Thursday, July 30, 2015

CSA: Week 8

This week brings us some very choice vegetables:
Zucchini (two giant ones)
Cucumbers (two)
Green beans
Heirloom tomatoes (three)
Fresh onions
[Rumor has it, according to our newsletter, that we were supposed to get lettuce this week, but no lettuce was actually found in our basket...]
  • Cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes will be part of my lunches for the next couple of days.
  • We'll keep one onion for here and there and give the rest away. We have a friend who enjoys them, so she'll get them from here on out.
  • We're doing grilled chicken the next couple of nights, so we'll have zucchini and green beans on the side. I'll turn the other zucchini into some zucchini bread (I made this recipe using my own flour mix - it was pretty good, but there are too many chocolate chips, so I'll probably halve those next time.).
  • Basil is a mystery. I'll probably make some pesto.
  • We'll keep the parsley and use it here and there for seasoning. It will stay pretty well in the fridge for two or three weeks.
I'm not entirely sure those tomatoes are going to last through tonight, if I'm being honest. Three tomatoes is pretty stingy if I do say so!

Friday, July 24, 2015

CSA: Week 7

This week brings us some new vegetable challenges:
Summer squash
Cherry tomatoes
Green peppers
Here's what up with each of them.
  • Squash - We have so much squash. Despite attempting to grill it at every meal we can, we're still overloaded. I'm home this weekend, so I'm considering attempting a gluten free zucchini bread. That will probably only get rid of one or two, but if it's successful, I might freeze some of the rest of it for zucchini bread later on when squash isn't quite so plentiful.
  • Cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers - I'll eat those raw with my lunches.
  • Lettuce - This still remains Dr. BB's responsibility. He does pretty well at eating the lettuce, so I don't worry about it.
  • Fennel - We're going to grill this (a simple preparation with lemon topped with parm).
  • Beets - We're going to roast them. I'm going to try to do it on the same day I make the zucchini bread so we only have to run the air conditioner on one day.
  • Cilantro - We put it in someone else's basket. We live in a 100% cilantro tastes like soap household.
  • Kale - Ugh. Who knows? We'll figure something out.  Probably sauteed for a dinner side one night.
  • Onions - We have so many onions. I might try to give them away.
  • Dill - I need some help with this one...maybe I'll try to make a potato salad or something that uses dill as a garnish, but that still will only use a small amount.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

I rank Just Listen by Sarah Dessen as one of the books in my top ten books of all time, so I count myself as a bit of a fangirl. I mean, a bit. I didn't rush out to buy this book or anything, but waited very patiently until it was on the shelves at my library (I have a...thing...about requesting young adult novels because it makes me feel crappy if I request a book that some teenage girl really wants, so I rarely log in to request books that are aimed at younger readers even if I really want to read them) and then I snatched it up as fast as I could.

But Saint Anything, while a compelling read, is not part of the awesome Dessen oeuvre with Just Listen and dreamland, but is part of the read and forget about it oevre like This Lullaby and Lock and Key

When I try to figure out what sets Dessen's best works apart from her more mediocre work is about how much self-worth and self-discovery comes from the main character herself and how much comes from external sources, particularly boyfriends.  In Saint Anything, I wanted to keep turning pages, but mostly because I wanted to know about how the main character's relationship with her new boyfriend was progressing, not because I was interested in how the main character herself was progressing.

Most of Just Listen took place inside the main character's head, and while there was a boyfriend, it took a long, long time for that relationship to develop AND they weren't even together when major self-discoveries took place.  The main character in dreamland developed despite her relationship with her boyfriend. 

Anyway, I can't expect Dessen to hit a home run every time and this is certainly a solid book, but it's not going to go on my list of "every teenage girl must read this book" anytime soon.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Shepler's Lighthouse Cruise

Last Thursday, I went on a lighthouse cruise with my mom and sister.  Shepler's, one of the three ferry companies that ferries passengers and parcels to Mackinac Island, offers a few different options for lighthouse cruises around Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and we went on the westbound cruise leaving from Mackinaw City, Michigan.

We set sail on The Hope, an 83-foot twin engine built in 1975. It was a picture perfect day with low waves, temperatures in the mid-70s, a clear sky, and since I purchased our tickets in May, I have been super pumped about this trip, so you better believe I was itching to get started.
Our tour guide was Terry Pepper, a historian who is the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association (GLLKA).  He was quite knowledgeable, although I wish he had shared fewer of his political views during the tours.  (I was particularly struck by the idea that Japanese kamikaze pilots were only insane if you weren't Japanese, but perhaps I'm a bit more sensitive to the idea that there might be a Japanese person on the ship than he was. Moving on.)  (There's an opportunity to "volunteer" to stay at two of the lighthouses owned by the GLLKA for $125 a night if you're interested in that kind of thing. I'm not sure I'm into roughing it that much.)

Our tour started by taking a look at the Old Mackinac Point Light. Honestly, we couldn't get very close on the boat. It looked like this:
But after the tour we actually drove there and took some photos.
Okay, so back to the tour. Then we went under the Mackinac Bridge, completed in 1957, which is the third longest suspension bridge in the world. I'm going to spare you the details about the Mighty Mac, but it's possible that I'm a bit obsessed with it.
You have to pay a toll to drive over the bridge and the bridge is, as far as I can tell, constantly under construction, so it was kind of fun to go under the bridge this time!
 I just can't resist one more shot.
Then we sailed over to St. Helena Island Light, a lighthouse restored and maintained by GLLKA. We actually were able to watch as The Hope met up with skiffs that contained folks who were volunteering at the lighthouse and were coming home. We actually didn't get a very good view of the lighthouse, but I guess that's why sailors needed these navigational aides.
The we went on to White Shoal Light, which apparently used to be covered in white terra cotta bricks, but now has a candy cane stripe as its daymark.  I think it's probably one of the most recognizable of the Great Lakes lighthouses, although I think the red Holland Harbor Light can give it a run for its money.  The barest of maintenance is done on the light now, just making sure the light itself and the foghorn run.
Then we tripped on over to the Waugashaunce Lighthouse, which was used as a target for military bombing practice during World War II after it was declared redundant with the building of the above White Shoal Lighthouse. It looks like nothing more than a black eye amongst all the other beautiful lighthouses. I mean, nothing is left of it - no light, no tower, no nothing.  We also had to stay really, really far away from it because DANGEROUS ROCKS WILL SINK YOUR BOAT, YO, so this is the best photo I have.
Next we went to Grays Reef, which is one of the more uninteresting looking lighthouses I've ever seen in my life and I have seen a great many, my friends.  However, it did have an interesting story about how it's construction was hampered by crappy weather and illness and it led the builder to begin referring to it as "Grays Grief."
And then we went back to the dock, passing a couple of freighters and going back under the Mackinac Bridge once more.  It turns out that freighters are painted to match what their normal cargo is because they will get stained that color anyway, so freighters that carry coal are painted black, those that carry limestone are cream, and this red one?  It's probably carrying iron ore.
The tour was $49.50 per ticket, lasted three hours, and was plenty worth the cost of admission in my mind. Of course, if you're not particularly familiar with Fresnel lenses, timber cribs, and tower designs, you might not find it as riveting to listen to the tour guide as I did, but I still think the time on Lake Michigan and the coolness of seeing the lighthouses you can't see from shore is absolutely worth your time.

Friday, July 17, 2015

CSA: Week 6

It's officially the heart of the season now! Our basket this week includes:
Summer squash (some more zucchini and pattypan)
Green beans
Rainbow chard
Fresh garlic
This is actually a promising basket, which is good because after the last couple of weeks we really needed one with a lot of usable food.
  • The radish bulbs and cucumbers will be eaten raw.  
  • The rainbow chard will be used in a frittata with feta and olives.
  • The green beans have become a staple of Dr. BB's lunches.
  • The lettuce is up to Dr. BB, although I have a bit of a hankering for some Caesar salad, so I might help him out at one point.
  • I'm going to use the basil from this week and last and make some pesto.
  • We've been frying zucchini with dinners every night and we'll keep doing that to try to get through the squash. We might also have some squash risotto, although standing over a hot stove stirring risotto sounds tedious right now.
  • I have no idea what we're going to do with the dill or the garlic.

And that's all that is all in this week's installment of I Don't Know How to Use Herbs and Spices.

Monday, July 13, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

I loved Gruen's previous novel, Water for Elephants, so when our book club started debating between At the Water's Edge and the 700-plus page A Little Life, I managed to sway my fellow members into the Gruen book because I didn't want to read 700 pages. 

The book was fine.

It wasn't quite a mystery, it wasn't quite a romance, and it clearly wasn't historically accurate for many of the women sitting around a table outside last night (I don't know enough about WWII-era Scotland to be pulled out of a novel by historical inaccuracies, but it seemed like my ignorance was the exception), and so it didn't really make any one fall in love.

The book had an exceptionally slow start. If I had been Gruen's editor, I would have essentially started the book when the main character got on the boat to Scotland and included flashbacks of the necessary scenes to sort of explain the character's behavior throughout the story, but I am not an editor, so I'm sure there's a reason this wasn't done. But after a slow start and when the actual rising action began, I felt compelled to finish the book and was excited to see how Gruen tied it all up.  Yes, I thought the random magical realism elements in the last fifty pages of the book were essentially the only way Gruen could back herself out of some plot holes and yes, the payoff was certainly less than in Water for Elephants, it was a perfectly acceptable summer read. 

We also spent an inordinate amount of time discussing how much the woman on the cover of the book looks like Taylor Swift. We are nothing if not thorough.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

CSA: Week 5

This week's vegetable basket includes:
Summer squash
Lettuce (2)
Green kale
Garlic scapes
This is even  more dire than last week's basket, but we'll do our best.
  • Squash: I think I'm going to try a variant of cornbread zucchini. I'm not sure if it will work in a gluten free recipe, but I'm going to make an attempt.  The worst thing that can happen is that it won't be that good!
  • Lettuce: We're going to have tacos and burgers for dinners, which will help a bit. Otherwise, this is all on Dr. BB because I still don't like lettuce!
  • Radishes: I will eat them, don't you worry. The bulbs will be snacks and the greens will be used as a lunch side over leftover polenta.
  • Sage: I have no real idea on this one. Maybe use some of it to marinate some of the zucchini before roasting it?
  • Scapes: Well, we still have scapes from last week!  I think we'll include some of them in a polenta lasagna we're doing tonight for dinner, but otherwise I'm sure I'll tell you about how we still have them for next week. 
We did okay with last week's basket. We still have some of the scapes, all of the onions, and we haven't yet grilled the summer squash, but the scapes and onions will keep for a bit and the squash will probably keep until the end of the summer if absolutely necessary.
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