Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday I'm in Love

Is it just me, or was this a totally weird week? I'm ready to tune out for a while, personally. Let's go straight to my picks for the week, then, in hopes that it'll bring about the Friday-iest part of this Friday even sooner. Have a great weekend, folks!

Papercut Fingerprint Art

When I saw this papercut fingerprint art from artist Lori Danelle on Design*Sponge this week, I was totally blown away. Lori makes these papercuts directly from the fingerprints that you provide to her, and as you might imagine, that involves a lot of detailed work. I honestly can't decide which I like better... the couple fingerprints or the baby fingerprint. Either would make an amazing addition to any wall.

 American Wartime Food Posters

I'm fascinated by American wartime food posters. This online exhibit from the National Agricultural Library does a fantastic job of walking readers through the ways in which food consumption and production were marketed during wartime. Wouldn't these posters make the coolest collection? If you dig this, here's a smaller Smithsonian collection that features some of the same posters in closer detail, along with some additional ones.


My college girls and I watched 'Dawsons Creek' religiously, mainly to roll our eyes at Dawson and root unconditionally for Pacey. This video is nothing if not a tribute to the irresistible charm of Joshua Jackson. And c'mon, can someone please produce a Pacey-all-growns-up show? "I don't wanna wait...!"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day in the Life @ EADL

Ever wonder what a lazy Sunday looks like for me? Over at EADL today, you can find out, via my "Day in the Life" post as part of the fun series over there. Go take a look!

Warning, though: I told my teenage cousin what we like to do on Sundays and she made fun of us for being boring. So.... yeah.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A new world, painted pink

In the premise that the first sign of addiction is confronting your denial of said addiction, the time has come for me to announce the truth:

I am a nail biter.

I hate the way that sentence looks. I hate the way it sounds. I hate the image it conjures up, of a nervous strung-out girl with chunks of hair missing, eating an Ally Sheedy dandruff sandwich. I'm "normal," I'm healthy, I'm well-adjusted, I'm smart. Surely I'm not a nail biter. And yet, get me on an airplane or watching television, and there I am, biting my nails to the quick.

For 20 years.

I actually used to have fingernails. In fifth grade, I was known for rocking crazy designs in my fingernail polish (coordinated polka dots, stripes, you name it). My friends all had me paint their nails at slumber parties. Somewhere along the way, though, I started biting. I'm not sure when or how, but I'm fairly certain they were gone by the time middle school got underway. And I've never gotten them back.

But calling myself a nail biter? Nooooo. When people saw my little boy nails and asked if I bit them, I would say things like, "I guess so... but I never realize that I do it" or "I bite them when I travel without meaning to." Mmm hmmm. I tried to stop sometime in high school with that pepper polish that stings when you bite, but then I came to enjoy the peppery tingle of the polish (freak). I was proud not to value them. I didn't mind that I wouldn't have a sparkly engagement ring hand photo. I made jokes about them. I didn't care that I'd have little boy nails at our wedding, and certainly wasn't going to put on fake nails just for looks. At the last minute I booked a manicure with clear polish for the morning of the wedding, mostly to get a cozy paraffin hand wrap, just in case my hands were photographed. Guess what happened? The manicurist sliced open my ring finger. In fairness to her, she was so upset she did it that she started crying. I just shrugged it off... to me, it was just a sign that I shouldn't have even bothered.

Something crazy happened a few weeks ago, though.

I looked down at my fingers and I noticed that I had three real nails: actual white parts! I don't know how it happened - it wasn't intentional at all. I became obsessed with how cute the three "long" ones were. I'd bite the others and keep the three growers safe. Then I pictured those weird nail techs at salons with the one crazy long nail, and decided to make a real effort not to bite at all. I don't think I'd ever done that as an adult.

I was at the beach with my cousins, and the nails kept growing. I showed them off and tried to instill in these teenagers the full saga of my nails. My sister, who knows all about my nails, was impressed. I'd catch myself putting them up to my mouth, but I'd actively take them away. Then it hit me: what if I painted them, since true nail polish tastes awful? Would I really be able to turn them into something nice if I used polish as a preventative measure?

Suddenly they were a shimmery nude, and they kept growing. All week long at the beach. I didn't want to mess up the polish, so I was leaving them alone. The day after I returned from the Outer Banks, I was meeting T for drinks and a movie downtown. I decided to go crazy: pink nails.

At the restaurant, I told him I had a surprise. I burst out in a grin and showed him my ultra-girly pink nails. They were there. Short for other girls, but all-out long for me. They were PINK! They were mine. Here they are in all their glory:

It's kind of crazy, having these things. I'm not used to them yet, so I notice them all the time. They're foreign, but somehow not. Typing is weird, for instance. But I've been repainting them - revolutionary stuff for me! I noticed that stuff gets underneath them and I have to clean them. I have a little nail file that was in my Christmas stocking one year and has since been gathering dust (thanks Mom!), and I have been using it

Whoa - I can see my nails from behind!

Umm... seriously? PINK NAILS! I really want to do red soon. Ahhhhh!

Crazy stuff. 20 years beginning to give way to something new, all in the span of a few weeks.

I realize this is lame of me, admitting an addiction only to say I've started overcoming it. But "started" is the key word here. The polish prevents me from biting, but I still constantly catch myself putting them to my mouth. How is it possible that for 20 years, I wouldn't admit that I'm a nail biter? It's so clear to me now that I actually notice when I have the impulse. I wonder if one day I'll be able to refrain from biting even without polish.

So tell me, those of you who have stuck with me through this long post... what are your weird behavioral addictions you don't like to admit?  Did you also overcome nail-biting? And importantly: WILL I MAKE IT TO AN ACTUAL MANICURE ONE DAY?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Grasshopper therapy

If you recall, yesterday's events warranted the harmless posting of garden bug photos and my incredulous question to you all, which was just what kind of creature I was hosting out there in my wee urban garden. You did not disappoint. Up for the challenge, the kind readers of Freckled Citizen jumped to the entomological task of identifying the rare and exotic... grasshopper.

Well then.

I might live in a glassy high-rise now, but this has actually not always been the case. I grew up for the most part on a cul de sac that backs up to the woods, with a family farm a short and frequent drive away. I have climbed mountains and rowed rivers and swam many and varied bodies of water. Nature and I are not strangers. And yet... as I clearly did not understand that grasshoppers can grow to be huge and exist in colors other than grass green, let's go ahead and schedule a camping trip asap so I can redeem myself with wildlife, shall we?

 Vintage hiking photo as proof of above statement.
Please note Bush/Katrina-era "Make Levees Not War" t-shirt.

I now humbly defer to you grasshopper experts. And you know, despite several of your comments yesterday about finding my garden creature terrifying, he actually doesn't freak me out at all. I kind of like him. I think he's kind of cute. (And don't worry, I never saw him again, so my plants are doing just fine.)

See, today is yet another one of those days where my garden creature is my friend. I'm dealing with quite a bit of aggression. Take this old thing, for instance. That little IRS problem we had? Still unresolved. And when I called today, four weeks after they told me we'd be getting our refund in four weeks, they said I should plan on waiting another six months.

Well then.

Oh and this old thing? The movers from hell who stranded us in an empty apartment for weeks and then delivered wooden splinters in place of furniture? They've decided to bestow a whopping $186 on us for our pain and suffering.

Well then.

So there is some aggression over here, yes. I am a wee bit pissy and whiny, neither of which are attractive qualities. To my rescue is Mr. Grasshopper, who has crazy little arms and cool markings and really fun eyeballs. And instead of screaming and throwing things in between conference calls to get out my aggression today, I'm making Mr. Cute even cuter. Grasshopper therapy, if you will. Check him out:

Literally, to my rescue:

Anxiously awaiting the next Harry Potter installment.

I knew he was a good guy.

Ooh... formalwear.

Laugh, make fun, do what you will. Just don't tell me that he is actually a she, okay? The Exotic Grasshopper reveal was as much as I can take right now.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Not my day

I'm pitiful on the couch today with a chest cold. Oh, and my checking account is frozen because someone that wasn't me purchased $700 worth of sparkles at Tiffany with my debit card. Also, I just tried to make toast and saw flames inside the toaster oven. And then the fire alarms wouldn't stop going off. So... it's not really my kinda day so far. Rather than listening to me whine, please enjoy these photos I took of a visitor in my garden. He's pretty cool, huh? Can any bug experts out there tell me more about this creature?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Everyone loves hummus

Last night I showed my vegetarian hummus-loving cousin Z how to make her own hummus. And then it occurred to me... I've never shared my hummus recipe here. Which is silly, given the frequency with which I make the stuff (not to mention my previously confessed habit of eating weird garbanzo bean lunches). My dippin' instruments of choice are thick strips of red pepper or slices of cucumber - crisp, fresh, and (because it's me) carrying a lively kick.

So first, to set the mood:

And here ya have it:

Maggie's Classic Hummus

1 can chickpeas
1/3 cup tahini
2-3 garlic cloves, to taste
1.5 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons water
8 dashes hot sauce

Put into a food processor and press go. (Best directions ever, no?)
Feeling wild? Throw in some roasted red peppers.

And that's it! Gotta love it. I do.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I could get used to this

It's so much fun avoiding reality. Two days ago, I spent my day doing this:

Yesterday, my "lunch break" was spent at the pool reading about the endlessly fascinating Harper Lee.

Last night, another Stage Cuz evening (new videos here, including full versions of Z's songs!).

And then late last night, Z and her pal stole my heart forever by choreographing The Double Rainbow Song. I mean really, does it get any better than this? I think my sides still kinda hurt from laughing so hard. If your afternoon calls for something goofy and awesome to cheer you up, look no further.

Today's "lunch break" consisted of shopping in Duck with my cousins and then taking them to lunch. How many times have I been in those same stores since I was their age, I wondered? It made me smile pretty big. Of course, back in the day I was the one buying super-short summer dresses, not the one putting them back on the rack wishing they were a tad longer. 

My cousin S2, though, to me: "Skirts and dresses don't have to go down to your knees, you know." Now that's a girl after T's own heart right there. And yes, I do know that, S!

I love these girls. Can I just stay here and live this life concurrently with my own back in DC?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My new role: Stage Cuz

Here in the land of my Outer Banks familia for a week, my primary role is to help get one of my cousins to her job while her mom is traveling. This run of the mill summer job? Performing in a local music showcase alongside people three times her age. You know, pretty much exactly like scooping ice cream or busing tables, only with singing and violin playing instead.

Z's bio in the show's program calls her a "Fourteen Year Old Musical Sensation," and this is actually not hyperbole. Her parents are both music teachers, and she started playing the violin when she was four. She's been on stage her whole life, from orchestras to musical theater. And, in the "duh" category: she played the violin at both mine and my sister's weddings. Z did an instrumental "All I Want Is You" for my walk with my parents down the aisle to T, and it was fantastic. Sigh... okay, focus, focus!

My three OBX cousins are all fantastic girls, each of them smart and witty and bold and talented in their own ways. The best thing about watching Z perform is that I get to hear others react to one of my fab cousin's talents, and then reward it with wild applause and an audible gasp at the end of the show when the emcee reminds everyone that yep, she is just 14.

During Z's Thursday show, I took more photos and videos than I imagined possible. I couldn't help it... I was beaming with pride, with my cousin S2 making fun of me the whole time. What can I say? I'm a Stage Cuz. Please humor me while I now share my pride with you:

Z changes costumes in this show faster than I can blink. Talk about a life skill!

Hello drama! Z ripped one of the sleeves off this frock to give it a more modern look. I love her in one-shouldered tops and dresses with her adorable haircut. She's singing "Jesus Take the Wheel" here, and killing it.

I was beaming with Cuz Pride during this song. You want a taste? Coming right up! (Remember I'm doing this with a point-and-shoot, not a real video camera)

Lest we forget, Z does much more than simply sing. The girl rocking out with her instrument:

You've got to hear this. I have six clips from this song alone because she kept blowing my mind over and over. Here's a couple:

Guess what, new Z-fans? There's another show tonight! I will be there, camera in hand! And in the meantime, I'll be happily listening to showtunes, "Glee" favorites, and Whitney high notes coming from Z's shower...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Good morning from the beach!

Life is good here. We took an update of our 2005 photo, five years later:

(S1 and I were supposed to switch positions - oops! Also, note that we all barely fit on the swing anymore and were concerned it would crash down, hence the delicate side-saddle approach I am taking to sitting down.)

My sis and her little man came to spend the weekend with us, giving me great shots like this one:

Guess who else came to visit this weekend?

We're all off to the beach again before our long-weekend guests depart. If only all Mondays could be like this one... I took today off of work along with T and my sis, and it's going to be tough to buckle down again tomorrow. Here's a little something for you before I leave, though. If you appreciated last week's Friday I'm in Love, you're bound to get a kick out of this one, too. It's dangerously addictive. Enjoy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday I'm in Love

Greetings from the beach! I am basking in the glow of my cousin kicking the vocal pants off people three times her age in the music showcase last night, all while coolly playing the violin at a level Charlie Daniels (who Z discredits because of his theatrics with unnecessarily harming his instrument) could only dream about. So... I have pics and video of this phenom lined up for next week. Get excited!

In the meantime, have a great weekend. And by the way, how about me missing the earthquake in DC by being beachside instead? T says the cats were not happy. Poor little kittenz having their universe disrupted! Did anyone else feel it, or did you miss it, too? Oh, one more PS: I was a Garden of the Day over at Prince of Petworth this week - woo hoo!

As we do on Friday over here, here are three fun things to round out the week. Have a great work-free existence this weekend, everyone!

Goodbye, Old Spice Man!

It was bound to end ... stuff this rich with beautiful genius cannot prosper for eternity. Sigh... Please light a candle for the most brilliant marketing campaign of our day, and imagine what you might have asked of Old Spice Man and thus what you could expect from one of his scores of amazing personalized response videos. Me, I will be forever YouTubing this stuff. SILVERFISH HAND CATCH!

Double Rainbow Freakout

This video was around all week, but I'm putting it here anyway so that I can watch it with ease whenever I'm needing a reminder that A) life is beautiful, and B) there are some really weird people out there (self esteem boost!). Hat tip to my pal Nance for sending this to me first. And really, folks, don't we all wander from time to time, "WHAT DOES IT MEAN?"

 Fiona Apple "Not About Love" (with Zach G)

I'm a big Zach Galifianakis fan ... the man just makes me laugh, always. This video is no exception. And while it's no "Criminal" for the manner in which it will unsettle you, there is Zach Galifianakis dancing in streets and pitching fits in bed. Something for us all, really.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The joys of telecommuting, Summer Edition

Remember last summer when my niece Taylor beckoned me to the beach? This summer, these girls have done it:

Me + my fabulous cousins, 2005

Only... whoops! They are majorly grown up now, with one going to college in the fall and the other two almost driving and both taller than me. How did that happen?

At any rate, I'm working from the Outer Banks (otherwise known as Cousin Headquarters) for a week, and am determined to get a brilliant updated photo of us while I'm here. I'm also a wee bit relieved that I'll be on deadline while I'm "cousin-sitting," so as not to get too distracted by that ocean just a short walk away.

I can assure you, however, that my perenially distracted state will still provide me with plenty of time for oceanic shenanigans. 


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Little Things

Sometimes it's the little things that get you through the day. Such as:

Fresh cherries in your arugula salad

Spiky orange flowers that match your mood

A kitten sleeping on your home state

Lantana growing like wildfire

Simple summer dinners

A gorgeous night sky

What are your favorite little things lately?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Perfect Pesto

I have five basil plants growing outside. Three are sweet basil, one is thai basil, and one is a variety called pesto perpetua*. Clearly, I'm a girl who loves the plant. The key to any basil-lover's heart? Pesto, obviously. With some of my plants turning into veritable basil trees outside, I'm now in high production mode inside to freeze as much pesto as I can. Gotta get it while the gettin' is good!

Every pesto lover needs her own recipe. The open secret about pesto recipes, though, is that they're all pretty much the same. Now arugula walnut pesto, or a parsley pesto, or even a fresh oregano pesto... that's when things shift a bit. But with basil pesto, simplicity rules. There's a reason that Italian grandmothers everywhere use the same ingredients: the goal is simply to elevate the flavor of all that delicious basil you're growing.

I dare ya, right now - go open five different cookbooks and look up basil pesto - the differences in ingredient amounts shift only incrementally, don't they? So when I call this recipe "Perfect Pesto," it's not because I think it's a better recipe than Bittman's or Batali's or De Laurentiis' or whoever's. It's the pesto that's perfect for me, in the tiny ways it's different from theirs. Your perfect pesto will differ slightly from mine, too. But we're all eating the same goodness; such is the beauty of the dish. And really, none of us can go wrong.

Maggie's Perfect Pesto 

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus one pinch
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parm
In a blender or food processor**, pulse all ingredients except olive oil until finally chopped. With machine running in spurts, gradually add in the olive oil until you've reached the consistency you like. Transfer pesto to a bowl and mix in the cheese with a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Notes on Freezing Pesto

  • Ice cube trays are your best friends for freezing pesto. They make it super-simple to pop out a cube to use as a spread, or pop out a few to use for pasta.

  • Don't mix in the cheese when you're making pesto for your freezer. I'd always read this but never knew why, and then finally found an explanation somewhere: the cheese will turn bitter in the freezer, changing the taste of your perfect pesto. Much better to mix your freshly grated Parm right into your thawed cubes.

*So far I've just been using my mature sweet basil plants. I'll report back on the pesto I eventually make with my pesto perpetua plant once it has some time to grow. I was too intrigued by the name to pass it up when I saw it!

**MiniPreps work too! It's what I've used for years... until the beautiful day when I go get my adult food processor, that is! Of course, you can really do it Italian grandmother style and not use any machinery whatsoever. But I make mayo by hand, so my conscience is clear about using a machine for pesto.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' Trifecta

I am a tired worker bee today, on deadline and recovering from a fun weekend. Also, I'm still rather tense from a train ride back to DC surrounded by the most annoying people in the world (yes, they were that bad). So in an attempt to propel myself out of something worse than a normal Monday funk, let's watch videos that make me feel like the world is a funny place where there are not screaming children and whining passengers and rude people and ineffective caregivers who make me want to throw my bag at them. Alrighty then.

A disclaimer: It is possible that no one will find this nearly as hilarious as I do. Likely, even. Here's how it happened: one night a couple of months ago, T and I found ourselves in complete stitches over a collection of videos that we watched repeatedly, for hours. (It was a slow night.) Then last week when T's sister was over, we found ourselves playing them again, for her. Repeatedly. And they were still as funny. So now, because you all have to sit by while I try to improve my mood, I've decided to share The 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' Trifecta, in the exact order that makes us cry with happiness over here in M&T land.

1. First up, we have William Shatner and Lin Yu Chun. It's worth noting that T has a huge man-crush on Shatner for his panache in general and his collection of impeccably-tailored suits in particular. No one delivers "Turn around, bright eyes!" quite like this man (or falsettoes quite like Chun).

2. Next up is The Dan Band, everyone's favorite family-friendly wedding singer, as seen in "Old School" and "The Hangover." This just kills me. The emotional intensity, the backup-singer sport coats... tremendous.

3. And last but certainly least, the original Bonnie Tyler video. This video is ... well... you just have to watch it for yourself. I dare you not to imagine Mary Kay Letourneau in the starring role. It actually gets more and more uncomfortable (which means AMAZING!) as the video progresses.

If I have improved anyone's Monday with this trifecta, my work here is done.

UPDATE: Something amazing just happened. Reader Man vs. George sent me this video, and it is genius. Genius! Please enjoy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday I'm in Love

Weekend! I personally feel like every weekend in the summer should be three days, don't you? We're off to Connecticut to hang out with T's family for the weekend, but before I go, three picks for the week:

Arrested Development: The Action Movie

Lest you think I'm a film snob who hates summer action flicks, please check out this re-imagining of Arrested Development... as an action film. Amazing! I love anything Bluth. (And fine, all I really want to see this summer is "The Kids Are All Right" and "I Am Love.")

Tovicorri iPad Case

I've decided that an iPad would be the perfect complement to my kitchen. I know, I know, this is kind of ridiculous. And I need this food processor first. BUT. Cooking with my laptop, where many of my recipes are, is a huge pain, not to mention not very good for my laptop. I worry about it and have to move it a lot and it gets in the way, or I have to keep stopping what I'm doing to walk to it in its safe place far from heat and splatters, etc. So I have it all figured out: a sleek iPad with every cooking link and app my heart desires, lightweight and limber and propped up on a cheap knockoff of this minimalist stand so that I can read easily. But outside of the kitchen, say on the train to Connecticut or hanging out at my local lunch spot, I will carry it in this Tovicorri iPad Case, which looks like me and is the opposite of the minimalist kitchen stand. And then all will be well in my consumer world. (After the additional acquisitions of the food processor, new patio furniture cushions, new living room chair, and new bedding, of course!)

The Crisis of Capitalism, in cartoons

In a natural segue from the egregious consumerism shown in my last entry... The Crisis of Capitalism! Whether or not you agree with this economist (or if you're not sure), this video is fascinating to watch for the rapid-fire cartoon interpretations of the lecturer's words. It's kind of like that UPS guy and his whiteboard, only ten times cooler. This video makes me feel rather skill-less, so be prepared for that if you also lack any sort of artistic talent. If you're feeling contentious or want more sides to his presentation, there are great debates about capitalism and Marxism in the comments of both the YouTube video and the blog post. Like my newfound appreciation for Van Gogh Espresso Vodka, this link is brought to you by my childhood pal Allie, who is a community banking rockstar when she's not pressuring me to consume mysterious liquor.

Happy, happy weekends, everyone!

Birthday giveaway WINNER!

I loved reading about your favorite places, everyone! Reading those comments this week has been like a little mini-vacation with each one. I traveled to beaches, to mountains, to backyards, to lakes, to cities, to countryside, and to everywhere in between. Thanks for the travel inspiration and for sharing these pieces of yourself with me, and also for the kind words about what you've enjoyed about The Freckled Citizen in its first year. Truly, I loved hosting this giveaway!

But alas, there can only be one winner, and the math peeps at told me the winner of The Freckled Citizen Birthday Bonanza was.....

(we actually had three Emilys enter... so it should be no surprise that one of you would win!)

I've gotten to know Emily through her personal blog and over at EADL, and I couldn't be more pleased that a fellow lover of cooking, local produce, and NPR would nab the prize. I loved learning about Emily's favorite place:

I have many favorite places, one of which is Lake Anna in Virginia. Nick took me there just one month after we met. (I later found out he told his buddies that weekend that I was the girl he would marry.) We go at least once every summer, and it's the quintessential place to unplug, grab a book and a beer, and enjoy nature. 

Congrats, Emily! (And happy birthday week yourself!) I'll be in touch about your prize!

Thanks so much for entering and playing along, everyone!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fruit or Bust

I'm not a baker. It's too scientific for me, too precise. I hate thinking about proportions, probably because I'm terrible at math. I also don't have a big sweet tooth. Friends come over for dinner and know to bring their own dessert. When I cook, I like doing so instinctually, making decisions based on flavor and ingredients. My food is savory and earthy, not so much pretty and sweet. I appreciate those who love creating pretty, sweet things, but I just don't really have the gene to make it happen for myself.

T feels the same way (which is admittedly quite nice). Neither of us love cake, for instance. We'll eat it and enjoy it, but we don't crave it, and that's an important distinction. At our wedding, we wanted a dessert that felt like us, that matched our own cravings. That's how we ended up with this:

Strawberry Shortbread Cakes with Fresh Berries

Our wedding dessert was delicious, and we loved that it felt like a natural extension of what we're about. It also brings home a seasonal distinction for me when it comes to sweets: In the summer, I do crave sweetness... fruity sweetness, that is.

Fruit and berries are everywhere right now. They're gorgeous and bright and ripe and just begging to be gobbled up. And so I've finally put a wedding gift pie plate to use, although not for pie. (I'm sure my pies would look terrible!) Instead, I've recently made two desserts that are inherently messy and rustic and not about perfection: a cobbler and a crisp. Behold, photos of desserts that are proudly un-pristine, and the recipes behind them: Blackberry Cobbler and Strawberry Peach Crisp.

Blackberry Cobbler
(from Martha)

My sister's to blame for this one. She made one at the beach and I couldn't stop thinking about it when we got home. Once I saw all the blackberries at the market, I was a goner. Oh how I love this berry. Cobblers are something I used to always make with my Grandma Jessie. Throw whatever fruit is ripe into a baking dish with a few ingredients, and voila ... my kinda baking.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream, for serving
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet or ovenproof baking dish, in the oven, 5 to 7 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, place blackberries in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash blackberries to release their juices. If blackberries are tart, sprinkle with sugar.
    4. In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1 cup sugar, milk, and vanilla extract; mix until well combined. Remove skillet from oven and add melted butter to flour mixture; stir to combine. Pour mixture into skillet and pour blackberries and their juices into the center.
    5. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the batter comes out clean, about 1 hour. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with whipped cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream.

    Strawberry and Peach Crisp

    I adore Amy from Playing House. So often I see Amy's baking and think, "Maybe someday." With her fruity baking, though, I think, "Maybe tonight!" This recipe rocks my world. (And if I'm ever attempting a real, adult cake, I'll trust Amy in a heartbeat.)

    • 3 cups strawberries, quartered
    • 3 cups peaches, sliced (about 2 large peaches)
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or apple pie spice
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon
    • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar (light or dark)
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits, plus some for the pan
    • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for juicy fruit
    • Dash salt
    1. Heat the oven to 400 F. Toss the fruit with half the cinnamon or apple pie spice, the lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar (and a tablespoon of flour if your fruit is juicy) and spread it in a lightly buttered 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan.
    2. Combine all the other ingredients, including the remaining cinnamon or apple pie spice and brown sugar, in a food processor and pulse a few times, then process a few seconds more, until everything is well incorporated but not uniform. To mix the ingredients by hand, soften the butter slightly, toss together the dry ingredients, then work in the butter with your fingertips, a pastry blender, or a fork).
    3. Crumble the topping over the fruit and bake until the topping is browned and the fruit is tender and bubbling, 30-40 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

    Psst... one more thing. One of my favorite things about making ugly, messy, fruity desserts? The obligatory vanilla ice cream!!!!

    One more day to enter the Freckled Citizen Birthday Giveaway... have you told us about your favorite place yet?

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

    All-time favorite crush Javier Bardem on Glee?!?! Life is good. Life on television next fall... very, very, very good.

    Seen on U Street last Saturday afternoon: Girl walking down the sidewalk wearing only a men's button-down and flip-flops. Ladies, if we're going to try and rock a "shirt dress" after forgetting pants, let's at least belt it and put on some heels, alright?

    My pal Allie introduced me to Van Gogh Espresso Vodka over the weekend, and I'm quite sure life will never be the same. Simply poured over ice, this stuff rocks my coffee-lovin' world, which is pretty terrifying when you consider that you are drinking straight vodka on the rocks.

    I'm not sure if it's because it's garlic harvesting season right now or what, but garlic cloves in the markets are huge. So when cooking, slow down, think about what you're doing, and half the amount you normally use for recipes. If not, you could face two full days of a metallic taste in your mouth after eating your normally delicious tzatziki. Ugh.

    It's summer and 102 degrees outside, and nothing says summer like shark attacks and beaches full of screaming tourists, right? The Biography Channel knows this, and its Jaws: The Inside Story is the most entertaining and compelling two hours of television I've seen in ages. Find it!

    Top Chef, I just don't care about you. I tried to like you this season because you're in DC, but I just.don' As soon as I feel like I'm watching something that more closely resembles a housewives trainwreck on Bravo or a "reality" dating show than I am a program about food, I'm out. (Note: I am not alone. Also, stop being such brand whores.)

    That's it from me today... Have you entered the Freckled Citizen Birthday Giveaway yet? Two more days until we have a winner!

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    Freckled Citizen Birthday Giveaway!

    One year ago this week, after years of blogging with friends or with a specific focus, I planted my flag at this address and started a little project of my own: The Freckled Citizen. I hoped it would become a catch-all for my weird and varied interests and be a little space that could grow in time, meandering all the while with my moods and inclinations. I've written about food and place and diversions and pretty things and big meaty life stuff and more... and you all have hung tight through all of it, so kudos to you! To celebrate turning one, I thought a big 'ol birthday present was in order... not for me, but for you!

    Allow me to present The Freckled Citizen Birthday Bonanza, a selection of some of my favorite finds, hand-picked just for you!

    The Freckled Citizen Birthday Bonanza
    • For your correspondence: a folk art floral card set from Dutch Door Press, one of my go-to sources for letterpress that feels fresh and pretty every time. 
    • For your kitchen: A "Buy Local, Eat Seasonal" tea towel calendar from Claudia Pearson, adorably illustrated and sure to inspire your seasonal cooking.
    • For your plants: A set of vintage silverware plant markers just like mine, from Monkeys Always Look.
    • For your mouth: Bertie County Sea Salt & Black Pepper Peanuts, my favorite down-home snack that I raved about here.
    • For your nose: An Out of The Kiln gingerbread candle from my favorite hometown shop, because they're as rustically gorgeous as they are delicious-smelling.
    • And for the room in your home just begging for the cutest pop of happy wool felt you've ever seen: A Love California State Pillow just like mine, only custom-designed by you. You pick the state, the color, and where the heart goes... you know, for the place that makes you the happiest.

    How to Win: 
    • Leave a comment that describes your favorite place and why it's so special to you.
    • If you're feeling generous, also let me know your favorite thing about The Freckled Citizen so that I can be sure to keep it up this year. And make sure an e-mail address is associated with your Blogger profile or included in the text of your comment so that I can reach you if you're the big winner.
    • I'll randomly select a winner this Friday, July 9 ... the actual birthday of the blog!
    • Good luck! I can't wait to read about everyone's favorite places.
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