Find Life Experiences

Find life experiences and swallow them up whole. By Lawrence K. Fish

a little alley way bistro

a little alley way bistro

“We are sharing a bed?” Not at all what I imagined for my retreat of writing and eating my way though New York City. The surprise on our faces was evident; we had been duped.

In the past, I’ve backpacked my way through several countries, sometimes shared space with twenty or more, and even the occasional bed. I am no prude, but those days seemed a lifetime away.

Viki and I were excited for months about our little escape to the big city. (For me my first not as a tourist or a work gig. A purely personal experience—alone in the city.) Introduced by a mutual friend, we both had different agenda’s, so it appeared the perfect solution to share expenses and rent an apartment for the stay.

The ancient tiny one bedroom apartment, in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, the six flights of stairs, the busy noisy buzz of the city as a backdrop, we were excited about it all. Viki, a teacher, looked forward to her long conference days of learning at Broadway for Teachers, and I anticipated filling mine with writing, coffee, Broadway shows and seeking out delicious food—sharing a bed, was not on the agenda.

Upon arrival, we discovered the bed situation and that the owner was staying with us and taking the only bedroom. While the bed was a king size futon, it still took up the whole living room and was divided by large pillows. The space was great for one, but three, and with two of us strangers, now sharing a bed, not so much.

Travel. Meet many people. Go down dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. By Lawrence K. Fish

Meet new people. Unknown roads can lead to amazing experiences. (And, if I needed reminding, this statement from Mr. Fish was posted by the door through which I was looking at escaping.)

After several calls to book an upmarket hotel, to discover they too had no rooms with two beds, we decided to chalk up our little stay as an experience that we would both make the best of.

That night, we headed out to separate Broadway shows, but first I stumbled into Saju a French Bistro, located in the heart of midtown, on W 44th Street, near Broadway.

New York in the summer is hot; I felt the air-conditioning hit me as I walked into the pleasant candle-lit bistro. They take walk-ins, but I suggest making advance reservations. I love discovering a new restaurant. However, when I am pushed for time, I also use opentable.com, which enables the individual to secure a table to hard-to-reserve spots, and avoid the wait.)

I was in desperate need of food. After a long day of travelling and walking up six flights of stairs with a bag, the restaurant’s little table for one was beyond appealing. I started with still water, which is a signal to most waiters that I wasn’t a big spender. The French waiter looked smugly at me, as he quickly rushed away after setting my water down. I liked him despite his cool attitude, and settled in to the well-crafted menu and extensive wine list. The room is long, with a red brick interior and tiny tables for two; despite the air-conditioning the outside glass wall was open to the streets of New York. My spirits lifted when my glass of French pinot noir arrived. To begin, every guest receives mixed olives and bread. I ordered the Rigatoni a la saucisse de campagne, a pasta dish with rigatoni noodles, Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and a touch of grana. Food is comforting. In the most difficult of times, food makes the world right, almost like a warm hug. So, here I was, finally in New York, alone, and after the long day, I felt replete.

Pasta at Saju

Pasta at Saju

In the morning, Viki (my new friend after sharing a bed) and I took the subway to Chinatown for a one-hour Chinese massage, recommended by EMC colleague and friend, Mark Bergin. Another dark alley, but the experience was truly one of pure release. My muscles were molded, punched and beaten into submission, the same ones that climbed the six flights of stairs, and just about collapsed at the top, walked away feeling like jello. It is a gift to feel relaxed. This sense of wellness and peace led me to drop into a Buddhist temple in Chinatown, to light a candle and offer a blessing. I do not practice Buddhism; my prayer was simply a way to recognize this moment of calmness and ask for continuous peace for my family, my friends and me.

There is something to be said for exploration and trying everything.

I met Viki for a ginseng tea, both deciding, even after adding sugar, that it was good for us, but tasted bitter and uneventful. (…some are dead-ends). We followed it up with lunch at a Cantonese place called the “Amazing” restaurant (for the name alone we had to go inside.) The tables had several Chinese, including the staff watching the World Cup final on TV. We glanced at one older man, mouthed gaped, expressionless until his slender self contorted, cheering as a new goal was made. Viki and I shared lunch and parted ways, she for the American Museum of Natural History and I for Little Italy.

Mulberry Street, the heart of Little Italy, was closed off to manage the number of people celebrating the World Cup. The place was filled with smiling faces of avid admirers of ‘football’. I loved the energy of the action, but mostly the lack of line ups for the cold Italian gelato and creamed filled cananolis from the carts lining the cobblestone street. European at heart—I love everything about the rich simple sweet goodness of their food.

yum.

yum.

A full day of exploring led me to the Meatpacking District for dinner with a cousin and a nighttime walk through Chelsea. Another reminder of my twenties were the partying World Cup fans clumsily made their way home.

Shortly before dinner, Viki had called to advise that as luck would have it, her husband had arranged a condo, located beside Lincoln Center, for us. The move to a space with two beds, views towards Central park, and the open space to write was a perfect end, to a perfect day.

That night, I walked through Lincoln Center; against the night sky, the lights glittered with pure magic. I took in the moment and gasped. It’s the little moments that make life a blessing: embracing new experiences, new food and, best part, making new friends.

Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life. Lawrence K. Fish

If you have a restaurant or foodie biz suggestion email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com or for more information follow my blog at LadydinesAlot.com.

The Birth of Vegetable Patch

I am growing a garden. My gifts do not include a naturally ‘green thumb’, so this is an ambitious undertaking on my part.

Our Veggie Patch

Our Veggie Patch

Most people these days are on the bandwagon of producing food grown right in your own backyard.

As a kid, my parents prepared a garden each spring, as much a need, then convenience, but its’ reward was the pleasure of growing your own vegetables in addition to the savings. The investment in a vegetable garden can almost halve weekly food bills. As a child, I loathed weeding the garden. I did enjoy nibbles of ripe tomatoes, earthy bites of carrots, and sweet strawberries plucked from the garden as we worked. But, I despised being bent over, knees almost bleeding on the hard ground, with the afternoon sun beating down.

Nevertheless, I find I am inspired to grow my own food. Growing a garden is a challenge to execute, and translate into real living edible things. Especially, given my limited knowledge is of weeding and eating the produce, but I am committed to seeing this project through.

This winter, I began by filling little starter indoor pots with soil and seeds, to sprout a variety of vegetables for spring planting. My vision included a summer project of raised gardens with a bounty of plants and flowers filling each cavity.

As a beginner, there were so many unanswered questions.

“How much space do I need for a garden?”
“What should I plant?”
“How often should I water?”

It may be that you do not have much choice as to how big your garden will be; you just fill the space you have available. On the other hand, you may have 10 acres and 3 family members, requiring some thought as to how much you will eat, share or have time for. The key is to build a garden small enough to manage and not hog all your free time, but not so small that you run out of vegetables mid way through making a sandwich.

If you are a veggie lover, thinking of preserving or growing an extra row to donate to Loving Spoonful (www.lovingspoonful.org) you may consider 4 x 20 ft. beds. Although when you are starting out, smaller is better. You can always expand in the future.

A garden can take any shape you imagine. It can be a series of straight beds, it can twist and curve throughout your landscape, or it can be arranged in geometrical patterns. You can combine these styles or develop a style on your own. I like to keep things simple. I’ve started with 2 x 8ft wooden cedar beds, (graciously built by hubby.) Our vision is to tackle this small patch and add on in future years, perhaps even a greenhouse.

There is something about the process of planting and watching it push through the soil and finish up as something good to eat. I squealed with delight when my peas poked through their starter beds. (A pleasure most kids discover in a grade three.) I anxiously wait for them to twist up their posts, each little green pouch getting larger on their vines, until they are ready for the plucking.

The health of your plants depends on the health of your soil. There is a whole science to studying soil, but in a nutshell your soil is a mini-ecosystem and it will be healthiest when there are many different insects and microorganisms to keep each other in balance. When you start out, add as much compost and organic fertilizers as you want; it takes time for all the right insects to arrive and build a healthy, balanced soil system. But, remember to check your pH levels every two or three years.

We built a wood-framed garden, which is a little more work than a mounded garden bed. Hubby chose cedar so he doesn’t have to replace it in a year’s time. (His blind faith in me that I will continue this project annually.) Cedar tends to be rot resistant, but you could always use pine or fir outside too. We prepared the frame, then stapled weed mat to the bottom and filled it with topsoil, organic fertilizer, then mapped out which vegetables, herbs and flowers grew well together. Begin with what produce you normally purchase, and what you want to grow. Draw a map of which plants are taller and should be planted at the back to prevent shadows. Typically companion gardening enables the right mix and allows each to thrive together.

Watering your garden is as important as weeding. At this time of the year, you should be checking daily that the soil is moist, and never be bone dry or soggy wet. July is usually the month that serious harvesting starts. My sage, chives, basil, peas, cauliflower and salad greens will be ready for the picking. The hottest time of the year is in August, where the garden will require watering every day or at least every other day.

In an effort to understand my garden, I’ve picked up several resources, asked advice from friends, and visited garden centre’s to speak to the experts. Everyone has there own secrets or magic ways to grow their garden. So far what I’ve learned is that you don’t have to have a green thumb or have studied with professional gardeners. You will discover each season what works. Every new gardener has their reason for getting started, some want a more nutritious diet, others to save money on grocery bills, or are cooks who simply enjoy fresh food. Regardless of the intention, I am excited to experience the benefits of growing my own food.

If you have foodie biz or a restaurant suggestion please email me at ladydinesslot@gmail.com or follow my blog LadydinesAlot@gmail.com, or Facebook.