I commute in to Penn Station on the Long Island Railroad (New Jersey Transit and Amtrak also use this station as a hub). This puts me right on 34th Street, where you’ll find amazing shopping for blocks and blocks. After you take the Seventh Avenue escalator out of Penn Station, make a left and you’ll find two huge shoe stores, Famous Footwear and DSW (there’s also a Payless). Or, make a right, and you’ll find chain stores for blocks and blocks, including Macys and H&M just across the street. The shopping experience extends all the way to about Fifth Avenue or so.
The best part about shopping in New York in the summertime is everything is on sale and there’s still plenty of time to wear your finds. I recommend jumping up to Bloomingdale’s at Lexington Avenue and 59th Street where there are also good sales; you can get beautiful long dresses and cocktail garb at very discounted prices. I recommend Lord & Taylor for the same reason but before you head to its flagship on Fifth Avenue at 39th Street, visit its website to print out an “in-store” coupon that will give you at least an additional 15% off sale prices. Depending on the time of year, you might get up to a 50% off coupon for sale items.
My office is on Third Avenue in Midtown. It’s not the most exciting part of the city, but I like to take a walk up Second Avenue for a change of pace. There are many, many restaurants from 49th Street and up, great for grabbing a lovely lunch and in the evening, Second Avenue is the place to go for bar hopping. Many of the side streets between Second and Third avenues have neat little restaurants worth considering as well, especially 51st Street. One of the newest places is Flute, a champagne bar at Second Avenue and 53rd Street.
My favorite pizzeria in this neighborhood is Abatino’s, at Second Avenue and 49th Street. The pizza is fine but what I like most here is the space. You can sit and have your pizza or Italian meal and there’s plenty of room, not like many pizzerias in New York where you sit three feet away from the counter pressed against a wall. Though that can be cozy on a winter’s day. If you’re in town for a while, there’s a Food Emporium at Second Avenue and 51st Street. Go to the back of the store where you’ll find lunch and dinner buffet food that you pay for by the pound. This means you can stock up on Italian, Chinese or American food and have a party in your hotel room, if you’ve gotten tired of eating out in restaurants every day.
My final foodie tip for this area is the Farmer’s Market at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (47th Street and Second Avenue), which takes place every Wednesday for most of the year. Here you can enjoy veggies from upstate New York (the corn on the cob should be coming in soon) as well as baked goods from the country.
Keep in mind as well, you’re close to the East River in this part of town. If you walk one block east of First Avenue, you’ll find the quaintest residential neighborhood, Beekman Place, at 50th Street. If you’re lucky you’ll find a bench overlooking the river where you can enjoy your culinary finds and feel like you’ve discovered a most civilized little corner away from the hustle and bustle of midtown.
I was cleaning out some old travel bags and discovered a pack of playing cards in one of them. I used to play Solitaire when I was very bored and had to kill time. I can’t recall the last time I did that because now there is no down time. We are never bored. We’re always on our smart phones looking at email, downloading music or checking what friends and strangers are doing on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or reading novels on our Kindle app. And I’m one for always watching a new cat video as long as said cat is cute and doing funny things.
What I had liked about playing Solitaire was that it required a part of my brain that used a methodical process to count out cards and match them up suit by suit, alternating red and black until everything came to a neat conclusion. It was probably an excellent use of down time, exercising my brain every so lightly while freeing up the rest of it to ponder the universe, or at least wonder what to fix for dinner that evening. The number of options we have using our smart phones these days is unlimited, in fact, I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not using all of the apps provided on my Android. I am sure they can do awesome things that I just don’t know about yet. But they would make my life better, I’m sure.
But it’s all so frenetic, isn’t it? Jumping around from one thing to the other, reading about news that’s devastating to a region somewhere around the world, then looking at photos of your friend’s kids’ birthday party, then reviewing an ad for new shoes that actually look pretty nice and besides, there’s free shipping. And that’s just on Facebook. I never had attention deficit disorder but I’m sure I’ve developed my own version of it over recent years and I’m also certain I’m not the only one. I work in Manhattan and actually watch people crossing busy avenues with their heads down as they change the music on their phone or text their friends of their whereabouts. “Hey!” I feel like screaming at them. “Hey, this is not down time! Look up! I don’t feel like watching you get run over today.” Call me selfish.
Yes, it all does make me cranky, too, and so I decided to try my hand at playing Solitaire with the deck of cards I found. I was ready to go and a sense of calm was enveloping me until I counted the cards. There were only 51. Somewhere between London and Savannah, between Bangkok and Key West, the Jack of Spades had gotten lost.
And so goes the challenges of the physical world, it’s just so frustrating.
By Ruthanne Terrero
I felt it was time to set the record straight about sauerkraut pie, a recipe handed down to us by my Hungarian grandmother.
What is sauerkraut pie, you ask, with a smile and a glint of fear in your eyes? It’s not a big sweet pie filled with sauerkraut. It’s actually freshly baked bread, shaped into a circular form and filled with sauerkraut that has been cooked up with an onion or two and a bunch of paprika. It is a traditional Easter dish but we’ve been known to make it for Christmas as it’s a wonderful holiday addition to all the other food you’ll be eating.
You may read in other blogs that any white bread recipe will work, and it will. The fact, is, however, that there is a specific bread recipe for sauerkraut pie, and for other delicious Hungarian desserts, and it goes something like this:
Makes Five Sauerkraut pies:
Two large cans of sauerkraut
One sliced onion
Two tablespoons of butter or margarine
Several dashes of Hungarian paprika
Melt the butter or margarine in a large skillet. Drain the two cans of sauerkraut, rinse, and add to the skillet. Sprinkle with paprika and pepper. Put the flame down to low. Once the sauerkraut starts to cook up and brown slightly, clear a spot in the skillet for the onion and add it in. Let all this cook up slowly and turn it occasionally. It’s done when the sauerkraut is slightly brown and the onion has cooked in.
12 cups of sifted white flour
One cup of margarine
3 egg yolks
One quart of milk
2 dry yeast cakes
6 teaspoons of salt
6 tablespoons of sugar
Mix 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk with two yeast cakes. (Note: lukewarm is when a liquid is warm, almost hot, but not. I add a bit of sugar to this mix, it gets the yeast going.)
Take remainder of the quart of milk and heat to a scald and add margarine, sugar and salt. Beat eggs with part of the milk, mix and add to the milk mixture. Cool and add yeast (be sure the milk is not hot, lukewarm is ok). Beat well, using an egg beater. Add to flour. Will be moist.
That’s what I have from the recipe my mother wrote down from my grandmother. The rest of the info following is mine, it’s based on experience and tips I’ve learned.
Knead the dough, don’t be tempted to add too much additional flour as this is a moist recipe. You want it to be moist, but not sticky. Adding too much flour to make it perfectly smooth will toughen the dough.
Take a great big bowl and lightly coat it with oil. I got the blue and white bowl here as wedding present and I’ve used it every year to make bread. It’s nice and deep and allows the bread to rise as high as it wants.
Put the bread dough in the bowl and cover it with a moist towel or plastic wrap. You want to find a warm place for it to rise, but you don’t want a place that’s so hot it will cook the bottom of the dough. I usually light my oven to 350, let it warm up and then turn it off as I’m prepping the dough so that by the time I’m ready for it to start rising the oven is warm and cozy but not hot. I usually take one of the racks out of the oven to accommodate the size of the bowl.
The deal with bread dough is you should let it double in size or let it rise for half an hour. That’s what most recipes say. If you’re having a good day, it will rise merrily without giving you any stress. Other days, it may take longer. My tips for getting a good bread dough to rise are to put that pinch of sugar in in the very beginning, don’t over-knead it and don’t add too much flour. Be sure you’ve got it in a nice warm place to rise, not too hot, and cover it with a moist cloth. Keep an eye on it as it rises but don’t keep opening the oven or removing the cloth or you’ll be interrupting a very important process.
When the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it a bit to get the air out. You don’t want to punch it down so much that it doesn’t want to do anything else for the rest of the day. Just reduce it in size so you can work with it.
Flour a flat surface and grab one-fifth of the dough. Roll it out using a rolling pin so it’s in a nice big circle. Take one-fifth of the sauerkraut and place it in the middle, then spread it out a bit so you’ll have sauerkraut through the entire pie, not just in the middle. Put a dab of margarine or butter in the middle of the sauerkraut, then pull the edges of the circle of dough together so you’re sealing up the pie. Then flip it over and shape it a bit so it’s still round.
Place the pie on a baking pan that has been covered with parchment paper (the paper works really well, better than buttering the pan).
Keep doing this until you are done. One thing I did this year was to sprinkle the pies with kosher salt, it was a nice touch.
You’ll need to let all the pies rise again, about half an hour or until they double in size, using the same techniques as before. Putting a cloth over them can get messy so you can skip this step as long as you don’t let the dough dry out.
Remove the pies from the oven if that’s where you’re letting them rise, and set the temperature to 350. Cut a few slits in each pie and bake for half an hour*, then pop your head in the oven and dab the pies with butter or margarine to give them a nice coating. Cook for another 10 minutes.
Remove them from the cooking pans as soon as you take them out of the oven, or else the bottoms of the pie will keep cooking and turn black.
*One important tip: You will have to cook some of the pies on the lower shelf of the oven. Be sure to switch these out halfway through with those baking on the top shelf, since my experience has been that those on the bottom shelf always burn slightly, no matter how closely you are watching them.
Sauerkraut pies are great for any meal. We usually cook up kielbasi and ham and slice it and serve with the pie for breakfast. There is nothing like it, trust me. For Christmas dinner I usually make a pork roast, and if you think the pie was good for breakfast, you will love it with the pork, especially if you’ve make a good gravy. One side dish I made this year was pierogies. I bought them frozen, cooked them up in a skillet using some of the watered down gravy I made from the pork, then put half of them in a bowl. I covered them with some of the leftover sauerkraut I had from the pies, then put the rest of the pierogis on top. Sprinkle all this with some chopped up parsley and you will be a very popular cook indeed.
I was on my way to doing a little Christmas shopping on Long Island on Christmas Eve when I heard a bunch of cop cars zooming down Old Country Road, where I was stopped for a traffic light. Let’s just say I felt them approaching, since they were going about 100 miles an hour with their sirens on. Even though the light had turned green, I stayed still in the car, not moving it an iota and let them pass. They were going so fast as they passed my car shook and dust blew up on it as if I were in a vacuum or something. Next, a few ambulances went by, not quite as fast but they were really in a hurry. Then a few more police cars. It wasn’t worth moving for a few minutes since the odds were I’d get blown away by some sort of emergency vehicle rushing by if I did.
Eventually, I made a left-hand turn into the little shopping area I was trying to reach and actually found a place to park, no easy feat considering everyone was out shopping. My destination, Barnes & Nobles, was packed with people. Frankly, I was relieved to see it. You never know these days with bookstores if they’re going to be shut down with the lights out when you pull up to them. But this one had kids screaming, bookish adults walking around solemnly with tomes under their arms and students parked in corners of the aisles reading magazines they hadn’t paid for. I guess that was okay here because no one was saying anything to them.
Then my cellphone rang and my husband said there had been a shooting at the mall, which was just nearby. That would explain all that police action. Other cellphones were ringing and people, perfect strangers, starting talking to each other about it. I wondered if I should go home and then I decided to stay, if the shooter were at the mall, what would be the odds of something happening here?
It was an odd feeling, Christmas shopping when so much was apparently happening just half a mile away.
A few minutes later, I got an update. No shooting at the mall. False alarm. A large display case had fallen down and the loud noise had caused people to panic, thinking it was gun shots they were hearing, and to start running and sort of trampling each other. There weren’t any major injuries though I’d hate to be one of those people who had any degree of being pushed or shoved or abandoned by their fellow shoppers.
It just goes to show how the shootings around America have become so mainstream we feel as if we’re just seconds away from being in the middle of one. We’re all one step away from sheer panic, or at least that’s what it seems from this incident at the mall on Tuesday.
By the way, the end story wasn’t just that a display case fell down. A shoplifter was being apprehended and allegedly pulled down the display as the security guards or police struggled with him. So instead of just being in trouble for stealing his Christmas presents, he’s getting credit for having caused chaos and frenzy at the Roosevelt Mall.
When you plan a trip, you want it to be wonderful. But sometimes that desire for your vacation to be wonderful can cloud your senses a bit, turning a very practical person into a dreamer who imagines themselves doing all sorts of magical things in a foreign land.
Don’t be that dreamer. It’s really important that you manage your expectations when you plan a trip. Don’t assume everything will be great just because you want it to be. You are paying good money for your trip and you’re taking precious time to enjoy it. So do your due diligence ahead of time, as if you are preparing your taxes and you’re really, really scared of being audited and ask the right questions of the company you’re buying the trip from.
Here are a few specific queries to get you started when you’re looking at a brochure or a website that’s promising you all sorts of goodies on your journey.
- “Airfare included:” Buyer beware. What does that really mean? Will you only get your flights confirmed at the last minute or will it be way ahead of time so you can plan accordingly? Will you have to change planes three times? Can you select your own seats ahead of time or will you find out at the airport that you’re stuck in a middle seat for 11 hours that doesn’t recline? You may be better off buying your own flights if you’re going to suffer terribly because you’re getting a heavy, so-called discount.
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I’m just back from London, which looks stunning these days; following the Olympics it’s shining and cheerful. If you haven’t been, consider going back. While there, I visited the new London Edition hotel near Soho, a fun, eclectic part of the city with boutiques, bistros and Thai food places and outdoor markets. The British Museum is a short walk away, as is Regents Park. When I was there the hotel had literally just opened its doors; it has a beautiful large lobby with a bar, and there are plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by. Upstairs, the rooms have blonde wood floors and stark white bedding, with lots of natural sunlight. It’s Ian Schrager’s latest hotel; he opened it in conjunction with Marriott International. I’m sure it will be a hit with locals and travelers since when I was there for its opening it seemed as if it had always been on the London scene; everyone in its public areas seemed quite at home.
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By Ruthanne Terrero
If you’re looking for lovely way to spend a Sunday morning in London, or any few hours for that matter, head to Somerset House (www.somersethouse.org.uk) on The Strand. This arts and cultural center is the neighborhood near Covent Garden that’s close to the theatre district, and close to The Savoy, One Aldwich and the new Me by Melia hotels.
What’s good about Somerset House? For starters, it’s set right on the River Thames, and it’s home to the Courtaud Gallery (www.courtauld.ac.uk), an intimate, yet significant three-floor museum that has a permanent collection of works by Picasso, Modigliani, Cezanne and a full range of artists ranging from the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.
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Did you ever wish you could map out the entire year terms of three-day weekends and school holidays so you could plot out your travel opportunities ahead of time? Here’s a primer on what’s happening when next year, with suggestions along the way on how to celebrate.
Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 20: This long weekend has proven to be strong for girlfriend getaways, report hoteliers. Everyone is home and Dad can take care of the kids for those three days while Mom takes off for some “me” time.
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By Ruthanne Terrero
You’ve snagged a spot at a good company as an intern. What do you do now to ensure that this life episode is meaningful to your career?
- Stand out from other interns: Believe it or not, there are some interns who show up for work looking as if they’ve been forced by their parents to be there. They’re sullen, they’re silent and you know all they’re thinking is that they can’t believe college life is over and they can’t stand it that all their friends are at the beach while they’re stuck in an office. Even if this describes your scenario, get over it and sit up straight with a smile on your face. And don’t dash out the door at 4:59 p.m. every day as if you’re running for your life.
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I’m just back from a digital marketing conference where presenters in the online marketing space shared their expertise with an audience of marketers from travel supplier companies and destinations. Here are the top digital marketing insights I took away for you.
Blue Sky Branding Tips: You are a brand, whether you are a sole proprietor, a corporation, or a blogger. Now, look at your brand as a persona. Would this person be your friend? Give your customers a reason to love your brand. People just need a reason to believe. They want to be entertained and informed by your marketing efforts. Effective brands convey that their products can enhance a consumer’s life.
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