Monday, December 3, 2007

And So The Season Begins...

  1. "What are you going to eat? Nothing?"
    Thanksgiving was great, as it always is. My uncle Jerry only made one vegetarian joke this year! I also love to see my cousins and my aunt. It is one of my favorite holidays because it's about being thankful, family, friends, food, and fun. Thanksgiving means a lot to me because it's one of the few times when my family is altogether. It's also about getting tipsy on the wine! :-) And leftovers, of course... but those were gone in two days! Besides, I get leftovers from Nonna's house even when it isn't Thanksgiving! I don't think I've ever gone to her house without returning home with food!

  2. What's the malfunction?
    My computer was down for over a week. It stopped working properly the day after Thanksgiving. I'm glad it was still under warranty. My dad brought it back to me yesterday. He and my uncle souped it up with additional memory and virus protection. What a generous family I have! I'm glad to be back online, although I had plenty of things to do while my computer was in the shop.

  3. 'Tis the season... for spending too much money
    I've also begun my Christmas shopping. I stayed away from the mall on Black Friday... those people are nuts to go out there at 4 in the morning and wait in line behind thirty or more people! I'm only buying a few things for select people because I can't afford to buy things for everybody. This is the first year where I've actually been able to afford to buy presents for anyone at all. Previous years I've only given cards, and one year I actually gave out homemade cards. I'm looking forward to this Christmas and giving presents to the ones I love. Snow has finally fallen around here, as well, and the grounds are covered with blankets of white. It's also colder than a witch's tit (as my old supervisor used to say)! People keep telling me that we're going to have a mild winter this year, but I know Syracuse weather. The worst has yet to come, and we'll have snow until March, for certain.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Apples and Walnuts

Here's a great recipe for Thanksgiving, or any time of the season!


3 medium acorn squash
3 good baking apples, or any apples you prefer
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
6 tablespoons margarine or olive oil
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch or allspice or nutmeg
salt and pepper (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Since acorn squash is hard to cut, partially bake or microwave the squash until the skin is soft enough to be broken easily by the pressure of your thumbnail. Allow to cool before handling.

2) Lightly oil a shallow baking dish large enough to accommodate 6 squash halves (multiple dishes or pans can be used).

3) Peel and core apples and cut into small chunks. In a mixing bowl, combine the apples, nuts, margarine or oil, brown sugar, and spices (except salt and pepper) and mix until the sugar is mostly dissolved into the margarine, and the apples are evenly coated.

4) When the squash is cool enough to handle, cut each one in half lengthwise (top to tip). Scoop out the seeds and fibers (save the seeds because they can be roasted and eaten like pumpkin seeds). Wrap each squash half in aluminum foil and arrange them on the baking dish. Spoon the apple mixture into each center, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If there is any liquid left over in the bowl, pour it over the squash and apples. Seal the aluminum foil over the squash.

5) Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Yield: 6 servings

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tramps like us... baby we were born to run!

On Thursday, November 15, I went to Albany with my neighbor Skip and his friend Joan to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Skip is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, and he invited me to go to the show with him. He and I are both great lovers of music. That commonality is the reason we became good friends. We had an interesting road trip, and had a great time at the show. It's one of the best concerts I have ever seen. The energy was great. Bruce performed some songs from his new album, as well as some surprises. We danced, sang, had a few beers, and enjoyed ourselves. We didn't get back until after 2 AM... and I had to work the next day! But it was great. I'm glad I went. Here is the set list:

Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Reason To Believe
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Candy's Room
She's The One
Livin' In The Future
The Promised Land
I'll Work For Your Love
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
The E Street Shuffle
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last To Die
Long Walk Home

Girls In Their Summer Clothes
Thunder Road
Born To Run
Dancing In The Dark
American Land

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Good Deed of the Day

On my way to work yesterday I decided to stop at the Sound Garden to pick up a DVD I wanted. I was walking around Armory Square and I saw a woman in a wheelchair coming around the corner. As I walked by, I watched her as she opened the door to enter a building. I noticed that she was having trouble with something and I stopped to see if she needed any help. She told me her shoe had fallen off, so I helped her put it back on. She thanked me, and proceeded to open the door to enter the building. I stayed for a moment longer to make sure she got into the building safely. She seemed to struggle a little with the door, so I asked her if she needed help with it. She politely responded that she was okay, so I continued on my way to the record store.

As I walked away, I was overcome with a sense of fulfillment and contentment. I was in a pleasant mood for the rest of the day. I'm glad I encountered that lady. That experience made my day.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Wonderful Weekend

My best friend Stacy came to visit me this weekend. After a crazy week at work, I was looking forward to an enjoyable weekend. Friday night after work, I went down to the Regional Transportation Center to meet her there. She rode the Greyhound Bus. When I got there, I got a call. Stacy told me that her bus was running late. It wasn't going to be in Cortland for another hour. So I waited in the station for an hour and a half for her to arrive. I sat there and drank coffee from Dunkin Donuts and ate junk food from the vending machine. She didn't get into Syracuse until 11:30 pm. Then we had to wait until 12:15 for the next bus to pick us up at the Regional and take us downtown. Unfortunately, by the time we got downtown, there were no more Centro buses running. The last James St. bus was at 12:30, and we didn't get downtown until 12:35. So we took a cab home. We didn't get back to my place until 1 am.

Despite the unexpected delay, the rest of the weekend was great. We had a great time together. We hung out, ate, watched movies (Spirited Away and Fern Gully), and listened to music (Stevie Nicks, Heart, Siouxsie, Tom Petty, Bob Marley, and a band that Stacy likes called Broken Yoke). We also went next door to visit my neighbor Skip and hung out over there for a while.

After that, Stacy had me put highlights in her hair. She brought the kit with her. I'd never done anything like that before, so it was a new experience. I told her that I'm not a beautician and that I really didn't know what I was doing, but she was happy with the results. I told her she looked like a punk rocker, not only with the additional blond highlights, but also with the pink and blue she had put in her hair beforehand. Plus she got a new haircut (the word "bob" comes to mind) and also a lip piercing, so Stacy looked like a whole new woman!

It was nice to spend time with my best friend. I hadn't seen her in months, since she moved to Cortland. I'm glad she came to visit me. She plans on visiting one more time this year, hopefully before the S-N-O-W (a bad four-letter word) hits us real bad! Although we had a wonderful time, we didn't get much sleep. We stayed up half the night anyway, and since I had to set my clock back an hour, we lost another hour of sleep. So now I'm tired, and now it's time to retire for the night, because tomorrow I go back to W-O-R-K (another bad four-letter word)! Good night!

What a Weird Week!

It's been quite a week for me. Last Sunday my allergies kicked in big time. They've been kicking my ass all week! I just can't seem to shake them. I hope I'm not coming down with a cold. It doesn't feel like a cold, as I can tell the difference between allergies and a cold, but I'm going to be cautious. The weather has been strange, as well, and the constant change between warm and cold, humid and dry isn't helping me any.

Wednesday was the last day I had to come in early to cover for someone at work. It was also Halloween. The majority of the day was pretty much the same as always... up until 5:30 when I go downstairs to clean childcare at the end of the day.

Let me tell you about childcare. Anyone who has worked in the cleaning/housekeeping industry will attest to the fact that anywhere where there is children, there is a disaster. I've cleaned in a lot of different places in the past few years, and let me tell you, childcares and daycares are the WORST. But during my time with this company, I have NEVER seen anything like this!

As it was Halloween, the teachers had a party for the kids. They had candy, cupcakes, and the usual. They also had a sensory activity where they put various items in containers and had the kids feel inside. It was supposed to be gross stuff, like wet spaghetti for brains, grapes for eyeballs, etc. When I went in there Wednesday afternoon, there was spaghetti in every corner of the room. There was spaghetti in places where spaghetti has never gone before! There was a glow-in-the-dark bouncy ball lodged in the sink. There was candy besprent from one end of the room to the other, even in the bathroom! There was orange and black paint everywhere. That childcare was so filthy, it was scary. It was almost horrific!

I was so tired. The week was already dragging on as it was, and that was just the tip of the iceberg! By the time I got home, I was exhausted. I didn't do anything to celebrate Halloween, which is one of my favorite holidays.

After Wednesday, things calmed down, but the energies were still weird around me. Something was just "off." I can't explain it, but nothing seemed to go my way. I was pretty irritable for the next two days. I must have been accident prone, too, because I kept tearing trash bags, dropping things, and just fumbling with everything. I even knocked my entire cleaning cart over... all my stuff fell on the floor, and the cart even fell apart! At least I didn't spill my mop bucket...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sexuality and attraction

Life is a journey of self-discovery. Over the years I've looked to the corners of the earth to find out more about myself. I've found that it's difficult to place a definitive label on one's self. We often get caught up in types: we're either "this type" or "that type," but I've found that not everything is so clear-cut. Our world is neither black nor white, but rather a myriad of colors, shades, and hues.

I've found that this truth applies to many aspects of my own life. I've often tried to define myself in terms of my sexuality, attraction, and romantic ideas, but I've found that I'm not just one "thing" or one "way." Any psychologist will tell you that sexuality and attraction are complicated matters. The Kinsey scale attempts to measure one's sexuality in a number system: 0 is exclusively heterosexual, and 6 is exclusively homosexual, with room in between for variation. I am definitely somewhere "in between," but I don't consider myself bisexual. Bisexual refers to sexual attraction to both sexes, but for me that is not entirely the case.

Sexual orientation refers to the direction of one's sexual attraction. The term is often misleading to some, as "sex" is used as the basis for attraction according to this defintion. An alternative term is "affectional orientation," which is, according to the Wikipedia defintion, "based on the perspective that one's orientation is not limited to sexuality but also to one's affectionality. To holders of this view, one's orientation is defined by whom one is predisposed to fall in love with, sexual attraction being only a part of a larger dynamic." In other words, attraction is more than sexual. I find myself attracted to a variety of people for a variety of reasons, regardless of their sex or gender. I am indeed attracted to both men and women, but I am attracted to them for different reasons.

It is hard to define, but I think that my attraction to men is mostly sexual and romantic, while my attraction to women is more of a reverence, respect, and a more aesthetic attraction. Probably the best way to describe it would be to say that my attraction to men is mostly physical, while my attraction to women is mostly spiritual, although the reverse is also true. I am emotionally and romantically attractioned to both men and women, and even to people whose sex or gender is not clearly defined as "male" or "female" in the biological or social senses.

I usually use the term "gay" to describe myself, as it is the most simple, but it is not totally accurate. Gay, or homosexual, in the most generic definition of the word, refers to sexual attraction to members of the same sex. Homophile is a term that is uncommon, but is sometimes preferred by certain individuals because it emphasizes love over sex. An androphile is someone, regardless of sex or gender, who is attracted to adult males. Attraction to adult females is known as gynephilia.

According to Wikipedia, pansexuality (sometimes referred to as omnisexuality) is defined as "a sexual orientation characterized by the potential for aesthetic attraction, romantic love and/or sexual desire for people, regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. This includes potential attraction to people who do not fit into the gender binary of male/female implied by bisexual attraction. Pansexuality is sometimes described as the capacity to love a person romantically irrespective of gender. Some pansexuals also assert that gender and sex are meaningless to them." I like the term pansexual for myself, but as it literally implies "sexual attraction to all," a more appropriate term for myself would be "omniphile," meaning "loving all."

My sex and gender have never been questioned. I have always identified as male. I have never had any desire to become a woman. Physically and psychologically I have always been male. Gender, sex, attraction, and orientation are not the same things.

We are often told that men have a "feminine side" and women have a "masculine side," and this is true. In the spiritual sense, I believe that all people are a composition of male and female energies, regardless of their biological or physical sex. As we are a product of the union of a male and female, we contain aspects of both our father and our mother. The Native American term "Two-Spirit" describes a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit living in the same body. It is known by different terms in different cultures. However, it is not to be confused with the terms transsexual or transgender. A Two-Spirit can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, male, female, intersexed, transsexual, transgender, etc. It is simply a person who is a combination of masculine and feminine energies, regardless of definitions of gender, sexuality, or attraction.

A more scientific approach might be to explain it on a hormonal level. My grandmother once said to me, "It is my opinion that we are all born with both male and female hormones. Females have more of the female hormones. Males have more of the male hormones. Homosexuals are born with a balanced mix... somewhere in the middle. This is just a unique thing and is not a disease or a mental problem. It just is. People are people and bring their own uniqueness to the world. We should appreciate every one we meet. They add to the interest of life." Truer words were never spoken.

It is great to be familiar with all of this terminology, as it allows me some sense of identity. Although there are many labels I could place on myself, I find that labels are too sticky. Labels are made for envelopes and documents, not people. I think the best thing to call myself is "Anthony," because that is who I am, period.

Other references:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mount Etna

Mount Etna is located near the province of Catania in Sicily. It is the largest active volcano in Europe. Reaching a hefty 10,910 feet high, it is nearly three times the height of Mount Vesuvius (which is only 4,200 feet). It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It is also abundant with life. Trees and flowers grow where lava once flowed. Vineyards and orchards grow on its fertile volcanic soils. It’s also a popular place for skiers and hikers, and people also live on its slopes.

Of the towns nestled in the mountainside is Piedimonte Etneo, which, when translated, means “the foot of Mount Etna”, which is exactly where the town is located. It is also where my family is from. Imagine living on the side of an active volcano! According to the Sicilian Surnames Search Engine, there are about 28 people with the same last name as me currently living in Piedimonte Etneo. There are about 216 in Catania and 210 in Palermo.

Mount Etna was also a popular subject in Greek and Roman mythology. Andranus (a fire god in Sicilian mythology) was said to have lived beneath the mountain before being driven out by Vulcan, the god of fire and the forge. Vulcan then kept his smithy under Etna. The word "volcano" is also derived from his name. The Cyclops were said to have forged weapons there, including Zeus' lightning bolts. Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, was said to have resided in Etna, where he kept the winds in caves below the mountain. The giant Typhon was imprisoned under Etna, and was said to be the cause of its eruptions. Another giant, Enceladus, was defeated by Athena and buried under Etna. It is said that the volcano’s tremors are his movements in pain from the wound of Athena’s spear, and its eruptions are his breath.

Despite the fact that Mount Etna is regularly active, those who reside on or near it are seldom in danger. The probability of having one’s home destroyed by the lava flow is slim. Most damage that occurs comes from fallen ash. When an eruption occurs, activities generally continue as normal, but precautions are always taken to ensure safety. Only seven eruptions have had reported deaths. Out of these, there have only been two notable major disasters that have taken place on Mount Etna: one in 1169, reportedly responsible for up to 15,000 deaths, and the most famous disaster of 1669 which killed up to 20,000 people.

One of the largest series of eruptions in years occurred in October 2002. A huge explosion of ash, which landed as far away as Libya, could be seen from space. Lucasfilm recorded footage of the eruptions and used it in the movie Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The most recent eruption happened on September 4, 2007 around 8:00 pm, lasting until the following morning between 5 and 7 am (local time). The Catania-Fontanarossa Airport had to shut down operations. According to National Geographic, Mount Etna has grown increasingly active over the last fifty years.

To see videos of Mount Etna’s eruptions, visit the following links:

To see a live webcam of Mount Etna, visit the following link:


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Working overtime

Work has been a little different lately. Several of my co-workers have been out (on vacation, another job, etc.) so I've picked up a lot of extra hours lately, covering for other people. All during the month of October, as long as I'm needed, I've had an extra hour in the morning to clean a judge's chambers and courtroom. For a few days this week and last week I had another hour added to that, to clean the 9th floor, which is huge! I took so much garbage out of there, it was crazy.

But I don't mind working overtime. My supervisors know that they can rely on me to be there. The work isn't so strenuous that it's overwhelming. Plus, my paycheck will be a little bit nicer to look at when it comes in the mail!

Songs about work:
Donna Summer - She Works Hard for the Money
Rush - Working Man
Dolly Parton - 9 to 5
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Proud Mary (also Ike and Tina Turner)
Huey Lewis and the News - Working for a Living

The last farmer's market

Tuesday was the last downtown farmer's market of the year. Now that lot becomes a parking lot (which it usually is, anyway). I am going to try to go to the farmer's market at the Regional Market, which is close to my mother's house. I would like to continue to buy fresh, local, affordable produce. So that means I have to get my ass up on Saturday morning and take a bus ride! It's a little bit of a longer ride because I have to transfer onto a different bus, but I'm going to see if I can do it. It was nice to have the convenience of stopping at the market and looking around before work. Now I have to take a trip. Oh well.

Here is a summary of all the things I've bought at the farmer's market this year: Plums, pears, figs, tomatoes, onions, garlic, corn, yellow summer squash, zucchini, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, cabbage, and sweet potatoes. I still have so much food in my house! I'd better get to cooking, because we've had a bountiful harvest this year. Halloween's coming up... I should make pumpkin pie! Autumn is the most inspirational time for food and cooking. Pretty soon Thanksgiving will be here and we'll be stuffed to the brim!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Weekend with Nonna

Friday night I went over to my Nonna's house to spend the weekend with her. I had Columbus Day off, so I had a three-day weekend, and she always tells me with her shaky Italian accent, "Maybe when you have a long weekend you can come over and stay with me." So I did. It was nice to spend time with my Nonna. It really took my mind off of things, and I had a great time.

On the first night we stayed up and watched the Italian channel, RAI International. We watched Ballando con le Stelle, which is Dancing with the Stars in Italy. American actor Ronn Moss, who plays Ridge on the Bold and the Beautiful, was a special guest dancer that night. He didn't speak a word of Italian. But Ballando con le Stelle is just like its American equivalent, the main difference being that there are five judges instead of three. But the judges themselves are quite odd characters. One resembles an Italian version of Joan Rivers, and one was this prissy, snobbish, Paris Hilton-type character, complete with her little runt of a dog. I've always thought that Italian people were among the most beautiful people in the world, but some of these people were just caricatures of American stereotypes. Many of the dancers were beautiful, although some of the women dressed like buttane (whores), as my Nonna repeatedly pointed out. The American women are the same way.

The main thing I can expect when I go to Nonna's house is lots of food. She just can't stop cooking for me! She made me beans, pasta, broccoli, potatoes, squash, and lots of other things. Much of the things that she makes for me comes from her garden. The squash that she made for me was a light green maraca-shaped squash, which I later found out is called calabash or bottle gourd. In Italian it is known as cucuzza, which is also the Sicilian word for squash in general. It is also an an affectionate term, as well as a slang term for a stupid or hard-headed person (hard like the squash itself). She gave me a cucuzza to take home, as well as a small pumpkin from her garden. Another oddity from her garden was a miniature watermelon, which was juicy and sweet. This watermelon was so small, it fit in the palm of my hand! I've never seen a watermelon so small in my life!

I helped her bring some of her plants into the basement before winter comes. I told her that I was thinking about getting some plants for my apartment, so she gave me one. She asked me, "Why go out and buy plants when I have so many here?" She's right: her house is surrounded by a variety of plants, including a forest of flowers, a few fruit trees, half a dozen basil plants, and, of course, her vegetable garden.

On Sunday, I went to church with her. Going to church is a nice respite. It is a refreshing escape from the mundane. Everytime I go with her, I feel a sense of relief, as if all burden was lifted from my shoulders. It is a strange experience that is very uplifting. It seems to gradually wash over me. I always feel awkward going to church, as I am not truly a Catholic, but I never feel shunned or unwelcome. I eventually become quite comfortable with the experience. Roman Catholicism is an important part of my family, and a piece of it lies within me. It fulfills something within me in the same way I find fulfillment in Paganism and other religions. It is a beautiful, indescribable experience. I find truth within its beauty.

One of the other activities that I enjoy is listening to her stories. She has a great memory, and is full of stories about Italy, her childhood, her family, my grandfather, my father, and my uncle. I try to absorb as much of this information as I can. I love learning about the history of my family. It makes me appreciate my heritage even more.

I had a great weekend. We did a lot of activites together. I'm glad I got to see my Nonna! Thanksgiving is just right around the corner, so I'll see her again soon!

Monday, October 8, 2007


I received some sad news Friday evening. The day I feared would come arrived too soon and sudden.

My mother called me around 6:20 pm. I was still in work, so I didn't answer the phone. I knew it must have been something important, because my mother wouldn't call me at work unless it was urgent. As soon as 7:00 came around, I was right out the door, and I called her back right away. I could tell by the tone of her voice that something was wrong. She told me that my dog, Rascal, had died this morning. She told me that Grandma Elle took her to get an MRI and surgery, but before she made it to the MRI, her heart stopped. The doctors tried to revive her, but it was no use. Grandma Elle told them to let her go. Rascal died at about 11:15 Friday morning. She wasn't even 8 years old.

I knew that Rascal wasn't doing well, but I didn't expect her to go so soon. When my mother told me, I was speechless. I couldn't translate what I was feeling. The only thing that I remember saying was "There's nothing I can do." When mom asked me how I was, I told her I was fine, which was true at the moment. I handled it well for the first few minutes. It wasn't until I got onto the bus that the tears started to well up in my eyes. I summoned all the strength I could to hold back the tears, but they kept running down my face. Whenever I wiped away the tears, more followed. When I got home, I had an e-mail from Grandma Elle confirming what I feared was true.

The initial injury occurred a while back when Rascal was jumping into the truck and her leash got caught on the door and pulled her back. She landed on her hip, and soon after, she developed a limp. I never thought that her injury would eventually be fatal. I don't know if it was just my optimism or if I was in denial (or both), but I never thought that she would get as bad as she did. Even when I went to Connecticut for my vacation and saw for the first (and last) time how ill she had become, I still thought there was a chance that she would get better. I'm glad I got to see her one last time.

I knew there was a possibility that she might not recover. Just two days prior to her death, Grandma Elle e-mailed me and warned me that she might have to put Rascal to sleep. While I am not a fan of euthanasia, I understood that it might have been necessary if her condition worsened. Rascal did not deserve to suffer, so I accepted the fact and agreed to the decision.

I know that Grandma Elle did everything in her power to help Rascal recover her health. She endured much frustration and spent a lot of money to try to save our beautiful little dog. She took Rascal to get an x-ray, ultrasound, biopsy, and blood work. The doctor put her on prednisone, which is a synthetic steroid. The drug made her gain weight, which only made her condition worse, as it just caused more strain on her leg. Because she was in such pain, Rascal became inactive, which added to her weight gain. Her leg atrophied. She could barely stand or squat. She had difficulty going to the bathroom. As time went by, her condition became more serious. Her injury had snowballed into a great illness. After consulting three different doctors with three different opinions, there wasn't much left that could be done. I thank Grandma Elle for holding on as long as she did and not giving up, and I know that she loves Rascal as much I do.

I have wonderful memories of Rascal that I will cherish forever. She was my baby. I named her, and when she lived with me, I was the one who took care of her. She was famous for her doggy kisses, which were plentiful and unending. She was extremely loyal and protective, and she fancied herself a little guard dog. I've had many animals in my life, but Rascal was the only one with whom I had a strong connection. I love her so much and I miss her.

I leave the last word to Grandma Elle:
"She was a wonderful dog... full of intelligence, love and courage. She was beautiful and only seven years old. She deserved to live a full lifespan... about 13 years. I miss her so much." We all miss her. Rest in peace, baby girl.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Farmer's Market

I went to the downtown farmer's market yesterday morning before work. I enjoy going because there's a certain simple, back-to-nature feeling to it. It's reminiscent of a time when merchants would set up shop in the village square to sell their wares. It's also more personal to do business with the person who actually grew the food I'm going to eat, rather than buy it at some overpriced grocery store from some guy in a uniform and a nametag. It's also great because the produce is fresh, and I'm supporting local farms. It also costs a lot less than the grocery store. Yesterday I bought 2 green bell peppers, 6 large tomatoes, 8 onions, 1 acorn squash, and 1 butternut squash. I spent less than $10, which is hard to do nowadays with the price of food going up. That's why the farmers market is better.

I've been going to the farmer's market all summer long. Previous weeks I bought things like sugar plums, red plums, figs, and pears (a lot of fruit for some reason). It was also the Summer of the Squash because I bought a lot of zucchini and yellow summer squash, too. Now I see the selection of fruits, vegetables, and squash changing as the summer waves goodbye and winter sneaks up on us. The strawberries and blueberries are all gone. My favorite summer squashes have been replaced with their strange-looking and almost deformed winter cousins. There's still a lot of corn. There are apples by the bucketful. Enough with the damn apples! I'm going to have to make some apple crisp one of these days. Pretty soon we'll be seeing piles of pumpkins and I'm going to have make pumpkin pie!

If you're going to the farmer's market, there are some things you need to know to make your trip more enjoyable for both you and the farmers you're going to buy from. I decided to give some tips to the farmers market newbie:

1. BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag (or Basket) - If you provide your own bag (tote bag, backpack, etc.) or basket it will save a lot of trouble and cost for the farmers. For the bargains you get on the food, it's the least you can do for them. Once I overheard one woman say to one of her customers, "Thank you! You're one of the first people I've seen who actually brought there own bag." I understood, and since then I've brought my own (a nice blue tote that my grandma Elle gave me... thanks grandma Elle!)

2. Bring change - Not everyone has proper change, so there's lots of large bills being passed around. Many of those farmstands don't see anything smaller than a $10 bill. It's hard to make change for customers when they're exchanging it all for large bills. To make it a little easier on them, try to bring a lot of ones, quarters, and a couple fives.

3. Browse around - Don't just buy the first cucumber from the first person you see. Look around for a few minutes and see what everyone has to offer. Ask questions about their produce. You might find someone else selling the exact same thing for 25 cents less. You also might see fresher or better-looking produce, or something different that you haven't seen before. You also may not want to buy from certain shady-looking characters. I won't buy my produce from anyone who looks unhygienic or is smoking (that is disgusting!). I usually end up buying one or two things at several different stands.

4. Get touchy-feely - Don't be afraid to pick things up and inspect them. Feel them to ensure that the produce isn't mushy or too soft. Some produce may be bruised or overripe, and some may even be rotten. Many of the farmers prefer if you pick out specifically what you want anyway. Ask for assistance if you're not sure.

5. Try new things - You should come to the farmers market with little expectation because the flavors are always changing. Produce changes with the seasons, so stop moaning because the cherry-picking season is over! Weather and other factors also affect growing conditions and crop yield. There is also the factor of supply and demand; if a particular crop is not that popular, farmers will sometimes stop growing it. So you'd better come to the farmers market with an open mind and be prepared to challenge your pallet.

6. Be kind and courteous - Say hello and good morning to everyone you meet. Comment on the weather. If you have any questions, don't feel afraid to ask. Engage in conversation. Not everyone will want to chat, but they'll appreciate your acknowledgment. Always say thank you. They work hard all day to bring food to you, and some of them have to drive several miles to do so, therefore the least you can do is thank them for their time. Conclude by wishing them a great day in parting.

I enjoy my trips to the farmer's market on Tuesday mornings. Unfortunately, the last one of the season is October 16. I'll be sad when it's over, because then I'll have to go back to getting my California-grown produce from Juan or Betty or whomever at Wegmans' check-out line ("line" is not the word!). I'd better start packing away the fruits and vegetables over the next 3 weeks while I still have the chance.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Apple picking... sort of

My dad picked me up yesterday and he and his wife and I drove outside of Syracuse to get some apples. We went to this farm where they're famous for their apple cider donuts. We didn't get to pick the apples straight from the tree, which is the whole point of apple picking, but at least we bought them fresh and locally. Sylvia got some donuts, but dad and I got the miniature apple pies. The pies were okay, just a little dry; we would have been better off with the donuts.

Afterwards, we drove around the area in Auburn, Skaneateles, and Elbridge. Just cruisin' 'round with no particular destination. It was a beautiful, sunny day for a little road trip. We stopped at the Bass Pro Shop at the Fingerlakes Mall and walked around for a while. When we returned to the city, we stopped to eat at my dad's favorite Chinese restaurant (so far... there have been several). What a way to spend the first day of fall! Now I have a ton of apples to eat!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Autumnal equinox

Since today is the autumnal equinox (or the first day of fall in layman's terms), I've decided to "turn over a new leaf." I started this blog so I could keep track of my entries and have regular access to my blog. I have a blog on MySpace, but sometimes I have difficulty logging into my account. It just made blogging more of a hassle. Therefore, a resolution was in order. This new blog will allow me to make regular entries available for my friends and family to read. I can now proceed with my "bloggings" with ease.

Have a Happy Autumn!