Resurrecting the Friday Five (or More)

I have a confession to make: I miss the Friday Five.

For those of you relatively new to this space–I used to post a round-up of five interesting things I’d come across that week. It was fun to share links to articles, books I’d read, and cool sites. I stopped the Friday Five about a year ago because I wanted to be able to write about things that didn’t fit into the format.

But I realized how much I enjoy and look forward to these kinds of posts from other bloggers like Nina’s Do Listen Read post, and Tammy Strobel’s Happy Links, and Let It Be Sunday from Joy. I always find a gem or two I never would have come across in the deep, dark crevasses of the Internet.

So I’m bringing back the Friday Five! (Is that applause or crickets I hear through the Interwebz?)  I think I’ll keep monthly  so I can keep posting longer pieces on specific topics and there might be more five. So…I’m not sure what to call it — the Monthly Few? The Every-So-Often Half-Dozen? I’m open to suggestions.

Without further ado…

Deconstructing the cookie. I don’t bake often, mostly because my results look and taste like frisbees. So I loved Tessa’s scientific study of the perfect chocolate chip cookie comparing things like granulated sugar to brown sugar, adding flour, and melting the butter. (I assume the same theories apply to most other flour-based cookie recipes.)  She also has a troubleshooting guide, which clearly I need.

Kimmy.  The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been my guilty pleasure this week. Someone in my office recommended this show (a Netflix original program), which I’ll admit, sounded a bit kooky at first:

From “30 Rock” executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock comes this hilarious comedy series starring Ellie Kemper (“The Office,” “Bridesmaids”) as a woman who is rescued from a doomsday cult and starts life over as a nanny for a socialite (Jane Krakowski from “30 Rock”) in New York City. Armed with just a backpack, light-up sneakers and a couple of past-due library books, she takes on a world she didn’t think even existed anymore.

But if Tina Fey is involved, I’ll give it a chance. This show is like eating a bag of potato chips. It’s fun and charming and cliche, and, similar to eating potato chips, I feel a bit guilty in the morning.

The Last Ice Merchant of Ecuador. Cultural change and adaptation often occurs over generations, but this short documentary (about 15 minutes) is a fantastic glimpse into traditions lost to progress.

From the New York Times article:

For over half a century, Baltazar Ushca has hiked up the slopes of Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador’s tallest mountain, to harvest the glacial ice that covers this dormant volcano. In the past, up to 40 ice merchants made the journey up the mountain at a time; today, however, Baltazar works alone.

Fanesca for the Soul. Now that I’ve got you thinking about Ecuador and since last week was Easter, I want to share this wonderful essay by master writer Calvin Trillin. Here, he takes us along on his quest for fanesca, a soup that is only made in Cuenca, Ecuador, during Holy Week. I love how he makes the mundane laugh-out-loud funny. And since I’m speaking of Cuenca, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you in the direction of Kathy’s blog. Kathy and Sara are Americans in Cuenca and having the time of their lives. (Hi, Kathy, we miss you!)

Thank you, Patti, for posting this link that explains the Theory of Relativity in a way that I can understand, i.e. an infographic.  I feel like I finally have a grasp on it. Sort of.

Are you at AWP? Like, right now? How is it going? I really wanted to go this year, but the reason I’m not leads me to a teaser for next week.  Coming next week: a quiz, a vote, and a donation to a worthy cause. :)

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Macaron

As if I needed an excuse to eat sweets, it was Macaron Day in NYC. It’s a wonderful day when bakeries around the city offer free macarons. Why do they do this? Ours is not to reason why. Free. Macarons. My co-workers and I shamelessly hit up two bakeries on Bleecker Street during our lunch break and immediately inhaled the cookies.

Quick side note: Maybe you’re thinking of macaroons, the flourless, coconutty blob, and wondering what’s the big deal. I wouldn’t get off my couch for macaroons. These are macarons.

Perfect macaron

Ours had little emojii on them.

Ours had little emojii on them.

Colorful macarons

A rainbow of macarons

Since we’re on Bleecker Street, I thought I’d take you for a little walk around the neighborhood. Bleecker runs east-west through the West Village in Manhattan. We only have time to walk a small section today. Let’s start at one of the macaron places, Bisous Ciao.

Bisous Ciao

Love the reflection of the cab and the buildings in the window.

John's Pizzeria

This is a well-known pizza place with a classic New York-style slice.

Forgotten NY says this about John’s:

Part of Bleecker Street’s charm is the presence of longstanding businesses who have been supported by residents for decades, instead of impersonal chain stores. John’s Pizza has been here since 1929, enough time to craft a recipe that is recognized by many as NYC’s best pizza, though that honor is largely subjective. Original owner John Sasso learned the craft from NYC’s first pizzaiolo, Gennaro Lombardi, whose pizza place can still be found on Spring Street.

Blind Tiger

Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street

The buildings in this area are fairly low profile, three or four stories tall.

Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street

I’d like to know where the M-E-N will be wearing these clothes in Manhattan.

Bleecker Street

I sense we're getting close to something important.

I sense we’re getting close to something important.

Ahh, Magnolia Bakery. Made famous on Sex and the City, Conan and others.

We’ve burned a lot of calories walking from the macaron place. I think we should stop in Magnolia and pick up a little something.

So many options.

So many options.

Magnolia 3

Let’s go with their signature cupcakes. I know cupcakes were so 2005, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Magnolia Bakery

The perfect beginning and end to a walk along Bleecker Street, if you ask me.

For more information about Bleecker Street, check out these sites:

Forgotten NY 

Ephemeral NY

Daytonian in Manahttan

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With Perfection

I came across some notes I’d made for in my journal for an old Subway Chronicles post. The two girls in this piece are probably off to college by now. 

Consider these two scenarios from separate subway rides this week:

On an uptown 2 train, a man in a suit and tie is taking his daughter to school. She appears to be about nine years old. They are facing each other with the silver pole between them. He carries her pink backpack slung over one shoulder.

The father decides to use their commute time wisely. He quizzes her on her times tables. She is eager to do well so her father can be proud of her.

The father asks, “What’s four times five?”

“Twenty! That’s easy!”

“Okay. How about seven times eight?”

That one is a little harder. She thinks. “Forty–two?”

“Nooo. Think.”

The girl ticks her fingers as if she could use them to count that high. “Forty-nine?”

“Are you guessing, or do you know?”

“Uhm. Fifty-five?”

Frustration flashes across the father’s face, though he tries to control it. “How can you not know the answer to this? We’ve studied the seven times tables over and over. Night after night.”

“Fifty-nine?” She almost whispers.

The father shakes his head. “How do you expect to get into the magnet school? You’re competing against kids that know their times tables already. Everything builds from here.”

Tears start to roll down her cheeks. “I-I-I’m sor-sorry.”

“Stop crying.” The father pulls a hankie from his pocket. He pats her on the shoulder. “We’re just going to have to study harder. That’s all.”

************************************************************

The Brooklyn-bound Q train is crowded but most people who want one have found a seat. A father with long, silver hair and red Sally Jesse Raphael glasses is sitting closest to the door while his daughter has the seat next to him. She’s maybe twelve or thirteen. It’s clear that she has gotten her eccentric taste in clothes partly from her father and partly from watching too many 80s teen angst movies.

The father rests the New York Times crossword puzzle on his round stomach. He has the kind of face that smiles all over.

“We need a four-letter word for ‘Waterloo pop group.’”

“Abba.”

“Of course! Abba.” He writes it in the squares. “You weren’t even alive then.”

“I went to see Mamma Mia, remember?”

“Yes, yes.” He nods. “How about ‘Melville captain?’”

“Ahab!” They both say at the same time.

“Eight down: ‘Before to bards.’”

“How many letters?”

“Three.”

The girl looks at the ceiling with her Bette Davis eyes, eyes that will someday be her favorite feature, and says, “I don’t know.” She rests her head on her father’s ample arm.

“Okay, let’s try another one.” He scans the clues. “Got the gold.”

“First,” she says.

“You’re first in my book,” he says.

The girl rolls her eyes as only teenagers can, but her cheeks flush a bit and lips curl ever so slightly into a smile.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With Turquoise

I.

I’ve been in Tiffany’s once. The flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is stately and refined, a Rockefeller to my Clampett.

My office was nearby and I went during my lunch break. I can’t remember why I was there. I certainly couldn’t afford to buy anything; I must have been “browsing.” Now I think, more than anything, I wanted to be Holly Golightly for a few minutes. I wanted to capture her panache and her pluck, two things that you need at your first job in New York City. I was short on both, and I felt like a fish out of water. Holly Golightly could relate.

In “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Audrey Hepburn says, “I don’t want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together. I’m not sure where that is but I know what it is like. It’s like Tiffany’s…nothing very bad could happen to you there.”

When I left that company, my co-workers pooled their funds and bought me a ceramic Tiffany’s box. It’s a few inches square and a few inches deep, just big enough to hold a few mementoes. It’s one of my favorite keepsakes. Every morning when I open the lid on the turquoise box, I think of them and how they lifted my spirits by giving me a little bit of a magical place where nothing very bad could happen to me.

Tiffany's box

II.

Walking along the beach wearing flippers and a snorkel, there doesn’t seem to be a graceful way to enter the water. At least, not for me. I stumble, pitching this way and that, spin in a herky-jerky motion, and finally belly flop into the abyss, scaring away all of the fish I’ve come to see.

Then, something magical happens. I’m weightless and gliding along like a penguin. I feel hermetically sealed in this underwater world. All I can hear is my Darth Vader-style breathing, which is oddly reassuring. Everything is filtered through a blue-green lens. Before my trip, when I’d seen photos of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I was sure they’d been retouched. The water couldn’t possibly be that color in real life. It is. In fact it is so pristine, I can clearly see that nurse shark meandering toward me. I know that not every shark is a man-eater with a grudge, but shouldn’t I be slightly concerned? I’m not.

St. John 2

St. John, USVI

About 3,000 miles away from here, just west of the Grand Canyon, are where the Havasupai live. They are the “people of the blue-green water.” The waterfalls that run through Havasu Canyon are sacred. The people honor the blue-green water, and it protects them. I remember this, and maybe this is why I’m calm. I am cocooned in this warm water, bathed in blue-green light.

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls

III.

The Navajo word is dootł’izh. That word is modified if the color of the turquoise is more blue, green, or yellow. The stone is worn so the gods can recognize the wearer as one of their “cherished earth children” and the wearer’s prayers can be heard.

At the National Museum of the American Indian, there is a special exhibit of Navajo jewelry. Each piece is the handiwork of the Yazzie family from Gallup, New Mexico. Each piece is a work of art. How many hours did it take to polish and etch this necklace?  turquoise jewlery

I have a pendant that I keep in my Tiffany’s box. It’s a stone mass produced to look like turquoise. I wonder how many seconds it took to make that pendant.

The Navajo word is hózhóIt means beauty, harmony, and balance. Hózhó is the goal. “What you strive for in this world is hózhóHow you live, how you treat one another…how you live in your surroundings,” says Navajo artist Conrad House.

The artistry of making this jewelry is hózhó for the Yazzie family.  I’m hoping my little bits of turquoise bring me hózhó too

turquoise jewlery

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One with the Trampoline

I don’t know how I got on the mailing list. I’ve never bought anything from them, either in person or online. I live about 2,000 miles from their closest brick-and-mortar stores. Yet once a month or so, I receive a catalog from this women’s sportswear company. And I love this catalog. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.

This ain’t your momma’s catalog. The models aren’t walking down a quaint main street while laughing casually at something just off camera. These women are running, jumping, sweating, They’re covered in sand playing beach volleyball. They’re windsurfing. They’re trail running through the rainforest. They’re hooking their surfboards to the tops of their Jeeps. I want to live inside this catalog.

Fun facts are listed next to the photos of each model. These are not J. Peterman descriptions. Louise likes kimchi and chocolate. Bryana’s talent is a five-minute handstand. Natalie rides her mountain bike to blow dry her hair.

Is this sand-surfing? Sand-boarding? Boogie-sanding? Whatever, I'm in if you'll just get me out of this cold weather.

Is this sand-surfing? Sand-boarding? Boogie-sanding? Whatever, I’m in if you’ll just get me out of this cold weather.

 

Those tidbits are entertaining, but what I really want to know is, how can I stop working in a florescent-lit office, with offensive carpet that smells strangely like Tang, where I click the computer mouse until I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and instead windsurf all day. I want to be Beth, a former pro-soccer player with kick-ass calves, or Katy, who swings across leafy gorges. I am absolutely sure that if I could step inside the world of this catalog, I, too, could surf like Hannah, a world bodysurfing champion who isn’t afraid to be swallowed whole by a rogue wave.

If I only had this swimsuit, I could do this too. I know it.

If I only had this swimsuit, I could do this too. I know it.

If I order the “bliss jacket” and the “seaside slip-on skirt,” will I be magically transported out of the concrete icebox where I live to a place with cloudless blue skies and golden sand so I can “surf without a leash” like Maggie? (I’m not even sure what that means, but I want to do it.)

I want to be Bryana, whose hobby is trampoline. Yes, when someone asks what I like to do for fun, I want to answer, “I trampoline,” instead of “I drink coffee.” Though in my real life, the one through which I’m typing this, believes that after sixty seconds of trampoline, I’d find it repetitive. But in the catalog, there is no boredom! No frustration! No pasty, flaky skin!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to place an order for the “reversible bodacious bottom” to see if there is any truth in advertising.

Bodacious Bottom

Maybe I’ll try the “Holy Grail Bottom.” I’m open to the possibilities.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone!