Sunday, December 30, 2012

One Human Family: Days 5 and 6

December 22, 2012: Key West, FL to Miami, FL
We woke up on Saturday morning to colder temperatures again, and so we sadly decided to save a visit to Bahia Honda for another trip.  We wandered up Duval Street, stopping at Cafe Moka for some truly awful coffee, and visiting Dogs on Duval to look at the dachshund puppy in the window there one last time.  (Roger desperately wants a dachshund, but it just isn't in the stars for us right now.)  We saw a chicken and some adorable chicks, grabbed a bit of frozen yogurt for breakfast, and then decided to hit the road.

The drive to Miami up Route 1 was lovely again, but in all honesty, if I had it to do over, I think I would prefer to fly directly to Key West, and skip renting the car all together.  It really isn't necessary in Key West, where you can walk or bike anywhere (except maybe for Bahia Honda, if you're trying for that), and we're not great at road tripping, I think.  Maine worked out really well, because we knew ahead of time what towns we'd stop in and what we intended to do in each, but in Florida, we hadn't researched ahead of time what the best places to stop were.  Since we're just not terribly good at being spontaneous, we ended up not stopping anywhere at all, and just driving straight through, which really isn't the best method for a long drive.  Something we need to keep in mind for our trip out west in August - plan stops ahead of time!

We arrived in Miami at around 4pm, and checked into the Hyatt Regency for the night.  It was a nice, business-y hotel, but Downtown Miami is a bit of a ghost town, so I wouldn't recommend it very strongly.  We talked to the concierge, who suggested we take the free Mia-Mover to the Bayside Market while we waited for dinner time.  It's pretty much just a mall, but it is on a lovely bay front, near a park.  We split an arepa from a cart, and then grabbed some mojitos at one of the (many!) bars in the mall before wandering around and doing a bit of shopping.  (We bought Roger's mother an ornament, and I bought myself an early Christmas gift.)

View of Miami from the MIA-Mover
Then, we headed out to one of the other best meals we had on the trip, Cuban food at Versailles in Little Havana.  Interestingly enough, this was our one chance to take the car somewhere, but we were worried about finding parking, so we took a cab.  (They had a parking lot.  Of course.)  We really pigged out here, eating more than we had at any other point during the week.  We split the appetizer sampler platter, with empanadas, croquettes, and fried yucca, and then Roger had skirt steak with plantains and rice and beans, and I had the sampler with a tamale, roast pork (out of this world!), picadillo a la criolla and boiled yucca.  (Needless to say, we brought some leftovers back to the hotel.)  And, to finish it all off, we had my favorite cake, tres leches, which was just wonderful.

December 23, 2012: Miami, FL to New York, NY
We spent most of Sunday morning in the hotel bed, eating leftovers with our hands.  It was a pretty fabulous way to start off our last day on vacation, and we savored every moment.  We finally checked out at noon, and headed over to the Miami Art Museum, which was mostly closed, but had one interesting exhibit of new works on display.  My favorite piece was Gideon Barnett's "Landscape with Fallen Child," because I love Bruegel so much.  The museum was free for students, which was great, and there's a history museum and library in the same plaza.  Otherwise, though, we didn't find too much else that was worth doing in downtown.  We had wanted to stop at a friend's brother's restaurant, the Filling Station, partially because it belongs to our friend's brother, but also because it's gotten really great reviews, but unfortunately, it's closed on Sundays, so we missed our chance. 

We walked around for a bit, and then headed back to Bayfront Park to sit for a while and relax.  Finally, around 4pm, we drove back to the airport and dropped off the car, and stopped by a TGIFriday's for dinner in the airport.  We boarded our flight, and to our delight, ended up in a row with just the two of us.  We stretched out and I was able to finish my second book of the trip while we flew back home.  We arrived back at the apartment at 11pm, fed the cat, and packed up some warmer clothes before heading back to our hometown for Christmas Eve.

Goodbye, Florida!

Overall, our first beach vacation was wonderful.  There are a few small things we'd change (like going straight to Key West and skipping Miami), but for the most part, it was everything we needed: relaxing, quiet, and peaceful.  Our next trip will involve a bit more traveling around, but I hope we can take the relaxed attitude from this trip and bring it on all our future trips.  It's much more fun to travel without any pressure!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

One Human Family: Day 4

December 21, 2012: Key West, FL
We woke up on Friday morning shockingly not hungover, and intending to visit Bahia Honda State Park.  It is supposed to be one of the nicest beaches in the US, and we were really looking forward to spending the day on it's clear waters and white sands.  Unfortunately, it was colder than it had been all week (at, you know, 70°F) and windy, and so the day didn't seem right for sitting on the beach. 


Instead, we explored a bit more of the island, taking a long walk to a coffee-shop we never found.  We did, however, find a souvenir shop called the Pelican Poop Shoppe, which happened to be in the building that Hemingway stayed in on his first trip to the island.  Alarmingly, it had some racist memorabilia (not the first we'd seen on this trip, unfortunately), so we headed out pretty quickly, and ended up stopping at an organic grocer for coffee.  We continued to wander a bit until lunch time, when we stopped for one of the best meals of our trip, at Garbo's Grill.  The food was so good!  I had a fish quesadilla, which was just the right amount of spicy, and had a huge amount of fish and cheese on it.  Roger enjoyed the kogi dog, which was enormous, and covered in delicious things like kimichi, cabbage, and diakon.   We could easily have split either of our meals, but we really wanted to try some of the different things on the menu, and even though we were both stuffed afterward, we were glad we'd gotten so stuffed on something so delicious.

Hammock sitting

We continued to wander and did a bit of souvenir shopping for my requisite ornament collection and a few gifts for family, and then headed back to our little beach for some reading.  It was chilly, but we cuddled in the hammock, and enjoyed our books before stopping in for one last happy hour at the bar.  Around 5pm, we walked over to Mallory Square, to enjoy their sunset ceremony.  The square was filled with street performers.  I usually walk straight past street performers, but here, it was a lot of fun to watch for a bit.  We saw a man who has been jumping through hoops (literally) for twenty years, and another man who juggled lit torches while riding a giant unicycle.  He was particularly funny, at one point saying, "All you guys with cameras, please don't put my picture up on the internet.  My mom thinks I'm in college.  Gosh, I wish that wasn't true."  We watched the beautiful sunset (everyone clapped when it finally set), and then did a bit more wandering before deciding to stop at DJ's Clam Shack for dinner and some people watching.  We saw some of the Conch Trains go by with people in Christmas outfits hanging out the sides, and a man riding a tricycle all lit up with lights and a radio playing holiday music.  It was quite the scene, and the food wasn't too shabby at all.  We stopped by the hotel bar for a night cap and a quick dip in the pool before heading to sleep.

Sunset at Mallory Square

Next up: We road trip to Miami and enjoy some Cuban cuisine!

Friday, December 28, 2012

One Human Family: Day 3

December 20, 2012: Key West, FL
On Thursday morning, after sleeping for another ten hours, we stumbled out of bed and into the sun for a New York tradition: coffee and a bagel.  We took a nice walk over to the Cuban Coffee Queen for a morning treat.  I ordered a re-hydrator smoothie, which was delicious, and Roger enjoyed a coffee as we split a "Cuban bagel," which was billed as "an everything bagel, toasted with cream cheese."  I eat a lot of bagels, and this was not exactly what I was expecting.  It had two holes instead of one (better for sharing!), and was sort of rectangular shape.  Oh, and it appeared to be pressed on a grill and covered in honey.  Very good, but definitely unexpected!


 As we walked through Key West, we saw some interesting sites, including chickens and a Christmas tree made out of lobster traps.  One thing we did not see, and wouldn't see until we left Key West, was the bike/jogging path that everyone told us existed along the water.  Several times we tried to find it, with no luck.  So, we mostly kept to the street while we were walking around, and it wasn't too bad.  I had hoped to run around the island a bit while we were there and take advantage of warmer temperatures, but a bad cold attacked me the weekend before we left, and even on antibiotics, too much physical exertion left me hacking.  So, we were limited to walks and a bit of easy swimming to burn off the calories from all the delicious food we enjoyed.


We walked over to the Hemingway House next.  I'd seen the outside when my family's cruise stopped in Key West in 2002, but I was so excited to see the inside during this trip, and it did not disappoint!  The house is absolutely beautiful, and Loren Case, our tour guide, was phenomenal.  Funny and informative, he really let us know a lot about the history of the home and gave us a few good stories about Hemingway and his second wife.  While we wandered around the grounds, Roger and I talked about everything Case did right, because Roger's been asked to give several museum tours as part of his job and school.  Seeing someone so great in action was really inspiring.  And, of course, being at the house was inspiring for me as a writer.  Roger and I agreed that one thing we're looking for in a future house is a bit of studio space.  Hemingway's studio, above a carriage house, was filled with books and animal trophies, and it was just gorgeous.  No wonder he wrote eight of his novels there!

From there, we headed to the Southernmost Point in the USA, and decided that instead of waiting on the insanely long line to take a picture in front of it, we would just sit behind it and watch the water for a bit.  We returned to the hotel and read on the beach for a bit, before partaking in their "beer school."  Mostly, it was tastings of the beers they had on tap at their bar, along with trivia questions.  (Getting one of the questions right meant that you had to slam your beer tasting glass, and they'd pour you a second round.  Clearly this was not for the faint of heart, although I did get two correct answers, and then gave Roger one of the right ones on an IPA.  I don't love IPAs.)


Really, this should have been enough drinking for me, but after several glasses of beer, we received our "diplomas" and headed to the bar for happy hour, where I enjoyed a rum runner.  Then, we headed to yet another bar, Kelly's, for their happy hour.  Kelly's is the only brewery in the Florida Keys, so it was fun to stop by for a bit.  I wasn't in love with their Havana Red Ale, but they did have really delicious wings.  We stumbled our way over to our "fancy dinner," at Cafe Sole, where we polished off a bottle of wine (free with a coupon from our concierge).  I have to say, I wasn't impressed with the dinner.  At about $30 an entree, we were really expecting some delicious seafood.  What we had was good, but not amazing, and weirdly enough, every entree had the same side-dishes, so it felt as if they weren't putting in any real effort.  It's rated as the second-best restaurant in town, but I'd say there are plenty of other places you could spend less money for a better meal.  And, after all that drinking, we ended up hailing one of the few cabs in Key West for the ten block trip back to the hotel.  I promptly passed out on the bed at 9pm, because I, folks, am what they call a champion.

Next up: the best meal of our trip (Garbo's Grill!) and Mallory Square.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

One Human Family: Day 2

December 19, 2012: Key West, FL
We slept late on Wednesday, which was blissful.  After a pretty stressful last few weeks of school, we really needed the rest, and Key West was just the place for it.  We decided to really bliss out by getting a couple's massage at Prahna Spa.  It was the first time we'd ever done a spa treatment together (and the first time Roger's ever done a spa treatment, period), and it was absolutely lovely.  We took a walk up Whitehead Street to kill a bit of time before our 12:30 appointment, and then got in to the spa a tiny bit early.  The served us water and let us relax in their waiting area for a few minutes before our two masseurs came in and asked us to remove our shoes before bringing us upstairs to the couples' loft.  The spa was beautifully decorated, and the masseurs were really fantastic.  It made for a wonderful experience for both of us, since we both tend to carry stress in our backs.  Much more affordable than the other spas we looked at, it was the perfect treat to start off our vacation.  The only thing that could have made it better was a sauna and dipping pools.  Even without those, it was dreamy.

On the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Afterward, we walked over to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, and relaxed on the beach there.  We did a bit of swimming (Roger's not big on snorkeling), and took in the gorgeous sun.  We briefly talked about visiting the fort on the grounds there, and then remembered that we really didn't have to do anything while we were on vacation.  Usually we're so busy rushing around from city to city, trying to see everything there is to see.  We love those vacations, but Key West was meant to be a real departure from that for us - just a week of resting and relaxing.  So saying "no" to seeing the fort, and just lounging for a few hours without any guilt about missing something, was a huge step for us.

Sunset montage!

We headed back to the hotel and watched the sunset from the beach before taking in the happy hour at their beach cafe.  We enjoyed rum runners, which I'd never had before, and with which I instantly fell in love, and some truly delicious ahi-tuna sliders.  After happy hour, we wandered around for a bit and then had some beers and split a sloppy joe at, you guessed it, Sloppy Joe's.  It was really delicious, and a lot of fun to be at Hemingway's old haunt.  They had a bit of live music (we discovered that every bar in Key West has live music, and it's usually a man on an acoustic guitar playing 90s hits).

Happy Hour fare!

Roger wanted to go out drinking afterward, but I was exhausted, and in typical Kristin-fashion, more or less forced him to go to sleep by 11pm.  (Sorry, Roger!)  If I had been less lame, we would have gone to Ricky's, which has an open bar and dancing for $15.  If I had been really cool, we might even have gone to the Garden of Eden, a nude bar (!).  And, if I truly wasn't me at all and able to put aside my feelings on feminism and performativity, we could have taken in a drag show at LaTeDa.  But, I yam who I yam, and all that I yam is a lady who enjoys going to sleep early.

Next up: Cuban bagels, the Hemingway House, and the Southernmost Point in the US.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One Human Family: Day 1

December 18, 2012: New York, NY to Miami, FL to Key West, FL
We left the house at 4am to catch the M60 to Laguardia, and started our first vacation in nearly two years.  After the quick trip (who knew how close we live to LGA?!), we had checked in and made it through security just in time to board what we quickly discovered was Roger's first domestic flight.  ("Why aren't there TVs in every seat?  What do you mean they don't serve a meal?")  It was an otherwise uneventful flight, and we landed in Miami and headed to the rental car center for our second "first," renting our first car.  We tried to drive the wrong car out of the lot (oops), but remedied that quickly and headed onto Route 1.

Roger at Island Fish Company

We'd been on more northern parts of Route 1 before, and really enjoyed it, so taking in the southern parts seemed like a great idea.  It's absolutely gorgeous, with much of the road going straight over bridges throughout the Keys, and looking out onto the water.  Roger, who hadn't gone to sleep the night before because he was finishing a paper (oh, grad school), slept most of the ride, and I enjoyed driving in quiet and taking in all the sights.  We stopped for lunch at Island Fish Company in Marathon. We watched pelicans dive into the water and hang out on the pier, and enjoyed conch chowder and fish tacos on their sunny outside deck.

Our Hotel

We arrived in Key West a few hours later, and checked into our hotel, Southernmost Hotel.  My mother booked it for us when I complained a few weeks ago that I couldn't handle the stress of finding a hotel and writing poems (thanks, mom!), and it was a fantastic choice.  It's on Duval Street, so it's very close to all the touristy things, but it's at the end and on a beach, so it was very quiet and relaxing.  The staff was wonderful, and if you're looking for a good place to stay in Key West, I would 100% recommend it.  We took in some sun on their private pier, and had piña coladas before taking a walk down Duval Street to see a bit more of town.  We split conch fritters and a salad for dinner at Caroline's, where we watched a number of people in Christmas-themed outfits at the bar.  Duval Street is an interesting place, indeed.

The first of several tropical drinks we'd enjoy in Florida.

Next up: Massages, sunset, and happy hour!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Vacation Message: Key West

Roger and I are freshly-packed (both of us in his new boat-and-tote - let's hope we can carry on!), and with just one all-day meeting, a paper, class, and a final to go, we're almost on our first vacation since France.   We've decided that in order to better enjoy the sun and sand, we're not going to bring our computers, so I won't be blogging during this trip, but I look forward to re-capping when we get back.  We'll be driving from Miami to Key West via Route 1, and then spending five days in Key West, before spending one more day in Miami.  If you have any suggestions for things to do, we'd be so happy to try them out, so please leave them in the comments!


I hope you guys all have a wonderful Christmas if you're celebrating, and I'll look forward to being back in the space shortly after with some changes to the blog and some New Year's resolutions!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cooking with Kristin: General Tso's Tofu

When I was growing up, Chinese food was a real treat.  We ordered pizza every Friday night, but Chinese food was reserved for special occasions like birthdays.  As a result, I have a deep-seated love for it.  As I've gotten older, I've had the chance to try more traditional Chinese foods, and I've found them all delicious, but all of them still pale in comparison to my favorite dish from birthdays of yore - General Tso's chicken.  Wikipedia tells me that the dish was named after Zuo Zongtang, but actually has very little to do with him, or with traditional Hunan cooking. When I became a vegetarian, it was one of the things I missed most. 

Until, that is, my friend Jenny introduced me to General Tso's tofu from Sun Xing.  I'd had tofu before, but I'd never had it crispy, and this really changed the way I viewed it.  I still enjoy it unfried (it's a bit healthier that way), but once I had it fried that first time, I was addicted.  And yet, somehow, I let seven years (yes, seven!) pass before I made it myself.  I have no idea why it took so long, because it's so easy!


Crispy Tofu (adapted from About.com)
  • 1 package of tofu (I like to use extra-firm, but medium or firm also work)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup canola or other cooking oil

Press the tofu. To do this, take it out of the packaging and put it in a bowl or pie plate. Place a paper-towel on the top, and then put a heavy bowl, pot, or plate (or several) on top. Let it sit like this for about 10-15 minutes, as water pools up into the bottom. Now is a good time to chop up and begin to sauté the vegetables you will want to mix in (I used onions, peppers, and green beans).

Mix the flour and cornstarch, and put it in a bowl or plate. Once the tofu is pressed, cut it into 1-inch cubes. Roll each cube in the flour-mixture, making sure to cover all sides, as if you were covering them in batter. Pour your oil into a pan and begin to heat it. It should be about an inch deep, although I used less, and just had to turn the tofu chunks more than once so they cooked on all sides. It should be hot enough that it begins to sizzle as soon as you put your first piece of tofu in. Fry the tofu until it is golden brown on all sides. You may have to do this in multiple batches, depending on how big your pan is. If you have a deep-fryer, you could also cook them in that.

Once the tofu is finished, I mixed it with the sautéed vegetables, and covered them in the sauce.  I used Trader Joe's General Tso sauce, and it was delicious, quick, and the sauce has mostly recognizable ingredients.  But, if I had a little more time, I would definitely try to make The Culinary Couple's sauce, substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth.  Emily's recipes are always delicious, and I'm sure this one is no exception, so if you're looking to make everything from scratch, give that a try and let me know how it goes.

Served over brown rice, this was a delicious meal, and one that came together pretty quickly.  During the time it took to cook the rice, I made everything else, so it probably took about 50 minutes total, and was definitely worth it.

食飯! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Traditions: St. Nicholas Day

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Roger's treats from St. Nicholas

Do you know about this holiday?  It's St. Nicholas's feast day.  The patron saint of bakers and pawnbrokers, St. Nicholas is the forerunner of Santa Claus, mostly do the power of poetry and, in particular, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas."  On December 5th, in Germany, children leave their shoes outside for St. Nicholas to fill with treats and small gifts.  My next door neighbor, Emily, was the first person to introduce this tradition to me, and I remember her getting a CD or two one year, and thinking it was a great idea.  We never did it in my house growing up, but like the Christmas pickle, I thought it would be cute to start doing it.  Of course, Roger goes to bed after me and wakes up before me, so I couldn't surprise him in the morning, but I did manage to surprise him after he came back from work.  I watched him from our peep-hole, and he seemed pretty happy to see the candy, book, and holiday boxers I left for him.

Not completely unrelatedly, we enjoyed a big German-themed meal on Tuesday.  I threw on some polka-music, grabbed a cold beer, and before frying up the "Hofbrau" sausages we'd bought at Trader Joe's this weekend, I made these two delicious side dishes: 

 

German Potato Salad (adapted from Food Network)
The grandmother of some of our family friends makes the greatest German potato salad known to mankind.  This isn't quite as good as hers (nothing ever will be), but it's pretty darn close.  I've made this with and without the bacon, and it's delicious either way, but with the bacon is much closer to what I remember, so I prefer it.
  •  2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Chives or parsley (optional)
Peel and dice the potatoes, and place them in a pot.  Cover them with enough water to extend 2 inches above the surface of the potatoes. Salt the water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 12 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, as this will turn into mashed potatoes when you toss them if you do.  (This is actually really good, and what I've done every time I've made them, but it's not traditional.)

While the potatoes boil, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once crisp, place on a paper towel-lined plate and crumble into small pieces. Pour off the rendered fat, reserving 1/4 cup in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt and stir until thick and bubbly. Add the cooked potatoes and toss to coat. Top with the crumbled bacon and garnish with chives or parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.


German Red Cabbage (Adapted from AllRecipes)
This turned out to be a really nice side dish that was quick to whip up and didn't involve too much prep (I used a food processor to shred the cabbage). 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup sliced green apples
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I didn't use these, but I bet they would be good!)
Place butter, cabbage, apples, and sugar into a large pot. Pour in the vinegar and water, and season with salt, pepper, and cloves.

Bring the liquids at the bottom to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the cabbage is tender, about one and a half hours.

Guten Appetit!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weekend Wanderings: Steamed Milk and Peppermint Joe-Joes

11 Days 'til Christmas - Wrap Up
Oh, branding. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/12253825@N00/5259191205
I had a quiet sort of weekend.  After several busy weeks and weekends, the house was a disaster, schoolwork was left undone, and I was generally feeling a bit harried.  As a result, I generally stayed in and tried to catch up this weekend, doing a bit of laundry and cleaning, taking a trip to Trader Joe's, and reading a whole lot of poetry for the last two weeks of school.

There was one quiet moment that I'd like to remember though.  At about 10pm last night, Rob was over after dinner, and Roger decided he wanted some coffee.  The only coffee-shop open that late near us was Starbucks, so we headed over there, and I ordered a steamed milk with caramel.  I don't know why it took me to long to discover that steamed milk is "my drink" at most coffee-shops, but it's delicious and if you've never had one, it's a warm, sweet treat that you deserve.  Try it.  We brought our coffees back home, and enjoyed them with one of our Trader Joe's purchases, peppermint joe-joes, which seem to be the most wonderful combination of oreos and thin mints ever made.  I love peppermint deserts, and two of these cookies felt like the perfect indulgence.

And now, back to the poetry.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Skipping Christmas?

Christmas Tree 2010

Not quite.  But, since we'll be in Florida and possibly Boston for much of December, we've decided not to decorate for Christmas this year.  I love the holidays, and I love decorating, so it's a bit of a disappointment, but with things as hectic as they've been recently, it's certainly for the best.  I made a few paper snowflakes for our door (using this tutorial, they turned out better than any other paper snowflakes I've ever made, and reminded me of decorating in England with Carlea and the others), and I'm listening to the Indie Holiday station on Pandora.  We're still planning to buy some Christmas gifts, and attend as many holiday parties as we're able, and spend some time wandering around the city taking in this special time of year, but I'm officially taking any pressure off myself, and saying that anything that doesn't happen this year can happen next year.  I spend a lot of time thinking about how nice it will be one day to have a house with stockings over a fireplace, to have 25 days of Christmas planned out in an Advent calendar, to have a pinterest-perfect tree with fresh pajamas and a hot chocolate bar underneath, but for now, I'm just glad to be flexible enough to opt out of it all when things get busy.

Christmas Tree 2011

Here's looking forward to those New York Christmas traditions we'll still be a part of this year, and to making more of our own next year!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012!

Best wishes to everyone for a hearty and warm Thanksgiving this year!

Cordial Thanksgiving greetings... Digital ID: 1588302. New York Public Library
http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?1588302

As with most recent years, I'll be spending tomorrow with my parents and sister at my mother's best friend's house, enjoying turkey and counting our blessings.  Roger and I celebrated with friends this weekend as well, and hosted what has become a tradition for his friends from college, Friendsgiving, with a potluck for thirty people.  It was a lot of fun, and I got a several new and delicious recipes.

I've been slower about posting this year, because things have been busy, but I'm so grateful for every facet of my life.  I've been surrounded by friends and family, and wholeheartedly in love all year.  If that weren't enough, my job and school have both been going well, and I've been honored to teach at Goldwater Hospital this semester.  The year hasn't been without its challenges, but I've been slowly trying to take care of my health, to spend more time figuring out where my priorities lie and what my  goals are, and to keep my heart and mind open.  Roger and I are looking forward to a warm vacation in Florida soon, and to both of our final semesters at school, and then to figuring out our next big steps.

Blessed indeed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day, November, 1884

Poets.org sends me an email everyday with a new poem, and it's one of my favorite things to see when I wake up or when I'm riding the subway (when I get most of my email-checking done).  When I read this one today, I was particularly moved, and I hope it moves you as well.  I've got high-hopes for this election (in case you couldn't tell, I'm a big Obama supporter), but even if you're not voting my way, please do vote today.  It's a privilege and a responsibility.
I Voted!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vox_efx/3002776434

Election Day, November, 1884 (Walt Whitman)

If I should need to name, O Western World, your 
   powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara--nor you, ye limitless 
   prairies--nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite--nor Yellowstone, with all its 
   spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, 
   appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones--nor Huron's belt of mighty 
   lakes--nor Mississippi's stream:
--This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, 
   I'd name--the still small voice vibrating--America's 
   choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen--the act itself the 
   main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd--sea-board 
   and inland--Texas to Maine--the Prairie States--
   Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West--the 
   paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling--(a swordless 
   conflict,
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern 
   Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity--welcoming the darker 
   odds, the dross:
--Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to 
   purify--while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Summer List: Make a Website

So, my summer list wasn't the world's biggest success, but one of this weekend's biggest successes was finally (finally finally) creating my own website.  It's not perfect, but I was pretty impressed with myself for creating it, so feel free to check it out, and let me know if you have any suggestions.  The finishing touch will be uploading my CV, but I'll need to convert that into a PDF, so it will have to wait at least until tomorrow.
www.kristinmaffei.com
I used blogger, because it's just easiest for me to have all of my information in one spot.  (I also recently set up a class blog on here for the class I'll teach next semester.)  It really is pretty flexible, although I know a lot of people prefer Wordpress, and that makes sense to me too.  In case you want to stay with blogger too, I figured I should pass on some love to the sites that really helped me set it up:

How to create a static home page: http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2012/06/blogger-magic-static-home-page-improved.html (The only real problem with this is that it's not possible to remove your default "home," the blog, from your top tab-system, so you have to do a little bit of fooling around with it if you decide to use blogger.  See the third and fourth comments for a workaround here.)

How to make a contact page: http://www.sylvialiuland.com/2012/02/how-to-make-contact-page-in-blogger.html (This was the easiest part of the whole system.  Every other website said, "Oh, this will take 5 minutes!" and then I spent an hour tweaking.  This actually only took 10 minutes.)

How to import posts from one blog to the other: http://blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.com/2010/03/moving-all-posts-from-one-blog-to.html (I imported all of my posts, and then just put up the "shameless self-promotion" ones, which I'll be cross-posting from now on.)

How to embed a PDF: http://www.techshortly.com/2012/05/how-to-show-pdf-doc-xls-files-on.html# (Like I said, I haven't actually done this yet, but this broken-English explanation seems like it will do just fine.)

Some other tips I hope to use in the future: http://bloggerstop.net/2008/09/blogger-help.html

And finally, I got most of my inspiration for starting a site from some of these great people, so I figured I should send a shout-out to them, too.  You should visit their sites and give them some love if you get a chance:

http://www.ericqweinstein.com
http://www.maryblock.net
http://www.exrpan.com/
http://www.davidmcloghlin.com/
http://www.mikelala.com/
http://www.jscottbrownlee.com
http://dannielschoonebeek.tumblr.com/
http://www.rogerdarnold.com


Monday, October 29, 2012

Poems for Hurricanes

 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/8131382839/
I unexpectedly have today and tomorrow off because of Hurricane Sandy.  I don't think we're in any real danger, because we're not in zones A, B, or C, but it's always disconcerting to be in the midst of a big storm, and so I've been spending a lot of time today trying to write a poem about the great hurricanes in 1609 and 1635.  The poem isn't going well so far (in fact, no poems are going well lately, but that's another story for another day), but I have come across some interesting pieces that you might like to read if you're also a bit trapped by this storm.


Some hurricane readings (many via BigThink)
Six Shorts from the New Yorker
Storm Warnings - Adrienne Rich
The Hurricane - Hart Crane
The Hurricane - William Carlos Williams
Hatteras Calling - Conrad Aiken
Problems with Hurricanes - Victor Hernandez Cruz
Other Storms in NYC - BKMag

And here's a passage from what I think it one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written, The Tempest.

Ariel's Song (William Shakespeare)

    Come unto these yellow sands,
              And then take hands:
    Curtsied when you have, and kiss'd
              The wild waves whist,
    Foot it featly here and there;
    And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
              Hark, hark!
    Bow-wow.
              The watch-dogs bark.
    Bow-wow.
              Hark, hark! I hear
              The strain of strutting chanticleer
              Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow.
    Full fathom five thy father lies;
              Of his bones are coral made;
    Those are pearls that were his eyes:
              Nothing of him that doth fade,
    But doth suffer a sea-change
    Into something rich and strange.
    Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
                              Ding-dong.
    Hark! now I hear them—Ding-dong, bell.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gratituesday: Key West, FL

It feels like it's been ages since I went on a vacation.  And, it has been quite some time.  The last real vacation we took was in December 2010, when we spent New Years in France.  Since then, we've been lucky (so lucky!) to do a bit more traveling, but much of it has been for conferences or work, and none of it has been for more than a long weekend.

So, yesterday, when I booked our next trip - a real, live vacation to Key West, FL just before Christmas - I wanted to tell pretty much everyone I saw.  The excitement of packing my bags (thinking of getting something special for the occasion), of getting on a plane (my first flight since going to Indiana about 18 months ago!), and of spending six days relaxing in the sun is almost too much to bear.

Me, my sister, and my mother in Key West in 2002.  It was a stop on the Disney Cruise!

I'm so grateful to be able to go on this trip, and to celebrate a few travel firsts.  This will be the first beach vacation Roger and I have ever taken, the first domestic flight we'll take together, and the first time either of us has rented a car.  (I think the idea of renting a car makes me feel more adult than anything else in my life has to this point.) And, after what has been a wonderful, productive, and creative but also surprisingly and ultimately difficult year, I don't think there's any better reward than relaxing in Florida with some delicious seafood and a few great books.

We'll undoubtedly visit the Hemingway House, stop by Sloppy Joe's, and visit a few of the beautiful beaches that line the Keys.  We might rent a clear-bottom kayak, or try snorkeling (okay, Roger says he's definitely not snorkeling).  We're looking forward to drinks at sunset and turtle racing.  We're hopeful that a few friends will join us and we'll all rent a place for the week.  And most importantly, we're going to relax.  We need it badly, and I can't think of a more perfect way to close out the year.

Have you ever been to the Florida Keys?  Do you have any suggestions for must-dos or must-sees while we're there?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion: Global Lives Conference

What effect does this have on today’s poets? Has globalization changed the voice of contemporary American poetry? What does it mean to be a poet today in the United States? What does it mean to be a poet and a global citizen? How does history play into the work of poetry? Does the poetic identity ever conflict with a global identity?

I'm very excited to try and answer some of these questions on a non-traditional panel at this year's Stony Brook University Graduate Student Conference, this Saturday at 11:00am at 101 East 27th Street (3rd floor).  The theme is "Global Lives," and my panel will focus on "Global Voices, American Poetries."  I'll be presenting with three amazing poets (whom I'm also proud to call friends): Travis Holloway, Christine Larusso, and Danniel Schoonebeek.  We'll each talk briefly about how globalization plays into our work, and then read a short selection of our work. 

This should be a great event (seriously, these are some smart poets), so I hope to see you there.  The conference is free and open to the public, and also has some other great panels, so check out the schedule, and let me know if you plan to drop by our reading!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion: Introducing Charles Wright

I'm so pleased to be introducing Charles Wright for the NYU Reading Series, this Friday at 5:00pm.  I've always found Wright's work to be an inspiration.  His words are at once comforting and calculated, and his ear for music in the simple is just incredible.  My favorite poem of his is "Little Ending," but none of his work disappoints.  If you're in New York, I would love it if you dropped by for what promises to be an incredible reading with a wine reception to follow.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Poem for Shelby's Wedding V: Found Letter

Although I fill my life with poetry everyday, I think it's something we especially turn to at times of celebration and times of need.  My best friend, Shelby, got married this Friday, and because I love her as much as I love poetry, I decided to spend this week posting poems that I hoped would help prepare her for her wedding and for married life afterward.  This final poem, "Found Letter" by Joshua Weiner, is the one of my favorites, and the one I read at their wedding yesterday as a toast.  It just about covers everything that I wish for Shelby and Mike, both as individuals and as a couple.  So, Shelby and Mike, I hope you've enjoyed this series in your honor, and that you have a wonderful honeymoon in Jamaica tomorrow.  Congratulations!



Found Letter (Joshua Weiner)

What makes for a happier life, Josh, comes to this:   
Gifts freely given, that you never earned;   
Open affection with your wife and kids;   
Clear pipes in winter, in summer screens that fit;   
Few days in court, with little consequence;   
A quiet mind, a strong body, short hours   
In the office; close friends who speak the truth;   
Good food, cooked simply; a memory that’s rich   
Enough to build the future with; a bed   
In which to love, read, dream, and re-imagine love;   
A warm, dry field for laying down in sleep,   
And sleep to trim the long night coming;   
Knowledge of who you are, the wish to be   
None other; freedom to forget the time;   
To know the soul exceeds where it’s confined   
Yet does not seek the terms of its release,   
Like a child’s kite catching at the wind   
That flies because the hand holds tight the line.
 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Poem for Shelby's Wedding IV: A Blessing for Wedding

Although I fill my life with poetry everyday, I think it's something we especially turn to at times of celebration and times of need.  My best friend, Shelby, is getting married this Friday, and because I love her as much as I love poetry, I've decided to spend this week posting poems that I hope will help prepare her for her wedding and for married life afterward.  This fourth poem, "A Blessing for  Wedding" by Jane Hirshfield, combines exquisite images of the natural world with the hope we have for every couple on their wedding day, and every day after.


A Blessing for Wedding (Jane Hirshfield)

Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
     or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
     or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Poem for Shelby's Wedding III: Marriage

Although I fill my life with poetry everyday, I think it's something we especially turn to at times of celebration and times of need.  My best friend, Shelby, is getting married this Friday, and because I love her as much as I love poetry, I've decided to spend this week posting poems that I hope will help prepare her for her wedding and for married life afterward.  This third poem, "Marriage," by Lawrence Raab, reminds me that the tiniest moments can change the course of our lives.  I know that shortly after Mike proposed, Shelby started to worry about what changes her life would make after they married, and I think the last four stanzas of this poem perfectly capture those anxieties, and also the deep joy and calm that she's feeling about their marriage now.

 
Marriage (Lawrence Raab)

Years later they find themselves talking   
about chances, moments when their lives   
might have swerved off
for the smallest reason.
                                     What if
I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?   
What if you’d been out,
as you were when I tried three times   
the night before?
                           Then she tells him a secret.   
She’d been there all evening, and she knew   
he was the one calling, which was why   
she hadn’t answered.
                               Because she felt—
because she was certain—her life would change   
if she picked up the phone, said hello,   
said, I was just thinking
of you.
            I was afraid,
she tells him. And in the morning   
I also knew it was you, but I just   
answered the phone
                            the way anyone
answers a phone when it starts to ring,   
not thinking you have a choice.
 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Poem for Shelby's Wedding II: Cave Dwellers

Although I fill my life with poetry everyday, I think it's something we especially turn to at times of celebration and times of need.  My best friend, Shelby, is getting married this Friday, and because I love her as much as I love poetry, I've decided to spend this week posting poems that I hope will help prepare her for her wedding and for married life afterward.  This poem, "Cave Dwellers," by A. Poulin Jr. is the second.  I hope it will remind her that love is one of our deepest, primordial instincts, something sacred because it is inherent to our nature and to our survival as humans.

 
Cave Dwellers (A. Poulin Jr.)

I’ve carved a cave in the mountainside.
I’ve drilled for water, stocked provisions
to last a lifetime. The walls are smooth.
We can live here, love, safe from elements.
We’ll invent another love that can’t destroy.
We’ll make exquisite reproductions of our
selves, immortal on these walls.

                                                 And when
this sea that can’t support us is burned clean,
when the first new creatures crawl from it,
gasping for water, air, more wondrous and more
wild than earth’s first couple, they shall see
there were two before them: you and me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Poem for Shelby's Wedding I: Mother of the Groom

Although I fill my life with poetry everyday, I think it's something we especially turn to at times of celebration and times of need.  My best friend, Shelby, is getting married this Friday, and because I love her as much as I love poetry, I've decided to spend this week posting poems that I hope will help prepare her for her wedding and for married life afterward.  This is the first of those, which I hope she'll share with her mother-in-law, Deb, and keep in mind one day when her own children are marrying.


Mother of the Groom (Seamus Heaney)

What she remembers
Is his glistening back
In the bath, his small boots
In the ring of boots at her feet.

Hands in her voided lap,
She hears a daugheter welcomed.
It’s as if he kicked when lifted
And slipped her soapy hold.

Once soap would ease off
The wedding ring
That’s bedded forever now
In her clapping hand.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Much Too Short Weekend: Montpelier, VT

True story: I have been delayed on posting because I keep wanting to post about Vermont, and just haven't done it.  So, without (any more) delay, our trip to Montpelier, capitol of Vermont and home to our friends James and Emily:

August 10, 2012: New York, NY to Montpelier, VT
On the subway in the morning.
I left work early on Friday, thanks to our last summer Friday of the year.  I hadn't really taken advantage of them this year, so I was glad to be spending the final one really enjoying myself.  I took the train up from Grand Central, and met Roger and Rob at the Harlem station.  Cece picked the three of us up in Peekskill, and after a quick stop at my parents' house to get my sleeping pad and blankets, we all headed north to New England.  We hit some pretty bad traffic once we got to Connecticut, and because we were so delayed, had to stop for dinner on the way.  James suggested we go to Harpoon Brewery in Windsor.  It turned out to be a great choice - the food, beer, and atmosphere were all awesome.  I had a pumpkin beer (because apparently I can't be in New England without pretending it's autumn) and some really delicious clam chowder.  I wish we'd been able to go for a brewery tour or even just hang out there longer, but it was getting late and we still had a way to go to get to James and Emily's house in Montpelier.
Me at Harpoon Brewery.
We didn't hit traffic the rest of the way, and ended up getting to Montpelier around 10pm, a few hours after Dave had arrived.  It was great to catch up with everyone, and we hung around for a while before heading to bed.

August 11, 2012: Montpelier, VT

View from the Hubbard Park Tower.
We started our Saturday at a really wonderful coffee-shop, Capitol Grounds, and walked around Montpelier before getting breakfast at the Montpelier Farmers Market.  The market was really nice, and had a good balance of groceries and prepared foods.  The New England Culinary Institute was giving out some really delicious fried green tomatoes, and that was a lot of fun.



We walked around Montpelier some more, passing the government buildings where Emily works, and walking through Hubbard Park and up the tower there.  I was pretty amazed at how quickly we went from town to nature, and that was around the moment when I decided I should probably move to Vermont.
On the way to the lake.


We went back to the house after that, because Emily had to go to a meeting in New York.  The rest of us picked up supplies for a picnic at Hunger Mountain, a really lovely coop, and headed to a local park for lunch and some swimming.  We talked about renting one of the kayaks there, but ended up just hanging around for a while before heading back to Montpelier for drinks at the Three Penny Taproom.  It had a really nice, quiet vibe (Roger was especially excited to see people working on laptops there), and the beer selection was great.  That evening, we grilled sausages for dinner and played board games until 2am.  That's about when I decided I should definitely move to Vermont.



Sunday, August 12, 2012: Montpelier, VT to New York, NY

We ended our weekend with a final meal together at the Skinny Pancake, which I loved, even though some of my travel companions didn't.  I had the Noah's Ark, and the highlight was definitely the frumple cakes, which they describe as "a sweet crêpe cooked briefly, then twisted into a light pile of pancake, topped with powdered and cinnamon sugar."  They were light and delicious, and perfect with the local eggs and bacon.  One of my favorite things about the weekend was how focused every place we went seemed to be on supporting local farms and people in the town.  It felt friendlier and happier than anyone I'd been in a while, and I loved that.

Emily, Roger, and Rob outside of Rivendell Books.
We wandered around Rivendell Books, where (after years of talking about it!) I finally bought a used copy of the Moosewood Cookbook.  It seemed like the perfect souvenir of a very happy weekend.  I drove Cece's car home, because she wasn't feeling well, and she, Rob, Roger and I grabbed hibachi before taking the train back to the city.  It's worth noting that as soon as we got on the bus in Harlem, the demeanor of everyone had noticeably changed, and people were suddenly cranky about our bags, packed together like the sad sardines we are.  Much of the time, I love living here, but on that particular Sunday evening, I couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather be less.

So, of course, another trip up to see our friends is in the works for the fall!  Can't wait!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gratituesday: Summer

I set a number of goals at the start of the summer, and while I did do a few of them (visiting Atlantic City, running the Putnam County Classic, and rolling over my TIAA-CREF account), I barely scratched the surface of the things I thought were most important.  I wrote and edited a tiny bit, but didn't send out a single poem this summer.  I edited my CV a little, but didn't finish it, and never went back to career counseling to have a final edit on it.  I had a wonderful photographer take some portraits of me, but didn't create a professional website for myself.

And today, we second-years hosted the first-years in a meet-and-greet happy hour, and so the year has started.  Classes start next Tuesday, and I'm so, so excited for them, but I'm also feeling unprepared.  Today, walking over to the writers house, I realized that the friends I have who are more successful than me aren't necessarily better poets.  They just work much harder at it than I do.  So, this is my goal: work harder. 



I know it's going to be an uphill climb.  But I feel I have to give this my best shot, because this is the last year I'll be in school, possibly forever, and I need to give it my all.  I need to work at becoming the person I want to be.  I'm not sure where this leaves this blog, but I'm sure I'll continue to write in here when I can, so please don't delete me from your readers just yet.  I'm just feeling more comfortable with visual social media right now, so there's been a lot more Instagram, and a lot less long-form blogging.

And in the meantime, you can check in on the visual representation of who I want to be (no, seriously) at my latest online obsession, Pinterest.  When I started subscribing to catalogues and reading The Preppy Handbook and cutting out pictures to put in my diary, I realized it was time to get a Pinterest, and honestly, I quite like it.  It feels good to get all these things in one spot, as if it takes the pressure off me to actually do everything at once.  Since getting it, I've been better about cooking, about working out, and about dressing well.  I'm feeling slightly more conscious, after a summer of mostly wandering around lost.  I'm also thinking, however slowly, about reviving Call & Response.

It's an uphill climb, but I'm ready for more challenges, for shorter days and longer books.  Welcome, autumn.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gratituesday: Our Newly Painted Kitchen


I think the heart of most homes is the kitchen.  It's filled with sensory delights, and is usually the warmest spot in the house.  I've always loved sitting around in the kitchen, talking and making a general nuisance out of myself.  I sometimes say that we didn't eat family dinners together when I was little, which is mostly true, but my grandmother did sit with my sister and I while we ate, and then my sister and I usually sat with my parents while they ate, and it's always been a time to catch up on the day and sometimes cry about homework.  This is as true now as it was then.

There are some things I don't like about our kitchen, mainly that it's small and we don't really have room for a stand-up mixer or to keep our food processor out or keep a ton of people in there with us while we're cooking, and also that I have to do dishes in it.  I'd also like to add in more open shelving to display my dishes and cookbooks eventually.  But, for now, it's a cozy little spot, particularly when it's just Roger and me in there.  I hope that one day we can have a big kitchen with lots of counter space and an island and a dishwasher and a huge stove, but for now, this fits our needs and feels like home.

And, since Roger painted it while I was away a few weekends ago, it's also one of the brightest, happiest spots in the house.  I really do love it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cooking with Kristin: Peach-Banana Smoothies

I've always wanted to be the sort of person who wakes up early, makes a smoothie, and starts her day.  It hasn't ever really happened, because since college ended and I stopped getting enough sleep (how's that for counterintuitive?), I've been waking up about 10 minutes before I have to leave the house.  It's not pleasant, and I've been trying recently to give myself a longer morning ritual, a quiet way to start off my day.  I'm not quite at the point where I can wake up at 5am to go for a run before writing for a bit, but I do hope that one day I'll get there.  In the meantime, waking up at 7am and whipping up a smoothie to share with Roger has been one of the great pleasures of the past few weeks.  Other than on weekends, we don't get to share many mornings together, so our daily smoothie time has been a special ritual that I've enjoyed immensely.  This is one of our favorites from the past few weeks.


Peach-Banana Smoothie
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 peach (very ripe, if possible)
  • 1 cup milk (or enough to almost fill a "party cup")
  • 2 ice cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 heaping tablespoons vanilla protein powder (optional)
This recipe makes enough for one smoothie, which usually holds me over for about three hours until lunch.  You can, of course, double it if you're using a big blender, but this is about all that fits into my party cups.  Put everything into the blender in the order they appear for the magic bullet (if you are using a normal blender, you should put them in the opposite order, so that the powder and ice are held down by the milk and fruit) and process for approximately 20 seconds, or until smooth.  Enjoy!