Sprint to the finish

Well, it’s October and, as always this time of year, I’m wondering where the heck the year went!  I’m excited for the apple picking, turkey eating and latke making that is about to descend on us, but I’m looking back at those ambitious reading and bucket lists that I created at the end of 2015 and realizing that I have some work to do before the end of the year.

I knocked off about a third of my list, actively defied a few, and have 13 left.  Mission not yet accomplished, but in the midst of a year that had me on the road at least every other week and still managed to spend some serious time with friends and family, I’m feeling pretty good about 2016 so far.

I’m feeling ambitious.  Let’s see how I do…

What’s left…

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  1. MOMA PS1
  2. Mission Chinese
  3. Rockclimbing
  4. Bike all five boroughs
  5. Take a Soulcycle class
  6. Run a 10K
  7. Take an Indian cooking class
  8. Make homemade Gnocci
  9. Make Tamales
  10. Make Tagine
  11. Make Beignets
  12. Learn to sew
  13. Learn to crochet

Success!

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  1. Met Opera
  2. 9/11 Memorial
  3. Momufuku
  4. Write twice a week
  5. Stay in crow pose for more than 2 seconds
  6. Walk across the Manhattan bridge (with earplugs)
  7. Build a Gingerbread house [Well, not a house, a man.  A Brooklyn man complete with man-bun to be exact].
  8. Read 24 fiction books [On the way with 11 so far…]

And not…

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  1. Grow tomatoes (take that Brooklyn!) [Brooklyn took me.  I barely kept my basil alive this year with all my travel over the summer. Next year maybe on OUR NEW DECK]
  2. Buy a lifetime supply of cloth napkins and ban paper towels [I definitely just screamed across the house this morning that we need to subscribe to paper products on Amazon because…life.]

  3. US Open [If anyone wants to pay $700 to take me next year, I’m in]

Scenes from the E train

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One of most frequent questions I get about this blog is “Who is the Holly and who is the Folly?” It is usually accompanied with a little smile because everyone seems to assume that I’m the folly. Humph.  That’s not necessarily true. However considering the inspiration that Danielle’s latest post, SCENES FROM MAISON KAYSER, provided seems to point in that direction.

Last Friday I met up with some old coworkers. We had a really fun time. I tried to finally forgive them for moving on and getting fun new jobs and also making me come to east side. Wine helped with the forgiveness process.  Happy hour was long over by the time we left the bar but that was when the real adventure began.

It all started on the E train around 1ish AM. The first encounter was with a middle aged woman, who was definitely on something hopefully wine, trying very unsuccessfully to make it down the escalator alone. To her defense it was an unusually long and steep escalator. My coworkers were a little scared. The normal protocol for drunk strangers is a solid ten foot radius but in the spirit of we’ve all been there I offered her my help, linked arms and somehow made it down the stairs.  When she started to ask for help getting to NJ that was when I started to get scared.  I had to point her in the right direction and hope for the best, the escalator was all the help I was willing to offer.

Once I split from my friends I was on the platform waiting patiently when I started to eavesdrop on the couple next to me.  NYC is the best city to people watch hands down.  One of my favorite people watching game is trying to decide whether it is a first date or not.  Major flirting was happening but no touching. I was choosing between first and second date when out of nowhere she dropped the boyfriend line in the middle of the conversation.  Another we’ve all been there moment.  Poor kid.

The train finally came and I realized how amused I was and started thinking about everything that I’ve seen on the subway in the past years.  Once I saw a girl faint and completely face plant on the platform, I saw a guy with a huge tree branch that he refused to take off a seat, a kind stranger informed me of a “medical incident” and told me that I might want to pick another seat, baby carriages filled with everything but a baby.   It was only three quick stops to Hell’s Kitchen.  I put on my headphones and power walked home to the new Fitz and the Tantrum’s “Hand Clap”.   All in all Friday was a quiet NYC subway ride.

&t

Scenes from Maison Kayser

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Yesterday, my conference ended mid-afternoon and I had a couple of hours to kill (read: work) before my dinner plans.  I headed down to the West Village, which is one of the most charming neighborhoods in NYC, and found Maison Kayser.  MK is one of my favorite NYC mini-chains.  An adorable little French Bistro, it was the perfect non-Starbucks option for a few hours of typing away.

All the waiters are French, the menu is traditional Parisian fare, and it has an amazing little boulanger in the front to grab something yummy for later on your way out.

I ordered a Quiche Lorraine and a Vanilla Roobios tea, and started responding to the backlog of email that had built up after being out of the office for the past three days.  In between emails, I took in some good people watching and listening.

Behind me were two female friends, debating everything from refugees, to politics, to fashion.  They were cursing at high volume for about two hours straight.

  • “I do think there are f*ing smart people in the world, I just don’t think Bernie Sanders is one of them.”
  • “I look at my neighbor with four kids and I’m like ‘What the f**k are you doing living in the West Village?!”
  • “I thought this tea would taste like s**t, but it’s f**ing delicious.”

Entertaining.

Next to me was a group of editors of some fashion rag, all polished with bright red lipstick and tight black buns.  It was like a scene out of Devil Wears Prada.  They were discussing their salaries and how they deserved to be making more money because they totally brought back flannel.  It made me want to sell out for just a minute.

In front of me were two tech-start up guys with laptops open in front of them.  They didn’t speak to each other, except to argue back and forth a bit out loud about a conversation they were clearly having with each other through email or chat on their laptops.

Then there was my waiter, who ended his shift and went to change in the bathroom and came out in drag to head out to his evening plans.  Amazing.

I love this town.

&d

International Day of Happiness!

Lucy Ethal in kitchen dancing

In 2012, the United Nations established March 20th as the International Day of Happiness as a catalyst for people to try to create a happier world for themselves and for others.  Bhutan has embraced the idea and developed a Gross National Happiness metric that’s looked at alongside GDP as a way to measure a country’s economic success.  We dig it, and are hoping that other countries will follow suit.  In the meantime, we’re spending today taking this concept seriously and thinking about a few of our joy-inducing tricks.  

Kitchen dancing:  We did a lot of hosting this weekend, and in the middle of the inevitable chaos of navigating a small kitchen together, Ben and I amped up the music to do a little kitchen dancing.  There’s something about dancing with abandon in the kitchen that brings full on happiness back into any room.  We tend to break it out if we’re starting to get irritated by the lack of counter space or simultaneous chopping, washing, and cooking that has to happen within a two foot radius.  This weekend our signal was me holding a knife in the air and shouting “You’re always in the EXACT wrong spot!!”  Time for a kitchen dance.  

Trampoline workouts:  Turns out jumping up and down on a trampoline like a little kid serves up a serious workout.  While you need a little real estate — which runs sparse in NYC — to have one of your own, as long as you’ve got high ceilings, you’re golden.  The other option is to check out one of the many trampoline-equipped gyms in the city.  Even if this wasn’t a great workout, wouldn’t it be worth doing anyway for the pure joy of getting bounced into the air?

Poking fun at work life: We all do semi-ridiculous things in the name of workplace culture.  If I ever need a quick mid-week laugh, I pull up Justin Timberlake’s and Jimmy Fallon’s #hashtag skit that reminds me how ridiculous our social media language and engagement can be.  Another one for work-related comedic relief?  This viral skit that emulates a conference call in real life.  We’ve ALL experienced conference calls like this, and probably will again this week.  

What do you do for a quick burst of happiness or laughter?  

&d

 

Lunchtime Blog Roundup

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Is it me or does this week feel extra long?  Maybe because last week was a short one with President’s Day.  Maybe because I’ve been on the road this week.  Maybe because I keep going to hot yoga at the break of dawn.  Either way, I’m ready to wind down for the weekend.

For those of you who feel similarly and could use a quick break, here’s a list of my favorite go-to blogs for a little pause from the grind of work and life (when I’m not catching up on The Holly & The Folly, of course).

For when you want to figure out what to make for brunch this Sunday…

  • Cookie & Kate:  Cookie and Kate is one of my favorite cooking blogs.  I dig her style – whole foods, not afraid of the occasional indulgence or yummy cocktail, but very afraid of processed or artificial ingredients.  Another great along the same lines is Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks.

For when you’re jaded with the current state of our political system…

#whenyouworkatanonprofit

  • Nonprofit with Balls:  The title says it all.  Author Vu Le shares his take and his stories on the nonprofit sector with a big dose of humor.  While the “balls” in the title actually refers to the many balls nonprofit employees need to juggle, the blog also is written with a fair amount of irreverance and bravery.  You hearty souls that work in the nonprofit sector will love it.

For when you just want a few pretty pictures…

  • The Sartorialist:  Scott Schuman’s blog on street fashion that he kicked off in 2005 hoping to shine a light on the interplay between runway fashion and real life.  He’s a brilliant photographer, so aside from a snapshot of real people’s fashion adventures, you’ll get a lot of soulful shots peering into the lives of his subjects.

What blogs get you through your long weeks?

&d

 

Sunday Detox: Recommitting

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As you’ve probably noticed, I’m a big fan of making commitments at the beginning of the year.  I build an aggressive reading list and bucket list to chart out what I want to accomplish in the year to come.  I have a lot of friends who are staunchly opposed to making resolutions because they find it artificial, arbitrary, or too focused on negative qualities.  I get that.

But, for me, the tiny life pause that comes at the end of the year is a perfect time to focus on – and sometimes even more importantly organize – the personal goals I have for myself.  They’re usually not focused on changing things that I don’t like or think I should do less of (eat healthier, lose weight, stop killing your plants, etc.) but more on the positive things that I want to introduce to my routine.

Fast forward to the end of February and life has started to get in the way.  The life pause feels further away.  My intentions for the year are in the back of my mind, but the detail is foggy.  So, I’m using this Sunday to recommit, to take a look at those goals, to see how they might have changed for me over the past few months, and to see how I’ve done so far.

Let’s take a look at my reading list first.  So far, so good, thanks to the ladies from Prose and Hos(e).  I’m trying to read 40 books this year, and I’m on my 4th.  I have a little bit of catching up to do, but The Luminaries was a BEAST of a book, so I’m thinking I can pick up the pace.

  1. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes  (An easy, poignant read – check out Taryn’s review)
  2. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (An 800+ page tome.  Slowed down my progress but it was worth it.  Catton is a masterful storyteller, but you need to be ready to commit.  An openness to the supernatural helps.)
  3. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg (I fell in love with Aziz on Parks & Rec and loved the mixed style of vingette and social science, but this book could have been half its length and just as effective. Most interesting, I bet, for folks who are navigating the world of online dating.)
  4. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (in progress!)
  5. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  6. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  8. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  9. Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
  10. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  11. All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  12. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  13. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  14. The Power Broker by Robert Caro
  15. On Looking: 11 Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
  16. Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter
  17. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
  18. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
  19. The Power of Unreasonable Peoplby John Elkington, Pamela Hartigan
  20. Susan Sontag The Complete Rolling Stone Interview by Jonathan Cot

On to my 2016 bucket list.  I’ve been a little bit of a homebody, concentrating my success on the reading and writing items on my list.  I am excited by the fact that I’ve made regular writing a habit for work and play, writing about 4 short form pieces a week for various forums.  That was a longtime goal of mine, and it’s now a regular practice that I love for all the reasons I thought it would.

Big accomplishment, for sure.  But, most of the items on this list have gone untouched.  Most of my time out and about in the city has been consumed by the standard drinks, dinner, coffee with friends and family.  Time to shake it up if I’m hoping to accomplish the rest of this list.  Excuses about the NYC winter be damned.

  1. MOMA PS1
  2. US Open
  3. Met Opera
  4. 9/11 Memorial
  5. Momufuku
  6. Mission Chinese
  7. Rockclimbing
  8. Bike all five boroughs
  9. Walk across the Manhattan bridge (with earplugs)
  10. Take a Soulcycle class (What IS all the hype about?!)
  11. Run a 10K
  12. Stay in crow pose for more than 2 seconds
  13. Take an Indian cooking class
  14. Read 24 fiction books (on my way with 4 down)
  15. Write twice a week
  16. Make homemade Gnocci
  17. Make Tamales
  18. Make Tagine
  19. Make Beignets
  20. Build a Gingerbread house (Kind of – do gingerbread men count?) 
  21. Grow tomatoes (take that Brooklyn!)
  22. Learn to sew (don’t judge me for not knowing…)
  23. Learn to crochet
  24. Buy a lifetime supply of cloth napkins and ban paper towels

Well, that felt useful for me.  Not sure how useful it was for you, dear reader.  But I’m feeling one part proud of what I’ve accomplished, one part recommitted to what I haven’t, and one part super hungry for tamales at 8am on a Sunday.

&d

P.S.  Who here wants to teach me how to sew?

Thursday Cocktail Night: Butter

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It’s been a long week, and this particular Thursday has taken an especially long time to come around.  So, for those of you who are with me and may be on the hunt for a way to unwind with a good cocktail, I have a recommendation for you.

NYC delivers up some solid cocktails and as long as you stay away from Times Square and Murray Hill, you’re usually able to get a really quality libation.  One of my strategies for getting a good cocktail (i.e. yummy, smooth and won’t floor you in one sip) in the city has always been to visit the bars of upscale restaurants or hotels.  They usually have some of the highest quality bars and a quieter atmosphere.

It’s usually hard to get the Mr. to go out in general, but this weekend Ben and I were in midtown for a show (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – P.S. GO!) and stopped by Butter for dinner before heading home.  Butter is one of my favorite restaurants for a nice dinner (the work of master chef Alex Guarnaschelli).  But after seeing and sampling thier cocktail list, I’m definitely going to start frequenting the bar section of the restaurant even if I’m not sitting down for a full meal.

Some pluses:

  • It’s not crowded:  Most people are there for dinner, so  are just waiting to get their spot at the table.
  • It’s a non-scene scene:  It’s got the swanky atmosphere and touches of comfort that I need to feel good about a $17 cocktail, but without the scene-loving people (read: hipsters and tourists) that makes scenes so annoying.
  • The winter cocktail list is delicious:  I’m usually more of a wine girl, but Ben and I devoured their savory cocktails.

My recommendation in The Holy Basil, which is a delicious combination of gin, muddled cucumber, basil, canton and black pepper.  For those who fall on the whisky and bourbon side of life, I tried Ben’s Tall, Dark and Handsome and it was one of the smoothest drinks I’ve had in awhile.  Ben refused to order it by name, but liked everything else the drink had to offer – a combination of aged bourbon, chocolate bitters, stout, and carpano antica.

For those who work in midtown and are starved for a bar with personality and without crowds, Butter should be your jam.

See what I did there?

&d

 

Sunday Detox: Oatmeal Pancakes

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If you’re anywhere on the east coast today, you’re probably snowed in thanks to the weekend blizzard Jonas.  Brooklyn got more than 30 inches of snow, and I broke out my snow pants and Ben’s snow goggles and trounced around in it yesterday.  I looked super cool.

All this snow put me in the mood for a hearty homemade breakfast.  I decided to pull out my recipe for oatmeal pancakes and blueberry syrup.  I know that pancakes and syrup don’t really sound like detox – and they’re not – but this recipe does take out all the refined, processed ingredients, and packs in much more fiber and nutrients than the classic white flour version.

Also, I promise that not all my recipes for detox involve oats, but that last bag of oats I bought was just so damn big…

Oatmeal Pancakes:
4-6 servings

4 cups of classic oats
3 cups of buttermilk (low or full fat)
1/2 cup skim or low fat milk
4 eggs + 1 more egg white whipped
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons of melted butter

(If you have a sweet tooth you can add a tablespoon of brown sugar, but I like to keep them on the savory side to balance the blueberry syrup coming up….)

Place the oats in a food processer, and grind them down (to a flour consistency if you want pancakes that are classically smooth, or slightly coarser if you want a thicker nuttier pancake). Pour in the buttermilk and let them soak for 45 minutes – 1 hour.  If you’re going with the coarser version, I tend to throw in a little extra skim milk to make sure the consistency is griddle-ready.

Preheat your griddle or skillet.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and whisk together.  I use a mixer to get really smooth batter, but old fashioned-elbow grease works well here too.  Throw them on the griddle and cook them for about 2 minutes on each side, if that.

 

Blueberry or ANY-berry Syrup

4 servings

 

2 cups of Blueberries (or your berry of choice)
1 cup pure maple syrup

 

In a small saucepan, heat 1.5 cups of the berries and the maple syrup until the blueberries have burst (about 4 minutes).  Strain the syrup to remove all the solid berries, and stir in the uncooked berries.  I like to throw blue poppy seeds in for a little crunch.  This is a tart and sweet syrup, so you just need a drizzle…

 

Nutty, sweet goodness that’s perfect for a snowy day. Or any day, really…

 

Happy snowstorm, friends!

 

&d

Call Me Joe Biden

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My Thursday commute home today is a trip from Boston to Brooklyn on Amtrak.  I make this trip at least once a month for work and love visiting my beloved Beantown.  A surprising — and slightly terrifying — result of my trips and my love of chatting it up in the cafe car, has been an unusually close relationship with the Amtrak crew.  Joe, Rita and I have had good times over cheap wine and hot dogs.  Over the years, I’ve come to love this ride.  Here are a couple of my favorite, predictable – but never dull – moments between these two cities.

Connecticut Sunset:  I always grab a seat on the left side of the train so I can catch the exquisite sunset over the water in Connecticut.  I tried to take a few pictures as it went by this afternoon, but pictures just don’t do it justice.  It’s really breathtaking and always serves up a much needed moment of calm from the universe after busy days.  AND if you look closely before New London, you can see an ADORABLE little duck family.

GE Employees:  If anyone rides the train more than I do its those damn GE employees commuting between CT and Boston.  Most of them are pretty docile, but there are always a few that cause a ruckus, provide entertainment, and make me feel lucky to be married to someone who’s much nicer than they are.  Whether it’s screaming at each other their various theories why Obama has ruined the world, the true magic behind Jack Welch, or whether Heineken is superior to Bud Light, there’s always a good reason for a solid eye roll.  They don’t notice.  (Disclaimer:  I don’t believe that all GE Employees are republican bros.  Just the ones that ride Amtrak.)

Passing New Haven:  I moved there kicking and screaming in 2010, but I grew to love that town. Now I love when the train pulls into the old Have.  I get a dose of nostalgia for the mash up of pizza, yoga and Gossip Girl gatherings I had with my lady friends during those years.  And then I continue on home for the next THREE HOURS.

Rita:  Rita is my homie.  She staffs the cafe car.  She knows my scene.  Get on the train in the late afternoon — hot chocolate and a granola bar.  Early evening — Sauvignon Blanc to bring it home (she gives me the larger size for free because she is a little angel sent down to earth by the transportation gods).  All I have to do is approach the counter, and she smiles and serves it up.  When she doesn’t have customers, she comes to hang out with me at my cafe car table and helps me write alternative (angrier) versions of the emails I’m sending to clients that have been misbehaving.

There’s still nothing better than arriving home.  Pulling into Penn Station… ’til next time…!

&d

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Detox: Granola!

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I love living in NYC, but it can be overwhelming and downright toxic for your health if you’re not careful.  I’ve always used Sundays as a day to reset – whether to recover from a long weekend of fun nights out, or to prepare for a long week ahead of work and travel where healthy meals are far and few between.  A little time spent on detoxing on Sundays has gone a long way to combat the madness of city living.

I’ve never been able to be too extreme in my approach.  Days straight of drinking only juices and concoctions or severely limiting my diet or behavior has never worked for me or has felt particularly healthy.  So, instead, I just try to set myself up for low-sugar, low-flour, low-alcohol weeks, kicking it off on Sunday.

Some Sundays are more successful than others.  Life is life.  But, I’ll plan to share one approach a week with you guys to try to keep myself honest, and hear how you all keep yourselves healthy.

First up:  my favorite granola recipe!  I grabbed and adjusted from Cookie + Kate, a fantastic whole foods cooking blog that you should check out.  I make it in bulk, and then try to pack it with me for breakfasts or snacks during the week.   It is naturally sweetened with honey (or maple syrup, if you prefer), instead of the pounds of white sugar you’ll find in the grocery store variety.  I also sneak in a little ground flaxseed for some extra Omega-3 and fiber. That, along with whatever combination of dried fruits, nuts and seeds I have in the pantry that week, and I’m done.  Couldn’t be easier.

The recipe below will yield about 5-6 servings, so I typically double it to have a stockpile.

Homemade Granola

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1½ cup raw nuts and/or seeds (I use a combination of chopped pecans, walnuts and sunflower seeds)
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg or cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup dried fruit (I use a combination of cranberries, blueberries and cherries)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together all of the dry ingredients except the fruit.  Pour in the honey, oil and vanilla and mix it until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.  Throw it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and into the oven for about 25 minutes, stirring once about half way through.

Once it’s out of the oven, I let it set for a few hours.  I like my granola clumpy and it tends to stick together better than way.  Mix the dried fruit in once its chilled and set.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some granola to chomp…

&d