On tap this week – a kitchen hack, a hydrangea trick, a favorite bauble, a book recommendation and a music obsession.
And it’s my blogiversary! Time for my annual celebration giveaway – in honor of our three years together, three of you lovely readers will win a prize:
- Customize a cool bauble of your own, OR
- Pick a trio of dee-licious St Dalfour juice-sweetened fruit preserves (wild blueberry and raspberry-pomegranate are the bomb), OR
- Get my latest book recommendation (read about it below!)
I’m also highlighting a few favorite summer recipes from the archives here for those of you who haven’t been around as long.
Three years – thanks for hanging around, my friends.
Life hack: Vacation food storage
At the end of the winter, when all the snowbirds in Florida pack up their condos and return to their East Coast or Midwest homes, the smart ones don’t throw away their extra food staples. Instead, they empty their refrigerators and pantry cupboards into the freezer – cereal, peanut butter, pasta, sugar, cheese – everything except canned goods. And the next winter, they take it all out again.
A helpful trick if you are leaving your home for an extended period this summer, or if you are in a summer place that will be unoccupied again for a while. Because it’s sad to come back to stale food.
I love hydrangeas when I’m in Ohio for the summer, especially because they are not as common in dry California. For those of you lucky enough to live in hydrangea land, Mrs Wheelbarrow has a nifty tip for extending the life of cut hydrangea blooms: dip the stem ends in boiling water for 15 seconds first. Apparently this rids the stem of a sticky substance that can prevent the cut flower from drawing up water to stay alive.
Tiny bead bracelets
I bought myself two bracelets from Etsy, made by nice Ana in Madrid, and I love them so much I never take them off. Petite beads on durable, colored waxed thread – I have one with tiny grey pearls and one with tiny square sterling silver beads.
The bracelets, customized for the beads and color of thread you like, cost less than $20, and shipping to the US costs less than $5 per order. They are easy to wear, alone or layered with other bracelets, and they give me a happy little boost every day.
It’s hard to see scale without context, so I took a picture of them on my arm, even though it makes me cringe a little. Here it is, because I love you guys.
Mother Daughter Me
I’ve been a lifelong fan of biographies, but Mother Daughter Me, a new memoir by writer and New York Times contributor Katie Hafner, is something different. Instead of the usual timeline of personal and career milestones, this beautifully written book takes on the meat of real life – the hard lessons of emotional growth and personal understanding.
The book begins when Hafner, widowed with a teenage daughter, invites her mother to move in. Hafner thinks she has put their difficult history – her mother’s past alcoholism, her abandonment of her young daughters – behind her and is dismayed to find that she is wrong.
It sounds like a heavy story, but Hafner’s touch is light and true. I marveled at the difficulty of her journey – overcoming such a painful and complicated past, breaking the cycle of dysfunction – but most of all Hafner’s ability to understand it well enough to write with enormous clarity and compassion.
We don’t choose our family, and no life is without mistakes. But to move forward with honesty – that is the real achievement of a life well lived. This book is thoughtful discussion fodder for a book group, or simply for friends or family.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
I am fixated on this hip hop duo – two white guys! – from Seattle, who buck the usual misogynistic, bling-saturated stereotype of the genre to sing about thrift shopping, Malcolm Gladwell and gay rights. Macklemore (real name Ben Haggerty) gives an earnest, passionate, live performance of three hit songs in the NPR Music offices, as part of NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series (there’s a free audio download too), that is so much better than hearing it on the radio. (Warning: they don’t perform the “clean” version, so don’t watch if you find language offensive.)
But aside from the music, this is a notable success story. In an industry still controlled by a few major music labels, these guys built their YouTube audience over years, a following that powered two #1 singles from their first full-length album, “The Heist,” released last fall. “Thrift Shop” was the first independently released song to reach #1 since 1994 – in other words, that never happens.
(And for those old enough to remember, the 1994 song was Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” which gained fans when it was featured in the movie “Reality Bites.”)
I also admire how Haggerty and Lewis have shined the spotlight on fellow Seattle artists. Twenty-five-year-old singer-songwriter Mary Lambert has gotten attention for her soulful vocals on “Same Love”; 22-year-old gospel singer Ray Dalton, featured in “Can’t Hold Us,” has since left his job teaching tennis to pursue music; and 51-year-old Michael Wansley, who sings the baritone hook from “Thrift Shop,” was a software test engineer who had long ago given up on ever being able to have a career in music. A new start at 51 is even more awesome than a thrift shop find.
Not all struggling actors have the writing chops to pen a screenplay for themselves to star in, as Matt Damon and Ben Affleck did with “Good Will Hunting” or Jason Segel with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” And not all musical artists have the savvy to produce and market their own music. But it’s liberating to know it can be done.
I’m behind on my blog reading ever since Google discontinued its RSS reader on July 1. I managed to move my subscriptions over to Feedly, but I haven’t quite figured out how to read it the way I used to on Google Reader.
I’m a Google fan, but it is so irritating the way they start something really useful, like GOOG-411, which I used to use all the time for phone number lookups, and then shut it down without remorse or apology.
Hard to complain about free, though. I’ll have to organize Feedly soon, so I can catch up with the world.
Some summer favorites here…
- Greek grilled chicken [post] [printable]
- Mom’s barbecue chicken [post] [printable]
- Orzo with zucchini, mint, lemon and feta [post] [printable]
- Quinoa arugula salad [post] [printable]
- Shrimp with tomato, lemon, feta and parsley [post] [printable]
- California Greek salad [post] [printable]
- New potato and asparagus salad with lemon-dijon dressing [post] [printable]
- Blackberry cobbler [post] [printable]
- Mascarpone cream cake with boozy berries [post] [printable]
- Strawberry oatmeal shortcakes with maple vanilla cream [post] [printable]
Maybe I should also sort recipes by season on my recipes page too. What do you think?
Entering the giveaway is easy – just talk to me! Use the comment form below to say something about chinese grandma:
- A favorite recipe
- Something useful or memorable you picked up here
- A suggestion for improvement
- Or whatever!
Leave your comment by next Friday, August 2. As always, winners will be picked using this fair and geeky random number generator. I’ll contact winners by email to coordinate prize selection and delivery.
Come out of your quiet reading corner and talk to me – you have no idea how excited I get to hear from you. Good luck, hope you win!