Tuesday, July 26, 2011

book talk: craving simplicity

Today, I wanna talk about what I want to read when I can't think anymore. Well, aside from magazines and cocktails menus, I mean.

This week has been A-mazingly busy...and it's Tuesday. I have about a million things to do in the next couple of days, though! And, if you know me, you know that just the thought of potential duties, chores, games, activities can make me exhausted.

When I'm mentally drained, all I wanna do is lay on my stomach on the bed and flip through a shiny magazine. But, in my more intellectual moments, I want to read calm, rational thoughts from smart, poetic people. It also helps if the covers of the books can be calming.

...like this compilation of contemplative writings by the likes of Thomas Merton and Annie Dillard. It even feeds my escapist fantasies with the travel metaphor!  Ah, I feel calmer already.

Or, I could just kick back, close my eyes, and listen to an Annie Dillard novel. This one caught my eye, though I still need to read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

What about you? What do you like to read when you're too mentally exhausted to think?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meatless Monday: heat wave cookin'

Whew! I don't know about you, but at this point, I only want to eat popsicles! Here are some quick-to-make, little-to-no heat required meatless options:

This little Greek Lentil Salad looks so light and summery to me. Plus, I'm almost always in the mood for feta cheese. 

One of my favorite DIY summer treats is frozen banana bites. I originally tried them using this recipe from bon appetit. And, as long as you let yourself use only stuff you have on hand for the coating (no fussing over particular ingredients!), they are so easy to throw together. I tossed some into the freezer yesterday, coating them all with chopped macadamia nuts. My favorite part, though, is how the frozen bananas taste uncannily like ice-cream. 

Stay cool, my friends!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

saturday snapshot

It's thick and hot outside today. Inside the library, the air-conditioning is buzzing, low and comforting. I'm hungry for lunch, and my friend, Jess, brought up the idea of a tomato sandwich. Now, hypothetical ruby fruits sparkle in my mind.

But first, to Paris!

I discovered a new blog, Prete Moi Paris, and have been reminded why I slide into francophilia so easily and so often. 

These images from a fashion show are from the line Basil Soda. I would wear each one of them, I think. They're so romantic, so interesting in their combo of throw-back and po-mo sensibilities. 

 Well, as usual, my automatic-free-association of most things with food and drink kicked in. I wanted to know if basil sodas existed (I had a feeling yes), and if so, how I could make one. And then drink it. Bon Appetit never fails with a classic-sounding recipe.  

Then again, the Detroit Free Press offered up this cherry version, which puts a distinctly Mitten spin on the drink. 

Decisions, decisions. 

Happy weekend, friends! Hope you are staying cool, dreamy and hydrated:)

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Ok. So, I had this absurd notion that today: I thought I would write a "Theory Thursday" post (an idea I've been toying with), which really just means I was thinking I'd talk a bit more nerdily about what it is I do all day (ahem, teach writing to college students).

But, today is not that day, my friends.

No, today is not that day.

It is hundreds of degrees here in the Mitten. I have had a long week. I would like to just stop thinking now, if that's alright. Which is why I propose that today be a day for daydreamin' baby!

I propose we all stare at some clouds...

Maybe muse about cashing in our Roth IRAs and moving to a tropical isle...

...and once we're there, let's find a hammock and lay down. Wait, not just any hammock...it's so flippin' hot, we're gonna need a hammock in the water!

If all else fails, we can just play some ReRe and stare at the picture of the hammock. That might be enough to soothe my heat-wave-baked mind. Whaddya say?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

kitchen chairs

Last weekend, I came home from a beach-trip with my mom, aunt and sister to the voice of my husband. What was he saying? Why, he was saying, "honey, I broke one of our kitchen chairs."

Part of the delight of the hubs is that he begins conversations in this way. Not "hi, how ya doin'?" Not even, "brace yourself, I have news..." Just, out with it.

Because our dining set is a semi-antique-y thing passed down to us from my parents, we will likely need to buy, either some new chairs or a whole new set. Here are some that have caught my eye lately:

Have you ever purchased new chairs for your kitchen? We are such grad students (though I've been long done...) that we haven't made a substantial purchase for our home like this since...well, since our wedding. Wow. I'm not sure how much sticker shock to expect, how much to go for (just the chairs or a whole new she-bang?) What is your experience?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

book talk: forgetting and remembering

I was just about to start teaching yesterday, and was pawing through my bag for the adaptor cord that links my laptop to the projector in my classroom. Paw, paw, paw. Rats.

I'd completely forgotten to throw it in my bag! The consequences weren't completely dire; my class that day just suddenly "got real." We were live and un-plugged. No powerpoint to help guide the mini-lesson on rhetorical appeals, no visual examples to practice with, no visual journal prompt. The students completely tuned in, though, to our discussion and participated with sharp insights and good questions. It might have been the best class of the semester...

It got me thinking about the meaning of forgetting, the consequences of it, the value of memory.

I've been connecting dots; the other day on NPR, I heard a review of this book:

A murder mystery where the main character, and primary suspect, is a 64 year-old woman with dementia. Now, I'm not usually one for murder mysteries, but the concept of forgetting and the tension and confusion it causes...this intrigues me. 

It is not a large leap from ideas of memory and forgetting to ideas of smell. I am currently nibbling my way through Diane Ackerman's Natural History of the Senses, and her connections between smell and memory are so rich.

Within the first pages, Ackerman hooks you with evocative, intuitive sentences to link smell and memory:

"Nothing is more memorable than smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary, fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the Poconos, when wild blueberry bushes teemed with succulent fruit and the opposite sex was as mysterious as space travel...Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines, hidden under the weedy mass of many years and experiences. Hit a tripwire of smell, and memories explode all at once."

All this has me thinking about memory, how important it is, and how bittersweet. Our senses are attuned to collecting memories. They document them and then hide them away for us, ready to be unearthed at the specifically triggered moment. Or, not. I wonder--is it better to remember, or to forget? Or, is it the subtle homeostasis of washing between the two that keeps us sane? 

Monday, July 18, 2011

meatless monday: strawberries!

Ever since last summer, I've had the gnawing urge to get a strawberry pot. It all started when I was minding my own business, milling about the farmer's market. I was drawn to a farmer who was selling herbs and strawberries in pots. I chatted with him about how much work these plants would be to keep alive, about my "black thumb" and eventually, I walked away in a fit of nervous laughter and excuses.

Obviously, I'm haunted by this exchange. Or, as I often cast it in my memory, a missed opportunity. At this point (having managed to keep the plant alive, of course), I could be up to my elbows in strawberries. Like Tina from blissful eats, I could be making cakes full of the tiny, jewel-like fruits. 

I could be feeding my secret scone-obsession with these pillow-like treats Deb made.

But most of all, I could be re-creating one of my favorite salads of all time. It is not on any website (that I know of). It is a recipe that my friend, Jenni, and I learned while staying at a host-home outside of London.  It was invented by a super-cool, super-creative bartender-girl who had invented it, and who shared it with us:
  • Mix of greens (dark, like spinach, with crunchy, like romaine)
  • red onion
  • ripe strawberries
  • fresh feta cheese
  • cooked couscous (or I like quinoa)
  • plain yogurt (I like the Greek kind)
  • Optional additions: greenhouse cucumber--chopped, bell pepper--chopped, drizzle of olive oil
Best. Salad. Ever. Try it, and let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Talk

I started the day talking about books. What a satisfying way to start the day! My friend, Becky, and I met up for breakfast and book-talking before I had to leave to teach my class. We are reading Writing About Writing together, using the buddy system to keep each other accountable, but also to help each other process this "College Reader," to see if and how it could fit into our writing classes.

One of the things Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs stress on the first page of the book is that, "writing is something we know about, not just something we do." And this is a fact that undergirds my professional field. We can write about writing, think through and develop writing theories, and research the processes that surround writing just as we can write and think and develop and research in any discipline. I am really excited to keep going through this book! I'll keep you posted as I uncover cool stuff:)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Meatless Monday: slightly tomato-obsessed

Last week I made this phenomenally easy eggplant parmesan. The original recipe is for one, so I just doubled it and we were set. With a green salad, that was one bright, satisfying dinner! I have some leftover eggplant...so maybe an encore this week?

But really, I am not here to talk about eggplant. I only have eyes for tomatoes, these days. 

Yesterday, I met my friend, Becky, for lunch at a local joint that boasts a Bloody Mary Bar. Yep, like a salad bar, except with vodka. I mixed a lovely, spicy, savory drink and was in heaven! It made me want to try this version, suggested by Martha Stewart.

And for lunch today, just to further the tomato-obsession, I packed a tomato, goat-cheese and basil salad. I can hardly wait to eat it! I sliced up a handful of Campari tomatoes, plucked some basil from the plant on the sill, and crumbled up some goat cheese. Drizzle of olive oil, some salt and peppper, and done. But, there are other tomato-salad combos in the sea...I'd love, for instance, to try this one:

Or, maybe this one:

Oh, tomato! How do I love thee? What is your relationship to the tomato? Do you love it? Hate it? Like it only in sauces? Why or why not?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

saturday snapshot

I love sunny, warm days like today. I rode my bike up to the library, where I was hoping to find the next book in our summer-obsession series. No luck. Ah, well...

Next, it's on to the cheese shop to pick up some Maytag Blue. I've seen it, heard about it, but have yet to try it. Today is the day!

Also, in honor of our last book club meeting of the summer, I have gathered some pretty-looking wines to try. I am especially excited for this "prickly riesling." 

Which I think would go perfectly with these prosciutto-wrapped nectarines, don't you?

I am a little sad to see our delightful book club coming to a close, but it has been so rich, so rewarding. I am looking forward to starting a new book, perhaps in the fall. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weekend Adventures

It is Wednesday, but I am still feeling the ripples of refreshment and the tinge of adventure from our holiday weekend. 

The hotel we stayed at was really cool, a legitimate eco-conscious place with a cool, minimalist vibe

We went for a couple of walks around town...stopping to smell the flowers...

...and eat ice cream! This is the "sand dune" from Captain Sundae. Uh, yum. 

We found a couple of lovely trails that were new to us, so we meandered through the trees.

And we got a great view of this working windmill!

Downtown Holland is full of quirky little details, like intricate stonework or vintage signs. 

Sunset over Lake Macatawa

We found this lovely, dune-shielded beach in Laketown.

And we climbed this dune to get to it! Oy, my calves!!

Ah, but it was so, so worth it. Lake Michigan was refreshing, and we were serenaded by the soft crash of waves all afternoon! 

On the way home, the hubs spontaneously pulled into the parking lot of this antiques store.

I fell in love with this punch-stiching piece. 

It used to be a tool-shop! 

All-in-all, a wonderfully refreshing little adventure. What did you do over the long-weekend? 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Meatless Monday...at least, it FEELS like monday!

I have to brag a tiny bit about the utterly meatless creation (ahem, dessert) I made over the holiday weekend (well, thanks to inspiration from Bon Appetit, at least).

The magazine calls for nectarines and blackberries, but the color I used was blue. So, this is my nectarine-and-blueberry cobbler. Can I just say...? Delish. If you're a fan of not-too-sweet desserts, this puppy is definitely for you. 
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