Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Dad Rocks!

A short Happy Father's Day shout out to my dad. I'm the luckiest daughter in the world because my dad has always been full of love and support. Quick story - when I was a junior in high school deciding what I wanted to study in college I had a talk with my dad in the car. He asked me what I thought I wanted to do. I answered that although I loved being on stage, it didn't seem like a very practical choice. Maybe I should do go be a teacher or a doctor. And he said to me, "Why? If that's where your heart is then you have to go for it." Cut to six Broadway shows and a couple TV appearances later, and boy am I grateful that my dad believed in me even when I didn't.
Thanks Dad!!! I love you!!!

I'd also like to say Happy Father's Day to my Pap, Danny and Jim. And to my Grandpa Wyatt who was the epitome of class. And to my friends who are amazing dads to Samson Jack - Eric and David.

I mean, come on. When you dress your kid up for Halloween as a Jawa and you go as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, you are sooooo destined for the Fatherhood Hall of Fame.

I leave you with this awesome article about fathers that was in today's NY Times by Nicholas Kristof. Check it out if you want to have a good cry.

Happy Father's Day!!!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

When in Doubt - Smize it Out

Well hello Cyber-Friends. It's been such a long time since we've seen each other! Suffice it to say that between doing an internship at a food company, rehearsing and previewing a new musical and pretending to be on America's Next Top Model with one of my besties, Lindsay, that I sort of lost track of time... Smizing takes a lot out of a girl. Just ask Tyra. And I have a lot to smize about right now...

Wait. Hold up. Internship? Food company? What the eff? I know, I know. I surprise even myself sometimes. But it's true. Back towards the end of January when my Broadway show ("Shrek the Musical") had closed I decided I didn't want to sit around and wait for my phone to ring and wallow in unemployment. As many of you know I have an interest in all things food. So I ventured into the civilian world and took a non-paying internship at this company called Basis Foods. I had read about them on a website called Tasting Table and I loved their mission which is to provide good food to all people - not just rich people. That's kick ass. So I emailed them, told them I was an unemployed actress and had no viable skills but that I would work for free. They got back to me right away...I'd like to think it was my charm, but it was probably the "work for free" part. Basis was developing a new program to get food from small family farms to consumers like you and me through a home delivery service - sort of like Fresh Direct meets a CSA. For those of you outside of the five boroughs Fresh Direct is a grocery delivery service here in NYC. For those of you who don't know what a CSA is it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. I'm a member of the Astoria CSA where I pay some money at the beginning of every growing season to a small local, organic farm; then every week I go pick up a box of fresh, organic fruit and veggies from June through November. It's pretty awesome. Anyway, working at Basis was eye opening. In my experience, there are few things harder than getting a new musical off the ground, but I would venture to say that starting a small business is one of those things. We would literally work 15 hour days doing everything from taking orders from customers to packing vegetables in a freezing warehouse at midnight to dealing with a citrus crisis to listening to people complain that they had too many greens in there bags that week. It was A LOT to deal with, but it was really fun. And the people who work for that company are smart, efficient and are completely dedicated to getting good food to the masses. But you know what else I learned? That I LOVE being an actress. It was nice to know that I could hang in an office setting, but it made me so grateful to do my real job.

Speaking of my real job... I am currently performing in the world premiere production of "Johnny Baseball" at the American Repertory Theater.

I love doing all kinds of acting jobs, but my favorite gigs are when I get to originate something entirely new. And it's even better when the project is good. And "Johnny Baseball" is GOOD! It has been one of those magical experiences where everything clicks - the piece, the cast, the creative team. We are having a blast. If you're in the Boston area come and see it. You won't be disappointed. It's about the Curse of the Bambino and institutional racism in major league baseball. And it's AWESOME! Seriously, I'm so proud of this piece.

And we got to go to Fenway.

So, as I mentioned earlier I am a member of the Astoria CSA and our season has just begun. My sister and I split our share because it is literally so much food that there is no way one of us could finish it all in one week. For instance, this past week we got Boston lettuce, Romaine lettuce, strawberries, rhubarb, arugula, spinach, Japanese salad turnips and French breakfast radishes. I had to go back to NYC for an audition on Monday, so I was able to pick up my veggies and fruit and bring it back to Cambridge with me. Needless to say, my week has been filled with delicious salads, bread and butter with radishes and a dash of sea salt and sauteed spinach and garlic. And yesterday I spent part of the day making a delicious Rhubarb and Strawberry Clafouti. You heard me. I said clafouti - which is a delicious French concoction that involves spreading some fruit in the bottom of a baking dish and then putting a crap load of pancake batter on top of it. It rocks. I would have shown you picture, but it's all gone. Hee hee. Now, what to do with those Japanese turnips... perhaps a sensible puree or a simple roast. We'll see. That's the thing about a CSA - there's always something in the box that I would never normally pick up in the grocery store. Just wait until kohlrabi season. I'm gonna get all Iron Chef on your asses.

Sometimes when I smize (that's smiling with your eyes, in case you don't watch ANTM) I look crazy. But I do have lots to smize about right now. It makes me think about the grace that my Grandpa Wyatt would always say before dinner. I can't remember all of it, but the last line was always thanking God for a grateful heart. And that's how I am trying to live my life these days. I am grateful that my hubby is back in the country safe and sound (he was in Turkey), for my awesome job, my health, my supportive parents and sister and entire family. I'm grateful for that when I count good friends I run out of fingers. I'm grateful for coffee, Edith Piaf, Spanx and Mad Men. And somewhere, deep down, I will muster up the strength to be grateful for kohlrabi.

Til next time... peace out.

Addendum - my aunt forwarded me the grace my grandpa used to say.
"Dear Lord, who has given us so much--please give us one thing more--a grateful heart."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bacon Makes Everything Better

Hey Super Friends!

That's one of my besties Dan. He's like a bacon super hero in this picture. As you can imagine, he likes bacon. He's even cooking bacon when that photo was taken. He is a firm believer in the title of this post.

So when we last spoke I believe I was about to make some fresh mozzarella. Well, I'm here to report that while it wasn't a complete success, I didn't totally eff it up either. I went to the farmers market and bought some amazing local milk from Ronnybrook Farms and Milk Thistle (the tastiest milk ever) which is really important when making cheese. Apparently, a lot of the milk we have in the grocery store has been ultra-pasteurized because of the long distances it has to travel to get to our dairy case. This does not make good cheese. It has been heated to such a high point that it ultimately won't make viable curds. It has something to do with destabilizing whey proteins and calcium not bonding... I don't know. I dropped chemistry for show choir in high school. Anyway, I felt like a mad scientist as I was measuring out my citric acid and my vegetable rennet (it's an enzyme). And I have to say, it was pretty magical - one minute I had milk in a pot and the next I totally had curds and whey!
It was so cool. And then cheese disaster struck. I'm still not exactly sure what happened. I drained the whey and put the curds back on the stove over a water bath and that's where I think I overheated them. I went to stretch the cheese and it just sort of turned hard and stringy - not unlike string cheese. The result was that my cheese tasted yummy, but didn't look so good.

Sean and I grated it that night and used on pizza. The good news is that my cheese making kit makes 30 pounds of cheese. So I have a few more chances. I'm gonna do some more fresh mozzarella and then try ricotta. And I even have a recipe for feta. Oh yeah...I forgot to mention that while I was making the cheese my best friend Eric was over with his one year old, Sammy. Sammy didn't really care too much about cheese. How could he when there is a guy (my hubby, Sean) in a funny hat playing Gladware drums and a giant keyboard that makes fun sounds when you sit on it?

OMG! As I am writing this post I just saw my friend on a commercial! This has is not a new experience for me, but I still get really excited. I literally shout at the television "I KNOW HIM!!! I KNOW HIM!!!" and immediately rewind my DVR. And then I think, "I'd like to book one of those big ol' national commercial spots." Ummmmm... yeah. I've been with my commercial and voice over agents for a couple of years now and have not come close to booking anything substantial. I try to make myself feel better by saying it's a total crapshoot. I mean, who can really say what makes someone the perfect actor to dress up as a giant Bud Light bottle? Who decides that one actor says the words "Mmmmmmm.... Butterball" better than every other actor? Oy vey. I try not to take it personally and have come to the conclusion that commercial auditions are a total exercise in letting go. You just have to go in, do it and immediately forget about it. I mean, it's a mystery. There's absolutely no rhyme or reason to the process. And I'm pretty sure I won't get a huge amount of artistic satisfaction doing a commercial. But let me tell you, if I can make a crap ton of money standing in my pajamas for half a day in a recording booth and saying one liners about the wonders of fabric softener I will take it!

On a Buddhist note, I'm going to the Everglades in a couple weeks to attend a giant Buddhist retreat. It's an Arts Conference and will be filled with other artists/Buddhists from all over the country. I'm really excited to go - first, to strengthen my faith; second, to share my experiences with people who go through similar struggles; and third, to get the heck out of the cold!! I'm so tired of wearing snow boots!!! I mean, seriously!! I have a fierce pair of Michael Kors black leather ankle boots that I am dying to wear with my skinny jeans and can't until the weather decides to co-operate. The place I'm going is called the Florida Nature and Culture Center and it looks beautiful. There's a pool and everything! So I'll be sure to bring my bathing suit... and my bug spray... and my ankle boots.

I did have one cooking triumph this week. I made my own mayonnaise! If you've never done it, it is SUPER easy. Well, if you have a food processor or blender. You literally put an egg, a little oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice in the machine and blend. Then slowly add more oil. In about 3 minutes you totally have homemade mayo!!! And it is soooooo tasty.

OK. Sean and I have to finalize the details of a drinking game we're devising while watching "House." For the record, we're not playing right now. We just want to have the rules set if the opportunity ever arises. We are completely obsessed with that show and have seen almost every episode. So far, we've decided you drink whenever they say "amyloidosis" and "sarcoidosis." And if the diagnosis ever actually ends up as one of those diseases then you have to chug. If you ever watch "House" you know how quickly this could go downhill.

Until next time..... PEACE OUT!!!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Only the Good Die Young

My last post was epic and I don't have much time right now, so I'm attempting brevity:

1. Soy based fake chicken does not taste like chicken at all. It sucks.

2. Starting a food co-op is hard. And exciting. And exhausting. We decide our guiding principles tonight! Wish us luck!!!

3. It's possible that I do a better Boston accent then previously thought.

And on a sad note, let us take a moment of silence for Herb the herb.
His life was short but he was able to lend his delicious parsley flavor to many dishes in his brief time with us.
He was just more than this world was ready for...

That's all for now! More coming ASAP because I just bought a cheese making kit!!!!!!


Have a cheese-tastic day!!!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

My goal was to blog about once or twice a week.
As you can see that has not happened. I have no good excuse except I am a very busy and important unemployed actress... cue laugh track. Seriously, though, my determination is renewed and I am again setting my goal to blog at least once a week. Please don't judge me if I fail. Sometimes life happens.

On a serious note, for those of you who don't know, my sister was in a car accident last week when she was rear-ended on the BQE. Her car was completely totaled, but we are all so thankful that it did it's job and kept her safe. She's looking on the bright side and thinking about what kind of new and exciting hybrid she wants. As a precaution, my sis did have the EMTs take her to the emergency room where it was determined she was intact. However, if there are any doctors out there reading this let me give you some advice. When a fragile and disheveled looking single woman who has been in a serious car accident has to give you a urine sample, please don't ask "There's no way you could be pregnant, right?" It's just mean. You are implying that she looks like crap (which, of course, she has already been lamenting about because of all the cute fireman who arrived on the scene) and it is not going to help the healing process. Are we clear, doctors? Good. Anyway, my sister has been feeling better and better with each passing day and is receiving the proper follow-up care. With the help of Geico we hope to have her back on the road soon in her new car where she will be the most cautious and courteous driver ever.

So up until this past weekend I had been on a cooking rampage: sausage and peppers, cream of mushroom soup, broccoli rabe, fondue de poulet a la creme and poulet en cocotte bonne femme. That's right. I'm going all French on your asses. I went to the Union Square Farmers Market and did some damage. For you out of towners who don't know this place it the first farmers market in NYC. I would venture to say it's one of our biggest; there are about 140 farmers who sell their locally produced cheeses, veggies, meats and plants there every week. And it's open year round. Lucky for me, it's close to the Buddhist cultural center where I practice, so I've been able to go there a lot lately. Recently, I bought some delicious organic sweet Italian sausage and chorizo, mushrooms, fresh heavy cream, delicious sharp cheddar cheese, a bianca cheese with herbes de Provence, potatoes, onions, broccoli rabe, kimchi and... wait for it... a parsley plant. That's right. I'm trying to not kill a plant. For your information, I have zero gardening ability. I killed my Aerogarden which is supposedly impossible. But I found a way. I have named this parsley plant "Herb the Herb", and so far so good. He gets plenty of morning sun and I'm trying to not overwater. Only time will tell, but I think he looks pretty healthy!

Yeah, yeah. I know there are people in this world who are amazing and can grow food. I mean, I'm reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." Barbara Kingsolver freaking not only has a farm full of heirloom vegetables but is raising chickens and turkeys! CHICKENS AND TURKEYS PEOPLE!!! I did not get that farmy/garden gene. As a kid, I remember my mom looking at her garden and lamenting, "Well, maybe next year the tulips will come up..." Speaking of my mother, she wanted me to clarify from my last post that she is not a terrible mother and that it was really hard to feed a kid who was super picky and only ate salt and vinegar potato chips and occasionally enjoyed a scoop of Jamocha ice cream on Wednesdays. Anyway, she is an awesome mom/wife/music teacher/percussionist/choir director/all-around do-gooder - it's just gardening and cooking are not where her talents lie. Lay. Lain. Laid. Sorry, Mrs. Alban - that one always confused me.

Anyway... so we've got Herb, a myriad of fresh, local, beautiful ingredients and some organic poulets. That's French for chicken. My poulets turned out very delicious (one with cream and onions and one with bacon, onions and potatoes courtesy of Ms. Child) and I was super proud. I felt I had sort of lost my groove cooking meat after a previous roasted chicken fiasco and some overdone lamb in the last month. The lamb really broke my heart. It was amazing, beautiful fresh lamb meat, and when I effed it up I felt horrible. I mean if you think about it, this lamb basically lived so I could eat it. To not cook it properly is just plain disrespectful. I know you're thinking I am off my rocker and besides, what kind of Buddhist eats meat? Well, lemme tell you... this Buddhist does. I have tried to do the vegetarian thing and my body feels like crap after about two weeks of it. So I try to do veggie during the day and allow myself whatever I want at night. But I do my best to make sure all the meat I eat is locally and sustainably produced. My husband, sister and I belong to the Astoria CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and along with getting fresh veggies every week we are also able to order meat, cheese, eggs and other goodness through that - like bacon with pig hair still on the rind!

Cool, huh?

And now is where the giant bout of hypocrisy comes in. This past weekend Sean, his band and I travelled down to my home town in West Virginia where they awesomely headlined the Winter Jazz Fest (check out his music at Have you ever taken a long road trip? Have you ever noticed all the signs for restaurants on the highway? There are tons of options... and by options I mean crap. McDonald's, Burger King, Roy Rogers, the occasional Chik-Fil-A (only in the south)... and we chose Arby's. It was the first beef (if you can call it that) I had eaten in weeks. And then I proceeded to eat fries (of the curly variety). And here's what I learned after I ate it - its not worth it. For me, at least. It really made me appreciate living in NYC where my food choices are abundant and I can eat ANYTHING I want. My home town is filled to the brim with fast food joints and restaurant chains and it's easy to see why many people there are unhealthy. I mean no disrespect to the hard working men and women who make that food or eat that food. I love a Taco Bell gordita as much as the next girl and the queso at Chili's is delicious. (Although, please tell me if you are trying the Taco Bell drive thru diet. I'm anxious to know how much weight you've lost eating their ground beef tacos with Fiesta Salsa. Seriously. I wanna know. Is it the Fiesta Salsa that makes it "diet?") Anyway, back to my point. The main reason people eat like crap down there is because it's cheaper. One of my friends worked in a doctor's office where 70% of the patients were on Medicaid. How can you ask someone like that to buy local organic Swiss chard when she can get a whole box of cereal for the same price that will give her family breakfast for a week? It's a really tough dilemma and one that I hope eventually gets solved. Luckily there are a few strong willed individuals who have started a farmer's market and the idea is catching. Even if some families buy their milk and eggs from local sources that is a huge benefit not only to their bodies, but to the farmers and the local economy. If you can afford it you should do it. Support these hard working men and women so that one day the good food (aka veggies) will be cheaper than the sugar-laden cereal. I read a great saying the other day: Think Locally. Act Neighborly. I am adopting it as one of my own mantras.

Speaking of neighbors, I attended a really inspirational Buddhist meeting in my neighborhood yesterday. It was a meeting for the Buddhist women in Astoria and their guests, and I have to say, we have some really amazing women - smart, focused, and determined to make their world a better place. The woman who was the main speaker was so clear and articulate, and I left feeling like I understood Buddhism a hundred times better than when I came in. I hope to be as cool as she is one day. I won't bore you with the details, but she talked about how we are all interconnected and interdependent, not only with each other but also with our environment. And that every single person is a Buddha - that somewhere inside of them the Buddha nature exists (I'm still looking for mine). And it is our mission, as Buddhists, to make the world a more compassionate and truthful and courageous place - starting with ourselves. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit I have not always had the strongest Buddhist practice. It's a very self-motivated thing - the main practice consists of sitting down in front of our altars at home and chanting morning and evening (we also have gatherings with other people who practice)... which doesn't sound hard. But, for me, it is easier said than done. My first three years of practice were so strong and consistent. And then it was all downhill from there. I would stop chanting then start again. Then stop and start. And then stopped all together for a little while. And then slowly realized how much more fulfilled I was when I chanted. So I started again. And so far so good. My therapist and I used to talk about why I found it so hard to do things that I know are good for me. I never had an answer, but I'm guessing it has something to do with laziness and arrogance. Anyway, I'm back on track and am happily chanting and am determined to "have faith like water" which means it flows through life's ups and downs. I guess that's what Buddhism teaches me. S**t is going to happen, but it is your responsibility to choose how to deal with it. And because of my practice I feel like I deal with the s**t parts better. For example, I had one of the worst auditions of my life last week. It was a final callback for a big old Broadway show. I finished singing and the people behind the table literally just stared at me. For, like, 15 seconds. And then I left. But instead of beating myself up about it, I was able to walk out and let it go. That is definitely something I could not have done a year ago. Plus, it was pretty hilarious. I mean, somehow my voice decided to sound like the Vienna Boys' Choir when it needed to sound like Led Zepplin. How many times does that happen? Anyway, I'm so glad I chose to take it in my stride and avoid the deep, dark circle of self doubt and self hatred. Yay me. Maybe my Buddha nature isn't as buried as I thought.

So this week is full of accents, trumpet playing, childlike behavior, Restaurant Week, baby bok choy, Latin Jazz and some Buddhist planning meetings. It's gonna be hot.

I'll fill you in next week!

I promise!!!

PS - Big props to my Uncle Chris for the WVU Snuggie and to Drew and Chris T. for clearing me up on semi-colons.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Let's start at the very beginning...

So my name is Kirsten.
I've decided to write a blog. I named it "Lights. Karma. Oven." (Well, actually my friend, Roy, named it. Thanks Roy!)
I may regret it later... I would never be so presumptuous to think that I actually have anything important to say; but I figure if Pam Anderson can do it than so can I.

I guess the purpose of this blog is to record all my little successes and failures on my quest to "have it all..." We'll see if I get there. What do I mean by "have it all" you may ask.... let me explain:

1. I'm an actor. Thus the "Lights" portion of the title.
I love to act. I also sing and dance. Which I also love. It's been my honor and pleasure to do that for a living in NYC for about 13 years now. Although my most recent show closed two and a half weeks ago and I am currently unemployed. Ahhhhhh, yes... such is the life of an actor. One day it's kicks then it's kicks in the shins (that's for all you musical theater lovers out there). Anyway, performing fills me with great joy. And, not to toot my own horn, but I think I'm pretty good at it too. I especially like to make people laugh. That's like crack to me. I mean, I've never done crack, but I imagine the feeling I get from having 1100 people laugh at me in a show is how crack addicts feel when they hit the pipe. You just want more and more until you mysteriously end up in the back of a van with a one armed hooker named Doreen heading over the Verrazano Bridge. I digress... I love my work. But as I get older I increasingly feel that I want a little more out of my life. That's not saying I'm not 100 percent committed to my craft (in case any casting directors or producers are reading this). I'm just saying that I don't want to be 70 years old standing in line at the Equity Building for an open call of "7 Brides for 7 Brothers..."
I'm just sayin'...

2. I'm a Buddhist. "Karma."
I've practiced Buddhism for about 8 years now (raised Catholic). Sometimes I've practiced fervently. Sometimes not. But I will say that when my practice has been strong I feel the positive effects in my life. I practice with an organization called the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). We chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (yes, just like Tina Turner did when she ran away from Ike). Without getting too heady, we believe that we can transform the crappy stuff that happens in our lives into sources of growth and compassion; and that if we change ourselves for the better everything around us will change for the better too. Easier said than done, my friends... easier said than done.

As a side note, is everyone enjoying my use of the semi colon? I know I am. I've used two so far and I'm not even sure if I used them properly, but it makes me feel very literary. Although I have a feeling my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Alban, would feel differently.


3. I'm a food lover. Yes... that's "Oven."
I have always loved food. Some of my favorite memories revolve around eating - my Grammy's ravioli (heaven), experiencing Indian food for the first time (in Portland, Maine of all places at a place called Hi, Bombay), Skyline Chili (I love a three-way), making madeleines with my friend Dan (we needed a special pan and everything!?!), my husband taking me to Morimoto in Philadelphia for my birthday (the Iron Chef himself cooked our meal!!)... I could go on and on. Anyway, somewhere between watching "Babette's Feast" and making my first boeuf bourgignon I fell in love with food. I love to eat it. I love to cook it. And I am becoming increasingly passionate about where our food comes from. This is new to me. On top of being a super picky eater when I was a kid, I was raised almost entirely on McDonald's and processed food. Although, sometimes we liked to shake it up and go to Subway for a "healthy" alternative. I'm not saying these things to make my mother feel bad. She and my dad both worked, like, three jobs each to make sure my sister and I had voice lessons and piano lessons and dance lessons. And we totally had our share of home cooked meals that may or may not have consisted of canned green beans and cubed steak. But it wasn't until I moved to New York and really started cooking that I became more interested in ingredients and where my food actually came from. I started to educate myself. Among other things, I read "Omnivore's Dilemma" and "Food Matters." I watched "Food Inc." I've become involved in starting a food co-op in Queens. And I want to do my part and support local and sustainable agriculture in my community. It's better for my body. It's better for the economy. It's better for the earth. Of course, I'm allowing myself to be a big, fat hypocrite too, because I totally squeezed some industrial, third-world country lemon into my mushroom soup tonight. What can I say? Nobody's perfect...

So to me, I guess "having it all" means acting, singing, dancing, chanting, being compassionate, being courageous, eating, cooking and cheering for the little guys all at once! Well, not literally all at once, but you know what I mean. I'm on a quest for balance and expansion and clarity in my life. I'm tired of defining myself as just one thing because I'm passionate about, well, at least three! And, dag nubbit, I'm gonna blog about it all!!! So here I am... in New York City... a foodie actress on the path to enlightenment.

Lights. Karma. Oven!