Tuesday, August 30, 2011 Outdoor Dining and Safety - Common Sense? Not so much.

About two weeks ago we had a pretty bad "accident" in Stamford - a 92 year old guy drove his car into a cafe injuring 10 people. However, I hesitate to call it an accident as it could have been totally avoided.

Never mind the guy is 92 years old, never mind the food ain't that good. I'm going out on a limb here and declaring this an avoidable situation - a FORESEEABLE situation. There's a handicapped parking space pointed right at the glass front cafe!

Common sense ain't so common.

Today I took my ass on an in-depth investigatory walk around town, studying some of the outdoor dining options and their relative safety. I am not an expert, I just have an IQ.

Here's one of downtown's newest hot spots (also reviewed by OmNomCT) Zaza Gastrobar.

As you can see, the customers are somewhat shielded by the heavy duty planters. They seem to be somewhat sturdy, but I bet they can easily be knocked over if a car were to jump the curb on Broad Street. Cars travel at quite a clip in Stamford, with little respect for pedestrians. But I have to give them props for not having any parking spaces pointed towards the diners.

Around the corner I found numerous outdoor eateries. The poor bastards eating at Butterfield 8 have zero protection from the cars pointed towards them. But, I never see anyone eating there anyway, so the odds are in safety's favor.

Diners at Chez Jean-Pierre are right out in the sidewalk and across the street at Capriccio Cafe and Lucky's Burgers the customers are somewhat protected from cars shooting out from Spring Street, but they're mostly left out in the open.

Now I understand the importance of outdoor dining in Stamford. I remember when it wasn't allowed, and I do think it's great for whatever "culture" we have here in Lower Fairfield County. But it's time for a little common sense in the planning and zoning of these eateries. It's good business. You don't want your customers getting injured at your establishment and Stamford doesn't need the negative publicity that stems from the news coverage.

Thn!k about it - I mean, think about it.


Monday, August 29, 2011 I Survived Hurricane Irene

Of course I don't have any pictures to go along with that snappy title. But I did, indeed, survive - so did my garden :)

It's been a rough couple weeks here, I guess I've fallen into the not-postingadamnthing rut. Can't quite put my finger on why - but I'm on it. I shall do better.

Pre-hurricane we went to Silverman's Farm in Easton, CT to do some apple and peach picking. For 29 bucks you get a big bag to fill with as much as you can. We walked out of there with 23 pounds of fruit. My friends and neighbors were the real winners in this situation. I gave a pie to my downstairs neighbor, an apple-peach biscuit bake to my next door neighbor and to my rock star friends down the road (plus a half dozen peach muffins that IMO weren't really that good. Sorry you guys, it wasn't my recipe, but it seemed the two I ate were overflowing with baking soda) and, of course, I made two biscuit bakes for my other neighbor and us to share - so it was a bakeitty bonanza here for a couple days. And I STILL have fruit left! Even after a day without electricity!

We lost our power early Sunday morning, just when the storm was "hitting" - I put it in quotes because it wasn't that bad a storm here. It was in other places - East Haven lost about 25 homes. Very sad. I suppose we lucked out with the landing of the storm and the placement of our building.

Our apartment faces west, so the first half of the storm didn't kick any wind and rain our way. I could see it and hear it going down the road - at 2:00 AM I would have sworn there were cars going down the road, but it was just the wind beating the rain down into the pavement that made the sound of wet tires going by.

I slept on and off and as the sun came up and the lights went out and the day went on. I was only concerned about my tomatoes as I'd moved the garden up against the inner wall of my porch. The tomatoes are tied to the netting that protects my garden from evil squirrels so I was unable to move them, I just tied them up as best I could and kept an eye on them.

The back end of the storm was actually pretty windy for us. And because we didn't have power (and it wasn't raining at all) most of the windows were wide open. I tell ya, a few of those wind gusts picked up the building for a moment. I totally felt it move. The tomatoes were getting pushed around a lot, I had to re-tie some of it, and one of my basil plants got bent over so I had to tie that one up, too.

But that's about it. The building across the way lost half a shutter. The beach where I've been exercising (up to 29 miles a week!) is destroyed - not a total loss, but enough damage that I don't think I'll be able to do laps there anymore. And the private part of the beach where I used to lie in the sun has washed away. It'll be interesting to see what the city does about it. Maybe they can use the money they were going to waste on fireworks to fix the park.

Food wise we did well. We stuffed the freezer with ice and perishables, barely opened anything, had the grill for the hot dogs we had left over from the picnic. I made a bruschetta topping with tomatoes and basil from the garden. We reheated pizza and made tea on the grill. I even bought mini-potatoes for the grill but we never got to them. The power came on this morning.

So tonight I'm having the last few apples from Silverman's with brie kept on ice and mini-potatoes on the grill.

Farewell, Hurricane Irene. You will not be missed.


Friday, August 12, 2011 The Big Bash Busts

Yesterday was our big bash at the beach - I invited over 40 people - we got 8, plus my husband and me. Ten people - with food for 20 plus.

I'm gonna be eating burgers and dogs for a long ass time.

Those of us who were there had a good time, but I am disappointed in the response. As it usually goes some people RSVP and some don't and still show - so we were counting on that when we bought the food. Calls on Facebook for people to show went unanswered.

Pasta salad, potato salad, quickles - I'm afraid I'll be sick of them all by tomorrow.

Just the effort to bring it all down to the beach was overwhelming - my husband is hobbling around as I type.

And I don't want it all to sound like sour grapes, but it kinda is, and it's all playing into a major decision. I know I've cut back on the dinner parties recently, because of the heat, because my bunny is getting old and we don't want him to end up under any one's foot, because people don't show when they say they will and do show when they don't. I'm sure it's not an intentional lack of respect, but the end result is the same - I'm left with too much food, not enough guests and a little pissed off and let down.

So, no more of that!

From now on dinners will be limited to 4 invites. With Dave and I that makes 6 of us in the house, plus the aged bunny. Let's see if that does anything to restore my sanity.

And I'm wondering if Headbanging Hostess nights at the Piedmont are even worth pursuing. If I can't get people to the beach for free food how am I gonna get them to pay for it.

Not a good feeling.

I'm not trying to be a downer, just a realist. Maybe I've seen my headbanging hay day and from now on it's all downhill. I'll keep an open mind and not try to judge it all from one party - but I'm very aware that you can't get BBQ sauce from a stone. Things change, and that's okay, I just need to keep up with the changes and learn to love them, whatever they may be.

I still have some great music to cook to, so I'll be continuing with the videos, they'll just be few and far between.

On an up-note I'll be teaching dinner party classes for Trumbull and Ridgefield adult education in October - more details to follow. The class is called Dinner Parties Made Easy and is focused on menu planning - obviously not guest-getting because I'm apparently lacking in that department.

Yeah, I'm bummin', can you tell?

I'll also be teaching a Ten-Minute Playwriting class in Ridgefield. Catalogues will be mailed at the end of August and information will also be available on-line.

I'm going to try to make this a good day, so off I go.


PS - Would you go to a Headbanging Hostess night at the Piedmont or another club? 15-20 bucks for food and some entertainment? Please let me know in the comments below.

Friday, August 5, 2011 Healthy Dinner for Women Over 30

I have a friend in the Exercise Science program at NCC. I've been e-mailing her questions about my exercise routine. One question was about breathing and the other about running. I gave myself a good case of bursitis trying to run - turns out I was doing it wrong. Nothing like learning how to run at 38. Actually, let's call it jogging.


She invited me to her house for a healthy dinner with a bunch of women over 30 - there'd be a speaker who'd talk about fitness and nutrition - and I thought, "why the F not?"

So I went.

It took me a while to find the house, but as I pulled up I realized this would be no Heavy Metal Sex in the City Broads night. Her front drive was filled with late model SUV's, not a Pink Missile sticker to be seen. But, have no fear, I went on in, happy to see my friend Lisa for the first time in a year and I met the speaker Laura. She was, of course, healthy and fit and well put together. Actually, that described most of the room. I was sorry I'd chosen jeans, as most of the women were wearing dresses - sundresses, I guess. Gosh, when am I gonna get a gay man to help me dress?

There was lots of information piled about regarding Laura's Boot Camp - an exercise regimen that most of the women were participating in. You could tell looking around the room that these women worked out - they looked great. One woman remarked that she's gone from a size six to a zero. Funny, because I've done just the opposite (actually two to six. My Hungarian breeding hips would never allow me to be a size zero).

We all sat down to a BEAUTIFUL dinner that my friend Lisa made - I should have taken pictures. Roast pork loin with grilled nectarines, spinach and feta, fresh fruit, whole grain bread, tuna and chick pea salad. The food was good and healthy - not a piece of chocolate covered bacon in sight.

The conversation turned to healthy eating and fitness - Laura, the speaker, organically turned the conversation to the benefits of clean eating. Now, I don't think I ever heard the term "clean eating" - but I know I did it, back when I was a buck-o-five. Oh, I wasn't perfect - I've always had a sweet tooth - but I used to be happy to call a bowl of fruit, yogurt and cereal a meal. That's healthy. Breakfast pizza with homemade tater tots, pork belly and organic eggs...? Not so much.

One woman shared her story of beating depression with exercise. That impressed me. She said she was on 400 mg of Welbutrin for 10 years and Boot Camp helped her lose it. I've been on 150 mg for over two years. Don't get me wrong, it's changed my life for the better, but I wonder if someday in the future I'd be able to give it up and replace it with fitness.

The same woman told us how her husband beat type 2 Diabetes with healthy eating and Boot Camp. Another powerful realization about how we treat our bodies and what they tell us. If we'd only listen more often.

I'm not listening to my body like I used to. Part of the problem is this layer of fat around my middle makes it hard to hear. The other part is my taste buds! Oh, have they been awakened to the joys of food - now I have a sweet tooth, a fat tooth, a cheese tooth, a pork tooth...you get the picture.

It was a great evening - I hope they'll be doing it again because I'd like to bring some of my peeps. I got a lot of great information and inspiration to stay healthy and keep at it, both eating healthy and staying fit.

If you are interested in Boot Camp you can contact Laura Boniello-Krout at laura@norwalkbootcamp.com or 203-604-9909. Or visit the website.

Lisa also has a blog called A Healthy You - please check it out, lots of great information.

And, while I'm at it, I have to give a plug to the hot Haitian Personal Trainer Eddy St Juste. Great guy and good person in Stamford - if you want one-on-one personal training he's your man. And a great gal and good person Heather who has a healthy and gluten free Facebook page.

I think that covers it, it's time to take my Welbutrin. Yoga later. Cantaloupe and watermelon from Gazy Brothers Farm. I'm on a roll. A hard roll with bacon, egg and cheese... Just kidding... Maybe.


Thursday, August 4, 2011 The Headbanging Hostess Goes Blueberry Picking