Sunday, January 18, 2015

2014 In Review

photo by Jenna Salvagin
Married
Getting married obviously marked my major life milestone of 2014. Since our engagement was only seven months long, the first half of 2014 was dominated by wedding planning. We were away or busy almost every spring weekend with things like catering tastings, my shower, our engagement photo shoot, bachelor and bachelorette parties for us and friends, and friends' weddings. Meanwhile, my weeknights were focused on wedding research and spreadsheets. The wedding magic came and went in June, and we took a simple honeymoon afterward - a short but sweet week at a lake house in the Berkshires. 

our private honeymoon dock

Enjoying the Everyday
Following the wedding, my intention was to enjoy a totally normal stretch of time. There was a lot of darkness in the past few years that I was still dealing with in the first half of 2014, so I felt ready to put it behind me and enjoy regular life without the stress of planning a wedding, or moving repeatedly, or terrible apartment mishaps. That's exactly what I've been doing. Weekends spent doing laundry, going on afternoon walks for coffee with my new husband, going to yoga, and getting drinks with friends. No big trips, just weekend getaways to see friends or family. We did go to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for Evan's birthday, which deserves its own post.

I intended to write about the wedding here on the blog afterward. Instead, I got caught up in the loveliness of doing nothing. I haven't played that much music or written the blog posts I planned or exercised as much as I should and definitely procrastinated on finishing post-wedding related tasks. Mostly, I spent the second half of the year luxuriating in the escapism of binge reading. In fact, I read 67 books in 2014 - twice as many as in 2013. Which reminds me that I should do a post on some of my recent favorite books. This year also marked a turning point in my feelings about New York City. For the first time, I felt like I might be ready to leave, not immediately, but sometime in the imaginable future.

ice skating in Prospect Park last winter

Other People's Weddings
Just as in 2013, we attended several weddings. In early spring, we celebrated the wedding of one of Evan's friends under magnolia blooms in Rhode Island. We were part of a twenty person wedding weekend involving a hike, a pregnant bride, a beautifully golden twilight Hudson riverfront, and dinner inside an antique book store. A week after my own wedding, I was given the honor of reading a poem at the ceremony of one of my oldest friends, Caitlin. In the fall, I cried when my friend sang her vows on a beach at a summer camp wedding in New Jersey complete with lawn games and a bonfire. And I relived my college 80s dancing nights at a wedding in Delaware.

three out of four hefs now married 
(photo by Photovisions)

Cold Spring friend hike

getting ready for a ceremony at golden hour

Work
When I came back from a long vacation in fall 2013, I thought, I can't do this anymore. I was so burned out from several years of being a nonprofit fundraising minion. But I had a plan that involved sticking it out a bit longer until I hit a certain savings goal before exploring something new. Lo and behold, the power of sticking it out prevailed, because in spring 2014 a position opened up at work -- one that I had always regretted not applying for two years ago. Now in my new role managing the development database, instead of bearing the stressful orders to raise more money, I get to play with computers in support of the people raising the money. It's a pretty ideal job for me and it was a pretty ideal transition to get to continue working for an organization I believe in while expanding my skill sets into new territory.

Music
I started out 2014 by releasing a new solo album. This sounds like the beginning of a new musical chapter, but it actually represented a closing. The songs I had written during a particularly creative period between 2010 and 2011 -- and then spent a year recording with Evan -- were finally recorded for posterity and out there in the world. This technically freed me up to figure out my next musical project, but I'm in a creative lull and it's been hard to motivate on that. I did at least write a new song in 2014 and learn some covers for the fun of it.

album art by Leanne Bazzetta

Bike Commuting
I've continued bike commuting fairly regularly since 2011, with a few exceptions. Last winter was colder than previous winters, so I ended up taking off the whole season. This year, I actually stopped riding from October onward. First, my landlord annoyingly stopped allowing me to lock my bike to the front gate, requiring me to either carry my heavy bike upstairs or lock it on the sidewalk. Second, I twisted both of my ankles that month -- one a week after the other -- and spent a few weeks either limping or elevating my feet. Third, by the time I recovered, daylight savings had changed my ride home from daylight to the cold, dark night. Granted, having to carry my bike upstairs and ride in the dark cold has not stopped me before, but something about this confluence of events broke me out of the habit.

On the plus side, I recently got an indoor exercise bike stand from a friend who moved away from NYC. It's genius. I'm planning to exercise all winter without paying for a gym membership by riding my own bike while watching TV in the comfort of my apartment.

a rainbow at the end of my ride over the Brooklyn Bridge

2015
Which brings me to my 2015 plans, which mainly involve riding my exercise bike, writing more, and making conscious choices to be more healthy.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Champagne Punch for a New Year

For New Year's Eve, we had about twenty friends over for a party that included dinner. Evan wasn't as keen on making dinner, because it's a lot of work (see below), but we do both like to entertain and cook. I want us to have the kind of home that feels open and where we're able to feed the people we love. We haven't had that many gatherings in our current home, and I don't want to look back and regret that going forward. So in order to live according to our intentions, we just have to take the opportunities rather than letting them pass by.

To avoid any last minute rushing for big dinners like this one and Thanksgiving, I make a plan by working out the recipes and then creating a prep timeline for both food and set up. So even though we were preparing nonstop most of the day, I felt relatively zen about it. Granted, part of why it took all day is because preparing for parties in NYC apartments also tends to involve rearranging furniture. I dream about having a home with an already-entertaining-friendly open layout.


I fell on some of my group dinner standbys that can be made cheaply and in crock pots: my two bean quinoa vegetarian chili and shredded barbecue beef (just like pulled pork). I made the beef in the crock pot the night before the party and then the chili during the day. It's good to make the beef ahead, to allow for time to cool, shred, remove the fat and bones, mix with barbecue sauce, and reheat just before serving. I was able to fit 7 lb of chuck roast in my crock pot, which is exactly the kind of occasion for which I included my new, larger crock pot on my wedding registry. I always forget how long it takes to shred several pounds of meat, though. It kind of detracts from what is supposed to be a simple, non-time consuming recipe. My memories suggest that pulled pork is easier to shred. We're still working our way through the cow shares we bought a year ago and accompanying frozen beef avalanche.

For sides, I made mustard-balsamic braised kale and cornbread (this recipe multiplied by 1.5, baked in a 9x12 quarter sheet pan). As a bonus for certain guests, it was easy to make this meal completely gluten free by using all cornmeal and no flour in the cornbread.


We also wanted a special cocktail to celebrate the new year. After poking around several punch recipes, we created the raspberry lemon champagne gin punch below. We swapped raspberry syrup for strawberry syrup and eliminated the muddling step for ease. (We tend to have raspberries in our freezer from summer pickings of wild raspberries at the farm). We taste tested until we settled on a ratio that's not too sweet or too tart, but goes down easy and is a lovely blush color. Luckily, we also received a fancy new carafe from our wedding registry that is large enough to hold this many servings of alcohol.



With the party and my subsequent hangover behind us, we focused the rest of our long weekend on home organizing and hanging up artwork. After having to leave what was a nearly ideal apartment a couple summers ago, we felt kind of down about our current apartment for the first year or so. Its awkward layout has made it a challenge to configure. More recently, we've been trying to appreciate it as home. We didn't do any holiday decorations last year, so putting up a tree and making a wreath this year felt like a step in the right direction. Slowly, but surely we are decluttering, organizing and making it more homey.

Raspberry Lemon Gin Champagne Punch
Makes nearly 12 half-cup servings

8 oz gin (1 cup)
8 oz water (1 cup)
25 oz champagne (1 bottle)
4 oz lemon juice (juice of 4 lemons)
1 1/3 oz raspberry syrup
1 1/3 oz triple sec
1 orange

Peel one lemon into several peels. Juice four lemons. Slice one orange into wheels. Combine ingredients in a large pitcher or punch bowl and stir thoroughly. Add lemon peels and orange wheels for garnish. Keep chilled in the refrigerator. Serve in half cup portions over ice.

To make cocktails for two:
1.5 oz gin
1.5 water
4.5 oz champagne
1 oz lemon juice
1/3 oz raspberry syrup
1/3 oz triple sec

Monday, December 29, 2014

Holiday Cookies


I went a little crazy and made almost 200 cookies last weekend. I was worried about not having enough, so I multiplied most of my recipes by 1.5 and didn't realize I would end up with quite so many! I like to give them out to coworkers and bring to holiday parties. We were certainly busy with holiday celebrations this December. This year's gatherings included a sign that we are getting older -- a party with multiple babies and congratulations to some newly pregnant friends! 

Pumpkin snicker doodles are one of my trademark cookies that I make most holidays, since I usually have homemade pumpkin puree in the freezer, and they are a unique treat. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are another good standby, though not necessarily very seasonal. 

Almond biscotti are a favorite of my parents, so I tucked a batch for them under the Christmas tree. Some years I make chocolate gingerbread cookies with cocoa powder, but I opted instead to jazz up a standard spicy gingerbread recipe with walnuts since my brother-in-law does not like chocolate. I actually adapted Simply Recipes'  gingerbread biscotti recipe into cookies, so they are not overly sweet and are also great alongside a morning coffee or tea. 

New to me this year were the coconut macaroons. I have been afraid to make macaroons since failing at them several years ago. I'm not sure what wrong previously, since they were easy to make and tasted delicious. In fact, Evan and I voted the macaroons as our favorite cookie in this holiday batch, so I'm going to make more for our New Year's Eve party. 

Note: One trick I like to employ after making dough is to form it into logs and stick it into the freezer. That way it can easily be sliced and baked into uniform cookies. Usually 30 minutes is enough. You can also store dough logs up to a few months in sealed plastic bags, which also gives you the option to slice off a few at a time and bake them in your toaster oven for portion control.

Gingerbread walnut cookies
(adapted from Simply Recipes - minus the fresh ginger, with walnuts instead of almonds. Bake for 10-15 minutes like a regular cookie instead of baking twice like biscotti. Makes approximately 30 cookies.)


Coconut macaroons
(via The Kitchn)


Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies
(recipe here on Color Me Green)



Pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies
(recipe here on Color Me Green)


Almond biscotti
(recipe here on Color Me Green)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Turning Thirty



I turned 30 last month. I wanted to do something different from the usual gathering at bar, so I organized an open mic slash party. It was a very merry night in a bar squeezed full of friends and music. The Fifth Estate definitely lived up to its recommendation on FiPS as one of the best bars for party hosting in Park Slope. It was pretty ideal since we basically had the bar to ourselves without having to pay to reserve it, there is a music stage, and they let us play our own iPod music and set up tables with snacks. Everyone was surprised that I made my own birthday cake, but I didn't want to pass up an opportunity to bake pumpkin and chocolate beet cupcakes.

Frank made a hilarious song for my birthday - you should all take a listen (thanks Frank!).

video

We ended the evening with a family band - my husband, my sister and I covered Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane over the Sea" - same as the last song at our wedding.


Earlier that day, Evan treated us to brunch at home cooked by a private chef. Mirijana of Wild Feast on Kitchensurfing served us a delicious multi-course meal. She specializes in curing and smoking her own meats, so brunch started out with a charcuterie spread involving wild boar, duck and lamb, and went on from there to scones and pancakes and more. If you're looking to try out Kitchensurfing, I definitely recommend Mirijana for a splurgy, special meal.


Evan's gift to me was this leather clutch from Flux Productions, who sells on Etsy and at the Brooklyn Flea. Thanks husband, for knowing how much I appreciate quality goods that are handmade with care.


As for how it feels to be thirty...it makes me realize that ten years of my adult life have already gone by doing the typical Brooklyn twenty-something lifestyle. Working and stressing about work, indulging in bars and restaurants, reading on the subway, going to the farmers market religiously. Always wishing I had more time to devote to writing and exercising. Around twenty five, I changed things up and pursued more things I was meant to be doing - moving to the environmental sector, playing in a band, bike commuting. But the general patterns have remained constant. I'm thinking a lot about what the next changes will be and what the next ten years might hold.