Thursday, November 26, 2015

giving thanks

for wine and cheese and long talks with good friends

for bright green plants on cold and cloudy days

for on-time trains and snagging the last seat

for netflix and bingewatching on all lazy days

for take out and cozy nights on the couch

for wedding plans and big honeymoon dreams

for long phone calls with parents who live far away

for first holidays with new families

for unknown futures that hold infinite possibilities

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

one final thought about the CSA

It was the penultimate week for our CSA, and frankly, the offerings were paltry. Some combination of weather/rainfall/lack of rainfall/point in the growing season caused that week's haul to be noticeably less than usual - and after splitting amongst my two co-share-partners, my take was little more than a half a head of cabbage, three potatoes, some rutabagas, two carrots, and two handfuls of what I think was something in the kale family. You'd think by this point I'd be able to identify a vegetable from 30 feet away, but despite over six months of googling strange vegetables, my foraging skills sadly remain at a whopping level of zero.

I was also a little bit over the whole vegetable thing. I was tired of trying to figure out new and interesting ways to incorporate these vegetables into my meals, and I was also slightly frustrated with the fact that splitting a whole share into equal thirds meant that we never got a full serving of any one vegetable. More often than not, I'd receive two carrots in the CSA and then have to go buy three more at the grocery because the recipe I'd found called for a whole bunch. And really, there are only so many things you can do with a half of head of cabbage, and I was not interested in revisiting any of them.

But it was lunchtime, and I was hungry. Feeling my usual level of mid-day lazy, I decided to just reheat some of last night's dinner. I'd baked salmon and sautéd broccoli and made a surprisingly delicious cranberry sauce to top the whole thing off, and I was really looking forward to reliving the experience through the magic of the microwave. But then I saw the pile of vegetables sitting on the counter, just begging to be used. Or at the very least, considered. Was it so much to ask to incorporate just one of the fresh veggies?

Le sigh. Without really putting too much thought into it, I diced some garlic and grabbed a pan, heated some olive oil, and threw in the garlic, kale-like greens, and two cranks of the salt grinder. 90 seconds later, I scooped the greens onto my plate next to the salmon and the cranberries.

They were fantastic. Sweet and garlicky and packed with nutrients and not at all slimy. I could feel myself getting healthier with every bite. And then I realized - this was the point of the CSA - to give me the freedom and opportunity to experiment with a million different new (to me) vegetables so that eventually, some of those recipes would go right into my wheelhouse and become second nature. A year ago, I never would have known to sauté unidentifiable greens to the point of deliciousness. But after being confronted with bags and bags of leafy greens each week, I learned a very simple way to make them edible. Was every CSA-driven meal I made this year a winner? Not at all. Did I grow to love swiss chard? Absolutely not. But do I now cast a wider scope when I'm at the grocery store and consider (and purchase) so many more different vegetables than I used to? One hundred percent yes.

The following week's yield was massive - and conveniently, just in time for the Friendsgiving potluck I was attending. I'd had a hunch that there would be at least a few potatoes or parsnips in the mix and offered to make a "root vegetable gratin" for the dinner. My clairvoyance paid off. Not only did we get every root vegetable found in North America, I was the only recipient of that final CSA. Kristen was out of town for the holidays already, and Claire told me to fold her share into whatever I was making for Friendsgiving. As I got to work comfortably peeling and slicing eleven pounds of vegetables that I had had literally never seen in person prior to the start of this year's growing season, I decided that I probably wouldn't be joining a CSA next year. But when I later added the largest casserole in the history of holiday parties to the overflowing dinner table, I sure was glad I joined one this year.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Weeks ago, I began the process of closing up the balcony garden for the winter. We had one random night where temperatures flirted with dipping below freezing, so I frantically pulled all the plants inside for the evening. My schedule got the best of me that week, so they lived in the living room for about five days until J kindly reminded me that I was neglecting our kids and could I please do something about the plants? So I dutifully pulled and washed the basil and plopped the leaves into ice cube trays filled with olive oil to freeze over the winter, did the same for the mint (substituting water for olive oil), bid adieu to the failed oregano and lavender, and made a futile attempt to salvage some of the dill before admitting defeat. And then I turned to the two giant rosemary branches flourishing in their pot. I had looked up various methods of preserving the herb and decided that I'd try oven-drying the leaves - but at a later date, because it was getting late and we had dinner plans. So the rosemary went back to the balcony to enjoy a few more days of unseasonably warm weather (thanks, global warming!).

As weather is wont to do, it suddenly went from kind-of-autumn to it's-actually-fall to oh-crap-I-think-winter-is-coming - and I needed to deal with the rosemary once and for all. So I grabbed the pot and ripped off a piece of parchment and turned on the oven - and then took another look at the plant. It was full and vibrant and nowhere near ready to be preserved. I shook my head. There was no way I had room for any more plants inside the apartment, and I feared that J would have a conniption if I added one more pot to the kitchen windowsill.

But as Our Lady of 90's Fashion Cher Horowitz has so poignantly reminded us this week, "it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty." So I hauled ass to the kitchen, redistributed the oils and vinegars, and squished in another plant. And you know what? The rosemary totally fits. She's right at home in between the giant succulent and tin of cooking spoons, as if she'd been there all along. The more the merrier, indeed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

afternoon delights

The air is crisp and the colors are outstanding and suddenly my to-do list includes shopping for presents and baking and decorating and attending every holiday party in Queens (and some in Brooklyn). Here are the links and clicks to the best and boldest of what the interwebs had to offer this month.  xo, M 

*On eating and walking (also known as one of my favorite pastimes)
*I spent a Sunday in the kitchen and made this roast again - it does not disappoint
*Equally hilarious, terrifying, and probably true
*I'll be celebrating on the lanai
*Good advice
*I might do this (I've always wanted to be a patron of the arts)
*Who else is watching The Great British Bake-Off?? Why it's so good and when it's truly bad
*This is everything I've ever wanted
*The luxury of service
*Whatever you do, please keep on traveling 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Save the date

I'm quickly learning that nothing in wedding planning will be simple. Or fast. Case in point: our Save the Dates.

When we picked our date and venue in August, I knew the next major item on my to-do list was to send out save the dates to our guest list. While we're not having a destination wedding in the traditional sense (i.e, a beach wedding in Mexico), our guests who don't already live in the Chicagoland area will be coming from both coasts and all over the Midwest - 10 different states in all. So in the interest of giving people as much time as possible to get their flights and hotel rooms booked, I figured it would be best to send some simple info cards as quickly as possible.

Little did I know that a "simple info card" would take nearly two months to organize. First, we had to pick the cards themselves. A quick internet search told me that there are approximately 500 different stationary companies that each offer dozens, if not hundreds, of different styles and designs for you own personal, customizable, save the dates. There are also apps like Makr that allow you to design your card online but print at home. You could also just design and print the whole thing yourself using downloadable designs. Or you could hire your own private calligrapher to handwrite each save the date and then have them all dipped in gold leaf and unicorn tears. The possibilities are literally endless.

So there I was, plunging deeper and deeper into my privately curated Pinterest hell, when finally J couldn't take it (or me) any longer and grabbed a friend's save the date off our fridge. "Just use Vistaprint! It worked for Eric & Alexis, it'll work for us!"

Fantastic. Vistaprint would be our papetier of choice. Cheap, easy, discount codes galore, provider of the 983 business cards holding court in my desk drawer. And I was even able to fairly quickly pare down their options to my top three, one of which J liked best. So we're done, right?

Noooo. Even after I spent three hours messing around with fonts, colors, and font sizes, I still needed to send a proof to my mother (at her request), teach her how to download a PDF to her desktop, increase a few more font sizes, remove a few embellishments, send three more proofs to my mother, argue with my father about the difference between "elegant" and "whimsical," print out a proof for myself, and then discuss with J which of our seven credit cards we should use for this purchase to maximize spending points. And then I ordered our save the dates.

BUT. I also needed to finish compiling guests' names and addresses, create and order an address stamp (a Herculean task I was able to accomplish only after using all those graphic design skills I never bothered to learn), buy a stamp pad for said address stamp, create an independent wedding website to house all the information we didn't have room for on our save the dates, make an adorable infographic for the "about us" page of the website, buy postage stamps, address labels, and one of those envelope sealing spongy things, attempt to learn the finer points of mail merge, curse the existence of mail merge, give up and type the damn addresses in myself, and finally create a stuffing-stamping-sealing assembly line set to the tune of Sunday night football. Then, and only then, were we able to mail out 78 save the dates. Most of which will end up in the trash the second people bookmark the website.

And to add (a small) insult to (a small) injury, I stupidly ordered WAY too many save the dates when my normally dependable brain thought "150 guests means 150 save the dates, so we should probably order 200 just to be on the safe side." Any sane person would have immediately realized that all but three of those 150 guests are either already-formed couples or simply a +1. Even if I included the handful of envelopes I ruined with a bad stamp-job, I would have been more than fine with just 100 save the dates.

(In an unrelated note - does anyone need any very specific, non-customizable save the dates? Kidding. Sort of.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Farmer's market

I recently found myself downtown at 5pm on a Friday, which wouldn't normally be cause for notice. But instead of going to work, this time I was leaving work. I was not on my way to a theater, I was not frantically grabbing ice packs and throat coat in anticipation of an actor falling during a fight call or having the sniffles due to the air conditioning, and I was not fielding calls and texts from well-meaning but very tardy crew members about how they're stuck underground and might be only a half an hour late. On this particular and unseasonably warm Friday evening, I was calmly and gracefully ending my work day at an interior design firm for which I have recently started working part time. Now, I get that all this - the job change, the bizarre fall weather, the lack of texts - is still not really enough to warrant an entire blog post. BUT - after leaving said design firm, I realized that I had nowhere I really need to be in the next few hours and decided that a long walk for some fresh air was an order. So I headed north, figuring that I'd grab a Queens-bound train whenever I got tired of walking. This meandering quickly led me to Union Square, where I was pleased to discover the last few minutes of their Friday Farmer's Market. With time on my side, I wandered through the stalls and gaped at the giant vegetables and even bigger flowers. I got inspired and made some tentative plans for an upcoming Friendsgiving dinner (I have been tasked with "a savory side dish"), and I marveled at the pulse and rush of people that even after six years of living in New York, still astounds me. I'm still emotionally navigating my way through the sheer amount of spare time I have thanks to not working on a show, but I relished in the fact that last Friday, I had nothing better to do then wander around a farmer's market.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

No alcohol beyond this point

Welp, I did it. 30 days of no drinking, thanks to my own self-inflicted rules of Sobetober. And while this certainly wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done, it did provide some surprising insights. First of all, was actually quite easy to substitute my one-finger of bourbon nightcap for a cup of equally aromatic tea. I even found a few new flavors, using this month as an opportunity to branch out from my familiar chamomile. My wallet also took notice of my teetotaling ways, and I admit that it was nice to spend that $30 or so bucks I normally would have spent on alcohol on a cute new sweater. And I do feel pretty great, but that might be due in part to an unusually light work schedule that allowed me to get to the gym many more times than I normally do - but it's also entirely possible that my drive to go to said gym was increased because I didn't have pints of beer sloshing around in my stomach, preventing me from even thinking about getting off the couch.

BUT - there were four specific instances in which I sorely regretted my personal ban - and not surprisingly, they were all social situations.  A double date in which the other couple inquired about the wine and beer list, a girl's night with someone I hadn't seen in two months, a quick get-together with friends at a bar for Halloween, and an opening night party at which two different acquaintances blatantly asked if I was pregnant when they heard me ordering a seltzer with lime (there's no shame in theater). It's not as though I had a bad time at any of those occasions - the dinner was lovely, the girl's night was exactly what we both needed, and the conversation at the bar was animated in spite of the lack of alcohol. But while I certainly enjoyed the play and subsequent party, I definitely ducked out a bit earlier than I normally would have - mingling with awkward techies is just not as fun without the assistance of a signature cocktail.

So what does this all mean? Not a heck of a lot. Many people give up much more and for far longer and don't write a pithy blog post about it. But it's good to set and stick to personal challenges, and I think this was a good one for me to attempt. It set me up nicely for the next 11 months of getting "wedding ready," and I may in fact do it again in February and September of next year. I will say though, that as this post goes live, I will be in Day 3 of a Very Large and Very Lengthy Event - and I will enjoy nothing more than sipping a wonderfully cold and salted margarita at the wrap-up dinner.

Monday, November 2, 2015

month in objects: october

lanyard: because there's a trade show for everyone / crumpled paper: because shopping lists are my jam / cough drops: because 'tis the season / bhldn: because I bought the dress / stamps: because we're making (tiny) strides to get this wedding going / concert ticket: because a free ticket to the Roots makes for a good night out / tea bag: because sobetober meant a trying some new beverages / stubs: because I'm still finding these in all my coat pockets / seat assignment: because our friends got married and they served pie

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. want to see previous months? february / march / april may / june / july / august / september