Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book report #5

My wanderlust kicked in pretty bad this summer, but I managed to keep it at bay with a full stack of novels set in exotic places. I also threw in two non-fiction choices because I'm still plugging away at that New Year's Res to read more non-fic (all the other resolutions have gone to pot, so I can at least try to keep up with that one). What's been on your reading list this summer?

*The Almost Nearly Perfect People (Michael Booth) - an insightful and in-depth anthropological look at the people that make up the five Nordic countries (Norway/Sweden/Finland/Denmark/Iceland). It was a tad (but really, just a tad) bit dry for my liking, but nevertheless a worthwhile dive into cultures and countries I'd never given much thought to beyond my Malm dresser.
*The Sunlight Night (Rebeca Dinerstein) - this beautiful narrative reads like a lyrical prototype to a Wes Anderson screenplay. Captivating, cinematic, and with the slightest twinge of fantasy, this tale of two lost and unsuspecting lives intertwining in the Arctic Circle had me nearly getting on the next flight to northern Norway - and is on track to becoming my favorite book of the year.
*All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr) - a hefty novel set in Europe during WWII, I thought the initial plot and concept were interesting (a reluctant German soldier! a blind French refugee! and where is that music coming from??) but the end both fizzled out quickly and wrapped up too nicely. It's an easy read despite it's length, so if you're into historical fiction this is a decent choice, but if WWII isn't your favorite era, then this one probably isn't worth it.
*The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty (Vendela Vida) - I read three of Vida's "women in crisis" novels right in a row (when I find an author I like, I tend to read as much of him/her as I can) and this was by far my favorite. It's short (I read it in a day) but intensely compelling, probably aided by the fact that it's written in the 2nd person which was odd at first but then I grew to absolutely love it. Days after I put the book down I found myself still thinking of the protagonist - what I would have done in her situation, what she is "doing" now, and my own personal relationship and reactions to theft and pickpocketing.
*The Lovers (Vendela Vida) - this story was a bit vague and meandering, but it was nonetheless evocative with the slightest touch of psychological thriller thrown in (and not to mention another quick read). The protagonist travels across much of Turkey for the duration of the story, and even the negatively portrayed locations solidified Turkey as one of my must-see destinations.
*Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name (Vendela Vida) - another story set in the Arctic circle (still not sure why I've been so drawn to that area recently!) this was my least favorite Vida novel, mainly due to the fact that I couldn't easily identify with the protagonist and really couldn't stand the mother character. Vida did however create an interesting cocktail of abandonment issues, the treatment of indigenous peoples, and a stark and barren landscape, which makes this succinct story worth it if you're even a bit interested in any or all of those topics.
*Essentialism (Greg McKeown) - this is a straight-up guidebook to removing the mental clutter from your business so you can focus on the essential (hence the title). Easily digestible yet highly informative, I found myself taking notes and pausing to ponder many of McKeown's points and comments. Even though I don't have my own business per se, there are still dozens of areas in my personal life that would do quite well to go through the selective ringer suggested in this book.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wedding 101: The Planning Binder

I finally bit the bullet and put together my wedding binder. For some reason I had been really resistant about creating an actual planning binder, assuming that I could just do everything digitally and online and never bother printing anything out. Then I woke up from that delusion and put my stage management skills to good use (finally, a real-world application!) and compiled my binder. I'm now in a much better place to sift through the huge number of venue options we have (in two cities, no less) and get started on making some for-real decisions.

There's nothing special about this planner - I used a 1" black 3-ring binder I had on hand and clear plastic divider tabs and colored paper that I stole borrowed from work. While there are countless numbers of specialty planners catered to wedding planning available for purchase, I decided to DIY this portion of the process, simply because Step #1 of Keeping My Wedding Costs Down is what I'm calling "Using What You Already Have to Make What You Need." There will be many things that I will obviously pay a premium for - venue, photographer, etc. Other things, like this binder, for instance, need not be an extra and/or exorbitant expense.

I also and intentionally didn't coordinate this to my wedding colors - primarily because I haven't picked my wedding colors yet, and secondarily because I'm not entirely sold on the idea of "wedding colors." The sea foam green paper was the most pleasant color of paper we had in the office, and the yellow of the binder tabs is standard - and as a result, I now realize that this binder is Packer-colored, so I suppose you can take a girl out of Wisco, but you can't take the Wiso out of a girl ;)

I spent a good while figuring out the exact headings (categories) and sub-categories I wanted to put in my binder - the main categories are displayed in each divider tab (12 in all), and each sub-category title got printed out on it's own separate piece of paper (accompanied by a little logo I drew up). In case you too are in the beginning stages of planning your wedding you can download the list here, or look below for a quick look:

I hope this has been a help to you - and thanks for reading the first of many wedding-related posts as I begin to navigate the rugged territory of PLANNING A WEDDING!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

summer vacay

It's mid-August, and I'm finally (finally!) getting a bit of an extended break. I spent the majority of the summer working on a new musical on the upper west side, but by the end of last week things had started to wrap up. I raised one last glass in celebration of a show well done, turned in my keys, hit send on a bunch of final emails and two large side projects, and packed my bags for one full week away from the hustle, bustle, and really smelly summer heat of New York.

My first stop was Chicago, and while the primary goal of the visit was to pick a venue for my wedding next year (and I think we found one!), I also managed to see a bunch of old friends, meet those old friend's new babies, catch a jazz show, try on a bunch of wedding dresses, have one three too many vodka sodas while laughing my face off at a bonfire, marvel at the $3.50 price of beer at a happy hour, obsess over way too many wedding details with my mother, and enjoy one last slice of my favorite pizza in the whole wide world before our beloved pizzeria closes it's oven doors for the last time next month. And that was all in four days.

So needless to say I was ready for a vacation from my vacation. Luckily, I was only a one-way flight away from three days at J's family's lakehouse in northern Tennessee, where our largest struggle was to choose between the pool and the lake (spoiler alert: we managed to do both). We tested out the new kayaks, took a delightfully long boat ride around the lake, grilled out every night, drank too many Leine's (correction: you can never have too many Liene's), and I even remembered to pack the ole' goggles so I could swim a couple of laps, old-school style. I'm in a bit of a weird two-week limbo right now and while it's strange and a bit stressful (the only constant is change...) I am sooo much better prepared to deal with whatever life is throwing at me right now having gotten away for a week. I'm eternally grateful to my family and J's family for always opening their doors (and kitchens) to us, and am already getting excited for next summer's LGA->ORD->TYS->LGA travel marathon.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer Stir Fry

I know I sound like a broken record, but a.) I love the influx of fresh veggies I've been getting from my CSA but b.) what the heck am I supposed to do with all these damn veggies?? So if you also a.) can't resist the siren call of fresh and colorful veggies but b.) don't know what the heck to do with all those damn veggies you just received, please allow me to remind you of the quick and tasty summer stir fry.

The beauty of this dish is that it works with nearly any combination of root vegetables you have on hand. I got the fennel and onions in my CSA, but due to the "July lull" of a few weeks ago, I had to pick up a few other veggies at the grocery. I will admit, though, that before this summer I never once willingly purchased, let alone eaten, a radish. But I put it on my radar (and my New Year's Res list!) to expand my palette and learn to love new food. And while sautéing a bunch of vegetables in oil and adding them to rice isn't the most innovative technique in the world, it's a great way to slowly introduce new foods into your diet while eating them right next to the familiar and comforting tastes you do know and love (here's to you, zucchini).

2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 small onion, choppped
1/2 bulb of fennel, finely chopped
1 medium zucchini, sliced into small cubes
3 carrots, sliced
5-6 small radishes, thinly sliced
5-6 mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp vegetable stock
2 splashes soy sauce
1 cup wild rice

How to
- In a separate pot, cook the rice according to direction.
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil. Cook the onion, garlic, and fennel until golden brown. Add the remaining vegetables and stir until tender; salt and pepper to taste. Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, and cooked rice, and simmer for 1-2 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Serve immediately as a full lunchtime meal or as a dinnertime side dish.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

afternoon delights

*My new favorite necklace

*Your window to the world

*I don't know when I'll return to Iceland next, but when I do I'm doing this

*Cheap camera + a less than perfect situation = a quick thinking and innovative photographer

*And speaking of cheap cameras, is it time for a new one?

*'Tis the season for crisps and crumblers and...pandowdys?

*I quite literally stumbled upon this store and it's just like Ikea but so much better

*When in doubt, order champagne

*This is important

*Crazy story that it is, I'm pretty sure it's the exact plot to that ever-so-memorable 1988 Lilly Tomlin/Bette Middler movie, Big Business 

*Adding another map of Paris to my wish list

*Absolutely stunning

*Photog crush of the month

*Is this my next subscription box? Or is this? Both??

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

CSA: for the love of tomatoes

The first handful of tomatoes showed up in my CSA last week - they were small, they were yellow, and they were delicious. I know I'll be singing a different song by the end of September when I'm up to my knees in tomatoes, but since I chose to plant herbs instead of vegetables in my balcony garden this year, right now I'm beside myself with excitement over these guys.

I kept it simple and used this recent Smitten Kitchen recipe as inspiration - warmed pita bread, a schmear of horseradish hummus (from TJ's),  two slices of fried provolone cheese, and lightly salted and sliced tomatoes. It's a strange combination that works - it's sweet, it's salty, it tastes of long summer days and local farm goodness. What's your favorite way to use up extra tomatoes?

Monday, August 3, 2015

month in objects: July

lush spa: because sometimes you need to cash in a gift certificate and #TreatYoSelf to a fancy schmancy massage / photos: because analogue cameras and long walks over the q'boro are my jam / shell: because solo day trips to the beach are oh so necessary / library receipt: because I've rediscovered my love of libraries and I want to shout it from the rooftops / burnside flag: because getting a table at one of astoria's hottest new restaurants is reason enough to celebrate / flashlight: because my trusty light finally kicked the bucket but that didn't stop me from carrying it in my back pocket every night / inside out: because it is one of life's little pleasures to sit in a darkened movie theater on a hot and hazy tuesday afternoon and let the tears roll down your face because the new pixar movie is just that darn good / binder tabs: because it's time to get serious about the wedding binder / tennis ball: because ball + wall = diy back massage

month in objects is my documentation system for 2015 - each month I create and photograph a collage of items that represent that month - and then toss most of the actual items in the trash. By the end of the year, I'll have 12 photographs and (hopefully) a lot less clutter. read january's story and the origin of this project here. want to see previous months? february / march / april may / june