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March Update: Year Of Challenges

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Let’s look back in on this.  I admit that my performance in the Year of Challenges has been a little spotty; mid-January threw me a financial curve ball, and February threw me another one – and kept me inside all month.  This past month I was finding my footing at a new job, and I’m still kind of in the “I don’t know what I’m doing and my head is exploding” stage.

But I’m trying:

  • Visit a New Neighborhood: So I finally did this!  I’ve been wanting to check out Flushing, Queens for a while now – there are three “Chinatown” districts in New York, and this is the biggest one.  I originally was planning to eat my way across the neighborhood, but ended up only getting dumplings and going to a tea tasting, each of them in little hole-in-the-wall shops in malls down in basements.

    But the dumplings were at a stall once feted by Anthony Bourdain and the tea tasting was an eye-opening half hour.  It’s in a little cubbyhole of a place tucked into the back room of a mini-mall, a place selling gourmet tea and fancy-pants tea implements.  But for a mere five dollars, the shopkeeper will sit down and conduct a tea tasting with you – pick your choice from the menu, and she’ll sit down with you at a table, letting you smell a scoopful of the dry leaves first and then taking you through a sampling; the tea is high-quality enough that the leaves can be re-used five times, and she takes you through five steepings of increasingly longer duration.  I picked the poetically-named “spring rain in the desert” green tea – and was stunned at the variations in taste that came simply from changing the length of time the tea was steeped.  The first time it was steeped for only a matter of seconds, and I picked up a surprising edamame flavor to it that was gone the next steeping.  It was a gracious and fascinating pause to the day.

    I also had the bonus gift of running into a friend from back in my hometown – a few of us theater kids all moved to NYC at the same time and scattered to our different paths; but every so often our paths cross, like when I was walking up to the historic Quaker Meeting House in Flushing at the precise moment that my friend Dan was walking out after meeting.  After squealing at each other, he snuck me inside for a quick tour.

  • Eat lunch at a restaurant in my neighborhood:  In February I made a point of hitting up a crab place that opened up on my block.  I’m still looking for a place in Brooklyn that does clam rolls, but this made for a good seafood fix.  And this past weekend was a visit to a Vietnamese place which was blessedly a little empty – so no one saw me becoming a stupid doof when I was confronted with Vietnamese iced coffee for the first time. (I had to ask the waiter twice about “how do I work this coffee maker thing again?”…..)  I also got messy and fumble-fingered with their crispy spring rolls – four deep-fried rolls of vermicelli noodles stuffed with shrimp, presented alongside some big lettuce leaves and a sprig of mint for me to further wrap around the rolls as I saw fit.  At least, I’m assuming that I was supposed to wrap the lettuce around the rolls rather than dropping the lettuce on the floor.
  • Reading Challenge: Okay, the Penguin UK site finally posted a list.  And I discovered it in enough time to get through the one for March; a reread of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.
  • Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday: Big fat goose-egg here this month. Trying again.
  • Chinese Cookbook: This is back!  I found a simple edamame recipe, with the pods spiked with Chinese five-spice powder instead of solely with salt (as is done in Japan), and something called “Russian soup”, a concoction of oxtail and potato with a broth seasoned by ketchup.  Which brings me to:
  • NEW Soup Cookbook Challenge. …I didn’t do this.  New-job head-messery tempted me to hit up Grubhub for more dinners than usual this month, so I didn’t do much cooking overall.  But the cost of those Grubhubs is nudging me back towards cooking, and I’ll be revisiting this; my theater days taught me the value of having something ready on hand when you come home from work exhausted and all you want for dinner is “I don’t care as long as all I have to do is microwave it”.
  • Five Photos every weekend: The weather has sucked.  I’ve only wanted to go outside two weekends.  Leave me alone.  ….April will be better.  Pinky-swear.

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