July 2013 – A Look Back

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It’s the last day of July and cicadas are beginning their afternoon buzz outside my window. All I can think is, where has my summer gone? It seems like just a week ago I was lamenting the cold and fickle weather that is New England Spring. Now we’ve all retreated to air conditioned interiors and fantasies of cooler days. Fall – I can taste it in the air and see it in the light; there’s a golden glow to the afternoons now – one that means school’s starting soon and cooler days are coming. It’s the lighting and sound of blueberry season – Maine Wilds are coming in and kids are trooping out to fields at 5am. Fog covered fields and the hope that you won’t rake into a bee’s nest, the scent of a squashed spice bug, and the slowing days.

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It’s this time of year that I always want to head home – I want to pick blueberries and walk on the beach. I won’t go back this year – I just don’t have the time but I will sure as hell get my hands on some fresh blueberries and eat fresh berry pie. It’s my favorite, with it’s loosy-goosy set up and spicy perfect summer flavor. I don’t have a recipe for you today – if I had some of my favorite berries I’d probably grace you with a redux of my blueberry pie. It’s the best. No question.

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Instead I’m going to share these pictures of a family filled Fourth of July weekend. I know, I’m lapsed in sharing them but, oh well. We grilled! We went to George’s Island! We were photo bombed (by BF’s dad, but still). And we hung out, because that’s what you do when family is around. You visit.

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Also, this cake. Remember in my last post where I said I was making a crazy train cake? Here it is. Isn’t it remarkable? I worked really hard on it, and I can see the flaws but it makes me insanely happy. More satisfying was seeing the birthday boy glow when he saw it, and then proceed to tell everyone which piece of the train they were going to eat. Me? I wanted the ground the train was on – vegan chocolate cake coated in Walker’s Shortbread and Anna’s Ginger Thins. So.So.Good.

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I do plan on cooking again – and I have at least two salads I need to recreate for you, I just haven’t gotten there yet. I will. I promise.

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One Week in Maine: A Photo Post

Toes in the sand.

Toes in the sand.

Walkway to Herring Cove Provincial Park

Walkway to Herring Cove Provincial Park

My Mom is AWESOME.

My Mom is AWESOME.

Sea Mertensia

Sea Mertensia

My "Fake" Mom and I

My “Fake” Mom and I

Family Fisheries Lobster Roll

Family Fisheries Lobster Roll

Family FIsheries Fish Sandwich

Family FIsheries Fish Sandwich

Draining greek yogurt

Draining greek yogurt

Tide Mill Creamery

Tide Mill Creamery

Lobster Chowder and Tide Mill veggies

Lobster Chowder and Tide Mill veggies

Sandpile play.

Sandpile play.

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When I look back on my childhood it falls somewhere between RObert McCloskey’s “One Morning in Maine” and “Blueberries For Sal”. I know that it isn’t quite true (I didn’t grow up on the water, but I did grow up slightly wild in a large blueberry field). So this past week when I went home to Maine to visit my family and friends I was responsible. And tried to cram in as much Downeast Maine as possible in the five days I was there. There was a whole bunch of visiting. There was a farm (where I went pretty much every day), there was a beach adventure, lobster chowder, playing in a sand pile with a seven year old, collecting chicken and turkey eggs, expanding my mustard collection, and eating decadent chocolate. There was a rogue gosling who kept escaping his pen and helping to settle in chicks (so soft, so yellow, so… cheepy). It was a great visit home to see my family and smell the ocean on the air. The tang of salt and green things that always comes with going home is a joy. So here are some of my favorite shots of the week. Some from my phone, some from my camera; all of home.

What I’m Loving

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I periodically don’t cook or photograph for whatever reason – I’m lazy, the food isn’t attractive, the recipe is just not INTERESTING enough. The usual. This is good though, it makes me think outside of the box in terms of content. This lack of food to post is a great opportunity to tell you about the things I’ loving or obsessed with right now.

Millet: A couple of weeks ago I found a bag of millet my mom gave me and threw it in the rice cooker while I prepped a bunch of other stuff and threw together a quick grain salad. I adored it – the texture was wonderful. It was a really nutty, wonderful change to the brown rice BF and I have been eating recently. I have really been obsessed with my rice cooker recently – it cooks grains perfectly and it is so remarkably simple to use. As an added bonus it doesn’t heat up the house either so I don’t have to stand over a burner in warm weather. This summer expect a few rice and grain recipes to pop up here.

My Melitta Pour-Over Coffee Maker: This little piece of plastic is a dream come true. I’ve been at home in the mornings and for a long time just did tea instead of coffee, but I LOVE coffee. The taste, the texture, the caffeine, so I finally caved a couple weeks ago and grabbed a pour over coffee maker. I am so thankful I did. The brew is delicious and it’s so simple to make coffee in it that I’m back to a cup a day and relishing it.

My Porch: Is there anything as great as sitting on your back porch early in the morning and drinking coffee while you check in on your social media? I thought not. The birds are all loudly awake and kittenish goes absolutely bonkers. I’ve taken to bringing my cat to the porch with me so she gets a little outside time and I don’t have to worry about her taking off. She gets a bit fearless, jumping up onto our porch railing two stories above the ground, but she loves to chase the squirrels out there.

Polar Seltzer: Everyone is talking about Polar’s Summer flavors right now, and they’re amazing. I’ve been drinking them pretty much non-stop since I found them on sale at my local star market. The cucumber-melon made a SUBLIME mojito (with Privateer Rum, no less) and I can’t wait to try more flavors. I also love that Polar beverages are all made locally (the Polar company is over near Worcester). Not a fan of the odd summer flavors? Go for the Ruby Red Grapefruit – it’s fantastic with a bit of gin.

Homemade Iced Tea: Ever since that first warm day in mid April BF and I have had a pitcher of Iced Tea in our fridge. I’ve been using mostly Celestial Seasonings “Zinger” teas for it, they have such a nice full body and no caffeine. All of the zingers mix well too so you can swap out and exchange flavors, this week we have Raspberry-Lemon.

This Swimsuit: My sister got me this for my birthday in April. I’m SO EXCITED to go to the beach in it this summer, and in general, for beach days this summer. I want to go to the beach, play in the sand, read books, and most importantly, play a bit of skeeball.

The Boys Club: This is a great blog that my friend Brian and a few other cocktail obsessed bloggers put together – go here for all of your cocktail needs this summer. With a new post every day they cover everything from glassware to delicious drinks to breaking down what you’re drinking. WONDERFUL.

CTC International: I recently went to a great presentation by the founders of this company and learned a lot. They built s special needs school in Kenya! They donate money to rhino and elephant preservation! They are a non-profit donating to other non-profits. Also, they have butts on their bags. I love that.

Summer Beer: In the summer I pretty much only want to drink light beer or saisons. With their fun fruity flavors saisons are such lovely drinks for this season and I can drink them all day. Currently I’m plotting the takedown of Ommegang’s Hennepin Saison tonight. Saisons also pair well with my porch. Trying to stay local with summer beer is a cinch too – anything out of Jack’s Abbey is worth the time and a nicely chilled Bantam goes a long way towards cooling anyone down on those warm summer eves. For the more creative flavors head to the crew over at Night Shift – from a Habenero to a white stout they’re doing really cool things in beer. And Chris over at Notch makes low ABV beer (around 4%) that is always a light summer refreshment and keeps you upright.

Home

This morning as I write this blog post there are still remnants of police tape scattered around my neighborhood and I’m jumping at small noises. After college when BF and I moved to Watertown we did it for two reasons, 1: my sister lived here and we liked the neighborhood, and 2: we felt SAFE here. We were kids from rural towns moving to Boston to live away from college life and rules and wanted to live somewhere residential. BF and I have lived in the same building for almost five years. This is our home.

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Two nights ago, we felt differently. We woke up in the middle of the night to a muffled boom, and a staccato noise that made no sense. I, in my half-asleep state, told BF “It’s just thunder, listen for a sec, there’ll be more. Go back to bed.” A few minutes later we heard another boom, and we saw a flash of bright light – then a rapid strobe. I, thinking it was a thunderstorm, went back to sleep. BF tried. but then he heard helicopters flying back and forth over our house, and, out of curiosity went to the source of all things knowledge. The internet. He learned there’d been some sort of bomb or grenade thrown and gunfire. At the end of our block. He woke me up and we went and sat in the living room with the TV on. Waiting for news.

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Sometime around 5 am (or so, judging by the time stamp on my FB post) I heard someone on the back stairs. I called to BF and started to cry. He took control, told me to go in the bedroom and hold kittenish. So I did. It was a SWAT team. I could have hugged them from the relief of it being them.

We spent the rest of the day in a tense loop of waiting. Calling family and friends. live tweeting and fb posting the whole experience. At one point our entire house started to shake from helicopter winds, and later another SWAT check of our house. Seeing our normally quiet street crawling with police men and SWAT may have been one of the most scary things I’ve ever gone through. I felt safe, but everything was just too close for comfort.

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Throughout our day we followed the news on Reddit, twitter, and occasionally the news. We tracked the police scanner locations like our lives depended on it (they may have) when things were less than a quarter mile from home we “sheltered” in an inner hallway our apartment has, when they were farther out we were planted on our couch avoiding windows.

Then it was 6pm and Gov. Patrick was lifting the shelter in place for Watertown, he told everyone they could go outside and take advantage of the warm evening for a bit. BF and I went for a nap, we were exhausted. We’d been out of bed and wide awake since 2:30am. We said goodbye to BF’s parents, who had been on Skype with us all day, and tried to take a nap. After a bit I could hear kids playing outside and the sound of the helicopters above lessened. I started to doze. Then it started again. Just as we were falling asleep there was a staccato sound, gunfire, only this time we knew what it was.

We heard the location – about 3/4 of a mile from home and retreated back to the hallway. Where we waited. My family called. BF’s family called. And we all played the waiting game. BF could see the helicopters above the arrest scene through the kitchen windows. It was too close. By the time we felt safe enough to go to bed, when the police ban scanner was broadcasting each agency congratulating each other, we had been awake for 20 hours. All BF and I could do at that point was say thank you to the officers that were here – to those men and women who put in extremely long days even under normal circumstances. To every law enforcement agency and first responder that made our town feel like home again. Thank you.

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Our town, our community, had made it through something truly trying and shown an amazing amount of resilience. On Sunday BF and I took a walk through Mt Auburn Cemetery with its’ gorgeous spring blooms and stopped of at Arax for a dinner stuff. I’ve never seen it so busy. The owners said it had been that way Saturday as well, a steady stream of people that wanted to support their local stores.

I also want to make sure to thank my AMAZING network. Everyone who emailed, facebooked, tweeted, and in general just sent virtual hugs to my scared, anxious self. I appreciated it so much. It helped add a bit of levity to an otherwise overwhelming day.

Guest Post: The Seventh Sphinx talks Ginger

Ginger is such a great flavor. I know many people who are head-over-heels for it.  Next Monday I will be eating my weight in Ginger while I support a good cause: the Joslin Diabetes Center at Spoonful of Ginger – their annual benefit at the MFA to support the Asian-American Diabetes Initiative. I love to help out places like Joslin because Diabetes research is SUCH AN IMPORTANT CAUSE. We all know someone affected by either type 1 or type 2 Diabetes and it’s becoming more of a problem all the time. So go, get a ticket, eat some delicious ginger infused dishes and help Joslin find a cure.

My big sister, who you’ve heard me talk about here in the past, has recently started her own blog, called donatio olfaciendi causa - a lifestyle blog, she writes on style, perfume, makeup, books, and other miscellany. She and I share a very similar palate so when she was talking about writing a post on ginger as a condiment and flavor I suggested she do it as a guest post for me. I love it almost as much as she does! 

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I like ginger a lot.

A relative of turmeric, cardamom and galangal, this spicy rhizome can play for both the sweet and savory sides. Compelling and versatile, it is available in many forms, most of which I have in my life.

Here are some favorite incarnations:

raw: The spice impact is at its best. Peel it with a spoon and then: steep it to make tea, put matchsticks in your stir fry or curry (or salad!), add peelings to mixed drinks…and pretty much anywhere you add garlic, just add ginger, too. Ginger is good for you.

ginger juice: A great way to add a touch of ginger to beverages and soups.

minced ginger: The tough fibers make it kind of difficult to puree ginger yourself, and I find I’m more likely to use it if I have something ready to go. I like the Ginger People brand for being organic and having really powerful spicy flavor across their range, but I’ll take anything I can get.

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pickled ginger: This is the classic sushi accompaniment but I could eat it anytime, anywhere. I maintain that it plays well with any combination of rice and soy, and is a wonderful palette cleanser as well. It’s not too difficult to make yourself, either. The only difficult part is cutting the ginger thin enough, a job for a mandoline.

powdered ginger: Get high quality and it will show in your baking. I like Penzey’s best so far.

[powdered galangal: Galangal is a relative of ginger but more powerful, spicier, entirely distinct. It comes up in Asian cuisine, and is for me associated predominantly with Thai notes. Substitute for ginger sometime and see what happens.]

tea: Great when you’re sick, a good alternative to lemon for a toddy, and just…good. Provided you like ginger. Especially with honey. Straight or blended, I like. Can also be added to certain soup stocks (think ramen, or chicken soup) for a great, diffused flavor.

cookies: There are snaps, of course, which I love, but lately I gravitate toward these Ginger Thins from Trader Joe’s. Dead ringers for Anna’s ginger thins. These are what made me realize what great friends ginger and cheese can be. On a slightly unrelated note, the Coconut Thins are also extremely good.

crystallized: Snack on them or chop them up and put them in cookies.

jam: you know, jam… (mix it with a berry jam to make things in the world of toast more interesting)

lip balm: If you like ginger or mango, this lip balm is the one: Kiss My Face Ginger Mango lip balm 

fragrance: Ginger is, sadly, not the most popular perfume note. I don’t know why, though. It’s spicy and fresh at once, unisex, akin to citrus but more interesting, on account of not being citrus… Have found one I like, this Marc Jacobs Cocktail Splash. Dominant notes of ginger, citrus, and rhubarb (Rhubarb! Really! Go smell it.). Unfortunately only sold in this enormous bottle. I am testing out a lot of other supposed ginger fragrances, some of which have potential, but this is the only one I own so far. Origins also do a ginger line (perfume, lotion, etc), though I say it is too sweet, and not gingery enough. That said, this Paul Mitchell wild ginger line smells just like the Origins ginger perfume, and I am loving it. [Finding great smelling hair products is a bit more difficult, I think, so my standards are lower.]

And of course there is ginger ale, ginger beer, ginger chews, ginger liqueur, ginger essential oil, ginger soap, ginger syrup…

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Look for my follow-up post next week where I’ll share my recipe fro candied ginger! So good!