Bloody Sundays

It must be Sunday, as I find myself parked on a barstool at my favorite spot down the street to partake in what I believe to be the best bloody mary on the planet.

I know, I know, you’re thinking it’s just because it’s garnished with a big o’ piece of bacon, but no. The bacon is the just icing on the cake. Without it, this drink easily holds it own the world of breakfast beverages. And that’s saying something because I have long been searching for the perfect bloody mary and, for me, this is it.

The key to this–and any good bloody mary–is the balance of spices and flavors. Often times, I find that in an effort to not taste like tomato juice and vodka, the barkeep will load up on the Tabasco sauce and call it a day. While I appreciate a good dash or two of Tabasco, I don’t want to just taste “hot” in my drink and sit there with my mouth on fire just for the fun of it. I want to taste flayvah. And this one from The Craft House on little ol’ Staten Island packs a punch. It is well worth the ferry ride over or paying the exorbitant tolls on the Verrazano or Goethals Bridges to get to the Island of Staten. Thankfully, I just have to walk down the hill.

According to the menu (so I don’t think I’m giving away any trade secrets here), it is:

signature spiced tomato base over Tito’s vodka, topped with BBQ rubbed rim, pickled cucumber, string bean, and smokey applewood bacon

And now you’re thinking Texas vodka + bacon…that’s why she loves it, but again, no. Although I will always take a moment to say GOTEXAS!

Basically, it’s the whole drink. Which I know you’re probably thinking is a cop out, but it’s true (that it’s the whole drink, not that it’s a cop out!). “Signature spiced tomato base” does not accurately describe the layers you get in this drink. It is bold, yet smooth. It is spicy, yet the tomato sweet. And when you drink from the BBQ rubbed rim, it adds yet another layer: smokiness. Plus the pickles and string beans have a bit of kick to them and the bacon adds a bit of crunch (plus bacony goodness!). The overall effect is a deliciously flavorful, smooth drink with a nice hearty kick at the end.

Also, it pairs well with their cajun seasoned shrimp and parmesan grits with garlic butter…just sayin’…

The Craft House is located at 60 Van Duzer Street, Staten Island, NY 10301. For more information and their menus, click here. And if you make the trek out, you never have to worry about drinking alone: I will happily meet you there!

Cheers!

Time

Time is a funny thing. It is a slippery slope, especially to me, who puts the “pro” in procrastinate. It always feels like I have all the time in the world and then bam! three weeks have passed and I’m still in the exact same place, with the exact same things on my To-Do list, only now it has grown considerably.

I’m always in awe of the peeps in my life who never seem to crastinate, let alone procrastinate. They get up, they work out, they clean the house, do a quick load of laundry, throw together a quick, but easy brunch, eat, do the dishes, and take the dog for a walk–all in the time it takes me to make coffee, pour the coffee into a cup, walk over to the couch, and drink my coffee while pondering what I might accomplish today.

Anxiety plays a large role. And Netflix. It’s so much easier to sit on the couch vegging with my coffee, watching [insert latest binge-worthy series here] ignoring all the nagging voices in my head, berating me for not being more productive. For not writing. For being a couch potato. Actually the voices in my head are a lot nastier and more snarky than just calling me a couch potato, but you probably don’t want to be drawn into my inner dialogue. It’s rarely pretty and almost never kind.

But there is another huge marker of passing time aside from my growing list of things to do and the deepening of the laugh lines around my eyes and mouth and the WTF frown line across my forehead: my memory. Granted, I have always been a bit scatterbrained about forgetting/losing things but I have never forgotten what things have tasted like: food, beer, wine, coffee, scotch, etc. In that respect, I have always been a bit of a savant in my ability to remember what the difference was between this wine and that. Or why we like this queso and not that one (except for maybe the Chipotle queso–that distaste will forever be burned into my brain).

And then it happened. A couple of years ago, I went to the NYC Coffee Fest and, as per usual for me, I took a lot of pictures and didn’t make any notes because well, I didn’t need to. Or so I thought…until I sat down to write about the various coffees that I had tried and realized that I had a hard time remembering what each coffee specifically tasted like. I mean, sure, I could have just chalked it up to the fact that almost everyone was serving Kenyan coffee and so they all had the typical citrusy brightness of coffee beans from Kenya.

While I knew that was technically true, it wasn’t the whole truth. The whole truth is that I just couldn’t fucking remember anymore. So I broke down and [HUGE SIGH & EYEROLL] now I have a tasting journal, which I carry everywhere with me. It feels a bit like a cane or a crutch and makes me feel just as old. Especially when I whip it out in the middle of a restaurant or wine tasting. But I suppose it’s much better for recalling the nuances of alfredo in Rome vs Little Italy, NYC rather than just “the Roman version is so much fucking better and wins hands down every time and twice on Sunday.”

Getting old is a learning curve–one that we all struggle with daily in some form or fashion. My 92 year old boss spends the entirety of our daily walk around the block for his exercise lamenting: “how the F did I get so old? I surely never planned for this” while brandishing his cane about pointedly. But I am always quick to remind him what Granny always said whenever someone would complain about getting older–and why I ultimately broke down and got a tasting journal: it sure beats the alternative.

Gobble Gobble & A Whole Lotta Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you spent the day eating, drinking, and being merry.  Yes, I know this isn’t Christmas, but Thanksgiving can be merry as well.

Did you know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday?  Well, it is.  It used to be Halloween, but living in NYC has ruined that for me for reasons too numerous to count.  But Thanksgiving…well, it’s all about the food, taking time to thankful, and celebrating family & friends.   That being said, this year, I spent the day alone, save the company of 3 cuddly dogs (whom I’m quite sure were only cuddly because I spent the majority of the day prepping or eating food), an asshole cat (who hid all day except when hungry and then loudly demanded food, as only a siamese can do!), and a frog (who happily swam her day away oblivious to the fact that if she’d escape her aquarium, she would probably be a snack for the 4 aforementioned animals).

My day was, in a word, lovely.  I know that probably sounds a bit strange, especially when Thanksgiving traditionally focuses on spending time with loved ones, but I would put forth that the dogs, the asshole cat, and the oblivious frog count.  Besides, the last few weeks have been well…let’s just say it feels like I stepped off the plane from Rome and into a proverbial shit storm.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love people.  I love spending time with people but because things have been so overwhelming it was really nice to shut myself away from everything for a bit and enjoy some quiet time watching football.  And the dog show.  And the parade.  And as soon as I’m done posting this, probably a black and white movie of the Christmas variety, like Miracle on 34th Street or A Christmas Carol.

The reason I’m posting a Thanksgiving Day post an hour before Thanksgiving Day ends is because I have really been struggling to figure out what I wanted to write about.  I think (as you will notice by the lack of recent posts), this has definitely been a trend of late.  So, THANK YOU, my darling readers, for not giving up on me.

And it was in wanting to thank you that I realized I should thank other people for whom I am grateful for as well.  And for that, you should be thankful because my first draft took an awkward turn down a political ranting rabbit hole.  Don’t worry, I’ve saved it for another post, but I think in light of all the negative swirling around I would like to focus on the positive and draw your attention to some of the extraordinary people in my life.  In honor of it being 2018, here are 18 people/groups of people who deserve shout-outs.  Please note this is not a complete list–both in terms of extraordinary people in my life and in terms of why they’ve made the list.  I’ve simply truncated it to fit into the ’18 theme, and well, I’m starting to get peckish and leftovers are calling!

  1. Momma.  While we haven’t always seen eye to eye, she has always been there for me and has always, always, always supported every crazy dream I have ever had.
  2. Bubba.  Who knew you’d grow up to be such an incredible adult?  Thank you for everything.  I’m sorry I put you in the dryer when we were kids, but you really need to stop telling the lie that I turned it on.
  3. Lauren.  I knew you were saintly for marrying my brother.  Thank you for everything you’ve done for our family.
  4. Ann.  Thank you for all the support, cleaning up more Addy diarrhea than anyone should ever have to, and for making emergency trips to the vet with a very sick labrador (and finding a cheaper taxi service on top of it all).
  5. Eve.  Thank you for so many things, but mostly for making sure that I always know that I have family here in New York.
  6. Teresa.  I love you man.
  7. My family in general, who are absolutely loud, opinionated, and crazy, but fiercely loyal and protective and I know that no matter what happens they will always be there.  They might bitch about it, but it’s just their way of saying “I love you.”
  8. MamaMaryClaire.  I am so thankful you are safe and were able to grab Frooey and get the hell out of Dodge (or in this case, Paradise).
  9. Christi.  Thank you for always picking up the phone, regardless of the time–even though I am THE WORST about answering mine (the irony doesn’t escape me).
  10. Becca.  Thank you for always checking in, giving valuable feedback, and listening to all my “but what ifs.”
  11. April.  Thanks for babbling emails and timely gift boxes full of coffee & TimTams (and much more, but this entire post is really starting to get too sappy).
  12. Cait.  Thanks for the best hugs, sweet dog videos, and finding us the best podcasts.
  13. Kat.  Thanks for catching up and reminding me that true friends never leave.
  14. Sherice.  Thank you for always checking in, I’m not sure how you do it–as your plate runneth over onto the table and down to the floor, but I am appreciative!
  15. Emily.  Thanks for humoring me by laughing at all the ridiculous shit I send to you when I just need to laugh with someone.
  16. Wendy.  Thanks for Wednesdays, snarky comments, and cute dog & mutinous cat pictures.
  17. Thank you to everyone who has been helping my mother–from Bubba, Lauren, and Teresa to her medical team to home health care and an extra shout out to Dean, who checks on Bliss.
  18. Philip.  Thanks for thinking I’m an “EFFING GENIUS!”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Remember Them.

Like Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, and the Challenger Space Shuttle, everyone remembers what they were doing when the news broke of a plane hitting the North Tower.  Many of my friends and family were watching the news while getting ready for work.  Listening in shock and confusion as speculations were made about how and why the plane was off course and hit a such a large building in lower Manhattan.  This shock and confusion quickly melted into horror and disbelief when many of them watched on live tv the second plane hit the South Tower.  The world as they knew it was dissolving right before their eyes.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, I slept.  My friend and fellow American Matt called and woke me up by asking “are you watching this? The plane. The plane hit…” he trailed off, unable to finish his thought.  “The Pentagon,” he whispered. The bottom fell out of my stomach.  I couldn’t breathe.  My heart stopped beating.  It was like someone pressed the ‘pause’ button on my life.  I just sat there staring into the dark, my brain trying to process.  The Pentagon?  Surely not, I reasoned, he must have misheard.  He had to have.  The Pentagon?  THE PENTAGON?  I sleepily marched into the living room and turned on the tv.  Every station was replaying horrible images of New York under attack and producing billowy clouds of black smoke.

I call home, my hands shaking as I dialed the phone.  The lines were busy. I tried again and again.  Waiting.  Watching the tv project surreal images of a city I had never visited, but still identified as home. My brain was trying to make sense of the entire scenario and praying for it to be some horrible made-for-tv movie.  It wasn’t.  My friend Penny sat up with me all night holding my hand, while we shook our heads and tears rolled down our faces, plopping into our cold cups of forgotten tea.

The morning sunshine brought no happiness.  Just more horrible stories about people jumping out of the buildings, rescue workers who had perished trying to save as many people as they could, and everyone looking shell-shocked.  The death toll was in the thousands.  People were frantically searching for their loved ones and coworkers.  The numbers of victims just kept rising and no one knew where it would stop. At that moment, 8:14 am Australian Eastern Standard Time, the newscaster said the scariest thing I had ever heard in my life:

Americans abroad are urged to stay where they are and do not under any circumstances go to any US Embassy or Consulate Office.

At that point in my life, I had been traveling for nearly a decade and the one thing that was hammered into my brain from the time I was preparing for my first international trip: if you are ever in trouble or lost or need help, go to the Embassy.  Now I was being told not to under any circumstances?  I couldn’t believe it.  My heart started pounding.  I just stared at the tv, shell-shocked.  What the literal fuck was happening?  I didn’t know what to do.  Mind you, I was in Australia, and I felt safe. But I did have thoughts during the middle of the night that I should probably check in with the Embassy in the morning, you know, just because.

That was the moment 9/11 felt real to me.

Fast forward 17 years and I now live in New York City.  I have met people who were first responders or who had loved ones die or who were stuck in Manhattan and couldn’t get back home to the other boroughs or who were in schools or buildings nearby and can remember the ground shaking when each plane hit and each tower fell.  For the city of New York, nothing would ever be the same.

As a country and as a world, we mourned.  We mourned the loss of nearly 3,000 people.  And it changed us.  We are a little less naïve.  We pause a little more when a plane flies a little too close to buildings or just a bit lower than we think it should.  Even I glance wearily at these planes.  Me, who did not live here at the time and could never possibly hope to understand exactly how the city coped.  I can only observe the aftermath as an outsider.  And the aftermath is raw and rough, but yet, beautiful and graceful at the same time.

On Monday, the World Trade Center Subway Stop on the 1 Train opened.  Since I moved here, it was only a grey dot on the map indicating that it wasn’t in use.  Honestly, until a couple of months ago, I didn’t think it would ever open.  But here it stands, as a poignant reminder of true American grit.  She might be broken, but she will never stay that way and what will emerge will be better than before because of what happened, not in spite of it.

Always remember how fragile and fleeting life can be.  Two waterfalls stand where two buildings once proudly towered over all.  Etched into these waterfalls was every person who fell with those buildings.

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Remember them. Honor them, so that they too may soar.

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Counting Down

It is always a bit surreal when a plan comes together.  I’m not talking an impromptu meeting of friends for Friday Margarita Happy Hour.  I’m talking about a big trip.  Like one to Italy.

At this very moment in just three short weeks, I will be at JFK airport, flashing my passport, handing over my ticket, and boarding a plane to Rome.  And in a rare occurrence for me, I thought I’d share this information with you beforehand rather than waiting months or even years (apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks!).

It’s been a few years couple of decades since I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the land of pasta, vino, leaning towers, and big fashion houses.  So I dusted off some old photo albums and found a few pics of my last trip.  My apologies: I’ve never been a great photographer, especially in the archaic times before digital when you just had to take the photo and hope for the best (at least that was my method, which probably explains a lot!).

Excited by the prospect of updating my photos and adding more cities to my list, my Italian bucket list was soon about 3 pages long–and not small notepad size, but large legal pad size!  Sadly, some hard cuts had to be made.  Although, to be honest, we’re still trying to finagle how to squeeze in a few more things because it’s just so damn hard to not want to do absolutely everything.  I know, I KNOW that’s not possible.  I’m always lecturing visitors to NYC not to over pack their schedules and leave some room for flexibility.  But here I am overpacking left, right, and center! The finalists are Rome, Florence, Venice, Parma, Bologna, Chianti, and a tiny little hat making town called Montappone.

At this point, I’m not sure what I’m most excited about–it keeps changing minute by minute.  I have always longed to see all the delights that Rome has to offer, but then there’s coffee and wine and pasta and gelato, and also a coastal drive along the Adriatic Sea, winding roads through Tuscany, a hotel with canal views in Venice, and we’re taking a parmesan cheese tour in Parma!

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Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Plus we have booked what might possibly be THE CUTEST Airbnb in the Chianti Hills for three nights with Giovanni, who promises to greet us with homemade wine and olive oil.   HOMEMADE WINE AND OLIVE OIL! I may have been stalking Giovanni’s Instagram, but I mean, really, look at this:

On my very first visit to Tuscany 24 years ago, I called my parents and joked that I wasn’t coming home.  I have a feeling this time, it might not be a joke…

Ciao for now!

Sunday Comics: Official End of Summer

In my humble opinion, this week marked the official end of summer.  You might argue that it is in fact, Tuesday, the day after Labor Day.  But you would be wrong.  You see, College Football started this week, which I believe is an official holiday in the South.  In fact, they probably just tacked Labor Day to the end of it just to give everyone an extra recovery day.

It was a bit of an ugly day for some, a blow out for others–but I think that we can all agree that regardless of whether your team won or lost we’re all happy the season began.  Except, perhaps, for my roommates who now have to endure hours of me yelling and screaming and pacing and stomping and pillow throwing…

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Sunday Comics: Back To School Edition

Greetings, salutations, and all that other jazz.  It’s heading into mid-August and nearly everyone on social media seems to be posting back to school pictures already, which seems rather early and I’m not even a teacher!

For all of you who are a bit shell-shocked by the sudden arrival of back to school, here’s something I found on Buzzfeed that might help:

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Cheers!