Year of Months
August 14th

I’m still reeling from a super busy weekend!  It was pretty jam-packed, but we still had time to gather with friends for a grilling extravaganza.  Almost every single thing we ate spent some time on the grill!  Artichokes, romaine, kale, polenta, steak, salmon, pineapple…even the cherry cobbler warmed on the grates in the residual heat.  Alas, there was one thing that remained char-free.  In fact, it was entirely raw: Amagansett Corn Salad.

I’ve tossed this delightful dish together twice now for summertime barbecues, and both times it was incredibly well received.  If you have any potlucks or picnics on the calendar, I highly recommend.  Get your sharp knife ready, because the speed with which you can pull this off depends entirely on your cutting skills.  You simply slice the kernals off the cob.  I suggest doing this in or over the bowl you’ll be using for the salad, to capture the tasty juices.  I guess you don’t have to even slice the tomatoes - I didn’t bother cutting the tiny, orange Sun Sugars I incorporated into the second batch.  They were small, but packed a mighty wallop of flavor as they burst in your mouth.  I like to keep the sizes in salads similar, though; so I halved, and even quartered, the reds.

I didn’t bother with the peas; although, I’m sure they’d be a delicious addition.  There’s plenty going on here without them.  Each of the flavors blends into the next.  The corn is creamy and sweet, the tomatoes are sweet and acidic, the balsamic is acidic and biting, the red onion has a bite and a bit of spice, and the fresh basil ties everything together.

To be perfectly honest, my home cooking of last July has sadly not become a habit.  We still eat out a fair amount.  Okay, a lot.  But it’s dinners like these, with dishes like this one, that remind me that it’s worth staying in.

August 9th

Blogging is humbling work. When I began this little project, it was purely for personal reasons - I just wanted to write.  More words, more often.  I rarely promote it.  When I do, it’s just with a quick Facebook reminder. And, from time to time, my friends give me a shout out too. Suffice it say, I never expected anyone to show up. Well, maybe my husband and my mom. They do.

This is not to say that I don’t want anyone to show up, just that it feels pretty presumptuous to throw a daily party for yourself and assume that there will always, or ever, be a crowd. And there hasn’t been. When I first started, three readers was a big day. Even now, I’m happy when I break ten.

I don’t obsess over analytics, but I do check in from time to time. I think that’s fairly natural. Every so often, I notice that someone has somehow caught wind of me in a remote corner of the world. When this happens, the country turns green on a world map. The first non-US country to green up was Israel…because one of my coworkers was traveling there. Still exciting. An entire continent away, a computer was turned on and my little blog was called up in the search engine. This all very likely happened while I slept. Unreal.

Because it’s been a year now since I embarked on this adventure, I thought I would pull up a full list of the countries that have turned green during that time and see where other minds behind other computers have connected with me here. As you would expect, the bulk of visits are from the US. But that bulk is 94%. Not 99.99%, as I would have thought. For the most part, it’s 2 people here or 3 people there, but the heres and theres are the UK, Canada, India, Philippines, Brazil, Chile, Finland, South Korea, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Croatia, Israel, Luxembourg, Portugal, Singapore, and Slovenia. Seriously, someone in Seoul, and someone in Santiago, and someone in Sao Paulo all managed to land on my page.  Unfathomable.

I suppose that all of this should manage the opposite of making me feel meek. It certainly isn’t that I’m not proud.  I absolutely am.  I guess I just imagined myself swimming in a very tiny pond these past twelve months, when, in fact, I’ve been paddling around a great big sea. Here’s hoping that whatever kind of little fish I am, it’s something that continues growing…a lot.  So, as more cities light up and more countries turn green, the sea will seem a little less giant relative to me and I can forge forth at full speed. Undaunted.

August 8th

I don’t know if you’ve come across this yourself, but there seem to be a lot of Instagram haters out there.  Maybe you’re one of them.  Personally, I think it’s a fun little app.  But then, I’ve jumped on all the “fauxtoshop” bandwagons from Hipstamatic to Polamatic and everything in between - and now, Instagram.  I don’t see what the gripe’s about.  In photography, there’s always been an element of manipulating the image - either with lighting at the point of shooting, or with fancy exposure and developing techniques, or “in post”, now that we’ve moved mainly to digital.  Instagram just makes that a more accessible process for the masses.  I enjoy playing around with my own photos, and I particularly delight in other people’s creativity.  So, if you’re on board too, keep an eye out for my Instagram alter ego: whatimsnapping.  Here are a few selections from my feed…

August 7th

Back in January, the hot topic here at Year of Months was recommendations.  I didn’t quite make it to 31 posts, but telling you about our seaplane picnic adventure would certainly be a propos for making up one.

In case you missed it, a seaplane picnic was one of my big dream life goals in July.  I had been asked many times how I’d like to celebrate my birthday, but I’m horrible at coming up with these sorts of ideas.  Since I enjoy travelling, and one of the things I’ve always wanted to do here in the Pacific Northwest is visit Tofino, I decided to look into the possibility of flying there.  It’s a 12-hour drive, but if we were going to go, it would need to be a quick trip.  Driving wouldn’t leave us much time to actually enjoy the destination.  Well, when I was on the Kenmore Air site checking into the possibility of a flight, I happened upon the page about picnics.  That night, I told RF that if I could do something somewhat extravagant for my birthday, a seaplane picnic would be it - but, I wasn’t in a million years willing to ask our friends to spring for it, and to do it ourselves seemed a bit of a stretch.

Well, RF went to work.  Before I had even written about it here, he snuck around behind my back recruiting a group of our friends to play along.  Alas, by the night of my birthday party, he and his mighty band of co-conspirators sprung it on me!  I was seriously stunned - and so completely excited.  For three days I did nothing but think about this picnic.  Practically every hour I was whispering or texting or emailing, ”seaplanepicnic" to someone.  I’m sure it was completely unbearable.  Sorry friends!  And, I have to say, it lived up to every single one of my expectations.

I’ll admit, there was some hesitancy on my part about taking the seaplane.  I’m not typically a fan of small planes.  I’ve had to take quite a few little prop planes to my mom’s house, often in the bumpy winds of oncoming storms, and they do not leave me feeling well.  You really don’t want to lose your lunch on your birthday…particularly if you haven’t even had it yet!  And the landing on water part scared me a bit, as well.  When we arrived at the airport (waterport?) none of our fears were assuaged.  The planes sounded like rickety old lawnmowers starting out back!  What had we gotten ourselves into?  But then, the Evening Magazine plane rolled up.  I don’t know why that made me feel better.  I guess it was just something else to focus on.  We cheerfully climbed aboard.

I was actually feeling pretty confident until I realized that there’s hand-cranking involved!  Wait, what?!?  Now, back when I was working on casting for the Blackberry campaign, I spent some time interviewing a pilot whose job it is to take potential buyers up in Boeing airplanes to show them all the bells and whistles.  He described his favorite part as cutting all of the electricity on board to demonstrate how pilots have ultimate override capability.  He told me to always take Boeing airplanes, because they’re the only ones that give the actual pilots true control over autopilot.  I’m still not sure that hand-cranking was what he was talking about…

Alas, we did manage to stay aloft.  After a long stretch of bright and sunny days, we got clouds, but it was beautiful nonetheless.  My iPhone pics don’t do any of this true justice.

Our course was set for a Dabob Bay up on the north end of Hood Canal near Quilcene.  The entire ride was smooth sailing, but as we approached the picnic site, I could feel my palms begin to sweat at the thought of touching down on water.  I’ve lived in Seattle awhile now, and have watched many a seaplane land.  It doesn’t look the least bit treacherous from the outside, but I had no idea what it would be like from the inside.  Totally fine!  It was probably the smoothest landing I’ve ever experienced.  Given my disaster head, I envisioned the resistance of the water grabbing and jerking the plane mightily upon impact.  But no, we glided right on in.

Of course, when you land without a dock, you need someone to hold the plane while everything’s unloaded!  Thanks SW for taking the reigns.

While our hostess Joy set everything up, we explored the beach area combing the pebbly sand for shells and interesting rocks.  We watched the hungry mouths of a school of fish break the surface of the water in search of insects.  We tried, unsuccessfully, to skip rocks.  I’ve never been good at that.

CH took his fancy camera on a photo safari.  And RF wandered off in search of adventure.  I hear he found a rope swing and a partial totem pole in them there woods.

When we returned, a first course of shrimp cocktail and pesto artichoke dip were waiting.  And wine, of course - plenty of wine.

While we nibbled away, Joy prepped a second course of freshly shucked oysters and Dungeness crab claws.

At this point, I would have been absolutely content to have a piece of cake and be done.  But no…there were still salmon and halibut skewers, tortellini salad, Walla Walla onion and heirloom tomato caprese, and herby artisinal bread to be devoured.

And then…cake.  White chocolate strawberry, of course.  Thank you, DB.  :)

What a meal.  What a day!  I think I can safely say that we all had a magnificent time and can check a little something off our Carpe Listems.  On the way home, I even braved riding shotgun.  We took a little tour of downtown…

…and landed safely back at Lake Union.

There aren’t enough thanks in the world for everyone who was involved in this great surprise.  Suffice it to say, I consider myself one very lucky girl.

August 6th

Yikes!  I knew I was MIA, but didn’t realize it had gotten quite so out of hand.  My last post was July, Day 16, and now it’s August 6th.  Although, certainly that last post wasn’t actually penned on July 16th.  I’m the first to admit how easily I get behind.  I think I actually disappeared right before the 24th, when I got sucked into what I am now referring to as The Birthday Vortex.

It all started with Birthday Hanukkah.  What, you’ve never celebrated 8 days and nights of your birthday?  Truthfully, it’s not something I do every year either.  Some years ago (let’s not go into how many because, seriously, I can’t possibly be that old…), RF feted me with the grand gesture of Birthday Hanukkah because, well, we were “on a break”, and he wanted to win me back.  When trying to impress a girl, Birthday Hanukkah is an excellent grand gesture.  There were gift certificates for spa treatments and tickets to shows, and the piece de resistance, a shiny new bike.  Damn it all to hell, it worked.  No no…I’m glad.  I couldn’t ask for a better now husband, who, just because he loves me so much, rolled out the Birthday Hanukkah red carpet again this year.

Day One established the big event with a card containing a very sweet note and fair warning that not all gifts would be extravagant.  Although, I think just each subsequent day broke that rule.  On Day Two, I received a gift card for a fancy mani/pedi.  But of course a girl shouldn’t go to the cheapo nail salon on her birthday!  The next day, a beautiful arrangement of flowers arrived at my office, helping to spread the good Birthday Hanukkah word.  I’m not a religious person, but if I were, this would definitely be a part of the gospel.

Day Four was my honest to goodness birthday, and the gift that night was a celebratory happy hour with all of my friends and coworkers.  We assembled at Cactus for a delicious spread of appetizers and margaritas, sangria, and even a “birthday cake” shot for the birthday girl.  I was very well behaved…until that shot.  Tsk tsk.  I will also mention that Day Seven was revealed at the party, because all accomplices were present and accounted for…and one, who shall remain nameless, couldn’t bear to hold on to the secret a moment longer.  I won’t tell you what it is just yet, but I’m glad they told me so I could spend the next three days being excited about it.

The next morning, to relieve any lingering maladies due to the prior night’s over-consumption, I was presented with a stunning necklace that I had posted to my Pinterest page.  He did research!!!  You have no idea how huge that is.  HUGE.  But that wasn’t the last of it.  Oh no.  I was also presented with a stack of downloaded recipes and asked to select a dinner option which would be prepared for me on Day Six.  Who is this man?!?  Mine.  The only problem, on Day Five, we imbibed heavily and gorged ourselves once again on decadent Mexican food in honor of DB’s birthday.  Alas, by the time Day Six rolled around, I was just ready for a simple dinner and a quiet night on the couch.  Crab cakes still to come…

Day Seven…oh, Day Seven…was the true piece de resistance.  As if I hadn’t been completely spoiled already, RF, DB, SW, and CH took me on a…SEAPLANE PICNIC!!!  Holy cow.  I was shocked.  Seriously shocked.  At the big happy hour reveal, I gained an honest to goodness appreciation for the victims of reality tv.  My reaction was pretty much: Wait, what?  How could this be?  I just wrote about it being a big dream life goal last week?  And now, I’m going??  You’re messing with me, right?  Seriously, stop kidding around.  I mean it.  Stop messing with me.  Wait, really??  They weren’t kidding.  Dreams really do come true!  Particularly when you have the most wonderful husband in the whole wide world, and an incredible group of friends who are willing to play along.  I’ll tell you all about it in a separate post, but suffice it to say…amazeballs.

Not one to end on a low note, Day Eight was tickets to a show.  We saw Miracle! at the Intiman Festival.  In case you’re not familiar with it, Miracle! is Dan Savage’s play about a drag queen Helen Keller.  Oh boy.  What a wild wild wild wild wild wild ride.

So, I think you might be able to understand how I disappeared.  There was a vortex, I tell ya.  I’ve also been busy posting over at urbnlivn.com, and trying to work out what’s next for Year of Months.  I have a lot of ideas, but I’m not quite clear on their execution just yet.  And, I did promise an extra month of makeups…which should probably be an extra two (or three) months of makeups given my general delinquency.  So, we’ll just start playing this one by ear from here on out.  Oh, I will mentioned that after the many nights (and days) of overindulgence in the name of circling the sun, I felt the need for a little detox.  I’ve given up refined sugar for the month.  Although, I’ve come to learn that it’s just not all that exciting to write about NOT doing.  There might be a post or two about my withdrawals, but let’s stick with makeup posts for the month.

July, Day 16

What’s wrong with this photo?  So many things, yes, but not the least of which that it was taken in my backyard!  Such a sad rose bush, in such a neglected patch of dirt.  Look at all of those weeds.  Can you see the black spots on the few that remain?  Here, let me get you a close-up.

How embarrassing.  Big dream life goal #16: Be a better gardener.

I really enjoy having a garden, but I am clearly not great at tending it.  I mean, the things you cut back in the fall only to have them naturally sprout back in full force come spring - those I can do.  But the things that require care and maintenance - admittedly not my strong point.  I really do know this about myself.  Not a single houseplant that’s ever come under my care has managed to survive.  Oh, that’s not quite true.  There was one back in L.A. that somehow thrived despite me.  Of course it was ugly.  The nice ones that you want to keep around, I typically over water, or under water, or forget to sun, or leave out in the sun.  For whatever reason, I don’t know the rules, or can’t seem to follow them, or just don’t understand.

This rose fared great last year.  This year, a completely different story.  This year’s new growth happened all out front.  Nothing stemmed from the back area, so it started the summer completely off kilter and never quite rebounded.  Almost immediately, it showed signs of disease (i.e. the black spots).  Around the time this scourge appeared, I just happened to read an article about spraying leaves with milk to prevent such a fungus.  Did I run home and try it?  Why no, that would have made sense.  It also would have been way too complicated.  You see, we don’t drink milk in our house.  I suspect that soy milk or almond milk don’t quite do the same trick.  So, milking my roses would require a special trip to the store.  And a sprayer?  Don’t think we have one of those either.  Do they carry those at Whole Foods, where I probably would have bought some very expensive milk to spritz on this bush?  I don’t recall ever seeing any sprayers there, but maybe.

Yeah, I’d venture to guess that this thought process is sufficient evidence of my gardening ineptitude.  I just don’t think anything like a true gardener.  Someone who dons a floppy hat and pastel gloves to pilfer through their garage or shed or garden hutch to find just the right spraying mechanism to gingerly apply the appropriate level of milky mist.  Someone who checks their plants regularly to make sure they’re thriving and don’t need an additional dose of planterly medicine.  Someone who regularly clears the weeds, and knows when to mulch to prevent the pesky shoots.  Heck, someone who knows what mulch is.  I know these someones and I am way (way way) out of their league.

So, somehow, someday, I hope to learn enough to just be a better gardener.  I don’t have to be perfect, just better.  More motivated.  More studied.  More attentive.  And perhaps, more of my roses will look like the one next to the withering bush…

…the one that hasn’t fallen prey to my neglect and botanical shortcomings…yet.

July, Day 15

Most of the big dream life goals I’ve talked about here have been about things or activities.  Not all of my goals are material, in fact, most are not.  The material things are often just easier, and more fun, to write about.  One of my big dream life goals doesn’t have to do with having or doing at all.  In fact, it’s more about ridding myself of something - my disaster head.

I’m honestly not much of a worrywart about the tiny details of life, but I do have an uncanny ability to envision the very worst thing that could come of many scenarios.  These aren’t things that I sit around waiting for - they’re things that I see play out in horrendous ways as I’m in the midst of the most innocuous tasks.  My earliest memory of this happening was while driving down the road behind a tree truck, you know the kind that have a massive “wide load” flat bed full of recently felled trees.  They always chain the massive trunks over the top, but what’s to prevent them from sliding backwards towards following cars?  My head sees them slipping right on off…towards me.  I’ve imagined this particular scene every time I’ve been behind one of these trucks since I was a little girl.  Raggedly sawed ends crashing through the windshield as our momentum meets theirs.  Cars piled up from hitting the fallen wood and each other.  Bodies tossed to the side of the road.  Death, dismemberment, the whole nine yards.

As I watch drivers weaving in and out of cars on the road, I see the massive wreck that happens when they mistakenly clip a fender.  I see scaffolding collapse, aquariums spring leaks, bees swarming out of their hives.  I see bombs in backpacks and psychotic breaks.  If you were to name a scenario, I could tell you the worst way it could all go wrong.  But why?

I’ve always had a very suggestible mind.  As a young child, my parents only had to tell me that shows with mean people were coming on and I willingly headed straight to bed.  I still won’t let RF watch True Blood right before bedtime.  Gory scenes translate directly into nightmares for me.  I have no clue where it comes from.  My childhood was peaceful and suburban.  No bad guys, no boogie men.  Even if there were, my dad was a black belt in karate and typically armed to the hilt.  They weren’t getting close to me.  Perhaps his paranoia is to blame.  Or, maybe I’ve watched a few too many movies?  Or, the news has piled up so much in my head that I’m convinced I’ve dodged all the bullets - figurative and real - that I possibly can for my luck to last much longer.  Horrendous things happen to completely undeserving people every single day.  People fall off of roller coasters, and get flesh eating viruses, or are struck in random crossfire.  There’s not a lot you can do to prevent it; so, why do I live life assuming I’m next?  Does everyone do that?  RF tells me not.

So, big dream life goal #15 is to ditch the disaster head.  Much easier said than done, I’m sure, but a completely worthy goal nonetheless.

July, Day 14

As so often seems to be the case these days, I’m running a bit behind schedule here at Year of Months.  However, since Day 14 of the month of July is Bastille Day, and I do possess a particular affinity for many things French, I feel that I must pick from my giant bag of Big Dream Life Goals related to L’Hexagone.

While I could eat every single meal of my life in Italy, for dessert, I must head to France.  They win the pastry contest every single time.  How much fun would it be to learn how to make French patries…in France?  So much fun.  In Paris, the three top spots for cooking classes (and, I am speaking for the lay person, such as myself, not the Le Cordon Bleu crowd) are Ritz Escoffier, Ducasse, and Lenôtre.

If I were interested in learning how to cook a traditional French meal, I would head to Ducasse, but I’m not sure they’d be my top stop for pastries.  Ritz Escoffier strikes me as taking themselves, well, everything really, a bit too seriously.  Their classes also seem to pack in too many lessons at once.  I don’t need to know how to prepare an entire French teatime menu.  The French aren’t even big on teatime.  I’d really just like to learn to make the world’s best croissant.  In French.  For that, I would head to Lenôtre.

Their school is housed in Le Pavillon Elysee…

Class sizes are small and very hands-on…

Instructors are exceptional French chefs - you can tell by their hats…

There’s LOTS of butter involved…

Et voila!

Les croissants!

Most classes at Lenôtre are taught in French, which would require me to work on another goal of mine, achieving fluency.  If anything could motivate me, it just might be croissants.

July, Day 13

I love living in Seattle.  I especially love living in Seattle at this time of year when it’s scorching hot in the rest of the country, but our thermometers struggle to hit the 80 mark.  When the sun shines brightly casting a glimmer across the lakes and Sound, and doesn’t set until after 9 o’clock, giving us leave to play outdoors until almost 10.  When the skies are crystal clear and glowing blue and the rain of the other nine (or ten, or eleven…) months has rendered vividly verdant grass and trees and moss.  The minute I rounded the corner of I-5  and spotted the city on my first visit here, I knew I was home.  And for the five years we lived in NYC, I did little more than plot our return.  And yet, big dream life goal #13 is: living abroad for a year, or maybe even two.

As much as I love Seattle, I don’t think I’ll ever be finished exploring.  From my many moves over the years - from Georgia to South Carolina to North Carolina to Ilinois to California to Washington to New York, and back to Washington again - I know all too well that you can’t really know a place until you live there.  Visiting is great.  Sometimes the best way to love a city.  But the best way to actually know a place is to walk its streets every day, learn it’s shortcuts and hidden gems and people.  And, the easiest way to explore new places is to live closer to them.

I haven’t decided exactly where I’d like to live.  As glamorous as it seems to live in great metropolitan centers like Paris or Rome or Berlin, it might be too similar to NYC.  We should, perhaps, consider the countryside, or a smaller European country with the best of both urban and rural worlds, like Belgium or Holland or Switzerland.  Or maybe somewhere more akin to the Pacific Northwest, like Ireland or Sweden.  Language is somewhat of a consideration, and I am only relatively conversant in French.  Although, these days, English is quite prevalent in business everywhere.  And, I mostly consider Europe because I think it would orient us centrally to many places I would be interested in exploring.  But I’m certainly open to all options.  Australia - or Africa - or the Caribbean.

Moving around and acclimating keeps your mind sharp and your will flexible.  One of the things people towards the end of life frequently mention valuing the most is their travels.  It is those memories that remain the most striking.  Immersing oneself in other cultures is also shown to develop tolerance and compassion.  They say, “You should never stop moving.”  I’m pretty sure that typically refers to exercise, but I think there’s something to be said for physically relocating from time to time.  And, now that I’ve returned to Seattle once, I know that I can always come home again.

July, Day 12

Big dream life goal #12 is to someday, somewhere attend Outstanding in the Field.  If you’re not familiar with the events, they’re a series of “roving culinary adventures”.  Their mission is to “re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.”  Since 1999, they’ve been driving their awesome bus…

…around the country setting up their signature long tables in fields (obviously) and gardens, at farms and ranches, on islands and mountaintops, to promote the local foods movement.  Oh yeah, and sometimes they even end up in a cave!

All meals are sourced as locally as possible, which sometimes means from the earth right beside your seat, and are prepared by regionally renowned chefs.  Dinners often sell out quickly, especially the one that I’d most like to attend - the Secret Sea Cove.  Set somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area, guests are directed to an undisclosed area where they dine seaside as the sun sets.  I’ve read that the tide is also known to come in on this event.  Waves lap at the feet of those sitting closest to water’s edge.

Of course, their series of international events is growing.  I wouldn’t mind ending up in a Spanish vineyard or on a Danish island!  Click on the photos (shamelessly stolen from their site) for links to more info about this phenomenal project.  Maybe one day, I’ll see you there!