Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Ever since we cancelled our cable and switched over to Netflix, Peter and I have been documentary-watching machines. I highly recommend:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I too have come home in a bad mood

Not a G&T, obviously, but still delish
I tend to come from work extremely grouchy. People who don't me well are always surprised when they first see this wrath, because I have a very sweet and well, normal attitude most of the time.

But commuting gets the best of me. I come home and violently throw tupperware into the sink, and slam the closet door after taking off my shoes, and get so fired up my whole body starts to itch. It's not long before I say, "We are MOVING!!! To the middle of nowhere!"
Luckily, Peter is usually there to hand off a gin and tonic before running for cover. I think he and George Bilgere's wife would have a lot to talk about.

George Bilgere

When Odysseus finally does get home
he is understandably upset about the suitors,
who have been mooching off his wife for twenty years,
drinking his wine, eating his mutton, etc.

In a similar situation today he would seek legal counsel.
But those were different times. With the help
of his son Telemachus he slaughters roughly
one hundred and ten suitors
and quite a number of young ladies,
although in view of their behavior
I use the term loosely. Rivers of blood
course across the palace floor.

I too have come home in a bad mood.
Yesterday, for instance, after the department meeting,
when I ended up losing my choice parking spot
behind the library to the new provost.

I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
in this particular way I have perfected over the years
that lets my wife understand
the contempt I have for my enemies,
which is prodigious. And then with great skill
she built a gin and tonic
that would have pleased the very gods,
and with epic patience she listened
as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
to so-and-so, and also to what's-his-name.
And then there was another gin and tonic
and presently my wrath abated and was forgotten,
and peace came to reign once more
in the great halls and courtyards of my house.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dining room re-do

I love this dining room from Design Sponge. I have a table just like it on the way (a fantastic hand me down from my mom) and also a darling hutch. I'm still trying to decide about chairs -- maybe these? I'm not a big online shopper, so it makes me a little nervous to purchase sight unseen.

Last week I had this piece delivered, and now it's waiting patiently in my dining room for its other friends to join. I can't wait to see it all come together.

Now I just need a fun turquoise lamp!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Girl with balloons

I finally saw The September Issue this week. Old news, I know, but it was on my Netflix stream. I loved Grace Coddington's 1920's shoot -- this is my favorite picture from it. Now that is a fabulous winter coat!

We're heading out of town this afternoon to attend my father-in-law's wedding. Peter's giving a reading at the ceremony, and is wearing his wedding suit! I'm excited to see him in it again.

Wishing you a very happy autumn weekend!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Big eats

In the car on the way home, my family tried to recall everything we ate at the Big E. The massive list included:
  • Tempura mushrooms with horseradish dip
  • Giant dill pickle
  • Smoked salmon on a stick
  • Chocolate covered bacon
  • Giant baked potatoes
  • Bacon cheeseburger with honey glazed donut for bun (!!!)
  • Frozen chocolate covered banana
  • Deep fried cheesecake
  • Pork chop sandwich
  • Apple pie with cheddar cheese
  • Maple kettle corn popcorn

Lest you faint from the calorie consumption, bear in mind that there were six of us, and we mostly got one order of something and all had a bite. Still, kind of intense.

I also rode the ferris wheel, played skee ball, went on the giant swings and saw the smallest horse in the world (pictured above!). Everytime my sister touched the horse, it got an electric shock and would quiver all over. So funny.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I've been kind of passively looking for a winter coat these past few weeks. I say passively because I really only looked for about three minutes at the TJ Maxx in Pittsfield on my way to their home section. Cold weather clothes are so depressing. Brown, black, grey, repeat.

And I feel like winter coats are a big committment. You wear it every day for four months!

I really love this coat, though. It's called the Pollyanna. Could it be any cuter? You can remove the faux fur if that's not your thing, but lucky for me it IS my thing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Line by Line

Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art. © 2010 William Kentridge.

Ever since I read A Whole New Mind, I've been thinking a lot about drawing. Have you read this? I loved it.

In one section, the author goes to drawing school and is convinced by experts that drawing and sketching is a really natural, human form of expression. I'm drawn to this idea because I've never been much of an artist, but maybe there is a drawing type of person inside of me and I just don't know?

I'm so excited about this new Line by Line series from the New York Times! Sounds cool, right?!

Happy Friday to you! I'm heading up to Connecticut to eat everything in sight at the Big E!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Easy day trips from NYC

Peter and I haven't been in New York City for a full weekend since before our wedding. In the fall, we tend to stay in the city more, making it perfect for closeby day trips. Here are few on my list:

1. Greenbelt for a fun day of hiking (on Staten Island, I know, but I've heard good things!)
2. Drive out to Long Island's North Fork to visit some wineries and have a fun lunch.
3. Rent bikes on Governor's Island.
4. Take the ferry to Sandhook and spend a warm day at the beach.
5. Pack a picnic and head up to the Cloisters. This one is still in NYC, but it's far off the beaten path!

What are your favorite things to do near New York this time of year?

Monday, September 13, 2010

What to put in your risotto

Fall weather means it's cool enough to add risotto to the weekly rotation again. We eat a lot of risotto in this house. Here are a few flavor combinations to get you going!

1. Yellow squash + zucchini + fresh basil
2. Sausages + fennel
3. Basil + parsley + thyme + rosemary
4. Bacon + corn
5. Butternut squash + saffron
6. Swiss chard + butter beans
7. Ham + broccoli
8. Broccoli rabe + steak + tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar
9. Bok choy + shitake mushrooms
10. Lemon + thyme
11. Mussels + porchini mushrooms
12. Shrimp + asparagus
13. Apple + cinnamon + chicken sausage
14. Chicken + peas
15. Leeks + radishes
16. Beets + spinach
17. Figs + carmelized onions
18. Arugula + roasted red peppers
19. Kale + pine nuts
20. Artichokes + scallops + olives
21. Cauliflower + toasted bread crumbs
22. Sweet potato + walnuts
23. Mint + corn
24. Pumpkin + gorgonzola
25. Turkey + sage
26. Small white beans + tuna
27. Crispy prosiutto + pesto

What do you put in your risotto?! I'll add it the tally!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cutting the cable cord, Part 2

Ed. note: a special post from Peter on our nearly never ending saga to ditch our cable!

I thought the airwaves were free?

I have been trying to get our TV to show the free broadcast channels -- not as easy as it used to be. Without an antenna, our “fancy” TV does not receive any channels! I bought three different TV antennas that were supposed to receive HD signals from the broadcast networks before settling on one that the guy at Best Buy said works so well that no one had ever returned. That seemed like a bold statement and I went with it. The “Clearstream Micron” made by Antennas Direct does work better than either of the RCA products I tried, and now we get CBS, Fox, ABC, PBS, and about six versions of Telemundo and Univision.

My main motivation for getting the Antenna working is sports. Were it not for the sports problem, I feel like many people would cancel their cable. Now, I can watch football on Sundays and the baseball playoffs in October on the TV in HD, without cable. Girls, this is a big deal to us!

Something Else That Works!

One of the big reasons we didn’t go back to Playon (in addition to the fact that Netflix works so great from our Wii while Playon works so poorly) is that all of those videos are already available online. It just seemed easier to connect the computer to the TV instead. During one of those trips to Best Buy for antennas, I got the cables I needed: an S-Video cable, and a sound cable that plugs into my computer’s headphone jack and into the TV. That’s it! Now our TV works as a giant monitor, and when we watch something on Hulu it looks just like we are watching it on a standard definition television. Victory!

So two months after cancelling our cable, we are going to stick with it. It hasn't led to less TV watching. But it has made us more deliberate TV watchers. We don’t have it on as background noise anymore (no more random episodes of House Hunters, sadly). But I’ll take that trade off for $1,000 a year.

General tips to watch things online:
  • iTunes - We have been going to iTunes to watch this season of Mad Men. If you have a fast computer, this should work fine. $1.99 an episode is a lot cheaper than cable.

  • Google – Google is supposed to be launching GoogleTV this fall. I’m not sure what it is, but I think it might make all of this moot. In the meantime, I have had success googling “watch top chef online.” This takes me to many (foreign, I think) sites that are hosting episodes of any show you can think of.
  • CBS – I was surprised to discover a lot of awesome shows hiding on Our favorite right now is Twin Peaks. You can watch the entire series on for free! (Ed. note: watch it! Then we can talk about it!).

  • Hulu – Works great, but I'm disappointed with the number of episodes it's hosting. We watch Top Chef on Hulu, but this week Bravo decided to stop sharing new episodes and posted web exclusives instead. So we found out that the annoying girl was kicked off before seeing the episode! (It actually didn’t ruin the episode for us; we loved watching it knowing that the annoying girl was going to leave). The limited episode problem is probably a preview of life during HuluPlus, a new service they are planning to offer. I’ve read that for $9.99 a month, you will have access to the complete archive of every show on there. If that turns out to be true, I will be back.

  • MTV – They are nice enough to have every episode of Jersey Shore for free on their website.

  • ESPN – I can basically watch everything on Sports Center by watching the videos on their website. is dedicated to showing every sporting event that ESPN has the rights to show, for free, live. Until this morning, it was not available to Time Warner subscribers, but now it is!

That concludes our cable adventures (for now!). Anyone have any tips of their own to share?!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Late summer Italian

Each year, I like to make a special end of summer vacation/back to school dinner. I sent Peter a few menu options earlier this week, and this what he chose:

Late summer Italian

I think a lot about creating rituals in our lives, and this is a special one to me. I tend to get sad at the end of summer -- no more fabulous Lilly dresses or nights at Tanglewood or fireworks. But in a strange, little way, this dinner helps me remember that entering into autumn can be lovely, too.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Swedish mysteries

Did you fall in love with Lisbeth Salander and Michael Blomkvist this summer? I did! And now I'm dreaming of a long vacation in a fabulous cabin in Sweden (where I will obviously stumble across a deep, dark mystery that must be solved!) It will have to wait until next summer at the earliest, so for now I'll have to settle for more Swedish mysteries.

This collection by Henning Mankell is fantastic. And if you're craving more, there are a dozen others that follow dreamy detective Kurt Wallander!

More recommendations found here!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Berkshires by Shabby Apple

Love, love, love this idea: Shabby Apple has a Fall collection out inspired by the Berkshires! Super cute, right?

This brown and white one is called the "Tanglewood." I have two weddings to attend this fall...wouldn't it be fun to wear that?!

I'll probably skip the horn hairdo, though.

Cutting the cable cord, Part 1

Ed. note: A very special guest post from Peter on our nearly never-ending saga to ditch cable!

Like any good teacher, I have kept myself busy for the last two months. I got married and went on an amazing trip. I played a lot of golf, and I thought about how to incorporate the True Story of the Three Little Pigs into a ninth grade history classroom. But mostly I have been researching and experimenting with how to watch TV without being a cable subscriber.

Earlier this year, our cable and internet bill started to creep up towards $140 a month. I never thought of Julie and me as serious TV watchers, in fact, we only watch a handful of shows. $1,680 a year seemed like far too much to pay for internet and a handful of shows. Think of all the DVDs we could buy for that much money! So on the day we drove up to the Berkshires to get our marriage license, we stopped at our local Time Warner Cable office and cancelled our cable (but kept the internet). The Time Warner office was a visual reminder of everything we hate about the company: posters for shows and movies we will never watch, long lines, crabby employees, and racist old men. Seriously. Good Riddance.

It felt wonderful.

New Solutions

Once we got home in August, I started to research new solutions. The first product I found was Playon. Playon is software that runs in the background of your computer, and uses your home network to run a browser on the Wii, Xbox360, or Playstation 3. We have a Wii, and they were offering a two week free trial. Once installed, the Playon home screen on the Wii looks a bit like an iphone: there are several buttons for different apps that have already been installed, including a Hulu app. It allows you to search for everything currently on There are similar apps for,, Netflix,,, and the indispensable

In theory, Playon is great, and I think the future of TV will look something like this, with the user subscribing to specific channels they want. In practice, it works just well enough to be extremely frustrating. My computer is old, and while it meets Playon’s minimum requirements, it uses most of the computer’s power to do it. I frequently had to restart because the software was making everything run slowly, causing the video to get choppy.

But the main problem is that many of the channels, like CBS and Hulu, just don’t work consistently. Often, a show stops working halfway through. This is annoying and time consuming since there is no fast forward when you have to start over. Playon has been furiously developing new versions and each one seems to be one step forward and two steps back. We found ourselves watching the same shows on my computer monitor and gave up trying to watch them on the TV. When the two week trial ended, we decided not to pay the $40 a year subscription fee.

Sorry Playon, the world just isn’t ready for you yet.

Something that works!

Near the end of our time with Playon, we subscribed to Netflix. I had been a Netflix member years ago, but cancelled it because I wasn’t using it enough. But with Netflix streaming now available on the Wii (have I mentioned we have a Wii?), we decided to try it.

It works wonderfully. The picture quality seems to be just as good as DVD (maybe better?), and there is no lag. Unlike Playon, if you need to stop a movie to finish the next day, it lets you restart where you left off. For $9 a month, we get one real Netflix disk at a time and unlimited streaming. The listings for what we can watch streaming are somewhat limited, but it seems like the list of available movies and TV shows will continue to grow.

Although the Netflix streaming catalogue is far from complete, that is mostly due to contractual issues with major studios. That means that the streaming catalogue is filled with independent movies, documentaries, and stand-up comedy specials.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of cutting the cable cord later this week!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

iPod updates

Are you getting out of town tomorrow? Everyone needs a last summer hurrah. Here are few fun things to listen to while you're on your way:
  • Rewind: A new (to me) podcast from CBC -- thanks, Martha!
  • Live Concerts from All Songs Considered: Definitely check out the ones from the Newport Folk Festival. I want to go to that so badly!
  • Spilled Milk: Once I got over the fact that Molly Orangette's voice in real life is completely different from the Molly Orangette voice in my head, I was set.

  • Sound Opinions: My favorites are when the Rock Doctors are called in to diagnose your musical ailments. It really boosts my confidence when it comes to my own musical taste because, least I don't come home and watch Phish concerts on YouTube for three hours every night!

Do you have any fun new podcast discoveries to share?!

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