Friday, May 25, 2007
Everybody loves a Hooker  

Everybody loves a Hooker
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
Imagine my reaction when the FedEx guy dropped this 5 foot long box off. It was for the store next door that customizes motorcycles. Apparently Hooker is a line of exhaust systems.

PS: Hmmm... wondering what kind of ads Blogger will be giving me for this entry!


Thursday, May 24, 2007
NJ on SNL  
Mr. Scrubs, Zack Braff opened the last Saturday Night Live of the season with a little ditty about NJ. Two complaints... he didn't sing Uncle Floyd's "Deep in the Heart of Jersey" and he only mentioned locales in Northern Jersey. Oh... apparently the sub shop he mentions no longer exists in So. Orange. So maybe he needs to change the costume to reflect "Sonny's Bagels."

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Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Cat of Sleepy Hollow  

The Cat of Sleepy Hollow
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
The annual Friends of Sleepy Hollow Garage Sale was this weekend. Known for its beautiful stone and wood houses, this section of Plainfield, NJ doesn't necessarily have better junk to sell. But it does provide a lot of "house candy" to look at. Oh, and one fluffy cat that liked to roll around.

I was able to find some Family Circle cookbooks (I've been slowly collecting the 1972 set) and a pair of troll doll earrings to wear the next time we go to the Fire House for bingo night.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007
Going Greek  

Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
Today, Lucky and I ventured to the 34th annual Greek Festival in Piscataway. My family had been wanting to go for over 30 years and so last year, we finally went.

This year, it was just the two of us venturing there. And honestly, it probably will be the last time. Not that I hate people; it's just that I hate lots of people. You have to park in the Rutgers Stadium lot and get bussed over, pay the $2 each to get in, wait in a long line to get the tickets for the food you want, wait in line to get that food, wait for a table to open up, and then forget about having a conversation because it's so loud.

Yes, the food is good... Lucky had a massive brick of pastitsio (a sort of baked macaroni and beef with cheesy egg stuff on top) and I had a gyro (I know, original but I already had tried the mousaka, pastitsio, and spanakopita last year along with ever single dessert they had available... most of them dripping with honey). We shared a glass of Greek sweet wine that seemed to have a touch of clove, and watched the Greek School's dancers perform.

We finished the meal with some Loukoumades. Having tried many different ethnic cuisines, I start to see a pattern of foods emerge. One of them being sweet deepfried dough. Doughnuts, beignets, zeppoles, Berliners... These ones happen to be "Greek." What makes them Greek, you ask? They are made by Greek parishioners , dipped in a thin honey sauce, dusted with cinnamon and sesame seeds, and are called "louloumades." Apparently, a more advanced version has them filled with custard.

Here's a recipe:

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Sunday, May 13, 2007
Mother's Day  

Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
This Mother's Day was spent at Lucky's parents. It's tradition for his dad to go down to the local seafood co-op and get some lobsters to cook up. My lobster was quite tasty, but I will never understand why some people serve the corn on the cob AFTER finishing dinner.

My mom had taken Lucky to the local German bakery so that he could pick up a yummy cheesecake for dessert. It was worth cheating on my diet.

On the way out, my MiL asked me to decide what to call her. I had been avoiding this decision for over 2 years now and now it must be decided. I don't want to call them "Mom" and "Dad", they aren't Italian enough to use "Madre" and "Padre", and I'm not certain about calling them by their first names. ARGGGGG!

Inviting suggestions.


Saturday, May 12, 2007
The House Tour  

Flowering Tree
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
This May 12th was the second house tour by the town historical society. I was in charge of the advertising. And was quite proud of the fact that many of the tickets were purchased by people outside of the hamlet. It means I was doing my job right... getting the event on two cable stations, four newspapers, and more.

The houses all had their unique personalities. That's what's great about living in a town that grew up around a train station... no "house farms."

One house had a pool in the backyard that was created from an iron tank (The original owner was the president of an oil tank company). It curved rather steeply and was quite deep. The pool even had windows in the deep end. Apparently there had been an underground room for the filtration system and the windows perhaps added light (or the owner was a pervert). The new owners have painted over the windows and are gradually adding tile to the pool so that they don't have to empty the pool every year to scrape off the rust.

Another house had a coi pond in the backyard and trees which not only flowered on the top but also on the trunk (see photo). Apparently, this particular tree is known for that. As with all the houses on the tour, the kitchen had been redone. I have yet to see a house that is over 50 years old that has not had major renovations on the kitchen... I guess when you had "help" you didn't care if there was enough lighting or a place to sit... or for the "icebox."

The last house was lots of fun... because she's one of my frequent customers! Other customers who were on the tour joined me in the hunt for purchases... In addition to my decoartive accents, the house was also filled with lots of old furniture. She had inherited lots of nicely carved wooden pieces... a 9 foot bookcase that someone created in exchange for piano lessons by her great-uncle, her aunt's vanity table. It made me a little sad that I don't have anything from most of my relatives. Even if I did... they wouldn't have been of any quality. Just cheap, mass-produced things that were crap 50 years ago.

That made me realize that Lucky and I will need to purchase good-quality things... Just in case, our future generations want something of ours. We'll just have to make our own history.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007
Cat in Window  

Cat in Window
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
My friend DW went to Japan to teach for a few years. She left behind lots of stuff including two cats that my mom feeds. Akira likes to spend time in the window of their apartment waiting for my mom to come by. They've gotten pretty spoiled. Not only do they have dried food the entire day, but my mom feeds them a can of soft food at night. If they don't get it, Akira will start wailing.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Cinco de Mayo  

Red Dawn
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
This May 5th, Lucky spent the day down the shore with his friend SuperMarc. So I celebrated Cinco de Mayo with my mom at the local Mexican restaurant. Because... it's an excuse to eat good food.

Since it's a REAL Mexican restaurant, they weren't really celebrating the day. Mexicans celebrate September 16 (Mexican Independence Day) instead. The place was filled with families having an evening out. So instead of drinking Margaritas at the Chili's or Friday's, we ate delicious Oaxacan styled dishes. There's no gooey cheeses or deepfried puffy chimichangas, but lots of fresh flavors and crumbled soft cheese.

On the way back, I took this photo of the rescue squad building. I always liked the weird paint pattern that the vines (now removed) had created on the side wall. The siren on top used to sound every night at 6PM. We would use it as a reminder that we needed to come inside for the night. The weird sky was created by solarizing the photo (NJ doesn't really have red skys).

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Something Cultural at RVCC  

Chinese Dancers
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
We noticed a flyer in the foyer of Louka's L.A. Diner on the way out from our average meal... The annual Somerset County Cultural International Festival was going on at Raritan Valley Community College.

We arrived around 2:30 so we only got to watch three dance groups: West African, Chinese, and Hungarian. All were lots of fun to watch, especially the Hungarian gals balancing wine bottles on their heads. The rest of the festival wasn't much... various local ethnic organizations with literature, Usborne Books, jewelry, and Equadorian/Guatemalan clothing. But we were a bit upset that we had wasted our tummies on diner food when it could have been filled with Filipino BBQ, jerk chicken, and funnel cakes.

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The Ft. Dix Plot  
Right now, I'm watching the news conference regarding the plot to shoot up Ft. Dix. And my thought was, crap that could have happened real easily.

You see, over a year ago, a friend got married on the site (technically Maguire Air Force Base) and it was super easy to get in. We were told that we needed I.D. but when we got to the checkpoint, the soldier said "Here for the wedding?" We said "Yup" He said "Go on through."

At the time, I thought it would be rather easy for someone to pretend to be a wedding guest and get into the site. Lucky assured me that chances are that the car had been scanned somehow for weapons, etc. But there wasn't anything noticeable while being a passenger in the vehicle.

I'm sure that a car that makes it through the checkpoints several times a day would even get less of a looksee. Security was tight around 9/11 but then got back to the laxness we're used to at NJ bases. I wonder how long it will stay tight this time.

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Monday, May 07, 2007
Louka's Last American Diner  
I will be adding more to this entry regarding my review of Louka's L.A> Diner. To sum up... it's basic diner food. Slow service by college kids. A diner that is wanting people to know it's a "diner."

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Sunday, May 06, 2007
Shad Fest  

Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
What do you do the day after gorging yourself on turkey, pie, and laughter? You go to Shad Fest!

Shad Fest is an annual event in Lambertville, a Jersey hamlet located right across the Delaware from New Hope, PA. It's filled with lots of small antique shops and NYC tourists who want to go to the country for the day.

We had read about Shad Fest for years, friends raved about it.... heck, it was selected as a "nationally recognized, award winning festival," we had to go! So Lucky lashed the bikes to the Saturn and off we went.

We parked by the Golden Nugget (about 2 miles away) and biked down the D&R Canal path to downtown Lambertville. Gave us a chance to use the bikes and save the $7-$15 in parking (plus the hassle of FINDING parking).

The festival itself wasn't really anything special. Some of the town's stores had special displays in the window for the festival, bands were taking turns playing from the second floor balcony of a store ala New Orleans, and there were some special events (like learning how to cook with shad roe) going on, but basically it's a typical NJ street fair. Tons of handbeaded jewelry stands using $5 earrings as a draw to look more, the typical photography of Asbury Park and Bruce Springsteen (with some stuff of Philly as well), local organization booths, deepfried Oreos, and shad... Ok, that might be a little different.

Considering it IS called ShadFest, there were about three places making shadchowder. We tried the River House Brewery's version of it... not bad for fish chowder (cream not tomato based). Part of the reason for the scarcity of shad on the festival menu is because there isn't much shad in NJ to begin with. Although finally in the last two years, there has been an increase of shad in Delaware, the shad that was in the chowders actually come from Florida.

It was a fun time, but not all that it was made out to be... it's more of something for the locals, similar to the Punkin' Chunkin' in DE. At least we didn't have to drive for hours to get there!

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Saturday, May 05, 2007
And then there was pie!  

Pie Pie Pie
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
Last Saturday, Lilo and Stitch had a party because they had gotten a free 26 pound turkey and needed to get rid of it. It was like a Spring Thanksgiving... a Springsgiving.

About 20 or so people (including a 6 week-old) sat in the living room and ate, and ate, and ate. Everyone brought something to the table: indian bread pudding, broccoli casserole (which apparently was good), ginger-ale ham, and of course the TURKEY!

We ate and chit-chatted, seeing how the babies grew, what was new. It was nice, since we usually have this type of event the second Saturday in December. Stitch was especially pleased on how it turned out and decided (with a nod from Lilo) to make it an annual fete.

And then there was pie... and cake, and cookies... To be exact: 3 coconut cream pies, 2 banana cream pies, 2 pumpkin pies, one raspberry jello pie, one cheesecake pie, plate of italian pastries, one bag of biscotti, various nuts and chocolate, and a cake from Mendoker's Suffice it to say, we all went home with leftovers and L&S ate cream pies for breakfast the entire week.

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Friday, May 04, 2007
The Accidental Concert  

Al Stewart
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
In a past converstation with my brother, Lucky found out that the two people BigD would like to see in concert would be Al Stewart and Donovan. So when he found out that Al would be in NJ, Lucky, BigD, and Little D made plans to see him.

When the day came, Lucky came to the store to wait for the two to show up. It was getting close to 7:30 and they still hadn't shown up. I left him with my mom and went to the supermarket. Ten minutes later, I'm selecting corn went I hear a voice behind me say "Do you want to go to a concert?"

Turns out that my brother decided instead of reading his old emails, to google "al stewart metuchen" and got the info for LAST YEAR'S concert. So both he and his wife were still at work. Since the tickets were already for (heck it was 15 minutes before the show started... and you know that the ticket scalpers fight over who gets to cover this concert :) ), my mom and I jumped into the car with Lucky and headed off to Metuchen.

The opening act, Dave Nackmanoff had just started when we arrived. It didn't surprise us that Al was a big influence on Dave's style; you could hear it in his first song. But as his set progressed, his music did as well. Dave then introduced Al Stewart and backed him up with his detailed guitar work. The beginning of the show was a bit unsettling. Apparently the monitors had been off-kilter since soundcheck and bothered both of them. Al suggested that the sound guy go to sound guy school and threatened to leave. He said it with a smile on his face but not in his voice, so I wasn't sure if we were going to get a "folksy" version of Axl Rose.

He managed to get through the set and after the break, the monitors were fixed some how. And he completed the song that he refused to finish the first set ... a yet untitled number about a soccer player whose one mistake is never forgotten and replayed for decades. Lucky thought that the song was what it was, but I thought of it on a different level... how the "new media" is making it harder for brief moments to be softened (eg Imus).

After the concert, he signed merchandise that had been purchased during the break. I snapped this photo (creatively cropping out Lucky... you want to see the whole photo, just email me). He was very conversational and quite friendly. A complete opposite from how I had viewed him mere hours ago.

And what did I think of the concert (my mom's second concert in a week... and in a lifetime, if you are keeping track)? Actually it was quite energetic! His voice was strong, his lyrics clear and meaningful (although I didn't always get the references). I wouldn't necessarily go see him again (ala the Bacon Brothers), but I understand why the audience was filled with people who had just seen him the previous year.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007
Miss you Wally...  
Walter Shirra died today; he was 84. For those who don't know, Wally was the only astronaut to fly on NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. He was a sweetie. Not as good of a speaker as Alan Bean, or as famous as Neil Armstrong, but a sweetie... from Hackensack.


Peter, Paul, and Mary  

Peter, Paul, and Mary
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
After seeing Loreena McKennit in NYC, Lucky and I set up for a yard sale early the next morning. It was at a neighboring town's park yard sale so we figured there would be some guaranteed foot traffic. We only netted around $25 but did get rid of two boxes of junk, err... treasures.

That night, my mom and I took the train into Newark for her FIRST CONCERT!!!

We first stopped at Don Pepe's, the famed Spanish restaurant. The place had the feel of a "Hart to Hart" episode, lots of dark woods, although the room we were shown to seem to have been done within the last 10 years. We started the meal with some warmed crusty bread and red sangria (I had requested a half-pitcher but they brought a full one). The wine worked quickly; thankfully the bread kept the buzz from getting too wild. I ordered the garlic shrimp , something I often order since I don't get to make it at home (Lucky's allergic) and my mom got the "surf and turf." The steak was pretty good as was the poundplus of shrimps, but the lobster tasted a bit like chlorine. Much was left-over but we couldn't take it with us to the concert so we doggy-bagged the leftovers and left them outside to be found by Newark's homeless. Figured they wouldn't mind a steak and shrimp dinner.

We walked the few blocks to NJPAC, just in time to get to our seats to hear, "Please welcome Peter, Paul & Mary to the stage!" Mary walked with a cane to her bar chair and we worried a moment that having the trio on my "See them before they die" list was a bit less of a joke. But she mentioned later in the concert that she had recupped fine from leukemia a few years back and that she had just thrown her back out a day before (ala Ellen Degeneres).

They sang many of their hits in the first acts, the ones that used all three voices equally. I say "they" but it was also "us" as it wouldn't be a folk performance without the audience singing along. With "Puff the Magic Dragon," most stopped with the first verse, only to start up again at the chorus... except me. Maybe it was reading the book when I was little, or singing in Girl Scouts, but that whole song takes up a chunk of brain matter.

During the break, my mom and I walked around NJPAC even in the darkened areas. That's where we found a deserted ladies' room just 20 feet away from the one with the long line. (I pass this info on... many of the newer PACs have enough WCs, you just have to look).

After the break, PP&M took turns singing their own songs. In Mary's case, she had help from Paul. Not sure if it was by design, or because her voice wasn't as strong as it was. Peter Yarrow dedicated his turn to kwetch about his experiences about Israel, which was welcomed warmly by the audience which seemed to be primarily from Livingston/Short Hills (my mom and I stood out fersher). The second half wasn't as strong but still lots of fun... and sharing the concert with my mom (who sang her heart out) was definitely special.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Loreena McKennitt: A (K)night in the City  

Radio City Music Hall
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
For our second anniversary (one month ago today), I surprised Lucky with tickets to see Loreena McKennitt at Radio City Music Hall. He had forlornly talked about how she hasn't toured in almost a decade, and that he'd love to see her again. It seemed to be an easy gift to select... except that her new tour was filmed in Spain a few months ago, and shown on every PBS station in the country during beg-athon time (three stations alone in our area). Trying to click past her with the remote, feigning disinterest so he wouldn't suggest checking if she was touring nearby wasn't easy!

We left for the city around 4 so that we could actually eat somewhere instead of grabbing a quick something at a shady-looking deli buffet. On the way uptown, Lucky remarked upon a white Hummer decked out to the nines with the vanity plate "DEFCON1" making its way through rush-hour traffic.

We were beginning to cross at an intersection (yes, the little white man was running), where the Hummer was now trying to make a left turn. Since it's around 5:30, the vehicle is swarmed by pedestrians. When suddenly, the driver jumps out and shoves one of the pedestrians hard "Don't you ever f@#Kn touch my truck!" The driver could have been a bouncer at a hard-core bar: tank top, tattoo sleeves, shiny bald head, that whole Vin Diesel look. But he picked on the wrong guy. The startled pedestrian might have been wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, but he looked stranglely like the driver, and definitely had seen the inside of a Gold's Gym; he shoved right back. And for a surreal moment, I thought that I was watching a "Sopranos Goes to Manhattan" episode. The driver must have realized that his hot-headed behavior was just witnessed by at least 100 witnesses and quickly got back in and drove off.

Yet another story in the Naked City, but we had somewhere to get to...WuLiang Ye, a Chinese restaurant near Radio City that got pretty decent reviews. We find it with no problem. Climb up the stairs, only to find out that you needed RESERVATIONS!!! The first time in my life, that a Chinese restaurant required reservations but then again, it was NY. Momentarily defeated, we walked up the block and into Channel 4 Irish Pub. Though the drinks were NY prices, the food was served quickly and was delicious...and relatively cheap (under $20/entree). Definitely a keeper.

We made it to Radio City just in time. And the concert was as one would expect. great songs, done well, with fantastic sound. In fact, pretty much like the concert shown on PBS. What was more interesting was seeing the concert goers... lots of women with long curly hair and men with pony tails. Poor Lucky, not looking like he was listening to a different drummer!

PS: I did manage to capture the spirit of LM with that queer little device known as a camera, but since she has this thing about privacy, here's a link to almost the exact same picture I took. Just note that I disagree with the NYT review.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Down Right Bass  

Down Right Bass
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato.
So I will attempt to participate in FrenchToastGirl's "Every Day In May" project... although I am making no promises. My variant on the program will be by posting 31 entries of varying importance. I have alot of stuff that happened the end of April and I'm finally able to breathe a bit more regularly now... so expect lots of April tales.

This is a part of a photo taken at the end of a Peter, Paul, and Mary concert (Richard Kniss' bass viol). NYPAC, April 21, 2007. I adjusted the balance/contrast to give it the feel of a charcoal sketch.

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