Monday, January 27, 2014

Week 4

Polar Vortex in Battery Park City, NYC  |  Week 4 on afeathery*nest  |
Snow on Brighton Beach, NYC  |  Week 4 on afeathery*nest  |
My cocktail creation: a Cocorita  |  Week 4 on afeathery*nest  |
  • We eat out often, but not what I would call frequently (especially for New Yorkers), yet this week was an anomaly with two dinners and two lunches out. First off at Da Mikele, an Italian pizzeria/restaurant in Tribeca, where I met some of R's friends for the first time, meaning, me + 6 Italian expats. Then, as a panacea (not that one was really needed), dinner with my 3 English-speaking girlfriends at Maysville, an American whiskey bar + restaurant focused on smoked and cured foods. Much relishing was had by all, which then turned into revelry, as we left the restaurant and realized there was a teensy lounge next door with a French singer about to step onto the stage, so into The Flatiron Room we went. 

  • On the lunch front: I wandered up to Greenwich Village for a work meeting, which turned into a post-meeting lunch, to try out the new Espresso bar in a new'ish hotel (The Marlton). Bonus: I didn't realize there was a fireplace in the lobby across from the coffee bar, which made the 45-minute stroll up in woefully inappropriate cold-weather gear somewhat worth it. Finally, continuing our "Around the World" series with the letter "R", I met two other friends way out in Brighton Beach Brooklyn, near the Coney Island boardwalk, for a Russian lunch at Skovorodka and a frigid (but oddly pleasant) walk on the snow-covered beach afterwards.

    If there's one thing to be thankful for, it's that I have two friends here who were as excited by the possibility of "gamifying" our meal meetups as I was when I thought it up a few years ago. It's been just about 3 years and we haven't gotten through the whole alphabet yet, but because of the inherent organization and sequencing of our little activity, we've had a Columbian brunch in Prospect Park, an Eritrean lunch in Morningside Heights, an Indonesian spread in Hell's Kitchen, Laotian in the East Village, and of course, Russian in Brighton Beach. Without the push to get out, there are complete areas and neighborhoods of the city that I'd never have seen (and environments I'd never have experienced—like snow on a beach in January), exotic foods I'd never have tried and of course, the chance that I wouldn't have had the prompt to make sure I see good friends that live on the other side of the city frequently.

  • Continuing the ever-present food theme, I had two friends over for Sunday lunch earlier today—roast chicken, a warm chard/potato/bacon/mustardy salad and a riff on R's birthday torte, because I was craving some nutty, chocolately goodness (but didn't have 4 hours to whip that up).

  • In non-food news: Polar Vortex, II descended on the city this past week, and apparently III is on the way tomorrow. Snow and ice and highs of (gulp) ~11F marked the last few days—pre-wind chill, mind you. Obviously I had to seek solace in vase of vibrant irises, fuzzy socks, layers of blankets, a lapful of knitting and...a Cocorita (or two).
One year ago: My One-Day Juice Cleanse with Juice Press & Pioneering in a chilly city

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winter, post-twinkly lights

This time of year can be utterly delicious...or altogether overwhelming.

The dark mornings are cozy and enveloping, or isolating and unnerving. The unending parade of root vegetables and hearty stews from your kitchen to your dining table are nourishing and comforting, or weighty and overwhelming. The layering on of flannels and wool and cashmere before you open your front door can be embracing and comfortable, or suffocating and obtrusive.

I suppose it all depends on how much you can take. How bracing and invigorating (or not) you find single-digit temperatures and rosy (or numb) cheeks.

I tend to luxuriate in this time of year, but whether that's because I have a cocooning nature or because I tend to do quite a few things that help—I'm not sure. Regardless, after all the recent festivities and whatnot I've been reinstating or re-emphasizing quite a few things to keep that happy, wallow-y winter thrill going strong:

+ Citrusy bursts: A bowlful of tangerines, satsumas, clementines or anything of that nature sitting on your table will do wonders for your mood. And it's not just about eating them (although, of course that's a good thing to do, too), but seeing that burst of vibrant richness every time you walk by will give you a little boost. Since I sit at a computer all day, I also change up my laptop wallpaper to a luminescent yellow scene to combat the grey and darkness.

+ Countertop cold medicine: Speaking of things to nibble on, rather than going heavy on the root vegetable-dense stews, I try to get in lots and lots of platefuls of spicy, garlicky greens, as well as herbaceous broths with bits of chicken or egg to keep me feeling light, but cozy, strengthened and protected against the sniffles and coughs that run rampant this time of year.

+ Reading in bed: I've fallen out of habit of reading in bed and now I'm consciously trying to work that back in, rather than staying up on the couch knitting up until bedtime. I realized that when I read in bed, I sleep much deeper (and fall asleep faster!). I think the combination of getting cuddly and warm under the covers + a nice chunk of time sans screens and their glare + very soft lighting slowly lulls me away.

+ Yoga: For some reason, I hadn't done yoga for weeks and weeks and weeks, but before heading back to work after a lengthy holiday break, I decided a candlelit session was in order on the first Monday of the year. My body felt so limber and my mind felt so light afterwards that I did it again the next day, and then the day after that, too. The frigid temperature of our apartment in the morning, plus the darkness, make going down to the gym or even doing more calisthenic workouts at home just too much for me to handle. Strong, graceful poses, though—that I can do.

+ "Scheduling" walks: Brunch plans seem to be in hibernation, but when something pops up on the calendar I try to find good options that are walkable within an hour so I can make it a point to stroll there and back, or at least one-way, and maybe even work in some other errands along the route.

+ Morning rituals: The frothy, milky tea is not going away any time soon. It takes a few minutes longer to make and that, plus me waiting to open my laptop in the morning, has given way to some nice, quiet-time reflection (perfect time to pick up a pen). I've gotten so used to this that now if my morning time doesn't happen I get a little grumpy. Speaking of pens, have y'all ever heard of Bullet Journaling? I'm a Google (and thus, Google Calendar) fanatic for all my planning and to-do's and organizing, but, I'm beginning to once again hear the siren call of paper and pen. Could be an automatic reaction to the changing of the year...could also be me rebelling against all things digital.

+ Ambient noise for focusing: Cold weather just makes you want to cuddle up and day dream, right? Hard to do when there's work to be done, though. And, even harder when it gets dark earlier and the thought of writing one more PowerPoint slide or terse email just puts you over the edge, no? I tend to not listen to music while working because my work almost always requires writing of some sort, and I find myself humming along and writing out the lyrics versus a brand manifesto or key message or what have you. Enter ambient noise sites. I found Coffitivity a while ago and I totally agree with what they say:

"Research shows it's pretty hard to be creative in a quiet space. And a loud workplace can be frustrating and distracting (Amen! - J). But, the mix of calm and commotion in an environment like a coffee house is proven to be just what you need to get those creative juices flowing."

It works quite well and I like using it, but after a while I tired of the same thing, so I stopped clicking over to their site. Then last week I found a few more via Lifehacker:

There's Jazz & Rain, which is...exactly that. I like that you can toggle the sound of both the rain and the Jazz (which is a fairly nice mix, but can sometimes be a bit much), but what if you're working inside on a sunny day? Putting on rain seems silly. So, here's Soundrown, my favorite ambient noise app site because it has a little bit of everything: coffee shop, rain, waves, fire, birds, night, train (!), fountain, white noise, and playground (!). Granted, no music, but I like to mix and match the others to create my own Jazz. A little bit of roaring fire, plus a few waves, plus a little coffee shop noise = perfection. It's like sitting with friends at a wintry cottage by the sea with a roaring fire.

+ Twinkling on: Not all of the twinkly lights have to come down. This year I kept one strand looped around the jumbo mirror that hangs above our dining table. While I light candles any time I'm home for a decent amount of time, it's nice to walk in from the dark outside and just flick a switch to have a smattering of pearly lights wink back at me and light up our apartment immediately.

How do you get through winter?

One year ago: One month of Pure Synergy vitamins & superfood powder & All Good Things Market in Tribeca

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 3

Vizsla  |  Week 3 on afeathery*nest  |
  • R and my father share a birthday, so we celebrated jointly earlier this month while my brother was still in town, which happened to be right after the "incident". Still, I wanted R to have his own individual day, too. That's why one night after work last week I spent 4 hours making his cake, a cake I made for him the first time 7 years ago, on one of his visits before we were married, and is now "his", that I make every year we're home for his birthday. It only makes an appearance this one time, once a year (see: 4 hours to make), so we had a slice for breakfast one weekday, and then a sliver for dessert every day after until it was gone (and sometimes as a post-dessert dessert, too). 

  • Speaking of birthday celebrations, we went out to one of those sparkly, snazzy, fusion-y Latin restaurants mid-week for my friend's birthday. There were quite a few pisco sours, one giant entrecote with a chimichurri-esque sauce and much with the crowded-table-telling of stories. 

  • And speaking of cocktails, I invented (as far as I know) a new one which I've christened the Cocorita. It's basically a Margarita, substituting the lime juice with coconut water. Delicious.

  • After babysitting a newborn overnight, dogsitting a "toddler" Vizsla was easy! When I told a friend how adamant I am about not getting a Rhodesian Ridgeback when we finally can get a dog (that's the breed R wants, while I want a Golden Retriever), and how I thought a Vizsla would be a good compromise because it looks like R's RR, but seems much cuter, cleaner and sweeter, she said,"I'm going away in a few weeks, why don't you borrow mine?". And so this weekend I finally got to go on my long walks around the waterfront and actually enter the local dog run (instead of just peering over the fence like a creepy person).

    Verdict: I really miss having a dog. Also: I'm infatuated with this particular one. She's got a gorgeous color, a sweet disposition, is the perfect size and is super fastidious (as in, she likes her paws cleaned before coming inside.  It's like she knows me! Or...understands me! me in four-legged form! 

One year ago: Libraries, both literary and libationary

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The beginning of a yearning

Sunlight on Manhattan buildings  |  The beginning of a yearning on afeathery*nest  |

When a woman reaches a certain age, especially if she's been married for a few years, the curious comments inevitably start.

When will you two have a baby?

Isn't it time to start a family?

You would make beautiful babies...

Amazingly, our families haven't ever really said anything (not counting my brother, who every time I mention a tummy ache gleefully asks, "Am I going to be an uncle???").

At some point, though, I too began to think of these things. Well, to think more about them. Especially with the arrival of my brother's son. The idea of having children, of being a mother, of having and strengthening a primal bond with a new life some day seem to always be on the periphery of my thoughts lately.

So this weekend when I saw Philomena it hit me in a way that I don't think it would have had I seen it a year ago. I don't want to give away the story too much, because it's something I think those of you I know that come here would probably enjoy, but while the trailer and overview of this (true) tale hinge on a mother's search for the son the Catholic Church forced her to give up, it's really more than that.

There's a line at the end of the movie where Philomena, marvelously played by Dame Judi Dench, says that she forgives the woman who did her wrong. The journalist who has been helping her trace her son bursts into an angry tirade, not understanding how she could "just forgive" someone who maliciously hurt her. She says something like, "I haven't 'just' forgiven her! It's hard! But I don't want to hate people. I don't want to be angry. I don't want to be like you."

And therein lies an entirely different story. An entirely different lesson, if you will.

The entire movie churned up very strong feelings for me. The unjustness of the Catholic Church, of timing, of "if only I/she had done this earlier". But that line at the very end, that courage and lioness display of strength and acceptance, well, it gave me so much more.

One year ago: A sheaf of the past

Monday, January 13, 2014

Week 2

Manhattan skyline from Jersey City  | Week 2 on afeathery*nest  |
  • Going back to work after two weeks off is more than just a little tough—made more so by a lack of bathroom facilities, thanks to pipes that burst from the cold. Think about that. Gave me Sandy flashbacks. Things were made slightly better by scheduling a few fun meals with friends (and being able to work from home a few days this past week and next), though.

  • Bowls and bowls of Satsumas

  • My heaviest winter coat only comes down to my mid-thighs, meaning these polar vortex crazy cold winds shoot right up under making for one frigid rump. After hearing me moan about this for a few days, R spent his day off shopping around at stores for a longer coat for me. He didn't end up finding the exact right one, but his gesture warmed me up more than a little.

One year ago: Monday meanders: 5

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013: The year that was

You know what I love about this whole blogging thing? The ability to look back at the year, to remember more than just what's written in my Google Calendar. I mentioned last year how I love when things are tied up neatly with a bow: a beginning, a middle and an end. It's still true. So, here goes:

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before? 

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions and will you make any for next year?
Not exactly. And, shockingly, I'm perfectly okay with that.

As for this year, well, I've seen other people choose a word to describe how they'd like their year to manifest—I like that idea, so rather than another list of resolutions, I hereby declare 2014 the year of "adventure".

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My brother and sister-in-law—making me a first-time aunt and (godmother).

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Like last year, I'm counting myself lucky to claim another year with everyone I care most about still here.

5. What countries did you visit? Cities?

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
  • More challenging, exciting experiences 
  • A little more clarity in where I'm going and where I'll be living (not to contradict my first statement, of course) 
  • An updated apartment 
  • Patience

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory?

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

9. What was your biggest failure?
Oddly, the same as last year's, which is not at all a welcome revelation: "Not feeling like I was the best daughter, sister, wife, friend that I could have been. Vague yes, but what grates on my mind the most."

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Thank goodness I stayed healthy and unharmed the whole year.

11. What were the best things you bought?

12. Where did most of your money go?
Just like last year: "Travel. Rent. Savings.", and adding one more: bureaucratic nonsense

13. What made you happy/got you excited?

14. Are you happier or sadder than last year? Thinner or fatter? Richer or poorer?
A smidgen happier. The same width. A wee bit richer.

15. What do you wish you'd done more of?
  • Spent more time with my family—willingly, while I can
  • Learned/tried even more new things
  • Played outside more often

16. What do you wish you'd done less of?
  • Complaining
  • Worrying
  • Stressing
  • Nagging
  • Guilt tripping (myself)
  • Staying up late just because I could

17. How did you spend Christmas?
With my extended family.

18. What was your favorite TV program?
I tend to watch shows after they've popped up on Netflix, so I'm a bit behind, but:
  • House of Cards
  • Scandal
  • Political Animals
  • Gossip Girl
  • Revenge
  • Prison Break
  • Downton Abbey

19. What were your favorite books of the year?

20. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
Turned 30 in St. Lucia. Drove from one end of the island to the other. Toured a cacao plantation. Ate a LOT of chocolate. Tried to ignore how icky I felt (thanks a lot, plane germs + crazy hotel room A/C).

21. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Similar to last year: more assignments and projects that I care about, the kind that I'm excited to work on every day, and people that are fun to be around and have something to teach me. Also: being and feeling more grounded.

22. What kept you sane?

23. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
You're given one family by birth, another by choice. Cherish them both, but be especially kind, loving, understanding and grateful for and generous with the former.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Week 1

A new year always starts for me when the leaves change colors, rather than when an actual new year dawns on January 1st, but I'll take any excuse to try a new thing. So, here's my newest thing: jotting down a few notes every week about the week prior. Nothing fancy, nothing elaborate, just a list of things I don't want to forget. Things that made my week better, or stronger, or made me feel, made me think, made me hope. A few things that I'd write on a slip of paper and keep in a jar or a notebook to remember, if I did that sort of thing. Let's see how it goes, shall we?

  • Dog run hilarity: I watched a husky, a mutt, a golden retriever, a rottweiler and a spunky French bulldog tumbling around after a ball, with the much shorter bulldog secreting himself under the bigger dogs' withers and standing full height below so he could stealthily attack them from below and behind, nipping the ball straight from their mouths. Smart pooch.

  • Finally discovered a secret to making decent buckwheat pancakes: a little bit of coconut flour in the batter to lighten and sweeten it, making them more pancake-y and less obscenely dense cake-y.

  • Nothing describes why I knit better than this post on Buzzfeed (of all places):
    "The essential thing about knitting that I will never get over is here you have these sticks and this string, and then you look down and you have this object. It’s a very small act of hope, especially when the person you’re knitting for isn’t even here yet...Making anything feels a little like you are taking control in the chaos: This thing is yours, the way you would like it to be, and it exists where before there was nothing."

  • I just got my first crash course in Swedish life—enter, Blizzard Hercules this past Friday, bringing lots of feet of snow and temperatures of 4F. Brrr.

  • The Sunday on or around January 6th is so sad—Christmas decorations disappear and the trek to work gears up to reappear. Must figure out anti-post-holiday-doldrums strategy. At least I have 360 days to do it...

One year ago: The Liebster Award

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014: the beginning

Happy New Year! Did y'all have a good end to 2013 and beginning to 2014?

We had a bit of a scare this past weekend, the last of the year, so I was more than ready to send 2013 on its way. One of those things happened that make you realize this city that we love to hate and hate to love can sometimes be the big, bad, mean city people far away in small towns always say it is. Amazingly, and luckily, everyone is okay now, but we got one of those calls that you never want to get—especially from a parent (or, I suppose one day, your child). Bonus was, my dad stayed with us for a few days so I could take care of him and even bigger bonus, guess what fits him perfectly? Silver lining and all that.

We also had a joyous baptism for the baby the morning after we babysat again, which ended the weekend on a good note. Despite the pouring rain and the realization that getting yourself and a baby dressed and ready for a day out is never as quick as you think it will be, we managed to get us and the baby to my brother's hotel and then to the church without being more than 10 minutes late.

Then for the last Monday of the year we had some good barbecue at Blue Smoke and saw The Wolf of Wall Street (note: do not recommend seeing this movie sitting next to a parent! I'm traumatized forever and ever, now), and said goodbye to 2013 on Tuesday at our friend's apartment in Brooklyn. There were babies (including our family's newest one), Brazilian food and rooftop viewings of the city twinkling across the river—perhaps its way of making nice with me.

Today R and I woke up late (very late), had side-by-side pancakes (crepes with marmalade for him, and coconut-buckwheat flapjacks for me), watched a movie, and then went for a nice long walk. Traditionally New Year's day calls for greens and beans and pork—we only managed the greens with a nice big platter of bok choy sauteed in olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper. A little freshness and cleansing to start the year.

Hope your year is starting off well, too!

One year ago: Postcard from Honduras