Thursday, August 25, 2011

We Better Not Miss Our Flight

New York City on Sunday:

Yvonne and Dan on Sunday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Three Posts in One Day!

(What can I say, we're making up for lost time.)

I have to weigh in on this earthquake nonsense. The Great Quake of 2011 -- the one that revealed New Yorkers to be giant pansies.

New Yorkers honestly believe they're tougher than everyone. Put on your most obnoxious Brooklyn accent and say, "We're New Yorkers. We don't take shit from nobody. Nothin' scares us," and that's pretty much what it sounds like to live here on a daily basis. And then the earthquake hits and everyone FREAKS...OUT.

They're earthquake virgins, I get it. But the floor shakes for two seconds, not even enough to knock picture frames off the window sill, and these New Yorkers are paralyzed with fear. I mean, they're evacuating buildings and closing offices (see below)! What's great is that all these moments -- much like dining in a Mexican restaurant -- reveal who has lived in California before. And we're like, "It's an earthquake that struck five hours away. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along."

And that was the story of the Great Quake of 2011.

My First Earthquake

Two days ago, in preparation to our upcoming trip to California, I asked Dan, “What do I do in case of an earthquake?”

His answer: “Nothing. By the time you realize you’re in an earthquake, it’s over.”

Fast-forward to today, I am at the office where I am working as a maternity fill-in for the summer. Kristin, the girl who I am covering, had made a special trip to the office to show off her adorable baby boy. My entire department is in my boss’ office at around 2 pm on the 20th floor, cooing the baby, updating Kristin on what’s happened since she’s left, when suddenly someone said, “Is the building moving?”

We pause, and sure enough it was. The floor was swaying beneath our feet. I could see the ceiling lights swinging back and forth. Then it stopped.

First thought: Is this an earthquake? Second thought (Because I live in NYC and hey, you never know), is this some kind of aftershock to some terrorist attack? Our building lies right on top of a major subway station. If it was bombed, our building would definitely rattle. While a terrorist attack seemed more likely (unfortunately), I was thinking it was probably an earthquake.

I work in an office with all girls, and so everyone quickly grabbed their purses, slipped out of their heels into flip flops, and without formal instruction, by instinct, we all proceeded to the stairwell and walked down the 20 flights of stairs. Poor Kristin was carrying her baby. Two girls held her stroller all the way down. The whole scene reminded me of the blackout of 2003, which is probably the last time I walked down a billion flights of stairs.

Once we made it out to the street, there were mobs of people milling about. I checked on Facebook and saw people from Washington, DC to Boston posting about the earthquake. Everyone was on their phones trying to figure out what was going on and contacting their loved ones. I emailed Dan to make sure he was okay and of course he was.

We decided to walk to Bryant Park nearby because it is wide-open space. I was excited by the adventure, but the girls from work were shaken up and nervous. I thought we would all have lunch (I hadn't eaten!) and then head back, but some girls didn’t want to go back. At that point our office building had imposed a “mandatory evacuation” so my boss let us go home(!) Everyone ran off in a flash, but I stayed put in the park. It was a gorgeous summer day, so I ate lunch, enjoyed my free afternoon and felt the buzz of excitement all around me.

I imagine this is what it must be like when it snows one inch in the South and everything shuts down and everyone freaks out for no good reason. It’s kind of fun. The entire city is caught off-guard and you’re all sharing the moment together.

My mom sent me an email: “Hi Yvonne, I felt that earthquake too. Now you are ready for California.”

I guess I am!

Day of Fun, Pt. 2: Baseball in Brooklyn

Before I go on, a word about that Georgian bread. Yvonne underplayed it a little. (There's cheese
inside the bread!) You see how tiny the store is, but what you can't see is how tiny the kitchen is. There's basically enough room for one old Georgian dude, drenched in sweat working over a clay oven that fills the whole place with the smell of dreams. We read that they only make this stuff fresh; indeed the khachapuri he pulled out for us was almost too hot to hold. We carried it about four steps from the front door, then ate half of it under the shade of a sidewalk tree, pulling off pieces of warm cheesy goodness until we remembered we still had the rest of the Russian 'hood to conquer.

But you've read all about Brighton Beach.

As for Coney Island, suffice it to say that the Cyclone is one of the last great simple joys of New York. Also, rougher than I remember.

Anyways, how did we end up at a baseball game?
Well, at the end of the day, Yvonne was like, "I don't really want to go home. I want to sit outside, with people." You know what's good for that? A baseball game. And the single-A Brooklyn Cyclones' stadium was right next door. It didn't even take any convincing or arm-twisting or anything. What a wife!

The timing was perfect. So perfect, in fact, that we got there nice and early -- and one of the Cyclones' cheerleaders (that's the minor leagues, for ya) asked if I wanted to take part in an on-field promotion. Do I!?

So, at the end of the 3rd inning, I went down to the front row and the promotions guy ran down how it would work. This old Brooklynite who looks like a member of the Sopranos and I would be competing in a Price Is Right style game: They'd show us a home stereo system and the MSRP, and we'd have to guess how much a local electronics wholesaler sells it for -- having been advised that the discounts are usually 20-50%. Whoever gets closest to the price without going over "wins" (we were playing for a hat, and for all the fans in our section to be able to enter to win a 40-inch HD TV, with about 1 in 300 odds of winning, which actually aren't bad.)

(WARNING: You're about to be exposed to the thought processes and over-thinking that guide most every decision, great and small, that I make each day. If this is too much for you, I won't blame you for skipping to the pictures.)

We were told before taking the field that the MSRP on the stereo system was $299. I had half an inning to strategize. I'm thinking with my luck, I'm going to be in the disadvantaged role of guessing first, where the other guy can just go, "One dollar." Remember, it's Price Is Right rules. I'm also thinking how much could this local store be knocking off the price? Hell, they have to keep money around to pay for sponsorship in the Cyclones game! So I start doing some math in my head; 20% would be $240; 50% would be $150. I wanna be somewhere in the middle. 33%? Nah, $199 seems too obvious. $219 has a nice ring to it though. Yeah, $219.

We get down on the field and, first of all, I thought I looked really fat on the scoreboard. Almost threw me off my game, but I stuck to the plan -- $219.

Sure enough, I have to go first. I give my answer over the mic, and the emcee is like, "Ooh, two nine-
teen" as though that's a verrry interesting answer.

Bobby Bacala on my left says $129 and I'm thinking, "That's
more than 50% off. I got this!"

The emcee reveals the price: $159. Ugh.

Now here comes the cascade of obvious flaws in my logic. It hits before I even step off the field.
1.) It's a wholesaler. They've gotta sell everything for at least 30-40% off MSRP.
2.) The sponsor wants to look like they've got great deals. $219 instead of $299 impresses no one.
3.) It's Price Is Right rules. You gotta go LOW!

Totally fun anyway, but still, disappointing not to win. (And, this is gonna sound more pitiful than I intend it, but I feel like I have this awful habit of always taking second, always coming up just short. I don't know if it's a lack of a killer instinct, or if my perception on this is wrong [I don't think it is], but it's like I never really expect to come through in the clutch and don't. Self-fulfilling prophecy?)

But what about the game, you say? Well, Nick Tropeano of the Tri-City ValleyCats (what a terrible name) threw a gem: a no-hitter thru 5 IP, with 9 Ks. But since a no-hitter is meaningless in the minors, Tropeano got pulled -- and his replacement threw 2 more no-hit innings before one of the Cyclones singled up the middle for the home team's only base hit. But they did manage to strike out 16 times. Yikes.

For the California readers, Danny Muno, fresh out of Fresno State and one of the league's leading hitters, went 0-for-4 with 3 Ks and a little nifty defense.

Great ballpark. Great game. Great night.

Yvonne has a moment with Sandy the Seagull.

How I'll remember the night.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day of Fun

I think Dan must have took my last post to heart and was determined to make this summer weekend a little less "boring" for me. So this Saturday, we embarked on a day trip to Brighton Beach and Coney Island!

First item on the agenda: Eat a bialy. Believe it or not, despite being in a city filled with bagel shops, I don't recall ever having a bialy before, which is a Polish bread with a depression in the middle. Dan found out one of the original bakeries, Coney Island Bialys and Bagels, is going out of business this fall, so we stopped there for a quick bite. It wasn't exactly mind-blowing, but I am glad we experienced it at least once.

Because we needed some more carbs that morning, our next stop was Georgian Bread. Dan had read that this little bread shop had lines around the block, but when we got to this nondescript, hole-in-the-hall, blink-it-you'll-miss-it destination, there was no wait. We ordered the khachapuri. Now this was something special. It was bready and cheesy and warm. Almost like a pizza with no sauce. Amazing!

Georgian Bread on Neptune Ave.

Yep, that's all there is to it.

A little bit of bread and cheese heaven.

Strolling on Brighton Beach Avenue feels like you are transplanted to another country called Russia. Seriously, you don't hear anyone speaking English. Some old man tried to converse with me and when I said in English, "I don't speak Russian," he looked confused. It was entertaining to watch the people out and about, shopping for fruits and vegetables, buying strange Russian shampoos and pastries from tables set up on the street and browsing the many shoe stores. We passed by not one, but TWO fur stores, and there people were actually shopping in them. In the dead of summer. It was awesome.

Dan, getting some reading done.

Creepy Russian dolls at Kid World. I kind of wanted one.

The beach from afar.

This is the closest we got to the sand.

We walked on the boardwalk from Brighton Beach to Coney Island, where we stopped to watch some intense hand-ball. This is a very serious sport in these parts, where it is obvious that people come out to not only play but be a spectator. Dan definitely wanted to be part of the action.

The handball courts

Dan tries to fit in with the boys.

Once we got to Coney Island, Dan wanted to ride the Cyclone. Now, everyone knows that I absolutely hate roller coasters, and no, it's not because I am too scared to go on them, and I just haven't "realized" how fun they are. That's what everyone tells me. I have been peer-pressured by enough "friends" to ride them and know from firsthand experience that no, I actually despise the feeling of free fall and I never want to voluntarily subject myself to the feeling of my stomach rattling in my throat.

When Dan and I first started dating, we went to Coney Island and I wanted him to think I was fun-loving and cool and interesting, so I rode the Cyclone with him. I hated every second of it. That rickety thing looks innocent but it is basically a free fall terror machine. But hey, it got me the guy. So this time around, I didn't have to prove anything. Hopefully by now, he's figured out the truth about me.

I was so relieved not to be waiting in this line.

There he goes!

Want a closer look?


This ride is more my speed.

We finished the day by watching a Brooklyn Cyclones ball game, followed by a fireworks display.

What a lovely and not-boring day!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


"This has been a boring summer," I declared to Dan last week.

"What are you talking about?" Dan said. "This summer has been one of the best."

"How is it the best?"

"Well, there's been bird-watching and the CSA and the Greves came into town and the trip to the beach, and I don't know. It's been awesome."

"I feel like we haven't done anything or seen anybody."

"Not true."

"Well, why don't you blog about something?"


"Because there is nothing to write about."

Folks--aside from bird-watching and the CSA and the Greves coming into town and the trip to the beach and a few nice dinners with family and friends (like the one I had last night with Meagan and Julie) and some memorable runs in the park--this has been a boring summer.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Pickle Horror Show

I spent all of my spare time this weekend making something in the kitchen. I made zucchini bread. I made granola. I made garlic scape dip. I made peaches and cream ice pops. All of these projects were pretty easy, breezy and kept me busy in a good way.

Today, I made pickles. You know the saying, do something everyday that scares you? Pickles are super scary.

I have never pickled anything in my life. I am not a canner. I have never canned anything, and I have never watched anyone can anything. But the CSA has been overly generous with their cucumbers, and Dan doesn't like cucumbers all that much. I like them, but not enough to eat 1+ a day, everyday. So I decided to make pickles, even though I don't have a proper pot, or tools or even canning salt for that matter, I figured what the heck. And my heart begins to pound.

Holy cucumbers!

Slicing was the easy part.

So was this 2-hour ice path.

Cooking the concoction. The vinegar stunk up the apartment real nice.

My biggest concern was that I didn't have a very large pot to submerge the cans, nor very good tools to insert them, so I was terrified of burning myself with the boiling water. I didn't. But I managed to dirty up my counters really good, and the turmeric and mustard seeds made some unsightly yellow stains (that will come out, right?)

The finished product! I know I sound like a real Martha Stewart writing this post, but I assure you that I am still learning and figuring stuff out. One of the jars leaked during the boiling/sealing process. (I don't think that was supposed to happen!) But whatever, happy I passed over the scary first-time hump.

You know who makes good pickles? My sister. Maybe she'll show me the drill next time! (Hint, hint).

By the way, here's the recipe if you are feeling adventurous!