Bagels: A Remembrance

Topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion and garlic & salt

Photo courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker on Flickr

This morning, as I munched on my toasted “everything bagel” with butter, I was inexorably drawn back to my years in New York City, one of the bagel capitals of the world.

Prior to moving there, I had certainly had my share of these round wonders. Panera makes a fine bagel, if I do say so myself. However, there really is something to be said for the culture of bagels in New York, something I have experienced nowhere else.

In fact, by the time I had graduated from college, I declared myself to be a person who really didn’t like bagels. And if you just thought to yourself that I must be crazy for holding that opinion, get in line. My friends thought it was incredibly bizarre. I think I just had a natural aversion to them for years. I have never liked using bagels for sandwiches, either. Too thick and chewy for a sandwich, at least from my perspective. The idea of a plain bagel with cream cheese sounded incredibly unappetizing to me (in fact, it still does).

Google "NYC bagels" and this is what you get.

However, something shifted for me when I lived in New York. Not only are bagels everywhere – bodegas, delis, bakeries, cafes – but people line up for them like they’re going out of style. A distinct Sunday Morning Bagel Ritual takes place in hundreds of shops each week in that grand city, where thousands of people slowly gravitate towards their favorite local place to “get on line” and call out their regular order. And no two are the same!

I was in New York for five years but I probably didn’t appreciate the bagels there until the last two. At the last place I worked, they had Bagel/Donut Fridays. Usually there was no stopping me from partaking in a donut or two, but one day, I started noticing a particular bagel staring back at me. I later learned that it was called an “everything” bagel. On top of these round creations are poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, dried onion, and salt.

Craving something salty to go with my sweet donut, I tried one. I loved it.

Everything bagels renewed my palate for this local delicacy. They’re insanely messy to eat and you will spill no less than three thousand pieces of bagel debris on yourself while you eat it, but the mixture of flavors can’t be beat. I became a total convert.

And! I even started frequenting Brooklyn Bagels in my neighborhood (though I lived in Astoria, Queens). There was one on Broadway around the corner from me and they had a great array of things to eat, including French Toast Bagels, which I don’t even have to say were amaaaaaziiiiing. One had to get to this place before 10am on Sundays or there would be at least a fifteen to twenty minute wait. It was worth it, though.

Like the rug in The Big Lebowski that tied the room together, frequenting my local bagel shop for my “usual” really solidified the love I had for my neighborhood, and even living in that enormous metropolis. (Astoria rocks and if I were to move back to New York City, I’d totally live there again.) I have extremely fond memories of getting breakfast at Brooklyn Bagels with Kevin when we were first seeing one another. Can you beat an everything (or French Toast) bagel with a cappuccino? I propose that you can not.

While I now have to settle for buying my everything bagels by the half dozen in a bag from the supermarket, toasting them myself and buttering them, they still bring forth these treasured memories which I hold dear to me.

Bagels are more than just “something to eat” in New York City. They are an experience. They are New York.

A satisfying breakfast to say the least.

Magical sleep powers

Does this happen to anyone else? I won’t be able to solve a problem or find the answer to something, I’ll go to sleep and bam – I’ll have a dream about it or wake up with the knowing answer.

This happened to me just recently over a weekend when I had to go in to the office to do some work. I was reconciling a credit card statement and didn’t have a receipt for one of the transactions. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what on earth it was and why I hadn’t saved the receipt or note of it along with everything else. I ravaged my emails and nary a note was to be found regarding this one receipt. My shoulders hunched in failure and I was dreading having to tell someone that I couldn’t explain the charge (though it seemed familiar and was bugging the hell out of me).

I finished up my work and went home, trying not to think about it. That night, I dreamt about the situation and the answer came to me while I slept: the same person to whom I owed an explanation about the charge had told me verbally a few weeks before that she was putting something on the card and there was no receipt for it. The reason I didn’t remember was because I had never done it in the first place! The relief that flooded through me was immense.

And then I was like, what the hell, brain, how come you couldn’t have figured that out twelve hours ago?

I find the power of the subconscious incredible. When it’s completely relaxed without the stressors of daily life, it becomes my own personal superhero.

I can’t tell you how often this happens to me, though. It could be that I misplace something valuable, that I’m anxiously waiting for something to happen (like a check clearing), and then for whatever reason, I will dream how I want it to get resolved and usually it comes to fruition. Am I psychic? I’m not a god and I didn’t even need twelve years of Catholic school to know that. (Please tell me a few of you get that reference.)

I will say that I only use my powers for good and that for whatever reason that this does happen to me, I like it a lot. It’s not as cool as an invisibility cape, but it’ll do.

Lastly, for your entertainment, I am linking to a particular scene in one of my all-time favorite films. Because you can never have enough Groundhog Day. Amen.

Soapbox

Bath and Body Works Soap

Photo courtesy of danabronsteter on Flickr

A couple of years ago, I made the decision that from then on out, I was going to be a “fancy” soap buyer. I was doing away with the dimestore soap. Does anybody even use the word dimestore anymore? I know nobody says “five and dime,” though I think that is just the cutest name ever for what we now call Dollar Tree. Not knocking on Dollar Tree – you can get some deal$ there.

I have tangential nostalgia issues.

Back to the soap. This morning, we ran out of hand soap in the bathroom. I know, right? Call the newspaper. That is, if you still have one in existence. Anyhow, it wasn’t just the end of the soap, it was the end of the water+soap mixture in the bottom of the bottle, as well. That’s srs bsns. If you don’t know what I just said, that’s internet speak for, “We’re not messing around.” It’s time to get thee more soap when the watery stuff is gone. I will like, freak out if I don’t have something proper cleansing my hands. (For me, bar soap is a last resort, though I will use it.)

Being the internet addicted diva that I am, I promptly sat down at my computer and browsed Bath & Body Works’ array of fine hand soaps for a few minutes and took advantage of their sale. (Do they ever not have a sale?) Five more bottles of hand soap are now on their way to me. Side note: they’re already using words like Spook-tacular and have Halloween-themed bottles of soap. Really?

Back to the point about how I purchased five bottles of soap. You wouldn’t think two people would need so much. We really do go through it faster than you’d think. At least, those of us who frequently hand wash do. Plus, the extra bottles let me decide which scent I feel in the mood for and then I don’t have to get in the car and go somewhere each time I run out. Which, as we’ve established, is at a rapid clip.

Whatever it is about B&BW’s soap, it feels “fancy.” And they know it. They have me in their Target Demographic sights and I have been pulled in. I’ve bought whatever they’re selling and I come right back to the trough for more. Some people prefer to shop at Crabtree & Evelyn or Williams Sonoma for their fancy soaps. All well and good. But I feel comfortable with the bright colors and hundreds of scents that they manage to re-create each year, not to mention the slightly-more-fancy-than-average plastic packaging that B&BW offers.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I think a person is slumming it if s/he doesn’t have fancy soap. Plenty of people are perfectly fine with a bar of Zest adorning their faucet. For a long time, the “aquarium” series from SoftSoap adorned my own sinks. Good smell, decent soap, average price, available just about everywhere. Somewhere along the way, after trying B&BW’s soap, I decided to stick with it. For a Super Smeller Girly Girl like myself, it just seemed the natural thing to do. I get to mix it up with the smells and textures and my hands will come away clean, soft, and amazing smelling. Win win win.

Plus! If I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to trudge up to the mall to face society and consumerism, shopping online in my pajamas affords me the luxury of having the soap brought to me, not to mention the fact that I don’t have to talk to any sales clerks or wait in line behind the woman trying to return used antibacterial hand gel.

All pluses.

All of this having been said….Are we amazed at my ability to discuss something as innocuous as soap yet? Fancy soap on my sink is like Folger’s in your cup. If ya know what I mean, and I think ya do.

You get what you pay for and other -isms

If ever there were a catchphrase that embodied me, it would be, “You get what you pay for.” I have stood by this time and time again and it continually rings true. That isn’t to say you can’t get a sweet deal at Dollar Tree – you can. (Especially at Christmastime – wrapping paper and tags helloooo!) But you know you’re not going to throw a fit if you buy a glass from Dollar Tree and it breaks in a week because hey, it was just a dollar. You can go back and get another. You can laugh and go, “Well we got a dollar’s worth of use out of it.”

I have yet to find a situation or product to which this aphorism is not apropos. When I bought my first real designer purse a few years ago (a Coach, if you must know), I got my money’s worth. There is a huge, vast difference between buttery, hand-crafted leather, heavy zippers, silk or satin lining, and quality hardware on a purse versus what one can buy at Target, Kohl’s or Marshall’s. And I rocked a purse from Target in New York City when I first lived there. I got my twenty-five bucks worth and then some; and then I was able to throw it away when it fell apart on me.

I purchased my very first Kate Spade bag in May and it’s everything I thought it would be and more. Totally worth making my credit card cry. It’s been a dreamboat of a handbag, if that makes sense. And! I know that by properly taking care of it, I will get years of use out of it.

My dearest dude Kevin thought I bought into this whole thing a little too much but even he has had to concede the point much more as of late. Like my search for good moisturizer, he has been seeking out a pair of sunglasses that don’t crap out on him within two days. He went through two different pairs in a week before he relented and let me take him to a couple of places where he’d have to actually drop more than $30 (or $80, or $100) on sunglasses. I know what you’re thinking. At a certain price point, sunglasses become overpriced plastic. And you’re right! But there is a “sweet spot” with sunglasses and dropping $100-150 for a pair isn’t unheard of. These designers know what they’re doing.

Though we tried and tried and tried to find something at a reasonable price, there was nothing to be found that would fit him well, be comfortable and be worth the money. We landed at Sunglass Hut where all the designer sunglasses strutted their stuff and eventually he settled on an “inexpensive” pair of Ray Bans. $160 later, he is the hap-hap-happiest cool shades wearing guy out there – and they look great on him, too. Anytime I see them sitting out, I nudge him (by mentioning their price) to put them back in their hard case. It’s very motivating.

If any of you do not believe that “you get what you pay for,” I’d love to hear why not! If you do, what are you willing to pay a high price for? Sheets? Makeup? Silverware? (For me, all three.)

~~~

Writing about that catchphrase got me thinking about other colloquialisms and aphorisms that are pretty common – some more applicable than others.

  • When it rains it pours. Pretty self-explanatory. And something I am currently dealing with, if I’m gonna get all personal. It can’t be just one thing, it has to be a slew of things happening all at once, right?
  • Everything happens for a reason. I want to punch someone when I hear this one.
  • A stitch in time saves nine. Whatever.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. This one I actually kind of buy into, as well, because I am definitely a person who’d rather not take the risk and have something guaranteed, rather than gamble on gaining more.
  • Right church, wrong pew. I don’t quite know what this means but it’s funny and a friend knew it off the top of her head.
  • Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Yes! Though hardly anyone “gifts” horses anymore, if you do get one, don’t check its teeth. Just say thank you.
  • Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. A little confusing but basically it boils down to not doing something stupid and self-destructive out of revenge or hatred, because it’s just going to do you more harm than good.
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. My mother LOVES this phrase. It is irritating to hear when I want to overgeneralize and overreact, however.
  • There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Ew. But…also true.

Add in your favorite in a comment below!

“Happy” Tuesday – at least I hope you all are having a good one. I’m still mucking it up in the rain.

I need a scientist…

…to explain to me why microwaved coffee gets flat and nasty and awful. It’s barely drinkable!

It doesn’t matter if the coffee is fresh and it just needs a quick pick-me-up. It will turn into the dreaded flat, bodiless beverage I can hardly choke down.

This is not happy coffee, folks. No siree.

My 8 is your 6.

I can’t fight it any longer. I thought I could conform. But I’m relenting and just letting it be the way it is.

I, Zoe, am here to announce that not only am I a night owl, but I am not an early morning person. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy being awake in the morning. It’s not like if I wake up at 11am, I’m pissed off. But I’ve come to the conclusion that pretty much anything before 8am is awful and unnecessary. For me. You could be bright and chipper at 5am and if that works for you, that is fantastic. I don’t understand it but I will still applaud anyone who is able to follow their own body’s natural rhythms.

I like to stay up late – I always have. In high school, when classes started at dawn (8am sharp), I still went to bed at midnight to get up at 6 or 6:30. I remember standing in the shower, freezing cold as I had been wrenched from my warm bed and trying to get the water super hot, while at the same time also doing everything in my power to not give in and sit down on the shower floor and doze. (I gave in to this temptation on occasion, not gonna lie.)

I’m pretty sure I am a third generation night owl. Both of my parents have never been early-to-bed people. My dad is much less a night owl now than my mom, but my mom and her sisters are definitely late night people, where going to bed early is 1am.

For whatever reason, I “come alive” after 10pm. If I start doing something that absorbs my attention and energy (like editing photos, for example), I can do this for hours and not look up at the clock until it’s well after 12:30. The opposite happens for me if I’m up before 7:30 or 8am – I am completely dead and lethargic and I have to use every fiber of my being to stay awake and not be angry that I’m awake.

My problem is, is that even though my better judgment tells me to pack up and go to sleep, my inner night owl is shrieking at me. It’s throwing a temper tantrum at the thought of going to bed before 12am. And honestly, going to bed at midnight and getting up at 8 is totally reasonable for me. That feels natural. But for modern day society where a decent work hour begins at 8 or 8:30am, this becomes an issue. I have lost count how many times I’ve tried setting the alarm for 6:45 or even 7:15, vowing that tomorrow is going to be THE DAY I start my new waking-up-early routine. It never lasts.

Waking up early is like going on the South Beach Diet. You can stay strict for about a week or two before you totally lose your mind and binge on carbs. (You know what I mean.) I just can’t keep at it.

Those who have no problem waking up at 6am or earlier? That’s great – really. (Baffling! But great.) Essentially, your 6 is my 8. Eight o’clock is still a totally reasonable time to be up and get productive before it’s lunchtime. However, we’re strapped in by society’s demands that we all show up at an unreasonably early hour to get our day started. If I had my own business, I’d have the official work day start at 9:30 or 10. 9:30 is pushing it, though. My first job out of college, the work day started at 10am. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. People actually thought you were strange if you showed up before 10. I’m serious.

The only way this “natural body rhythm plan” of mine can work is if my dearest other half doesn’t mind if I start doing a bed-at-midnight-rise-at-8am schedule. I haven’t exactly consulted him about it yet. But I suppose he’ll read this post and then we’ll have a little chat. (Did I mention he likes to go to bed and get up early? He could sleep from 7pm-7am, though. He’s a sleeper.)

For the time being, I can bask in the knowledge that getting up at 8 still affords me to get to work by 9 since I don’t live in a city with tons of congestion during rush hour. I refuse to feel guilty or shunned about this any longer. I am freeing myself of the bonds of waking-up-earlydom. Eight is early enough, dammit.

So yeah, that’s pretty much it. Let freedom ring. Thank you and enjoy your weekend.

P.S. What’s up with early bird vs. night owl? Why has the bird become THE animal symbol on this topic?

An Exception to Every Rule

Some time ago, I realized that despite my usual cheerful demeanor, I do possess one grinchy part of my persona.

I really hate it when people whistle.

There is just something about the loud, piercing sound of it, even when someone is really, really good at it, that I cannot abide. I discovered that the cacophony sound made me want to stamp my feet and scream, “STOP IT!” at the top of my lungs; I made said discovery when I was in college and there was a guy in my class who was an excellent whistler. He could probably whistle Beethoven’s symphonies and make a decent living from the proceeds of an album.

My senior year, I lived in a series of dorms that were over a foot bridge and so were removed from the majority of the rest of campus. Apparently he lived there, also, as I could hear his whistling through my open window on many a day or night. I would seriously grind my teeth until he stopped or I could no longer hear him. Thank God I didn’t have to room with someone who did that all the time. There might have been a murder at my university.

This seething rage against the sound of anybody whistling shrilly and loudly has stuck with me. I have forbade my dearest other half from doing it. Thankfully he didn’t protest much, although he does like to tease me about it.

And yet.

As with all rules, there is at least one exception. Let me preface it by saying that there is a Christmas album that exists that is one of my all-time favorites. We had it on an actual record album when I was a kid. It’s called A Music Box Christmas. You can sample and even buy all of the songs from it on Amazon. It is seriously not Christmas until I listen to every song, start to finish, in their entirety. Generally I decorate my tree to it.

I have met all of two people in my life who don’t like the music. While I do my best to withhold judgment, it completely baffles me. If you like instrumental music and you like old-fashioned Christmas music/hymns, you will enjoy – and even rave about – A Music Box Christmas. It is an imperative staple for me during the holidays.

Back to the exception. My father has always, and still does, managed to whistle in harmony with the carols of this album. I find it endearing and actually miss it when I don’t spend the holidays with him. He is one of those people who can whistle through his teeth, which is a skill I definitely did not inherit from him. For whatever reason on this earth, that whistling is lovely, in tune, and the only time throughout the year or in my life that I welcome the sound.

Aren’t people strange creatures?

I don’t have an explanation but I know that unless you are my father,  it is Christmastime, and A Music Box Christmas is on, you are not welcome to come within any physical distance of me and be whistling. Or there will be consequences.

Do you hate whistling? What drives you absolutely crazy?

Rudolph or Ru-doff?

Over the weekend, I learned that out of myself, my other half, and our friend who was staying with us, I was the only one who pronounced the L in Rudolph (as in, Red-Nosed Reindeer).

Similarly, they also say Ran-doff instead of Randolph.

I have listened to several different versions of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and they ALL say the L, even if it’s not strong. It’s there! (Thanks, Bing!)

Ru-doff sounds like he’s from Jersey. Rudolph sounds like he just has a very old-fashioned name.

So I’d love to get your replies by putting a poll here.

How do you pronounce Rudolph?