I made a quick stop by the Frye Museum today to visit one of my favorite rooms in all of Seattle. (If only I could have stayed the whole afternoon getting lost in these paintings!)
When I'm reading, I collect favorite sentences in different ways – some I type up, print out, and pin to a board in my office, others I take a picture of with my phone, others I save as a Goodreads quote. But I've wanted to have one central place to easily organize them all. A while back I created a little site called A Love of Sentences and have been slowly updating it; my intention is to continually add lines from stories and books I'm currently reading, as well as dig up some gems from previously read books. You can check out the site here; I hope you fellow readers & writers enjoy it.
I've made this cobbler more times than I can count. I've been making it with strawberries and rhubarb, but it works beautifully with mixed berries, too. (And though I haven't tried it with peaches or other fruit, I'm confident it would be just as tasty.) Usually I make double this amount and bake it in a small casserole dish (approximately 6"x8") which yields one night of freshly baked dessert and a second night of nearly-as-good leftover dessert. But just to shake things up, I figured I'd adapt the recipe for two perfect portions. Enjoy!
Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler For Two
adapted from Epicurious
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 cup chopped rhubarb (frozen okay)
1 cup chopped strawberries (frozen okay)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1.25 Tbsp butter (cut into smaller pieces)
3 Tbsp milk
vanilla ice cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Add the chopped fruit and toss to coat. Set aside. In another mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Throw in the pieces of butter and smash/massage the pieces into the flour mixture until a coarse meal forms. Add the milk and stir. (The dough will be quite sticky.) Divide the fruit mixture into two 6-ounce ramekins and spoon the dough over top. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet, as the bubbling fruit may spill over the edge. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and cooked through. Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if you like.
Here's four recent books I enjoyed...
1. The Painted Veil (W. Somerset Maugham) – "The verandah was in shadow; and lazily, her heart at ease with satisfied love, she lingered. Their house stood in the Happy Valley, on the side of the hill, for they could not afford to live on the more eligible but expensive Peak. But her abstracted gaze scarcely noticed the blue sea and the crowded shipping in the harbor. She could think only of her lover."
2. Dept. of Speculation (Jenny Offill) – "The wife has begun planning a secret life. In it, she is an art monster. She puts on yoga pants and says she is going to yoga, then pulls off onto a country lane and writes in tiny cramped handwriting on a grocery list. She thinks she should go off her meds maybe so as to write more fluidly. Possibly this is not a good idea. But only possibly."
3. The Member of the Wedding (Carson McCullers) – "In the past year she had grown four inches, or at least that was what she judged. Already the hateful little summer children hollered to her: "Is it cold up there?" And the comments of grown people make Frankie shrivel on her heels. If she reached her height on her eighteenth birthday, she had five and one-sixth growing years ahead of her. Therefore, according to mathematics and unless she could somehow stop herself, she would grow to be over nine feet tall."
4. Ward No. 6 and Other Stories (Anton Chekhov) – "He had read a great deal. He would sit at the club, nervously pulling at his beard and looking through the magazines and books; and from his face one could see that he was not reading, but devouring the pages without giving himself time to digest what he read. It must be supposed that reading was one of his morbid habits, as he fell upon anything that came into his hands with equal avidity, even last year's newspapers and calendars. At home he always read lying down."
Do you have any reading goals for 2016? I'm hoping to read more poetry, and to not feel bad about abandoning a book if I'm not enjoying it... there are too many good books out there to squander time on unexciting ones.
Hi guys. Sorry for the radio silence! I was dedicating most of my time to filling holiday orders, and then was down in Los Angeles part of last week visiting family. Today I started settling back into the normal routine and thought about things I haven't done much of in the past six weeks – like bringing home fresh flowers. Surprisingly, there were tulips available. It's awfully nice to have a reminder of spring on these cold, pale days.
Zelda has changed a lot since we got her – at first she was very vocal, very much a lap cat, and very unsure of Rufus. Now she rarely meows (though she does grumble a bit when she wakes up from a nap, which is cute), and she no longer cares to curl up on my lap. She also now thinks she's the boss of Rufus. They still aren't friends, exactly, but neither are they enemies. The other day a neighbor cat came slinking through the yard and Rufus and Zelda sat together at the window staring at it, thumping their tails with indignation. How dare another cat come around! It's their yard. It's their house.
It feels like forever since I've shared an update about my novel-in-stories, though in actuality it's been about ten months. So. What's been going on with it? Lots of ups and downs (as usual), lots of "This isn't very good. Why do I keep working on it?" followed by "Wait. I do really like this one scene. And that one's not bad, either. And this part's actually quite nice." And so on.
Despite the recurring doubt, in the last ten months I have made a lot of progress. I've gone through another three drafts. I've stopped skipping over the parts of the book that I kept telling myself I'd fix later; I actually got around to fixing them. I put on my too-small editing hat and watched my word count drop from 90,000 to 78,000, but as a result saw the good parts buoy up to the surface.
I've finally reached the point of feeling good enough about my book to start sharing it with other people.
Sharing your work, especially a project that you've been working on for a long time, is daunting, exciting, nerve-wracking, and a relief. Positive feedback is awesome; even the kindest thoughtful criticism inevitably makes you feel a little dumb (how was I so blind?) yet is also extremely necessary. I'm lucky to have a handful of friends and a husband whom I can get this sort of feedback from. I'm also looking into hiring a freelance fiction editor, too — as an investment in both this book and my writing in general.
A huge lesson I've learned in the process of writing this book has been to not count on your plans going as you expect. I've been working on this book for close to 3 years, and I had to completely start over at one point. But for anyone wondering, and in a continued effort to hold myself accountable, here's the plan for the months to follow: collect as much feedback as I can, use draft number five to fix what's not working, use draft number six for a final polish, then figure out how to get this book out into the world.
My favorite books from the last few months...
1. Housekeeping (Marilynne Robinson) – "When they had gone to bed Lucille and I got up and sat by the window wrapped in a quilt and watched the few clouds fly. There was a bright moon in a storm ring, and Lucille made plans to build a moon dial out of snow under our window. The light at the window was strong enough to play cards by, but we could not read. We stayed awake the whole night because Lucille was afraid of her dreams."
2. My Ántonia (Willa Cather) – "I had the feeling that the world was left behind, that we had got over the edge of it, and were outside man's jurisdiction. I had never before looked up at the sky when there was not a familiar mountain ridge against it. But this was the complete dome of heaven, all of it. I did not believe that my dead father and mother were watching me from up there; they would still be looking for me at the sheep-fold down by the creek, or along the white road that led to the mountain pastures."
3. The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafón) – "I roamed through galleries filled with hundreds, thousands of volumes. After a while it occurred to me that between the covers of each of those books lay a boundless universe waiting to be discovered, while beyond those walls, in the outside world, people allowed life to pass by in afternoons of football and radio soaps, content to do little more than gaze at their navels. It might have been that notion, or just chance, or its more flamboyant relative, destiny, but at that precise moment, I knew I had already chosen the book I was going to adopt, or that was going to adopt me."
4. The Hours (Michael Cunningham) – "Clarissa crosses Eighth Street. She loves, helplessly, the dead television set abandoned on the curb alongside a single white patent-leather pump. She loves the vendor's cart piled with broccoli and peaches and mangoes, each labeled with an index card that offers a price amid abundances of punctuation: "$1.49!!" "3 for ONE Dollar!?!" "50 Cents EA!!!!!" Ahead, under the Arch, an old woman in a dark, neatly tailored dress appears to be singing, stationed precisely between the twin statues of George Washington, as warrior and politician, both faces destroyed by weather. It's the city's crush and heave that move you; its intricacy; its endless life."
What have you been reading lately?
How many hobbies do you have that you truly keep up with? Writing, film photography, sewing, knitting, baking, drawing, gardening, making plush toys, flower arranging, ballet... a brief history of my fixations. Every time a new one comes along I'm convinced it will trump all the rest: why haven't I done this before? It's so fun! Must buy supplies. Must scour Instagram for other people who are into it, too. Must check every book out at the library about it. And so on, until a few weeks or months pass and the said hobby has fallen off the radar.
The last few days I've been playing around with embroidery. I've been collecting inspiration and threading and rethreading my needle, and daydreaming about possibilities. Possibly there will never be another post about embroidery again on this blog, but maybe there will. Either way, I'm learning, will be just fine.
I discovered Land Bird a few months ago at Renegade Craft Fair and immediately fell in love. The line is handmade by Nancy Froehlich in Oregon, and her pieces are stackable and food, microwave, and dishwasher safe. Lovely, aren't they? Even better, I'm now stocking a selection of Land Bird ceramic bowls at Mignon! You can find the dessert bowls here and soup bowls here, or learn more about Nancy's work over on her website.
Meet Zelda, our newest little troublemaker. She's about 1 or 2 years old, is a small gal (7 pounds, which is almost half the weight of Rufus!) and has made herself right at home.
As for what Rufus thinks of her...
...surprisingly, he's been nothing but a gentleman (gentlecat?) but Zelda isn't quite convinced, and has started plenty of arguments with him. Still, there are glimmers of feline friendship, too, like when they shared a spot at the window sill for a few minutes. I would love for them to cuddle up together, but one step at a time. For now, I'll take what I can get.
This last weekend I was in Victoria, BC celebrating my birthday. The last time I'd visited was in high school – I was in marching band & jazz band and every so often we got to take trips to participate in parades and such. This time I got to explore this lovely city with my husband. We went to afternoon tea at the Empress (ooh la la!), visited Munro's Books, squeezed through Fan Tan Alley (above), enjoyed Foo Asian Street Food, and befriended some goats (and watched them stampede!) at Beacon Hill Children's Farm. I shared a few more photos on instagram, too, if you'd like to see.
Here's some snippets from the last few weeks of sketching... after sharing these doodles I felt really encouraged by your comments (thank you!) and have made it an almost-daily practice. I still haven't drawn a full environment or comic strip that I'm happy with, but I'm working on it.
Last winter I started drinking green smoothies for breakfast and now my weekday mornings don't feel quite right without one. (Weekend mornings, on the other hand, are a different story – bring on the coffee, eggs, and hash browns!) There are so many different ingredients that can go into a breakfast smoothie, and I'm always changing it up and experimenting. I've learned that I don't really care for berries because of the seeds (though seeds don't bother me at all if I eat berries fresh), and that simply adding some water is the best way to control a smoothie's consistency. And instead of adding ice to make it cold, I slice and freeze my fruit ahead of time.
My current favorite: water, some plain greek yogurt, a big handful of spinach or kale, and a little each of orange, banana, and pineapple. I always add a spoonful of flaxseed, too. I also just picked up some shelled hempseed, wheatgrass capsules, goji berries, and chia seeds, but I think I'll gradually introduce those into the mix. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the possible add-ins!
Do you have any favorite breakfast smoothie combos? I'd love to hear.
I've been really inspired by Lucy Knisley's graphic novels and as a result have been spending a few minutes here and there doodling. My default drawing mode is individual objects, especially food, household goods, and clothes (as you can see!)... but I'm trying to push myself to go outside my comfort zone and draw less familiar objects, as well as putting the objects into environments. Or into a narrative of some kind. (I think starting a visual journal would be really fun... we'll see!)
Do you draw? Do you have any favorite illustrators?
Something (hopefully) exciting for you today: I'm giving away a $100 gift card to Mignon! You could use it on anything from mini spatulas to stocking up on greeting cards – whatever your heart desires.
To enter, just leave a comment below. For up to 3 additional entries, share this giveaway on Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter, then leave another comment for each additional entry (be sure to include a link to your post!).
Giveaway closes at midnight on Friday, July 3rd. International entries welcome. A randomly selected winner will be notified via email. Good luck! Update: the winner is Muna. Thanks everyone!
A few books I've enjoyed recently...
1. Black Beauty (Anna Sewell) – "It was early in the spring; there had been a little frost in the night, and a light mist still hung over the woods and meadows. I and the other colts were feeding at the lower part of the field when we heard, quite in the distance, what sounded like the cry of dogs. The oldest of the colts raised his head, pricked his ears, and said, "There are the hounds!" and immediately cantered off, followed by the rest of us to the upper part of the field, where we could look over the hedge and see several fields beyond."
2. French Milk (Lucy Knisley) – a graphic novel about Lucy's six-week trip to Paris with her mother; it's structured more as a travel diary than a traditional narrative.
3. Dubliners (James Joyce) – "Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work."
4. Bullfighting (Roddy Doyle) – "But it wasn't all great, the getting-older business — far from. He'd started grunting whenever he picked something up or bent down to tie his laces, or whatever. He hated it. He'd tell himself to stop. But he'd forget. It became natural. Pick the soap up in the shower — grunt. Start the lawnmower — grunt. He didn't have to grunt. He was well able to bend over and the rest of it. He asked the lads, and they all did it, too."
What have you been reading lately?
We haven't done any weekend trips for a while, so I was really looking forward to this one. First we stopped by Astoria to visit the Goonies house (it's the film's 30th anniversary!), then headed to Cannon Beach to gape at Haystack Rock and enjoy the beach. We also spent a day in Portland for... what else? Food! Barista, Blue Star Donuts, lunch from Korean Twist, and dinner at Veritable Quandary. I'm so full. (Happily so.)
Radishes are one of my favorite things to grow because they're so fast – these took just about a month from planting to harvest. I enjoyed them today roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper. But I'm still convinced the best way to eat them is with bread and butter.
It's been a while since I've shared any book recommendations!
Here's six I've enjoyed in the last few months:
1. Heartburn (Nora Ephron) – "Our marriages were tied together. [...] Two of us liked dark meat and two of us liked light meat and together we made a chicken."
2. Lives of Girls and Women (Alice Munro) – "I would stand back against the steps and then run at it with my arms spread passionately, landing deep in fresh hay, still warm, still with its grassy growing smell. It was full of dried flowers—purple and white money-musk, yellow toadflax, little blue flowers nobody knew the name of."
3. House of Light (Mary Oliver) – "Tell me, what else should I have done? / Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? / Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?"
4. Being Mortal (Atul Gawande) – "In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all of its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story."
5. Bad Feminist (Roxane Gay) – "I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all."
6. The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters) – "She visited the WC, she laid the table for breakfast; she took the milk-can out to the front garden, put it to hang beside the gate. But when she had returned to the house and was lowering the gas in the hall she noticed a light still shining under her mother's door."
If you've read anything great recently, I'd love to hear about it.
Sometimes I want a super smooth, creamy soup – other times it's variety of texture that does the trick. This soup has been a recent favorite of mine exactly for that reason. It's got the hearty, chewy texture of barley, the slight crunch from the kale, and also a bit of softness from the cannellini beans. Add tomatoes and basil into the mix and you end up with lots of flavors and subtleties in every spoonful. Yum.
Kale, Barley, and Bean Soup (serves 4-6)
based on this Williams-Sonoma recipe
2/3 cup dry barley (about 2 cups cooked)*
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cups packed ripped lacinato kale
fresh basil leaves, julienned
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parmesan (optional)
Cook barley per the instructions on the package (typically combining a ratio of 1 parts barley to 3 parts water, bringing to a boil, then simmering for 45-60 minutes until tender). In a large pot, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and onions for 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked barley, cannellini beans, tomatoes, and kale, bring to a boil again, then reduce to low heat. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Taste, then season as needed with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and stir in the basil. Top with freshly grated parmesan, if desired.
*my suggestion: cook more barley than you need, then save the extra to mix into salads throughout the week – it's a great way of making them more hearty.
Hi! I'm Rachel, and these are bits of my days and things I like. I run the online shops Elephantine and Mignon, am working on a novel, and live in Seattle with my husband and two cats. Read more about this blog...
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