Back to the Chill, but Warmly

Last week many of us pale Bostonians emerged from our winter dwellings to squint and blink and meander happily in the warm sunshine.  We didn’t have much of a winter but even so, feeling those rays on skin meant a lighter mood felt city-wide.  Now we’re back to 40 and overcast, but that hint of spring was enough to get us looking towards summer. After the trees flower and tulips claim every patch of outdoor space, the Commons will be packed with locals and tourists, the playground behind our apartment will resound with kid-clatter late into the evening, and the tiny restaurant on the corner** will overflow with patrons splitting mouth time between chatter and sweating glasses of sangria.

Special summer menus? Try grilling your choice of steak and eat with a spill of good olive oil and lemon juice and flaky salt – a close friend advised this simple preparation that proved so good that we never, ever stray from it.  Toss thick cut sweet potato pieces with oil, coriander, cumin, hot paprika, salt and pepper and roast, turning once or twice, until the edges are brown and crispy. Another side might be chunky tomato slices, or quickly steamed green beans with butter, lemon, and dill. For dessert, perhaps some watermelon brushed with honey and lime juice slightly charred on the grill, or some drippy  peaches, or soft ice cream. To go with all that food, make a summer playlist. Here’s a great one to start it off:


**That tiny restaurant is Orinoco, and it’s worth a trip to one of their locations. Can’t go wrong with pretty much anything on the menu, but bacon-wrapped dates are especially a no-brainer, along with the empanada mechada, any of the arepas, and the pabellon criollo.

Snowy Stowe

Almost an entire winter without snow and in one weekend in Vermont, we get over a foot, with deadly icicles to match.

While the rest of the family skied through the whiteout, I caught up on reading, stirred the chili, drank a full pot of tea, and experimented with a loaner camera from work. A big, heavy lens makes even the most amateur of novices feel skillful, even one who is scared to turn off the automatic settings…


Punch Brothers

Coasting in on the aftershock as usual, I just heard Punch Brothers for the first time on the radio this morning. Believe it or not, there are some really, really awesome people in this world who still listen to music radio and don’t have cable.

These guys are so good I sat in the car for three minutes after the parking meter ran out so I could listen to the whole song.  Straight up risked a $300 parking ticket, or whatever gouge-tastic rate the Brookline meter maids are doling out these days. Worth it just to bask in the dexterous banjo playing and bow slaps, the singing weaved up, down, through, and around all manner of scales.

Has anyone seen them live? Seems like that would be ridiculous. They are playing in Burlington on Saturday, a short hop from Stowe where I’ll be traipsing around this weekend through the non-snow, not skiing. With headphones on. Probably listening to Punch Brothers.

The Outlaw Album

It seems to be the theme of 2012 – “better late than never” – but over a year after sitting slack-jawed through the cold, mournful film that is Winter’s Bone, I cracked into Daniel Woodrell’s written works.  Suffice to say he’s quickly shooting up to the top ranks of my favorite author list. It’s dark stuff, The Outlaw Album, and for someone who favors unending heavy tomes of historical fiction mixed with some Roald Dahl and the occasional chick lit, I was bit dismayed that the first of his writing I checked out from the library was a slim book of short stories. But they pack a serious, creepy punch. And if you are wondering how a punch can be serious, just picture a wizened but strong clenched fist, dirt under the gnawed fingernails, with spiderwebs.  They are exactly those types of stories.

So go get the book (thanks Boston Public Library – you are the main reason I’m lukewarm-ingly happy to pay state taxes), make sure your room is chilly enough to warrant a blanket and dark enough to need a lamp, and read this with a mug of warm, milky tea.  You could also read it on your private beach in St. John and be totally immersed while earning my contempt, but if we’re going to set the perfect reading environment, get thee to some northern environ and snuggle up.

I’m semi-inspired to check out another film based off of Woodrell’s book Woe to the Devil, if only to see the casting spectacle that includes Skeet Ulrich, Tobey Maguire (blech), and…Jewel?? Seems a little cheeseball, based on the trailer. Probably a scenario of book trumping movie, as is so woefully often the case. Would love to know if anyone has seen it and if it’s worth a view…

Good Things to Come

The past two weeks saw a blowout wedding in Washington, DC (where we rubbed elbows with Jack Black and Paul Rudd and drank Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey – GET SOME), and another wedding in Philadelphia, in which the best man was “flown” down the stairs to the Top Gun theme song to deliver his speech, and dance moves were measured in how sweat-soaked the Mr.’s tie was by the end of the night (3 inches past the Windsor knot. Life record?). There were Halloween-appropriate power outages in the suburbs where we visited my family, Chromeo proved impressive at the Electric Factory, Wayne & Garth, a fleet-footed and friendly caped luchador, a lost leather jacket, and 6 servings of PopChips and York patties between two people on the plane ride home. Not saying who. And this after watching my mom’s demonstration of how many grams of fat are in a burger and fries, represented by scoops of 20-year old Crisco.  (More on that later). The flight attendant was not impressed by the crumbs.

We’re going to see Childish Gambino tonight at the House of Blues. I’m excited, because he’s got the smartest lyrics I’ve heard in forever, all peppered with generation Y references.  The kind of lyrics you feel smart after you’ve figured them out, if you can get past all the extremely explicit stuff. And there’s a lot of it. So we’ll see.

Oh, and I start a new job on Monday.

Life feels a little like this right now, minus the static bar:


So my four readers (cough direct relations cough) will notice a backlog in posts that won’t last long, because I had this for breakfast:

Recipe: Fry an egg in butter or olive oil, over easy, and serve with/on anything.  In this case, polenta with a few tablespoons of spaghetti sauce because you haven’t had time to go to the grocery store. Salt and pepper. Inhale while very warm, and then face life with a full belly and a smile.

Rain, Rain, Rain, Snow?

Weather(wo)men predict snow on Saturday.  Is it winter already? After such a squelchy-wet, insipid fall?  Let’s all arm ourselves with good playlists to combat the gray. Today, mine has a sprinkling of late 1980s and 1990s songs that work for this weather.


Toad the Wet Sprocket:

Barenaked Ladies: