Female Bonding at Tavern on the Green

29 09 2009

blog tavern

Last Thursday evening, the Empire State Building glowed ruby red, the color of the pair of magical slippers that returned Dorothy home to Kansas. I was nowhere near Kansas, though. Instead I was in a bit of a magical, though not entirely Emerald, City of my own, at a gala honoring the 70th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz at Tavern on the Green. It was a beautiful event, made all the more lovely by the whimsical setting, but there were a few things that made it even more exciting for me.

First, I was reunited with a friend I made last year at Fashion Week; Misty and I happened to sit together at one show and then I spent the G Star party drooling over Tyson Beckford with her and her sister. It was one of those fun connecting moments that go along with being both a writer and female, but then, unfortunately, Misty and I lost touch. Until Fashion Week came up again and, though I didn’t attend this time around, we got back in touch and, fast forward a week, I attended the gala with the very same ladies. Such a treat, and yet another testament to those great, fun, female bonds.

Second, we bonded even further over other fun female bonds: the discovery that Lorna Luft, Judy Garland’s daughter who performed that night, happened also to play Paulette in Grease 2. As a grown woman I wholly admit that Grease 2 is a pretty awful movie. But I’ll just as soon admit that, awful though it may be, I still kind of love it. And the reason I love it (and can still belt words and moves to “Cool Rider“) is because that movie represents a basic bond between my big sister and me. Kristen and watched that movie countless times while I was growing up, always over sunflower seeds and chewy Sweet Tarts, and every time I bond with someone else (almost always female) who knows all the words to “Who’s That Guy?,” I do so with those memories in mind.

Paulette (I mean Lorna) was lovely, and paid beautiful homage to her own female role model, with a rendition of one of her mother’s songs, as well as some songs from the movie. (Unfortunately, the video I took did not turn out.) And so, in all, it was a lovely evening, and a great celebration of gal pals, but one that could only be possible in New York City.

The Beauty of Solo Travel Returns in Portland, ME

23 09 2009

On my recent visit to Portland, ME, I found myself, through a series of debacles with the friend who was meant to accompany me, on my own at the last minute. I haven’t traveled by myself for over a year now, and don’t believe I’ve ever traveled this way within the United States.

Oddly, solo travel in the U.S., where at least I am fluent in the language and fully proficient in the cultures, is far more daunting than travel in the same manner in a foreign country. Perhaps this is because citizens of other countries tend to be more welcoming, or perhaps because in America one often feels a stigma about finding oneself alone, as though all eyes are looking pityingly upon you. Perhaps it doesn’t help that knowing the language also means being surrounded by conversations you can understand but not partake in. Whatever the combination of forces, solo travel seems less liberating at home than it is abroad.

Not so this time around though. Whether it was the gorgeous, can’t-be-in-a-bad-mood weather or simply the beauty of Maine itself, traveling Portland on my own was as rewarding as any solo trip I’ve taken in the past, perhaps more so because it was unexpected. Wandering the narrow streets, savoring the sights and smells and tastes and sounds on my own time was a simple thrill, but even better (and more surprising) was the thrill of dining at some of Portland’s loveliest restaurants all by myself. I even relished in the pitying (and curious) glances I received from a neighboring party one night at dinner, but ultimately found that, in true Portland fashion, most were less likely to stare and more likely to share.

That’s because the beauty of Portland, above all else, lies in the people. Everywhere I went, whether to a gritty pub or fine dining establishment, historic landmark or pretty boutique, the people not only welcomed me but took the time to talk and share their own excitement about the city and all the amazing things that are happening there. And all this discussion made it even more vital that I was traveling solo, since it meant more time to open up my own mind and really ponder all I was hearing and learning. The sum which is too much for one post…

A Series of East Coast Explorations

18 09 2009

I moved to New York to study, but also because of a longtime fascination with the East Coast. Its vistas and clapboard houses and history have been an obsession for as long as I can remember. But with the pressures of school and then the lack of a job, the explorations I intended were all to often put on hold. Not so anymore. Lately I’ve been taking quite a few side trips, which is one of the reasons I’ve been a little quiet this past week. But my observations on these fun weekend adventures are soon to follow in a new series of mini-travelogues! Just as soon as I recover from all this travel…

Shameless Self-Promotion, and Yeah! SoSauce!

11 09 2009

I’ve raved before about SoSauce, the very fun, very cool travel hub for “travel geeks” like myself.  I’m now very proud to say I’m an official travel geek! The lovely folks at SoSauce have asked be to be a regular “featured writer” on SoSauce, so the stilettos and I will be sharing our adventures with more travel geeks through my journal entries on SoSauce.

This is hugely exciting not only because I get to be even more a part of a fantabulous organization, but because it’s a great place to swap adventures, and because all the wonderful tools on SoSauce allow me a forum to keep everything in one place. I can showcase all my favorite photos, mark my footprints around the world and even break up my journals into different themes. So far I’ve got New York adventures and more shoe stuff (with the female angle of course), but I’m planning on branching out, even from that.

Even more exciting (for me) is this fun little introduction the lovely Alisha over at SoSauce wrote (the stilettos are so happy they’re blushing). I’m honored to rank with such amazing travel geeks!

Regarding the Kindness of Strangers

10 09 2009

One of the loveliest things about travel is the aspect of connecting with strangers. This is pretty much a constant in foreign travel, especially when you are traveling solo and even more especially when you are a solo female traveler. But in general, if you are open to “communing with the natives,” locals tend to be open to communing right back. It is my general experience that people are proud of their country/city/home, and eager to share it with those who are eager to really experience the life and culture there.

I came across much of this in South America, and most of the highlights of that trip, not surprisingly, have to do with random conversation or experiences with friendly strangers. This is less the case in the U.S., however. Nice as Americans are, we are generally a bit more closed off, going about our own lives and in general far too busy to show off our homes to folks we do not know. It’s  difficult to imagine, for example, that a strange girl with no place to stay might knock on the door of a vacation rental somewhere in Anywhere, USA and have the family on the other side take her in as the lovely parents of Octavio and Julia did for me in Humahuaca.

Emphasis, here, on in general. Not all Americans are skeptical of random strangers. Especially, it turns out, on the idyllic roads of Long Island, where we recently went wine tasting and were treated not only to lush scenery, but some of the nicest people one can imagine.

Corey Creek

Picture this:

Four ladies arrive in Mattituck, LI after a two and a half hour train ride and decide to walk to the first winery since their bus is nowhere in sight. It’s sweltering, and after a half hour of walking they are sweaty and trudging, but nearly there, when a car pulls to the side and the woman inside offers them a ride, explaining emphatically when the very relieved ladies climb into the car that  she never does this, then gushing over the area and suggesting countless wineries to try, insisting that she drive them further than their original destination and drop them at one of her favorite wineries.

Savior Sasha bids the ladies adieu at Croteaux, a tiny mom and pop winery that rather perfectly for the idyllic setting only serves rosés.

Croteaux bottle

There is much drinking of pink wine, but there is also some petting of Sargent, the resident pup, and best of all some great conversation with the proprietor, Croteaux himself, who shares that he and his wife moved to the property without the intention of making wine, but saved the historic neighboring farm by purchasing it. After much conversation, and in the second act of kindness of the day, Croteaux offers the ladies the use of his family bicycles to make their way to the next few wineries.

The ladies discover there is little more picturesque than biking on North Fork roads. Unless, perhaps, it’s the sight of bikes against rows of grape vines.


As the day passes there is dancing (with strangers), playing the sunglasses game (more strangers) and finally the kind stranger who gives the ladies a ride back to the train station. Long Islanders, it is clear, are some of the friendliest (and most helpful) folks in all the land. Perhaps it’s the wine?

For more on how to wine hop in Long Island, click here (warning: shameless self-promotion link). More of the mayhem, and a clearer idea of the sunglasses game (mind bafflingly complicated) here.

US Open!

4 09 2009
Nice seats, eh?

Nice seats, eh?

In case you didn’t know it, there’s a big tennis competition going on. I know it (even though I don’t know for certain is “tennis competition” is the proper term). I know it because last night, for very first time, I visited the US Open. The great people at Olympus had a nice comfortable box for several members of the press to play with cameras and watch Roger Federer and Serena Williams.


Though I only vaguely understand tennis, it was great fun. I took a camera down to some seats within spitting distance of the court and played a little with photography, gawked at Kim Cattrall just two boxes away (it can’t all be tennis, right?) and even watched (and learned a little about tennis). But best of all, I participated in another little bit of New York greatness, watched at home by the rest of the world. Gotta love New York.

Some thoughts and observation on my first US Open experience:

  • You don’t have to be as quiet here as you see people being in those Wimbledon movies. You do, I learned from another journalist, at the real Wimbledon.
  • The poor ball boys must be under a lot of pressure. The race nervously on and off the court and always seem more than a little bit worried.

ball boy

  • On that note, what’s the deal with the need for so many tennis balls anyhow? The ball boys pick up the balls after each play, and then are constantly feeding the players new balls. It all seems a little absurd to me. But fascinating.
  • Serena Williams is quite fun to watch, but I was distracted by her amazing ability to play so well weighted down with all that bling she has going on (she was wearing huge hoop earrings and a very heavy-looking necklace).
  • Last, the US Open is just yet another very cool thing about living in New York.

Recipe: Wandi, Guanti, Farfatelle, Etc…

2 09 2009

I decided a little more research was necessary on Wandi. My Google search, it turns out, yielded very little in the way of information, but I did learn that Wandi is an Americanized Italian form of the word Guanti (there is no “w” in the Italian language), which translates to gloves. According to this helpful description/recipe, the cookies were popular at celebrations, from marriages to random festivals. Indeed, another search uncovered this article, about 100 dozen (that’s right 100 dozen) Wandi being made as part of a Sicilian festival in Iowa (if for nothing else, check out the article for the photo).

That, believe it or not, was nearly the extent of what I managed to dig up on these elusive cookies. I did find this: scroll about halfway down and there is a rather poignant (and coincidental) note from a granddaughter who cannot get the recipe from her grandmother, who happens to have Alzheimer’s. The answer here, however, is that the cookies are something altogether different, called Farfallette, though also referred to as Lovers’ Knots and “Bow Ties” and the recipe is relatively similar.

A hunt for Farfallette then unearthed the tradition of St. Joseph’s Table, the same St. Joseph’s Day (March 19, the feast of St. Joseph. In America it’s overshadowed by the beloved patron saint of green beer, but Sicilians feast and recreate the Holy Family) tradition described in the above Iowa article, meaning that bow ties or Farfatelle or Wandi or gloves or whatever else is all one in the same. And, it seems it’s a tradition that needs to little umph from the next generation. And so, in that spirit, The Russo Wandi recipe, as passed down from my father, and from his mother:

Bow Cookies

1-1/2 Cups sifted flour

1-1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tblsp sugar

3 tblsp Crisco

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 Cup powdered sugar

Oil for deep frying

Sift flour, salt, baking powder and sugar into a bowl. Cut in Crisco until well blended. Stir in eggs and mix thoroughly. Knead on floured board until pliable. Let dough rest for at least one hour.

Divide dough and roll out to an 8×10 rectangle, 1/8″ thick. Cut into strips, 8″ long x 3/4″ wide. Tie into loose knots and drop into hot oil until golden brown.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Then sprinkle with powdered sugar. (This last, incidentally, was always my favorite part, perhaps because Grandma Russo never re-sprinkled.)

***I add, at this time, that while this blog is usually about the ties of females, and while this recipe was handed down from my grandmother, the bulk of my nostalgia for it should be credited to my father, who spent countless patient hours teaching me this and other recipes. And who never once refolded my bow ties.


These aren't Wandi, but another Italian cookie, so the sentiment is there...