Monday, December 31, 2012

The dress

I'm just back from a week in Texas celebrating the holidays with some of my favorite people. Now I'm back and ready to ring in the new year in New York (the NYE hotspot for those who like cold weather, big crowds, and super expensive covers at all bars--which, it turns out, is a lot of people). As today is the last day of the year, it also means the official end of my self-sanctioned wedding planning reprieve. You know, because I'll be so much more ready to tackle everything in 2013 as it's coincidentally also the year I plan to get organized, learn to invest, and write the dramatic second and thirds acts (well and the latter part of the first) of a screenplay. Now that I've had a few months off, I'm pretty pumped about figuring out the logistics (although, again, I promise to not make this into a wedding planning blog, because I now know that's really a thing). One of the things I was hopeful to check off my list early was the wedding dress. I found something perfect (although somewhat different from what I'd originally envisioned) that I'm really excited about. But this post is not about that dress.

While I was visiting my family in Arlington, my mom's cousin came over and we started talking about wedding dresses. She mentioned her own wedding dress as being ideal for a summer farm wedding. It was the same dress that I'd been reminded of a few weeks earlier when visiting my uncle in DC. My mom's cousin was not the first wearer of the dress. It graced its first wedding in 1908 when it was worn by my great grandmother. It was then worn by my grandmother when she got married. (She and my grandfather have been married now over 70 years.) Two of her daughters, including my mom, have worn the dress at their weddings. And then in addition to my mom's cousin wearing it at hers in (I believe) the early 80s, it has, over the years been worn by bride characters in two different plays. I know most of this because another aunt, who did not wear the dress, recorded the whole history and distributed it to the family. Definitely a worthwhile undertaking, but considering how long it took my mom and I to find that history, I thought it might be worth recording the story here as well.

Anyway, during the conversation, it became apparent that the dress itself was actually present in my aunt's home, carefully store in an archival box. My mom's cousin insisted I try it on as a possibility. The handmade lace was a bit torn in places, and I could tell before I put it on that it had probably seen its last wedding. But it was beautiful and, considering it came from 1908, it was remarkably well-preserved. It involved a couple of layers and a petticoat, and one of the layers had a turtleneck that felt a little like it was choking me. Nevertheless, I'm glad I got the chance to try it on and join the many admirable, and evidently slender-necked, women who have worn it before me.

Here is my somewhat poorly scanned copy of the photo of my grandmother wearing the dress. The inset is a picture of her mother wearing it. 

My mom wearing the dress.

And here's me, as of last week, with my grandmother. As you can see the sleeves were shortened at some point, and the sash was an addition of my mom's cousin.
While it won't be worn in my wedding, it's a beautiful heirloom. I have a sneaking suspicion my own dress won't have quite that staying power. At any rate, I want to wish all my readers a Happy New Year! May 2013 bring great things and one more unproduced screenplay in the world!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crock pot pie

The other day I was looking for comfort food. I hadn't seen the sun in a few days, and while it hasn't been that cold here, it has been seriously dismal. I don't suffer from seasonal affective disorder, but a person can only take so much before they start self-medicating with casserole. I found a recipe for a pulled pork and apple pot pie with rosemary biscuit topping. Sold! The only downside was it involved cooking a 3 lb pork shoulder in a Dutch oven for multiple hours. Not labor intensive, but also not conducive to having fun Saturday plans. Since I wanted to go meet a friend for brunch and then do some Christmas shopping, I decided to adapt the recipe for the slow cooker. 

I didn't take any pictures of the finished product, but enjoy this photo of Dolly Parton and Keith Haring hanging out together, which is almost as awesome. 
Verdict: extreme success. It was delicious, comforting, and incredibly easy. Also, when I came home my apartment smelled amazing, which is always a plus. Here is the recipe for those hoping to create delicious, comforting pulled pork pot pies in your own kitchens!

Ingredients:
1 T olive oil
1 yellow onion
3 lbs pork shoulder
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
salt
pepper
2 tsp thyme
4 tsp rosemary
2 granny smith apples
2 1/2 c flour
8 T butter
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c grated cheddar 
1 c buttermilk

Rub the pork shoulder all over with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium high heat. Brown the pork shoulder on each side. Transfer pork to the crock pot. 

Dice the onion and saute in the pan until soft. Add the thyme and 2 tsp of the rosemary and stir until fragrant. Remove from heat and throw the onion mixture in the crock pot. Add the chicken broth. Turn the crock pot on low and cook 7-8 hours. Then go about your business for the next 7-8 hours!

Remove the pork and shred with two forks. Return to the pot. Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1-inch pieces. Toss in the crock pot. Leave to cook a little more while you make the biscuit topping.

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl. Cut in the chilled butter and mix until the mixture resembles a course meal. Add in the cheese and the rest of the rosemary and stir to combine. Finally, add in the buttermilk. 

Put the pork and apple mixture in a casserole dish. Drop the biscuit mixture over the top and spread to cover the whole surface. Cook the pot pie in the oven for 20 minutes until the biscuit topping is mixed through. Prepare for amazingness! 


Monday, December 17, 2012

Muted holiday cheer

I had a reasonably cheerful weekend of Hanukkah parties, cookie decorating, and Christmas window perusal.  I was going to post about making merry with my usual irreverence (essentially the only writing style I know), but I feel a little weird about it now. In addition to the events of Friday (it was especially tragic Saturday night to see candles lit in the park by my apartment not for the last night of Hanukkah, but for candlelight vigils), a number of close friends have also experienced personal losses in their lives.  My thoughts, flowers, and (in one case) a lasagna are with them right now. I will still post some photos of this weekend, especially since I visited the finished gingerbread block and I know some were waiting for evidence, but without my usual picture-accompanying banter.







Don't worry, Astorian Dream will be back to the usual self-satisfied witticisms later in the week.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dancers dancing

A few months back I posted about a dance show I went to at BAM in Brookyn. I mostly ruminated on how much I enjoy dance and yet never attend shows. Also, that it's one of those things, like fishing or fine whiskies, that I'm not really qualified to write about (in much the way, that I am now qualified to write about the following things: apple butter canning; slow, methodical tin whistle playing; photographing cats, specifically my own). However, I attended yet another dance performance last night, bringing the total, and likely final, count for dance performances attended in 2012 to two. A group of friends wanted to go to to an Alvin Ailey show, which is something that I'd always wanted to check out. Mostly because the woman in all the subway advertising looks superhumanly strong/attractive.

She was in the show we saw, which was pretty exciting. I wonder how she feels to be featured to prominently in posters all over the city.
Still, while curious, I didn't have any real expectations for the show. And suffice is to say, it was pretty incredible. The movements these people are capable of makes me wonder how we are the same species. The incredible strength it takes to perform the movements coupled with the grace it takes to hide that strength and make each movement appear effortless is just incredible. Here is an ad for one of the three pieces we saw. However, my favorite was actually one not choreographed by Alvin Ailey at all, but rather by an Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. I couldn't find a video of it done at Alvin Ailey in the past, but I did find a version from a theater in the Netherlands. Seeing that excerpt made me realize that the part where they brought audience members up on stage and made them dance with the performers was actually part of the same piece. I was not chosen, which is not surprising considering it was a rather large audience of people and also that I aggressively avoided eye contact when the dancers came into the audience.

So don't worry, this won't become a dance review blog now, as I don't intend to devote my life to it just yet (although it did kind of make me want to take the free dance class offered there with your ticket stub...at least until my friend mentioned the teachers are kind of bitchy/exacting). It is however always nice to take advantage of some of the many things that New York has to offer outside of the same old things I always take advantage of (mostly food). Now to see what dance performances are available in Astoria...

Friday, December 7, 2012

The sweetest block in all Brooklyn

Last night, I participated in the great Gingerbread Block Project of 2012. In case you didn't realize that was a thing until you saw those words capitalized together, rest assured that it is. A Brooklyn pastry chef, Renee, who runs this blog built a brownstone out of gingerbread last year. Not satisfied with the labor intensiveness of that project, she decided this year to create a whole block of brownstones. When she advertised for volunteers, I immediately signed up to participate. I was really interested to see behind the scenes of such an undertaking, to learn a few tips, and to participate in whatever small way.

I didn't get any photos of our progress (or I did, but it was on my phone and is barely recognizable), but here's a shot of her single brownstone of last year. 
I took the Thursday night shift because it was the only night I had free, but I was also glad to be fairly late in the process (the block will be finished for display on Sunday) because it was fun to be a part of some of the later stage detail work. I participated in putting window frames made out of dead dough (a basic dough recipe used for sculpting...it's the consistency of pasta dough). They were attached with royal icing and sometimes with a corn starch based glue. Renee explained that for the project everything had to be edible, but generally speaking none of it would be especially tasty. (Case in point, the building dough for the structure had ginger and molasses in it, so it smelled tantalizing and gingerbready, but the high flour content needed to give it a stiff enough structure makes it less appetizing that your typical cookie). After the window frames dried, I also helped paint them using a mixture of food coloring diluted with water. I also made a few custom window and door frames out of dead dough.

It was a lot of fun to participate, but it was also just amazing to see the level of organization and time that goes into such a project. Also, nice: I finally learned how to make a cornet. Perhaps I'll dispense with using ziplocs as pastry bags now! Renee had clearly been putting a lot of thought into this and getting ideas during jaunts through Park Slope. She even had truly ingenious ideas for how to make a little fruit stand out of different herbs (red peppercorns could so easily be apples!) and little dough window air conditioning grates. It's these little details that make projects like this so cool.

The brownstone block is being unveiled on Sunday at 61 Local in Boerum Hill. It will also be on display through December 21st, so if you're in the Brooklyn area, you should come by and see it! After that, the brownstones are being individually auctioned off to raise money for Citi Harvest. Make sure to take note of the meticulously applied and painted window treatments while there.


Monday, December 3, 2012

DC in December

Uh, so apparently it's December now? I'm not really sure how we got here, but I don't really remember October happening. Perhaps it's because Halloween was canceled. At any rate, I'm ready to usher in the season of wreathes, cookies, open bar holiday parties, and good cheer. Thanks to the Internet and the fact that my family doesn't really do that many gifts, my Christmas shopping is effectively almost done. Now is the time to sit back, put the Chieftains "Bells of Dublin" on repeat and try to start the screenplay I'm supposed to have completed the first act of by now (I blame the last of October for why I'm not further along).

I spent the triumphant end of November and start to December in our nation's capital (with 'our' here meaning any of my readers who live in the United States). I went down for the weekend to visit my aunt and uncle who live just outside the DC metro area. It was all too short a visit, but lovely to see them and catch up. And overall it was a very relaxing weekend, or at least as relaxing as any weekend that involves 8 hours on a bus can be. Here are a couple of photos of the weekend (taken by and selected for this blog by my usual photographer).

Two very cute cats enjoying their privileges. 

Mount Vernon as viewed through some sort of glass surface?  If instragram has taught us anything it's that slight opacity does equal artisticness. 

This is Gobbler, one of the two Thanksgiving turkeys officially pardoned by President Obama. He seemed pretty ornery despite this treasured status. These turkeys were not the only animals at Mount Vernon. We were also treated to Aladdin the Christmas Camel. Fun fact, apparently Washington was a fan of exotic animals during the holiday season. His camel's modern day counterpart did not seem especially happy to be wintering in the DC area. 

Mount Vernon as viewed through myself and my aunt and uncle. I'm not sure why I look so in pain here, but rest assured by trip to Washington's home was quite pleasant. 

This tulip poplar was planted by GW himself in 1785!

To get the true creepiness of this concave image of Washington, you need to know that in real life it's a good 10 feet tall.

This takes me back to when I was in town for the inauguration almost 4 years ago. It was sort of like this only I was another quarter mile back and there were a few million people (and one super tall guy) in front of me.

All in all, it was a lovely weekend, and we were very appreciative of our gracious hosts. Now I'm back in town and ready to really do December up right. Happy holiday season kick-off readers!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Things to be thankful for, artfully documented in photographs

I'm not going to make a real post about Thanksgiving because frankly, the vast majority of my readers experienced it with me. Which does remind me: know that I am thankful daily for all of you (including those of you who didn't spend the last few days lovingly providing me with food). As such, and knowing I could hardly provide any new insights on the holiday regardless, I still wanted to post a few photos just so I'll have them all in one place. Having a nice record of things has been the semi-intended consequence that has kept me blogging at during those times when I have been especially busy or especially bored with my own writing/thoughts. Here then are a few photos from the last few days that I thought were especially flattering and that no one might have any objection to seeing posted:








In addition to these lifeless photo gems, I should note a video has also made it to the web of the first, and perhaps only, dramatic performance of Ad Hoc Productions. I'm not going to post that valued link here, but if you know what I'm talking about, were one of those who requested the filming, and have yet to see it, please let me know and I'll supply you with the link.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We clean up okay

My last post was all pictures of the beauty of Central Park in fall (and something about jazz, I think?), so, to mix it up a little, I thought this week I would post some lovely pictures of Central Park in fall with Sam and I in them. These are from an engagement shoot we took a few weeks back. They were all taken by this nifty lady. I would definitely recommend Toni Skotcher for anyone in the New York area with photo needs. She's fun and manages to make making out on command or directions like "put your hand on your hip and look sassy" not make me feel awkward (quite a feat). Added to which (really only relevant to my blog's ever dwindling theme), she's a fellow Astorian!

At any rate, here are a few of my favorites:
The Bethesda Fountain has always been one of my favorite places in the park. I guess that's really all I have to say about this one.

 Okay, so this one isn't of us, but I was happy Toni decided to include it. While we were taking photos by the lake, these people kept trying to get their dog to come back. He'd just jumped in the lake and was swim chasing the ducks who were pretty effortlessly out-pacing him. He seemed pretty deaf to his owner's call, so I hope they did eventually recover him. I don't know though...that pond has a lot of ducks.
 A quintessential soulful-eye-staring engagement photo!

 This is one of my favorites mostly because it looks like we're the only people in Central Park (definitely rarely the case). Turns out the way to accomplish this is to go on the day of a canceled marathon when it's 35 degrees outside.

 You can't really tell that it's us, but I just think this is a really cool photo.

 This actually wouldn't be a favorite (because I think I was failing at not looking cold here), except for the cute little dog head nobly watching over us. (Do you see it?) Also, know that when we gazing off into the lake/our-metaphorical-future-together, we are actually watching that black lab and its duck chasing. Just to add some context to this photo.

I'm just feeling really cute about this one.

So there you go! There are a bunch more photos and even a bunch more favorites of mine, but I can only post so many photos of myself (even engagement photos) before I start to feel a little Kim Kardashian. Thanks again to Toni Skotcher Photography for making us look all lovely-like!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jazz and Colors. Without very much jazz.

This weekend it was absolutely gorgeous on Sunday. Sixty degrees. Sunny. You'd hardly believe there was a blizzard a few days before. Naturally, I spent most of Sunday inside working on freelance projects, organizing my spice cabinet, and watching football. Saturday, which was a grey but warm enough day, I went to the park. The scheduling was not entirely my own. Saturday was the Jazz and Colors Festival in Central Park. I'd never been, nor heard of this before, but I stumbled on it when looking for something free to do around town. Those of you who know me well will probably know that I am not a rabid jazz fan. Or even a fan at all, really. I like jazz as much as the next person, but mostly in small quantities and limited to elevators, hold music slow jams, and saxophone players under bridges in Central Park. There's just something about jazz and Central Park that go together well. Obviously, the parks department must agree. The festival is comprised of 20 bands/musicians set up all over the park so that you can stroll through it and stop and enjoy at your leisure.

Not being a huge jazz fan, my main excitement was in entering the park at the very top. For as long as I've lived in New York and as many times as I've gone to Central Park, I've never seen huge swaths of the southeast section. Luckily, my companion was equally ambivalent about jazz because by misreading the website I got us there not just in time for the start of the second set, but in fact, just in time for the 1 hour intermission. We walked by a good eight performers and traveled all the way from the top of the park to below the reservoir before it was finally time to hear some music. A few musicians along the way were noodling on their instruments though, which was a lot of fun. In fact, I think I probably enjoyed those guys more than the actual performance we saw.

Anyway, my photographer captured some excellent shots of the park. We may not have seen much jazz, but by god, we saw some colors.

The Harlem Meer. A lovely spot I can now check off my things-to-see-in-Central-Park list.

More Harlem Meer. I included this one because if you look to the edge of the willow you can part of a drum set. There was totally going to be jazz happening there in an hour.

A fountain in the Conservatory Garden. Another place I hadn't been. You can't tell, but those flowers were totally beaten down. I think they were planted just after the hurricane so they didn't stand a chance against the random blizzard.

More Conservatory Garden. I can see now why people like getting married here.

The last of the Conservatory Garden trio!

This guy knew his way around a trombone.

An electric fiddle! Something I thought only existed in Lord of the Dance.

This is the only honest-to-goodness jazz band we actually saw perform. They were playing in front of the Met. Honestly, we only ended up staying about 10 minutes. 
Lovely park we've got here. It's not a perfect substitute for actual nature, but I'll take it for now.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Yes we can

A former roommate of mine got married this fall and for her wedding favors gave out homemade peach jam lovingly canned in her kitchen in Brooklyn. I enjoyed reading about the process on her blog but hadn't really thought about it much beyond that. That is until, when beginning planning my own wedding (which I assure you will not become the primary topic of this blog, so bear with me) I visited the venue and saw little jars of jam being used as place cards. It fit so nicely, and quickly got me thinking "how hard could it be?"

After getting some advice from the roommate and a little free shipping from an Amazon Prime trial, I was soon outfitted with everything the modern canner needs to create delicious preserved fruit products for her friends and loved ones that won't give them botulism. (I'll admit, the primary reason for this post is to share the re-surging art of home canning, but the not-so-subtle secondary goal is for those readers who will be receiving said wedding favor to know that they probably won't be fatal.) After some serious research, I decided my fruit of choice would be apples (being the only thing really in season significantly before the wedding date), and my chosen spread would be apple butter. This was something of a relief as apple butter is a fairly forgiving concoction. You don't need to worry about pectin or anything having to thicken or gel. In fact, if you have a slow cooker, all you really have to worry about is peeling and coring the apples, and the rest of the work is done for you.

I've done my first two batches now (and learned conclusively that 6 pounds of apples yields 18 4-oz jars of butter), so I'm ready to post about what I've learned. My first batch was something of a learning process, and I'm still a little amazed that after following all the directions, my jars actually did seal properly. In the second batch, all but one of the 18 jars sealed properly, but that's actually something of a good thing because it means I get to eat the failed jar (which I've discovered is excellent on cornbread). I also learned the amazing utility of an apple corer. How have I never owned one before?

At any rate, without further ado, here is how you make and can apple butter:

The blurry ingredients. Rest assured, this is the only cell phone photo in the batch. For those who can't distinguish ingredients other than the apples, there is also: sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. 
The first step after gathering your ingredients is to prepare the apples. This is the most time consuming part, especially when you only have one decent peeler. My lovely assistant and I created an assembly line or coring, peeling, and chopping that generally made fast work of it. It almost makes me want to make some kind of hackneyed metaphor for how the teamwork required to make apple butter could equate to marriage, but this really isn't that kind of blog.

The apples once cored, diced, and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Once the real work is done, you just put the apples in a large pan on the stove (very important that it's at least 8 quarts for 6 pounds of apples...something I learned the hard way in the first batch) with 5 cups of water (or 2 cups of cider and 3 cups of water). Boil, stirring occasionally, until the apples are broken down (about a half hour).
I thought this would look more artsy and dream-like than it turned out looking.
Once the apples are broken down, puree with an immersion blender (or wait for them to cool a bit and throw them in a regular blender) and transfer the puree to a slow cooker. Add a cup of sugar, a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of both cloves and allspice.

Normally, I eschew attempts by my photographer to include candid photos, but I want to document that this is in fact homemade lovingly by us.
Mix the ingredients together. Now the real work is truly over (for the apple butter making...not the canning). Just switch the slower cooker on low, leave the lid somewhat askew so that liquid can evaporate, and cook on low for 12-14 hours. You're supposed to stir it occasionally, but I did this step overnight, so my stirring was very occasional and it still turned out fine.

The home canner's tool kit.
Above you can see the cleaned and sanitized jars ready to go on their clean and sanitized work space. One thing about home canning is that it would be made that much simpler for those with a dishwasher. You can just run the jars on hot and then leave them in there until you're read to use them. Not having a dish washer, I had to boil all of the jars first just to make sure they were sterile. Also in the picture above you can see some of the tools that came with my 7-piece Presto canning kit. The funnel and jar-lifter are self explanatory, but the little green stick thing is pretty cool. It has a magnet on it so you can lift the jar lids out of the bowl of boiling water (they're in the upper left corner) without burning your fingers. Ingenious!
Filled and ready to be lowered!
About 30 minutes before you want to start canning fill your dry bath canning pot with enough water that will cover your jars by at least an inch. (It takes a long time for all that water to boil.) Meanwhile, turn the slow cooker up to high so that your apple butter will also boil. Once both are boiling. Fill each jar with apple butter until about 1/2" from the top. Wipe the edges with a moist paper towel and apply lids and screw caps. Lower the filled jars into the water bath and boil for ten minutes to process. Remove all jars and leave untouched on a clean dish towel. After an hour, check to make sure the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center. If you can depress the center of the lid, it hasn't sealed. Remove any unsealed jars to the refrigerator and eat within a month. Those jars that have properly sealed should remain untouched for 24 hours and then can be moved to a cool dry place for storage where they will keep unopened for up to a year.

I've discovered I really enjoy the process of canning. It makes me feel very self-reliant. Like some combination of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Laura Engalls Wilder, and maybe a little Ted Kaczynski. The book I got on canning for the modern kitchen has seasonal recipes, and I'm really looking forward to the farm share starting up next year, so I can try some out. After all, in the summer certain vegetables are in abundance, and I get pretty sick of them. And yet now, in the harsh reality of winter, I could really go for some tomatoes (or, I guess, preserving limitations being what they are: tomato sauce) or eggplant and wonder how I could have so taken them for granted during the times of plenty.

Don't worry, friends and loved ones, my canning energy is currently engaged in all of this apple butter making, so you don't have to worry about getting overenthusiastic offerings like jars of pickled turnips for Christmas this year. But know this: by next May, there may just a jar of upstate New York orchards' finest at your place.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Can't stop the runners

Things are back to normal in some of the city and far from normal in others. This weekend, I tentatively  made plans that took me more than walking distance from my apartment. I'd previously gone into Manhattan to take advantage of the free trains and buses, but hadn't actually made plans to meet anyone there. On Saturday, I took the bus down to Brooklyn to meet friends for Polish food. I tend to be pretty down on buses (they're delayed by traffic, they require you to wait outside in all weather for them, and you have to be vigilant about actually looking for your stop), but I will say the journey was fairly smooth. That I was rewarded on the other end by pierogies and blintzes, just added to my positive bus experience.

On Sunday, we had long ago scheduled to take engagement photos in Central Park. After the marathon was canceled, we were worried the park would be closed. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find it both open and well cleaned up. It looked like it took less of a beating than Astoria Park, although it's likely just more that they had a dedicated clean up effort. Most interesting was that there were a bunch of people there still running a marathon (or part of one). I'd heard that a lot of people still made it here because the marathon was canceled so late in the game (according to NPR one guy found this out right after getting off a 17-hour flight from Dubai). A lot of the runners were apparently volunteering their time and energy instead toward the cleanup effort in Staten Island and the Far Rockaways. However, there were a number who were still running. Official marathon or not.

Now Central Park is normally jogger central, so the fact that there were tons of runners was not at first particularly notable when we entered the park. However, there was definitely something different that distinguished them from your average Sunday morning exercise junkies. For starters, large groups of them were wearing matching shirts or jackets. Some were carrying the flags of their countries. And many of them were hollering and cheering. So essentially they were not only trying to recreate the marathon experience by running through the park, they were also trying to populate an imaginary marathon audience with their cheers. It must be a blow to spend so long training and so much money on flights to not be able to run the real event. Although, if I were a marathon runner, I think I would be pretty relieved at the cancelation. I would have felt pretty awkward throwing my half drunk cups of water on the ground while knowing there are people in the city still struggling to get clean drinking water.

I must say though, I admire the persistence of spirit of marathon runners. I hope they're all back here next year, so we can cheer them on properly! Also, unrelated, but I think the engagement shoot went really well. Will definitely share some of the photos here once we get them back from the photographer!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween in a darkened city

Happy Halloween, readers! It doesn't really feel like Halloween much up here, in part because several drug stores have preemptively put up their Christmas displays and in part because we have no subway service and much of the city is without power. However, Astoria was largely spared. We had no flooding here, and no one in the neighborhood is without power. There are a number of trees down and several local businesses lost their awnings, but that seems to be the brunt of it. When I went for a walk yesterday, on one street there was a tree that was entirely picked up and shoved roots first into someone's windshield (the trunk of the tree then fell, destroying the frame of a second car). A trip to Astoria Park showed more trees, and some old growth ones, also felled. Interestingly, the twitter culture is rampant and every fallen tree was surrounded by a crowd of paparazzi with smart phones. You won't find any tree carnage photos on my blog, but I assure you, you don't have to look far on the Internet to find some.

While business as usual has begun in Astoria, it certainly won't return to the city for a while. Trains are still down (although the MTA twitter promises a midday timeline for when service should be restored), although buses are running. Not entirely helpful, as I passed the M60 stop this morning (one of the few buses that travels from Queens to Manhattan) and there was at least 50 people waiting for it. For those of us working downtown (well really just Sam as I work from home) most offices are without electricity anyway. The email server and website are down at my company which does somewhat limit the amount of work I can do remotely. But for now I'm content to be stranded in Western Queens for the foreseeable future.

I'm passing the time preserving apple butter for the wedding (more on that later) and avoiding working on my screenplay (although if there was ever a time I was going to get that thing done, it would be now). My screenwriting class, as well as tin whistle class, were both canceled this week. On a sadder note, for the first time in 39 years, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was also canceled tonight. Kind of a no-brainer given that most of the parade route has no power, the police presence required to set up the route is needed elsewhere, and there may actually still be flooding in the Village. Still, I'm sorry to miss putting on my latex wounds and dancing to Michael Jackson tonight though.

Therefore, instead of pictures of fallen trees and damaged property, I would instead like to post my favorite photo of the Halloween parade last year. Many of these zombies are without power and my heart goes out to them. However, the city's response to the disaster has been very efficient and well-organized. I'm confident New York will be up and running soon and the dead will walk the streets again someday soon...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Remaining skeptical of everyone who said I can pull off bald

No loss of power yet from this media-christened "Frankenstorm" (a nice Halloween take on the usual "Snowpocolypse" or "Blizzuricane"), so I thought I'd update about this weekend before work. (The downside of working from home is that even though the subways are down, the office is closed, and every fun thing I had planned for the next two days is canceled--I still have to work.) Anyway, this weekend we threw out annual (well, this is the second year in a row that we threw one) Halloween party. Photos of the previous shindig can be seen here. This one wasn't quite as rollicking as the last one. For some reason, no one really seemed to be drinking, and yet everyone brought plenty of alcohol. All told, after the party we were left with 5 full bottles of wine, 6 complete 6-packs of beer, a handle of vodka, and the better part of a bottle of Venezuelan rum. None of which we purchased. I guess that's one way to batten down the hatches for a hurricane.

This year, being the only Halloween of our engagement, Sam and I figured we could get away with what would otherwise be an incredibly cloying couples costume. In other words, we decided to dress as each other. We reasoned it was the perfect, cost-effective costume because we could just wear each other's clothes and invest in the appropriate hair pieces. In the end, I was able to wear his pants with a belt, but he looks terribly unflattering in any dresses of mine that he could fit. We purchased him a dress in his approximate lady size at Goodwill that I picked out and deemed something that I would wear. I actually really like the dress and if it were one-size smaller it would be spared being sent back to Goodwill. We also purchased a pair of simple ballet flats for him at Payless that, now that he's told me they are quite comfortable, I actually might go back and purchase in my size.

We wanted to take a before and after picture to really highlight the quality of the illusion, so we dressed up in each other's costumes. Unfortunately, I had cut my hair shortly prior to the before picture, so it no longer resembles the wig we got him at all. In something of a Gift of the Magi Halloween edition twist, the main reason I cut my hair was so that it would fit better under the bald cap. In the end, it doesn't really matter because cheap blond curly wigs really only come in Marilyn Monroe and Farrah Fawcett, so hair-wise we were pretty much doomed from the start. But enough of my excuse-making, behold the finished product:


video

Can you figure out which are the real Susan and Sam? It's admittedly difficult.

Here are a couple other pictures showing a few other party people:
My friends: the sky and Dia de los Meurtos. Also, there's evidence of me in poorly fitting pants.

This photo was stolen from my photography friend. I think she captured Sam's discomfort well.

The only one who managed a full costume change mid party! Dinah was pretty angry with us for inviting Brando, but then how can you say no to that face? 
Some of the party snacks. Chocolate strawberry ghouls, caprese eyeballs, and witch's fingers.

Mary Poppins and Bert. They were kind enough to leave part of their costume behind so we granted the hostess gift of a brand new broom!

Brando with his parents and in his first costume of the night. They planned their costumes around his.

My favorite action shot of the night.
So that was Halloween part 1. Now that I've gotten all of the spirit gum out of my hair, it seems like so long ago! I'm hopeful this hurricane will blow over with minimal damage for a number of reasons, but in part because it could make way for the Halloween parade on Wednesday. Weather permitting, I will yet again be dancing as one of Michael Jackson's zombies to Thriller. Keeping my fingers crossed.