Archive for the 'musings' Category

resolve

January 4, 2012

5. Expanding my cookery horizons. (…in some vague, yet-to-be-determined kind of way. Suggestions?)

4. Commence home decluttering.

3. Re-commence photo-taking.  (= discontinue laziness?)

2. Greetings, side project (more to come …).

1. So long, Amazon (dot com; not the river, I hope).


Happy New Year to all, and to all a good fight!

the baking timer

November 29, 2011

Around this time of year, for the past few autumn-winter seasons, this mechanism in my brain toggles on telling me to bake. So I bake. And when the last of the winter snow has melted is when it shuts off again. But in the few months between, recipes for sweets that cross my path and tickle my fancy very quickly take shape in the many respective kitchens I’ve inhabited.

Last year, cookies were the favored dessert. This year the focus seems to be on pie. The slightly burnt and ill-proportionally latticed darling above is an apple pie made during a rained/snowed-in Halloween, which is when the bug first bit.

Next came the quince pie, because my CSA gave me quince, and all I knew is that they’re weren’t good raw and that I had some spare pie dough in the freezer. Lattice methods improved significantly.

Then these Drunken Molasses Cookies. The making of these was daunting: mind you, I don’t have any electric mixing tool, let alone a fancy stand mixer, so my arm endurance is usually put to the test with recipes involving batter or dough of any sort. This being my first Thanksgiving away from home in many years, I decided to ship them off to my parents for a pleasant surprise. (They were, indeed, pleasantly surprised.)

Now, because I have a pretty fantastic job, I got to indulge in a little pie-making at the office too. This caramel pecan apple pie came in a tidy all-inclusive kit that made the prospect of a fancy top crust and scalloped edge (slightly) less menacing. Not half bad, might I say?

Okay, this somewhat lacks the glory of its fuller form, but sorry, more and more of this French Apple Cake disappeared each time I attempted to photograph it, wherein I promptly forgot what I was doing and found myself a bit famished. I made this one for the fella’s birthday last week. Highly recommended. This will be made again. Though that might mean I should pick up my own springform pan instead of borrowing coworkers’. Growing my collection of baking tools could be a risky move. Or just the formal designation of a yummy annual tradition.

when home tugs in competing directions

October 26, 2011

The other Home beckons, as it does when I return to visit the place I grew up calling home (granted, in a fancy new house, though thankfully at least on the same street). Most conniving of that which beckons me is this darling critter I have the pleasure of calling my niece.

Maybe it’s her avant-garde artistry.

Or her impeccable sense of fashion.

Or perhaps the face she makes when doing her very best sea lion impression.

Whatever the reason, it’s a strong summons that’s hard to resist.

Edward Sharpe sweetly reminds us that “home is wherever I’m with you.” But what if there are several yous and you’re all in different places? Muddies the sentiment up a bit. Although it’s rather nice, having more than one feeling of home, whether in people or places. For me at least, better being tugged in many directions than none at all.

kitchen confidence

October 19, 2011

The kitchen is no longer all mine. The fella has graciously been getting braver with cooking, acknowledging “If I have a recipe, it’s easy!” He’s made several delectable meals, the large casserole format being his favorite for the copious leftovers available for subsequent lunches and dinners. (Why such logic has escaped me to this point I cannot begin to explain.) Spinach lasagna, noodle kugel, and most recently this orzo with caramelized fall vegetables are among his consistent successes.

one of the aforementioned successes

The other night as I walked in announcing his choice of the farmers market veggies I’d just picked up (broccoli or green beans), I could smell the chicken thighs he’d already begun cooking. When I asked what recipe he found, he stated in proud nonchalance, “Oh, I’m just winging it.”

Thirty minutes later, we eagerly dove into our dinner of baked chicken thighs and a green beans and charred onion salad (a Mario Batali number I’d found in this Food Day booklet) I prepared just in time. The chicken was perfectly moist, and I commended B’s work. Then we saw red.

Figuring the chicken needed a few more minutes, we popped it back in the oven to no avail. We ended up eating around the red—bloody?—parts, laughing that we’d know the next day if it was indeed undercooked. A quick search the next day brought me to this report, which basically attributes this phenomenon to the still-porous bones of younger-than-ever chickens at harvest. Despite its appearance, the report notes, “the meat is not harmed when this happens.” Hm.

My brief research only reinforced an agreement we ended up coming to that night: eating less meat. Considering he seems to have had no issue with taking up my meat diet of poultry and seafood only (excluding restaurants and takeout), I shouldn’t have been surprised when he conceded to eat more vegetarian meals so we could afford better meat (eaten less frequently). In fact, I only just realized the notably meat-absent entrees he tends toward when wearing the apron.

This will be good for both of us. It’s unintuitive, but having less of one food expands the culinary horizon rather than limiting it: we’ll play around more with protein-rich (and nutrient-rich) grains and legumes, and we’ll probably even save some money while doing so. I’ve already gotten him to stop saying he doesn’t like lentils—by making him actually try them.

And though the kitchen is no longer my private playground, I think I’m perfectly pleased with the company.

occupy their conscience

October 16, 2011

Yesterday I visited the now-famous Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street protest that began over a month ago and now has gone global, with some 82 countries demonstrating in solidarity.

Coverage of the ongoing activity has generally skewed toward coverage of the violent incidents and clashes between police and protestors. The image in my head was of tension and fear and aggression, mostly from—well, that depends on what news station you watch or papers and blogs you read. I wanted to visit, to see for myself what was in the air at this effort. I was, to say the least, caught off-guard.

The signs that have been captured and shared a dozen times over (the clever ones in greater rotation) are there. Participants venting frustrations over a plethora of problems are there, holding their ground. The sleeping bags, mats, and tarps piled high (in the daytime anyway) are there. Cops are there, in inexplicable droves (though most were standing around, chatting amongst themselves).

But what stood out above all that the media has chosen to capture over the past 4 weeks was the overwhelming feeling of calm and tranquility. Protestors were singing. They were dancing. Painting. Discussing. Sharing. This isn’t a gathering. It’s a microcosm of the peaceful, functioning community they’re asking for.

I was startled especially by just how many children are running, exploring, and playing in the occupied park. It’s not by any means reminiscent of a war zone—rather, it’s impressively clean and remarkably organized. The media station sits at one end. The line for food is orderly and its patrons patient. A cleaning station contains an assortment of brooms, mops and dust pans. A sign-making station is cluttered with paints, brushes, posterboard and cardboard to design messages.

All this came to be without a clear leader. Without manipulation. Without monetary incentive. Because at the end of the day, this fight isn’t about money. It’s about fostering a community of good, compassionate, altruistic people. Looking out for your neighbor as much as yourself. And if a few thousand strangers can build a functioning society in less than a month, I relish the thought of what’s possible if their voices and beliefs truly are heard.

“The people have an obligation to revolt when their government fails.”—John Locke

the dying art of the photo album

October 14, 2011

I miss the photo album. I don’t count the jazzed-up, bound and glossy masterpiece coffee table books that make up the contemporary view of a photo album or book. I mean photos printed from film negatives glued or taped on to sheets of spiral- or otherwise delicately bound cardstock, whose dense pages grow thick and frail and sit stacked among more of the ilk, depicting no particular event but rather everyday life, people, and that which matters on such an inherent level as to warrant a photograph in spite of the cost of the camera, film, and processing. That treasure chest I found in my family’s villa contained just such captivating relics.

… a quiet chore …

… familiar yet faraway faces …

… a parent ages away from being so (wasn’t my dad precious?) …

… a war happening in their very backyard …

… an era of style that my grandmother so elegantly exemplified …

… and even earlier relations posing from a distant past.

Here’s a goal to strive for in the coming months: an old-fashioned photo album—not of events, but just faces. Faces I find important enough to include in this book of that which matters to me. Maybe even go so far as to print a collection in black-and-white (or might that be too Hipstamatic?). Either way, I might have to make this happen.

a little bit of cope (and a lot of Risk)

August 26, 2011

What an eventful week. Already New York has experienced an earthquake (its first?), which resulted in some hilariously snide teasing and relenting defensiveness.

Next up? A potentially devastating hurricane cometh. Though it’s striking a much stronger chord than the surprise tremors on Tuesday, our amusement in reaction to the earthquake have been drawn into nervous chuckles as the weekend approaches.

The first blackout I ever experienced was in kindergarten; we all stood calm and followed instruction with the utmost severity, but quickly declined into a game of hide-and-seek tag. Today, my colleague and I shared our giddiness over the thought of a blackout during the upcoming storm. There’s something about the novelty of an incident that gives way to youthful enthusiasm. Like a child pretending to be the grown-up (“Time to go to the grocery store!”), we begin to play a serious role (“Time to pick up flashlights and canned food!”), but with the expectation that none of it is real. We’re laughing through the motions, expecting—hoping?—that our actions will become fruitless exaggerations of something that wouldn’t happen.

This may explain why the first emergency supply that B and I picked up was a new board game, should we be trapped at home for an extended period of time (see above). Flashlights were out, but we figured the candles we have would be enough. By tomorrow, we’ll stock up on a few canned goods, fill up our water bottles, and wrap our valuables in plastic bags. But all with the continuous self-reassurance that “Nothing will happen.”

I’ll chalk it up to coping mechanisms, but here’s hoping that it’ll be only our quiet worries with which we have to cope come Sunday. Until then, bottoms up and game on.

housewarming gifts

July 17, 2011

We welcomed to our home this week a lovely little lady by the name of Brando. An acquaintance of a friend needed to find her a home, and as we’d been considering (though, full disclosure, I am a dog person), we couldn’t not take this little sweetheart.

She suited us perfectly because, at four years old, her traits and habits are pretty much down pat, and notable traits they were: doesn’t scratch furniture (though she has her claws), doesn’t care for plants, and doesn’t meow much. While we’re not quite there with the latter—she’s still adjusting, new people, new place, new routine—the other two we’ve been very appreciative of.

Other darling features:

  • She pants like a dog, tongue lolling and awkward pug-esque smile.
  • Her vocals fall somewhere between chimp and Jetsons car.
  • We’ve noticed she matches our apartment’s earthy color scheme quite perfectly.

Already she’s giving us gifts, which I imagine to mean she’s happy in her new home with her new owners. This morning I woke up to see the rug by our bed sloppily folded up: a wrapped present. The contents? A giant dead cockroach. She sat proudly next to it, eying me for admiration.

Now, this would have been a more satisfying sight, had I not been previously under the impression that my apartment did not have cockroaches. But, as the fella so eloquently put it, half-asleep as I jabbed at his side, “It’s New York, baby.”

Epilogue: The cat got many treats for breakfast. I just hope she’s not a frequent gift giver.

absence makes the home grow dusty

June 20, 2011

Swept away for the weekend on a lovely getaway to Vermont, I returned last night to an apartment with no internet, a party raging next door and my herbs looking a bit worse for wear. Thank goodness for travel.

An escape from the city was getting a bit overdue, so a trip with the fella to an adorable B&B in West Dover, Vermont, felt exceedingly necessary—and entirely welcome. (Not to mention it came at the end of a week of huge deadlines at work.) We snagged this all-inclusive trip on LivingSocial Escapes for a steal, and the experience pretty much solidified our future plans to fit in more of these weekend diversions.

I’d like to say I felt completely refreshed on our return home, but I wanted nothing more than to lie down, do nothing, and fall asleep. But sometimes getting away from the dwelling is the best reminder of how much you love it—my anxiety to get away was replaced by my appreciation to be back. Not for its pristine decor, or perfect neighbors (though the raging kindly stopped very soon after we got home), or even a solid internet connection—but just for feeling at home.

from pulp to Prosecco

May 13, 2011

This morning I witnessed a pigeon treating itself to a drink of water—from a dog bowl. Perched on the edge of this stainless steel dish, just outside the pooch-friendly (and exquisite-ricotta-pancake-making) restaurant Five Leaves, this self-entitled little pigeon went to town on the oasis, surely a marked upgrade from the usual puddles of rainwater and spilled soda.

Though he bolted before I could snap a photo, I get to keep this little mental picture thanks to the atypical event of a morning run. Atypical may be putting it mildly: running has been an outright biological anomaly in my life for pretty much, well, all of it. Considering that simply living in New York has caused me to drop at least an Imperial stone, my motivation to sign up at the Y has been low. And sure, I was a steady gym goer in my college days, but more of the elliptical variety. In middle school I was a 10-minute-mile kinda girl. The fastest I ever clocked in for The Mile was 8:57 in the eighth grade. All I remember was my body being unable to decide whether to vomit or faint, so I think it attempted a little bit of both, and the rest remains a vague blur.

In short, I am not a runner.

As with most human progress these days, it was a mix of technology and chance that finally got me started doing what I had been longing (and finding infinite excuses not) to do. The chance? I moved. Just about a month ago. Next door to a couple whose female half feels inclined to strap on her heels or boots at 6:45 a.m. every weekday, despite not leaving the apartment until 8 a.m. (Just this morning, from the sound of it, around her rise-and-shine time she acted on an urge to reorganize her closet, which happens to be on the other side of the thin wall where the head of our bed rests.)

So, finding myself wide awake by 7 o’clock half the week when my alarm had another hour of slumber to go, I started to consider the surprisingly well-kempt track less than a half-mile from my apartment.

Next, the technology. I’d looked into Couch to 5K routines dozens of times in recent years, and I got the gist of it. Intervals of speed that gradually slides the ratio of walking:jogging into the favor of the latter. I had faith it was a good system. What has stopped me till now was the thought of having to focus as much on the timed intervals as the effort of jogging itself. Recall, reader: I am not a runner. Therefore, the act of running becomes all-consuming when I force myself to partake of the novelty. As if it’s not enough to run—I’d have to be constantly aware of exactly how long I’ve been running?

And then I stumbled on an app. An eponym of the Couch to 5K program that I delayed for so long, it clears away all the conscious effort of time and intervals, and just lets me run (and walk; lots of walking). After my five-minute warm-up, a nice lady voice tells me to start running. (You can also switch it to a nice gentleman, or a nice beep.) Then to walk. And so on.

This is mobile application productivity at its finest.

So here I am, reflecting on my morning run. I’ve been awake for more hours than I am generally used to for a weekday by this hour. So, thanks, technology. Thanks, slightly noisy neighbor. Granted, this is only day two of my newfangled routine. But that’s enough of a hurdle that I’ll allow myself a little personal pride, sort of like a pigeon who drinks out of a dog bowl.