August in New York, Minus the Humidity

The view from our home for two weeks.

Instead of crickets, horns. Instead of late-night revelers around a fire, late-night stumblers struggling to turn their key and escape into their box in the sky. Instead of hikes through lush woods or up mountains, walks on pavement through a canopy of skyscrapers. But the food and the friendships are so much easier to source here. After two weeks in Manhattan, I grew weary of the city life and was eager to spend much of September hiking through the early fall leaves of the Green Mountains. But I enjoyed every minute of being there (minus those ten minutes mistakenly walking through Times Square that I can’t get back), especially those spent with wonderful and dear friends. That those times were spent over delicious foods that are harder to find in other parts of this beautiful country made it even sweeter. I only had a few points on my agenda before we arrived – see several friends that I haven’t spent time with for way too long, visit the 9-11 Memorial, explore the High Line, listen to my favorite band in Central Park, and eat lots of ethnic food. Before long, our agenda filled up with all of that plus five live music shows in as many days, lots of time wandering the neighborhoods south of mid-town, watching the little guy get braver on the nearby playground, taking the boy on a boat, and using the gym like a normal person with a home and a routine.

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Van’s favorite playground in the city – Madison Square Park

As our two weeks drew to a close, I penned a few words of advice for those visiting Manhattan:

  • Unless you’ve never been to Times Square before, skip it.  I’m not a city person, but I absolutely love New York City.  However, if all of the city was like the area around Times Square and Rockefeller Center, it would be one of my least favorite places in the world.  Yuck!  It’s worth seeing once (maybe – it’s debatable), but make it a quick trip and then start exploring the rest of this city.  It can take lifetimes.
  • Whatever you do, don’t skip the High Line – it’s magical.  I spent much of my pregnancy taking long walks through Central Park to get my nature fix, but I really should have been up on the High Line.  The beautiful (and distinctly not city) smells are reason enough to spend an afternoon.
  •  If you visit the 9-11 Memorial, don’t skip a visit to St. Paul’s Chapel.  I’ve been half a dozen times in the last ten years and it never fails to make me cry.  It is a personal and beautiful testament to the best in people.
  •  Spend time in the city’s living rooms (and dining rooms, but hopefully not bathrooms) by enjoying at least one full day in one or more of the city’s great parks.  Central Park is an obvious choice, but there are so many.  I made my first trip out to Governor’s Island on this visit and can’t recommend it enough.  Especially with kids.  We took an early boat out (the first couple of boats out are free!) and spent several hours exploring with my dad before Van was beyond ready for a long nap.
  • Eat, eat, eat!  But not boring food.  Eat the kinds of food that are harder to find elsewhere.  Eat the kinds of food that satiate you and your sense of adventure.  After checking out many different eats around the city during our visit, Van proclaimed Korean food to be his favorite.  And I will admit, that was an amazing meal.  Thanks, Dad!
  • Put on your walking shoes and just wander.  I could write this advice for just about anywhere, but I think it’s particularly applicable to such a walkable and large city.  There is no better way to experience the city (other than living there) than walking through its various neighborhoods.  Though we didn’t conquer any epic walks (Alan’s longest pre-kid NYC walk in one day was about sixteen miles), we bypassed public transport a number of times and walked many, many miles to explore neighborhoods we hadn’t seen in a while.
Grandpa and Van enjoying a car-free Park Avenue for a day of strolling.

Grandpa and Van enjoying a car-free Park Avenue for a day of strolling.

I must mention that we lucked out when it came to the weather.  I wouldn’t normally recommend that a NYC visitor plan a trip in the middle of August, but I really wanted to spend some time there before we settle somewhere new and the timing worked well for us.  I could not believe how amazing the weather was – seventies with low humidity.  Where was I again?  It was bliss!

One more shot of the view - I can't resist!

One more shot of the view from the balcony – I can’t resist!

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Book Review: The Nourished Kitchen

Although the past nine months have been radically different from the nine months before, we are now approaching the official 18 month mark for our nomadic lifestyle.  Friends often ask what the most difficult part of traveling like this has been.  The answer is easy – food and friends.  Sourcing and cooking good and healthful food while traveling (especially camping) is much harder than when you have a home.  Thankfully, the past nine months of slow travel (staying in one place for a couple of weeks to a month or more) has made the food situation somewhat better, but still not ideal.  Not seeing friends regularly is by far the most difficult part of traveling.  Though we’ve been fortunate to see many friends through our journey, we typically see them for a day or few and then move on.  It has been amazing to see friends in far-flung corners of the country who I don’t see regularly, but I’d love to have a friend or two that I can see each week or couple of weeks.  Our time in Western Mass was amazing for that reason.  This will be one of the things I’ll most appreciate when we settle down somewhere.

To improve our eating habits while traveling, I picked up The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther through my affiliation with Blogging for Books.  It is subtitled “Farm-to-Table recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle.”  Perfect, I thought!  And it is truly a beautiful book.  The photography, layout, fonts, all of it, make this a book you just want to curl up with.  From that perspective, it is a fantastic book.  But, since I wanted this book for the recipes, I quickly decided to put it to the test.  Unfortunately, the recipes, though good, did not live up to the beauty of the pages.

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The book is divided into eight sections: from the garden; from the pasture; from the range; from the waters; from the fields; from the wild; from the orchard; and from the larder.  The recipes range from the simple – delicious looking salads and dressings – to the adventurous – stewed beef heart with root vegetables and porcini mushrooms looks particularly interesting.  I may have to try the chicken foot broth after Van gobbled down chicken feet a few weeks ago when enjoying Chinatown dim sum with our friend, Gina. Given Van’s broad palate, there’s not much in here that he would turn his nose up at, but it’s not for those with a more restrictive palate.

I’ve given it a good go, making six of the recipes in the book with easier to source ingredients (be aware if you buy this book, some of the recipes look great, but call for harder to find ingredients).  This evening my family enjoyed the cider-brined slow-roasted chicken, which probably came out the best of the set.  My problem was less with the end results, but more with the actual recipes themselves.  I’ve come across several glaring mistakes.  For example, the caption under a recipe photo mentions as a main ingredient, something that is not in the recipe.  If it were only one typo, I wouldn’t even mention it.  But for a book of this caliber, I wouldn’t have expected repeated errors.  I’ve also noticed that several of the recipes leave out steps; I’m assuming under the assumption that they’re obvious and do not need to be stated.  However, to a novice chef, this will only cause confusion and a less than complete meal.

That being said, I’m still very happy to have this book in my library given the breadth of recipes that, though traditional, are hardly traditional in today’s society (stinging nettle soup with cream, anyone?).  I look forward to trying many of the recipes while we travel, and some of the more complicated recipes once we have a home.  I’m definitely excited to try my hand at making kombucha.  While camping, my treat to myself (when I could find it) was lavender kombucha.  An acquired taste for some, but I think it is absolutely divine.  It will be fun to experiment with the aid of this book and a proper kitchen.

If this beautiful, interesting, but less than perfect book sounds like it may be up your alley, you can check out a few excerpts here.  If you want to find out more about the author and her take on food, check out her blog, Nourished Kitchen.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.