2.18.2018

Week 7


Boise was such a nice little getaway, even weather-wise, and it was great to start off the week on that high note.

Valentine's Day was a mixed bag, made somber by the school shooting in Florida. I am so very distressed by many politicians' responses to these crimes and I feel stuck between my desire to tune out their idiotic solutions and finding something I can actually do to help.

It also majorly snowed in Spokane that day, and we were made to finally believe the groundhog's prediction. We still have a ways to go, but snow in February doesn't feel as bad as snow in January. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It was a long week at work but I'm excited to now leave each day with some daylight left.

Movies

We saw The Post on Saturday, finally. I totally enjoyed it, even though I feel like Spielberg phoned this one in by phoning all his friends. Tom Hanks will warm my heart no matter what; Meryl Streep can do no wrong; old-fashioned newsroom drama and typesetting machine? I'm yours; John Williams soundtrack - check; a story based on historical events with actual recordings of Nixon and at least half an audience who remembers when it happened; and smart women who come into their own and inspire younger generations. I mean... It was a movie about how to be a good movie. For better or worse.
Sometimes I escape my office for a quick walk

TV

Our TV is tuned exclusively to the Olympics right now. I'm in it for the skiing and snowboarding competitions and figure skating. But I'm ready to be wowed by everything else, too.


Reads

"Do clean clothes mean so much to you? Why cling to that decency if trampling on the others is so easy?"


I finished Rabbit, Run. I couldn't help but feel I was not the intended demographic for the book, i.e., I am female. The women in the book are defined by men, and the men are trying to find or hold their sense of identity. Domestic, suburban life is portrayed in the harshest of lights. Rabbit, the main character, is not the type you sympathize with. I detested him. But the more I read, the more I wanted to understand Rabbit, and consider how I might ask and respond to the same existential questions, and what I believe about responsibility and human decency and free will and destiny and redemption. I'm glad I read it. I won't recommend it to everybody.

Recipes 

When I returned from Boise on Sunday, Joel had a cassoulet in the oven. It was one of the nicest ways to be welcomed home. We picked up cassoulet beans at Rancho Gordo this fall for this purpose, so it was good to finally see it come to delicious, tender fruition. This recipe uses chicken rather than duck, which may be a sacrilege to some, but it's so much easier to shop for around here.
Sunday night extravaganza

I also tried out a recipe for Kung Pao chickpeas that wasn't too bad.

Valentine's dinner was...surprise...pizza. With a nice bottle of Barbera d'Asti.

This guy got an international driver's license.


COW

I made Dorie's version of Melody cookies, a take on an old Nabisco cookie from back in the day...basically chocolate shortbread cut-outs. Of course I had to cut them into hearts, in honor of Valentine's, and swapped plain old sugar sprinkles for colorful sprinkles. One major takeaway that I plan to apply to other roll-out cookies is to roll out the dough (between parchment or wax paper) before putting them in the fridge. I hate trying to roll out refrigerated dough, and this obviously made things way easier, and faster. You just take the pre-rolled dough out of the fridge, cut them into your shapes and put them in the oven. I didn't do anything with the scraps, but I suppose I could have re-rolled them and put them in the fridge again.

2.11.2018

Week 6

On Friday my mom turned 80. No one can believe it. I got to spend the weekend with her and my dad in Boise. It was wonderfully fun to witness the parade of cards, flowers, edible arrangements and balloons that entered the house. We love her!

I got to make her birthday dinner!

I also made her these socks to celebrate

Wine tasting was even more fun with my brother Dave

Leading up to the trip, it was kind of a whirlwind week. I didn't get much done. But we did make some momentous vacation plans, so I am a little sidetracked by dreaming and planning.
My kind of Sunday
Sundays have become extremely special to me in recent years. It's the one morning I'm off dog duty and can sleep in, with no obligations. It's also the only morning I get to share breakfast and a pot of French press with the person I love. Recently (and usually) I've been making poached eggs and bacon with English muffins, but this past Sunday I had a beautiful day-old loaf from Common Crumb bakery that inspired a different kind of spread. Sweet, sweet, sweet.


Movies

I reluctantly agreed to see The Shape of Water on Sunday - it seemed a little too weird and maybe kind of gross. Turns out, it totally was and I was still somehow completely charmed. Joel aptly described it as Splash meets Arrival meets Amelie meets The Artist. There were elements of all of them with an early 1950s vibe.

Reading

I've never read any John Updike, so I started this week with Rabbit, Run. After all the strong, sympathetic characters I've met in my reading thus far in 2018, Rabbit Angstrom is making me curse humanity. I was ready to give up on him, but now that I'm about halfway through, I'm ready to see how this all turns out. The writing is hooking me.

Listening

After watching Sting perform at the Grammy's the week before, I wanted more. So I rocked out to his "Ten Summoner's Tales" album this week. I'm pretty sure the last time I heard the album in its entirety was in 1994, when I was in Missouri for my sister's college graduation. I was sleeping on the floor in her room. At the time I had just begun wearing mascara and still wasn't washing my face at night, but rather in the shower in the morning. And for some reason, I was embarrassed and didn't want my sister to know I was wearing makeup now, and I knew that when I got up in the morning, the black smears around my eyes would make it obvious. So when I heard her get up that morning, I made sure my face was covered and turned the other way, and I decided to wait until she left the room before getting up and running to the shower. She turned on "Ten Summoner's Tales" softly on her CD player, and I could hear her rustling papers at her desk. Just when I thought she might have left, I heard the papers rustle again. She must be working on a paper or something, I thought. So I just lay there and listened to each song. "Fields of Gold," "If I Ever Lose My Faith," etc. It got to the end of the album and started all over again. Papers were still rustling. I was getting desperate. I rolled over and peeked through the covers and no one was there. The fan had been blowing the papers on the desk that whole time. And to this day, I always associate my sister with that album and how silly I was in my awkward preteens.

Recipes

Joel won the week by making chicken tinga tacos. We caught the recipe on an episode of America's Test Kitchen and knew we needed to make it ASAP. In short, you brown boneless/skinless chicken thighs, then make a sauce of sauteed onions, chipotle peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, cinnamon, cumin,  and salt, and braise the chicken in the sauce. Then you shred the chicken, blend the pan sauce in a blender, add lime zest and lime juice to the sauce, and stir it all back together. We served the tacos with pickled onions, cilantro and cotija.


Also, Mom's birthday menu included Ina Garten's Engagement Chicken. It's the only roast chicken recipe I really care about. It's simple and never failed me.

COW

Up until now, I have been faithfully baking out of Dorie Greenspan's Cookies book. It was, after all, my inspiration for a cookie of the week. However, I can't go anywhere on the internet without coming across yet another person who is raving about Alison Roman's salted butter and chocolate chunk shortbread cookie. I was compelled to make them to see what the fuss is all about. After I took these out of the oven and posted a picture to Instagram (as we do), what should I find but a post by Dorie Greenspan on my feed: a picture of this exact cookie. I'm telling you, people, this is just too much.

The cookies were seriously good though, and if you're one of the 10 remaining people has yet to make them, get with the program and head to your kitchen immediately.

2.04.2018

Week 5

An unseasonably warm week. I could have worn shorts on Monday, but instead I went to the gym without a jacket and felt confused.

Other highlights: On Tuesday my department held a retreat at which we heard from our chief diversity officer, who led us in an exercise that allowed us to practice speaking, listening and asking questions in a way that deepens understanding between people. The whole process was enlightening as to what bad habits we have when doing all those things - we ramble, we think of what we want to say next instead of listening, and we ask the wrong kinds of questions. I learned some powerful things about my colleagues in literally 5 minutes simply by practicing these principles.

Then we went bowling. I bowled 123 on my second game, so it was a good day for me.


And what a cool moon we got! I saw it in the east as I came home from work on Tuesday evening, and in the west, blood-red, as I stood at the bus stop the next morning.

On Wednesday evening my body broke down and I took Thursday for myself to shore up some strength. I wondered if all my contrived optimism about January collapsed on the last day of it and caused an upset to my system. Well, February, here we are.
Joel brought a special guest to pick me up from work

Reads


"The voice itself would evolve over the years from a violin to a viola to a cello, with a rich middle register and dark bottom tones. But it was a combination of voice, diction, attitude, and taste in music that produced the Sinatra sound. It remains unique. Sinatra created something that was not there before he arrived: an urban American voice." - Pete Hamill, Why Sinatra Matters
If ever there was a thing to make me an old soul, my unequivocal love of Frank Sinatra is it. Among my closest friends and colleagues (one of whom saw this book in a free pile at a bookstore and knew I should have it), I am quite known for it. Reading Why Sinatra Matters about 20 years after my initial obsession renewed my appreciation as to what made him so different when he hit that microphone in the 1940s. Ultimately, the author concludes that [SPOILER ALERT] Sinatra matters because he was a true artist. So that was a little unsatisfying. But it was a fun, quick read that didn't go into gratuitous detail about the gossip surrounding his life, but rather the experience of Italian-Americans, the connections to mob life, Sinatra's predisposition toward loneliness, and his lasting impact on the American songbook. If you're a super-fan like me, you might as well read it.

I also devoured Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies in a few days. I can't stop thinking about it. It was a beautiful collection of short stories, some of which devastated me. Each brought different elements of the history and culture of India to life, making me very aware of how much I don't know about that corner of Asia. And I appreciated that several of the stories' characters felt the same way.

Finally, in the article realm: I love Penzey's, and I am the opposite of a Trump fan, but stuff like this makes me mad. I've been thinking about this article for the past few days, and it's inspired good dinner table conversation. In the end, I think there are far better ways for CEOs to live out their values than to rally one side and alienate another in marketing products. In the end, these CEOs are still making money from your purchases. Embrace nuance and action, people, not polarization and rhetoric. Use your platform for something more noble. [End of political rant]

TV
We watched the Grammys to catch up on what everyone else is listening to, and through it, learned that 1991 is completely nostalgia inducing.

Listens
After finishing the Sinatra book, I listened to the first half of his "In the Wee Small Hours" album, which many Sinatra fans, myself included, list as their favorite album. It's not swingin', but it's the beautiful example of the Sinatra brand of loneliness he sang so well.
A little Mille Bornes at the brewery before trivia began

Movies
A Stupid and Futile Gesture. I ended up kind of liking it even though I have no affinity for National Lampoon.

I randomly caught Julia, a 1977 film I'd never heard of, starring Jane Fonda, on PBS's Saturday Night Cinema (and what a wild Saturday night it was!). Interesting story about playwright Lillian Hellman and her friend, Julia, who is in Vienna as the Nazis are coming to power.
Sweater progress

Recipes

I started out the week with a made-up recipe for Italian chicken sausage and bean soup with  homemade focaccia that lasted us a couple days. I then ventured into new territory by trying out a roasted red pepper and hazelnut relish to top some seared-then-roasted cod, a recipe from the Science of Good Cooking. It was delicious and came together quickly. (I took a photo for posterity but it is another one of those unappetizing incandescent-light photos that made the relish like vomit on fish.) And then I tried this recipe for pork tenderloin with golden beets. I loved the idea of it but it was a little much, and came together in under an hour (which Bon Appetit promised it would) only because I combined a couple steps in the cooking process, mostly because I don't feel comfortable leaving seared-but-uncooked meat on the counter for 40 minutes before returning it to the pan to finish cooking. Am I the only one worrying about this? Ultimately, I don't need to make this one again, but I'm glad I tried it. The walnut sauce was the best part.

Cookie of the Week (COW)

Coconut patties! This was a great cookie to serve my gluten-free friends. These are just like macaroons in their taste and consistency, only flattened, rather than mounded. And they featured the delicious addition of lime zest and lemon extract, so they were bright and luscious at the same time.

1.28.2018

Week 4

Reunited
The King of the Road is back! Roger greeted me on our sidewalk as I got home from work on Thursday night. The side of his head is shaved where he has stitches, but he's behaving like his old self. Margot came to the door to roll around on the floor in front of him, as is her customary greeting.

Reads
"Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing." - Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
I finished Cuckoo on Friday night and experienced a gamut of feelings as we drove to dinner. I have very conflicted views about Nurse Ratched. It was such a message-laden book and my inner skeptic wants to push back against whatever Ken Kesey wanted me to think. But when I consider it in its time, written in 1962, it is a pretty remarkable piece of writing.

TV

We are all caught up on the Amazing Race. And I'm not watching much else right now due to good books and other projects.



Listens

Due to the weather I have made all sorts of excuses to not take my daily walks through campus, but the sun came out one day and I had just learned of a new podcast called Forever 35. I plugged in my earbuds and relished the fresh air while listening to two 30- (40-?) something women talk about their morning routines, make up, and vision boards. I don't want to like this kind of podcast because it seems so shallow, so I spend a lot of time asking myself what I'm getting out of it, why I'm drawn to it and what it says about me. But ultimately, it is about connection and empathy and yes, getting beauty advice at a time when I'm starting to feel the pressure of getting older and wondering how I can prevent more broken capillaries around my nose. I will listen to more episodes as long as I'm enjoying it. 

Movies

We saw Call Me By Your Name last Sunday. I found it to be a beautiful if uncomfortable and sometimes awkward depiction of love, youth, discovery, lust, heartache and compassion. The scenes of northern Italy made my heart swell a bit, too, as did the dreamy piano-centric soundtrack (like this gorgeous piece used in the opening credits). As I get older and am more apt to nod off, I'm finding that the movies that keep me alert and engaged are often, strangely, the slow-moving, empathy-inducing plots with a small cast of characters, and this was no exception. By the end of it, I was left with an ache. I expected it to challenge me and push boundaries, but one scene in particular between father and son punched my guts. I'm glad I saw it.

I also forgot to note last week that we watched Fellini's Amarcord. This was a semi-autobiographical comedy full of strangely endearing adolescent humor. There was the vaguest semblance of a plot with a sweet, romantic theme throughout. I quite enjoyed it.
Wednesday bus ride
Recipes

I hosted a ladies' movie night on Saturday and made a special popcorn topping involving brewer's/nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cumin and cayenne. It was suggested on the back of the Bob's Red Mill popcorn package as "Nacho Popcorn" and it was super good. We ended up eating all the popcorn and talked all night and never watched a movie. Go figure.

Luna was the honorary lady


Cookie of the week

I found it strange that the first recipe in Dorie's Cookies is for brownies. "Sebastian's Remarkable Brownies," to be exact. I didn't find the end product to be particularly remarkable - at least not more remarkable than other one-bowl recipes (which this was not), but they were quite chewy and delicious nevertheless.



1.21.2018

Week 3

Three-day weekends/four-day work-weeks are wonderful in January.


We had an odd start to the week when we heard Margot at the front door meowing and acting up over something on Sunday morning. We correctly assumed she was showing off for her boyfriend, Oliver, the neighborhood cat, on the other side of the door. We've redubbed him Roger Miller for his king-of-the-road swagger and size, but he's really a sweet guy who seems to live outside and visits our front porch on a weekly basis. But when Joel got a closer look at Roger/Oliver, he saw blood coming down his face, as though he got in a pretty bad fight. We've never really known who Roger's owner is, so Joel started knocking on doors. After a long, complicated tracking down of the owner, who was driving home from Tacoma, and dozens of text messages between Roger's assorted housemates, Roger was successfully transported home for the owner to deal with. Joel got a text message the other day with an update that the old brawler is on the mend and unhappily quarantined in his house. I hope he's back on the road soon.

A warm chunky sweater in the works


Reads

I finished On Such a Full Sea4 out of 5 stars. It was a beautifully written, challenging read. Kind of dystopian, kind of just another version of our current world, with an unsettling feeling of disconnection. Apparently for fans of Never Let Me Go

Blue bathwater brought to you by Dresdner Essenz 

I then started on a classic I've never read: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. I can't wait to see how McMurphy gets Nurse Ratched.

Saturday afternoon hike for hot chocolate and waffle

TV

We finished Dark - but in kind of a funny way. Turns out after we watched episode 7 (of 10), we turned our TV off but apparently our Amazon Firestick kept playing. When we went to watch it the next night, we watched the final episode entirely before realizing we were missing some major plot points. The show jumps in time so much that it was easy to just assume we would be filled in on details at some point. So we watched 10, then 8 and 9. I actually kind of like how it worked out.

We've been so wrapped up with shows on Netflix and Prime that we realized we're majorly behind on network TV, namely season 30 of The Amazing Race, which started a few weeks ago and we're now catching up on. We have watched this show for a decade and still love it. Best part so far: they went to Antwerp in the second episode, where teams raced around this statue dressed in fry costumes in a dramatic and hilarious finish.

Listens

I have been catching up on the Belle & Sebastian catalogue this week after a long break. Primarily the album "Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance." This song has been on repeat (and the video is a fun study).


Movies

I, Tonya. I haven't enjoyed a movie quite this much in a long time. Allison Janney's performance was incredible; Margot Robbie gave a sympathetic and darkly humorous portrayal of Tonya Harding. I relived my own memories of The Incident, the news coverage, and how I felt, at age 12, about Tonya Harding, and I feel a bit guilty. It's an ugly reflection on all of us who look for good guys and bad guys in news stories while never having the full, complicated picture. I hope Harding felt some redemption through this.

And Atomic Blonde. Like I, Tonya, this had a fabulous 1980s soundtrack, though this one was more in the 99 Luftballoons realm as it was set in Berlin in November of 1989 (though it was not a story about the wall). I have a horrible time following these kinds of movies about spies, double agents and martial arts...so I'm still trying to figure out what happened.

Recipes

We lived off of Mama Leone's chicken soup for three days this week and didn't mind at all. I also experimented with bread, using a rich dough recipe from an old cookbook and modifying it to be a twisted loaf, filled with green onions, parsley and thyme. I kneaded it by hand. I've used the dough hook on my machine for pretty much all of that and had forgotten how satisfying it is to work a wad of dough. It turned out strangely wonderful and made beautiful toast in the days that followed.

The other major highlight was a Thursday night feast of chicken Provencal that I did not make. Joel adapted a Cook's Illustrated recipe to employ our Instant Pot, which vastly sped up the process and put dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. It was all the flavors and colors of the rainbow - olives, saffron, orange, basil, tomatoes. Heaven.



Cookie of the week

This week brought us Kamish. These are what Dorie describes as the Eastern European version of biscotti, also classified as mandelbrot. Sprinkled with cinnamon and coconut, they are quite tasty, crumbly (thanks to the big chunks of almonds) and perfect for dunking.

Sliced for the second bake

Sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar and coconut - pre-oven


1.14.2018

Week 2

It feels like January lasts forevvvvverrrr. But I'm trying, as I do every year, to embrace it. My latest angle for appreciating this month is that there is no pressure. I don't need to buy stuff, I don't need to plan...anything, really. January is a month to do what I feel like doing, if I let myself. This week I didn't do much at all! And now we're pretty much halfway through the month and I get a three-day weekend. Woo hoo!

I did start this past week off right, with an impromptu wine tasting downtown with gal pals, followed by hosting a friend for dinner and the Golden Globes.

About a month ago, I started taking the Sunday New York Times and I think it is making our Sunday mornings that much more luxurious and allows me to stay off of various devices for as long as possible.


As for the rest of the week, weather comes to mind. The snow started to melt, then the fog came, then the sun came out for a spell and made us forget what month it was, and then on Thursday morning, we got hit again with a thick, fresh sheet. This is the stuff of January.



We celebrated a friend's birthday at Durkin's on Friday, and on Saturday, our trivia team unexpectedly won at Geeks Who Drink trivia at Geno's.

Reads:

I finished The Winter Hours. It spoke to my tired brain in a way that helped me return to a place of joyful observance of nature, to appreciating - relishing - the written word, and to a general feeling of hope. I plan to re-read a few passages before returning it to the library next week.

The morning hours

Movies:

Despite our better judgment we watched Netflix's The Polka King. Mildly funny at points, but Jack Black will always be Jack Black. True story.

TV:

We were all in for Dark this week. Guess we got hooked into the time travel. I'm also on episode 3 of Alias Grace. Should I continue?
Birthday party Friday night

New Recipes:
This week brought a lot of old stand-by meals, including this stir-fry without the cashews and adding red bell pepper and mushrooms, as well as made-up ones, such pizza, chicken burgers, and my economical hodge-podge of tomatoes and beans on rice with sliced and browned chicken jalapeno sausage and other spices. Joel made a to-die-for Pasta alla Norcina - a cream sauce with mushrooms, wine and homemade pork sausage.


Marion Cunningham's recipe for lemon yogurt muffins (from The Breakfast Book - a gold standard, IMO) saved our Saturday morning when our breakfast cupboards were bare. Quite a tasty way to tide things over.

Cookie of the Week:


This is just as good as it sounds, if coffee and cardamom sound good to you. You taste them both and it's unlike any cookie I've made or eaten before. I loved it.

Listens:
The other day I heard David Bowie's "All the Young Dudes" and it sounded so good. I learned later that day that it was the anniversary of his death. Heavy coincidence!


We went to see a local group called Tango Volcado at the Bartlett on Thursday night, which brought back warm memories of Argentina on a snowy Thursday. That act was followed by the premiere of a composition written by a friend of ours based on Willa Cather's book My Antonia, called "Prairie Songs: Remembering Antonia." It's easy to say it was the the best thing I've heard all year at this point, but I do expect it will stay with me for awhile.

"This was the dome of Heaven
All there was of it. 
The earthly wind blowing through me
Bringing the smell of ripe fields,
The dust and the heat
The burning wind
The grass is the country as the water is the sea."
-excerpted lyrics by Brent Edstrom, based on the novel My Antonia