"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Archive for July, 2015

Lions and Tigers and … Alligators? Oh My!

Aligator at 205th St.

So this alligator was crossing against the light and the officer went to give him a jaywalking ticket…. Photo credit: NYPD34Pct via Twitter

It seems you can see everything in New York City. It’s true, not something you just tell the rubes coming from the countryside to gawk at the big buildings. Like wildlife. You can see a lot of wildlife–and I don’t mean the human type–here. NYPD 34th Precinct (@NYPD34Pct) tweeted a bizarre story today: they captured an alligator crossing 9th Avenue at 205th St. in Inwood today. That’s a mere 20 blocks or so from here!

This story made the news carousel at the bottom of the Bing search page! I clicked on it, and there was a story from the International Business Times! Unfortunately, the story’s first, highlighted photo was a fake prop alligator crawling into a manhole instead of the real thing. Look at it. Doesn’t this look dramatic to you?

An alligator was found Thursday in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Pictured: A prop alligator went into a New York City sewer drain during the launch of the Swamp People "Taste Of The Bayou" food truck, March 28, 2011. Donald Bowers/Getty Images for History's Swamp People

An alligator was found Thursday in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Pictured: A prop alligator went into a New York City sewer drain during the launch of the Swamp People “Taste Of The Bayou” food truck, March 28, 2011. Donald Bowers/Getty Images for History’s Swamp People

We don’t expect alligators (or crocodiles) to be crossing the street in NYC at any time. Leave that to those crazy southerners in Florida. They have alligators creeping into peoples’ back yards, eating their Chihuahuas and children, and causing all sorts of trouble.

We urban New Yorkers rest content with malicious squirrels, pooping pigeons, and the occasional stray dog. We expect to see cats on windowsills peering out from apartments, rats in the subway, and cockroaches a/k/a water bugs. But alligators? Aren’t they supposed to be in the sewers and not crossing city streets?

Pepé LePew (c) Looney Tunes

Pepé LePew (c) Looney Tunes

Skunks. We have them. I haven’t seen them, but I’ve smelled their presence on occasion. In September 2013, the New York Daily News published “Get these smelly skunks out of Washington Heights & Inwood, cries Councilman”, about the skunk problem in Fort Tryon Park. A photo of a skunk on Cabrini Blvd. graces the article. Imagine, you’re walking up Broadway when you see two glowing eyes. “Here kitty, kitty,” you croon. “Nice … skunk!” Hello Pepé LePew.

Add that to the cast of characters you see in Times Square, and you have a whole menagerie of wildlife to keep you gawking in and about the City.

Ode to My Blender

My Osterizer circa 1990s

My blender will likely burn out this summer.

I remember the Osterizer® blender of my childhood, circa 1955, a stainless steel beehive-shaped affair with a single toggle switch. It was the “modern” way to prepare meals (see illustration below) when I was a kid. The Oster® Beehive Blender lived on our kitchen counter top and blended many Carnation Instant Breakfast™ servings (with added raw egg), poured many pancakes, and caused confusion while washing the sharp doohickey on the bottom. The iconic glass jar finally shattered and the base burnt out, I suppose. I haven’t seen it for years, that is, if Mom still has it, which is possible.

My Blender's Buttons

My Blender’s Buttons

Mine is a standard, plastic-jarred Oster® blender that I bought more than 15 years ago–maybe even longer–from some discount department store. It has 8 buttons, a “low-high” slider, and boasts 12 speeds plus “Pulse”: Easy Clean, Grate, Puree, Blend, Cream, Shred, Chop, Grind, Whip, Liquefy, Mix, and Ice Crush. Have I cheated and shredded on whip? You betcha. I’ve also grated on ice crush. There’s a method to my madness, however.

It’s been a faithful companion all these years.

Companion? Yes, I traveled with it. I remember carting it about with me one summer when on a medically-recommended liquid diet. Specifically, I remember in an Ohio turnpike rest stop asking for ice at the conveniently located Starbucks, then going into the family restroom stall, plugging it into the outlet there, and blending myself a delicious, nutritious liquid meal which I sipped from the container with a long straw. Who knows what people thought when they saw me emerge from the bathroom with a blender full of … stuff…!

I’m addicted to sucking up icy sludge. Sludgees. I don’t know what else to call these blender treats. They’re not smoothies; smoothies are healthy full of kale or yogurt or berries. They’re not Slushees or Slurpees, which are trademarked products dispensed at convenience stores; nor are they any alcoholic mixed drink. They’re C-O-L-D; that’s all that matters. And they go down quickly. Sludgee.

The primary component is ground up ice. Without the ice, the beverage is not fun. Next is some milk product. I use powdered milk (and water) whenever possible for the convenience. (I also don’t like the sound of people crying in the kitchen in the morning over dry corn flakes when the last of the milk has been used up.) I’ve also used ricotta cheese, yogurt and ice cream, although it’s a waste of good ice cream. For volume or consistency, a piece of fruit is good. Frozen bananas work well (peel them and put them in plastic wrap when they start to turn brown on the table), but I also use an apple, skin and all, rarely berries, and most unusually, a half of a cooked yam. Once in a while I’ll add something “healthy,” like ground flax seed or psyllium powder. Cocoa powder and some artificial sweetener, a splash of vanilla extract, and a shake of cinnamon complete the sludge. Blended up, adding one ice cube after another until the motor strains in protest, it resembles… sludge. If you omit the cocoa, it’s just ugly, not sludgy.

My blender is on its last leg. The gasket allows liquid to seep out slowly. Sometimes when I blend I can hear a strain on the motor, a pulling. Sometimes I sniff a little of that electrical odor, the kind you smell before a motor burns out. (Aside: What is that odor, by the way?) I surmise this happens when an ice cube drops in the way of the blades, preventing them from spinning. That’s when I hit the “off” button, poke about with my long straw (never use the straw while it’s still spinning), and then hit the “pulse” button. Vrooom! It whooshes around.

Lately though, the liquid has been separating into two phases (note the scientific word I used): a liquidy phase on the bottom and a slushier phase at the top. What I desire is slushy all the way through.

Oster(R) Beehive Blender

Contemporary Oster(R) Beehive Blender – similar to that of my childhood

I should be wearing earplugs. That would be easier than sticking my fingers in my ears.  Also, I have never tried the blender with ice only although the rightmost button is labeled “ice crush.” That sounds so daring that maybe I’ll do it before the end of summer or the end of the blender, whichever comes first. Live dangerously!

Now you have endured my trivial notes on my on-the-way-out blender. My love of it, and sludgees, has evolved from a desire to stay cool. If I can’t provide 24/7 air conditioning for my body, at least I can freeze it from the inside out. So, having subjected you to this paen to my blender, here is my recipe for a Sludgee:

1 cup milk or (⅓ cup powdered milk plus water to equal 1 cup)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 packets Equal sweetener
Some fruit: 1 banana, 1 apple (cored), OR ½ cooked yam
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon (or 1 shake) ground cinnamon
10-15 ice cubes

Start blending ingredients, then add ice cubes one at a time. Whiz until it is slushy. Stick in a long straw and suck. Experience brain freeze. Rinse and repeat.

Happiness is My Choice, 8

My happiness, serenity, contentment, appreciation, and ability to give depends upon my attitude. Any challenge I am given is a loving nudge from G-d saying, “Hey, you need to work on something to refine your character and here’s a chance to do so.” He only gives us good. How we view situations changes agitation to mere irritation, anger to understanding, stress to an opportunity to practice patience, and adversity to a chance to grow.

What is my attitude toward things that happen in life? Where does it come from?

The people I surround myself with influences my attitude greatly. When I’m with an impatient crowd awaiting a bus that is wildly off schedule and late, I can pick up on that irritability, anger, stress and go along with the crowd, start to feel twitchy myself. Where is the bus? Harrumph, I can huff and puff while looking at my watch every two minutes. Each glimpse at the watch face without the bus appearing hikes my anxiety higher. How dare they? I’m going to be late. Mutter mutter. I’ve even heard people complaining about how much time it takes to pick up wheelchair-bound people, delaying the bus further. Grumble grumble.

I am stronger than my surroundings, however. I can choose to channel the anxiety, fear, disappointment into thoughts that bolster my spirit instead of feeding the snake of ill-humor. I can focus on the good even though the situation discomfits me. To those who grumble about wheelchairs, let them never suffer the helplessness you feel when you are dependent upon others for transportation, the lack of autonomy and diminution of the ability to travel. I remember with great gladness how my ability to walk was restored to me after an injury that rendered me incapable of even bending my leg! What a wonderful thing that people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to travel unassisted can now travel by public transportation!

I choose to wait patiently at the doctor’s office as a gift. Fuming will not make the appointments move any more quickly. Anger and annoyance won’t get me into the exam room any sooner. I sit back glad that I have doctors to watch over me, happy to have health insurance coverage. Or, on a more esoteric note, I’ll contemplate why dogs are hairy and rabbits are furry while I’m waiting. Look at my fingernails. Compose a blog post. Ripple my abdominal muscles. Ponder why Pluto was demoted from planet status. Wonder what the world will look like in 2100. Etc., etc.

Changing ones attitude requires being aware what attitude exists in the first place.

When I surround myself with kind, thoughtful people who act in a genteel manner, I become more like them. I remember to say please and thank you. I give smiles readily. I greet people with a glad face. I act respectful and feel respected. I absorb attitude from those around me. I gravitate to people who exhibit their happiness in spiritual ways. Being around them makes me feel uplifted. I feel hopeful and get sparked that I can better myself.

I ask myself when I do something or react to something: Is that the way the person I want to be would act?

Did you ever imagine yourself to be the Queen?

The person I want to be is kind, soft-spoken, friendly, respectful, pleasant, loving, disciplined, ladylike, calm, and giving. Benevolent, even. By envisioning and trying to live like that person, I take on her characteristics. Therein lies one aspect of my happiness. It’s all in my attitude. I’m not being handed troubles; rather, I’m given challenges from the One Who has my best interest at heart.

I can make happiness my choice.

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