It's finally cold and I, for one, don't mind

The first few weeks of fall in New York City seemed like they were the hottest, sunniest days of the year. With highs hovering in the mid-80s, and the sun aggressively beaming into my apartment, heating up my moderately-sized uptown bedroom like an oven set just hot enough to keep your food from browning, it felt as though I was the only one desperately counting down the days until I could open my apartment windows and feel a slight chill in the air.

Apparently - according to co-workers and Insta-famous bloggers in swan-shaped pool floats and #sponsored swimwear - everyone loves summer. The city parks in late September looked like a college brochure - a couple of guys playing frisbee in the distance; rows of girls tanning, their t-shirts draped over their faces in an attempt to delay the all-too-inevitable fine lines and wrinkles; an introvert pretending to read but getting distracted by the fly that keeps hovering and landing on the edge of his book.

Everyone seemed to be soaking up the last few hours of summer, holding on as long as they could to the little joys of climate change before the sandals were pushed to the back of the closet in favor of thick, cozy socks and rain boots.

But, I wonder, what is there to enjoy, really? For those lucky few who have nothing but time from May through September, I understand the excitement of summer. They can rent a car and go berry picking upstate or to the beaches at Rockaway. They can relax on shaded patios and chat with their friends over a glass (or six) of rose. They can spend their day in a tank top, reading under a tree as they sip on a cold brew coffee, the condensation from their BPA-free to-go cup leaving drops of water on the pages of a literary magazine they just bought at Strand.

But for the rest of us, summer in New York becomes merely a montage of sticky subway rides and freezing office buildings, accompanied by a myriad of unidentifiable - or all-too-identifiable - city smells. While everyone on Instagram is baking blueberry pies and lounging poolside, you're sweating on the subway platform, 20 minutes late to work.

As beads of sweat form along your sternum and your brow your only respite from the stagnant, platform air is an express train passing through the station, bringing with it a conversation-halting clang of metal on metal, and an oddly refreshing subterranean breeze. You let the stale air wash over you, forgetting for a moment that it likely hasn't seen the light of day since 1974. But vintage is in, these days, you tell yourself as you hold back a cough, for you're no longer sweating. 

You close your eyes, imagining for a second that you're standing on the edge of the shore, the ocean waves crashing onto the sand, almost reaching the tips of your toes before receding back into the big blue. The warm sea breeze brushes against your skin and whips your hair into tangles and knots. In the distance you hear the faint sounds of Jimmy Buffet, not your music of choice, that's for sure, but here, you don't mind. You look down and realize you're holding a margarita (on the rocks, of course), and when you take a sip the cool, refreshing sting of the tequila in the back of your throat washes away your worries.

The waves get louder and louder, echoing as if in a chamber until the sound of screeching brakes yanks you off of the beach and back onto the platform. A man brushes past, his briefcase hitting your bag as he hurriedly makes his way to the first car of the train that just pulled into the station, "Cheeseburger in Paradise" emanating from a pair of $5 earbuds he doesn't realize are so revealing.

You step onto the train and the operator announces the next stop, her voice crackling through broken speakers. And as the doors close and the train pulls out of the station, the light overhead flickering like a department store dressing room that hasn't been updated in over a decade, you impatiently await the changing of the seasons. Summer in the city is the worst.

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It was a crisp 42 degrees this morning as I stepped out of my apartment. With Halloween in the rear-view mirror and Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, stores are beginning to sneak strands of lights and winter garland into their display windows. It won’t be long before Spotify features their holiday playlists, showcasing the cheerful classics of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby. Pumpkin will be replaced with peppermint and radiators all over the city will come to life, making their presence known with unwelcome, but familiar, melodies of pops, hisses, and bangs.

With this shift in the weather patterns I gladly bid adieu to my least favorite time of the year. 'Tis the season for baking and eating and wearing sweaters and staying inside and lighting candles that make the apartment smell like the inside of a Christmas cookie. Summer is over. It's finally fall.

Rosemary & Thyme Herb Butter

I've always loved baking. In high school I spent weekends making cupcakes and cookies (you know, like a normal 15 year old), and started college dreaming of one day opening my own bakery.

Although I've changed course quite a bit, I still spend a lot of time in the kitchen. In an attempt to become a more knowledgeable home cook I've been working my way through Alice Waters' book The Art of Simple Food. A proponent of farm-to-table cooking long before it was a trend, Alice Waters seeks to create memorable meals by finding quality, seasonal ingredients and cooking or preparing them simply. In the book she not only provides hundreds of recipes - from homemade vinaigrette dressing and apricot jam, to roasted chicken and sautéed brussels sprouts - she also offers tips for keeping a well-stocked pantry and uses each page as an opportunity to teach. It's a wonderful place to start for anyone looking to brush up on their cooking and baking basics, and everyone should just go buy it already, geez.

Since I've recently been gifted an herb garden I was excited to try my hand at making a butter using fresh-cut herbs. The recipe below is based on the one in Alice Waters' book, but has been slightly adapted to suit my own tastes. Enjoy.


rosemary & thyme herb butter

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary and thyme, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Melt half of the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the herbs, slowly mixing for a couple of minutes until fragrant. 

Let the mixture cool in the fridge until or on the counter until room temperature.

Once cooled, add in the rest of the butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice, to enhance the flavors. 

Pour into a bowl or small container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Adventures of an Aspiring Plant Lady: One Down

I've been thinking all morning about how to incorporate an unwanted thyme/time pun into the opening of this post, but after all I could come up with was "my thyme has passed" I thought it best to just dive right in.

But indeed it has. In the midst of a move uptown and a week out of town my thyme plant has perished. I've also lost a succulent (mostly because I forgot it was in the windowsill of my bathroom...), have inherited a dying house plant (species TBD), and have been gifted an herb garden of basil, spearmint, oregano, rosemary, and thyme (we meet again).

Over the past couple of weeks, as I've tried desperately to keep my little green roommates alive, I have learned a few things. And by learned I mean confirmed what every single blog post about plant care already tells you. So here it goes.

  1. Proper pruning is paramount. They say regularly pruning - cutting back a few leaves and stems to promote growth - will result in a more luscious, full herb garden. And they're right (surprise!). Basil, in particular, requires frequent pruning in order to prevent the plant from getting too leggy. To prune, cut or pinch the stem just above a pair of leaves, once the herb is at least two or three inches tall; in just a few days you'll notice two new pairs of leaves sprouting from just below where you cut, creating a fuller, more plentiful plant. It's magical. Use the fresh cut leaves in pasta sauces or herb butters (recipe here), or dry them so they last a bit longer.
  2. We all know plants need plenty of water, sunlight, and Nat King Cole to stay happy and healthy. But I never realized just how much sunlight (or Nat King Cole, tbh) was necessary. My kitchen window is north-facing which means it gets weaker sunlight than windows facing south, east, and west. Although at first I didn't think this was such a big deal, I started to notice certain herbs in the center of the pot reaching their precious little stems out and up to get as much sun as they could. Poor little guys. Since it's summer I've been able to cheat a bit by illegally placing the herb garden on my fire escape (hope none of you are with the NY housing dept.) but come November I'll have to figure out a plan B.
  3. Unlike contemporary spinal surgeries, spearmint is highly invasive. I inherited a dying houseplant when I moved to my new apartment; it was wilted and brown as it sat, pathetically, on the kitchen counter, so I moved it to the fire escape and treated it to a bit of fertilizer and a gulp of water and, I'm happy to report, it's doing quite well. It also has a new roommate. Last week as I was pulling out a few browning leaves I noticed two spearmint plants growing very aggressively from the pot where there was nothing but dirt before (pictured below). Turns out mint has a habit of inviting itself over for dinner and taking a nap on the couch, whether you like it or not. I'll either be repotting the mint or making myself a Whiskey Smash; will keep you posted.

I'm waiting until I'm more confident in my abilities as a plant mom to head down to The Sill and pick up this little trio. For now, I'm taking in all that I can in the hopes that I'll be able to keep my herbs and succulents alive for a long thyme (I'm sorry).

Adventures of an Aspiring Plant Lady: Here We Go

Keeping a plant alive is hard. A dog or cat will offer a variety of expressions or behaviors to indicate something is wrong; they'll stop eating for a few days, their stomach will make noise, and if they're in pain they'll yelp or meow. They look up at you with their adorable little animal eyes and say "hey, I need to go on a walk" or "please stop bothering me I'm trying to sleep".

But plants just sit there, and wilt. And wilting can mean anything. It could be caused by rotting roots from overwatering, or dried out roots from under-watering. It could be because the temperature is too cold, or too hot, or it's too sunny. It could be a sign of a pest infestation, or a desperate plea for some kind of fertilizer. It could even mean your plant is annoyed that you're watching that episode of Friends for the 4th time that week.

Okay, maybe not that last one. But to someone with almost no knowledge of how to keep a plant alive, these vague warning signs are difficult to decipher, and make my aspirations to be a plant lady seem more daunting than my impending graduation from graduate school (it's fine, everything is fine).

So, like Julie Powell, I've decided to document my exploration of this new hobby. Except instead of trying out recipes I'll be trying to keep these little green friends of mine alive, and instead of Julia Child as a guide I have the whole, plant-related internet (an unsurprisingly robust corner of the web).

Above are my latest victims. I mean plants. I have three succulents, basil, and thyme, and will try to post updates and discoveries every month. To start here are a few things I've learned so far:

  1. Basil is surprisingly receptive to water. All of the plants sit on the sill of an east facing window, and on a sunny morning they wake up to very direct, harsh sunlight. By the time I wake up at 8am they've been sunbathing for at least an hour or so, and the basil plant is usually starting to wilt (apparently indoor potted plants tend to dry out much faster and may require more frequent watering). So before I make myself a very necessary cup of coffee, I give these little guys and gals a drink, and I'm always shocked at how quickly the basil leaves perk right up. Within 10 minutes there's a noticeable difference, and the plant goes from looking like a withered 97-year-old man to a lively teen (weird analogy? Idk). Honestly, no matter how long I manage to keep these plants alive, I will always be amazed by this. It's like watching one of those time lapse videos of a flower blooming only it's happening in real life before my eyes. Ah, nature.
  2. You can, in fact, kill succulents. And with relative ease, at that. I learned this well before this month but it was my first clue that I may not be gifted with a green thumb. I hopped on the succulent band wagon after seeing the 400th (rough estimate) Refinery29 article about how easy it is to care for succulents. "They practically take care of themselves!" But no. They don't. Because if you don't water them they die and if you do water them they die. So I decided to turn to people who know more about gardening, and upon purchasing my latest batch of succulents I followed careful instructions from Succulents and Sunshine when repotting them and so far so good. I probably jinxed it just now, though, so we'll see.
  3. Gooseneck coffee kettles (like this one) make for a great watering can. For those of you who, like myself, lack any storage and live in a teeny tiny box, finding household objects with multiple uses is key to living a happy, healthy life. 

That's all I've got, so far, but I'm excited to keep caring for these little plants and learning about indoor plant care. Starting out with monthly posts about problems I've encountered and what I've discovered, and we'll see how this goes.

Photo Phriday: The Capri

I think I got 12 mosquito bites the night Joshua and I ate at The Capri. It was our last night in Marfa, Texas and neither of us were looking forward to leaving behind such a significant little town. There's a specific kind of quiet that only exists in the middle of nowhere, a penetrating quiet that goes beyond just a lack of highway traffic or chatty tourists, and settles into your bones, shifting the way you think, feel, and move. It makes the days seem longer, the air more fresh, and already-delicious food and drink more memorable. And both of us noticed it the second we arrived.

I had heard about Marfa a few years back, probably just after Beyoncé visited and made the city an "it girl" get-away vacation spot. But my experience there was almost nothing like I expected. It wasn't trendy bar after trendy bar filled with hip artists, filmmakers, and musicians. It wasn't food trucks with a line down the block for the best tacos in Texas. It was quiet, secluded, almost strange. Restaurants stay open until they feel like closing, many of them only open a few days a week. The streets are seemingly abandoned, a car or small group of people passing through every once in awhile. And while the city didn't meet my expectations, it exceeded them in a way I never could have imagined. Marfa is just as incredible as everyone says it is, not because it's "cool", but because it's remarkable, peculiar, special.

That last night after dinner we sat outside for a few hours, sipping on craft cocktails, while I ignored Joshua's request that we move inside; although he had zero mosquito bites, I was welcoming new ones every few minutes. And while the next day in the car I sat with my hands in my lap, unsuccessfully willing the itching to stop, it didn't matter. Those pesky bites eventually go away, but Marfa doesn't. It stays with you, in your bones, until you eventually hop in the car and make your way back.

Green Barn Berry Farm

What's more American than picking fresh blueberries on Fourth of July weekend, you ask? 

Nothing. Not one thing.

This past Friday Joshua and I went with his parents to the Green Barn Berry Farm in Muncy, Pennsylvania and spent a warm, Summer evening picking blueberries. I've since decided to move away from New York City and live on a farm, where I can grow fresh fruits, veggies and herbs in my backyard, spend mornings sipping coffee on my front porch, and store my clothing in a closet instead of on a clothing rack in the middle of my apartment (wait, other people in New York have closets? oh...).

While I was picking (read: eating) blueberries I spent some time playing with my new camera. After almost 5 years with my trusty little Canon Rebel t3i - my very first DSLR - I finally upgraded to a Canon 7D and haven't put it down since. 

Two nights ago Joshua's mom made a delicious blueberry pie to kick off our Independence Day celebrations, and I think later this month I'll take a stab at my very first homemade blueberry jelly. But first, if anyone has a farm they aren't using just let me know. I'll be there in 5 minutes. 

Morning Rituals

School's officially out for summer and while some of my friends are enjoying treks through Europe following their week at the Cannes Film Festival (honestly, their life is so difficult....) I've been spending quite a bit of quality time with this desk chair of mine.

In pre-production for three short films, planning a road-trip to scout for a fourth, and preparing to write a feature in just 3 short months, my latest challenge has been trying to stay sane. And this little corner of my studio apartment is helping me do just that.

Since last summer I've spent almost every morning in this chair, sipping coffee and reading from the pages of Kinfolk Magazine or posts from some of my favorite blogs (Career Girl Daily, A Cup of Jo, and Wit & Delight, to name a few). And these few minutes of time - not responding to emails or finishing up last-minute assignments - have been so beneficial.

Over the past two years of my graduate program I've learned the value of a routine. Whether it's taking time to read for 30 minutes each day, making myself a cup of coffee the second I get out of bed (shout out to my trusty little Aeropress.), or eating dark chocolate every 5 minutes (not really, but almost), forming habits that promote time for myself is really the only way I've been able to make it this far in grad school without losing my damn mind.

And as I enter an industry that never takes a break, here's to hoping I can hold onto my sanity for a few more years...

 

A Weekend in the Catskills

It's my last semester as a full time student and I could not be happier to leave 5 classes a week and an endless barrage of assignments in the past. In the months leading up to an inevitably busy summer I've been trying to take time for myself, but sometimes mornings of meditation and evenings of eating Cookie Butter ice cream (so gooooood) and watching New Girl aren't quite enough. Sometimes the peace and quiet of living in a cozy studio apartment is interrupted by 18-wheelers barreling down the street outside and construction workers ripping out the cabinets of the apartment next door at 8:30 in the morning. Sometimes the only way to get a little rest is by leaving the city.

Not buildings!

A few weeks ago Joshua and I were perusing Escape Brooklyn to find a place to escape Manhattan for Spring Break. After pining over disappointingly expensive A-Frame cabins and boutique hotels, he found the perfect, affordable, refreshing getaway:  Spruceton Inn.

A self-described Bed and Bar, Spruceton Inn has been open for about a year and a half, and seems to have perfected the modern-day inn experience. Owners Casey and Steven remodeled the old motel (formerly owned by Arnold Schwarzenegger 's brother, Karl) in 2013, and have been living out my dream life scenario ever since.

Books and board games in Room One.

The bar at Conan's Corner.

Minimalism at its best.

The inn - a 2 1/2 hour drive from the city - has 9 simply decorated, rest-encouraging rooms, a fire pit, charcoal grills, and is a 15-minute walk to the nearest hiking trails. They also host a handful of artists and writers each year as a part of their artist residency program (as if this place couldn't get any better...).

In Room One of the inn - dubbed Conan's Corner - you'll find the bar: coffee bar by morning, actual bar by night (why this isn't how every bar works is inconceivable). The bar serves Cafe Grumpy coffee, craft beer, whiskeys, wine, and happiness. In here you'll also find decks of cards, books written and illustrated by Casey's husband and co-owner, Steven, and a little tiny wifi signal - perfect for one of those automatic "out of the office" response emails.

Spruceton Inn // West Kill, NY

Although I had originally planned to catch up on all of my writing, emailing, and school work while we were out of the city, I quickly learned what an rare opportunity I had with 4 days and almost no wifi: I could finally relax.

The first day we took a four-hour hike that quickly showed me how out of shape I was (or is walking and talking difficult for everyone?). We made it to the top of Hunter Mountain where we climbed a terrifyingly rickety fire watch tower to catch incredible views of the Hudson Valley. That night we spent the evening at Conan's Corner, sipping on wine and whiskey and talking to a couple of other New York City locals and Columbia graduate students who were also trying to escape for a few days. 

Phoenicia Diner // Phoenicia, NY

Our second day was a day of writing and spontaneous driving that lead us to Phoenicia Diner (an upcoming post!), a place we read about on too many "must do" lists to ignore. And that night we (mostly Joshua...) grilled burgers on one of the charcoal grills outside, following about ten rounds of a card game (ah, life without the internet).

Most New Yorkers know that a 4-day vacation is just short enough for your return trip to be a begrudging one, and this was no different. Although a sad drive away from Spruceton Inn, with no longer an excuse for unanswered emails, I left knowing that, like a former guest of the building, I'll be back. 

36 Hours in Nashville

What to do with a single day in Nashville and about $11 left in your pocket? Spend the whole day at coffee shops. Take a look at a few of spots Joshua and I stopped by in an last-minute attempt at a pre-semester vacation.

 

DOSE

We walked into a crowded shop filled with tables covered in laptops, notebooks, and half-drunk cups of coffee. Less than a mile from Vanderbilt University, Dose Coffee seems like a college-student study spot, and I understand why. Big windows along one side of the shop let in plenty of natural light to remedy an afternoon of essay-writing, and with Counter Culture coffee behind the bar students can count on a quality cappuccino to get them through the semester. And any place with tee shirts that say "Uno. Dose. Tres." is okay in my book.


Revelator Coffee

On the recommendation of a bartender at Bar Luca (a place that makes you feel cool even if you've been sitting in a car for 10 hours) we stopped by Revelator Coffee, and, like the proud tourists we were, left with a bag of beans, a cup of coffee, and a Revelator brand Swell water bottle. Roasting out of Birmingham, Alabama Revelator is quickly making waves in Southern coffee culture. Fingers crossed it heads up here to New York because as much as I'd like to I can't be driving to Nashville every weekend for a new bag of their beans. I just can't.


STEADFAST COFFEE

Although we stopped by to pick up a bag of coffee beans, the freshness of the shop's design made it very tempting to spend our entire afternoon sitting in one of the open booths along the wall, sipping on a macchiato while taking Instagram pictures of everything. Located in Nashville's Germantown neighborhood, Steadfast Coffee boasts a spacious interior, with a large patio for afternoons when Blizzard Jonas isn't dropping a foot of snow on the city. After a chat with a knowledgable and friendly barista we decided on a bag of Peru, and brewed on a V60 back home in New York, the beans didn't disappoint.


barista parlor x germantown

The past two trips to Nashville we've stopped by Barista Parlor's East Nashville and Golden Sound locations. But after spending the past few months gawking at Instagram photos of their newest location in Germantown we finally had a chance to visit. The fresh space is filled with natural light and accented with shades of olive green and bold orange, a contrast to the clean lines and crisp white brick of the building itself. At this point in the afternoon we were about 4 cups of coffee in so I opted for the Irish Whisker, a delicious drink made with coffee, cream, orange zest, a Whiskey reduction, and magic. 

The Sawhorse Cafe

It’s no secret that the third wave coffee movement has made an impact on cafe culture in New York; with an abundance of coffee shops popping up around the city, New Yorkers seem to have their pick when it comes to carefully crafted cappuccinos.  But three hours away, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the craft coffee culture is quietly making waves of it’s own.

Owner and Head Roaster, Jesse Darrow with his son, Timbre.

The Sawhorse Cafe, owned by husband-and-wife team Jesse and Hannah Darrow, opened it's doors in April of 2015 and has since become a Williamsport favorite. The cafe serves farm-to-table eats, homemade pastries, and Buzzsaw Coffee, roasted in-house. My boyfriend Joshua (a former Williamsportian…Williamsporter?) and I stopped by for a bite to eat and a chat with his friend Jesse. 

When we met up with Jesse he was roasting coffee in the back office, holding his less-than-a-year-old son, Timbre, in his left arm while sorting through the freshly roasted beans, picking the burnt ones out of the batch, with his right (so let’s just put that whole “men can’t multitask” thing to bed right here). 

Growing up Jesse always loved food and farming - a passion that’s evident in his approach to the cafe’s ever-changing menu. They source their ingredients locally, allowing the menu to shift with the seasons and reflect the Central Pennsylvania region. Jesse’s approach to coffee is similar: find the best beans he can and don’t mess them up, roasting lightly to highlight the work that nature and the farmers have already done.

Buzzsaw Coffee, US Roaster Corp

In the coffee world there seems to be the perception that a roaster with success in a larger city has higher quality beans, but that’s not always the case. Roasting out of cities like Portland, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, heavy-hitters like Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, and Blue Bottle often get more attention in mainstream coffee conversations, but more and more often quality micro-roasters are popping up in places like Williamsport. In Pennsylvania alone Square One (Lancaster), Alabaster (Williamsport), and Passenger (Lancaster) have already gained traction; and in nearby Ithaca, NY Gimme! Coffee has established a presence in New York City, proving that these smaller roasters can hold their own.

Having worked as a sales rep for Gimme! Coffee and as the head roaster at Alabaster - where he took their beans far in the America's Best Espresso competition - Jesse understands this industry well. And through Sawhorse Cafe he hopes for Buzzsaw to continue to grow, and ultimately develop into it's own entity.

When it comes to the cafe itself, the space is bright, open, about three times the size of any shop in Manhattan, and very Instagrammable. Offering Kalita Wave pour-overs and espresso drinks on a shiny La Marzocco espresso machine (also Instagrammable), Jesse and the baristas take great care in using brew methods that compliment their coffee beans. 

If you're lucky enough to live nearby, stop in for a quality cup of coffee at a community-focused cafe. And for those of us in New York, the three hour drive is probably a faster commute than trying to maneuver the L train during rush hour. If we're being honest.

The Sawhorse Cafe: Website   Facebook   Instagram

Buzzsaw Coffee: Website