Out with the Flowers

I had been meaning to update the picture on the header of my blog for a while and finally got around it this past weekend.  The flower/bee seemed to indicate I might be talking about nature or gardening or honey production.  Since I’m much more likely to talk about city living or music listening or beer drinking it seemed more appropriate to include a picture from my neighborhood (I actually lived in the building on the corner with the big arched windows – the Renaissance –  when I first moved here 10 years ago).

In a final homage to the flowers and the bee I’ve included the full picture at the top of this post, along with the amazing coconut lime cake I ate in the garden where it bloomed, and my amazing friend who baked the cake and lives near the garden.  The pictures were taken on a trip to Birmingham, England this past summer.  I can still feel the sun on my shoulders, taste the perfect tangy sweetness of the cake, and hear the laughter between life-long friends from that day.

So now that I think about it,  maybe the picture was actually an accurate representation after all: good travels, good food, good friends and savoring every bite.

Easy to Love?

The City of Richmond ran a marketing campaign at some point in the last several years using the slogan “Easy to Love.” I believe it was meant to be a reference to the fact that we are the capital city of the state for lovers (Virginia is, you know). I used to smirk a bit at the signs, because while I do believe that Richmond is loveable, I’m not always sure that this love comes so easily.

I’ll confess that I’ve pondered moving to nearly any city I’ve traveled to in the last few years. In Philadelphia I dreamed of walking to the Reading market and picking up fresh ingredients for dinner or nestling in for coffee and Amish-made pastries on a lazy Saturday. In Seattle I imagined packing up my laptop for the day and settling into the writer’s room at in their architecturally fantastic public library. If I lived in Denver I could eat pickles and drink amazing beer at Euclid Hall everyday. In New York I would never have to drive. From Birmingham (UK) I could take day trips to Bath and have pub lunches and Sunday dinners with good friends.

In these short little snippets (one night-stands, if you will) it is easy to love all these places. But if I were in it for the long haul, would I feel any differently about them? I am guessing not. (Save for being close to good friends in Birmingham – which would always be lovely). I’m sure if I stayed more than a week, I’d have to work a little harder. And I would likely have days that I found myself dreaming of other places.

And days when I fell in love all over again. Sort of like this past weekend in Richmond. Friday happy hour at the Camel with a great local band (The Southern Belles) and great prices on craft beers (hello, $3 Allagash White). Saturday trip to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for lunch in the cafe and the Elvis at 21 exhibit. Dinner that evening was amazing small plates at Pasture.

And while the activities of the day were enough to make me remember what I love about Richmond, it was all the stuff in between that really solidified it. The couple that was leaving just as we arrived and the Camel and graciously offered us their seats. The woman at the Elvis exhibit who shared with my Mom and I that she had attended his show at the Mosque (now Landmark) that was featured in the photographs. The familiar terrain of my neighborhood as we walked to dinner; waves from store owners and bartenders. The waiter at Pasture who was in my graduate program with me. My excitement over the success of a local chef’s new venture after frequenting his other restaurant (Comfort) for years.

And that’s just it, cities aren’t loveable because of what goes on in them. They are loveable because of our connections to them. Sometimes those connections take some work, certainly some time, to develop. And maybe it’s the not being easy that makes it all the more rich in the end.

*Need suggestions for connecting with Richmond? Check out my Jackson Ward neighbor’s blog for ideas. She’s never at a loss for something to do in the city!

Worth Waiting For

Last year about this time I had just finished reading David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris.  The book is a collection of the author’s reflections on living in Paris with some of his recipes included at the end of every chapter.  I drank in every word (along with a fair amount of Kir as I recall) and wanted to board a plane for Paris immediately.  Instead, I settled for making several of the recipes (and drinking more Kir).  Most notably, an amazing chocolate cake and a bourbon glazed pork roast. 

This week I decided to make the pork again.  I had Monday off and was excited to marinate the pork in the morning and have a lovely dinner waiting when my husband got home.  It was my way of saying thanks for all the lovely dinners he has prepared for me during my four-year long full-time work part-time grad school dance. 

But alas, I realized when I read the recipe more carefully, instead of the brief skim for ingredients I had done the day before, that the pork was supposed to brine for 2 to 4 days before marinating for 8 hours.  I had completely forgotten this.  I briefly considered brining for half and day and marinating for the other half, but in the end decided against it.  There was a reason for the process and I shouldn’t cheat it.  It felt wrong.

What I lacked in adequate recipe pre-reading I made up for in instinct.  The pork was ready for cooking last night and delicious does not even begin to describe it.  It was perfectly honey brown on the outside.  Soft and flavorful, with the salt, thyme and bay from the marinade in the background of the bourbon, molasses and apricot in the glaze.  Paired with roasted red potatoes and haricots verts (okay, they were frozen green beans, but I hate for them to feel plain) it was a perfect meal.

And a perfect reminder that even when things don’t go as planned, it doesn’t mean that there’s not good stuff just ahead.  Sometimes it just needs to marinate for a few days!  And, you know, maybe have another glass of Kir.

Writers, Bears & Home Brew

This wasn’t my best week.  We all have them, the ones where we feel like we aren’t quite bringing our “a-game.”  The ones that leave us mostly exhausted.  I’m lucky that these are few and far between for me.  There was certainly a time in my life where they were more the norm than the exception, and I realize that this remains true for a number of people.  Gratefully today, with some sleep-inspired reflection, I am able to focus on the glimmers of amazing-ness, rather than the rest of it.

Amazing thing number one: James River Writers – Writer’s Wednesday event.  I have attended several of their conferences over the past five years.  This year I finally joined the group and Wednesday I attended my first event.  How good for the soul to spend two plus hours talking to other writers about writing.  So. Very. Cool.

Amazing thing number two: this blog post from local writer Patience Salgado about the inspiring cross-country journey that these two people took, stopping in Bear County in five different states and relying on the kindness of strangers.  You know those stories that stick with you, this is one of them.  So. Inspiring.

Amazing thing number three: tapping of the Spiced Winter Ale – in my house!  My husband is a home brewer and yesterday his latest creation was ready for sampling.  For those of you who don’t live with a brewer, there is typically a least a month of waiting from brewing to drinking.  In my house, this is the adult version of the time leading up to Christmas (with a dash of nervousness that the “present” has turned out well).   This one turned out very well, perfectly balanced with a nice spicy aftertaste.  So. Delicious.

And while I’m talking brewing: amazing thing three and a half:  women brewers! Love this.

Now what was that I was saying about a bad week . . .  I must have been mistaken.  I think it’s time to lift a glass of Spiced Winter Ale to all the good stuff!

Cheers!

Anatomy of My Nightstand Reading Pile (post-grad)

I finished my Master’s Degree at the end of 2011 and therefore am pretty excited about the stack of non-academic reading that is piling up next to my bed in 2012!  Here’s a quick dissection of the picture above (from the bottom):

Journal- This is a really beautiful one; filled with really nice cottony, fiber-y paper that feels old-fashioned and hand-made.  I should really move it from the bottom of the stack to somewhere more inspiring.  Maybe get a more awesome pen too.

Elizabeth Berg’s, Dream When You are Feeling Blue – My grandmother Mary (see Dec. 23 post) was an avid reader.  This was one of the last books she read before she passed away.  Honestly, I haven’t gotten to it because I think it may make me feel . . .well, blue.

Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird- I am slowly making my way through this.  Not because it is a difficult read, but because I feel the need to drink in every word.

Max Lucado’s, Christmas Stories – A gift from my parents, who give me some type of Christmas story every year (sometimes for children, sometimes for adults).  Love this tradition!

Whole Living magazine (November Issue) – Ahh, yes.  Magazines.  I want to be good at magazines, I do.  But they have a way of piling up.  Especially ones with nice, meaty articles like this one.  I bought in the airport in November.  Still haven’t finished.  The January issue is floating around the house somewhere.  I am considering subscribing, but don’t know if I can keep up.

Josie Brown’s – Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives – Research reading.  I am currently revising a manuscript that I’ll be submitting to agents in 2012.  This is one of a list of novels I am reading as possible “shelf-mate” to mine (for use in query letters).

Meg Cabot’s – How to be Popular – This was a graduation gift from a friend who has always been supportive and enthusiastic about my love of writing.  Meg Cabot is a favorite of mine and this is a signed first edition. It’s also a reminder to get back to the writing post-graduation.  Which makes it also, a perfect gift.

Very excited about diving head first into this pile in 2012!  And speaking of reading, I’ve also throughly been enjoying reading this blog which includes a Tuesday feature about nightstands even cooler than mine.

Happy reading!