Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This Is How We Roll

Or, more accurately, this is how we stroll through ancient streets while eating strawberry gelato that  is so good I am positive it has unicorn tears in it.

I hope to start my long soliloquies and photo bombs about my time in Italy when my intentions match up with my time and energy levels, but I had to share (ie, brag/impress you with) our mileage totals. My sister has a fancy pants pedometer she wore during the trip and she sent us the stats today:

Thu 11/15   7,500 steps,  22 floors,   3.37 miles   (travel to Rome)
Fri   11/16   2,097 steps,  16 floors,   0.93 miles  (Rome)
Sat  11/17  18,393 steps, 48 floors,   8.16 miles   (Vatican)
Sun 11/18   27,915 steps, 81 floors,  12.38 miles  (Ancient Rome ie: Coliseum, Forum, a very public and very dramatic reenactment of the death of Julius Caesar by yours truly, other random tourist spots that usually ended with us talking to the polizia (um, hem, the police))

Mon 11/19  18,703 steps,  40 floors,  8.3 miles    (Pompeii)
Tue  11/20  17,286 steps,  42 floors,  7.67 miles   (Florence)
Wed 11/21  18,590 steps,  42 floors,  8.25 miles   (Florence)
Thu  11/22  19,709 steps,  66 floors,  8.74 miles   (Florence)
Fri   11/23  10,823 steps,  19 floors,   4.8 miles    (Venice)
Sat  11/24  18,088 steps,  67 floors,  8.02 miles   (Venice)
Sun 11/25    7,089 steps,  5 floors,    3.15 miles   (Venice, travel home)

Totals: 73.77 miles, which is almost 3 marathons
              448 flights of stairs, 166,197 steps, which I am preeeeety sure is the distance up to the moon.

Can't keep us down. 


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Song of the Week: Passenger


I woke up at 5:30am this morning shaken awaken from a reoccurring dream; I am lost wandering around winding narrow cobble stoned streets. I am sure that I know where I have to go, but turn after turn leads me back to where I started.

The rest of the house was also awake, someone doing laundry, someone in the shower, doors opening and closing. I curled up deep inside my covers, just one more hour, just one more, please.

But that one more hour didn’t come. The harder I tried to fall back asleep, the harder my mind fought to stay awake.  I grabbed my phone. It is a mistake to leave it on my desk by my bed, I really need to have a no-technology zone.  What possessed me to click over to the blog of a boy I once adored, is beyond me. I should be happy for him and the life he created, but I am not.  Then I realized how ridiculous I am and checked my email—work emails already? Bah Humbug (I can start saying that now, right?). Next click was to  the  iPod to listen to a holiday mix I am making for some friends (I need to swap the order of a couple songs and what in the world was I thinking putting that song in, yikes.) After making all these mental notes,  I just hit shuffle  and pulled the blankets way, way over my head.  “All the Little Lights” by Passenger shuffled into my ears and slowly made its way to my heart.
 We’re born with millions of little lights shining in the dark
And they show us the way
One lights up
Every time you feel love in heart
One dies when it moves away

Monday, November 26, 2012

Belated Thanksgiving


I’m back on American soil. Oy Vey. That last little push of traveling, the part that actually gets you back home, is always the most exhausting.

But I am slowly catching up on my real life. Two weeks ago I cleaned off my desk. Today I returned to work and a desk, a chair, and cubicle filled with new piles of work. But I have also been catching up on Thanksgiving posts on favorite blogs, 366 new items in my reader, help! 

Holidays are becoming more and more passive aggressive mixed bags for me.  Mattress sales, and Black Fridays, and Cyper Mondays and wars on Christmas and perfectly decorated homes and holiday Facebook statuses that make me want to punch people in the face (that’s the passive aggressive part). Are we really just marking our days off out of the year by sales and excuses to sleep in and eat? Are holidays just another reason to show off our competitive perfectionism? And even more blunt: are the “true meanings” of holidays even true anymore?

I haven’t had a true Thanksgiving Dinner in 6 years, 7 years with my true blue family. Maybe that isn’t entirely true. There was that one time at that diner on the way to Virginia Beach, maybe something similar to the harvest feast on a boat in Savannah, Georgia and didn't The General’s mom  make a big dinner when she was in town a few years ago (or was that Easter? I remember ham, but I don’t like turkey, so maybe someone felt sorry for me and brought ham, which reminds me of the book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,  with the wise men bearing ham and the angel shouting Shazaaammm!)   Maybe I should start over with this train of thought, since I am way off the tracks and out of the boat.

Thanksgiving really isn’t about the food.  

The first Thanksgivings weren’t about food,  they were about survival. We survived. Against the odds, and our poor planning and judgment, we are alive. We could have been crushed by life this year, we could of given up, we could of died, but we didn’t.  Thank God.  And that I can related to. Looking back on this year (I know, I know, broken record), there were some pretty dark days that I seriously didn’t think I would make it through.  But somehow I took that next breath and then another.  I survived. I am alive. Sometimes there is nothing in the whole wide world more comforting than the steady repetition of your lungs filling up and releasing the breath of life.

And how did our early American friends celebrate their survival?  Coming together and breaking bread.  How simple and beautiful is that?  I may not have had Thanksgiving turkey and dressing in many years, but I have shared a meal with some combination of friends and family, almost every year.  Sometimes that meal is Chinese food on the beach, sometimes it is steak tartare at the foot of a castle,  and this year it was pumpkin tortellini at a trattoria in Florence, Italy.  The food changes, the people change, the location changes, but coming together celebrating our survival, that has become a constant. There is a part of me that yearns for the traditional big family Thanksgiving Dinner with homemade name cards and naps and leftovers afterwards, but a greater part of me is content with my roaming simplified feast, and the gratitude of, above everything else;  my life, blemishes, scars and all.

Although, I think, stuffing and mashed potatoes and pie will find their way to my table this week. Hmm . . .potatoes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Open Letter

To whomever found my blog by typing in the very bottom phase:

I AM TRYING.

----

P.S.  I know that this search phase is in reference to the Steinbeck quote I posted here, but it just hit me as really, really funny/sad on a really, really funny/sad type of day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sounds: Damion Suomi and The Minor Prophets

The 'About' section on Damion Suomi and the Minor Prophets' Facebook begins with a very telling sentence:

Well, I think there is a real air of mystery about us.


And let me tell you, that aint no lie.  I came across their song, 'Let My Love' while skimming through my iTunes music library as I was compiling my October mix tape (I know, I know, it is November). I have no idea where the song came from, where I got it, or when or how I downloaded it. But what I do know is that I cannot stop playing and listening and clapping along to it. It's just great and gosh, makes me so happy.  So . . . . I am betting on immaculate 
conception. 

And FYI, clapping aloud and along  to music only you can hear (through your earphones) on a crowded subway train is an awesome way to get more personal space.



Adding to their air of mystery, I couldn't find any information on if they are touring, so maybe and  hopefully,  one day they will just magically appear playing their music in our home towns.

(Their music is available on iTunes, and if you indeed find a current touring schedule, pass it along, I feel we all need some preaching from these prophets!) 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pie Day!

For the last six or seven or so years I have thrown a big Pie Day Party.  And just so we are all on the same page, we are talking about real, best desert ever, pie and not math 3.14 pie.  Pie Day is usually the Sunday before Thanksgiving, which um, is tomorrow. A whole evening of stuffing your mouth full of pie, so you don't even have to pretend to save room on Thanksgiving Day.

But this year, between work, traveling, and general exhaustion, it was just too much to plan. Add to that the fact that many of my regular pie party goers are faraway*,  and well, to be honest, I have been burned a couple times this year with a lot of random people showing up to my shindigs, eating all my food, and then leaving without so much as a thank you or an offer to help with the dishes.  As much as I love entertaining,  I am just too tired right now. Next year it will be resurrected for sure!

But as many of you are Pie Day veterans, I hope you carry on the tradition wherever you are. It's a great way to get to know people if you are new to the area (who can say no to pie?), and hello, an excuse to eat pie, lots and lots of pie.

Here are some of my own Pie Day tips and trade secrets:

1. I always make at least 3 pies: 1 fruit (usually apple, pear or berry), 1 cream (banana, coconut, chocolate silk) OR custard (lemon, key lime), and 1 involving large amounts of chocolate.  The last couple of years I have leaned towards making mini pies, they tend to cut down on the mess of cutting and dishing out slices. For planning purposes,  I usually plan for each person to have 2 slices of pie. 

2.  I invite others to bring pie, but only about 50% actually bring something. Some will bring non-pie desserts which always confuses me a little bit, but which I will always graciously accept and put on the display table. Except if it is brownies. Brownies are graciously accepted and then taken and placed on the kitchen counters in the back and never spoken of again. This is Pie Day, not munch and mingle.

3. I always have a way to identify each pie, this will save you from having to stand by the table all night, answering "What kind of pie is that?" a million times.  Most years it is by little place cards I put by each pie on the display/serving table with the name of the pie printed on the card.  I have a pile of blank cards and when new pies come they all get a place card. Last year I had a chalkboard by the table with the list of pies (we had over a dozen!), it was super easy to add pies to the list. 

4. Water! Water! Water! I have always have two pitchers of water (not juice, not soda) and a couple stacks of cups on the table. Sweet things always need plenty of water to help wash them down and cleanse the palate for the next piece of pie. I circle around throughout the night making sure these pitchers are always full.

5. The extras: for the love of everything good in the world, never put a container of Cool Whip on the dessert table. Making your own whipped cream is super easy and tastes 1000 times better.  Pick up a container of heavy whipping cream, grab your electric mixer and start whipping, just don't whip too much and make butter. Sometimes I add a little sugar (though it shouldn't be too sweet) or a couple drops of almond extract. Heaven. Also, vanilla ice cream really should be the only ice cream for a la mode. Complicated ice creams will distract and mask the wonderful flavors of the pie.

Even though I am not hosting Pie Day this year, I am still collecting pie recipes, always collecting pie recipes. Here are some of my favorite from the interwebs:

Caramel Apple Pie from The Best Remedy
Chocolate Hazelnut Pie from Bake or Break
Chocolate Peanut Butter Chess Pie from Love & Olive Oil
And not quite pie, but close enough:
Chocolate-Caramel Tartlets from David Lebovitz

And from the food magazines:
Cranberry-Apple Pie with Pecan Shortbread Crust from Southern Living
Pioneer Vinegar Pie from Martha Stewart Living

I would love to hear it you throw a Pie Day Party this year, what kinds pie you are making for Thanksgiving and well, anytime you are eating pie.

*For those friends still in the area I am hoping to have jam/pie festivities around my birthday in December. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Your Weekend Plans

I have mentioned the great little band, Local Strangers, a couple times (like here and here) on this blog and this weekend they are making their Washington DC debut! I am currently snorkeling the flooded streets of Venice, but if you are in the District, you should go see them. And I mean that in the nicest, yet bossiest, for your own good, way. You won't be sorry I promise. 

You can RSVP/get more information about their house party performance here. Aren't your weekends just so much better when I plan them for you? 

Yes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Humans of New York

One of my favorite blogs out there these days is Human of New York (HONY). It is a project and labor of love of photographer Brandon Stanton. It is beautiful and inspiring. From Brandon and the blog itself:

I began Humans of New York in the summer of 2010. HONY resulted from an idea that I had to construct a photographic census of New York City. I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city's inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map. I worked for several months with this goal in mind. But somewhere along the way, HONY, began to take on a much different character. I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs. 
---

I love, love, love that instead of just taking a picture and walking away, this photograph asked the people about their story. Everyone has a story, whether we think we do or not.  And we are not just stories, we are libraries full of stories, fiction, non-fiction, and maybe even one or two smutty romance novels. And I think a greater piece of the puzzle of humanity and civilization is understanding, with genuine respect, each other stories. I follow HONY on Facebook, and not a day or pictures goes by without a little glimmer of gratitude that I am a part of such an amazing and beautiful human race.



But the story doesn't stop there. HONY is currently (until November 21, 2012) helping to raise money to help with the relief and recovery from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Their goal was to raise $100,000, a goal that was exceeded within the first 19 hours of the fundraiser. But the need in the area is so great. %100 of the proceeds will be going towards to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a foundation that was set up in memory of a firefighter that lost his life on 9/11. It is a well respected family-run charity and has been officially endorsed by many NYC officials. All donations will be going to the immediate relief of victims, not to overhead, fees or the like. You can find out more about the fundraiser, and how to contribute here.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Song of the Week: Jonah Tolchin

Jonah Tolchin may be relatively young in number of years wandering the planet, but his voice is one of an old soul, one that is deep and little bruised and weary, but a weariness that still keeps getting up and moving along those dusty roads, speaking the truth of all it's seen.  Jonah has been gaining well deserved attention since the release of his album, Criminal Man, and his performance at the Newport Folk Music Festival this past summer.

Criminal Man, as a whole, is golden, but there are a couple songs that have found a place stuck in my head and have been blissfully dancing around up there on repeat.

Unless We Change
The first thing that pulled me into this song was the cadence of the music; it gives you the feeling of being of a train, maybe in an open boxcar, maybe in a passenger car, but most definitely rambling down the tracks, putting the past behind you and aching for the future ahead of you. I am also a sucker for call and response choruses and banjo solos, and tambourines. Trifecta!

But the message of the song is just as moving. Many will argue that the best love songs out there are the romantic boy meets girl love songs. But I disagree, the best love songs out there are revolutionary and protest songs, tunes that sing and shout that we love lives, our dreams, our world, our fellow human travelers enough that we won't let injustices and cruelty and indifference destroy them. We will (we must!) change and fight and work for the world that we, that all of us, want and deserve. That is love. And this is a love song.



Godforsaken World

If you know me well, you know that I don't throw around Woody Guthrie references all willy nilly, but the first time I heard 'Godforsaken World', I heard the whispers of Woody, quietly intertwined in the verses. Dates on the calendar may change and technology may change and the sheer amount of things we add bacon to may change,  but the core of the human experience, that of figuring out how to survive our humanity, doesn't change, and really hasn't since the beginning of time. The good and true songwriters out there, and I am counting Jonah in that that group, can sing about all this strife that we call life, with a little glimmer in the eye, reminding us that at times our burdens may be heavy, but we don't need to be crush by them. 


Jonah's music is available on bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon, and if you are a Daytrotter member you not only get a gold star for the day, but  can also download his album length session for free.  He also does a wonderful cover of Springsteen's 'State Trooper' on the tribute album, Long Distance Salvation, which I know you guys have already downloaded, since the talent on the album pretty much melts your face off. In a good way.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Words: Wisdom

Roll the Dice

if you’re going to try, go all the
way.
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
way.
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
mockery,
isolation.
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
that.
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with
fire.

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.

you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter, its
the only good fight
there is.

- Charles Bukowski

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On the 11th Day of the 11th Month . . . .

Today has been hard but I never expected it to be easy.
--From my dad's journal when he was stationed with the army in Europe.

Today, November 11, is Veterans/Remembrance/Armistice Day. A day dedicated to honor our armed service members, their sacrifices, their duty and their families. It is celebrated on this particular day to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I, which was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. In 1954, here in the United States, this day, which was formally known as Armistice Day, was officially changed to Veterans Day to honor all veterans, not just those who served in World War I. 

This is where I would usually write something respectful about how much I appreciate the service of our military and how much I am grateful for the freedoms that I posses because of them. However, this great and important holiday this year also fell in the same week as the six month anniversary of the passing of the most important veteran in my life, my father. He was drafted into the army during Vietnam and served through every wartime and peacetime until his retirement a few years back. 

Holidays are days to celebrate the good things in your life, and sometimes it is hard when one of those good things is gone and remembering is still a little raw. So today has been a day of distractions and maybe a little digging in my kitchen cupboards looking for chocolate that I know I hid somewhere, and pep talks to myself and silent little prayers to the other side. 

As each day moves along, I feel a little stronger and better.
 --Also from my dad's army journal. 


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Early Mornings

I don't talk about my day job on this here blog. There are many parts to that puzzle, but what it boils down to is freedom, or as Braveheart would say, FREEEEDOM. I started this blog to have a creative outlet, to have something of my own, something to keep me afloat when I felt like I was drowning in other aspects of my life. But work creeps in on this space every now and then. Like now. Blame the lack of posting, and while we are playing the blame game, blame that lack of anything else in my life, on work.  Sad but true. I even had to skip a concert , one I even had a ticket to, this week to get a project done. Sadder, but also true. Who am I anymore? But this week did have little saving graces too. Finally, finally, I felt this week that this job is indeed what I was meant to do at this time and place in the universe. The last four and half years haven't been a waste of my life. Phew. But with this understanding also came a thumbs up that it is OK to leave when my job ends at the end of the year.  Phew. 

Another saving grace has been early morning trains. The first train of the day leaves my home station around 5am, getting me into my office around 6, giving me a couple of quiet and extremely productive hours before the tornado of staff and emails and meetings comes roaring in.  Trains at 5am are different than trains at 8am. At 5am, the mass of humanity hasn't made it to the stations, crowding the seats and rows and jamming the doors. At 5am there are no tourists or interns, two groups which I am grateful for their contributions to our fine city, but who do not know the meaning of  "walk at a brisk pace."   At 5am there is no one jiving and gabbing on their phones; who are earth would you be calling at that undead hour? Us, early trainers, are different bunch,  still a little sleepy, bundled snug in our coats and gloves, sitting a little slumped, our heavy heads leaning up against the windows. 



And when I emerge from the underground in those early morning hours, the city is quiet, even the sun is still struggling to wake up.
At the crosswalks there is not yet the cloud of anxiety of being late to all of our very important places. There is no rush, no crowds all wearing the same exact black suit. 

The lamp posts  are still on, tempting us to skip work and spend the day in Narnia.

There is a special feeling in the city in those early morning hours. There are also lovely two tone leaves.
Maybe I am turning into a morning person.

(I think I might of just choked a little bit on those words)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Song of the Week: Joe Strummer

These last couple weeks have been a blur. I have been putting in many, many, 12 hour days (even Saturdays!) at work which have thrown my inner clock off. I am, by nature, a night owl. But these days I fall sleep crumbled on my bed, sometimes still in my work clothes by 9pm and I am waking up around 3am in a panic attack thinking of the amount of work I still need to do. Fun fact: 3am is an awesome time to do laundry. Then train, work, train,  restless sleep, and it all starts over again, 6 days a week, and then Sunday I sleep all day long. So this is my life now. 

I wish I could say that I am cool and confident about it all. Well, I am confident that my work will get done, people keep saying that we are ahead of schedule, but my facade is anything but cool. I am stressed out and anxious most of the time, which could account for the random baked goods that have been appearing more frequently at my desk.  But when I feel myself inching toward the breaking point, usually when an intern tells me that they don't do manual labor, I take a little walk in the maze of hallways in my building with my headphones on and familiar comforting songs playing in between my ears, even just for a moment or two. It helps. 

Joe Strummer has been a huge music influence in my life. You probably have heard of a little band of his called The Clash and their radio classics, "Should I Stay or Should I Go," and "Rock the Casbah," but their catalog is so rich.  Joe Strummer also had a successful solo career until his untimely death in 2002. "Silver and Gold," is a favorite song from that solo career, and an important track on my, don't go crazy, playlist. 


Suffrage Rocks!

Then:

Now:

There is nothing that makes me more prouder to not only be an American, but also a woman, than voting.  I used to slide my ballot into the lock box with extra gusto. Now I hit the VOTE button on the electronic ballot extra hard. It is not only my vote and my voice that is being counted, but it is also the voices and votes all the woman who up until 1920 (less than 100 years ago!) were told that they really didn't count in this country.  Suffrage Rocks!


Friday, November 2, 2012

We {together} Will Rebuild

I work with a lot of people that are from the northeast; New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and my week has been filled with first hand stories of heartbreak from the damage of Hurricane Sandy. Usually there is a disconnect between what you want to do to help, and what you will actually do to help. This is when modern technology and the power of music comes to play.

You can now donate to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief through iTunes (info here), so grab a few tunes and add a couple dollars of relief to your checkout total. If you are looking for songs, might I suggest  I and Love and You by the Avett Brothers, here with the Brooklyn Philharmonic:
Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in . . . . .

It’s Like I Am At Two Places At Once

I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute to Friday Favorites over at  My Bookbloom. I have been friends with Miranda since grad school and since then we have crossed oceans, sought out Welsh lighthouses, hunted for open French bakeries (which are hard to find at 3pm on a  Monday, when you neeed some pain du chocolat), and traded countless jars of jam and pie recipes. She's a keeper. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Snapshots From A Stormy Weekend

Mother Nature is powerful. Shock and Awe.  Honestly, I was merely inconvenienced by the storm, nothing compared to those up north.  Sure, I was cranky, and cold, and lost my connection to the virtual world, but I still have the real world. I still have my house, and my car, and food and water and my harmonica.  

Before the rains and the winds came, an early morning camp out in the car repair shop came. My car is fine, my credit card isn't.  I figure it is best to get my car ready for the move back home while I still have a paycheck. 

Never take my wailing and gnashing of teeth for a dislike of my work. I love my actual work, and catching up in a quiet office on a Saturday reminds me of that.

But then I got sick, and drank approximately 14,385 cups of tea.

I may of gone overboard with my October Mixed Tape. Oops. So much good music. I MUST HAVE IT ALL.

It started to rain and didn't stop for two days.

Our power went out on Monday night, but I couldn't stop watching the storm pass overhead. I found some candles and sat on the kitchen window seat and stared with awe at Mother Nature. I kept thinking that I really shouldn't be sitting by a huge {glass} window during a hurricane, but I was mesmerized. 

Hot and Sour Soup (with rice noodles) and orange juice were partook by the gallon, warmth and healing for the sicky body.

 I live in an older house, and most of the time, "old" translates into charming. Except in the colder months of the year, when "old" means drafty. Blanket forts were built.  

Thank goodness for gas stoves.

Thank goodness also for rainbows of fallen leaves.

You might think I am just being quirky when I call Cool Ranch Doritos THE apocalyptic snack food of choice. But guess what the store was out of after the storm? 

Sitting in the car, a warm car, in the rain, charging my phone. The best lesson learned from the summer storm was always have a car charger for your phone. 

When I thought I was on the break of insanity, I wandered the aisles of Target. I want new dishes. I don't need new dishes. Except if I break all my old dishes. Then I would need new dishes, saith the crazy lady. 

The only real time that I broke down was when my flashlight broke. I was stumbling around in the dark looking for my tool box and tripped over something and I came tumbling down. It was then, and only then, that I cried. I don't get the single girl woes very often, but at that moment I just wanted someone there to fix my flashlight and to play card games by candlelight and to go for walks looking for broken trees after the storm. I just wanted to know that when the end comes I wouldn't be alone.  And so I let loneliness sweep over me for just a moment, and then I fixed my own flashlight. Big things like storms make us realize what the important things in life really are. Internets, and perishable food and heat are important and good for us, but people, they are the real deal in our survival kits.