May 2012

library day – old school phones

Call me crazy, but I have decided, for some reason that I cannot articulate, that it is extremely important for my daughter to know about all sorts of analogue stuff that has become almost obsolete but that, in my opinion, remain far more desirable than their modern digital counterparts.

She knows how to put a record on the turntable, she can dial a rotary phone, and one of our favorite books is The Lonely Phone Booth, by Peter Ackerman with wonderful, slightly cock-eyed illustrations by Max Dalton.

It tells the story of a real live phone booth (still standing today!) on the upper west side of Manhattan that is ignored in favor of cell phones until an electrical storm takes out the cell towers.

Here’s the phonebooth, wondering what on earth those little silver things are that everybody is speaking into.

Maybe I love this book because the story celebrates a relic of my youth, growing up in NYC. Or maybe I love the storyline because it reminds us how fleeting all of this digital technology is. Or maybe I just like it because it justifies my rotary phone (which worked during the last 2 huge power outages, by the way…)

Whatever the reason, it’s a sweet story, and a great thing for a city kid to read. Plus the next time you’re on 100th street and West End Avenue, you might just be tempted to make a call.

arts and crafts – sheila hicks at sikklema jenkins


I love this show.

Sheila Hicks is a genius. And her exhibit (on view right now through June 2 at Sikkema Jenkins in Chelsea) is not to be missed if you have any interest in checking out work that takes the traditional craft of weaving to a whole new level that can only be described as sublime.

Every encounter with this work, from her tiny framed swatches of colorfully woven yarn with the odd porcupine spine thrown in (above) to larger more sculptural pieces made (for example) from seagrass emerging from a clawfoot tub (below) inspires me both to pick up a loom and get to work creating my own projets and to go out there and make a bunch of money so that I can afford to take one (or five) of these pieces home with me.

Her work also serves as monumental and stunning proof that one does not have to be a 25 year old hipster to be contributing beautifully relevant pieces to the lexicon. Born in 1934, this Sheila Hicks has been around the block, and her experience imbues the work with an intensity it might not otherwise have.

More pretty pictures if you click below…

Here are a few other examples of why I love what this woman is doing. And a compelling argument for hauling yourself over to Chelsea to check the show out before it’s gone…

A tiny framed piece of… twine..? How does twine become so moving?

A wall sized colorful riff…

A detail… with porcupine quills.

And just a little something for the corner…

Anybody want to take up weaving with me?

library day – pretend soup

We have had our daughter helping us out in the kitchen since she could reach the counter with the aid of a step stool, but it is only after I spotted this brilliant cookbook at our school book fair that she could really take the reigns and make deliciousness happen on her own (with a few minor assists!)

Thank you, oh Mollie Katzen (of the classic Moosewood Cookbook fame) for getting help from co-author Ann Henderson and writing a cookbook for the little ones that a) has the most brilliant illustrated instructions so that they don’t need to be fluent readers and b) has real food recipes made from wholesome ingredients that will hopefully inspire our kids to eat right, rather than just piling whipped cream on top of everything, all the time.

The recipes are first printed traditionally, with little tips for the grown ups about how to tailor the experience for the children. And then, the following two page spread is the illustrated version for the kids, with the last instruction always being “EAT!”

Which we did. And well, too.

Ice cream sandwich as anti depressant

Last weekend was a rough one. Trying to come to terms with losing my uncle to lung cancer sucked (and is ongoing), plus I learned that another friend was also taken by the same beast (though a slightly different version.) And now Maurice Sendak. It’s almost more than I can take.

It was only at the end of the aforementioned weekend that I realized  I’d spent the majority of my time in the kitchen, drowning my sorrows by cooking food. And I must say that the homemade ice cream sandwiches that my daughter and I produced on Sunday afternoon did nudge me towards the realization that the world is still a beautiful place, despite the just plain horrible things that can happen at times. Our sandwiches were far from perfect looking, but man were they delicious.

I have  the fabulous Deb of Smitten Kitchen fame to thank for the idea. Probably my favorite food blogger, her recipes never disappoint. In fact, I’ll probably pre order a copy of her soon-to-be-published cookbook by the time you all are reading this post. which I’m looking forward to as I am not a fan of cooking from a computer screen, but I feel guilty about paper-wasting if I print out the recipes.

A few tips, if you decide to go for these sandwiches yourselves (and you most definitely should):

Take all of the helpful hints in the recipe to heart. They actually malke the whole thing much more managable.

Give the newly made and wrapped sandwiches ample time to freeze back up before you serve them. We did not (maybe 30 minutes or so) and the ice cream was a bit too soft in the center. Not that it mattered, especially as we ate them outside, but if you don’t want your floor to turn into lakes of vanilla, I’d take this advice seriously.

Click below for the full recipe, or for all the details, tons of beautiful photos and a doorway into the most excellent world of Smitten Kitchen, click here. And tell her I sent you.

Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Sweet Designs by Amy Atlas

Yield: 12 2-by-4-by-1-inch ice cream sandwiches (24 cookies). However, I made 10 large and 10 miniature (1-by-1.5-inch) sandwiches because while I was baking the large ones, my son toddled in from his nap and announced “Mommy making cookies! For Jacob!” and I realized he probably didn’t need a cookie nearly the size of his head. I am so very mean.

If you have a favorite cookie cutter shape you’d like to use for these sandwiches, definitely use it. You can cut the cookies and the ice cream with it. You could perhaps even make, say, star-shaped ice cream sandwiches for a 4th of July-themed cookout. You know, if you’re not me.

Re, the cocoa weight below: Just about everyone on earth besides me finds that a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder weighs 80 to 85 grams. That’s what the number below is based on. However, I consistently find that my super-fancy Valrhona Dutch cocoa weighs in a bit higher, up to 5 to 10 grams more than you see below. So, you might nudge it up if you’re using the same.

2 2/3 cups (335 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup (75 grams) extra dark or Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks or 285 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 gallon (8 cups or approximately 1050 grams, weight will vary by brand/variety) ice cream, your choice of flavor (I used cookies and cream), softened

Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the flour and cocoa together (I am generally too lazy to sift things but cocoa is really lumpy so don’t skip this) and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix until combined, then scrape down sides and mix briefly again. Add the flour mixture a little at a time then mix until combined.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. If the dough is too soft to handle, wrap and chill it until firm enough to roll out (I recommend 30 minutes only; any longer and it becomes crumbly to roll out). Roll each batch into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle, about 10 by 8 inches. Cut into a total of 24 2-by-4-inch rectangles.

Use an offset spatula to transfer the rectangles to the prepared sheets; you’ll only need an inch space between them. Use the tip of a thermometer (totally brilliant tip from Amy, by the way; it made far better indentations than skewers that I usually use for docking) to poke the cookies with holes (Amy recommends 14 holes but I used this as my guide and made more).

Bake the cookies for 16 to 18 minutes, or until they stay firm when tapped in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, rerolling scraps as needed.

Meanwhile, line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper, allowing it to overhang on two sides (it will act as a sling for the ice cream). Spread the softened ice cream into the pan, smooth the top and freeze until firm, about one hour (or longer if your freezer is as terrible as mine).

Run a knife along the exposed sides of the pan to loosen the ice cream. Holding onto the parchment paper, lift ice cream out of the pan and onto the work surface. Using one of the cookies as a template, cut ice cream into 12 2-by-4-inch bars. Strangely, I found using kitchen shears to go right through the ice cream and the paper underneath the easiest. I then flipped each piece of ice cream onto a cookie, peeled off the paper, and finished sandwiching the rectangle of ice cream with a second cookie.

(Look, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that this whole ice cream part caused a spectacular mess in my kitchen. Huge! It was an ice cream massacre! But, I was rushing and you should not. If your ice cream begins to soften, just slide it back into the freezer for a bit and it will become easy to work with again. Promise. Do as I say, not as I did, unless you like sticky floors.)

Wrap each ice cream sandwich in plastic and please, again, listen to Amy here. I was all “Oh, let me just get them cold again and I’ll wrap them later.” Which was wrong. They continue to lose their shape for a bit, runny and melting, before they freeze up and that is why my sandwiches were kind of a mess. “Sealing” them into their shape immediately with plastic is, well, the reason that Amy is a sweets stylist and my food looks, uh, “handmade.”

Freeze until just before serving.

library day: know thy neighbor

Tuesday is library day at my daughter’s school. Which means every Tuesday morning is spent rummaging around through the piles searching  fot the borrowed volume in order to return it to it’s rightful home.

We always manage (by the skin of our teeth) to find the book.

So in honor of this ritual, I thought I should give a shout out to the poetry book we purchased over the weekend that has earned a top tier posiiton on the family reading list. Neighbors: The Yard Critters is a poetry book written by George Held and illustrated by Joung Un Kim in the collage/drawing/painting style that seems to be everywhere these days. And yet, when done well, is extremely captivating.

The poems are sophisticated but simple, providing an introduction to poetry that is engaging without being… well… stupid.

It’s a beautiful celebration of springtime and of lazy afternoons (and evenings) spent outdoors. And it makes a great gift, not the least because it’s pretty new, so your friends probably don’t have it already.

Ivanhoe Higgins 1944 – 2012

My dearest Uncle Ivan died last night, after battling lung cancer for almost three years longer than the doctors gave him at his initial diagnosis.

He was, up to the very end, one of the most profound individuals I have ever encountered and was loved by everyone he met. Literally. He carried himself with an unparalleled grace, kindness, generosity and dignity that I only wish I could emulate.

He was, and will continue to be, my hero.

I love you Ivan. May the force be with you.

Dream, beautifully

It’s been open for a few months now, and while so many bright shiny new things fade within moments of bursting onto the scene, Beautiful Dreamers, the shop/gallery/hangout/treasure chest/treehouse on Wythe and South 1st in Williamsburg, glows brighter every day.

An enchanted space filled with one of a kind, vintage and other sundry objects culled from founders’ April Hughs and Marina Burini’s wanderings (in their other lives, they are both stylists), the shop is one of those places that is next to impossible to leave empty handed. Yes, these are fairy clothes, my friends, but they are most definitely for grown ups.

From hand sewn leather moccasins to the best lip/hand balm you will ever use, to a beautiful book that you can’t take your nose out of, or that one incredible cotton dress to take you through the season, to ceramic tiles, just take my advice, bring a bag and be prepared to part with some of your money.

I mean, how do you resist anything that you try on in this magical dressing room?

Tons more photos, etc, if you click below…

The singular handcrafted and vintage clothes hang from a rack made of branches, natch. What else would faries shop from?

Candles, teas and tinctures (and other stuff) to increase our sensory experience.

Spoons (and a fork) to ladle out and display some of the aforementioned stuff.

Shoes to wear while cavorting in the forests by moonlight.

Bracelets with which to adorn ourselves… The list goes on and on. This is one of those places that sucks you in and then spits you out, 45 minutes later, somewhat belidered and, more often than not, holding some crazy article in your hand.

But before you march right in, all sensible like, and return it, try putting it on. You might actually begin to see how some of those beautiful dreams become reality.

Beautiful Dreamers, 326 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn; (718) 388-4884