Wrap It Up. August 23 2013.

Jasper in Box Hammock

Aww, it’s Mr. Jasper.  I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the ways of cats, but this orange tabby has never met a box that couldn’t be lounged in. This particular box was approximately 1/3 too small for his husky build, but he assessed, wiggled and found a way to make it work, hammock-style.  The world is a nap surface.

It’s been a busy week, and I’m looking to forward to some quality putzing time on the New York City streets and my couch.  Earlier this week, I applied for yoga teacher training, which I have been thinking about for a long time.  And then I got in!  (Yay me!!) Plus ten grownup points.  And then I accidentally paid for it twice and threw my finances into a tizzy.  (Boooooooooo.)  Minus ten grownup points.  Rules for the weekend: Less money spending and less alcohol drinking.

Stuff:

Animals jumping on trampolines.  My favorite part is the Shiba Inu, who is analyzing the trampoline so hard he can’t possibly enjoy himself. Like, ugggghhh, if I only had the right tools, I could only fix this gosh darn broken floor and everything would be fine.

Have you guys seen Maisy and Lennon Stella on Nashville yet?  Their rendition of Ho Hey by The Lumineers is just the best, I can’t get over how talented and adorable they are.

Guys with fancy lady hair.

I’m trying to get the family to go to a new place in Flushing for dim sum.  I love our standby Dong Yi Feng, but sometimes you just want to try something new.  Any suggestions?

Have an amazing weekend! (Can you believe that summer is almost over??! Go outside!  Fly a kite! Tan!)

Love, Grace

Ix-nay On…Brains?

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I was listening to this American Life the other day, as Ira and gang meandered through an episode on doppelgangers.  First up, (or should I say Act One) was a piece on passing off sliced pig rectum as…dum dum dum…imitation calamari.  (By the way, pig rectum is officially known as BUNG a.k.a. funnest word ever.) Initially, yes, I was horrified, but when I stopped to think about it, I was really just horrified by possibly being lied to.  NOT by the bung eating.

I’ve had this bung you speak of.  And I liked it.

Maybe you know this, maybe you don’t – Chinese people think everything is edible.  Like everything.  Color the world in shades of cold jellyfish salad, braised chicken feet, sea cucumbers, swallow spit, fish eyeballs, congealed pork blood cubes, duck tongues on a stick, fish head stew, and spicy tripe casserole.  On the less esoteric end, meat is always with bone in, fish with head on and everything with skin on.  Growing up in a Chinese household, within the ethnic food buffet that is New York City and being lucky enough to do a good amount of global traveling, food has always equaled adventure without the defying of death and threatening of life.  When confronted with a new, exotic dish, the question has always skipped right past the yes versus no to ‘is it good?’.  If you’ve come to conclusion that this also called being greedy, you are so correct.  Being overly confident in this particular sector of life, I thought there was nothing I could eat that would faze me.

Cut to the former M.Wells Diner in Long Island City, winter of 2011.  We had a bunch of good eaters doing what they do best, with a table of raw seafood, escargot, foie gras, maple pie, and veal brains.  Veal brains.  They tasted much like what I had envisioned – silky like a slightly toothsome tofu, with an undefinable sweetness.  In the moment, I felt fine about but for weeks afterwards I felt guilty and terrible, with a nightmare or two thrown in for a good measure. I decided that this was a food boundary I would not be crossing again.  It made me a little sad, as I like to think of myself as a person who eats everything, but this particular food has quite effortlessly punched through my imaginary armor.

Which made me wonder, adventurous eaters, what’s your food kryptonite?

(Thanks to my cousin, Peter, for the in-action shot of pork blood/rice cake on a stick at a Taiwanese night market.  Good job with the eating.)

Brunch for All!

stack of toast

I love, love, love having people over, whether it’s for some food, tea, board games, or tragic whiskey drinking. To me, it’s a landmark of finally living in my own place with only my own schedule to accommodate, wrapped in a little bit of smug satisfaction at having brought the party to my doorstep.

This past Sunday, I had some friends over for brunch, which was organized partially because I hadn’t thrown a holiday party, but mostly because I desperately wanted to make the cinnamon toast French toast recipe out of my newly acquired Smitten Kitchen cookbook.  Blogger power!

Entertaining, especially in the cramped quarters of New York City, can be daunting.  There are so many sane reasons not to have people over – the preparation, the inviting, the pestering for RSVPs, the menu, the shopping.  And once you get the group together, there’s the figuring out how to serve everyone, the squishing, making sure everyone has what they need, the music (!) and then, oh yea, being able to enjoy it without running around like a chicken without a head.

Or like Lola.

Remember Lola?  I’ve been feeling like her all week.

I digress.

THE SIMPLE BUT SAVORY MENU

the spread

Piles of soft scrambled eggs – easy to cook in bulk, and incredibly forgiving

Assorted sausages from Faicco’s – cut into bite sized pieces for easy self-service and eating

Oven baked smoked bacon – also from Faicco’s – good and cheap at $5.99/lb

Cinnamon toast French toast – we made our way through two pans of the stuff, with some happy guests carrying off the leftovers.

Cheese plate – the stoic but noble standby for those eating lulls, and post-event chats

Plenty of coffee

Mimosas cobbled together from guest offerings

A few things I’ve learned about entertaining in living quarters the size of a pea that are worth passing along?

#1 – Keep the atmosphere relaxed and casual. 

A multiple course sit-down dinner is probably not the way to go.  I’ve had people over game night, brunch, tea and snacks – scenarios that encourage comfortable interaction in close quarters, while also leaving guests feeling free to come and go during the course of the gathering.  Since there is comfortable seating for about 6 people in my living room (8 if you’re feeling cozy and optimistic) having guests rotate through over the course of a few hours allows for more people to attend.  More people, more fun.  Write that down.  There will be a test.

#2 – Keep last minute prep to a minimum.

In my small combined living room/kitchen, activity in the kitchen is activity everywhere.  If your place is anything like mine, pick recipes that allow for minimal last minute preparation to keep the frenzy to a minimum, but also to free yourself up for the fun part…hanging out with your guests.  Recipes get extra points if they are resilient enough to taste great when they’ve cooled down and/or have spent a few minutes neglected on the stove.  Any little item that can be prepped beforehand should be.

For this past Sunday’s brunch, I lightly poached the sausage to keep frying time to a minimum, prepped the crowd-friendly French toast recipe an hour before guests were due to arrive, and laid the bacon out on a baking sheet, ready to be slipped into the oven.

#3 – The guest list is all.

Let people know what to expect.  Cramped quarters?  Flights of stairs?  Animals?  Your carefully edited group of guests should include zero high-maintenance friends, and your list of yes-es will be a self-selected group of people ready to have a good time come hell or high water.

Any other ideas from you smarties out there?

5 AM.

India.  The answer was India.  More specifically, Goa, Mumbai and Nashik.

[Pause for rampant flight cancellations due to Sandy]

So Frankfurt.  And then Vienna.  And Frankfurt again.  Then Chicago.  And finally, finally, finally, back to New York City this past Saturday, post-power outage, public transportation shutdown and zombie apocalypse.  In other words, friends, I lucked out big time.

My internal clock has given up the ghost, and I still pause before drinking water or eating raw vegetables.  I pulled out some euros to pay for groceries on Sunday before realizing I was I in the wrong country.  I curled up in bed for hours on Sunday in an attempt to address the bone-deep cold from being underdressed in 30 degree weather.  Fahrenheit.

I’ve been up since 4AM.  Someone threw daylight savings time into the mix. I know that today is election day, but somehow forgot the fact that at the end of the day, we will have elected a new president.

I’m running this race in two weeks and have not trained one little bit.  I am a terrible runner.

I said the word boyfriend yesterday and turned bright red.   Thanks to both India and Hurricane Sandy, I have a newfound appreciation for clean toilets, drinking water, and a solid roof over my head.   I have zero things to complain about.  Someone should smack me if I start.

I love this story and wish desperately that I had thought to write it.  This made my heart swell, just like all the overheard snippets on the downtown streets of neighbors asking neighbors how they fared through the storm.  I love when this city goes out of their way to be kind.  Or rather, I just love this city.

 

Chin up, New York.

(These photos are from an overnight train from Goa to Mumbai, 5 AM in another hemisphere, in another country.)

Bon Iver, ‘Flume’, Live at Radio City Music Hall

I have hit my concert-going peak.  Last Wednesday, I saw Bon Iver play at Radio City Music Hall.  My seats?  Dead center, second row from the stage in the orchestra pit, with no one sitting in front of me.  Um, hello, the front row is for weenies – the pit is where is it at.   I managed to get a video of Mr. Justin Vernon singing ‘Flume,’ right before he sang a lovely version of Skinny Love, which I only managed to get the smallest snippet of because my technology is smarter than I am.  Please note how still my hand was for the whole of the video.  Backpat.

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