Friday, November 30, 2012

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. these clippings.clippings
{because they were given to me by the kind christmas tree vendor down the road and because they smell delicious}.

2. this bag.
{because it's filled with this year's little pressie of choice: a little something to have on hand when someone you know needs some cheering. more soon}.

3. this combo.
{because i'm not always into it, but when i am, i am. yogurt and granola}.

4. this light.
{because it was the source of the ultimate tiny apartment joke: "my tiny apartment is so small, i have to unscrew every other christmas light to keep from going blind." true story}.

5. this jewel-toned jar.
{because yesterday james and i took a class on making bitters. i've got my sights on cardamom. watch out}.

other things:
apple trees in the city.
stocking stuffers.
everything. too pretty for words.
fall photos.
scent of the week.

what about you? what little something made your week?

ps. winner of the giveaway announced, here!

You have read this article life / my week in objects with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Thursday, November 29, 2012

kinfolk: morsels we keep after the meal

If you frequent the internet--and your presence here means you do--you've no doubt stumbled across the beautiful Kinfolk Magazine. Its covers make for irresistible photo ops and with the release of each new addition, I promise you, my Instragram photostream becomes one long queue of photos featuring the magazine paired with cups of tea and stockinged feet. It's the kind of magazine you want to dive into, and the urge to document the enjoyment of it is too tempting to avoid. The fact that the magazine has become so ubiquitous is a testament to its charm and I am so pleased to share news that I have a story in the latest volume. In the special holiday edition, I share a piece about the importance of listening to family stories. My essay is paired with Lisa Waringer's beautiful photograph of Grace, grandmother to Chelsea Fuss

Here, a few photographs of my own family who I write about in the essay. I'll be sharing family snapshots today on Instagram, if you'd like to follow along.kinfolk6530
Grace in Brooklyn, 1915. Age 17.
Ruth (center) at medical school in Dallas, Texas, 1925. Aged 24.
Above: Ruth, second from left, Bill and Grace on the far right, Morrisville, Vermont, 1973.  Below: Grace, second from the left, Bill and Ruth, Mildred and Paul, Richmond Hill, Queens, 1994. 

You can purchase of a copy of volume 6, here. I hope you do.
You have read this article articles / elsewhere / family / kinfolk with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Wednesday, November 28, 2012

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Deck your halls. But more specifically, deck your door.

I admit, this is a teaser. I've got a whole slew of wintry things that I've whipped together to get this tiny apartment winter-ready, but for now you only get this one shot, captured in the half-glow of fluorescent light from my building's hallway. Such is life.

Let me start by saying that I'm a firm believer in decking the proverbial halls. Regardless of creed, habit, or general attitude about merry-making, if ever there was a time to buckle down and get jolly, it's in the dark month between Thanksgiving and the winter solstice. Hanging a little wintry something from your front door acts as a symbol to your neighbors. A wreath or a posy of winterberries says what you might not be able to:

"We'll get through this together: you, me, and the holly berries."

Honestly. The night seems to fall as quickly as the day begins lately, and if you're anything like me, you're putting your pajamas back on mere hours after you've taken them off.  Hanging something on your apartment door offers a glimmer of hope on dark days. If you're feeling cheeky, make it some mistletoe. Kisses help everything.
You have read this article deck the halls / decorations / holidays / home / life in a tiny apartment with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

bridge & burn: a castle jacket giveaway

Over the long weekend, James and I enjoyed daily walks along the beach in my hometown. I don't think I'll ever tire of the way the wintertime sun shines golden on the marsh grass and sun-bleached driftwood. More importantly, these walks were the perfect antidote to all the lazing around we did in front of the fireplace. On this particular weekend, I had the good fortune of sporting the castle jacket from one of my sponsors, Portland, Oregon-based Bridge & Burn. I don't often wax poetic about clothes, but this jacket is pretty much perfect. It comes with a hood and pouch pockets to make it a proper fit for adventuring, but it's sleek enough to wear in the city without feeling frumpy. The cheery red striped lining means that I could layer on a sweater without things getting all bunched up. Maybe best of all, there's plenty of room to fill two pockets with slipper shells and still have a spot to keep my hands warm. 
Bridge & Burn has been kind enough to offer my fellow tea leaf readers an opportunity to win a castle jacket for adventures of your very own. For a chance to win, hop over to the Bridge & Burn site to scope out the goods and leave a comment back here, complete with contact information and a description of the kind of adventure you'd take with the castle jacket.* If you're hankering for a little extra Bridge & Burn inspiration, follow their pinterest boards for a daily dose.
*Due to shipping costs, the giveaway is available to readers in the US and Canada, only. The giveaway will close on Thursday evening at 5:00 pm and a randomly selected winner will be announced on Friday. Good luck and thanks for reading!

UPDATE: Elissa is the lucky winner! Thanks so much to everyone for playing along and for sharing such grand adventuring plans!

Photos by James Casey, my husband.
You have read this article adventure / bridge and burn / castle jacket / giveaway with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Monday, November 26, 2012

a weekend away.

Long walks on the beach. Raucous board games. A high school reunion. More stuffing than I thought was possible. It was a good weekend no matter how you look at it and I was glad to have instagram and vsco to help document it when I couldn't bear to lug around a real camera. I'm back in the city now with a bagful of country things to decorate the apartment. We're gearing up for a month full of merry in this tiny apartment.

Since I didn't post on Friday, some other things:
a new-to-me shop.
for train snacks.
i'd take three
You have read this article life with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Wednesday, November 21, 2012

thankful for pumpkin bread and you.

Here, a virtual loaf of pumpkin bread with chocolate chips and a recipe in case you want to make the real thing.

But more than that,  a note to say thank you. Last February when I left my position at the farm to work independently, it felt sort of like flopping off the side of a cliff. Exhilarating and terrifying all at once. I'm still figuring things out and I'm not sure what the future of this space or my career will look like, but I'm awfully grateful to have all of you reading my tea leaves along with me. Your coming back to this space day after day has been incredibly uplifting, even in this year's most difficult moments.

I'm also incredibly thankful for the sponsors helping to support this space and for the good people who have given me opportunities to write and take photographs. Being surrounded by a community of people who value hard work is the only thing that allows for any of this to happen.

Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
{As always, I winged the spices. A little of this, a little of that, enough nutmeg until I didn't want to grate anymore}.
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups pumpkin*
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar (the originally recipe called for 3. I used two and thought it was great)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
As many chocolate chips as you'd like

*Details on roasting your own pumpkin, here.

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two loaf pans (9x5x3), dust with flour
2. Whisk flour, spices, baking soda, and salt
3. In another bowl, whisk pumpkin and oil until combined. Add sugar and whisk again, follow with eggs, whisked one at a time. Add vanilla. (The original recipe calls for adding 2/3 cup room temp water at this stage. I didn't). Add chocolate chips.
4. Fold dry ingredients into the wet. Try not to overmix.
5. Bake in the center of the oven, for an hour and 15 minutes, or so. A toothpick will come out clean, when done!
6. Cool on racks for 15 minutes, dump out of your pans and gobble.

Other Thanksgiving-y posts:
Cranberry Bread
Cranberry Harvest
Pumpkin Pie
Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash
Butternut Squash, roasted and mashed
Mulling Spices
Boiled Apple Cider Syrup
Apple and Onion Hand Pies
A Thanksgiving Outfit
Thanksgiving in France (we were so young. so was this blog).
You have read this article pumpkin bread / thank you / thanksgiving with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Baking supplies.

This is more of a list than a tip. In addition to questions about how many people we can squeeze within these four walls, I get asked about the stuff that we manage to cram in here. Now that it's the season of pies and cookies and cakes, the questions have started to be about baking in particular. Everything we own in the baking department isn't pictured above, but I've written it all down below to give you an idea of our arsenal. The list could certainly be pared down, but we've found everything here to be more or less useful.* Here, an annotated list:

1. kitchen aid mixer: vintage. yellow. never leaving our side.
2. sieve: we broke the handle off our old one. this one is nicer and pretty, too.
3. mixing bowls: multiple sets. we love them, so they stay.
4. whisk: the handle on this puppy throws it off balance, but the rubber means it doesn't scratch.
5. wooden spoon: for mixing, serving, sipping.
6. rubber spatula: classic. simple. functional.
7. cast iron skillet: good for corn bread, biscuits, and just 'bout everything else. {wish we had a lid}.
6. measuring cups (wet and dry): i really want a vintage three spout measuring cup. one sweet day.
7. measuring spoons: james constantly removes these spoons from their ring. drives me bonkers. otherwise, great.
8. baking sheet: a real workhorse. we use it for everything from roasting veggies to making cookies.
9. baking dish: if you ever want brownies, you need something like this (the baking sheet covers most other bases).
10. tart pan: we have a ceramic pan. it's pretty, doesn't take up much room, and we use it near weekly.
11. pie plate: green. from my mama. could make a pie in a tart pan, but it'd be awfully tiny.
11. hand mixer: entirely superfluous now that we have big bertha up there. but we bought it, so it stays.
12. rolling pin: james loves our rolling pin. i can never seem to roll an even crust with it. marriage. compromises.
13. pastry cloth: cheapest, most awesome thing ever. makes rolling out crust (and cleaning up after it) so.much.easier.

*I did my best to include links for the curious among us. In some cases I wasn't able to find the exact product, so there are approximations included instead.
You have read this article home / life in a tiny apartment with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Borrowed: Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash

acorn squash
I generally consider myself an impartial vegetable lover. Lima beans? Brussels sprouts? I'll eat them with gusto. (We'll talk some other time about mustard greens). But if there's one wintertime vegetable that I've never really warmed to, it's the acorn squash. It's beautiful to look at, but it always strikes me as being awfully sweet. When James came home from working the market on Saturday carrying two good-sized acorn squash, I can't say that I was incredibly enthusiastic.  scallions and eggs
Puzzlingly, many of the recipes that I see for acorn squash call for an addition of brown sugar or maple syrup. If I'm eating something sweet, the last thing I want to add is anything sweeter. I was beginning to  grumble when I decided to turn to my tried and true site for moments when I'm feeling like my dinner choice is looking a little...mehHeidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks always manages to offer a little twist that I wouldn't have thought of on my own. Unsurprisingly, her recipe for roasted corn pudding in acorn squash was exactly what I needed to give this winter veg a second (maybe a twentieth?) try. In the great tradition of sharing recipes, Heidi's recipe is borrowed from Karen Hubert Allison's The Vegetarian Compass. You can read more about both women and get the recipe for this squash on Heidi's blog.
corn and scallions
I followed the recipe pretty nearly, except that I used frozen corn (from these guys) which I ran under warmish water to thaw.
Instead of using just anise, I ground up a tablespoon of this fennel citrus blend from The Girl and the Fig and added that instead: a combination of fennel seed, lemon peel, anise, lavender, sea salt, and thyme along with something that looks an awful lot like dried scallions.
fennel citrus blend by the girl & the fig
The corn pudding was light and delicious and the smells of the scallions roasting away were enough to make this recipe a success no matter how I look at it. Like, Heidi, I had more filling than I needed and was able to fill both acorn squash with just one recipe's worth of corn pudding.
corn pudding batter
For the wobbly halves in the bunch, I shaved a small bit off the bottom to make them more stable. If you're as messy in the kitchen as I am, consider adding a piece of parchment paper to your cooking sheet. Having it there would have made clean-up much easier.
acorn squash
The finished product was delicious and delightful. Melted cheddar cheese and scallions sprinkled on top helped to cut back on the sweetness of the squash. Admittedly, no matter what you do to it, acorn squash will still be sweet, but this recipe offers an unexpected and delicious alternative to the maple glazes I've been stumbling upon. If you're still looking for a Thanksgiving side, you might consider this one.
roasted corn pudding in acorn squash
Find the full recipe here.
You have read this article food / roasted corn pudding in acorn squash / thanksgiving with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Monday, November 19, 2012

giving: boiled apple cider syrup

apple cider - reading my tea leavesDuring the holidays, and always, it's nice to arrive to a place you've been invited to with a little something extra for your host. It should be known that I don't always manage to follow my own advice with this one, but I do try, I promise. It should also be known that I refuse to call these little tokens hostess gifts. The name is so old-fashioned that it should be scratched right out of Webster's. You have my permission to deface your dictionary.
apple cider - reading my tea leaves
This gift takes a little more planning and time than the mulling spices that I put together last year, but the result is delicious and inspired, and dare I say, better. Reserve this one for someone really special.
boiled apple cider syrup - reading my tea leaves
The concept behind boiled apple cider syrup is about as simple as it sounds. Boil your apple cider down until it becomes thick and syrupy. You'll need a few solid hours at home to make a batch, but the good news is that the simmering cider can be left largely unattended. If you put on a pot when you return home from work in the evening, it should be ready by the time you head off to bed, with only a few stirs in between.
boiled apple cider syrup - reading my tea leaves
Once my cider had thickened to syrup, I strained it through a sieve to trap any solid pieces. A tiny funnel helped me to fill a small glass bottle that I'd sterilized in a pot of boiling water.
boiled apple cider syrup - reading my tea leaves
Aside from the robust taste, the best part about this gift (in the eyes of this history-lover at least) is boiled apple cider syrup's place in the annals of history. Emily Horton's piece on the subject is a delightful and quick read. Make this and you'll have done your part to revive a classic American culinary tradition (go Pats)!
boiled apple cider syrup - reading my tea leaves
Once you've bottled your syrup, make a little tag for your bottle and tie it up with a bit of ribbon and a cinnamon stick for merry-making. Encourage your friends to drizzle this tart syrup into sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts, pie crust and hot toddies.
boiled apple cider syrup - reading my tea leaves
The stuff's so good that if you have a large enough pot, you might consider boiling down a whole gallon and keeping some for yourself. Kept refrigerated, the syrup could last until next Thanksgiving. I have a hunch it'll be polished off long before that.
boiled apple cider syrup - reading my tea leaves

Boiled Apple Cider Syrup
Recipe adapted from this one in the Washington Post.

1 1/2 gallon apple cider

1. Pour apple cider into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring the cider to boil, stirring occasionally.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for 2-3 hours or until it has reduced to about 1 cup. Don't fear: it will take a long time for the cider to turn syrupy. I was convinced mine would just disappear rather than thicken, until finally, thicken it did. Persevere!

3. Once cider has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, pour through a sieve to strain any solid bits. (The original recipe didn't mention this step, but I had lots of little floating bits in mine and wanted them out)! Transfer syrup to a sterilized jar. Syrup is ready to use right away and will store indefinitely if refrigerated.

You have read this article apple cider / boiled apple cider syrup / food / projects / thanksgiving with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Friday, November 16, 2012

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. these leaves.
bathroom plant
{for catching the morning light, just so}.

2. my neighbor's crabapple tree.crabapple{for making it look kind of like summer in fall}.

3. this little parchment packet.parchment paper garlic packet for roasting{for roasting up so much delicious garlic. it's a love affair at this stage}. {update: details here}.

4. this hat.hat{for keeping me warm on morning walks}.

5. these stamps.stamps{because they might be terribly tiny, but they always get it right}.

other things:

this is an excellent idea.
i need more winter goals.
bunny hats!
i want to dress like this pretty lady.
a thanksgiving-erator.
this pine cone.
You have read this article life / my week in objects with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Thursday, November 15, 2012

make-believe: thanksgiving outfit.

Thanksgiving is such a good holiday. No presents, but hefty portions of good food and good cheer. I'm a big-time fan. This year I'm a little sad that we'll be missing my two younger sisters who will be celebrating down in Asheville, but I'm glad to be headed to my mom and dad's in Connecticut for some proper feasting. If I wasn't already resigned to wearing the same ol' thing as last year, I'd like to sport these goodies, please and thank you. An apron would be especially handy for all the butternut squash and pumpkin pie I plan to gobble make. What about you guys? What will you be whipping up for the big day?
You have read this article make-believe / thanksgiving / thanksgiving outfit with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment

Set your table for two.

I get a lot of questions about dinner guests in this tiny apartment. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we're hurtling toward that time of year when invitations to people's homes for dinner come fast and furious. I am not complaining. I love this time of year. I wish it lasted straight on through February. Anything to get me through winter.

Enthusiasm for dinner parties aside, dinner guests in our tiny apartment is tricky. It has mostly to do with the lack of counter space and my fear of a sink overflowing its dirty dishes directly onto our guests.

It's not that we've never had people over for dinner, but we've always ordered in sushi, or picked up a pizza. Anything that doesn't require the kitchen table to serve simultaneously as prep station and serving board. There's nothing wrong with those nights, but sometimes it's nice to host something where you actually serve something you've made. I think that instead of trying to have guests for a sit-down dinner, we need to stick to appetizer-y kinds of gatherings where guests can mostly stand. If they're New Yorkers, I'm hoping rush hour subway rides will have at least partially prepared the company (all two of them) for the squeeze.

For seated dinners, I think we'll stick to just the two of us. We have all sorts of lovely table trimmings that need more attention. When your best friend lives in India, you become the proud owner of very beautiful hand-blocked textiles. It's not a rule or anything, but in my case it happens to be true. Only two placemats fit on our table at once and really, it's better this way.  It wouldn't be very polite to ask our guests to please refrain from spilling their food.
You have read this article dinner guests / home / life in a tiny apartment with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Tuesday, November 13, 2012

butternut squash: roasted and mashed

whole butternut squash
If you've been reading these tea leaves for awhile, you might recall that there's a somewhat unusual allergy in our house. James is allergic to potatoes.

Yes, that means no french fries. Yes, it means haranguing waiters about the presence of potato starch in soups. Yes, it means realizing that just about every restaurant in Brooklyn uses potato rolls for their burgers. But perhaps most painfully, it means no potatoes at Thanksgiving.


But before you send letters of sympathy and posies to console me, let me present a potato-less Thanksgiving side dish that actually does not disappoint. If you're one of the .0002% (according to my calculations) of the population that can't eat potatoes, consider this your savior. A potato alternative so good that no one at Thanksgiving dinner will miss the buttery fluff they're used to (or at least they'll abstain from telling you). If you can eat potatoes, consider making this anyway. Tonight.

Like most things I cook, this is a bare-bones, no-nonsense, add-come-heavy-cream-and-call-it-a-day recipe. It's the kind of dish that you start while the sun is still in the sky and by the time you've finished it's already gone. It's not because it takes so very long, but because at this time of year the hours just work that way. Dinner is prepared after dark. Think of this as your bright spot once the sun goes down.
roasted garlic
roasted butternut squash
mashed butternut squash with roasted garlic and cream
Roasted & Mashed Butternut Squash with Garlic & Cream:

1 large butternut squash (or more, depending on the crowd)
1 head garlic
a half cup (or so) cream, to taste
sea salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
olive oil, a drizzle or three

You could make this something much more sophisticated, but the easy version is so tasty that you'll be tempted not to.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Cut your squash length-wise down the center. Scoop out the seeds. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on a baking pan, and place the seedless-squash face down on the pan.*

3.  Cut the very top off of your head of garlic and discard. If you're using a hard-necked variety you might have to use some force to get through the stem. If there's a thick papery layer around the garlic head, remove the outermost layer of skin but be sure to leave enough so that the whole head remains intact. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in a piece of parchment paper. Place packet next to the squash and put the whole baking dish in the hot oven. Let roast for roughly one hour.

4.  When squash and garlic are both soft, remove baking sheet from oven. Using a spoon, scoop softened squash out of its skin and into a medium bowl (be careful not to burn your fingers). Add roasted garlic to the squash--with a little pinch, the cloves should easily slip out of their papery shells.

5. I use a pastry cutter to mash the cloves and squash together. If you have an immersion blender, you could give that a go, too. Add salt, pepper, and cream to taste.

6. Enjoy. {If you're in the mood for a simple dinner, sauté some greens to have on the side and enjoy your purée with a hunk of bread and strong cheese}.

*Strangely enough, handling raw, peeled butternut squash actually gives both me and James a slight allergic reaction, Unlike being allergic to potatoes, this allergy is fairly common. Read more about it here, and avoid the whole mess by only making a single slice down the center of your squash before it's cooked (there's no need to cut the squash into cubes)! I hardly touched the stuff and avoided a reaction this time.
You have read this article butternut squash / food / thanksgiving with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Monday, November 12, 2012

birthday brunch.

We celebrated a birthday brunch on Sunday for my James and my mama. There were sweet buckwheat pancakes and a savory chard tart and just the right amount of coffee and cupcakes to finish things off. Birthdays are the best days, especially when they last all week long.
You have read this article family / food / life with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!