Author Archives: Melissa

this is a week for the birds

Milburn Orchards, Elkton, MD. August 2010. Photo by Melissa Firman.

So, here’s what I’m staring down during the week ahead.

You ready?

The Boy and The Girl’s 16th birthdays.

(I have no gifts purchased and zero ideas, especially for The Boy, and no money for an “experience” gift, like a weekend in New York or something like that.)

A major holiday involving a 6 hour drive (each way) across T**mpsylvania.

(That would be Thanksgiving, complete with multiple helpings of stress and several people who aren’t talking to us.)  

The two-year anniversary of The Husband’s seizure during Thanksgiving Dinner 2015 and me reviving him on the bathroom floor.

(Of which we’re still dealing with lingering physical, cognitive and emotional effects. Us, not the bathroom floor.) 

And just for good measure, my 30 year high school reunion!

(My high school years were … well, you can read about them in my post “25 Year Later. It Gets Better.” It says something that this is the event I’m most looking forward to this week.) 

On top of which (yeah, there’s more) the weather is total crap (raining, cold, windy, snow) and I’ve had a cold since Wednesday. I’m at that stage where I’m convinced I’ll be sick forever. This has turned into a sinus headache from hell.

The only thing to do is all that I can do in these scenarios:

Breathe.

Do what I/we can, in whatever way works for me/us.

Don’t obsess over what we can’t control.

Focus on the positive aspects. (Neither kid wants a car for their 16th birthday nor has any interest in driving yet! Now that’s something I’m thankful for.)

Breathe.

Abandon expectations and all notions of “the way it was/should be/could have been.”

Reduce social media time.

Make sure to get enough sleep.

Breathe.

Again.   

And again. 

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Weekend Cooking: Instant Pot Vegetable Stock and Spiced Lentil Soup

Like many cooks, I keep a gallon-sized Ziploc bag in my freezer to save vegetable scraps, which I then use to make vegetable broth when its full. (I once thought this was a rather complicated process but in actuality, it’s really easy and convenient.)

Today was the perfect day to do this. It’s one of those rainy, windy and just all-around miserable November days, the kind where you just crave a big bowl of soup for dinner (something that sounded perfect to me, since I’m dealing with a stupid, pesky cold).

I’ve only made broth in the slow cooker, but today I decided to try Laurel Randolph’s recipe from The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cookbook

I started by dumping my entire bag of frozen vegetable scraps into the Instant Pot.

I added enough water to cover the vegetables, some dried parsley and garlic pepper seasoning blend, a bay leaf and set the Instant Pot to cook on the Soup setting for an hour. Did a natural release for 15 minutes and voila!

Gorgeous vegetable broth! (After straining the vegetables, that is. Important step.)

(That’s a 1/2 cup.)

Obviously, this made A LOT of broth.

My choice of soups was the Spiced Red Lentil, Tomato and Kale Soup from Oh She Glows. Minus the kale, that is. I’ve tried it in many recipes, I’ve wanted to like it,  I know it’s super-healthy, but I just don’t have any affection for kale. I do have a strong affection for Angela Lidden’s blog Oh She Glows, which is one of my favorites.

Again, I wanted to convert this to an Instant Pot recipe. I found a few variations online and used them as a guide. You start off sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil. Then, add ground cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and coriander. I didn’t have the last two so I just left them out. Add a can of diced tomatoes, 6 cups of vegetable broth, and a cup of red lentils.

I wasn’t sure how long to cook this for. One converted recipe said 3 minutes and another said 15 with a 10 minute natural release. That’s kind of a wide range, so I just went with 15 minutes and a 5 minute natural release.

This was absolutely excellent (as have been every recipe I’ve made from Oh She Glows.) You know how good this was?

So good that The Husband requested to see this soup again — and soon.

He usually likes most things I make but he was especially enthusiastic about this, so we’ll put this on the regular rotation.


Speaking of the Instant Pot, I’ve been thinking of doing a series of blog posts focusing on the Instant Pot — recipes, common questions, etc. I don’t necessarily want to start a separate blog. Any ideas what to call this feature?


Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Nonfiction November – Nov 13-17: Become the Expert

This week for Nonfiction November, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness  (who happens to be one of my very favorite book blogging friends) invites us to either Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert by either sharing three or more books on a single topic that we have read and can recommend (be the expert), put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that we’ve have been dying to read (ask the expert), or create our own list of books on a topic that we would like to read (become the expert).

As I tend to do, I’ve been way overthinking this.

(Overthinking, now’s that’s something I’m an expert in.)

While I wouldn’t call myself an expert, there are certain subjects I tend to gravitate towards in my nonfiction choices.

Autism.

Politics and current events.

Death.

Feminism.

Mindfulness and spirituality.

Food.

LGBTQ issues.

I could easily and happily recommend three books to you on any of the above topics. (Feel free to ask me in the comments if you need a suggestion.)

But an expert?

Nah.

Since I believe there’s always more to learn about a subject, I’ll go with Door #3.

Become the Expert.

Recently, I’ve been seeking out books about the workings of the brain. I don’t mean a neuroscience textbook; rather, I’m very curious to learn more about memory and how trauma affects our memories. In addition to autism, our family has been impacted by dementia, depression and anxiety, migraines, and PTSD. I’m interested in reading more about all of these. A lot of lifestyle issues — sleep, exercise, food, stress, connection with others — are crucial to our brain health and our overall well-being.

A few books on this topic that I’m interested in reading include:

The Inheritance: A Family on the Front Lines of the Battle Against Alzheimer’s Disease 
by Niki Kapsambelis

Earlier this summer our library hosted Niki for a talk and book-signing. The Inheritance focuses on the DeMoe family. Of the six DeMoe children, five have inherited the genetic mutation that causes early onset Alzheimer’s; the sixth, Karla, has inherited the responsibility for all of them. But rather than give up in the face of such news, the DeMoes have agreed to spend their precious, abbreviated years as part of a worldwide study that could utterly change the landscape of Alzheimer’s research and offers the brightest hope for future treatments—and possibly a cure. Much of this research is happening right here in Pittsburgh.

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
by Matthew Walker, PhD.

In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s
by Joseph Jebelli

Memory Rescue: Supercharge Your Brain, Reverse Memory Loss, and Remember What Matters Most
by Daniel G. Amen

How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain
by Lisa Barrett Feldman

Memory’s Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia 
by Gerda Saunders

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Nope

Art project, by The Girl.

Shared here on the blog with her permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Book Review (by The Husband): Grant, by Ron Chernow

The Husband made his debut in Shelf Awareness yesterday as a published book reviewer. He took on the mammoth tome (more than 1,100 pages!) that is Ron Chernow’s Grant.

You can find his review here.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

under the weather

I’m feeling a bit of a cold or some such nonsense coming on, so taking a pass on #NaBloPoMo tonight and heading to bed.

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

classics club spin #16

While catching up on some blog reading the other day, I was inspired by my friend JoAnn at Lakeside Musings who wrote about completing The Classics Club challenge and decided to check in on my own progress.

It’s … not that great.

No surprise there.

The Classics Club is a book challenge that started in March 2012 with the goal of reading at least 50 classic books within five years. Short stories, novellas and poetry all count. Re-reads are allowed too, so even if you know you read something in high school but you don’t remember anything about it, that’s fair game. You can join the club anytime. And it is somewhat flexible. I don’t do well with challenges or reading games where one needs to adhere to a list that’s set in stone until the end of time since preferences change and, as we know, I have zero qualms about abandoning books as soon as they aren’t working for me.

To participate, all one needs to do is post a list of at least 50 classics that you plan to read within the next five years, which I did in this post (“dustin’ off that English degree, joining the classics club”) here.   In my typical over-committing style, my original list included more than 100 books.

That was in April 2015. Two and a half years later, I’ve added to that list since then but haven’t made much of a dent in it. I’ve read three:

The Complete Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway
A Moveable Feast, also by Hemingway
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

And three additional books were DNFs:
The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
The Very Best of O. Henry by O. Henry
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allen Poe.

The Classics Spin #16 

Coincidentally, it’s time for another Classics Club “spin.” This is a fun part of the challenge where, every so often, the organizers do a “spin” where participants list on your blog (or wherever) 20 classics from your list that are still unread. The organizers select a random number and whatever book corresponds to that number is the book you need to read by a certain date. They’ll select a number on Friday.

Clearly, this is fate that I need to do this, right? Here’s my list of 20 books:

  1. Allison, Dorothy: Bastard Out of Carolina
  2. Atwood, Margaret: The Blind Assassin
  3. Baldwin, James: The Fire Next Time
  4. Baldwin, James: Giovanni’s Room
  5. Calvino, Italo: If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler
  6. Dickens, Charles: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  7. Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca
  8. Fitzgerald, Zelda: Save Me the Waltz
  9. Irving, John: A Prayer for Owen Meany
  10. Kundera, Milan: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  11. McCullers, Carson: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  12. O’Connor, Flannery: A Good Man is Hard to Find
  13. O’Connor, Flannery: Wise Blood
  14. Orwell, George: 1984
  15. Plath, Sylvia: Ariel
  16. Wharton, Edith: The Age of Innocence
  17. Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  18. Woolf, Virginia: The Complete Shorter Fiction
  19. Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One’s Own
  20. Woolf, Virginia: Orlando

Update 11/17/2017:  And the lucky number is … 4!  Which means I’ll be reading Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin.  This has been on my TBR for awhile so I’m glad to finally get to it.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0