Time to Start Anew

My husband and I gut renovated our house five years ago. I documented the construction from start to finish here on the blog.  It was the biggest project I’ve ever been apart of. Mentally and physically it was so intense for the both of us. It feels like a dream now. I can’t believe we went through it all.

During the process of the rebuild, we accumulated a tremendous amount of tools, wood, paint, sinks, plaster, you name it. To put things in perspective, we had 4 sledge hammers, 10 shovels, maybe 50 screwdrivers, two table saws, four hanging fixtures and enough screws to build a whole new house. And that’s a small list of things compared to all the equipment. We could seriously open up a second-hand hardware store. The tools slowly made there way from the upstairs where we renovated the rentals first, to our apartment on the first floor, and ended up in the basement, essentially untouched for the past two years – now that we’ve got everything [almost] done.

Maggie and Or sorting through the mess

This past week, we had planned to finally  tackle the “hoarder situation” in the basement. Our friends Maggie and Or stayed with us for several days to lend a hand. What great friends we have! The situation was monumental and overwhelming. Having Maggie and Or to assist us in deciding what to throughout and what to keep was a huge help. It was easier for them to make the call, as they were detached from all the stuff.

While cleaning, I kept thinking of Marie Kondo, “Let’s spark joy through tidying”. And how I wasn’t feeling any joy. I was feeling complete chaos!

After a while though, I got into a groove and started  “thanking each object for the service it provided” and putting it into the contractor bag, or out front in the free pile. We were making progress finally.

While cleaning out under the porch, where most of the clutter lurked, we made a discovery, “Is that some kind of… fur?” Or said. It was, in fact, fur. The fur of a dead possum! We felt really bad, he looked so peaceful, despite being covered in a layer of dust and paint chips. I hoped the little guy didn’t get trapped down there, leading to his death, gesh.

And here lies Toxy

My husband had to scoop the animal up with a shovel. He was about to put it in a garbage bag but just couldn’t. We decided it was only proper to bury Toxy*.  The group of us went to the side of the house where Matt dug the grave. We said a few words and buried Toxy. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust. Maybe it was pure exhaustion from the long day or the bizarre experience of finding the dead possum, but we all started laughing uncontrollably.

The cleaned out space is bigger than we remember now that we can actually walk through

We still have a little more cleaning and organizing to go but the worst of it is over. We couldn’t have done it without our dear friends Maggie and Or who helped us dig out of the basement trenches, making room for a new chapter of who knows what!

*Toxy, named  after what looked like toxic dust and paint covering his adorable corpse.

Roller skating is really hard.

I’ve wanted to buy a pair of skates since my roller skating birthday party, over two Rockaway summers ago. I would go down the “rabbit hole” of online shopping, trying to find the best quality, and style (style being top priority) for the best price. I’d save searches but in the end, never purchased a pair.


This year, I went online and just bought whatever!

I had the vision of my maiden voyage. I’d gracefully glide along the boardwalk passing all my favorite spots – La Fruteria were my friends would admire my moves. I’d twirl on the dance floor at Low Tide with my ladies, then to Rippers for a beach juice or two. Hungry from all the roller skating, I’d ride up to 106th for a delicious Arepa – well deserved. My hair would be blowing in the wind. My skin sun-kissed.  I’d have my daisy dukes on, and white striped socks, just like Farrah Fawcett. Beach-goers would be giving me the thumbs up, as I stylishly zoomed by.

Boy was I delusional. Roller skating is really hard. And I’m pushing 40, what was I thinking?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The reality unfolded like this: The package arrived just as my husband and I were heading to Rockaway Beach Bakery for our late morning coffee. I couldn’t resist trying on my new skates. I put them on and road the four very bumpy streets to Tracy’s, clenching Matt’s arm the whole way. He was so pissed, “This is absurd, you’re going to hurt yourself.” My husband went back to the house to get my flip flops for the way home,  so I didn’t break my neck.

After that mishap I was determined to improve. My first ride on the boardwalk was during Rockstock Festival. I was shaky, clinging to the handrail on the boardwalk. The picture was not even close to my Farrah Fawcett fantasy. But my friends and other Rockaway folks at the festival were cheering me on. All positive vibes.

My first ride on the Boardwalk During RockStock Festival

Since then, I’ve been skating about three times a week, each time improving. A few of my friends have expressed interest in joining me and we’re even creating a Rockaway roller skating girl gang! Riptide Rollers? The best spot to practice is the hockey rink on 108th. I was flying! I even did a turn and almost went backwards. The boardwalk is a little bumpy. The bike path linear to the boardwalk is smoother but that’s less fun, I can’t “strut my stuff” down there.

Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to roller skate on the catwalk — I mean boardwalk! If you want to join our roller skating gang, email me (pdigioia[at]rockawave.com). We’re just starting to organize. All are welcome (even inline-ers, lol!)

roller gang

Our first roller-gang meeting. (Left to Right) Olga Krieger, Erin Silvers, columnist of Zingara Van Adventures, Paula DiGioia. Bethany Scott and Melissa Draugsvold roller-gang members absent from photo. Photo by Sasha Okshteyn.jpg

tagged in exercise, summer

Garden Friend, or Foe?

A few weeks back, my co-worker Mark Hogan told me he crushed a snail in his garden by mistake. We both felt bad for it. (Ugh… that crunching sound.)  Since then, I’ve noticed tons of snails in my own garden. Now I’m so worried about stepping on them when I’m weeding. But then I thought, how harmful are all these snails?

Land snails (terrestrial molluscs) are herbivores mostly. They eat a range of host plants – fruit trees, vegetables, roses, and other flowers. Ok, so this doesn’t sound good. They also feed on rotting organic waste and dead animals like worms, bugs and even other snails.

common land snail

In turn, land snails are food for many small wildlife such as squirrels, birds, mice, beetles, flies and centipedes. Snails are slow moving and low on the food chain. They’re an easy source of protein for many, including us.

After a bunch of reading on the garden-verse, I came to this conclusion: if you have an ecological balance in your garden and you don’t see plant damage, there’s no need to get rid of the snails. Let nature run its course. But if you do see troubled vegetation and know snails are the cause, then you need pest control. There are effective natural measures – laying down grit or ash around plants or a beer trap are common organic ways to tackle gastropod infestation.

We had a new visitor to the garden last week. Matt and I were out at dusk and noticed a bizarre little thing swarming around the walkers low plants (which by the way, are in full bloom and looking gorgeous!). Was this creature a friend or foe of the garden?

Matt thought it was a hummingbird but I said it was too small to be a bird. I thought it was some type of wasp or hornet – it has two bright stripes on it’s back which seemed “bee-like”.  Matt said it’s head was too flat for a bee and thought maybe it was a moth … we googled.

To our surprise we were both kind of right!  The mystery garden bug is a Hummingbird Moth, specifically, a Nessus Sphinx.  It moves and sounds just like a hummingbird and sips nectar with its long thin “tongue” but it is in fact a moth. The insects tail fans-out and appears like birds feathers. The moth is large, 1 1/2 inches with two stripes meant to mimic a wasp. It’s a defense display.  It’s as if a hummingbird, wasp and moth fell into a vat of Ghostbuster ectoplasm and emerged as a trihybrid!

Nessus sphinx photo credit wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Hummingbird Moths are pollinators, therefore a friend of the garden. But there’s a twist! The larvae of this bizarre bug is the hornworm and any gardener knows they are a foe of the garden. There are many hornworms that feast on host plant before metamorphosis, most noted is the tomato hornworm (very bad.) But Nessus Sphinxs’ larvae live and  feast on cherry and cayenne pepper plants, honeysuckle and hawthorn. I’ve definitely seen the latter two in Rockaway.

This moth was a fun surprise to see and I’m hoping this year as the garden expands I’ll discover more garden creatures, friend or foe.

3 books, 1 weekend

Book 1: Friday night my husband and I drove to The Strand in the East Village. I walked into the bookstore and remembered how much I loved browsing the aisles in college. I could’ve spent hours looking around but we headed upstairs for my friend Amber Scorah’s book reading.

Her memoir, entitled Leaving the Witness, begins with her undercover work in China, proselytizing as a Jehovah’s Witness. While there, she begins to question her faith and ultimately leaves the organization. Her family and friends shun her. Amber, alone, starts a new life in NYC.  Her story continues with the unimaginable loss of her baby and how she struggles with this tremendous burden without having a religion to look to for answers.

leaving the witness amber scorah

Amber has been on the The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and on NPR, promoting her book. She’s written on various websites such as nytimes.com, believermag.com and theglobeandmail.com about her memoir.

I can’t imagine the courage it has taken for my friend to pen her story. I’m so proud of her! You can order Leaving the Witness by Amber Schorah on amazon.com.

avoid the day book store rockaway beach

Book 2: Saturday I randomly stopped by Avoid The Day – the pop-up bookstore located at 211 Beach 90th St., Rockaway Beach. It’s so lovely. The space is open but feels inviting with  couches, tables and rugs – the perfect place to avoid the day, truly. The main table showcased Rockaway-centric books. Coffee and wine were for sale (My kind of place!). I spoke with Jianna Heuer, who’s venture, along with her husband, has been a longtime dream. The pop-up is just the beginning, their goal is to have a permanent brick and mortar. Jianna and I were chatting about how much fun it would be to have a women’s book club / wine night events. I picked up Patti Smith’s book Just Kids. It’s been on my reading list for a while and now I finally have a copy and thus, no excuse. Be sure to check out Avoid The Day pop-up  bookstore this weekend and show your support.


Book 3: Sunday, I went to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Center for the art exhibit and book reading of The Horseshoe Crab’s Crown. The children’s book is written by Heather Feather and illustrated by Valentina Gallup, both Rockaway ladies. The room was so crown-ed! Valentina’s artwork lined the walls and the watercolors are beautiful. I love the bright colors and intricate brush strokes. People were walking around with horseshoe crab “crowns” on their heads. In one corner, there was a table where you had the opportunity to write down your first experience seeing the prehistoric creature. I bought a book for my niece but now I want to keep if for myself! Heather read while Valentina turned the pages of an extra large version of the book. The children gather up front and the adults stood in the back. We all watched each page turn, to reveal another underwater wonder.

If you missed the exhibit, it’s open for another two months. You can order the children’s book, The Horseshoe Crab’s Crown and learn more about the project online here – horseshoecrabscrown.com.


tagged in books