Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Address

I'm moving A Blog Of One's Own to Wordpress — check me out, as always, at or at

See you there!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

1 Day Until Christmas

I double-dog dare ya not to get sucked into the marathon of A Christmas Story on TV today. It's the best Christmas movie ever!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2 Days Until Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

I borrowed a coworker's recipe and baked double chocolate walnut biscotti this month for Have The Cake. I'm bringing them to my mom's house for Christmas tomorrow. Todd is a chocolate addict, and much of our holiday desserts are cocoa-free, so I thought I'd throw him a bone with this one. No one has tasted these yet, but I have sampled them thoroughly, and deem them a success!

I tried to take pictures throughout, but the pile of raw dough really doesn't look appetizing in the photo, so I'm not posting it. Below is a view of the logs, pre-baking.

Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the logs post-baking but before cutting. They basically looked like steaming loaves of chocolate bread. Nothin' wrong with that.

And here are a couple of shots of the biscotti cooling on the cookie sheet right after they came out after the second bake. I could have baked them a minute or two longer the second time around to get a real crunch, but I was afraid to over do it. They are quite good, so I won't complain.

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup walnut, chopped
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar


Preheat oven to 350 F and butter and flour a large baking sheet.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer, beat together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until combined well. Stir in flour mixture to form a stiff dough. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.

On prepared baking sheet with floured hands form dough into two slightly flattened logs, each 12 inches long and 2 inches wide, and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Bake logs 35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool biscotti on baking sheet 5 minutes.

On a cutting board cut biscotti diagonally into 3/4 inch slices. Arrange biscotti, cut sides down, on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool biscotti on a rack. Biscotti keep in airtight containers 1 week (frozen, 1 month).

3 Days Until Christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009

4 Days Until Christmas

Sunday, December 20, 2009

5 Days Until Christmas

Saturday, December 19, 2009

6 Days Until Christmas

Friday, December 18, 2009

7 Days Until Christmas

Thursday, December 17, 2009

8 Days Until Christmas

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

9 Days Until Christmas

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

10 Days Until Christmas

Monday, December 14, 2009

11 Days Until Christmas

Sunday, December 13, 2009

12 Days Until Christmas

Saturday, December 12, 2009

13 Days Until Christmas

Friday, December 11, 2009

Small Successes

Yesterday was a day of accomplishments. A huge project at work met a major milestone, and it was such a relief! Naturally, some projects are tougher than others, but this one really was trying at times! I also finished one of my two classes. My group gave our final presentation in market research. For the last 15 weeks we've studied Whole Foods, and last night we shared our findings, insights, and recommendations. I'm very happy to say that the whole thing came off swimmingly.

It's Friday, I'm getting my haircut this afternoon, and I'm off to see my mom and sister for a quick pre-Christmas visit tomorrow. All in all, things are pretty good.

14 Days Until Christmas

Thursday, December 10, 2009

15 Days Until Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

16 Days Until Christmas

I need a little Christmas

I hate Captivate, the television in elevators. Just about everything they post is irrelevant, stupid, biased or a combination of the three. That said, they had a poll this morning that I thought was a little interesting (They're big fans of polls over at Captivate, because it drives traffic to their site which adds up to more advertising dollars for them. I never go to their polls). The question was:

What holiday song best captures your mood this season?

Without a doubt, for me it's "We Need a Little Christmas." Tomorrow night marks the final session for one of my classes. Next Thursdays is the last day of my other. And starting on 12/19 I'm away from work for two weeks for vacation. Never have I felt like I needed a break more. I'm pooped! I can't wait to sleep in, read lots of novels, see season 3 of Dexter, and bake. It's going to be glorious.

What song captures your moods?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

17 Days Until Christmas

Monday, December 7, 2009

18 Days Until Christmas

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I got [a] fit!

Well, you all know this isn't about me getting healthy — not at this time of year! No, this is about me getting wheels!

You know how much Todd and I have considered a car, a moped, a scooter, a motorcycle: something to help us get out of the city more. We got a bee in our bonnet about it again a few weeks ago and started looking around on Craig's List. I thought we'd stumbled upon a good used car. It was old and definitely well used, but the woman selling it seemed completely legit, and the car seemed good for what it was — something just to get us from point A to point B. We took it to a garage to have it looked at, because that's what you're supposed to do with used cars. But I really believed it would check out and we'd buy it for a song. Unfortunately, the mechanic said that it wasn't worth it, there were too many things that needed fixing, and that he'd never recommend buying it. So, back to the drawing board. The same mechanic did have a VW Beetle that he was storing for a woman who was looking to sell, though. It was also several years old, but he said he'd worked on it for ages and knew it was solid. Unfortunately, by the next weekend when our schedules allowed us to go back to the mechanic, it had already sold. Back to the drawing board again.

By now, Todd and I had had a week to think about driving around in an adorable little Beetle. So cute, and so easy for parking on these mean streets! So it's back to Craig's List just for Beetles. There was one that looked REALLY promising way out east bumble Brooklyn. We made our way out there last week, which was no easy accomplishment in and of itself. The car seemed ok, but I got a terrible, awful, no good, very bad feeling from the guy selling it, and we walked away. Another trip to Craig's List, another used Beetle later, we thought we found another one we liked. We ran the Car Fax, though, and saw that it was a salvaged vehicle, which was not a game we wanted to play.

At this point, Todd and I both felt soured on the used car hunt. So many of the people we were dealing with seemed shady, and there were so many opportunities for us to be taken for a ride (no pun intended). And given the low price point we started out with, it seemed really unlikely that we'd be able to find something that wouldn't suck. It was time to reassess.

We did some online research, found some cars we liked, and visited a couple of dealers. I hated the guys at the Toyota place, and the Prius wasn't really in our price range anyway. The guys at the Nissan dealership completely ignored us, so we ditched them, too. Honda was always at the top of our list with three cars we were really interested in: the Insight (their hybrid), the Civic (I know a lot of people who have these), and the Fit. We went to their dealership out in Queens and test drove all three. We loved the Insight because it was better for the environment and in terms of gas mileage. But driving it taught me that hybrids are pretty sluggish out of the gate. Once you're going their fine, but they may not be the best for quick city maneuvers. More important, it was the most expensive of the three. They had some deals on the Civic, but the new model is much bigger than it used to be, and I kind of hated it. It really felt like something some suburban dad would drive on his way to the office every day. Its big sedan-ish-ness also made me remember my days in Chicago driving that boat of a Ford Taurus. The car was fine, but it's not something I've ever missed.

The Fit I liked, though. I've always been partial to hatchbacks, and this was somehow both small and roomy at the same time. The mileage is pretty good, it drove well, and the price was right (especially after my mad negotiation skillz kicked in. Todd was impressed!). We walked out with a lease on a brand new car!

So now I'm looking forward to many more trips. That means many of you will have me on your couches in 2010!

19 Days Until Christmas

Saturday, December 5, 2009

1 Day: 2 Birthdays

Todd and Dylan share a birthday, and that birthday was today. Dylan really outgrew his bike this summer; by August he basically looked like one of those clowns who ride teeny-tiny bikes for comic effect. He hated it. So we got him a new bike, cherry red, for the big 1-0, and he seemed very pleased.

The kids and I gave Todd a new pair of shoes that he picked out himself a few weeks ago, so no big surprise there. But we did catch him off guard with the new pasta machine we gave him, too. We had such fun making pasta at Rena's a few months ago that I decided to really take advantage of his innate Italian talents and see what we could make here at home. He was both surprised and very excited. And I'm excited for all the good eats.

I also baked a couple of cakes. Todd's of course, was chocolate: a devil's food cake with chocolate pudding mix, chocolate chips, and chocolate frosting. It was too much chocolate for me, but he loved it. I'll confess (and I feel somewhat ashamed, given our Have The Cake-ness), the cake was one of those boxed cake adaptations. This is the second time I've made it, and both times it's been delicious. It's so moist and fluffy and good. I know I should be doing it all from scratch, but this was better than my coconut cake! I also made a cake for Dylan's party tomorrow (no girls allowed!). I went for the straight out of the box version for that, and didn't even bother adapting it to make it better. I just couldn't pull off two amazing cakes along with everything else that's going on right now. I'm sure he and his friends will like the cake regardless of its Betty Crocker origins.

Here's Todd's cake all frosted and ready to go. Sofia has become my baking apprentice, eager to help with every project. As I was frosting this, she started narrating everything I was doing as though we were on a cooking show. It was hilarious, and I have no idea where it came from. And what she's doing in this photo is anyone's guess. She had a lot of various poses going on as I was photographing the cake — there's also a zombie picture and a pretend sleeping picture.

20 Days Until Christmas

Friday, December 4, 2009

Is it stealing when it's from your own family?

My sister Veronica does a very fun count down to Christmas each year on her blog. Basically it's a graphic advent calendar with fun holiday pictures and an announcement of how many days there are until Christmas.

My family is not religious, but I still love Christmas with all my heart. I loved it for the obvious reasons when I was a kid — presents! Now I love it because it's often the only time in a year when my whole family is together (and still a little for presents!). My mom, sisters, and I usually manage to see each other one-on-one here and there throughout the year, but it's never quite as much as I want. And with busy schedules we're a full group all too infrequently.

So in a countdown to the gathering, I'm shamelessly copying my sister's blog advent calendar idea. A few back-dated posts will be coming soon, too, to make up for the first few days of December.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

22 Days Unti Christmas

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

23 Days Until Christmas

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

24 Days Until Christmas

Monday, November 30, 2009

End-Of-The-Month Slacker

Well, I came close to achieving NaBloPoMo, but I slacked off way too much over Thanksgiving weekend for it to be a complete success. Still, y'all got more posts earlier in the month than you normally would have, so NaBloPoMo served its purpose.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving here in the city. It was the first time I didn't travel at all, and there was something wonderfully relaxing about not braving the crowds or facing the traffic. It was the right autumn to stay home.

Our friend Jane hosted us and some other friends in the afternoon for proseco and appetizers. We had to leave before the main course, unfortunately, but the real treat was catching up with everyone anyway.

Then it was on to the Bowery where we were volunteering. It's one thing to know that this is a hard year for people financially. It's something else to see how many people were lining up for the free dinner, though. We even saw some families with kids, which was heartbreaking, as you can imagine. And while the Bowery is too religious for my personal tastes, they do a great job. They were so organized and not only gave out meals but clothing and hygiene essentials, too. And I liked that we brought plates of food out to people seated family style around tables. It was more like a holiday meal than serving them cafeteria-style would have been. Overall, volunteering for Thanksgiving was a great experience and really reminded me to appreciate everything I have. As thankful as I was before Thursday, this put things into a whole new perspective.

The rest of the weekend was great, too (except for the hours of homework), but it deserves its own post. Maybe I'll post tomorrow and start December on the right track.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

This year, I'm really grateful.

Every day, I'm grateful for Todd. I held out for a long time, hoping that I wouldn't die a crazy old cat lady. There were plenty of days when I thought that was my destiny, but I got lucky instead. Todd goes the extra mile in our relationship in so many ways, and he inspires me to do the same. I think we push each other to be better versions of ourselves. I love him and hope to be writing how grateful I am to have him for many Thanksgivings to come.

I'm thankful for the health and happiness of my family and friends. I wish I got to see all of you more often. So many of you don't live close by, and I've been missing out on some communications or visits this year. I think about all the people who make my life richer regularly, though. I'm grateful for all of you, and I'm grateful for all the ways that you are happy and healthy.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to go to school. I am probably not as grateful for it on a day-to-day basis as I should be, but when I pause for a moment I really can see what a gift it is. I'm getting my master's at Columbia, and I don't even have to pay for it. I have the support of my boss and colleagues and family. Very few people can say the same.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grateful a Day Early

For the second night in a row, Todd cooked me dinner. What a treat to do nothing whatsoever and have the man I love treat me so well! Last night he made portabello mushroom sandwiches, and tonight he treated me salmon. We have a pre-New Year's resolution to cook at home more and eat out less, so I'll have lots of opportunity to return the favor.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stimulating the Economy

I know it's not even Thanksgiving (though it is close) so all my Christmas-related posts are a little early. That said, you're getting another one.

I'm obsessing a little about Christmas this year for a couple of reasons. The most pedestrian is that with how busy this fall is, I'm worried that I'll forget to do something or run out of time. So I tried to start everything early and stay completely organized. Todd's taken my anal retentiveness in stride, for which I'm very grateful.

The other reason I'm extra thoughtful about the holidays this year is a very, very good one: Todd and the kids are joining me and my family for Christmas. There are a lot of people who want to spend the day with them, so I'm pretty jazzed that I'm the lucky winner. That means, though, that the holiday is a totally different ball of wax for me. In the past, I ordered a bunch of stuff from Amazon for my tiny family (we all just want books, pretty much) and called it a day. It was, compared to most people's holiday shopping, no muss, no fuss.

Tonight Todd and I went to Target in the Bronx for some stocking stuffers and lots of shopping for the kids. Our goal, really, was to get Dylan a birthday present, and we totally failed. Todd is braving the Times Square Toys-R-Us tomorrow for that. So instead of the specific item we were looking for, we filled — and I mean filled — a cart with games, toys, and other treats. I barely even knew what was in the bottom of the cart by the time we were done.

I'm still trying to figure out what to get Todd from the kids. I assume that's now my responsibility, and it's another new one for me. Do I take them shopping and let them pick something out? Do I just tell them that I got something for him from them? Dylan, especially, is old enough to have opinions about this, so I want to give them some control without ceding all of it myself.

All of this will work itself out in the end, and I'm really excited to have so many people I love together for Christmas. I know every year won't work out like this, and I'm going to enjoy it while I can.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Time to Purge

I think it's time to clean out my closets again. I did it in the spring when I was moving, but there is so much more I can give to Good Will. I have so many pieces that I look at and think, I don't want to wear that. What's the point of keeping it my closet then?

We all think of spring cleaning, but I think fall cleaning is better in some ways. If I give away a bunch of good but ill-fitting/not-my-style clothes right now, someone might be able to snap them up for Christmas gifts or to wear to their holiday party or something . It feels especially right to offer up all that I don't want this year when so many people have pinched budgets.

I'm also feeling a little claustrophobic in our apartment. We just have too much stuff. I want to minimize — fewer nick-nacks, emptier drawers, cleaner shelves. When I'm overwhelmed at work I often take a few minutes to clean off my desk. The clean space makes my brain feel clearer, too. I'm hoping the same will happen at home.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Coconut Cake Bleh

I have to admit, I was disappointed with the way my coconut cake came out. This was extra disappointing, since I have been looking forward to trying this for so long.

I made, as advertised, Paula Deen's recipe. I didn't have self rising flour in the house and made a last minute executive decision to use the all purpose I did have. The cakes tasted good but were definitely more dense than Paula intended. I now know that self rising flour really does make a difference!

The bigger problem was with the frosting. I followed the recipe, improvising a double burner that I don't have, and beat the ingredients for exactly seven minutes. By the time those seven minutes had passed, I had something that very nearly resembled frosting. Unfortunately, it was still a little thin and runny. Paula Deen doesn't note what to do in this case — does it thicken upon standing? The concoction is hot at this point, so maybe it gets stiffer as it cools? Who knows? Well, now I do: it does not get thicker upon standing or cooling. In retrospect, I think I probably needed to keep beating it to get more air in it, but I didn't want to over cook the ingredients. This means that despite tasting pretty good, my cake looked a bit like a hot, runny mess.

I love coconut cake, but I don't love this recipe. In addition to the trouble listed above, I thought the filling was a little weird. I would have preferred something a little sweeter. I'm glad I gave this one a shot, but I'll attempt a different coconut cake next time around.

The filling

The troublesome frosting

Assembled but not frosted

Final, ugly cake

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Evolution of a Friendship

Caryn came into the city yesterday, bringing her wonderful family with her. It's been months and months since we've seen each other, which felt especially long since she had an adorable new baby in September. I can't believe I haven't seen him until now!

Todd, Dylan, Sofia, and I met them in Chelsea where we went out for a leisurely brunch and catching up. Following that, we made our way to the nearby Chelsea Market for some sweet treats (mostly Fat Witch brownies but some opted for cookies instead). After that we were off to an indoor playground in the neighborhood. We had four kids with us, after all, and that seemed like the best way for them to have fun while we chatted.

Half way through the playing, Caryn voiced something I had been thinking, too.

Caryn and I have been friends for almost 15 years. We met on our first days at Ithaca College and spent freshman year going to the under age–friendly bars in town. Ithaca gets, as you probably know, freezing during the winter, but we usually left our coats at home. All the better to show off our best going out outfits. We didn't want to be saddled with a parka all night! We'd dance at Semesters, dubbed Cheese-mesters because it was so god awfully cheesy.

Our lives have changed so much since then. We tired pretty quickly of the bar scene, but there were still plenty of years that were all about us. We traveled Europe together — twice — leaving behind all our cares to backpack for a few weeks. For a long time, every one of Caryn's NYC visits included a Broadway show.

Now we chase little kids around and make funny faces and pretend to be the tickle monster.

Us with new baby Drew

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Favorites: Peggle

iPhone users, this post is for you. A few months ago Todd and I were in the Apple store downtown. I really don't know what to do in the Apple store, because they only have a handful of products. Their stuff is awesome, yes, but I don't need to play with the ipod there. I know what it does.

So while Todd was looking at earbuds, I started checking out the apps they'd loaded on the iPhones. I started playing Peggle and was instantly hooked. I downloaded it as soon as we left the store. It cost $4.99, which is $4 more than I've ever paid for an app before. But believe me: I got my money's worth. I have played this game endlessly ever since.

A full description can be found on the iPhone Blog. Try it and get addicted.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I'm curious what y'all think of John Updike. I read Rabbit, Run a year or so ago and didn't love it. Rabbit was just such a dick. Yes, the ending was powerful, but overall I'm not dying to get back to the rest of the Rabbit books, even though they're sitting on my shelf. I just finished The Witches of Eastwick and didn't love that one, either.

Maybe I'm missing something. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning that I'm supposed to extrapolate and because of my current mental exhaustion (I choose to believe this would be the cause, and not general idiocy) I'm failing. I just don't think Updike likes women very much, and I don't think he takes them seriously, even when they're at the center of his novels. The three witches of Eastwick have these witchy powers--they can cast spells, causing everything from minor mishaps to death. And what do they spend 306 pages doing? Obsessing about a man and whether their thighs are the right size. Seriously?!?! Really!?

Or am I supposed to believe that Updike actually loves women, that he's in awe of what he believes are the gifts we have that leave men in the dust. Maybe he's befuddled by the way women really can focus on men sometimes, despite being so awesome in our own right. But even if that's the case, he's just selling us short by assuming that we're obsessed by anything with a swinging dick. Either way, Updike's views and scope are so limited as to do no one justice at all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holiday Planning

How early do you guys like to get started on the winter holiday plans? I was feeling pretty pulled-together, but suddenly we'll have about twice as many people at my mom's house than normal and I need to do some more shopping. It's really nice, actually. We are such a small family that we don't typically have an overflowing house, even at the big holidays. I'm excited that so many people I love will be together this year.

In other holiday news, Todd and I are having a tree-placement conundrum. Our apartment is basically wall-to-wall furniture. There is no easy place to put a tree, but we both feel like we need to have one. I'm not a big fan of those little ones that sit on tables, so I'm determined to find some floor space somehow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fall Cleaning

Todd and I had a lazy night of take out food and TV watching last night. We spent the 10:00 hour watching Hoarders on A&E, which never ceases to fascinate me. It's the first time Todd's ever seen it, and he had the same reaction I think everyone has when they first watch the show: horror coupled with a deep desire to clean house. He spent the time between the show and sleeping worrying whether he was too much of a pack rat. He has plans tonight, and I'm going to try to organize and clean while he's gone. I'm mostly caught up on my homework, and the apartment definitely needs some sprucing. I think he'll love coming home to a place where professional help is not needed to find the couch.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Making Art at the Met

The best part about yesterday was when Todd, in what he likes to call his benevolent dictator mode, insisted we all grab our sketch pads and go to the Met. It was freakishly warm for mid-November, so the four of us took a rambling walk through Central Park to the east side. Thanks to our never-returned McGraw-Hill ID cards, Todd and I still get free entrance to most museums in the city, and we took advantage it yesterday.

There are always plenty of people using the museum's art — sculptures, specifically, for us yesterday — as inspiration for their own work. I love to look over artists' shoulders to see what they're creating. My own sketches look like chicken scratch comparatively, but of the four drawings I did yesterday I liked three of them pretty well. I am no great talent, but I like the process of drawing, and I know the more I do it the better I'll get.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Morning Homework

You'd think that yesterday, with it's rain, would have been a good day to get homework out of the way for the weekend. I utterly failed to do that, though, and so here I am doing it now. I've been at the table for two hours and gotten a lot done, but not nearly as much as I expected in that time. There is so much more to do. :(

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A/Cs and Automobiles

Today was a little rainy and a lot dreary. It was definitely not a great day to be outside. Todd, the kids, and I played a couple rounds of Uno together in the morning — it's one of our favorite new pass times — before braving the elements to visit our storage unit. We (and by we I really mean Todd with the rest of us sometimes standing around to see how he was doing) crammed our air conditioners in there with our suitcases, bikes and never-unpacked boxes. It was great to get them out of our apartment. Ever since taking them out of the windows a few weeks ago they've been sitting on our floor just looking for toes to stub. And we came back home with Christmas decorations. I can't believe how quickly this fall has gone. I know it's not yet Thanksgiving and, therefore, not officially time to decorate for Christmas, but the holidays really do feel right around the corner.

While Todd was fighting with the storage unit, I went uptown a few blocks to revisit a car we might buy. We looked at it last weekend and want to get it checked out by a mechanic before committing. It's old, has a fair number of miles, and we need to know if there are any surprises lurking before plunking down some cash. The woman who is selling it is really nice and seems completely on the up-and-up, so I have a good feeling about it. Unfortunately, the garage we were going to visit lied to us. They promised we could bring in the car any time before 3:00, but when I went at 2:30 the place was all locked up. I think we're the only seriously interested buyers, because the seller has offered to drop the car off one morning before work so we can get it checked out this week. If everything works out, we might have our own wheels before long.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Favorites: Glee

Are you guys watching this show? Doesn't it make you want to sing and dance? I know the dialogue can be a little heavy-handed and it's over the top, but it is utterly, completely, without-a-doubt lovable nonetheless.

I know I'm not alone in my adoration because, no joke, I saw a flyer on campus alerting people to the Columbia University glee club tryouts. I almost went. I wish I were in a glee club!

I love that there are theater actors left and right in this show and that it's a shining example of a musical getting the love it deserves.

And, without a doubt, I love Jane Lynch. Her acerbic, cold-hearted, track suit–lovin' Sue Sylvester steals every scene she's in.

If you haven't been watching this all season, you really should add it to your Netflix queue.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Thursday

Another Thursday — another day of lots of meetings and scrambling to get something done in between them, followed by four hours of classes. Blogging is proving very difficult on Thursdays! I can't find the time to think of something fabulous to say, and I can't find the time to write something boring in a way that sounds fascinating.

Now that tonight's classes are over, I have just three sessions left. One more before Thanksgiving and two after. I'm excited for this semester to be over — oh, how excited! — but I'm somewhat daunted by how much there is to do in the meantime. I'm hoping that Thanksgiving weekend offers me a little downtime to power through some of it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Welcome, Beatrix

Check out the cuteness that is my sister's new puppy! She and her husband adopted Beatrix over the weekend, and I think she's super cute.

I'm sometimes tempted to get a dog, but I know I can't do it right now. I'm way too busy to give a dog, or especially a puppy, the time and attention it would need. Also, Todd has a nefarious plan to wait until Dylan is old enough to walk a dog on his own before we adopt, thus making it a little bit easier on ourselves.

So for now, I'm living vicariously through Veronica.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dinner and a Show

Tonight I learned how to roast a lamb (sort of).

A couple friends and I went to How to Roast a Lamb: An Evening of Wine & Food with Michael Psilakis. Psilakis, an extremely successful chef, spent two hours showing us how to make an incredible four course meal. Each course was paired with a Greek wine to complement the flavors.

Of course, when Psilakis did it, everything looked easy. I'm certain I'd struggle to recreate this deliciousness, but I can try. The cost of the evening included a copy of Psilakis's book, so I can do my best to master ricotta dumplings here at home. And that is a skill worth having. So good!

Here's our menu from the evening.

Roasted Octopus with Salami, Apple & Anchovy Vinaigrette

Sheep's Milk Ricotta Dumplings with Spicy Lamb Sausage, Spinach, Sundried Tomatos, Pine Nuts & Feta

Braised Lamb Shank with Orzo & Root Vegetables

Yogurt with Quince Spoon Fruit & Jordan Almonds

Monday, November 9, 2009


I guess I want it all.

Todd and I can't seem to make up our minds what some of our big goals are. We know we can't do it all, but we can't seem to let go of any of our ideas, either. Do we want a nicer/bigger apartment in the city? Would that money be better spent on a country house where we could spend our weekends? Should we spend extra money on world travel and just forget about new digs all together?

We hem. We haw. We go back and forth.

A nicer apartment in the city is a lovely day-to-day improvement, but it doesn't necessarily change life a lot. Traveling — something I really want to do but rarely make time for — offers a burst of relaxation, excitement, and rejuvenation. A country house is intimidating. I'm not sure we could really pull it off, and it's the biggest commitment of resources of any of our half-baked schemes. But my fantasies of idyllic weekends and iced tea-sipping on a porch make it seem worthwhile.

We're also talking about getting a car. It'd just be something to get us from point A to point B — nothing fancy. But it would make short trips out of the city a little easier. A day trip to go skiing, a weekend trip to visit friends or family, an excursion to pick apples...all seem easier to coordinate with a car.

What do you guys think we should do?

Sunday, November 8, 2009


After a lovely weekend, I spent much of Sunday night cranky about the homework I have to do. I don't mind the work when I feel like I'm learning. But as I've told many of you, one of my classes this semester feels like a waste. The more time consuming an assignment, the more irritated I am. This fall is too busy to dick around with what feels like bullshit. Unfortunately, I have to do it. The course is required, and I'm 10 weeks into the 14 week course. There is no point in complaining, and yet here I am.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Truth & Beauty

Lucy Grealy was an award-winning poet. For a long time, though, she was more famous for her appearance than her writing. That changed when she wrote Autobiography of a Face, which chronicles her story: as a child she suffered a rare cancer in her jaw. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy left her disfigured, and she spent much of the rest of her life undergoing reconstructive surgery after reconstructive surgery. The experience also left her with emotional scarring as well.

Ann Patchett, whose novels include Bel Canto, The Patron Saint of Liars, and The Magician's Assistant, lived with Grealy during graduate school, when they both attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Almost instantly, the two writers became dear friends, and Truth & Beauty is Patchett’s account of their relationship. Patchett tells her story with unflinching honesty. Grealy’s mania and insecurities would test anyone’s patience, but Patchett’s adoration for her is so complete — though never blind — that we come to love her, too.

More than that, I came to love Ann Patchett. I’ve been a fan of hers since my Chicago days. I bought The Patron Saint of Liars on a whim and read it in a single night. I was sick with a bug and couldn’t sleep and made it through my misery with the help of Patchett’s book. Having read Truth & Beauty, I feel like I know her and Lucy. She tells her story as though talking to a friend, and by the end you feel like were there, experiencing the highs and lows of this epic friendship right along side Ann and Lucy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Favorites: My Tea Mug

To make 30 posts in 30 days easier, I'm going to post once a week about something that is a favorite of mine. I've posted about my love of Adagio Tea before, so I won't bore you with a rehash of that exactly.

Instead I'll get specific. I bought this mug from them a while ago, and I really love it. I had been using their paper filters for the 70 or so cups of tea I drink at work each day. Those work great, but I knew I could be more environmentally-thoughtful in my tea consumption. So now I use this combo mug/infuser. Upside down, the glass cover serves perfectly as a coaster for my wet infuser. And (bad news for Adagio), I now get two cups of tea out of each serving of leaves. I used to just chuck the paper infusers in the trash since they were messy and gross. This mug will pay for itself soon enough, and in the meantime I like that I'm not throwing so much away. I also feel like I'm more officially a tea drinker with this fancy infuser. :)

In case anyone is looking for new teas to try, I'm currently loving Fujian Baroque, Rooibos Vanilla Chai, Bengal Green Chai, and Black Dragon Pearls. The last are especially fun to watch unfurl in your mug.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Worst Day of the Week

Thursdays are hellish. I'm not trying to be overly dramatic here. They really are the worst day of my week.

I have four and a half hours of standing meetings on Thursdays, and one additional always seems to get added to the calendar just for fun. Then I race uptown to attend my market research class at 6:00 and my writing class at 8:00. By the time I'm home a little after 10:00, my brain is fried, my energy is gone, and I just want to watch TV until I fall into bed.

The up side is that Fridays almost feel like a vacation in comparison. I'm excited to have time to actually get work done at work, as opposed to just talking all day. And I appreciate having the evening to myself and a full weekend just beyond. And my schedule will change in January with the start of a new semester, so I only have a few more LONG Thursdays to get through.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

This mash up has gotten a lot of buzz, and the plot is pretty much right there in the title, so I'll spare you all a rehash of what this book is all about.

If you're a purist, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is not for you. While Seth Grahame-Smith has obviously taken pains to keep the broad strokes the same as in Jane Austen's original, he's added new zombie-fighting personality traits for Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters. A secondary character contracts the "strange plague" and becomes a undead herself. Characters debate the warrior training available in China versus Japan. Elizabeth and Jane are still BFFs. Lydia is still a flirt. Mr. Darcy is still proud, and Wickham is still a liar. But there is no mistaking it: this is not the Pride and Prejudice Ms. Austen had in mind.

I went in ready to accept the irreverance, and found myself liking this book very much. I believe a familiarity with and affection for the original helped. Without that, this might have just seemed like a weird combo. With that background, though, I appreciated how Grahame-Smith worked in such disparate elements while maintaining both the sense and sensibility of the original.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Civic Duty

One of the random perks about working at Columbia is that we are always off for election day. There is never any excuse not to vote, since I have the entire day at my leisure to do it.

Today New Yorkers are voting for mayor. I fully expect Mike Bloomberg to win. He's done ok the last eight years, and he has spent about 5 jillion dollars per voter to tell us so. The thing that most people are most pissed off about, and his biggest hurdle in this election, is how he hijacked the term limits law. Voters said loud and clear that we had no interest in changing the term limit law. Bloomberg wanted to run again, though, and — with the power of endless funds behind him — he built enough support in the city council to have the law changed. It sits badly with me, as it does with many New Yorkers. I feel that he used his money to buy what he wanted, regardless of what was best for his constituents. That doesn't exactly make me want to support him. Nonetheless, he'll win today. He'll do it without my vote, though.

For once, though, I'm also not voting for the democratic nominee. Bill Thompson really doesn't impress me, and since it's not at all a close race I feel no pressure to support him. Another option is to vote for Jimmy McMillan of The Rent Is Too Damn High party. He looks like he's straight out of the WWF, and the party name is hilarious. Still, I'll be voting for Green party candidate Billy Talen, aka Reverend Billy. He doesn't have a shot in hell, but I'm rooting for him anyway.

Go Reverend Billy!

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaBloPoMo is here

Check it out: I'm blogging two days in a row! The NaBloPoMo wind is at my back. :) I'm excited that Rena and Shannon are doing it with me, and I think more of you should join in.

So, to celebrate my month of blogging, I've given A Blog Of One's Own a face lift, as you can see. A big shout out goes to Rena for turning me on to Aqua Poppy. Her designs are so easy to implement that I now have a hankering to change the blog's look all the time. I think I'll keep this through the month and then shop around for something festive for the holidays.

My weekend was filled with happiness at Todd's return. He's been out of town on business for the last two weeks, and I am thrilled to have him back. I'm disappointed that he has to fly back to Dayton, Ohio in the middle of this week, but I'm soaking him up as much as I can in the meantime. It was also really fun to see the kids again, who I haven't seen since he headed out. We spent a little of Halloween with them carving Jack-O-Lanterns.

Yesterday was supposed to be all about work for Todd and homework for me, but we got a very slow start to the productive portion of the day. Some work got done, but there is — sadly — plenty more to do.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November Challenge: Coconut Cake

November is my month to pick what we bake over at Have the Cake. Check out what I'm proposing, and please feel free to bake along with us!

I know November's baking line up is often filled with pumpkins, and I wondered whether you'd all be hoping for something of that nature that you could bring to Thanksgiving dinner. All I can say is: I hope your relatives also like coconuts.

I've been wanting to make coconut cake for a while. My birthday was in September, and I almost baked myself a coconut birthday cake. Instead I got lazy and baked nothing. So this one has been on my to-try list for quite a while.

I first fell head-over-heels for coconut cake at Billy's Bakery in Chelsea. Any of you who are close to NYC should really check it out. While I'm partial to the coconut, you really can't go wrong there. And they are extremely generous with their cake cutting!

Below is the recipe I'm going to try, which is from butter lover extraordinaire, Paula Deen. There is also a really tasty looking recipe in this month's Jamie.

Happy baking!


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted self-rising flour
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks and cool completely.

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup flaked, sweetened coconut

Stir together sugar, sour cream, milk, and coconut in a bowl until well blended.

Using the wrong end of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the first layer of the cake, approximately 1-inch apart until entire cake has been poked. Spread 1/3 of filling mixture on cake layer. Top with second layer, repeat process. Top with last layer and repeat process again.


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 tablespoon white corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

Frost top and sides of cake. Sprinkle top and sides of cakes with additional coconut.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NaBloPoMo's A-Comin'

So I had it in my head that National Blog Posting Month was always November. I think the NaBloPoMo people are trying to out blog the Blog 365 people, though, by making NaBloPoMo a yearly challenge in bite-sized pieces. Basically, it appears as though every month is now a national blog posting month. Why post every day for a month once when you can do it 12 times in a row?

Since 2009 is The Year I Sucked As A Blogger, obviously I haven't been posting every day. The big question, though, is can I do it every day in November? I want to, and I want to peer pressure you into doing it, too. Most of us did it in 2007, and it was so much fun! It'll be easier to achieve if we're all in it together.

Who's ready to commit?

Monday, October 19, 2009

More Apple Goodness

As of this morning, I still had a dozen apples left over from our afore-mentioned trip to Stuart's Farm, and I knew I couldn't eat them all before they went bad. So, instead of letting them go to waste, I made apple sauce for the first time. It was so easy, and it tastes delicious!

I peeled and thinly sliced 8 apples and threw them into the slow cooker with a half cup of water. After about six and a half hours of cooking on low, they were nothing but mush, just the way apple sauce should be. At that point I added 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar and a sprinkling each of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. I let it cook for another half hour on low, and shazam! Spiced apple sauce!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mom's Dutch Apple Pie

Right before Laura posted that apple pies would be October's Have the Cake challenge, Todd and I had planned an apple-picking outing. We were headed to Stuart's Farm, a family fruit farm an hour or so outside of NYC with Dylan and Sofia, as well as Dylan's friend and his friend's dad and sister.

The farm has nine varieties of apples, three or four of which can be seen in this picture. I mixed and matched them for my pie, trying for a nice combo of sweetness and tartness.

I 've been eating and loving my mom's dutch apple pie my whole life, and despite getting into baking the last few years, I had never tried to make it on my own. This seemed like the perfect time! My mom sent me the recipe for the filling and the crust that both she and my Nana used whenever they were making one from scratch. I like the family history aspect of being at least the third generation to use a recipe. :)

Mom's found over the years that the pie gets too soggy if you don't let the apples sit in their sugary goodness for a while before loading into the crust. After sitting for a while, just enough of the apple juice comes out to save you from a soggy bottom. So I started there. Here's the first of my slied apples in the sugar mix.

I moved on to the crust next. I struggled a little bit rolling it out, as it crumbled a little around the edges. Mom warned me that the trick with this crust was to put all the ingredients in the freezer before using them. Apparently making them ice-cold saves the crumbling. I did that with everything but the milk. Our freezer was just too full for me to find a way to get it all in there. I think if I'd really followed Mom's directions, instead of just 3/4 of them, it would have been even easier. I had to work a little harder my way, but in the end the crust was rolled out well enough and tasted good to boot, so I'll take it.

So here is the final product, complete with hand-picked apples, homemade crust, and yummy sugary/buttery crumbles on top. We ate it that night with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream. Both Todd and Dylan went for seconds, so it's safe to say that it was a hit!