A few months ago, I stopped by Powells Books in Portland. Since it’s the most awesome book store in the world, I can’t seem to leave without buying at least one book. Since I’d started cooking a lot more vegetarians meals, I decided that a veg cookbook would be worth having. As tempted as I was to shell out $35 for Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I opted instead for a $9 used copy of Vegetarian Cooking & Vegetable Classics, by Roz Denny & Christine Ingram. I admit, I mainly bought it for the pictures.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Wikipedia: Melakwa Lake is a lake in King County, Washington. The name Melakwa comes from a local native term for “mosquito.”
I admit to being a weather wimp, and usually when the forecast looks bad, I cancel my hikes. But the hiking season is reaching its end and I hadn’t gone anywhere in a month, so this Sunday’s hike was a “rain or shine” sort of thing. Having exhausted all of my lucky weather points on my backpacking and Rainier trips, of course… it rained.
I guess there are some benefits to the rain. The cool weather drives the bugs away, and the rain drives the people away. When we reached the lake, we were the only ones there for a little while, something that would be pretty impossible during a summer weekend. It also gave the views a little more depth, I think. It’s easy to see the beauty when the sun is shining and everything’s green, blue, or flowery. But on an overcast day, you have to look a little harder to find that beauty, and in a way, you see more.
Trees that are usually just trees end up looking magical because of the layers of fog in between them. One of our party members discovered that since the fog was moving, if you stared for a moment, it gave the illusion that the trees were moving, too. Not too many blueberries left (the Saturday people probably ate anything that was there), but the fall foliage was in magnificent form, the bright oranges and yellows popping out even more in the overcast conditions.
One of the reasons that this is a great hike is because there’s a lot to see on the way to the lake. There are several waterfalls, Keekwulee Falls being probably the most impressive of them. As we were looking around for Snowshoe Falls (harder to spot), a little kid heading back with his family announced to us, “Pat yourself on the back! You just passed Snowshoe Falls!” We really must have looked like sad drowned rats in desperate need of encouragement!
My hiking group did part of this hike a few years ago but turned around before reaching Hemlock Pass. Looking back over those pictures, things look so different as the seasons change. Nice to experience it in another way and to finally reach the lake at the end! Cautions about trail conditions at this time of year, though… lots of mud, and a good portion of the trail is rocky, which slows things down when the rocks are wet.
Great hike, but I am hoping for some sunny weekends in October. Still a weather wimp. :)
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
One of the most fun things about CSA programs is that occasionally I encounter items that I’ve never seen before. Pleasant surprises in the past include mizuna, cranberry beans, and garlic scapes. This time, when I saw lemon cucumbers on the produce list, I selected it, expecting a regular cucumber with yellow skin.
Nope! They’re yellow in color and somewhat lemon-like in size. When I first looked in my box, I briefly mistook them for potatoes. Looks like a cucumber on the inside, though! I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so I searched for recipes, and this recipe jumped at me. I ended up really barely following it. I didn’t have any yogurt, so I used mayonnaise. I’ve been eating a lot of eggs and potatoes for breakfast, so I skipped those and put in some leftover pasta instead. My very casually written recipe is below. Fresh, sweet corn + cherry tomatoes + lemon cucumbers = yum!
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Though I like fall colors, I love summer styles, no matter how impractical or work inappropriate they are. I’m with Sandy with the growing collection of “useless summer dresses,” and yet… I’m drawn to these end-of-summer sales. Ridiculous Ruffles shirt ended up being returned, so I allowed myself to hunt the sale rack today. Hopefully this is the last round for the season!
Marblehead Tank - $39.95 (original price: $70)
Everyone says they want this tank, but I found surprisingly few blogger reviews of it. I ordered this from the website and based on the reviews, I uncharacteristically ordered an XS. The body fit fine, but the size of my shoulders/bust made the top part look awkward. I exchanged in-store for a size S. I still don’t get the fit. Everything about the top part is narrow, and everything on the bottom part is wide. The straps are also surprisingly short, so tall girls might be out of luck on this one. I love the details, the menswear-like black fabric, and the fact that I can wear it without a bra. So I’ve got it for now, and I’ll think about whether or not it’s worth the $40.
Mystery Cardie (by Guenevere) - $19.99 (original price: unknown)
I just can’t pass up the 2nd cut rack. Liked the color, decent enough style, great price. It’s a size M, the smallest they had. I paired it with Leifsdottir’s Majestic Cypress Dress just as an excuse to put the dress on. :) (Speaking of useless summer dresses…)
Friday, September 17, 2010
With the economy and job market as unstable as they have been for a little while now, it’s not surprising that discount sites are the latest fad. Sites like Gilt Groupe, RueLaLa, HauteLook, billion dollar babes, and ideeli have short sales that offer large percentages off designer clothes, home furnishings, and occasionally other items. Suddenly, brands like Vera Wang and Valentino are priced in a range that normal people like me can stretch to reach. And a few of the designers that are found at Anthro have had sales pop up on these sites, including Leifsdottir and Tracy Reese.
Funny enough, even discount sites have sales! If you don’t manage to snag the item you want the first time around, you can cross your fingers that it comes back in a second round sale (usually for a cheaper price). I hit a Gilt weekend sale and managed to snag one of their cheapest items, a pair of Loomstate organic cotton jeans (normal price: $168) for a mere $5!
But we three at Myriad of Muses are all about experiences (and as studies show, experiences make us happier than possessions). Fortunately, there are plenty of discount sites for those, too!
Daily local deals – cheap spa treatments, yoga classes at incredibly low rates, 50% off at restaurants, even trapeze classes – are available at lots of sites: Groupon, LivingSocial, LocalTwist, Plum District, etc. Or how about 50% off tickets to local plays, concerts, and shows at Goldstar?
I’m excited about deal sites like these because they make it cheap and easy to try something new. A few deals I’ve purchased and am looking forward to using:
- Unlimited month of yoga at a new studio near me
- Class for making lotions and salves
- Sea kayaking in the San Juans
- High tea at the Fairmont in Vancouver
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
It’s nearing the end of the summer CSA session, as well as the seasonal closings of many local farmers markets. Though I do have some visions of a winter full of take out containers, I’m more focused on the awesomeness of this part of the summer. At this point, it has been warm enough for the later summer crops to be available, and I’m enjoying a bounty of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and zucchini.
Though I’ve been getting lettuce all along, but there are some really big, beautiful heads appearing in my box right now. That green leaf lettuce pictured above is about 1.5x the size of my head! Sungold cherry tomatoes, marcona almonds, croutons, Parmesan cheese, and Italian dressing for a traditional salad. Tangerine slices, French-fried onions, almond slivers, and a sesame-ginger Asian vinaigrette for a fusion salad. Why pay $12 for an entree-sized salad in a restaurant when it’s so easy to do at home?
Eggplant, tomato, and Italian parsley is another combination of seasonal ingredients I’ve been having a lot of lately. Last week, I made an eggplant bruschetta, which ended up on a few of my leftovers flatbreads for days afterwards. Tonight, it went into a creamy pasta sauce (with spinach), paired with a side of red potatoes.
And that’s what I’m eating these days! Next thing to look forward to: winter squash.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
They had this on sale at my store for $49.95, but it's not on sale company wide, I think. At least, I don't remember this being mentioned as being on sale on the blogs. I can't tell because they've sold out online and taken down their link. (Edit: Nah, my memory just sucks. On sale last week.) They only had a size 2, which USED to be my normal Floreat size, until they recently decided to stretch out their clothing in the last few months. I loved this on the website, and I loved it when seeing it on the rack, but not on person. This was way too big. I don't think you can see it, but the armholes are gigantically big on this shirt. If you were standing next to me, you could probably see everything inside the shirt. Hrm no. And what is with this giant bib on it? I love the embroidered flowers, but no, not for me.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Another run post, this one from the opposite end of the spectrum… :)
I have never been a runner. Before this summer, I don’t know if I had ever run distances more than one mile. Running is what I would do to myself at the gym if I didn’t have time to spend 25 minutes on the elliptical and wanted a torturous way of burning calories in a compressed time. But I’d either do intervals or run for 8 minutes and then walk incline. Distance, pace, and calories burned was discouraging to me – it seemed really wimpy to run only one mile, burn 100 calories, and feel as exhausted as I did.
I suspect a lot of women out there can relate to my experience. Running, despite the simplicity of the act (a kid can do it with no training!), can be one of the most daunting sports to get into. The high-impact cardio aspect of it is tough for people not in great shape, and it seems like there’s a huge gap between the starting point and the “runners,” who casually run distances that have numbers that are really scary to me.
Enter Couch to 5k. I’d been thinking about this program for awhile, and when I saw a temporary online deal for Running Evolution’s 6 week class, I went for it. There is no magic in the training process, but it really helped to have a group of people to run with and Beth, an awesome running coach, full of warmth and encouragement. We had weekly class where we gradually increased our distance, and she also gave us “homework,” things like “jog 5 minutes / walk 1 minute for 30 minutes.”
The #1 lesson I learned from this class, the thing that really took me from “I can barely run a mile” to “I can run 3 miles” was this: Start off slow. It sounds stupid and simple, right? But I just didn’t get it before. I was going for 6-6.5 mph on the treadmill, and I thought going slow was 5 mph or so. No, turns out slow is more like 4 mph – conversational speed for a beginner. At this pace, a mile felt so much easier, and greater distances became achievable. Besides, you burn about the same number of calories for the distance whether you go slow or fast, as long as you’re at least jogging. Note that I’m 5’4, and if you’re shorter or taller, your comfortable pace will be different.
By the end of the class, I could wake up and jog 3 miles, no problem. I will confess to not having taking my training incredibly seriously (outside of class, I’d run once or twice a week), but the other exercise I do – gym, yoga, hiking, skiing – all helped. But there was one thing missing… an actual 5k. I found out about the IronGirl 5k/10k race, and it sounded perfect:
- The course was around Green Lake in Seattle, so all flat.
- Entry fee was a mere $25 for the 5k, no need to bug all my friends to do fundraisers for diseases.
- All girls! So the event shirt was a cute technical tee sized for women! (Unfortunately, the bathroom line was also what you’d expect it to be at an event of 3000-ish women)
- You get a stuffed Alfac duck. And everyone who finishes (run or walk) gets a medal.
Waking up at 5:30am sucks, but the race was a lot of fun. There was an expo of sponsors giving away free goodies (many pictured above, cat not included), including Luna Bars, a peppermint foot soak, and hair rubber bands. My goals for the race were 1) not to walk at all and 2) to finish with a pace of 12 min/mile. So I lined up with the 12 minute girls, and it ended up being too slow. I had to pass a bunch of people to get to people going as fast as I wanted to go. The race did feel like hard work. Around the 2nd mile marker, I started to feel a little tired, and I slowed my pace for a little while. Well, the hard work paid off in the end. I was really excited to see the clock at 35 minutes as I crossed the finish line, but I knew my actual time was even lower because it took awhile to get everyone through the start line.
Chip time: 33:40
Pace: 10:52 min/mile
So much better than I was hoping for! And Beth was at the finish line, cheering for all of the Couch to 5k students who were running at the event!
10 minute mile, you are in my future. And a 10k… and more? We’ll see!
YOU can do this, too. Even if you don’t have a class available, there are many resources:
- One of many Couch to 5k training programs @ CoolRunning
- I use WalkJogRun to map neighborhood running routes so I can 1) run from my driveway, 2) know how far I’m running without a GPS, and 3) see the elevation profile ahead of time to avoid huge hills. There are several other sites like this, and you can find other people’s routes, too.
- School tracks are a great place to run. Many of them around here give runners keys for a small one-time fee, but at the one I use, the gate is usually unlocked.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
- Wearing the proper-fitting clothing and shoes (get your stride/pronation measured by professionals in a specialized running store) really does matter. Runners should get a half size larger shoe for running shoes due to the feet needing space for movement. I was starting to get blisters on my toes in my simple trainer Rykä shoes due to my feet variously hitting the front of the shoe when I ran more than 7 miles. I picked up Nike Zoom Structure Triax+13 Breathe that provided good stability and padding for my feet type.
- Wear sunblock or a cap when outside (self-explanatory).
- Control breathing to slow, deep breathing--panting only wears out the runner faster
- Take glucosamine chondroitin if having joint issues.
- Transfer weight evenly in feet when running; no landing on heel or ball of foot.
- Keep the body and arms relaxed, any unnecessary tensing of muscles uses energy inefficiently
- Drink a moderate amount of water before running
Friday, September 10, 2010
Just caught this on the front page of Yahoo. Apparently there's an idea floating around for an airline seat shaped like a saddle. I think the pained look on the lady's face says it all.
Okay, it's fairly obvious I have some horseback riding experience and have spent plenty of time in a saddle. I will say that I do not want to ever ride in that seat. One of the directors of the company that is unveiling this new saddle seat claims that this is perfectly acceptable because "cowboys ride eight hours on their horses during the day and still feel comfortable in the saddle." I've ridden for an hour + and feel comfortable in a saddle, and could have easily kept going.
WTF NO. THIS SEAT LOOKS NOTHING LIKE A SADDLE.
Dude, weird hump in middle of seat is not equal to saddle. I suppose if I'm trying to perfect my equitation, this seat works. Kind of. I can't bring my legs back as far back as they need to be (heels should line up with my hips and shoulders). The seat back is also tipping her forward - she can't bring back her shoulders. But ... perfect equitation is PAINFUL! And it's not something I want to do for 8 hours!
Guy has clearly never ridden before. That line about the cowboy riding comfortably for 8 hours is pissing me off, so here's my rebuke. First of all, eliminating leg room is a minus. In a saddle, there's plenty of room to stretch out your legs. Stirrups hang from leather stirrup straps that are attached only at the very top of the strap and have plenty of room to move. Shove your legs forward, kick them out sideways ... easily able to relax your legs. I would seriously like to lean back too, past 90 degrees. There's a nice little upcropping on the back of a saddle called the cantle that helps to support the butt and the hips. It's really high on the western saddles, so yes, a cowboy could lean back on that the whole day and spend a comfy 8 hours in a saddle. Not, you know, sitting ramrod straight in that awful seat back. My elbows are supposed to be tucked in, but I don't think cowboys spend all day sitting like a prissy English rider. I'm sure they move their arms around, scratch their heads and butts and all that, while getting the blood circulated. And they also move around in the saddle! Turning around, checking on their cows, shifting their weight back and forth to match the rhythm of the horse's pace .... I suppose if I'm flying in this seat, I could stand up and down and make posting motions like I'm trotting, but that'll look stupid. (I know, cowboys don't post in a western saddle, they'll slam their balls into the pommel. Still, as bad as it looks, it's much better than trying to make cantering motions with my hips. That would look really inappropriate ...)
Saddle seat fail.
I missed these last fall when they were the non-tweed Scarf Tied Oxfords, so I had to make sure I got these now. (Nina is giggling somewhere, because a few months back, we were bored at work, so we began doing really bad MS Paint pictures of each other. Mine featured me wearing shoes with bows on them. And now, what do we have? Shoes that tie with a giant bow!)
These are gorgeous! I think they look rather spiffy, and I find them pretty comfortable as well. Or they will be, once I've broken them in. I have my usual two places of discomfort that I find with all shoes, so I don't think it's this particular pair. The shoes are cutting up the back of my left heel, which my Side By Side flats did as well, and they're rubbing against the area right behind my right toes, which all my ballet flats have done as well. I think I just have a bony right foot, maybe. (And apparently very thin skin with the left heel.) But otherwise, I've worn them twice and I find them to be nicely padded and no discomfort other than the two usual suspects.
Oh, and my pants are not usually that short, as shown in the left picture. ;) Just hitched my pants up to get a better shot of the shoes.
In my ever lasting search for the perfect pair of fashion riding boots, I have discovered .... not riding boots. ;) I was at DSW looking at riding boots, and found them all lacking in some way, but these Diba boots were sitting in the aisle across from them, and they were so cute I had to try them on. Slouchy suede with a bow!
I ended up loving them and taking them home with me. Didn't help that the price was reasonable, compared to the other boots I've been heavily eyeing this fall. I just wore them to work today and snapped pics of them since there was a handy floor length mirror in the bathroom. (I really need to buy one for my house.) The lightning is not great, as you can tell. It came out really dark, so I snapped another close up pic when I got back to my desk. That came out a little too bright - it's a lovely dark chocolate brown, but the closeup makes it look more on the red side, which it is not. The stock picture is the closest.
The shoe needs a bit of padding in the sole, I've realized. My feet started aching after walking in them for awhile, but they'll be fine for short jaunts to work or to the store or similar. They would not be my first choice for an extended shopping trip in downtown Chicago or a long afternoon at the mall or anything similar.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
It’s not hard to figure out from my posts that I’m a fast mover. When I want something, I usually go after it, and I usually go after it quickly. I think a lot of Americans tend to be that way – or if they don’t go after it, they at least want their desires fulfilled quickly.
Naturally, there has to be an opposition to this, and we see it in forms of organizations like the Slow Food Movement and people who are advocating simplicity and living on as little as possible. But it’s a hard sell in this country, I think. It all sounds good in theory, but people still want to know what they will get out of it before they commit.
So with food, why wait? Why spend half an hour diligently stirring risotto when I can pick up pretty tasty fried rice for $8 at a local Thai restaurant? Why wait for it to get sunny and warm enough in Seattle (that would be late July, by the way!) for local summer crops to start showing up when I can get mangos and hot house peppers at the grocery store at any time of year?
Admittedly, I give into the instant gratification temptations often enough. But one of the lessons I’ve learned through the CSA programs I’ve done over the last few years is that there’s an added element of enjoyment in waiting for something. Things taste better when they are grown when and where they grow naturally. Delayed gratification forces a period of anticipation, which makes the satisfaction at end result even greater. And when the anticipation of something occurs each year, there's the opportunity for great traditions to form.
For me, one of these traditions started when one of my CSA boxes contained tomatillos. I'd never seen tomatillos before, so I had no idea what to do with them. I ended up doing what everyone else does - salsa verde! I liked it so much that I made it the next time I saw tomatillos. And I can only eat so much salsa on my own, so I ended up bringing a batch to work. That ended up being popular enough that the next year when I saw tomatillos at the farmers market, I made salsa and brought it to work. Now it's a tradition! Tomatillos appeared for the first time this season in last week's box, so salsa appeared at work on Wednesday. It's also a good excuse to catch up with my friends while munching on chips and salsa.
Each batch ends up being different because I never measure things, and the strength of the garlic and jalepenos seems to vary widely.
~1 lb tomatillos, husks removed
small onion, chopped
2-4 jalepeno peppers, chopped (seeds removed for a milder salsa)
handful of cilantro
2-4 cloves garlic
salt & pepper (to taste)
1. Boil the tomatillos for 10 minutes.
2. Dump everything in a food processor and blend until it looks like salsa.
Variations: My preference is for this salsa to be mild and sweet. I've added apple to the recipe before, and this year I put in a little sugar.
There are other minor "traditions" I have when certain vegetables are in season... grilling corn, zucchini bread, and starting this year, fava bean risotto. What are yours?
Friday, September 3, 2010
When I signed up for the Growing Washington summer CSA, one of the items I was most looking forward to during the season was heirloom tomatoes. They’ve got so much more character and flavor than the waxy, generic grocery store breeds. And they’re so expensive at farmers markets that I generally can’t bring myself to buy them.
Well, tomatoes are coming in our boxes now! Sungold cherry tomatoes, big beef slicing tomatoes, Roma tomatoes… who knows what will be on the list next week. I haven’t been overwhelmed to the point where I’m making salsa yet, but I have definitely been eating a lot of tomatoes.
The nutty taste of fingerling potatoes is another thing I love. I’ve been spoiling myself for breakfast! I microwave the potatoes for about 3 minutes (fingerlings are small), then cut them up and cook them with everything else.
For a slightly healthier variation on some of these flavors, I’ve also done a spinach salad with the tomatoes, marcona almonds, French-fried onions, and Asian sesame dressing.
fan qie chao dan – stir-fried tomato and eggs
This is the dish that you never see in Chinese restaurants (in the States) but every Chinese person eats. I’m serious. Talk to anyone, particularly Chinese kids raised in the US, and they will begin to spout off their love for this incredible simple dish. Though I think my love for this was heightened by the fact that my parents would serve us mustard greens, bitter melon, and chicken livers otherwise.
I can’t make it quite like my mom does – in this picture, I got lazy and my tomato slices are too big, and everything isn’t saucy enough. But if you check the internet, everyone’s got their own recipe. Some people say peanut oil, some people add ketchup, some go with sugar, some go with salt. My rendition adds sugar to the eggs and salt, soy sauce, and mirin to the tomatoes.
I have a lot of love for Uwajimaya, my local Japanese grocery store. The selection of sashimi-grade seafood is one of the reasons for that love. When I saw value-priced packages of wild sockeye salmon, I had to snatch them up.
I’ve been eating lunch at Kiku Sushi a lot recently because they’ve got interesting selections for lunch. One of my favorites was an albacore tataki donburi. So for my sashimi, I fashioned a lazy version of that, with sushi rice, soy sauce, and furikake (Japanese rice seasoning).
Tracy Reese Dreamy Drape Dress (Sale $79.95)
I tried it on when it first came out, and couldn't figure out how to drape the sleeve. I tried it on when it went on sale yesterday .... and still couldn't figure out how to drape the sleeve. I think you might have to fully pull out the wider sleeve, like what Nina has below, but that looked even worse on me, so no pictures of it that way. Needless to say ... not for me. It looks way better on Jenni.
Another Tracy Reese frock, but I liked this one a lot better than the Drapey Mess. It fits pretty well, but the orangey-red color is a bit more orangey than I prefer, especially for $130. Ouch! Maybe on second cut.
I love the name. The coat, not so much. Look how it sags. Okay, I think that's all we need to say about this.
I think I kind of like this. I would want the tanish-brown color though, since I think this olive green is a little too military style for me (I prefer the more romantic feminine styles). I'd have to size down to a 6, though - my store was out so I tried on an 8. It's a bit too big. I hope it makes it to sale, although probably by the time it hits sale, it'll be spring!
Ah Tabitha, how I love thee. I love this dress. It looks just like my Night Blooming Dress! I love the silky top. I love the corduroy skirt. Sale, please, please. I can't buy it at full price when I already have NBD.
Yay for pretty but useless summer dresses! (I say useless because I really don't have anywhere to wear these pretty dresses too. But I keep buying them.) Oh well, I'm thinking I'll just throw a cardi over it for fall. And button it too, or else it's wayyyy too revealing. I don't think that'll make management happy at work! Anyways, when I went back to work and mused over the Two Wheeler, Jenni began sending me strongly worded hints.
"Sandy should get the cyan dress!"
"It would look great on you!"
Wouldn't you know, I had tried it on that day too and it was tied with the Two Wheeler in my final cut. I finally put it back because I had nowhere to wear it and because I had such a longtime sentimental bond with the Two Wheeler. So I went back and re-reviewed my Sweetbriar pictures. And ... yup, I liked more than the Two Wheeler. A lot more. So I went back after work and when I returned Two Wheeler, I bought the Sweetbriar, to Jenni's eternal joy. (And mine, although I still think she's happier about this purchase than I am. Probably because I'm the one that spent the money and not her!)
Now, to begin saving money for the horribly expensive September catalog. Curtsey Coat($298) and Best of Bunch Cardigan($268), ouch!
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Deviating from my food and hiking, Nina brings you her Anthropologie fitting room stylings. I’m bigger than the other two and decidedly less feminine – both in body and in taste.
Rational Ruffles Tee in Sky (Sale: $29.95)
Jenni told me I should try it on, and I dismissed it as too frilly for me. But I tried it on anyway because I’m a sucker for this type of blue. It’s definitely frillier than I like, the cut is a little low for me, and the shoulders are kind of weird. But styled with a cardigan, I think it looks more reasonable. Like the PJ pants? :)
Marianne Tank (sale: $19.95)
This was a second cut, and I couldn’t say no to the price! I wouldn't say it's my favorite top in the world, but it adds something to my wardrobe and fits decently.
San Vitale Tank (sale: $19.95)
Second cut. This is huge. But it’s perfect as a maternity top, and it’s going to be a gift to someone in need of one. :)
And now on to some sale fail…