Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sweet potato and bacon salad

I awoke the other morning with an odd craving (no I'm not pregnant). I wanted bacon. And sweet potatoes. Together. For the life of me though, I cannot tell you where this came from. I'm not one of those people who have a Pinterest board dedicated to bacon, and I've eaten sweet potatoes probably ten times in my entire life. But I fully support the indulgence of a craving every now and then, and I didn't really feel like unpacking the deeper meanings behind that day's craving (sodium deficiency? too much stress and too little sleep? daddy issues??). So I went to the grocery and bought myself a giant sweet potato and a package of thick-cut bacon. And then I bought a huge thing of fresh spinach, because I figured it couldn't hurt to add something from a different part of the color spectrum to my lunch. Because, you know, healthy and stuff.

Ingredients (yields 2 decently-sized salads)
1 sweet potato
4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper
2 large handfuls fresh spinach
2-3 tbsp each of cranberries, walnuts, and crumbled feta cheese

How to
*Wash, peel, and slice the potato into small cubes. Lay the cubes evenly on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cut the bacon into 1/4" pieces, and lay those amongst the sweet potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and honey, sprinkle with salt and pepper (there's a lot of salt already in the bacon so don't go overboard here), and roast at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until the bacon is beginning to brown and the potatoes are soft. Halfway through the roasting process, flip the bacon and potatoes to ensure even cooking.

*Place the cooked bacon and sweet potatoes atop a large pile of fresh spinach. Add the cranberries, walnuts, and (if you're like me) just a bit too much feta. Feel free to toss the salad with your favorite oil and vinegar dressing, but honestly there was so much flavor from the rest of the ingredients that I didn't even use a dressing.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Happy birthday succulents!

Last year in a rare fit of adult-like domestic responsibility, I went to the Union Square Greenmarket and purchased five small succulent plants. I didn't expect them to last a month. In college, I watched one bamboo plant each year suffer a quick and untimely demise, my apartment in Louisville kept nothing but the roaches alive, and I welcomed "Shloopy the Succulent" into my first New York apartment but distraughtly watched him go to that great garden in the sky after just three months. So even though I had a ton of fun picking out ceramic teacups and creamers to be their new houses and even more fun naming them after the five Huxtable children, I had little hopes for future and survival of my new shrubs.

Much, much to my surprise and wonderment, it's one year later and they are all still alive. I think it has to do with the amount of direct sunlight they get on my kitchen windowsill, but honestly, I have no idea what is keeping these guys going - I've actually had to repot a few of them, and I'm probably due for another repotting sometime soon, but that's assuming I get my act together and get some larger pots (and then figure out where the larger pots can live).

I also tried my hand at propagation. Sometime last summer, one of the plants lost a leaf during it's "bath." I felt bad about it, so I threw the leaf into a rosemary plant pot on the balcony (was I supposed to do this? Probably not). About a month later, I realized there was new growth on the leaf. So I bought a new teacup (Fishs Eddy is my place to go for all things ceramic), filled it with dirt, and put the leaf into that. Amazing, that too is still growing.

Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. Millions of people grow all sorts of things all the time (if that's not the most obviously general statement ever, I don't know what it), and I guess a few little succulents aren't all that complicated. But I'm still pretty proud of my little guys. They keep me company when I putter around in the kitchen, and it was really refreshing to have life and growth in the apartment during those insufferable winter months. It's possibly fairly pathetic to wish happy birthday to a plant, but since I have yet to venture into the wide world of dog ownership and/or actual child-rearing, these plants are the only "kids" I have at the moment. So happy birthday to Sandra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, Rudy, and the propagated Olivia - thanks for sticking around Apt. 4B.   ;)

Monday, April 20, 2015

the engagement

A little over a week ago, I woke up in a beautiful resort in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. J and I were on day #3 of a much-needed, do-nothing-vacation. We threw on our swimsuits, wandered downstairs to La Palapa, the outdoor restaurant that had that quirky waiter we thought was really nice, and ordered our usuals - iced coffee and french toast for him, cappuccino and scrambled eggs on toast with an avocado for me. We discussed the plans for the day: swimming, laying out, maybe we should hit the gym? Nachos for lunch. Definitely nachos.

With stomachs full and veins fully caffeinated, we walked the 25 feet to the Balinese bed we'd claimed as our own for the day. Its giant thatched roof provided the shade he so desired, its giant pillows allowed me to set my own personal record for Ultimate Laziness. It was about 10am and already a scorcher. I grabbed a book and announced I was going to finish it in the pool; there were giant tiled "recliners" built into the side of the pool that allowed you to lay in the water but still keep your arms dry enough to hold a book.

With about one chapter left of Like Water For Chocolate, a fairy tale-like story set in Revolutionary Mexico that I'd gotten from the library specifically for this trip, I decided it was time for a mimosa. Because why not? I signaled Alfredo, the tireless pool attendant, and almost instantaneously one appeared in my hand.

Before long, I finished both the book and the mimosa. While I could have stayed on that lounge chair all day, it truly was hot and incredibly sunny and I was attempting to kind of sort of monitor my sun exposure because I really didn't feel like dealing with a sunburn on vacation. So I headed back to the Bali bed.

I crawled all the way to the back of the bed and had JUST laid down when J said, hey can you do me a favor and get my shirt from the beach bag? I grumbled, oh, ok, sat back up, and started rummaging through the bag.

I don't see a shirt, I said. It's under your hat, he said. Where under my hat, I said. Keep looking, he said.

Then my hand landed on a small square velveteen box. Now, I'm pretty dense when it comes to most things in life, but there isn't a 30-something-middle-class-white-woman in America who wouldn't immediately know with every fiber of her being what was inside that box.

I pulled it out of the beach bag. I started shaking. I started crying. And then I started ugly crying. With trembling hands, I opened the box. Inside was a beautiful diamond ring.

Mary Spadoni, will you marry me? he said.

I nodded, because it was all I could do. He slipped the ring onto my finger. I continued to ugly cry because if there's one thing I know how to do, it's to ruin a beautiful moment by being so ridiculously and emotionally overwhelmed with happiness that I start ugly crying.

Is that a yes?? he asked. I laughed. Yes! I sputtered. He laughed. We kissed.

And then I realized that my nose was all runny from the crying so he had to go get napkins from the pool bar, and then I had to pee because of the mimosa, but I eventually calmed down and we signaled to Alfredo that we were in need of some celebratory cocktails and in a giant thatched-roof Bali bed in Mexico we toasted to the beginning of a bright new future together.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

afternoon delights

I don't want to jinx it, but I sent my puffy coat to the cleaners and put the winter boots into storage (aka, the back of my closet), I impulsively bought a gorgeous bouquet of alstroemerias at the farmer's market, and I'm starting to seriously plan this year's balcony garden. Happy spring to all ;)

* I'm doing this next time I'm in Chicago - who's with me?

* Makes me want to go to the middle of nowhere and photograph nothing.

* Finally, NYC residents now have a central website location to complain about their landlords.

* My thoughts exactly.

* If this were any more true it would just be a screenshot of my fb newsfeed.

* There is a Tower of Spadoni. I must go find it.

* The World's Worst Bar Crawl.

* An essay contest where the winner gets their very own 210-year-old Main inn.

* For the love of pickles.

* Fantastic parenting advice (and I don't even have kids).

* The most fascinating and interactive journey to the center of the earth.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

this purple city

This past Christmas, my boyfriend's parents gave me a gift certificate to Adorama (a local camera store). I knew immediately what I was going to get - the Lomography Diana Mini, a 35mm film camera that I had my eyes set on for quite some time. Like many (many) amateur photographers, I grew up using film cameras but switched over to digital pretty much as soon as I could get my hands on an affordable model. If the shoeboxes of photos that still lie underneath my bed in my parent's house are any indication, I stopped regularly using film sometime around 2003/2004; incidentally, I distinctly remember spending about five hours in a Best Buy as I carefully poured over and picked out the prized camera that would accompany me on my semester abroad in Europe.

But the thrill of analogue photography has stayed with me all these years - there are obviously a million reasons why digital photography is much easier/cheaper/convenient/etc. than traditional film photography, but I will never forget the magic that I felt while developing my own film in the darkroom of the community college where I took a black and white film class one summer.

So back to the Diana camera. I'd been looking to get back in to analogue photography, if not to the extent that I install a darkroom in my bathroom, then at the least I shoot a couple rolls here and there just to see what happens. And in the true spirit of "see what happens," I unearthed a few rolls of film that I had been carting around in a box since quite possibly the last millennium. Now, I KNOW that I had not treated those rolls with any care or concern. I'm sure that at one point I kept them in the freezer like any good photographer knows to do, but after half a dozen moves across almost as many states, those rolls didn't stand a chance. But rather than throw them away, I decided to see what, if any, kind of pictures they'd produce.

The first chance I got to play with my old film in my new camera was during the New York Blizzard That Wasn't. Since I was blessedly given a day off from rehearsal, I was able to wander around the neighborhood and photograph all three inches of snow. The resulting pictures aren't great - they're blown out, they're not framed particularly well, and they all have a slightly purple/grey tinge to them. But I kind of love them! They seem to show an Astoria from another era, one that has yet to be hit with Photoshop and immediately perfect Instagram filters.

I used up the end of the roll on a day trip to the Dia art museum in Beacon, NY. Not too many of those images turned out (I think it was too dark in most of the galleries), but I did get one cool picture from a Richard Serra installation. I'm not 100% sure if the quality of the pictures is a result of the old film, the novelty-nature of the camera, or (most likely) a combination of both those factors, but I have another roll out for processing and am working my way through a third, and am so happy I rekindled my love of analogue photography. I just can't for the life of me figure out what took me so long!

These photos were shot on a Lomography Diana Mini camera with Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400 film, developed at my local Duane Reade, and scanned into my computer; none of the pictures have been digitally retouched.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Book report #3

It's been a while since I've done a book review, and three months of a never-ending winter caused me to cuddle up in bed with a book more nights than not. I also (finally) remembered to utilize the library that has been located a half mile from where I've been living for the past five years - saving money AND supporting a local establishment - a win-win in my book! (pun intended) ;)

*Alena (Rachel Pashtin) - blending art, travel, museums, and a mystery, I really looked forward to this novel, expecting it to be as exciting as a Dan Brown story but with a female protagonist. And I was a fan of this novel up until the last quarter or so when it unfortunately became silly and unrealistic, all the characters started to annoy me, and the "mystery" frankly pissed me off.

*Man Seeks God (Eric Weiner) - it took me a LONG time to get through this book. Not because it's bad, but because each lengthy chapter is so packed with religious and spiritual insight that I needed time to digest each portion of the narrator's journey. I'm a big fan of Eric Weiner, and he does not disappoint in his recount of traveling all over the world in order to find a religion that suits his needs and personality. He treats each faith with respect and awe, and provides such a fascinating peek into each belief that this could easily be required reading for any Comparative Religions class.

*Sex at Dawn (Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha) - this was my book club's selection for February, and I'm glad that it was "assigned" to me because I normally would have never picked up anything like this. Using genetics, anthropology, evolution, and a slew of other scientific devises I never studied while getting my B.A in theater, the authors set out to prove that humans are intrinsically non-monogamous creatures. It often turned way too dry and academic for my liking, but it nevertheless generated an evening of fascinating conversation and debate amongst my friends.

*Saltwater Buddha (Jaimal Yogis) - an entertaining narrative of a man's misspent youth-turned-zen surfer. Written with equal parts humor and spirituality, this digestible memoir had me looking up surfing schools in New York (they exist) before I even got to the end.

*The Kindness Diaries (Leon Logothetis) - I have to be honest here. I hated this book. A guy goes on a quest to travel around the globe on a motorbike with no money, no belongings, no gas, and no food, hoping to rely only on the kindness and offerings of others. He not only succeeds in his goal, but he also somehow manages to have the most unbelievable experiences in each country he visits all the while gracing the people he meets with outlandish and ostentatious presents in thanks for their kindness ("a new house!" "here, have a cow for your village!" "I will pay for your childrens' entire education!") His trip was so clearly fixed by his publishers (and the film crew that coincidently traveled a few paces behind him) that I was an unbeliever by the second chapter.

*Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout) - the harsh realities of life and the inevitability of death were starkly played so close to the surface that this beautiful but painfully sad portrayal of small-town life was, at times, overshadowed by it depressing nature. Characters come and go (as I suppose they do in anyone's life) but I found myself mourning their departure within the world that Strout created. A truly wonderful and compelling book, but you may want to keep a box of kleenex nearby when you read it, as I was taken by many of the moments and often surprisingly overcome with emotion.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pattern play

It's no secret that I love the Met Museum. I'm not really sure how it started, but art museums are one of my happy places. I find peace and serenity in being surrounded by giant works of art, regardless of how crowded a particular gallery is (and sometimes they can be really crowded...I'm looking at you, MoMA), I'm fascinated by a work's creation in regards to its historical and sociological context, and I love finding personal meaning in even the most abstract and esoteric pieces.

While most of the art museums in New York cost much too much for me to visit with any regularity, the Metropolitan Museum of Art blessedly operates on a pay-what-you-wish system - which means that I am able to pay as much as I wish (or as much as I can afford) every time I want to go. And while most visitors to New York only get one chance to see the museum and are forced to take in all two million works of art in a few short hours, I get the luxury of going often and at my own pace.

The last time I was at the museum I was struck by the simple yet detailed patterns on the pottery that lined the Greek and Roman wing (and a few in Oceania) - and since I was leading my own tour, I decided to take a nearsighted approach to the afternoon and focus primarily on the seemingly modern-day, almost zentangle-like designs that I had never noticed before. I quickly found repeating patterns everywhere - once I noticed one, I couldn't help but notice them all.

There's so much to see in any museum, but in a place as giant at the Met the sheer amount of things to take in is often completely overwhelming. It was actually really refreshing to give myself permission on this visit to simply ignore almost everything around me and only pay attention to the teeniest, tiniest details. Have you ever taken such an unorthodox approach to visiting a museum?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

month in objects: March

b&r spa: because sometimes you need a massage. or maybe even two chipotle: because a steak burrito on a rainy double show saturday is often the only thing that gets you through the weekend dia: because a day trip to an art museum is always a good idea met museum: because you need to revisit your "friends" in the oceanic wing An American in Paris: because it's a ballet and it's gershwin and it's beautiful garnier: because dark chocolate is the color for spring flower: because flowers are for opening nights nysc: because it's time to bite the bullet and get yourself a gym membership pencil: because how often do you work hard enough to actually wear down the entire eraser? Heidi ticket: because every once in a while you fulfill a lifelong goal and work a broadway show palm: because your mom wanted you to go to palm sunday mass and you obliged travel IQ: because it's tradition MoMA: because it's fun to teach your parents about modern art

month in objects is my documentation system for 2015 - each month I create and photograph a collage of items that represent that month - and then toss most of the actual items in the trash. By the end of the year, I'll have 12 photographs and (hopefully) a lot less clutter. read january's story and the origin of this project here