Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thoroughly Escapist Part 2 - Back to the Bay.

Daymark off Canarsie Pol, Sunday, 11/26/20111.

I don't know if I can quite count Saturday as part of Escape from Black Friday, Extended Version, but it was nice. We hung out at TQ's parents' place for the morning, eating ridiculous amounts of bacon (his mom had TQ cook the entire packet, with the theory that there would be leftovers for BLT's, ha ha ha), then finally hit the road a bit before noon. We got back to his place around 1:30 or so I decided that before I settled in, it was time for me to go do the ONE bit of necessary shopping that I'd already put off too long. I don't like shopping much under the best of circumstances, and I seriously can't imagine what level of bribery it would take to get me to go to a mall on Friday the 25th - but I was a little more OK with the idea of Small Business Saturday, and...

Yeesh. Every now and then, a person DOES need to break down and buy a new pair of sneakers!

I'd looked in SoHo recently but everything is too expensive and trendy; there's a little sneaker shop near TQ's place and I'd been thinking I'd go see what they had, so I went, and they had, and I bought a pair and a spare 'cause that was their best deal, and yay, now I don't have to go sneaker shopping again for a nice long time. Woohoo!

Shopping done and heading back to TQ's, I finally unwound enough to notice that it was another absolutely spectacular day, too nice for a cube farm denizen to spend curled up on the sofa, even with her honey and a trashy detective novel. TQ works outside these days, and I've done just enough outdoor work to appreciate that when you're doing that for a living, sometimes you DO want to spend your free afternoon curled up on the couch, so when I got back I informed him that it was too nice for me to be inside & that I was going to steal the dogs for a good long walk in Prospect Park and he could come with me or not as he saw fit. He chose "not" but the dogs were totally up for the walk proposition & the three of us had a great afternoon wandering around the park. Indian take-out for dinner, and then TQ let me commandeer the computer to FINALLY watch those 2 last Star Wars movies I hadn't seen yet (jeeze, Jar Jar Binks is every bit as annoying as everybody said he was!) and that was it for Saturday - nothing fancy but a very pleasant semi-lazy, semi-active day. Nice balance, I wish I could achieve that more often. I sleep better when I haven't spent the entire day with my okole parked on a chair. Funny how that works.

Sunday, though...ah! As you may've noticed, after the wrap-up of the 5 Years Around Long Island trip, which was in itself the wrap-up of a very kayak-intensive summer, I'd sort of ditched the Romany and gone over to the dark side to play sailor-gal for a couple of weeks. That was fun, and after that nice little break I was really feeling ready to go do some paddling again. I wasn't organized enough to see if anybody else wanted to go, so my plan was to suit up properly (it was SO tempting to ditch the drysuit, but even if the the air was warm, the water was still cold, and solo paddling just doesn't give you much margin for stupid mistakes like "Oh, gee, I think I'll willfully underdress today, what could go wrong with that?") stay rightside up, and do a shoreline paddle out to Dead Horse Bay. Low water was around 3, there's a great beachcombing beach out there where you can find all these neat old art deco bottles, and I was going to go see if I could find anything new to add to the kitchen window collection, returning to the club a little after dark.

But in the end, Steve H (the "Paddling Chef") turned up with the same sort of loose plan for a good paddle, roughly the same amount of time as I'd been planning to spend on the water, just leaving out the beachcombing to get back to the club by 4, and that all sounded fine to me. We ended up just going out around Ruffle Bar, headwind out, a short break off the island for tea & a snack & then home with a nice tailwind helping us along. The winter birds are in - the brants, who've been arriving for a couple of weeks, have been joined by the buffleheads, and we saw a pair of loons, too. It was a pretty low low water and the raccoons were out taking advantage of that (somebody once told me that if you saw a raccoon out in daylight, it was probably sick, but if you live on an island, and you like digging for clams, I think you are going to know when low water is and be out there when it happens). No seals yet, but we're definitely starting to keep an eye out for them. We did a little rolling before we crossed the channel from Canarsie Pol back to the Paerdegat, we got back to the club with enough light left for me to do a good washout of my boat (which was still full of sand from my minor launching misadventure at Georgica Beach, and just as we finished putting the boats away & getting ready to leave, the sunset turned all spectacular.





Wildly exciting? Maybe not - but I don't think I could've have asked for a much nicer end to the Thanksgiving weekend.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Thoroughly Escapist Part 1 - Sleeping Giant State Park

What a spectacular Thanksgiving weekend it turned out to be here in the Northeast. High 50's, sunny, not too windy - really couldn't have asked this area to produce better weather for Escaping from Black Friday.

And in fact, since they're strrrretching Black Friday out longer and longer, I decided it would be absolutely appropriate to stretch the escaping as well! Here's my report on Escape, Day 1.

We started out with our usual hike with the hounds on Friday. TQ had left the paddle-or-hike call up to me; it was a great day for either one but in the end, I picked hiking 'cause that way we could take the dogs along, plus it simplifies the packing, plus there are a couple of parks with excellent hiking trails near where TQ's folks live & I do like to take advantage of that when we go up.

We ended up picking Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, CT, this time, and with the fine weather we decided to take the very best trail they have - the one that leads up around the Giant's head. It's steep, and there's one point you are skirting the edge of a quarry, so it's really one you only want to tackle in dry conditions.

This is especially true because old Buzz (with TQ, above) is getting a little stiff in his old age, can't take downhills like he once did, plus we had a new addition to our hiking crew.

Oh Hai!
This is Ziva. Ziva is an Italian greyhound who belongs to TQ's parents. Ordinarily a hike in November would be out of the question 'cause the little thing would freeze to death at 40 degrees - but up around 60, as long as we kept moving, she was fine. Buzz & Bella love her & we've walked them together, but this was the first time we'd taken her on a real hike. She loved it, turns out to be a very nimble little scrambler & only had to be lifted down from a couple of spots where the jump down was a bit too far and the landing a bit too hard for those slender little legs (she's broken at least one just caroming off of a sofa while tearing around the living room at top speed - that game has been scratched off the list of permitted amusements).

The rocky trail behind Ziva is the one that wraps up around the Giant's head - you huff and you puff (or at least I huffed and puffed) going up it, but you gain altitude fast, and then you come around a bend, and...

oooh-lar-lar, what a view!

Every scenic perch had a percher enjoying the scene - well, not EVERY perch, there are too many to really fill up. We like the solitude of hiking in less clement weather, but I actually loved seeing all of these people who'd made the same call as we did, blowing off shopping to get out and hike.

This way...

to another vista.

TQ dealt with the pack here for a moment while I took a couple of pictures. We got a lot of attention with this assortment - small, medium and large!

Bella surveys.

Ah, recognize this?
I had Bella and Ziva here for a while - this was the hardest part for Buzz, and he's a big fellow so TQ wanted to tend to him. Bella of course was fine, she's part mountain goat, but this is actually the stretch where Ziva needed a little assistance. Steep!

And this is the quarry at the back of the Giant's head - the trail actually runs right next to it from the top down to here. See why we only do this trail in nice conditions?

Back to the base of the mountain

O ro, the rattlin' bog, the bog down in the valley O!
And we all slept well that night.

Like to find out more about this great park (or even just see an entire picture of the Sleeping Giant)? Head on over to the website of the Sleeping Giant Park Association, www.spga.org.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sorry, didn't manage to make a new one - but here's my turkey, being ticked-off for you again.

Hope everyone has a safe & happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Escape from Black Friday - A Sample Route


Brooklyn forecast for Friday: Variable winds less than 5 kt becoming WSW 5 to 8 kt in the morning. Sunny, Sunny, with a high near 56. Seas around 1 ft.

Wow. PERFECT weather for getting outside and doing something to work off the turkey and pie, huh? May I make a suggestion? Blow off the awfulness at the malls, get out there and make the most of it!

See the picture above for a great example of a suitable route for an Escape from Black Friday. Either arrow will work.

Haven't seen anything this clearly marked where you are? Well, that anyone who's a regular reader here probably already knows their escape options, by land or by sea (and probably had their own Escape planned long before I even thought of posting about it) but if you're not sure, I bet this site can help.

It's going to be a lovely day in the Northeast, and the snow will be here soon enough. A fall day like this is a gift - it would be such a shame to waste it on shopping!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why I Did Not Get Out In A Boat Last Weekend, Or, I Draw The Line At The Occupation Of My Closet.

Lovely weekend, the one just passed. Probably a little too breezy for the likes of me to go sailing, but a paddle would've been great. However, after a crazed week of forecast production at work, the apartment really did need some attention.

Especially the closet.

Which has been occupied.


The picture above shows the end of Sunday afternoon's project. My place has great closets for an NYC apartment. No walk-ins, but four, count 'em, four, all reasonably capacious. When my folks first saw my place, you could hear an echo in all of them - I'd been living with roommates for years & to have an entire 900 square feet to fill up all by myself? Unbelievable. However, my folks introduced me to the First Law of Closet Stuff-o-dynamics, that being "The quantity of stuff you own and want to put in a closet increases in direct proportion to the amount of closet space available". I thought I'd be immune to this because I'm just not an acquisitive person (I used to be, LOVED buying tsotskes when I was younger but a string of years during which the space I could actually call "MINE" was a 10x10 room with one tiny closet broke me of that), but somehow, of course, they were right. Couldn't even tell you exactly what's in them. The basics of course - coats in the coat closet, linens in the linen closet, clothes in the clothes closet - but then there's all the other stuff. Does run to themes (shoes in one, gear in another, etc.) but a precise enumeration of the contents? Couldn't give you one.

But a little while ago, I realized with dismay that whatever all was in this one (which was clothes, with supplementary use as a combination archives/garden shed), there were now mice too. Who made up that thing about quiet as a mouse? 'Tis cow puckies, it is. They scuffle, they squeal, they scramble, they gnaw, and they do NOT go away, much though you hope they might if you just pretend you're not hearing them with enough conviction. Really, I bear no personal animosity towards the smaller of the bare-tailed tribes - rats would freak me out but I had a couple of pet mice when I was a kid, cute little animals, loved a good Cheerio, they'd run up to the front of the cage to take the treat from my fingers, then they'd sit up holding the cheerio in their front paws and nom nom nom nom nom (although we did not know to call it "nom nom nom"ing in those distant days when phones had wires, computers used cards and the first LOLcat was nothing more than a succession of sparkles in several generations of tomcats' eyes) - oooh, da cute!

Not so cute squealing and scampering and dropping their little pathogenic poopies in my closet though.

So, Sunday, after going to a Mass which was said in honor of an old friend's father, then to brunch with some of her family, I headed for home and the unpleasant chore that awaited me there. Ugh.

Stopped at the hardware store for dust masks, gloves, and...

The heavy artillery.

These things are expensive as mousetraps go - but I actually got this because the first time I ever had a mouse problem, (in my 2nd apartment, which was in a sort of run-down older building on the Upper East Side) it was with a veritable Houdini of a mouse who repeatedly licked a spring trap completely clean of peanut butter. Without really thinking, I went back down to the local hardware store & bought the next alternative on the mouse control rack - which was a glue trap. Man, talk about cruel. The mouse thought I was running a feeding station with all the spring traps covered in tasty peanut butter & was stuck to the baited glue trap and screaming five minutes after I set it. . I think I may actually have been apologizing to the mouse as I frantically looked around looking for some way to kill it - finally grabbed a newspaper, rolled it up tight and put as fast an end as I could to things with a good hard swat. Awful! That experience left me feeling like traditional traps were ineffective & glue traps were horrible (and bait, they'll carry away & cache somewhere else - really not safe for apartments, I don't know how far they'd take it but I'm not going to gamble that they aren't going to take it somewhere a neighbor's baby might find it). Next time I had a mouse problem (this apartment , I saw one of these & got it even though it was expensive, and it actually worked really well.

Lost that one 'cause TQ had a big mouse problem when he moved to Brooklyn and I loaned it to him & his dog Bella got to it & broke off the lid to get to the PB. Lucky for her, it's designed that the power cuts off when the lid is opened!

Armed & dangerous, I headed for home & worked through the unpleasant business of clearing out the closet. They'd been busy in there. Aside from the less sanitary stuff, they'd made snow out of a piece of styrofoam packing material, and glittery confetti out of...AHA. A Luna Bar wrapper. Doubtless fell out of a pocket after a hike or a paddle & that was what drew them in the first place.

There was some stuff that I just had to bag up & throw away without looking through it. Figured if it had been sitting in the closet for 8 years and I hadn't thought of it, let alone gone looking for it, whatever it was, I would probably never miss it.

The rodent activity had been concentrated in one area, though, and I did take the time to sort through a couple of boxes that weren't fouled.

And that actually turned out to be the payoff. Way back when, when my Grandma and Daddy Fred were still living in the home in Basking Ridge where they'd lived since my mom was a little girl (and that was only a few blocks from where they'd lived before that), I used to love rummaging through the boxes and chests of old toys & books & things they had in the storage areas of the old place. This wasn't quite as good - but I'm not sure when the last time I'd gone through some of these boxes was, they may even just have gone from the closet in the old place to the closet in the new place, and there were some fun surprises in there.

Here were my 3 favorites:

1. The wrapper from one of my favorite wedding favors ever. Heather is a cousin and this came wrapped around the chocolate bars that we all took home. Chocolate's gone (thank goodness, or the mice would've gotten this too), but I kept the wrapper - just too cute to throw away. Shared it with Heather & Keith on Facebook - they loved that I still had this around.

2. A set of headshots taken in Walla Walla's Pioneer Park. One of my friends was the photographer, I think we were getting ready for the...was it URTA's? Unified Regional Theatre Auditions? Something like that? Anyways, there were a bunch, this one was my favorite. Rockin' the 80's shoulderpads, fer suuure, but a pretty good picture of me twenty-some-odd years ago.

And then 3 - and it's funny, I'd put all 3 of these up on Facebook & everybody loved the headshot, but this pencil sketch I did of Mistie, the Sheltie I had when I was a kid, was my favorite. I don't remember when I drew it, but I must have taken some time with it and I did a pretty good job of catching her sweet and attentive expression. Wish I'd taken a few minutes to find an unlined piece of paper!

Have to liberate a few of my old pictures of her next time I end up at my folks' new place - I only have one here (not counting the scan of the one where I dressed here up in my marching band uniform) and that's one of my senior portraits from high school, which I don't like very much. Loved stumbling across this sketch.

And the end result of the cleaning? Well, so far so good. I left the trap in there, nothing so far, haven't heard a squeak or a scurry, and I'm wondering if the thorough clearing out & vacuuming was enough to discourage them. I'll get some steel wool to plug the hole. Won't declare victory until I haven't heard anything (or caught anything) for a couple of weeks, but I'm hopeful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Supporting My Local Paddling Chef!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Steve Heinzerling, the Paddling Chef!

Here are some shots of Steve in action:

Steve with a lobster!

Steve with a steak!

From 5 Years Around Long Island Year 4
Steve with steak and squash!

From Proxigean Paddle!
Steve cooking up some delicious Eggs in the Holes before an icy paddle in January

From 5 Years Around Long Island, Year 3
Steve choosing corn (supervised by Commodore Emeritus John W.)

He's coooookin' in the rain, just cooooookin' in the rain!

From 5 Years Around Long Island - Days 2 & 3
You just never know what he's going to pull out of a hatch to share. This was the best pineapple I've ever tasted outside of the Hawaiian Islands.

From 5 Years Around Long Island - 2nd Year Day 1!
Steve with another lobster


Steve with fire

From 5 Years Around Long Island Year 4

Steve paddling!

Honest, it's not just the food that makes him one of my favorite paddling companions - that smile you see in every picture except the last one (and you can bet it's there in the last one, he's just a little too far away to see it)? That's just his normal expression. He is one of the most naturally cheerful people I know. His two favorite phrases? "Uff da!" (a Norwegian expression of dismay which is the term he uses at times when crankier folks like myself would be using terms of a far less easy-on-the-ears nature) in 2nd place, and "It's like a dream!" in first, by a mile.

A great guy, and a great chef, and so I was absolutely tickled to see him get a nice little plug in the popular local Ditmas Park Blog. If Steve recommends something it's just GOING to be insanely good, and it happens to be the time of the year when I'm making my favorite green tomato rice recipe to use up the tomatoes that came too late, and I thought a little of this would add a nice flavor.

Here's the ham -
Mangalica ham from Market

All the ingredients:
Ingredients for green tomato rice

The recipe I like is actually something TQ found on line the year a couple of years ago when we had that terrible tomato blight in the Northeast. Click here if you'd like to see it. Ironically, that was probably my best year ever for tomatoes - at the same time as TQ's vines were withering away in Pennsylvania, sending him scrambling for ways to cook green tomatoes, I was picking delicious monsters like this. He served this rice with dinner one night & it's become my favorite way of using up the last tomatoes.

I usually skip the bacon & do the frying in olive oil; the Mangalica ham IS very expenive but it doesn't take much to add a very nice flavor.

Oops...one more skimmer!

Or actually the same one as in the prior post, but in slow-motion. I thought I'd looked EVERYWHERE for this last night - forgot sometimes I put shorter videos on Flickr.

Actually found it because a friend sent me looking for my story about a paddle so quiet, I could hear the skimmers' beaks slicing through the water.

skimmer skimmer skimmer - playing with paint again!

Real paint this time --

not Microsoft paint.

Original "skimmerdoodle". Just the Microsoft Paint accessory, haven't got anything fancier. Been meaning to try actually painting it sometime. Skimmers are cool. ave been really busy but have been messing around with this watercolor version of the skimmer in bits of free time at home over the last week or so. Kinda liked the contrasts & flat colors of the original - can't really do that with watercolors but...well, again, that's what I have. Might try it again, or might try making the sky on this one a little bluer, or I might just think about it for a year or so again! :D

here's a real one, btw!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Message From RSK at RockandWater.net, hosts of NYCKayaker

"RSK" is the listmeister for the local "NYCKayaker" email list, a terrific resource for NYC-area paddlers run by the the Hudson River Watertrail Association. I think he does a great job of riding herd on our occasionally fractious crew, handing out a gentle reminder here, a sharper reminder there, and slamming the door on bad behavior when the door needs to be slammed. I've picked up a lot of general hints about online security from reading the hints that he posts whenever he has to block a hacked email address.

I won't have time to read properly until after work, but when he takes the time to put up something of this magnitude - it's worth a look. Click here to visit the post on the fully-public NYCKayaker archives.

"censored stamp" image found on Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Subway Series #1 - The Station Formerly Known as the Real Estate Office of T.B. Ackerson

Welcome to the Frogma Subway Series!

Nothing to do with baseball, of course. My main interest in baseball tends to be limited to wishing the Mets would maintain momentum one of these seasons because that would make my honey very happy.

Nope - the Subway Series I've been thinking about doing for a while? Just a series of posts featuring photos of the stations that make me want to slow down. As a carless New Yorker, I rely on our public transportation system to get around, and usually, when I'm on the train, I'm in a hurry to get somewhere - but every now and then I'll find myself walking through a station with which an artist has gotten to have his or her gleeful way during a renovation and slowing down because the public art is particularly beautiful or entertaining. Ever since TQ gave me a camera that can handle indoor shots better than my Optio WP, I've been thinking it would be fun to share some of my particular favorite installations.

I've already done a couple proto-Subway-Series posts, both of which ended up being pretty popular. One was a video of a giant-scale zoetrope that an artist created in the "ghost station" at Myrtle Avenue, the former last stop on my line. You see it from the Manhattan-bound B and Q trains after leaving the present-day last stop in Brooklyn, DeKalb Avenue. With my animation obsession, I naturally always get a kick out of watching it and one day I got a whim to share it here, so took my little Optio to work with me one day, worked past rush hour & then simply rode back & forth across the Manhattan Bridge, filming the zoetrope each time, until I got a decent shot. Just discovered that I'll have to redo that, I'd put that on Yahoo Video which I've JUST discovered is now entirely devoted to pet-food-manufacturer-subsidized cute animal videos - no more you-tube-esque user uploads & sharing, my video is gone & the 2008 Masstransiscope post just shows a black square. BOO! Can't find the original clip anywhere so I'll just have to redo it. The other one, of course, was last February's Duke Riley Cracks Me Up.

I'm kicking this off today, with a station that hasn't even been artified yet (although there are artistic plans in place that actually sound sort of neat), because I really enjoy it when I find out that something I've walked past time & time again without really noticing it actually has a pretty interesting history.

This time, it's the station house at the Avenue H stop of the B and Q lines. I almost never stop there, it's 1 stop past my stop & unlike the next couple of stops, there's nothing specific that I would usually stay on the train for. I would go on to Avenue J for DiFara's Pizza, and before a sushi place opened on Cortelyou Road I used to go to a place on King's Highway when I got a craving for raw fish - but after I'd gotten the pizza or the sushi, I'd usually walk home and that would take me right past the station house.

I never particularly noticed it because most of the stations around here have some sort of little houselike affair as the entryway - like this one at Cortelyou Road:


In addition, it hasn't always looked this quaint - here's a pre-renovation photo of the headhouse that I found last night on Wikimedia Commons . Would you look twice? I didn't.

However, it turns out that this station house actually must have been one of the first structures in my very nice neighborhood - as I found out earlier last week in a quick post about the nearly-complete renovation on the Ditmas Park Blog, it started out as the office of T.B. Ackerson.


No, no, no, not the wine merchant. THAT T.B. Ackerson's is a modern Cortelyou Road tip-of-the-hat to the original T.B. Ackerson, the real estate agent who first developed much of my neighborhood in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn.

It's an unusual neighborhood for NYC - there are a few nice old apartment buildings like the one I live in, but you wouldn't really notice those so much as the lovely, big, freestanding single-family homes, each with its own green lawn, all on shady tree-lined streets.
025 -

Suburban vision, early variety.

Some of the area homes border on "mansion" - not quite the massive structures the ultra-rich of the time lived in, but still quite grand and unique (especially by today's standards) -


But there was also a nice variety of interesting and comfortable pre-planned home designs for those with a little less money. I'm not sure I ever would've noticed this without going on a tour of local architectural styles run by the Levys, longtime local residents who have a family tour business, Levy's Unique New York, but they were talking about the prefabricated nature of the less expensive homes in the area and sure enough, for all all the homes look so individualistic at first glance, as we were walking down the street, sharp-eyed patrons started noticing repetitions!

Like this -

or this!

It's actually easier to spot these in the wintertime, when the trees are all bare, and the tour was in the wintertime, but they're around to see if you're looking for them.

I ran over to check out the renovation myself yesterday, with this post in mind (as I mentioned with yesterday's fall foliage shot), and they did a very nice job on it -


Oh, and the art?

At some point, bronze rocking chairs will be installed on the porch.

For a photo of the station in its original incarnation as T.B. Ackerson's real estate office, plus a very good article about how local support for the old station (even with the old battered paint-job and 70's-industrial-blah interior that made me miss ever seeing anything special here until it was specifically pointed out to me) saved this station from the MTA's original wrecking-ball plans, visit The Third Rail Online's article. I found it a very interesting read.

Want to see a few more of the colorful homes in my neighborhood? Check out my Full Spectrum in Victorian Flatbush post - I went out one day with my camera in hand, determined not to come home until I'd found a house for every color in the rainbow!