Labor Day… not laboring at all

aklikins and I headed up to Asheville for Labor Day weekend and had a spectacular time (one of those vacations where the worst thing you can say about it is that it ended). Amongst the highlights were staying at the Hill House B&B, which is a favorite of mine, massages at Spa Theology (highly recommended), and visiting Adrian’s friends from high school at their restaurant/bar in Brevard, The Square Root.

The Square Root has *wonderful* food — my favorite was a “Surf & Turf” appetizer featuring strips of delicious, rare steak and sashimi tuna with a teriyaki-style demiglace — YUM!  Also tasty was the pecan-crusted fried Brie (and yes, fried + cheese is almost always a win in my book), though I shouldn’t have eaten the raw apples with it, as they triggered a little bit of my food allergy.

Since we were there on Sunday, which is trivia night at the Square Root, we stayed for that and didn’t do too badly considering it was just Adrian, Scott (Adrian’s friend from high school) and me (and I suck at trivia).

The other restaurants of note were the 28806 Deli, which is tucked away in a little quasi-industrial-maybe-used-to-be-a-drycleaner-building, yet serves some amazing fusion cuisine (a salad of lump snow crab meat, strawberries and mango with spring greens and a ginger-papaya dressing, for instance) and Fig, where I had perhaps the best pork tenderloin ever, served on a puff-pastry tartlette with figs and vidalia onions.  We finished with the pana cotta and pots de creme — meltingly wonderful.

Add to that some quality shopping and an adorable traveling companion and you get an amazing vacation — HOORAY!

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local someone who does canning

I have an odd question: I’ve discovered I’m madly in love with persimmons …the only problem is that they only come into season once a year. :-(

A fuyu persimmon fruit

Image via Wikipedia

I’d be quite pleased to find someone locally (RTPish) who knows how to “can” (/put up) fruit. I’d love to http://ginalikins.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=435&action=edit&message=1have a canning afternoon and would buy said person some produce of his/her choice (and/or share persimmony goodness) in exchange for help with same. (I should mention that I also don’t have any of the appropriate equipment to do said canning, so that would be helpful as well.)

Also, does anyone have a dehydrator they’d let me borrow?

 

Memorial Day Fun

This past weekend Jeff & I escaped to Beaufort, NC, a place long-familiar to me, as I spent the summers of 1989 and 1990 there (the first summer I was taking classes at the Duke Marine Lab; the second I was a Residential Advisor for the Duke Talent Identification Program, a summer “edumacational” camp for really smart 7th-10th graders).

It was a most wonderful weekend (interspersed, of course, with moments of supreme anxiety — hey, I’m still me!). The anxiety was primarily due to the fact that mom was keeping India for the weekend — Mom’s first time puppy-sitting India, and India’s first overnight away from me. And, well, my first overnight away from her too. I had always kind of wondered at (and perhaps snickered a tiny bit at) the worries of my friends who were leaving their kids with sitters for the first time. I’d been a baby-sitter… I’d been a very competent baby-sitter. Babies just weren’t all that tricky (at least for a few hours)… why in heavens’ name were they getting so worked up about this?

Now I understand. The anxiety was not (for the most part) about the sitter’s ability to manage a kid for a few hours. The anxiety was about the wee one’s happiness! Would the little one be miserable, scared, confused?

I had no worries about Mom’s ability to handle a pup — she grew up with dogs and has a heckuva lot more experience than I do in that respect (she also raised me, and I turned out OK. Mostly). Plus I’d written a novelette about what noises India might make and what she was allowed to do and how much kibble she’d eat and how many times she would probably need the piddle pad. (This made most parents’: “Bedtime is at 8:30; help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge” instructions seem incredibly trusting).

No, I was worried about whether India would be OK — would she miss her little guest bath palace? Would she cry? (If I haven’t mentioned, she has THE MOST pitiful cry on the planet… it’s both ear pleasing and incredibly sad…1)

India, FWIW, was fine. Happy, even. Disappointed, perhaps, to leave the nice lady who spoiled her rotten.

So, Beaufort (pictures). We did all the things I was looking forward to — all my most favorites plus some new ones (it has been *quite* some time since I’ve been there — I think Caroline and I may have gone in 2000(?) to see The Nudes, a band [since disbanded] that I was once very fond of.)

We:

  • hit the Sanitary fish market on the way into town Saturday (quotient of hush puppies: filled)
  • went on a “sunset sail” on a catamaran Friday night & saw dolphins (quotient of boat and acrobatics 2: filled)
  • had an *amazing* breakfast at the Cedars Inn — mixed berry french toast & cheese grits & fresh fruit (quotient of calories: exceeded)
  • went to the beach (Fort Macon) (quotient of sun: WAY exceeded)
  • swam (me) (quotient of waves: filled) with dolphins less than 15 feet away (no quotient, thus a total and wonderful surprise)
  • went to El’s Drive-In for lunch (1950’s roadside food quotient: filled!)
  • took a driving tour of the marine lab (nostalgia quotient: filled)
  • napped (apprently quotient of sleep is still not filled)
  • shopped — cute little store on Front Street was having “buy one thing, get any other thing of lesser-or-equal-value” half off.  Most of the stock was Beaufort t-shirts, but they also had some Columbia travel/adventure wear, so Jeff got some pants-that-can-be-shorts and shirts-that-can’t-be-shorts-but-can-be-short-sleeved and I got some SPF 70(!!) sunscreen (“Black hole sun, won’t you come…”) — sadly it was too late to save the backs of my legs and shoulders or Jeff’s kneecaps. Anyway, (shopping-on-sale quotient: gleefully and productively filled!)
  • dined at Aqua, recommended by friends Allan & Inez — sooooooo gooooood. Highlights were lobster tempura with a key lime-garlic aoli and a creme brulee the size of your head. Menu claimed it “feeds 2-4”. We got that and a molten chocolate thing. Finished them both. Menu doesn’t know sugar fiend sun waves = Dessert Destroyer!!! (quotient of calories: I should have stopped counting at this point…)
  • Had vanilla pancakes and cheese grits for brekkies (cheese grit quotient: filled. Didn’t know that was possible!)
  • Borrowed the inn’s bikes and road around downtown Beaufort (exercise quotient:… oh, who am I kidding?)
  • Lunched at El’s (cheeseburger quotient: filled! [I had grilled cheese on Sunday])
  • Dairy Queened on the way home (happy quotient: filled to brimming).

The only crushing bit of the weekend was when Mom brought India back3. I’ll be darned if my little baby girl didn’t cry when “Granny” left!! Was there any “OMG! I am so glad to see YOU, Mommy!!!”? Not so much really. Sigh.

1 You know how some people cry more attractively than others? They don’t blotch up and snot and squint and sound like wailing banshees? India has a cute cry. I don’t.
2 The cat we were on was a 40-ft. model with two nets up front bridging the gaps between the hulls and the center-line support (warning, link plays an annoying faux-reggae file). Of course I spent the entire time up in the net — best place for bouncy waves and best view! Towards the end of the cruise I discovered that if you stand up on the beam that holds the “front end” of the nets (bow end, for those that are nautically inclined), you can somersault and land on your back in the net. That was way fun. Apparently entertaining for everyone else on the boat too. While walking along Front Street the next night, I was i.d.’d by a passing couple as “the flipping girl.”
3 We brought Mom a little thank-you present for taking care of India… a plaque that says “Now let me get this straight… my grandchild is a DOG?!??!?!”

Oh, if you want to skip the blahblah, here’s the picture-book version.

Well there you go…

I’d been stressing recently about not having said much for a while, and then I was stressing about the stupidness of stressing while trying to remember why I was doing this (not out of any need to “journal” in the commonly used sense, but because sometimes I have things that are worth saying), when finally this morning it occurred to me that I hadn’t been journaling because I haven’t had that rare combo of grandly excited and three free seconds to breathe.

What’s been going on of late

I’m in love

I’m in NY and I’m in love.

You see there’s this company, called Fresh Direct, and they will bring you your groceries. And not just the “dry goods” that netGrocer (who I used to love back in the day) used to bring. No, they bring the fresh goods too — the milk, the artisanal cheeses, the orange juice, the spinach greens. But they go one step better than that too — they will bring you whole, already-cooked, ready to heat-and-serve meals — and good ones too!

Jeff (whom I do still love, of course) and I placed an experimental order this week, as I’m working his place and there’s nothing to eat here *and* all the cooking implements are still in boxes(1). Last night we ate the ravioli with slow-cooked tomato sauce and corn-on-the-cob (which we nuked in moist paper towels, my favorite way of cooking corn) slathered with the butter that they also brought (and salt that Jeff nicked from work).

Tonight we’re having roasted lemon-thyme chicken with asparagus and potatoes gratin. Dessert will not be an issue as there’s a gelato place across the street :)

Granted, this is nothing much more different than you can pick up at a Harris Teeter, but (a) there’s a much wider selection of goodies and (b) *they bring it to you*!!!

(1) and not likely to be unboxed soon as they’re now making noises about him moving to Mineapolis. I kid you not.

NYC

Though it’s substantially colder here than what I packed for (highs seem to be in the low fifties, when weather.com told me last week while I was packing that it would be the low- to mid-70’s), I’m still having a swell time.

Sunday was a long travel day, but upon finally arriving I cheered up due to the immediate prospect of Japanese food (all I’d eaten so far was a handful of cereal and a Cinnabon …mmmmm…. cinnabon). Across the street from Jeff’s building (warning: possibly the worst website ever) is a great little place called Komegashi, where I got a noodle thing (cold soba) with tempura shrimp and a dipping sauce I cannot remember. Lesson for the future: just because the food comes on a little platform with a little bamboo mat across it, please do not assume that there’s a “floor” under the platform. Frustrated with trying to dip noodles into the dipping sauce, I dumped the dipping sauce on the noodles, where it rained down through the bamboo mat, onto the table and very nearly onto my lap. Oops.

Despite my sadness at misinterpreting the structural integrity of my plate, the evening was cheery in the end because we stopped at BABO, a tea house and gelateria — right across the street from Jeff’s place on the other corner!!! Life is *gooooooood*! I had “meringue” and mint chocolate chip and they were both marvelous … this place has excellent gelato.

Monday I worked. The VoIP stuff is behaving well, so telecommuting from here is really not much different than telecommuting from home, though it’s strange to be able to look out the window and see NYC. Monday night I decided that we must go experience Indian food in a neighborhood that all the Chowhounds said was chock-a-block with good Indian food (and is even apparently known as “little India!). So we caught took the Path (train)(1) two stops to Journal Square, walked a few blocks, and found *wonderful* food at Rasoi (where they were kind enough to make my Chicken Tikka Masala *very* very mild!). I’d also read on the Chowhound boards that an Indian ice cream shop was a must-visit, so even though we were bursting at the seams, we stopped in at a little ice cream shop where the owner apparently just wanted me to experience the full breadth of indian ice cream!

He said: “Today, you are the lucky ones. We will try all the ice creams. I will prepare for you a tasting…” and proceeded to lead me through tiny tasting spoon after tiny tasting spoon of indian eggless ice creams. Sometimes I knew the flavor (lychee= ick; pista=pistachio=mmmmmm), sometimes he could translate (gulkand=rose petals=WEIRD!!! Like eating perfume), and sometimes he knew the indian name and not the english translation (chicku=very odd), so I just tasted and enjoyed (or, in a few cases, not). The flavors that I was accustomed to (chocolate, english toffee, etc.) were very rich and quite good, but the fun was in trying the ones you wouldn’t find at the Harris Teeter.

I don’t know quite what I did to deserve such fine treatment, but when I finally decided on a large with english toffee and mango (thereby blending the familiar and comforting with the exotic and strange), he proceeded to add another two flavors to “make it look good” for me! I think I ended up with pistachio (it’s green at any rate) and some variant on the rose one. Because I was so full, I ended up taking most of it back to the apartment, where it awaits me (perhaps a snack this afternoon…)

Tuesday night we had a run of extremely good luck. After taking the ferry over to midtown, we discovered that there was a free-with-ferry-ride bus that would take us to 42nd (we had tickets to Spamalot on 44th). It was getting a bit late (already lmost 6 and the show started at 7) and I was getting a bit panicky about dinner, so we’d decided that when the bus stopped we’d just get off and find some quick (and hopefully cheap) eats to tide us over until after the show).

By some stroke of incredible good fortune the bus stopped right in front of (I think) Gray’s Papaya, the best “cheap eats” in all of NYC, according to many of the articles I’d read. Two hot dogs and a fruit smoothie for $2.75!

Then there’s Spamalot. LMAO! ROTFLOL!! And extremely surreal too, as Hank Azaria and David Hyde Pierce and Tim Curry spoke lines that I’ve heard (both watching the movie and recited by friends) hundreds of times. (caution: maybe some spoilers here, though I don’t think they really count, as all the reviews talk about the same thing, and we’re really not talking major plot twists here. Or even major plot, for that matter.) There were many references to other musicals (West Side Story, for instance) and performers (Liza Minnelli, I think) that all somehow got worked in to the somewhat re-directed plot about finding the grail and making a musical (!). Everyone could sing (which, I suppose, was to be expected, being that it was a musical and all, but I was still surprised when Tim Curry (as Lancelot) started really belting out a number (but then I realized that Rocky Horror Picture Show was also a musical!). Hank Azaria had many of the intrinsically funny and quotable bits, like the taunting French Knight, Tim the Sorcerer and the main Knight Who Formerly Said “Ni”). This worked exceptionally well, as Hank Azaria can do silly accents like no one’s business. One of the songs (“This is the Song that Goes Like This”) was a parody of the overwrought lovesong that’s found in most musicals (particularly those by Andrew Lloyd Webber) and contained one of my favorite verses ever:

And then we change the key!
Now we’re into E
That’s awfully high for me
But everyone can see
We should have stayed in D

I would see it again tonight if I could just to catch the bits I missed.

Post-show Jeff indulged me and we took the subway(2) to Serendipity (as featured in the John Cusack movie by the same name), where I had a frozen hot chocolate (honestly just a really good chocolate milkshake, but it was fun to go there, having seen the movie).

(1) I have discovered my personal trick to riding subway trains: stand perpendicular to the direction of the motion, preferably with a pole in front of you, though one to the side will also work). The reason this works (for me) is that most of the “jouncing” on trains is side-to-side as the train slews and careens on the track. By placing my feet shoulder width apart and orienting perpendicular to the motion, I absorb most of the back-and-forthing through the motion of my hips, which are quite accustomed to rocking side to side. When the train does abruptly brake or lurch forward, you still have that pole in front of you to grab onto to *and* my arms are stronger in this direction than they are when extended out to the side (or worse, over my head!). This discovery was a major revelation and has contributed greatly to my ongoing train comfort.

Interestingly, it doesn’t work for Jeff. My suspicion is that his hips don’t know how to rock-and-roll (he suffers from the curse of the white boy) and so he’s not effectively absorbing the motion.

(2) Subway signs LIE!!! Walking towards Spamalot, we passed a subway entrance that said you could take the R train from there. Upon leaving Spamalot I consulted my directions to get to Serendipity and noticed we could take the R to 60th & Lexington, get off, walk two blocks and we’d be there. So I directed Jeff back to the same subway entrance…

…where we walked down two flights of steps (which I still have to do one foot at a time, thanks to the bum knee), through, I dunno, *three* subterraneancity blocks, *down* another flight of stairs, down two rather steep ramps, through another block or so, then down an elevator (thank heavens we found the elevator) to reach the platform! The sign should have read something like “get on trains N and P right here or you can walk underground for a mile and get on train R”. Wow.

Tonight we see Star Wars. :-)

Weekend in review

So the weekend, all told, was pretty good.  Saturday night Jeff and I went out to Thai Palace in Chapel Hill, where the Tom Kha Gai was not as good as normal, but the Mee Krob and spring rolls were delicious.  Before we left for the restaurant, Jeff had the foresight to think to call Target to see if they had wheelchairs — and they do!  After dinner, we headed over to the Target were I was darned pleased to be able to scoot around in their motorized wheelchairs — free and unencumbered.  Sadly, I am not a particularly good motorized wheelchair driver, and every time you back one of those suckers up it *beeps beeps beeps* loudly, calling attention to the fact that you’re not a very good driver.

Earlier in the week, my friend Kim came to visit and brought me both a delicious dinner and Peeps treats, including a peeps egg-dying kit.  Now, I love to dye eggs… it’s part of the whole holidays-being-a-big-deal when I was a little girl.  We took come again-Harding, tree-decorating and Easter egg-dying quite seriously, spending hours and hours perfecting our designs and executing them.  Many years ago, I had an egg dyeing brunch at my house and had friends over to dye Easter eggs… that was a great deal of fun, but I haven’t had the opportunity to dye eggs ever since, so I let at the opportunity.

Sunday morning, Jeff and I dyed Easter eggs — and it was a blast!  I don’t think he completely understood the seriousness with which I approach projects like this, so he might have been surprised by my requests for crayons, masking tape, candles, the spare egg dyeing hooks that I keep in the junk drawer (no kidding, really I do), etc. In fact, he only vaguely remembered dying eggs as a child himself, and seemed to think that dyeing eggs consisted primarily of dumping them in a single color, and then eventually fishing them out.  I showed him the joy that Easter egg dyeing could be (and his eggs were quite pretty!).  The best yet, later this week I’ll devil them …mmmmmmmmm… deviled eggs..

Sunday afternoon, I decided I needed sustenance of substance for dinner, and wanted a stake.  Jeff was kind enough to run to the grocery store and get steak and sweet potatoes for me.  While he was gone, I broiled some asparagus that we had on hand with butter, olive oil, lemon juice and sliced almonds to go alongside (note: cooking on crutches is no more fun than any of the other routine things to do on crutches. feh.)

He came home with not only steak and sweet potatoes, but also an Easter lily, which I’ve always wanted, but never had.  I didn’t realize that they smelled so good…

Then, after dinner — super-treat!! — Jeff brought out the cupcakes that he’d gotten for me from the store (at the Target the night previous, I’d had fits over the woman in front of us in-line, who had cupcakes..), and we watched the remake of The Avengers, which was actually pretty terrible.  Oh well, the cupcakes were delicious.

Sweet Potato Souffle

By request:

Insides
3 c. mashed cooked sweet potatoes (I bake mine, as boiling seems to leave them overmushy.  Just bake ’em like you would a normal potato, then cut’em in half and scape out the innards.)
2/3 c. butter
1 c. sugar (you’re beginning to see why these are so good, aren’t you?)
2 eggs.
1 t. vanilla

Once sweet potatoes are cooled down, add eggs and everything else (otherwise you’ll get scrambled eggs… yuk).  Mix thoroughly (food processor or stand mixer is ideal for this) and heat thoroughly.

Toping:
1 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. butter
1c. chopped pecans

Put Topping on top of Insides. Bake @350F for 25-30 minutes.