Saturday, September 29, 2012

Money Tree

Non-New Yorkers often ask how much stuff costs in the city. And, I have to admit, it's one of my favorite questions to answer. Partly, because it's interesting, but mainly because I need their sympathetic stares to remind me that the rest of America isn't as pricey.

Is the city really that much more expensive than your average American town? For most things, yes, it is.

Unless, of course, you want fresh flowers. Those are only a few bucks at the corner bodega. Carnations? Three dollars. Half a dozen roses? Five bucks. Lilies or some other exotic flower? No more than ten bones.

Manicures and pedicures also seem to be a little cheaper in the city. Nail salons sit on every block, and they usually charge around twenty dollars for a mani/pedi combo. We, northerners, apparently make good nail beds and painted toes a top priority.

But, you don't need fresh flowers and nice nails to live. Those aren't necessities. No, the stuff you really need is where they get you.

A small box of Honey Nut Cheerios? $5.99. Oil of Olay face wash? $6.99. Movie tickets? $13 each. Domestic beers? $6.00 a bottle. Scratchy toilet paper? $5.99 for 4 rolls.

I can't help but want some pity. I feel validated when non-New Yorkers agree that we pay too much. It's a good reality check. And, we, Manhattanites, need that every once in a while.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Out With The Old and In With The New

This year, we got new windows. New windows. NEW windows!

They upgraded our apartment and we didn't pay for it (yet). That never happens in New York. Never.

Our old windows were fine. Intact, not broken or cracked. They were probably 100 years old and repeatedly painted over with lead-based paint, but they technically worked. So, you can imagine my surprise when our building superintendent told me that we were getting new windows.

I didn't question it. I didn't ask for more information. I just said "awesome" and then fist pumped the air Jersey style.

After they installed the new windows, magical things began to happen. Incessant car honking stopped. Pedestrian voices deafened. I slept better. The windows actually opened and allowed fresh (as fresh as fresh gets in the city) air to enter. We could actually access the fire escape in case of an emergency.

The new windows took on a much greater meaning. They represented a well rested, quiet life with a potential escape route if necessary. They represented good housing karma. They, obviously, meant a lot to me.

Thank you, Housing Gods! Thank you very, very much.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Ads

I recently noticed how the ads on Itty Bitty have changed over the past five years. In the beginning, ads for Foot Fetishes Anonymous and unregulated Chinatown bus companies and under-the-table Craigslist jobs flooded the site. Not always the most high brow organizations or opportunities.

Now, I see ads for Ann Taylor Loft, Upper East Side Manhattan apartments, and chiropractors.

When did Itty Bitty become mainstream? When did Itty Bitty get so classy?

I don't know, and I guess that I don't care. I'm really just happy that the ads are slightly more legit and a little less unscrupulous.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cooking Woes

I have issues with my cooking. Ben clearly has issues with my cooking. And, now, even my friends have issues with my cooking. I am no Giada De Laurentiis.

I am part of a book club in NYC. Its members include about a dozen different young, intellectual ladies - obviously myself, coworkers, friends, and friends-of-friends. We meet once a month at someone's apartment to discuss a chosen book and any other topics of interest.

Whoever chooses the book of the month also chooses the theme of the meeting, like what food to make. For example, when we read "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern, everybody brought a dish they might find at a circus. People brought chicken fingers, carmel apples, finger foods, mini corn dogs, etc. It's fun when you befriend yourself with top-rate, first-class cooks.

Several months ago, Anna hosted a book club and the food theme centered around peanut butter. Everybody cooked a dish that somehow incorporated peanut butter. Yum, right?

Unfortunately, Ben was in Washington DC for business, so he couldn't act as my personal chef and make my dish like he usually did. I had to make it.  No bueno.

I scoured the internet for a good peanut butter dish. I landed on the Jif peanut butter website. Of course, Jif would recommend a peanut butter good recipe! It was like I went straight to the source, straight to the guru of all peanut butter infused entree creations.

I settled on making "Zesty Peanut Butter Salsa." A dish rated four out of five stars by Jif users and, most importantly, used only four ingredients with a prep time of 10 minutes.

I bought all of the ingredients at Whole Foods grocery store. Only the best ingredients for my fellow book clubbers! I read the list of ingredients over the phone to my mom as I walked home - peanut butter, salsa, cilantro, and apricot preserves. My mom said nothing for a minute and then cautiously asked, "You couldn't find any other recipes?" F-o-r-e-s-h-a-d-o-w-i-n-g.

I got home. Washed my hands like a good chef. Read and reread the directions several times to ensure 100% deliciousness.

I painstakingly measured the ingredients. Poured them into a bowl. Mixed them together.

While cooking, I ignored the weird shade of salmon my creation turned. I overlooked the chunks of cilantro and apricot that stuck together. I pretended not to smell the vomit stench that wafted from the bowl.

I assumed that my PB salsa just needed to marinate. It simply needed time. So, I snapped on the Tupperware lid and put it in the fridge, as instructed. I knew it would turn out okay in the morning.

Or not.

The next morning, I woke up late. Grabbed my PB salsa. Rushed to the subway. Finally, when seated on the subway, I peeled back the corner of the Tupperware lid to see my masterpiece.

Uh oh. The PB salsa still looked and smelled like vomit. Apparently, other commuters thought so too because I got some sour looks from the people beside me.

When I got to work, I frantically showed the girls, who agreed. My PB salsa masterpiece appeared to be a complete failure. But, (this is the part that tells you what good teachers they are) they still said "I tried my best" and "we'll eat it anyways because we know how hard you worked on it." One girl said to let it continue to marinate for the next 10 hours in the mini-fridge at school. Sadly, that still did not do the trick.

That night, at book club, no one ate my PB salsa. Instead, we threw it 10 floors down Anna's trash chute. It landed at the bottom with a loud thud. Anna prayed that the bag didn't bust and splatter on the chute walls. Her lease probably didn't cover pouring putrid substances down the trash chute.

So, for future reference, if it sounds iffy, it will probably taste iffy - not Jiffy.

* Actual photo of Zesty Peanut Butter Salsa from the Jif website. 
Do not be fooled by the attractive photo.