City by the Bay

September 21st, 2012 | Posted by Jill in out of borough experience - (0 Comments)

This past week, I’ve been on my annual work pilgrimage to San Francisco for the increasingly giant Dreamforce technology conference. I’ve made the trip for seven consecutive years, and it’s always mind-blowing how much bigger / better / crazier the event has become. The first year I came out, roughly 2,500 people attended — and this year, a staggering crowd of 90,000 swarmed the Bay Area for the week-long conference. (!)

Thanks to the insanity of that many people trying to cram into the Union Square / SoMa neighborhoods, hotels have been exploiting the situation by offering rack rates for simple rooms, and commanding $700/night! So, after scouring Airbnb for what seemed like a month, Zach and I stayed for the first time at a lovely condo in Mission Bay. I’ve gotta say it’s been so much more relaxing than crashing at a hotel. Plus, the fantastic Philz Coffee is right around the corner, and I’m scared of the imminent mocha tesora withdrawal. I’ve never spent any time in Mission Bay before, so it’s been nice to explore a new ‘hood and check out a new corner of San Francisco, especially all the funky modern architecture.

September always seems like the perfect time to visit San Francisco. Warm days, brisk nights, lots of that California sunshine. Does it get any better?! It certainly doesn’t do anything to assuage my bicoastal disorder. The light is so glorious out here. Nevertheless, this week of keynotes, seminars, and late-night parties has taken its toll, so we are headed up to wine country for a quick overnight before our redeye back to New York this weekend. I can’t wait. Neither can my Mamiya.

See you soon!

Twelve years ago this week, I packed up the car with my most valuable possessions – lots and lots of CDs, a brand new computer installed with Windows ME and Napster, my best band hoodies and sheltered small-town Midwestern sensibilities – and drove ten hours north. I was headed off to college in the big city. FREEEEDOMMMMM.

I knew that everything was about to change. What I didn’t know at the time was how deeply in love I was about to fall, and that my first true love was going to be a city. I recently headed back to Chicago to begin work with a new client, and I totally had butterflies for two weeks beforehand. I do a lot of business travel, but there’s always something special about going back to Chi-town — the anticipation, flying in over the lake, seeing downtown stretch out. The Hancock tower rising on the north end. The Sears tower on the south. It feels a million miles away from Brooklyn. And it always feels like I’m coming home to welcome arms.

It was one of those perfect weeks. Warm sunshine and golden light during the day, a cool breeze at night. None of the stifling humidity or pavement-melting heat that you grow to expect in the Chicago summertime. The last few times I’ve been back, it’s been perfect. Eighty degrees in October for the marathon, a warm spell in February, and now this. The year I moved there, it snowed the first weekend of October and didn’t stop until March. Chicago, why you tryin’ to woo me back?

This trip, I stayed downtown on State Street and made some time to take photographs and commune with the city a bit — I don’t know if that makes sense, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I do the same thing in New York. Walking around alone in contemplation, observing the ebb and flow of the urban landscape, wandering aimlessly. Watching the way light plays off the buildings, off the sidewalks, catching commuters’ long shadows in the intersections between concrete caverns. There’s something spiritual about the experience, and for me it’s an incredibly important part of being connected to the places you live and love.

I’ve always thought that Chicago is one of the — if not THE — most beautiful city in the US. The compactness of downtown, the consistency of the architecture thanks to the Chicago School, the river that winds slowly through the city and the beautiful industrial bridges that pass over it. Though I’ve never called downtown Chicago my home, in my first year of school I used to stay over a lot with a close friend who lived at the top of the Marina Towers (the corncob buildings above). I spent many hours sitting on his balcony on the 59th floor (or was it the 61st?) just staring out over the city, even in the freezing cold.

Chicago seemed endless. The city stretched out for what seemed like miles, and I could see forever. The sun cast long shadows to the west in the mornings as only the tallest buildings basked in the thin light. At midday you could look straight down and see the precise urban grid bustling with activity. At sunset, the flat western suburban plains turned golden and the colors of the sky melted into Lake Michigan.

And then at night, the lights came on. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m still in love with you, Chicago.

Tomatoes Forever

August 17th, 2012 | Posted by Jill in garden - (0 Comments)

A month ago, I wrote about how nicely our garden has been filling in this year. A few weeks later, it’s now become a crazy jumble that needs a serious pruning. The zinnias are popping up as fast as the weeds, and everything is in full bloom. Of the edibles we planted this year, the tomatoes are really stealing the show. Green zebra heirlooms, San Marzanos, golden cherry and grape varieties – it’s a bonafide tomato party!

Our decision this year to plant the tomatoes in MUCH BIGGER self-watering planters has really improved the process. The tomatoes are much more productive, we’re watering less frequently and they’ve managed to survive more weekend trip neglect than ever before. Though we really don’t have a lot of space in the front garden to grow produce and the footprint of the new planters dominates the available space, I still think it was a good choice. Not only have our recent hauls been satisfying, they’ve been really colorful too:

an afternoon harvest

green zebra heirloom tomatoes

And what’s an edible garden without loads and loads of herbs? We get so much direct sunlight all day, every day and the herbs are loving it. As usual, we’ve grown lots of basil from seed to go with the tomatoes (and delicious, delicious fresh mozz). This year we decided on a few different kinds — sweet basil, spicy Thai basil, and a new-to-me Japanese lettuce leaf basil that features huge aromatic leaves perfect for pretty much anything. I’m still hoping to try my hand at making lettuce wraps with them!

Rounding out the herb garden are two types of rosemary, creeping and English thyme, Italian and golden oregano, common sage, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and summer savory. This year – it’s second year – the lavender also went bonkers. Planted right by the stairs for all passers-by to enjoy, it has been showing off its graceful purple blooms for more than two months now. I’d love to learn how to shape it into a dried wreath this fall.

lovely, lovely rosemary
lettuce leaf basilsweet, sweet lavender
golden oregano
growing thyme from seed

Last, but certainly not least, are my strawberries. I’ve never had a lot of luck with strawberries but each year aspire to try something different to improve my haul. Marie’s are always so much more fruitful and jealousy-enducing, but thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s produce. Or something like that. Anyway, my plants are FINALLY putting out runners, so maybe I’ll encourage them to propagate into new pots so I can try again next year. Womp, womp.


I can’t wait to get out and do some work this weekend. Time to pull out the pruners and clean it up a bit.

Do your weekend plans include any gardening? I’d love to hear!

Holy moly. How the heck is it already the last day of July?! Where did the summer go??? The days are noticeably shorter, the light more golden, and prospects of days at the beach dwindling. There are only four more weekends left until September, people! Every year about this time, I start wishing that summer lasted forever. I love the other seasons, but I can’t help myself. I’m a summer baby. Bring on the heat and humidity!

In hopes that this summer will never end, I present some of my recent favorites from our Flickr group. We recently surpassed FIFTEEN THOUSAND PHOTOS of Brooklyn and I am just constantly blown away by all the talented folks we have in this very fine borough of ours. You guys rule — I love seeing summertime through your eyes!

“Coney Locals,” by Adam Lerner:
Coney Locals

“CO,” by mkc609:

“Endless Summer,” by Matt Logan:
Endless Summer

“DNALSI YENOC, mermaid edition,” by Barry Yanowitz:
DNALSI YENOC, mermaid edition

“Coney Island,” by Reuben Radding:
Coney Island

“Rachel,” by Michael Tapp:
Stranger 23/100 | Rachel

“Petanque,” by Scott Lynch:
Bastille Day 2012, Smith Street, Brooklyn, Petanque

“K,” by Jonathan Percy: