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A recent sunset, from my balcony.

I’m aching to be posting regularly again. But my attention is pulled in so many different directions right now.

A list of the things in my way:

  • Algebra class (I made a 96 on my first credit exam, so the studying which is keeping me from posting is paying off.)
  • Work: loving the new job, but I’ve got a lot more on my plate and October is, apparently, one of our busiest months. On the upside, I’ve been to Florida and Chicago for work trips. Florida blew, but Chicago rocked my socks. In addition to daily tasks, we’re hosting our annual research conference this month and I’ve got one more marathon to manage. I only had two of five weekends free this month.
  • Commute: I’ve committed to walking/biking more, which I actually really enjoy. Before the new job I worked across the street from my apartment, but now it’s 1.5 miles, so the walk is a little more engaging. One school  nights, I bike, so that I can bike from work to class across town.
  • Photo work. Though I keep thinking things are slowing down, I’ve done three shoots this month, and have two weddings left to go.
  • The Home Cure. This, actually, is what will get me posting again – thank you ApartmentTherapy.com
  • Improv. Have I mentioned I perform improv? For the last 4.5 years I’ve been playing as part of a troupe called microCOSM, and in the last 2 years we’ve been producing shows – honest-to-God profitable theater productions. We’ve recently incorporated as a non-profit organization, for which I am a founding board member. For more, visit the blog I manage for here.

And so, I mean to write more. I will write more. I miss writing here.

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Progress at last! My last post on good food vs. wallet I set a goal of spending $100 less in July than in June on groceries. Here’s the breakdown on 2010 grocery expenses, including farmers market:

What kind of greens are these?

Jan: $707

Feb: $818

Mar: $621

Apr: $793

May: $551

Jun: $724

July: $573 (more…)

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Cheers from my balcony!

1. Cool off with a summery drink. I’ve really been enjoying a Vinho Verde called Famega this summer – if you have not experienced a Vihno Verde, pick one up ASAP, they’re a “green wine” from Portugal. Slightly effervescent, crisp and minerally, Famega is a refreshing after-work or pre-dinner wine. It’s also nice at the end of the day, when the sun sets and it’s finally cool enough to sit outside and sip. Word of warning: don’t violate your city’s open container laws. Or, at least subvert them with clever packaging.

2. Make the heat and sun work for you: grow an herb. My favorites for ease and usefulness are basil and mint. Both thrive in a container in the sun, are not fussy about water and grow so rapidly that once the plant is established you can harvest it liberally. Use the basil on a homemade pizza or whip up a quick pesto. Use the mint in mojitos, or sprinkle fresh chopped leaves over summer fruits like watermelon, strawberries or peaches.

3. Beat the heat with indoor activities. Don’t be a hero – embrace free climate control when the weather is sweltering. Hot summer afternoons, and those evenings that just never cool off are perfect for visiting a museum or seeing a movie. In addition to enjoying a cool outing, you can leave your own A/C low or off while you’re out and save a little on your bill.

4. Cook lightly. It’s easy to heat up the house cooking, so opt for things that can be prepared in advance (like, in the morning while it’s cooler), cooked quickly, or not cooked at all. Visit my recipe section for a cool and delicious avocado bean salad, or chickpea and tuna salad, or just a plain old fresh garden salad with farmers market veggies. For quick cooking, a stir fry is hot but fast. And for summer’s best veggies, cook minimally. Last night, I made this delicious lentil and chickpea salad that, had I gathered the ingredients before this afternoon, could have been made in the morning and left to cool in the fridge till dinner. Next time!

5. Take advantage of summer’s bounty. Visit the farmers markets and feast on the local fresh produce. Nothing tastes like early summer lettuce and asparagus, midsummer peaches and squashes, tomatoes and peppers and watermelons. Eat your way through the brief weeks of summer, and you’ll realize fall comes all too soon. Farmers markets are a good excuse to get up early too, and get out before the heat smothers you. Then take your goodies home and eat up all that sunshine in the cool comfort of home.

6. Take advantage of outdoor arts. Many cities offer outdoor summer concerts and plays, often free to the public. Venture out in the evenings and find some culture and camaraderie. And walk or use public transit if you have it: don’t add to the swelter by revving up one more car. I can’t wait for Screen on the Green – the weekly movie shown on the National Mall – to start up this year.

7. Make use of that gym membership. If it’s too hot to enjoy the out of doors, make use of  the air-conditioned gym and work out. A swim, whether indoors or out, is remarkably refreshing when it’s hot outside. Exercise is always good for your mental health – plus your summer wear looks better on your bod. With our honeymoon trip to California right around the corner, you can bet I’m working out!

These are my personal remedies for the hot hazy days ahead. Share yours!

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In New Orleans, red beans and rice is a Monday dish.

Monday used to be washing day, and red beans could simmer (with a little leftover meat from Sunday’s ham) all day, while mamas attended to the laundry. I’m sure those mamas didn’t love washing day, but to be honest, I’d LOVE a Monday with nothing to do but the laundry and simmering some red beans. Lacking the opportunity to spend the day in domestic pursuits, though, I make do by quick boiling the beans in the morning while I’m making our lunches, then leaving the beans to soak all day while I’m at work.  Once home, I can bring them back to a simmer and add the goodies that make Creole red beans such a savory dish.

I wish I could find red beans like this!

My Red Beans & Rice

2 lb bags of red beans (small red beans or red kidney beans, and in a pinch, pintos are fine)

Rinse the beans and use the quick boil method described on the bag – soak – once you’re ready to cook them, bring them to a simmer and add:

Salt – I never know how much

3-4 cloves of fresh garlic, coarsely chopped

1/2 of a yellow onion, coarsely chopped

2 tsp of ground cayenne pepper

A few splashes of pepper sauce*

After an hour, add the optional meat that will sorta blow your meat-free Monday, but not by too much. It’s not like you’re eating a hamburger. We use Andouille sausage, but I gotta tell you, you’re only making my recipe if you’re lucky enough to have Andouille from Jacob’s in La Place, LA, just outside New Orleans. If you don’t have this Andouille, I’m sorry. Go ahead and make red beans but know they’re not the thing I’m talking about here. (more…)

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There is a lot to be said for impetuous acts. The impromptu weekend road trip, the blind date, the improv class. I’ve never shied from these impetuous little acts and they’ve typically paid off well for me. I can attribute my photography career to an impetuous enrollment in photo school, my marriage to an impetuous first date, my current charmed existence to an impetuous move to the big city.

To be impetuous – and to have that end in delight and not in tears – requires, I think, knowing when you’re ready, and pouncing on opportunity. Let me clarify:

Impetuous + unprepared = disaster.

Impetuous + prepared = magic!

May 1: Blogging on the balcony.

So, my most recent impetuous decision was to sign up for the 2010 WordCount Blogathon. (You can see the eye-catching logo there to the right.) My friend and blogging spirit guide Amanda signed up, and like a true disciple, I followed suit. The object: to blog every day in the month of May.

This clearly defies the title of One/Week. Will you bear with me, readers, while One/Week temporarily becomes One/Day?

A few rules for myself:

  • Not every post can be about food.
  • Not every post can be in essay form.
  • Every post must still include a photo I shot.
  • Every post must still fit the description of “things that matter to me” – no posts on what a boring day it’s been or why homemade popcorn is better than movie theater popcorn.

One/Week is just over four months old, and I’ve really gotten attached. I’m ready to jump in with both feet and play with her every day for this month and see where each of us ends up.

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Before the Home Cure

The Spring Cure has begun on ApartmentTherapy.com!

In a previous post on my adventures in homemaking, I mentioned the transformational affects of the semi-annual Home Cure that I participated in last fall for the first time. Because March is cursed, I missed the beginning, and signed up just at the tail end of Week Two of the eight-week process.

The short description of the Home Cure is: join the nation-wide group on ApartmentTherapy.com and read along week by week through Maxwell’s book Apartment Therapy. Each week has a different set of tasks – visioning, deep cleaning,  basic home repairs,  painting, light, decor and finally, a housewarming party to celebrate success. Another nice touch is emphasis on green home products, and cooking at home. (more…)

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