A Tasty Summer Dish

It isn’t often I make a dish to eat hot and decide I like it better cold. However, this pesto pasta salad with tomatoes and mozzarella chilled with some grilled chicken? I find it a delicious summer dinner! It’s also the first time I made pesto on my own (memo to me for future: your blender has a food processor attachment) which mostly went pretty well.

IMG_0529

I only skipped the Romano cheese from the original recipe as I prefer a touch more mozzarella. I also could not find yellow cherry tomatoes at Publix so I bought an organic grape tomato medley pint and tossed in some regular grape tomatoes I had leftover in the fridge from last week’s meal. Delightful!

Ingredients

8 oz. uncooked whole-grain farfalle
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup tomato medley, halved (I used the orange and yellow in the mix)
3 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3/4 cup), divided

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Place pasta in a large bowl.
  2. Combine basil and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth.
  3. Add basil mixture, tomatoes, and 5 oz. mozzarella to pasta; toss to combine.
  4. Top with remaining 5 ounces mozzarella to serve.
  5. You can serve hot the first night or chill the mixture once at room temperature to serve at a later time.

 

Advertisements

Meet Figment!

As most of you know, I very suddenly had to say goodbye to my little monster Brie in April. I am glad we caught the cancer fairly early on and were able to make sure she wasn’t ever in much pain. Making that sort of a decision for a pet was excruciating but I know it was the right one for her and me. Since then, I’ve moved to a new apartment and still have a giant cat tree in my living room. I found a new occupant for it last weekend. Everyone, meet Figment.

IMG_0518

I was long overdue for an animal with a Disney name and Figment seems the perfect fit for what I am finding is a rather adventurous and only mischievous with the best of intentions cat. Fig has a story that I wish he could tell me. He’s still recovering from an injury on his back left side that it looks like someone treated but then let him go again (?). I’ll never know what actually happened but he’s very affectionate, loves catnip toys and I’m sure he’s only just starting to come out of his shell with me. He’s working through a post-shelter cold right now (very typical of animals when they spend time in a shelter) and has the cutest sneeze that I laugh hysterically over because he is so disgruntled when he sneezes. He’s already enjoying lounging around with me during Netflix binges and is learning how to just lie next to me when reading and only bat at the object that is taking my attention from him, not sit on the book or in front of the book or try to use the book as a new scratching post. Book etiquette is the hardest thing to get a cat on board with I swear. Overall though, he’s a good egg and I’m sure he’ll pop up here occasionally so introductions were necessary.

Getting Back to Cooking

Woohoo! I cooked a meal for the week this past weekend! It’s magical to be getting myself back on a schedule. And now I plan to (hopefully) bring a cat home this weekend and probably go off it again but let’s hope I can stick with it. I even made it to the gym yesterday guys. And did everything on my to-do list. AND managed to watch an episode of Bill Nye, read three chapters in my fun book and write a blog post. All that really means I’ll probably be a slug the rest of the week but hey, Monday was productive!

IMG_0488

A lovely summer meal

This recipe, Chicken Shwarma in the Slow Cooker, is tasty and not really super healthy to be honest. BUT, I estimate at least 5-6 servings from it so I think once it all spreads out, it’s not super terrible. I use whole wheat pitas too which must could for something right? This came together really well. I hadn’t used frozen meat like this before but found it made life alot easier in the long run. I also took the original post’s suggestion and serve this with grapes and it’s revolutionized dinner sides for me. I love the sweet with the salty savoriness of the shwarma and the cool cucumber sauce. I put a few dashes of mint in the cucumber sauce to for a little extra coolness. I am a fan. I think I also just love a good Greek dish in the summer. It matches well!

Ingredients

6 Tbs. lemon juice
6 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. curry powder
2 dashes cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2.5 lbs. boneless chicken thighs, strips or straight thighs [Tyson frozen is what I used]
8 oz Greek style yogurt
1 small cucumber, chopped finely
Mint, to taste
whole wheat pita bread
tomatoes, chopped

Directions

  1. Stir lemon juice, olive oil, salt, curry, cayenne pepper and garlic together in a small bowl.
  2. Place chicken in slow cooker. [Side Note: I had used this sort of flash frozen meat before, you need to rinse this meat off before using which I did not know until I read the bag.]
  3. Pour olive oil mixture over the top, stirring to coat the chicken well.
  4. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 7-8 hours.
  5. Stir cucumber and yogurt together, adding a few dashes of mint to the mixture. [Side Note 2: I put this together about an hour before the chicken was done to let the ingredients set a bit with each other. I think it helps. I could also be delusional.]
  6. Serve chicken in pita bread, topped with yogurt sauce and tomatoes. I used grapes for a side and it’s brilliant!

The original post and recipe is at Eat at Home Cooks.

The Girl with Silver Eyes

198719

From Goodreads, modern cover

Recently, I treated myself to a bit of a belated book spree on Amazon. I’d been hoarding a gift card balance from Christmas and my birthday. I like to keep a balance for ebook purchases but I’d also been waiting for a move to be done before picking some books off the long to-buy list (not as long as the to-read list so that’s a good thing for my wallet).

A while back, I’d added a book from childhood to the list. I have a small collection of my childhood books. The ones I’ll re-read periodically or the ones I’m going to force down my nieces’ and nephews’ throats when they come to visit someday. However, there were a few glaring omissions. One of my latest acquisitions was a big one and I know why I didn’t own it. It’s actually one I found through school.

Most of the reading I did early on for school wasn’t my cup of tea. I was often bored because the books were too easy or I didn’t care for the characters. This all started to change in 5th grade. Mr. Clark wasn’t the sort of teacher I’d encountered before and I adored his class. We dissected owl pellets, cows’ eyes and a sheep’s brain that year. Went to the swamp for our class trip. Fostered baby snapping turtles and very happily called Mr. Clark’s Florida King Snake Blackie as we wore him around our necks. Science was big in his classroom and it was the first time it was a real focus of my schooling that I remember. With Mr. Clark also came some very cool science fiction books. When I recently posted about picking up a copy of The Girl with Silver Eyes, a classmate from that year said that was the teacher that led to her love of science fiction and fantasy and I would have to agree. This book and the White Mountain trilogy were like gateway drugs and I happily fed the newfound addiction with Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop books and Dinotopia that year too. Overall, 5th grade was a great reading year. Except for Where The Red Fern Grows but I have blocked that one out completely…not. I am still traumatized. Animals in peril. Enough said.

1179776

From Goodreads, cover I remember from 5th grade (love the attitude Katie has going here!)

So, what is The Girl with Silver Eyes? For starters, it’s not a trilogy. Ten bucks says if it was written today, it would be. It’s also not preoccupied with world building; it’s completely character driven in a normal suburban setting. It’s the story of Katie, a very quiet, very shy not quite 10 year old who has silver eyes. And can move things with her mind. And talk to animals. In short, Katie is awesome and a bit of a spirit animal to my 5th grade self. As the book begins, Katie has just moved into an apartment with her mother after her grandmother passed away. Katie’s powers start to cause problems and brings the interest of a new neighbor on her head, a new neighbor who is not what he seems be at first glance. Also, Katie’s figured out why she has silver eyes and that maybe, just maybe, there might be other kids like her out there. But how to find them?

So, to start with, this book holds up really well even though to some extent, this book could not exist today. A lot of the tension and pages of this book owe itself to the fact Katie couldn’t simply Google the other kids’ names once she finds them. Also, a lot of it runs on the idea of the telephone in a way we just don’t worry about anymore. Katie has to stay in her apartment to wait for phone calls. Think about that. Still, the idea behind the story is still solid and I sort of love that the book has a bit of an ambiguous ending. Like I said above, today the book would probably be a trilogy and have some odd love triangle develop along with lots more details about the shadowy Psychic Institute introduced in the end but here, we’re left with this idea that Katie is going to be OK…we think. A kid can make up their own ending and I think we don’t do enough of that in kids’ science fiction and fantasy today (and I cannot believe I am writing that as I am one of those people that loves every little plot line wrapped up in the end usually).

So, in short, I still love this book and hope it’s still being shared in some way with kids today. If nothing else, I kept trying to think through how the story might change in a 2017 setting and realizing I’d still really like to be Katie, silver eyes and all.

Reading Catch-Up

Time for some drive-by book reviews to get you all caught up on my reading since the last one.

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas: It has been awhile since I read this one but I remember liking it. I especially enjoyed the setting; the touch of magic surrounding all the characters and the setting of the romantic Istanbul does a lot to save a sort of convoluted plot.

Maud’s Line by Margaret Verble: [This is excerpted from my Goodreads review and I still agree with it all] Ugh. So, this book and me did not get on. First of all, I know I am coming from a place of white privilege and do not have the same fear of authorities that minorities, particularly Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma, rightfully have but ugh, Maud needed to trust someone, ANYONE. I found it extremely annoying. If she would have just been honest with a lot of people, she would have been better off. The story is not boring and moves along at a good clip. In fact, it is packed full of action. The author’s similes are a bit much at times; so much so they could bring me out of the story as they were quite jarring but I think that must be the cadence of the language of the area she’s bringing in. Not having visited Oklahoma, it was an area and a culture I was very unfamiliar with. So, I think that was also a sense of my discomfort with the story and its characters. It was very foreign to me, the distrust of authority, the scheming on Maud’s part and then her ability to know what she should do and not doing it anyway, the rather dreary setting and the way the very landscape seems to be driving people crazy. Maud and I agreed on one thing; she needed a change of scene. She was not a comfortable character but rather infuriating. And when it’s her story, it’s hard to get past that.

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) and and Paper and Fire (The Great Library #2) by Rachel Caine: This series gets better with each book. I enjoy every character and it’s been awhile since I could say that about a book (or books). The idea for the series is also delightful and the world building is spot on. I do have difficulty when the big bad represents something I generally adore (libraries, books, knowledge) but I like that the whole idea of the series is exploring what happens when the desire to protect such things comes at too high a cost, with too much control over the very thing you’re trying to protect that you subvert its ideals.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger: A good mystery made more compelling by the coming of age story at the center of it. The brothers Frank and Jake make for excellent guides through a turbulent summer in small town Minnesota.

We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson: Really enjoyed this read; made difficult physics questions easy and fun to understand. Not that I still always understood but I definitely followed better than I did in my high school physics class all those years ago. I enjoyed the partnership between the text and the drawings as well as the type of humor. I’d recommend for someone like me who is curious but not always very good at following high concept science but also for someone a lot younger who hasn’t encountered a physics class yet. I think this would make a great companion for someone taking a class right now too.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: Second time the charm! Happy I got this back from the library fairly soon after I had to return it and go back on the waiting list (the first time I got it out, I didn’t have time to finish it!). I really enjoyed this memoir. The science interspersed with Jahren’s stories makes for a very interesting and compelling read. While it doesn’t sound glamorous in any way, it does make you want to be a scientist. Or at the very least go plant something after you’re finished reading it.

Letters to Zell by Camille Griep: As always, I enjoy a good fairy tale retelling. This one was a lot of fun to read. The premise was great to begin with and I love a good book of letters but I think this book surprised me a bit too. I think a lot about what happened after the “happy ever after” (it’s a hobby) and this is one of the more compelling and interesting takes on it. It’s a bit of Shrek meets chick lit in many ways which works better than you’d think.

Recent Journeys

Two weeks ago (good grief, how does time go so quickly?!), I was on vacation. I needed it. Spring has been sluggish for me. I’ve had a hard time getting a rhythm going so I looked forward to a change of scenery for a week to just give myself a chance to re-set.

18879901_10103008126941567_4667799074480278440_o

Seriously, he’s adorable and never stops moving (nor has he learned where a camera is yet LOL)

I started out my week with family. My nephew is already getting ridiculously big and has the best smile. I even successfully stayed alone with him while his parents had some pool time. Yes, he was mostly asleep for that time but small victories people. I am not a baby person. We also went and frolicked at IKEA for an afternoon – I do enjoy a good walk through IKEA even if the crowds are ridiculous.

I then went off to Walt Disney World for a few days. This was big for me as it was my first official solo trip in which I was on my own for the entire time. I kind of adored it. I didn’t have to worry about anyone’s whims but mine. I could go on attractions I hadn’t been on in forever or wait in lines for those that I enjoy but the others could care less about. I could decide to watch the parade or the night shows or go do something else while those went off. I didn’t have much of a plan. Which for Disney these days means I knew exactly what parks I would be in, what attractions I would be riding, what shows I would watch when and where I was eating at all times. But I didn’t know what I was doing in between my plans and that was delightful.

18767870_10100327157530674_7586184143750017352_n

The food in Pandora is pretty (and tasty too!)

I will note I got to see all the new things at WDW and I enjoyed them all. I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about Animal Kingdom’s newest land, Pandora, since I got back (I managed to avoid most spoilers before my visit) and I have to say, I agree at times and other times I wonder if I visited a different place LOL as those bloggers and podcasters. Pandora is small but that’s the point. Disney Imagineering is trying to create a very personal, intimate experience with Pandora and I think they mostly succeed. There are kinks to work out but there always are with new attractions. Pandora is gorgeous; easily one of the loveliest things I’ve seen come out of Imagineering in my lifetime. It is different from day to night in a way we haven’t seen in the parks before. Both the official attractions are gorgeous; one worth the wait and one not in my opinion but that is usually the way of it right? For me, Flight of Passage was incredible. I think next time I ride Soarin’, I’ll feel like I’m on an antique. It was grandiose and yet so much…my experience. I rode a Banshee; there were other people in the room at the time but I couldn’t have told you they were there. I flew; I felt that animal breathing underneath me. I don’t know how they did that but I adored every minute of it and would happily wait for it a couple times next trip to do it again. The other ride? Has an audio animatronic to die for. It’s beautiful in every sense of the word. It’s also really short. Far too short for the amount of time you wait to board your boat. And also, any bets on how much time passes before that audio animatronic has technical problems? We’re still waiting for the yeti to be fixed…At least Everest has a ride without the yeti. Take away the Shaman from that ride and you just have a really short pretty boat ride.

I critique because I love of course. I always want them to keep moving their ideas forward and keep wowing me. But keeping what they have up and running is important too. Wowing me was certainly on the menu with Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom. That show is incredible. And overwhelming. There was almost too much going on; I didn’t know whether to watch the fireworks or the Castle projections. So, repeat viewing is a must for this show (as is getting your spot at least an hour early; I was used to Wishes where I could stroll up 30 minutes before and get a good spot so this threw me a bit). I missed the narrative of Wishes a lot; HEA is just sort of an compilation of greatest hits and current favorites. I ADORED that Hunchback of Notre Dame got some serious love from this show; a lot of “forgotten” or often overlooked Disney characters poked their heads up in this one and I can only applaud that. The Disney geeks will always want more of that for ourselves and also so we can share those movies with the new generations. Yes, I love Frozen but it was nice, like I said, to see Quasi get his moment center stage too.

18839275_10100328953172194_3657853972990100525_n

Best part of the reunion was hanging with this crew for the weekend

After I let my inner eight year run rampant, I headed north so my inner 20 year could re-visit undergrad. It was time for my ten year reunion at Gettysburg College. I find it so hard to believe it’s been ten years. In so many ways, I feel am the same kid who lived there for four years and in so many ways, I know I am not. I especially loved getting to room with my Senior year roommates again and just be around friends for a weekend. I am coming up on five years in Tallahassee; the longest I have lived anywhere since finishing undergraduate studies at Gettysburg and I’m feeling that a bit. It’s hard to describe exactly. I enjoy my work a lot; always have and I like Tallahassee but I’m still working on making it home and one of the things I’ve never quite succeeded in doing is finding a solid core group of friends here like I always had at home or in school. It’s different now of course; so much of my age group is married and has young children and doesn’t have time, or make time, for friendship outside of those groups. Which is fine and I understand. It’s just…it would be nice to have some of my oldest friends closer geographically for sure. So, I clearly just need to travel to visit people more. The whole student-loans-take-over-my-bank-account lifestyle will just have to take a hike and I’ll fly around and visit people instead.

So, that is what I have been up to. I need to do a reading round-up here and share a few recent recipes (as well as an experiment with Hello Fresh!) here too. I’m hoping to get back on a schedule on so many things (cooking! reading! exercising! blogging!) so fingers crossed I can. And oh yeah, work travel next week to add a challenge to scheduling should make this interesting per usual.

In which I hope May is better than April

Last month was pretty rough for a number of reasons. May so far is so-so. My body continues to hate me with a passion so the fun burning in my chest from what they say is an esophageal ulcer followed me into this month. But, there is travel and fun and vacation on the horizon so we’ll keep moving forward in the hopes of better days.

I am at least adoring my new apartment. It has a brand new kitchen with appliances so new I often don’t work my oven right because it doesn’t have a simple dial to turn like every other one I’ve ever had. I am enjoying having carpet back too. No more acres of tile to scrub constantly in an attempt to keep it clean. I am looking forward to getting my balcony screened in so once it is slightly cooler than the surface of the sun outside, I will have a lovely bug free place to eat and read. I am already hunting for a comfy reading chair for it. It’s been nice to want to spend money to make home more comfortable for sure.

My reading this year has been sporadic; I am so far off my year reading goals at this point, I am just going with the flow for the moment. The disorganized reading though is throwing me off. Figures my leisure reading not being structured would be a point of contention for me. I’ve enjoyed running a book club this spring and it’s introduced me to books I never would have read before so that’s been a nice change of pace for sure. Look for an upcoming drive by book review post!