Ice Cream Dance

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This past Sunday I attended a sweet event choreographed and performed by Michelle Amara Micca. It was held at the handball court on 77th Street. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I arrived. There were four stations set up with coolers, ice cream, cones and sprinkles. Micca (she goes by her last name) sat in a chair. The music began. After about 30 seconds, an audience member made an ice cream cone, walked up to her and put it upside down on her head. She slowly got out of the chair to dance as the frozen treat melted down her face into her hair. More people began making cones and putting them all over her body. At some points, she ate the ice cream. The bright colors of the melting treat began to stain her white clothing. She looked like flying tie dye as she twirled and danced, free and strong! The music gradually became upbeat. At this point, all inhibitions were lost and almost all audience members were grabbing ice cream off the ground and throwing it at her.

One hilarious thing I noticed was the passers-by on the boardwalk, stopping and pulling out their phones. Two older women came down to the gate to watch and they looked stunned! Can you imagine stumbling upon a scene like this?  The whole experience was sweet, sweet magic!

Going into it, I had no expectations. I didn’t realize seeing this performance would have such an impact on me.  Being a part of the beautifully playful performance with the community was a reminder for me that we can still feel joy and freedom safely, despite all the anxiety Covid-19 has laid upon our shoulders these past 8 months.

The show almost didn’t happen. This piece has been in the making for a year but with Covid-19 the artist was apprehensive to perform it for the public. Local impresario Rob Bryn encouraged her to stage the event, and helped curate the production. This would be Micca’s last opportunity until the spring since temperature is key – the ice cream needs to melt.

The invitation post on Instagram stated strict rules for attendance and shared a bit about why the performance was happening:

“My friend Micca has been dancing on the beach for two hours a day since quarantine first began back in March – in joyful practice and training. She’s an incredible mover. One of the many human treasures Rockaway has mystically drawn to itself, as it does. She’s been working on an ice cream piece for over a year. Before that she was in a professional dance company for 8 years. Performance is a hard way of life to live without, once you get used to it. She’s been hesitant to present this piece to the public because of Covid-19… I’ve encouraged her to do the show with sensible stipulations… If you want to attend you must RSVP by DMing or texting. You must get tested and be negative for Covid-19. The testing facility on 39th feels very safe and efficient. It’s free and you don’t need an appointment. Everyone in the audience has to wear a mask and gloves. They also have to be willing to participate. Willing to get up and move. Maybe scream and shout. Give and receive energy openly. Take pleasure in sunlight and ocean air. Be willing to play with ice cream. This Sunday, October 11th. At the handball court on Shore Front at Beach 77th at 5 PM. This is an attempt at a joyful countermeasure to dark times”

I very much hope we see more of Micca’s inspiring l performances in Rockaway. In the meantime, follow her on Instagram for a dose of sweetness – @MaMicca

tagged in ice cream, rockaway

Trees This, Tree That

A few tree-related items have popped up this week and I thought it would be worth sharing.

The first is both frustrating and hilarious. I got an email from 311 in response to a request I submitted to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation on June 22, 2018. Yes, that’s 2 years ago??

“Thank you for your street tree planting request. Pending inspection for utility conflicts, we have determined this to be a suitable location for a new tree.

The next update is due within 180 days. We’ll notify you when the updates have been made. You can also check the status online.

Thank you,
NYC311”

And you didn’t read this wrong: Next update… 180 days… City agencies at their best.

After I took my tree pruner certification course with trees.org (great class btw), I extensively walked around the neighborhood noting dead trees for removal and requesting new trees to be planted by the city. I’ve gotten one other response maybe a year ago and now this.  I don’t know what else to say but … wow.

If you dare bother, you can visit tree-map.nycgovparks.org to report areas where you feel new trees should be planted; where dead trees need removal; and you can document trees not listed on the “tree map” by providing species details. The documentation map is actually pretty neat, so if you’re a tree person, definitely check that out.

Trying to idenitfy the  species with help from a construction worker (1)

The other noteworthy tree update: Plantings have begun at the skate park on 91st Street and the boardwalk. As this is my block, I’ve been watching (and hearing) the whole buildout for the past 1 1/2 years. I see some appropriately planted pine trees. I went across the street to further inspect. I only discovered a yellow NYC ID band. No specific name but I believe the trees are some kind of North Eastern Pine, perhaps a Connecticut Slate or a Black Pine – which I know has been planted in other areas around the boardwalk. (I really need to get that plant identification app already).  The pines look full and robust. Pines normally are salt tolerant so that’s a plus.

The other trees planted along the bike path, also not labeled, are a bit concerning. Trees this time of year without leaves are hard to identify. You have shape and bark to go by. This tree looks similar to the trees NYC Parks planted in front of my house, which died, twice. Sophora japonica ‘Regent,’ is identified as a great tree for urban areas, deals with pollution and poor soil quality but it’s not salt tolerant. Here in Rockaway that’s a big problem, as I’ve rambled about many many times.

New trees planted at the Beach 91st St. skate park

Another issue is water. Any newly planted tree needs 20 gallons of water per week, give or take based on the age of the tree. I’ve seen so many trees planted around town, then they turn brown because of lack of water and ultimately die. What a shame. Luckily we’ve had a lot of rain the past few weeks so I have hope for these newbies. And don’t put it past me to run over to the park for hours, back and forth with a watering can.

There’s an exciting bit to share in closing. Last week as I was inspecting trees, being a total weirdo in front of the construction workers, I asked them when the entrances will be open and when will the fences come down? One construction guy answered, “Friday.” That’s today!

tagged in rockaway, trees

Saag Paneer

saag paneer

I love Indian food. And until someone in Rockaway opens an Indian Restaurant (hint, hint), I will continue my quest to learn how to cook spicy, savory currys, masala, lentils and dahls.

Each region of India is famed for their individual styles. One of my favorite dishes is from northern India – saag paneer. In Hindi, Saag means greens, referring to spinach, collards, fenugreek and other leafy greens. Paneer is a mild, unaged soft cheese which makes it simple to make at home! Be aware, paneer does not melt.

I found this saag paneer recipe on www.saveur.com. I attempted to follow it as closely as possible but I always find myself struggling to do so. I question things like.. is a half teaspoon of garam masala really going to make a difference in the flavor of such a large batch?

Below is my modified recipe. I’ve also included helpful information based on my experience with this recipe. Indian food isn’t the easiest cuisine to master. My husband said he thought my preparation was delicious, rating it 7 out of 10 – which is good for my first try!

cheese making process

For the homemade paneer cheese
(Serves 2, takes 45 minutes, plus draining time)

  • 8 cups milk
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp. ghee or butter

Note: Ghee is a clarified butter which originated in ancient India. If you can’t make a trip to Bellerose Queens, to the many Indian supermarkets there, use regular butter. Next time I will double the cheese recipe. Believe it or not, 8 cups of milk didn’t produce much cheese.

For the spinach

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled
  • ½ to 1 serrano chile, (any chille will do, amount based on spicy preference)
  • 6 cups finely chopped spinach
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 Tbsp. yogurt
  • ½ tsp. garam masala
  • ¼ tsp. Cayenne
  • Indian flatbread or rice, for serving

Notes: Be careful with the Kosher salt as each grain is more like a pebble, Out of everything, I ended up adding too much salt. Taste the mixture before serving and add more spices if you feel it needs it.

Instructions
Make the cheese: Line a colander with four layers of cheesecloth, draping it over the sides and set in the sink. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a boil, stirring often. Stir in the lemon juice, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook without stirring just until large curds form, about 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat and set aside without disturbing for two minutes, then pour the milk mixture into the colander. Gather the corners of cheesecloth and gently squeeze out some of the excess liquid. Tie the opposite corners of the cheesecloth together to make a sack and hang it from the faucet. Set aside at room temperature until the excess liquid has thoroughly drained, about 1½ hours. Transfer the sack to a plate. Glatten with your palm and place a  heavy pot on top of the cheese. Set aside to compress for 30 minutes. Remove the pot and unwrap the cheese. Cut into 1-inch cubes. You can make the cheese in advance and store it in the fridge.

In a skillet, heat the ghee or butter over medium-low. Add the cheese and fry until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Set aside.

Make the spinach: In a blender, combine all the ingredients and ¼ cup water till it’s loosely chopped, or to puree (whatever your preference is). Butter the skillet and heat to medium-low. Add in the spinach mixture, cheese and yogurt. Cook on low for 15 minutes.

North Indian saag paneer is a soft and creamy spinach mixed with chunks of mild fried cheese. You can serve it with warm naan or rice. This is Indian comfort food at its best!

combine all ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes

 

tagged in indian food, recipe

Ignore succulents

Successful propagation with practically no effort!

I happened to notice the succulent plant on my window sill as I was washing the dishes the other day. To my delight, I noticed the leaves I had propagated started to grow! I believe I planted these cuttings about two months ago, and with all the outdoor gardening I’ve been doing, I just forgot about it.

I knew that succulents can be propagated by one leaf so I ran the water over the flat edge and buried it barely below the surface of the soil, not expecting much. I dribbled water over it maybe once or twice. Easy as that.

What happened to begin with was a classic mistake. I overwatered the plant and many leaves fell off. The term “succulent” comes from the latin word sucus, meaning juice. This plant stores water similarly to cacti , both in the leaves but in the stems, which can make finding the proper watering regimen a tricky matter. There’s two ways to go about it.  First, you can do a single heavy watering, draining any excess water. Then water again when the plant is completely dried out. I’ve had trouble with this method. Maybe it’s because my soil mix is too absorbent.  The other way is to dribble water on the plant every 1-2 weeks. What I do is a combination of both but very modestly.

Over watering causes leaves to drop off
Over watering causes leaves to drop off

Tips for succulent care:

  • Minimal watering and water even less in the winter as the plant goes dormant – once a month
  • A gritty soil mix is best. Think chunks of small rocks, not soil per se. If you’re creating your own arrangement with different varieties, garden centers will sell a premix for these plants specifically.
  • They love sun. A south facing window sill is perfect. If there isn’t enough light in your home, you’ll notice the plant starting to stretch and get leggy. You may want to supplement with a grow light if this is the case.
  • Succulents grow to the light very quietly, so rotate your plant for an even look
  • Ignore them!

Succulents are found all over the world except Antarctica. They thrive in semi-desert conditions but are versatile enough to live around lakes and rock beds as well. Some are even considered epiphytes – organisms that live on surfaces such as bark, trees or rocks that gain water from the air and rain.

My friend’s Alex and Chirs gave succulents as their wedding favor. I’ve managed to keep this one thriving for almost two years
My friend’s Alex and Chris gave succulents as their wedding favor. I’ve managed to keep this one thriving for almost two years 

These plants have become so popular because  there are many varieties, colors and attractive shapes. Their unique appearances are truly stunning. I actually purchased the one currently on my kitchen window sill at CVS on sale a while back. Find them in your local supermarket or more unique varieties, at the garden center. Once you get the hang of caring for them, they will become quite rewarding and beautiful ornamentals in your home.

If you want to learn more about succulent care, this is a great resource.

For more on plants and for the day-to-day, follow me on Instagram @theglorifiedtomato

tagged in houseplant