Friday, November 20, 2009

Miracles of Modern Science

By Lauren Johnson

When one typically thinks of indie rock, the word “charming” may seem an unusual adjective. But when the indie rock band consists of a violin, cello, double bass, mandolin, and drums played by five graduates from Princeton University, one may change their mind. And when I saw the Miracles of Modern Science perform a few weeks ago, “charming” seemed a perfectly fitting word, especially since the performance took place amongst the artful grandeur of the Princeton Art Museum.

I heard about these guys only a few days before, after browsing the museum’s event calendar for interesting happenings. Having never been to the Princeton Art Museum, I was excited by the prospect of getting a double dose of art in one night. The band is comprised of Evan Younger (double bass/lead vocals), Josh Hirshfeld (mandolin, vocals); Kieran Ledwidge, (violin), and Geoff McDonald (cello). They met at Princeton, formed their band in 2004, and soon after became a quintet with the addition of their drummer, Tyler Pines, who joined them in 2005. They recently got a significant publicity boost by being written up in Spin Magazine as being one of 2009’s “25 Must-Hear Artists.” I knew seeing them would be a win-win.

I arrived in Princeton with my husband on a chilly night, and scampered through the campus in an effort to both keep warm and avoid being late. Upon arrival, two large glass doors gave way to a large open reception area. Straight ahead was a long table with a pancake stack of very homemade looking CD’s with the track titles hand-written with a note next to them that said “Sign up to be on our mailing list and take a CD.” (Charming marketing tactics to boot?)

We hurried up the steps and found a swarm of young college students surrounding a group of four equally young men (their drummer could not make it to the show). After a few last-minute tuning plucks on the double bass and mandolin, and with a fiery Peter Paul Rubens as their backdrop, the band opened with their first song, called “Luminol,” which begins with a trilling cricket-in-the-night high note on the violin, peppered with perfect little chirps from the mandolin. The sound is instantly unique, and the song quickly builds into a catchy, peppy, indie rock ballad (I should mention here that all the instruments are plugged into amps). Each piece they played thereafter was a creative, whimsical, experimental song that delighted both the eye and ear (have you ever seen someone play riffs on a cello?).

The song I loved the most (and subsequently had in my head for days after), was called “524,” a rumbling, Johnny-Cash-Western-saloon tune about a man who doesn’t fight, but whose only willful defense is out-whistling anyone who dares confront him.

The Miracles of Modern Science are a sight to be seen (and heard!), and after the show, we drove home, whistling the entire way.

Listen to MOMS and download their free EP at:

Double Duty

By Brianne Harrison

Holiday shopping is about to go into full swing—so what do you get for the animal lover who has everything? How about a copy of Vet Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s Health, which comes with the added bonus of helping animals in need?

Those animals are the ones currently crowding (seriously crowding!) the shelter in Darlington, South Carolina. The Darlington shelter will take in approximately 5,000 unwanted animals this year alone, and the massive influx is leading to shortages of food, medicine, space, and funds.

The plight of the Darlington shelter came to the attention of Dr. Louise Murray, author of Vet Confidential and director of medicine for the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. In an effort to help, Dr. Murray will donate all author royalties for every copy of Vet Confidential that’s sold between November 15 and December 15 to the Darlington shelter. The book is a consumer’s guide to health care for pets, covering everything from vaccines to heart conditions, with information on the risks of certain medical procedures and the types of specialists who should conduct them. This excellent resource for pet owners will now be serving double duty—helping owners learn more about their pets’ health and helping the Darlington shelter feed and house its many animals. To learn more about Vet Confidential, click here. To learn more about the Darlington shelter and how you can help, click here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Real Housewives Smackdown

By Lauren Clay

When I walked through the doors of Bergen PAC on October 17, I wasn’t sure what the night would bring, I only knew that I was there for a night of “Dishing and Debates” with cast members from the Real Housewives of New Jersey and New York. My first thought was that I’d be witness to a night filled with catfights, so imagine my surprise when the night turned out to be less Jerry Springer and more The View.

Before the women even went on stage, the audience was told to cheer for who they were there to see – New York or New Jersey. It was no surprise when New Jersey won that competition by a mile. From that moment on, I knew Jersey had this debate in the bag.

Jill and Alex from New York were the first to take the stage. Even from far away I could tell that these women were all about appearance and glamour. They both looked beautiful, but I was secretly hoping that the New Jersey women would outdo them. I was not disappointed. Caroline walked out first and looked very striking in an understated but gorgeous dress. Then Teresa entered and wowed everyone in a sparkling silver mini-dress and matching heels. When she announced that just had a baby five weeks earlier, I was in total shock. If only all women could bounce back that quickly from a pregnancy, but we can only dream.

The one thing I liked about all of the women was their strong sense of pride for where they come from. When asked what they thought the big differences were between New York and New Jersey, I think Caroline said it best:

“New York has the glitz and the glamour, but on New Jersey, we’re not afraid to go on TV without makeup. We’ll put it all out there – the good, the bad, the ugly, the happy, the sad – I think we have no fear. What your see is what you get.”

When asked about why they love New Jersey, Caroline talked about how in New Jersey, “everything is a blink away” – she can be in Manhattan in 15 minutes and the shore is only 45 minutes away. Jill chimed in by praising New Jersey for not taxing clothes.

Although the night didn’t turn out to be quite the debate I thought it would be, it was a lot of fun to say the least, especially during the audience Q & A, which turned into people asking questions about the upcoming seasons and Jill, in true New York style, cutting in to say “she can’t talk about that, you’ll have to watch and find out.”

All in all, it was a great evening and in my opinion, the Jersey women represented us well and proved what I’ve known for years – New Jersey is definitely better than New York.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology at the Table

By Maureen C. Petrosky

Sunday night dinner at my mom’s is an informal affair where the siblings come if they can and no dress code is required. It’s casual, comforting, and always delicious. This past Sunday night my mom, known for being a straight shooter, nonchalantly asked, “So, what do you think of technology at the table?” I blushed as I put down my i-Phone, and was equally ashamed to see my brother scrolling through his and my sister- in-l aw with hers placed delicately next to her knife. Can we really not get through one meal without knowing the score, reading a text, or upping a bid?

I’m guilty all the way around. I find myself anxious and edgy if I’m not connected all the time. The phone has become a natural extension of my hand. Even as I write this I see how silly it seems to use the word connected. If we’re all staring at a screen we are definitely not connecting. If we were, Sunday night dinner could be conducted over SKYPE. Maybe we’d actually pay more attention. Individual phones have created some strange ripples in how we socialize. Many of my friends, even though married or in a relationship, still seem single to me. You see as more people skip the extra trouble and expense of landlines and choose to have their own phones, there’s no chance I will accidentally have to make small talk with their spouses, thus creating odd moments to actually connect when we get together in person. The cell phone isn’t something you answer for someone else, it’s private and with that comes serious social boundaries.

With the biggest dinner event of the year being next Thursday, I suggest you turn off the technology at least long enough to enjoy the turkey and mashed potatoes, as well as those you’ve chosen to share them with. If you’re wondering about last Sunday night’s dinner, don’t—everything came up roses anyway. With this gorgeous fall weather we were able to play in the leaves, kick around a soccer ball, and sip some rose. These pinks aren’t just for summer. In fact, they are perfect for swirling in fall when you’re not quite ready for big reds. Here’re two to try before or with your turkey.

Parallele 45 Rose, 2008, $12.99 This is a dry pink that’s perfect as an aperitif or alongside oven roasted turkey or pork loin. It’s full of cherries but has added interest with its minerality.

Castello Monaci Kreos Rosato, 2008, $12.99 I was tricked by the Kreos, thinking at first this was a rose from Greece. But I was not disappointed to find this little Italian pink was juicy, with a round body full of luscious juicy fruit.

*Taste these side by side to learn a little about how different pinks are from around the world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finders Keepers

By Brianne Harrison

Talk about a treasure hunt! Starting today, Devon Fine Jewelry will be giving away 30 pieces of jewelry worth more than $25,000 to thank Northern Bergen County for its support over the past 30 years.

Some companies are content to celebrate 30 years with a cake and perhaps a party for some favored clients, but Devon’s owner, Nancy Schuring, decided to take it a bit further. She placed 30 pieces of jewelry (one for each year Devon’s been in business) in Devon shopping bags with “Finders Keepers” tags on them. The bags have been left all over Devon’s home town of Wyckoff and the areas surrounding it.

“Everybody loves surprises and getting gifts! With our Finders Keepers Event, we’re putting the two together,” Schuring says. “It's been a fantastic 30 years in business and we appreciate the loyalty of Wyckoff and the surrounding communities. We wanted to express our gratitude by giving back in a unique way.”

The bags contain a wide variety of jewelry, from white and yellow gold rings to pendants, bracelets, an d even some diamond necklaces! The pieces’ worth ranges from a few hundred dollars up to $3000 for a platinum sapphire and diamond ring. All Schuring asks in return is that finders share the story of where and how they discovered their bags.

The bags may be found anywhere, from grocery stores and shopping malls to libraries and beauty salons, so keep your eyes peeled!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not Your Grandmother’s Stuffing

By Pat Tanner

We cooks never know where our next good recipe will come from. Usual sources include a neighbor or co-worker, the Internet or television, a new cookbook, or a magazine or newspaper column. But a tourism calendar? Not so much.

Yet this stuffing recipe, from a calendar my neighbor presented to me last winter as a thank-you gift for collecting her mail while she lounged on the pink sands of Bermuda, captured my attention. I tested it and pass along the recipe for a couple of reasons.

One, you may be among the many who do not make turkey for Thanksgiving, either because you don’t like the taste or because the size of your gathering calls for a smaller bird. This stuffing is a perfect complement to chicken, duck, game hen, or other fowl.

Two, I suspected that the tropical flavor of mango mixed with fluffy white rice had major potential to produce a lighter, brighter alternative to traditional bread stuffing. And, boy, was I right.

The stuffing can be made ahead of time (just refrigerate, covered, until you’re ready to stuff and roast the bird). And it couldn’t be easier. If you can cook rice and peel a mango you’re good to go. (If you’re hesitant about peeling and cutting mangoes, which can be tricky, google “how to cut a mango” for a slew of step-by-step video instructions.)

Bermuda Mango Rice Stuffing
Adapted from 2009 Bermuda Calendar, Tropic Traders Ltd. (Hamilton, Bermuda)

To stuff a 4-pound chicken or duck:

2 large or 3 small ripe mangoes
4 cups cooked rice, cold or room temperature (made from about 1-1/3 cups raw rice)
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
2 whole cloves

Peel mangoes, remove stones, and mash to a pulp. (I used a food processor.) Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Chill for several hours to blend the flavors. Remove the cloves just before stuffing the bird. Stuff and roast as usual. (Heat any extra stuffing in an ovenproof bowl, covered, alongside the bird.)