July 15, 2010

Redwood Country Flea Market

I've been hitting this little gem since I was a little gem myself. Located just about two miles from my mother's house in Connecticut, Redwood should be filled with antiques and treasures, but each year it seems to be in steady decline from the days of my childhood in the 1980s (think of the old Dick and Ellie's in Mashpee, which is now a shopping plaza, or Elephant Trunk's in New Milford). Back then, I think I was shopping for jelly bracelets and plastic charms. Now Redwood seems to be filled with knock-off Sharpies from China (who needs that?), potted plants, and boxes of cheap shampoo. I don't even think there are any fake designer purses to be had anymore since the raid. I knew not even to bother to wake my husband up when my sister, her boyfriend, my brother, and I decided to head down the road to look for records.

I didn't even bring money.

And it was exactly what I expected, but the more I think about it, the more I think I am starting to love the junk as much as the gems. I won't even bother to tell you much about the legitimately cool stuff that one might consider buying, like Fat Albert comics; a hook rug picturing Bobby Kennedy, JFK, and MLK; Star Wars figures; Match Box Cars; Garbage Pail Kids; record albums; matchbooks and swizzle sticks; and UFO and Citizens' Band (CB Radio) magazines from the '60s! Instead, feast your eyes on these goodies, and try to tell me you don't love it:

The nostalgia for things really not that great, in the form of trading cards (gum, anyone?):

The mundane (until you realize that somebody must buy these things at a hot, dusty summer flea market, and then they become incredible):

The toys that I never had:

The soft, supple, and strange:

I did make one purchase, however, and I had to borrow a dollar from my sister to do so. Unfortunately, I think I forgot it at my mom's house in Connecticut.

One dollar! What a deal!

July 12, 2010

How Could I Forget This?

This was, hands down, my favorite thing I saw in Bermuda. I may even bring this look to the 'Bo.

July 5, 2010

What Was I Thinking?

Over the weekend, I got it into my head to run the 32nd annual "Four on the Fifth" road race in Chester, Connecticut. Matt and I thought it was a great idea, at first. And then we saw the weather report: heat advisory for the state, 90s all week, humidity, you get the picture. The news showed pics of people headed to the beach, the pool, the cooling centers... Matt wisely expressed doubt, and when I insisted, he admitted his fear that I would collapse of heat stroke.

I figured it would be fine at 10:oo am in the morning. It wasn't supposed to hit 90 until at least 11:00. Foolishly, I didn't really pay close attention to the humidity (which I never really understand anyway), but I did see that the number posted on weather.com was lower than the humidity in Minnesota yesterday, when my friend Robert ran (and finished - kudos, RC!) his first half-marathon. So despite his forewarning that running in this heat was hard, last night I decided to go ahead with it. I ran the Reindeer 5K in 19 degree weather, and I had run 4-5 miles a couple times this year; I could do this. What the hell, right?

What the hell was right. My husband wisely opted out in favor of a trip to the-greatest-ever-pizza-filled Brooklyn. I was sweating before I even started running the first half-mile, which was all in the sun. Then, there was the well-known fact that this road race is difficult: well-known to everyone but me. After the sun-filled first half mile, there was a mile and a half uphill (the elevation map was posted on line...). And, even after hydrating last night and all day, I've had a headache ever since the race finished.

But, Chester is a beautiful little town, which my mom and I had never visited before. On the main street, there are lovely 19th century mill buildings converted to shops and restaurants; a band played for the spectators, and the local coffee shop, The Villager, sold freshly squeezed lemonade and iced hazelnut coffee, my mother's favorite. All along the route, families hooked up their sprinklers and hoses to cool us down when we ran by. Little children cheered us on and held their hands out for high fives. Teenage volunteers passed out water cups every half mile or so. And best of all, I finished, not with the best of times (47:25), but considering it was my longest race so far and I never stopped jogging on those hellish hills, I was satisfied.

I'm here in Connecticut every 4th of July. I thought maybe I could do this every year, thinking that maybe it won't be as hot next year and that Matt and I can train for the hills a little bit, which I should do anyway. But then I met a older man who ran the first 30 of these races; he told me that most years, it's hotter.

I think next time I hear that there's a heat advisory on the way, I'll head for the neighbor's pool instead.

*photo credit: my mom

July 2, 2010


Bermuda is beautiful, but Bermuda is a little bit boring. Maybe it wasn't fair of me to expect the Caribbean or London out of this little island, but I still wasn't prepared for the perfectness, the switzerlandishness of it. One of our snorkel boat captains taught us about "reinsurance" and explained, "that's why we don't have to braid your hair or sell you Chiclets." It was slightly condescending, especially as I was hoping for some steel drums and spicy food with my turquoise water and pink sand, which I didn't get. I was also hoping that Bermuda would be my substitute London, since airfare prices kept me from a vacation in Europe this summer. We did find a British pub and snap some photos in red telephone boxes, but Bermuda didn't feel like Europe or the Caribbean or the US. That would be okay, except, unfortunately, it didn't really seem to have it's own Bermuda-ness either. Even though the beaches were beautiful and the sailing was wonderful, the snorkeling was only satisfactory, and, sadly, I think I was most excited in downtown Hamilton to find a good iced coffee at Buzz, spy businessmen in full Bermuda shorts business dress, get my passport stamped with a new country, and snap up a humpback themed ribbon belt at the English Sports Store. But please don't misconstrue this blog. I am not complaining. I needed a relaxing vacation, and a cruise to Bermuda is exactly that: beautiful but boring was fine with me. I just can't promise I'll ever go back again.

July 1, 2010

The Most Dangerous Beach in the World

My husband tells me that Horseshoe Bay Beach is considered the second most beautiful beach in the world, according to The Travel Channel or TLC or Bridget Marquardt or some other knowledgeable source. So, of course, our (and everyone else's) trip to Bermuda had to include a trip out to the southern shore, and indeed, Horseshoe Bay is beautiful. Rock formations create little nooks and crannies, parrotfish dart about in crystal clear pools, and brightly colored birds brave the crowds. The sand is warm and soft, the water is blue, and the surf is just big enough to body surf without thinking you might drown.

After leaving Matt to explore the beach a little (actually, I was desperately looking for a perch to take a bird's eye view of the horseshoe shape of the bay), I wandered back over to him. He was watching bright blue fish peek out from the rocks, circle quickly around in the open water, and then hide back under the rocks. Lured by some prehistoric trilobite type creatures in the rocks and a bright opening beyond them, I left him again and scampered up into one of the rocks.

I wanted to see what was beyond the opening, and to tell you the truth, I was a little frustrated. I had already attempted to climb two different rock formations and had been denied twice. Like I said already, all I wanted was to see the beach from a high point to see the horseshoe shape. This little climb wouldn't give me my view, but it would give me the satisfaction of having successfully climbed some rocks on this beach. I did have to steady myself with my hands at one point, but it was worth it: the cove beyond the opening was the only spot in the area without any people.

I snapped a picture and climbed back down to join Matt and his parrot fish. As soon as I waded out to join Matt, camera still in hand, a low, slow voice called to me:

“Young lady!" Surprised to be addressed (probably since I'm not used to being called young lady), I turned to see a man, whose salted beard immediately suggested there was wisdom to be shared.

"Young lady, you are risking your life when you climb up into those rocks,” he said to me. Slightly taken aback, I wanted him to know right away that I wasn't an irresponsible,
thoughtless tourist, like all the others he must caution every day. "I know," I lied, "I realized that once I climbed up there." Honestly, I hadn't. It seemed fine to me.

“I’m Bermudian, you see, and I’ve seen and heard large chunks of sand and rock collapse right from those cliffs.”

And, as he walked away, I heard him say, “Lots of deaths here at Horseshoe Bay.”

Afterward, as I lay on the beach, I thought about the warning and day dreamed that I had disrupted something unlucky. His warning, his beard, and the straw hat I saw him in later conjured images of a tarantula in Peter's bed and Greg's surfing accident.

Sure enough, on our way back from the beach, I saw the following warnings, confirmed that Horseshoe Bay is indeed a dangerous place:

We lazily paid a stoned van driver $2 each to drive us back up the hill to the bus stop (he shared that no large animals live on Bermuda; interesting, eh? I looked it up on wikipedia and saw that, indeed, the only indigenous mammals on the island are bats). The only bad luck I had was that the bus never came and we had to take the ferry back instead. And that was it, my almost-adventure in paradise. Kind of a boring story, eh? That's Bermuda: 2nd most beautiful beach in the world, but only almost-interesting stories to tell (unless you are Matt, who can literally make a trip to the bathroom interesting). It's back to Hawaii for me...

tiki photo credit: http://www.tikiroom.com/img/2090x49f3e60a.jpg

June 24, 2010

Summer Is Here!

School ended on June 3rd, but, for me, it feels like it just ended Tuesday. I decided to cram in a grad class right as school was ending, which, on top of working each day, made for a busy first two weeks of summer.

Matt and I just drove 20 hours or so from Faribault to Portage, Indiana to North Syracuse, New York (check out the journey from Matt's perspective). Any minute now, we're about to hop back in the car to drive to Boston, where we will board a boat bound for Bermuda.

We've left behind our dogs, our garden, and our CSA, but we have four weeks on the east coast exploring a new island, visiting friends and family, and reconnecting with the city and the ocean. What more could we ask for?

(Oh, and I did sort through most of my clothes, but I never touched the papers. Maybe in July. Maybe not.)

May 8, 2010

Public Announcement to Motivate Me to Unload: No Need to Read

I am a pack rat. I don't think I am anywhere near hoarder status, but I keep a lot of unnecessary things, some cherished, some crap, in my home. I have all the letters and cards I've received since middle school, including Christmas cards. I have a box or two of my late grandmother's belongings, including something as seemingly mundane as a drawer from her jewelry box. I have a dress I bought at a vintage sale in college which has never fit me since. I have more winter coats, gloves, scarves, and hats than are necessary, even for living in Minnesota. I have two dish sets and could seat a dinner party for 30. I have movie tickets, bus passes, travel brochures, Hideki's first stuffed toy, 31 photo albums, drawers full of quilting fabrics, and files from a tutoring job I had 10 years ago.

I've worked on trimming my storage and my clutter piles, but the progress I've made has come from my commitment to limiting my purchasing more than my ability to get rid of things. Last year, I wrote about our attempts to cull our possessions. See, I don't like to create extra trash, so I'm always reluctant to throw things away that I might use, that I could sell at a yard sale, or that I could donate. But that all takes a lot of work and motivation.

So, I announce this here in writing, in hopes that I will follow through with sorting two things over the next two months: my clothing and my papers, filed and unfiled.

Clothes first.

I swear.

April 26, 2010

My Pita Bread Post!

Matt has been asking for us to make falafel
for a while now, but I keep putting him off because it's so much work! Even though we use packaged falafel mix, the stress over getting the tzatziki to taste perfectly and the little chores of chopping parsley for tabouli and dill for the sauce drives me crazy. But... we love falafel, and we live in a town where there is no falafel to be had.

This time, Matt asked, "Do you think we could make the pita ourselves?"

I've been making bread at home for about a year now. It's partially been a new hobby and partially a step toward our goal of reducing the processed foods in our house. Last summer, I tried lots of different breads: white, wheat, rye, baguette, ciabatta, foccacia, pugliese, potato... but since school started, I've been relying on my bread maker to make multi-grain bread. We love it; it's easy and fits into our busy work routine, but I've been ready to start back with handmade bread.

So, when Matt asked, since I was still on dorm duty for the weekend and since I knew he wanted to create a meal fit for his viewing of the IMAX Everest movie, I figured it was a perfect time for falafel and for making pitas.

Sure enough, there was a pita recipe in my trusty bread book, 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood, which I found on clearance in those rows at Barnes and Noble where the books are stacked vertically instead of shelved horizontally.

These pitas were very simple to make: white bread flour, salt, sugar, olive oil, yeast, and water. After an hour for the dough to rest, I rolled them out and baked them in a very hot oven for about 9 minutes. Since we were frying falafel at the same time, we managed to send smoke into the kitchen, which is not generally a good idea in a dorm.

My pita breads were perfect.

Well, they weren't perfect. They were more like flatbreads than pita pockets. They puffed up, but an air pocket wasn't left behind. Next time, I'll use fresh yeast, roll them a little thinner, and try a hotter oven. Still, they tasted perfect with our dinner, they tasted perfect after work and with leftovers today, and I think they'll heat up perfectly tomorrow.

Making a loaf of bread, or a pita, has such a profound effect on me. I'm amazed at the simplicity of the ingredients and the power of yeast to transform flour and water. Every time, I expect my bread to fail because it just seems too much of a miracle that it doesn't. But, it doesn't fail. Instead, a warm, comforting aroma fills the house. Each time, I announce to Matt or our friends, "This didn't come out right," but I know it doesn't matter. It's fresh, it's homemade, and it emanates goodness.

And, like I told you about the durian smoothie and the spicy squid, it simply makes me happy.

Next time, we're ditching the packaged falafel, too. I'll keep you posted.

Here's the recipe from Paul Hollywood. See if you can get the pockets, but if not, enjoy it the way you make it.

4 cups white bread flour, plus some for the counter
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup sugar (recipe calls for superfine sugar, which I didn't have)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 oz/30g yeast (recipe assumes compressed fresh yeast, but I used active dry yeast and reduced the amount by about 25%)
1 and 1/4 cups water

Combine ingredients in one bowl and mix by hand. When the dough has formed, knead dough on lightly floured surface for 5 minutes. Let the dough rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and placed a lined baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Divide the dough in balls the size of a lime or 100 gram/3.5 ounce pieces. Roll the balls to about 1/2 inch thickness, and let rest for 5 minutes. Place pitas on heated baking sheet (I didn't have anything to line my sheets, so I just buttered the pan). Bake for 5-10 minutes. I flipped mine, so they would brown a little on both sides, but you don't have to.

The pitas should balloon up in the oven and then collapse when you take them out... this is when the pockets should form!

Recipe courtesy of:
Hollywood, Paul. 100 Great Breads. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 2006. Originally published by Cassell Illustrated, 2004.