On my commute in summer

It’s a short walk to my house after I get off the metro.  I walk down A Street most days and each time I feel like I see something new.  I particularly like this tree, which, during the summer was aflutter with activity by these busy birds.

[birds in trees]

Sometimes, when I feeling particularly like smelling the roses as the kids say, I’ll stop and hang out with these little guys for a few moments.

I’m not sure if the birds are around in this tree in the fall–I’ve yet to notice.  So, for now, I’ll chalk this reflection under “summer musings.”

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Here is my list of things I’m looking forward to doing and hope to accomplish in October.  Unlike Martha, you won’t see “horseback riding,” but I did include this month some reoccurring workouts.

What didn’t make the list before I finalized the calendar* was to

  • Find a place today to watch the Pirates play the Reds;
  • At some point to go hunting for pumpkins** and maybe carve a pumpkin or two, though, I’ve never been a huge fan of carving pumpkins.  The true details would look like: 1. acquire pumpkins, 2. have a pumpkin carving party and at said party I’d just walk around and watch all my friends carve awesome pumpkins, take photos, and make sure glasses were continuously filled with something tasty.
  • Make pumpkin spice latte mix.***

Oct jpeg* “Final” is relative apparently.

**  Anyone want to go hunting for pumpkins with me?

*** Sorry Starbucks, no dice, we’re taking this in-house yet another year.

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Some doors should stay shut

Growing up, I had no desire to eat fig newtons.  I didn’t like the way they looked, I was skeptical about the taste.  Now, if there were chocolate chip cookies in my vicinity, look out.

To see what the hype was about, every once in awhile I would nibble on the corner of one and promptly give it back to the person offering, or discard it.  No thank you.  I didn’t grow up eating figs, and the idea of figs did nothing for me–probably more inducing a shudder than anything else.

Fast forward to my adulthood where now I love most foods.  I’ve even eaten a few raw figs and some dried figs, and they’re not bad.  I’m not wild about figs.  I read on blogs or on facebook pages when people revel I like their old timey sentimental aesthetic more than their flavor.

One day when figs were in season, I made some fig preserve: not sweet, wonderful color and texture.  Wow.  I did struggle to figure out what could accompany the fig preserve that complimented the super green and fresh (read raw salady) time of the season.  Basically, I didn’t feel like turning on the oven to cook pork or chicken.

Then, I tried my hand at making fig newtons, known by their generic name, fig bars.  Game changer.  I finished these (late) last night, and packaged them up without trying any, and dragged myself to bed.


See? They're just there.

See? They’re just there.

Today is a whole new day.  I’ve eaten about 5 of these bars already and see no end in eating more in sight.

Since I’m working from home today, I can’t escape them…and since they’re not particularly healthy, it makes me wonder if I should have just kept my distance from fig bars…perhaps I’ll just bring some of these to work, and give some to the workout buddy to distribute and share the pain, I mean, the love.

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The cultural times in which we live

Recently, I discovered a new trigger.  This trigger took me by surprise and entered my life with force because up until this point the triggers I’ve mentioned were “older” cultural references that have been in my life for quite some time that for some reason I feel the need to enumerate.*  In this context, I define “older” as circa Jodeci, “Clerks” (or, the 90’s as some would say), or even circa 1927 when “The Killers” by Hemingway was published, which, I first read in the 90s… These are phrases that I memorized long ago (read: listening to specific songs and watching certain movies about 500 times) and just sort of always had as a trigger to the point I don’t remember the moment in time when any one of them started.

And, that’s what’s different about this recent trigger. It was just born, and I’m painfully aware of its existence.  Here it is:

When I’m trying to course correct the pooch, I say to him, “hey, hey, hey,” which I do no fewer than 20 times a day, more on the weekends.

As in, “hey, hey, hey,” stop pulling on the leash.

“Hey, hey, hey,” stop putting your face in the grocery bag.

From Dec 2011 (when the pooch was adopted) to July 11, 2013 I was able to say, “hey, hey, hey” without any problems.  “Hey, hey, hey” all day long.  No trigger.

Now, immediately after saying these infamous words, I sing “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke.  The problem is, I don’t know any of the words to “Blurred Lines,” so like my trigger, “is it worth it,” I’m condemned to just hum the likeness of the words, and then mutter, “hey, hey, hey.”

Perhaps, since this trigger is so new, I’ve mislabeled it as such.  Perhaps, since we are now solidly into fall, people will stop talking about the “summer song,” or, as this song is replaced by something more popular, I won’t bump into it as much, and gradually I’ll stop making this association and I will be able to go back to telling the pooch to stop digging at the lawn trying to eat roots without excoriation.

* I do have a history of documenting things.

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Taste the Soup

Sure, I let the broccoli grow to a point where, by the time I picked it, the head was almost all seed. What happened was, at first I was fascinated to grow broccoli.  I  mean, I didn’t mistaken the fledgling plant for a weed, and as it got bigger, it developed a great stalk and started to produce a head, despite the manager of the farm saying most people didn’t have luck with broccoli—a brassica plant for a variety of reasons.  However, by the time my awe of my own green thumb dissipated the weather in DC reached proportions of raining every day and the cutest of the cute rain boots would not convince me to farm in the rain.

The soup, supplemented with fresh broccoli and other good things actually tasted marvelous.  I’m looking forward to keeping up this gardening thing.

broccoli soup

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Sneaking food and moving lines

Like many people, I love food. I love eating it, talking about it, reading about it…  Without getting too philosophical (what’s more eye rolling inducing than waxing philosophical), the consumption of food in its many forms in which I can absorb it is part of my existence…my being, my fabric.  “Inextricably linked,” as so many writers are apt to say these days.

I like reading about grilling, canning, different kinds of salt, the many ways with zucchini, amino acids.  I’ll dabble in eating raw, I’ll entertain conversations about paleo diets and even ask some questions, because I’m interested.  I’ll ask questions to people who are cleansing.  I won’t ask how are you doing it–most of my research has concluded this is ineffectual, rather, I’ll ask, how are you feeling? What’s it like to go without caffeine for a day? While it’s not necessarily helpful for your body, the stories are incredibly interesting.  I like hearing from people who are changing your diet.  Plus, I always applaud people for accomplishing something that is personally challenging.

As much passion as I have for food, I do have a line in the sand. I haven’t fully processed why this line in particular, let’s just chalk it up to being part of the line and therefore threaded with the grotesque that I associate with anything past the line, or touching the line: people who talk about hiding food within other foods so that picky people will eat said food.

Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care that you’ve chopped it up real fine, that you’ve hidden it in jell-o, that you prepared it in a new way so that it no longer looks like its original form.  I’m sorry that you have to do all that, and I’m glad you seem to have some solutions.  However, I don’t want to talk about this, I don’t want to hear trade secrets. Line, drawn. There’s nothing I can do about it.

Now, I say this, and I have a story that I will relay in a moment about hiding food.  So, clearly my line in the sand has moved a bit. Perhaps my tolerance is increasing now that I’ve legitimately played a hand at this poker table.  This might seem like  sudden change of perspective. I just devoted so much time to talking about how much I don’t want to discuss hiding food, and yet, here I am with a story about it. Funny.  Well, it is sudden.  I’ve spent more time in the latter camp, than the former: those with stories about hiding food.

Until this moment that I will tell shortly, I had many a conversation about foods that people don’t like.  We all have those foods–irrational or otherwise, there are some things we don’t want to eat. I don’t like goat cheese. I don’t like cilantro. Olives, yuck.  I can’t stand mushrooms.  I don’t like grilled watermelon with feta finished with a touch of lime juice. Okay, have it your way. I’m cool with that.  I’ll talk about that with you.

Until this moment, if you were on the other side of things, if you were the food preparer trying to tell me about a food that such and such a person doesn’t like, but you somehow snuck it onto their plates and into their mouths, I was literally doing the hands over my ears, “la la la,” I don’t want to hear it.

With the workout buddy, he has a long list of things he doesn’t “like.” My retort, “yes you do.”

Maybe I* just don’t have a heart when it comes to these matters.

He’ll say, “I don’t like tomatoes.” I’ll say, “yes you do. You eat them all the time.” I argue he just needs to eat what Pollan describes as a “real tomato.” Not a rock hard, mealy tomato from somewhere halfway across the world in the middle of winter.  No one likes those tomatoes.

Hey, if you have a food at its peek of perfection or prepared in such a way that brings out the most amazing features of that food, and  you still say you don’t like it, well, then, fine. I’m not going to then chop it up, dehydrate it and put it into your trail mix.  However, I do believe there is hope for most of us who just don’t like a certain food.  Keep trying it.  I know I used to hate okra, and how many of us didn’t like broccoli or brussels sprouts or asparagus until we realized years later our parents were preparing it in the worst of all possible ways imaginable.  And, given the following conversation with the workout buddy, I might just start to like this hiding food thing:

Workout Buddy: I’m hungry.

Me: Okay…um, do you want some toast with almond butter?

Workout Buddy: Yeah, I don’t really like nut butters.  I don’t like peanut butter, almond butter, all that.

Me: [Of course I know this purported dislike of nut butters of the workout buddy. When it comes to food, I have an uncanny memory.  He told me this like day 3.] Okay.

I go off and suggest some other snack foods that are more aligned with the workout buddy’s tastes.

Fast forward one week in discussing lunch. [Scene: via gchat.]

Me: I know you don’t typically like coleslaw, but how was it?

Workout Buddy: It was really good!  I liked it.

Me: Right?  I really liked it, too…the dressing had almond butter. [To self: meheheh.]

* It’s been a little while…since I’ve talked about a trigger.  Well, this is one. Whenever I say or hear, “Maybe I-” My brain immediately launches into “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Wings.

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Like many people, I enjoy Martha Stewart.  I won’t toss my hat into the ring to discuss the expanding network of Martha fans.  I’m actually baffled by how much people like to talk about how hipsters like Martha now, and this group or that group.  I’d tie a bow around that whole conversation topic and add it to the New York Times Magazine‘s “Meh List.”  But I do enjoy her projects, her magazine and hearing her interviewed on the radio.

What I really like about her magazine is her monthly list of things to do.  Making lists resonates with many of us.  I mean, unlike Martha, I’ve never put, “shear the sheep” on any list I’ve ever written, but that sounds really cool.  I also tend to not have my list contained neatly in one monthly at-a-glance.  Typically, I write my list sometimes on the calendar in the kitchen, sometimes on a pad of paper, or the back on an envelope I’ve fished out of the recycling bin.

It all started when I bulk ordered vanilla beans–the desire to create a monthly list.  I put a little reminder on my calendar to order them the next time I made an Amazon purchase. Fast forward 5 minutes, my beans were ordered.  I then made a not to myself to 1) make vanilla, another to 2) check said vanilla in November, still another to 3) package vanilla and finally, 4) mail vanilla to xyz friends for Christmas.* This many stepped, homemade craftiness was mingled with other notes to make yogurt, make brioche dough (another many stepped process) and mail out baby socks and birthday cards.  I thought, well, this is pretty cool.  I  mean, I’m not making bracelets from the hair of my horses, but I like this list, and since I can blog whatever I want, and in the fall all kinds of fun things start to ramp up, I should post my little list like Martha for millions of viewers to check out and maybe be inspired.

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
1Return from NY 2

  • Great Falls Hike

  • Happy Hr
  • Order book for book club
  • Make greeting 2 cards for coworkers

  • Start new running challenge
  • Water garden & harvest tomatoes

  • Trip to co-op
  • Handmade Arcade application

  • Make chai

  • Visit Family
  • Send batch of bday cards
8 9 10 11 12 13 14

  • Make yogurt
  • Handmade application due

  • Send batch of bday cards
17 18 19 20

  • Prep for dinner party

  • Can tomatoes
  • National Book Festival
  • Dinner party

  • National Book Festival
23 24 25 26

  • Book Club!
27 28
29 30

* Spoiler alert: some of you are getting vanilla as Christmas gifts…

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