We’re on Each Other’s Team

So last night at the Vespa Queens Grand Opening Party, I was having a chat with the lovely Matt of Snowdonia, Vespa Queens, and all around Astoria. He asked me if I had posted my Snowdonia post yet and he had missed it or what, bringing to light how much I have not blogged in the last month.  I sheepishly said, “No, you didn’t miss it, I haven’t posted it yet.  I know, I know, I’m way behind.”, to which he replied (like the polite gentleman he is) “Oh, no, no pressure, just wasn’t sure if I missed it or not!”.  I told him not to feel bad, I needed that pressure to get started on this Mt. Rushmore sized task.  Like when your laundry piles up and the only thing that motivates you to do it is when you run out of underwear, or when you finally get around to writing that paper because you realize that if you don’t, you’ll fail  that very important class.  In this case, nobody’s failing anything, and we’re all good in the underwear situation, so that’s a start 🙂

I believe when we left off, I was going to tell you about my excellent trip to Crescent Grill for my plate, and a special delivery of more cookies.  When I first came in, Ryan had told me about a duck confit and pappardelle dish that I just had to try, so on my return trip, I saddled up to the bar, ordered a drink, and prepared myself to be wowed.  I was not disappointed.

I forget exactly what I had to drink, but I believe it was a cocktail from their cocktail menu, a house drink, I think.  I do remember it being delicious.

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My entree came, and was also delicious to match.

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Ryan came over and offered me some bread, which ended up being this basket of amazing biscuits accompanied by butter drizzled with honey.  I had a friend (or a guy that I think I was dating at the time?  I can’t be sure.  Oh, labels!) that was meeting me at Crescent Grill for a drink, but by the time he got there, I had had a few conversational exchanges with my fellow bar companion, Jerry.

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Over the course of the next hour, my drinks date and I got to know Jerry quite well!  We learned that he was in a managerial position at Tom Cat Bakery, lives in New Jersey, loves his wife, comes into town every few weeks to oversee some things, and was staying around the area and had happened upon Crescent Grill.  I told him about SGC, he ate a cookie, and seemed to like it!  I told him some stories about all the crazy people I’ve met along this journey so far, and the conversation was flowing so much at one point that he interrupted a convo I was having with Drinks Date to make a jokey reference about a story I had told!  I loved it.

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My entire experience at Crescent Grill was one I can’t wait to repeat again and again.  The food was delicious, the service was excellent, and the people were warm and welcoming.  Also, I can’t leave out how beautiful the space is as well.

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I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that it’s also an art gallery of sorts, and the pieces I’ve seen hanging there are pretty great.

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All and all, this was definitely an A++ drop spot.

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I asked Ryan at Crescent Grill for my recommendation and he told me to go to Baroness Bar just down the street.  That’s that new(ish) wine bar where they open bottles of champagne with sabers.  Yes, you read that right.  🙂  My drop and pick up there were pretty uneventful; I got a chance to briefly meet Melinda, one of the owners, while dropping off and she seemed friendly.  I didn’t have a chance to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine while picking up, that was a pretty crazy week for me, but hopefully one day soon!  Maybe I’ll even spring for a special bottle of champagne.  I did learn that I was to visit neighborhood hot spot, Snowdonia, next.

Now, I’m no stranger to Snowdonia.  I first stopped by to check it out with an impromptu meeting of my friend Alex of Cocktail Crate as he was having dinner with a long lost friend of mine from college, Emily, who founded the Astoria Whiskey Society. I hadn’t seen her since college, and didn’t even know she lived in Astoria until I checked out the AWS website as an interested party (I really like dark liquors) and saw her familiar face, as well as others!  Turns out Westminster Choir College has quite a representation in our great neighborhood.  Adam, another college acquaintance and friend of Emily’s, is the artistic director of the Astoria Symphonic Choir, which I’d like to sing with one day if I ever get the time!

I’m also friends with Dennis and Liz of Astoria Coffee, the coffee that Snowdonia serves with brunch (good stuff, can’t wait for their shop to open!!) and had brunch there some months ago with those two and Dennis from DHAP before our podcast.  While we were there, I put out a plate of cookies with a sign that said “free”, and happened to run into Bradley Hawkes, who then wrote a really great article of me that was in BORO!  Neither of those last two things are related to each other, just giving context 🙂

Needless to say, I was excited to drop off some cookies to the good folks of Snowdonia and was greeted with a “Hey, it’s the cookie lady!”  when I walked in.  I love it when that happens.  I got to meet the aforementioned Matt, who is the final nudge in making this happen, another owner, and a gentleman whose name I have no idea how to spell, so I’m not going to try, but it starts with a J.  Let’s call him J!  Anyway, they were all very receptive of me and my cookies when I came in, and  couldn’t wait to come back for their Game of Thrones live viewing night for my plate pick up and a GoT Ommegang beer.

I wasn’t able to enjoy either of those things when I went to pick up because I had a two day migraine and didn’t think drinking or being around loud GoT noises was a good idea.  I’d never had a migraine until my concussion from the car accident, but I guess I’ve got’em now!  Not my happiest moment, and I’m still itching to get back there; it’s been too long since my last visit.  Maybe I’ll make to their Monday brunch, which, btdubs, is the best idea EVER.  On Monday they do a service industry brunch so those that sling of our food and drinks all weekend have a chance to relax and enjoy being on the other side of the table for once.  As a former server at the worst place ever, I can tell you how much I appreciate this idea.  Plus, my weekends are spent singing and teaching voice lessons, so, it’s my brunch too!

And as if all that awesomeness weren’t enough, the people at Snowdonia are just great as well.  The thing I love most about the whole process of Single Girl is, hands down, the recommendation process.  I now know that Matt is both part of Snowdonia, Vespa Queens, and some other Astoria entities.  Tom, owner at Snowdonia, is also a involved with Vespa Queens.  Yesterday at the VQ‘s Grand Opening Party (check their FB for a pic of me on a Vespa and the goodies I brought!), I started chatting with a gentleman who turned out to be Damian of VQ’s roommate.  Then he introduced me to “Willie and John”, who, unbeknownst to me at the time, are the heart and soul of Mundo!  I actually ran into them again today at the brand new Astoria Flea and Food, hugged them and thanked them for bringing Mundo back.  Do you see where this is going?  This crazy red thread that connects us all really does connect us all.  Not only that, but it retraces and intertwines in ways I’d never dreamed.

Jane Goodall is quoted as saying “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.  What you do make a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”  The truth in those words is undeniable.  Most of us think about “making a difference” to mean some grand gesture that betters the world.  I think that’s pretty daunting.  If that’s what I thought making a difference was, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.  But the truth is, each of our actions puts something in motion in the environment around of.  Even the tiniest one. Now, I don’t know about a butterfly causing a tsunami, but I’ll tell ya, when I smile and say ‘hello’ to someone, I feel good.  I’m guessing they do too, and that’s a start.

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We’ll Take A Cup O’Kindness Yet

Almost everything we do in life is a skill.  Something that maybe we have a natural talent for, but something we hone to make better over time.  Many physical activities are skills, good communication is a skill, even breathing is a skill.  You think I’m kidding, but come take a voice lesson with me and you’ll realize what I mean.  Blogging is also a skill, and man, do I feel the rustiness this last month of internet silence has brought me.  Kindness is a skill too, one that is harder to lose but one that also requires continuous practice.

It’s a skill I’m glad I had this month when I was on the phone with insurance companies, police precincts, doctors and the like.  You see, I was in a car accident at the beginning of December, and have spent the last 3 1/2 weeks dealing with the aftermath of all that.  So, when I become frustrated with the many rows of red tape that I’ve had to hurdle over, or the slowness of the Nassau County PD (the police report is still not done – seriously??) I have been able to not get upset at the person I was talking to, but to accept this is the system and to breath a little deeper and maintain some semblance of calm.  I did find this meme that I thought was pretty funny though.  I do love me some Ryan Gosling.

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What happened was I was attempting to make a left hand turn, legally on my side of the double yellow line.  As I went to move into the left turn lane, someone came from behind me, also attempting to make a left hand turn but crossing the double yellow line in order to do so, and hit me in the driver’s side of my car.  The impact of her hit pushed me forward and made me hit the person in front of me with my passenger side light, on his rear driver’s side.  The most frustrating part of it all was that I was approximately 50 yards from my destination.  Oh, and that she, the woman that hit me, got out of her van and said to me, “Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you.”.  Let me tell ya, it took a lot of patience (also another skill I’ve honed this year!) to not strangle her right then and there.

My car, my baby, a 2000 Dodge Stratus, was declared totaled and I was declared concussed.  I knew that night that I had hit my head, but I did not know quite the extent of what that did until the next day.  See, I was in the midst of making 200 cookies for Singlecut Beersmith’s birthday party (which I missed) and had started preparation for the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown that was to be on that Sunday (also, which I missed) and decided that I could go about my regular activities, including baking, teaching, delivering cookies, you name it!  BIIIIG mistake.

After a call to my mother, I decided it was best that I make an immediate trip to the ER.  Side note – Mount Sinai Queens was THE WORST experience I’ve had in an emergency situation.  And I’ve had a fair number of those in my lifetime!  I don’t want to go into much detail, but I would advise others if you have another option, take it.  I left there with my diagnosis and the instructions to stay away from screens and things that tax the brain (which pretty much sums up any part of NYC living) for a few days.  As another check in the negative column for Mount Sinai Queens, that’s actually not what you should do, I’ve come to learn.  I am fortunate that the wife of someone I sing with, who also sings with us from time to time, was participating in a concert that I was singing in as well on the Monday after the accident.  She is a PA and had just come back from a conference about this stuff and had all the newest, up-to-date information on how concussions are being handled these days.  It sounds like such a common thing, but they’ve made some amazing strides over the years and concussions are much more serious than previously thought.  The rule of thumb is now no activity for a week, not a few days.  Do you know anybody in New York, or anywhere for that matter, that can take an unexpected week off?  Well, actually, I did in October when my grandmother passed, so, me, but I definitely can’t take two of those in a short period of time.  And “no activity” means no screens (tv, computer, phone), to reading, no physical activity like exercise, literally nothing.  I was able to do that for a few days, but then had to start easing into things for work’s sake as much as my own sanity.  The next thing they tell you is you should start feeling better after a while and be back to “normal” after about 3 weeks.  THREE WEEKS.  To me, that is a looooong time to feel weird.  And certainly longer than most people can expect to have concessions made for them in areas of professionalism.  I have to thank my church family and TBMS family for being so awesome about this all and understanding of the now lingering effects of the past month.

Funny thing is when this happened, I knew nothing about concussions, but I certainly couldn’t research them now!  I’ve spent my down time reflecting on the generosity of offers to bring and make me meals (which I did take people up on – learning to accept help is also a skill), and quite honestly, really being down.  That’s a part of a concussion that I never thought about, or had experienced in my life before – depression.  Sure, I’ve had down days or slumpy weeks, but those have all been situational bummers and nothing like this. It was explained to me that certain chemicals are released when your brain had a trauma like this, and that’s what causes te depression.  Even if I was well enough to be baking and making deliveries, I definitely didn’t want to.  Or put on pants and join society for that matter.  Or do anything at all.  So, I didn’t.  I would muster up enough lightness and energy to go about my obligations, and while I was in the midst of it, I would actually enjoy what I was doing, but the moment it was done and I was back home, it was back to where I’d been.  And as the month went on, I started to feel better, but also started to play catch up from the things I’d missed weeks before.  The 5 days before Christmas were insanity.  All good things, and things I wanted to do and signed up for, but I counted down to coming home like never before.

And that’s been my month in a nutshell!  Well, a pretty big nutshell, but you get it.  I’m still following up with a few more tests and doctors, all prescribed, and hoping that none of what I’m experiencing is, in fact, permanent.  Only time will tell.  But until then, forgive my misspellings, typos, and possible word switches.  Quirky is in, right?

The night of the accident, I had just made a drop at Que Cossa on Steinway and was so excited to write a post about Portabella just up the street where I had been before.  I gotta say, I’m loving these Steinway drops.  Everyone I’ve met has been polite, kind, and seems to just be trying to make their way in small business.  It’s awesome.  And these men’s stores, I really have no reason to be in there myself, so it’s fun for me to explore new territory I’d otherwise not see.

When I walked in to Portabella, this was the first thing I saw:

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I’m still not sure if it was intentionally like that, or if it was being moved around to some other position.  When I went to pick up my plate, this guy was sitting, but the scene I encountered when I first came in did not seem like they were in transition.

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All the gentlemen and lady were really nice and quite supportive of the project.  A receptive audience makes a difference for sure.  This as one of the rare times I’ve left a place feeling like I explained my mission well and that it was understood as a result of my explanation.

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For my next drop, they sent me to Que Cossa, a dress boutique on Steinway.  I had actually bought a dress there a few years ago, and not one time had gone by when I wear it that I did not get a compliment.  I actually wore it to a photoshoot I did a few years back.

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I met two ladies, Elsie and Gladys, who, at first, didn’t quite seem to understand the concept.  Made me think, Did I really explain it that well at Portabella, or were they just humoring me?  In any event, it didn’t matter, because when I went back, they were overflowing with nice things to say about me and SGC.  Turns out they read the blog and got the full scope of what this year has been and just couldn’t say enough good things.  And I was excited to finally be able to “patronize the business” because it was a dress store!

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In the back, they carry formal dresses and if I had a prom to go to, I’d imagine this would be where I would go to get my dress.  But in the front, there are quite a few good sales racks, and you know how much I love a bargain.  I picked out a few dresses and Gladys helped me pick out a few and I went back to try them on.  The first one was the one I actually ended up with, a pretty purple with a long gold zipper in the back, 3/4 sleeves and a pleated skirt with a drop waist.

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I tried on a few more, one I will definitely go back for and one that I had a slightly unfortunate incident with.  You know what I’m talking about.  This is the time I had to be cut out of a dress.

I loved this dress on the rack, sheer top above the bra line, tank sleeve, navy blue with a full skirt and a few inches of green at the bottom hem.  SO adorable.  I get it over my head and start to pull up the side zipper, but seem to be having a hard time right around my rib cage.  Now, I make a lot of jokes about eating the world, but there was still a good thumbs width between me and the dress, so it wasn’t too tight to zip.  I asked Elsie for some help zipping it up and she managed to get it past the tough spot.  i took a look in the mirror, fell in love and decided I’d have to maybe take home two dresses today.  I went to unzip it, and it wouldn’t budge.  I took a closer look to see that the trouble spot of zipping it up had split and now would not go down.  Uh oh

I called Elsie back over to see if she could fix it, and she said, “Uh oh” and called Gladys over to take a look.  Yeah, uh oh indeed.  The three of us knew the zipper would not work and had no other option but to cut the zipper, i.e. CUT ME OUT OF THE DRESS.

Poor Gladys got out her little scissors, peered at the zipper an inch below my armpit, and started cutting threads at the top of the zipper.  I felt a mixture of mortification and amusement, because who else gets to be cut out of a dress?  The cookie lady that eats pounds of sugar a week?  I thought the poor ladies wished I never even stepped foot in the shop!  I figured, at least it makes for a good story!  First one side was freed, then the other.  When both sides were cut, she was able to slip the pull of the zipper up and off the track and then split open the side.  I had to make a quick grab before I exposed myself to everyone else in the store, and made a quick retreat back to my dressing room.

I did make out with one dress, as I mentioned, and I will make a point to visit again, both for the company of those lovely ladies and for the super cute dresses they sell.  They are sending me to Designer Eyewear next, just up the street on Steinway.  With the vision problems I’m having after the accident, maybe it’s fortuitous that’s where I’ll be headed!

That was the last drop I made this month, sad but true.  I stopped by Milly’s Pantry here in Penn Yan to get a recommendation from them for a drop here on Thursday.  They were the last Penn Yan place I did a drop at in August and I’d like to keep the chain going anytime I’m here.

A few other things of note that came out this month were, 1. The interview I did with WFUV and their show, Cityscape, and, 2. The article that came out in the Westminster Choir College Alumni Newsletter.  Both turned out really well, and thank you to George Bodarky for the interview and Anne Sears for the article!  Check them out and pass ’em on!

I did also attend my very first Astoria Whiskey Society Event this month, not as a taster, but as a bring of goodies!  I went to college with the founder, Emily, and had been trying to line up my schedule so I would be able to make one of these!  I met some pretty cool people, and when I get my act together, you can find the recipe to my Gingerbread Pumpkin Whiskey Cupcakes on their blog!  The whole thing was pretty neat, you sip, learn, meet new people, and generally have a great night.  This one was held at William Hallet on 30th Ave, and George was very accommodating of the whole group.  The whole evening was full of good peeps, and it’s nice to see people that I’ve enjoyed meeting from previous drops.

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When I look back on this December, I missed out on a lot this month.  I missed on on many opportunities to connect and convert new do-gooders, I missed out on singing The Messiah at school, I missed out on the holiday cheer and fun festive feelings, I missed seeing my friend who was in town because I had too much other “catch up” stuff to do toward the end of the month as a result of the accident.  I missed at least 1 cookie drop, probably 4 blog posts and any progress that could’ve been made in planning the Single Girl Cookies 1 year anniversary party, progress on the business side of things here, and progress on my book aspirations.  If you think I owe you a response to an email that you wrote to me weeks or months ago, I’m positive I do.  But I didn’t forget, and I will get to replying eventually 🙂 This was just my turn in life for things to feel out of control and overwhelming but do you know what I didn’t miss out on?  What I, in fact, gained?  I didn’t miss out on friends coming forth to offer help, words of encouragement and a supporting heart.  I was offered a new perspective to those that struggle with clinical depression or chronic illness.  I gained time to reflect on the work I’d done this year and the strides that have been made in the name of kindness, both in my life and the life of others.  My inactivity only strengthened my resolve to come back with more giving, bigger goals and a broader reach.  I wouldn’t want to repeat December 2013, and thankfully will never have to, but my experiences this month have given me a deeper appreciation for those in my life, new and far, new-to-me or not.  Thank you for shaping me into who and what I am in this very instant, and the person I continue to be molded into. Thank you also for the skills I’ve gained and refined this year. What new skills have you aqcuired?

As this year closes, take a moment to reach out and say a word of thanks, love or kindness to those near and far, new-to-you or not, and start your new year on a note of goodness. Thank those that have helped shape you.

For auld lang syne.