Sunday, November 30, 2008

You. Us.

As promised, we want to ring in this gift-giving season with a little gift-giving of our own!

L and I wanted to give away something that you could only get from us...Love. But, it turns out people are giving that away by the gallons! Really, just by the buckets full!

So instead we made you these:

Handmade tags that we made with our hands.

I know, right?!

We took this stuff, which we had laying around the house...and the store:

...and made Gift Tags for your four most extravagant gifts. They are very fine. They don't involve a drop of hot glue (all hand sewn buttons), and L machine-sewed the fabric on the back...oh yeah, and there is fabric on the back!

I guess you could use them for what ever you'd like; we hung them up and thought they looked pretty good like this:

However, as with all extremely thoughtful and exorbitant gifts, only one person gets them. So here's what you do:

Post a comment.

Wait until Monday the 7th of December.

Watch the Drawing.

When your comment gets picked email us your address.

Wait a day or two...or four.

Receive our heartfelt, hand-forged, heavenly tags to pin on your shirt, or slap on a box, or donate to the Smithsonian. Ya know, Wah Eva.

Happy Christmas Everyone!


Oh Yeah, and there are a lot of new people reading 'cause Lisa listed our factual Thanksgiving post on this blog HERE. Well, let this be our welcome to you, all of you! Whether you're Strangers or Friends, Cousins or Cousins of Cousins, come often and get yourselves some tags out of it.

Now Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

...okay, or maybe something a bit, well, prettier.

Stay tuned, dear readers, for tomorrow is December 1st, and occasion for another giveaway here on Garden Street.

Too hard to wait? Here's a hint: this time, the gift is homemade, and perfect for gussying up those Christmas packages. Drop back by tomorrow for a chance to win!

{photo by rockinghelvetica}

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Faux Christmas Polaroids

Jordan at Oh Happy Day had this fantastic find on her blog a week or so ago, and I've been playing around with it ever since. It's a program that makes faux Polaroids of your digital photos. Here are a few shots of Christmas on Garden Street:Okay, yeah, it's faking it, but come on! It's so much fun to goof off with (and it provided the lovely new Christmas background for our blog). Plus, it has all kinds of terrific little quirks, like having very few features, taking a little while to develop, and only allowing you to upload 10 photos at a time (replicating the 10-shot film package of a traditional Polaroid). So go make some 70s-style memories already!


Friday, November 28, 2008


Today L and I got into a fight.

She said I had to have something other than Pumpkin Pie* for dinner.

I disagreed.

Now we're not talking.

But that's because I walked away and started blogging about the conversation that I walked away from.

Now she's looking at me out of the corner of her eye.


Oh. Wait. Here she comes.... Gotta go.


*The pie in question is the one pictured above...I made that. For reals.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just Me Giving Thanks

You guys,

I know that all Americans feel a certain amount of nostalgia when thinking about the first Thanksgiving:

The Pilgrims

and Indians,

The Turkey

and yams. The football,

and fighting.

The tense silence, and then the purchasing of land with bees.

No wait. I meant beads.

Every year, the same traditions passed down through generations, all commemorating those three fateful ships...

The Pita,

The Rita,

and the Santa Maria.

They first docked that moonlit night thousands of years ago, at that place so close to where we now live, that has its own special place in our hearts (out here), and that people who don't live out east can't know anything about. The magic of it, the majesty, the wonder of how three ships could make it down 5th Ave and find that first American resting place, 30 Rock.

Well, it was a miracle that's what. And isn't that what Thanksgiving's all about? Miracles?


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Words, words, words...

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Words. I think a lot about words: what they mean, why they mean those things, how those meanings shift from locale to locale, generation to generation, person to person. How is it that an arbitrary compilation of letters can come to represent not only the crude necessities of life (a furry, four-legged creature that goes "me-ow"? How about C-A-T?), but the ideas and concepts that give meaning and dimension to those lives: love, honor, faith, charity, kindness; brutality, hate, jealously, malice?

I am somewhat of a writer; I write scholarly essays, blog posts, and, occasionally, fiction. It is an eternal struggle to discover the most fitting vocabulary, the most effective word order to communicate the meaning I hope to convey. Words drip meaning, they ooze implications, and bleed significance. Words are never innocent; they are never never virgin. Words are always already marked, and they have power; words do things.

In The Real Thing, a play by British playwright and wordsmith Tom Stoppard, Henry (who is a stand-in for Stoppard himself) rhapsodizes about the power of words. He explains:
[Words are] precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good any more.... I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead.

One of my mom's favorite stories to tell about me is how she used to threaten me when I was younger: if I didn't get my chores done, I would be grounded from my books. Other parents out there may not understand; perhaps you would be happy if your children deigned to pick up a book, but my parents were more relived when I would put the book down and venture among the living.P and I sometimes discuss possible disabilities: would you rather lose the use of your legs or your arms? Wheelchair or crutches? And, most importantly, blind or deaf? P is a pretty spectacular musician, one who relies almost wholly on his ears. He, therefore, always opts for blindness. I, on the other hand, always opt for deafness. The thought of never again reading words with my eyes is almost unbearably sad to me. You see, I not only love the thought of words, their sinuous connotations and denotations, I also adore the way they look, those arbitrary lines and curves filling up a blank space with thought, faith, nuance.

For some, words are merely a method of communication. For me, however, words are friends, lovers, combatants -- they can simultaneously weigh me down and set me to flight.

This, of course, is also why I love libraries: vast depositories of words, a dizzying number of sentences. When I'm feeling particularly metaphysical, I like to imagine all the words that have ever been set to paper in the history of the world: an inventory of all human thought that has been inscribed. It gives me a little vertigo -- kind of like falling through space or trying to imagine the difference in size between an atom and the universe. I am a supernerd, but even now the thought of an old, beautiful library packed floor-to-ceiling with books gets me a little warm under the collar.

Hamlet, when he pretends to be crazy, mutters "words, words, words." This is the paradox of words: they are joyous and wondrous, yet troubling and maddening. Simultaneously neutral and freighted with meaning, one could spend an entire lifetime chasing them down, trying to arrange the right ones in the right order to call forth meaning out of nothingness.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Old New York.

I was at work yesterday and the big talk was snow. The store is getting set up for the Holidays (which you can't call Christmas, because there are lots of Holidays, but we are using an awful lot of pine trees for Kwanzaa.). Someone had heard on the news that it could snow in the morning.

So there we were setting up ornaments and singing,

'Fah who for-aze! Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Christmas Day'*

And outside it started snowing. On Fifth Avenue in New York City, it snowed. And we had been so busy we almost missed it. So me and my manager are sitting there clutching mittens and scarfs to our chests watching the first snow fall over this amazing back drop and one of the associates next to us said, 'Yeah, I saw that earlier...I thought it was trash falling.' Which can happen in New York and does look like snow.


*I had to look up the lyrics as I thought they were these:

"Ah Roo Door and Ah Roo more and Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day!"

What did you think they were?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Comfort Food

Beautiful Soup

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beauti--FUL SOUP!

~Lewis Carroll

I have to agree with Lewis Carroll's lilting praise on this one: on a damp autumn night, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a steaming tureen of beautiful soup. When we were younger, my mom would regularly make us grilled cheese sandwiches and cream of tomato soup; this meal remains one of my most basic comfort foods. Since then, P and I have adapted this formula slightly: vegetarian chili in place of the cream of tomato soup; pepperjack grilled cheese (I guess we just mostly Tex-Mexed the meal). I love soup and sandwich nights.

A couple of weeks ago, P came home from his fancy store with this book:

It is filled with mouth-watering soups suited to the fresh ingredients available in each of the four seasons. We, of course, have been enjoying the book's suggested Fall fare, and, boy, is it delicious! Our favorite so far is a terrific adult spin on my old grilled cheese and tomato soup combo: Fabulous Fall Root Soup and Grilled Gorgonzola and Apple on Sourdough. The recipes are both scrumptious and simple: two words I like very much.

Fabulous Fall Roots Soup
Makes 8 servings

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only ( 3 to 4 medium leeks)
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium rutabaga (1 to 1 1/4 pounds), peeled and diced
8 cups chicken stock (we used vegetable stock)
Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups crème fraîche
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Heat butter in a large, heavy pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat. When melted and hot, add leeks, carrots, and rutabaga. Sauté vegetables until softened, for 10 minutes or longer. Add stock and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, for about 30 minutes.

2. Purée the soup in batches in a food processor or blender and return the soup to the pot. Whisk in 3/4 cup of the crème fraîche. Taste soup and season with salt, as neede. (The soup can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.)

3. To serve, ladle soup into shallow soup bowls. Garnish each serving with a generous dollop of the remaining 1/2 cup
crème fraîche and a sprinkling of parsley.

Grilled Gorgonzola and Apple on Sourdough

Makes 4 servings

1/2 Granny Smith apple, cored but unpeeled, very thinly sliced and tossed in 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
8 crusty sourdough bread slices (3/8- to 1/2-inch thick)
8 ounces creamy blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola, Fourme d'Ambert, or Bleu d'Auvergne, thickly sliced.
4 tablespoons chopped pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more if needed

Layer one slice of cheese on bread; top with pecans. Gently press pecans into cheese. Place apple slices on top of cheese and pecans, then top with second slice of bread. Brush both sides of bread with melted butter and grill until browned on both sides.

So enjoy some fancy fall comfort food -- and let us know what your favorite soup/sandwich combo is!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


So there are times when your life changes forever after that moment. This story is about one of those.

My best friend Cory and my best friend Joanie had decided to take an 4 hour drive down to the red rocks of Utah and hike 12 miles off the the desert... and camp in a place called Escalante.

One quick search on the Internet for images of 'Escalante' will give you a ton of shots like the above.

And below:

Beautiful, I know. But I should begin by telling any whack job stranger reading this blog that I am not known for my "Camping Skills." It's true I am an Eagle Scout, but an overzealous scout master/scout master's wife, enough 'Fine Arts' merit badges, and one puppet show at a children's hospital and you find yourself with all the awards and none of the qualifications.

Any of you who know me are already skipping to the end...where I will most certainly be crying. This story will not disappoint.

SO! We make the drive and all Cory talks about is this basketball tournament (the NBA Playoffs) and all Joanie is talking about is her new hot boyfriend (my brother) who stayed behind, most likely to watch the tournament.

We park the car. This is important, as this parking lot will soon become the golden-gated deliverance from Hell. But not then. Then I was thinking how far away this lot seemed from everything. I had been expecting big, red, rock canyons, but this was flat desert.

Cory set out the plan. Cory had the experience. Cory had done this before. Cory should have known better.

"We'll walk along the river and then hike through the canyon, then up and camp under this cliff next to the river." He stated.

"What river?" I asked.

"That one." He pointed to a wet spot in the ground. No joke. It looked liked someone had spilled something in a straight line.

"What canyon?" I asked.

"That one." He pointed to the only thing he could point to, which was this fuzzy, purplish shape on the horizon.

"That!!! That has to be 30 miles away!"

"It's ten."

So we're walking. Keep in mind, Joanie and I had spent the day before at Nordstrom's picking out some real cute hiking shoes for the journey, and Joanie had got these hot little Doc Martins with chunky laces that looked great with the green cargo shorts she got to match. In time, these shoes would be filled with blood.

We walked and talked for a while; then, we just walked. The ground was beach sand (or, ya know, Desert Sand), so as you walked on it your feet would kinda push out and away from the ankle, something I think you would only notice if you were walking 8 miles in and your ankles begin to feel like taffy on the taffy pull, but it's freezing in the taffy pull, so it keeps stretching and snapping. You know, like that.

We do make it to the rocks (our first land mark), and the rocks turn into a canyon and the dark patch of water does turn into a stream and the canyon turns into a mountain and the stream into a river and the whole thing is beautiful -- I mean, better than the pictures. It was magic, it came from nowhere in the middle of nowhere and we were there. Well... almost there. We had to stop and fill up our water bottles at this little waterfall...which is to say, water dripping of this mossy rock. I was not too keen on this task but, as there didn't seem to be a Sev anywhere near by, I did what I had to do.

We make it to our cliff and camp next to the river, and the sky is littered with stars and the moon makes it bright as day out there. It is magnificent and well worth the journeying.

And we sleep.

The next day, we spend the morning eating some of the canned food we packed in (cause cans are light and won't snap your back as you walk through the desert) and we play in the river and it is fun. The plan was to spend one day hiking in, camp there for two days, and then spend one day hiking out. That was the plan before my nap. That cursed nap. Had I just stayed awake.

I woke up to the sound of cans being stuffed into backpacks.

"What's going on?"

"We're leaving." Cory says. "I want to see how the Playoffs played out and Joanie wants to get back to Spence."

"Wait. What? We just got here. I just took a nap."

"If we leave now, we can make it back to the car before dark."

"It's, like, noon."

"Yeah, grab your stuff."

{I don't mean to make Cory out to sound like a Nazi but in this case he was. A Nazi from Hell.}

So, we begin to walk back (our backpacks still brimming with the four-day supply of food we never got to). So, here's the math for you: 12 miles in. 12 miles out. Less than 12 hours rest between the two. TWENTY-FOUR MILES of taffy-snapping steps back to the 4 hour car ride back to basketball and boyfriends. It's a wonder I speak to either of them.

We make our stop at Moss Rock and I don't fill all the way up...'cause there are floaties.

I know that I built this up to have some big event, and I wish there would have been. I wish I had stepped on a snake and had to have been helicoptered out of that inferno but there was not.

We walked.

We walked.

Cory eventually broke way out in front and we lost sight of him. Sometimes we would catch up to him resting but then we would rest and he would leave and we would eventually follow his footprints. I guess he loves basketball.

Joanie finally stopped walking with me and stayed pretty much 50 feet ahead, which didn't matter, we could not talk. One: we were dying. Two: it was her fault. I can still remember watching each little hill come and go and we would stand on top each one and look for the parking lot, squinting and straining to see it and absolutely knowing at the next hill we would see it.

Once, I looked up to see Joanie on the hill in front of me and she was standing there, not moving. When I got up to her, she was looking out over the trail that led us here, with no car in sight and she was sobbing. And so I cried. And we stood there crying, knowing that we couldn't sit down and cry or we wouldn't get up; we truly believed we would not get up.

The water was gone and there was nothing. I remember thinking I would never EVER drink anything other than water for the rest of my life. The idea of Coke made my tongue plunge down the back of my throat. I could feel Coke sticking to my teeth, the sweet sickness clinging to the roof of my mouth that was panting for relief. I was dying. I was dying and the only thing I wanted was clean, cool, water.

Some hikers are coming toward me. Play it cool, man. Don't let them see you've been crying.

The looks on their faces were so encouraging. "We just left the car mile back, maybe two. " They must have sensed my discouragement. Either that or they just passed a sobbing girl in her Doc Martins 50 feet ahead of me. Certainly the mud on my face made from the mixture of dust and tears was no indication. " You can do it, Man, just a little bit more."

We walked.

I could feel my body and mind separate as if my brain said, "Look, just put one foot in front of the other. You don't need me for that, I'll be over here if you do."

I looked up and saw Joanie at a hill 50 feet a head and she collapsed. She was either dead or she saw the car.

When we got to the car, we saw legs sticking out from underneath. Cory did not have the keys. It was Joanie's car and it's a good thing, as he may have left us in his mad quest for Scores. He told us that he had felt miserable for making us do what we had done, and he had wanted to get to the car, dump off his backpack and come back for ours -- as if anyone who just finished this journey would have turned around and started it up again.

Joanie sat in the car with her feet out on the ground and pealed off her boots and, as promised, blood dripped out. Her feet looked like chewed up hamburger with blisters that had popped and reformed and popped again.

I remember laying flat in the back seat as we drove, my legs pounding and seizing up when we pulled into a gas station.

"You coming in?" Cory asked.

"Choke on your own face."

"Do you want anything?"

Brief Pause.


Even now when we're at a restaurant and the waiter asks, even though I know he will judge me, I remember this moment and mouth gets quenched, my legs tighten up and I say the same thing.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Things to be thankful for: Young at Heart

So, as you probably have noticed, we've been making a real effort to blog more often, and we're going to try to tie our posts to the season or time of year -- sort of like a list of things we like to do, see, buy, and think about, depending on the time of year.

Well, November, of course, is a month of being thankful, and so I'd like to recommend this fantastic film to help you feel more grateful for all the things you have: love, health, energy, emotion, devotion, belief, happiness... the list could go on and on.

The documentary Young at Heart follows a choir of octa- and nonagenarians as the learn and perform particularly meaningful and poignant rock songs (think Sonic Youth, Coldplay, and James Brown). We watched the film because we like documentaries; by the end of it, we were in tears. It was so joyous, moving, and tender. You must, must check it out, and be reminded of how thankful you are for all those you love, and those that love you.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Away for the Weekend

Dear readers,

We are abandoning our metropolis for another this weekend, as we load up the car with the Balsers and head up to Boston for a few days. Forgive us for the absence, but we'll be back and in rare November form on Monday!

Because we are still in the afterglow of a history-changing election*, enjoy this excerpt from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass:


If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara-nor you, ye limitless prairies-nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite-nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyserloops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones-nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes-nor Mississippi's stream:
-This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name-the still small voice vibrating-
America's choosing day,(The heart of it not in the chosen-the act itself the main, the quadrennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd-sea-board and inland-Texas to Maine-the Prairie States-Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West-the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling-(a swordless conflict,Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity-welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
-Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify-while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

When I voted on Tuesday (my third time voting for the President of the United States), it was the first time I felt like my voting actually mattered, like I was fulfilling the destiny our forefathers fought for: a democratic society based on hope for a better, more equitable future. I was proud; I felt patriotic. It is a day I will tell my children about.

*I know our last post was large on emotion, so if want to hear all of the dry policy reasons we voted for Obama, feel free to drop us a line and we'll tell you entirely too much about the painstakingly thought-out details of our decision. Way too much.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Remember When You Wondered, 'Can We?'

As we watch the TV,

Lindsay looks over at me with tears in her eyes and says,

'Our children will never know a world where a Black person can't be President.'

'Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.'
Barack Obama

'If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists - to protect them and to promote their common welfare - all else is lost.'
Barack Obama

Americans…still believe in an America where anything's possible -- they just don't think their leaders do.
Barack Obama

Hope – Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.
Barack Obama

If we aren't willing to pay a price for our values, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.
Barack Obama

The fact that my 15 minutes of fame has extended a little longer than 15 minutes is somewhat surprising to me and completely baffling to my wife.
Barack Obama

My wife has been my closest friend, my closest advisor. And ... she’s not somebody who looks to the limelight, or even is wild about me being in politics. And that’s a good reality check on me. When I go home, she wants me to be a good father and a good husband. And everything else is secondary to that.
Barack Obama

Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it's not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won't, it's whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.
Barack Obama

Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video

Monday, November 03, 2008

So, Today Is YOUR Day!!

Get up! Get up and VOTE! Even if you vote wrong... get up and VOTE! So EXCITING! And you get to say what you want, or at least pick someone. It really is an amazing thing to get to VOTE your VOTE. 'Cause really, who cares what you think? I mean, there are loads of people in the world that no one cares what they think. And here we are, in the finest country in the world, and someone cares what you think. YOU! Little Ol' YOU! What gives you the right to think you know what's best for you and your family? Who do you think you are? You are AMERICAN, so VOTE ABOUT IT!

Now, on to our awesome footage.

So on Halloween, we were at the Parade, right? and we came upon these guys:

As you can imagine, things got pretty heated, pretty quick. It was all I could do to jump in and catch this footage:

Anyway... I'm just saying.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Hallows' Eve

So, wha'd you do for Halloween?


We did this...

Which individually looked like this...

{Mr. Dark}

And this...

{Mademoiselle Lumiere}

We went into the city and went to the big Halloween Parade, which you may think would have looked like this...

But ended up looking more like this...

{Can you find Lindsay?}

We encountered these guys...

And them...

And her...

It was enchanting. We saw many wonderful and horrible things, too many to picture here...but here goes.