Lately I'm Loving

Things making me smile/on my mind/causing distraction lately:

photo.jpg

- I've been doing a lot of thinking about books lately. Namely, the fact that my reading list has burgeoned to nearly 150 titles, all added in the last couple of months, and that I've done a shamefully lax job checking them off. While I attribute that in large part to the fact that my days are, in general, much fuller here, I've also been a total social media fiend lately (stories forthcoming). This piece, about a guy who read 400 books in the last two years, was thought-provoking in its direct call-out of people like me who waste a ton of time on apps. While I still polish off around 10-12 books a month, it's crazy to think about how much more I could be doing. 

(Related: this Atlantic piece about how smartphones are destroying today's teens was a lengthy but compelling read.)

- As far as reading goes, I started extremely young - I read the entirety of the "Little House on the Prairie" series in kindergarten, and graduated (rapidly and prematurely) to "Pride and Prejudice" and "Watership Down" in second grade and "War and Peace" in third. (For the record, do not recommend that course of action.) What I do recommend? Reading early and often with kids. Some of my happiest and earliest childhood memories are of reading in bed with my parents almost every night. With that in mind, I've decided my new go-to baby gift is membership in The Picture Book Club, which is, as far as I can tell, basically the Jelly of the Month club but for books. Sign me (and my hypothetical future progeny) up for the "Women Who Changed The World" subscription, please. 

- I think the reason I read so much from a very early age is that I was a very well-socialized but equally introverted child. It's a topic that I've seen addressed a lot lately, most recently in this way-too-relatable post a friend shared on Facebook about characteristics of the type. I can't even begin to express how strongly I identified with most, if not all, of the outlined traits...to the point that, even as I write this, I'm re-reading the list and aggressively nodding along in my cube. 

- In addition to reading literature that was targeted well above my age range, I also spent much of my childhood attending theatrical events and being exposed to classical music. I attribute my adult love of the arts entirely to my parents' focus on ensuring we were well-versed in that world from an early age - and that we knew how to behave there. This New York Times thought piece about children and their participation in the adult world of the arts could basically be a manifesto for how I intend to (someday, maybe) parent...just a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting behind a family of five at the opera and listening to the youngest, who couldn't have been more than seven, discuss the very mature themes of Thaïs with her mom during intermission. SIGN ME UP. 

 

the shakes

One of the weirdest things about my move to California is that it’s actually changed my dreams. Lately I’ve been having the most bizarrely realistic dreams about earthquakes – almost as if I’m having one of those dreams where I feel like I’m falling and actually wake up, but instead the world is shaking under my feet and I wake up feeling like I’m trembling. We haven’t had any real earthquakes – at least not strong enough to feel – but a coworker of mine told me that the easiest way to tell if there’s been a tremor is if the frames get crooked. I’ve noticed my gallery wall is off-kilter a couple times, and am choosing to attribute that to tremors (rather than to Dave’s/my tendency to slam our bedroom doors!).

The newest one, though, is about the hills. I’ve driven a fair amount in San Francisco over the past few weeks, and some of the hills are so steep that, at the bottom, all I can do is look up incredulously, laugh, and hope to God my Civic doesn’t crap out halfway up. The visual of houses going straight as we all tilt up is a complete mind-bender, one I don’t know that I’ll ever grow accustomed to.

For the last several nights, I've dreamed I was driving us (not sure who, but there are others in the car, of course) up one such hill, so tall and so unbroken by cross-streets that the top wasn’t visible from the bottom. We were going up and tilting at a more and more dramatic angle, and all of a sudden it was like the angle had gotten too steep for the car to handle. In the dream, we flipped straight backward and started just free-falling back down the hill, as if the earth itself had fallen away from us. I woke up actually shouting in panic last night and had to get out of bed for a solid twenty minutes in the middle of the night to calm myself down.

It’d be nice to be able to dream about, I don’t know, wineries and fresh-squeezed orange juice or something. I guess my insane subconscious has to remind me it’s not all sunshine and 75 degrees here, or something.

Ending on a funny note…

A few weeks ago when Jonathan was in town, we were discussing earthquakes on the way up to Napa with Tyler. Jonny was curious, so I explained it the way the aforementioned coworker had – that the regular quakes are seldom more than a 3 on the Richter scale, and that it takes about a 5 before people really feel it. From there, it exponentially increases – a 7 will “really rock things,” as she put it.

Jonathan, being Jonathan, immediately goes, “IT’S LIKE A DICK. You don’t feel 3 inches, but you notice it at 5 and a 7 will rock your world!” Tyler chimed in with the absolute mot juste: “It’s like the Dickter Scale!” I died laughing, and every time I think about that little exchange, nightmares about hills and quakes seem a lot less traumatic after all.

Bookworm: July 2017

“Did you ever want to be a writer?” “No,” she said, and she would have told him. “I only wanted to be a reader.” 
― Ann Patchett, Commonwealth

Loved: 

Commonwealth, Ann Patchett: The most gorgeously-written story of two dysfunctional families, and how their lives intersect through affairs, death, and heartbreak for over fifty years. I couldn't put it down - devoured it in a day. Highly, highly recommend.

A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin: I picked up this collection of short stories at one of my new favorite places in the Bay Area, Dog Eared Books in the Mission. The staff at Dog Eared slip handwritten notes into the inside covers of the books - jokes, reviews, recommendations and commentary - and I find that utterly enchanting. This was a fairly new foray into the world of short stories for me! I prefer to sink my teeth into a lengthy novel, but taking these bit by bit and reading one or two a day was a really fun way to experience the sparse, vernacular-driven writing. A book to nibble, rather than devour (unlike "Commonwealth!") 

The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan: "A Manual for Cleaning Women" got me on a short story kick, and I finally visited this collection, which was all the rage a couple years ago. The backstory is tragic: Keegan, a 2012 Yale creative writing graduate, was killed in a car accident just five days after her college graduation. Her parents, along with her Yale mentor, compiled her writing into this mesmerizing collection. I laughed out loud, cried, and at certain points had to reread sentences/paragraphs multiple times because they were just so evocative and gut-wrenching. If you haven't read this, do yourself a favor and read it, as soon as possible. 

Enjoyed: 

Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan: The third book in the "Crazy Rich Asians" series, it made me laugh and was a perfect light beachy read for evenings with a glass of wine on the deck. The title kind of says it all - it was incredibly amusing and I really enjoy Kwan's bizarrely textured, totally foreign world. 

Tolerated: 

Nothing this month! How nice!

Re-reads: 

The Shadow Queen, Margaret Pemberton: I owned this book when I moved to California, but weirdly, I have no memory of actually reading it. I find Wallis Simpson (the woman for whom King Edward VII abdicated the throne back in the 30s) fascinating in a really weird way, but this novel left me kind of lukewarm. It's an easy read about a super interesting historical figure, but I think it could have been better. 

the "Vesta La Crema" salad

You guys, I Frankensteined a salad for roommate dinner late last week, and I can't stop thinking about it. It's to die for, and I would be an utter and complete ass-hat if I didn't share this one with the class. 

First off, a little context: Laura, Dave and I have a favorite pizza place here already. It's called Vesta, and it's located in downtown Redwood City - a darling little hole in the wall with an enormous woodfire pizza oven and no air conditioning, but a huge and shady back patio to mitigate the heat. Their pizzas are fantastically innovative - some of our recent favorites: pistachio pesto and burrata, soppressata with Bing cherries and Calabrian-chile infused honey, and fig and prosciutto. Their July special is a peach and bacon pizza with mascarpone cheese, and I'm not at all ashamed to admit that we've either gone there or ordered it pretty much once a week. 

Additional context, for your edification: One of the wine clubs I joined, La Crema, sends out a newsletter regularly with vineyard information, member specials, and recipes for three-course food and wine pairings. The most recent edition included this recipe for a peach, tomato and corn salad, to be paired with their delicious range of pinot noirs. As I was reading the recipe, I immediately thought of the Vesta pizza, and convinced myself that I needed to make this salad...and add bacon...and a balsamic glaze drizzle...and eat it. All of it. After all, a salad is so much more justifiable than a bacon-covered pizza, isn't it?!

So I did. 

Our bougie apartment complex's outdoor kitchen is not completed yet, so I oven-roasted fresh sweet corn using this recipe. You guys, I had an intense, visceral moment of homesickness shucking the corn over our kitchen trash can...almost an out-of-body flashback to peeling corn on the back patio at our cabin as a teenager, with the concrete burning my feet and the sound of the lake in the background. There's something about sweet corn that immediately takes me back to Spicer, where, I shit you not, we'd occasionally get into debates with family and friends about which farmers had the best, freshest, sweetest corn at any given point in time. I genuinely almost cried when I took the corn out of the oven, with the charred kernels and that perfect roasty scent. SO GOOD. SO MINNESOTA.

Peaches, on the other hand? California all the way. I've never seen such enormous ones in my life (and now I'm feeling weird about that sentence because the peach emoji supposedly euphemistically references butts, HA.). The ones I picked up at our local Safeway for like, under a dollar were easily the sweetest peaches I've ever eaten. No buts/butts about it. 

Dave is a cherry tomato fiend, so I got heirloom cherry tomatoes (which I didn't even know were a thing before Thursday), and I was a bit enthusiastic with the mozzarella pearls (because extra cheese never hurt any recipe). I ended up using four pieces of bacon, thinking (rightly) that too much would overwhelm the more subtle flavors. It was the perfect umami addition, though!

After mixing the whole thing up, I served it with spinach on the side to augment it and sneak some green vegetables in...because I still need to work on the green vegetables thing, honestly. And we drizzled it all with the Gia Russa balsamic glaze, which was the perfect sweet counterpoint to the herby lemon dressing. 

I'm in love, basically, with a salad. 

I'm not going to subject you all to my admittedly sub-par food photography skills, but to Frankenstein this baby for yourself, follow La Crema's recipe, with bacon to your liking and a generous amount of spinach. Balsamic glaze optional but highly encouraged...as is a healthy pour of wine (yesterday, I went with Hanna's rosé!)...of course! 

Life lately...

Snippets and bits that have fallen through the cracks in the last several weeks...

dining al fresco on roasted chicken with homemade basil pesto and heirloom tomatoes (and wine, duh, always wine)

getting ready for the next in my series of "Lizzie's Bedroom Gallery Walls"

IMG_1488.JPG

dying over the gorgeous organ in Stanford Memorial Church on a private tour

taking advantage of workplace flexibility to park at a café table in Stanford's Rodin Sculpture Garden

spoiling Fiona rotten

trying new breweries with Dave

capturing Dave's extreme Californianess (it's a word, obviously) post-beers

falling in love with our sunsets on a daily basis

seeing old movies at Palo Alto's adorable downtown theater

finding hidden corners all over campus

screen-shotting Snapchats of Zach and Colleen's cutest little droid (in the onesie I bought him for his gender reveal! Thank goodness he was a boy - although I guess they could've just glued a bow on for a little girl!)

spoiling Fiona rotten

IMG_1711.JPG

brunching in Berkeley at Five

having fun with Snapchat filters and an oblivious roommate

practicing calligraphy on a variety of pretty mail

cleaning my Backer flats on a day when I unfortunately accidentally wore them to work

watching sunsets on campus during class breaks

hanging out with these goons (more to come soon on the best weekend!)

...and did I mention spoiling Fiona rotten?