Snow for the Ages | Gratuitous Cat Pictures

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I began this blog during Snowmageddon of February 2010 (not Snowpocalypse of 2009). Over the weekend, another historic storm — Snowzilla — dumped two feet after some 36 hours of continuous snowfall.
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Life has been remarkably stable for me and John over the years, except for switching apartments last March and now the addition of a new family member.
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Introducing Frankie Poo-lenc, always in formal wear to honor the French composer
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At last the storm has ended. On this sunny Sunday, we’re basking and listening to Haydn string quartets.

Oatmeal

for John, who this morning discovered the joy of half and half on steel-cut oats

I’ve been trying to figure out oatmeal. What does one do with it besides make cookies, crumbles, granola? Someone gave me an unopened container of quick-cooking oats, so I decided to experiment with making hot oatmeal edible.

Note: rolled oats are not particularly tasty as a hot cereal. They get gluey!

Basic Oats for One

Cook 1/3 cup quick oats with 2/3 cups water in microwave for 90 seconds. Alternatively, make a batch of steel cut oats and eat throughout the week.

Add to taste all of the following:

  • maple syrup
  • half and half or almond milk
  • chia seeds
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla extract (optional)

Raspberry Revelation

Cook 1/3 cup quick oats with 2/3 cups water and a handful of raspberries (4-5) in microwave for 90 seconds.

Add to taste all of the following:

  • maple syrup
  • Greek yogurt
  • chia seeds
  • chopped pecans (I break them up by hand)

Stir vigorously until oatmeal is a beautiful shade of pink and all the yogurt dissolves.

I’ve also tried a variation with blackberries and flax seeds.

Sunday Morning

Cook a batch of steel cut oats the night before and store in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 and assemble the following in a very small baking dish:

  • half of a peach, plum, or nectarine — cut side down, dot of butter tucked in
  • desired serving of oats

Pour almond milk over the oats and dot with butter. Add chopped nuts, cinnamon, and even a drizzle of a fruity vinegar, if desired.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the fruit has softened and the oats are warm.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Resuscitate, Vegetate, Invigorate

2014 ended on a low point. At a belated Christmas dinner, I was still healing from dermatological adventures — Part I: The Biopsy — when waves of vomit came over me, or rather, out of me. Written off as a light weight, I retreated to bed. The next morning I found enough energy to drive part of the way to Ocean City. Then after John and I took a short walk on the beach, I felt unconquerable chills. I managed to eat a taco salad before burrowing under a pile of blankets in the hotel room with the heat cranked up, while John went to the hotel bar to read and barely escaped the clutches of a drunk woman. By the time we returned home the next day, I wanted only to sleep and remained bed- and couch-ridden for a few days. I cancelled all the fun things I’d planned for my winter break. The highlights of each day: taking my temperature and eating applesauce. In my convalescence, however, I did read a BBC World News article about India’s brass bands and fell in love with the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band. After a pathetic New Year’s Eve, the early days of 2015 brought me good luck:  I beat the flu and got treatment for a pesky skin problem. And then I went to New Orleans! (Pictures, etc. coming soon)

Other Reflections

I generally despise end of year newsletters, but I do like the process of introspection and goal-setting, so I shall indulge myself here. 2014 challenged me. John and I planned and executed our most ambitious trip yet; I performed two shows and became more committed to developing as a jazz singer; I transitioned to wearing glasses full-time; I learned about steroids in liquid and cream form; I also found that I have limits and need to nourish myself, that I need to balance pushing forward with recuperative stasis, and that it is time to find a primary care physician.

Data-Driven Life

I tallied up my reading record (rather thin at 24 books for the year, but better than 2012 and 2013 — since graduate school I do half as much leisure reading, inexplicably).

After rent, we spent the most money (in descending order) at the following merchants: Whole Foods, CVS, McGinty’s (a local restaurant and pub), the Gulf station, and AirBnB.

Goals for 2015

Every month, I want to take a hike, go out dancing, try a new (to me) restaurant or bar, and sing at one jam. Every week, I’d like to spend time learning one instrumental or scat solo to the best of my ability. So far I’ve had fun with Sarah Vaughan on “If I Knew Then”  and next will be Stan Getz on “My Heart Stood Still” (I’m already being overly ambitious with this one, but I’ll try). And every day, I aim to do some form of physical activity from weight-lifting or running to gentle yoga or walking. I’ve already had to renege because of the flu and two travel days; I shrug “eh” and hope to do better the next day.

Crescent Park

Afternoon Rendezvous

for Monica

A weekday escape is a lovely way to put oneself in vacation mode even if only for a few hours. I’m also constantly seeking “the new” in my ordinary world. Surprises still lurk a few miles off well-traveled roads.

Two weeks ago, I planned a surprise afternoon for John and told him to pick me up from work at 3pm on Friday. I navigated him out of the city into the moneyed-iest part of Montgomery County. We past no mere Mc-mansions. These were serious estates with land and on former hunting grounds a generous couple has opened a private museum, dedicated to the work of established, contemporary artists. Glenstone offers an unparalleled visitor experience. Visits are by appointment and a docent accompanies each party through the museum. John and I ended up striking a lively conversation with our docent, a young art student who could answer any of our questions and gave us great insights into the whimsical, engaging work on display by Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The museum features about 8 galleries and every two years the contents of the entire museum change for a new exhibit. Glenstone plans to expand with a new building to house more of the permanent collection. We can’t wait to go back.

From the Glenstone website: Peter Fischli David Weiss ‘At the Carpet Shop’ from Wurstserie [Sausage Series]
We wound our way from Potomac to Garrett Park, a beautiful Victorian neighborhood hidden between bustling Rockville Pike and Connecticut Avenue. Next to the commuter rail stop, we sat on the porch of Black Market Bistro for a relaxing dinner (except when a train would go by): bean soup, pizza, wine, a decadent Nutella Mousse Tart. Though less than 10 miles from home, we were in another world.

From the Black Market Bistro website

An Aside: Insidious Meat Fridays

The curse lifted yesterday, but on the three previous Fridays meat found its way onto my plate! Three consecutive Fridays! First, at a food truck festival I received the wrong tacos; then at the aforementioned bistro the bean soup had secret hammy bites (I should have known better, but a note on the menu would have helped); and then at work I tried stewed okra on a whim…bacon! So bizarre.

 

Summer’s Almost Gone; On Beer

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My charts keep me disciplined.

I’m thinking about the Doors song and listening to the Orioles game; only one week of August left. After such a bonanza trip in May, I kept my head down this summer: transitioned to wearing glasses full time (yay allergic conjunctivitis and GPC), got back into working out, ramped up the ear training, shook up my voice exercises, and committed to doing another jazz show in the fall. I’ve had a good run of historical fiction and light nonfiction:  The Big Rock Candy Mountain (Wallace Stegner), My Notorious Life (Kate Manning), The Night Watch (Sarah Waters), The Gods of Olympus (Barbara Graziosi). Meanwhile, John’s worked like a maniac: 120 hours in 2 weeks most recently and he hired 12 people. Still, over the last two months, we managed to escape for brief moments and combine our favorite things: the great outdoors and Dionysian delights.

Around Westmoreland and Charles Counties

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Locals troll for fossils along the Potomac River.

On a spectacularly hot day, we walked through forest, marsh, and sand at Westmoreland State Park. We sat on a bench under a tree looking out to the water, read our books, and ate eggplant sandwiches. The afternoon took us to Ingleside Vineyards, where we tasted refreshing glasses of Viognier and a Cabernet Sauvignon rose. To make sure we didn’t miss a minute of the World Cup final, we drove to Gilligan’s Pier, a homey beach bar on the Maryland side of the Potomac. Tempted though we were by the tiki bar with picnic tables right on the shoreline, we stayed inside for the game. When I wasn’t glued to the TV or cooing over the classic mozzarella sticks we shared, the frozen drink machines — which I’ve never seen outside of Ocean City or New Orleans — hypnotized me. We were there for hours; our bill was less than $30; and we were never addressed without some form of endearment. I tried the dangerously sweet Pink Flamingo — strawberry, pina colada, light rum — before playing it safe with Yuengling.

Road Trip to Binghamton

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We stopped along the Susquehanna River and ate cucumber sandwiches.

Whether a town has a brewery is an important vital sign. We took the pulse of three breweries on our annual excursion to Binghamton, NY for a family reunion. On the way up, we stopped at Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA. The placed was packed for Friday lunch. We had a fabulous plate of nachos at the bar and tried the European varietals like Mise en Garde. When a gnarled old man sidled up to buy a growler of root beer, we followed suit and took it to the reunion to make floats. In Binghamton proper, we visited the Water Street Brewery Company, a progressive, youthful place with vegan spedies (usually made with chicken, marinated in Italian dressing) and excellent beers. With two of John’s cousins, we sampled almost everything on draft and didn’t regret for a minute that we’d missed the Binghamton Martini Walk earlier that Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, we drove home and stopped at Harrisburg’s Appalachian Brewing Company (ABC), a cheerful outpost in an industrial neighborhood near the PA Farm Show Complex. Our sandwiches were decent, but the beer was super. I tried a half-pint of the easy-drinking Scottish Ale and John the crisp Weizenbock. Sold on their tastiness, we bought a few tall boys of ABC’s seasonal beers (Maibock, Weizenbock, among others) and two beer glasses to take home.

Water Street Brewing
At Water Street. Thank you, Mr. Bartender, for taking this picture for us.
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Gorgeous beers at ABC!

NoMoCo

Today we drove to Little Bennett Regional Park to walk in a cool forest. We hadn’t come prepared to ford a stream to make the loop I’d charted, but we explored what we could and saw some 19th century homes and mills. In Gaithersburg, we visited a new beer and wine store in “downtown Crown”. We loved the store, found lots of new things to try, and I took special delight in the larger bottles from the Bruery out of southern California and Perennial in St. Louis. I’m on the alert for anything I can get my hands on from these two breweries (Nebraska Brewing Company is a new favorite too). Tart of Darkness, Hopfentea, and Eos are some of my absolute loves I’ve tried this summer at different bars in DC.

Where Have I Been?

An accounting so in the future I don’t wonder what happened between February and May . . . While on break from old movies, I haven’t traveled at all, but I have been surprisingly social and a budget patron of the arts. I saw a local production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, the East Coast premiere of Moby Dick (the free ticket was a wonderful “thank you in general” gift), The Elixir of Love (cheap seats that threatened obscured surtitles and yet I could see them perfectly), a local musical revue of new shows and revivals from 2000 onwards, a friend’s jazz show, and a simulcast from the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow of the ballet Marco Spada, starring David Hallberg, an American who dances with such panache! At home I’ve discovered the Brazilian singer Adriana Calcanhotto and her album Mare, which moves through so many moods and textures (David Byrne fans need to check it out). To my dance mix, I added two songs from new European bands La Femme (reminds me of the Causey Way) and Metronomy, and a coworker, on discovering our shared affection for Foxygen, got me listening to Tame Impala.

Meanwhile, since the start of the year, I had my own show, performed in two short “recitals” with the amateur adult jazz combo I’m in (and which I miss while I’m off during April and May for various reasons), and will sing at two casual events this week and next (doesn’t sound like much, but compared to previous years? it’s a lot). March was a good reading month. I adored Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore (Sloan) and The Riddle of the Labyrinth (Fox), and especially treasured Life After Life (Atkinson). I didn’t touch a book in April, but had two mild colds. Now we are heading toward the third week of our CSA program and I’m so happy to have fresh, glorious produce again: spinach, mixed lettuces, cabbage, chard, radishes, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, broccoli. It’s spring tonic season!

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And yet, I can’t resist the call of old movies. A few weeks ago, I saw Metropolis, the restored version with newly found footage and live music. It may be heavy-handed and bloated, but the combination of futurism, expressionism, and Fritz Lang’s beautiful camerawork creates undisputed magic. Now the same theater is paying homage to Charlie Chaplin by showing his shorts and features from 1914-1940. On Sunday I saw seven of his shorts from Keystone including the earliest appearance of “the Tramp” (maybe Chaplin’s second or third film ever. He was about 25 years old.)! These early shorts show the Tramp at his irreverent, anarchic, flirtatious best; the pathos and politics come later. In his debut, “Kid’s Auto Race”, the Tramp is pesky, careless, self-infatuated, a total slob (the program notes mentioned Chaplin’s popular stage act as a drunk — there is a clear correlation). The joke is deliciously meta. “Who is this guy?” a movie-goer of 1914 (or 2014) might ask incredulously, while eagerly awaiting more!

Between now and July I’m going back in time to catch a few movies that came to my attention during the course of the project. Then I’ll return to 1946 (I may end up watching It’s a Wonderful Life in August. Will it still have the same emotional resonance in summer?)

 

Le Menu

My brother and I are vegetarians; my husband a “vege-preferian”; my seven-year-old nephew will list his top 3 cheeses upon request (for the record: cheddar, provolone, brie); and my mom uses her oven for storage — all of which means I get to be chef for Thanksgiving, a tradition that started in 2010. In years past, I have stuck closely to the menu from the first time I hosted:  stuffed acorn squash, homemade cranberry sauce with port and pecans, beer and mustard braised brussels sprouts, and some other vegetable side dish. Usually there would be a soup to start and a pie to finish (my favorite: Brandied Pumpkin and Chestnut Pie). However, I decided to be a little extra fancy this year now that I’ve been a subscriber to Food & Wine for a few months. The menu is heavy on starches and dairy, something of an unavoidable emphasis when cooking decadent vegetarian cuisine.

Pickled Butternut Squash with Mixed Greens and Sage Dressing
John’s Deviled Eggs (Sriracha, pickle relish, paprika — everything that belongs in a deviled egg)
A crisp Riesling

Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Gratin
Spinach Spoon Bread
Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash, Collard Greens, and Wisconsin GranQueso
A soft red blend 

Maple-Bourbon Banana Pudding Cake
Coffee and tea

Cheese Plate: Cabot Extra Sharp, Bellavitano Black Pepper, Saint Angel
Cranberry-Apricot Chutney
Solomon’s Island Chocolate Raspberry Port *in the end, we decided to save this for Christmas

Thanksgiving Eve. John and I celebrate the fact that his department sold out of turkeys and that he is still alive.
Psychedelic tubers
The requisite out-of-focus dinner plate picture taken with a cell phone