Thursday, December 31, 2009

ringing it in right

If I don't get a chance to write before the clock strikes 12, check out the screen shot above. This hasn't happened since we've lived here... Waaaaahooooo!

Happy New Year, everybody! How are you celebrating 2010? (I'm going to sit at Pisticci and drink free wine -- Ian has to work.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

ready or not

In the words of my favorite Christmas Eve meditation, "the waiting is finally over." Our apartment is (mostly) clean, the tree is lit, the stockings are stuffed, the candles are flickering, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is playing, and our refrigerator Advent "calendar" is up-to-date...

...and our tummies will soon be savoring the holiday as well: the almonds are roasting, the black bean soup is simmering, the Mad Elf is growling, and the gingerbread dough is chilling.

Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I wish you a merry, merry Christmas. We miss you dearly, but don't worry -- we'll be back soon!

So what are you doing, anyway? And are you ready?

Monday, December 21, 2009

hunkering down

This weekend, we received an early Christmas present: Ian's parents came to visit. Our four days together were quite relaxing with activities sprinkled in, including a skate around Rockefeller Center's rink just as the snow started to pile up on Saturday (shown above). This is the first time we've seen a good accumulation of snow here in the city, and it was -- and still is -- gorgeous. It was so nice to be able to share that with them. (Am hoping to upload more photos for our album and your visual enjoyment soon.)

Poor Ian was sick the whole time John and Kay were here and was such a trooper! (Having his parents here was a big comfort, though, I'm sure.) As soon as they left for the airport, I started to feel awful too. I'm cooped up here at home and have been ordered to stay home another day. So...any movie suggestions?

I just really, really hope we're both tip-top for Christmas. Four days to go! What are you doing for the holidays? We're aiming for something similar to last year's celebration.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

a jolly-good fellow

Ian celebrated his birthday on Thursday. He isn't big on birthdays, but I went to Pisticci to surprise him with a treat anyway. I secretly baked yellow cupcakes (his favorite) the night before and frosted them with homemade chocolate frosting before leaving for the restaurant. His coworkers are such a great group. And since most of them have connections to the Manhattan School of Music, their rendition of "Happy Birthday" was one of the most amazing ones I've heard (in at least six-part harmony!).

The frosting was tastes a million times better than the stuff you get in a tub at the supermarket. And it's quite simple. Try this:

chocolate frosting
modified from the America's Test Kitchens Family Baking Book recipe
(makes enough to cover 24 cupcakes or a 9" x 13" sheet cake)

8 oz. chocolate, finely chopped (I used 3 oz. unsweetened and 5 oz. bittersweet)
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbl. light corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened and cut into chunks

1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream, corn syrup, and salt to a boil, whisking often. Once boiling, remove from heat.
2. Whisk the chocolate into the cream mixture and stir until smooth.
3. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds. With the beaters still running, gradually add the butter until the mixture looks like pudding, about 2 minutes.
4. Transfer to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the freezer. Stir the mixture every 10 minutes until the mixture reaches a smooth, thick, spreadable consistency; about 30 minutes.
5. Frost away.

Notes: I had just a dozen cupcakes, so I put the remaining frosting back in the freezer. So far, so good. We used some of it last night as the flavoring for hot chocolate. It was absolutely delicious. So give that a go too.

Do you have a go-to birthday dessert recipe? What is it?

Friday, November 27, 2009

you look like a hipster

We commemorated the second day of our four-day weekend by seeing A Christmas Carol in 3-D at the IMAX. Given we had on such fancy eyewear (and that we were pretty much alone in the theater as we had arrived 45 minutes early), we took the opportunity to do a photo shoot...naturally.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Well, it's officially Thanksgiving. So, happy day. I hope you have somewhere to feast. Although we're not able to go home this year, we do -- we're going over to Candice and Bryan's to have dinner with them and C's parents (and bringing some food, including this cranberry-apple-bourbon pie). I'm so grateful to have good people to spend the day with -- and if I know them, which I do, there will also be good food and good wine...

Speaking of good food, I got this email from Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, the other day. She's one of my favorite Catholic writers, in part because her writing and ideas are accessible, and also because she sees the value in other faiths, which, as you probably know, is very important to me (and if not, you do now!). This time, she wrote about the value of feasts. Here a few of my favorites among her "10 Thanksgiving Thoughts."
  • It's important to dot our lives with unscheduled as well as scheduled feast days. That way we remember that we are able to make joy as well as to expect it...
  • A Jewish proverb teaches us: "Worries go down better with soup." Treating food as a sacrament rather than a necessity reminds us that, in the end, there is always more good in life than bad. The trick is to notice it.
  • To love good food is a measure of our love of life. Food preparation teaches us to do everything we can to make life palatable, spicy, comforting, full of love.
  • One purpose of feasting is to get back in touch with the earth that sustains us, to glorify the God that made it, and to pledge ourselves to save the land that grows our food.
  • In this country, we are conditioned to think that taking time to eat together, to make a meal an event rather than an act, takes time from the important things in life. That may be exactly why we are confused now about what the important things in life really are...
  • To be feasted is to live outrageously.
To read the rest of Sr. Joan's thoughts on feasting, click here.

I thank God that I can even think about feasting, something some can't even dare to hope for. I pray that God will use me as an instrument to give others the opportunity to experience this right (not privilege) as well.

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

actually, a lot of trees grow in brooklyn

It's been a wonderfully eventful weekend here. On Friday, we got together with my cousin, Chelle, and her husband, Joe, and their three-month-old, Colby (who we were just meeting for the first time). They live in Chicago, so we don't see them much -- it was great to catch up over a leisurely dinner. (Perhaps too leisurely, according to our server...) Somehow, even though we were there for three hours, nobody took any photos. (Argh.)

On Saturday night, Ian and I babysat for Colby so his mom and dad could go on a date. We all had a blast. (Except when he got the hiccups -- twice! -- and we were all miserable. You can't exactly tell a baby to hold his breath...or scare the daylights out of him.) Here are some of our fun moments.
This morning we awoke to loud, incessant tweeting. It was Anita, the female cardinal who lives somewhere in our backyard. (We named the pair of cardinals Bernardo and Anita after the two coolest characters in West Side Story.) We put up a feeder (on Wednesday, I think) right outside our bedroom window. The cardinals let us watch them from our bed, so we're about four feet away, separated only by a window. We've also had a few house sparrows and mourning doves. Now I'm hoping the feeder attracts some of the blue jays we've seen in the trees. I don't know if they will, though, because Bernardo has been chasing away anything else that comes by -- he seriously hops behind the sparrows and tries to peck them. Here's our star pair!
After we finished watching the birds, which we did for a good half an hour, we decided to take a walk around Prospect Park in Brooklyn. First, we stopped for brunch at an incredibly kitchy neighborhood diner called Tom's Restaurant (not to be confused with the mediocre-at-best place of Seinfeld fame). It was fabulous. The service was so good they had a guy that walked up and down the line of people waiting to be seated with free snacks, coffee, and even hand sanitizer. And then we got the food...oh man (the photos say it all).
When we finished eating, we rolled ourselves to Prospect Park, and along the way, we passed some cool Brooklyn landmarks, like the museum, the botanic garden, the main branch of the library, and a roundabout full of monuments dedicated to Americans in battle (we have a lot of those). The park has a much different feel. It's very wild and hilly, and there are a number of old, ornate structures that have been consumed by the wilderness around reminds me of how Narnia might look in the fall. Take a look.
What did you do this weekend?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

falling for fall

I've reconsidered my original ideas about fall in New York. For the first few years we lived here, I hated it. Actually, there wasn't a fall to speak of. The leaves were green in September, green in October, and just starting to turn in November when suddenly it froze and they all fell off after being gorgeous for about two days. This year it's different. New Yorkers are getting to see some lovely color, and the weather has been warm enough that we've been able to enjoy it.

Today Ian and I took a stroll. As usual, it wasn't your normal walk in the park...things seemed almost wild today.