Friday, September 25, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Christina and Jason's Wedding

Last weekend, I went upstate to help my parents start the process of cleaning out the "house upstate," a ski house that my dad bought with a friend in the 70s, and which we stopped visiting in 1991. Needless to say, it's a real mess: graffiti on the walls, broken windows, junk strewn about floors that are collapsing. It needs a lot of work before they can sell it, and we started that work, in the tiniest way, by bagging up some of the garbage on Saturday. We'll see what happens from here. It could be a long process.

After a few hours of hard work, we decided to call it a day, and grabbed sandwiches at a local deli to enjoy while we took in the view from a pullover. It was pretty spectacular view, even though the day was a bit hazy. It's a beautiful part of New York.

We stopped for cider donuts on the way home. The whole trip was a nice way to say goodbye to summer and welcome fall.

On Sunday, Roger and I headed to New Jersey to celebrate the wedding of my friends and former co-workers, Christina and Jason. They had the wedding at The Ryland Inn, a beautiful restaurant and event space in Whitehouse Station.

It was a beautiful wedding. The ceremony was so "Christina and Jason," with plenty of funny moments (I think they must have high-fived about twenty times!) and even more moments filled with real love and affection. Their rabbi was a blast (I seriously want to be her friend now) and everyone was so happy to be there. 

The food was SO good - from the pork belly and applesauce skewers right down to their red velvet wedding cake, and Christina kept telling everyone to eat more as she came around from table to table. (And anyone who knows Christina knows she's a true Italian food pusher!) The band was fantastic, and played tons of great dance music, from oldies to new hits. We had a blast dancing and celebrating, and it was wonderful to spend some of the evening relaxing outside and catching up with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time. The weather couldn't have been more perfect for this awesome couple, from the sunny afternoon ceremony right until the cool evening as we all said goodbye.

Congratulations on your marriage, Christina and Jason, and thank you for letting us share in the celebration with you! Enjoy your honeymoon in Hawaii!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cooking with Kristin - Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Chickpeas

Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Chickpeas - Cooking with Kristin

To celebrate the autumnal equinox yesterday, I made this very tasty fall soup. It's super easy and relatively quick (about an hour from start to finish), and it tastes very creamy, despite not having any dairy in it at all. In fact, if you substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, it's completely vegan, too. It's very filling on its own, and would be great served up with a light side salad or some crusty bread for dinner.

The crispy chickpeas are a nice addition, but if you're a lazy cook (and friend, I myself am a lazy cook), don't hesitate to skip them. The soup will still be delicious.

Butternut Squash Soup (adapted from Food Network)
  • 1 2-3 pound butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roast the whole squash with the onion and apple for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cut the squash into 1-inch cubes. (Use an oven mitt or wait for it to cool a bit).

Combine the squash, onion, apple, and all the rest of the ingredients into a large soup pot, and boil over medium-high heat until the squash is fully cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Serve while hot.

Crispy Chickpeas (adapted from The Kitchn)
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
(These should be put in at the same time you put in the squash to roast, and taken out just as your soup is finished. But they're also very tasty as a bar-snack, so you can also make them on their own.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make sure you pat the chickpeas as dry as possible with a paper towel. It will help them crisp up. Then, toss them with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and spread them out on a baking pan. Bake them for 45 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan once in the middle. When they're golden brown and crispy, they're done.

Pull them out of the oven, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then use to garnish the soup. (If you're eating them as a snack, they're great with other spices, too. I especially like using a garam masala mix or Tony Chachere, but any of your favorite spices will be great!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Gratituesday - Locker Buddy

Did you decorate your locker in high school? I did, and it was one of my favorite parts of a new school year. Perfectly arranging my mirror, magnets, photos, and storage containers was always a thrill. Sometimes I'm even a little sad not to have a new locker at the start of the school year anymore!

My amazing friend Cece made this locker buddy for me for my birthday a few years ago. I have a hard time remembering which locker is mine at the gym, because I always choose a different one, and so having a little buddy to hang out and remind me where my stuff is has been super helpful.

Cece is always making incredibly cool stuff like this. A few months before this, she made us matching cake slice key chains, because we were running together and deserved a slice of cake. She's so thoughtful and creative, and every time I see her, my day is a little brighter. Unfortunately, we don't get to see each other as much as I'd like lately.

I'm grateful to have this little guy to help me find my stuff most mornings, but I'm even more grateful to have a reminder of someone I really dig. Thanks, Cece!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mad Men Exhibit

When I saw that the Museum of the Moving Image was hosting a Mad Men exhibition, and that it was closing on Labor Day weekend, I knew I needed to hightail it to Astoria and go see it.

Even though I still haven't seen the last season (I know, I know), I've loved the show since I first started watching it in 2008, and at various points, we've even been known to group-watch it, like we did in 2010, starting with this most excellent premier party, where we made the same menu Betty makes for her around-the-world dinner.


So, of course. Seeing the exhibit was fantastic. I was surprised that my favorite part was actually not the costumes, which were my favorite part of the show. They were very cool, don't get me wrong (especially Pete's!), but I found the wall text was a little slim, and overall, the costumes in person just weren't as impressive as the sets.

They had two walk-in sets available, the Draper kitchen and Don's first office, and both of them were really breathtaking, especially the kitchen. Standing in the middle of each really felt magical. I was surprised by how in love I fell with them.

One other exhibit had one of the secretary's desks on display, and even though it was background during the show, the amount of effort and detail that was put into it was incredible. Although I could have used more wall text and guidance through the exhibit, overall, it was really fantastic to see so many things I remembered from the show up close. The details were so impressive, and I'm so glad I got the chance to see all these items before it closed.

And, if you go to the museum, which you should, stop by Queens Comfort for brunch afterward. It's seriously my favorite brunch in all of New York City. I've never had sausage and biscuits like theirs before, and everything else is amazing, too!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dispatch from Wickford, RI

Rhode Island has some really gorgeous historic houses. I was lucky enough to have a nice long walk through Wickford's Main Street a few weeks ago, where all of these images were taken. Some of the houses are even for sale! If you have any photos you'd like to share in my "Dispatch From" feature, please email me and we'll get them posted! I'd love to see images of your recent or distant trips!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Charlestown, RI

You might remember that my family and I used to go to Rhode Island every summer when I was a child. I was there for a day with Shelby last summer, but I haven't been back with my family since 2004, and Roger and I have never gone together (not for want of trying; this was our third attempt at a trip).

So, when my parents told me they were renting a house in Charlestown for the week with my mother's best friend, Liz, I knew I wanted to go, and invited myself (and Roger) along for a long weekend at the beginning of their stay. We arrived in the afternoon on Saturday, August 22nd, and after checking out the cute cottage they'd rented (it had a beautiful outdoor shower and a deck on the roof!), we hit the beach, which was beautiful. The water was much warmer than it was the last time we'd gone swimming back in June!

We had dinner at Captain Jack's, because the Matunuck Oyster Bar, which is supposed to be amazing, was packed. The clam cakes at Captain Jack's were really, really delicious, but the lobster roll was nothing to write home about. My parents later ate at the Sea Goose, and said that was a much better choice.

On Sunday morning, the weather was a bit drizzly, so we decided to head into Newport for the morning, and take a stroll on the cliff walk, see some mansions, and visit the shops in town. (We also hit up the Newport Fudgery, which has incredible fudge and really delicious elephant ears.)

On our way out, we saw this incredible kite, which must have been 20 foot long, and was set up by The Kite Company as an advertisement. It was really breathtaking to see it floating there.

And this very cool vintage car, which was not an advertisement for anything. I think.

That afternoon, Liz, Roger, and I headed back to the Charlestown beach, where we had some amazing storm clouds behind us, and an incredibly clear view to Block Island ahead of us.

That evening, we enjoyed a really excellent meal at 84 Tavern. All the food we had was incredible, and it was so good that we decided to go again the next night. (It's also across the street from the Amtrak station, and Roger and I needed to be dropped off on separate nights, so that helped the decision along.) We headed to Tropic Frost for ice cream (sadly, our favorite place, Around the Corner, was closed), and then drove Roger to the Amtrak station to say goodbye and see him off on his way home. Then, we headed back to the house to watch Fear the Walking Dead's premier!

On Monday morning, we headed to Wickford, a really beautiful little village filled with incredible historic houses. (More on those soon!) We wandered around with Ava, Liz's dog, and took a leisurely walk down to the docks and back. It was a super cute little town, and I don't think I'd ever been before, so it was nice to explore it for the first time.

We stopped at Watch Hill on our way back, and meandered through the shops along the bay.

It was a leisurely day, and then as I said before, we rounded out the evening back at 84 Tavern before I caught my train home. Overall, it was a beautiful weekend, and exactly what I needed as the summer was winding down. Thanks to my parents and Liz for letting us crash their party!

Next up: Take a look at some of my photos of historic houses from Wickford, RI.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Gratituesday: Work Friends

I went out with some former coworkers two weeks ago, because one of them is moving to LA and we all wanted to get together before she left us forever. It reminded me of how grateful I am to work with amazing people, both at my old job and my new one. The fact that I still see friends from my last job at least once a month (and usually much more frequently) speaks to how great all these people are.

I've been lucky to be surrounded at work by people who are caring, professional, and creative. And if I happen to get a sunset sail or a bottle of champagne out of the deal, even better. It's absolutely the people who make an office, and I'm glad to say that both my offices have been awesome.

And Emily, congratulations on the move! You were an amazing Assistant Editor and are an incredible person, and I know you'll do brilliantly in California! (And wow, nice job to me for putting all those different tenses in one sentence. #editortipoftheday.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day 2015

Two interesting articles for your Labor Day reading:

This point [that intentionality and service is the key to happiness at work] is illustrated in the parable of a traveler who happened upon stonemasons. When he asked the workers what they were doing, one mason simply replied, “I am making a living.” But another stonemason answered differently: “I am building a cathedral.”

Every one of us is building a human cathedral. In our interconnected world and global economy, our work transforms the lives of countless others. Sometimes the impact is obvious: Managers and executives directly inflect their employees’ happiness and career success. But everyone, in every industry, affects the lives of co-workers, supervisors, customers, suppliers, donors or investors. How often do we spend our morning commute thinking consciously about how to make their lives better through our work? What if we made this as routine as our morning coffee?
—Arthur C. Brooks, "Rising to Your Level of Misery at Work"
For millions of retail workers in the country, of whom only 5 percent are unionized and the median hourly wage is only $10, Labor Day is one of the toughest times of the year.

This year and every year, millions of unprotected retail workers will go to work on Labor Day to earn severely depressed wages. Many will work shifts longer than eight hours.

From its origins as a presidential ploy to its current incarnation as a back-to-school shopping bonanza, Labor Day has little to offer American workers except a badly needed beach day. But May Day celebrates the historical hope for a fundamentally different society — a dream that made American workers some of the most fierce antagonists capitalism has ever faced.

Today isn’t labor’s day. Labor’s day is May 1.
—Jonah Walters, "Labor Day Is May 1"

All work is important, guys. I hope that as you enjoy your long weekend, you'll keep our workers and unions in your thoughts.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Monthly Spending in August 2015

Net Worth Change from Previous Month: -4.3%
Total Spent: $365.44

Well the market has been a roller coaster, huh? I finished out August down a little under 4%, which is much better than I was doing on the 24th (about 10% down). I'm not too worried, since I won't be using any of that money any time soon, but I do have money for a one-day down payment on a house in a few mutual funds, so it made me think a bit about when the right time will be to move that into a more secure place. (Answer: closer to when we're going to buy a house, hopefully on an upswing.)

Budget wise, though, August worked out pretty well! I was nearly out of the red on my Travel line, thanks in large part of some "freelance" income that came from selling items I no longer need on eBay. I've been Konmari-ing, so I've had plenty to get rid of, and selling things on the site was a very easy way to bring in a little extra cash. I also got a $25 coupon for selling things, that I was able to use on a vintage sweater I've been longing for, so it was a win all around. The $62 in business services went to that - eBay fees, shipping fees, and packing materials.

I spent some money on traveling to Rhode Island for a weekend with my parents (I'll write a post about that trip soon), so that covers the Travel and Auto budgets. I bought some quilting supplies to make a gift for a new baby a friend is having, and the rest went, of course, to going out for food and drinks with friends.

In September, I'll be on a rather tight budget. I'm going to a friend's wedding, which I'm so excited for, but which will also be a bit costly, and I've joined the gym at work, where I'm hoping to take a tennis class (for which I will need to purchase shoes, a tennis racket, and balls). Between those three things, that takes care of my entire budget for the month (and then some). I may end up taking out a bit extra, just so I have the option of sometimes meeting a friend for a drink, but we'll see.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Old Stone House

Back in March, R. and I took advantage of an unseasonably warm day to walk over to the Old Stone House, the closest HHTNY house to our apartment. I'd been there once in 2009, when a friend was thinking about getting married there, and it was exciting to see how things have changed in the park since then. (For one, it's not under construction anymore!)

The house is a reconstructed 1699 farmhouse, which is also known as the Vechte-Cortelyou House. The original house, which was destroyed in 1897, sat on the site adjacent to the reconstruction, closer to what is today 3rd Avenue. The Vechte family, who built the original, farmed the land around the house and harvested oysters from the nearby Gowanus Creek, which at the time, looked nothing like the Gowanus Canal we see today.

During the Revolutionary War, the house played a key role, and is where the Battle of Brooklyn took place on August 27, 1776. The battle was the first major battle to take place after the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the largest battle of the entire war. The house served as an artillery house for the British as they attacked the troops led by General George Washington.

After passing through the family (who last lived in it in 1815), the house served as a clubhouse for the Brooklyn Superbas, the baseball team that would become the Brooklyn Dodgers, before being destroyed in 1897. In 1933, the house was excavated and reconstructed using some of the original materials.

Today, the house includes an exhibit on the Battle of Brooklyn, and offers educational tours for schools. Upstairs is an event space that can be used for children's birthday parties, weddings, or meetings. (There was a birthday party going on when we visited, so I couldn't take any photos, but from what I remember in 2009, it was a nice, large space.)

My only complaint about the Old Stone House is that most of their pedagogical materials are dedicated to the Battle of Brooklyn and the Revolution, without much devoted to the house itself. With such a storied history, it makes sense to focus on the battle, but I would have loved to learn more about the house and the family who lived there while I was visiting. Overall, though, it was a great place to stop in for a bit and learn about a little bit more Revolutionary War history. I hope you'll visit next time you're in Park Slope!