Shoutout to my dawg October

There are only six days of October left, people! The last day is Halloween and then the day after Halloween, we’re in this, “Now what?” kind of mode. “Now what” being November.

I have posted before about one of my favorite months, that being the month of May. It’s not just my birth month but has some of the best weather (depending where you are in the country) and is, overall, a happy sunshiney type month.

In the aforementioned post I just referenced, I mention that it’s one of my two favorite months. However, I misspoke. I actually have three. Originally I was only referring to May and December (because I do love me some Christmas and the start of winter) but I was completely and totally overlooking October. My humblest apologies to October because I absolutely love it.

Zoe Says her reasons for applauding October:

  1. It’s the tenth month of the year. As a gal with a May birthday and lover of symmetry and all numbers being multipliers of five, its place in the calendar year is tops. 5+5=10? We get October!
  2. It’s full-on AUTUMN (okay and usually Indian Summer, too). It’s when the weather finally turns from summer to cool, crisper days. The leaves turn stunning, brilliant colors of yellow, orange, and red. They flutter to the ground in a lilting dance, aided by Mother Nature’s breezes.
  3. The leaves on the ground turn crisp and make a lovely crunching noise when you walk through them.
  4. As the weather gets chillier, especially at night, the smell of woodsmoke permeates the air, whether it’s from people conducting weenie and marshmallow roasts, folks staying warm by their fireplaces, or groups of people having a good old-fashioned bonfire.
  5. One word: hoodies.
  6. Pumpkin comes back with a vengeance and we begin consuming it fervently. It’s in our drinks, it’s in our desserts,  there’s something called pumpkin butter, we toast the seeds, we carve them for fun.
  7. Orange is really in.
  8. Halloween. Candy. Trick-or-treaters. Decorations. Ghosts. You get the idea.
  9. Apple orchards are prime for picking fresh apples, which will also become many desserts from now through December.
  10. Hay rides, scary or non.
  11. Beaucoup de autumn photos! Seriously, Tumblr this month has been crazy with posting all these glorious fall pictures. Guilty!
  12. Last but not least: another month with TONS of birthdays, including my brother’s! I’m in May, he’s in October – it’s pretty fantastic.

And because I have absolutely been taking tons of pictures of anything related to autumn this month, I am posting a handful of my favorites for your viewing pleasure. I hope October has been as enjoyable for you as it has been for me! Make these last six days count.

Last of the blooms

At the end of the path

Dappled leaves

Leaves on bokeh

Serene autumn landscape

Bottom line, these are awesome

After taking a ten day break from posting to the blog, I’m making my efforts to get back in the game with one or two posts this weekend. I checked my drafts and notes I’ve made to myself to see what sparked my interest. Some material just begs to be written, ya know?

Anyhow, one post I’ve mulled over quite a bit is giving props to some of my favorite things as of late. They don’t really run together in a thematic way, but that’s just how I roll. Even when I journal, I’ll interrupt my own thoughts to write about something completely off topic and then go back to finish writing on the first subject. Re-reading my journals definitely cracks me up and absolutely gives credence to the term “stream of consciousness.” (I don’t usually go back and reread, though. I have a weird thing about that.)

But let’s get to the awesome stuff, shall we? A couple of weeks ago, I was at my local grocery store and I came to the cereal aisle. I don’t purchase cereal too often, since I’m hardly ever home to eat it. I get to the weekends and usually want it but to me, it doesn’t make sense to run to the store to get a box for two whole days. But this time, I specifically went to the cereal aisle to see if they had something in stock that I’d been secretly wanting to try for quite some time: Chocolate Lucky Charms. Oh yeah. None of this grown-up, 20g-of-fiber-per-serving crap. “Whole grain,” chocolate and marshmallow infused, sugary goodness. I could practically hear my inner 5 year-old shrieking with delight.

I put the box in my basket, made sure I bought fresh milk, and proceeded to jam home so I could dig in. I poured a huge bowl immediately, let the cereal sit in the milk for about a minute and dug in. I love this closeup I found of the stuff:

I love the rainbows!

 

 

If you have had any remote inkling within you to try a kids’ cereal, try this one. Sure, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Frosted Flakes are all fine and dandy, but this one tops it all, guys. Trust me on this one. It’s a close race but the only other kids’ cereal I would eat with regularity (but don’t allow myself to) is Reese’s Puffs. reeses-puffs-cereal-box

OOOOOMMMMMGGGGG they are so good! But since they don’t have marshmallows, they make #2 on Zoe’s List of Awesome Cereals. Have you ever had whole milk or dare I suggest it, half ‘n half on cereal? The quality of milk is very important. Don’t even try to tell me that cereal is good with skim milk on it, because we all know it’s not. It’s blue water. Remember the movie Friday where the mom tells Ice Cube’s character, “Use water. Won’t hurt.” when there’s no milk for his cereal? Yeah. That’s disgusting. (Incidentally, I think my dad suggested that to me once when I was a kid. Water on cereal tastes like you’re eating it out of the toilet. I’m just saying.) Creamy, delicious milk on Chocolate Lucky Charms absolutely makes the weekend. Try it for yourself.

Moving on. Something else that has been at the forefront of awesomeness for me is Lancome. (Jennifer, I know you hear me on this one!) Ladies, this is not just crappy, American slop with a fancy French label. This is the real stuff from Paris and their skincare and makeup is hard to beat. If you only buy one thing ever from Lancome, make it their mascara. For a very long time, their Definicils was my favorite but then…they came out with L’Extreme. My fellow Lancome lover Jennifer told me to try it and I’ve never looked back. Does it cost $24 for a tube of mascara that, worn faithfully, will only last you three months? Yes. But is it worth every superbly lengthened eyelash? You bet.

In fact, if you go to Lancome’s website and click on Best Sellers, the first five things that grace the page are their Bi-Facil eye makeup remover (which totally rocks, I can attest) and four of their mascaras, including Definicils. Their new one is Oscillation. I don’t know a thing about “vibrating” mascara but it’s selling well, obviously. You can watch the demo video. It’s ten bucks more but if you want those fabulous eyes framed by longass lashes, it could be worth it. For those of us who live in New York, we have access to Lancome through more than one outlet: Sephora, the Lancome store and any number of department store makeup counters. I have a little of everything in Lancome, but I have also tried their Pure Focus skincare line and it’s nothing short of fabulous. For those like me who have oily skin, a MUST HAVE in your regiment is their Tonique Pure Focus. It has mattifying powders in it that keep your face from getting nasty greasy throghout the day. Worth every cent and photographs without a shiny T-zone. I won’t even get into Juicy Tubes or their eyeliners, but the point is obviously to try some Lancome. You’ll never go back. The reason I can say this so emphatically is that due to budget constraints, I bought some L’Oreal Bare Naturale mascara and I gotta say, I’m not impressed. I do like that it boasts more natural ingredients, yes. And I have tried and really love the whole natural makeup thing – I have Bare Escentuals powder foundation and it’s the only thing I’ll use. But what I don’t like about this particular mascara is that not only does it take much more time to try to get the same effect as Lancome’s L’Extreme, but my lashes harden very stiffly. I’ve also noticed that my eyes get irritated at the end of the day and so while I saved $20 by trying it out, I will not be repurchasing. That having been said, I have read reviews where women swear by this stuff, but it’s not for me. What can I say, my lashes demand more. They have expensive taste.

The last thing I’m writing in-depth about is autumn. I love this season. I really enjoy the transitional seasons more than the extremes. I was born in the spring so maybe that makes me biased. There are even parts of winter I enjoy (like Christmas) but after awhile, the extreme cold gets to me and I’m ready for warmer days. After spring, summer hits and I tire quickly of the blistering heat and sweating constantly with a million other people sweating in the NYC subway. Blech.

What I love about autumn is the transition from hot to cold, progressively, over its three months. The leaves change color and gives us these gorgeous views. My mom took some photos and sent them – I thought these two were particularly grand:

autumn-leaves-2yellow-leaves

The leaves fall, getting nice and crunchy. They coat our sidewalks, streets and homes. A chill begins to permeate the air. Is there anything better than smelling wood smoke on a crisp, autumn evening? The heaters begin to come on and at least in New York apartments, the sound and smell of steam from the radiators becomes a part of the apartment atmosphere (unless your landlord is a dick and keeps the heat at some ridiculously low temperature and you freeze).

Road trips in autumn are my favorite. Back in college, my friends and I would go up to my old roommate’s house in Lake Placid, New York, where the scenery just stole your breath. Plenty of wood smoke smell there! Listening to music and driving whilst sipping on something like pumpkin spice coffee or hot chocolate….mmmmm…..it’s like all my troubles melt away. Damn, it just reminds me I don’t own a car anymore. To Do: buy a car in the future.

Then after the road trip when you get to your destination or back home, the cold night air makes you want to curl up and watch a favorite movie under a toasty blanket. I recently purchased Good Will Hunting, a movie I’ve been wanting to add to my collection for a long time. (My book club debated on who was hotter in that movie, Matt Damon or Ben Affleck. I’m in the Matt Damon club.) There’s nothing about autumn I don’t love – Halloween, Thanksgiving, the lead-up to Christmas….mmmm. I’ll have to write about the holiday season in another post – I love it. I’m one of those annoying people who can listen to Christmas music the start of November. Uh huh.

All of this makes me want to go unwrap the new movie and give it a spin. I even have the perfect blanket in which to wrap myself. All I need now is some Chocolate Lucky Charms and extended eyelashes care of Lancome.

My primal, Sunday baking urge

Yep, this looks about right.

Yep, this looks about right.

For the life of me, I cannot get Beyonce’s song “Irreplaceable” out of my head. The only two phrases running through my mind all day have been, “To the left, to the left…” and “You must not know ’bout me, you must not know ’bout me…” I only recently downloaded it after hearing it at David’s wedding reception and I thought that maybe if I listened to it a few times the song would fade from my head. Instead, the lyrics keep cycling around up there with no end in sight. Listening to the song provides relief and insanity all at once.

The beginning of my day started three hours earlier than my Saturday. It totally escapes me why I woke up refreshed at 9am when I went to bed after 2, after having gone out and having a few drinks with a work friend the night before. Why is it that I can wake up and feel great with seven hours of sleep on a Sunday but if I get 7.5 on a weeknight I feel like a hungover zombie on any given day of the work week? It’s why I firmly believe that my body is not meant to be up before 8am. Waking up and getting out of bed before 7am goes against every aspect of my body, mind and soul on a molecular level. I can feel the protest coursing through my blood when I force myself to my feet to grab my bath towels and head to the shower. But whatever the reason today, I got up and decided to make the day as productive and yet relaxing as possible.

The weather changes absolutely affect my decision making process on what I intend to do for the day. In today’s case, it was sunny and cool in the morning and I was actually able to shut off my air conditioner that usually runs (even just on fan) to keep the air flowing. When it’s really hot and sunny, totally nasty humid, snowy, sleeting, gray or rainy, I usually find some way to lie prone and read, sleep, watch TV, play Sudoku, text people and any combination thereof as the day progresses. Today went down differently.

Intsead of laying around for the entire day watching TV and avoiding going through the rat’s nest of disorganization in my room, as has been my habit for the past six weekends, I sat at the computer and did my budget for the rest of the week (which consists of looking at the remainder of my money before my next paycheck and cringing). I then made a prudent financial decision not to order any coffee from Coffee Fool (if you haven’t tried this coffee yet, I highly encourage you to do so – amazing stuff) and just finish out the Folger’s French Roast in the freezer. With the $12 I was saving on my coffee order, I applied it to my order of groceries from Fresh Direct, a grocery/catering service native to New York and one of the biggest perks about living here.

Delivery service is what helps make NYC so unique and wonderful, and when Fresh Direct made its way into the forefront of my existence, I embraced it wholeheartedly and gratefully. Sit on my ass and choose groceries and have them delivered when I want anytime in the coming week? Sold!

I am incredibly lazy about going to the grocery store. My friends and family can attest to my personal bests of going weeks upon weeks without buying anything more than a can of soup and a jug of milk at one time.  I think my personal best thus far has been six weeks of buying absolutely nothing, and that was two years ago. I almost caught up to that record until today. So the fact that I ordered some ready-to-eat meals and produce from Fresh Direct and I went to the store up the street from me to get some staples for the day is an incredible feat for me. Put a gold medal around my neck, thank you!

One of my girlfriends who recently moved to Astoria has already explored the area enough around her to know that there’s a Costco nearby. I wouldn’t have known that if I’d lived here twenty years. I aspire to be more like her when I’m not indulging in sheer laziness on the weekends.

So having already been uber successful at waking up early, making a sound financial decision AND ordering groceries, all before having any coffee, how or why the idea of making cookies came into my head I know not. I just know that I hadn’t done anything baking-oriented in ages (mostly due to living with a batshit crazy roommate, as described in my first post) and I was craving the comfy, cozy routine of doing something homey. And you know what, it hoenstly doesn’t get any better than baking cookies. I wasn’t even craving anything dessert-ish per se, I just had an overwhelming urge to bake. Not wanting to ignore the insistent call in my head, I began researching recipes online by Googling the phrase “best chocolate chip cookies” followed by “oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.”

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are my ultimate favorite. The texture and flavor of the oats mixed with the brown sugar, butter and chocolate chips….and imagining them hot and fresh out of the oven….I kept the saliva in check and continued my research. I finally landed upon a recipe from a food blog called Smitten Kitchen. Haha, wow this whole day I thought it was Smitten Kitten and it’s actually Smitten Kitchen. I thought that was so cute, too – Smitten Kitten. Good grief. Anyway, the recipe is for Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies. It was Zoe Perfect! I loved everything about it except the orange zest, which I omitted from even being an option for my cookies. Citrus fruit + chocolate and/or cookie dough = Pointless in the Tao of Zoe. That includes cranberries or cran-raisins. (I mean seriously, what is up with that shit?)

After taking notes on all the ingredients and figuring out if I could afford to make these things, because after all, I own zero sugar, flour or any other staples except vanilla and baking soda, I threw on my flip flops and an acceptable pair of loungey pants and tee-shirt in which to walk to the store (I even put on deodorant!). It wasn’t even 11 in the morning and I was going grocery shopping. I felt like a real grown-up. My fellow Astorian girlfriend would have been proud.

I stuck to my list, a very hard thing to do for most people, and came home with all the goodies. But first I had to relax with my leftover pizza for breakfast and do some dishes before I could even think about making cookies. I took a few photos so you could see the results because if you’re any kind of normal person, you would think this looks amazing. Unless you’re my friend David, who is anti-nuts in baked goods. I’m hoping he’ll one day change his mind but since neither of us haven’t changed ours about loathing seafood (another post for another time), I’m not holding my breath.

Behold the dough in its glorious, shiny beauty!

Phenomenal, gooey,chocolatey, nutty, oatey, magical cookie dough

If you think that looks good, and trust me, it was….here’s the final product:

Oooh, ahh...

Oooh, ahh...

I got the macro function of my camera to work!

I got the macro function of my camera to work!

What really gives it a pinch of autumn lusciousness are the spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves added to the flour mixture. Picture an Italian chef kissing their fingertips with a mwah sound and saying, “Magnifico!”

Needless to say, I munched on a couple right out of the oven and then later on in the evening I ate a few watching stand-up comedy and movies. I filled a couple of plastic tupperware containers with the cookies so I am hoping that despite working in a New York City office, that I will be able to get people to consume one or two, so that I don’t have to come home every night of the week and eat these all on my own. Because 70% of the purpose and thrill of cooking and baking is having others moan and groan over the culinary success of the recipe.

I need praise.

After the exhausting process of measuring, stirring, forming and eating the cookies, it was 2:30pm and time to celebrate my 5.5 hours of productivity – with a nap. After two blissful hours of curling up in the blissful quiet of my room, I woke up at 4:30 to watch some more random movies on HBO, stand-up comedy on Comedy Central and much later on, the Colts v. Bears game. (I love those Manning guys.) My room was once again ignored and once again, I will hope that the motivation to get that done will strike me instead of cookie baking or something else really frivolous next weekend. But I did make some progress on a Moderately Difficult Sudoku puzzle and really enjoyed the fact that my subconscious is really feeling at home here in the new place; or those cookies never would have been made, and that would have been a real shame on this gorgeous pre-autumn Sunday.

(To the left, to the left…)