Monday, May 14, 2012

Backyard Envy

After our whirlwind day on Saturday, our Sunday plans mostly involved some grocery shopping and hanging out at home. As I was browsing the sale flyers (I am my mother's daughter after all) Sunday morning, I commented to Carrie that Target had all kinds of patio furniture on sale. Her response was something along the lines of "Yeah, okay, we'll just move our kitchen table out of the way and turn the kitchen into a patio."

Fast forward to the afternoon, which we spent listening to several of our neighbors enjoying Mother's Day cook-outs on their backyard patios. And then despite earlier trips to Pathmark and Trader Joe's, we found that we didn't have all the ingredients for a brownie recipe we wanted to try, so I went to Pathmark again. Somehow, the potato chips on sale were the last straw of backyard envy, and I resolved that we should do this thing.

So I got home from the store, declared to my amused wife that we were gonna make a patio, and then set about bewildering the cats by moving the table and chairs. Fortunately we've moved and cleaned things enough lately that the cats didn't seem to interpret this as a sign that we were packing up to leave them for a week, which is usually their concern.

At last, behold our patio!

We ate some chips, sipped our sodas, enjoyed our corn dogs for dinner, and topped it off with ice cream bars. Food tastes better on a stick, am I right?

Our patio even included an adjacent "lawn", aka a plastic container of cat grass, of which the cats have eaten very little.

Cricket and Piccadilly pretty much just figured we'd set up our seats to watch the birds outside, just like them.

We haven't gotten around to moving the table back yet, so tonight we also enjoyed our salad and gnocchi in the "great outdoors" of our backyard. What can I say, we're crazy people. Someday we'll have a house and a yard and a patio, but at least for now we're able to crack ourselves up making a fake version!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Trains, Pies, and Bowling Balls

This Saturday was a day I have been anticipating for a very long time.  Years ago we read about the fact that the NYC transit museum occasionally runs exclusive tours of the long-closed City Hall subway station.  I was intrigued, but unwilling to pay to join the museum and then turn around and pay again for the tour.  But, knowing that I've always wanted to go, Becky bought a family membership to the museum for us as a birthday gift to me this year.  (Yes, the birthday that occurred 5 months ago that I haven't blogged about yet.  I know.)  And this Saturday was the big day!  We put on our sneakers and charged our camera batteries and took off as local tourists.
The station is located only about a 30-second subway ride south of the current Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station.  It has been closed since 1945, partially due to its proximity to the current station, and also due to its extremely curved platform.  The regular subway runs through the station (at the end of the 6 line, as it loops back to start back uptown again) but usually the lights are off and the train doesn't stop.  So we rode a regular train, but it stopped in the old station and the guide hauled out a walkway to allow us to cross the huge gap created by larger modern subway cars and a very curved station platform.
The stations is tiny, but also really gorgeous.  Apparently at the time of the subway's creation there was a movement called "City Beautiful," which promoted the idea that public spaces should be beautiful in order to uplift people during the time that they're in public spaces.  As the guide pointed out, contrast this with the modern Penn Station.  Point taken.
There's a lot of gorgeous tiling and leaded skylights.  The skylights were tarred over during World War II in order to avoid making the station a bombing target, and seem to have never been completely cleaned off.  But you can imagine what they must have looked like when the station opened forty years before that.
I particularly liked the original light fixtures.  The guide let us know though that the station would have originally been much darker (despite more light from the skylights) because lightbulbs were much weaker back then.
After the tour we were hungry.  We attempted to go back to a Bosnian restaurant we tried once several years ago and enjoyed and had been intending to back for a long time.  That is, until we learned that our intended restaurant is now permanently closed.  Hmph.  Apparently we should have used our wallets to express our enjoyment of the restaurant rather than just idly discussing it at home.  Instead we ended up at Pie Face, a newish Australian pie restaurant. 
Yeah, that's way too much pie for two people to eat in one sitting.  But we wanted to try so many flavors!  We got a traditional meat, a thai curry, a bacon egg and cheese, and a chicken and mushroom.  Yum.  The only downside was that they didn't have any tables or chairs, so we ended up on the steps of some nearby office building.

Refreshed, we were ready for more fun.  So we headed to Frames to use a Groupon that was about to expire.  Frames is located in Port Authority, which is the dingy building we travel through every time we go from New Jersey to New York or back again.  I knew they had done a big remodel, but I honestly wasn't expecting it to come out so nice.  They were playing good music with the music videos on big screens over the lanes, shnazzy full wait service for overpriced drinks and appetizers, and comfortable lounge-y seating.  Because we were pretty full of pie and not wanting to spend a fortune we opted to share one chocolate martini.  And, of course, we bowled poorly.  Isn't that half the point?  The huge group of kids apparently enjoying a pre-prom party next to us seemed to think so too.
 I'll leave our Sunday antics to Becky.  I hope you all had as enjoyable Saturdays as we did!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

30 x 30 Books

Carrie's books:

1. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
2. Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
4. Catching Fire
5. Mockingjay
6. Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
7. I'll Fly Away: Further Testimonies from the Women of York Prison by Wally Lamb & co.
8. The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
9. A Painted House by John Grisham

I'm a bit off pace.  In my defense, Inheritance took me a really long time to get into and does have like 900 pages.  But I'm kind of lame and need to step up my game.

Becky's books:

1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
2. The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life by Jasmine Darznik
3. The Tiger's Wife: A Novel by Tea Obreht
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
5. Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
6. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
7. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
8. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel by Jonathan Safran Foer
9. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
11. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
12. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
13. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
14. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
15. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
16. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
17. Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise by Alex Hutchinson
18. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
19. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins
20. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
21. The Girl in the Garden by Kama Nair

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

30 x 30 Recipes

As part of our ongoing 30 x 30 project, here are the new recipes we've tried so far this year!

1. Parmesan Sage Pork Chops
2. Cornbread Stuffed Pork Chops (from Betty Crocker)
3. Fried Mac & Cheese Balls
4. Szechuan Chicken with Cashews (from Creme de Colorado)
5. Chocolate Cupcakes (from Hey Cupcake)
6. Breakfast Pizza
7. Broccoli Brown Rice Strata with Cashews (from Creme de Colorado)
8. Wild Rice Sausage Casserole (from MSUS Church Cookbook)
9. Gooey Chocolate Chip Sandwich Bars
10. Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
11. Vegetable Lasagna
12. Green Velvet Cheesecake Bars
13. Key Lime Cheesecake
14. Apple and Pear Crisp
15. Thai Peanut Noodles
16. Brown Rice & Lentil Casserole
17. Graham Gems (from Becky's mom's cookbook)
18. Banana Muffins
19. Banana Oatmeal Bread
20. Cheese Grits (recipe from the back of the Trader Joe's package)
21. Potato Waffles
22. Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins
23. Black Bean Burgers (from How to Cook Everything)
24. Lentils and Potatoes with Curry (from How to Cook Everything)
25. Quinoa Mac & Cheese
26. Potato and Feta Gyros
27. Poached Eggs (What, that's not a recipe? Well it's still the first time I made them.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

A day at the beach

We've been really craving a vacation lately, but going on vacation right now is not in the schedule or the budget.  However, last weekend we decided to try to fulfill this desire with a mini one night vacation in our favorite shore town.
Becky reads on the beach.
The Jersey Shore Roller Girls were having a bout versus the Philadelphia Roller Girls.  You may remember our last (and only) encounter with roller derby, which we declared a good time worth repeating.
If we're being honest the roller derby itself was less entertaining than it's New York cousin, with fewer fans and too many bouts started with kneeling and hand holding (are we playing red rover??).  It was really interesting though to finally see the inside of the Asbury Park Conventional Hall, and they definitely get extra points for the opening and half-time band:
 I asked Becky what the connection was between bag pipers and roller derby.  She replied, "quirky."

Speaking of quirky, we had to stay in a new bed and breakfast because the one we traditionally stay in was not yet open for the season.  The new b&b featured a sort of African-ish theme and included this lovely piece of decor:
close up

 This creepy monkey lamp threatened to eat Becky in the middle of the night.  I valiantly offered to save her when she expressed concern at the beginning of the night, but sadly I slept through the actual attack.  You'll have to sit on the edge of your seats, wondering if she survived, until she graces this blog with a blog post.
Just kidding, here she is being attacked again the very next day:
On the way home from "our" part of the shore we stopped to tour the country's oldest lighthouse.
What's a good vacation without a little history lesson and climbing 10 stories worth of winding metal stairs?  We're so cultured.

Well, it cost a lot less than the week at an all-inclusive Aruban resort or the week of volunteering at the Sri Lankan elephant orphanage that we were dreaming about, so it will have to do for now.