The City Doesn’t Sleep, But We Did

I can say with the utmost redundancy that this is a true fact: I felt the energy of New York City the second I got off the plane. La Guardia was crowded, dirty, and noisy. If it was any other way, I would have thought I was in Portland, Oregon. We had fewer than 24 hours with places to go and people to see.

Because I was with Bill McLain and Bill McLain doesn’t do cabs, we took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel. But, as usual, it was the way to go. Not only was it considerably cheaper, thereby allowing us to spend more money on important things like food and adult beverages, it also allowed us the opportunity to see different parts of the city. In fact, our driver took a very convoluted route through neighborhoods (about a thousand miles an hour) and side streets to get into Manhattan in a heartbeat.

He stopped in front of our hotel, the Renaissance Midtown, a block from Penn Station and spitting distance from the Empire State Building. We checked in after some confusion because the hotel inexplicably reserved my room under my married name from my first husband, and I’m trying hard not to think about how that happened. (Perhaps he will pay the bill as well.) Our room was way cool. Way cooler than either of us for sure. The ceiling was concrete and the shower was transparent on both sides so that the shower taker had absolutely no privacy. And as our 7 year old grandson Joseph said when he heard that: Ewwwwww.

But none of that mattered because we had reservations that night at Becco Restaurant, one of the dining establishments owned by Lidia Bastianich. I knew. I SIMPLY KNEW. This was going to be the night that she was going to come out of the kitchen, our eyes would meet, and she would invite me back into the kitchen to ask me what her cioppino needed to improve the flavor.

Well, once again, it didn’t happen; nevertheless, Bill and I had a delicious meal. I had the nightly pasta special that this night included spinach ravioli, spaghetti with roasted veggies, and penne alla vodka with shrimp…..

image

Bill had a perfectly cooked rib eye steak….

image

We decided against dessert, electing instead to take a cab over to Eataly, Lidia’s splendid Italian market. And yes, I said we took a cab. Bill’s resistance was lowered in large part because of the bottle of wine we had enjoyed with dinner. Following the wine we had before dinner.

We did a bit of shopping at her market that was surprisingly busy for 10:30 at night. A glass of sambucca seemed fitting to close out our night….

image
Though we only had one short night in the city that never sleeps, I think we made good use of it. And as we prepared for bed, Joseph will be glad to know that I indeed didn’t look. Then it was on to our next adventure as we made our way to Vermont.

Stick ‘Em Up

imageBill and I were feeling pretty smug when we headed towards security at DIA on Saturday morning. We had spent a nice night at the fancy schmancy Westin Hotel at the airport because our plane left at 6 a.m. Even so, we got up before 4 to ensure we got through security in a timely manner.

But, you see, the reason we were feeling smug is because for reasons we still don’t understand,we were pre-approved by TSA. What did that mean in practical terms? We didn’t have to take off our shoes or belts, and our electronic devices could remain snuggly in our carry on luggage. Should be a breeze, no?

No. Oh, Bill got through in record time, but I was apparently giving off DANGER DANGER DANGER vibes.

First, I was “randomly” selected to go through the fancy x-ray machine instead of the simple machine that Bill walked through with no problem. You know, the machine where they see me in my entirety as I helplessly hold my hands above my head. Randomly selected. I should have headed right out to purchase a lottery ticket.

Except I couldn’t because they carried away my black and white chevron striped bag after it had gone through x-ray with terribly concerned looks on their faces. Like perhaps they had come face to face with a terrorist. Wearing flip flops and a cross necklace.

As Bill patiently waited (he had passed security), they began rooting wildly through my bag.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. “We’re looking for the CO2 cartridge you have in your bag,” he said angrily.

CO2 cartridge? I don’t even know what that means. Oh, I know what CO2 is, and I know what a cartridge is, but I also know I don’t have one in my bag.

“Well,” I said patiently. “What would be something normal that isn’t a CO2 cartridge but looks like one?”

And I swear to you that he said, “There isn’t anything else it could be. You have a CO2 cartridge in here.”

By this time, Bill has joined me, and I asked him what for what reason anyone would have a CO2 cartridge. “If you had a pistol,” Bill replied, looking at me warily. Which I didn’t.

In the meantime, Mr. TSA was still desperately searching every nook and cranny of my bag, going through every pocket and getting more frustrated by the minute. Terrorist suspects bring out the worse in TSA agents, and for good reason.

Finally he said, “Well, I’m going to put this through the x-ray again and find out where that cartridge is.

Okey dokey. Because by this time we were approaching boarding time.

He came back in a few minutes and said, rather sheepishly, “Do you have something in here that is a cylinder and has a key attached?”

Yep. Which I would have told him if he had answered my question about what else could resemble a CO2 cartridge.

The little carrying case attached to my key in which I carry Bill’s extra pills.

And so I was let go without having to spend time in a holding cell and the crisis was averted.

Here’s the thing. I respect TSA and would prefer they err on the side of caution. But so much time could have been saved if he would just have considered that what he saw could be something else other than a CO2 cartridge. I mean, seriously. An old lady in flip flops.

Saturday Smile: Butter Up

As they wrap up their summer, Addie, Alastair, Dagny, and Magnolia are in Iowa, along with their family, visiting their Grandma Lynne’s old stomping grounds. One of their activities was attending the Iowa State Fair.

These city slicker kids got to experience rural America, including watching a calf be born. But the highlight was that Alastair was able to enter the Iowa State Fair Butter Carving Contest.

AND TOOK FIRST PLACE WITH HIS BUTTER CAR!

image

So if he doesn’t grow up to be a Shakespeare scholar or a famous architect, he can be a food sculptor. Butter today, ice tomorrow.

But don’t forget that it all started with butter, as all things should.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Haunting of Hill House

searchWhen I was a little girl, my mother would occasionally let me stay up on Saturday night and watch the weekly scary movie. One such Saturday, I saw the movie The House on Haunted Hill for the first time. Seriously, can anyone be scarier than Vincent Price? Wua hahahaha.

I have watched this movie a couple of times as an adult, and while the special effects are considerably less than special in comparison to movies made now, it is just a scary movie.

Because I liked The House on Haunted Hill, when the book The Haunting of Hill House came to my attention (Amazon? Goodreads? Pinterest?), I looked into it. While the story is not exactly the same, the movie clearly took its lead from Shirley Jackson’s creepy story.

Dr. Montague studies the phenomenon of ghosts. As part of his studies, he brings together a group of three – his assistant Theodora; Luke, who will eventually inherit the house; and Eleanor, who has had experiences with ghosts in the past. His idea is to bring the ghosts out into the open so that he can study them.

The book is creepy, there is no question about it. Written in 1959, it reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s famous Psycho, considered by many to be one of the scariest movies of all time. There is no blood and gore, no one gets slashed, there are not even any actual appearances by ghosts. There are only noises in the old mansion, and cold spots and drafts that indicate the ghosts’ presence. More than just a ghost story, this is the story of a vulnerable woman going mad.

Despite the lack of blood and gore, the book KEPT ME AWAKE AT NIGHT, ladies and gentlemen. It was creepy beyond belief.

I LOVED it.

The book was actually made into a movie, though not The House on Haunted Hill. Two movies, in fact. The original was released in 1963 and starred Julie Christie as Eleanor. It is apparently much better than the movie re-released in 1999.

Having read the book, I think I will pass on the movie, thank you very much. I can only lose so much sleep.

Here is link to the book.

unnamed

Thursday Thoughts

As Arnold Says, I’ll Be Back
Bill and I are leaving this weekend for a big adventure, one that should generate a few blog stories. We are ultimately heading to visit our family in Vermont; however, we are taking an interesting and, hopefully, a fun route. We will fly into NYC, spend a night in the city, and then get on a train – the Vermonter – to travel directly to Montpelier where our family lives. I am mostly telling you all this because there is a likelihood – though not a certainty – that my blogging will be hit-or-miss. I have been quite faithful about my Monday – Saturday blogging, except for rare occasions that mostly involved hospital visits. But I might take a day or two of vacation. Don’t worry. I will be back! In the meantime, I will be kissing and hugging our two Vermont grandchildren.

August Round-up
August is a busy birthday month for us. Not only was Court born on August 8 and Jll on August 17, but we have a total of three – count ‘em – three grandchildren’s birthdays in August. Dagny opens up the festivities on August 7 (this year she turned 10); next comes Micah, who turned 4 yesterday (though he’s pretty sure he’s 5; quite insistent, in fact); Kaiya finishes off the celebrating on August 22, when she will turn 8. This year I have a perfect trifecta of being absent for the birthdays. I was in Estes Park for Dagny’s, Micah was in a car yesterday driving back to Vermont from a Chicago visit with his parents, and I will be in Vermont for Kaiya’s celebration. Dang. Still, they are all special……

FotorCreated

Wrap it Up
Every year about this time, I lose my will to live when it comes to my garden flowers. They start looking leggy. Rain is scarce, so they require more watering. I am totally fed up to here of hauling hoses and watering cans back and forth. This year, in particular, I have given up. I will give my flowers a good soaking before we leave, and then will see how they fare in the week we are gone. Survival of the fittest and all. If God wants them to live, he will send rain. My vegetable garden is kind of sad. It was going great guns until a hail storm a few weeks ago pretty much did it in. My cherry tomato plant looks pretty good, but the tomatoes are scarce. My jalapeno plant has been providing peppers for a few weeks. My other pepper plant has peppers, but they are supposed to be orange and still aren’t. I might ask my neighbor to throw some water on my vegetable garden just to prove I’m not the Hannibal Lector of the garden world. Despite my crabby attitude, my petunias are pretty….

petunias red white

God of Wine: Who Knew?
bacchus3
Bill and I, in an effort to not produce any leftovers a couple of days before we leave, dined out last night. (I’m putting a good spin on the motive because the fact of the matter is that I simply didn’t feel like cooking.) As we waited for a table to come available at our neighborhood Italian restaurant – Piccolo’s – Bill noticed a Roman bust hanging on the wall in the bar area in which we were seated.  “Who do you guess that is?” he asked me. Not knowing the first thing about Roman history, I guessed the only Roman I knew who might be on a bust – Julius Caesar. “I think it’s Alexander the Great,” Bill said. I would have been satisfied at that point, but he, of course, looked it up. “Nope, I’m wrong,” he said. “Alexander the Great isn’t shown with a beard.” “Really?” I faked interest. “Whatevah,” I actually thought. One would think it would be over, wouldn’t one? But while we were dining, the restaurant’s proprietor, Vince Canino, walked by. Bill called him over and asked him about the bust. Rather than looking annoyed like I suspected he would, Vince instead laughed and said, “I will give you one hint. He’s the god of wine.” Without missing a beat, Bill said, “Oh, Bacchus.” He was, of course, correct. “How did you know?” I asked him. “Oh, everyone knows that,” Bill said, at which point I wanted to dump my wine over him and let the god of wine clean it up!

Glick Glick
Finally, on our way home last night, we spotted the most beautiful full moon you can imagine. With my World’s Worst Phone Camera and my World’s Worst Photography Skills, I attempted to capture the image.

full moon (2)

It reminded me of a poem my grandmother used to say when there was a full moon. Pardon my misspelled German words:

Mund, du bist so glucklich; glucklicher als ich.
Eins war ich glucklicher als du.
Er kusste mich, and du sas zu.

Which loosely means

Moon, you are so lucky; luckier than I.
Once I was luckier than you.
He kissed me, and you only watched.

Don’t ask me why I can remember that poem because I can barely remember what day of the week it is. However, Grammie recited the poem enough to us that when Bec was a little girl, whenever there was a full moon, she would tell our parents, “Look, the moon is glick glick. Last night’s moon was glick glick.

Ciao.

Way Back When

I have a friend who has been working on her family genealogy for many years, and has traced her husband’s family’s history back to the 1100s and her own family history, at least on her mother’s side, back to 1024. She has learned amazing things in the process. It is, she says, a process that continues to go on and on.

Alas, there have only been rudimentary attempts at tracing ancestral history on both sides of my family. However, our recent reunion seems to have attracted some interest in our family’s history by a few of my maternal cousins.

Genealogy, like gardening, is something I wish I liked to do. I simply haven’t the patience for it. On the other hand, I am interested – fascinated, really – in learning about my family’s roots. The furthest I have gone is to visit Ellis Island’s web page from which I have been able to find a bit of information about my paternal grandmother’s and grandfather’s immigration  to the United States from Switzerland. Here, for example, is a photo of the ship, appropriately called America, on which they traveled the Ocean Blue to America…..

america1890

From that website, I also learned that my grandfather indicated his occupation in Switzerland as being a farmer. Seriously? A farmer? Who knew? I only knew him as a baker. The powers-that-be at Ellis Island also mistakenly put my Aunt Myrta’s name as Martha, although admittedly Martha might be the American version of her Swiss name.

Charles and Anna Micek on their wedding day.

Charles and Anna Micek on their wedding day.

On the other side of my family, every time I’ve visited my maternal grandparents’ gravesite in Columbus, I have noticed that in addition to my grandmother’s and grandfather’s graves, there has been an additional grave for someone named Balbina Micek. At the reunion, I learned from one cousin that Balbina was my Grandfather Charles’ sister, who died at the young age of 15. Another cousin indicated she had been told that poor Balbina’s father wouldn’t pay to have her buried (and it seems like there would be a story THERE), so her brother – my grandfather – had her buried in his plot.

Yet another cousin found this obituary in a long-gone Columbus newspaper dated September 1911 that stated:  “Belle Micek, a fifteen year old daughter of Philip Micek, who lives on the island, died suddenly Saturday from an attack of heart trouble.  The funeral was held from the house of her brother Charles Micek Monday morning, with interment in the Catholic cemetery.”  

Ah ha. And at the risk of being accused of using what the nuns used to call the lowest form of humor (that being puns), I must say, THE PLOT THICKENS.

It is probably safe to assume that Belle is a nickname for Balbina. But what does an attack of heart trouble mean, and even more puzzling, where is the island? It’s Nebraska, for heaven’s sake. Landlocked, people!

Yet another cousin seems to have the answer to that puzzling question. Apparently there was a time when the Wood River and the Platte River came together, thereby forming an island of sorts. According to this particular cousin: It was once a very large “island” in the Platte River, prone to flooding, but very fertile. ….. It is where the Pilsno Church and Lone Star Bar are still located, …. there are still Miceks that own and farm what was probably the original homestead.

And it should come as no surprise to anyone that what would remain would be a Catholic church and a bar. Enough said.

I eagerly await my cousins’ further investigations, as I am clearly too lazy to undertake the task. Still, it is like a detective story, which, of course, is why it peaks my interest.

Stay tuned…..

The New Kale

Kris_Grands004_optI often think about what it must have been like for my grandparents when they came to the United States from Switzerland six or seven years after the end of World War I. I’m sure they were sad to leave their country of origin. Grammie talked about being a young wife and mother and having to say goodbye to her parents, knowing full well that it was likely she would never see them again. She was right. While Grammie and Grandpa did return several times to Switzerland many years later, her parents were long gone and she never did see them again. And no email or Face Time. Whaaaaaaat?

Bill and I traveled around Europe – mostly France and Italy – for three-and-a-half months, and I can tell you that while we enjoyed every minute, we often felt like the proverbial fish out of water. We didn’t know the language. We couldn’t figure out some of the customs. We couldn’t find a good hamburger.

That latter fact is more important than you would think. While we loved the food we sampled during our travels, we often missed the familiar foods we grew up eating – hamburgers, fried chicken, barbecued spareribs. The reason they call these foods comfort food is because eating these foods make us feel comfortable.

So in addition to giving up family and friends and familiar customs, my grandparents had to get used to a whole new way of eating. They, like most immigrants, lived near others from their own countries of origin. Because of this, they probably were able to get some of the foods that were familiar to them. I remember, for example, my dad and my grandparents eating a highly suspect food with a wholly unpleasant smell called head cheese. Head cheese is not cheese at all, but more of a sausage or cold cut made from, well, the head of pigs or cows. Yummers, right? And just to add to the fun, it is set in aspic. You know, aspic – in and of itself a totally disgusting item. You’ll be glad to know that the brains, eyes, and ears are almost never included, according to Wikipedia.

Another delicacy that my grandparents and my father enjoyed was limburger cheese. I couldn’t even be in the room with them when they ate it. It smelled awful. More than awful. Much more than awful. And I once again looked it up on Wikipedia and learned why it has such a dreadful odor. It seems limburger cheese is made using the bacteria called brevibacterium linens. That, my friends, is a bacteria found on the human body and is responsible for human body odor.

I’ve got to stop looking on Wikipedia.

kohlrabi rawRecently I read that the vegetable kohlrabi is coming into fashion. The new kale, according to what I read. I mentioned this awhile back, and also said that I was having trouble finding the vegetable. In fact, I couldn’t find a single produce person who had ever even heard of it. But I was at lunch with a friend recently who had stopped at a farm near her home in Brighton, Colorado, to bring me fresh corn on the cob, and I mentioned my quest for kohlrabi.

“They had it at the Palizzi’s Farm,” she told me. “I would have brought you some but I didn’t know what it was!”

So I went to a nearby farmers’ market on Saturday where Palizzi’s had a booth, and lo, and behold, I found kohlrabi.

Why kohlrabi? I assure you that it wasn’t because kohlrabi is the new kale. Do I seem like a food snob? No, friends, it was because I remembered my grandmother making kohlrabi (which was and is often eaten in Germany and Switzerland) when I was a child, and I loved it.

The problem is that I couldn’t remember how she made it. I’m pretty sure it involved speck, a bacon-like substance that originated in Europe, which she got from her brother-in-law-the-butcher. I had enough trouble finding kohlrabi; I have no intention of starting a hunt for speck.

But I did find a recipe, and made kohlrabi last night for dinner. It was worth the hunt.

kohlrabi cooked

Ingredients
2 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
2 T. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated
Process
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the kohlrabi bulb in half, and then cut the halves into half-moons. Spread on the bottom of a cookie sheet or a baking pan. Sprinkle with the minced garlic; pour the olive oil over the vegetables, and stir until coated.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Bake 10 minutes; stir the vegetables. Bake another 10 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the kohlrabi and bake another five minutes.

Serve immediately.

Nana’s Notes: I would definitely compare kohlrabi to turnips except they are much sweeter. They really were very good. And my grandmother DIDN’T use parmesan cheese, I assure you.