Monday, April 29, 2013

The biggest loser: feline edition

I had a rather awesome, but exhausting, weekend (with some very awesome and invigorating weather!), but I'm not going to talk about that for once. Instead, this will be a Dinah post. Which means probably not relevant or interesting to anyone but myself, but then again I do like to pretend, however transparently, that I write these mostly for my own edification. 

At any rate, the thrust of the post is this: my cat is fat. After talking to a friend who had cat weight loss success, I decided to make a drastic change to her diet. No more $15 dry cat food bags that last a month. She now eats food more expensive than mine. Well, okay, that's an exaggeration. I happened to stockpile cat food and frozen meat for myself at the same time, and yes her order cost more even with's new customer discount. However, I ate my meat purchases in under a week and her stockpile should last the next month or so, so there two aren't really comparable. Hyperbole aside though, this stuff is expensive.  

According to my friend and a lot of cat diet research information that she sent me and I mostly didn't read (because she had already read it and I trust her as a maven of everything from electric toothbrushes to, apparently, cat food), this particular brand has a higher protein content than many other wet cat food brands. The dry foods are mostly filler, requiring the cat to eat more (potentially gaining weight) without feeling full. While I don't follow a paleo diet for myself (except for that one ill-fated week a few years ago), I do appreciate the wisdom of getting more calories from fat and protein. And I'm not even a carnivore, as she is. Basically, I feel bad that I've been carefully measuring her dry food all these months and wondering why she wasn't losing (and gaining, if anything) weight. If she's fat, much like if I'm fat, I have no one to blame but myself (well, unless one of develops a thyroid condition or something). 

We bought a few starter cans of the stuff from a frou-frou pet store downtown to see if she liked it before bulk ordering. I was convinced for some reason that she would have difficultly with the transition, partly because she turned up her nose at wet cat food the one time I tried to give it to her (the free can the ASPCA gave me when I adopted her). I guess that was just the stress of the subway ride with a stranger though, because she inhaled it immediately. Other than the sardine cutlets in lobster consume (actual flavor), she pretty much eats anything we put down. In fact, she paces like a little drug addict while we're opening the can, meowing impatiently (and, I might add, obnoxiously). She starts her assault at around 5:30 in the morning. So basically, she's become a little shit. But at least now she'll live forever. If we don't kill her first. 

We're still working out her portion size. Right now we're experimenting with 4 ounces a day. I figure we can monitor her weight gain/loss for a month or so and adjust from there. I'm taking some photos so we can compare the differences as scientifically as possible. Before I started p90x, I took photos from every angle (as Tony instructed), but with cats, all things are more problematic.

Before shot 1: from behind. 

Before shot 2: less successful behind. 

Before shot 3: Front, in response. 

Before shot 4: Front, standing. Maybe this is all in my head, but I actually think she looks pretty svelte here. Trust me, this is all an illusion, lest you think I'm some sort of pushy pageant mom who wants their perfectly healthy cat to conform to some rigid standard of beauty. It is feline diabetes and heart health, I care about, nothing more!

Just for a little break in the Dinah photos--this one's from Central Park this weekend. Sam and I had a dance class nearby (in which we discovered we're remedial dancers because all the steps are new to him and I keep trying to lead), so afterward we enjoyed the beautiful day here for a while. 
Thanks for anyone still reading! As a thank you for reading so much about my cat, I tried to keep it as tasteful and interesting as possible (note how no descriptions of her post-diet-change stool made the cut!). Wish Dinah luck on her emotional week 2 of dieting. We'll get her to her vet-recommended goal weight of 11 pounds yet!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The failed secrets of Astoria

I was reading an article in Time Out New York the other day about secret places in New York. New York, perhaps because of the crowds that inevitably form around something once the word is out, is a city of people who love secret places. It's the only way I can explain the trend of speakeasies which by virtue of having a hidden entrance or requiring some sort of password can then charge $22 for a cocktail. When I first moved to New York and had season to the opera in the very cheapest of seats, I found what I felt to be a secret place (despite the fact that I found it on Yelp while searching for something affordable for dinner in the vicinity of the Lincoln Center). It was a burger place, a dive with movie posters on the wall, tucked behind a curtain of the Parker Meridian hotel. The only marker of its existence was a small neon burger sign. I had fond memories of the place, but years later when I tried to go back, the neon burger sign was nearly obscured by the long line extending outside of the curtain and around the corner. So I guess the real reason New Yorkers love secrets is because the alternative is waiting in long lines. Or paying $18 for a burger, I guess.

At any rate,  back to the article in question. While I have to question any so-called secret places that are published in a major magazine, there were definitely some things on the list I hadn't heard of (which isn't really saying much, as I'm generally not the first to ferret out the latest thing). The one that particularly caught my eye was at the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria. Time Out reported that on the outside of the building, and thus accessible 24-hours a day and without paying museum admission there was a DVD slot. No sign explained what it was, but those in the know should put a blank DVD in the slot, wait 15 minutes, and then be rewarded with a DVD recorded with some sort of digital media done by the artist who created the exhibit. While no sign on site explains the piece, I was able to find corroboration of the Time Out article on the museum's website. All I needed was a beautiful day for a walk to the museum and a blank DVD, and I was ready.

Alas, I'm not posting any avant garde digital media that I retrieved from the DVD because the secret turned out to be well kept because it's kind of a dud (which explained the lack of line around this particular part of the building). Our DVD and backup DVD (both tested and proven to be blank before embarking) were returned to us several times. We finally gave up and considered the walk to be joy enough. They've since added a note on the website letting users know that because this piece involves hardware and is exposed to the elements, it's bound to be broken most of the time. Oh well. I might check it out another time if I ever find myself in that area and with a blank DVD in hand.

The next Astoria secret I'd like to explore is this one.  It's a hidden Victorian house behind a major business block in Astoria. I walk by the secret door it's behind every morning on my way to the gym. Sadly, to explore this secret I would have to masquerade as an interested home buyer. When I first read the article I actually was kind of interested because restoring an old house in a great location seems kind of fun. But then I remember that if I actually had the million and change it would take to do that, I'd probably rather have a house where I wouldn't look out my front window into the back alley of a bunch of businesses. So until then, I'll have to keep looking for my own secret Astoria places. And then I'll publish them here, so there can finally be some real advantages for my readership. Or really just for my readership who lives in Astoria...

Monday, April 15, 2013

A few flowers for your tax day

This Saturday night I went up to the orchid show at the New York Botanical Gardens for their Orchid Evenings. It's essentially the same as going to the orchid show during the day except that they play music and give you cocktails. The flowers were just as beautiful but I found the addition of some sort of mescal concoction to be a welcome one. I don't have too much to say that isn't better shown in photos. Orchids tend to speak for themselves.

I was sorely tempted to buy a moth orchid from the gift shop (moth orchids are apparently the least finicky and hardest to accidentally kill of all orchids), but until I figure out how to keep Dinah from eating my existing plants, I probably shouldn't invest $30 in a new one.

I had some photos of us at said orchid show as well, but they're on Sam's phone, which is with Sam, so you'll just have to trust we were there. Happy tax day, all!

Monday, April 8, 2013

More spring than the last time I said it was spring

So last week wasn't spring after all, but this week surely is. It's a sunny 70. Someday I will tire of starting every post talking about the weather, but today is not that day. This weekend I celebrated the weather outside on Saturday and Sunday, but Friday was spent at a murder mystery dinner suggested by a friend.

Held in the basement of a theater district Italian restaurant, it was as far from celebrating the outdoors as one can reasonably be. Luckily on that particular night, it was still winter. My friend had found the event on Groupon. We thought perhaps it would be an interactive experience where we would take on characters (something I've always thought would be fun). Instead it was more dinner theater where actors who clearly hated their lives rattled off bad puns and dick jokes while attempting (with varying success) mobster accents. While the show was pretty terrible, my friend who works in film did point out that based on the smell left in the room after a shoot-out, it was clear they were using real blanks in their guns, which seemed a surprising production value for the show and also not especially safe. In the end, we had a chance to guess the killer, which none of us succeeded in doing (turns out it was a plant who we never suspected because she was the only person they pulled from the audience who seemed as uncomfortable to be there as we were). We missed out on winning a "Married to the Mob" t-shirt, but such is life. Regardless of the quality of the show, I still had fun at least, thanks to some excellent company and an enjoyable post-show discussion!

On Saturday, I celebrated a friend's birthday at a Brazilian restaurant in Brooklyn. This reminded me that I never have quite perfected pao de queijo. I've made something that is really delicious and very easy, but after once again trying the real thing, I realize how far off the mark I am. If any readers are skilled at making a nice dense Brazilian cheese bun, please feel free to pass on the recipe.

Friends in the closest thing to Brazil in Williamsburg. 
Sunday was the most glorious day weather-wise (well excepting today, of course). Sam had the idea to go boating in Central Park, although after we got to the park, I remembered it was the first weekend of the month which means we could get into many museums for free as Bank of America card holders (I hate to give them free advertising on my oh-so-popular-blog, but it really is a good program. One day, when I monetize, they can owe me retroactively for this.) So we ended up skipping the boating and concluding our walk at the Guggenheim. They're doing an exhibit on the Gutai movement, which apparently centered in Japan in the 1950s-70s. Mostly it involved using every day items (like light bulbs and paint cans) in the art or painting in unusual ways (say with one's feet). This is what I got out of the exhibit anyway. Gutai scholars out there are free to correct me. Here are a couple pictures (Sam-taken) from the museum.
I don't remember seeing this at all, but I guess whatever it is, Sam took a picture of it.
The iconic center gallery of the museum. It's kind of hard to tell here, but the colorful things going across the center were large plastic tubes weighed down in the middle by colorful water. They looked more interesting in person. 

Overall, it was a lovely weekend. I'm excited for this upturn in temperature (as evidenced by the fact that it's all I will talk or write about). Happy spring, friends and readers! I eagerly await your cheese bread recipes. Other comments also welcomed.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring comes to Astoria

Okay, so it's April now, and time to go back to the old "what did I do this weekend thing." Mostly because it became spring here this weekend, so I'm welcoming the idea of actually doing things again. We've been waiting for spring around here for quite some time. So what did I do with the first sunny, blue-skied weekend of spring? I had the idea to go for a picnic on Roosevelt Island at the new park/monument to FDR, built right by the creepy, former-smallpox hospital.  The park is a good hour long walk from the apartment, which was fine by me because a nice long walk on a beautiful day sounded heavenly. Perhaps less so to Sam who was told of this idea when he came back from a 90-minute spin class, but after being cajoled with the promise of picnic food, we were off.

The walk took us south through Astoria to Long Island City (where a bridge connects Queens to Roosevelt Island). Along the way we stopped at Socrates Sculpture Park, a waterfront park with, as you might imagine, a quite a few rotating sculpture installations. They also have a number of events in the summer including a farmers market, outdoor yoga and pilates, movies and opera, and weird classes on things like urban chicken farming and building coffee tables out of reclaimed wood (I kind of want to take that one, but it's scheduled for when I'll be honeymooning). At any rate, here are some photos of our jaunt:
An artistic photo, courtesy of Sam, showing one sculpture at Socrates. This one has been there since at least August, which is the last time I was at this park.
See that sky? Talk about blue! If only the same could be said for the East River. 

Four Freedoms Park. This was the edge of what would have been a beautiful picnicking lawn except for all the goose shit everywhere. 

A large floating head to commemorate good, old Franklin D. 

The view from our chosen picnic spot at the edge of the monument. It turns out you're not supposed to eat there (although it's not anywhere in the posted signage). Luckily, it took about 10 minutes for the park ranger to get around to telling us that, so we had mostly eaten anyway. 
We ended up punking out on the walk back and taking the bus. As luck would have it though, the one MTA bus that goes to the island also travels about a block from our apartment. We really should go back more often! The problem is there's not too much to do on Roosevelt Island. It's a very odd place, full of high rise apartments and hospitals. There is a lot of green space, 1970s architecture, and people in wheelchairs. It is technically part of Manhattan, though not connected by any bridges, but has the energy of a small town. Well maybe not a small town, but a less-frenetic city. I wouldn't want to live there, but it's a nice enough place to see on a nice spring day.

On Easter Sunday, I went to a friend's house where she made lamb, I brought brocoli salad, and then we gorged on jelly beans. Typical Easter stuff. Before that, (and I'm not sure why I didn't just list those chronologically), I went to Grand Central to see the last day of the Nick Cave (performance artist, not the musician) dancing horses. It's part of the seemingly endless celebration of the Grand Central Centennial celebration. This is what the horses looked like:
Okay, so not a great picture of the horses. This is what happens when Sam doesn't go places with me, and I'm left to my own devices. 
Unfortunately, my friend and I were the not the only people there, so during the actual show all attempts to see the horse dancing were fairly difficult. At one point, I gave up on trying to stand on my toes to see over people and just watched the spectacle in the camera display of the guy in front of me. Luckily, for those readers who have never seen people put on colorful horse costumes and dance around a train station, others filmed it. In fact, this might very well be the video of the guy in front of me (note: they mill around a lot first, the actual horse dancing doesn't start 'til about 7:18).

So other than a rushed scavenger hunt in the Met and watching that new documentary about The Shining, that was pretty much my Easter weekend. Perhaps not the most religious of observances, but I certainly enjoyed it.