Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion: Roger & I Are Famous

Little known fact: Roger & I are famous.  Well, not really famous, but a little famous.  One of our friends, Erica, is the editorial assistant on Finch & Ada, and was kind enough to feature us on their Hump Day Q&A for two weeks in a row.  Hop on over to check out our little interviews, which I think say an alarming amount about ourselves.

Roger's is online here:

And I'm online here:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cooking with Kristin: Arborio Rice Pudding & Whiskey Soaked Raisins

I've been in love with rice pudding since my next door neighbor introduced me to KozyShack, saying, "It's better than homemade."  I know this is really not a cool thing to say, but frankly, I've always liked it better than homemade myself.  It just has the perfect consistency. 

But, one of the benefits of making your own rice pudding is that you can eat it warm and make it in enormous batches, which is it's own special pleasure.  Here's the version I made recently, which was quick, easy, and delicious.

Arborio Rice Pudding (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring it to a gentle boil and then turn it down to a simmer, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom, for about 30 to 40 minutes. Taste the rice to check for doneness. The rice should be soft, but should still have a fair amount of liquid in it.  The rice will absorb a fair amount of the liquid after it's done cooking, so to get the right texture, be sure not to over-cook it.

Pour into serving bowls and stir in and garnish with whiskey-soaked raisins. Serve immediately, or chill to serve later.

Whiskey-Soaked Raisins
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup whiskey (I used Jack Daniels black label)
In a mug, pour whiskey over raisins so they are covered completely.  Let sit for at least 40 minutes, and up to overnight.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gratituesday: The Summer List

Pretty much every summer that I can remember, my parents have sat in the backyard and put together their Summer List.  It's a generally unattainable list of everything that needs to get done during the summer.  The List is usually double-columned and takes up every line of a legal pad.  It has included such gems like "re-do bathroom: pick out tiles, gut bathroom, install new bathroom,"* "build deck," "clean out garage - again.  rent dumpster," "fix hot tub - again," and "plant vegetable garden and flowers."  It also usually includes the more fun parts of summer, like our annual 4th of July Barbecue and swimming in the pool, but gives them a decidedly work-a-day twist: "set up tent on deck with lights. clean grill and deck furniture. invite friends" and "buy chlorine. open pool."

I'm making this sound incredibly boring, but actually, it's quite nice to sit with them in the morning before it gets hot, drinking coffee and planning out the next few months.  My father retired a few years ago, and generally has a running list of things he'd like to accomplish, but he doesn't keep a "honey-do" list or anything, and the Summer List is a bit like my mother's holiday shopping list - we don't keep it around after the season ends, even if not everything is crossed off, but it acts as a guide while it's here, and it has created an indelible memory in my mind.

My general idea of a Summer List is a little different.  My list isn't usually written down, and it generally looks more like: "wear hats and capris - lots of white" and "use the canoe" and "light sparklers" and "go to the beach - a lot."  Despite my very real hate for the hot weather, I really enjoy the season, and most summer memories have a hazy outline that makes them look like a hipster wedding photograph.  In a good way.

But this year, I decided to take a page from my parents' book, and try to be a little productive.  The hats and canoes (or surfboards, as it were, now that I live on an island) are all still my hopes and dreams for the summer, but I'm also going to try to get some concrete missions going too.  My Summer List is a lot shorter than theirs, and the most important parts of it aren't to improve the apartment, but more to take control of my career and money and to get a head start on the fall.  I'd like to accomplish all of it, but if there's one thing I'd like to inherit from my parents, it's their ability to take things in stride.  I don't know if they've ever once finished their whole Summer List, and I don't think they really care.  So, in addition to doing everything on my List, I'd also like to be a little calm if it doesn't all get done.

What are you guys hoping to do this summer?  Any big plans?

And, if anyone thinks they could help or offer any advice, I'd be so glad for it!

*That's on this year's list for them, to accomplish by July 4th.  They're ambitious people.  And as you can tell, since I'm not there, I actually have no idea what's on B-level bullet points.  I've never re-done a bathroom.  I can hardly paint our bedroom without having a breakdown.  Let's be real here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Weekend Wanderings: Memorial Day

Oh, this old thing? Just some homemade iced tea. No big deal.

This weekend was probably the best sort of introduction to summer I could ask for: hot, filled with good friends and good food, and relaxing.  Roger and I both got out of work early on Friday and met up in Union Square for a late lunch at Republic, and then wandered around the Greenmarket getting some plants and food for the weekend.  I'm hoping to make the farmers market at Columbia more a part of my life this summer.  I've been slow about treking up there to get the things I love - fresh milk, good eggs, real vegetables - and I've been sad about it nearly all year.  Time to stop being sad and start making the trip.

Saturday I went for a run in the afternoon, even though I should have learned my lesson about that last Saturday.  It's hot, I get dehydrated (even though I now have a fancy water-bottle!), I get exhausted, I run really slowly and I still end up walking for at least half my miles.  I have to get more disciplined about running in the evenings, when it's a little less ridiculous out.  We put our secondhand air-conditioner in the bedroom, too, and while I am pretty against AC in a moral/environmental/financial way, I really, really love being able to sleep comfortably.  It's the first AC I've had in adulthood, and while I feel badly about having it, I'm trying to be conscientious and only use it at night on really hot days.  We had some friends over for drinks and dinner and board games that evening, and they complained about how warm it was in the living room while I was cooking, so that must be a good sign!

Sunday we spent most of the day relaxing, and then saw some old friends for a barbecue.  I made a German potato salad that was nearly as good as our family's resident Oma's potato salad (not quite, because, um, really now, what recipe isn't better when someone's grandma makes it?) and a "better than sex" cake, which was really quite good.  Recipes to follow for both soon.  Catching up with some people I haven't seen in years was really nice.  It's fascinating to me that at one point in my life, I saw these people everyday, and now we all live about the same distance apart again, and yet go years without meeting.  I've been thinking a lot about the nature of friendship and relationships in general, and this comes up a lot.

Roger's parents and brother came for brunch this morning, and it was nice to see them.  We talked about careers and jobs, and as always when I talk about these things, I was left in a tizzy.  At times, I'm so pleased to be just where I am, doing exactly what I'm doing.  I feel I'm moving forward and toward the places I want to be.  And then, at other times, I'm so anxious and impatient.  I worry I've stagnated and settled, and that I'll never achieve any of my goals.  I know it's silly to worry about - worrying won't make any goals happen sooner, and I always remind myself that life is about the journey - but when I think too hard about it, I just feel a bit too far from where I want to end up.  So, needless to say, I froze a washcloth for my neck, brewed up some iced tea, and spent the rest of the day responding to emails, putting together more of my submissions spreadsheets, and generally preparing to keep moving forward, one step at a time.  I think it made for a nice, balanced, long weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2012

{This Moment}

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Life List: Memorize & Internalize 10 Poems

I've always liked memorizing poems, and since memorizing 10 is on my life list, I figured I'd bring us on a guided tour through the ones I've already memorized, and how they've treated me through the years.

A Sad Child (Margaret Atwood)
You're sad because you're sad.
It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill,
or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
you need to sleep.

Well, all children are sad
but some get over it.
Count your blessings. Better than that,
buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.

Forget what?
Your sadness, your shadow,
whatever it was that was done to you
the day of the lawn party
when you came inside flushed with the sun,
your mouth sulky with sugar,
in your new dress with the ribbon
and the ice-cream smear,
and said to yourself in the bathroom,
I am not the favorite child.

My darling, when it comes
right down to it
and the light fails and the fog rolls in
and you're trapped in your overturned body
under a blanket or burning car,

and the red flame is seeping out of you
and igniting the tarmac beside you head
or else the floor, or else the pillow,
none of us is;
or else we all are.

Some of Margaret Atwood's poetry can be a little passe.  Even pieces I really love are a little much sometimes ("Siren Song" anyone?).  So, when Sharon Olds gave us the assignment to memorize one poem, I was a little worried about being seen as lame if I chose one of her pieces.  I've wanted to memorize "A Sad Child" for some time, but decided instead to memorize a poem I'd read many years ago, which had stuck with me, though I'd forgotten the name of the poet: "I Go Back to May 1937." When I went to look it up, and discovered it was actually Sharon's poem, I decided not to be the world's biggest (if inadvertent) brown-noser, and went back to memorizing "A Sad Child."  I think both poems get to the heart of childhood pain in similar ways, and "A Sad Child" was the very first poem I read (in a book that Roger gave me, no less) that made me think, Oh - poetry.  Yes, this is something.   The book it comes from, Morning in the Burned House, is a really lovely little collection, and a good introduction to reading single-author collections of poetry.  I could not be more pleased with the journey that book started for me.

And now, we've gone through all the poems I've memorized thus far.  I need at least two more to memorize to reach my little goal (one of them may indeed be "I Go Back to Pay 1937"), but of course, I want to memorize many, many more over the course of my life.  If you have any suggestions for pieces you've memorized or pieces you would love to memorize, please let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cooking with Kristin: Candied Bacon

Rob is one of the few people we know who lives very close by, so he usually comes over at least once a week, and often brings some sort of meat to make.  Since he was bringing steak this weekend, we decided to make loaded mashed potatoes, which, of course, involve bacon.  Rather than pan-frying the bacon like we normally do, Rob suggested we try to make candied bacon.  I'd only ever had candied bacon in ice cream before, and while that was delicious, I was skeptical of how it would taste in the potatoes. But, it turned out to be incredible.  The bacon on its own was seriously delicious also (I even ate the fatty portions!), and we made the second half of it today in the same way, eating it plain with eggs and toast.  If you've never tried candied bacon, you should try this right away.

Candied Bacon
  • 1/2 package of bacon (about 6 or so strips)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with tinfoil (seriously, you do not want to have to wash these pans afterward if you can avoid it).  Sprinkle half the brown sugar onto the foil, and then place the bacon on top, being sure no slices overlap.  Push the bacon into the foil, so that the sugar gets absorbed into it.  Then, sprinkle the rest of the sugar on top of the bacon, and rub it into the meat.  Bake for about 10 minutes, until bacon just starts to brown.  Flip each slice and bake for an addition 10 minutes, until all the fat is rendered.  Cool on a separate plate until the bacon crisps up (about 5 minutes), and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gratituesday: Life on Mars

If you've ever asked me what I write about, I will tell you that I am working on a book of poems called Notes from the Journal of an Intergalactic Love Cowboy, and that the basic premise of this book is that our hero, Harold, is an astronaut who gets sucked into a blackhole, and in the fraction of a second before his body collapses under those sorts of conditions (I like to think he'd shatter, but have no basis for this belief), time has slowed enough that he can watch the entire history of the earth pass before him.

This is pretty much a lie.  I had the idea for the book about four years ago, and I've only written about ten poems from Harold's perspective, and in fact, most of those poems are terrible.  I think the idea speaks to my current themes well, though, so it makes for a tidy explanation. Since reading Tracy K. Smith's Life on Mars, however, I think just telling people that what I'm writing is a less amazing version of that book would be more honest.  She's really said it all - every word.

I finished the book over the weekend, and every single poem felt like a revelation to me.  I was particularly taken by "It's Not," "Aubade," "When Your Small Form Tumbled Into Me," and "Us & Co.," but there wasn't a false note in this book.  Smith, whose father worked on the Hubble Telescope and passed away four years ago, works so brilliantly in the line between the public and the private, between pop-culture and personal.  I don't know that there's much I can add to Dan Chiasson's review of the book, but I will say that the book moved me more than any book in recent memory.  Even if you rarely read poetry, you should read this.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weekend Wanderings: Quiet

I was saddened to learn at the start of this weekend that one of the girls I studied abroad with had passed away last Wednesday.  Kathryn Rickson and I weren't very close, and I only spoke with her once after we left England, but while we were abroad, she wrote the most exquisite play, Bare Feed on a Cold Floor.  I've thought of it often since seeing it staged at Wadham, and it left a real mark on me as a person.  She was a smart, sweet person, and the world is a sadder place without her.  I spent much of the weekend thinking of her, and of everyone else I was with there.

The weekend was warm and sunny, and on Friday night, we met up with Rob for drinks and dinner outside at Bier, where they have a really good selection of beers and sausages (and delicious truffle fries).  Saturday and Sunday were devoted to running errands and, for Roger, finishing up papers for the end of semester this week.  While he was writing away, I finished Life on Mars, which was easily one of the best books I've read all year.  It's just incredible, and even if you don't usually read poetry, I would highly recommend it.  I tried to spend some time outside, and went for a run on Sunday, where I bumped into the AIDS walk.  With the weather outside so sunny and beautiful, I'm so glad to have the park nearby, and I'm really looking forward to picnics and barbecues this summer.  Hopefully this will be the last weekend for a while that we spend most of our time indoors.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life List: Memorize & Internalize 10 Poems

I've always liked memorizing poems, and since memorizing 10 is on my life list, I figured I'd bring us on a guided tour through the ones I've already memorized, and how they've treated me through the years.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Sometime after reading The Canterbury Tales, I fell out of the habit of memorizing poetryI know at Oxford we talked about it, and we even had a little poetry date each week for the last term, but I can't remember memorizing anything that year, or the next, as I started to more ferociously study literature, literature, and nothing but literature.  (Seriously.  It's all I took for three terms at Oxford, and then five of my six classes during my last year at Sarah Lawrence were literature.  I even stayed a semester longer than I had to, so that I could take three more lit classes.  They were all wonderful, and worth every second.)  I spent the first year out of college missing college, and working in publishing.  And then I made a really terrible decision and quit publishing to move back to my hometown, take a job I knew I would hate, and get my life in order.

There's no way for me to talk about this point in my life without sounding super-entitled, so instead, I just don't really talk about it.  The Gratituesday feature I sometimes do stems entirely from this point in my life, where I was completely incapable of focusing on anything good.  I won't go into the details of how painful that year was, or how I acted the entire time, because it's not something I'm proud of, but I will say that everything about that point in my life lacked poetry.  I wasn't writing it, I wasn't reading it, and I certainly wasn't living it.

And then, one day, I realized that all the time I was spending tearing up at the computer could be better spent learning something.  I started this blog, I started writing for the newspaper, and I started reading poetry again.  And when I read "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," I knew what I had to do.  I printed it out, taped it to my desk, and read it over and over again until I had the whole thing memorized.  The strong iambic octameter, the heavy masculine rhyme, the deep sadness that pervades the entire piece - it was exactly what I needed.  Everyday that snowed-in winter felt like I was between woods and lake.  It was so hard, and Robert Frost was the only person who understood.  And when I memorized this poem, and knew it was a part of me, I sent out my first poetry submission, and was accepted to Quarrtsiluni.  And a few months later, I took back my old job and started taking a poetry class.  And slowly (oh, lord, slowly), everything started to fall into place again.

And that's how Robert Frost saved my life.