Monthly Archives: May 2008

Dar Williams plays for free in New Jersey

Dar Williams
Wednesday night, despite the fact that I was feeling slightly tired and anti-social, I bought a sandwich, climbed into my car and headed across the Walt Whitman Bridge to Haddon Lake Park to meet some friends for the free Dar Williams concert.

I always find the transition from Philly to New Jersey a little jarring, especially if I head off the main roads and into the neighborhoods. Much of the architecture reminds me of Portland, with the big old houses and tree-lined streets, that I spend a moment trying to figure out where I am and if it is possible for me to have traveled 3,000 miles in 15 minutes. However, just when I’m totally befuddled, I drive up to a deeply confounding roundabout and I know exactly where I am.

When I arrived at the park, I was actually hugely surprised to discover how easy it was to find parking and then the amphitheater (you know you’ve lived in the middle of a large city for far too long when you look suspiciously at stretches of curb that both unoccupied and without signage). Una and Juli were already there, saving some seats in the bleachers. I found them easily and settled in.

As we watched the opening act, I started thinking about the number of times I’ve seen Dar Williams in concert.  Somehow, I’ve managed to work it out so that I’ve seen her perform every year, nearly always in the spring or summer, since I first moved to Philly in 2002. In the beginning I always saw her with Cindy and Ingrid. Some years Una, Georgia, Shay and Jen came along as well.

Last year, she played the Upper Merion Concert Under the Stars on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I went with Shay and the guy I was dating at the time. The weather was uncertain and kept threatening thunderstorms all evening, putting the concert in danger and eventually forcing us to run for the car and head home. It was sort of a tense evening, and I remember feeling like it has colored my experience of Dar and her summer concerts.

It was so very different Wednesday night. The weather was beautiful and there was no tension, just the pleasure of being with friends and getting a chance to be within literal spitting distance (not that I would do something like that) from a beloved artist.

A short Lancaster vacation

A couple of months ago, Scott and I decided we needed a vacation, even just a brief one. After a bit of searching, we decided to get out of town over Memorial Day weekend and I set about finding someplace to go. Because of gas prices, we didn’t want to go anywhere too far and so I settled on someplace in Lancaster County. Because when you go on vacation, you really want to spend it with the Amish.

The getaway weekend arrived faster than we could have imagined and last Friday we packed up my trusty Subaru and hit the road. The cabin was lovely, tucked into a hillside with a stream 50 feet away from the front door. My younger inner self was so delighted, as I always had a particular affinity for natural bodies of water.

Saturday morning, Scott opened one of the French doors in the bedroom and climbed back into bed so that we could lay there, listen to the creek and smell the fresh air (I always forget how much better it smells outside when you get out of the city). Unfortunately, the peace of the place was rattled a bit, when the neighbors across the creek settled in just an hour later for a three-day, outdoor party. They played classic rock outside all weekend, which was not in line with my mental image of a quiet weekend getaway. Oh well.

Thad and Angie drove out Sunday (and killed a bird in the process) and we spent the afternoon eating junk food and wandering around antique stores. That part lined up with my perfect vacation moment almost exactly. We all took lots of pictures on the trip. Mine are here. Scott’s are here. Thad and Angie haven’t gotten theirs up yet (slackers!).

A mountain of toilet paper

linen closet filled with toilet paper

Scott and I have a deal that if I’m buying the toilet paper, I get to buy the variety of my choice and when he buys, he gets to choose. If I ask him to pick up a pack, I cannot dictate what he buys. I understand and respect this deal. However, the problem with this is that I really like to buy recycled toilet paper. It gives me a sense that I’m doing something positive for the environment, especially since it is one of those unavoidable purchases (well, they don’t always use toilet paper in Indonesia, but it’s a little too cool in Pennsylvania to wash and air dry every time you use the bathroom).

It was my turn to obtain toilet paper recently, and after randomly poking around on Amazon, looking at kitchen utensils and books, the idea hit me to see if they sold recycled toilet paper. Amazingly, they did, and with Amazon Prime, shipping was free. With excitement flowing through my fingers, I bought a pack. That contained 48 rolls.

When it arrived, the guy at the desk in my building looked at it and said, “Toilet tissue? You bought toilet paper over the internet?” I babbled a little, trying to justify my purchase, before retreating to the apartment. Unsealing the box, I realized that I had acquired A LOT of toilet paper (I love that in England they call them ‘loo rolls.’ I wish I could get away with that here).

Scott looked at the box and asked, “Where exactly are you going to store all that?”

Thus challenged, I set about to find a way to cram it all into the linen closet. And, as you can see in the above picture, it worked! And now we are set for toilet paper for months to come!

Quick Fork: Scone on the range

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Check out the latest Quick Fork, in which we make scones in two minutes (well, to be honest, they took a little longer than that, but not much). This is my favorite scone recipe because it’s really easy, doesn’t use much butter and cooks up perfectly no matter what you do to it. If you don’t tend to keep buttermilk around the house, you can always use dried buttermilk (the perfect, never goes bad option if you like to be able to add some buttermilk to your baked goods) or mix some vinegar into milk for instant faux buttermilk.

Weddings, new tires and serendipity

Scott and I spent the weekend in Lancaster County. We were out there for the wedding of our friends, Becky and Eric. As we drove out of Philly, I realized that I don’t get out of the city nearly enough. While I wouldn’t particularly want to live outside the energy of an urban center on a permanent basis, I also like getting away from it on occasion (especially since a seriously irritating squeak starting coming from one of the fans on the next building over. Seriously, it never. ever. stops).

The wedding was held in a barn (a nice barn that often plays host to ceremonies and gatherings). There were chickens wandering around the grounds, co-existing peacefully with some barnyard cats. A big, black pig was hanging out not too far away and there was a trailer of goats a little further down. Far more animal life than I see on a regular basis (well, except from the brazen squirrels and ratty pigeons that hang around Center City). The ring exchange ceremony was lovely and the reception was laid back and fun, with lots of barbecued pork, baked beans and dessert potluck (I brought my “famous” flourless chocolate and a walnut cake that improved drastically overnight–meaning the leftovers were much better today than the cake I brought with me yesterday).

In between the cocktail hour and dinner, there was a pig race. That’s right. Pig race. Possibly the most awesome mid-wedding active I’ve ever encountered.

Although we could have driven back last night, we decided to stay over. This morning, after searching online for the perfect local breakfast spot (and discovered that most the fun places to in Lancaster are closed on Sundays), we hit the Waffle House (you can never go wrong with the Waffle House). Then we headed for the Sears Auto Center. I’ve been meaning to get the tires replaced on my car for the last six months, and for a whole host of reasons (money, time, energy), I haven’t had the opportunity to do it. The salesman went out to take the measurements and determine what would work on my 1992 Subaru, and when he returned, he said to me, “You sure do have some thought provoking stickers on your car.” He said in a way that was mostly friendly, but also carried the feeling that he didn’t see many cars like mine out in those parts.

We wandered the mall while they worked on my car. I found two skirts on sale at Boscov’s and Scott bought a pair of pants. Then we spent an hour sitting in some plush club chairs in Borders, reading.

When we finally got the car back, it was off to Adamstown, to check out an antique mall. We wandered through although didn’t buy anything (although I was really tempted by a few old cooking pamphlets). Hungry and ready to hit the road, we decided to have lunch at the Stoudt’s brewpub (which was conveniently adjacent to the antique mall). After sitting down and ordering, I headed to the bathroom. When my hand was on the door knob, I someone say, “Marisa!”

It was my friend Devon, in from California. She had stayed with me a couple of days last week, but had gone off to visit her cousin in the suburbs. Somehow, circles of movement collided and we ran into each other for one last greeting and hug before she left for the airport tomorrow.  It was an unexpected treat and a really lovely way to end the weekend.

Mother's Day and Derek


For the last six (going on seven) years, I have lived a country away from my mom. I always send her a card and call on Mother’s Day, but I can’t take make her brunch or invite her to wander a Farmers’ Market with me. However, this Mother’s Day, Scott and I got the opportunity to spend some time with two of my favorite local mothers. We went to brunch with my cousins Dan and Sabrina (mom to the adorable Derek pictured above, as well as the baby girl she’s currently got cooking) and my cousin Angie (mother to three adult children who all live in Los Angeles).

Of course, as it always is when we all get together, Derek is really the star of the show.  He has grown into a really outgoing, playful little person. He loves playing peek-a-boo and is a big fan of throwing things on the floor so that you’ll pick them up for him.  He’s a really good eater, and happily chowed down on flour tortillas, spoonfuls of beans and other tidbits. I took a bunch of pictures, which you can find here.  Anyone who is not related to us may find this set of images a bit boring, but if you know and love Derek, you are certain to be fascinated.

Raina Rose on YouTube

Once in a while, when I have down moment and no other commitments, I enter my sister’s name into the search box in Google. Most of the time the links I find aren’t new to me, but occasionally I discover something new about Raina (it is slightly odd that the world’s most popular search tool becomes a way for me to keep up to date with my younger sister).

Last night, while Scott and his friends played a role-playing game around the dining room table, I took my computer into the den, to catch up on some work and blogging. In a down minute, the thought occurred to me to Google Raina. I discovered that in the time since my last search, she had collected a Wikipedia page, as well as a slew of videos on YouTube. It was delightful to discover a stash of moments that were new to me. One particularly fun item is the clip you see below, of Raina singing her song, Truth or Consequences. This is a favorite of mine, and it’s nice to see it performed live.

Local strawberries

No matter what the calendar actually says, when you can find local strawberries that look like that, summer is “officially” here.

Trying to stop being such a complainer

I realized today that I have been complaining a lot.  A friend emails, asking how I’m doing and I start typing out a litany of grievances.  I walk into the apartment and immediately start bemoaning the state of clutter and disarray. People ask me how the new job is and I tell them about the problems instead of all the good things.  I’m finding that complaining begets further complaining, until I’ve worked myself into state of abject misery, where the haze of emotional funk is so powerful that people can feel it vibrating off of me from 10 feet away.

I realized that I was becoming Philadelphia’s loudest crank this morning while writing an email.  A friend had sent a short note and had asked how things were going.  I started to write back a list of issues and grievances before stopping with a start, almost as if someone had smacked me in the back of the head.  I suddenly understood that it wouldn’t be fun for him to read a grumpy email, and I didn’t particularly want to be the person who would lay all those irritations down on the feet of a friend.

The crazy part of this is that my life looks pretty darn good these days.  Things with Scott are really wonderful and living together has been amazingly easy.  I have a job that isn’t unpleasant, where people are friendly and kind, where they seem to like having me around and where, in just another month, I’ll have health insurance again for the first time in nearly two years.  Things at Slashfood are going well.  People keep watching Fork You and coming out to our live shows at Foster’s Homeware.  And I made a successful batch of yogurt the other day.

Why do I always focus on what I perceive as the negative or wanting aspects of my life?  I seem to have lost the ability to be appreciative of the things I have.  So, I’m trying to change, just a little bit.  I am going to try to be aware of the moments when I feel myself heading into the land of whine.  I am going to make a conscious choice to tell people I’m doing well, instead of saying with a sigh, “I’m okay.”  And I’m going to start searching out those moments of human interaction and positive connection, which used to be such a large part of my blog.

Fork You Live: Flippin' eggs

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Last month’s egg-oriented Fork You Live is finally up and ready for your consumption!  I’m not quite done writing up the recipes, but I should have those up over on by the end of the day.  This was a fun show to film and the episode turned out to be really entertaining.  I hope you enjoy!