Thursday, December 31, 2009

to hell in a handbasket

Crackle, crackle...

Like most people, P and I have been stuffed silly and giving our livers a major workout for the past month or so. We have the best intentions for a healthy beginning to the New Year, but have decided that if you're already headed to hell, might as well finish with a bang. Right?

Last year we braved a literal blizzard to attend a NYE party. While fun, we decided to stay in this year and model our celebration after NYE 2007/2008. I am hereby publicly committing to the following menu of sin to finish out 2009 in the throes of pure gluttony...

L&P's Decadence for a New Decade Menu

Elderflower cocktails or spritzer
Elderflower soda + vodka = Yay, vodka!
Jan 1: Wine plus seltzer ane elderflower soda proved to be much lighter.

For nibbling…
Jan 1: Just could not fathom adding more fat when the time came, so we opted for olives and cheese instead.

Baked Artichokes with Crab and Sourdough Stuffing

Crab cakes stuffed into a vegetable. Woo hoo surf and turf!

Jan 1: We made these and they were delish. We also made impromptu crab cakes witht the extra stuffing.

Mushroom ravioli in sage and brown butter
Yay, prepared food! MMmm, butter.

Jan 1: Soooo, forgot to buy the sage. Raviolis resided in plain brown butter with a little thyme.

Warm Butternut Squash and Arugula Salad
Salad is healthy. Good.
Veuve Cliquot
'Nuff said.

Chocolate Soufflés with raspberries
I salut you, Trader Joe, and your delicious frozen desserts.


Digestif Calvados served by the light of an ambient fire YouTube video… Jan 1: Not even close.

Can we eat it? Will we survive? Will we ourselves be certifiable foie gras in the end? Does PETA hate us? What are you doing to kick 2009 in the rear?


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

better than a pile of puppies

Sometimes, when I am in a foul mood, I wish I had a pile of puppies to snuggle. My two nieces are a way better solution. Not to compare them to puppies, but it's true.


scenes from a NoCo holiday


Friday, December 25, 2009

peace & joy

Happy holidays and all the best for the New Year!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

welcome to the 21st century

RIP, TV: 1997-2009

When I was 18 years old and preparing to head off to college, I went shopping with my mom to buy a TV for my dorm room. Woo! I was looking at little 16" sets, but my mother wisely said to me: "You should get a bigger TV. Someday you will have an apartment and you will want to have a bigger TV."

So true, so true. I bought a giant 21".

12 1/2 years later, my TV has lived with me in many apartments, with many roommates, we got married and belonged to Pete, too.

Over the past few months, I noticed that TV was getting some gray hairs. Strange bands of white in the top left corner of the screen, a purple glow in the bottom right corner. I feared TV was not long for this world....

On Friday, December 18, 2009, Pete said to me: "Does the color look kind of weird, or is it just me...?" I was in denial (we were watching a sort of sci-fi thing, so maybe everyone was supposed to look purple/green). Alas, he was right. Things did look kind of weird. In fact, they looked really weird. RIP, TV....

We now have a Christmas SALE 32" flat screen. I can see people's pores. Everything is so crisp and clear I feel like I'm wearing amber vision shades. I feel like a fool for defending my 12 1/2 yr old TV against the HD for so long. And yet...

I miss you, TV. You will always live on in my memory (and in my office until we learn how to recycle you...).


Sunday, December 13, 2009

cassoulet forever

Yes, it really was that good.

It's a bit disorienting to be cooking up a huge hunk of pork shoulder, a bunch of chorizo, and half a bottle of wine at 9am, but hey, that's what you've got to do to make a really kick a$* cassoulet.

Who is this "cassoulet" you speak of?

Eliz came over to help us celebrate the noble pig in all it's deliciousness. The dish contains pork in no less than 3 forms, so you know it's got to be good. And... it was. Hopefully, it will continue to be as delicious for a long time, since there are still 3 lbs remaining.

Vive le cassoulet!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

let there be light

This little light of mine...

Right now, the wind is howling outside my window. Quite frankly, it's pretty craptastic weather we're having. Oh, how I love the winter. Was reaching a new level of cranky when I suddenly remembered this shot from our post-Thanksgiving insta-transformation to Christmas. Heeeee.... That's better.

Looking forward to flannel PJs and Harry Potter tonight. To all my friends in the Northeast: it has begun -- let's have drinks.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

a great accomplishment

Contrary to popular belief....

Contrary to popular belief, this photo above is not London Bridge, but Tower Bridge. Oh yes, you know what this means... After 3 years of attemts to visit I finally got my Tower of London trip. I even passed up the Fortnum & Mason hamper display for this, so those of you who know my hamper love will understand the gravity of this visit.

It's good to be a raven if you live here.

After a Yeoman's wander with a beefeater, JW and I checked out the crown jewels including the first and second largest diamonds in the world, Anne Bolyn's resting place, the bloody tower, Traitors Gate, 3 of the 7 spoiled ravens on the premise, and 2 gift shops.

[Note: It could have been a "tour with a Yeoman Warder," instead of the tour being a "Yeoman's Wander," but I am not good with accents as many of you know...]

Yes, I am quite pleased with myself.

Back home safe and sound. Jet lag has woken me up early for a productive morning of Christmas prep and some bloggy catch-up. Missed you.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

H.A.S. season 3: and so it begins...

A Very VanDerbrady Thanksgiving...

It seems I didn't get my pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Anticipation Series posts rolling this year. Ah well, we'll have to jump right in then, shall we? We celebrated a very Brady-heavy VanDerbrady holiday this year. Thanks, Mom and Dad for coming from so far away to be with the Boston fam. Adam -- I don't think you read this fluff, but we missed you!


More after...

Like the good Americans we are, within a few hours we jumped directly from harvest time to winter wonderland complete with tree, carols, and -- my personal fave -- nog full of rum. More to come on that... Hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

cocktails against nasty

It is getting a bit nasty around here -- in my book that means cold, gray, bare trees, winter onset angst. To fight the nasty, P and I heated up rum and mixed it with some stuff. We tried:

Hot Buttered Rum
My mom made me my first hot buttered rum. Here's how we made ours last night.

Took our two biggest mugs (Tufts and World Elvis), in each we put

2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 alspice berries
1 tsp butter

Poured boiling water in each much and let steep for 5 minutes. Then, added 2 1/2 shots dark rum (or to taste).

Mulled Cider Plus
3 cups cider
orange zest
cinnamon stick

Instructions: Mull it. Pour some dark rum in.

These remedies seemed to work. In any case, it felt much warmer...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rodents of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist.

...what about the ROUSes?

We looked awfully hard during a recent trip to the swamp, but no sign of nutria. However, we did see some other stuff:

Learned some stuff, too. Our guide taught us that:

  1. I am a Yankee whether I like it or not.
  2. Yankees ruin everything (knew that already).
  3. Yankees shouldn't reproduce.
  4. Yankees who move south are known as "Damn Yankees."

Other bits of trivia:

  1. Don't touch Spanish moss even though it's pretty -- it can be full of chiggers which will burrow into your skin and feel like pieces of glass wriggling inside your flesh.
  2. Tourists like turtles.
  3. At Bourbon St. Blues Co. you can get 3 for 1 on the first floor until 6pm, but if you go upstairs, you can get 3 for 1 until 9pm.
  4. Yankees ruin everything.

More to come,

Thursday, October 29, 2009



today smells like leaves
that frat house has nice pumpkins
daylight savings soon


Friday, October 16, 2009

a few good reasons

Reaon 1: pumpkins even during a pumpkin shortage.

I know I've been talking a lot of smack about the northeast lately. Just thought I should apologize to my home region for threatening to move south earlier today. Here are some reasons why I love fall in New England.

Reason 2: this setup wouldn't look quite right anywhere else.

Reason 3: being reminded to slow down and pick the apples.

Reason 4: no lines for clams.

Reason 5: the Great Salt Marsh.

Reason 6: this guy lives here, too.


Monday, October 12, 2009

hard to resist

Yeeaaah... So, we have quite a bit of squash right now.


Friday, October 9, 2009

it's not easy being green

Love? Hate?

I love dark leafy greens. I love people who hate dark leafy greens. One hater I know sometimes gives me the castoffs from her CSA.

That is how I ended up taking home a large bunch of collard greens last night.

Pete: What's that?
L: What this? Oh, nothing. Just my massive bunch of second hand collard greens.

Now to figure out what to do with them. I have beet greens, chard, and kale down, but I think CGs require bacon or something to make them edible.

Sorry, in my mind I didn't think this post would turn out to be so boring. I'll do better next time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

party like it's 1889

The patent for the first automated
photography machine was filed in 1889.

Thanks to C for the scan of this old fashioned fun. Congratulations to TPS and her handsome new husband! Great fun was had by all.

More to come.

Monday, September 28, 2009

on the road again

Seasons change...

Well, it is officially fall once more in New England (and everywhere in the northern hemisphere, I suppose). Fall is a complicated season -- even if it's your favorite time of year, it always triggers just a bit of nostalgia, and signals change. For Pete and me, fall also means it's time to get back on the road. In fact, my husband just returned yesterday from an extended trek through the wilds of upstate NY.

Conveniently, our travel often overlaps, so I headed out to NY with him at the beginning of the trip to meet up with these lovely ladies....

Adventures in the Finger Lakes.
Please note Katie's delicious libation.
[Note: I am missing Shelley, Lisa and Mrs. R, but can't wait to see you soon!]

So, the travelogue has begun! Next up, I'm catching a plane to meet up with Pete in Atlanta to celebrate T's nuptuals. Later, he'll be chasing me to New Orleans where we'll spend a few days. Then, there is some talk of an international jaunt to end the travel season, but we shall see. Frequent flier miles will only get you so far...

Busy, busy, but in a really good way. Hope to have some interesting stories to tell.


Friday, September 25, 2009

the rundown

Here's what I'm going to do today:
  1. Drop my brown boots off to be re-heeled.
  2. Pop in here and here.
  3. Consider buying myself flowers, and then not buy myself flowers.
  4. Eat either Cheerios or tofu for dinner depending on how motivated I am. If I eat Cheerios, I drink tea. If I eat tofu, I get white wine. Hmmm.
  5. Watch the season premiere of Ghost Whisperer. Yes, really.
  6. Paint my toenails.

Can you tell I'm solo this week?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

done to death...

Totally feeding into a ridiculous frenzy, but is civility really dead?

This made me go, heeeeeee.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

made in france


My parents very, very kindly gave Pete and me quite a special pot for our anniversary. In fact, calling it a "pot" doesn't do it justice.

The appropriate vessel for your moules.

Do you like our new light?
They are all the rage in these parts...

We marked the first cooking with champagne, of course. [Note: I am not capitalizing "C", as it was really a sparkling Loire, and I just learned on NPR or some such outlet that you can commonly use "c"hampagne to describe sparkling wine and "C"hampange is the real stuff. How stuck up am I? Whatever, it was on NPR so it must be true.]

Pete's recent encounter with the Silver Fox has inspired him to attempt a cassoulet. Perhaps a 3-day cassoulet. Who knows? Craziness may ensue.

Thank you, M&D.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

a good spot

Pete thought this would be a good, safe place
to park the car last night...

Happy Tuesday,

Thursday, August 27, 2009


This movie is cuh-RAZY.

P and I watched the movie Coraline the other night. That movie is NUTS.

I have no idea who the director and producer had in mind when they decided to make this movie, but apparently it was someone like me. It's not really for kids, it's not really for adults... It gave me deja vu of those kid nightmares we've all had where you know you're dreaming, but can't wake up; but not in a bad way. I know, it makes no sense. I will have to read the book to see if it is more/less creepy. Based on the cover, I'm going to say: equally creepy. Bizarre. Totally bizarre.

The premise is that a little girl who is unhappy with her boring life crawls through a tiny door into a perfect, alternate version of her life. She finds out she can stay there forever if she let's her perfect mother take out her eyes and sew buttons in their place. Yeah. Pretty awesome, huh? There is also some sort of eastern European retired circus performer, and some old, overweight burlesque actressess...

I think you should see this movie.

PS - you can send super creepy e-cards to your friends at the book site.

Monday, August 24, 2009

fire is hot

Fire is hot.
Soup is cold.

There was a point earlier this primarily cold and rainy summer when I wouldn't have believed that I'd ever be thinking that it's just too darn hot to cook. Too hot to eat, sleep, or do anything but seek refuge in the corner of our kitchen near our pitifully overtaxed AC unit. Well, my friends, that time is now.

P and I have unearthed some great recipes that involve minimal ingredients and/or cooking. This is key, as I have just learned that fire is, indeed, quite hot. I say this in reference to my new gas stove and oven, which use actual fire to cook. Yes, yes, I know that I am supposed to prefer gas to electric, but even little flames seem to be super hot, and I have that Sesame Street vignette of the lady in the kimono bathrobe setting herself on fire while reaching for her teapot ingrained in my head. Will that be me? Will I burn all the hair off my arm lighting the stove as my 8th grade Earth Science lab partner did with our bunsen burner? It's entirely possible, as I find myself constantly removing pieces of paper, potholders, glasses of wine, etc. from the proximity of the (fiery) burner.

[Note: Did I make up that episode of Sesame Street? Sometimes that show really freaked me out.]

Anyway, I need to get a thermometer that measures the actual oven temperature because all temperatures seem to be "superhothothot" no matter the degree that I dial it to. Also, P and I need to devise a strategy to keep the smoke detectors from going off in our new apt when we use the superhothothot setting. We set them off for the first time last night, and let's just say a gal with a shoulder impingement shouldn't be fanning a smoke detector 10 feet over her head.

So, dear readers, I pose the following questions:
  • Any ideas for jerry rigging a ventilation strategy for an apt that has none?
  • Have a recommendation for a good oven thermometer?
  • Can you help me overcome the bunsen burner PTSD and use my gas range with confidence?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

time warp: apparently, I've grown...

Hmmm, much more peaceful than how I remember it.

You may have noticed that I'm feeling a bit nostalgic lately. I think that August will always have this effect on me, particularly since I work at a university and will always face a perpetual "back to school" period each summer. The afternoon light is hazy, the traffic is picking up, and I'm trying not to feel bitter about all those cold, rainy days that claimed the beginning of my summer.

When the weather finally cleared, I was able to enjoy some experiences that I haven't had since I was really quite young. The first is going to a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. As you know, I'm quite fond of the balmy waters of the Carribbean, but as a child, I took beach vacations to Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The elapsed time since I last partook in this activity left me questioning my memories, and trying to piece things back together from a height now 3 feet higher. I seemed to remember thrilling ocean waves of hurricane proprotion on even the calmest days. Perhaps DE beaches are just wilder than MA; or rather, it must be because I am no longer knee-high, but the waves still are...

Did you ever read Trumpet of the Swan?
Everyone should.

My next trip to times relatively long ago was to Stratford, ON. I hadn't been to Stratford in years, but have so many memories of our annual (?) trips with my family. This year, I took Pete to see my parents and family friend, see some plays, and see some swans. While they are big birds, they just weren't as big as I remembered. I still backed away as they came out of the water, though. They can clock you.

It's always interesting to contemplate how things change and how they stay the same. Luckily, some things do stay the same.

Regardless of how much height I have gained,
I am still the shortest member of my family.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

your moment of Zen...

Thanks to T&R for bringing the entertainment.

Thanks to all of you who helped celebrate Pete's birthday this weekend! For those of you who could be with us, hope we fed you enough because we still have 2lbs of pork left. For those of you who were here in spirit... jealous? Juuuuust kidding. Hope to see you next year, we missed you!

Just fyi, we are done with the southern themes for awhile. Next time there will be plenty of champagne and pate. Beware.

PS - We finally watched King Creole all the way through and with the sound on. It's quite good. Thumbs up.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Guess the locale...

In spite of their efforts, I remained a
non-participatory member of the audience.

Hi, all! Just recently returned from vacation in a foreign land. Based on above video, can you guess where I was...?

More to come.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

by the seashore

T by the sea...

We are really loving the car now that summer has finally arrived. It allows us to visit Tomoko, Ryan, and Karin much more easily.


I was very content sitting on the beach. We were sure to employ Pete's famous "thermos maneuver" in order to circumvent both the "no glass" and the "no alcohol" polilcy, so that we could have nice cold wine with our cheese and fruit.

I have full permission to use this photo.

Until next time, that is all.


Monday, July 20, 2009

when life gives you lemons...

The way life should be: Jackson's Snack Shack...

The other day, as I circled the block for parking, I saw a little girl sitting on a stoop selling lemonade. She had a table with a table cloth, pitcher, cups, etc. No handwritten sign. No pricing available. She looked bored; not in a kid sitting in the sun kind of way, but in a slightly disturbing adult way: legs crossed nonchalantly, frowning, squinting at the traffic, uncomfortable on the concrete steps. Then a guy came out of the building she was in front of, lit up a cigarette (?) and leaned against the wall next to her. I stared at this tableau a split second too long after the light turned green and was honked on my way.

The girl seemed stuck in my head following this brief encounter. I was sad that something I always think of as a wholesome summertime activity seemed so tainted in this gritty context. I thought about my childhood -- how I could roam freely, how I wouldn't have nasty men smoking questionable substances at my lemonade stand, how I would have been sitting in a lawn chair or on the grass if it were my shop. I despaired. Well, not really, but it was a bit of a bummer.

And then, life reminds you of how lovely it can still be. Pete and I encountered Jackson's Snack Shack (Voted #1 on the North Shore by his family!), and my faith in sunny summertime memories was restored. This boy did it right -- cash register, precious apron from Lowe's, nametag, even a box collecting donations for an animal shelter.

Wholesome non-smokers....

Lemonade was even offered in two sizes: small, large. Pete bought me a large and I blissfully listened to the ice click in my plastic cup, so promptly poured for me by Jackson's efficient little hand, as we drove along the coast. I can't think of a better way to spend $.50 than on a large lemonade drunk in the car with the windows down, looking at the sea...


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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

one for all those upstaters out there...

One to join the ranks of Nessie, Cressie, Mussie, and Champ...

Some of you who happen upon this blog from time to time may remember a certain fourth grade overnight trip to Cooperstown, NY. Ah yes, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and, er, what else was there? I know my gracious mother rembers sitting next to Betty Jo "I think I'm gonna 'splode" Nelson on the bus, but I don't recall many more details.

Anyway, this book takes place in a fictionalized version of Cooperstown and brings all sorts of upstate/FLR elements into play. Pete is in the midst of reading it right now, so I won't write too much about it, but I do highly recommend it. It's really well written, quirky, and incorporates vingettes involving Natty Bumppo, attempted murder by Alaskan bi-plane, and hippies. What more could you ask for?

If you read it, let me know what you think...

Friday, July 10, 2009

springtime meal for a noreaster

Last raindy day meal...

With fingers crossed, I am happy to write my last post on rainy day cooking. The clouds seem to have parted, and my outlook has become sunnier just like the weather. I'm now able to look back at those still too recent rainy days and take stock of all the indoor cooking experimentation they inspired. There was, of course, the soufflé, a very rainy breakfast experiment, and some exploration of a bottle or 2 or 3 of wine.

The summertime Nor'easter that sat on Boston for a few days at the end of June coincided with my first purchase of garlic scapes and the discovery of the "all garlic all the time" menu from which came the soufflé. I would definitely recommend the above bright and tasty Penne With Roasted Garlic, Pancetta and Arugula for your next rainy day.

Here's to better weather...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

notes on a first-time soufflé

soufflé take 1...

If you've never made a soufflé before (as I had not until tonight), and you are preparing to move to a new apartment, and you have an injury, this might not be the best time for your first attempt. I, of course, disregarded all of these factors and plowed ahead with the soufflé-making because that. is. what. I. had. planned.

My confidence bolstered by the word on the street that soufflés are undeservedly intimidating -- (They're actually easy, y'all! OK PAULA DEEN WHATEVER.), I figured Pete and I should just go for it, trashed apartment be damned.

Well, it actually wasn't that difficult, but we didn't know that until the end. I decided we should make a green garlic, gruyère, and chive soufflé, which I found on the NYT website. That was probably my first mistake as the NYT food section, as wonderful as it is, assumes that you can cook well enough that you don't need explicit instructions. Like, what temperature you should cook things at? Or, what to do if once you add the milk to your roux it does not thicken and then you think you've just wasted 1/2 dozen eggs, 2 cups milk, and the last remaining shreds of your sanity...?! Alright, I'm being dramatic now.

Once I added more flour to my decidedly not "thick and smooth" beginning step, things began to improve. We finally got the soufflé in the oven, waited 20-25 minutes (as instructed by the NYT), and pulled out our lovely golden soufflé (see above photo).

We admired said golden soufflé for about 2 minutes, which was when I went to serve it and discovered that the interior was still liquid. Hmmm... the liquid tasted good, but was still liquid. Pete and I looked at each other, shrugged, then molded my liquidy scoop of soufflé back into the dish, and popped it in the oven for another 10 minutes.

soufflé take 2...
(You can hardly see the dent, right?)

Success! Who knew that you can just remold your raw soufflé, put it back in the oven, and end up with an even puffier, more golden soufflé in the end?

End result...

Now that I know you don't have to do everything exactly right and you can still turn out a pretty impressive dish, I would concurr that soufflés are more intimidating than they should be. It was a bit of an ordeal to get to that conclusion, but well worth it. Yes, I'll make another!

Do not be afraid.