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Preview: Between Laundry Days

Between Laundry Days

Updated: 2011-10-30T08:11:08.648-05:00


{weekend clothesline} Raise Your Glasses


My mom was in town last weekend, and we took her traipsing through our favorite corners of the town and surrounding woods. She took this photo of Joe and I. There's really only one way to start this post: with a big, fat, fabulous THANK YOU for your incredible comments and emails after my last post. I have been staggered, flattered, and just utterly blown away by your kindness, support, and friendship. Of course, it makes the whole "closing down the blog" thing a bit harder to stomach, but I'm still certain that it's the best choice for this point in my life. In all honesty, my inspiration for fashion, food, life, and all the other things I blogged about is still going strong (if anything, it's only growing). However, my desire to document those aspects of my life has slowly dwindled, so I've chosen to move on from the documentation and dive completely into the inspiration. :) But I thought I'd stop in one last time, to thank you all profusely, and to share a few glimpses of my life of late. We're deep in the throes of autumn, and I'm loving every second of it.  From top: a sourdough boule made from a starter given to me by a good friend; savory pumpkin sage biscuits; the fixin's for a tasty peach cobbler with the end-of-the-season peaches. I've also been cooking a lot, and baking (my half-birthday was this past Monday, and Joe surprised me with a beautiful new apron!). I'm feeling more and more confident in my culinary abilities, and have found myself taking more risks with my cooking, which has, with very few exceptions, paid off tenfold. My favorite dinner this week was a farmer's market corn chowder, topped with caramelized brussels sprouts and bacon. Joe and I are also planning to spend part of today drinking our homebrew and polishing off the last of the concord grape tart I made on Thursday. Though this blog has never been a food blog, I've been amazed how much culinary inspiration I've gotten from fellow bloggers, fashion and otherwise. It's been such a wonderfully delicious side effect to this whole fashion blogging business. Sweater: H&M * Shirt: thrifted * Skirt: thrifted * Necklace: Target * Earrings: museum gift shop * Belt: thrifted * Boots: Steve Madden I've found it really interesting how my new city has influenced my sartorial choices. I'm leaning more and more into the world of comfort, and layers, and outfits that lend themselves well to walking, biking, and general Midwest small-townery. I've found myself reaching for comfortable, flat shoes, simple jeans or skirts, and scarves and sweaters, over and over again, and I feel more at home in my style than I have in awhile. As I mentioned in my farewell post, the evolution and sort of "coming of age" of my personal style has been such a wonderful benefit of this blogging project, and I'm still surprised at the confidence, happiness and ease I have now when I'm picking out things to wear. Joe snapped this pictures of a recent favorite on our front porch before we headed out for a dinner date in the neighborhood. Scenes from a recent parade through our neighborhood during an end-of-summer block party Finally, I've been thoroughly enjoying life in my new digs. I was always happy to live in Chicago, and I wouldn't trade that stage of my life for anything, nor would I choose to spend it anywhere else. But I'm finding more and more that I feel truly at home here. I've been here only a few months, but I can already hardly imagine being anywhere else. My world has transformed since moving here. I bike almost everyday instead of enduring a long weekend of driving. I practice yoga three times a week, something I never did in Chicago (Chicago was many things to me, but it was never calm, and it was never zen, and I could never bring myself to be inwardly quiet enough to practice there), and something I haven't done regularly since college. I revel in the colorful characters, businesses, and patrons of our neighborhood. I am familiar with people in our neighborhood, and have establ[...]

{outfit} And in the End


Dress: Target * Scarf: thrifted * Boots: c/o Sperry * Necklace: Target * Hat: Target This post has been simmering on the back burner of my mind for some time now. It's a difficult post to write, so I think I've been avoiding writing it, but it's time to just buck up and get to it. This little post serves as an announcement that I'm leaving the blogging world. Between Laundry Days was started in one particular season of my life, and I've realized, after thinking it over for many weeks and months, that that season has ended, transitioning into a new season for me, one that doesn't include blogging. The reality is that the life that I live now is almost indistinguishable from the life I lived when I started Between Laundry Days. This is not to say that blogs can't grow and change with people; some of my favorite blogs have followed major life changes and remain wonderful reads. In fact, those are the blogs that I love reading the most. However, the more that my life changes, the less connected I feel to writing this particular blog. And the less connected I feel, the more I realize that it's time for me to move on.  However, it would be remiss of me to sign off without acknowledging some of the very real, very lasting, and very treasured benefits I've gotten out of this whole experience. I thought about just leaving, simply shutting down the blog without a word, but I realized that I really want to give context to my departure (as much for myself as for my readers). When I started blogging, I wanted a creative outlet to save me from the boredom of my day job. I got that, of course, but I also got (the following should be said in a deeply dramatic voice, a la Will Arnett) so much more.  In terms of personal style, I feel like I've really hit my stride, and I know that a huge part of that is due to this blog, and the inspiration I've gotten from the style blogging community. I never thought that taking photos of myself everyday, and thinking more actively, constructively, critically, and creatively about fashion would result in such a transformation in my personal style. I end this blog more confident, comfortable, and inspired in my personal style choices, and I'm surprised, and grateful, at the changes I've experienced on that front. At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, I've been absolutely dumbfounded at the ways that this blog has helped me define myself. I feel like I've become a stronger, smarter, better person in the past few years. I am sure of myself now, confident and happy, and I'm so excited for all of the seasons that are yet to come. I know that part of that change just comes with the roller coaster of reality that is your mid-20s, but I think that Between Laundry Days, and the community that came with it, served as an unexpected catalyst to that change. By far, the most lasting and impressionable piece of my blogging experience has been the community that I stumbled upon when starting Between Laundry Days. I truly never thought that this kind of online community existed, and I was the last person in the world that thought she would "meet" people on the internet. But I've forged real, valuable, and hopefully lasting friendships with incredible women all over the world because of this blog. Honestly, that is the only piece that has made me hesitate to close BLD; the thought of losing touch with so many unbelievably smart, funny, and gorgeous women is so sad. But I'm not so worried about that now. Those friendships have been made, and can be maintained with or without my online "persona". So though I'm signing off from this blog, I hope you all know that I'm not disregarding or turning my back on those relationships. I have gained to much insight, inspiration, hope, laughter, and companionship from so many of you, and I value that above all else. If you've made it this far through this monumentally long post, I salute (and thank) you. And thank you all for reading Between Laundry Days and for[...]

{weekend clothesline} You Used to Work Your Land


Shirt: Target * Skirt: H&M * Shoes: Paul Green I've been laid up all week with a pretty rotten cold, so I'm writing this between sips of hot apple cider and coughs and sniffles. I'm particularly bummed to have been cooped up inside during our last few days of this glorious indian summer we've been having. It started raining this evening, so I think the glorious days of 75-and-sunny are behind us. Joe and I did take advantage of the beautiful weather this weekend, though, when we had a mini-golf mini-date on Saturday afternoon. I love mini-golfing, not just for the precision putting (spoiler alert: I kicked ass and won a free game on the last hole...though I absolutely sucked it up during the regular course), but also for the plethora of ridiculous props at my disposal. My favorite was this weird, tiny old-fashioned car, complete with miniature gas station. Though I did end up spending about as much time fishing my ball out of the many water traps as I did playing with the toys... (Also, doesn't it seem like every mini-golf course has a hole that's set up like an old-timey outhouse? What's with that?) We finished up our weekend bottling the petite saison d'etre that we're making right now. I love the beer brewing process (particularly the final part, when we have beer), but I admit that the bottling phase is my least favorite part. One major thing about beer brewing is sanitizing all of the equipment (even a tiny bit of bacteria will grow and ruin the batch), and there are just so many bottles to clean and fill. However, Joe has tons of patience with me, and always takes the lead (especially when I'm coming down with a nasty head cold), so I had less to complain about this time. I think beer brewing is such a beautiful process, though. Seeing the chemistry of it all is so fascinating to me. To go from grain, water, yeast, and hops and to end up with beer is just so cool! In that way, the bottling part is pretty cool, since you can see how the first phase of fermentation has separated the gunk from the beer (look at that beautiful striation!). The bottles are happily carbonating in our coat closet for now. We've never had any problem with batches going bad or bottles exploding (knock on wood), so we should just have wait a couple of weeks and then crack open a cold one! Title song: Desaparecidos, "Hole in One" [...]

{outfit/weekend clothesline} Seen the Forest for the Tree


Button-down: thrifted * Jacket: thrifted * Cords: Gap * Oxfords: Paul Green * Necklace: Target * Earrings: gift shop * Bracelets: H&M You know what is awesome? Apple-picking. Weekends. Sunny cloudless October days. Bike rides to the bar down the street for brats and brews. Yoga. Coffee. Hot apple cider. Basically, autumn is awesome. And, spoiler alert: my Saturday involved all of those things and was, indeed, awesome. Ever since moving to the Midwest four years ago, I've had it in my head that apple orchards are these incredibly idyllic, rural, fabulous autumnal lands, with horse-drawn carriages, smiling happy people, and acre upon acre of trees burgeoning with crisp ripe apples of every variety. Usually, those utopian fantasies are proved wrong (e.g. children's museums are never as cool as I want them to be. Sure, the displays are awesome, and the interactive stuff is super badass, but I always end up feeling like that creepy grown-up trying to horn in on all the kids at the bubble station). This, however, was different. Our day at the orchard left nothing to be desired. It even had delightfully whimsical signs featuring weird northern-European/Midwestern slang. Of course, in such a picturesque setting, I promptly forced demanded pleaded asked Joe to indulge me in a bunch of funky snaps involving apples (of course!) as props. Despite the fact that the orchard was essentially crawling with families (and some really funny kids chasing after "the biggest apples!"), there were still tons of apple-tree-filled nooks and crannies where I could pose ridiculously with one of the many, many apples that we ate during our walk through the orchard (seriously. SO many apples...). Autumn means a lot of awesomeness, not least of which is the fact that it's finally the season for autumn-weather clothing. As much as I love sundresses and sandals, I definitely feel most comfortable in the cozy layers of fall. I've been pretty happy to reintroduce pants and jackets and scarves into my wardrobe, particularly these yellow corduroy pants. I love how perfectly they go with this lightweight oxford shirt and my fave military-inspired cotton jacket. Knowing we'd be doing a lot of walking in the orchard, I busted out my trusty oxfords and loaded up on on fun accessories. Perfect for a sunny day "plukkin' da apples". All told, Saturday was a pretty perfect day. After our fabulous trip to the orchard, we took out our bikes and headed down the street to one of the bars in our new neighborhood. We're still getting to know some of the places in our area, and I'm loving finding new businesses to patronize and enjoy. It was a really cool place, and sitting out on the sunny patio with a cold beer and a delicious Octoberfest bratwurst was the perfect end to our day. How did you spend your Saturday? Title song: Wolfmother, "Apple Tree" [...]

{laundry day} Warm Your Heart, Love



Happy Friday! Despite the fact that I'm working from home now and pretty much set my own schedule, the value of Friday is pretty solidly ingrained in my psyche. I'm really looking forward to this weekend, too. I have a literal bushel-full of green tomatoes (I finally gave up on the last ones ripening, and picked them earlier this week), and I have big plans for fried green tomatoes and relish (salsa! mincemeat! etc.!), as well as more zucchini bread, carrot muffins, and pickled beets. And tomorrow Joe and I are heading out of town to do a bit of apple picking (and cider drinking and apple cider doughnut eating!), which I've never done before. Yay for autumnal traditions in the Midwest! It's fall, and I couldn't be more stoked about it.

What are your plans this weekend?

Title song: Beach House, "Apple Orchard"

{outfit} I Want to Ride It Where I Like


Shirt: Forever 21 * Skirt: thrifted * Woven leather flats: thrifted * Necklace: thrifted * Belt: thrifted * Sunglasses: H&M

It's fall, for sure, and despite the cool rainy days we've been having lately, we've also enjoyed some beautifully mild early-autumn days in the past couple of weeks. The thing I love most about autumn is the sunshine. Cool days are flooded with warm rays of sun, and the world seems utterly cleansed and prepared for the harsh darkness of winter. I've loved taking advantage of the beautiful weather and have been finding every excuse to get outside on these warm sunny days: riding my bike to and from yoga (riding home after a good yoga practice is one of the best feelings ever), picking late-harvest veggies in the garden, wandering down the street to pop into the co-op and thrift stores near our house, and just sitting out on our porch watching the world go by.

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On one such day, Joe and I ventured out to one of our favorite coffeeshops for an afternoon spent sipping iced tea. We took out Elvira and Gus (Joe's new-to-him green vintage Sekine road bike), and cruised down the bike path behind our house. It was a lovely day, with lovely weather, sunny skies, and a sweet cool breeze. I hope we get a few more days like that before winter comes in earnest. I loved my simple bike riding outfit, too. I found this handmade skirt at a thrift store last winter, but since it isn't lined I was waiting until warmer weather to wear it. I love how it works with the striped shirt and crazy plastic costume jewelry necklace. I think its midi length will go really well with tall heeled boots or sky-high wedges, as well as these admittedly more practical woven leather flats. It was the perfect kind of outfit: practical, super comfortable, and just put-together enough to feel pretty snazzy.

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p.s. I love this goofy outtake that Joe snapped as I was putting my helmet back on to ride home. Safety first, kids!


Title song: Queen, "Bicycle Race"

{laundry day} Future Me



One year ago, I wrote the following letter to "future me", to be opened one year from its writing. I read it this morning. It made me smile. 


Have you ever written a note to yourself? Would you consider writing one? I felt like it was extraordinarily silly at the time, but when I read it this morning I was filled with so much happiness and hope. Haven't you ever wondered what "past" you would think of "present" you? I'm happy to report that I think "present" Clare would be making "past" Clare quite proud.

(I used the site, which will auto-send an email from "past" you to your address after a certain period of time - that you designate. It's free, and kind of reminds me of all the weird old cool stuff that the internet used to do, before Facebook and Google+ and Twitter. Just good old fashioned ridiculous services.)

...oh, and that life anxiety? Gone.

{outfit} While These Times Unfold


Shirt: thrifted * Skirt: Eileen Fisher, thrifted * Shoes: GC, thrifted * Belt: thrifted * Bag: Target * Necklace: Noble Town Vintage I've been thinking a lot lately about life changes. Those big, intangible moments when you know that everything, from that point on, will be different. The "this is the first day of the rest of your life" moments. I've been thinking about them a lot because I think that despite all the planning, and thinking, and preparing for those changes, sometimes they just come out of the blue, and you don't realize that your whole world has shifted until the moment has passed. I'm in one of those life shifts right now. I knew that leaving my job in Chicago and moving to small-town Midwestia would be a big change. I knew that it would change the path that my life would take, and I knew how much my day-to-day routine would be altered. So I did go into it expecting major life changes to take place. And they did. Just not exactly where I thought they would. This move, and my new life outside of Chicago, have changed the way that I think, the way that I interact with the world, and my surroundings, and my life. I am motivated, in a way that I haven't been for years, to cook, and read, and learn, and socialize, and be active. And it's re-inspired in me a passion for my world, and a determination to make my small corner of that world the best, healthiest, whole-est place it can be. It's almost as if my years and months of simplifying my world came to a head when I shifted my geography. All of the things I'd been visualizing for myself, and focusing my energies on, suddenly became effortless parts of my daily life. I no longer felt the need to evaluate, skim off, pare down, and purify, because those things were happening, are happening, in a way that feels so genuine and easy. (Just as a disclaimer, or something, I know that some magic fairy wand didn't wave over my head when I left Chicago. These are all things that have been processing, and developing, for a long time, and I think that this move, and intentional change of life, was just the catalyst to what was already in the works.) In any case, I feel free, loose, healthy, happy, and simplified. I feel like this path that I'm on, though I'm unsure where it leads, and though there very well may (will) be many more blind corners and narrow curves, is the path that I'm supposed to be on. I'm proud to be on this path, because it's one that I've worked hard to forge, and one that has taken loads of effort to clear. But now it is clear, and ready for me to venture down. (Big ol' sorry for the drawn out "path of life" metaphor. Couldn't be helped...) I'm happily surprised with these new changes in my life, and supremely satisfied that this is the direction I'm heading for now. Title song: Arlo Guthrie, "Running Down the Road" [...]

{outfit} A Hungry Mob


Silk blouse: thrifted * Shorts: Boy Scout uniform, thrifted * Belt: thrifted * Necklace: Noble Town Vintage * Shoes: thrifted * Cuff: thrifted I just had the most glorious weekend. A weekend full, to the brim, of the most wonderful parts of the end of summer. It was rainy and chilly and autumnally brisk all weekend, and Joe and I managed to pack in some of the best pieces of summer into those cool fall days. A Friday picnic with good friends, Saturday morning yoga, end-of-season gardening (I have big plans for green tomatoes this week!), a Harry Potter movie marathon, our neighborhood's annual block party (complete with beer, ice cream, and an out-of-this-world parade), and a lazy rainy Sunday spent baking up a storm. I feel like I'm growing as a cook/baker. Someone who used to be afraid to wander even a tiny bit outside of the confines of a recipe, I'm now stretching my legs and finding new ways to use overflowing ingredients, and discovering my comfort zone in certain types of cuisine. Where I used to screw up small parts of many dishes (overcooking, undercooking, not enough salt, too much sugar, etc.), I'm now finding myself to be satisfied with the outcome of each new endeavor. It's been an incredibly satisfying skill to learn and grow in, and at the risk of sounding like I'm bragging like crazy, I have to say I'm getting pretty good at this whole thing. What I've been cooking lately: a sourdough boule from a lovely sourdough starter given to me from a friend when I left Chicago; pumpkin sage lasagna; an almond peach galette and a whisky-marinated peach cobbler with the last peaches of the season; Moroccan roasted vegetable stew with chickpeas and couscous; savory pumpkin biscuits (heavy on the pepper and divine when devoured warm from the oven with a little pad of butter...); and roasted beet carbonara with fresh tagliolini (believe it or not, we got the fresh pasta from one of the floats at the neighborhood parade on Sunday morning! Maybe the weirdest parade handout ever, but it beats Smarties and Tootsie Rolls!). Needless to say, Joe and I are stuffed, and satisfied.   I know these regalements of my recent culinary adventures have absolutely nothing to do with my outfit, or these pictures. But let me explain. My life, lately, has been about living. I've given only a fleeting thought to what I'm wearing, and making my sartorial decisions in an exclusively practical manner. So my thoughts, when it comes to my clothes, are about what I did, where I went, and what I ate (most importantly!). I could tell you about my victorious thrift-store hunt for this most perfect silk blouse, or once again sing the praises of these fantastic shorts, or tell you how I trekked through most of Ecuador in these simple woven leather flats, or even comment on the unknown origins of this fantastic eagle cuff, but I'd rather spend my time fantasizing about the zucchini bread, green tomato salsa, pumpkin chili, and maple bacon muffins I'm planning to make this week. How was your weekend? What did you eat?? :)   Title song: Bob Marley, "Them Belly Full" [...]

{laundry day} Where I Belong


Stained glass above our living room window! There's been some clamoring around these parts for pictures of our newly-decorated homespace. While I'm not particularly keen on showing y'all pictures of where I sleep, I figured I could consent to a few images that just might be indicative of our new, happy, homey home. Our ceramic Jim Bean pigeon flask (a fabulously kitsch gift from one of our best friends) and Joe's marble chess set. Wool blankets and refracted light on our Frank Lloyd Wright-esque sofa. The incredibly cool, perfect condition, working 1947 Singer sewing machine table that I snagged at our local thrift store last week. It even came with the original instruction manual and all of the attachments and bobbins! Our book/photo/boardgame shelf, which I'm sure will attract all sorts of miscellany as we get more settled in. Bedroom decorations: our flying birds have followed us for three years and many moves; I love the mess of bottles, boxes, and jewelry cases on my little green dresser. Our "drink table", complete with a scotch-glass carrier and iron fish-shaped bottle opener. The table itself is glass, with legs shaped like oars! Title song: Weezer, "In the Garage" [...]

{recipe} Cheesy Squash and Tomato Pasta with Roasted Figs


The delicious final product! As promised, here's my fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants "recipe" for the tasty, and cheesy, squash and tomato pasta I made earlier this summer. It's definitely delicious, super easy, and quite rich (I make most cooking decisions based on the idea that more butter is better). And paired with sweet, fresh figs, lightly honeyed and oven-roasted, it was a positively delightful summer dinner. Ingredients (for cheesy squash and tomato pasta): 1 small squash, quartered and sliced (I used a yellow summer squash, but zucchini would also work nicely) 2 tomatoes, diced 1/2 bell pepper, diced (again, substitutions would work fine here; I used a yellow bell pepper, but any color would work fine, as well as subbing for an onion or even carrots) 1/2 lb. rigatoni, cooked (I often do this ahead of time) 4 T. butter (unsalted is better; if you use salted, like I did, cut the amount of salt in half) 2 t. salt 1 c. cream (half and half, heavy whipping cream, or whole milk will all work fine; the lighter creams will need a bit more time to thicken, but the flavor will be about the same, in my experience) 1 c. parmesan cheese (save just a bit to sprinkle on top after serving; also, indulge, and buy the good stuff. That Kraft "parmesan" in a plastic jar is utter crap) Over medium heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the squash and saute for about 10 minutes, or until just soft. Add the bell pepper and saute for another 5 minutes. Slowly add the cream to the pan, stirring smoothly. Add the diced tomatoes and lower the heat just a bit. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until cream has reduced, sauce has thickened, and tomatoes are just cooked. Just before serving, add the cup of parmesan to the pan (it's important not to reduce the cream sauce too much, or the cheese will just get melty and clumpy instead of creamy and saucy) and allow it to melt into the cream sauce, stirring gently. Fold in the hot, cooked (and un-rinsed!) rigatoni, and make sure the sauce has oozed its way into the nooks and crannies of the pasta. Serve, with red wine, and, if you're in the mood and if figs are in season, with honey-roasted figs... Ingredients (for honey-roasted figs): 4 medium figs, cut lengthwise in half 1 T. honey, agave nectar, or simple syrup (I used honey) Select a few firm but ripe figs, wash carefully (they're very prone to easy bruising!), and cut lengthwise. Lay out the figs on a cookie sheet or pan that can be placed in the oven. Drizzle the honey, nectar or syrup over the figs, and place in a broiler for about 10 minutes (the timing here will depend a lot on your individual broiler...keep an eye on them! You want them golden-brown and carmelized, but not burnt!). Serve. Enjoy. Indulge. This is one of the easiest, quickest recipes, and it uses fruits and veggies that are all in season at the same time (yay!). It's rich, cheap, and filling, and should be enough for two people to have a hearty dinner, plus leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. Let me know if you give it a shot; I'd love to hear if you have any suggestions, adjustments, etc.!    [...]

{outfit} I've Got a Fast Connection


  Shirt: UO * Skirt: Target * Shoes: Sperry Topsiders * Belt: thrifted * Earrings: museum gift shop Drumroll, please, for...THE INTERNETS. We have them! I barely restrained myself from kissing the internet guy on the mouth when he told me that everything was hooked up and good to go. Internet again! Oh what sweet magic. But then, a weird thing happened. He left, and I settled down in front of my much-neglected computer to see what sweet internet gifts had been waiting for me. And I immediately got bored. It took all of 15 minutes of scrolling through my favorite sites to realize that I've become accustomed to not having the internet. And (gasp!), I might even change my habits a bit. I don't need the internet to be the central point in my life. I use it for inspiration (blogs and pinterest), writing (see what's happening here? Very meta), reading (McSweeney's, Huff post, blogs, etc.), and cooking ideas (my gastronomical exploits of late have led to my Google Reader being more and more dominated by food blogs). So I use it. And I like it. But I don't need it.  I love that I can share things online, like this outfit (which, by the by, I adored. Comfy, stretchy, casual, and somehow super seximifying), or my garden delights, or my nonsensical thoughts and "statuses" (how can a person have a status?? Does anyone else think this is weird?) on the ol' F-book. But I hope that my recent weeks of unpluggedness have allowed me to turn it all off sometimes, and read a damn book. Take yesterday, for instance. After getting some work done (I'm still very much getting used to the whole work-from-home vibe, and though I like being able to pop into the kitchen as often as I want for some snacks, it's an unfamiliar routine for me, and takes some adjusting to), I sat out on our patio for a few hours as the afternoon sun beat onto my back, cracked open a cold beer, enjoyed an everything bagel/cheddar/heirloom tomato sandwich and read almost all of The Lost City of Z. These are not world-saving or ground-breaking activities, but they are things that I know that I often push aside in favor of an hour of Netflix Instant Play, photo-editing, blog-commenting, or being sucked into the black hole of time that is social networking. Not to rag on any of those things, but I love that for the past few weeks I haven't even thought twice about how I'm going to spend my days. So I hope (and maybe if I put it out there, in real words, it will come true - that's how the internet works, right?) that I can keep those priorities in line, and keep focusing on the satisfying, enriching, simplifying activities in which I've been indulging lately. I'm glad to have internet at home, to be sure, and I'm genuinely looking forward to catching up with blogs, friends, and old shows (hello? Star Trek TNG on Netflix!), but I'm going to work harder to train myself to enjoy the now-ness of each day, away from the soft glow of the computer screen. After all, there are a lot of unread books on that bookshelf, and they're not going to read themselves... Title song: Avenue Q, "The Internet is for Porn" [...]

{weekend clothesline} Will You Invite Me Around?


  Zucchini-cheddar biscuits and a garden fresh scramble for breakfast this week Now that we're all settled in, and getting into a normal daily routine, I've found myself pulling out the camera much more frequently to capture some of the moments (and, let's be real, food) that have been filling my days (and stomach) lately. I figured that a quick round-up of some of these photos would be a good use of this lazy Sunday afternoon. I hope you're all enjoying the beautiful weekend (the weather here has been incredibly perfect, and Joe and my agenda for the rest of the day includes bagel sandwiches, a lazy bike ride, and sitting out on the porch with cold beers and good books. I found the recipe for these zucchini cheddar biscuits on A Cozy Kitchen, one of my favorite cooking blogs. Fair food! Summer in the midwest wouldn't be complete without deep-fried cheese curds and other festival delicacies, like the smoked cheesy mussels above. Yum! Joe's birthday cake, at one point, actually said "Happy Birthday". This did not last long. He might be 27, but Joe spent most of his birthday lunch rearranging the letters. "Hippy Drat!", "Pray Thy Bad Hip" and "PhD Yarpy Habit!" were some of our favorites. I made this cheesy squash and tomato pasta, with honey roasted figs, for dinner a few weeks ago (recipe post to come!). It was phenomenal. One of the fruits of our ever-powerful zucchini god: lemon rosemary zucchini bread.  Food and tunes from our housewarming party last night. From top to bottom: carrots and celery, with hummus; freshly-washed basil for the caprese bruschettas; beet, potato, and green bean salad, made entirely with ingredients from the garden; Joe's incredible salsa made with garden-fresh tomatoes; the lemon rosemary zucchini bread, cut into bite size pieces; the evening's playlist; the aforementioned caprese bruschettas. The party was simply lovely, and with the help of our delightful friends, we easily, and happily, devoured all this food, and more. I also made a peach basil sangria, but it went into glasses so quickly that I wasn't able to snap a picture of it. Title song: The Lucksmiths, "Housewarming" [...]

{outfit} Well, It Was the Mid-'70s


  Plaid shirt: Lark & Wolff, UO * Jeans: H&M * Heels: Target * Belt: thrifted * Bangle: grandmother * Necklace: grandmother I feel like time is just shooting past me. Hours, days and weeks are passing with the most lightning-fast speeds. I can hardly believe we've been in the new place for almost four weeks (a true testament to that is that I at first typed "three" weeks, because it was equally incredulous that even that much time has passed). My days are full, our home is clean, organized, and fully unpacked, and Joe and I are falling back into the routine of sharing one home instead of dividing our time between two. The weather has cooled, and I'm starting to feel and smell the first hints of fall, easily my favorite season in the Midwest. Fall in the Midwest means long pants, layers, scarves, boots (!!!), tights...and those are just the sartorial elements I'm looking forward to. Fall also means apple-picking (I've spent many mornings on my smartphone trying to research nearby you-pick orchards for us to visit one weekend), changing leaves, hot tea, pumpkins, stews, crisp air, clear beautiful sunny days without the hazy blanket of summer heaviness, bike rides, back-to-school excitement (I'll never get over it), and snuggling down under blankets for the first time in months. Now that the heat has broken, I'm gearing up for some new culinary adventures. My crockpot and I are going to become fast friends, and I'm itching to start back up with my bread-making diversions. I want our kitchen and our home to fill up with the smells of warm sourdough, soft biscuits, and sweet loaves of zucchini bread. I can't wait. This outfit feels particularly autumnal to me, too. I wore it on one of those days where it was cool enough to wear jeans, but when open-toed shoes still feel right. I loved the '70s vibe of the high-rise jeans, clog-style heels and plaid shirt, and it served me well for a day of hanging out on campus with Joe and some friends, chatting, drinking local brews, and watching some nearby kids create incredibly complex imaginary worlds of exploration and discovery. I can't wait to repeat the day, and outfit, with a cozy knit sweater, heeled boots, and a hot toddy, once the weather cools off even more. Bonus out-take: I'm covered in bees!     Title song: Calvin Harris, "I Created Disco" [...]

{gardening} Golden Dreams Were Shiny Days


Our garden is growing more than tasty veggies, it's growing good luck, too! It's September (whaaaaa??!?), and harvest season is still going strong. Though some of our crops have struggled from drought and heat (especially since we were both out of the country for awhile), the zucchini, tomatoes, pumpkins, green beans, and onions are still coming up hard and fast. We spent awhile last weekend planting some fall crops: lettuce (butter and romaine), mustard greens, turnips, and cauliflower. And I actually remembered to bring my camera along yesterday when we were harvesting, so I thought I'd post a little update. A lovely line of turnips, already peeking out above the soil. More of our upcoming fall harvest: brussels sprouts! My herb corner is monstrous now. Even though I've been lax about trimming back the bolting basil, it's still producing en masse, and I'm happily adding jar after jar of pesto to the freezer. Our zucchini monster is slowly giving way to the biggest, craziest pumpkin vine I've ever dealt with. The vines stretch yards in every direction, and every time we go to the garden we find new fruits springing up. Luckily the pumpkins themselves don't seem to be getting too massive, which will keep them much more manageable this fall. I've been ogling these butternut squash in our neighbor's plot, since our butternut plant never got going  (I'm convinced it was subsumed by the zucchini). And just yesterday, I spotted this strange orb-y green squash amidst the pumpkins; not sure what it is, but I'm excited to find out! Any ideas? The bottom photo is of yesterday's zucchini harvest. Just for reference, the shortest one is about one foot long (!!). Tomatoes!!! I'm madly in love with our tomato plants, despite the hot-weather blight they've been suffering from this year. They're hardy little suckers, despite everything, and are producing about a half dozen ripe tomatoes everyday. I think they're staggeringly beautiful (and wildly delicious). Happy Monday/Labor Day/September, folks! Joe and I are just about to head home from our coffeeshop internet haven for a late lunch of heirloom tomato and cheddar sandwiches (I just can't get enough of them!), possibly followed by some minigolf playing. I hope you're all enjoying the lovely long weekend! Title song: Earth, Wind, and Fire, "September" [...]

{outfit} Sunshine Tell Me All I Need to Know


Shirt: Target * Shorts: thrifted, part of an old Boy Scouts uniform * Belt: thrifted * Shoes: Sperry Topsiders * Ring: gift I swear I haven't been sucked out into the ether, y'all. While moving day has come and gone, Joe and I have been spending the past couple of weeks unpacking books, clothes, books, shoes, books, dishes, and books. And shoes. We bought, carried, dropped, and napped on a new (to us) couch, have made dozens of meals that incorporate the massive fruits of our domineering zucchini plant, celebrated Joe's 27th birthday yesterday evening with friends, made trips to Ace Hardware, Target, Walgreens, and literally every thrift store in town (has anyone else noticed how there are certain things that you have to buy every time you move, no matter how many times you've bought them before? No matter how many clothes hangers, silverware, shower curtains, dish racks or power cords I've bought or owned in the past, they seem to be sucked into the dreaded black hole of moving and I have to buy more of them. Where do they all go??!?). We're exhausted, sore, and a bit scratched up, but are now happily settled in a home with all the requisite furniture, decorations, and homey touches that we could ever want.  We also (gasp!) don't have internet yet. For the past two weeks, our lives have been oddly devoid of email, Facebook, blogs, Netflix, and, of course, the more productive applications of the online world (like, say, online job applications, health insurance enrollment, managing our ever-depleting finances, that kind of thing...). It's been weird, and quiet, and yet somehow sort of nice. I'm sure we'll bite the bullet very soon and get the whole thing sorted out, but there's been something easy and simple about living "unplugged" for so long. So we can all probably assume, fairly, that this lovely little post might have to stand alone for another few days. I'm sure that too much longer without those wonderful world wide tubes will drive us crazy and we'll succumb sooner rather than later. Remember around 100 years ago when I told you about how I had thrifted the best shorts in the world? These utterly rad little suckers appeared to me during a thrifting expedition earlier this summer. They're legit Boy Scout uniform shorts, which makes them approximately one gazillion times cooler, and they fit. Like a dream. They had rapidly become my ultimate summer staple, and I've been pairing them with anything from this cozy cropped tee to light, loose oxford shirts to blousy tank tops. I kept it super simple with this ensemble, with minimal, earthy accessories and the utterly beautiful backdrop of the Midwest on a hazy summer afternoon. And while these pictures weren't taken today, they sort of remind me of the hot, hazy, Midwestern summer day that we're experiencing today. The kind of day that feels heavy with moisture, the kind of day when cold beers and icy lemonade are the only things that can cool you off, the kind of day when dudes drive around town with the windows down and their shirts off (I wish I was kidding. That literally just happened as I was typing), and the kind of day that makes you appreciate the severe beauty of summer, and happily anticipate the cool transition of fall. So for now, I'm heading off into the heat, to ride my bike by the grocery store and enjoy some chips and salsa on our internet-free patio while the last corpulent hours of summer beat down on me. Title song: Allman Brothers, "Blue Sky" (Dreams has been on repeat for me lately. I think the Allman Brothers somehow embody that torpid humid August heat for me.) [...]

{recipe} Carrot Beet Bread


Many a wrapped loaf of tasty breakfast bread Moving, I think, creates some sort of terrible vortex of time-space. The normal continuum of life gets so utterly disrupted that days and weeks seem to pass as if in seconds, and still nothing gets done. We're all moved into our new house, and I woke up this morning realizing that we've been here for a week and still have boxes stacked nearly to the ceiling in almost every room. And no internet. I feel some minor sense of accomplishment that the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen are unpacked, but the dining room and living room are causing me no small amount of stress. And thank god that the kitchen is in working order, because our garden is currently producing multiple mutant zucchini plants a day, and we have a giant basket on the counter that is constantly overflowing with ripe (delicious!) tomatoes. So I've been dutifully using our clean and unpacked kitchen to attempt to gain some semblance of control over our aggressive vegetable overlords. This carrot beet bread was one that I made earlier this summer and utterly fell in love with. I adapted it from this recipe to suit my needs (and by needs I mean ridiculous volume of vegetables I was dealing with). Ingredients (these measurements are approximately one-third of what I actually used, since I ended up with 6 loaves):1.5 c. sugar1 c. butter3 eggs1 tsp. vanilla2 c. flour2 tsp. baking powder1 c. grated carrots1 c. grated raw peeled beets1 c. chopped walnuts1 c. raisins Clean, peel, and grate carrots and beets. (I used a hand grater to grate all of the veggies, but if you have a food processer, by all means, use it! I spent at least an hour or two just grating. Much more of this will lead to severe carpal tunnel.) Beat sugar, softened butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Combine dry ingredients in a small-medium mixing bowl and slowly add to wet ingredients. Add carrots, beets, and nuts, and beat (beet!) until well mixed. Divide batter into greased or non-stick (I actually liberally greased my nonstick pans, since there's nothing I hate more than cleaning charred pots and pans) bread pans (I think mine are 9"x2"x3") and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1-1.5 hours. The loaves will be done when the crusts have risen, turned golden-brown, and when an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool completely before removing loaves from the pans. Individual loaves can be enjoyed immediately, frozen, or wrapped for tasty gifts for friends and family (but I recommend enjoying them immediately).  [...]

{laundry day} You're Movin' in Slo-Mo


Watermelon slices, like the ones I'll have at my going away party tonight

Today is my last day of work. Tomorrow is moving day. Sunday we move into our new apartment. By Monday morning, my day-to-day routine will be 100% different than it is today. I'm excited, terrified, and truly sad to leave my home, friends, and what now feels like family, in Chicago. BUT, totally ready and unbelievably happy about the changes to come. Tonight is my going away party. We're planning to serve only foods that have a freshly-gardened vegetable in them: salsa, caprese salad, green bean salad, zucchini bread...should be tasty. So in the spirit of last-day shenanigans, to-do lists that simply won't get done, and preparing myself emotionally for the goodbyes to come tonight, I'm leaving you now with a few images of my life as late.

These will be put to good use tonight!

A tasty last breakfast before the move. French toast and coffee, with bags and boxes and clutter in the background.

A better picture of our new Ecuadorian tablecloth. Joe bought it in Otavalo before I arrived. It's machine-made, but from a locally-owned and operated factory in Otavalo. The design is pretty common (there has been plenty of conflict over people copying designs), and we saw varieties of it in many craft fairs. I love the warm colors of it.

A lovely daisy from the mountains of Colorado.

I love this puffin mug, and have happily been drinking my daily brew out of it each morning.

Title song: Notorious B.I.G., "Last Day"

{meet-ups} One to Stay and One to Go


Blouse: UO * Shorts: J. Crew, thrifted * Belt: thrifted * Cuff: thrifted * Bag: Target Now first off, I'd like to point out that I have in fact worn more shirts than this one, despite what my recent posts may indicate. I just love how this shirt toes the line between casual t-shirt and lacy blouse. It's kind of become my go-to piece this summer. So when I knew I'd be meeting up with the beautiful witty Betsy for brunch a few weekends ago, this combo seemed to just fall into my lap. It was hot, humid, and muggy as hell, so I opted for breathable fabrics, perforated shoes, and casual weekend shorts (don't chino shorts just scream "brunch!" to you?). One thing that is really tough about moving to a new place is that you kind of have to start over with your social group. Making friends as a grown-up kind of sucks, in my opinion. There are no more playgrounds in which we can simply saunter up to someone and ask if they'll be our best friend. There are no classrooms, sports teams, or after-school clubs in which you end up spending hours upon hours just being around other people. It's not like college, when there are dorms, and parties, and the constant flowing in and out of social circles. As an adult, all of that boils down to bars, clubs, or that most dreaded word: networking. And since I'm being honest here, I'll tell ya: I suck at all three. "Night life" has never been my thing. It's loud, overwhelming, and I end up awkwardly talking about real A-plus topics like the weather, summer construction, or what people are paying for their internet service. In short, it doesn't go super well. (Also, now would be a good time to validate this stream of consciousness, and to let me know that I'm not alone in the wacky world of adult friend-making.) But brunch? Brunch I can do. And brunch, with someone that I've "met" through their delightful blog? That I can definitely do. So when Betsy and I sat down to our tasty bloody marys and unbelievably good creamed eggs, it was a lovely change of pace. (And I'm happy to report that at no point did I mention internet service rates, though I'm pretty sure that both the weather and summer construction did enter into our conversation.) Betsy is stylish, hilarious, smart, and super motivated, and it was easy and refreshing to launch into conversations about blogs, fashion, travel, moving, relationships, and, of course, our brunch. I earnestly look forward to many more moments of meeting and chatting over a strong drink and fabulous food. Maybe that's the key. Maybe food is the hidden ingredient in my need to meet people. I'm much more comfortable talking to someone over a meal, which might be why bars are tough for me. There are only so many beer peanuts a gal can eat. So maybe I need to start just hanging out at brunch places. Sit at the bar. Strike up a conversation with the stranger next to me, who is also quietly enjoying their creamed eggs and morning mimosa. And who knows? Maybe we'll hit it off. Maybe they'll even give me a tip on how I can pay less for my internet service... Title song: Lou Reed, "Egg Cream"[...]

{weekend clothesline} Far Across the Distance


Joe and I in El Ejido, the main public park in Quito, Ecuador Okay, folks, we're a go for the epic Ecuador post I've been promising. I've found that it's been nearly impossible for me to synthesize my actual thoughts about the trip, so I'm starting with a bit of a slideshow-style post, with more pictures and less words. After things settle down a bit more, I hope to be able to put words into my currently vague and scattered feelings about my summer vacation. Most of these pictures were actually taken by Joe and/or his advisor. We didn't bring my nice DSLR, for fear of damage or theft, so these are mostly all snapped with a cheap point-and-shoot that Joe bought after his original camera did get stolen. Some of these were also actually taken before I arrived, but they are all sights that I saw and places that I went; we just decided it was pointless to re-take pictures that Joe already had. Also, we were epically bad at actually taking pictures of us. The one above is the only usable photo of both of us. Long story short, there was no taking of outfit photos on this trip. And I was just fine with that. Anyway, enjoy! Top to bottom: views of Cuenca, Ecuador from some Incan ruins just outside the city; tile rooftops in Cuenca and a strange bird statue that I quite admired; the massive "new" cathedral in Cuenca, which also happened to be one of the views out of our hostel. We took an extremely long bus ride from Cuenca to Quito about halfway through the trip. Since both are in the high sierra area of the Andes, the bus ride involved many a winding S-curve road (and therefore, much Dramamine for me), and breathtakingly beautiful views of the region. Remember what I said before about the high altitude being cleansing and mind-clearing? Yeah, that's what this is like. Whole towns (albeit tiny ones) are nestled in the highlands at 13,000 feet, and the harshness of the climate and landscape only makes for an even more surreal experience when passing through from the inside of an over-crowded bus. Here's where we digress from my and Joe's experiences. I didn't actually make it up to the Quilotoa crater lake, though I was witness to two massive and absolutely picturesque volcanoes as we ventured through the country, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. Joe took these pictures of the crater lake and its surrounding tourist area earlier in his trip, but I couldn't help but share them with you anyway. To me, they are positively breathtaking, and I can't wait to go back to Ecuador and see it for myself. Quinoa! As I've mentioned before, I've spent a lot of time in South America, particularly Bolivia, and have been well-aware of the origins and traditions of this favorite grain of mine. But up until this trip, I'd never seen it growing. Unlike wheat, or rice, or, truly, any other simple grain I've seen, quinoa fields are beautiful, colorful, vibrant plots of land, a veritable rainbow of food. Harvesting happens after all the plants have reached a certain color, and up until then, the fields are a striking contrast against their highland backdrop. (The last picture above is actually of lupin, which there was also plenty of.) I also had no idea what quinoa looked like up close. Incredible. I'm still sort of in the dark on how it is harvested, but seeing the plants in person totally changed how I feel about this tasty little grain. I wonder if we can grow it in the garden next year... (Also, an interesting side note: not once, in my 12 days or Joe's 52 days, did either of us get the chance to actually eat quinoa. I know[...]

{outfit} More Lightnin' Bugs than Stars in the Sky


Blouse: UO * Jeans: H&M * Booties: UO * Necklace: heirloom from my grandmother * Belt: thrifted I think I'm experiencing reverse culture shock. In all my travels, in all my life (and I've been incredibly fortunate to have many of them...travels, that is, not lives...), I've never really experienced culture shock. My arrival in a place is usually consumed with curiosity and exploration (and sometimes jet-lag). Instead, the moment that my world-view gets all wonky is when I finally get home, back into the good ol' US of A. That's when my rhythm gets thrown off, when I start noticing ridiculous cultural idiosyncrasies, and when I start feeling uncomfortable in my own space. All that to say that I sort of feel like I still have one foot in South America and one foot in the Midwest, which means I'm not quite mentally up to the task of documenting our trip to Ecuador yet. I'm definitely planning to tackle it this week, but in the meantime I'm going to happily use a few old backlogged pictures as a crutch for my inability to switch completely out of Spanish mode. And I'm actually quite happy to finally post these pictures. This was a simple weekend outfit earlier this summer, one which I wore to run errands, do laundry, make dinner, and other simple, straightforward weekend tasks. I fell in love with the combo when I wore it, and then just swooned over the early evening light that graced the street in front of Joe's apartment. It was one of those ideal photo moments that you don't always get to capture, so I was thrilled that we were able to preserve those precious last few moments of the day. I've been all about comfort and ease this summer, and feel a bit of a change in the sartorial winds. My summer uniform, though I've been consistently failing to document it, has been a faithful pattern of jean shorts, oxford or bankers blouses, and Sperry Topsiders. Casual cool is winning the day, and I've been immersing myself in comfortable tomboy-esque style, eschewing wrinkle-free skirts and heavy accessories in favor of rolled-up sleeves and frayed hems. This outfit falls somewhere in the middle, which is maybe why it is a fast favorite. I felt totally comfortable and simply summery, but appreciated the clean lines and simple jewelry of this somewhat-polished ensemble. Title song: Gillian Welch, "Summer Evening"[...]

{gardening} Warm as a July Tomato


Yesterday's harvest from the garden (note: this does not include half a dozen heirloom tomatoes, plus the dozens and dozens that went into cans) I don't mean to brag (okay, maybe I do), but our garden is killing it. We've already harvested more carrots, beets, swiss chard, and zucchinis than we typically eat in an entire year. My boss, family, and friends have all been receiving weekly gifts of produce, and I've spent many a weekend making pickled beets and zucchini, as well as cooking up loaf after loaf of carrot beet bread. It means that I don't really leave the kitchen over the weekend (and if I do, it's just to head to the garden to harvest more goodies), but I'm happy in my role of cook, canner, creative-use-thinker, and co-head gardener. Heirlooms are the future, people (also, check out the rad tablecloth we got in Ecuador!) Joe and I are both back from Ecuador now (I'm really looking forward to spending some of this week catching up with the multitude of blog posts I've missed out on, and crafting a few of my own as I get back into the swing of things), and we spent this past weekend dealing with the many dozens of ripe red tomatoes that greeted us when we got home. In addition to lots of tender and delicious heirlooms with nearly-purple flesh so incredibly good that it's all we can do to not brag to everyone we see about how tasty they are, we harvested enough beefsteak tomatoes this weekend to fill fourteen pint jars. So that's precisely what I did.* The first step is to parboil the whole tomatoes, peel them, and then dice them into the desired size. I was pretty liberal with the chopping, just making sure that they were small enough to fit into jars. I'm all for chunks of tasty tomato flesh. Then the tomatoes are quickly heated to boiling in their own juices (it's important not to add any additional water here, as the tomatoes will lose some flavor. Trust me, they definitely have sufficient juice to not scald). I did this while the water for the canning hot water bath was heating on another burner. (Note: it is highly beneficial to enjoy a tasty brew during this step. Peeling and chopping this many tomatoes is hard work!) Now, while the water heats and the tomatoes cook, let's talk about tools. My first and most important canning-related purchase this year was a giant coated aluminum stockpot (the blue one on the left). It very much reminds me of the pot in which Yosemite Sam tries to cook Bugs Bunny (if you, like me, were raised with old-school, and sometimes shockingly inappropriate, Looney Tunes cartoons, do yourself a favor and watch that video). Long story short, it's big (that's what she said). Anyway, I also have a series of little canning helpers that make some of the steps loads easier. My favorite is the jar-grabber-thing, which saves my hands from boiling hot water while I load jars in and out of the pot. There's also a funnel for reduced tomato spillage, a neat little bubble-eliminator thing and a magnetic wand for pulling sterilized lids out of their pot of boiling water (if you haven't figured it out yet, there's a lot of boiling water in the canning process). Since I don't have a pressure canner, I do all of my canning in a boiling water bath. This means that in order to avoid botulism (note: you do want to avoid botulism), certain fruits and vegetables need added acid to keep them safe. I use citric acid, a bit in each jar, for diced tomatoes. After loading the diced and hot vegetables into the jars, I placed them [...]

{laundry day} Wake You Up to Say Goodbye


It's early, folks. Like, really damn early. Not quite 4 AM yet, and I'm waiting on my shuttle to get to O'Hare. Then it's off on a jetplane to Ecuador, where Joe will meet me at the airport. I'm beside myself with excitement...12 days of exploring, eating, beach-going, Andes-hiking, and best-friend-hanging (one of our closest friends is living in Ecuador, so we get to see him!). It's safe to say that I won't post at all until after I get home, so this little photo-roundup will have to tide you over until I return... I love the light in this picture (full outfit post to come!)... Admiring the gnarly, one-of-a-kind fruits of the harvest... ...which turned into this beet and carrot bread and this part of a nutritious breakfast.  I love the details of this outfit (note: that is a luscious silk Eileen Fisher maxi skirt, originally $212, with tags, that I snagged for $7. Thrifting is good). Beverages. A killer bloody mary from my brunch with Betsy (so fun! I promise to share more details soon!), and waiting patiently in the early morning light for my Chemex coffee to brew. I'm really happy with how my hair is growing out. Still weird and untameable, but somehow chic and sassy, too. Okay, wish me luck on my voyage! I'll see you on the flip-side!! Title song: John Denver, "Leaving on a Jet Plane" (does anyone else immediately think of this scene in Armageddon when they hear this song?) [...]

{laundry day} Ice Cream Castles in the Air


The Rocky Mountains are home for me. Towering mountains, scores of Subarus, smiling, happy people, thrilled that their lives involve hiking, biking, and just generally being alive; these things signal home. But more than the smiling people, more than the vastness of the national forests, more than the old, western-style downtowns and malt shoppes and railroad depots, the thing that truly tells me that I've returned home is the sky. The sky, out west, goes on forever. Unlike the midwest or the windy city or the rolling hills of Wisconsin or the lake-filled terrain of Minnesota or the cornfields of western Illinois and Iowa, the sky in the Rockies is enormous. It takes up your whole world. And it changes. Immeasurably, minute by minute, it changes, until you go from crystal clear blue to torrential hail to deep afternoon cobalt to the clear night sky of the milky way. The clouds look crisper there, the blue sky bluer, and the air distinctively cleaner. I love being at high altitudes. The lack of oxygen triggers your body to respond to each breath the way you never do at sea level. No amount of air is wasted, and you can feel the energy rising from each burst of new, clean breath. And hiking, getting up above it all, above the towns and cars and even the trees, makes you feel like you're even more a part of the sky than you already did. Up there, on the ridges and peaks and mountainsides of the snow-capped peaks (quite literally, despite the fact that it's late July), you feel as though there is nothing between you and the rest of the world. And truly, there isn't. I'm not a religious person. I never have been. But the closest I ever come to feeling that overwhelming, indescribable sense of marvel about the world is when I'm up here, breathing the air and feeling the cold from the wind and the warmth from the sun. It's more of a moment of zen, a moment of pure oneness with my surroundings, with my life. A moment where everything that I've done, and everything that is yet to come, are joined in this sense of being entirely encapsulated by the sky. It's wonderful. Title song: Joni Mitchell, "Both Sides Now"[...]

{recipe} Pumpkin Tortellini and Swiss Chard Cream Sauce


Swiss chard cream sauce with pumpkin tortellini This time of year, I'm literally knee-deep in red swiss chard. Our garden is massively over-producing swiss chard, beets, and carrots, and I'm stretching the limits of what I can cook with these tasty veggies. One thing I've discovered is that swiss chard is positively delicious as a creamy pasta sauce. I found fresh, locally-made pumpkin tortellini at our local co-op, and recently paired the two for a positively yum-tastic dinner. I chopped and rinsed the swiss chard, being sure to get all the dirt clods and pesky bugs off of the leaves. I've gotten so much more anal about cleaning veggies since we got the garden, since there is legitimate dirt on everything we pull. I've invested in a vegetable brush, and I spend all kinds of time at the sink, scrubbing away at beets, carrots, and chard. Since I was using a store-bought pasta, this preparation was easiest. I simply brought a small saucepan of salted water to a boil, tossed in the tortellini, and drained the pot once the pasta had risen to the top of the boiling water. This only took a few minutes, since I was dealing with fresh tortellini, but even with dried pasta this will only take 10 minutes or so. In a large, shallow saucepan, I sauteed a diced white onion in one stick of butter (hey, my cookware is made by Paula Deen, so why not cook like her too?). Then I added a loose handful of flower to make a light roux. After this, I added about two cups of whole milk (with this step, you could use half & half, whole milk, or even 2%, though milk with less fat content will be much thinner than cream) and reduced it by about half. At that point, I added the chopped, rinsed bunch of swiss chard, stirring and turning constantly until it softened. The sauce is done, and can now be added to the cooked, rinsed tortellini. I'd recommend sprinkling a bit of parmesan or asiago cheese to the dish just before serving, and add a heel or slice of crusty bread to the mix, too. Enjoy! [...]