Molly Sheridan
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Other Stories, Other Rooms

Joan D'Arc

Even though I only live 40 miles north, D.C. is a destination I too often overlook—its proximity making it somehow less exciting even while its streets remain unexplored. Still, about once a year, I catch a train south without a specific destination in mind. (When I do have a destination, it always involves Meridian Park outside my friend’s apartment. Go there! There is a drum circle on Sundays, FYI.)

When autonomously wandering, I always promise myself I’ll get further than the Mall, but more often than not I exit Union Station and find myself caught up in weekend pedestrian traffic. Tourists mixing with locals with slightly more equanimity than Times Square’s bustle, I fall in behind a family trying to get their bearings, a mother arguing via cell phone with her child while waiting to cross 17th Street, a man in a well-cut suit who I keep pace with for several more blocks than strictly necessary.

I often find myself hunting stories while on these walks, either overhearing one or making one up, filling in the details as teenagers sit sullenly on the Lincoln Memorial stairs or groups of old men stand stoic in obvious reflection. In many ways, my Instagram habit is now an extension of this same pleasure, a glimpse of private lives in public spaces, the story made richer and yet more obscure due to a filtered view.

Of Spider’s Silk and Skill

spider web

I walked through this spider’s web last night while dragging the trash can to the alley. Well, not this web specifically, but I’ll get to that. The exotic-looking-for-Maryland spider swiftly rappelled to safety as I looked on, leaving me both a little freaked out by the sticky surprise and rather crushed to have destroyed something so complex and painstakingly built.

Or so I thought. This morning the web was back, bigger and better than before. Its anchors spanned the back patio–probably six feet–from tree to grill to fence column, the web floating parallel to the ground at about chest level. How could this nickel-sized creature, alone in the dark, have done such work? Life is a wonderland indeed.

Thus inspired, in a bit of reverse poetry I went in the house and made some cottage cheese.

What Is That? Banana Blossom Salad

Banana Blossom Salald

I think there is nothing about New York I miss more than the amazing markets that populated my former neighborhood of Jackson Heights. Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Indonesian–if you needed exotic produce and quirky packaged goods, this was the place you came. If you needed anything more authentic, you could catch a flight just a few blocks north.

These days some of that longing is assuaged with a visit to the H Mart just west of downtown Baltimore. This large Korean grocery offers a dizzying array of fruits and vegetables that you won’t find at your local grocery, as well as aisle after aisle of strange and exotic snacks, canned goods, packaged convenience foods, and frozen dumplings of 101 varieties. Most of the condiments are not labeled in english, which adds a “box of chocolates” excitement to the shopping experience.

Since my trips are usually made spur of the moment, I don’t usually walk through the door with the idea that I’ll be gathering ingredients for a specific dish. As a result, my basket ends up filled with a lot of weird stuff. This goes some way towards explaining why there is lotus root in my crisper drawer and a dragon fruit on my counter.

This past weekend’s trip had me feeling especially adventurous, so I grabbed an item I had long been fascinated by but had zero idea how to actually prepare. Banana blossom in hand, I went home to investigate.

H Mart Shelves

Banana Blossom: Unpeeled

Banana Blossom: Interior

You see those florets underneath each leaf? If you want to use them in a culinary capacity, you have to remove the inner pistil and scale from each and every one. (I can’t imagine doing that AND deveining shrimp, all for the same dish, but do let me know if you’ve tried it.) The flower prep a bridge too far for me on this outing, I decided to hunt for a salad recipe that used the core of the blossom and could otherwise be made out of ingredients I had on hand.

Banana Blossom: Peeled

Banana Blossom: Soaking

After some frustrating googling, I landed on this recipe and decided it was something I could execute without screaming. Since I was in a rush, I pared it down even further.

Banana Blossom Salad
Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories to suit my laziness/pantry limits

1 banana blossom, outer leaves removed
2 cups ice water with 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice added
1 clementine, separated and each section halved
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons coriander and/or mint leaves, well chopped
chopped nuts or spicy india snack mix to top

1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4-1/2 teaspoon tuong ot toi (vietnamese chili garlic paste), or to taste

Remove dry exterior purple layers of the blossom, reserving two for use as salad bowls if desired. Discard the rest, as well as the florets found beneath each leaf unless reserving for another purpose.

Peel off the interior layers of the blossom if they come away, continuing to discard the florets. Roll up layers together like a cigar, and slice rings as thinly as possible. Once the leaves become impossible to peel back, slice rings from the heart itself. Immediately plunge the slices into the prepared citrus water. Let soak for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, assemble the dressing and mix well to combine. Adjust heat to suit.

Toss the remaining salad ingredients (aside from the crunchy topping of your choice) together, adding the well-drained blossoms once they are done soaking. Dress and toss the salad. Plate and top with the garnish of your choice.

Once Again Into the Wool: Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival 2014


I tend to lose some of my knitting motivation as spring weather forces the mercury up, but the annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival usually kicks me back into gear. Since I posted some motivational photos last year, I was going to skip documenting this round, but in the end the adorable faces were too hard to resist. (Regular readers know I have had this problem before.)

Sheep Counting Sheep

Sheep counting sheep

Sheep: Say that again

You talkin’ to me?

Who's the boss?

Who’s the boss? (click to enlarge images)

This year I kept my spending to a minimum by skipping the $164-a-skein arctic qiviut I fell in lust with. Thankfully my hands got too sticky after a confrontation with a red velvet funnel cake (!!) and I had to regroup before feeling up any more yarn. I still managed to come home with supplies for a summer project I’m looking forward to getting started on, however.

Do you stay motivated to work on cold-weather craft projects once the weather heats up? I think a few baby goats running around my back yard might help. Shhhh, don’t tell Brian…

Sheep: The intense gaze

Sheep: The trio

Sheep: The side eye

Bah bah black sheep

Have you any wool?

Let’s Celebrate! Have a Lavender and Lemon Cookie

Lavender and Lemon Cookie

Though I have somewhat forgotten what the sun feels like due to this three-day sheet of rain it’s hiding behind, over the weekend a picnic was considered and I found myself in need of a simple, portable, no-silverware-required dessert-type experience. Since the suggested locations included our stunning local tulip patch, my mind turned to flowers–specifically the bag of dried lavender flowers I was already stocked with.

I must have googled lavender cakes and cookies and lemonades dozens of time in the past few years, but I had never followed through and actually executed a recipe. In this case, I needed something efficient in terms of time and effort, and bake-able out of what was already in the house. Giada De Laurentiis delivered with charm. Her Lavender and Lemon Cookies are short on ingredients, gentle on effort, and impressive on a plate.

Lavender and Lemon Cookie

Get the recipe: Lavender and Lemon Cookies

Other obligations meant that in the end we had to scrap the picnic, but inspired by these delicate treats, I broke out the fancy china for an appropriately random Wonderland-style tea party on the front porch.

This morning I’m enjoying the last of the cookies over on the music side of my life, as I try to get Dave Malloy’s highly addictive music out of my ear now that production is done on his profile and we begin to celebrate the 15th (15th!! Wow, where did the time go?) anniversary of NewMusicBox! Feeling like a little old lady in internet terms, so tea and a biscuit is quite the proper thing to indulge in.

Spring Brunch Brilliance: Porch Waffle Party

Dark chocolate dipped clementines with sea salt

We stored up quite a bit of cabin fever here in Baltimore this winter, so as soon as the weekend temperatures began to touch the 70s, the neighbors fell into action to get our notoriously non-rowdy porch parties back on the social calendar. While these affairs normally allow us to enjoy some wine and dessert as a summer day cools its way into evening, we traded down to morning so that we could trade up to waffles and mimosas for this season’s kick-off event. After an unfortunate electrical fire, we were also inaugurating our resident waffle mistress’s brand new iron, so it was perhaps best to get things going outside—just to be safe.

Waffle with butter

How do you like to top your waffles?

Mistress of the waffle iron

Mistress of the waffle iron

As the waffle production was very well in hand, I volunteered to provide some toppings. For once in my life I went simple, and I’m going to tattoo this lesson on my forearm so that I can enjoy making party food more and stress about it less. Whip a little honey into softened butter and add a tablespoon of sprinkles: perfect for the kids and takes about 5 minutes. Fry some banana slices in butter, deglaze the pan with bourbon, and stir in some pecans and a good dose of maple syrup: well worth the 20 minutes for the adult joy. A little fresh whipped cream and some mixed berries finished off the tray for the waffle traditionalists in the crowd.

Waffle topping table

Honey butter with sprinkles

Honey butter with sprinkles

With so little prep work to do, I also took a stab at some dark chocolate-dipped clementine slices with sea salt that had caught my eye on Pinterest. I don’t do a lot of fancy chocolate work, so I wasn’t super confident when I started the project, but this proved just as brainless as the rest. A 1/2 cup of good dark chocolate, a bit of shortening if you have some on hand to smooth things out, and then just melt it together in a double boiler, dip the slices, and rest them in rows on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Finish a row and run a pinch of salt flakes down the line. Repeat. The only hard part was setting them down instead of eating them. I popped them in the fridge overnight, covered well in plastic wrap once the chocolate set hard. The next day I just had to pile them in a bowl.

For those who would like a little more detail in their recipes:

Honey Butter with Festive Sprinkles

Banana Bourbon Maple Syrup

Dark Chocolate-Dipped Clementine Slices with Sea Salt

How do you like to top your waffles and pancakes?