Tuesday, August 17, 2010

These trees shall be my books. Literally.

I have nothing to say today, so here's more from Sonnenberg. I stopped to look at this weeping beech the other day, and saw that some people had carved their initials in it. And I thought, oh, how charmingly old-fashioned. Then I looked closer and realized the number of carvings sort of bordered on vandalism. Is that unromantic of me? Maybe so. But at a certain point, this just isn't good for the tree. The bark is not your canvas, sweethearts! It reminds me of that part in As You Like It when Rosalind reads aloud the poems that Orlando has been writing about her and posting on trees, and they're absolutely terrible, and Touchstone says, "Truly, the tree yields bad fruit." Once in a while Shakespeare makes a joke that I don't need the OED to understand.

All that having been said, whoever did this last one gets points for climbing. Or having go-go-gadget arms.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In Which Simon Makes a Terrible Error at the Grocery Store

Sometimes you're really preoccupied with finishing your great work of American fiction (snort), and all you want is to remain alive until you're done. So, when it comes to food, you just eat whatever's around until you have nothing left but your own arms and legs.

If you really, really cannot do without every last one of your limbs, you go to the store and wander around for ten minutes throwing things into your cart willy-nilly (sweet corn? yes! applesauce? sure! strawberry jam? why not!) disregarding whether or not they will actually create a meal.

In situations like this you are particularly vulnerable to buying new things that you've never cooked before, or even seen before. You are also particularly vulnerable to buying things you would never, ever, in a million years, put in your mouth.

Before I tell you what I bought, I must impress upon you that they LOOKED like vegetarian chicken nuggets. (It is another matter why I wanted vegetarian chicken nuggets in the first place. I have never wanted them before. I have never even wanted non-vegetarian ones.) Yes, there were clues. Such as the fact that the box said SOY-FREE in large letters. But it seems that I saw SOY and I disregarded the FREE.

Which is how it happened that I bought chicken nuggets made out of mushrooms.

I feel about mushrooms the same way I feel about inappropriate uses of bacon, except that my feelings are genuine. I joke about bacon, but mushrooms are not funny! They're slippery and slimy and look like slugs and have a dreadful texture and a funny taste and generally repulsive fungal properties that make them, in my opinion, inedible.

So you can what I said to myself when I happened to read this on the back of the box and realized I almost made mushroom nuggets for dinner:

MYCOPROTEIN?! PARDON? Now mushrooms have the ability to disguise themselves as other kinds of food? I ask you, what's next? Steak made out of marshmallows? Just because it's sculptable doesn't mean it's right!

I may try these, someday, when I have recovered from the shock, as part of a scientific experiment in the objective measurement of horror. But today I am sticking to my long grain and wild rice. Which I bought. For some reason. Even though I don't tend to like rice mixes. Honestly, sometimes I need a nanny.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wandering Around Sonnenberg

It was really not smart of me to bring my camera on a blindingly sunny day without first learning how to adjust the light balance. Oops.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


A: We've ordered an appetizer.
I: What is it?
A: Bread.
I: And what are we putting on the bread?
A: Fat.

At this point I assumed something had been lost in translation, but we were indeed brought a bowl of lard. And it was good. Right on par with the squid ink risotto.

Monday, August 09, 2010


My favorite part of this: Do not throw food-- the bear might demand more.

Polish bears don't even ask nicely, they DEMAND.

Greenhouses Galore

I have been volunteering as a gardener at what is officially named Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park. Fancy! There are many lovely gardens, which I shall no doubt cover later, but my favorite part is the cluster of greenhouses just inside the admission booth. I am really enamored of Victorian greenhouses. These ones were built between 1903 and 1915, by the same company that built the New York Botanical Gardens. They are extremely charming.

How cheerful! Do you not want to just stick an armchair in here and read a book? Plus, check out that sweet ceiling fan that looks like it's from 1935. All this place needs is a jazz on a record player and someone named Jeeves to bring you a steady flow of cups of tea and/or gin and tonics.

But greenhouses aren't all fun and games! Sonnenberg's gardeners raise many if not a majority if not a vast majority of their own plants from seeds. I'm told there is much work done here in the winter.

There is also much work to be done in the summer, obviously. This is a sneak peak of the "head house," where all the pots and soil and watering cans and sinks are. My favorite spot in the whole place is this exact view, because it is what I see after I have just finished making things beautiful and washed the dirt off my hands and removed all thorns and splinters and am about to have a Fig Newton and go home. It smells like dirt and greenery, no one else is around, and in the next room a hidden radio is playing classical music. Perfect.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Frogge Pond

This water is ALGAL. Oh how glad I am that I know that word now.

Frogge blends in with pond scum so beautifully!

Look at those lovely sapphire eyes! Still would not kiss it, though.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Ghost Town

I went to Croatia last week and experienced many lovely things-- Islands full of peacocks, bars set into cliff sides (I assure you, there is no better way to watch the sunset over the sea), stalls of lavender, twisty-turny bus rides down the coast, a coffee on the steps of Diocletian's Palace, sea kayaking off the coast of Hvar, squid ink risotto, oysters, dancing to traditional Serbian folk music while dressed as a prostitute in Montenegro (the girls assured me I looked fabulous).

--What follows is a smattering of photos, mainly to appease Simon. And no, I have no photos of me dressed as a prostitute-- the obligatory pigeon would have covered up most of the black eyeliner anyway--

It was quite a trip. And when I returned to Rome on August 1st, it was empty. How can an entire city disappear overnight? And whenever I remark on this new silent city people go "just wait until Ferragosto". I threw that word into my little dictionary and here we go:

Considering I subsist on a diet of pizza and gelato, and those are the only stores still open, I'm guessing come August 15th, I am going to starve. Please send provisions...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Is it Morse Code for something?

I pass this sign about once a week.

If this makes sense to you, please comment and enlighten me. Because when I see an S followed by three dashes or symbols of some sort, a word I specifically do not think of is "site." But I don't know what else it could be intended to mean. And it isn't that some of the paint came off, because it says the exact same thing on the other side. And these people are not just stupid, because they planned ahead enough to use a lower-case d, having realized that a boxy uppercase D would have made the sign look like it read "CAMP S.-- WOOO," which would have been truly unintelligible. So. I feel I have exhausted all possibilities and I am stumped.