Friday, August 26, 2005

End of August Lull

I'm welcoming a little lull here ... everyone seems to be on vacation or thinking about going on vacation. The summer has been hot, but in a good summery way that makes it less painful to see it give way when the cooling nights of September start in. The farmer's markets are overflowing with tomatoes and cukes and peaches and zucchini. I'm trying to pickle some cucumbers. The corn this year has been wonderfully sweet. I like to shock people by eating raw corn on the cob. It really is good that way, and well, it doesn't take much to shock people. I put it in salsa, add it to a zucchini salad, right off the ear with lime and cayenee, throw it in ratatouille, ... next step is coming up with a nice sweet corn ice cream recipe. I'll let you know if I can pull it off.

And it's quiet at home. The new cat is still settling in but has become much more affectionate and trusting of this human she's adopted. I've let her come out on the back porch which she loves to do. I'm hoping this might deter my nemesis, the evil squirrel who comes around and eats all my cherry tomatoes. Grrrrrr. Evil! Jasmine hasn't noticed other species yet, but maybe the squirrel won't be able to tell and will be filled with fear.

The new standing mixer arrived but somehow I've managed the willpower to keep it in its box until I feel called upon to welcome it to my kitchen.

So this here is one of those quiet posts. Not much going on, but wanted to say hello to everyone. Yawn. Maybe time for one of those summer afternoon naps.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Jasmine Dillard

Many moons ago, I posted about flying solo and getting my very own apartment. It's worked out well, but sometimes I have thought it would be nice to have a little pal when I come home at the end of the day. After much debate and perhaps with a little help from fate, I am now co-habitating with a friendly black cat named Jasmine. She's a very sweet, independent cat. She does her thing and I do mine, and so far it has worked out OK. I've never had a pet larger than a parakeet before, so this is a new realm.

I will admit it is taking me a little time to get used to this new roommate. When I'm sitting reading a book on the couch, I still find it startling to suddenly be approached by a black furry mammal. Or to be woken in the middle of the night when a black furry mammal jumps on my bed. Did I mention her black fur? It is slowly appearing on everything in the apartment. This I am not so pleased about.

Yet somehow we are becoming friends of a sort. At least she seems to know I'm the one who feeds her. And she has her ways of showing me how to take care of her, since I'm pretty inept at this whole cat thing.

So this is big news here in Dillard-land. I want to avoid being one of those people who obsess about their pets both internally and externally, but I wanted folks outside of town to be introduced to Jasmine, and see how cute she is when she perches by the window.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Wonders of Sanding

Sand on the beach is great. I really like the sand dunes at Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA and also the dunes of Lake Michigan. But sand is also useful for making a terribly beat up butcher table look like new. When a friend moved out of an apartment last summer, a butcher block was left behind, all alone and forlorn and looking pretty shabby. But, as they say, it had wonderful bones. So I lugged it home somehow, and it sat around looking pretty shabby for many months until finally, when Elizabeth came to organize my kitchen, she also brought her sander. (Ah the joys of friends with power tools).
So I sanded it down, and now it is just beautiful. I just loved the before and after cupboard picture, so I thought I'd share the before and after butcher table photos. This is turning into the home improvement blog.

Speaking of which, I'm guessing I'm not the only person out there who has seen America's Extreme Home Makeover or whatever you call it on Sunday nights. Some family who has gone through hell and back gets their place made over. It is moving to see such a lovely thing done for people and how grateful and happy they are. If you can stand the excruciatingly cheesy build up to the climax, and the family trying valiantly to look properly grateful, it does make you think people are doing good things out there.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Brilliant Ideas in Baltimore

I don't travel much outside of Boston for work (unless you count Quincy as traveling). Sometimes I feel twinges of jealousy toward friends who go to, say, Phoenix or London or Florida for work. But then I remember the grass is always greener -- when I have traveled for work you do spend a lot of time in hotels and airports.

However, in June I attended a conference in DC for work and got to visit a lot of my favorite old stomping grounds from when I taught school there while living in Chevy Chase, which happened to be close to the conference hotel. I visited my favorite bookstore/coffeeshop where I once spent many hours drinking coffee and grading papers, Politics and Prose. Next door was one of my favorite bakeries, Marvelous Market; this was long before food quest days had begun, but nonetheless I remember being very excited at their selection of yummy things. I was not disappointed during my visit 10 years later. They had a very interesting cookie called Salty Oat -- oatmeal with coarse salt sprinkled on top. It was lovely -- the salt gave it a caramel-like aftertaste. Cool!

Just wandering around the old neighborhood was such a treat. It is amazing how much of a place you retain in your memory, even if you don't consciously think about the details until you are walking on the streets again. I even had a sense memory for the many roots that were integrated into the sidewalks -- how I used to have to be careful at certain sections that were especially bumpy when I wandered around my neighborhood after a tough day of teaching, admiring the pretty houses and the happy-seeming families.

As a bonus, I added on an extra travel day and went up to Baltimore to see my old pal, Karin. Out of all of my wonderful friends, I think Karin gets the oldest friend award -- not due to her age but the length of our friendship -- I think we met when I was about four years old at a family church gathering. We still keep in touch faithfully and have gotten to hang out a few times each year. There is just nothing in the world like an old friend. They were there when you lost your baby teeth, for goodness' sake! Lots of shared memories.

Karin now lives in Baltimore and she gave me a wonderful tour of that city. I had no idea how cool it was there! My new favorite museum, as in it is at the TOP of my list, is the American Visionary Art Museum. The photo above was taken there. It's complicated to explain, so just go to their most excellent website. It's one of those places that you feel overwhelmed with excitement at all you are going to see, but also exhausted because you know you don't have time to appreciate it all. And I'm a huge folk art fan. To top it all off (literally), the top floor was a modern Mexican restaurant called the Joy America Cafe, where Karin and I had an incredibly good and inventive lunch. (Plantain soup, anyone?) I was so happy. Really. Just the name of the restaurant made me happy.

But the whole town was great. To finish off my exuberant post, let's have a little dessert. I had to include this brilliant idea sold at Vaccaro's, an Italian bakery that specializes in Cannoli.
Anyone who has eaten one of these things knows how good they are but how messy they are to eat. So to turn it into chips and dip is just ... Baltimore brilliant.
So now I have to go back, to see Karin of course, and to cover the rest of the things that I missed.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A Little Organization Will Do You Good

My friend Elizabeth has recently started exploring the idea of being a Professional Organizer. Friends who explore new career possibilities are often very nice friends to know. I received many a wonderful complimentary massage from my friend Katrina as she was doing her massage therapy homework (now I'm a faithful paying client so I try to be a good friend too).

And Elizabeth jumped at the chance to organize my cupboard. Can you imagine? Jumping at the chance to organize a cupboard. That seems like a good indicator of professional interest. I guess I know the feeling -- I'll jump at the chance to bake a birthday cake, while others think, wow, I'd much rather be organizing a closet. People are funny creatures, aren't we?

Anyhow, here's the before and after photos and I think she did a great job. Gosh, we even have makeovers on this blog. You just never know what you'll find here. We're just a hoot and a half around here.

Don't Miss the Berries

If you haven't noticed, it is berry season. And if you haven't noticed, do you live under a rock? They are every where. Even when I go jogging at a local track, there are blueberries just waiting to be plucked after your run, a quirky little New England reward for doing your 8 laps (well, or something like that is close enough). Then there are the gooseberries close by as well. After eating all those berries, you've kinda cancelled out the caloric benefits of the run, but at least you have the exercise endorphisn and the berry endorphins. So it's all good.

And they look so pretty in a bowl, no? I've been eating them on my morning cereal. Gosh, didn't I post about gooseberries just a year ago on this very same blog? How the time does fly. The circle of life and all that. Hope you are enjoying your own local versions of these tiny bits of summeriness.