January 2015

Another thing I don’t need but totally want, regardless


The SISII all-black version of the LL Bean rain boot is at Bird right now. Even as I type this caption.

I remember as a kid, and a teenager, and then into my twenties, not being able to imagine life in foul weather without the iconic LL Bean duck boot. But slowly, the tall wellie style took over, and, in my life at least, mukluks have assumed all snow duties.

But then these all-black duck boots show up at Bird, and I am suddenly tempted to throw away all of this adult nonsense and go back to basics. Especially now that I can do so while remaining all sophisticated and chic and whatnot.


Snowpocalypse! Or, a few things to do on a snow day

The Monday, Monday post is late as usual, but better late than never, right? Turns out we didn’t get the massive snow “event” that everyone wanted, but schools are still closed, the subways are still not running, and we have a lovely day of winter wonderland-ness to experience.

When you’re tired of snowball fights and sledding, if that’s even possible, here are a few ideas of things to do:

Watch Ernest and Celestine, a lovely Oscar-nominated animated feature about the unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse. With the voices of Forest Whitacker, Lauren Becall and Jeffrey Wright, you can’t really go wrong.

Get a jump on Valentine’s Day (and use some of that felt you have lying around) by weaving some felt heart baskets.

Make an herbal vinegar tincture to get rid of that lingering cold. You probably have all of the ingredients in your cupboard already!

ok this post is being interrupted in order to go play outside. More later…

I’m back, it’s a day later, and while the world has returned to normal (with everybody complaining about the storm’s poor showing) there are still a few things I’d like to add to this post. Just in case a real storm hits and we really need to hunker down.

The NY Times served up a cooking-for-the-storm playlist of recipes that is great even when the sun is shining…

Curl up with your kids and read them a great book. Like Alice in Wonderland, preferably the delicately psychedelic edition illustrated by Yayoi Kusama.

Last but not least, run over to Zero Maria Cornejo and buy her alpaca “Trek” pullover and never be cold again. And make it quick because the sale ends on Sunday.

Let it snow!

You probably haven’t heard of Kathy Heideman, but you should listen to her right about now. Because the first track of this record, aptly called Stormy, is the perfect thing to listen to on this blizzardy night.

Our internet service is kind of coming in and out, my parents just called from Florida to gloat, and the realization that a potential series of snowdays is at hand, with all of the joys and sorrows that implies, is slowly dawning.

I’m off to download a few movies for tomorrow, just in case it comes to that.

You can buy this record here, should you be so inclined…

Making lemon bars from scratch is hard (but worth it)

ny times lemon bars

Here are our far-from-perfect-but-nonetheless-delicious lemon bars, ready to be packed off to school and sold at the bake sale, because such is my life.

I promise that the next time I go to Bakeri I will not complain (even to myself, in secret) about the cost of their tiny and delicious lemon squares. Because they are not easy-peasy to create, like baking brownies for example. One actually needs some skill and mental confidence to pull these babies off.

That said, my daughter and I had a marathon baking session last night in order to make the aforementioned pastries for her school bake sale. The proceeds go to the scholarship fund, so the hard work was worth it, even though I secretly wanted to give up several times along the way.

But I was, as usual, playing the role of responsible, all-knowing, nothing-can-stop-us mom, so I zested the hell out of those lemons (a HUGE pain… if anybody knows a short-cut way to create zest, let him come forward), and patiently let my seven year old measure out flour and corn starch and cut frozen butter into cubes and whisk the lemon mixture on the stovetop until it transformed itself into curd.

And then I removed the pan from the oven every three minutes or so, shaking it to see whether or not it had “set” properly. It never did completely solidify, but I finally took it out of the oven when the center was very very slow to move when I tilted the pan. I then left it to cool down to room temperature, slept for 90 minutes, woke up (at 1:30 am, like a crazy person) and put the pan in the fridge to cool for the rest of the night.

This morning, solid-ass lemon squares were my reward. Ready to be cut, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and sent off to school to be purchased by other members of my kid’s school community. Hallelujah.

We sold them all, which is was very gratifying.

Here is the recipe we followed, from the esteemed Melissa Clark at the New York Times. We used a 9 x 13 inch pan, so we increased the ingredients by 50% and cooked the curd/crust combo for about 30 minutes:

Lemon Bars with Olive Oil and Sea Salt


1 1⁄4 cups/155 grams all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup/50 grams granulated sugar
3 tablespoons/25 grams confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt 10 tablespoons/142 grams
unsalted butter

4 to 6 lemons
1 1⁄2 cups/300 grams sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 yolks
1 1⁄2 teaspoons/5 grams cornstarch
Pinch of fine sea salt
4 tablespoons/57 grams cold butter, cut into cubes
1⁄4 cup/60 milliliters fruity extra- virgin olive oil
Confectioners’ sugar Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees and line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with enough parchment to hang over two of the sides (to be used as handles later to lift the bars out of the pan).

2. To make the shortbread base, pulse together the flour, granulated sugar, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and salt in a food processor, or whisk together in a large bowl. Add butter and pulse (or use two knives or your fingers) to cut the butter into the flour until a crumbly dough forms. Press dough into prepared pan and bake until shortbread is pale golden all over, 30 to 35 minutes.

3. While the shortbread is baking, prepare the lemon curd: Grate 1/2 tablespoon zest from lemons and set aside. Squeeze lemons to yield 3/4 cup juice.

4. In a small saucepan, whisk together lemon juice, sugar, eggs and yolks, cornstarch and fine sea salt over medium heat until boiling and thickened, 2 to 5 minutes. Make sure mixture comes to a boil or the cornstarch won’t activate. But once it boils do not cook for longer than 1 minute or you risk the curd thinning out again. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Whisk in butter, olive oil and lemon zest.

5. When the shortbread is ready, take it out of the oven and carefully pour the lemon curd onto the shortbread base; return the pan to the oven. Bake until topping is just set, 10 to 15 minutes more. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and flaky sea salt right before serving.

Yesterday, at some point…

metropolitain opera house

This week, in a brilliant move to recapture the thrill of date night, we went to see La Bohéme at the Metropolitan Opera House. I now suddenly find myself listening to opera and wishing that I had a light like this one in my living room…

Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.

Monday, Monday, or Many rivers to cross

Martin Luther King day is a time to celebrate the legacy of an incredible human being, for sure. But it is also a time to consider not only how far we have come, but how many miles we need to travel before The Dream comes true.

Here are a few ways that might nudge us all in the right direction…

The first thing to do, if you haven’t already, is to go out and see Selma. If you’re in 7th, 8th or 9th grade in one of 24 participating cities, you can go see the film free of charge. Check out the selmastudenttickets.com website for details.

Go join the army of volunteers helping others today.

Go be inspired by art, film, performances at BAM‘s 4 day tribute to MLK.

National Geographic Kids has this photographic bio to help the next generation better know Martin Luther King, Jr.

Watch the I have a dream speech.

Read this article in Mother Jones about how the current Black Lives Matter movement is aspiring to reclaim MLK’s legacy. And then check out blacklivesmatter.com and get involved.

Test your knowledge of civil rights and freedoms by doing this NY Times crossword puzzle.

How to not be furious about the fact that it is still freezing out

maple taffy production

The various stages of maple taffy production, clockwise from top left: 1) a plate of snow. 2) the maple syrup, just as it reaches the perfect stage of foaminess (is that a word?) and is ready to be poured. 3) If it gets this dark, it’s pretty much burnt and you should quickly turn off the burner and start again. We weren’t fast enough, and much smoke and sadness ensued. 4) the final result– delectable drops of sweetness (a little blurry, but you get the idea!)

Back in the olden days, when the world was much simpler and Michael Landon was everyone’s favorite dad, winter was a glorious time full of sleigh rides through the big woods to your grandparents’ house where folks would gather to sing, dance, and eat to celebrate the latest maple harvest.

No matter how many times we listen to Cherry Jones reading Little House In The Big Woods (and believe me, we have listened to it many many times…) we can’t bring the good old days back. But we can still make maple candy. And somehow, when you make your own candy, it is a thousand times more delicious than any store bought variety they’re pushing at the corner deli.

All you need is some maple syrup and some snow (I scooped up a jarful during our most recent storm and saved it in the freezer) and you’re good to go.

We started with a small plateful of snow… say about 2 cups full… and a half cup of maple syrup which makes just enough little taffy drops for one hungry kid and her mom to satisfy their sweet teeth for the evening.

Heat the syrup till it’s boiling, and then turn the heat down a bit so it holds steady. Then you basically watch and wait. When the syrup gets all foamy looking (smallish uniform bubbles– see top right photo above) it’s ready to go. This doesn’t take long (maybe 5 minutes or so) and it happens quickly, so you really have to keep your eyes on the pan. Waiting too long (like we did the first time round) will leave you with a horrible black nearly solid mass to scrape off of your pan.

Take the syrup out to your plate of snow and pour it slowly over, in swirls, dots, or whatever suits your fancy… being careful not to overlap too much as you’ll melt the snow before it has a chance to do it’s job. The syrup hardens quickly and in a minute or so is ready to peel off the plate and enjoy.

Just like Laura Ingalls and her cousins.

There are other, more scientific methods for making this stuff that involve candy thermometers, but I prefer doing it by eye. It somehow feels more satisfying, plus you’ve got one less thing to wash in the end.

Monday, Monday– or when it’s cold outside, we also listen to music

Traditionally, this is a weekly post with a number of links to various other places in the rabbit hole where you can learn more about something I have briefly mentioned here. But today, in honor of YET ANOTHER DAY IN THE LOW TWENTIES (yes, I am shouting in type) I give you seven songs about the cold to help you while away the hours between now and the next time the thermostat creeps above freezing.

The first is a video which is too priceless not to watch, but the rest are simply meant to be listened to, perhaps whist sipping a cup of hot cider and staring out into the frigid world…

The original from the 1940 film Neptune’s Daughter featuring a young pre-Fantasy Island Ricardo Montalban.

In the cold cold night, by The White Stripes. From way back in the day when people were confused and thought that Jack and Meg were siblings.

She’s So Cold, by The Rolling Stones might not be about the outdoors exactly, but you get the idea…

Art and Paul sing to us about the Hazy Shades Of Winter. (That’s Simon and Garfunkel to the uninitiated…)

Doughnut for a Snowman by Guided By Voices. Because I basically love everything by this band.

Big Maceo’s Wintertime Blues (1945) because the blues and wintertime like to walk hand in hand.

Sure, Winter Wonderland is generally considered to be a Christmas song, and Christmas is over, but Johnny Mathis’ voice is as clear and sharp as a glittering icicle and not to be left out in the cold.

Another thing I really don’t need but totally want, regardless

Photo from the lovely A Detacher website.

Photo from the lovely A Detacher website.

The holidays are over. My bank account is depleted. Plus I’m sure I’m going to make some kind of decluttering, less-is-more style promise to myself when I finally get around to making my resolutions.

But were I in the market for a new handbag, I’m thinking this would be the one. And it’s at A Detacher, which is one of my favorite NYC stores/shrines– I always stop in to dream whenever I’m in the neighborhood– so there are probably all sorts of other wonderful things on the racks and shelves that I want too.

But right now, instead of shopping, I’m going to go out and scrape the snow off of my car.