Saturday, November 06, 2010

"I miss the way you made the bus smell so good in the morning..."

Those were the parting words of M, a dear East Village friend (artist and fellow parent) that I bumped into one afternoon in November back in my old neighborhood.

Brian and I were shuffling up 1st Avenue after running some errands. I wanted some company as I went investigating my old - new looking - neighborhood.

We stood watching a film of the Cream reunion through the window at Kim's Video. Both of us commented on how Eric Clapton and his bandmates had aged...when who should arrive but our friend M. A few minutes laughing together made it crystal clear just how much WE had aged since our youthful days walking down Avenue A in the 1980's.

It was so invigorating to stand there in the street and chat with M. Just to be with someone who shares that old East Village sensibility. He still goes surfing in the early morning hours at Long Beach. Now his son Harry joins him. Summer or winter - he's out there in the waves, greeting the day.

What's cooler than that?

Snapped the above pic at Rockefeller Center en route to a play in midtown. New York is very good at doing Christmas...high camp.

What's cookin: My sister Liz bought me a huge cookbook for Christmas. James Beard's American Cookery. It's pretty interesing. Keep your fingers crossed as I take on a deviled eggs recipe with smoked salmon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's so beautiful, it looks fake....

When I was a child in the 60's. the title of this post was the highest compliment you could give about something -- sunsets, hairstyles, cereal. You name it.

Tonight I made fish sandwiches for dinner. Fresh flounder dipped in egg/milk and dredged in flour/cornmeal friend until light golden brown. add lettuce, tomato, slice of cheese, homemade tartar sauce, carefully pile it on a bun next to some thick cut fries and sliced cucumbers and you've got dinner in Guyville.

Brian had a long hard day at work. He took one look at his dinner and his heart took flight. He informed me that my dinner should be on the cover of Gourmet magazine for a comfort food issue. I'm not holding my breath.

Truth be told, I've recently found it difficult to feel inspired when I cook. For the last few months, I don't have much of an appetite. Could it be the vitamin D I'm taking in the morning? I've never felt this way before. Cooking (like writing) has always been a creative endeavor for me. In the last year and a half, we gave in to too many hamburger and french fries requests from Ben (made at home or a nearby diner) and tried to ignore his rapidly shrinking food pyramid. My weekly menu hits all the major food groups but I've found myself avoiding more vegetarian based meals (other than pasta with veggies) because I'm too tired to fight the fight with him. That may have been a mistake. How do I dig myself out of it? I need beans in my life.

By the way, I love my black skillet. It is my favorite pan ever and always will be. My Italian grandma had a big black pan just like mine and I worshiped it. It holds a sacred space on my kitchen wall.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Sun King

Although I have a working knowledge of world history, I am far from fluent. It's a shame really, because if I knew a bit more about Louis XIV, I would know how to deal with my son Benjamin.

The other night as he lay in bed making one royal pronouncement after another, I alerted him to a startling fact.

Me: "Benjamin, I don't want to shock you but YOU are not Louis XIV and I am not a benevolent old crone wandering around Versailles whose only purpose in life is to do your bidding."

Ben: "I understand Mommy but (fake tears) is terrible without my servants!"

Yes, it was a joke but I swear there was more than a thread of truth in those crocodile tears!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


For the past two months my life has been profoundly sane.

Much of August was spent up in Litchfield County and then a bit of beach time on Cape Cod. Up there is a picture of our favorite beach, Longnook in Truro.

Earlier this month, Ben started seventh grade at the alternative school within his school. He once again has 23 kids to a grade and classes split in half for courses just like his time at St. Lukes School. So far the transition is working out.

Thank you baby Jesus!

I also took time at the end of August to turn 48. My appreciation for nature and peace have deepened significantly in the last year.

People advocate for the slow food movement but there is something to be said for the slow life movement.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sail Away

Ben just finished two weeks of sailing camp. The pic above is the view I enjoyed while occasionally watching his rag tag group of beginning sailors bump into each other and periodically capsize. It was important for Ben to go sailing this summer. Important for both of us.

On the last day of camp, he won an award (a sailing school tee shirt) for being the most helpful sailor. This brief two week experience helped navigate my young son a little farther out of the safe harbor and out toward the open sea. The person who proudly handed me his sailing certificate is a tall, shaggy haired, sun freckled teenager. Gulp.

Cooking Comment:
A new addition to my posts because I could sure use the feedback. What do you consider a good dinner party dish to prepare when you have to feed 6 adults and five teenagers?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Jurraisic Jerk with a Side of Slaw

I have a confession to make.

Over the last year, chicken has become less and less appetizing to me. I still cook it weekly for dinner but a slow ever growing repulsion resides in my tummy.


Well, one day when I was looking at a live chicken, I realized that chickens look like baby dinosaurs. That thought promptly spiraled into the notion that dinosaurs are related to lizards.

I don't want to eat a lizard OR a baby dinosaur but when I eat chicken I am kind of doing that (give or take a few evolutions across the millenniums).

I shared this culinary crisis with my husband. He looked at me, vaguely smiled and returned to his book. A talent that has kept our marriage afloat for twenty years.

Today I checked out the weekly update on the beloved blog Blue Kitchen. I love the way Terry writes about food and his recipes rock. Please check his blog out - it's listed to the right in my blog roll.

I dove into the archives and read his first post (November 1, 2006). It's a lovely commentary on a dish called Chicken and Wine. In the post, he makes a light hearted reference to the theory that the chicken is a distant relative to the dinosaur. My heart stopped. I then went online to learn more.

The arguments are never ending. But that's a good thing. Because it leaves me with a sliver of hope that the chicken was God's only attempt at intelligent design.

Case closed.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Merging and Purging

When you move out of the City, you do a lot of driving.

When we moved to Strawberry Fields, I made a point of living right in the village so I could walk to the grocery, bakery, deli, and train station.

But the cold hard reality is that my car is now my bed fellow. And sometimes it feels like I'm waking up to a huge frat boy with Saturn LW1 stamped across his butt and I don't know how I got here. When we lived in the East Village, I never used the car. It was an object that I gladly let my husband take gender control over. Well times have changed. EVI must acclimate to this brave new four wheelin' world as she watches dust gather on her ancient red bike that could out pace the M8 bus as it rumbled across downtown.

For two weeks, I've been dropping Ben off at Rockn'Roll day camp, located in a town about fifteen minutes north of us. This commute involves merging onto a a major highway during rush hour traffic.

I HATE HATE HATE merging into major NYC bound rush hour traffic.

I feel like I'm crashing a party I'm not invited to. I feel like I'm being forced to be intimate with a stranger who may or may not
slow down
speed up
move into another lane

This is not a forgiving group of people. They go this route every day and could do it with their eyes closed (some do). There is no time for chivalry or politeness or hand holding the novice commuter (moi). The only thing that sustains me are the lessons I learned as a college student working for the Motor Vehicle Department one summer.
Most New York drivers:

cannot read
cannot speak English
cannot see

That's gotta put me in the top 50 percentile. Right?

On another note entirely, it seems like a death wave passed over my circle of friends and family in the last few weeks. No relatives passed on but friends of relatives. And the reaction has been interesting. My good friend's sister passed away and he is purging his home of stuff he should have dumped ages ago. My mom's good friend died, now she is purging her home of decades of stuff. It made me take a brutal assessment of my apartment and start tossing too.

Clearing the decks, purging the useless crap that we spent years assigning emotional value the magazine with George Harrison on the cover only the cover got ripped off two years ago in our old apartment and the front page is now page 20.

Purging is useful. As long as you keep the finger down your throat a metaphor.

Friday, July 02, 2010

First Steps

Last weekend we hosted our first official guest at our home in the woods. His name is Lucas and he is twelve years old.

It was a maiden voyage for both of us. He had never been away from his family for two nights in a row and I had not hosted someone at my home for two days in a row in years. My NYC pad was just too small. We were both a little nervous and a little excited to be taking this first step.

Lucas is Ben's life long friend. They met when they were both about one and crawling all over the playground at Tompkin's Square Park. Lucas and his family moved to Strawberry Fields from the East Village seven years ago but we always kept in touch. Now we are neighbors which is a blessing I am continually grateful for.

Both boys couldn't have been happier. They went hiking, canoeing, shooting off rockets that got stuck in tall trees, swimming and generally goofing off. His parents came to retrieve him on Sunday afternoon.

Several hours earlier a feeling of terror set into my bones.

Okay. Lunch for three children and three adults (my husband had to work that day). This should be no problem. I am actually known to be a pretty decent self taught cook. My husband and son raved about my meals -- as do my friends and family WHEN I BRING FOOD OVER TO THEIR HOUSE. Suddenly I was making a complete meals for more than my three person tribe.

Lucas and his family are vegetarian so I was careful to construct a weekend menu that he would enjoy. By the time I reached Sunday, I was drawing a complete blank. This meal was different. It was for adults. I didn't have the equipment for a quiche and it felt too hot to grill vegetables.

So I made deviled eggs. And a large colorful salad with a bit of pasta thrown in. And french bread and cheese. And watermelon. And ice cream.

Ice cream is undeniable proof of God.

Of course these guests were so kind that they would have happily eaten a bowl of cheerios with no complaint. By the time all the food was set on the table, I exhaled and my anxiety began to fade. It was replaced with the contentment that comes with good friendship and good food.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fresh From The Bronx!

...At least that is what the sign said in front of J and G, the Italian deli and market I walked into last week. A statement like that can conjure up a multitude of images. Most New Yorkers know that it's code for crunchy Italian breads, pastries and meats.

Truth be told, I had my doubts about whether this specialty shop could deliver on its promise. One great fear of moving out of the City to just outside of the City was losing easy access to ethnic food. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised.

J and G is in the Chester Heights area of Eastchester/Bronxville. They have got a good guido vibe going on in there. One wall is essentially a tribute to Italian bread. You then wander through a series of tables displaying pyramids made of boxes and bags of semolina pasta of every shape and size. There are many anti pasta items, cheeses and a deli counter that appears to have a heavy cult following.

But what you MUST buy is not in hidden in the pyramids, glass cases or even between two pieces of bread.

There is a small worn out handwritten sign, no bigger than a large index card with "Homemade Sauce $5.99 qt." scribbled across it.

And that my friends, is the reason you go back again and again.

Growing up with an Italian mother and grandmother, tomato sauce is about as personal as breast milk. This is the first time I've ever tasted a sauce that came so incredibly close to hitting the same emotional buttons as the sauce I grew up with.

So I bought six quarts and stuck'em in my freezer. A comforting reserve for those days when I just cannot cope with the thought of making dinner for my family after a grueling day at work.

Nothing like opening a container of instant Italian grandma to sooth a tired soul.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Climbing Mt. Ikea

I am forty-seven years old. It has taken my entire adulthood to prepare for yesterday morning when I took a deep breath and walked into IKEA.

When you live in a small apartment in NYC, IKEA is commonly used as a sedative to be utilized at various turning points in life. Most common among them are:

1. You've decided to stop sleeping on the floor.

2. You've decided to stop sitting on the floor.

3. You realize that having a table to eat on is a good thing.

4. Jesus Christ, you're pregnant.

5. You live in 450 square feet with a husband, your baby and your need a miracle or you will shoot yourself.

IKEA has done more to extend the leases of thousands, if not millions, of New Yorkers living in untenable space situations than any act of public policy. So needless to say, I walked into IKEA with a bit of baggage....which is why I went to the IKEA in New Haven, CT.

It would have been far too mind tripping for me to go to Brooklyn. I would see too many versions of my past self, wandering through the aisles anxiously trying to find that miracle piece of furniture that would make it all work out. My space. My marriage. My mommyhood. My career. My dreams. All stuffed into 450 square feet.

IKEA would have driven that girl to tears.

I was on a different mission now. I needed a table. A huge table for the dining space in my little house in the woods. Would it shock you to learn that the dining room table I bought is as long as my bedroom in the East Village and just as cheap? There is enough surface area to reenact the Last Supper if necessary. We even bought chairs that were so light and inexpensive that I am wondering if they can endure the weight of an average human being....well, average American human being (add 20 pounds to the early calculation).

Will report back.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Poor People Migrating to Suburbs

So I have been reading more and more about how all the white people with money are taking over all of the cities and that everyone is being pushed out into the suburbs.

This news gives me great hope. That means that the counter culture and emerging art communities will continue to do the same.

Is it possible to think that I will one day be surrounded by my beloved East Village hodge podge again? Why not? Hell, it's a free country.

I wish the entire NYC gay community would take over Westchester County...or at least Tarrytown.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Last night I went for a short walk. It was dark and I took a stroll down roads that wrapped around the perimeter of the village center I now live in. It's a switch to feel perfectly safe walking in darkness. I closed my eyes and inhaled the sweet fragrant smell of springtime.

Smelling springtime at night is heavenly. There are no flowers or sunshine to compete with. The cars and sounds of day have subsided. All that's left is darkness and fragrance with an occasional rustling of the leaves on the trees. I crossed paths with three bunny rabbits on this walk. They must all get together at night and do gymnastics on front lawns.

Which brings me to the subject of needing a housekeeper. I have never had one in my entire life. I grew up with lots of siblings and extended family in the City. All of us jammed into a small apartment building. No one was ever brought in to clean anything. It's weird to think of a stranger in my house doing the things that I feel that my husband, my son and I responsible for.

I discovered that I am the only woman in my entire department that does not have someone come in to clean on a routine basis. They are shocked that me...their foreign to this world. And yet. I cannot keep up with my household. It's usually in a shambles unless we have company coming over. It's a bad example to Ben.

My search for a maid begins.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Exhibit A

If you examine this photo closely, you will see a few of the Easter specials available at the gourmet market near my mom in law's home in North Carolina.

We have before us the Holy Trinity of Meringue Pies, Pecan Pies and Chocolate Fudge Pies.

It is my firm belief that if someone had placed a slice of each pie outside the grave of Jesus, we'd be celebrating Easter on Saturday rather than Sunday. Especially if you threw in a nice hot cup of coffee.

Speaking of God...let's encourage that Higher Power to bring our troops home. They could all use a cup of coffee and a slice of pie.

Peace to all -

Friday, April 09, 2010

Country Roads

Last week we went to visit Brian's mom. She lives in North Carolina. I think North Carolina is beautiful and this trip confirmed once again that there is nothing like the South in the springtime. The air is heavy with the fragrance of blossoming flowers and trees. The weather is warm but not too warm yet. And the days pass in a much slower pace from the madness of NY.

If Southern cuisine was a person it would be a very beautiful drag queen. I loved spending part of each day of my visit strolling the aisles of Fresh Market. It was Easter week and there were towers of cinnamon pecan rolls. Cinnamon pecan rolls are absolute proof of God.

Southerners have no guilt or denial about their relationship with sugar. It's passionate love and you see it coca cola cake.

We once again went to the Pick N' Pig in Carthage, North Carolina. Loved it like we knew we would, then turned around and went back two days later. When people in NC make pork bbq they cook it up, remove all fat and serve it with sauce on the a relative through marriage nicely phrased it "I know that you northerners like to put bbq sauce on meat while it's cooking and we just don't do that here..." I'm with them!

Lots of grits, lots of biscuits, lots of yummy. We drove home avoiding 95North and drove through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. If you are looking for heaven, that's where you can find it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I"ll jump..I swear!

So I'm walking down 9th street a few weekends ago and I lifted my head to take in the warm sunshine that was gracing NYC that day. Suddenly, the sun is blocked by a row of SUV's perched on a roof ready to commit suicide.

Please - we take it back - hybrids have not signed your death certificate. Now please step away from the ledge!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dazed and Confused

I have a confession to make. I have no friggin idea what the hell my gmail password is. Every time I log in, I swear that I take a stab at one of three passwords...and they are different every time. And they all work.

Is that allowed? Or am I just hallucinating? At first it really bothered me. Now I just offer it up to the gods and say "whatever" as I am once again logged in.

I got a swedish massage the other day at the Open Center in NYC. It was okay but not great. I missed my Spanish deep tissue massage guy. He borders on making the session an S & M ritual ...his motto being "sometimes a little pain in the right place can be a very good thing."

There's truth in those words.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Brian and Company

Granted, this photo is a few weeks old. What I would summarize as a snow hurricane swept through New York and left a TON of fluffy snow on Strawberry Fields. We live next to a park in the village center, so Brian, Ben and I marched into the snow and began our snow sculpting. It was still snowing and no one else was out yet except a few people en route to the post office.

My snow person was a bit more like a snow bear....a mutant snow bear. Ben choose to put his skills to military use and build a snow fort. I'd say Brian got it just about perfect with the fellow next to him. Well done!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Snow Alert

How can Virginia stand another snow storm? Thought I heard the news say that some parts of that state should expect one to two feet.


Brian drove down to Annapolis this afternoon. He needs to be there when the movers arrive tomorrow morning. They'll be picking up a small collection of furniture we are taking from his dad's old house. This is Brian's last trip down there. The last trip for any of us. The house is sold and his dad's wife is moving back to St. Louis.

Brian doesn't notice that on these last trips down there, he always packs the shirt he wore the day his dad passed away. He was with him.

I watched as he packed it again today. The mind is a curious thing.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the snow doesn't hit Maryland until he is well on the road to NYC.

Monday, January 04, 2010

And so we begin....

I should be asleep. My holiday ended twenty six minutes ago.

The day after Christmas, we packed up and trucked up to Litchfield County, CT. Good friends of ours have a country house there that we stay at while they are away for the holiday. It is nestled in a beautiful wooded area next to a big stream and a huge hill.

On New Year's Eve, we joined a bunch of friends from the City who also stay up there for a big dinner party. It amazes me how my beautiful friend V can feed 15 people a glorious sit down dinner without breaking into a sweat. I would like to join the ranks of this rarefied group.

On New Years Day, I went for a walk down the snowy country road by the house. The stream follows the road -- and it was just the two of us. Going out for a winter walk is so invigorating. You can't help but feel hopeful about the new year ahead.

In my next post, I will discuss my latest obsession with slow cookers...and why I must have one.