sugar time

In New York City, its pot hole season, this time between winter and spring when the streets are pitted with holes from the ice and salt of winter. Not romantic. You have to watch out for the holes when you are on your bike. In the country, it is mud season. Also sounds not romantic except that it is sweet and magical because it is also the time for maple sugaring. I have visited my daughter at her college in Vermont when the snow is melting and the sap starts flowing in the maple trees.

The edge between winter and spring in Vermont

The edge between winter and spring in Vermont

MapleTreeBuckets

As I’ve always said to my daughters, there is nothing more energizing or more beautiful than to be amongst people who think they can change the world. Oona’s college is such a place. Sterling College is one of the seven colleges in the Work College Consortium, a tiny school with a big community spirit dedicated to environmental stewardship. The students work with both their hands and their minds. They have a farm. They eat the food they grow. They have their own sugar house where they process the sap collected from the maple trees and turn it into maple syrup. In the small village every maple tree you see has buckets attached to collect the sap.

MapleBucket

the sugar house at Sterling College

the sugar house at Sterling College

Sterling College maple sugaring at the Sugar House. Photo: Sterling College

Sterling College maple sugaring at the Sugar House. Photo: Sterling College

It is vital to support small farms and the people who are working them where ever they are. And so…

Our dear friend Rob Handel, Chef at Heather Ridge Farm in Schoharie County, New York generously sent me these maple recipes to share with you. Thank you Rob.

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

4 Tbs Dijon mustard
5 Tbs maple syrup
1 Tbs pink peppercorns
6 Tbs apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup brewed tea
1 clove garlic
pinch of salt
optional – 1 tsp summer savory

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until well emulsified. Store in the fridge for up to one month.

Maple Parsnip Chutney (Chef Rob says this chutney is fabulous on pork, chicken and cheese)

3 Tbs butter
1 diced onion
2 cups diced parsnip (1 to 2 parsnips)
1 apple peeled and diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cracked coriander seed
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Melt the butter in a medium sized skillet and add onions, parsnips and salt. Cook over medium low heat until well caramelized about 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until everything is softened and most of the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Maple Panna Cotta

Chef Rob says: This panna cotta recipe only involves 10 minutes of prep time, can be made in a single pot and it is fabulously rich. Here we go.

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla or 1 Tbs rum
1 package (1 Tbs) unflavored gelatin
pinch of salt

Place milk in a medium sauce pan and sprinkle gelatin on top. Allow to bloom for 5 minutes, then add remaining ingredients and bring to a low simmer. Stir until the gelatin is fully dissolved and pour into molds. Allow to set for at least 2 hours or prepare ahead and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Maple Bacon Popcorn

1/2 c popping corn
2T maple syrup
2T rendered bacon fat
2T brown sugar
2tsp salt

Combine all ingredients except salt in a stovetop popcorn popper and stir over medium low heat until the popcorn begins to pop. Keep stirring vigorously until the popping slows. Immediately tip into a large bowl and toss with salt, adding more if necessary

the year in books – march

I enjoyed my February read “I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp” by Richard Hell, an engrossing memoir set in New York city in the 70’s and 80’s. Its a history of downtown New York culture of the time when young people were free to live without the tethers of responsibility and moved through the streets with the freedom and loping grace of wild animals in a natural habitat. One of my favorite passages was the last one in the book, “My life is not different for having written this book – my life only comes into being by having been written here. What I have been given and what I have been and what I have and what I and what – all are only to the extent they all are only to the extent all are only to the all are only to all are only all are all. We know that we are constructed of time, not of sequence, and it is impossible to write time “not of sequence,” except maybe in poetic flashes. I didn’t want to write about a person through time, but about time through a person.”

For my March book, I decided to visit the new bookstore in the neighborhood. Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbooks was priced out of its West Village home and the happy ending to the all too familiar New York story is that some book lovers offered to rent her space in the basement of their family townhouse in the East Village. And so, another bookstore has survived in New York City. On a very snowy Sunday afternoon, red-cheeked and with snow encrusted eyebrows, my friend Katy and I entered the warm and homey store.  Bonnie Slotnick welcomed us by pointing out where the radiators were so that we could warm up first. What a charming and inviting bookstore. I felt like I was in someone’s home, albeit a person with a lot of bookshelves. Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks specializes in Out-of-Print and Antiquarian Cookbooks.

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks on East 2nd Street

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks on East 2nd Street

BonnieSlotnickCookbooksInt

I picked out a 20 year old cookbook from the Florida Keys with lots of recipes for fish and rum cocktails. Standing there in my wet snow boots reading tropical recipes ringed with illustrations of palm trees felt good. I searched for a proper book for my March read and found “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollan. I’ll let you know how it goes.

BonnieSlotnickCookbooksEastVillage

street art III

I hope that the neighborhood will never be so sanitized that we will not have street art. It is heartening to see that people feel the need to embellish the streets.

Frank Ape news stand on Loisaida Ave.

Frank Ape news stand on Loisaida Ave.

on East 11th St.

on East 11th St.

mailbox art by an artist Cool

Avenue A mailbox art by artist – Cool

I admire the work of Tatyana Fazlalizdeh and especially her street art project “Stop Telling Women to Smile”.  Why are we still fighting for women’s rights and civil rights? IIt should be something we read about in history books. It was good to see her mural in the neighborhood.

tatyanaF_mural

On Avenue A

On Avenue A another piece by Cool

An embellished lady gargoyle on 98 St. Marks Place

An embellished lady gargoyle on 98 St. Marks Place

 

the year in books – february

Alas, I did not enjoy my first Year in Books read, I am one of those people who likes tidy plots and I just kept wondering what the hell was up with Miles. I fought the urge to skip ahead until I finally just put the book down. Nevertheless, I did enjoy getting back to the practice of reading in bed. As it’s been snowy in New York and the roads are icy, I’ve been off my bike and have been riding the bus and subways which gives me another good block of time to immerse myself in a book.

I’m following Laura’s (of The Circle of Pine Trees blog) lead of only purchasing books from independent bookstores, thrift stores or borrowing from the library. This month I sought my  book at the Saint Mark’s Bookshop, a neighborhood institution. The relentless gentrification and “mallification” of my neighborhood almost claimed our bookstore on at least two occasions. Each time, the community rose up and closed ranks around the beloved bookstore, circulating petitions, fundraising and volunteering labor and services. Read here and here for news stories about the battle for the bookstore. Saint Mark’s was eventually chased out by rising rents, but reopened in the neighborhood this summer. It is much smaller than the old store, but I think it is far more beautiful. The design by Clouds  Architecture Office was a donation. The existence of St. Mark’s Bookshop is a testament to the power of community.

On East 3rd St. East Village, New York

On East 3rd St. East Village, New York

StMarksBookshopWindow

saintMarksBookStoreBookshelf

In my neighborhood bookshop, I picked up a book by a neighborhood author. This month’s read is “I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp”, an autobiography by Richard Hell. A cultural history of the punk rock era in New York in the 70’s and 80’s, in which Richard left an indelible mark as a musician and a writer.

BookRichardHell

snow day

It was supposed to be the storm of the century and we only got a few inches so this morning’s headlines read “New York dodges a bullet”.

My friend Katy described it in this way: “I’m looking at this now like its a flash mob, only in reverse. The Mayor has sent all the New Yorkers scampering to their lairs and now the city is quieter than it has been in a century or two… world’s biggest flash mob inversion.”

Nonetheless, we got a snow day.

tompkins square park

tompkins square park

IMG_0162

dog run in tompkins square park

dog run in tompkins square park

snowdaygraffitti

 

tompkins square park

tompkins square park

how to find a nyc size queen bed

Forget what you see in the movies – most New York City apartments are dime-sized. We can cook full meals on kitchen counters the size of cutting boards and every inch of space is either used or is a pathway. When New Yorkers visit furniture stores, they go armed with tape measures.

For fourteen years Frank and I have slept in a full-sized bed only because we did not want to give up the floor space that a queen bed would take up. But every time I actually slept on a queen, I felt so queenly. I was tired of waking up in the middle of the night pushed to edge of the mattress by Toy Fox Terriers.

I’d heard that there was such a thing as a “short” queen mattress. They are popular for use in RVs and boats and so they are also referred to as RV mattresses. They are as wide as a queen (60 inches) but the same length as a full or twin (75 inches). We would gain six inches in width without sacrificing five inches of floor space at the foot of the bed. These five inches of floor space were a pathway to maneuver around our small bedroom. If you are not six foot tall, you don’t need those five inches in bed length.

I started the search by going to Sleepy’s because they are everywhere in Manhattan and since they call themselves the mattress professionals; I figured they would have many styles to choose from. The two salespeople I spoke with at two different locations had never even heard of a short queen. Not only that, but they showed no interest in finding out anything about it. Next I tried the Internet search. You could find them but they were made of foam or came in a compressed roll that the mattress would pop out of in a Pillsbury dough-like way. These did not seem like something you would want to sleep on every night. My next idea was, what if I went to a department store like Macys with very good customer service. Surely, they would be able order one for me if they didn’t have them in stock already. I got the same reaction – no knowledge and no interest in looking for further information.

I was hell-bent both on keeping my five inches of floor space and getting this bed and so on one of our trips to the rural homestead when I drove past an independent furniture store, I thought about small town customer service. In a wave of optimism, I parked the car and went inside the beautiful Victorian building that used to be the Hotel Augustan, which now houses the Scholet Furniture in Cobleskill New York. When I made my request, the saleswoman not only knew what I was talking about, but she told me that she could order it for me. Then she took me up the grand staircase to the bed section and pointed out the types of beds that could be ordered as a short queen. I could actually test the mattresses and choose which one I wanted to order.

Scholet Furniture in Cobleskill New York

Scholet Furniture in Cobleskill New York

Compared to the search, the rest was easy. I ordered the mattress and because they could not deliver it to Manhattan, we had to transport it on the top of the car. Frank lashed it down super securely and drove slowly. The transport had to be timed for a non-rainy non-snowy day, which took some doing in the winter. He hacked the existing full sized bed frame from Ikea by adding plywood sheets the width of a queen. Because the pillow-top mattress was much thicker than our old one, Frank lovingly sawed some inches off the feet of the frame so that the bed was not too high for the little blind dog to leap off.

The Hotel Augustan was built in 1874

The Hotel Augustan was built in 1874

 

the year in books

I used to be an avid reader. Then I became an avid knitter and that turned me into a slacker reader because you cannot knit while you are reading. I have become an avid knitter and TV watcher combo.

As now is the time for resolutions, I felt I should bring more books into my life. I’m a fan of Laura’s Circle of Pine Trees blog and her Year in Books project, so I thought it would be good thing for me to join in this year. The project is sort of a flexible book club where the goal is to read at least one book a month during the year and share thoughts about it.

I’m going to try to follow Laura’s example of holding to book buying from independent bookstores, thrift shops or borrowing from the library. So my start was to pick up the book Laura is going to read for January titled “There but for The” written by Ali Smith at the Strand Bookstore in lower Manhattan, a bustling jewel of a bookstore.

 

the strand bookstore on broadway and east 13th street

the strand bookstore on broadway and east 13th street

strand_bookstore2

strand_bookstore1