Thursday, February 28, 2013

on two years.

so. two years. two years since i've been writing this blog. happy birthday blog!
this past year of blogging was definitely better than the first year. i let a few more people in my real life know about the blog, i settled into a posting rhythm, i'm happier with my content, i'm using twitter and instagram so much more to connect with fellow bloggers. i'm very happy, i'm very content. so this coming year i only have two goals - to continue to improve my content, and to finally redesign this blog. seriously, if that last goal is not accomplished, please call me out on it. this space needs a major facelift.
when you start a blog, i think you don't know what you really want and you have no idea what this community is truly like. sure, you think you have a goal or an idea for your blog, but things change as the blog develops, as readers become regulars. just go back (or don't, please don't) and read my first post. it's horrifying. and it's something i would never write. but it's part of the journey, the first step into how i got here today. and i really like today. and that's mainly because of you guys. while having these thoughts for my record is rewarding to a certain extent, sharing and interacting with you guys is really where it's at. i can't thank you enough for coming here, for sharing your thoughts, for supporting me, for offering your opinions. i love you guys, i love that you guys follow one another's blogs/twitters/instagrams, i love this little community. thank you so very much for your time - i hope this next years is even better.
and if you're ever in new york city, you know i'm just an e-mail and a glass of champagne away.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

on semi-fried chicken.

oh buttermilk. you have won me over. the moistness! my cakes. now my chicken. consider me a believer. i just didn't know what i was missing before. after making this cake last weekend, i had some leftover buttermilk i needed to use, which led me to this oven-fried chicken recipe. while i came across a few oven-fried chicken recipes that had no frying at all, i thought this one, with just a little bit of frying, might be the happy medium. so here is a recipe to knock your socks off and not damage your heart too much. i like to call it:
fried chicken: not a lot baby girl, just a little bit.
below are all the ingredients you need, plus the chicken. pretty simple stuff, folks.
soak your chicken in a large bowl in the buttermilk overnight (the most important step). i had about 1 to 1.5 pounds of chicken, which i soaked in two cups of buttermilk. when ready to cook, heat oil in a large stockpot as you mix the dry ingredients, then proceed to coat each piece of chicken with the flour mixture. when the oil is hot enough, fry pieces of chicken, three minutes on each side (until golden brown), before placing on a wire rack set on a sheet pan (it's important they're set on the rack so the bottoms don't get soggy as you bake them, rather than fry them). my first frying attempt did not go so well, while my second one turned out great. so, i put my first piece back in the pot and re-fried until each side was golden brown, about a minute or two each side. what i'm saying is - don't be afraid to re-fry. as if you would.
pop the pan into a 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes (i did 30), and then you're done. i served with a side of string beans to help keep it light.
this chicken was delicious, ridiculously moist, a good alternative to straight up fried chicken, and a simple weeknight meal. if you've got some extra buttermilk you need to use, i strongly suggest you check out this recipe. you won't be disappointed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

to say that this weekend was laid-back would be like saying the sky is blue. in other words - no exaggerations here - it was very, very laid-back.
while my days start early with my job and leave me a little exhausted by the time the weekend gets here, getting to see the sun rise over nyc in the winter months isn't too bad of a trade-off. a gloomy saturday led me to only wear only pants with an expandable waistband and an urge to fulfill my gender role - cleaning, laundry, and baking cookies. (i also finished season 4 of breaking bad and...damn, is all i have to say about that). on sunday i was itching to get out and before i knew it i had a glass of champagne in my hand at brunch - so strange how that always happens to me! i started my day how i ended it, with a little champagne in hand, as tina and i watched all the stars arrive to the oscars. so many good decisions, so many bad decisions. it was a delicious slice of girl-time to end the weekend. hope y'all had a lovely couple of days as well!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

on my love for hats.

i've always been a lover of hats. starting in high school, i've been known for my winter hats. big, old, floppy, wooly hats. since college i've stuck with my big, oatmeal colored, wool winter hat with a huge pom-pom on it. it never fails to keep me warm and no one loses me in a crowd (to put it lightly). so on tuesday, when a co-worker got on the elevator and asked me if i had been near 19th street with a big hat on, i laughed and said - oh yes, my big hat with the pom-pom! he shook his head, said no, no - it was more like a sombrero.
oh yes. my new hat. we're still getting to know each other.
for awhile now i've wanted a hat with a wide brim. reminiscent of the 70's, the first time i saw someone wear one a couple of years ago i knew i had to have it. with most trends, like this one, i bided my time, making sure that feeling didn't fade. of course, i should have known - it's a hat, one of my favorite accessories, it's not gonna fade. i also convinced myself that the bonus of a hat like this is the protection your face gets from the sun (seriously though, that's a good bonus). so i decided to be on the lookout this winter for a good hat at a good price. on sunday i finally found one, and i wore it everywhere on monday. it was so new, i had forgotten i had been wearing it when my co-worker asked me about it. so i shook my head and said - no, don't think it was me in that sombrero. he and i decided i must have a twin somewhere in the city. yes - a secret twin, with one badass hat.
here are some other favorite variations on the hat i like so much, and...
Hats hats hats. I love hats.

here's my take on it (sombrero and all).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

on a breakfast cake.

what a glorious idea - cake for breakfast! i had some time on my hands this weekend and decided i wanted to use it to bake, and this cinnamon-sugar apple skillet cake from joy the baker has been calling my name for a while. the ingredients are below, and while the recipe calls for cardamon i used "cardamon". you know that point where you feel like you have enough spices and you just don't feel like buying any more? well, sorry cardamon, but i didn't deem you worthy of space in my oh so tiny cabinet. that's also because a cardamon substitute is easy to come up with - in any recipe you can replace cardamon with half cinnamon/half ginger, half cinnamon/half nutmeg, or half cinnamon/half cloves. i went with the latter and it worked out perfectly.
the first step is to make the cake batter - cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes, then add in the egg and the egg yolk that the recipe calls for, beating for about a minute after each addition. then, beat in the dry ingredients, which should all be whisked together in a bowl and set to the side, and here you have our cake batter. the cake was easily my favorite part of this recipe - it's ridiculously moist and tastes so perfect from the combination of spices that the recipe calls for (especially with a cup of coffee on the side).
i didn't have a skillet, so i used a 9-inch cake pan to make the cake. be sure to grease and flour the cake pan - it helps the bottom from getting dark or burnt. after putting the batter in the pan, layer on the thinly sliced and cored apples. i only used two apples, as opposed to the three or four that the recipe calls for, and i found this to be enough. one thing i would slightly change about the recipe - after layering slices from the first apple on top of the cake, i would have sprinkled on some of the cinnamon-sugar topping before layering my second apple on the top. if you don't do that, i would suggest not making as much topping that the recipe calls for, since it's far too much. i'm looking forward to using this technique the next time i make the cake, as i think it will help more of the apple topping caramelize while it's cooking in the oven, too (always a good thing).
pop in the oven for about 30 minutes and there you have it. i had to cook my cake longer than the amount of time the recipe called for, so if that happens with you when you make this, don't worry, it's still going to taste wonderful.
serve with a strong cup of coffee and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

this weekend was all about the ladies - i kicked the weekend off with a galentine's day celebration (such an important holiday) and ended it with a long dinner with some of my favorite bloggers (and a couple of other friends, too).
but let's talk about galentine's day.
on friday there was a donora show, so i invited out the same lady friends who went with me to the last one as a way to celebrate galentine's day, which formally falls on the 13th. (and if you're not an avid parks and rec fan like myself, here is a galentine's day description). we decided to go to beauty and essex, which, if you're ever looking to have a very fun night with your lady friends or perhaps are participating in a bachelorette party, i strongly recommend. the food is great and very shareable, and there is a champagne bar in the ladies' room. like - someone just stands there and serves everyone champagne. almost as if someone took my dreams and made them a reality. and, as it so happens, when it's galentine's day and you're with some of your best pals and there's a champagne bar in the ladies' room and the food is delicious and whatnot, you start to talk and laugh and talk some more and laugh some more and before you know it you've covered every subject possible.
and then it's 10:30 and you've basically missed the whole donora show except for one song.
oh galentine's day. i should have known better.
so my advice from here on out is that you're having a fun night with your girlfriends and need to be somewhere by 10 PM, i recommend a dinner reservation at 5 PM. just to be safe.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

on a yes or a no.

there's a quote from sex and the city that has stuck with me for years. years. miranda, pregnant, is about to get an abortion. that last minute before she's about to make the decision, that last minute before choosing option a over option b, before changing her life forever, she turns to carrie. and in desperation, anxiety and fear, she says:
"carrie - is this my baby?"
and what can carrie say? when it comes to the big decisions, we can offer our friends advice, we can listen to them, we can help write the pros and cons list, but we can't make the decisions. and we can't tell them, without a shadow of a doubt, what they should do.
what can carrie say?
my favorite decision to make was what to do after college. strange, i guess, but hear me out. i know it may feel nerve-wracking and big and it takes deep sighs to make that decision, but i was ready to move on from philadelphia. the old anywhere but here mentality. and that mentality, it gives you a lot of freedom. a lot of breathing room. so i went on interviews for opportunities that took me all around and finally decided on a job in baton rouge. a week later i got into graduate school in nashville, my first choice, tore up the job offer letter i had just signed and went to nashville instead. and it all seemed so easy. i got my job offer in december, i got into graduate school in december, and just like that my future was decided on my winter break.
it's quite easy to decide the next step when you don't have to act on the decision for six months. that's the part i liked. that's why it's my favorite. it felt so much easier. so less immediate than the other decisions i've made.
so when i got into my car a few days after graduation, packed up, knowing what came next - all of a sudden heading off to a strange town where i knew no one and it was further south than i ever had lived and people had real southern accents and i guess they recorded country music there and oh god what had i done - i kept thinking: is this my baby? am i really supposed to be doing this? was this the choice i was really supposed to make? is this where i'm supposed to be?
over, and over again. is this my baby?
when i came to nyc, i had a general knowledge that i wouldn't stay forever. it's far too expensive of a city to stay in forever. and the suburbs in the northeast are not an option for me. i've done hour-long commutes and i can confirm they are not for me. the jersey or new york or connecticut or whatever state's suburbs that other people live in are not for me. and i appreciated from my time in other cities that there are many grand places to live. but new york, as i knew before i settled here, is an addictive place to live. you never run out of restaurants to discover, film festivals to attend, parks to walk in, corner stores to visit. it makes you pay a high price but it offers you so much. so very, very much. and so i've stayed, content. blissfully content. i thought - yes, i'll leave one day, but years from now. when it's more immediate. when it's more clear.
and, as it happens when we are bold enough to say we are blissfully content, one day two opportunities came along. the right opportunities at the right time. i don't know if they are quite mine just yet, but i'm at the point where i can see them. i can almost taste them. they're almost in my grasp.
but one is not in new york.
and so, before it's actually in my hands, i've been struggling. i know if this opportunity comes along again in a few years i won't want it, i'll be past it. and i know that that's ok - other opportunities may come in a few years that i'll want, too. this is not the be all and end all. but it's good. it's really good. it's that thing i've always kept my eye on. but you see, new york and i, we're just not done with each other. to move somewhere else feels unsettling. i feel unfinished. and i hem and i haw and i hem and i haw (in true type a fashion, over something that is not yet guaranteed) - and i keep asking, is this my baby? is this the opportunity i've been waiting for? or - do i really have to follow through on all the talk about leaving? i keep looking life in the face, pleading with it to make the decision for me, asking it to make clear to me what's the right path and what's the wrong path. again and again i keep asking - is this my baby?
is this my baby?
carrie never answers miranda. she changes the subject, asks her if she should just leave.
she never tells her that it's her baby.

Monday, February 11, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

this weekend was wonderful up here in the northeast - because it was a blizzard weekend! my favorite! while i'm sure many don't feel my sentiment, when you don't have a car and can pop around the corner for milk or eggs it's really not too bad. on friday we headed to a concert at madison square garden, and while we were a little unsure about venturing out we were so glad we did. we spent a few hours at a local bar before heading to the concert, which was half empty, and taking some really awesome seats that weren't ours. on the way home we clearly, as you can see below, got to play in the snow. i was so excited to share the experience of being in a big city when there's a blizzard with brian. it's quiet, there are no cars on the road, everything is covered in white, you can walk down the middle of broadway if you want. it is seriously the coolest. yes, it turns nasty the next day and gets plowed and it's slushy - but, it's totally worth it. the rest of the weekend was spent keeping warm, checking out the snowmen others built, making cookies and drinking hot chocolate. like i said, i love blizzard weekends - they are the best.

Friday, February 8, 2013

on a shoe story: volume vi.

my first guest shoe story! my first guest post ever!'s from someone who doesn't have a blog!
breaking down barriers here on otbc.
when i first started shoe stories and my writing began to take shape, i knew my friend tina had her own shoes to share that would make a good shoe story. i'm hoping there will be many guests over the years who share their own stories after she kicks us off today.
so without further ado...
I once heard that before you're considered a true New Yorker, you have to make yourself over at least once. For the life of me, I can't remember who said it; it probably came from a rom com starring Amanda Bynes or something. Believe me, I'm well versed in her catalogue of work. But regardless of where it came from, it stuck with me.
Don't get me wrong, I like my personal style a lot. A little bit preppy, a little bit boho, a little bit bombshell, a great love of color. In the shoe department, however, I've always been a flats kind of gal (yes, Colleen, I know). Whether it's a ballet flat or a t-strap sandal or a leopard print hair calf loafer (yes, I own a pair and yes, they're my favorite), I've always gravitated to shoes that keep me squarely on the ground.
But then I moved to New York. And I started working for a fashion company. I knew there was no way I could get away with flats everyday when I was surrounded by willowy women in wedges and sling backs and stilettos (oh my!) day in and day out. I needed to join the heel-clad, working women of New York City. I needed to make myself over. At least from the ankles down.
But where to start? Enter my trusty friend Pinterest. I happened to be perusing the boards one night, as you do, and in between pinning YET ANOTHER inspiration still of the living room I'll never have and a recipe for kale salad, I found them. Oxblood. Suede. Stacked heel. Rounded toe with a little platform. High but not too high. I had to have them. And because the internet is a wonderful place, I did have them, delivered to me a few short days later.
And I love them. I'm not going to lie and say that I magically adjusted to wearing heels in a day and I wear them all the time and my life is changed forever. My feet KILLED the first day I wore them. But I am wearing them more often now, and every time I look down at those pretty red shoes, they bring a smile to my face. I walk a little taller when I wear them (in the literal and figurative sense). And they won't be my last pair.
So have I made myself over now? Can I call myself a true New Yorker? Not quite. But I'm on my way. At least in the shoe department.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

on standing by your man (or lady).

have you ever thought about how far you'd go for a friend? i suppose that's a broad question. i'm sure in some capacity you have. what i'm really trying to get at is more specific - do you know how far you'd go for a friend who turned out to be someone else? how long would your loyalty last in that case?
the thought is brought on by a few things for me. jodi foster and mel gibson. jerry sandusky. breaking bad. (it's complicated).
mel has had a few bad years. he's been caught threatening his baby mama on the phone, who he left his wife of decades for. he's been caught driving under the influence, hurling misogynistic and racial and anti-semitic slurs every which way. and yet...and yet jodi foster stays. right by his side. she doesn't forgive him his transgressions and she doesn't make excuses for him. but, she stays. i think some of what she sees is a friend who is sick, who is struggling, who is making bad choices. and so she stays. to help pick him up and dust him off and hope this time he'll try harder. she doesn't abandon him, yet she doesn't excuse him. loyal, perhaps some would say to a fault. but i believe she is doing what the greatest of friends do: standing by his side as everyone else gives up on him. standing by his side when it's much more popular to abandon him. standing by his side as everyone keeps asking why. and this, what jodi foster is doing, really makes me think. it's made me realize that being a friend doesn't mean accepting the transgressions of our friends, but it certainly doesn't mean abandoning at the first sign of trouble. it's inspiring, in a way.
jerry sandusky's friends - in my opinion, they did one (and not the other). they stood by him, of that we know, silently. turning their heads. pretending nothing was happening. taking away his keys to the locker room was jerry's only punishment bestowed upon him from him friends. sure, i can't imagine being faced with the knowledge that your friend has done horrible things, unspeakable things. it's human nature to pretend it's not happening, to create excuses, to express disbelief. the harshest of truths are usually unbelievable the first time around. but nature, my friends, is what we are put in this world to rise above (name that movie!) you see i wish someone, at some point, a true friend (as i am seeking to define it here), would have sat jerry down and said:
"you committed a crime. i know it. you know it. and we both know you have to do something about it. turn yourself in, or i will. and i'll walk you to the police station, and i'll stay by your side. as the world calls you sick, and a monster, i won't abandon you. yes, you are sick. yes, you did monstrous things. but years, decades of friendship, have shown you to be more than that, too. so by your side i will stay."
but they didn't do that. they stuck by his side but they weren't true friends - they didn't push him to do the right thing. and that made all the difference.
the summer after my senior year i often took care of my bosses' house when she was out of town. i was in a play with my friends - every summer, for four summers, the same group of friends were in a play together. and after practice we'd go to my bosses' house. no adult supervision, girls and guys, and yes, my boyfriend was there. our parents strictly forbade us from doing this. but the summer after senior year we were so close to freedom we could smell it. we would sit on the porch, talking as the sound of cicadas filled the night as they tend to do during a virginia summer. harmless, innocent. we were always home by midnight. but one time, who knows, something didn't add up for our parents. as katey drove us home we both got calls - my mom, her dad. and as they asked us all sorts of questions our stories started to trip and fall on one another a little bit and before you knew it, they knew we were lying. but we excused ourselves, saying we misspoke. i'll never forget their faces as they sat us down, trying to pry out the truth. how frustrated they were - they knew we were lying about something, but they couldn't prove it unless one of us cracked. so we sat there, doe-eyed, sticking to our story, pretending we were little angels. it's true, we did something wrong. we lied, and we went somewhere we shouldn't with people we shouldn't and though it was all in innocent fun, it was wrong. but side by side we sat. never saying a word. never giving up the truth.
i hope, if the day ever comes, that if katey takes a misstep, i'll be brave enough to push her to fix it, to make it right (or vice-versa). that if the crime is more than a little white lie it won't go unnoticed, i won't turn my head. and that, above all, i'll have the courage to stand by her. that as the world may give up on her, by her side i'll be. a true friend - until the end.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

on some more slow cooked ribs.

in the thick of winter it only makes logical and natural sense for one to pull their slow-cooker out. and with the big football game this past sunday, i thought it only appropriate that i make some ribs (or one really big rib). country style ribs are different from others (let's say spare ribs) because they usually don't  contain any bones and are cooked more like pork chops (why they are called ribs is a mystery). while i had some success in the summer with these oven-cooked ribs, i wanted something cooking that it made me possible for me to leave the house (leaving an oven unattended does not put me at ease, shall we say). so the slow cooker it was! i used this recipe for sweet-and-sour country ribs and it was the easiest thing i have ever made, probably in my life.
in addition to the below ingredients, you'll also need apple cider vinegar. and yes, while the recipe calls for cayenne pepper i put in smoked paprika instead. i'll note that cayenne pepper and smoked paprika aren't alike at all, but i didn't have any cayenne pepper and anything smoked seems like a good thing to throw into a bbq recipe. if you do substitute smoked paprika and still want a little kick from some spice, i suggest sprinkling in some red pepper flakes.
it took, all in, about ten minutes (even less) to get it all in the crockpot. throw in each ingredient, whisk it together, then put in your ribs and toss to coat. since i did this early in the morning i let it cook on low for ten hours - like many people i think cooking fatty meat on low for a long time leads to something just a little more delicious.
and after ten hours - voile! a tasty dinner (and enough for leftovers). we served it with the sauce that was left in the crockpot, and i recommended doing that or serving with your favorite bbq sauce for more flavor.
some slow cooker recipes take more effort than others - as appealing as it may seem to come home to a warm dinner, waking up twenty minutes early to get it in the slow cooker always outweigh the benefits (for me at least). this recipe definitely doesn't fall into that category - it's the easiest thing in the world to throw together (and takes hardly any time), so it would be a perfect meal to make during the week, not just for the big game.

Monday, February 4, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

holy moly friends. this was one of the most delicious weekends of my life. wings for the superbowl, bacon for breakfast, salty grilled clams for dinner! whew. (although i do feel like i consumed enough salt and fat to last me a lifetime. oops.) it was one of those weekends where with each bite of food i was internally grateful that i live in nyc (if the only the rent weren't too damn high). ahhh well. enjoy it while i can i suppose.
the highlight of the weekend was as we sat in st. asnlem (our second trip, blew our socks off again), with the lights low, cozy as could be, and it started snowing - huge, big, white fluffy flakes. brian and i looked outside, finally taking a break from eating, and both captured the perfection of that moment. we agreed we wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world just then. and on sunday afternoon, when it started up again, we both stood near his windows, entranced. i guess we really, truly love snow. but in the middle of a bitterly cold winter, i feel as though snow is mother nature's way of producing something so beautiful out of something so harsh that it should give us pause. and the forecast says it should snow a couple more times this week - i'll be using that to help me get through to next weekend. and maybe some more delicious food.
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