Monday, July 28, 2014

three things

1.) I closed a show over the weekend. It was one of those rare occurrences where everyone associated with the production was downright wonderful - the actors, the designers, the crew, even front of house. I grew as a stage manager, was inspired by the director, and learned so much from one of the smartest playwrights, no, people, I've ever met. I looked forward to walking through the plaza and into those huge glass double doors each day, and I'm genuinely sad to see this one go. I don't have any work lined up over the next two months, and while I'll be spending a whole bunch of weekends in vacation transit, I'm pretty worried about finding a daytime survival job.

2.) Even though I was supposed to be working all weekend (see: above), I managed to move heaven and earth to get two days off so J and I could go to a wedding up in the Finger Lakes. It was one of the prettiest places I've been in a while - it reminded me so much of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan that my heart ached for summers past. The day after the wedding, one of the groomsmen rented a giant pontoon boat and we hopped aboard. For almost seven hours we sailed around in near-picture-perfect weather. Sandwiches and domestic light beers flowed freely, and every couple of miles we stopped to take a dip in the lake or just lay out on the bow and work on our tans. I never wanted it to end.

3.) Not that I need another hobby, but I recently took up knitting. It's slow and steady for now, but I'm working my way towards a soft grey cowl. While traveling back to the city from the wedding, I discovered that knitting is perfect for long car trips (when I'm not driving, of course) because it keeps my hands occupied but my brain free to converse with J. I worry, though, that the yarn is going to end up in the back of the closet with all my other half-finished craft projects that I began with the same vigor and enthusiasm as knitting. But maybe the recent threats of another winter-turned-polar-vortex will compel me to keep going on this one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blueberry highball

Recently, a friend gifted me a week's share from her CSA - she and her husband were out of town on their scheduled pick-up day, and instead of letting the bounty of fresh fruits and veggies go to waste, it went to me.

And oh, what a bounty it was. I don't personally participate in a CSA, because though I'd love to, I find they provide me with just too much food. There are only two of us in our tiny apartment, and we already have trouble fitting everything into our "European-sized" refrigerator. Week after week of giant bags of fresh produce would simply be overwhelming and unnecessary. BUT that doesn't mean that I don't love receiving the occasional share! This is now the second summer in a row in which a friend has gone out of town and asked me if I wanted her share, and I have to report that it is just the right amount for my life. Especially when the fruits and veggies are as beautiful as they were this week.

This is only a small selection of what I received. There was also a bag of green beans, a head of cabbage, about ten times more swiss chard, and a few zucchini. What will I do with it all? I have no idea. That's a post for a different day. But what did I do immediately after I got home (and after obsessively photographing everything)? Naturally, I made a cocktail.

I'm not gonna lie. I took one look at those blueberries and thought, "time for a drink!" It didn't hurt that I had been having A DAY and that it was almost 6pm on a beautiful Tuesday evening and all I had wanted all week was to relax on my balcony with a drink in hand, but that's besides the point. I'd been meaning to start incorporating muddled fruit into my drinks for some time now, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

I made this drink using a ginger ale syrup instead of ginger ale soda. It's a crazy-concentrated flavored syrup that when mixed with seltzer, tastes just like ginger ale but with none of the calories. It's made by these guys in upstate NY, and we pick it up at our weekly flea market (can you say hipster?), and it's addictive. No worries if you don't have the syrup - just omit the seltzer water and use your favorite ginger ale soda instead, adding as much as you like to get your drink's desired strength.

Begin by muddling three blueberries in the bottom of your glass. I didn't actually have the right tool for this (add it to the list), so I used the blunt end of a butter knife, which seemed to work just fine. This recipe uses a 1:1:2 ratio - so pour in 2oz. of your favorite bourbon (we're Maker's Mark people), 2oz. of the ginger syrup, and 4 oz. of seltzer. Add a giant ice cube and garnish with whole blueberries, find your favorite chair, and sit back and rellaaaaxxxxx ;)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Brighton Beach memoirs

Like most people, I spend most of my days in a little bubble of habit and transit. I shop at the same grocery store, meet friends at the same bagel place, take the same train to the same theater, take the same long walk through the same park, lather, rinse, repeat. And for the most part, I like that I have a "usual" - it's comfortable, it's consistent, and it allows me to get to places efficiently and on time ('cause apparently I'm also 85 years old).

But last week, I'd had enough of the usual. I needed something new, something different. Something with blue skies, white sands, and possibly some sea breezes running through my hair. So I grabbed some iced coffee, took advantage of my unlimited metro card, and made the long (long) trek to the end of the Q-train.

When I got off the train at Brighton Beach, it was like I was Dorothy entering Oz - but instead of munchkins and talking lions, I was faced with fruit stands and clothing stores, the roar of trains rushing overheard, and little old Russian women haggling over the fresh fish and vegetables that would end up on their dinner tables later that very evening. I immediately headed into the nearest grocery store to find the shelves lined with brightly colored packages and aisles full of bins of individually wrapped candies, all with beautiful and unfamiliar Cyrillic lettering. I turned back into the street and down to the next little grocery, where a woman was standing in the window selling pastries. I pointed to one, learned that it was called a Khachapuri (essentially a dough with cheese), and handed over $1.25. When I finished that, I ducked into one final grocery store, where I gave fully into impulse and bought a jar of Russian spices and the most beautiful glass bottle labeled "Tkemali," or Georgian plum sauce.

With a heavy purse and full stomach, it was time for some serious boardwalking. I'm sure it gets pretty crowded on the weekends, but on a Tuesday morning the Brighton Beach boardwalk was practically deserted, save for the requisite little old Russian man holding court on his favorite park bench. The beach was surprisingly clean and well-kept. The sand was already blisteringly hot, and the freezing ocean felt wonderful on my feet.

I took my time walking down the boardwalk, stopping to photograph both the never-ending coastline and the ebb and flow of runners, mothers with strollers, bicyclists, and grandmothers laden with shopping bags. Eventually, the scenery changed before my eyes - the boardwalk filled up with people, restaurants offering hotdogs and cotton candy dotted the edges, and I could hear the clang of rides and carnival games - I was at Coney Island.

The walk from Brighton to Coney took about 15 minutes, but it felt like I had crossed into a different country. I'm not a huge fan of the area (it's a bit touristy and trashy for my liking), but it has been cleaned up a lot since I'd last been there in 2010 (Hurricane Sandy, though devastating, forced a lot of positive changes to the coast). I wandered though the Luna Park (it's free to enter, rides are pay-per-ride), and fondly recalled memories of trips with friends to Great America, the theme park near my childhood home.

The temperature was turning from warm to sweltering, and I was getting tired - it was time to catch a train back to Astoria. But not before one last look at the ocean. It's one of the small ironies of living in New York City that we are surrounded by so much water, but so rarely ever get the chance to appreciate it. So I walked to the end of a pier, past the families and couples and men hoping to hook the catch of the day, to the point where I could look out and see nothing but water and horizon. A land-free Atlantic spread out in front of me, filled with wonder and possibility and adventure. I took a deep breath, allowing myself a moment to soak in the salty, fishy air, and then headed back home.

Monday, July 14, 2014

52 photos/weeks 25-28

25.) Dinner break on Lincoln Center's Illumination Lawn
26.) Now's a good a time as any to discover I have rooftop access
27.) Day tripping to Brighton Beach
28.) Summer is in full swing, blueberries are in bloom, and I am in love with every single farmer's market I find.

52 photos is my personal challenge to take one awesome picture per week in 2014. All photos were taken by me on either my iPhone 5s or Cannon EOS Rebel T3i (my "big girl" camera). If edited, I use Snapseed, Instagram, or Adobe Lightroom. Follow me - @maspad - to see these and many more pics!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

weekend link love 05

It seems like everybody and their brother are doing interwebs roundups this summer, and who am I to not jump on a bandwagon? (helloooo, FIFA!) I hope you're all having a lovely July and can take a pause from your bar-b-q-ing and beach reading and peek at what tickled my fancy this month ;)

*All those times I said my bagel place was the best? I wasn't lying!!!

*Going to a zillion weddings this summer? Ease the pain by playing Pinterest Wedding Bingo. Added bonus if you turn it into a drinking game.

*My dad rocks and shipped me my childhood bike! Now to try out some of New York's best bike rides.

*And now we know what Eloise (yes, that little girl who lived in the Plaza) has been up to

*So our oven broke last week (boo). But fingers crossed that we're getting a new one oh so very soon (yay!) And when we do, I can't wait to make this piethis pizza, and these muffins. Waistline be damned!!

*I didn't know bunting necklaces were a thing, but now I do, and now I want one.

*My love for OK Go was already pretty solidified when they turned a music video into one giant, continuous, four-minute long Rube-Goldberg machine, but their newest video might just be my favorite one yet.

*And finally, for the ultimate in physical comedy, I quite literally laughed so hard I cried while watching this.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

So I'm not the next FloJo

I went for a run today. Specifically, I ran one mile without stopping.

Ok, so one mile isn't anything to write home about. Most people can do that in their sleep. Many people do much more than that in a single workout. I have a friend who is currently training to run her sixth full marathon. I, however, am not that type of person. Running has never been easy for me - my body is not naturally suited for running (I'm short and round and rock a C-cup), and though I like the idea of running, the actual practice is a huge struggle. In grade school, I dreaded the "run the mile" day so much that I eventually worked out a system with my best friend that essentially let me lie and cheat my way to a passing gym class grade.

But I'm older now, and (in theory) healthier and wiser than I was at 13. So I know that running is one of the absolute best ways to get fit and stay healthy and improve circulation and lower stress and all those good things that I'll probably really want when I'm 50, so I decided to start running - slow and steady, just one foot in front of the other. I think I originally had a vision of running one mile a day (as inspired by this blogger), but about a million obstacles stood in my way from achieving that goal (weather, allergies, schedule, migraines, tech, and did I mention the weather? just to name a few), so I then made the more realistic decision to run only when it made sense for me to do so. I've run about 30 miles in the past three months, which again is not a lot for most people, but is a lot for me.

Last week though, I thought I was done for good. The run started out just like all the others, but it quickly turned impossible. It was much more humid out than I anticipated, and I was soon sweating buckets. My knees hurt like crazy. I was suffering from a weird bout of acid reflux. I hadn't hydrated enough and was nauseous. After about half a mile, I had to stop and walk the rest of the way home, utterly disappointed in myself. The whole experience was so miserable that I assumed my running days were over. Nice knowing you, cute neon gym shoes!

But then this morning, I felt better. My knees weren't screaming at me. The previous day's visit to the chiropractor loosened up about a billion muscles in my neck and back. An early morning thunderstorm lifted the oppressive heat that had been laying over the city. So I donned my trusty Cubs baseball cap, laced up my shoes, and got back on the horse. Same route as always, same one-mile goal. And though it wasn't easy, it wasn't impossible. My heart was pumping, my breaths were smooth and even, and my legs were strong and powerful as I pushed forward - and it felt good. Maybe I can do this.

Monday, July 7, 2014

reason #482,698 why I love new york

I've been working at Lincoln Center these past few months (which is cause for celebration in and of itself), but on recent weekend evenings, I've walked past a collection of telescopes and people gathered on the plaza in front of the fountain. The first two times I noticed the telescopes, I had neither the time nor the energy to stop and ask what was happening. Last week, though, my friend Kristen was accompanying me on my walk out of the theater (she had seen the show that evening), and when we happened upon the telescopes, I exclaimed that I was soooo curious as to who these people were and what the were doing.

Well, have you asked them? she said.

Huh. Nope, hadn't thought of that.

And with that, she strode over to the nearest telescope and asked the guy behind said telescope who he was and what he was doing. Because she's awesome that way.

It turns out that he was a member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, a group devoted to the aesthetic and intellectual enjoyment of stargazing. On certain nights and in specific locations, they set up telescopes pointed in the right direction so that anyone who happens upon them can join in the celestial fun. And it just so happened that on that particular evening, conditions were just right for a primo view of Saturn.

So we got in line. And after just a few minutes, I stepped up to the telescope and got my first ever look at our solar system's 6th planet.

And it. was. so. cool.

photo courtesy of Cambridge University Press

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Balcony garden!

Confession: I've secretly always wanted an herb garden of some sort, but previous to this year, have never lived in an apartment with appropriate ledges/sunlight/floorspace/wallspace/etc. to do so. Confession: I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing when it comes to plants, herbs, vegetables, green things, things that grow in dirt, or anything else of the "plant it yourself" kind.

But this past Easter, along with the requisite egg-shaped Reese's and $20 bill tucked into a plastic easter egg, my mother sent me her version of a home-gardening kit. Seed packets, gloves, a plastic trowel, and one of those knee-pad-kneeling things, all tucked into a watering can and wrapped with a raffia bow (my mother rocks, you guys). So after some mid-April hesitation and anxiety, I threw caution to the wind, bought some pots, bought some dirt, and planted the seeds.

Then I spent the next two and a half months fretting about like a worried mother hen, constantly checking for growth, freaking out that nothing was ever going to grow, jumping for joy when the first little buds popped up through the dirt, and marveling when those little buds turned into actual plants and herbs.

But through this all, at no point did I do any actual research on what I was doing, because why take the fun out of experimentation? I mean, this is the life cycle - shouldn't it just work on it's own?

I did, however, spend one entire afternoon procuring and affixing two plastic flamingos to the balcony railing. Priorities, people, priorities.

Thankfully, the herbs pretty much did just grow on their own. I planted chives, oregano, and basil, and though the oregano has been a little slow to grow, the other two seem to be flourishing (although there might be some weeds in the oregano and basil? Let's not forget that I have no idea what I'm doing). Regardless, I'm sensing some homemade pesto and possibly some baked potatoes with chives in the near future.

There was a point in which I showed a picture of my tomatoes to a coworker, who turned out to be an ex-farmer (I love New York), and she told me that my planter was getting too crowded for all the tomato seeds I haphazardly threw in there and that I needed to replant the seedlings into larger pots. This same coworker also showed up the next day with an eggplant plant that she picked up for me at the green market, which officially makes her my favorite ex-farmer of all time. So after another few trips to the Bargain Stop for cheap dirt and plastic planters (I love New York), I put on my big-girl-gardening-pants and replanted my tomato plants. I now have three different planters of tomatoes - one is full of the original planted tomato seeds, the other two house the replanted tomatoes.

Strangely enough (or maybe not strangely at all, because again, no idea what I'm doing here), the repotted plants are doing much better than the plants that never left their original home. Everyone is getting equal amounts of sunlight (the balcony faces west and we get ample amounts) and I've been pretty consistent in when and how much water I'm giving them - about 8oz. in the morning unless the forecast calls for rain, which at that point I let God do the watering. I think (?) what I'm doing is working, because just this morning I found TWO little new developments - a little bud of something on the eggplant plant, and a little flower of something else on one of the tomatoes.

Are these the beginnings of actual vegetables? Am I secretly a gardener-savant? Should I push this urban farming thing to its' limits and add some chickens to the mix??* Stay tuned, because all these questions and more will get answered in the next installment of Mary's Balcony Garden!**

*No chickens were or will be harmed in the making of this blog post.
**I should probably find a day job. I'm working on that, I promise.