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You know a book is good when it’s still on your mind EIGHT YEARS after you first read it. So, while I have VERY MIXED feelings about Gavin de Becker’s  The Gift of Fear, I have to grudgingly admit that it must have a been a good book. I think of it regularly.

The Gift of Fear

Unfortunately, the overwhelmingly strong “lesson” of the book, the one that lingers on nearly a decade after learning it, is that Whatever I Do, I Am Doing the Wrong Thing. If I am anxious and nothing bad happens, it is because I am not paying close enough attention to the perfectly clear signals that are right in front of me for easy interpretation. If I am anxious and yet plow forward with the belief that I am anxious for no reason, and something bad does happen, it is because I was not paying close enough attention to the signals. Either way, I fail. (If you want to read a more balanced review of the book, that lays out its many very good points alongside its weaknesses, check out Swistle’s post about it.)

Anyway, it is on my mind AGAIN this week. I am going to tell you the story, but keep in mind before reading that I told my husband and at the end he was very disappointed that It All Turned Out Okay. So it’s not a story of narrowly escaping Certain Murder, or anything. Just to be clear.

Now that you have surely clicked away to something much more interesting: I go walking in a nature preserve after I drop my daughter off at camp.

The nature preserve is beautiful. It’s got a lot of trees and foliage and wildflowers and birds and rabbits and deer. There are people who take care of it – clearing and repairing the walking paths, protecting species trees with deer-proof fencing, mowing the sides of the walking paths so that the nature doesn’t physically overwhelm you – but it’s still very wild-seeming. It’s bordered on all sides by a bustling suburb, but when you’re in the middle of it, you feel very removed from city life. I like it in great part because it feels fairly isolated and remote.

Nature preserve 1.JPG

This is not a good picture — I was trying (and failing) to photograph a specific purple flower so I could look it up — but it should give you a sense of what the preserve is like. 

Lots of other people like it, too, of course. On a normal, good-weather morning, I might pass twenty or so people as I’m walking. People bring their bicycles, their baby strollers, their dogs. There are a couple of small ponds, so people can fish as well. It’s very pleasant, and lots of people take advantage of it, but I’d never say it was CROWDED.

 

 

Nature preserve map.jpg

Poorly labeled map of the nature preserve.

Recently, a new segment of the preserve has been opened to the public. It has a short loop of walking path and it’s very hilly. A friend recently suggested to me that I might want to switch up my exercise routine (my beloved workout DVD is not giving me the same results as it once did), so I have begun incorporating sprints into my walking efforts. This little loop is perfect for doing a nice sprint-on-the-flat-places, walk-on-the-hills pattern that leaves me feeling exhausted. It seems like the general public either hasn’t discovered it yet, or steers clear of it because of the hills, so it’s nice and quiet and I can gasp for breath in peace. I usually see maybe one to three people while I’m staggering up and down those hills.

On Monday, I saw not a single person. There’s construction on the road that leads into the preserve, which may be keeping some people away. Plus, it’s been HOT. I passed one guy in a bright green T-shirt as I was entering this side-loop area, but he was on the sidewalk outside the preserve (I think), and I didn’t see anyone else. I hit the gravel entrance to the loop and started sprinting. I am no longer fast, which is major blow to my ego. Whatever. Age is a jerk.

I did two loops, planning to do four. Leading into the third loop, I heard a rustling in the grass to my right. I wasn’t scared — there are so many squirrels and frogs and groundhogs that call the nature preserve home, “brush rustling” is not an uncommon sound. I did wonder mildly if there were any mountain lions in our area; I know that coyotes come into the preserve at night, but I’ve never seen a coyote and don’t have a particularly healthy fear of them. (They seem scrawny and timid, which is probably a VAST misconception.) (I am going to meet my end at the jaws of a coyote, aren’t I.) Mountain lions are different, though. I tried to remember what you’re supposed to DO if confronted with a mountain lion – make yourself as big as possible, I think? It’s different than with bears; I think, with bears, you’re supposed to speak calmly, wave your arms slowly, and back away with your eyes on the ground – and I kept eyeing trees to see if they were climbable. As if I could climb a tree.

About halfway through the third loop, I was still thinking about the invisible mountain lion. Keep in mind that I do my best thinking when I’m walking, and that I’m usually thinking about the manuscripts I’m writing, in which horrible and violent things happen, usually in nature. My mind was in a Dark Place, is what I’m saying. But I felt like I was on high alert – higher than usual.

I kept scanning the area, noting spots where the vegetation is taller than a man. No one would hide among the cattails, I told myself; the ground must be wet there.

It was so quiet, the heat lying on top of everything like a blanket, dampening sound. No wind. Even the blackbirds, who patrol the preserve with their red badges, calling the all-clear to one another across the bushes, were silent.

I could not get over the strong feeling that someone was watching me, that there were eyes somewhere concealed by the grasses. Even though I kept looking and seeing nothing but nature, it was very unsettling.

When I started thinking that I should have brought my water bottle – which is made of metal, and heavy enough when full that I could use it as a weapon – I realized I was more worried about my own safety than that of my fictional characters.

Okay, I thought, I should leave this isolated section of the preserve and go back to the more heavily populated section.

No, no, I argued with myself. I can’t let a case of the heebie jeebies get the best of me. I still have a whole loop and a half to do! This is just me being lazy and not wanting to do any more sprints!

What would Gavin de Becker tell me to do? I wondered. Would he tell me that I should listen to these signals that are making me feel uncomfortable? Would he tell me that I am not paying attention to all the perfectly clear signals that are saying I am completely safe? (He would wait until something did or did not happen, and then use it as an anecdote to prove whatever point he wanted, is what I think he would do.)

Self-preservation won. It doesn’t matter if I am being silly. It doesn’t matter if I am misinterpreting signals or reading signals that don’t exist. I am uncomfortable and I am going to leave.

And I did.

On the way out of the loop – there’s a little bridge over a little creek that connects the loop to the main section of the preserve – I spotted a man. I am 99% sure it was the same man I saw when I first entered the loop. White guy, tall, slim but not skinny, neon green T-shirt, sunglasses, khaki-colored fishing hat. He may have had a beard – close cropped or stubble, enough to give the impression of darkness on the jaw area. That’s all I remember. The reason he caught my eye was because he was not on the path. He was IN the creek, almost completely hidden from the path by the same grass where I’d started thinking about the mountain lion. Seeing him was startling and very creepy and I was really glad that I was leaving the area.

Now listen. LISTEN. He was probably there fishing! I’d seen him earlier, and I don’t remember that he was holding anything at all, but he could have totally been toting a fishing pole and it didn’t register. Or maybe he was on staff at the nature preserve! (Although later I passed one of the staffers, and he was wearing a dull green vest rather than a bright green T-shirt.) Or maybe he was a scientist studying water sources in urban forest land. Or maybe he was a walker and had climbed into the creek to pee or save a wounded duck or pick up a discarded shoe or something. He was MOST LIKELY there for something completely benign. I mean, at the very least, if you are a murderer/rapist planning to attack a woman in an isolated stretch of nature, would you really wear a NEON GREEN T-shirt to do so? I am SURE he was a perfectly nice guy who was doing something normal and not at all creepy.

Nonetheless, I felt vindicated. I had noticed a disturbance in the atmosphere and had listened to my intuition, and my reaction was based on a real source of potential danger. Probably the situation was not at all dangerous. But I felt much better about cutting my planned workout short when I discovered there actually was someone hiding (perhaps with absolutely no intention to deceive or harm!) behind the tall grass, and that that someone was a man who was bigger than I am.

Gift of fear, FTW!

Okay, now that we are past that long, boring, anticlimactic story, here’s where I ask you some hypothetical questions about how YOU might have reacted.

When I was nearly back to the main portion of the nature preserve, I saw someone coming toward me, heading toward the isolated loop I’d just vacated. I decided that I would tell the person about the man – just say, in an embarrassed, oh-I’m-so-ridiculous tone, that there was a guy there, doing something probably very normal and insignificant, but nonetheless in a kind of creepy and concealed way, and it made me uncomfortable, so I just wanted you to know.

But as the person and I approached one another, I saw that it was a male-presenting person, and that he was well-muscled and had a nice heavy cast on one arm, and, just as I was trying to work up the nerve to tell him ANYWAY, he said good morning and we passed one another and went our separate ways. (This is how most men I encounter in the nature preserve act, by the way! They stick to the paths! They acknowledge you with a wave or a greeting! They do not lurk in creeks under a bridge behind thick vegetation!)

(Distance from the experience is making me feel both silly and defensive. I KNOW that at the time I felt really uncomfortable and creeped out. At the time, telling someone seemed like the right thing to do; NOT telling someone seemed like a deeply cowardly decision. But today, recounting the story, I feel like it seems SO OBVIOUSLY NOT A BIG DEAL that I am rethinking my feelings.)

If it had been a female-presenting person, I would have told her. She may have thought I was ridiculous or unstable or whatever, but she also would have understood.

But a man… I don’t know. I made the judgment based on a) his gender presentation and b) his physicality that he could stand up to the creek wader should he need to.

I feel bad about it still. I wonder if I should have pushed past my feelings of embarrassment.

And I wonder if I really WOULD have been able to share my feelings with a female-presenting person.

(This is the point where my husband said, “Now I expect you to tell me that you looked it up later and a man got attacked and murdered in the same isolated loop you left!” And I shook my head and he sighed and said, “Great story.”) (I did look it up, and there were no reports of any attacks in the area.) (Thank goodness.)

What would you have done?

Would you have listened to your discomfort in the first place, and left the isolated loop?

Would you have told anyone about your discomfort? Would the person’s gender presentation affect whether you told them or not?

Do I tend to WILDLY overthink everything at all times? (YES.)

Nevermind the answer to that last one. It’s been on my mind, and this is my space to excavate those feelings. (Or, more accurately, dumptruck them onto a webpage and never think of them again.) I’m curious to hear your thoughts, if you have them. Or your own Gift of Fear situations.

And I really do think it’s time I read the book again. If only to give Mr. de Becker a second chance.

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There’s a lot going on these days, Internet. I feel burnt out.

Then, NGS made a comment on my last dinner post that stuck with me: “You’re so much more ambitious in food planning than I ever could be. We seriously only have about six meals in rotation.” That struck me as SO LOVELY. Six meals? No fussing around with food blogs and magazines and a big pile of recipes I’ve emailed myself? Clean, simple, tada. GENIUS.

And then I thought of Nicole, who serves the same five categories of food each week, Monday through Friday. When she posted about her weekly meal plan, it was a revelation. I could make tacos every Tuesday?! And sometimes they could be fish tacos or carnitas or black bean tacos, but it didn’t matter what spin I put them, Tuesday would always be taco day! What a delightful fantasy!

These two wonderful bloggers (and I’m just assuming they are excellent home cooks, as well) got me thinking… and I think I’m making things too complicated.

It seems that I have made an overcorrection in my meal planning navigation. I find that it is so easy to get into a meal rut, when you feel like you’re eating tacos and spaghetti and grilled chicken ad nauseum and so cooking feels boring and eating feels boring and you just hate life. This is just me, of course. But I course corrected so far in the other direction – trying to find New! and Interesting! and Different! meal options – that now I feel like variation is my GOAL. (This is not to say that I don’t end up eating the same things over and over, I’m looking at you, delicious spinach and arugula salad.) And also, it’s become somewhat of a chore. I’ve been looking through my bookmarked meals, searching for something new or different… and nothing seems new enough or different enough. I start looking at super elaborate options that just aren’t practical for a regular Tuesday, and then I get discouraged and BAM!, I’m right back where I was when I started this whole meal planning journey.

So there’s that. But also… sometimes you just want to throw a couple of chicken breasts on the grill and call it a day!

This week, I am doing Tried and True, Easy Does It meals. And it feels super! I love it! I should do this more often. Or, maybe, I should come up with a list of Favorites that I can choose from again and again, things that can be Go-To meals alongside tacos and spaghetti and grilled chicken.

Anyway, here’s the dinner plan for this week.

Dinners for the Week of July 16-July 22

  • Tacos

Note: Taco Tuesday, baby!

  • BBQ Pork Tenderloin with Baked Potato (for me) and Coleslaw(for my husband)

Note: We are supposed to have storms, and it feels like we haven’t eaten this easy crockpot meal in a long while.

  • Grilled Chicken with Quinoa Salad

Note: I will marinate the chicken in Wegman’s Korean barbecue marinade. I also have this idea that I will make a quinoa salad with bell peppers, bean sprouts, maybe some edamame, and scallions, and then dress it with Nagi’s Sesame Peanut Dressing. (When I went to a writer’s conference a couple of years ago, one of the meals was this AMAZING quinoa salad with pad-Thai-style flavors. I have been chasing that flavor ever since, and this sounds like it might get me pretty close.)

Note: I have tried many (MANY) a recipe for homemade pizza dough. But I haven’t found a single one that holds a candle to the Papa Sal’s dough I can get at the supermarket.

  • Grilled Pork Chops or Steak with Roasted Green Beans

Note: I found a couple of filets in the freezer; I think I intended them for Carla (they were DEEPLY on sale), but perhaps I will commandeer them for myself and my husband.

  • Grilled Chicken with Side Salad

Note: Chicken marinated in Wegman’s marinade, salad dressed with leftover French vinaigrette.

  • Out

And you, Internet? What are you eating this week?

You will be pleased and relieved to learn that The Smell has been eliminated! I did nothing more than the techniques I conveyed to you… I think the airing out via open windows was the clincher, there. Now that it’s gone, and there are (AS YET) no dead animals decaying in our walls, I am feeling rather cheerful. And, of course, it’s always nice to have an excuse to tidy up the house, get rid of the garbage, clean the sink/disposal, and wipe down the counters. Plus, bonus clean laundry (although that’s still in the dryer; what, I’m CONSISTENT at least in my inability to fold the clean laundry).

It was fascinating to read your comments about what I might consider in my search for The Smell – we all have our go-to sources for disgusting odors, which is comforting. I mean, I’m really glad that my garbage disposal isn’t the only stinker. But some were surprising! For instance, I was SO INTERESTED to know that potatoes smell!

But here is where I tell you a deep, dark secret: I keep my potatoes in the fridge.

I KNOW. That’s where I keep onions and garlic too, even though you’re NOT supposed to. I do it anyway and no one has died.

This is possible, I think, because I rarely buy more than two potatoes at a time. (Except at Thanksgiving, when I buy 10-20, and use them immediately to make mashed potatoes.) (Mmmmmm…. Mashed potatoes….) Same goes for onions, although maybe I buy those in more the four-to-five-at-a-time range. And I have expressed my love for jarred garlic many times in this space. IT IS A TIME SAVER, what can I say? If I bought potatoes and onions by the sack, it would be a different thing altogether. And I can easily imagine myself getting really potato-happy and then leaving some spuds to languish in a closet until they became all sprouty and gross.

Anyway, now that The Smell is gone and we are already talking about food, let’s have an abbreviated list of meals for the next few days:

Dinners for the Week(ish) of July 10 – July 15

Note: Now that our grill is in working order, I am All Grill All the Time. But grilled salmon still makes me nervous… so I am going to square my shoulders and try this recipe with Nagi’s very simple and clear instructions for not leaving half your salmon fillet on the grill grates.

Follow Up: Note to Future Me: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GRILL THE SALMON! ABORT! ABORT! Even though I followed (tried to, I guess, and clearly SCREWED IT UP) Nagi’s very clear and simple instructions, half the salmon stuck to the grill and then the whole thing was overcooked and I had to finish it in the broiler. It tasted good, though. Also, her French vinaigrette was delish.

Note: I had this salad on the menu a few weeks ago and never got around to making it, but now I’m really going to do it. With goat cheese instead of feta though. We have some pork chops in the freezer, and some brand new marinades from Wegman’s, so that’s what we’ll have to accompany the salad.

Follow Up: Our pork chops were supper thin and ended up tasting like cardboard. But the salad was yummy! My husband really liked the salad, but laughed at me when I told him it was a Brand New (to us) Salad; he feels like we have had variations on it A LOT. Fair, I suppose. It’s very similar to a spinach and arugula salad that I fell in love with earlier this year, probably because of the goat cheese and cranberries and use of spinach in both salads. Also, full disclosure, I could not find pine nuts at the grocery store so instead I roasted some pumpkin seeds that have been living in my pantry for lord knows how long. They were delicious, and Carla ate a bunch of them, which is always a coup, getting her to try something new. The white balsamic vinaigrette was good but not super; I am judging it against a memory, which is super unfair. The memory is of a salad I used to get on work trips, with shrimp and avocado and a white balsamic dressing. This… was not that.

Note: Every time I look at this recipe, I kind of furrow my brow. It seems like a LOT for one recipe, for one thing. But it also sounds really different and fun – flavor profiles I don’t eat often, for absolutely NO reason.

Follow Up: This was okay. The flavors didn’t really leap out at me, and my husband wondered if it might have helped to reserve some marinade and serve it as a sauce. Maybe. But there was the green sauce already, so I didn’t think it needed it. And the green sauce was… fine. A very different-for-us and interesting mix of flavors. It was fun to try, and certainly helped make the chicken more interesting, but I’m not rushing to make this or the Moroccan chicken again.

Note: I will marinate the shrimp in a mixture of lime juice and taco seasoning. Will I grill it? Time and bravery will tell!

Follow up: After the salmon situation, no way was I going to try to grill the shrimp. So I just roasted them. The salad, as per usual, was AMAZING. I also made an impromptu second dressing, because it turns out I really like having two dressings on a salad. I mixed 1/8-1/4 cup of fresh lime juice with 1/3 cup of fat free Greek yogurt and a tablespoon of honey. It was super yummy. I just kept adding lime juice until it had a nice pourable consistency.

  • Chili

Note: It seems like planning a week full of To Grill items is just asking for rain, so let’s have a nice indoorsy recipe as a backup, shall we?

Follow up: I love (this very specific recipe for) chili. I don’t think I’ve ever posted a chili recipe here and someday I will have to remedy that.

All right. Now I need to scurry off to the grocery store for provisions.

What are you eating this week, Internet?

We went on a little vacation over the long Independence Day weekend. And my in-laws are in town. And I’ve been dealing with Assorted Birthday Stuff. So the days kind of melt into one another and I am not really sure where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing. I think, it being Tuesday, I should be setting up a Dinners This Week post. But I haven’t even planned my meals this week, yet. (We are going out to dinner tonight, so I can delay that chore another day.) Plus, I have other things on my mind.

Did I tell you that we have new neighbors?

Deer 1

These are the Cute Neighbors.

Deer 2

They are very cute indeed. They do lots of frolicking. And they seem to see in Carla a kindred spirit because whenever she is in the living room, looking out at them from the sliding glass doors, they take great interest in her and often come up quite close to the glass.

Many new neighbors.

Skunk

Still very cute, but more worrisome. Especially because she has at least THREE babies in her condo under that step. Yes. The step that is directly adjacent to our living room.

Unrelated — surprisingly — to skunks: today, I am also preoccupied with The Smell. My husband woke me up with a loving kiss, as he does every morning, and, instead of saying, “Good morning, my darling,” he whispered, “I think I smell something bad.” Just the kind of affectionate phrasing I most enjoy in the wee hours, let me tell you.

I couldn’t smell it; couldn’t smell anything, really, because my nose has been, of late, CLOGGED TO THE MAX. I’m pretty sure I have a sinus infection; my forehead is tender, as are the circles under my eyes; my head is in a constant state of achey-ness; my nose, as mentioned just a second ago, is thick with YUCK.

But Carla leaped out of bed – she wakes up the instant anyone else is awake, unless she wakes up first; in summers, she has been “sleeping in” until six thirty or so, which is lovely – and chimed in from her room, “I think I smell it!”

I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion, but I thought – after copious nose-blowing – that maybe I, too, could smell the underpinnings of something foul.

My husband and I tossed around the idea that maybe it was the aftereffects of some roasted broccoli we had last night. Broccoli, delicious as it is, has a bad habit of releasing a pungent fart perfume that lingers in its absence. Carla wondered if the flowers we have in vases throughout our downstairs might be causing the stink, but they all look relatively fresh and the vase water is clear, and passed The Sniff Test, so…

So I did what anyone might do when confronted with Something Smelly: I cleared out all the garbage cans, sprayed the insides of the cans with bleach, cleaned the toilets for good measure, ran a load of laundry (although none of the laundry baskets had a noticeable smell), ran the garbage disposal, wiped down the counters. I questioned Carla closely about whether she’s taken any food upstairs (this is verboten in our house, and I don’t know that she’s ever done it before… but you never know). (She looked at me with wide-eyed shock that I would even ASK her such a thing. Dost she protest too much? Hmmmm….) (I smelled each corner of her room carefully, but we have already established that we cannot trust my nose.) Then I took Carla to camp and went for my usual four-mile walk.

The Smell greeted me when I returned.

Sigh.

It’s steamy outside, but I have dutifully opened all the windows and doors, in hopes of coaxing The Smell to leave. I dumped baking soda in each of the kitchen sink drains, filled one side of the sink with a mixture of hot water and vinegar, and ran the disposal as I let it drain; that’s the best way I know to really CLEAN the disposal. I’ve refreshed the flower water, just in case that’s the culprit. I am running the dishwasher, in case I didn’t rinse last night’s dishes thoroughly enough. I’m not really sure what to do next. Toss the week-old Gerber daisies, I suppose. They still look fine, but maybe they’re not.

Now I need to shower, because I don’t want to add my own Eau de Post-Workout to the scents inside the house.

The abiding worry, of course, is that some animal has crawled in between our walls and died there, memorializing its life in a legacy of odor. I wouldn’t even know where to BEGIN dealing with that, should that be the case. But let’s try everything else, first.

What else have I overlooked? What are the likely stink culprits in your home, when you’ve eliminated “trash smell” and “bathroom smells” from the list?

We continue to have lots of rain, but now the rain is punctuated by absolutely glorious summer days. Sunshine, high clouds, breeze. I am out walking as often as I can because it is GORGEOUS. Makes meal planning a little tricky, though, because I want to grill as much as possible but also need to have a few options on hand when I’d rather not flip chicken in a downpour and then eat sodden chicken.

And, yes, I am back on chicken! It is a relief. Life is easier when I can eat chicken.

Here’s what’s on the meal plan for this week (sorry about the weird line breaks — I have no idea why they are happening or how to fix them and am too lazy to poke around in the html):

Dinners for the Week of June 25-July 1 (OMG JULY? SUMMER IS PRACTICALLY OVER):

Note: I will drizzle the salad with balsamic glaze as well, and will use bell peppers instead of corn because I FEEL LIKE IT.

Note: This just means that I am replacing the pork called for in the recipe with chicken.

Plus, we have had an abundance of plums in our grocery store lately, so I am going to make this amazing and super easy plum cake (I have made it before and TRUST ME it is awesome): https://smittenkitchen.com/2013/10/purple-plum-torte/

That’s it! I’m hungry already!

What are you eating this week?

German food is not really my favorite. While my husband was super excited about all the schnitzel and sausages, I was… excited about the salad? (Seriously, in Vienna, my meals were always accompanied by a little green salad with a simple, lemony dressing. Super simple, but something about the fresh-from-the-garden lettuce – none of that limp, brown-at-the-edges stuff you often see in US restaurants – and the tang of the dressing made it irresistible.) As I mentioned yesterday, I really enjoyed the abundance of asparagus… but even delicious asparagus can’t staunch my craving for spicy, full-flavor food. So when we first got back from Bavaria, I gorged myself on all the foods I missed. Tacos, spaghetti with meat sauce, homemade curry, hamburgers (I bet that there are plenty of hamburgers in Bavaria, but I ordered one in Vienna and something about the seasoning of the meat or the meat itself just turned me off completely and I was afraid to order a burger the rest of the trip), stir fries, nachos, enchiladas, copious amounts of hot sauce.

But now I’m ready to get back to normal, semi-healthful cooking. Here’s my meal plan for the week ahead:

Dinners for the Week of June 18-June 24

* Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Broccolihttps://themodernproper.com/posts/perfectly-roasted-broccoli

* Garlic Grilled Shrimp with Quinoa Saladhttps://www.acouplecooks.com/garlic-grilled-shrimp/ and https://avocadopesto.com/thai-veggie-quinoa-bowl-gluten-free-vegan/#wprm-recipe-container-19442

* Chicken Shish Kebabs with Asian Zucchini Noodleshttps://whatsgabycooking.com/chicken-shish-kabobs/ and https://gimmedelicious.com/2016/06/03/easy-10-minute-asian-zucchini

Note: Did I tell you I bought a… noodler? Okay, it has a real name that is escaping me right now… It’s a… Oh! Yes! A spiralizer! I bought an inexpensive one per Lee’s recommendation and have used it exactly one time. So I plan to use it for the second time this week, to see if it is as labor intensive as it was last time. (Wait a second. That link is taking me to a spiralizer that costs $23; when I bought it, it was $8.99. I get price fluctuations and all, but this makes me cranky. It is NOT worth $23, that’s for damn sure.)

* Fish Taco Bowlshttps://damndelicious.net/2018/12/29/fish-taco-bowls/

* Mexican Salad with Chipotle Grilled Chickenhttps://www.gimmesomeoven.com/everyday-mexican-salad/and https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/chipotle-chicken-marinade/

* Fire Fry: https://lifeofadoctorswife.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/fire-fry/ 

* Chili

 

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

Salzburg 2 w

We returned from our trip some time ago and man, is re-entry into normal life hard! Also, I have completely fallen out of the blogging habit and need to leap back in. Let’s try to jumpstart things with a little randomosity, yes?

  • On the way to Europe, I was fine. Very little jet-lag that lasted maybe two days. On the way home? TWO WEEKS of waking up at 2:30 every morning, my body insistent that no, in fact, it was 8:30 and I was done sleeping. Didn’t matter if I’d gone to sleep at nine or midnight the night before, and believe me, I tried both. Didn’t matter if I took melatonin. Just wide awake at 2:30.
  • And then I got a monster cold, from all the lack of sleep. Super fun.
  • There were so many things to love about our trip, and I was prepared to return home and pine for the walkable cities and the suffusion of culture and the beautiful mountains. I was not prepared to pine for asparagus.

    Spargel w
    We were in Vienna and Munich during spargel season (spargel being, of course, asparagus) and MAN was fresh Bavarian asapargus delicious. I wouldn’t say I’m a lover of asparagus; I like it fine, and will make it occasionally for dinner, and once in a while I’ll order it at a restaurant. Okay, once in a GREAT while. But during our trip, we had many many bowls of spargelsuppe and I even ate an entrée that was made up of asparagus spears dotted with hollandaise. AND THAT WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE MEALS. For this nacho-loving lady, having drooly fantasies about a plate of white asparagus is very off-brand. Anyway, I have been bookmarking recipes for spargelsuppe and eyeing the asparagus in my grocery store. I haven’t bought any yet; it’s just a sad facsimile of the beautiful bounty of fresh white asparagus we saw at farmers’ markets throughout our trip.

  • One thing I do NOT miss about our trip: the toilet paper. UGH. Even my cheapo Target brand toilet paper is like a angel’s kiss compared to the scratchy junk we used in Europe. Even the hotels had terrible toilet paper!!!
  • Since we’re already talking about the bathroom situation, can I tell you about a misconception I had? So, in the cities we visited, there were no free public restrooms. You had to pee, you had to pay. I never had the proper change on me, so anytime I needed to avail myself of the facilities, we’d either hike back to our hotel (which happened once, and only because it was on the way) or stop in at a café for some tea and cake and a bathroom break. I am really enjoying my bathroom-related rhyming in this paragraph. But one morning in Vienna, neither of those options was available, and I had to use a pay toilet in the middle of a market. I was dreading it. DREADING. I waited until the last possible second because I had visions of American rest-stop bathrooms in my head. Well! My half Euro got me into a PRISTINE restroom, with stalls that had been freshly cleaned, each with its own sink. It was a little weird that the attendant to the ladies’ room was a man, but once I got past that, it was a delightful experience. Well, as delightful as a public pee can get, you understand.

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    Here is a picture from one of the stands in the market; I did not photograph the restroom. I’m sorry slash you’re welcome.

  • I came to the conclusion on our trip that mankind has not yet invented a truly comfortable shoe. Either that or my feet and ANY shoes are the Princess and the Pea of extremities. Sure, we were walking a lot (ten miles a day), but my husband was wearing his years-old loafers and he had ZERO problems. I had to rotate between my new-for-this-trip Sketchers and an old pair of Børn riding boots that I packed at the last minute because the weather was supposed to be so cold and rainy (it was, which didn’t dampen our fun in the least, see what I did there). Even switching between them, my feet were in constant agony. Oh well. I think I kept the whining to a minimum; at least, my husband didn’t murder me for foot-complaint-related-reasons, so I’ll call that a success. And I only got one lonesome blister, from my dressy shoes, which I have had with no issue for years and wore ONE evening only and yet they still ripped open the skin beneath my pinky toe.
  • Shout out to Rick Steves — whom my husband and I affectionately refer to as “Ricky” — whose guides are super helpful and always include easy-to-follow city walks. My husband toted his Fancy Camera all around Bavaria and his camera bag had a pocket just big enough to stow our Ricky selection of the day — Rick Steves Vienna, Salzburg, & Tirol while we were in those places and Rick Steves Germany 2019 when we were in Munich and Nuremberg. While Ricky and I don’t necessarily have the same taste in food, I am very fond of him and his dad-style humor.

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  • There is a very charming café culture in Vienna. Lots of cafes where you sit and have coffee/tea and cake. We ate a lot of cake. I miss the cake.

  • I also miss the beer. Beer and wine were plentiful and inexpensive AND delicious. Of course, the beer I loved the most does not seem to be exported to the U.S., but I guess that preserves its awesomeness a little more.

  • And the castles. I miss those too.
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    Hohenschwangau Castle, southwest of Munich

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    Fortress Hohensalzburg, which looms over Salzburg in a very intimidating fashion and can be reached by hiking or funicular. 

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    Neuschwanstein Castle, a stone’s throw away from Hohenschwangau. By the way, this photo was taken from a teeny rickety bridge spanning a crevasse between two craggy mountains. Was I certain the bridge would collapse at any moment? YES. Did it? No, I suppose not. 

  • Well, it was a great trip. Our plane didn’t crash (although the turbulence we experienced on the way to Europe was so severe I didn’t sleep AT ALL) and neither of us suffered any illness or injury. Okay, so I did fall down the stairs of our hotel in Munich, but it was the day before we left, so it didn’t put too much of a damper on things. And I didn’t break any bones, just got an enormous bruise, which, to be honest, is a fairly frequent occurrence anyway. I have skin like a peach.
  • And now we are home, and reintegrated into our lives, and trying to inject little snippets of our European fun into our everyday: we took Carla downtown last weekend and walked around the city (not the same as walking around Vienna or Munich or Salzburg) and meandered through the market hall (SO not the same as the charming markets in Bavaria) and bought some Bavarian beer. I am bemoaning the lack of easily accessible public transportation and charming (if renovated post-war) streets.
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    Streetcar in Vienna – my favorite mode of transportation

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    Adorable street in Nuremberg, which we knew to photograph thanks to the inimitable Rick Steves

  • Now that I am FINALLY sleeping again, I feel like I am getting back in the swing of things: coming up with meals to serve my family, thinking through Carla’s birthday party plans, tidying the house for my in-laws who will be visiting soon… Glad to have traveled, glad to be home.

 

What have you been up to, Internet?