Thursday, November 29, 2007

top 10, plus 100 notable books of the year (per nytimes)

Feeling ambitious? Check out the books the New York Times rates as the most notable books of the year. I thought I was doing pretty well with my book-reading over the past year, but the only one I've read from this list is What is the What and I couldn't even finish because it was making me cry so much. (No, I haven't read the last Harry Potter book yet--I'm waiting until I can get it from the library.)

A hundred books is a lot. Maybe this list, dubbed as "The 10 Best Books of 2007" by the Times is a little more manageable. Although I must admit that the titles seem a bit daunting. And depressing! Whatever happened to funny books? Or books that stir the imagination? Is it that they don't have a lesson to offer? I just finished The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and I'm looking for a upper? Any suggestions?


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

stealth veggies

This is a term we kick around a lot at EatingWell. Our readers are often looking for favorite family meals made healthier, so we developed a bunch of tasty, healthy recipes that have extra veggies hidden inside! It's great for lowering fat and sneaking veggies into kids' meals—sometimes you can't even tell the difference!

The idea of "stealth veggies" is a little funny. I mean, the whole idea of learning to eating healthier is learning to appreciate and crave those ingredients that are good for you—and learning to mistrust those ingredients or foods that are detrimental. It's definitely a learning process. If kids think they're just eating mac & cheese, rather than mac & cheese with spinach, then left to their own devices, they'll probably just eat plain old mac & cheese. Cause they just don't know any better.

Still there's something so satisfying about eating a meal that tastes naughty—but really isn't! And though I don't have any kids, I'm often trying to get Colin to eat healthier foods. Recently, I made Southwestern Cheese Paninis (glorified grilled cheeses) for him and some of his chicken-wings-eating friends and none of them could believe they were actually healthful and made up of mostly veggies. They loved them! Healthful or not, it's one of my favorite quick dinner recipes. I always double the amount of carrots and zucchini, because I love them. And the trick is finding a good bread that stands up to the moisture. (I like honey oat.)

So, if you like to play this game of hide the spinach under the cheese, here are some other "stealth veggies" recipes to try:


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

tons of photos from the weekend

We took lots of photos over the weekend—in Katonah for Thanksgiving and then in New York. Here are some of my faves. If you're feeling ambitious, you can see the full lot here.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

visiting spencer & courtney

It's always so much fun visiting our friends Courtney and Spencer in New York. They like to show us a good time. And they like to do the same kinds of things we like to do when we have the day off—like eating yummy meals at nice restaurants, walking around and going into shops, and having dance parties in the living room.

We took the train in yesterday from Katonah, dropped our bags off at their place on St. Mark's Place in the East Village and went to grab lunch at Jane. I got an arugula salad with dried cranberries, roasted pumpkin seeds and blue cheese and a glass of viognier. It was the perfect Saturday afternoon lunch. They have really good french fries at that restaurant—they cook them with rosemary, just like my mom's roasted potatoes.

After lunch we walked around, went into shops, waited in the bathroom line for 25 minutes at Starbucks. Yeah, that's right, 25 minutes. Checked out some more shops and then stopped in for a drink at Lolita—a chill bar with some pretty snazzy light fixtures and a good soundtrack. They were playing Arcade Fire the whole time we were there. We were totally into it.

We came home for a while. Had some drinks. Courtney told us about her new exciting job. Spencer and Colin played music. We danced a little. And then went out. We sort of forgot about dinner. So before bed we got pizza slices at Strombolis. It was the perfect New York night.

This morning Colin and I got up and walked to the Porto Rico coffee shop a couple blocks away. It's very small. Only a couple of people can fit in there at the same time, because the whole back of the shop is taken up by big burlap bags full of coffee beans. The place has got charm. Last time we were there it was pouring buckets and buckets. But today the skies were bright blue and clear, so we sat on the bench outside the shop, drank our coffee, and watched the styley people walk by.

One guy carried a boom box that was blasting rap music. It seemed a little early for that. Col said, "I bet he pressed play right when he woke up." (The guy was totally jamming.) I said, "Maybe he never turned it off from last night."

A gorgeous French couple ducked into the coffee shop. I always get a funny feeling in my tummy when I hear people speak French. The woman had a great outfit on. A guy in rollerblades skidded to a stop right in front of us and dashed in to get a pastry for breakfast. (I'm liking this coffee shop more and more). Rollerblade man dashed out as quickly as he dashed in and almost got hit by a car as he rolled into the street. A woman was buying a bagfull of chocolate-covered espresso beans for her daughter who was going off to school. There were more people, but I'm too tired to write about it.

We got brunch with Spencer and Courtney and then we went into a second-floor toy shop called Toy Tokyo. Colin bought four more metal robots to add to his collection. We'll need another shelf to hold them all now.

We're back at the apartment. Courtney's reading in the bedroom. Colin and Spencer are watching Return of the Jedi. And I'm at my computer. We're eating skittles to take the edge off breakfast. And that's that for now. Maybe I'll just take a little nap...


Friday, November 23, 2007

lazy day

When you're going and going and going all of the time, it's hard to take a day for yourself and do nothing—without any guilt. Afterall, there's always something you should be doing. If it's not work, it's laundry. If it's not laundry, it's stitching sweaters or polishing shoes or returning phone calls.

That's the beauty of going away for a few days. When you're away from home, those chores simply don't exist.

Today I had rice pudding and coffee for lunch at the local diner in town. It was heavenly. (No guilt!) And then I spent the rest of the afternoon dorking out on my computer and looking at old pictures from my blog. I put a Flickr slideshow on my homepage. Check it out.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

planes, trains, automobiles

Well, we're here. After one flight to JFK, an air-train to the subway, subway to another subway, subway to the train station, train station to the car, car to the house, we arrived at Colin's parents' house in Katonah last night shortly after midnight. I did the math in my head. We left our house at 5. We would've arrived two hours sooner if we had have just taken the car. But then, we wouldn't have any stories to tell, would we?

This morning we woke up to a balmy 57 degrees. And foliage. And then smell of turkey in the oven. Now there's the Macy's parade on T.V., twirling ladies, shrimp cocktail and Colin's famous Bloody Mary's. He's a genius. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

now, get your l'Occitane right here in burlngton

Local product junkies will be pleased to know that our favorite make-up Mecca, Mirror Mirror, now carries a comprehensive line of l'Occitane en Provence lotions and potions. Till now I was forced to stock up in New York City or some other far destination. Now we Vermonters can get our fill any day we want. I especially recommend the verbena soap and body lotion. It's divine.


toast and typing

Today I'm thankful for working from home (once-in-a-while). And toast with butter. I'm just wrapping up loose ends before we take off for the long week-end. Col & I are going to spend a couple days with his family in Katonah, NY. Then off to the city for a night. The kitties will stay home. I'll miss them terribly I think. They know something's up; but they'll be in good hands with our neighbor's son.

I'm now completely outfitted for the snow season. Colin came home from work last night with a sweet pair of boots for me. Supreme Heat. They're totally hot—in more ways than one. And they're gonna look even hotter in my sleek houndstooth bindings. These are all things that I'm grateful for...



Monday, November 19, 2007

are you living a sustainable life?

Play this Consumer Consequences game from America Public Media to find out how many Earths it would take to sustain humankind if everyone lived like you.

I just played and was appalled to discover it would take 2.9 earths if everyone lived like I do, but then I compared myself to Kai Ryssdal from Marketplace and didn't feel so badly. Much room for improvement...


I'm grateful...

...that I didn't hit the two deer that leaped right in front of my car on the drive home from work tonight. I'm thankful for Suki kneading my belly and Au Lait warming my feet. For the birds on the feeder and the entertaining squirrels. I'm thankful for all the creatures in this world that live beside us nourishing us quietly and perfectly in their own way.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

die fledermaus

That's German for: "The Bat," a cheeky little puppet opera Em and I attended last night at the Flynn Space, put on by the Viva La Voce Puppet Opera. I say "little," which it was in many aspects, quite especially in size, but in others it was large and grandiose.

Based on the operetta Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II, the puppet show, according to the show's program, tells the story of the wealthy Gabriel von Eisenstein, a gentleman of leisure.
In 1873, the Viennese Stock Exchange collapsed on a day called 'Black Friday.' What was urgently needed was a brilliant new operetta to cheer up the Viennese bourgeoisie and console them from their depleted bank accounts. The result was Die Fledermaus, first staged in Vienna, 1874.

Also known as The Revenge of the Bat, Die Fledermaus tells the story of the wealthy Gabriel von Eisenstein, now the object of exquisite revenge after he played a prank on the respected Dr. Falke (when Falke was dressed as a bat). A forthcoming party at the eccentric Prince Orlofsky's offers the opportunity Falke has been waiting for..."

I've never been to a puppet opera before, and so I didn't know what to expect. Opera? Puppets? Well, yes and yes!

It really was an opera: the show's producer, Roxanne Vought—who I recognized from Spielpalast Cabaret, local Vermont soprano Beth Thompson, and other singers carried us through a complicated little love affair half in German half in English and sometimes in French and Italian. And even though I don't speak the language, the story and emotion were quite clear in their every sound and movement.

But for me, what really stole the show were the puppets, reigning over a brightly lit puppet stand center stage. Costume couturier extraordinaire Kathleen DeSimone really outdid herself this time. The intricate detail and fabrication was exquisite. From the expressive dresses and suits right down to the top hats, masquerade masks, and lady fans—and right back up again to the people-proportioned costumes to match their mini-alter-egos.

The show was fun, light-hearted, and witty—a satire of wealth, love, deceit, and power. It offered us both plenty of chuckles throughout the night and culminated in the fourth act with all the drunk little puppets dancing and singing in the city's prison, all the whilst downing champagne and resolving to blame it all on the bubbly. And rightly so!


Friday, November 16, 2007

better than hot water bottles

So much for the snow. We got nothing here in Burlington last night. But for the cold.

Our apartment gets heated by those old-school radiators, and they can take forever to warm up. When I get home from work, it's like a chiller in here. And yet I just can't bring myself to turn up the heat.

This time of day, I sit on the couch still wearing my winter coat, waiting for the cats to finish their dinner so they can come sit on my belly and warm me up. It's better than a hot water bottle, I'm telling you. Warm full kitty bellies purring on top of me.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

what comes after rain?

It's been raining all day. The cold, thick kind of rain that sticks to your windshield like gooey gelatin. The kind of rain that hangs heavy over the landscape, bringing pink sound-proof skies at night. You look up at those clouds, you close your eyes and feel the wet chill on your nose, hear the quiet dampness, and think, "I know what comes next."


Colin's going to hike Stowe on Saturday with some buddies. Meanwhile, I am just so antsy to demo my new snowboard! It will come soon enough. Soon enough.

* * * * *

While we're waiting for our first winter storm of the season (supposedly landing tonight!) back at EatingWell, we're wrapping up our Jan/Feb issue, and in the kitchen they've even started testing recipes for spring! Such is the nature of the beast I suppose.

Today was the last photo shoot for the upcoming issue and I got to pose for a picture that will be featured in a special report on our relationships with food (that is, if the picture turns out okay). That's all I'll say for now, but just think Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the cake that says, "Eat me!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

sweet potato quesadillas

When I was a student at Middlebury College, I worked for Dolci, a student-run restaurant in the basement of a French-style chateau on campus. The head chefs (a weekly rotating job) and all of the other student cooks had the run of a restaurant-scale kitchen and dining room. We would build the menu, prepare a shopping list, come to prep on Wednesday, and on Fridays serve a beautiful multi-course meal to a group of 90 lucky people, typically comprised of students, faculty and guests.

This quesadilla recipe was—and still is—one of my favorites from the Dolci repertoire. I rediscovered it this week when I was trying to find a way to use up some sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes and the cumin are a flavorful combo. Cut into triangles, they make a great appetizer. Or serve a bigger portion with side salad for brunch or dinner. Bonus: They're quick, nutritious and low in fat (if you use reduced-fat dairy) and they keep and reheat well for lunch the next day!

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups grated sweet potato (approximately 3 potatoes, I like to leave the peel on)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 generous pinch of cayenne powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
8 (8-10) tortillas
Mexican-style tomato salsa
Sour cream

To make:
Saute onions and garlic in the oil until the onions become translucent. Add grated sweet potatoes, oregano, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. When sweet potato is tender, add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

Fill each tortilla with 1/8 of the mixture and 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Roll or fold tortillas closed. Over moderately high heat, toast the filled tortillas on a slightly oiled or non-stick skillet, seam side down, until golden brown. Then flip and brown the other side.

Serve while hot. Top with salsa and sour cream.


this day

Another inspiring message from my Mum today, sent to my two sisters and me:
Good Morning to my darling girls! What a beautiful day we've been given... blue skies, not completely cloudless, but we can handle a few clouds. So, what are you going to do with today? I was thinking, wouldn't it be great if we girls decided, just for today, to make a commitment to make this day the very best day of our lives. What if, instead of finding fault, (so easy to do!), just for today, we lent a helping hand? What if, just for today, we'd go out and look for beauty, and forgive the ugly? What if, just for today, we decided not to take to heart the unkind word, and try to understand the reason for it, instead, and give an encouraging one back? What if, again, just for the day, we gave, instead of took? What if our thoughts were filled with praise, love, and kindness, even if faced with criticism and hatred? What if, in the midst of anger, we felt in our hearts a peace that beggars description? What if...? I love you guys, and want to thank all of you for bringing such joy into my life. Have a great day!
Lots of love, Mummy xxx


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

it's that foodie time of year

We've been eating well these days. I guess it's just the season that whets the appetite with rich and interesting flavors. Plus, from November to January, it's all about the food, right?

This past weekend, I was listening to The Splendid Table on VPR and found myself watering at the bit when Lynn Kasper cooked up her Tagliatelle with Caramelized Oranges & Almonds with violinist Joshua Bell. The unusual combination of sugar, orange, cinnamon and almonds with pasta was so intriguing, I just had to try it that night. But when I found the recipe and saw how much butter and sugar the recipe called for, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

So instead, I used the recipe as a starting point of inspiration. I cut the sugar and fat way down (just a couple tablespoons of each, and substituted olive oil for the butter). I also steamed some asparagus and threw that in. I served with a simple green salad with orange vinaigrette (orange juice, mustard, cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper). What a wonderful winter meal to surprise the palate! Colin and I enjoyed it while we watched The Valet (a fun French romantic comedy) on T.V.

* * * * *

Oh and here's something kind of neat: Remember the bit I wrote about a Smokejacks reservation gone awry? Well, Suzanne Podhaizer from Seven Days picked it up in her Crumbs column. Someone from Smokejacks must have noticed, because when I got to work yesterday, I found a personal letter of apology from Bridget, the Dining Room Manager sitting on my desk.
We had intended to open that night for dinner and accepted a few reservations," she said. "Unfortunately, a few hours before service we discovered that our ovens weren't working properly. As a result, we were forced to postpone our opening to the following night. I personally contacted everyone (or so I thought!) who had made a reservation. Regretfully we did not get in touch with you due to some mistake or lack of communication on our part. I apologize for the inconvenience caused by this and hope that you will give us another chance!"

Included with the letter was a complimentary gift certificate to the restaurant. Now, here's an instance where a little customer service goes a long way. Of course we'll give Smokejacks another chance! We didn't need a gift certificate to get us back. In fact, even before I received the letter, Colin and I went for a romantic date last Wednesday night and had a lovely meal featuring lots of lovely local ingredients. It's not that we'd give up on one of our favorite restaurants because of one small unfortunate experience, but Bridget's letter reaffirmed my feelings that it's a great place to support. So we will continue to do so. Thank you Bridget. Smokejacks, we love you. And there you have it. (Don't worry, Em & Kev, we'll share the GC with you. Brunch soon?)

Our romantic dinner chez Smokejacks:


Monday, November 12, 2007

pregnancy, plums, peas, and a painting

I wrote a poem about plums once—I had a bowl of perfectly ripe plums ready to burst. Seeing the plums and holding them in my hand reminded me of a pregnant woman's belly. So I wrote about it. I wrote about what it must feel like to lose control of your own body. To have to displace a piece of your body to make room for a new one. It might get messy at times, but the ultimate joy it elicits has no match. But there's also an element of fear there. Fear of the unknown, for, truth be told, I don't really know what it's like being pregnant. My friend Elisa does though. She wrote this week's posting for Eat Peas Weekly.

Pregnancy is in us all I suppose—well, us women at least—whether we've experienced it or not. Whether we like it or not. Even if we never get pregnant. The idea of pregnancy is ingrained subconsciously in our biological and psychological make-up. But I didn't always think this, or think about it. Yet the feelings and the shapes would always surface unexpectedly in my creative output.

I remember during my final senior art show as a student at Middlebury College, a woman from the campus newspaper came to interview me and review the show—a culmination of 4 years of intense work and exploration. She mentioned an apparent pregnancy theme in all of my female figures. I think I returned her comment with a blank stare. If it was indeed there, it was purely unintentional and I told her so. But looking now, I'm in awe that I—the creator of it—could not see such an obvious statement in plain view. It's there, is it not? The pregnant woman in the painting, flying through the air (jumping or falling?) gracefully full speed ahead. How could I be so blind to it? Or so dismissive?


Sunday, November 11, 2007

nylon thinks burlington is cool

If you Burlingtonians haven't checked out the November issue of Nylon magazine yet, you should. There's a story on Burlington with some familiar faces printed therein! The article itself is kind of cutesie and patronizing: "Northern Exposure: On a roadtrip to Burlington, Vermont, we discover cool shops, a burgeoning Indie music scene, no shortage of stylish denizens...and not a single cow in sight." But they mention the Possibility Shop as "thrift-hunter's heaven" which leads me to believe that an insider's hand is involved. I hope they don't ruin it forever...

Other mentions include our friend Sarah's Made Boutique, Maven, Green Closet, Steez, etc.... And for music Marie Claire, James Kochalka, The Cush, and The Smittens with a photo of the one and only David Zacharis. And more!


baby mackenize

We finally got to meet Rob & Nicole's new baby Mackenzie this weekend. She's a right spiffy tyke—and nothing but smiles! She also likes to squeeze the kitties and tear up useless magazines.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

snowboard art

Col and I stopped by the new exhibit at the Firehouse Gallery today. Decked Out features the work of 8 artists, both in their original form and as screen-printed designs on snowboards. All of the snowboards featured are Burton snowboards and our friend Todd helped pull together the pieces for the show from the company's archive. So we've been wanting to check it out...

The show itself is pretty cool. I think the main concept is to blur the lines between art and commerce—and promote the company's new line of boards and bags featuring artwork by Andy Warhol. In the back there's even a t.v. monitor displaying on one side the snowboards being made in the Burton factory, and on the other side Andy Warhol in his studio “The Factory.”

In most cases, I found the original artwork much more compelling than the screen-printed versions. They were more organic and textural than the shellacked surface of the boards. But there were also instances where the artwork duplicated on the board added a new layer of meaning to the original work. One artist played with the irony of stitching pieces of card stock together (rather than fabric). Then printed on the board, the stitches and paper become even stiffer and more resilient to the elements to snow and water (Colin said they're printing that design on surf boards now too). Another piece of skull and cross-bone was drawn with non-archival ball-point pens. The ink will fade. And so the act of duplication is an act of preservation.

We enjoyed the show. I was psyched to see my new board was on display (although for some reason I neglected to take a pic) and turns out one of my favorites was designed by a friend (Marin). Here are some pictures below. You can see the rest here.


meow in the morning

This is what Au Lait does:

This clip called 'Cat Man Do' is by an English animator called Simon Tofield.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

name this person and you could win a free comb

Remember a while back when I wrote about the barber shop in town that displays its hair trimmings in the window? I finally got a picture last night of the bizarre goings-on in there. The hand-written sign on the man's head says, "Name this person and you could win a comb." Does anyone know who this person is? My guess is either Magnum P.I. or Richard Kiel.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

it's about time

Here I am sitting with my laptop, watching T.V., checking e-mail, reading magazines—everything, in fact, to avoid what I should be doing: writing. I never get writer's block, but for some reason the last couple weeks have been painfully void of any words to spare. I'm feeling laconic, and I'm feeling guilty about it.

The thing is, once you slip your rhythm, it's all too easy to say, "I'll get back on track tomorrow." Before you know it tomorrow becomes next week. Next week becomes next month. Next month becomes next year. And next year might as well be never.

So here I am sitting with my lap top writing whatever I can think of. Colin's still at work. He's been working a lot over the last few weeks and I can't remember the last time we had alone time together. We're supposed to hang out tonight. But he just called and has some urgent matter to take care of at work and so he wants to take me out to a late dinner to make up for it. We're going to Smokejacks. I hope we can get in this time.

And here are some other updates:
  • Went to Newport this weekend. Tried the goose, but I liked my roasted vegetables and cheesy polenta better.
  • Went to my dad's church and learned this proverb: "A foolish man lets out all his wrath, but a wise man keeps it back quietly." And this one, which I love: "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones."
  • Went to book club last night to discuss our most recent selection, Water for Elephants. Loved it! Kind of reminded me of the HBO series, Carnivale, mixed with Waiting for God, that funny Brit-com on PBS. But it's a book, of course.
  • Scooped a lot of kitty poop and tried to teach Suki how to lick her butt. Her butt really stinks.
  • Finally, I just remembered that season 4 of Project Runway premiers a week from today on November 14. It's the only show I really care about and I'm panicked that I'm going to forget to watch it. Will somebody please remind me?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

papa says

My dad read my previous blog entry this morning and wrote me this:
Failure is never a person, it is a place that one can move away from.

Monday, November 05, 2007

i don't know

I'm feeling like a failure right now with my writing... too tired to write anything. I'll have something soon. Promise.

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