Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Year in Review

I'm stealing this idea from Laura. Thank you! I feel like I've done so much more when I see it on paper. Many thanks to my Google Calendar records to remind me of everything!

Did some cool pieces at work, including getting to go backstage at the Met Opera, some pieces on new startups and tech stuff that gets me excited, and interviewed some really interested indie directors and the director of one of my favorite franchises, The Hunger Games. I did a couple pieces that I not only pitched, but required 4+ interviews, which challenged me. There was one that I thought I completely blew, where post-Sandy our phones weren’t working properly and I let that distract me and wasn’t properly prepared, but I think that was an aberration that reminded me just how far I’ve come as a reporter.

This was a year of amazing weekend visitors and weekend trips:
My mom visited twice, in March and in November

Laura visited me for the weekend and we had a great time exploring New York together. And we ran and I was sore for three days after.

My friend Norah visited for a weekend, and Eric’s photographer friend. Both showed me different sides of the city.

Went to Vermont in September for a weekend of hiking and fresh air

Went to Hudson, New York, in October, where I fell in love with the charming architecture, croissants, and the totally different modernist antique stores run by gay men and rich women

Went to my five-year college reunion and had a complete blast. I also drank too much, in memory of my life as a college student, and when I tried to get back into my extremely tall dorm bed on tippy-toe in the middle of the night I set off this excruciating calf cramp that lasted through the end of the next day. I have stocked up on bananas (for potassium!) in anticipation of any drinking tonight. I was also so proud of everything my classmates accomplished—not jealous, which actually seems like the more natural reaction. It just seemed like everyone had a lot of great things going on in their life, had changed and grown and were doing things that sounded really exciting. I think  that, at least for those that attended, a lot of those post-college hiccups had already been figured out. I felt inspired being around everyone.

Went to the beach a lot! Eric and I took a weekend trip to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and another time took the ferry up just for the day. We also went to Long Beach in New Jersey, and the Rockaways. Swimming makes me so happy and I’m glad I got to go so much. Especially because who knows what swimming will be like next year.

Cooked lots of amazing dinners with my boyfriend, and threw lots of dinner parties. My favorite I think was Cinco de Mayo, where we did easy Mexican stuff that didn’t stress me out and made awesome margaritas.

Flying here and there
Went to London in February, where I had great food, learned what it was like to travel in the off-season (it gets dark so early!), stayed at the poshest hotel of my life, where our room was cleaned twice a day, and was completely charmed by British cabbies. I also did sightseeing by myself and enjoyed it, though I think I like traveling with someone else best.

Went to Paris, Amsterdam, and Prague. Saw so much, ate so well, and got to visit the place of my ancestors (I’m half Dutch). Amsterdam was my favorite.

Went to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in September for a work trip and spent the weekend in Chicago with my grandparents and dad. Had some great family time.

Attended my friend Jess’ wedding outside Detroit and got to visit the city, in all its half-demolished and resurgent glory. I got to explore abandoned buildings and had time to go to a corn maze and petting zoo, where I held Polish chickens.

Flew home for Christmas, where I reconnected with an old friend and spent time with my oldest one, Laura. I also got my nature fix via a bald eagle rafting trip.

Health, Fitness, and Friendships
Did an o-k amount of yoga. Did some intense, focused pilates that made me want to explore that more. Next year: more exercise!

Lost 7.5 lbs of my 10-lb goal that I made in May, as of this writing. 

Got a tennis permit and played regularly, including with people I met on craigslist (something scary!)

Participated in our CSA for the third year in a row. I finally conquered a few new ways to make kale, made some acquaintances with neighbors, and ate more veggies without really feeling like I did.

Met some cool people and kept up a commitment with the book club

Saw great concerts, including David Byrne, Foster the People, Neil Young, a jazz place in Prague, a couple hole-in-the-wall places in NYC I need to go back to

Saw over fifty movies for my job. I think 65?

Read a few dozen books, I’d hazard

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2013
Change my job situation. Freelance more.

Make an exercise schedule and stick to it. There is too much randomness in the way I exercise.
Eat more vegetables.

Do things that scare me more. I shy away from risk, but whenever I take them, I feel so rewarded. This year that was sightseeing alone, meeting tennis partners on Craigslist, and going to some scary exercise classes. And maybe reaching out to one person for lunch. I can do so much better! I think risk and variety is what is going to make me grow, so I need to put myself in uncomfortable situations. I also need to make sure I follow through on commitments, pursuing things even if the further I go into something, the worse it will be if I am rejected.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Paris, Ce Soir!

I'm going to Paris tonight!! Work is slow and I'm tired. I had really bad insomnia Monday night and maybe halfish of a normal night of sleep last night. I can't help it! I'm so excited and looking forward to my trip, but that has the flip side of making me all nervous and worried about tiny details that are outside of my control. The mercy of planes, trains, subways, and the important little things that can derail a whole experience. Just talking about that is stressing me out!

With E gone, I've been trying to mainline veggies from our CSA (community supported agriculture). I love the CSA (third year running) and this year we're getting lots more stuff. The other day I just ate two plain cucumbers, no nothing on them. Just because they were that delicious. It was a kind of cool feeling.

So here are a couple of successful CSA-inspired recipes (don't get me into my failures, at least just yet.) Try them! (I'm looking at you Laura!)

Awesome better-than-Greek Salad

A mix of red leaf or romaine lettuce with the bitter-y salad greens they give me at the CSA
A small cucumber
Tomatoes if you're oh-so lucky
feta cheese
sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil (used the Trader Joe's brand)
salami, sliced and sliced so it's teeny
basil leaves, chopped

Then, make a homemade salad dressing, because YUCK! the jarred ones are nasty and no one even knows it anymore because we just grow up on them!! One, I cannot stand to eat 25 salads with the same exact dressing, and Two, once you start making your own salad dressing you just can't go back (except maybe to the super-gourmet brands they sell in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods. We like the blue cheese dressing there because it actually has blue cheese in it. We bought the Marie Callendar's one at another store and shit separated and the main ingredient wasn't blue cheese, but canola oil. You get what you pay for.). A year ago our office ordered pizza and salad and I had to throw away my salad because I tried to use one of those dressing packets, and it tasted SO SWEET and nasty. I was proud of my palate for saying no to corn syrup

I make them up, but generally you want 5tbsp of nice olive oil to 2 tbsp of acid (lemon juice, balsamic, apple cider vinegar). You add an emulsifier, like a spoonful of dijon mustard. Then season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, some herbs in the garden, or dried if it's winter, and maybe something sweet like a bit of OJ you have in the fridge or jam or honey or maple syrup. VOILA!

The Greek one had olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, a handful of herbs, and I think I added some worchestershire to give it some oomph because I wasn't feeling it...maybe some white miso paste too? Well goodness I wish I remembered because once I immersion blendered that baby it was super green and awesome. (Another thing, get an immersion blender!)

I'm sick of recipe-writing for now but I also made two summer squash soups. The first I chilled and tasted more raw-y (even though veggies were cooked) and the second I roasted the squash and onions and holy moly that was among the top soups I have ever made. The trick to these two, again, is the immersion blender. It's so much easier to eat your veggies when they're pureed. I think I will be eating lots more veggies if I keep this up!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Notes on London trip

Ok, the last time I posted was ten weeks ago. Time for some updates.

I went to London in February.

The trip was so great. I didn’t expect the city to be as different as it was since Americans came from England, and because we all speak English. But honestly, sometimes I couldn’t even understand what people were saying! Usually that would happen when I would ask what beers they had on tap (they’re not always marked) and they would say all these unintelligible proper nouns over the din of the bar. I would just look at them with this total uncomprehending expression on my face. Then they would give me a sample.

I actually got into drinking beer at a warmer temperatures. And how I loved cider! Cider in America is often really sweet and barely alcoholic at all, so it makes me feel really full, bloated, and sober. The cider in England was stronger, really light and refreshing, and slightly more alcoholic (4-5% I think). It made a difference.

I loved the cabbies! I am so used to half the NYC cabbies having no idea where they’re going, that I am on edge every time I take a cab. On New Year’s Eve I was going home alone and the cabbie missed the exit off the FDR! It was so annoying! Or they just go the only way they know, which is longer, more expensive, and often involves lots of traffic. But the English cabbies have to take the “knowledge,” a test that takes years of studying, and know every single intersection. Even in the age of GPS, this is pretty helpful.

The Tower of London and Westminster Abbey were my favorite attractions. Westminster Abbey was surprisingly secular for a cathedral. They have pavestones dedicated to Isaac Netwon and Charles Darwin, who as I recall were not particularly embraced by most churches at the time. Also, all the kings and queens are buried there, so it feels more political than religious. It’s quite awe-inspiring to see where Queen Elizabeth is resting, Bloody Mary, Mary Queen of Scots, etc. And it’s where Kate Middleton was married. SO topical!

Some people say the Tower of London is really Disney, but it’s actually the real deal. All the towers and castles that I’ve seen up to the point were stealing from the Tower. I guess if I explore Europe more there will be plenty more (possibly more remote) castles to see, but this one is in the center of it all. What’s crazy about it is that there must be ten different styles of architecture. New styles were built onto old styles. It’s the equivalent of adding a split-level house to a classic colonial, then some modern building on top of that. Wow.

I loved the gastropubs. We had the most amazing meals—a “pumkin” soup that tasted so clean and vegetably, not creamy. On the other end, the most buttery “mash” you’ve ever known. Duck salad, leg of lamb, fish of chips with chunky, homemade tartar sauce. And lord, sticky toffee pudding. That stuff was tops.

English people love mushrooms and tomatoes. I ordered steak one night and it came with roasted tomato and the most delicious mushrooms. You get the same two sides with an English breakfast. Mmmm. We went out for Indian one night with E’s co-workers and they ordered mushroom rice as a side. It was just rice with mushrooms mixed in, but exactly my kind of thing. The English have some things figured out!

I feel like I’m a pretty good pedestrian. I can navigate myself all right in the West Village, the most confusing neighborhood in Manhattan. But no. Our skills were no match for London. The first night, we spent an hour and twenty minutes looking for a restaurant in our garden. We knew we were in the general vicinity, but every single road we turned onto was called some version of Onslow Gardens. We asked for directions from a few people, but no one knew where the place (Anglesa Arms) was. We asked this older man, then continued lost. After a moment, he actually chased us down with a copy of “London A to Z” and helped us look up the street. Even then, we saw the road name and some sign that said “opposite,” which we interpreted to mean the wrong thing. So we crossed the street again, and thank goodness we finally found the place and got the only table for two available. We had actually been just half a block from this restaurant! When we looked to turn left, the road was called Onslow Gardens, then it changed its name HALFWAY DOWN THE BLOCK. I wasn’t aware that you could change a road’s name when you are halfway down it. But you can in London!

London’s Tube is so much nicer than the NYC subway, too, though it closes at midnight. That’s a pretty big downside, but it also means they have much more time for maintenance and cleaning. All the trains have countdown clocks, which I am a huge fan of. And when the train is stopped on the tracks, they actually give you specific reasons for why it’s down. Like, someone pulled the emergency brake in the train ahead. We should be moving shortly. So sorry (all done in the most awesome British accent). They apologize for everything! In comparison, we get some computerized announcement or a vague reason. I like the specificity.

E is going back to London next week—so I’ll give him the extra pounds and pence I had left in my wallet.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Best Books of 2011

According to GoodReads, I read FORTY books this year! Woo-hoo. I think that's pretty good for a working girl with no summer and winter vacation--although, that being said, I read a lot more throughout the year now that I don't have hundreds of pages of school reading to do a week.

Some of my favorites

#1 Unbroken. I gave this to my parents for Christmas. I have flashbacks of this book all the time.
#2 Shadow Divers - Scuba divers exploring an extremely dangerous, deep U-Boat wreck off the American coast.
Isaac's Storm - About a devastating hurricane in Galveston, Texas, that the fairly new National Weather service failed to predict.
What the Dog Saw - collection of Malcolm Gladwell essays

Best Fiction
#1 What Alice Forgot - Laura, I know you don't read fiction but you should read this. It's stunning and poignant and brought me to tears several times. And it describes relationships and life stages with such accuracy. If this weren't on such a girly subject it would be winning a lot more awards.
#2 Cutting for Stone - Took awhile to get into and only really got into it the second time I picked it up. But once you're involved, it is amazing. And there are NO other authors writing books like this right now - about Indian doctors working in Ethiopia in the '60s (at first) and the dictators and wars and struggles there. I love medical stuff and to hear a surgeon writing about this stuff not as a dry medical text but as a talented author? With the ability to talk about the emotions of the surgeon (fear, accomplishment, athletic prowess, grief, hope), the details of the operation? The human body described as only someone who has actually been inside the body can? Whoa, whoa, whoa.
The Namesake
The Hunger Games trilogy - LOVE!