In Honor of the Ladies

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Well, as with most things, I appear to be a little late in the game. Women’s History Month may have ended yesterday, but that’s no reason to stop celebrating. In fact, why should we designate just one month to celebrating the accomplishments of all those wonderful women of yesterday and today? I think I’ll celebrate for the rest of the year, thank you very much. And in honor, I’m taking a cue from this former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief turned full-time writer. If you’re in need of a good female power punch, I suggest you grab a copy for yourself. And if you need more convincing, just look here.

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Holiday Traditions

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Many may have spent their morning celebrating with green beers in raucous bars, but I opted for a decidedly more traditional and quieter start to my holiday morning. St. Patrick’s Day has long been a favorite holiday of mine and a traditional Irish soda bread is something I look forward to every year. It’s a basic bread with minimal ingredients, which says a lot of about its country of origin. For a country that has a long, tortuous history with food, soda bread was an easy way to ensure that bread made it to the table each night. I have a feeling that our Irish ancestors would be shocked to learn that we now celebrate something that, to them, was a staple in their diet.

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Though, I’ll be honest, some of my additions are far from traditional. I doubt orange zest was readily available to many in the countryside of 19th century Ireland.

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This point of this post is more to ramble on about traditions than to actually show the step-by-step baking process. The lack of documentation is my own fault and for a more thorough breakdown of the bread, I will direct you to the inimitable Ina Garten.

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According to Irish folklore, a cross was cut into the dough before placing it in the oven (or over an open hearth, if you live in a thatched roof cottage by chance) to let out the evil demons and spirits while baking. While I made sure to etch a cross into my dough, the end result doesn’t show any such markings. But, given the sounds and smells that my oven emits daily, I think it may be too late to purge it of any maleficent spirits.

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Also not present here are the snowy flakes that were flying intermintently outside my window. I hear that spring is lurking somewhere around the corner.

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I prefer my soda bread with a smear of butter and cup of coffee.

But not to worry, I’ll be sipping my holiday beer before long. It is a holiday, after all.

First Flakes

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The first snowfall is a moment I look forward to all year. And in this city, it’s a rare moment when silence descends, muffling it’s incessant sounds and covering it’s dirt and grime. Tonight I walked home in just such a moment, savoring the first smell of winter and welcoming in a new season.

Though, arriving on the heels of a hurricane is making me question the state of our climate…

Alas, if the flakes are flying near you, enjoy them while they last.

A New York Mess

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In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Brooklyn maintains an atmosphere of eerie quiet. As the wind dies down, people are tentatively stepping outside to survey the damage. As one of the lucky few with power, I’ve occupied myself with a steady stream of news reports and a steaming pot of chicken chili.

This morning I wandered the surrounding blocks, picking my way through branches and drenched Halloween decorations. Here are a few snapshots that pale in comparison to the devastation seen in other areas of the city.

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Shreds of an awning flapping in the wind.

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Halloween cobwebs after the storm.

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Stay safe out there.

Five Things Catching My Eye This Week

Perhaps this is a little overdue. And perhaps a more apt title would be “Things I Have Been Pondering All Month.” But nevertheless, here it is.

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A few hydrangeas that were snipped from a friend’s yard on Long Island’s North Fork. I think dried flowers are autumn’s perfect solution to freshly cut flowers.

 

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This box is less than a block away and I can’t for the life of me figure out how I missed this until just now. A communal book share? Well, now I can never leave Brooklyn. Ever.

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Farmer’s market loot and a final shipment of ripe tomatoes from my parents’ upstate garden brought a little color into my apartment on a dark, rainy day.

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A souvenir full of fragrant pine needles from a recent trip to the Adirondacks. I place it strategically on top of my dresser so I can catch a whiff of the woods first thing every morning.

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And lastly, after a long day of work, nothing beats confronting a fountain covered in wool in Bryant Park. There was also a chicken-wire pen full of sheep nearby, but I found that to be a bit more sad than photographic.

Comfort Food

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Sometimes, when life throws you a big, round lemon, you just need to take a deep breath and squeeze out some lemonade. Or in my situation, when you’ve got a case of the autumn blues and you’re staring at a counter full of yellow squash from your parents’ overzealous garden, you make gratin.

That’s exactly what I did last week after a particularly grueling few days. Using the last of summer’s vegetables to make a decidedly autumn dish was just what the doctor ordered. Because there are some things that only a bubbly, cheesy, decadent dish can cure. And because there seemed to be no better way to help ease the transition between two seasons. As with all meals in my apartment, I relied on a fail-proof recipe, which you can find here. The only change I made was to substitute half the zucchini with yellow squash. (So daring! I know…)

The best part of this whole dish, for me anyways, is that it comes together in one skillet before being transferred to a baking dish. Can anyone really understand how wonderful one-pot meals can be until they have cooked in a kitchen the size of a shoe box? I’m guessing no.

(Most nights, I watch Charlie’s eyes glaze over as he watches the dishes slowly accumulate in the sink.)

There you have it. Maybe not the prettiest or most elegant of meals. But sometimes elegance is not the goal. After consuming half the gratin, and despite the sensation of a brick lodging itself in my stomach, I started to feel much more clearheaded.

Sun and Sand

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I know what you are all probably thinking. “Did it really take her almost two weeks to get over this whole bike theft thing?” I promise I’m not THAT upset. But efforts to catch the perpetrator, which included scouring Craigs List and peering into empty lots around Brooklyn, were unsuccessful.

It’s just been really busy around here. Maybe because summer is wrapping up and we’ve been trying to cross all those remaining summery things off our list. Or maybe because piles of work just keep creeping up at all hours of the day. Regardless, I looked at the calendar today and realized the first day of September has already come and gone. And I wasn’t even watching!

Since I’m torn between feelings of summer sadness and autumn excitement, I’ll post a few photos from our trip to Cape Cod to help ease the transition. Summer was a great season, filled with lots of travels, city excursions, and foods, but I have no doubt it’ll be back again next year. Same time, same city.

And hopefully, next year will bring more weekends like these. Because the Cape is a pretty great place to while away a few days, if you ask me.

We were lucky enough to have this little beach just within walking distance.

And most times, we had the whole sandy spot to ourselves. A little slice of the ocean reserved just for us.

The only thing missing is a picture of our annual lobster feast. But once the table was set, my eyes glazed over and I consumed that lobster with a speed and precision that only those who frequent the Cape will understand.

Two Wheels Off the Road

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Bike riding through Brooklyn is an activity with which I have only recently become comfortable. Possessing a nervous disposition to begin with, I associated riding a bicycle through the city with inevitably dangerous consequences. As if one slight waver down a narrow street would find me on top of an unsuspecting windshield or spiraling across a driver’s door swinging open in front of me. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

But two years ago, Charlie found a vintage, maroon huffy on the side of a Pennsylvania road with my name written all over it. He brought it back to Brooklyn and taught me how to be a street-smart, urban biker.

This past Sunday morning, we walked outside to discover that someone had stolen my bike. Cut the metal lock and left no trace that it had ever been resting against that street sign. We’ve been scouring the streets ever since, doing double-takes on every bike that is chained to a pole or a fence or a tree.

We just got back from Cape Cod where we spent a few days soaking up the sun. I promise to post a few photos once the sting of my bike theft wears off. But for now, I’m reminiscing about my last ride through the dunes of Provincetown.

Bike thief, if you’re out there, do the right thing. Bring that bike back to the corner where you found it.

Communal Living

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Our tiny Brooklyn apartment is many things but bright is not one of them. We have five windows (Five! Glorious! Windows!) but all of them look out into this gray stone courtyard you see here. And with four more floors looming above us, sunlight has a hard time making it’s way into our home. But, for about one hour each afternoon, give or take mother nature’s whims, we get the tiniest rays of natural light beaming across our floor boards. Unfortunately, we only get to enjoy these rays on errant Saturdays and Sundays. Darn those 9-5 work weeks.

Despite our lack of light, we never have trouble discerning what time of day it is when we are in the apartment. With our small, enclosed courtyard and winding staircase cutting through the building, we hear the muted sounds of our neighbors, no matter the time of day. In the mornings, we’ll wake to the sounds of softly crying babies and the clink of dishes as breakfast tables are set. And in the evenings, as I’m winding down from a long day of work, I hear the  trumpet player on the third floor practicing his scales. I’ll hear keys rattling intermittently throughout the building as people come home to their families and roommates. And I’ll hear the tiny footfalls and shrieks of children eager to play. (We live in Park Slope, after all. Some things are to be expected.)

My first few nights living in the building, I could’t shake the feeling that I was living in a modern day commune. Alright, so maybe there are no communal dinners, no shared household chores, or even routine conversation. But I feel as though we have established a kind of intimacy with our neighbors. The kind of intimacy that can only be shared in close quarters and allows us to inadvertently share snippets of our lives with each other.

Some might find this living situation to be too intrusive (and I could’t blame them) but somehow I find it comforting. I like to think about all the conversations and dinners and bedtime stories that are being had all around us.

So, maybe we don’t have a coveted view of the street. But sometimes, looking right into our neighbors’ living rooms every night can prove much more interesting indeed.

Five Things Catching My Eye This Week

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This little tin of lip balm. Because it traveled all the way from Vermont and was given to me by my boss. And that made my Monday just a little more manageable.

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A jar of honey that made its way from Northern NY to a tiny Brooklyn apartment and reminds me of home. It’s begging to be swirled into a pitcher of freshly-brewed iced tea.

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A fresh batch of blueberry muffins. The perfect coffee companion for early mornings when I am staring down at an inbox full of unread emails.

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This pair of shoes, because they have been slowing falling apart for some time and this might be their last week traipsing city streets. But they remind me of the summer I spent in Paris with the most amazing friend and I’ll have a hard time letting them go.

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This pile of basil from the farmers market. Because, well, see post below.

What is making  you happy this week?