Monday, November 24, 2008

Traveling to Cemeteries

This may sound bizarre, but I find old cemeteries beautiful. And now that I think about it, many of my travels have included cemetery visits. Even to cemeteries where I have no kin buried... that I know of, anyway.

Last weekend, I visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in North Tarrytown, N.Y. (actually now the town of Sleepy Hollow, but it was called North Tarrytown when I grew up there). It is the place we laid my father's ashes a year ago this November. As bitter cold as it was last year when we held his memorial service (a year after his death), the stunning beauty of it won't escape my mind. On this visit, the same chilling wind started to blow the minute we stepped out of the car. My sister, niece and I were sure it was Dad displaying his discontent that we took him out of Florida. After much consideration (a year!), my sisters and I chose the family plot where lies his parents, sister, our unborn brother T.J. and a laundry list of relatives on both sides of the familia.

When I was looking at the photos I took both last year and this, I noticed how my camera roamed away from the family plot to the rows of headstones, the stone walls, the arching trees and the bridges and streams. Sitting at my laptop at my kitchen counter, I can look up to see a pastel drawing I did of a headstone from a New Orleans cemetery. 

The overwhelming feeling I get in a cemetery is a deep-seeded connection to family. I find myself wandering the headstones looking for last names that are familiar. Perhaps it is some genetic predisposition from my Italian heritage and I am simply carrying out the annual tradition. Every November 1st and 2nd, Italians go in unison to the local
cimitero to place chrysanthemum plants at the graves of their family members. This can be an all day event, depending on the number of relatives they have to visit. From what I've read, many of the tombs are architectural wonders, and all have a photo of the deceased.

My favorite cemeteries aside from Sleepy Hollow include the one in New Orleans where the movie
Double Jeopardy with Ashley Judd was filmed. My description of the N.O. cemetery is old, French and kinda mysterious. Walking through it takes some dexterity, as the paths jutt with stone in a slightly less than symmetrical pattern. The uniqueness and oddity of this cemetary is that it is an above ground cemetery (yes the bodies are in the tombs above the ground not below). Another is one I love I came across in Simsbury, Connecticut the year my friend Christine was married. I'll never forget the grandeur of the center entrance that slopes up a long, luscious green path lined with some kind of juniper bushes from which rows to the left and right are perfectly spaced with headstones. Nestled in the center of a "Colonial" style village, it made me feel very patriotic.

Aside from the beauty, there is a solitude about it. There's a silence that comes over you. As you read the names and the stories of the families on the headstones, there is a feeling of history and respect for those who rest there. I hope I have not creeped you out with my cemetery confession, and maybe, just maybe, there are others of you who find old cemeteries fascinating. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Carry On, Schmarry On

Traditionally I check my bag. This past weekend when I took a quick trip to Newark, I decided to carry on to save the $15 from US Airways. Lo and behold, I managed to fit it all in (surprisingly) and even eliminate the liquids as I was going to my sister's house so I could borrow everything.

The problem? Well, with everyone else having the same idea, by the time I boarded, every overhead compartment was full all the way to the front of the plane. Seemed a bit unfair since I was in row 12, so the back of the plane people had used our compartments on their way by. I did the math, each overhead accommodated 2 rows of 3 seats, but only fits 3 carry-ons, thus if over 50% of people carry-on, your bag won't fit. Hmmmph! It made me want to "cheat" and get on before I was called to get my fair space. I hope they come up with a better solution!

Sorry for the soap box! I feel better now.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Peace, Love, PC Beach

The Florida Panhandle has been on my bucket list for 20 years now. I finally made it. It was a whirlwind trip for me and my partner Kimberly, up and back in 2 days with a presentation to the TDC (Tourist Development Council) and a celebratory dinner wedged in between. Our agency partnered again with Jennifer Barbee, Inc. out of Corpus Christi, Texas to pursue the Panama City Beach account. The sixteen hours on the road proved fruitful, as we were named the destination's Internet Agency.

Panama City Beach is the epitome of beach fun. Huge, and I mean huge, amounts of blindingly white, soft, powdery sand in every direction and expansive views of the Gulf is only the beginning. 27 miles of both towering condo hotels and walk out style motels line the coast. Here, the events never cease, from concerts to food festivals to fishing tourneys to the Iron Man triathlon to motorcycle rallies and more! The new 93 acre Pier Park boasts over 100 retail stores and dining establishments for endless entertainment.

We stayed at Origin at Seahaven - the 2 bedroom suite was very large and had incredible water and beach views. We tried to read the writing on the sand that someone had sketched out, but couldn't make it out. Sharky's across the street was our choice for dinner, and they poured a mean Grey Goose and Cranberry. The fish tacos were delicious, with salsa and cole slaw atop the blackened Mahi. The adorable waitress Bri even entertained us with a karaoke stint. I tried to talk Jenn into a performance, to no avail. She was probably worried the local bloggers might speak freely of her talent limitations (LOL). The cold sand between my toes as we frolicked off the deck of the restaurant after dinner was invigorating!

I got enough of a taste of PC Beach to make me want more. The adventure ahead for our team includes developing a whole new website for the destination which will replace the current, as well as a Spring Break microsite for the MTV university event. This will NOT be boring by any means. And, you know how we creatives are, we have to totally immerse ourselves in the project to come up with innovative ideas. That means more trips are in store. Rough life, huh?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

World's Best Caesar Salad

I spent a few minutes on, which is a website for The Meadow, a store in Portland, Oregon that my friend Jessica came upon during a recent conference. It's a salt, chocolate and wine specialty store and restaurant that I plan to blog more about in a later post. Today I want to discuss Caesar salad.

I have been making and sharing my Uncle Paul's Caesar Dressing recipe for nearly 2 decades. It is always on the menu at our annual Christmas Eve dinner (last year we had 116 guests). I claim this recipe to be the best around, a fierce and garlicky run in with your palate. While browsing one of the 3 blogs located on The Meadow's site, I stumbled upon a post about the Hale Caesar Salad and his claim of it being the World's Best. As I disclaim on my blog homepage, I am not a chef, nor a culinary expert. I am, however, a "healthy" Italian who loves food nearly as much as her family.

My dressing has none of the requirements of Hale's with regards to quality of ingredients. This, I may have to rethink. Maybe I can take my Uncle Paul's recipe to the next level. I never gave thought to the quality, brand or type of ingredients, with the exception of the grated cheese. Maybe after seeing his recipe, I will. I was amazed at how similar our contents are, regardless of how different the execution. In fact, the only ingredient uncommon is the vinegar he uses.

I doubt I will use Hale's recipe in its entirety, but I do thank him for opening my mind to improving mine. Hale's recipe you can link to find, and here is mine (sorry, but I don't measure). Whichever you use, manga!

In blender, combine:
1 can flat anchovies in oil
3 heaping tablespoons good grated pecorino romano (no Kraft allowed)
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
a few twists of ground black pepper
2-3 cloves of crushed garlic (no jarred garlic allowed)

In a bowl, mix one raw egg into the dressing using a fork. Toss with 1-2 heads of romaine lettuce and sprinkle with more grated cheese. Croutons and fresh sliced mushrooms are optional. To stretch the dressing into a larger batch, add more oil and, if desired, a second can of anchovies.

Let me know what you think!