Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Glory of a Good Field

The last two weekends I've driven up to the country. I keep thinking fall is over, but perhaps it hasn't even begun? I guess I see these photographs of Autumn in Vermont or wherever and I expect all the leaves to turn at exactly the same time. My own country experience certainly was highlighted by a number of beautiful trees, but also trees with no leaves whatsoever. Nature is not quite as tidy as I might like or assume, though it does mean that on multiple visits I was able to appreciate some golden and red and yellow leaves pretty much no matter where I looked. The first weekend was really warm. High 60s/low 70s warm. And sunny. This led me to really take advantage of the opportunity to walk and be outside without a jacket.
This is my friend the groundhog. Did you know groundhogs can climb trees? They can! I saw it! With my eyes!
So I generally haul myself out to this field with my picnic blanket (actually a cloth shower curtain but perfect as a picnic blanket), my camera, a book and maybe a soda and just sit there for as long as I can. The duration is sometimes determined by how long my Kindle lasts. Or how long the sun stays in full effect (it does get a little chilly if the sun is blocked by clouds). Getting hungry also has a detrimental impact on my ability to sit in a field for hours and hours. But on this particular day it was a perfect storm of bright sun, full belly and charged Kindle. I also lugged a tripod with me in order to prove to the world that I sit in pretty places and do very little. This was me deciding that running away from the self-timed camera would be a good idea.
And this is what I usually look like. One could say it's a reenactment, except I was really reading. To the right you'll see my glass bottle of Cheerwine. I've been reading a fair amount lately, a mix of high and low. Though I think on this particular day it was more low.
Just good old fashioned lovely times.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Martini and Banh Mi c/o Alla Spina

Week before last LW and I headed west in search of some rather spectacular lobster deals...but we hadn't made a reservation at our intended destination and found the wait too long for our liking. So instead we went to Alla Spina. I believe we both had dirty martinis.
In times past, I have always enjoyed the look and the feel of Alla Spina, but never quite loved any of the small dishes I tried. But it's not a place I don't want to go back to. It's a place that I am convinced makes tasty things, but that I'm simply ordering wrong. That evening was the first time this basic philosophy was validated. I chose the Italian banh mi with roasted pork shoulder, chicken liver paté, pickled daikon, carrots and cilantro. I found it much to my liking. The baguette was generally tough but pliant on the outside with a little more give and tenderness on the inside, and the mix of pork and chicken and carrots et al worked as well. I think I had expected slightly thicker bits of pork, but on the whole it was a sandwich I enjoyed. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Art and Darts

Last year around this same time Mr. Ass put on a group show, and did the same this year too. On an early October Sunday afternoon I drove up to see it. It was a beautiful day. The art was lovely and varied. There were quite a few folks from my high school years to see as well.

And on a completely different evening the Kitten Mittens had our weekly darts match. Last season we were in a lower division and did quite well. As a result of our modicum of success we were bumped up 1-2 divisions and are playing against tougher competition. After about five weeks of play our record is not so hot. We haven't won a match, though we certainly win games within it. In any case, after a home game a few weeks back I took a photo of A., N. and T. Hopefully the second half of the season will go better than the first. On the whole the issue is usually out shots. All my players can hit their out shots, but rarely on the first time while our competitors are quite a bit better at being given an out shot opportunity and taking advantage of it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Burger c/o Rembrandt's

Sometimes you want a good burger, and sometimes you want a great burger, and sometimes you just want a burger. At some point after work I found myself in that last category and LW found herself in a spot of hunger as well, so we went to Rembrandt's. Rembrandt's does everything nicely though I never leave there saying 'that was the best fill-in-the-blank.' Though they used to have a lamb burger that was damn tasty, which is astoundingly no longer on the menu. In any case, I did have a moment's debate as to what I most wanted to eat from their new menu, but in the end their burger with cheese, bacon and porter onions still was the frontrunner. I enjoyed it quite a bit. The fries, on the other hand, were meh. I guess I really like a crisp fry over a more soggy version.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

17 Facts

In my line of work I have been exposed to the fact that in some circumstances, people are asked to create and share 25 random facts about themselves. Hearing about such responses led me to start creating my own list. I haven't gotten to 25 yet, but here are my starters. 

1. I had my first manicure at the age of 27. It has not become a weekly, or even monthly, aspect of my life. That said I'm always appreciative of how much nicer my toe and finger nails look after the occasional mani-pedi.

2. There are few things I enjoy more than building and maintaining a fire. Perhaps part of the reason that mani-pedis aren't a priority.

3. Growing up, my most steadfast stuffed animal companion was Geraldine the giraffe, whom I decided was a boy not a girl.

4. I grew up in an 19th century house (or maybe early 20th?) in the suburbs of DC, right across the street from active train tracks. My childhood was punctuated by a constant stream of trains barreling through the night, causing funny pauses in conversation and a tendency to start turning up the television volume well in advance of the train's screeching horn.

5. At the age of 13 I sought out the opportunity to attend a private boarding school in order to have a more challenging high school experience and to change the social setting of my life. My primary prerequisites for the schools I applied to were that they had an equestrian program, no stringent dress code, and were co-ed. In the end I attended a Quaker boarding school that met all three, which resulted in what I believe is one of the more life-shaping experiences of my early life.

7. I am a very accomplished floater. While I probably wouldn't break any record ever when it comes to swimming fast or swiftly, I am entirely capable of floating in a relatively calm body of water for long periods of time.

8. When I was 20 I spent six weeks living in a tent in a variety of friends' and employers' back yards after the apartment I was subletting was condemned. During that time I also read all the Harry Potter books published at the time by lantern light. The one time I slept inside during that period, I found myself awoken by a squirrel eagerly chomping on a walnut while perched on my thighs.

9. I would much rather live in the country than the city, squirrel risk be-damned.

10. I worked at a sheep farm for about two years after graduating from college. The pay wasn't the best, but each day was different and I loved learning more about how to create yarn and work with the animals.

11. I used to host weekly macaroni and cheese nights. The main dish of the evening never had less than 5 cheeses. Though I no longer make it with such regularity, I have continued to perfect the dish and have begun making bechamel sauce for extra creaminess as well as a panko truffle top for added crunch.

12. Due to my time at the sheep farm, I was for a brief time a very productive knitter. I made an afghan that could easily keep two people warm and a sweater for my boyfriend at the time, as well as countless scarves. For a brief period  I could even knit in the dark at movies.

13. I've never been to Asia, but I would very much like to take a tour of Japan, focusing less on its frenetic cities and spending more time in its country villages and seaside towns. Though I would certainly want to go to the huge Tokyo fish market and try ramen and yakitori at a variety of street stalls.

14. I recently joined a Fantasy Football league on a whim even though I'm not really that big a football fan. This has led to my suddenly caring a lot more about the sport and exploring the different chicken wings that can be delivered to my house on Sundays.

15. As a small kid I enjoyed pretending that I was "Annie the waitress" and would take my parents' and their friends' 'orders' as they conversed on our porch...all while sporadically belting out 'the sun will come out tomorrow.'

16. Though I've been to Europe, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean, I've never been to California or Texas. 

17. My great-great grandfather was a confederate general in the civil war. In fact he was the last confederate general to surrender, though that was more a matter of distance (he was in Texas) and getting the memo/telegraph a little later than anyone else.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chirashi c/o Umai Umai

At some point in the past I once again made my way to Umai Umai and sidled up to the sushi bar. I briefly looked at the menu, but I already knew I was destined to order the chirashi. And destiny cannot be denied. There were a few changes from the bowl I had last time around. Perhaps the most noticeable being the octopus wrapped around mint...or maybe it was a shiso leaf. In any event, it was just what I wanted it to be and I remained quite impressed with the quality of the cuts and the fact that I actually like raw scallop.
I had a brief conversation with the sushi chef (and I think owner?) about the restaurant's lack of social media presence, how moonies supply the restaurant (along with pretty much all other sushi joints in the U.S.) and that was really the crux of the conversation. He's a pretty chill guy and I hope that we will slowly become friends in the way that a customer and a chef can, which is to say that he happily takes my money and I happily give it to him? I'm not sure what I really meant there.
In any case, it was a delightful evening's meal.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Roasted Chicken

While in the country I roasted a chicken. It turned out quite well and was delicious.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

iPhone Clearance

I finally got around to transferring the photos I had on my phone from the last year + to my computer, freeing up who knows how much data and allowing me to share a few extra photos from events that have taken place over the last few months. I could have delved deeper, but here are some extra shots from a few of the late summer/early fall things I've done. Here, for example, is one of the few photographs taken of Cuz K. and me from her bachelorette evening.
Cuz K. and crew arriving for the wine tasting.
My roommate and I with matching darts.
LW's, my and the roommate's matching cases.
Trying out the new darts.
My tent set up from a different angle and before I put the tarp rope up.
One area of the campground after it rained. This drainage thing was maybe not working at top capacity.
Children later played in the collected water that wasn't draining. As a kid I know I would have enjoyed doing the same. As an adult all I can think about is the bacteria.
Dad figuring out his new phone at Morimoto and me telling him to look at me before immediately taking a photograph.
The refrigerator pickles and hot peppers I made. they are super hot. Cucumbers care of Cuz K. and A.
I went to the country and had to stop at a grocery and wine store for supplies and was struck by how much I could have been anywhere at this particular parking lot.
The country was gorgeous. Fall in its prime.
Just spectacularly beautiful and still warm.

I managed to get my work done soon enough that I then took myself, a blanket and my Kindle out to this field and read for a good portion of time. An adolescent deer started circling around me, curious as can be. Couldn't get a photo of it, but it was precious.
Later I looked for kindling, as even I knew these beautiful and warm days couldn't last and eventually fires will need to be made, and it's much easier to build a fire if you have dry wood to do it with.
And then I saw this beautiful sight.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Work Lunches Continued

More meals were consumed as September rolled on into October. Or I think this was in early October. Or are we still in early October? It's hard to tell really. On this particular day the meal was a spicy Korean cheese steak from Koja Grill. These things never disappoint with their spicy beef and peppers and oozing cheese. Definitely a fave. 
Oooooze cheese, oooooze.
On another day I tried a different sandwich from Rybread. I believe this was a mushroom pesto panini with a balsamic element to it. Not my fave in the end.
And on another day I went with the paneer tikka masala from Tiffin. The dragon had to be satisfied at looking at it thought the glass bowl.
Good stuff.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Work Lunches Including Sushi and Sandwiches

More lunches came our way with another week of busy times. Here was my lunch combination from Kansai. Eel avocado and spicy crunch crab rolls.
A grilled cheese sandwich with tomato from Rybrew. The dragon felt strongly that the sandwich should not be eaten and, instead, should serve as a permanent cave-like shelter for himself. I argued against this and was ultimately successful. There are advantages of being alive and one of them is being able to have the final word in arguments with plastic dragons found inside Kinder eggs.
A spicy turkey sandwich with coleslaw and spinach from 3Js. The dragon wasn't entirely sure what to do here so he just started lurching around like a zombie. Which makes sense, given the loss of one of his wings. Not the dragon he used to be.
And of course a lovely looking Primo's hoagie. The dragon was too distracted by its love of flatware to even investigate, which made the eating of the sandwich quite a bit easier than it sometimes is.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Jobs I Never Had and the Cats I Killed, Part II

So I'm continuing to work on this series of I don't know what you'd call them. The first installment having been posted in May.

This time it wasn't a cat. It was a turtle. And this turtle's death was not a matter of passive acceptance or inaction, which was the case with Smackers. No, this was a case of not even having an inkling of having fucked up until it was far too late to fix it. And the thing that was lost - in addition to the turtle's life - was perhaps some other kind of life circumstance that I imagined would lead to a certain kind of professional future. Of course "professional future" may be too much of a phrase for the way I thought about my life's trajectory when I was 19. At the time I was working on improving my photographic skills with the help of the head of the photography department, Professor S., during intense one-on-one tutorials. We met - I think - once a week, and through our meetings I did actually learn a few things I should have known far earlier. I began doing a better job of getting good negatives, and Professor S. was a little less focused on ideas than my previous mentor, which allowed me not to overthink things as much. This is saying something because whether in an art context or not, if I am one thing I am an overthinker (except when I resolutely refuse to think at all). In any case, at some point during this tutorial Professor S. asked me if I would be available to housesit while he and his family went farther north - to what I"m sure was a really wonderful second home in the wilderness of Vermont. I was quite enthusiastic about the opportunity to spend a few days in a grown up's house, as I was currently living in a ranch house with three other people where we all had a pretty desultory relationship to keeping common areas clean.

Professor S. and his family lived in a spacious older home a bit out of the center of Tivoli, which in itself is not a particularly bumpin' place, so living even four blocks outside the center (which is one intersection) is already pretty rural. It was a nice brick house. Old, but modernized and well appointed. Professor S. was and is a renowned photographer in many circles, and between his art, family money of some kind, and his professorship, they clearly had the funds to make the house comfortable and updated. Steam shower. A front sitting room, not overly large, stacked from floor to ceiling with shelves of art and photography books. A wonderful kitchen and center island. I was especially smitten with the screened in back porch with comfortable furniture and a view of a field that stretched as far as the eye could see to the east. There was also a small barn in the back. I'd say really it was more like a large shed. Barn would connote a larger structure. That said, the structure was large enough to house two goats and a gaggle of chickens. Maybe 8 chickens? Maybe more.

I was given the assignment to feed and take care of the chickens, two or three cats, the goats and a turtle by Mrs S. There were many rumors about Professor S.'s wife. Most of them not terribly flattering to her. Who knows what is true and untrue about it, but she certainly had the reputation for not being an especially warm  person. From my interactions with her, which were few, I'd certainly say that she was brisk and no-nonsense, and that there wasn't much of a hint of an underlying sweetness waiting to come out. Of course, the second set of our interactions are such that that lack of sweetness is wholly understandable. In any case, I felt very much that this job was a sign that Professor S. found me trustworthy. I was also excited because the insinuation was that if I did well on this test weekend, there would be a good chance that I could potentially be a more permanent housesitter for them during the summer, when they would spend more time at whatever retreat they needed from a house I was already very much considering the perfect retreat for me. Even then I was really into chickens and their aesthetic beauty and the novelty and wonder of being able to enjoy an extremely fresh egg pretty much at will. I loved that I got to cut a cantaloupe up each morning and give it to the chickens as a breakfast treat. I also have never forgotten that one of the notes about feeding the cats was that every once and a while Professor S. liked to give them a can of tuna instead of typical cat food. I don't know if this was actually Professor S.'s little kindness or his wife's. I'm not sure how I knew it at all. But to this day whenever I"m too lazy to go buy my cat more dry food I make sure I have tuna in the pantry and think of it as a really special day for Zul (the cat).

Well. Things went slightly awry. Though I only realized they went awry after the fact. After enjoying peaceful days and evenings predominantly hanging on their back porch I came back from somewhere to find Mrs. S. back at the house a day earlier than planned. I had used all their milk and intended on replacing it before they got back and now felt as if I had somehow failed and would be judged for this oversight. But, of course, the use of their milk was not the failure I should have been concerned with. No. What I should have worried over was the fact that the turtle had not moved. During her tour of the house and instructions Mrs S. had said specifically that the turtle was in hibernation mode so all I needed to do was keep the heat lamp on it and spritz its back with water once a day, but that it wouldn't be walking around or being active. So, that's what I did and thought nothing of it. Alas. The first words Mrs S. said to me after a very terse hello were basically 'how did you not notice the turtle didn't move and the heat was off?' She was none too pleased. In my defense, it had been an unseasonably warm autumn weekend and I had been glorying in simply being able to sit outside without a coat and had not found the house to be too cold at any point in time. And she has specifically said that the turtle wasn't going to be traipsing all over the place, so I didn't realize that I should have been concerned. Unfortunately, the oversight of not knowing that the heat wasn't on led directly to the turtle's poor health. I left that house unsure whether the turtle was going to make it or not, and meeting with Professor S. for our next session was certainly awkward. I reached out to his wife separately, explaining that I simply hadn't been cold and truly hoped the turtle was okay. I never heard back from her but Professor S. let me know that the turtle didn't make it.

My lack of a photography career is not based on this failure of heat awareness- that can be chalked up to my lack of talent and self-confidence- but it is a definite opportunity that presented itself before exploding into a million pieces. Had I been deemed trustworthy enough to become a more substantial sitter of the S. animal menagerie, I would know more about chickens and goats than I do now. I would have had perhaps a slightly more familiar or strong connection to a mentor who had some definite ties to a community of artists and taste makers that would have been good to know when I was younger and still ambitious about my art. I can't say that Professor S. treated me differently after the incident, and for that I am grateful. But if I had won the favor of his wife and the access to that gorgeous house and flock of chicks, who knows what might have happened. Perhaps Professor S. would have introduced me to an artist in need of an assistant and instead of working at a sheep farm for two years post-college, I would have moved to NYC and lived a completely different existence, the ramifications of which I cannot even begin to cover. What is done is done, but I do sometimes wonder about that alternate ending. The one where either the heat turned on and the turtle never got sick. Or the one where the heat was off and I noticed, proactively called the heater people and saved the turtle from an early death. And, in the latter case, I was rewarded for my initiative and quick thinking with a standing housesitting gig and introductions to famous artists and musicians and a solid entry level gig in the creative class. A girl can dream.

Later on I continued to look to Professor S. as a mentor and asked him to be my senior project advisor. At one point I was flirting with a new photo project idea, one where I would take over the homes or living spaces of others to see how being surrounded by their things and approach to domestic life would influence my own behavior. The idea was that I would take photographs of myself in these different environments, and how the belongings and layout of different places would change my own actions. An exercise fanatic's house would find me suddenly on a treadmill, a non-television person's house would find me reading more books, a  fancy kitchen pantry would allow me to start putting obscure herbs in my scrambled eggs, etc.  Professor S. seemed to find the idea not entirely unpromising, and asked me how I would find houses to use in this series. I suggested that I would send out an email to my nearest and dearest requesting help in that regard. That I would say I would be a free house or pet sitter in exchange for permission to immerse myself in their homes. Professor S. paused, looked up to me, nodded as if to say that it was a sensible approach before - with a little smirk - noting that I should probably not list him as a reference.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Brunch c/o Kittery

Saturday was spent by me working, working, working while L. and Fat T. went out into the greater world to look at a house upstate. Eventually they returned and our evening began. I didn't really take any good photographs of food I ate that evening, but the highlights included my having a separate trip to see S. and T. from ye olde high school days before meeting back up with L. and Fat T. for a pig roast party. Hijinks ensued and the evening went late. The next morning I had to do more work and L. and Fat T. met up with E. and K. to look at apartments in Brooklyn. Eventually our schedules dovetailed through brunch at Kittery. I ordered a virgin bloody mary and enjoyed it.
And the fried clam roll, which was buttery to an extreme. The coleslaw that accompanied it wasn't so interesting, but the chips were decent.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Fried Chicken Buns and Lamb Ramen c/o Dassara, Plus Darts

During our super busy season my job overwhelms my waking and sleeping life (oh the stress dreams) and makes it so that most all evenings are spent at home, alone, lying down with zombie eyes and preserving energy for the next day. I don't really mind how crazy it can be because I do enjoy some generous vacation days in exchange for my hard work, but work/life balance during these times is a pretty much foreign concept. So lying down and staying in was  pretty much what I planned on doing a Friday a few weeks back when I received a text from L. suggesting I come up to Brooklyn for her friend's annual big pig party the next evening. I think I surprised both of us by taking her up on that suggestion. I finished work later than usual and then packed myself up and hit the road, making pretty good time on the whole, though getting off the NJ Thruway and towards the Goethals and Verrazano bridges was especially stupid. Once I arrived I got loopy from the socialization of L. and Fat T. It had probably been far too many days since I had had any lengthy conversation with anyone about anything other than work. Though, of course, I also talked about work because when it's the only thing you really have going on, then it's really the only thing to talk about. In any case, after some much needed laughter and fellowship, L. and I went out into the world to have dinner while Fat T. stayed home because he is a party pooper and hates dinner. L. and I, on the other hand, love parties and dinner. So out to Dassara we went. It was a little on the late side, so we were pretty much the only folks eating, though there were a few people sitting at the bar. The lighting in the main dining room was challenging in a similar neon-like way to Morimoto, though I feel like I did a slightly better job dealing with it in this instance. We started by splitting the fried chicken buns, which I found to my liking. The soft and pliant buns made a nice contrast to the crispy chicken bit and slight saltiness of the pickle.

Dassara isn't a 'traditional' ramen spot like Ipuddo but its variations on the traditional ramen set up were definitely interesting. I ultimately found myself most drawn to the lamb ramen with braised lamb belly, market greens and a soft-poached egg. The thing I usually like about ramen is that the noodles have a little more 'toothiness' to them...Japanese al dente if you will. While I enjoyed the broth of the dish well enough, I will say that I found the noodles themselves not to have that especially good resiliency. They were a wee bit too soft and mushy for my taste. I feel like L. had a similar feeling about her noodles as well. So the conclusion I had was that the buns were good, the broth was good, but the noodles weren't very exciting.
After dinner I suggested/requested that we seek out a dart board and play darts with some strangers. And that is just what we did. Here you will see L. properly celebrating the double bull she threw that won us a game.
Good times.

Football Sliders and Work Lunches

I'm not sure whether I've really mentioned it on the blog, but I did join a fantasy football league this year, though I wouldn't say that anyone would usually describe me as a particularly die-hard sports fan. It just seemed like an interesting new thing to do. Turns out that football is far more interesting when you feel like you have something on the line. Though, really, I'm pretty sure nothing is actually on the line as this is a league without prizes. In any case, I went to Rembrandts a few weeks back so I could see the Redskins and Eagles play against each other. One of my three quarterbacks is RGIII so I quickly realized that going to a bar to root for the opposing team of the city you're in can be a little awkward. I also realized that RGIII is simply not as awesome as I thought he was. While surreptitiously being pleased while the rest of the bar groaned, I also enjoyed their $1 sliders. Pretty good stuff.
And then more work lunches. Baked ziti is my downfall and my savior. Maybe I will make myself baked ziti tonight. That, actually, seems like a very good idea. That or artichoke red onion soup.

Another day, chicken curry.
I think on this particular day it was coconut chicken curry .
And then, to lighten the mood, a spinach salad with far too many roasted red peppers.