Book #20: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

remarkable-creatures1Tracy Chevalier’s novel Remarkable Creatures is not entirely fictional. The novel tells the story of two women living in Lyme Regis, a small coastal town in England. Miss Elizabeth Philpot meets Mary Anning when Mary is still a young girl and Miss Elizabeth has just resigned herself to spinsterhood. The two share an interest in collecting fossils, called “curiosities” or “curies,” on the beaches surrounding Lyme Regis. Mary collects them to sell them to tourists, while Miss Elizabeth keeps them for her personal collection. The two become close, spending their days combing the beaches together. Continue reading

Book #19 Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

rules-of-civility-uk6It’s really amazing how NOT LONG a year actually is. I’m behind. But I still think I can catch up. For a long time, I was in this mindset where I knew I had to read a lot of books, so I would find time to read–at lunch, before bed. Then, I got a little ahead, and then it was Christmas, and then it was halfway through January and I’m still not back to reading like I was. I do think, however, that this book is helping me to get back on track. Continue reading

project 365: week three

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We had crazy weather this week. On Sunday, it was warm enough for t-shirts and flip-flops. Then it snowed on Thursday night. What?

DSC_0411Steamy pre-workday coffee

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Warm day

DSC_0347Windshield frost. I learned this week that my method of scraping ice with a spare rewards card from my wallet does not work on actual ice. I also learned that none of my neighbors have ice-scrapers either.

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At the laundromat.

DSC_0377Eggs on Saturday morning

DSC_0402Jason bought me these flowers at Whole Foods. They were forcing them to grow in the store, and they were a nice reminder that spring’s on its way.

DSC_0416On Sunday, I had brunch at my friends Ashley and Elisa’s house, and they made these awesome Cheddar Breakfast Buns from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook… they were the best brunch food I can think of. We also had french toast. YUM.

Juicing for Amateurs

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Let’s talk about juicing. But before you do that thing where you’re like, “Juicing? Not for me, no thanks,” just put that away and let’s talk. Juicing is a little earthy-crunchy, sure, but it’s also delicious and really absurdly good for you. You can pack the nutrients from some real powerhouse fruits and veggies into a glass and suck it down on the way to work/school/wherever you’re going, which is pretty cool! I hear you out there with your juice concerns, but stick with me. We’re gonna talk about three different juices that I think serve three different purposes. Also, basic info: all three are best served over ice and with a straw.

DSC_0365The first juice we’re making is Beet-Carrot-Apple-Orange-Lemon. That’s one small beet, three carrots, one green apple, one peeled orange, and one meyer lemon, cut in half. This juice is rich, velvety, and really great for breakfast. It’ll keep you full until lunch, no problem. It will also make you feel really, really good. I know that sounds like juicing mumbo-jumbo-hocus-pocus, but I’m for real. It’s easier to concentrate with this juice under your belt.

There are also a lot of substitutes available here. I usually add ginger to this one (just an inch of raw, un-peeled ginger), but I didn’t have any on hand today. You could add grapefruit, other kinds of apples, or even some spinach or kale to sneak in some other veggies. Also, herbs are good for juicing, and I say mint might be nice addition to this juice.

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We should stop here and talk about beet people. You either are a beet person or you’re totally not a beet person. If you are a beet person, you get it. Beets are wonderful. They’re earthy and sweet. They’re velvety and the most lovely color you’ve ever seen. I am a beet person. If you are also a beet person, you need to know about juicing beets. It’s a beet in a whole new way. A beet in a glass! Really, though, you should make this happen in your lives, beet people. (As for you non-beeters, I don’t know what to tell you.)

DSC_0368Up next, Kale-Cucumber-Apple-Lime-Parsley-Celery. This juice is a classic green juice. Vegetable-heavy with apple for sweetness, and parsley and lime to impart some flavor to otherwise water-heavy veggies like celery and cucumber. I like to drink this one after lunch during my three o’clock slump. It’s hydrating with a little extra kick of green-goodness.

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The substitutions here are endless. For the greens: spinach, mixed greens, arugula, swiss chard, romaine. Consider also cilantro, fennel, or even ginger. The parsley in this juice is really nice, but if cilantro is a big thing for you, it’s perfect here, too.

DSC_0372Last one: Apple-Blueberry-Blackberry-Lime. This one is just for fun. It’s delicious mixed with seltzer water and served over ice. Due to the blackberries, this juice is a little thicker than the others, and obviously sweeter. It’s a good treat after dinner, or maybe while you cook dinner. It’s best in smaller doses (lots of sugar) and can also be made with plenty of other fruits.

DSC_0399Strawberries? Pears? Really any fruit-heavy juice is good for this kind of juice. Also, don’t try to juice a banana. It’s not a thing. I mean, have you ever seen banana juice? Take a hint. It’ll just make a gommy mess in your juicer.

Okay, last thing. Juicers are really expensive. I’m currently using my mom’s, but I totally wouldn’t be able to buy one for myself. I’d try to borrow one or find a gently used one for cheaper before you took the big leap. It’s good to know what you like before you commit. Play around with lots of different things–even things you don’t think will be good together. I’ve made plenty of mistakes–the other day I tried some grapefruit/kale concoction that was truly revolting. You’ll get the hang of how to balance fruits and vegetables, and then you’ll be unstoppable!

project 365: week two

I’m discovering that my goal of one photo per day is kind of crazy annoying–some days I’m struggling to find a picture of anything, and other days are full of opportunities. So, rather than focus on publishing one photo per day, I’m just hoping you’ll get a feel for the week through my photos. Deal? Deal. DSC_0271This week, Chatham Habitat hosted 12 students from Cleveland State University through Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge program. I got the honor of taking pictures of them all week–including this silly one.

DSC_0222On Tuesday, I started my day with a kale, apple, blackberry, lime juice that ended up being this beautiful purple color. It was also pretty delicious.

DSC_0003Downton Abbey started back this week–with a two hour long episode! I might have squealed a little when the scene with the dog and Lord Grantham came on–I love it! (Also, this was taken last Sunday, and I promise my Christmas tree has been taken down now.)

DSC_0219Sunrise in the back yard. Taken bleary-eyed and barefoot at 6AM.

DSC_0009Jason made dinner.

DSC_0279Saturday was Jason’s birthday and he wanted to go out for a hike. We passed a farm on highway 86 and this guy watched us pass.

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Birthday eggs benedict.
DSC_0310Jason got some new threads.

DSC_0298And a delicious gingerbread/cream cheese icing cake! Happy Birthday, Jason!

Grapefruit Lavender Jam

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About a week ago, I bought a huge bag of grapefruits because they were on sale. I don’t even know why–I think I was grocery shopping hungry which is always a bad idea. Anyway, I ended up with 6 pounds of grapefruits and no ideas. I just made a marmalade, and I don’t really need any more, and grapefruit curd isn’t shelf stable for very long. So, I made up an idea for a grapefruit jam. A bit of googling told me that grapefruit jam is a thing, so I decided to go for it. I really love to add herbs to fruity jams, and I think the sharp taste of grapefruit is a little much on its own, so I chose lavender to add some extra dimension.

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The only skill that this recipe requires that we haven’t talked about before is how to “supreme” a grapefruit and get all the pith/seeds out neatly so that you’re left with membrane-less segments. (I totally just learned it was called that, don’t worry.) If you’d like, you can watch this video to learn how.

Once that’s done, it’s basic jam-making.

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Grapefruit Lavender Jam: (yields about 3 half pints, maybe 4)

4 pounds whole grapefruits, cut into segments, including the juice.
2 cups sugar
1 pack liquid pectin
1 Tablespoon dried lavender flowers

First, simmer the jars and lids that you plan to use for your jam.

After you’ve supremed the grapefruits, put them in a pot with the sugar and bring it to a boil. Add the lavender and the pectin and boil for 10-15 more minutes, or until the jam coats the back of a spoon and passes the plate test. (Spoon some on a plate and let it cool, then tilt it. If it moves in a sheet, it’s ready. Ladle the hot jam into hot jars, place the lids on top then gently tighten the bands. Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes.

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This is how I take pictures of things, in case you ever wondered. It’s a miracle I haven’t toppled off of my chair and into whatever I’m photographing.

project 365: week one

This year, I’m going to do my best to take a photograph every day. I’ve been practicing for the last few months of 2012 without sharing (or being held accountable), so in honor of the new year, I’m going to give it a shot.

DSC_0122On Tuesday morning, the sky was sporting a chevron pattern in honor of the new year.

DSC_0145We broke out my new ice cream maker on Wednesday and attempted strawberry. It still needs work.

DSC_0151Morning gas pumping.

DSC_0156Julia Child and I made a roux!

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I realized at work on Friday that my sweater, scarf, shoes, phone case, earrings, and bracelets were all the same color. Since then, I’ve been noticing how many teal things I own–It’s my color for 2013, maybe?

DSC_0154Leeks are my new favorite thing.

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Breakfast shadows.

Pear Vanilla Jam

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I’ve been pretty heavy on the pears this winter, haven’t I? First, I made a Vanilla Pear Aigre-Doux, then the Swiss Chard Pear Gruyere Tart, and now a Pear Vanilla Jam. I’m not going to promise that I’m done with pears, but I’ll try to lay off in the next few weeks. In my defense, I had a half-eaten box of Harry and David pears dropped in my lap by a coworker’s family last week, so I felt like making jam was really my only option.

harry and davidI had never really considered making jam out of pears before, but I read a little about it and decided that you’d really need another flavor, like vanilla or cardamom, something to take control. Pears are such a delicate flavor; a jam with just pears would sort of be taken over by the necessary lemon juice. For this jam, I think it’s necessary to spring for real vanilla beans rather than using vanilla extract. With the beans, you get that great speckly look, and the taste is just vanilla, without the sharp alcohol taste of an extract.

pears and vanillaThis jam is tasty on toast with butter. It does get overwhelmed easily as it’s not too sweet and the flavors are pretty subtle, so I don’t know if it would even hold up against peanut butter. Best enjoyed solo, I think. This recipe comes from Food In Jars, a canning blog that I love. It’s no nonsense, to the point recipes are easy to follow, and the ingredients are rarely too fussy to find at any grocery store at a reasonable price. You can type in almost any fruit and find a starting point to make your own jam. I only adapted this one slightly, using a little less sugar than the recipe calls for and adding some lemon juice.

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Here’s the recipe (adapted slightly from Food In Jars):
yields about 5.5 half-pints

4 pears, thin-skinned, diced–no need to peel
2.5 cups sugar
juice of half a lemon
2 vanilla beans, scraped
1 pack liquid pectin

6 half-pint jars, lids, and bands

Start by setting a boiling-water canner to boil with your jars inside. In a small saucepan, simmer your lids and bands.

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, bring the diced pears, sugar, vanilla bean scrapings and hulls, and sugar to a boil. Boil hard for about 5 minutes, or until the pears are soft enough to smoosh with the back of a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat and use a potato masher or pastry cutter to mush up the fruit a little more. Then add the pectin, stir it in well, and bring the jam back up to a boil, stirring periodically. Test the jam for gelling after 8-10 minutes of boiling. To test, place a spoonful of jam on a plate, then place it in the freezer for a few minutes. Take it out and tilt the plate. If the jam is still runny, keep boiling and test again later. If it looks like jam, you’re done!

Ladle the jam into hot jars, leaving about a quarter inch of headspace. You should fill 5 jars and the 6th about halfway. For the half filled one, put a lid on it and put in the refrigerator to eat first. For the rest of the jars, wipe the rims, place the lids on top, gently screw on the bands, and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

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