Friday, December 28, 2007

There are a lot of people in New York right now...

... which is part of the reason that I have been away from blogging recently. The Spanish Invasion (the sequel) is now in New York -- Rafa's sister and her boyfriend are in town. I have been showing them around the city during, I may add, the busiest time of year. Christmas in New York is the reason that I curl up into a little ball on my couch at this time of year -- making believe the craziness doesn't actually exist is a lot easier than dealing with reality -- New York at Christmas is OFF THE HOOK!

I was almost trampled upon a few times already. Why can't all these tourists just go home already? Christmas was DAYS ago. LOL.

The first Spanish Invasion featured Rafa's bff and girlfriend. I had the strength to blog about their trip daily. I don't think that is happening any time soon. But, I have made some delish dinners, so stay tuned on my other blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is the food fresh?: A TV review

For the last few weeks, the American version of Kitchen Nightmares has been on TV here. It's basically the same thing as Gordon Ramsay's British show, but of course Americanized... like bits about him 'almost' about to get into fist fights with uptight Long Islanders... and how every single woman on the show seems to think he is 'oh so handsome'. I never really liked Gordon Ramsay, but really started appreciating him for his talent ever since seeing the British version of the show on BBC America many months ago.

Brilliance is attractive. He is a very, very smart man when it comes to his craft. And not just the cooking. The whole array of things that comes with being a restauranteur. He obviously is in the right field, and loves what he does. So I have come to really like him. And yes, there is something sexy about him.

The premise of the show is that Gordon visits a restaurant in financial trouble; customers don't come in, management is shit, chefs and/or owners are too set in their ways, to the point of even being abusive to their work colleagues. And then, Gordon saves them all.

As a foodie, however, I really like the food aspect of the show. Gordon Ramsay is a cook first, restauranteur second. When he comes to sample the dishes the restaurant cooks, he usually asks for crab cakes, if they are on the menu, and always asks if the crab is fresh. More often than not, the wait staff tells him it is, and more often than not, they are lying or don't know that the crab is not fresh -- that most of the food items in the restaurant are not freshly made. This show has really opened my eyes to the restaurant business. I already knew that obviously chain restaurants didn't make things fresh for the most part. But, I never thought that individual restaurants did that... And I still have the optimistic view, or hope, that restaurants do serve up freshly made food...

One comment on the show really hit close to home. When Gordon had a bite of some really bad lobster ravioli in a restaurant in Long Island, he sent it back. He said it tasted like it was frozen. The waiter brought back the ravioli to the chef and told him what Chef Ramsay said. The chef said, 'Yeah, of course, it's from Restaurant Depot.' Now, I know about Restaurant Depot. My dad always talks about it because he goes there for kitchen supplies being a utensil hoarder, that of course is genetic; the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. When I asked him after seeing the show if they sell frozen food, he said, 'Yeah, that is where all restaurants get their food'. I was shocked! I mean, I'd like to believe that at least posh restaurants in Manhattan make their own food, but I have fully realized that everybody else is just buying already prepared food, heating it up, and serving it to customers. I don't know about you, but that pisses me off. My father is fully convinced that EVERY restaurant on the face of this Earth uses already prepared food. I think that's going a bit overboard, but I think it would surprise the majority of us how much food is really not made by our favorite restaurants.

Some un-fresh food for thought! :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Have a holly, jolly Christmas!

... It's the best time of the year....

We got our Christmas tree! Of course, we're total procrastinators getting it so late, not unlike the other Christmas enthusiasts around us that start decorating their houses a few hours after they have had their Thanksgiving lunch.

Previous years, we have had our mini fake tree. There didn't seem to be a point to get a big one or even the real thing, living in a tiny one-bedroom... But this is the first Christmas in an actually decent-sized place. Rafa has to do all the Jewish holidays with me and my folks, so it is only fair that I do Christmas with him. But, honestly, I don't mind! I love Christmas -- I've never actually met a Jew that likes Christmas as much as I do. The songs, the eating, the decorating, the SHOPPING! And this year we have a real tree, that smells like a forest (I don't really have much access to nature!), that we could decorate. I could finally make Nigella's Christmas tree decorations! That will be my weekend project. I'll delightfully de-emasculate our tree with frilly and shiny decs while my husband is none-the-wiser all the way up in Boston.

We did start on some 'modest' decorations last night. We put up two sets of lights, which we quickly found out were not enough for our massive (kinda obese) tree. And we have a bunch of balls (or as my British friends say 'baubles', which, by the way, sounds even dirtier than balls!) to put up, but alas, no strings. Why do they sell balls without strings? We also need that long sparkly stuff to drape around the tree. We're not sure what it's called. Not tinsel. It's like the Christmas version of a drag queen's feather boa.

The night of fun wasn't complete, though, without stuffing our face with Brooklyn's finest pizza. Oh, we totally left our previous pizza establishment. I've decided, after too many oily pies recently, that they have definitely gone downhill in taste and quality. I consulted with hubbykins, and we decided that we needed to try something new. After five years of loyalty to one place, it was time to move on... and surprisingly, we moved on fairly quickly. So, it's Trio no more. Now, Del Mar is supplying our bi-monthly cravings for pizza.

After some decorating and some eating, we opened up brand spankin' new Season 3 of Lost. Yes! We actually had it delivered on its release date, confirming to me that God is actually masquerading on this Earth as

So we started off the Christmas season the right way.... with vanity, gluttony, and a nice dose of materialism for good measure. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

2 week countdown to unemployment, again

So my temp job is living up to its title -- it's over, at least in two weeks it is.

I was crushed, initially, when I found out. That was an odd feeling because I knew sooner or later I'd find out my future there -- but I guess the shock went away pretty fast. It's temporary. It's nothing personal. It's strange, though, how you could feel so attached so quickly. And it's something I never thought I'd enjoy doing, but it wasn't that bad. Since I'm leaving soon, I guess I'd better tell you what I have been doing at the hoity toity offices on Madison Avenue. Event planning! Yes! I was doing basically the recruiting end... for a pharmaceutical company. It felt horribly unethical, but I guess I kind of forgot about that since I was getting a paycheck for the past three months or so. I've realized I like talking on the phone, and generally being nice to people, because I'm a nice person. It's not an act with me. I know America is all about customer service and smiling at everyone and basically giving a good impression, but I really DO like people, and providing a good service, and smiling at people. I like people! What else have I learned? That I'm not as smart as I thought I was, and I had/have a lot to learn. I've learned to breathe in and out in a stressful situation, and there were many at this job. I've learned that it is up to me, and me alone, to make myself happy. I was so unhappy, for so long... And Crapco was the reason. I was drowning there. I allowed myself to fall into a rut, to gain an ungodly amount of weight, to waste away because I saw no end to it. Until I put an end to it. And then I went to Israel and had the time of my life. And then I came home and thought I'd have a mental breakdown because I wasn't working and nobody wanted me to work for them and I was needing to move out of the place that I thought would make me happy but didn't. I moved there because I was so unhappy at Crapco. Yeah, that's smart, Ilana. You move apartments because you're unhappy in your job. Back then, I didn't know where to pinpoint my unhappiness.

So in August I found this temp job and we moved to the best friggin' apartment in Brooklyn, thank you very much, and life is absolutely wonderful. Really friggin' great. So I am going to be unemployed again soon and the holidays are coming which means holiday expenses and my sister-in-law is coming to visit from Spain and we have to show off just a little bit because we're the successful family members in America... and that's wonderful, because this is an experience she won't have too often. But all that is fine. I'm not freaking out. It will work out, it always does. I'm happy... for the first time in a long time. I'm healthy. Working at a quasi-normal place for three months showed me there is a positive work atmosphere. There are normal people out there. That come to work to work.

I'm bummed I won't be able to wear my awesome work clothes for a while... I was so rocking winter! But I'll wear them again. My life isn't over. I'll just have to find a new place to debut various outfits... And no shopping for a while, either. Damn! I'm putting an end to it soon, though, because I have been going kind of mental with it lately. The other day I bought what is probably my hundredth handbag. I need a support group! Unemployed-Bagwhores-Anonymous. Please join me, at least for the bagwhore part. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good Girls Tuck In Their Shirts

Maybe it's a Russian thing, but my family is obsessed with having our shirts tucked into everything! I am pretty sure our parents did it with us, and now my sister's in-laws are doing it to Liam too. It was so uncool for so long, but now, it's suddenly cool. On professional women, that is.

I started noticing this trend a couple of years ago. Really skinny bitches with absolutely no hips or waists, would wear long skinny pants, for their long skinny bitchy legs, and they would tuck in their button-down shirts into those pants. Even though I thought these women were bitchy in their skinniness, part of me wanted to be like them. I couldn't tuck in my shirts, because doing so would restrain my breathing even more. It was hard enough to wear pants that didn't sink into my skin, creating the perfect indentation of a button on my third breast.

But, haha, I can wear my shirts tucked into my pants now. And the reason I could do this is not because I am buying pants now that actually fit me. It is because the pants that created that perfect button indentation are now two sizes too big. I've become a skinny bitch! Ok, now, I'm not a skinny bitch. I haven't had one of those stomach stapling things and am now a size 0 that pushes tomatoes around on a salad plate. I've become someone closely resembling what I used to look like.... and I think I'm liking this shirt tucked in thing. I've resisted writing a 'ooh-look-at-how-skinny-I-am' post for a long time. For two reasons. One, I really haven't lost an enormous amount of weight, comparably. Two, my weight doesn't define me - but it does make me feel awesome that a bit of it is finally off. And that part makes me fear I'm shallow. But, let's face it, I'm shallow. No use hiding it any longer! I've lost close to 15 pounds, and I am feeling like a rock star!!! Woohoo, but not the rock stars that snort heroin. I promise I'm not snorting heroin!

Monday, November 26, 2007

3 week countdown to hibernation

My husband and I make a great couple, but I must admit we don't agree on a lot. In fact, we have very different tastes when it comes to most things. Ah, but variety is the spice of life, right?

My favorite TV show is Lost. Rafa never started watching it with me from the beginning, so never got into it. I think that Lost is the best show ever! And therefore, I think that everyone should feel the same way. But Rafa wasn't up to being convinced.

I bought myself season 1 and 2 of Lost to tide me over until season 4 starts in February, 2008. And happily, Rafa has become my Lost-watching buddy! Ever since we got the DVDs about a couple of months ago, we have spent many an evening, or even lazy weekends, slumped on the couch, watching the survivors. We felt like daredevils when we'd get through an entire disc in one sitting! (We really need to get out more!) But we finished watching the end of season 2 a few weeks ago! Although Rafa doesn't express his yearning for more Lost, I could sense it, you know, telepathically. He's hurting, just like me.

Thank god I've pre-ordered season 3. We're expecting delivery in just under 3 weeks. I plan on grabbing those DVDs, locking the door, getting under covers, and not re-emerging until I can properly say goodbye to CHOLLY again. Sniffle sniffle.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Sweater Dress

The sweater dress. It's fabulous. I love fashion again. I love being stylish. Finally a look that I could actually pull off.

Sweater dresses are forgiving. And because I'm short, and a lot of sweaters nowadays are actually quite long, pretty much every sweater can become a sweater dress for me. I didn't usually wear dresses. It also never seemed a smart thing to wear on cold winter nights. But now dresses are sweaters. Sweaters are dresses. I could wear them with black tights. My short legs look longer. I am cheeky in my short, short, sweater dress.

This is a defining moment in my life. It's the first time in my life that I actually care what I look like, and getting dressed in the morning is usually kind of fun.

Thank you to the fashion gods. Finally a trend I could be alright with.

I get really cute sweater dresses at H&M. It's actually a bit scary how inexpensive the clothing is there. I'm pretty sure that some poor people are getting horribly underpaid in some area of the world so that I could have a fashionable sweater dress for $14.90. I'll be very happy to elaborate on this point but I'm too unintelligent and too shallow to continue. Hey, at least I'm honest!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Just really good food.

After the exciting book signing, that wasn't really, I was in the mood for something comforting, something familiar. I felt sad and vulnerable, and just wanted to go to dinner with my honey. Someplace I knew that would be good. Really good food.

We got into a cab (which we never do!), and went a few blocks uptown to Cafe Orlin. I love this place. I've gone to brunch here on a few lazy Sundays. They have unbelievable brunch food. The menu is the Mediterranean I am familiar with and love, but also other delicious things that just beg to be ordered. I've never gone there for dinner, and couldn't wait to see what the menu would offer.

Rafa and I sat in the raised part of the restaurant, looking at the other diners down below, through arched windows. I had one of the best ravioli dishes I've ever had -- Mushroom Ravioli in a Basil Cream Sauce. Rafa had Grilled Hanger Steak served with watercress and streak frites in a port wine sauce. It was a lovely environment. I felt happy being there. On a date, in the city. We don't do it often. I had steamed milk with sugar and vanilla as my dessert. A sweet end to a lovely meal.

Cafe Orlin
41 Saint Marks Place
Btwn 1st & 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Phone: 212-777-1447

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Movie Moment: The Lives of Others

A couple of months back, maybe longer, my very good friend, Elana, recommended I see The Lives of Others. It is a German movie about... well... something. I actually had no idea what it was about, or maybe Elana told me, but I didn't remember it. At that time, I didn't get a chance to see the movie, and regretting it, I put it in my Netflix queue knowing the movie will come out on DVD.. and it did, and I finally got to see it tonight.

From the description on the DVD sleeve, it seemed like some kind of political drama about the Communist years in East Germany in the 80s. I wasn't expecting much, to be honest. Elana and I are great friends. But we don't have similar tastes in movies. She likes off-beat comedies made by directors like Wes Anderson, who I just don't get... or sometimes she wants to see movies that I would completely not expect of her, like Nacho Libre! But Elana is very passionate about politics, and censorship, and the government, and other things that make my head hurt. So like I said, I wasn't expecting much... and I actually fell asleep the first 20 minutes! LOL. I blame the fact that it's been a lazy day and the sun is now going to bed around 5pm, so I'm not exactly used to darkness so quickly.

But when I woke up, rewound back to the beginning, I sat through the entire movie, and was really taken by it. I won't give it away what was so special about this movie, but it is definitely one to watch. The beginning is slow, and a bit political (yawn!), but then it gets more human, more personal. Really a beautiful film. The ending warmed my heart.

Ok, won't give it away. Watch it! Even if you have no idea what it's about.

NB: The main actress is from another great German film, Mostly Martha! She is brill in this as well. And I must have her sunglasses in the bar scene. So cool!

Darwin would not approve.

I'm starting to feel like the last someone-like-me in the world... A unique woman, a woman not like anyone else. With the cooler temperatures, the boots have come out. Not the clunky boots. The sexy, knee-high boots, that every woman seems to have a pair of. They have become a new characteristic of the 21st century woman. But, it is a characteristic I am lacking. I don't wear knee-high boots. I can't wear knee-high boots. I can't even wear mid-calf boots. I'm a freak. A big freakishly large-calved freak.

I always knew I was big-calved. Every Fall I try on boots hoping my calves had miraculously shrunk over the Summer, but they never did. And then, of course, I blame my genes. My dad has big calves. I have big calves. But he's a man. He doesn't have men all around him wearing boots he could never hope to fit into. Thinking about it now, what on earth do men have to worry about? Their fashion hardly ever changes. What, a new cut in their pants?! Come on! With all that time that is free from worrying, you'd think men would remember to take out the garbage. Hmmmn!

But back to my freakishness. I think part of it is my dad, and the other part, I'm short! The length between my heel and my knee is not as long as other people. So, my calf starts a lot sooner than a taller person's calf. I think I just need to get over it, which is really the purpose of this post. I'm not meant to wear these boots. I'll schlepp around in my pseudo UGGs and be happy.

A coworker of mine mentioned you could pay people to stretch out your boots... So what, I'll queue up with the rest of the undesirables? Yes, please, stretch out my boot so I could look like a normal person?! But really, I'm just too lazy. Taking action is hard. Bitching and being lazy is a lot easier. Which pretty much sums me up. A lazy 4'11" wannabe diva with a smaller bum now, but with calves that won't budge.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Urban Survival Guide

I'm going to make an admission here. Something, that quite ironically, I wouldn't reveal to the people I spend most of my time with... I shop at the Salvation Army. For those that don't know, the Salvation Army is a charity shop that sells 2nd hand apparel. Yes, used clothing!

At first, I was ashamed by it. But now I'm not. I'll tell you why not! Because I scored a J. Crew 100% cashmere short sleeved sweater for $3.99!

However, not all Salvation Army(s) are alike. I didn't shop in them for years and years because the ones by me in Brooklyn had truly gross clothes. The stuff that sits at the back of your closet for years and years, and then you feel charitable enough to give it away.

The Salvation Army in Chelsea (Manhattan) is not like these stores at all! People donate seriously good crap! The same day I got my awesome J. Crew find, I also found:

J. Crew cotton vest - $3.99
Express very warm turtleneck sweater - $8.99
Mossimo sweater - $2.99
Abercrombie & Fitch wool turtleneck sweater - $3.99

And this was only with 15 minutes of shopping. See, the store closes at 6:45pm and I finish work at 6:00pm, on the dot. It's not far-ish, but is across town, which is a bitch in NYC because crosstown means mulitple train transfers and a few minutes of brisk walking. The people at the store are ANAL about closing on time. I think I may take off work one of these days at 5:30 for a few more minutes of leisurely shopping time.

Being at that store really puts me in shock of how expensive and good quality clothes can be priced so cheaply. Obviously, since people donate them and it is a charity, they can't exactly start charging full price. I'm sure the store is also there to help out those in need. People who can't afford clothes, any kind of clothes, at all. I think it's great a store like this is around. And I'm not just saying that because I benefit from it greatly.

The idealist in me is happy that fellow New Yorkers are so kind-hearted as to donate really expensive clothing. The cynic in me, the one that usually takes over, says, 'how friggin' rich are these people that they could just give away 100% cashmere sweaters; sweaters that cost $100 in even the crappiest of stores.' I can't even afford J. Crew sales, let alone full-priced stuff. I try not to separate myself from the rest of New Yorkers, but there really is a vast difference. But more to dwell on in my future posts...

Salvation Army Thrift Store
208 8th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 929-5214