The Sunday Ritual

July 21, 2013 § 2 Comments

whyfightit

I grew up in a rather traditional Italian-American family (surprise!), where Sundays were kind of a big deal. Every week, tomato sauce, meatballs, sausages and other delicious things were prepped before my last Lucky Charm was eaten. And my Grandparents always came over for Sunday Dinner, which was often eaten in the middle of the afternoon and kind of stretched out until the early evening. That was “Sunday” to me. I never questioned it. It was just how it was and it was pretty nice.

When I went to college, there was no “Sunday Dinner” so-to-speak. But I did notice that early in my freshman year, my then-boyfriend and I always went to a very late lunch (seriously, like 3pm) at the same Chinese restaurant every Sunday, where I ordered the same exact thing, week after week, pretty much until we broke up. I suppose I had replaced one Sunday ritual with another.

Once out of college and living on my own, I found myself inviting my friends over for dinners on Sundays, rationalizing that if we didn’t get together, we were essentially tossing away part of our weekends. Another ritual. But that one was hard to sustain on account of Life Events, and everyone eventually becoming too busy to make it stick. And honestly, I didn’t feel like I’d “lost” anything. This was life and things change. Right?

But this past winter I was at a dinner party being thrown by a fellow Italian-American woman and as the evening went on, I was surprised to find myself confessing to her that I actually missed those more special Sundays. And her reply was simple: “You just have to make new rituals.”

Hmmm…that sounded too easy. And while I haven’t yet figured out how to create a Sunday of my childhood, I have noticed that Mr. H and I do have a few Sunday rituals which vary, but still count. One of these is lunch or an early dinner at Almond, which has an outpost by our house at the beach.

almondjoy

There is always a warm welcome to be had here, as well as a delicious mac-and-cheese and something called the B.A.L.T., which is a BLT with avocado and some kind of heavenly spread to which I am thoroughly addicted. They also have that fabulous Scalamandre Zebra wallpaper that I adore, but have nowhere to use…

zebras

There is also the Sunday Flower Run which not only keeps the house cheery during the workweek, but can also result in an excellent education in the various varieties and care of the things we pick. (The Watering Orchids session was one of the most useful in my Floral Life.)

bhflowers

And when we are in the city, trips to Larder to make sure we have a treat or two to help us through the week is a pretty regular thing…

joinus

As are walks with A+O,  especially when we are at the beach, where things are a little slower and we can take it all in…

longstretch

And watch A-dog flip out over the horses…

Thehorsedoes notcare

And O-dog judge the quality of the plantings…

inspectorO

And then there are days when I simply crave the scent of garlic, tomato and basil in the house. Those are the days, like this one, that I pull myself off the sofa and just make a simple tomato sauce with some pasta and call it a Sunday. Sometimes those are the best rituals of all.

xx

(Photos, including one of this evening’s early pasta dinner: Some Cozy Night and Mr. H)

Weekend Loaf

July 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

So, this weekend was a bit of a wash weather and migraine-wise, but that didn’t keep us down entirely. First, Mr. H made it a point to capture this…

prettyevenintherain

I know hydrangea are kind of the flower out here, but I never tire of them. Especially when I can never be quite so sure how blue they are going to get in a given season. I think this one is just the prettiest mix of blue, pink and purple. Love.

Now, note the small rain drops on the leaves. It did, in fact, rain quite a bit yesterday. And with my need to stay as close to home (and my ice packs and bed) as possible, Mr. H and I tried to come up with activities that would be satisfying without leaving the house. Naturally, in a sort of random way, we got on the subject of bread baking. Except for quick breads, neither of us had ever baked a loaf. It always seemed like a big bother, and so it never happened.

But a few weeks ago over dinner with friends, I was assured that the 18-Hour Bread recipe really delivered on taste without the need for much “dough work” on the baker’s part. So, we found ourselves thinking “Hey, we are here, let’s give it a shot”. Except it got better! During my search for the 18-Hour version, I actually found another modified version by Mark Bittman that only has 5 hours of rising time!! Five hours plus 45 minutes for baking!! We could be eating bread at dinner!! So the plan was set into (the least possible) motion…

Here are the details, which took us about ten minutes of actual labor:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08mini.html?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/082mrex.html?ref=dining

Alas, we were total sloths this weekend and ordered a pizza for dinner, but we DID make the bread and had some fresh out of the oven. (Yes, I will be on the treadmill later today, probably for the rest of the day.) While a little flat on account of my loaf pan being too large, it was insanely delicious:

Tastesbetterthanitlooks

And even better with jam and good butter this morning. So I have got to call this the most fruitful Weekend of Laziness we’ve had all summer — and suggest you try same.

xx

(Photos: Mr. H)

Summer Firsts

June 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

I thought I’d pace myself on England posts and take a moment to note that summer is finally here and so far, it has been delightful…

firstcuttinggardenblooms

I came out last night to find that this year’s cutting garden was planted! So today I snipped a few buds that were more than ready to hit the stage. I know I post a LOT of flowers here, but I just love them and they make me happy. (I hope they make you happy, too.)

Also making me very happy this weekend is our herb garden (that also contains lettuces and small tomatoes). Mr. H and I planted it in the rain a few weeks ago and it is already taking off. And this evening we’ll be having our first summer salad containing only Mr. & Mrs. H greens*…

firstherbgarengreens

Along with some of our first tomatoes that must be eaten by us before the birds get to them…

firsttomatoesandstrawberriesAnd yes, we are trying those teeny strawberries again (they just grew back and I didn’t have the heart to tear them out), and so far, they are actually tasty!

Also worth noting is that last weekend we enjoyed our first  grilled summer steaks and hamburgers, with beef from our favorite butcher in Brooklyn: Fleisher’s

fleishers

Originally located in Kingston, New York, their second location opened about two years ago and what can I say?  All their meats are fantastically delicious and “happy”. (And it is a touch easier to pop into this place than store 60 pounds of beef from a share once a year.) Even their ground chicken is tasty. Yay.

And that is all I have for today. I think we are off to a good start!

xx

* I am not a hero, so we buy plants and lettuce plugs every year from The Green Thumb, which is a bit of an institution and one of the best places out by the beach for organic produce.

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

Chicken Soup to Get Over It, Already

April 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

OK, dear friends. Sorry for the rant last night. I am feeling better today and was reminded that good friends and family, along with a good night’s sleep, can make almost anything manageable. Also something that makes things more manageable is a good base for chicken soup: homemade stock. I know. Everyone says it and I am always like “I have a life to live”, but it is true, good stock makes for delicious everything.

photo

A couple of weeks ago, it felt like one of those days where you should be roasting a chicken. And so I did. It isn’t hard once you’ve browned the skin and turned the bird onto its back (that is a pain in the a**), and it certainly makes you feel like you have one of those very Domestic Goddess lives.

After a delicious dinner, I found myself with the remains of a chicken that was kind of begging to be used. So, I cleaned off as much meat as I could (and froze it for more Goop salads) and then put the carcass in a big stock pot with the usual suspects: water, an onion, some bay leaves, celery stalks, carrots, salt and pepper. And then added one ringer ingredient courtesy of Jean-Georges: a few whole cloves. I cannot tell you what a difference this makes, provided that you use it sparingly — we aren’t making a pie here. After a few hours of simmering, I ran it though my chinois* and was done. Eight cups of liquid bliss waiting to be used for days when you need a little extra something to manage it all. Like!!

xx

(Photo: Mr. H)

* You need one of these. Not only do they make you feel like a pro in the kitchen, they are essential in getting something clear without a lot of hoo-ha: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinoise

For the “Yum” Files

March 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

tasty

Mr. H and I are always looking for recipes that are easier to make than calling for take-out. And I feel as conflicted about this as you may feel, but, I think a number of the recipes on Goop are actually quite good. Tonight, we made this delicious salad made of blueberries, fennel stalks, cucumber and a few other tasty items (http://goop.com/recipes/salads/blueberry_ricotta) with a little plain roasted chicken breast to bulk it up for dinner.* What can I say, it was delicious and light. The perfect thing to have when the rest of your week may have included pizza and wine on more than one occasion.

Enjoy!

xx

* When I am on my A-Game, I roast a few boneless, skinless ones with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper and freeze them for nights that call for tossing a little protein into whatever you are eating.

(Photo and plating: Mr. H)

Breakfast, Better

January 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

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I just finished reading a biography of Craig Claiborne* and was immensely cheered to discover that when he was dining at home alone, he made a point of setting a proper table just for himself. (He trained at  École hôtelière de Lausanne, so I suppose it would have been a hard habit to break.)  While Mr. H and I are Free Range when it comes to eating meals**,  for years weekday breakfasts have been served on a simple rattan Breakfast Tray that we make up each morning. I don’t know why it started — maybe because our kitchen isn’t an eat-in — but it is on my Must Have list today.

Considering that it can be done up while our toast is toasting and the dogs are eating, it takes very little extra time to put our morning meal on a nice plate with a proper napkin and pop it onto the tray. Even the idea of the Breakfast Tray gives me a little lift at the start of the day, which is especially important when it is, oh, I don’t know, ten degrees outside and maybe snowing***. And if you are a Breakfast at My Desk Person (I have been known to be one), taking a few extra minutes on the weekend to treat yourself in this way will probably produce the same effect, which may result in this simple pleasure landing on your Must Have list, too.

xx

* Major League Food Writer when things were more civilized. Chances are that you have a cookbook of his.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Claiborne

** But we’ve recently been making an effort to have dinners ala Mr. Claiborne which does make even takeout sushi feel special. Lunch is another story entirely. (https://somecozynight.com/?s=do+lunch)

*** Why do we live in the Northeast again?

(Photo of our typical, but somehow more special, morning oatmeal: Some Cozy Night)

Holiday Wisdom

December 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

sowise

Well, we are nearing the Finish Line for The Holidays. And while I wish I would have actually made some latkes and jelly donuts this week, I think that I may just buy some and enjoy them before the week is out.*  That was a little bit of Holiday Wisdom that has served me well these last few weeks: Do it up, but be reasonable and don’t cut out the fun. 

As such, even though it has been super busy, I have managed to go ice skating in Central Park with Mr. H and two good friends, have seen or plan to see other friends for a number of pre-holiday dinners and will be decorating a (pre-assembled) gingerbread house with my God Daughter this weekend. Even our company Holiday Party is something I am looking forward to this year. (Many thanks to my So On It, It Hurts colleague who has arranged a fabulous one.)

More Holiday Wisdom: Planning is next to Godliness. My gift spreadsheet worked like a charm and now all but one gift is ready for giving or have already been shipped out. I must say, this year’s Paper Mojo crop was my favorite to date:

pretty

lovethese

For the record, I am now dying to do a powder room in prints like these…we’ll save that for 2013, I suppose.

And planning isn’t just for Gift Management. Getting the Christmas Day Menu in place and ordering as much of the food that is required for said meal ahead of time is extremely important. For the menu, I turn to new and old faithfuls:

prepprepprep

I know people have funny feelings about Joy, but I find it to be very handy, especially for Straight Up things. And as I have said before, there is nothing in an Ina Garten cookbook that doesn’t turn out perfectly, and Alice Waters is Alice Waters. So, with the help of these three books, I have planned a festive meal that has tons to make ahead and very little that you can mess up. Festive but Foolproof: another key to Happier Holidays.

And to make sure things stay festive throughout our week off, I’ve also ordered all the goodies needed for New Year’s Eve and the days in between. Reservations at our favorite places by the beach have been secured and I have a rather massive reading and watching list to get through. I am also hoping to get to the new and undisputed massive new Parrish Museum. (http://www.parrishart.org) The building alone is should make it intriguing enough, but the exhibitions could be promising as well…we shall see.

And that is probably the final bit of Holiday Wisdom I have for this evening: Plans should go with the flow. This isn’t a military operation, it is meant to be fun, so if things get a little off course, no biggie. You’ve done the work, now is the time to just enjoy.

xx

* In fact, I just ordered the latkes with the fixings from Russ & Daughters…now we just need the donuts. And yes, I am not  actually Jewish, but I still like Chanukah and any reason to celebrate.

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

No Pressure, But… (Holiday Edition)

November 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again: The Holidays.

You will probably remember that I am not a fan on account of all the rushing and general insanity this time of year brings. But I have made a little promise to myself not to be so Grinch-y this year.

Sadly, that does not exonerate me from the planning and prep, which does make the actual events of the season go much more smoothly. And since things can get so hectic at year end, I get started early to avoid finding myself In The Soup. So, in order to discourage you from getting into The Soup yourselves, here are some of the things I rely on quite heavily this time of year:

Wrapping

Paper Mojo (www.papermojo.com)

These folks have the most lovely gift wrap, available by the sheet, so that you don’t have to commit too heavily to one or two styles. And as an added bonus, you don’t have to wrangle those long rolls of paper, which is one of my least favorite things to do.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t really do “holiday” themed wrapping — I just try to put interesting combinations together that hopefully feel delightful. This year I went gaga over PM’s Chiyogami and Katazome papers, and wound up doing a larger selection than usual. But I could not help myself and I honestly can’t wait to see them all.

One King’s Lane (onekingslane.com)

They regularly have gift wrap available  and if you free yourself from the need to have specific holiday-themed papers, you can purchase it whenever, and use it now and later. Their prices are pretty good as well, which makes wrapping larger gifts feel less painful. Order early as they take time to ship.

Kate’s Paperie (www.katespaperie.com)

Oh, yes. They have been around forever and while I can’t go into the store without some kind of beta blocker, I find their house brand of ribbon to be perfect for almost anything. So, I heavy up this time of year and use leftovers until I run out. Order online to keep the insanity level low.

Dempsey & Carroll (http://www.dempseyandcarroll.com)

Here’s the thing about Dempsey & Carroll: If you look hard enough, you will find things that are well made but aren’t trying too hard. Since my wrapping will be on the effusive side this year, I just purchased enough of their cream colored gift cards for slipping under the ribbon of each package. It is just enough space to put a little something sweet without having to go on forever. Because let’s face it: People want to open the gift. And a long card feels like all those trailers you need to watch before the movie.

Gifting

Our company gift and recipient list is all taken care of by October. But that still leaves me with around forty — yes, forty…4-0* — gifts to buy for family, friends, colleagues and all the wonderful people who do so much for us year round. Need I say I use a fierce little spreadsheet to track it all? I do. It eliminates confusion and puts the attention back on the gifts themselves, which is more fun.

For hostess gifts and other smaller tokens,  I always opt for something a little luxurious or totally delicious. A fabulous nail polish (Chanel, Tom Ford, YSL), fresh yummy baked goods,  mini Diptyque candles…stuff I buy to treat myself that I think others will also enjoy.  You can find these things at the usual places, but that does not mean I don’t like a good deal, so I also like One King’s Lane for some of these items. And I really can’t tell you how much people love things from Zingerman’s (https://www.zingermans.com). I do, too. So I guess it all makes sense. Oh, and did you know that Russ and Daughters ships?? They do. So I do, too. (http://russanddaughters.com)

As for the children in our life, I love The Land of Nod (landofnod.com). With careful digging, one can find really great things that seem to go over quite well with the Wee Folk. I always try to include an art project or two for children that will be home for the holiday break. I figure that leaves one less activity that their parents need to plan, and it doesn’t create as much long-term clutter.

More personal gifts for good friends and family are always harder, but I do think that experiences (concert or show tickets, dinners to a new or favorite place) are always nice presents for people who have all the sweaters, pjs and electronics that they need. I’ve also had great luck online with 1st Dibs (1stdibs.com), Net-A-Porter (just add the “.com”), Ruby Lane (yeah…add that “.com” again), Paul Smith (www.paulsmith.com) and Design Within Reach (dwr.com). And nothing beats taking a little time to go hunting for that perfect thing in some well-known or off the beaten path place. You know the drill.

Still, my absolute favorite gift to give and receive is one that takes the pressure off: A commitment to spend time together after the holidays. I do this with one of my dearest friends — usually spa and lunch. It gives us time to catch up and unwind. What better present for a Bestie?

Decking

If you don’t have time to mess with assembling your own greenery and the like, White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) does a bang up job with pre-assembled boughs and wreaths. L.L. Bean is also an able contender in this category. (www.llbean.com) I try to keep things simple, so I just fill the place with paperwhites, amaryllis, and the usual greenery. And this year I am trying something new: battery powered lights from Restoration Hardware. You can use them for covered outdoor areas and I am hoping they will eliminate the need for the troublesome cord that always hangs down the table where we keep our little tree** in the city. Fingers crossed and full report TK.

Making Merry

I don’t host every holiday, but for the ones that I am responsible for I do try my best to follow The Ina (Garten) Principle: Keep it simple and delicious. Honestly, there is not one cookbook of hers that I do not love — the recipes always work and are not hard at all. That said, I have evolved into a pretty good Just Cook What Looks Good kind of person, so that is generally what I do. This year we are hosting Thanksgiving, so the menu will consist of whatever arrives my CSA box (yes, it includes a turkey), fresh cranberry sauce and Classic Joy of Cooking Stuffing. Oh, and Ginger Cake from Zingerman’s (I really hate baking) and some good wine of Mr. H’s selection. Pinot and Turkey? Maybe a Zin? We shall see…

For pre- and post-holiday visitors, I like to do cozy things like fresh pasta with bolognese, braised short rib and roasted vegetables and maybe a baked fruit of some kind. Easy but not Everyday. And do not forget the power of the Cheese and Charcuterie Plate!! Or the festive feeling that sparkling wine and a little canapé tray can lend to any occasion.

Savoring

This is a major Development Area for me. Work is nuts, there is the added pressure of the above AND the need to feel like This Is The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, even though you are exhausted, possible cold, and probably (if you are me) cranky.

All that said, I am going to make a real effort to appreciate the decking, make time to Make Merry and to take care of myself (early to bed when I can, keeping up with cardio and pilates, and eating a cookie now and again) as a gift to myself. Care to join me?

xx

* We’ve been over this, right? Forget The Godfather, almost all the answers to life’s questions are answered in All About Eve.

** I cannot extol the virtues of the Table Tree enough. I used to do giant trees, which always resulted in a foul mood on my part.  But with the Table Tree, in under an hour I get the same effect and no dogs snooping around the presents or drinking tree water. Like!

(Photo of a bit of 2011’s Wrap-Mania: Some Cozy Night)

It Does Not Take a Lot of time to Have a Little Yum

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Just a quickie for a little inspiration.

My herb and tomato plants are doing nicely, and Mr. H sent me this photo of some of our yield from earlier today:

Pictured here is some delicious yellow grape and brown cherry tomatoes, basil (we have TONS of basil…pesto soon), mint and marjoram.* I like to combine these things with a little cheese on some multigrain toast for breakfast or a snack. Yum!

Enjoy the 4th!

xx

*Please note that marjoram is lovely with all kinds of other herbs, so mix it up. And is smells heavenly, so don’t be afraid to put some in a bud vase.

(Photo: Mr. H for Some Cozy Night. And the salt is Maldon…Gwennie isn’t a dope all the time.)

The Perfect Excuse

January 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Happy Saturday! I stumbled out of bed after a 36-hour bug to find this outside my window:

“Did it snow?” I asked myself. I checked again. Yes, it had. Even though the weather report had not indicated that we would be getting more than an inch or two and I was not convinced we would get any. For the record, we definitely got more than and inch or two.

I surveyed my options and while the thought of building a snowman crossed my mind, after assessing the accumulation a little more closely while out with A+O, I decided my best course of action was a day indoors. A perfect excuse to catch up on some reading…

I have been meaning to get to this Jansen book for well over a year. And it is fascinating. (As is Know Your Rodent, but that is a much quicker read.) While reading about the many amazing homes this venerated design firm decorated well into the later part of the 20th century, I began to get The Craving to order a few more books on some of the more infamous and glamourous figures who made up much of Jansen’s clientele and their circle, including the Mitford sisters and Nancy Lancaster. It seems to me that these topics could take me through a number of other snowy days and it is totally possible that this weather is here for a spell:

Really, who wants to go out in that, which isn’t even as bad as it could get. Much better to be curled up with a book and a dog, I say.

So, I fixed the fire…

Which enabled Mr. H to build upon said fire…

Leaving me with nothing to do but order my books, keep reading and then make dinner for friends*, starring a fresh bolognese from Marcella Hazan, who is pretty much that last word in these matters.

So, it will have been basically a day of loafing and pasta-eating, which we all need from time to time. So, thank you very much Surprise Snowfall.

xx

*Although even that might be a Mr. H production. At least I set the table. And pulled out the necessary ingredients.

(Photos: Some Cozy Night, who left her good camera in the city.)

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