Category Archives: Worth Selling Your Soul For

Wherein We Feel The Need… The Need For Cheese

Whew! What an exhausting week! We’ve been meaning for the last six days to write a post about our marvelous trip into New York City with Kristin, but every evening we’d get home from work and just collapse in senseless heaps on the couch. It’s been rough, and strange, because we can’t figure out why we feel so pooped. I guess it must be that our lazy summer has well and truly ended. If that really is the case, at least we got to send it off in festive fashion, with a photo excursion to Grand Central Station and a long, delicious lunch at Artisanal Bistro.

Lunch At Atisanal September 2008

Our day started at the crack of dawn, as we caught a just-after-10:00-a.m. train into the city, along with everyone else in Central NJ. Seriously, we had to STAND the entire way from Princeton Junction to Penn Station. This made no sense to us, but we managed to keep our complaining to a minimum, and arrived in NYC in one piece.

We had no real plan for what to take pictures of until we got to street level and noticed the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building with Bird

Awesome NYC landmarks! That’s what we’d take pictures of!

And so we wandered slowly to Park Avenue, soaking in the atmosphere of an insanely muggy day in the city, taking snapshots, talking cameras in the manner of three people who don’t really know what they’re talking about, and giddily anticipating cheese. When we arrived at Artisanal, we were greeted by a group of protesters who were trying to impress upon our decency as human beings that this restaurant we were about to enter serves “sweatshop fish”. Which… um… okay? We’re sure that’s a serious problem, and if we ate fish, we’d think twice about ordering at the cheese bistro, but other than that, the event most notably prompted Kristin to say, after we navigated our way through the angry gathering outside Artisanal, “I didn’t realize we were eating at an abortion clinic today.” Heh.

Despite the inhumane working conditions for the fish and/or fish workers producing Artisanal’s seafood, our meal was a total delight. We went for wine/beer and cheese flights, which turned out to be smaller than we anticipated, so we followed that course with the most exquisite grilled cheese sandwich made with taleggio (and a less exquisite one made with cheddar, apples and bacon — it would have been better without the apples), and then had extravagantly, outrageously scrumptious desserts (a chocolate/hazelnut masterpiece topped with vanilla salt, and a hugely boozy baba au rhum). Three hours after we arrived, we hit the road again, slightly tipsy and fully sated, and it seemed the fish sweatshop crisis had passed, because the protesters were gone.

We decided we should spend some time walking a few blocks up Park Avenue to visit Grand Central Station for photo ops. It was at this point that Kristin broke out the TTV devices, letting Pookie get her first taste of it.

TTV Pookie

TTVing is not something that comes naturally, but Pookie was getting the hang of it by the time we got to Grand Central.

Facade of Grand Central

We proceeded to spend ages inside the station, taking bazillions of the same pictures over and over again. But what can we say? We just loved those chandeliers.

Ball of Lightbulbs

Christmas Ball

Light Fixture and Marble

If you want to see the best of the 300+ shots we took, the collection is here, and Kristin’s pictures are here.

We followed our chandelier photo shoot with a desperate attempt to get burritos at Burritoville, but it was closed by the time we finally got over there.

September 13 2008

Sadly, it seems that might have been our last chance for Burritoville. Poor, poor Pookie.

We walked dejectedly back to Penn Station from the abandoned Burritoville, and, sweaty from the humidity, feet aching from the walking, cameras resting from a hard day’s workout, we got back on the train home. Thank god there were enough seats for us, because we struggled to stay awake on the ride home. As soon as we were settled back at Maple Hoo, pajamaed and munching on Hot Pockets on our couch, we started emailing with Kristin to find the next date we can field trip into the City. What a delightful day! (And yeah, shirtless guy at Penn Station, I said “delightful”. You can just suck it.)

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under Away From Home, Dining Out, Fancy Dessert, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 2

Day Two of our stash-restocking adventure dawned bright and early, around 11:30 in the morning. Yes, that’s 2:30 in the afternoon back home, but back home can suck it. We hit the ground running, lolling around in our pajamas and stitching for about an hour, then headed out into the blinding desert heat in search of lunch.

Now, we’re staying in a nice little resort hotel right near where we used to live out here, and the thing about resorts in the Phoenix area is that they work very hard to not appear like you’re in the desert. On our way to the car, we took a side exit and found ourselves on what our hotel calls the “Lawn Court”, and what Boomer called the “Croquet Court”.

There was even, on the sidewalk beyond the croquet lawn, a side planting of what seemed to be a lawn made entirely of succulents.

Despite the palm trees and lush grass, though, there are lots of beautiful desert-appropriate plantings on the grounds here, and while we’re too lazy to venture forth to see the entirety of what the place has to offer, we were able to get some requisite cactus pictures in just along the walk out to our car.

We also snapped a picture of an ocotillo, to remember the good old days when we had one in our front yard and used to wrap every spiky branch with Christmas lights during the holidays…

… and because we don’t want to go to jail, we took a mandatory picture of a giant, many-armed saguaro.

Our big plans for today were all food-related. For lunch, we wanted to go to NYPD Pizza, which was our favorite when we used to live here. It’s not easy finding New York-style pizza in the Valley, and going without is no way to live. We miraculously managed to find the restaurant on our first try, and on the way in, we noticed the sky was filled with charming fluffy clouds again. So here’s a picture of one:

There were two things we were most interested in at NYPD. The first was Pookie’s all-time favorite pizza, the Brooklyn Family. That would be sausage, pepperoni, and fresh basil:

It was, as remembered, excellent. The crust is not quite as New York-y as we remembered, being a bit softer than the real deal, but it’s still a scrumptious pizza. And while the Phoenix surrounds are long on good boutique-y sort of pizzas, the simplest kind is still the best.

The other reason we were excited to be eating at NYPD is the beer. You see, during the few years we lived in Scottsdale, our beer of choice was Fat Tire. Since moving away, we’ve found a small, local brewery in Princeton to supply us with all our beer needs, and it’s spoiled us. When we were in Ottawa for the NHL Draft in June, we got draft beers of a brand we won’t mention here and were horrified at how dishwatery it tasted. So we were very concerned that when we got out here for vacation, we’d be crushed to find out that Triumph Brewery had ruined Fat Tire for us, too. Pookie even vowed ahead of time, “I’ll just have to drink 800 beers during the three days to find out.”

Good news, Gentle Reader. While it’s not quite up to Triumph-level snuff, Fat Tire is still a perfectly cromulent beer. Which means Pookie won’t be gagging down the remaining 799 on her docket.

On the way out of lunch, Boomer’s worst driving instincts kicked back into gear, and we circled the parking lot fruitlessly a few times in search of the exit. Which was, as it turns out, exactly where we’d left it when we came in. But don’t tell Boomer that. Anyway, the detour afforded us the chance to gaze in wonderment upon this fine firearms establishment:

Yeah, we’re not in Princeton anymore.

After a quick stop at Best Buy, where we ogled fancy cameras but bought only new headphones for Pookie’s iPod, it was time to spend the day the way we love best: sitting around and stitching. Back at the hotel, we spread out the loot from our first run at the Attic.

There aren’t many new projects in there — just charts waiting to have their supplies pulled tomorrow. They look so eager, don’t they? Well, except for the one’s Boomer’s ugly bought. Those are all appropriately ugly.

And so we spent the remainder of the afternoon in a delightful state of relaxation, stitching, gorging on candy, and listening to music on the iPod speakers that our room came equipped with.

Finally dinnertime rolled around, and we were forced to remember how to stand upright long enough to walk to the car. Our hopes of seeing another rainbow, this time with camera in tow, were dashed, but in its place we got a spectacular sunset.

Now, when we were kids and visited our grandparents out here, one of the most exciting parts of every trip was seeing Camelback mountain. For huge portions of our lives, it was the only mountain we could name. And it’s certainly easier to recognize than, say, K2, which we wouldn’t know if it kicked us in the teeth.

We were so excited by the sunset and driving along next to Camelback that we took a zillion pictures in the car, with no consideration for how they were likely to turn out.

What is there to say about a dinner at the Roaring Fork? This was our favorite restaurant when we lived here, and, beside a few supremely swanky dinners we’ve had at places well outside our regular orbits, remains right up at the top of the list. We had cocktails (an organic agave margarita and a prickly pear mojito), scrumptious appetizers (tempura-battered shrimp for Boomer, tortilla soup for Schnookie, and the famous green chile pork stew for Pookie), staggeringly good entrees (cedar plank salmon with apricot barbecue glaze for Boomer, roasted pork carnitas for Schnookie, buttermilk fried chicken for Pookie), and then barely had any room for our desserts (molten brownie and huckleberry bread pudding). The green chile pork stew is near the very top of our short list of bestest food stuffs on the planet, and it’s been two whole years since we last had it. Horrors!

It was well worth the wait.

Walking out of the Roaring Fork after dinner is never easy, considering how stuffed we always are. Tonight we left with a bag of our leftover desserts, as well as three mysterious gifts from the guy who bussed our table. He’d been very chatty, and we’d struck up pretty much an evening-long conversation with him; before we left he told us there were three boxes in our doggie bag that we had to wait until we were outside to open. When we got back to the hotel, we cracked them open:

What a sweet gesture! It was lilies from the table settings! After opening them, we had to glance around suspiciously, concerned that we were back in the “everyone breaking out in song” type of day we had yesterday. It’s way too late for musical numbers, so if there are any synchronized-swimming muppets hiding in the woodwork, we’d love for them to just wait until tomorrow.

7 Comments

Filed under Away From Home, Celebratory!, Dining Out, Drinky-Drinky, On The Road, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 1

Today was the big day — time to hit the road for our “Restocking The Stash” trip out to The Attic in Arizona! After several weeks of giddy anticipation, we were in a full-on state of high-level pommerdoodling when this morning finally rolled around. All that stood between us and our carefully mapped three-day assault on the Valley of the Sun was a mere trans-continental flight. Pfft! Child’s play!

We left Philadelphia at a perfectly reasonable midmorning time, made a bit less reasonable by the fact that none of us slept a wink last night (yes, heading out to The Attic is, for us, an awful lot like Christmas is for seven-year-olds), and after five shockingly uneventful and quick-moving hours, descended on our target.

It should be noted that it seemed to us today that the whole world was as happy as we are that we’re on vacation. First off, after years of driving around the entire Philadelphia airport to get into the short-term parking garages, we took a wrong turn this morning and discovered a route that is a zillion times easier, and ended up with the best parking spot we’ve ever had at the airport. Then the flight crew spent the last hour of our plane ride getting on the speakers and congratulating each other for various life accomplishments. There was the “Let’s all give a hand for [Flight Attendant X], who got engaged last night!” announcement, followed by the “Let’s all give a hand for [Flight Attendant Y], who is celebrating a belated birthday today!” one, followed by the “A flight attendant will be going along the aisle now collecting service items. Please hand over empty bottles, cans, wrappers, credit cards, jewelry, engagement rings…” one. Then the driver for the rental car shuttle inadvertently had the entire bus in stitches as he explained how rental car returns work, but at a level appropriate for “Sesame Street”. Pookie remarked that it felt like she was living in the first part of “The Truman Show”, when the entire world is ridiculously perfect. Schnookie agreed, and suggested she expected either musical numbers or Muppet synchronized swimming routines to break out at any moment.

In our new incarnation as photography hobbyists, we were super-excited to have an opportunity to take some pictures at the rental car mall, where they have these cool suncatcher sculpture thingies in the clerestory windows. No, we’re not afraid to look like tourists. We’re also, as tourists visiting a place we used to live in, disappointed to report that the temperature today was depressingly unimpressive. The most sweltering high we were able to document was just 108. Pathetic, Phoenix. We know you can do better than that.

We’d like to say that our first stop immediately off the plane was The Attic, but we’re not going to lie — we were starving. Even though we’d packed hilariously heavy snack bags filled with pounds and pounds of candy for the plane, we needed some real sustenance before we could shop. Oh, and some cold drinks. Five years away from the desert leaves a girl unprepared for how thirsty this place makes you. We hit the shining beacon of every IPB road trip: McDonalds. And once we’d procured their finest meats and cheeses (or, more accurately, their finest potatostuffs), we gave a French Fry toast to being on vacation and on the verge of returning to the most wonderful place on earth.

And that most wonderful place on earth? Is just up the street from the McDonalds. It might look unassuming from the outside…

… But inside it’s a slice of heaven.

It’s probably corny to say it, but a trip to The Attic is like coming home for us. We had a big round of hugs with Jean, who was specially outfitted in her new Brett Favre Jets t-shirt, then caught up with everyone’s gorgeous projects. Then it was time to let the awesomeness of The Attic wash over us. We tried to document it, to give a taste of the shopping experience, but it’s hard to get everything. For starters, the shop is brimming with beautiful models of all kinds of projects. Most importantly, and the main focal point, is the famous Wall Of Samplers:

We aspire for the walls of Maple Hoo to look like that someday.

As you wander around the store, there are tons of other displays, and our favorites are the seasonal ones. There’s the Christmas “mantle”…

… and the Thanksgiving/Halloween fall corner…

… not to mention the 4th of July/Americana corner that we didn’t photograph because we were so busy picking up a kick-ass chart (more on that tomorrow).

Another favorite target for us is the display in the center of the shop of the current featured designs.

This part of the store is trouble, because you could safely just ask for one of everything in there, and, by the time we head home on Tuesday, we probably will have picked up exactly that.

There are areas of the shop we didn’t even hit today, as this was just our cursory first-wave attack. It can be almost overwhelming trying to make sure you’ve seen everything, and we all managed to pick out small projects to start with. After an hour or so of poring over charts, we moved on to the supplies.

And oh! The supplies! You want fibers? The Attic has every fiber you can imagine. Why, here’s just some of the cottons on hand:

Wait, you like overdyed cotton floss more? Great! Here’s the tip of the iceberg of those:

What’s that? You prefer silk to cotton? Great! There’s a whole wall of overdyed silks, all of them mouth-wateringly beautiful!

We didn’t even bother trying to get a picture of all the regular silk threads on hand — we’ll get to that on our second-wave trip. In the meantime, are you looking for cute accent buttons? Well, there are stacks of boxes of those, each more adorable than the last:

And what can you even say about the beautiful stitching tools on hand? Pookie’s scissor collection has already been documented here, and it’s fair to say that The Attic is the pusher who got her addicted in the first place. Beyond the vast array of gorgeous scissors, there are dozens of ornamental thimbles, etuis, little baskets and catchalls, measuring tapes, rulers, and the items that most caught our eyes today: handpainted autumn-themed floss winders:

Oh, and did we mention that The Attic is unimaginably well-stocked with linens? Because they are. There are racks and racks of linens in a rainbow of glorious colors, counts, and vintagey hand-dyed looks; here, in the middle of the linen section, a view to the left…

… and here’s the other side of the aisle:

You could probably take a week just to fully appreciate the linen selection, but we were running out of time today. After a few hours of feverishly pulling charts and putting together threads and linen for just a few small projects, we checked out with a modest bag of swag, ready to spend a day regrouping before making our big restocking run. Today was just a nibble. Monday will be the real feast.

We were by this point utterly exhausted. Almost deliriously so. In fact, we ended up going ridiculously far off course as we tried to get to our hotel because none of us could remember exactly where in Scottsdale it is. Fortunately, we had one of those amazing August skies to distract us; it’s so beautiful to see the big clouds piling up behind the McDowell mountains.

At long last, we found the hotel, checked in, and dragged our sorry carcasses to our rooms, just in time to collapse into bed for some long, hard naps. We were all a bit disoriented and cranky when we woke up, ready to go up the street to Blue Burrito, one of our favorite cheap-and-easy restaurants from back in the day when we lived here. Before going out, though, Pookie took the camera onto the patio of our room to shoot the lawn and trees in our immediate surrounds.

Then, being novice hobbyist photographers, we left the camera in our room when we went out to pick up dinner. And, of course, were greeted outside by the most glorious sunset-tinted clouds and a giant rainbow. Naturally. We should have known, on a day where we expected big song-and-dance numbers to break out at any moment, that there would be a rainbow.

At any rate, after more hijinks trying to figure out from memory where things are located, we managed to retrieve our dinner. We fell on our burritos like we were starving, and further supported our theory that some of the best vacation meals are the picnics you bring back to your hotel room, to enjoy at the end of a long and tiring day.

Now, with our bellies full and the first chapter of our travelogue written, we’re feeling the three-hour time difference. We’ve got a hard day on the docket for tomorrow, rife with sleeping in, lolling around and stitching, and then dinner at the Roaring Fork. And maybe some Muppet synchronized swimming routines!

9 Comments

Filed under Away From Home, Bonanza!, Celebratory!, On The Road, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching, Worth Selling Your Soul For

This Is What We’d Been Planning All Along

So, way back on February 18 we could wait no longer to start gardening and dropped some tomato seeds into little seedling trays.

On March 30 it was unseasonably sunny and warm, so we sat out on the deck and moved the seedlings to bigger peat pots.

On May 3 we transplanted the tomatoes into the garden beds.

On May 15 we saw our first tomato flower.

On June 9 we noticed our first Black Plum tomato on the vine.

In mid-July we started harvesting the Black Plums and a few San Marzanos, and a few tomatoes at a time, built up a nice collection of them.

And on July 26 I roasted a bunch of them…

… ran them through my food mill, and ended up with an almost impossibly thick sauce, nearly the color of barbecue sauce. This is how thick it was without cooking down at all:

With a bit of minced garlic sauteed in olive oil and a dash of chiffonaded fresh basil, there was dinner. I tossed the sauce on spaghetti, and then we drank a toast to those moments when life is completely, deliciously perfect.

18 Comments

Filed under Garden, Harvested, Pommerdoodling, We Grew This, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Tuber Pommerdoodling!

The potato plants are, officially, completely out of control at this point.

This picture was taking four days ago, and the plants are actually about a quarter again as big now as they were then. If this goes on much longer, they are going to swallow up our house. Which means it’s time to make them sing for their supper. With Kate the Great visiting for the weekend, we decided to take a peek under the soil and pull out some new potatoes. Without putting much effort in, this is the harvest we dug up:

We didn’t have any Yellow Finns near the surface, but we did get a hold of some Desirees…

… All Blues…

… And Banana Fingerlings.

We boiled them up, straight out of the soil, and did a head-to-head taste test. The blues were the clear-cut loser — they were attractive, and held their shape really well, but their flavor was nothing to write home about. They’d be really nice in a potato salad, though. The Banana Fingerlings were exquisite; they were tender but not at all crumbly, and their flavor was rich and buttery. And the Desirees? Out. Of. This. World. When they were very hot they were fluffy and starchy, but when they cooled, they seemed to be much more inclined to a waxier shape-holding. And they tasted, plain, like they’d been buttered and salted to perfection. Last summer we grew Yellow Finns and thought they had to be the single greatest potato on the planet. This summer the Finns in the garden best start producing, because their claim to that title has been seriously challenged by these Desirees.

7 Comments

Filed under 6. June, Garden, Harvested, Pommerdoodling, Worth Selling Your Soul For