23 November 2014

our apartment, a look back

We are all moved into our house! It's awesome. I'm in love. But I thought I'd share a few photos of the old apartment, now that we are moved into our new home. One day, assuming we ever unpack our boxes, I'll show you the new place too.

Chris and I have lived in two apartments together and before that, many apartments with roommates. When we decided to move in together, we decided that an itsy bitsy apartment in a big old brownstone would be a good first step. You remember the one with the tiny kitchen, right? It was on the third floor of a walk-up, a block away from restaurants and pubs and overlooking one of the nicest parks in Albany. It had a quirky layout that we loved and lots of quirks that we didn't love. At the time, I know the apartment frustrated me but looking back I'm filled to the brim with nostalgia.

Then we upgraded our space and moved into the bottom two floors of another historic townhome a few blocks away. It felt much more like a real home, with a bigger kitchen and living areas, storage space and even a shared back yard and deck. We lived in the first floor and garden level (that just means basement) of a four-story brownstone. The building owner and our landlady lived on the second and third floors. Our main living space was upstairs and the bedrooms were down below grade. The whole first floor was open. Kitchen melded into the dining area which led into our sitting area and then to the living room.

Funky exposed brick! Our apartment had a lot of that. It's a conversation-starter, for sure, and I think it made our place ten times cooler. There's that door that Chris cleaned and hung up as a room divider. I was skeptical at first, but it was the number one most complimented feature of our space.

Our bigger kitchen! One of the first things we bought when we moved 2+ years ago was this Ikea island and I'd say I spent 75% of my waking time in the kitchen or at that island. We also had a dishwasher for the first time in both of our lives.

And the bedroom, with more funky exposed brick and purple walls we inherited from previous tenants. I will just say that we are really happy to be sleeping above ground, where the sun has a fighting chance of peeking in and passersby have a lesser chance of watching us sleep.

This apartment is right in the heart of Center Square and we walked everywhere. It had a small city yard and a back deck, too. When we first started looking for homes to buy, we included the neighborhood in our search but ended up falling in love with an adorable Tudor home with a bright red door in another 'hood. So that got me thinking a lot about different neighborhoods, and I think that's where we'll pick up in the next post...

14 November 2014

pint glasses, or "where did these all come from?"

Why is it that my demographic that hoards pint glasses? Why do we have so many? We have pint glasses from races, breweries, restaurants and two very special ones from our dear friends' wedding. Our pint glasses took up a whole cabinet shelf. They aren't even our primary drinking glasses, but here they are, filling an entire box and being trucked over to our new home. I imagine other people might also fill boxes to the brim with souvenir shot glasses, but we've avoided that trap so far.

Other things I should have sorted through more but instead am moving with me:

In fairness, though, we've donated something like three garbage bags of fabric and sewing supplies (don't worry, I still have a room full of supplies), four or five bags of clothes, a box of shoes, two boxes of vases (where did they come from?), three boxes of miscellaneous household items, two boxes of books and a straw farmers hat.

If you had to move next week, what things would you find that should have been tossed long ago? Do you still have boxes stashed up from the last time you moved? Any weird collections or hoards hidden in the basement? Do tell, it will help me feel less alone with this junk.

11 November 2014

we bought a house!

So the other day, we bought a house! Yowza! It happens to be the cutest house ever. Tudor-style, red door, vines all over it. I can't step inside it without dancing and giggling. I've got some thoughts rolling around the ol' noggin about neighborhoods, homes and moving so the next few weeks are going to be sort of Variations on a Theme around here.

Right after our closing, we drove over to the new homestead with a bottle of champagne and one of us danced right through every room. Then we went to dinner at a now-closer-than-before favorite restaurant for veggie poutine and tomato salad. We even ordered dessert, because that is what you do when you buy a house. You order fancy desserts.

30 October 2014

a birthday cake

Chris turned 30 earlier this week! He's just the coolest guy and he makes 30 look really good. The day before his birthday, he snagged one last 20-29 age group award at a local Halloween-ish trail race. Really snuck that one in there, right? He won me a cookie, which is not the first running award cookie he's won. What can I say? We run and drink and eat.

We celebrated the milestone with a birthday hike, the rainy and muddy six-mile trail race, fancy dinners and a pub drink. And my mother-in-law made the most stunning birthday cake! Even the restaurant staff where we were eating came over to comment on it. It's a German pound cake recipe topped with a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar and homemade maple leaf roses! So Pinterest! So beautiful!

Wouldn't this make a lovely fall wedding cake, too? Don't you love birthday cake? I never will understand people who don't like desserts. Me? I always have room for dessert. Always.

28 October 2014

growing out a pixie cut, in GIFs

This Is What It's Like To Grow Out A Pixie Cut

Any pixie cuts out there? You have to check out Buzzfeed's take on it here, "This Is What It's Like To Grow Out A Pixie Cut:  If Emma Watson did it, why can't you?" It's wonderfully perfect, and illustrated completely with celebrity GIFs.

My favorite phase description is the one about overcompensating with decorative headbands... and how headbands cause the worst headaches. So true.

Related posts
My actual advice for growing out a pixie

18 October 2014

peach jam, two ways

After my last post, I did some more canning and even though it's no longer peach season and these definitely weren't grown locally, I tried out two incredible peach jam recipes that the world should know about. One is a sweet Salted Brown Sugar Peach Jam, best used on oven-warmed croissants or hearty slices of toast. Or, perhaps, just on a spoon. It's got a gooey caramel flavor, which should be enough information to tempt you into making a small batch of it right this moment.

The other tends towards the savory side and we've been using it in much the same way that we use our beloved tomato jam. Peach Jam with Sriracha. Can you wrap your mind around it? Peach jam with a healthy pour of sriracha cooked right in. As I was following the recipe, I got a little sweaty at how much sriracha it called for and how red the jam was turning. Was this going to melt my face off? The answer is no, your face is safe. It's so very unusual and delicious, and you absolutely must add it to your quirky home pantry. Which brings me to a recent revelation:

I'd rather make small batches of weird things all year round than spend a hot & humid weekend holed up in the kitchen putting up gallons of something boring. 

For example, I like tomato sauce. I loved getting together with a friend and making a few quarts. But that was my limit. I didn't need to do much more. I'd rather have a pantry full of strange concoctions that really spice up my cooking, things I can't readily buy at the store. Because here's the secret: sometimes other people or companies are better at making things than I am. Not always! (See Quiches, Homemade.) But sometimes. And I'd rather just buy those. Hopefully from a smaller, local producer but even then, not always. Make weird recipes and put them in jars! That's the new theme of my home canning and preservation strategy.

Both recipes from Marisa McClellan's new book Preserving by the Pint:  Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces. You can download the cute canning labels over at From Scratch Club.

This year's preserving stockpile

Have you really not given tomato jam a try yet?

25 September 2014

my stockpile

I'm not a major food preserver. I don't spend full weekends preserving tomatoes or putting up the summer's harvest. But I do a little bit, when it's fun. We split a CSA share with friends this year- so manageable! I don't know how we ever made it through an entire full share before, and we eat a lot of veggies. Even with the split share, we had some extra produce laying around just waiting to be shoved in jars and preserved.

And that's what I did. We decided years ago that while unconventional, tomato jam is an absolute staple for us and thus a priority for canning. I slather it on breakfast sandwiches, lay it out with cheese boards and top our beet and brown rice burgers with it. It's so so good. Lifechanging. A little sweet, a little spicy. Get into it. Grab a bunch of cherry tomatoes, cut them in half and cook them up. One of our friends gave us a ton of grape tomatoes from his garden and they produced the absolute best batch of jam.

I also made a few jars of tomato sauce, splitting a 25 lb box of seconds from Denison Farm with Lesley and Joe, who are our CSA buddies. We spent a few hours chopping up and cooking tomatoes one night after work, and each came away with a few quarts. Splendid!

Of course, I made pickles. I'm not an enthusiast yet, but I sure do like sneaking them in sandwiches. I prefer a crispy pickle, obviously, so I stuck with fridge pickles that didn't have to withstand a 10 minute dip in the hot water bath to become shelf-stable. I gave lacto-fermentation a try too, but wasn't supremely successful. I generally stick with a recipe from Marisa's Food in Jars for Garlic Dill Pickles.

And then! More cucumbers! There are only so many Hendrick's cucumber martinis you can make, so I canned up a few jars of sweet relish. I doubted my judgment on this one, because I've never purchased a jar of relish before in my life. It's never crossed my mind. As it turns out, relish is great! Spread some on sandwiches, (veggie) sausage, crackers. Phew! I used a recipe from the book Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More. (Pictured above, a jar of pickled accouterments served with Al's martini a few weekends ago in Boston. I cringe at the thought, but consider this a reminder that you can put weird pickled things in your drinks.)

Finally, I canned up a jar of marinated roasted peppers for the fun of it. I have no idea how they will be when we open the jar. They look mushy in there, don't they? I'll report back. I used Marisa's recipe from her new book Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces.

By the by, both of those books are on sale on Amazon for an insane $9 in case you are interested in scoring a killer deal! (Here & here.) Next up, I'm making some peach jam variations using (gasp!) out-of-season peaches I scored for a killer deal at Trader Joe's. Judge away. I will be coating my face with peach puree to spite you.

Tomato jam, it will change your life
My tentative jump on the pickle bandwagon
Strawberry wrangling (I missed strawberry season this year)

12 September 2014

pixie cut & a look

Short on the sides, party on top. I'm working up courage for a funkier 'do. It's not quite an undercut, but the sides are definitely tight with a really floppy mop on top. Flop mop top, if you will.

My pixie cut is becoming an identifying feature. Although I had a short bob less than two years ago, most people have erased that from their memory and claim to have not seen longer hair on me in years. Decades. Lifetimes! Just as well; I feel so comfortable with short hair that sometimes even I can't remember life before the pixie. I like that it's distinctive, I like that it's a Look.

Do you crave a Look? I always have. I'm fascinated by people with strong Looks. Most people I know get a Look through fashion, by creating a uniform or stylebook of sorts. They are preppy and nautical; rockabilly and retro; punk and edgy. It works for them. They identify through clothes. Or maybe big glasses or red lipstick or whathaveyou. I'm sure we all do this, to an extent, and a quick glance at my Pinterest board will tell you that I'd love to create my own Fashion Look. But most days, I keep it pretty simple. I tend towards basics and have learned to dress my body, including making sure my clothes fit well. For work, you'll find me in tailored pants or dresses with a cardigan on hand. On the weekends, I'm in jeans or leggings. It's consistent, but I don't know that it's a Look.

The pixie cut, it saves me. It's a Look all on its own, even when I'm in my pajamas. (And in the morning, my hair puts on the best case of bedhead you've ever seen.) Add in big earrings, and BAM. Insta-Look. Plus, I've gained entry into the elusive and exclusive club of women with short hair. We check each other out, swiveling to catch the back of your own pixie cut to see how your stylist shaped it. We silently pass off pixie street cred to one another in line for groceries or on the sidewalk or at dinner. We make notes on texture and length and style. We know that we have a Look, and that we are rocking it.

Except... for when we aren't. When the pixie fails us. (In the mornings, after a run or more than a day after our last shower. It can get crazy.)

What's your look? What's your vibe? Hippy chic? Long beachy waves? Arm covered in tattooes? Or is this Look idea so overrated, superficial, irrelevant? 

Related Posts
Go on, chop it all off
Ok, go ever shorter now
Riffing on why I love short hair

02 September 2014

fsc book club, 5th round

In case you missed it, the fifth round of the FSC Book Club is up and running! We are reading Molly Wizenberg's new book Delancy: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage. You may know Molly from her blog Orangette or her first book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. It's a little bit memoir, a little bit cookbook and the perfect late summer/early fall read.

Learn more about the book club, our reading schedule & how to join here. Remember, it's a low-stress, laid back, online club and it's free. No excuse not to tag along!


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