Cookout prep

Things I made or will make tonight: an ordered list.

  1. Vegan baked beans – another 2 hours to go, though I may not make it that long
  2. Pickled red onions
  3. Vegan chili
  4. Diced onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes
  5. Cole slaw
  6. Horseradish aioli which, if it turns out, will knock another item off my 25 Recipes

All of these things and more will be available as hot dog toppings at tomorrow’s birthday cookout. And for those concerned about my health (and by extension, their health) – don’t worry. I washed my hands about 100x.

25 Recipes #7: Mussels

I had mussels for the first time at Granville Moore’s, an unassumingly wonderful Belgian restaurant on H Street in DC.  I regret now that I was put off by the Moules Marinere and instead had a salad.  Since moving to Ann Arbor, however, I have seen the error of my ways, embracing The Earle’s mussels as the best and most affordable happy hour dinner in town.

Mussels

I added shellfish to my 25 Recipes list with mussels specifically in mind. They’re not difficult to make at all, but the whole live in the shell thing had me intimidated.

The Non-Mussels

Other than the debearding, the recipe (from another excellent Belgian restaurant in DC) was a piece of cake: maybe 20 minutes from the start of prep to the delivery of steaming bowls of PEI mussels to the table.

Steaming

My one issue with the recipe was that it called for a pound of mussels per person – so I doubled it to serve two. Now, when we go to The Earle, we usually share two dozen mussels. Two pounds and two dozen are very different numbers – in fact, we each had around 1.5 dozen mussels each, with nearly two dozen left over. We’ll definitely make this recipe again, but won’t bother doubling it.

Recipe:
Provençal Mussels with Tomato, Garlic, Capers, and Basil from Robert Wiedmaier of Brasserie Beck

12 Books, 12 Months: Month 6&7 Round Up

Here we go – two months’ worth of reviews all in one round-up – and just in time for May!

Amber read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! on her physicist husband’s recommendation – and saw much of her husband in Feynman’s funny, thoughtful, and fascinating autobiography [review].

Angel read Los Cuadernos De Don Rigoberto, the last Spanish language book from his list.  Vargas Llosa’s prose was alternately lyrical and boring, making for a frustrating read, but Angel isn’t ready to write off Vargas Llosa yet – especially not now that he’s won the Nobel Prize [review].

Anj listened to Unaccustomed Earth, and enjoyed the 8 vignettes enough to read the book, finding in each short story “a small facet to the complexities of our lives” [review].  She also read The Art of Racing in the Rain, the story of a family whose “life goes to the darkest places and struggles to come out the other side” – all told through the eyes of the family dog.  While it was heavy with metaphor, Anj found it to be a delightfully cathartic reading [review]

I was desperate for escape this winter, and so read Reflections on a Marine Venus, a luxurious sort-of memoir of Lawrence Durrell’s days on Rhodes after World War II.  I came away with more impressions of ancient sea battles and wine-drenched afternoons than hard facts – just what I needed [review].  I also read Love in the Time of Cholera – the April pick for my in person book club – and while I had problems with many aspects of the novel, I really enjoyed the depiction of old love and of the compromises and joys of half a century of marriage [review].

Grace read The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic, a “collection of small, heart-breaking stories” about the patients institutionalized at Willard State Hospital.  It was a difficult, moving read with a strong anti-psychology bent.  Her review reminded me of my experience reading The Girls Who Went Away – similarly challenging and compelling.

Jill read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and realized that perhaps she does like epistolary novels after all.  “The Guernsey Literary Blah Blah” was an enjoyable – if slight – novel about the Nazi occupation of Guernsey, which featured a sweet love story between two refreshingly ordinary people [review]. It sounds like this was a much more enjoyable read than I’m Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog, a collection of humorous autobiographical essays in the style of David Sedaris. Unfortunately, “she’s no David Sedaris”, and many of the stories are more painful than humorous [review].

Meghan read The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of ‘Proper’ English, from Shakespeare to South Park, “an entertaining introduction to the history of the ‘rules’ of English language and those that attempted to develop those rules.”  Meghan appreciated that the author brings a complicated “linguistic argument down from the often unavailable rhetoric of academics and into the hands of those who use the language every day” [review].

Mel read The Happiness Project, which rekindled her interest in writing fiction, and made her think about the nature of happiness – specifically that “Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.”  The author came to this conclusion after systematically implementing a series of resolutions intended to improve her outlook on life.  Mel felt the concept was a bit tired, but found herself feeling happier after reading it [review].  She also read How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which she appreciated but didn’t enjoy.  The novel wasn’t truly science fiction – “the ‘science fictional’ concepts…are strictly a metaphor” in a story starring a time machine repairman in an incomplete universe [review].

Rebekah gave up on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell after 8 hours of the audiobook and at least the “eleventy-seventh” John.  She enjoyed the author’s voice, but found the complexity of the book poorly suited to the audiobook format [review].  Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated was a great deal more fun, though it dealt with difficult material from the author’s life.  Rebekah admired [the author’s] “ability to say ‘I will share this with you, stranger, and give you the summary. But keep your pity out of my way.'” which was “good for the sake of her mostly comic memoir” [review].

Yum-o

Yum-o

I’ve been remiss in blogging, in part because I’ve been sick, in part because we’ve been in and out of town, and in part because I’ve just been lazy.  We’ve been cooking, but not that much – more often than not making “what the heck is in the fridge?!” kinds of dinners before teaching or after a workout.  That said, we revisited this recipe earlier in the month and OMG it was delicious.  The salad was whatever we had on hand – a yellow pepper, a handful of shelled pistachios, the last of the balsamic vinaigrette – and the bread was our trusty baguette.

Vacation Math

Investment:

  • 3 vacation days (3 months’ worth of accrual at the previous rate)
  • $113.38 in gas (with 1/2 tank left)
  • $28 for my share of groceries
  • $92 for my share of three nights at a farmhouse in rural Illinois

Yield:

  • Three nights up way past my bedtime talking about everything under the sun with five of my best ladies
  • Three mornings up with the sun nursing my coffee and observing my friends finding their way into parenthood
  • Shoulders to cry on, strong arms to bounce babies, noses crinkled with laughter, shiny painted toenails
  • Bottomless tins of cookies, boxes of fried pies, and bottles of wine
  • Prairie rain giving way to fog giving way to a remarkable morning just in time to drive home
  • Two runs on country roads so quiet that the only sounds were the breeze, my footsteps, and the crackling of the power lines overhead.
  • Too too many sweets (and broccoli) – but also homemade lasagna, amazingly golden roasted chicken (raised across the street), home fries made in the leftover chicken fat, Nutella crepes, and a lot of Chupacabras
  • Stepping out of a hot shower onto a heated ceramic tile floor and into warmed towels in the fancy master bath
  • Making Shane’s day by stopping at a yard sale on my way out of town because there were mopeds I’d never seen before.  Oh yes, and then driving home with one of them in the back of RS.

All told, a quite good investment, even if I did come home sick (again) and with no photos to show for it.

Transition

This is really resonating with me at the moment – not so much that my heart needs to be unbroken but that in my feverish state, I’ve waking up from vivid dreams about former loves and feeling really at peace.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): The next phase of your life will be an excellent time to unbreak your heart. Here’s what I mean by that: You will have extra power to dissolve any pain that still lingers from the romantic disappointments of the past. You’ll be able to summon acute insights into how to dismantle the sodden and unnecessary defenses you built to protect yourself from loss and humiliation. You will find it easier than ever before to forgive and forget any close companion who hurt you. So get out there, Capricorn, and launch the joyful process of restoring your love muscles to their original potency.