Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mother Nature's Paintbrush

Beauty upon beauty. That was my weekend.

It is difficult to outshine the works of the world's great artists, but my visit to the Museum of Modern Art on Saturday may just have been topped by a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Sunday.

Mother Nature has an incredible palette to work with.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Museum of Modern Art

I love New York City.  Truly I do.  Though I may grumble about small kitchens and fire-escape gardening and lack of natural beauty, there is no place like it.  In reality, we New Yorkers are extremely spoiled by the mosaic of diversity, culture and artistic expression that surrounds us as we walk the city streets day by day.    

Even so, at least once a week I think "If only I took better advantage of all New York City has to offer..."

Which is why I am so pleased with myself anytime I manage to enjoy one of New York's special attractions, be it Di Fara pizza or the Museum of Modern Art.  

Saturday afternoon I was drawn uptown by the promise of Van Gogh and good conversation.  As I browsed the MOMA's new Van Gogh exhibit with some friends and wandered through gallery after gallery of stunning artwork, I found myself fascinated by the different ways in which people observed the art on the walls.  

The woman above stood mesmirized, unmoving, in front of Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'Avignon for a good five minutes. 

Some people wandered, glancing for a few seconds at a painting here, a sculpture there.  Others read every word about every work of art.  A few just sat on the banquettes and gazed at their favorites.  

And then there were those who roamed about with their cameras snapping photos of what everyone else was doing; viewing the people and the art through the camera lens.  Captured moments, both distant and intimate.  

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Caramels and Care Packages

Whew. You know how life can become crazily busy sometimes, even for just a few days? And then all of a sudden you return to normalcy and are faced with a mountain of emails you have not yet had time to read, voicemails you have managed to ignore, laundry you haven't bothered to fold, and suitcases that won't be unpacked for a month? Maybe it's just me...

Finally things have died down a bit and I have a moment to pop in and share a wonderful recipe that I recently made excellent use of during the Pay it Forward giveaway.

These chewy gooey beauties are Pecan Maple Caramels, recipe courtesy of The Chocolate Gourmand. I came across the recipe months ago and have been thinking of them ever since. Finally this summer I convinced myself I needed a candy thermometer, and I had the last piece of the puzzle necessary to make my pecan maple dream a reality.

They were actually really, really good. Quite a shock for me, in light of previous candy-making disasters, including a batch of "fudge" some years ago that had to be broken with a hammer and chisel just to fit it into the trash bin.

The recipe is not difficult, but be prepared for a good 1/2 hour of constant stirring over the hot stove before the caramel reaches the right temperature. After leaving the caramel to set overnight I cut it into squares and wrapped them in wax paper for easy transportation to my Pay it Forward recipients--the lovely ladies behind Ultra Fine Flair, For the Love of Food, and Angry Asian Creations. Apparently they survived the mailing well, making for excellent holiday gift possibilities.

Try them out and let me know what you think! (And if you want to get in on the Pay it Forward fun, wander on over to For the Love of Food, she may just have a spot left for some lucky commenter.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Summer's End

Is it just me, or does each summer seem to pass even faster than the summer before? June, July and August just flew by this year. Every year I make grand plans to take advantage of the many exciting activities in New York City during the summer, and every year I barely scratch the surface.

Summer is more or less at an end, and I wish I had made more of it. More long lunches, more time in the park, more sweet corn, more popsicles, and more pesto made from the basil secretly being grown on our fire escape. More of a summer tan might have been nice too.

Fortunately Labor Day Weekend went a long way towards making me feel I enjoyed summer to the fullest.

Saturday was a day outdoors, mostly spent bicycling around Brooklyn. A planned trip to Coney Island with friends for a little sunset photography was aborted when one bike needed emergency repair, so we consoled ourselves instead by going to Di Fara to try out some of the top-rated (and most difficult to get to) pizza in New York City.

What an experience. By all appearances, the pizza place has barely changed in the past 60 years since it's owner, Dom DeMarco, has been making pizzas there. You can see him in the photo below (on the left). Dom makes all the pizzas himself, and has been making them so long he has no qualms about reaching his bare hands into the million degree pizza oven to push around the pans and check the done-ness of the pizzas. One young family member assists Dom in taking orders and bringing out big buckets of fresh mozzarella.

I learned plenty about the history of the place by reading all the articles pasted on the wall, because after all we did have a two hour wait for our pie. I'm not kidding! Granted, Saturday night at 6 p.m. on Labor Day weekend was probably not the best time to go, but once we had invested an hour of waiting time, we were not about to turn back. The swarms of people milling around on the sidewalk and in the tiny waiting area kept telling us, "It's worth it!" The pizza was very, very delicious, but after a two hour wait my tastebuds were somewhat dulled by my ravenous hunger, so I'm not sure I can be objective. (For a far more eloquent review, check out The Amateur Gourmet blogging about his transcendent Di Fara experience.)

Sunday I had the day all to myself and I wandered around Brooklyn with my camera enjoying the sun, snapping pictures, and stopping in a few of my favorite little shops like Fact and Fancy and Blue Ribbon General Store to pick up pretty notecards. I ended the afternoon in Fort Greene Park reading a very satisfying book. Does it get any better?

Monday I spent one of the nicest afternoons possible in Gillian's lovely backyard, enjoying delicious food, excellent conversation, great music, and lots of new friends.

And, because no weekend is complete without a little something constructive, I took a few hours to finish up my Pay it Forward suprises (can't share what they were because not everyone has received them yet!). One got hand-delivered and the others went into the mail. (If you missed getting in on the Pay it Forward fun here, wander on over to Lollychops. She is hosting her own and may just have something left for one lucky commenter!)

And I finally, finally finished the scarf for my husband that I have been working on since March--just in time to welcome him home from a long trip. Only six months in the making--that might actually be a knitting project record for me! For my next craft project (already begun) I'm concentrating on something smaller!

Happy End of Summer everyone, and thank you for all your sweet comments on my last post. Stay tuned for the first post in Project Recipe Book this weekend!