Archive | April, 2016

A Book I Read, A Book I Dropped, and a Book I am Dying for You to Read

26 Apr

You can check out the first two books I’ve read this year here.

What I Read: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

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If you haven’t read anything by Murakami before, I suggest starting with his shorter fiction (you can start with his not-at-all-shabby number of New Yorker contributions)– his books often have long asides that are immensely enjoyable but don’t necessarily contribute to the narrative arc, and  his take on magic realism is what I imagine an LSD trip would feel like. In general I am not into anything even remotely fantastical, but Murakami’s command of readers is unmatched: he envelopes us in a world we can swallow, one where words and symbols are both plain and profound, then inverts it just enough to remind readers that he is in the driver’s seat–and we WILL be enjoying this ride.

Anyway, if The Interestings is about a group of childhood friends who stuck together through life even when they shouldn’t have, CTTAHYOP is a mediation on what happens when that group of friends is gone.We meet our protagonist in his mid-30s, an engineer with a lifelong self-prescription for colorlessness struggling to connect to a world of whose hues remain apparent-but-out-of-reach to him thanks to an abrupt and traumatic transition from the comfort of childhood to the confusion of early adulthood. Murakami gives us a few foils to Tsukuru, who guide him (and readers) through flashbacks and side stories in exploration of why he can never quite cross out of black and white Kansas to find the brilliant shades of Oz. If that synopsis is oblique, I’m glad– I love not knowing what Murakami’s books are “about” and just letting the familiar-yet-foreign world he creates unfold before me.

What I Dropped: Outline

I almost never don’t finish books–but when the pie chart of your time has only the teensiest sliver for leisure reading, there’s no time for words that don’t blow your hair back. I wanted so much to like this book: it’s about a British woman who goes to Greece to teach writing after a divorce… writing, Greece, and reinvention are pretty much my favorite themes. But the structure of the book made it difficult for me– the narrator actually has no narrative at all, rather she merely moves us from person to person as the characters she meets tell their stories rather than hers.

It is likely that I will go back and try this book again–the writing is compelling and there were some spot-on and hilarious depictions of Greeks–but I just never cared enough to keep moving through the book. Cusk was able to carry each story on its own, but failed to compel readers (or at least this reader) to continue from one to the next. Anyone read this? Should I keep going?

What I’m Dying For You to Read: Consequence: A Memoir

Holy moly. I’m about 1/2 way through this book right now and am not ready to wax poetic, so I’m just going to make the case for you to read this book so I can talk about it with you. On its face, Consequence is Eric Fair’s account of his time as an interrogator at Abu Graib–but truly, it is an indictment of the many, many systems that created conditions ripe for the abuse and horror of the prison. Fair takes his time getting there–as I said, I’m about half way through and we’ve only just gotten to Iraq– but no words are wasted. The writing is sparse and plain, and Fair moves us from his early childhood to his decision to deploy as a contractor to Iraq with only as much attention as a particular phase of life requires. He is objectively critical, and lays out events with only as much edification as he thinks is required to make a point. There are no tirades, no rants, no pontificating–just the facts as this conservative Christian man from Pennsylvania saw them. Most impressive is the way Fair does not shield himself from the light of his own investigation: he indicts himself and his own moments of cowardice just as searingly as his cavalier colleagues, indifferent supervisors, and clueless community members.

I’ll write again when I finish it. Please please let me know if you read this, too!

The Honeymoon is Over: ManSpreading and Moonshine

22 Apr

There’s a test on Monday, which means, of course, that there’s a long post today. A friend reminded me that I never actually told the story of how my dear husband manspreaded his way through Montenegro, which is not actually that much of a story… but in the interest of not leaving my readers hanging (and of delaying studying just as long as humanly possible), I figured I’d wrap up this honeymoon run down.

At last update we were in Dubrovnik, Croatia enjoying the good life of dapper cats and pizza-only diets. We decided to take a day trip to Montenegro, and dutifully got up early to meet the bus. The next ~2 hous looked like this:

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Which is to say that MrKef spent the bus ride pleased as punch, talking about what a great ride this was… while my American-sized  self squeezed into the half of my already-too-small seat that he wasn’t occupying. For those not familiar with manspreading, a word from the Metropolitan Transit Authority:

When I suggested that he was taking up way more space than was allotted to him he simply got a wry smile and said, “What? I’m a big African man. I need to spread out.” This is when I wondered whether I could get an annulment in Montenegro.

I decided to take a little nap, and when I woke up, we were in Montenegro! Our day trip started with a tour of the Bay of Kotor, which was about as stunning as can be:IMG_4723

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We had a quick stop for lunch, where the sun was shining and the shitznel was huge.

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IMG_4689The server absolutely judged us when MrKef finished his plate, but no one gave one bit of mind to it–MrKef was in his happy place (and I was sitting safely ACROSS the bench from him, so I had all the space I wanted).

Next, we headed over to the Old City of Kotor. It was supercute and full of charm:

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There was the option to climb up two miles of stairs (no…really) in the 98 degree heat, but we opted against it. But if you’re headed there and want a preview, follow the stairs alllll the way up the mountain to the top fort in this picture below– definitely a hike meant for the early morning.

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Here we are, unhiked and unsweaty:IMG_4714

And, apparently, it was Shark Week in Kodor:

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After an hours-long wait at the border (and a harrowing drive down a very narrow one-way street that left MrKef in awe of European bus drivers), we were back. We made reservations at one of the nicer restaurants for our last night (which had a beautiful view and ambiance, but didn’t change anyone’s life), then headed back over to Buzzabar and — of course– Bodega to wind down the night.

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We were so sad to wake up and know it was the last morning– we had been having so much fun just hanging out, seeing the sights, and soaking up the sun. We decided to ferry over to Lokrum for our last day–it’s a teeny island ~500 meters from the Dubrovnik port, so we could spend most of the day on the island and still make our evening flight.

There’s a rumor that the island is haunted because some monks cursed it after being evicted by Italian royalty (#squadgoals). We didn’t see any ghosts, but we did see just about everything else– for being pretty small island, there’s an amazing amount of diversity: cliffs, botanical gardens, succulents, and tons of peacocks!

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Eventually, it was time to trek back up alllllllllllll of them stairs and make our way to the airport. Now, before I continue with this story I want to acknowledge one point: MrKef is an infinitely better human than I am, and he exercises more patience, temperance, and good naturedness in any given minute than I have in my whole life combined.

HOWEVER.

After a long, hot week of trekking up 379 stairs each way to and from our AirBnB, MrKef was DONE. He did NOT want to climb up every mountain, take a shower, and then get sweaty 2.5 seconds later in the clothes he was going to have to fly in. Having dated him for 5 years, I had barely even seen him peeved and suddenly, we were in Terrible Twos Tantrum mode. Thank god I had the good sense not to go TMZ on him and film the whole thing, as we might have had a very short marriage… but I did really think about it.

Our sweet AirBnB host must have known something was afoot, because once we got up there she rushed to get us a beverage. I, on the other hand, rushed to get into the shower first so MrKef could have a cool drink and a time out. Here’s me, in the makeshift bathroom our host graciously fashioned for us because the next guests had already arrived:

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Unbeknownst to me, our host was winning MrKef’s heart in the while I tried to find the modest way to shower outside. She brought over some water and a Sprite bottle. MrKef started drinking the water and was interrupted by our host, who picked up the Sprite bottle, poured a swig into his glass and said, “This is how men drink water.” Turns out, it was moonshine she had made herself!

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I, of course, came out of the shower and took a HUGE gulp of what I thought was water, and watched as MrKef giggled through my choking and spattering. That ish will put hair on your chest.

Two minibreakdowns later (one from MrKef about waiting for the bus and the other from me about paying an airport check-in fee), and we were up in the air. Bye bye, Dubrovnik!

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For the final stop of our honeymoon, we did a grand tour of our families in England. We left sunny, 75-degree Dubrovnik and landed in 45-degree Manchester (where all the freakish Brits exclaimed upon exiting the plane, “Thank god it’s cold again!”). But while the weather wasn’t ideal, the company was– MrKef’s Aunt and Uncle took us right to the center of all things wonderful: an all you can eat Indian buffet.

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MrKef and his uncle stayed up all night drinking whiskey, and I went directly to bed after all those samosas. The next morning I woke up early to get in a great run on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which is even cuter than this picture would suggest:

We did some social sightseeing, and even got to see the famous cliffs!

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Of course, we made great use of the selfie stick:

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Even though it was a way, way , way too-short visit, it was great to finally meet MrKef’s favorite uncle and his family. We can’t wait to get back soon!

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Next, a bus trip to London to spend time with my brilliant cousin and HER family, which sadly I have no pictures of because we came very late and left awfully early… but know I am related to Britain’s most beautiful baby.

…and then, it was really over. We had to head back to reality. But not before I finally convinced MrKef to take a duck-face selfie… or maybe that’s just our “so sad it’s over” face–I can’t quite now recall.

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A final note–  can I say for the record that I think I looked kind of cute in my traveling clothes for once? I had to complete my selfie education and take a bathroom shot.

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And that, my friends, finally brings the Ndjatou World Tour blogging series to a close. We LOVED Dubrovnik and would pick it again for our honeymoon spot in a heartbeat!

Soy-Sesame Broccoli with Carrot Noodles

12 Apr

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The moment pretty much everyone has been predicting for two years has come to pass: work + grad school +triathlon/running training has finally cut into my cooking time–majorly. I used to try and find a recipe that included a ton of home-made components and hard-to-find ingredients and now… my search for recipes has been limited to the following queries:

  • Can I find all the ingredients in one store, in one trip?
  • Can I just add meat (and/or rice) to it so MrKef will eat it?
  • Is stirring the most difficult part of the recipe?

If the answer to any of the above questions is no, well… you might not be seeing it on CuK until June 2017 when Chef Kefi, RN becomes Chef Kefi, PNP-BC and never has to take another friggin final again.

ANYWAY, here’s a veggie dish I made on Sunday and have been enjoying throughout the week. I love how colorful it is, but mostly I love how easy it is.

Soy-Sesame Broccoli with Carrot Noodles

Ingredients

–For the sauce

  • 4 TBS coconut aminos
  • 3 TBS water
  • 2 TBS honey
  • 1 TBS vinegar (rice or white)
  • 1 TBS Sesame oil
  • 2 tsp Chili-garlic sauce (or any hot sauce)

–For the noodles

  • 1-2 lbs carrots, washed and ends chopped off
  • olive oil

— For everything else

  • 10 oz broccoli (or more if you’re a broccoli monster like me–but if you add more broccoli, make a bigger batch of sauce)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 7 oz cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 c toasted cashews
  • 1 package tofu, drained (optional)


Assembly

  1. Mix together sauce ingredients. Pour over tofu and broccoli and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Use a spiralizer or a peeler to make very thin “noodles” out of carrots.
  3. Heat a drizzle of olive oil over med-high heat. Add carrot noodles to pan and cook until desired tenderness (I do ~ 4 minutes). Remove carrots from pan and set aside.
  4. Regrease pan with ~1 TBS olive oil and add garlic over med-high heat. Saute for about 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant. Add broccoli/tofu, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until desired tenderness. Add carrot noodles and cole slaw/cabbage, and saute until heated through. Toss with cashews and serve warm.

Vegan Chocolate Frosting Pudding

5 Apr

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So many good fats, so little time… this has been my life’s mantra these days. As I mentioned the other day, I have been eating salmon like it’s my job lately, and I’ve been pairing it with nuts, avocado, coconut, eggs, and ALLLLL the olive oil my big, fat, Greek palate can handle.

Some kind soul sent me a subscription to Bon Appetit (but hasn’t ‘fessed up yet, so if you want to claim my undying love and affection, now’s your chance!), and they published this almost-healthy vegan chocolate pudding whose “secret ingredient” is avocado! I’ve done the whole avocado-as-baking-fat thing before (see also: chocolate peanut butter poppers and this chocolate cake), but I have to say that I think I like this one the most.

This was as easy as making a smoothie, and I swear it tasted like the store-bought chocolate frosting. Another day, I will see if I can make a healthy-fat cake and will slather this all over it to see if it holds up like frosting. But for today… I will just eat one of these a night for the rest of my life and die happily.

I greatly reduced the sweetener and nixed the whipped cream from the original recipe, and these changes are reflected below  (for the BA version, click here)

Vegan Chocolate Frosting Pudding

Ingredients

  • 2 large avocados, pits removed
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup (or more) fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 c hot (but not boiling) water

Assembly

  1. Combine all ingredients except the water in a blender.
  2. Once smooth, gradually add the hot water while blending.
  3. Separate into 4-6 ramekins (I got 6 ~1/4c servings) and chill for at least two hours. It’s best to cover them, but mine made it a week in the fridge uncovered without tasting like onions.

 

 

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