New Year, New Karstad

So, it’s just two days into 2013, and we are going to IKEA. We moved down south at the same time we moved into our new Brooklyn space, a shared 2 bedroom apartment in “Clinton Hill” (which is actually smack dab in Bed-Stuy, whoopsie!), then, two weeks later our sweet roomie gave her 30 days notice. We promise we were very nice? In the woo-woo world of excellent karma and the right things happening for the right reasons, it has all worked out for Sweetheart’s sister and her husband to take over the larger-2nd-room-with-a-heretofore-unused-attached-office-room-that-will-be-perfect-as-a-nursery-for-their-pending-bebe. It truly couldn’t be better. We get to hang out all the time, they don’t have to put their infant to sleep in a bathtub, we’re in a whiskey loving family compound (now Nate is drinking for two) perfect for built-in-dinner-parties, and when that little peanut arrives we can hold it in our arms and sing it Tom Waits songs right off the bat. Shangri-la…we just don’t have a sofa. So, in the grand tradition of Liz Lemon and freelancers everywhere, Sweetheart and I are taking a day trip to Red Hook to survey Karstads and measure Endorps and try not to break up. 

 

More Liz Lemon here.

Oysters

OysterFaceThis is what it looks like when you’ve just eaten a raw oyster from your home waters. Very, very good. Growing up in the Virginia lowlands, of water stock, I actually never really understood the sense of place in an oyster. They just tasted like oysters. It wasn’t until I was long out of Virginia, a New York veteran of a few years, meeting McKay and Cakes at Marlow for one of those hours long dinners that meeting those girls at that place requires, that I saw a James River oyster on the menu and ordered it. Oh man. Just the taste of that dusky brine and I was immediately transported to summers on the Mobjack bay, wearing white rubber watermen’s boots and traversing the mudflats like they were my kingdom. Tidewater, in an instant, a taste. I bet the old salts around the bar in Montauk feel the same way about their super saline Long Island Blue Points, but the fact is they’re the exact same oyster species as my fat and sweet-salty Virginia half-shell, they’re just tempered differently by the water they’re in. Per usual, a parable. OysterBagBack in Virginia, for my big birthday, I was lucky enough to have two bushels brought to me directly from the coast, just a little over 400 oysters. The plan was to roast most and shuck some. Lucky for me, my dear friend Rob came straight from the banks of the York river bearing his oyster knife, super shucking skills, and intimate knowledge of the oyster crab. OysterCrabThe little yellow-orange jewel here is a tiny soft-shelled crab, a lady, who is symbiotic with the Virginia oyster. They are friends, and are only found in the best and healthiest oyster beds. The New York Times wrote two separate articles in the early 1900’s on the little buggers- here and here. The Times suggests frying them or covering them with a mayonnaise lightly colored pink with beet juice, but Rob told me to just eat it raw. Incredible. It was the first one I ever found, and I felt so lucky to have had it in Virginia, on my birthday.

Very Merry, Extremely Bright

DykerHeightsChristmasOn my last night before returning back to the country for my own EPIC PARTY PREPARATIONS, all of my dear ones who won’t be able to make it down south for my own Jubilee birthday all got together to have a big celebratory, adventurous Sichuan dinner in Bay Ridge. After sweet peppered ginger duck, prickly hot red-oil dumplings, salt and pepper shrimp, and (my favorite) the Chengdu softshell crab— a glistening pile of shining red chiles and clovey brown peppercorns dotted with fried softshell crab omigod— we decided to go on a little adventure. After all, we were already on 86th street, just a hop and a jump away from Dyker Heights and its fabled Christmas Light EXTRAVAGANZAS. Trumpeting Angels, Two-Storey Santas, Nutcrackers riding life-size-mechanized-rearing-stallions… all with a belly full of flavor. Everything you could possibly want from a New York Christmas whirlwind. So far so great. MechanizedNutcrackerDykerHeightsDykerHeightsChristmasLights DykerHeightsToyland

Christmas Nest

XmasTreesSo, in the golden hour, Mama and I drove out into the sun in search of the mythical, the soft-needle Christmas Tree, a bushy varietal of great white pine that in New York City might as well be the great white whale. Miniature Forests pop up on every street corner there, but every last one of them only offers sharp needled balsam firs. We drove into the sun out to an old nursery up Afton that, despite rumors to the contrary, apparently no longer sells pumpkins or turkeys or wreaths or trees (pointy OR soft) or any other assorted holiday ephemera but is actually now a mushroom farm. Ok. Luckily, sweetly, the young stoned mushroom farmer came out and told us that there was a place right down the road that sold trees. “I don’t know if they sell the soft ones, but they sure are nice”. We traced our steps back and around and right, lo, by the side of the road were gorgeous orderly rows of fat soft trees growing, ready to be tagged and cut.ChristmasTreeRowsThe wonderful proprietor, who lives in a big, pretty farmhouse with a circular drive right behind the trees, told us to go pick the one we wanted and he’d be down to help us cut and pack it. We walked up and down the long rows, weighing the merits of each tree like Old Hat, New Hat (too leafy, too lumpy, too beefy, too bumpy, too Charlie Browny, too pointy, too townie), until we came upon the one. The slightly skinnier, somewhat awry, quite jaunty, gloriously fluffy, and perfectly soft one. The one that had the birds nest in it. Petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid, Feather by Feather the bird builds its nest. We’ll take it, this is the one for home.Nest

Camo: Sandy Trickle Down

So, this is my woodpile. The big kahuna arranged for two separate deliveries of a half cord of mixed hardwood to occur in the same afternoon (the trucks passed each other in the driveway). The first load delivered and joyously/haphazardly stacked by two young hirsute hippies who, in addition to the firewood operation, have a band, a furniture shop, and an antiquing business on the side. They spent their time unloading discussing how hard it is to find good drummers (this seems to be a universal conundrum across state lines?). The second load delivered by a “You’re my boy, Blue!” look-alike with a turquoise bandana, shoulder length white white hair, and a shirt with howling wolves on it under a denim jacket. A good spectrum of dudes to have on call. I dallied to get a tarp to cover it, because I liked going out there and looking at it, walking around it like it was a horse I might buy, picking the best pieces for my little nightly load. I felt like I was living in this tumblr. But then there was snow in the forecast and my practical side prevailed. When I got to the store, all they had was camouflage. One left.The sweet angel of a man at the small, local, awesome hardware store (who keeps a bird behind the old, wooden counter, and also cut me a length of carpet tape on the house to see if it would be strong enough to hang my knife rack without drilling into the brick) told me that ever since Sandy hit, he hasn’t been able to order any new tarps larger than 6×8 because they’re all being funneled into New York. “They need ’em more there then we do here, at least until spring” he said. Truer words, sir, you have no idea. So. I am now the proud owner of a 12×16 Camo Tarp. Over the winter it’ll keep my precious woodpile safe and dry and, hell, come spring I might just put on an American flag bikini and rig up a nice lil slip’n’slide with the thing. The best part is that now (duh) it’s pretty well camouflaged, which is actually quite nice.

This House

 

I have something I’ve been meaning to tell you. But then Sandy came along, and the election, and, well, I had some other things I really wanted to say. So. The BIG NEWS. After much discussion, Sweetheart and I are moving into this house. An old farm house with creaky floors and painted ceilings, exposed beams and milk glass fixtures on a decent passel of land that slopes down to a windy, woodsy creek. Because we need space and air and the warmth of a wood fire and a big silence around us where it’s just us but also the joyous noise of a room just for music (!) and a kitchen full of family and a view of the mountains and enough land for a sustaining garden and bees to start and chickens to follow and maybe a goat when it’s really time to settle down and all of the sweet and simple things that shouldn’t just be for vacation. BUT never fear, beloved Brooklyn, because we are ornery and require decent chinese food, because even though she’s been battered around a bit (and she’s battered us around a bit), we aren’t through with New York yet. So, we are also moving from our current apartment into one right up the street, keeping a place in our hearts and our neighborhood, a Brooklyn brownstone floor through right above this guy:BIG NEWS, right? Wanderlust vs. Homesickness, City Mouse vs. Country Mouse, Brownstone vs. Farmhouse, we just couldn’t decide yet. So, we’re going to try for both. Posts here will be fewer and farther between during our big move(s)—which also includes finding a home for unscathed furniture for the flooded Rockaway house, just for fun— but you can follow our adventures over on Instagram  (@featherbyfeather) in the meantime. In love and nesting.

Someone’s getting married…

And it’s Occupy Sandy!! Forget the gravy boats and Tiffany’s china, Occupy has set up an amazing registry here, chock full of the stuff that people affected by the storm actually need. We can attest firsthand that they hit the nail on the head (with one of these hammers– they’ve registered for 40 of them) with what’s needed. The items will be shipped to the Occupy Sandy relief outpost at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill. I was there this morning, and it’s a truly majestic scene in there- a beautiful sanctuary full to the brim with food, blankets, volunteers, and tools, glorious tools (painted pink so they can be identified and shared)! For those of you out of the area wondering how you can help, get the future Mr. and Mrs. Occupy something off of the registry– and get them to the church on time!

top picture from here, bottom pics from my fuzzy phone.

Rockaway, post Sandy

Here we are, heading out to Rockaway Beach this past Memorial Day, a classic American beach day at the gorgeous height of summer, Sweetheart’s beach block entrance, Beach 141st. Here it is now:The sea was angry that day, my friends. We’ve been out in Rockaway every day since last Wednesday, when the news told us that the Marine Park Bridge- the only way to access our end of the four-block-wide strip of sand that is Rockaway- was closed, but we went out anyway. What to even say about it all? What has happened out there is truly horrific: terrifying on the scale of what the sea can do, terrible to see the ever-mounting piles of sewage-sodden garbage constituting the entirety of people’s lives out on their curbs, the oil slick pump-water streaming down every street, eddying around wedding albums and heirlooms, cutting through the four feet of sand that covers the streets like snow, the houses ripped in half, bricks missing like gap teeth, ten feet of sea-wall strewn about like playing cards, tragedies abounding on a scale of wonder- huge and monolithic and seemingly impossible to process.Yet- as insignificant as our humanity is in the face of tragedy, in the face of nature, as insignificant as our humanity is to withstand storm surge and loss of power and loss of life, Our Humanity is strong. It is a goosebump thing, a tear welling thing, a wondrous thing to see and feel. “How can I help?”. Our friends, our dear dear friends, a different crew every day, to lift and pull and pump, to clean out and purge, to hold us up and watch us cry and to help us yell at the sky. And then the neighbors come. And then the strangers come. To Help. Alone, together, by car, by bus, when the gas ran out, by bike, offering water, hot food, coffee (the holy grail), then later- tools, masks, gloves, contractor bags, help- hands, hundreds of hands. And the constant refrain, that everyone says: “We are so lucky, so many have it so much worse than we do”. And it’s true.

And bless Dan, Maggie, Molly, Lucy, Jocie, Julia, Chris, Fran, Seth, Tony, Eben, JJ, Aly, Paul, and John for helping our little family. And bless Jay for all of that and more.

From our experience on the ground, The Occupy Movement has put together the best real-time volunteer infrastructure. To volunteer, go here. Bless You. Bless You All.

Storm Queen

 

Sandy is coming and New York City has effectively shut down. No transportation, No work, everyone preparing for wine-soaked candlelit mid-day dinners. Soooo, is this the best thing ever? Not sure… Sweetheart’s dad sent us this quick snap from Rockaway this morning (mandatory evacuation be damned), storm surge already coming up and over Beach 134th and Cronston. Oh My. Us? We’re ok.

In Love and Pizza

New York is a pizza town. Allegiances run deep… One of Sweetheart’s high school friends once broke up with a girl because she ate her pizza with a fork. There’s the ancient Neapolitan battlegrounds (Lombardi’s, Grimaldi’s, Difara’s), Staten Island’s best-pizzas-you’ve-never-had (Denino’s, Goodfellas, Salvatore’s of Soho), the hipsters (Roberta’s, Paulie Gee’s, Speedy Romeo), the best sicilian/place to take a southerner on a date (L&B Spumoni Gardens), the local slice (Rays ad infinitum, in our neighborhood “Not Ray’s”)… With all of these rarified pies, harkening back to ancient traditions, earth vs. brick ovens, coal vs. wood burning, cheese vs. sauce, the consideration of pizzaiolo-as-master-craftsman, it would seem as though pizza might simply be one of those things beyond the scope of the humble home cook, off limits to one possessing nothing fancier than a standard electric coil oven and a pizza stone. To this, I say: fuhgeddaboudit.This weekend at the Kitchen Garden Cooking School‘s Pizza Making Class we proved ourselves capable of transcending pizza barriers. Like most wonderful things, it was truly simple. The Dough: a riff on the fabulous No-Knead dough that turns out such incredible boules, the sauces: simple classic tomato, creamy funky caramelized onion, sweet pungent red pepper, the cheeses: burrata, gouda, gruyere, chevre, fontina, taleggio, parmesean, the toppings: tomatoes, basil, garlic infused oil, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, red onions, ginger, lemon, sumac, artichoke hearts, olives, and pine nuts.

We each floured, tossed, topped, peeled, baked, and devoured our own tiny, perfect pies, and it was revelatory. An ancient skill for the ages to add to the home cook arsenal: food grower, fermenter, jam maker, bread baker, pizzaiola, and the time-spent-with-good-friends factor that is absolutely necessary for successful kitchen endeavors.

 

ps. This was the second Kitchen Garden Cooking class my mama and our dear town mouse friends have taken, if you find yourself in gorgeous Upper Black Eddy, PA, I highly recommend the classes. Check out the blog here.