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“Why are there handcuffs on my kitchen counter?”

[silence]

“Guys, this room is a mess, can you help me clean up?”

[silence]

“Does anyone want some hot chocolate before I pour my booze into it?”

Just a few of the conversations that happened over a very long 36 hours that was, according to Twitter, Instagram and all of the hashtag-using entities: #snowmageddon #winterstormjuno and the #blizzardof2015

Also known as….just your average Tuesday….or most hopefully, Chad Myers’ swan song.

Although it would be sad to see meteorologist Chad Myers go. I eagerly turn on CNN whenever we’re in the face of an impending storm. Simply to see him wild-eyed and foaming gently at the corners of his mouth, talking about Arctic highs and barometric drops. And, I might add, sourcing every other word from World Wrestling Entertainment. With all of the slamming, rocking, and pummeling, we could alternatively be talking about a Guns ‘n Roses concert or a fracking expedition in North Dakota.

So who hangs out with me couch-side when I’m watching these Emmy-worthy performances? That’s where it gets complicated.

Every television show needs its own tactfully-chosen viewing partner. It’s best to watch the tube with someone who’s properly attuned the show’s comedic vision. For ABC’s “The Bachelor”, that viewing partner is my husband. Some of our finest moments as husband and wife have been on the couch, glass of red in hand, voicing suspicions about who’d illegally snuck into our bachelor’s tent after hours. If I were to prioritize, watching these television moments together rank lower than the birth of our children, but might top our trip to South America.

For CNN – and yes, CNN does have a comedic vision…it just doesn’t know it yet – that viewing partner is my Mum.

Rodney, despite his strengths as a Bachelor accomplice, doesn’t think that CNN is funny. A wind-whipped newscaster plunging a yardstick into 3 inches of snow isn’t funny. Don Lemon riding around in the “Blizzardmobile” through the night, investigating a most unstory of stories, isn’t funny. Chad Myers yelling at his fellow newscasters and spiking his script on the ground, isn’t funny.

My Mum, bless her heart, thinks it’s hysterical. Which is why when a storm bears down on the East Coast, we swap phone calls and exchange notes – “did you see the woman with the giant thermometer?”

We’re lucky when we get to watch CNN together in person, which doesn’t happen as often as we’d like these days. So we’re forced to chat virtually; the silver lining of our phone conversations is that she doesn’t have to wonder whose handcuffs are lying on the kitchen counter (let the record state that they belonged to Sam) …or witness the mess that our living room becomes after 36 hours indoors. Or, heaven forbid, see with her bare eyes how much booze gets poured into my hot chocolate.

Some things are better left private. Others…well I’m happy to share a few moments from our experience with Winter Storm Juno last week:

The actual storm before the storm…
(Really, if there was a storm, it happened two days before Winter Storm Juno. Don’t ask me why this storm didn’t get a name…. Weathercasting is confusing even before you even start talking about divergent models and barotropic systems)

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A confession:

I, Jessica, lover of all things seafood, defender of raw oysters, cult follower of everything clam, have never liked mussels.

Sure, I’d order the occasional restaurant bowl, but it was less for the moules, more for the frites. The problem with mussels (not “muscles” friends – I’ve seen that written frequently, which warrants this important PSA) is that if they’re one microsecond past their peak of freshness, they become just plain wretched.

Which is how I’ve eaten them on too many occasions. Even at high-end restaurants where mussels should be held to higher standards. Sometimes a whole bowl is tainted, but most often it’s the one long-dead mussel bomb in an otherwise fresh bowl that can ruin the whole experience.

But it just so happens that on a balmy afternoon in October, we visited The Ivy in LA and my feeling about mussels was about to change.

Let’s backtrack a few days so that I can fill you in on how we found ourselves there.

Rodney and I had just started our second year of school at Berkeley and had thrown a legendary party to break in the new apartment. Reams of students and new acquaintances had poured themselves into our tiny space and we’d stayed up late into the night drinking and chatting.

On nights like these, you often end up with a string of new best friends; some of whom you never see again. Some of whom you do.

Our friend Teddy fell into the second category. Introduced through Rodney’s good friend from college, we immediately hit it off, demanded that he come to our upcoming wedding in Mexico, and promised to visit him in LA.

I was excited for our drive from San Francisco to LA. Rodney and I mapped out our trip, planning to take the scenic route down Highway 1.

Our weekend finally upon us, we took off, hip hop filling the air, and steered our way down through Carmel and the Santa Barbara wine country. We even decided to camp out overnight and I got to use my latest purchase: a thin piece of fabric that was marketed as “the world’s smallest sleeping bag”. Translation: world’s coldest sleep-deprivation chamber.

As dinnertime neared on the second day of our drive, we pulled into a gas station in Calabasas, California. From there, Rodney called Teddy and told him that we’d be arriving at his place in 30 minutes. We were in great spirits. Rodney pumped gas; he spoke with another friend or two while he topped up the tank. I strolled around and craned my neck, hoping to catch sight of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.

And then it dawned on Rodney that with all of the sunshine and good times, he’d missed a crucial detail and filled his tank with diesel.

This, I might add, was no ordinary tank. We were driving our Chevy Tahoe, affectionately known as “the beast”.

For the record, if this ever happens to you, cancel your plans for the next few hours because you’ll be spending them on your back, laboriously siphoning expensive fuel out of your vehicle drop by drop.

We arrived at Teddy’s house at 11PM. The dinner that he’d prepared had long gone cold. Not the best way to christen a friendship. So we did what any good houseguest would do and attacked his wine supply.

The next day, sheepish and hungover, we were in the mood for grub and desperately wanted to give Teddy some space.

Teddy steered us in the direction of The Ivy, which at that point was popular with the movie execs. We somehow finagled a table and nestled into our patio chairs. Once again I craned my neck in search of celebrities, which, in LA, is akin to spotting monkeys at the zoo but with less giddy pointing.

I can’t remember whether we saw anyone of interest; but I do remember my lunch: New Zealand green mussels in a green curry sauce.

When you can recall the exact details of a lunch that you ate 15 years prior, you know that it was good. The green-shelled mussels were impossibly fresh, and the coconut-based curry sauce was spicy, but not overpowering.

I think about these mussels often. I’ve dreamt about recreating them at home. New Zealand green mussel though, are hard to find. I’ve never seen them since – neither on restaurant menu nor in grocery store display.

The good news is that standard black mussels are easy to find. Making it easy for you to recreate this recipe in the comfort of your own home. It’s a glimmer our lunch at The Ivy, minus the guilt and shame. Plus it has the added benefit of some pickled shallots for added flavor. Triple win.

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frozen_FeedMeDearly (22)

With all of the sun and fog and toes in the lake, it would seem as though we haven’t had our fair share of winter.

I’m here to prove to you that not only has blustery weather passed through the Northeast corridor, but that we’ve also been taking advantage of the season. 

Some of you may recall that last year our winter season went down the tubes because our pipes froze and burst. I won’t go into the details, but despite all efforts to keep our house at a minimum temperature and turn the water off whenever we leave….sometimes the weather/housing construction gods are in cahoots and will foil your best efforts to maintain a flood-free zone. It was a mess and a three-month effort to clean up.

The good news is that new insulation has made our home much cozier than ever before, giving us renewed freedom to freeze our nose hairs off doing all manner of winter activity.

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There’s the obvious winter sport: skiing….a favorite pastime, especially now that we have two down/one to go in our efforts to get our three kids on skis. This weekend I even used poles. Poles I tell you! No backwards inverted pizza as I steer a rickety kindergartener down the mountain. I was carving skis and planting poles and it was northing short of a miracle.

It may surprise you that New Jersey has skiing, but it shocked me to find out that our neighborhood ski area, Mountain Creek, has over 1,000 feet of vertical drop spread across 3 peaks. Look across the foothills and you can see the ridge of the Appalachian trail. If it weren’t the closest ski resort to Manhattan and overrun with a bunch of wild-on-foot yahoos, it would be pretty much perfect.

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Some cooks prefer to prepare food as naturally as possible. Pie dough with a food processor? Bread dough with a standing mixer? Not a chance. Isn’t that what your hands are for? To pinch flour and water together, and feel the weight of the ingredients in your hands, just as your ancestors did for millenniums before you?

For better or worse, I am not one of these people. I’m an efficiency junkie and rely heavily on modern day kitchen innovations. I’m an owner of every tool for every need – cherry pitters, avocado slicers, vegetable noodle spiralizers, stovetop smokers, handheld smokers…would you like me to continue? For the record, Julia Child had the very same vices, so if you include yourself in the “technology-dependent” camp, you’re in good company.

With all of this technology talk, you’d probably assume that I was an early adopter of one of the high-tech blenders that flooded the market in recent years.

But I held off, and for good reason.

We had a blender, and a high-priced one at that, courtesy of our wedding registry. Soon after our engagement, I’d walked through Crate and Barrel with a handheld version of a supermarket checkout scanner, price shooting SKUs with eager abandon.

But this was back in 2004 when Vitamix (and its descendents) hadn’t yet captured the hearts and wallets of health fanatics everywhere. The first time that I heard about one of these high-speed blenders was years later through a friend of mine, who waxed poetic about its nutritional benefits. Despite her protestations, I stuck to my old machine, resigning myself to a blender that produced a fine margarita, but would cower if confronted by a raw beet in a dark alley.

The turning point in my newbie juicing career came when I became part of the Instagram community two years ago. And my – what juices and smoothies these vegan, paleo, gluten-free and other health fanatics were making: Vegetables, herbs, fruit, bee pollen, spirulina, and maca powder? XO Jane addressed the issue with the eloquently-titled “Let’s talk about the weird sh*t I put in my blender”.  Clearly, I was behind the times. All the cool kids were doing it; it was high time that I got myself out of the dark ages and invest in a blender that could pulverize a chain link fence along with my daily allotment of frozen berries.

I did my research – Vitamix was the market leader, with a price tag to match. But one that I kept hearing about – Blendtec – was delivering equivalent results with a significantly lower cost.

And it came in red, my favorite color.

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I jumped on the bandwagon, ordered my Blendtec, and opened it with a weepy glint in my eye. And as so often happens with any new purchase, it sat on my shelves, neglected and unloved, for 5 months.

This is a pattern, and – whether you call it technophobic or lack-of-time-aholic – it’s a problem. I’m always giddy to make the purchase on Amazon, and dread the unpacking/setup process.

The issue, by the way, is purchase-agnostic. It could be a cable for my computer, a new backup drive, even a highly-desirable a new flash for my camera. No matter how much I want or need the product in question – if there is any assembly required (defined as something that needs any effort beyond extraction from a box), I hide my little treasure and pretend that it doesn’t exist. I’m guessing that many share this illness; own up if you’re a member of this unfortunate crowd. Maybe we should form a support group.

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When I was in my mid-20s, my (then) fiancée, (now) husband & I applied to business school. We applied all around the country, knowing that acceptance rates were low, and hoping for the best: that we’d both get into the same program, and could move to our next city together.

We were lucky, as UC Berkeley just outside of San Francisco, accepted us both. It was off to Northern California, right across the bridge from his hometown of Marin.

Moving from the East Coast to the West Coast is an adjustment. Seasonal weather, leafy trees, and gothic architecture were quickly replaced by fresh crab, lemon trees, salty air and fog. Lots of it.

That’s what stays with me the most. More than the farmer’s markets, the vintage bookstores on Telegraph Avenue, or the classes themselves. Summer fog, winter fog, day-long fog and morning fog. They just don’t manufacture fog the same way on the East coast.

The Inuits have 50 words to describe their snow: “aqilokoq”:“softly falling snow”; “piegnartoq”:“the snow that is good for driving sleds”; I imagine that Northern Californians have a more intimate understanding of fog. Pea soup, black fog, dry fog, killer fog, sea mist, and valley fog; all names of fog, all unidentifiable to me, even after two years of living there.

“How”, I thought as I wandered out of the lake house one morning recently: “would the Northern Californians classify this?”

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