Welcome to Denver

Tonight, we’re having Ashley and Jim over for dinner. Many moons ago, Ashley and I lived together in the GRAB house at Gettysburg. They have recently relocated from HAWAII and Jim will be teaching at DSST’s new campus. Welcome to Denver, you guys! I think you will love it here.

On the menu..

Orzo Salad, Berry Salad, and Ice Cream Pie. Oh yeah, and some sort of meat on the grill (but that’s Marc’s territory)

Since being introduced to orzo salad last summer (thank you, Jaren!), I’ve experimented only slightly. Last week, I modified a version found on a blog and it was fabulous! Soaking the orzo in the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice enhances the flavor in a lasting kind of way. My modifications are listed below:

Ingredients

16 ounces (~455 g) orzo or other small pasta
1/4 cup (~60 mil) olive oil
1/3 cup (~80 mil) plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1/4 cup (~60 mil) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
2 pints (~680 g) grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup drained capers (optional)
1/2 cup (~20 g) lightly packed chopped BASIL leaves
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped cucumber

Preparation

1. Bring about 3 quarts of water to boil in the large pot. Add salt and the orzo and cook until al dente. Drain well in the mesh strainer, then pour hot orzo into the mixing bowl.

2. While the orzo cooks, stir together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the small bowl. Pour the mixture over the hot orzo and toss. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

3. Add the olives, grape tomatoes, onion, capers, and parsley, and stir well. Season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Slowly Simplifying

I’ve been on a de-cluttering terror since last week–for all the reasons that everyone else seems to be wanting to streamline. Too much stuff that we don’t use taking up too much space and silently sucking up energy. A self-diagnosed mild packrat, I think I have finally reached the point where I can purge without sentimentality. I’m taking the “pretend we’re moving” approach–pull out anything and everything that would not make the cut under relocation circumstances and put it into one of several piles–garage sale, Goodwill, or Craigslist/consignment. The basement has become the staging area for these piles, allowing me to work on it one room at a time. Progress so far? Almost all the drawers in the office and the bookshelves, too.

The bathroom was the first room to get my wrath–not much storage, not much counter space. I had a dreamy idea that Corbin Clay (who made our beautiful dining table) could make a cabinet out of beetle kill. My inspiration was from an Apartment Therapy NYC bathroom. Alas, my dream faded quickly when the practicality side of our shared wallet took over. And thus was born my cheaper-fix idea of covering up one of the shelves, which would allow me to stand up more bottles without increasing the ugly factor.

What I really wanted...

UGLY bottles!

pretty fabric curtain!

Triple “Book”ed

Before leaving Denver for NY, I logged onto my hometown library’s website and put a handful of books on hold. The selections were willy-nilly and random–some were books I’ve had on hold at DPL for a long time (like Warren Buffet’s Snowball) while others were selected impulsively after reading a review here or receiving a suggestion there. My planning was rewarded by a large stack of possibilities waiting for me in Caz.

I picked up Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, first, partially because it had one of the earlier due dates and mostly because it was about Barcelona–location of our honeymoon and location of my upcoming Spanish classes. Place of Magic.

In my first week and half at home, I read Help, by Kathryn Stockett and The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. My random selection methodology apparently worked, for I loved all three.

I could say much more about each one (and would love to do so in person), but there are better book reviewers out there. Try the NY Times reviews of Shadow of the Wind, The Book Thief , and Help.

Worth noting here, however, is a theme that runs through all three–the power of reading and books to heal, save, and transform. By the second book, Help, I realized the random order I had chosen wasn’t so random at all, and then decided to round out the trilogy of book love with The Book Thief. The books are set in different time periods (post-civil war Spain; Civil Rights era Jackson, MI; and a suburb of Munich during early WWII).  Each also displays different strengths: A feeling of being transported by the mysterious setting and magicalness of the details in Shadow; a slice of southern life seen through the eyes and voice of the black maids in Help; and the creative brilliance of the storytelling in The Book Thief. Still, books play a critical role–really as their own character–in each novel. I like this idea of devoting a book to celebrate the magic of all books.

Fast forward to today. I volunteered at Caz’s annual Library Book Sale. There were a couple garbage bags of books dropped off that we were keeping under the cashier table. A couple of boys, maybe ages 7 and 10, came over and asked if they could look through the bags. They started scavenging, quickly scanning the backs and making piles of ones to buy. More kids drifted over and soon it was like a well-behaved, mop-headed swarm of bees. I’ve been cynical lately, about the pervasiveness of media, about the entitlement of youth, about the negative impacts of technology. But today reminded me that the spirit of the book thief, the passion of the old Barcelona book collector, and Aibileen’s courage can still be found, and the books we read may serve as the looking glass.

Summer 2010 Bookshelf

There are so many reasons to love summer: walking barefoot, running errands on my bike, not worrying about having to wake up early on those nights when I can’t sleep, breakfast on the patio,

happy hour on the patio, lap swimming in the middle of the day, taking time to water the flowers and plants, and finally working my way through the lists of “books to read” that I’ve been accumulating all year on little scraps of paper. My best reading time happens when I’m in Caz (next week!) because there are few distractions and I become a hermit. Books read thus far:

Begin it.

Five months from now, I will return to DSST, this time as the Senior Project Coordinator. This is thrilling for two reasons–(1) it very well may be my dream job, as it allows me to work with kids full-time on projects , and (2) it doesn’t start until November. This means that for the first time since, well, ever, I have an extended amount of time off of work/school–time to travel, learn, read, explore, and think.

Friends and family (and husband!) have unanimously and wholeheartedly encouraged me to not get another job during this break, but to allow myself the time to pursue other interests–things like re-learning Spanish, writing a business plan, and doing web design. I am so grateful for all your support and reminders that I am not making being frivolous or selfish.

I will use this blog as a place to post updates, plans, photos, and thoughts on the ways I will spend my Half Gap Year.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” — Goethe