Monday, July 14

Camping with friends!

I've been camping before, but always in a suburban backyard, just yards away running water and a flushable toilet. This was a bit more real -- an occasion to be grateful for hand-sanitizer. We took MetroNorth to Tenmile River, which by the way, is not a typo.

Friends picked us up in their car. We bought groceries, firewood, and displayed restraint and did not visit the book sale happening in the little quaint town. Off to the state park! Without a sign or my knowledge, we'd crossed state lines into Connecticut at some point in our 10-minute drive. 

Frisbee golf was our first activity. I'd never played before, and everyone kept recommending that I throw "as if I were starting a lawnmower," and then we'd all laugh, since I've obviously never once used a lawnmower, except when dancing terribly, and even then, I usually prefer the shopping cart. City kid! 

Then we visited a lake and saw a frog. Joe was the last to arrive, so we had to leave him an old-timey handwritten note on the windshield of a car, because there was no cell phone reception. AT&T has not yet made its way to the state park (which was amazing until the moment we hit reception again and the deluge of emails arrived). We made a fire but sadly had left home graham crackers and chocolate, so had to roast marshmallows all on their lonesome. 

The sheer volume of stuff the five of us brought was amazing. We had three grills. An inflatable box for washing dishes. Four coolers worth of food. A keg, leftover from someone's 4th of July party. A tote full of frisbees, cornhole, tikki torches. A wizard-style canopy tent. Five chairs; two tables.

As a friend said, camping is essentially like moving apartments, but winding up in the great outdoors at the end.

Never have eggs tasted so amazing. Never. So good I had to take two pictures.  J and I had the NYC-sized tent -- and there was no real glamping for us. We slept on sleeping bags and our old quilt. (I'm proud, but also really jealous of the blow-up mattresses other people brought.)

Wednesday, July 9

I am making a list...

It's a list of words that only appear in fiction, which surely no one has said out loud in this century (and probably not the last one, either):


Wednesday, June 4

Retro Snuff

I wonder why snuff grew out of fashion? I guess I also wonder how it became popular in the first place, but then I imagine living in the 1700 and 1800s sans television, radio, Kardashians, and under the threat of an infectious disease, and maybe sneezing from tobacco would be the best thing that could happen to your day.

Wouldn't it be amazing if snuff made a huge comeback? I can totally picture how it would happen -- first in some enclave in Bushwick, then wandering over to Portland and Austin ... finally it would become so widespread the New York Times would write a trend piece, and Chuck Schumer would denounce the evils of snuff on a weekend morning show.

Perhaps if the e-cigarettes hadn't become a thing, the mannered world of tobacco tins and discreet snorting of tobacco would have been on the rise. Please ponder, and enjoy this important photo-illustrated WikiHow with the fours steps to snuff-taking.

Tuesday, June 3

What I'm Reading: No Book But the World

Reading is a struggle lately, and Leah Hager Cohen's No Book But the World is sadly not the book to change that circumstances. I won't blame the book, which is prettily (too prettily?) written; it's a problem with the reader. I'm only sixty pages in -- too soon for a recommendation anyway -- but I will note that I did hit one passage that rang right:
"The November rain is blowing sideways, crazing the glass. What is it about extreme weather that gives one the feeling of having traveled back in time? As if the past somehow had more weather; as if weather is one of those things that has dwindled or languished with modernity."

Monday, June 2

A Visit to the Library on a Monday

Today I went to the library to work because I am worried the corner of the couch where I tend to perch most weekdays is becoming a bit too comfortable, and also because I was attempting to triple-task the laundry, returning an overdue library video (Dallas Buyers Club), and writing a complicated cover letter. The library felt like the perfect solution, although full disclosure -- were I not feeling underemployed lately, I would likely have perched at a coffee shop instead, an iced coffee spreading condensation close to my computer, while a timer for the laundry clicked down on my iPhone.

But I am glad that I went to the library. I have this very easily doable project in mind to visit and rate every library in New York. It is a sort of companion piece to my other easily achievable plan to ride the F train from end to end, Coney to Jamaica, getting out at every stop and taking a walk. Anyway my new local branch in Park Slope would get a solid B rating if I ever actually followed through on my project (points for the building itself, with its lovely high ceilings and feeling of significance; boos for shelving all fiction together regardless of genre).

Maybe you think you know the library from after work and weekend trips as a normally-employed person. But it's on the weekdays that the library lets loose, with a gamut of people from homeless to genius sitting, browsing, staring.

I sat today at a four-top table, across from someone's abandoned jacket, next to a man on a computer. We did not talk when I sat down, although we both took out headphones in unison when the woman at the table next to us starting a long but muttered conversation on her cell phone about how to use her computer. I would have given her my very best library disgruntled ssssshhh but didn't because who am I to shush. After thirty minutes, it occurred to me that the abandoned jacket might not have been abandoned, Maybe it was a carefully placed but not-so-effective ploy from my seatmate to get the whole table to himself. I stewed, and darted glances at him until I started to worry he would mistake my intentions.

Behind me was a cozy reading zone with fabric-covered armchairs and small round tables. I am suspicious of these areas in libraries. A teenage girl sat on the floor using a chair as a desk for her notebook; another girl sprawled directly on the floor. Maybe she was asleep. I sat facing the people at a bank of two double-sided tables, fitting about sixteeen computers, and when I finished my application I started another project but kept wondering what they were all working on. Did they wonder why I was there? We all worked intently, and I felt bad when I coughed. A man cat-corner to me flipped pages in his legal pad and made notes that seemed very important.

A man went up to the librarian arguing about his DVD that should have been on hold, and why wasn't it, and all the other people at the library would have helped him out except for her, she was so unreasonable. It went on for a bit, and I imagined how I would shut him down, move him along. I went back to work.

An older woman asked somewhat creakily if the fourth seat at the table (remember: it's me, computer man, and an "abandoned" coat) was available and we both nodded yes and the jacket continued to hang on the seat back, deserted. I saw that I got an email and held myself back from checking for ten whole minutes on the theory that if I waited awhile it might magically transform into a job offer but of course it wound up just being a "final day for your 20% off coupon" email from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I looked up and the woman across the table had a brush and mirror out. She was combing carefully through her short white strands first with one brush, and then with a second that emerged out of her purse.

My time dinged. Laundry ready to fold. Don't even get me started on the people in laundromats in the middle of weekdays, or the weird and wonderful world of daytime tv watching that can be justified on a Monday afternoon visit. I left the library.

Monday, April 28

A delayed quarter life crisis

For my delayed quarter-life crisis, or my perfectly-on-time quarter-life crisis if I'm going to live to a biblical age, these the alternate careers currently under consideration: Beekeeper. Lawyer. (Bee-keeping lawyer?) Bar owner. Bar bookstore owner. Accountant. Professional dominoes player, Mexican train dominoes only. List maker. Farmer. Chronicler of foods that taste delicious with a poached or fried egg on top. Project manager. Reader of internet.

Suggestions welcome.

Sunday, March 10

Major problem

I had a dream last night that I was taking a nap. That was about the totality of the dream: just watching myself sleep, while sleeping myself. Can't help but be worried for the state of my unconscious.

Tuesday, January 31

Only In Dreams

I must be watching entirely too much Bravo lately, because the other night I dreamt I was a contestant on America's Next Top Diplomat, a show where contestants compete to become the U.S.'s next diplomat to Australia.

Why Australia? Who knows. All I remember is being in front of a panel of sophisticated judges -- maybe on the set of Meet the Press? -- making what seemed in my dream to be sophisticated arguments about America's foreign policy relations with Australia. Perhaps I am still processing through sleep the wonders of the political world this year.

Monday, January 30

Raisin Bread, Homemade

Midway through making this raisin bread, I realized what I really wanted was a cinnamon-raisin swirl bread, kind of like the classic Pepperidge Farm variety.

My improvised attempt to add a swirl didn't work (see picture). I thought it was really yummy. J. thought there should be more cinnamon, and I don't necessarily disagree. When I was making it though, the two tablespoons seemed absurdly heaping.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour -- next time I'll add more cinnamon & raisins, and see if I can make a swirlified version.

Sunday, January 8

'Tis Still the Season

Buried at the bottom of my stocking was a dark-chocolate-orange. Cracking it is fun; eating it segment-by-segment is even better.

Sunday, January 1

Feeling Resolute

I have an excess of resolutions this year, most of which I'm sure will wind up abandoned if the past is any guide to my future. But today is the first day of the year, I have just the slimmest shadow of a hangover, and 2012 (still) feels fresh and full of possibilities. So here are a few things I'd like to do this year:
  • get a new haircut & get better at blow drying my hair straight;
  • end the year with less possessions than I started with;
  • spend less time procrastinating & making lists;
  • take a trip that requires a passport;
  • read Bleak House by Dickens.

Wednesday, December 21

If I'd known I'd bump into 3 people I know on the B train this morning, I would have definitely put on mascara.

Monday, December 12

Haiku for Monday

computer broken
server down -- oh yes, monday!
means red wine tonight

Tuesday, November 15

Poach Your Eggs

This weekend, should you make poached eggs? If you leave off the hollandaise sauce, they're the healthiest of eggs! Find out how to make them, and then have yourself a mimosa as a reward.

Friday, November 4

Review: The Savage City, by T.J. English

T.J. English's non-fiction book, The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge, tells three interlocking stories about race, corruption, and the police in 1960s and 1970s New York City. Like the best non-fiction works, this book may leave you wanting to read all of its source material. The Savage City is a page turner, and serves as a nice reminder that 1960s New York was not solely about the boozing and vintage dresses of Mad Men. English also seeks to shine a light on the New York of today, through the lens of the past. In the introduction, he writes:
The past is not past: a city's identity is composed not just of events in the present moment but also of all that came before. If New York City today is a place of prosperity, safety, and good times, as its civic leaders and financial developers contend, it is useful to remember that these things have come at a price.

Thursday, November 3

Hey, here's a handy site for people with jerky friends: Is It Old? Just in case you needed a handy companion to LMGTFY.

Wednesday, November 2

Beethoven Awareness Month

Really great ad for WQXR's Beethoven Awareness Month  -- and perfectly placed at the Lincoln Center 1/9 train station.

Tuesday, November 1

Wheat Is Better

I spent a lot of time inside this past weekend, avoiding the thundersnow that hit the northeast, and engaging in my latest hobby. Perhaps the main requirement for baking bread is a skill for finding good 30-minute tasks. How I Met Your Mother reruns, anyone? I made the whole wheat bread listed on the back of the flour bag. It has so few ingredients: honey, whole wheat flour, regular flour, salt, and yeast. And water.

The dough was incredibly sticky -- much more so than last week's plain white sandwich bread dough -- and I added tons of flour while kneading. The recipe had called for adding 1/4 - 1/2 cup of flour while kneading, but I might have added as much as a cup. Here's the bread dough, about to go in a bowl and rise.
whole wheat bread, a little overly-floured up
The recipe for this bread made two loaves; I only have one pan for baking bread. I thought about halving the recipe, but I've read that splitting bread recipes can lead to problems. Also, math! So this dough went on to make one loaf of sandwich bread, and one boule.

whole wheat bread, fresh from the oven
Last week's white sandwich bread was good, but this whole wheat bread was much, much better: chewy and flavorful, the bread tasted complex. It is hard to believe that so few ingredients are involved in making this whole wheat bread.

Sunday, October 23

Homemade White Sandwich Bread

Making homemade bread feels very fall. This is the best recipe I've used for making white bread yet -- honey was my sweetener of choice, and I halved the amount of salt since some reviews mentioned the bread being a bit salty. I don't have a stand mixer, so I mixed by hand and then kneaded for what seemed like forever, but was probably just 10 minutes.

Tomorrow: grilled cheese on homemade bread for dinner.

Bread, cooling. Just ignore the clutter of technology and paper in the background.

Wednesday, October 19

Salmon With Leeks Recipe

Salmon, about to go in the oven
Like so many dinners in CSA-season, this meal is inspired by the vegetables in the fridge that look closest to going bad, and by mad-libs style Google searches. The goal? To eat the leeks before their leaves started to get (even more) wilted and sad. Also, on my last visit to my doctor, she practically composed a sonnet of admiration for salmon, so I had fish on the brain.

Recipes from BBC's Good Food  and Fine Cooking were an inspiration as well as my previous adventures in "salmon coated in mustard tastes good however you cook it."

Time: 40 minutes (20 minutes cook-time; 20 minutes prep)

2 leeks, washed carefully and sliced fairly thin
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
Salmon filet (I had about 2 lbs; you could use any amount, just scale the sauce accordingly. Make sure to cut salmon filet into portions before cooking.)
Cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sauce for Salmon:
  • 1 lemon, juiced, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • 3 tbsp honey 
  • 3 tbsp mustard (I like dijon -- either honey or wholegrain)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil + plus more for pan
Equipment: Cast iron pan or other oven-safe pan. If you don't have an oven-safe pan, use a regular pan and baking dish -- but then you'll have to wash two things, instead of one. 

How to Make:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Heat pan with a bit of olive oil. Once it's hot, add leeks and garlic,  along with some salt and pepper. Let them sweat for about 5 minutes, until they look wilted, and then turn off flame. Avoid burning or browning the mixture.
  3. Mix together sauce for salmon -- honey, mustard, olive oil, and lemon. This is a forgiving sauce -- don't be afraid to make substitutions. For instance, you could try a different kind of oil, or add a vinegar in place of the acid from the lemon.
  4. Spread leeks evenly in your oven-safe pan. (If you do not have an oven-safe pan, just transport the leeks into a baking dish.) Pile salmon on top of leeks, in a non-overlapping layer. Sprinkle salt and pepper the fish; then spread the sauce on top of the fish. Let any extra sauce drip down onto leek mixture. If using, sprinkle cherry tomatoes around the pan.
  5. Place fish in oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Check halfway through and rotate pan if your oven has an uneven temperature. Fish is done when it flakes easily and doesn't look raw in center. (Avoid overcooking.) 
The Finished Product: I served with golden beets (roasted in the oven at the same time as the salmon was prepped & cooked) and couscous.

Salmon, ready to eat.