Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Animals stranded from Hurricane Katrina

Red Cross helps people and they do an amazing job but very often, refugees are told that they must leave their pets behind to fend for themselves. It breaks my heart and it happens at every disaster. Oddly enough, during the tsunami, dolphins and other sea life swam to deeper waters and land animals ran to the hills before the wall of water crashed the shores in January so there was little loss. With so many domesticated animals in the U.S., the number of abandoned animals is sure to be staggering. You can help by making a donation to an organization such as the ASPCA that will provide shelter, food, water and medical attention for animals. ASPCA also will be working with local shelters to send abandoned cats and dogs throughout the U.S. for adoption. It is the least we can do for our best friends at this time. I also wonder if given the same Sophie's Choice that people have been given for their pets, would our pets leave our side at such a desperate time? I cannot answer how I would respond as I've never walked in their shoes. Aside from making donations, we keep them in our thoughts.

Donate now to the Red Cross to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. There is an urgent need and as waters continue to rise in New Orleans, the need for food, clean water and shelter only increases. Thank you.

Stop the posts (temporarily)...

It seems I'm knocking on wood a lot these days. I should just carry a piece of oak in my handbag in case there isn't any around when I need it. Paul and I are in the process of purchasing a home in Ridgefield, CT and are plugging along with all of the steps involved: offer? check; attorney? check; inspection? check; appraisal? check... mortgage?... mortgage?... at what point can I schedule the movers and order boxes? My mind is abuzz with all of the things we need to do once we get confirmation and sign the dotted line for our mortgage. Oops, where is a piece of wood..? We've been told several times that everything looks great and the mortgage broker sees this as an easy loan but I wonder, what are the issues that could pop up? I don't know if I'll be relaxed until the moving van pulls away and our computers and stereo are turned on without blowing fuses.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Chez Jean-Pierre

Stamford, Connecticut isn't known for it's dining establishments. I think it is known for, well, UBS and their world's largest trading floor, GE Capital and having the last stop before the Manhattan Bound train goes express. There are quite a few dining gems though. In addition to Brasitas - one of our recent discoveries, we regularly visit Chez Jean-Pierre located on Bedford street just down from the Avon Theater. It isn't a place out of town friends notice as we walk by at night but once I point it out, they immediately notice the sparkling little corner bistro. It pulls you in. It's best to make reservations but if the friendly staff know you, they will do their best to accommodate you on busy nights. During the warmer months, they open up both sides of the building and have outdoor seating that flows onto the sidewalk. And during the winter, its radiates a golden warmth that's very cozy. The food is consistently wonderful. My favorite is the roasted artichoke salad with arugula, roasted red peppers and large shavings of Parmesan cheese with a light dressing. The artichokes are meaty but tender and just melt in your mouth. Every dish is pretty traditional fare and is on the hearty side so you won't leave there feeling hungry. Wednesday nights they have a live band in their back bar which is, again, very traditional French decor. The band is somewhat "Big Chill" but if you're in the restaurant dining, it's not distracting at all. The wine list is extensive and covers all price ranges. If you're intimidated by French food, this would be a great place to start because you can't miss. If you are a French food connoisseur, you will appreciate the attention to detail that the French owners have put into making sure you enjoy your meal.

Also to be noted: the proprietaire's brother owns a great shop right next door of imported beautifully hand painted furniture. I'm eyeing the Eiffel Tower Lamp. Tres Cool!

Bicycling: it's not just for kids anymore

Since moving east, I've really missed the ability to easily hop on my bike and go for a ride. While I lived in NY, I would ride from my apartment on 6th Avenue and take 'side' streets to the west side highway where there is a park that runs the length of Manhattan. It was great once I was on the trail but I felt like I was on a kamikaze mission to get there.

While working at Microsoft, it was not uncommon for people to ride their bikes from as far away as Seattle to the suburb on the Burke-Gilman trail which gently rolls twenty + miles in a car free park-like trail to Microsoft. There are showers & locker rooms throughout the 'campus' so why not? The thing is, this was common with a lot companies in the northwest. It's not a hippy thing but rather, a great alternative to a cup of coffee. Just imagine the feeling of spending 45 minutes on your bike while riding alongside a beautiful sleugh that ends at a park just a short distance from your office instead of sitting in traffic. And even that 'short distance' where you have to ride on the road, there is a bike lane that car drivers, for the most part are respectful of.

Now, there are stunnning drives here in Fairfield County and we've been on many of them. We see cyclists wearing their yellow jerseys as they try to keep an eye on traffic. My gripe is that there are no signs to keep people aware of how to drive around cyclists nor are there bike lanes. The towns are encouraging people to drive. I know that building bike lanes is out of the question for these towns that are 200+ years old but by informing and encouraging the locals to 'share the road' might actually get more people out on their bikes. That would be a beautiful thing. Oh and if you decide to give the ol' bike a try, ALWAYS wear a helmet.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

My nephew's birthday

I'm a schmuck. I totally and completely missed my nephews 17th birthday. I feel bad because he is all ready difficult to reach so I knew where he was and I just blew it. He is this awesome guy that was born when I was 19. For some reason, I see him as my little brother more than my nephew. I can't explain why but I have always had a soft-spot in my heart for him. He is out in Seattle and growing up with my very 'outgoing' and 'fun' family. The thing is, he is, like I am, much more of an introvert. We like to have our few friends but unlike the family, we recharge by being alone. He's at the age where communication is difficult and although you feel like an adult, the world is just beginning to unfold. I want to be available to him and express to him that I am here for him. My husband Paul, also thinks of him in the same way. Paul is frustrated that we can't kick his butt when he starts to get out of line and that we can't hear how his music is coming along. I miss him. I'd love to hang out and have coffee with him and just listen to him tell me about everything he's been up to.

World's ugliest dog

Now, I love dogs and that covers pretty much all dogs but this tested me. If you are having a rough day, check out Sam and all of the sites devoted to him! You're sure to either scream or breakdown laughing. Be warned: don't look at this site just before going to bed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

How far is too far?

My husband and I found a great house in Ridgefield! If you've read earlier posts, you may have noticed that we've been spending some time up there looking for homes. We found a cute little 40's Cape Cod half a mile from 'downtown' Ridgefield and blocks from the Ridgefield Garden Club located in Ballard Park. The price is still shocking but the location is nice and it is just shy of an acre. The downside? It is 15 minutes to the train station and an hour fourty to Grand Central Station. I've asked Paul time and again to make sure that this is something he is willing to sacrifice until he can find work in this area. He says he is but still, that commute sucks even if he is only going in 2-3 times per week and his office is in Times Square which is an easy 10 minute walk from Grand Central. It is ultimately up to him and so we are moving forward on this cute little house in the middle of the street. To be continued...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

How very cool

My beautiful sister and her very cool (and athletic!) son visited from Seattle last month. It was a 90-degree day with high humidity so we ducked into 'The park' to try to cool off. Central Park is usually 10-15 degrees cooler than the paved part of the city on hot summer days. Here we are on the north side of the Duck Pond with the Plaza Hotel behind us.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Time keeps on slippin' into the future

Enough with renting!!

I've moved on average, once per year since I was 12. No joke. Is that odd? I mean, it seems like we as Americans are big movers and willing to relocate to other places around the United States for a good job or new experience. In fact, I rarely meet anyone who hasn't moved out of their home state at least once.

With interest rates on home loans being what the are, people are buying homes instead of renting. Because of this, nationwide apartment chains such as um, well, Avalon Bay, are having to provide more incentives up front and sneaking in the extra fees buried in the contract. My case in point being the fact that our current lease requires what I understood to be a 60 day notice. When I spoke with someone in the rental office about this I was told it was actually a 60 day fee for breaking the lease, on top of continuing to pay rent for 60 days. So, I'm paying for 4 months rent. I was also told that this is because "you know, the apartment could sit empty for 120 days" if they can't rent it out. Regardless of when my lease is up (I could be paying month to month for $500 more per month) but the apartment would become vacant at that the end of contract anyhow. Maybe I don't know how costs are determined in large apartment complexes. So, I wonder, is this now normal for apartments to try to charge this type of fee?

Regardless of my own issues, this may just be an example of why people really want to buy. As a renter, the appropriately middle-age gothic yet still used name, landlord, always seems to have the final say.

Friday, August 19, 2005

C'est Magnifique, Michel Cluizel!

What a concept: fabulous chocolates made from the following ingredients: cocoas, cane sugar, cocoa butter, bourbon vanilla pod. I just finished the 72% bar which lasted all week - a few squares a day does me just fine! The chocolate melts in your mouth and is not only a smashingly good treat but it also has the complexity of a great heady wine. From start to its smooth light finish this dark chocolate is so very good. Because of its straight ahead, pure ingredients, you don't end up with a waxy (soy) coating in your mouth afterward. If you like the lighter chocolates, caramels, etc., they've got you covered. Check out their website for information on cocoa butter and how real chocolate should be made.

G'Day Pal!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Don't let the door hit you in the ass...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Workin' with da Youts

Tonight was spent at church preparing for bi-monthly meetings as a volunteer for the youth ministry. The congregation chose me and three others (my husband included) to lead the youth group for the coming school year. As an introduction we went around the room and each of us described someone that made a positive impression on us as teenagers. Each one of us told a strangely similiar story. For me, my step father and a friend from high school: both had high expectations of me and bluntly questioned me when I made lazy choices that hurt others or myself. I didn't change right away but they made an impact on my setting ever evolving expectations that have let to the person I am.

I wonder, if my friends and family as teenagers had that certain someone who saw them as an individual and asked them to rise to the occassion of life. That truly is a gift of God.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bravo Brasitas!

Main Street, as the Boston Post Road is called as it runs through Stamford, Connecticut is not what I would consider a good road to have a restaurant. Although some parts of Highway 1 are nice, Stamford uses it mostly for tile shops, liquor stores and car dealerships. There is one sunny spot located at 954 East Main Street that I've been curious about. After it was reviewed in the NY Times on Saturday (Connecticut section) and rated as very good, I convinced my husband to try Brasitas. There was a chance that as soon as we walked through the doors we would have all eyes on us and we would regret it but this was not the case at all. We've been looking for a good Spanish tapas restaurant for some time and although this is more of a South American than Spanish restaurant, it did not disappoint us at all. They start out with fried plantain and salsa but the following courses were much more sophisticated in presentation and flavor. The mushroom crepe with corn and avocado sauce was incredible and may inspire me to pull out my crepe pan. The other dishes we ordered: empanadas, civeche and a chorizo & skirt steak plate were all melt in your mouth good. The well made Mojito's sealed the deal. We'll be back.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

If it weren't' for the Internet, where would you be?

It has changed our lifestyles, for sure. But have you thought about how it has changed your life? There is little probability that I would be in Connecticut if it weren't for the Internet. It allows me to stay close to like minded people, friends and family and without it, I would feel like a Stepford Wife trapped in a prozac world.

People may be moving out to the coasts but with soaring home prices, constant threat of terrorism, and the ability for people to work from home and head into the office a couple days a week or a week each month, I have to wonder: Could the lure of rural living be the next frontier for modern living?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

We're still just a bunch of Hunter-Gatherers.

I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart. I always have and I always will. I don't buy that lower income lifestyles have now improved because people can now purchase $20. DVD players that they otherwise wouldn't be able to own. The Walton family members top the world's wealthiest while they pay their workers minimum wage and work them just under the legal allotted hours to offer health coverage. They have no integrity and no soul and it boils my blood to think about it. As W has reminded us throughout his term, Americans have freedom. We have a choice in where we shop and as the worlds wealthiest nation, I also think that if we are going to shop, we have an obligation as to where and how.

In no way am I saying that I'm a saint in all of this. Far from it. But I am trying to break away from what is easy and just do the right thing. I admit that I shop at Costco. Hey, they are headquartered in my hometown so I am somewhat obligated. I'm not a person that will be easily swept away by a bargain price on something I didn't know that I wanted. Costco has a formula that does just that for a lot of people. The CEO refuses to sell anything over 14% markup and will drop vendors if he knows that Wal-Mart is getting a lower price. He chooses to stock high quality every day items throughout the warehouse and also enjoys throwing in what I call treats: items that are above and beyond what you would expect to find there yet at a great price (e.g. cashmere sweaters, flat screen TV, etc.). And, most recently a Picasso. Just in case you need one.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Whole Foods = Whole Body

It is obvious that we need to stop allowing ourselves to buy into the fact that large pharmaceuticals and the FDA don't always tell us what is really GOOD for us. Food IS fuel for body and soul. I often challenge myself to eat nothing but foods that I prepare or if I buy something from the grocery store, I try to limit the ingredients on any given package. When I bake a cake from scratch and it has about 8-10 ingredients. Have you looked at the ingredients on a box of cake mix? What the heck is all that crap and what is my body going to do with it once I eat it? I mean, it is one thing to feed the body sugar and refined flour but most of the ingredients aren't even pronounceable. And cake mix is just an example. When did we start allowing this to be put on our grocery store shelves and why wasn't it issue then? I think it may have started in the late 40s early 50s and over time as companies wiggle their way into bed with the FDA, their products have snuck into our food chain.

One more thought. I have a friend who is 'heavy'. She has always been a diet soda drinker. She's asks how I stay slim when I drink Coke...straight ahead full sugar Coke. My response is always the same "I know what is in this drink and I know what this drink is doing to my body". I can't really say the same thing for diet sodas.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Just as some scream out "Marco" then "Polo!" I cannot resist yelling "DOG!" when I see one going for a ride in a car.

Family Guy
Peg: Brian, What's wrong with you?
Brian: I'm a dog! I can't stand up in cars!

Ridgefield's Finest (French food)
If you find yourself driving around Ridgefield, Connecticut looking for some French food any time of day, you may want to check out La Saliere located just off the main drag. The outdoor cafe is quiant but cooling during the day with a small fountain and they light an outdoor stove at night to keep things comfortable. The beer menu is c'est magnifique! I've been there a couple times and have yet to have anything that isn't excellent.

First Communion

Today was the day: I took communion. We've been going to the local Presbyterian church for over a year but this was the first time that I understood and can respect the significance of it. No veil required.

Friday, August 05, 2005

You say Panini I say Panino

I love sandwiches but love panini even more! The flavors of these pressed sandwiches intensifies but blend together to a wonderful, tantalizing treat. mmmm... Pretty much any combination of so-so sandwiches becomes smackdillyicous. Here are some that I've made up based on my favorite foods. Use organic when available for the best flavors and better nutrition. For all of these recipies, I use two slices rustic but light bread (1/2 wheat, 1/2 white), unless otherwise noted. Use the cheese to bind the bread to the ingredients. Once you've put all of these ingredients on your bread, coat the preheated pan or panini grill with a very thin layer of olive oil and place the panini on the grill or, if using a pan, add the panini press to squish all of the juices together. You won't need to pile them high and even though they look small once pressed, don't be deceived, they are very satisfying.

Spanish panini
thinly sliced Manchego cheese
4-6 seeded dates split in half
2-4 slices Serrano or Proscuitto ham

French panini
yellow roasted pepper pieces
goat cheese
Herbs de Provence or any blend of available herbs.

Italian panini
I call this the antipasto, chef's choice. If I have friends over for dinner, I basically have all of the ingredients that would be on an antipasto platter and throw 3-4 ingredients together (1-2 meats, 1 cheese, 1-2 vegetable) for each sandwich and grill away. I doubt that I've ever made the same combination twice.
olive tapanade (throw drained, seedless olives into the food processor with a little olive oil to make it bind)
Seeded and split calamata olives
thinly sliced Parmesan cheese
Mozarella - fresh mini or sliced
Sopressatta and/or other spicy salami
Arugula (4-6 pieces) or fresh spinach
roasted peppers
quartered artichoke hearts
sun-dried Roma tomatoes
red pepper flakes

Mexican style (quesadilla style)
fill 1/2 a tortilla with:
pepperjack cheese
shredded chicken breast meat (good use for left overs)
tomato slices
chipotle spice

Saving the best for last...Dessert!
Food & Wine magazine suggested pressing a sugared donut or even brioche with strawberry jam and mascarpone cheese. I prefer the more traditional, buttered bread (skip the olive oil) or unbuttered croissant with several pieces of chocolate. Don't put too much on the bread or you'll have a chocolate mess to clean up. Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Round and a Round

History continues to repeat itself but for whatever reason, it is difficult to see that we are part of history in the making. Looking to the past for insight should be mandatory for everyone yet, few of us do that. We look to the past and long for days gone by as if they were a dream and they may as well have been. The sun was brighter, the air crisper, the music better, the friendships deeper and the homes were much more affordable. Lest we forget about the smog of the 70s, the expensive gas bills and the fact that homes averaged 1500 square feet. Our leaders seem to be doing the same thing. Acting as if the 80s was a decade when 'things got done'... well you know, a lot of shit happened back then that wasn't so cool. Our country seems to be headed into a tailspin of consumption at the expense of others around the world. We cannot sustain what we have without keeping millions of people repressed and with little more than the shirts on their backs. Is it worth it? Is it enough to expect that at least these people have clean water and fans in their sweatshops? For some reason, I keep thinking about Rome.