July 2015: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

It’s definitely summer; hot and uncomfortable on most days, and I’ve been caught in more than one summer rainstorm on the way home from work.

Toward the end of the month we had a wonderful opportunity to go see all All-Beethoven concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra, outdoors at the Mann Center. I had never been there before. We found a bus that would take us there and back, and fortunately the weather cooperated. It wasn’t quite the Hollywood Bowl, but it was a fun experience, and the performance was excellent. There’s also a great view of the Philadelphia skyline, which was a pleasant surprise.

Farmers Markets

Tomatoes are finally here!

Of course, part of the joy of having tomatoes around, is we can combine them in all kinds of ways with eggs… We recently started getting our eggs from a different farm (Rambling Roots, the same place we get our tomatoes) and are really enjoying them.

Photo by Tom Ipri

Another fun thing about summer vegetables is how easy it is to throw them into some tacos or enchiladas.

Photo by Tom Ipri
Photo by Tom Ipri

Dining In

This has been a great month for home cooking. For some reason, I started meal planning, which I don’t usually do. Usually we just wing it, especially in summer when it’s so easy to just throw some vegetables on some pasta. I don’t know why I started planning things out in advance. I think it has a lot to do with Tom’s new job; now that we no longer walk to and from work together, we no longer have time to talk about dinner on the way home and make spontaneous decisions.

Here are some recipes I tried this month that worked particularly well:

Mapo chicken and spicy zucchini

Photo by Tom Ipri

Variation on Poulet L’Estragon (without tarragon)

Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Sichuan Chicken in Chili Oil Sauce (I roasted the chicken rather than boiling it)

Photo by Tom Ipri

Summer Squash Shakshuka

Last but not least, we got this box of Picpoul de Pinet that has been pretty fun to have around!

Photo by Tom Ipri

Dining Out

We have been super excited for SouthGate to open, which is a new Korean-American gastropub in our neighborhood. More about that on our food blog!

We also tried the new Rittenhouse location of Pizzeria Vetri when we needed a casual place to meet up with friends without reservations on a Friday night. Since it’s so tucked away, it feels kind of secret. We ended up going twice this month, each time as a convenient place to meet up with others without formal plans.

For brunch, we returned to Little Spoon for the first time since they opened, and had some really delicious cheddar chive pancakes with apple yogurt.

Tea

We were intrigued by a post over at Teaspoon & Petals, so we went to Premium Steap and bought a few 2015 vintage Spring teas, one green and one oolong. They are really fresh and delicious, and we’ve been enjoying them as refreshing cold brewed iced tea this month.

Bitters and DIY

I ordered some green walnuts online in an attempt to make nocino, based on a recipe from Saving the Season. I was a little disappointed in how the walnuts arrived – I was only able to use about half of them, since some of them were moldy, and even those I did use were a little speckled. Nonetheless, I’m excited to see how it will turn out. It’s a 40 day steep, and then several months of aging after that.

Books

I started the month by reading Shattered Pillars, book 2 of Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky series. I had gotten a free copy of book 1 at the American Library Association conference a few years ago and really enjoyed it. The series takes place in an alternate, more magical version of the Asian Steppes, and I found in the first book that I liked the idea of setting a fantasy series in our world (or a version of it), with familiar geography. Anyway, I should have re-read the first book in order to re-familarize myself with the setting and the characters, but I didn’t. And unfortunately, I really didn’t get into or enjoy this book very much. Maybe when the next book comes out, I’ll do a better job of re-reading books 1 and 2 so that I can appreciate it more.

Next, I read The Long Earth, the first book in a science fiction series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. The premise was interesting, but neither the plot nor the character development was enough for me to get invested in what happens next. Also, the whole thing was so painfully Western/Anglo-American centric that I couldn’t engage with the story without wondering about the diverse voices I wasn’t hearing. In addition, at this point in time (this book was published in 2012) I don’t see how anyone can write science fiction based on a future Earth (Datum Earth in this scenario) that does not directly address climate change. I think the authors did adequately convey the negative environmental and political implications of humans colonizing the newly “discovered” parallel iterations of Earth, but the whole Manifest Destiny vibe still makes me sick.

Next, I read Fool’s Assassin, which is book 1 of a new fantasy series by Robin Hobb, The Fitz and the Fool, which is a continuation of her Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. Honestly, when I learned that this new series existed, my first reaction was to be angry. The Tawny Man series ending was one of the best endings of any book I’ve ever read, and I really didn’t see any reason to bring Fitz out of retirement. I mean, the last line of Fool’s Fate is “I am content,” and who could want more than that, for a character who has been through so much? Anyway, turns out I was wrong. I got sucked right into Fool’s Assassin and loved it.  Turns out the next book comes out soon, in mid-August, so I don’t have to wait too long to see what happens next. In the meantime, this really got me back into Hobb mode, so I’ve abandoned all other reading plans for the time being and am just re-reading her other books.

To keep me occupied, I also checked out another Robin Hobb book from a series I hadn’t read yet, the Rain Wild Chronicles, which is a continuation of the Liveship Traders series. I’ve never been quite as into Liveship as I was into Farseer and Tawny Man, but I do like it. I read Dragon Keeper, which is the first of 4 books in that series. It was pretty good, but I’m not too committed yet, so I ordered the books via interlibrary loan rather than purchasing them. [Update: ILL was taking too long, mass market paperbacks are cheap, and I was impatient, so I did go ahead and buy books 2-4, which I’ll talk about in next month’s update.]

I was bad this month, in that I didn’t read anything that was not in the fantasy or sci-fi genres. I actually did check out and start reading a somewhat gritty YA book, but it was kind of depressing so I didn’t finish it. I’d like to say I hope I’ll do better next month, but with this Robin Hobb obsession gripping me at the moment I don’t think that’s realistic. I’m just going to not worry about it too much, because pretty soon it will be September and I’ll be so busy teaching that I won’t have as much time for pleasure reading, so I might as well just enjoy the fact that I’m reading at all.

Podcasts

Now that I’m walking to and from work by myself, I’ve started listening to a few more podcasts. This month I’ve been listening to Undisclosed, Serial DynastyUntitled Patrick Rothfuss, Fresh Air, and WTF with Marc Maron. I was really moved by Marc Maron’s interview with President Obama last month and have really enjoyed listening to the show since then. Other than the interview with the President, my favorite so far has been episode 615 with Penelope Spheeris.

 On SuperPlus Eats

On Tom’s Blogs

Last Month’s Update

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