planning for visitors

grace and i counted last night: we have 20 separate visitors coming to stay at our house in the next three months! it's a shocking number all tallied up; the result of a number of factors that are newly unique in our lives. we have a house, with more than one bedroom. we live in the middle of the country, with a relatively easy to access airport. people often need to come to minneapolis, but don't know anyone here. and lastly, the most important - minnesota summers are just magic. we've been selling them hard to our friends and family since moving, and people are listening!

we're so excited to have so many of our loved ones come to visit, but it's also a tiny bit nerve wracking. so we're working on a project to become the best hosts we can be: listing the wifi password in obvious places, putting out carafes of water before bed, and compotes!

i'm sure 90% of the american public has some form of fruit/yogurt/granola for breakfast, and we'd like to offer our very own version of that for our guests.

franny's olive oil cake

if you were to ask me what my favorite restaurant is, i'd be stumped to come up with an answer. but, as this blog can attest to here, i 've been enjoyable eating at franny's for years. i always look forward to going there, have never had a bad dish, and have in fact stumbled home most nights (one in particular shall remain forever unmentionable) in a satiated stupor. so it's certainly in the running as a favorite place, if not officially taking the honor.

so when a very thoughtful friend gave me the franny's cookbook as a wedding present, i dutifully dogeared half a dozen recipes i wanted to try. and the appearance of a rosemary plant at my local farmer's market reminded me of a rosemary olive oil cake i had years ago, which led to this recipe. i was planning to make it for lunch at a friend's farm (i live in minnesota now, remember?), but once it was cooled, couldn't bring myself to give away the entire thing, so i did the un-biblical thing and split it in half, which i have no shame about.

the reason this cake is a winner? it takes under 2 hours, from conception to fully cooled. it's not too dense, perfectly sweet, and very pretty.


1¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
grated zest of 4 lemons - i used a microplane 
1¼ cups olive oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature (v. important!)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed

preheat the oven to 325°F, with a rack in the middle position. grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, greasing the paper.

sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
combine the sugar and lemon zest and mix well with your finger tips, rubbing the mixture together until well blended. fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the oil to the sugar mixture, and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. beat in the vanilla. add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, beating on low speed and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after each batch, until just combined.

pour the batter into the prepared pan. bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed. cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove for the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and allow to cool completely on the rack.

whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice to make a thick but pourable glaze; add more lemon juice if needed. 

set the cake, on the rack, over a rimmed baking sheet. pour the glaze on top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. let the glaze set for at least 30 minutes before slicing the cake.


i wasn't ready yet when we moved. i couldn't see our new life in my mind - the new light switch i'd be reaching for at night, the color of the front door. i didn't know what the water would taste like out of the tap.

those things matter when you leave a place. i needed to be able to see where i was going. and i couldn't. i didn't know SO. MANY. THINGS. and that scared me.

but we moved anyway - and i was hollowed out by it. the dreaded empty apartment, the mewing cats on the plane, the months away from our books, sheets, couch. life resumed in a bland corporate apartment four stories high in minneapolis.

in new york, four stories is basically street level; it's not enough to see past the buildings around you or the sky. but in minnesota? four stories is a skyscraper and everyday i'd wake up to gray gray gray all around in a lonely and heartbreaking march. but, like clockwork, every evening around 5pm, the sky would break into pink purple peach watercolors. months later, i met a meteorologist who explained that peak heat and sun in minneapolis is  between 5 and 7pm because of its latitude.

at first, everything new felt alien - a reminder that i didn't belong, didn't know anyone or anything. the water tasted weird, the flat sunlight felt oppressive, the lack of bustling crowds made me more lonely.

going back to new york frequently for work wasn't helping at first. the contrast strained my ability to pay attention to my new surroundings - all i could see in the first couple months was how minneapolis wasn't new york.

but those evening colors were a balm to my sadness. i'd sit on our 3x3 patio and read, sneaking peeks at the colors each time they seemed to shift. and slowly, slowly, i started to feel more like myself again.

upon announcing our move, a good friend hypothesized that perhaps this adventure might be a little like medicine - not something we particularly want to take, but something that might be deeply good for us nonetheless.

we bought a house on my 32nd birthday - a 100 year old midwestern four square that had been deeply and messily loved. we stumbled upon a group of friends who included us on an epic night at the state fair, with bumper cars, 4H milkshakes and cotton candy as expected. i started listening to my body more and clearing space in my head for dreaming. the cats now see rabbits, cardinals and chipmunks from the porch. the sunday times is delivered to our door and the neighbor's kid mows the lawn.

i don't know what comes next, really. there isn't closure to that part of the story yet, we're still living it day to day. maybe the midwest is our secret forever home; maybe we're just halfway through with our cross country move and taking a long break. but the not knowing part, the part that used to scare me? i'm cured of that.

robin's egg blue

five years is a long time. since the last time i updated this blog, many things happened, both expected and unexpected:

1. i graduated from business school and was (somewhat shockingly) the exact same person i was before.

2. grace and i got married, mainly for tax reasons, but found it to be intensely moving and meaningful. and realized that the term "honeymoon" is accurate.

3. we left our home of 10 years in brooklyn and moved to the middle of the country, to a city we had only been once before, and bought a house and car.

4. we both experienced substantial professional growth, but also realized how little it means in comparison to our deepening friendships, which have grown to be some of the most meaningful relationships of our lives.

5. a nest of robin's eggs appeared on our front porch nestled in our christmas wreath. just yesterday, all five baby birds finally flew away. 

who knew

1. that i love riding in small planes?

2. waking up to my cat staring at the snowfall would make my day?

3. that coffee really prevents one from sleeping?

4. fear of judgment is a very hard feeling to shake?

5. reading novels and poems is ceaselessly wonderful and amazing?

6. b-school is all sorts of hellish (maybe i should have known that)?


four things:

1. grace has a blog! it's not actually a real blog, it's a tumblr. it's amazing, but i'm obviously biased.

2. this haiku just totally blew me away and made me feel totally lame about all the business school haiku's i've been tweeting.

even in kyoto –
hearing the cuckoo’s cry –
i long for kyoto.
basho, trans. hass

3. did you know this is my favorite poem? it has been doing some real heavy lifting sustaining me through these first three months of business school.

meditation at lagunitas, robert hass

all the new thinking is about loss.
in this it resembles all the old thinking.
the idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. that the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
we talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. after a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. there was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. it hardly had to do with her.
longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. i must have been the same to her.
but I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. there are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

4. it is gross how neglectful i've been of this blog in the past couple of months. i am planning to try and change that (can i be more non-committal?). please bear with me. it's not over yet.

dressing up a dresser

last spring i decided to upgrade my old dresser. it was from target, and chosen swiftly during the sea change that is post-college life. darkly paneled, with brushed steel handles, the dresser looked nice enough sitting on the sterile target shelves. i've used it for four solid years now and despite a couple of scratches and chips, it has held up remarkably well for something under $75. all this being said, i've never had any particular devotion to it, seeing it as less "mine" than something i use.

so, during last spring's room-renovation, while i was scouring craigslist for furniture, i came upon a very dear cream dresser. it is solid wood with some classy, yet whimsical woodwork at the bottom and top. when the owner mentioned to me that it was his childhood dresser, whilst growing up in park slope, i was sold. i imagined rubber handballs hidden in amongst the underwear and grubby nickels stuffed in a sock. this dresser, with its rich history, could feel like it was mine.

but not without some help. the cream paint (at least two decades old) was stripped with the help of a power sander. (fyi, take a lesson from me and wear a mask when power sanding. i cannot stress to you how gross it is if you don't!) i applied a coat of primer, then two coats of a dusty blue/green. new knobs had to be found and installed, requiring new holes to be drilled and old ones epoxied over. i even had a vinyl sticker custom made (thanks etsy!) depicting wildflowers in riotously bright colors. and to top it all off (literally) a piece of glass cut to fit and protect the dresser's top.

now, i feel like this is mine uniquely, and all the more satisfying because it was the product of my own two hands. but, ironically enough, it sits unused in the spare bedroom, as i can't yet bear to part with my target dresser. i guess change, no matter how much i want it, is always hard for me. even with a dresser.

Powered by Blogger.