Thursday, June 27, 2013

Through the wringer

This week has been something, hasn't it? Inspiring and gutting and tense and sleepless and celebratory. I think this New York Magazine article sums it up:
It’s become clear this week that objective facts of Americans' lives — that some of us are in loving, committed relationships with someone of the same gender, or that some of us have needed an abortion at some point, or that some of us have had a racist or sexist supervisor make our lives a living hell — are still contentious. Our everyday experiences are up for debate. The burden of proof is on women and gay people and nonwhite Americans to justify their lives, to explain to those who have never felt this sort of powerlessness or discrimination that it’s very much real. 
Some people want to get married and some don't, some need to get an abortion and some thankfully don't, some are able to walk around their cities at night unafraid and others have never known what that feels like. What blows me away about all the discussions this week - the Voting Rights Act, SB5 in Texas, gay marriage - is how often people discount others' experiences. I don't actually know what it's like to be unable to marry my partner, or to have my right to vote undermined, but when someone tells me it hurts, or that they are afraid, or alienated, or hopeless, I believe them. I understand the horror that the pro-life camp feels, I think; if I felt the way they did and believed what they believed (science be damned), I'd be horrified too. But I'd still give others the choice to live their lives as they need to, because while their experience is not my own, I acknowledge that it is just as real and valid as mine. It's amazing how many people - legislators no less - don't seem to see this empathy as desirable or necessary.

It's been a baffling week, but an invigorating one too. And so we continue.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How does our garden grow

Every once in a while, when I remember, I see what's new at The Yellow House. The woman who runs the blog updates it sporadically, but she's a lovely writer and her recipes are simple and inspiring. Her recent post is about the pleasures of growing greens, and I nodded my head along with each sentence. This year I scrapped my usual ambitions of warm weather vegetables (though Mike stepped in and planted those anyway) and stuck with leafy greens: butter lettuce, chard, mizuna, a few types of arugula, and whatever other seeds I saw at the store.
Salad greens are always renewing themselves, and so I can make a week's worth of small salads with a bunch of kale from the store filled out with greens from the garden. My favorite fixings these days are fresh corn sliced from the cob, avocado, pistachios (we bought a giant pre-shelled bag, a glorious thing), some white beans, and croutons made from toasted homemade bread. Yesterday I picked up fresh chickpeas to throw in tonight; they're a pain to shell but look like neat little green brains.
I took these photos in harsh midday light, so apologies for the shadows, but I had to share anyway. We dote on this garden, and I fiddle with it - replanting this, moving this here - pretty much every day. It is our baby, our food baby.
It's looking great these days, isn't it? It'll take a little bit of time for everything to fill in, and there's always more (mulching) to do, but it's a place we want to spend as much time as we can - at least until the fog rolls in. The cats agree; they spend their days outside now, sitting in the sun, chasing butterflies, rolling around in the dirt, or curling up against me if I nap on the bench. You're welcome to come on over, anytime.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Don't overwork the dough

It's always seemed to me that those who like to cook and those who like to bake are very different people; one relies on improvisation, the other follows the rules; one estimates, one measures precisely; one says let's see where this takes us and the other replies oh, I know where we're going. Someone might be able to pull off both cooking and baking on occasion, but they know in their heart which way they go. I am very much a cook. Most of my past baking attempts have been meh at best, because I substitute one thing for another, chicken out of using enough butter, or take the instructions to rest the dough as a suggestion instead of a requirement.
I've pushed my limits a bit over the last few years by brewing beer, which is largely a precision game, and lately I've even been baking bread. Bread fits my fancy because while you definitely need to do what the recipe tells you, you also need to feel the way the dough is going and make a judgment call: more flour, less flour, has it doubled yet, and so on. I've occasionally pulled simple things off - breakfast goods, or an olive oil cake - but anything that comes with a "do not overwork the dough" or "let the dough rest" warning has scared me off.
This weekend marked a huge step forward for me - I made a galette, which required a flaky crust. I just needed to get over my butter aversion and, you know, not overwork the dough. I used this rough recipe, which turned out a fantastic strawberry nectarine galette.
I like to think this marks a bit of a breakthrough, the ability to give in a little bit to rule and tradition, to recognize that there are processes in place for a reason and I don't need to wing it all the time. For instance: I'm embracing a certain level of domesticity, even though my gut is yelling at me to get there and rage while I'm still in my 20s (less than a month, argh). I am finally taking the advice of absolutely everyone in the world and eating less and exercising more to lose weight (galette notwithstanding) instead of coming up with weird workarounds that I thought would apply only to me. (I was the skinniest I've ever been in college while eating only chicken fingers and drinking only Diet Coke. I was also 21 and stressed out of my mind.) I've finally, to the relief of my credit cards, started a budget. Sometimes it's nice to follow the rules.

Especially when it comes to baked goods.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Gardening. Baking bread. Making cocktails. Oh, and working. Right. These are the things I've been up to lately, and it's them I blame for the fact that it's been ages since my two previous posts on our Turkey trip, on Istanbul and Cappodocia. But better late than never, right? Right. Especially for you history buffs, because Ephesus was very, very historical. You're going to love it.
Stork nests (everywhere) atop an old aqueduct in Selcuk
Ephesus is the reason we came to Turkey in the first place. My dad very much wanted to go to Syria (which, thanks to our Irish passports, was technically doable), but the recent violence and general melted-down-y-ness made that infeasible. Pa Brennan, being a resilient man, researched where else he could find a similar caliber of historical and archaeological wonder. In Ephesus, it turned out. But because my brain is not one to hold onto facts and dates unless they're part of a good story (and even then I'll likely fudge them for dramatic purposes), I'm going to gloss over some details. Such is life. If I can say one thing, though, it's that I highly recommend you read up on Ephesus yourself, or even save your pennies and book yourself a flight. It's that good. But don't go in the summer, because it's hot and packed with tourists. Even in April it was hot and packed with tourists, though manageably so. The glorious white marble that looks so pretty in pictures reflects the sun, so you wind up as sundrunk as a leathery lady on the beach with a reflector tucked under her chin.
We flew from Cappadocia to the closest airport to Ephesus, in Izmir, and hauled ourselves and our bags onto a local train that was chock full of people. We squeezed ourselves in, sat on our bags, and watched the sunny Mediterranean landscape go by. Rolling hills, vineyards, low dusty trees - it could have been Italy, or Napa, with mosques. It was definitely lovely.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A peace treaty. Of scarves.

How beautiful are these scarves? And pricey, which is why I won't be getting one anytime soon. But so, so pretty. Just ignore the zombie model who wants to wear beautiful textiles while eating your brains.
I draw this to your attention case you were taking notes on what to get me for my birthday/Christmas/Thursday.
The company's description is a little overwrought, but the concept is good, assuming they execute well: 
Each season, A PEACE TREATY travels to a particular region and seeks out local village artisans to re-define an accessory, designing limited edition pieces in style unique colorways. Each jewelry or scarf collection resuscitates ancient handmade textile and metalsmithing techniques that are at risk of extinction. Working with craftspeople in nine countries and injecting life and trade back into local economies, A PEACE TREATY employs artisans with above fair trade wages and invests in creating income generation opportunities for out-of-work artisans, disabled, widowed and marginalized women. A PEACE TREATY artisan projects and partnerships are situated in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Turkey, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and the US.
And this, in case you were wondering, is how I justify my rampant consumerism. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gimme that music

Today I realized I can not only use music streaming services (currently using Google Music like the good tester I am) to check out new hip bands that I'm not sure I'll like - or new albums from old hip bands that I'm not sure I'll like (cough, Daft Punk, cough) - but also to listen to classical music. Since I never know where to start on classical music but absolutely adore it, a whole new world has opened up to me. Next time you see me, feel free to send some suggestions my way.

For now, going with some safe choices from my kidhood. Holst's The Planets, here I come.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tomayto tomahto

I am in love with this series of maps documenting how Americans pronounce certain words. As a New York/New Jersey native who has lived in New England and now lives with a Texan in California, I adore keeping tags on who says what and why.

My favorite so far: syrup. I had no idea I was in the minority here with searup, but the map don't lie! What is wrong with the rest of the country?
I'm also on the long sandwich divide, as Central Jersey goes with subs, heros, AND hoagies. (Hoagie Haven 4eva!) I love that Wisconsin also shares the New England-ism of calling a water fountain a bubbler (bubblah in the local parlance, really), and that you can track Floridians' Northeastern roots.  Of course Mary, merry and marry are three different things! And damn right, New York is the city, and always will be to me.

Baby starter kit

Hat tip to Besha for posting a link to this article on Finnish maternity boxes, which the government provides for all expectant mothers who want one. Aside from providing a jumping-off point for mothers to provision up for their baby's arrival, it also allows the government to promote healthy/positive parenting behaviors, like placing the baby in the box for sleeping instead of in the parental bed. I'm sure it's not cheap, but 75 years in it seems to have been hugely successful in lowering infant mortality rates and, I'm sure, also lowering parental anxiety levels. If you can afford a fancy crib, great; buy yourself one. But if you can't, the cardboard box works just fine, and you've got a mattress, clothes, and other supplies to boot. It also serves to funnel people into the national healthcare system.
I'm sure if the government tried to implement this here in the US there would be wingnuts railing against it, but it seems like an elegant solution to me. Hell, I'd be in for an adult starter kit, if it existed. I'm still trying to figure out how to sew on lost buttons over here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Grain to glass

As I've mentioned before here, our friends Timo and Ashby have started Spirit Works Distillery (check out their blog as well), and we've had the chance to check out their impressive space. Their gin is also impressive, by which I, a gin plebe, mean tasty and alcoholic. They just posted a video going into a bit of detail about the distillation process. It's interesting to compare to beer brewing - it makes homebrewing look as simple as baking a Betty Crocker cake. Timo and Ashby are incredibly good at what they do.

Grain to Glass from Spirit Works Distillery on Vimeo.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Saturday my brother participated in HOWL! Festival in New York, a shindig in honor of Allen Ginsburg. He was assigned a big piece of canvas on the fence around Tompkins Square Park to paint as he pleased, and he did an ode to breakfast. How great is this?

You can check out more of Ian's art on his website.