Posts Tagged ‘Alison’

Roller Coaster

It is Wednesday and I think I need a day of R&R.  I do not mean Rock ‘n Roll.

This past Saturday, Yim and I attended our friends’ wedding reception.  Great time had by all!  We celebrated with old friends we’d not seen in a while, friends we see everyday, and new friends, too.  The reception was held in Jay Verno Studios, which is wild; the place looks like a movie set.  In the back they had a photo booth and a table full of props.  In the reception area, the photo booth images were projected onto the wall in real-time.  Everyone had so much fun.  The photos were printed in duplicate; one for the guest book, and one to take home.

The party took its toll on me, though, and by Sunday morning when I awoke I was not feeling my best.  My throat hurt and my glands felt swollen.  I hung in there, keeping positive and drinking miso soup.  Monday morning I was still fighting.  It helped that I was looking forward to some home improvement plans, evening guests, and jazz at Ava LoungeYim and I had scheduled the day for changing ceiling fixtures.  It’s too long a tale to tell under the circumstances, which are that I am not in the mood to reiterate, but this leg of the roller coaster story ends badly and we can just skip forward to that part.

So, despite feeling slightly under the weather, I was still high from the weekend’s festivities and the prospect of spending the day with Yimmy doing our thing.  He moved the coffee table, he moved Lord Mycol’s bed.  He put up the ladder in each room necessary and prepared for a plumber to come and take care of the gas lines in the ceilings before we hang our fixtures.  But as the day wore on, it started to look like the plumber wasn’t showing up.  I have a tendency to put so much hope and excitement into a thing that if it doesn’t pan out, I come crashing down to utter despair and pessimism.  Pessimism is not good for your health.  And actually, I am still pissed at that plumber.  He was a no call, no-show.  By the time I realized that, I no longer had any interest in participating in the rest of the evening – which was to include friends stopping by for a drink before heading out to Ava Lounge for jazz.  But people were depending on me and that is always when I come through despite how I feel.  So instead of breaking something in anger, I went to the store with Yimmy and got some mint and soda water for mojitos.  Don’t mojitos make everything better?  Before you answer that, read on.

Alison, her boyfriend Chris, and Anna showed up around 8.  We made our small talk, poured some drinks and moved into the living room to get comfortable.  Anna mentioned my post, When Chafed, Buy a Chafing Dish.  Thus, the conversation turned to collecting vintage kitchen ware.  We were unanimous in our appreciation for the stuff, but Chris said that fear of breaking his vintage finds would keep him from using them.  That’s when I piped in, trying to explain that the majority of my finds are durable and not so rare that I wouldn’t use them; this in an effort to convince my audience to be more active in their acquisition of retro kitchen ware that would remind them of their childhoods and a time past.  I was feeling less dejected by now from the plumber’s failure to show up, thereby putting off the mounting of my new ceiling fixtures, so I boldly went to the dining room to fetch the perfect example of a lovely vintage find that is not so rare that I won’t use it every chance I get, without fear of breaking it!

I marched back into the living room with my yellow and gold Hall’s covered casserole and promptly threw it down on the floor, breaking one of the gold handles from the side.  (I didn’t actually throw it down, it slipped from my hands!)  I COULD NOT BELIEVE what just happened.  As if I was getting too big for my britches, the universe stepped in and smote me down, just like so.  Do not be a braggart!  That is what I thought to myself as everyone in the room expressed true sympathy for me and the complete irony of the situation.  And if that weren’t enough, while searching the floor for the missing piece of handle, I realized my finger had been cut in the chaos.  I eased myself back into conversation, but once my guests left, I couldn’t help but mull over what had happened, how and why, over and over again until there was nothing left to mull.

I ended up reneging on plans to go out and listen to jazz and, as always, Yim was caring.

Tuesday wound up being the high point of the coaster, restoring joy and order to my world.  A day designed perfectly to my sensibilities, it was perfect from beginning to end.  I will post about it tomorrow.  Until then, as I said, today is Wednesday and I am in need of some R&R.

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Last night, after a long and glorious day in the garden, Alyssa hosted another fantastic “Italian Ladies Social Club” dinner party. 

Alyssa is always the hostess with the mostess.  She is fail-proof in choosing simple, yet simply delicious, dishes to feed the masses.  Keeping to our theme of cultural heritage, she served eggplant parmigiana – a simple meal – which she personalized with her homemade sauce.  This is part of what makes her a great hostess.  The main dish was accompanied by salad tossed with olive oil and vinegar and a Tuscan loaf of bread.  Before gathering “a la tavola” (like Mary Ann Esposito always says), Alyssa served special Italian cocktails made with prosecco and amaretto with an orange zest and sugar rim.  She knows I like amaretto!  This is another part of what makes her a great host.  The recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis . . . appropriate, no?

The “Italian Ladies Social Club” was conceived of about 2 1/2 years ago.  Many of us see each other often, so it’s not always necessary to make special arrangements to socialize.  But it is always fun.  The original “Ladies” are card carrying members.

However, new Italian Ladies are welcome.  Alyssa invited her cousin Natalie to join us.  We had lots to talk about as Natalie is a writer with the online magazine  twodaymag.com.  Also, she’s a vegan and healthy food nut, so I told her about Yimmy and everything that he and I are always saying about food.

Some of the Italian Ladies were missing at this gathering, so there were seats to be filled.  Alyssa broke from tradition and invited some fellas to join us.  Not to worry, we had a grand old time, traditional or not.  I wish I’d taken more pictures, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Knit Picker

Growing up, I’d seen my grandmother knit or crochet a few Afghan blankets and footies, but I didn’t learn to crochet myself until I went to boarding school and I housed with girls who would sit around making blankets when they weren’t doing chores or homework.  They taught me how to crochet a granny square, and I soon made my first baby blanket.  Next, I made a throw for my mother, and then I quit making anything with yarn for, oh, 20 years.

Four years ago I found out my brother and his wife were expecting their first baby and the first thing I thought to do was to make a baby blanket for this child.  I like the idea of crafting something from your own hands and heart to give to those you love most.  I visited a local yarn shop, Knit One, that carries really unique (and expensive) yarns and carefully selected my material.

The yarns in the shop were so varied and beautiful, I was inspired to learn how to knit just so I could work with them.  A friend and I signed up to take a 2 hour knitting class offered at the store.  I purchased this wonderfully soft Malabrigo kettle-dyed Uruguayan yarn and knitted my very first piece.

Isn’t it amazing what you can turn a simple string into?

This is my friend Alyssa, who took the class with me:

Alyssa and I started a virtual trend, and soon others were crocheting and knitting, too.  We got requests, we searched new patterns, we collected books on yarn crafts.  We also agreed that the knitting class we took was not worth the cost and I have since learned all of my advanced stitches either online or from a book.

Alison saw this interesting pattern in an Etsy shop and asked if I could replicate it for her.

Baby blankets are always in demand:

And I saw a girl wearing a hat I really liked, so I went online and searched for a pattern.  Now I get compliments on this hat almost every time I wear it and I love to say, “I made it myself!”

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Last year I cleared out all of my photo and music files from the computer and stored them on external hard drives.  But I just noticed a rather large file on my desktop that somehow managed to escape the clean-up.  Going through photos is always fun.  Here are some from the batch.

In the summer of 2008 the whole family vacationed in Ocean City and Assateague, Maryland.  The day it rained we gathered on the sun-porch and Yimmy, Rock and I played our guitars while everyone clapped and sang along.  We covered the tables with paper and had crab feasts for dinner.  We played cards for money at night.

Mycol was 17 years & Rockwell was 18 months.

We dipped our toes in the Atlantic and watched the wild ponies saunter on by.

In the fall, Yimmy took me to the pumpkin patch at Schramm’s with him and his boys to pick pumpkins for Halloween jack-o-lanterns.

Last winter was as glorious as this one.  Yim and I went out in the night storm and delighted in the sights.  The Pennsylvanian looked like the backdrop to an old mystery movie, with it’s lighted clock above the archway glowing through the falling snow.

And the row-houses along Friendship Avenue reminded me of a quaint English neighborhood.  These lighted stars go up every holiday season, to the joy of everyone I know in the area.  They are magical.

I remember Christmas that year was great.  I hosted La Vigilia and Alison and Peppino were honored guests of the family.  At midnight, Yimmy joined us and we all went to a Polish church, Immaculate Heart of Mary, with respect for UB.

For Valentine’s Day, Yim and I enjoyed a weekend in the Laurel Highlands at the Campbell House B & B, and I liked the matching fluffy bathrobes.

By March I’d had enough of the snow and cold.  I was in misery with tension just trying to stay warm.  Yimmy took me to the mall to walk around.  That was okay, but not quite what the doctor ordered.  But how about this?  He took me over to Phipps Conservatory for an afternoon of walking through the gardens, breathing the oxygen and smelling the soil.

As a matter of fact, my banner picture of the ferns with spores was taken on that day at Phipps.

In the spring, when it was mild enough, we went on an urban hike.  We were on a quest for all things interesting.  Interesting food, which we found, interesting shops, which we found, and interesting photos.  I had my camera at the ready.  This is the most interesting door pull I’ve ever seen.

Also that spring, we were invited to see La Boheme with good friends of mine and we dressed for the occasion.  After the opera, we went salsa dancing.

Soon, Mycol celebrated his 18th birthday.  My handsome son requested a birthday meal of pulled pork sandwiches with sweet potato french fries, tangy cole slaw, and chocolate cream pies for dessert.  We partied on Zia and UB’s deck and had a grand old time.

Rockwell got another year older, too.

And we are all ready for summer again.

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Coincidental Teaser

Last night Yim and I saw Rodrigo y Gabriela perform at the Byham.  They are extraordinary guitarists and after the show I turned to Yim and asked, “Now, what are we going to do with our guitars?”

I think that Rodrigo is highly skilled in a way that is learned, while Gabriela’s relationship with the instrument makes me think that she played with a guitar in her crib.  She has an instinctual talent for producing sounds from that flat-top box that I’ve never heard come out of a guitar before.  And yet, neither of them can stand alone.  Without a back-up band and lyrics, 2 hours of manic guitar strumming would be monotonous if it weren’t for the way in which they each compliment the  other’s  style.

The crowd clapped along most of the time, but I felt a little ashamed for the collective lack of enthusiasm when Rodrigo tried more than once to goad people to their feet.  I’ve never before seen a performance that would warrant standing at the Byham, and the theater seating is certainly why people were reluctant to get to their feet.  In the end, however, the crowd could no longer contain their energy when Rodrigo y Gabriela began their encore performance of “Tamacun”.  Finally the vibe was like that of a Mexican street party celebrating liberty and people ran down the aisles towards the stage to dance and clap as close to the heart of the driving rhythms as possible.  Ole!

After the show, Yim and I headed over to my favorite spot in town, Shadow Lounge and Ava.  The night was coincidental.  We met up with Alison.  It was open mic night for spoken word on the Shadow Lounge side.  We ran into a cast of our favorite people creating great stuff for the enjoyment of the masses; Ricardo Iamuuri, Gene Stovall, and Brian Francis.  Brian performed Here I Am, Awkward, and we reminisced. (Didn’t I just post about that recently?)

Throughout the night people mingled back and forth between Shadow Lounge and Ava, and every time someone passed through the doors between the two venues we heard a snippet of whatever the DeeJay was spinning over on the other side.  Eventually, a bubble of sound from Ava slipped through the doors to where we sat on the Shadow side.  When that bubble burst, Alison, Yim and I all looked at each other knowingly.  We had to go over and dance to Luther singing “Never Too Much.”  (Didn’t I just post about that recently?) Is my life on a loop lately?

We were hooked.  The three of us danced until Alison had to leave, and then the two of us danced until we’d had enough fun for one night.  What?  You can never have enough fun for one night!

Incidentally, not coincidentally, I think the last time I was at the Byham was for the premier of the movie I was in, 10th & Wolf.  The movie is based on Donnie Brasco‘s tale of a mafia war in South Philly.  It was a bomb.

I had heard that there was a casting call for extras for a movie being shot here.  I didn’t think twice about it, but then a friend said, “Hey, it’s a mafia movie and they are looking for Italians.  You should go.”  And so I did.

The “movie people” called me about two weeks later and told me to be at a local funeral home at 3pm on the given date.  I should expect to stay for up to 8 hours,  and could I come looking as if I were attending a funeral in 1985?

But I am getting away from myself, here.  I am so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open and I realize that what I want to say about being cast as an extra in the movie 10th & Wolf is longer than I can stand to write.  Reconvene for the story here on Friday morning, 9:09 am.

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When I was in high school I discovered the real difference that warmth and sunshine could make in my life.  Growing up in the city, I lived in a huge, drafty house built a hundred years before we moved in.  Nights between October and May were spent under so many layers of blankets that I couldn’t roll over under the weight.  To this day I can go to sleep and wake up eight hours later in the exact same position.

Then I went to boarding school my freshman year of high school.  And there was warmth.  I spent a lot of time after that thinking of ways to stay warm once I graduated.  The short story is, I went to live in San Diego for three years before moving back north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  The long story is for another time.  But since moving back I have closed my eyes more than once in the dead of winter, to imagine myself lying in the sand, half naked, with the sun toasting the surface of my skin, as a balmy breeze drifts over me.

In the summertime I feel energized and strong.  Even though when we reach August I start to feel a little anxiety over the eminently approaching winter season, I am able to convince myself that it’s no big deal.  This is false, of course.  This is the talk of “summer muscles.”

In November I will start to think about flying south in January or February, but the holidays provide just enough distraction so that I start to rationalize with myself that I could buck up and survive without falter, save my money, and maybe even embrace the weather.  And when February makes me shiver, I begin to regret my fear of flying, metaphorically speaking, and start to look for opportunities to GET ME OUT OF HERE.  Seriously, people, you must try to understand that cold weather HURTS me.  I am obviously too weak to fight the chronic pain of it.  After all these years of being told to “put another sweater on” to no avail, for the love of God, if you love me you will understand my burden.  Enough said.  (Until I address poor circulation, low blood pressure, and what the acupuncturist did.)

Enter 2008.  It was February.  I was heartbroken.  (See “On Time and Love“)  This is when it is good to have great girlfriends who will hang out with you while you pick up the pieces.  And, as promised, a cure for the winter doldrums. . .

One of my favorite pastimes is beach camping.

From the beaches of Assateague to Puerto Rico, I have enjoyed the merging of outdoor living with my favorite outdoor location.  For adventurists who love the ocean and are more impressed with nature than a mint on their pressed pillowcase, beach camping is an ultimate vacation.  In 2008 my friend Alison told me she wanted to return to the Florida Keys for a camping trip.  In my wretched state it was music to my ears.  We made plans to fly out in April.

Although I often travel without a plan because I get excited about feeling as free as possible, Alison assured me that it’s best to make reservations in the Keys.  Even when camping.  Especially when camping.  The Florida Keys are a hot spot for RV’ing fishermen who are devoted to spending their vacation time fishing the blue waters.  And don’t forget that each key is narrow and small, limiting accommodations.  There are only about 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West.

So, Alison and I flew into Miami and rented a car.  We had packed our luggage wisely, I with the tent and lantern, she with the headlamps and lavender mist for inside our shared sleeping quarters.  Incidentally, there are approximately 65 miles between Miami and Key Largo which can be enjoyed driving with the windows wide open and Luther Vandross belting “Never Too Much” as you sing along.

Alison made reservations at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo and Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon.  We spent a day at Bahia Honda, touted as the “Best Beach in the Continental U.S.”, and although we did not bivouac there, we did mooch on their facilities.

There is a lot of snorkeling to do in the Florida Keys and Alison is an ocean lover of the aquatic variety.  There are two types of people who love the ocean.  The type that loves it from within, i.e. Alison, Yim, etc., and the type that loves it from without, i.e. me.  All I wanted to do was lie in the hot sand and warm my bones, but Alison is such a good friend and when she begged me to go snorkeling with her I acquiesced, on the condition that she sing karaoke with me later at the Caribbean Club.

From Pennekamp we made arrangements to board a boat going 7 miles out to snorkel the Banana Reef.  There were about 25 people going out that day.

I should mention here that I am not a fan of horror movies because they are generally unbelievable and therefore do not frighten me.  I don’t mind a good scare, though.  When I saw the preview for Open Water, I made a point of seeing it because my worst fear ever is to be in water that I cannot see below the surface of.  And that hosts other living creatures.  And that is too deep for me to touch my feet to the bottom.  And that movie scared the crap out of me.

So many things happened in my life when I was three, but one of them was that I stepped off a sand ledge in the Atlantic while camping on Ocracoke Island and when I realized I was under the water with the fishes, fishes that I could see!, I had to quickly learn how to swim towards the light to save my skin.  This is why when I was 15 and wiped out while water-skiing (hey, alliteration) I panicked while waiting for the boat to swing back around for me because I saw an enormous dead tree log floating waaay over by the bank of the lake and was able to convince myself that it could possibly be a Loch Ness Monster.

When snorkeling 7 miles off the coast, the guides advise you to stay with your partner.  Seven miles off the coast the waters were colder and there was a damn cloud, the only cloud in the sky, right above us, blocking the sunshine.  My bikini and a life jacket were not enough to keep me from shivering with goose bumps.  When someone said, “Hey, there’s a shark,” I did not care that it was a 6-7 foot lemon shark swimming deep below us in the reef.  My eyes confirmed what my ears heard and I turned and high-tailed it back aboard our boat, leaving Alison alone and up to her neck in sharky waters.  I was the first one back to the boat and I had to wait another half hour, at least, before the guide signaled everyone else back.  I am a land creature.  I do not require breathing apparatus on terra firma.

Alison did sing karaoke with me at the Caribbean Club.  We sang Madonna’s “Cherish” and Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”  Alison did not run off the stage.  Later in the week we would return to the Caribbean Club to witness a rehabilitated manatee being released back into it’s natural habitat.

My favorite place in the Keys was Curry Hammock in Marathon.  The camp facilities were pristine and the beach was peaceful.  Beaches in the Keys are narrow and sometimes a bit rough to walk on, but the sand is nearly white, the water is shallow and warm a long way out, and the wildlife is amazing.  At Curry Hammock we got kayaks from the park office and paddled out around the key.

If you are quiet and patient the wildlife will reveal itself to you.  Manatees and sharks, jumping fish, cranes and other birds of Florida can be seen.  Alison and I took the kayak into the cave created by the low growing tangle of the mangroves that grow so thick, only slivers of sunlight shine directly through.  I felt like an explorer in the rain forest.

Lastly, we drove down to Key West and toured Ernest Hemingway’s house.

We ate fantastic food and drank salted margaritas while listening to live music outdoors.

We stumbled upon a street party celebrating freedom of expression . . .

And athletic abilities . . .

We stood in a crowd and watched the sunset, just like Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines (R.I.P.) did in Running Scared (cue Michael McDonald!).


And then we enjoyed the buskers performing on the waterfront.  I bought 2 great pieces of silver jewelry in Key West, a ring and a cuff bracelet, as souvenirs.

So there they are.  The Florida Keys: cure for the wintertime blues.  And for heart-ache.

So we went in April, which is technically spring.  And Hemingway killed himself anyway, but he was a severe case.

Oh, what the heck:

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Little Treats in Pink

I really believe in minimalism, contrary to the amount of rubble I’ve amassed.  I call it rubble because, really, you can’t take it with you, and once you’re gone, well, unless someone you know appreciates it the way you do, it becomes just another mess to clean up.  I imagine land fills are heaped with a lot of perfectly usable stuff, it’s just that they’d lost their sheen and in our gluttonous, consuming society, old things get tossed aside.  I always think to myself that once upon a time people got their money’s worth out of the things they bought before spending more of it.  Clothing went thread-bare and endured patching and darning before being replaced.  People didn’t buy a new toaster until the old one went kaput.  It was not always a matter of spending for the sake of spending and trying to maintain the most mod styles.  So, I try my best to live by this guideline: spend wisely.  That could mean so many things to so many people, actually.  But in this case it means that I am satisfied with what I bought last week at a local antique store.  I stopped in to browse for prints and frames, mainly for my dining room which is close to complete in it’s renovation.  Nothing in that department caught my attention, but I did come home with these:

Four Queen Mary sherbet cups.  For a long time I have imagined setting a table with white linens and pink pressed-glass tumblers.  I found some pink tumblers that I liked last year, but I did not like the price.  These dessert cups were priced right and are a start to that collection.  They would have been just right for a little Valentine’s Day treat.

I also found a little memento to give to Alison for Valentine’s Day.  It represents her heritage, plus, she just got back from a trip to Mexico.

Hola, senorita!

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