Create: Berry Crumble

Berry Crumble, Good House Guest

The towers of dark berries have returned to the farmers market and that calls for berry crumble. I will take chocolate anything over a fruit pie, always. But, there is something about the jumble of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries with that buttery oatmeal cookie-like topping that I can’t pass up this time of year. Oh, and it’s super easy to make too, which only helps the cause.


1 cup blueberries
1 cup blackberries
1 cup raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 375°. Adjust oven rack to upper third. Rinse and drain berries. Toss berries with sugar, lemon juice, and 2 tsp. flour and pour into 9″ glass pie plate. In medium bowl, blend remaining flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and oats with fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over berries. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until fruit is bubbly and top is browned. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


Ps&Qs: Bring…something

The season of the last minute barbecue, patio drinks and front stoop hang is on. So, in an effort to keep the good times rolling, remember to arrive with a little something. While most people get this idea of basic contribution and general thoughtfulness, I’m always surprised by people who show up empty handed. And then go on to knock back a six-pack leaving the hosts with zilch.

Last summer, I watched a group of legitimate adults swoop in on a party, wipe out the contents of the cooler and then make their leave. So, perhaps this concept of adding something to the party isn’t one that’s so well understood.

It was once considered in poor taste for a host to serve a bottle that guests presented as a gift. But, that would also imply that your host has a generous stash on hand, and I don’t know too many people with a deep wine cellar in their one-bedroom apartment. So, if you plan on drinking wine or beer, stop off and grab an interesting local brew, bottle of wine or cider that you’d like to share. If you really want to get fancy, come with the fixings for signature cocktails, like white sangria or negroni punch.

If a teetotaler, pick up a bottle of sparkling lemonade or fizzy water. And, if you want to go the extra step, flowers are always lovely too, especially for a dinner party. It’s just the idea of adding something to the party other than your lovely self, of course.

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Ps&Qs: Table Talk

My parents took table manners very seriously. Which is why probably why my sisters and I thought that the poem about the Goops – bald-headed urchins who spilled their soup and gabbed with their mouths full – was so hilarious. The Goops brazenly broke every single one of our parent’s rules (and then some). It’s one of the earliest poems I can remember reciting in front of a classroom, and I can rattle it off now.

I’ve noticed a trend lately of dinner napkins and prim cocktail coasters embroidered with polite reminders of basic etiquette. Have we collectively become that much lazier about our elbows? Has the most basic please or thank you fallen that far out of fashion? Perhaps. Or, maybe it’s a trend right out of my parent’s playbook, that you can’t possibly be told enough times to sit up straight or to finish chewing before arguing a point.

Urban Bird and CoSix, crisp cotton Mind Your Manners napkins from Denver based Urban Bird & Co

Place mats One Kings Lane

Salvaged burlap place mats from One Kings Lane.

Joetta Maue Anthropologie

Daintily embroidered cocktail napkins by Joetta Maue for Anthropologie.


Gift: Something Old

With the discerning eye of a museum curator, my dear friend Sarah surveys flea markets and antique stores to discover the most wild and wonderful treasures. Lucky for us, she can’t find a wall for every set of mounted deer antlers or a shelf for all the vintage glassware in her own lovely home in Montclair, New Jersey. So she’s set up an Etsy shop, Building Castles in the Air, to share her scores. I asked Sarah to tell me a little bit about the magic behind her thrifty and imaginative knack for finding just the right thing.

How did you develop your salvaging skills? Growing up, my parents were always hitting flea markets or antiquing. In fact, my mom still does. So when my husband and I bought our first home, we needed furniture and decor to fill it with and naturally, my first inclination was to start scouring all the markets in the tri-state area and beyond. We both have more modern tastes but love to mix in rustic, cozy and worn in accents. We ended up finding so many things we loved that I had a surplus, and that’s what motivated me to start my Etsy store.

What’s what’s your criteria or the key to a good find?
I’m a bit picky but generally, my criteria is a personal one. Would I want this in my house? Does this align with my tastes?  Also, how hard will this be to ship? Working full time and also having an Etsy store to maintain, keeps me away from larger pieces I might find. I would love to buy furniture because I come across so many great pieces but its hard to turnover unless I have a place to store them and then sell them.

What are some of your best scores? Four pieces come to mind and three of them sold instantly as soon as I posted them in the store: a set of small brass deer candle holders, a duck planter, an abstract needlepoint and a boy scout’s keepsake box (still available). All of them have this great vintage modern look that I just love.

How can you stand to give these treasures away? It’s an ongoing conversation at my house. My husband and I are constantly trying to convince each other which items to keep and which to put online. I love when I sell an item, but almost every time I do have small pangs of regret that I didn’t keep whatever it is that I am packaging up.

What’s your process for shining things up before you sell? My process is minimal. I always clean off all the items but I stay away from purchasing anything that is broken or in rough shape. Any flaws that an item has, I try to be as transparent as possible about in the posting. I would hate for any customer to be disappointed.

I like that vintage objects arrive with a story. Have you heard how the story continues with these pieces by any of the people who’ve purchased them? I haven’t but I would love to. Knowing that each item I hand picked is going to be part of someone else’s home and story is part of the fun.

Bonus: Sarah shared some of her favorite scouting resources, too. Be sure to check out her Etsy store and happy hunting!
The Golden Nugget
Lambertville, NJ
Mower’s Flea Market
Woodstock, NY
Garage Sale Rover App
Garage and estate sales are full of goodies. Download this app to locate sales in your neighborhood.



Gift: Prose


I’ve been under a small spell lately cast by the poet Billy Collins. He has me dangling on the briefest strands of words and bursting into the most unexpected, eye-crinkling smiles on the subway. He also has me dog-earring pages so I can flip back through or foist these finds upon others (true story: three co-workers read a poem I couldn’t shut-up about).

I don’t know enough about poetry. I sometimes find it to be intimidating and dense (or, maybe I’m the dense one). But, this slim Sailing Alone Around the Room collection has me completely smitten. And wishing I could sit at the end of the dock or in front of fireplace with Mr. Collins and discuss language, or smoking, or the chronicling of a day or learning how to drink a proper whiskey. I don’t drink whiskey either, but I think it would pair nicely with this prose, and Mr. Collins would be just the one to charm me into that warm joy too.

So, this summer I propose that poetry collections become the new coffee table book. Gift them to friends you visit. Leave them on nightstands for guests who bunk with you. It’s rich entertainment for stays both brief and lingering. With that, here’s is a short list of what to pick up according to two poetry authorities:

Mary Oliver
Richard Wilbur
Lisel Mueller
Sharon Olds
Linda Pastan
Wesley McNair
Mark Doty


Wander: Scenes from an inn, Maine

A solid lobster roll – plump meat unfettered by mayo or secret sauce – is worth the drive to Maine alone. Last month I had the excuse of scouting and reviewing the cosy, nine-room  Captain Fairfield Inn, for work, which, it turns out, is a much better cover-up for a summery lobster roll craving in March. Despite a season spent canvassing nearly 240-piney, boggy, craggy miles on foot, earning rent (and splinters) splitting firewood and nestling in quaint Camden for a few months, along with return trips over the years, I will never get enough of Maine. It’s rugged, a bit stand-offish and slow to warm-up: all the makings of the perfect crush, no? We were all so charmed by the off-season pace of leisurely dinners, wide open vistas and satisfying silence, that I hope we’ll make this an annual family trek.



Create: Breakfast chilaquiles


Guest post by Adam Miller

Total score on GHG today: Adam Miller has shared his recipe for breakfast chilaquiles. Stirring up a dish of these would be an excellent way to say thanks to someone for putting you up at their place. Years ago, over a weekend getaway at a farmhouse in Wisconsin, Adam threw this together for our group. The just-foraged eggs from the hen house were a bonus that morning, but I’ve requested this several times since and it never disappoints. In fact, I think it only gets better (but the chips are super important). Plus, it’s a surefire hangover cure – a miracle one at that.

Aside from knowing his way around the kitchen, Adam is a writer, editor, curious traveler and the guy to stay up way too late with talking about music. Thanks Adam! Follow Adam around on Twitter and read more of his food writing here.

Adam’s Chilaquiles
When we have house guests staying, chilaquiles is my go-to dish to prepare for brunch. It’s quick, cheap, and everyone seems to love them. If you don’t know, chilaquiles are eggs scrambled with tortilla chips. There are dozens of other ingredients that could be added but at its most basic, it’s eggs and chips – the Mexican-American version of the Jewish-American classic, matzos and eggs, if you will.

The quality of the tortilla chips is key. Tostitos and Fritos turn to mush. And you do not want Cool Ranch up in your chilaquiles! I’m spoiled in Chicago because these are plentiful and cheap. Outside of Chicago, El Milagro work nearly as well. If you can’t find either, just find a  salted chip that’s made with less than 10 ingredients and looks like something you would actually see in a Mexican restaurant (not Taco Bell).

It’s hard for me to come up with a measured recipe for this—especially since there’s so many adjustments and additions depending on taste. I feel that onions are absolutely necessary for this dish. A few of the following will only make it better: garlic; bell pepper; jalapeno or other spicy pepper; cheese; tomato or a fresh salsa added during cooking.

The ratio: as a guide, go for 2 eggs and 1 big handful of chips per person. Following is how I would make this for four people:

8 eggs, whisked
4 big handfuls of good tortilla chips
1 medium onion sliced as thin as possible
1 bell pepper sliced as thin as possible
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
Pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa)
Olive oil,
Salt, pepper to taste

Over medium heat add a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large pan. Add garlic and onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add jalapeno and bell pepper and cook until fairly soft. (Add some salt to the vegetables while they’re cooking.) Add eggs and slowly mix in. If there’s a tricky part, it’s here: Add the chips one handful at a time, and fold into the eggs. The idea is to create a range of textures so the chips added early on will be softer than those at the end. Continue to add and mix in the chips, until the eggs are cooked.

I like to serve these in a large bowl with a selection of condiments, such as good tomatillo salsa and/or fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, live wedges, and extra chips. Try it out and adjust to your own taste. Personally, I don’t think cheese adds much to this dish but I know people who disagree!


Create: Tea breaks

tea time good house guest

GHG posts have been scant, and this tea tableau in an indication of what’s been distracting me. No, not idle afternoons spent with a cuppa and scones, but rather, I’ve taken a new editor post at Mr & Mrs Smith, a UK-based travel site of hand-picked boutique hotels that are researched by discerning scouts and then anonymously reviewed. I spent a week in London, along with my remarkably talented co-editor, Kate Thorman, under the tutelage of the sharp and whip-smart edit team there. A group who, aside from being all that professionally, take their tea breaks very seriously, and a few times a day.

It’s such a friendly, convivial ritual, and for the first time I understood the importance of this act. More than a routine gesture, it’s all about the act of slowing down to share something other than work banter during the busy day. Taking a moment – even to step away from your desk for lunch – can be rare in the U.S. working world. But deadlines always loom and that to-do list will grow either way, so I’m going to try and remember to stop and take a few minutes for a mind-clearing cup of tea. Care to join me?

Ps&Qs: Assigned Seats

My friend Charlotte has a talent for connecting people. In fact, before she was even living in New York she set me up on a lady date with a friend of hers when I was new in town and in need of pals. It was a total success.

She has since moved to New York and, better yet, married my dear friend Jim from long-ago high school days. Together they are a generous duo who always bring excellent people together. And Charlotte always mixes up the seating arrangement whether we’re having a cozy dinner in their home or out at a restaurant. She breaks up couples (in a good way), pairs people by interest, and truly has a knack for ensuring that there is never a dull moment around the table.

At a recent gathering at their house I noticed Jim consulting a note as he invited us to sit for dinner. Above is the photo evidence of the seating chart brilliance.

So scramble who-sits-where at your next dinner party or night out, you never know where the conversations will take you.



Create: Insta-NYE Party

We’ve lived in Brooklyn for five years and never once spent a New Year’s Eve in town. So this year we stuck around and gathered with a few friends who also weren’t traveling or otherwise engaged to greet 2013 with a lucky pot-luck. I’ve gotten into the communal  spirit of the pot-luck as of late, plus the collaborative effort makes pulling off a last-minute bash possible.

Having just interviewed Tori Hendrix of Sitting in a Tree Events about throwing a sparkling NYE event, I was brimming with ideas. However, I was short on time so unfortunately there were no sparklers (they are banned in NYC), wish paper ordered ahead of time or spray painted branches here. Instead I picked up gold and white balloons, paper crowns, glittery tiaras, black and gold noise makers and metallic confetti to give our place a NYE feel.

The spread and infamous cranberry shrub.

We had an abundance of incredible food: the eensiest roasted Brussels sprouts; a gorgeous onion and goat cheese tart; ginger cake; delicate mushroom pinwheels, potatoes gratin and savory puffed pastries to name a few. And everyone contributed something thoughtful to the bar too. Including a batch of cranberry shrub, a fruit and vinegar syrup which mixes well with everything from tequila to vodka. Too well, actually was my thought the next day as I nursed my aching head.

We live a block away from the Grand Army Plaza end of Prospect Park which is Brooklyn’s answer to Times Square for ringing in the new year. Moments before midnight our little group of revelers (two toddlers too) bundled up and, with bubbly in hand, joined the procession of neighbors gathering for the fireworks countdown.

At the start of 2013 we were all a-glow beneath the twinkling, popping bursts overhead. We returned to our place for the one night cap which led to talking, listening to music and laughing-unitl-we-cried on a repeat loop into the wee hours. Uncontrollable laughter is an auspicious start to the year ahead. And when this next year gets tough, amazing, dark, scary or too-good-to-believe, I’ll remember that night and know where to turn.

Happy New Year! Where did you welcome 2013? Wishing all peace when you need it, joy where you can find it, lots of wonder and plenty of comic relief in the year ahead.

Welcome to Brooklyn: Believe the Hype! Borough President Marty Markowitz pouring the champs at Prospect Park. Photo Credit:Angie Chait.