(*scribble scribble crumple*) Did you hear that? It’s me writing things!
Apparently my whole entire being felt the need to take a break for *ahem* a month or something. It wasn’t planned, but looking back, it should have been: it seems as though there are two key things I repeatedly forget in both blogging and in life, which are:
- I can’t actually do everything all at once, and
- There are not unlimited hours in the day; wishing does not actually make that so.
So, good news, I have not been kidnapped Misery-style by a Kathy Bates-like person, nor have I lost use of my fingers. Yay? I’ll tell you what I have been up to, though, if you’re interested.
First, though, it’s halloumi season! Just kidding, halloumi knows no season, which is wonderful news, because you should eat it all year long. It has magical properties, friends: it can be grilled all by itself like a chicken, and instead of melting all over the place, it gets nice and crusty and hot on the outside and gooey on the inside. It’s a textural marvel, and makes sort of the best substitute for bread ever in things like salads and appetizers.
Take this little number, for instance: it’s a crostini-style bite but with halloumi as the stand-in where tiny toast would normally be. Honestly, the cheese is beautiful to eat on its own, but layered with crispy pancetta, watermelon, some mint and a little balsamic reduction? Mid-summer perfection. If the ingredient list doesn’t convince you to try it, I throw up my hands at you; I simply do not understand. And if any of those ingredients don’t suit you, switch them out: sub some fresh peach in for the watermelon, sub basil in for the mint, switch up the whole thing and throw a fat tomato slice on there with, the list goes on almost forever. Halloumi is mild, a little salty, and has a little echo of goat cheese in it, which means that almost any fruit or vegetable is fair game. The possibilities really are endless: just start with the cheese (and my recipe for Feast, found here) and let your mind wander.
The July issue of Feast Magazine can be summed up in two words: breathtakingly beautiful. It’s summer on paper. It’s incredible. My favorite, favorite photos of produce – taken by the very talented Jonathan Gayman – are living in the middle of the issue, and they are surrounded by photos of farms, more farms, a drop-dead gorgeous seed emporium, and more luscious summer bounty than you could shake a blueberry bush at. Oh, and with from-scratch s’mores for dessert. Flip through the pages and I promise you you’ll understand why people live in the Midwest (I know some of you do not understand it; I question it sometimes myself, but never at this time of year.) Just go look: I guarantee it’s more fun than your friends’ 839,928 vacation photos of the beach they’re on / cocktail they’re drinking / sunset they’re witnessing.
Speaking of: I’m headed to Florida in 4 days. Yes, I am counting them down. No, I have not packed or cleaned yet. Yes, I do have to have an immaculate house before I leave town because I am slightly OCD and it’s just that much more depressing to be home if I do not. Everything in its right place.
I plan on writing and planning and cooking so much when I’m on vacation: I miss it. I haven’t been doing any of those things enough this past month, and I’m looking so forward to having the time to get back into it. After weeks of being gone, I find myself simply thrilled to get back to you, to this space, and to doing what I love.
Which leads me to why I’ve been (inadvertently) missing in action. Two big things factored into my June absence: my Wee One having her first post-school summer off, and me deciding to take on the dietary obstacle course/minefield better known as the Whole30 Challenge.
Don’t laugh. I know.
So, the Wee being home: parents, how fun is that, right? I thought this summer would be no sweat. I have a great kid, she was only in school half-days this year, how hard could it be to say, come up with an ENTIRE SUMMER CAMP PROGRAM FOR HER AT HOME? WITH THEME WEEKS! AND CRAFTS! AND FIELD TRIPS! AND GET ALL MY REGULAR WORK DONE! EASY PEASY!
I’m an idiot.
Evidently that’s not easy to do, even if you have the best kid. Because that kid doesn’t even get why you’re working when they’re here, and even if they’re playing all by themselves happily, they will pepper you with “mom. mom. hey mom. mom. mom. mom? mom.” every 2.5 minutes. Just so you feel included in their day.
But once I gave up even thinking about writing things, things fell into place, and we’ve had so much fun making things and learning all the stuff. I talk a lot to the Wee One (she loves an explanation, and I’m more than happy to supply her with one) so we’ve been making crafts and talking about them as we do them, which means we learned all sorts of random things. for example:
We learned that cotton comes from sheep, but that eventually, sheep come from cotton. Circle of life. (PSST: I know cotton comes from plants, and you know cotton comes from plants, but you try explaining why sheep walk around looking just like cotton when they’re not cotton to a 3 year old. For even more fun, try explaining wool and the difference between wool and cotton. Watch hilarity ensue.)
We learned about chlorophyll, and why leaves are green and plentiful now but change color in the fall. We both agree blue should be one of the colors leave change into.
We made a (foam) campfire for toasting marshmallows and hot dogs. Real fire isn’t nearly as cute as fake fire.
We also built very tiny campfires…
…for our very tiny Native American settlement. It’s amazing what you can do with construction paper, some toothpicks, fake plastic trees, and a glue gun. Always a glue gun.
We discussed honeybees in-depth, although I’m positive Brianne could have done a much better job breaking down the information than I did. I believe I summed it up eloquently by informing the Wee One that without honeybees, everything would die, so we need to take care of them. By running like we are on fire if we see one in the backyard.
We also learned how unbelievably fat and cute thumbprint bees are. And how much I draw like a 6 year old. The glitter is supposed to represent honey. It’s also supposed to represent how much glitter has happened this June.
And it’s not all about learning, either: there’s been plenty of outdoor activities, very much like camp should be. We’ve taken long walks, collected leaves, and lounged around the pool. This was the Wee’s first year of backyard sprinkler action, and she went through Sprinkler 101 much like all of us did: first the fear, then the awesome, then the execution of questionable water safety technique. Seems as though telling a small child to hold their breath and pinch their nose when putting their face in the water works no matter how much water they’re actually putting their face in.
So as you can see, we’ve been busy learning about life, really. Also letters and numbers and some sight words. That may not be every 3-year-old’s idea of the most perfect summer ever, but to my little one, it is. Information and knowing things is her most favorite thing, much like her mother, I’m proud to say. We’ve also done tons of reading thanks to my genetic predisposition for quiet activities and the Saint Louis County Library’s always-wonderful summer reading program, which gives the kids little prizes for reading books over the summer. They have an adult version as well, which I participate in, but for whatever reason, they don’t supply my age group with water guns and beach balls. Perhaps they should revisit the adult prizes, because I love winning gift cards and things, but I mean, hello: water cannon.
And then there was the Whole30 Challenge I managed to get through this June. Have you heard of it? Natalie and I (either stupidly or very wisely) got hung up on doing this together a few months back, and we thought June would be a good time to give over our bodies to the power of health. If you’re familiar with her work, you’ll know that we’re pretty evenly matched: both of us eat pretty healthily in real life, with a side of pastries, soft pretzels, and peanut butter. We both exercise regularly, we both punk out on exercise regularly, and we both try to manage “fun” food and good food daily without getting crazy about it.
Enter the Whole30: it’s 30 days of no sugar, grains, dairy, or legumes. No alcohol, no white potatoes, no weird things like carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites. Most importantly, no Paleo-ifying baked goods, desserts, or junk food. Which, for those of you keeping score at home, means I’ve eaten nothing but organic meats, eggs, vegetables and fruits for the past month.
Sound easy? It is not. This is the shopping list: that is the sum total of what you can eat (plus herbs and spices and whatnot.) Even for someone like me who eats relatively healthy food almost all the time. It is time-consuming as it is restricting, and it forces you to think in a very meaningful way about every single thing you put into your body. Oh, and forget actually going anywhere or doing anything which involves food in public: it’s virtually impossible to eat within the confines of Whole30 if you’re not making your food yourself. I’ll talk more about that in my next post, along with giving you a rundown of how Natalie and I managed to get through it without cheating (there were some touch-and-go moments, to be sure.) And if you’re interested in ever doing something like that, I’ll give you some survival tips for it, because it was indeed survival.
You may be wondering if this is my way of telling you that this space is converting into a cookie-less, sugarless, wheat-free universe. Friends, ha! Never: I say yes to all food. Blogging will resume as normal, and I daresay it may be improved, because stepping away for a minute tends to provide me with both energy and focus.
Until then (and I promise that will happen in a few days versus a month from now), go find some halloumi and make yourself some bite-sized stacks of something delicious. It’s that time of year where grilling and finger food is the best thing ever, especially when you can put them both together.
I owe you (geez, do I owe you!) a Just One Question Project installment too; don’t think I forgot. Thanks to all of you who answered the last question; that’ll be up soon as well.
If you want to see all that beautiful July bounty I talked about in action, check out this month’s Feast TV episode: the trailer is here, and the full-length version will be up next week after it airs locally. As always, you’ll find the recipe for the halloumi bites right this way. See you in a few days.