Friday, July 30, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: Squash (June and July)

The last time I posted about the squash, I was meddling with nature, and our first squash had just started forming... Here it is mid June, with the flower completely open.

The flower has fallen off, and the zucchini is definitely getting bigger.
The harvest! Zucchini, basil, thyme (Late June)
Brunch on the patio- zucchini herb frittata with local La Bagel Delight bagel

There were a ton of blossoms after that, but for some reason, they kept falling off. Perhaps there were too many plants in the planter, or the soil needed to be amended somehow, but all the little half-formed zucchini just rotted and fell off. Then July's temperatures hit, and it was all over. The squirrels ravaged the new leaves, and then started chomping on the stalks, and the wind just tore them apart.

Thrashed zucchini

We had to chop them all down to the soil and basically see if new leaves and flowers would form again. Disappointing, considering these are supposed to be the easiest thing to ever grow, and we only got ONE zucchini out of the whole lot! :(

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Brooklyn day with Katy

Katy's in town from Sweden, and we finally got a whole day to hang out! We met up at the Brooklyn Museum off Eastern Parkway and wandered around the Mummy Chamber, the Dresses, Andy Warhol, and Kiki Smith exhibits. When the museum closed, we raced through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden before they closed.
Katy and Alexander Calder's Le Guichet in the Osborne Garden

Earlier this year, Lincoln Center paid tribute to Mayor Bloomberg at its annual spring gala by offering to move the work by Calder to any place in New York City of his choosing for 90 days. After a Citywide location search, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is celebrating its centennial year, was selected!  Le Guichet was created by Alexander Calder—one of the mayor's favorite sculptors—in 1963 and was presented to the people of New York in 1965. It has been on view at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts until now. This is the first time it has been offered on loan.  Lucky us!

We also walked through the recently opened Herb Garden- hooray for urban agriculture! I was too excited I forgot to take any photos. It was the perfect time to visit since almost everything was in bloom/season.

Finally, stopped off at my house for a break on the patio, then picked up some sandwiches and drinks, and walked along the Brooklyn Promenade to Brooklyn Bridge Park! I was so happy to finally make it to one of the free Thursday night Movies with a View!
It was amazingly refreshing to have a break in the weather. We watched the sunset over the Hudson and the temperatures hovered around the mid-70s as Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window came on. It was perfectly comfortable compared to the hot mugginess of the last few weeks!

Like anything else free in the city, it was completely mobbed. You could barely see a few inches of grassy patches between all the picnic blankets! But things like this make me love New York.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Zoe's flowers

P found this olive oil can discarded in the trash, and took it home to plant some gorgeous cactus flowers to give to his coworker's daughter (her name is Zoe).

Suraj's Birthday

Wow, another Suraj birthday! It's been like 10 years of celebrating birthdays with him, from San Francisco to New York. Hope this lasts for another decade!
Awww... so cute... and innocent... don't let that cute face deceive you though.

He got a Shake Weight!  Good times!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Brooklyn Cyclones game

Um, so I'm not really that huge of a baseball fan- but I ended up going to baseball games three weekends in a row! First we went to CitiField and saw the Mets play the Braves (my first time ever seeing a major league baseball game in NYC)! Then I saw the Cyclones shut-out the Tri-City Valleycats in Troy (near Albany), and then we saw a home game against the Staten Island Yankees.

We had brunch with Tom at Jolie on Atlantic Avenue, and then braved the ominous weather on our way to Coney Island. It was our lucky day- Tom got an amazing parking space directly across the street from the stadium! We walked down the boardwalk and people-watched for awhile (and you could do this all day at Coney Island), and then the rain came down... I guess not so lucky... The three of us were pretty far down along the beach, so we got soaked as we headed back to the stadium. The beach emptied out and everyone ran for cover underneath the large concrete pavilions. Eventually we squeezed in to huddle beneath the pitiful faux-tropical thatched awning of a smoothie shack during the worst of the downpour.

Just like our first time seeing the Cyclones 2 years ago, we hung out waiting for the game to be called. But that time, although it was in mid August, it dropped to about 50 degrees so we were FREEZING in our shorts and tank tops. This time, it was at least warm, but the memories of that day made me want to go home. I was glad I didn't, because the weather cleared up, and we were treated to a spectacular pink and purple sunset and the rising of a hazy full moon. (yay, lucky us!)

But, the Cyclones lost to the Yankees, 8 to 7. (not so lucky). Great crowd, although we were stuck with the other "bleacher creatures"! :)

JG, Ahmed, Sean, P, me, Katie, Tom

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: Beets and Carrots (June and July)

Hooray, beets and carrots!
Beets (Late June)
Carrots (Late June)
A small harvest of beets and carrots (mid July)
Spinach (store bought) garnished with our home grown tomatoes, carrots, and beets (mid July)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: Tomatoes (June and July)

With the bathroom renovation taking over our entire apartment, we did not get to care for our urban garden as well as we would have liked.... and without us living full time at the apartment, the squirrels decided that the fruits of our labor on our patio were for their taking.... grrrrrrrrrrrrr.....

A small harvest of 1 plum, 2 yellow cherries, and some oregano (late June)
Tomatoes Mid/Late June
Tomatoes late June
Oh no! The bottoms of these tomatoes started turning black! Picked them off and threw a bunch of crushed eggshells in the pot. They subsequent ones didn't turn black, but kept getting knocked down by squirrels before they could turn red!
Mid/Late July
The plum and cherry tomatoes were getting more and more red everyday...
Late June
Mid/late June
Early July
Tomato harvest early July
Mid July
Tomato harvest mid July
Basil planted at the base of the tomatoes (mid/late July)

Everyday, we'd come home to find half eaten tomatoes on the ground.... so painful!
We've tried sprinkling the dried blood and cayenne pepper around, but they don't seem to deter those pests... I guess with the ridiculously hot weather, they deserve some fresh vitamins and home grown fruit too... we are in their world, after all. But still, they are OUR tomatoes!!!

OH, and our long awaited time lapse "movie"of the tomatoes' growth- from Joerg's Plant Cam! A photo was taken every few hours from June 4th to July 24th, condensed into a 7 second video. At one point the camera was tipped over a little bit (we think by those pesky squirrels) but we don't have any proof of them. Grrrr......

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: Lettuce (July)

 The end of the lettuce crop (Early July)

We did not continue to sow lettuce seeds every couple of weeks, so the lettuce leaves that kept growing from the first couple of sowings started to get a little tough and bitter. Too bad, they were so good! Next year, lots of lettuce and arugula- they're so easy to grow and keep coming back after you cut them.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Weekend in Albany

It took a lot of effort to get up to Albany but we finally made it up there.... Sean and Wendy had rented a Zip Car van to leave on Friday evening to take us, Wendy's mom, and our friend Lisa up to Albany for Wendy's bridal shower weekend in Albany. Unfortunately, S got a phone call at work on Friday afternoon that the van got a flat tire, and it had to be taken in to get repaired, and then inspected. After any car issues, their policy is to keep the cars for a couple days to make a full body inspection to ensure that nothing else was affected. Good policy, but bad for us, since they supposedly didn't have any other vans/large cars for us.

They finally found an available SUV, but it was in Astoria, Queens. They rejected Sean's request to have them pay for the car service for all of us to go out to Queens from their apartment in Williamsburg, so he kept searching for a vehicle either close to his work, or at least closer to the apartment. Nothing came up, so he called back after a few minutes to reserve the SUV in Queens. But by that time, it had already been reserved!

So he finally just booked a small car at the lot by their apartment and settled for the fact that 5 of us plus all of Wendy's mother's luggage would have to squeeze into the little car. He went to the lot on the way home from work and explained to the staff about our situation- they unsuccessfully tried looking for more cars, but it was a Friday afternoon in NYC in the middle of the summer... So he started to drive the little car out of the lot, when his cell phone rang, and the Zip Car representative alerted him to not leave the lot because the NYPD thought the car was stolen!?! ...and then his phone died...

Wendy, her mom, and I were all ready and packed, loaded up with sandwiches, drinks, snacks for the car ride, but we had to settle in and search for alternate ways of getting upstate! We looked into planes (which would need a couple layovers in DC or Chicago), trains, and buses. Since we didn't know for sure if ZipCar would reimburse us for our travel expenses, we didn't want to go out of pocket too much, so we settled for taking the bus up the next morning at 7am, and taking the Amtrak back on Sunday afternoon. By this point, it was about 10pm, so I just ended up staying over at their apartment. Hooray, hot shower for the 1st time in a week!!! (bathroom renovation still going on)

The next morning, we groggily woke up at 5:30am, showered, and headed out to Penn Station/ Madison Square Garden. There were hundreds of people out there already, but no organization whatsoever. I guess there were buses that were leaving every 15 minutes to Philly, DC, Boston, etc., but we were there so early that our 7am to Albany line wasn't even formed. Finally a guy from the bus company came out and started shouting at everyone to form lines. It was fairly chaotic, but he got most of us loaded on the bus when we heard the bus driver tell him that the bus was out of gas, and another bus was coming, so he should stop loading us on! Uh.... what?!? the bus guy was like, I don't care- get these people and their stuff on the bus- I need them off the sidewalk. When the next bus comes, we'll unload and reload them again! The new bus came, and thankfully it was a smooth transition although we left about an hour later than we were supposed to. Then we sat in traffic for another half hour trying to get out of Manhattan!

Finally got to Albany a couple hours later, quickly showered, drank some coffee, and headed out for Wendy's bridal shower/luncheon at Beth's house (Sean's parents' friend). Lisa and I immediately started putting together fruit kebabs and helping her set out drinks, etc. Beth and Sean's mom planned a beautiful shower in her garden with lots of their friends, many of whom were unfortunately unable to make it out to Hawaii for the wedding. It was great to meet everyone, and especially to hang out with Sean's brother Ben, and his super cool and crafty girlfriend, Martha.

Lisa, Wendy, and me at the shower

After the shower, we changed and headed out to see the Tri-City Valleycats host the Brooklyn Cyclones (Minor League Baseball). It was so fun and wholesome- and everything was so cheap! and $2 hot dogs! and the Cyclones smoked the Valleycats 8-0! and then like the world's longest fireworks show! and there was a lightning storm all around us all night, but the rain didn't come down until we were walking to the car at the end of the night... it was an awesome day.
The clouds were so surreal right before the storm

We were staying at a nearby Marriott Hotel, and boy, was I happy to enjoy another hot shower! It was a weekend of showers!! Bridal shower, rain showers, and hot showers! woohoo!

The next day we headed back to Sean's parents house for brunch. His dad had prepared a huge spread, including a couple of huge delicious frittatas made with homegrown zucchini and herbs, roasted potatoes, leftover fruit from the shower, and a couple loaves of banana and zucchini bread. Yum.

Ben and Martha headed up to the Open House Day at the Saratoga Springs Racetrack and we thought that was a great idea, so we also went up. It was hot and sunny, but very appropriate for the event- and since it was Open House, admission was free and there was no strict dress code or anything. We didn't have too much time since we had to catch the train back to NYC that afternoon, so we watched a couple of races and walked around the grounds. So Americana!
The happy couple!

Yay for Wendy and Sean!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bathroom Renovation

It's been awhile since I've updated the blog since my laptop has been under plastic for the last several weeks! We are undergoing a bathroom renovation- which in itself is stressful already, but when you live in a small apartment with only one bathroom, it becomes a frustrating, traumatic, life changing experience, uprooting your daily routine and forcing you to adapt to the constantly shifting conditions.

Until I download my photos and blog about the before/during/after photos, read this hilarious article (full text below) by Joyce Wadler of the New York Times about a Manhattanite who is also renovating her bathroom- many of the trials and tribulations she faces are similar to what P and I have been dealing with.

Two Weeks Without a Toilet
Published July 14, 2010
By Joyce Wadler

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

THIS is my new tub, a Rubbermaid Roughneck XL plastic bin. What do you think — is the lime green too much? 

I picked it out in the storage section at Home Depot, kicking off my sandals and stepping in, doing a nice straight-back knee bend partway down to see if I would fit. At 18 by 32 inches, with a depth of 20 inches, it was perfect. But five days into my bathroom renovation, it was not so great. 

Sick of the Y.M.C.A. showers, I decided to try using the bin as a true bathtub, rather than as the place where I would stand and drip after lathering up at the kitchen sink. I folded my limbs in, feeling like an insect with extra joints. (On the fifth day of her renovation, the reporter awoke to find she had turned into a giant cockroach.) 

Seated, it was a very tight fit, leaving me three inches to move my hands, but lots of space to free-associate. My first association was flying tourist class to Shanghai. Then I thought about the stowaways who cram themselves into shipping boxes on freight containers. Then, realizing just how tough it would be to get out, I wondered if I would die there and what the headline might be. 

Reporter Drowns in Makeshift Tub; Home Renovations in New York on Upswing
Bathroom renovation is not easy in Manhattan. In the rest of the country, most people have bathrooms in multiples: master baths, children’s bath, powder rooms. In a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, you are lucky if you can find the space in your only bathroom for extra toilet paper. Renovating, you have a few choices: move out, use the neighbors’ bathroom or improvise. 

Having the work done while I was away, which was my plan, finally didn’t seem to be a great idea: questions come up often during a renovation. Moving in with friends would be inconvenient, and hotels are expensive. Using a neighbor’s bathroom, which a lot of people suggested, was a terrible idea. Even if anyone was crazy enough to agree, it would mean that one day I would have to do the same for them, and who wants someone popping into their apartment several times an evening and in the middle of the night? 

So improvisation it would be, and I had a plan. Use the Y.M.C.A. a block and a half away for showering. Buy a big plastic tub for an at-home lather-and-rinse bath. Brush my teeth at the kitchen sink. 

Of course, the most urgent question — the one friends seized on constantly — was what I would do for a toilet. There were two camps, the ones who knew exactly what I was going to do — or as I came to think of them, the ones who had read Henry Miller in high school — and the ones who pretended they had no idea. The first camp, I am proud to say, was in the majority. 

“O.K., the sink, I get it,” a science reporter said. “But what about — — ” 

The doormen have a toilet, I told him. Somewhere. 

I reminded the squeamish that I don’t cook. If a cup or two is poured carefully down the drain with the occasional Clorox chaser, so what? It’s not like I’m rinsing vegetables in the sink. 

The night before demolition, I set up my bathroom in exile. I moved cosmetics and soaps and shampoos into the kitchen. I propped a hand mirror between the handles of a kitchen cabinet, which turned out to be exactly the right height for a makeup mirror. I put the Rubbermaid Roughneck tub near the sink, and stacked bath towels on a counter. The oven door handle of the snazzy Italian stove I put in during a kitchen renovation a few months earlier made a perfect rack for hand towels. I thought I could hear the stove sniffling, it was so grateful to be finally getting some attention, poor thing. 

My contractor estimated that he could put in the bathroom in less than three weeks, connecting the toilet by the end of week two. This schedule was immediately knocked off course when the service elevator was shut down on Monday, meaning everything would be a day late, and I would be without a toilet for two weekends, not one. But my neighborhood is full of restaurants with bathrooms, and I had a plan; what did I care? 

Demolition began on a Tuesday. I had dinner out and came home late to a bathroom stripped down to concrete and pipes, and a living room covered in dust. Annoying, but I had gone through it with the kitchen renovation and lived. I hate people who whine about renovations. 

I went to the kitchen to rinse out a pair of white jeans for the next day and turned on the faucet: nothing, no water. 

The plumber, shutting off the water in the bathroom, had cut off the water to the entire apartment. I panicked. I can live without a bathroom, but with no water at all, my apartment was unlivable. There are five exposed valves in the bathroom, but I had no idea which one would turn the water back on and which one would erupt in my face, blowing my eye out. I called the contractor. He apologized profusely, told me which handle to turn, and after a few wrenching tries I was able to turn the water back on, though I had a feeling I had dislocated my shoulder. 

But I am independent woman, strong like bull, proud, and the plan was back on track. I washed the jeans in a little detergent, then pulled the plug. Then I heard the sound of water running in the bathroom — which was not, under the circumstances, where I wanted to hear it. I raced over. 

Soapy water was dripping from an open pipe, the water forming a fat, muddy puddle on the floor. I threw towels onto the floor to mop it up and made a panicked run down to the basement to find the super, realizing as I did so that I was in desperate need of a bathroom. I stopped a passing doorman. 

“There wouldn’t be a bathroom somewhere down here, would there?” I asked. 

He led me to one in a corner of the basement I had never noticed, though I have been in the building 22 years. The secret bathroom — salvation! 

Then I found the super, who, after giving me the “that’s what you get for hiring an outside contractor instead of me and my extended family” look, said he would see what he could do. He came up to my bathroom, screwed on a U-shaped pipe to prevent overflow and gave me a crash course in plumbing. I gave him two $20s. 

OPERATION Live Without a Toilet for Two Weeks, It Won’t Kill You was back on track. Wimps who leave their apartments just because they have no bathroom? I sneer at them. 

I showered at the Y in the morning, and used the bathrooms at work and at neighborhood restaurants, although the question of whether to have an after-dinner drink was now fraught. At night, instead of my evening bath, I had a standing wash in my Rubbermaid Roughneck. (An interesting couple, those two, when you think about it: Does the maid find roughnecks irresistible? Is it roughnecks who wash like this? What about roustabouts? I understand why the Roughneck likes the Rubbermaid — she is so pliant, it must be like dating a ballerina. But does she ever become fed up with bathing in a bin and demand to be taken to a hotel?) 

The standing wash is something between a shower and a splash. I scrubbed and rinsed in the sink from my waist up, then lathered up from the waist down, rinsing with a beat-up pewter pitcher I got at a flea market 30 years ago. It was surprising to me how little water it took to get clean this way. 

Still, after three days, when I had an out-of-town article to report that enabled me to stay in a hotel, I was delighted. The facilities on Amtrak are magnificent — they have flush toilets. When I checked into the hotel, the first thing I did was take a bath. Also exquisite. 

The woman I was doing the article about had a beautiful house, and after I used her bathroom I was so overwhelmed, I returned, blathering. 

“I’ve been renovating my bathroom and living without a toilet,” I told her. “I feel like I’ve been to a Mecca or something.” 

“That’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard,” she said. 

Returning to my apartment, now Steinbeckian in its buildup of dust, was not easy. The showers at the Y do not have doors, just billowing curtains that allow the water to come streaming out, and as the showers are opposite one another, it’s like going out naked during hurricane season. 

I decided to try to take a real bath in my bin. I poured some Bigelow’s Bay Rum bath oil, a good strong scent, into the Merry Maid Roustabout; angled it to fit under the kitchen faucet, and started filling it. This took a while. The stream from a kitchen faucet is smaller than a bathtub’s. Also, water is heavy. I got five inches of water into the tub, then managed to angle it out from under the faucet and set it onto the floor without spilling it. 

I felt a strain in my right shoulder, but I stepped in and sat down. The warm, scented water was lovely but not what I would call relaxing. My arms were crisscrossed at the elbow. I couldn’t move much. It evoked some movie memories, but those tubs were bigger and the bathers — French aristocrats or gunslingers in hotels of questionable repute — had people bringing them hot water. 

Lifting the tub to empty it in the sink was much tougher than lowering it to the floor. I thought I could hear the tendons in my shoulder snap and found myself wishing I’d gotten closer to the neighbors. 

I was also starting to wonder about the legality of pouring urine down the sink in New York City. It seems no worse than a lot of the things from the back of my refrigerator that I have poured down the drain, but getting into trouble over it would be an inglorious end to my career. 

I tried to research the subject on the Web, but all I found was a video on public restrooms in my neighborhood. There seemed to be a nice one at Whole Foods. Good to know. Meanwhile, the weather was getting hotter, my apartment was getting dustier, my shoulder was getting worse. 

Ten days into the renovation, I went to see my friend Loren Fishman, a doctor who specializes in rehabilitative medicine, who examined my shoulder, looked concerned and sent me for an M.R.I. 

A few days later, I got the diagnosis: frozen shoulder, most likely brought on by muscle strain. If I am lucky, after a course of physical therapy, it will go away in a few months. 

Next time, I’m going to a hotel.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

4th of July weekend activities-Scituate, MA

The 4th of July weekend was packed with wholesome activities! Saturday night was the big blowout party at one of the neighbors' houses (across the street). After a hot day at the beach, we came back to the house to prepare our dishes. P & I made our signature appetizer- baguette rounds with fig preserves, pear slices, and goat cheese... yum!
James made a great Flag Cupcake platter

P & I could do this... drinks and sunset by the beach?!? anytime.....
Some of the great kids at the party
Kate was one of J&B's friends' daughter- cutest thing ever!

The night ended with several IMPRESSIVE fireworks shows- one of them put on by the host and his friends. It ended up being a bunch of shows since their neighbors on either side of them plus people down on the other end of the beach also had loaded up on fireworks!
Sunday's official activities started  off with the Children's Bike Parade. All the kids in the neighborhood decorated their bikes with streamers, flags, pinwheels, and anything else patriotic. Everyone seemed to be wearing stripes and/or red, white, and blue! 

Willie on his cool "adult" bike
Ollie and his decked out BMX
A great photo by Betsy- a neighborhood kid concentrating on sucking his Freezepop amidst the frenzy.

After the Bike Parade, everyone went down to the beach for the Sand Sculpture Contest. Apparently, this contest is kind of a big deal, but we didn't really do any advanced planning since we were so busy with everything up until the trip, and frankly, because we weren't really doing it to win. Betsy just wanted to make sure that we had an idea that the kids would understand and be excited to be part of. 

 North Scituate Beach (the house where the 4th of July party was held the night before is one of those houses just beyond- they access the beach from a ladder in their backyard!
So, we just went in to have fun, not to win... B, J, P, and I literally came up with our idea that morning when the kids were on the Bike Parade. It was decided to be an "Under The Sea-tuate" theme (as in "Scituate") centered around an enormous octopus whose tentacles were wrapped around the Scituate Lighthouse, a surfboard, and an anchor.   
J and W hauling wet sand and tools for our masterpiece!
Hard at work forming the octopus and its thick tentacles!
There was also a mermaid under a large scalloped shell (viewed from above). Ollie brought up bunches of seaweed to wrap around the anchor and for the mermaid's hair.
Our neighbors' entry was an iPod (their pun: Mi(not) Pod (the area they lived in Scituate was called "Minot")
There were a bunch of prizes awarded to the 50(?) entrants (Best Teamwork, Most Unique, etc.) We thought our entry was pretty cool, but were shocked when we were awarded the GRAND PRIZE!!!
Ollie and Willie and friend Ryan, on the podium, accepting the silver Campbell Cup
O was a pretty proud winner!
We were pretty proud ourselves...
It was big enough for us to sit on top of/in between the tentacles!
After the judging of the sand sculpture contest, the kids joined in for a wholesome game of Tug Of War!
It was a great wholesome, fun in the sun weekend. Since we don't get to see James, Betsy, and the kids much, we really enjoyed our time together. Can't wait to have them down in NYC again!