Stuff and Nonsense: June 2014


Shirking, Guilt, & Not-Blogging

I've been away from here for a while and OH MY GODS THE GUILT I FEEL. Which is ridiculous, really, but there it is. I feel guilty when I neglect my hobbies and yet a hobby is supposed to be something I do in my leisure time for my own pleasure. If I have no leisure time or the leisure time I do have is taken up with other hobbies that should be fine. I should not find myself twitching when it's once again Tuesday and I haven't done a Top Ten post or it's Wednesday and I have no non-food pics to be Wordless with. And I certainly shouldn't be feeling depressed and guilty because it's been weeks since I posted about a book (or even read a book that wasn't work-related). But I do. Oh, THE FEELS.

It's not as if I don't have a perfectly adequate excuse. I've been super busy with work, darlings, with totally awesome projects like building a TARDIS-shaped Awesome Box, organizing a Whovian social, and doing tons of social media for my library system. Also, I had to lead the June book discussion and, you know, that is apparently the best way to get me to stop reading. Full stop. (Who thought it was a good idea for me to host a library book discussion? Do I look like someone capable of a leading fifteen elderly ladies in a measured and thoughtful discussion of literary work?)

Every time I picked up a novel that wasn't The Beekeeper's Apprentice, I felt both guilty and increasingly agitated -- as if I was back in high school, having spent the weekend shirking my chemistry assignment for an essay on The Scarlet Letter (totes 'd this novel) -- and had a great deal of trouble getting into (and staying) in the novel. Frequently, it seemed the harder I tried to focus on the novel, the more slippery my focus became. One afternoon, quite without knowing how it happened, I went from reading The Beekeeper's Apprentice, to putting holds on eight books about gardening for bees and other pollinators!

And now I have to get those read, too. And design and plant a garden. Because I have time for that. Surely.

Of course, every time I picked up The Beekeeper's Apprentice, I was extremely aware I was not reading it for my own pleasure but out of obligation. I would be expected to discuss the novel Rationally. Like an Educated Person. With an understanding of Plot and Theme and Metaphor and crapcrapcrap ... the pressure I put on myself. Pointlessly.

Book Discussion went fine. Sympathetic minds met in great harmony and accord. Excellent questions were raised. Well argued opinions given. And everyone agreed the resolution to the Miss Donleavy affair was pure bollocks. So, yay! A success!

And now I can go back to reading books for my own pleasure! Although, since everyone seemed to have such a good time, it's not unlikely I will be asked to lead another one in the fall. Pah. Months away. Plenty of time to read those twenty-three library books quick-stepping toward their due dates.


Wordless Wednesday: Iris

The bright yellow beard always makes me smile.


Plated: Cheddar Burgers w/ Baked Onion Rings

Plated's "Cheddar Burgers with Baked Onion Rings" seemed like the perfect way to welcome summer. Yes, I know summer's nearly a month away but it hit a toasty 86°F on Monday and that's summer as far as I'm concerned.

Juicy, perfectly seasoned cheddar burger ... yum!
I really enjoyed this burger. The cheddar (provenance unknown) was a good choice -- not too sharp, but strong enough it held its own and wasn't subsumed by the juicy, perfectly-seasoned burger. The tarragon sauce was nice interpretation of the standard orange burger sauce and I only wish I'd saved a little to drizzle on my onion rings. Seriously, I have eaten restaurant burgers that weren't as good as this one.

That said, I must admit The Husband wasn't so taken with this burger -- tasty, yes, but too juicy! And the cheese was very overwhelming! Who is this stranger I married?

Misleadingly beautiful crunchy onion rings *cries*
We both agreed the onion rings, while quite crispy, were extremely disappointing. I thought I'd been quite generous in my use of salt and pepper, but they were clearly under-seasoned. And I couldn't taste the sweet paprika at all!

Would I make this again? Burgers, yes, as soon as possible. Onion rings, no, never. My recipe card is a little gooped up from when I made the tarragon dressing, but copies can be downloaded from the Plated website. Unsurprisingly, I have started a Plated folder on my desktop for storing future recipes ... because, even though The Husband is clearly enjoying the Plated experience significantly less than I am, I plan on more Plated meals.

Baked onion rings ingredients
Tarragon dressing ingredients
Cheddar burger ingredients


Picnic Time: Pasta Salad

While trying to push beyond our comfort zone and learn to socialize like "real adults do," we recently attended a picnic thrown by one of my coworkers. Because I didn't feel comfortable showing up empty-handed, I asked if I could bring a pasta salad (it turned out everyone felt the same way, anyway, and also brought something). Since I wasn't sure how hot it would be that day or what the food storage situation would be like (didn't want to poison anyone), I made "Pasta Salad with Summer Vegetables" from The Best Light Recipe by the detail-driven folk at Cook's Illustrated.

This is a flavorful mayonnaise-free pasta salad I've made several times now. Every time I make it, I mean to experiment and try one of the variations provided, but I always end up sticking with the tried-and-true. The basic version is delicious, so why mess with a sure thing?

Ingredients: penne, green beans, cherry tomatoes, carrot, red onion, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, basil, parsley, Dijon, red pepper flakes, Parmesan, salt, black pepper.

I used Ronzoni SmartTaste penne to keep the salad looking "normal" while somewhat improving its nutritional values. Not that it's an unhealthy salad to begin with, what with all those beans and tomatoes!