Friday, August 31, 2007

how vermont are you?

My displaced, yet e'er Vermonter sister Hanushka made a fabulous post yesterday about a ridiculous quiz that is supposed to tell you how Vermont you are. Her analysis is spot on--and we NEK'ers were certainly miffed at all of the Chittenden-centric questions. I'm guessing that the quiz was designed by flatlanders themselves. Who on earth would create a quiz called "How Vermont are you" that pertains only to the city of Burlington? (In fact, most NEK'ers don't even consider Burlington part of Vermont).

We had our other sister and her husband over for dinner last night and the four of us had a hoot taking the quiz (we scored 95% Vermont, but then, we do live in Burlington) and coming up with our own NEK version questions.

Got any more? Take the quiz and add your own! Hanushka is compiling them for her true Vermont version.

This picture is also from last night. That's Emmo with candy corn in her teeth mimicking a Northeast Kingdom accent. She's really quite good.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday morning

I love Thursday mornings. The amped anticipation of Monday has ridden its course. The stress of mid-week deliverables has passed. Today might just as well be Friday. Or Saturday even. It's so chill.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

caught in a storm

Yesterday, we got caught in a huge downpour on our drive home from Newport. So bad even that we had to stop on the side of the road three times over the course of an hour, because the rain was so thick we couldn't see a thing. Lightning was flashing, thunder was crashing everywhere.

While we were waiting for the worst of it to pass, I looked out to the clearing sky ahead and saw the bright sun appear through black stormy clouds. It was still pouring.

"There's going to be a rainbow!" I exclaimed and immediately saw it--so close to us, we could almost reach out and grab the pot of gold--right across the street. "There it is!"

We thought that meant the worst was over. But really it was just the beginning. Luckily we made it home in one piece and now have a pretty memory as a result.

Friday, August 24, 2007

eat your colors, etc.

I just realized that the only time I've mentioned work on this blog was when I was crying. Not fair really, because for the most part, I'm really happy there.

Maybe you're curious, maybe you're not, but I'm gonna tell you anyhow. I get to do a lot of cool things at EatingWell, like create weekly newsletters, build health topic modules (I'm working on diabetes and bone health right now), work with partners like MSN and WebMD to syndicate our recipes and articles, and think of neat ways to feature content from the magazine on That requires some re-purposing and we get to rewrite some of the content to make it search engine friendly (SEO). This is definitely a challenge--no hyphens allowed, "healthy" instead of "healthful," "recipes" instead of "recipe," h1 and h3 tags--but fun to see our website climb up the ranks in Google search results.

This week, I created an antioxidant-rich recipes collection (I had to take out the hyphen for SEO though). I had a lot of fun doing this, because rather than organizing the recipes by course or ingredient, I arranged them by color! That's because every color represents a different antioxidant, which is a powerful plant-based nutrient that can protect against diseases and some types of cancer. My boss called this approach "thinking out of the box" and she was pleased. Actually, the color-coding idea came from Carolyn, our Associate Food Editor, but I had the pleasure of putting it to action.

Thus inspired, I had a short day today (Summer Fridays) and so went home and made myself a huge antioxidant-rich salad for lunch on my porch--lettuce, tomatoes, blue potatoes, basil, mint, ginger, garlic... Finished it off with a fresh-and-in-season peach for dessert for a full rainbow of health benefits.

Geez, I guess I am a dork. But at least now you know that I'm a happy and a healthy dork.

10 things you can do with mint

I love mint. How could you not? Such a versatile and tasty plant--and it's so easy to grow. In fact, my mother deems it a weed. Her 3 or 4 varieties have taken over the herb garden. Still, we should not take it for granted.

I haven't always loved mint, however, because of a traumatic childhood memory that involved fluorescent green mint jelly. And so it wasn't until this summer that I rediscovered mint as a wonderful addition to any meal, sweet or savory. Mint truly is versatile and abundant. And it's in season! So why not freshen up your palate with some new ideas?
  1. Rub it under your nose to awaken the senses
  2. Substitute for basil in a tomato and mozzarella salad (or any salad for that matter)
  3. Mince and sprinkle over honey and plain yogurt for a simple but stunning Romanesque snack
  4. Infuse in your favorite drink for a summer refresher
  5. Chop with other herbs--rosemary, lemon thyme, basil, sage, parsley--and mix with sour cream and cream cheese for a yummy veggie dip
  6. Simmer with blueberries, maple syrup, and Grand Marnier to make a delicious berry topping for ice cream, pancakes or yogurt
  7. Chop and combine with steamed new potatoes and olive oil, then chill for a healthy potato salad
  8. Mince and sprinkle over berry sorbet or vanilla ice cream
  9. Grow it in a pot and let it flower--so pretty
  10. Freeze into your ice cubes for a pretty cocktail topper

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

tears, tears, and more tears

I cried at work again yesterday. It seems to have become a monthly occurrence. But this time it had nothing to do with work.

My parents had to put Caleb, our family dog, to sleep. My sister Emi went up to Newport to be with him before it happened and afterwards she called me at work to tell me about it. While my eyes turned to liquid in front of the computer screen (and in front of my 3 office mates, all of them very kind and understanding, by the way), Emi described the whole event--how much Caleb had changed over the last few weeks, how peaceful his death was, how beautiful the grave (my dad spent the whole morning digging it and finding rocks to cover it; my mother laid a flower down for each of us girls). They played soft music and my dad said a prayer.

That old bugger. I was a teenager when we got him.

Death. Old age. Loss. These are legitimate reasons for crying. And even if they weren't, who's really to say? Sometimes death doesn't make me cry when I think it should. Sometimes listening to a report on Marketplace makes me cry. Sometimes just breathing makes me cry.

These are all things that a split second later make me smile. So, who really is to say?

In any case, I've decided to let go. It doesn't make sense, so why try to make sense of it?

Caleb, that old bugger. I can still see him in the field: nudging the milkweeds with his nose, and catching the Japanese beetles in his teeth as they fall to the ground. I can still see him swimming clear to the other side of Salem Lake, chasing after those ducks (he never did catch them though, and nearly drowned trying). I can still see him--the little black maggot--running fast away as we called him to come inside.

That little bugger.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

the secret life of yo-yos

I walked into the bedroom this morning after my shower to find Colin in bed with his computer. A common occurrence. But this time, he shied away and hid the screen from my view.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Just some research," he replied mischievously and grinned.

"Hey, what are you doing?" I asked again, this time more adamantly and grabbed his laptop. There filling his screen was a giant picture of a yo-yo.

This might be a good moment for me to interject a little secret about my boy: it wasn't until we'd been dating for about a year and a half that I discovered his obsession with professional weight frisbees and yo-yos. The frisbees is another story, but the yo-yo craze originated from 6 months of unemployment with his friend Dan in Northampton, Massachusetts. They had a lot of time to practice. The rest of the story is vague to me, but what I do know is that Col has a lot of tricks up his yo-yo sleeve and if you're lucky, he'll pull them out in close company. And so he did a few weeks ago down in Nantucket much to the surprise of everyone present.

Col's passion for yo-yos goes hand in hand with his love for gadgets. And so, he is always looking for the next best thing. And that's how I found him this morning with the question "what yo-yo do professionals use" in his Google search box.

At this point, I was now sitting next to Col wide-eyed and dumbfounded. I was intrigued. The search eventually brought us to a YouTube video of famed yo-yo star Hiroyuki Suzuki dazzling his audience in a recent competition.

All I could think of to say, over and over, was, "Oh my gosh, what the heck is that? What is he doing? How does he do that?" We were dazzled.

After the video, I realized this yo-yo craze actually has a legitimate underground following (mostly in Asia). And, as it turns out, Hiroyuki Suzuki uses a Yo-Yo Nation Speeder, just in case you were wondering (

"Are you going to get it?" I asked once Col made this fabulous discovery.

"Nah," he said. "It's kind of expensive."

"How much?"

"Forty-five dollars."

"For a yo-yo?" I asked in disbelief remembering my good old $2 red Duncan butterfly (same Duncan whose Freehand MG runs for $499 retail).

I really had no idea.

As we speak, Col's now researching the Duncan Metal Zero--same price as the Yo-Yo Nation Speeder, I point out, but I can see that Col's eyes are already glossed over, hypnotical style. He's getting sucked into yo-yo world faster that I can say, "Rock the cradle!" And I'm letting him do it. Actually, I think it's kind of cool: my boy the yo-yo star.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

a new place to buy shoes

This cooler weather we're having has reinvigorated my passion for footwear--plus it means that summer sandals are finally on sale! Thank God there's a new shoe shop in town. And I finally got the chance to check it out yesterday on my lunch break. Stella, a place to buy shoes on Church Street in Burlington, now has a second location in Shelburne Village. The selection is fabulous and I finally found some snazzy replacements for my broken flops.

being a woman at work

I didn't have a very good day at work today. In fact, I think I cried. No, I mean, I know I cried. In front of my boss. Luckily, my boss is a woman too, so she immediately took on a mother role, said all of the right things to make me feel better, and effectively turned the conversation towards a subject that makes both of us happy: writing.

In the end, I felt better. But I also felt icky: for doing such a sappy, womanly, hormonal thing. I try not to make crying at work a habit. And truth be told, I would never dream of crying in front of my male colleagues. So why did I feel okay doing it in this circumstance? I'm not sure, but all night I've been doing another stereotypical female thing: I'm beating myself up about it. And I'm obsessing. Yikes.

It wasn't all bad. We had an EatingWell company picnic this afternoon at the Kingsland Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh. What a beautiful bit of earth hiding down there! While we heard tornado warnings on the radio and instructions to take cover in the basement, the sun shone down and a fresh summer breeze swept in off the lake. There was horseshoes and croquet and bocce. Even some juggling! And composting toilets.

I hope tomorrow's better. Now I can't even remember why I was so upset. Classic.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

flatbread night and other good food

A weekend of culinary enterprise:

Last night I went to Emi & Kev's for grilled flatbread night. Flatbread night is a running tradition among our family and friends that started a couple of years ago--everyone who's invited brings toppings for one pizza. It's always fun to discover each individual's creative undertakings. Being a bunch of foodies, this harmless dinner party theme has become somewhat competitive too.

Since I had been to farmer's market that morning, I decided to do a simple margarita pizza with local heirloom totals, basil, fresh mozzarella, garlic, and--for a twist--Japanese cucumber. All thinly diced. It was delicious and beautiful. But though I won the prize for presentation, I concede that Bannister and Isaac's chicken and asparagus pie won for flavor. I really liked Emi's too, which had thinly sliced zucchini, spicy tomato sauce, and habanero cheddar.

* * * * *

The night before I went to Becky & Ewen's for mango bruschetta and sangria. I loved the sangria with so much chopped up fruit floating on top--plums, blueberries, pears, strawberries. The mango was fabulous with fresh chopped mint and a goat cheese base.

* * * * *

And today. Today, I took the big old honker of zucchini that Lorraine gave me last week and made the most fabulous muffins: grated zucchini, chocolate chips, toasted almond, and--get this--fresh chopped basil. The basil was a fabulous compliment to the dark chocolate and grassy zucchini flavor. Yum!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

perfect plum

Even at times when the air is dry and
My neck is stiff from the night before, I
Know the plum just might be my salvation.
Sweet, ripe stone fruit—perfect pregnant lady
Sitting next to me in a purple bowl.
I want to peel her like a cucumber,
But I can’t—her face is a thick, sticky
Flow of skin—exposed to the juice inside.
I plunge to open this tight sphere of mine—
Bite in so ripe and nice, juice dripping down.
Bursts, spraying fruit like a poetic clown.
Vibrating, electric lava glistens,
Paints syrupy smiles on my chin and brow.

Yes, the plum just might be my salvation.
Ripe, precious stone fruit—perfect pregnancy
Sitting next to me in a purple bowl.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Everything is not what it seems

I went to the Band of Horses show last night and was pleased to find their live sound as clear, bright and lyrical as their recorded album, if not more. What I found surprising, however, was that the band members themselves were nothing like I expected. Instead of trendy, hipster girly-boys--as their music might suggest--all six band members had beards. Long, scraggly, bushy things. Woodstock beards. Hippy. Earthy. But certainly not hipster (unless of course, beard is the new hipster trend, which isn't totally off base, I suppose, because of the irony of it all. Don't ask me).

It's not that scraggly beards are really that relevant to the music. But last night, was it me, or did Band of Horses sound more country than before?

This is funny to me: it's like discovering that Picasso was a womanizer or that Hemingway was chronically depressed and had a drinking habit or that J.K. Rowling is a woman or that Ellen Degeneres is a lesbian. Do we really want to know the truth behind the art form? Because once you cross that line, once you make that discovery about who the artist is, you superimpose new assumptions and prejudices to the art itself. Everything changes. You start judging the artwork by your value judgments of the person. Does that destroy the integrity of the art?

Then again, don't the beards inform the person who's informing the music? Aren't Picasso's views on women and Hemingway's views on liquor inextricably linked to the artwork? Otherwise, it's like saying artists have the canny ability to separate their personal experiences and personal character from what they do. And that's just oxymoronic.

However, now I'm confused and it's Friday night and I want to go have some wine.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

col does it again

Remember a while back I wrote about how Col surprised me by going out and buying more cream for my coffee when I was in the shower? Well, he did it again! And what's more, he bought some milk for my cereal. That Col.

He also bought us both tickets for the Band of Horses show tonight at Higher Ground, which I'm eagerly awaiting!

Monday, August 06, 2007

spontaneous berries

Col and I made a long list of things to do yesterday. We even numbered the list 1 through 13. We only made it to number 3 though. That's because number 2 brought us to an auto parts store near our house (to get a replacement bulb for one of my headlights). It was closed so we drove down further on Shelburne Road to Advanced Auto. They had what we were looking for.

Then we were stuck. Number 3 entailed a hardware store, but we had driven far away from the one Aubuchon in South Burlington. Luckily I remembered that there's a cute little hardware store in Shelburne Village. It had everything we needed: replacement bulbs for our track lighting, silver polish for my jewelry, and minuscule metal washers to repair our Asian floor lamps. Gotta love hardware stores, huh? They have everything you ever need, from bike locks and dog bones to wheelbarrows and toilet lids.


After that successful stop, Col and I were feeling a little giddy--and a little spontaneous. We stopped by the Shelburne General Store for some penny candy. It was then I realized.

"Hey, we're not far from the berry farm," I said. "Let's go picking!"

Col thought it was a great idea. He's all for spontaneity. Any time. Any where.

So we did it, we kept driving down Route 7 towards Charlotte. Right before the berry farm, we caught sight of the Charlotte flea market. "Pull over!" I yelled.

Without hesitation Col swerved the car down over the embankment and into the field-cum- parking-lot next to the market stands. We walked by tables of dream catchers and antique cigarette lighters. We walked by dusty old beer mugs and Samurai swords. Good old all-American veterans selling shotguns and switchblades. Gypsy skirts. Arctic Cat boots and snowmobile helmets. One man was selling good luck charms and Japanese fans with electric blue dolphins and cowboy horses painted on them. He said to us, "We've got a special going on today: anything's free in exchange for green paper."

"Nice one," I said as we smiled and inched away. Sufficiently freaked out, we hopped in the car and headed down the road to the berry farm.

It's blueberry season now, and they're abundant! But we also managed to scrounge up a pint of
fresh raspberries too. I used them to make a scrumptious Raspberry Almond Crumb Tart that we gobbled up in one sitting.

Berry picking was certainly a highlight of the day. The warm August sun was shining down. I was spending some much-needed alone time with my boy. And the berries were so ripe and tasty off the branch--still warm from the sunshine. I got a little nostalgic remembering my childhood in the berry bushes. What fabulous little memories this day conjured up.

On the way home, we were deterred from our to-do list once again: Emi and Kev called to see if we wanted to hang out pooly-side. Sweet!

We zoomed home and hopped into our bimmers (that's mummy-speak for swimsuits) and went over to Em & Kev's--bountiful berries in hand.

After soaking up some rays and getting to a very good point in my book of the now (On Beauty by Zadie Smith) we went inside and made dinner. I whipped up the aforementioned tart and Emi made beer-can grass-fed chicken on the grill. What a fabulous ending to a fabulous day! (Even though we only made it to number 3 on our list).

Friday, August 03, 2007

steamy lazy puddle

I can count on one hand the number of Vermont summer days that get up to 90, so lovely is the season here. But when they do climb to that heated point, watch out. The world becomes a steamy hot house, eyes glaze over like a foggy looking glass.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

always friends

You know those friends you have--the always friends? The old relationships from way back when that whenever you get together--be it every week or every ten years--pick up right where they left off? These friendships are really the best kind, aren't they? Because all pressure is off.

I love how Simon & Garfunkel describe it in their song Old Friends, "Old friends. Old friends... sat on their park bench like bookends." What a great imagery of two solid and steadfast figures with a library--a lifetime--of books and stories between them.

Last night I saw one of my always friends from younger days who I haven't seen or spoken to in three years. Mandy and I were the kind of friends that would show up to school wearing the same outfit, or buy the same car--same color, same everything--at the same time, without even planning it.

She just moved back to Burlington, much to my joy. As we headed over to her new place, Colin asked, "Are you nervous?"

I replied, "Of course not! It's Mandy..."

Turns out, I was right. The three years apart did nothing to wane our friendship. In fact, they seemed to enrichen it. We talked about friends, family, jobs. Mandy's now engaged. I met her fiance for the first time last night, but it felt like I've always known him. Just like I've always known her.


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