Saturday, December 17, 2011
Just started reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. One of the first chapters in the book is titled: The 10,000 Hour Rule. His theory is that being truly great at something doesn't take talent so much as practice. Doing it over and over again, educating yourself, training, making mistakes, working out problems. Effort and time is what distinguishes the Great from the good. Ten thousand hours is a lot of time to spend on something, and really requires perserverance and a great amount of passion, perhaps this is what actually makes a person Great at what they do. That is what is their talent actually is; Great perserverance and passion. Of course being the self absorbed writer that I claim to be, I thought immediately how I don't have enough hours of doing one thing: Maybe I have an accumulated 8,000 hours doing a bunch of things that are kind of related: Candymaking, Cooking and Baking, and writing about it . I wasted at least 2,000 hours shopping, gossiping, and psuedo-existential cotemplation. Not sure 10,000 hours of Mothering can even be claimed.... Technically I've put in much more than 10,000 hours, as there are 8,736 hours in a single year. But how many of those thousands of hours were performed with full gusto,consciousness, and awareness? I'd like to hope at least a coupla thousand.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Hear that CLINK ? That's my first draft in the can. Guided by doggedness, light terror, slight tension, real enthusiasm, and more than a little Mazel, we did it. Five weeks that were cut up with marathon Jewish holidays, the flu, and a week-long power outtage. Of course, there is a world more of work to be done on this beloved manuscript, before it is fully formed and gleaming ready to enter the world. But it is beyond the tricky first trimester.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
It's really a new year for me. Today is my birthday- the first day of my 38th year. It zooms by - but at the same time every day is lived in actual time, maybe sometimes even in slow motion. I want to make this upcoming year a good one. I am determined to be productive. This book will be my main focus. I am trying to say everything in my words and flavors.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
we are glad to be part of a land
that remains so beautiful under it's green skin
of woods and open fields, that is glitteringly
bordered by thousands of miles,
of breaking waves, and that is lovely
too, with an unbroken tradition
of concerns, with the kind, enduring grace
of it's neighborliness.
-From Neighborliness by Kate Barnes
I love New England. I loved the idea of it before spending 4 years of college there; and my notions were not disappointed while living outside Boston- from the age of 18 to 22. I have quietly loved New England for a long time now. So I always try to steer family summer trips Northwards. All year long my affection sleeps, as I focus my passion on the City. But when Summer arrives my tenderness for New England stirs itself.
This adventure begins in Portland, Maine. Hub's Sis Deene is visiting from Israel with her husband and three boys, so we really wanted to present them with something grand and striking and American. The colonial architecture and aspect of the old port town was definitely something different for our Israeli cousins. As was the chilly summertime rain.
We brought my mom with us as well, because we wanted her to spend some time in this beautiful part of the country. Until this trip, her experience of New England was limited to the Comfort Inn, Waltham MA. I knew she'd love it- and she did. While the boys took a three hour boat trip, Mom, Girlette and I explored the shops and cafes around Congress street. And it was at a cafe called Paris in the Morning that I tried my first Whoopie Pie. It was maple pumpkin, and I've since come to realize that it was mini-sized. The cake part was soft and spongy and tasted like sweetly spiced pumpkin quick bread. The cream filling was subtle in it's maple-ness but undeniable in it's cream cheese-iness. Hmmm interesting, I thought to myself, more research was needed.
Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream on Exchange St. was also another delightful discovery. Flavors like Chocolate Wasabi, Thai Chili, and Sweetcorn made it apparent that this wasn't your Gramma’s ice creamerie. I decided on the Fig. And I can really say that I've never had anything like it before. The ice cream had a deep caramelly sweetness to it and the chopped dried figs interspersed throughout my generous sized scoop provided a pleasing texture and reinforced the sweet figgy taste of the ice cream. I was off to a wicked good stahht!
The afternoon spent with Les Kiddos (six in all) at the fantastic Portland Children's Museum provided me with plenty of time to review in my mind the wonderful taste discoveries I had just enjoyed. A simple plan was hatched: I was to sample as many Whoopie Pies as I could handle during our stay in Maine, in the hope that I’d be inspired to concoct my own version for the cookbook. The fig ice cream was shelved mentally in my Possible Truffle Flavor file.
Get ready for the revelation of the Century: Travelling in a group of eleven is difficult, especially, when more than half of the group is under the age of ten. Notions of fine dining and elegant sight-seeing are hurled out the window. After a dinner at Denny's whose memory I wish I could surgically remove from my brain, I knew that I would have to sneak away every now and again, to maintain my sanity as well as make any delicious discoveries.
My mother kindly granted Hub and I a date night opportunity, which we eagerly spent at Becky's Diner on Commercial St . Becky's is a very ordinary looking diner, but what is contained between the laminated pages of a very ordinary looking diner menu explains the attention it recieved from Bon Appetit. Our waitress was a plain spoken Yankee girl, who described the specials with an economy of words and evenness in expression- that still managed to convey the scrumptiousness of the items. Hub decided on the broiled haddock and I had the fishcakes. As we waited for our food, I studied my fellow diners. Locals and tourists, a few Hipsters thrown into the mix (Portland has a strong hipster element- kind of like a Brooklyn up North feel). New England thriftiness was exhibited by the single piece of bread we each recieved as we waited for our dishes.
The food was....mouthwatering. It was delicious. It was a joy to eat. From the moment I took the first forkfull until I walked out the door, I was smiling. I was as happy as a kid enjoying her favorite birthday meal. I could not stop eating until every scrap was gone. The cole slaw was crunchy and sweet, the fries were crispy and well- seasoned. Every part of our meal was marvellous. Our astute waitress capably steered us in the right dessert direction. And she had the good sense to make a fresh pot of coffee for us to enjoy with our Blueberry Cream Cheese Layer Cake. A die-hard sweet tooth can always sense what a fellow sweet tooth needs. With a lightness in my heart and a belly full of good food, my fondness for New England was reconfirmed.
One of the things that I really appreciate about New England is the plain-spoken character of it's people. They speak simply. They use less words. There is an editing that occurs in their daily vernacular. There is a reserve to their attitude. This kind of stoicism makes my exuberant verbosity seem frivolous and even over-the-top. But I'm OK with it. I'm not a Yankee. I’m not a Maineahh.
After Portland we went up to the Moosehead Lake region where Hub’s bro, his wife and 2 kids joined us for three days of camping in the rain. It wasn’t so bad, it was actually fun in a rustic, once-in-a-lifetime, roughing it kinda way. The campground was just outside the town of Greenville, and believe me when I say that I took every and any opportunity to make runs into town. Be it for paper plates, milk, or to do laundry at Wishy Washy. And it was on one of these laundry runs that I made another great discovery: Northwoods Gourmet Girl. This little gem is located across the street from the Laundromat. Unable to watch our clothes tumbling for another second, I did a little investigating.
The room is large with clean lines and is on the spare side. I sat at the bar and exhaled gratefully. All was quiet and calm, the lighting was soothing, my sneakers were drying, and I was alone. No one was asking me for anything, there was no crying, whining, fighting or shouting. And I now know what to serve with my Krab Kakes: roasted corn, tomato and pepper salsa and a spicy remoulade. And then there was the dessert… a blueberry cobbler that felt like it was beamed down to me directly from God. A soft cakey biscuit sandwiched pleasantly between warm, syrupy and deep dark violet blueberries and a scoop of slowly melting vanilla ice cream in a fine dusting of cinnamon. Surely this must be a gift from God when you’re damp, cold, and cranky after dealing all day and night with damp, cold, and cranky kids.
Upon further investigation I learned that this was the same Gourmet Girl whose bottles of homemade ketchup and jams grace the shelves of the high end kitchen supply store in Portland where I spent an hour and about $60 in (Tupelo honey, Dishing Up Maine cookbook, and assorted gourmet chocolates). My prediction: Gourmet Girl will be as big and wide ranging as Stonewall Kitchen in a few years. Except she’ll be for the Hipster Foodie. Who can resist an ingredient list that includes TLC?
After camping, we moved on to the Sunset Cabins in Rockwood. Never before has a bed been appreciated as audibly and by so many. Flushing toilets as well. The cabin’s kitchen beckoned and I responded by broiling up some salmon and haddock. We enjoyed our fish and the variety of salads I assembled (pasta, garden, and Asian cole slaw) while sitting at picnic tables in front of beautiful Moosehead Lake.
By this time in our trip there were several conclusions I was able to make about Whoopie Pies. Wicked Whoopie Pies are my over-the-counter choice. It has a good cream-to-cake ratio, and is not overly sweet. My favorite flavor is the vanilla chocolate chip. I did not like the peanut butter one that the competition makes.
It’s hardly surprising that the best Whoopie Pies are homemade. The Maple Whoopie I had in Portland was a great intro to this regional treat. I had a tightly saran wrapped Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Whoopie at Jamo’s General Store in Greenville, that was also darn good. Sadly, I do not think I will be whooping it up at next month’s dental appointment.
We climbed Mt. Kineo, the lot of us (minus a grown up or two and a kid or two). It rained and we kept on going. We kept on climbing through tantrums, tussles, and terror until we reached the top. I was very proud of us.
On Sunday we packed up the cars and crossed the border into Canada. S’ long Maine, Bonjour Quebec! This time I was shameless in my desire to learn more French. I broke my teeth at Subway when ordering our 6-pouce sandwiches. I perservered at the Hotel Jardin in Veille Quebec while checking in as my Mari (aka Le Hub) found parking. I ordered my vin blanc at Portofino the Family-style restaurant that was smart enough to give us our own room and isolate us from civilized company. I hissed “Arret!” (and about another half a dozen angry epithets) as my Kiddlers had epic melt-downs in a couple very public spaces. Hub, Deene, sis-in-law Mishtophe, and I clinked “Salut” after everyone was at last, quietly sleeping. Not fluent yet, not by a long shot- but a little more suave.
We went through Vermont on the way home. Vermont is my all-time favorite state. Burlington is just such a great town. The amount of young people and the vibrancy of it’s food scene really makes it gleam. Tried to get into American Flatbread but it was packed three deep at the bar on a gloomy Monday night (rain, rain go away…).
Our drive home the next morning in clear and gentle sunshine showed the green pastures and sloping fields that hem the country road in their most beautiful light. The Vermont countryside is soft and rolling and wonderfully green. It is in contrast to the craggy and rugged Maine landscape where forests of pine trees line the road for miles and miles on end. Both states are natural beauties, but one is more severe and ascetic. The other lush and curved.
“I love her valleys broad and fair,
The pathless wood, the gleaming lake,
The bold and rocky bastions, where
The billows of the ocean breaks: “
From New England by Albert Laighton
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Done with the Hanukkah chapter, and I'm pretty happy with it. Hope to wrap up July 4th Chapter in the next few days . Testing summer salad-as-a-meal recipes. Grilled Steak and Veggies Summer Nicoise Salad, has potential- needs to be expanded and the garlic grilled pitas need to be served immediately for it's full effect. Note: Include grilled corn in next version.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Like everyone I have taken some lumps, but on the whole life has been pretty good to me. I am currently living my dreams of being a writer and a mom. OK, so I had to readjust the setting of the dream, but in this version I'm only 30 minutes away.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Bonjour tout le mond! Just back from Montreal. This French weekend getaway was well-placed, so much so that if it wasn't for it, I might have found myself in the loony bin or receiving a visit from the coppers. Last week was tough. It contained several scenes that I am ashamed to even recall. Sometimes you gotta hold on for dear life, and last week was one of those weeks. Clutch onto sanity, balance and equilibrium; scrounge around for even a shred of patience and kindness, dig deep and try to find your better nature. It ain't easy. There are a whole lotta excuses: The flooded basement fills the house with the rank odor of cat piss, it's that time of the month-my exclamation point. The first draft of the book is due in three months and I am paralyzed wondering what to do next? And the collective culture in chez nous is that Maman has no other purpose in life other than the blind and unyielding service to Hub and Kids many needs. And last week there was a lack of female adult conversation that serves as a crutch sometimes. Crutches are necessary when one feels themselves stumbling and hobbling around in discomfort and pain. But it doesn't stack up, for me the measure of a successful person is how she overcomes her situation. I didn't overcome nuthin' this week.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Just as I imagined it would be. It took what felt like forever to get the contract, and then to get it finalized. And the first draft is due in three months from yesterday. Of course, this to me really is a dream of a problem. But I am shit-scared. I am so worried that I won't be able to harness it and express it in a beautiful and effective way. I think I have 2/3's of the recipes that I need. I have to figure out the last third, while coming up with the narrative with Donz. I am now exiting overwhelmed and entering pre-panic concern. How do I do this?.... you just do it. That'll be my answer- whenever I ask that question.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Had to back away from the Van Gogh re-edification project. Thought of the Alexander McQueen exhibition in short spurts. Came up with a few really refreshing and tasty ice pop ideas. And one sweet li'l truffle named Blueberry. I was tinkering around with the blueberry filling of last week's pie. The blueberries, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice was cooked down down to a thick and juicy compote-like consistency. Swirled with fresh frothy cream, it was a beauty to behold. Although sweet, creamy, fruity, and lovely to taste it is not the summer thirst quencher that the mango-lime-strawberry popsicle is.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Words, words, words, stir, stir, stir, think, think, think, drink, drink, drink. The week in review.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Yesterday was a perfect spring day. The kind of day that inspires art. I wrote a post that attempted to convey the splendour of the beautiful afternoon. But I realized that everything I wanted to say was penned by the Romantic poets, depicted by Van Gogh or Monet, and conjured by Vivaldi and Dvorak. At the end I decided that the best I could offer was a berry pie; a juicy, sweet-tart very berry pie.
Friday, April 29, 2011
I like to think of myself as too cool to be interested in anything as preciously pompous and irony-free as the royal wedding. But in truth before I became a jaded and snarky New Yorker, I was a subject of the British Commonwealth, a child of Mother England's premier penal colony: Australia. The Aussies have mixed feelings about the royal family, which they refer to lovingly as those Pommie Bastards, but in general share a grudging kinship with. Aussies think of the English as their stuck-uptight cousins, whom they enjoy taking take the piss out of. During my entire time in Oz, The Royals were a tabloid cover fave (it was during the Di-Fergie epoch).
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Life is a series of cycles. Spring blooms into summer which deepens into autumn and then sheds into winter. My own course is almost as predictable as the seasons. After being with family and friends for a while I automatically yearn for football fields of space. Inevitably a season of social fecundity dries up to a period of drought, when my cell phone's main function is to tell time. And then before long I am sick of myself and ready to hear different voices again.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Oy! she said. An Oy that summons all the woes and pains of her foremothers. It's time for the Big P - Passover. A spring-time celebration of freedom, that requires heavy labor to prepare for. The uncanny thing is that Passover comes at just the right time this year. After a particularly shut-in winter, a radical cleaning and purging is really necessary. The winter detritus just accumulated and left everyone feeling cramped and stifled.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
So here's some good news: We finally got the contract for our book deal. Just before Thanksgiving hey told us they want to publish our book, and, now, a couple of weeks before Passover we got official proof. The interim period was wrought with a fair amount of worry and insecurity. In my more wobbly moments I became convinced that they had changed their minds, and they just didn't know how to break it to us. And in my dark moments I allowed the bitter thoughts in for a chat. But mostly I kept cooking and writing. I am so excited and nervous, and grateful. For now, I am keeping this little jewel to myself, holding it close to my heart. Of course Hub knows, and good thing because I'll be needing his expertise with contracts soon. The kiddles have some vague idea, but as long as nothing changes for them, they couldn't give a hoot. I don't know if Donz is having the same reaction. Donz, my book partner and now close friend, is a singer, so shows and performances are her thing. In my deepest heart since I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a writer. I've kept a journal since grade school, and at certain times in my life it felt like it was my religion. In my 'tween years I wrote a bunch of screenplays that were basically John Hughes rip-offs. In highschool I put together a few issues of a student magazine. In college I made tentative forays into the Lit world, but I was completely intimidated. Back then it seemed to me there were people who were considered "Writers". They wrote in a very serious and arty style that felt uncomfortable and verged on the humorless. In creative writing classes they would be vicious. I didn't have any kind of confidence in myself or my writing ability. I thought myself not serious or cool enough to be a real writer, like those other kids who listened to cooler music and did cooler drugs and had cooler friends. So I denied that I wanted to be a writer. Every once in a while something would come busting out. But I quickly covered it up.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
I have fallen in love with caramel. I find the the whole process, from making it to savoring it, really therapeutic and rewarding. Being a part-time chocsmith I've come into the lives of quite a few chococrazies, and there is nothing quite like the thrill of satisfying a true chocolover. Chocolate makes them happy down to their bones, and creating something that can make people that happy, for even a few minutes is really fun. I like chocolate, at certain times during the month I love it, but I am not a chocoholic, at heart, I am caramellow.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Sunday, March 20
Today is Purim. It is a custom to give friends and family fun gifts of food and snacks on Purim. Something like a small bag of oreo's and a bottle of milk, or a bag of chips and a juice box would be completely acceptable. But because I have a bit of a sweet problem, I always go a little nuts with my Mishloach Manot (purim packages). Sometimes I get all cutesie-tootsie and come up with some kind of theme; like 3 different kinds of cookies delivered in a cookie jar with an iced coffee attached to the side. This year's theme is Simply Sweets; glorious, terrible-for-your-teeth, blow-your-healthy-eating-regime- sweets.