Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Something New

I managed to get a new tag on my bags when I flew to CA last week. They put this on your bag when you are probably going to miss your flight and your bags are going to most definitely miss your flight. You have to agree that it will be OK if your bags come on a later flight. You might be wondering how I got this tag - it's a pretty short story, let me start from the beginning.

I was flying to CA to work in the San Diego office and then take a few vacation days with the family.

I left with what should have been plenty of time to get to the airport via taxi. Unfortunately traffic was terrible, even the taxi driver said he's never seen traffic so bad on a Sunday afternoon before. There was no baseball game at Shea Stadium, no rain, no accidents - it was just slow. Usually it takes about 35 minutes to get to JFK. This particular Sunday it took 45 minutes to get to LGA (La Guardia Airport) - about half way to JFK from our apartment.

I had pretty much decided that even though the cab driver assured me I would make my flight, I wasn't going to make it. I've had my share of close calls and I just figured this was my time to not make it on the plane.

I ran up to the Sky Cap 20 minutes before my plane departed. This guy was amazing, he took me inside to a person that checked me in and tagged my bags. Within minutes I was running through security. Luckily there were no lines at security and my gate was close. I actually made it to the gate before my row was being boarded!

I'm pretty sure I was the happiest person on that entire plane.

When I landed in SD, I decided to get my rental car and then circle back to baggage claim - as I would most likely be making arrangements to get my bags the next day. I picked up the car, drove to Terminal 2 and walked in to the baggage claim office to see my two bags waiting for me!

Three cheers for Jet Blue.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Saturday (6/23) turned out to be quite a day.

Little did I know when I got up that morning I would be meeting Angela Lansbury!

For Christmas Michael and I received a gift certificate good for two tickets to any Broadway show. We were planning to see Spamalot, but Gordy and Linda were nice enough to buy our tickets for that show.

When I found out Angela Lansbury was coming back to Broadway after more than 20 years, I knew this was the show I wanted to see.

She is starring in the play 'Deuce'. According to Broadway.com:

"Stage legends Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes team up in this warmly funny and unexpectedly touching new play by Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally (Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion!). Deuce tells the story of the reunion of two retired women tennis players who once made up a championship doubles team. When they meet again at the U.S. Open, the women—now at the end of their lives—find themselves trying to make sense of the professional partnership that brought them to the top of the sports world in their youth. The pairing of four-time Tony winner Lansbury, who was last seen on Broadway more than 20 years ago,and Tony winner Seldes, a mainstay both on and off Broadway, makes Deuce one of the season's most anticipated theatrical events."

I wasn't sure how much we would enjoy the play, but I really wanted the opportunity to see Angela Lansbury on stage.

We completely enjoyed the play. We had great seats - front row mezzanine, almost center stage. The set was simple but well done - a tennis stadium with crowd graphics, stadium seats for the two stars, and a press box. The clever writing combined with the spot on delivery and comedic timing of Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes made the 90 minute show fly by. There was no intermission, those ladies were on stage and performing to perfection for 90 minutes straight. An amazing feat for any actor, now consider Angela Lansbury is 81 years old - the memory and stamina she possesses is incredible. Watching her perform was really something special and I felt so lucky to be sitting in the audience.

After the show we headed out of the theatre and ended up at the Stage Entrance just by luck.

A crowd was already lining up outside the door, so we decided to wait. It was a really nice day in NYC, sunny with bright blue skies not at all humid and a light breeze to keep the temperature just right. Most people were lined up on the northern side of the stage entrance, but we decided to stay out of the sun and wait on the southern and shady side of the stage entrance.

This photo is from our view on while we were waiting. You can see (in the distance) the theatre sign and in the foreground the crowds waiting for Angela Lansbury to make her exit.

After about 15 minutes the doors opened and out she came to cheering fans. She was changed in to casual clothes, but she still had on all of her stage makeup. She looked fantastic.

She turned to her right and with Sharpie in hand, immediately started signing autographs.

Here she is signing my Playbill!

With Michael snapping the photos I was able to watch her work the crowd. She answered questions, posed for pictures, and signed many autographs. It total she spent at least 15 minutes with her fans.

Finally it was time for her to go. She waved to the crowd, we all cheered and then she got in her car and sped away down 8th Avenue.

Look at me with my Angela Lansbury autograph. Not only did I get an autograph, I got to talk to her and see her as the gracious and talented star that she is.

And finally, my autographed Playbill. As soon as I am home from travel it will be framed and hung in the office. Merry Christmas indeed!

July Birthday Presents

The July birthday train is just about ready to roll through the station.

The birthday festivities start with Miss Moo

Her gift all wrapped and ready to be delivered:

While it may be all pink and pretty on the outside, it's candy and a Toys-R-Us gift card on the inside. Custom selected M&M's from their store at Times Sq. And from the Hershey store in Times Sq, new candy treats including the very delicious strawberry milkshake malted milk balls.

Then on to Linda's big birthday bash.

She gets a custom crafted card and envelope.

Her gift is all pretty in pink too - but no peeking on the inside!

Mel - your gift is all packaged up, but not wrapped. You don't get to see anything yet...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Webkinz Trading Cards (for Bex)

I finally found some Webkinz trading cards.

The come in packs of 5 with either wild animals or domestic animals on the front of the package.

I bought two packs each for T&M - luckily I got two of each kind. I really wasn't paying attention to the package until I was taking the photos.

Each package also comes with a secret code card.

We'll see what the kids think of them next week.

The Webkinz supply has been pretty dry lately, not sure why....

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Product Reviews - Updates, Bitten, and Foot Petals

Product Update - Fit Flops (Thumbs Up)

I wear them all the time, they are very comfortable to wear all day. And now I'm used to walking in them so they don't go flying off my feet and I don't have to think about my toes gripping as I walk. As for the increased leg muscle tone I don't see any major changes but they have to be doing something, right?

Product Update: New Shoes (Thumbs Down, but really want them to be Thumbs Up)

I still think they are really cute, but they are giving me huge heel blisters! I've worn them twice and ended up with heel blisters both times. The first time out I just wore them around the hood, so I could get a feel for their comfort level before committing to an all day wearing. Blisters on both heels! I added heel grips, which usually solves all heel blister problems and wore them to a casual dinner in Union Sq. Some walking involved, but not miles and miles. Right foot was fine, but the left heel blistered up again.

Now I'm facing the dilemma of adding another heel grip to the left shoe and giving them another try or just tossing them. The cuteness factor will probably win this battle and I'll give them another try - but if they fail it will be 3 strikes and they are out!

New Product Review: Bitten clothing line by SJP sold at Steve & Barry's

Love the prices, nothing over $20 but I have some fit issues. None of the pants, jeans, capris seem to fit me correctly. The basic tees also don't work for me. But the items that do fit well I absolutely love them and wear them all the time. The shorts are great and at $10 a pair an incredible value. I have a few tops that are in my regular rotation. Everything is holding up well in the laundry and seems to be well made (buttons staying on, seams holding together, no shrinkage). The photo shows off a cropped pea coat from the Bitten line. It is heavy weight cotton, fully lined, and a steal at only $20. Of course I won't be wearing it for awhile - but when the weather cools I think it will be a great go-to jacket.

New Product Review: Foot Petals

These may not be a new product on the market, but they are new to me. Love them! Not only do they come in the options shown above they offer full inserts, sole cushions, and strappy strips. The heel cushions are great for shoes that make the back of your heels blister, they prevent slipping and provide cushion. The strappy strips are perfect for shoes that have strap heels - they keep the straps from slipping as you walk. Check out the website for details on the full product line: www. footpetals.com

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Renegade Craft Fair

Reading The Onion while waiting for our Brooklyn Brewery tour, I saw this ad:

I knew we'd be heading out to Greenpoint, Brooklyn for the second time in just over a week.

(Coincidentally one of the Top Chef contestants owns a restaurant in Greenpoint, it's called Paloma and she is know for her special infused vodka. We might be back in Greenpoint sooner than Michael thinks!)

The craft fair was interesting, as much for the crafts as for the people watching. But more on that later - first the venue.

As the ad states, the fair was held at the McCarren Park Pool. The ad is very literal as the booths were set up inside an old community swimming pool.

In the photo below, the right side shows the back pool wall. The dark circles were the lights and the booths are sitting on the bottom of the pool. In some areas you can see the blue pool paint chipping away.

On the right side of the photo below people are sitting on the steps in to the pool. Again you can see the blue pool paint on the ground.

I found this pretty interesting, so I did a little web research.

"The pool was opened in 1936 during a monumental summer of public projects in New York. It was the middle of The Great Depression, and the Works Progress Administration opened a series of ten pools throughout the city. They were designed to provide recreation, generate employment, and get people's minds off the economy.
The brainchild of Robert Moses, who was responsible one way or another for nearly all of the city's open spaces, the network of pools would supplement the one existing public pool in the city and become an example of civic generosity.
Moses and Mayor LaGuardia opened one pool every week that summer. McCarren Park Pool, at a cost of $1 million, boasted a capacity of 6800 simultaneous swimmers and was the size of three Olympic pools combined. It was one of the largest public pools in the world. It, like its 9 counterparts, was an immediate success with the residents."

Here is a photo of the pool exterior opening day:

The entry way to the pool boasted an arch over 38 feet high. Below is a photo of the pool in use.

On the left side of the photo people are entering the pool on the same steps as in the photo from the craft fair above. And it is pretty hard to see, but in the back right side of the photo you can see a round object. This is a stone bench seat, there were two that are still part of the pool structure today. When I was walking by I couldn't really figure out what they were (I was thinking maybe a fountain element), but now I can see it really was just a seat.

In the mid-80's the pool was closed for renovation. "Some residents, claiming it had become a magnet for raucous kids and illegal activities, opposed reopening it." The pool deteriorated rapidly.

Below is an exterior shot from early 2000, the grand arch entryway is in a pretty sad state.

And an interior photo, you can see the stone bench structure on the right hand side:

Well after much debate in the community (and it seems to be on-going) the site was renovated and re-opened in 2006 not as a pool but as a community event space. The main use of the space is as a concert venue. The summer concert schedule is an eclectic mix of performers and from what I can tell some concerts are free.

In the picture below you can see the bottom of the grand entrance, it has been cleaned of graffiti and once again majestically welcomes people to the pool.

Below are a few more pictures of the interior of the pool on the day of the craft fair. In this photo you can see the backside of the arch and the pool wall on the left side of the picture.

In the photo below you can see the craft fair tents, the chipping blue pool paint on the bottom of the pool and the steps on the left side.

To the south of the main pool there was a separate pool for diving. The pool has been filled it and now the diving board platform just sits there looking out of place.

Finally - the crafts. This was a hipster craft fair, most of the items for sale had a bit of snark to them. Crafts with an edge - definitely no lace in sight. As with most craft fairs 80% of the items were the same thing over and over: pieced together fabric bags, tons of jewelry, buttons and pocket mirrors with snarky sayings, and t-shirts.

(Aside: Michael and I have been discussing when cynicism turned in to snark and became hip, something to think about....)

Combing through the 200+ vendors I did see some really interesting ideas and managed to find a few things I couldn't live without.

I scanned the event map so you could get a feel for the layout - the black dots are the two cement benches I keep pointing out in the photos. (Not that anyone cares, but it took me a while to figure it out, so I insist on sharing.)

There was an entire booth dedicated to the premise of mustache envy. I bought this kit and plan on sharing with the kids - we'll pretend we're Big Daddy O and put on some glasses with our 'staches.

Sesame Letterpress had a great assortment of cards and coasters. I bought a mystery grab bag and ended up with some gift tags, note cards, and four of these coasters. Love them! I was looking at their website and they used custom letterpress coasters as wedding favors, what a fabulous idea. They sell product to Kate's Paperie and Anthropologie and make custom invitation and coasters. Go to www.sesameletterpress.com for more information.

I loved the handmade hats, but they were over my budget. Apparently you can make an appointment and have a hat custom made for your head - here is her card in case you are interested:

And I loved this guinea pig print - luckily for me the vendor was using the back of this card as her business card. I was able to get the picture I wanted for free. If you would like to see more from this vendor the website is http://www.foxyandwinston.com/

Thanks for making it all the way through the blog-a-ganza. The craft fair was really fun and the venue was interesting, I just had so much to share!

Almost forgot, McCarren pool research and historical photos courtesy of the following websites:





Summer Picnic

Saturday was summer picnic day! Through Michael's office we were invited to a fabulous summer picnic.

It was held on the northern end of Randall's Island, almost under the Triborough Bridge. (For those of you who have visited and asked me about Icahn Stadium on the taxi ride to JFK - that is on Randall's Island and the summer picnic was held in the area in front of the stadium.)

The event started off with a ferry boat ride - taking us from the 34th St ferry launch to Randall's Island. You can get there by car, but who doesn't love a good ferry boat ride?

We hit land and were welcomed by friendly staff members, stilt walkers, walking dinosaurs, walking flowers, and a fountain with moving statues. It was really quite a sight.

First stop - the bar for a round of sangria. The drink choices included: red/white wine, red/white sangria, beer, ice tea, lemonade, water, Coke/Diet Coke, Sprite/Diet Sprite, Yohoo, Capri Sun and one bar had an orange mango vodka punch. Scattered throughout the event site there were barrels of iced down water bottles.

Before checking out any of the games or rides we headed straight to the food. Food was spread throughout the event site, but one long row included 3 main BBQ areas. There was a Brazilian grill area offering grilled chicken, pork loin, sirloin, prime rib and sausage everything was carved to order off of long skewers. The accompanying sides were yucca fries, fried polenta, beans and rice, and hearts of palm salad (with jicama in a vinaigrette). The meat wasn't my favorite, it was well seasoned but a little fatty. The sides were all delicious, the yucca fries were a cross between a potato and a plantain. The fried polenta had a crispy on the outside and warm soft polenta on the inside. The hearts of palm salad was cool, crunchy, and refreshing.

The next grill area was seafood. Swordfish, salmon, and tuna grilled, blackened, or grilled with Mediterranean spices. Later in the day this same area served skewers of grilled corn, with a shrimp, and a piece of sausage. The food was tasty, but they were moving it out too fast and several times we ended up with raw seafood. (wuh wuhhhh) The sides included a green bean salad, marinated heirloom tomatoes, and a roasted corn salad. The roasted corn salad was my favorite. Grilled corn that still had a bit of crunch lightly dressed and mixed with a little bit of red onion.

At this point we needed a food break.

We were walking towards the 'candy' tent when we saw a staff member walking around with a bear cub on a leash. They also had a baby camel and baby llama walking around. There was a petting zoo with lambs and ducklings and of course pony rides for the kids.

The candy tent was awesome. One side was a custom chocolate bar station. You filled a small plastic cup with toppings of your choices. Then you were handed a plastic chocolate bar mold with melted chocolate. You added your toppings and after chilling, you had a custom created chocolate bar.

The bars were presented in window candy boxes, and had a name tag so you could find it on the pick up table.

The front of my chocolate bar (in the background you can see the plastic candy bar mold):

The back of my chocolate bar (my toppings included malted milk ball pieces, graham cracker cereal, sprinkles, and mini M&Ms):

The other side of the candy tent had a taffy pulling machine. The staff was pulling taffy and then twisting it around sticks and putting the sticks on a big foam board. Anyone could just walk by and grab a stick of freshly pulled taffy.

The inside of the tent was like a little Dylan's Candy Bar - they had glass jars filled with all different types of penny candy (Atomic Fire Balls, Lemonheads, Mary Janes, Smarties, Starlight Mints, Tootsie Rolls, rootbeer barrels and more) and cello bags. You could just reach in and fill a bag with as much candy as your heart desired.

After the candy tent we headed to the games area. The highlight was an ice skating rink!

The outdoor rink was covered with a tent, it had lights, music and real ice. It was pretty amazing. There were a ton of staff members helping the smaller kids with their skating. In the picture below Michael and I are standing in front of the ice skating rink.

Other games included pool tables, Foosball, ping pong, basketball, air hockey, and shuffle board.

The grassy areas offered hammocks and beach chairs.

They also had lawn size chess, checkers, and Connect Four. (We couldn't remember how to play checkers - but we tried.)

The guy sitting down is the one I call 'Turtle' - but only when describing him to my West Coast friends. He does not consider himself like Turtle from Entourage at all.

Other activities included a tent with 4 DJ booths where you could learn how to 'spin' records, henna tattoos, face painting, custom decorating baseball caps, aromatherapy, water balloon toss, and photo ops with race cars.

After game time we were ready for more food! The third grill area offered burgers, cheeseburgers, turkey burgers, vege burgers, hot dogs and grilled corn. (I forgot to mention, we had some corn earlier, dessert for the grilled fish.) Michael and I shared a cheeseburger. It was so good I can still taste it. The meat was well done and had the perfect grill flavor - of course all condiments were available along with sides of coleslaw, potato salad, and yellow watermelon. Our dinner service ended with some brick oven pizza. It wasn't as good as it smelled, too much tomato sauce - but it wasn't like we were starving at that point. Some of the food we didn't save room for was the Indian curries, naan, and cous cous and Asian noodle bowls. We did enjoy the cheese tent - everything from Parmigiano-Reggiano to Manchego with a selection of dried fruit and olives. The food just kept coming all day, it wasn't just a few hours of food service. There were also carts with fresh spun cotton candy, popcorn, sno-cones, and candied nuts. Oh and a food tent just for kids with grilled cheese, grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches, turkey and cheese sandwiches, potato chips and animal crackers. No one was going home hungry!

At the end of the night we hit up the 'Dolce' tent - cappuccino, espresso, coffee made to order and refrigerator cases filled with eclairs, cannolis, cream puffs, cheesecake, rainbow cookies, macaroons, napoleons, chocolate chip cookies, and sugar cookies. The mini cannolis were our favorite they offered plain and chocolate dipped - both had crunchy cannoli shells filled with sweetened creamy ricotta cheese. The tent had cafe seating all around the outside and it was close to the live band stage, allowing us to enjoy the music as we ate our dessert.

It was a great event - no theme, just a fabulous summer picnic.

A Mel Kind of Night

Friday night was a Mel kind of night.

I met Michael in midtown at TG Whitneys - a good after work hang out with 2-for-1 beers and well drinks during happy hour.

We finished our drinks and decided we needed to sample the Spiked Arnold Palmer at Lure Fishbar. I have been trying to re-create the delicious drink at home and something has been missing. Watching them make the drink and tasting it again we knew would help to pin down the recipe.

Unfortunately, we didn't get the same bartender and we kind of struck out. The first round of drinks, the bartender didn't even muddle the mint. The mint was just barely torn and thrown in to the bottom of the glass. The drink was good - but a far cry from our first taste a few weeks ago. I ordered one more and I really should have sent it back. It was too strong to drink. The alcohol was completely overbearing and the subtle flavors of mint, tea, and lemon were lost. It was a shame. If this was the first time I had ordered that drink I would never get it again. Lesson learned, when you find a drink you like have the same bartender make it for you. Drink mixing is an art form and a true master has a touch that cannot be duplicated.

After a light snack of crab cakes (lots of real crab and a light crunchy topping) and lobster croutons (cold chopped lobster on small rectangles of bread toasted and rubbed with garlic) we paid our tab and headed to a new bakery on the lower eastside.

It was a nice night so we walked (and walked) through Little Italy and a bit of Chinatown. The neighboorhoods are so interesting in that part of town. There is no grid system to the streets - it is easy to get turned around. There is a strange mix of commercial and residential. Compared to our neighborhood the streets are very quiet. The stores and restaurants are all closed at the night and there are no corner markets. You know there are things happening behind some of the closed doors - but you aren't a part of it.

Mel found this new bakery and I wanted to sample the baked goods.

Baby Cakes, a vegan bakery. They offered a variety of cookies, brownies, and cupcakes. Everything was either gluten free or made with spelt. And surprisingly for all of the things they don't use to make baked goods (dairy, sugar, eggs) the cupcakes and brownies were delicious. Sorry, no shipping available - I asked.

After Baby Cakes we headed to Bondi Bar.

Although we were presented with the drink menu - our choice was easy. Tooheys New please!

Can you spot the infamous blue drink?

Below is a scan of their menu. You use a pencil to check off your dinner items. We had been snacking all night, we decided to keep it light. We tried the garlic prawns (delicious in a garlic white wine broth) and we had to have the chips (french fries). The fries are dipped in some kind of batter- they are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Best fries in NYC!