The northeast had a surprise snowstorm in late October which left a lot of people without power. Our good friend Pamela Hovland sent us pictures of her family’s improvised living arrangements: mattresses arranged around the fire place with an array of colorful quilts and pillows made for cozy, impressively stylish indoor camping. But best of all was Pamela’s makeshift refrigerator, tucked into the snow in her yard. read more…
In October, 2010 I had just started graduate school and was in a bit of a panic about my choice. I was setting myself up for somewhat limited career options and would graduate with a sizeable chunk of student debt. So when I was asked, at a conference I attended that fall, to write myself a postcard that would be mailed to me three months later, I thought hard about the message I wanted to receive.
Of course I forgot all about the postcard. I came home three months later to find it waiting for me, declaring confidently: “Keep calm. You made the right decision.” And indeed, I had.
Sometimes there is nothing more comforting than our own reassurance or words of wisdom, but for whatever reason we’re often not able to hear ourselves clearly in the moment. That’s what makes FutureMe such a great idea: you can write yourself emails to be delivered at any point in the future. read more…
I know of very few people who don’t get anxious at the prospect of roasting a turkey. Because the breast cooks more quickly than the dark meat thigh, it is often dry and overcooked by the time the bird comes out of the oven. Nobody seems to be certain of what, exactly, the best roasting method is, whether high heat or low, tented with foil, or roasted breast down.
Brining, submerging the bird in a salt-and-sugar solution before roasting it, is one of the most foolproof ways I know of to insure a succulent, flavorful roasted turkey. And the best brine I know of for turkey was created by Alice Waters, the inspired, inspiring founder and guiding light of Chez Panisse in Berkeley California, from whom this recipe was adapted (and published in A New Way to Cook.) The seasonings in the brine bring out the turkey’s natural flavor, and make it taste more like a farm bird with subtle herbal overtones.
The only problem with brining are the logistics: read more…
We always love hearing about where artists find their inspiration, and though this video of Leonard Cohen runs a little long, he has much to say about the process of cultivating an authentic “voice”. At about 5:26, he tells the story of how he went from fumbling around on the guitar to really “finding his song.” (You can also simply read the transcript here; start about 6 paragraphs down when he talks about Garcia Lorca.) Cohen recalls visiting his mother in Montreal and happening upon a young Spanish flamenco guitar player. He convinced the guitarist to give him lessons, and the young man showed up at Cohen’s home for three consecutive days. For three days they worked on the same six-chord progression, and Cohen, though he still couldn’t play as beautifully as the guitarist, finally had the building blocks of a song.
The story ends with tragedy, when the guitar player did not show up on the fourth day and Cohen learned that the young man had committed suicide. The guitarist’s few lessons would prove to have great impact on Cohen: the six chords he was taught that summer went on to be the foundation of all of his songs. (And there are many songs.)
For us, it is a key lesson in improvising: read more…
A friend recently sent us a postcard with this image; it’s called Leaping the Chasm at Stand Rock, Wisconsin Dells, 1887 by Henry Hamilton Bennett. On the back she wrote: “…thought it was an appropriate image for this phase of your life – taking risk, eager to have a new perspective/vantage point, lots of momentum for this jump, etc” .
We don’t know when a post card has packed more of punch. With it came such good wishes and recognition, we felt like we drank a tonic.
It’s partly the power of snail mail, because snail mail means someone has taken the time to write – in effect, to make – and send something tangible, giving the words all the more power. It’s REAL; we can tape it on our wall and be reminded of so much.
Postcard as tiny, potent gift.
Related posts: sending virtual flowers and b’day cakes
postcardly: send a real postcard via email
poems as gifts: don wentworth’s ‘past all traps’
“don’t give up!” (the inspirational letters project)
origami made of anything (vic muniz’ birds of a feather)
If you’re a kid, one of the pleasures of trick-or-treating is AFTERWARDS, when you’ve got a big stash of candy. Maria Robledo sent us this photo of her daughte Isabel’s haul: “she organizes her Halloween catch & stashes it conveniently under the couch for easy access while reading…”
We envy that very cagey strategy…
Charlies McFarlane sent us the photo of a makeshift gym, taken by a reporter embedded with soldiers in Afghanistan in 2010. They made due with what they had to devise a bench, and weights. It came just as we were researching alternatives to going to the gym, being resistant to the mindlessness of machines and sterile vibe. Look around you and you’ll see all sorts of things that will work fine as weights to lift. And we’re getting into this video of exercises we can do using just our ‘body-weight’ as a weight, i.e. calisthenics, done in a hotel room: body as gym. read more…
We took a walk with a new friend the other day. Our conversation focused largely on the turning point we both found ourselves in in our lives (like many people we knew), and the new paths we envisioned taking. She said didn’t feel she had much courage or taste for risk-taking. In the course of our few hours together, she happened to tell us about a business she had tried to start in India years before that never got off the ground. She had risked money, time and energy; she traveled to India many times and worked with artisans whose crafts were rare and endangered. She clearly had many big adventures and learned A LOT. “It was a failure”, she said.
We were startled by the word. FAILURE. It sounded so absolute, and so completely opposite to the story she had told us, which was full of courage and daring and learning. Like many people we know, she couldn’t see it in herself. We wondered if there was a word for NOTFAILURE, for the times when things don’t go as planned, but are still full of riches.
We need a new word. What would that word be?
Meanwhile, just for the hell of it, we searched “Failure” on YouTube and found a trove of videos of “Famous Failures“. Yeah, this is a Nike commercial, but it’s still true.
As we were writing about Occupy Wall Street and We Are the 99 Percent, Cara de Silva sent us a compelling and very timely story she spotted in the New York Times. “Back to the Land, Reluctantly” by Susan Gregory Thomas, is about how the 42 year-old Brooklyn mother of three, having found herself divorced, flat-broke, with a dwindling livelihood, figured out how to “live off the land” from her urban garden and kitchen. “Luckily, my late father hammered into me that grit was more important than talent…I figured, if peasants in 11th-century Sicily did all this, how hard could it be?”
It was survival, not any particular love of artisan cheese or the notion of self-sufficiency, that motivated her to learn how to raise chickens, grow vegetables and herbs, make her own granola, bread, perfume and cleaning products, harvest edible weeds, and stretch a single piece of cheap meat into a week’s worth of dinners, until she discovered she could and her family could live on $100 a week.
IT is a lot of work. You have to be organized and able to improvise on your feet. But, frankly, it’s awesome. read more…
We were poking around food editor and writer Jane Lear‘s website, when we came across a trove of great articles, including one of her pieces for Gourmet Magazine, where she was its Senior Articles Editor for many years. Called Transformers, the premise is that with 3 eggs and two lemons on hand, you can make 5 terrific desserts. Right up our alley. The recipe that caught our eye was a Dutch Baby with Lemon Sugar, basically a giant popover with pancake overtones cooked in an iron skillet, onto which you sprinkle lemon sugar for a bit of crackle at the last minute. It’s GREAT, easy and made with ordinary ingredients, our favorite combo. (On our second try, we monkeyed with the recipe slightly; see the Note below).
As we were gobbling it, we thought: Couldn’t this also be great savory instead of sweet? We imagined it baked with grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to make something akin to a giant gougere, an eggy, crispy cheese puff usually made in bite-size portions. We we tried our idea out then-and-there. read more…
This old pair of headphones still worked but one stem had broken. Rather than toss them, we asked our friend and sometimes assistant Tara Mann if she would do a visually-pleasing repair. Which she did, using colored electrician’s tape. We keep these old phones as back-ups to our regular ones, and find ourselves pulling them out surprisingly often, for one reason or another…as we do pairs of old glasses. We rely on a selection of colored tapes – electricians and masking – black and white gaffer’s tape, and lately, zebra duct tape not to mention Sugru and various glues to make our repairs, always keeping visuals in mind, an interesting challenge. It gives damaged goods new life and a subtle message: REPAIRS ARE COOL…