Transitions

Transitions

by Elizabeth McLaughlin

The Autumn colors arrived and vanished quickly due to unusual warm weather. I was disappointed with this season, felt betrayed and robbed by unnatural forces. However, it was now time for a change and very thankful for my sisters decision to visit this Christmas. It set the stage for me to act as a NYC tourist guide. The day we decided to go into Manhattan the weather changed from cold to frigid cold! Newscasters reported that a mini ice age was ramping up and warned the public to be prepared and dress for severe winter chills. I layered at least four tops, two pairs of socks and pants, woolen hat, knitted earth tone neck wrap and pink fiber gloves. This brought me back to the Bronx childhood memories of being stuffed into bulky down snow suit, toes forced into shoes covered with plastic bags and then squished into red rubber boots. Usually following such time-consuming layering many kids from the neighborhood took to hand carving igloos with interior slides onto the sidewalk, fierce snowball fights, snowman making or sleigh riding, skating at the park.

The train schedule into the city read ninety minutes but it could last longer with all the stops and weather related delays. We arrived early so I inquired at the ticket window to be pointed in a direction of a local coffee shop. The sound of Christmas carols in the Spanish language blasted from metal cone shaped speakers that were mounted on lamp posts. I dashed across the commuter filled parking lot and over to a town bakery. It was a first time experience to enter into a Spanish bakery. The line was orderly but fast. The bakery featured two large long glass counters. One displayed rolls, pastries, fancy cakes with small signs hand written in Spanish that described the confections. The other counter displayed what a customer would normally find in a neighborhood bakery. I decided to be daring and ordered a pastry labeled in Spanish. With a few words and hand signals the clerk and a customer tried the task of translating the ingredients. They both could not tell me in English what embellished this stuffed pastry but it looked sumptuous. Interestingly enough the woman at the cashier could understand how to make change in US dollars. Oh well, back at the train station we ended up sitting inside the unheated antiquated waiting room, coffee in one hand and Mexican pastry in the other, anticipating the train would accept passengers on time. I felt the rich taste of coconut and cinnamon melting inside my mouth with each sip of warm fresh roasted coffee. We could view from the oak framed glass window that the train idled on its tracks with doors still closed. Brave passengers stood outside, appearing totally unprepared for the weather, dressed in thin clothing and summer cotton sneakers. Arctic gusts of wind whipped across the open station platform and the passengers stood firm waiting to hear the vacuum train doors swish open. For many years I traveled on the Metro North from Westchester County into Grand Central Station but this was my first time traveling on the NJ Transit Line into Penn Station. xmas21This meant about a walk of approximately twenty blocks to Rockefeller Center. Not a real problem because my hiking boots could undertake subway grates, concrete stairs and any obstacle on this urban trail. I worried about my sister, her ankle swollen from leg surgery that it would be too much of a walk, however, she insisted on making the trek regardless of any discomfort to her leg. Taxis were at grinding halts and lost in traffic. The city blocks were short and the walk refreshing even in this frigid weather. My sister dragged me into a few tourist shops along the way because she wanted to bring back T Shirt gifts for her friends. I did not seem to mind her request because the shop stops offered a heated relief from the cold and she could rest a leg. Shop rents are high for these retail establishments so every inch of space is utilized to display something for sale. I could not help missing a zillion magnets of the Statue of Liberty. It came in a variety of sizes and after much thought decided on one for about four dollars.

It was awesome the prices were not designed to gouge tourists wallets! The army of tourists thickened as we naturally formed into moving groups that lead us to the bright flashing lights of Times Square. I do recall the day when it was often frowned upon to visit such a place because Times Square was noted for seedy pornographic businesses. It only took time for Times Square to gain movie theaters and cleaned out most of the riff raff. Even though the sky was gray, huge assorted sized digital media billboards lit up Times Square transforming the streets into a bright summer day.

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Psychologically everyone felt a few degrees warmer with light and people had good spirits and smiled. Red ribbon tape roped off the staging area to handle the large crowds for New Years Eve. People were everywhere and I never experienced so many on the streets, crossing intersections in swarms like buzzing bees, trying to reach places of work/business, theaters and eateries. Emergency sirens, honking horns and the intimidating sound of rumbling metro buses vibrated against the tall skyscrapers windows and the noise echoed down long side streets. It’s a common New York City sound!

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MOMA always became a destination for me and like all businesses in New York City, changed. A part of it is under construction and from what I could remember prior to this altered state the book store location was conveniently situated on the ground floor. Now, it is on the second floor. After passing a large MOMA billboard highlighting good things to come, xmas41I noticed a MOMA Design Store across the street from the museum. And they were having a spectacular Christmas Sale! Scarves were now on sale for sixty dollars and up, unfortunately, way beyond my budget. However, it was nice to see the trending watches, Japanese lanterns, modernistic wall clocks, unique gadgets. A dream purchase for most that require a specific contemporary piece to accent a Manhattan apartment. It is also utterly important for the urban chic to engage a visit to this store for name dropping about it at roof top parties and exclusive art gallery shows. My sister was in a New York rush to see the Saks Fifth Avenue light show and skaters at Rockefeller Center. therefore, after strolling through the museum lobby I vowed to return in a few months by myself and spend hours at the Design Store and MOMA.

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Rockefeller Center had waves of people taking pictures of skaters but something bothered me about the Christmas tree. xmas31For some reason it visually felt not as large or wide as most other years. I kept questioning myself about the lights and if that underwent a board’s decision to be changed. The skaters glided across the ring of ice as if they were stiff and obviously very cold. Wherever large pockets of people formed it was a guaranteed children’s window display magnet, such as LEGO. It was packed with parents and kids. The early evening light was dimming, the lights began to sparkle on Christmas tree, a corridor of angels and office building windows glowed against its stone facade. People began to point and shuffle weary feet in the direction of Saks Fifth Avenue because they did not want to miss the fabulously spectacular Saks Fifth Avenue light show!

Saks Fifth Avenue windows were elegantly decorated with a Snow White theme. Children screamed with joy or were crying as parents clutched small hands to walk the length of the building. Across the street the populace thickened to shoulder to shoulder standing room and then all of a sudden over a loud-speaker a circus ring master type voice received everyone to the show. Music chimed in and the entire Saks Fifth Avenue building lit up to form the shape of an enchanted castle. The castles tastefully colored lights flickered to music and songs.

A very impressive display that should not be missed! After the show we walked the exterior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, more lines, lines, lines, the Atlas Statue, back to Rockefeller Plaza to view their shop windows and then off to hunt down a place to eat.

All restaurants were packed with standing lines. Our best option was to try to purchase a sandwich at Chik-fil-A. I never experienced this eatery and was so glad to have found the freshest chicken sandwich ever tasted. The service at the counter was cheerful, helpful and welcoming! Our day was winding down as we approached Madison Square Garden. Penn Station is located below the Garden and at this hour people were heading to a show, concert or home.

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The lobby was packed and with each intercom announcement the station became instantly empty and refilled again at breakneck speed. It was almost comical how fast this room filled up, emptied and refilled. Our train track number was announced and confirmed by viewing the computerized displays. People formed into swarms at the gate, passed two doors and quickly ran down the platform to find a seat. I watched as far as my eyes could see and noticed this train was not in short supply of double-decker cars to service any type of traveler.

New Years Day came and now vanished into the past. A new year arrived and of course one has to make plans. This year is going to be a transitional year and I welcome it with open arms.

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Dehydrating Food Is An Art

Dehydrating food caught my interest. After viewing many dehydrating machines, I selected one that has nine trays, stainless steel shelving, digitized timing and heat selections. And of course this machine also had to meet my budget. There are many different price ranges and purchases of trays that can drive up the cost. Luckily I came upon one that provided everything in a bundle.

My first attempt at dehydrating fruits was interesting. Upon reading the manual,  I discovered that the dried food in the grocery store has preservatives and this gives it the color. And it tastes different too. At first, I did not have the proper cutting tools and sliced the strawberries very thin. After watching a video one woman suggested an egg slicer to cut the strawberries so I will be trying that out! Although, slicing the strawberries thin makes a great crackle topping to yogurt. The bananas that I purchased were old bananas at discount and very wet. Next time I will just purchase bananas that are ripe and believe that it will dehydrate better, less chewy. The organic pears were delicious and now that I have an apple, potato core hand machine, the slices will be consistent and should dehydrate better. A few days before dehydrating I picked some organic parsley from my garden box and sandwiched it in-between two paper towels for drying. I decided to place the parsley onto a tray and into the dehydration machine and it was amazing how it turned out. I just picked up a handful of organic parsley and it crumbled right in my hand to a very rich consistency. So far I am very excited about trying out other herbs, fruits and veggies and creating fruit rolls. As I explore this dehydrating process it makes sense to share my experiences storing food and dehydration tips on the blog. Hope you enjoy it. Pictured below is fruit crackle on top of yogurt and the fresh organic parsley from my garden box. Dehydrating Food is another form of art where you can be creative!

 

A Few Flowers and Landscapes

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A landscape business down the road planted elegant bright blue flowers and I could not resist capturing these beautiful floral clusters. It certainly brightened up my day along with natures neighboring forested swamp.

Overcast Day

Sunday was overcast with rain in the forecast. The docks and lake take on a different hue and projects a unique rustic mellow mood.  Soon the beach will be open to club members and families will gather for swimming meets, fishing and boating excursions. The trails have fresh fine white gravel prepared for hikers, dog walkers and bikers. Throughout the woods shimmering sunshine tries its best to brighten up small wild daisies, leaves and casts its warm glow against trees.

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The Day After

The Day After  by Elizabeth McLaughlin
easterfourYears ago  I remember when Easter was a day to look forward to renewal. Renewal of the soul and also of wardrobe. My mother sewed grey dress up coats for the three girls, all matching buttons and tailored round collars. It was a lot of fun to shop at Alexanders for a straw hat that was embellished with artificial Spring flowers and black velvet ribbon. The shoes had to be for the most part white patent leather or red leather Mary Jane’s with matching handbags. White gloves were worn and handkerchiefs, small stuffed bunny or doll would become the contents of the bag. Early morning we would wake up to colorful cellophane adorned Easter baskets and stuffed bunnies. Chocolate eggs, jelly beans, a sugar egg that you looked inside to view a pictorial inside, butter cream eggs, all nested in straw. Easter Sunday mass was elegant, white lilies adorned the altar. The kids mass was held downstairs and the adults went upstairs. After mass we usually went to the Botanical Gardens to enjoy the beautiful Spring flowers and venture through the wooded trails to the Bronx River where the Saw Mill rest spot was located.  We would try to tower over the gate to capture viewing all the waterfalls  which lined the river bed. During the summer months this spot became a haven for refreshing oneself from the city heat.
selfcaptureToday, the Cycle Trail was quiet. It was a day to reflect on such memories and  spiritual renewal.  It was not traveled this time on Sunday because most gathered around ham or lamb at the dining room table. The silence of the woods became more than gratifying, peaceful with the air-filled up with soft chirping of birds, water gushing down rock lined beds.  On Saturday  I picked up a free ham at that grocery store, those shopping points do add up. The clerk at checkout was nice enough to point this freebie out to me. On Monday I will figure out how to cook it in the crock pot. With an internet search that figuring was easy, all I need is a can of pineapple and maple syrup. The reviews sounded positive so worth a wing, this is nothing like what my mother experienced to create a ham dinner that will last me for a week!
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It Was Not From This World …

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Lino Block Print by Elizabeth McLaughlin, Title ‘UFO’

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It Was Not From This World . . .
by Elizabeth McLaughlin
Times were tough, there was even the talk of war, extreme hardships. Weather also became an enemy to the small town of Waverly. Winters became harsh and summer winds whipped up heat that created forest fires across the nation. People were on edge, no employment in sight for millions. It was the era of errors among disputing corrupted politicians. But the people of Waverly grew stronger each day with the community forming
support groups that planned for multiple scenarios of crisis. They wisely managed their precious resources.
Aggie knew how to be prepared, she read everything about how to plan for disasters and became the go to queen on the topic. Neighbors constantly called her seeking advice and a need for even the basics of living. The family pitched in, Sandy, Tom and husband, Phillip. All helped with boxing groceries to be dropped off at the local food bank. That morning, mid March she would never forget the cloud that formed over her beloved town. It was early morning when she clicked on the weather station, Sandy and Tom munched on honey coated coconut granola cereal at the marble kitchen counter with eyes opened wide to the flat television screen. An alert siren screeched broadcasting emergency news, tornado like winds, flooding, snow, and even possible deadly thunderstorms. This combination will be expected in our location within an hour! Aggie picked up her cell phone and dialed for Phillip. His assistant answered her call and explained that due to emergency weather related circumstances that he was in a shut down security meeting at NASA headquarters. “Sandy, Tom get your bug out bags and let’s go, NOW!” she ordered. With no questions asked the two robotically grabbed their gear and headed toward the black SUV. Aggie called for their pit bull-dog Prince and off they went to the town shelter. The sky was swirling a massive deepening stomach churning darkness as she drove, taking side roads instead of the highway into town. “Buckle up tight kids because it is going to be a rough ride, this is no drill” she screamed! Trying to keep her composure, Aggie turned on the radio to be updated about any impending doom. One hand nervously maneuvered the steering wheel while the other grabbed the stick shift, putting it into high gear. Instantly the wind picked up and trees were thrashing back and forth, bending and breaking limbs.

The conditions intensified as towering strong trees began to uproot and parts of a field tractor became missile projectiles that could saw a barn into two. Heavy snow started to fall as if it could be the blizzard of the Century. Lightening pivoted in every imaginable direction accompanied with thunderous booms. Aggie knew that the town shelter would not be possible to reach, and remembered that The McAllister Farm was a mile down a gravel paved drive. There the McAllister family have a decent underground storm shelter that Phillip recently contracted and completed its construction. Wham! A tree collapsed in front of Aggies SUV and the car hit it like a bullet and ricocheted over the farm fence. The SUV miraculously landed on all four ultra high performance tires. But all that could be heard was the howling, thundering wind. Aggie felt a nudging and licking upon her cut up face from Prince. She was able to turn and view that Sandy and Tom were still strapped into their seats. However, both were in shock but fully functional. Prince whimpered and displayed his sprained paw. Thump, thump, thump, the SUV bounced up and down as if it would take flight.

The McAllister family and ranch hands reached the heavy thick steel door leading to the shelter and proceeded to file into a massive elevator to descend into the comforts of their underground residence. The shelter was partially housed inside a concrete silo that
embellished every modern amenity. A fully serviced gourmet kitchen, sauna, steam showers in two full-sized bathrooms, a living room adorned with thick brown leather pull out sofas, equipped with every electronic entertainment gadget, six bedrooms and a mess hall that included living quarters for their staff. Exterior cameras gave them all a complete spectrum of the ranch. A console that came right out of NASA technology was at their fingertips thanks to Phillips engineering skills. Little did they know that their neighbor Aggie was in such danger and heading to the ranch for shelter until Andy McAllister junior
spotted on the surveillance screen their neighbors SUV in the field. “Well I’ll be darned, what the heck”, Andy blurted out as he scratched his head in bewilderment. They all gathered around the screen while Andy zoomed the camera in for a closer view. With the latest technological software, Andy was able to remove layered storm elements and focus on the automobile to see the family trapped. Swoosh, the twenty-foot silo door smoothly rose and a bright yellow snow caravan emerged to make its twenty-minute trek.

Aggie bundled up Sandy and Tom with woolen blankets. Prince nestled in-between the two for added warmth. The front windshield was partially missing and the cold wind was blowing almost uncontrollably inside the vehicle. Then there appeared a yellow hazy dot moving towards them and with a partial sigh of relief Aggie knew that help was on its way. Back at the underground shelter Mrs. McAllister was preparing a hardy beef stew dinner. Everyone was settled in after unpacking, taking showers, chatting about the storm and expressing their dramatic experiences. Aggie had a fresh bandage wrapped around her head and the children appeared to have lost all signs of trauma after playing computer games. Prince was asleep on a pillow. The New York cheese cake, brightly colored cupcakes for desert and frothy mocha drinks ended the night. After-all, it was a life threatening long day. They all decided to call it a good night. Aggie lay in bed under two white down comforters staring up at the luxurious cedar paneled ceiling trying to sleep. For hours she tossed and turned until the bare silence in her bedroom broke. It was a stifling, deafening, sharp metallic rippling sound that echoed throughout the shelter. She jumped up from her comfort zone and ran directly to the living room where everyone met at the console to view the screen display. The storm had stopped and a bright blue sky appeared framed inside a huge funnel of puffy white clouds. Out in the storm laden field over by the black SUV sat a very strange object, and it was not from this world. … (to be continued)