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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Cake!

I went into this Sunday night armed with my favorite Schlafly Summer Lager, Joy the Baker’s vegan chocolate cake, and an episode of the Biercast. Joy wrote about the Sunday Panics last year and I swear it was the first time I realized this happened to anyone else. She describes symptoms of the Sunday Panics and does a pretty good job hitting the nail on the head. My Sunday Panics usually come with a simultaneous desire to watch everything on Netflix and eat food that is terrible for anyone, but also thinking I should fling myself outside into the sun with a gin & tonic and a swimsuit. “Tomorrow may be Monday, but I still have my freedom!”

But seriously, I do get very panicky on Sundays, and sometimes if I’m lucky it only hits me around 9 pm so I don’t feel guilty about being a little lazy, and I can go to sleep early to cut them (the panics) off at the knees. But other times, especially this weekend they come on strong and early. I spent the weekend in Springfield, Illinois, with my parents and it’s seriously hard to come back to a new city, an empty apartment, and work the next day after a weekend like that. Such is life, though, and I know I can’t escape the fact that yes, it’s Sunday, and yes, tomorrow is Monday. So I took out the flour, the chocolate, the beer, and pressed play on a podcast and got moving. Oh there will still be Netflix, and there will still be junk food (so what, I’m human and I like processed foods sometimes), but as my mother said “There’s nothing like going to bed full and with a little bit of chocolate in you.”

Cake: Joy the Baker’s Vegan Chocolate Cake
Beer: Schlafly Summer Lager
Podcast: The Biercast Brew Loyalty

*Tonight I relied on Instagram for a photo, as I really did want to get some writing about Sunday blues out of me. Stay tuned, though! I just got another roll of color back from the shop.

Bell's Two Hearted

There’s this thing about Indiana in the summer, and about Muncie in the summer. All the students disappear for the summer, and this town is yours. Everyone emerges after surviving tragically long Indiana winters and we’re alive. Everyone hangs out together, and we’re all friends. Last summer was another summer filled with perfect weekends and magical days – I went to the pool with my girlfriends every week, we dipped our feet in the blue water, we went to bike races, we played bike polo. We drank beer, and we smiled for days. If it’s summertime in Indiana, then everything’s alright.

All in all…
Just like Indiana summers this beer is magical. I’ve been burnt out on hops for such a long time, but as soon as I had a taste as I was walking out onto my deck last week, I felt relief. One -because this is so so delicious. And two – I haven’t had a Two Hearted since January. UNACCEPTABLE.

Recommend to a friend?
I wholeheartedly want everyone to try this

Lightweight-safe?
Hahahaha– 7.0%

Plus one?
If I’m feeling brave about my stomach the next morning

Get a six pack?
Yes, to be enjoyed and savored slowly

The Hops
Bell’s Brewing Company – Kalamazoo, MI
India Pale Ale

Bell's Two Hearted

*Pictures taken with the Minolta X-370 & Kodak Black & White film.

Squid ink pasta

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” – Ronald Dahl

One of my cheeriest and most joyous of friends posted an image of this Ronald Dahl quote the other day, and while this may be cliche I’m trying to start the week channeling this. (Waves hi Marie) Because while I truly believe the world sends back what you give, I get wrapped up in my own head a lot, I get moving quickly, and I forget this. I went to a kayaking clinic in North Carolina several summers ago, and one of the things the instructors told us was that if you look at a certain part of the river, you’re sure to travel in that direction. Simply, if there’s an area where you don’t want to be, don’t look that way. But that’s hard sometimes, and takes a consistent and dedicated effort to change one’s thinking. It’s easier to define what I don’t want, what I’m not happy with, what might happen, what might go wrong. It takes a lot of spirit and heart to focus on what I do want and what might go right. Maybe it’s easier than I think. Maybe I just let the other things just fall away.

What if I planted my eyes on what could all fall into place? What if I kept my eyes steady on the beautiful things? What if instead of imagining what could fall apart, I imagined how much could come together? What if I refused to let things I don’t want occupy my thoughts, my mind, my time? I’ll keep my eyes focused on my passions, on my family, on my loves. Letting what might go wrong into my thoughts doesn’t arm me or make me better prepared. The best way to arm oneself for challenges and dark periods is with an ability to see bright spots on the horizon and relentlessly pursue what brings you pure joy. What if I go ahead and untie the weights from my ankles? So today while I’m preparing the darkest of pastas, I’m still looking at the sunbeams.

Squid ink pasta

Squid ink pasta at the market

Squid Ink Linguine with Lemon Garlic & Olive Oil Sauce
Lemon garlic & olive oil sauce recipe by my beau.

6 ounces squid ink linguine
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Two cloves garlic, crushed
3 slices lemon
1/8 C sun dried tomatoes

1. In a medium skillet (7-9 inches) heat 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil on medium-low heat and sautee crushed garlic until fragrant and light brown.
2. Bring 1.5 quarts water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
3. While the water is heating, add additional Tablespoon olive oil, lemon, and sun dried tomatoes to the skillet with garlic. Sautee over medium-low heat until lemons are soft and the meat easily falls out. (Depending on how hot your burners get, this can take between 5-10 minutes) Turn over once or twice.
4. Turn the burner under your skillet (with the garlic sauce) to low, and when your water is boiling add the pasta and cook until it reaches your desired state-of-done-ness for linguine. I typically do a taste test frequently when I think it is close to being done.
5. When your linguine is done, drain in a colander and return to your saucepan.
6. Pour the garlic sauce over the linguine and toss together. Serve up!

Serves 1 large helping. 

*Pictures taken with the Minolta X-370 & Kodak color film.

 

Gringo

Finally. There are clouds covering the sky and it is 77 here in the St. Louis area. 77! Mornings have been starting out at over 85 and reaching into the mid 90s with a heat index of 100 lately. Apparently there is a heat wave going across the country, but it sure feels like it’s all just settling around us. Though I’ve had experience with Georgia summers, Georgia has nothing on this. The humidity everysingleday bogs you down, clouds your head, fills your lungs with heavy air, and inspires you to hole up inside with the A/C blasting and a popsicle in your hand. Today we have relief. Thank the heavens there is a day of relief.

I’ve been going into the city more frequently, which has been a breath of fresh air and a reminder of living right in Paris way back when. Maybe part of this is that the bookstore I’ve frequented is called Left Bank Books. Yes, that definitely may have something to do with it. This city has so much character and so much history. Forest Park is beautiful, has plays on the weekends, an outdoor opera, and is teeming with families, joggers, cyclists, and people fishing from the dock. There are old, majestic neighborhoods with old trees lining the streets that give some relief on those stifling days. Cities have a life of their own, and it makes you feel incredibly special when you get to be a small part of its history. I feel the same way when I visit my mother’s hometown in south Georgia, or when I was in North Carolina, or when I was in Wyoming. When I’m in those places, and know all my ancestors that were there before me (born there in that house, sitting in this pew at church, fishing on this river here), or that these mountains have been here for an era – I’m a small part of something much bigger than myself. I get to be part of its history and its story.

But even outside of that, aside from all the reflection on what a city means yadayada…here’s how I spent my last weekend (outside of baking)

Gringo (photo above)
The first thing I noticed about Gringo was the beautiful cyan color they used in the restaurant. I wish I’d had color film in camera, but if you go to their website you’ll get a good sense of how the place is decorated. The entire restaurant pops out when you’re on the street, which is pretty much the sole reason we walked in. I didn’t care what they were serving, it was hot, humid, and it looked perfectly blue and chilled inside. Anyways, the tacos were great (Al Pastor, Grilled Fish, and Wild Caught Shrimp), the beer was great, and why did I not realize they had popsicles. I need to get back there ASAP.

Left Bank Books

Left Bank Books 
I took a trip to Left Bank Books after work one day a few weeks as it was included in a list of bookstores recommended to me a while back. Last trip I found a very very small (itty bitty) copy of Song of Myself, as well as a beautiful copy of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. I had to go back last weekend to get a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, so I could finish what I started in Wyoming. I’m trying to stop acquiring books after that last move, but when I do I’ll be going back there.

Fountain Service

hold me closer tiny dancerThe Fountain on Locust
Based on another recommendation from friend who used to live in St. Louis, my friend and I went over to The Fountain last Sunday for Sunday dessert. And boy did they serve up some ice cream. If you go, bring a friend and split whatever you want to order. Or order the smallest ice cream cone in the world. (No really, they have one) The ice cream is incredible, but I don’t know how anyone ever manages to finish one of their sundaes. (Enormous I tell you. Gigantic) The place is beautiful, and was yet another place with inspired coloring and decoration.

In other news, did you know that ocean waves help create clouds? How beautiful is life? Here’s to another beautiful weekend.

my kitchen

Ever since returning from vacation my evenings are looking steadily different. Before vacation I would come home at 6:30 or 7, toast two pieces of tomato basil bread, smash up an avocado and quickly eat them before spending some time on the phone, take a shower, then bed. Since returning I get home around 6ish as I’m actually leaving work at 6 these days (!!!!!!), do dishes from the day, and start cooking. Dinners lately have been simple pasta dishes (carbonara, garlic/butter, marinara ricotta sauce), but I’m still taking the time to cook. The rest of my night looks similar – phone calls, shower, etc., but simply taking the time to prepare a simple meal has made such a difference.

I feel full and healthy. You can probably already guess how two pieces of toast a night makes someone feel, right? There’s not only a physical effect, but a mental effect as well. I (obviously) love food, and grew up with a home-cooked family dinner most nights (bless my wonderful mother), so not having real meals made me feel less whole in a way. It was almost like having TV dinner or something of the sort. I knew I should be doing better.

I’m actually cooking something other than pasta with marinara, which means I’m learning slowly but surely. I have yet to cook meat for regular meals, or go outside the pasta + sauce box. Most of these are taking just twenty-thirty minutes to prepare. But it’s a start. And it has been relatively simple to shop. Honestly, I started with this XO Jane article and have kept going with it. It’s a great idea for anyone who is new to cooking. I’m a baker, so I know what staple ingredients I need from the grocery store. However, when it comes to meals I feel lost when writing a grocery list, or I end up with ingredients and no idea how to put them together. Starting with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and pasta is such an easy and less intimidating way to get my feet wet.

My kitchen is clean! You would think that just having toast every night would keep it more clean, no? Well just using knives and plates for all my meals meant that space on the drying rack was plentiful. Plus, it’s so easy to clean a plate that I would procrastinate and let them build up. However, if I need the same two pots and maybe this saucepan every evening and the next day (re-heating leftovers) then I have to clean the dishes. Usually I wash a (small) sink full of dishes right before cooking at night and again before going to bed. I love having a clean kitchen, and the same cleanliness has spilled into the rest of my apartment (for the most part). I still have too much clutter and am challenged when it comes to put my clothes back where they need to be.

Lunch is extremely simple. I cook enough for two at night, and reheat the pasta in my small saucepan the next day. Easy easy easy.

Overall, I just feel better. I am doing something for myself outside of work. I have something to look forward to when the day gets tough. I am writing here again. I have good beer and fresh ingredients in my refrigerator.

It’s the little things that count.

AAA016

All in all…
Let’s start out slow. Buy a six pack of this and drink this hearty Amber as an after work beer while cooking yourself up a rich dinner. Order one if you’re at a cool restaurant with an outdoor patio. Drink up and enjoy the hell out of your summer.

Recommend to a friend?
I liked it, and I think you will too.

Lightweight-safe?
Yes – 5.3%

Plus one?
Been there, done that. Long day at work.

Get a six pack?
Yep, and I’ll be getting another one at my next trip to the grocery store.

The Hops
Odell Brewing Company – Fort Collins, CO
Amber Ale
5.3% ABV

*Picture taken with the new Minolta X-370 I told you about the other day. I’m still stoked.

fresh peaches

I want to slow things down. I want to force myself to slow down. I move so quickly during the week, my mind is always churning, but when I come home I want to take a deep breath and stop. I want to turn my mind to other things. I want to take pictures with the same thoughtfulness and care that goes into the craft beer I drink and the desserts I bake.  If there isn’t enough time for reflection in a day, then I need to make time. I could say this for so many things, but if I don’t do that now, when will I?

I love that we can take pictures with our iPhones and in the blink of an eye make almost anything pretty. I really do. It’s wild, isn’t it? But I also want to go the opposite way from time to time. I want to put more thought into my photographs, and practice patience practice. I am stunned by food photography I see online everyday, and in some of the photography my friends produce. They capture life and food as beautifully as I see it sometimes. The soft light of a cutting board, the twinkle in their subject’s eye, and mist on a morning walk. I’m absolutely blown away by that. While I don’t have the experience, skills, or equipment for that, I do have this old camera I found several weekends ago…

During my last visit home, my parents I ventured over to The Broadway Antique Mall – our favorite antique mall in Muncie. I couldn’t even attempt to count how many times we went there growing up (or other antique malls for that matter). While my brother and I were cranky and probably downright difficult (okay, maybe it was just me who was like that) about going to them growing up, all those visits to antique malls across Indiana make for some great memories of growing up. *Thanks Mom!* This time one of the booths had a bookshelf full of old cameras, lenses, light meters, cases, etc. I had been thinking, but had no way of carrying this out before…what if I could start trying to take most of my pictures with film? What if I could go back to the basics? I took a class in high school while I was in Paris and loved it. One, walking around Paris taking black and white photographs was incredibly romantic and two, the technical process of capturing a shot and developing the film amazed me. I don’t remember a lot from that class (eons ago, it seems), but I bought two bodies and a lens, and my father was able to give me a few basics to start giving this a try.

I’m slowly getting the hang of it, especially with some tips and tricks from my friend Michael. I was lucky enough to host him along his road trip this summer, and not only was it great to have a friendly face around, but absorb a little more experience and knowledge about photography. For example, you have to hold this button not that one down when you’re rewinding film…duh. Woops.

I’m learning and I’m loving this. The other day I got two rolls of film back from the camera store, and I think I scan through them all once every fifteen minutes. I love that you have to care for your shot. You have to think ahead, and take your time. Maybe one day I’ll be fast enough that I don’t have to think for so long, but we’ll see. With my iPhone I can take picture after picture until I get what I want, but here I have to take a certain leap of faith and be patient in waiting to see the result. Some of the results were better than others, but it’s just the beginning. Just as I want to be more patient in writing, in cooking, and just as brewers take care and put love into the beers that I enjoy, I want to put love and care into this. I’m just starting out, but I hope I’ll get better with more experience and practice. I can’t wait to share these with you.

*Taken with the Minolta X-370