Summer: Take Three

It’s amazing how quickly my work ethic goes out the window as soon as I have no more pending assignments.

Case in point: on the third day of being college-free, I decided that, instead of sleeping until noon again, I would get up at nine thirty to make it to a ten thirty cycle class at the gym. I made it on time, but there was no one in the class, probably because most people actually, um, work during the day. Not me, of course. I’m not an adult yet. But instead of using the machines, I decided, well, I gave it the old college try (pun intended), so I may as well go home, which is exactly what I did. I came home, put my pajamas back on, and got back in to bed where I belong.

Can I just point out how giggly it makes me that I can use so many commas and conjunctions and not get penalized for them?? Hah! Take that, college.

While I was lying in bed at 11 am, I had the divine inspiration that I should start blogging again, because I just have so many thoughts that it would be a shame not to share them with my four blog readers (who may or may not be related to me and thus subject to all my insane ramblings anyway…) I have about seven weeks vacation where I have virtually no obligations (minus a few fun projects and some less-than-amusing paperwork jobs), which reminds me of that sacred time two and a half years ago when I took a semester off of school and got really into blogging, reading, and cooking, which I’m still really into but less devoted to these days. That happens when you live in a place with no an oven and you have research papers to write that end up being really God awful. But that’s another story.

So, I thought I would kick-start this vacation blog adventure with another summer reading list. You may (but most likely won’t, because you didn’t know I had a blog) recall that two summers ago (yep, two summers ago…wow…) I made another reading list that I almost successfully finished. I gave up on Crime and Punishment, not because I don’t love Doestoevsky, but because I couldn’t stand getting inside a criminal’s head like that. I suppose this is why I also despised Lolita and I hate watching CSI. Just seems too real. But I made up for it last summer by reading The Brothers Karamazov, which I recommend to everyone and your little dog, too.

So, what’s on the agenda for the next seven weeks? My mom gave me this book, The Reluctant Tuscan, because she is obsessed with Italy and I am obsessed with food. It likens itself to this book, Bella Tuscany, sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun (which I’ve never read), and a million other books on the glories of Tuscan living.

The Reluctant Tuscan reads rather quickly, which is great, because I’m still exercising my attention span. On top of that, I want to finish the books I started over winter break:

Cooked, the newest Michael Pollan manifesto
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
The Pickwick Papers by good ole Mr. Dickens

Additionally, I really hope to merge this blog into a new host site, because I must continue to chronicle my life. As the days pass on, I will explain more what my future holds. But for now, I leave you with this promise, that I shall sleep till noon, read till five, and drink till nine. And blog about it 🙂

-Mel

P.S–What are some of your favorite summer reads? I am always looking for suggestions.

‘Tis a Wed-nes-day For Sure

I’ve never forgotten how to spell ‘Wednesday’, thanks to my very first English teacher, Father Patrick: Wed Nes Day. I still say it in my head whenever I write it out.

Clearly, today is a very Wed Nessy Day. It could be the way I slept. It could be the fact that my body is crying out for more yoga to stretch my poor teeny muscles and I refuse to satiate it because I can’t afford the thirty minute drive right now. It could be the mess in the kitchen, or the mess in the living room, or the mess in the bathroom. It could even be the fact that the sun is beaming down on me to the point of uncomfortable brightness.

Friends, I refuse to let my day become Wed Nessy! The sky is still so blue I could kiss it. And this morning, as an inaugural fall treat, I made oatmeal:





Fall Breakfast Oatmeal
Serves Two
One banana, thinly sliced
Two cups milk of your choice
One cup rolled oats
One cup canned pumpkin
Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
Pinch salt
Dried cranberries, mixed nuts, maple syrup

Place the milk in a saucepan along with the banana. Bring to a boil, continually stirring the banana so it breaks up into the milk. Once rolling with bubbles, add the oats and salt and continue to stir until the mixture reaches your preferred level of thickness (three to five minutes).

Remove from the heat, add the pumpkin and spices, and stir to incorporate. Top with cranberries, nuts, and maple syrup. If you need more salty crunch, serve with a dollop of peanut butter. Seriously.

With a bit of light reading 🙂
My internal calendar always starts to leap when I make the switch from fruit-and-yogurt to warm, creamy oatmeal. This means beautiful things like boots and scarves. You hear that, feet? Get ready!

Cookery

I went through a phase my junior year of high school where I only watched Food Network and that is how I learned to cook. Of course, when I got to college, I abandoned my culinary knowledge for easy mac and beer but still looked forward to those long holiday breaks where I could get back in the kitchen and get creative.
Cooking has always been unobtrusive therapy for me. I love escaping into the quiet, bright openness of the room, usually with Pandora radio or WEVL playing in the background. If it’s the morning, I have a mug of hot coffee or tea in my hand as I stir. In the evening, wine, if I’m lucky. I like to lay all the ingredients out on the counter tops so they don’t get lonely as I transport them one by one to their bath of steam or butter or olive oil, sizzling all the way. There is something blissfully monotonous in the creation of a recipe, something warm and welcoming that I can get lost in, like the continual soft needing of a ball of dough, or the beating of egg yolks in sugar into that amazing lemon yellow color. And it always helps to have a house full of recipe testers at my disposal. I read cookbooks like novels, but much prefer to leave them on the shelf (or my bedside table) when I enter my workspace, relying on intuition, acquired knowledge, random impulses, and a slightly askew sense of creativity to be my guides.

However: my friend recently married (and, side note, gave birth to the cutest kid in the universe, whom I get to play with) and received this book as one of her wedding gifts (to which I remarked, why is it only married couples who get awesome household gifts? to which her husband responded “throw a house warming party” to which I responded “…Oh…”) and since she put it in my hands I have not put it down (and dreamt of beef stew last night).

I have been on the hunt for a “cookbook bible” lately and I think I’ve found my grail. This book, created by self taught home cook Mark Bittman, has two thousand (count them) recipes and weighs more than any textbook I’ve ever encountered. He has sections for every single meat, and explains things that all Americans really should know, like how Organic is the ONLY label that has any rules for regulations of meat production and treatment and diet of the animals (as an aside, Kosher, I learned, means much cleaner, unprocessed meat that is typically cured and fresh). Also, grass-fed cows are becoming increasingly rare, and none of what factory farms feed their cows (soy, corn, grain) is in a cow’s natural diet. Bleh.

Anyway, all this to say that I know exactly how I will be spending my spare time in the coming weeks. Fall is slowly encroaching on us, the perfect time for homemade breads and slow-cooked stews. Bittman even includes a section on how to make your own cheeses and yogurts, which I am bursting with excitement to try. I’ve never been a crafty person, or someone who can make pottery or paint (though I’ve always wished I could), but I believe that cooking can be as equally as artistic an endeavour, from the the stress-relieving, screw-the-world-I’m-in-my-zone process to the final palatable product. I don’t actually own this book yet (catch the sutble hint, family? Kidding.), but I plan to absorb as much as humanly possible in the next five days, before I venture home to Tennessee (where, I will, most likely, buy this book and then sleep with it under my pillow).