Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pantone Postcards

{A Magic Box of Rainbows w/out the Psychedelic Drugs}

P. and I were in Washington D.C. last week for a conference and because we were both such polite little children growing up (true fact: my mom used to make my three sisters and me curtsy when we greeted my great-grandmother's friends) we make up for it as adults by doing things like skipping out on post-lunch snooze-fest PowerPoint presentations and running to the Hirshhorn Museum, which neither of us had ever visited before. The Hirshhorn is like the less-famous little sister of the Guggenheim, but with no crowds, more comfortable couches (we totally took a nap in the reading room) and a room set aside just for de Kooning's women. It's fabulous. On our way out I spotted a box of Pantone postcards at the mini gift shop and because I've been such a Parsimonious Patty this year I bought it, full price, with a crisp twenty-dollar bill (and got a 20% discount with my Smithsonian membership card, which my adorable grandfather has renewed for me every year for Christmas since he first gave it to me in sixth grade).

Lucky for you, you can buy the Pantone box of rainbow magic any number of places online, like here. I have visions of framing all the heavenly yellows in cute lil' Ikea frames in a grid on the wall, and sending the super-hein dog-vomit brown ones along with future Con-Ed bills when I move to New York. In the mean time, I'm just going to coddle and cosset the box, opening and closing it, marveling at the rainbow of colors. Which is exactly what I did last night before turning off the light.

And I know I promised you apiaries and folk art this week, but between lots of travel and computer malfunctions I'm behind schedule. And that's pronounced shej-yule, please. More coming soon, promise. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Carolina Summer Salad

{Watermelon, Strawberry & Spicy Globe Basil Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar}

Ash and I threw this fruit salad together with a North Carolina watermelon from her neighbor, local strawberries, tiny leaves from her spicy globe basil plant (see if you can find one of those puppies for your fire escape/ kitchen windowsill/ herb garden; the tiny leaves are intensely flavorful and aesthetically delightful), a dousing of white balsamic fig-infused vinegar, and a heady cracking of black peppercorn. Super simple, right? The spiciness of the basil and pepper tempers the sweetness of the fruit, and the gentle white balsamic does wonders for the whole shebang. Shazam, I say.

Carolina Summer Salad
My new favorite go-to summer fruit salad. Co-authored by two old friends sitting on a porch and pondering a cleaver and a ten pound watermelon. Enjoy!

watermelon, cubed
strawberries, hulled and quartered
spicy globe basil leaves, whole
white  balsamic fig-infused vinegar (regular balsamic is just fine, too)
cracked black pepper

Gently toss fruit and basil with vinegar and pepper in large bowl. Let stand 10 minutes for vinegar to mellow and sweeten (but not too much longer or the watermelon will get sad and watery). Unbelievably refreshing on a hot summer night.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Good Life: North Carolina Edition

{An Impromptu Road Trip to Visit Our Besties}

When you are a married adult with all your possessions in storage/ temporarily living with your parents/ self-employed and working from your parents' kitchen table/ not starting grad school until September you could, theoretically, get a little self-conscious about your loserhood and get mildly depressed. Or you could have a conversation like this:

Me: I just clicked send on my project proposal. I'm a free woman for a few days.
P: Want to take the doggies on a road trip to North Carolina to visit Ash and Billy?
Me: Ohmygoshyes.
P: Get in the truck, woman.
[My mom: Wait! I'll make you sandwiches for the road!]

And so we loaded up Biscuit and the Hound of Love (plus my mom's snack pack and three cases of beer from our local brewery) and drove eight hours south to North Carolina to see our dearest newlywed friends Ash and Billy, who are recent Austin-to-Durham transplants. Remember their Austin wedding? And the beginning of their romance with beekeeping? I'm happy to report they've tripled their hives, quadrupled the yield of their backyard vegetable garden, and adopted a puppy.

Whenever we see these guys we end up drinking in the morning, eating way, way too much home-cooked food, getting stung by honeybees, and driving into the middle of podunksville in search of Strange & Unusual Sh*t. We checked all those boxes this visit, and although I've gained two pounds and am just emerging from a two-day-long hangover, my stomach is still sore from laughing so hard. There is nothing as wonderful as being totally and irreverently SILLY, people. Readjusting to Real Life after our year in India is taking a little longer than I expected, and visiting Ash and Billy is always a life-affirming reminder of what P. and I think is important to The Good Life: making the effort to stay in touch with beloved friends, making the effort to cook our own meals, living happily within one's means, maintaining a curiosity about the world and pursuing one's vision. Comfortable rocking chairs, dog-love, a little plot in which to grow decent cucumbers (or at least a kitchen-window pot of herbs), and spending more time reading than watching television doesn't hurt, either.

I know it will be exasperatingly, annoyingly difficult to keep the tenets of The Good Life in rotation when P. and I are absorbed in our graduate school work, commuting on weekends to see each other, keeping a long-distance marriage buoyant and struggling to live on grad student budgets. But I look at Ash and Billy and remember that all it takes is hard work, a sense of humor and the occasional Sunday morning Bloody Mary.

Hope you had a great weekend and Father's Day. On deck this week: a summer fruit recipe, adventures in beekeeping and a pilgrimage to see some down-home outsider art. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Strawberries Are For Lovers

{Three Years In}

My favorite early summer dessert, hands-down, is rustic strawberry shortcake: balsamic strawberries with buttermilk drop biscuits and bourbon whipped cream. We had it at our wedding. I gave you the recipe. It's easy, it's always a crowd-pleaser, and it is just so. damn. good.

But with a bumper crop of particularly sweet strawberries in the garden this year we can't bear to gild the lily, so right now we're just hulling them and serving them as-is with P's whipped cream. Perfection. Today's our third year wedding anniversary (three years already?!) so tonight we'll be eating strawberries, counting blessings. Every day with him is the new best day of my life. True fact.

Friday, June 10, 2011


{In Which I Judge You by Your Hayloft}

Early June means one thing in the greater Amwell Valley: haying. P. and I are finally earning our keep by helping my mom and dad bring in the hay, which is a laborious process requiring Transformeresque monstrosities of John Deere equipment, a streak of hot, dry weather, and the uttering of hail marys while driving seven tons of hay down tiny country roads. P. was a rock-star and raked hay into the straightest, neatest windrows anyone's ever seen, and my petite mom, as usual, tossed the bales onto the hay elevator like she was merely flipping crumpets. No big deal. 

Farming is not my family's livelihood, but it's a big part of our lives. My parents grow, cut, rake, bale, deliver and stack timothy hay for many of the surrounding horse farms, and it's always fun to show up to these beautiful old barns (some of them dating back to the Revolutionary War) and see the innards of the haylofts. Not just for the glorious dose of Americana, but also because I am an evil judger of messy haylofts. Just as one can judge a woman by the organizational state of her purse, one can judge a farmer by the state of his or her layloft. No matter how robust your picking garden, no matter how well-muscled your Herefords, I know you, truly, when I see the inside of your hayloft.  Heaps of ancient loose hay, stalagmites of bat guano, complex solar systems of cobwebs and mold spores- these are the barnly equivalents of a purse full of old receipts, gum wrappers, and several almost-empty lipbalms. And if you just gulped guiltily because I described perfectly what the entrails of your purse look like, don't worry; you'd be amazed how messy most haylofts are. Your secret's safe with me, o farmers of Amwell Valley. You shall, for the time being, remain anonymous.

Pics all shot on my iPhone using ToyCamera; one can't exactly load hay bales whilst lugging around a bulky SLR. Have a great weekend, kittens!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Steve's Best Damn Granola

{In the Kitchen with My Father-in-law}

P's dad makes the best damn granola I've ever had. Period. He brought us a giant Ziploc bag of the stuff when he visited us in Joshua Tree for the first time several years ago, and I've been keen to get his recipe ever since. What makes Steve's granola so special is that it's sweet and just a tad bit salty; he uses maple syrup (from a family friend's sugar bush in New Hampshire, sigh) complimented by a healthy pinch of salt to balance out the sweetness. And it's no-nonsense stuff: no dried fruits or frilly, fancy ingredients. This is hard-core New England granola, folks, which is why I'm calling it Best Damn. And so when P. and I were up in Massachusetts two weeks ago to visit his parents I made it my furtive duty over the course of the weekend to demolish the ready-supply of Best Damn they keep in a giant glass jar in the kitchen. One morning I casually mentioned to Steve that hmm, strange, the granola supply seems to be running low, and would he like to teach me how to make it? Shazam. Instant bigBANG guest-post by my FiL + top secret granola recipe finally revealed. So without further ado:

Steve's Best Damn Granola
Straight from my father-in-law's New England kitchen to your computer screen. Feel free to add flax seeds or unsweetened shredded coconut, etc., but know that it is the masterful simplicity of this recipe that makes it so versatile, special and delicious.

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds
1 cup walnuts
1 cup pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
1+ cup water, or until good and wet

1. Preheat oven to 350. In food processor, pulse almonds for 10 seconds, then dump in pecans and walnuts, brown sugar and salt. Pulse gently until evenly broken up into nice granola-sized bits.

2. Pour nut mixture into large bowl. Add the oats, maple syrup, oil and water; mix with spoon. Adjust sweetness or saltiness to taste. Mixture should be completely and evenly damp (the moisture helps make those satisfying little clumps once you bake). Pour mixture into large ungreased roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Granola is done when golden and just-crisp. Allow to cool at room temperature, then store in an airtight container. Excellent with yogurt and fruit, milk, or by the handful as a snack.

Note: If you don't want to deal with stirring your granola as it bakes, turn the temp down to 275 and bake unattended for up to two hours. Steve uses either method, depending on his morning schedule.

Monday, June 6, 2011

New Hampshirous

{Into the Woods/ Wild Combination}

On Friday P. and I threw together a grab-bag collection of camping gear, loaded Mac and Dolly and a cooler full of Stone IPA (his) and Riverhorse Summer Ale (hers) in the truck, picked up my Brooklynite cousin and her amazing bf, and all headed north for a weekend of revellery in New Hampshire in the form of a cousinly ten year high school reunion.

Although initially the mere thought of a high school reunion brought on hives and a wash of social anxiety, cuz and I rallied* with significant others in tow and ultimately had an absolute blast reconnecting with long-lost classmates. It was a whirlwind of camping, catching up with wonderful people I haven't seen in a decade, hunting for wild pink lady's slipper orchids, and generally marveling at how beautiful New Hampshire is this time of year.

On the long retrospective drive back to New York and New Jersey cuz + bf introduced us to the music of the late Arthur Russell, a New York cellist who was a pioneer in the crossover of downtown music and rock into the early dance beats of the 70s and 80s. I know, what? Just trust me on this one, and give him a listen. Start with That's Us/ Wild Combination, which looks primed to be our song of the summer. Hope you had a great weekend.

* Full disclosure: We may or may not have taken a nip of whiskey in the girls' locker room before the morning reunion event for an extra ounce of courage. Just being honest here, folks.