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Still Here

Well look here, it’s been a year. And what a year it’s been. I’ve been itching to come back to this space for awhile now, but kept holding myself back. You know how you let too much time pass before giving that old friend a call, and you think, well now it would just be weird to call, so much time’s gone by? That’s how I’ve felt about my blog. There’s still so much I wanted to do with this blog, and life just got in the way. I’ve been busy, writing elsewhere, and helping people with their blogs. I feel very fortunate to have crafted sustainable work out of multiple jobs, but I miss having an outlet of my own. So I’m not making any promises, but I want to really strive to carve out time to keep coming back here.

Around this time last year I was neck-deep in wedding planning (which I actually found to be a lot of fun), albeit incredibly time-consuming. Last year incidentally turned out to be the year for weddings. Ours was magical, and is a day I’d like to relive in my mind forever and ever. We had stunning weather (thankfully, since our wedding was outside), and most of all, it was a lot. of. fun.

We feel incredibly fortunate to have had so many incredible, talented, generous people be a part of our wedding. From the gorgeous, ridiculously talented Stephanie Trippe, who made me the most comfy wedding dress of my dreams, to our dear friends Caitlin and Jess, who serenaded us with their ethereal voices, to our adorable, energetic, tiny photographer Casey who captured so many precious moments of the day and night, to our generous, artistic friend Masha who embroidered our names and wedding date onto a vintage hankerchief that bound my bouquet — the list is endless. We had so many special details woven into this wedding, and it wouldn’t have been possible without every single one of these amazing people. We truly  couldn’t have been luckier to have had such a beautiful, memorable day, shared with all the ones we love.

It’s amazing how much has changed in a year. Here it is spring again, my favorite (all-too fleeting) season, and I’m feeling excited for the possibilities lingering in the air. I’m eagerly (and impatiently) awaiting the arrival of rhubarb, asparagus, radishes, and peas, and I am looking forward to a trip to NYC in less than two weeks. It’s been a year since I was there as well, and I miss it in my bones.

It’s been a Mazzy Star-listening, banana bread-making, puppy dog cuddles, reflective kind of morning.

So this is just a little “hello,” to say I’m still here.

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Turn Loose

Sometimes you just have to have your power go out for two days (and counting) to motivate yourself to finally sit down and blog. Sometimes you have to wait until noon for coffee, and trudge out in nasty winter slosh for homefries and a biscuit the size of your head, and get your socks drenched and crash at friends’ houses. And sometimes you have to reconcile that those bananas you were waiting ever so patiently for to gracefully reach the perfect ripening point for making banana bread are probably gonna have to be tossed out. Espresso banana bread, you are still on my horizon, even if I am getting the runaround.

2014 has been a cold one so far, as winter just seems to refuse to release its stubborn grip on us, repeatedly (and inconveniently) giving us the proverbial middle finger. Turn us loose, winter! Several winter advisory warnings, one painful and embarrassing fall resulting in one big bruised elbow, lots of House of Cards episodes, and two days of cafe hopping and wifi mooching later, here I finally am. Blogging for the first time this year…and for myself no less! Between wedding planning and multiple jobs, it’s been a cold (albeit productive) new year! I’ve been contributing more regularly to FoodieCrush, which I love, and I’ve been continuing to blog for a sweet local restaurant and a couple wonderful local hotels. I like being busy, and I am excited for what the upcoming year holds. A lot of change, a lot of travels, new friends, and new opportunities. You can see some of the latest stuff I’ve done for Foodiecrush here and here.

Can I just say I’m kind of jealous of this little Union Square Green Market party going on right now (via Instagram), with Deb and Mimi and Nicole? So much beautiful creativity in such a concentrated location!

So for now, as I will away this winter, I will dream of wildflowers, open windows, rhubarb, asparagus, and sundresses, NYC in the springtime, and this strawberry supreme cake that I can’t stop thinking about. Oh, and I will certainly try to be a more devoted blogger. I promise. Here’s a little peek of what I’ve been up to so far this year…

A few of my favorite things…

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How to Halloween

*Cue the menacing evil cackles,  thunder sound effects and organ music!*

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. Over the years I’ve been everything from a witch, to Minnie Mouse, and a southern belle, to Little Mermaid (with a ridiculous wig and a turtleneck, despite my fervent objection), to a battered Stepford Wife (really wish I had a picture of this one), and a zombie child, to probably the most frightening of all, Sarah Palin. My crafty mom and grandma would piece, sew, and gather costumes together for us when we were little, and we’d tend to order pizza for dinner on Halloween night, which became a fun tradition. I was that kid who dumped the contents of her pumpkin on the living room floor at the end of the night, counting each piece and organizing it into piles, by category… Also, one year when I was passing out candy, feeling too old to go trick or treating but bitter about it, as a last minute whim, I slathered peanut butter on half my face, to create a “Two-Face” look. The peanut butter melted off and I’m sure I didn’t scare any of the trick or treaters.

I’m particularly excited for Halloween this year, because it marks my first Halloween with Jay! We’re going on five years of dating, but every single year (with the exception of me being in NY last year), he’s had rehearsal, so we couldn’t do anything together. Not this year! He’s going to be in a production of Into the Woods and while he’s not playing the Wolf, he’s always loved that role. So, in the spirit of the play, we’re going as the big bad wolf and little red riding hood, and I’m very much looking forward to it!

Here are a few looks into Halloweens pasts…

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Last year, I spent Halloween gearing up for Frankenstorm (luckily we were unscathed, even though parts of our neighborhood did get flooded). Molly and I went to a serial killer haunted house on the lower east side, and Caitlin and I went to see a band called Morricone Youth perform their own score of Nosferatu, at Nitehawk Cinema. I remember seeing so many great costumes last year, including a women dressed as Annie Hall, who was a deadringer for a young Diane Keaton (it was uncanny, she resembled her to a t), and a guy with a red hoodie, riding a bike with an ET stuffed into his front basket. There were also some seriously scary Halloween decorations in the city…

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Part of the fun of Halloween is the scary movies. Slasher movies don’t do it for me, but here are some of my favorite suspenseful films that never fail to send shivers down my spine:

  • Watcher in the Woods: I’ve been watching this obscure movie since I was little, and to this day, it’s still probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. My dad would always watch it with us, get this terrified look on his face and pretend he saw something out the window, scaring my sister and me every single time. Surprisingly, it’s a Disney movie, and has that chick from Ice Castles in it, alongside Betty Davis at her creepiest. Sure there’s some cheesy special effects and cringe-worthy acting (after all, it is an 80s movie), but its disturbing theme music alone is enough to give me chills and I still l find it just as scary today, at 26, as I did at six. Narek! (Just watch the movie).

 

  • What Lies BeneathUnfortunately this movie has never been as scary as it was the first time I saw it, but I just think it’s so well done. It’s a classic suspenseful mystery with a great twist (although a little predictable), and it’s pretty darn creepy.
  • VertigoThis is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie and the one I find to be the scariest, as well as one of his more brilliant films. I love the complexity and unpredictability of it, as well as  Kim Novak’s mysteriousness against the breathtaking, eery scenery of the Bay Area and the Redwoods.
  • The Sixth SenseI’ll never forget seeing this in the theater for the first time and having my mind completely blown by that famous end-reveal. I’ve always found movies about ghosts to be the scariest, and I thought the ghosts in this film were very realistic looking. There are so many suspenseful scenes in this movie and even years and multiple watchings later, it still has the ability to scare me.
  • The DescentI watched this in college and I don’t know if it’s because it plays on one of my biggest  fears (claustrophobia) and I found the ending incredibly disturbing. Plus I love that it’s an all-female cast!
  • Whatever Happened to Baby JaneAnother movie where Bette Davis is purely terrifying. It’s twisted, and won’t look at a caged bird in the same way again.
  • Practical MagicOkay this one isn’t so creepy anymore,  as it is a guilty pleasure. I am kind of obsessed with this movie. I love Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock and they’re in their prime in this movie. It’s just a lot of fun.

And if you’re in the mood for a scary read, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic, The Yellow Wallpaper—a short story from the 1800s, about a woman’s journey into madness, is a must. It’s one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. It’s a quick read too.

Halloween is also special because it’s an excuse to consume more candy than is considered socially acceptable. I’m not a big candy freak but I definitely eat more than candy than usual the week of Halloween, and here are some of my favorites:

  • Pink Strawbursts: Seriously, why are they so good? All of the others might as well be useless because these are the only ones I care about, and I will furiously and tediously unwrap every single duo packet until I uncover one. But just for Halloween of course.
  • M&M’s and Peanut M&M’s: These are easily my favorite.  I normally opt for the peanut ones because otherwise, I could just chain-eat the plain ones.
  • Krackel Bar: While I’m not a fan of Hershey’s chocolate and I prefer dark chocolate over milk, this under-appreciated mini candy bar is an exception (along with real Cadbury Dairy Milk), and I’ve loved it as long as I can remember.
  • Candy Corn: But only about four pieces and then I’m done.

Whether you go to a party or not on Halloween, you should definitely have something fun to drink. There a lot of great bottles of wine with fun, “spooky” names and labels, perfect for Halloween. I’m excited to try this shiraz-durif blend, 19 Crimes (a modest $11.99), which comes in a black frosted bottle with a vintage sepia photo-label of an ex-con and a depiction of the particular crime they committed. I also think this cocktail titled “The Blackbeard” looks incredibly fun and creative.

Whatever you do and however you celebrate, have fun and be safe, and don’t get lost on the way to granny’s!

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Bluegrass and Bourbon

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We just returned from a week long road tripping adventure to Asheville and Kentucky, where we visited my grandparents, who live outside of Lexington. We gorged ourselves with southern food, toured Woodford Reserve (I may have eaten four bourbon balls), and spent a day in Louisville—what a quirky little city. We went vintage shopping on Bardstown Road, marveled over the classy Brown Hotel and drove through the scenic Cherokee Park (designed by Frederick Olmsted, who also designed Prospect Park and the similarities were uncanny!) We stopped for Mexican Hot Chocolate and Apple Bourbon Bread at this adorable coffee shop called Please and Thank You, and also had beers in a former church, called The Holy Grale! I’m wishing we could have eaten there because the menu looked amazing (particularly the poutine with roasted corn, jalapeños, cheese curds and duck gravy). Next time around I’d also love to visit Milkwood and Hillbilly Tea and catch a show at The Actors Theatre of Louisville.

As luck has it, I only have a month before my next little adventure. I’ll be reunited with my city…and in the fall! I’ll fly up to New York for a couple days and then take the train into Carmel, to spend my second Thanksgiving with Jay’s family. I’m so looking forward to all of it. I’ve been reminiscing about my time in New York last fall, and thinking of where I was and what I was doing. This month last year, I was going out for Oktoberfest at Radegast, with Louisa, calling every candy shop and purveyor in town, requesting samples for our Halloween candy feature, going to the Serial Killers Haunted House with Molly, and stocking up and freaking out over the impending arrival of hurricane Sandy. Time flies.

Wedding planning is progressing and we met our pint-sized photographer Casey, for pints at The Federal in Durham the other day, and she is so cute and kind and genuinely excited to be a part of our wedding. Check out some of her and her husband Matt’s beautiful work here. I am loving how this process is unfolding.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some of the music I’ve been listening to lately. Here’s pretty much what I have in rotation on my playlist:

  • These Days – Jackson Browne
  • Off He Goes – Pearl Jam
  • Firstborn – J. Tillman
  • We are Fine – Sharon Van Etten
  • The Pharaohs- Neko Case
  • Deep Red Bells – Neko Case
  • Lakehouse- Of Monsters and Men
  • My Unusual Friend – The Fruit Bats

and this sweet little gem

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The arrival of fall brings forth a hankering for what I like to call “hibernation food,” you know, warming comfort food, one-pot meals that can simmer away on a Sunday afternoon. Hibernation food is best consumed while wearing socks and sitting on your couch, watching Downton Abbey. It pairs excellently with red wine. Yesterday’s dreary weather  begged for homemade creamy tomato soup  with grilled cheeses and apple salad. And cookies. This afternoon during a beautiful jog, I was thinking about food (as I often do while jogging), and deliberating over what to cook for tonight’s dinner. It needed to be relatively quick because Jay had to leave for rehearsal and I wanted him to be able to eat before he left, which meant I had two hours to grocery shop and make it happen. Since Sundays mean roast chickens are on sale at Whole Foods, I picked one up and made a casserole with some beautiful broccoli I got from Farlow Farm, at the Curb Market. I added some mushrooms that were about to go bad, and some leeks, because leeks are awesome. This simple casserole definitely met the hibernation food criteria. I highly suggest you make some.

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Chicken Casserole with Mushrooms, Broccoli and Thyme  makes 6-8 servings

  • About 4 cups of rotisserie chicken (I used all of the white meat from one) *save the carcass to make chicken stock!
  • 1 cup of cooked brown basmati rice (cook in chicken stock if you can)
  • 2 leeks, cleaned, with green parts removed and discarded; sliced into quarter-inch rounds
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic or 3-4 small cloves
  • 1-2 TBS of fresh thyme (I just eyeball this and you can do it to taste)
  • 1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (use homemade if possible)
  • 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice according to package instructions. While the rice is cooking, shred the chicken (I just do this by hand) and place in a large bowl. In a medium skillet, add olive oil and leeks and sauté over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Preheat the oven to 450. Add the mushrooms, chicken stock, half and half, thyme and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for about 10 minutes or so. You want the liquid mixture to thicken and reduce a little.

Meanwhile, cook the broccoli in a pot of boiling water for one minute. Drain and set aside. Add the rice, broccoli, and the liquid mixture to the large bowl with the chicken and add 1/2 cup of parmesan. Toss with a large spoon or spatula until everything is combined. Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan, and some more thyme leaves. Cover with a lid or foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid/foil and place under a broiler until the top is golden brown (about 5 minutes). Put on something comfy and eat.

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List Love

  • I wish I could click my heels and go here this weekend…
  • Come back fall weather so I can make these two dreamy pumpkin treats and inaugurate my pumpkin colored Mr. Rogers sweater.
  • This was SPOT. ON. “I love your outfit by the way, where did you get that?” 

                                                       “A fire.”

The craziest thing is, I actually caught the facade of our apartment in this spoof! Too funny and very appropriate, considering Girls is shot about 200 feet away from where I used to live, on Diamond and Messerole).

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This time. Last year.

Some people have spirit animals. I have a spirit city. It’s NYC and I’m missing it hardcore right now. Every year, without fail, I get very contemplative and nostalgic once fall arrives; it stirs something within me. It’s my favorite season by far. I love the crisp air and the way it smells differently. I love falling asleep with the window open and my socks on, and I prefer sweaters, boots and scarves to t-shirts and sandals.

It’s so hard to believe that this time last year I was living in Greenpoint— my little Polish neighborhood, situated in a little nook on the tip top of Brooklyn. I was settling into feeling like a New Yorker. I was interning at Time Out—feeling like a little fish in a big sea, calling restaurants and PR firms galore, gearing up for fall preview, researching beer tastings, cooking classes, festivals and markets, and actually getting to write some. I was afraid of my boss, who was gorgeous but mean and impossible to please. But I can say the woman was fierce. She got shit done.

I had learned how to walk from the West Village to SoHo, to the East Village and to Tribeca. I had a favorite bodega, two favorite neighborhood coffee shops (Grumpy’s and Charlotte Patisserie), favorite walks, and a favorite view (the East River and Manhattan skyline from the pier by Transmitter Park. I worked. I worked on weekends. I learned to carry a lot of heavy things without a hand truck and how to set up a tent by myself. I babysat spoiled upper west (and east) side monster children who behaved so atrociously I thought they only existed as a cliche, in films. I met friends. I made friends. I laughed. I cried. I yelled at cars that almost ran me over (on a regular basis)—”I’m walkin’ here!” I felt empowered. I felt insufficient. I felt inspired. I felt uncomfortable. I felt energized. I felt intimidated. The city knocked me down some days and lifted me up others. It always surprised me.

I don’t miss having to right walk by suffering homeless people on a regular basis, I don’t miss urine in the subways or sharing a teeny tiny bathroom with three other people. I don’t miss waiting for the G train. I don’t miss missing my boyfriend, sleeping alone, and waaaaaaaiting.

But I do miss and miss dearly breakfasts with people I love at Five Leaves, subway music at the Metropolitan/Lorimer stop, strangely and comically running into people I know all. the time. I miss the Blue Stove, the Flea, walking everywhere, the smell of Polish Rye bread baking in the New Warsaw Bakery and wafting out into the night air. I miss that first night where my three roommates and I stayed out all night drinking frozen harrisons and dancing at Enid’s. I miss Commerce Street, brownstone stoops, Cobble Hill, the walk home from the Bedford stop, through McCarren Park, seeing the old man in my neighborhood making pizza all day and then falling asleep on a chair outside late at night, the Union Square Green Market, doughnuts  the size of your head, from Dough, Peter Pan Bakery, walking through Washington Square Park at golden hour, the people, the culture, the food, the transience that can make you feel alone and not alone at the same time. This city will always tug at my heartstrings.

So there you have it. I’m pretty much always missing New York, but especially this fall. So I drink my coffee out of my Brooklyn Flea mug every Saturday or Sunday morning and let myself get nostalgic, and longingly look ahead to my next visit. I look around me and am grateful for the journey I’ve taken so far, the opportunities I’ve been given, the people I’ve met and the memories I have. I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

 

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‘Round Here

Oh my, I’ve been MIA again. I’ve been blogging (just not for myself). I’ve been writing about other people’s weddings, corn and succotash, and lavender peach tarts. I’ve been browsing mid-century Finnish enamelware on Etsy (can I just win the lottery so I can buy everything Kaj Franck ever designed??), binge-watching seasons 2 and 3 of Sex and the City (for probably the 15th time), listening to Andrew Bird’s “Wait” a lot on repeat, eating lots of fig & walnut toast with goat cheese and lavender honey, and shamelessly Instagraming my dog left and right. We bought an orchid, so I’ve been focusing on trying to not kill that. I’ve been courting photographers, pondering DIY photo booths, admiring hobnail milk glass vases and wedding planning (!). There’s quite a lot going on around here.

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I’m sad to report I haven’t been baking as much as I’d like to lately and I don’t have any new recipes to share, other than this Peaches ‘n Cream Tart with Lavender and Honey I devised for Durham Magazine’s Blog. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still dreaming of peach and basil shortcake, bourbon blondies with chocolate and walnuts, and sweet corn ice cream…

I made this fig & brandy clafoutis for breakfast on a Sunday morning…(it’s a keeper)

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So far, so good, eh?

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