Monday, June 24, 2013

And everytime I try to fly, I fall without my wings.

A few months ago, two ideas intertwined in my mind and I finally witnessed the execution of its combination. Kelly and I were brainstorming about our bestie Erica's bachelorette birthday weekend, and she found a quaint, peaceful, and hip hotel in the Catskills in which to escape to. I decided, based on the surprise of it all, that we should kidnap Erica. I had also just conversed excitedly with the bride-to-be about the movie Spring Breakers. You may remember I was shocked to have liked it so much.

And thus, with Kelly talking about renting a van for the seven ladies, and Spring Breakers on my mind, I figured we should get brightly colored ski-masks with iron-on ice cream cone patches, write a ransom-y note to the bride on where to wait for us, and then pull up to the curb donned in said ski masks, blasting Britney Spears' "Everytime."


Me escorting Erica into the van post-ambush

Maids of Honor viewing the aftermath! Kells + Me
Bride, Jiscilla, Amber, Allison, Perry. Missing: Christy in TX

It's rare for me to find an event that I can blend film fantasy and real life fun, so I was in a state of ultimate glee. I may or may not have jumped out of the car before it had come to a full stop, scared the bejeez out of Erica, while screaming, "Get in the car! SPRING BREAK FOREVER!" I was so happy. Of course, I was also happy that Erica was happy!

[Sidenote: did you know how much time it takes to construct a ransom note from old magazines!? My editing skills came to use that evening, when I thought I'd be taking about an hour and ended up taking about six in order to complete it! Certain obvious words like 'bachelorette' were omitted simply for their length.]

The great thing about our snag with this The Graham & Co. Hotel was that exactly one week after we booked the double suite its proprieters went on some promotional rampage and it was in every Brooklyn-y newsletter or blog in our universe. Erica even sent Kelly a link to the hotel in that time after we'd booked it! The bridesmaids and I felt so clever, and Kelly most of all for having the pre-trend ear to the ground! Apparently it's now booked through the end of October.

So, we lazed by the pool (a preferred Bride activity), walked to town for a delicious pizza dinner, caught an evening bonfire while Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder version!) was projected on a big screen, danced around the room into the wee hours of the morning, then ate ice cream made by Jiscilla (Champagne & Key Lime Pie flavors!) and celebrated Erica's 30th birthday!

Here are some other fine things that happened, that probably needn't come with details in order to enjoy purely via photograph:

Upon arrival, busted open the champagne for a picnic! (TG&C gives out Buds to guests at check-in, too!)
Surprises: Erica had little gift bags for US with amazing things inside!!! (Including all the yellow sunglasses!)
Birthday Bride and her awesome tee.
Rufus Putnam cocktails (Bride favorite) & ready for the pool - what else?
The water proved chill
Jiscilla just had to capture my obsessive sunscreening
We walk to town with attitude.


The beautiful bride not as enthusiastic as myself! She's such a joker!
Erica blowing out her "3-0" candles replete with champagne sorbet and ice cream-shaped cookie!!!
Amber and I in usual goof-mode. Maybe one day I'll post the video from this frame.
Time to dance for the birthday girl!
Allison and I did our darndest to show Erica how much we loved her.
You might think Pussy Riot was involved in this, they were not. I forget what song was on...
Amber reclining - Sunday morning found us much more calmer!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Jessica Thinks She Can Cook 001

On Wednesday evening after work I met up with my friend Jaime to see Sofia Coppola's latest film, The Bling Ring. It was okay; it's a desperately shallow film, but I'm pretty sure that was Coppola's intention. I've always loved her style and her subtle, sleek humor which is nicely on display in the film. Afterwards, we grabbed dinner (my favorite kale salad in Brooklyn) and then I headed home for my evening's cooking task: chocolate mousse!

By the way, did you know you can order baking goods from Amazon? Well, YOU CAN. I ordered some Trader Joe's cocoa and gelatin and it arrived on Wednesday. During the movie I was actually itching to carry my loot home and try out the recipe.

Once home, I started my meditative-like routine in the kitchen (cats always pacing around me, quietly, curious), and I was smiling. I also tend to talk to the cats at times. After I had combined the powdered ingredients and the heavy cream for the mousse in a large mixing bowl, the recipe called for me to "whip mixture until stiff peaks form." I was like, yeah, sure, no problem. I stared down at the very liquidy concoction, a bit in doubt as how this milky stuff was going to turn dense.

I got my hand-held mixer thing ready (I'm sure that's the technical term) and then, because I am a genius, as I turned it towards the bowl one of the mixer arms fell into the liquid because I had failed to lock it in place. Angry with my stupidity, I threw the dirty mixer arm into the sink, set down the hand-held part, and screamed at the cats: I'LL JUST DO IT MYSELF!

Because I'm such a novice, I figured I should probably look up that highly technical-looking cooking term "whip." A google search of "how to whip when cooking" let me know that it's basically stirring at an angle that lets air into the mixture. Something like that. Don't take my word for it. I'm Jessica, remember.

[Sidenote: I think I googled at least four times each evening this week about the recipe at hand. Examples of my history this week include "what is cheese divided?" and "what does cream together in a recipe mean?" I digress.]

So, there I was, whisk in hand, ready to WHIP this liquid into STIFF PEAKS. As soon as I started, I sent a spray of the chocolatey stuff around the kitchen. Therefore I had to stop briefly and clean up before the vultures cats took on the task themselves, and then took more care of my sweet, sweet would-be mousse.

At about one minute and thirty seconds of constant WHIPPING your arm gets a bit tired. I hoisted the bowl into my arm and crooked it between my shoulder and elbow and started WHIPPING even more vigorously because it still had the consistency of broth.

"I will do this, I will do this, I will do this," I whispered to myself (and the cats) with clenched teeth.

Five minutes later: "C'mon! C'mon! C'mon, YOU BASTARD! STIFF PEAKS!!!"

Still soupy! I attempted WHIPPING with my left arm. Even less successful and uncomfortable. My right arm was throbbing. I stared at the dirtied mixer arm in the sink and thought, I could probably just wash that and get this over with much quicker...

"NO!" I screamed into the bowl, "I WILL DO THIS ON MY OWN, MOUSSE!"

And so I began again, and wouldn't you know, about five minutes later, arm dead, palms calloused and sweaty--the mixture started thickening! And I started laughing! MANIACALLY. I danced around with my bowl of chocolateness, laughing uncontrollably, stirring even more vigorously, and the cats ran under the kitchen table slightly scared.

Then I beheld: STIFF PEAKS.

I was a success and this sincere retelling tells not one lie; this is how I cook. Quite literally.

Two days later and my arm's still a bit sore, but I consider a workout achieved and I'm going to add that to the recipe:
Note: you may whip with a mixer if you choose (loser), but the whipping of ingredients manually with a whisk has the added benefit of toning one's bicep and even some cardio. Some have been known to reach other levels of spirituality in the journey of manually whipping this mousse.
I think that will work. My friend Kelly has a fun blog and she's asked me to share the recipe over there, so I'll let you know when that's up! That notation will also be included. Also, just check out her blog because there are a lot of ideas, recipes, and cocktail concoctions within! Coctail concoctions!

So, this week I have cooked: a lime butter chipotle steak, bacon-egg-cheese muffins, chocolate mousse, cauliflower mac'n'cheese (no pasta!), and tonight I'm deciding between a couple of meat recipes. All in all, a pretty good week of cooking for me.

This has been the first installment of Jessica Thinks She Can Cook.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?

Sometimes it feels like I'm in the business of being sick. It's definitely the most terrible occupation. This past weekend I got to visit my family for Father's Day and when I woke up on Friday morning and felt that tickle in my throat I almost laughed because of course.

We spent a wonderful weekend together, watching movies, talking about books, and enjoying each other's presence. I know that I wouldn't be who I am today without my parents, and I have my dad to thank for my mild to somewhat worrying obsession with film and literature. The true tribute of the weekend lay in the Saturday night viewing of my father's favorite film of last year, Cloud Atlas. I had never seen the movie, my father had never read the book which I loved. After ingesting it into the wee hours of the morning, and sprinkled with lively discussion throughout, I came to finally understand why my dad liked it so much. It has its faults (mainly in some of the rapid editing), but if it's a movie about the cycles of humanity, perhaps its faults can be viewed as meta and kind of endearing? In the glow of my dad's giant television, I indeed came to endear it. And there really are some spectacular visuals and great acting involved.

In the morning when my brother showed up and we were watching my dad open gifts, under the DVDs I gave him lay one final gift: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. As he was able to screen the movie for me, I hope he can delve into the book in the same way.

Later that day we were a state away in New Hampshire with my brother's fantastic fiance and her family, celebrating all the dads. It was a wonderful time cut too short again by my necessity to get home in time for work the next morning. My mom and dad speeded me down to Connecticut (two states away!) to my train, and it was sad to say bye to two of my favorite people.

I was still feeling a bit sick at the end of the weekend, but my mom also sparked something in me that has led me to deem this week a week of bettering myself. In the past this might have meant strenuous exercise, but as my mom and I were making a special recipe of brownies for my dad, I realized I did enjoy cooking and wanted to get more into it. The fact that I've said this several times in the past years (decade?) was just more reason for me to overcome my mild aversion to it.

The good thing was that I felt no qualms about staying indoors after work due to my being sick and so I could proceed with cooking. So for that past three nights I've made three different recipes! Yes, me. Unfortunately, I partake in them by myself and always wish Jesse was here, but he will be at some point. I've found that cooking and following a recipe after work in silence --I haven't even bothered to turn on the television or play music--has a somewhat meditative quality. I am able to zone my focus into the food and I'm enjoying it!

Last night in what I must say felt like a moment of true genius, a recipe called for a whole package of bacon to be fried halfway and then added to the dish in the oven. As I sat staring at the bacon fat left over in the pan, I realized I could just fry the brussel sprouts I had standing by in the bacon fat. And as I talked out loud to myself like I was Bridget Jones (yes, I understand that this is really only that level of genius), I fried the suckers and they were delectable.

Sidenote: must remember to buy an apron soon if this cooking thing keeps up.

My self-imposed week of betterness also involves no consumption of alcohol, upkeep around the apartment, laundry, and a return to my writing. Not just here, but my narrative writing. Last month while traveling I had a spark, a feeling, a wave of inspiration and it's all been formulating in my mind. I've finally started the task of molding it into something with actual words. We'll see where it leads me; I'm feeling positive.

I should also mention that part of the reason for this goal-oriented week is due to the fact that I have the impending and looming and exciting bachelorette for my best friend this weekend! In case it becomes debaucherous, I figured I should be fully recovered from my cold and harvest all the zen I could in the week leading up to it.

Until then, let's see if I can go five for five on days I'm cooking for myself this week!

Friday, June 14, 2013

That summer they took us in.

Here are the remarkable things that have happened in the past month --

I should start with a true point of unending happiness: my brother proposed to his girlfriend who shall henceforth be called his fiancé! He had wanted to surround Katie with the beauty of New Hampshire, at the summit of a mountain, and profess how his love was more vast than their view (at least, this is what comes to mind when he said "yeah, I'm going to take her hiking..."). Instead, as the gods are wont to do, it rained heavily all weekend and he was left to take on the task in a dimly lit, romantic restaurant, on one knee like a true charmer. I mean, I know what that's like! I'm thrilled at the prospect of having a sister! And for all the happiness she brings to my brother, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Before my brother's magical weekend, my own romantic hero took me across the United States to visit his family in northern California. It's not a part of the country I've spent much time, and it was great to reconnect with his father and aunt, and to meet his grandmother for the first time. We spent the last day of the trip in San Francisco, a city that renders me in a state of perpetual coldness. There was no fog this time around, like there was that July many years ago, but the wind was still there and it ran through me and chilled my bones every chance it could. I was glad to say bye to the city, but was sad to leave the loving faces of family just north of it.

Amidst the past month Jesse and I also spent a weekend in Massachusetts with my family for Mother's Day. It was a jam-packed weekend that included Katie (before she was The Fiancé) graduating with a Masters Degree (while Jesse and I parked it in a barcalounger-full theater for The Great Gatsby), and a dinner with her entire family. (They who will soon be an extension of our own family!) They are wonderful and again, I'm so happy for my baby brother. We spent Mother's Day on my parents' deck and Jesse got to show off his bocce skills again. He's quite the impressive chap when it comes to competitive games. We were sad to say bye to my family at the end of the weekend.

Last week, after Jesse returned from a couple of weeks of rehearsing in Minneapolis, and I returned from house- and dog-sitting in New Jersey, we celebrated his birthday! I took him out for a delectable steak dinner and then we hung out with friends in the East Village. It was a glorious Monday evening. We squeezed out every bit of time we had since his return and before his departure for the Warped Tour the day before yesterday. On his last night in town we got to see The Menzingers live! And though we felt like The Old People who were checking our watches at 10:30pm, as soon as they hit the stage and the first notes of "The Obituaries" began, we were pumped. (I have to pause here and personally thank Liz for the introduction of them via her blog.) I had a bit of an urge to jump into the crowd and let loose, but I just bounced around in one spot near the back for the most part. Jesse and I (with Pee Wee, of course) collapsed in bed that night exhausted, but it was all time well spent. And now it's gone. I'll see him again soon, and hopefully it will only be a stretch of a couple of weeks.

And in a few minutes, I'm off to Massachusetts again!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Judy Pranks 001

I intended to write a post with the goal of summarizing the past month, but it'd be too unwieldy and ultimately uninteresting. Instead I'll write about last night.

One of my best friends of all time is also the most gullible person I've ever met. Let's call her Judy. Her personality is one that always believes the best in people, and related to that, she will believe anything anyone tells her. She loves the unbelievable. You can see why she is the best person on which to prey with practical jokes. Or just jokes, period. She always laughs the hardest, too. She's the best.

Last night, after my weekly viewing of the brilliant show Hannibal, I was checking Twitter and Bryan Fuller (the creator of Hannibal) tweeted out the following photo:

Those are the stars Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, and Eddie Izzard. I noted how it looked like anybody could have taken that photo with their phone and how at ease they all seemed to be. I thought of how Judy had probably just watched Hannibal as well. And thus my prank plan came together. I decided to screencap the photo on my phone, and texted it to Judy. I accompanied it with the message: "Look who I ran into tonight!!!!"

I should mention here that last week we met for happy hour at one of our favorite places in Brooklyn and talked about this show at length; after a couple of margaritas we switched from talking about how wonderful the plotlines and cinematography were to what fine specimens the actors made. Like we do.

Anyway, she responds with: "WHAT???" and "Are you serious?? For what?" -- and because they're in costume I responded, "They're filming a promo in BK!" and that's when my phone rang. It was Judy.

I was laughing uncontrollably at this point. My prank had gone even better than I expected: she was not at all skeptical of the photo (or noticed that they were on set) and she was in fact near tears with the thought that I was hanging out with these actors. She told me as much as I continued to laugh and the realization dawned on her. Her boyfriend even said, "There's no way that she got a picture of them without getting in it herself." True, dude. True. But she believed me anyway, because I'm her best friend.

Best Friend Pranks! Judy Pranks!

I feel like Judy Pranks will be a recurring feature around these parts. She may not even notice, especially with Google Reader going away.

Related: Judy was one of the people I knew had to be sitting next to me when this past episode of Game of Thrones aired. You know what I mean?

Finally: Can we talk about that photo for a second? I love the two main actors from Hannibal mostly because of the a way, I want to pet and protect Hugh Dancy and I'd like to tango with Mads (you can take the definition of tango any way you want). And Eddie Izzard? He's my favorite comedian of all time. Hands down. He may not be going the comedy route with his guest stint on Hannibal, but I still quote his 1998 stand-up show Dress to Kill at least once a month. Hooray! Honestly, Hannibal is besting Mad Men this year... and not just because of the actors!

EDIT: I thought I quoted Eddie Izzard once a month, but I failed to realize I actually quote him at least once a day. One of my favorite phrases, "Geezy Chreezy" is from Dress to Kill. I cannot recommend it enough!!!!