Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New York I Miss: The Food

Here it is,  the first in my NY I Miss series.  I had started this a couple of months ago and had 5 or so items when I became frustrated because there was just too much to say! What I had was insufficient and I felt weird about it. Plus, I think to pay respect, each item deserves its own separate post.  So they may still be short, but they'll stand alone.

Living in New York, I always tried to live in "nowstalgia," a term I thought i'd coined but turns out, i didn't.  But it meant attempting to be particularly present in my life and appreciate and love the things I was experiencing at the time.  Paying special notice so they don't slip by, especially because I knew I'd leave one day. Well, funnily enough, after I had begun this here list of things I miss,  I found in the underbelly of my blog drafts, a post. Unpublished. Called Things I'm Going to Miss.  I forgot all about it.  It was prophetic. A premonition, and a treat to read, four and a half years later, having moved, and it confirmed all of my feelings. I love nowstalgia! So i published it where it lay, and you may read it here.

So here we go. Item #1. I'm going to include the introduction in the original post because it's funny and I would be remiss if I didn't do all i can do in life to keep [my] jokes alive.

I've been thinking about strange things I miss about the NYC so I'm putting them here.  I'll try to keep it interesting because no one wants to hear about "ohhh i miss NY, the food there was sooo goood..." etc etc.

The food there was sooo goooood!  But really.  I knew what I was getting into by leaving and had resigned myself to it, and granted I haven't tried all the Utah restaurants yet, but my heart broke in two when I deleted the Seamless app because it became totally null by moving here.  Seamless is a food-ordering website. On it you can choose from literally one bazillion restaurants, select the food items you want, specify instructions like "light on the ___" or "sauce on the side pls!"  You can choose to pick it up or have them deliver AND the time at which you want the food to arrive. So i can order dinner at 8am! It was a staple of our lives, one I knew I wouldn't have anywhere else and knew i'd painfully miss, so we loved it up as much as possible.  I would use it to delivery dinners to peoples with new babes. Ohhhh Seamless.  I dream of you. Sean says to help himself cope with the pizza discrepancy, he just views the pizza here as a completely different food item.  I told him he should secretly call it something different, like zippa. It was just an idea.

Food is one of the areas where I'm not so sure ignorance isn't bliss.  Had I not had all the culinary experiences I had, would it make much difference to me? Would it be better to ignorantly be eating ____ and calling it "good food"?  Maybe.   Well...   No.  No.  I have had way too many spiritual experiences at restaurants than I can never choose the other way.  Eating in NY taught me so much. It taught me about, i want to say, approximately a billion (more or less) new flavors and how to savor them. It taught me what a "bistro" was, which was a great love. I'm not even sure how to define it still, but I know I love them. Small cozy restaurants? where you sit quietly, with very subdued lighting, just you, your friend, and your food. A very intimate dinner party. I also learned what it meant to have a "palate,"  and how to refine said palate. I don't really know how to do that other than eat out a lot, but man, we worked at that. We worked HARD.

I am sitting here trying to think of the separate experiences that i've retained in my memory.  Normally I enjoy poking good fun at people who take pictures of their food, especially when it comes nowhere close to looking as good as I'm sure it tastes.  But dang if I didn't wish i had those pics now, to remind me.  But let's see what i can remember. Yup, I'm actually going to make a list.

1. I remember when I had endive for the first time. It was in a French restaurant. I bet if I tried reeeally hard, i could come up with the name of it. It was THE cutest place, all provincial-y. It also had the best bathroom I can remember.  Endive, you deliciously bitter crunchy delight, you.  Paired with a strong cheese and a sweet dressing, you can do no wrong.

2. Sean and I ate at another French place, called Payard, and had the craziest dessert ever. It was a chocolate cube with about 5 interior layers. We busted through the top to find a secret hidden treasure inside, and then another, and another! Pure magic. Desserts should always be treasure hunts.  I also tutored a guy who was a pastry chef at this same restaurant and brought desserts for me one time. Bless him. *sniff*  It was in New York where I first learned the magic and superiority of dark chocolate, though interestingly it was not anything fancy. What was it? I will tell you: dark chocolate Dove Eggs.  I was obsessed. Funnily, now those are total weak stuff for me and taste kind of like garbage (no offense).

  • First trying a really fancy pastry place and thinking we had discovered gold.  Then experiencing a few other places over the years, going back to that original place, and realizing it was rubbish. Ha ha. 
  • R-and-D (blogger won't let me use ampersands) down the street with the fanciest patio I've ever enjoyed dining on. AHH! I have been scrolling through endless pics and found some food pics! You're so LUCKY! And they are of R-and-D but I caught nothing of the patio, just us stuffing our  faces with delicious half-eaten food.  Feast your eyes on THIS:
  • hahaha, suckers
Enjoy that gourmet mac 'n cheese you beauty.
Sean is either super engrossed in his food or extremely confused by it. Or both. He's eaten it so it must have been good.

  • That mushroom soup at Greenwich Bistro. Sean's heaven would include mushroom soup. 
  • That avocado popsicle at Kaz An Nou, french carribbean fusion. That place was so good, I almost cried. Or may have. And the waiter was the owner. I think his wife was the chef.
  • The restaurant near us called James, where everything tasted like it had just been picked from the garden because it had been. The owners and chefs live upstairs and grow all the herbs right there. 
  • French toast from across the street. Slices of peasant bread drenched in an egg wash of orange oil and fairy dust, I have dried SO hard to recreate this and can't figure it out. It's so wet, not dry and heavy like a french toast brick. Is it a quick sear in a hot pan? Maybe. I'll figure you out one day, French toast! Onnne daaay! *shaking fist*

I know this is really boring so I'll stop. But I do not exaggerate when I say these experiences were, indeed, spiritual.  And, about the pizza--we keep trying to somehow recreate it here even though I know it's futile. Everything we've ever ordered or purchased here is nowhere near it. Sean once went to Papa Murphy's and ordered a plain crust with sauce, that's all. This was in attempts to make our own margherita pizza. Sauce, basil, and fresh mozz.  Everyone stared at him and made him repeat the order again and again. "he wants what? with NOTHING?" The pizza turned out really bad but when we make it with our own crust, sometimes with pepperoni, though it isn't even close to the dream, it is delish and my favorite here.

RECIPE: We get dough and pizza sauce from Trader Joe's. Slice on the fresh mozz, toss on the basil and sprinkle some olive oil. You won't be disappointed.

Food, glorious food. Thank you, New York, for showing me what food could really be. For Valentine's Day I ordered some chocolates from chocolatier L.A. Burdick and Sean and I almost wept as we sliced each tiny bonbon in half. Felt like we had transported back, just for a quick bite. If only.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

City Love

Happy Valentine's.  To preface, a brief recap:

-I moved from UT to NY in 2003. 
-I started this blog which was a birthday present, in 2005.
-I left NY and returned to UT in 2014.
-I am still in UT.

I wrote this blog post a year+ ago (indented portion). Since then it's been sitting, forgotten in my drafts, and then I found it. As I am currently in the throes of mourning I thought I'd work on it and publish it for today. Seems appropriate.

I miss New York, bad. At the time, I always felt that it was awesomely unusual, but now that I'm away, living in a place where you're with such like-minded people so as to constantly be talking about the place you're living in is something I am now sorely missing. To live in a place that is as big, as palpable of a presence, a personality in your life as all your best friends and from time to time, worst enemies.

I now live in a place where no one cares about where I've lived, where i've been.  And maybe this has been true for my blog as well but now i'm just realizing it? No one really wanted to read so much about New York? This could be so, and it's ok if that's true.   But these days I feel like it's slipping away. It feels like a dream, that strange life I once lived that shaped so much of who I am.  Where it once felt so real, as each moment goes by, that feeling fades. And I'm afraid. I'm afraid if i don't talk about it, then it will be as if it never was.  And it is the sweetest kind of heartbreak I've ever experienced in my life. Other than with Sean and Julian, I would say it's the only time I've ever really been in love. And that love was real, long-lasting, and ran deep. It will never go away completely and I'm filled with such a deep gratitude and satisfaction, I DO know, actually, that it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. And it hurts so good. 

Sean and I talk about it here and there, everywhere. Comparing and contrasting.  I told him the sad truth, "Sean, now that we're gone, we don't own it anymore. It isn't ours. We can't claim it."  I don't really want to believe this but I'm afraid it is true. 

Written in 2013 whilst still living there:

This may surprise you, but I actually have a lot of thoughts regarding an intense attachment to one's city.  I love where I grew up. It will always be a part of me.  But when I moved to New York, something inside, whose existence i had always had a sneaking suspicion of, was awakened and sprang to life. I attached to this city immediately.

When I was 20 I went on a trip to France with my sister which was awesome. Loved every second of it. Of course I loved everything about it-- every town, every place, every piece of food that went in my mouth, etc.  But I remember wandering about in Marseille or Paris, seeing people eat outside at a cafe and thinking, that is the life for me.

I remember driving friends to or from the airport and looking wistfully up at the sky and departing airplanes and thinking, take me with you. Desperate for an adventure.  I didn't know where, exactly, but I know that Big City had an awful nice ring to it.

June 2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of meeting Sean.  When I met him, I liked him immediately. Everything was easy. Sean told me he was going to Pratt, the art school in Brooklyn, NY, that fall. Well that's awesome, was my thought. And nothing more. My brother, who was friends with Sean, told me as a warning that Sean would be going to New York that fall, so maybe.. you know.. keep that in mind.  And not for a second did I think I wouldn't be joining him there.  And not for a second did I think I would be, because that would have been crazy talk, so early in the game.  Not like when we actually had the "marriage talk" which was a solid three weeks into the relationship.  Hey, I like to be sure.  But that's a story for another day.   But I think I knew subconsciously that Big City and I would finally meet, and it just felt right.   I expressed my excitement about this to Sean and, in an effort to defend and protect himself and his feelings, declared jokingly(?) "I am not New York!"      Yeah, yeah. Lucky for him, I liked him just about as much as I did the idea of living here. 
My fellow Utah resident, friend, and birthday twin Melissa spent some time in Boston and developed her own city love. One day upon her return to Utah she sent me the following message:

Sometimes when I let my mind wander I think about Boston. Not necessarily about the people, or the work I did there, but of the PLACE. And then I think - how is this possible? This level of love is almost impossibly intense, how can I be so emotionally attached to a CITY?

And then I think of you, and the way you can so satisfyingly articulate city love, and I'm grateful.

Thanks for making me feel okay about feeling so much.

  This sounds like a humble brag, also known as a backdoor brag. Oh, and she said something really nice about me? I hardly noticed. :) 

To honor this, and to pay due tribute to my grief, I'm going to do a series. It's going to be super boring. I know, after a while no one wants to hear it anymore. And you may hate it, and I'm sorry. But I just can't not. I'm not done yet. I have more I need to say, particularly right now going through this transition.  I'm sure that as the days go by, having gotten it all out will satisfy me and though I might always feel the feelings, I know that I expressed them at one point and it will be enough for me. But for now, a tribute to my grief. A series of New York things I miss, for a city I have loved, will always love. 

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Two Good Names

1. Scanning some msn article about a man who laced his wife's energy drink with cyanide (yup. I'm busy. I'm a busy woman. Gotta lot of things to do). Defense attorney's name: 

William Difenderfer. 

Now, let's say something happens and I end up marrying this guy and take his name. What's my name gonna be? Say it with me:
Jennifer Difenderfer

Think Sean will let us legally change it anyway? We could all be Difenderfers. 

2. I walked by the bedroom where sean is working and heard him say, "hello, yes, could I please speak to Lulu Lippincott..."    

And, aside from seriously questioning if he's really "working" and has a "job" at all,  I am de-lighted. :D

I think this is a sign that I should finally track down Mrs. Zita Hudnut and get all three of these people together. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Anniversary of Arches

In early October some months ago I was sprawled, 20% on the couch, 80% on the floor, back at an indefinite angle, neck awkwardly bent forward, looking through a slideshow of 10 Life-Changing Utah Trails  and I said to Sean, "That. That is what I want to do with you."   So for our 11th anniversary, we packed our hiking shoes, aka whatever athletic shoes with laces we had, hats and visors and set off.  I can't tell you how magically wonderful it is to live by family and to be able to leave Julian there.  I will never, ever EVER take this for granted. We are in transition, the length of our stay here is in question. We have yet to discover any answers so that is where we are for now, and I am trying to enjoy and appreciate the things I have right now.

Our destination: Devil's Garden in Arches National Park. Guess who grew up with two thumbs in Utah and has never been to Arches, not once? THIS GIRL.

Our first stop was the temple where Sean and I got hitched one beautiful fall day.  We tried to re-enact one of the poses our photographer had us do and asked a guy who was doing some sketches if he might could take our picture. He was happy to oblige and I think we nailed it. 

One more stop before making the 3.5 hour drive to the magical land of visions and wonders (mindboggling that it's so close) was to the mall. This is going to sound really sad but how fun is it to go to the mall with just your spouse?? Oh man.  We ran around, went on stuffed animal races, had two rounds of Japanese desserts where the total of our order was $10.23 on October 23 and we gasped and exclaimed, "ten twenty-three!"  much to his confusion. We explained, too excitedly, and the nice kid gave us a dollar off, which was nice, but kind of ruined the significance. It did make me think of my pal Andrea though, whose birthday is 9/23. And we went into a teen store and bought ourselves ridiculous and cheap shoes. And then we set off.

We rolled in late and stayed in a hotel. We woke up early, put on what we thought might be "hiking clothes"(?) and set off.  I can't even begin to describe my feelings about being here. I feel like my soul has been starved of real, dead-serious earthly beauty for so long, it was all I could do to not just start opening up my mouth to the heavens and chomp my jaws wildly in the air, trying to take an actual bite. (you're welcome for that visual)

(I'm just going to pause a moment to make it last a bit longer)

And so we embarked on a 40-minute drive to the Devil. We followed our map of landmarks and took in the scenery around us. This rock blocking the morning sun is called, you guessed it, Balanced Rock.


I'm going to try to let the pics do the talking but I'll just get a few more words over with here because words are how I convey my feels.  How do I describe.  How. Hmmm...  let me think a minute.

*time passes*

Well, the article was right. Life-changing indeed. It was a spiritual experience for us both.  Do you ever have moments in your life where you find yourself face-to-face with something so strong and powerful that you feel completely stripped of everything else? Noise and worry, thoughts and distraction.  You're standing there exposed, looking at this creation, and all of a sudden you feel like you've been thrust into the middle of a conversation with God that you didn't know you were in and you might find yourself quietly saying words that you didn't know you had in you. You are humbled and reverent and you're given this urgent and very hungry appetite to see more and more.  It's a very raw, invigorating and important feeling to feel from time to time, I think. It had been a while for me.  A serious shock to my eyes and soul, it invited us in and we eagerly went forth.

The Devil's Garden is scattered with trails and arches and viewpoints and canyons, hills and vales, sometimes pools.  The whole hike, including all the spurs (which i learned are side trails to see a certain formation, most likely an arch. They're impossible to resist because you can't see the featured formation from the main path. You HAVE to go find out what it is.) is seven miles. We did it all. It was the best ever.


The hike started out walking on sandy trails. Fairly flat. We were excited but also serious about this hike:

You weren't supposed to go off the trail but some things we said, sorry, no can do. -- famous last words.  JK we kept safe but some things we just had to see. HAD TO.

Sean is tiny. Scratch that, what i mean is, that arch is big.

Sean was afraid when I wanted to climb up on this big rock early in the hike. It was off the path and therefore not allowed but we had to. It was scary. And, it's so weird how un-used to being in nature we were.  In some pics you may notice little tiny piles of stones. I can't remember the name of these but if you see them, you're on the trail, sometimes the "trail" being a big ol' rock that just goes up and up. If you don't see them, you're lost and you will probably slip and fall to your death.  And we were like, that's it?? No printed signs?? Rails? Guides??  Not that we wanted any of those things but they're just part of the kind of atmosphere we are accustomed to.  It took us a long time to trust ourselves with scaling rock walls and really scary looking trails that we were meant to put our faith in based on nothing.  We'd look up at a narrow stretch of rock with dozens of feet to chasms below on either side and be like, uhhh, seriously? That's the path? You want us to go there? And then we just had to do it and it was scary. Anyway, the big rock that gave us the million dollar view.

The view was CRAZY. 
The whole thing is like one big hallucination.
It can't be real. It cannot be real.
This paragraph looks like a poem.

Look at these wacky wood formations. What's that about, Nature? Huh?

We got an early start so didn't see many people at first but we did pass some hikers coming the opposite direction. At the beginning there is a fork in the road. You can go left or right. We went right, this other couple apparently went left and when we passed them close to our beginning they looked so haggard and beat. They saw us starting out and said, "good luck" and we said, "what's at the end of this thing?? some wild beast?"  or something like that that was funny and not rude as it sounds. It was kind of exciting/unsettling though. What were we in store for?

At one point we came to a pool of water.  It was dark in the middle and we had no idea how deep it is. We tried scaling the walls but they were much too steep. And again, we were completely out of our comfort/knowedge zone. We had no idea what hikers on this trail were meant to do, you know? Like, oh, is this normal? Ok then. -As we scale a completely perpendicular wall held on by some kind of hiker's gravity. 

Hiker's gravity, a term i just made up, is what keeps hikers onto rocks that are curved, slick, and just seem impossible to climb. It really felt physically impossible, that it would defy all laws of physics to just hop up onto this wall with non-hiker shoes and not slip back down to your death.  But we did it. As mentioned, early on we didn't trust ourselves but gradually that trust grew and we became more comfortable leaping over wide gaps from rock to rock, using our momentum and a prayer to get us there. It felt amazing.

After many failed attempts to wall-scale, and still unsure of the pool's depth, we took off our shoes and tip-toed around the pool's edge to the opening on the other side.  It seems silly now but we seriously were stumped, and stunned. They expect us to do what??

This is Sean trying to walk along the edge without slipping into the puddle. Finally I took off my shoes and sidled along the edge and he had to follow because there was no other way.

It was now when I began to remember my old nature-loving, live-in-the-wild self. Little Kid Jen. I've missed her. 

We saw so many arches. I couldn't keep track of them all. But they were all magnificent.

I don't remember what I was doing here. It looks like a failure at trying to be "lifting" the arch with my finger, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't doing that.  Maybe the arch looked invisible and i was pointing it out? That seems more likely.

Here's a crazy panorama to bug out your eyes:

 This was one of my favorite parts of the hike. Lots of rock-scaling and crazy 3-dimensional views that went on forever and ever. Never before have my eyes gazed on such a sight. A brand new visual experience. You just can't tell how many layers of rock there are. Infinity, that's how many. I loved the tall narrow passageways and the feeling those giant rocks enclosed around gave us.



This was a cool arch. It was big and glorious to stand under

This wall is on the other side. I climbed up because I had now become one with the hike and had Hiker's Gravity. 

This was toward the end of our hike. So hot, so tired. And I found the perfect hole to take a nap in:

This was the last biggie of the hike. I think they called this one Double O or something like that? Two holes, see. They were huge. You hiked up a wall on the other side to view it. This pic was taken from down below:

And from the big wall across the way:

I think you can see a tiny person standing on the middle part?

As mentioned, we broke a couple of "stay on the path" rules. Here was another one of them. What's in there?? We had to know.

One of the last spurs and one we debated taking because we were finally losing energy.  But of course we did it and it took us to this crazy monolith called Dark Angel.  And we saw a rabbit along the way. On this path I remember being very loopy and we had a ton of really good jokes and quotes but I remember none of them.

Panorama of the valley with Dark Angel over to the side:

I'm not sure when I took this pic and  i may have already used it but oh well, isn't it pretty?

This was one of the scariest off-the-trail spots. This long, increasingly narrow rock jutted out with very steep, deep drops on either side. 

Here's a pic taken at the edge of that one that we snapped and then fled immediately so as not to slip down to the fathoms below. so scary!

And that brings us to the end of my pictures. If you're looking for a total soul rejuvenation and overhaul of the spirits, go here. Find a way and do it. It was the best thing we'd done in a long time. Thanks again, Red Rock Country.  We'll see you again real soon.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Baby, It's Cold Inside

What's that you say? Christmas is over, enough with the songs? Well, tell that to the people who still have their lights and Christmas trees up. Besides, that song isn't even about Christmas, just cold weather and fires. So really it's a January carol, one we should all be singing regularly. If only the other seasons and holidays had carols of their own! That's the one thing keeping Halloween from the top spot.

Well, it's January now. I was trying to explain to Sean how I feel about this and nothing was coming out right.

JEN: Ok, so it's January. Let's embrace this. Let's print out some Bentley snowflakes and put them up all over the wall.

SEAN: Wow, really? I'm surprised. I would think you'd want a big poster of a tropical scene.

JEN: No, no. Sean, I don't hate winter, i just.. i mean, ok, yes I do hate winter. But that doesn't mean I hate it. I mean, not yet. Now it's fine. It's appropriate. I mean, what, do I wish we'd just skip it and move onto spring? Well... maybe.  But no, it's fine! I like all the seasons. So let's do winter. Let's do winter??? Let's DO. WINTER.

I don't actually want to skip to spring. How could I ever enjoy it without the horribleness of winter? I'd be like, oh hey spring, back so soon? that's cool.  It's just that the winter is 1.5-2 months too long. But it's fine for January. What else is in January? Nothing. If anything, I have a serious problem with March, when you're like, winter will NEVER. END. On this, I wrote what I thought was a not bad blog post no one cared to comment on but that's fine, whatever.

SO. January.  Let's have it. 

I keep getting emails from NY telling me when alternate side parking is canceled. I like getting these emails because of the intense surge of joy they bring, even though they are no longer applicable to my life. I never want to forget. But I got one today canceling parking rules for Monday AND Tuesday in anticipation of a doozy of a storm. Though, as last year taught me, only a fool will park on the right side of the road as that is where the snow plows plow the snow mountains and you'll never see your car again until spring.

Here, it's actually been a really warm and pleasant winter which is just the most delightful thing ever. But when I first started this draft it was soon after Christmas when temps were in the 0's and it snowed a lot. This made for a very cozy and frigid existence in this tiny woodsy cottage of ours. Except it's ill-equipped for such temperatures. We had the heaters on at fullspeed and it was fuh-REEZING.  Our heaters just couldn't hack it. One night we piled every blanket we had and it was still insufficient. I have never been so cold indoors. I just laughed as I tucked myself in, trying to trap in the heat. It made things get real, real fast, which I kind of enjoy. I enjoy going into survival mode. And i learned something.

Priorities change when you're so cold. You can't be bothered by trivial things such as cleaning, homework, or "getting things done."

Your job now is simple:  GET WARM.  Priority #1.  We mostly stayed curled up on the couch under heaps of blankets and emerged only to heat up the rice sock or make some more hot chocolate. Layers and slippered feet were a must.  And let me tell you something, living in freezing temps makes you feel so productive because you're staying alive, and what's more productive than that?? I'm a survivor, man!

That lasted a couple of days and then we stayed at my mom's for the rest of the break because, despite all the fun, I didn't really want to freeze to my death and also i like to pretend I'm still on vacation when I'm at my mom's house. Turns out it was a blast because we are FUN. 

So, January, I give you an offering of our winter pics, thus far:

We got some crazy frozen death spikes on our roof. I mean really, when's the last time I saw for real icicles like this? So cool, but also, aaah?

And in the bushes as well:

We even went sledding down the "driveway"/ dirt hill. This is me willing my sled to keep going.

And went for a walk to the nearby creek. It is so weird to live here. So weird. 

Sean found this crazy ice sheet. They broke it off the top of the creek and underneath were all these crystals standing up on it. Frozen water is weird!

I made myself a snow chair. That's something I do love about playing in the snow. It creates as whole new world for you. It's so malleable, shapeable.  I made myself a chair! A chair in weeds I never would have cared to sit in, otherwise. You can't see it, but it's there!

Pretty creek