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.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


The range of emotions and responses I have felt during the last month - vacillating between incandescent fury, nihilism, and ostriching (a new verb I have coined for burying ones head in the sand and ignoring things - in response to the Zimmerman acquittal, the punting of affirmative action, and the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act are things that I struggle with.  I thought about posting before, but what am I going to say? Why is what I have to say important?

It's not, really.  Because other people who deal with this can say it much better than me.  Like this.  And this.  And this.  And this.  And this.

So, time to not shut up about it, time not to ostrich.  That's not right.  Not sure how I'm going to do this, but keep listening, working, and yelling about injustice.  And, just as importantly, stepping out the way for other voices who are the ones who face this themselves rather than second hand me.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Hours

Summer. It's great. 

Well, mostly. The garden is thriving, thanks to a sweaty, damp June and, so far, July is rather similar. In May, TOH wrangled the hose out from the basement but, other than testing it that first day, it has remained unused, thanks to the frequent outbursts of rain. 

Still, there is enough good weather to warrant time outdoors. My new job (even after a year, it's "my new job") moves to summer hours come June. Then it's 10-6, and July and August see me doing 9-5. I am an owl rather than a lark, it's true, and thus I'm not always overjoyed by this change. Nonetheless, this year I'm determined to take advantage of it. We've been weeding, eating, grilling, and just reading outside, a lot.

Last Thursday saw us take advantage by having me plonk down my bags to save space in Brooklyn bridge park for a few of us to watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The best part was undoubtedly the viewing of Twist and Shout where almost the entire audience got up and danced. It was glorious. 

There's something almost alive about the atmosphere - the air hums with it - when watching a much loved movie with people who love it as much as you. Last year we saw Coming to America at a Brooklyn institution, and both She's Your Queen solo and the Soul-Glo commercial were lustily belted out by the crowd. Usually I am the grinch of movie watching - I glare, tut, and hiss at crunching, chatting, texting, and all other distractions. But among a throng, it could not be better.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

While the Cat's Away...

...the mouse drinks a lot of rosé, listens to Round the Horne and other Radio 4 Extra gems, catches up on discobelle, dancing astronaut, and other fab sources of electronica to download, watches a lot of Psych and Fringe, and eats aubergine.

On the menu this week, as well: bowling, barbecuing, and enjoying my last week of 11am work starts until September. Bring it!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Just for One Day

The saying goes that you should never meet your heroes - you don't want to be disappointed.  Not that Bradley Wiggins is a "hero" of mine, in the full on sense, but I have greatly admired him - strong, disciplined, seems to not treat cycling as the be all and end all, AND he trained in South London's Herne Hill (not that far from where I grew up).

Still, sometimes you shouldn't know too much about what your heroes think.

According to an interview reported in The Guardian, Wiggins described his poor descent after a crash in the Giro D'Italia as descending "like a bit of a girl really after the crash ... Not to disrespect girls, I have one at home."

The part that of that statement that I find almost gloriously ludicrous is the "not to disrespect girls, I have one at home." Okay, the first part is awful, and sexist, regardless - he explicitly links a poor, timid, physically weak and lacking performance to being like a girl.  Not a boy - not a young, callow, weaker male, but a female. Then, beautifully, he says that's not disrespecting girls - ha! Of course not - how could one possibly find it disrespectful?

The next bit is my favourite, however. He then somehow tries to ameliorate his sexism with a take on the classic "some of my best friends are black/gay/women" shtick - it's okay that he said it, because he has a daughter. So he, and that statement, clearly couldn't be sexist - Q.E.D.  Duh.  If you don't get that, clearly you are ignoring the fact that he and his wife bore a daughter.

Actually, in some ways I think it's worse that he has a daughter and said it - his poor daughter. How awful to know that you have a father who associates weak and losing performances with being a girl - like her. Oh, I'm sure he'd argue, not her - because she's different, I'm sure. But he lives with her, supposedly loves her, and yet thinks this.

Yes, he'd had a big disappointment in the race. We have an awful lot of exposure to athletes, and that includes times when they're severely disappointed, angry, and frustrated. I personally loathe the inside-the-locker-room thing that they do, particularly with U.S. sports - I don't want to invade what is an intensely private sphere. We don't go into a classroom to interview a teacher after she finds out that her students didn't pass an exam; we don't go into a partner's office after she loses a legal case. We should grant athletes some privacy, some space to be disappointed, angry, and frustrated.

Nonetheless, those spontaneous, off the cuff remarks can reveal a lot about someone's prejudices - be they on the basis of gender, race, sexuality, or anything else. And Wiggins, here, revealed that he thinks girls are weak. And then used his little girl to somehow, supposedly, defuse that.

Just awful.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Adventures in Breakfasting

Margaret Thatcher's funeral was today.  My intense dislike for her has meant that I'm not sorry for her passing, and I've been disappointed at some responses to her from people I'd expect more of, and been rather pleasantly surprised at the responses of some others I would not necessarily expect to be so clearly thoughtful, if imperfect.

Anyway, I'm over it.  The beeb has been going on about it, and in striving for balance I, of course, think they're attributing good things to her that clearly are not true. But there you go. 

On to more important things:  BREAKFAST. As an antidote to the Maggie love, and the sight of Osborne at the funeral, I decided that I wanted to listen to something rather different (the left-leaning tendencies of the good folks at TWIB FM), and enjoy a cup of Yorkshire tea (she didn't have much time for those folks, it seems), and eat a jolly breakfast. 

As mentioned previously on this blog, I'm experimenting with breakfasts. This is a new one that I've done A LOT in the last fortnight or so. Adapted from my friend's instagram posts, this is banana pancake breakfast joy for those who are NOT on the paleo diet (but think it has some great recipes). Why it's good? It's extraordinarily tasty, and has fruit and good protein.

Take one banana.  Mash it up with a fork in a bowl.  Then mix in an egg, salt, pepper.  Then spray a non-stick pan with oil spray (paleo folks use coconut oil, I used regular old pam olive oil spray), and pour into the pan over medium heat.  The thing is, the first few times I did this, they burned / got very messy.  Suddenly, however, I'm in a groove. The thing is to make a couple or three pancakes, with a thin spread, and WAIT. (In this time, I also fry an egg in another pan because, you know, I like eggs).

Waiting is key: you have to have the bottom of the pancake thoroughly cooked; the top can be slightly wobbly, but basically, you have to treat it like an egg that you'd flip, or a normal pancake. The first few times I did this, I had to burn the bottom to get it cooked, but I've managed the last couple of times to make it work right.

I then serve with the fried egg, sriracha (because YES), and fruit. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Living Just Enough

Today was a stellar day.

It's hard to believe that a year ago I was still at my old law firm job; it's even harder to believe, looking at the wind blowing the trees and suffering the biting, near-freezing temperatures today, that about a year ago, spring appeared to have sprung. Things have changed so much for me personally in that year, not least the frequency with which I blog here.

But today was one worth recording.

I went to a school this morning that's a mere ten minutes away, and presented to three classes. The students varied in their interest in the program; the students presented some interesting disciplinary issues (I got called "very strict" by a student, which I'm sure my parents would find hilarious). But they were funny and smart and feisty and I loved them; the teachers were invested and good people, and I loved them, too; it was great. Back home for a quick lunch - extremely tasty leftovers - then hoicked up to Washington Heights to a school there.

It's been a while since I was in the Heights - I was there for a few hours at a school at the very start of January, but otherwise I've spent no real time there since we left for Brooklyn nearly four years ago.  I don't miss it that much, I can't lie - all our uptown friends had moved for the outer boroughs, and we'd grown tired of no outdoor space and not much room, both of which we have here. But today, things felt familiar - and fun. The students I taught were wonderful - funny, bright, vocal, active - just great. Then I wandered back to the GW Bridge and, on a whim, rather than catching the subway, I walked up on the bridge to take advantage of the shining sun and the extraordinary view south along Manhattan.

It was utterly beautiful. Then home to buy freesias, filling the house with their scent, and watch the wind shake the trees in the back garden. That wasn't so great, but it was light - sweet! - and I've spent the evening gently doing email chores and listening to TMS, with my feet warmed by a big fat cat. A stellar day indeed.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


There's been a barnstorming and fluttering in the blogosphere on various topics this week that push certain of my rage buttons.  And there is some good writing on those topics. There is also a fascinating (subscription-only, alas) article by Jeffrey Toobin about Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the New Yorker, which I highly recommend if you can get hold of it (the link I've put in is to an accompanying slideshow).

But the one that is closest to my heart comes from Kate Harding on changing one's name - in which she adeptly points out that feminists sometimes do the non-feminist or, indeed, anti-feminist thing, that it doesn't make you a bad person, but you need to own that changing one's name is not a feminist action. To be honest, I'm not even a fan of double-barrelling/hyphenating - to me, that seems a little of a cop out - you know the feminist thing is to keep your name, but you really do want to take his name. If he does the same, great - and some of my friends have indeed done that. But it's a very, very, very rare man who does that. And when they are asked whether they would, often the most enlightened, ardent women's equality supporting male will react as if it's the stupidest question in the world - "why would I?" So why would I? Oh, that's right - I'm a lady. I forgot for a moment.

Like Kate I got married, too, and I enjoy being married, much to my shock. But one of the main reasons I did not want to be married was because I'd get hit with the assumptions that are made about a married women, and shortcuts taken about women that simply don't exist for married men.* Losing both my surname and first name at the first wedding we went to as a married couple caused me to cry with rage, I was so furious; the articles about married women taking their husbands' names indicate I'm still very much in a minority, however.

* There are tired tropes about married men, but a lot of those stem from lazy assumptions about women, again - for example how men are forced into doing things that they have ownership in - the house, food, their children - and it's just oh, so awful, and life would be better without her indoors nagging away and just ruining everything. Women, eh?

Saturday, February 09, 2013


I am a contrary sod.  Normally, my other half struggles to get me out to do exercise, get me out of the house.  This weekend, he's off in the wilds of snowy mountains, so there's no one urging me to get out; the snow is deep, and so I have a perfect excuse to stay indoors.

So why are my feet itching and my legs shaking around like Damien Francisco's in Dog President?   Because I am utterly contrary, and therefore I'm feel trapped.  TRAPPED, I tell you.  So I'm going to catch up on Apartment Curing and that sort of thing. I've failed to do much of it this week, for sure.  So here we go.

UPDATE:  Today I'm doing the kitchen clear out from the January Cure*, and have discovered:
  • Three bottles of sesame oil
  • Five bottles of balsamic vinegar (TOH's mining ancestors turning in their graves)
  • Many cans of chickpeas
  • Many jars of marmalade (current count: six in one cupboard, and that's pre-fridge accounting).  (UPDATE:  FIVE MORE JARS found in the fridge)
  • Three bottles of white wine vinegar
  • Numerous bottles of marmite (precisely, two of seemingly impenetrable Ma'amite, the jubilee celebration ones, and two regular bottles, too)
  • Two giant jars of breadcrumbs (I don't understand how this is possible - ah, one was a year out of date.  For shame) 
  • Two bottles of teriyaki sauce - WHY? 
* Latest update on the January Cure here.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January's Goals!

Monthly Project:  Off to a rather, if not ragingly, successful start.

In other news:  I'm busy!  No, really.  It's all a bit much at the mo.  But still found time to go to as many movies in the past two weeks as in the previous four months.  ULP!  Which reminds me:  Must use free groupon movie tickets.  MUST USE. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Breakfasting Differently

Recently I've been eating a rather incredible number of eggs for breakfast.  I love love love boiled eggs for breakfast - hard or soft-boiled, I will eat them any old way.  Those plus a banana and I'm set until lunch.  But I am a teeny bit concerned that I may turn into one, so recently I toyed with the idea of breakfasting differently and varying it up a little.  On my google reader, I'm subscribed to posts from Skinny Taste, which has great slow cooker recipes with lower calories/fat etc. for when I'm trying to be a bit more careful about how much I take in - so that, for example, I can stuff my face with disgracefully great buttery eggs and mushrooms for breakfast, as I'm about to do, with complete abandon (and added butter). 

So when I saw a recipe on Skinny Taste for overnight oats, I got very excited - I have also had a lot of very early mornings due to work, and given how little I like getting up early, it's good to have something prepared the night before.  You combine oats/milk/nuts/fruit in a jar, leave it overnight, and you have breakfast, apparently.  I got ready to do that last week and realised that I had absolutely no oats.  Oops.  Rather than going out late night, though, on a mission for oats, I did note that we had quinoa indoors, and through some chain of thought I can't quite recreate, found this recipe for breakfast quinoa.  I didn't follow this recipe exactly, though, as I'm not a massive fan of cinnamon or apples.  So I mixed it up a bit: used unsweetened almond & coconut milk instead of cow's milk, warmed up frozen blueberries and put those and a chopped banana in, and used a couple of teaspoons of dried cranberries (I still can't bring myself to call them craisins, I have to say), a teaspoon of sunflower seeds and a teaspoon of flaxseeds.  So it's pretty nutritious, filling, and a healthy portion of whole grains, good oils, good protein, and fruit as well.  Which for me is not something that happens that often. 

It's not necessarily that pretty, for sure, but it's good.  And The Other Half did not hate it, which he is primed to on principle.  So it must be ok. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Public Service

Today is the inauguration of Obama's second term.  In many ways, the re-election of Obama feels more meaningful than the first, because it was based on his record and was less symbolic, less idealistic.  I'm still very displeased with many of his policies, but compared to Romney and the Republicans, of course, he's still a far better option.  I had toyed with the idea of going down to DC precisely because it was more meaningful, and particularly because today is MLK Day.  But, of course, I failed.  I've not been to DC in years.  I would like to go again, soon, but not to be just now.

Instead, however, I heeded what has become a tradition for MLK Day for some - turning today into a day of service in which you do some public good.  Today there was a clean up on Franklin Avenue and, although we live a couple of blocks away from Franklin, I decided to help out.  It was heartening to see a massive group of people doing it by the time I left at 11am, having worked for an hour.  There were so many people, the work had mostly been done, and so I decided to do a little clearing up on my own block.  I didn't do the entire block, but the little stretch I did looks decidedly better.
 The majority of the ills of smoking are related to lung health and the actual smoking, of course, but it was striking (to me, at least) that the majority of things I picked up were cigarette butts or cigarette packets.  But many soft drink bottles and sweet packets, too.

So now I can feel smug and at least some karmic balance for the very me-time weekend I've just spent - hiking in a glacier-influenced park on Saturday (hopefully some decent photos to come), local Japanese food on Saturday night (Gen!  It is great!), then brunch at James and NFL Conference Championships while scoffing micheladas and a friend's homemade ragu yesterday.  We're off for a museum trip today (part of my monthly objectives for January), then some jazz tonight. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


It's 2013!  Hello there! 

New year, new blog.  I've tried to do year long resolutions; no resolutions; and monthly goals.  And the latter is what I'm sticking with, and I'm tracking them here

Join me!