Hurricane Sandy and “The Language of Men”

While Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the East Coast yesterday, Philadelphia remarkably managed to miss all of the destruction, power outages, flooding, and (for the most part) high winds that all of our neighboring areas experienced.

Luke captured this fantastic screen shot showing the storm moving in a vortex all around us, while we stayed safely inside our little storm-free bubble.

Around 5pm, we even went for a walk – good gusts of wind every once in a while, but mostly it was a chance for us to test our outerwear for Fall/Winter and to be re-energized by the feeling of rain on our faces.

Nice and dry on the inside
Photo credit: Luke

A view of the Delaware River – and no cars – as seen through a protective Ziploc Bag
Photo credit: Luke

We hope all of our friends and family who endured greater difficulties are doing well and getting the help (and power) they need.

While the threat of the storm loomed large, I spent all day yesterday reading “The Language of Men” by Anthony D’Aries. I’ve met Anthony a few times, thanks to our wonderful mutual friend Adrienne, and always leave with memories of great conversations with him and his lovely wife, Vanessa.

Photo credit: Hudson Whitman

This book is a personal and emotional account of growing up, understanding your family, and most importantly, learning how to ask questions of yourself and those you care about. Anyone who has had book conversations with me knows I am a tough critic who is more likely to HATE something and throw it across the room in disgust than to sing its praises. Anthony’s book is so well written, so realistic and relatable, and aches of so much sincerity, that I could not put it down.

A short excerpt:

“Why do you gotta ask this shit?” my brother says across a table of empty wine bottles. We have just finished an expensive dinner for my father’s 60th birthday. I had asked my father if he was satisfied with his life. He shrugged. The question ricocheted off him and landed in front of my mother. She didn’t answer.

You can find more eloquent reviews here and here.

A walk in the woods

This semester is flying by! I cannot believe Trick-or-Treaters are out, and that it is only a month until Luke and I travel Down South for Thanksgiving with our parents. It’s all really exciting, but also a little overwhelming.

My first attempt at teaching has had a lot of ups and downs. I know this is a normal experience, but it’s not yet a comfortable one. I’m learning so much about how to prepare lectures, engage students with the material, choose reading assignments that provoke discussion, organize a class (and then reorganize it when it is not working), establish class policies and how/when to bend them. I still feel like I have a long way to go before I’m “seasoned,” and the fact that we’re already halfway through the semester is simultaneously a relief and strong motivation for ending the year on a good note.

With all of these thoughts weighing on my mind, Luke took me on a beautiful hike this morning in Fairmont Park. We meandered along the trails, climbing over logs, bouncing off of rocks, sliding on the leaves covering the ground, and breathing in the amazing smells of Fall. It was just the break I needed – a perfect mix of physical exertion, quiet calm, and clearing my head by talking and talking to my patient husband.

Last night, we danced and danced to Brown Bird and Yonder Mountain String Band at a venue just down the street from us. Taking time out of our normal routine to dance and to talk, to play outdoors and to hold hands…this weekend has reminded me how important it is to relax and to breathe before gearing up for whatever is next.

Brown Bird

Yonder Mountain String Band

 

Sunday afternoon in the kitchen

A crisp fall morning and a trip to the market inspired an afternoon in the kitchen. We started with a walk down to the Vietnamese shopping district at 5th and Washington, it is fascinatingly like our old Chicago neighborhood, right down to a Ba Le bakery – I wonder how directly they are connected. The supermarket there will be a regular stop in the future, from rice and seafood to sandalwood soap. The return trek home brings us through the Italian Market and the produce stands there, still full of fall vegetables. Hot peppers, tomatoes, potatoes…

My kitchen list for the day actually started much earlier in the week, with a new whole wheat sourdough starter. I had a great run this year before the move keeping a starter active and a loaf of bread a part of my regular schedule, but with the move and the heat of summer I let it go. It’s a pretty reliable 5 day process to go from flour and water (and a little cumin, following my trusted Joe Ortiz recipe, thanks to a book from my Aunt Jane years ago) through a handful of refreshments to a sour active starter, and by Saturday morning it was ready to turn into a dough (reserving a small container in the fridge to start next week’s loaf).

The apartment has been just a little cool for bread over the last few days though, so a typically 16 hour rise stretched to 21, with it going into a loaf pan at 6am this morning and slowly rising again in the warmed oven.

In the meantime, let’s make some granola. Still using my mom’s old bowl that we used for granola and breadmaking growing up (she sent it to me when I started making bread in college). Toast the oats in the cast-iron skillet. Toast the nuts (hazelnuts today). Toast the coconut. Toss it all together in the bowl with dried fruit (apricot today) and drizzle maple syrup (still working through last year’s Marquette Michigan syrup today) until it starts to stick and maybe clump a little bit.

Dough has finally doubled in the pan. Especially with wild yeast you just have to wait until it’s ready and be patient. But if you wait (and get the temperature hospitable), it will get there and hold together. Into the oven for 55 minutes at 400.

 

I’m inspired this week by two tigress in a pickle posts, so let’s make some fermented sriracha. This is a first for me, but I like fermenting things, and I like hot hot things, so a mix of hot red thai peppers and red jalapeños go in a bowl with garlic and salt to develop some more of that wild yeast flavor this week.

The other post was for homemade tomato paste and sold me with the simple idea of using icecube trays to save the paste in tablespoon-sized quantities instead of the cans that always end up in my fridge half-full. We’re always looking for ways to bring the late summer taste of tomatoes with us through the winter, but no time for a big canning project in our tiny apartment this year, this seems (and smells like) a perfect compromise, turning nearly a gallon of tomato puree into a concentrated cup of paste to wait in our freezer.

The bread is out and cooling.

When a friend comes to town

One of the best parts about moving to a new city is having your old friends visit you. This weekend Luke and I were lucky enough to have our first house guest – our good friend Andy. Seeing Philadelphia with fresh eyes, spotlighted by bright sunshine and brought to life with a fall breeze, gently reminded us to appreciate our picturesque neighborhood.

It was also the perfect opportunity to visit a lot of places we’d dog-eared for “some day.”

Dinner at Lemon Hill on Friday night was the perfect spot to settle in for comfort food, delicious cocktails, and long overdue catching up.

We kicked off our Saturday with $2 bloody marys at 12 Steps Down, a great local bar adjacent to the Italian Market.

Photo credit: Philly.com

After meandering through the Italian Market, sampling cheeses and daydreaming about kitchen equipment we can’t afford, we made our way to Taqueria La Veracruzana for an amazing lunch of chilaquiles, tacos de jalapeños rellenos, and burrito al pastor.

Photo credit: Dine Indie

Shopping on South Street is always an adventure, but I can’t believe it took us this long to step into Wooden Shoe Books & Records. I made a beeline for their section on Revolutions in Latin America, and will definitely be back when prepping for my class next semester.

Photo credit: Wooden Shoe Books

After dinner at Karma in Old City, we strolled across town to Rittenhouse Square and back, zigzagging between historical walking tours, frat boys on a scavenger hunt, and girls hobbled by their (too) high heels.

For a nightcap, we went into Tattooed Mom, a nearby two-story bar with pool tables (finally!) and stiff drinks.

Photo credit: Drink Philly

None of us remembered our cameras, but it was almost better that way. It was a lovely weekend of shared new experiences with lots of great conversation and being in the moment.

What we’ve been up to

The last two weeks have been a flurry of activity. Here is a short account of what we’ve been up to:

We attended the wedding of our amazing friends, Brianna and Josh.

Brianna and Josh
Photo credit: The lovely Brooke Hardtke

We danced with joy at a local electronic music festival. Especially loved Papadosio and Ott. and the All Seeing I!

We were disappointed in “The Master” – great acting by Philip and Joaquin, but still didn’t really go for the storyline (or lack thereof). Anyone else see it? I’d love to discuss it.

Love PSH, Do not love “The Master”

And we worked. A lot. Things are crazy busy for both of us right now – at least we’re in it together. This weekend, a great friend is coming into town for a visit. It will be a wonderful break from school and computers. The weather has finally turned into the crisp mornings, sun warmed days, and blanket-covered nights that make me love Fall.