It’s (going to be) Good to Be Home

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Adam came home with this sweet “just because” gift yesterday and I can’t wait to find a place for it in the apartment. Cheeky, almost cheesy, gifts are my favorite.

What are you up to this weekend? We’re en route to Charleston and couldn’t be more excited. I could probably fuel the plane on enthusiasm alone, but I would prefer to sit comfortably in my sit with my new book. We’re finally going to get a real taste of summer with warm temperatures and sunny days. I’m sure I’ll be drunk on friendship for the next ten days so you probably won’t see much action on this space. But, I’ll leave you with a few links to get you through the weekend. Feel free to check out the archives. There’s about three and half years worth of material in there…

A cool song for your weekend. I’m obsessed with this band, both their EP and full album…

41 Rules for How to Be a Good Dinner Guest. Love these tips : )

Looking at your closet and seeing fall inspiration. Say it isn’t so!

When to say goodbye at a party and when to GHOST.

A very sassy list of things not to do as a New Yorker who is visiting LA.

These shoes are really growing on me. Does anyone have them? Thoughts?

Me every. single. day.

8 great rosés for these dog days of summer

Pasta al Limone

Made me laugh. Hard.

Amazon using “Newspeak.” A fascinating short piece about the struggle between what readers want and what writers need. So timely, considering I just read the book

Learning to lose someone is the hardest lesson of all. Rest in peace, Genie.

 

Reset

IMG_0684Yesterday Adam passed along this article about hitting the reset button while on vacation and it could not have been more timely. While many summer vacations may already be over, we are about to embark on two big holidays and preparing ourselves to tune in to our loved ones and tune out the noise is imperative to enjoying our trips.

In the article, Daniel J Letvitin explains how our attention spans work:

“The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.”

While the science behind the concept may be new to you, the consequences are not: if we constantly give weight to the task-positive part of our brain (the network that wants to check emails and respond to crises happening perhaps miles and miles away), then we never have a chance to actively daydream and let our mind wander. As Letvitin says later in the article, this is a curse of the overpowering Information Age. We’re subject to news feeds and jibber-jabber that is constantly vying for our attention.

And why is it so important to daydream?

“Daydreaming leads to creativity, and creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, to mold it to our liking, to have a positive effect on our environment. Music, for example, turns out to be an effective method for improving attention, building up self-confidence, social skills and a sense of engagement.

This radical idea — that problem solving might take some time and doesn’t always have to be accomplished immediately — could have profound effects on decision making and even on our economy.”

Tomorrow we leave for Charleston to visit our friends and relax for the weekend. It’s been over a year since we’ve seen our beloved city and our even more beloved friends and we are committed to giving both our full attention. There will be plenty of emails from Adam’s work and questions from wedding vendors that need an opinion or answer to this and that, but I know that resisting the urge to answer those inquiries will help me feel more present and relaxed and able to daydream and wander.

On Monday we head back to Kansas for wedding week! What a busy week that will be! But, same story here. There will be dozens of people to see and tons of activities to do and hitting that reset button will make for a far more enjoyable week at home. I can’t believe it’s already time for us to get married again : )

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What about you? Do you have trouble taking a mental vacation when you’re supposed to be on vacation? Does anyone else struggle with this? I like to document our travels on Facebook and Instagram, but even that competes with my attention to loved ones and isn’t a way to truly disconnect. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

Zucchini Soup

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It’s hard to overstate how much I have been craving comfort food in July and August and how counterintuitive that behavior seems. I should be running blindly toward salads, grillable meats and “easy summer pastas”, but my heart sings for soups, heavy, cream-based pastas and a stromboli that is so massive it must be diagonally situated on the baking sheet in order for our European-sized Easy Bake Oven to accommodate its largeness. These menu options are neither bikini friendly nor are they on the approved wedding diet list, but they are being eaten nonetheless.

I made this zucchini soup a couple weeks ago when Adam had a minor surgery on his lip and it was perfect for tender mouths and rainy nights. With cooler temperatures this week and a desire to make something that would last us through this short week (we fly back to America on Friday morning!) I decided to make it again. It was delicious and perfect and satisfied all my comfort food cravings. (Plus, it’s actually quite a waist-friendly dish. Way healthier than the McDonald’s we had for dinner last night…)

I’ve linked to the original version, but I’ve also written up my modifications below. My version yields more simply because we wanted leftovers, but I also tweaked a few other parts of the recipe that warrant noting on the blog. We’ve eaten this with easy grilled cheese sandwiches, but also with a creamy parmesan orzo pasta (I can’t emphasize enough how well those two go together) and leftover stromboli…  I don’t love eating things cold that should be hot (I’m looking at you, pizza the next morning), but I’m sure if you’re a gazpacho fan you’d like this chilled on a hot, humid day.

Now is a great time to make this soup since the zucchini is so fresh and inviting, but really it will be great through the fall.

Zucchini Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium/large zucchinis, skin on and cut into rough chunks
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken, if you prefer the flavor)
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream cheese (or plain Greek yogurt if preferred)
  • salt and pepper
  • freshly shaved parmesan for garnish, optional
  • chopped parsley or chives for garnish, optional

Directions

  1. In a Dutch Over or large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent but not browning, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one more minute, stirring regularly.
  2. Add zucchini chunks and red pepper and stir to combine. Add broth and bring to a boil with the lid on. Reduce to a simmer and let sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove pot from heat and let sit for five minutes. Blend ingredients with an immersion blender or by carefully transferring small batches to a blender (remember, leave part of the lid uncovered so you don’t create too much pressure and a soup-splosion).
  4. Add cream cheese (or yogurt) and blend again.
  5. Return pot to stove and heat under low heat.
  6. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
  7. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly cracked pepper and cheese and herbs of your choice

 

Tuesday Book Club: Why We Buy

why we buyEvery month Adam and I go through all our receipts to find out exactly where our money went. We collect all of them in a drawer over the course of the month and the accountant in our family patiently sorts through them for tallying. It’s really helpful to see where our “latte effects” are (they are, in fact, often in the form of coffee or drink breaks) and how we allocated each month’s funds. It really takes the mystery out of personal finances and it’s something I recommend, especially for newly married couples.

Last week I started Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill and it has made me think even harder about how and, well, why we shop. My family often joke about my penchant for consumerism and shopping, but there is definitely some truth to be in found in their quips. I enjoy shopping. I like wandering around shops and contemplating purchases. But it’s nice to read in the book that this female stereotype is rooted in the more primitive pastime of gathering, which was the predominant role for women throughout the past hundreds of years. We’ve been trained to find the best fruits, nuts, berries, groceries, housewares and clothing.

In fact, one of my favorite passages of the book describes a fundamental difference between the way men and women shop:

“Guys are genetically disposed to be hunters, so they walk to the woods and are unsuccessful unless they can kill something reasonably quickly and drag it back home through the mudroom. Women are gatherers who get immense pleasure out of the act of looking. Thus, two women can spend the day at the mall, buy nothing and have a wonderful time.”

Broad strokes here, of course, but for me the sentiment rings true. Unless I am really on the hunt for something specific and necessary, I get a lot of pleasure just browsing.

What scared me a little, however, was realizing (more fully, to be honest. don’t we all sort of know that much of our decision making is externally derived?) how many purchases are made because of carefully constructed subliminal messages. To elaborate, I was really stunned by this passage about pushing dated products and making the customer feel like they’ve discovered something truly special:

“The video-rental business made pennies on renting the latest releases but scored big time when it could get you to rent the old stuff–classics like North by Northwest or The Great Escape. Their ongoing dilemma was how to get what they called “basic inventory” out the door.

“We noticed that quite a few of the truly expert searchers among their clientele headed not for the new releases section but for the returns cart, the trolley where incoming videos go before they are filed. There’s no reason to attempt to alter that behavior–it actually saves some clerk a little labor, which is a good thing. We suggested spiking that return cart with a few classic films, particularly ones that had some connection to a new release. It worked.”

My sisters and I used to do that all the time! We were the trolls digging through the return cart at Blockbuster or asking the clerk to do it for us so we could get the latest and greatest. Then, we might stumble across something old, yet relevant, and think we made a great discovery. Psych!

What is truly revelatory here is discovering how many decisions you make aren’t really made by you, but by someone who wanted you to buy a specific thing or think a certain way. When do we guide our own buying behavior?

The book appeals to those in marketing and retail but it’s incredibly insightful for the everyday shopper. The book makes me more aware of tricks of the trade, but ironically, it makes me want to shop more! Or, more accurately, it makes me want to go into the shops to see these ideas and gimmicks in place: put products you want to push by a mirror because people are attracted to reflective surfaces; people tend to reach toward the right so put more expensive products on the right side of a display; create more waist-high surfaces so people can set down what they are holding and interact with the products and goods. It’s incredible how much thought and science goes into merchandizing and planning a store.

What are your thoughts here? Have you read this book or anything similar? He makes a lot of broad generalizations, especially when it comes to differences between men and women, but his anecdotal presentation of the information is insightful and illuminating.

“How to Make” with Matty Matheson

While I’m the executive chef around these parts, Adam, as sous chef, has a few tricks up his sleeve. He always makes the burgers and he always makes the pancakes. He also cooks perfect bacon, smokes pork shoulder and ribs and grills like a maniac.

The other day he was looking for burger inspiration and stumbled across this video for how to make the perfect cheeseburger. Not only are Matty Matheson’s tips for making the juiciest burger simple and spot on (only season with salt and pepper, top with American cheese, obviously) he is hilarious to boot. Though, do note, his colorful language makes the video not suitable for work, or little ones for that matter.

Matheson is the executive chef at Toronto’s Parts & Labuor, which opened in 2010 and has received a constant stream of praise and success. Their burger has been voted #1 in the city and after watching Matheson cook it from his home kitchen you can see why it would be lauded as top dog.

Recently, we watched his video on how to make the perfect pancakes and it was similarly entertaining and enlightening. We’re big buttermilk people so his tip for adding that was right up our alley, but who knew that you should add in the egg yolks and whites separately? A genius tip for extra fluffy flapjacks.

 

 

Tying Up Loose Ends

Have you seen this little fella? I’m crazy about him–as are, apparently, millions of others around the world. What a little sweetheart.

What are you up to this weekend? We’re wrapping up a lot of wedding details and getting some loose ends tied together not only for our trip back to Kansas City but also to Charleston. We’ve been organizing dinners and get-togethers with all our friends there and I can barely sit still with all the excitement!

Apparently I’ll be back under the puppy blanket this weekend trying not to explode with anticipation. I hope you have a fun, warm weekend, and here are a few fun links from around the web:

A cool song for your weekend.

I will be the first person to buy this app. Making international travel easier? Yes, please!

A luxurious jet set kit.

This creative wedding gift guide is perfect if you, like me, tend to go off the registry.

Just 5 minutes of vigorous exercise each day can have lasting benefits for your heart. Ideal for those days when you just don’t want to do anything… (Thanks, Courtney!)

How Greek yogurt became an American phenomenon.

I love being a big sister! (Thanks again, Courtney!)

Poor, Sadie. I get sad thinking about little ones growing up, too. To be honest though, the little brother looks pretty excited about it.

A pretty lightweight sweater for transitioning into fall. Wait, what?!

I made my own marinara sauce this week and it was good, but I definitely need more practice. I’m more than happy to keep working on this one. (Note: I doubled this recipe so we would have enough for leftovers)

A cheeky mug.

Finally, for the end of your weekend: How to Look Forward to Mondays.

A Year Here (and 500 posts)

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It’s hard not to be reflective when you pass major milestones, especially when the establishment of such markers is so fresh. I wonder if I’ll feel as prone to reflecting on our move to Bern after we’ve lived here for ten years, or even fifteen.

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That was a joke for the benefit of our families. I’m not in a position to make promises, but I’m pretty sure we won’t be here that long.

Bern Bears

We’ve been in Bern, Switzerland for just over a year and it’s been an exceptionally rewarding experience. The timing of it almost perfectly parallels our first year of marriage and I can’t help but conclude that the wonder and intensity that we’re experienced over the last 377 days are an amalgamation of those coinciding experiences. Both are life-altering on their own, but when combined the sensation can be overwhelming at times.

I’ve collected a few (read: over 50) images that create a brief, if non-coherent, picture of what the last year has looked like, both in Bern and abroad. Many of the images are repeats, but some are fresh. They aren’t all my favorite pictures, but I think they’re interesting and expressive of our experiences. To see the rest of them and to enjoy a recap of our last year, click below…

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