Good Things: Wednesday Edition

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and a little under the weather.  I’m trying not to wallow in either, though, because neither is particularly productive.  Instead, a list of good things from this week!

  • We bought this blender and it’s kind of really awesome.  We used to have a blender, then sold it a few years ago because we never used it.  I spotted this one in the Crate & Barrel catalog, and was sold on it when we played with the components at Bed Bath & Beyond.  Thanks to the wonders of Amazon Prime, it arrived in 2 days, and Shane has already blended 2 things with it.  Hooray!
  • It’s totally gorgeous out – 64 and sunny – and my new window bump office was nice and warm in the afternoon sunshine.
  • My photos from Amber came in the mail today and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out!Only 3 weeks left in the semester!  That means a fair amount of grading, but also the imminent return of guiltless free time!
  • This time next week I’ll be on a mini-break with five of my best ladies (and two of their adorable progeny).
  • And OH YES, our first wedding anniversary is Sunday.  Happy almost one year to us!

Cookery

I’ve spontaneously made really fantastic meals the last two nights out of things we just had lying around. Last night was chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and seasoned with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and a LOT of chives, then baked on parchment paper until awesome, along with a take-and-bake baguette, which is pretty much the best thing ever. Tonight, while waiting for SB to get back from the gym and my LEEP class to start, I poached chicken breasts in leftover spaghetti sauce, seasoned with fresh sage and thyme and enriched with more goat cheese, which we ate with the rest of the bread from last night. About 90% of evenings I just want to order a pizza (tonight included), so making easy but fantastic meals has been a nice change.

I’m currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I’m really enjoying. It’s less preachy than The Omnivore’s Dilemma, though still pretty self-righteous. The idea of living off the land and/or only eating local is incredibly appealing to me – on the other hand, I just sung the praises of take-and-bake bread from Trader Joe’s. Mainly this book has me craving consistently warm weather so that I can plant pots of things on our balcony (or perhaps in a community garden if we can get a share) and resume our weekend trips to the farmers’ market. Springtime can’t come soon enough.

At dinner last night I mentioned that I really think the weekend of the Boneyard Arts Festival is the best weekend to live in Champaign, period. Three years ago I said this because it was also the best, most beautiful weekend I’d had in my relationship at the time. This year is the first in three that I haven’t had to work at Aroma, which is nice because it means I get to do what I’m doing right now – sitting on my porch drinking a beer and doing homework (not that homework is all that idyllic, but you know what I mean). The Boneyard tends to coincide with the first really nice weekend of the year, so everyone is in a good mood – plus there’s art and music everywhere, food and drink specials, and lots of other good things. I went for an eight mile bike ride this morning, and have been out here on the porch for a sizable part of the afternoon. The end of the semester is looming up ahead of me, but for now, life is good.

what’s new?

I reached a serious burnout point earlier this week. I’ve done pretty well with stress this semester – in no small part because I took a much lighter course load – but right now I’m just ready to be DONE! Done with classes! Done with work! Done with pressure! etc. Of course my release will be brief – I’m gone for 3-4 weeks, and then back to the grind, with an even heavier semester in the fall – but right now I’m counting the days til departure.

On the work front, I’m equal parts frustrated and fired up – today I’m going to tackle a project that has been hanging over my head since Christmas, and my goal is to finish it in the next two weeks so that I can go to Spain and forget that I ever heard of Sakai. Hold me to this one, kids. I’ve got to get this report done.

Yesterday was Shane’s birthday, and we celebrated with breakfast at the OPH, the return of his car, and drinks at Boltini with a large crew of friends. His party and the party of a fellow student took over the entire back area, and it was fun to see so many people out, even with the specter of papers and class projects and interviews up ahead. I spent the entire evening on the couch, having a series of serious-er conversations with friends, which was good too. I love my friends but I always feel slightly odd and out of place in these big groups, even if it’s a party I’ve planned. Shane got the birthday drinks he was hoping for and seems none the worse for wear, so the day was a success all around.

It has been ridiculously gorgeous around here, which has only exacerbated my fed-up-ed-ness with being at school. Yesterday Greg and I sat out on the back patio for a couple of hours doing work, and I came home with an honest-to-god farmer tan – the back of my neck and one arm are nicely burned, which makes me think that I need to go tanning or at least spend a lot of time in the sun in the next couple of weeks so that I don’t get miserably burned when I’m walking for hours at a time.

I’ve decided I love Avalon Organics. I picked up their Tea Tree Mint shampoo this week, and it seems to be making a world of difference. I’ve struggled with psoriasis and the ineffective treatments prescribed by my dermatologist and recommended by the Internet, so finding a product that helps, even if temporarily, is just – fantastic.

Last night I made the strangest salad I think I’ve ever made. It may also be the best-tasting salad I’ve ever made. The salad contains shredded cabbage, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, strawberries, sesame seeds, and fresh mint, topped with a dressing made of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic paste, tamari, and ground pepper. And this, my friends, is one reason I enjoy cooking for myself.

Spring has arrived in C-U, and I couldn’t be happier. I sat on my porch for a few hours yesterday accompanied by sunshine, a stack of academic reading and one very juicy clementine. By the time I walked home from school, however, the first storm of the year was rippling across the sky, and I just beat the first fat drops of rain. This morning I woke up to the cool and grey and damp that characterized my mornings in Paris, and I sighed and smiled and burrowed back down into the covers.

You know, I knew that I needed a vacation, but I don’t think I knew how badly I needed it until I got home. My skin is better. I feel healthier. I nearly killed myself with work before break, but now I can just stay on top of things instead of playing constant catch up. All of these are good things.

Each season seems to have its own signature moment for me – sometimes there’s a new one each year, sometimes they carry over. One of my signature summer moments was swimming in the river two years ago with Eva – it was an unbearably hot June day, and we waded into the river still in our summer dresses. I floated on my back and looked at the clear summer sky, the sun drying my dress while still in the water. Fall is unexpected days off – sick days, usually – spent curled up in blankets on the couch drinking tea and watching bad TV. I was home sick on 9/11, and I remember watching Sweet November on pay per view just to get away from the constant coverage. A moment from this last winter – sitting in bed at Shawn’s, the two of us wearing his button-down long-sleeved shirts to stay warm despite the piles of blankets, reading in bed, playing on his laptop, and drinking coffee. Springtime – the first weekend it was really, really nice – walking from Shawn’s apartment to Aroma, and eating on the patio in the sunshine – people-watching and loving my new home all over again.

It’s still summer but the unseasonably cold weather has got me thinking about fall, about the changing leaves and apple cider and sweaters and curling up with my boy. I’m thinking about sick days on the couch with a mug of cocoa. I’m thinking about fuzzy tights. I’m almost ready to put my sandals away. The summer heat will come back, but I don’t think I want it to – not yet.