December Round Up

Goodness gracious, y’all. The calendar tells us there are a scant two days left in 2015, and we suppose it must be true. This year was hard and it was fun, filled with new beginnings and unknowns. We write to you one year older than on January 1st, and we hope perhaps a bit wiser, too. In all this topsy turvy madness of job searches and apartment searches and general identity crises of a quarter-life, existential nature, you, dear readers, have been a constant. And so we want to say thanks, and cheers. Let’s raise a glass of something bubbly to a year of recipes and playlists and GRITS and dance parties and books and movies and rants and raves and so much more. Here’s to you, top notch folks that you are, who were with us through it all. We can’t wait to see what 2016 has around the bend.

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What We’re Doing: We kind of live for the holidays here at Zelda and Scout, and this December was no different. Scout decked the halls, or at least the one hall in her apartment. Zelda told you all her favorite Christmas-y things to do in the city. The weather was warm, but we sought inspiration in snowy scenes and chilly words. Scout reflected on being an introvert and how spending Christmas alone was actually kind of awesome, and Zelda brought you her favorite holiday films. And it was all backed by our holiday-themed playlist. What can we say? We go hard at this time of year.

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What We’re Listening To: This month’s playlist, as is traditional, covered our holiday favorites: from classics to contemporaries, Elvis to Emmylou. Music makes our holidays brighter and fills them with comfort and joy, and we’re finding new classics every year. Some highlights from this year’s list: Stephen Colbert’s send up of the Christmas music industry, The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” Lenka’s “All My Bells are Ringing,” and Vienna Teng’s “Atheist Christmas Carol.”

We also love: Scout’s on a senior year of college flashback: Jason insisted she listen to Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album Emotion, and while Jepsen did provide her soundtrack to 2012, Scout was skeptical. After a few listens, she’s sold. There’s something to be said for fun, dancy pop music (her favorite is “Your Type”). And of course, we’re still all about the Hamilton. Our favorite song changes daily. Congrats on your Grammy nom, guys!   

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What We’re Watching: It has been established that we are both giant nerds, so of course we were excited for the new installment of Star Wars. Scout has managed to avoid seeing the prequels-that-shall-not-be-named and was anxious to maintain her Star Wars purity, but after consulting with the biggest fanboys and girls she knows, she and Zelda decided to make the trip to see the new film. And you guys, can we just say for a second how much we loved The Force Awakens?!? It’s a lot. We loved it a lot. J.J. Abrams did justice to a beloved franchise (plus he added a lot of diversity and girl power, which is always a plus) . We can’t wait to see more of Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and BB-8.

We also love: Zelda commenced her annual (and more often than not unsuccessful) quest to see as many of the Oscar/Golden Globe/SAG/etc.-nominated films and performances of the year as possible with “Spotlight” and “Room,” both of which were amazing (in the true sense of the word) pieces of film filled with rich writing and riveting performances that left her both uplifted and utterly gutted. She also finally hopped on the “Master of None” bandwagon; it made her laugh out loud and also think, which is one of her favorite combos. Scout and her roommates continued their love affair with TNT’s “The Librarians.” And both of us conducted our Annual Christmas Movie Retrospective, from rom-coms to cartoons, stop motion to Muppets, Irving Berlin to Richard Curtis (for some of Zelda’s particular favorites, check out her most recent post).

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What We’re Reading: This delightfully accurate instruction manual for how to get home after a little too much fun out on the town (via The New Yorker). This profile of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s oh-so-talented (and oh-so-sexy) other half Javier Muñoz (via The New York Times). This beautiful essay by Jhumpa Lahiri about her struggles to learn Italian, and about language and our relationship to it (via The New Yorker). This review of the territory erstwhile-frothy-rom-com “The Mindy Project” is navigating this season, and the real (deep, dark) waters of relationships it is choosing to brave. This examination, by turns cheeky and personal and academic and heartfelt, of astrology, “our irrationality of choice” (via n+1). This oh-so-delicious “Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalogue” (via Deadspin’s Adequate Man). This thoughtful essay from First Foray about the ways liberal arts educations and Panera sustain us, and may be ruining us for life (via Medium). This defense of the awesome (and Rowling-approved) casting of POC South African actress Noma Dumezweni in the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, of which we whole-heartedly approve (via The New York Times). And this quiz, one of Buzzfeed’s best, which allows the reader to determine which T.S. Eliot Poem he/she is.

We also love: On a longer form note, Zelda finally read the oft-recommended The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. It made her want to bawl on the subway, in the best way. And Scout can’t wait to dive into Sarah Vowell’s Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (the Hamilton mania never ceases) and Elizabeth Benedict’s Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-Seven Women Untangle an Obsession, recommended by our forever fav Ingrid Nilsen and gifted to her for Christmukkah by Zelda.

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What We’re Eating: Scout conquered a Southern kitchen staple this month, with a little help from the pros. Her grandmother — the infamous, universally loved Gaga — was in town a couple weeks ago and helped us whip up a batch of crispy fried chicken, much to everyone’s satisfaction. We’ve also been neck deep in homemade treats as it is the holidays. Everything from cupcakes to candies have shown up somewhere: work, home, neighborhood bar. The Momma even sent us some personalized christmas cookies.

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What We’re Drinking:  Zelda’s contribution to this month’s Eat This, Drink That, Rosemary Gimlets, was a smashing success. These cocktails, courtesy of David Lebovitz, are delicious, potent, easy to assemble, and impressive to her guests. A++. And while most days the thermometer is decidedly un-December-like, we’ve embraced the holiday season full tilt with eggnog (bourbon optional but recommended), hot chocolate (peppermint schnapps optional but recommended), and lots and lots of prosecco.

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What’s On Our Wishlist: The holidays were good to us. We don’t need much in this life, so we’re wishing for a sweet new year, filled with good beer, great friends, sunshine (and maybe some snow, but not too much), kitchen dance parties, and another great year here at Zelda & Scout. Though…if someone wanted to throw some Hamilton tickets our way (ESPECIALLY Zelda’s since she has yet to see it), we wouldn’t complain.

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Photo Via: VANITY FAIR and THE NEW YORKER

Zelda’s Top 10 Holiday Movies

Merry Christmas, lovelies! I hope you’re all snuggled up with those you love, enjoying a cup of good cheer (aka some well-spiked nog). I’m keeping it short and sweet today, in keeping with the holiday spirit: I should be celebrating and relaxing (truth be told, this is being written weeks in advance at my desk, because as you read this I am happily ensconced in the internet-less land of New Hampshire with my family), and so should you.

Christmas is a bit like the Kentucky Derby — weeks and weeks of build-up, and then it seems the actual shebang is over in a matter of minutes. The stockings are emptied, the presents unwrapped, and then you’re left with a whole day to loll about. As a kid, these hours were spent happily playing with my loot, whichever toys Santa had brought my way that year (the year I got a Playmobile dollhouse was hands-down the best), but now that my Christmas booty entails more sweaters and cookbooks than American Girl dolls, I’m left with a void in activities once breakfast has been eaten and the coffee is all drunk.

In true interfaith fashion, my family and I often turn to my mother’s side of the family for inspiration and indulge in some good old-fashioned Christmas movies. This sometimes entails an actual trip to the cinema (we do however forgo the traditional Chinese food), but if you’re feeling a strong desire not to get out of your holiday pjs and want some home viewing instead, these are some of my favorites.

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White Christmas (Netflix, free): This is my family’s number one, go-to, must-watch-every-year Christmas film. Bing Crosby’s crooning, Danny Kaye’s antics, Rosemary Clooney’s wardrobe, Vera-Ellen’s dance moves, Irving Berlin’s music, what’s not to love!

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Amazon, $4.99): By which I mean the original 1966 animated version. No offense to Jim Carrey, when it comes to tales of Whoville and Christmas cheer, I’m a Boris Karloff gal all the way.

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Love Actually (Netflix, free): My roommate and I hold an annual viewing of this rom-com-to-beat-all-rom-coms, complete with a requisite drinking game. My favorite plotline changes every year, but Hugh Grant’s dance moves always make my heart sing.

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The Holiday (Amazon, $5.99): Another charming and unexpectedly original rom com for the holiday season, sweet but not cloying and realistic yet hopeful. I have three words for you: Mister Napkin Head.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas (Daily Motion, free): One of the greatest regrets of my current cable-cutting existence is that I am unable to watch this on TV with the rest of the country (the other is my difficulty watching awards shows, which I adore to an inexplicable level, but that’s a story for another day). This year, I took the plunge and bought the DVD so no holiday would be without Linus’s words of wisdom and Snoopy’s tricked out doghouse.

Image #: 904522 "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the longest-running holiday special in television history, celebrates its 40th anniversary broadcast on Wednesday, December 1, 2004. CBS /Landov

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (YouTube, free if slightly illegal): I’m fond of all of the Burl Ives claymation classics, but this one is my favorite. Another film I’ve recently purchased on DVD when the internet failed to pull through on easy viewing options.

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Elf (Amazon, $2.99): I was a late convert to this paragon of Christmas cheer but love it no less for the delay. Will Ferrell is at his most infectiously enthusiastic (can he come decorate my apartment please?), and Zooey Deschanel rocks both blonde hair and the shower solo.

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Disney’s Sing Along Songs, Very Merry Christmas (YouTube, free if slightly illegal): We in the Zelda house were huge sing-along kids when we were growing up. We had all the Disney classics — Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, You Can Fly, Be Our Guest, Friend Like Me — and this holiday-themed VHS was particularly great. Mickey, Minnie, the Fantasia fairies, and more take you through all the classic carols. And to sing along, you just have to follow the bouncing ball (or rather, the bouncing wreath-bedecked Mickey head).

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Bridget Jones’s Diary (Amazon, $2.99): I think of this more as a New Year’s movie, even though Mark Darcy’s reindeer sweater does feature prominently in the meet-cute. We should all be so lucky as to find a Colin Firth type who likes us just as we are.

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When Harry Met Sally (Amazon Prime, free): And to round things off and really get you in the New Year’s Eve spirit, I present the best of all New Year’s movies, the Rob Reiner classic (and classic of New York cinema) starring hunky Bill Crystal and OH-MY-GOD-SO-YOUNG Meg Ryan. If you want to truly emulate Scout and myself, you can make it a whole Meg Ryan, New York rom-com marathon. Just add champagne, lots of food, and a bestie, and you’re all set to take on 2016.

images via: MUSIC BOX THEATRE, NY WATERWAy, MOTHER JONES, THE CORD, NEWNOWNEXT, DEN OF GEEK, HARK, A CARTOON CHRISTMAS, MIRAMAX, REUTERS

Eat This Drink That: Fried Chicken, Rosemary Gimlets, and a Special Guest!

This month, we bring you a very special “Eat This, Drink That.” Normally, we pick a theme for the month’s post, find an appropriate recipe, and then muddle through as best we can, with Google as our sous chef. But this month, we brought in the professionals for a real schooling in one of the tenets of Southern cuisine. The dish? Fried chicken. And the pro? That would be Southern Cook Extraordinaire Gaga, aka Scout’s grandmother. She’s famous in Eastern Kentucky and, as a friend of ours puts it “universally loved,” not to mention an expert in all things chicken-fried, bourbon-soaked, and gravy-topped. This started as a lesson, turned into an observation of her exemplary skills, and ended with a feast for all. Here’s how it went down.

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(pardon the blurry photo — this was, to be perfectly honest, taken post-chicken, and post-several gimlets, when we realized we had forgotten to take the customary ingredients pic)

For this recipe, you will need: chicken (Gaga’s recipe calls for a four-pound bird, cut into pieces, but a pack of drumsticks or equivalent would do just as well), flour, buttermilk, paprika, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and a butt load of vegetable oil (at least a quart). We used this recipe as a guideline, but cooking with Gaga has no exact measurements. First things first, examine your chicken. Remove the breasts from the bone, and use some heavy implement (meat tenderizer, rolling pin, etc.) to pound them down to an even thickness. This ensures that they will cook evenly. Drumsticks require no pounding and can be cooked as is. Step two, combine two cups of flour, one teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and plenty of salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag and shake to combine (Like we said, these are more like guidelines than actual rules. You just want to make sure you have enough flour to evenly coat all of your chicken. And don’t be shy with the spices; we found the teaspoons the recipe called for didn’t provide quite enough flavor for our palettes). Next, to prepare for the flour-coating portion of the evening, you’ll need to pour your buttermilk into a casserole dish or large bowl, and place a wire cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet in preparation for your chicken. For easier clean up, line the cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

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Now comes the shake and bake portion of the evening. Scout’s great grandmother, Granny McCoy, used to say, “I like to dredge my breasts in buttermilk and then fry them in hot oil,” to which Gaga and the Momma would reply, “That sounds painful!” But dredge and fry we did. Dredging involves coating your chicken thoroughly in buttermilk.  Once it’s completely covered, allow the excess liquid to drip off, put the chicken in the bag with your dry ingredients, and shake until completely coated. Make sure you get all chicken nooks and chicken crannies, and then place each piece on your rack. (Note: At this point, Gaga kind of took over, as she’s been known to do. But we continued to learn!) Once all your chicken has been thoroughly dredged and floured, leave it to  set for a while. This step is of utmost importance: You need to wait until the flour has taken on a paste-like consistency. As Gaga put it when she placed the final drumstick to set, “There we go. And now, a very important part of the process: We have a cocktail.

Learning is fun!

Learning is fun!

The Gaga had spoken, and so we turned to Zelda’s portion of the evening: the cocktail. She had a few goals this month: to make something Christmas-themed, to conquer a classic cocktail, and to bust out her shaker in earnest. Inspiration came in the form of a post by her favorite ex-pat food blogger, David Lebovitz, and his Rosemary Gimlet. He had her at rosemary and sealed the deal with gin, the classiest (and tastiest) of the clear alcohols in her book.

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This drink is super easy to make while also being thoroughly impressive, every hostess’s favorite combo, but it does require some prep. A traditional gimlet contains only two elements — gin and lime juice — but for this holiday version, you need to make a rosemary-infused simple syrup for an herbal twist. But fear not, while this does require a bit of forethought, it is not difficult. Simply put ½ cup of sugar, ½ cup of water, and 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped fresh rosemary in a small saucepan (if you want to make many drinks, or have some yummy herbal syrup left over for future use, you can up the quantities, sticking to a one-to-one sugar-to-water ratio). Heat until the mixture is hot and the sugar has fully dissolved (it does not need to come to a boil), then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Once it’s cool, strain out the rosemary and put the syrup in the fridge to chill further (ideally in a container that is easy to pour from — Zelda used a Pyrex measuring pitcher).

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Her syrup thus made an hour or so before her guests arrived, Zelda was prepared, when her moment came, to assemble some delicious cocktails for her audience. This recipe comes to you in three parts. Step one, measure 2 ounces of gin, ¾ ounce of the rosemary syrup, and ¾ ounce of fresh lime juice into a cocktail shaker (Zelda recently purchased the Oggi Marilyn model and is in love, two thumbs up!). Step two, fill your shaker halfway with ice, preferably crushed (but cubed will do just fine should you find yourself sans ice crusher). Step three, shake for approximately 30 seconds, while doing your best Mamrie Hart impression. Pour into your glass (David calls for the glass to be both stemmed and frozen, of which we managed to accomplish half), garnish with a sprig of rosemary, and enjoy!

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Garnish makes anything classier

Oh man, guys. This might be our most successful cocktail to date. The gimlets were delicious, potent, and pretty, checking all of our beverage boxes. Zelda whipped up some vodka alternatives for the non-gin drinkers (aka the Momma and Gaga), and sampled some herself when the gin ran out, and they worked just as well. Even Zelda, who is not a big vodka gal, approved, declaring that she couldn’t taste the Russian spirit at all (like we said, these things are dangerously yummy). All in all, we give it our highest recommendation: easy, impressive, delicious, deadly, and 100% Z&S approved. Now back to the chicken!

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Now that all of us were sufficiently buzzed on gimlets, it was time to play with hot oil (Do not drink and fry, kids. Professionals were on hand)! Once the chicken was pasty enough for Gaga’s liking, we poured about two inches of vegetable oil (about a quart) into a large skillet (if you have a cast iron skillet, that’s ideal, otherwise a general non-stick will do) and turned up the heat. You need to wait until the oil is good and VERY hot (375 degrees is ideal) before you start adding the meat. Pro tip: If you, like Zelda, don’t have a thermometer to test your oil, you can use a piece of bread. If you throw it in and it sizzles up immediately, you’re good to go. At this point, we were throwing back gimlets with abandon, but Gaga continued her efforts to educate us in the art of fried chicken, and to provide three hungry Brooklyn girls (Scout’s roommate joined the party) and a Southern Momma with a bona fide Southern meal.

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Once your oil is ready, place as many pieces of chicken as will comfortably fit into the pan (do not crowd the chicken). Like any good lover, you want to start with the breasts, since the white meat takes longer to cook. Let the chicken brown thoroughly on both sides (you’ll need tongs to turn the pieces over), turn down the heat, cover the pan, and let the chicken continue to cook for about half an hour, or until it’s cooked through (Have another drink in the interim. It’s the Gaga way.). You’ll know it’s done when you can stick a knife in and the meat is good and tender and the juices run clear (if you have a meat thermometer, your chicken should be 165 degrees inside). Once your chicken is cooked through, remove the lid and turn the heat back up to achieve maximum crispiness. Once well-crisped, remove from the skillet and place on a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Add your favorite Southern side dish (we opted for mac and cheese), and enjoy!

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And enjoy we did. The chicken could have used a little more kick (see note above about not being stingy with those spices), but it was crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside, just like the Good Lord intended. With some Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese on the side, gimlets in our bellies, and Gaga to see us through, it was an evening of all-around, home-cooked Kentucky goodness. Happy frying to y’all, and to y’all a good night.

An Introvert’s Christmas Carol

Christmastime is supposed to be filled with warmth and goodwill, hugs from family and friends, the smell of cinnamon and hot chocolate, and, in my formative years, pigs in a blanket and pork tenderloin. It’s supposed to bring a smile to your face and put joy in your heart. But here’s what they don’t tell you about Christmastime as an adult: It’s really frickin’ stressful.

Case in point: Last week friend-of-the-blog Katie was trying to organize a pre-holiday drinks meet-up among our grad school friends. Everyone immediately threw out the days they were free, and to our chagrin, none of them matched up. “I’ve got this work party,” “This person’s in town,” “That night’s already taken up with this other event,” etc., etc., etc. In our efforts to be festive, there suddenly seem to be eight million more things to do in the day. This week, I had something booked every day after work (and four things on Friday). We get so caught up in the holiday season that we almost forget to enjoy it. We fill our calendars and our stockings.

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And all this rejoicing is great, don’t get me wrong. While I’m staying in New York for the holidays for the second year in a row, I finally feel like I have a home here, that I can start making new traditions to go with my old ones: a party at Zelda’s (one of the four aforementioned Friday events), trimming the apartment with my roommates, an eight-hour Star Wars triple feature (episodes IV, V, and VI, on original VHS, naturally), a Monday afternoon eggnog at Rolf’s, Christmas-themed karaoke, a vaguely Hamilton-themed New Years extravaganza. All that stuff is great, and it makes my holidays bright. But at the same time, that’s a lot of human interaction packed into a two-week period.

I love my friends, my roommates, and even my job most days, but when I tell people I’m excited about spending Christmas alone, they look at me like I’m insane. I promise: It’s really okay. I learned as a teenager that I am a hardcore introvert. I need alone time like other people need companionship. It’s always been hard for me to explain because, unlike your stereotypical introvert, I’m good with people. I can talk to strangers fairly easily, and I’m not what one would call shy. I use these skills to my advantage on a regular basis — I do work in the customer service industry, after all — but being good with people and getting energy from being around people are two very different things.

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Some people are buoyed by interpersonal interactions. It makes them more energized and excited (I’m pretty sure Zelda is one of those people, which is great — it’s why she’s always the hostess). But I’m not like that. Maybe it comes from being an only child; growing up, I was my only entertainment, and I was mostly okay with that. Introverted doesn’t mean shy, or closed off, or misanthropic. It just means I need to be alone sometimes.

Which is why the prospect of spending Christmas by myself looks so good. I spend a lot of time with people, approximately fifty-five hours of my work week and of course my added social life (again, I want to emphasize that I’m very pleased to have both of those things), but this year Christmas is going to be nearly 36 hours of me being one with the couch: no roommates, no dog, no work. And since I’ll be at work for both Christmas Eve and Boxing day, I’m going to savor this time.

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The museum will close up early on Christmas Eve, and maybe if I’m lucky the weather will be seasonally appropriate (all signs point to warm and rainy, but hey, a girl can dream). I’ll get to go home while it’s still light out. Make a pit stop in Gramercy Park for the one day it’s open to the public, and another at Trader Joe’s for copious amounts of eggnog and other provisions, before getting on the (hopefully nearly empty) train back to my apartment. I’ll put on my pjs, queue up A Muppet Christmas Carol (the first of many cinematic Christmas classics to come, including all of those by Rankin and Bass — The Year Without a Santa Claus is my jam), and settle in for a long winter’s nap.

Sometimes the holidays are the time to be around your friends and family, and with the extended season, I still get that. My mom and grandmother arrive from our old Kentucky home this afternoon, and I’ll see many friends before they scatter to their various homes/homes away from home. So I don’t think I’m going to regret my solitary Christmas. This year, me, myself, and I will do it up like a real New York Jew should — with Netflix and Chinese food.

Photos Via WIKIMEDIA & EPICANTUS

Inspiration Tuesday: Just Like the Ones We Used to Know

Temperatures are unseasonably warm here in the city, and while we’d be thrilled with this kind of reprieve come January or February, at this holly jolly time of year we’re missing the crisp, cold weather that usually graces us in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Somehow, without our cozy gloves and fluffy hats, the city just doesn’t seem nearly as festive. So this week we’re channeling our inner Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby, dreaming of a white Christmas that seems so far away.

Art: “Elevated Columbus Avenue, New York,” Gifford Beal (1916)

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Poem: “Mad as the Mist and Snow,” William Butler Yeats

mad as the mistBook: Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein, by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer, illustrations by Christine Davenier

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Song: “Water Under The Bridge,” Her Divine Presence, The Goddess Adele (25)

Video: “Tips for a Happy Holiday Season,” Ingrid Nilsen feat. Kati Morton

Quotation:

And when old Winter puts his blank face to the glass,

I shall close all my shutters, pull the curtains tight,

And build me stately palaces by candlelight.”

Charles Baudelaire, “Paysage,” Les Fleurs du Mal

images via: 1000 MUSEUMS, KID LIT FRENZY

Winter Wonderland: Fun December Things to Do in New York City

New York is an incredibly festive town. Maybe the whole city feels a collective pressure, given all the pop culture examples of snowy Manhattan Christmases and epicly romantic New Years, but the whole five boroughs go gaga for garlands, twinkly lights, and good cheer as soon as the calendar passes Thanksgiving (and sometimes before). And before you get cynical and chalk it up to a shrewd maneuver by the business community ( the department store window displays are pretty damn impressive), even Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, home to my subway stop and bereft of tourist attractions, gets gussied up with electric snowflakes and poinsettias for the month of December. As Daylight Savings saps the sunshine and our homes remain far away, it is particularly prudent to take advantage of all the wonderfully festive things this city has to offer. After all, once January rolls around it’s all resolutions and slush, with months of cold ahead. So here are the ways to feel all merry and bright like a true Manhattan or Brooklynite this year.

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Ice Skating: New Yorkers love pretending they’re in the middle of nature while remaining within walking distance of the subway, and winter is no exception. The most famous urban rink is at Rockefeller Center, where for a mere $25-32 (depending on the day, and not including skate rental), you can swish by under the shadow of the giant tree, humming the 30 Rock theme music in your head. For a more economically sound, but no less festive option, try Bryant Park. This one is free (skate rental aside), and offers easy access to the next item on our list.

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Christmas Markets: Traditionally a charming seasonal event dreamt up by the Germans, holiday markets have been co-opted by New York with gusto. Within their booths you can find a smorgasbord of gift options, from kitsch to craft, ornaments to jewelry to the world’s softest socks (seriously). Plus there’s cider, hot chocolate, donuts, and other snacks galore for when your shopping gets you a little peckish. My personal favorites can be found at the aforementioned Bryant Park, and in Union Square.

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Pop Up Bars: The seasonal fun doesn’t stop with the markets! New Yorkers love a good pop-up shop, and they also love to drink, so December combines the two, taking drink specials to a whole new level with themed, and fleeting, specialty bars. Top of my list is Baita, housed at my perennial favorite Birreria, located on top of Eataly. The roof is transformed into a charming chalet, with adirondack chairs, pine trees, hot cocktails, and Alpine-inspired specials. Also on my to-do list? Miracle on Ninth Street, a speakeasy-style joint taking over East Village spot Mace for the second year that would have Kris Kringle asking for another round, and the tropical Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, housed in the Lower East Side’s Boilermaker, whose signature drink apparently features bourbon, creme de cacao, creme de menthe, and nutmeg. (Thanks to Dan Q. Dao from TimeOut New York for the tips!)

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Rolf’s Restaurant: Speaking of themes…the ultimate in Christmas dining, this German spot goes ALL OUT. If you look up Christmas decor in the dictionary, this is what you get. How they manage to cram this much garland and ornaments and lights and wreaths into such a cozy space, I will never understand. But if you’re looking for a dose of Christmas cheer with a hefty side of wiener schnitzel, this is your spot.

Zelda and the roomie, 2014

Zelda and the roomie, 2014

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree: It’s true, the rink at 30 Rock is on the exorbitant side. But gazing upon the monumental majesty that is their epic tannenbaum doesn’t cost a penny! It’s a little kitschy, sure, and you risk having your Santa hat knocked off by an overzealous selfie stick. But it’s also a big fat manifestation of this city’s Christmas spirit, and a reminder to New York to stow the humbugs for a little while in lieu of festive optimism, tourists be damned.

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The Nutcracker: Tchaikovsky’s ballet is a staple of any holiday season, and lucky for you New York offers some of the best options to experience the show first-hand. The most classic (and priciest) option is at Lincoln Center, performed by the New York City Ballet (tickets start at $75). Other options include Gesley Kirkland Academy of Classic Ballet, which performs in DUMBO for the lit mag crowd; Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut, a more modern, comedic take staged at BAM; and Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge, a burlesque reinterpretation of the tale that was a TimeOut NY Critics’ Pick, perfect if you “prefer pasties to pointe shoes.”

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The Rockettes Radio City Christmas Spectacular: Speaking of entertainment, no holiday would be complete without a kick line (Is that a thing? It should be a thing.). Contrary to what you might expect, this over-the-top bonanza of sequins and cheer can be experienced for a mere $22, thanks to TodayTix! And as a bonus, it takes place at Radio City Music Hall, allowing you to check another landmark off your New York bucket list.

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City Bakery: After all that skating, shopping, drinking, ballet-ing, and general frivolity, you’re bound to find yourself in need of a drink — specifically, a big ole mug of the richest, most decadent chocolate imaginable, topped with a homemade marshmallow. I’ll admit to being a bit of a snob when it comes to hot chocolate — in my Paris days, Scout and I had the privilege of sipping upon the the wares of the finest hot chocolatier in the land, aka Angelina — but City Bakery’s signature cup is indisputably up to par (they have had nearly 25 years of practice). And if you’ve been really nice this year, you can add a cookie on the side for a chewable treat. The hot chocolate (yes, that is a kind of cookie) is my favorite.

photos via: THE NEW SCHOOL, URBANSPACE NYC, I LOVE FREE CONCERTS, 6SQFT, NEW YORK CITY BALLET, ALIVE MAG, TRACY’S NEW YORK LIFE

The Very Official Z&S Holiday Gift Guide 2015

‘Tis the season of gifting. And gift giving can be hard, especially when over half your income is already set aside for the upcoming January rent payment. You’ve got a list a mile long and a budget that won’t give an inch. Lucky for you, Zelda loves to gift, and she’s put her talents to good use by curating this list just for you, our lovely readers (Scout helped a little bit, but her talents lie more in wrapping gifts than in picking them out). Together we’ve come up with a slew of fun, affordable, and thoughtful gifts for all the people in your life: the nerds, the jocks, the hipsters, the #HamiltonTrash, maybe even something for the parents and relatives. You can use this guide as your shopping road map or as a jumping off point; many of these sites have lots of other incredible goods that are sure to be perfect for someone in your life! And while internet shopping is definitely convenient, don’t forget to patronize your local independent businesses. Sharing the love with your community is the best way to spread the holiday spirit.

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For the one with hometown pride: Aymie Spitzer’s Neighborwoods Map Coasters (available on Uncommon Goods in a range of cities — we’re partial to the Brooklyn set)

For the one with most Instagram followers: this Lion Scarf Camera Strap from Scoutmob (useful as well as chic!)

For the glamorous jetsetter: ModCloth’s You Heard the Glam Headphones (in beauty guru-approved rose gold, bien sûr)

For the one who could use a pick-me-up: Rifle Paper Company’s “The World is Your Oyster” Print (courtesy of Leif Shop)

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For the one who’s still clinging to her fall wardrobe: ModCloth’s Fall Night Long Scarf (in coral, for a festive-but-not-in-your-face-Christmas look)

For the one who has accepted that winter is coming: Crown Cap’s White Knit Hat with Pom (from Tuckernuck, as practical as it is adorable)

For the one who’s having a pamper night in: LUSH’s Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner (so fresh, so soft, so luxurious)

For the one whose apartment is a winter wonderland: 12 Nights Candle from 5th and Madison (also available at their booth at the Bryant Park Winter Village if you’re in the New York area!)
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For the Ingrid Nilsen fangirl: Leif Shop’s Frosted Donut Ornament (Donut you want this on your Christmas tree? Eh?)

For the Hannah Hart fangirl: Practice Reckless Optimism Tank (Dear DFTBA, We’ll take two please. Tank you very much.)

For the one who would rather be in England: Quali-Tea Mug (another DFTBA gem, courtesy of adorable Brit and bona fide tea enthusiast Charlie McDonnell)
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For the one who’s reviving the lost art of letter writing: ModCloth’s Do Me Write Postcard Set (also available as prints, greeting cards, and more from Etsy’s Obvious State) and a novelty pencil set (SO MANY OPTIONS, we could get lost in The Carbon Crusader‘s Etsy shop for hours)

For the one who needs a moment of zen: a Coloring Book for Grown-Up Humans (also this one and this one — bless you, Johanna Basford)

For the one who never takes down the holiday decorations: Capiz String Lights (from Anthropologie, of course)

For the one who deleted his/her OKCupid account, again: 40 Days of Dating (once a blog, now a book!)

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For the one who makes a mean mint julep: an ice crusher mallet and bag from the fine folks at Crate and Barrel

For the one who’s always the hostess: a personalized and engraved cutting board (another Etsy gem, available in all 50 state shapes!)

For the one with the overseas flight home: W&P Design’s Carry On Cocktail Kit in Moscow Mule (also available in Old Fashioned and Gin and Tonic)

For the one who takes it on the rocks: Kentucky for Kentucky bourbon glasses (available in “Heaven Must Be a Kentucky Kind of Place,” USA Bourbon Drinking Team,” “Bourbon Breath,” “If It Ain’t Kentucky, It Ain’t Bourbon)
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For the one with the Fantastic Beasts countdown: Hogwarts House adult onesie (the addition you didn’t know your wardrobe was missing, thanks Etsy!) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone: The Illustrated Edition (so much pretty, so many memories)

For the one with the Force Awakens countdown: Light Saber Chopsticks (the Force is strong with Think Geek on these ones)

For the one with the Dirty Thirty countdown: a “Partee Tyme” Tee (start planning your viewing party outfit now)

For the one with the March Madness countdown: Shop Local KY’s Letter Baseball Raglan (now appropriate for both Zelda and Scout)

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For the one who’s an honorary citizen of Pawnee: this “Treat Yo Self” Tote Bag (from Etsy, of course)

For the Rude Mechanical of the friend group: a William Shakespeare Cookie Cutter (another Etsy find: the Bard never tasted so good)

For the grammar nerd: The Elements of Style: Illustrated (you will be unsurprised to hear that this made Zelda’s personal wish list)

For the one who won’t shut up about Hamilton: Carols for a Cure: Volume 17 (good for your ears and for your karma), a #YayHamlet Tee, and finally, for the true fan, the biography that started it all…