Thursday, September 8, 2016

Life Lessons From City Island: Part One

Since the end of summer was fast approaching, I jumped at the chance when E suggested a getaway to City Island. For fun, I divided the day into various philosophies I have on my life, both previously established and recently explored. Could these theories be guiding me straightly towards the painful brick wall of reality? Sure! I'm only 31 years old, for god's sake. But for now I'll travel a while with these beliefs, until I find ones better or more exact with which to fill my pockets. 

#1. All Those Fellow Passengers Who Told You "It's Not About the Destination, It's About the Journey!" Every Time You Caused a Scene Screaming in Frustration on the LIRR, Were Totally Right All Along With Their Trite Advice, Which Quite Simply Boils Down To: Stop Being Cheap and Take a Cab.

Walk to your destination if you have something to prove. Take a city bus if you've resigned yourself to misery. Take a train if you're on the verge of that, but have not made any firm decisions. Arrange for a taxi if isolated comfort appeals to you. Fly there if the weight of the world has not yet succeeded in holding you down. But if you have any real sense about you, you ought to already be where you are heading, to begin with.

I took a $50 cab ride (plus tip) to City Island. Ridiculous? Of course––I'm a poet after all, that's a decade's salary. But a 3+ hour commute sounded much more ridiculous.

Somehow I arrived at our meeting spot first (a rare occurrence in my friendship with E) and having been informed of her impending lateness, decided to spend the time leisurely perusing books about love in the local library. As I browsed the shelves I received a text from her, after her first public bus of the day broke down, about her overwhelming desire to set the replacement bus on fire if it, too, broke down. How could I deem it an "overwhelming desire?" Because her text had typos, which might be the first time that's happened with E. So clearly, if she were to do anything along the lines of her threats, I would proudly testify to it at least being a crime of passion.

Meanwhile, in the corner of the library, I saw that a children's puppet show was about to begin, and I, resourceful as ever, had a bottle of wine tucked away in my backpack, so I put E's potential legal issues aside for the time being. 

#2. Never Turn Down a Free Waffle

First of all, you should never say no to anything pleasant that is offered to you. That's just sending a bad message out to the world in general. People enjoy giving just as much as receiving––these two acts are equally pleasurable. So the next time you think you are being polite by refusing a generous offer someone has made to you, think again–accepting provides the giver with pleasure and is ultimately the more kindhearted thing to do. 

When E met up with with me at last and recanted her public bus torture, I felt terrible for her, especially considering the contrast to my lovely afternoon. But then she told me about this old man, limping along on a walker, who was crabbier than all hell during the bus expedition. When at last she had disembarked at the City Island stop, the crabby old man had gotten off as well. He made his way to the diner on the corner, and called out with a big smile on his face to her:

“Come on in, waffles are on me!”

Despite how long I had waited, I really wish she'd gone with the old man. Because, well, how many times in your life will someone offer to buy you waffles after you've threatened to set a city bus on fire?

And so I scolded her, and told her that when she'd received his invitation, she should've texted me while I was waiting for her at the library: “Keep reading. Going for waffles.” 

#3. Take Away That Which Someone Holds Most Dear

I've always believed in fashioning fear as my North Star. I imagine the path I want to go down in my life illuminated by terror's glow, and have subscribed to the philosophy: Go towards what horrifies you. But there is another side to the coin of “following your fear,” which is “escaping your safety net.” Put simply, this means that distancing yourself from whatever you can't bear to let go of is the only path to real freedom. 

After surviving the infinite gang of wayward seagulls on the pier of City Island's most reputable clam joint, and imbibing a gloriously cold "coconut-based drink," E and I stumbled upon an odd antique shop. It was a store filled with toy relics from the 80's, the decade in which we had both been born. As I browsed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines and My Little Pony coasters, E wandered off to excitedly snap photos of everything in sight––she'd clearly had a much different childhood than I.

I didn't think there was much of interest to me in the shop, until I caught sight of some tiny, generic glass bottles with cheap cork stoppers. These were the most utterly charming items in the whole shop as far as I was concerned. My mind whirled with possible uses for the bottles, until I realized they'd best be utilized as a vessel for handwritten wishes, which E and I could toss into the island's surrounding waters before the day was done.

After E and I had purchased our magical wish bottles, I could not help but inform the clerk of our intentions.

"Just so you know," I began. "We're using these as wish bottles, so we'll pretty much be tossing them into the river right after we leave here."

"I'm glad you value my merchandise so much," he joked, good-naturedly. He then held up his index finger, telling me to wait a minute. In his left hand he held a male doll, and was using tools to tear off both of the doll's muscular arms. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was creating brand new creatures, then proceeded to hold up and showcase other dolls he'd removed appendages from and replaced with blatantly mismatched limbs. 

"A big tough guy with puny spaghetti arms!" he exclaimed with glee, gesturing towards the nearly finished doll. 

“So... this is how you're spending your day?” I asked. The Cabbage Patch clock in the corner showed it was almost 3 PM. 

“Yup!” he replied cheerfully. A little too cheerfully, in my opinion––I was somewhat suspicious that the faint aroma of weed wafting over the countertop contributed to his endless enjoyment of this doll surgery. But nonetheless, he did seem happy, and more incredibly, he seemed purposeful. That, I could not help but admire. 

After he went on more about why he was removing the muscular male doll's biceps, I asked him why. He said that it was important to take away what someone held most precious. That was precisely the thing to take away, he explained. This, admittedly, was a little too deep for a weekday afternoon conversation with a tourist shop clerk, but it beat the typical bland smalltalk. 

“It must be a real pain to be in a relationship with you!” I exclaimed. But he only shrugged in response.

"I guess so!" he said.

My rather rude assertion did not faze him one bit, he just kept snipping off the little bits of desperately clutched identity from his collection of dolls. He continued on with his tasks––filed down the curves of the beauty queen's body, sawed off the soldier's weaponry, and snipped the wildly colored hair of the underground troll––hoping that his efforts could show the world something more surprising and more beauteous than it had seen before. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Customized Granola: Base Recipe

I'm suddenly very into granola. There is something so wholesome and healthy about it, and yet it still feels decadent. In an effort both to make a cheaper, more personalized, and healthier version of store bought granola, I started making my own. I experimented with different methods/measurements until I came up with a template granola recipe that can be altered to create any type I might fancy. You can leave out the seeds, the deeper sweetener, dried fruit, or nuts to no severe consequence.

OATS

1 1/2 cups of the oat of your choice

SEEDS 

2 tablespoons of seeds
[flax, sunflower]

SWEETENER 

1/4 cup of sweetness in liquid form
[honey, maple syrup, agave nectar)

A DEEPER SWEETENER 

1-2 tablespoons to add a depth to sweetness profile
[brown sugar, molasses]

SALT 

1 teaspoon salt
[fleur de sel, pink himalayan, kosher]

OIL 

1/4 cup of oil
[olive, coconut]

DRIED FRUIT 

1/2 cup
[cherries, apricots, dates, cranberries]

RAW NUTS 

1/2 cup
[almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans]

EXTRACT

1/2 teaspoon extract
[vanilla, orange]

SPICE
1/2 teaspoon powdered spice
[cinnamon, ginger]

Combine everything* and spread evenly over a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 325 degrees, stirring halfway through. Let cool in the pan to harden.

*Stir in dried fruit after it's done baking. If you have to use pre-roasted nuts in lieu of raw, stir these in only after baking too.

I made the following variations:


Orange Blossom, Honey, Cashew Granola

For this version I used cashews, dates, orange extract, and honey.



 Pistachio Cherry Granola 

For this version I used pistachios, dried cherries, pomegranate molasses, flax seeds, and vanilla extract



Vanilla Almond Crunch Granola

For this version I used almonds, maple syrup, and vanilla extract

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ice Cream Dog Treats

I've been entirely unable to resist purchasing ice cream treats for the pup from the supermarket on these hot summer days, and I'm not sure which of us this fact delighted more. But as I've been trying to stick to a budget, I repeat the following phrase to myself before each and every thing I buy: "Do I really, truly, need this?"  

It was pretty difficult to talk myself into justifying the inclusion of "dog ice cream" on my list of expenses––and I'm pretty good about talking myself into the most ludicrously and luxuriously unnecessary of things. So when I was in the supermarket a few weeks ago, I dutifully removed the box of "Frosty Paws" from my increasingly dull shopping cart, and returned it to its frozen tundra in aisle 18. 

Could I live with the betrayed way the pup looked at me when I returned home, no Frosty Paws in sight? When it was 90+ degrees outside? When he must trot around in a thick fur coat all day long, his pink tongue hanging out of his mouth as he desperately tries to pant himself to a reasonable level of comfort? Obviously not. So I decided to make my own dog ice cream. I crossed my fingers and hoped this puppy DIY would turn out better than when I attempted a do-it-myself dog conditioner with coconut oil (the results were disastrous and the pup had greasy dreadlocks for many days afterwards, despite numerous attempts to wash it off). 

After some online research about dog nutrition, and an exploration of various recipe suggestions, I came up with one that was simple, healthy, and required ingredients I'd always have around. The fruit in the recipe can be switched up for a variety of flavors (just no grapes/raisins since that, apparently, contains something that can cause liver toxicity or something in dogs). 

Red Apple Harvest Dog Ice Cream

Ingredients: 

-1 cup greek yogurt
-1 apple (stem/seeds removed, but peel included for maximum nutrients) 
-1/4 to 1/2 cup water 

Directions

1. Combine ingredients and blend in a blender
2. Pour mixture into ice cube trays 
3. Freeze 

I happened to have some ice cube trays that were fish and star shaped––for god knows what reason––so I used those: 



Then baber and I felt like doing an artsy evening activity, so we spent our relaxing time creating a label for the treats:


The CEO was of course the pup himself, Mr. Bodo Bodington. So far he is exceptionally fastidious when it comes to quality control/taste testing. 

The next batch will definitely be banana based, as he is a big fan of bananas, and there is a bunch of them currently ripening patiently in the cupboard, until they are at their peak of freckled, sweet perfection.

Love,
Jennifer 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Day in My Life

I always thought it'd be fun to have a running diary throughout a single day in my life, paired with photographs, to keep as a memory. When I woke up this morning it was supremely summery out, my design for the day would not be too dull, and so I thought why not today?

Woke up: lingered around in bed and decided I'd go to the nearby beach since the weather was going to be so nice. When I checked my phone, E had texted to see what I was up to, and she agreed to join me on my beach jaunt.

Made the bed: I've tried to get better about making the bed every morning. One morning after a sleepover with E, I had left my sheets crumpled. She looked over and asked if I was going to make my bed and I just shrugged my shoulders to say "no." Her reply was, "Okay, if that's how you want to start off your day!" Very good point, E. So I took the pillows down from their nighttime shelves and made the bed.


















Turned on the mister: I recently got an aromatherapy mister machine, which lights up in various colors and emits a fragrant mist of whatever essential oil you add to the water. It's a pretty nice way to set the ambience in a room. Since my sweetheart was still a little sleepy, I added a lemon essential oil since I find citrus invigorating.
















Gave the puppy a morning cuddle: I'm not a dog person by any means, but if you don't adore this dog you can't be human. He likes to wear elephant pajamas to bed, and this is in no way a political statement.




















Gave the puppy an ice cream to celebrate the first summery day of the year:





















Went out to the porch to check on my herb garden: Yup, still all dead.
















Made lunch: Orzo Pasta Salad With Feta, Basil, & Pickled Watermelon

















Printed out client's work and took the bus to the beach: this is my beach office





















Went grocery shopping. Came home and sat out on the back deck to stare up at the stars which had not yet appeared. Cleaned the kitchen. Continued editing.  

Made dinner: Baked lemon chicken and sweet potato with greens





















Un-winded with wine and then scrabble: Lost at scrabble, won at wine.





















Lit a birthday candle and made a wish for my Rooster

And voila! I lived another day.