Archive for December, 2010

obligation to premeditation

December 31, 2010

I had one goal—or in the festive parlance, resolution—for 2010: to begin shopping at my local farmers markets. Today, 364 days later, I’m astonished I began this routine only a year ago. At the time my precise plan was a bit ambitious (fruits and veggies twice a week, dairy/eggs twice a month, and meat once a month), but I can say now that I get the vast majority of my fruits and vegetables (and the occasional grain and eggs) from farmers. This may be my first successfully accomplished New Year’s Resolution. Not only that, my whole perspective on food, nutrition, and cooking has evolved, and to top it off—I snagged a job at a food magazine for a nonprofit! I can’t think of a better flurry of reasons to celebrate.

And with each success comes the challenge: What Next? How to find other ways to improve, to incorporate adjustments into daily life, or just to enjoy an achievement. Plotting self-improvement always feels contrived—the more grandiose, the more harrowing—and the best ideas come naturally, don’t they? So until inspiration strikes, I’m thinking up a few simple goals, with a calendar year being egregiously more than enough time (I hope) to check them off a seemingly arbitrary To Do List:

     

  1. Learn to poach an egg.
  2. Take more pictures (really this should be a corollary to “Take my camera out of the house.”)
  3. Keep updating this blog & seeking its purpose. (Note how I didn’t say find. Choose your words wisely, folks.)
  4. Continue my annual travel goal of leaving the country once a year. (Looking back the farthest i can remember, I’ve been going ten years and counting … It helps to have relatives and friends abroad, let me tell you.) This year? Possibly a Central Euro tour: Budapest-Vienna-Prague? A dip into Central America? I’ve also finally taken an interest in some U.S. cities too … This calendar is going to fill up rather quickly. But doesn’t it always.
  5.  

Until simple inspiration strikes, this list should hold me over (really, the first one alone might). But for the next few hours, the focus remains on celebrating all I’ve accomplished and reminiscing on how drastically superior 2010 was to 2009. Drastically. Though I suppose I have the latter to thank for showing me just how much good came of the former.

Welcome, 2011. Egg, let’s dance.

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clip: the foodspring 20

December 31, 2010

Sure the year-end lists are ubiquitous, but that, my friends, is because People Like Lists. I think it’s a corollary to one of our evolutionary theories. Look it up.

Or just check out my article.

(Not to mention it’s such a freebie for media: Let’s rehash reminisce about what we’ve already covered!)

i shall name him Douglas

December 19, 2010

some serious DIY ornaments

I couldn’t do it. To avoid it would be akin to insulting my new home, rejecting that tawdry tradition that consumes a vast segment of the population once a year, in which I’ll admit I take a childish delight.

Now, B doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and I celebrate only its most pagan rituals. Growing up, the traditions were loose: unwrapping of presents could be the 24th, the 25th, sometimes even the 26th—however my mother’s job schedule would dictate it. So the day itself varied, and holds little significance. But heaven help me if I wasn’t devoted to that garishly decked-out tree.

B’s confusion starts and ends with the placement of a giant conifer in the middle of one’s house, and I don’t blame him. But looking at my apartment, void of a single needle of pine, I couldn’t help but frown for the lack of my contribution to the festivities.

There’ll be a lush, full pine tree in the living room of my parents house when we visit later this week. Until then, I thought I’d make do with some festive décor of my own. Walking home from seeing Black Swan today ($6 matinee before noon! also: wow good movie), B and I passed a tree vendor and my eye caught these tiny stumps with branch tips splayed out from a center notch. $1. Sold. At home, I took out my little sewing pouch to tie some flowers to the twigs, and upon noticing my profuse collection of colorful buttons, inspiration struck. Okay, okay, perhaps not the most innovative creation, but inspiration nonetheless! I topped it off by tying a sheer white ribbon to its 11-inch-high peak, and consider my apartment Christmas spirited away.

a twofer

December 14, 2010
Two goodies in one day. This must be a new record for me. Made use of my rainy Sunday getting my bake on. The results were even more delicious than they were pretty.

shrimp mac'n'cheese

Mac’n’cheese I’ve done before, but this time I threw in some precooked shrimp. Used an Italian mix of Parmesan, Mozzarella, Asiago, and Grana Padano cheeses, splashed on some breadcrumbs and voilà. Only sad part of the story is that I have neither a proper broiler nor a toaster oven to get that coveted crispy top coat. Delicious nonetheless, even re-heated two days later.

chocolate chip brownies

In even more exhilarating news, these beauts are my first ever made-from-scratch brownies. I found several recipes, each varying in their ingredient suggestions. So I eyeballed a few things. Lo and behold, the brownies came out exactly how I wanted. Rich, chocolately, thick, gooey, flaky on top. Note how I couldn’t get the camera out before half of this delicious mess had been devoured.

This may be beginner’s luck, or a very promising start to an enthusiasm for baking. Though the confectionary cravings may be relegated to weekends. I’m not that enthusiastic. Yet. What can I say? Sometimes a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is more than enough.

tolerance

December 13, 2010

There’s a fine line between pushovers and crybabies. And tolerance defines it. Thresholds vary, whether for physical pain, pet peeves, or other daily nuisances. Off-key whistling may go missed by some, while grating the ears of another; rudeness may be brushed off or taken as a deep offense. Trivial events are soaked up in innumerable ways, and I’m trying to determine my own level of tolerance on a specific matter.

As I unwittingly foreshadowed in my first post that began home, something, home—the crumbling has begun. About two weeks ago, actually, when below my nearly perfect apartment with nearly perfect accoutrements including furniture, roommate, décor, and conspicuous lack of tiny pests—a rumbling had sounded. And continued to sound, evening after evening, well into each night. A steadily varied, dense humming from below, a staccato of murmurs and sporadic shouts through the back windows, and thus the swelling of worry and long, silent gazes between B and myself.

These invasive sounds marked the opening of a new neighborhood bar, two short flights below us. If I recall correctly, one personal mantra I recall among my years of frequent moving was that I would never live above a bar. I had not prepared an addendum to that rule should I find myself living above a bar that arrived after I signed a year-long lease.

as amazing as it doesn't look

I can describe the landlord and bar owners as nothing but incredibly kind and understanding as we work through an “adjustment period” (lasting TK more days, weeks… months?) in which soundproofing measures will be taken to “correct” the issue. Until then, B’s white noise machine has never come into so much beloved use (in concert with my floor fan on particularly noisy nights—see: Thursday, Friday, Saturday).

But already we’ve forced the inevitable discussion of Just How Much Are We Willing to Put Up With? Every apartment has its quirks, deficits, and downright problems. It’s easy enough to write a pros and cons list—it’s another matter weighing each item for its worth.

City sounds, such as buses, motorcycles, and even the occasional drunken revelry of passing late-night pedestrians, are those I’ve come to tolerate, even enjoy, as part of the cityscape. But if anything has proven more scathing above all since my first shared-living experience in college, it was bass. Heavy, reverberating, resounding bass, which reaches the marrow of my bones and rises above any grievance I can conjure. What perks can outweigh that which irks me more than anything? And that’s to say nothing of the nightly gathering of patrons in the massive backyard, which will launch another wave of apartment restorations to stifle the volumes this impressive space will enjoy come spring. (At the moment, these smokers and drinkers may as well roost on my third floor fire escape; this is how audible they are from my living room.)

We are hardly at a juncture, as we wait for purported repairs and solutions to dull the sounds invading our home from several directions, yet the topic has been broached: what we are willing to tolerate, for what benefits are we tolerating it, and what dreaded changes we may have to prepare to make should no effective resolution come to be.

Until then, artificial white noise and an extra sip of alcohol will have to hold us over. The irony of the latter both fueling and quelling the issue at hand has not escaped me.

Idea: Minimalist Nature Channel

December 5, 2010

wallaby at an animal sanctuary in australia, 2003

A TV channel dedicated to footage of animals in nature. No music, no audio commentary, just animals: walking, sleeping, eating, what have you. The only aural companion being whatever was caught with the footage – birds chirping, rivers running, a wallaby chewing. Who’s with me?