Friday Five

1. On Sunday I was feeling thin, so I decided I would go jeans shopping. For me searching for a pair of jeans is more ridiculous than searching for Jimmy Hoffa a bathing suit. With a bathing suit, I’m realistic enough to know that even the most miraculous of miracle suits is not going to make me look like Gisele Bundchen. But jeans are clothes, and I’m not exposing skin (at least not on purpose). Plus, when did buying jeans get so complicated? Every brand has their own terminology so confusing that they have definitions on the tags:  modern fit, loose fit, natural fit, demi curve, relaxed leg, boot cut, curvy boot cut, flare cut, moderate flare cut,  blue vintage wash, rinsed wash, low rise, semi-low rise. As if that isn’t enough to make your head spin, then there are the descriptions that seem to be conflicting. What is low-rise curvy straight leg? Tapered boot cut?

And so, I have two rules: 1. Go to the store early in the morning, but after I’ve fully caffeinated. There is a small window of opportunity when I’m my most bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed self.  Fifteen minutes on either side and it’s all over. 2. Go alone. For the sake of my relationships, it’s better this way. How disheartening would it be to hear a friend call from the dressing room: “Can you get me a size 0?”

After 2 hours at the store, I’m semi-happy to report that I purchased a pair of jeans I’m semi-happy with and I’m really happy to report that I don’t have to do this again for quite a while.

2. The leaves are still on the trees, but I’m stocking up for winter. One grower at the farmer’s market had huge bunches of basil for sale. So I turned this:

Into this:

In my super secret pesto recipe, I mix pine nuts and walnuts into the basil and a couple of cloves of garlic. I had so much basil I was able to make 4 batches of pesto. I freeze it so I can have it all winter long. Aside from putting it on sandwiches and pasta, I like to drizzle a spoonful or two into homemade minestrone. Just thinking about it makes me excited about the cold weather.

3. The Discovery Museum held an exhibit on Pompeii: Life in the Shadow of Vesuvius. Armed with my Groupon deal, I braved the crowds of Times Square, and I was not disappointed.

image via Discovery Museum

In A.D. 79, when Vesuvius erupted, Pompeii was part of the Roman Empire and the 25,000 people who lived in this city at the base of the volcano were mostly living the good life (except of course for the slaves and peasants). The first room of the exhibit told the story of the daily lives of the Pompeiians with items such as fish hooks, terra cotta wine decanters and statuettes of the gods. On display were large scale frescoes that adorned the walls of many homes, usually depicting the gods. I was impressed by the artistry and detail of the artwork, but the vibrancy of the colors was most amazing. These weren’t paints. They made colors by grinding up barks, ash, pine needles and spices among other things.

The next section of the exhibit was the aftermath of the eruption, which was the reason all of the above artifacts had been so perfectly preserved. One of the placards said that the Pompeiians had no word for volcano in Latin. They thought they’d been living in the shadow of a lovely mountain. Imagine their surprise on the morning of August 24 (A.D. 79) when the thing started spewing ash. There were four eruptions of increasing intensity over the next two days, the fourth creating a surge of extreme heat reaching 570 degrees F.  But by then most of the people had either escaped the city or had already been killed by the ash column which by some estimates had reached 98,000 feet into the stratosphere.

Pompeii was lost to time for the next 1,700 years when a man drilling for a well, discovered a city buried beneath 12 feet of compacted and hardened ash. As archeologists excavated, they found 1,100 remains frozen in place. Well, technically these aren’t actual bodies but impressions created from the cavities found in the volcanic matter. An archaeologist discovered that he could pour plaster into the cavity and when it set, the hardened ash could be chipped away to leave the indentation of the body that had been there. Incredible, no?

Most were found in a prone position like the ones shown here at the site.

Image via Flicker, Tyler Bell

But the one that captured my imagination the most was this figure, labeled “Crouching Man” who was found clutching his cloak to his mouth probably to try to keep out the ash.

And of course this poor soul who had even less of an idea of what was happening to him than his people did.

Have you ever been to Pompeii? What aspect did you find most intriguing? 

4. Sung-bong Choi is a Shine-worthy person if there ever was one. He is a semi-finalist on Korea’s Got Talent. His story of survival is amazing. Homeless at the age of five, he was on his own and sold gum to get by. Now he is 22 and sings Italian love songs with an angelic voice. You may have seen this clip – 11 million people already have – but it’s worth a watch if you haven’t. One of the judges remarks, “Regardless of his hard life, he passionately runs toward what he really wants and even talented ones rarely have that passion.” Shine on Sung-bong Choi!

5. Celebrating Labor Day here in the US on my roof deck with a cup of coffee, a book of Mary Oliver’s poetry and Reggie.

The Queen Mary cruise ship comes into New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty.

Looking west to downtown Manhattan

Have a great weekend everyone! 



  1. Ha, I have to psych myself up to go any kind of clothes shopping. Not a huge fan of shopping anyway, but finding things I like and trying them on, just exhausts me.

    The Pompei story is really interesting – and of course tragic. Thanks for sharing the exhibition with us.

    Have a question: How do you manage to write and read for a living and then still be able to write and especially read so much in your free time?


    1. Me, too. I’m not a huge “shopper” either. I generally only go to the store when I have something specific in mind.

      The answer to your question, Lisa, is that I drink a lot of caffeine. 🙂 Seriously, I guess I enjoy writing and reading so much that it’s not like work to me and I will clear away other things (like sleeping) to make time for it.


  2. I hate clothes shopping, too. The basil & pesto are amazing; we have a ton of basil in the garden so I need to do the same thing. I never thought of it in minestrone, yum! The photos of NY, especially with the Queen Mary in the background, are very cool, glad you posted them!


    1. I wish I’d had a clear day when I took those photos, but it was overcast. It’s quite stunning when there is a beautiful blue sky.

      What else do you grow in your garden besides basil? Do you can or freeze vegetables for the winter?


  3. I saw the Pompeii exhibition about, um, 25 years ago in Perth Western Australia. It was amazing and made a huge impression on me. And I am very jealous of your Thin Day – I wish I would have one! Maybe if I stop eating cake, but that sounds a bit drastic…


    1. Now just hold on there…giving up cake cold turkey does sound drastic. What if you tried started small and worked up to it? Let’s say, you don’t eat cake on days that have the letter “Z” in them. Or don’t eat cake when there is a solar eclipse. Let me know how that goes.


  4. Your pesto looks amazing! And the Korea’s Got Talent video was very touching. Looks like you got a lot of activities in this week. I adore going clothes shopping but as we’re always moving around and I’m not working at the moment, I have no money or suitcase room to buy all the cool stuff I find! (Although I found room for the vintage 60s dress I found in Brooklyn)

    I guess that’s what happens when you spend all your money on travelling! Not bad I guess 😛 Oh there is one thing I LOATHE shopping for – bathers. Most depressing things ever invented.


  5. What an incredible view you have! Very, very cool (I’m a little jealous, can you tell?)!
    Speaking of that view, NYC, and Jimmy Hoffa… can you add any insight to the whole Giants Stadium thing? Because… I hear ‘things’
    *in my best Robert De Niro*


  6. I was in Pompeii. It’s eerie and leaves you with a strange feeling to see people in their final moments frozen in time. The dog moved me the most.
    I never thought of putting pesto in the minsetrone but will try that.
    That was an amazing video of the Korean singer. How can you go through so much and not be damaged? What an incredible person. Thanks for sharing it.


  7. Oh, yes! I wasn’t expecting to see the cast of the dog. They also had one of a pig. It was a little overwhelming.

    The pesto in the minestrone adds a nice little background taste – not overpowering. Let me know what you think if you get to try it.


  8. I love jeans shopping. But I gotta be in the right mood. Then I try on forty or fifty pairs till I find the ones that fit right. By then I’m sweaty and tired, but if I got a great pair of jeans I’m okay with it. (Bathing suits are another matter.)
    I’ve been to Pompeii, Jackie, and it is awesome. I remember those ‘bodies’. I wonder what those people would have thought if they had known their dying moment would be captured and viewed by so many others so many centuries later? Just creepy and fascinating and sad.
    My husband and I spent an entire day wandering all around Pompeii. It was magical. To actually walk through a city from so long ago was an experience I’ll always remember. A funny thing happened while we were there: I had to use the bathroom, so we asked, in very poor Italian, where we could find the bathrooms. We were directed to the ancient public baths. LOL! A stressful half hour later (I was pregnant) we finally found the ‘real’ ladies room. Never so glad to see a toilet – even if it was just one of those hole in the floor thingies Italians call toliets!
    Great post!


    1. Next time you go jeans shopping, can I come with you? It sounds like you know what you’re doing, and I’ve learned that you really need to have some kind of game plan.
      The story about trying to find a bathroom in Pompeii is hilarious! Those helpful Italians. 🙂 I have had the experience of the hole in the floor toilet, too. It takes some getting used to. Bonus points for tackling that while pregnant.


  9. Wow, nice view! I love New York.
    I’ve never seen Pompeii, but hope to someday. I know people who’ve been and they were very moved by it.
    Amazing video of the young Korean boy. How does one survive on the streets at the age of 5?
    I just made pesto too. So good, I put it on just about everything.


    1. I’ve never been to Pompeii either, Carole, but I would love to go. The artifacts and casts at this exhibit were really moving, but I imagine that it would be even more amazing to see them on site.
      I’m glad you enjoyed that video. Such a lovely voice he has. Incredible that he was able to survive on his own.


  10. I hit the send too soon. What a fantastic little Korean guy. Thanks for sharing and thanks for sharing about the exhibition. I have never been to Pompeii but my father was there during the Second World. BTW I got caught up in the talent competition and have spent way too long this morning following this guy.


    1. His story is so inspiring, isn’t it? To have had such a difficult childhood and still be so dedicated to his passion is incredible. It certainly brought a tear to my eye.


    1. Love that analogy. I’m just glad I don’t have to find suitable jeans to wear while panning for gold. That would be near impossible!


  11. Pompeii – I saw it – in Italy – when I was about five. Totally creeped out by the dead dog and the people. Remember them well. Scared of Mt. Vesuvius too! I didn’t think we should be hanging out around this volcano that had done so much damage! I didn’t grasp the concept of “dormant”. To me at the time, “sleeping” meant that it could possibly wake up any second and then where would we be? So funny to look back on this! 🙂
    Your pesto looks fantastic, by the way! 🙂


    1. The casts were so dramatic even in this exhibit. I can imagine that seeing them right in the shadow of Vesuvius would be incredibly moving.
      There was also a short video of the volcano today with interviews of people who living there now. They seem to take the fact that the whole town could be wiped out at any moment totally in stride.


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