New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

When my brother and niece visited Thanksgiving weekend, we decided to check out the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show, which runs until January 21, 2019. It was amazing! My youngest asked, “Why haven’t we come here before? I loved trains as a kid!” I had no answer, but I know we’ll be going back next year!

My way too many pictures don’t capture the scale and artistry of the buildings, train tracks and trains but, in the next few posts, I’m going to share them anyway.

Choo chooooo!

Model trains navigate painstakingly crafted miniatures of New York City’s built environment, all made entirely out of plant parts. The Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Yankee Stadium are among the 150 landmarks that form a fantastically rendered city landscape built from seeds, bark, leaves and twigs, serviced by a robust half-mile of track, all nestled within the stunning and historic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. This year’s train show showcases Lower Manhattan’s famous skyscrapers with replicas of the Woolworth Building and One World Trade Center—and some vintage ferry boats, too. Other events coinciding with the train show include a cappella performances, classical music concerts, a poetry reading and activities for kids.  nycgo.com

Museums 

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Pass the Applesauce Potato Latkes (aka Potato Pancakes)

Potato Latkes
Potato Latkes

I’m reposting this recipe! Yum! 

Hon, these potato latkes tasted as good as they smelled!  I tripled the recipe below, then portioned and froze them, ready to defrost and reheat at a moment’s notice. Prepping and frying latkes is a lot of work, which is why I make them only twice a year. Yes, they’re cooked in oil. But, they’re worth it on occasion, especially if served with applesauce or sour cream.

IMG_2753

potatoes grated in food processor
Grate potatoes in food processor.
onions grated in food processor
Grate onions in food processor.
Latkes frying.
Fry latkes in oil until medium brown on each side.
Latkes frying.
Add more oil to frying pan when oil level drops.
Drain latkes on brown paper bags to retain their crispiness.
Drain latkes on brown paper bags to retain their crispiness.

POTATO LATKES

Ingredients

4 large potatoes, peeled and grated (I used a food processor to grate potatoes and onions.)

1 cup onions, grated

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Corn, canola or vegetable oil

brown paper grocery bags, cut open and flattened on a counter

Directions

1.  Insert grating disc in food processor and grate potatoes.  Place potatoes in a colander sitting in a bowl or sink.  Drain excess liquid.

2.  Grate onions in food processor.

3.  In a large bowl, combine drained potatoes with eggs, salt, pepper, baking powder, flour and onions.  Mix well.

4.  Pour a layer of oil in frying pan and heat on a medium heat.

5.  Drop potato mixture by spoonfuls into hot oil.  (Be careful, because they splatter.)

6.  When one side of a latke is medium brown, turn and brown other side.

7.  Drain on paper bags.

Yield:  approximately 25 latkes, depending on the size of the spoon and amount of mixture you drop into the oil.

*If not serving right away, you may freeze latkes once they’ve cooled. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place latkes in a single layer on foil-lined cookie sheets.  Bake approximately 15 minutes or until crisp.

Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

Ceramics for Sale!

Tonight is my first-ever Ceramics sale!

I’m selling my work tonight, Thursday, November 29 at Oheb Shalom is South Orange, NJ’s One Stop Shop Fall Shopping Event from 7 – 9pm. I’ve made textured dishes, great for jewelry, watches, candy, soap, candles, soy sauce, olive oil, salts or anything else that needs a pretty place to rest. I’m also selling bowls, small vases and trivets. A variety of vendors will also be there so, hon, I might come home with more than I make!

Skype-a-Thon with Second and Fourth Graders

California Connection

Sometimes a week is just a week, and sometimes you do something awesome like Skype with second and fourth graders at Stagg Street Elementary School in the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District)!

Shout out to Vickie Waite, ITF, Instructional Technology Initiative who reached out to me through Microsoft Educator. I read chapters from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and we discussed what makes the book fantasy. I read chapters from two The Terrible Two books by Jory John and Mac Barnett, and we discussed what makes the books humorous. The kids prepared questions, asking where I get story ideas, do I have a favorite manuscript, who is my favorite author, and what’s it like to be a writer? Then the kids met Lucy! Fun! 

According to Waite, our session was “timed for the Skype-a-Thon, which provided much-needed funding for impoverished countries calculated on the cumulative miles Skyped.”

The Microsoft Education site reported that 23,629,665 virtual miles were traveled!

“Hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and guest speakers in 102 countries gathered over Skype and in 48 hours helped raise the funds needed to educate up to 35,000 children in need in WE Villages – supporting UN Sustainable Development Goal Quality Education.

It was amazing!”

Pretty Pies

I’m in cooking/cleaning/company-is-coming-yikes mode! In the midst of prepping, one thing always calms me down…baking. Rolling out dough is just like playing with clay (Now I know why I like pottery so much!)

Shout out to Linda for sending me a link to an article from Food Network, “8 Creative Ways to Crimp a Pie” which inspired me to add fun shapes and letters to my pies this year. You can barely make out the letters (X’s and O’s), but the snowflakes and leaves are oh-so-cute.

I had this humorous text exchange with one of my daughters.

Me: “It’s pie day.”

Hannah: “Yum!”

Hannah: “I thought you meant actual pie day and then I was like, what, it isn’t March.”

Me with accompanying picture of a pie: “Pie Day!”

Hannah: “OMG YUMMM. Can’t wait.”

Click here for an apple pie recipe and here to watch a pie-making video.

Click here for a pumpkin pie recipe.

Click here if you want to watch how to make a gluten-free pie crust.

Happy baking, hon!

Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup

Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup

Thanksgiving is around the corner and I’m in the midst of shopping, cooking, baking and cleaning (aka moving piles from one part of the house to another!). At our holiday dinner, I always serve Velvety Vegetable Soup instead of salad, but this year I’m changing it up. (There might be a mutiny!) Since I like the consistency of Velvety Vegetable’s  blended veggies, I wondered if I could create the same texture with different ingredients. After combining and refining two recipes:  one from Ina Garten for Food Network and one from Serious Eats, I came up with my own version of Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup. This yummy soup feels like Fall.

Happy cooking, hon!

Ingredients:

–2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

–3 small to medium onions, finely diced (about 3 cups)

–3 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced (about 3 cups)

–2 ribs celery, finely diced (about 1 cup)

–3 garlic cloves, minced

–2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (cannellini or great northern), with their liquid

–1 quart chicken stock (I use a low sodium “chicken stock” that’s actually parve.)

–1 teaspoon ground thyme

–1 teaspoon dried mustard

–1/4 teaspoon paprika

–1/4 teaspoon tumeric

–2 bay leaves

–2 teaspoons kosher salt

–1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

–either 1 large branch fresh rosemary (6 to 7 inches), 4 6-inch sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped and stems reserved, or 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary

–Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving, optional

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add chicken broth, beans with their liquid, thyme, mustard, paprika, tumeric, bay leaves, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Take soup off of heat and let cool a bit. Discard bay leaves and rosemary stems.
  4. In batches, transfer soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth (start on low speed and increase to high to prevent blender blow-out). Return to the stockpot and stir to combine. Season to taste.
  5. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with reserved chopped rosemary leaves, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve with crusty toasted bread.

Yield: Makes about 2 quarts, servings 6-8.

Tip: I’ll make this ahead of time, freeze it and, after defrosting, re-blend with a hand blender.

Shout Out Sister! Sara Bareilles On the Making of Armor

Sara Bareilles (photo courtesy of The Famous People.com)

Guess who mentions Morgan in an interview on Variety.com?

Sara Bareilles gives a shout out to my director-daughter, and talks about her music and the political climate in the article, “Sara Bareilles on Celebrating Female Power in the T Bone Burnett-Produced ‘Armor’.” by Chris William.

The title of Sara Bareilles’ new song, “Armor,” makes it sound like she’s ready for battle. And that’s not altogether off the mark for this female-centric anthem, as the lyrics take a so-done-with-this attitude toward a politicized patriarchy. But there’s even more compassion than fierceness as the lyric video for the single celebrates women and girls of different colors, orientations, ages and sizes, all of whom get to literally flex their muscles, in between holding up placards with the words of Bareilles’ song.

The T Bone Burnett-produced “Armor” is her first new non-“Waitress” single since 2013, and until recently, she didn’t see it, or any of the new material, coming out until next year. But watching the news coerced Bareilles into putting the song into circulation now, as she explained in a phone interview from London Thursday.

“To be totally honest, it’s been a hard year, watching and emotionally experiencing what been going on politically and culturally,” she tells Variety. “I think we were always kind of intending to save the music until the top of next year, closer to the album release. But with everything going on, I feel my responsibility as an artist is to respond. And that’s what this is, even though the song was already written and recorded, before I was sitting there watching the Supreme Court hearings.”

Bareilles adds that “both T Bone and I have to give a lot of love and gratitude to everyone from the label, management and marketing team who really responded so beautifully to my request to push everything up, which as we know in this industry is not the easiest thing to do. I just wanted to respond with a song that is really intended to be a message of support and community and solidarity. It felt like it belongs here, in this moment.”

“Armor” features her concentrating on the bottom end of her piano, which makes for an unusual sound… at least for her. “My homage to Tori Amos!” she laughs.

But seriously, “I think a huge part of the reason the song is an evolution of my sound is getting to partner with T Bone on this. One of the things that I loved about working with him is that he comes to the table with the perspective of less is more. We built this big ole deep end to the rhythm track, but essentially from an instrument standpoint it’s a three-piece band — drums, piano and bass, with a couple of other colors and flavors thrown in here and there. And my little internal pop artist got nervous for a minute wondering, like, ‘Oh, is there enough on here? Is there enough happening?’ But when I really sit back and listen to the message of the song and what I really want to put forward, it’s about the simplicity of it.”

The lyric video with the wide representation of women won’t be the only video for the track. “It’s the only video for right now; the anticipation would be to have another video down the line a little bit,” Bareilles says. “But it was such a beautiful treatment by Morgan Gruer, our director, and we talked through the ideas and the images and the treatment and what we were hoping to capture. And again, really what I loved about it was the simplicity of the intention. It’s about community and putting a face on the people that this song is talking about, in all of their wide range and spectrum. You know, that video could be a year long, and there still wouldn’t be everybody represented there, but it’s a portion of who this song is talking about.”

There’s no attendant album announcement to go with the song’s release. “We’re not quite ready yet for that,” she says. “This was kind of a rogue musical decision to put this song out as quickly as we did. It felt right. And then we’ll worry about the album later.”

Was there any thought of getting it out before the midterms, even though it’s not overtly political? “If it encourages anybody to activate in any way, I think that’s a good outcome for this piece of music. It’s not specifically written about voting, but certainly these are issues that are on the ballot currently, and the people that will make decisions that affect these issues as they pertain to women are on the ballot. So it’s really a time to engage and use your voice and educate yourself, and I really feel more than ever that it’s just our deep responsibility to engage. And so if anybody’s paying attention or listening to me, you know, that’s what I want to encourage them to do.”

The idea that elevating women and their experiences can be seen as a partisan political position in this environment seems puzzlingly backward to Bareilles, but she doesn’t regret the additional opportunities for conversation.

“I feel like it’s that classic adage that history is not moving in a straight line. And so in some ways it feels like we’re treading [territory we’ve been in before. But in some ways, we’re not. I think we’re still making progress, and I think that there’s something incredibly positive about the fact that these conversations my peers are having with each other (are occurring). I was going to brunch the other day with friends and we were talking about impassioned political views and what’s going on on a larger scale, and I remember a time when I wasn’t even paying attention.

“So I feel like there is a real value and a beauty to the fact we’re all awake — even if we woke up inside a nightmare,” she laughs.