A great little secret…

indianHere is a little secret Sweetheart hipped me to: when it is chilly and grey and perhaps may snow and the sky looks like the underside of a steel mixing bowl, and you wish you could be magically transported from your cold old desk to a land of tropical breezes, louche afternoons, and honeysuckle-bougainvillea twilights, then just put on WWOZ, live streaming radio out of New Orleans. It is truly awesome, and these ceaseless winter days we need all the help we can get. Get thee there.

Obamacare

I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent and well educated person, self-aware and theoretically aware of how the world works… It makes me crazy, then, that I have such a hard time understanding healthcare- as it is now, as it will be, what that means for me and Sweetheart, nomadic and self-employed but (thankfully, for now) healthy as oxes. Amid the furor and electioneering, I found this extremely/necessarily simplified breakdown of what Obamacare actually entails and what that actually may mean for me. I found it to be super helpful and enlightening… and if you don’t feel like delving into it, enjoy this video of a cat knocking over a bottle of pills instead.

Home Sweeter Home: Part I

After seeing Jenny’s Mom’s sideboard looking so fresh and so clean (almost as an aside in this post about the lovely green wallpaper), I decided to tackle our identical Ikea NORDEN for my first project. I capitalize NORDEN because anytime I say any Ikea name I say it loud and in a bad/deep Swedish accent. Here is the naked NORDEN:First, let me tell you a few things about our apartment. It is the whole bottom (read: basement) floor of a classic Brooklyn Brownstone. The kitchen is HUGE by New York standards (110 sqare feet) and our landlords re-did it a few years ago, choosing the marble-and-cherry wood finish and stainless steel appliances that were so very popular at that time. All the nitty gritty kitchen functiony things about it are pretty great (storage, counter space, big sink, dishwasher [!!!!!], large gas range with griddle etc.) and we cook in it ALL the time. But… it will never look like this:It will never look like this for a few reasons: a)  I am not Julia Child (sigh) b) our kitchen has no windows, it is, in fact, in the very middle of our apartment which is in the very bottomest darkest basement and c) there are no plugs in the kitchen into which to plug such a thing as a standing mixer and/or a lamp so- no-knead bread and overhead lighting it is. But I digress. Since I couldn’t just up and move to France, it was time to paint my NORDEN. For that I needed my Mama. We had ingeniously scheduled for her to come and visit at the exact time when the need to revamp was reaching a critical fever. With her help and guidance, we had two major projects lined up, first take care of das Norden and second, to paint the old secretary that I use for my desk (spoiler: you will be seeing some pictures of this very soon). We went together to pick out paint and decided on these two colors. Martha Stewart Oolong Tea- a sandy celadon we hoped would read less yellow- for the NORDEN, and Gabardine- a blue-green-grey color equal parts “stormy sea” and “I think the man in this suit is a spy”- for the secretary. Even after many inspiration based e-mails on the subject and lots of in-person discussion spent contrasting the colors of my pots and pans, we still probably talked about it for, like, an hour at the Home Depot on Nostrand Avenue next to the Sugar Hill club. We got our paints mixed, bought a few tools and a fair amount of wine and got to work sanding and priming. We had help the whole time:After our first round of sanding and priming, we had to leave the NORDEN in the middle of the kitchen overnight, so we ordered takeout and started in on the wine. About a bottle into it we looked at each other and said: We’ve got the colors backwards! NORDEN must be GABARDINE not OOLONG! In vino veritas. The next morning we started in on the gabardine, and spent most of the day on the floor. We had a very good time down there:When all was said and done, we loved it. We kept looking at it and saying “It looks more blue than green!”, then “it looks more green than blue”:Do I wish my kitchen were different? Yes. Do I wish it was brighter, airier, and not lit by four recessed floods? Yes. But, honestly, I can’t realistically change those things, so instead of maintaining some sort of bitter renters inertia, the simple act of just painting the NORDEN made our kitchen feel absolutely marvelous. Now the cast iron wok and the red dutch oven are friends, the fruits and strange amaros are close at hand, and we feel a bit more human.

More ever-loving thanks to Mama, who- as we’ve already established– never does anything half assed.

Julia Child’s marvelous kitchen from here.

Yachts Rock

After my jaunt through Rome, I’m off on a Mediterranean cruise through various exotic ports of call, where I’ll be sporting a fabulous one piece, drinking Pina Coladas, wearing a caftan, and lounging on the Lido Deck (see above). If there’s internet on the wine dark seas, you’ll be hearing from me. If not, picture me eating Thanksgiving dinner in Turkey. Ciao, turkeys.

amazing caftan image from here.

You gotta fight for your tights to party

I love stockings, and I just realized that it’s time to break them out again and I need some new ones (how does this happen every year? do they slink away during the summer when I’m not looking?). Check out this great breakdown of man vs. tights in New York Magazine. They take 11 different brands of stockings and put them through various mechanized tests that effectively mimic “crossing your legs under a ‘reclaimed wood’ trestle table at a hipster place”, “accidentally snagging them on your other shoe”, and “somehow poking a hole in them while putting them on WTF”. All of this happens at FIT’s textile lab, which sounds like a hosiery-version of the dungeon in “The Princess Bride”:The winner for softest stockings were my personal favorite Wolford Velvet De Luxe (these also come in a thigh-high version just to be extra awesome- get them from Journelle) and the strongest were my second “I’m broke” go to- Sparkle and Fade from Urban Outfitters. WIN!

Princess Bride image from here.

A few sexy Halloween costume ideas…

Seeing as I already have the boots from when I was thinking about going as “Miss Piggy playing the Accordion”, I’m thinking Sexy Inexplicable Melancholy sounds doable. Though if I can get someone to go as “Masculine Toast Points” with me, then maybe Sexy Perfect Soft-Boiled Egg is where it’s at. So much sexy.

From the brilliant Jillian Tamaki as found on The Hairpin.

As always, thanks to Meags for this (who’s going as “Sexy First Edition ‘Old Man and the Sea'” of course.)

City Mouse, Town Mouse

Visiting our friends in Pennsylvania over this past weekend, I discovered something new: the life of the town mouse. Until now, I’ve only known the pretty sharp divide between Country Mouse (beauty, idyll, low rent, and terrible chinese food) and City Mouse (the glittering compromise of paying pounds of flesh for the privilege of seeing a human poo on the subway… on the way to get amazing sichuan and see The Moth story slam live). My dear friend McKay, sensing a potential shift, gave me this New Yorker cartoon when I first moved up from my Virginia farmhouse (sidenote: the fact that a New Yorker cartoon actually pertained to me was an early City Mouse thrill):

Cartoon by A. Geisert, 12/1/06

But instead of either traipsing down a fetid sidewalk or run over in the middle of 6th avenue, there could be another fate: Town Mouse. Rare in America, my friends have a beautiful old sort of Craftsman house in an awake little old-fashioned downtown- walking distance to the market, the dry cleaner, the bookstore, the coffeeshop, the train station, and (!) work etc. but with space, calm, fabulous light and a good mortgage (I’m guessing. City Mice don’t think twice about talking rent money and square footage over $8 beers, but when you’re drinking a very nice cote du something with some Town Mice, it feels unseemly to ask them whether they paid extra for the washer/dryer). But think. Town Mouse could keep her jewels in a tiny cup when she was at the sink. Town Mouse could have a sweet, sunny little place for strawberry baskets, eggs from the chickens, and muddy shoes.Town Mouse could have this tree in her backyard.But…City Mouse still has it pretty good, for now.

Old Fashioned Natural Dye Easter Eggs

My Dear Charlotte's Eggs

Oh My. I’ve written about dyeing easter eggs with natural dyes and plant reliefs before (onion skins make a sepia brown egg, lily stamens make bright yellow, beets make purple) and today, Easter Sunday, I received pictures from three friends (!) who made beautiful eggs using this old post. They are so lovely and classic in a way that feels simple and right– like seersucker and fresh cut grass or scratchy old vinyl music and twilight– that I thought I should re-post the instructions to pay it forward:

My mother collects bird-nests. By now she has dozens of them, and each one has a story… ‘this one with the auburn gold hair woven in is from Sally’s Valley, the hair came from Cayman, their Golden Retriever… this tiny one is from the barn at the farmhouse in Toano where you were born… this one with the beads of amber is from two Christmas trees ago, remember when we found it there in the branches?’ Her favorite nest, a delicate little number thatched with horse-hair and poets laurel, sat on a bow-front chest in her bathroom, and held three sepia-colored eggs blown hollow and covered with gossamer photo-negative outlines of tiny ferns, clovers, and gingko leaves.

Spurred into memory by the recent changes in the weather towards the warm and supple breezes of spring (and the sudden appearance of the hollow-chocolate-rabbit Easter tableaux manifesting themselves across New York), I decided to make myself some of these beautiful eggs. Instead of traditional dye, the sepia eggs of my youth are made by boiling the egg alongside yellow onion skins (easily acquired for free, especially in the north-eastern-winter-time-farmers-market glut of root vegetables).

You will need: eggs, onion skins, a small stockpile of interesting leaves (parsley is easy to get in a city as well as the aforementioned), panty-hose or cheesecloth or gauze (I found a bunch of those footies you try on shoes with), rubber bands, some sort of ballast (I used loose change).

-Fill a deep pot with water and bring the onion skins to a boil.

-Hollow out the eggs by piercing a small hole with a pin in either end of the egg, and, positioning the egg over an empty bowl, blow, baby, blow (you can leave the eggs intact, but then the finished product is perishable, and you won’t have the makings of a delicious frittata when it’s all said and done).

-Nestle your egg into the panty-hose (or square of gauze/cheesecloth) and put in a couple of leaves flush with the shell. The leaves resting against the shell creates the relief outline, so use your imagination.

-Tie the egg tightly off with a rubber band, add enough ballast to keep the hollow egg under the water, loop the rubber band around again and drop into the pot.

-Let percolate for as long as you want, until the egg achieves your desired level of greatness.

-Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place into another bowl full of cold water until the egg is cool enough to handle. Unwrap and marvel at your ingenuity.

My Eggs

Sepia isn’t the only color option, though, there are many variations of natural pigments that can be used to imbue the eggs with sweet, tender, and genuine colors not found in a little tear-drop of McCormick food coloring. For yellow eggs, try stargazer lily stamens (use a non-reactive pot and watch your apron!), for purple-blue use beets, for green eggs (ham, foxes, and boxes not included) try spinach. Have some friends over, experiment, make a delicious “McFadden Ricotta Fritatta” with the egg you have left over, and have a happy spring.

Melissa's Upstate Eggs (left) Ann Marie's West Coast Eggs (right)