And out into the world…

hikeThis was our Black Friday. Shaking out the dust and pecan pie crumbs and hitting our old favorite trail. Visions of turkeys and latkes and table settings and crimped-edged pies and luscious hams and champagne toasts and Christmas tree tagging and parlor games and living room jam sessions (perhaps) to follow, but, just like after the heated flush and bustle of a nineteen person ever-thankful dinner surrounded by loving friends and sweetest family needed a follow up chill-winter-air-rosy-cheeked mountain hike to clear the mind, this is now a week of introspection and TCB-ing and preparations for the next bourbon soaked gathering coming in hot in lo three weeks. Wow.

To thanks…

mountainsTime flies when you’re having fun. And time also flies when it’s being blown along at a blustery clip accompanied by a 20 degree windchill. Thus this incredible week of my dreams begins. A whirlwind trip of wine and laces up to New York and back down to sweet, cold Virginny, where the leaves have been blown off the mountainsides and the hills look like brushed velvet somehow in the deep pile of their bare branches, and where 22 people are coming to our house for Thanksgiving. Today. It will the best possible time, one marked in between full moons on my almanac calendar, what seemed to be years away back in balmy September, and is now just here at the doorstep like an early guest and I feel like my hair is still in curlers. It’s what I’ve been waiting for…all of my favorite things- dancing in the kitchen, the noise of pots and pans and soul music and laughter and plenty of wine and dear friends aligned on the compasses of time and memory and family reunited-and-it-feels-so-good and pretty plates and feathers and, of course, about a million ham biscuits. And on this never-to-be-seen-again Thanksgivukkah, I’ve just got to say: infinite thanks and mazel tov, y’all. My heart is full.

The List: Cheese Monastery

cheesemonasteryJust up the road from my house there is a monastery where the Trappist sisters wear homespun robes with wide tanned leather belts and make and sell cheese. They are open every day, and you go in and there is no shop, just a sister behind a door and a standard white kitchen fridgidaire filled with glossy red waxed boules of handmade cheese. You give her a check, she gives you a new gouda, heavy and shiny, and silently blesses you as you quietly leave. The whole thing feels like a kind of sacrosanct drug deal.monasterycheese And the cheese. Well, you keep your fingers crossed when you cut into it because since you did the whole shady-monastery-cash-for-cheese re-up you want it to be incredible, and it is. It’s buttery and mild and sweet and just hard enough to go perfectly with a crusty bread and a little white wine. Thank you, sisters.monasterygouda

Old Fashioned Fruit Fly Trap

fruitfliesFruit flies. Ugh. They are manifest by the compost bin, having a dance party on the pears Sweetheart loves and has left to linger, fruitful and multiplying over last night’s wine, all up in your face, even worse than stink bugs because at least you know that stink bugs will come incessantly like the bucket-brooms of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice regardless of what you might have left on the counter, but if you have fruit flies, it’s kind of your fault. BUT. There’s an old-wives-almanac-solution, and it works (see above fruit fly massacre). Take a small mason jar, put in two fingers of apple cider vinegar, a tiny squeeze of dish-soap, cover with plastic wrap poked full of holes, add a lid rim and boom. Fruit fly trap. The flies are attracted to the vinegar (forget what they say about catching more of them with honey, that’s only true as a metaphor about being nice) and try to land on it, but the soap breaks the surface tension of the water and the flies demise. Simple, effective, bug carnage.

Macarons

frenchmacaronsThese are French Macarons. That we made. From scratch. And no, not the coconutty pile of the macaroon (though those have, surprisingly, made their way into my heart via Sweetheart’s mama dipping them in chocolate around Passover … though now thinking about it THIS macaron is the perfect Passover dessert oh my yhwh) but no, not the macar-oon-, the macaron, the delicate almondine fluff and crisp sweet explosion of the world’s most perfect cookie (dare we even call it a cookie? a pastry… a delicacy… a mouth cloud of joy?). Heretofore known, really, only in Paris, coming wrapped in pistache green Ladurée boxes and tied with ribbons as if a simple parcel of macarons was as worthy of such trappings as a brace of jewels (they are). The macaron has always seemed to me like the soufflé or the perfectly poached egg or neuroscience: something probably best left to the experts. But! When one of those experts comes into your very home and pulls back the luster-dusted curtain and shows you the secrets and teaches you the wiles of measuring egg whites by the gram, well, then all of a sudden the macaron ceases to be one of life’s great mysteries and becomes a giddy joy of I can’t believe we’re actually making these and then the five of us are going to eat all. of. them. Almond, Lemon (with a slice of raspberry), Strawberry, and Coffee with Chocolate ganache. Oh my. macaronrecipe macaronpiping macaronbaking macaronpile macaroncloseup

Infinite thanks to resident-macaron-expert-and-sweetheart Miss Lucy (whose instagram is full of positively pornographic pastries, such as, ahem MACAR-OO-N BIRDSNESTS what the what!?) for walking us all through it step-by-step, Miss Maggie for constantly re-filling our coffee and deciding when it was time to switch to wine, Sweet Kitty for lugging her standing mixer (and being ever the perfect-and-slightly-doubtful-guest), and Mama for makin’ it all happen, always.

The leaves are almost too much

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At the tail end of this weekend, my mama and I stood in the driveway waving goodbye to our dear old friends that had come down for an incredibly warm and wonderful visit involving a lot of cooking, lolling, eating, wine, and laughing… we were waving until they were out of sight, basking in the surprising late afternoon warmth and marveling at how the light just changes *snap* with dastardly daylight savings time, becomes like amber, crystalline, special. So, we decided to take an impromptu hike, as much to get our blood going and feel the cool breezes on our cheeks before cool becomes downright cold as to get up close and personal with the incredible fall leaf situation that’s happening right now. Per usual, I don’t know if I’m specially attuned to it, or just didn’t notice it before, or whether this year it really does seem more spectacular than ever, but the leaves are almost too much to handle. They are simply incredible. Especially when it’s a last minute thing and you just sort of decided to hike a few miles into the mountains and it just feels like the best luck and most excellent choice-making all in a row. Mama, I love to be here with you.

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Sandy, a year out.

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A year ago today we were pouring on the coffee, shimmying into longjohns and sweatshirts and thick socks and rubber boots in the cold dark of the Brooklyn morning and heading out out out deserted Flatbush over the supposedly closed Marine Park Bridge to Rockaway. To Sweetheart’s childhood home with his dear Mama to see what Hurricane Sandy hath wrought. The masks and gloves and headlamps and axes and contractor bags and endless silty funk that covered everything like a fine dust came later, but today was a day for taking stock, and, in a way, every day since has been too. By now, everyone knows what we found out there, the grand scale of the devastation, the losses, tangible and intangible, but a year out my mind settles on the little things… Sweetheart’s grandmother’s handwritten recipes tucked on a low shelf with the love letters and yearbooks discovered with a gasp and plucked from the sodden pile and laid out to dry. Baseball gloves in the middle of the street as if they were left there in play, dropped at dinner time. The rainbows in all of the oil-slicked water eddying down each street. Books buried in the morass. The little moments of humanity in the face of the storm giving way to the big moments. A year out, we remember.andybaseballglovessandyducks

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The Clouds of Michelangelo

michelangeloskyJust stumbled upon this wonderful never-before-seen video one of my favorite (wanderlust) songs, Joni Mitchell’s “Refuge of the Roads”, directed by Miss Joni herself and interspersed with super 8 home movies and awesome Joni-in-the-80’s fashions. Click that ‘ol link. It won’t let me embed the video for some reason. Do it, if you know what’s good for you. Ok… now that you’re listening: For me this isn’t one of those songs that you put on when you’re actually on the road (unless you’re stopped at a strange new cottage in Berkeley and it’s rainy and there’s coffee and they happen to have Hejira on vinyl), but rather one that you listen to in the darkening twilight once you’ve finally made it home. The exact right space between wishing you were travelling again, bittersweet you’re not, and quiet and triumphant and content that you’re home. And here at home, as it gets dark earlier and a stream of fall storms cross over the mountains, twilight has been getting out of control. These are some Michelangelo clouds (muscular with gods and sun-gold) if I’ve ever seen ’em.

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