Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kitchen Reader - Season to Taste {Guest Post}

This month's Kitchen Reader selection, Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way by Molly Birnbaum, was chosen by Katherine Martinelli.

{Note from Victoria ~ When I decided to give up secular reading for Lent, my biggest misgiving was having to skip a Kitchen Reader book.  Enter my dear friend, Erin, who graciously agreed to read and report on this month's selection.  Erin is the blogger behind The Law School Transplant.  She is a recovering lawyer, a blossoming  yogi, my favorite healthy-food cooking companion, and all-around one of the most wonderful people I know.}

First, many thanks to Victoria for having me here to post a review for The Kitchen Reader. As someone who is loath to commit to anything longer than a month or two, the opportunity to drop in this month was a perfect one for me!

As I was reading Molly Birnbaum’s Season to Taste, the song “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette kept popping into my head. If there were an additional line in one of the verses, it might very well be something along the lines of, “Losing your smell/When you want to be a chef.” After all, your sense of smell is part and parcel of your ability to taste. And how can someone become a chef when they can neither smell nor taste? The unfairness of it all was jarring and tragic.

The book is part narrative/memoir, part science lesson. In between sections of her story, Birnbaum weaves in loads of information about olfaction, neurology and the intersection of the two. These sections are interesting, but tend to get a bit long and pedagogical at times, particularly towards the last half of the book.

However, the most striking – and wonderful – feature of Birnbaum’s writing style is her use of language, and particularly adjectives, to create images for the reader. Because scent (or the lack thereof) is central to the book’s theme, she devotes a great deal of time describing smells – both good and bad. Smell is also the only sense that is tied strongly to memory, and so each time she describes a scent, she also paints a picture of a memory or experience. Indeed, I often found myself remembering experiences from my own life that are connected to the scents she was describing at certain points.

I also found myself relating to Birnbaum’s struggle to redefine herself. Like the author, at a certain point in my life I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I was going to get there. But, life frequently throws us curveballs. For Birnbaum, it was the accident that robbed her of her sense of smell, forcing her to find a different path. Similarly, I’ve experienced an event – albeit much less traumatic – that forced me to reconsider my career trajectory. It’s a path often painful and rarely clear, but I identified with Birnbaum’s journey and admired her willingness to lay bare her insecurities for the world to read.

Finally, this book really made me consider how crucial our sense of smell is to everyday life. It’s not just an accessory sense that is nice to have; indeed, it is central to our ability to experience life, create memories and build interpersonal relationships. It’s also still very much a mystery to doctors and scientists, but so important and simultaneously so frequently taken for granted.

I really enjoyed Season to Taste, both for the story itself, and for the author’s gifted use of language. Oh, and because I couldn’t resist, I read her blog and was delighted to discover that her happy ending is ongoing: Birnbaum has almost entirely regained her sense of smell, and is still with the soldier-cum-writer she met in graduate school. Sometimes, after all, being thrown off your path allows you to find a new, better one: The one you were meant to walk all along.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

Friday, March 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes - Never Stop Learning

I've heard it said that you should never stop learning.  Here are seven things I learned this week . . .

--- 1 ---
It is possible to turn a crazy dream into a great adventure!  Congratulations to my friend, Erin, as she begins her journey toward becoming a yoga instructor!
--- 2 ---
I have been looking at emotional eating (both the wallowing kind and happy kind) all wrong!  This resonates with me better than any diet advice I've ever read (and I've certainly read my share):
When you seek comfort, turn to the Lord, not your fridge.  And even when life is good and you have reason to celebrate, don't fill your glass of wine just yet.  First fill your heart with gratitude to God. 
(From Weightlessby Kate Wicker)
--- 3 ---
Two-year-old boys are attracted to mud like flies to honey.  If there is a dry backyard with one mud puddle, they will go straight into the mud puddle.
--- 4 ---
A hose and some dish soap are surprisingly effective in dealing with the inevitable fallout from #3!  (So grateful I switched to gentler dish soap when the Moose came along!)
--- 5 ---
You can make quinoa while avoiding the slimy texture if you cook it with the lid off, as suggested in this recipe!
--- 6 ---
I just stumbled across the story behind one of my favorite Marian images:

--- 7 ---
And a gratuitous fun one! I just recently discovered Pinterest.  Let me just say, I get it now! 

May you never stop learning!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

(Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moose's Morning Moomie

I was reading a blog post over the weekend about cooking for picky toddlers (wish I could remember where!) and the writer asked for others to contribute their best recipes in the comments.  I closed the window, visions of carefully-prepared cast-off toddler meals replaying in my mind, thinking to myself that I had nothing valuable to contribute to the conversation.

And then, this morning, with the blender running, I realized that I DO! I give you:

(that's smoothie in non-toddler speak)
  • 1/2 c. yogurt of choice (I use 2% vanilla Greek yogurt at the moment from a local dairy)
  • 1 x 4ish ounce pouch of fruit puree/vegetable puree (I use Happy Tot to give Moose a little veggie boost early in the day and also because they have good protein and fiber; there are lots of other options out there)
  • Milk of choice
Use 1/2 cup measure to scoop the yogurt into the blender (no need to get a spoon dirty!).  Squeeze puree pouch in next (BONUS: I'm saving the lids to use as counters as Moose learns his numbers).  Pour milk on top to about the 2 cup mark on your blender.  Blend until smooth.  

Yield: 2, 7oz servings
Moose gets one immediately (the whole idea arose about nine months ago when Moose decided that life was too short to sit down for breakfast; it's just become part of our morning routine now), and the other goes, ready in the sippy cup, into the fridge for the next day.  I'm about to experiment with freezing (already blended) in baggies to pre-make more than two days worth for when I'm out of town later this month and my mother-in-law will be serving Moose's breakfast.

Then I want to get brave and start making his smoothies from more whole ingredients.  I'm really keen to try this Green Supreme Smoothie

There are a ton of resources out there for toddler food.  I'm starting a collection of kiddo food (some more nutritious than others) on Pinterest.  I also adore the recipes at Once a Month Mom.

Oh, and P.S. I'm not above throwing one of these together when dinner is a total bust to make sure Moose gets some nutrition to top off the day. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Where In the World Is . . .

Where in the world have I been?

Nope, sadly, I've not traveling to any exotic locations.

The last month has left me a bit flummoxed.  I'm not quite sure why.  Nothing big happened.  Nothing is wrong.  I just haven't been feeling myself, so I've been keeping to myself (I've even missed the last two Yarn Alongs - gasp!), and focusing a little more on reflecting inward (which is not such a bad thing during Lent). 

I've been baking . . .

I made these wonderful chocolate chip scones with the Moose, using star and flower cookie cutters, thanks to some inspiration from Baking Unadorned.

I've been reading, reflecting, and journaling about my faith . . .

Actually, my reading was a bit scattered until I discovered this beautiful journal in my local Catholic bookstore.  I've been jotting some notes as I read and have found myself going much deeper into the content (despite having three books going at once).

I've been knitting (a little) . . .

I am teaching a friend to knit, and have been trying to come up with a simple scarf pattern for her that's more than boring garter stitch. This attempt was garter bands alternated with a drop stitch row.  I've also been working on finishing up the Mystery Birthday Project.

I've been exercising again (woo hoo!) . . .

Last summer I completed a full three-month rotation of P90X Lean.  I lost weight, felt great.  It was win-win.  Then I tweaked my shoulder, and then the Moose decided he wasn't so interested in sleeping anymore and I teetered off the wagon.

Well, the sleep is only marginally more consistent, but this warm weather we've been having and the looming necessity of shorts convinced me that I had to do something

I'm sharing some clips of my current favorites, in case you happen to be in need of some inspiration.

Bob Harper's Yoga for the Warrior

Physique 57 - I created a playlist of some FREE fitness sequences they recorded recently for The Daily.

I also (finally) discovered Follow Me on Pinterest . . .

(Does this one really need any explanation?)

Hopefully I'll be back to some regularly scheduled cooking/reading/knitting/Tot School programming soon!

P.S. Can I tell you how much I LOVED that show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego when I was a kid?!  I can't be the only one!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daylight Savings Links


Most of us are wondering where that much-needed hour went today.  I'm wondering where my week went last week!

Although today we scramble to get it all done in less time today than usual, in the event you find a minute for yourself I offer a few quick links that I especially enjoyed this week:

If you haven't found The New Noblewoman yet, you're in for a treat! As I described it to a friend: "It somehow scratches my geez-I-wish-I-was-born-in-a-different-era itch: it is equal parts fun (Exhibit A: "How to have the Handbag of a Queen") and substance (Exhibit B: "How to Use Journaling a an Artistic and Spiritual Medium")."  The latter was nothing short of amazing and now have a journaling book on the way to help me put some of the ideas into practice.

This post was balm for my soul.  Although the Moose's behavior has been improving over the past several weeks, we're still far from tantrum-free.  I never tire of reassurance that I'm doing the right thing in not giving in just to avoid the squall. 

Sarah, The Snoring Scholar, whose blog I generally love anyway, has a beautiful Mary Moments post this week on Mary as Our Lady of Girlfriends and the importance of our relationships with the women in our lives.  (Be patient if it doesn't show up right away - I subscribe to her posts by email but I suspect I accidentally got it early and it won't officially post until tomorrow, since she usually does Mary Moments on Monday.)

Here at the Moose family, we have a great St. Patrick's Day tradition of celebrating with friends (who are distantly Irish).  In making my grocery list for the week, I pulled out this favorite from our first annual dinner (we're on our fourth now): Irish Bread and Butter Pudding with Irish Whiskey.  Not to be missed (and don't you dare skip the whiskey sauce!)!  I'm sharing it now because, as much as I love the bloggers I follow, I always grumble when they share a great idea the day of an event or holiday.  This way, you can plan ahead. 

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead!

Photo Credit

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Yarn Along: Gestating Baby Blanket

Yarning Along with Ginny again today!

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

The baby blanket is coming along, albeit somewhat slowly.  Because this blanket is knit from the corner, each row gets longer (and takes longer).  I suppose its a poetic comparison that the blanket seems to be growing by barely-perceptible increments, as is the intended recipient.  As ever, I could benefit from patience all around and enjoy the process more and focus on the finished product less. The blanket is starting to get heavy on my needles, though, which I always feel is a good sign of a substantial project. 

This week I am reading The Mystery of Love by Cardinal Basil Hume, the late Archbishop of Westminster Cathedral in London.  Sadly, he passed away three months before I arrived in England and I never had the chance to hear him give a homily.  A friend of mine who did, however, has been raving about him to me for years, so I picked up this book, which is a collection by theme of homilies.  I am finding him to be modern and accessible, and, best of all, very thought-provoking.

Please come join us at Ginny's and share what is on your needles and off your bookshelf at the moment!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links (along with some non-affiliate ones)..