Friday, February 22, 2008

Still alive. Still kicking. Just crafting.


Yes, I'm still alive; I've just been busy making birds nests all week long, if you can believe it (and, come to think of it, why would you not?). If you are even remotely curious as to why I have been making birds nests for five days, then head as fast as your mouse click will carry you to Crafty Suzanne. If you could care less about birds nests, I'll be back over the weekend to astound you with other amazing feats; perhaps I can teach myself to juggle flaming knives between now and then, learn to 'click' in Xhosa, or, better yet, buy the orange Ducati of my dreams, and an orange leather jumpsuit to match. Now that's enough to get me to give up birds nests for a day or so.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tonight I dream in pink.


Last week, while in a pre-Valentine reverie, I pontificated on Love; not just about loving another inhabitant of Planet Earth, but also about loving (and pampering, and taking care of, and spoiling, and patting on the back, and being proud of, and doing something crazy for) yourself. It may come as a surprise to some of you out there, but I've actually only recently learned to take good care of myself. Perhaps it took many years of living to "get it", or maybe I had to have my heart broken a few times to finally understand, or, it could be that I just got tired of waiting for someone else to do the things that I wanted/hoped/wished/expected to be done for me, but one day I just woke up and simply decided that there is no shame in being an independent woman who loves herself with an open heart (quirks, flaws, cowlicks, and all) and just got busy doing those special things for myself.

With tomorrow being the oft-dreaded Valentine's Day, don't feel like you have to fit into any sort of pre-fabricated Hallmark Card/1-888-GetFlowersOrElse!/Lifetime Movie of the Week mold. Instead, consider doing something crazy and special just for you; get a massage, drink a chocolate martini, buy yourself a pair of wildly sexy jeans, jump out of of an airplane (wearing a parachute, please). For it's only when you own your life, that bonafide happiness suddenly tippy toes up behind you, as silent as a Ninja, with two dozen long stemmed roses a bottle of 10 Cane Rum, some fresh mint, and a new muddler for making late-winter mojito's , a box of Godiva Chocolates a first class ticket to Tanzania for the annual migration, a diamond tennis bracelet a 1970 Pink Dodge Challenger RT.

Tonight, I dream in pink. Sweet, sweet, muscle car pink.

Happy (early) Valentine's Day!

Love,
Suzanne


CHOCOLATE MARTINI
Ice
2 ounces chocolate liqueur (like Godiva or Creme de Cocoa)
1 1/2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce grated chocolate

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, then add chocolate liqueur and vodka. Cover, shake briskly, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish top of cocktail with a bit of grated chocolate, sit back and enjoy.

Makes 1 Serving.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cholesterol rising

Last night I ate--despite the fact I have suffered through years of finger wagging, and looks of consternation from my physician about my cholesterol--pork rind risotto. I can't say for sure how many calories or how much cholesterol was stuffed into this dish, but I'd wager that there were no less than thirty million calories, and a lifetimes' worth of bad cholesterol. Remember how just yesterday I was crowing about how mamposteao was the best rice dish I had ever tasted? Well, I'm very sorry, mamposteao, but you are now being relegated to the number two spot. The new winner is Risotto de Chicarron, a rich (no surprise given that it's filled with pork fat and cheese, and God know's what else--probably butter, ten egg yolks, and Crisco, with my luck) creamy dish, that tastes like a grown-up version of rice and cheese. The owner of Ropa Vieja brought it to us with his compliments (hard to believe, I know, but this was before the dish ropa vieja arrived, with a side order of mamposteao), and I swear on a stack of bibles that I had planned on taking just a tiny taste, as to not seem ungrateful for this lovely gesture, but after that first tine-full, I was like a feral cat on a can of sardines; there was no way I was not going to make short work of the entire, delicious dish, then afterwards lick my chops, and wish I had more.

Today I am planning on drinking at least sixty gallons of water before dinner in the hopes of somehow washing away some of the damage I have done to my arteries since arriving in Puerto Rico on Wednesday. But of course it is our last night here, and having only gained thirty one pounds in three days, I really want to make it an even forty before lift off tomorrow. Given my track record this past week, that shouldn't be all too difficult.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Jay, and the Theory of the the non-exisent baby pigeon


Forget Rome; no amount of lobbying will convince me that Puerto Rico should not be the Pigeon Capital of the World. The other day over cocktails by the pool, while surrounded by a Hitchcockian amount of pigeons (oddly, I've yet to see a single seagull here, despite the fact that we are mere steps from the beach), Jay asked me if I have ever seen a baby pigeon, and, after a minute or so of head scratching, I had to admit that I indeed had not. As validation to you skeptics out there, I offer this photo as proof; as you'll see in Exhibit A, there is nary a baby pigeon to be found in the entire feathered lot. Befuddled by this revelation, I pressed Jay for an explanation; were there somehow, by some feat of nature, no baby pigeons....at all? Alas, Jay assured me that there are indeed baby pigeons on this green earth, but they are so coddled, and spoiled, and pampered by their doting parents (sounds like my town of Chappaqua), that they are not allowed to leave the nest until they are--as this photo I snapped on my camera phone just yesterday will attest--fully grown.

Just bit of interesting avian trivia, from Jay, at the pool bar, in sunny Puerto Rico.

Bold Claims and Goat Stew


It's 10:00 am in San Juan and I just got back from a rigorous workout at the hotel gym, where I attempted to sweat out of my pickled body the seven hundred cocktails, and five billion calories I've consumed in the past forty eight hours. To say I've been on an eating jag is an understatement; I came here to eat my way through San Juan, and, overachiever that I am, that's just what I've been doing.

Last night we had a superlative dinner at a restaurant in Condado, called Ropa Vieja. I actually went there for the classic dish, ropa vieja, but the goat stew caught both my eye and attention as the owners confidently claimed it was "The Best in the World." Now, I can claim many things about myself; I'm a trustworthy friend, I have a wry sense of humor, I am pretty good in the kitchen, I like to think I'm a decent writer and designer. But, Best in the World??! That's a bold statement, and one you better be able to back up. So, I called them on their brazen claim, and ordered the goat stew with a side of rice and beans, and for a starter, a cazuela of cuttlefish broiled in garlic and wine. Jay--our faithful dining and drinking buddy for the past two evenings, and always open-minded and enthusiastic about new foods and experiences, which is what I love about him--engaged in a lengthy and passionate dialogue with the owner about the difference between Cuban and Puerto Rican rice and beans (for those who care, Cuban is black, Puerto Rican is red), and the next thing we knew, the most delicious rice and bean dish I have ever tasted--Mamposteao--was delivered to our table. Even Jay, who just lost twenty pounds on a low-carb diet, and has ten more to go, couldn't resist throwing Atkins out the window, and dug in to this traditional Puerto Rican dish with gusto. I cannot wait to get back home to make it, test it, and share the recipe.

But let's move ahead to the goat, shall we? (I'm not dismissing the tender, juicy and superbly garlicky cuttlefish, but I have tanning and cocktails by the pool to get to after all). The goat stew--tender pieces of lamb, still on the bone--simmered for hours with tomatoes, and onions, and peppers, and traditional Puerto Rican spices, was so meltingly tender, so stuffed with flavor, that I actually closed my eyes after the first bite, and took a deep breath, like I had just witnessed something incredibly moving. The rice was perfect, and I used it to sop up all the flavorful tomato and lamb broth, and then grabbed a wedge of bread and mopped up the rest; when I was done, all that was left on my plate were the picked-clean lamb bones, and a few bay leaves. I have not had many stews made of goat in my life, but the ones I have had pale in comparison to the dish last night at Ropa Vieja. Of course we are going back this evening to try the actual dish, ropa vieja; if it is anything like the Best in the World Goat Stew, I may never return back to New York.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A civilized human being once again


What a difference a hot shower, a great hotel plopped on a slice of San Juan beach, a nap by the pool, and a glass of wine makes! Here I am, feeling almost human again (a hot meal with a heaping side of rice and beans would tip the scale), and feeling quite silly for wanting to pummel that poor pilot; as if it was his fault that his microphone was static-y, and he was raised by Type A parents. Tonight we head to the Parrot Club with Jay, a good friend of ours who is always up for a rollicking good time, and who can drink even the most seasoned sot under the table. Jay makes W.C. Fields look like the Queen Mum, which is why I love hanging out with him; he is smart, and funny, and colorful, and irreverant; a jumble of ideas, and witticisms, and sidebars, and...well, all sorts of good stuff. A fun evening awaits.

The Bloody Mary glass is half empty


Well, here I am, cruising at 500 miles per hour, at an altitude of 33,000 feet (I know this because the pilot has informed us of this over the static-y intercom not once, not twice, but three times—in both English and Spanish—within the past forty minutes, along with the current temperature—72 degrees—and our landing time, 11:25 am) en route to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. I am in a particularly crotchety mood today, having been startled out of a somewhat peaceful slumber by a medium-sized black bear foraging for berries in my bedroom at 2:30 am, and causing quite a ruckus, I might add. Ok, so it wasn’t a black bear precisely—I sometimes tend to exaggerate a tad—but rather, I was rattled awake by Jerry’s snoring (which, in my defense, at the time honestly did sound like a bear may have somehow gotten into the house. Hey, we had a groundhog sleeping like a newborn baby in the living room once; anything is possible.) Anyway, either I’m sleeping lighter, or he’s snoring louder, but it’s now 8:01 am, and I have already been up for five and a half hours, which explains: 1. my prickly mood, 2. the Bloody Mary sitting in front of me, despite the fact that most Americans are standing in line at Starbucks waiting for their Grande House Blend at this hour, and, 3. the somewhat irrational (I admit) desire to punch our pilot in the brain run madly up and down the aisle, arms flailing, and eyes bulging in classic Looney Tunes fashion, shouting "What in the bloody world do I have to do to get some peace and quiet for Heaven's sake???" if he gets back on that blasted intercom to tell us one more time—in English, Spanish, Urdu, Swahili, or any other language he might pull out of his captains hat—the cruising speed, altitude, or ground temperature at any point between now, and when we touch down at his thrice promised 11:25 am landing time.

Anonymous and "The Notebook"

It's 4:15 am and I am about to get in a car that will drive me to John F. Kennedy airport, where I will, with a little luck, hop a plane to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once I arrive safely on Puerto Rican terra firma, my grand plan is to gorge myself (if my personal trainer is reading this, please move on to the next blog, if you will) pork-based foods, drink plenty of brightly-colored, umbrella-ed cocktails, and hopefully amuse my readers back home with sagacious stories of my rum-fueled hijinx. But before I depart, I feel compelled to address a reader--Anonymous (very clever)--who posted last evening that "The Notebook" should have made it onto Suzanne's 29 Favorite Romantic Movies list. Anonymous, I actually did contemplate adding The Notebook, to my list, but having not seen that particular tear-yanker, and wanting to maintain a smidgen of journalistic integrity, I chose to not add it. But, you know what, Anonymous? I really wanted to include Lost in Translation, but was torn; I was trying to keep the list at 29 (for the 29 days of February), so The Graduate made the cut as it seemed to be more of a classic love story, even though I connected more with quirky, loveable Bill Murray, rather that despondent, oddball Dustin Hoffman. But I digress, as usual. The point of this early morning posting is to say that, 29, be damned; I WILL add The Notebook to my list, and I promise that when I get back to New York on Monday I will rent it and watch it with a box of tissues, and you in mind. And, by crackie, Lost in Translation is going on there as well, because that's been eating at me for days; I should have included it from the get go, and have you to thank for reminding me of that. So, now that two new movies have been added to Suzanne (and Anonymous's) 31 Favorite Romantic Movies, I can finally head to Puerto Rico.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Love, Daniel Day Lewis, and a Box of Kleenex


If you read my journal from Allhallows Eve, then you know that I'm a slasher flick kind of girl at heart (as long as it's not my heart being slashed, of course), but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good, old-fashioned love story as well, be it the tear-activating, two-box-of-Kleenex variant, or the effervescent, feel-good, Meg Ryan sort. Jerry usually pretends he's humoring me by watching along, but then I'll glance over at him three quarters of the way through the movie, and he'll be totally engrossed; brow furrowed, and eyes misty if it's the scene where the heroine is about to gasp her last earthly breath, or, smiling like he just won the lottery if the two lead stars—after one hour and forty-eight minutes of mistaken identities, misconceptions, and misunderstandings—finally figure out that they're meant to be together after all.

Love stories either make you feel better about your own life ("Thank God I have someone who's not dead, like that poor, burned, Ralph Fiennes"), or worse ("Why can't you be more like Hugh Grant?"), but they always touch our hearts, which is why we keep going back for more. So, in the spirit of Valentine's month, I've compiled a list of my 29 favorite romantic movies. It goes without saying that watching a handful of chick flicks won't inspire your significant other to magically be like Hugh Grant or, (a pre-collagen injected) Meg Ryan, but hopefully they will remind you of the most important thing in life, which is, of course (as if you needed me to tell you this!) sweet, delicious, love.


SUZANNE (and ANONYMOUS'S) 31 FAVORITE ROMANTIC MOVIES (in no particular order, with the exception of number one)
  1. Last of the Mohicans (I'll confess; this is my number one pick)
  2. Love Actually
  3. When Harry Met Sally
  4. You've Got Mail
  5. Dr. Zhivago
  6. King Kong (I love the 2005 Peter Jackson version, but the original will do just fine. Whatever you do, skip the dopey 1976 version with Jessica Lange.)
  7. The Princess Bride
  8. The Age of Innocence (more wonderful Daniel Day Lewisness)
  9. Sleepless in Seattle
  10. Gone with the Wind
  11. Titanic
  12. Shopgirl
  13. Moonstruck
  14. The Way We Were
  15. Green Card
  16. A Room with a View (Oops...More DDL; Do you see a pattern emerging?)
  17. Casablanca
  18. It's a Wonderful Life
  19. The Quiet Man
  20. Out of Africa
  21. Say Anything
  22. The Piano
  23. Witness
  24. Annie Hall
  25. Moulin Rouge
  26. Castaway
  27. Truly, Madly, Deeply
  28. The Graduate
  29. The Misfits
  30. The Notebook
  31. Lost in Translation

Friday, February 1, 2008

Love is in the Air


Welcome to February, the month where fleshy cherubs shoot love-dipped arrows through the hearts of unsuspecting souls. The truth is, love is not quite as effortless as the greeting card designers, and the flower shoppes, and the candy makers would like us to think; my parents have been married for fifty years this October and I'm fairly certain if questioned, they'd both agree that no amount of Godiva chocolates has kept them together for half a century (although my father might hesitate before answering; he sure does like his dark chocolates).

Love is wonderful and magical when it falls into your lap unexpectedly, like a gift from the heavens. Your heart beats at a quicker pace, you can barely think clearly, or breathe properly; you find yourself smiling more, sleeping less, feeling young and optimistic, and filled to the brim with happy. Of course, that sweet, sweet reverie doesn't last forever, and inevitably the ordinariness, and everyday ups and downs seep in through the small fissures and cracks of life, and you not only sleep, but snore! You no longer feel young, and fresh, and light hearted, but instead, somehow become weathered, and craggy, and weary.

But what better time than February—the month of love—to stem the flow of ho hum by falling back in love with your special someone? Or, if you happen to be sans significant other, or just simply at a crossroads in your life (and, there is no shame in that, by the way—enjoy it!), then by all means, fall head over heels in love with yourself. The clock is not about to stop ticking, and the calendar continues to flip forward, so what are you waiting for? Go skinnydipping at midnight under a sliver of a moon. Pack a bathing suit, a pair of flip-flops and a sarong, and book a trip to South Beach for the weekend. Take salsa or tango lessons. Head into a salon and come back out with a totally new look (and for Heavens' sake, don't worry about the pricetag). Jet to Paris on a whim. Buy impossibly sexy shoes. Drink champagne on a Monday. Hop in the car and go on a road trip to nowhere. Whip up a batch of yummy homemade chocolate body paints, and pretend your Gaugin, and that your lovers tummy is a canvas.

The point is to bring back a smidgen of that magic you felt when you were younger, and were filled with more hope and happiness than you imagined your body could possibly hold, when you thought anything and everything was possible. You don't need a lover to feel in love; you simply need to love your life and yourself. I challenge you to make it your mission in the next twenty-nine days to do something that you wouldn't normally do today; perhaps something crazy and wonderful you did when you were a younger version of the person you are at this very moment. And I invite you to share your experiences with me at suzanne@summerologist.com. In return I will be sharing my own frivolities with you over the course of the month, starting with my trip to Puerto Rico next week. Here's to a month of love in the air, and especially in our lives.

Love,
Suzanne

C
HOCOLATE BODY PAINTS
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Place cream and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Mix in chocolate, and stir until smooth. Remove chocolate mixture from heat, pour into bowl. When warm to touch, creatively apply to body with your fingers or small paintbrushes from the craftstore. Any leftovers (HA!) can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for about a week.