Monday, March 30, 2009

If You Are What You Eat, What Does That Make Me?

Anybody who knows that my daily lunch always consists of a peanut butter sandwich and a banana will be surprised to learn that I've recently been thinking a lot more about the food I eat.

I'm a fairly healthy eater. I eat meat about 4 or 5 meals a week and eat fruit (the aforesaid banana) and vegetables each day, although not as much as I should. I don't eat a lot of chips or junk food, although I do have a soft spot for chocolate and Chips Deluxe cookies.

My concerns are now centered not so much on what I eat as on where that food comes from. Exactly how much gas and energy does it take to ship those bananas my way? Do I really need to eat strawberries in the middle of the winter, or can I substitute them for something that's in season?

I like the idea of eating organic foods, but I'm just too much of a cheapskate. It's hard to spend double -- at least -- when the picture doesn't even look good on the box. I like the idea of buying local and plan on making more of an effort to do just that when the greenmarkets open around here in the next month or so.

"Buying local," however, is relative. In Ohio, that means it was planted and picked maybe a couple of miles away. In New York City, it's from a couple of hundred miles away.

I recently heard that our neighborhood is trying to start a food co-op, so. Paul and I got up bright and early Saturday morning to attend a meeting at the public library to learn more. They hope to open late next year and stock it much like a grocery store-- a one-stop shopping experience for co-op members who put up a couple of hundred bucks (refundable) to become part owners.

It's an intriguing idea, but the emphasis seems to be as much on saving money as getting good food. Members would cut an anticipated 20 percent off of their grocery bills but also would have to volunteer at the co-op for a few hours every month. I'm cheap, but I guess I'm also lazy. I think I would rather just pay a few cents more and be able to stay at home.

Which brings me to another option: a CSA. Bay Ridge's Community Supported Agriculture program brings "farm-fresh, pesticide free, locally grown, affordable" vegetables to the neighborhood, according to the website. Members buy a "share" of the harvest and receive their portion every week (or every two weeks) between June and November.

This seems like a good option. But what if I get vegetables I don't like? At $495 for the every week option (or $265 for every other week), I definitely don't want to be throwing produce away.

Well, I'm off to make tomorrow's peanut butter sandwich. I would appreciate any suggestions, tips or advice!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Don't Worry: This is Still Diane's Blog

I've decided my old layout looked too amateurish, so I'll be experimenting with some new layouts, colors and designs. Enjoy the new look(s).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cupcake Wars: Brownie vs. Blackout at Crumbs

In a serious effort to sample as many of New York City's cupcakes as humanly possible, I dragged Paul to yet another cupcakery last Saturday night. Don't worry- he certainly was not an unwilling test subject.

This time we visited Crumb's Bake Shop in the Village. Crumbs has several locations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California. The cupcakes are also carried by other retailers. I try a different Crumbs cupcake at Dylan's Candy Bar when my book club meets there each month.

This time I chose the brownie cupcake:

Paul picked the blackout:

I'll admit that $3.75 apiece is a little steep, but it's oh-so-worth it. You'll never find a bigger cupcake. The top is larger than the palm of my hand. Like the s'mores cupcake I profiled, the best part is hidden in the middle: a chocolate-filled center.

The two cupcakes were extremely similar. Both seemed to have the same rich chocolate frosting and filling. Mine had a few stale brownie pieces on top, while Paul got the more appealing cookie crumbs.

With about two dozen cupcakes to choose from, Crumbs doesn't have a bad looking one in the lot. But some certainly taste better than others. The frosting at times can be a bit bland and underwhelming.

Which one do I try next?
I think the Baba Booey. Suggestions?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Laundromat Lamentations

After nearly a year and a half in New York, I miss my own personal washer and dryer the most. In Ohio it was so convenient to just walk downstairs and throw in a load whenever the mood struck.

At the same time, I don't miss it nearly as much as I thought I would. Our laundromat is practically underneath our apartment (just one door over), and it is extremely convenient to do all of the washing and all of the drying simultaneously.

Around here, Friday evening is the best time to throw in a few loads. No waiting for carts, no waiting for washers and no waiting for dryers. And since I can do it all at the same time, everything's folded and put away early enough that we can still do something at night if we're so inclined.

Except last Friday. Last Friday I opened up a dryer filled with bedding, jeans and towels and found bright red splotches over everything, like these on our pillowcases:

Paul found one of the employees who quickly discovered the culprit: a melted crayon. Obviously Paul and I didn't throw it in there, but it's not uncommon to have to maneuver around 3 or 4 kids during every visit.

The laundromat re-washed and re-dryed our clothes, and all of the stains mostly came out, except for those on the pillowcases and a bit on the towels. At least it didn't happen to the load of Paul's nice white dress shirts.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

St. Patrick's Day, Bay Ridge Style

The pounding bass and loud late-night crowds have all but disappeared in the last year from the bar/Mexican restaurant two floors below us. But today is the exception to the rule: the day of the Bay Ridge St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The neighborhood unearthed everything kelly green from the closet and lined Fifth Avenue for the 90 minute march of mostly bagpipe bands and Irish dancers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- now running for a controversial third term -- also walked the 30+ block route. I joined the crowd long enough to get a green-tinted bagel donated by a local politician and watched the rest of the parade from the bedroom window.

The parade ended about 45 minutes ago, but I can hear the crowds and tunes from the bar downstairs and don't expect it to end for at least another 9 or 10 hours.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Yet Another Reason to Pay Us a Visit

See Paul in the upper right corner? At the American Museum of Natural History.

We haven't had overnight visitors since last June or July. Are Paul and I that forgettable? I hope not.

In any case, we need some visitors! And if the pleasure of our company just isn't enough, here's yet another reason: free admission to the American Museum of Natural History.

After the Met, it's probably the most famous museum in town. It's got a bit of everything: dinosaurs, gigantic taxidermy displays, exhibits on space and Earth (take a look at the photos from our first visit last year). Besides being featured in the Ben Stiller flick "Night at the Museum," it also played a part in one of my favorite Baby-Sitters Club books way back when.

To make a short story long, Paul gets in free to several museums in the city through his workplace's corporate sponsorships. Usually he can take a guest for free, which works out well for me.

That's why we used to go to the Guggenheim every couple of months, whenever the exhibits changed. But when we tried to visit a couple of weekends ago, we were told that the sponsorship had dissolved. Disappointed, we went to the Met instead (not such a bad replacement, I know).

So Paul got an updated list of museums where we could get in free, and lo and behold the American Museum of Natural History had been added to the list. Since tickets are normally $15 per person and I'm a cheapskate, this makes me very happy. Even better: He can bring 5 guests free, too.

We have an empty spare room in addition to a comfortable couch. Who's first?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cupcake Wars: S'mores Cupcake from ChikaLicious

Last night I sincerely started hoping that Paul and I would get into a fight sometime soon. I've already told him he can skip the "I'm sorry" flowers. Just get me a s'mores cupcake and all is forgiven.

I recently discovered Blondie and Brownie, and it quickly became my new favorite New York City foodie blog. As the name suggests, the emphasis is on desserts, and reading their posts showed me how much I still have left to eat.

When we're craving dessert, Paul and I almost always go to the neighborhood cupcakery, Little Cupcake. It's become a near-weekly tradition. But last night we were going to be in the neighborhood of NYU (I convinced Paul to accompany me to Peanut Butter & Company-- yet another tasty treat), so I decided to see what B&B would recommend.

A post on the s'mores cupcake caught my eye, and the location was right. So last night we were off to the Dessert Club ChikaLicious for some snacks to-go.

The cupcake surpassed my expectations for tasty goodness. It's a gingerbread-like cake topped with lightly toasted marshmallow "frosting." The real treat is the chocolate filling. It's like biting into a cupcake truffle.

I have a growing list of cupcakes to try in the city, but this one'll be tough to beat.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Jaywalking as an Art Form

Temperatures in the upper 60's ... spring has again arrived in New York City.

Well, at least it was here for a day or two. We took advantage of the beautiful weather Saturday by taking a 4-mile walk in and around Central Park. We were joined by just about everyone else who lives in the city.

New York must have been in a good mood. The proof? A driver of a truck in midtown actually waved us across the street as he was about to turn. That, my friends, is a spring miracle.

It's a common phenomenon in Ohio, but it's practically unheard of here. In New York, it's every walker for him/herself. A little bump from a car never hurt anybody. That is, unless it kills you. Surprisingly, you don't hear about too many pedestrian deaths around here.

Just a guess, but I bet the tourists never get hit. Manhattan tourists are easy to spot. Their feet are planted firmly on the sidewalk, and their eyes are glued to the walk sign.

Locals, on the other hand, barely notice the sign. They take long, confident strides into the middle of the street and dash across at even the slightest hesitation from an approaching vehicle.

As a fast, impatient walker, I fit in just fine.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Most Ill-Advised Ad I've Ever Seen

Carvel is the Dairy Queen of New York, except not as good. I've had a couple of pieces of Carvel's ice cream cake at work, and it's ho-hum. It doesn't even have the fudgy filling!

Carvel frequently has a page in the newspaper ad supplement, and the deals are usually about the same-- buy one get one free, a few bucks off a cake, et cetera.

This week's ad appears normal, but let's look at it a little more closely.

Can you read that label? Yes, folks, that's a Cookie O'Puss.

A Cookie O'Puss.

A quick google informed me that Carvel invented the Cookie Puss in 1970 and later introduced this green version for St. Patrick's Day and added the "O" for an Irish flair. Um, how festive?

And what's up with Carvel's mascot up in the corner?

I can think of a couple of things it looks like, and neither one makes me say, "Yum, lets get some ice cream."

Paul and I happened to walk by a Carvel on Sunday, so I just had to stop in and see a Cookie O'Puss in person. Alas, there wasn't a one in the freezer. Maybe another day.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Scenes from the Subway

The man jostled through the crowded subway car, eyeing the seat next to me.

"Can I sit here," he said. It's a statement more than a question.

My eyes firmly glued to my book, I moved an inch or two to the left-- I'm at the end of a row -- and I assume the person two seats over does the same. The man plopped down.

In between stations his right hand went to his inside coat pocket and he pulled out an aluminum can. I look up, though not at him.

"Keeps me calm," he said, presumably talking to me. I can smell the alcohol. "You know, all the lunatics."

Yeah, I know. I keep this to myself.

I couple of stops later he pulled out the can once more. He took a final swig and then crushed the can with his two bare hands. To his credit, I don't think he dropped it on the floor.

A few weeks ago Paul and I were riding the R train back from Ikea at maybe 9 p.m. In the corner of the subway car was a man asleep, spread out over two seats. Not unusual.

What was unusual? His unzipped pants and his hand resting on his crotch.


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