Friday, June 24, 2016

Books 10-13

10. Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton. I read House of Mirth in college and remember really liking it. This book was very different, and it moved so quickly (only 99 pages) that I wasn't sure if I was missing the point. I read extensive Sparknotes after finishing and realized I didn't miss any details, but another person's summary did help me see the point. That makes me feel like a garbage English major/teacher, but oh well. Early twentieth century lit isn't my favorite anyway.

11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling. One million stars to this book. I had SO MANY FEELINGS while listening to this. Countless tears. So many details I had forgotten about. But even knowing what was going to happen didn't soothe me. I basically cried from Dobby's death all the way to the end. Happy and sad tears, for so many reasons. I'm excited to read the new book and see the movie coming out, but I doubt it will ever be the same. The good thing is I can always read them again.

12. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan. I am not a big fan of nonfiction books. I often feel like the same minimal information is repeated again and again to fill an entire book. I know about BSing to fill page requirements (I attended both high school and college), so I'm happy he's making money from this book, but I wish I could get the information in a more succinct way (like an article). Therefore, I did some skimming. This is the first book I haven't read cover to cover, but I'm counting it because I still came away with some important principles: Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants. (I guess I could have gotten that from the cover.)

13. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo. Again, a nonfiction book with the same issue. A lot of information was repeated. On top of that, a lot of information was a little wacko. I like her ideas, and I think I will go through a big decluttering process in my house (I waited until the last day of school to read this book so I could embark on this project with a lot of time on my hands), but I don't think I'll get to the point of emptying out my handbag at the end of each day or thanking my possessions for serving me. Or drying my sponge on the veranda.

Currently reading Big Little Lies and I'll need to start a new audiobook too. I'm feeling good about my pace!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Close to the Coast

Back in 2013, a really good thing happened. A friend stumbled upon a race in Freeport, Maine. There was a 5k and a 10k, the race started from a campground, and there was an option to camp there the night before. We scrambled to get our friends together, reserved the group campsite, and thus the best weekend of the year was born: the ushering in of summer.

The first year we did it, that Saturday coincided with the summer solstice, and we were all too happy to spend the entire day outside. Here's how it goes:

Campfire Friday night
Sleep in a tent
Wake up with the sun
Run a race around this beautiful coastal campsite
Watch your really fast friends win pies for coming in 1st or 2nd place in their age group
Listen to a cute band and eat the free post-race BBQ (including Ben and Jerry's)
Pack up the campsite
Go to the beach

That was the schedule the first year, and since I don't fix things that aren't broken, we've never looked back.

Every year new friends come and are surprised at how fun it is. It helps that the weather is always absolutely perfect.

Here are some highlights from this year!

Ben and I are the only remaining survivors from that first 2013 race, and we always take cute pictures to commemorate. 

We thought a wheelbarrow would be a good idea but nope. My arms are the worst. 

Hanna and Dinesh wore unplanned matching shirts. This was before the race so that's why they still look cute.

Aaaaaand here's the post-race, matching-shirt chest bump. 

 Some of these friends came all the way from The Big Apple (New York City) to do this race. They loved it.

Like I said, you gotta invite your fast runner friends, cause then they win pies. And share them. 

Acroyoga at Old Orchard Beach. The water was like an ice bath, which is probably how we had strength to do stunts/run away from supporting the stunts after running our incredibly challenging 5k (okay Conner ran the 10k).

 Here we are at the most photographed lighthouse in the world or something. Wouldn't you take a picture of that beauty?

And now, summer is here. And I'm the happiest.

Books 8 and 9

8. Looking for Alaska, John Green. Okay, books where teenagers die are not okay to me. I have read a couple of other John Green books that I liked but didn't love and this was in the same vein to me. Quirky teenagers, I get it. However, their quirks are often somewhat relatable, which was the case in this book. I almost threw the book in the river but I'm glad I read to the end because although the death was still inexcusable, I did find some value in how things played out.

9. What Is the What, Dave Eggers. Whoa. This book was powerful and sad and took me more days to read than most books lately, so the story stayed with me longer. I have heard of the Lost Boys of Sudan, but didn't really know much about them. It's overwhelming how many different ways there are for a person's life to be bad. I'm glad I read about Valentino Achak Deng's story, and I'm glad for the unique way it was written.

Still working on HP7 and I also started In Defense of Food. School is almost out and soon I'll be cruising through these books (hopefully).

CSA Week 3

I picked up my new box yesterday and everything always looks really exciting the first day, so I'm a little more excited about this one that I was last week.

I got:
Swiss chard (I have a bad relationship with Swiss chard from my mission in Chile but I'm hoping we can come back from that)
More scallions (to add to the million in my fridge still)
Garlic scapes (???????)
More turnips (ugh)
Napa cabbage
Zucchini/summer squash (finally something I know how to use!)
Basil (usually not my favorite but it smells SO GOOD)

I'm planning pasta, pizza, garlic butter, slaw, roast zucchini salsa. If I find/create good recipes I'll share them here!

CSA Week 2

I had a harder time with my CSA last week. I guess I was a little disappointed by how my recipes turned out the first week; I felt like I was eating because the food was there but not because I loved it. And it's sad to eat food you don't love when food you do love exists. So I kind of just didn't really cook.

I received:
More beets
Bok choi
Collard greens

I made another quiche with turnip and beet greens, fennel, and dill. Yuck. Fennel is not a food I like. I heard it was better caramelized, but I didn't do a great job, and in the end it got old so I threw out the rest. Whoops.

I also made my own ranch dressing with dill, which was pretty good. I'm not a huge ranch fan, so I put it on one salad and then brought it to a party with veggies.

I use a few collard greens for wraps and though the stuff inside was good (carrots, cucumbers, turkey, avocado, hummus), I just didn't love the taste of the greens on the outside. I still have a few that hopefully I can use.

I put some bok choi on pizza, which was good but not great.

I realized that as much as I want beets to be potatoes, they're just not. That's a good lesson.

I'm looking forward to finally being out of school (half days Thursday and Friday!) so I can spend more time cooking and looking for recipes that are great, not just edible.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Books 4-7

4. Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood. I read this book back in high school at the recommendation of my best friend and I remember loving it, but I hardly remembered anything about it. It was a good reread because it was easy to follow the plot already being familiar with it, but I was shocked again at all the surprises. I was also continually appalled at the way women were treated/thought of/talked about. I know that we have come a long way in terms of equality for women, but it was still painful to see it laid out so explicitly. This book is an interesting hybrid of real facts and embellished narrative.

5. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan. I had seen this book at stores for years and kept planning on reading it eventually, so I was happy that Katharine recommended it and lent it to me. This book was a quick, fun read. It's fairly dated in the time period it was written (2009, I think) with talk of Google and Facebook and Kindles, but since we're still in that time period more or less, a lot of it was relatable.

6. The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party's Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House, McKay Coppins. I would not have read this book if my brother didn't write it. Republican politics are uninteresting to me at best and aggravating to me at worst. However, McKay is a great storyteller and by hearing their backstories, I found myself sympathizing with a lot of the candidates I was hating on earlier this year (except Donald Trump. Nothing will humanize that monster). It was cool to get more info on so many of the issues I've been hearing about this campaign cycle.

7. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides. I read this for a book club with a few friends, and we haven't discussed it yet, so I look forward to adding their perspectives to my opinion on this book. It was a really fascinating story, and pretty eye-opening to a world I didn't know much about (intersex people). The book is hefty, but I got hooked in fairly easily. However, there are some definite problems. If you have read it and want to discuss, I'm happy to talk!

I finished 7 books by 15 days into this challenge, so I'm actually not doing too badly. I'm working on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Looking for Alaska, and What is the What now!

Monday, June 13, 2016

CSA Week 1 continued

Alright, here are the rest of the recipes I made to use up all my CSA stuff:

1. I made this quiche with the greens of my beets instead of kale. I was worried, but turns out eggs and pie crust can mask any scary vegetable flavor. I used frozen pie crust from the grocery store because pie crust has always scared me and I have another one in the freezer still so I'm sure I'll make another quiche with whatever I get this week.

2. I made pesto out of the greens of my kohlrabi. I used a recipe from the CSA email, but I don't think it was enough oil and my blendtec had a hard time blending it all up. The greens were still kind of thick rather than pureed. I'll look for another pesto recipe. I used the pesto in this pasta dish and it was really good. It tasted really fresh and almost fruity, which I wasn't expecting. I'd make it again. I still have some pesto left so I'm thinking about what else to use it in. I'll update.

3. I used beet, kohlrabi, and some baby carrots I had lying around to make this slaw. I wanted to be the type of person who ate just the veggies, but the flavor wasn't doing it for me, so I added the goat cheese and peanuts like she did here and it really transformed the dish. I would make this again. I wouldn't buy beets and kohlrabi to make it again, but if I had them, I definitely would.

4. I tried two other salads with the kale and lettuce, and while they were edible, neither of them were as good as the one that first night. I think bacon + goat cheese in a salad is a real winner. I'll keep trying though. I just saw this post of summer salad ideas and they all look so good, so I'm sure I'll work my way through this list.

I realize how ridiculous it is that I just linked to four recipes from the same blog, but it's the only blog I follow with posts about CSA veggies, so it's a valuable resource. Also, after making several of her recipes, I trust her, so I'll keep following along.

I haven't heard yet what I'm getting tomorrow, but I'm sure it'll be another adventure. Just two more weeks of school and then I'll be done, and it's about time, because cooking my way through even just a half-share of CSA veggies is taking up all of my free time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

CSA Week 1

I have admired and at times coveted my friend Carol Ann's CSA shares for years, so now that I have a steady job (summer income!), and a dedication to eating more vegetables than treats this year (a New Year's resolution I haven't completely honored), I decided it's time.

My first box contained:
Radishes (including greens)
Beets (including greens)
Kohlrabi (??????)
Green garlic

I've found some recipes I'm excited about so I'll post about those as I use them, but last night I made a cute little salad that I really loved, so I've gotta save the recipe.

Lettuce, shredded (very important quality in salad greens for me)
Bacon (cooked till crispy)
Sunflower seeds
Goat cheese (a game changer that I'm convinced could make me eat any salad)
Balsamic dressing (made by me)

Sometimes I think I like salads and then I make one that's so terrible and I can't even eat it (that happened on Monday night--thank goodness for Dinesh being willing to eat honestly anything). So I've gotta note of what makes them edible and hopefully enjoyable to me.

Books 1-3

I'm 8 days into my 92-day summer reading challenge, and I've finished 3 books. Mathematically, that's not great. However, I am still in school until June 24, so that is slowing things down for me, and I do have several shorter books coming up, so hopefully I can still catch up.

1. Sula, Toni Morrison. I have actually never read a book by Toni Morrison before (I know, the shame!) and I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of reading. I liked the powerful story of female friendship and the important way she calls out racism. However, I always have a hard time believing a character who just refuses to subscribe to what I see a human morals. I guess people like Sula might exist, but I believe they have more facets to them.

2. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, Mona Awad. Holy cow. This book killed me. So many sentiments that I have felt throughout my life were expressed, and none of them were pleasant or uplifting. It was enlightening, however, and I choose to see this story as a cautionary tale. My worth is not dependent on my weight, and neither happiness, self-esteem, nor a positive relationship will ever come from simply being skinny.

3. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, JK Rowling. As good as ever. I haven't read these books since the 7th came out in the summer of 2007, and Dinesh hasn't ever read them, so we decided together that it was time. We're listening to the audiobooks and it's so so fun. Jim Dale, the narrator, is a genius. I remember when I first read them thinking that the third book was my favorite, and after listening through this time, I realized that the third book is the end of the somewhat easygoing, happy Harry Potter stories. After that, although there are moments of triumph and real, human joy, there is so much darkness and loss to contend with, and it's painful to listen! I really care about these characters, and in a way, entering the stories again has felt like coming home. So, every tragedy in the wizarding world feels tragic to me as well. However, I am endlessly touched by the friendship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Their dedication to each other is admirable and makes these among the most powerful books I've ever read. I'm waiting a minute to start the 7th, because I don't want them to be over again!

I'm currently working on Alias Grace, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and The Wilderness, so check back very soon for those reviews!

Summer 2016 Goals

I've taken on a few new projects this summer, and I want to keep track of the results, so here I am, back at blogging. I have thought about resurrecting my blog for awhile, mostly because of how much I love reading blogs, but I don't think I can commit to the daily/thrice weekly/super consistent posts. However, I have committed to two major things: reading 50 books this summer, and receiving a weekly CSA farm share box. Here we go!