5.06.2018

Week 18


I love May! The weather is unpredictable and each sunny moment outdoors brings aromatic gifts and cinematic scenes. But you may also get caught in a rainstorm. Last Sunday we took a chance and rode our bikes up the hill to return a book to the library and while we stopped for a bite at Manito Tap House, the clouds burst, which forced us to order a beer after lunch was over as we waited out the storm. Poor us. The ride home from the was fresh and our fenders were put to the test.

And then there are heartbreakingly beautiful moments like these at the end of our block:


Otherwise, this week was packed and long. Each day was unusual to my routine and reminded my why I love my job - but I was exhausted.

One of the things I did this week was take a 360-degree photographer around campus to take photos of dorms for our online campus tour. While I've gone inside the residence halls pretty much every year, it's always been on move-in day, when everything is fresh. This week I was reminded of what lived-in halls feel (and smell) like. Some things never change.

Definitely a guys' hall

Hidden reminders wedged in corners

Work bathroom. Controversial sign. With my controversial button-fly skirt.
Reading: I finished Swing Time! I enjoyed it but it didn't hold my attention toward the end like it did in the first half, which is why I probably took a while to finish it. I then tore through Girls Burn Brighter. Wow, wow, wow. I have read a number of books set in India in the last year, and a number of books about female friendships - this one is toward the top. The subject matter is not for the faint of heart (human trafficking, sexual abuse), but the writing was poignant and I was transported into a completely different world by it.

Recipes: I tossed this old favorite with some baby kale this week and remembered what a perfectly wholesome and quick recipe it was. Joel made his always-delicious all'Amatriciana sauce for two nights of pasta.

NO cookies!

Watching: We finally saw Isle of Dogs on Saturday and it was a visual treat. Unfortunately I had to fight to stay awake toward the end so I missed a few plot points. :( I'm turning into my Dad (Dad, are you reading this? ;)).

These next few weeks may be delayed for reasons which will become obvious later. Ciao for now!

4.29.2018

Week 17

Lunch spot
And lo, on the twenty-third day of the fourth month in the 17th week of the year, I reached the square triangular age of 36. I awoke with the quintessential song of Enya orinoco-flowing in my head and decided it was a very good way to start my day, possibly even my year. The day brought sunshine and warmth, my first picnic lunch of the year, a bittersweet moment at work, wine with a dear friend, and a beautiful spread of my favorite foods, compliments of the one who knows these things.

Cake and well-wishes on my birthday (though not for me)
The bittersweet moment at work was sitting in on the final lecture of an iconic professor in an iconic class - he will continue teaching other classes as he phases into retirement, but this one was a biggie.


On Tuesday, I got to attend an event featuring Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo. She spoke with warmth and calm as she cast direct light on men and women whose brilliance is buried in the situations into which they are born, naming them as individuals who are valued, whose stories are worthy of telling. I hope to read Behind the Beautiful Forevers before the year is through.

Convention Center skywalk
Another fun photo shoot in the music building
I found my first mosquito bites on Wednesday after a good bike ride with beer and hills.

Eating salad with chopsticks is a gamechanger
As for Thursday - did you know April 26 is National Pretzel Day? And now you know the real reason I go to Bar Method.

All my tulips started blooming.


On Friday, we got to see my niece perform in her high school theatre production. What a treat! Girl's got talent.


On Saturday, I started weeding the strip between the sidewalk and the street, when three of the kids who live nextdoor came over and asked if they could help. The older of the three told me the younger ones just like to play in the dirt, which turned out to be true. They were blissful over the pill bugs and caterpillars they were unearthing beneath the rocks, while their big sister was literally saving me hours of yard work. It was funny to hear their banter as they described the invasive grape hyacinths as onions (due to the bulbs) and imagined digging an underground home to sleep in. Many hands make light work, and in this case, a little more light-hearted. But I was still worn out.

It felt good to walk down the hill for a beer reward.


And just for old time's sake...

Watching

On a whim, I started watching the first season of Laugh-In, which is currently available on Netflix. I laugh, I wince, I get caught off-guard by the segues. But it's been *very interesting*, enough to keep me watching. It's the kind of show that makes me want to write a research paper about the late 1960s. I find myself wondering how much outside pop culture Laugh-In is referencing versus how much Laugh-In shaped pop culture.

Also watched Network, one of those movies that feel just as relevant today as it did when it originally premiered more than 40 years ago. 

Sweets (in lieu of Cookie of the Week)

I ate two lemon tart-like desserts this week. As well as halves of two different cupcakes and two different macarons. And a fancy organic version of a Mounds candy bar. Cookies may reappear in my oven come June at this point. I'm trying to cool it on the sugar for a couple more weeks. Though I did just make a lemon yogurt cake with blueberries and crystallized ginger...so scratch that.

Listening

For the last decade (or so), whenever the weather hits 80 degrees, this is one of the first songs I listen to as loud as is appropriate.

Reading

Well, maybe I'll finish Swing Time someday.

Recipes

I requested peas and prosciutto for my birthday dinner, and Joel put them into a risotto with spring vegetables. It was just what I needed. He also made some bomb steaks with chimichurri another night. I haven't been in much of an adventurous cooking mood lately and have been returning to old favorites, like Jenene's Indian, which we ate on Saturday.



4.22.2018

Week 16

The week obviously began splendidly.
Sunny outdoor breakfast at Colville Street Patisserie in Walla Walla

Cigar box guitar

Kiona Winery on Red Mountain

Are my teeth purple yet?
Surprises yet awaited me on Sunday when we left Walla Walla without visiting a single tasting room and took another drive to Benton City, near the Tri-Cities. This is the home of Red Mountain, where some of my favorite Washington grapes are grown. More specifically, this is the home of Kiona, which was the first to plant vines on the "mountain" (more like a large hill), and, I learned upon arrival, was the actual destination for our trip. We went wild for Kiona's Lemberger a number of years ago, and the 2011 (or was it 2010?) vintage became a sort of holy grail when wine shopping. Ensuing years have also been delicious, but there was something magical about that first bottle we opened that year. Needless to say, we really enjoyed our tasting at Kiona (see face above), and the woman who was pouring won our hearts. By the end of it, we were trying to convince her to move to Spokane and I think she might have actually been considering it. But the wine may have altered my memory of that...

While on the mountain, we also had lunch and a tasting at Terra Blanca, and another taste from Taptiel. It was all delicious, and the panoramic views were thrilling. It was fun to taste at the source and really start to understand what makes this relatively tiny area so ideal for these grapes.

Recipes
The quick trip threw me for a loop and I had a heck of a time trying to get my brain in gear for this week. As a result, dinners have included canned soup, lunches have featured frozen veggie patties - at least I'm holding it together with my regular poached egg and English muffin for breakfast. 

I did make this baked mushroom risotto one night, and this sausage and smashed potato with kale salad (similar to this one) another night. Otherwise, we went out for cheap pizza and Mexican food. These days neither of us is very apt to sit around and think about what we want for dinner until it's about dinner time - there are a lot of other things calling our attention as the weather warms up.

On Saturday, I organized a hike for my sweet friend whose birthday is around the corner. It was windy but sunny and the views were gorgeous.

The trees are finally, finally turning green. Joel did the first mow on Wednesday while I took the dog on a walk. During said walk, Luna and I perched on the edge of the bluff as I looked out onto the valley, the sun beginning to set over it. I reached over to give Luna a loving pet and draw her close when I realized her back was covered in dog shit. She must have rolled in it at some point on our walk there when she was off-leash. Grateful for the fact that I managed not to get any on me, I sat there for the next few minutes trying to enjoy the original moment while simultaneously planning out how to remedy the situation when I got home. But ah, glorious spring.

Watching
I think this blog may need to morph into some new categories. I'm not drawn to TV right now. 

Reading
I am still reading Swing Time and am close to the end.

Cookie of the Week
I can't be relied upon for much these days! I'm planning to make myself a lemon tart this week and maybe, just maybe, I'll return to cookies someday. 

For now, it's my birthday week and everything is this song. Join in, everybody!
We stayed out after midnight!

4.16.2018

Week 15

This week was so eventful at the very end of it that I didn't get a chance to compose my usual post this past weekend. This is the time of year when it becomes increasingly difficult to choose to sit down and write anything because life actually gets interesting again - there are places to go and things to celebrate - but this is what I want to remember later, so all the more reason to keep trying to maintain this weekly goal.

But forgive me for not following my usual categorized format in the interest of time.

The first most exciting thing to happen this week was that I went to the Spokane Bike Swap on Saturday morning and got myself a road bike. I entered into it feeling at total peace that I would find a bike if it was meant to be. This is something you have to do, because while the swappers are all very courteous shoppers (no trampling or elbowing to get the desired bikes), the bikes do fly off the racks pretty fast with very little time, or space, to assess if the bike is really right for you. Our first tour of the offerings had many close-but-not-quite options. During our second go-round, Joel spotted what would become my bike, in a cute color (instant attraction), in the right size, in the right shape (with some upgrades, even), at a decent price. So I am now officially a two-bike owner. 
Allora...Passatempo!

The second most exciting thing was that after we returned from the bike swap, I was informed that we were heading out of town and our house-sitter was due to arrive in a couple hours. So later that afternoon, we got in the car, headed south, and landed in Walla Walla for dinner at Brasserie Four, followed by the most amazing drink at Passatempo. Happy early birthday to me! And the adventure did not end there. But the rest happened on Sunday, so you'll need to wait for Week 16 for those details. If you think being in wine country has something to do with it, you're right.
Before
The rest of the week was comparatively dull, but it did start out with this delicious homemade pasta. 
After, with homemade pesto

I didn't have time for a Cookie of the Week, because I planned to do it on Saturday, but plans wonderfully changed.
Mom, where's the cookies?

We played a miserable game of trivia at Iron Goat.
Rockwood Bakery

I had a Friday morning coffee meeting at the lovely Rockwood Bakery. The guys in the background were part of a larger group of older gents who each had their own coffee mugs with their names - Jerry, Ed, etc. - emblazoned on them. 

It rained a bunch.
Glory of the Snow Blue Giants are invading

The sun came out about as much as it rained. It made it very hard to complain.

I didn't make much of a dent in my book (Swing Time) though I'm still really enjoying it. 

We started watching Family Tree, one of Christopher Guest's projects. 

And that'll do 'er for now.


4.08.2018

Week 14

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the start of the 15th week of the year!
I enjoy being an amateur floral arranger with the stuff I get from Trader Joe's

After Easter, I had Monday off of work to do some mostly frivolous shopping and was definitely wooed by some fashion that reeked of the 1980s in the form of a denim high-waisted button-fly skirt. It was nice to be mindless and not overthink my wardrobe choices for once.
Margot wants in on the Easter feast

I sat in on an advanced music theory class on Friday as students were introduced to the world of music synthesis, commonly known as playing with synthesizers. It was so fun to hang out with these enthusiastic music nerds as they asked questions that were completely over my head.  (I was there for a story I'm writing for our alumni magazine.)

I started my first-ever knit-along project this week, doing a mystery project through The Healthy Knitter. When you sign up, you find out what kind of yarn you need and how much, and a recommended needle size. On Sunday, the first part of the pattern was revealed. She will continue to release new sections of it throughout the month. It's a mesh scarf but the details are unknown! In addition, she incorporates a meditative walking routine that you're supposed to do every day. I've done a few of them when it's not pouring down rain.
Reading

Zadie Smith represents my post-college life as a reader. I bought White Teeth shortly after moving into my Browne's Addition apartment, when I started my hour-long bus commute to work and had extra time to read, and her writing was so fresh to me and so different from other female authors I'd read. I think what I loved most about Smith's writing was the way she introduced me to the cultural make-up of London and Great Britain through her brilliantly written characters. I'm now reading Swing Time and am reminded by how brilliant and pinpointed her writing is, and I am personally delighted that the title is in reference to the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie of the same name, as the main character idolizes the dancers, music and movies of the 1930s...so I can relate.

Watching

We spent most of our weeknights watching a 6-part documentary on Netflix called "Wild Wild Country." It told the story of the Rajneeshpuram commune in Wasco County, Oregon - how it got there, how it affected the locals, what brought people there, who the Bhagwan and his inner circle were, and what ultimately led to the commune's demise. It's so compelling despite so many unanswered questions, with interviews that leave you unsure as to whom to believe. It prompted some soul-searching as I found myself sympathizing, often uncomfortably, with people on both sides. It was a fascinating story about human nature, personal identity and community devotion, American religion and values, and the things we are capable of doing for what we believe in and the people we love. I recommend it.
Little triangles to remind us of Paris at Fleur de Sel Creperie

I also keep forgetting to mention the sweetest little series I have ever seen called Alice in Paris. These are 1-2 minute episodes featuring the very loveable Alice and various places to visit in Paris (each episode ends with a recap of the address so you can go there yourself). Watching these is like eating potato chips for me. I almost cried when I saw this episode which featured one of the lemon tarts I enjoyed on my last trip from Arnaud Larher in Montmartre . It's true that one (or several) of these can change your life.

On Saturday we went to the movies to see The Death of Stalin, which was totally the kind of movie that my oldest brother would love: a historically based dark comedy played by British actors, with physical comedy and one-liners that had the theater belly-laughing. I mostly enjoyed it and laughed along with them but found it a little tedious by the end. Also, the fact that some of this stuff actually happened is a bit sickening.
It didn't always rain

Recipes

Easter dinner was a simple marinated steak and veggie kebab...no ham! The weather has been absolute crap so I've been seeking out comfort food. I requested a creamy pasta with peas, and Joel delivered. Another night was cream of asparagus soup, loosely based on this recipe. And I returned to one of our favorites which we dubbed Mexican bibimbap (mostly because of the fried egg topping).

If you think pasta is bad for you, you're doing it wrong

Cookie of the Week

I'm back in the saddle this week with Dorie's chocolate-oatmeal-Biscoff cookies. The unique thing with this one is you blend butter, sugar (brown and white) and cookie butter together (I used Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie butter), as you might with peanut butter. The cookie butter lends a mild gingery taste. You add an egg and then the dry ingredients, which include oats, flour, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. It's really good, though I'm starting to notice several of the cookies I've made so far look like this one.

4.01.2018

Week 13

This was a pretty good week. I had a couple nice outings with friends, my days were peppered with out-of-the-ordinary events, nights with unusual and hilarious dreams...AND it was a 4-day work week. Wine tasting, bike ride, yard work, KJ Pottery sale, and eating twice at the new Cochinito Taqueria. Not too shabby.
Jasmine, the very friendly apartment building cat



Yoga at the cathedral last Sunday: There's nothing quite like being led in yoga poses with about 175 other people with light streaming from stained glass windows in a great old cathedral. My friend and I enjoyed a very special hour of yoga at St. John's on Palm Sunday. We all lay on our mats toward the end as someone sang "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus."

It was a week of appointments - x-rays (for the chiropractor), chiropractor, optometrist. In all cases, people had generally good things to say about the state of my body - that my bones aren't degenerating and my vision is holding. It's a good way to lead into my birthday month, I suppose.

I wish I could say I was the one who did this

Watching
In the spirit of the coming Easter holiday, we watched a classic neither of us had ever seen: Jesus Christ Superstar. It was weird, definitely of an era, probably something I never need to watch again. 

Reading

News of the World was a quick read and not my usual genre...I glazed over some of the Civil War description but generally I enjoyed the sweet story of the old man Captain Kidd ("Kepp-dun") and the young Johanna, a former captive of the Kiowa tribe he is charged with returning to her German family. And, you know, things happen along the way. 

She's always ready for me to get up
Recipes

I highly recommend this chickpea masala with saffron rice recipe. A hearty vegetarian meal that comes together quickly, though your house (and hair) may smell like cumin for the next couple days.

I joined a wine club
COW

The Girl Scouts took over this week and I couldn't resist my annual Samoa purchase. That kind of stole my cookie thunder this week and I fell off the wagon. I'll try to get back on this week.

3.25.2018

Week 12

Some highlights...

Southside cocktails on a Saturday evening with arty pretzels

Bike rides on Sundays. It's a great way to beat the end-of-the-weekend blues. We've done this the last two weeks in a row and it feels so good to be outside again. Especially when you can incorporate ice cream or a chai into the trip.

Perfume sampling. I'm not sure what has gotten into me, but after years of paring down my fragrance collection, I'm back into perfume. I know it's generally bad for the environment, but there's something about wearing a scent for awhile and feeling like it's "you." And then when you smell it years later it transports you to the time you wore it. This latest phase began last fall when I discovered one of those perfume sample sites where you can buy small quantities at a time. It makes high-end scents affordable, and when I'm ready to move on, I don't feel bad about the unused remainder. This week I'm wearing Gypsy Water and it's hitting the right notes.

Pillows. Another exciting thing in my life right now is the purchase of a cervical pillow. All my male readers just stopped reading, but I assure you it's not a pillow for your cervix. It's a neck support pillow and I feel like a new woman when I get up in the morning. My aches and pains in my shoulders and neck are gone - I even feel limber when I get out of bed. I'm sleeping more soundly and the cat has taken to sleeping on my feet because they barely shift all night. What a strange feeling. I hope it lasts.

In other pillow news, I made pillow shams! I sew in spite of myself. I don't think I've ever made something from start to finish without either ripping out seams or asking myself, "Will anyone notice if this is a little off?" So usually by the time I finish a project, it feels like a minor miracle and a lesson in perseverance. I made these Euro pillow shams on Sunday (why: cat puke stain on the old ones). I knew I could make them because I've made other pillow slip covers with relative ease and a morsel of joy. But when patterns require me to do my own math, things can go wrong, and sure enough, I mis-measured something and ended up having to buy a couple more yards of fabric due to my mistake. If it weren't for my strong desire to have octopi as part of my bedroom decor, I may well have quit and run to Pottery Barn. So I carried on. I'm not saying I did it perfectly, but I followed through. They work, and I love them. And no one else in the world has them, I'm pretty sure. And really, once I correctly measured the fabric, it was, indeed, a breeze to make.

Recipes

I welcomed the first day of spring with a chilled bottle of Vinho Verde and a recipe from Six Seasons for English peas and prosciutto with new potatoes. I appreciate Trader Joe's for pre-shelling the peas and thereby making this a very easy meal to put together. Also, the Trader Joe's checker asked me, after commenting on my springy array of groceries, "What are you going to do tonight - watch the sunset?" It was a good idea, and another reason why I love shopping there.

The pea recipe called for mint, which was a nice surprise taste, and with the leftovers I made mint simple syrup, perfect for sodas and cocktails, like that Southside pictured at the top of this post.

On Saturday, I tried a strange recipe for oven-barbecued spare ribs. Lapsang souchong tea leaves provide the smoke - you place them on a baking pan, and then a cooling rack on top of that for the ribs. And the ribs are marinated with a hearty rub for 8+ hours beforehand. You seal it all with foil and place it on a hot baking stone in a blazing oven. A half hour later, you turn down the heat, lift the foil enough to pour in some apple juice on top of those smoky tea leaves, and then roast low and slow. The ribs fall off the bone. The recipe came from the good folks at America's Test Kitchen.

Watching

Mozart in the Jungle: complete! This was the best season, IMO, because it went in weird, good, artsy, feminist places.

Reading

It's funny how effective library due dates are in getting me to actually read. I checked out three more books (in addition to my gardening books) that are all due on April 7. I tore through My Brilliant Friend in less than a week not just because of the deadline, but because it was, in fact, brilliant. I am now having dreams (nightmares) about children throwing rocks at each other.

Following it up with News of the World.

By the way, Mark Bittman is my no-nonsense diet idol.  "We think good bread is one of life's great pleasures. Eat it for that reason." WORD

COW

This week I stretched the boundaries of cookiedom by trying a savory recipe. These are pretzel-cheddar-Old Bay "cookies." But let's call them crackers. Mostly I was excited to get that cute tin of Old Bay seasoning into my spice cupboard. But these are good and rich. Perfect for cocktail hour. But I couldn't possibly have more than two in a sitting. They are filled with butter...plus cheddar. They almost melt in your mouth.