Monday, April 27, 2015

Shenanigans


Kiddo's school had parent-teacher conferences late last week, which means the heavens shone down on us in the form of a 3-day weekend. A break from the usual grind is always, mercifully, welcome. Not all of us were spared, as Husband had goods to market and spreadsheets to spread, but he got the house to himself, which is something.


I fought the urge to pull up the covers and waste away the morning; Kiddo was not so convinced. Still, we packed ourselves into the car, turned on The Da Vinci Code audiobook, and headed to the ocean to see the tufted puffins nesting on Haystack Rock. Though they purportedly nest from April to August, there was not a puffin in sight. A trip to the beach is never a waste, says we, and so we had a great time wiggling our toes in the sand. And the visit was not without oddity, as the beach was covered with million and millions of vibrant purple-blue jellyfish called Velella; a mass beaching that occurs every few years when the winds change. I was utterly fascinated and Kiddo was like, Um, don't let them touch me.


Have I every mentioned my love of Cannon Beach, Oregon? I do. I love it. There is just something so wonderful about the beaches of the Pacific Northwest. Positively swoonworthy, I tell you. Kiddo declared that he'd like to live there, and when asked what he'd do for a living in a small beachfront town, he replied: Perhaps I could be the town intellectual. I'd be the person people come to when they need answers. He may have his finger on the pulse of something here.


There was also: books; tea (I'm digging this Sticky Rice Pu-ehr. It's good.); Easter candy consumption (Lemon Delight Peeps, oh my); grown up milk cartons; a restaurant supply store (hot dog steamers, sneeze guards and gigantic mixing blades galore!).


I've backed off on the IKEA visits since reaching our furniture quota last fall, but, you know, I'll brave the throngs of pregnant women and screaming children in order to buy that boy a reading chair. He did, after all, confine most of the Legos in his room to one area, revealing a corner perfect for book consumption. I had a nice rocker in mind; he a swiveling faux leather office chair. I stood and stared at it unsure how to proceed, but ultimately we left with a throne fit for a high powered attorney. (Yet no meatballs. Riddle me that.) He set about proudly assembling it himself and only asked once if he would be earning allowance money for doing so. (For the record, my response was, You're joking, right? I just bought you a replica of Spok's bridge chair.)

Anywho, I resisted any and all urges to gorge myself on paper goods and fruit-shaped string lights because, gosh, IKEA is on point this season.


 I woke up this morning wishing it was Sunday but was instead suddenly and unexpectedly overcome with the urge to walk all six round-trip miles of the local trail. It was so unexpected, in fact, I had to remember how to properly wrangle a sports bra onto my body. I feel like I've spent a great deal of my life waiting for certain things to happen organically, and they seldom do (especially in the workout department), but in this case it did and so maybe there is hope for me yet.

This week may just turn out to be a winner. Best buy a lotto ticket.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Get a job. Or a hobby. Or both. (also, Bookmarked)



This week I entered into a weird vortex. I am actively seeking work, have endured the interview process, and been turned down for fifty hundred jobs; needless to say, my intention to work is clear. And while I do the same things I did 4 months ago, pre job hunt, I no longer feel like a homemaker. Though I still fulfill the role and the pay is the same (i.e. the mostly unspoken admiration of my kin), my mindset has changed drastically. I want to work; I am actively looking for work; I need to work, and so I'm feeling very.... unemployed. (In case you missed it, I need 2000 hours of hands-on patient care experience by next April to apply to graduate school. Oy vey iz mir is right.)


I made up my mind to do something, and developed both short and long term plans, but the kindly people down at HR see it differently (labor economics and all that). This leaves me feeling a little, well, aimless. The word ennui is on the tip of my tongue more than I'm comfortable with.

The other day I was eating a bag of croutons and watching a mid-morning rerun of Walker Texas Ranger, the one where Winnie has her baby stolen, and I became a little too invested, often trying to anticipate the need for a roundhouse kick, before it hit me like a ton of bricks: I need a hobby. Nothing all encompassing, because gosh I hope a job is on the horizon, but something that will tap into my creative mind, fill idle time, and still prove enjoyable once my days (hopefully) become less free. A tall order, I'll admit. (Side note: there is always that elusive hope that I will stumble upon a hobby or interest that will open my eyes to a new and exciting career opportunity that does not have a one year sputum collection prerequisite.)


The trick is to find something lighthearted, easy yet challenging (!?!), fairly compact, and not too expensive. Bonus points if it involves glitter and I don't get bored with it and abandon ship after the hot and heavy honeymoon period is over. (I may have tried a few dozen hobbies in my time and possibly have a garage full of UFOs to prove it.) (UFO = unfinished object, an apt term I inherited from my aunt.)

Husband has woodworking, hot tubbing, and a smattering of other hobbies; Kiddo has track + cross country, Legos and comic books. I have reading... and drinking tea? (Though admittedly I spend my days drinking tea with the hope I will somehow reach a therapeutic level of caffeine in my bloodstream sans coffee.) I'm pretty close to terrarium capacity, and while I'm enamored with my new found love of reading, it's a rather stationary exercise. I want to move my body and use paste! I think this conundrum calls for the creation of a vision board. 

While I contemplate becoming an ultra runner (and my precarious mental state), here are some things that caught my eye this week:

eat up

feeding my dream (of becoming outdoorsy)

dip dyed

fingers crossed it fits in our space (rental schmental)

(still) lemon obsessed

figuring out what to do (with your life)

dusting off the spiral slicer

next road trip destination?

smitten


Happy Weekend!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

terrariums + aeriums


(Jared and "Hubert," his Old Man Cactus... named after his favorite bottled lemonade. He pronounces it Hoo-bert, which is really quite entertaining. // The teacup and embellishments are a "fairy garden," given to me by my niece. She also painted the little fox in the photos below.)

Last fall, when we were mostly settled in our new home (but I was still in full-on home decor introspection mode), we wandered into a Portland street market and I fell in love with my first hanging aerium (complete with a tiny gnome!).  Mario bought it for my birthday, after seeing me light up at the very sight of it, and I hung it in the window above the kitchen sink. Soon after I added another, simpler one, containing just glass, water and three Marimo moss balls.

After 7 years in a house with very little natural light, I'm really enjoying the art of plant husbandry. Like reading for pleasure, it was a treasured pastime that fell by the wayside over the last decade. Bright sunny windows and a plethora of wide windowsills have inspired me to bring the greenery inside. My fiddle leaf fig is thriving (and almost as tall as I am), our avocado plant is well on its way to becoming an avocado tree, and foliage emits character from nearly every corner.

Ask my husband how much I love things in miniature, and he'll roll his eyes (every so slightly) and say So. Much. Tiny things make me quite happy.

I'm equally smitten with succulents. When I was a wee one, growing up in Southern California, I was enamored by the succulent ground cover at my aunt's house. I've always thought their intricate patterns and vibrant, juicy leaves make them equal parts fascinating and beautiful; little alien flowers.

When you combine my two loves, tiny things and succulents, you get terrariums (or aeriums, in the case of air plants). My enchantment with these little worlds has blossomed (see what I did there), and become not only a creative outlet, but an opportunity to bond with Kiddo. There is just something so endearing about creating these tiny little worlds together.

Recently we covered the kitchen table in butcher paper, gathered all kinds of interesting supplies, and had a terrarium + aerium building session. It was the best.


Other little things on my mind lately:

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Stowaway Cosmetics
Tiny House Nation (we are a tiny bit obsessed)
(Mini) Doughnuts + Chai (double yum!)
Real life Ewoks


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kale Salad, Three Ways


Kale falls into the category of things my husband would say tastes "dirty". He cares much less than I do about being on trend in the food department, which in turn makes him inherently cooler than me. To be liberated enough to declare This tastes like branches! when I insist he try my new matcha experiment is a quality I admire and respect. Though my inner sadist, who lives quite close to the surface, really enjoys the faces he makes (often accompanied by the tiniest of retches) when tasting one of my hippie concoctions. Needless to say, I ask him to try a lot of things. Don't judge. (To be fair, sometimes the mere thought of something can cause him to gag. Like when he's unsure if the milk has turned and a sniff test is required. He'll retch before the lid even comes off. I've always felt he should have pursued The Stage; nothing short of Juilliard could have harnessed his extraordinary raw talent.)

Despite his innate aversion to certain cruciferous vegetables (unless it's pickled into sauerkraut and piled on a dog), these days he's cautiously open-minded when it comes kale. Which is good considering it's all the rage. Have you heard? (Though I hear cauliflower is vying for its spot as Vegetable Supreme.)

I'll admit, kale is tough if not approached properly. If eaten raw, it must be exposed to an acid, massaged, and nurtured into a more palatable texture. But when done right, it can make for an existential experience. I like the more substantial texture than regular lettuce, and let's not forget the vitamins and minerals it sends coursing through your veins! (Mario's not the only dramatist in this house.)

The following three recipes have made the cut 'round these parts. Which means they've been prepared multiple times, perfected, and are enjoyed by both the adults in this family (and occasionally The Kid). I have served them as side dishes or a light lunch for myself, but throw on a protein and vuala! you have a complete meal.

 

I first fell in love with this salad via our local co-op in New Hampshire. They called it Emerald Salad, and it was featured in their deli case every few days. It was good, and seemed simple enough, so I set out to make it at home for a fraction of the cost. It is all those things and more: savory, satisfying, and super simple.

Emerald Kale Salad

2 heads purple kale, stems removed and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil (or regular sesame oil, if it's whatcha got)
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Place kale in a large lidded container. Add the oils and shake it like a Polaroid picture (vigorously) to distribute the oils and "bruise" the kale. Add the soy sauce, garlic and sesame seeds and shake some more. Taste, and add a tad more soy sauce, if needed. Let rest for about 15 minutes and serve. [Adapted from Gone Raw.]


Remember when you were a kid and you'd ask each other If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?. I'm not sure I've narrowed it down to just one, but I have a solid Top Five. Caesar salad is definitely on that list. When done right, it's darn near the perfect meal, says me. (Anchovies? Yes, please!) So when I set out to make one using all the kale I'd picked up at the farmer's market last summer, I spent some time choosing the perfect recipe. With very little tweaking, this one became a fast favorite.

Kale Caesar Salad

1-2 heads kale, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, smashed
zest + juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 anchovy fillets (more or less to taste, though I prefer 4-5)
2 dashes Worstershire sauce
coarse sea salt
croutons (store bought or homemade)

Place the kale in a large bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil and dash of lemon juice. Massage kale until it begins to soften slightly and set aside. Combine Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon and anchovies in a food processor and pulse until smooth. With the food processor running, stream in 1/3 cup olive oil until combined, then run for an additional 10-15 seconds. Taste and add salt and/or more Dijon, anchovy, garlic, or lemon juice, if desired. (Note: I also frequently substitute anchovy paste for fillets. A couple healthy squirts will do.)

Pour 2/3 of the dressing over the kale, add croutons, and toss with tongs. Let rest for 5 minutes, taste, and add more dressing if needed. Plate and top with additional Parmesan shavings if you're fancy like me. Shrimp, chicken, and salmon all work well with this recipe. [Adapted from Anne Burrell's Kale Caesar Salad recipe.]


Massaged Kale Salad // When I go to the Portland Farmer's Market, I darn near lose my mind. Fifty bunches of kale, staggeringly large stalks of Brussels sprouts, and fifteen pounds of fresh ginger later, I walk away with nary an idea what to do with all that fresh foliage. On one such occasion my in-laws were visiting and I thought, Let's hope they like kale. We had two mangoes sitting on the counter a few days from funky, so I did what any warm-blooded American does and googled mango + kale. And would you know it, there's a recipe for that. I didn't alter this recipe at all, except to double it, and it was totally on-point. Since then I've substituted slivered almonds for the pepitas, since they aren't something I normally have on hand. Equally delicious. It was a huge hit (Kiddo and the in-laws ate it all up) (!!!), and has henceforth found a place in my trusty recipe binder. The End.







Monday, April 20, 2015

(Better) Realized: (Re)discovering my inner bookworm.



With April winding down, it seems the perfect time to discuss my New Year's resolution. Clearly it wasn't "stop procrastinating". ;)

As a child, I was a voracious reader. This was true of my teens, too, as I would often devour a Scarpetta novel in days and immediately go looking for the next. Reading, writing and vocabulary were  my strengths, and for that I was always grateful. It allowed me to seek solace in imaginary worlds, often revealing hidden passions and undiscovered interests. My son, I'm so happy to say, inherited my love of literature. (He'd read The Odyssey, Animal Farm, and everything Jules Verne had to offer by the 5th grade.)

And while I still loved books, I'd lost touch with my inner bookworm for a long while. I blame college, mostly, since reading for academia trumped reading for pleasure during those formidable four plus years. Simply put, I lost the ability to commit to and enjoy literature. During that time I still aspired to rediscover the passion I'd once had for reading, and as a result amassed a small library of books that caught my attention. Yet every time I sat down to read I couldn't focus, often rereading the same paragraph over and over. I quickly learned that reading for pleasure is a skill that must be practiced—a fact I had taken for granted in my youth.


I remember being so thrilled when I finished Gone Girl over winter break my junior year. I thought I'd turned a page, so to speak. Alas. My most difficult semesters lay ahead, and, well, you know how these things go. But then! Then! Wild came into my life and moved me and shook me and motivated me and reignited a fire I'd forgotten I had. That book tapped into a part of my psyche woefully ignored for much of my adult life, and I knew there was no turning back. So many times in our lives there is that one thing, one event, that changes everything. That book was it for me. (I'm still mulling over the logistics of hiking all or part of the PCT in the next couple years.)

In this transition period in my life where motherhood and wifehood and employeehood all feel oppressive at times, while attempting to shed my old skin without knowing what the new one looks and feels like; books have been my escape. A way to exercise my brain and explore a world outside (but often still relevant to) my existence.


You may be thinking: Oy! Enough with the waxing poetic! They're just books! (Though I suspect you're too nice to scold me so.) But it's more complicated than that. This is all part of the story of how I started building the foundation of my dream life. A life where I stress less and imagine more. Where there's less fear and more adventure. My journey to become a more evolved, balanced, (insert 500 other adjectives) version of myself. And as any person with life-changing aspirations does, I used the freshness of a new year to incite change.

The rules go something like this:

1. Read at least one book a month in 2015, for a minimum of twelve books. They can be fiction, non-fiction, self-help—anything goes.

2. At least 3 of the books must be classics, but preferably one per quarter.

3. Give each book a 50-page chance. If I can't get into it, I will donate it or give it away. (Life's too short, you know?)

I'm happy to say that, perhaps for the first time in my life, I've stuck to a resolution. I read one book in less than two days. Others I've put down for days at a time. One book, even though I loved it, took 6 weeks to finish. Once it took over a week to choose a new book after finishing the last. I don't push it, instead letting this be an organic process.


So far I've read:
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (my first classic of the year and I absolutely loved it)
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (the 36-hour book—I was riveted)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I'm currently reading:
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (so far, soooo good)
Hey Natalie Jean by Natalie Holbrook (I'm just reading one chapter at a time here and there)

I have no less than a dozen books on my short list, and have been picking up quite a few lately. During a recent trip to Bend, Oregon, I may have paid the rent of a small independent bookstore (though it did include my next two classics, The Scarlet Letter and Persuasion). I'm inspired! However, this prompted the creation and subsequent adoption of Rule #4: I will not purchase any more books in 2015, instead choosing from the plethora of unread tomes that reside on the bookshelf. If I encounter reader's block, there's always the library. (We are, after all, trying to adopt a simpler lifestyle and will not always have an entire wall of built-ins to house all of the books I've purchased or been gifted over the years. Also, there are few books I'll read multiple times while the rest will just take up space. Book purchases add up, yo.)


I like that I'm the girl with a book in her hand at the airport, coffee shop, and track meet. I like that keeping with this goal has served to reduce my stress levels, provide an escape, improve my slumber, and expand my mind. It has also had the added benefit of reducing my time spent with electronic devices. Less television and phone, more literature. (I'm a strictly old school paper book kinda gal.)

And so this is the (rather lengthy) story of how I found my (reading) groove.

Recommendations?