The Hard Goodbye.

Happy National Dog Mom Day to all of you dog moms out there!

Now seems as good of a day as any to jump back in to blogging, as I should have already updated you on what’s happening in my dog life. Truth be told, I have been dreading writing about it. Mainly because I’m terrified I’m not going to do it the justice it deserves. If you follow me on all the regular social media outlets, you might have known that in the last 14 months, I said hello to a rescue whom we named Luna and had to say goodbye to my darling princess pupcicle, Addy, which was one of the worst days of my life. I think I handled it fairly well. And by fairly well, I mean, I laid in bed or on the couch hugging Beanie (Ann’s dog, who pretended to hate Addy but I think ended up missing her more than all of us). I certainly handled it much better than I thought I would: which was to drink heavily and completely fall apart. There was a bit of falling apart, but mostly compartmentalizing based on the rationale that I was doing what was best for her.

I 100% stand by that rationale. Addy was approaching 13 years old, which for a Labrador was well beyond the 10 year life expectancy. She was walking slower, never went upstairs, and spent most of her days sleeping. She was on several medications for arthritis and pain and it was becoming clear they were no longer working as well as they should.

But when I looked in her eyes, there was—as always—love and happiness. And so I told myself that it wasn’t time to say goodbye—although I made both Ann and the vet promise that if they thought it was time, they would let me know and even harassed April on her last visit about her thoughts. Probably not fair to put that on any of them (other than the vet), but sometimes you need to hear it from someone you love that it’s okay to say that it’s time.

Enter Luna. On a cold and snowy March morning, I’m downstairs enjoying my coffee in the quiet still of the morning when I hear Ann yell from upstairs “Uh, Sherry, COME HERE!” My first thought: oh shit what did Toulouse (aka The Evil Kitty) do? And from the moment of standing up and setting my coffee on the table to walking up the stairs, I envisioned numerous scenarios of things Toulouse destroyed or puked on or god only knows what else.

But no, Ann was looking out the window into our backyard and pointing at one of the dilapidated sheds. “What is that? Is that a dog? I think it’s a dog.” I squint towards the shed and all I can see is a fluffy, dingy head popping up and down and up and down and up and down. Ann asked “Is that Rocky?” (the dog from down the street) and immediately we hoofed it down the stairs and ran out to the shed. We peeked in one of the windows and breathed a sigh of relief. It was not Rocky. But it was below freezing and this fluffy bucket was a mangled mess, freezing, and probably starving and thirsty. The only problem was the door was iced shut and the windows too tall to climb into. We knew we absolutely had to get her out. We had no clue how to do it.

After about 30 minutes of prying on the door, we finally managed to open it enough for me to squeeze through. At first, Luna shied away from me but saw the towel in my hand and I think her survival skills overrode her fear and she jumped into my arms. I say “she” but that was only a guess and being used to having girl dogs. Her hair was so matted that we couldn’t tell what gender she was just by looking.

We took her in to the vet, who was visibly angry at the state in which we found her. He said said she looked healthy, but he honestly couldn’t do a proper exam unless they shaved her. I agreed and several hours later, he called back to say it took two people over 2 hours to get her shaved and she was severely emaciated, but thankfully did not show any signs of long term damage because of this. She lost two pounds of hair and was down to a very tiny eight pounds (a far cry from the 80 pound Labrador waiting at home!). However, the most concerning thing he found was that the limp Luna had when we found her was not because of the massive mats under her paws but rather because every single bone in her paw had been broken. EVERY SINGLE BONE.

Even worse than that? Her bones had already started to heal crookedly, so that her paw was at a right angle to her leg. She needed a cast to give her a better chance of it healing somewhat straight, however, to get a cast on required rebreaking all the bones and straightening them back into place. Poor baby girl. We scheduled the surgery for the following day and brought her home, wrapped in a blankie that she still loves to lay on.

As I mentioned earlier, Addy was no longer going up the stairs, but I didn’t want her to feel left out with this new puppy in the house, so Luna and I slept downstairs with her for the first couple of weeks. Slowly Luna got healthier, started gaining weight, and trusting us. Not-so-slowly Addy’s decline seem to be in a free fall and between the two of them, we were at or on the phone with the vet sometimes up to three times a week.

And then it happened. I gave Addy a treat and she choked on it. After I cleared her throat, I looked at her. Really looked at her and I knew. I knew it was time. I could see it in her eyes. She was tired, she was in pain, and I knew at that moment I had to let her go. A life without treats for Addy was not a life at all. I didn’t know how, but I knew that it was time to say goodbye.

I made the appointment, but her vet wouldn’t be back in the office for a couple of days. I took this opportunity to spoil the shit out her every waking moment and gave her all the human foods that she loved to eat: strawberries, cheese, bread, spaghetti, steak, cake, and one final bacon cheeseburger with fries. From the moment I made the decision and booked the appointment, I knew somewhere in my breaking heart that it was the right one. I worried that Addy would think I was replacing her with Luna, but in the car ride home from the vet while hugging Addy’s collar I realized that it was Luna who allowed Addy to be set free because Addy didn’t have to hide the pain anymore, pretending to be okay for my sake. Addy knew that she could go because now Luna was there and Addy wouldn’t be leaving me alone. My only hope is that Addy knew how much of a Labrador-sized hole she would leave in my heart when she laid her head in my lap for the very last time.

The Best Vinegar I Ever Drank

I guess it’s no surprise that today is National Champagne Day. According to WalletHub and International Business Times, an average of 360 million glasses of bubbly is drunk today and 25% of all champagne/sparkling wines are sold between Christmas and New Years (sidenote: these numbers are from the early 2010s but research is very scarce on the subject).

And why not? It’s fun, it’s fancy, and seems to hold the promise of better things ahead.

Like Bordeaux, Burgundy–and scotch and bourbon for that matter–there are some very clear cut guidelines as to which wines may legally call themselves champagne*. Namely, they have to be made in the Champagne region of France–just northwest of Paris, if you’re wondering. Additionally, there are only a handful of grapes that can be used Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunièr are the three most used grapes, but Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris may also be used, as well as specific methods of fermentation. Visit Comíte Champagne if you wanna read all about it.

*there are a few notable exceptions that were grandfathered in before the rules went into effect, like Korbel, Andre, and Cook’s from California.

And while I’m over all not a big wine snob, I do have to admit that I am a bit of a champagne snob. Not that I don’t like a good Cava or Prosecco. But they’re not champagne. There is just something smooth, comforting, and decadent about the real stuff. And I 100% acknowledge that it is all in my head–and in a blind tasting I couldn’t tell the real stuff from a really good sparkling wine. I like to pretend I could, but I certainly wouldn’t put any money on that!

That being said there is something extra special about Dom Pérignon and over the years I have had the good fortune to try several vintages. So this Christmas when my boss gave me bottle of 1985 I was over the moon and so excited to try it.

We discovered it last summer, hidden away in the far reaches of her parents’ wine bar and no one seemed to know how it got there (to be fair, her parents are in their mid-90s and I have trouble remembering what I ate yesterday let alone what was happening 30 years ago, so no judgements here!)–thus when it was bequeathed to me it was with the caveat that it could be good or not.

It was Dom. I was willing to take that chance! I knew it was either going to be the best thing I ever drank or a goddamn tragedy!

While it was chilling I pulled out my Dom glasses–because what else would you drink Dom out of?!?

I tried not get too excited as I peeled back the foil ever-so-gently. The cork looked good, there wasn’t any leakage, and I felt a tingling of excitement stirring like champagne soaked butterflies in my stomach. I slowly untwist the wire from the cork and my heart sank. Rather than a tight cork or one slowly pushing its way out of the bottle, it just jiggled.

I lifted it out, morbidly admiring the shrunken dark cork and trying hard not to cry. I peered down into the bottle looking at the sediment accumulated along the side of the bottle. I pulled the bottle to my nose, sniffing tentatively. Vinegar.

Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.

Out of sheer curiosity, I poured a half glass (I mean, I pulled down the Dom glasses–it would be a shame not to use them at all!). It was a very rich dark yellow color with the tiniest bubbles in the bottom of the glass. I figured what the hell and took a sip.

It was by far the tastiest vinegar I had ever had, with notes of toasted almond and vanilla that to me suggests that had it not been corked, it would have been a stellar glass of champagne.

In the wise words of my boss’s father: c’est la mort! And a good reminder that you don’t always have to save the good stuff for “a special occasion in the future.” Sometimes it is so much better to have that special occasion just be a Tuesday.

Happy New Years, ya’ll and best wishes for a wonderful and prosperous 2020!

Battle of the BBQ

Inspiration for writing topics sometimes comes in the most unlikely of places…in this case, it was in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina. I was there for a wedding and because I’m a dumbass and didn’t actually google to see that the hotel was 2 hours from the airport, I booked a 7:30am flight back to NYC.

I am not–as you either know, guessed, or experienced–a morning person. And while I’m usually up early, it is usually to sit on the couch and drink coffee. Not to check out of the hotel at 3:45am. So while I handed back the room key, I was only half paying attention to the chatty night desk clerk by wondering if there was any hot coffee available at this hour…or cold coffee…or anything to help make the dark and rainy 2 hour drive back to Charlotte a bit more bearable.

And then I head him (alas, I didn’t catch his name because, well, 3:45am) ask: so…do you just travel around and eat food?

Slow blink, while raising an eyebrow.

He quickly continued: sorry, it’s really slow here at night and I was reading through your website…

Awkward pause.

Me: um…yes, [chuckle] I suppose I do just travel around and eat things.

And of course I should have seen the follow up question coming, but again, now 3:47am. So which BBQ do you prefer? Carolina or Texas.

Bigger awkward pause to give me time to think up a diplomatic answer.

Me: I enjoy both, but c’mon I will always, always pick Texas especially when it comes to BBQ, beer, football, and Willie.

But it did give me a good chuckle and the perfect excuse to share with you and start posting again, so thanks for that kind sir–even if I forgot to get your name and was just thinking about coffee and/or going back to bed and missing my fight!

In case you were wondering what the difference between the two styles are, I would say that Carolina BBQ is more saucy and usually pork–and don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a nice tangy, saucy, pulled pork sandwich. But Texas BBQ is where it’s at–their BBQ is cooked usually (at least in the Hill Country) with a dry rub and low and slow. Sauce is on the side and brisket is king. If you wanted accurate descriptions and nuances of each, you’re probably better off just googling it.

To me, the best part of Texas BBQ is picking your meat off the grill and then sitting inside, eating off of butcher paper at a communal table, passing the bread, pickles, and napkins amongst everyone else sitting at the table and their BBQ stained fingers.

And if you find yourself traveling through the Texas Hill Country and happen upon either the town of Mason or Llano, go to Coopers and try just a little bit of everything–or better yet, go to both and try a bit more! Both restaurants now have different owners and are no longer affiliated, but thankfully–at least insofar as the last time I visited–both were still as delicious as they always have been. Although I fully expect every family member reading this to text me later and tell me which location they prefer–proving that the Battle of BBQ isn’t always about regions–sometimes it hits a lot closer to home.

Upping Your Ramen Game

Every spring my university (West Texas A&M–Go Buffs!) would hold a Ramen Contest. As I can recall (but granted, it’s been a few years), there were probably about 10 or so categories into which you could enter your recipes, such as appetizers, desserts, most creative, healthiest, cheapest, etc.

For kids living off the stuff, this contest was a great way to either show off one’s Ramen culinary skills and/or pick up new and exciting ways to enhance your hum drum Ramen life.

Fast forward a few years couple of decades and I now live in New York City, where I was introduced several years ago to proper Ramen. O-M-G. The freshness of the veggies, the rich broth, the creaminess of the soft boiled egg–it was heaven. But also a bit of a splurge, as I never even dreamt of making it at home.

Then something magical happened. Over New Years–when I was visiting C&T in Florida–Christi made this amazing chicken ramen. And like the stuff I get in The Village, it was truly wondrous and I may have had two bowls. Okay, so I had two bowls and seriously contemplated a third until more wine & dessert distracted me.

However, I watched Christi make it and, while it was hands down one of the best meals I’ve eaten, it took a long time and a lot of prep work to make the magic happen. So, I threw it into the “too hard so I’ll just let Christi make this for me” basket and went about my life.

Several weeks later and still thinking about it, I decided what the hell, I was going to give it a try, but hoping I could find an easier recipe that was just as delicious, but a whole lot faster. Enter Pinterest, where you can find tens of thousands of ramen recipes. They all looked amazing, but most were just as–if not more–complicated as Christi’s recipe. And then I found it: Easy Homemade Ramen Bowls.

Winner Winner Ramen Dinner!

I scanned down the list of ingredients, which were thankfully minimal and decided to go for it. As I’m shopping for a few things that I didn’t have on hand, like ramen noodles and sesame oil, I called Christi to tell her I was trying a new (and infinitely easier) ramen recipe, at which point she begged me “I know how you are with recipes and thinking you need to modify them, but please, please, please follow the instructions otherwise it’s going to be awful.” Thanking her for the vote of confidence, I finished my shopping and went home to start cooking.

With the exception of substituting bok choy for the carrots, adding a splash of chardonnay (I couldn’t help it!), and including jalapeños and fresh cilantro in my toppings, I followed Dana’s recipe to the letter (you can find her original recipe here!) and it was so delicious and so easy!

Truth be told, I enjoyed Christi’s chicken ramen more, but Dana’s allowed me to have a delicious and healthy dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes, so it’s now become a staple dinner in my household. It’s so easy to throw together and customize to your taste there are absolutely no excuses to not up your ramen game.

Killing Thyme’s Easy Homemade Ramen Bowl (as adapted by moi!)

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 head of baby bok choy (or spinach, but personally I prefer crunch of bok choy), trimmed and cut into thick slices
  • 4 cups veggie broth (or chicken or even beef but DO NOT EVER EVER EVER make ramen without using broth)
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Very generous dash of white wine (I find chardonnay, viognier, and dry rielings pair well with ramen, especially if you like your ramen on the spicy side!) + more for drinking [you have to–it’s in the recipe! 😉 ]
  • 3 Tbsp (or more to taste) soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (or more if you like it hot!) Sriracha
  • 2-3 bricks of Ramen (depending on how soupy you like it–personally, I prefer less broth, so I use more noodles. also, if you’re buying ramen with flavor packets, throw the packets out!)
  • Sliced scallions for topping
  • Sesame seeds for topping
  • Sliced jalapeños for topping
  • Roughly chopped cilantro for topping
  • Soft boiled eggs (I make 1 per person)
  1. In a small saucepan, fill with water and a dash of salt and bring to a boil. (NOTE: I usually start the water and then skip down to complete Steps 3-5 before actually adding the eggs to boil.)
  2. Once the water is boiling, carefully add eggs and boil for 5-7 minutes, depending on how soft you want your eggs (I like mine at 5 minutes, but that grosses most people out). When cooking time is up, place in an ice bath for a couple of minutes to stop the cooking process.
  3. In a medium dutch oven (or sauce pan), heat sesame oil and olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, and simmer until fragrant. Do not brown the garlic otherwise (Dana advises) you’ll get a bitter flavor.
  4. Splash in the wine and then add mushrooms, simmering until mushrooms soften, about a minute, stirring frequently.
  5. Add broth, Sriracha, vinegar, and soy sauce. Stir and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about five minutes. Taste and adjust by adding more Sriracha and soy sauce if needed.
  6. Add the bok choy (or veggies of your choice) and cook for about 3-5 minutes. I don’t time it, I just look at how wilted the bok choy is getting.
  7. Carefully place the Ramen noodles into the pot of simmering broth and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until tender.
  8. Crack and peel your eggs and then slice them in half.
  9. Carefully transfer the soup and noodles to bowls, and add your toppings.
  10. Grab your bowl, your chopsticks, your wine, and, as Dana advises, fall into a state of bliss.

Bon appetit!

 

Highway Robbery

As I mentioned eons ago, last October I went to Italy.

When we started researching and telling everyone about going to Italy, it seemed the one overall theme was thievery. Horror stories about people being pickpocketed and overcharged and taken advantage of at every turn started popping up everywhere and by everyone we told about our upcoming trip.

We planned and re-planned and over planned about how to deal with this and even had back up plans if this would happen or that would happen. We obsessed over travelers insurance, which handbags to use, how to spread out our cash, where to keep our passports and credit cards, and fastidiously reminded ourselves not to leave anything in the rental car. In hindsight, I think know we (all of whom have lived in New York City at one point), spent way too much time overthinking it.

Not once in our 10 days were we pickpocketed or overcharged and never felt taken advantage of–except once. By our rental car company.

Yep. Our rental car company. Ironically, I decided to go with Avis because of all the car options we were presented with while booking, it is one that I use quite frequently here, so I thought it was the “safe” choice. They offered a great rate and when our reservation had to change literally 2 days before the trip they were very accommodating.

Once we were there, the overly friendly Avis front desk man explained to us that we needed additional insurance for the car to “cover accidents and theft.” I thought insurance was included in the quoted price but of course, it was in the middle of the night in the USA when we landed in Italy, so I couldn’t get a hold of anyone to confirm exactly what my reservation included. We opted for the additional insurance, partially because we were in a foreign country and partially because we were still in the throes of assuming everyone was out to get us (yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds but trust me, the horror stories plus the jet lag plus the 9 hours of airplane coffee had us a little on edge!).

We pick up our tiny little car. TINY. TIIIIIIIIIINY. After a bit of finagling of luggage because only 2 suitcases fit in the “trunk,” we were off!

Thankfully our tiny baby car was perfect for navigating our way through Rome, where the driving style is best described as “just go, try not to hit anything, and hope for the best” (aka a chaotic clusterfuck). You think I’m kidding, but I am not. We encountered numerous intersections without any signage or lights and one lane exit ramps with five rows of cars across it.

Our tiny baby car, whom Cait named Luigi, wasn’t so great with the Tuscan hills. And by not great, I mean we couldn’t keep up with the locals taking the uphill curves at breakneck speeds. But we made it! Sometimes with a lot of encouragement for Luigi, that he could, in fact, make it to the top of whatever mountain summit we were trying to reach. And not without a fair bit of panicking and near-death experiences. Also, may I suggest not looking down the side of the mountain to see how far you’ll drop if the car suddenly careens off the road?

After 10 days of laughing, cursing the GPS, and a lot of u-turns, we safely returned Luigi back to Avis before boarding the plane back to New York and saying arrivederci to Italy.

And then? Then we got the finalized bill, which was nearly triple what we originally quoted. I called Avis to ask about all the additional charges, and discovered that the additional insurance was nearly double that of our actual rental charge. And was further informed that no, we didn’t actually need it, we had basic insurance that would have covered everything but the additional insurance just meant that we wouldn’t have a deductible. Since we agreed to the extra insurance at the counter there was nothing she could do to reverse the charges. I tried arguing that we were told that we didn’t have coverage and it was required. Had we been told it was just an upgrade from our already included insurance we would have declined, but she wasn’t budging.

Fine. We paid the additional insurance. Not that we had much of a choice, since it was already charged to the card. But we bitched about it at length and then chalked it up to a very steep learning curve.

Six short weeks later, I got another charge from Avis along with a letter in the mail stating that we received a traffic citation and [wait for it], Avis was charging us $50 in order to process the citation and they would kindly keep us abreast of how much the citation would be when it was processed.

JUST TO BE CLEAR, AVIS CHARGED $50 JUST TO PROCESS THE CITATION, NOT FOR THE CITATION ITSELF.

Yep. True story: you can’t make up this bullshit. Incidentally, we’re still waiting for the actual citation and fees associated with it. So after all the worrying about the thievery in Italy, the only time we came across it was with our American owned rental car company. Define irony.

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at least the views were spectacular…

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.

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!

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!