chicken so tender it was falling off the bone, lentils in a lovely brown sauce, a vegetable casserole and a tomato and cucumber salad. Pitas and yogurt were served on the side. I loved everything and wanted all the recipes. It was just the flavor change I needed.

We all cleaned our plates that evening--even Dani. She doesn't usually like Indian either.

I am a convert.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sibling Night!

Ever since January--when we moved to our "big" apartment that could fit more than two people at one time, and I had a fun evening with Brian at Brandy's piano bar--I have been wanting to invite my siblings and their spouses over to experience a New York City evening with dinner at my place followed by a sing-a-long at Brandy's. Eleven months later, it finally happened. Some dreams do come true.

My siblings live in the 'burbs and I always like the opportunity to show them the way I live and how great the city can be.

When it comes to entertaining, I am exactly like my mother. I used to bust her chops for putting so much effort into everything and going completely overboard, but I am the same exact way. I don't know how to be different. Not that I am complaining because despite all the hard work, I think it is fun and rewarding.

Friday, I spent a good part of the day cleaning the apartment, planning my menu and grocery shopping. (I know you're SUPPOSED to make recipes you are familiar with when you have guests but I never do.) Saturday, I was in the kitchen all day making classic cheese lasagna (I would have made the homemade noodles but I don't have a pasta maker). I baked a
chocolate cake that I have been dying to make since I first got this issue of Bon Appetit. It required making a caramel sauce (my first time ever!), which of course I burned the first time (it's very sneaky because there is like two seconds between when it's okay and when it's bad!), but the second batch came out great. The four-layer cake assembly was a little nerve wracking because the cake was so soft, I was afraid it would crumble apart, but it magically came together. I also made a salad, fruit salad and garlic bread, which were no-brainers. Dan kept me company by playing Nintendo Wii the entire time. Yes, that would be hours and hours of Wii.

But all that work was worth it because the meal was great, the company was greater, and Brandy's was just as much fun as it was back in January.

I hope it won't take another eleven months to get the crew back here again.

Annette and Jen dig into dinner.

Pete and me at Brandy's.

Kent, Annette and Jen.

Dan took a break from Nintendo to enjoy the music.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Photo Assignment: Self-portraits

FINALLY, pictures that my teacher liked and praised. I got a "good job" on these. When we critique pictures in class, students are supposed to move the ones they like to the center of the table. Usually you get two or three pictures pushed. This time, nearly all my pictures were.

They were a little difficult to take because I don't have a tripod so I was confined to where ever I was able to prop my camera and the light looked right. Actually, I really like how the light and shadows look in all of these shots.

P.S. They were taken Halloween weekend.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Day

Message to the White House: this is what "dancing in the streets" looks like.

It's a new day in America. Even after eight years of incompetence, cronyism and corruption, and mired in the worst economic collapse in 80 years, Americans did not throw up their hands or throw in the towel. Rather than give in to cynicism, we rallied around a message of unity and opportunity and a role for America in which we once again exert our best potential -- with the acknowledgment, help and respect of our neighbors. THAT is something to be proud of.

It's no wonder that 10,000 New Yorkers descended on Union Square to celebrate. (How great is it, by the way, to have a place like that, where you go to political-party with strangers and celebrate together? This night was 10,000 times better for it.) There were chants: "Yes, we did," "No more Bush," "Eight more years," -- and most incredibly of all, we sang the national anthem. I'm not sure if I've ever sung it out loud, but we belted it out, three times during the night. Beats the "U-S-A" chant any day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My prez.

I miss Peter Jennings

He had the best presidential coverage.

Why are George, Charles and Diane sitting so far away from each other? Does anyone else find this broadcast totally awkward?

But with news like this, who really cares???


This morning, I woke up at the butt crack at dawn to go to the gym (I'm
trying to get my motivation back). I usually only see a handful of people at this early hour but on 83rd and Second, I stumbled upon a whole crowd of men and women, waiting in line in the dark, like there was a Manolo Blahnik sample sale going on at 6 am in the morning. But no, this was not an episode of Sex and the City. These people were in line to VOTE, and they were standing there quietly and patiently, with little smiles on their faces. A truck drove by and the driver screamed out the window, "OBAMA!"

I was totally blown away.

An hour later, on the way back, the line had wrapped around the block. Three streets of lines people! I have voted in three presidential elections before and usually it is a walk-in, walk-out affair. Today it took me 30 minutes to vote, which I hear is not bad. Others waited in line for hours. And then you can consider, New York is always overzealous about everything--politics are no exception. But no, this was happening all over the country.

Suddenly, I am living in a country that cares. My generation has always been so apathetic about politics that seeing this kind of patriotism and genuine desire for something better renews my confidence.

As I write this, Obama has just been projected to become the next president of the United States. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have to admit, I just burst into tears, I am so happy.

This feeling of joy and excitement has been bubbling nervously in my stomach all day. I feel this huge sense of relief, as if this horrible darkness has been lifted (I'll call this darkness George Bush), and that depression has passed, we can finally move on.

Wow, look at all those people in Chicago! I will never forget this moment in my life. This is something big.

Not only does today make history because we have just elected our first black president, but it is the first election that my own mother voted! (I told my mom, either do your patriotic duty and vote Obama or just don't even bother.) She bothered.
I am proud of our country (and my mom) for making the right choice.

Dan, who has been spending his weekends campaigning for Obama in swing-state Pennsylvania, who I have listened to speak non-stop about this presidential race for the last two years, is hanging out with his poker buddies tonight as he does every Tuesday night. And in his usual fashion, he has left his cell phone at home, and so I cannot even call him and share our bliss together. Oh, Dan!

His phone is ringing off the hook, by the way.

I am very proud of Dan. Seeing his passion and determination through this election and, especially in the last few weeks, watching him delve himself into something he believes in was very inspirational--why I could just marry him.

Happy Election Day, everyone!

Tuesdays Inside the Voting Booth With Dan

A change is gonna come.

I did my part. Now don't let me down, Pennsylvania!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

NYC Marathon 2008

Outside my apartment window: The 17th mile and Poland Spring water station on 1st Avenue.

Kind of makes me wanna run it again. Go runners, go!

Photo Assignment: Portraits

The assignment: Take pictures of someone you care about. Since Dan spent his entire weekend campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania, I had about one hour with him to take these shots. They were taken in my hometown in Cedar Knolls, NJ early Sunday morning last weekend before he took off to PA. My teacher said that my pictures looked rushed and that none of them really popped--as if I am just missing the crucial moment. Same story, different week. Whatever, Dan still looks cute.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

You're never fully dressed without a smile.

I haven't dressed up for Halloween in years, but when we were invited to costume-mandatory Halloween party this year, I got really excited.

I totally wanted to be a cupcake. I even found this awesome costume online that was exactly what I wanted, except I did not have "serious sewing know-how." My grandma, who used to make the costumes of my youth, would have totally made it from me but she died a long time ago. Sigh.

Plan B. Inspired by one of my favorite movies from my youth, I decided to dress up like Annie. My mom, perhaps sad when I mentioned that I wished grandma was still alive to help me out, got into action by finding me the perfect red dress, socks and mary janes (thanks, Marshall's!) and sewing white ribbon on my dress to get the perfect look.

Dan, who wanted a costume that worked around his glasses, decided to be Rainbow Man. If you don't know who Rainbow Man is, don't worry. No one does. Apparently, he is this famous sports fan from the eighties.

We made a cute couple:

Every year in New York, there is a big parade in the Village which is a dysfunctional affair of rowdy people in costume walking down the street. I went the first year I lived in New York and never again. Our party was located in the Village (not on the parade route), so we just hung outside on the apartment stoop and watched all the freaks go by. We were quite a spectacle ourselves.

Here is our group:

See if you can spot: Olympic diver Greg Louganis, Annie, an astronaut, an alien, newlyweds Ellen and Portia, gymnast Shawn Johnson, swimmer Michael Phelps, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Karate Kid in shower costume, a NYPD cop, Rainbow Man, two random people that I never figured out who or what they were.

We were quite the scene and had a lot of fans come and take pictures of us.

Sarah Palin and John McCain were the most popular. Here's them with Joe the Plumber.

This was the best costume we saw. Not sure if you can tell, but the heads of the cards are actually masks and then there are holes for the hands where the two actually carried the flower and the sword. They told us that they had a Jack costume, too, for their kid.

After some cops started eyeing us suspiciously (you aren't supposed to loiter on stoops in New York, especially with alcohol in hand), we took the party upstairs where astronaut Nien set up a smoke machine and a cauldron which was really the coolest thing.

I told Dan that we needed one of those. Dan said that as long as we live in the same city as Nien, we don't need a cauldron.

Doesn't this make you want one? For all of your parties?