Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween in Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge doesn't get all dressed up for Halloween-- in fact, the Christmas lights that cross Fifth Avenue were just hung up last week.

But a few places in the neighborhood do get in the trick-or-treat spirit. One house on the way to the subway made an attempt to be scary:

The same place has a "decoration" that really did startle me the first time I saw it. It looks harmless during the day, but late at night it really is pretty creepy.

But my favorite Halloween display of all is at a pizza parlor a couple of blocks away. Do you say "emm" when you down a slice, or is that just for skeletons?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Goodbye, Will. You Were a Good Cat.

Grace (left) and Will

I am very upset that our cat Will died last weekend, and no one is more surprised by that than I am.

It happened very quickly. The cats woke us up with their meowing early Saturday morning, as they always do. At 7 a.m., when Paul went to shut them into the computer room with their food and litter box, he noticed that Will couldn't move his hind legs. Paul spent the next two hours finding the veterinarian's office that opened the earliest and trying to keep Will from moving.

We got to the vet at 9 on the dot, but neither of us held high hopes. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we had each independently googled Will's symptoms, so we weren't shocked when the vet told us that it appeared that Will suffered from a series of blood clots. He recommended that Will be put down. An hour later and it was all over.

Before we got Will and Grace almost four years ago, I hadn't had a pet for maybe 15 years. Even then, they were outdoor cats who frequently got the short end of the stick early in their lives when they came into contact with the local coyotes. I quickly realized that bonding with an animal was a lost cause that was sure to end badly, and soon.

The last time I can remember being truly upset about a lost pet was in the fourth grade. I was so upset -- almost in tears, if I wasn't actually crying -- that my teacher, Miss Yoder, called me up to her desk and asked if there was anything I wanted to talk to her about. I just couldn't bring myself to tell her that we had accidentally run over one of our cats on the way to school just that morning.

So my pet experiences haven't been good, and I'll be the first to admit that cats frequently annoy me. But now I miss greeting both Wilbur and The Gracie Cat (can pets have pet names?) when I get home. I miss Will hanging out by the dishwasher when I unload it, playing with the puddles of water on the open door. And I hate Grace's pitiful meows, wondering where her brother is.

Don't remind me that I wanted to give the cats away. I already feel guilty enough as it is.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sandy Vacation Destination vs. A Female Dog

If a New York City subway station has a wall against a platform, you can be sure there's ads on it.

And anywhere there's an ad you can reach in New York City, you can be sure there's some graffiti to match.

Sometimes it's a mustache, but usually it's something I would be embarrassed to describe to my folks.

Not this one. Paul found it so hilarious, that he couldn't wait to whip out the camera and record a closeup for posterity. Look what someone wrote on her neck:

A White Beach: If you're going to deface an ad, at least spell the derogatory term correctly.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New York vs. Defiance Field Trips

Say what you want about raising kids in New York City, but students here sure get to go on some nice field trips.

The American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art ... world-famous institutions barely a bus ride away.

I, on the other hand got to go the zoo. A veterinarian's office. And in one memorable fourth-grade field trip, Defiance County's wastewater treatment plant.

Of course, it's easy to take New York's attractions for granted if you're a born-and-bred city-dweller. Paul has co-workers who seem to have avoided museums for years.

So maybe it's all for the best. Now I'm visiting the museums when I'm old enough to appreciate them. And besides, how many New Yorkers can join me in saying they visited a nuclear power plant in junior high?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Poop in the Subway

A lot of people say they have a crappy commute.

A few weeks ago, that was literally the case.

As I descended the stairs into my subway station after work, the stench was unmistakable. Poop. The stairs and part of the platform were blocked because of some sort of backup.

Luckily my train came quickly, but not so fast that I didn't have time to snap a picture. Oh, the lengths I'll go to for my blog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Being a Buckeye Fan from Afar

It's a blast being a Buckeye fan in Columbus when times are good.

But when times are bad -- like last Saturday, when Ohio State was unexpectedly beat by Purdue -- I'm happy to be 500 miles away.

After all, when you're several states from the scene of the crime, it's easy to pretend it didn't happen.

In Ohio, we would have been met by commentary of the soul-crushing defeat at every turn. Here, it's only on ESPN. Sure, news of the pounding was in the New York Times -- buried in the sports section. In Columbus? If it wasn't on the front page of the Dispatch, I'm guessing it at least took up a good portion of the front page of the sports section, above the fold. Probably both.

Call me a fair weather fan. Maybe I deserve it. But I don't like my mood for an entire day, entire weekend, entire season to be dictated by something so totally beyond my control.

Good or bad, the results are hard to ignore in Columbus. But when the times get tough, in New York I can stash the Buckeye necklace in the deepest corner of a drawer for a few days and hope for better times and less talented opponents.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dressed Up with Somewhere to Go

Even when Paul and I are dressed to the nines, it's infrequent that we get any photos to prove it.

So I was happy to see that my friends Sam and Don posted these shots taken by the photographer at their wedding last month. See, ma-- I do clean up purty well!

I have no clue what we're looking at ...

... but the food was delicious!
A reception at Schmidt's is always a good idea.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bay Ridge, By the Sound of It

The bus woke me up nearly every night during my first week living in Brooklyn.

The bus stop is less than half a block away, and the squeaks, breaks and revving engines were more than enough to awake me from even the deepest slumber. And believe me, that first week my slumbers were none too deep. Among the buses, the garbage trucks and the music from the bar downstairs, I was briefly worried that moving to New York was a horrible mistake.

Now I barely notice any of it. Admittedly, the bass in the bar has been lowered to a much more acceptable (read: nonexistent) level, but the buses, trucks and sirens remain. But now they're as much a part of the atmosphere here as the sound of lawn mowers on summer Saturday mornings in Ohio.

And now that I can block out the traffic, I can easily pick out the sounds that make living in Bay Ridge a pleasure. The church bells. The coos from the pigeons across the street. Even a foghorn or two from ships in the bay during early weekend mornings.

You've heard the phrase "the silence is deafening"? If I ever heard anything approaching silence, I really would reach for a hearing aid.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weekend No. 2 in Baltimore

Our second visit to Baltimore to visit our friends Allison and Phil was both more and less convenient than our trip last December.

More convenient: The weather. Except for a light drizzle on Saturday, it was sunny and in the upper 60s all weekend-- perfect for taking long walks and exploring.

Less convenient: We couldn't take long walks or explore. Paul ran the Baltimore Marathon Saturday morning, and his legs were shot the entire weekend. So even though the weather was much better than our last visit, we spent little time outside.

We had a great time nonetheless, mostly revolving around food. Paul was obviously famished after running 26.2 miles, so he , Allison and I (Phil was a bit under the weather) went to a nearby sports bar/restaurant and watched the Ohio State-Wisconsin game.

Watching OSU in Baltimore.

As a rough estimate, I would say Paul downed about 10,000 calories while we were there. I bet I'm just slightly exaggerating. A couple of beers. Crab soup. Steak. After finishing his meal, he asked the server for the "appetizer" of fries covered with cheese and bacon, with a side of ranch dressing. I wasn't there when he ordered, but Paul reported that the server incredulously asked if he wanted them to go.

No ma'am.

Phil felt better that evening, so the four of us went to a tapas restaurant at the harbor. Good food, good views, good conversation, and a little flamenco dancing on the side: What more could you ask for? Oh yeah-- sangria. We got that, too.

We went to the cute, 24-hour Towson Diner the next day for brunch before heading back to New York and the real world. Before we left, we pledged that our next visit would be in the spring, when the weather is nice and we'd all be able to walk.

Inner Harbor at night.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Paul Runs the Baltimore Marathon

Trip No. 2 to Baltimore wasn't simply to visit our friends. Paul had business to complete: running the Baltimore Marathon.

Paul finished the 26.2 mile course last Saturday with a time of 4:20:14, about 15 minutes faster than last year at the Columbus Marathon. And the faster time comes despite what he said was a surprisingly uphill course. Who knew Baltimore had hills?

Overall, Paul placed 1,006th out of the 2,023 male marathon runners. Compared to last year, Paul said this year he felt much better much sooner after he crossed the finish line. Even still, he could barely stand.

The race started and ended at Camden Yards, at the Baltimore Orioles' baseball stadium. Our friends Allison and Phil live just north of downtown, so we claimed their foldout couch for the weekend. I dropped off Paul just before the 8 a.m. start.

Unfortunately, the course seemed to make a circle around the starting line, and everywhere I turned to get back to Allison and Phil's seemed to be blocked by the course. The GPS wasn't much help since it continually directed me toward streets that were shut down by the race. What should've been a 20 minute drive turned into 90 minutes.

But one good thing did result from the hassle: I actually saw Paul about a half-hour into the marathon. Traffic was stopped, waiting for the runners to race by. I watched hundreds, maybe thousands, of runners go by when my eyes alighted on Paul. His training paid off. He looked just as strong at the finish line as he did there, at about mile 3 or 4.

Near the finish line. I think Paul is the third runner from the left.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two Years in New York

Two years ago today I spent about ten hours in a car with two cats and a tense husband.

Yes, two years ago today, we moved to New York.

A traffic jam in Pennsylvania put us a couple of hours behind schedule, so we didn't arrive in Bay Ridge until long after dark. The cats were scared stiff not only by the new digs, but by the sharp beeps from our fire alarm every few seconds alerting us that it needed new batteries. Tired and starving, we dragged a ladder that happened to be in the entryway to our building up to our third floor apartment to unhook the alarm.

By this time, it was almost midnight, and we still hadn't eaten supper. The Mexican restaurant/bar downstairs appeared to be closing, but the Mediterranean place across the street was still open. I don't remember what I ordered, but I do remember watching the Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees in the playoffs while we ate.

Back in our empty apartment -- we wouldn't be getting our furniture until the next day -- we unrolled a couple of blankets on the floor and quickly fell asleep.

I've long found it ironic that we chose Columbus Day 2007 as the day we left Columbus, Ohio. Seems like there should be some meaning to that. Something about exploration? Maybe I'll have a thesis by next year's anniversary post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Paul's Award-Winning Sandwich

When I heard that the best gourmet market in Bay Ridge was holding a sandwich-making contest, I immediately thought of Paul. Thanks to him, I get some of the best food in Brooklyn every night for supper.

Unfortunately, I didn't tell him until about two days before the deadline. But that was plenty of time for him to come up with three entries and email the recipes just hours before the Tuesday morning deadline.

And on Wednesday he got the good news-- his "Old English" roast beef sandwich was a finalist! That meant he would be making the sandwich in front of an audience at Robicelli's Gourmet Market during last Sunday's 3rd Avenue festival.

First, however, he had to taste-test it himself. He'd never even made the sandwich before! So on Saturday night he constructed his entry. I already knew it was a winner. But would the judges agree?

Paul and the other three finalists each made their sandwich and cut it into thirds for the judges. One judge even asked Paul for his inspiration. Instead of saying that I was obviously his inspiration, he said he wanted a sandwich he could eat with a good pint in an English pub.

It didn't take the judges long to come up with the winners-- and Paul got 2nd place! Along with $100 worth of gift certificates, one of the owners said his sandwich may be a special on the market's menu.

And first place? A panini featuring prosciutto, melted brie, roasted eggplant and a balsamic reduction.

So if you come visit us in Bay Ridge, we might just have to make a stop at Robicelli's. If not for the sandwiches, then at least for the cupcakes (more about that in a later post ...)!

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the sandwich. But believe me, it looks just as good as it tastes, and it tastes just as good as it sounds.

Paul's Old English Sandwich

1 whole wheat ciabatta bun
1/3 pound roast beef
Grey Poupon mustard
Caramelized onions, to taste
4 slices of English-style mustard-seed-and-ale cheddar cheese

Spread mustard on bottom side of loaf. Add roast beef. Spread onions evenly on roast beef. Add cheese. Toast in oven or in panini grill. Yum!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Alice's Tea Cup & My New Obsession with Scones

Scones have become one of my new favorite pastries.

I'd like to make them myself, but I have to do some research first. That's why I've been eating a lot of scones recently. Of course. Research.

I've tried many a scone in the name of science, but it'll be hard to beat Alice's Tea Cup.

The Alice in Wonderland theme told me this was not a place to drag a guy without checking it out first. So while Paul was in Ohio, I escaped to the Upper East Side to check out the pastry selection.

It was a difficult choice, but I finally decided on the pumpkin scone. Bonus: I even got some jam and cream to go.

The texture, the glaze and even the cream: all yummy. I'd take this scone over pumpkin pie any Thanksgiving.

Even though I didn't stick around Alice's Tea Cup too long, I wanted to. The mismatched tableware, intimate setting and tables and chairs in a loft by the window called out to me and my camera. I'll be suggesting this place for brunch on my next un-birthday.


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