Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Breaking Promises

Or not.  I hope.

This month sees me restarting my monthly challenges, and also, did I mention, it's SPRING BREAK?

Spring break!

What does that mean?  Some projects and aims.  Not too many, obviously, because I do not want to overwhelm the vacation time (there's not that much of it), or me (and make myself feel bad about not achieving enough).  But I do want to get some stuff done.  What?
  • A trip to a museum - I really want to get to the FIT exhibition on the 1930s, not least because a friend works there and has raved about it.
  • A bathroom re-org - my bathroom shelves are amazingly full of a ridiculous amount of things.  It's absurd.  I need to get it together. 
  • A garden cleanup - it has been a miserable, long winter and the garden has suffered.  So much snow and ice, for so long - in fact, after I wrote this post there was snow on the ground until about mid-March, and it's only just got warm enough to be sure of no more frozen ground.
  • A bath or two - I love, love, love hot baths, and I think I'm going to get myself scrubbed and steamed and deep cleansed.  
So just four things.  That's it.  I'm also going to see my cousin, visit Providence, see old friends, and read grownup books so that my just-read-widget on the right of this blog doesn't only show Young Adult fiction (as much as I love that genre - and there is Zealot, too, which is not too bad), which is a wonderful, wonderful thing. 


Friday, January 03, 2014

Snow Day!

Today is a snow day here in NYC.  This means that schools are shut and, thus, my educational organization is closed and I am at home.  I have some work to do, of course, but not having to commute also provides an opportunity to potter round the house, catch up on some tv (hello, Scandal and Sleepy Hollow), take (overdue) books back to the library, and generally enjoy being at home. 

I've also decided to do the January Cure again, a cleanse for the home.  January is a bit of a mental month, workwise, but it's cold, we're trying to cut back on expenses, and so I plan to spend quite a bit of time at home.  Some of that time is going to involve reading all the fabulous new books I have -  gifted to me or borrowed from the BPL - playing backgammon, cooking, and working on the apartment, so that it's a nicer place to do all those things.

Yesterday and this weekend's tasks are already up on the site.  I have to make a list of all the projects I need to do.  Then I have to vacuum and clean the floors, make sure I have nice cleaning things in the house (mostly vinegar, it seems), and buy flowers.  The latter is basically why I do this cure business:  so that I remember to and am required - nay, impelled! - to buy flowers.

I've also taken a few other steps to cut back on things.  I've unsubscribed to as many of the emails trying to make me buy things as I've been able to, so far.  Hopefully I've caught most of them, but I'm sure there are a few still lurking.  I am sick of waking up and having 20+ emails that solely want to generate within me the need to spend money - something that's all too easily induced.  So they're OUT.  Hurrah.

Who knows, with all this resolved, firm spirit, we may even write our wedding thank you cards.

Just joshing.  Let's not go overboard.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I go through bouts of domesticity every now and then.* Most are connected to circumstance - and having a day off. The juxtaposition of Veterans Day and the cooling temperatures meant that I had a day to do some tidying up in the garden. This forced me to ponder what to do with several of the bundles of green things I had growing in the garden.

This year we actually had more parsley than ever before, after years of failing to grow any. I'm not sure this will work, but I've seen many suggestions that one should make a pesto-type thing with the leaves, and freeze in ice cube trays. So that I've done - albeit with a mixture of oil and water, and it's more of a slurry than a proper pesto, I'd say. I've read some posts that say to add the garlic/pine nuts/parmesan now, some say later, so I'll stick with the later, seeing as the parsley really is for parsley use, rather than to accompany pasta.

The lavender - two types! - I've hung up to dry. This is supposed to happen in a darkish, cool place, which conveniently describes our basement-based bedroom, so that smells glorious right now.

The thyme - goodness, SO much of it. I've frozen a portion - only a portion so as to test this method. This is frozen without cover, at all, and apparently the leaves will all loosen and drop off as early as tomorrow, and I can then put them in a jar to keep frozen for the next year.

I'm most excited about the lemon verbena. I followed various blogs and decided to blitz with sugar (1/2 cup of the latter to accompany two cups of the former, albeit with an additional few leaves of basil that were clinging to life in the garden). This is now flattened in a sandwich bag in the freezer, and apparently I can just break off chunks as and when I feel like it - to go on fruit, ice cream, to be dissolved and added to drinks to bring back the taste of summer... you get the idea. Of course, I had a sneaky taste to make sure it was adequate, and it appears to be rather lovely right now, so I'm very much looking forward to using it - in a gimlet, for sure, and this concoction, although I'm not sure I'll be able to bring myself to call it a jamtini...

* That bout of domesticity has been highly rewarding, as we've ploughed through the chutney and, at this rate, will be out of it well before the end of the year.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Losing My Voice

I can't really trace it back to a specific time or place.  It's been happening for a while, now, but it's been in the past six months that it has accelerated beyond my control.
I remember mocking TOH for once, while on the train out to New Jersey - to Elizabeth for a pilgrimage to cheap chests of drawers and bookshelves at IKEA, I think, but I could be wrong - for exclaiming at all the "soccer fields."  It was hilarious and ridiculous; it was a story to tell our families and friends of the Americanisation (-zation?) he was undergoing, while I remained pristine, the intact Londoner.  I think I really believed that would continue; that I would live here without being touched by it - at least in this respect.
Of course, words crept in, here and there.  That was inevitable.  It's impossible to make oneself understood otherwise.  Phone calls can be particularly painful, with my clipped, cold accent, long vowels, and Old World vocabulary.  Then there would come the joshing - it's you who haven't moved on, US of A, with your language that's closer to ye olde English of the Pilgrims - we've evolved.  We use a preterite, where I come from - that's what I learnt. 
It's like a steady form of memory loss, this erasure of my identity, my tongue.  Is that British?  What is the word for that at home?  Is it the same?  Explaining the nuances of "quite"; substituting it with "pretty."  Where would I emphasi(s)e that word?  Where does that stress come in?  Ad-DRESS.  AD-dress. 

Shop.  Store.  Boots.  Cleats.  Football.  Football.  I mean football.  The one where more than two players actually use their feet.  I mean NFL.  College Football. 

August, 2013.  I am in a cab, heading home from the supermarket.  That's home-home, not Brooklyn-home.  I have two homes.  My mum got back from a hospital stay a few hours ago; I have picked up provisions.  The cab driver asks me where I live.  I'm taken aback, but then I realise - it's because I clearly don't live here anymore.  US?  Yes, nine years.  He speaks with a thick Indian accent; he moved to Britain in his late 30s and, despite being in his 50s now, he struggles with the language still, a little - he started learning it too late.  He struggles with certain words ("Well, 'mumble' means...") and with my accent.  I get to my destination, and he takes my shopping across the street for me.  I leave him a tip; he doesn't realise that I have left, lost, a little of my soul, my heart, a sense of myself, in his car.
Some things stick.  Pronunciations.  Quarter.  Water. 
Tomato is the real kicker, the one that I avoid saying if I can, at all. 

I used to slip into my accent - myself, the person I still think I am - like a comfy slipper.  With British strangers; with family on the phone; with friends in the pub at home.  Now, I struggle.  I can't remember what I sounded like.  I can't drink full British pints; I order halves.  The voice is unnatural, forced.  Even when surrounded by people from home, I don't sound like them.  It used to irritate me, my inability to keep my accent - I would become Bristolian-light if with people from the West Country; Brummie in Birmingham; and flatten my vowels with anyone north of Leicester.  My accent ever was a bastardized thing, with East and West Midlands parents, Sarf-East London roots, and for much of my childhood, a desperate need to not sound Sarf-East, my telephone voice for work (terribly home counties and nice), my reclaiming of London for university, my Yorkshire partner.  Sometimes people from home couldn't tell which part of the country I was from.  But it was me; British me; original me. And for some reason, it's much harder to accept that there is, indeed, NYC me mingled in how I speak.  Tipping; clothing; demanding good customer service; good summers, with free parties and concerts and outdoor activities; expecting 24-hour cheap public transport and cabs.  These things are all easily part of me.  But not the voice.  Please not the voice.
I still say London when people ask where I'm from.  But it is increasingly hard to sound like it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

When Life Doesn't Ripen Your Tomatoes?

Make Chutney.

Early in the summer, as in every year we've lived here, we planted tomatoes.  A lot of tomatoes.

Precisely five ripened.

Yes, you read that right.  Five.

Therefore, come Saturday, I realised I had nearly 2 kilos of unripened, green tomatoes to dispose of.  I was loathe to fry them all, and googling brought up the concept of a chutney instead.  I ummed and ah-ed and to-ed and fro-ed between two recipes, and eventually settled on this one, mainly because it used the weight of tomatoes that I actually had.  So I checked the status of our spice stores and empty jars - I knew I kept them all for a reason! - and, with the aid of two apples from the farmers market, I ploughed ahead.  I cannot recommend this enough, not least because it makes your house smell absolutely divine during and after the process for days.

 Did you know that tomatoes ripen from the inside?  Me neither.  But I suppose I'd never thought about it until I saw these beauties on Saturday.
You salt the apples and tomatoes, with some lemon zest and lemon flesh.  Handily, I'd just managed to peel a teeny bit of skin off my little finger, so that lemon was very welcome.  Then you mix up oil, TWO whole heads of garlic, numerous chilli peppers (one from our garden), and ginger.  I was extremely proud of myself from abstaining from rubbing my chillied fingers on my eyes pre-contact lens insertion.  Miraculous.
 You fry up fenugreek seeds, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, mustard seeds, ground cumin and turmeric, and then when the mustard seeds pop, add in the garlic/chilli/ginger paste and cook up for 5 minutes or so.
 You add the tomatoes, some sugar (we only had Demerara), apple cider vinegar (probably 150ml or so), boil to dissolve all the sugar, and then simmer for ages and ages to thicken.  It said 2-3 hours, but we did it for at least four hours, then allowed to stand overnight and deposited it into the aforementioned jars the next morning.

And... it is absolutely bloody awesome.  Brilliant.  We took a jar to give to a friend yesterday (yes, we're those gift-givers - homemade preserves), and tonight I had grilled chicken, vegetables, and a large dollop of chutney.  I'm basically going to have it with everything I make for the next two months.