Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Rural View

I am very, very, very much a city dweller. Don't worry, some of my best friends are country-loving folk. But I love people, bustling around; buildings. When friends and I discuss the places we most want to visit, mine are generally cities - Istanbul, Rio, Buenos Aires, Cracow, St. Petersburg - and theirs are often expanses, landscapes, without people.

Nonetheless, I adore riding trains, particularly the route from London to Sheffield, where I am visiting Dr. TOH's family, because England is so bloody pretty. Not awesome, not spectacular - no giant deserts or mountains or things on an American scale - but spectacularly pretty. It is breathtaking - rolling green hills, with hedgerows and farming equipment scattered around; chocolate box houses, sometimes clustered in small hamlets; horses idling grazing, cows loitering; barges along canals; kestrels hovering overhead. Perhaps because of the milder temperatures here - although it's still ludicrously warm in New York - I think winter is more becoming to the English landscape than that of the northeastern seaboard in the United States. That becomes very brown and scrubby, where here it seems more suitable, somehow, with the smaller, closed skies.

My brother will be heading northward to the north west of Scotland, where he now lives, and I am extremely envious of that journey. The light and the greens and soft greys and blues of Scottish landscape are yet another thing I've not seen enough of, but I have wonderful memories of from the few times I've been to Scotland.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wired Out

Finally, finally, TOH and I finished The Wire last night. I searched my old blogging history to work out just how long we've been watching it. Definitely since before February, 2008, when I posted this - we'd already finished Season 1 at that stage. Ulp. So I think about four years. In Netflix DVD fees, I'm pretty certain that we could have bought it for less, seeing as it's available for under $150 on Amazon right now. Although we borrowed the series from people, so we weren't renting it that whole time. But still - a tad embarrassing to go through it so slowly.

There's not much to say, really - an extraordinary tv programme that rarely descended into sentiment or schmaltz, and treated its viewers with the intelligence they deserved. Other than the final episode, which I guess could be forgiven some self-indulgence, there were not meaningful cityscape shots, sunsets; no black bag American Beauty-style moments. The show allowed you, the viewer, to work out ambiguities and unfairness and beauty. Although many have slated the final season - Gus really was too good to be true; his "failings" of loyalty and stubbornness were, in fact, virtues - I loved the unraveling and the sense of continuity. The way that you could feel affection for a cold blooded murderer, but loathe a weaselly political staffer who did no physical violence to anyone.

It has to be said that I am now extremely excited about the prospect of other tv shows and using our netflix dvd for movies, not heavy hitting drama series. Bring on The Killing!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Rider to the Rescue

So, I'm not a massive fan (i.e. at all) of Adele's music, but I get why people like it; it just does nothing for me. And she doesn't like tomatoes in sandwiches - what's wrong with her? Crazy fool. But I loved reading her tour rider and working out what I'd put on mine. So here goes:
  • Satsumas
  • Terra Blue potato crisps (seriously, these things are like crack)
  • Kettle for boiling water (she got that right!), Yorkshire tea, and non-homogenized milk
  • Toast & marmite making material (with non-US butter)
  • Crudites - cucumber, carrot, celery - & hummus
  • iPad with Worms Armageddon and Angry Birds HD (all three forms) on it
  • Fizzy water
  • Playing cards & poker chips
  • Pen & paper
  • Variety of wine: Spanish rose; Alto Adige or Albariño for white; and a Nero D'avola/Barbera Asti
  • Hendricks gin & dry vermouth; cucumber (for garnish)
  • Peep Show/Psych/Scrubs/Veronica Mars/Father Ted on dvd.
Sorted

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Balling

Today was the second of my attempts to re-train my gait to see if midfoot striking (outside ball of the foot) helps me run. Today definitely went better than last time. Maybe it was because I knew a bit more about what my foot form was supposed to be (mucho googling when I should have been working this morning revealed foot pointing forward in dorsiflexed form, ball striking lightly under the weight of the body, heel striking little, if any), maybe it was because I wore my knee brace, or maybe it was because my calves were a little stronger and muscle memory knew what to expect. Who knows. I'm not 100% sure about it - and not even 75% sure I'm doing it right - but it does seem to be going a bit better. Tuesday will be the next attempt. I'll keep you posted; do try to concentrate on your own lives until then.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MYB Challenge: 3/3 and 3/4?

Well, yesterday something rare and beautiful happened: I went to the gym. No, really. Admittedly, it was a brief visit as I managed to get there about 25 mins before closing, although going to that gym adds an extra 15 minute walk to my day, thanks to location of trains home. Of course, I only went to pick up my stuff from my locker, seeing as my rental had expired. But in a money saving kick I decided I didn't need laundry/locker seeing as I only go to that gym once in a blue moon, having migrated downtown to try to take advantage of a buddy effect which was, over the summer at least, seeming to work.

That was definitely 3/3.

Well, it may have been 3/4. But I don't think so. I did a long haul to buy groceries on Sunday so that I could purchase free-range beef (the lack of free range meat in almost any shop in New York unless it's uber fancy is yet another thing to complain about re supermarkets in NYC (see: Cheese) and something I'd like to post about another time), so does that count? It gave me an extra 45 minute walk instead of a local place, as well as placing me higher on the list in cow heaven. So that might have been 3/3. Right?

Anyway, I think I might try to go for a run tonight. Might. It's rainy and grim, but I always liked that weather for running.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

MYB 4 for 4 challenge: 3/2 complete!

On the recommendation of Charlie Brooker, no less, I downloaded an app that helps you build up to 5k of running in 6 weeks. I thought that as my knee is still very much crocked, this might be the smart way to do things. Unfortunately, I also decided today was the day to try out running on the balls of my feet, and I'm not sure it works. Definitely weird going downhill, my knee feels twingey and unhappy. But then, it did before I went out, so I'm not sure it made any difference. I will persevere.

Still, exercise for today done!

Friday, November 25, 2011

MYB 4for4 challenge: postponed (but 3/1 complete!)

The past week has seen a pathetic lack of activity from me, even for me. I managed to go for a piddly little walk in Rhode Island, made longer because a friend lost her camera cover and we retraced our steps, but otherwise it's been work, home, sleep, and little else. Rubbish. So I decided to give myself a hiatus of a week, and have just restarted Week 3.

Week 3 started with a whimper, but got up and running with my first ever game of American Football - playing, that is, seeing as I've spent a hideous number of hours watching it. Turns out it's quite hard, this whole running wind sprints, bashing into other people (next time I'm wearing a mouthguard, I swear), turning and catching and spinning round. I was, frankly, quite hopeless - I can't catch, can't throw, and can't block very well either. It was absolutely brilliant.

It was also an excellent way to rev up some hunger for the wonder that is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving provides the opportunity to celebrate a Christmas-like feast with friends, drink fabulous cocktails like this Tippecanoe Sparkler and Tasting Table's awesome Autumn Whiskey Sours (from this grand collection of autumnal recipes). I also made this fabulous cranberry salsa - it was definitely on the spicier side, but really tasty, and I bet is heaven with turkey leftovers, as the fabulous Kalyn suggests (seriously, I've not had a dud recipe from her yet - everything has been glorious, but I particularly recommend this chickpea, sumac, red pepper & mint recipe - absolutely amazing). And then the pros took over and produced a gorgeous turkey feast. It's just such a lovely way to spend a day. And then you fall asleep early from all the tryptophan and booze, and get some solid sleeping done. Or you come home and watch a lot of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Ahem.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stephen Lawrence

It's hard to express what I experienced as I just read about Duwayne Brooks' testimony in the trial of two men for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It's hard to express just how much Stephen Lawrence dying meant, how profoundly it affected me growing up in southeast London, a few miles from where he was beaten to death.

The first time I saw the flowers around the tree where he died, was when it hit me how close to home that was. We were in the car, an old blue Ford Cavalier whose number plate I still remember and which got nicked in Middlesbrough not long after this, and we were going swimming. I saw the flowers, and it hit me that this was where he'd bled to death. Just like that, on a road I travelled along probably once a month or so. Right there, within a bus ride. And I was not just angry for him, and his family's loss; I was terrified. That who I lived near, walked around, mingled with, could think such vile, racist things and could do that to someone. It was one of the first times my brain managed to comprehend fully that I did not share the values of people I lived with and near. I was scared, disappointed, and alienated. Typical teenage emotions as one grows up and away from home, but I think I had lived in this happy bubble and while knowing there were issues with racism, that wasn't what we were mostly like. And then this happened, and all most people knew about this pocket of southeast London was a disgusting murder; we all scrambled to distinguish and disassociate our neighbourhoods - be they Lewisham, Catford, 9r Hither Green - from Eltham.

I was terrified, angry, upset; I also lost some of my naivety about where I lived. My hometown, as it were, was always a bit rough around the edges, but this was something vicious, unexpected, an evil underbelly about which I'd been clueless; the lessening of my view of it and its people hurt a lot. But none of that compares to what Brooks went through, or that he would testify today after the loss of his father last night.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MYB 4 for 4 - 2/3 & 2/4 Complete


Sunday was a mixture of loveliness and, for want of a better term, bleurgh. The bleurgh being the work and, alas, losing a rather bad-tempered second football match against a very annoying team, annoying particularly because they definitely were not better than we were. Ugh. But we won the first with some fabulous (for us) football, and TOH and I got to the Botanic Garden to see the Japanese Garden and the bonsai trees in their autumnal glory. They were remarkable - beautiful shades of red and yellow, including one bonsai with two trunks that had one half red, the other yellow. I'm not sure how I feel about bonsai, given that they appear to suffer the equivalent of footbinding for trees. Additionally, despite having no psychological or psychiatric training, they do seem to be quite a transparent (and futile) attempt to control nature completely. Nonetheless, these are beautiful things, and the bonsai, both in blossom and in their foliage change, have provided extreme beauty this year. We're thinking of redoing our photo positions for next year's BBG membership, and the bonsai may well be included in the new lot.



Monday saw me desperately trying to wonder how I was to complete week two of the MYB 4 for 4 challenge - morning was not possible (chores before work) and the evening saw a send off for a dear friend at work. So I decided to get let out of the cab early with a colleague and walk the 20 minutes back to the apartment, instead of getting the cab home. Not exactly going for a run or sweating much, but better than I would have done without the challenge. Which is the point, I think.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Move Your Body! 2/2 Complete

We've had a couple of great Saturdays of late. Last weekend we bought some lovely pork and fixings at the Farmers' Market at Grand Army Plaza, scoffed a fantastic peppermint hot chocolate from Blue Marble, and I did some gardening and snipped and froze a ton of sage, thyme and rosemary from the garden, per these instructions, so that we will hopefully have fresh and tasty herbs for the winter. Today we went for a walk around Prospect Park, full of yellows and reds and people playing flag football, ate a fantastic pumpkin ice cream pie and another peppermint hot chocolate from the fabulous Blue Marble, and then stuffed our faces with a lovely Saturday brunch - not often we get to do that.

The walk is what I'm counting as my MYB 4/4 challenge today - it was so nice to be out and about. I also took a longer walk up to Union Square after brunch, rather than the closest subway. I'm trying to be more active, honestly.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

MOVE IT! 1/4 and 2/1 Complete

So, Week 1 of the MYB 4 for 4 challenge finally forced me to use a voucher I'd bought, due to expire on Thursday night, for bikram at a place near work. Five classes for $45, a pretty sweet deal. Except I was all out of sorts - exhausted (for various reasons), I'd played footie the day before and my hip was giving me some trouble, I'd slept funny and so I had an aching left shoulder and neck muscles. I didn't drink enough water during the day, either. Plus, as much as I am not a morning person, each previous trip to Bikram in the evening had been pretty rough, indicating that for exercise, at least, 7am is better for me than 8.30pm. When I ran a lot, the best time was about 6.45pm, straight after work, for some reason, but I can't often take a class at that time these days.

This is a long-winded, self-justifying way of saying I complete sucked at it. Absolutely awful. I managed maybe half the standing series and, pathetically enough, the mat series, too. I ache a little today, to show that there was some stretching. This was, in fact, the frustrating thing - my half moon pose was pretty good, still, hand to feet ok, and my triangle - when I could do it - was awesome, for me, at least. And the second set of fixed firm had my shoulders almost back on the floor, already. But I just could not keep up. It was rubbish, frankly.

This morning I completed the first piece of exercise for week 2. I had to rush out and zoom in a highly aerobic walk to the co-op because, as per usual, I was sluggish this morning and too late to make it on time without sweating. The walk back to the subway was accompanied by listening to the author of Born to Run on the slate sport podcast. Most people take him as a proponent of barefoot running but, from his discussion on that podcast, his main focus appears to be on recalibrating running styles so that the ball of your foot is the major place that strikes the ground, not the heel. It's intriguing. Given that I've tried various other things - physio, orthotics, support shoes - it's certainly beguiling to think there's this fix out there... Hmm...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

MOVE IT! 1/3 Complete

Today was the New York marathon, and TOH and I ambled up to Clinton Hill, between the mile 8 and mile 9 markers, to see if we could spot our friend, Al, who was running. Despite frantically checking his progress on the handy website tracker, we somehow missed him; we had failed to tell him where we'd be or check what he'd be wearing. Suddenly, having gone through a sparse patch of runners, there were hundreds of them, everywhere, and we failed to find him. But he finished in a fantastic 3:43:57, and I am immensely proud of that achievement. I still don't want to run a marathon, but am absolutely awed by everyone who does. It's rare that we get to cheer on an everyday person - someone with a day job, and maybe not that much natural athletic ability - doing something absolutely physically remarkable. Which is, I think, one of the reasons why I love the marathon.

The place to watch it is definitely Fort Greene/Clinton Hill. As we wandered west toward the Q train for our football match, we went through that neighbourhood and heard funk bands, drummers, an awesome school band, and an amazing gospel choir outside a church. All there to entertain the runners and everyone there, and it was a fantastic New York day. It didn't hurt that the sun was shining, the sky was blue and clear, the leaves on the trees were yellow and red and orange, and it was fun to be wandering around.

Then came our game. Hard work, today. I got winded after a giant collision with a dude who while not large, is a lot bigger than me; there is also a guy on the team we played today who plays rough and I do not like, but I tried not to get too enraged. Well, not too often. My hip twinged a lot, but I don't tend to mind that as it takes my mind off my aching knee. We drew, 2-2; not a great result, but a hard fought, tough game. And three pieces of exercise complete. Which means I absolutely have to work out tomorrow, and that conveniently means I might finally use my groupon which expires this week...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

MOVE IT! 1/2 Complete?

The problem with New York is that it is full of mid-week temptation. In fact, going out mid-week in New York is far, far more interesting and fun, what with the bars not being overrun by idiots. Or even just other people. Not so keen on other people.

Anyway, Wednesdays are a particular weak spot for me, and last night was no exception. A lovely dinner and drinks at The Smith had us weakening and thinking of going home. Which, in all sanity, we should have done. But we didn't; we had (expensive!) tickets for Soulwax and so in an impulsive moment, decided to head on into Webster Hall to see what was going on. As luck would have it, Soulwax came on within seconds of us entering the main hall, and a lively hour or so ensued with much enthusiastic (if rubbish) dancing from me. I think that counts, right?

ps Soulwax - excellent.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

MOVE IT! 1/1 Complete

The recent massive upsurge in my work has meant that physical exercise has decidedly gone on the back burner. So, I've decided to sign up for the MYB (Move Your Booty - yep, that's the name!) challenge - The 4 for 4. The idea is that in November, you commit to four pieces of exercise each week for the four weeks. It's doable, I swear. I swear. Ulp. So out I trotted for a run yesterday - slow, creaky, my knee killing me by the end (I'm using it as a motivation tool to start stretching and strengthening again), but out I went. And, unsurprisingly, I felt gloriously better for it. The sun had set and there was a warm, orangey-yellow glow under the cool blue sky. I ran weaving in and out of blocks, and exploring my neighbourhood in a way that only happens when I go running; I went down streets I'd never gone down before, despite living here for over two years. It was great, and reminded me how much more peaceful I feel when I run. I need to fix my knee. Dr. TOH, it's a round of medical appointments again, I guess.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

All Carved Up





Hallowe'en here should be fun - dressing up, excessive excitement - but I find the obsession with "sexy" costumes utterly boring, and having been stuck on a train coming in from Long Island with youth pounding bud lights and vomiting in the toilets - at 7.30pm - it's just all a bit disappointing. Maybe it's a hangover from my youth in which I thought it was fun, but nowhere near as much fun as the fireworks, bonfires and sparklers that come with Guy Fawkes' Night a week later, pyromaniac that I am. Or maybe it's partly because I don't really like American "candy" that much - if I were likely to have a basket full of tasty chocolate, as opposed to Hershey's style chocolate, it might help.

Nonetheless, there are definitely Hallowe'en things I do enjoy, and pumpkins are one of them. Last night Dr. TOH and I partook of a traditional Rhode Island event that was remarkable in many ways. It's unseasonably cold - bloody well snowing in NYC today, for goodness' sake - and maybe that put off the crowds, but there were not the rumoured massive queues and problems reaching the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo. I'm not sure what I expected, but although I think I was a little disappointed at the painted pumpkins that were then carved, it was a remarkable experience. Not least for the choices of what represented a nation's identity, the theme being a Journey Round the World. The British bit started ok, what with James Bond and the Beatles' All You Need Is Love playing. We then hit Churchill and the Italian Job, but as the Beatles faded into the Benny Hill theme tune and I saw the Mr. Bean one, I began to despair, and that was confirmed with TOH's triumphant shrieks that there was, as he predicted, a Wills & Kate one. Ye gods.

But the best bit was at the end, where there was just pumpkin upon pumpkin, some absolutely bloody enormous (so big they had whole other pumpkins tucked inside). They looked spectacular, a strange dance track with cackling looped over and over, and it was beautiful. Hence the photos galore. So see below Frida Kahlo, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Jack Sparrow & Fidel Castro (I'm sure placing them next to each other was not a coincidence), and some amazing pumpkins.














Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Status Anxiety

To change or not to change, that is the question. Yes, the modern dilemma that confronts a person's life: Do I change my Facebook status to state "Married"? A friend of mine just changed hers, out of the blue (I had no real idea she'd got married) and so I had a mind grape or two about it.

The reasons against:
  • I don't really think it's any of anyone's business
  • I don't think it should be of relevance to people or be upfront as something about me - for example, I'm a Ms., and a Ms. I will remain - I don't think my marital status should be so on display.
The reasons why my arguments are not quite perhaps as effective as they should be:
  • My status is "in a relationship."
So for all my protesting (although, admittedly, two bullet points don't seem like much protesting but they are vehement), I do put the fact that I'm in a relationship out there. I like to think that "in a relationship" is ambiguous - the way I thought using "partner" would be in the United States when I first arrived here* - but it's not, really, only in my head. But I now justify keeping it because it's important that the relationship I am in is the same: the questions you receive once married tend to be all about the length of the marriage, and the wedding itself, or the proposal, rings and so on; the twelve years beforehand - just plucking a number out of a hat - are relegated to secondary status. We didn't stop being in that relationship because we're married. But, really, maybe this would be more effective (although a moot conversation) if I didn't have the status at all.
  • The status applies to men and women
So my "Ms." argument is not quite apposite, really and, as discussed in the previous answer, I already place an importance on my relationship that places it as the third most important thing about me - according to Facebook, at least.

My overall feeling, however, is that I just don't want to change it. As we come up to six months of marriage I have enjoyed every bit of it, with one or two notable exceptions aside, and it hasn't suddenly changed me as a person in some of the ways that I worried previously. But my fundamental unease at the centrality and import society and, of course, many of my acquaintance place on being married, along with the expectations of me as a married person, hasn't altered at all. So it stays the same. For now.

* Strangely, in the past few years I have noticed an increased acceptance of the term "partner" for hetero couples. Of course, this is snatching the term from gay couples, but I think it so nicely describes a relationship that I'm pleased that there is something that isn't just boyfriend/girlfriend, dating and marriage. There's now room in the straight couple catalogue for that option.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fatalistic

Last night, TOH and I actually managed a date. Despite my best attempts to ruin it by taking the wrong train, and then waiting 20 minutes on the platform for a train back the other way. We've not been in the same city for more than about 12 hours since before the Kefalonia trip, and despite various work and social obligations this weekend, we decided to make the most of it. So a movie and dinner, the traditional American date.

The dinner was pretty awesome - the place where we had our wedding party which, conveniently is just round the corner, and I love.

The movie was glorious but not exactly romance-inducing. We watched Senna. I'd heard Mark Kermode rave about it, which is always a recommendation. Additionally, despite my general lack of interest in Formula 1, I loved Senna - dashing, handsome, and charming in a world of Nigel Mansells. So we watched it; and - let's it get it out there without spoilers - it was emotionally wrenching. Wrenching. But brilliant. What an extraordinary man.

But probably not the best of date movies, although I suppose if you want your date vulnerable and sobbing on your shoulder, as I was, then it is definitely worth $14.

Monday, August 29, 2011

This Cursing Isle


According to all round action hero Patrick Leigh Fermor, Kefalonians are renowned for their foul language. Sadly, my Greek does not extend to that level of familiarity with their swearing vocabulary, and despite my attempts to persuade various friendly, lovely people we met to teach me some, I didn't manage to learn any. So count that as the only failure of what was a glorious stay on the island.*

We were staying in what was supposed to be a small, remote town, and although I understand why someone would describe it thus, it wasn't what we were expecting - I think TOH and I both assumed that this would mean not very touristy, which is definitely not the case, but it was certainly quiet, too. More importantly, the hotel in which we stayed, Olivemare, was absolutely wonderful. Beautifully designed and decorated - all calm whites and whitewash, with a clear, turquoise pool and glowing candles full of camellia blossoms and olive leaves, made by the owner's cousin - it was relaxing, quiet and the perfect place to get some serious sleep. The food was wonderful, lots of fresh, local tomatoes, cheese, olive oil and homemade breads.

Almost better than the haven of the hotel, however, were the recommendations from the hotel owner, Marilena, who provided us with a new favourite bar - and this is a global assessment - and links to some of the most glorious swimming spots. I had forgotten just how much I love sea swimming, and the Aegean is the clearest water I think I've ever seen - turquoisey but absolutely like crystal, sharp and coolly refreshing but warm enough to bask in it.

The sea at Myrtos, however, is a different beast altogether. Sadly, my lack of poetic and wordsmith ability handicaps me here; the best description I have is that it was the closest I'll ever get to swimming in copper sulphate solution, the blue stuff that brought both TOH and me much joy in our chemistry in action sets as children (clearly our love was destined). The water at Myrtos was impossibly blue, the sort of shade that one hears of in travelogues, but never expect to actually see for oneself. And there it was, in front of me. A glorious afternoon was spent bathing and revelling in its blueness.

We walked along mountain tops; at sunset, overlooking the cliffs and with the isle of Zante in the distance, drank beers and ate Greek salad (χωριάτικη, khoriatiki - which means rustic, apparently - my one solidly learnt Greek word) souvlaki, fighting off the fiercely carnivorous wasps and watching the reds and pinks light up the sky while in the distance the cities lit up for nighttime; we dipped our feet in the pool while reading and raced individual medleys (flooding the pool area during the butterfly leg); and played Bezique in the evenings with a glass of Metaxa.

I know Greece is in turmoil, facing a transition in its way of life and the choices the government has made about productivity, work-life balance and so forth. Faced with such glorious natural riches - geography, climate, food and drink - one can see why people might think there is more to life than making money and hitting the rat race, yet, currently, it seems the lifestyle is unsustainable in the current format. But I hope that doesn't completely eradicate the warmth and joy of the people we met, and the sense that while one needs a roof over ones head, working isn't the be all and end all of life. It's one of the things I love most about the south of Europe; I think some people here in the US are genuinely puzzled by it, and misdiagnose it as laziness, rather than perspective. There's surely a happy medium to be reached.

* While on a flight to Istanbul home (it's boring and complicated as to why, but Turkish Airlines gets a big thumbs up, including the appalling Man Utd flight safety videos) I did, however, remember a very rude word in Turkish that a girl from secondary school taught me (thanks, Tezay. I wonder what she's doing now). I refrained from using it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Go Away

It's been raining continuously for at least nineteen hours now. Yesterday morning was gloriously sunny, yesterday afternoon it clouded over but with a nice breeze, and it stayed warm. But it was thunderously pouring at around two this morning, and although the intensity has waxed and waned, it has rained non-stop since then. It woke me up in the middle of the night several times; one growl of thunder lasted longer than any individual clap I've ever heard. It's been a remarkable sustained effort from the raingods today.

I don't quite understand New York summer storms. While in other places the release of thunder heralds some sort of break in humidity and heat, those things seem to intensify with summer rain here. Thus for the first time in ages I'm going to have to put on the dehumidifier* on. Usually I'd empty the full tank onto the garden but, obviously, that's a little pointless right now. I think it's probably doing the garden a world of good, helping our tomatoes to grow - the tomatoes that are going to end up ripening right while I'm away. I can feel it.


* Every time I use it I think of The Onion point-counterpoint article that sadly is not online but is absolute genius:

Point-Counterpoint: Humidity
"What We Need Is More Humidity" - Duracraft Natural Warm Moisture Humidifier, Model DH-901
"Humidity Must Be Destroyed" - Edison 25 pt. Dehumidifier, Model DHE25W

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Tom Tom Club

Last year, despite some early excitement, we basically grew no tomatoes. Well, we managed to grow one, solitary tomato from seed (which was, I swear, the greatest tomato I've ever eaten). We blamed the ridiculously sweltering weather, but I'm pretty sure our ineptness had something to do with it. This was a striking change from the year before, where our landlady had somehow magically grown a billion tomatoes that we had for breakfast on toast every day for what seemed like a month.

Undeterred, we decided to try again to grow from seed this year. I did actually harden them this year, and when it came time to pot them out, in a pathetic lack of ruthlessness, we couldn't bear to chuck them out. So every possible pot contained some sort of tomato plant. We did not have any room to even consider purchased seedlings; everything is full with one of our little seeds that could. We even removed some shrubbery and, instead of letting the strawberries grow into that spot, put in our tomatoes instead.

It appears our softheartedness has paid off, because in the ground and in a random pot we have an abundance of tomatoes. Some are plum, and ripened or nearly there; the regular tomatoes are green and will be ripe in a matter of weeks. Those ground-based plants smell amazingly tomatoey - there's no other smell like that earthy, viney smell of tomatoes growing; the stems are laden down with the enormous weight of the fruit. It's glorious.

So tomatoes we're doing better with. We also have parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, sage and thyme (and a ridiculous abundance of the latter two) which is utterly satisfying as well as (boringly enough) economically sounder than continually purchasing plastic-wrapped bunches of herbs that we don't end up using.

Now we just have to work out what I did wrong to the lavender. Gah.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Empire State of Mind

Picture from Wunderground

Today the first gay marriages took place in New York state. Nothing thus far like earthquakes or the world falling apart, although our fridge did break yesterday. I'm not sure if there's any link between those two events. But this rainbow-Niagara Falls is rather appropriate and wonderful. Let's hope that, among all the sweating in record temperatures, some people are made very very happy today. Good luck to all the couples. Let's hope the DOMA hearings knock some sense into the U.S. politicians at some point soon. Senators Al Franken and Patrick Leahy are doing their best.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Figs & Lilies


This post is horribly contrived, but as I was working out a way to plug a glorious bakery near my house, it occurred to me that the last few weeks have brought me great joy in the forms of lilies and figs.

The garden's lilies have been something of exquisite wonder. Because the weather has been, thus far, less brutal than last year's summer, we've enjoyed a lot of lily action, and this year some featured a glorious deep red through orange contrast that we just didn't see last year.


Yesterday also brought this fabulous cake, a deep, rich red velvet that a) tasted chocolatey, wonder of all things, and b) was moist and rich without being too heavy for what was a blazing hot Saturday afternoon. It's from a bakery two blocks away. My intentions to check it out were finally prompted by the combination of a groupon coupon, and a bridal shower that I was helping to organise. I probably didn't need the two cakes (ahem!) but it was definitely a hit.

I've also discovered that one of the fruit stands near work sells boxes of figs. I sat and munched my way through a couple of boxes this week and realised that fruit can be bearable. I'm trying to up my intake of fruit & veg - the veg part isn't usually hard for me, but I do have a fruit block issue. I don't know why, but it just never appeals to me. I'd much rather eat savoury food. On the other hand, if I force myself to purchase it for work, then I do eat it rather than just munching on crisps all the time; I do love crisps. (Yes, this insightful and profound commentary is why you read this blog).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lush Life



Not that I’m a lush, but there have been some monumental cocktails in my life of late.

First, when Must Own More was in town, we had two of the most spectacularly good versions of old-school, classic cocktails that I’ve had in a while at the hotel in which she kipped.* She had a fabulous Hendricks martini in a gloriously elegant martini glass (I coveted it a great deal); I, somewhat tired and, perhaps a tad hungover, had a spicy, tasty bloody mary that perfectly balanced tomato and vodka – I find quite frequently that a bloody mary errs too much either way. This was great. And pretty.


Then over the Treason Weekend/Independence Day Bank holiday weekend TOH and I went to the Cocktail Culture exhibition at RISD. Not only was it ace – interesting, funny, remarkable shirts and dresses everywhere - we saw a perfect, six-glass set (plus ice cube bowl and tongs) of our cocktail shaker and glasses (only four, sadly) that we had purchased about six months previously from What Cheer!. What Cheer! is not only the Providence city motto, it’s a fun, jam-packed basement of treasures that has amazing old postcards, glassware, and many, many twelve-inch remixes of LaToya & Jermaine Jackson records. I could quite happily spend a fortune there. I suspect, somewhat fortunately for us, that the price of the cocktail shaker would have been considerably more had the purveyor known that a full set would end up in that exhibition. As it is, we know now that it was made probably between 1933 and 1940. Very exciting indeed.

That weekend we also made Jameson Whiskey Sours using this recipe from one of my favourite cocktail blogs (and from where I discovered the Murricane, joy of my life). It was the first time in my life I’ve really enjoyed a [Name Your Spirit] Sour – making it from scratch with one’s own simple syrup, freshly squeezed lemons and with a beautiful curl of orange peel creates a concoction a world away from the grim, processed sour mix that often comes from a place that is happy to serve you a Midori Sour (bleurgh and yes, I have drunk one of those. Not recommended).


* We also saw Patrick Viera who, unsurprisingly, is a) very beautiful in real life (footballers, unlike actors, are always considerably larger height- and muscle-wise when you see them in person) and b) had a very pretty wife. Sadly, almost no one in this country could get quite as excited as I did but bloody hell – that made my star-spotting year. There was also excellent Euro-rich type spotting.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Abundance


The garden has been looking absolutely spectacular of late. I can say that with immense joy and pride, although my own part in it has been, frankly, minimal. Our landlady crafted and nurtured a beautiful thing, and we just have to tend and help it along. Although we've done our part - we've been enjoying our lettuce that's been growing like a mad thing, and we're hopeful - so hopeful - that the tomatoes will fruit this year. We've been fairly self-sufficient with the lettuce thus far, although we need to learn the habits of repeat sowing so that you end up with fresh, sweet tasting lettuces throughout the summer, rather than growing it all at once and then it getting bitter from being left in the ground too long. Hmm. Still, it's been fabulous.







Monday, June 27, 2011

2011: The Midway Point

Well, I wasn't sure what I'd be doing right now, but I certainly didn't think that as of June 30, 2011, I would be married. ULP. At least it's to the person who I thought I would marry if I were to marry anyone - that wasn't a surprise, I suppose.

Nonetheless, it's time for my midpoint review of what I've liked in terms of the "arts" so far this year. I think it'll be useful for my end of year review, if nothing else.* So here we go:

Albums
  • Pala by Friendly Fires. This has barely been off my stereo since I got it. I really wasn't sure about it at first, but having seen them a couple of times live (see below in Gigs), the songs have grown on me beyond all measure and I'm loving this album. In fact, right now I listen to it far more than the first album which I still adore.
  • Space Is Only Noise by Nicolas Jaar. This album is, frankly, brilliant, although my favourite Jaar track appears only on an EP (Mi Mujer, if you're interested).
  • Stone Rollin' by Raphael Saadiq. Funk, rock, soul, everything all mixed in. I will always adore Raphael Saadiq for his work as part of Lucy Pearl (seriously, a RIDICULOUSLY underrated album), but this is the first piece of solo work that I've really loved.
Concerts
  • LCD Soundsystem at MSG. Frankly, nothing will ever compete with this gig. Ever. Not even the Pixies at Primavera in 2004, and that was transcendental to me. Magic.
  • Friendly Fires at Bowery Ballroom. Tucked right at the front, a major dance party, it's so so so hard to beat Friendly Fires.
  • Sleigh Bells and CSS at Bowery Ballroom.
So there you go.

*TOH thinks it's ridiculous but, frankly, I don't care.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Something Good Can Happen To You

I'll be honest, it's been a pretty hairy work week. I've been tired and grumpy.

But yesterday, two rather wonderful things happened.

For the women and men who use Planned Parenthood in Indiana, thankfully the District Court slapped down Indiana's attempt to completely shut down federal funding. That Indiana was willing to prevent health care for thousands of people because of the tiny proportion of PP's services that are abortions is, sadly enough, pretty standard. But this was a well-reasoned decision and hopefully will stand. Doubtless Indiana will appeal to get to the Supreme Court but, for now, things are good.

But that got overshadowed by the thing that I really did not think would happen, even a few days ago: Gay marriage is legal in NY. Not civil unions, not domestic partnerships, but marriage. Both TOH and I welled up last night just watching the news, let alone the people who'd fought so hard for it. It's bloody brilliant. We are also taking full responsibility for it, by the way: we get married, and less than two months later, it gets signed into law and in less than three months, it will come into effect. Clearly they were waiting for seismic changes in the marriage landscape - if I can, with my general previous flagrant disregard for it, surely the gays aren't going to do it any damage.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Visibility

This weekend we went to our first wedding post-having-had-one-ourselves. It was lovely - the couple was extremely happy, glowing, and clearly had a good time, which is what you'd want.

My one slight smear on the occasion was confronting one of the things that made me so recalcitrant about marriage in the first place. I was busy looking for a namecard with two names - mine and TOH's - when I discovered that, to be blunt, I no longer had a name. Our card was the equivalent of, for example, Emma Thompson being Mrs. Kenneth Branagh. My first name was his; I basically did not exist without him.

I was genuinely quite shocked at it, and also at how strongly I reacted to it. I was not a happy bunny. And the thing is, it won't be the last time something like this happens, and I have to work out a strategy to deal with it in a way that is constructive, and perhaps as an opportunity to point out to someone that this is not ok, and why (although, of course, not immediately in the middle of the wedding. that might be a bit tacky). But again today I got an invitation as Mrs. TOH, and I felt annoyed, and defensive about pointing out that this is not my name. I don't think it's particularly strident to be firm about this, but I am already weary of something that will, sadly, probably happen fairly often for the rest of my life.

TOH and I made a choice to get married, and we talked long and hard and frequently about why it was a difficult choice for me, in particular. I am grateful for that being a choice, of course (talks not going anywhere in Albany on NY's bill, and crap like this doesn't help). So grumble grumble, but hopefully something significant will happen in NY this week that will overshadow my grievances and make many people happy and legally secure in their relationships. That would be wonderful.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Poco a Poco

There's a lot of guff spouted about yoga's ability to teach you patience and the value of regular practice to achieve a goal.

And yet, and yet. This morning I achieved, for the first time ever, a full fixed firm pose.* This is the pose that I've had the most success in - as in, the pose in which I've made the most rapid improvement. The sense of exhilaration that went through me as I got my shoulders on the floor was, I'm sure, entirely un-yogic ("I am the Serenest"!), but it is a nice balance to my complete lack of, well, balance. Actually, that's not true. I'm slowly getting a little better at locking my legs for the balancing poses, and my balancing stick is mucho mejor now. Those are always humbling, but it's nice to get a bit of reward and see real progress.

Still, it'll be a while before I join these ranks.

* Sweet zeus, please ignore the hippie stuff. I just wanted you to see the pic of what it looks like if you're not, like, a total yogini.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Resolutions: May Update

Yikes, it's been quite the while since I rapped at ya about my resolutions. I've had a lot on my plate. Sort of.
  1. Shooting, Shooting, Shooting: Take the camera off auto-settings. I'm not going to lie, I've been seriously lazy about this. But I am getting a little better at judging, not lease deciding what I don't like with the auto settings and fiddling around to change the exposure. So I am slowly but surely learning a little more but, to be honest, not that much.
  2. Cooking, cooking, and more cooking. We've been doing pretty well on this - we did lots of slow cooking, but now the weather is better that's out of the picture. But last weekend we cooked sand shark (!) on the barbecue after marinading it in soy and ginger and honey, as well as trying out rum-laced versions of almond joy milkshakes (divine!). This is what happens when you don't update regularly - you completely forget what you've done. I firmly believe in those reports about the utter unreliability of witnesses' memory - I barely remember what I've done one week to next, let alone the last three months.
  3. Reading, reading and more reading. An achievement! I read VS Naipaul's A Bend in the River; somewhat coincidentally, the discomfort I felt at his descriptions of women have been somewhat backed up by his words about female authors, but I can't help thinking I should act along the lines advised in this post - accept the bad, learn from it and learn from the mastery of his prose. It was an extremely uncomfortable but fascinating read. And, somewhat coincidentally I am, for the first time, reading Sense and Sensibility, mostly inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates' amazing posts revelling in Austen's writing.
  4. Looking, looking and more looking - at exhibitions. Hmm, not so great on this, although we have used the Brooklyn Botanic Garden frequently and enjoyed the Cherry Blossom season, and also Rose Night recently (with a glorious sweet rose martini).
  5. Solving, solving, solving. Having gone through a very good patch, I've been utterly rubbish at this recently. Partly because I've been reading a lot more (was completely obsessed with this very silly book, in part because there's a lot of discussion of the history of alchemy and science, or so I tell myself), including - shock! - my book club book for the month. It's hard for me to strike a balance, really.
So there you go. Surely worth the wait.

Friday, June 03, 2011

To Do

Things I will attempt to achieve this weekend:
  • Play football
  • Ride my bike around Prospect Park
  • Go for a physical check up
  • Sort out wedding photos
  • Sort out paperwork / do spring cleaning on our masses of piles of paper scattered round the house
  • Update blog with photos and resolution progress
Easy peasy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tardiness & Indebtedness

Argh, I am late with many posts I owe you, faithful readers. Those are the Botanic Garden updates from March, April and now May (triple argh!) and also some resolution updates. They will happen, honestly. Honestly.

I am so ashamed.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hubris

I did two things this weekend that guaranteed I would wake up to thunder and pouring rain this morning.

First, I offered our house to host a friend's birthday barbecue. She's just moved, didn't feel ready, we're suckers for this, it's at our house later today.

Second, I decided this weekend it was hot enough that I had to do the annual cold-hot weather clothing switchover. This frees up a lot of space in our closet, and changes the feel of it from dark and gloomy to gloriously sunny and full of colour. There's no space for big, heavy woollen clothing in various shades of navy, grey and black. Oh no. Instead, summer dresses and skirts in a variety of yellows, reds, pinks and light blues emerge. It definitely gets one in the mood for summer.

Until it pours with rain and the rumbling of thunder wakes you up. Bummer.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blast from the Past

Sadly, since the whole getting married business, TOH and I have not had much time together - he's been gallivanting here there and everywhere for conferences, and I have been working rather a lot. Last night we attempted to remedy that a little. We had another swing dancing lesson (we have FIVE WHOLE MOVES now), and then wandered to the Highline for, shamefully, my first jaunt up there. Although admittedly, we mostly just sat down. That dancing business is tiring.

Then we got to the real business of the evening: Tia Pol, a glorious Spanish restaurant near the Highline, was doing a calçotada. Admittedly, it's a little late in the year, but that's a by-product of the tremendously late spring we have here in New York.* Calçots are big sort of spring onion things that you roast and eat with a thick garlicky tomatoey paste called romesco sauce. Calçot season is usually over by mid-April in Barcelona, so it was an unexpected bonus to be able at the end of May to drink cava, eat calçots dipped in romesco sauce - and then stuff our faces with txipirones (baby squid), jamon serrano, pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato), pork belly, pimientos de padron (fire-blasted serrano peppers with salt), accompanied by a lovely rosado Txakolina - the slightly effervescent Basque wine with which I am currently obsessed.

Sadly, the iPhone I have cannot possibly do justice to the hilariously bong-like vessel from which we drank our cava, but here are a couple of very dark photos from the evening. I ended up with cava all down me, frankly, but a fun way to attempt to drink, if not desperately efficient.

* If it even deserves the title of "spring" this year. It essentially has been two weeks of vaguely pleasant temperatures, five weeks of torrential rain and cold, and suddenly it's 85 and sweaty. Ah, New York.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Ahem


It's been a couple of weeks since I rapped at ya, but that's because somewhat eventful things have been occurring. As it were. There is mucho to catch up on, dear reader.

But in the meantime, a piece of advice: If you're going to reverse course on something as big as whether to marry someone, at least do it how you bloody well want to. And have fun.

Having someone take as great a photo of you as this is just a phenomenal bonus.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Change of Heart

Would that we could all put it so well:
I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me because I have railed so long against marriage. But doth not the appetite alter? A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age. Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humor? No, the world must be peopled. When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.
Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing (and not Mucho Ado About Nothing, as I originally typed), Act 2, Scene 3.

(Sent from a very perceptive and brilliant lady).

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Like to Move It, Move It: Part II

I'm still trying to keep up with my challenge for April of twenty pieces of exercise in thirty days. Since my last report, I've done a fair bit and am up to eight. I'm quite pleased with it all, really.

April 6 - Bikram yoga
April 7 - Midtown walking (instead of catching the subway to the doctor's, I walk the 20 mins each way)
April 8 - Bikram yoga
April 9 - Horseriding

We went riding in a rather strange farm just over the Massachusetts border this weekend. I rode a lot as a kid - much more than you'd expect from someone who grew up in Catford - and it was weird to ride after such a long absence. Other than a turn in Costa Rica, I've not been on a horse seriously since I was about fifteen. I used to love it and although nervous, the smells - the horses themselves, the barn, the leather - brought a flood of familiarity and warmth. In turn, the riding has subsequently brought cramp from pressing down in the stirrups, and massively sore inner thighs from my seat - where one's "seat" is the position/balance one has in the saddle. It requires pushing down and into the saddle and thus is the source of my pain today. And yesterday.

I'm also on the look out for new songs to run to. I want to start trying to run again regularly - even if it's just once a week - and I'm very much stuck with mid-90s dance which, while I love, I can't help thinking there must have been some decent music made since the turn of the century. So I'm going to try out some of that stuff and get myself in gear. I think. I hope. Flowers are finally blooming, trees are filling with blossom, and it's about time I got myself outside and enjoying the milder temperatures, later sunsets and floral smells before the summer stench takes over.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Chores

Tonight's to do list is eclectic:
  1. Pack for Providence
  2. Clean up kitchen so that catsitters aren't horrified by my mess (when TOH is not in town I do revert to my innate slobbiness in a way that would frighten him, I think, if he knew its true extent)
  3. Solder broken jewellery with my newly bought and frankly terrifying soldering kit
  4. Use newly purchased loctite super glue to repair a couple of oven dishes
  5. Plant seeds - or, as I'm going away, is that stupid?
  6. Wash yoga kit and bed linen
  7. Somehow do all my work
  8. Persuade plumber that he really does want to give me an invoice for work done and replace cistern lid
  9. Work through 2 episodes of BSG (I'm so ready for this programme to be over, even though I'm enjoying it)
  10. Get to bed in time to have 6 hours' sleep before getting up for Bikram in the morning
Easy peasy.

Monday, April 04, 2011

I Like to Move It Move It

It's April! It's finally seemingly starting to get warm! Hooray. In honour of the sun slowly starting to shine, I'm doing this MYB challenge - 20 pieces of exercise, from yoga to push ups to running, in the month of April. My buddy in this is the blog - making me do this and be accountable for it. We'll see how that goes but, thus far:

April 1 - press ups (I'm back doing the hundredpushups challenge)
April 2 - danced a LOT at a concert
April 3 - football
April 4 - press ups

So far, so good. Four down, sixteen to go.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

It Won't Get Any Better

I can remember the exact moment when I first heard - or, rather, knowingly heard - an LCD Soundsystem tune. It was in late 2004 or very early 2005 - John Peel had just died, to date it - in Hi-Fi, a bar in the East Village in NYC, and a friend from home was visiting. I'd sort of lost touch with new music, and she could not believe I'd not heard of them; she put on Daft Punk Is Playing at My House for me.

I can't say I was an instant convert, but when Sound of Silver came out, it slowly but surely happened for me, and the first time I saw them live, that was it: I was in love. I did not think I'd love a band again in the way that I did as a teenager but LCD Soundsystem provided the soundtrack to my falling in love with New York, with developing strong and solid bonds with my friends here.

And now James Murphy et al. are retiring LCD. While I'm saddened by that, the real devastation came when I missed out on tickets to the last ever show at MSG but, fortunately, we scored tickets this week when they released more. We're going to be in the gods, barely able to see, but we need to be there; LCD has been a soundtrack to our time in NYC, it feels right to be there when the band signs off. Although we saw them last night at the pen-penultimate gig, it would not have been the same. While I can't quite believe we won't get to see LCD perform again, I think it's a good thing, it's time; the shows have got increasingly large with increasingly large numbers of idiots and people who don't seem to care about the old stuff. Go out on a high before you end up lacking respect for the people who behave like idiots at your shows, I say. Go out when people love you, when people will mourn you with genuine love and affection.

I will.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Abstemious (Part II)

Ye gods, the indulgences have just kept coming.

Saturday: our friend made an array of Italian starters (including a fabulous calamari and bean salad and some amazing mortadella mousse), then we had a ridiculous slow-cooked rabbit ragu and his homemade porchetta, followed by assorted desserts and including one of the best ice creams I've ever eaten, a pumpkin one that wasn't too heavy at all, or overly cinnamony (my pet peeve re pumpkin flavoured things) from this fabulous place very near to us.

Sunday: we made that tried and true friend of ours, this ridiculous cod dish which is utterly simple, wholesome and comforting with a truly remarkable depth of flavour.

Monday: I may have been converted to oysters, thanks to a trip to Desnuda. The ceviche was crisp, glorious to look at in its many colours, but the highlights were tea-smoked oysters, and a phenomenal basic oyster plate with ginger shallot, and increasingly smokey and spicy toppings. Yes, I am a convert. Despite them still being slightly like licking phlegm off a tortoise. Now to get myself to the John Dory's happy hour.

Tuesday: Tia Pol is one of my dearest friend's happiest places and I finally have been to share it with her. The food is, frankly, ridiculous, as is the wine list - we actually had two bottles of wine that I am serving at my wine club on Friday night. Auspicious - particularly as they were both excellent. The tapas are great - I don't know what they do to the chickpeas, but they are glorious, as is a squid dish in its own ink that makes you look like you've decided to become a Goth. Fabulous.

Time to sit indoors with some very plain pasta and think about all I've consumed, methinks.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Abstemious

So, after a week full of vegetables and roasting and fun, I've come to a very large amount of rather indulgent food in a very short space of time. But, honestly, it's been GLORIOUS. Glorious. Thursday night was spent with extraordinarily inventive small plates at Casa Mono, where my personal highlight was a virulently garlickly sopa de ajo, pungent and sweet, that served as the bed for a crispy and extremely tasty little fillet of fresh mackerel; the duck egg, fried and gooily spooling over the duck confit was perfect.

And then last night was even better, possibly. Dovetail is one of my favourite restaurants, and not just because one of my closest friends works there. But that does help. We sat at the bar and ate our way through so many good things, it's hard to single anything out, but the goat ravioli was wonderful and the soft boiled egg on a bed of bacon, oyster mushrooms, butternut squash was one of the best things I've eaten in a very, very long time. I also had a Slovenian white wine (liked it - very unusual) and tried a phenomenal red wine that I've not had before, a Bonarda.

And tonight, one of the best cooks I know is preparing a giant feast for us. It's a hard life.

Except I DO have to do some work for the next few hours and it's cancelled my day plans. So, you know, it's not all fun and games.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fun With Vegetables

No, this is not a dodgy sexual predilection post. Instead, it's one reflecting genuine joy regarding the cooking and eating I've done this week. Usually when on a health kick I retreat to the same things: soup, maybe salad for lunch, or a baked potato, followed by supper of roasted veg, possibly with a veggie burger. The veg - mushrooms, onions, courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes, peppers and (v important) whole cloves of garlic in their skin, so that they get sweet and mushy and delicious - are always roasted with a little chile and oregano and white wine vinegar. This week has all been a variation on the latter, but with much more experimentation and fun results.

Monday, I had my traditional roasted veg, but with a LOT more garlic than usual and loads of crushed fennel seeds over the top. Tuesday, I stir-fried brussels sprouts, peppers, courgettes, shallots and garlic with a garlic & black bean sauce and water (to semi-steam the veg), and had that with a shedload of kimchi (seriously, when did my obsession with that start? dunno, but it's here for the foreseeable future). And Wednesday was possibly the most experimental (for me) - a first attempt at cooking okra, which I stir-fried with leeks for a while, then added black pepper, a couple of chopped tomatoes, let them simmer for a bit and then added a touch of curry powder, and then served that with the ubiquitous veggie burger and a sriracha spiked mayonnaise.* Plus a big batch of kale chips - I finished off some a friend had made for me, then on Wednesday attempted them myself. Not up to my friends' levels, yet, but they are damned good. So yes, while the vegan burgers have been the same boring protein, I like that boring protein, and the veg has more than made up for it.

Oh, and my local 24 hour, organic grocer's - where I have been purchasing all this veg - sells my favourite, favourite BCN beer - Estrella Damm. Fabulous.


* Note: the sauces, of course, were not homemade. I'm not made of time/madness/that thorough.

March Mehness

A frequent question during my month off drinking is "Why February?" January makes more sense to a lot of people - the excesses of December need to be shirked from one's body and I have quite a few friends who do choose January. But January is cold, bitter, and (most importantly) TOH's birthday, so I can't choose January. Plus, why go cold turkey? Foolish.

My usual blithe (and honest) answer is that February is the shortest month. Yes, I give myself a day off for VD so that TOH and I can enjoy a bottle or two of plonk. So, in fact, it's only 27 days. But that seems enough for me.

Some people suggest March, however, little preparing themselves for the horror that suggestion inspires. Frankly, March is already dreadful enough without prohibiting myself from a warming glass of bourbon, a comforting spicy red wine or something along those lines. I have grown to loathe March since moving to the US. At home it's nippy and windy and rainy, it's true, but it's somehow offset by the blossom and blooms and sense that the year really is progressing to warmer, nicer weather. By this time of year the magnolia tree on my road is in near to full bloom, Mum and I hopefully will have already had a trip out to see the bluebells, and there will be crocuses and daffodils everywhere, with the air often heavy with the smell of hyacinths.

Days like today solidify my loathing. It's extremely gloomy; the clocks having changed made no odds this morning with the murky light barely penetrating my windows, making it seem as if I were up at half five instead of closer to eight. It's just above freezing, and raining, although we're promised by the weather people that this will all clear up this afternoon and be positively warm starting tomorrow. But, not trusting March, I can't quite believe there won't still be some sting in the tail, some snow left to come. The mini gardens along the route to work are still scrubby and brown, there's hardly any foliage anywhere as of yet. There are daffodils poking their green shoots out in the garden but they won't arrive fully for another couple of weeks yet.

Many people complain about the "summer" in Britain, whether from there or overseas, but for me, it's a very close run thing as to whether I'd prefer the NYC summers (which are often filled with disgusting humidity, thunderstorms and insect bites beyond belief) or an earlier, longer spring, rather than the four weeks we get in April/May before it becomes sweltering.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Proverbial Bat

I've come to the conclusion that I need glasses more or less all the time. Given my forgetfulness, I've decided to plump for contacts. It's all a bit strange, really, but it came to a head when I was getting breakfast the other morning (avocado on toasted wholemeal bagel - a truly glorious breakfast) and I couldn't read any of the wall signs without squinting and they were all a little fuzzy even with very severe scrunching of my eye muscles. Not dignified, good for my crow's feet, or for seeing potential muggers.*

So, here we go. I have to be fitted and given a lesson (seriously - an hour's lesson!), and then I'm going to set reminders in my calendar to change them every two weeks. I'm nervous but actually quite excited; apart from anything else, it means that I'll be able to see the other end of the pitch for my eleven-a-side football. Whether I'll be able to run it is another issue altogether - I played two back-to-back yesterday and my knee is not right, unsurprisingly.** It's just reached a plateau that means back to the doctor I go because, apart from anything, TOH is still convinced I can get better. That's based on all his years of medical training, obviously - and his eternal and gloriously sunny optimism which is a wonderful tonic for my naturally rather morose reactions to this sort of thing.

* I occasionally get (nonsensically) panicked about being attacked and going through one of those courtroom cross-examinations where the defence lawyer picks apart the fact that I can't really see that far. Yes, I'm paranoid; contacts should at least assuage that a teeny bit. Note that I do not get panicked about actually being mugged.

** Also not right: my back, shoulders, glutes, ribs, my left ankle which got one hell of a kick from an opposing player yesterday. Also injured: my pride and dignity after I had a real shocker upfront - from the sublime(ish) the week before (a reasonably well-taken goal) to the ridiculously awful.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Keeping Myself to Myself

This week TOH is off skiing in somewhere in the Rockies. It doesn't really amount to much more time apart than usual, but it is rare that I have a Saturday or Sunday night without him. Usually I try and embrace and enjoy the time for me to watch terrible, terrible tv (Fashion Police, I'm looking at you), eat aubergines and rarely leave the house.

Yesterday, however, I was still feeling the aftereffects of Friday night's fun, so I just sat and ate pasta, drank red wine, and watched Hot Fuzz for what may be the 50th time. Today involves hoeing the garden, football and then some gentle work tonight, probably in front of Battlestar Galactica (which I am STILL working my way through) or An Idiot Abroad, which is on our On Demand channel and according to reports is very interesting indeed.

But for now: time to grab the gloves, gardening apron and get out in the garden for half an hour.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Botanics: February

Last weekend we went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens for the second in our series of monthly visits. (In fact, we even went once in-between when we had friends in town - we're all BBG, all the time, it seems). The major change was, obviously, the change in temperature that had thawed (most of) the snow and brought out far more visitors to share the gardens with than on our previous trips. So I'm not going to post all of the photos because although there is now green to be seen, there's not much flowering and still an awful lot of brown stalks everywhere. Occasional crocuses and snowdrops could be seen, which bodes well for our visits in March and April.


The fountain.


The cherry orchards from above.


The herb garden - you can see green things! sort of!


Proof that the temperatures haven't climbed that much.


The flowering quince - absolutely spectacular. I find bonsai and their cultivation a bit strange, I have to say, but this was exquisite.

Resolutions: February Update

  1. Shooting, Shooting, Shooting: Take the camera off auto-settings. This has been pretty hard. I'm getting better, in part because I've occasionally resorted to seeing what the contrast is between settings I use and the auto setting uses, and then reaching a compromise. It's been tricky to realise that I need to adjust the settings, often between shots. It sounds silly, but it's just not been automatic for me, but I'm training myself and getting better. And, often I choose my own settings or something close to that than the auto settings, which makes me happy. It's just time, really, that I need.
  2. Cooking, cooking, and more cooking. We've been ok on this. This month we made a pepperoni pizza soup from Tasting Table, which was pretty good but I'm not desperate to repeat it. There hasn't been as much cooking as usual because work during February was somewhat overwhelming - it was a lot of leftovers and cobbling together what I could find in the cupboard. Hopefully March will prove a little more inspiring.
  3. Reading, reading and more reading. Not good. I don't even have one of the 100 book list entries out from the library to pretend I'll read and then have to return. Will remedy that now. A Bend in the River is what I will not be reading in March.
  4. Looking, looking and more looking - at exhibitions. Again, a little bit of a fail. As in, I didn't go anywhere. But again, February was a bit miserable in terms of time to spare for fun things.
  5. Solving, solving, solving. Done some but not many.
So, February was far less successful than January. But I'm hopeful that March will be a little better...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Address Book

I just purchased a copy of Sense and Sensibility on the internets (horrified to admit that I have never read it and certainly don't own a copy, so I'm remedying that thanks to TNC's current and rather lovely obsession with Austen), and decided to have it sent home rather than to work, which is my default for larger items. And I was struck, as I always am when I change address on Amazon, by the list of addresses and names that my packages have been sent to in the past. It features the flat I lived in with this lady in Blackheath when we first graduated from university; Mum's home; Dad's home; my flat in Barcelona; TOH's parents and various work addresses over here, plus his home in Providence; and the apartment we lived in when we first arrived, in Washington Heights - the first place we ever lived together. It's a little reminder of how times have changed and brings back a strange amalgam of memories. But good ones.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Moderation

Moderating intake is something I'm not good at. This explains this whole month - it's all or nothing. I read a very interesting article that discussed ways that people lost weight by subtly changing their lifestyles - listening to the radio every day for three months, walking round the block every day - and that helped them make positive weight-loss changes so that they lost weight slowly but kept it off. I was pondering those methods this morning, and I would love to think that I could do some of those with my less healthy habits.

But then I remembered cheese. O, cheese. I have no ability to moderate when it comes to cheese. Which is why I just can't have it in the house other than a lump of pungent, sweaty pecorino that a) I believe moved houses with us nearly two years ago and b) I can't really cut off chunks and eat on its own. So while I'm all for the gently, gently approach cheese is the one substance for which I refuse to even try "moderation." My only moderation can be to have none of it anywhere near my fridge. And I will eat it with abandon when outside the house.