Monday, August 30, 2010

Curious Mints

The Egret Tree

Egrets have become very important to my life ever since I moved to the burbs and started commuting. New Jersey gets a bad rap, and sometimes it deserves it, but I also get to see the sun rise over the bay every morning on my way to work, and still white egrets populating the marshlands

I had never spotted an egret in my town until, one day last September, I spotted them all. I found the place were the egrets go to sleep. They were perched on a few trees on a shore of small lake in my town, sandwiched between a 7-11 and a Quik Chek. Only in New Jersey.

They gather at dusk. You can see them flying overhead, larger than all the other birds in the sky, with their long legs stretched out behind them, commuting home from their day of standing around in the mud looking for food. These pictures were taken before the entire party had arrived. If you go at night, when it's harder to get a clear picture, you can find upwards of a hundred egrets, sleeping silently. Mr. SevPrez and I may be the only people who know they are there.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sketched Out

Just signed up for the Sketchbook Project. Had been meaning to do this a while ago but I think I chickened out, came up with reasons why I shouldn't. Apparently all I needed was the reinforcement of some friends. My theme is "facing forward," though I was tempted to pick "you'd be home by now"and do all my sketching on the train. My mind is already abuzz at how I should attack this project — I want to enforce rules, pick concepts, because the idea of filling an entire book and then having other people look at it (hopefully!) really makes me think it needs to be worthy of someone else's time — but let's hope I don't let it jam me up. I think in the end, I'll be better off if I can manage to just go with the flow.

The sketchbooks will be visiting Brooklyn in March, among other cities, if you want to join me at the show!

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

Monday, August 16, 2010

Things I Would Spend Money On If It Was Coming Out Of My Ears...

Just in case there is some rich benefactor looking to grant three wishes, or any of you have some gold doubloons burning a hole in your pocket and share my taste.

1. This utterly amazing small sofa from Wisteria would be the perfect replacement for my black leather Ikea loveseat, which is definitely a placeholder for something more special.

2. Any number of items from Lauren Moffatt's outerwear collection. I was really salivating over this plaid number until I realized that I basically have the same thing in buffalo plaid. Imagine my good fortune!

What can I say, it's been a long hot summer and wool coats are apparently the farthest thing from my mind, until now. But this little schoolgirl cape would be a fine addition to someone's closet. So adorable! I am a fall cheerleader for sure.

3. A Cuisinart Food Processor. My whole life I grew up and it was the only thing my mom ever used to mix anything. For 20 years it was KitchenAid who? Now I am a slave to my gigantic mixer (and won't even take it off the counter because I love it's red-ness) but I'm crushing graham crackers by hand to make tart crusts and splashing tomato bits all over my kitchen with my immersion blender while trying to make gazpacho. Santa, are you listening? The time is nigh.

4. I'd commission portraits of myself and Mr. SevPrez from John Perry. Check out the ones he did for Steve Nash and his family. For some reason I'm completely enamored of this guy. I think it's probably because he's an athlete and an artist, and I find that combination highly desirable. There is nothing better than people who can't be pigeonholed.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lazy Summer Weekend

Saturday I made a plum pie to bring to my friend's barbeque, but the dough was a little dry (started with too much flour) so instead of rolling out a second pie shell I made plum pielets. The crust to fill ratio was killer.

Sunday, after going to the private opening of my mom's new museum exhibit, I stopped at Delicious Orchards on the way home for some tomatoes and good bread for our gourmet BLT dinner. It was relatively empty for Delicious Orchards standards, so I had time to stop, smell, and buy some flowers. I love these guys, they are so gorgeously wild and even dry well. Anyone know what they're called?

Sonny likes them too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Day of Fun 2010

My mother and I have a tradition going back to the mid 90s, the Summer (and Winter, which was added around 2003) Day of Fun, in which mother and daughter come together and take time out from their regularly scheduled lives to do something that they have always been meaning to do, or would do if they led lives of leisure, which they are destined not to because of their genetic makeup. (Mom is busy with exciting work opportunities, museum stewardship, and grammy-ship since she retired; I have a full time job in which I commute to, a personal blog in which to maintain, and a marathon to train for. It's who we are.)

This year Mom met me in midtown Manhattan and we had lunch at Sarabeth's on Central Park South before visiting the American Folk Art Museum. Originally the plan was to go to MoMA to see the Matisse exhibit, but we'd been to MoMA together before, and it promised to be packed. I just happened to read a great piece on the Folk Art Museum in the New Yorker, and had always admired the flag outside their building, so we changed plans. And boy were we glad we did. Here's a photo of part of the line (that went all the way around the block) to get into MoMA, taken from the top floor of the Folk Art Museum, which is right next door.

We saw some truly inspiring things. I'm still not quite sure what folk art is exactly, but I think it amounts to Art-by-artists-who-are-not-Artists, that is people who did not go to school to be artists. They can be artisans, or craftsman, or, in the 20th and 21st centuries, just plain crazy people who are compelled by their imprisonment or mental illness to make art. It's somewhat unclear. But I still enjoyed all the exhibits. 

We saw some stuff by Henry Darger, who was clearly mentally ill and made some disturbing art (which I did not take photos of). Sad thing is, the Henry Dargers of today are probably too overmedicated to make compelling art. 

I was tickled by his filing system for images he clipped out of magazines, coloring books, and other printed material — all clippings he used to teach himself how to illustrate his magnus opus. This file was called "Only Trees Trees Not Bees."

But by far my favorite thing in the place was the Pieties Quilt, made by Maria Cadman Hubbard, aged 79, and completed in 1848.

See for yourselves. 

Besides this amazing quilt, there were also excellent weathervanes, a braided rug made out of Wonder Bread bags, a cafe run by a very nice pastry chef who baked all the goods, and live music. 

If you are ever about to get in line for MoMA, I highly suggest finding respite in the AFAM.

The Kitchen Reveal

All the trim is painted, all the counters have been oiled.

I snapped these photos before I had my brothers and their families over for dinner to see the new space. I put our cereal containers and blender under the counter, but stopped short at putting the toaster and coffee maker away as they do in most magazine shoots. This is not Young House Love afterall, I love the blog but those people are insane about home maintenance.

I think it looks pretty good (who am I kidding, I am in love with it), but most importantly, it is highly functional for both cooking and entertaining: I have a great area in which to roll out my pie dough, and I can chop vegetables while talking to guests who are sitting on the stools or relaxing in the back room.

And I have to say, the help of my architect brother was key. I would have never thought about tearing down that wall and building our little peninsula, but it is the key to the whole space. In fact, it now seems like we have a brand new house that makes sense for living and entertaining, not one that's been retrofitted since it was built 65 years ago to keep up with the changing times. Another benefit of our new layout is that the fridge is hidden. Before it was located to the right of where the sink is now, dead center in a key focal point of the house.

The countertops and sink are from Ikea, the faucet (soon to replaced by one from Ikea) and dishwasher are recycled from a great Allenhurst estate undergoing a facelift, and the lights are from Home Depot.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lunch Hour Shopping, Commute Hour Drawing

Avoiding Overpriced Lobster Pounds and Other Tourist Trap Eateries

I may not be a full-fledged foodie, but I may only be one more season of "Top Chef" and a subscription to Bon Appetit away. As such there is nothing I find more abhorrent about traveling than eating bad food because you don't know where to get the good stuff, or are marooned in a heavily toursited area like Fisherman's Wharf, Times Square, or the coast of Maine in peak season.

Of course it always helps to be travelling with locals. I am working towards my "local" status in Maine, so I want to share an insiders tip in case you find yourself on Mount Desert Island with a hankering for lobster. Avoid Testa's and Chowdah's and, if you have the time, drive an unbelievably scenic route to the other side of the island, "the quiet side," and eat at Thurston's in Bernard. It's right on the water, so while you dine on fresh lobster, mussels, and other fine creatures, you will be able to look out at the very boats and traps that brought these fruits of the sea to your plate. 

It's order at the counter, watch them pick and weigh your mollusks and crustaceans and hand them off to the chef while you sip your beverages (beer and wine served), find a place to sit, and wait for your name to be called.
I've been twice, and though there were definitely some tourists there, they weren't of the gigantic-family-wearing-matching-Bar-Harbor-sweat-shirts kind.

You should definitely go if you get a chance, but do me a favor and don't tell too many people...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Must Read

I cried several times when reading the article "Letting Go" by Atul Gawande, in the August 2nd issue of The New Yorker. It's about modern medicine and the art of dying, or rather, how inadequate modern medicine is at preparing people for death. A must read for anyone who feels that meditating on the end of things is a powerful way to live, or anyone who's life has been touched by a terminal illness. It made me want to be a Hospice nurse, or go find some Hospice nurses, look them in the eye, and shake their hands. 

You can read the article online here. It's pretty long, but life is short, and if you read the article, it'll make sense why you should take the time to think about it. 

I didn't want to be a downer and post the link on Facebook, but then I walked by this storefront on the way back to my office at lunch, so I took it as a sign that I should share it somewhere.

Frivolous side note: neon pink masking tape is awesome. Must get my hands on some.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Root Down

Aunt Rose's Philodendron.
click for full size.

Popovers, A Side-by-side Analysis

I've given you the background on my popover obsession, now I give you my first hand account of the best popovers in all the land from Jordan Pond House. First let me set the scene. This is where the popovers are eaten in open air:

They wouldn't even have to taste good, since you're captive at the only eatery in a national park, but they do.

In fact, they are gigantic, cloud-like, delicate, and hot. I heard a woman a few tables away ask the waitress for popovers to go. The waitress politely explained that it is just not done, since there is only a 15 minute window in which they will allow popovers to be served and eaten, once out of the oven. 

In contrast, check out the popovers I made earlier in the week with the Jordan Pond mix. More like Smurf hats than clouds, wouldn't you agree?

The real magic of the Jordan Pond House popovers are on the inside. They are uniformly airy, while mine were uniformly denser.

I'm not quite sure what's making the difference, besides decades of practice on behalf of the restaurant cooks. I followed their directions to leave the batter in the fridge overnight, taking it out before baking to bring to room temperature. I didn't separate the eggs this time, though I did when I made them for scratch for my mom's birthday, with no visible difference. I think maybe my more cylindrical, non-stick popover pans have something to do with the difference of size and shape. 

It demands more research, and more trips to Jordan Pond House, for the best popovers, strawberry jam, and unsweetened raspberry lemonade in the world. 

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

We drove about as far northeast as humanly possible in one day and arrived at our destination. We had glorious weather for a week. We forgot about our regular life. We didn't worry about how much time we had left. We were both lazy and industrious. 

We were view junkies. 

We ran, we hiked, we biked, we baked, we canoed, we climbed, we ate and ate and ate.

All in great company. It's really a shame for the rest of the world that the best B&B in Maine doesn't take reservations. You have to know somebody, and man am I sure glad that I do. 
From the top: Hiking up Giant Slide on the way to the top of Sargent, Acadia Nat'l Park; Mr. & Mrs. SevPrez admire the views at Great Head, Acadia Nat'l Park; Lobster Rolls three ways at Cafe This Way, Bar Harbor; Chez Frick, Orono.