Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stroking the back of my little brass whale and very soothing it is, too.

Since I got back Monday night, much later than planned, I've been wishing I'd brought the camera. El got a disposable near our motel in Richmond, but as she messaged me tonight, 'who knows how they'll turn out.' She also said she'd finished up the last of the cheese pennies, rich with chopped pecan, that we got at the Mixing Bowl, with a glass of rose.

For my part, I read through the little recipe book I bought after the family-style lunch we weren't able to do justice to on Tangier Island. I arranged the postcards I got on the mantel in the bedroom. And I washed the shells I found on the beach while El was swimming. I wrote up a little description of the island for a friend's travel site in the hope that a few people will go.

Now Slim's gone out to see a friend's band play. I pled fatigue, and am only still up because I'm between books and I hate going to bed without a book. Today I strained and bottled the rhubarb liqueur I made, and of course should have waited until I had a funnel. The floor got so sticky that Matt mopped after dinner. I made lemon squares too, and even though we made a friend take some, there are too many, as they don't keep well. I guess I'll give some to the landlords and maybe the bohemians down the street, although they despise me, and rightly so.

Last night, my friend Marija played some really wonderful music; I must find out the name for you when she burns it for me. Just by chance she met the band in her building and they turned out to all be from the same town in Croatia. She also said in Paris men are always passing her very polite, gallant notes requesting assignations on public transport. She is someone who attracts romance, and as such is somewhat downcast at having to move to D.C. next month. But we'll sort it out, as some of my favorite New York expats live in the capital, to say nothing of all my dead ancestors. El, after all, is in Baltimore, and has managed to make that very magical - she has a way of ferreting out the specialness of a place, be it a bakery or a thrift shop or a neat bit of architecture, and as such is just the person to know in a new city.

I'm cold-brewing coffee, like a fool. Good night, now.

Words to Live By

"The small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things, she decided, wondering how many writers and philosophers had said this before her, the trivial pleasures like cooking, one's home, little poems especially sad ones, solitary walks, funny things seen and overheard." - Barbara Pym, Less Than Angels

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ugh. Roughish week at the office, if you know what I mean. Prompted me to add my optimistic Morrissey subhead!

You know, I have had struggles with my job, blessing though it is, simply because I'm not very tough and it's a tough man's game. I often get down on myself for the caliber of my own work, which is too often not what it should be, but I think the site as a whole does a tremendous job of providing entertainment, humor and forum for discussion, they'd say "without airbrushing," but I'd say "without meanness," which is even harder. I was reading through some archives this evening and found myself crying while reading the words of one commenter, a former sex worker, and the incredibly supportive tone of the other readers. She was new to the site and couldn't believe how generous and empathetic a group of strangers on the internet can be; I sure can. It's a kind group. And at the end of the day, there is so much to be said for this: it's easy to mock earnestness, but pretty hard to live it. Ideally with humor, but hey, let's not ask for the moon, we have the stars.

That's what I have to say.

Oh, and I'm running something sort of embarrassing tomorrow which, in any case, hopefully no one will care about.

I made some fish tonight which was truly awful, almost gratifyingly so, like the baby from Eraserhead, but in horrible dinner form. And speaking of ungoverned sentiment, I've been crying a lot at the green market lately, as the produce and flowers becomes more bountiful and beautiful. I couldn't say, but I think it has something to do with a)beauty, color etc. b)knowledge of the impermanence of all things and c)probably some very American impulse towards thwarted ownership. Or I'm just nuts. I remind myself sometimes of Misabel, the lugubrious Moomin. Well, her or Mrs. Gummidge.

If you haven't heard Brownbird Rudy Relic, do yourself a favor and look him up (he's on iTunes.) And given a chance, catch him live: he's truly bravura. This and Karl Lagerfeld's Twitter are two very worthwhile additions to any life.

Went to mass at St. Joseph's (granted on Saturday) and there were only ten congregants, and of course I don't take the Eucharist. I hated to think of all those wafers going to waste, or having to be put back, untouched - again. Although I suppose they have a pretty good feel for the turnout by this time. A parishoner had died, apparently an occasional lector with a wonderful talent for calligraphy. Maybe things are more happening on Sundays. Hoping so; it's a beautiful church, one of the area's oldest Catholic ones, and played an important role in the conversions of both Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, back when the area was a bohemian stronghold (and, by extension, the congregation was still pretty thin!)

I was briefly considering becoming fantastic, but don't know that I have the energy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'd Rather Have A Paper Doll to Call My Own...

I recently received the single best gift a girl can have: a paper doll of herself.

She has a New York Post...

Rain gear...

Bear suit...

Island of the Blue Dolphins costume for day...

Prairie gear...

...and superhero guise!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


We have finally set up the office. I thought I'd take a moment to describe my desk, now that I've set it up and have all my comforting things around me, simply because I myself love a description of domestic details. Right now the desk itself is an old, scratched-up drafting table, only so-so convenient as the cross-bar between the legs prevents one from pushing a chair underneath. But the top is nice and spacious and I like the scratches and the finish, even if it's kind of cheap.

The lamp is an old brass flexible one with a battered, yellowish shade that I retrieved from my parents' attic long ago. Then there are a few notebooks between a pair of carved wooden bear bookends - also from 10 Euclid - a silver cup (from Grandpa Moe) full of pens, a little glass boat to hold matches and tacks and other things. My paperweight is a little brass whale (probably also from Grandpa Moe) that I gave to my old boyfriend years ago, but stole back when I was feeding the cats once and saw it just sitting there over his bed and couldn't bear his owning it.

Pictures: well, framed letters, actually. These are from my dad; he picked them up at an auction house in the 70's and gives them to me as Christmas and birthday gifts. This Christmas he gave me a framed, type-written and signed Marianne Moore translation of one of her LaFontaine fables ("The Crow and the Fox") because he knows how I like her, although lord knows what possessed him to buy it, given his disinterest in poetry. A few years ago he gave me the remarkably sour and ungenerous H.L. Mencken letter, typed on American Mercury stationery. Into the Marianne Moore frame I've tucked a little postcard of an "A. Sisley" painting, "Le Loing a Moret," which the card says is from the Louvre, but which I got for a few cents with a bunch of other ephemera from a Bookiniste back when I lived there. Then there's a picture, no more than 2" high, of my grandmother in her wedding veil. (It's actually a xerox I cut to fit.) I bought that little frame when I was about 12, from a store called Flowers and Co. in Hastings, which was, I suppose, terribly precious, carrying as it did flowers and then Crabtree and Evelyn toiletries and various other gift items that seemed to me really beautiful. My latest addition is a little woman made out of scallop shells, probably made as some kind of cheap souvenir in the 40s or earlier, which I picked up at the Flea Market in DUMBO. If I have the energy, I'll add some pictures, although they'll make for pretty dull viewing!

Recipe Alert!

I just made something delicious for the first time and I had to share it with you!

Vidalia Onion Casserole

(I halved Sarah Leah Chase's Nantucket Open-House recipe; these are my amounts)

Preheat oven to 325. Chop 4 cups (about 3 large) Vidalia onions. Saute in a large pan in 3 T butter until soft and transluscent, 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, boil 1/3 cup rice for 5 minutes. Stir together rice, onions, 3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese, 1/2 cup half-and-half, 1.5 T Vermouth (I used wine with no ill effects), and plenty of salt and pepper. Tip the mixture into a buttered casserole dish and bake until crusty and brown, 1 hour to 1 hour and fifteen minutes.

I served this (to myself) with some oven-roasted tomatoes and an acidic green salad to temper the richness. And, well, I wouldn't be recommending it if it hadn't been a roaring success!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Notes: let's not forget to address issues of sex & experience. Also: YSL, Lagerfeld and the willful pursuit of narcissism via tea leaves. It's quite possible I'll change my mind about discussing any of it and there's Nyquil at work here.

Against the clock/barbiturates: yesterday I said to my dad re: my brother/life goals or lack thereof, that it's not strictly speaking necessary to have a specific ambition nowadays as it was previously understood. Due (in terms he'd cotton to) to some collision of California, Warhol, and the Conventional Specialness that was a boomer special, parenting-wise.

Good night.
Slim's gotten me slightly, not unpleasantly, sick: skipped the throat part altogether and now there's the periodic excitement of sneezing and just enough congestion to keep things interesting.

How's that for mindfulness?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Birthday, Take 2

This evening, Slim and I went to dinner at a newish seafood place in a part of town I normally avoid, but which provided superb people-watching. (It made for a funny change from the Brooklynski crowd at last night's Found Magazine reading, and performance of the main Squeeze Accordian Orchestra!) Everyone seemed shipped in from either the West Coast or, at the closest, Murray Hill. We were seated next to a super-L.A.-looking, Sally Hershberger-esque lesbian couple and at one point one said, loudly, "So, would you like to watch me with another girl?"

The place felt a touch scene-y for my blood - and I never cotton to the Miami high-concept look - but I liked the open kitchen and was struck by the number of female cooks: 4. The chef is a woman,and very well-known for her Italian-accented gastro-pub shenanigans, but it's rare to see that many females working side by side in a restaurant. Food was terrific. We shared a bottle of Sancerre and some oysters, then I had a little cup of the richest imaginable oyster pan roast. Slim had a fennel soup, plush with crab meat, and then some charred octopus, served with a sharp, Spanish-inflected relish. We shared the "steamed treacle pudding for 2," which proved easily big enough for four and came swimming in custard. We won't be able to dine out for a year or so, but we agreed it was worth it, as the meal was truly special, and nothing at all we could replicate within our own kitchen.

We walked the meal off south and east. We ended up at Inven.Tory, whose owners we know and who carry a beautifully-edited collection of small designers at a sharp discount; the Century21 concept gone boutique. And then: I found one of the best pairs of jeans I've ever worn in my life, and I don't often get excited about jeans. But. Grey Ant, high-waisted, modestly flared...I have never felt better in a pair of pants, and the fact that they were over $100 off and seemed to run a size large hurt absolutely nothing, principles aside. I guess I ought to have given that some sort of "frivolity alert."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Birthday Lemon Cake

I sort of winged this - the cake was adapted from the Orange Sour Cream Cake in Marion Cunningham's The Supper Book, while I got the syrup idea from Barefoot Contessa - but it worked out nicely! If you should try it, let me know!

-Preheat oven to 325. Grease and lightly flour a loaf pan.

-Cream 1 stick butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light.
-Add 2 eggs, the zest of 1 lemon, and the juice of half a lemon and 1/4 t salt.
-Stir together 1 cup flour, 1/2 t baking powder, 1/2 t baking soda.
-Mix in drys alternately with 1/2 cup plus 2 T sour cream.
-Bake 40-50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. I err on the side of less.

-Once baked, cool in the pan 10 minutes or so. Poke with a skewer and drizzle with syrup. After that's absorbed, turn out onto rack, and poke/drizzle the bottom.
-When cool, ice. I guess that's optional.

-Heat together 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar until melted and clear.

I beat together about 2 T soft butter, some lemon zest, about a cup of powdered sugar with enough lemon juice and cream to thin it.

-Top with small doll or flower sprig. Happy birthday. Also, I have found, delicious for breakfast. Also, with tea.
Here I am, a year older. Somewhat more employed, a bit more engaged, definitely better housed, and altogether glad to be here. As a friend with a nearby birthday says, a wonderful time to take stock and make resolutions, far less arbitrary than New Year's. For my part, I plan to up my volunteer work, look a lot more deeply into the various religions that interest me, and, regardless of what I find, start going to church again regularly (if only for the wonderful rhythms of the liturgical calendar and the music), take up running or something I can do safely in my neighborhood. Keep up with friends' birthdays and cultivate the conscientious attention to detail I appreciate in others (no excuse not to with Facebook!) And then of course, there's always learning to drive.

Birthday itself was a tad gloomy, as Slim was awfully sick so all celebrating had to be put on hold. His fever seems to have broken. But I received a few lovely gifts - a cocktail hat, an antique "Jennie Wade: Killed at Gettysburg" pin, and a book on YSL and Lagerfeld that I've been wanting to read, as I'm interested in creative "scenes" whatever they be.

Speaking of: went on business (with the necklace thing to prove it) to a lecture series on Sunday, and saw two panels, one tedious and one, starring Marc Jacobs, pretty interesting. He was willfully frivolous but very smart, and said some things which made one forget he was sporting a kilt and several million dollars' worth of diamonds. There were questions, which are always my favorite part, although in this case they were all too obsequious or silly - "what advice would you give someone who wants to go into fashion?" - to be worth much. I asked how one goes about firing a muse, but he didn't answer it to my satisfaction, which I suppose I ought to have expected. That same morning, I ran into a couple of friends who live the adult dream - they're currently in the process of buying a brownstone. When I told them where I was going she said, "Do you care about Marc Jacobs and Narciso Rodriguez?" - no question whether she did, or what she thought of those who do - and I said, "Well, I care about the people who care." And it's true, although I could have just explained I cared about everything which is more to the point. Some things I don't understand, but that's different.

Slim and I sometimes joke about which of my collection of inherited tote bags - "Wesleyan University," "Dobbs Ferry Democrats," "Friends of the Seaside Branch of the Montery County Library" - is least likely to get one's ass kicked. It's a tough call. Usually I resort to an almost-worse one I got for free when the Brooklyn Urban Outfitters opened, which not only says "Brooklyn" on it, but then has pictures of Ebbetts Field, Biggie Smalls and Jackie Robinson. At Target the other day, a middle-aged fella stopped me to ask where he'd gotten it - I'm guessing he liked the stadium image - and he seemed so downcast at my answer that naturally I emptied it out and gave it to him, not without misgivings regarding his safety should he carry it in public. I am on the lookout for a tote bag that is neither precious nor irritating. I enjoy these vague ongoing challenges; I was without a key chain for months until I found just the right one - a miniature suede moccasin from Montreal.

Saturday, I actually found myself at the Green Market holding a "Wesleyan" tote full of ramps, rhubarb and organic bread - feeling like the walking cliche I was. Did some good people-watching, though; we couldn't decide if the #1 slot went to the old man in the zoot suit or the hippie complacently munching on a stalk of raw rhubarb.