Week 11

On the sunniest, warmest day of the year so far, otherwise known as last Tuesday, I took the afternoon off for an 85-minute massage, some errands and a happy hour with a dear friend. The next day at work featured six meetings. Six! It's been a weird week like that - carefree and busy.

Sunset through my dirty, cracked windshield at the stop sign, High Drive

I visited a chiropractor for the first time in my life this week, which apparently was very surprising to the people at the chiropractic office. They said I was about to change my life. We'll see about that, people. But can you do something about my neck, please? Thanks.


I finished Idaho on Monday. The writing was gorgeous. I was wrong last week when I described the plot as a puzzle coming together to reveal a finished piece. Many pieces were missing. Some pieces fit in different ways. Over the past week I've imagined different scenarios for how the plot played out, and went onto Goodreads forums to see what other people think happened. It was a beautiful portrayal of love in all its complicated forms, and also an interesting study in how personal narrative can both empower and betray us. I also loved the role that music played throughout the book, particularly the song at its core, which, I learned, was written by the author's father.

Looking for something new to read, I spent an hour at the library and ended up leaving with three books on gardening. This is the time of year I start to get that restless feeling that I should be doing something about the lawn, if not getting rid of it entirely. And that leads to all sorts of other thoughts that lead to total paralysis. My gardening know-how comes from trial and error, which adds up to a lot of wasted time and money. So these books are all about taking things one step - or in some cases, one year - at a time.

I also began Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. 

Hello Face


First of all, check out how tomato paste is made in Sicily!

And as of Saturday, we can check Love, season 3 off our list.


I forgot to include this category last week, when I enjoyed a new-to-me Joni Mitchell album from 1975 called "The Hissing of Summer Lawns." (You can listen for free if you have Prime.) A little weird, a little jazzy.

On my Friday commute from work, I always try to remember to tune my radio to the jazz station because I can catch the end of a show I love that features lesser-known soul/R&B tracks from the 1960s and 70s (it ends at 5 p.m.), but this Friday, I was driving in circles downtown trying to find parking long after the show ended. But what played next was so wonderful I was actually grateful to be stuck in traffic: it was a harp/piano duet of Piazzolla's "Libertango," a piece that has been in my life just in the last year or so but has become part of my life's soundtrack. I immediately told Joel about it (once I found parking and got to the winery where we were meeting) and was already on my phone trying to figure out who performed it. A day later, I figured it out. These two are amazing - a Columbian harpist (Edmar Castaneda) and a young Japanese pianist (Hiromi) -  and their live performances (some also on YouTube) are breathtaking.


Joel made another darn-good pasta (using a quick tomato and chicken marsala sauce) on a night when I didn't have my Bar Method class, which really made me feel free and easy. On St. Patrick's Day, we ate fried rice for lunch and pizza for dinner. But at least we listened to The Chieftans.
Whipped ricotta

Because I randomly had ricotta in the fridge, I tried out the whipped ricotta recipe in Six Seasons for spreading on bread and who-knows-what-else. It's tasty.
When crummy is good


I made it just under the wire by baking on Saturday. This week was hibiscus-rose shortbread, made with part all-purpose flour, part white rice flour. It's tangy from the hibiscus leaves and I can barely taste the rose (from rosewater). Crumbly and tender and easy to make.


Week 10

Dulce de Leche
This was the week it finally felt safe to hope for spring. I got my snow tires taken off. I went out once with just a cardigan. I spied a couple tulip leaves emerging in my garden. It was light out when I made breakfast (but darn you now, Daylight Saving). A forecast of some sun and blustery winds brought in 50-degree weather.

Last week I was thinking about sunrises and sunsets. Which do you prefer? I recently read a passage in The Bean Trees where this question was posed. As long as I can remember, I've been a sunrise person. A fresh day, a new start, all the possibilities, the gentle volume increase as the world wakes up...versus the end of a day - maybe it's been good, maybe not, stuff may or may not have happened, but it's the end and now I have a stain on my shirt. Now I have truly revealed something about myself, I think.

Classic Margot lap lounge

I enjoy non-linear plot puzzles and I'm starting to see the finished picture of Idaho. The regional references are an added bonus since I can picture the back country in North Idaho where this takes place.


On Sunday we hosted an Oscar viewing party, and despite my general ambivalence about the whole event, I ended up winning our competition.

We also finished Queer Eye and started Season 4 of Mozart in the Jungle, as well as Season 3 of Love. Not to mention the fact that I've got to figure out how to squeeze in Masterchef Junior. Good grief. I hate how much TV there is to watch sometimes.


For Sunday's party, Joel made a pasta with a chickpea sauce that was quite unusually delicious. The rest of the week was a hodgepodge of using stuff up in the fridge, including my favorite baked chicken meatballs. On Friday I tried a new recipe featured on The Splendid Table for green chicken which was herbaceous and satisfying.

I purchased Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables this week and am looking forward to beefing up, so to speak, my vegetable dishes.
Cocoa tahini with sesame crunch...and a manicure


This week's cookie was Dorie's cocoa tahini cookie with sesame crunch (someone shared the recipe here). You first make a sort of sesame seed brittle, then chop it up and add it into the cookie dough with chocolate chips, and with the tahini, it has a nutty flavor that makes it a much more interesting chocolate cookie. Joel declared it one of the best cookies I've ever made, so there's that, too.


Week 9

My week was brought back to life on Friday when the sun came out in time for my evening commute home. Instead of Friday's aperitivo hour, Joel and I took Luna for a dreamy, sloppy hike along the bluff.

We hit the First Friday crowd at the Maryhill winery tasting room (hence the silhouette art) and enjoyed a pre-dinner flight.

After two close friends raved about the new Queer Eye series within 24 hours last weekend, I couldn't wait to give it a shot. I'm four episodes in and I've cried twice. It's an interesting study in how the show - and our society - has evolved a bit since its original cast in the early 2000's. We needed this show right now. Plus, I love a good makeover, particularly when it involves southern Teddy bears getting fresh haircuts and style tips.

On Wednesday we saw Game Night, and it was exactly as I hoped it would be: entertaining and unbelievable.

For Friday, we rented a weird one: The Little Hours. An incredible comedic cast (Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Allison Brie, Fred Armisen, and MORE!) and a very strange plot (1300s Italy).
I finally framed that hipster pineapple embroidery art I made

We have been trying to install blinds for a week. By Saturday, we had everything we needed in the sizes we needed, and Joel convinced me not to be grumpy about the project by turning up some Billy Joel. We listened to The Stranger from start to finish. We especially relished the lyrics from "Get it Right the First Time," which coincidentally played after we installed the last set. By gum, we (mostly Joel) installed these blinds without a hitch, the first time (not counting the multiple trips to Lowes before we began).


This was the best Woody Allen-related thing I've read in years.

I'm on to Idaho by Emily Ruskovich this week.

View from High Drive, 6:50 a.m. on Saturday

The celebration of remembering our Argentina trip culminated with a flank steak dinner with chimichurri, a Malbec, marinated beans, and a simple salad like the kinds we often got there: just greens and shaved Parmesan. An appropriate dessert was also served (see below).

We feasted on these leftovers for days.

My favorite lunch

Confession: I did not make a cookie this week. I have store-bought Jules Destrooper wafers in my pantry right now. What I did make is a delicious topping for these cookies: dulce de leche. And the way I made it was magical. It was, perhaps, the easiest dessert I've ever made. And it keeps for weeks in the fridge. I made it from a can of sweetened condensed milk in the Instant Pot, per Melissa Clark's instructions. You take off the lid, peel off the label, cover the can tightly with foil, place it on the steamer rack, fill the pot with water until it reaches halfway up the can, lock it up and pressurize it for 40 minutes, and finally, let it release naturally. It took just under two hours total. When you lift the foil, the creamy milk has magically thickened and turned a lovely caramel color. Just add a dash of vanilla and sea salt. My, oh my.


Week 8

Theme of the week: BRRRR

It was so cold my toes still ache. My extremities don't handle extremes well, on either side of the thermometer. This was the first time in the almost four years we've had Luna that I let her out for her morning wee and didn't take her for a walk. It was too miserable for both of us. I'm thankful that my car started each morning and that our pipes didn't freeze. Now we're back to normal winter and dreaming of the trip we took exactly a year ago to Buenos Aires.
We bought the small bottle in BA last year because the formula there is slightly different. We did a taste test on Friday night.
It was a long work week. This day's word-of-the-day was especially true as it fell on the university's 24-hour giving event.

Friday also featured a fun night night out with my gal pals at Durkin's.

And on Saturday we got to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday in 1930's speakeasy style, and then finished out the night with three rounds of bowling at North Bowl.


I had a night at home to myself this week, and what did I do? I turned off the Olympics and turned up Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em. Total uninterrupted Hammer Time. MC Hammer transports me back to my friend Laura's family room, where we listened to "Pray" and talked about how MC was a Christian in case her parents got upset we were listening to secular music. It's funny how that was such a thing back in those days, to assess who was "a believer" as a way to affirm  our appreciation of the artist. I remember talking about singers and celebrities with friends and saying things like, "And did you know, she's a Christian?" (Probably information we inferred from watching award shows and athletic championships where they thanked God.) And because of that, mediocre artists were elevated because they sang about Jesus and because of that, had more to lose when they got caught in scandal (I remember this one well). What a weird world.


Nothing but Olympics.


Back to Barbara Kingsolver I went this week with The Bean TreesAgain, the themes and social issues presented in her fiction feel timeless and timely, even though this was written in the 1980s. Immigration is central to this one.

Joel shared this article with me this week as we prepare for another vacation. We've figured some of this out over the years. I still struggle with the "don't take pictures" advice, and while I can't imagine coming back without any photos from my trip, I think I'm getting better in figuring out what makes for a more meaningful photo. I don't need to take a picture of the Trevi fountain, but I love looking back on the photo I did take of all the tourists taking that photo.  This next trip I want to do a better job at journaling the details throughout our time, rather than scribbling it all down on the plane ride home.


It was an Instant Pot week. Seriously, if you have an Instant Pot and you don't have Melissa Clark's Dinner in an Instant, you need to remedy that in an instant. On Sunday Joel made her recipe for saffron risotto. On Tuesday I made the one for barbecue chicken, including the homemade barbecue sauce it cooks in, and dinner was shredded in about an hour. With jalapeno cornbread and roasted Brussels sprouts on the side and a Fat Tire. It was legit.
I only recently learned how amazing cornbread tastes with molasses

I also tried my hand at shakshuka on Sunday morning (eggs poached in a tomato sauce, sprinkled with herbs and cheese (usually feta...I had cotija). It was good!


This week was crumb-topped apple bars. Okay, Dorie, do we really consider this a cookie? The bottom was a cookie crust, I suppose, but truly, it's a crumble or an open-face slab pie. But sure, call it a cookie. It's delicious.


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.


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


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.


"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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


"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]

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

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

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


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.