Thursday, May 27, 2010

bad romance

I never really got Madonna and she always left me cold. Lady Gaga, however, is a different story entirely. I think she's freshened up pop music a lot, which is partly about the costumes and moves, but also partly because she just plain writes kick-ass songs. I think Bad Romance is an insanely great song, and spent a while last night watching different live performances as well as the official video on YouTube.

That song also made me think of a couple of bad romances in my past -- one where a guy was bad to me by cheating on me (in what had been clearly declared a monogamous relationship). The other one, the guy was just plain bad to me; the role-playing increasingly seemed like a way for him to take out all of his frustrations and angers, as well as playing out his fantasies. There was only something in it for me if my fantasies happened to coincide with his. Selfish, selfish, selfish. We were both interested in a dom/sub fantasy, but those roles are supposed to be played out of caring and out of a true need to fulfill the other person's fantasies as well as one's own. I guess no one explained that to him, although I tried. He was more of a sadist than a dom, I guess. Or maybe just a rotten person. But that really was a bad romance, where everyone's worse angels came out to play.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the blogs

I subscribe to about 80 blogs; I just checked the number today, out of curiosity. It's crept up quite a bit. Pretty eclectic mix, too. I confess that a good handful of them involve kittens, generally the blogs of nice people who foster litter after litter, like the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee. I also subscribe to a lot of music blogs, some personal blogs, a bunch of food and restaurant blogs, and one design blog.

I force myself to read the design blog because I am SO not-interior-design-minded and thus do not maintain an attractive interior in my home. This is something I consider a major flaw. I like to think I tend toward the aesthetic in a lot of ways -- I make jewelry, for God's sake! -- but I have no home design chops at all. This is partly because I've always lived in rented spaces which never felt permanent, and so I didn't want to put in much effort or money, and often did not have the money anyway. The apartment we're in now is way the hell too small, in case I haven't mentioned that a thousand times before, and I guess I'm not inclined to beautify it because I hate it. In fact, I heard that one of the front apartments in this building might become vacant, and I might want to make the move, even though it's no bigger, because the light is better. But what I really want is "out", not "here decorated." We've had to make some improvements to get the place a little tidier, but I don't think it will ever be sufficient or nice.

(It is I, mistress of getting sidetracked!)

Anyway, the two consistently funniest blogs I read are Regretsy and Old Jews Telling Jokes.

Regretsy basically finds weird or ugly things on Etsy, which is kind of the artsy-craftsy eBay, and makes comments about them or makes fun of them in some other way. (One of the mottos of the site is "Handmade? It looks like you made it with your feet!") I guess it particularly tickles me because I'm artsy-craftsy too, and somehow find bad or tasteless crafts really funny.

Maybe that's the same reason I like Old Jews Telling Jokes -- I'm also one of them. But it's more than that -- the site and its daily videos are beautifully designed and produced, down to the theme music (I'd like it even if it weren't produced by my old friend Henry Sapoznik), a bouncy Dave Tarras klezmer ditty. They also get a really interesting and cool assortment of people to tell the jokes, mostly retired (anything from a dentist to a former president of MGM), the occasional well-known face (the actress Suzanne Shepherd). They are all very, very funny. And even the jokes I haven't heard before are clearly classics. Also, if you like to tell jokes, you may have a favorite joke that you've told many, many times over the years. And you kind of experiment and hone it and get your timing down. That's what this site is like -- people who have made their favorite jokes perfect after telling them for 40, 50 years.

I like to tell jokes myself, and have actually retold a few that I heard on OJTJ. I always tinker with it, same as I do with recipes and jewelry instructions. But many of the ones I've been telling for a lot of years are Jewish jokes, some of which were told to me by my mother. (She could tell a mean joke, usually not dirty, but often involving cursing.) There's one I love that has slightly outdated references to Golda Meir, Abba Eban, and Moshe Dayan -- and, come to think of it, a second one that also references Moshe Dayan. Oy vey. I can only tell it to other old Jews. My favorite non-Jewish jokes tend to be animal jokes, which never age. Here's one that doesn't suffer from being read rather than heard: What do you do if an elephant has three balls on him? Walk him, and pitch to the giraffe. (This is actually both an animal joke and a baseball joke, which has to be extra points.)

Well, my entire family is/was frustrated show-biz types of various stripes. Actors, directors, book-and-lyricists, opera singer -- none of us every pursued it hard enough or if we did, never succeeded. So we tell a lot of jokes and stories.

Which reminds me -- there's a comedian named Louis C.K. whom I think is absolutely brilliant. I recently saw a stand-up show that he did a couple of years ago, and in fact watched it twice in two days. His timing, and his movements are so spot-on, so practiced and so skillful -- and yet so subtle that you feel like you're just listening to a guy talking smack. I have to say, his act is extremely vulgar (which is a plus for me, maybe not for everyone), but he is so charming that you kind of don't mind. At least I don't. He's the first stand-up I've seen in many years who's made that kind of impression on me.

OK, one more pop-culture sorta thing, though it's also a personal thing. Last week, we were watching The Cleveland Show (and just shut up if you don't think a woman over fifty should be watching cartoons, just leave me alone), and there was this character who was on for a very short time, with kind big hair, and when he spoke, I said to Barry, "That was David." He said, "What?" I said, "That was Lynchie, that was his voice." Then I forgot about it, but we just watched Sunday's episode tonight, and there he was again. I watched the credit, and sure enough, it was he. Him. I mean, how cool was that, David Lynch on The Cleveland Show? Much cooler than being on The Simpsons (which everyone's done) or even Family Guy. Go David!

I cooked dinner tonight for the first time since I hurt my foot some weeks ago. I think we were both happy to eat home-cooked food again. I made broiled wild salmon with teriyaki and ginger; sauteed zucchini, baby pattypan squash, and spinach with a lot of garlic and basil; and a mesclun salad with avocado (I've been using a Bragg's ginger salad dressing that is just fine with everything). Teriyaki salmon is always a winner around here, and even though Barry shies away from certain healthy things (whole grains, whole grain bread, broccoli and cauliflower), he likes salads, most greens, and even tofu. He eats fish that is boneless and not too fishy (salmon, sole/flounder, and red snapper filets), and also squid and shrimp. (Our local fish store is kosher, so no squid or shrimp there, but sometimes one of us goes down to a Chinese supermarket that has great fish and grabs some shrimp there).

It's just been nice getting the kitchen up and running again. I cooked myself breakfast this morning (Barry went out early to his job-counseling place), and enjoyed that a lot. Going through a few weeks of take-out was of course expensive, and sometimes healthier than others. We ordered quite a few times from a very nice Kosher/vegetarian place nearby. They serve fish, but the emphasis is on vegetable dishes. They do a killer Southeast Asian Stir Fry with brown rice, that kind of thing. And a great grilled tuna wrap. (I've heard that certain kinds of tuna are not sustainable, but I'm not really up on the should- and shouldn't-eat fish, for which I feel guilty. I don't eat that much fish, but that's not a good excuse.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

the good used bookstore

I went to the old neighborhood (Midwood/Kings Highway) to see the podiatrist, who took the stitches out of my heel, and pronounced me pretty much OK, I need to wash the cut with soap and water and use Neosporin and a bandaid, and see him again in two weeks. I can walk on it, but with some care.

Afterward, Barry and I got a bite to eat in a diner on Coney Island Avenue, and I realized I was just a half block from one of my favorite used book stores ever. Right now, I don't know of one that could beat it except The Strand. But this one, which is simply called Here's A Bookstore, is probably the closest bookstore to where I live (excluding Judaica stores), and has a pretty wide and deep variety for a smallish store. They have a lot of Judaica themselves, as well as other occult and new age book; a nice section of books about New York; classic and contemporary novels; mysteries, horror, romance, sci-fi and true crime; art, crafts, science, movies; plays and poetry; business and history; pets. What's more, you can find an awful lot of first editions there, though almost always without dustcovers (or possibly tattered dustcovers for books from the 60s on), and sometimes in rough shape. On my last trip there, I bought a first edition of a book called The House That Shadows Built by Will Irwin, a history of the movies written in 1928! No dust cover, and the top of the spine a little chewed, but otherwise in lovely shape for $7.50. I've also bought a couple of good books about Coney Island there, and a few about the space program (I'm a bit of a nut about the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo era of space flight).

This is what I got today:
Bag of Bones by Stephen King, paperback. I thought I hadn't read this but now I think maybe I did.
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey. because I enjoyed the movie. Trade paperback.
And Never Let Her Go by Ann Rule, hardcover. I have a terrible sweet tooth for true crime, and Ann Rule is hands-down the best.
I Me Mine by George Harrison, hardcover. I've never read it.
A Wolf at the Table by Augustin Burroughs, hardcover. I haven't read this, but it's another memoir by a great memoirist.
Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather, hardcover, first edition (1940, no dust cover, mid-spine a little chewed).
The first edition cost me $5.00. The whole lot ran me a bit under $50.

If you're new or newish to this blog, I lost about 95% of my books in The Great Storage Disaster. When we moved in to this too-small apartment, we were forced to stash some 60 cartons or so in storage, which we could really not afford, and we eventually lost. (The storage was something like $130 a month; if we had it, we could have rented a bigger apartment.) I lost most of my books (including most of my cookbooks), all of my journals (about 40 years' worth) and my writing samples and poetry and magazines in which I published, my baseball card collection, my postcard collection, my mother's wedding dress, and of my vinyl and a lot of my CDs and most of my cassettes (the bulk of my bootlegs were on cassette, mostly Elvis Costello).

I've been trying to embrace the paring-down aspect of it, but the truth is that I liked keeping books I had read and often dipped into something over and over. The books I have now are really random because they're mostly freebies from the "take" shelves at Penguin that I accumulated over my time there (I was on staff there for two years, but the year before that I temped there for about nine months). I haven't read most of them, and am not sure if I will. I was always a subway reader, so I had two hours of good reading time five days a week, and since I read fast, I could plow through lots and lots of books. I don't really have a good reading spot here at home, though I always take a book to a doctor's appointment or on a subway or when I go sit on the Boardwalk (I will probably start doing that again very soon). I've actually been reading again this week, a really good book of blues-oriented short stories that I'm reviewing for Blues Revue. Makes we want to build more reading time into the day.

Because of the doctor's appointment and the bookstore, and then shopping up fruit and vegetables on the way home (our amazing produce store closes from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and follows the religious Jews to their summer enclave in Deal, NJ), I didn't really do much other work today (though I did read one of the blues short stories while waiting for the podiatrist). I did make some new Facebook friends from the "Dan Lynch Alumni" list. (Dan Lynch was a ratty old blues bar with some of the best music in the city, from the early 80s until the middle 90s. The Holmes Brothers used to play a lot of Saturday nights there.) And in jewelry world, I gave three pair of earrings and a business card to one of the nurses there, because we determined on my last visit that we both adore Swarovski. That was a freebie, but the freebies are also in part about networking.

What I feel like doing now is playing with my beads for a while. I got some nice vintage beads yesterday that I won on eBay, some twisty opalescent green ones; some "blueberries and cream" ones, also twisty; and some eyepopping channel-set violet Swarovskis with a loop on each side, for earring or bracelet components. One of my jewelry weak spots is wire-wrapping briolettes. Some months back, I won an auction of 100 lots of Swarovski from an eBay seller I was familiar with, each lot being one large bead or maybe half a dozen smaller ones, a mix of new and vintage, and there are quite a few beautiful briolettes in there, so I'm going to knuckle down and work on making some nice earrings with them. (I also have half a dozen beautiful briolettes in imperial topaz -- the good, real stuff -- that I've been sitting on for half a dozen years until I figured out how to use them, or got good enough.

crazy and crazier

The Examiner column has sort of eaten my brain all week. I've put up two posts, and have been networking incessantly, mostly on Facebook, all of the time I haven't been researching or writing the posts. Plus I'm reading a book of blues-oriented short stories that I'm reviewing for Blues Revue. I wish there had been something like Examiner in the mid-90s, when I first wrote for Blues Revue. There was a huge local blues scene, some half a dozen bars that had only blues bands, every night of the week, and low or no covers. These places mostly presented local bands, though some, like Manny's Car Wash, had a mix of local and national. There were other places like The Bottom Line and Tramps that had some national blues acts for a slightly higher price, but still nothing insane. Those clubs also hosted high-end folk and acoustic acts (Bottom Line) and funk and New Orleans (Tramps). I wrote for Blues Revue, but that wasn't really an outlet for deep local New York coverage, which was really my strong suit. About 85% of what I wrote for them was either CD reviews or reviews of live shows (or profiles) of national musicians who came through New York. I got in a few local notes and profiles of local musicians. But I think Examiner is going to be a lot of fun.

Monday, May 17, 2010

strangely enough

Although it's the last thing I expected to find myself doing today, I finished a necklace and made two new bracelets. I don't seem to be able to ever sell any of this stuff, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy making it. It means that it doesn't pay for itself and so is something of a luxurious hobby. But luckily, I have tons and tons of beads, so all I really need to keep replenishing are supplies like headpins and wire.

So these two bracelets were made by a technique called "crossweave," which I found in a beading magazine and then perverted to my satisfaction. (I do the same thing to recipes, for the most part.) These scans are pretty terrible, but in the one on the left, the horizontal oval stones are African opal, which is actually a translucent-to-opaque yellow. The small side stones are four small carnelian saucers with a wood agate heishi in the middle (carnelian is a transparent-to-translucent orange and the wood agate is a translucent white-to-tan-to-yellow. It's delicate but the stones are earthy looking. The other one, which is opaque-to-translucent rose, pink, white and green, is something called "candy jade," which is dyed, but so pretty that it's hard to care. The material is clearly jadeite jade, the better of the two jades. The inferior, nephrite, has the advantage of consistently exhibiting the desirable spinach-green color that is rarer in jadeite, which has a huge color range including pinks and violets and a light celadon green. The jade one is simply two sizes of the same stone, which I was lucky to have. It was tricky to find good combinations of stones where I had enough of both (in particular the side stones), and where the main stones were drilled large enough to take two strands of beading wire, since the two strands of wire cross through these stones. For the two I finished, there were two I had to take apart because the proportions weren't right.

Let's hope the Examiner thing ends up being enjoyable *and* profitable, because I haven't yet figured out the jewelry selling thing, and it's a fucking expensive hobby for an unemployed person with no benefits.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

highly disappointing

Going to the crafts fair today cost us $50 for the table and about $40 for the car service in. I sold nothing. I blame part of this on the people selling art right across from my, who blocked my table and poached my customers at every opportunity.

Additional, none of my friends, or Facebook "friends," and none of Barry's friends, or Facebook "friends," either showed up or sent friends of theirs. No one, not one familiar face. A couple of people had let me know in advance that they couldn't be there, and I encouraged them to send any friends who might be interested. But I guess most people just couldn't be bothered. We had to take the subway home because I couldn't see losing any more money, and the subway was of course all screwed up, so instead of taking two trains, we ended up taking four trains and a shuttle bus. What should have been an hour trip took two. And I was probably on my feet way too much. I showered this morning with a plastic bag on my food, per the doctor, but I probably stood a little too hard on it and blood leaked out of the bandaging. I should have just stayed home, but I was so convinced that an "Art and Artisans: fair in Chelsea was exactly the kind of place where I'd do well. WRONG. Apparently, I can fail in almost any situation. No one want to buy my work. All the fuss and bother was for nothing.

I think my career as a professional jeweler ends here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

busy busy

Had to get some stuff lined up today in preparation for this Examiner thing. Needed a photo and bio. Bio was easy. Photo was tough because I don't like the way I look these days, and I didn't like any of my current photos. So I fixed my hair as best I could and put on makeup and had Barry take a few shots. I tinkered with one until it looked a little dim and fuzzy and forgiving.

Also rejoined Facebook. Honestly, it makes me feel kind of exposed, but I guess that's a trade-off for being able to promote various interests. And there are definitely some people I want to stay in touch with and still others I want to find.

I'd love to finish the second new necklace before Saturday, but it may not happen. The work wreaks some havoc on my back, and I'm also starting to get sore legs from a week and a half of limping and walking on the ball of my left foot. I was hoping to get out and walk tomorrow but I may not be up to it, plus it may rain. I don't know if I can get a sneaker over the bandaged foot. I just replaced my sneakers a few weeks ago and the new ones are still a bit stiff, so it's tight getting my heel in under normal circumstances. Saturday's footwear solution may be sandals and a car service.

I'm realizing that I may get better results with my jewelry if I package myself a little better. The types of new clothes I've been getting, like Mission Canyon, is known as "wearable art." As big a cliche as it is, I'm kind of turning into that "goddess years" babe with the batik tunics and the clunky jewelry. (My mother went to grad school with so many of them that my brother and I used "social worker ladies" as shorthand.) But we postmenopausal tunic ladies aren't just social workers and therapists. Some of us are jewelers and blues columnists. (BTW, here is the basic guide to old-babes-in-tunics, courtesy of one of my very favorite cartoonists, Roz Chast. I wish there was some way to enlarge that image; they print the basic text but not some of the cartoons within the panel. The girl in the upper left is saying to her be-tunicked mother, "Mom, you're starting to look like Aunt June!" Roz just nails that shit.

Anyway, I'm going to embrace my inner old-hippie and sell jewelry in big bright tunics and makeup and plenty of jewelry on me.

new jewelry

This is the start of the second necklace with the Chinese millefiore. Here, they're 8mm coins rather than 6mm rounds. The crystals are a mixed color lot of 8mm rondells that I bought as Swarovski off a slightly iffy dealer on eBay. I don't trust a Swarovski seller who doesn't provide the color names. But the lot happened to be an excellent match for this project. I'm planning to make this to about 24" and then to do dangles of the remaining 6mm round millefiore and some 4mm Swarovski bicones. Luckily, I finally found the baggies with my sterling earring findings and my sterling headpins, so I can do the dangles and also make some earrings.

I did a sorting-out today and chose what I'm bringing on Saturday. I always want to throw everything in front of customers, but I decided to get a grip on myself and limit it to about a dozen necklaces, a dozen bracelets, and a dozen earrings in each price group ($12, $22, and $35). If by some strange chance I sell out, I'll take my hundreds of dollars and go home happily. I'm bringing my best wire-wrap pieces except for the jasper one, which Jannah decided to buy after she saw the fuzzy photo. She also wants the turquoise.

It looks like I'm going to have to rejoin Facebook for the Examiner gig, so I'll also use it to publicize my jewelry. I don't mind doing the social networking thing, but I have some real issues with their privacy policies, or lack thereof. Every day I keep reading about information they gather and share and what gets leaked, and it makes me kind of glad that I quit it (this was about a month ago, during the first two days that I was off the venlafaxine). But I'm going to need it to drive people to my Examiner page, as well as to my jewelry sales, and also to contact some of my old blues musician pals to set up interviews.

more foot boo-boo/new blues gig

I had my doctor look at the foot yesterday, which I'd thought was mending well. Turns out it wasn't infected but did have a piece of glass in it. He couldn't remove it easily himself, so he sent me to a podiatrist who had an office downstairs. Luckily, the podiatrist was able to see me right away, and he removed the glass (which was a slight about a quarter in wide and half and inch long), and then put in four stitches because the wound was kind of deep. There was a very painful needle involved, a shot of local to my heel. The bright side was that not only was the doctor very good, but he had a nurse/assistant who was very sweet and a real nut for Swarovski (I noticed a lovely pendant she was wearing, which turned out to be antique Swarovski, and we were off!) So my foot's all bandaged and wrapped, and actually hurts a lot less. But I have to go back a week from Friday and get my stitches out.

It looks like Ive gotten myself a gig with Examiner, which is sort of an online entertainment guide written by freelancers they call "examiners," such as "Brooklyn Nightlife Examiner" or "New York Theater Examiner." I am, of course, to be "New York Blues Examiner." I get paid according to how many people I drive to my page there. I have to officially register in the next couple of days, send in a bio and photo and get detailed instructions about posting. It seems like they're looking more for events listings than for reviews of shows that have passed, so I'm planning to do a lot of "what's coming" and also interviews with local musicians. If I can get some CD labels to send me promos, I'll also do CD reviews. It shouldn't be too time-consuming -- I wrote a 300-word sample piece for them at 4:00 AM, and was offered the spot twelve hours later.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

bananas, jewelry, epiphany!

I've been stashing about-to-turn bananas in the freezer and today I took three and made banana frozen custard (sugar free). I've probably only made cooked-custard ice cream a couple of times before, and certainly not recently. I may have overcooked the custard a mite, and possibly it needed a touch more Splenda, but it came out pretty well and tasted rich. Also, it scooped soft right out of the freezer; I haven't yet been able to get the hang of a sugar free sorbet or sherbet that scooped soft without some thawing. I might try only three eggs next time. Here's my recipe, adapted from one on the Food Network website by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (they used to have a great show called Two Hot Tamales, and now Susan is on Top Chef masters):

- 2 cups milk (I used 1/2 skim, 1/2 whole)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup Splenda (the original recipe calls for a cup of brown sugar, and you might want to add a tablespoon of that or honey to deepen the flavor; or else, maybe an additional tablespoon of Splenda)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 3 large, ripe bananas, peeled

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sweetener(s)and vanilla. Stir 1/2 cup of the warm milk into the egg mixture, then pour all the egg mixture into the pan with the milk. Cook over medium low heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens slightly and will coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow to boil.

Mash the bananas in a large bowl, add the warm custard, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. (Original recipe involves a food processor, but I now use the immersion blender whenever possible, because anything else has to be hauled down from somewhere, and I'm already hauling down the ice cream maker.) Cook the custard to room temperature then process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.


I use expensive organic health-food-store vanilla because I love vanilla, and I do not truck with artificial vanilla. This recipe would probably work well with a number of different fruits, although I'd have to test or research (= look at other recipes) proportions. Probably also good as chocolate, with some melted baking chocolate or cocoa dissolved in water over heat (the latter is what I use for chocolate sorbet). I would also try just using an extract, vanilla or almond, and throwing in some nuts or bits of fruit. And I imagine that if you make this up to the point of adding the bananas, and instead pour it over some cooked rice and raisins, dusted it with cinnamon and put it in the fridge, you'd have a lovely rice pudding. (I actually still have, and still use, my mother's covered Pyrex casserole that she used for rice pudding. I use it for a lot of stuff; it's one of my favorite pieces of cookware.)

Today, I cleared most of the non-jewelry matter off my jewelry table. What I said to Barry was, "I need space to spread out so I can sort jewelry for this weekend," since I'm going to sell at that crafts fair in Chelsea. But I kind of knew without knowing that it also meant I was going to make or start making some new pieces to really put myself back into the jewelry head. I unpacked some of what I needed to start up again, although I was unable to find my sterling headpins, ear wires, or chain, which pretty much meant I couldn't make any earrings right away. I actually do have some of those items in gold-filled, but sterling is pretty much where I live. I went to eBay and ordered some of that stuff, plus some more sterling wire. I'm being very positive that I'm going to earn some money this weekend. Since I have a skizillion beads of all types, I can pretty much get away with buying nothing but wire and findings for a year. But it never works that way, since I always find new beads to fall in love with and to be inspired by.

I hadn't made anything for a year, easily, but I decided very quickly that I wanted to do some wire-wrap, maybe an endless necklace long enough to slip over the head (I've done a few in mixed pearls, both on sterling and on gold-filled, that were really pretty). I thought about maybe using a string of black keishi pearls I had (these are known as cornflake or potato chip pearls, rough and flat and bumpy, but with a lot of colorful surface, almost like raggedy-ass coin pearls). But then I was looking at a bag of Chinese-made millefiore (in imitation of the Italian ones, which are very expensive). The Chinese ones are actually quite pretty, and a big advantage for me is that I can use them a whole lot more lavishly that I could with real handmade Italian glass beads. (I actually have some of them, too, but they are generally reserved for starring roles in mindblowing earrings.) So I had an adorable strand of mixed-color Chinese millefiore in 6mm rounds, and pulled out a few colors of 6mm Swarovski bicones (and one color of 6mm rounds) that would work them, and started to work. I took what I did tonight and took a shot at scanning it with my new incredibly wonderful Lexmark 2670 3-in-1 (I love this printer so much it's not funny), and this is what I got:

I hope you can see this decently well since I'm still getting acquainted with the scanner and photo-editing software and uploading to Blogger (the image I'm seeing the the preview screen seems to bear no relation size-wise to the image I edited).

I've been designing and making jewelry for about eight years by simply making whatever I feel like, or something that seems basic and/or saleable, or using a new technique I spotted in a bead magazine, but I've always thought that I didn't have a particular style or look to my work, that there wasn't a trademark or something that set my work apart. But it came to me tonight: duh, what about wire-wrapping? I love doing it, I've done tons of it, it tends to be what people admire the most, and some of the more elaborate stuff looks like nothing else I've ever seen (hope this not very good photo shows something):

(This picture is kind of fuzzy if you zoom in, sorry.) What that is is a very simple wire-wrap necklace, like the one I'm working on, of big red jasper beads, but with other beads dangling off the wire loops in between the main beads. The beads that dangle off are mostly tube cuts of leopardskin jasper and ovals of brown/black obsidian and I'm not sure what all else. But I included that picture and a couple of others in an e-mail to some friends to tell them about the sale, and if I can find where that puppy is, since I'm pretty sure it's not sold, it's now spoken for. Such is the power of wire-wrapping. Plus, if I decide to be the queen of wire-wrap, that can include natural stones, pearls, crystal, glass, and pretty much anything else; it can also be necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets and rings. Trademark piece would have to be the Y-necklace:

(Sorry about all the crap in the background -- this was just a test of photographing jewelry with the digital camera, some months back.) This piece ought to sell well, since Everyone Loves Amethyst. I must have originally intended to hang dangles between the links, since I put nice big soldered rings there, but I guess I decided that the amethyst was too pretty to gussy up, beyond the Y-connector with the little flower.

So I think that's what I'll do on Saturday: bring only wire-wrap and brand myself that way. I will have business cards by then; a friend turned me on to an excellent deal at Vistaprint).

And in case any of you are in or around NYC, or have a friend here who's dying to buy some jewelry, the sale is is 306 Eighth Avenue (between 25th and 26th Streets), from noon to 7:00 PM. Free to the public, and $10 of the vendor fee proceeds will be donated to Cultivating Our Sisterhood International Association, Inc. (COSIA). "At COSIA, we develop supportive networks that are not limited by age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion; utilize these networks as resources to produce affordable events and programs that promote team-building and the pursuit of personal and professional life goals and objectives; and support through fund-raising and volunteer activities socially-conscious initiatives and programs that benefit girls and women from underserved communities."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

the mysterious foot boo-boo

Early this morning, I remember shift in bed and sliding my foot down a little, and then -- terrible pain and a bleeding foot. Very scary. I have a small gash right on the edge of my heel. We got the bleeding to stop and Barry cleaned it with witch hazel and foot on neosporin and a bandage. But it hurts like hell to put any pressure on the heel, and I have a feeling I'll be more or less off my feet for a few days. My best theory now is that when I stretched my leg down the bed, I inadvertently kicked a cat (all three of them, at times, sleep at our feet), and she swatted out and a claw accidentally caught my foot. None of our cats would scratch us hard enough to cause this injury; our cats, at their angriest (with each other or us), might hiss and air-swat in our direction, and they rarely get angry unless, for instance, we rub a belly that doesn't want to be rubbed.

Anyway, this is freaking me out a bit, and I'm watching very closely to see if the pain lessens or if there's any sign of infection. For me, the absolute scariest thing about diabetes is the possibility of losing my personal mobility, my ability to get around on my own, which is why, ironically, I'm always ultra-careful about my feet. Even when I've been lax with blood testing or diet, I've always been extremely good with my foot care, though not 100%. What I'm supposed to do on a daily basis is wash, dry, examine, and moisturize my feet. I do examine and moisturize daily most of the time, and probably do the extra washing (besides showers) three or four times a week.

I've had some kind of skin problem on the ball of my right foot for over three years. I had thought it might be a recurrence of the psoriasis I'd had some years earlier on the side of my heel, because it looked and acted like psoriasis (hard dry skin that cracked). But when I was diagnosed with Type II, my doctor said that it was an opportunistic fungal infection that develops when blood sugar is high, but I have lowered my sugar, seen two podiatrists and one dermatologist, and three years later, it was still there. Recently, I started treating it more intensively with an over-the-counter diabetic foot cream, and it finally seems to be going away. This was part of the reason that I went all summer without wearing sandals last summer, which was murder for me even though I didn't go out much. I look forward to wearing sandals all year, though I know that these days it requires being extra-attentive about my foot care. So, after walking all over the place in sandals for two days this week with no problem at all, I cut the hell out of my foot in my own bed. Shows you how much I'm in control of my own life.

A new friend of mine, whom I met through my blog and then hers, has been making me think a little more about the lack of spirituality in my life over the past number of years. It's not so much anything my friend has said about me but the example she's shown me. And it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to be involved in any organized religion. Actually, another friend, Jannah, belongs to a Reconstructionist Jewish shul in New Hope, PA, and that's the only organized religion that's appealed to me in years. It's kind of like Reform Reform Judiaism: very gender-neutral, and very inclusive (for instance, they don't really embrace the "chosen people" concept). It's also very, very community-oriented; when there was terrible flooding in the area, the congregation was really, really there for anyone who needed help.

Unfortunately, although you'd think we have every possible kind of Jew in Brooklyn -- no Reconstructionists. There are only two Reconstructionist congregations in New York City, and they're both on the upper west side of Manhattan. I've been in e-mail contact with someone who's trying to start something in Brooklyn, which might initially be a group that floats to different shuls with Recon. rabbis guest-conducting services. But it looks like this activity will probably center around the Park Slope neighborhood, which is not that far away, but is in no way my neighborhood. Unless something is a little closer by, it's not my community; Brooklyn is not solidly car-culture, like some other places. A lot of people have cars, but a lot can and do do without (like us). It does shrink the "neighborhood" a bit, to the size of what's accessible by walking, or a short bus or subway ride. If I have to ride the bus 45 minutes to have coffee with someone from my shul, that's nice but it's also not a nearby network for me. And quite frankly, Park Slope is a little on the yuppified side for my taste. (I did live there for about nine years, in an area that was then a little iffy but is now cleaned up, but the more "desirable" part of the Slope was always too rich for me.)

Barry and I had a great day yesterday -- went to see a matinee of A Behanding in Spokane with Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, and Anthony Mackie (I had scored some ultra-cheap and really excellent seats). It was my second time seeing Walken on the stage, which was a real treat. It was a beautiful day, so I decided to wear one of my new Mission Canyon getups, my new sandals and more of my jewelry than I generally do (meaning earrings, a necklace *and* an anklet). After the show, we went down the the Village and had a bite at our favorite Italian cafe, then smoked a j*int and strolled around. Poked our head into a favorite jewelry store, C'est Magnifique on MacDougal Street (also home to one of our favorite store cats, a tiny three-legged tortoiseshell named Fazool who is well over 20 -- the store guy thinks 23-plus).

Somehow, we ended up putting deposits on two pieces of jewelry, for no particular occasion. (Given that I have made some 95% of the jewelry I wear over the past 8 years or so, I'm trying desperately to feel entitled to my new ring.) I spotted a 14K ring with a really lovely sapphire cab set in a high pronged setting, with three one-point diamonds on either side of the shank, very simply. It's a much higher setting than I usually wear, meaning that I like rings which are closer to my finger, but what's so beautiful about this ring is that the high setting allows the light to really get around the stone and show it off, and it's a lovely Ceylon blue color, not one of those navy-blue sapphires that's so dark it's practically opaque. Barry is actually more of a jewelry-wearer than most men (for which I am truly grateful, since he understood when I began spending so much time and money on making jewelry), and he favors silver, turquoise, and Native American. He spotted a bear-claw and turquoise cuff that was too small for him, but then chose a stamped sterling cuff made by a well-known Native American jeweler (last name is Bill, I can't remember the first, but he's the son of a slightly more famous Native American jeweler).

So he's going to have lunch with his friend Felix tomorrow at the Italian cafe (we go there together, and also separately with other friends), and is going to go pay off the balance on our jewelry and I'll get my ring tomorrow (his cuff actually needs to be made slightly smaller). I actually think this is the first gold ring I've gotten since my wedding band, which was from The Clay Pot (which is in Park Slope, and is very famous for artisan-made jewelry and wedding bands in particular. (I took a quick look, and they no longer sell either of the rings we wear -- his is white gold in a Celtic design, and mine is simple connected leaves in 14K). I'm not a metalsmith so I don't really make rings, though I know a lot of people are making wire-wrapped rings now and I'll probably learn that at some point. So I have a beautiful new ring which was not horrendously expensive ($275). We're going to call the new jewelry "a gift from Poppy," meaning that we'll pay for it with some of the money Barry's dad left him. His folks were always generous with us, and did things like bought us a new bed when we moved out of our original apartment, and paid for the catering at our wedding, and it's kind of nice to feel that they're still doing it. I think they're also buying us a new air conditioner for the bedroom this summer.

OK, here's some truly good and amazing news: I've lost 10 pounds, in a little over a month. (The first ten always goes fast, and after that, I can lose around 7-9 pounds a month if I behave myself with food.) This puts me down to 170, after a few years of being around 180-185. I know numbers are just numbers, but it's one of a number of ways that I can measure how well I'm taking care of myself. I'm trying to test my blood three days a week (I was getting sore fingers from testing every day, and the doctor said I didn't have to test that often). This morning's fasting number was 97, and unfortunately, I fell asleep after breakfast (I woke up with my foot injury only 3 hours after I'd gone to bed), and so I slept through the two-hour post-prandial test time. But I tested anyway, four hours after breakfast, and it was 117, which looked good to me for a double-post-prandial. (Had to order breakfast in, since I couldn't stand up to cook, and had a white-Western-with-cheese omelet wrap -- I asked for cheddar, but ended up with American somehow. And then a navel orange.) I don't mind eating a certain amount of fat in the morning because I know it keeps me feeling full. And there's healthy stuff we can order in for dinner around here -- there are a couple of good kosher vegetarian places (we're neither kosher or vegetarian, but their meals are clean and fresh and wholesome).

My sister-in-law Elise forwarded me some info about a crafts sale in Chelsea next weekend that's looking for vendors. I'm checking to see if they provide tables; if they do, I think I'll cough up the $50 fee and see what I can sell. I was looking through some of my work last night, because I'm sending some earrings with Barry for our favorite waitress at the cafe, and also was going to bring some to my GYN today, before I had to cancel the appointment due to the malady known as Boo-Boo Foot.

My last couple of sales were not successful. I did one last year at the Hudson Guild; after taking a quick peek at my jewelry, the supervisor there was glad to take my table fee, and so I tried to sell hand-crafted jewelry in a room full of people selling old crap from their closets. I had some friends come down, and *still* didn't make back my $25 table price (I would have made a profit if I had sold even three pair of my cheapest earrings). Last summer, I did some outdoor selling In Pennsylvania, at a benefit for the Israeli Red Cross (I had met the folks who do the local fundraising for Magan David Odom at one of their fundraisers at my friend Jannah's shul). This was a cool event because it was a Jewish motorcycle rally. Jews on hogs! rabbis in leathers! "Hillel's Angels"! But the only vendors who really got much traffic were the food vendors; none of the rest of us did much of anything. Also, Barry and I had been staying with Jannah, and in the rush to get to the shul on time, had neglected to put on sunscreen, and this was an outdoor event, and there were no canopies on the tables, no shade. As a result, I got roasted to a fare-thee-well. (Recently, I was shopping at our local Rite-Aid drug store, and grabbed up an impulse item at the checkout counter: a key chain with a little bottle of SPF 30 attached to it. Don't leave home without it. It might prove to be the best $2.25 I've spent in quite a while.)

I got my hair cut on Tuesday, my first venture away from long grey old-hippie hair in about a dozen years (though once in all that time, I went to a very pricey salon and got it nicely layered, though mostly I just trimmed my own ends). There are a bunch of hair cutters and salons around here that all charge about the same, $35 for a wash and cut, so I picked the one that looked the most modern. And oy vey, what a nasty stylist I got! If there's such a thing as good "chairside manner," she don't got it. Instead of saying something like, "I know you wanted to have a very short top, but I'd like to try something a little longer on top first and see if you like it. I think it might be more flattering", what she said was (and imagine the brusque and heavy Russian accent), "Your hair too thin on top, I cut short, you see scalp." I let her cut the sides and back short and leave the top longer, but I felt like she hated my guts for wanting something wash-and-wear, low maintenance, and not dyed. She let me know that she believed women should not wear their hair grey until age 60, and gave the distinct impression that there was something wrong with *me* for not wanted a hairstyle that required a blowdryer or straightening iron or curling iron. I mostly got the short, messy style I wanted, but the beyotch insisted on plastering it down with gel before I left, which was way ugly. When I got home, I immediately got into the shower, washed out the gel, then toweled it and put in a dab of a much gentler styling product, and worked it with my fingers. Nicer.

It got me to thinking about the *good* experiences I've had with hairdressers and haircutting, having worn short hair for most of my life. I really love to hair a hairdresser who will cut for my face and my lifestyle (LOW MAINTENANCE HAIR), and really listen to what I want, and really talk to me, and make suggestions based on his or her eye and experience. It made me think that I might want to learn to cut hair, and I actually made inquiries at a few cosmetology schools. I have an appointment to tour one on Monday, which I now think I'll cancel. Unfortunately, the mysterious foot boo-boo made me think hard about any job that would require me to be on my feet a lot; even if I lose more weight, I'm not sure I can stand for hours and hours the way I used to. (I've learned this the hard way at some standing-room concerts over the past bunch of years.) If I were a haircutter now, I could easily lose four or five days of work over something like the foot boo-boo.

I'm thinking more now about making a new effort to show and sell my jewelry. If I do the consignment route, at least it would be full-time and I could keep up with the shops a little better (it is often hard to collect money from stores in a consignment arrangement). Or else I'll find a couple of good an appropriate indoor flea/crafts markets (not having a car, I can't really provide my own table), so I can only work events where there is access via public transportation and I don't need to carry more than my wares, a hand mirror, a calculator, etc. I think I do good work and haven't yet found the right outlet. I'm also feeling very motivated to start working again. I packed away my jewelry stuff a few months back after our landlord bitched about the clutter in our living room; I had been working at a bridge table with materials spread all over the top, and plastic shoeboxes of beads stacked all around and under. I always have insane amounts of materials, I guess the same way any artist would want as many color and medium options as possible. I just hate the idea of wanting to make something and not having what I need. So we packed it up to show a fairly empty table top, and still need some storage solutions so I can work without cluttering things up. For instance, I could use some shelving behind the table to store materials, and maybe some drawers for finished work. And a file cabinet for the cartons of bottlecaps that are also in this area. Basically, I don't want to unpack anything until the clutter is a little more under control and I actually have places to put things away, rather than just leaving them on the tabletop. But I really do miss making jewelry.

Monday, May 3, 2010

new old music

Barry is usually a little behind me as far as internet stuff goes, since I got online way, way early in the game, being I was a university employee. I was on the internet before there was such a thing as a graphical browser. Like, no pictures. The web was e-mail, newsgroups, and texts with links to other texts, all on a monochrome screen. Big excitement when we got color displays with what we called "Mozilla." Apple computers had graphical interfaces earlier, albeit crude ones, but we PC people had to wait a bit.

Anyway, the one thing Barry somehow was able to figure out and hook up for us, which had baffled me for years, is downloading t*rrents. I still don't understand it all, but I know we have software that can open .rar files, and there are m*sic bl*gs all over the place (though Bl*gger recently evicted a ton of them), and I thereby can acquire and reacquire some awesome music. A lot of it does involve albums that I already purchased in one or more other formats. I no longer have any of my vinyl but now I do have some of the albums that I bought on vinyl, and on cassette, and on CD. I have finally started using the new mp3 player I bought myself a few months ago, which is something I enjoy when I'm walking outdoors, which I'm now doing again. (It's a pretty little Sansa that holds four gigs and has a decent display -- bought it new on eBay for about fifty bucks. I am very loyal to Sansa (my first little 512mb mp3 player was a Sansa, and it was a real little trooper), as well as very loyal to not-Apple. I have never visited the iTunes store, because my understanding is that you have to download their special software in order to download anything there, and I'm not clear if an iPod will accept anything from your hard drive that was not acquired through the iTunes cabal. I know that Apple is the computer of choice for art and film and graphics people, but I also know that it's always been more expensive than a PC, and there is less software available for it, because it is closed architecture. (I swear, I've seen Triumph of the Nerds about 20 times. It's an amazing and funny documentary from PBS, about the development/invention of the personal computer, and the people who did it.)

So...I've had some real flashbacks, both with what I had loaded on the mp3 player and what I've acquired on line the past couple of days. It was my first time loading the new mp3 player, and the capacity was so huge compared to the 512mb that I just kind of threw everything on. And didn't even fill it all the way. I still haven't listened to it all the way through, and haven't set it to Shuffle, so I'm getting everything in the order I threw it on. (Plus, there's a good amount of stuff on my hard drive that I've never listened to yet, since my old drive crashed last July and I've had to reload CDs and recollect various songs all over again since that time.) For instance, a few months ago, maybe more, we had seen a really good TV show about Latin music, and I had downloaded all kinds of Fania All-Stars and Celia Cruz and Ruben Blades, so this was part of what was thrown on the mp3 player. And then that old reliable stuff that's my favorite poppy or catchy or maybe even (horrors!) commercial and well-known. Every hard drive I've ever owned has hosted Bob Seger, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Robert Palmer, Warren Zevon, Randy Newman, The Roches, Michael Hurley, the Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, Steely that. Some of the things that joined my hard drive in the past couple of days are some old Donovan albums, some of which I haven't heard in many, many years; two live shows, Rolling Stones in 1989 and Elvis Costello in 1983 that I can't wait to hear, since between storage tragedies and hard drive crashes, I lost all of my Elvis Costello b**tlegs, which will make me cry if I think about it too hard. I got a Georgie Fame album and a John Prine album and two albums from the Wild Magnolias, a New Orleans mardi gras band, funky as all get-out. I have very broad tastes in music -- maybe you've gotten that idea -- and I've always heard things from New Orleans and influenced by New Orleans. But since I've started watching Treme on HBO, I am ALL about New Orleans music.

Lily and I have been e-mailing about music a lot lately, and I made the comment that even though I'm not too crazy about 80s music myself, I appreciate that she's into it, because I appreciate anyone who digs into music outside their age zone. It's a sign of taste and intelligence and thoughtfulness. Then she was silly enough (JOKING!) to ask me what *my* favorite decade of music was. I don't exactly know how many words or pages my reply was, but it was LOONG. Maybe I'll copy some of it into here, but it was an essay, I tell ya. But being so refocused on music over the past few days, I think I can say that overall my favorite decade is 1976-1985, or thereabouts. If we have to extend it to 1986 to get Paul Simon's Graceland in, so be it; I can't always remember exact years of albums.

Strangely enough, I can't seem to find my Extreme Music E-mail to Lily anywhere in my sent items. Weird. A long part of it was kind of a history of my relationship to and taste in music.

Ah. Found. I'm not usually one to share private e-mails, whether it's one written by me or someone else, but I'm just going to snip out the section which is just me going on about music, because I'm too lazy to write it up from scratch a second time, and if I did, it would be less thorough and much less good. Nothing private here:

When I was a kid, it was pretty much only the Beatles for me, with a little Rolling Stones and a little Cream, and Creedence, and Crosby Stills Nash and sometimes Young. My family listened to a lot of show music and "American songbook," so I was also into that. (Mostly of the "American songbook" albums we had were Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I wasn't too big on Frank back then but adored Ella, still do.) When I was around 9, I saw Donovan on The Smothers Brothers Show, and was immediately smitten in all ways. This both makes me very old (Smothers Brothers were cancelled in 1967, I think) and explains why I was so jazzed to meet him at the David Lynch thing. That may have been the highlight of my Tarcher career, along with the great sales of 2012: I finally met Donovan, and we were introduced by David Lynch! (Donovan was cuter 40 years earlier, duh. He was supposed to be kind of the UK Bob Dylan, except I think he sings better.) (No, Jennifer Juniper is not about me, though I used to wish it was, and I believe that cool electric guitar on Sunshine Superman is Jeff Beck). Donovan was the first big concert I ever saw, in 1971 at the Garden -- that was also the first time I ever smoked p*t.

Then this weird folk music thing happened to me in the early 70s. My dad's parents, for some odd reason, had an old banjo, which they gave me, and which I took to summer camp, where I knew I could get lessons. I knew nothing about banjo or banjo styles, but it happened that the banjo instructor there played old-timey rather than bluegrass. Old-timey music, also called old-time or stringband music, is pre-bluesgrass country music, based on things like Appalachian fiddle tunes (which in turn were based on English/Scots/Irish tunes). The banjo is played differently than in bluegrass; it's hard to describe w/o showing but I'll try. In bluegrass, the banjo is picked very fast, and the tune is somewhat syncopated. In old-timey, you need a long nail on the second or third finger of your right hand, and the string is struck downward with that nail. Old-timey artists sometimes played solo, but more often in stringbands, which might include fiddle, banjo, bass, guitar, mandolin, etc. I've attached a recording of one of my favorite long-gone old-timey artists, Charlie Poole (Ragtime Annie), who was popular in the 20s. Yes, I spent a lot of my teens listening to that old, scratchy, weird shit. Plus a little bit of old jazz, like Jelly Roll Morton, and a few acoustic artists like David Bromberg. Not to mention some local NYC stringbands like The Delaware Watergap and the Wretched Refuse String Band.

The weird thing is that, at least around here, the people who were rediscovering and playing this music were mostly Jewish. My banjo teacher, who was in the Delaware Watergap, was "Hank" Sapoznik, a cantor's son. (He later started playing klezmer and using the name Henry rather than Hank.) The Wretched Refuse was populated by people like Richie Shulberg, Alan Kaufman, Michelle Weiss, etc. (Alan Kaufman was my boyfriend for a while; turns out he and Barry grew up in the same neighborhood and knew each other slightly.) The two bands were very different: Hank and his band were very serious historical recreators, and the Wretched Refuse were goofballs who often made up their own funny words to songs. The former friend I refer to as V. was also involved in this kind of music, which is how we originally met.

When I went to college, and started doing college radio, some of my radio friends dragged me kicking and screaming back into a lot of rock and roll. I went to see the Dead several times, and became fond of people like Van Morrison and Randy Newman and Warren Zevon and Steve Goodman and Jonathan Richman. But I had still missed out on a lot of rock during my crazy folkie-purist years. Also, at the beginning of my sophmore year at Binghamton, I somehow talked my way into a job doing a weekend jazz show at the local NPR station, even though I knew nothing about jazz -- though I was at the point where I very much wanted to get into jazz, so I kind of trained on the job. My show was the only regularly scheduled jazz show in the area (the Binghamton college station played some, but you never knew what was on the air when), so I became a bit of a local celebrity, or at least known to some extent, at age 18. I was asked to sit on a local arts council, that kind of thing. And I was in a bar once and overheard a guy near me say to his friend, "Did you hear what J. played last night?" After a year, the station hired me as a classical announcer full-time (and yes, I knew nothing about classical music, but as long as you can read the liner notes and pronounce the names correctly, no probs).

So you can see that "what decade?" is sort of impossible for me to answer. I have always been drawn to music that is less known and less popular and off the beaten path. I am very, very picky about what popular artists I like, though I always try to be more openminded.

I don't listen to classical or jazz much any more, but I do have a good jazz story. When I moved back to New York, I went to the upper west side to see a jazz group called Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. Blakey was a drummer with a great ear for talent, and many of the Jazz Messengers who passed through his band over the years had gone on to be famous in their own right. So I figured it would be a good show. And I was right: he had this 22-year-old trumpet player who was one of the most amazing jazz artists I'd ever heard. But I heard his name wrong -- thought it was "Quentin" rather than "Wynton" Marsalis. Blakey's gone now, but he knew his young talent!

I am lately somewhat interested in hearing more New Orleans music (I blame Treme). Barry and I saw Elvis Costello play with Allen Toussaint a few years back, and Toussaint is a national treasure. Elvis, BTW, came into my musical picture around the college radio station -- a British label called Stiff Records was putting out a lot of what the British called "pub rock" and we called "punk" or "new wave" (but not like the 80s new wave, more like a slightly gentler punk). Elvis was on Stiff originally, as was our pal Ian Dury. In fact, Stiff released an album of a tour they did called Live Stiffs, and Elvis and Ian Dury were both on it. This was the late 70s. Interestingly enough, one of the songs Elvis did on it was a Burt Bachrach song, though he was still in his angry-young-man phase and wouldn't actually work with Bachrach for another 20 years.

That's the end of the (edited) essay-from-within-the-e-mail. More of the story is probably in other e-mails, but I think the main thing is that Elvis Costello has pretty much been by far my favorite performer, period, since the early 80s. Maybe since Imperial Bedroom, which came out in 1982. I'd been hearing him some from the very start, because my college radio station was very into the Stiff Records artists, and saw him a couple of times between 1977 and 1980, but Imperial Bedroom was the album that took my breath away. It's still one of my favorites. I've seen him live far more times than any other performer; I used to get tickets to every show every time he played in town. I've seen him with the Attractions, with the Imposters, duo with Steve Nieve, solo, with Allen Toussaint, and perhaps most gloriously, at Radio City Music Hall with Burt Bachrach.

Must go to sleep now, I think.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I made sorbet today, for the first time in quite a while. And basically sugar-free, except for about 1/2 tsp. of honey that I almost always use with fruit sorbets just to give the flavor a little kick. I made mango-passionfruit, which is pretty much Barry's flat-out favorite, sugar or not. (My three favorites are probably that one, pear-ginger, and mandarin chocolate.) It used to be tough to hunt down passionfruit, but now our splendid Orthodox greengrocer, Ouri's, almost always has it.

I recently bought myself an immersion blender, thinking to use it to puree soups like butternut squash and split pea (though soup season, at least hot soup season, seems to be drawing to a close). But it occurred to me today that I could try it on the sorbet mix, instead of schlepping down my regular blender (in a small NYC kitchen, except for the coffee maker and can opener, most appliances are stored away until needed, since counter space is so limited). This kind of blender is stick shaped and you just plug it in and put it into a pot or bowl. So I put my ingredients (cubed mango, strained passionfruit, Splenda, honey, water, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla) into a mixing bowl, and used the immersion blender, and it worked like a charm! Since the sorbet thing already necessitates schlepping out one appliance (the ice cream maker), it's great not have to also use the regular blender. Plus the immersion blender cleans up by rinsing under warm water, much easier than washing a big blender canister.

Speaking of lemon zest...I made some nice cold poached wild salmon the other night, with a little sauce made from low-fat mayo seasoned mostly with fresh dill, dried mustard, and a bit of dried chipotle. At the last minute, I threw on some lemon zest, since I watch Top Chef a lot and thought it would add something nice. I think it actually made all the difference, since the zest is very aromatic and the whole thing was far preferable to drowning the fish in lemon juice, which is often done by some people I'm married to. It made it lemony without extra wetness interfering with the thick sauce. I only own a lemon zester since I use zest for most fruit sorbets, but it's really worthwhile, since it's really hard to cut zest properly with a knife (unless you're a Top Chef-level chef and have an awesome range of what they always call "knife skills"). I served the fish with a salad of arugola, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and Italian olives, with a Bragg sesame ginger dressing (Bragg is a health-food-store brand).

Citrus zest is where all of the aromatic oils are, but the white pith under it is bitter, so you can't cut too deep. A zester gives you a superfine julienne of zest with no pith. I wouldn't own with if I didn't make sorbet (see = Jenn's cherry pitter), but it's not a bad thing so have if you make fish a lot, or anything with fruit (maybe a little lemon zest in apple pie?) or anything that's complemented well by a hit of citrus. (I seem to recall my brother's wife once making a sauce or dressing for asparagus which involved orange zest. Yummy.)

I'm not even sure where to buy one any more. Mine probably came from Lechter's, the housewares chain that went belly-up several years back. They were *everywhere* -- the first time I ever met Barry's parents was when we ran into them at the Lechter's on Kings Highway. (I was staying at Barry's a lot already, maybe a month or two after we met, and he was with me as I shopped for a few things his kitchen lacked.) It's hard to find a housewares store like that anymore (basically, tabletop and kitchen goods). But if you want to get one, I'd try eBay first. (That's my battle cry, "try eBay first": my immersion blender came from there, and I am awaiting a nonstick covered skillet and a new 3-in-1 printer for my computer, all from eBay.)

So tonight is chicken cutlets, on top of the stove since our oven isn't working, and I'll probably wilt the rest of the arugola and spinach with some garlic and olive oil, and cook some baby carrots (not the best veg in terms of blood sugar impact, but Barry will eat them.) And sorbet.