Saturday, February 27, 2010

Youth. Warmth. Happiness. Swimming Pools.















That is what I really need. Instead, the winter keeps dragging on and on here in the Mid-Atlantic and become less and less sure that we will even make it to spring, much less an actual summer.
Where is my backyard pool when I need it? I have so many mental water ballets to choreograph with the help of Mom's moves from the Maritimers at Wake Forest.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

International Sport

I have never been a big fan of the Winter Olympics. When I was a kid, the Winter Olympics were a mere prelude to the big Summer Olympic show. The fact is, in the muggy Florida Panhandle as kids, who on summer days woke up, dressed in a swimsuit before putting on any other clothes, we lived for swimming pools and water sports. The only Olympic sports of any consequence were swimming or those that took place in water. We simply had no context for snow or any of those sports played on ice. These days, I still find it impossible to get excited for the Winter Olympics, in spite of a husband who was a child of snow sports. Granted, I did enjoy watching the U.S. men's hockey team put a hurt on Canada the other night, but that is because hockey is the only winter sport that I know anything about (When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a crush on a classmate who played roller blade hockey at the beach and learned all of the NHL Hockey Rules and memorized the entire roster of the New York Rangers team in a bid to impress him). Plus, as an American, who doesn't enjoy a rarified opportunity to beat a neighbor to the north in the sport that they supposedly invented?

Although David's love of snow sports hasn't rubbed off on me, his devotion to another international winter sport has, namely, watching the European soccer leagues. On weekend mornings, David is an early riser to catch the action in the English Premier League and also see if he can find any Italian Serie A games featuring his favorite team, Inter Milan. I developed a new appreciation for Inter Milan games after I discovered that the coach of the team, Jose Mourinho, looks like this:

I realized that I am getting old because this is the first time that I have found a man that much older that attractive. But combined with his tailored Italian suits and perfect scarf accompanients, he displays all of that Portuguese passion for the game of football, while still managing to look like a reserved and slightly resentful European. The kind of European that overly self-conscious Americans such as myself or Edith Wharton and Henry James characters have been trying to win the approval of for centuries. Exhibit below:

All of that plus the fact he is a devoted family man and father of cutely international children:


What is not to find attractive? Even my male friends that watch the soccer games agree he is a good looking man.

I know this much, I won't be watching any of the next three Inter Milan Serie A games while he sits out a ban for making this gesture in a game. I love how passionate Europeans can get about a sport that most Americans find too dull because of its low scoring. Americans, we want to win big to care. We need big points. Those Europeans can find so much to care about in something so seemingly uneventful.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Meditation

Vois se pencher les
defuntes Annees,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannees;
Surgir du fond des eaux le Regret souriant
My sophmore year of high school I memorized the Baudelaire poem "Recueillement" from which the above lines come. I thought it was pretty, pensive and brooding, which is basically what I wanted to be my sophomore year of high school. When one is fifteen, one doesn't really have any sort of understanding of regret that emerges smiling from the sea, but one thinks that one does.
In case you can't tell, I have come to my French poetry books now in my organization. The process slows now as I re-read all of my old notes in the margins of Twenty Prose Poems and Les Fleurs du Mal while listening to Charlotte Gainsbourg sing.
Sidenote: Jane Birkin was performing somewhere in midtown while we were in NYC. I saw the lines of middle aged women lined up to see their aging style icon, and I thought to myself, I wish Logan Huntzburger would buy me a Birkin bag too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Return to a Beloved Place

For a break from the snow, if you live in the Northern hemisphere, conventional wisdom would tell you to go head south. But over the President's Day weekend, my parents were hit with six inches of snow in Mississippi and that snowstorm pummelled the Southeast. So instead, David and I headed north, for my first return trip to New York City since I moved out of Manhattan nearly five years ago. I can't believe that it has been that long. Going to New York was returning to an old lover; sometimes reminding you vividly of all of the things that you loved and admired, but then shocking you with the aspects of itself that made you keenly aware that you needed to leave. When I was there, there were moments that I felt like I never left at all. There were moments that made me feel like I was crazy to ever leave my tiny little abode on East 83rd Street. Then, there were moments that touched on the reasons why I felt I had to get out when I did. These were the thoughts that I thought I would blog about. But I am not going to blog about that today, perhaps because it is an entirely emotionally disjointed mess that I haven't made sense of in my mind (kind of like my entire existence in the city).


Instead, I will focus on a few of the things that I loved to do so much in the city, namely, shop and eat. It is easier to just talk about the shallow, pleasurable things that play to the much simpler Epicurean modes of existence. There was plenty of good shopping and good eating to be had on the trip.

First, we stayed in Midtown at Le Parker Meridien Hotel. We were on the 33rd floor and it was the first time in my life I have stayed anywhere that I have had a Park view from my room. Thanks David, for the ample supply of Starwood points that made this possible:




On Saturday, we hit a perennial favorite, Sarabeth's for breakfast. I have been to the Eastside and Westside locations, but this was my first visit to Central Park South. I can't help it. I still crave that Cinnamon French Toast with bananas. Even though Sarabeth's prices have increased exponentially in the past five years, the French Toast is still worth it.

After breakfast, we headed to FAO Schwartz to do some shopping for nieces and nephews (and perhaps a little doggie as well) before we headed down to Brooklyn to meet our DC friends Matt and Erin at the waffle truck in Park Slope:


They sell some very authentic Belgian waffles, so we had second breakfast there while indulging, as Erin demonstrates below:


We ate a few tacos at La Taqueria in Park Slope before heading back to Manhattan. We made a quick stop at Century 21 where David could load up on pocket squares and ties before heading back to Midtown. After a quick break, we headed through a snowy Central Park:


Our destination this time was La Maison du Chocolat on Madison Avenue, where we indulged in decadent dark hot chocolate and David purchased me a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day. Perfect chocolate!


Finally, we spent a little while in the lobby of our hotel resting our feet with Matt and Erin (and giving our food some time to digest). David demonstrates the exhaustion that was felt by this point in the early evening:


That night for dinner, David made reservations at Antica Venezia down in the Meatpacking District. It was simply superb, and was the best Italian meal I have had in quite some time, perhaps ever. The chopped Sicilian salad alone was reason enough to love this place, and that doesn't even touch on the deliciousness of everything else I ate there. The service was fantastic for a Manhattan restaurant, I must add.
On Sunday, after Sacrament Meeting on the Upper East Side, we strolled through my old neighborhood in search of a familiar lunch. Five years is a long time and as it turns out, many of the restaurants have changed. But we did stumble upon the best taqueria I have ever experienced in Manhattan: Cascabel. If I still lived on East 83rd, I might eat their vegetable tamales and made to order tostadas every single day. Finally, good tacos in Manhattan!




We spent the afternoon shopping for a Valentines Day combination of cold weather and warm weather goods. For the seemingly never-ending winter on the East Coast, I purchased a new coat from Burberry. In the anticipation of warm weather ahead, I picked up some new sunglasses and topsiders from Bloomingdales.

For Valentine's Day dinner, we did the Prix Fixe menu at Hearth, in the East Village. To be expected, my favorite course was the dessert course. The chocolate souffle was delicious on its own, but combined with cardamom infused creme anglaise, it was spectacular. It was a great way to finish off a delicious weekend of New York City eating.

Thank you, New York, for reminding me of all of the reasons that I love you (even if you also gave me moments that reminded me of reasons that required us to be parted from a permanent relationship). New York, I still love you, but you can weigh me down.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Big Snows Demand a Big Project

After spending the better part of five days inside, I started going a little crazy, yesterday. I decided that it was time to start a project that I have been thinking about for a very long time. That project is to arrange all of our books in Library of Congress Call Number Order. This project has been very daunting to begin, because I don't even know how many books I have, but it is well in the thousands. For a long time, my books were in alphabetical order. Then, I divided them into fiction/non-fiction and tried to keep them in alphabetical order by author. After too many moves, that system fell apart. What I decided I really needed to do was put them in call number order and yes, put their call number on the spine. I really have become that much of a library nerd.

Yesterday, I started gathering a few books and got underway with the new challenge:

Fortunately, most books have their Library of Congress call number on the back of the title page. The ones that didn't I had to look up in the Library of Congress, which added another layer of tediousness to the project. Once I found the call number, I started to arrange them in stacks by call number:


This may sound like an entirely tedious project. But it actually became very fun. When I went to the Adams' Stone Library at Peacefield, I loved hearing the stories about how they were still finding notes that the Adams family had written and stuck in the thousands and thousands of volumes. I love that, because I do that too. Revisiting all of my books this way has reminded me of some great thoughts and great moments.
For example, not at all ironically placed in the pages of one of my volcano books, Agents of Chaos, were fliers for one of the Mardi Gras parties that I threw with my roommates in Provo:


I also got to reread inscriptions in books given to me as gifts. Out of Africa was given to me by my dear friend Suzanne as a Christmas present our freshman year of college:


For better or worse, the books in my life have defined my life. This project gives me a chance to revisit them all, like old friends.
And people wonder why I have no interest in a Kindle or e-book reader. You cannot duplicate this experience on one of those gadgets.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowed-In Cooking Lessons


The Law Center has been closed all week. My class yesterday was cancelled. Today, we have blizzard like conditions in the District. It is now going on five days of being stuck inside. Yesterday, I ventured outside to drive four blocks to the closest gas station, and the road by our building was so awful, I almost didn't make it that far. Knightley may be in heaven having me home all of the time, but I am itching to move beyond a ten block radius.


Until the winds calm down, the snow starts to melt, and moving beyond Capitol Hill becomes an actual possibility, I have been inside cooking. It passes the time and at least gives us something tasty to eat. Fortunately, we have good friends that live inside the building, so even before David made it home on Sunday night, I had someone to share my culinary efforts with. Here are a few lessons that I have learned over the course of the very snowy past five days:


1. Brining a chicken before roasting it makes all of the difference. On Saturday, I made the most delicious roast chicken that I brined in a salt/sugar bath before roasting it. That combined with the rosemary/butter rubdown that it got before I put it in the oven made it my most delicious roast chicken effort ever.


2. Impromptu Superbowl parties with homemade pizza can really warm up a cold evening. The pizza dough recipe may have been all America's Test Kitchen, but the sauce recipe was all my own. Starting with a 28 ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, I pureed them in a food processor, then added in shallots and garlic that I had sauteed in Olive Oil. I threw in some red pepper flakes for some heat, and pureed the mixture together. I then put the tomato sauce in a saucepan, and simmered the flavors together for 20 minutes. We topped our pizzas with a variety of artichokes, mushrooms, olives, pancetta, and a variety of cheeses (including one with feta), and the results were fantastic. As a result of the homemade pizza deliciousness, San Marzano tomatoes will always be a part of my food storage.


3. Breaded roast leg of lamb is a perfect cold weather dish. Using a variety of herbs, plus Parmesan cheese and panko, I breaded and roasted the leg of lamb last night and David and I invited our friends Matt and Erin over for a snowstorm feast. The problem with the grocery stores here is that they are sold out of fresh produce. And I mean sold out. There is no fresh produce to be had in the city or surrounding metropolitan area. This makes fresh vegetable accompaniments difficult to find. Fortunately, I had a bag of carrots still in my fridge, so was able to add some glazed carrots as a side. (We have ample supplies of boxed rice side dishes too, which certainly come in handy.). Yesterday, before the snow started to fall, David and I sought out some additional provisions across the street at Union Station, and purchased some dark chocolate bars from the Godiva store there so we were able to make some delicious crisp chocolate cookies for dessert. Not a bad meal for a snowy night when the roads were so bad I couldn't even make it to the grocery store. Not bad at all.


4. The biggest lesson that I have learned from this snow storm is the importance of having a pantry stocked with staple items that you can use in a variety of ways during an emergency, when you can't make it to a grocery store. Food storage is making a tremendous load of sense to me right now. Additionally, having a freezer with some varieties of meats helps too. We have a large supply of shrimp and frozen mahi mahi in the freezer which should see us through the rest of the storm and until they get the roads sufficiently plowed. We have ample grits, onions and shallots in store too, so I am envisioning shrimp and grits for dinner tonight. Also, I still have some frozen veggies left over from my parents' garden on hand. I am also grateful for our Costco trips stocking up on Pelligrino drinks as well. I don't think there could be a bigger proponent of food storage than me right now.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Making Friends in the Snow

Look, I know I have been posting nothing but pictures of Knightley for the past couple of days, but watching Knightley enjoy the snow is the only thing that makes me enjoy the snow. Today, we walked down to Stanton Park, and I watched Knightley gallop through the snow some more. In this picture, all you can really see are ears flying:

Knightley made friends with some other joyful canines, including these two Golden Retrievers who loved chasing snowballs:






He also made friends with this little dog Lulu, who apparently, normally doesn't get along too well with other dogs. I guess the snow brings out the sociable side of dogs.

Finally, here is one non-dog, snow picture, just so you can get the idea of the volume of snow in Capitol Hill. It is tremendous.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Rest of Knightley's Snow Day

Knightley's inside day has been spent here (looking out the window to watch the snow):



And here (waiting by the door to be able to go out to the snow):

All because that little dog loves this:






I Mind the Snow Less When I See This

Watching Knightley play in the snow for five minutes makes me mind the inconvenience of it all somewhat less. I love watching him bounce around, oblivious to the cold.

Or How About This One

In this video, Knightley and his two new sheepdog friends enjoy some horseplay in the snow to the delight of the humans watching. Again, watching Knightley enjoy the snow so much makes me despise it somewhat less...

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Return of Snowpocalypse



I have determined that I do not live at a southern enough latitude (in the Northern Hemisphere, of course). I live in a place where it is still entirely possible to snow entirely too much. However, it is far enough south where the panic and paranoia of a forecast of significant snowfall sets in before the snow hits. I don't mind the panic and paranoia about snow. I will be honest, those are my people. However, I mind the panic and paranoia where it is combined with the real possibility of having to weather out 18 to 30 inches of snow.

The above photo is the view from the back of the checkout line at Harris Teeter last night. It was the longest grocery store line that I ever waited in. By some stroke of fortune, I found a parking place in the garage. By another stroke of luck, I actually located a shopping cart as well. But after that, my luck ran out. When I made it into the store, the contents of the entire store were picked over. My only option of meat that I would actually consume were leg of lamb and a whole organic chicken to roast. It was that or pig entrails, as far as I am concerned. Now ordinarily, I would welcome an opportunity to roast a leg of lamb, but David is stuck in Seattle as his flight back to DC was cancelled. Thus, a leg of lamb seems an awful large meal for a party of one. Once I found my meat products and the expensive eggs and milk that were leftover in the mad rush, I waited in the checkout line for over an hour. It was worse than anything I have seen before a hurricane in Florida.
Anyway, if anyone is interested as to what I will be doing this weekend as I am cooped up alone in my apartment, here is my snowpocalypse to do list:
1. Roast a Leg of Lamb.
2. Work on my Spanish.
3. Get prepared for my class I am teaching this week.
4. Cheer for Peyton Manning.
5. Solo Dance Party in Apartment with the old college "Mardi Gras Party" CD mixes I discovered in my car while stuck in traffic last night (which made being stuck in traffic far more pleasurable than it would have otherwise been).
6. Try to keep Knightley from tearing the place apart from being so bored being cooped up inside the apartment all weekend.
7. Continued reading of my booklist. (I have finished A Bend in the River and have moved on to The Ornament of the World)
7. Contemplate beaches and sunnier days ahead.