Monday, November 16, 2009

New site!

I'm over at now. Please update your bookmarks and feeds accordingly!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Recipes: A new favorite and an old one

Baking and cooking are two favorite weekend unwinding activities after a busy week (which it seems like all weeks are lately, doesn't it?). And since making good food is made even better by sharing it with others, I thought I'd share two favorite recipes: one that I've been making for dinner for years and one that I tried for the first time today.

Chicken Tikka & Coconut Rice

I got this from a friend who got it from a cookbook whose title I don't know. But I've significantly adapted it over the years, so I don't feel too bad about that!

  • 2 tsp fresh ginger pulp
  • 1 largish clove of garlic, put through garlic press
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs tumeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 7-8 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
  • boneless, skinless chicken, cut into pieces (I usually cut up about 3-4 thin chicken breasts)
  • 1 zucchini, chopped into pieces
Combine everything except chicken and zucchini and mix well. Stir in chicken and let marinate for 2 hours.

Preheat broiler to medium (my broiler only has high or low settings, so I use low) and line a broiler tray with foil. Pour the chicken mixture onto tray and mix in zucchini. Baste with about 2 Tbs. vegetable oil. Broil for about 15-20 minutes until cooked, stirring/turning occasionally so it doesn't brown too much.

I serve this with rice. If I'm feeling a little decadent, I make the rice with coconut milk instead of water.

Pumpkin Scones with Caramel Glaze

Up on the Upper West Side, there is a very wonderful, very girlie place for tea called Alice's Tea Cup. They have the most amazing scones I have ever eaten, and the best of them all is the pumpkin scone. A couple of friends and I go there for special occasions or girl-time or when we simply cannot deny the pumpkin scone craving any longer. I've been trying to find a recipe to replicate them for years, and finally figured it out today!

Pumpkin Scone (adapted slightly from here--just the scone recipe, not the glaze)
Makes 24 scones

  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (I used canned. Just be sure it's not pumpkin pie mix!)
  • 2/3 cup chilled cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
Cut in the butter, either using a pastry cutter or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, pumpkin puree, and cream.

Using an electric mixer, beat the wet into the dry until just combined. (Small bits of butter will be visible, but flour mixed in.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently and quickly until smooth. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form each one into a 4"-round about 1" thick. Cut each into 6 wedges and place on baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until tops look golden brown and sides flaky and dry. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.

Caramel Glaze (adapted slightly from here)

  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 3 Tbs brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs white sugar
  • 3 Tbs cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
Mix everything together in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Let boil for about a minute. Stir. Mine got a little thick while I waited for the scones to cool, so I thinned it with about a Tbs of water. I wanted a good consistency to drizzle over the scones. Place scones on plate and drizzle the glaze over them using a spoon.

Alice's always serves all of their scones with clotted cream and raspberry preserves. Which I highly recommend, if you have both available.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Good advice for Halloween

You can see some of the inside and buy it right over here. And you probably should, since it is witty and wise.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This may be a reach.

So. I've had Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" playing continuously in my head since last Thursday.* (Thanks, Vampire Diaries.) In pondering why it's so catchy, I realized that the refrain has something in common with another song that often gets stuck in my head, "Ultimatum" by The Long Winters.

Now, I know that the main reason these songs are earworms** has to do with the music. But both also involve the idea of reaching and holding.

My arms miss you
My hands miss you.

Enjoy the Silence:
All I ever wanted,
all I ever needed,
Is here, in my arms.

Maybe this also has something to do with why they stick in my head. The concept of reaching out and holding and connecting. It's such an important part of life. And is it perhaps also why book jackets with images of hands are so compelling and appealing?

Or is that a crazy theory?

* There may also have been some secret apartment singing and dancing involved.
**I hate the word earworms. I can't believe I used it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thinking about the Centuries

One of my favorite books is Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. I've read it many times, but the first time, I borrowed it from a friend in the third grade. She had a hardcover edition that was oversized. The cover shows us Mary in a yellow coat looking over her shoulder while pulling back a wall of ivy. I remember resting it on my lap while I read it. It had heft and weight and smelled of paper and ink and a little of my friend's house. Even now, though I don't have a copy of that exact edition, it's part of how the story lives in my mind whenever I think of it or reread it.

And I thought of that reading experience this weekend after walking through some of the exhibits at the Morgan Library. The museum has a fantastic, if small, exhibit on Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, which includes original art and handwritten original manuscripts. (Undeniably amazing.) But it also has a Gutenberg Bible, letters and original manuscript pages from the likes of Dickens, Eliot, and Hemingway, and a number of illuminated prayer books and bibles. At the end of the summer, I also went to an illuminated manuscript exhibit at the Met which blew my mind a little bit.

Standing in front of a book that's a thousand years old--a thousand years old--with an eReader and a blackberry in my bag made my brain want to implode. That's a millenia of ways to read all within a few square feet. And those centuries-old books are so full of craft. People spent years and years perfecting their skills to make those books. The calligraphy, the artwork, the bookbinding, papermaking . . . it's a work of art. One that you can tell a person, or many people, put care and attention and love into. All books are works of art, even today. Care goes into the choosing of typeface, the layout, design, presentation. Every single detail is taken into account.

The lack of physical presence is one of my worries about ebooks. And that's not to say that I don't like ebooks, or digital books, or whatever is currently developing. I think it's exciting and interesting and part of the future of reading. But have we figured out the craft of creating them yet? Right now, they seem more about convenience and availability, not design or art. A good story is a good story no matter how it's presented, but a good package makes the reading experience even better. None of the digital readers are what I'd call beautiful yet. (Ok, maybe the iPhone is the exception here.) But I think we'll get there, so that reading a digital book has the same physical presence, evokes the same sensory memory that reading The Secret Garden--and so many other books--has always had for me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Big City, Small World

The first year I lived in the city, whenever I went back to my small Pennsylvania hometown for the holidays, I would hear from high school classmates, “Didn’t you move somewhere crazy?”

On one hand, sure, I guess I did. I got run into by an old man in a wheelchair the other day (being pushed by a teenager) while I was standing perfectly still on a street corner. Which is only the most recent in strange things that have happened in the last eight years--and one of the most mild.

But New York, and especially Brooklyn, most of the time feel even smaller than my hometown. Even though there are millions of people in this city, and even though I see so many different ones every single day, I also see familiar faces. I can get on the subway and it’s not all that unusual for one of my best friends to get on the same car. Walking from one of my favorite indie bookstores to the B&N down the street, recently, I ran into another friend and we stopped to talk books and art until we both got too cold. And, of course, children’s publishing is an even smaller world, where everyone knows everyone, and you’re never at an event by yourself. Occasionally even when that event has no relation to publishing (but of course everything to do with good taste).

I always get a warm glow when I run into someone I know. It leaves me smiling. Seeing friends when you expect them and when you least expect them makes this vast city cozy. And surprising, and familiar, and, yes, strange. And it makes it home.

Cue Cheers theme song.

Monday, September 21, 2009

With a Little Help from My Friends

"A friend is one who walks in when everyone else walks out."

"Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect."

"Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world."

"A best friend, in my opinion, is someone who you can be foolish in front of, you know, be yourself."

"We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can hope to find in our travels is an honest friend." -Robert Louis Stevenson

" 'You have been my friends,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.'" --E. B. White, Charlotte's Web

"To let friendship die away by negligence and silence is certainly not wise." --Samuel Johnson

"What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies." --Aristotle

"The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved--loved for ourselves, or rather, in spite of ourselves." --Victor Hugo

"Friends may change and friendships evolve, but they never truly end because they are not merely the destinations of a passing moment but the journeys of a lifetime."

"A friend is a person who reaches for your hand and touches your soul."

"Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget."

"There are not many things in life so beautiful as true friendship, and not many things more uncommon."

"I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends." --Walt Whitman

"The making of friends, who are real friends, is the best token we have of a man's success in life." --Edward Everett Hale

"I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When the are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know." --Emerson

"Nothing makes the earth seems so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and the longitudes." --Thoreau

"It is the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter." --Marlene Dietrich

"My God, this is a hell of a job. I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends, my goddamn friends. They're the ones that keep me walking the floor at night." --Warren G. Harding

"A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked." --Bernard Meltzer

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friends, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country." --E. M. Forster

"Two persons cannot long be friends if they cannot forgive each other's little failings." --Jean de la Bruyere

"Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything." --Mohammed Ali

"The most beautiful discover true friends can make is that they can grow separately without growing apart."

"People say true friends must always hold hands, but true friends don't need to hold hands because they know the other hand will always be there."

"Friendship is certainly the balm for the pangs of disappointed love." --Jane Austen

"Meaning that if someone is really close with you, your getting upset or them getting upset is okay, and they don't change because of it. It's just part of the relationship. It happens. You deal with it." --Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

"It struck her that she was very lucky in her life's people." --Kristin Cashore, Fire