Friday, March 30, 2012

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. this popsicle.popsicle
{because i was pretty under the weather this week and a box of citrusy popsicles made everything look brighter}.

2. this box of tissues.
{because sometimes you just really need the soft ones}.

3. this park bench.
park bench
{because it's getting to be that time of year when breakfasts and mid-afternoon snacks make more sense outside}.

4. this bag of cookies.
{because we each brought a bagful, and swapped}.

5. this tiny glass.
{because sometimes just a little sip of beer is all i really want. and these cups are perfect for sipping}.

what about you? what little something made your week?

other things:
can't stop thinking about the white dress, second from the bottom.
i'll be making this. very soon.
so nice to see sandra's view of familiar places.
good stuff from the 1914 campfire girls' manual.
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

pizzelle: a story.

pizzelle baker
kitchen aid
pizzelle steam
pizzelle, finished
many pizzelles

james is the baker in our house. 

it's not that i don't like to bake. i enjoy the precision: using the back of a knife to even the drift of flour in a measuring cup, cracking open eggs with one swift thwack that cuts a clean slice down the middle of the shell, scraping a ceramic bowl to practically-clean with a rubber spatula. i like all of that. but baking gets me frazzled. i'm impatient with complicated recipes and always i manage to mix one set of ingredients together before the proper moment. the sink full of dishes once it's all over? i'd by lying if i said it doesn't make me cranky. we all have our demons.

for james though, baking is something entirely different. it's an escape. it doesn't matter the time of day or the pile of things on his to-do list. james never hesitates to pull down the mixing bowls or pop open the lid on our jar of flour. he doesn't worry about the dishes that will fill the sink once he's done or whether he even has all the ingredients he needs on hand. james just dives right in, thinking only about the pleasure of the final product.

the truth is, the apple doesn't fall far. i've watched his mom, andrea, set to work on a chocolate pie at midnight, just to be sure that there'd be something to enjoy the next day at lunch. there's a science to her process, to be sure, but it unfolds so rapidly and with such confidence, i swear it looks more like magic. 

growing up, james always had pizzelle at holidays. crispy, sugary treats pressed with shapes that look like snowflakes or flower petals depending on the season and the way you squint your eyes. last year, james unearthed his grandmother's electric press from his parents' basement. it was caked in grease and looking a bit worse for the wear, but he scrubbed it down and began churning out pizzelle's almost as well as grandma grace. three generations of an italian-american family working out stress through baking.

in preparation for easter, i thought i'd drag out the old press and try my hand at the craft. with the late afternoon sunlight streaming into our apartment, i patiently mixed the ingredients together using the mixer andrea bought when she was first married. i zested an orange and threw that in, too, and when everything was carefully blended, i began to press the pizzelles. they hissed and steamed in grace's press and filled our apartment with the intoxicating smell of vanilla and orange peel. three generations of bakers, and me, trying.

i used this recipe. and i promise, i didn't throw off my apron in despair when the first few came out lopsided and brown. wasn't wearing an apron, afterall.

other things:
carrie's recipe for lemon drop anginetti
a poem from a wise woman

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

homemade café.

ottoman | menu
white flowers
curtain | roses
you already know how i feel about finding the time for a little repose while traveling, but shtoor in bratislava was way too good not to get a special mention. with the tagline, homemade café, this gem of a spot makes all of its own savories and sweets. if you visit, i dare you not to snuggle up into one of its vintage arm chairs. cait and i gulped down perfect cappuccinos and their buttery pastries had us licking our fingers and wanting more. and no, we did not pass up the opportunity to grab a few tarts for the road. traveler's delight.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

central europe: part III.

view from bratislava castle bratislavský hrad
Hviezdoslavovo Square
fountain in hviezdoslavovo square | view down a side street, bratislava
boat on the danube, bratislava
Slovenská filharmónia
slovak philharmonic | slovenská filharmónia, bratislava
Múzeum mesta Bratislavy
bratislava city museum | múzeum mesta bratislavy

during our night-long stay in bratislava, cait and i were lucky enough to have a tour-guide in reading my tea leaves-reader and bratislava-native, radana. she made an otherwise gray day a pure delight by showing us the ins and outs of her hometown. after hiking our way up to bratislavský hrad, we worked out way back to ground level and feasted on bryndzove halusky, potato dumplings smothered in sheep's milk cheese and served up with a side of zincica, fermented sheep's milk! after dinner we ducked into the incredibly cute, cafe verne, for a glass of wine and storytelling. it was just what we needed. 

 and the next day? we hopped on the train to budapest.
széchenyi chain bridge over the danube lánchíd
Széchenyi Chain Bridge: Lánchíd
széchenyi chain bridge lánchíd
budapest sweets
sweet treats for sale in buda
Budapest Castle Hill: Funicular Budavári Sikló
budapest castle hill funicular budavári sikló
Buda Castle_Budavári Palota
lamp at budavári palota
Matthias Church: Mátyás-templom
matthias church mátyás-templom | lollipops
matthias church
matthias church mátyás-templom

budapest was the whirlwindiest of the trips we made. we arrived in the late afternoon and ate a nourishing meal of garlic soup and yes, more dumplings, at menza. the next morning found us strolling down the beautiful andrássy way and across the széchenyi chain bridge to buda. we skipped the funicular and hiked up the hill instead--worth it both for listening to buskers along the way and for taking in breathtaking views of the city. march 15 is a national holiday in hungary and it seemed like the whole city was out enjoying the sunshine with us!

tomorrow, a recap post about our favorite cafe in bratislava and then you'll have seen it all! 

other things:
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Monday, March 26, 2012


in the springtime, i don't think there's a better housewarming gesture than a freshly plucked handful of daffodils stuck into a glass jar. it's simple and understated (but wildly cheerful) and it says all sorts of nice things about sharing. doesn't matter how ubiquitous the yellow trumpets are, the act of snipping them from your yard and arranging them thoughtfully for someone else's table is sweet indeed. 

these guys may have been plucked from our local bodega and not from our yard, but they did the trick this weekend, brought to brighten up a sister's new apartment. 

other things: 
daffodils, a year ago.
daffodils, the year before that
i'd like to play cards with these.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. this czech postcard.
czech postcard
{because i'm fairly certain it's all about flower language. and that's a sweet thing}.

2. this pile of tickets.
train tickets
{because a good pile of leftover tickets is such a nice reminder of all the places you've been}.

3. these gummy pandas.
gummy pandas
{because ever since i saw czech boys gobbling gummies on the train to vienna, i haven't been able to stop thinking about them. these ones are awesome. apricot green tea}.

4. these trees.
{because stinky though they are, i love the white powder puffs on these bradford pears}.

5. this pile of old shoes.
{because they're springtime shoes, and this week, i was ready for them}.

what little something made your week?

other things:
i thought 250 square feet was small.
this necklace and these t-shirts. all spring long. please.
i'll admit, wooden wedges are intriguing.
take this quiz on food freshness and subzero will donate $1 to really good cause.
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Thursday, March 22, 2012


on the kind of whirlwind trip that my sister cait and i were just on, there can put a lot of pressure to see everything. many travelers pay no attention to the impossibility of the task before them and before even stepping off the train in a new city they're strategizing the fastest route from one cathedral to the next. the soles of their feet already ache from pounding cobble stones in the last city, but they're at it again, elbowing their way through crowds to make sure they've gotten close enough, at least, to the fresco to have it count

i get it. i've done this. but there's something to be said for taking a moment to soak in the rhythm of a place in a different kind of way.

cafe sperl in vienna has been offering tourists and locals a welcome respite from sightseeing since 1880.  it would be disingenuous to claim that a stop in the cafe is not a tourist destination in and of itself. it is. but to linger guilt-free over a plate of chocolate cake, to not worry that in stopping to pause for a warm drink you might be missing your one and only opportunity to see klimt in austria*, that's the real treat. when i taught in france, my fellow teachers and i would take mid-morning coffee breaks--pause-café--and i'm a fan of using the same practice while traveling. Sit for a moment, rest your weary feet, and delight in the golden hues and velveteen benches of a cafe in another city. 

*call me a philistine if you will, but that cake was delicious.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

spinat-schafskäse knödel

or, spinach-feta dumplingspain de mie, cubes
pain de mie | or any day-old sliced white bread
onions and garlic
cipollini onion | garlic
spinach, bread, eggs, milk, garlic, onions
bread | milk | garlic & onions | eggs | spinach
plus feta
dumpling knödel

when i began this recipe, i was afraid that this hearty meal would feel incongruous with all the warm weather we've been having in new york. but as i began to mix the ingredients, folding golden eggs into just-warm spinach, i decided it was the perfect dish to welcome in spring. we're not yet in strawberry season, after all.

these austrian dumplings were my favorite thing i ate on my trip last week. i ordered them from the adorably bashful server at fruhstuckssalon augustin in vienna and i've been thinking of them ever since.

i cobbled together a recipe from a combination of translated websites and personal taste and i'm hoping i've approximated the measurements correctly. the good news is, the beauty of the dish seems to be in its simplicity. limited precision necessary.

1 cipollini onion
1 clove garlic (or more to taste)6-8 slices pain de mie (i got mine from our local bakery, but any day-old white loaf will do)
1 package frozen spinach - about 10 ounces (you can use fresh, too. just remember you'll need a lot)
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs
7 ounces (roughly) feta cheese
butter, for melting
grana padano cheese, for grating

1. remove crusts and cube 6-8 slices white bread
2. in a heavy skillet melt a pad of butter and saute diced garlic and onion until golden.
3. add defrosted and drained spinach to skillet, pour in one cup of milk and heat until just warm
4. pour spinach and milk mixture over cubed bread in a large bowl
5. stir in 3 eggs and breadcrumbs. let sit for at least 10 minutes.
6. add feta cheese to mixture. season with salt and pepper.
7. once mixed, shape evenly sized dumplings with slightly wet hands. add more breadcrumbs if dumplings don't form easily.
8. bring a pot of salted water to boil. lower the temp so water is barely boiling and place dumplings into pot. expect some errant pieces to loosen themselves from the dumplings. don't panic: a floating spinach leaf or two never hurt anyone. dumplings are ready when they float to the top.
9. remove from pot and serve with a spoonful of brown butter and a shaving or two of grana padano.
10. enjoy.

postcript: tiny blue bowl by asya. more here.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

central europe: part II.

donnerbrunnen fountain_Peterskirche
st. peter's church peterskirche donnerbrunnen fountain
museumsplatz | cait, navigating

naschmarkt awnings | tulips

golden vienna
golden vienna
museumsplatz lamp posts | advertisements
stephansdom stephansplatz 

*the tram: hop on and take a quick and dirty tour of the city. we needed a break after all the racing we did around prague, and the tram was a welcome respite from the walking.
*naschmart: definitely a spot where even a working-knowledge of german would have been helpful, but gawking at flowers and sweet treats was more than possible regardless of linguistic prowess.

*chocolate: mostly we ate through our austrian chocolate while hungry on trains to other places, but it was certainly a highlight of the trip.
where we ate:
gasthaus pöschl: we read about this place in the new york times 36 hours piece on vienna and it did not disappoint. as a result, cait and i are on a quest to find the pumpkin seed oil used in one of the most glorious salad dressings either of us has ever had.
fruhstuckssalon augustin: this is exactly the sort of spot you want to stumble upon when traveling. tucked away from touristy crowds, it is 100% charming. they have a large selection of traditional austrian dishes served up vegetarian-style. spray roses on every table, stained glass windows, and moody black woodwork, this was my very favorite spot of the trip.
cafe sperl: more on this, later.
where we stayed:
hotel stadthalle: our room looked a tad like something out of snow white and the seven dwarfs and our internet was shaky, but the friendliness and knowledgeability of the staff more than made up for it. also: they're certified eco-friendly and they grow lavender on their roof. what's not to love?
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