Wednesday, July 31, 2013

on subway inspiration.

new york is a fashionable city, no doubt about that. but not everyone is a fashion-plate, and not every fashion-plate is necessarily inspiring. but every now and then i'll look up from my book or my phone or the sidewalk and see someone who put together an outfit in a way that would have never crossed my mind. those people are the real fashion-plates to me. and on monday a young man, so dapper (i love dapper men, keep it up boys), got on the train with a baby blue blazer, covering a tartan blue shirt and a baby blue polka dot tie. paired with tailored khakis and loafers, he was the definition of a fashion-plate - tartan and polka dots would seem to clash, but he pulled it off effortlessly.
sidenote: isn't it so nice
to see dapper men making
a comeback?
so glad the baggy jeans
trend is no longer in effect.
so here is my ode to him, with my tartan coming from the one and only, chanel. when playing outside the rules of fashion we might as well turn to a classic to mute the effect a little, no?

Monday, July 29, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

this weekend brought us a little impromptu trip - back to saratoga! when brian's friends asked us what we wanted to do while we up there the answer was simple: pizza from mama mia's, breakfast sandwiches from the spring street deli, stewart's ice cream and breakfast pizza (for her) and breakfast calzone (for him). i hope that gives you some insight into the type of people we are. we spent the day at the horsetrack in the most perfect weather, made some new friends, and checked out all the new places that opened since brian has been gone. it's always shocking to see how places move forward with such ease after you leave - don't they realize you've left haha?!?! circle of life people. or restaurant row. whichever. hope you all had a wonderful weekend and are enjoying the fact that we are just knee-deep in summer - it is the best.

Friday, July 26, 2013

on a dressing up and dining in steak dinner.

my friend katie came up with a phrase - "dressing up and dining in". it's not a hard to concept to follow - even if you're having date night at home, doesn't mean you have to be in sweatpants. and when you do have date night at home, it's probably best to eat something delicious...that isn't that hard to make. i consider this the missing piece to my easy but delicious recipes, depending on your tastes: i've give you an easy fish dish, an easy poultry dish and now, an easy beef dish. i suppose i'm missing pork, too, but we'll get there one day. brian and i loved this meal - not to mention leftovers it made. grilled flank steak with soy-chile glaze, it's quite perfect for a summertime meal, as well.
i consider most of these basic ingredients, stuff you most likely already have in your pantry (except the flank steak, of course) - and, as you can see, i substituted dry ginger for fresh ginger. i usually never use fresh ginger - i don't have the time, patience or enough recipes to peel it, grate it, etc. the dry form always works for me.
season your flank steak with some salt and pepper to your liking - the glaze provides a lot of flavor, so i wouldn't recommend being heavy handed. meanwhile, sautee your minced garlic and ginger in a saucepan over medium heat until the garlic is golden. add the soy sauce, sugar, and red pepper flakes, cooking and whisking until syrupy - time varies with each oven, mine was about five minutes, the recipe says about three mintes. and're basically done. remove the sauce from the heat and put to the side. grill your steak - i did this in a grill pan, five minutes per side since we like our meat medium rare. in the last minute, brush the glaze over the steak, reserving two tablespoons.
move the steak from the grill or oven to a cutting board to rest - after five minutes slice the steak and brush the remaining two tablespoons over the steak. garnish with a few chopped scallions (also known as green onions) and lime wedges - while the scallions aren't necessary, per se, a squeeze or two of lime on the pieces we ate definitely enhanced the flavor, so i don't recommend skimping on those. i served with some sauteed spinach to make the meal a little lighter and keep dinner easy - it cooked in the five minutes that the steak was resting. as i said, we both loved this, it was a breeze to make, and was beyond delicious. it's officially in our rotation - hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

this weekend, as you can see, was food heavy. what you don't see, however, is the friday night and all day saturday marriage prep class we took (i didn't think photos of a church's basement would really be that exciting). in the catholic church we do pre cana, essentially a weekend of counseling, and it's required before you get married. it's supposed to get couples to open up about all sorts of stuff (from morality to sex to communication), raise any red flags and ask the age old question: are you going to open a joint banking account? it's very much a secular weekend, with little to do with catholicism, and i often think it would be helpful if anyone applying for a marriage license took the class but alas, 'tis not to be. anyways, we "passed", or should i say we went through the class with no red flags, and can now cross off step 14 of the required 56 steps it takes to get married in the catholic church. if you want to know what stresses me out, it's getting all of that done. so many forms to sign and hoops to jump through, and no one at the church returns your e-mails or voicemails. it's super fun ;)
but i digress.
after that we (and by that i mean brian) discovered an italian deli in brooklyn that was where dreams come true. prepared foods, a butcher, bread with prosciutto baked into it, homemade vodka sauce! i mean, it was a dream. a dream i will be revisiting in the near future. and on sunday the hits kept coming as we brunched in red hook and followed it up with a huge slice of chocolate cake that lasted us a couple of days. it was glorious. perhaps i need to bribe my church's secretary with some so she'll actually acknowledge my existence! now that's an idea...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

on duck for dinner.

i have been wanting to make this recipe for a long time - it only takes a few spices and a little time in the oven, which reminds me of my favorite recipe of all time. additionally, the spices are a combination of savory and sweet - doesn't get better in my book. except this time it gets real fancy, because we're using duck. naturally, this recipe for sugar-and-spice skillet-roasted duck breasts comes from food and wine, a favorite source in these parts. in addition to the spices below you'll need some salt and some sugar (the recipe doesn't specify, but I used brown sugar).
after mixing together your spices, sprinkle salt on the duck breast (both sides), then sprinkle the sugar-and-spice mixture all over the duck breast. i just used one large duck breast, a little over a pound, for both brian and myself.
cook in the skillet for five minutes, skin-side down, flip the breast and cook for two more minutes before popping the skillet into the oven for five minutes at 350 degrees. let it rest for five minutes after it's done, then slice that sucker up and voile: a fancy dinner in about 15 minutes that will have people thinking you're the next julia child (at least they should, right?).
duck is usually served rare, so you can always cook it longer, but trust me this was delicious.
an easy to make, delicious, low-carb, lean protein (don't eat the skin and it's no different than chicken) - yes please. one i'll be making as often as my salmon most likely - enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

we started the weekend off celebrating my grandmother's life - her funeral and burial, while saddening, were also a great time to hear about her life, all the things she did, and all the lives she touched. below is her bridal portrait, where she is wearing a dress designed and made by my great-grandfather, an italian immigrant who ran a dress business in brooklyn. it's one of my favorite dresses for obvious reasons - but brides of the 40's and 50's are so timeless and beautiful, it's hard not to have many favorites from that era.
the weekend also kicked off with a dinner party thrown by tina on friday night. you know what's better than throwing a dinner party? going to one. someone cooks delicious things for you and keeps your wine glass full! i mean, the best. dining out is for the birds. saturday we laid low, low, low. i slept in, went for a long run, took a nap, ordered in pizza, hit up the farmer's market. there was nary a plan in the book, and it was good. and then sunday. oh sunday. we ended the weekend with a bridal shower of sorts - you see, i have an aversion to bridal showers. i don't know what it is about them, but they are just not for me. i'll happily attend others, but having a bridal shower makes me feel the way a dog does when it hears thunder, or when a kitten smells toothpaste. you know what i mean. but a few friends insisted on a little get together and oh my - it was the stuff dreams are made of. it was christmas themed, only five people were invited, we listened to christmas music and drank champagne and it was like celebrating christmas twice, which, if you know me, is literally a dream come true. i got a few sweet gifts, and then it devolved into an epic dance party. i'm sure we scared the neighbors with our renditions of katy perry's "firework", reba's "fancy" and mariah carey's "fantasy". it was better then i could have ever imagined - dancing, laughing until our stomachs hurt, all while in a winter wonderland. leave it to very good friends to make your dreams come true. i hope your weekends were just as good and hey - it's tuesday already! alright!

Friday, July 12, 2013

on a shoe story {volume viii}.

it probably helps that my feet haven’t grown since seventh grade. i started wearing a size 6 in seventh grade and that was it for me. due to that, it’s helped me keep some shoes around for a very, very long time. my oldest pair of shoes i bought my junior year of high school and still love today. a pair of black heels to be worn to parties and with fancy dresses, they feature an ankle strap made of rhinestones, tied in the back with a satin bow. they appeal to me today as much as they did at 16. i’ve gone through many changes in my life, and expect more ahead, but my taste in shoes appears to be pretty consistent. while i’ve worn these shoes many times, my favorite memory of them is when I was 18, the summer after my freshmen year of college, when i attended a wedding in dc. i had been to a couple of weddings before that, but this was my first as an “adult” (a term to be used loosely with an 18-year-old), but i think you know what i mean. i took notice of all the details, felt the couple’s excitement, enjoyed every minute of that magical night. and magical it was, as the wedding took place on top of the hayes-adams hotel in Washington, overlooking the white house. as the bride and groom said their vows, the sun started to set over the city and i had to pinch myself – it was just perfection. the city, the night, the party – it’s all surrounded by twinkling white lights and clinks of champagne glasses in my mind. and those fabulous, glamorous shoes adorning my feet. at 18, magical is exactly what that night was.

a few years after the wedding, the bride was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. her husband filed for divorce shortly after, simply stating that he didn’t sign up for that. i take it he didn’t quite comprehend the part of the vows where you state your loyalty and fidelity “in sickness and in health”. to say he turned out to be a cad is an understatement. because after all that magic, all those views, all the champagne and beautiful shoes, what we really have in life is each other. what we really need to put stock in is one another. our relationships are the beginning and the end of all our happiness. the other things, while nice to have, will always come in second. as coco chanel once said,
“the best things in life are free. the second-best, are very expensive”.
that quote always makes me chuckle – it’s so true, yet a good reminder that if we only live a life with the best things, and not the very expensive ones, we’ll have lived well.
when my grandmother talked to my mom this past sunday, she let her know she had bought a few pairs of shoes for my wedding. her feet, in old age, were now different sizes, and she wanted to play around with a few pairs to see what fit best. when my mom told me this, i’d be lying if i said it didn’t make me cry, but i’d also be lying if i said it didn’t make me laugh, too. a shoe-lover to the end, it’s not hard to see where i get it from. but it was our upcoming wedding, and her family, and the life she built and the lives she helped grow that allowed her that fun moment, that gave her the opportunity at 90 years old to still be enjoying the second-best things in life. it seemed she learned long ago that the best things in life are the ones you give your all to, the ones you put your stock in, and the second-best are the cherry on top. she lived well, surrounded by the best life has to offer, and that is as much as any of us can ask for.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

on my grandmother.

this past sunday, my 90-year-old grandmother had a massive stroke and passed away the next day. whenever a grandparent passes away i always have mixed emotions – i’m sad, i worry about my parents, but they lived long, wonderful, full lives focused on family, friends, and making the most of each day. you can’t ask for much more. but i’m honestly a little more upset for my grandmother – she was in fine health, no big problems, and was really looking forward to my wedding. and, as the first grandchild to marry, i was really excited that she would be there and that she would get to see it. so it’s quite sad coming to peace with the fact that she won’t be there after all our plans. and yet, i feel so silly and selfish for saying that. she was 90 years old for goodness sake! she had lived such a wonderful, wonderful life. but i suppose it’s a testament to that – even at 90 she had more she wanted to do, and see, and experience. she never said “oh ok, that’s enough, i’ve had my fill.” she continued to embrace life and all it had to offer, and take joy in it. i hope i can follow her example as much as possible.
when people say a post is for them, i really mean it on this one. i’m just going to write tidbits and stories she has told me so i always remember them – it may not flow and it will be rambling, but I’d like to have a record of them. it’s only a few, but they’re my fondest ones.
my grandmother got married in the late 40’s and cut her honeymoon short because she had to get back and take finals for her masters degree in mathematics. she went on to teach mathematics at the local middle school for 60 years. i can’t even explain how much i love this, and how much i look up to this. even at a young age, i understood that it was a really big deal for a woman to get this far in the 40’s, to work this hard, to refuse to let society tell her what she should do and what she should be. and she did it with few complaints – she just worked hard and got it done. a lesson to myself and, i think, every other woman out there who is figuring it out in today’s world.
she met my pop-pop at a horse show in the park avenue armory in nyc. he was in his navy uniform, she was in a pretty dress. in typical girl fashion, my heart swoons over this. can you even imagine?
i would always ask my grandmother about her jewelry as I got older. i find the best way to hear stories and memories of other women is to ask them about what jewelry they’re wearing. it doesn’t have to be fancy or nice jewelry, but often there’s a little story behind it, or a memory. one bracelet she got when she was in italy with my pop-pop, except she pronounced italy the way a true girl raised in Brooklyn would: “it-lee”. my grandmother was a very proper, well-spoken woman, and i loved that she said it this way. it always made me smile. when i told her i would be moving to brooklyn she seemed over-joyed: "you're moving back to where it all began!", she exclaimed. my family roots run deep in this city.
out of all my grandparents, i related to my grandmother the best. no doubt some of this was due to the fact that she was around the most as I got older, and able to keep her wits and health to the end. but i see her in myself a lot – we’re both women who enjoyed studying math and science, i want to be a working mother if i become a mother, just like her, and, well…there’s this.
during wedding planning this story came up and brian and i nearly died over the similarity, a similarity that neither my grandmother nor i would have known or could have known. as brian and i moved forward with our relationship, and even today, geographically we never know where we might end up. we have places we love and are kept on a running list, for sure, but who knows when a great opportunity in iowa may arise! and i’ve always said to Brian – delivers anywhere, i’ll survive, no matter where we end up. well, i was discussing moving and thoughts and ideas with my aunt, and she said when she was younger one of her friends had to move to St. Louis. a little distraught, apparently my Grandmother told her “well, saks delivers anywhere”. i can’t even begin to tell you how much this made me laugh – generations apart but one in the same, my grandmother and i definitely thought the same way. and for that, i am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

on an oat cake (filled with berries).

well, my first attempt to bake in the new (to me) oven did not go well. i forgot to buy vanilla extract. the beaters for my hand mixer mysteriously disappeared in the move. i knocked over a bowl of sugar and butter in my maddening quest to find the mixers. but i triumphed. i made my blueberry and blackberry oat cake. with a little help from target and a lot of help from brian along the way. so consider this a pared down recipe post as i continue to adjust to my new surroundings.
you’ll need fairly basic ingredients for this cake, with some seasonal fruit thrown in there, too: blueberries, blackberries, flour, oats, butter, egg, granulated and brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, baking powder and, if you have it on hand, vanilla extract. i made this without the latter and with the whole wheat flour i currently have on hand. i also sprinkled a tablespoon of chia seeds in the batter and another tablespoon over the top. makes it healthier, right?
so, first you want to take one cup of blueberries and one cup of blackberries and mix them up. maybe eat a few, i don’t know. things happen.
soak your oats for about five minutes in 2/3 cup of water, while whisking together your dry ingredients in another bowl, except for the sugar. in another, larger, bowl, cream the butter and sugars with a mixer on medium speed – this should take about three minutes.
after that, mix in the other ingredients – oats and the dry ingredients mixture – using the mixer on low speed. when properly mixed, fold in half of the berries (and sprinkle in your chia seeds if you wish).
pour the mixture into an 8x8 buttered and floured pan. sprinkle the remaining berries (and some more chia seeds and a bit of sugar) on top. bake for 40 – 45 minutes (mine took longer, about an hour, still learning my new oven!) at 350 degrees.
cool for 30 minutes, then slice into squares. eat a piece every morning after you pick up your daily coffee on your way into work. at least that’s what I’ve been doing – and it’s made my morning a whole lot better. definitely looking forward to making it again this weekend – enjoy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

and we're back. we went down to virginia for the fourth of july like we do every year, and, as usual, it was a great and relaxing time. it's always just a simple trip home, but i look forward to it so much every year. we go to a vineyard or two, eat at some favorite restaurants, hang by the pool, grill out, make s'mores, drink coffee on the deck. for a couple of new yorkers, we basically live like kings. a good friend from college just moved down to virginia and from the looks of her apartment i'm pretty sure she's a millionaire. she assured me she's not and i just need to get out of the city more. fair point. (but she has a washing machine and dryer you guys!!!)
we also did a good amount of stuff for our wedding - met with the priest, visited the florist and, biggest of all, did a walk through of our reception site. when searching for a reception site we really wanted something that showed off virginia, particularly charlottesville - it's an absolutely beautiful place and we wanted our guests to leave thinking the same. but the vineyards booked up quickly (and were lots more expensive) and other reception sites were way off in the country - when we finally remembered an old club in town that was an option for us, it was like we smacked our heads and said "duh!" it looked beautiful in pictures, we trusted my parents when they said it was a great spot, and it has an old and storied virginia history. so seeing it in person for the first time? i almost peed myself. and brian said it was amazing and kept taking pictures of everything. and it has a great view of the mountains. all-around, a big win. after that little peek (i included some sneak peeks for you below!), we felt so excited and so happy - it was a great feeling to take away from the weekend and as we get closer to the wedding. addtionally, as we get closer to the wedding i'll be sharing more and more with you. i didn't want this to become a wedding blog but, to be honest, a lot of ya'll have asked about it and are interested! and since it's always on my makes it a pretty easy thing to blog about. so fear not! wedding details and stories will become a regular thing once we're a couple of months out. and with that, i wish you a happy monday!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

on america.

sometime last month i was standing on the Q train as it rattled over the manhattan bridge. it was about the time the sun sets, filling the sky with vibrant pinks, and every passenger has a view of the downtown skyline, the neighboring brooklyn bridge and, off in the distance, small yet visible, lady liberty. i stood there taking in my fellow passengers - white, black, hispanic, asian. everything in between. young and old. gay and straight. friendly, sullen, indifferent. every walk of life seemed to be in my little metal subway car. and i couldn't help but feel a surge of pride as lady liberty came into view; pride for my beautiful, wonderful, messed up country. america is far from perfect - that moment on my train did not magically make my country free from racism or sexism, homophobia or classism, violence or indifference, corruption or inequality. there are many things about america that i find disappointing and frustrating and saddening. but i also think americans live in one of the most unique countries in the world. very few countries have the wealth of ethnicities, religions and differences that america possesses - and all of these differences are something our founding fathers envisioned protecting and equalizing when they first started to sculpt their vision for this great country. independence, liberty and freedom, that last one we take pride in so fiercely - the freedom that america gives to her citizens, differences and all. and, quite fittingly, even in that first structure they established there were faults in the foundation. but it's fitting, i think, as the changes to the foundation and the breaking of the molds they established are just as important to our country's tragic, uplifting, and complicated history as that document that forged our nation. they are as important and vital to america's identity as that foundation those men first cobbled together in 1776.                                                                                                                        so, no, unequivocally no - america is not without it's faults. yet it's also not without an ability to realize these faults, correct course, and right the vision of this great country to be closer and closer and closer yet to its ideal. and as that tiny subway car screeched along, less than a mile away from where my ancestors first entered this country, surrounded by people whose differences seemed as vast and wide as the river we rattled over, i remembered that shared connection. that tiny, unbreakable thread that binds us together, that despite those differences we are still all called americans - and i felt proud.
have a happy and wonderful july 4th. here's to our great country.
"i saw the statue of liberty. and i said to myself , 'lady, you're such a beautiful. you opened your arms and you got all the foreigners here. give me a chance to prove that i am worth it, to do something, to be someone in america.' " -- greek immigrant, on arriving in new york

Monday, July 1, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

i'm back! did you miss me? i missed you. i'm glad june is done - brian passed his test, i moved, our apartment is looking more and more put together everyday. all good stuff. the only thing weighing on us now is wedding planning. the best of times, and the worst of times i tell you. everything will get done though, right? (tell me yes, please).
this weekend was a more tourist-y one for brian and i, as his parents came up for a visit. we went on a twilight cruise (recommended by tina) that was awesome. with the threat of rain most of the time it created some heavenly views of the skyline, along with a once-in-a-lifetime sighting of a rainbow over the world trade center. it was truly something else, and we loved it and recommend it too, tourist or not. we followed this with a mets game, dinner in brooklyn, and a true nyc breakfast at a local diner the next day. it was nice to show off the city to them, and it was nice for the city to cooperate weather-wise (mostly). so here we are - headed into a short week and a trip to viriginia. wedding to-dos and bbqs await us at home - we (mostly) can't wait.

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