Looks Like We Made It

Greetings, internet darlings! Today is a very special day. After 52 weeks, 160 posts, and endless cups of coffee, we are celebrating our blog’s 1st birthday! (Ok, technically we don’t turn one until the 18th, but patience has never been our strong suit.) We have so loved being a part of your lives over the past year, bringing you three doses of Southern and New York goodness every week (sometimes more if we were feeling particularly generous/festive). This blog started as a way for two 20-something Kentucky ex-pats living in Brooklyn to figure out what home meant to us, to delve a little deeper into our roots while also forging new adventures in this city, and to tell human stories, both ours and yours. We’d like to think we’ve done a pretty decent job of sticking to these precepts, even when the cold or the commutes or the daily grind got us down. And the thing that has kept us going is you, your stories, your feedback.

We've been through a lot together, but this has been one our best adventures.

We’ve been through a lot together, but this has been one of our best adventures.

So from us to you, here’s a big ole hug and a thank you for sticking with us this far. After a year without any holidays or days off (the internet doesn’t believe in snow days), we’ve decided we’ve earned ourselves a little blogcation. So cheers to you, and to us. We’ll see you in two weeks! And we can’t wait to see what the next 365 days have in store.

In the meantime, to help tide you over in our absence, here are some of the posts we’re most proud of from this first year (after some agonizing and teeth gnashing, we’ve narrowed it down to a sweet 16 — the Sophie’s Choice of the blogosphere). From playlists to pillows and thoughts from you folks, these are the ones that continue to make us smile. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed making them for you.

Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, we'll be here.

Winter, spring, summer, or fall, we’ll be here.

August Playlist: Highway Cruisin: We’ve made a lot of playlists over the past year, but this one continues to be one of our favorites.

Bless your heart, New York. You tried to make a mint julep.: One year later, you still haven’t learned, but hey, we tried.

Kentucky Seven (My Southern Heritage): Or how Zelda learned to love the Dixie in her blood.

An Open Letter to the Late Great Nora Ephron: Dear Ms. Ephron, You officially ruined us for life, for love, and for New York. But we love you anyway.

Home is Where the Throw Pillows Are: In which Zelda does some nesting and tries to apply the term “home” to New York.

October Playlist: Drizzly Morning, 3 a.m.: Our favorite playlist out of the bunch, and still our go-to soundtrack for writing, napping, or any rainy day.

Ease On Down the Road: Scout had to give up her car (Neville) when she moved to New York, and as she trades driving for sidewalk stomping she reflects on roads past, present, and future.

The 10 Minute Rule: You run into an acquaintance you haven’t seen in a while. You chat. Everything is smiles; our lives are going great. Then, about 10 minutes in, the truth starts to come out.

The Cab, The Cockroach, and The Crying Girl: According to Ted Mosby and Co., there are three things that make you a true New Yorker. Scout’s officially done them all.

A Cow on the Roof of a Cottonhouse, or How I Learned to Love Bluegrass: Scout stops worrying and just embraces the music of her people, of America, and of the Coen brothers’ finest film.

In the Heart of a Wooded Mountain: Lots of nostalgic pining for summers at sleepaway camp in North Carolina, combined with a healthy dose of why female friendships are so important.

Required Reading: Volume One: The first entry in what may be Zelda’s favorite series on the blog, this one was all about awesome Southern lady writers and the stories they tell.

All Other Nights: Scout reflects on being both a Jew and a Southerner on Passover, her favorite holiday.

Gilded City: In a corner of one of the many museums of New York, Scout reflects on the art of the Ashcan School, the Gilded Age, and the cracks in the golden armor of this fair city.

When the Sun Goes Down in the South: Some thoughts from Zelda on one of our favorite summer pastimes: nights at the track, betting and drinking and watching the horses fly by under the floodlights, otherwise known as Downs After Dark.

Just Folks: The Series: And last, but certainly not least, is all of you! Our favorite thing about this project has been hearing from all of you about home, wherever you find it, and the crazy burgoo of Southern experiences in New York. So thanks. We couldn’t have made it this far without y’all.

Eat This, Drink That: White Chili and an Alabama Blizzard

As we approach the one-year mark of this here blog, we’ve challenged ourselves more and more. Zelda’s hard at work on her 15 New Things, and Scout’s attempting to conquer the kitchen. This is the love child of those two quests, a little series we call, Eat This, Drink That! Last time, armed with a recipe from Zelda’s mother, Scout attempted the Southern staple of cornbread, while Zelda shook up a Mamrie Hart cocktail. This week, we’re at it again!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

This past Friday, we hit the grocery store (after a necessary bagel stop), armed with Scout’s grandmother’s recipe for White Chicken Chili. We were going on a lot of faith, since Gaga had texted the recipe, and in true grandma fashion it included the directions: “1 or 2 cans of chicken broth” and “1, wait no 2 teaspoons of cumin.”  Between the inexact instructions and the stock at the local grocery, we had to fly by the seat of our pants a little bit, substituting turkey for chicken and lucking out when Zelda had a can of green chiles lying around (remnants of an abandoned whim to make artichoke dip).

Luckily for Scout, the recipe itself is pretty simple. Combine 2 cans of navy beans, 1 can of chicken broth, 1 large chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 cups cooked chicken (or in our case, turkey), 2 cans of green chiles, and 1 cup of water into a large pot. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours. Yes, it really is that simple, just the way Scout likes it.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

With some help from Zelda, Scout followed the recipe and managed a pretty good result. Maybe it’s not your traditional chili, but it certainly tastes good, just like Gaga makes. We’re declaring this kitchen fear conquered. Now time to break out the tupperware and make all the roommates try it.

Zelda followed the same theme from our last entry in this series, with a Mamrie Hart concoction dubbed the Alabama Blizzard. Like the White Chicken Chili, this recipe’s biggest plus is that it is super easy, and she happened to have all the ingredients handy and accessible (no small feat given her recently moved state).

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

For this drink, you will need 4 bags of black tea (Zelda went with Irish Breakfast, but English or plain old Lipton’s would suffice as well), 8 oz. bourbon (Bulleit, in our case), 3 oz. lemon juice, 2 tbsp honey or simple syrup if you’re fancy, and 3 cups of frozen peaches. Place the tea bags in the bourbon and let steep for one hour (no more, or it gets bitter).  Then combine your tea-infused liquor with the other ingredients in a blender, and blend until well-mixed and drink-consistency! Pour into glasses (this makes 2-3 drinks), and enjoy. This stuff can be thick, so we recommend straws.

A girl and her blizzard (featuring cocktail model and awesome human, Katie Warden)

A girl and her blizzard (featuring cocktail model and awesome human, Katie Warden)

This may not be the prettiest drink in the bunch; the most common comparisons from our test audience (read: us and our friend Katie) were baby food or butternut squash. But it tastes damn good, and packs a surprising kick. Which just goes to show that, as with chili, the best things don’t always come in the prettiest packages, but they can be wonderfully delicious all the same. Until next time!

August Playlist: Change is Gonna Come

Oh man, guys. This month is a lot. Zelda moved to a new hood, Scout got a new roommate and continues to search for new employment, and it feels like pretty much everything in our lives in in limbo at the moment. So what do we do in times of uncertainty, when we find ourselves untethered and compass-less as we attempt to navigate this crazy city? We stick our headphones in or turn our Jambox up, and we let these songs soothe our anxious souls. Sometimes life throws you curve balls. Sometimes we can’t see the path. But we try to lean into the uncertainty, embrace the new opportunities. And, when all else failsdance. it. out.

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 12.44.54 PM

As always, you can listen along here, or we’re on YouTube and Spotify.

Gettin’ Loud All Summer Long

Something about summer always makes me nostalgic. The heat, the smell, the sounds — summers always remind me of hot sticky days in Louisville or frollicking in summer rainstorms at camp, two and three-a-day field hockey practices and the post-practice pain that aches in that sort of wonderful kind of way. But most of all, summer makes me nostalgic for the lake.

1915007_1393281871075_6746850_n

After Zelda waxed poetic on her family home in New Hampshire (and trekked up there for an actual visit), I got a little homesick for my own family summers past. I’ve always been a lake person: The ocean’s great, sure, but the lake’s ability to be both quiet and loud (and its inherent lack of sand) has always drawn me in. Every summer of my childhood, our family friends, the Shortens — Carol, Dave, and their daughter Taylor — my mom, and I would make the four-hour trip down to Norris Lake in the northeastern corner of Tennessee where my grandparents lived at the time. And in that corner of Appalachia, we would spend some quality family time in an old A-frame cabin on a hill.

480980_3064289085211_1668425582_n

Our journey started in Louisville. We’d climb in the car and follow the highway and then the side roads, listening to episodes of “Car Talk” or “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” By the time we hit my mom’s hometown of Pineville, Bonnie Raitt or Patty Loveless would be crooning in the background. We’d drive over the 33 Bridge, in all its green and rusty glory, and I’d get my first view of my second home, the lake stretching out beyond the horizon. My anticipation would build as we turned off the paved roads and onto a long stretch of gravel road that led to the old blue house on the hill.

We’d drive down the steep driveway on a Friday evening as the trail of the sunset glistened on the lake’s surface. The Shortens, our closest family friends (Mom and Carol became fast friends in med school, and having daughters less than a year apart would only make them closer), would pull in right next to us, and Taylor — the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister — and I would jump from the back seats and fly into the long narrow kitchen where my grandmother was waiting with peanut butter fudge or angel food cake.

486404_3064293565323_856228704_n

Despite this wholesome beginning to every trip, life at the lake was slightly less quaint than life at Zelda’s Big House (come to think of it, slightly may be an understatement here). Summers at the lake were slightly debauched, perhaps a little bit depraved, but that was what I always loved about them. For multiple weekends in the summer, it was all about fun, and food, and family. Each morning we’d wake up to a hearty breakfast eaten out on the deck, and then we’d all gear up and head down to the dock to wile away the hours in the sunshine.

My grandparents were a centerpoint at the lake community. Every Saturday, Gaga (my grandma) would spend most of the day cooking, and not just for the seven of us in the house. She’d string beans and fry chicken for upwards of 30 people every week. The mornings would start with just us — drinking, reading, listening to music,  jumping off the dock into the still water — but by mid-afternoon there’d be six or seven boats strung together alongside ours. Gaga would bring down some dips, chips, and many other snacks, and one of the many boats would bring booze reinforcements.

35383_1393271750822_6215912_n

The lake for me was always about the people. These characters only showed up in my life two or three times a year, but they made such a lasting impression on me that I always wanted to go back. There were folks named Turkey and Critter, whose personalities were as great as their names. These people were my lake family, and I loved them fiercely. I was too young to really understand all the things that went on at the lake for a while, but as I grew older it didn’t all go over my head. The lake was where I learned what skinny dipping was; it was where I first tried beer. It was where my grandmother made somebody a birthday cake shaped like a set of breasts (the infamous “boob cake”).

It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Norris Lake. My grandparents sold the house to a friend when I was in high school, and by that point I spent most summers doing other “productive” things anyway. But my last big hurrah came in college. I knew there was only one place I wanted to celebrate my twenty-first birthday, and I wasn’t going to let an October date stop me, so Mom and the Shortens rented a houseboat the summer before my twenty-first. We piled a bunch of our friends into it and I spent the weekend exactly how I wanted to: I broke beans with Gaga, I drank beers with my mom, I went tubing and waterskiing, I did flips off the top of the boat. For that short time, I did without indoor plumbing and took a “lake shower” every morning, and I did it with all the people that made my childhood memories so great. We were all older, but it was just as fun, in some cases even more so.

428957_3064287245165_658428735_n

I made one brief trip back to Norris during my senior year of college. On a spring break road trip my friends and I stopped at Turkey’s Dry Dock, and he took us out on the chilly lake. It was a weird sensation introducing my liberal college friends to this little corner of my life, but as soon as I saw the glassy water I was overcome with nostalgia for this place, these people. It’s been three years since I set foot on those shores, and every summer that goes by without my visiting pulls me back even more.

Taylor — my summer cohort, sister, friend, and partner-in-crime — is spending this year traveling the country for an amazing cause. We don’t talk as much as we used to, but we’ve known each other literally our entire lives, so we don’t have to talk often to be close. It had been a few months since I’d heard directly from her (social media keeps us in a constant state of awareness of each other’s comings and goings), but on July Fourth weekend she sent me a text. It was only three words long. “Missing the lake,” she said. Me too, Taylor. All summer, every day.

 

10 Things I Forgot I Owned, and Other Adventures in Moving

Lovely people of the internets, I have officially moved! This past Saturday I bid a bittersweet farewell to my beloved Bushwick, and I and my books made our way to the also lovely, but as of yet largely unexplored, Crown Heights. This whole process has been discombobulating and stressful in a zillion ways (bless your heart, New York, but you do not make it easy for people to move around you), but there was one entertaining spot amid all the cardboard and tape.

A side effect of packing all your belongings up in boxes and bins and bags is that you realize a. just how much shit you own, and b. how many random things are included in that huge mass of possessions you call your life. Especially in New York, where we have to condense and cram to make everything fit, we have a tendency to forget the things we tucked away in a drawer or under a bed because we swore we couldn’t do without them. Here are some of the most random things I discovered I owned this past month, much to my amusement, chagrin, and complete befuddlement.

[Writer’s Note: Pardon the stock images. Unpacking is a lengthy process, and somebody hasn’t had time to take her own pictures this week.]

bubbles

A Giant Bottle of Bubbles: Where did this come from? And why have I not been using it to turn my apartment into Munchkinland on the reg? Your guess is as good as mine.

A Pasta Measurer: I know this item was a freebie when I got my rice cooker, but my real question here is why such an object exists in the first place. Does anyone use these things? Bueller?

Cowboy Boots: Purchased in high school for a cowboy-themed dance, worn to Scout’s tailgate party my first fall in New York, saved for a rainy day.

scarf

A Book of Ways to Tie a Scarf: A gift from Scout that promptly got lost in the back of one of my bookcases (because, yes, I have several). My fall just got so much more chic.

A Faux Fur Panda Hood: This, along with numerous other bits and bobs from Halloweens gone by, has only increased my desire to come up with theme parties. New goal: a fête for every item.

The World’s Largest Box of Brownie Mix:  How this has managed to last a year in my apartment untapped is a mystery to me, but I can assure you all that its days are numbered. Warm chocolatey goodness here I come.

drambuie

Drambuie: There were a lot of random liquor bottles in my pantry, but of all the liquor bottles on all the shelves, this is the only one that gave me flashbacks to my high school’s production of Cinderella. #TeamAwkwardBonnetsForLife

Espresso Salt: Because I’m super fancy, y’all. Or, rather, because one of my apartment’s previous inhabitants has a penchant for drunken gourmet shopping, and left some of her bounty behind when she moved to Manhattan like the Gramercy Girl she is.

A Shot Glass Collection: When I studied abroad, I made a habit of buying a shot glass in each new city I visited. “What a fun souvenir these will make,” I thought, “bedecking my future abodes and providing a constant reminder of all the places I’ve been.” And then, years later, I put them in the back of a cabinet and forgot they existed, because shots are so 2012 and now we do classy things with shakers instead.

fish sauce

Fish Sauce: This is the most distressing of my moving discoveries. Not only did I not realize I owned this condiment, which has since taken a spot in my Top 10 Least Favorite Things to Put on Food (though still a long way from usurping Culinary Enemy Number One, Ketchup). But I also did not realize that the cap on this nefarious condiment was loose, allowing it to spill all over my Penguin Children’s Division tote bag and filling my clean, new apartment with its stench. Now if only I could find my matches, I could stop feeling like my nostrils are being haunted by the ghosts of some very vengeful fish.

And now back to the unpacking, to make this new blank slate into something resembling a home, and to tuck away the randomness until the next time I move (hopefully not any time soon) — treasures buried by present me for some future Zelda.

Lights in August

A new month brings many new beginnings here at Zelda and Scout. Zelda has bid farewell to our beloved Bushwick and started a new chapter in Crown Heights. Scout is adding a new roomie (and her puppy!) to the mix. And as we approach this blog’s first birthday, we’re spending a lot of time thinking about how we do what we do here, and how we can make the next year even more exciting. In short, on many fronts, we are in need of a little inspiration. Here’s what’s been keeping us going.

Art: “Blue, Green and Brown,” Mark Rothko (1952)

bigger rothko

Poem: “I Go Down to the Shore,” Mary Oliver

Book: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and ClayMichael Chabon

Formerly featured in Required Reading: Volume Two, and the best thing Zelda's read in a while

Previously featured in Required Reading: Volume Two, and the best thing Zelda’s read in a while

Song: “I and Love and You,” The Avett Brothers

YouTube Video:


(and a bonus, from Her Majesty Audra McDonald and Class Act Will Swenson #relationship goals)

Quotation: “Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?” The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt