New York Vacation

20140801-163039-59439249.jpgIt’s been awhile since an update. I know. I’m going to continue as if that never happened.

We left New York when Alice was just 4 months old. When we made the decision to leave we promised we would bring her back regularly, that she’d know that city as well as our new one.

One full week, and instead of fretting over rent, affordable childcare, transportation and all the distracting realities of life in New York we so eagerly left behind, we focused on just enjoying the city. We visited friends, old neighborhoods and restaurants. We swam in warm ocean water and ate bagels and pizza. We did all the romantic things we had meant to but rarely had time for while we were living there: Central Park, The Museum of Natural History, Jane’s Carrousel, the High Line Park and The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.

20140801-164147-60107865.jpgThe most amazing aspect of our entire trip was experiencing the city with a very outgoing almost-two-year-old. Where there were once tense, crammed subway rides at rush hour there were now friendly, outgoing individuals smiling and talking at length with Alice. Diverted eyes and random pushes we’re replaced with smiles, waves and the concerned “pardon me.” Even cabbies and uber drivers were double checking her carseat and asking of the baby was comfortable.

IMG_547220140801-164151-60111700.jpgI’m not sure how we’ll recover once we no longer cart around this precious toddler who calls out (“close it!” to the subway doors and “sit down” to each new passenger), waves and dances to anything resembling a beat. I guess we’ll need a really cute dog to carry in a handbag.

Good Bits.

ImageWhen I was little I had a sampler over my bed that said:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow, for babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.  So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep, for I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep!”  I remember always reading it when I got a little older and could read.  I liked the urgency of the last line, “babies don’t keep!”

ImageImageWithin the last few days that old rhyme keeps popping into my head.  The baby isn’t even here yet, but I keep thinking of all these “tasks” I must complete as an invasion–an invasion on the little time I have left before the baby comes and an invasion on the short amount of time I have to just experience…this.

ImageAnd there are so many little “bits” to take care of.  Nothing seems easy.  I think I was lucky enough to grow up thinking things were easy if you were the right sort of person.  If I had my way I would transport myself to a secluded farm or cabin with animals and sunshine, trees and space, some where Kitty Viv could lay in the sunshine outside and be safe and herbs could grow in the ground and not in pots in a cramped window.

ImageImageBut, the rain is cozy too, and it could be much, much worse.  Here’s a few of the lovely bits–I’ll omit the not-so-lovely.  Fresh camomile bouquet, strawberry, basil and cucumber mocktails, pretty necklaces, hanging pretty pieces, fleetweek family snapshots and a very, very bad little cat all make the “good and lucky” list.

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Shut your eyes and think of Peru.

 

ImageImageToday’s a hard day.  The weather’s gotten cold again and I keep watching all the new spring blooms being ripped from the tree branches by this crazy wind.  Hard to watch, since I’m such a spring enthusiast—needless to say, I am very, very ready for warmth.  I am ready for blue sky and outside and long days.  So I found myself, as I often do, wishing for California.  I decided it was probably healthier to reflect instead of the awesome honeymoon we had in Peru (where the sky was blue and it was 80 degrees).

 

 ImageImageThe weekend whether, sadly, wasn’t great either, so we spent Sunday inside watching documentaries on Netflix.  I made the mistake of watching a new release on Charles and Ray Eames.  I thought I liked Charles Eames.  I DO like Charles Eames, but I might not like him as much as a person.  I’ve been in love with the love affair of Charles and Ray Eames for ages—the collaboration of it all and cognitive matching’s…anyway, this documentary bummed me out and I’m feeling a little like I lost something idolized.  Boo. 

 

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ImageSo I’ll show you pretty pictures I took in Peru, where the food is wonderful and the light is amazing.

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Maple Almond Fig Scones. (Butter returns to my life in a big, chunky way)

Moses “The Champ” Ramirez (as he’s programmed himself into my phone) is in Joshua Tree for his bachelor party this weekend.  I had no idea, but apparently it’s customary for one to ask if “shrooms” will be involved in such an endeavor.  Not “mushrooms” or even “magic mushrooms,” but “shrooms.”  Call me a fat kid, but I hear “shroom” and all that comes to mind is the deep-fried cheese patty used to placate vegetarians at Shake Shack (placate me with breaded cheese any day).  It also seems astounding that people over the age of 25 should remain on such casual terms with a hallucinogenic fungus—but I read far less Hunter S. Thompson than most of the men in my life, so there you go.

Kitty Vivienne Ma Belle Bruges decided to wake me up and ask for maple almond and fig scones.  She did.  She rubbed up against my face and said “enough of this vegan butter crap, Jamie.  I want some of the real deal.”  I obliged, because I love her.

We had some coffee, a little juice and had a fig chopping party while listening to Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift to You,” (which is far less creepy than it sounds).  Once we loosely blended, patted out, cut, sprinkled and lightly brushed with egg yolk Kitty reminded me that she didn’t even like scones.  Instead she wanted wild caught Ahi, which she ate so fast the bowl ratted in it’s stand, and left me with 12 buttery scones.  I gave 4 to the neighbors.  Christine and Andy Pants had one, too.  That leaves 7, huh?  I guess I ate around 7, but to be fair, after 4 or so they all just seem like a big, delicious cookie or something.

Afterward our breakfast Christine, Pants and I walked to Boerum Hill and Brooklyn Heights where we tried on Steven Alan sweaters, discussed the old, chunky Rachel Comey heel, met some huskies (they can smell the Mojo snow dog on me, even when he’s all the way in Missouri) and admired some holiday confections in a window display.

I’m sure Moses had a great time in Joshua Tree, but Brooklyn was pretty cozy…

Scone Recipe:

Maple Almond and Fig Scones (yields 12)

2 cups all-purpose flour (I mix whole wheat and non-bleached)

1/4 cup raw turbinado sugar (brown works too)

¼ cup natural maple syrup

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter coarsely chopped

1 cup dried figs (chopped into small pieces with scissors, careful to remove the hard stems)

1/2 cup of almonds (chopped into course pieces about the size of a pea)

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream, cold

For Topping:

1 egg and a bit of sugar for topping

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Chop almonds and figs and gently mix to distribute among dry ingredients.

 

With a stand mixer or using your guns, combine maple syrup, 1 egg and cream until egg is incorporated evenly.

 

Add chopped, cold pieces of butter to your DRY ingredients and quickly give them a toss to distribute (careful not to touch the butter TOO much, you want it to stay cold and intact).

 

Pour wet ingredients OVER the butter, fig/almond and flour mixture and loosely mix together with your hands.

 

Once you’ve created a buttery meal (you should still be able to see chunks of butter), turn out your chunky “paste” onto parchment paper or a clean counter top.  Create a little “wall” of dough, about the length and width of your forearm and about an inch and a half or two high.  Take a sharp, dry knife and cut the “wall” into diagonals (like slices of pie that fit together as a puzzle).

 

Separate the triangles out onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350 until they’re lightly browned, then remove for a second to brush each scone with 1 egg beaten and a light fist full of turbinado sugar, then replace them in the oven for another 5 minutes until egg crisps a little, sugar melts and you can’t take it anymore.

Let them cool for about 10 minutes.

Note:  I hated scone-making for a long time because, despite this clearly being a kind of British country, tea-party (ie: fun) food, I worked with baker that was super weird about how much they were handled and how precisely they were cut.  Fun fact, I like mine a lot better than I liked hers and I’m pretty sure my blood pressure is WAY lower.  I’d much rather eat them when they look browned and rustic—uniform scones make me think of Starbucks and freak me out.

It’s never fun to make anything if you do it in fear.  Your butter should be cold, not your sweat, and nobody wants a scone Reich.  If your hands melt the butter, so what?  It will still taste awesome, and then you’ll make them a little better the next time.

It’s on the wrong side.

I say this because it is Moses’ summary on New York beaches.  When anyone asks how they are or if we like them he just shrugs and says “it’s on the wrong side.”  It pretty much encapsulates his entire opinion on the east coast in general, you might say.

When I lived her before I never once went to the beach.  Sad, huh?  This time I decided I have to experience ALL of New York, so on a sweltering hot day the far Rockaways it was!  My best pal Sus joined us, and together we navigated trains (it’s less intuitive than one might think.  There are two C trains?  They end in different spots?  I know…)

In the end we arrived in once piece, and I must say, “wrong side” or not, the water in New England is lovely and warm and sans some of the squeal-inducing (even Moses) kelp and seaweed we’ve grown so accustom to in California.  I actually swam.  I never swim.

I also had my “bandeau” top clobbered by the ocean not once but twice.  My mother would say that serves me right for wearing a stupid swimsuit.  I can’t really disagree.  When I wasn’t showing my boobs to a guy swimming around in a t-shirt while Moses screamed at me to pull my top back up, I really enjoyed the day, including beers and watermelon on a random cul de sac checkers table.  A lovely New York adaptation.

House Sitters.


I’ve always liked entertaining.  As a person who craves both attention and approval from others, hostessing is a natural outlet, simultaneously allowing me to control everything—thus killing two (very important) birds with one stone.  However, at least a fraction of my enthusiasm for playing hostess is derived from one simple fact: I hate leaving parties.  No matter how I make my egress (bike, walking, train, cab, or even our own car in LA) it’s always a bit of a bummer to leave food, drinks, friends and the general warm glow of a party for a dark apartment.  (There are, of course, exceptions to this.  I can certainly recall several parties I’ve been thrilled to leave, but for the most part…)

 But, I think I’ve discovered a slight loophole.  Since moving to New York I’ve done quite a lot of animal sitting for friends.  As an avid animal lover, I always try to do on to the furry companions of others as I would hope they would do on to my little Kitty Viv.  So, in addition to feeding and watering, petting and playing, I just generally try to spend time with these animals in their “parents” absence.  Our friends down the street happen to have a fantastic backyard (in New York!) and bbq grill, both of which we happily used (all the while spending ample time with the teeny tiny tea cup yorkie Bella).

Moses made his famous hamburger and grilled my Portobello while I roasted some baby potatoes and partied with lil’ Belle.  We eat our “burgers” on Amy’s buns, which Moses says are the third most delicious in the city (apparently the primary source identity of this information has been lost to us) and usually stop at Brooklyn Beer.  All in all, though we would have rather had our pals join us in their sweet digs for some awesome added company, we had a pretty sweet night— and because it was just us it wasn’t quite as  hard to leave at the end of the night–but even without the company I was still a little sad to leave Bella.

Dusk

I grew up with wide open yards, which is obviously lovely too, but I’ll never get over the rooftops in Manhattan.  Maybe because I’m such a huge Mary Poppins fan and the rooftops of London dominated my childhood–but for whatever reason, they’re just magic.

Our friend Katie, who we met while we were living in San Francisco, is doing her Art History Master’s at NYU.  She lives in the prettiest East Village nest I can imagine, perched high up near the East River Bridges, and it honestly sparkles, even when it’s NOT dusk and beautiful.

It makes us rethink Brooklyn a little, even though the slight removal from “everything” is nice.  Katie’s little place has so much character and is really in the think of things.  Plus we saw Anthony Bordain filming an episode of “No Reservations” while I walked down the crowded sidewalks holding a lemon custard pie.  Very romantic, in the midst of traffic, trees, sunset and tons of people walking everywhere.  A little love story for New York.