Friday, August 30, 2013

2013 in pictures: August

For y'all in the States—have a fantastic long weekend! Nothing special planned here, just a nice stretch of relaxing and enjoying the last drops of summer in New York. Click below to catch up on August!

{ Somewhere else this week  |  Aug. 1, 2013 }
{ Summer woolens  |  Aug. 5, 2013 }
{ The day to day  |  Aug. 7, 2013 }
{ Cold-brewed coffee  |  Aug. 9, 2013 }
{ Shut eye  |  Aug. 10, 2013 }
{ The Delilah cocktail  |  Aug. 12, 2013 }
{ Egg custard  |  Aug. 14, 2013 }
{ Arancini Taorminesi  |  Aug. 15, 2013 }
{ Reveling in the regression  |  Aug. 19, 2013 }
{ Not so fast |  Aug. 21, 2013 }
{ My American Boy  |  Aug. 23, 2013 }
{ El Martinez |  Aug. 26, 2013 }
{ Citrusy tweaks  |  Aug. 27, 2013 }
{ Slothful sleuthing |  Aug. 29, 2013 }


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Slothful sleuthing

Lost da Vinci via http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/sep/27/lost-leonardo-da-vinci-portrait
Over the last few weekends I've been knitting and cooking along to the sounds of Netflix'd art mystery / heist documentaries—a favorite topic of mine, along with foreign espionage shenanigans, obscure religious symbolism found throughout architecture and art, and double meanings, hidden clues, and secret trails.

Is it any wonder I have a soft spot for Dan Brown's Robert Langdon, Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon and White Collar's Neal Caffrey?

My only regret* from college is that I didn't follow through with my minor in art history, because it would have required that I only take art history classes along with classes for my major, a double concentration in finance and management within my university's commerce school. That seemed altogether much too limiting, so I made up for it then by squeezing in as many classes as I could, and now by digging into mostly-plausible novels and sometimes badly-lit documentaries.

Watching art restorers, historians, and authenticators attempt to analyze the brushstrokes, canvas material, and clues hidden within a painting is ridiculously engaging to me. The two best films I've found on Netflix streaming recently are Nova: Mystery of a Masterpiece (about experts investigating whether a portrait sold for about $20,000 in 1998 is actually a lost Leonardo da Vinci worth millions) and Stolen (about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in 1990).

Eggy, havarti-y, anchovy-topped gluten-free pizza at home + a handmade knit cotton napkin  |  Artsy on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
The whole experience is of course much improved when a thrilling bout of detective work enjoyed vicariously from my den is followed by a tasty homemade pizza.

Have y'all been Netflixing anything good recently?

(*Actually, I have another regret from my college chapter: not doing a semester abroad.)

{ first image via }

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Citrusy tweaks for you & your kitchen (+ a seafood tip!)

(c) Beth Galton http://bethgalton.blogspot.com/2010/06/lemons-and-limes.html
We tend to use lots of lemons and limes in the summer for slicing over fish before popping it in the oven and squeezing over avocado salads (or, to mix up a good Margarita). But rather than tossing those spent halves away, I keep a little crystal dish in the fridge to collect my used citrus bits and every few days I recycle them in the bathroom or kitchen. (Yes, crystal, because doing the mundane is so much easier—and fun!—if you do it with pretty things. Fact.)

Interested in how?

Freshening up your skin:
When I've got a nice collection of citrus in my dish, I take a few halves right into the shower with me and use them to invigorate my skin. After soaping up and rinsing off, I vigorously rub them into my elbows and knees and then a little more gently into my face and neck. Even when squeezed dry, there's still some juice (and vitamins) left in them, especially after they rest in the fridge and then gently steam in the bathroom.

When all that's done, if they're not completely demolished, I sometimes run them around the edge of the tub at the grout line for a little natural bleaching power (although at that point, I think any benefits I can dredge from them is just in my head). Once I'm all done I let the water rinse any citrus-y bits off of me, but I try not to "scrub" too hard, as I want some of the oils to stay on my skin.

Freshening up your sink: 
The other way I recycle my leftover halves happens in our kitchen. I try as hard as possible to use natural cleaners in our house, so when the sink gets a little funky I don't reach for the bleach (which I don't have anyway). Instead, I use the spray nozzle to drench every inch of it with hot water, run a lemon or lime half around the entire warmed-up surface and drop it into the sink drain (sadly, no garbage disposals in NYC sinks, so it just hangs out in the drainer basket while I do the next step).

Then I pour some baking soda into the drain and around the edge and top it off with white vinegar and step back to watch the gurgling and foaming of the highly deodorizing chem-lab-like interaction begin! Once all the bubbles and fizz subside, I run hot water again to rinse out the sink and then I can toss the lemon/lime wedge into the trash.

Before summer goes completely away and we trade lemons and limes for pumpkin and squash, I thought I'd pass these along to y'all! Happy scrubbing!

+ + +

Bonus seafood tip: olive-oil poached fish!
I  read somewhere about how tasty and easy it is to poach fish in olive oil, so I decided to try this method out last weekend to make dinner (and lots of lunches for work). This is even simpler than poaching eggs (because no shells to peel!).

All you do is:
  • Warm up some olive oil in a pot on the stove—it should be cool enough that you can comfortably slip a fingertip in. If you'd like to infuse the oil, add herbs or garlic or chilies or whathaveyou. I used about 2 tablespoons of olive oil per serving of fish (~3.5 ounces) and sliced in some fresh chilies.
  • Once your olive oil is at the right temperature, and has had time to soak up your flavorings if you use any, slide your fish in flesh side up. I used a medium-sized pot and had room for 4 servings at a time.
  • It shouldn't take more than 3-4 minutes per side, depending on how much fish you use.

The fish develops an amazing texture—firm yet soft, and subtly flavored by the oil and your add-ins. I used olive oil, but you could just as easily use coconut oil. Simple, right?

Squeeze some lemon on top (and pop your lemon half in the fridge instead of the trash) and enjoy!

{ image via }

Monday, August 26, 2013

El Martinez

A less sweet Martinez cocktail on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
I'm heavy into gin cocktails at the moment, but I had an itch to try something a bit different (and to make use of the sweet vermouth lingering in our fridge, as the weather hasn't been conducive to the Manhattans and Negronis it was purchased for). After some Googling I came across the Martinez, a predecessor to the Martini, and as good a cocktail as any to celebrate R's new-found American citizenship!

(Fun story: growing up my parents always treated us like adults, meaning we had wine with dinner before we were technically 21 and were used to enjoying the same when we were out. Since I always looked older than I was, although hopefully not now—eek!, this was never a problem. But when I actually did turn 21 I went to a restaurant called Zocalo in Charlottesville for dinner with a friend. We were early for our reservation, so I went to the bar and ordered a Martini—a proper one, mind you, with Gin. I was immediately carded. Apparently the idea of someone ordering anything but a vodka martini was suspect).

Point being—I like the crisp, herbaceous-ness of gin, so I like to leave it as pure as possible. The original Martinez recipe calls for a 2:1 ratio of sweet vermouth to gin, plus liquid from a jar of Maraschino cherries (which is full of all sorts of chemicals, much like the new Campari), the combination of which, if you know me by now, you'll see is just much too sweet (and foul!) for my tastes.

So, here's my version of the Martinez, which lets the gin shine:  

For 1 El Martinez, my way (i.e., not too sweet)
2 ounces gin (Bluecoat American Dry Gin)
1/2 an ounce sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula)
1 dash bitters (Gran Classico Bitter)

Mix and serve over ice.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My American boy

My American boy on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com

Just under five years from when I first began compiling the paperwork for R's K-1 Fiance Visa to enter the U.S. to marry me, quite a few thousand dollars, a trip from the east coast of Sicily to the American Consulate in Naples for 2 days of interviews and medical exams, a one-way ticket from Catania to New York, one 2-year green card and a barely used 10-year green card and many, many documents, photographs, forms and biometrics appointments later, these ​United States of America have one more star-spangled citizen to dot their amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties because my Sicilian / Swede took his oath this morning to become an American.

But before I could cry in my highly-emotional state as he repeated the words that made him a citizen of the U.S., I had to sweat.

Given what you know of me, it's probably no surprise at all that in our marriage (and in most of my other relationships), I'm the one that organizes things, assures all the paperwork is in order, reads the fine print, and generally just keeps everything together. For some reason, my usual drive for efficiency has left me in a bit of a situation, not once, but twice this summer.

(The first being when we nearly missed our flight to Mexico).

This morning I dressed in silky white pants, a navy top, a bulky red necklace and my wedge sandals—I tell you this because it will matter greatly later (and also because I was a bit proud of my patriotic ensemble). Once I was ready, I got my bag together and as we headed out we realized we'd probably be cutting it too close to go directly to the post office to apply for R's passport after the naturalization ceremony, so I removed that folder of documents and whatnot from my bag so I wouldn't have to lug it around all day.

It was beautiful this morning—about 70F with a nice breeze blowing off the rivers, so we walked the mile up from our apartment in Lower Manhattan to 26 Federal Plaza for the ceremony. We were told to be there at 8:30AM and we found ourselves in the security line at 8:21AM. Perfect.

Until I looked around saw everyone else in line holding their appointment letter—which included a signed statement on the back that had to be turned in when the applicants checked in.

Too bad R's letter was sitting back at home in that folder of documents.

There was nothing else to do but go home and get it. With the way the roads are downtown, a cab would have taken forever, so I thrust my bag at R, grabbed my phone, wallet, and keys and RAN.

Ran one mile down from Federal Plaza to our apartment, dodging people on the way to work, fruit vendors, buses, taxis, and I don't even know what else, because it was all a blur. People looked at me like I was crazy, and of course, a nicely dressed lady dodging over potholes and taking curves a wee bit too fast in her heels is crazy. I got to our building, cursed the elevator for stopping on every damn floor, flew into our apartment (without even taking off my shoes, that's how serious I was!), grabbed the letter, and ran out and back up another mile.

1.98 miles in about 17 minutes.

I have never, nor will I ever again, run that fast—nor do I ever want to! The guards, seeing my plight and general disastrous appearance waved me to the top of the line (thank goodness no mace on me like last time!) and we skidded through security and up to the 3rd floor at 8:44AM. Luckily, the administrators were still getting everything set up, so it didn't matter that we were late.

R went to the front of the hall to sit with the other almost-citizens, and I went to the back to sit with the families. The entire ceremony was quite short, but that didn't stop me from getting a little worked up as the organizer talked about becoming an American, called out each of the 54 nationalities represented to stand, and led them through the oath and Pledge of Allegiance.

Especially as I thought about my parents, who each went through their own version of this ~ 40 years ago. And now two people that came to the U.S. independently of each other in their early 20s have two children both born in the U.S., both married to foreign-born nationals, one already living outside of the US in a country that neither he nor his wife were born in, and the other (me) hoping to do the exact same thing (in yet another country), and one (me again) who was able to transfer that "American-ness" to her husband.

Funny how it works, right? It's enough to make me gasp at the absolute craziness of it all.

Early next week I'll go to the post office with R and the paperwork I prepared to apply for his American passport, and that, my friends, is the absolute last check I will ever have to write and document I will ever put together for the United States government for R, because now he's officially one of us.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Not so fast

Manhattan skyline from Dumbo  |  "Not so fast" on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  My neighborhood and the Manhattan skyline, as seen from Dumbo  }

Despite all the happy home-cooking and cocktailing posts last week, I was in a very, very grumbleupagus (not to be confused with snuffleupagus) mood.

I heard back from the Swedes and they d.e.n.i.e.d my request for residency.

Can you believe that?

I still can't even talk about it—I'm so furious. It was especially disheartening since the weekend before we found out (the weekend of Delilahs and egg custards and arancini) we plotted out all of our next moves for our exit from Manhattan and felt ready to take this next big step. Then Monday rolled around and ka-blam.

I won't go into the reasons why I was denied (because they're absurd), but suffice to say that had we been just boyfriend and girlfriend, and R still lived in Sweden, it would have been an easy approval. Or, if I had been someone arriving illegally and lying about certain personal details, it would also have been easy. But a married couple that's been together for a long time is apparently not worthy of a permit for the non-citizen's wife.

So I've spent the last week assembling paperwork for an appeal—which we have three weeks to apply for, well, two now—and to make this even more exciting, I only have six weeks before I have to go through the whole rigamarole of securing, or giving up, our apartment here. What are the chances that a decision from the immigration courts once they receive our appeal documents will be made before then?

Stay tuned.

(And cross your fingers, please.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Reveling in the regression

The Brooklyn Bridge & Dumbo, as seen from the East River Esplanade of Lower Manhattan  |  'Reveling in the regression' on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  The morning after  |  View from the East River Esplanade  |  Lower Manhattan  }

There's something deliciously illicit about staying up late, after everyone has tucked themselves in for the night—both in my apartment, and from the looks of the dark windows across the way from ours, in our neighborhood, too. When I have the whole couch to myself, the cushions and nested coffee tables arranged just the way I like them and the whole world wide web available to me to putter about in for as long as I like. The TV's on low, some nonsense that I've already seen is playing, just to keep me company. I like being alone, but not too alone, and the digital chatter is just enough to keep things sociable without infringing on my bubble. I usually have a tangle of yarn at my toes, too—I'm nothing if not an excellent multi-tasker.

The green glow of the microwave clock, which is now just a glorified time keeper, is the only reminder that I've edged into tomorrow. That and the slow, steadily-increasing droop of my eyelids. By the time I finally find my way to bed I'm already chastising myself for doing this again.

Because come morning I'll be burny-eyed and achy-headed, and even though I know it, I still pull this tomfoolery every few weeks. Why, I don't know. It's like why babysitters the world over (I'm assuming), always take parents at their word when they say "help yourself" and once the kids go to bed they find themselves watching some silly Lifetime movie with a bowl of popcorn, bar of chocolate, and saucer of ice cream on the table in front of them. Or, why kids prop up a flashlight under the covers to keep reading the scary book even though they're supposed to have the lights out.

I have a big birthday coming up and maybe I keep doing this, even though I know I don't bounce back the way I used to, because it's my tiny rebellion against time. My teensy stake in the ground of, yes I'm getting older, yes, people keep asking when we're going to start having kids, but I don't care! I'm basking in my blissful state of childless, semi-yuppy freedom and staying up until 2AM reading blogs and you can't stop me.

That could be it.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Arancini Taorminesi and how I cook

Arancini Taorminesi  on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  Arancini, before  }

The first time I bit into an arancino it was a massive disappointment. I had finally arrived in Sicily via the overnight boat train from Reggio Calabria to Messina and then down the coastline to Taormina-Giardini Naxos before taking a bus up into the hilltop perch of Taormina proper.

The view, the streets, my goodness, the people!—it was all glorious, beautiful, magical.

But that first taste of Sicily in the form of an arancino obtained from the very first tavola calda my panicky, hunger-stricken eyes set upon, was oily, gummy, and burnt.

Years later I get a huge kick out of eating proper Sicilian, nay, Taorminesi, arancini made in my own house, by my very own Sicilian (procured on that initial trip). True, the view from my apartment isn't quite the same, but crunching on these rotund pockets of bliss without purchasing a plane ticket isn't too shabby, either.

Arancini take their name from arancia, the Italian word for "orange". These adorable, portly (and portable!) little balls of rice are filled with any number of things, depending on where you find yourself. They always have cooked rice and mozzarella/pecorino tucked inside, but the ingredients that come next vary—you might find ragù (tomato meat sauce) or béchamel or peas or eggplant or some combination of those, or something entirely different. Regardless of what's concealed within, arancini are true Sicilian street food, made to munch on while standing at a bar or a vendor's stall.

Other regions of Italy have similar balls of goodness, like Rome's suppli.

The arancini from R's hometown, though, are a wonder unto themselves, being filled with rice that's run through with pesto al pistachio, a heady pesto made from the famed pistachio of Bronte, near Mt. Etna. The nuttiness is spectacular.

But, they take a quite a lot of doing to create, especially at home with our very limited counter space, so it's not often that we have them. Thankfully, R has finally seen the beauty of making extra, so now he takes a portion of the formed arancini and wraps them for safekeeping in the freezer and we can enjoy his hard work for a few more weeks.

Which is how we came to be tucking into a plate of these this past Sunday evening.

Arancini Taorminesi + a knitted napkin on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  Arancini, after with a handmade knit cotton napkin }

There was just enough for a flirty taste, so I tossed together a salad to accompany our dinner. The fridge was a little sparse, though, so I made do, which is how I cook. I'm not one to follow recipes—I typically get ideas and inspiration from them, but hardly ever wait until I have all the right ingredients, nor do I measure the ones I do have. I'm not afraid to substitute or estimate—sometimes it works out perfectly, but there have been some rather lackluster dishes to come out of my kitchen thanks to my lack of patience and unwillingness to follow someone else's directions.

That's okay, though—this salad was one of the winners: roughly chopped romaine + red onion marinated in an olive oil and white vinegar bath to mellow its sharpness + wedges of apricot + hefts of mozzarella + a few shreds of fresh chili + a generous grind of black pepper + a sprinkle of salt = the perfect accompaniment to the enveloping crunch of a well-made arancino.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Egg custard, or how to preserve a profusion of milk

Simple egg custard  |  Egg custard, or how to preserve a profusion of milk on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  Eggtastic custard cups  }

I do this thing where I check the price of something against the quantity, and then buy the best value. Usually that's not an issue...except when it comes to milk. We seem to go in phases of making coffee at home daily and not making coffee at home until the weekend. Since we really only use milk for coffee and the semi-regular weekend pancake-making / dessert-baking escapade, this can lead to quite a pickle (or, curdle) when neither of the two happens and we've got an expensive bottle of milk languishing on the fridge door.

Sometimes I get it together and freeze half, but sometimes everything comes to a head and I've got a bottle of milk that only has one day of freshness left, whether it was frozen or not, and I panic.

Which is how I came across the idea of making custard (thank you, Google!). After reading a bunch of different methods (with water bath, without water bath, with more eggs, with less eggs, with a cauldron of sweetener or less so), I threw some stuff in a bowl and jammed it in the oven with (burned) fingers crossed.

And, they came out really tastily!  So, if you find yourself in the same situation, or just with a hankering for some custard goodness, here you go:

makes 10 custard cups*
3 cups of milk
6 eggs
4 tablespoons of sweetener
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
pinch of sea salt
cinnamon to sprinkle on top
ramekins that have been buttered/oiled

+ Preheat your oven to 350F.

+ Warm the milk on the stove until it's just before the boil while you beat the eggs with sweetener, vanilla and salt. Slowly pour in the hot milk, a little at a time so as not to curdle your eggs. Take a few pauses after each pour to whisk thoroughly. When all the milk is in you'll have a deliciously scented, frothy batch of vanilla goodness. Pour the custard into your ramekins and sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon on top.

+ Once you warm up some water for your water bath (which can be done earlier), you'll be ready to assemble your custards for cooking.

+ This next series of steps I can share with you thanks to two burned fingers (you're welcome): place your custard cups in a larger pan that will hold all of them, open the oven door, ever so slightly pull out the middle rack, lean in and place the ramekin-filled pan on the rack, slowly push the rack back and only then pour your hot water into the pan itself while wearing oven mitts. Doing it this way ensures you don't burn your hands once, let alone twice, and helps prevent sloshing any pan water into the ramekins as you carefully lower it into the oven (oops!).

+ I checked my custards at 20 minutes and they weren't firm yet, but they were perfect after 30.

These adorable little munchkins are best served slightly warm or completely chilled, just not piping hot. A rosy strawberry or two on the side would not be at all out of place. 

Note: I think this would be easy to adapt depending on your milk / egg situation. Just double the number of eggs you use to the number of cups of milk you have, or vice versa. So, 3 cups of milk = 6 eggs. 4 eggs = 2 cups of milk. For an ever-so-slightly sweetened custard, add in 1 more tablespoon of sweetener than cups of milk. In my case, 3 cups of milk = 4 tablespoons of Grade B organic maple syrup, although that might not be the right proportion if you use sweetener with a different potency, like agave or stevia.

Note 2: Next time I might warm my milk up with a pod or two of cardamom. I'm already sniffing the air in anticipation of that heady scent!

* depends on the size of ramekins you use, of course. Mine are about 1/4 cup. You could also just put the batter in a cake pan for one large custard if you don't have enough ramekins (or any at all).

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Delilah, a bewitching White Lady for summer eves

Delilah gin cocktails  |  The Delilah, a bewitching White Lady for summer eves  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  Dazzling Delilahs  }
One of the best things about growing up in Virginia were the snap-crackle-y-pop of a summer's night. Once the sun went down, the night air turned sultry, heat lightening happened often and driving along winding back roads in my red Mustang with the windows down and radio on were some of the best memories I have of Old Virginny.

There was a radio station, 101.3FM (I can't believe I remember that!), that played "Delilah After Dark". Did/do y'all have that on your local stations? Now that I think about the name, it has a slightly racy connotation, no? But with the same syrupy voice and muzak-like theme song as Jonas's radio psychologist on Sleepless in Seattle, she was far from anything remotely resembling salacious.

The show had people call in to regale listeners with sob stories, which would inspire Delilah to play songs that perfectly fit their situations. It was like magic. Somewhat annoying magic, if you listened to her voice for too long, though. So I would skip around on my presets until story time was over, and then listen in to the song itself, as those were generally good, and a nice mix of oldies, jazzy tunes, Top 40, pop, etc. Perfect for late night drives.

Whenever I hear "Delilah" I think of her voice (not so pleasant) or of the bewitching Delilah of Samson + Delilah (much more interesting). So when I was looking for a new cocktail to mix up featuring gin this weekend and I saw the Delilah, also known as the White Lady, I realized the drink could go either way.

Luckily for all involved, this was a smashing success.

I adapted the traditional recipe to make it pack less of a wallop (two ounces of gin for one!) and to better balance the tartness of fresh lemon juice and aromatic sweetness of triple sec. Some recipes call for shaking this up with an egg white, which I would have been happy to do had I had enough eggs to make Saturday evening cocktails and a proper Sunday morning breakfast. I also opted to serve these in champagne flutes and to top off the glasses with sparkling water to prolong cocktail hour.

For 1 Delilah
1 ounce gin (Bluecoat American Dry Gin)
half an ounce triple sec (Luxardo Triplum)
half an ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

These sultry little numbers are best enjoyed while listening to Louis Armstrong—especially if in the hours preceding you were forced to listen to the worst-of-NYC soundtrack featuring jackhammerers.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Shut eye

Sky above the clouds  |  Shut eye on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  This sense of peacefulness is completely foreign to me right now  }

All these lovely ideas for a calming evening that will lead to a restful night's sleep are completely useless when you have a team of jackhammerers jackhammering outside your building every night (morning?) from 2AM to 6AM. Prime REM sleep cycle time = completely ruined.

I haven't slept properly in a week.

Which translates to: I've been in a foul mood for a week.

Not only is my mood foul, but my eyes are red, my skin is a little ragged, and my sense of humor is completely gone.

Because I happen to live in what has historically been a commercial area, it's a big no-no for construction work to happen during the day. Apparently the world will end if fancypants investment bankers' thoughts are disrupted (was there a lot of construction work happening in 2007-08, then?). Once they're all in their lush Tribeca lofts or expansive Upper East Side penthouses or off in bucolic Scarsdale for a peaceful night's rest, the WHISTLING construction workers come out to play in the moonlight (moonlight of course being INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH SPOTLIGHTS).

And we, the people who inhabit former bank buildings, are treated to a nightly symphony of pneumatic drilling, bricks dropping, pipes clanking, and insults being tossed handily about. Being smushed amidst other high rises, the noises echo, too. A never-ending coda.

Now that the weekend is here I was looking forward to sleeping in today, but ho, how naive! Since the bankers aren't here on a Saturday, the construction workers are—and they have been since 5AM!

Here's hoping they take an early lunch break...or that the skies open up to a deluge.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Cold-brewed coffee

Cold-brewed coffee  on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  Cold-brewed coffee + Ronnybrook goodness...and a handmade knit cotton napkin—shocking, right?  }

I have a new favorite weekend indulgence that falls in line with all of my regular weekend requirements: it's cozy + yummy + homey. The fact that it requires a bit of planning might seem like a bad thing, but I'm fully in the camp of believers that find a little pleasure in anticipation, the waiting—as long as it's not too long, of course.

So if you enjoy coffee, enjoy milk (or "milk", meaning, not just from cows or goats, but from nuts or rice, too!) and want to taste an even more beautiful, harmonious joining of the two, I insist you try a pot of cold-brewed coffee this weekend. It's so smooth, not at all bitter or acidic, and all the "notes" that people say this or that coffee has comes across bright and clear. Bonus: since the flavor is so rich and mellow, it actually tastes sweeter than hot-brewed coffee—so you might not need to add any sweetener of your own!

All you'll need is fresh water, coffee, whichever milk you prefer (if you don't want black coffee—and, I would recommend anything but coconut milk. I can't ever seem to get it to work with coffee!), and some sort of container and strainer (a French Press is perfect for this). You'll also need a 12'ish-hour bout of patience.

Here's how I stir mine up for a full-bodied brew that's not crazy robust, but definitely not weak:
-  8 ounces of water
-  4 tablespoons of coffee

Pour the water over the coffee grinds, stir briskly, cover the container, and then just let it be. I put mine together on a Friday evening and come Saturday morning I press the plunger down on my mini French Press and pour out an almost-chocolate-syrupy stream of goodness into my glass and top it with my favorite Ronnybrook milk.

Delicious.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The day to day

Hand-knits + cold-brewed coffee  |  The day to day on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  Sneaking in a few rounds of knitting and cold-brewed coffee before work  }

Much as a I'm a "career city girl" that takes a teensy bit of pleasure in being busy and productive in an office, dressing up for work, flying business class internationally, having a job that affords me the ability to live well and not worry about money, it's not really what makes me happy. It's just what I feel like I'm supposed to be doing—and of course it's nice to contribute to supporting our little family of two—but it's not at all something that gives me joy.

Which is not ideal, of course.

But sometimes when you're on this path, it takes a bit of doing to get off. I think I'm secretly (or maybe less secretly) hoping that a big physical move will also lead to a big creative move. Maybe I won't have to spend my hours chained to a desk and a computer (much as I love the fact that I can work from anywhere, the truth is I don't work from anywhere but my company's office).

I never intended to stay here for long, and yet the end of this month marks 6 years of living in Manhattan as an adult. Sometimes I can't believe I live here—an introverted, homebody living in a place that makes the news around the world. And I'm not talking about the stock market, but a random subway flooding will be mentioned on the streets of R's Sicilian hometown. People dream about living in New York, and somehow I still do, even though I know the truth about living here. After years of putting up with the insane rents, the pricey treats, the hyped-up restaurants, the non-stop buzz that may be what makes me feel so fuzzy-headed, the rats setting up villages in the subways, plus the thousand-and-one other inhumanities New Yorkers must succumb to, I'm still here.

And then sometimes, I think, well of course I live here, where else would I live? Maybe I don't take advantage of living next to the best clubs, theaters, and museums (the restaurants, I definitely take advantage of), but I just like knowing that they're there if I feel like climbing out of my cocoon. Where else would I live but somewhere that's pro-walking, pro-all-kinds-of-love, pro-efficiency, pro-multicured everything, pro-locavorism, etc.? It's when I leave the city and run into the opposite of all that, that I realize, no way could I live somewhere else.

Well, that's not true. Of course I could live somewhere else, but what I need is a better blending of city and country. The ability to walk everywhere during the week married to the ability to walk in woods and meadows on the weekend.

The idea of living in a charming little village (near a bustle-y town or city) makes me giddy. The idea of having chickens. Growing my own garden. Living near the woods. Spending weekends doing homesteading'esque rituals (and then actual ones, too, of course).

Maybe the problem is that the type of work I do is in the wrong field, because to be honest, I do love running things and making things happen, but maybe I'm just doing it in the wrong arena. Which is a shame, since 50 hours a week are spent at work or getting to and from work and I'm just wondering at what point enough is enough.

I'm not really sure what I'm saying here, other than that I know something's missing. I know I love taking care of my family, I know I love putting things together and making them work, I know I love being creative (with words, with ideas, with my hands), but how it all comes together so that the things I love aren't only relegated to a few hours a week is all a bit of a mystery to me still.

+ + +

PS. The final post in my 3-part Gentler Day series on Amanda's Pickles & Honey went up yesterday. If you haven't seen it yet, click on over for Tips for a Gentler Evening & Night.

P.P.S. In case you missed the first two: Tips for a Gentler Morning and Tips for a Gentler Workday.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer woolens

Hand knit Purl Bee Pebble Tank  |  Summer woolens on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  After taking these pics I re-blocked to make the top longer / acceptable to wear to work  }

Sure, it's technically summer, but if I managed to make and wear one wool knit top and survive,  why not another? I dug into the same stash of Peruvian wool that I bought earlier this year, choosing a pretty, hazy gray skein. It reminded me of the way the sky looks before summer lightning strikes, so it seemed the right choice for a knitted tank for this time of year.

Hand knit Purl Bee Pebble Tank  |  Summer woolens on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{ Neckline / armhole detail  }

I finished 85% in one weekend, and then I hit a wall and took another two weeks to finish up the straps and block it into shape. Meanwhile, I kept my hands busy during Netflix-fueled evenings filling up our wicker dining table basket with these.

Hand knit Purl Bee Pebble Tank  |  Summer woolens on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{  Rear detail—excuse the crazy hair...and bathroom shot  }

Now after all the napkins and tops, I need to switch gears to some wee baby bits. Perhaps a cardigan? A winter cap and bootie set? R has also taken to reminding me that it's been a long while since I've knit him something, so there's that to consider, too.

This is the best part—choosing what to make next. Although, strutting around from mirror to mirror when I'm home alone to check out all the angles of a finally-finished piece isn't so bad, either.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

An update + 2013 in pictures: July

If you've found me via the sweet Amanda of Pickles & Honey—hi! Thanks for popping over—I hope you'll stay a while! And in case you haven't seen it yet, Part 2 of my little 3-part "Gentler Day" series is now up over at Pickles & Honey. If you're interested in a few tips on creating a kinder, gentler work day for yourself, head on over:

Missed Part 1? It's right over here: Gentler Days: Tips for a Gentler Morning.
Coming up soon: Tips for a Gentler Evening/Night!

+ + +

Click below to catch up on July!

(P.S. If you're reading this via Feedly, you're only going to see half the images—my format isn't playing nicely with the new reader, sorry!)
{ A Dixie 4th  |  July 7, 2013 }
{ Gasoline Alley mornings  |  July 9, 2013 }
{ Swedish Consulate drive-by  |  July 11, 2013 }
{ Feasting at Eleven Madison Park |  July 15, 2013 }
{ Almond detritus  |  July 21, 2013 }
{ Almost an American |  July 23, 2013 }
{ Stirred, not shaken  |  July 25, 2013 }
{ Lots-o-knit napkins |  July 27, 2013 }
{ Rituals  |  July 28, 2013 }
{ Goan voodoo + spirits |  July 30, 2013 }

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Somewhere else this week...

Somewhere else this week... on *sparklingly  |  http://sparklingly.blogspot.com
{ Grab a cup of coffee and head on over!  }

Y'all, I am so, so excited to let you know that the lovely Amanda of Pickles & Honey invited me to share some of my tweaks for a gentler day over on her blog—which if you've never been by before, is chock full of good food (she's a whole foods, vegan recipe developer extraordinaire!), cute dogs (um, are you aware that Puggles exist? And that they're adorable?!), and sweet writing about how she's also finding ways to make each of her days better, happier and fuller.

If you're interested in a few more of the types of tips I've shared here before, please click over for some new ones in the first of a 3-part series:
Coming up soon, Tips for a Gentler Work Day and Tips for a Gentler Evening/Night!


[ Updated Friday August 2nd: Tips for a Gentler Work Day is now up!  ]

[ Updated Tuesday August 6th: Tips for a Gentler Evening & Night is now up!  ]