Sunday, September 28, 2008

Trip To New York

I went to NY to visit N!! It was my second time in NY city but my first time as an adult. What an energizing trip! I wanted to share everything I saw with Mr. Siren so i snapped, snapped away with the camera, returning with 186 photos. I rode up on the bus which went straight from Dupont Circle to Penn Station, no stops, and it was only $42 round trip. N came to meet me at the stop and I waited for her for about 30 minutes. It was 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night and the city was ALIVE, people out walking in big crowds, lights flashing, traffic buzzing around- I was activated and ready to go after the 5 hour bus ride . . . whoo hoo!

We had so much fun, walking around all weekend nonstop. N lives in Harlem and she taught me how to ride around on the subway although I don't really understand it yet. But I do have a level of comfort with it, at least. On Day 1 we went to Chinatown. There are lots of things to see in Chinatown, such as:
1) TONS OF FOOD ON THE SIDEWALK, Like fresh produce (weird stuff, too), and FISH of all kinds

2) CHEAP KNOCKOFF sunglasses, handbags, jewelry, etc. etc. (I got a $5 pair of sunglasses, a new purse for $20, and some nice gold leaf earrings for $5. See how much you can afford in NY when your bus ticket was only $42?)


Then we went to Little Italy! I had heard about this great place for pizza from a coworker and was looking forward to a slice and a glass of wine all day. We thought to confirm with a shop owner that the recommended place was not a tourist trap and he sent us to a spot called Sal's pizza instead. It was like something out of a Billy Joel song- not touristy at all, no cafe street-side tables, just a hole in the wall joint with red-checked table cloths and a buncha photos on the wall. 2 slices each, a salad to share, and a carafe of house wine = $40 total. Can't beat it! We made friends with Enzo the baker and I think I have to go back there every time I visit NYC.

But before we ever got to rest our weary feet and get tipsy on wine and sated by slices, we took a nice little tour around the neighborhood. Little Italy has all kinds of shops with meat hanging up and cheese hanging up.

One window even had a little display with ships made out of cheese wheels and rinds. In one of the shops I got some amazing 12 y/o authentic balsamic vinegar- not the fake stuff- for under $20, imported direct from "the boot." We also got some little rice balls with meat in the center for a snack. Mmm.

And then we were off to see a Broadway show. A Chorus Line, starring Mario Lopez! You will not be able to see it, as it was the final week of performances and it is never to return. How lucky we were! We had great seats up in the balcony. On the way we passed the usual policewoman on horseback and stopped into the Mariott for a $15.00 MARTINI! I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT.

Next day was lounging around in Central Park. Now, Central Park is strange. To me. It is really a "grass beach." No, i did not hear anyone there call it a grass beach, i thought of that myself. I'm sure someone else has called it that, though. Because everyone in the section we were in was stripped down to their bathing suit, laid out on a towel, and had a friend or loved one rubbing suntan oil all over them. There were groups of scantily-clad folks engaged in athletic activities. And there were plenty of perverts to go around, delighting in the opportunities to pretend to read books while staring up every available crotch in sight.

Then in the evening we both experienced something wonderful: DIM SUM! A little place in Chinatown called Nice Green Bo restaurant. We walked past all of the same stuff from yesterday, except this time, the shopowners were tossing fish juice on our feet as we passed and we had to wipe them off once or twice. Ick! At Nice Green Bo we had tea, chow fun with cabbage and pork, some incredible sauteed or fried green beans, pork soup dumplings, and scallion pancakes and guess how much it all was? Guess? $20.00 TOTAL!!! I love NYC!!!

The soup dumplings were just ok, in N and my opinions. According to reviews when the restaurant used to be New Green Bo they were incredible and they have changed, and I think that fried dumplings would have been better, but you can't really pass up soup dumplings when offered. Still, next time I would pass at this place. Everything else was truly, truly amazing. The best scallion pancake I have ever had in my life. The chow fun we got was not on the menu. The green beans were out of this world if maybe a tiny bit too salty. Made ya thirsty for that tea!

The next morning we hit the Museum of Natural History before I boarded the bus back to D.C., but I'll post that in awhile since this post has taken forever!!

The Novel

I am still writing the novel. I have done the synopsis and the character outlines for the two main characters. It has been good to bounce ideas off of the Mister, my dad, a girlfriend, a coworker, and a friend serving time overseas, so far. I have approached everyone that I know who writes or knows someone who writes or is in publishing for advice! But a lot of it is dead ends. I'd really like to sign up for a class; the local arts center seems to have great writing classes for adults who are doing this exact thing, at all levels. No extra money right now, but I'll put a little aside and hopefully keep amassing enough material to join the more advanced group by the time I can sign up :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Writing a novel

The garden is not doing well, folks. I know the photos below look really great, and I can't wait to post the photos of the nice rows of lettuce as it began to pop its head up several weeks ago, but right now it is decimated by floods. I had planted some cute little tomato plants recently and they were trampled by floods too. I have no energy for the garden right now. Sigh. I'll post more pictures when Mr. Siren gets back in town. "Mr. Jetset" has been doing a lot of international travel for the past few months and I insist that he take the digital camera with him, so unfortunately I have not had the chance to upload any recent photos. Few more weeks and then you can cry with me!

I do have other news, though. I have made a commitment to myself to start writing a book, seriously, with an eye toward publication. I have no idea how this is going to go since it's going to take quite a bit of research. It's going to involve field research into federal prisons (something I know quite a bit about now), the armed forces (something many people I know, know quite a bit about), and Capitol Hill (well, at least I am well-located for those interviews.) I have an old tattered notebook with several fiction ideas that i've been dragging around with me for years, but a writer must write, and I want to at least try to write a complete novel before I'm 30. Maybe it will be a success, or who knows, at least I will get some experience in the hellish process. This idea is a new idea, though.

I guess i'll just have to write in the mornings and evenings and as for the field research- ?????. I'll keep ya updated. Should be interesting.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ready for Planting

After the garden had been sitting for a week, and I had made a couple half-hearted attempts to dig up the remaining strip, I began strategizing. Even should I dig the rest up, I did not own a rototiller. I could rent one, but did not know how to use one. I did not have a wheelbarrow to move the mountain of dirt! I just wanted to plant my plants!

My husband stepped in to save the day. "Hire someone!" he said. With this bit of encouragement I set about on yet another mission to find suitable hired help within my miniscule budget. It took 2.5 weeks to actually get someone to show up for the job, notwithstanding two fellows who actually had an appointed date and time!! But finally a nice woman from a nearby farm appeared with her own equipment and did the job while I was at work (coming home twice to check on her.) She never moved the mountain of dirt and it still sits there, nice and green now. One day we will move it.

So, BEHOLD, the garden ready for planting!

Looks beautiful, doesn't it? ahhhhhhhhhh . . .

So, what did I plant? Four rows of lettuce, none doing well to speak of now, a row of arugula, a row of mesclun greens. And growing inside, six kinds of herbs waiting to be transplanted, red and green pepper plants, tomato plants. Also planning to plant pole beans, zucchini, and maybe cucumbers.

I can't wait to pay for NO produce this summer! Oh i am going to plant garlic as well, but that is something that you plant in the fall, unfortunately.

The Novice Gardener

I am trying to grow a garden. I would say "we" but in reality it has been mostly me. So, step 1 was starting the seeds indoors in the winter. I got a nice seed tray and carefully and excitedly started the seeds. That will be a different post. But step 2 was getting a garden patch started.

Well, behold the jungle that was to be the garden. It was quite scary:

We had avoided this part of the yard for months, scared of the snakes, etc, we would find beneath these brambles. And they were thorny. But it was time to clear it, so I got to clearing. As you can see, i did have some small assistance from the mister on this part.

Once this part was cleared, what was left was a nicely cleared- a big- 11x16 patch of earth growing every sort of unidentifiable green thing. So, there was nothing for it except to dig it up. Yes, dig it up. With a shovel. I wanted to dig up all the roots of all living things, so that when I planted my garden, only things things I had planted would grow there. This was my novice idea. (A bit of foreshadowing, hmm? Seemed intuitive at the time.)

The digging part was so, so, so hard. I'm talking back spasms. It produced a "mountain of dirt" which grew next to the "mountain of brambles."

Slowly but surely, I personally dug up, down to six inches, the turf. To prepare a garden bed in your yard, you must dig up the yard, then remove all rocks you find. You must then rototill the soil and mix in a good topsoil. You must decide whether you want to do a raised garden bed or ensure that you have an area with good drainage, such as on a slope. All of this I learned in various gardening books and on the internet. Well, I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this digging. The Mr. helped for small spurts when I was so weary I was basically weeping, and bit by bit, it almost got finished.

The resulting mountain of dirt- this would be fun for kids if i had some: (see the brambles in the background?)

Since this is how the garden stayed for about three weeks after that, I'll make that the end of this post!! We have no wheelbarrow to move the mountain of dirt and I could not force myself to finish the strip to the right after the sheer amount of willpower and effort it took to beat my body into submission for the part you see completed. It just sat, and sat . . . . . while the seeds inside grew . . . :)

Intro from the Seeker

The Blog! The Blog! Finally i'm putting it up here! The problem is that I've had ideas for several different kinds of blogs . . . which has kept me from doing any of them. Well, i'm forging ahead here, for everyone's benefit (mostly my own) and this is just going to be one big blog of domesticity which reflects the sweeter side of life. With a little help from the mister I'll try to update as often as possible and family and cyber friends can stay updated on what my real life, up-to-the-minute personality is these days. (But you won't be bothered with my career or political musings here. That shall be a different, much more anonymous, blog . . .)

The title is also going to be the name of my boat, one day - and denotes my journey in this life. I seek Shangri-La- earthly paradise- a place to retreat and retire to away from the immense frustrations of the world I live in. I can see my parents and family members, including the mister, rolling their eyes at this statement, but thankfully, this is MY blog where I can tell the truth about my own thoughts! Here is a quick reference on the mythical Shangri-La:

My daily Shangri-La: right now is a slice of garden, my forays into cooking, and piles and piles and piles of books. Also, travel. I will share these with you. Bon appetit!