To the fabulous Dustie Dee

IMG_0998Tonight I’m going to say goodbye to my first friend in Somerset, Mrs. Dustie Maguire. I’m thinking about how I’m going to accomplish this as I make her going-away cake, a triple-layer carrot with vanilla frosting. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be brutal, actually. But if anything makes life any easier, it’s got to be icing sugar and cream cheese.

I met Dustie on a houseboat for a hospital recruitment party when I decided to wear a strange khaki dress that made me look like I, a), was possibly asexual, and, b), might embark on safari at any moment. Dustie worked with my husband, who I believe might have told her I was badly in need of friends and, apparently, wardrobe help. So that night, she presented herself to me with a big, shining smile and an offer of friendship.

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“Fear is the highest fence”

IMG_1670Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been writing short stories with the hope I can eventually get them published in literary magazines. It’s been a hard, fruitful, frustrating, interesting, anxiety-ridden and rewarding time in my writing life, and I’ve come to rely on outside sources to keep me on track and inspired.

These can be anything from excellent short stories, Oscar-nominated movies, an episode of Mad Men, an episode of Chef’s Table, an article in The New Yorker to even going to a good yoga fusion class. Anything that leaves me feeling inspired and re-centered by what other people are creating.

This led me quite quickly to Writer’s Digest, a website that includes publication sources, access to writing webinars and general tips about everything from plot creation to character development. It’s a great source because it makes you feel more grounded in a writing community, instead of just sitting at the dining room table alone writing into space.

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Love serving love

images-1It was a steamy hot evening, and my friend Sarah and I arrived at the courts wearing our much-discussed skorts, attire, we felt sure, made us look like pros. Sarah started bouncing the balls up and down to make sure they were still fresh, and I pretended to know how high fresh balls are supposed to bounce. Then she asked me if I kept my balls in my bloomers and, because I had no idea what she was talking about, I got the first inkling I might be over my head with Dr. Sarah Bozeman, black diamond snow skier, slalom water skier, half marathon queen, triathlete, former cheerleader, and all around talented (and competitive) girl.

But we started to rally and things went well. She hit over the net, I hit over the net, she hit it back to me, I hit it back to her. My racquet felt good. My arm felt good. And every few seconds you could hear that satisfying pock of the ball bouncing off the strings.

One of my favorite things about tennis is that satisfying sound. It only happens when you hit the ball right in that sweet spot, when your racquet feels like it’s springing back almost on its own.

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Magellan, the explorer

IMG_1593I got the call from my mom yesterday telling me my cat Magellan is dying. It wasn’t entirely unexpected news since he’s the ripe old age of 17, but it’s still so hard to get. The idea of going back home and not having him sneak attack my ankles is tough.

Magellan and I go way back to Washington, D.C., where he was dropped off in his carrier by his former owner, a young girl who was moving into an apartment that didn’t allow pets. Thinking back on it, I’m not exactly sure how I found her or she found me — these were pre-social media days so this might have been an arrangement stemming from a sign on a telephone pole — but when she dropped off Magellan, all was right with the world.

Well, actually, not really. About three days later, I broke up with my terrible boyfriend and went to stay at a friend’s house while he was gone on vacation that week. Magellan and I roamed around that empty two-story while I tried desperately to find an apartment to rent, which was no easy task in D.C. at the time. About a week after that, after thankfully securing the perfect place to live in the heart of a Latin neighborhood, I quit my job at the Canadian Embassy and started graduate school.

Needless to say, “in flux” would be one way to describe my life at that time. #flyingbytheseatofmypants would be another.

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Vive le Tour!

Tour-de-FranceIt’s that time of year again, the time when Phil Liggett becomes the narrator in our dreams, when soaring views of castles, mountains and rivers become commonplace, when “the cobbles” and “traffic furniture” are the subject of whole conversations. Yes, it’s time for the Tour de France and I plan on eating up as many minutes as I can.

We don’t have a large amount of traditions in this house and certainly none revolving around sports, but watching the Tour is one of them. Every year, my husband and I haul out the TV trays in the basement and get the channel settled on NBCSN.

I love watching for so many reasons, not the least of which is the breathtaking camera work. The Tour coverage takes a lot of time looking at the countryside in which the ride takes place and, oh, what a sight. Every town, it seems, has a phenomenal church. Every field is manicured. Every forest and mountain is magical. And since the riders ride more than 3,300 kilometers — think of that — over three weeks, you see a lot. The camera work is so good it actually feels like a vacation — or at least like you’re planning for one.

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Singing your heart out

637bddf1496667b27df1ddb52d5d1c1bI’m sitting in my usual writing spot in the dining room listening to my stepdaughter Gabrielle sing. She is upstairs in her bedroom and, in full teenager mood, listening to music at full blast. The music is not so loud you can’t hear her voice though, which even she will admit is unfortunate because the poor kid, for all her numerous talents, is somewhat tone deaf.

This has always been the case and she gets it from her dad. The first time I heard him sing, I truly thought he was kidding. But as he continued to thump the steering wheel with his thumb and belt out every single lyric to every single Red Hot Chili Pepper song ever recorded, I realized this was no joke. This was my love’s singing voice.

This came as a surprise as my husband’s speaking voice is actually very charming: deep, comforting, the kind of voice that you can pick out even in a room full of people. I fell in love with this speaking voice quickly and assumed, foolishly, it would translate to song. But the first time he played SingStar, a karaoke-type videogame in which you’re graded on your performance, the man tanked. The line that measures whether the note sung was on key or not was jumping all over like a heart beat. He was either badly flat or sharp.

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Summer on your plate

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Photo by Sang An/Gourmet

Every summer, I find a few new recipes that become the defining meals of the season. I usually find them after a trip to the farmers market, which I always attend when I’m in a rush. As a result, I start circling quickly, randomly buying anything that catches my eye, hoping against hope I have enough cash. That’s how I end up with three bunches of mustard greens or three small beets, a bunch of extra-large green onions, or, this year, a pound of snow peas.

So to my cookbooks and the computer I go, searching for the meal that will most honor them.

I have to say, I love how cooking like this quintessentially says summer to me. It starts with the ingredient, not with the recipe. It starts with the farm, not the grocery store. And because everything is at its peak, you feel like you’re tasting, really tasting, for the first time of the year.

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The search for low-cal manna

Unknown-1Pursuant to our conversation about bathing suit season last week (could I first get a shout-out for legalese? Its formality always cracks me up), we need to talk about the low-cal food market. It is, after all, what naturally becomes part of your life four days after you make the decision you’re going to get bathing suit skinny. Around 3 o’clock on day four, you start roaming the grocery store like a rabid dog, looking for any cheat that might come your way. You wonder how Snackwells taste. You throw a bag of Skinny Pop into the cart. You consider fat-free cheese and realize you’re not that desperate.

This year, bathing suit season landed my stepdaughter Gabrielle and I in the ice cream aisle where, frankly, we had no business being. But my thought process was, well, a), I’m starving and, b), maybe gelato is super good for you and I don’t know it. So we went to the Talenti (which I highly, highly recommend under different circumstances) and started label reading. We soon discovered that half a cup of chocolate was 200 calories.

“Worth it?” I asked Gabrielle, looking hopeful.

“Not even kind of,” she said, firmly the voice of reason.
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Bathing suit season strikes again

IMG_1480A little more than a year ago, I wrote a column discussing how much I hate wearing a bathing suit. But, as I face another summer, I’ve come to realize that conversation was incomplete. Because it didn’t even touch on the complexity of bathing suit season.

The threat of the season starts kicking in sometime in the middle of April. Around the middle of May, it’s in full swing and by the first of June, if you still haven’t acknowledged it, you’re in trouble. That’s because the upcoming season results in all living, first-world women to what? That’s right, ladies: get skinny.

The most interesting thing about this phenomenon is I don’t actually have a particular suit to get ready for. That’s because I hate all of my bathing suits from previous years, which did nothing to make me look more like Jennifer Lopez. That means that the holy grail of suits is still out there and it’s for that magical, invisible suit that I am preparing.

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Eating well in River City

louisville-skylinekentucky-beautifulworldOver the past year, we’ve been lucky enough to spend more time in the great city of Louisville. We’ve always liked this place for its fun outdoor art, its waiters with man buns and beards, its comfortable size, and its flat, runnable roads. But it’s our new credit card that is primarily responsible for these little jaunts, since we manage to rack up enough points on a pretty regular basis to get a free night’s stay at the downtown Hyatt. A short, cheap drive and a free hotel room will drag even the staunchest ruralite out of the holler.

Since there are a few foodies that read my blog and since it’s the perfect time of year for a mini-break, I thought I might recommend a few places we’ve found along the way.

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