Sunday, December 12, 2010

memory tree

I think one of the main reasons why Colin and I get so excited about our Christmas tree every year is because we are both very nostalgic people. Moreover, when you get engaged and then married around the holidays, there are more things to remember and be nostalgic about. So it goes, we're now into the third year of going to Paine's to cut our tree after a day of snowboarding. It's now an established tradition in our household the weekend after Thanksgiving. So we went last weekend—we were still in our snowboarding clothes. We did our traditional hike to the furthest most corner of the farm. We did our traditional hum and hawing, back and forth, inspecting shapes and branches, measuring heights. Finally, we found our beauty and got to work.

At Paine's, they have a tractor circling the property so that when you've got your tree, they help you haul it back. The tractor came just as we found our tree. An older man and a young boy dismounted and seeing the size of our girl offered to go get the chainsaw.

"No thank you, it's kind of a must we do it by hand," we explained. "It's a tradition." And then we told them the story about how we got engaged there at the farm two years prior. Both the man and the boy were those kind of old time Vermonters, stoic and reserved. Outwardly, they didn't seem to be very moved by our lovey, dovey story, or so it seemed anyways. But they were very helpful with the tree and we (er, Colin) sawed it down in record time.

The boy and his father drove us back to the lot. As we were  dismounting the wagon, the man came up to us and dug around in his pocket. He pulled out a small ornament and handed it to us. It was a metal casting of a car with a tree on the roof rack. It was engraved with: Paine's Christmas Trees 2010.

He had few words, but they said a lot, "Because of your special story," he said.

We had got our garland and paid and were heading to the car when he found us again. "We had just one left," he said handing us another ornament. This time it was a metal star etched with a Christmas tree in the middle and the words: Paine's Christmas Trees 2008. The year we got engaged there.

We were so touched and full of gratitude. I think I even blushed. We thanked him warmly, got in the car and drove home with happy hearts.

I will remember that story every year when we hang those ornaments. Just as I will remember our trip to Paris when I hang the Eiffel Tower man, or our honeymoon when I hang the green and yellow pineapple, our wedding when we hang the paper cranes, or Austria when we hang the wooden star.

Later, that night at home when we were trimming the tree, every ornament that we pulled from the box brought back a certain memory, a wonderful memory. We would reminisce a bit, then pull another ornament from the treasure chest.

"It's like a memory tree," Colin declared. He positioned his traditional hand-made star on the tippy top and we stood back and admired our girl. She's may not be as tall as last year's or quite as special as our love tree from 2008, but she is a beauty and we love her.

Get the flash player here:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

whirlwind Austria weekend

Colin was in Austria for work last weekend and our luck so aligned that I had the chance to fly out and meet him for a long weekend. I took off Wednesday afternoon. Ran into some minor travel troubles, which resulted in an unexpected detour to London and some uncomfortable negotiating with a German shuttle driver. But finally, three flights and a 3-hour shuttle ride later, I made it to Innsbruck Thursday night just in time for dinner.

It was dark and cloudy when I arrived, and so I didn't really see the breathtaking landscape around me till the next day. Innsbruck is an old European city tucked amidst the looming, jagged Alps. The peaks are soooo high, they took my breath away.

We went snowboarding at Stubai Glacier. We had to take a gondola ride up and up and up over 9,000 feet just to get to the base lodge. There was powder, powder everywhere! My thighs were burning, but it was so amazing.

When we got back into town, we went to visit the Burton store in Innsbruck and went and settled in to the apartment we were staying in above the store. Then we went into Old Innsbruck to explore the Christmas Market. Let's just say we went a little crazy with the ornaments.

On Saturday, one of the highlights was having sausage for all three meals. Amazing. And we walked up to the Alpenzoo and saw tons of amazing Alpine creatures—wolves, brown bear, otters, eagles, vultures.

And then it was time to go home.

Get the flash player here:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

who's afraid? not me

This week is the week of overcoming fears. Why now? It just so happens I have the opportunity to go outside of my comfort zone. So I am going to break my routines and try some new things. Some big, some not so big. This is going to be life-changing, whatever the outcome. Anyways, I started small today with a couple of things...

Fear #1: Car Repair
Status: Conquered squarely
Okay, so I know that my engineer grandfather is going to roll over in his grave when I admit this, but I have this strange fear of fixing anything on my car myself. It took me years to even feel comfortable pumping gas. I think it stems from the fear of doing something wrong and causing the whole thing to blow up. Any-who, speaking of blowing things up, I have never even blown up the tires myself. Until today, I didn't even know how to figure out what pressure they were supposed to be. But one of my tires was low and Colin is out of town. So I thought to myself, "You know, this is one thing I can probably do."

I looked in my car manual to find out the pressure. It told me to look inside the gas flap. And, tad-dah! There it was. There were two sets of numbers, 1 for front, 1 for back, 1 for heavy load, 1 for light load. Well, the first one was easy: Front! The second one I just picked one: that part caused my heart to beat a bit faster. But not nearly as fast as when I drove to the gas station, turned on the air pump and tried attaching the dang thing to the tire. (Again, I was picturing explosions left and right.) But finally I got it to work. I even figured out how to use the pressure gauge. And I did it! Done! Cross that one off my list.

Fear #2: Home Repair
Status: Still out to jury
Again, I think this one stems from the fear of doing something wrong and causing the whole house to fall down. But is a crack in the tub really that scary? Only if I do nothing about it and it starts to leak and cause the entire floor below it to rot. So I went to the hardware store and got a tub epoxy repair kit. Ok, the "epoxy" part sounds scary, but I'm planning to do it tomorrow night. Fingers crossed.

Fear #3: Traveling alone in a foreign country where I don't speak the language
Status: It's all happening
Let's get one thing straight: I am proud to say I've done quite a bit of foreign travel by myself. But it's always been to a country where I spoke the language. If not, I've always been with someone who does. Well, I'm going to have to just get a little brazen and assert my English, because soon I'll be going to Austria for a few days. And while I will be meeting my lovely husband on the other end, I first have to arrive in Munich, Germany, find the shuttle that goes for 2 hours to some tiny village in the Alps, make sure they have my reservation and get on the dang thing. Then I have to find my husband in that tiny village. But that seems like the easy part somehow.

Fear #4: Wild card
Status: Still to be determined
While I'm in Austria, I want to do at least one, maybe two things that really make my heart beat. What will they be?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

gtg, always and forever

Let me tell you a little bit about my husband. He's in a gang. That's right: the Good Times Gang. He and his close group of friends have been in this gang together since they were practically tweenagers. GTG is about good times, all the time. It's about laughter, friendship and silliness. The guys are prolific in their silliness. They make movies together. They don crazy awkward costumes. They make tee-shirts. Some of the guys even started a band, Enormous Fun, to further the GTG cause (even though most of the songs in their repertoire are pretty depressing).

As a GTG girlfriend, and now wife, I've seen the GTG boys and wives live through a lot over the last few years. Through new jobs, new cities, weddings, children... there's been messy stuff too, but I won't go into that. This is, afterall, about Good Times.

Last weekend, the last of the GTG boys to get hitched, Spence, got married to an amazing gal, Court. We all went down to Newport, Rhode Island for the weekend to celebrate. It was as off-the-hook as we all anticipated. Not just because it was a gorgeous wedding with a gorgeous bride, or because the food was fantabulous and the dancing was insane. And the guests were so fun. It was all of those things. But it was also a GTG reunion. And when those boys get together, crazy things happen: Chewbacca might show up on the dance floor, a cardboard box and a guy in a 70s leisure suit may give a speech. 5 Fly Crew might show up and break dance at the reception. Your husband might do the worm. Or walk on his hands. Yes, it all happened.

Everyone's hearts were so full of happiness.

There are some people who might be intimidated or annoyed by their husband's friends. Not me. I hope GTG stays together forever, because they're keeping us all young (and goodness knows I am prone to turning into an old fart if I'm not careful). They may grow older, but they'll never grow up. And that's fine by me. Love you guys (and wives!).

Monday, November 01, 2010

find a new recipe, cook soup

My mum has been sending me an email every day, with updates on how her "home therapy" is going... It's been inspiring me to keep going, even though I'm having a hard time finding the motivation. So on Day 9 (last Thursday), the task was to find a new recipe and cook dinner. I didn't do it. And I didn't do it Friday night and I didn't do it all weekend.

Isn't that strange? I mean, I love cooking dinner. And I love trying new recipes. Heck, my job is all about that. But even I get in a rut sometimes. Plus, I get preoccupied with other things. (Sometimes I get annoyed that we humans must eat every day. Do you? It just really takes up so much time!) But finally I got my inspiration back tonight.

Mummy had brought me a pumpkin and a butternut squash from her garden a couple of weeks ago and I really needed to use them up. So I found this recipe from work that I've always wanted to try: Roasted Pumpkin Apple Soup. I peeled and seeded the pumpkin. I peeled and seeded the squash. I cut up some apples. I roasted them all together with some sage, salt and pepper. Then I pureed them up into a yummy soup, not unlike my Autumn Elixir. Col made grilled cheeses to go with.

It was nice and simple. And now we have soup dinner for the rest of the week. And (hopefully!) roasted pumpkin seeds too if we can get our act together.

over the weekend

I'm a little behind with my 20/20 cure project, but for good reason. Col's sister and brother-in-law came up from Connecticut to stay with us this weekend. They brought their baby girl "Wiwy" as little Snaffers calls her. We didn't do a lot cause of the cold weather, but we just hung out and, it turns out, that's just what we all needed. It was great to seem them, and, as always, we thought, "We really need to do this more often."

Lily is a very happy, mellow baby. She just sits there and laughs and says "Hi" all the time. She's also very curious. And she loves her Uncle Ollie.

After they all left yesterday, Colin and I were feeling kind of being homey. We put in the storm windows and washed them all. We cleaned and vacuumed. Then we went to Burlington Furniture company to get some inspiration for the house.

Rewind a little bit: on Friday, I was supposed to make a list of the top 6 thing our home needs. It could be items, it could be fixes, it could be something more aspirational. Here's what I came up with:

1. Lamps for the basement bedroom
2. Paint all of the bathrooms
3. Paint the rest of our bedroom
4. Fix the cracking paint on the hallway ceiling
5. Fix the drawer in the guest loo
6. Switch out light bulbs in the master loo

I could go on...

Well, we had some lamps we were thinking of getting at Ikea next time we went south, but we found some really cool ones at Burlington Furniture Company for almost as cheap. So we bought the last two in stock. Here:

Our basement's really coming together now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

this natural shampoo smells like orange creamsicles (and it's made in Vermont!)

Like many people, I try to be eco-conscious when I can. In a place like Burlington, it's pretty easy to eat local, to find "green" cleaning products, to recycle—even compost—almost everything. Some things are still a challenge. Like finding a natural deodorant that actually works (any suggestions?). I mean, even though I want to use natural products, I still want to feel and smell pretty. (That's my vanity showing through right there.)

My latest obsession has been finding the perfect sulfate-free shampoo that doesn't make my hair feel like straw or, worse, look like a grease slick. I've tried a lot of "natural" shampoos, but not with much luck. Recently, however, a Vermont-based body care company Flourish has popped up and their products are becoming more available around town—at Healthy Living, at The Green Life. My sister Hannah gave me a bottle of their honey blossom shampoo and I'm totally obsessed and so is Col. It smells like orange creamsicle!

Tonight, they had a little sample party at the Green Life, another Burlington store obsession of mine filled to the brim with lots of tasteful, design-ey, eco-cool stuff. I went and stocked up on shampoo samples, sugar scrubs and little guest hand soaps. I am a product junky, and I would probably buy it for the nice packaging alone (yes, I know, that's very Consumer of me) but this stuff is really great! I just had to spread the word.

And have you been to the Green Life yet? If not, you should go. If not for all the crazy cute baby clothes and accessories, then for the yummy candles and wool felted Christmas tree ornaments shaped like mushrooms and gnomes.


Monday, October 25, 2010

how to: get your husband to cook you dinner

When it's Monday night and you're both feeling blah and you don't want to even lift a finger, you say to him, "Hey, do you want to make pizza for dinner tonight? I'll get the dough out of the freezer... We can even make it with BBQ sauce if you want."

That's it. It's as easy as that. Then he'll say, "Yeah!" and proceed to start shredding cheese, chopping veggies and rolling out the dough before you've even had a chance to say the next part, which is key: "Should we eat in front of the T.V. tonight? And should we watch a movie?"

He'll be so excited about that and about all of the amazing toppings he's going to put on his half of the pie—blue cheese, celery, Frank's Red Hot... (oh, yes he did!)—that he won't even notice you've moved out of the kitchen and sidled up to the counter to watch him work his knife skills like the pro you always knew he was.

He may even want to pour your drink and set out the place mats on the coffee table and maybe even rub your feet. And give you the remote control.

Don't push your luck with that one though. You gotta keep the magic going. Pick a feel-good classic that you'll both like. Something like Pee-wee's Big Adventure should do the trick.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

the year of tarragon

I tend a small kitchen herb garden by the back entrance of our home and every year it flourishes. My lavender especially. By whim, this year, I decided to plant some French tarragon. It's pretty and I thought maybe I could use it in some recipes (even though until now I hadn't used it very much at all).

Over the summer, I became obsessed with its sweet licorice flavor and started snipping it into everything from fresh green salads and dressings to lemony pasta and mussels steamed in white wine.

My other herbs got the cold shoulder this year, but I believe they've have their fair share of time in the sun. This year is the year for tarragon.

And it's still flourishing—even amidst frosts and snow flurries.

This morning, I discovered a new sweeter side of tarragon and my taste buds were just blown away. I was making myself a breakfast parfait with a chopped honeycrisp apple, some banana, plain whole milk yogurt, a touch of maple syrup and some granola on top. I wanted to snip some basil in, but the basil in my garden has gone by and there's no mint either. But tarragon? Yes, there's still tons. And I thought to myself, "This might be crazy, but I'm willing to give it a try!"

And you know what? It was really quite wonderful.

Now I'm sitting here typing and nibbling on some fresh tarragon leaves—tastes just like candy!—and I felt the need to share my obsession.

Friday, October 22, 2010

autumn elixir with mumma

I put other things aside last night to have dinner with my mummy. It was sort of a last minute thing. I can't remember the last time the two of us spent time together, just us. She's been staying with my sis this week, so came over as soon as I was done work. We chatted as I cut up squash, onions and apple to roast for a soup.

I told her how inspired I've been by this whole 20/20 cure project. [Update on that is here: Yesterday's task (day 4) was to give one thing away. I actually have 3 things to give away (a chandelier, a small table and some chair covers), but I'm waiting till tomorrow to bring them to Recycle North. Today's task (day 5) is to get some "green" home cleaners. That wasn't hard, considering I try not to keep a lot of chemicals in the house. And the one bottle of bleach I do have scares me. I keep it hidden away in the basement...]

Mummy got inspired just talking with me about it, and said she couldn't wait to go home and clean out the storage room in the basement. Here's hoping you do, Maman!

It didn't take long for the veggies to roast, then I sauteed up some other yummy tidbits, added some spices, grated some fresh ginger and turmeric, and blended the whole thing into a flurry. I just happened to have a few candied walnuts leftover from my friend Elisa. I sprinkled those on top. We ate it simply with some warm baguette. It was just the ticket.

It was apparent that all beings in the house felt warm and fuzzy all over. Even our timid cat Suki came out of her social nut-shell and gave Mummy the special treatment, purring and rubbing up against her leg.

The soup, by the way, was delicious. I e-mailed Mummy my makeshift recipe (I realized it's not that easy to do when you're just throwing things in the pot). She replied saying, "This is the new name for your amazing soup: AUTUMN ELIXIR!!!"

Penelope's Curry Ginger Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (AKA Autumn Elixir)

  1. Roast one butternut squash (cut in half, scoop, cut sides down on oiled pan, 40-50 minutes at 400)
  2. In a Dutch oven or other big pot, saute: a chopped onion, a couple of chopped celery stalks, and some chopped garlic till tender and fragrant
  3. Add 1 tsp curry powder, dash each of cumin and ground coriander
  4. Add 1/2 bouillon cube and a few cups of water (or broth)
  5. Add the cooked squash
  6. Then grate in at least a teaspoon, I like more, fresh ginger. Grate a little bit of fresh turmeric too if you have some. Then cook it a little bit more.
  7. Puree (Here's where my magic wand is really handy. What are they called? Immersion blenders?)
  8. Add salt, pepper, honey to taste
Last when I made it for mummy, instead of doing halves, I peeled and diced the squash, then tossed it with a chopped onion, 2 or 3 whole garlic cloves, a chopped apple, some olive oil, salt and pepper. I cooked at 450 for 20-30 minutes...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

day 3: feeling saturated & inspirational photos to sooth

There's something magical that happens when you first open a tube of watercolor paint, squeeze some of the saturated pigment into a dish, soften it slowly with water and a paint brush, then sweep it in light strokes across a piece of cotton paper. By way of the water, saturation inherits clarity and airiness. It becomes accessible and approachable.

I don't think this is necessarily a good quality that I have, but I tend to fit too much in. I have a hard time saying no to requests and invitations, I make commitments, and on top of that I set unrealistic goals for myself. Does this sound familiar? I think we've all just become really good multitaskers. It all seems to work out, though, in some uncanny way.

I know I'm over-saturated when every spare moment is spent (yes, even spare moments are spent doing something!) looking for moments of asylum and clarity.

I need something to water me down.

This 20/20 cure thing I'm doing is really helping in that regard. Today's task was to find inspirational photos for our home. It was perfect actually, because this month's Elle Decor was in my mailbox when I got home and I had no trouble flipping through and finding tons of photos to inspire.

Colin and I decided that our next project is probably going to be turning the basement into a guest suite. We're inheriting an amazing bed from Kevin's parents. For colors, we're really feeling warm earthy tones with lots of airiness to balance it out.

I keep thinking to myself: how would I want it to be if I were going to stay there for a weekend myself? I would want it to be a quiet get-away: an asylum; a calming space to wash away some of the saturation and turn it into a watercolor. Sounds lovely, right? I want our basement bedroom to be an airy watercolor painting.

These pictures make me think of that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

day 2: flowers before and after

I'm the kind of person who thrives on small goals—and deadlines. I get satisfaction from writing lists and checking things off. So, feeling the need to feed my creativity, I decided to do the 20/20 cure on Apartment Therapy as a way to get inspired to beautify the space around me. Every day, for 20 days, there is a simple assignment. Things like clean 1 room or hang artwork. I can do these things!

Today is day 2 (yesterday, day 1, was clean 1 room; I chose the bathroom. Now it's clean!). Today's assignment: buy flowers. Well, I didn't buy flowers, because I have some gorgeous lavender blooming out back. And so this, morning, I made myself a few minutes later than usual for work so that I could refresh a dead bouquet that's been sitting on the coffee table longer than I'd care to admit. It was well worth being late for work.

Hey, I'm putting myself out there posting these before & afters. Now you know one of my dirty little secrets: I have bouquets of dead flowers sitting around the house. But this morning, I dumped the dead flowers, cleaned out my beautiful bud vase and filled it with a fragrant bunch of purple buds. There, now I feel so much better...



Monday, October 18, 2010

some cheese please! (argentina style)

These days, Mondays have been living up to their sour reputation. I don't know if it is the chaos at work, the shift in weather, the dry air and itchy skin. Or if it's my attitude or other people's attitudes. Or maybe all of the above. Today, on the drive to work, the pledge drive on VPR didn't help. I love VPR; I'm a sustaining member. Heck, I even listen to the pledge drives out of solidarity. But on some days, when I'm already feeling cranky, little quips about artist mugs and "today is the day" really rub me the wrong way.

(At this point, if he were here, Col would be saying, "do you want some cheese with that whine?" and I would say, "yes please!!!")

On days like today, my defense mechanism is to be as mechanical as possible, to try to be professional (even if I don't feel like it), to sit through meetings, get my work done, and leave when I've accomplished what I need to. But that takes a lot of discipline. By 4 pm, I had already hit an emotional brick wall. By 6pm, I was delirious. "Can't wait... for... couch..." The drive home was tolerable though and the 6pm crew was well on their way to making their $10,000 goal by 7. Go public radio!

But I had barely walked in the door and still had my coat on when I got a text from my sister Hannah, "do you want to grab dinner @ duino?"

Omg, are you serious? I wanted to lay on the couch and stay there all night and be anti-social. But I rarely see my sister, and I meet her for dinner even less than that. And I've really been wanting to go back to Duino Duende. Not for the amazing tostones—as amazing as they are—but for Argentina night. Hannah's friend Richard has been doing an Argentinian themed menu on Sunday and Monday nights for the month of October and I have yet to check it out.

After ordering a huge mug of mulled cider for each of us, we started with a grilled provolone cheese that was drizzled with honey and had little slivered apples and a few arugula leaves sprinkled throughout. Maybe some fresh thyme as well if I remember right? There were some pieces of baguette underneath it all. It was very simple; very delicious. It sort of reminded me of my favorite salad that I get at Trattoria Delia sometimes that is grilled mozzarella atop arugula and grilled eggplant and zucchini. Only this was much cheesier. And gooey-er.

Then we ordered and shared two main dishes: one was a handmade squash and sweet potato gnocchi with a roasted green pepper and tomato sauce. It had a light smoky charcoal flavor that was very lovely—not too much, not too little. The gnocchi was very tender, like little pillows of fluff that just melted in your mouth.

The other dish was a flatbread made with lots of yummy caramelized onions and other fall veggies. Lots more gooey cheeeeeese. And each slice was topped with a triangle of traditional flat bread made from chickpea flour. I think it's called fainá. That dish was my favorite. It had a slightly floral herbacious undertone—I think maybe it was fresh oregano? Lovely.

Then dessert was was traditional cake made with cornmeal, then topped with dulce de leche and toasted coconut. It had this crazy anise flavor, too, which, together with the corn cake, was just very new and exciting.

Somewhere in between all this, Hannah and I decided to start a writing club. And she reminded me that I have a humidifier (yay) and I should start using it tonight and it will solve all my problems.

And there. See? I feel so much better now. That was definitely worth scraping up the energy to leave the house instead of indulging my bad 'tude. Good food and good company really does nourish the soul. If you think about it, the Monday night special thing really is genius. It gives us something to look forward to!

So, I think next weekend is the last weekend for the Argentina menu, but maybe Richard will be doing some more special nights featuring another country's cuisine? I'm not sure.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

me vs. the machine

We got a slow cooker as a wedding gift. Colin has really wanted a slow cooker for a while. He doesn't do a lot of the cooking at home, but he does make some pretty fantastic soups, stews and chilis. And he thought the slow cooker would expand his horizons even more.

I, on the other hand, was dubious. I don't know what it is with me and slow cookers, but I just haven't learned to embrace them. I have a mental block figuring out how it is that they actually save people time... and how anybody with a day job can fit in all that prep work before going to work. I have this image of me multi-tasking in the morning (as if I don't do that enough) making coffee, feeding the kitties and chopping onions in my pjs. It just doesn't work.

But my friend and co-worker Michelle can't stop talking about how her slow cooker has revolutionized her life. Some days, she'll have two going at once making tons of food that she can freeze for later. She even got me a cookbook that was recommended to her by one of the foodies at work: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook. It's filled with 350 unbelievable-sounding recipes from Thai Pork with Peanut Sauce to Carrot Cake (yes, really!). I've leafed through its pages several times in search of inspiration, only to read a few recipes and feel totally overwhelmed by the logistics and planning needed. Needless to say, we've had this machine for a year and have only used it once—that was Colin; he made baked beans. They were delicious.

But my other co-worker recently gave me some helpful advice (yes, we do talk about slow cookers that much at work): keep it simple and just use it on the weekends.

This morning, I didn't have a choice: I had volunteered to make chili for Sunday family night only to remember too late that our stove is not really working right now. Well, the baby burners work, but that won't cut the mustard with my Dutch oven.

So I took a deep breath and searched for vegetarian chili in the index of NYMSCC. There were two. The first recipe called for soaking beans overnight. Dang. That's where the planning would really be helpful. Luckily, the second recipe called for canned beans. And it looked pretty simple.

I dropped Col off at the airport around 11:15, went straight to the store to pick up some ingredients and got home a little before noon. I boiled water and soaked the bulgur, chopped and sauteed onions, peppers and garlic. I opened tons of cans, strained beans. And measured tons of spices. Now it's quarter after 1 and the chili is simmering away. It still took me about 45 minutes to prep, but that's okay with me. It's Sunday. And now I have one recipe under my belt and maybe this is just the beginning.

I guess the real test is how good it tastes, but I won't know till later... it's slow cooking afterall.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

favorite fall weekend, v. 2010

Tonight at dinner, Col said to me, "maybe you should get back into your writing again." It's true, I've been thinking the same thing, but in response I used my normal crutch and said, "I know, but lately it just seems like a chore, when I get home from work and am feeling drained... the last thing I want to do..."

But he bounced right back and said, "maybe you should try thinking of it more as a treat, rather than a chore, as something you can do after dinner when everything else is done."

So I said, "Does that mean you'll wash the dishes from dinner so I can go write?" Ha. Trapped. He's washing the dishes now (which is fair, I mean, I did cook the dinner).

Col's traveling again this week. He was in Puerto Rico last week and in Japan a few weeks before that. Now he's going to the West Coast for work. California then Seattle. It sounds like it's going to be a hellish week. Any-who, we decided to spend an amazing day together before he takes off tomorrow morning.

Shelburne Farms closes this week, and we haven't been all summer, so we went for our annual fall brunch at the Inn. You know, it's on this amazing piece of property by the lake, but we've been having a Nor'Easter for the last couple of days and the Lake was in turmoil, churning and frothing and boiling, Col was so excited, he almost went home and got his surfboard and wet suit to try and ride the breaks. It was that intense.

But we went to breakfast instead. Which was lovely and we got the typical farmhouse breakfast.

Afterwards, we met up with the Kouri fam at the petting farm and saw lots of tame and fluffy animals. Sapphie couldn't get enough of the chickens. My favorite part was the little hut with the mama pig and all of her little piglets.

It then starting pouring on us and we cut our visit short, but not before we visited the cheese-making room, where I reminisced about the summer I worked at Town Farm Dairy in Simsbury, Connecticut. And my main job was cleaning the glass bottles, washing the pails and various parts from milk processing. And stirring the curds. I often forget about that past life...

Anywho, tonight, I cooked a date night dinner for Col and me. I made a Vindaloo Curry with my new spice mix from the Teeny Tiny Spice Co. It was very good! Col said it was like something you get in a restaurant and I couldn't bare to tell him how easy it was. Then I made a yummy Autumn salad and I feel like I should write down the recipe so I don't forget it.

Chopped Boston and romaine lettuce
Some chopped spinach leaves
Slivered raddichio
All of these cut into slivers/matchsticks: hearts of palm, a couple of radishes, crispy apple
(I've also added slivered hard-boiled eggs and chopped pistachios to this salad and it's very good)

Garlic clove crushed
Juice of half a lemon
Couple tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2-1 teaspoon honey
Salt & pepper to taste
Couple to a few tablespoons olive oil

At least I think that's everything. I always change up my recipes, but this is what I remember from tonight. Put everything but the olive oil into a lid jar and shake like crazy till honey is dissolved. Then add the oil and shake like crazy again.

Oh and Col's contribution? Some amazing tropical fruity drinks to tame the spice. Yummy, yummy to my tummy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

new food discoveries

I've been wanting to write about a couple of new food discoveries I've made in Burlington for days now, and now that I'm sitting down to do it I can only remember what one of them was. Shame on me!

Bluebird Tavern recently opened up a kiosk on Church Street where you can get some basic sandwiches and pastries, but the stuff you really want to try is their coffee. Holy cow. I got a double cappuccino the other day with whole milk and it was seriously out of this world. Neck in neck with Sapa's Vietnamese coffee, which was previously my favorite, but they're totally different animals. You know I try to spread the coffee love, but that I can't stop thinking about the capp I had 6 days ago...

I still can't remember the other food discovery, but in other local restaurant news, I'm so glad to say that our beloved Smokejacks locale has finally re-opened as Church & Main, a new restaurant on the corner of, well, Church & Main Street. We will have to go there soon. Love that Burlington finally has places to eat downtown again.

Friday, October 08, 2010

kachumber cooler

Hey y'all. My, my. Well, well, is it the weekend again already? So, I was in New York City on Wednesday for work and before we flew back, my colleagues and I grabbed dinner at Tabla, an Indian restaurant on Madison Avenue. The food was pretty good, but what I haven't been able to stop thinking about is the cocktail I had that was out of this world: cucumbers, green chili peppers and gin. Are you kidding me?! I decided to try to find a similar recipe online and I actually found the recipe from Tabla on Yay! Friday night delight.

Kachumber Cooler
makes one cocktail

2 half-inch slices of cucumber

8 leaves fresh cilantro

2 quarter-inch slices of fresh green finger chili (any medium-mild chili, such as jalapeno or Anaheim can be substituted)

1 3/4 ounce gin (Tabla uses Plymouth, I will use Hendrick's)

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

Muddle cucumber, cilantro, and chili in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass until well broken and slightly mashed. Add gin, lime, and simple syrup and shake vigorously. Strain into a double rocks glass, half filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the blessing of the simple sandwich

A few weeks ago, when I was driving home from work one night, a man on NPR mentioned cucumber sandwiches in a commentary on polo culture or English culture or something to that effect. The commentary itself was irrelevant. All my senses latched on to those two words: cucumber sandwiches. Just hearing it sparked a craving for those wonderful little treats that I drove home and made them for dinner that very night. I shaved delicate slices of cuke with my very special vegetable peeler Col bought me on a work trip to Seattle. I layered them atop thinly sliced pieces of maple oat bread, spread with a barely-there layer of mayonnaise. Then I ground fresh black pepper on top, with a pinch of sea salt. That is all. And it was perfect.

Tonight Col called me when I was leaving work, and the conversation led to food. What was for dinner, I asked? Everything seemed too complicated. What about egg salad sandwiches? I suggested. Col's reaction was just about on par with my own and the cucumber sandwiches. Any other dinner suggestions fell on deaf eggs, I mean deaf ears. Now, I'm writing this as I wait for the eggs to boil and in a few minutes, we'll have our sandwiches. And I'm wondering why don't we do this more often?

And what other sandwiches are we not having for dinner that we should be having for dinner because they're so easy and because they taste so good?

Monday, September 06, 2010


When we were kids, I remember being on the road a lot. On the road to visit family. On the road to move. On the road to visit old places we once lived. Oftentimes, those road trips happened towards the end of summer. At this point though, my memories of those hours upon hours of riding in the car sort of blend together into one long road trip. On that road trip, Mummy points out the flowers growing on the side of the road. "End-of-summers" she used to call them. They were a soft periwinkle and waved to and fro in the breeze, still warm from the late summer sun. Tilting softy leaving a long shadow in start contrast on the gray pavement below—a still-life paradox that evoked joy and melancholy at the same time.

Only fitting, then, that to this day, my summers "end" in a road trip get-away. It's bittersweet. Only this year, we had two trips: one to Maine and one to Cape Cod.

Last weekend was Maine, Hannah, Brian, Isaac, Kevin, Emi, Sapphire, Colin and I hit the road on a Wednesday night and headed back to our old stomping grounds: Boothbay Harbor. We rented an old 1800s house on an inlet on Southport Island, just off of Boothbay. It was right near Hendricks Head beach where Mummy used to bring us girls as children. (Hendricks Head is where she brought us to see the jellyfish spawning at night and where we played "let's pretend" on Commercial Rock.) I haven't been back there since I was 7—over 20 years ago. Can you believe that not much has changed?

It was quite something to bring Colin to that place to experience with him some of those old memories—the handmade taffy machine in Boothbay Harbor, the sour apple flavored popcorn, the town trolley, to watch him jump off Commercial Rock into the seaweed beards below. We made new memories. Here's my favorite: the house where we stayed was called Watersong II. It was over 200 years old and still had a lot of the original plaster and wood work. It had character for sure! Hannah and Emi were convinced that there were ghosts in the attic. Any-who. The house sat perched on a slope leading down to a dock right on an inlet that led on one side to the little bay at Hendricks Head and on the other side towards Boothbay Harbor. There were two kayaks that we were welcome to use so long as we wore life jackets.

On the last day of our stay, Hannah and Brian had left early, but the rest of us decided to go to the little beach down the road from the house. Colin and I took the kayaks there. It was low tide and as we maneuvered toward the beach, through a maze of rocks and seaweed beards, we arrived at a place maybe 5 feet deep where the water was so clear and crisp and cold that you could see every living thing at the bottom. It was mostly rocks and mussel shells. But I spotted an empty sea urchin shell that was just gorgeous and pristine. I wanted it. But it was impossible to pick it up with the paddles and we decided to keep going and try for it on the way back.

We hung out at the beach for a while. The tide came in. By the time we got back to the place where I had seen the sea urchin, the water was so deep that we couldn't even touch bottom with the paddles. But we could still see the shell! All of a sudden, Colin did something that really surprised me. He handed me his phone, paddled up to one of the rocks, used to ledge to hoist himself out of the kayak and dove into the frigid water clothes and all. He did all of this before I even had time to react and resurfaced with the beautiful shell in hand.

"My hero!" I proclaimed. "But how on earth are you going to get back in the boat?" He managed though and we paddled back, me with the sea urchin nestled between my knees. My heart was throbbing with a new kind of admiration. The whole thing was just so romantic—like out of a cheesy rom-com. And now I have my beautiful shell to prove his most amazing manliness.

Still no sign of the End-of-Summers though. That didn't come till later...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

unplugged, almost...

At this point, I’m not sure which is worse: my television, my computer or my iPhone. They’re all bugging me right now—and stealing way too much of my attention—but seeing as the computer is my avenue for writing, I’ve picked that poison tonight. But I'm only giving myself enough screen time to write, publish and be done with it. I need to unplug for a little while. I wrote “No T.V. Monday” onto a scrap of paper and taped it to the television screen in case I forgot and wandered into the den in a moment of weakness. Then I realized that it's actually Tuesday and that Rachel Zoe is on tonight. Dangit! This is going to be tough, but I know I can do it. Just for one night.

We just got back from our little mini family vacation on the coast of Maine. I have pictures to post, stuff to write about, but just can't bring myself to do it tonight. Time to unplug!

In the meantime, Emi & Isaac posted pics and stuff on their blogs, so take a look. I'm unplugging now! Don't call me tonight because I'm not picking up.

Friday, August 20, 2010

my love is like a red, red rose sorbet

The other day, my sister Hannah brought me some fresh red currants she'd picked up at our parents' house in the Northeast Kingdom. She presented them to me with strict instructions to make a special sorbet. Special? Okay, here is my attempt, inspired by the champagne cocktails they used to serve at our favorite old (now gone) restaurant Smokejacks. They spiked them with rosewater and prickly pear juice to make them hot pink! Ooh, that gives me an idea: I bet this would be really good with champagne too. Instead, I added a little bit of gin (you could skip the gin, but the smidge of alcohol helps to give it a smoother texture when it's frozen).

Red Rose Sorbet

1 1/4 cup fresh red currants
1 cup fresh red raspberries
1/2 cup sugar (this is for a sweet-tart sorbet; if you like yours sweeter, by all means add more)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon rose water (my local store sells it right by the vanilla)
1 teaspoon Hendrick's gin (optional)

Remove any stems from currents and rinse. Puree currants, raspberries, sugar, lemon and salt in a blender till smooth. Pass through a mesh sieve. Add rose water and gin, if using, and stir to combine. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to your machine's instructions. (Mine usually takes 20-25 minutes). Transfer to a lidded container and put in freezer till firm.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

snow in august

It's wedding season, and I can't help but feel nostalgic about our own. Colin and I finally went through the photos from our photographer Sabin Gratz a couple of weeks ago. It was like reliving the whole weekend all over again. Some of my favorites are from the shoot we did out in the snow before the ceremony. For months, we hummed and hawed about whether or not to do it, since doing so would mean seeing each other before the I-Dos, and we certainly got lots of advice NOT to do it. But in the end, we decided to go against the grain—we realized that having photos of us in the snow was a must. (I was sure to keep most of my dress covered the whole time, so at least that was a surprise later on!)

Months later, I'm so glad we did. Here are some of the my favorites from the shoot. Sabin did an amazing job. He submitted some of these to Vermont Vows magazine and this first one got picked to be in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

wild plum & raspberry sorbet

wild plums from the plum lady + raspberries we hand-picked from the berry farm + magic sprinkles & smiles =


This town has settled into another humid haze. It hovers like a thick swallow in my neck, then down, down, low and heavy around my hot feet. All I hear is the slow, steady squeak of the fan as it sways back and forth, pushing the hot air this way and that.

I'm tired just thinking about it.

Relief will come later this evening—just as soon as my wild plum and raspberry sorbet finishes churning in the ice cream maker. I'll have it for dinner, let it cool my hot throat.

Then this weekend, relief again as we leave the city for the cooler hills in Southern Vermont—my old stomping grounds—for a quick visit to see Auntie Lucy and Uncle John. Then a wedding at Stratton. Hopefully a stop at Mother Myrick's and the Vermont Country Store on our way home on Sunday.

That's the best I can do for inspiration at the moment in this steam machine...

Friday, July 23, 2010

back to the berry farm

Bluebug season is in full swing, so we went back to the berry farm bright and early this morning before the clouds burned off to pick a few pounds. We went with Emi, Kevin and Sapphie. Our friend Mindy is staying with them for the weekend and she came too. Then we met up with Michelle and G-boy when when we got there. It was a fun little party!

The blueberries were so prolific that all you had to do was cup your hand under a bunch, jiggle your fingers a bit and catch the harvest that tumbled down. Colin developed his own technique for this and gave me a lesson. We picked 8 pounds in less than an hour.

When the parents were cashing out, I hung out with kiddos by the Imagine boat. Then we all booked it back to Burlington to hit up the Farmer's Market and get to the Plum Lady before she sold out. It was actually the Plum Man this time. And his son whose job it is to cut off bits of plum for people to sample. I always take a bite even though I know I'm going to get some. Some of them are still a little tart, but soo0 good...

hamptons, friend time and some magic party fun

I realize that if I'm not careful this is going to become the blog of Penelope posting her pictures from different beach locations. So be it. It's summer, we're not taking a real vacation since we had the honeymoon and so to the beach on the weekends we go!

Our latest weekend trip was more than just your typical car-ride to visit friends. For one, we went a little further to East Hampton to visit my friend Brooskie and her husband Chris. For two, we didn't drive. We flew to New York and then took the train out to the Hamptons! How very grown up of us.

We brought the sun gods with us. And spent hours upons lovely hours lounging at the beach, dipping in the ocean, people watching. There was a lot to see, that's for sure. And on Friday, after a day soaking up sun and salt water, we were just craving some fresh seafood.

So we went to a local chowder house, ordered tons of yummy takeout and brought it to the beach where we built a fire, ate our dinner and sipped on champagne all under a beautiful moon with the waves crashing nearby. Yes, very magical! Afterwards we made s'mores.

Saturday: more beach, more swimming. Later, Chris busted out his Shelby Mustang and took us for a ride. Holy Cow! We rode that baby to their friends' house. The friends with a ton of kayaks. They took us out on the bay where we watched fireworks.

Could this weekend get any more magical? Why, yes it could!

Turned out that our friends Becca and Henry were out in East Hampton the same weekend. Becca was there for work doing some PR for Paul Rudd and his new movie Dinner for Schmucks. She put us on the guest list for the premiere afterparty, so after kayaking, we tailed it back to East Hampton in the Shelby, threw on our party outfits and showed up at an oceanside mansion UNfashionably late since the party was almost wrapping up, but we got a good hour in catching up with our friends, drinking free drinks and spotting celebrities (none of whom I knew or recognized, except for Paul Rudd who was sporting a gnarly beard).

The next day, Col and Chris woke up early, since there were finally waves and got a good morning in surfing. Meanwhile, Brooksie and I drove to Amagansett to the Hampton Chutney Co. and got breakfast dosas (an Indian crepe-like wrap with egg and cheese and lots of goodies plus chutney inside). For a drink, I got an iced cardamom coffee, which was pretty much one of the most amazing coffees I've ever had.

On the way back, Brooksie pointed Kelly "NYC Housewife" Bensimon's house (we saw her in person downtown just a few minutes later). Did a teeny weeny bit of shopping. Then went to Georgica beach to get a few more sun-hours before hopping back on the train to go home. Col and Chris surfed some more. I tried to read, but really all I wanted to do was lay there and soak it all in—how lucky we are to have such great friends, to be in such a beautiful place, to have the means and the time for little weekend get-aways like this. Amazing.

Here are a bunch of pics that Brooksie & Chris took. We were took busy doing nothing to take any of our own:

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