The Vintage Market, Santo Spirito

Photography, Travel, Vintage

My spirit and soul yearn for one single place: Florence, Italy. Every morning I sprang out of bed to the sound of Santa Maria Del Fiore’s bells, sometimes with a grand plan and other times with the desire to just explore. One Sunday I found myself in my favorite corner of the city, Piazza Santo Spirito. Brunelleschi’s austere church facade loomed over the sun drenched square, demanding attention and reverence despite the hustle and bustle below.

Every second Sunday vendors lined the square with vintage knick knacks, clothes and furniture. I encountered a smiling man selling brass kitchen wares (a bottle opener shaped like a woman’s legs, decorative cabinet hardware, interesting stuff), women picking through vintage clothing and tables cluttered with photos and trinkets emblematic of the past. I saw real communist pins next to embroidered cloth panels. And, of course, there would be no market without food in Italy. Next to the old vases you could pick up a hot porchetta sandwich. Ideal.

While anything and everything seemed available, clothing stalls expressed the most stark dichotomy of all. Some stalls featured clothing racks with vintage and restored pieces costing over 25 euro while others had piles of weathered and worn garments all costing 5 euro, no more and no less. I approached the table with hope and started picking through pieces with local nonnas.

I finally found it. THE shirt. A white embroidered linen blouse, slightly too big for my frame, but utterly perfect. Vertical vines dropped from the shoulders to the mid-torso. This white blouse embodied summer in Italy and I knew I had to have it.

Quanto costo?

Cinque euro.

Yes, 5 euro later and I toted home my favorite blouse in the Florentine sun.

This shirt feels gorgeous and vintage. I think it’s a men’s shirt but it has a feminine quality that I love. I remember wearing it during the firsts few days of my first internship. I remember wearing it with my great grandma’s silk scarf tied around my neck. It just feels right on my skin.

Not to mention, Santo Spirito is one of the most gorgeous and underrated parts of Florence, in my opinion. Sure, I’m a typical American student and flocked to Gusta Pizza a few too many times for heart shaped pizza and a plastic cup of wine (“per porta in via” means you can take your wine to go which is magical when you find yourself drinking wine in a bank vestibule at 9pm), but I made sure to walk beyond the square into the artists’ quarter of the Oltrarno. Papier-mâché clowns and vintage jewelry took over storefront windows. Wisteria grew atop the old city walls. Hidden aperitivo joints came to life at night. To not visit Santo Spirito while in Florence would be to not see the soul of the citizens. It’s as if the oldest and youngest parts meet in this one square.

This white linen shirt brings memories of Santo Spirito to life. The texture of the cloth on my skin conjures memories of sunny days eating berries at the market or getting sucked into the oldest streets of the city completely unsupervised. Reflected in the stitches I see the cobblestone streets and treasure chests of wonder.

Savor that Oatmeal

food

I first learned about savory oatmeal about four years ago after reading a round-up article on breakfast bowls. Like probably anyone reading this, I took a step back and thought “will that even be any good?” The answer is yes. Oatmeal is a neutral base for many flavors, however we mostly see sweet flavored oatmeals and have thus become accustomed to that style. My first encounter with a savory oatmeal recipe included cheddar cheese, eggs and chives. The yolk from a sunny side up egg mixes with the oatmeal, adding another creamy, rich layer to the bowl. You can add any other savory element to the base of the oatmeal (other kinds of cheese, butter or just salt) and additional toppings. My go-to is oatmeal, cheddar cheese, avocado, egg and a sprinkle of pepitas. Like sweet oatmeal, you can add whatever you have on hand. Scallions? Sure. Chili flakes? Go for it. When you think about it, this is no different than a rice bowl with a runny egg on it. There’s just a different grain involved.

Pictured here is my breakfast from the not-so-snowy snow storm: old fashioned oatmeal, salt, butter, white cheddar, avocado and two eggs. Not pictured: the expected espresso.

Every coffee shop in Beacon

drink, Travel

I love two things: coffee and espresso. Luckily I work on Main Street in Beacon, New York, a hub of coffee shops and cafes just waiting for me to tear through them begging for a mid-day cup o’ joe. I’m trying to cut back, I swear. And yet, relapse never tasted so good.

My portal to Beacon’s coffee wonderland was Bank Square, the iconic coffee shop at the western entrance to Beacon’s Main Street. The interior is shabby chic complete with exposed brick and mismatched vintage furniture. I adore the yellow wall and this one chair with the same yellow colored velveteen upholstery on the cushion. Quite honestly, it never looks the same twice. There’s also an outdoor patio complete with string lights, perfect for a sunset date. I like the young, laid back vibe of the entire place. It can get crowded, however. The prime real estate is both good and bad: good for business, bad for the coffee shop intimacy that I love. The coffee is delicious, obviously. I don’t think any place on Main Street serves coffee that is anything shy of perfection. Now I rarely visit Bank Square due to my proximity to other coffee shops on Main Street. Nothing personal.

Geographically next despite the approximately ten minute walk is Big Mouth Coffee Roasters. All I have to say is damn girl. Big Mouth stole my heart the moment I stepped inside. The space is that perfect marriage of intimate and social with secluded spaces in the back to have a conversation, a more work-friendly space by the counter and window seating perfect for watching the eclectic neighborhood characters that walk by every day. Their logo is ingenious: a hippo peeking it’s head out of water. They feature local artists and host gallery openings and closings, supporting the art community present in Beacon. And the coffee is, mwah, perfection. I drink my coffee black (which shocks people for some reason) and Big Mouth’s dark roast has those deep cherry notes that just makes me want to bathe in it. Just kidding that’d be gross.

Next is my beloved and convenient Beacon Pantry. Coffee is literally seconds away. I can afford to walk back to my office without wasting a plastic lid! Coffee is quick, inexpensive and gets the job done. While they don’t roast their own coffee like Big Mouth does, they use the dearly beloved Stumptown roasts. Unlike Big Mouth, the Beacon Pantry is not just a coffee shop. They’re a full service restaurant AND specialty market, which is the REAL reason why I love them so much. The curated meat and cheese selection makes me drool almost as much as the wafting scent of bread that enchants my senses daily. Many a daydream have been spent simply thinking of the selection of butter. I’m thinking about it right now.

Next is Ella’s Bellas, a gluten free bakery and cafe just one block east on Main Street. Personally, I like their iced coffee. I’m not sure why. I just do. I must also praise them for their gluten free baked goods, but it is important to remember that glutenless baked goods will naturally taste different than glutened baked goods. Both of those words are definitely made up. After eating my fair share of sub-par gluten free goods in solidarity with my gluten-intolerant friends I can confidently praise Ella’s Bellas for doing something right in the gluten-free baking world.

Last but not least Trax, the easternmost coffee shop on Main Street, is the quiet, brooding guy if Bank Square is the loud, opinionated friend. It’s only fitting that they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum given their opposite positioning on Main Street, however I think they use the same coffee beans. Each location’s cup sleeves feature both logos. Regardless, Trax has the intimacy that I crave at Bank Square, but Bank Square has the decor I love. Trax brands itself as an espresso bar so naturally I tried a cortado. I loved the size of the drink and the barista’s artistry in pouring the milk in a perfect leaf atop the espresso. A perfect pick-me-up and effective remedy for a rainy day. I could spend hours staring out of the wide storefront window at the old brick buildings across the way. It’s definitely a good place to feel inspired.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee so don’t. Whether you’re close to Beacon or not, find a local coffee shop and support that business before resorting to a larger chain brand. Chances are your coffee will be better quality and your experience will be unique every time.

 

 

Vintage Milk Glass

Vintage

Among the trinkets and tools in my kitchen are five (not four, not six) milk glass espresso cups and saucers. The aptly named glass cups have almost laughably small handles, and the saucers are an embellishment from years past. Still, they’re classic and feel dainty and regal in my hands. I feel like a queen sipping tea as I slurp hot espresso while wearing a plush blue bathrobe at 5:30am. They’re from my great grandmothers house, which is why I only have five and not a practical number (however, any number greater than 1 is impractical for me I guess). They were free, convenient and stylish. They serve a purpose for me, a daily espresso drinker.

However, when milk glass originated in the 16th century in Venice, it was priceless. Imagine the purity and creaminess of milk cupped in your hand like a solid cloud. Almost a dead ringer for porcelain at the time, milk glass not only appeared in white but various colors with the same opaque thickness. However priceless in appearance, not priceless in cost. Milk glass was more affordable than porcelain and much of today’s existing milk glass is from the 17th century and later.

Milk glass then appeared in France in the 19th century at a pivotal time for France and Western Europe. The turn of the century saw the birth of modernism and expressionism in art and music as the western world flourished. In my mind there’s a soft glow in these turn of the century scenes, as if the period was shrouded in a milky haze of tan and taupe tones. I picture a woman lifting a cup just like mine to her lips and laughing coyly at a joke that was not too funny. I imagine opulence and delicacy—a pinky out sort of affair.

The Gilded Age in America gave rise to milk glass as decorative vases, jewelry and architectural elements including marquees and clock faces. The ostentatious clock perched atop the information desk in Grand Central terminal has a face made of milk glass. Until the 1930s and 1940s, milk glass was sturdy but the Great Depression caused a drop in quality.

My milk glass is likely from the milk glass craze of the 1950’s when Fenton was producing milk glass items that would’ve topped wedding registries. Think of it as that era’s rose gold. Anything from practical flatware to lanterns made of milk glass became trendy and appealing for young couples in the 50s and 60s. The style became so popular, it nearly saved the Fenton company and became the company’s claim to fame despite existing for decades prior.

How to identify true milk glass? I’m glad no one asked. Held up to the light, milk glass refracts slight opalization, therefore proving it is not fully opaque and can instead allow some light through. The light that passes through illuminates an orangey iridescence unseen unless purposely held up to the light. Despite my espresso cups being fairly thick, I did not expect any light to shine through and yet I was wrong. The opal glow isn’t striking but flecks of orange and even a little red reveal themselves in the light. Beautiful.

Sadly, these cups see everything but a pinky out affair. Daily use and constant clanking against other mugs, pans and dishes definitely don’t scream opulence but it does attest to milk glass’ longevity, and wasn’t that the point to begin with? A delicate appearance with highly practical usage.

Intentionally burning food was my first sign of true adulthood

food

A timid child, I cried at damn near everything. Couldn’t get the combination in dance class? I cried. Someone made a harmless joke? I cried. I was frustrated easily and fragile beyond help. I was insecure and sheepish for years. That girl is long gone now, but the lingering effects held on in one facet of my life: my cooking. I loved cooking and baking, but I yearned for perfection every time. There were never burnt edges or crispy bits on any of my baked goods or meals, but that resulted in undercooking nearly everything. Setting timers for the minimum cooking time and being the most pesky oven checker were my culinary downfalls. I craved perfection so tenaciously that my efforts had the opposite effect entirely.

Early in my college career my love for food manifested itself into my academics. In my journalism classes I squeezed food into every assignment I could, from political assignments to longform creative pieces. I attempted to become that modern urban farmgirl who cooked squash and overnight oats and blogged about it. I was passionate about local honey and became evangelical about eating locally and seasonally. I had ancient grains coming out of my ears. I needed to have my quirky side and excel at something niche. I snagged an internship with a local food publication and became a published food writer. And yet, each time I roasted a vegetable I couldn’t keep my hands off the oven handle. I hauled squash from the farmers market to class only to bring it home and woefully under season or undercook it for the sake of not making a mistake. I was the girl watching the pot boil. I would peek into the door and feel the warm dry heat on my face, look at the slight color on whatever was cooking, and take it out prematurely. I would take food out of the oven, plate the dish and realize it was undercooked after slicing into it, after which I would throw it in the microwave and nuke the crap out of it, making up for lost time.

My desire to achieve perfection overshadowed my research and knowledge. The hours I spent reading Bon Appetit and Food52 were wasted because my internal monologue inserted itself into the narrative. I knew that color equaled flavor. I knew that salt was essential to all recipes and despite knowing those facts and more, my food was timid and colorless. I was a people pleaser down to my core, and while then I would never admit it, now I see how desperate I was to be an image of perfection through and through. I can definitely attribute that (and probably any aforementioned insecurities) to some form of anxiety. I would bring baked goods to family gatherings and sit anxiously as everyone cut into my acceptably cooked and seasoned pie, knowing that I could have cooked the crust longer or added spices other than cinnamon to the filling. I was obsessed with following a recipe and not deviating from that, fearing that a freestyle move might cost me my reputation. I made beautiful looking olive oil cakes that could have used extra time in the oven, or more lemon zest than the recipe required. While everyone loves the gooey, undercooked section of the brownie pan, everyone also likes the crispy edges. My insecurities revealed themselves in my inability to deliver both.

In any communal living situation and even when I would cook with my boyfriend, my sheepishness returned. Too nervous to make a mistake, I would either wait until the coast was clear and the kitchen was empty, or ask him (or whoever else I was cooking with) to do many of the things I knew I could do but just felt unsure about in the moment. Everyone’s a critic and for some reason, despite being the most amateur of amateurs, I was afraid my knife skills, or some other trivial aspect of my cooking, would insight mocks and giggles.

I’m now 22 and living alone. In my castle (this one bedroom apartment), I am the queen and I’m cooking for me and only me. It’s now that I’m getting dare I say edgy about cooking. I’m taking risks with flavors because who but me am I aiming to please? In the most cynical of ways, I didn’t care about disappointing myself. And yet, that’s how I achieved perfection, or what tasted like it. I love cooking onions until they stick to the pan and take on caramel sweetness. I love hearing sausages sizzle in the pan and take on crispy brown sides. I like seeing the edges of my fried egg become crispy and lacy from the heat. I season haphazardly knowing that no one around me can tell me something is too spicy. I don’t measure my spices with a spoon, but I feel the granules leave my palm as I just toss. I’m the queen of the kitchen sink, sometimes throwing whatever I have in my fridge together and wishing for the best while I let it simmer, bubble, or bake.

Taking control of my kitchen and eating food that I enjoyed unapologetically was a sign of adulthood. I realized that I actually like kale, provided it was smothered in olive oil and roasted into crisps. Deciding what to eat, when to eat it, and most importantly how to eat it seems menial but the creativity thrills me. You know you’re a real adult when dinner’s uncertain outcome becomes exciting. Cooking for myself, I feel shameless in my choices. I can eat spicy potatoes whenever I want, or breakfast for dinner on a Tuesday.

And mistakes? I don’t know her. In the words of Bob Ross, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Rarely does a silly mistake warrant an unsalvageable meal. Sometimes you just need to think it over and find a way to repurpose or rectify without retrograding and crying over a burnt pan sauce.

In this journey through burnt edges and sloppy sautés I’ve learned more about my heart than I’ve learned about cooking: there’s more to life than perfection, and if you’re a people pleaser make sure you don’t leave yourself out of the equation.

Cook Your Dang Fruit

food

Last weekend was a blur of eating greasy meals and understanding that I certainly can’t drink like I did in college. I desperately needed to eat a vegetable so on Sunday I bought kale, carrots, peppers and squash. When I came home I realized I still had some fruit in my crisper. I thought, “oh shoot, I have to eat this.” When I reached in the crisper the plums felt fine. The apples mostly were okay, except for one squishy, mealy monster. If I wasn’t in my current mindset, I would think to just throw it away. But that would be insane. This post should really be called “eat your dang fruit” but that would be too easy. No, when your fruits sit in your fridge for just a little too long think to cook them instead of throw them away.

I chopped up the apple and threw it into my new (spiffy) little red pot with just a little water so the sugars don’t burn to the bottom of the pot. I added cloves, cinnamon and honey and let it just simmer and spatter until the apples transformed into gooey goodness.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to cook fruit. It’s truly smart, especially when you clearly abandon your fruit for lack of interest. Cooked fruit tastes delightful in oatmeal or over greek yogurt and creates the illusion that you’re eating something new. It tastes special, like dessert. And what’s better than dessert on a weeknight?

Success, failure and what really happens

lifestyle

Let’s start with a walk down memory lane: you’re 14 and watching 27 Dresses with your best friend. You’re both shoveling chocolate into your mouths thinking that James Marsden is the cutest guy ever. You idolize Katherine Heigl’s humble, selfless character and think “wow I’m not going to be like her selfish sister, I’m going to be like her!” Well, kids, it happened. You’re 22 years old and your notebooks are falling apart with to-do lists and calendars. You’re saying “yes” to almost everything. And finally, you’re running between jobs to make everyone happy. What is the price of your 27 Dresses lifestyle?

People offer advice and help but what do you say when someone says you need to take a break?

All joking aside, I’m learning each day how crucial it is to take care of yourself. I read a quote earlier today: “you don’t have to be stressed or busy to be important.” And while I struggled to find the words of wisdom to help me through this time, those were them. I’m putting myself in difficult situations because working every day and being hopelessly tired every night means I’m important. Wrong. It means I’m stretching myself too thin and compromising other elements of my life: relationships, physical health, mental health, and even job performance. I realized today that due to my tiredness and lack of concentration last week, I really let some of my responsibilities slide. It affected so many other people involved in my job, and while I wasn’t obligated to work my main job while I was at my second job, I felt it was my duty as a decent person to not let more work slip through the cracks. I somehow worked two full days over the course of one normal work day. I slid behind doors that I knew blocked security cameras to answer emails. I ate cold pizza from a Tupperware container perched on my knees while I drove from the museum to my office to pick up some materials and have a short meeting. I mean, I tried living two days in one and that was insane.

Success isn’t defined by your lack of sleep. Failure isn’t defined by your attention to self care. Success isn’t characterized by skipping meals. Failure isn’t the picture of you in your blue bathrobe. The reality is, each of us defines success and failure in our own thoughts and actions. “Everyone is on their own unique path in life.” That’s been my mantra since embarking on this journey. My path is the road I’ve been on, but I’m driving the car.

I need to put myself first. I’m at a point where I need to feel confident in my abilities to an extent and feel like I can work hard and sleep hard, not just work hard and feel like vomiting all the time. Sorry for that visual, but I’m about telling the truth here.

So this Katherine Heigl martyr character shall be no more, and while I won’t undertake the identity of the inauthentic, selfish, wedding-crazy younger sister, I will stop being the star of my own rom-com.

Day 13 and some

drink, lifestyle

This weekend was incredible. The end to my 13 day nightmarish week felt like a celebration. While my physical body was exhausted on Friday night, mentally I was ready for fun. Here’s some real-time footage of my last day and a recap of my weekend.

I visited 2 cideries in the New Paltz area: Kettleborough and Brooklyn Cider House. Kettleborough exceeded my expectations. I found them by searching “cider houses” on Google and after not recognizing the name I admit, I did not have the highest hopes. How wrong I was. The cider was delicious, to start. Just the qualities I like: tannic, dry and effervescent. Unlike commercialized ciders, that are not bad in my eyes by the way, these ciders display the true transformation in the fermentation process. The flavors are more akin to a white wine than they are to a common cider. And yet the most incredible part of Kettleborough was the scenic view from around the cider house. Suddenly you were perched on top of a hill looking out on the Shawangunk ridge in it’s vibrant autumnal glory. If we weren’t freezing, we could’ve sat there forever. But like I said we were cold, and apple cider donuts beckoned.

The Brooklyn Cider House, while definitely a more well known name, was equally as enjoyable. The cidery’s New Paltz location occupies an orchard, Twin Star Orchard, in addition to a cider house. We chose a bottle of the raw cider which had that farm-y funky flavor that I’ve been really enjoying in farm beers lately. We enjoyed a pizza, a bottle of cider and a walk through the orchard. The full sun made this location a little more bearable in the elements. I stole an apple. No telling.

Really Saturday was wildly special because of my company: I love my boyfriend possibly more than I love myself. He is my best friend, and if you believe in soul-mates he is mine. But Saturday was also special because I took my new-found tasting knowledge out for a spin. I looked past my preferences and prejudices and tried a little of everything, and it yielded new knowledge and a greater variety to choose from in the future. It’s something I’m definitely looking forward to exploring more. I know I can improve on my tasting abilities and descriptions. Maybe a new journal? Who knows.

Waste Not, waste-free snacking

food

I tend to graze throughout the day: a little bit of food throughout the day rather than big meals. I love a good snack, but snacks are not always the most waste-free foods on the planet. Packaging is a huge problem when it comes to cookies, chips and candy. Oreos? A delicious packaging nightmare with plastic trays and wrapping. Chips either come in family sized bags that are too large for one person to consume and smaller bag either provoke the mindset of “I can eat the whole thing” (uh, you shouldn’t) or “I can buy a million of these little snack size bags” producing excessive garbage. Watching chips turn stale hurts me, it does. What is a gal to do? May I introduce you to popcorn.

Popcorn? Popcorn! So, I don’t have a microwave. I don’t know how I do it, but I don’t have a microwave. Thankfully I’m a vintage kind of gal, and popping kernels on the stovetop is exactly my jam. One 32oz bag of kernels costs $2.50 at Shop Rite, which is super cheap considering I’ve made popcorn 3 times and have hardly made a dent in the bag! Popcorn kernels allow better portion control so you’re not always popping enough kernels for either a baby or a family of 4. While the bag recommends instructions for 2 servings, it’s easy to find half measurements online and doubling is simple. Plus, one bag means one piece of garbage! Not ideal, but definitely better considering the amount of food per piece of garbage. If popcorn kernels are available in bulk bins opt for that and reduce your waste completely. Additionally, flavor options are endless depending on spices, oils and sweets on hand. I’ve been making popcorn with salt and cracked black pepper. Sometimes I’ll feel fancy and drizzle a little white truffle oil on top. And chocolate on popcorn? Dare I say, yeet.

As far as snacks go, you could definitely be eating worse food. While popcorn isn’t exactly health food, it won’t be necessary to cut back excessively considering it’s corn. And I can’t stress this enough, it is not health food but it’s better than a bag of potato chips or cheetos. While I miss those two things, I’m getting the most for my money with popcorn.

Last, and honestly probably least, the bag is smaller than air-filled chip bags and takes up less space in my tiny kitchen. In fact, sometimes I leave it on the sliver of counter space that I have because I forget to put it up in my cabinet. I mean perks are endless.

Next time you’re at the store and you’re craving something to munch on, try some popcorn. It’s food waste-free and delicious.