Tuesday, June 29, 2010

days off = picture parade + mega-post

Last Sunday, my Check Engine light came on as Mister and I were returning from Wildwood/Cape May.  This was both aggravating and amusing.  Earlier that same day, my father had asked how my little car was doing (since it had an engine transplant last month) and I told him it was chugging along just fine, "no lights!"  Long story short, Mister and I made the long, unnecessary trek out to Paoli yesterday to make the people who performed the initial surgery find out what was going wrong.  The diagnosis?  My catalytic converter blew...again.  I called the shop that installed my new catalytic converter two years ago and when they confirmed that my car was still under warranty, I asked Tweedle Dum to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and Mister and I returned to the city in time for Mister to watch some very exciting World Cup games.
Did you catch that yesterday was Monday?  That's kind of important.  It means I took the day off for the pleasure of being reminded [vividly] why GM got into such trouble in 2008, if the way they run their dealership service department is any indication.  I can understand not having a spare engine lying around, or even a cat-converter, but really - what kind of service shop doesn't have spark plugs in stock?
Anyway, I ended up taking today off from work as well, taking my car to my favored shop to have the work done by competent mechanics.  Oops!  Was that my Outloud Voice?  It was actually a beautiful day, so I decided to take the opportunity for some much needed relaxation and me-time.  Let the picture show begin!

About a year or two after the Albanian-owned South Caffe on South Street closed, taking away Mister's and my favorite place to drink coffee and watch the snow fall, a new coffeeshop was born two blocks down from us: The Bean Exchange.  The inside is charming and cozy, but Mister and I rarely go when we can't sit outside.  It's located on a relatively quiet corner, just half a block from Horizons, and the building provides enough shade that the sidewalk tables are preferable, even on hot days.


I sat down with a Hazelnut Iced Americano and the book I bought the day my car died (note the irony in the title).  I read it on the plane to and from Arizona and then forgot about it upon my return, even though I had just reached the part where things get exciting.  I'm not too well-acquainted with Terry Pratchett's work, but I adore everything Neil Gaiman has composed.  A friend introduced me to his graphic novel series, The Sandman, when I was in my late teens and I was hooked by the time he released his first literary novel, Neverwhere.

After a brief stop home to relieve myself of the Americano, I wandered across the street to the line of white tents sheltering the farmer's market I have not been able to attend in at least a couple of years.  They set up on Passyunk, between South Street and Bainbridge, every Tuesday until Thanksgiving from 2-7...and I get home from work at 8:30.  I wish I could go every week - they had so many wonderful, healthy looking vegetables!  I think Whole Foods is a marked improvement over Superfresh, but a farmer's market is still best.


I came home with a cute little green cabbage, a bag of "spicy" greens, a bunch of basil and one of parsley.  I set my herbs up with some fresh water and hid them in the fridge from my little monster, then headed back out with three purposes in mind.

First, I headed down to Headhouse Books on 2nd St, across from Cedars.  When Mister and I were killing time waiting for the Cretans "working" on my car to let us know what was wrong with it, we walked down to a shopping center that had a Kitchen Kapers.  Mister found a book he thought I'd like and handed it to me - the Babycakes cookbook!  I would like to have it, but I didn't want to carry it around with me, especially since there was a chance we'd be taking the train home.  So, I wanted to see if Headhouse Books had it.  They didn't, but they had a few others I could put on a wishlist.

Second, I wandered down Headhouse Square toward the blurry area between Headhouse and Society Hill.  There is a restaurant there that has recently come to my attention (Zahav) and I wanted to see if they had their menu posted, since it wasn't on their website the first time I looked.  As I was walking, I captured a few images I thought I'd share:

This is the site of the Saturday/Sunday farmers markets, as well as many other festivities.  This place is just calling out to be a party venue.  Let your imagination fill it with white linen draped tables, white faerielights sparkling around the pillars, or maybe garlands of roses and ribbons hanging from each one, leaving illumination to the crystal votives on each table.


Once upon a time, a bit more than a decade ago, there was a club/venue where this gated hole-in-the-city now sits.  Back when I had short, spiky blonde hair, I used to go dancing there.  Will Smith bought the land and had the New Market Cabaret destroyed so he could build a hotel.  As you can see, that never happened, so now there's just a very big hole in a very nice part of town.


It turns out that Zahav does not have a menu posted anywhere that I could find without looking like a stalker, but when I descended the stairs back down to the sidewalk, I was struck with this juxtaposition:


I have no idea what that big round building is, but I can tell it is very old.  The Ritz Theatre has been around for a long time, but next to that probably colonial-era building, it looks amusingly modern.  There are certain things that I see every time I take my gander throughout Queen Village-Headhouse-Society Hill that make me smile.  Today, I figured I had nothing better to do than take pictures and hone my photography skills, so I played tourist in my own neighborhood.


Across from the Ritz and Round Building, there is a triangular "island" which appropriately enough hosts just one building: Positano Coast Restaurant.  Every time I pass it I'm surprised at how big it really is, though I believe the restaurant only occupies the second floor of the two-story building.


I have looked at their menu and there really isn't much for Mister and I.  As the name might suggest, it's pretty seafood heavy, though I must say I hope the fish isn't being dredged from the Delaware River.  It's too bad the menu is so Us-unfriendly, because I want to sit on those couches and try not to spill red wine!


I walked back up Front Street to come home and I passed this parking lot.  Suddenly, it seemed so clear how the graffiti gets on those huge signs above busy highways, so I wanted to share and make sure you all also understand that if you can hop the fence here, you can get out on the signs.  They are on the same level, no climbing required - just step out like it's a really narrow footbridge.


This is a funny little house time forgot.  All along Bainbridge Street, there are big, beautiful, and relatively modern homes.  There are some really, really old ones, too (from the 1700s).  This is some bizarre in-between that I can't even guess at because it definitely does not fit into either category.  This little house cracks me up every time I pass it.


A little further west on Bainbridge will show you this house.  Owner of this house: if you ever get tired of living here, I will be happy to relieve you of your burden.  Yes, I do want the white picket fence, especially with all the ivy (despite the bugs that probably live in it).  Do you see that incredible roofdeck?


When I finally returned from my travels, Angst had taken up occupancy of Mister's chair and was peeking at me in the most adorable way, as if to say, "are you staying this time?"

I finally made the Curried Bulghur Casserole tonight.  I forced myself to do so.  Imagine my delight upon finding "fresh parsley" listed in the ingredients!  I washed off my new far-mar treasure and was thrilled by the crunch the leaves made as I minced them.  It was a little guy, but I decorated him with some sliced almonds before he went in the oven:


While the casserole baked, I washed off some of my new Spicy greens and learned why salad spinners have such appeal.  Piling the fun and sometimes pointy mini-lettuces into two bowls, I decorated them with slices of orange bell pepper, blueberries, and sunflower seeds.

watch out, Martha - I'm right on your heels!

I have two pounds of blueberries in my fridge.  I was very pleased with myself for getting them for only $5, but now I'm scrambling to use them.  It's not that difficult, though, when they're so big and juicy and perfectly sweet.  Go get some!


In the introduction to this recipe, the author promises it will become a family favorite.  It was good, but I don't foresee this recipe holding a place in my overloaded recipe-heart.  Perhaps a little more salt or a dash of tamari, but it was bordering on bland and the Spicy Greens almost overwhelmed it. 

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