Monday, August 31, 2015

In Praise of Routines

Routines have derogatory connotations. People are encouraged to break out of their routines. Routines are dull, boring, unsexy.

I've found that I need routines. I work part time, and don't have a normal work schedule. It changes day to day. That means I should have plenty of time to work out, clean, cook gourmet meals and write.


Well, no. It doesn't work that way--at least for me. I need to make plans and schedules for myself. Even if I can't complete those plans and schedules, I accomplish more. 

Spike's morning routine has changed, which means mine has also. He now needs to go out first thing in the morning--sometimes as early as 5:30. Most of the time I go back to bed to catch a few more minutes of sleep--or 1.5 hours if he gets me up at 5:30. But this can be an opportunity to jump start my day.

I was intrigued by this article that I read two weeks ago. Today I tried the lemon water (good) and did 15 minutes of exercise before I ate breakfast. I didn't follow all of the other suggestions--I'm on my laptop right now. But it's a start. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Today's Holidays

August 26 is National Dog Day. I'm all for honoring dogs. Spike is an integral part of our lives. Almost every day, I read a story of how a rescue dog saved a person or family. Dogs rule!

Today is also Women's Equality Day in honor of women (finally) getting the right to vote. I was a bit confused because I just wrote about the anniversary of women's suffrage. Apparently, August 18th was the day the amendment was ratified; today was the day that the amendment was certified. Hey, more celebration is always good.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"I've got my crossroads feelings"--Mets Edition

It's been a wild season: exciting, frustrating, up, down.

August started well with two consecutive series sweeps. The Mets stumbled against the Rays, but then sweep the Rockies in a four game series. Momentum?

The Pirates came to Citi Field on Friday. After the Mets lost the first game, broadcaster Keith Hernandez said something like Mets fans, you really didn't think that the Mets would win the rest of the games, did you?

No, that would be ridiculous. But this was a big series for the Mets, and they were swept. 

Two teams have swept their season series from the Mets: the Pirates and the Cubs. The two teams leading the National League Wild Card race are the same Pirates and Cubs. The Mets are six games behind the Cubs and eight games behind the Pirates.

If the Mets are going to realize their dream of a post-season, they better win the division. They were lucky that the Nationals have been playing badly; the Mets are leading by four games.  But, oh, what could have been.

The Mets pulled out a win tonight against the Orioles 5-3, despite a scary bottom of the ninth. Let's go Mets!

Note on the title of this post.

Happy Anniversary Women Voters!

It's been 95 years since the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, was ratified. We don't honor the suffragists enough for their hard work and sacrifice.

Thank you.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

More on Summer (and Other) Songs

Sunday's Times has a summer song article here. I didn't realize that the Lovin Spoonful's Summer in the City was the New York summer song. I have my own memories of that song described in this post. Funny, the time when my dad first heard Summer in the City was when he was driving down to Florida with my brother, aunt and cousin. This was the same summer when I had gone to Florida with my aunt, uncle and cousin that I recently mentioned here. My father, brother and I returned home a few weeks later.

I have other music memories of that Florida trip. We didn't like my cousin Barbara's album selections. My cousin David bought two albums in Florida when we were there: Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence, and a Paul Revere and the Raiders album. I think it was Midnight Ride. The timing is right, even if I don't remember all the songs. We listened to them over and over. We even dedicated A Most Peculiar Man to Barbara's boyfriend Andy.

The Times article inspired me to play a few summer songs, Roger Miller's In the Summertime and my favorite, Hot Fun in the Summertime by Sly and the Family Stone. Soon, I'll be singing this.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Blue Apron Experiment

I saw several commercials for Blue Apron and was intrigued.Then a friend from the dog park mentioned that she and her boyfriend have it and like it. She also offered us a referral which gave us three complimentary meals.

One of the first things Jeff noticed was that the packaging wasn't environmentally friendly: lots of little plastic bottles and baggies of knickknacks: flour, spices, tomato paste, etc. Each package of six meals (three meals for two people) comes with two large "ice" packs.

I was underwhelmed with the first meal: cod and soba noodles with eggplant. When I was away for a few days, Jeff enjoyed the Chicken Milanese and Vadouvan-Spiced Lamb Burgers. We skipped the following week. Up next: Steaks & Roasted Potatoes: good but simple. The first meal I cooked was Mexican-Style Chicken Tortas. They are basically upscale sandwiches: good but a bit too complicated. I ended up with several dirty prep dishes and feeling a little frazzled.

I reviewed the six recipe cards we'd received. The recipes feature lots of eggplant, squash and zucchini. I get it; they're in season, but we're not fans. Three recipes required breading: too time-consuming and messy for me on a normal basis. I need more prep time than the cards indicated. I figured Blue Apron wasn't right for me.

Then I made the Crispy Catfish. I prepped the fish as instructed. The side dish is a Sicilian Eggplant Caponata. I made variations: more pepper and much less eggplant. I added a side salad of romaine and kale. It was delicious--why hadn't I tried catfish before?

That reminded me of one of the reasons we were intrigued by Blue Apron: an easy way to try new foods and recipes. We'll probably go to a delivery every two or three weeks based  on our plans and Blue Apron's menus. I'd prefer to get two meals for two instead of three for two, but that's not an option.

Tomorrow I plan to make the Chicken Milanese (saved the recipe card) but with my own sides.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Recent Restaurant Round-Up: Norwalk

Rincon Taqueria: I remember driving by this place a few times, noticing a new taco place, then later forgetting where it was. Then I read this review in The New York Times. Jeff and I made it for lunch about a month ago.

The same spot hosted various sandwich/deli places over the years; I've been to a few of them. Rincon elevated the space. A half wall separates the dining area from the counter. Mexican tiles line a few walls. It was simple, but cute.

The menu was also simple: tacos, empanadas, chicken quesadillas, burritos, soups. We tried the first three. They were very good. We also got a complimentary small plate of rice, black beans and spices--the best I've ever had.

Sedona Taphouse: We've been anticipating this place for over a year. It's located right down the hill from us--about a three block walk--and boasts 500 craft beers. We went to the Grand Opening and back Sunday for Beer School.

We headed down for "happier hour" on Grand Opening Monday--two weeks ago. Beers were $5.00, as were several appetizers: various sliders, tacos and flatbreads. We tried the pulled pork sliders and tacos. As we ordered another beer, I said something to Jeff that if we kept eating and drinking, I wouldn't want to cook. We decided to stay for dinner. Monday is Steak Out for Charity: $10.00 steak night with $5.00 going to a local charity. We had Black Angus flatiron steak with garlic whipped potatoes. Delicious.

We returned this Sunday afternoon for a complimentary Beer School class on Belgium beers: some were familiar, but many were new. After we tasted nine beers, we tried a few more menu items: Wagyu beef sliders, the Italiano and BBQ Chicken flat bread pizzas.

Sedona Taphouse has been a great find for us and for our neighborhood. We'll definitely be returning.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Back Home

Let's hear it in song by Karla Bonoff, Simon and Garfunkel and Carole King.

I got home Thursday and it was bittersweet. The morning at Mercy Center looked so beautiful, I longed for another day. But I also missed Jeff and Spike.

I had a tutoring session on Friday; that student is in Italy now. Another is in Hawaii: I'm jealous of them.

I have the weekend off and I'm enjoying that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Memorable Lines: 1945's Noir Classic Detour

I think Jeff and I watched Detour years ago, but it didn't make much of an impression on us. This time around, when I watched it as part of the Summer of Darkness, I watched it more closely.

Detour is the quintessential B picture noir, with a small budget and tight shooting schedule. Errol Morris said, "It has an unparalleled quality of despair, totally unrelieved by hope."

The movie includes these great lines:
 "Life's like a ballgame. You got to take a swing at whatever comes along before you wake up and find it's the ninth inning."

I may be prejudiced because I am a baseball fan, but I think baseball expressions and metaphors are rich and beautiful.

Mercy Musings

It's taken me about 15 minutes to log in to the Internet which has definitely disrupted the mellow calm I've been feeling this morning.

This is our last full day here. Last night I thought I might be ready to go home today. Now I'm glad for another day.

I slept much better last night. Woke up early again and  journaled. Next, I showered, dressed, got coffee and walked around the building and the grounds. At eight, I had a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, French toast, more coffee and orange juice. I walked the labyrinth and sampled the water views from several wooden benches.

Now I'm sitting on my private porch. I guess people are busy in programs because I've only seen two other people outside.

Jeff sent me a wonderful email last night. It included the lines:

"It is more important to enjoy yourself than to write down words on a piece of paper. Who knows maybe you just need to stop thinking for a bit so you can start thinking again."

Last night I was doubting my writing--wondering why I did it--wondering if I am a writer. Darlene said something to the effect that by virtue of asking the question, I'm a writer.

I revised about 400 words and wrote about 600 yesterday. As I was writing, I thought that I had too much description, too much exposition, not enough action. It needed so much work.

But that's the whole point of the shitty first draft. You have to get something down first before you cut, edit and revise. I'm on my way.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mets in First!

With yesterday's 12-1 win over the Marlins, the Mets took over first place in the division, for the first time since June 19. The Nationals are one game back.

No matter what happens next, this has been a fun season for the Mets. If my notes are correct, they've only dipped below .500 twice this year. The 11-game winning streak was exciting. After weeks with virtually no hitting, the team made two deals before the trading deadline and called up a young prospect.

We're not going to wait for next year. Let's go for it now.

First Night in a New Place...

means a lousy night's sleep for me. I've been aware of this since I traveled down to Florida with my aunt, uncle and cousins to visit another cousin. I've found I often have a sense of dread arriving at a new place after dark.

This time, I only had the problem sleeping. I got up at six, despite feeling exhausted. I sat on my private porch and wrote in my journal. I had opened all the windows last night and it was cool in the morning.

It is warmer now as I sit on the porch and write this post. The ceiling fan helps. Unfortunately, I'm seeing glare on my monitor and a reflection of myself, which is distracting. It's hard to use my mouse and see my cursor.

Oh the humanity.

I've been thinking about the difference between writing on paper and on a monitor. The monitor is more practical, more forgiving about misspellings and other errors. I suppose there is something more elemental in using paper and pen. At some point, I'll head outside with a notebook and see what develops. It was at Mercy Center about 25 years ago at I embraced my poetry.

I arrived with a writing plan of sorts. Since my blogging has been so sporadic--okay absent--for most of July, I will write at least one post each day. I will also work on a piece I'm calling "The Last Retreat," a fictionalized account of my retreat with Darlene last year. I wrote an entry when I was there, but couldn't post it: Internet troubles--one of the many annoyances of that location.

This year will be better.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mercy Center

I arrived at Mercy Center around 4:15 today. My room is quite nice, with a private bath and a private porch and a water view from the porch. Darlene is next door. We have the only two rooms on this corridor. We are next to a kitchenette area with sink, tea supplies and a small refrigerator. We are close to one of the meeting rooms but no one's been using it today.

It feels very odd to be here: familiar touches but also many changes. I guess I've been here about ten times before. Today's my first visit since the renovation. There's much less room for large groups of overnight guests. The dining room crowd was rather small.

It is eerily quiet. Some people are here on a silent retreat. But I doubt it ever gets really rowdy here. It's 10:20, so not exactly early.

This is the only writing I've done since I got here. Hope to jump start something.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hello August

I had a busy July. As soon as I write that, I feel I need to qualify that statement. I still worked well under 40 hours a week. But I was always switching gears from teaching from tutoring to training, from SAT to ACT to WPA docents. During the middle three weeks in July, I didn't work out, didn't blog, rarely wrote in my journal.

I finished my class on the 24th and my student docent training on the 28th. Last week was quiet.

Next week's my vacation. I'm going back to Mercy Center for a writing retreat with my friend Darlene. I'm guessing it's been at least six years since my last visit. That was my only time in SeaScape.

We'll be in the main house. We requested two specific rooms, but have no idea if we got them. I think we put our request in early, so maybe we'll luck out.