Monthly Archives: July 2008

Who knew a washing machine could make me giddy?

I just needed to take a moment and gush about the new washer/dryer. So far, it’s amazing. I have to admit that I was a little concerned that the convenience of having more space in the kitchen would be offset by the fact that it was going to be a fussy appliance, but it was a gamble we decided to take. And as of yet, the risk seems to be paying off. Many of the reviews talked about issues with drying, and how everything would come out wrinkled. So far, no problems on that front.

Another thing I was concerned about was the duration of the cycle. In the online reviews, people complained about the length of time it would take to do a single load. While it is true that it’s a slightly longer cycle than a traditional washer and dryer would require, it fits into my laundry habits perfectly. You see, since I started working a block and a half away, I would often start a load of laundry in the morning and then come home at lunch to switch that load to the dryer and start another load in the washing machine. Now, I can start the machine in the morning and when I get home at lunch time, it is totally done. If need be, I can start another load then, which will be done when I get home from work. I did this today, as I had something of a laundry backlog because I didn’t get around to catching up with the pile before they took the old machines away last Sunday and then we added to the basket over the last few days.

I feel a bit like a 1950’s housewife, getting so excited over a new washing machine, but let me tell you, this thing is awesome. The giddiness I feel is totally warranted.

Lesson learned: Always double check

I learned an important lesson last night. Always check every hose, even if it’s one that you know you didn’t loosen. You see, I ran a load of laundry in the new machine last night and everything seemed to be fine and dandy, until I headed into the kitchen to clean up for the night. When I noticed that there seemed to be some water leaking from the cabinet onto the floor. I opened it up to discover an inch of water. I started bailing the water out, grabbing towels while also trying to determine where the water was coming from. As I mopped, I ruled out the water pipes themselves, which meant that it was coming from the drainage tube. When I reached out and grabbed that hose, it was loose.

As in, not tight around the pipe at all, allowing water from the washer to pour straight into the cabinet.

I ran for a flat-head screwdriver and had the leak stopped within moments. I sat there, watching until I was convinced that it was truly no longer leaking, did the clean up and went to bed.

However, this morning, I woke up to strange voices in my living room. Scott was in the shower and so I cracked the bedroom door and called out, “Hello?”

It was two maintenance guys from the building. Apparently the water from the initial leak had seeped into my neighbor’s hallway, she had called the front desk and they had come to check it out. They called twice, but I didn’t hear the phone ring, so they came on in (understandable when it comes to water leaks). Thankfully, after hastily getting dressed, I was able to explain what had happened, so they were prevented from ripping a hole in the back of my closet to look for the source of the problem. We ran the wash cycle again and it didn’t leak a drop.

So now I’ve learned that you should always check all the hoses, even if they aren’t ones that you touched during removal or installation. The guys who took the old machines away on Sunday must have loosened it in their haste to get to the washer disconnected and since it wasn’t one I had touched, I didn’t even think about needing to tighten it. Next time I have reason to install a washing machine (or any appliance that involves water) I will double check EVERYTHING!

They cleaned up the water in my neighbor’s apartment, and Harvey the maintenance guy said that the leak wasn’t a bad one. I still need to check with her tonight and find out if there’s any permanent damage, but as accidents go, it wasn’t a bad one.

Our first new appliance

When my grandfather first bought my apartment, way back in 1966, one of the modern features the kitchen sported was a compact all-in-one washer/dryer combo unit. It was turquoise, just like all the other kitchen appliances and slid neatly into a slot under the counter, across from the refrigerator. Unfortunately, as the years when on, this little unit became increasingly unreliable, and after the building had to fix it for the 22nd (as well as all the others in the building), they decided it was time to phase out the combo units, in favor of traditional washer/dryers.

New washing machine

In order to fit another appliance into a small, galley kitchen, they closed off the second door to the kitchen, turning it from a walk-through into a tight, dead end set-up. Additionally, the apartment was never designed to house a venting dryer, so whenever you ran the dryer, it released plumes of lint and turned the kitchen into a sauna.

New storage area

For the last year, I’ve been complaining about the lack of kitchen storage, as well as the layer of dust that always covered everything in the kitchen. Since Scott moved in, we’ve been toying with the idea of replacing the two old units with a single combo unit once again. Last week, we decided to go for it. It arrived today, in a very large Con-Way truck that blocked traffic on Ludlow Street for nearly half an hour.

Scott and I installed it tonight, using a small hacksaw to break down the box and move the unit from the entryway into the living room. It took a lot of coordination and effort (a handtruck would have been helpful, but sadly, none were to be had) to work it into the space in the kitchen (and it fit into the spot with absolutely no room to spare), but Scott once again proved that he’s far handier than he’d like to admit and made it all work.

Wider angle of kitchen

It’s currently running the first load of laundry and it shockingly quite (except for those moments when it sounds a little like a spaceship is landing in the kitchen). Let’s hope the laundry it produces is clean and not too wrinkled!

Mo's famous pancake mix

Saturday brunch
When I was growing up, my mom was in charge of the regular, daily cooking. She set out boxes of cereal in the morning before school or quickly scrambled an egg or two, made miles of peanut butter and honey sandwiches and prepared baked chicken legs and hamburger scramble until her mind numbed from the repetition. We took her meal preparation completely for granted, assuming that she would always continue to produce food on demand.

When my dad cooked, it was an occasion. He chipped in during holidays and could often be cajoled into making weekend breakfasts. Making pancakes and waffles were his particular specialty and Raina and I would beg for them every Saturday morning. He always made the mix from scratch, using a formula he had created (based on the pancake recipe in the turquoise-covered, 1971 edition of the Joy of Cooking). He was motivated to create his own mix after he spent a stint working as a short order cook at IHOP the 1970’s and, after churning out stack after mediocre stack of unsubstantial pancakes, decided he could make something far, far better. By the time I was born, he had discovered the wonders of Honey Toasted Wheat Germ and the pancake mix was on its way.

Mo's famous pancakes

The first few cooking skills I acquired as a child came from standing at my dad’s elbow as he mixed up pancake or waffle batter. He taught me the proper way to whisk eggs and how to gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg/milk/oil mixture. I would stand next to him at the stove and watch as he greased the griddle with a carefully folded square of paper towel. He would point to the bubbles forming on the surface of the pancakes, and told me that they were ready to flip when the bubbles popped and didn’t close back up. Most importantly, when it came to flipping pancakes, you had to approach it with confidence. Worry or uncertainty would land a pancake on the edge of the griddle or on top of another cake. To this day, I hear his calm voice in my head when I turn my pancakes.

These days, I make pancakes or waffles in his style at least once a month. I nearly always have a batch of mix blended up and stashed in the back of the fridge (wheat germ gets rancid quickly and cool storage slows it down). I’ve made a few changes to the mix, adding some toasted millet and using all whole wheat flour. These days, I like to eat my pancakes with jam and plain yogurt, although I do also have a fondness dark maple syrup. Here’s how I make the mix these days…

Marisa’s version of Mo’s Famous Pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups honey toasted wheat germ (regular toasted wheat germ can be substituted if you can’t find the honey stuff)
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup cane sugar
2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons baking powder

Mix it all together and store in an airtight jar or container. To use, whisk together three eggs, 1 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter. Fold in two cups of mix*. If it seems to thick, add a bit more milk. Heat a griddle to medium heat (you don’t want it to be too hot, or the pancakes will be burnt on the outside and uncooked on the inside) and oil it lightly. Cook pancakes until they bubbles pop and stay open and then flip. Cook just another minute or two on the other side. Serve with maple syrup (real only, please), jam and yogurt or honey.

*It’s at this point that I add about 1/3 a cup of toasted millet. Toasting it is easy, just spread it on a small baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Let it cool a little and then fold it into the batter. It adds a wonderful, nutty crunch.

My neighborhood in history

I lost about an hour this afternoon, looking through old pictures of Philadelphia on They’ve scanned, tagged and archived many of the images of the city’s past on that site and all the pictures are searchable by address or keyword, which makes for hours of fun. In the past, when I’ve dug through the pictures, I’ve found that the city of old is nearly unrecognizable to me. I think about my deep longing to get an opportunity to visit the past and then wonder if I wouldn’t be completely disoriented to find myself in an unfamiliar version of the place where I live. I imagine walking up Chestnut Street and finding two four-story buildings where the entrance to my apartment building is now. I fantasize about walking down to the Russian Inn 1233 Locust Street to find my Aunt Sue, to have her look at me blankly and shoo me away from the family table.

However, today I found a picture that makes me think that it wouldn’t all be unknown to me. The image you see above is taken from the north side of Chestnut Street, in the middle of the block between 20th and 21st Streets. Looking towards 20th Street and towards my block, the buildings are known to me. That one on the corner, I’ve walked in there hundreds of times, first as a Wawa and now as Old Nelson’s. The funny little building with the shuttered electronics repair shop is there too. And of course, the apartment building on the other corner (then a hotel).

It’s nice to know I wouldn’t be totally lost in the Philadelphia from 1931. Just for kicks, here’s another one. It’s Locust Street in 1956, looking west. If you examine it closely, you can see the sign for the Inn in the distance.

Farmers market pics and other tidbits


I spent some time last Sunday at the Headhouse Square farmers market with Shay. After we finished shopping, we stashed our veggies in the car for a little while so that I could wander around and take some pictures. Taking photos of the changing wave of seasonal produce is one of my favorite things. If you dig through my Flickr sets, you’ll find a bunch of pics from last summer, and now I’ve got my second set of this summer and up and ready for ogling.

After work today, I took my bike in to the shop for a tune-up, new tires and a front mounted market basket. This task has been on my to-do list since May and for one reason or another, I just couldn’t seem to make it happen. It becomes even more pathetic when I admit that the bike shop is exactly two doors down from the front entrance of my apartment building. I am thrilled to finally be able to check this on off the list and I’ll be picking it up sometime early next week. Next weekend, when I head to the farmers market, I’ll be doing it on my bright orange bike!

I’ve now had the indoor composter running in the apartment for about a month. It is amazing how it turns my veggies scraps and fruit bits into usable soil. However, I used some of it to pot some new herbs last weekend and they died immediately. I’m wondering if the pH balance of the mix is really off or something. Whatever the problem is, it’s a little disturbing and makes the further utility of the compost I produce a little worrisome.

Cooking demos, visiting friends and farmers markets

This has been a whirlwind weekend, and now it’s just a few minutes before midnight on Sunday and I’m wishing for another day (however, I’d settle for another hour or two). My friend Cindy was in town, visiting from DC. Friday night, a collection of us drove to Wiggins Park in Camden for the second night of the XPN festival. I was there primarily to see Dar Williams (I am something of a fan), while Cindy and Shay were more excited about Beth Orton. While the sun was still high in the sky, it was fairly hot, but as soon as it dipped down a bit, the evening turned pleasant, with occasional breezes blowing off the Delaware River.

Saturday afternoon, I did my first solo cooking demonstration over at Foster’s Homewares (where we typically do Fork You Live). About a month ago, I was approached by a woman from The Food Trust, asking if Scott and I wouldn’t be interested in doing something with them in conjunction with Buy Fresh, Buy Local week (which started today). I said sure and we started the planning. Originally, Scott was going to be involved, but then realized that he had promised to visit his mom for her birthday (which is today) this weekend and so he left me on my own. I was a little nervous, because I’d never done a live cooking demonstration without someone up there with me, lending me energy and sharing the burden of talking. However, it turned out really well, I showed myself (and the 35 people who came to watch) that I can actually cook four dishes and talk at the same time. Adding to the challenge was the fact that I didn’t know what I was going to be cooking until I showed up at 12:30 and saw what was in the box from the market. But instead of being a burden, that kept things fresh and fun.

I think today was the best day out of the whole weekend. Cindy and I went to brunch at Day by Day and had arguably some of the best lox and bagel platters in Philly (they give you an abundance of toppings and they use amazing ingredients like ripe, local yellow tomatoes). She left to catch her train and I headed home to grab a market bag. I picked up Shay and we went down to Headhouse Square. I spent far more money on vegetables than I probably should have (we’ll be eating well all week long), took over 100 pictures of eggplants, peaches and heads of lettuce and sat on a curb with Shay, chatting and nursing an iced coffee for more than an hour in the breezy shade.

Sitting here, grabbing these few minutes to catch up, I have that tired feeling that comes from sun and pleasure (much like the one you get after a day at the beach). I’m ready to crawl into bed but I hate to let the day end because it’s been so delightful and full of mundane joys. Here’s to pulling that feeling of satisfaction into the rest of the week with me.

Fork You: Chili today!

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So the middle of summer might not be the best time of the year to cook up a big old pot of chili, but I gotta tell you, this stuff is darn tasty no matter what month you find yourself in. I make some variation on this dish at least once a month, if not more, because it’s easy, improves over time and cooking in quantity means that I get a couple of nights off from the kitchen. Check out the recipes here!

Two Fork You events coming up

We’ve got two back-to-back Fork You events coming up in the next two weeks and then we’re taking the rest of the summer off from live filming. The first is this Saturday, July 5th at 2 pm at Foster’s Homewares (399 Market Street). There we’ll be making blueberry jam, along with a quick dill cucumber salad and an Asian-inspired fresh cucumber pickle.

Then, next Saturday, July 12th, I’ll be doing another cooking demonstration at Foster’s. This is the first time I’ll be flying solo on a cooking demo, as Scott is heading off to Virginia to visit his mom for a couple of days. I’ll be working with a bunch of super fresh produce from the Headhouse Square Farmers Market, to show a few quick and easy things you can do with fresh summer produce. It’s part of Buy Fresh, Buy Local Week and is being arranged by the folks at The Food Trust.

Cab rides

Last Sunday morning, I tip-toed around the apartment, trying to not make too much noise as I packed up the last few things I’d need for the next three days in New York. Kissing a mostly-sleeping Scott good-bye, I headed out the door and towards the Bolt Bus.

I was running late and so hopped into a cab at 19th and Walnut to get a lift to the bus stop. As soon as I was settled in the back seat, the driver started grumbling about how Philadelphia is a terrible city. He bemoaned the fact that there aren’t as many people around because it’s summer and then said, “But the worst of it was what happened to me on May 10th. You don’t want to know.”

It was the kind of statement where the meaning feels to be the exact opposite of the words. He wanted me to know what happened to him and he wanted me to ask him about it. So I did.

“Some animal of a person, sitting right back there where you’re sitting, he robbed me. He had a kitchen knife and told me he was going to kill me. I tried to fight back and he bit a chunk of my earlobe off.”

The words look fairly flat on the screen here, but there was such passion and anger rising off of him that I was concerned that he was going to lose control of the cab on the short ride. He continued to rant about the incident, pointing at his ear lobe and announcing that he no longer believed in forgiveness. “I hope that animal rots in hell.”

I tried to listen with compassion, while not agreeing or disagreeing with the statements about punishment and condemnation he was making. I told him that I was really sorry that he had had to have that experience and that I could understand that he’d be angry after having such a painful and frightening experience.

It was a little jarring to observe such venhemous rage that early in the day, and it left me feeling a little shaken and grateful when I exited the cab.