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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!

 

Ghostly Encounter and a Rusted Rimmed Tire

On my walk along the road side, I noticed that someone placed a large used truck tire with rusted brim up against a street sign. The perfect item to write a short story on how it may have ended up on the side of the road. This is part of a series about ‘Things I Find On The Side Of The Road.’ by Elizabeth McLaughlin
052017-9It was sunrise and there Frank sat at a worn out marbled linoleum topped, chrome legged kitchen table contemplating about that days work. Usually the last sip of hot strong coffee from his favorite diner sized ceramic mug always tasted its best! Being in the demolition business  presented a different challenge each day and often required going into Trenton where most of his client base resided. This particular job Jason was going to assist Frank with the removal of a dilapidated commercial warehouse and was already on his way to work. Although, Frank was a contractor he held  an intrinsic conservative work ethic rule. His grandfather always instilled into him that everyone was to be on time whenever it was his dime.
Trenton could be a very sketchy place to work and the warehouse location was far from being situated where modern industry flourished. Frank made a left hand turn onto Chambers Street and the only sign of life was an oversized rat scurrying across the broad street. Abandoned, skeletal framed warehouses were sandwiched in-between a few vacant row houses.  All scheduled for demolition to make room for future development. The old red Mac Truck made its way down a weeded, broken black top driveway, its heavy wide tires drove over parts of broken porcelain sinks and grey metal file cabinets. From a few partially glossed windows faux brown leather office reception chairs dangerously dangled and could crash onto the street at any given time. Jason stood at the entrance to the warehouse, holding two cups of coffee. “This place sure does look like the creepiest job site we have ever worked”, said Jason. Frank nodded and took a sip of coffee and placed it onto a window ledge and then reached into his denim coat pocket for a key to the padlock. And, with a stern look in his eyes, Frank ordered, “Today we have to inspect the structure and start moving some debris out, tomorrow the rest of the crew will come with heavier equipment.” Jason’s eyes almost rolled over thinking how dumb it was to think it really mattered unlocking the padlock because just a few feet away a portion of  metal siding was peeled off the exterior wall. However, Jason knew better and restrained his emotions because it would only stir bad feelings with his macho boss. Frank yanked the brittle deteriorating doors and suddenly both became unhinged, twisted and dropped with a loud bang landing at their feet. They peered upward to see a few wooden ceiling beams had collapsed.  “This building is supposed to be just debri”, Frank gasped. Jason could not believe it, huge wooden spools of cables lined the warehouse floor and at the far end on the second level he spotted a leaded glass enclosed room. “That must be the office, let’s check it out, we can get a better view from that platform”, Frank said. The rotted out wooden stairs were very unstable but Jason volunteered to be first and test its integrity. The antiquated staircase had two platforms and after arriving safely to the first it was Franks turn. Although Frank had a lifetime of experience dodging debri he still took cautious steps, one at a time only to feel the staircase swaying back and forth with each step taken. CRACK! One step collapsed under Franks weight but he was able to recover by balancing most of his weight onto the railing. Upon reaching the platform they both gazed in amazement at the expansive structure. Architecturally beautiful for its industrial days, massive wooden beams formed a linear perspective of pure elegance from the 1800’s. The sun shone a hazy beam of light through the roof-top. Pigeons circled and landed at the other end of the warehouse. “Those F-ing, stinking pigeons made nests inbetween all those iron beams.”, “Now, Terry did not tell me it was a warehouse for old suspension bridge parts. This could be part of the freaking Brooklyn Bridge”, screamed Frank! His voice echoed and bounced off the brick walls that created a massive scattering of  birds.” “Don’t scream too loud Frank, the platform might collapse”, “And, this has to be THE worse job ever case scenario that Terry pulled on us”, Jason whispered. They both decided it was still safe to continue their venture up an iron ladder and onto the next platform leading toward the office.
Oversized, dense spider webs draped the office entry. The wooden door creaked open and to their surprise a few old wooden filing cabinets with matching desks and chairs remained in near perfect condition. Time stood still for many years in this room, even the tops of desks had stacks of papers ready to be filed and a working Remington typewriter. An eerie, unsettling aura filled the toxic air mainly because of all the company portraits that hung on the mold laden cracked plastered walls. Directly in the center of the portraits displayed a photograph that stood out from the rest. It was an extremely angry moustached faced man, dressed in a typical period suit, hair parted down the center and slicked down.   Jason turned and said, “Oh man, this guy is the creepiest. Look at his penetrating eyes, Frank he is following us wherever we move, it seems.”, “I bet he must have owned the business, sorry Frank, but something is not right about his hands being mangled.” In order to gain a better view of the warehouse floor, Jason had to use his leather work glove to remove a thick coating of dust. Both turned their backs to the company portraits in order to glance out the leaded window frame when a distinct number of clicks caught their attention. “Did you hear what I just heard?”, murmured Jason. Frank replied, “Yes, it came from over at that desk with the typewriter.” A frozen tingling sense of fear overcame them that accompanied a natural reaction to panic and dart out the door. But no muscle could be moved.  Instead right before their eyes the gentleman in the portrait appeared in solid form with a grimacing worried smile and quickly faded into thin air. Their paralysis lasted for seconds but it felt like an eternity to the strong men. Suddenly, CRASH! The photograph flew off its holding nail and landed up against the filing cabinets. Picking through the pieces of glass, and overturning the gold leafed, hand carved frame they decided to peel off the thinly worn wood backing. Out fell a yellowed envelope and upon opening it discovered a notepad. Frank flipped through the pages to discover that it was a map of a bridge with hand-written engineering notes. In the introduction was written in elegant script, The Brooklyn Bridge Project.
Jason’s mouth dropped wide open in shocked disbelief. Frank read out loud a notation, “whoever finds this writ shall hold the key to unimaginable wealth!” “I don’t know exactly what we have here Jason, it needs to be studied in detail, so let’s get the hell out of here now!”, Frank said. The office door mysteriously slammed shut, Frank ran to it and grabbed the crystalline door knob. The solid door would not budge so Jason started to kick at it with his work boot. Still the door remained sealed which left the men with only one more option and that was to break the windows. They lifted up the heavy metal typewriter and threw it through the window and climbed over the radiators. It was a frightening experience and the men scrambled for the iron ladder, again Jason went first as it creaked and swayed with the bottom detaching from its brace.  Upon reaching the platform safely, Jason yelled up to Frank, “This is going to be extremely tough  Frank, I hope it can hold your weight!” Jason reached over to a pile of pallets and found a thick rope, attached it to the ladder and tied it to a beam. “This may help some, take your time.”, said Jason. Frank swung over and tightly grasped the iron ladder to make his decent, the upper brackets heaved back and forth, and with a sigh of relief, the rope did its trick. Quickly, Jason started to go down the stairs that swayed even more than ever before. He reached mid-point and the stairs just gave way, hurling Jason like a bouncing rubber band, suspending, darting back and forth over iron beams and spindles of industrial roping. It would not make for a soft landing, only to a pigeon. He clung to the railing screaming until it lodged itself between two wooden posts. Jason precariously positioned his body over the suspended railing. Jason pleaded with Frank, “you have to do something and quick buddy, I will not be able to hang here for a long time.” Frank looked around the platform and spotted the rope that was used to secure the iron ladder. It was long enough and a spools worth of roping. He made a huge thick knot and tossed the end to Jason.  Before he could secure the wooden spindle the iron beams gave way to the wood debris holding it up and Jason plunged down. The wooden spool holding the rope slid towards the edge of the platform and Frank did what he could and even placed his heavy body weight onto the spool to prevent it from moving further. Miraculously, the spool caught the edge of the platform side-wall just right and secured itself. Frank looked over the platform edge and could see Jason dangling, almost lifeless from the rope which he had tied around his waist. Jason looked up at Frank, and smiled and said, “I made it buddy. That was one hell of a staircase!” Jason was able to untie his lifeline and jump to the warehouse ground. Frank was feeling the heat, large beads of sweat dripped down his face. Jason knew it would be a complete embarrassment for macho Frank to call First Responders to save him, therefore, the only decision out of this mess for him was down that rope. Frank decided to make a harness rope, he learned about this process from the First Responders class. At the time he laughed about doing it and vowed that he would never have a need to use it. However, this training class came in handy and Frank was about to make his own primitive harness from a piece of rope and securing a military grade clip from his key chain. “Okay, I am coming down, it should be a breeze”, said Frank. And surprisingly it was, Franks sweat disappeared as he reached to safe ground. They both decided to take the rest of the day off and meet up early the next day at a local diner.
Frank turned his red Mac Truck onto route 206 and all that he could think about was surviving the day and the mysterious contents inside the notepad. That is, until the red Mac Truck dropped. “Shoot!”, said Frank. Yes, he had a blow out and the truck needed to be pulled over to the side of the road for its repair. Luckily he was prepared and had a spare tire on rim ready to go in the back of the truck.  Frank hobbled to the side of the truck, slowly bent down and made the necessary tire change and hopped back up into his cab forgetting the flat tire on the side of the road.
Mitch was travelling to work the next day and spotted the huge tire on the road, decided it was a danger to other vehicles and propped it up against the street sign. And this is how the rusted rimmed tire was found on the side of the road.

This Years Garden Box

I was hoping to be traveling and setting up the garden box at a new location but here it is summer again and still not on the road. I planted summer squash, tomatoes, assorted sunflower mix, lettuces, parsley, mint and peppers. So far there is growth coming up out of the soil and I look forward to this mix in the garden box. A beautiful hanging basket adds color until the seedlings grow up.

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Desert On My Mind

I wanted a brownie but all I have is meatballs. Tonight I over fried the meatballs to hard crusted shells. Brownies came to my mind and perhaps it was from a blog that I was reading that somehow left an impression. Now if I only had the proper ingredients and someone out there in culinary land has a recipe that can transform meatballs into brownies I could turn these meat bombs into something sweet!

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