Wednesday, July 29, 2009

quick, quick, slow

Three years ago -- right now -- you and I were having our first dance. Sometimes it's hard for me to believe it's been that long (I still feel like a giddy bride), and other times, that short (when you blurt out exactly what I've been thinking). Either way, I am so thankful for every single minute in that time, and for all of those to come. You and I may get out of synch and step on each other's toes for a while, or lead when we should follow, but each time that happens, I hope we remember to take a deep breath, listen carefully, and catch the beat together. Let's never stop dancing.

Photo by Kristin Johanneck

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

where the heart is

I don't know if this apartment has ever been as busy as it was last weekend. My folks came to visit and we had a great time, and even though the place is around 500 square feet, the four of us hung out here for a lot of it.

We didn't just have Scattergories marathons or cook up great feasts, though. We ventured out to lands unknown -- namely the Brooklyn Botanic Garden -- and saw some old favorites, too, like Central Park and West Harlem Piers Park.

It was fun to have two very active cameras (I think we took more than 300 photos). Here are some of my favorite shots:

On Friday evening at twilight we three Martin/Dawsons took a walk around our neighborhood (including the Brandeis garden and the Central Park Reservoir) before we stopped down to say hi to Ian who was working at The Libertine.

On Saturday, all four of us spent the day at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Prospect Park. It was gorgeous.

That night there were crazy thunderstorms on Sunday evening, so we stayed in and played Scattergories. It was a blast. Some common themes: lizards, Alan Alda, and Walla Walla, Washington.

Ian needed to work again on Monday, so Mom, Dad, and I spent much of the day out and about in Central Park, where we people- and bird-watched.

It rained again on Monday, but only for a few minutes. Like good New Yorkers, we were prepared.

It's always hard to say good-bye to our loved ones, but maybe a running meter makes it a little easier...but not enough to make the savings worth it. Come back soon, ya hear?

It's weird having two homes and Wisconsin. The longer we're here and the more visitors we have, the more firmly our feet and our hearts will be planted in both places. I don't know if I'll ever get used to that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

38 years and counting

Sometimes I dream about how I'll spend my retirement years. Of course, being with loved ones, gardening, cooking, reading, and traveling top the list -- but I'm also pretty sure I'll need some sort of job to keep me busy. I often consider volunteer work, but another option comes to mind a lot as well: working at a florist.

I absolutely love flowers...always have. I started working in the garden with my parents, particularly my dad, at a very young age (I even won the W3834 County Road J Junior Rose Gardener Award in the late '80s), and having flowers around the house from time to time is one of the simple pleasures that I let myself indulge in (thanks to Ian's frequent contributions).

At The Knot, I get to think about flowers on a daily basis -- I'm one of the go-to people writers seek out if they're having trouble identifying a bloom for an article. The moments when I get to pore over photos of gorgeous bouquets, centerpieces, and other arrangements are always some of the highlights of my day. Today was a first: I was invited to arrange the three bouquets above for a live broadcast segment that our home director, Krissy, was working on (she decorated the vases!). It was great fun. I hope she'll ask me to do that again sometime. I can always use more photos for my portfolio...even if it won't be unveiled for 38 years.

Photo courtesy of Hayley Schlesinger and The Knot

Monday, July 20, 2009


Hi there! Just checking in with a few things to report. It has been a good and interesting couple of days.

After a quick turn of events early last week, Ian got a new bartending job at none other than our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Pisticci. In fact, he's training tonight. He had a great run at The Libertine, but he's looking forward to expanding his experience in other cuisines and atmospheres. The Libertine, a new-British/American restaurant, is the epitome of class and refinement, whereas Pisticci is warm and comfortable (and serves, you guessed it, Italian fare).

On Saturday, we went to a music festival: the Psychobilly Luau. Aside from enjoying the music (a mix between the surf, punk, and metal genres), we like the people...they're a rare breed. The guys dress like greasers, the girls dress like pinups -- it's pretty cool. Anyhow, we saw some great up-and-coming bands (my favorite: the Arkhams) and had a wonderful time dancing and people-watching. For me, though, the highlight may have been the photo booth. I don't remember ever getting my picture taken in one before, and we certainly had never done so together, so we took full advantage. In my opinion, they're some of our best photos ever.

What's next for us, you ask? My parents are coming to visit on Friday! It's going to be great. Will report back soon!

What does the rest of the summer hold for you?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

playing with food

This weekend has been particularly notable because Ian and I have managed to finish furnishing our apartment! If I haven't told you, there's a lovely peninsula in the kitchen that serves nicely as a bar. When we signed on this place, we sold our beloved table and chairs and purchased a set of saddle-seat bar stools instead. They finally arrived on Friday, and we put them together yesterday. Now that they're in use, we can once again prepare and eat messy foods (God forbid we get a stain on our new couch!). This prompted tonight's supper: Ian's Beef Teriyaki with Broccoli and Noodles. It's his adaptation of America's Test Kitchens' Beef Teriyaki recipe which can be found in their Family Cookbook. It's absolutely delicious, not to mention cost-effective, quick (30 minutes, start to finish!), and relatively healthy. I highly recommend you get out a pen and paper now or print this blog entry. You'll use it. Promise.

beef teriyaki with broccoli and noodles
serves 2

4 oz. or 2 servings of rice noodles (we use the straight cut noodles from A Taste of Thai)

For the sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbl. sherry (the real stuff; not what you can get at the grocery store), or dry white wine in a pinch
2 tsp. grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
Red pepper flakes, to taste (we use about 1/2 tsp.)

For the steak:
1/2 Tbl. olive oil
1/2 lb. flank steak
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the broccoli:
1 bunch of broccoli (about 3 small heads, including stems), chopped
1/4 cup water

1. Make noodles according to package instructions for stir fry (soak in a bowl of hot water for 20 to 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the meal).
2. In a small bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients; set aside.
3. Pour olive oil into medium nonstick skillet. Heat to medium-high.
4. Thinly slice flank steak (against the grain) and season with salt and pepper. Add to heated skillet. Saute until done, about about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside. Return skillet to burner.
5. Add broccoli and water to skillet. Reduce heat to low and cover until broccoli is bright green, about 5 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook until broccoli is tender and water is almost entirely evaporated, about 5 minutes. Set broccoli aside with beef and return skillet to burner.
6. Increase heat to medium, re-whisk sauce and add to skillet. Cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Drain noodles and add to sauce. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Toss in beef and broccoli. Allow to cook until noodles are al dente and ingredients are heated through.
7. Serve. Accompany with Red Bicyclette Chardonnay (or Pinot Noir!), Diana Krall, and 2 pairs of chopsticks.

P.S. On an entirely different topic, we have a new roommate, Domingo the Mouse. Does anyone have any tips on getting rid of him? We are currently using traps baited with peanut butter, and no luck. I refuse to use a glue trap. Talk about inhumane...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

mr. cliffe goes to washington

Ian and I went on our first married weekend getaway in honor of the Fourth of July. Since neither of us has any vacation days to spare, we decided to take advantage of the holiday weekend and buy bus tickets to visit the capital.

Our bus was decked out with outlets, Wi-Fi, movie screens, leather seats, and even cup holders. The four-hour ride was beautiful. It was so exciting to see rivers, cornfields, and forests. We fully intend to take another Bolt Bus (they do additional routes to Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, all of which would be fun to escape to, as well). Here's the Susquehanna River.

Once we arrived in DC, we made our way to our hotel. Donovan House is one of the most posh and comfortable hotels I've ever stayed in (see the foyer below). It's got very mod decor and an extremely courteous staff. If you ever get the chance to stay here, do it. Special thanks to Thompson Hotels for the fantastic rate (I suppose it's the least they can do for such a dedicated employee!).

As soon as we checked in, it was nearly constant sightseeing for three days. We visited numerous museums (mostly of the Smithsonian variety)... These are both from the Museum of American History: C-3PO and Julia Child's kitchen.

Saw lots of great architecture... (the Department of the Treasury)

And monuments... (The Washington, obviously)

And memorials... (my favorite: the Korean War Memorial)

And plant life... (a "real" magnolia, per our friend Kristen)

And Segways... (they did tours!)

And presidents... (We actually saw Barack drive by in a limo. I took a video of it, but I'm still working on freeze-framing.)

And fireworks... (The first shot is what the mall looked like pre-show. It was this crowded all the way to the Washington Monument.)

...And we ate. Well. Here we are at Brasserie Beck, which serves up delicious French-Belgian bistro fare. They know their beers and wine too. The staff were wonderfully nice, and we even got to stop in the kitchen and say hello.

We also got to have dinner with our the Vons, who recently moved to Washington so Jason could pursue his PhD in theology. We met them at Union. This is the view Kristen and I always have when the four of us are in transit.

And, best of all, we really enjoyed ourselves.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

welcome, wee hog!

I'm terribly excited to announce that we have a new family member! While we were getting ready for our weekend getaway on Friday morning, Ian got a voicemail saying we are now an uncle and aunt three times over (and were thusly so excited that we forgot to pack half our stuff). I will post more info if and when I get the okay from the proud parents. In the meantime, since we're not there to meet in person, I'm taking the liberty of posting this nice close-up photo of us. Hello, Baby!

And if you're wondering, we had an absolutely fantastic time in the capital. It's getting late, so paring down our 481 photos to an acceptable number to post will have to wait until another day.