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Laughing Gulls

I really like Sea Gulls;  They are raucous, clever, beautiful and so varied.  I used to think the only kind of Sea Gull was the one that looked like Jonathan Livingston Sea Gull.  But now, I spend time at the Jersey Shore I’ve come to know several varieties.  My favorite is the Laughing Gull.

Here's Laughing At You!

Here’s Laughing At You!

These sleek black-headed birds are seen in great numbers during the summer along the beaches and coasts of the Northeast.  Year-round they can be found around the Gulf of Mexico and the coasts of the Southeast.  They have long legs and fairly long wings.  Laughing Gulls eat almost anything, including food they catch or steal, handouts, garbage, and discards from fishing boats. They often congregate in parking lots, sandy beaches, and mud bars. Listen for their nasal, strident calls in flight, while feeding, and at rest.

Look for Laughing Gulls at the beach, especially during summer when their crisp black hoods and red bills make them easy to pick out from other gull species. You may also notice that their back and wings (the mantle) are considerably darker than common medium-sized gulls such as Ring-billed Gulls; this can also help you to pick them out from a crowd.

Soaring

Soaring

I like to feed the gulls any leftover stale bread I may have or those fried greasy crinkly things you get from the Chinese restaurant, they love them.  Anyway, my favorite gull to feed is the Laughing Gull.  They seem smarter than the others and they know it.   While hoards of gulls will gather on the sand below the dock where I am tossing the bread, each one trying to steal the piece that their neighbor has instead of going after a fresh one, the Laughing Gull disdains to join the crowd on the sand and circles me coming closer and closer.   He is quite happy to receive his bread in the air, swooping under it to catch it in his mouth or darting sideways to snatch it mid-air.  They will hover over my head like a helicopter waiting for me to toss a piece up in the air.

Murray Head has captured  fabulous photos of  these delightful creatures and I’m happy to share them with you.

Zeroing In For The Catch!

Zeroing In For The Catch!

Was It Something I Said?

Was It Something I Said?

Long Legs and Red Bills

Long Legs and Red Bills

OHHhhh My Dear!

OHHhhh My Dear!

Aerodynamically Perfect

Aerodynamically Perfect

So Much To Do So Little Time

So Much To Do So Little Time

Dining out is always delightful and last Friday it was also DELICIOUS!  What a fantastic evening we had. To begin with we were the guests of our friends, Sandy and Rosemarie.  They have been regular customers at O YA in Boston, a restaurant that has garnered high praise for its excellence and accolades for the chef, Tim Cushman, who won the James Beard Best Chef in the Northeast award in 2012.  Frank Bruni  named O YA the #1 new restaurant in the United States in 2008 and that was just the beginning.  I could go on and on with a very long list of prestigious honors, but trust me it is long.  However, I want to mention that O YA in Boston earned the Top Food rating of 29 in Zagat Boston in 2011/2012 and Boston Magazine designated O YA as the #1 restaurant in Boston.

Nancy and Tim Cushman

                                            Nancy and Tim Cushman

Friday was one of the three nights of the soft opening and sneak peek of O YA New York.  We were treated like royalty (it helps to be the guests of VIP customers).  The tastings just kept coming and coming along with a bottomless glass of the finest Sake I’ve ever had!  Nancy Cushman, wife of Tim and co-owner of the restaurant personally served us the exquisite Nanbu Bijin “Shinpaku” Saké, Junmai Daiginjo, a dry and not so sweet Japanese delight.  I took this very accurate  description of this Sake from Southern Beauty, the Nanbu Bijin Sake Brewery: ” Made from 100% Yamadanishiki sake rice from Hyogo prefecture. Yamadanishiki is a very popular sake rice used in the production of especially aromatic Daiginjo sakes. This sake has beautiful aromas of fresh peach or strawberry with very mild rice aromas like soft marshmallows. Most of Yamadanishiki Daiginjo sake is pricey, but Nanbu Bijin Shinpaku is very reasonable. You can enjoy as an aperitif or also with main courses.”

Shinparka

                                                                Shinparka

One delicious delicacy after another was brought to the table, each one artfully presented as only the Japanese can do, and this team of sushi chefs does it exquisitely.  At one point I walked over to the Sushi Bar to observe the magic – I was referring to their expertise.

As in most cases, a picture is worth a thousand words…. I tried valiantly to scribble down the erudite description of each dish brought to us, as our extremely efficient and knowledgeable server described each menu item.  It proved more difficult than I thought;  It was noisy in the restaurant and the ever-flowing sake may have impaired my hearing just a bit.

Fried Kumamoto Oyster, Yuzu Kosho Aioli, Squid Ink Foam

                                  Fried Kumamoto Oyster, Yuzu Kosho Aioli, Squid Ink Foam

Warm Eel, Thai Basil, Kabayaki, Fresh Kyoto Sansho

                                Warm Eel, Thai Basil, Kabayaki, Fresh Kyoto Sansho

Kumamoto Oyster

                         Kumamoto Oyster Watermelon Pearls, Cucumber Mignonette

Kobe Beef

                                                              Japanese Weygu Beef

Avocado Tartare

                                                                  Avocado Tartare

Sea Trout Sushi

                                                                    Sea Trout Sushi

Raw Vegan Daikon Radish Dumplings

                                                 Raw Vegan Daikon Radish Dumplings

Fatty Tuna Sushi

                                                                      Fatty Tuna Sushi

Mosaic Edible Art Dessert

                                                       Edible Art Dessert

The crowning finish to our meal was a mosaic dessert which I believe to be a lemon-aloe granita with julienne dragon fruit, kiwi slice and small bits of Hakuto jelly (maybe!). It was true culinary art!

Thank you, thank you, thank you Sandy and Rosemarie for this wonderful dining experience!  We are so sorry we had to dash off to catch a train. Truly felt awful leaving you at the curb :(

Sandy Levine

                                                     Sandy Levine

I’m sorry I missed Manhattanhenge this year because I was out-of-town.  However, my loss is no reason for all of you not to hear about and see exactly what Manhattanhenge is.

The following article is credited to Neil deGrasse Tyson and was featured on the American Museum of Natural History’s website;

Sunset looking down 34th Street. One of two days when the sunset is exactly aligned with the grid of streets in Manhattan. Copyright © 2001, Neil deGrasse Tyson

Sunset looking down 34th Street. One of two days when the sunset is exactly aligned with the grid of streets in Manhattan.
Copyright © 2001, Neil deGrasse Tyson

What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues? Surely the grid would be presumed to have astronomical significance, just as we have found for the pre-historic circle of large vertical rocks known as Stonehenge, in the Salisbury Plain of England. For Stonehenge, the special day is the summer solstice, when the Sun rises in perfect alignment with several of the stones, signaling the change of season.

For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes twice a year, when the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan’s brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough’s grid. A rare and beautiful sight. These two days happen to correspond with Memorial Day and Baseball’s All Star break. Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball.

For these two days, as the Sun sets on the grid, half the disk sits above and half below the horizon. My personal preference for photographs. But the day after also offers Manhattanhenge moments, but at sunset, you instead will find the entire ball of the Sun on the horizon.

Unnoticed by many, the sunset point actually creeps day to day along the horizon: northward until the first day of summer, then returning southward until the first day of winter. In spite of what pop-culture tells you, the Sun rises due east and sets due west only twice per year. On the equinoxes: the first day of spring and of autumn. Every other day, the Sun rises and sets elsewhere on the horizon. Had Manhattan’s grid been perfectly aligned with the geographic north-south line, then the days of Manhattanhenge would coincide with the equinoxes. But Manhattan’s street grid is rotated 30 degrees east from geographic north, shifting the days of alignment elsewhere into the calendar.

Note that any city crossed by a rectangular grid can identify days where the setting Sun aligns with their streets. But a closer look at such cities around the world shows them to be less than ideal for this purpose. Beyond the grid you need a clear view to the horizon, as Manhattan has across the Hudson River to New Jersey. And tall buildings that line the streets create a vertical channel to frame the setting Sun, creating a striking photographic opportunity.

True, some municipalities have streets named for the Sun, like Sunrise Highway on Long Island and the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. But these roads are not perfectly straight. And the few times a year when the Sun aligns with one of their stretches of road, all you get is stalled traffic solar glare temporarily blinds drivers.

So Manhattanhenge may just be a unique urban phenomenon in the world, if not the universe.

Note that several years ago, an article in the New York Times identified this annual event as the Manhattan Solstice. But of course, the word solstice translates from the Latin solstitium, meaning stopped sun, in reference to the winter and summer solstices where the Sun’s daily arc across the sky reaches its extreme southerly and northerly limits. Manhattanhenge comes about because the Sun’s arc has not yet reached these limits, and is on route to them, as we catch a brief glimpse of the setting Sun along the canyons of our narrow streets.

While we are on the subject, when viewed from all latitudes north of the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees north latitude), the Sun always rises at an angle up and to the right, and sets and an angle down and to the right. That’s how you can spot a faked sunrise in a movie: it moves up and to the left. Filmmakers are not typically awake in the morning hours to film an actual sunrise, so they film a sunset instead, and then time-reverse it, thinking nobody will notice.

I know it’s really getting out of hand this week!!  I’ve been receiving, reveling in and sharing videos of my grand kids who seem to have a groovy dancing gene.  My daughter sent me this one of Finley doing her own version of what may become the Clark family song;  By that I mean, she tosses in a few great gymnastic moves and stays with the beat and rhythm the whole time.  That gets a little tricky here and there because she is upstaged by little Fletcher who wants only to dance like his sister.

Turns out Fletcher is a real scene stealer so as the camera follows him around the room, Finley quickly moves to stay in the lime light.  I love her sense of stage performance!!  The music makes you want to just get up, shake your shoulders and swivel those hips.  Chiara has always danced around with her girls but somehow these latest moves look suspiciously like an MJ knock-off.  When Uncle Justin visits I’m pretty sure he gives the girls private lessons on how to moon walk

So here is Finley Ray and Fletcher performing to the beat of Michael Jackson’s SMOOTH CRIMINAL.

I had a friend in need and I am a friend indeed.  About a week ago, a friend of mine asked me to help her out because she was going on vacation to the Bahamas and needed someone to straighten up her apartment and give the keys to some women she was letting use her place.  When she mentioned what day she would need me, I realized it would be my birthday, but I didn’t tell her because she would be upset that she asked me and then have to scramble to find someone else.  I mean really how hard could this be?  Clean up the apartment a bit, make sure the sheets were clean and meet them with the keys about 6:00pm.

KEYS

                  KEYS

I figured I could do the work in the morning, then go to the office and be back in time to let them in. WRONG!  She had left her keys with my doorman a few days earlier.  When I opened up the bag, I saw a LOT of keys, unmarked of course –  Not a good sign.  And then the phone calls and texts began… There was a set of keys with an orange tag and those keys were for some office space in another borough, possibly someone might come and pick them up, possibly… And by the way, if it hasn’t rained lately would I please water the plants in her garden?  Oh sure.

On the morning of my birthday, I woke up in a bad mood, didn’t open any of my cards or the two presents that were there. NOT a good start to the day. I went to my friend’s apartment and after trying each of the 15 keys in the bag, I finally got in.  Once I was in the hallway and in front of her door, the dog across the hall started to bark and bark and bark and bark.  It sounded like a  very upset German Shepherd!

I’m in the apartment and putting away some clean dishes, mugs and silverware left in the dishwasher and there was something wrong with the silverware drawer – there really wasn’t one.  Apparently, the forks and spoons went in one drawer, the knives in another and the utensils were in big jars.  The drawers seemed jumbled so my OCD kicked in and I straightened them out.  Since I know how I am about putting things in their appropriate place, I felt the the strong need to do the same in her apartment.  That required a couple more calls; like where does the small glass bowl go and oh by the way, did she know there were only four bath towels in the closet?  “NO” she did not!  So could I call the laundromat and have them pick up and deliver the dirty towels in the hamper?  Well at least she didn’t ask me to do the washing myself!

I had asked Peter to come with me and maybe between the two of us we could whip this place up in no time.  So you (Peter) do the watering and I’ll make the bed.  Oh for God’s sake, he couldn’t find the hose.  So like a jerk I call her instead of looking around myself and when she tells me where it is, I point it out to you know who and of course if it had teeth it would have bitten him in the ass.  Then I’m hearing that he didn’t know gardening was part of this favor and he’s wearing white suede shoes.  So?  So don’t get them wet!!!  Believe it or not, he couldn’t figure out how to turn the hose off – I’m not kidding at which point I screamed, “please go home and leave me alone”.

Finally we’re done and I’d come back before the women arrive to receive the laundry and then open the door for them. I left all the keys in the apartment except for two on a little ring.  Peter was to pick out two of the loose keys and match them to the ones left in the bowl on the table by my friend; Those were the two keys that would open the main door and the apartment door. 

Who Put The Wrong Keys On The Ring?

Who Put The Wrong Keys On The Ring?

I went back to my own apartment, it was gray and chilly out, not too propitious for a birthday.  I wasn’t in the best of mood so I decided to just stay home, do the laundry and iron the last of the summer clothes.  So far the best part of this day was getting a free Venti Americano from Starbucks because it was my birthday!

I went back about 5:30pm thinking I would give myself enough time to get the laundry delivery, put the towels in the closet and wait for the guests. I couldn’t get into the building! Neither of the keys fit – damnation.  I ring several buzzers and finally someone lets me in after I tell them who I am and where I’m going.  As soon as I get to her door, the monster dog across the hall starts barking and barking and barking.  The keys won’t open her door either.  I can’t f_____g believe it and call Peter up screaming about the wrong keys being on the ring.  He feigns no knowledge of such a mistake so I hang up on him.  I frantically call my friend and try to have a conversation with her while the maniacal dog across the hall continues to bark at the door.  We discuss a locksmith and then she says, try a credit card.  Of course I don’t have one with me.  Just then Peter shows up and luckily he had an old card we could use.  After 20 minutes of dog barking and trying, he actually gets the door lock to slip and we’re in!  Thank God!  I send him home and sit down to wait for the laundry and the guests.

My cell phone rang, it was my daughter grand kids all singing Happy Birthday to me!  Of course they’re on cell phone  speaker so it’s hard to hear with all the background noise but I was thrilled to hear from them.  Just as I am talking to my daughter, my cell phone is beeping in with call #2 and it is my friend.  I hang up with the kids saying I will be home in 30 minutes or so and let’s do FaceTime.  I don’t even remember why she called!!

It’s now about 6:45pm and no one has arrived. My phone rings and it’s my son calling from California to wish me Happy Birthday.  Since he asked I start to tell him some of my so far shitty day and the door buzzer rings.  I ask him to hold on.  I open the apt. door to go to the front door and realize it will lock behind me so I stick my Kindle in the door frame.  I’m back on the phone and my cell phone beeps again and I see it is my friend so “…can I call you back Joel”? No of course not, he has a photo shoot and a rehearsal and even later tonight will not be late enough for him so I suggest the weekend and hang up.  It’s my friend wondering if I got in and did the laundry arrive? YES! And can I leave a set of keys with my doorman for another friend to pick up just in case someone needs to get in while she is away because I am going away next week?  YES I will do that. 

At 7:30 there are still no guests.  At 7:45pm I call my friend and beseech her to find out just where the hell these women are!  Apparently their train was delayed an hour and a half – so why didn’t they call????  By 8:15 they have arrived, exhausted from their 8 hour train trip and I have a fixed smile on my face while I show them around and give them keys and suggest they go to the diner for dinner.  Maybe I’ll even see them there since I’m still in jeans and a tee shirt and it’s my birthday and I’m sure not cooking!

I call Peter once I’m outside and tell him to join me because I’m not coming home – I want to eat something.  As we round the corner heading to the diner, I see Arturo’s, a very nice neighborhood Italian restaurant and once inside with a glass of wine I am finally enjoying some of this birthday.  AMEN.

It never ends sometimes and Mercury is in full retrograde.  The next day I left the keys in an envelope addressed to Jennifer per instructions and a messenger was to pick them up.  Then she ( my soon-to-be-ex-friend) texts me some message I really don’t understand so I text back an inane reply.  The house phone rings and it’s our doorman saying there is a man here to pick up an envelope for Fay.  WHO? Oh geez!  I tell him to have the messenger wait and I will be right down.  Apparently the text was to let me know that the keys were going to someone else BUT the messenger was supposed to know that the envelope was addressed to Jennifer BUT of course the doorman was clueless and he wasn’t going to give the envelope over.  I straightened all of that out and the keys left – Thank God!

Once I got to the office I felt better, that is until I tried to print something!!!!

'Our printer cartridge cost are through the rood. Have someone in IT wirelessly connect all of our printers to a mimeograph machine.'

BEWARE!

BEWARE!

MERCURY IN RETROGRADE

Things began to go wrong two days before my birthday, which I now see as foreshadowing.  My company decided to upgrade (or downgrade depending on how you look at it) our email system.  We were being moved to a Microsoft Office system.  It probably sounded like a good idea at some Executive staff meeting, it might have even looked good on paper BUT, but, OMG!  Not Good! I think there was one whole day where we couldn’t get any emails at all.  Thank goodness for smart phones!  The grumbling and mumbling under one’s breath went on all day.  Some people even went home only to find out that they couldn’t access from there either. 

Uh Oh There He Goes!

Uh Oh There He Goes!

Day 2: They brought in a new printer.  NOTHING was wrong with our old color printer/copier – at least nothing apparent to us lay people.  We all knew how to use it, even the by-pass tray!  Of course, the new copier did not working or at least didn’t for those of us who sit on that side of the office.  That day we had to send our printing to the other side of the office, a bit inconvenient but, after all we had so much more time to do so  because we couldn’t answer our emails anyway. 

Here We Are In The Middle of Mercury In Retrograde

Here We Are In The Middle of Mercury In Retrograde

Day 3: Two IT guys camp out in our office.  They are attempting to install the new upgraded email system on each computer.  Foolishly I asked one of them if he could look at the printer but NO, he was only working on emails today.  He did tell me what the new email access address would be so I could get my emails at home.  Encouraging!  So that night after dinner, I tried to get some emails while my phone was charging – the addresses didn’t work.  Not surprised.

Day 4:  Supposedly the printer is set up to work with everyone’s computer.  So when I sent something to the printer, an error message came up saying the printer was OFFLINE. Seriously?  I asked Christina, our office manager to come help me and she showed me this elaborate 5 step process to do in order to retrieve your copies.  Interesting…but it worked.  It involved seeing the error light, having a screen with 10 icons on it pop up that indicates where the problem is ( ha ha ha) and then hitting cancel, and then pushing the reset button and then the copy button and then your page came out but not on the tray!  This is what I should do until the IT guys came back and fixed it. Ai yi yi….  Well okay that worked but I told Christina, “There’s another little glitch.  I had set the computer to print two copies and only one came out”.  She couldn’t believe it and as it was the end of the day, we both just gave up.  I actually tried that twice and each time only one came out, so now I figured when they fix this thing, a whole bunch of random pages will come spewing out.

Everyone was a bit frazzled, I walked by the concierge desk and as our leasing manager went by I heard him say, “What is going on here”?  I just looked at him and said, “Mercury is in retrograde”.

The End Result

The End Result

Spring Is Here And So Are The Asparagus Photo by Andrew Scrivani

Spring Is Here And So Are The Asparagus
Photo by Andrew Scrivani

Spring is here, asparagus are aplenty and we love them in our house.  I was about to toss out last Wednesday’s Food section of the NY Times when the headline, Breaking the Pasta Myth caught my eye.  I started to read the article which seemed to  be  pretty focused on fresh pasta and I’m not a fan.  I like my pasta secca or dry pasta;  the cooking time is so much more reliable and in many cases the amount of time it takes to reach al denté state, gives you plenty of time to finish up your sauce.

However, at the end of the lengthy article there was a recipe for this Pasta Primavera and as I read it, I could imagine just how good it would be and the perfect Saturday night supper for my husband and me.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 lb. sugar snap peas, stems trimmed

1/2 lb. asparagus, ends snapped

2 TBS unsalted butter

3/4 cup English peas

1/4 cup thinly sliced spring onion or use a shallot

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

12 oz fettuccine or tagliatelle

2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at room temperature

1/2 cup crème fraîche or whole milk Greek yogurt at room temperature

3 TBS finely chopped parsley

1 TBS finely chopped tarragon

DIRECTIONS

Bring large pot of heavily salted water to boil over medium-high heat.

While water is coming to boil, slice snap peas in half and asparagus stems into 1/4″ thick pieces; leave asparagus heads whole.

Melt butter in large skillet or braising pan over medium-high heat.  Add snap peas, asparagus, English peas and onion.  Cook until vegetables are barely tender (but not too soft or mushy), 3-4 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more.  Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

Cook pasta, drain well, transfer pasta to vegetable mixture. Toss with vegetables, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, yogurt  and herbs.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Recipe from NY Times

** What I did;  I increased the amounts for the ingredients because I wanted to cook a whole pound of fettuccine.  I used fat free Greek yogurt because that’s what I had.  I think next time I will use crème fraîche or whole milk yogurt because the dish was a bit dry.  And I actually had reserved about 3/4 cup pasta water which I also added.  When I reheated the leftovers, I drizzled some basting oil on top before popping into the microwave and it was very good and moister.

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